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OT58: Opepipen Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. There are hidden threads every few days here. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. Also:

1. Comments of the week include Katja Grace on Economics Whack-A-Mole and dtsund on the evolutionary complexity argument in politics, grendelkhan on Nexium, Emirikol on the degree to which overpriced generics subsidize research, and especially Corey on how the government might save money by funding all drug research.

2. Marginal Revolution also gives a cute story about an FDA bureaucrat (but see also).

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1,336 Responses to OT58: Opepipen Thread

  1. hyperboloid says:

    First of all I don’t think white nationalism is same as Nazism. Racial categories very a great deal between different cultures at different times, and the historical NSDAP was certainly not concerned at all with the American notion of whiteness.

    In fact, even excluding Ashkenazi Jews, the third Reich murdered millions of Russians, Poles, and Ukrainians, people who, while not Aryans in the Nazi sense of the word, are always counted as white in the US.

    The fact that some of the most extreme American white nationalists can be pretty vocal about their admiration for old uncle Adolf is actually kind of ironic. I mean somewhere in this country there has got to be some skinhead who’s name ends in -ski who is going to be really bummed out when he finds out about generalplan ost.

    “Never forget” has become a mantra justifying brand new atrocities.

    You’re going to have to be a lot more specific then that, because I’m not sure which atrocities you believe were justified by the memory of Nazism.

    As for shattering the establishment, shattering it as prelude to what? Don’t be coy, what political aim do you think will be advanced by a Trump presidency?

    Since you don’t sound like you think that a Trump is likely to be all that successful in seems odd to assume that it would shift the political spectrum to the right. A failed or incompetent right wing government might have just the opposite effect, and what ever political position you hold might be tarred by association with the orange menace.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It looks like this is a response to a deleted comment, but:

      yes, it is 100% ironic the degree to which admirers of the Nazis are often people who would be completely unacceptable to the original Nazis for whatever reason. You’ve seen this picture, right? Equally ironic is that many white nationalists and fellow travellers really like Putin and see Russia as a defender of European interests – whereas the Nazis felt that the Russians and other Slavs were a subhuman and a mortal threat to Europe.

  2. hyperboloid says:

    Since the SSC commetariet seems to be the best place to find relativity intelligent people who will defend what I take to be absurd far right ideas. Will a Donald Trump supporter please chime in and explain why you’re voting for him?

    Do you consider your self a white nationalist?

    If not, what exactly do you expect a Trump administration to look like policy wise, how exactly will America be made great again?

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      I vaguely prefer Trump to Hillary, but not sufficiently substantively to vote for him, so my comment may not be terribly on-point…

      …but from my perspective, it’s less to do with his policies, and more that he’s sufficiently Scary To The Other Side to make them take the “Limited powers” thing seriously again.

      As for what I think his more general supporters like – I think it’s substantively the fact that he’s portraying himself as One of Them. And honestly, it doesn’t matter whether he is or not – he’s being attacked the same, by Left-leaning institutions that have forgotten that the other half of the country exists, and don’t realize their irrational hatred is treated as an endorsement. (Also, he spent a good period of time trolling the Left, and it’s kind of hilarious.)

    • tinduck says:

      That’s a rather incendiary question. Why do you think it’s appropriate to ask a rather incendiary question here? How long did you browse this site until you came to the conclusion that we all defend absurd far right ideas?

      I thought that the political demographics of the site are skewed for the most part toward the left. When did it become a white nationalist hang out? I leave for a couple weeks and the whole site goes to hell… 🙁

      People please let me know if hyperboloid is correct. I don’t tolerate or associate myself with white nationalists.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Hyperboloid is a very appropriate name. It’s true that the commenters here skew right-wing, (though increasingly less so), white nationalism is a very uncharitable take on the views of a bunch of the commenters here (except maybe Steve Sailer? I don’t know).

        • hyperboloid says:

          If I were to gauge the general political climate in these parts I would say it leans libertarian, so the white nationalist comment was not meant as general accusation against SSC commentators.

          But one of the good things about this place is that it has a pretty wide Overton window window. Accordingly the last time I was around here it served as a bit of a “safe space” for Moldbug style neo-reactionaries. While I can see how asking about white nationalism might seem like trolling, I am genuinely interested in how those two sorts of views relate.

          Furthermore white nationalism also strikes me as, while maybe not the best exactly, but perhaps the most internally coherent case for supporting trump. It seems obvious why , if you believed that the United Sates was founded by and for people of European descent, you would support the candidate most likely to change the demographic make up of the country by deporting millions of non whites.

          If somebody has any other strong well argued case for supporting trump I’m open to hearing it.

          As far as Orphan Wilde’s argument that Trump is:
          “sufficiently Scary To The Other Side to make them take the “Limited powers” thing seriously again.”

          I’m not seeing the logic there. Trump is probably the least sympathetic to Goldwater style limited government conservatism of any republican in living memory. I guess you could mean that electing an authoritarian would galvanize the opposition to support restrictions on executive power, but that seems like a very risky strategy.

          The actual track record of Caudillo like leaders is usually that they produce a polarized political environment that seesaws between authoritarian extremes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m neither a Trump supporter nor a white nationalist, but it is not uncommon to see white nationalists viewing him not as someone who will enact their policies but as someone who will widen the Overton Window in such a way that they can advance those positions later.

            I don’t think there are any white nationalists who would stop at deportations and building a wall or some other means of making border security tighter. Mass deportations and sealing the southern border don’t change the demographic predictions that much, do they?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I guess you could mean that electing an authoritarian would galvanize the opposition to support restrictions on executive power, but that seems like a very risky strategy.

            You’d be surprised how much of our politics in the end boil down to “stick it to their guys and defend our own guys”. Trump’s behaviour has made it so that the democratic party has gone full anti-russia, pro-american exceptionalism. The recent refloating of Bill Clinton’s rape accusations has spawned a lot of people finally moderating towards sane and humane views on how to deal with rape accusations, the accused and the convicted. Do you really think conservatives cared about freedom and the importance of intellectually challenging college students until progressives turned it full on against them? This shit undeniably works.

            I mean, I wouldn’t (and can’t), vote for Trump, but there’s a lot to be said for the constant struggle of between sides forcing people to stay liberal.

      • “that we all defend absurd far right ideas?”

        That isn’t what he said or even implied. What he implied was that it was a good place to find someone who did.

    • keranih says:

      I am not sure what you mean by “a Donald Trump supporter” – do you mean someone who would vote for him over Clinton or Johnson? Or someone who would rather Trump got elected than Clinton? Or someone who picked – out of all the people who ran this year – Trump as their preferred candidate?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @kerinah:
        I think it’s reasonable to infer that supporter here means something like “well disposed toward their candidacy and desirous of their winning over most possible opponents, primary or general election”

        • keranih says:

          well disposed toward their candidacy and desirous of their winning over most possible opponents, primary or general election

          If the bolded words are necessary elements of the definition, then I must bow out, as I am not a supporter.

          But if Hillary Clinton is still seeking government office in the first week in November –

          – by which I mean, if Hillary Clinton is still alive

          – then I will be casting my ballot for Trump, no matter how much I wish for other options.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not a White Nationalist. I will likely vote for Trump (if I don’t wimp out and vote for Johnson) because

      1) I expect he will appoint conservative supreme court justices. Without this, we’re likely to lose not just the Second Amendment, but Equal Protection in all but name (to the Social Justice hierarchy of privilege). Since liberal judges have less respect for stare decisis than conservative justices, leftward gains are easier to obtain and harder to lose than conservative gains.

      2) Nobody’s going to let him get away with the imperial presidency bit the way Obama has. Bush did it somewhat, but Obama’s agencies (at least the FAA, ATF, and the Department of Education) have been simply ignoring the administrative procedures act blatantly. Obama has gone so far as to claim to have ratified the Paris climate treaty without putting it to Congress. The press, the legislature, and the courts are not going to be nearly as accepting with Trump at the helm. I do not believe he will be able to count on the support of a Republican Congress.

      3) He’s a wild card. He may break a lot of things, but some of them probably need breaking. This is an election of Evil versus Chaos; I choose Chaos.

      4) I think the few segments of the wall he can get built, no doubt lavishly adorned with his picture, will be a wonderful tourist attraction.

      OK, #4 is a bit of a joke.

      • hlynkacg says:

        This is essentially where I am at as well.

      • hyperboloid says:

        we’re likely to lose not just the Second Amendment, but Equal Protection in all but name (to the Social Justice hierarchy of privilege)..

        Some people think the second amendment was lost the day you couldn’t order a Thompson submachine gun from Sears and Roebuck.

        Obviously there are several liberal interest groups pushing for tighter gun laws, but If you mean that you expect that a Clinton administration will result in a total, or near total, federal ban on on the private ownership of firearms, that is to say the least, more than a little unrealistic.

        As for the equal protection clause, I have no absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, but I’ve got an image in my head of secret NKVD style tribunals made up of radical feminists where helpless citizens are forced to answer for their crimes of cis-gendered white male privilege.

        Can you actually point to a particular potential supreme court nominee and give specifics on how you think they will give the “social Justice hierarchy of privilege” the force of law?

        As for trump being a wild card who will break a lot of things, you’re not wrong about that. It’s just that those things may include the liberal world order that three generations of American leaders, from both parties, have fought to preserve.

        Since the Truman administration there have been certain international commitments that all plausible candidates for president have been expected to uphold. These principles, things like our security agreement with Japan, or article five of the north Atlantic treaty, form an interlocking network of institutions that have provided a historically extraordinary degree of peace and stability for the past sixty years.

        Beginning in August Vladamir Putin issued orders for large scale military build up and as we speak Russian troops are massed on the borders of eastern Ukraine.
        It does not take any great genius to see where they are headed. If Trump is elected there is a good chance the Russian federation will occupy an area stretching from Donetsk to Odessa and linking Russian acquisitions in Ukraine with the breakaway Russian majority Transnistrian region of Moldova.

        “Transnistria?” I here you ask. “You mean where Dracula’s from, right? Who the hell cares let Putin have it.”

        Well, number one, Dracula’s from Transylvania (Wallachia actually, but never mind).

        Number two Putin will keep pushing until he faces resistance,and if he meets with success in Ukraine or Moldova he may very well move on to the Baltic states.

        And number three there is already a sizable movement in Moldova for unification with neighboring NATO member Romania, a movement that is only likely to grow stronger with an extra Russian division occupying nominal Moldovan territory. Keep in mind that while the majority of Russians in Moldova live in Transnistria, there is no clean geographic divide between ethnic groups. If tens of thousands of Moldovans wake up one morning in Russia, and tens of thousands of Russians wake the same morning in Romania it is going to make for a very interesting afternoon. It’s potentially an ethnic conflict, in a NATO country I might add, the likes if which we have not seen in Europe since the wars in the Balkans.

        Now, am I really telling you that the fate of western civilization will be decided in Transnistria. Some, apparently Nosferatu free, place you couldn’t find on a map if I put a gun to your head?

        No, I’m telling you it might might be decided in a thousand such places. On the Ryukyu islands, or in the Kargil district, or the eastern province of Saudi Arabia.

        Otto Von Bismark once said the Europe would be consumed by an explosion set off by some foolish thing in the Balkans. In June of 1914 a bullet tore through the jugular of a man riding in a car through Sarajevo and seventeen million people died. Such is the intricacy of international affairs.

        Donald Trump makes Dan Quayle look like Henry Kissinger. To vote for him is is to say that you are okay leaving decisions once made by Eisenhower, George Kennan, or Zbigniew Brzezinski in the hands of someone, who five years ago was on comedy central being roasted by a grown man who calls him self “the situation”.

        When you say you choose chaos, be careful what you wish for.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Some people think the second amendment was lost the day you couldn’t order a Thompson submachine gun from Sears and Roebuck.

          That was merely an infringement. What I mean is that Heller will be overturned, and an “interpretation” of the Second Amendment which leaves it as a complete dead letter and not a restraint on any branch or level of government will become the law of the land.

          As for the equal protection clause, I have no absolutely no idea what you’re talking about

          I am saying that the Equal Protection clause, and textually-neutral anti-discrimination laws, will be held to allow discrimination against the “privileged”.

          You’re telling me that Putin will rebuild the old Soviet Union. Supposing he will; what’s Hillary going to do about it that Trump won’t? Put troops on the ground in Eastern Europe? Hello, WWIII.

          • hyperboloid says:

            The unstated assumption of your arguments about gun control and affirmative action is that the policies you oppose are so popular with the general electorate that the moment any constitutional blocks are lifted they will be immediately rammed through the legislative process . There is no evidence that this is true.

            The supreme court alone has no authority to ban the possession of firearms, or order employers to set particular hiring policies, and nobody has ever argued that they do. In addition to the US congress, there are fifty sates, fifty state legislatures (Thirty of them controlled by Republicans) , and fifty state constitutions.

            Furthermore, public opinion polling indicates
            that mass confiscation of firearms and aggressive race based affirmative action policies are highly unpopular with voters.
            Even if such policies were ruled constitutional, and I don’t think they ever will be, where will the legislative will to implement them come from?

            You’re telling me that Putin will rebuild the old Soviet Union

            The short answer to that is no. Trying to closely recreate the old Sovetskiy Soyuz is a fools errand and Putin is smart enough to know it.

            The USSR was a vast empire the directly ruled millions of non Russian speakers in Ukraine the Baltic states, and central Asia, and indirectly controlled millions more throughout the nations of the Warsaw pact. Even if a race of alien space bats arrived tomorrow and helped him seize all that territory, I doubt Putin would want the trouble of governing It.

            Russian foreign policy aims are dangerous in a more subtle way. Moscow has never truly recognized the sovereignty of its neighbors, and what Putin wants is an anschluss with Russian majority regions of former soviet states is his so called “near abroad”.

            This will serve two purposes: first it will strengthen Putin’s grandiose image as a redemptive savior and unifier of the Russian people, and second it will serve a a demonstration that western security guarantees are worthless when not backed up by the United States.

            Putin’s long term goal is to implement a divide et impera strategy to break up NATO and the EU and force European countries
            at gunpoint to sign separate economic and security arrangements on terms highly favorable to Russia.

            The reason Putin’s pants start feeling tight when he thinks about a Trump administration is that he sees Trump’s vulgarity and incompetence as the perfect point of leverage to get what he wants. All he need do is flatter the man a bit, tell him that his crude protection racket like understanding of international affairs is a brilliant strategic innovation, and remind him just how yuuuuge and classy the new Trump tower Sevastopol is going to be, and trump will give him what ever he wants.

            As for what Hillery will do that Trump won’t to protect our interests in Europe; for one I have a near one hundred percent confidence
            that she will continue the policies of every previous Republican president and honor article five of the north Atlantic treaty, furthermore if Russia moves further into Ukraine she can provide Kiev arms and intelligence to help them resist. The Ukrainian military may not be able to stop Putin but it can make him pay a politically unacceptable price.

            At the hight of the cold war it was the universal consensus of our leaders from both parties that our alliances made us more secure rather than less. If that was true, as I think it was, at a time of extreme international tension, It should still be true at a time of relative tranquility.

            Remember that nature abhors a vacuum, and if the institutions that underpin our present security are torn down powerful forces will rush in from all sides to fill their place. The resulting maelstrom may pull us all under.

            The nuclear proliferation concerns alone make the collapse of the American backed international order terrifying; with Poland, South Korea, Japan and, Saudi Arabia likely to launch crash programs to acquire nuclear weapons. I don’t suppose I have to explain why the last country on that list should be so worrying.

            There are many features I don’t like about the
            current Pax Americana, but peace it is and peace I wish it to remain. If you want a mental image to symbolize the present state of the world, imagine Uncle Sam, a great imperial colossus, standing astride the world; at his feet a plaque reads ” après moi le deluge”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Without the Second Amendment to restrain it, we will see a lot more gun control. First more local bans (like those overturned by Heller). Then some statewide bans (starting with handguns) in places like New Jersey and Illinois, likely exploiting tragedy to do it. Then a push for a federal ban based on the porous borders.

            The discrimination against the “privileged” will simply be done by administrative fiat.

      • TheWorst says:

        Without this, we’re likely to lose not just the Second Amendment, but Equal Protection in all but name (to the Social Justice hierarchy of privilege).

        When all of the same people made this claim about Obama’s impending presidency, and were later proven absolutely incorrect, did you update your belief?

        Why not?

        • The Nybbler says:

          I was (and remain) unaware of anyone making this claim about Obama’s impending presidency. At the time, I was also blissfully unaware of the Social Justice hierarchy of privilege, with Political Correctness being on the ebb.

          • TheWorst says:

            Seriously? You’re unaware of the infinite layers of people screaming “THEY’RE GONNA COME FOR OUR GUNS” over and over and over?

            If that’s true, I envy you your relatively sane media exposure. I am not, however, going to pretend it didn’t happen, even if I thought your claim was true. You guys have been yelling “wolf” every time, and there keep not being wolves.

            If Hillary is elected and mass gun confiscation doesn’t happen, what are the odds that you will update the beliefs that keep leading you guys to make predictions that turn out to be false?

            Why have you not already made that update, given that your belief has been demonstrated to be false, over and over and over?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Eh, you’re talking about totally different claims. I’m saying, specifically, that Hillary’s appointments to the Supreme Court would result in the gutting of the Second Amendment, the Equal Protection clause, and equal protection legislation.

            You’re talking about a diverse range of claims made by a diverse range of people which would have to be examined individually. Very few of those claims were equivalent to screaming “THEY’RE GOING TO COME FOR OUR GUNS”; aside from a few generally regarded as kooks by both sides, that characterization is simply mockery from gun control advocates.

          • hyperboloid says:

            (puts on 1950s radio guy voice)
            Little did I know before reading this blog that in America today there exists a ruthlessly powerful totalitarian menace known only as… (cue dramatic music) The Social Justice Warriors!

            I know friend, it sounds unbelievable but I assure you It’s True! This vicious group of cultural Marxist lesbian feminists (and feminine lesbianists) are plotting to take away your god given freedoms. Already they have infiltrated the very centers of American intellectual life, Salon.com, Jezebel, tumblr, and even Teen Vogue!

            How long can it be before Washington itself falls to this ravenous hoard of man hating she-beasts?

            ….okay, okay Ill stop.

            But this is getting ridiculous, nearly every political debate around here gets derailed into a discussion about a small bizarre group of politically correct cyber-bullies.

            Somebody in another thread actually said that he (the username was gender neutral but it was almost certainly a he) would be voting for Trump because he thought that only Trump could save us from the evil SJWs, who’s impending rule would be, he was sure, worse than Communism. I’m really trying to imagine a scenario where Amanda Marcotte kills Twenty million people.

            I’ve traveled in some pretty left wing circles over the years, and have never met anybody in person who has expressed the views widely attributed to the so called social justice movement.

            And I, for one, don’t think it’s a movement at all; there are no “social justice” political parties, trade unions, youth organizations, or revolutionary groups I could hypothetically join.

            As far as I can tell these people congregate in exactly two places; the Internet, which has always been over stocked on bags with which one might douche; and some college campuses where student “activists” desperate to have something to rebel against pick absurd symbolic causes to throw temper tantrums about.

            Who was it that said that campus politics are so vicious because the stakes are so small?

            No genuine questions of public policy are at stake when people are being told to “check their privilege”, or publicly shamed for not using the most up to date euphemism to refer to some or another group of unfortunates. And the people who do these things are not interested in real political power, they are just trying to gain status within their subculture.

            When ever possible, the best thing to do about people obsessed with showing how much better they are than you is to ignore them.

          • TheWorst says:

            Hyperboloid: Are you seriously claiming that you have never heard the name Brendan Eich? How about Justine Sacco?

            “Just ignore them” is abuser-talk, when we’re discussing people who can and will destroy your life the instant some random media person draws their attention to you out of boredom. Especially when these people control the culture, and culture is what determines who’s allowed to live.

            Out of curiosity, is this spectacular failure of empathy general or specific? If someone gets hit by a car, suffering a broken spine and four broken limbs, do you tell them to walk it off?

            People saying “just ignore it” are people who are always confident that in every circumstance they’re going to be the bully, never the target. That confidence is misplaced.

          • hyperboloid says:

            TheWorst:

            A couple of points.

            I hope that nothing I’ve said here will be interpreted as expressing sympathy for the militant PC crowd, I did call them absurd douche bags after all.

            When I said ignore bullies when ever possible, that means ignore them when they can’t do actual harm, which is most of the time. Obviously there are exceptions when other remedies are needed.

            As for Brendan Eich in all honesty I wish the man the best; but the fact that his is the one name that keeps being brought up in these discussions leads me to believe that their aren’t a whole lot of other examples of this nonsense having real world consequences.

            I’m also not convinced that left wing bullies are more powerful or dangerous than right wing bullies, for every Brendan Eich there is probably a Shirley Sherrod.

            When people in all seriousness say that they are voting for Donald Trump because he is politically incorrect they are the ones who lack empathy, not me. We should remember that the president of the United States holds the power to decide genuine issues of life and death, so there are very good reasons to believe that the policies of a Trump presidency will do harm to millions lives in ways far more permanent that loosing a Job.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @ hyperboloid:

            And I, for one, don’t think it’s a movement at all; there are no “social justice” political parties, trade unions, youth organizations, or revolutionary groups I could hypothetically join.

            Wait, have you looked? Serious question. For instance, “youth organizations”. A brief googling finds several. Where do you live? Perhaps Los Angeles?

            The Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is working to build a youth-led movement to challenge race, gender and class inequality in the Los Angeles County juvenile injustice system.

            Heh. “injustice system”. Or maybe you’re closer to Seattle?

            SOAR developed and distributes the Multicultural Youth Leadership Curriculum to help young people ages 14 to 18 explore their leadership styles and cultural identity, and dissect the complex relationships between power, leadership, choices and culture.

            For “Political Party” in the US your best bet is probably the Justice Party, which ran a candidate in 2012.

            “Revolutionary groups” tend not to be highly google-able so for that one you might want to start by getting involved in person with the nearest #occupy or #BLM group and branch out from there.

            So I’m not sure about “trade unions” but the rest all seem pretty doable…

          • anonymous now says:

            Aren’t they all on Double Secret Probation, sir?

          • “for every Brendan Eich there is probably a Shirley Sherrod.”

            That got me curious, since I didn’t recognize the name, so I googled and found the Wiki article:

            “The Obama administration apologized to Sherrod, and offered her a full-time, high-level internal advocacy position with the USDA, which she ultimately declined.”

            I didn’t realize that the Eich affair had had a similar resolution.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I get the point that, before every election, there is always manic screaming about appointing justices, by each side.

          But one big difference now is that there is a vacancy in SCOTUS caused by the untimely death of a conservative justice.

        • anonymous now says:

          The normally prolific Nybbler won’t be able to get to your question today.

          It seems he’s tied up and can’t get free. Nice job.
          He had no where to go.

          Witchfinder’s don’t update anyhow. The anti-sj posse has yet to do so after two years of zilch (or should i say eich!).

        • hyperboloid says:

          Glen Raphael:

          Where do you live? Perhaps Los Angeles?… Or maybe you’re closer to Seattle?

          Los Angeles or Seattle, huh?

          well, Neither actually.

          Hark! ‘

          For I have a tale to tell,

          While place of my birth may only be known to your people through legends of deep dish pizza, and the notorious B.I.G, I assure you it is very real. For you it would take a long and perilousness journey to reach my homeland. Even if you are able to brave the mighty mountains and the barren desserts, and resist the temptation of complimentary tickets to Elton John’s show at the great palace of Caeser you would still have many miles to go; for, you see, I come from the distant and mysterious land to your east!

          On a more serious note we need to define what exactly social justice is.

          The term itself originated in Jesuit philosophy during the mid nineteenth century. As the church grappled with the forces of nationalism, liberalism, and socialism sweeping Europe in the aftermath of the revolutions of 1848, catholic intellectuals like Antonio Rosmini-Serbati tried to craft a political doctrine that would serve as an alternative both to the existing capitalist order and to dangerous the chaos inherent in radical political upheaval. In contrast to Marxism Catholic social teaching aimed to avoided the extremes of class conflict by charting a cautious middle path of moderate reform and redistribution.

          As liberals and social democrats gained influence throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many who wished to find an another option besides radical Marxism and the inequitable status quo began to adopt ideas that, when viewed form the right angle, are not all that different than the doctrines of rerum novarum.and accordingly the concept of social justice found a home on the secular left.

          The fact that, even when divorced from its original theological underpinnings, none of this had anything to do with any form of identity politics, leads me to believe that using “social justice” to to refer to things like “safe spaces”, and “trigger warnings” is a kind of rhetorical trick aimed to delegitimize various left wing ideas.

          Black lives matter is organized around criminal justice reform, and occupy wall street had somewhat vague goals, but was essentially concerned with questions of political economy.
          So it is possible to see at least some connection between these movements and the original since of social justice. But what ever you may think off the agenda of these gropes is far from obvious they have anything in particular to do with political correctness or censorship.

          As for the organizations that you cite; As far as i can tell form two thousand miles away the Youth Justice Coalition is, like BLM, a criminal justice reform movement, the Justice party was founded by a Mormon former mayor of salt lake city and has endorsed Bernie sanders, and I’m not entirely sure what SOAR does other than distribute vague multicultural pablum.

          Social Justice, the vaguely Christian inspired project of moderate reformist leftism (of which I am somewhat fond), and “Social Justice” the miscellaneous grab bag into which right wingers throw the shrillest elements of radical feminism, toxic political correctness, and white guilt identity politics, have nothing to do with each other.

          I was going to compare anti-SJW paranoia to McCarthyism, but you know what that is unfair to old tail gunner Joe. The Communist party did actually exist, and where Communists gained power they did great harm.

          There simply is no “Social justice movement” in the sense that you mean. The category of disciplined political groups aiming to impose by force the views of the worst parts of tumblr is an empty set.

    • wtvb says:

      I don’t want America to play any more “World Police” because it sucks at it and I live in Middle East. Trump’s neutrality towards other countries’ inner affairs is refreshing

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I had been planning to vote for Johnson, on the “plague on both your houses” theory. If I voted for Trump, it would be because Clinton insulted my intelligence by telling such pathetic lies about her shameful conduct as Secretary of State.

      Clinton’s recent “basket of deplorables” remark has tipped me toward voting for Trump. Yes, there are racists and Islamophobes who support Trump. To tar half of them with that brush is abominable, and exactly portrays what I find so awful about politics today.

      • TheWorst says:

        Can you explain why you think Clinton is obligated to pretend not to know any of the salient facts about Trump supporters?

        Just as we’re not obligated to pretend not to have noticed that the internal struggle between “SJWs” and the rest of the social justice movement is over (the W’s won), the same is true of everything else. You’re not obligated to help anyone else hide truths, especially truths about how malicious they are.

        • Protagoras says:

          When did the W’s win? I spend a lot of time on college campuses, supposedly hotbeds of political correctness, and I see little sign of this SJW dominance that people here constantly refer to. My being a het cis white male pretty much never seems to prevent me from getting respect, for example. Admittedly, I don’t hang around on tumblr or twitter much, so if you merely mean that SJWs have won the turf wars there, I have no basis to claim otherwise (apart from noting that many people seem to make similar claims about college campuses, which don’t seem to be true, so I have a tendency toward skepticism about such claims in general).

          • TheWorst says:

            Okay. Let’s put your belief to the test. Go out and publicly argue for the excommunication of cyberbullies; be specific about which ones. Start with, let’s say, everyone who was involved in the public crucifixion of Scott Aaronson and Justine Sacco.

            If you’re correct, you won’t be excommunicated for this yourself, and will be successful in excommunicating the people you name. Go on; I’ll wait right here. Good luck.

            The fact that you’re utterly unwilling to put your belief to the test should be taken as a hint that you’re aware it is false. Beliefs you’re afraid to test are beliefs in which you have low confidence; notice when this happens.

            If you were correct, everyone going after Aaronson would’ve gotten the Brendan Eich treatment. They didn’t.

          • Anonymous says:

            Wait, Scott Aaronson is dead?

          • anonymous now says:

            So it’s all over for Howard Stern and car models, huh?

            When are they going to run a candidate for congress?

          • anonymous now says:

            “Start with, let’s say, everyone who was involved in the public crucifixion of Scott Aaronson and Justine Sacco.”

            I love this “let’s say….” I mean what does he have choose from? Eich or Aaronson? Both from two years ago. Both minor bumps in their successful careers. Both destined to spend the rest of their life being honored as free speech martyrs.

            You don’t have an update. Your trying to sell the same scare but these goods are shoddy.

            And by not having an update, arent you bound to make one?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Eich. Aaronson. Tim Hunt. Matt Taylor. Mr. Hank. Sacco. Larry Summers. These are the ones public enough to get noticed. The “racistsgettingfired” tumblr gets nobodies fired from retail and fast food jobs for what they say on the internet.

          • Anonymous says:

            Lord, have mercy,
            Christ, have mercy,
            Lord, have mercy,
            Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
            Mary, Queen of Martyrs, pray for us.
            St. Michael, pray for us.
            St. Gabriel, pray for us.
            St. Raphael, pray for us.
            St. Joseph, pray for us.
            Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

            St. Mark, pray for us.
            St. Andrew, pray for us.
            St. James the Greater, pray for us.
            St. Thomas, pray for us.
            St. James the Less, pray for us.
            St. Philip, pray for us.
            St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
            St. Matthew, pray for us.
            St. Thaddeus, pray for us.
            St. Simon, pray for us.

            St. Callixtus, pray for us.
            St. Pontian, pray for us.
            St. Fabian, pray for us.
            St. Cornelius, pray for us.
            St. Sixtus II, pray for us.
            St. Eusebius, pray for us.

            St. Lawrence, pray for us.
            St. Gennarius, pray for us.
            St. Magnus, pray for us.
            St. Vincent, pray for us.
            St. Stephen, pray for us.
            St. Felicissimus, pray for us.
            St. Agapitus, pray for us.

            St. Tarcisius, pray for us.
            St. Cecilia, pray for us.
            St. Philomena, pray for us.
            St. Theodora, pray for us.
            St. Agatha, pray for us.
            St. Lucy, pray for us.
            St Agnes, pray for us.
            Sts. Perpetua and Felicity, pray for us.
            St. Anastasia, pray for us.
            St. Crispina, pray for us.
            St. Dominic Savio, pray for us.
            St. John Fisher, pray for us.
            St. Thomas More, pray for us.
            St. Thomas Beckett, pray for us.
            St. Isaac Jogues, pray for us.
            St. John Brebufe, pray for us.
            St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us.
            Sts. Fabian and Sebastian, pray for us.
            Sts. John and Paul, pray for us.
            Sts. Cosmos and Damien, pray for us.
            Sts. Gervase and Protase, pray for us.

            St. Eich, pray for us.
            St. Aaronson, pray for us.
            St. Hunt, pray for us.
            St. Taylor, pray for us.
            St. Hank, pray for us.
            St. Sacco, pray for us.
            St. Summers, pray for us.
            St. Nybbler, pray for us.

            Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
            Spare us, O Lord.
            Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
            Graciously hear us, O Lord.
            Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
            Have mercy on us.

            O God, our Father, Who hast made us fruitful with the blood of Martyrs, the bright example of undying faith, keep us strong in our faith that we may foretaste with joy the fruit of their sacrifice and ours. Through Jesus Christ, Thy Son Our Lord, Who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Can you explain why you think Clinton is obligated to pretend not to know any of the salient facts about Trump supporters?

          I’m not following you, unless your claim is that 50% is the correct proportion. But that claim is precisely what I said was absurd and abominable.

          • To expand on this a little …

            I heard someone on the radio defending the Clinton statement. The evidence he offered was a poll that he said showed something close to half of Trump supporters believing that blacks were less intelligent, lazier, and more violent than whites.

            Assuming it’s the poll I read and that my memory is correct–someone is welcome to correct me if it’s not–it was the proportion agreeing with at least one of the three claims. Of the three, one is obviously true in at least the simplest interpretation. The black murder rate in the U.S. is much higher than the white. That doesn’t tell us whether the reason is genetic or environmental–but the question didn’t ask that.

            I don’t know how one would get evidence on “lazier.” But I believe it is true that measured black IQ has a lower average than measured white IQ in the U.S., which in turn is lower than measured East Asian IQ (I think also Amerind but I’m not sure).

            So the implication of his argument–and of Hilary’s statement if that is the sort of evidence she is using–is that anyone willing, on a poll, to express an arguably true opinion about race that is not politically correct is a racist.

            Perhaps The Worst could defend his position by pointing at better evidence that half of Trump supporters are at least one of the things Hilary claims they are?

  3. Frederic says:

    Vox – You’re more likely to be killed by your own clothes than by an immigrant terrorist
    http://www.vox.com/2016/9/13/12901950/terrorism-immigrants-clothes

    • Jiro says:

      Comparing risk this way ignores the effect of the number of Muslim immigrants. Obviously, the fewer of them you have, the fewer terrorist killings you’ll have. I’m pretty sure that an individual clothes item is less likely to cause a death than an individual Muslim immigrant. And why didn’t he look at Europe instead, which has lots more Muslim immigrants?

      Furthermore, the reasons he describes for there being little terrorism by Muslim immigrants are reasons that his ideological comrades mostly oppose.

    • Sfoil says:

      The “1 in 3.6 billion” number struck me immediately as obviously false, because there are way more than 2 murderers on the planet. Then I realized that it was the odds of a) someone on a refugee visa b) in America c) killing someone which d) USG declares to be a “terrorist attack” e) per year since 1975(?).

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Which promptly falls apart given the USG’s current policy of declaring terrorist attacks to be “workplace violence.” Then again, Vox is poisonous agitprop anyway.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @sfoil:

        The “1 in 3.6 billion” number struck me immediately as obviously false

        The article currently says the average likelihood of an American being killed in a terrorist attack in which an immigrant participated in any given year is 1 in 3.6 million. (including 9/11)

        @Jiro:

        Comparing risk this way ignores the effect of the number of Muslim immigrants. Obviously, the fewer of them you have, the fewer terrorist killings you’ll have.

        I’m not sure that’s obvious. I suspect there are threshold effects. It seems plausible that once you have enough legal Muslim immigrants, there’s going to be substantial assimilation, making it more likely a potential terrorist would interact with more-assimilated muslims who might either (a) convince the potential terrorist not to do it, or (b) inform the authorities.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          making it more likely a potential terrorist would interact with more-assimilated muslims who might either (a) convince the potential terrorist not to do it, or (b) inform the authorities.

          From news stories, it appears that a fellow Muslim trying to convince you to blow anything up is most likely an FBI agent.

          That’s a good metagame to be at, but I’m ignoring the costs, both financial and societal.

  4. Since this is an open thread …

    For no good reason I was thinking about the Civil War. Various people have done alternate history where the war ends with the Confederacy independent. Has anyone done one where the war doesn’t happen because, when the deep South secedes, the North responds with “Good by. Good luck. Let us know if you change your mind,” and the rest of the South stays in the Union?

    • hlynkacg says:

      Not that I know of, but in hindsight that really may have been the best option. PS, enjoy your trade sanctions slavers.

      • pku says:

        I’m going to guess slavery would not have been easily solvable by trade sanctions, since once you have a modern-ish country where nearly half the population are slaves, there is an enormous incentive to keep them down.

        • Jeff Hummel argues that if the North had been unwilling to capture and return runaway slaves the cost to slave states of maintaining slavery would have been substantially higher, with a near border for slaves to escape across.

        • John Schilling says:

          once you have a modern-ish country where nearly half the population are slaves, there is an enormous incentive to keep them down

          Jim Crow works well enough to “keep them down”, if that’s the real issue. But if the modern-ish country is using slaves primarily to grow a cash crop for export, and the export customers all decide that they’d rather buy that commodity from (say) Egypt where they grow the same thing without slave labor, the incentive to keep them down as slaves isn’t so strong. And for that matter, the Royal Navy’s resolve to capture or sink any damned slave-trading ship might plausibly be extended to ships carrying the products of open slave labor.

          Mind you, I’m not entirely certain I’d like the alternate history where the slavers are given a century of calibrated incentives and a permissive environment to fine-tune Jim Crow into general acceptability. That institution was bad enough when Blacks had de jure civil rights, and the Feds the authority to step in with a hard “NO, no matter how much you’re willing to pay in sanctions” from day one. And the border states are going to be playing the same game in what’s left of the USA, because the prime directive of post-crisis American politics will be “don’t piss off the Virginians so much that they join the Confederates”.

          But if it would have saved us a war with half a million dead and a century of bitterness, meh, maybe. Life vs. Death is pretty drastic compared to gradiations in oppression. Maybe we can get Harry Turtledove to write the story for us, and then we’ll know.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I hear he’s working on the sex scenes as we speak.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Maybe we can get Harry Turtledove to write the story for us, and then we’ll know.

            S.M. Stirling wrote one version (set in South Africa rather than the American South). But of course the thing about fiction is you can make it turn out any way you want.

          • LHN says:

            I think you need the British (or US) Navy sinking the ships (or at least boarding and engaging in confiscation and fines) to get the effect. Otherwise, cotton is a pretty fungible product, I’d think, and selling it to people who don’t care or laundering it through a middleman country (so that somehow more “Egyptian” cotton winds up in textile mills than Egypt ever grew) should be pretty doable.

            And it at least seems as if it’s a lot easier to distinguish and target slave ships (whose contents are… distinctive) than to toss every merchantman’s cargo hold for contraband cotton.

            Anglo-American naval cooperation could certainly impose a significant cost to the trade. I just don’t know if it’s enough to make the slave economy uneconomic.

          • bean says:

            S.M. Stirling wrote one version (set in South Africa rather than the American South). But of course the thing about fiction is you can make it turn out any way you want.

            I normally like his work, but Draka has so many problems as alt-history that appealing to it makes no sense at all.

          • LHN says:

            The Draka books are like The Man in the High Castle (minus the latter’s more trippy elements) or Kornbluth’s “Two Dooms”. (Or pretty much any of the many “Axis conquers North America in WWII” stories, give or take the ones that involve, e.g., Superman’s rocket landing near Berlin instead of Smallville.) The logistics and sheer luck required are increasingly unlikely, but it’s a riveting nightmare.

    • TheWorst says:

      This seems to be based on the counterfactual that the South seceded by some other means than commencing armed hostilities. That is a necessary (but strangely unstated) assumption in order for the North to have any option other than to participate in the war that the other side started.

      In this alternate history, what did the Southern secessionists do in place of attacking the United States and launching the Civil War?

      • They attacked a fortification on their territory occupied by federal troops. The federal government responded by offering to negotiate and the negotiations ended up with the federal troops leaving the state and state troops occupying the fortification.

        Do you assume that all attacks must lead to war?

        • TheWorst says:

          I assume that all acts of war are acts of war, yes. And I’m aware of how common it is for neo-confederates to pretend that the United States started the war.

          I also do not like it when people unquestioningly assume that Lost Causer bullshit is the truth. I am under no obligation to pretend it is.

          Note that under no other circumstance would you–or anyone else–pretend not to know that when an army attacks another army it’s an act of war.

  5. Jill says:

    Looking back at dtsund’s post that you cited here, on the evolutionary complexity argument in politics.

    Interesting post. Here I quote part of it, to think further about it and respond further.

    “In any given election, the voting public adds some information to the system, analogous to selective pressure in organisms. Flagrantly bad politicians can (maybe) be weeded out and replaced by better ones. But there’s a limit; each individual race or initiative is at most two or three bits of information, assuming a high number of candidates. One bit is more typical. An entire voting district’s results will only be a few bytes, and some of that information will be garbage unless you’re prepared to argue that the best candidate always wins.

    “Meanwhile, the government presents a corruption attack surface whose size is directly proportional to how much government happens to be doing at the moment.

    “While there’s no upper bound to how much government regulation we can have, there’s probably a very strict upper bound to the level of genuinely useful regulation. Anything above and beyond that amount should be expected as a matter of course to wind up perverted by malefactors of great wealth.

    “Pick the one issue you care most about, pro- or anti-: gun control, minimum wage increases, transgender bathrooms, whatever. Hell, pick two or three. If you fight hard enough, you can maybe win those fights. You should expect to lose everything else.

    “The above applies to democratically-elected governments. The Death Eaters, I’m sure, will argue that this points toward monarchy/authoritarianism as the ideal governmental model. As though injecting zero information into a system is somehow better than injecting a small amount.”

    I would disagree that “In any given election, the voting public adds some information to the system”– at least if you mean the system of governing the country. Modern politicians collect information on what the voting public wants, in order to promise to give that to the voters. But politicians do not usually give that to the voters. They PROMISE that to the voters, and then break the promise, in order to please that politicians’ donors. The public can always be easily hoodwinked by propaganda and false promises. The donors only stay with the politician who does their will.

    E.g. every president elected for the last 30 years has campaigned as some kind of political outsider who was going to shake up the status quo. Believable outsider candidates poll quite well. But none of them did shake up the status quo much. There are not a lot changes from one presidential administration to another. And that’s just looking at presidential races– which are the races people pay attention to. There is even less info added into the system by the voting public in other “lesser” races– the ones where far fewer people even vote.

    With regard to the part that says: “While there’s no upper bound to how much government regulation we can have, there’s probably a very strict upper bound to the level of genuinely useful regulation. Anything above and beyond that amount should be expected as a matter of course to wind up perverted by malefactors of great wealth.”

    I don’t see it working that way. There were probably far too many laws on the books at the times that our most successful government programs were enacted– the G I Bill, Social Security. But they worked anyway. And, of course, tons of other governmental programs and regulations that were instituted around the same time and afterwards, were a huge waste and should never have been enacted. We often have useful regulations and totally non-useful regulations all instituted together or around the same time.

    I do agree with the related point made by dtsund that one needs to carefully choose one’s battles, because there is only so much one can focus on, and expect to win, at one time, in the way of government laws or regulations.

    If we had a project to get rid of regulations that most citizens see as being unnecessary, I think that would be great.

    • pku says:

      The “one or two bits of information” is a poor model, since politicians can see people’s preferences, and thus find an equilibrium where they’re in fairly close agreement on most issues. If they wildly diverged on some issue, that issue would become a talking point with whoever was closer to centre on it, and lose the other one votes.

      Also, re: Promises: Data shows that politicians actually tend to keep their promises (or at least make a good faith attempt to do so).

      George W. Bush promised tax cuts and education reform, and within the first year of his administration had delivered on both. Barack Obama promised to focus on the economy, health care and the environment. Once in office, he pushed first a massive stimulus package and then the Affordable Care Act through Congress, and he has worked with China and others in the international community on climate change, despite strong legislative opposition. As for the promises that get abandoned, many have more to do with changing circumstances than a lack of principles. (Think of Bush, an ardent free-marketeer, signing the Troubled Asset Relief Program bill during the first tremors of the Great Recession.)

      • Corey says:

        A corollary of that research: another reason why trying to figure out a politician’s “real” position on something is a fool’s errand. What matters most for actual governing is what they campaigned on.

  6. Two McMillion says:

    Many left-leaning people talk about income inequality, meaning the gap between the what the richest and the poorest people make. A larger gap is generally held to be problematic. I do not understand why it should be a problem. Could a left-leaning person please explain this to me?

    • brad says:

      I’m left leaning but I don’t think it is a big problem in and of itself. From talking to those that think it is, the best argument I’ve heard is that wealth can be transformed into political power — so that even if it is not a problem economically it is a problem politically.

      There’s a lot of conflation and confusion on the subject between stock and flow. I think that’s probably because flow is easier to get good numbers for, but stock is the real concern.

      • cassander says:

        If you’re worried about power inequality, the 535 members of congress have a hell of a lot bigger share of the power than the fortune 500 has of the money. Seems like you’re sniffing in the wrong place, regardless of stock/flow issues.

    • AnonBosch says:

      I haven’t done a deep dive into the literature or anything, but I do know it’s fairly uncontroversial among economists that extreme disparities in income can retard economic growth; the dispute is largely over mechanisms and where the golden mean is (since extreme equality also retards growth). The most obvious ECON 101 answer is that too much inequality will kill demand since poor people are almost always going to be buying things with their money while rich people can just let it accumulate or (macroeconomically speaking) light it on fire in various ways. You can counter this with the empirical observation that consumer spending hasn’t generally correlated with inequality, at which point you can try either econometrically correcting the data for a zillion things or refining your hypothesis to include credit bubbles and other destructive forms of debt on which consumer spending has been increasingly reliant.

      Others (e.g., Stiglitz) have made the argument from the supply side, that if too many people are too poor it will lead to a poorly educated and less productive workforce. There are also a number of political science theories that ultimately boil down to the cynical but true observation that letting people get too poor because of what your ECON 101 textbook says is a good way to end up with outright Marxism instead of a moderately redistributive liberalism. Since I’m a cynic, I think this argument is the best one, but again, this is just stuff I’ve picked up from osmosis from reading various leftish sources.

      • JayT says:

        Having a large gap doesn’t necessarily tell you how poor the people at the bottom are though.
        If the economy grows the poor could get richer while inequality grows, which is what we have been seeing over the last 40 years.

        • AnonBosch says:

          I agree there’s a difference between absolute and relative poverty, but I was speaking solely of relative poverty since that’s what the parent comment seemed to be discussing.

          Counter-intuitively, I think the data shows that inequality matters more as the poor get richer in absolute terms. Or at least indicates a much tighter correlation with slow growth in rich countries than poor countries.

          • JayT says:

            “I agree there’s a difference between absolute and relative poverty, but I was speaking solely of relative poverty since that’s what the parent comment seemed to be discussing.”

            I read it as a more general “why is inequality bad?” type of question, and to that I would postulate that it just doesn’t really matter. What matters is how good the quality of life is across the population. Ethiopia has less income inequality than the US, but I would guess there are very few people in the world that would choose the quality of life in Ethiopia over the US.

            “Counter-intuitively, I think the data shows that inequality matters more as the poor get richer in absolute terms. Or at least indicates a much larger correlation with slow growth in rich countries than poor countries.”

            I have a hard time believing that. China is one of the most unequal countries, but it has had huge growth. The same is true of India.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        since poor people are almost always going to be buying things with their money while rich people can just let it accumulate or (macroeconomically speaking) light it on fire in various ways

        The macroeconomic alternative to consumption is investment.

        • AnonBosch says:

          Unless the depressed demand due to aforementioned extreme inequality limits the returns and creates a savings glut. Or the aforementioned rise in bad debt held by poor people leads to investment steering towards destructive bubbles.

          (I’m aware I simplified a bunch of stuff in the parent post; it wasn’t meant to be a comprehensive explainer.)

    • Corey says:

      If the gap gets big enough it can be practically impossible to bridge. Piketty uses as an example old-school aristocracy, where the only way to become wealthy enough to have any political power was to marry into a rich family.

      • cassander says:

        If he doesn’t, that’s a terrible example. The aristocracy had political power, it was money they often lacked, and rich merchants who married into the aristocracy for political reasons, not to get rich.

    • Zombielicious says:

      The short version would be that we don’t live in some kind of post-scarcity utopia where everyone has their needs met to a reasonable degree, so people consider it a problem that, as society continues to grow richer, most of the wealth accumulates to the top of the pyramid while the larger number at the bottom continue to live substandard lives. Wage stagnation is probably the better term. Especially if it occurs to the extent that the groups on the bottom are actually moving backwards in terms of real wages, purchasing power, quality of life, whatever.

      Most people aren’t literal communists that think everyone should have exactly the same wealth and no more. They just find it kind of messed up that CEO pay and billionaire net worth has ballooned without managing to solve problems like homelessness or basic healthcare coverage, and they can barely afford to go to school without relying on food stamps and being in debt for the next ten years (not to mention two or three jobs on top of it).

    • Aapje says:

      Could a left-leaning person please explain this to me?

      Income and/or wealth correlates strongly with opportunities being available/useable by people. So if you want a meritocracy, you have to limit the income/wealth gaps; or you go back to a class-based society, where outcome is mostly determined by to whom you were born.

    • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

      Perhaps because any inequality is simply immoral in and of itself? Because it’s unfair? But if you can’t grasp this, how about this:
      The 4 biggest reasons why inequality is bad for society? Specifically:
      “1. Economic inequality can give wealthier people an unacceptable degree of control over the lives of others.”
      “2. Economic inequality can undermine the fairness of political institutions.”
      “3. Economic inequality undermines the fairness of the economic system itself.”
      “4. Workers, as participants in a scheme of cooperation that produces national income, have a claim to a fair share of what they have helped to produce.”
      And see also Rawls’ “Difference Principle“, in particular the portion which says:

      Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: (a) They are to be attached to positions and offices open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and (b), they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged members of society.

      Any form of the wealth inequality can only be justified if it was both obtained under the full equality of opportunity (which, of course, we very much don’t have), and if any attempt to reduce it would make the absolute poorest and most disadvantaged worse off.

      • Incurian says:

        I can’t tell if you’re trolling or not.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          I googled the name, and all I found was similarly trollish comments. Make of that what you will.

        • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

          I mean, that’s probably the least trollish comment from them. After all, a lot of people do hold equality as a terminal value, at the very least in theory.

        • onyomi says:

          What I love about SSC is that comments of a quality that would be considered average at most other comment spaces are hard to tell apart from actual trolling here.

        • TheWorst says:

          Posting from a position that’s fairly slightly left-of-center shouldn’t be considered trolling. Accusing anyone other than right-wingers of trolling, however, perhaps should be.

          It’s possible Anita’s taken previous criticism to heart and gotten more content-intensive and less virtue-signalling intensive. That is the direction she should move in, so it should be encouraged, not insulted dismissively.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            “any inequality is simply immoral in and of itself” is hardly slightly left-of-center. It’s very left of center.

          • TheWorst says:

            Have you met an actual leftist? I don’t mean what passes for leftism here–basically whatever the hard-right believed last month–but actual leftists.

            But let’s pretend you’re right. So what? “Not a member of the alt-right” is still not synonymous with troll. Given that alt-righters are automatically dismissed as trolls everywhere but there own spaces and here, you’d think they’d be a little smarter about this.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Have you met an actual leftist? I don’t mean what passes for leftism here–basically whatever the hard-right believed last month–but actual leftists.

            Yes, I live in a country where the mayor right wing party is, in many ways, to the left of mainstream democrats. It doesn’t matter the amount of people that believe it, “all inequality is inmoral” is an inherently extreme belief, and one can not reasonable hold it and claim to be near the mythical “center” (just claiming you hold it is a different matter).

            Besides, I explicitly stated that that statement was not particularly trollish, since a lot of people actually hold that view.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          TheWorst –

          It’s less that the individual is left-of-center and more that the individual represents Leftist ideas in such a way that they seem to be Colbert-esque parodies of leftism.

          You, Anita, Uncle, and Jill all share that quality, that some of the stuff you say seems to be mocking the ideology you claim to be a part of. This could, of course, be poor calibration on my part; I’ve certainly incorrectly jumped at Jill before. But it’s also possible that alt-right trolls are deliberately trying to make the Left look bad, something I wouldn’t put past the alt-right, a group which appears to relish in tactics of questionable ethics.

          Because the thing is – I prefer a well-represented Left, even if I’m not myself Leftist – I want competent opponents – and I at least am left in a situation where charity towards the Left and charity towards individual Leftists is in… sharp conflict.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I mean, I had my doubts about Jill, and definitely think ARS is a troll (John Sid les just seems like a deeply annoying individual), but I don’t see why you’d think TheWorst is one.

          • TheWorst says:

            I think your personal Overton window is badly in need of calibration. It seems to stretch from “Far right” to “Far, far, far right,” and dismiss everything else as trolling. Disagreeing with the proposition that the rich must be allowed to be rich enough to undermine democracy is not leftist trolling, or even leftist at all; it’s moderate right.

            Perhaps you would be more suited to an environment with less intellectual diversity? There are many of those, and they are readily available to anyone with an internet connection, which you demonstrably have.

            For what it’s worth, I too prefer a well-represented right. Dismissing all non-right-wingers as trolls doesn’t fill that niche.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            TheWorst –

            I just don’t find you particularly believable as a Leftist. Leftists generally don’t, for example, use the term “Overton Window”, which is almost an alt-right term of art specifically for describing mechanisms for how Cthulu Swims Left.

            More, your characterization of the right, there, is quite apt for the alt-right, which DOES oppose people sufficiently wealthy people as to pose a dangerous degree of power for the government, but doesn’t fit in with the way somebody as vehemently and often venomously Leftist as you tend to behave would generally regard the right.

            It’s possible, of course, that you’re just a frequently-unpleasant Leftist who somehow has a great deal of charity for the beliefs of the alt-right specifically. But alt-right troll just looks more likely to me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Orphan Wilde:

            What are you using the word “leftist” to mean? Because I usually see it used as a self-description by people who are Marxists of some variety, or something like that. If you’re using it to mean “all people on the left” that’s going to cause confusion – because, to give an example, people who consider themselves leftists sneer at those they call “liberals”.

            Additionally, since when is the term “Overton Window” an alt-right term? Wikipedia tells me it was coined by a guy who worked at a free market think tank:

            The Center writes that its ideology is most accurately characterized as flowing from the “classical liberal tradition: socially tolerant, economically sophisticated, desiring little government intervention in either their personal or economic affairs.”

            This doesn’t sound alt-right at all.

          • TheWorst says:

            @Orphan Wilde: The principle of charity is a thing. You’ve noticed that I’m using it; I recommend doing the same. It will make you vastly better at ideological Turing tests.

            It will also give you some relief from whatever impulse makes you accuse everyone who isn’t on the alt-right of being a leftist and/or an alt-rightist.

      • onyomi says:

        “any inequality is simply immoral in and of itself?”

        I don’t see how you can take that as axiomatic. Is it immoral that some people are born smart and physically fit while others are born mentally and physically handicapped? It’s not fair, true. But that doesn’t mean it’s immoral. Immoral implies some kind of agency.

        I guess you could say you mean “it’s immoral for humans to tolerate any level of unfairness and/or inequality of outcome* in the world.” I mean, I guess you could assert that, but even if we assume total equality of outcome is the ideal, which may not be true, and certainly can’t be asserted axiomatically, equality of outcome is only one value of many people chose to pursue, and not inherently superior to other human goals, nor the sum total of justice in a general sense.

        *You may take it as axiomatic that inequality of outcome implies inequality of opportunity, and, therefore, unfairness, but I don’t think that’s a given, either. I, personally, think equality of opportunity, but not outcome, is worth striving for, but only insofar as it doesn’t require doing something immoral to achieve it, like seizing landowners’ property, etc.

        • Dahlen says:

          You know, not that I like “siding with” a known troll, but every time the topic of human inequality comes up, there’s always someone, or a bunch of someones, to push the narrative of smart & fit & attractive & successful vs. dumb & handicapped & ugly & unsuccessful (“I mean, it’s obvious for everyone who has eyes to see”) as if it were some sort of axiological slam dunk. And it’s not, reality has more facets than that which need to be explored and taken into consideration. And it gets really tiresome after hearing it one too many times.

          People who advocate some form of ethical intuitionism would argue, indeed, that the objective conditions of reality (like inequality of ability & attributes) is or should be somehow accommodated by the human moral sense, and in this particular instance to accept some level of unfairness of conditions as a given, rather than produce more unfairness in the world through hamhanded attempts to change these conditions, Harrison Bergeron-style. Inevitable inequalities are normalised and our ideas about justice are to work around them. But to employ this fact towards the conclusion that “inequality” isn’t so bad after all is (1) taking the premise and running with it, (2) a motte-and-bailey argument. “Inequality” is a word that happens to cover both descriptive initial conditions and normative axiological judgments, and a good discussion about this entails unpacking that word into its separate meanings, and people who have been in favour of inequality (in both senses) to begin with tend to be reluctant to take this step, because it puts them at a rhetorical disadvantage. This is not an HBD discussion, this particular argument is not very on-topic.

          Anyway, I would advise against rebutting “Anita” word-for-word and taking what “she” wrote at face value. (Although, surprisingly, this is one of their less trollish comments and I suppose the views expressed herein must be closer to those of the author, as they’re able to make a stronger case for them.) Obviously this person doesn’t intend to make the strongest case possible for the egalitarian position. One fool blurts out some nonsense on a whim, and ten smart individuals spend hours correcting it…

          (Also, equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity is also one way of framing among many, which may get disproportionate attention because of its historical popularity. For instance, I prefer to talk more in terms of equality of status.)

          equality of outcome is only one value of many people chose to pursue, and not inherently superior to other human goals, nor the sum total of justice in a general sense.

          So? Under a value-pluralist perspective, the fact that a value has axiological competition is not an argument for undermining it in general, or working against it.

          Also, if you’re not taking any value as axiomatic, then, praytell, where does it come from and what are you taking as axiomatic in its stead?

          [Epistemic status: praying to the heavens not to end up on the frontpage of r/badphilosophy]

          • TheWorst says:

            Yes, this.

            “I have power over you because of who my parents were” is immoral, and this is trivially obvious to any person with at least a normally-functioning sense of morality. Perhaps Onyomi and Onyomi’s fellow-travelers would like to repeat feudalism, but theirs is an outlying position, and they should perhaps cease question their assumption that their false beliefs are axiomatically true.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “Parents should be prevented from working to improve their children’s lives” is immoral, and this is trivially obvious to any person with at least a normally-functioning sense of morality.

          • TheWorst says:

            @Jaskologist:

            That these two things are in no way identical is trivially-obvious to any person with at least a normally-functioning grasp on the English language.

            Interesting motte you have there.

            EDIT: If I were inclined to think you were arguing in good faith, I would point out that making your kids rich enough to destroy democracy is not the only way to improve their lives.

            Making the highest marginal tax rate equal 100% is not incompatible with the motte to which you’ve retreated. The fact that you’d still oppose such increases is how we can tell you’re actually in the bailey, and that the feigned retreat to the motte wasn’t made in good faith.

          • onyomi says:

            I do take the state of the world as a baseline in the sense that it doesn’t make sense to me to describe a world state as “immoral.” Actions are immoral. States of the world are “unfair” or “unjust” (though I don’t think those two are exactly the same).

            For example, it’s a fact about the world that people have to do a lot of crap just to stay alive. It’s a fact about the world that in the state of nature, a large percentage of infants die of now easily preventable diseases. It doesn’t make sense to me to say that that’s “immoral.” It is just is. “Earthquakes kill people” isn’t immoral. It just is.

            Now I suppose what people are saying is that the action of choosing to prioritize other values over saving poor children from easily preventable diseases is immoral. In some cases, it may be. But it all depends on the circumstances. Is it immoral to enjoy a new car when people are dying of malaria in Africa? Seemingly not, unless you think morality demands all first world citizens devote themselves immediately and entirely to improving the lives of those born with less. Is it immoral to embezzle money from a charity for saving poor children from disease to buy yourself a Ferrari? Obviously, yes.

            Does morality demand that the simple existence of any inequality anywhere means that those with more must do at least something to help those with less? Maybe? It all depends on many circumstances like how the richer people got rich, how the poorer people got poorer, what the relationship between the two is (most people seem to feel more obligation to their neighbor or countryman than people suffering far away; I, personally, don’t feel this intuition very strongly outside of people I know personally; I generally feel more sympathy for Africans with no clean drinking water than for strangers in my country having trouble paying rent), whether any pre-existing commitments were made, etc. etc.

            I’ll agree that there is a general “common sense” morality or ethical intuition which says that “while you’re not obligated to donate everything you own and be Mother Teresa, if you are fortunate enough to have more than most, you should make at least some effort to help those with less, especially within your own society.”

            I don’t claim there’s anything wrong with that intuition. I merely said that that intuition has to be balanced against many other considerations, such as what, exactly, is being proposed to help reduce the inequality. Are voluntary donations to help starving children good? Almost certainly yes. Is murder of all landowners and confiscation of their land good? Almost certainly not. Most inequality reduction ideas, of course, fall somewhere between these extremes, and must therefore be weighed against some of the other considerations I mentioned.

          • TheWorst says:

            @ Onyomi:

            The phrase “I do not personally believe in the concept of morality” is not the same as “You are incorrect to call this thing immoral.”

            Similarly, if we’re arguing over whether a given boat is large or small, “I do not believe boats exist, therefore the guy saying ‘large’ is wrong,” is kind of a strange argument to make.

          • onyomi says:

            @TheWorst

            Do you think earthquakes are “immoral”?

            If you say “the choice to ignore earthquake victims is immoral,” then that would make sense to me, but just to say “earthquakes are immoral,” or “starvation is immoral” does not make sense to me, as “inequality is immoral” does not make sense to me. “Choosing to ignore inequality is immoral” makes sense as a claim, but then I would again ask “how much do I have to do not to ‘ignore’ it and how high of a priority is this supposed to be relative to other values and goals?”

            Morality implies agency. That isn’t so much an opinion about philosophy as a fact about English.

            Inequality is a state of affairs, not an action. Morality may possibly demand that some people take some action to reduce inequality. But those actions, again, have to be weighed against the opportunity cost of doing other things, since equality is not the only human value.

          • TheWorst says:

            I am, for the record, not questioning whether or not you believe in the concept of morality. There’s no need to keep asserting that you don’t, or even why you don’t. I believe you–or, more specifically, I see no reason to question your assertion.

            My point was that the guy who walks into an argument about the size of a given boat and says “I believe boats don’t exist, so the guy who says it’s small is wrong!” is making two kinds of poor decisions.

            Not believing morality exists has no bearing on how morality applies to a given circumstance, and you not believing morality exists is the opposite of proof that inequality is moral. In a conversation about whether a given action or situation is morally acceptable, saying “I don’t believe in morality!” contains no data other than to reduce the weight other people should give your input.

          • onyomi says:

            I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about at this point, so I’m going to quit.

            All I’ll say is that I’m a moral realist, so I do believe morality exists.

          • TheWorst says:

            For clarity:

            “I do take the state of the world as a baseline in the sense that it doesn’t make sense to me to describe a world state as “immoral.”

            …is a statement with identical meaning to “That thing you think of as morality? I don’t personally believe it exists.”

            It is also identical to saying “I have absolutely nothing to add to your discussion of what’s moral and what’s not, and I know this and take pride in this, but for some reason am choosing to participate in this discussion about what’s moral and what’s not.”

            If we’re arguing about what kind of boat we’re looking at, “You’re wrong, because I don’t believe boats exist” is a very strange “contribution” to make.

            Edit: I am somewhat perplexed at your claim to not think that inequality is an action, even though I am absolutely certain you are aware that large numbers of people are currently engaged in actions to maintain that state. That’s like saying “The ongoing slaughter of the kulaks is a state of affairs, not an action, so it can’t possibly be immoral. Therefore it is not immoral, and there are no permissible actions that may be taken to stop it.” I am reasonably confident that productive conversation is impossible on that front, however, given certain well-known difficulties around the pretense of sleep when it comes to waking a person up.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheWorst:
            Try charity in argument and you will find onyomi to be an able, pleasant, and thought provoking conversationalist.

            I really don’t think his position is at all hard to understand, and you are simply trying to do something like weak-manning him.

          • ““I have power over you because of who my parents were” is immoral, and this is trivially obvious to any person with at least a normally-functioning sense of morality. ”

            Other people who get to vote in American elections have (some) power over me, since some ability to affect rules that will be imposed on me. Do you think conventional citizenship rules, in which someone born to citizen parents is a citizen, are immoral, and the fact “is trivially obvious to any person with at least a normally-functioning sense of morality”?

          • TheWorst says:

            Do you think conventional citizenship rules, in which someone born to citizen parents is a citizen, are immoral…

            These are not actually “conventional citizenship” rules, those are alt-right fantasyland citizenship rules, as far as I can tell. Yes, those are immoral. That’s why they’re not the conventional citizenship rules.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Those are certainly traditional citizenship rules; you can tell, because they have a snappy Latin phrase associated with them, “jus sanguinus”. The rules of “jus soli” (you’re a citizen if you’re born in the country) are also traditional… however, they are quite uncommon outside the Americas. No European country has “jus soli”, for instance.

            The US accepts either “jus soli” (unrestricted, by the 14th Amendment) or “jus sanguinus” (under a rather complicated set of rules) as granting US citizenship.

          • TheWorst says:

            It does, and it has for centuries. That’s a pretty long tradition. Picking a different tradition from somewhere else does not mean other traditions aren’t traditional.

          • @The worst:

            “That’s why they’re not the conventional citizenship rules.”

            Followed in a later comment by:

            “Picking a different tradition from somewhere else does not mean other traditions aren’t traditional.”

            You started by claiming that ius sanguinus is not the conventional citizenship rule then defended that by saying there are other traditional rules as well. Somewhere along the line you seem to have forgotten that the question was in response to your:

            ““I have power over you because of who my parents were” is immoral, and this is trivially obvious to any person with at least a normally-functioning sense of morality. ”

            Do you agree that ius sanguinus has that implication, as I pointed out, hence that you are claiming it is an immoral rule and the fact is obvious? Is it more immoral than “I have power over you because of where I happen to have been born,” which is another traditional rule?

            If so, what is the moral rule for deciding who gets to vote?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I’m not a leftist, but I became a lot more sympathetic to their concerns after based Vladimir explained that some of the best things in life are zero-sum. When your ability to acquire land, status, and women all depend on the distribution of the pie and not on how big the pie is, you start to care more about the relative size of your slice than about growing the pie.

  7. Anon. says:

    Speaking of genetic clusters, I find it surprising and interesting that American Ashkenazi Jews (AAJ) do not form a cluster of their own. In fact they’re very similar to (North) Italians and Greeks. The distance between South and North Europe is bigger than that between Italians/Greeks and AAJs, for example.

    Data here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730349/table/t1-09_94_tian/

    • Douglas Knight says:

      What do you mean by “cluster”? You can’t tell whether they cluster from pairwise distances. From the figures, they do form a cluster. In figure 1, they are mixed up with some other group I can’t identify (but only that group). In Figure 3, restricting to the south, they are isolated. For some reason they are near the Adygei, from which they have high Fst. But, yes, Ashkenazi are half Semitic and half Southern European. When you say that the N-S distance is large, I think you are cherry-picking a comparison. Many pairs of a southern and northern group have a smaller distance, though many have a larger distance.

  8. onyomi says:

    Recently, the Clinton campaign has not-so-subtly suggested that voting for Donald Trump exposes us to the risk of nuclear war. Cited is the fact that he reportedly asked a military advisor several times about the use of nuclear weapons. Obviously this is a scare tactic of sorts, but it seems like not a few people are genuinely afraid of this possibility.

    Question: is there a good reason to believe there’s a realistic chance that Trump presidency=nuclear war, other than “well, he seems unstable and crazy and who knows what he’ll do”? Like, spell it out for me: how does Trump presidency hypothetically lead to nuclear war? With whom would the nuclear war be happening and why?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Well, it’s Hillary who wants to get into it with Putin, but leaving that aside…

      Imagine some terrorist group Al-Fuqya pulls off an attack within the US. Trump goes nuts and finds out that Al-Fuqya has headquarters in some tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan; lots of caves for cover from conventional weaponry, no way we can dig them out without very high casualties, and anyway the Pakistanis are being un-cooperative. So he orders a few nuclear bunker-busters dropped on the entire area. The wind goes the wrong way, fallout drifts into Russia and/or China, hello WWIII.

      • onyomi says:

        That seems more probably than most other scenarios I can think of, but is it at all realistic? I mean, Trump obviously knows and cares about the importance of our relationships with Russia and China. Is it plausible he would nuke someone in their vicinity without checking with them behind the scenes? This seems to be based on the assumption that he would just order extreme action without consulting with anyone. What basis is there to believe that about him other than his Twitter diarrhea? Did he ever act like that when it mattered, i. e. in a business deal, say?

        My concern about Trump is more that he’ll start a trade war by trying to put huge taxes on imports (and that’s something he’s actually said he’d do), but there seems little reason to believe he’s eager to get into a hot war; in fact, as you say, maybe less so than with Hillary. (Though maybe trade war with China–>soured relations with China–>increased probability of actual war with China could happen; that seems to me the higher risk?)

        • The Nybbler says:

          China’s not dumb enough to start a hot war with the US over trade restrictions.

          Is it at all realistic for Trump to actually order a nuclear strike over a serious terrorist attack? Maybe very slightly. Worst actually-plausible scenario IMO is that he’d stomp into the war room swearing about how we’re going to “nuke them”, and his more level-headed advisors (i.e. all of them) would calm him down.

          But it’s more likely than China starting a hot war over US trade restrictions.

          • Corey says:

            his more level-headed advisors (i.e. all of them) would calm him down.

            Any evidence Trump tolerates underlings who would contradict him? I haven’t seen any, but you probably have better ideas of where to look.

          • onyomi says:

            Like I said, I wouldn’t expect a trade war to lead directly to war, but possibly to a souring of relations which might, long term, increase the probability of war.

            What’s that saying about “when the goods flow, the bombs don’t”? My bigger concern about Trump is that, by hindering global trade, he might increase the long run probability of a war by reducing nations’ financial incentives to avoid it.

      • JayT says:

        I do find it humorous that the Clinton campaign is both trying to say Trump is more likely to get into a war and at the same time isn’t tough enough on Russia.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      With whom would the nuclear war be happening and why?

      Ok, well let’s do process of elimination.

      Right now we have seven countries which we know have nuclear weapons, not including the US. We have five countries in possession of US bombs, although they can’t arm them without DoD codes or a way to bypass PAL. Israel probably has nuclear weapons. Iran is likely to have them soon.

      China
      France
      India
      Israel
      Iran
      North Korea
      Pakistan
      Russia
      UK
      + Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey

      Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey and the UK are all NATO members. And most of them can’t even arm “their” bombs without Pentagon approval. So Trump would really have to work to get us into a war with them.

      China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and Russia are all potentially enemy states. But our ties with China are very close, and Trump is already accused of being too dovish on Russia. So it would probably come down to very seriously mishandling the situations in Iran NK or Pakistan being the most plausible.

      Israel probably won’t nuke anyone who isn’t literally the second coming of Adolf Hitler.

      • onyomi says:

        Is there reason to believe a Trump administration would badly mishandle Iran, Pakistan, or NK situations as compared to a Clinton administration? Let’s grant that he is less stable than HRC and the obvious fact that he has less foreign policy experience; he also seems to take much more of an “America first” stance with respect to issues like NK, as in, “not our problem.”

        Let’s grant Trump is somewhat more likely to botch US involvement with a developing Iran or NK situation. Does that matter if he’s less likely to get involved in the first place?

      • AnonBosch says:

        Don’t forget Japan and South Korea; technologically advanced enough to build a nuclear arsenal, might feel obligated to do so given Trump’s comments, and live next to a crazy unpredictable nuclear state. Means, motive, opportunity.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I thought about including Japan South Korea and Saudi Arabia in the list at first, but the thing about those three is that while I certainly believe they could assemble a bomb eventually it’s not clear to me how fast you can go from 0 to nuclear power.

          Assuming that they have working plans for a bomb, they’d still have a lot of steps to actually build the thing. We’ve seen recently that getting the materials, processing them, putting the device together and testing it without US approval isn’t impossible by any means. But it takes a while and is highly visible. Iran did most of that work already but those other countries would really have to scramble imo.

          John Schilling probably knows the answer to this though. And it seems like he’s voting on those two.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Afaik Japan has the capability to assemble a nuke fairly quickly, due to the active nuclear energy program and large reserves of plutonium.

          • Protagoras says:

            South Korea also has an active nuclear energy program. Despite the various obstacles, I’d probably put the timetable on a crash bomb building program for either South Korea or Japan in months, given their technical sophistication in general and their sophisticated nuclear energy programs. Iran had a lot of disadvantages they don’t have, and there’s also the question of whether Iran was really even trying, as opposed to putting on a show in order to have negotiating leverage.

            Saudi Arabia is another matter, perhaps more comparable to Iran, though they are planning their own nuclear energy program in the near future. And in any event they surely could make faster progress than Iran just due to having a considerably easier time accessing outside resources.

          • Iran was hampered by the need to maintain some level of secrecy. If the U.S. stops objecting to nuclear proliferation by its allies that problem goes away.

            Japan’s GNP is more than ten times as high as Iran’s.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is it fair to require a precise scenario?

      “Europe is a powderkeg” in 1914 is different from “I think a Serbian military intelligence-run assassination of an Austro-Hungarian heir is going to succeed due to a series of coincidences, and then…”

      What worries me about Trump is his tendency to engage in unnecessary and counterproductive vendettas, and the way that he seems fundamentally not to care about policy issues, have advisers, etc.

      • onyomi says:

        I’m not saying “give me THE precise scenario,” I’m saying “give me A scenario.” Like, a careful observer in January, 1914 could probably have described many hypothetical, possible paths to a conflict among European powers without being able to guess precisely what would set off the powder-keg.

        I’m just saying “show me the powder keg and explain at least one plausible way Donald Trump lights it.”

        • dndnrsn says:

          Honestly, I can’t give anything more than worrying about a guy who is antagonistic, incurious, and mercurial in a position that important.

          • onyomi says:

            What is the evidence that he is all those things when it matters? He’s definitely not incurious, and he seems to have been able to be friendly and polite when visiting the president of Mexico, who had previously compared him to Hitler. If he were really so dangerously thin-skinned presumably he would not have been able to have an amicable meeting with such a person.

            Sure, he doesn’t seem as steady as say, Jeb Bush, but Hillary’s not entirely cuddly either. She seems to be kind of prickly and possibly vindictive when challenged as well.

            (Still voting for Johnson, the nicest and most genuine candidate in the race, btw)

          • dndnrsn says:

            A lot of the reporting about the bare-bones campaign, lack of campaign infrastructure, etc suggests someone who has a hard time taking on advisers and delegating things he thinks he could handle himself (obviously, as a real estate tycoon he needs to delegate and have lots of people doing different things, but I think delegating stuff you think you could do better yourself is different). That’s pretty “when it matters”, to me – it seems to have caused his campaign a lot of trouble.

        • houseboatonstyxb says:

          @ onyomi
          I’m just saying “show me the powder keg and explain at least one plausible way Donald Trump lights it.”

          Tl;dr – In response to some tweet of Trump’s, someone in some other country pushes their button and the dominoes start falling.

          Not to attempt math, but as more countries get better weapons, that chance grows. Or better delivery systems. Or find smarter ways to get through anti-terrorist defenses, and more damaging things to do then.

          • onyomi says:

            If part of the concern is not Trump starting a nuclear war, but some other leader starting one in reaction to Trump’s insulting behavior, we also have to take into account how Trump is perceived by other leaders.

            It may not be fair, but my sense is that the strongman leaders we have to be worried about, like Putin and Xi Jinping, have more respect for Trump than Hillary, perhaps for totally unfair, sexist reasons.

            Most European leaders who aren’t of the Farage or Le Pen variety probably respect Hillary more than Trump, but I’m not worried about a nuclear war with France.

          • John Schilling says:

            It may not be fair, but my sense is that the strongman leaders we have to be worried about, like Putin and Xi Jinping, have more respect for Trump than Hillary,

            What have either of those done to suggest that they have the slightest respect for Donald Trump? Desire to see him in the Oval Office, maybe, but that’s not the same thing. That may be exactly the opposite thing. So where’s the evidence of respect?

          • onyomi says:

            Well, I wouldn’t rate my certainty of my “sense” in this case all that highly, but Xi and Putin are both more Trump-like in outlook with respect to their own nations than Clinton, I think, and that may make them feel a kinship. Putin also supposedly called Trump “brilliant and talented,” though that, apparently was later called into question, and it may be, of course, that Putin thinks a Trump presidency will be better for him, rather than for America.

            Though that also raises the question: why would Putin expect a Trump presidency to be better for Russia? My best guess is he expects he’d have a freer hand in the region. Which means he expects Trump to be less interventionist than Clinton. Which seems like a lower probability of nuclear war with Russia, though maybe a slightly higher probability of Russian bullying in their own neighborhood.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @onyomi

            I don’t think you can analyse it that simply. Trump being less interventionist than Clinton could have second order effects: less intervention -> Putin pushes boundaries and annexes the whole of Ukraine (or more plausibly sets up a puppet government) -> tensions raised and war more likely. I.e. it is possible that how interventionist the President is might not affect the likelihood of the US getting involved in a war in Eastern Europe, if Putin always tries to act just below the level the President would intervene at. Trump could introduce more danger by being less predictable and causing Putin to misjudge the amount of things he can get away with. On the other hand, if Trump is less interventionist than Hillary that would have benefits elsewhere.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Does anybody remember how the first US-Iraq war started?

            Look at Trump’s statements about NATO in that context and you start to see why people get twitchy about all of the various ways Trump could get us enmeshed in conflicts with very uncertain outcomes. Hell, after intimating he is an isolationist, he has now proposed to permanently occupy ISIS held Syria and Iraq so that we can “take the oil” after we crush ISIS.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Does anybody remember how the first US-Iraq war started?

            I remember. I also remember how it ended, and got to see the 2nd one first hand. Ironically your comment is as much a condemnation of Clinton as it is of Trump.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            You are going to need to unpack that for me. Neither Clinton is anywhere near power for the beginning of either of those wars.

          • Gazeboist says:

            Didn’t Putin actually call him “colorful” or something like that?

          • hlynkacg says:

            You are going to need to unpack that for me.

            Granted, Hillary had little if anything to do with the first gulf war. But she had a lot to do with the later stages of the second one, and was very much involved in the rise of ISIS, and creating the generally sorry state of foreign affairs.

            Considering Clinton’s history of enmeshing us in conflicts with uncertain inevitably messy outcomes I find it difficult to take objections to Trump on such grounds seriously.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            Maybe I need to unpack the point I was trying make.

            The first Iraq war was (likely) completely avoidable had the US ambassador merely made it clear that the US would not look favorably on Iraq taking Kuwait and would regard it as a hostile act against American interests.

            Trump claims that not signalling what the US will do makes us more powerful and influential, and simultaneously signals that he may not live up to our NATO treaty obligations. Lack of clear signalling of actual US positions can very much lead to a hot war that we end up actually needing to take part in.

            And you are going to need to unpack your claims about Iraq, Syria and ISIS even further.

    • Corey says:

      Whoever is President has a huge amount of discretionary authority to start nuclear war. This is intentional – if you’re retaliating to an inbound strike there’s only a matter of minutes to launch if you’re gonna, and nobody wants the movie plot of “President orders a nuclear strike, underlings refuse out of conscience” to come to life so there’s no room in the process for counter-argument.

      Trump’s demonstrated thin skin, impulsivity and the inability to let a slight slide, none of which anyone wants in someone entrusted with such a responsibility. In a somewhat milder form this goes for conventional warfare as well.

      That said, I don’t think I’d rate it “likely” Trump would precipitate WWIII, but I’d think the differential risk might be, say, 10%, which is way too goddamned much.

      ETA: I missed the “he’s unstable” bit in your OP, which this post more or less boils down to.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, he’ll dash off a nasty tweet if you insult him, but that seems to have worked out pretty well for him so far. What is the evidence that he’s unstable when it comes to important decisions?

        Are there any cases, for example, of him torpedoing a good business deal over a personal slight?

        • gbdub says:

          That’s about where I’m at. Trump is certainly snarky, rude, politically incorrect, off-the-cuff, sometimes angry, whatever, in his public persona. But to go from that to seriously thinking that he would literally launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack, likely ending human civilization over a minor spat is a huge leap, and frankly says more about the person promoting that conclusion than it does about Trump.

          Also, if we’re going to go down that road of speculation – what about Hillary? She’s obviously much better at acting “presidential” in public, but it’s been reported that she (and the “Clinton machine” in general) can be pretty angry, vindictive, and hard to work with in private. We know Trump is prone to bluster – but shouldn’t we be more worried about the woman who has actually helped start wars?

          • DrBeat says:

            Your counterargument is basically that he is petty and vindictive and ruled by his emotions, but that he would recognize there is a line that it is too severe to cross and not do thing over that line.

            This is not an idea that is so common you can assume everyone does it; there are a LOT of people, people who behave as Trump does, who cannot separate out Things I Want To Do To Harm People Who Hurt My Feelings from Things It Is A Good Idea To Do.

            We should be exactly as worried about the woman who started actual wars, because this race is terrible, and being alive in this world is terrible, and nothing will ever improve.

          • a non mOus(e) says:

            Your counterargument is basically that he is petty and vindictive and ruled by his emotions

            No, the argument is that Trump, when engaged in a personal – repeat – personal dominance contest tries to win. In contrast, Hillary takes non-personal things personally – demanding Matt Lauer be fired for asking her softball follow up questions, stories of her behind the scenes behavior that include Bill expecting personal violence from her (from pagesix so take with a grain of salt, but there are lots of similar reports from lots of other sources) –

            The book claims she repeatedly screamed obscenities at her husband, Secret Service personnel and White House staffers — all of whom lived in terror of her next tirade.

            for example.

            Also in the real world, she started wars with zero concern as to the consequences. Oh, just like Bush? No, after the example that Bush gave of how exactly toppling ME dictators could go wrong – and her intervention went wrong in the exact same way.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also in the real world, she started wars with zero concern as to the consequences.

            Pretty sure that isn’t among the powers of the Secretary of State, or any single Senator,

          • cassander says:

            @John Schilling

            >Pretty sure that isn’t among the powers of the Secretary of State, or any single Senator,

            Hillary pretty much single handedly made the Libya intervention happen. She ran around building support for the US to get involved both domestically and abroad in the absence of instructions from the president to do so. As president, Obama is ultimately accountable for the war, but Hillary is who really made it happen.

          • Jaskologist says:

            but shouldn’t we be more worried about the woman who has actually helped start wars?

            I feel like this about a lot of Trump criticism. They’re true, and I agree with them, but they’re completely undermined by turning around and supporting Hillary.

            Where in the world has the international situation gotten more stable over the past 8 years? Hillary may not hold ultimate responsibility for that, but her fingerprints are all over it. Improving our relations with Russia were a particular project of hers, which she was going to solve with the power of her “smart diplomacy.” How’d that work out?

          • The idea that Trump would start a nuclear war because he was angry is conceivable, but I’m more concerned that his bad temper and sloppy way of talking could escalate an unnecessary conventional war.

        • I think this gets to a central question about Trump to which I do not know the answer. How much of his visible persona is real, how much is tactical?

          At the beginning of the campaign, the obvious guess was real. Why would he do things that were obviously going to lose him the nomination unless they were the things natural for him to do?

          But he won the nomination handily, which raises the possibility that the persona he was projecting was intelligently designed to get votes. If he wins the election … .

          • H. E. Pennypacker says:

            I was wondering about this the other day.

            I think there’s a good chance when he’s in the war room with the big boys the bluster will be gone and he’ll do whatever they advise him to do. If anything I’m more worried about him listening to neocon defence advisers who’ll want to continue the policy of stirring up conflicts all over the world than not listening to them.

      • JayT says:

        Does the president actually have a “huge amount of discretionary authority to start a nuclear war”? My guess is that if Obama woke up this morning and ordered a nuclear strike on North Korea it wouldn’t happen.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, overall, I think the image of someone’s “finger on a button” is a bit misleading and, perhaps, unhelpful. More like someone who could make a phone call which would set some scary things in motion pretty fast, though hopefully not entirely without oversight. Though I did find the image of the Russian foreign minister pressing a large red button (meant to symbolize a “reset” of US-Russian relations) held by Clinton to be a bit offputing.

          Like, I know this wasn’t the intent, but given history, do we really want the image of Russia and the US together pushing a large, red button?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Probably not. But if there were a rumor that missiles were inbound from NK, regardless of the truth of the rumor, it’s quite likely to happen.

          • Sandy says:

            Isn’t that why Obama has NORAD? So he can operate on fact rather than rumor?

          • I don’t think a rumor of missiles inbound from North Korea would do it. The reason for quick response back during the cold war was the fear that a Russian first strike could take out much of the U.S. retaliatory capacity.

            North Korea might, in a few years, be able to launch several missiles with one equivalent of the Hiroshima bomb on each. That could kill a lot of people. But it wouldn’t make a dent in the U.S. nuclear capacity.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Well assuming this rumors is getting to the president via “official means” a lot of things will already be in motion. Troops stationed in SK and Naval vessels in the western Pacific will have seen the launch, and called CINCPAC for guidance. Air force personnel in Alaska would be busting out their IAPs, some dude in a bunker under a corn field would be vaguely annoyed about having his lunch interrupted, and so on…

            “Pressing the button” isn’t so much a literal “missile launch” button as it is informing all those personnel that this is not a drill.

          • gbdub says:

            If missiles are inbound from NK, it will almost certainly be limited in scope and our (our meaning US, SK, and Japan) first response will be to attempt to intercept them with our various missile defense systems. If we successfully intercept, we will almost certainly still retaliate but the response might not be nuclear, and if it is it would likely be tactical nukes aimed at any nuclear capability NK had not already launched. That I think is one of the “stabilizing” effects of missile defense that didn’t really apply in the pre-proliferation MAD era – we now have the option to intercept a limited (or accidental) strike rather than launching immediate large-scale retaliation.

            If we fail to intercept and a nuke goes off over an American target, there will almost certainly be some degree of nuclear hellfire rained on NK, but even then we’d probably be careful to avoid irradiating Seoul.

            Then again it would be odd for NK to launch without also launching a simultaneous large scale conventional strike on SK, and at that point all bets are off.

        • Corey says:

          Here’s a Vox article about it; if you’re skittish about Vox as a source, they do quote Dick Cheney and a couple of experts.
          There are, apparently, intentionally no checks on Presidential authority in this area, to maintain deterrence credibility.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            Interesting. I’ve heard that the UK nuclear system has so many locks that some people doubt whether it could ever be used (i.e. in the several hours it would take to pass all the layers of security, everyone would have died).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2016-nuclear-weapon-launch/

            There are a few checks, but they are pretty limited. You’d need a coup/mass refusal at the Pentagon. Each individual ICBM launch site or submarine crew could also defect, but then the Pentagon would just switch to another.

          • Corey says:

            OTOH apparently a few admirals/generals stopped Obama from nuking Charleston, SC in 2013, though he had them fired afterwards. Link

          • Corey says:

            @sweenyrod: It came out a few years ago that, during the Cold War, our nukes that had numeric arming codes had them set to “000000” so as to not get in the way of quick launch. (Similarly, often law enforcement agencies don’t use crypto on their radios, because the threat of eavesdropping doesn’t outweigh the denial-of-service if keys are lost). Security is tricky.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I hope they’ve at least fixed that hole with a secure password like “nuclearbomb12345”.

          • bean says:

            There are no formal checks, but I suspect there are strong informal ones. It’s going to be pretty hard to convince the military aid to open the suitcase if you just feel like nuking someone.
            That, and the prospect of nuclear weapons tends to sober people. It worked on the Pakistanis and even (to some extent) the Norks, so I expect it will work on Trump.

          • JayT says:

            I think there is also good reason to tell everyone that there are no checks stopping the president even if there are. I just don’t believe that the president could just up and decide to nuke France.

          • Jiro says:

            OTOH apparently a few admirals/generals stopped Obama from nuking Charleston, SC in 2013, though he had them fired afterwards. Link

            According to your own link, that news story is fake.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Jiro

            No, it’s true. Yesterday he succeeding in nuking Seattle. It’s been replaced with a hologram.

          • Gazeboist says:

            And a damn good one, too.

          • Corey says:

            @Jiro: Sorry, bad attempt at a joke. I just stumbled over that story today in unrelated reading and thought it interesting to share given the connection to “refusing to nuke”.

          • gbdub says:

            The “all zeroes” nuclear codes were actually set up by SAC trying to sidestep civilian (i.e. the President and SecDef) controls over the military. SAC was very worried that a first strike would wipe out the civilian government and they’d be left sitting on their hands instead of retaliating, plus the general military disdain for civilian eggheads who thing they know how to run a war.

            I’d highly recommend the book “Command and Control” by Eric Schlosser, which covers a lot of this, interwoven with a story about a major accident at a Titan II silo. It’s informative and sometimes very scary – apparently over the years several bombs had their non-nuclear explosives cook off, the US nukes in Europe were often guarded by nothing more than a locked door and one guy with a sidearm, etc.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Another recommendation for “Command and Control”. Very interesting book, and Schlosser as a writer is really good at cutting back and forth between small scale and large scale, or present and past.

        • John Schilling says:

          My guess is that if Obama woke up this morning and ordered a nuclear strike on North Korea it wouldn’t happen.

          Somewhere between “ordered a nuclear strike” and “wouldn’t happen”, has to be an actual mutiny, Whether that is or is not credible would depend on the circumstances. But that is the authority that comes with the office, and the US military is really big on Not Having Mutinies, Ever, But Especially Where Nukes Are Involved.

          • bean says:

            But is it a mutiny if the military aid stands there saying “Are you sure, Mr President?” until Section 4 of the 25th Amendment can be invoked? The system was set up to deal with inbound missiles, and the first few people in the chain all have access to information about said missiles, and thus no incentive not to stall if the President decides to start a nuclear war on his own.
            For that matter, the answer might well be “Mr. President, since there is no imminent threat, we believe it would be wise to refine the targeting plan for this specific circumstance instead of launching immediately.” Which is really hard to argue with. Put several people in the loop, and the questions are going to last long enough for him to be declared incapacitated.

          • John Schilling says:

            Stonewalling in the face of a direct order to stop stonewalling, asking questions after being directly ordered to shut up and follow orders, yes, that’s mutiny. The military is big on discussion before acting, but clear on the fact that the CO decides when the discussion stops and the action starts.

          • bean says:

            But at the same time, there’s the bits about not having to obey illegal/immoral orders. Orders to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack on a foreign country arguably fall into that category, and I’d guess that there’s very carefully been no JAG determination on the issue. If the situation is at all one where nuclear weapon use makes sense, the officers will go along. If the President has randomly decided to nuke France, they stall.

          • CatCube says:

            @John Schilling

            Yes, the military has strong norms towards obeying orders once they’re made, but there is a limit there.

            The office I work in is in a major American city. If the colonel were to call me an the 4 other military officers in our command into his office tomorrow and tell us to pick up rifles, go out to the balcony, and start firing into the street below, we’re all going to have some questions. If, on the other hand, there’s a riot outside with people beating on the doors chanting “kill,” handing us weapons and telling us to shoot anyone who comes through the door is going to probably be obeyed without too much pushback. Orders will get treated a little differently if they’re from somebody apparently in the grip of madness.

            If there’s building political tensions and an air defense emergency alert from NORAD, I expect that the NMCC is going to quickly comply. If we’re at DEFCON 5 and the president calls up with an attack order out of the clear blue sky, I’d be surprise if it didn’t get slow-rolled. One obvious way to dodge the mutiny/insubordination question would be the same I would use in my hypothetical “firing from the balcony” above: orders to do something illegal aren’t valid. In my hypothetical, the order is obviously illegal. Making an unprovoked nuclear attack on somebody we’re not at war with is at least colorably illegal, enough so that I’d be comfortable with my chances in a court martial.

            Now, all of this would depend on the personality of the officers in the NMCC on that particular day, so it’s not a sure thing, but I agree with bean that there’s at least some informal ways that it could be stopped.

    • AnonBosch says:

      I think there’s a good case to be made for the scenario where Trump causes Putin to overplay his hand with regard to NATO. Suppose Putin decides that Trump’s standoffish attitude towards NATO means he has the green light to play the Oppressed Russian Minority card in the Baltics. Regardless of Trump’s protection racket bloviating, I suspect the combined freaking out of the entire continent of Europe and the American establishment would force him to act. (I’m also going off of Trump’s predilection for criticizing intervention only in hindsight; there isn’t a single thing he’s criticized Bush or Obama for that he didn’t also advocate in the moment.)

      This would be a larger scale version of the miscalculation Saddam Hussein made in Gulf War I. Incompetent American diplomacy led him to believe that he could get away with invading Kuwait.

      • H. E. Pennypacker says:

        Why on earth would Putin want to invade any of the Baltic states?

        The only possible scenario I could see is if there was some political change in those states that lead to the Russian minorities becoming deeply oppressed and Putin coming under intense domestic pressure to defend them. The “Putin wants to invade Europe” meme is just completely ridiculous, there are pretty much no positives for him or Russia and a shit load of negatives.

        • hlynkacg says:

          That’s satire right?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Why on earth would Putin want to invade any of the Baltic states?

          Why on earth would Putin want to invade Ukraine?

          • H. E. Pennypacker says:

            Do you genuinely believe that Russia has invaded Ukraine?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @H. E. Pennypacker

            As opposed to what? It being justified self-defence? The Russian army being welcome guests of the oppressed Ukrainian peoples? The very concept of Ukraine being a dirty Western lie?

          • H. E. Pennypacker says:

            I’m genuinely unsure what you could be referring to as an invasion.

            There were Russian troops in Crimea but they were there already so I don’t see how it could possibly be classed as an invasion. People quibble over just how free the vote to become part of Russia was but I haven’t seen any serious analysis that denies that the majority of Crimeans favoured reunification with Russia, they just question whether the majority was quite as overwhelming as the referendum suggested.

            As for the separatist areas of Eastern Ukraine, again, I’m not sure you can deny that most of the people in these regions prefer reunification with Russia. If this is what Putin wanted he could actually invade and defeat the Ukranian army. What he seems to be doing instead is providing support in terms of weaponry and training and probably some fairly small-scale support in terms of manpower.

          • AnonBosch says:

            There were Russian troops in Crimea in the same sense that there are American troops in Japan. They occupied a specific base on a small part of mutually agreed-upon land. That’s quite a bit different from taking their insignia off and storming the regional parliament.

            The fact that an invasion is irredentist doesn’t make it not an invasion. And saying “no one denies X” is a pretty blatant rhetorical sneak for simply asserting X without evidence. Plenty of regions in the world have cultural sympathies that cross borders without the need for tanks to enforce them.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Do you genuinely believe that Russia has invaded Ukraine?

            Well now, I may be just a simple country lawyer but when I see military vehicles and troops crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine against the wishes of the Ukrainian government, it’s hard not to think that it’s an invasion of some sort.

          • Sfoil says:

            Russian troops crossed the border into Ukraine in the eastern region, period. If you think the fact that Russian forces removed their insignia and acted in concert with local militias somehow changes this fact then you’re a fool; this is what state warfare looks like right now.

            Regarding Crimea, it may not technically have been an invasion in some sense because Russian troops were already present, but the Russian government annexed territory claimed and governed by another state and had their soldiers point guns at the local government. “Coup d’état” might be a better description there.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Empire is its own justification.

          • H. E. Pennypacker says:

            I’m not sure that’s really true.

            Empire is an important point and one that at least merits a proper response. Throughout its history Russian imperial ambitions have largely centred on surrounding itself with smaller, buffer states that are under its control and form a barrier between it and other powerful and potentially hostile states. There is also a strand of nostalgic Russian nationalism that believes that the surrounding states like Ukraine, the Baltics, Georgia etc. should be firmly under Russian control.

            But it’s incredibly unlike that Putin wants to return to this situation for nostalgic reasons. I’m sure he would if it was still strategically advantageous but nuclear weaponry vastly reduces the utility of surrounding yourself with vassal states and invading creates far more problems than any meagre protection that taking them over would provide.

            In fact, even without NATO and the threat it of retaliation for invading them it still would be a strategic blunder for Russia. The cost of taking over these countries and occupying them would put a big strain on an already creaking economy.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            I’m sure he would if it was still strategically advantageous but nuclear weaponry vastly reduces the utility of surrounding yourself with vassal states and invading creates far more problems than any meagre protection that taking them over would provide.

            You seem to have forgotten that ABMs exist.

            Arguably one of the reasons Putin is taking the stance he is on Russian minorities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is precisely to give himself a justification to invade countries which might host American missile defense systems.

          • H. E. Pennypacker says:

            Arguably one of the reasons Putin is taking the stance he is on Russian minorities in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is precisely to give himself a justification to invade countries which might host American missile defense systems.

            Yes, the encroachment of American military power on Russias borders is by far the most likely thing to trigger a Russian invasion of one of its neighbours. But it doesn’t really play into the whole “Putin is desperate to invade the Baltics” narrative, seeing as the missile systems are not going to be based in the Baltics.

          • “Throughout its history Russian imperial ambitions have largely centred on surrounding itself with smaller, buffer states that are under its control and form a barrier between it and other powerful and potentially hostile states.”

            How, in that case, did Imperial Russia get to the Pacific? And China. And Afghanistan. And Persia.

            By 1900, Russia controlled, roughly speaking, the northern half of Asia plus a fair chunk of eastern Europe, including much of Finland. As in “ruled” not “had smaller buffer states under its control.”

        • DrBeat says:

          Why on earth would Putin want to invade any of the Baltic states?

          …”Because he can” is all the justification anyone needs to hurt people.

        • H. E. Pennypacker says:

          Also just to be clear, I’m not saying he wouldn’t invade because he’s a great guy. I don’t think he would invade because it would be an incredibly stupid thing to do and I don’t think he’s that stupid.

          • Was it stupid when the communists seized the Baltic states?

            At present they are richer and more developed than Russia, militarily weak, and have a significant Russian ethnic minority.

        • Unaussprechlichen says:

          Domestic pressure? Don’t be funny. Putin is not afraid of domestic pressure. Putin is the domestic pressure.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        How can the exact same case not be made for a Clinton administration, assuming it continues the behavior of the Obama one? Obama stood down during the Green Revolution in Iran, since then completely caving to become the mullahs’ bagman and PR consultant, and backed off his “red line” in Syria. I would not be particularly shocked if an administration following that pattern of behavior blustered loudly about how important Latvia is and then fell silent when the little green men started crossing the border anyway.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          I like to think that the next American president would care slightly more about an attack on a NATO country than revolutions and civil wars in non-Nato countries where neither side is even a nominal US ally.

        • AnonBosch says:

          First, I don’t think a Clinton administration would continue the behavior of an Obama one. Clinton is decidedly more hawkish. Second, Iran and Syria are not NATO members. Third, those were situations in which we backed off an invasion of choice that would’ve seen us toppling the established government on (putative) behalf of rebels with unclear and possibly conflicting motives. That’s very different from a situation in which an established ally with a mutual defense treaty is invaded by an outside country.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Then perhaps it would have been a good idea not to make noisy and public threats before backing off, as that gives the impression that our threats can be ignored.

            Clinton probably would respond militarily if Putin moved into the Baltics. But Putin is more likely to assume he could get away with such a move, and therefore try something that will end catastrophically for everyone, because of the general impression that American threats can be taken lightly.

          • AnonBosch says:

            I don’t agree with Obama’s policies in Syria but even so this seems like you’re just trying to force-fit generic indictments of the Blue Tribe onto disparate fact patterns. The parent comment requested a specific hypothesis for Trump increasing x-risk, and I’m describing a mechanism specific to statements he’s made, personally, regarding NATO.

            Do you think Putin is not aware that Obama and Clinton are different people? Why does a different President backing down in a non-NATO situation outweigh, in your estimation, Trump’s explicit statements regarding NATO specifically?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Do you think Putin is not aware that Obama and Clinton are different people?

            Putin might be aware that Clinton was Obama’s Secretary of State, and therefore it’s plausible that she’d share his policy tendencies. He might be mistaken about that, but it’s the sort of mistake that could lead to war at least as plausibly as any of these Trump scenarios.

    • Zombielicious says:

      My opinion is that the nuclear war talk is overblown, and Hillary is at least as much of a warmonger as Trump, but I can still imagine scenarios. Most likely would seem to be it resulting from escalation of an existing war, which occurs either due to another random terrorist attack (9/11) or one of them blundering their way into some major armed conflict (Iraq). Except for actual nuclear attacks none of that seems to have a negligible probability of occurring.

      Getting to actual nuclear war is harder to imagine because you’d have to assume it probably occurs between India and Pakistan, or control over nuclear arms gets so bad that one is used in a terrorist attack (e.g. North Korea, random black marketers, someone’s intelligence agency sells them to someone). I can’t really imagine any other feasible way that it happens. Hence the talk of nuclear war from a Trump presidency being pretty overblown. But major large-scale global conflict doesn’t seem that terribly unreasonable, regardless of who gets elected.

    • Vaniver says:

      There are two sorts of nuclear war:

      1. War with Russia, in which almost everyone (if not everyone) on Earth dies.

      2. War with someone else, in which at least one country is wrecked but human civilization goes on.

      If you care mostly about x-risk (because, say, you value future humans in a discounted way, instead of just current humans), the first is the main probability to watch. I think Clinton is worse choice on it, because of her hawkishness and personal animosity with Putin. I think Trump’s general stance of ‘threatening unreliability’ is mostly posturing that actually increases security, but I worry that it trades off x-risk security for conventional security.

      That is, someone is less likely to sink a US naval vessel if they think it will lead to nuclear war, but if they are involved in a major conflict with the US it’s more likely to be nuclear. If you value current lives linearly, this might be a good trade, but if you’re mostly worried about keeping civilization going, this is bad.

      • John Schilling says:

        There are two sorts of nuclear war:

        1. War with Russia, in which almost everyone (if not everyone) on Earth dies.

        We’ve been through this here before, repeatedly, and no. All-out nuclear war between the US and Russia might exceed 1E9 fatal casualties; it would not kill even a majority of Earth’s population. Yes, we know about fallout and nuclear winter; without those you don’t even get to 1E8 dead

        • cassander says:

          After a billion die in the war, though, and you wreck the global industrial supply chain in the process of killing them, how long is it before a huge share of everyone else dies because they don’t know how to grow food?

          • Civilis says:

            With Europe, the US and Russia out of the picture, what happens when China realizes that it’s now the sole superpower and starts to act like it? And how long before that leads to war with India (nuclear armed) or Japan or Taiwan (have the technological know-how to arm themselves really quickly and are likely to do so as soon as the US nuclear umbrella is gone?).

            For that matter, what happens to the middle east once Israel’s only real ally is gone? I bet that ends up with a lot of mushroom clouds as well.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            For that matter, what happens to the middle east once Israel’s only real ally is gone? I bet that ends up with a lot of mushroom clouds as well.

            Isn’t it the other way around, with Israel kicking their neighbors’ ass without being restrained by foreign diplomatic concerns?

          • cassander says:

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous

            You are precisely right. Now that the arab countries don’t have access to limitless quantities of soviet material, the US restrains Israel far more than it empowers it.

          • Civilis says:

            Without the US/Europe/the UN, Israel might lose its ethical constraints, but it doesn’t become more powerful. It might have the manpower to pull a little ethnic cleansing on the West Bank and Gaza Strip to give it defensible borders, but it doesn’t have the manpower to expand beyond that.

            For a country the size of Israel, there’s also the question of how long its high-tech military will be able to function without foreign parts / supplies, which dry up without trade with the US / Europe. Once those jets stop flying, the IDF looks a lot less impressive.

            It’s Arab neighbors have the manpower to crush Israel, even without US/European/Soviet technology and weapons. Right now, some of those governments are only stable thanks to US/European support (Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states). Without the US, they quickly get overthrown by the hard-line Islamic fundamentalists (and that likely also costs Israel the rest of its oil supply). Meanwhile, any check on the government of Iran developing / using nuclear weapons (or chemical, or biological) is also gone.

            There is the chance that with the US gone, Israel would pre-emptively knock out anyone looking to get nukes. However, Pakistan already has them… and would lose any restraints on selling them.

          • cassander says:

            >Without the US/Europe/the UN, Israel might lose its ethical constraints, but it doesn’t become more powerful

            I didn’t say they became more powerful, I said they become less constrained, though they would be the the only country in the area able to build and maintain high tech military equipment.

            >It’s Arab neighbors have the manpower to crush Israel, even without US/European/Soviet technology and weapons.

            They’ve tried it before, repeatedly. They’ve failed, repeatedly. And Israel already has nukes, after a giant shoot off they’ve have no hesitation about using them on Iran.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The common assumption is that all the Arab states fall to fundamentalists who then attack Israel, but I have to wonder about that. The track record of extremists seizing those countries is mixed at best and often depends on a democratic election, and I don’t see why existing governments sensible enough to realize that invading Israel could get them nuked (Egypt, for example) wouldn’t be as brutal and undemocratic as necessary to put down the extremists.

          • Sandy says:

            Well, sometimes the extremists are so numerous that existing governments struggle to put them down. Hezbollah is inextricably woven into Lebanon’s government now, and back in the 70’s the Palestinians in Jordan were so numerous that the PLO went to war with King Hussein to try and overthrow the monarchy so that the entire nation of Jordan could be transformed into an anti-Israel war machine. It is widely believed that King Abdullah’s marriage to Queen Rania, a Palestinian woman, had the aim of preventing a situation like that from happening again.

      • Dahlen says:

        1. War with Russia, in which almost everyone (if not everyone) on Earth dies.

        Elaborate, please. How would that unfold?

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Nuclear missiles are fired, land in Russian and American cities, and explode.

          • Dahlen says:

            Oh, gee, thanks. That’ll teach me not to ask a question ever again on here.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This isn’t an 80s techno thriller, there are other countries you know.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Yes, and? How do you get from “missiles explode in cities” to “almost everyone (if not everyone) on Earth dies”? Not everyone lives in Russian or American cities.
            (Proof by counterexample: I’ve got some friends who live in a small Canadian town.)

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I was largely being facetious regarding the “war with Russia part” and not necessarily the second. But I think it is likely other nuclear countries might get involved, and probably more importantly large amounts of infrastructure will be destroyed, causing many deaths from starvation. I agree that is unlikely that literally everyone would die. I don’t think anyone can be confident that the total wouldn’t be in the billions; we’ve not had many nuclear winters before.

          • Sfoil says:

            That “literally everyone on Earth would die” is an exaggeration, but consider:

            1) Immediate deaths from counterforce targeting — the combatants nuke military facilities with low- and mid-yield warheads. Particularly obnoxious/dangerous are attacks on American military facilities in the Far East and Europe, which would possibly motivate third countries to pile on.
            2) Immediate deaths from countervalue targeting: high-yield warheads dropped on population centers and trade hubs.
            3) Disruption of global trade networks: lots of people not located at or near either of the two types of targets are reliant for survival–at least at their current consumption levels–of goods and services formerly produced or transported through the devastated areas. How many? I don’t know. Probably a lot, especially in the countries involved and their immediate neighbors.
            4) Short-term environmental effects: radiation. Chernobyl will look like a joke. There won’t be anywhere near enough resources to actually determine in detail what places actually are and aren’t dangerous for years either.
            5) Long-term environmental effects: nuclear winter may or may not be a real thing, but if it happened it would be obviously kill a lot of people.

          • “lots of people not located at or near either of the two types of targets are reliant for survival–at least at their current consumption levels–of goods and services formerly produced or transported through the devastated areas. ”

            This gets us back to my repeated point about a living wage. We live in an extraordinarily rich society, with consumption levels easily an order of magnitude, in value terms, above what it takes to keep alive. After a full scale nuclear war very few Americans would be able to live at their current consumption levels, but that doesn’t tell us how many would die.

    • John Schilling says:

      Trump’s statements re US alliances would very likely have both Japan and South Korea trying to develop independent nuclear arsenals, which they would have the means to do. Even if Trump tries to walk back those statements once he’s in office; he wouldn’t be trusted on that front.

      Note that South Korea’s strategic doctrine is already based on preemptive strike if it looks like the North is about to start something big, tempered by the fact that they (probably) understand that they can’t decapitate the North Korean leadership with conventionally-armed ballistic missiles.

      Note that everyone in the region harbors a not-really-secret suspicion that Japan is just looking for an excuse to reinstate the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Including a fair number of Japanese themselves. More generally, of (China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan), every one of those nations distrusts, fears, and to some extent hates the other three, and would be happy to play the “let’s you and him” fight game with any of the others. And only the Chinese have any great experience with the responsible command and control of nuclear weapons.

      Now throw in all the unresolved territorial disputes that are being resolved by various sorts of saber-rattling. And remove the moderating influence of the United States of America, except that if nukes start flying China and North Korea won’t be all that confident that the US hasn’t or isn’t about to side with its recent allies.

      Enjoy.

    • bean says:

      Directly? No. Looking at it another way, I’m more comfortable with Trump, saddled with the weight of the US government having them than I am with North Korea, Iran, or Pakistan having them.
      (No, I’m not a Trump supporter. I just think we need to keep these risks in perspective.)
      Indirectly? Maybe, but I’m not sure Hillary would be any better. The likely route here is weakening the US nuclear umbrella, which Obama has already started. Trump’s neo-isolationism is seriously scary, but Hillary’s likely policy choices are in the same band of bad.

  9. Corey says:

    I remember when the weirdest thing in this campaign was a candidate defending himself against accusations that he *didn’t* stab a dude. Good times.
    ETA: meant to be a reply to the Pepe thread

  10. Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

    For pretty much every rational person, the joint postulate:

    “The views of James Hansen and Pope Francis,
    in regard to climate change,
    are essentially correct both scientifically and morally.”

    has during August 2016 gained substantially in Bayesian likelihood.

    Based strictly on the observational evidence, that is.

    Isn’t this assessment objectively correct?

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      Somehow it’s always weather when it contradicts the story, but climate change when it confirms it.

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        I distinctly recall people arguing that the lack of major hurricane activity for several years was just more evidence for climate change. Then when a perfectly ordinary hurricane finally did show up a few weeks ago, that was also more evidence for climate change. Let us say that the discourse is not unpredictable.

        Snark aside, and I do agree that average temperatures are increasing, it is not clear why accepting that fact means we absolutely must explicitly violate the Constitution to “sign” a deal with China where we have to reduce our emissions while they get to keep increasing theirs and won’t suffer any consequences if they cheat. “Something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done” appears to be where the logic stops.

    • Corey says:

      Well, the lukewarmist case justified the usual 1998 dodge as probably-cyclical despite no evidence. I assume now they will update to claim the cycle is 18 years long with no other changes. And in a few years they’ll just use 2016 as a baseline the way they were using 1998.

      Given the long timespans involved in natural climate change relative to both human lifetimes and anthropogenic climate change, literally any change can be handwaved away as natural variation by the sufficiently motivated.

    • AnonBosch says:

      I would only dispute “substantially.” I don’t think one particular month in one particular temperature series matters all that much when you’re talking about climate change. Really, anything shorter than decadal scale leaves you open to cherry-picking.

      You can be assured the “hiatus” argument (in the sense that it will be possible to draw a zero trend line) will return as soon as RSS/UAH dips a little further. Contrarians will have to be more blatant about it by starting directly at the peak of 1998, but I think facts stopped mattering in this debate a while ago.

    • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

      AnonBosch: asserts “facts [regarding climate change] stopped mattering in this debate a while ago.”

      In month-by-month political debate, you are correct. Yet considered decade-by-decade, STEAM-facts exert an irresistible force, don’t they?

      The Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Science has been converted by the facts, not only in regard to “Sustainable Humanity and Sustainable Nature“, but also in regard to inter-relating topics like “Human Neuroplasticity and Education” and “Children and Sustainable Development.”

      Isn’t this a flooding tide of progressive history? Against which the willfully ignorant alt-right rages, and against which the counter-Enlightenment swims … always in vain?

      Trump’s alt-right base dreams that STEAM-facts don’t matter — and in the short-run these Trumpish ideologues are sporadically right (which provides flickering hopes to the alt-right) — yet in the long-run they’re always wrong. Fortunately! 🙂

      These unbounded neuroplastic realities are incredibly obvious, aren’t they Mandrake?

      • “STEAM-facts exert an irresistible force, don’t they?”

        You change the name you post under, but maintain the same irritating stylistic quirks. Deliberate, or you just can’t help yourself?

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        It’s true that my comments provide more references to the scholarly STEAM-literature than all other SSC commenters put together.

        For some folks, abundant STEAM-links provide affirming evidence of an Enlightenment that retains its irrepressible (literally) historical, philosophical, mathematical, moral, religious, scientific, and cross-cultural vitality after 350 years and more.

        For other folks, these same “irritating” links serve “a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the (((history of man))).”

        Isn’t that a fair summary? Why is SSC (deplorably, as it seems to me) evolving to become a support group for the second, willfully ignorant, kind of folks?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          You realize you’re talking to a guy who’s actually Jewish right?

          Using the (((echo))) brackets to mock his view of the situation is a particularly bizarre choice. Think about it, if he was the sort to employ a coincidence detector his own name would be bracketed. It makes no sense and doesn’t advance your argument.

          Also I dispute that you link to more STEM articles than the rest of us. Back when I was doing the SSCience threads you contributed exactly one study, and a rather fluffy one at that, compared to more than a dozen from other posters. And that’s putting aside the twin facts that you don’t read most of what you link here and that quite a large fraction of it is reposts of old material you’ve already linked on SSC or Shtetyl Optimized before.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Lol … definitely the members of the Jewish community — like pretty much every community — remain sharply divided in regard to the merits (or not) of the 21st century’s STEAM-Enlightenment.

            Please be assured that few people would feel out of place at our family’s various reunions, dinners, and picnics … where all are welcomed, and opinions and ethnicities alike are diverse (to say the least).

            On the other hand, the “never Trump” faction at our family get-togethers encompasses 100% of the writers, historians, painters, musicians, scientists, mathematicians, lawyers, scientists, engineers, healthcare providers, teachers, family farmers, construction workers, small business owners, conservationists, veterans, activists, gays, immigrants, feminists, Reaganites, Jews, Catholics, Methodists, Friends, Seventh Day Adventists, Buddhists, and deist philosophers (there is considerable multiple coverage).

            No previous candidate has united our family in this way! 🙂

            As for alt-righters, there are none (or at least, none who speak up). Because what self-respecting alt-righters would care to embrace, or help to sustain, such a heterogeneous family?

            Our family can no more disentangle its mutual affections, than Donald Trump can unwind his Putin-contaminated business interests! 🙂

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Oh great. Now my Irish, Mexican, and Unitarian relatives are disappointed at being left off the family-list (accidentally).

            They’re never-Trump too, obviously … being mostly from outside the Hajnal Line and all that.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          Who’s that John Sidles who wrote that “history of man” comment? His writing style is kind of familiar.

  11. Fahundo says:

    There’s already a subthread about this.

  12. TMB says:

    What’s the name for the thing that they do in traditional or Irish music that makes it sounds kind of wistful, (but content)? I think they do it in country music too. Is it a minor key or something?

    I feel like that is my music. Is that the traditional British form of music?

    Best example:
    Wild Rover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt6zxMK6JFI

    Others:
    Days https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HNJcd1pTaL0
    Turkey in the Straw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VsnZxfkkoKQ
    Coventry Carol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8L71BjTL8M

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I don’t think there is a particularly specific harmonic cause. Other than Coventry Carol, those songs mostly just use chords I, IV and V (in a major key), just like pretty much every piece of popular music since forever. Coventry carol is in a minor key. I think the feeling comes more from the instrumentation, calm tempo and lyrics.

    • I’m pretty sure it’s the tempo, not the key. It’s very steady and comfortable.

      “Irish Rover” is definitely major. “Days” is probably major. “Turkey in the Straw” has a very major melody, but they’re doing something complicated with the harmony. I can’t tell what key the Coventry Carol is in (I suspect it’s modal), but it’s got a a Picardy third.

      Now I’m wondering whether there’s a sort of super-major music. “Irish Rover” is major as I understand music theory, but it doesn’t sound as strongly major to me as South African or Mexican music.

    • TMB says:

      I feel as if some of the vocal high notes are just slightly lower than you would expect for a totally cheerful song, and the more Irish, the lower they get?

      If I listen to days by the Kinks and compare it to days as sung by Kirsty MacColl it seems as if that’s the difference, but I might be imagining it.

      • Deiseach says:

        The Wild Rover” is meant to be slightly nostalgic and rueful, it’s a former hellraiser deciding he’s going to clean up his act. The Irish Rover is just good old get-drunk-and-belt-it-out fun 🙂

        I’ve been a Wild Rover for many’s the year
        And I spent all my money on whiskey and beer
        And now I’m returning with gold in great store
        And I never will play the Wild Rover no more

        versus

        We had one million bales of the best Sligo rags
        We had two million barrels of stones
        We had three million sides of old blind horses hides,
        We had four million barrels of bones.
        We had five million hogs, we had six million dogs,
        Seven million barrels of porter.
        We had eight million bales of old nanny goats’ tails,
        In the hold of the Irish Rover.

    • Deiseach says:

      On the broad topic of Irish music, there’s one reel – The Silver Spear – that sounds ‘American’ to my ears. I imagine this is because Irish/Scottish/English music went to America with immigrants and some, at least, of the tunes got a new coat of paint and a new name in their new home.

      So maybe it’s less that “The Silver Spear” sounds like an American tune, and more that some American tunes are composed in/derived from an Irish style?

      • sweeneyrod says:

        That version also sounds somewhat American (to my non-Irish ears), but I think that’s largely because it’s being played quite fast, with out any swing, on quite a twangy banjo. If you remove those features (e.g. like this) I think it sounds much more Irish.

  13. sweeneyrod says:

    Many people seem to be under the misapprehension that because the main healthcare system in the UK is nationalised, private healthcare is forbidden (although I think that is somewhat true in Canada). Actually, private healthcare is perfectly legal, as evidenced by this interesting business, which provides video appointments with GPs and prescriptions for £20 per month.

  14. Deiseach says:

    Starch is now the sixth taste?

    Right, so this explains why we Irish love “a big ball of flour drenched in butter” when it comes to spuds 🙂

    (Now I’ve made myself hungry!)

    • This is reminding me of the time I tried eating some fake chicken– on the tip of my tongue, it tasted like chicken with black pepper, but when it got to the back of my tongue, my reaction was “Just a goddam minute, this isn’t chicken, this is starch!”.

  15. TMB says:

    Dank. Cringe.

    Why have these words suddenly become popular? Has it just reached some tipping point where middle aged people (such as myself) have finally become aware of them, or did these words just appear from nowhere.

    Also, I don’t like the word cringe. It reminds me of how the word “sad” was used when I was at school – “you like Thomas the Tank Engine, that’s *sad*, man”… “OMG… that guy tried to do something – he is so *cringe*”

    I think we should force children to say exactly what they mean – “I feel nothing but contempt for you.”

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I think “cringe” has been a cool teen word for a long time (or at least used in magazines and suchlike aimed at teenagers). According to Google Trends, “dank” has increased in popularity by 20 percentage points since May. It started slowly growing in popularity in about August 2014.

      More generally, you raise a point about the mainstreaming of memey internet culture (I’m not sure if it’s an interesting point).

    • Anon. says:

      “Dank” was used for a while to denote high quality weed, but it really took off when it was applied to memes (half-ironically, and combined with a sense of disappointment at the times):

      >Born too late to explore the earth
      >Born too soon to explore the galaxy
      >Born just in time to browse dank memes

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      To me, “cringe” doesn’t mean “contempt”. It means I’m am forced to vicariously experience humiliation on your behalf which is … unpleasant at best. It means your actions not only make you look shameful, they make me feel ashamed for my similarities to you, real or imagined. It’s not “ha ha loser” it’s “no no no no why are you doing this stop please stop”. It’s the social/emotional equivalent of nails-on-chalkboard.

      • TMB says:

        I think vicarious embarrassment must be closely related to contempt. Perhaps people are just nicer these days, and less likely to give in to it.

        I remember once reading an old person remarking upon how the meaning of the word “pity” had changed to “contempt” (“I don’t hate you, I pity you!”). The same thing happened with “sad” when I was a child, I wonder if something similar is happening with cringe now?

        I wonder if this is a modern phenomena.

      • Jaskologist says:

        To me, it’s a case of what CS Lewis was talking about as the dangers of national repentance. It’s a way to hurl accusations from behind a shield of false humility.

        • Brad (The Other One) says:

          Maybe some people do use it that way, I have no doubt of it. I’m just saying, for me, ‘cringe’ is something that invokes an intensely adverse physiological reaction in me, so much so I almost stop caring about the topic or “source” of the cringe because of my own reaction.

          Example: There’s an episode of The (U.S.) Office where Michael Scott falsely claims to have paid for the college tuition of an entire inner city school and he, (not believing he’d ever be called out on it) sheepishly grins the most pained expression I’ve ever see in television as the kids throw celebrations around him. I literally could not watch it; the vicarious feelings of anxiety and shame were too intense. I imagine this is how people, maybe, used to feel when they got scared on the behalf of a character in a horror movie.

      • Anita Restrepo-Sanchez says:

        “I’m am forced to vicariously experience humiliation on your behalf which is … unpleasant at best. It means your actions not only make you look shameful, they make me feel ashamed for my similarities to you, real or imagined.”

        So, what the Germans call “Fremdscham“? (The associated verb is “fremdschämen“.)

    • Fahundo says:

      Has it just reached some tipping point where middle aged people (such as myself) have finally become aware of them

      Exactly this. Both words have been popular for years.

    • onyomi says:

      The one recent neologism I absolutely can’t brook is “on fleek,” maybe because it is a whole nonsensical phrase.

  16. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    SSC SF Story of the Week #20
    This week we are discussing “The Last Question” by Isaac Asimov.
    Next time we will discuss “True Names” by Vernor Vinge.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      The Asimov story; the one that everyone has read. Probably because the ending is so great; that last lines are really memorable. I find the heat death of the universe pretty scary, so I like the story’s hopeful tone towards the issue. Not sure whether it’s implying a cyclical universe or whether AC was just making a biblical reference, though.

      • Mary says:

        Actually “Nightfall” tends to get praised higher.

        It was Asimov’s own personal favorite, though, and whenever someone came up to him and says he remembers a story’s plot, but not the title, and he’s not even sure if Asimov wrote it — it was ALWAYS “The Last Question.”

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          “Nightfall” gets more critical acclaim, but I get the impression that “The Last Question” is more popular/famous/widely read.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I have pretty much run out of short stories to post. I have a plan to replenish my supply, but I am going to need some time to pull it off, and to be honest I am not very sure if I am actually going to do it or not, so in the meantime we are going to be doing novellas instead. Keep in mind that the novellas are much longer than the short stories were, so if you want to participate in the upcoming discussions it would probably be a good idea to read them ahead of time. The updated master list is here.

      • arbitrary_greay says:

        All of Corey Doctorow’s works are available online, including his short stories.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          Yes, and there is the back catalog of Clarkesworld and Lightspeed and the public domain issues of Astouding and so on. The problem is not a lack of potential stories, it’s that in order for a story to be posted I have to read it, like it, think that it lends itself to interesting discussion, and come up with something to say about it.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Does anyone else confuse this with Frederic Brown’s “Answer”?

      • LHN says:

        Yes.

        (Though I kind of wish the result of my search had justified the response: “THERE IS AS YET INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER”.)

    • hlynkacg says:

      The Last Question is one of those stories that is so conceptually perfect that it is cliché.

      I’m a big Vinge, fan but I will save my comments for the next thread. As far as the next story, have we done Anthem? If not I’ll have to dig through my pile, as we’ve already hit most of my top picks.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      It’s hard to say anything about The Last Question other than “if you haven’t read it, read it. If you have, re-read it”.

      When the sun is done, the other stars will be gone, too.

      Old SF always sends me on long wiki tangents, trying to find out when some out of date fact was discovered to be wrong.
      Learning scientific history is at least as entertaining as studying science itself, and Asimov’s history-based popular science essays have always been favourites of mine. The table of elements makes a lot more intuitive sense when you see it grow and develop over the centuries, for example.

      • Mary says:

        Since that’s put in a character’s mouth, is it wrong? For that it would have to be something implausible for that character to believe, and as I recollect, he wasn’t any kind of astronomical expert.

        Especially since his point is that entropy is not localized to the solar system, and he may be eliding a few details to convey that.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m not sure if “The Last Question” counts as what is called “high-concept” but in its way it’s a perfect example of conceptual art: the idea is what counts and how it is worked out is a secondary concern.

      The move from big huge giant room-sized computers down to “small enough a private citizen can own one” is both historically interesting and genuine SF-forecasting. As an example of melded hard-SF (making predictions based on extrapolations of current knowledge and technology) and soft-SF (WE HAVE CREATED GOD – or rather, God has evolved itself) it is one of the best examples of the kind of SF that was popular, the norm in the genre, and what was considered SF in the public mind.

      But really the idea is what counts here, so discussing the story in any more detail is superfluous. Asimov doesn’t even swerve into a digression about benevolent AI: from this, whatever his opinion if he had one about AI and its perils and opportunities, he seems to feel that naturally computer intelligence will be at the service of humanity and that a perfect thinking machine will not stray outside its parameters of sitting there thinking about science, crunching the data, and coming up with answers. Contrast this with Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream”, and the changes in society between 1956 and 1967 they exemplify – from Asimov’s clean, shiny, eternal scientific progress and the transcendence of humanity into a unified Mind of pure intellectual energy served by an increasingly powerful and intelligent, also transcendent machine Mind that remains benevolent and committed to its mission of answering the question posed to its remote ancestor eons before, to Ellison’s messy, non-transcendent humanity trying to deal with the terrors and problems associated with scientific and technological progress that appeared to be running far ahead of society’s ability to control it, and the last survivors of humanity being rendered into deliberately degraded playthings for the resentful and mad intelligence we have unwittingly created.

      Asimov has a concept in mind and he sticks to the most direct path that will bring him to the ending. It’s of its time, but it works and there’s nothing more to be said, really 🙂

      • Corey says:

        Asimov doesn’t even swerve into a digression about benevolent AI: from this, whatever his opinion if he had one about AI and its perils and opportunities, he seems to feel that naturally computer intelligence will be at the service of humanity and that a perfect thinking machine will not stray outside its parameters of sitting there thinking about science, crunching the data, and coming up with answers.

        Probably the same reason he wrote robot stories around the Three Laws: Frankenstein-metaphor robots were old and tired at that time, so he intentionally removed that path from his stories so as to force new directions. And indeed the interplay between failure modes and unintended consequences of the Three Laws produced interesting stories.

        So he was probably dispositionally leery of writing about unFriendly AI, rather than predisposed to thinking AI would be Friendly.

      • Dan T. says:

        Although (like many people in that time), Asimov vastly overestimated the time it would take for computers to develop in that direction. In 2061, they’re still massive things that only expert technicians can ask questions of, in some arcane computer language. By the next chapter, a few generations later, there are “Microvacs” taking up a good deal of space on family spaceships (and apparently able to establish wireless faster-than-light networking with bigger computers around the galaxy). Later, they move the bulk of their machinery into hyperspace. The idea that people might carry in their pocket a gadget with both local intelligence and wide-area networking, capable of answering questions, was still beyond his idea of likely technology. (Asking Siri the question of this story caused it to be looked up on Wolfram Alpha, which ended up giving a response quoting from this story that included the obligatory “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR A MEANINGFUL ANSWER”.)

        • LHN says:

          Though it’s interesting that in SF generally, and Asimov specificially, this coincided with robots that functioned with fairly general albeit limited AI. (Sometimes not that limited at all, in the case of Stephen Byerly, Andrew Martin, or R. Daneel Olivaw.)

          So to some extent this was a matter of framing: a “computer” was obviously a massive room or building-filling (or larger) structure, and could often only interact through a teletype or other mechanical interface; but a “robot brain” was a device that could fit in roughly the same space a human brain could, and could engage in idiomatic (if sometimes stilted) verbal conversation.

          (But of course you’d never stick a robot brain into a desktop device. Why attach one to a keyboard and have it correct your spelling and grammar when you can just dictate to a humaniform robot that can operate a typewriter and copy edit the result?

          • The Nybbler says:

            (But of course you’d never stick a robot brain into a desktop device. Why attach one to a keyboard and have it correct your spelling and grammar when you can just dictate to a humaniform robot that can operate a typewriter and copy edit the result?

            “Almost every robot, except perhaps a few like farmhands, does only one or two things and does those things constantly. All right. Shape them so that they can best do just those things, with no parts left over. give them a brain, eyes and ears to receive commands, and whatever [sensory] organs they need to do their work…
            That’s the source of your whole robot epidemic. They were all burdened down with things they didn’t need…

            “But this can’t be done overnight. People are used to android robots… They’ll be scared of your unhuman-looking contraptions… Give’em a name. A good name… Keep ‘robots’ thats common domain… I’ve got it. Usuform. Quinby’s Usuform Robots. Q.U.R.”

            From Q.U.R., by Anthony Boucher.
            Published by Astounding Science Fiction in 1943

          • LHN says:

            Cool– I’ll have to see if I can track that one down. (IIRC, most or all Golden Age Astoundings are archived on archive.org.)

          • LHN says:

            Found it.

            https://archive.org/details/Astounding_v31n01_1943-03_AK

            As a bonus, the issue’s editorial has John W. Campbell making the case to his 1943 readers that skycars as they envisioned them are impractical by any imaginable technology, including antigravity.[1]

            Which is to say, he was already answering the “Where’s my flying car?” question with “You’re not going to get it, sorry” smack in the middle of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.

            [1] Though for cheap antigrav, his argument was more that you don’t get the common SF image of heavy aircar traffic over a city, because fast 3D transport means you don’t need cities.

      • Mary says:

        On the AI question, if you find this interesting, I strongly recommend Torchship and Torchship Pilot by Karl K. Gallagher for reasons that will be fully clear by the middle of the second book. 0:)

  17. Sandy says:

    Hillary’s official website has just identified one of the most dire threats to modern America.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      And MSNBC did several special reports.
      I think we finally drove the liberal media insane, kek be praised.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This will go down in history as the dankest election in American history.

      In all seriousness though, do the folks pearl-clutching over /pol/ memes realize how absolutely goddamn ridiculous they sound? That link was clearly aimed at people unfamiliar with the concept of memes to begin with, and the payoff is “Donald Trump is using this cartoon frog as a secret Nazi symbol!”

      • Some Troll's Legitimate Discussion Alt says:

        Is this the hot new political tactic? Get on twitter and be a colossal asshole in the most obscure and ridiculous way possible to bait your opposition into making an ‘official’ response so that they look crazy in front on the normies?

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’d be brilliant if it was intentional, but I’m thinking it was Trump’s campaign actually trying (successfully) to appeal to the dank meme crowd and Hillary’s campaign going full retard over it.

        • Fahundo says:

          and be a colossal asshole in the most obscure and ridiculous way possible

          by retweeting cartoon frogs?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          I’ve heard the claim that this is the strategy of some left-wing performance artist / activist groups like Pussy Riot.

          The idea is that if you force the conservative press to write about a woman with a chicken in her vagina, you’re already winning.

          If that’s true, then the Alt-Right memelords would represent the natural response to that. Force the MSM to explain Happy Merchant and Remove Kebab, and you’ve got your foot in the door.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      And they’re officially trying to blame Hillary’s collapse on KGB poisoning (possibly though weather control satellites?)
      Apparently the media is controlled entirely by /pol/ now. Somebody go tell them they’re the new jews.

      • hlynkacg says:

        The Onion turned into a font of sober and reserved journalism so slowly that no one noted till it was all over.

      • Deiseach says:

        To be fair, blaming KGB poisoning would be even more laughable and implausible if they didn’t really go around doing it.

        Spraying polonium-210 into a cup of tea in the bar of a London restaurant would be the plot of one of those conspiracy thrillers by the imitators of Cussler and Clancy, if it hadn’t (allegedly) really happened – there seems to be some confusion as to whether the poisoning was done in the bar, or during a meeting in his hotel room.

        I mean, look at this from the list of possible suspects:

        Igor the Assassin

        The code name for a former KGB assassin. He is said to be a former Spetznaz officer born in 1960 who is a judo master and walks with a slight limp. He allegedly speaks perfect English and Portuguese and may be the same person who served Litvinenko tea in the London hotel room.

        Put that in the manuscript of a novel and you’d get it sent back with “tone down the implausible assassin a bit, okay?”

      • Jaskologist says:

        Great, so now it’s literal Kremlinology.

      • Anonymous says:

        You may want to review the definition of the word “officially”. Also ‘they’.

        • Deiseach says:

          The guy is genuinely dead of genuine polonium-210 poisoning and there is not entirely wild-eyed speculation hat Putin had something to do with it, given that several other inconvenient persons also succumbed to sudden attacks of mysterious deaths around the time.

          We’re living in a bloody spy thriller novel and I don’t much appreciate it 🙁

      • Nyx says:

        As far as I can tell, Bennet Omalu isn’t an official Clinton spokesman. All I see is a newspaper hungry for an outrageous, click-baity headline hunted down a doctor willing to say “well, poisoning might have similar symptoms and it’s always worth it to run a quick test.”

    • Viliam says:

      I still feel like “no way that could be Clinton’s official website; that is an obvious parody”.

      Okay, Wikipedia says it’s an official website, but that doesn’t mean anything because we all know anyone can edit Wikipedia… right?

      • Anonymous says:

        that doesn’t mean anything because we all know anyone can edit Wikipedia… right?

        Of course. But articles about prominent figures like this tend to be watched quite diligently, and inserting a fake link as the “official website” is a particularly conspicuous type of vandalism; not one that would be likely to go unnoticed for long. Inserting plausible-sounding falsehoods with fabricated citations into an article about an obscure topic would, on the other hand. (Link 1, 2. Unfortunately, WPO’s journalistic standards sometimes approach the level of Breitbart, but I don’t think there is anything better for now.)

        Plus, I don’t think the HRC campaign would let the hillaryclinton.com domain fall into the hands of hoaxers.

    • Deiseach says:

      Well, Sandy, that melted my brain.

      They actually think Pepe is a white supremacist symbol and that Trump is deliberately using it to signal to his followers “Get your robes freshly laundered and make sure your pitchforks are in good condition, the rule of the KKK is at hand!”

      Please tell me this is some joke site and nothing to do with an official campaign? Though it is depressing to think it could well be the work of some social media-savvy campaign member who is deliberately using this kind of nonsense because any stick is good enough to beat the dog, and if you can just get enough people to repost “Trump is a white supremacist! Proof is here!” then the job is done.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It comes across almost as an urban legend. Did you know that Trump’s use of a green frog means he’s actually a Nazi? Also that Unilever’s heart logo means they support pedophilia!

        • Jaskologist says:

          Yeah, this reads like a conspiracy email from my grandmother.

        • Deiseach says:

          Or the Proctor-Gamble Satanist logo. This is what now passes for political campaigning? Though I suppose campaigning always was more about “My opponent is a low-down dirty thieving drunken rat who will molest your wives and daughters, steal your horses, rustle your cattle, and bring the country to ruination”, it just wasn’t served up quite so free of dressing to disguise the taste before.

          • LHN says:

            Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

            In return, Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

            As the slurs piled on, Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.

            Even Martha Washington succumbed to the propaganda, telling a clergyman that Jefferson was “one of the most detestable of mankind.”

            http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/wayoflife/08/22/mf.campaign.slurs.slogans/

            It may be that disintermediation and the candidates’ response to it is just returning us to the handbill era. (And I’m not sure that Martha Washington was responding so much to “propaganda” as to the real and bitter divisions produced by the politics of the 1790s.)

            Granted, I’d personally prefer more decorum. And better candidates.

      • Corey says:

        if you can just get enough people to repost “Trump is a white supremacist! Proof is here!” then the job is done.

        Yeah, I know when he tweeted out that 80% of murders where blacks killing whites that was just an oversight, not a dog whistle *at all*.

    • Fahundo says:

      What a time to be alive. I wish I could tell the me of 10 years ago that Pepe would be referenced by presidential candidates one day.

  18. Sandy says:

    Britain’s Tory government is redrawing the boundaries of constituencies, and as a result of what is either divine providence or masterful trolling, Jeremy Corbyn’s new seat might be in an area where nearly half the population are Haredim.

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      Minions of Sauron you say?

      Wait, never-mind.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      This seems like a terrible idea. Why would the tories want to undermine Corbyn?
      If possible you’d want to give him somewhere like Bradford West, so he’d have to go full “drive the jews into the sea” to beat the Respect party candidate. That would provide beautiful soundbytes.
      But giving him Stamford Hill is just going to keep him quiet and make him look sane.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      Sounds like he might need to disavow David Duke’s endorsement.

    • H. E. Pennypacker says:

      Stamford Hill is a Hasidic area and many of them are opposed to Zionism. He’s probably more likely to be at odds with them on socially progressive policies than opposition to Israel.

  19. I posted this about possible health benefits from avoiding food cooked at high temperatures, and a friend who cares more about fried food and bread than I do wrote this:

    Probably the AGEs in the paper you cited are the same as the things I was talking about.

    The paper explicitly says that AGEs are flavorful.

    One confounder is that dry cooking generally means frying, which is high in fat. Is it the AGEs that matter, or the fat?

    Check out the sample meals:
    http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00125-016-4053-x#Tab1

    The amount of AGEs varies by orders of magnitude. Thus, if AGEs are the relevant criterion, there is a lot of diminishing returns in the advice.

    So, yes, dry vs wet is a simple rule for reducing AGEs, but here is a different set of suggestions drawn from that chart:

    Most important is to wet cook meat and eggs. Second has nothing to do with wet cooking, but is to reduce (certain?) fats. Only third is to avoid dry-cooking starch. (e.g., toasting bread)

    Switching from beef to chicken or chicken to eggs would fall in tier 2, a much bigger improvement than not toasting the bagel.

    These are not serious suggestions, because the chart is not a serious source of data. I’m just saying that their own claims suggest that their advice could be a lot better.

    (An example of the chart not being a serious source of data is that it says that poached chicken has half the AGEs of beef stew. That is a big difference (though only 1/4 as big as the change from not frying) and a much more useful advice than not toasting bagels, but it is only useful if one knew how to generalize it. I suspect that this is not about beef vs chicken, but that stew involves frying vegetables.)

    I am curious about the AGEs in fat. Glycation is a chemical change, so I’m not terribly surprised that it’s part of the bundle of chemical changes that margarine goes through (except that I thought that AGEs were from proteins, and I didn’t think that protein went into margarine), even if there’s no heat. But I am surprised that cream cheese has lots of AGEs.

    Also, frying and grilling are a lot hotter than baking. Surely baking produces more AGEs than boiling, but maybe it isn’t such a big deal.

  20. Brad (The Other One) says:

    No smart comments – just wondering if anyone else here watches Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure? It’s campy as hell and I love to, uh… work out to this show.

    • DrBeat says:

      Let’s get all the smartest minds in the blogosphere, devoted to the cause of refining human rationality, to all get together and figure out just what the fuck King Crimson does.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I still need to finish that series.

      I love the first season, before Stands and the rest. Mostly because it plays out like a Victorian gothic horror novelist took a sheet of LSD blotting paper, crumpled it up, and swallowed it whole. The story starts relatively sedate but just gets stranger and stranger with each episode until you have Qvb’f frirerq urnq gnxvat bire n pehvfr fuvc.

      The third season was hard to watch, because while we have the best villain in the series we also have the most boring (of the first three anyway) Jojo. That and how Hamon energy abruptly ceases to exist or matter made it hard to stay invested. I still haven’t seen the steamroller scene yet.

    • blacktrance says:

      I watch it, it’s great.

      I find that Part 1 tends to be underrated by JoJo fans, and Part 2 is overrated (though still good). I’m really enjoying Part 4 so far, it’s definitely better than Part 3, though Jotaro is a better protagonist than Josuke.

  21. bean says:

    I’ve been considering the definition of Hard Sci-Fi. This is an age-old question, but I finally have a definition which I find at least somewhat satisfying:
    Soft SF is when the author does not look at science except maybe to provide descriptive fluff. If science contradicts something he wants to do, science loses.
    Hard SF is when the author pays attention to what science says, and considers the tradeoffs between science and where he wants the story to go. Science doesn’t have to win every time, but it doesn’t automatically lose, either. Attention is paid to the damage that is done to science, and steps are taken to minimize it.
    (The most prominent and accepted deviation from real science in hard SF is FTL travel. It’s often hard to tell stories without it, and so long as it’s done well, I don’t think it’s disqualifying.)
    There’s another potential genre, ultrahard, which doesn’t permit any deviation from science. This is extremely rare. Even The Martian doesn’t technically fall into it.
    Thoughts?

    • brad says:

      Interesting. I consider FTL to be disqualifying. To me hard-sci fi is free to make plausible extrapolations from current science, but not to do things that we currently believe to be impossible.

      • John Schilling says:

        Does your definition of “we” include e.g. Miguel Alcubierre, Harold White, Kip Thorne, and Matt Visser? They all have Ph.D’s in theoretical physics or related fields, as do the editors and peer reviewers who signed off on their various “maybe we don’t believe FTL to be impossible after all” papers, and I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt at that level.

        If the author makes a good-faith effort to fit his FTL drive into a relativistic framework, I don’t disqualify it as hard SF. Nor do I demand that he describe or justify it with any more rigor than the hard-SF writer next door does with e.g. “fusion drive”.

        • LHN says:

          Though most SF authors don’t try to plot out the numbers for an Alcubierre-style drive the way, e.g., Heinlein did with his STL torchships (handwaving the total conversion part, but doing the accelerations and orbits straight). There are SF ftl frameworks that are on the harder side (e.g., Niven and Pournelle’s Alderson Drive, at least when they did it), or that at least lay out a rules-based system and stick to it even if they don’t specify the speculative addition to real physics. But many more are pure plot devices with the arbitrary characteristics necessary to underpin the imagined world.

          That said, I fully agree that such a device doesn’t cast any story into an outer darkness of “soft SF”. If Mission of Gravity isn’t hard SF, there’s not a lot of room left for that Scotsman to lay his hat, and I don’t recall Clement telling us much more about the ftl in that universe than that it existed and let humans get to Mesklin.

        • brad says:

          Thanks for the links JS. The last time I looked into this I only came across the negative energy to stabilize wormholes one.

      • Aegeus says:

        I think it’s a sliding scale, not a binary. “One big lie” sci-fi, where the science is solid except for one story-driving conceit (an FTL drive, for example) is not as hard as speculative fiction, but it’s still harder than Star Trek.

        2001, for instance, is very hard sci-fi, except for the Monoliths, which have almost no impact on the story itself until the end.

        Schlock Mercenary has two very large pieces of handwavium: FTL teleportation, and the “annie plant,” which can produce strong gravitational fields. But the implications of both of those techs are well thought-out based on our current physics. For instance, spaceships use gravity fields for propulsion, for shielding, as a weapon, for artificial gravity when walking around… Not as hard as 2001, but still harder than Star Trek.

        • bean says:

          Hmm. Interesting comparison. I’m not sure I’d put 2001 ahead of Schlock on the hardness scale. Yes, the humans only have tech we understand, but then there’s the weird trippy parts at the end. I’m aware of Clarke’s Law, but invoking it is a large hit against hardness in my book. Schlock is noticeably lacking in mystical bits.
          (A good control for 2001 here is Rendezvous with Rama. Similar overall, but there’s no mystical bits in the original novel. Yes, they pop up later.)

          But while Schlock is nicely internally consistent, I think there’s an important distinction between works that are internally consistent and works that are consistent with science as we know it.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I think the better distinction is between “knowable” and “unknowable”. In knowable SF, the invented devices and phenomena work in specific comprehensible reproducible ways, and the story is build around that knowledge and extrapolating the consequences of how the device/phenomenon works. Even if the phenomenon is mysterious to the characters in the story, the reader is cued to expect that there is a comprehensible underlying logic to its behavior, and often the story plays like a mystery where the characters attempt to uncover that logic. In unknowable SF, the devices and phenomena exist to drive a plot or make a point about the human condition, and so they’ll do whatever they need to to accomplish those goals, and you’re not expected to pay close attention to the underlying mechanics. Oftentimes the phenomena are presented as explicitly incomprehensible to the characters, grand ineffable superbeing monolith gods that have transcended human understanding. This can be used to make points about the wonder of the universe, which would be diluted if you hooked the monolith up to a dynamo and used it to power your coffee machine.

      Most knowable SF has a strong basis in actual science, simply because knowable SF has to be internally consistent and coming up with a whole separate internally-consistent set of physical laws would be difficult, much less conveying them to the reader. It’s much easier to discuss orbital mechanics in depth than it is to come up with an alternative mechanical system with the same depth and consistency. So knowable SF tends to get conflated with hard science.

      • bean says:

        That’s an interesting and potentially very useful categorization. The two poles which I think illustrate it best are Doctor Who and Honor Harrington. In Who, plot drives everything, and expecting even the screwdriver to work consistently is going to leave you very disappointed. In Harrington, you see all the math, and Weber follows it.
        But there are lots of cases where you just can’t tell. Star Wars springs to mind here. There’s just not really enough data to classify it one way or the other.

        • LHN says:

          And with collaborative works like most media properties, different authors or showrunners or whatever may take different approaches. (There are definitely crunchier and fuzzier episodes of Star Trek, for example.)

    • I think of hard sf as having a good faith effort to get the science right, with an exception for ftl. It can take some historical knowledge to know what science was current at the time the story was written.

      • dndnrsn says:

        “It’s a good thing there’s no kind of long-term harm from exposure to radiation” exclaimed Space Captain MacDonald, fishing in his spacesuit pocket for his Zippo. “Hits the spot” he muttered, inhaling deeply of the rich Chesterfield tobacco.

      • LHN says:

        I also think it’s more useful to think of SF hardness as a Mohs scale rather than a binary. (Star Trek is harder than Star Wars[1] and softer than Heinlein, who is in turn softer than Hal Clement.)

        The alternative tends to rapidly tend in the No True Scotsman direction, where “Hard SF” is always what something isn’t. (Even Hal Clement wasn’t above using ftl.)

        [1] Someone will often chime in that Star Wars is fantasy rather than science fiction. A case can be made. But I’m generally against the idea that something that aims at science fiction and misses lands in fantasy, any more than a bad mystery becomes a romance or a western in consequence. No genre is defined by being a failed example of a different one.

        • bean says:

          There is definitely a sliding scale, but even then, you have the problem of where you put the labels on your scale. My definition is an attempt to place them consistently.

          Re Star Wars, I’d classify it as Space Fantasy, along with things like Lensman. Not because they’re failed Sci-Fi, but because they aren’t core Sci-Fi. They’re fantasy epics set in space, instead of in a world of castles and dragons. Fantasy describes both a genre and a setting.

          • Deiseach says:

            Re Star Wars, I’d classify it as Space Fantasy, along with things like Lensman.

            Exactly. Even at the time stories of lost civilisations on Mars and exotic Venusian colonies were being written, most people probably had a good idea that this was pure invention, Schiaparelli’s canals be blowed. But you don’t read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” for extrapolation from hard science principles (even if he makes a plot-point of Carter being used to Earth gravity and so able to perform what, to the Martians, are astounding feats of acrobatics), you read it for exotic alien cultures, the more highly-coloured, the better.

            It’s like Verne vs Wells, with the aggrieved Jules pointing out that “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does Mr. Wells find his cavourite? Let him show it to me!” 🙂

          • LHN says:

            I’d strongly disagree on Lensman. At the time, its take on cosmology, evolution, eugenics, and psychic powers were all well within the bounds of scientific plausibility. It’s not Clement-hard by any means, but it’s not a fantasy story in space dress even to the extent one can argue Star Wars is.

            The plot escalation is driven by human (and alien) invention, not magic McGuffins, and the hero is special because of long term active material intervention in his ancestry to give him particular human abilities, not because he’s the Chosen One. (And in fact there were three other candidates for his role– he just happened to be the one who took the lead.)

            The Lens itself is Clarkean sufficiently advanced technology. But it’s also mostly not that important other than as a symbol. It’s a focus for some psychic abilities and a marker of the specialness of its bearers, but it’s not exactly a Green Lantern power ring. (However much the latter owes to the former.)

          • bean says:

            Did we read the same story? Lensman is straight pulp, full of overwrought adjectives, things that are basically magic and threats to all of existence. It’s really good pulp, but I wouldn’t classify it as straight SF. Smith did a decent job of disguising the fantasy elements, but the fact that Mentor of Arisia built the Lens instead of it coming from the Lady of the Lake is just set dressing. Psychic powers move it in that direction, too, particularly when they dominate the tech.
            (None of this is an attack on the series. I liked it quite a lot.)

          • LHN says:

            “Pulp” doesn’t strike me as inconsistent with SF. SF in the Golden Age and before was a pulp genre. (Likewise, Smith’s… enthusiastic vocabulary strikes me as orthogonal to what genre its in.)

            The Lens is a mass-produced device, not a single mystic artifact. It’s not something humans can produce until the very end of the series (depending whether one counts the Children as human), but it’s never treated as having mystical significance. Lenses are made by machines, as needed. It identifies characteristics and enhances a species is generally deficient in (lack of corruption in humans, lack of cowardice in Palainians), but it’s not treated as numinous or mystical or a Thing Man is Not Meant to Understand, just something ahead of where we are now. (Like the Arisians themselves.)

            I’m guessing we have different markers for fantasy and science fiction. Which in my experience is usually what these sorts of things turn on.

            (E.g., is Pern science fiction– space colony, genetic engineering, psi, orbital mechanics, alien spores– or fantasy– dragons, lords, prophetic verses, secret heirs, initially medieval tech? I’ve always considered it science fiction in fantasy guise– not least because it debuted in Cambpell’s Analog and shares a universe with other space travel stories– but I’ve run into plenty of people who’d say the opposite.)

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            It’s like Verne vs Wells, with the aggrieved Jules pointing out that “I sent my characters to the moon with gunpowder, a thing one may see every day. Where does Mr. Wells find his cavourite? Let him show it to me!” ?

            Reminds me of this comic.

      • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

        Nancy Lebovitz affirms  “I think of hard sf as having a good faith effort to get the science right.”

        Many agree (including me). A terrifying downside to this principle is that works like Carter Scholz’ ultrarecent / ultrahard / ultrarealistic sf novella Gypsy (2015) rank among the most hope-destroying works of sf, or indeed, of any literary genre:

        “It is the business of the future to be dangerous; and it is among the merits of science that it equips the future for its duties.”
           — Alfred North Whitehead

        No sf author’s works (known to me) have illuminated the gravity of Whitehead’s principle more vividly than Carter Scholz’.

        • “Oil reserves, declared as recently as 2010 to exceed a trillion barrels, proved to be an accounting gimmick, gone by 2020.”

          “Ultrahard, ultrarealistic.”

          When 2020 arrives and the oil is still coming, will you revise your view of reality?

        • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

          Will the world’s high-EROI carbon-energy reserves last longer or less-long than the world’s Arctic summer ice?

          This is turning out to be a mighty close-run horse-race, isn’t it?

          In fresh-breaking high-Arctic news, after a search lasting 170 years — and thanks to crucial guidance from Inuit local Sammy Kogvik of Gjoa Haven — the long-lost Arctic exploration ship Terror has been found ! 🙂 ! 🙂 !

          Of course, nowadays there’s nothing but open summer seawater in the self-same Arctic passages where the Terror and its sister ship Erebus were so disastrously ice-bound, isn’t that right?

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            PS  To belabor the obvious, Carter Scholz’ Gypsy expedition [of 2040-2095(?)] faithfully traverses the narrative arc of the Lost Franklin Expedition [of 1845-1889(?)].

            Doesn’t Scholz’ narrative therefore possess both technological and historical plausibility?

            Isn’t Gypsy therefore among the very hardest specimens of “hard-sf” narratives, defined sensu stricto?

            Hence it’s surprising — isn’t it? — that self-described SSC rationalists are reluctant to contemplate humanity’s hopes for a STEAM-future in the harsh light of humanity’s all-too-recent STEAM-past.

            Why is this?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Hence it’s surprising — isn’t it? — that self-described SSC rationalists are reluctant to contemplate humanity’s hopes for a STEAM-future in the harsh light of humanity’s all-too-recent STEAM-past.

            What?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Isn’t Gypsy therefore among the very hardest specimens of “hard-sf” narratives, defined sensu stricto?

            Granted, it’s harder than your average Star Trek episode but still pretty soft compared to most of Clarke’s work. At the end of the day it’s a Shaggy Dog story with very little science to it beyond it’s vocabulary. You could have easily replaced every instance of “Magsail” with “Warp Nacelles” and “Hydrazine” with “Delirium Crystals” without changing the story.

            On a purely literary note, The writing itself is solid but I am vaguely reminded of a teenager who’s just discovered Emo. I kind of want to take the author aside and say “look kid, I know it feels like it’s the end of the world but do not make the mistake of conflating cynicism and wisdom.”

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            SSC folks who appreciate Carter Scholz’ Gypsy (2015) as a parable that is solidly grounded in the STEAM-math and STEAM-history of Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty (2010) may gain sympathy with both works, isn’t that possible?

            After all, aren’t Scholz and Spufford both writing in the grand tradition of Heinlein and LeGuin?

          • bean says:

            What do you mean by STEAM? I’ve heard the acronym (and want to purge it with fire) but that definition doesn’t even make sense here.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Bean,

            He means, roughly speaking, neeeerd!

            To be a bit more helpful, John shares the modern liberal fascination with empathy (affective empathy really, nobody cares about cognitive empathy these days). He contrasts stereotypically unempathetic rationality with its synonym ratiocination as a way of explaining how STEM types insist on picking holes in his arguments rather than listening with worshipful attention.

            In other words, he’s saying your way of thinking is too phallocentric and right-brained to really dig it, man.

          • bean says:

            @Dr Dealgood
            Thanks. I’m sorry for whatever you had to go through to figure that out.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Three reasonably dispassionate STEAM-resources are:

            (1) Anne Jolly, “STEM vs STEAM: Do the Arts Belong?” (Education Week, November 18, 2014)
            (2) Terry Tao, “What is good mathematics?“, (arXiv:math/0702396)
            (3) Bill Thurston, “On proof and progress in mathematics” (arXiv:math/9404236)

            The salient point of the latter two mathematical references, is that general progress in mathematics, and specifically the conception of good proofs, crucially engage elements of human cognition that are intrinsically “STEAM”-y … in consilient accord with ongoing neuroscientific advances in human cognitive parcellation.

            That many people welcome consilient STEAM advances, while many other people experience a visceral aversion to them — commonly accompanied by fear and anger, and eliciting demagogic abuse — greatly broadens their general interest and appeal, doesn’t it?

            In the long run, as mathematics goes, so goes the STEAM enterprise … this is incredibly obvious, isn’t it Mandrake? 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            Can you unpack that?

            How does “STEM” differ from “STEAM” in your eyes and what exactly is this “accord” you speak of?

            Heck it would probably help to define what you mean by “art” in this context as I am familiar with Mr. Tao’s work and I don’t think his paper is arguing what you seem to think it’s arguing.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            In my reading of Terry Tao’s list of the elements of good mathematics — a list that Tao notes is both unordered and incomplete — these elements cluster as follows:

            Naturally reduce to ratiocination:
            (vi) applicability
            (ii) technique
            (xiii) rigor
            (xvii) utility
            (xviii) strength

            Partially reduce to ratiocination:
            (iii) framing
            (iv) insight
            (v) novelty
            (vii) exposition
            (xi) public relations
            (xii) meta-mathematics
            (xx) intuitiveness
            (xxi) definitiveness

            Don’t obviously reduce to ratiocination:
            (i) ingenuity
            (viii) pedagogy
            (ix) vision
            (x) taste
            (xiv) beauty
            (xv) elegance
            (xvi) creativity
            (xix) depth

            STEAM-studies weigh these three clusters equally, whereas STEM-studies traditionally weigh the first cluster most heavily, and the third cluster least heavily.

            As Bill Thurston’s Foreword to Best Writing in Mathematics 2010 expresses it:

            Mathematics is commonly thought to be the pursuit of universal truths, of patterns that are not anchored to any single fixed concept. But on a deeper level the goal of mathematics is to develop enhanced ways for humans to see and think about the world.

            Mathematics is a transforming journey, and progress in it can better be measured by changes in how we think than by the external truths we discover.[…]

            As I read, I stop and ask What’s the author trying to say? What is the author really thinking?

            Here Thurston assigns a crucial role for STEAM-compatible diverse and empathic cognition in the “transforming journey” of modern mathematical practice (both individual and collective).

            As previously noted, the “transforming journey” of the 21st century’s STEAM-enterprise is inherently uncertain and dangerous, isn’t it? Which is necessary and even good, isn’t it? We wouldn’t have it any other way, would we?

            Restrictive ideologies that (in effect) seek to Bowdlerize human cognition, by requiring that it reduce to ratiocination — Bayesian ratiocination, for example — can never accommodate broader mathematical visions like Tao’s or Thurston’s, can they?

          • bean says:

            Science
            Technology
            Engineering
            Arts
            Math

            One of these things is not like the others. I believe the acronym STEAM is a terrible travesty invented by the arts people in an attempt to leach our funds, and should be purged with fire, sword, and, if necessary, nuclear weapons. STEM is a useful term in general (replacing STEAM with STEM in your posts doesn’t render them meaningful) but STEAM basically just means ‘education’, so far as I can tell.

            As for what I can tell about your comments on math-as-poetry, all humans have that kind of experience towards what they focus on the most. I find near-transcendence in battleships, but that doesn’t mean anything beyond that I really like them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I believe the acronym STEAM is a terrible travesty invented by the arts people in an attempt to leach our funds

            True if you mean arts administrators, not actual artists. But yes, John using “STEAM” is just another level to the trolling.

          • grandword says:

            As previously noted, the “transforming journey” of the 21st century’s STEAM-enterprise is inherently uncertain and dangerous, isn’t it? Which is necessary and even good, isn’t it? We wouldn’t have it any other way, would we?

            May I suggest writing in a less incoherent, supercilious, and hostile manner? You’ll probably have better luck.

          • Anonymous says:

            Dude has already been banned twice for his posting style, your polite request is unlikely to do anything.

            What should happen is that everyone else should refuse to reply, but peeps on here can’t help themselves.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Uncle
            First off I disagree with your classifications; insight, intuitiveness, definitiveness, elegance, and depth, as Tao describes them all clearly belong in the “Naturally reduce to ratiocination” category while the “Doesn’t obviously reduce to ratiocination” category should really contain only 2 items, beauty and taste.

            As for the rest. While I freely grant that there mathematics is an art it’s artistry is more akin to that of Archery, than that of Song or Dance. Tao himself identifies the pitfalls of a “STEAM” approach, and offers a rather scathing rebuke.

            Just as an archer’s foremost purpose must be “to hit the target”. A Mathematician’s foremost purpose must be “to solve the problem”. Beauty and expression are byproducts of the quest for perfection rather than ends unto themselves. Thorsten echoes this in his own writings when he discusses the virtue of “clarity”

            The desire to inject art into math cheapens both, and leads you down the road to Moloch.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg says: “The desire to inject art into math cheapens both, and leads you down the road to Moloch.”

            Has a more perfect example of a Great Truth ever been posted to SSC? §

            We are all of us very fortunate (aren’t we?) that hlynkacg’s views are not universally prevalent! 🙂

            See for example, Bill Thurston’s Foreword to Daina Taimina’s Crocheting Adventures with Hyperbolic Planes (2009)

            Our brains are complicated devices, with many specialized modules working behind the scenes to give us an integrated understanding of the world. Mathematical concepts are abstract, so it ends up that there are many different ways that they can sit in our brains. A given mathematical concept might be primarily a symbolic equation, a picture, a rhythmic pattern, a short movie—or best of all, an integrated combination of several different representations. These non-symbolic mental models for mathematical concepts are extremely important, but unfortunately, many of them are hard to share.

            Mathematics sings when we feel it in our whole brain. People are generally inhibited about even trying to share their personal mental models. People like music, but they are afraid to sing. You only learn to sing by singing.

            This is why the most effective critiques of singing come (firstly) from folks who know how to sing, and (secondly) act to encourage singing over silence! 🙂

             — — — —
            § Per Niels Bohr, the opposite of a “Great Truth” is a Great Truth too.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Nothing you’ve posted refutes what I said and if anything it only reinforces it. Thurston tells us that “The product of mathematics is clarity” and I agree with him, but the mode of thinking that Tao and Thurston seek to promote is the very one that you’ve dismissed as “mere ratiocination”.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            None of the links that I have provided, and none of my own comments upon those links, propose that ratiocination be removed from mathematical practice, isn’t that correct?

            As for the restriction of mathematics to ratiocination, wouldn’t that compose (in your phrase) “a sacrifice to Moloch” that pretty much none of the world’s high-level mathematician would accept?

            The reason being, that verifying mathematical proofs is purely a matter of ratiocination, but conceiving mathematical proofs is a purely human art, plain and simple. A human art of extraordinary cognitive diversity, isn’t that the case? 🙂

            In other words, there’s more to mathematics than rigour and proofs, isn’t there?

            One can always resort to “True Scotsman” reasoning — “if it’s helpful in mathematics, then it can’t be an art” — yet such reasoning is more hilarious than convincing, isn’t it? 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, you simply dismiss it. You are like a musician who dismisses painting as an art form because it is silent.

            As I said before, just as the aim of an Archer is “to hit the target”. The aim of the Mathematician must be “to solve the problem”. Beauty and expression are byproducts of the quest for perfection rather than ends unto themselves.

            Your determination to focus on emotional and aesthetic qualities when you should be focused on target/problem is the essence of superficiality and That is were Moloch comes in.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg avers [without reference]: “The aim of the Mathematician must be ‘to solve the problem'”

            Lol  A narrow vision! Why do you resist? Artists seek seek only to increase the perfection of human cognition! You will all become one, with the STEAM-community!

            Seriously, there is a very substantial cohort of distinguished mathematicians, and a very large body of work, that embraces precisely the opposite view. Their objectives are large and their works are, correspondingly, not easy reading.

            Consider as a concrete and much-celebrated example, David Eisenbud’s and Joe Harris’ very recent textbook 3264 & All That: a Second Course in Algebraic Geometry (2016; on-line draft versions are titled 3264 & All That: Intersection Theory in Algebraic Geometry).

            Here the concrete number “3264” refers to a limited “solving the problem” objective. As Eisenbud and Harris put it:

            What’s with the title? The number in the title of this book is a reference to the solution of a classic problem in enumerative geometry: the determination, by Chasles, of the number of smooth conic plane curves tangent to five given general conics. The problem is emblematic of the dual nature of the subject [namely, enumerative geometry]. On the one hand, the number itself is of little significance: life would not be materially different if there were more or fewer. But the fact that the problem is well posed … is at the heart of algebraic geometry. And the insights developed in the pursuit of a rigorous derivation of the number … are landmarks in the development of algebraic geometry.

            Eisenbud’s and Harris’ text is representative of a great many modern STEM-texts, in that it contains sufficient history and art — and even a pragmatic brand of cognitive psychology — as to qualify entirely as an integrated “A”-level STEAM-text.

            The point being, that algebraic geometry is an inherently “STEAMy” subject that diverse people pursue, for diverse reasons, by diverse cognitive paths.

            Many more such “A”-level STEAM-books are being written, that in coming decades will span the entire STEAM enterprise as an integrated body of irresistibly attractive pedagogy.

            That is why, in the long run, resistance by the species of “rationalists” is futile. Your life, as it has been, is over. Your libertarian distinctiveness will be assimilated into a super-progressive ultra-humanist pan-national “A”-level STEAM-collective! 🙂

            Or at least, isn’t this a scary fever-dream that motivates the fervent-yet-irrational opposition of rationalist libertarianism to the foreseeable advances of the 21st century’s STEAM-grounded progressivism?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Seriously, there is a very substantial cohort of distinguished mathematicians, and a very large body of work, that embraces precisely the opposite view. Their objectives are large and their works are, correspondingly, not easy reading.

            And yet Thurston, and Tao both highlight this as a trademark of Bad mathematics in the very links that you provided. To quote Thurston, The product of Mathematics is clarity. When the idea is clear, the formal setup is usually unnecessary and redundant.

            You say that I am “narrow minded”, maybe I am but in your effort to be “broad minded”, you’ve denigrated the very thing that makes mathematics meaningful. You are running head-long towards the very state of “much activity and progress in the short term, but risking a decline of relevance in the longer term.” that Tao warns us against.

            Consider Euclid’s Elements, it remains relevant two thousand years after first being put to text while Eisenbud and Harris’ book will be lucky if it lasts a decade.

          • Jiro says:

            Adding “Arts” to “STEM” strikes me as at least as manipulative as the “Judeo” in “Judeo-Christian”.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            hlynkacg foresees  “Eisenbud and Harris’ book will be lucky if it lasts a decade.”

            Has a more perfect opportunity to apply Bayesian reasoning principles ever been posted to SSC? `Cuz Joe Harris and David Eisenbud have published multiple books (both individually and as co-authors) — books that are well-regarded by mathematicians — books that have been in print for three decades and more. In light of this verifiable fact, how shall we adjust our Bayesian estimate of the likelihood of quick extinction for this latest book? 🙂

            Euclid’s enduring relevance is associated to the universality and naturality of his postulates and theorems. Nowadays the mathematical notions of “universality” and “naturality” have been formalized, and the literature of mathematics has thereby gained greatly in span and range.

            That is why any SSC reader who takes up Euclid is well-advised to acquaint themselves too with (for example) Colin McLarty’s The rising sea: Grothendieck on simplicity and generality (2007).

            What’s next for the broader STEAM-enterprise? It seems to many folks (including me) that the notions of “universality” and “naturality” that were formalized by mathematicians in the latter half of the 20th century, are in the 21st century already extending to engineering and science, and are destined in coming decades to extend to the cognitive sciences, and to medicine, and to the arts.

            What will become of rationalism and libertarianism, as the world’s STEAM-disciplines become ever-more-universal and ever-more-natural? No doubt rationalism and libertarianism will adapt … albeit in respects that aren’t easy to foresee. Yet willful ignorance of the STEAM-literature can only slow that necessary adaptation, isn’t that certain? 🙂

          • anon says:

            I’ve read Eisenbud–Harris as well as other works by those authors. I disagree that these books are “STEAM”-y, and I largely agree with hlynkacg that STEAM is a bullshit term invented for the purpose of leaching funding. While many talented STEM people have an appreciation for the arts, and while it’s true that some approaches to (e.g.) mathematics are somewhat more “right-brained” than others, with Thurston’s case being an exemplar, that doesn’t mean these approaches are “artsy” in any meaningful sense. Except perhaps for the fact that there is an aesthetic component, but that is true of almost all STEM disciplines. The aesthetics of a well-engineered piece of software, a beautifully efficient bridge, or an elegant proof, don’t fit naturally into the aesthetic frameworks people use to analyze paintings, films, or novels.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Pioneering STEAM-y works like Francois Le Lionnais’s Painting at Dora, Michael Harris’ Mathematics Without Apologies, Apostolos Doxiadis’ Sing Muse of the Hypotenuse: the Influence of Poetry and Rhetoric on the Formation of Greek Mathematics, and Jacques Roubaud’s Mathematics (a Novel), all are commended to the attention of SSC readers.

            SSC readers who are familiar with Logicomix will recognize at least one of these names … and Logicomix itself is a good introduction to this emerging / universalizing / naturalizing STEAM-y literature.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You are wrong. Completely and utterly.

            What “STEAM” does is take something that truly does transcend social and cultural boundaries and wrap it in layers of obfuscation and cultural baggage till it only appeals to the tastes of a privileged few. This the is the exact opposite of making something universal.

            Take your abstruse anti-enlightenment bullshit elsewhere.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            In recent decades, the mathematical community has embraced, formalized, and greatly extended the meanings of the words “natural” and “universal”. As a quick survey, see the (high-rated) MathOverflow question “What does the adjective “natural” actually mean?” and the Wikipedia page Universal Property.

            These extended notions of naturality and universality are proving to be so useful in unifying humanity’s mathematical understanding, that it is scarcely surprising that these extended meanings are already diffusing into science and engineering, such that we may confidently foresee (as it seems to me) their inexorably continuing diffusion throughout the cognitive sciences and arts.

            In other words, in the extended senses that mathematicians have conceived for “natural” and “universal”,.the STEAM-enterprise is rapidly evolving to become natural and universal. And this view is already widespread among a great many outstandingly talented, outstandingly creative scientists, engineers, mathematicians, physicians, and artists, isn’t that right?

            These (literally) transformational ideas aren’t ever going away, are they? They’re here to stay, isn’t that right?

            Will libertarian rationalism perforce evolve concomitantly, to become a more cognitively natural and more nearly universal political ideology? And thus, more compatible with progressivism?

            Yah sure, you betcha! … and these forced extensions of libertarian rationalism will even be fun! 🙂

          • hlynkacg says:

            In recent decades, the mathematical community has embraced, formalized, and greatly extended the meanings of the words “natural” and “universal”.

            They have done no such thing. The meanings of those words has been formalized, and has remained essentially unchanged since the days of Leibniz and Newton. See Sandor Kovac’s answer to your own linked question.

            As an aside your second comic portrays the greatest minds of “the STEAM-enterprise” being played for fools by a pop-avatar of “STEM-ist” discipline. It doesn’t exactly help your case does it?

            If you want to continue this conversation i’ll be in OT 58.25.

        • Deiseach says:

          A terrifying downside to this principle is that works like Carter Scholz’ ultrarecent / ultrahard / ultrarealistic sf novella Gypsy (2015) rank among the most hope-destroying works of sf, or indeed, of any literary genre

          Can’t comment on the science as I was unable to plough my way past the first five pages of politics. I presume eventually we do get some actual SF, rather than “The Establishment, man, it ruined everything!” and what even by my dinosaur tech-savvy standards is some old-fashioned cyberpunk (Gibson did the ‘company owns your soul and you are a techno-serf servicing the computers that run us’ earlier and better)?

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Fascinating. So the inhabitants of planet Deiseach decline even to read discomfiting reviews, much less the discomfiting works themselves?

            Such bubble-dwelling civilizations very commonly fantasize about star-travel, yet very rarely achieve it, isn’t that a self-evident galactic truism?

          • Anonymous says:

            Pipe down, John Sidles.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            “Anonymous”, your comment provides sparse guidance regarding precisely what it is that you wish not to learn

            After all, didn’t Ursula LeGuin self-confessedly get ten whole pages into Atlas Shrugged, before giving up?

            At least LeGuin explains why! 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            Dear aged and venerable Uncle, I did click on the link and start reading this diamond-hard work of SFnal genius and I couldn’t make myself read past the “moan, whinge, gripe, Imma poor downtrodden techno-serf in a Neuromancer rip-off” introductory pages.

            Oooh, I’m saddled with gazillions of debt in student loans when our cushy upper-middle class lifestyle collapsed, and now I’m a company drone, but I’m one of the lucky ones as were I a few years younger I wouldn’t even get to hock my soul for college as I’d be drafted into the imperialist war-mongering we invaded Iraq for oil forces constantly waging perma-war! On the Doomed Earth!

            If I wanted to read John Ringo, I would read John Ringo, because by all reports at least his trashy pulp skiffy is fun if horrifically non-PC.

            For all my dystopian futures needs, I’m happy to stick with Le Guin’s The New Atlantis.

            I respectfully kiss your hands, O venerable and elder ancestor! 🙂

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Thank you, Deiseach, for the link to Ursula LeGuin’s “The new Atlantis” (1975). Gosh, to think it’s been forty-one years since LeGuin wrote it! LeGuin’s “New Atlantis” is holding up even better than Robert Heinlein’s rather similar, now sixty-four year-old, story “Year of the Jackpot” (1952), don’t you think?

            SSC readers who seek modern works that put vigorous STEAM-flesh upon Heinlein’s / LeGuin’s aging empathy-bones are well advised to embrace Francis Spufford’s amazing work — is it fiction? math? history? all three? — Red Plenty (2010).

            As Huck Finn says of Pilgrims Progress (1678), so might the same be said of both Scholz’ Gypsy and Spufford’s Red Plenty: “The statements is interesting, but tough.” 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            So the inhabitants of planet Deiseach decline even to read discomfiting reviews, much less the discomfiting works themselves?

            It’s very telling that Scholz is a 70s kid, as that review informs me:

            Fittingly for a writer who came of age in the 1970s, he harks back to the great quartet of doomsday novels by John Brunner. But he layers on four additional decades of bad news and disappointments.

            I’ve been on this merry-go-round before, I’m old enough to have started reading the tail end of the New Wave and I really am not very interested in a re-vamp of “Gravity’s Rainbow” (that’s probably his novel, “Radiance”, going by the blurb) or an attempt to do an updated “Stand On Zanzibar”. I’ll stick with The Centauri Device for my 70s “dystopian Earth and galactic colonisation was never quite what it promised to be” needs, thanks all the same:

            Outside The Spacer’s Rave, an ancient fourth-generation Denebian with skin blackened and seamed, and eyelids perpetually lowered against the actinic glare of a star he hadn’t seen for twenty years, was reciting lines from the second canto of The Fight At Finnsburg. His hat was at his feet. His boots were cracked, but his voice was passable, booming out over the heads of passing whores and stoned Fleet men:

            The Marty Lingham discovered a bleak
            orbit, hooked by a fuchsia dwarf,
            perihelion at the customary handful
            of millions: cometary, cemetery.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Deiseach comments: “I’ve been on this merry-go-round before …”

            LoL … extended version follows! 🙂

            Well I’ve been to one world fair a picnic and a rodeo and that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard come over a set of earphones. You sure you got today’s code? … old Ripper wouldn’t be giving us plan R unless them Russkies had already clobbered Washington and alot of other towns with a sneak attack.

            The disastrous union of unempathic cognition with strict game-theoretic rationality and advanced technological capacity provides no guarantees of happy endings, does it?

            Carter Scholz’ Gypsy thus reads very naturally as Stanley Kubrik’s Dr. Strangelove, updated for the 21st century. “Oh and sugar … don’t forget to say your prayers!” 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            Aye, it brings a tear of pride to the eye that in 2015 for some brave, devoted soul it is forever 1984 and the techno-serfs are stuck in indentured bondage to the zaibatsu:

            She changed her major to Information Science, slept with a loan officer, finished grad school half a million in debt, and immediately took the best-paying job she could find, at Xocket Defense Systems. …XDS had huge dorms for employees who couldn’t afford their own living space. Over half their workforce lived there. It was indentured servitude.

            Yet she was lucky, lucky. If she’d been a couple of years younger she wouldn’t have finished school at all. She’d be fighting in Burma or Venezuela or Kazakhstan.

            At XDS she tended the library’s firewalls, maintained and documented software, catalogued projects, fielded service calls from personnel who needed this or that right now, or had forgotten a password, or locked themselves out of their own account. She learned Unix, wrote cron scripts and daemons and Perl routines.

            Such ultrarecent! Much ultrahard! Many ultrarealistic! Wow! 🙂

            “Ultrarecent” – when ‘company towns’ date from the 19th century, and employees (particularly female employees) living in dormitories under the supervision of their employers was a much-resented imposition in the early 20th century.

            “Ultrarealistic” – possibly, possibly not. So by the year 2040, alas, we will still not (despite the best efforts of Title IX) have stamped out sexual harassment, trading sex for grades loans, or academic corruption? Sigh, so disappoint! 🙂

            “Ultrahard” – a band of renegade scientists backed by a rogue billionaire built in secret a starship – sorry, we were talking ‘ultra realism’ a moment ago, weren’t we? Now we’ve left 1984 behind and are back in 1951, When Worlds Collide!

            Of course, it is easy for me, a filthy genre reader, to scoff. The literary auteur of speculative fiction may well indeed imagine he is treading virgin territory here 🙂

            Though dear uncle, I rather suspect (by the faint tugging sensation in my pedal extremity and the muffled tintinnabulation resulting) that you are pulling my leg – and indeed all our legs, on this one.

          • hlynkacg says:

            “Ultrahard” – Ironically the “secret starship” is probably one of the softest parts. Any fusion drive with enough wattage to accelerate a reasonably sized vessel to 0.06 c would be spotted the moment it powered up.
            Think about it, we live in a world where hobbyists can track government spy satellites with hand-held binoculars. A multi-terawatt nuclear blowtorch is going to be a lot easier to spot than that. Inside cislunar space it would probably be one of the brightest things in the night sky.

          • bean says:

            Wait. He’s claiming ultrahard status for something that has a spaceship with that sort of drive sneaking off without being detected? I expect the book would ablate because of how fast I threw it away. Anyone who didn’t know about No Stealth In Space undoubtedly didn’t know about a bunch of other things, too.

          • hlynkacg says:

            As I said above, it may be hard compared to your average Star Trek episode but there’s still a fair bit of squishiness there.

            As an aside, I don’t think the “no stealth in space” axiom is nearly airtight as many people treat it but that’s really a discussion for another thread.

          • bean says:

            As I said above, it may be hard compared to your average Star Trek episode but there’s still a fair bit of squishiness there.

            Well, yes. It’s mostly an expression of how bad his standards are that this is counted as ultrahard. (As if I needed more reasons to ignore him.)

            As an aside, I don’t think the “no stealth in space” axiom is nearly airtight as many people treat it but that’s really a discussion for another thread.

            You’re on. Hopefully John Schilling will chime in, as he’s done most of the work in this area. If not, I’ll do what I can.

          • John Schilling says:

            Sounds interesting, but I’ll have to read the story – might get a chance tomorrow. Generally speaking, yes, there are restricted scenarios where spacecraft can be usefully hidden, but giant fusion-drive starships are going to be seen by the people on the planet from which they depart.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You’re on. Hopefully John Schilling will chime in…

            Chime away.

          • Deiseach says:

            giant fusion-drive starships are going to be seen by the people on the planet from which they depart

            Oh gosh, yes. That’s part of what drove me mad about “Star Trek Into Darkness”; the Secret Starship Base off Jupiter.

            Never mind the fact that in the previous reboot movie, apparently Starfleet did all its ship-constructing in a cornfield in Iowa on the ground in Earth (I did actually quietly cheer for a moment when they showed the construction docks orbiting Io because yes, it’s easier to build your starship in orbit than build it on the ground and then launch it), how the heck were they supposed to be hiding an entire spacedock plus massive giant warship?

            This is the 24th century, we have all kinds of civilian and military traffic buzzing around the Solar System, we have all kinds of observation stations on the planets and satellites of those planets, somebody is going to see a huge construction project tootling about out there!

            And that novella tells me that, in a world so closely and tightly monitored because it’s starving for resources and everyone is jealously eyeing their neighbour and even going to perma-war to take their stuff, a gang of renegades can build their own starship and launch it and no government or authority is going to notice or go “Wait a minute, where is all this makeshipium ore that is being mined ending up? There’s a discrepancy in the accounting!” and stick their beak in and try and take control or shut it down or turn it to their own ends?

            That is not ultrarealism or ultrahard.

          • LHN says:

            (I did actually quietly cheer for a moment when they showed the construction docks orbiting Io because yes, it’s easier to build your starship in orbit than build it on the ground and then launch it)

            There’s a reasonable argument in that direction for near-future spaceships. (Though obviously not current ones.)

            For Trek-style starships it’s less of a slam dunk. They have artificial gravity, which their maneuvering shows can handle way more than a mere 1g, and it’s to all appearances cheap and reliable. The ship structures, once in place have to be able to take stresses substantially greater than 1g. (Starfleet may not be a military organization, but their ships get hit with missile fire an awful lot, shields notwithstanding, and hopefully the ship doesn’t just collapse under impulse acceleration if the gravity is on the fritz.) The hull can take atmospheric pressure from the inside when there’s a vacuum around it– having pressure equalized with the outside should be less stressful. And for friction heating during launch, they have shields that can withstand direct phaser fire.

            Their spacesuits (at least the ones we’ve seen in the other continuity; I don’t remember if they’ve shown up here) don’t look particularly comfortable. They certainly don’t appear to do EVAs when they can avoid them. (Vs worlds like Niven’s Known Space, where wandering the lunar surface in a skinsuit is recreation. Feds’ idea of a good way to get around in a vacuum is to transport to the nearest pressurized location.)

            Given that, it makes roughly as much sense to construct starships on a planetary surface as it does to build oceangoing ships in drydock instead in their operating environment. For more or less the same reason.

            (We presumably could do more ship construction with divers and oxyacetylene torches, just as we do for structures where underwater assembly is necessary. But we don’t have to, so we don’t.)

          • Deiseach says:

            For Trek-style starships it’s less of a slam dunk. They have artificial gravity, which their maneuvering shows can handle way more than a mere 1g, and it’s to all appearances cheap and reliable. The ship structures, once in place have to be able to take stresses substantially greater than 1g.

            I’m thinking not so much of classic Trek as the reboot, where pre-Academy Kirk tools up on a motorbike to see the ship being constructed in the cornfield.

            It just seemed easier to me, for a ship that is not meant to routinely enter atmosphere, much less land (and never mind the later series and movies which made a big to-do over the fact that “we can land the ship” – even in these, when a starship lands, it’s mostly because it crashed) to build it in orbit rather than on the ground and then have to launch it.

            Re: spacesuits – the original series was broadcast before the moon landing, so they had no model for realism 🙂 I think they probably extrapolated from deep sea diving suits. Later series and movies kind of keep a similar look for continuity/homage; the animated series replaced spacesuits by a life-support forcefield (the yellow glow around the figures in this image) generated by belt-mounted equipment which solves the comfort and maneuverability problems but which doesn’t look very reassuring as “it really is safe and won’t fail at the wrong moment”.

            The second reboot movie had much more form-fitting, sleeker suits for the “space jump” from ship to ship.

          • LHN says:

            Fair point re the suits used for the jump. But they’re still (I’d guess) not as comfortable as shirtsleeves. (Or the life support forcefields of TAS, which alas don’t seem to have survived to the TNG era. Maybe they weren’t all that reliable. 🙂 )

            I think the analogy with surface shipbuilding still potentially holds. The fact that a ship is best built in drydock doesn’t mean that future excursions onto land are advisable or practical.

            I have no problem with the idea that for Reasons, it makes sense to build Federation starships in space. (Heck, they have forcefields– in principle they could just throw a big one up around the area and pressurize it. Or fill one of the huge spaces they use for starbase spacedocks with air. The first Motion Picture’s “build it in bulky spacesuits in vaccum” isn’t the only option.)

            I’m just saying that by the same token, I also have no real problem with them saying that for Reasons, it’s most practical to construct them in a facility in Iowa: your construction workers have air, can scratch their noses, and don’t have to deal with or counteract zero-g health effects (since Trek uses a lot more human labor and less automation than one might expect), it involves no forces or conditions more extreme than a cruiser fitted for combat would be expected to withstand, you get free radiation shielding for delicate components, etc. etc.

            I think the decision for something with the imagined tech of Star Trek is ultimately an aesthetic one that can easily be backfilled. Original Trek had space construction because the Motion Picture wanted to spend twenty minutes doing flybys of the revamped Enterprise. NuTrek has ground-based construction because it wanted young Kirk to be able to look up and see his future ship (did he but know it) abuilding.

            I have issues with some of the tech decisions made by Abrams & co.– warp to Vulcan is way too fast, interstellar transporters are a game changer in a way that no one really acknowledges. But the shipbuilding, while initially jarring to me, actually made some sense on further reflection.

        • DrBeat says:

          I have not yet seen something that purports to be both “hard SF” and “hope-destroying” that did not cheat relentlessly in order to present the hope-destroying narrative it wanted to.

          This does not look like it will break the trend.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            A rather brainy website named “gwern.net” took the trouble to extensively analyze Carter Scholz’ previous techno-dystopian novel Radiance (including the complete text of the novel).

            Perhaps “gwern’s” exemplary intellectual commitment may motivate SSC readers to consider more thoroughly Scholz’ scrupulously science-respecting body of work?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m tempted to snark 1984, but while it is both, it didn’t purport to be either.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            Also in the class of dystopian hard-science fiction, there is Naomi Oreskes’ and Erik Conway’s recent The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (MIT Press, 2014).

            However, SSC’s alt-rationalists need have no concern, `cuz we all know that Collapse never happens, isn’t that right?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Uncle Ilya – thanks for the Radiance link!

          • nona says:

            DrBeat, ever read anything by Peter Watts?

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            FacelessCraven is gracious: “Uncle Ilya – thanks for the Radiance link!”

            Lol … FacelessCraven, are you the Scarlet Pimpernel !? 🙂

          • DrBeat says:

            Peter Watts’ Blindsight is my central example of “hard SF” with a depressing message that cheats relentlessly to pull it off, then says “Well, this is hard SF, this is the inevitable outcome of things!”

            Explain what possible environment the scramblers could have evolved in to give them abilities that involve being able to read human neurology, despite never encountering humans before.

            Explain what possible reason humanity had for bringing back vampires, when they were dangerous, required expensive infrastructure, and yet did nothing for humanity that computers didn’t do better.

          • A Kind Of Dog-Octopus says:

            I believe the idea there was they could recognize that the brain was a computational organ, of the sort that could be common enough among other alien life they out-competed and overran. Then it was just a matter crunching the logic of how our visual processing works and finding an exploit.

            Which I guess isn’t totally impossible given a large enough computer and enough time, but I doubt the scrambler would be or have that.

          • Deiseach says:

            Explain what possible reason humanity had for bringing back vampires, when they were dangerous, required expensive infrastructure, and yet did nothing for humanity that computers didn’t do better.

            Arrogant stupidity is always a good bet, so I’ll give Watts a pass on that one, but I agree that he cheated like the dickens to set his world up just so and then went all “See, this is the iron law of blind nature, I can’t help what happened!”

      • bean says:

        I have two problems with that:
        1. FTL seems an unprincipled exception to the general rule of ‘get science right’, and that’s epistemically unsatisfying.
        2. Let’s say I’m writing a story where they’ve developed a pill that basically stops the deleterious effects of zero-G on the body. I’ve discussed this with a doctor, and he explained why it’s fantastically unlikely that we’ll reach a point where we can do that. I agree with his logic. Other than that and a very careful FTL system, my story is as accurate as I can make it. Do I still qualify as being hard? (The reader who doesn’t know about this is almost certain to answer yes, and someone who didn’t seek medical advice could have done the same thing.)
        My definition resolves this by allowing qualified exceptions to science anywhere so long as the author is careful and thoughtful.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think FTL is allowed on the basis that “yes, we know it’s not real hard science but if we leave it out, nobody will ever get anywhere fast and instead you’ll have to write about Joe the hydroponics gardener who’s the great-great-grandchild of the original Joe who shipped aboard the generation colony ship that is still only half-way to its destination, instead of the cool ‘so we got to the new colony but aliens were already there’ part”.

          Whereas “pill that nullifies the effect of zero-G” is going to need a lot of back-up by way of “and that includes genetic modification so humans can live long-term in space and a whole raft of other supports” before you can get away with it in hard SF terms, because if you’re going for realism, there are other ways you can get around the problem, and if you want to ignore (for the purposes of the story) the effects of long-term zero-g, nobody but the most sticky of sticklers can pull you up on it as you don’t have to employ it as part of the plot – you can let it be assumed that by the time of the story, the problem has been solved.

          • bean says:

            nobody but the most sticky of sticklers can pull you up on it

            The problem is that I am that person. Seriously. I can nitpick anything.
            Yes, doing the pill right would involve at least nodding that I know what I’m doing, and probably sliding in a bit of nice biotech to make it look less forced. I should have said that earlier.

          • Deiseach says:

            The problem is that I am that person. Seriously. I can nitpick anything.

            Well, I tend to take intention into account. Is the existence of the story based on hard science, so that we get pages of description of exactly how to pour a cup of tea in zero-g when you can’t pour a cup of tea? Then yes, you better make your magic pill as believable as possible.

            Is the purpose of the story “we’re all living on an L-5 habitat and last week Tom Brown got murdered but nobody knows whodunnit”, and the point of the story is how do you dunnit in a closed environment where everyone knows everyone else and everyone’s movements are accounted for? Then I’ll be less critical of your magic pill, even if it is the Maguffin that enabled Joe Smith to go outside and rig up the murderation device that later got Tom while Joe was inside establishing his alibi 🙂

    • Maware says:

      Soft SF tends to be sociological, concerned with people. Hard SF is usually concerned with things. This is kind of why hard SF had a historically bad reputation, because they were creating scientifically rigorous worlds full of characters who were exposition fairies and act like 13 year old schoolboys. Though to be fair some of the soft science was so soft that it was more like absurdist fiction, or not sociological at all, just recasting westerns or Scottish highland romances into outer space.

    • Anon. says:

      I don’t think hardness has much to do with realistic science as much as it has to do with consistent science. Many of Egan’s novels are fundamentally based on universes with physics different from our own (and therefore doesn’t have much to do with our own science), but clearly they’re not “soft”…

    • Richard says:

      Larry Niven in either N-Space or Playgrounds of the mind defines ‘hard science fiction’ like this:

      You’re allowed to make up new laws of physics but not to break existing ones.

      Hence, the Alderson drive allows FTL travel by new laws, but Langston fields still obey the laws of thermodynamics.

      • bean says:

        I think this is sort of a statement of the correspondence principle (which is necessary but not, IMO, sufficient for hard SF). But the Alderson drive does violate relativity, it just does so in a rather subtle way. (The way it works requires a universal reference frame.) The saving grace here is that we can’t test the nature of the bits that it affects, so it doesn’t violate correspondence.

    • Nyx says:

      This was linked on the subreddit earlier. I think it makes an interesting point about different types of media trying to do different things; in the case of hard sci-fi, there’s an emphasis on science and a kind of assumption that science is in of itself, interesting. So the “tradeoff” you’re talking about doesn’t really exist in that there’s no conflict. The science is the story. Or, as he puts it:

      “Many science fiction writers pay homage to this subject, of course, but for most the laws of nature are there to serve the story: a discursion on the physics of a wormhole, say, would be for most writers an adjunct to a fantastic voyage therein, but Egan has the chutzpah to imagine that the reader will delight in the physics for its own sake.”

      • Deiseach says:

        Egan has the chutzpah to imagine that the reader will delight in the physics for its own sake

        You can do, if the writer can pull it off and you don’t have two cardboard stock figures doing the “As you know, Bob” bit before the infodump.

        The peril with that is often it’s the equivalent of the pages of details about the guns and ammo in a thriller – does nothing to advance the plot, the only use is to let you know Hero has a big gun and more dakka, and the intricate “this was, of course, the custom Heckler Ketch 956 only manufactured in a limited production run of 6 and 3/4 in 1984 for the Even More Secret Secret Service Shhhh Don’t Tell Anyone, requiring ammunition coated in a light glaze of Tibetan Pink Himalayan salt – none of that Indian side of the border knock-offs – and heteroultradynamium-632 mined from the innermost thigh of the sixth moon of Jupiter” details that send the guns and ammo nerds into nergasm reduce the rest of us to “zzzzzz – wake me up in three chapters’ time when he finally puts the goddamn gun in the goddamn holster and goes and does something”.

        • LHN says:

          Of course some of that is different strokes. I’m pretty sure that a lot of Tom Clancy or David Weber’s audience considers intricate descriptions of ships or weapons a feature, not a bug.

          That’s not my jam, but I like pastiche Encyclopedia Galactica or academic articles set in the imagined world, which are just a different flavor of infodump. I ate up the appendices of The Lord of the Rings and dove into the later-published ancillary material, the in-world essay about Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four, C.J. Cherryh’s intro to the astropolitical situation at the beginning of Downbelow Station, etc.

          I get that those are a minority taste, and I have deep respect for what SF author Jo Walton calls “incluing” (the ability to invisibly embed necessary worldbuilding details in the story a la Heinlein’s famous “The door dilated”). But I don’t wholly insist on it, and have a fair amount of patience for an author’s enthusiastic discursions.

          Though I probably prefer them presented directly by the author or narrator rather than via a transparent “As you know, Prime Minister Churchill, we have been at war with Germany since it invaded Poland four years ago. Two years after that, the Americans joined us after their naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, and of course since then…” If you’re going to tell the reader, tell the reader, not a character who already should know all this stuff. (And making someone implausibly uninformed– e.g., Harry Potter after he’s been in the wizarding world a third of his life– isn’t a great improvement.)

        • On the other hand, a good deal of The Dogs of War is interesting for the technical detail of the illegal/semi-legal weapons market and how the weapons could be used to take over a small African country with a small but very competent team of mercenaries. It’s a better book for the moral twist at the end, when you discover that the protagonist is acting for a cause he believes in, but the earlier parts are quite readable.

          • Deiseach says:

            Frederick Forsyth could do those kind of details and make them interesting, informative, and relevant to the plot. A lot of the modern guys are just engaging in weapons porn, so far as it strikes my uncaring eyes.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I like “Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness” from TVTropes. Personally, I usually consider a story to be hard science fiction only if it falls in category 5 or 5.5, but sometimes a work in category 4 can qualify as well.

    • Jaskologist says:

      How hard would you (all) consider The Expanse? They’ve clearly thought through things like the effects of microgravity on life and how people in space would live (they even pour water differently). There’s no FTL and the tech seems to be pretty reasonable extrapolations of stuff we currently have.

      But then things start getting fantastical towards the end of the season. I can’t speak for the books.

  22. tc says:

    Could you pull (quote in full) the comments of the week? Linking to a section doesn’t seem to work on mobile for large pages, the page jumps while it’s being loaded and I lose the spot.

    Or is it just my setup/problem?

    • Anonymous says:

      1. Try clicking on the link again. Your phone probably cached the page and it will work better the second time.

      2. I think that Bakkot made it so that it jumps after loading, specifically to solve the problem of jumps in the middle. So it might be your setup. But maybe he could make that better.

  23. Liskantope says:

    Once again I want to run a question of identity semantics past all of you out there in SSC-land.

    I’m American (white, of European ancestry) and lived in America for most of my life. In my experience, if someone was born in a different country, say China, and comes from a completely Chinese family, but has lived in America from early childhood, speaks perfect English, is an American citizen, etc., then they are Chinese-American. If they were instead born in America and are a second-generation Chinese immigrant, then maybe they’d even be identified as just American despite having been brought up with some Chinese culture. If they are completely ethnically Chinese but they and their parents and grandparents all grew up in America, then they’d probably be identified as American, but in racial terms would be called Asian-American. The only way someone with Chinese origins would only called Chinese but not American is if they only recently moved to America and haven’t become a citizen.

    Now in Italy, I know someone who I would refer to as Chinese-Italian (physically 100% Chinese but moved to Italy at age 3, speaks perfect Italian and okay Chinese, etc.) who doesn’t identify as Italian and considers this really obvious (in the sense of “of course I’m Chinese — after all, look at me”). This is beginning to open my eyes to what appears to be a cultural difference between here and America, where one’s nationality here in Europe is often considered in terms of physical ethnicity. Is the difference in terminology as stark as I’m perceiving? Why would the American terminology be so different — could it be something to do with America considering itself a melting pot or America’s stronger aversion to racially-charged language? Or is there something else going on?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Because America is founded on a notion of shared citizenship rather than shared ethnic origin. You can say this is a result of the “melting pot” idea, but I think it’s the other way around; the “melting pot” was a historically necessary step to forge a nation out of a bunch of jumbled up ethnicities.

      Since America is founded on shared citizenship, if you’re a citizen and you’re assimilated, bam, you’re American. European countries are founded on ethnic origin, so a Chinese family can’t become Italian, at least not without generations of interbreeding with actual Italians.

      • Skef says:

        Given how things tended to go until the late-1800s (at least) I find it implausible to trace our current attitudes to just the founding documents and ethos.

        • LHN says:

          Though the founding generation had extremely influential immigrants (Hamilton and Gallatin, at least) among its number, even if the former cast aspersions on the latter for being an alien Swiss presence. (And in turn was damned as a creole by fellow Federalist John Adams.) That suggests that however imperfectly and grudgingly, acceptance of immigrants even in the highest levels of government and society was there there from the beginning.

      • Just as a general point, I think people who are worried that immigrants will change American culture wildly underestimate how attractive American culture is.

        A good bit of American culture is based on supplying people with things they want, especially the commercial part of American culture.

        • Urstoff says:

          It always strikes me as an ethno-centric worry, too; namely, that immigrants will change White American Culture, which they equate with American culture. I think America is pretty damn good at assimilating cultures in the sense that immigrant cultures get put through a transmogrifier and come out as a distinctly American version of their old culture with lots of other American sub-cultures mixed in. Dynamism is American culture, and you need immigrants to fuel much of that dynamism.

          • cassander says:

            >I think America is pretty damn good at assimilating cultures in the sense that immigrant cultures get put through a transmogrifier and come out as a distinctly American version of their old culture with lots of other American sub-cultures mixed in.

            This is true, but A, “pretty damn good at” assimilation does not mean that our capacity is infinite, and B, in an affirmative action world, the incentives to assimilate are a lot weaker than they used to be,.

          • Civilis says:

            It always strikes me as an ethno-centric worry, too; namely, that immigrants will change White American Culture, which they equate with American culture. I think America is pretty damn good at assimilating cultures in the sense that immigrant cultures get put through a transmogrifier and come out as a distinctly American version of their old culture with lots of other American sub-cultures mixed in. Dynamism is American culture, and you need immigrants to fuel much of that dynamism.

            Coming at this as someone with strong Red Tribe leanings, the issue is that I think there are some root level memetic structures necessary to sustain American melting-pot culture for both Red and Blue Tribe. One of those root-level memes is ‘I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it’. Yes, this meme has been under attack from both sides before, but at the moment the strongest attacks are coming from the Blue tribe in the name of Cultural Diversity associated with immigration. Further, from the Red Tribe side it looks like immigrants are being granted ‘rights’ in culture that the Red Tribe is not permitted.

            A Blue Tribe member can dunk a picture of Christ in a jar of urine and get federal funding for it, and Red Tribe members that object to the federal funding are hopeless reactionaries for objecting. Meanwhile, if a Red Tribe member draws a picture of Mohammed this is obviously insulting another culture and are hopeless bigots for giving offense.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            That would be fine, except that we’ve been spending quite a few years now industriously dismantling all of the elements of American culture that encouraged assimilation. I’m not entirely certain that speaking the word “assimilation” out loud isn’t a hate crime at this point.

          • brad says:

            Civilis

            A Blue Tribe member can dunk a picture of Christ in a jar of urine and get federal funding for it, and Red Tribe members that object to the federal funding are hopeless reactionaries for objecting. Meanwhile, if a Red Tribe member draws a picture of Mohammed this is obviously insulting another culture and are hopeless bigots for giving offense.

            I don’t think that’s a fair summary of the intelligent “blue tribe” position.

            The federal funding couldn’t be pulled because it would violate the First Amendment to do so. I don’t think the artist is particularly celebrated by anyone (I certainly get remember his/her name). Most people I know think that entire genre of modern art is dumb at best.

            Likewise drawing Mohammed is absolutely protected by the First Amendment and only a fringe want to change that. But similarly to above many people think it is dumb.

          • Sandy says:

            Likewise drawing Mohammed is absolutely protected by the First Amendment and only a fringe want to change that. But similarly to above many people think it is dumb.

            It’s not so much a First Amendment issue as a sympathy/consistency issue. If a Christian organization condemns Andres Serrano, the progressive narrative is about bible-thumping right-wingers and how great it is that they’re not getting their way anymore. If a Muslim organization massacres cartoonists in the street, the progressive narrative is about intolerant right-wingers insulting the faith of other cultures. Bad behavior from certain favored groups is met with rationalizations, justifications and excuses while the same behavior from the majority group would be roundly condemned. (As it should be because it’s bad behavior)

            A recent incident that comes to mind: I frequently visit a law school in New York for reasons. In the lounge on the staff floor, the professors had pinned a large picture of Brock Turner’s face to a board, where everyone visiting could see it, with the emblazoned words “THE FACE OF RAPE IN AMERICA”. I can’t imagine that they would do anything of the sort if Brock Turner were black or Muslim or god forbid a black Muslim.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The federal funding couldn’t be pulled because it would violate the First Amendment to do so.

            I’m not sure I buy this, though I’ve seen it invoked more than once recently. Would the government be required to fund, say, a documentary claiming Obama was born in Indonesia, under the same principles?

            I don’t think the artist is particularly celebrated by anyone (I certainly get remember his/her name). Most people I know think that entire genre of modern art is dumb at best.

            Likewise drawing Mohammed is absolutely protected by the First Amendment and only a fringe want to change that. But similarly to above many people think it is dumb.

            The million dollar question, though: do these people think that these two examples are dumb for the same reasons? If “Piss Christ” is dumb because modern art violates their aesthetic sensibilities, but the picture of Mohammed is dumb because Islamists are willing to murder anyone who does it, then this is just a low-key endorsement of the heckler’s veto which, while not against the letter of the First Amendment, is certainly against its spirit.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The idea of the melting pot is that the immigrants will adopt the culture of the new country and in the process, change it to a small but measurable degree. The current view on the SJ left is that the immigrants should keep their culture and where it conflicts with the existing culture, existing culture must give way and accomodate, but not adopt, the immigrant values. The current view on much of the right is that America is full and the immigrants should go home.

            Neither of these views is compatible with the melting pot concept, obviously.

            The rest of the right insists that the immigrants adopt major parts of the dominant culture (Joey Vento’s “Speak English” sign at his cheesesteak stand some years ago is a good example) and where there is a conflict, the immigrant culture must give way. I don’t know what the non-SJ left (if it indeed survives enough to have a view) thinks.

          • Civilis says:

            I don’t think that’s a fair summary of the intelligent “blue tribe” position.

            It’s not supposed to be a reflection of the Blue Tribe position, but of how the Red Tribe views the situation. There may be a rational reason for it, but the optics from the perspective of the Red Tribe look really bad. Of course the Blue Tribe doesn’t see attacking Chik Fil A because its founders hold a traditional view of human sexuality as attacks on Christianity, but Red Tribe members that tie their traditional views on sexuality to their religion take those attacks as directed against them. (It’s not relevant to the discussion how wrong or right they are).

            It’s also not the only place where these sorts of optics occur in this discussion. I know a number of Reddish-Gray Tribe members and some Blue Tribe Republicans, all immigrants or those close to immigrants, that think pandering to illegal immigrants completely undermines the rule of law, which is another meme (or body of memes) that is viewed as essential to America. They’ve spent their time in line, doing the paperwork, and seeing people that didn’t do the work getting the same things… if not better, in some cases, as local authorities in sanctuary cities tend to turn a blind eye to things illegal immigrants do which would get legal immigrants expelled… really turns them off.

            For this discussion, it doesn’t matter to the Red Tribe that a lot of this isn’t government pressure. If someone gets fired from their job for using the term ‘illegal immigrant’ instead of ‘undocumented migrant’, the Red Tribe is going to view that as a chilling effect on speech and a move away from the fundamental freedom even if the government isn’t involved, and if the media only puts pressure on the Red Tribe to change its values (say, making ‘Red Tribe employer fires employee for using undocumented migrant’ a front page story until the employer relents, but does nothing about the reverse), the Red Tribe is going to see it as a breakdown in the Rule of Law, as the Blue Tribe has privileges in the unwritten rules that the Red Tribe does not.

            These fundamental American values, the freedom of speech and the rule of law, the Red Tribe views as being under siege, and immigration is merely one vector by which that is happening.

          • LHN says:

            The idea of the melting pot is that the immigrants will adopt the culture of the new country and in the process, change it to a small but measurable degree.

            Not exactly. The idea is (or at least at origin was) that the melting all those cultures together would result in a new, different, and better culture.

            (But yes, the original idea as expounded was a culture, the way carbon steel isn’t wrought iron with embedded bits of graphite or channels of pure nickel running through the center.)

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

            MENDEL: I should have thought the American was made already‐‐eighty millions of him.

            DAVID: Eighty millions! [He smiles toward VERA in good‐ humored derision.] Eighty millions! Over a continent! Why, that cockleshell of a Britain has forty millions! No, uncle, the real American has not yet arrived. He is only in the Crucible, I tell you—he will be the fusion of all races, perhaps the
            coming superman. Ah, what a glorious Finale for my symphony—if I can only write it.

            (Zangwill was, let us say, not reticent about the idea of American exceptionalism.)

          • brad says:

            Sandy:

            If a Muslim organization massacres cartoonists in the street, the progressive narrative is about intolerant right-wingers insulting the faith of other cultures.

            Weird, I saw a whole bunch of Je suis Charlie and tricolor pictures.

            Where is it your are getting your information on this again?

            13th letter:

            I’m not sure I buy this, though I’ve seen it invoked more than once recently. Would the government be required to fund, say, a documentary claiming Obama was born in Indonesia, under the same principles?

            Yes. Which is to say that it could not refuse to fund such a thing because it disagreed with the message. However grant makers can take into account among other factors, if so directed by Congress, “general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public”. The gory details are in NEA v Finley; don’t miss the Scalia concurrence.

            The million dollar question, though: do these people think that these two examples are dumb for the same reasons? If “Piss Christ” is dumb because modern art violates their aesthetic sensibilities, but the picture of Mohammed is dumb because Islamists are willing to murder anyone who does it, then this is just a low-key endorsement of the heckler’s veto which, while not against the letter of the First Amendment, is certainly against its spirit.

            What if it isn’t because Islamist are willing to murder anyone, but because they don’t see intentionally provocative acts as intrinsically artistic — not a dead whale or a crucifix in piss or a drawing of Mohammad? Is that an aesthetic critique?

            Civilis:
            It seems like you are bootstrapping. Your original post reject Urstoff and Nancy Lebovitz’s points on the basis that the “blue tribe” was undermining core American values which aid assimilation. I don’t think it matters to the original points if the “red tribe” genuinely but wrongly thinks that. Only if it is actually true.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Where is it your are getting your information on this again?

            http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/04/the-abuse-of-satire/390312/

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Weird, I saw a whole bunch of Je suis Charlie and tricolor pictures. Where is it your are getting your information on this again?

            I saw those, yes. And I also saw a nonzero number of left-wing journalists and thought leaders who, once the coast was clear, started talking loudly about “je ne suis pas Charlie” and got very little pushback from other left-wing journalists and thought leaders on the matter.

            I think the difference between what we’re talking about is, it really isn’t the average man on the street I’m concerned about. The average person tends to be basically okay and willing to live and let live no matter their politics. It’s the people who have the most input into the narrative that worry me, because they have some frankly horrifyingly intolerant views.

            Yes. Which is to say that it could not refuse to fund such a thing because it disagreed with the message. However grant makers can take into account among other factors, if so directed by Congress, “general standards of decency and respect for the diverse beliefs and values of the American public”. The gory details are in NEA v Finley; don’t miss the Scalia concurrence.

            All right. But do they? The proof is in the pudding, and we see that at least enough of that pudding is made out of hostile Blue Tribe memes that it can keep rightie outrage peddlers in business for years. Where’s the government-funded red tribe version of Piss Christ?

            What if it isn’t because Islamist are willing to murder anyone, but because they don’t see intentionally provocative acts as intrinsically artistic — not a dead whale or a crucifix in piss or a drawing of Mohammad? Is that an aesthetic critique?

            It could be. Is it? That’s pretty much what I’m asking, because I have a hard time thinking of well-known critics who opposed both Piss Christ and a Mohammed cartoon. I vaguely recall some cranky paleoconservative John Derbyshire/Rod Dreher types, that’s about all I’ve got.

          • brad says:

            I don’t think we have much to talk about. I’m not much concerned with “thought leaders”, “the narrative”, and people that publicly take positions on the crucifix in pee.

            All too French public intellectual for me. I prefer dealing with the more concrete.

          • Sandy says:

            @brad:

            Where is it your are getting your information on this again?

            Garry Trudeau criticized Charlie Hebdo’s “free speech absolutism” at the George Palk Awards. George Galloway condemned the cartoons as “pornographic, obscene insults to the Prophet Muhammad, and by extension 1.7 billion people” and said “there are limits to free speech and free expression, even in France”. The editor of Al-Jazeera English sent out an e-mail calling the cartoons “an abuse of free speech” and said Je Suis Charlie was an “alienating slogan”.

            I can’t imagine these people would say these things if the cartoons were about Christians.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I don’t think we have much to talk about. I’m not much concerned with “thought leaders”, “the narrative”, and people that publicly take positions on the crucifix in pee.

            And that is of course your right. But like the man says, you may not be interested in (culture) war, but (culture) war is interested in you.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @Sandy

            Surprisingly, George Galloway (a British politician) and Salah-Aldeen Khadr (a presumably British employee of a Qatari news channel) are not representatives of the mainstream American left (or any left, but that’s not relevant to this argument). I don’t think Garry Trudeau is either, since I’d never heard of him before reading that article.

          • Fahundo says:

            Where’s the government-funded red tribe version of Piss Christ?

            Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma capitol

          • LHN says:

            Garry Trudeau is the creator of Doonesbury, probably the most widely-read American political comic strip for decades.

            It’s a long time past the height of its influence. But it’s noteworthy that a liberal political cartoonist who made his bones during the era when crusading against censorship specifically to defend the right to offensive expression was a big deal (Lenny Bruce, George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television, the ACLU defending a Nazi march through heavily Jewish Skokie, Illinois, etc.) is coming down on the anti-free-speech side of the question.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Ten Commandments outside the Oklahoma capitol

            I don’t think they are equivalent.

            Putting the Ten Commandments on a courthouse wall is presumably about venerating something the artist likes, namely rule of law and traditional Judeo-Christian values. Piss Christ on the other hand is about degenerating something the artist dislikes, presumably religion in general and Christians in particular.

            One is “Yay in-group” while the other is “Boo out-group”.

            The Red Tribe equivalent of Piss Christ would be something like putting an image of Mohamed in all the urinals at a 9/11 memorial.

          • “The Red Tribe equivalent of Piss Christ would be something like putting an image of Mohamed in all the urinals at a 9/11 memorial.”

            Funny example. I think the following story is true, although I haven’t checked it.

            The best hotel in Tokyo before the war was the Imperial Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. In the course of the U.S. occupation breaking up the Zaibatsu, the owner of the Imperial Hotel lost control of it, a fact he resented.

            So he built the Okura Hotel, which at that point was the finest hotel in Tokyo. On the top floor were a men’s room and a woman’s room with picture windows.

            Overlooking the American embassy.

          • Fahundo says:

            Government-sponsored endorsement of one religion vs. government-sponsored denigration of the same religion. I think that’s about as symmetrical as you can get, because, as much as the “culture wars” can be said to be about religion, it’s Christianity vs everything else, rather than Christianity vs Islam or something.

            A lot of the prominent names on the left, like Sam Harris, for example, would probably not be bothered by an art piece that involved pissing on the Quran.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @brad:

            The federal funding couldn’t be pulled because it would violate the First Amendment to do so.

            That’s odd, because I remember when Brendan Eich was fired there were plenty of preachy liberal articles about how “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that anybody else is obliged to support or put up with your nonsense”.

          • brad says:

            Is it really so difficult to understand that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to the government and not private entities?

          • Fahundo says:

            The first Amendment and freedom of speech aren’t the same thing.

            We can probably agree that what happened to Eich was morally wrong, but it the Constitution doesn’t prevent you from being fired for your views.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            I don’t think we have much to talk about. I’m not much concerned with “thought leaders”, “the narrative”, and people that publicly take positions on the crucifix in pee.

            All too French public intellectual for me. I prefer dealing with the more concrete.

            That’s all well and good, but then it becomes a game of “whose experience is more representative”, which is a pretty pointless thing.

          • brad says:

            More or less pointless than arguing about whether or not Garry Trudeau is a genuine “thought leader” that defines the “progressive narrative”?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Fahundo says:

            I think that’s about as symmetrical as you can get.

            They’re only symmetrical if you view veneration and denigration as having equal moral worth.

            Meanwhile your Quaran example is a red herring. Symmetry would be finding something that prominent names on the left, like Sam Harris would like to see treated with respect and pissing on that.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            More or less pointless than arguing about whether or not Garry Trudeau is a genuine “thought leader” that defines the “progressive narrative”?

            1.27 times as pointless.

          • Fahundo says:

            They’re only symmetrical if you view veneration and denigration as having equal moral worth.

            Meanwhile your Quaran example is a red herring. Symmetry would be finding something that prominent names on the left, like Sam Harris would like to see treated with respect and pissing on that.

            Alright, let me rephrase. The religion of the left is secularism. Putting the ten commandments in front of a state capitol is like an open attack on the Sacred Holy Scripture of Secularism.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Garry Trudeau is an irrelevant nobody, Pepe the Frog is an important symbol in the battle for the nation’s soul.

          • Fahundo says:

            “Pepe the Frog is a huge favorite white supremacist meme,”

            I have to say, i never expected the character assassination attempts this election season to go quite so far.

          • Civilis says:

            Is it really so difficult to understand that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to the government and not private entities?

            People can be legally fired for holding beliefs, and this is not new, but we’ve gone from ‘we fired him because he was an outspoken supporter of the Nazis / Communists’ to ‘we fired him for holding the same beliefs as 45% of the population (and the same beliefs as 80% of the population a decade ago)’. A lot of people believe this change isn’t a good thing.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Haven’t you heard about Brandon Eich?!!”

            As an aside, there are a lot of people who seem to think they’re making some kind of point by sneering a sentence like the above.

            Yes, as a matter of fact, I’ve heard of Brendan (not Brandon) Eich. He was fired for his political beliefs, to the loud applause of the news media and pundits in his industry. Your sneering doesn’t make that not have happened.

          • Corey says:

            we’ve gone from ‘we fired him because he was an outspoken supporter of the Nazis / Communists’ to ‘we fired him for holding the same beliefs as 45% of the population (and the same beliefs as 80% of the population a decade ago)’. A lot of people believe this change isn’t a good thing.

            I’ve been assured that any sort of job security is one of the worst things that can happen to an economy; somewhere between “factories being firebombed” and “potato famine” IIRC. Sad that Eich got caught up in this, but that’s the price we pay for a dynamic economy; surely he should be happy to make way for his replacement, who will do a much better job since he’ll be hungry enough to toe the party line.

          • brad says:

            Let’s recap. I originally wrote:

            The federal funding couldn’t be pulled because it would violate the First Amendment to do so.

            Mr. X quoted this and in response wrote:

            That’s odd, because I remember when Brendan Eich was fired there were plenty of preachy liberal articles about how “Freedom of speech doesn’t mean that anybody else is obliged to support or put up with your nonsense”.

            This reply makes no sense whatsoever. The Eich situation had nothing to do with the First Amendment, and the quoted sentences were specifically about the First Amendment.

            The two possibilities I saw was that it was a deliberate attempt to introduce a red herring or that Mr. X doesn’t understand the state action doctrine. The latter seemed like a more charitable assumption so I followed up with a (admittedly snarky) response pointing out that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private actors.

            Finally, you (Civilis) wrote, after quoting my response:

            People can be legally fired for holding beliefs, and this is not new, but we’ve gone from ‘we fired him because he was an outspoken supporter of the Nazis / Communists’ to ‘we fired him for holding the same beliefs as 45% of the population (and the same beliefs as 80% of the population a decade ago)’. A lot of people believe this change isn’t a good thing.

            This just doubles down on the non sequitur. You might as well have said “people are unhappy with high drug prices” for all the relevance it has.

            There is no reasonable argument that Eich and Serrano were treated differently because progressives are hypocrites. That’s because there situations were completely different. Bringing up Eich when talking Serrano makes no sense and at this point I have to think is just bad faith.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Is it really so difficult to understand that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution applies to the government and not private entities?

            I don’t see how that makes any relevant difference to the principles at stake: either support for freedom of speech means assisting people in expressing themselves, or it doesn’t. The idea that not giving government money to Serrano would violate the First Amendment only makes sense on the first view; the idea that it’s perfectly in keeping with free speech rights to force somebody out of their job for expressing an opinion you disagree with only makes sense on the second.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            This reply makes no sense whatsoever. The Eich situation had nothing to do with the First Amendment, and the quoted sentences were specifically about the First Amendment.

            Except the reply wasn’t about the legalisms of the First Amendment; it was about a worldview that simultaneously defends Ferrano’s federal funding and Eich’s firing. Whatever this worldview is based around, it definitely isn’t freedom of expression.

          • brad says:

            Mr. X

            I don’t see how that makes any relevant difference to the principles at stake: either support for freedom of speech means assisting people in expressing themselves, or it doesn’t

            That’s an awfully narrow view. It amounts to a claim that there’s One True Version of Freedom of Speech, yours, and anyone who disagrees with you is an impostor.

            In particular, there’s many people that think that certain kinds of sanctions by certain kinds of entities are entirely inappropriate as a response to speech they don’t approve of, but other kinds of sanctions by other kinds of entities are fine. Few people think that there’s some sort of free floating obligation to “assist people in expressing themselves”, in fact I believe this is the first time I’m hearing of such a notion.

            You might even by one of those non-absolutists. Do you think it is wrong to stop dating someone because you strenuously disagree with a viewpoint he or she holds? If so, congratulations, you aren’t a true Scotsman either.

            The idea that not giving government money to Serrano would violate the First Amendment only makes sense on the first view

            No it doesn’t. What one thinks about First Amendment jurisprudence specifically, and how to interpret laws as a more general matter, are completely othoganal to one’s view on the nature of “freedom of speech” and its desirability in society.

            13th

            Except the reply wasn’t about the legalisms of the First Amendment;

            How foolish of me to think that a reply quoting sentences about the First Amendment would have something to do with the First Amendment.

            it was about a worldview that simultaneously defends Ferrano’s federal funding and Eich’s firing. Whatever this worldview is based around, it definitely isn’t freedom of expression.

            Is it illegitimate to be a proponent of the rule of law now?

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Exactly. “we aren’t the ‘intolerent left’ we are the resisting force of liberation”

            There are many equally legitimate perspectives on the meaning of free speech.

          • brad says:

            Is Ismael Chamu another one of those “thought leaders” defining the “progressive narrative”? Is there a list somewhere?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Is it illegitimate to be a proponent of the rule of law now?

            Is the rule of law the only thing that matters? Anything that’s technically legal is just fine and no one can complain about it?

          • brad says:

            You can certainly complain about it all you like. I already said I think Piss Christ it is really dumb.

            What the government couldn’t do is pull the funds because it didn’t like the viewpoint expressed. What I object to is the claim that because I hold that the prior sentence is a correct interpretation of the First Amendment that somehow means I must think that Eich’s firing was illegitimate or I am a hypocrite that doesn’t really believe in freedom of expression.

            Support for freedom of expression of the type that condemns official sanctions and any violence for speech is extremely rare around the world. Claiming that it is fake, hypocritical support for freedom of expression because it isn’t identical to the version that some right wingers have lately come to embrace is ridiculous.

            You want to talk about outcome oriented, where’s this new right wing freedom of expression movement’s Skokie?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            The law isn’t the only thing that matters, but it is certainly relevant. Or else do you think that the 2nd Amendment is a irrelevant distraction in discussions about gun control?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ThirteenthLetter:

            Except the reply wasn’t about the legalisms of the First Amendment; it was about a worldview that simultaneously defends Ferrano’s federal funding and Eich’s firing. Whatever this worldview is based around, it definitely isn’t freedom of expression

            Yes, exactly.

            @Brad:

            In particular, there’s many people that think that certain kinds of sanctions by certain kinds of entities are entirely inappropriate as a response to speech they don’t approve of, but other kinds of sanctions by other kinds of entities are fine.

            The idea that it’s “fine” to hound a guy out of his job for a private donation made to a mainstream political campaign is precisely the problem many Red Tribers have with the modern left.

            No it doesn’t. What one thinks about First Amendment jurisprudence specifically, and how to interpret laws as a more general matter, are completely othoganal to one’s view on the nature of “freedom of speech” and its desirability in society.

            The First Amendment is specifically about freedom of speech, and Congress’ lack of authority to abridge it. I don’t think anyone can have an opinion about it without also having an opinion on what freedom of speech actually is.

            Is it illegitimate to be a proponent of the rule of law now?

            Oh yes, I forgetting how much the Blue Tribe loves the rule of law. That’s why they’re always opposing amnesties for illegal immigrants and the creation of sanctuary cities.

          • brad says:

            Oh yes, I forgetting how much the Blue Tribe loves the rule of law. That’s why they’re always opposing amnesties for illegal immigrants and the creation of sanctuary cities.

            When did you stop beating your wife?

            What a crappy experience this entire exchange has been.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I’ve been assured that any sort of job security is one of the worst things that can happen to an economy

            You know, I totally believe that there is somebody out there who would espouse such a silly statement. The question is why you thought it was worth remembering and passing on as significant in any way.

        • Jiro says:

          I think people who are worried that immigrants will change American culture wildly underestimate how attractive American culture is.

          Define “assimilate”. Hispanic immigrants are overwhelmingly Democrats and stay so in successive generations. “Being a Democrat” is something that exists in American culture, but “being, as a group, overwhelmingly Democrat” is not typical for American culture. Does that count as assimilation or not?

          • qwints says:

            What about the solid south? Or organized labor? Seems like there have been long periods of time where groups have been overwhelmingly democrat.

          • Jiro says:

            If the whole country became like the old south, or like organized labor, I’d call it a change in culture too, for the same reason. Likewise if a non-south or non-labor group became like the south or labor, I would call that a change in culture for the group.

            The point is that a group can change the culture by being, on the average, not like the culture on the average, even if each individual falls within the parameters of the culture as an individual. Imagine that everyone in your city was replaced by a shoe salesman. Shoe salesmen already exist in your city, but I’m sure you would consider this a change.

          • Anonymous says:

            I don’t think that says anything about assimilation. It doesn’t matter how many generations pass, you aren’t likely to see black people join the klan.

          • Corey says:

            “being, as a group, overwhelmingly Democrat” is not typical for American culture.

            That’s not even close to true, it’s trivially untrue of Democrats for example 🙂

            Blacks and Hispanics are overwhelmingly Democratic because Republicans oppose their presence here, it’s not rocket surgery.

            Rural/urban people are mostly Republican/Democrat. Young-Earth Creationists are approximately all Republican. Therapists have a significant Democratic lean (empathy). Yadda yadda yadda.

          • Jiro says:

            I don’t think that says anything about assimilation. It doesn’t matter how many generations pass, you aren’t likely to see black people join the klan.

            It’s more as if you’re a Star Wars fan, and because the KKK member living across the street also happens to like Star Wars, now that there are a lot of blacks in the area they’ve organized a Star Wars boycott, and so no Star Wars clubs will open in your area and nobody will show the movies. You then decide that at least you have Harry Potter, but it turns out the guy across the street also liked that, so you can’t do that either. Nor can you go to an Indian restaurant because the guy across the street had this idea about Aryans and the local blacks have decided to picket all the Indian restaurants in retaliation.

            It’s really hard to come up with a good analogy for this because a political party bundles together a lot of things and my analogy has to list Star Wars and Indian food as individual items. Having a group arrive and change the political landscape such that Democrats always get elected is going to change many, many, things all at once. That is not assimilation of them; that is their culture taking over.

          • qwints says:

            But Democrats aren’t always elected, not even close. Republicans continue to be overrepresented in comparison to their share of the voter population (they vote at a higher rate and live in rural areas with disproportionate political power.) For example, Texas doesn’t have a single statewide elected Democrat despite being almost 40% hispanic.

          • Anonymous says:

            We aren’t going to become a one party state. The Republican Party will eventually cut loose the bigots. The PTB want power too much to die on that sword.

            When it finally does I’m sure it will find that there’s plenty of Hispanics that want to keep those darned government hands off their Medicare.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The Republican Party will eventually cut loose the bigots.

            What exactly do you think happens then?

            The 27% or so of the US population that rates Trump favorably is a pretty big voting block to ignore, bigger than most minority voting blocks.

          • Anonymous says:

            What’s the age structure of that group?

            We aren’t talking about something that’s going to happen next year. Maybe not even next decade. As qwints points out the Republicans are doing fine electorally at the moment.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This is a year old, but according to Real Clear Politics…

            In terms of demographics, Trump’s supporters are a bit older, less educated and earn less than the average Republican. Slightly over half are women. About half are between 45 and 64 years of age, with another 34 percent over 65 years old and less than 2 percent younger than 30. One half of his voters have a high school education or less, compared to 19 percent with a college or post-graduate degree. Slightly over a third of his supporters earn less than $50,000 per year, while 11 percent earn over $100,000 per year. Definitely not country club Republicans, but not terribly unusual either.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I don’t think that says anything about assimilation. It doesn’t matter how many generations pass, you aren’t likely to see black people join the klan.

            You jest, but why not? It only took about five generations or so after the Civil War before plenty of black people were voting Democratic. And this is during a time period where the Democratic Party was still loudly supporting segregation and had active Klan members among its leadership.

          • Jiro says:

            But Democrats aren’t always elected, not even close.

            Hispanics overwhelmingly vote Democrat. Enough of them and Democrats will always be elected.

          • Anonymous says:

            My kid grew an inch last month and an inch the month before that. He’ll be twenty feet tall by the time he is twenty years old.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            My kid grew an inch last month and an inch the month before that. He’ll be twenty feet tall by the time he is twenty years old.

            Why, anonymous, I didn’t know you were a global warming skeptic!

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think that the ability of the US (or Canada, plus maybe a couple others – I don’t know if I would extend the same ability to countries south of the US border save maybe Brazil and a couple others) to turn people from all across the world into “Americans” or whatever is something good (after all, it is better to be able to integrate immigrants into your system, than to not be able to) but it comes from a pretty dark place.

      The people who were living in the Americas when contact was made were screwed. Even if the Europeans had only the most peaceful intentions, there still was no resistance to smallpox among the native population. The Europeans did not have peaceful intentions, either. The end result is that the various groups making up the occupants of what would become the Americas were not wiped out, but pretty damn close.

      The end result of this is that someone can become an “American” in a way they can’t become an “Italian”. Your acquaintance, who would definitely be Chinese-American had their family moved to the States, and who North American conventions lead you to think of as a “Chinese-Italian”, recognizes this when they say they’re Chinese, not Italian.

      Had Italians mostly ceased to exist by some means or another, and the land they live on renamed “Bootland”, it would be different: your acquaintance would be a Bootlander, or a Chinese-Bootlander.

      Likewise, someone who moves to the US becomes an American, or their kids are Americans, but it would make no sense to say that they had become members of whatever group was living in the same place 500+ years ago.

    • TMB says:

      I’m from Britain, and I’d more or less agree with the American version.

      I think it’s basically determined by your accent. If a Chinese person had lived in Britain for most of their life and spoke perfect English, but considered themselves Chinese, I would consider them to be a traitor, in a way.

      Even “Chinese-British” makes me feel a little sad.

      If someone doesn’t speak perfect English, has come to Britain later in life, I wouldn’t think anything of it for them to call themselves Chinese, and while it’d be impolite to say anything, I’d probably think it was a bit strange (perhaps mildly insulting) if they called themselves “British”.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        I agree. I don’t know anyone who grew up in Britain and doesn’t deem themselves British.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          What about the ones who say “I’m not British, I’m European”?

          • sweeneyrod says:

            I don’t know any of them. Do you?

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            I do, sometimes.

          • TMB says:

            Eccentric. It’s like someone who strongly believes in horoscopes.

            Weird but (probably) harmless. (As long as they aren’t in a position of power)

          • TheAncientGeek says:

            What facts contradict my belief? My British passport is also an EU passport, for the time being. Am I commitiing thedecrime?

          • TMB says:

            It’s not a crime, it’s just a bit weird.

            Obviously it speaks to a cosmopolitan tendency – either you’re imagining you’re part of a community that doesn’t really exist (there are no *real* ground level, emotional, shared European cultural traditions), or you’re purely focusing on intellectual-level/ high-culture traditions (which isn’t what most people are talking about when they think of their culture or nation), or you’re part of some international elite group that really does have more in common with itself than with than with the culture of their (nominal) home country.

            If the latter, I would prefer if you just called yourself a International Financier, or member of the Illuminati or something.

            (I feel like if someone shifts identity horizontally or downwards – “I’m not British, I’m Scottish/Cornish/a member of the Illuminati” it is slightly treacherous – if they shift identity upwards – “I’m a European/a human/a rational entity” it’s kind of missing the point.)

          • sweeneyrod says:

            @TMB

            I would understand someone who has French parents on one side, German grandparents on the other, lived in Italy for a few years but grew up mostly in Britain calling themselves European rather than British. But I can’t imagine ever doing it myself — the sum of my experience with Europe is a few weeks in Germany. It would be borderline cultural appropriation.

      • Liskantope says:

        Probably the same goes for Canadian culture as well. We know someone who grew up in Canada but is also completely ethnically Chinese, was brought up with at least a bit of Chinese culture, knows lots of Chinese words, etc. yet identifies as Canadian and not Chinese.

        This is less surprising to me than to hear that England labels nationalities this way as well, since Canada has a little more in common with America in that it was conquered by outsiders with a variety of backgrounds. Then again, maybe this convention is a trend in all English-speaking countries. Any Aussies want to weigh in?

    • Skef says:

      I’m no expert on the whole history of the attitude in the U.S., but I’ve often heard it traced to the combination of our 1) having a written constitution based on abstract principles (with the glaring exception of slavery, among others) that 2) was written that way in part to address actual (mostly religious) diversity of the time and 3) the explicit immigration-encouraging expansion era of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, when “you too can be an American” was part of the self-conception of the country.

      There’s a lot of overt discrimination mixed in with that history, but it has made it hard to think of a single primary “ethnic profile” of an American. Add to this that what was the profile of the elite (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) has lost almost all of its cultural relevance. There are still plenty of rich powerful WASPs around but they don’t control institutions qua their WASPiness.

  24. Moshe Feldenkrais ameliorating cerebral palsy by supplying the sort of feedback that most children get from their own movement, but that children with CP don’t get spontaneously.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M2_G4NWRnNM

    Anat Baniel, who has a background which includes Feldenkrais, as evidence that this kind of work is still being done.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C599TgB0POU

  25. dndnrsn says:

    There have been WWII arguments here more than usual lately, and I like this, because actual war three quarters of a century ago is a better topic to rehash endlessly than Culture War now, for a whole bunch of reasons. So.

    Thought: treatments of the majority of German WWII generals who were not Nazi ideologues but who didn’t protest or do anything to impede the Nazis usually present them as too cowed by Hitler, too afraid for their careers, etc to say/do anything – basically, a bit hapless.

    However, could they not be seen just as much as making a Faustian bargain? After all, had the war been won, the leading German generals would have been remembered as some of the greatest generals of all time. Even having lost the war, there are German generals who are thought of very highly (too highly, in my judgment). Without Hitler, and without Hitler’s war, Manstein or whoever is just another peacetime officer.

    EDIT: I’m not so much saying “this is why they did what they did”, which would be silly for literally dozens plus people with different motivations, as looking at the way their motivations are presented by historians.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      There’s a more human explanation though. Patriotism with a minimax strategy.

      That is, even if General Beispiel thought Adolf Hitler was the most evil man who ever lived, he would still probably want Germany to win the war. Losing a war isn’t a great situation for a country to be in after all, and our own history shows that Germany (particularly the east) paid a very heavy price at the end of that war. It’s natural that you don’t want to see your women raped and your homes burned even if you despise the man in charge.

      Had Germany won the war it would have been a tragedy for Europe and the world. A tragedy for Germany even, since the Nazi system wasn’t much better than the Soviet one economically. But it would have avoided the worst risks of losing, which ranged from the Morgenthau plan to potentially the total destruction of the German people.

      • dndnrsn says:

        First, I should have made it clearer, I’m not so much assigning them motives as pondering over the way historians present those motives.

        Second, you’re definitely right that “my country, right or wrong” was a major factor. The generals who disliked Hitler and knew Germany was losing were still mostly against the 1944 bomb plot, and Hitler was still massively popular with the public.

        However, I don’t just mean “going along with Hitler” as in “not resigning their commissions and leaving the country” or “not trying to assassinate him” – I mean, German generals have received a reputation for not trying very hard to stand up to Hitler’s increasingly bad military decision making. There’s a recurring pattern of “Hitler wants to do something dumb/refuses to allow something not dumb – General objects – Hitler yells at him, maybe calls him a sissy who never saw frontline combat – General backs down”.

        Of course, that Hitler’s interference had turned out well in, say, France, that really defanged a lot of military opposition to him.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          My social studies teacher in middle school used to remind the students that he had a weapon in verbal fights.

          “You call me fat, I give you a zero. The fight is over.”

          I’d imagine that the Fuhrer probably had a lot more of that sort of rhetorical ammunition in an argument than even a high ranking Wehrmacht commander. Fighting back against your crazy boss’s bad ideas is risky even in an office setting, much less a totalitarian state.

        • Tibor says:

          Well, Stalin had a good deal of the Soviet high command executed (which is one of the most important reasons for the horrible Soviet losses during the war, the Russians actually did have a lot of guns, tanks, even rocket launchers) because he was paranoid and thought they presented a danger (well, in a totalitarian state such as the Soviet Union, this is probably not entirely paranoid). Hitler could have done the same to his generals (and some of them might have heard about what Stalin did), so they were wise not to disagree. Also, Stalin was paranoid but otherwise he seems like a relatively rational person (an evil sociopath, but a rational one), whereas Hitler was very charismatic but not rational at all, so it was probably even harder to make him understand reason (without risking your neck). One should say thank god for that. Had Rommel or something else clear thinking been the Führer, he would have kept the alliance with Stalin, conquered all of central, southern and western Europe (including Britain), secured northern Africa and then perhaps attacked (early in spring) the Russians (assuming Stalin would not have attacked that first). Or perhaps they would simply stop, leaving all of Eurasia under one totalitarian collectivist regime or the other.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Supposedly, after the bomb plot, and as the military situation disintegrated, Hitler was prone to declaring that his big mistake was that unlike Stalin he had not purged his officer corps.

            As for irrationality – if someone acts according to their priors, but their priors are wrong/irrational, are they irrational? Hitler’s “theory of everything” seems to have revolved around the concept of will – that sheer force of will could overcome other factors. Victory to whoever wants it more. His belief that, say, a properly motivated counterattack could defeat the Soviets in April 1945, was irrational, but the way he behaved wasn’t, given that this was one of his priors. Likewise, if you recognize that there wasn’t a vast international Jewish capitalist-communist conspiracy (the capitalist-communist part is the cool trick), the extermination of the Jews is massively irrational and really hampered the war effort. However, Hitler had as one of his priors that such a conspiracy did exist – and as such he saw getting rid of the Jews as one of his major goals and as being important to the war effort.

            Comparing Hitler and Stalin one key observation is that as the war went on, Hitler’s intervention in military affairs started off successful and became more and more deleterious. With Stalin, there was the opposite situation – he went from having a lot of senior officers killed, bringing men who had just been tortured back into command in 1941, and keeping the families of generals as hostages, to allowing Soviet commanders a lot more freedom than Hitler allowed German as the war went on.

          • Tibor says:

            dndrsn: I think that it is not necessarily irrational to have an “irrational” prior but it is irrational to ignore the reality and to fail to update that prior. I guess that if you keep winning like Hitler did at the beginning, then is actually the evidence for your prior. But at least as late as late 1943 he was given enough data to assign a very low probability to the belief that will trumps everything. Also, I don’t know how much Hitler knew about history, but in history it is quite consistently the bigger army backed up by a richer country (or a group of countries) that defeats the smaller and poorer one, at least in an otherwise symmetric conflict. Germany was not particularly rich (the only neighbouring country which was poorer than Germany was Poland and France, Switzerland – which was of course not attacked at the end – and Czechoslovakia were among the ten richest in the world, while his later enemies of Great Britain and US – and Canada – were also in top ten) and even if Hitler could have seen that he could divide his enemies and seize control of their countries before they responded in a unified way, he should have seen that the combined army of the US, Russia, Britain and a few other countries is not something the German military can defeat (even with Japanese and Italian support, especially since the latter did not amount to much). Attacking Russia also meant not just getting a new enemy with a huge military, but also losing an ally with a huge military (and a totalitarian government willing to put its population through anything just to win the war). I guess it sort of makes sense if you believe that the war over Britain is going to be just another Blitzkrieg and you want to take the Russians by surprise (which is what happened, even though Stalin was informed about the German invasion beforehand, he did not believe those reports).

            But this is all based on different reasoning than “will trumps all” and I guess the choice of the prior should not be entirely arbitrary after all. History is nothing but the “data we have so far” and one should use it to make a sanity check of his priors and while it is sometimes prone to different interpretations, some general patterns clearly stand out. Based just on that, one should clearly reject the willpower hypothesis as a prior (or assign it a very low probability in the distribution of the prior).

          • dndnrsn says:

            There is a sort of motivated reasoning that is not exactly beneficial where you talk yourself into thinking you can take stuff on you can’t.

            If your opponents have more factories, but you have more will: obviously will is the factor that will settle things.

            If you only have enough fuel for X days of operation: clearly you need a plan that provides victory within X days.

            Etc.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            Both Germany and Japan were banking on very quick victories, so their lack of resources wouldn’t catch up with them. Japan hoped that big initial victories like Pearl Harbor would convince the Americans to give up on the pacific war and give Asia up to Japan. The Battle of Midway was intended to be the killer blow, but Japan lost the core of its fleet then.

            Hitler was hoping to make peace with England, so he would only have to fight on one front.

            @dndnrsn

            The Nazi theory about WW I was that the nation was stabbed in the back by Jews; and it would have won but for them.

            This paranoia logically reappeared in WW II when things went wrong.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje: and also the left.

            I don’t know if it’s fair to say that it reappeared in WWII – it was there all along. You’ve got Hitler, before the war started, giving a speech where he threatened retribution against Jews if they started another war – he would mention the speech again and again later on.

            The historical argument is largely over whether the mass murder was part of the plan all along, or if it was a reaction to the failure of Barbarossa.

          • Aapje says:

            I mean reappeared in the sense that it took failure for the excuse to be needed again, not that the Nazi’s stopped believing in Jews being the boogie man.

            I would argue that that slow isolation and murder through exploitation was the initial plan and the prospect of losing the war caused an acceleration in the plans. In January 1941, Der Stürmer wrote “Now judgment has begun and it will reach its conclusion only when knowledge of the Jews has been erased from the earth.”

            At the earliest, the Nazi’s realized that Barbarossa was not going as well as planned in June 1941.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Didn’t Barbarossa only really start to lag in July or August?

            You are correct that what some evidence indicates was Plan A for the Germans – deportation to east of the Urals or Madagascar or wherever – would have resulted in a lot of deaths from starvation, disease, exposure, etc.

        • bean says:

          I think Hitler’s ability to sack/reassign any general who has a serious spine is sufficient to explain most of it. It’s a rare leader who is willing to put up with someone who will tell him he’s wrong. So the yes-men get assigned to OKW, and the ones who would stand up to Hitler are either sent to the front or shuffled off into obscurity.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Interestingly, at least anecdotally, generals could be successful standing up to him, especially if they had seen combat in WWI. His favourite generals were usually frontline combat vets.

          • bean says:

            I’m not suggesting that nobody ever successfully stood up to Hitler. I’m suggesting that they were transferred elsewhere after standing up to him, and not even in intentional retaliation. Just sub/semiconscious processes at work.

            As for veterans, Keitel was an artilleryman in WWI, and Hitler handpicked him to head OKW in 1938. By 1942, he had been beaten into complete submission.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is it an open question whether “Lakeitel” was beaten down, or chosen in the first place as a sycophant? Hitler was already messing around with leadership personnel by ’38.

            Also, is there a consolidated document of top leadership personnel changes? It seems pretty chaotic – I saw a map of Bagration that makes it look like there was at least 2 or 3 rounds of shuffling and sacking of army group commanders in, what, 3 months?

        • cassander says:

          >Of course, that Hitler’s interference had turned out well in, say, France, that really defanged a lot of military opposition to him.

          I think this point really bears repeating. Hitler spent the 1930s taking enormous risks. Re-occypying the Ruhr, re-arming, Anschluss, Czechoslovakia, throwing the whole army at poland, each one a huge gamble that paid off. That after that huge run of success, you have the battle of France, where Hitler does in 4 weeks what the kaiser failed to do in 4 years. After seeing that run, it’s hard to see how people avoided buying into the fuhrer myth. Had Hitler died in 1941 he’d be hailed today as one of the greatest leaders who ever lived.

          >German generals have received a reputation for not trying very hard to stand up to Hitler’s increasingly bad military decision making. T

          those generals also had a great deal of incentive to blame as much of the war as possible on Hitler after the fact, first to avoid hanging and second to defend their professional conduct in a war they unquestionably lost.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Your second point is true – the tendency of German generals to not only blame moral but also military failures on people who were conveniently dead or in Spandau is a pretty big deal. However, even discounting their self-serving bias, there certainly was a lot of deleterious interference.

    • Jmiettin says:

      One thing to keep in mind here is that armies back then were even more rigid and hierachical and that all soldiers and officers had given an oath of allegiance to Hitler specifically (I.e. Not to president and constitution): https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_oath

      My stereotype of old-times officers is that they take word and oath very seriously and thus did what Hitler told them to. Although there are installed where they get some operation moved from a date Hitler wanted it to a more suitable one by using subterfuge.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Hierarchal, yes, but one of the reasons the German army had an advantage in combat leadership was that command was less rigid than comparable armies, usually.

  26. HircumSaeculorum says:

    This image received several thousand upvotes on Reddit a few days ago. Sounds a little like Moloch to me.

    Are the normies becoming woke?

  27. Tibor says:

    What do you think about this article/interview about Trump voters? Has anyone read the book Hillbilly Elegy? If so, is it worth buying?

    Also why did my (everybody’s?) gravatar change?

    • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

      Hillbilly Elegy is excellent (yes I have read it) — well-deserving of its thousands of high GoodReads accolades.

      Eminently readable not just by self-regarded “Hillbillies”, but by the members of any community that feels beleaguered and besieged. There’s no shortage of those! 🙂

      • keranih says:

        This.

        I have literally lost track of the number of non-red tribers I’ve read or heard saying something like “I read HE and realized that [people other than me]/white rednecks could be miserable and struggling too. Wow. I hadn’t know that.”

        If the book only serves to open the minds I’ve witnessed, it’s already done God’s work.

  28. Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

    For at least the past 350 years the Society of Friends (Quakers) has eschewed dynamic pricing in consequence of The Testimony of Integrity, according to which:

    A person’s word should be accepted based on his or her reputation for truth-telling rather than on his or her taking an oath or swearing to tell the truth.

    This was embodied in their [the Friends’] maxim “Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay” (from James 5:12)

    But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by earth, nor by any other oath; but let your “Yea” be yea, and your “Nay” be nay, lest ye fall into condemnation.

    Later, when many Quakers became successful in business (such as Cadbury, Rowntree, Fry, etc.), they set a fixed price for goods on sale rather than setting a high price and haggling over it with the buyer. Quakers believed that it was dishonest to set an unfair price to begin with.

    Needless to say, Trumpish market-centric moral values and flexible negotiation practices in regard to “the art of the deal” are rejected utterly by Friends — and this Friendly assessment finds considerable support in modern cognitive science and market theory.

    For details, see for example Cathy “MathBabe” O’Neal’s just-published Weapons of Math Destruction (2016), or on a more technical level, Sanjeev Arora, Boaz Barak, Markus Brunnermeier, and Rong Ge’s “Computational Complexity and Information Asymmetry in Financial Products” (2011).

    There was an era (now a full century in the past) in which free markets indisputably served to nurture conservative ideals. But nowadays it’s fair to wonder — isn’t it? — whether free-market conservatism’s moral foundations are compatible with the present-day global trading dominance of algorithms that execute in microseconds. The common-sense answer is “no”, isn’t that right?

    So has Trumpish free-market faux-conservative morality become dead as a dinosaur? Modern-day mathematics, and modern-day cognitive science, and 350-year-old Friendly testimonies of integrity, alike say “yes”, don’t they?

    • Murphy says:

      Trumpish? When did trump become an avatar for free market capitalism?

      Presumably if a quaker businessman finds that costs have risen too much they increase the price of their product when appropriate? Otherwise they’d be out of business pretty fast. So they can’t be totally set on fixed prices.

      Can Quakers negotiate their salaries? Ask for a raise? Work 2 jobs for different hourly rates?

      If a client can guarantee big orders allowing them to buy in bulk and cut cost do they pass that saving on to clients or do they insist of absorbing 100% of the gains from that in the name of religious rules?

      Do quaker chains with outlets in poor countries/regions with lower rent and wage costs charge the same price to their poorer customers as outlets in rich neighborhoods or do they keep the prices just as high despite lower costs?

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        John Sidles’ reasoning might seem a bit convoluted, but it’s actually very simple.

        John likes the Quakers and he dislikes Trump. He also dislikes surge pricing. Therefore, by the transitive property, the Quakers dislike surge pricing and Trump likes it. QED

        I’m sure neither David Deutsch nor the US Marine corps like Uber very much either. Here, let me give you this helpful link on the subject…

        • Zorba the Geek says:

          Haven’t those two evolved a mutual distaste for Trump? Along with a shared respect and liking for both Barack and Barak? It’s been getting harder to tell them apart.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Well, I can see why that third of the Scott A trinity doesn’t like Trump. After all, this election is all about tribal politics and nobody else cares more about tribes. It’s kind of surprising that our Scott A seems ambivalent on the question to be honest.

            But Aaronson has never written anything that made me think of schizophasia as a serious explanation. He’s a logical thinker and his writing is about as clear as anything that math-heavy could be. His interests diverge from mine politically but that doesn’t mean I can’t respect his intellect or defer to his expertise on apolitical questions of computer science.

          • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

            The Theoretical Computer Science (TCS) StackExchange welcomes cryptic questions and their clarifications … and provides ratings for these contributions too … and so as Scott Aaronson has suggested, why not contribute your assessments to the TCS StackExchange community? 🙂

  29. M Kul says:

    There has been a recent Police case in Australia where a young child was thought to have been abducted, and the name of the child has been widely publicised by the media. However, the names of the parents have been withheld. Furthermore, the reason(s) why the parents’ names have been withheld have purposely remained undisclosed.

    Does anyone know the reason for this legal meta-rule? Why isn’t the public allowed to know what legal rule or procedure is being applied here?

    I wonder if this is the same in the USA and elsewhere.

    • Emma Casey says:

      Extra layer of obscurtiy?

      Suppose we don’t want mobs attacking pediatricians and so as a rule we don’t name pediatricians. If I say ‘s parents names aren’t being released because they are pediatricians then we have one level of safety. But the second someone works out who the kid’s parents are I break the whole thing.

    • Uncle Ilya Kuriakin says:

      Child abuse very commonly (almost invariably) entails medical complications. It is the practice of US Child Protective Service Agencies (as in most nations) that on a case-by-case basis, the legal right of abused children to medical privacy dominates the legal right of society to know the details of the child abuse. These (hugely sobering, hugely complicated) considerations are covered in-depth in the (hugely sobering, hugely complicated) training that foster-parents receive.

  30. TMB says:

    For anti-Marxist utilitarians –

    The calculation problem applies to utilitarianism too. If we are utilitarians, and our choices are in part decided by our ethical positions (and it seems among utilitarians here, they are), then society actually consists of countless individuals trying to make impossible ethical calculations.

    It’s as if the market consisted of individual actors each of whom had to take on the role of the central planner before they could make a decision, and who had to take into consideration the decisions that the other central planners were likely to take before doing anything…

    That is, utilitarianism can never be an effective moral system for the individual, and a society made up of utilitarians would be paralysed (and wouldn’t maximise utility). But, just as with the economy and the market, maximal utility might be reached through a meta-ethical social framework that determines which sets of ethics succeed.
    But to be an individual utilitarian is like being some guy who wants to give Bill Gates more money because that is “what the market wants”. (The act of believing that the “market” should determine our (individual) expenditure destroys its effectiveness.)

    • suntzuanime says:

      That’s an interesting perspective. I don’t know that it argues against utilitarianism per se so much as it argues in favor of an extreme form of rule utilitarianism (just like capitalism is actually just communism with Chinese characteristics).

      • TMB says:

        Maybe, but I would say that an extreme form of rule utilitarianism still requires a “God” to tell us what to do in order to get over the calculation problem?

        There is something inherently unstable about a system where people derive utility from behaving in a way that is in keeping with their moral beliefs, but their moral beliefs from what is in keeping with their utility. The only way to establish it, is to take a leap of faith, either in terms of what gives us utility, or in what a moral belief/action is (and then hope for some kind of equilibrium).
        If the calculation problem for utility is real, we have to make the leap of faith in terms of what constitutes a moral action (deontology?).

        And, capitalism is communism with Chinese characteristics? Could you explain this cryptic comment!

        • Jiro says:

          It should be “socialism”, but it’s the excuse that China uses for why they call themselves Communist but are actually capitalist.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socialism_with_Chinese_characteristics

        • Nyx says:

          > And, capitalism is communism with Chinese characteristics? Could you explain this cryptic comment!

          The joke is that the United States, despite loudly identifying as capitalist and being conflated with capitalism (by both the left and right), is actually no more a capitalist country than China is a socialist country. I’d call it “capitalism with American characteristics”, personally.

    • TMB says:

      “to be an individual utilitarian is like being some guy who wants to give Bill Gates more money because that is “what the market wants”.”

      Actually, I suppose this would maximise utility, but with this system, anything would. Any information provided would become true (if we could assume that everyone shared our belief in the market as God)
      If everyone believes that jumping up and down on one leg maximises everyone else’s utility, then jumping up and down on one leg does maximise everyone’s utility (through means of the world conforming to our ethical beliefs)

    • I disagree.

      Price theory tells us that in a well functioning market system, acting in your rational self interest gives a first approximation to the utilitarian maximum. To improve on that you don’t have to solve the whole calculation problem by yourself. You can either:

      1. Work to move the structure closer to a well functioning market system–oppose price controls, for example, including minimum wage laws.

      2. Note where deviations from that first approximation can be expected to occur. One obvious one is that marginal utility of income is different for different people, so outcomes that maximize value (measured by how many dollars individuals would pay to get or avoid an outcome) imperfectly maximize utility. It follows that giving money to very poor people may well increase total utility.

      Another is that some things you might be able to produce have large positive or negative externalities, so you can come closer to maximizing utility by producing more of the former and less of the latter than a simple profit maximizing calculation would suggest.

      None of this will tell you what choices would maximize total utility, but these approaches do signal ways of increasing it.

      The first step being, of course, to learn economics.

      • TMB says:

        It depends on how much marginal utility people can derive from utilitarian behaviour – if I was the only utilitarian, and everyone else was just happy stuffing their face with chocolate bars, it’d be fairly clear what I should do.
        If everyone else is a utilitarian (and basic wants satisfied) becomes less clear.

        So, I suppose, in practical terms, you are right, because most people are not utilitarians.

        Should I say that there is nothing wrong with individual utilitarianism, but the more widespread it becomes, the less it makes sense? Like if 95% of the stock exchange was owned by tracker funds – it might destroy the message provided by the market.

  31. Murphy says:

    Re: the “cute story about an FDA bureaucrat” weakman.

    There are apparently places in the US where in order to decrease accidents and prevent traffic jams at rushhour cop cars will drive three-abreast on the highway at exactly the speed limit.

    I’ll see if I can find the article.

    Traffic jams ahead of them dissolve by the time they reach them, speed variance drops through the floor and average speeds go way up because people aren’t dodging in and out of lanes like jackasses.

    His problem wasn’t going the speed limit. The problem was that he didn’t have 2 more friends doing the same thing next to him which would have improved things for everyone.

    Though i’ve talked before about how you can get good results with either heavy or light regulation but horrible fuckups if you don’t go all out with one solution properly.

    Also, re the “Price dikes” article. The people living behind literal dikes for centuries are a testament to the fact that it can be worth the effort but if you half-arse it and leave holes then you get the worst of both worlds, both the cost of the dikes and wet feet.

    • Murphy says:

      To add some notes on the FDA guy since the article makes it sound like he never approved any drug. His career in the FDA was quite a bit longer:

      “Dr. Nestor was, among other things, a colleague and supporter of Frances Kelsey in the 1960s when she was reviewing the drug thalidomide”

      He was a prolific whistleblower and publicised a number of scandals.

      5 years after he was ousted he recieved a public apology and was reinstated because it turned out he’d been correct in his choices of what drugs tobe skeptical about.

      So remember everyone: if you see an evolutionist remember that he thinks your grandaddy was a monkey, point and laugh and say “evolutionist really are that stupid.”

      If you meet someone who thinks actually doing proper safety testing is important then remember: he probably drives 55. Point and laugh while thinking “pro safety testing people really are that stupid.”

      Remember: actually checking whether a drug is safe and actually works is nothing more than a “ritual of putting a zillion dollars into a big pile, then burning it as a sacrifice to the Bureaucracy Gods.” Point and laugh at anyone who argues in favor of proper safety testing.

      • J Mann says:

        Nestor was also an early adopter of some currently popular ideas. Here he is on the experience of seeing immigrants working in restaurants he patronizes.

        “And when I stop in fast-food restaurants, I’m horrified by what I see. They’ve got so many of these immigrants from foreign countries, many of them illegal so they’ve never had a physical exam. I see them with infections, rashes, picking up the plastic forks by the business end, picking up the cups”

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @Murphy:

        5 years after he was ousted he [received] a public apology and was reinstated because it turned out he’d been correct in his choices of what drugs to be skeptical about.

        Are you sure you don’t mean “correct in ONE OF his choices of what drugs to be skeptical about”? Does there exist somewhere a list and assessment of all the drugs he blocked during four years of not approving any at all? (The WaPo article only lists two specific drugs, one of which he wasn’t the investigator for.)

        On a slight tangent, it’s weird to see someone simultaneously (implicitly) praising the importance of the FDA while praising an FDA employee who was “a prolific whistleblower and publicised a number of scandals”. The Nestor saga seems to suggest drug approval depends mainly on political machinations, not science.

        I mean, if the FDA approval process consists of a fight between cranky risk-averse investigators who leak information to Ralph Nader to get drugs held up versus risk-seeking companies who successfully lobby to fire investigators to get drugs released, it seems unlikely the “actually checking whether a drug is safe and actually works” part is doing all that much of the work.

        • Murphy says:

          In such a situation I’m still going to side with the people calling for more science rather than with the people saying “well if science might get ignored due to out sides actions then we might as well ignore it entirely as policy”

          It’s only a pity that such leaking wasn’t part of the official routine and there’s some noble movements in the EU to require that all information that’s submitted to the regulator should be publicly available so the worlds statisticians and scientists can examine the data.

          • DensityDuck says:

            “In such a situation I’m still going to side with the people calling for more science ”

            Well, we’re pretty sure this drug cures cancer based on the fact that it’s cured cancer in everyone who’s taken it, but…still…more science is always better, right?

          • Murphy says:

            Yep, they were all beautifully cancer-free corpses! No tumors at all when they all died from massive strokes a few months after treatment!

            it’s fantastically rare that anything actually works so clearly in a set of real patients.

            If you have a cancer treatment which is 100% effective then you can actually run surprisingly cheap trials since it’s easy to get the necessary statistical power with a tiny sample size.

            Taking 3 people with late stage cancer expected to have weeks to live and curing them totally is far easier to prove to work than a drug which you think improves average life expectancy of cancer patients with a particular cancer from 4 years to 4 years and 3 months.

            The latter is far far far more common and is hard to distinguish from a drug which simply doesn’t work without a reasonable sample size. That’s the reality.

            your views on drug trials would seem to be more influenced by Hollywood medicine than real medicine. Real medicine is rarely as showy or definitive.

      • N. Joseph Potts says:

        All that matters here is that someone with a gun (the FDA) can and does intervene when someone who wants/needs a drug(s) for himself wants to buy a drug(s) from someone who offers to sell them to him.

        If there were no FDA (nor state/federal prescription laws), chicanery, waste, disappointment and tragedy would ensue, much as they do now. Voluntary (no guns) institutions would be erected to provide various levels and kinds of assurance to people (like me) who would want various assurances of safety, efficacy, whatever. Chicanery, waste, disappointment and tragedy would continue, possibly at a reduced level, almost certainly more-cheaply, and possibly reshaped somewhat toward people willing to sustain risks in their personal searches for cures or relief.

        Guns would not be used. Nor taxes, except possibly to pay for the purchase of drugs to be consumed, though preferably not, because taxes by definition entail the use or threat of use of guns.

    • Psmith says:

      There are apparently places in the US where in order to decrease accidents and prevent traffic jams at rushhour cop cars will drive three-abreast on the highway at exactly the speed limit.

      If this happens, it happens rarely. Much more common is for a single cop to amble in and out of traffic slightly slower than the average speed (which may still be well above the limit) in order to slow things down a touch.

      • JayT says:

        In L.A. I often see one cop with his sirens on weaving between all the lanes to slow down traffic.

        • John Schilling says:

          That’s a “traffic break” and is meant to completely clear a stretch of road of all traffic for a minute or so to e.g. safely move a stalled car to the shoulder. Or sometimes as a precursor to a complete roadblock. Not the same thing that Murphy and Psmith are talking about, which is meant to persistently reduce the speed of otherwise-normal traffic.

          • JayT says:

            I’ve There have been times when I’ve seen cops just slows the traffic down a bit and then exits the highway. No accident or stalled car to be seen. Perhaps it’s just gone by the time I get to the problem area, but my understanding has always been that they will do that just to slow down the traffic a bit.

    • J Mann says:

      IIUC, the optimal speed to avoid jams isn’t really based on the speed limit, and it’s not a constant. Basically, if your goal is maximum throughput, you want the fastest speed that allows room for breaking without jamming, so it’s car lengths to the next car as a function of speed.

      So normally, this guy would be slowing down traffic and risking accidents by forcing people to pass on the right,* sometimes he would be performing a helpful function by slowing down traffic to the optimal speed to avoid an incipient jam, and sometimes he would be driving too fast for traffic conditions.

      http://www.wsj.com/articles/traffic-engineers-say-slowing-down-will-get-you-through-a-jam-faster-1415386073

      * Yes, he’s obeying the law and they aren’t.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        > Yes, he’s obeying the law and they aren’t.

        IIRC most states have laws about going too slowly in the left or not passing in the left lane.

        • Murphy says:

          Though in his case he talked to the police first to confirm whether he was breaking any rules in that state.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Maybe back then the law was different. Either way, he was clearly a tremendous asshole, and describing him as “everything wrong with government regulations” would not be too far off the mark.

  32. comcomcom says:

    UPAPYPOPEPIPEN

    • Gazeboist says:

      I can’t report a comment like this. It’s too perfect.

      • TMB says:

        I don’t get it.

        • Gazeboist says:

          comcomcom appears to be some sort of spammer or something, though the absence of links is … confusing. I have a habit of just reporting spam on forums I frequent, so as to allow the moderators to quickly clean it up. However, I found comcomcom to be endearingly absurd, and decided not to report. I commented instead as a sort of anti-report. A moderator seeing the spam should also see replies to the spam, flagging it as amusing. Such was my thought, anyway.

          • Equinimity says:

            A forum I used to be on had a spammer problem where they’d post something autogenerated from the current posts, then come back a few days later after the mods were no longer likely to be looking to edit the post with all the spam links. It gamed the search engine rankings on the links because they were getting referred to by an active non-spam site.
            comcomcom might be getting stymied by the one hour edit limit here.

        • comcomcomcomcomcomcom says:

          I don’t want to explain the joke, but I don’t want to be branded as spammer either 🙁

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Reveal the secrets of your blank gravatar.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I wasn’t sure. I found it reminiscent of “Popen Thread” so I guessed that it was based on the thread titles (as spam or otherwise). But I can’t tell how.

            I also thought you might be a poorly-written scraper that accidentally commented some garbled string related to the thread titles, for the same reason.

  33. Kyle Strand says:

    Have Scott and/or the rest of you guys seen this? I thought it was pretty interesting, and it seems to contradict the theory that the Red Tribe is primarily fear-driven.

    https://jerclifton.com/2016/08/17/what-reality-are-trump-people-living-in/

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      For those who believe that reality is hierarchical, if two things are different that usually implies that one is better than the other.

      Genus is better than species, got it…

      You feel that calling a supporter of Drumpf what they are, is demonizing? Interesting take, that…
      My opinion won’t matter on this, because any statement I give will be seen as ‘demonization,’ apparently.

      Interesting take, that…

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        “supporter of Drumpf”

        Dead giveaway that every single thing that person has written can be safely ignored without any negative consequence. It’s like a right-winger saying “Barry Soetero.”

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Dude, that was in a *comment*!

          Later during the Second World War, however, Churchill used one aspect of Hitler’s family background against him. He would refer to the Nazi leader as Corporal Schicklgruber. Hitler’s grandmother had brought up her son, Hitler’s father, who was illegitimate. Her last name had been the comic-sounding “Schicklgruber”. Hitler’s father had changed his name when he was formally adopted by his mother’s brother-in-law, to the shorter and more anonymous “Hitler”, a different spelling of his surname “Hiedler”. Hitler told his boyhood friend Kubizek that nothing his father had done pleased him as much as changing his name[xiii].

          Churchill was not the first politician to use the name “Schicklgruber” when he wanted to ridicule Hitler, and he did so rarely, but most famously in a speech in Parliament in 1944[xiv]. As the context was a disparaging reference to Hitler’s military judgement, Churchill clearly intended to ridicule Hitler when he used the name. He coupled the sneering mention of Hitler’s last name with a reference to the commander in chief of the German armed forces, as a “Corporal”. In fact, Churchill may have over-promoted Hitler by referring to him as a Corporal – at least one authority argues that the rank which he held for the entire First World War, Gefreiter, is more aptly translated as “Private”[xv].

    • TheAncientGeek says:

      Yes, that was pretty interesting.

  34. Anonymous Colin says:

    Repeating this from the last mini-OT, where it got no love.

    ###

    Any reading recommendations on the subject of criminology and experimental design for crime policy interventions?

    I have a stats/econ background. I want to know more about how crime policy is (or isn’t) trialled. I know what the word “criminology” means, but that’s about it.

    • Phil says:

      I don’t have any good recommendations, but that might be a good question to ask in an email to the Freakanomics author

      I know he’s done a fair amount of work at the intersection of economics and crime policy/criminology

      can be found here http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/

    • Psmith says:

      If you haven’t read Mark Kleiman’s When Brute Force Fails, it might be a good place to start. And its reference list.

    • Corey says:

      These dudes at UChicago might have something interesting.

      • LHN says:

        Maybe, though promising pilot projects often don’t scale in the absence of the original, highly-motivated investigators and the Hawthorne Effect, and effects often don’t persist once the intervention is over.

        (Doesn’t mean it’s not worth investigating. But it’s sort of like drug testing– you have to try promising ideas to make any sort of progress, but most of the candidates that pass one testing stage are going to fail the next.)

  35. Brian Slesinsky says:

    Katya’s metaphor of the “natural” price being like sea level doesn’t work for me – this makes price levels seem far too objective when many of the rules are made up.

    I think a better metaphor might be game balance. Markets are at least partially artificial constructs, just like games are. But when you decide on the rules of a game, you don’t get to decide for the players what their best strategy will be. They’re going to figure that out on their own. The strategies that work are a consequence of the game rules (and physics and biology, for a sport), but they can be very hard to discover without thorough testing for exploits – you need good beta testers, and even then the game might require patches if nobody hit on the best strategy during the beta period. This can be annoying, but a patch might still be easier than starting over with a new set of rules (with their own unanticipated exploits).

    Another analogy is to mathematics. This gets into deep philosophical waters, but in math you can pick your axioms and rules of inference, but you have no control over which theorems follow from them – the consequences are discovered, not created.

    But mathematics and games are both deliberately simplified systems. The actual economy is a very large, interconnected network of games where some rules are natural (what works, scientifically), some are cultural (what people want) and other rules are artificial (market rules). Even the people making some of the rules don’t know all the rules. So, we shouldn’t be surprised at unanticipated exploits, but we still shouldn’t confuse markets for being mostly natural like sea level.

    (Holding back the sea is a simpler problem – the Dutch are pretty successful at this and, while it’s very impressive, it’s not that hard to understand how they do it.)

  36. Archie says:

    So, I have this issue that’s been tormenting me inside for a long time.

    I’ve been with my girlfriend Betty for almost three years now. I love Betty very much. She’s incredibly emotionally intelligent and kind without being a doormat, and being with her makes me strive, successfully, to be a kinder person. She’s very intelligent, unpretentious, and funny, and I usually feel happy and relaxed when we spend time together. She always knows how to make me laugh, and how to make me feel appreciated. I trust her completely, and I believe that the two of us can talk through just about any conflict without losing compassion for each other. I find her very attractive (to the point that when we met, I literally couldn’t stop looking at her), she has a high sex drive, and we have really enjoyable (albeit somewhat vanilla) sex almost every day. We share a dark and absurd sense of humor and a fondness for classic literature and schlock TV. Our relationship grew from a chance meeting and a few awkward dates into something strong and secure, a constant source of comfort and joy. I was almost certain that I wanted to spend my whole life with her, modulo some concerns about difficulty finding long-term jobs together.

    This was shaken somewhat when I got an e-mail last year from an ex of mine, Veronica, telling me about how, when she saw Hamilton on Broadway, she thought about how much she thought that I would love it, and how sad it was that we were no longer on speaking terms. She implored me to reach out to her again.

    My history with Veronica is thorny. She and I first came to know each other as online correspondents. We each found the other intellectually exciting. Veronica had an all-encompassing curiosity, a remarkable aptitude for asking penetrating questions, and an ever-eager readiness to troll and provoke for the sake of exploring new arguments. She pushed me to be a sharper thinker and writer. The rest of her was two-edged. She was passionate and proud. She loved fiercely, but treated anybody who disappointed her, or who she feared would disappoint her (I fell into both categories at times) with remarkable coldness and cruelty. We fell passionately in love, each declaring the other the love of our life, but our relationship’s material future was uncertain, which made both of us anxious and tense. During an interval when we lived together, we fucked every day and fought just as frequently. She frequently turned to different forms of emotional abuse, including pretending not to know me in public, belittling me with comparisons to men she had crushed on in the past, and threatening our relationship with mock executions. My goodwill frayed, and when fate took us to different places, I found that it ebbed completely. I ended our relationship, and fended off any nostalgia for it with anger.

    But when I got that e-mail, I remembered some of those good times, and decided that I wanted to be magnanimous. So I started another conversation with Veronica. She seemed kinder and wiser, regretting her past cruel, imperious manner, acknowledging that her past behaviors were deeply hurtful, and discussing the fears and pathologies that drove them. Our conversations recovered some of the playful energy they had before. We found some of our old feelings for each other stirring. At this point, we both decided that our conversations were drifting into potentially unethical territory; I told Betty about what had happened and cut off contact with Veronica again.

    I’m fairly sure that I made the right choice. I’m very much in love with Betty, and I’ve been much happier with her than I was with Veronica. My trust in Veronica has some really sharp limits, and our actual relationship experience was terrible in some exceptional ways; a second iteration almost certainly wouldn’t be like my old fantasies of how things would work out between us. Usually, when I’m this certain I’ve made the right decision, I can easily move forward without regret. But I haven’t had that piece of mind this time. Often, especially before I go to sleep at night, I find myself plagued with the thought that I made the wrong choice.

    I want to ask you two things:

    a: Why is it that I can’t stop thinking about this?

    and

    b: How do I make it stop?

    • Jiro says:

      I honestly can’t tell if this is a joke or not.

      • Finger says:

        Google “archie betty veronica” for context

        • Liskantope says:

          Well, that doesn’t make the post a joke on the whole. It only means that “Archie” made a humorous choice of pseudonyms for himself and these two women in his life.

          Unless the whole thing is essentially a retelling of an Archie story-arc. Not having read any Archie, I have no idea whether this could be the case, but I’m starting to wonder…

          • Jiro says:

            Right, that’s the problem. He’s using those names, but it doesn’t sound like he’s actually talking about Archie characters. So I have no way to know whether this is a poorly executed joke about Archie characters, or an actual post using pseudonyms.

    • Skef says:

      Have you sent this to “Ask Polly?” Seems like her bailiwick.

      I’m going to ask what sounds like, and may be, a shitty question. But it may also be relevant to what you’re asking and I’m going to assume you want to move towards an answer.

      What do you love about Betty that isn’t directly related to how she makes your life better?

      • Archie says:

        No, this question is fair and relevant.

        A few examples:

        1: Betty is a gifted performer, but she’s kind of shy and only rarely shows off her talents– maybe just a few times a year. So, her skill in this area doesn’t really make any difference in my life, but the fact that she has it makes me love her more. I just find it really appealing that the gift is there, even if it only rarely shows up.

        2: Betty is really supportive to her friends and really affectionate with animals. Seeing both of those things in action melts my heart.

        3: We share some similar background traumas. In practice, I guess that it makes it easier for us to relate, but even before I knew that would be the case, I immediately felt more empathy and affection for her.

        4: Betty’s scholarly output is a really delightful mix of careful historically-oriented literary scholarship and erudite trolling. I find this really appealing, and probably still would if somehow I was magically prevented from ever reading any of it. (It’s often really, really funny if you have the right sort of background to get the jokes.)

        I think that this question might explain some of my anxiety, though. A lot of Betty’s qualities which I immediately found attractive even before they really became relevant to my life– her intelligence, her sharp sense of humor, her kindness, her physical beauty– also play a role in our relationship being good for my well-being on a day-to-day level. This makes it easier for our relationship to feel utilitarian in a way that feels kind of unromantic. I think that maybe abstracting away from my feelings and thinking about what I admire in Betty on a personal-qualities level might be really helpful. Thank you.

        Er, is that the line of thinking you were going for?

        • Skef says:

          It answers my question.

          One factor — not the only one, and not one that always works — that can stop the sort of thoughts you’re having is the relief of having not harmed (or harmed too much) someone you’re close to. I don’t get the sense that you think Veronica’s well-being is currently your responsibility (and it isn’t), but from what you’ve said I also get a “this is mutually beneficial for now” vibe about your relationship with Betty that maybe doesn’t feel like a strong commitment on your part. Could Veronica’s interloping just be a symbol for you of your uncertainty of where things are going? Was that maybe something you were putting aside while there was no reason to consider leaving?

          • Archie says:

            My relationship with Betty is not just utilitarian, and in the past, I’ve endured significant hardships, like spending significant amounts of time apart while I’m on on research trips, to preserve it, even in the face of some significant temptation to cheat. I’ve had disposable relationships in the past, but this isn’t one of them. (I wouldn’t have cheated in the past– it’s against my code– but I would have broken up when I left for the trip.)

            I maybe did have some existing anxieties, though– this has been my first relationship that’s lasted longer than a year, and I suspect that some commitment anxiety is natural. This incident might have awakened that.

          • Skef says:

            Given all you’ve said, then, my advice on your second question is to put more effort and creative thinking into contributing positively to Betty’s life for a while. “More effort” is not meant to imply you’re not doing that now, just do some more of it. Give yourself a time-span for the extra effort because motivation is harder with things that are open-ended. If you feel like your current level is about right, fake it till you make it. I’m not suggesting this as one-size-fits-all relationship advice; the idea is that in this situation you may wind up playing the good kind of trick on yourself.

    • Sandy says:

      Search for a rich redhead who just moved into town and dump the other two.

    • Nelshoy says:

      You’re thinking about Veronica non-stop? Betty sounds like the best of women, don’t throw away your shot with her. If she won’t be enough I’m not sure you’ll ever be satisfied. Veronica has her eyes on you, thinking you’ll be back with her like before. If you’re helpless and don’t know how to say no to this, you’ll end up alone without a pot to piss in. You’re feeling outgunned, but it will be enough to stay alive. Take a break. In a couple months, your world will have turned upside down and you’ll be asking yourself “What did I miss earlier?”. You’ve just got to wait for it, you fat motherfucker. Blow us all away.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      You can’t stop thinking about it because it’s natural to wonder about what could be or could have been with someone for whom you feel or felt love. What happened was something like a breakup, and it’s normal to have all kinds of distressing thoughts afterwards. You made the right choice, but there’s a “grass is greener” kind of effect that can be quite strong with relationships. You needn’t feel guilty about that.

      As for what will make it stop, I honestly can’t say. You don’t say how long ago this was. These kinds of feelings, like the pain after a breakup, tend to get better with time. I don’t know of any particularly effective way of preventing them from coming up – it’s best to allow those thoughts to occur, acknowledge that you’re having them and what they are, and then do your best to set them aside, like you would feelings of unjustified anger. If it has been a very long time and the feelings are preventing you from sleeping or otherwise making a serious dent in your ability to enjoy your life, you might consider talking to a therapist.

    • Finger says:

      When I can’t stop thinking about a woman, it’s usually because there’s some kind of interesting ambiguity associated with my relationship with her. I try not to confuse that with feelings of actual attraction or regard.

      Based on the info you shared, I would stick with Betty 100%. I’m super envious of the relationship you described.

      Some tips that may or may not work for you:

      * Get out a piece of paper and systematically think through all your thoughts related to this issue. Is there a universe in which ditching Betty is the right move? Is there a way to quickly experimentally determine whether you live in that universe? Try to have your uncertainty be less nebulous. Attempt a “proof by cases” that this is the right choice. But don’t make it motivated reasoning… genuinely explore the possibility that Veronica is the right person for you. It may be that parts of your brain are trying to tell you things that you aren’t listening to. If you listen to those things and write them out, you’ll be able to better evaluate them and (most likely) explain to your brain why the logic is invalid.

      * Don’t assign significance to the fact that you’re thinking of Veronica frequently. This is not an indicator that she’s the one for you. It’s an indicator that your brain is in a feedback loop where uncertainty makes the topic of Veronica interesting, which makes you think about it more, which increases your attraction to Veronica (since we’re attracted to those who are familiar–for men especially, just having a woman cognitively available is going to cause your brain to play-act that you are deeply in love with her so you can better put the moves on her), which makes the topic of Veronica more interesting because ZOMG maybe you really love her! When thoughts of Veronica arise, don’t attempt to suppress them; reframe them so they’re no longer interesting. When Veronica-related thoughts are no longer interesting, your brain won’t feel the need to constantly bring them to your attention. See http://lesswrong.com/lw/f5f/how_to_deal_with_depression_the_meta_layers/

      * This could be a good time to try out a meditation practice for a while.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Assuming this is real,

      a: because it is totally normal to think about the path not taken. People who have had long and happy marriages will still think “what would have happened if I had married my high-school sweetheart” or whatever.

      b: are you the sort of person who ordinarily obsesses over things? If not, it will go away with time, hopefully. But this is really the number one classic “cannot stop thinking about it” topic”.

    • Anonymous says:

      b: have children

    • Urstoff says:

      a. grass is always greener

      b. stop viewing life as an optimization problem; it’s a satisficing problem

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you think you could be friends with Veronica, if she came into your life again? If not, if the primary driver for your relationship with her is passion, then what else is there for you if the two of you get back together again? Have you anything to build on other than “at least the sex isn’t vanilla” (pardon the reference but I was struck by how you contrasted your sexual experiences with Veronica and with Betty).

      I’m not going to say “Stick with Betty, she’s plainly the one for you!” because she may not be. But you do mention that she’s your first long-term relationship – is part of the attraction with Veronica the idea that it would be limited, that the two of you probably would break up again, that there is no feeling of being tied-down or committed with her, so you could enjoy the excitement and melodrama with the option to get out if it got too intense, just like last time?

      In other words, that Veronica is not remotely a long-term prospect and so safe to fantasise about? Because I think there may be an element of fantasy here; we always heighten the good parts and gloss over the dull or bad parts of the past, even if the ‘good’ parts involved a lot of tension and ferocity. You acknowledge that if you did get back with Veronica, it would probably not be like your fantasies, but of course being human, we all like to think “If only -” and “the grass is always greener on the other side of the hill”.

      Veronica sounds as if she challenged and pushed you in a way that Betty does not, and that you enjoyed that. Do you feel a little too safe and comfortable with Betty? Do you want her maybe to push you more, be less nice and more challenging?

      Finally, this decision is not yours alone. Perhaps Betty may decide this is not the permanent relationship she wants and she will end it; perhaps you will. Even if Veronica is not on the scene, this may still happen. I would say don’t throw away what you have for the sake of “might-have-beens”, but also don’t settle for “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. Be with Betty because you want to be with her, because you want and value her, not because “well, she’s better for me than my last girlfriend”.

  37. cassander says:

    My ur-theory of american elections.

    For a while now I’ve held that the most basic divide in american politics is between those who think that america is the shining city on a hill and that their duty is to defend it, and those that think america can be that city and that their job is to build it. There is substantial overlap here between red and blue tribe, of course, but it’s by no means total. Because the overlap is not total, American presidential politics is largely pulling on one or both of these heart strings in the context of each parties’ more or less fixed set of more concrete interests. Presidents that can do both (Reagan) succeed enormously. Those that can do one well but not both (Bush, Obama) might succeed but will always be controversial. Those that do neither well, (Kerry, Carter) go down in ignominious defeat.

    Mapped to this election, I think this model explains a lot. Trump is an absurdity, but he’s the only candidate in the race that has managed to consistently tug both strings. “Make America Great Again” is a genius slogan, like “It’s Morning in America” it simultaneously pulls on both strings while offending neither, and it’s representative of trump’s whole message, consciously or not. He’s constantly saying something to the effect of “we’re getting our asses kicked, and I’m going to fix it”. How he plans to do that is rarely made clear, but that doesn’t matter, because the message speaks to both those who are eager to leap to the defense of existing america and those excited about rebuilding it. That trump was able to get the nomination, and that the race is as close as it is given trump’s massive monetary, personal, and organizational handicaps is testament to how powerful getting this rhetoric right is.

    The model also explains Hillary’s failure in 2008 and her small lead over trump now. The idea that a freshman senator could beat hillary for the nomination was absurd, but Obama has a taste for the sort of soaring rhetoric that’s red meat for the builders. He served it up in giant dollops, and democratic primary goers, who are mostly builders, gobbled it up. Sanders had a little bit of both, but he was always much better at the angry grandpa bit, which appealed to defenders, which explains his narrow but passionate support. Hillary, of course, is not much good at either. She’s clearly a builder at heart, she rarely utters anything defender, but for whatever reason, she can’t sell it to crowds.

    Thoughts?

    • Anonymous says:

      Trump stole “Make America Great Again” from Reagan.

    • rubberduck says:

      The most elegant summation I’ve heard of conservatism and liberalism (in the US politics sense) was something like, “Conservatives want to make sure we hold onto what makes our country great. Liberals want to change the problems holding us back from being great.” It sounds pretty close to what you are saying.

      I think it is a convenient framework but the way you phrase it makes people’s political opinions sound overly rosy. I think many (on both sides) vote and think based on fear or anger, rather than their ideals of what America should be.

    • Lemminkainen says:

      I think that this theory is a bit less interesting, and also pretty clearly wrong when you strip it of its symbolic trappings. Basically, you’re arguing that Americans can be either for or against the status quo. This is trivially true. But most people’s actual views are more fine-grained than that– they often like the status quo on some issues, and want to remake the world in others. This actually accurately describes almost all Americans except the most extreme radicals and reactionaries.

      • cassander says:

        Interesting. So I assumed that this was a peculiarly American phenomenon, but you might be correct that it is more fundamental. That said, it’s not just conservative vs. radical (status quo vs. change)

        Defenders aren’t just pro status quo, builders pro change. it’s not about whether given policy proposals are status quo or doing something new, it’s about the reasoning behind the policies and the way they’re framed. the point is that defenders will accept big changes if they’re seen as necessary for defense, and builders accept the status quo if it can be as somehow building.

        Just look at how incensed the US (or at least people on facebook) got about the brexit. People who I never post things about foreign policy were bewailing the vote. Why? Because in this case, the status quo was seen as building something they found desirable. Or compare the bush administration’s supporters’ rhetoric on Iraq to the liberal internationalism of the 90s. Both sides endorsed very similar policies, but in strikingly different language and with strikingly different reasoning.

      • For a particularly striking case, note that AGW concern and environmentalism more generally embody the conservative assumption that change is presumptively bad–and are associated with the left.

        • Maware says:

          I’d think it’s more the worry about the solutions to AGW.

          I mean, if the solution is just we need to make an AGW NASA, conservatives would probably not care, but there’s the fear that liberals will use AGW to really cement particular policies. It’s not helped by them saying people should have less children.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          There are more and less sophisticated versions of the argument, as with most things. One of the more sophisticated versions is that GW would be particularly bad for already-poor countries around the equator, even if it is neutral or good for already-rich countries elsewhere. That makes it rather clear why attitudes to GW tend to line up along left-right lines, even outside the US, in countries where the conspiracy-theoretic objection is considered laughable.

          Something the smarter GW opponents should be doing is saying is “you know the mass migration we’ve got a the moment? Do you want that multiplied by 10?”

    • gbdub says:

      Honestly Obama always struck me as a man that believes America isn’t particularly exceptional, and the world would be a better place if we stopped acting like we were.

      Both of your proposed groupings presuppose a belief in American exceptionalism – but I believe there is a third contingent that believes America is not a “shining beacon on the hill” and should not aspire to be because the best world is one of a global community of equals.

      • brad says:

        I think you need to draw a distinction between exceptional as a matter of fact and exceptional in a metaphysical destiny kind of way.

        In any group of people someone is going to be tallest or fattest or whatever. Maybe some groups will have statistical outliers that are much taller or fatter. But that’s not the kind of “exceptional” that’s connotated by American exceptionalism.

        • Gbdub says:

          I do draw that distinction. Obama seems fine with the “taller and fatter” exceptionalism of America, much less so with the “beacon on a hill” type exceptionalism. The latter was what I was referring to.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        There’s Americans who don’t think America is special? Really?

      • cassander says:

        I would tend to agree with you, but just look at his nomination speech.

        “Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.”

        Pure, unadulterated red meat for the builders. If he’s not a true believer, then his writers certainly are, and he just has a penchant for the sort of rhetoric they love for some other reason.

    • Aegeus says:

      I don’t think that theory holds up in practice that well. During the DNC, a lot of establishment Republicans commented that Hillary was stealing everything the Republican Party normally pushes – American exceptionalism, support for the troops, support for the constitution, etc. Lots of “defender” rhetoric.

      And Trump’s “defender” rhetoric was similarly slim. “We’re getting our asses kicked” isn’t a defender message. Especially since it’s not just “We’re getting our asses kicked but we’re still great,” but rather “The foreign hordes are within our walls, looting and pillaging!” That’s “rebuilder” messaging.

      Also, I think Sanders and Obama attracted the same crowd in the primary. It doesn’t really make sense that they’d do that with opposing rhetoric. And Obama also won the general, which means he had a much broader appeal than just the Democratic base. Which by your theory would mean he must be pretty good at “defender” rhetoric as well.

      • cassander says:

        >American exceptionalism, support for the troops, support for the constitution, etc. Lots of “defender” rhetoric.

        I think she tried, but I think it rang hollow because A, she doesn’t buy into it, B, neither do the people who write for her, C, she lacks the charisma to sell it without belief, and D, she’s Hillary Clinton, she’s spent 20 years pissing off red tribe so much that they’d rather chew of their own arms than vote for her.

        >Also, I think Sanders and Obama attracted the same crowd in the primary. It doesn’t really make sense that they’d do that with opposing rhetoric

        Given that sanders didn’t win and obama did, they clearly didn’t capture exactly the same crowd. I don’t seem to remember a lot of comments about obama-bros from 2008. And Obama obviously got the black vote, bernie manifestly did not. They both got anti-hillary people sure, but I think that’s about it.

        >hich by your theory would mean he must be pretty good at “defender” rhetoric as well.

        I would never claim that this rhetoric was the only thing that mattered, but he ran against people that weren’t much good at either style.

  38. Wrong Species says:

    Quick poll: can computers be conscious? You don’t need to elaborate or have a strong opinion. Any answer is fine.

  39. Me: “Hey, I just learned something really interesting about occultism and intelligence services during the lead-up to WWI!”

    Friend: “What?”

    Me: “Well, you know how mysticism and seances and stuff were big deals back then?”

    Friend: “Yes?”

    Me: “Well, there was one guy who went around Austria, and was widely considered to be a spy for the British. He got stopped and searched a lot, and since he had all kinds of crazy supplies, it always took a while and was a big production. But that was the point! The idea was that he’d go somewhere, be seen, be searched yet again, do his shows, and leave, and the actual spies would note his passing and take it as a pre-arranged signal, without ever actually meeting him or interacting with him in any way.”

    Friend: “That’s…convoluted but clever.”

    Me: “Yeah! It turns out the medium was the message!”

    Friend: “We are no longer friends.”

  40. VK says:

    I was reading an article about GiveDirectly facing challenges with its basic income experiment – many of the intended recipients are refusing cash transfers, out of either skepticism or fear of being taken advantage of. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be living your normal, day-to-day life, and then learn that some far-off foreigner wants to give you enough money to live without working… Perhaps a Nigerian prince who would like help moving his fortune to the United States?

    In all seriousness, I wonder how they will deal with this problem – how can they build trust within the community that they will still be there in 10 years, and that there are no catches?

    • pku says:

      How is this possible? Aren’t there enough charities working in Africa that they’d at least be familiar with the concept?

      • suntzuanime says:

        I believe it was one village where a particular rumor spread about their particular program.

      • Deiseach says:

        Would you believe some guy who walked up to you in the street, said he was working for a charity, and promised to give you a couple of hundred dollars a week for ten years for absolutely nothing, no there’s no catch, honest?

        I don’t think the people in Africa being trialled on this are being stupid or ungrateful, they’re showing admirable common sense. Haven’t we all been told there is no such thing as a free lunch and money doesn’t grow on trees?

        And how many “sponsor a child” charities saw people sign up to support kids, then drop out after a couple of years? I have no idea, but there must be some, and that would also make people give less credence to “some Western guy has promised to support you for years”.

        • LHN says:

          Sure. Even leaving aside spam which is mostly filtered, my answering machine regularly gets calls telling me I’ve won a free vacation (almost certainly a time share sales pitch) or some other too good to be true offer.

          I occasionally muse on some philanthropist at the other end mystified that they’re unable to give away free trips to Disney World or cruises or whatever. But I don’t regard it as likely enough to pursue the question. (I idly wonder what bona fides or signals it would take to convince me to at least try to check it out.) I don’t really blame people in another culture for likewise regarding “Free Money!” as more likely to be a scam than a genuine offer.

        • Vaniver says:

          Would you believe some guy who walked up to you in the street, said he was working for a charity, and promised to give you a couple of hundred dollars a week for ten years for absolutely nothing, no there’s no catch, honest?

          A tenuously related version of this happened to me, and there in fact was not a catch. (It helped that it was because I was affiliated with the charity he was interested in.)

          But this calls to mind someone else who apparently had only every come across pranked money on the street (for example, a dollar bill with excrement smeared in the middle).

    • nelshoy says:

      Explain it to them? Bring some pictures.

      GiveDirectly is a pretty simple concept. Every culture on earth has communal sharing. Also, they aren’t being asked for a down payment like prince Abali, they are just giving them money. I don’t imagine you’d have to convince more than a year people in a community. Seeing your neighbor get free cash no strings attached for a few months is probably mighty convincing.

      • Gazeboist says:

        As I recall the suspicion is that the money will not be (could not be!) as reliable as they (Give Directly) say it will be. This then transitions into the suspicion that the money, if it is actually reliable, is in some way unsavory. Otherwise why would they be giving it to us? (say the intended recipients)

      • Loquat says:

        There’s also suspicion that the money is associated with cults or devil worship, or otherwise will eventually have a price even if it initially seems like the people who accept are just getting free money. Because why would a charity give a year’s worth of income to everyone, no strings attached, including the people that aren’t poor by local standards? You have to admit, it’s kind of a weird concept if you’ve never heard of Basic Income before.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Ever hear the line “Beware Romulans Jews Nigereans bearing gifts”?