OT59: Comment Sutra

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. Comment of the week is JT on presidential life expectancy.

2. Some SSC readers at Princeton encourage you to check out their upcoming Envision Conference on futurology and far-future tech, this December 2-4. Speakers will include Robin Hanson, Anders Sandberg, Andrew Critch, etc, etc, etc. Registration is free but the deadline is October 1, so apply now if you’re interested.

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1,618 Responses to OT59: Comment Sutra

  1. Scott says:

    I’m looking for a post in the wider lesswrong-blog-o-sphere that I remember reading a while ago and would appreciate any help in tracking it down.

    The gist of it was that the bar for people to receive government grants to conduct various experiments and projects in education/healthcare/social services/etc. was very low. For example, many educational grants measure the success of their computer-upgrade program not by positive effect on the students, but just by whether they actually bought computers at all and brought them into schools.

    It then urged members of the wider rationality community to look into this as an alternative to a standard job, because (a) the government wants to give out this money for use, (b) you don’t have to sacrifice and can pay yourself an upper-middle class salary, and (c) pretty much anything can do good better than most of what’s going on right now.

    Does this ring a bell to anyone?

    • bluto says:

      I wonder what their internet usage looked like before and after the change.

      • I wondered why they didn’t add an afternoon shift for better customer service.

      • Matt M says:

        This is probably relevant. Based on my experience in corporate America, the main difference between this company and others is probably just that these people work for five hours and then go home, while others have you work for five and spend three dicking around watching Youtube videos or checking your fantasy football team or whatever.

        • Corey says:

          Indeed, any website operator will tell you traffic is way higher during work days/hours. I only post here from work; no way I’d have this kind of free time at home.

        • John Schilling says:

          In my experience, “work for five and spend three dicking around on the Internet” usually means two hours work, one hour Youtube, two hours work, one hour fantasy football, one hour work, one hour Slate Star Codex, or something like that. Not five consecutive hours of work. The natural tendency will be for a five-hour workday to be two hours work, one hour youtube, one and a half hours work, anything I start now won’t get done so there’s probably something interesting on SSC, so net three-and-a-half hours of work.

          It is not clear that people who can deliver X units of productivity in five hours spread over an eight-hour period will deliver the same X units of productivity in five consecutive hours. It is also not clear that the employment regime that insists and enforces there not be half an hour of non-productive web-browsing on company time ever is preferable to the one that insists three hours of my daily non-productive web-browsing be done in their office rather than at home.

          So I’m betting this scheme isn’t really an improvement for either party, but I could be convinced.

          • Gazeboist says:

            It looks like there were a few extra things going on here:

            1) The company improved their automation, reducing the amount of work that actually needed to be done.

            2) The rule seems to have applied to customer service reps, retail workers, and factory workers. None of these people were sitting at a desk with a project they were working on; the first two groups are “on call”, so their hours were mostly free-unless-called-upon already, and the last group is doing physical production the whole time. It’s not clear that the change applied to anyone not being paid by the hour (or that the company has any salaried employees except at the very top).

            3) They added a profit sharing program as well, which probably improved worker motivation.

    • moridinamael says:

      Casual Googling suggests that the average corporate employee does about 2.5 hours of actual productive work per day, so giving a generous 5 hours for people to get settled in, have meetings, etc. seems reasonable.

      I am always highly suspicious of people who claim to regularly work more than 8 hours a day. I feel like they must be using a different definition of “work”. Even when I was working on my PhD I was probably “at the office” 12 hours a day but the vast majority of that consisted of long coffee breaks and wasting time.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        Would you count someone waiting for a reaction to run or code to compile as working? Because if not you have a problem: you can’t just compress a “2.5 hour” workday down to an afternoon if the nature of the work demands long waiting times between tasks.

        I’ve never worked in an office myself but I’d guess that there’s a least some element of “I finished my part of the task, let’s see how long it will take before I get the things I need for the next step.”

        • Deiseach says:

          I’ve never worked in an office myself but I’d guess that there’s a least some element of “I finished my part of the task, let’s see how long it will take before I get the things I need for the next step.”

          It depends; some days (when there are returns that need to be done, or near the end of the month, or the days you know are going to be Busy Days because this is the week before the monthly meeting and you have to pull all the figures and have them updated) you could work as long as “how long is a piece of string”, other days you get all your stuff done and you’re sitting around wasting time for the last half an hour because you can’t knock off early because your hours are from A to B and it’s not B yet (it’s stupid, but when you have a clocking-in system, that’s what happens).

          And you’re right about waiting to do the next step, though generally it’s “the files are all down in our City office and they haven’t sent them back up yet so I can’t finish processing them until I get them, which I would have done if I only had the damn files on my desk instead of thirty miles away” 🙂

        • Rosemary7391 says:

          If the tasks are all linear then the waiting does become unavoidable. That seems unlikely though. I have to wait for code to run; I don’t stop working, I do something else in the meantime. Frequently I let code run overnight so I have the results to look at first thing in the morning, although that tends to be with things that take a few hours anyway. I guess experimental work might be more linear, but there’s still scope for doing other things in between times, including attending to another linear experiment.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            Yeah. If you’re spending more than 50% of your time waiting on your computer to do something, buy a second computer and have more than one thing to work on.

    • onyomi says:

      I definitely like this idea. Concentrated work is always better than spread-out in my experience. While working on my PhD I tried a regimen of beginning work on my dissertation at 7 and working till noon everyday with essentially no breaks to look at facebook, check e-mail, do laundry, or anything procrastinate-y other than, e. g., brew more tea and use the restroom. In exchange, I told myself I didn’t have to feel guilty about not working on my dissertation for the rest of the day, though I inevitably did do more work after noon in many cases.

      I found I generally got more done in those five concentrated hours than in my usual daily routine of “half-working, half-procrastinating 10+ hours a day.”

      I haven’t been able to keep it up, though I may attempt it again.

  2. The original Nazis used images of strength and beauty– healthy blond(e) people, eagles, a striking and memorable swastika. Neo-nazis use…. Pepe the frog. What happened?

    • Sandy says:

      The Nazis had Leni Riefenstahl. The Neo-Nazis have 4chan. There are budgetary constraints.

    • BBA says:

      Sometimes when you can’t tell whether the people you’re arguing with are trolling or sincere, it’s because they can’t tell either.

    • The Nybbler says:

      They also use Taylor Swift, but Hillary’s campaign hasn’t seen fit to take that on yet for some reason.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      Pepe the frog is used for many things. Pepe is everywhere and nowhere.


      More seriously, its just a meme used by 4chan. As such , its associated with things much more deplorable then neo-nazis. Its use is so widespread online in youth culture, that I actually find it strange that it was linked with neo-nazis.

      • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

        And HOLY SHIT its just been declared an actual hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation league.

        Ok, do neo-nazi sites *actually* use this damned frog? On reddit its just the_donald troll posts, and on less reputable sites its just used ubiquitously for everything.

        Damn, I remember that frog when he was just feels_good_man. What happened pepe?

        • hlynkacg says:

          I have no clue.

          First time I encountered him was as a recurring character in barracks graffiti circa 2007. “Sargent Pepe” wielder of the “green weenie” that fucks you 5 minutes before liberty call on a Friday afternoon. Furthermore our most prolific promulgator of Pepe art/memes was a 6″ 4′ black guy from Naw’lins, so from my perspective the whole white supremacist angle is coming out of left field.

          • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

            Feels bad man…

          • hlynkacg says:

            I understood that reference.

            You know what really feels bad? Being told Friday night you got a Saturday morning working party because some beltway panty-waste wants a photo shoot. #PFCLivesMatter #AirmanLivesMatter

        • Sandy says:

          It was the subject of a lot of 4chan memes, most of them non-political (for a long time a couple of years ago, it was used to indicate smug derision of poor taste on the Television & Film board, which led to a lot of ‘frogposters fuck off back to reddit’ ranting). Come election year, 4chan started making Trump memes with Pepe, some people on 4chan legitimately are neo-Nazis, so some of these memes spread to white nationalist sites.

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like this is too easy. Tell the alt-right “anything you use will be declared unacceptable hate speech” and they’re just going to start using things the left likes.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            shhhh, don’t interrupt them. Let’s wait until frogs, dancing, and the colour blue are all abominable hate speech.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            “Tell the alt-right “anything you use will be declared unacceptable hate speech” and they’re just going to start using things the left likes.”

            …while simultaneously laughing themselves sick at the spectacle of people clutching their pearls over a cartoon frog. This attempt to denounce Pepe is hands down the stupidest thing I have ever seen in my life. It is beyond parody.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It is beyond parody

            As I said in the previous open thread, The Onion turned into a source of sober and restrained journalism so slowly that many of it’s readers still haven’t noticed. 😉

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Tell the alt-right anything you use will be declared unacceptable hate speech and they’re just going to start using things the left likes.”

            Now I want to see “I’m With Her (arrow pointing right)” symbols for Marine Le Pen.

          • And really, why not? I’m tired of the idea what women automatically make things better.

        • Anon. says:

          Now that pepe is mainstream, le shiggy donatello must be next, right? After all, it’s such a daring synthesis.

        • Deiseach says:

          “Pepe the Frog is a huge favorite white supremacist meme,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News of the meme.

          While Pepe the Frog may not be a household name, the meme is known to members of the alt-right on the internet.

          “It’s constantly used in those circles,” Beirich said. “The white nationalists are gonna love this because they’re gonna feel like ‘yeah we’re in there with Trump, there’s Pepe the Frog.'”

          Can anybody explain to me what the hell is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing? As far as I can see, it pops up every now and again to declare some group nobody has ever heard of a “hate group” and get itself quoted in the media.

          A bunch of trolls (who may or may not be actual white supremacists/neo-Nazis/ultra-nationalists, they could be yanking the journalists’ chains on that one as well) create and disseminate deliberately offensive versions of a popular meme in order to stir up outrage and get attention, and the next thing anyone knows, the moral arbiters who go looking for microaggressions under the bed fall for it hook, line and sinker, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign even thinks it will do to throw mud at Trump’s campaign.

          I have a strong inclination to yell “Are you all twelve? Grow up and have some sense!” at the lot of them. An anonymous 19 year old says he’s a white nationalist who is in on a scheme to reclaim the meme from mundanes, and our fearless crack investigative journalists quote every word he says as if it is Gospel, never stopping to ask themselves “Is this guy pretending to be a neo-Nazi in order to get maximum outrage mileage out of this whole stunt?”

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            The same thing they always do. Fundraising.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Can anybody explain to me what the hell is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing? As far as I can see, it pops up every now and again to declare some group nobody has ever heard of a “hate group” and get itself quoted in the media.

            Virtue signalling.

          • Lumifer says:

            @ jaimeastorga2000

            Nah. Their livelihood depends on them being able to whip up outrage on a regular basis, it doesn’t matter much about what. If the outrage stops, the money stops flowing.

          • John Schilling says:

            The Two Minutes Hate is only fun if everybody is hating the same targets. The SPLC makes its living selling an approved target list to a particular group of haters, with the particular irony of calling out its victims for their “hate”.

            And, to be fair, some of them are guilty as charged. Plenty of hate on both sides of the culture war. Probably not so much the cartoon frogs.

          • It wouldn’t be surprising to me that SPLC is about ginning up fear.

            They list number of hate groups rather than number of people involved in hate groups or (better but harder to do well) some sort of threat estimate.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            If the SLPC are just virtue-signalling haters on the left side of the culture war, why do they consider black separatist groups to be hateful?

          • BBA says:

            I honestly don’t know why so few on the left see that the SPLC is a fear-mongering sham. I guess they get some goodwill from their name sounding like SCLC and SNCC, with which they were originally loosely affiliated.

            @sweeneyrod: Even they can’t deny that water is wet.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Can anybody explain to me what the hell is the Southern Poverty Law Center doing? As far as I can see, it pops up every now and again to declare some group nobody has ever heard of a “hate group” and get itself quoted in the media.

            Fundraising. The SPLC has been a money-making scam since at least 1994, when the Montgomery Advertiser did Pulitzer-finalist investigative reporting on its finances.

            Before it became a vegans-only club, I was really interested in Effective Altruism precisely because it’s the antithesis of the cognitive biases that lead to giving money to the SPLC.

          • Le Maistre Chat, could you be more specific about the biases which led to the SPLC?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz: Sure. The SPLC is a pretty typical charity in that they operate by paying for advertising and packing their purchase with appeals to emotion. The whole purpose of their advertising is to make people fear that “hate groups” are the biggest problem in the world, and fighting them is therefore the best use of your finite charity budget.

            This really doesn’t stand up to logical analysis. Even if racism is the most pressing problem in the world, is it more effective to give more money to an organization with $303 million in investments to fight white supremacists on the internet or to give cash to Kenyans?

          • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

            Wow … the SSC’s alt*chorus hugely dislikes the SPLC!

            Perhaps by reason of SPLC analyses like this one?

            Stormfront, the leading white supremacist Web forum, has another distinction — murder capital of the Internet.

            A typical murderer drawn to the racist forum Stormfront.org is a frustrated, unemployed, white adult male living with his mother or an estranged spouse or girlfriend. She is the sole provider in the household. Forensic psychologists call him a ‘wound collector.’ Instead of building his resume, seeking employment or further education, he projects his grievances on society and searches the Internet for an excuse or an explanation unrelated to his behavior or the choices he has made in life.

            His escalation follows a predictable trajectory. From right-wing antigovernment websites and conspiracy hatcheries, he migrates to militant hate sites that blame society’s ills on ethnicity and shifting demographics. He soon learns his race is endangered — a target of “white genocide.” After reading and lurking for a while, he needs to talk to someone about it, signing up as a registered user on a racist forum where he commiserates in an echo chamber of angry fellow failures where Jews, gays, minorities and multiculturalism are blamed for everything.

            Assured of the supremacy of his race and frustrated by the inferiority of his achievements, he binges online for hours every day, self-medicating, slowly sipping a cocktail of rage. He gradually gains acceptance in this online birthing den of self-described ‘lone wolves,’ but he gets no relief, no practical remedies, no suggestions to improve his circumstances. He just gets angrier.

            And then he gets a gun …

            A two-year study by the [SPLC] Intelligence Report shows that registered Stormfront users have been disproportionately responsible for some of the most lethal hate crimes and mass killings since the site was put up in 1995.

            In the past five years alone, Stormfront members have murdered close to 100 people.

            The Report’s research shows that Stormfront’s bias-related murder rate began to accelerate rapidly in early 2009, after Barack Obama became the nation’s first black president.

            For domestic Islamic terrorists, the breeding ground for violence is often the Al Qaeda magazine Inspire and its affiliated websites. For the racist, it is Stormfront.

            Evidence-driven? Rational? Outstandingly effective? Publicly audited and rated? Far more so, than any Trump foundation?

            Oh yes. Fair and balanced? You decide.

          • Sandy says:

            ^This is a troll, right?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Perhaps by reason of SPLC analyses like this one?

            Or perhaps it’s for the ample reasons already provided.

            @ Sandy,

            If so, he is very committed to the persona. This is not the first form he has taken nor is this the first name we have known him by.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            And before anyone goes “don’t call people trolls, it’s not nice!”, I’m pretty sure “evading a perma-ban for annoying trolling so you can troll more” counts as trolling.
            If it doesn’t, the word has no meaning.

          • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

            Sandy wonders “This [SPLC support] is a troll, right?”

            Within living memory, citizens paid some mighty high tolls to support the SPLC’s principles, didn’t they?

            And William Faulkner was entirely right to remind us: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past”, wasn’t he?

        • ChillyWilly says:

          In fairness to the Anti-Defamation League, the page on Pepe does going into its history and explains, “The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted.” Nevertheless, I think it is silly to consider it a symbol of hate.

          Sometimes I get the impression that anything from a time or place where bigotry existed has been becoming more and more associated with said bigotry, so that any references or appreciation of the past becomes suspect or treated as proof of bigotry. Like watching Leave it to Beaver and seeing only coercive gender norms. Since bigotry will probably always exist in some form or degree, that means everything eventually becomes bigoted. I am entirely open to the idea that this is just something that happens among (my perception of) strong SJ crowds, or that I’m otherwise way off base.

          • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

            In fairness to the Anti-Defamation League, the page on Pepe does going into its history and explains, “The majority of uses of Pepe the Frog have been, and continue to be, non-bigoted.”

            Honestly, that makes it even worse. They acknowledge that most uses aren’t hateful but that some people use it in a hateful way, and then don’t address the point at all. 99.99% of everything is not hateful except for a few people who use it in a hateful way; they need to show their work to justify what makes this frog distinct from everything else. Their acknowledgment makes it impossible for me to write this off as the ADL simply not being exposed to anything other than hateful Pepe memes; it means they produced a bad classification with full knowledge that it was bad.

          • Corey says:

            Post-2008 there was something that went the other direction: usually hating on “international bankers” was an anti-Jewish dog whistle, but after 2008 it was more about hating on actual bankers.

          • Gazeboist says:

            I recall mostly hearing “the finance industry” or a similar formulation, rather than “international bankers”, from people who were actually mad at bankers, Semitic and otherwise. I might just be wrong though.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I’d also argue that the aesthetics of the far left are much diminished as well. Red Army parades – that certain weird sort of brutalist neoclassicism – Socialist Realist art – monumental statues to … punk bands? Of course, this isn’t a new thing for the far right either. Most neo-Nazis seem, from day one, to not care or have cared a great deal about clean lines, military precision, nicely tailored uniforms, and projecting a sort of militarized domestic respectability.

      So basically the “people wear jeans to formal occasions nowadays, kids these days” complaint can be extended to political extremists.

    • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

      It’s alive: modern realism.

      The artist shock-troops of a 21st century progressivism in which nothing human is alien … their ateliers are everywhere.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Photographs suffice to show beauty and truth, and those increasingly rare things shouldn’t be sullied by contrasting them against the spread, shitting anus of modernity.

      You say our art is cheap, ugly, tasteless? Our art is fit for the age and for the fight, and giving it anything more would be a waste.

      Beauty will come to a world that deserves it and cherishes it, and if we’re lucky we’ll live long enough to catch a glimpse of that world.

      • The Nybbler says:

        You really think I’m going to click on that third link?

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          Our taxes paid for it. Surely you want to see the fruits of your labours?
          And yeah, I picked a mild but illustrative example so the contrast didn’t feel too vile to make.

      • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

        Perhaps nowadays, artistic beauty *IS* accessible to every human being?

        “Like in politics, [in the art-world] you have groups that come together which have nothing in common except that they are oppressed by the same enemy, so you get grand alliance. There’s a lot of justice in that inspiration, but in that, you forget who you really are and you become defined by what you’re against.
            Jacob Collins, “Seceding from
            photographic sensibility”

        In a nutshell, never forget that progressivism’s creative fertility is grounded in cognitive empathy and social diversity. These unleashed progressive forces aren’t readily quelled, are they?

        In contrast, opponents of progressivism too-commonly define themselves by what they’re against, don’t they? Doesn’t this restriction, in the short run, give rise to artistic and creative alt-conformity, and in the long run, risk cultural alt-sterility?

        LOL … can’t resist posting a link to the self-portrait that Trump hangs in his Palm Beach mansion. Aye lassies and laddies, now that’s art for yah! 🙂

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Speaking of accessibility, your posts are borderline unreadable.

        • Edward Morgan Blake says:

          Didn’t there used to be a rule against more than one link per post?

          I will archive binge a good blog, which I’m doing right now with this one. And I will read some links that give good context in and around the link text as to why I should, but I’m not going to chase a dozen links in a post to a dozen articles that barely have anything to do with what the poster implies in the link text.

    • anon says:

      At a guess, I’d say images of strength and beauty became associated with Nazis.

    • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

      In reference to Donald Trump’s self-chosen portrait that hangs in his Palm Beach mansion:

      Nancy Lebovitz wonders  “The original Nazis used images of strength and beauty — healthy blond(e) people, eagles, a striking and memorable swastika. Neo-nazis use … Pepe the frog. What happened?”

      For the Donald, not much has changed, has it Nancy? 🙂

      Except that Trump’s self-chosen portrait is far whiter even than the whitest Nazi imagery … Trump’s portrait-choice is maximally, dazzlingly, almost incredibly white.

      It’s the whitest artwork in the world, it’s a property of incredible value, and everyone who sees it loves it! 🙂

      What may be the semiotic significance of Trump’s (likely unconscious) choice of figurative ultra-whiteness, the world wonders?

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary Clinton has her hair as blonde as The Donald; I think both of them are getting some help from the dye bottle and a good (well, not so much in his case) hair stylist to cover up the grey.

        Equally blond(e), equally white – are we sniffing out neo-Nazi sympathies in the Clinton camp, Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie? Is their warning about Pepe simply a case of sour grapes – you made use of our white supremacist overlord before we could?

        As for Trump’s portrait – it is well within the tradition of flattering society portraits that portray the one who commissioned it as they wish to be seen, not as they really appear. An image of youth, virility and athletic good looks – is anyone surprised by this choice? As for the clothing, he appears to me to be wearing cricket whites but since I doubt Donald ever played cricket, it’s probably a melding of aspirations to what is perceived as being of higher class/higher status and whatever sporting uniform was worn at his university (that was not the football team); I know American universities (some of them) have rowing teams, they must have teams for sports not football or basketball as well.

        Nouveau-riche aping his betters – like buying your books by the yard to equip out a library. There’s nothing strange, new or startling here, and you could read any selection of Edwardian novels or short stories and find a similar character being chaffed for exactly this sort of behaviour and pretensions. It says exactly nothing about Nazism, white supremacism or anything other than the Anglicised upper class culture that Trump tried to get a toehold in by attending the University of Pennsylvania (which appears, upon reading the Wikipedia entry at least, to be of some quality and not just Quis paget entrat so he can’t have been a complete thicko back in his student days).

        • Civilis says:

          Even more, Trump is a born-and-bred New Yorker, and has stood up for his state’s cosmopolitanism against other Republicans decrying ‘New York values’. Hillary, on the other hand, started her political career as the wife of William Jefferson “Slick Willy” “Bubba” Clinton, governor of the great southern state of Arkansas.

          If you’re a major Democratic politician today, you’re almost automatically on the nouveau-riche train, hobnobbing with celebrities in Hollywood and Martha’s Vineyard no matter where you came from. Obama’s the same way; look at who he invites to the White House and who he sees when he fund-raises. Hillary went from ‘wife of southern governor’ to ‘honorary New Yorker’ as part of her Senate makeover, making her… very much in the same social basket as Donald Trump.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            …very much in the same social basket as Donald Trump.

            Now that’s a real basket of deplorables!

        • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

          Isn’t there a big difference between thoughtful conservatives who respect science and who own-up to personal mistakes, versus faux-conservatives who are congenitally incapable of either?

          Hilary’s mighty lucky that Arnold’s an immigrant, isn’t she? An immigrant whose genuine affection for other immigrants is … well … undeniable?

          Arnold Schwarzenegger versus Al Franken … voters can dream about enlightening political debates, can’t they? 🙂

          • Jiro says:

            Isn’t there a big difference between thoughtful conservatives who respect science and who own-up to personal mistakes, versus faux-conservatives who are congenitally incapable of either?

            If there is such a difference, you should ignore it and treat them all as thoughtful. It’s like asking “Isn’t there a big difference between good Mexicans and lazy Mexicans?” or “Isn’t there a difference between generous Jews and greedy Jews?” If you go ranting about greedy Jews, don’t expect people to believe you when you say “Oh, I’m just complaining about the greedy ones, if you’re not greedy I’m not talking about you”.

          • Zombielicious says:

            Belief, worldview, and behavior are different from ethnicity. One (belief system and behavior) is a choice that affects the people around you, the other (ethnicity) something you’re born into that doesn’t directly affect anyone (outside of whatever weird internal issues they have with it).

            It starts to sound a lot weirder when you pick a different example than “Mexicans” or “Jews.” Try it on something like “If some pedophiles hurt people, you should ignore it and treat them all as harmless.”

            ETA: The issue is conflating behavior with non-behavioral traits. If your issue is lazy or greedy or adversarial people, there’s no good reason to condemn a non-behavioral trait and claim it’s a proxy for what you’re really against, and doing so just makes your motives look suspicious.

          • Jiro says:

            Belief, worldview, and behavior are different from ethnicity.

            They’re not different enough, unless you think it’s possible to make unsupported mass generalizations about Jews, but you don’t think it’s possible to make unsupported mass generalizations about conservatives.

            (Note that in both cases the generalizations are made under the cover of “I’m not generalizing, I’m just talking about the particular ones with the nasty trait”.)

            If your issue is lazy or greedy or adversarial people, there’s no good reason to condemn a non-behavioral trait and claim it’s a proxy for what you’re really against

            And if your issue is people who are congenitally incapable of respecting science (what does that even mean?), there’s no reason to specifically condemn conservatives who are like that rather than just condemning that directly.

      • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

        Deiseach remarks  “There’s nothing strange, new or startling here [regarding Trump].”

        And isn’t that Umberto Eco’s overall point (per Eco’s celebrated essay “Eternal fascism“)?

        Trumpish alt-cognition never shows us anything “strange, new or startling”, does it?

        Instead, hasn’t “the Donald” been marvelously providing to politics (via Trump’s ultra-white self-chosen portrait for example) the same deadpan hilarity that Leslie Nielsen so wonderfully provided to police work?

        Which hilarity is itself an art-form, of course. Bingo! 🙂

        • Fahundo says:

          Instead, hasn’t “the Donald” been marvelously providing to politics the same deadpan hilarity that Leslie Nielsen

          I’d say he reminds me more of an obnoxious reality TV star…but, he IS an obnoxious reality TV star.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I first saw Pepe the frog as an avatar on mainstream fora in 2010. So it looks like the small minority of neo-Nazis online are using the same ugly symbols as everyone else.

      • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

        Isn’t it a plain lesson of history, that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is wise to condemn both Pepe-the-symbol and the racially charged Trumpish demagoguery that has been so closely associated to that symbol?

        The ADL’s Hate-Symbols Database summarizes the evidence, and said evidence is plenty compelling, isn’t it?

        As the ADL says (correctly as it seems to me)

        Because so many Pepe the Frog memes are not bigoted in nature, it is important to examine use of the meme only in context. The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist. However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes.

        Here’s an (((ADL-provided))) hateful exemplar … and another … and another. In view of which, ongoing Pepe-defense is pure alt-toxic hairsplitting, isn’t it?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Isn’t it a plain lesson of history, that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is wise to condemn both Pepe-the-symbol and the Trumpish demagoguery that has been associated to that symbol?

          I don’t understand this sentence.

          The ADL analysis looks factual and even-handed to me. They’re not calling for a ban on Pepe the frog or directly Trump-bashing

        • Sivaas says:

          Kind of reminds me of the phrase “that and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee” (although that phrase is pretty outdated thanks to inflation)

          Pepe in a racist meme gets you a racist meme.

          • lemmy caution says:

            (((name))) is another anti-semetic meme (though I never saw anyone do it until you did.

          • Corey says:

            Most people are doing (((echoes))) in solidarity with Jews these days. Recently some hilarity ensued as Megan McArdle (redheaded Irish Catholic) got some anti-Jew hate come her way as she had done this with her Twitter handle.

          • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

            No nation whose dog-tags span all faiths — both traditional and otherwise — should tolerate (((alt*toxicity))).

          • Emily says:

            Are the people who are doing this particular Jew-hating OK with Irish Catholics?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Now I’m imagining the alt-right putting different kinds of brackets on different kinds of names.

          • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

            Emily wonders “Are the people who are doing this particular Jew-hating OK with Irish Catholics?”

            The short alt*answer is “no” … because America’s Irish immigrants came from the wrong side of the Hajnal Line, you see!

          • Dr Dealgood says:


            I don’t think it matters whether or not they consider the Irish, or Slavs or Southern Europeans or whomever to be Officially WhiteTM. The point of the (((echo))) isn’t a generic tool to highlight anyone they dislike, it’s very specifically about prominent Jews.

            Because of antisemitic conspiracy theories like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Z.O.G., and the like there’s a taboo about mentioning that some influential person is Jewish that doesn’t really apply to any other ethnicity. And the existence of that taboo reinforces the claims of a conspiracy because it makes it look like Jews in particular are trying to hide their role in elite society.

            That’s where this stuff came from, and why the reaction to it is unlikely to work. Anything that looks like a hasty “move along! nothing to see here!” reinforces their narrative.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Dr Dealgood:

            It’s not as though there didn’t used to be anti-Catholic conspiracy theories. And people believed those before the Supreme Court was 2/3 Catholic.

            I think that the { bracket would be a good signifier for Catholic, because it kind of looks like the Pope’s hat. [ for Puritans, because they’re squares.

        • Matt M says:

          While the word “apple” is not inherently anti-semitic, but one should be watchful for anti-semitic uses of it. Most people may innocently refer to apples simply as a fruit that they enjoy eating, anti-semites have been known to refer to apples in their bigoted screeds, such as “go eat an apple, you filthy jew”

    • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

      With apologies to William Blake:

      A meme conveyed
          with (((alt*intent)))
      beats all the venom
          you can vent.

      Assuredly the SPLC and the ADL (etc.) are woke to both Blake and Pepe, aren’t they? 🙂

  3. hlynkacg says:

    For those interested SpaceX is unveiling thier BFR/Mars mission plan right now.

    Livecast of the press conference

    • Peter Scott says:

      So: A two-stage Big Fucking Rocket, about 2.2x more payload to LEO than the Saturn V, both stages re-usable. 42 engines on the lower stage plus 9 more on the upper stage. The plan is to get a fleet of ships ready in orbit for each launch window, with several in-orbit refueling flights for each one, then send them on an 80-150 day trip to Mars. They do a propulsive landing with some aerobraking, similar to landing on Earth. They’re refueled using methane and liquid oxygen produced on site, then set off for Earth again. And so on and so forth, hopefully.

      In related news, the first test firing of the engine for this thing was a couple of days ago.

      • Froolow says:

        I can’t really understand how anyone is taking this seriously. I’m not saying its not an amazing goal, but if all it requires to be feted by the media is saying you’re going to do amazing but unrealistic things then I’m going to do exactly what Musk is proposing except I’m going to do it to Europa. No outlet at all is reporting the similar promises about that hyperloop thing which Musk made only a year or two ago and which seem to have gone nowhere.

        I’d probably believe they could put a man on Mars by 2022, and I’d treat it as a bold but unlikely stretch goal if they said they were going to bring him back alive, but 100 people to Mars by 2022 is just entirely implausible without significant technological advances that Musk has absolutely no control over and cannot predict.

        I’m actually pretty annoyed about the fawning reception the tech press have given him; about the best thing you can say about the plan is that it is not quite as stupid as promising to cure all known diseases for $3bn.

        • bean says:

          Doubling all time and initial cost numbers that come out of Musk’s mouth lines up remarkably well with the final numbers. This is known inside SpaceX, too.
          I will agree that Musk’s ability to convince journalists (and through them, the general population) that he walks on water is supremely annoying. If any conventional aerospace company had his record of cost and schedule overruns, they’d be crucified in the press.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Agree on the first part disagree on the second, compared to NASA in particular, or defense procurement in general, SpaceX’s cost and schedule overruns are pretty much par for the course.

            The main difference is that LockMart doesn’t have someone like Musk to act as charismatic front-man.

          • bean says:

            Agree on the first part disagree on the second, compared to NASA in particular, or defense procurement in general, SpaceX’s cost and schedule overruns are pretty much par for the course.

            The main difference is that LockMart doesn’t have someone like Musk to act as charismatic front-man.

            That’s exactly the point, though. SpaceX may be suffering from typical aerospace overruns (although I’d argue that there are quite a few aerospace programs which come in reasonably close to schedule and budget and don’t get noticed), but they’re given a pass, and LockMart gets dragged through the mud every few weeks on the JSF. Note that the F-35s cost/schedule overruns are prominent on its wiki page, and while the initial prices for the Falcon 9 is on the wiki page, there’s no real discussion of them.

          • Robert L says:

            I am always impressed how he has taken the idea of an electric car with rechargeable battery, which dates from the 1880s or earlier, and made it look so far ahead of its time it must have been communicated to him by aliens.

          • John Schilling says:

            Note that the F-35s cost/schedule overruns are prominent on its wiki page, and while the initial prices for the Falcon 9 is on the wiki page, there’s no real discussion of them.

            So let’s discuss.

            When the Falcon 9 was first announced in 2004, the target price was given as $27 million for 3000 kg to geostationary transfer orbit. That’s $33.3E6/launch or $11,100/kg in FY16 dollars. The block 1 vehicle is no longer on the market, but the current advertised price for a commercial F9 FT is $62 million for 4850 kg to GTO, which comes to $12,800/kg. So, over twelve years, an 86% increase in cost per vehicle or a 15% increase in cost per unit payload.

            That looks pretty good by industry standards. Boeing initially priced the 787-8 at $120 million in 2005; it now sells for $225E6; a 52% overrun in inflation-adjusted price for little or no increase in performance. The competing Airbus A350-800 went from $162E6 projected in 2006 to $272E6 actual sale price today, a 40% increase. Or we can look at the A350 Full Thrust, er, -1000, 82% increase in cost for 57% increase in payload, 15% increase in cost per payload.

            The 787 program has been widely criticized on technical grounds but less so on cost; the A350 is I believe considered both a technical and economic success within the industry.

            On the space launch side, Lockheed in 1998 offered the Atlas V for $77E6/launch and Boeing the Delta IV for $72E6/core. The 2013 block buy looks like it came in at $185E6/core, a 73% increase after inflation. The Ariane V looks pretty good, estimated at $125-$155E6 depending on model in 2002, now selling for $165-$220E6, a 7% increase in normalized cost with a ~4% increase in payload.

            SpaceX based its reputation on advertising costs roughly one-half to one-third those of its competitors. Its subsequent overruns seem to have been on par with the industry average, at a modest level which is not normally considered discussion-worthy. Which leaves its current prices at, yep, one-half to one-third of its competitors, and that’s always worth talking about.

            Elon’s probably not going to Mars. But his engineers build a decent and only slightly explodey rocket at a genuine bargain price.

          • bean says:

            When the Falcon 9 was first announced in 2004, the target price was given as $27 million for 3000 kg to geostationary transfer orbit. That’s $33.3E6/launch or $11,100/kg in FY16 dollars. The block 1 vehicle is no longer on the market, but the current advertised price for a commercial F9 FT is $62 million for 4850 kg to GTO, which comes to $12,800/kg. So, over twelve years, an 86% increase in cost per vehicle or a 15% increase in cost per unit payload.

            A fair point, although the same wiki article gives the cost for a v1.0 in 2010 (when the first one flew) as between $49.9 and $56 million, for the same rocket as the original $27 million price. The increase in performance has cancelled out most of the cost overruns, but I suspect if you’d asked what a rocket with the performance of the FT had cost back then, he’d have said something like $36-$37 million.

            Re other aerosapce projects, your point is taken. However, I would like to point out that he’s been consistently off by a factor of 2 on time as well, even in cases where ‘everyone else is doing it’ doesn’t work as an excuse. Boeing has managed to bring the 737 Max in pretty much on time, and SpaceX wasn’t even close with the v1.1.

            Elon’s probably not going to Mars. But his engineers build a decent and only slightly explodey rocket at a genuine bargain price.

            This I will agree with. I admire what SpaceX has done, but I wish they’d update their models, instead of continuing to spout gibberish. And I really wish the press would stop letting them get away with it.

          • gbdub says:

            On rockets, you’re not comparing apples to apples. First off, we have minimal insight into how realistic that $62 million advertised cost for Falcon is. Cost-per-flight for e.g. the Dragon missions is substantially higher. Military customers also demand production to different standards, which Elon himself admitted will add a chunk to the Falcon cost (and contributes to the extra cost of the Atlas V block buy). On the commercial end, e.g. the Iridium contract had an announced value of $492 million for seven rockets (a bit over $70 million each) and that was inked in 2010.

            Price-per-payload-pound is an interesting figure, but a lot less interesting when the minimum unit is 1 rocket (or half a rocket if you can swing a ride share). Lots of upmass is good for really big NRO satellites or multi-launches like Iridium, but Falcon 9 “full thrust” is no better at getting a single GEO bird to orbit than the 1.0 version (and SpaceX is taking back a lot of that extra payload to get reusability).

            SpaceX would appear to be losing (or at least spending) a ton of money – it’s not clear their current pricing is long-term sustainable to make them a profitable company. Elon assures us that they are making money on the fly-away price of each Falcon, but they are doing so much development and NRE it’s not clear what that all would settle out to if they actually decided to go full rate production and just crank out sat launchers instead of constantly tinkering with the thing.

            A lot of aerospace cost comes from chasing the last failure (and the extra cost of the new procedures you need to prevent it from happening again) which tend to accrete over time. Clearly, F9 doesn’t have all the bugs out yet, and getting and keeping them out will add cost. Then again they haven’t yet fully realized the cost savings of full rate production / launch, reusability, and recouping the development costs, so it’s hard to say where final pricing will end up.

            Finally, you only compared F9 to its two most expensive competitors (Atlas and Ariane) – the Russians are cheaper than F9, although lately are at least as explodey.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I also find the fawning press annoying. I’ll be surprised if the first MTS flies before 2022 as schedules are prone to slippage the composite tanks are themselves a huge unknown.

          That said, I find the inverse just as annoying. As recently as 5 years ago composite structures of that scale were considered to be physically impossible but that didn’t stop him from building one. I think that you are seriously underestimating just how much he’s disrupted the industry already.

        • Peter Scott says:

          No outlet at all is reporting the similar promises about that hyperloop thing which Musk made only a year or two ago and which seem to have gone nowhere.

          His lack of progress on building a Hyperloop is easily explained: he hasn’t been working on one. He said right from the start that he wasn’t going to work on it, so this should not come as a surprise.

        • John Schilling says:

          No outlet at all is reporting the similar promises about that hyperloop thing which Musk made.

          Did Musk make any promises about the hyperloop? Possibly; if so I missed them. But the only important promise is the one he explicitly didn’t make – he didn’t promise to build a hyperloop, or try to build one, or even lift a finger or spend a penny towards that end. Hyperloop was specifically something Elon Musk presented as a Nifty Idea that he thought was promising but that he didn’t have the time or money to do anything with and was therefore putting out there for anyone who wanted to take and run with. Unfortunately, that turned out to be these bozos.

          Colonizing Mars is something Elon Musk has promised to devote his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor towards. I think it is reasonable to expect more, and pay more attention, to the latter than the former.

          They’re both neat ideas that get impossibly daffy at the level of implementation; Musk isn’t a hardware guy. And he’s not rich enough to self-finance the colonization of Mars even by an efficient path, never mind the “first we try to do it Elon’s way, then we try the way that works” path. But when he tries to colonize Mars, he’ll do something – probably a lot of things, some of which will be useful to whomever does colonize Mars. Hyperloop is just going to inspire comic daffiness and the occasional lawsuit.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ouch. The second-hand embarrassment from reading that article about Hyperloop One is intense.

            I was never convinced by the idea and did think it was a PR stunt/scam of some kind, but that lot have turned it into a complete pig’s ear. And yet they found people willing to throw money at the project, to the tune of $92 million? Well, I suppose there’s one born every minute!

        • gbdub says:

          Falcon 9 first flew in 2010, and Falcon Heavy was promised by 2013. It will now fly (maybe) in 2017, assuming they can fix whatever blew up the last one by then and catch up on the manifest (which is a nontrivial assumption). So it’s taking 7 years to go from functional Falcon 9 to functional Falcon Heavy (the whole point of which is that it uses mostly existing Falcon 9 hardware).

          Now he’s telling me he can get 100 people to Mars in less than a decade, on a brand new rocket that is oh-by-the-way 4+ times more powerful (in terms of liftoff thrust) than anything we’ve ever launched to orbit? That’s bonkers, and reporting as anything other than bonkers is also bonkers. It’s maybe, just maybe, theoretically possible given unlimited funding and everything going exactly right, but in the real world, no way. And yet I have all sorts of people I know fawning over how cool this is and assuring me that it is real (He used engineering CAD models to make the YouTube video! That means it’s practically ready to go!)

          Technically speaking, the plan to use 5 launches (4 of which are fuelers while the people are in orbit twiddling their thumbs) seems over complex and risky (and probably heavily driven by all the extra mass needed to bring that second stage both up and down). Parking a big disposable fuel tank in orbit and launching the humans as soon as it’s up there makes more sense. Storing that much LOX for that long in space is itself an underrated (and unprecedented) engineering challenge.

        • gbdub says:

          EDIT: posted in wrong spot

  4. dndnrsn says:

    Does anybody here shave with a safety/double edged razor? I’ve decided to make the switch based on cost: for the price of replacing an electric razor head that wears out in one or two years, I could potentially buy razor blades for 5-10 years (I’m not a hirsute guy so can get away with using a razor longer than most). I’ve already got a couple of hand-me-down razors and get a decent shave from them.

    The issue I’m having is that while the thriving online safety razor community (I did not know this was a thing but am unsurprised) promotes safety razors on price it is very much a hobbyist community – guys who can’t stop buying vintage razors on eBay and so on. There seems to be insistence on using a soap or cream over cans of gel/foam and a general adherence to a shaving ritual that looks time-consuming and expensive.

    Is that stuff really relevant for someone just looking to remove a bit of scruff? Is it more cost-effective over just a can of foam? Or is it an aesthetic thing?

    • Anonymous says:

      There’s no question that it is going to take more time and there’s a little bit of a learning curve — during which you will get nicks. But there’s no need to go for some fancy cream and a brush made with the hair of an endangered species. Ordinary shaving cream is fine, and in a pinch you can just take a regular bar soap (dove, etc), lather it up, and use that.

      Your grandfather or great-grandfather probably wasn’t using some special soap made by hand in London. Don’t overthink it.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I seem to have outright escaped nicking myself. Which is weird – because back when I shaved with a multi-blade cartridge razor or disposable, I used to cut myself frequently. It’s the reason I used an electric razor for several years. I was under the impression that the purported advantage of multi-blade razors over double-edged was a safer shave, but I quit using them because I nicked myself a lot.

    • Edward Morgan Blake says:

      I use a safety razor, with a handle that I inherited from my grandfather. (It was, in fact, the very first razor I ever used, and the old man showed me how to do it.)

      The trick I learned later is to completely ignore all the modern foams or the old school brush and soap and instead get your face and hands wet, then put half a dozen drops of olive oil in your hands, rub them together, and then rub them on your face, and then shave. And then don’t try to wash the oil off. In fact, unless you’ve been working on heavy machinery, never put soap on your face.

      Humans have been shaving with oil since the bronze age, with technique that was perfected by the Chinese and the Romans, with soap since the 18th century, and with plastic foam since the wasteful consumerist drive of the 1950s. Use oil. It’s better.

      • anon says:

        As far as I’m aware, leaving oil on my face is the reason I get acne. Hence the face washing.

        • Edward Morgan Blake says:

          The reverse is true. Putting soap on your face is making your acne worse.

          If your acne is really bothering you, get a prescription to clindamycin.

      • Said Achmiz says:

        How does this oil method work when you’ve got a week or two of beard to take off? Is this only for stubble removal or is it a universal method?

        • Edward Morgan Blake says:

          I’ve been able to take off two weeks growth this way. Any longer, and I would probably use wahl electric trimmer with the closest guard on it to cut it down to that length, and then shave.

      • dndnrsn says:

        What does the oil do to the razor, though? Oil is kind of a pain to clean off metal usually.

        • Winfried says:

          It keeps it from rusting, making it stay sharper longer.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t really care about the blades (given how cheap they are) but I’ve got a couple of old twist-to-open razors, and they’re a hassle to clean I hear.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            dndnrsn –

            It’s the hairs that provide a problem there, not the oil.

            I generally shave with water, and nothing else, and they’re still a pain to clean; I generally have to take the bloody things apart two or three times in the course of shaving. Oil might actually help, there, but I haven’t tried it.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Wish I had a better answer than “it depends”.
      Some guys can get away with shaving dry. I’m fair and curly, so that’d leave me with disgusting razor burn and ingrown hairs/razor bumps.

      If you need better care, the most important things to start with are hot water and decent soap.
      For me that’s as simple as shaving in the shower (with a hot sponge) and touching up in the mirror afterwards.

      Best advice is go to a good-but-not-fancy/faggy barber for a shave, and copy what he does. Pretty sure it’ll be less lavender-scented-exfoliating-organic-vitamin-oils, and more “hot towel on face, lather, shave”.

    • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

      Kirk’s Cocoa Castille. Superior for shaving, economical, and (when applied to eyebrows and eyelashes) helps to control demodex too. Your (formerly) itchy eyelashes will thank you! 🙂

    • Said Achmiz says:

      I shave with a safety razor (an inexpensive but good one). I use the foam gel stuff, the sort that comes in the tall can. Also aftershave cream. Works great. No nicks, no ingrown hairs, smooth shave, feels good. Works well for taking off two weeks of growth, also works well for a couple days’ stubble.

      I don’t see what I could improve about my shaving experience other than for my hair to just magically shave itself instantaneously.

      Edit: But I have been shaving with a safety razor since I started shaving, which was many years ago. (And yep, my first safety razor was a hand-me-down from my grandfather.)

  5. Has anyone else read Underground Airlines— it’s by the same author who wrote The Last Policeman.

    Underground Airlines is an alternate history in which a series of compromises led to slavery existing in the US (in four states) up to the present. The world-building is pretty good. Trigger warnings for just about everything.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I have the audiobook of this, but have only listened to the first two or three chapters. Enjoying it so far.

    • Nancy, your comment was the first I’d heard of this novel. Many thanks for the pointer. I ordered a paper copy, received it, and finished reading it this afternoon. I think I’ll post a review on the next open thread (probably #61).

  6. Gabe says:

    Why do people think IQ measures general thinking ability? IQ tests I’ve taken seem to measure speed more than anything else. Speed is nice, but is there evidence that this determines someone’s ability to solve long, complex problems (ignoring perseverance)?

    Specifically, IQ tests seem to measure the ability to quickly understand a new problem of a known type, reason about it and get the right answer, be confident the answer is right, and then dump the problem to think about another one.

    Confounding everything is that there are a lot of random things that can damage brains, and these things may damage IQ as well as a bunch of other desirable mental qualities, so it’s easy to support a story that IQ is king and drives everything else.

    • Anonymous says:

      Because all other psychology research is terrible and ought to disregarded, but when it comes to IQ low N studies without even an attempt at blinding from the 1970s are as good as anything coming out of CERN.

    • TMB says:

      A few weeks ago someone posted an IQ test: http://www.iqtest.dk/main.swf

      I would say that the later questions don’t really measure speed of thought (at least not alone) but the ability to hold different possible conditions in mind simultaneously.

      I don’t think I could have got 37, no matter how long I spent on it, without use of pen and paper to keep track of what might be going on.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Specifically, IQ tests seem to measure the ability to quickly understand a new problem of a known type, reason about it and get the right answer, be confident the answer is right, and then dump the problem to think about another one.

      My impression as a high IQ person is that this is exactly what the difference is between me and other people.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      Well, there’s lots of tests that call themselves IQ tests and some are more useful then others.

      Early great performance on the SAT predicts future patents in math heavy fields, and this extends to even the extremes.

      The IMO, the international olympiad, you should see a list of perfect scores on the IMO and future fields medal winners and other math awards. Is it an IQ test? Well that depends if you allow tests where someone can train for it an IQ test (and as long-term memory capabilities are included in these types of skill tests, you should. Some people discount IQ tests you can train for but I don’t see a good other way to include long-term memory capabilities)

    • Anon. says:

      Because it correlates with everything that a measure of general thinking ability would correlate with.

      What an IQ test measures directly is completely irrelevant.

    • Vaniver says:

      Because they’ve thought of your objections, and then tested them, and then thought of subtler objections, and tested them, and so on.

      (This is a meta-level answer instead of an object-level answer, but if you want an object-level answer, textbooks on psychometrics are the way to go.)

    • Lumifer says:

      For example, look here. Sample quote:

      The educational, occupational, and creative accomplishments of the profoundly gifted participants (IQs > 160) in the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) are astounding, but are they representative of equally able 12-year-olds? Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP) identified 259 young adolescents who were equally gifted. By age 40, their life accomplishments also were extraordinary: Thirty-seven percent had earned doctorates, 7.5% had achieved academic tenure (4.3% at research-intensive universities), and 9% held patents; many were high level leaders in major organizations.

  7. AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

    Cynical economics question.

    If the terms in the “trade balance” were merely switched around from surplus/deficit into something like negative adjective/positive adjective, with no other significant changes in the textbook definitions, would there be a great political impetus to buy more then we sell from other countries?

    • Lumifer says:

      Since the general public neither knows nor cares about trade balances, I guess the answer is No.

      (the relevant economic theory)

      • AnonBosch says:

        I think that makes the answer yes, to be honest. “Trade balance” is a null semantic value but everyone knows that “deficit” is bad and “surplus” is good. The way most people and most politicians talk about the “trade deficit” as though it were a specific type of budget deficit that needs to be paid off somehow makes me think that free-traders could flip the debate with the right mind-killer (e.g., “death tax”).

        I’m a big fan of Bastiat’s classic argument against Mauguin where he essentially proves that “trade deficit” can really mean “profit,” but it probably needs a concise, snappy update that fits in 140 characters.

        • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:


          I think that’s a simple way to understand it.

          Businessmen don’t make these transactions unless they believe they will make a profit,a profit they would not make otherwise, and that is a profit the nation can *tax*

          • AnonBosch says:

            Right, that is the argument I was referencing. But while it’s simple from the perspective of your average rationalist-blog commenter, it’s still a little stiff in terms of a campaign argument.

            Ideally, if you’re debating someone like Trump, you would find a transaction your opponent had engaged in that followed this pattern and ask him if he thought he made a good deal.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          The straightforward way to flip the debate would be to call a trade deficit an “investment surplus” and conversely.

      • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

        Depends… where I live, populists goverments made a big deal out of it, like it signified “Autonomy” or something like that.

        • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

          Oh, that argument is plausible for quite a few goods.

          For food production, I could see that a country would want the capability to feed its entire citizenry without any reliance of trade as an insurance policy against global instability. Like how preppers give great value to having personal farms that can provide 2000 calories a day for an extended period of time.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Oh, that argument is plausible for quite a few goods.

            For sure, you don’t want your population to get Great Leap Fowar’d.

            It’s very much not the case here, though. We barely do anything but food.

    • The terms you want are “capital inflow” for “deficit” and “capital outflow” for surplus.

    • Incurian says:

      “If a trade deficit is such a bad thing, let’s export all of our goods to Iran.”

  8. I can’t prove any of this– except that you can see a mysterious lack of online activity for the relevant time– but I missed the debate. I was planning to not listen to it, but probably would have out of sheer weakness, but instead I conked out from around 8 PM till 6 AM. When I woke up, I made a prediction: Trump and Clinton supporters would both be convinced that their candidate did better. I was right.

    • Fahundo says:

      I’ve seen some Trump supporters who think he lost, but in more of a “of course he lost; he’s not a career politician who debates for a living” way.

    • Mr Mind says:

      An easy prediction 😉

      An acquaintance of mine, a Trump supporter, has written that Trump lost the debate, but because he was too focused on exposing facts.

    • Julian says:

      The key of course is not what their supporters think but what undecided voters think.

      My view is that Clinton’s best shot at winning is to take the wind out of Trumps sails. She is such a terrible candidate on paper that I cant see her convincing many more people to support her. But Trump is such a worse person that Clinton should be able to get people to not like him.

      Much of Trump’s support is already from populations that don’t have high voter turn out, historically. Clinton will need to keep it that way.

      Im not a fan of the won/lost idea with these debates. Its all confirmation bias as you say Nancy. But Trump really missed some big opportunities to hit Clinton where she is weak (emails mostly), while Clinton got in some good shots at Trump (equating not paying taxes to not supporting troops, accusing him of not being a rich as he says). Clinton got trump off script and that produced some outbursts. Trump was more controlled in the past, but if she can do that again in a the next debates he may blow up.

      • Matt M says:

        “while Clinton got in some good shots at Trump (equating not paying taxes to not supporting troops, accusing him of not being a rich as he says). ”

        Not that any of them actually will, but I’d love to see the fact checker brigade take on the implication that Trump’s tax avoidance is the reason we have a huge deficit and crumbling infrastructure. I may have misheard, but she did basically say that, didn’t she?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yes, but if you take that literally you’ll seem as silly as the fact-checkers do when they take Trump’s various bloviations literally.

          Though if you’re a little less literal and take it to mean that rich people and corporations using loopholes is the reason we have a huge deficit and crumbling infrastructure, you’ll still probably come up short.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, you could run the numbers and produce all sorts of interesting factoids. Things like “Even if Trump is worth $5 billion as he claims, and even if we confiscated all of his assets immediately, that would only reduce the federal deficit by less than 1%” (back of the envelope calculation based on usdebtclock.org)

            Yes, you would be doing the same silly thing you’ve criticized the media for doing – but I think you could play it off as satire. You’re exposing how dumb they are being by taking everything Trump says literally by applying the same spotlight to her obviously-not-meant-to-be-literal claims.

            Or if you don’t like this particular case, do it with the NATO “longest military alliance” thing instead, as others have pointed out. Even if Trump’s campaign doesn’t want to do this, I feel like The Onion or somebody like that probably should.

        • Deiseach says:

          What Trump should do is turn that around and ask her if she’s accusing him of tax-dodging (which is a criminal offence) and if so, why she isn’t informing the IRS that he’s a crook? Most people won’t know (or care) about the difference between perfectly legal tax avoidance and get-you-in-trouble tax evasion.

          If she blusters on that (and she kind of has to, if she hasn’t any hard evidence) all he has to do is hammer on about how the IRS hasn’t any problems with him and this is a smear on her part and she’s falsely accusing him of crimes he hasn’t committed. Also that she’s contradicting herself – either he’s not as rich as he says, or he owes more taxes than he’s paying because he’s under-representing his wealth. Which is it? Not paying as much tax because he hasn’t as much money as he claims, or not paying enough tax because he’s richer than he tells the IRS?

          I have no idea what the state of his taxes is, but I don’t think Hillary would be any too willing to hand over details of her and Bill’s tax affairs either.

          • LHN says:

            “[A]ll he has to do is hammer on about how the IRS hasn’t any problems with him”

            Possibly tricky when his claimed reason for not releasing his tax returns is that he’s being audited.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Not sure if it’s intentional, but that’s a pretty good move on his part. As long as he’s being audited, he refuses to release the tax returns for that. If the audit gets done and no significant problems are found, he trumpets that. If problems are found, he not only doesn’t release his returns (for “legal reasons”), but he claims the Obama IRS is persecuting him.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            “I have no idea what the state of his taxes is, but I don’t think Hillary would be any too willing to hand over details of her and Bill’s tax affairs either.”

            She is perfectly happy to do that — see here. As I understand it, the reason people care about Trump’s failure to reveal his tax return is because all other presidential candidates for the last three elections at least (I’ve not checked previous ones) released theirs.

          • Aegeus says:

            The tradition started with Nixon (IIRC, it was to sell the “I am not a crook” line), and more recently candidates have started to release them during the primaries. Here’s a site with all of them: http://www.taxhistory.org/www/website.nsf/web/presidentialtaxreturns

            There’s a reason Clinton has been pounding on it – there’s 40 years of precedent for this.

      • Orphan Wilde says:

        So Clinton’s best strategy, in your opinion, is to keep running negative ads against a candidate who has proven exceptionally resilient to them?

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      Well that’s a bold prediction.

      And the answer is of course. As long as each party candidate does not have a gerald ford moment and spouts their lines whoever won was the person you agreed with first.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Everyone I read said Trump lost; I thought they did about equally.

      I think it depends what you control for. Trump got asked a lot of very hard questions about his birtherism, tax evasion, sexist comments, et cetera. As far as I can tell, there was no good way to explain them away – he was in the wrong, and his only two options were to admit it (haha, no) or bloviate pointlessly about it in a way that didn’t sound too incriminating until he could change the subject. I thought he did a pretty good (in the sense of technically skilled) job of the latter.

      So did Trump lose the debate? I think a neutral Martian observer, upon watching the debate, would become much less likely to want to vote for Trump. But if US voters know all of the bad things Trump did already, I don’t think this debate performance made them any worse.

      If someone thinks Trump was a technically bad debater last night, I’m curious if they have a better idea how to respond to all the questions bringing up his scandals.

      • AnonBosch says:

        From a Machiavellian technical standpoint:

        The best response to birtherism would’ve been to turn it back on Holt. The media is one of the few institutions in the country less popular than you, so you have to take any opportunity to get up on that cross. And there is a grain of truth to it; the media basically started pulling stuff like that off the shelf once Trump stopped shooting himself in the foot every week. I believe that question came after another direct challenge from Holt about his views on Iraq, so you could say something like “Lester, we’re talking about the future here. Does admitting Obama was born in America bring one job back? Would an apology kill one terrorist?” Etc. If Holt keeps pushing, then bring up Blumenthal and Doyle, but only briefly and fold it into your indictment of the media (Hillary and I both questioned his citizenship, but only I’m getting interrogated!)

        With regard to tax evasion, he had the broad tactical idea correct (begging off because of the audit, pivoting to her deleted emails) but his “that makes me smart” was a disastrous interjection. Let Hillary finish and then pivot into an argument about how government wastes money. When she says “nothing for troops” reference the checks you cut this spring from your non-debate fundraising drive. Reference all the money you’ve given to veterans in the past. Nobody can contradict you without your tax returns, so it’s an unfalsifiable counter. Swing LIVs watching the debate aren’t reading David Farenthold!

        For sexism, I can imagine a ton of possible counters and derails (his lack of a ready response really showed his lack of prep, you have to know Hillary will play this card). High road: make a non-apology statement of regret for un-gentlemanly language (similar to his first post-Conway campaign speech) and pivot to your child-care plan and how brave and independent you are breaking from conservative orthodoxy. Low road: go full broadside and “hit her with the husband.” Reference Bill’s “bimbo eruptions” and Hillary’s past statements about Broaddrick and Flowers. He did this in the primary and hinted about doing it before the debate but for some reason backed off (while musing aloud that he was backing off, which is worse). Sexism also provides obvious cheap pivots to Muslim refugees, but even with my Machiavelli hat on I find gaming that out too depressing. I don’t know for sure which if any of these three would’ve worked best (again, this is the sort of brainstorming you refine or discard during debate prep), but they would’ve changed the subject, which is really Job #1 when responding to questions about scandals. Bumbling about Rosie O’Donnell didn’t.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Speaking Machiavellianly –

          He could have responded to the charges of sexism with a backhanded compliment. Example: “all the female executives say I’m tremendous*, I treat them so fairly, equal work for equal pay**, they’re usually harder working and smarter than their male counterparts, this is definitely true of Secretary Clinton, I know her and her husband and she’s definitely the brains, he’s the charm” – shuts down the charge with something that may or may not be true, and then brings in a backhanded compliment that attacks Hillary at one of her weak points.

          *is this true or false? Who cares?
          **either the moderator or Hillary brought up Trump allegedly saying women should only be paid as men if they do as good a job – I’m surprised he didn’t throw that back, given that “equal pay depends on equal quality work” is an easily defensible position.

          • Matt M says:

            “either the moderator or Hillary brought up Trump allegedly saying women should only be paid as men if they do as good a job – I’m surprised he didn’t throw that back, given that “equal pay depends on equal quality work” is an easily defensible position.”

            I actually went back to watch this again. It seems clear that Trump starts objecting, saying “I’ve never said that” before Hillary actually finished her statement and the “for equal quality work” part was at the very end. He clearly didn’t expect her to say the “equal quality work” part, because why would someone say that? Is that really the point of contention here?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Did he start interrupting before the sentence was over? If he did, that looks bad on him. I’m still kind of baffled at her saying that though.

          • Matt M says:

            “Did he start interrupting before the sentence was over? ”

            Here’s a video of the exchange. Watch carefully, it looks like he’s clearly intending to interrupt her as soon as she says “women don’t deserve equal pay” but stops for a second to swallow or something – but by the time he starts saying “I never said that” she’s saying “unless…” and his “I never said that” occurs basically simultaneously with her “they do as good of a job as men.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            So it’s not clear whether he was disagreeing with the first bit or anticipating how she was finishing the second bit.

            Still not sure why she would add the second part. Just accusing him of saying women didn’t deserve equal pay would work better – it’s not like people pay attention to fact checking, and they can probably find some interview from 1989 where he says something like that anyway.

      • sweeneyrod says:

        The best defence is a good offence. There was a moment where I thought he was being clever and letting Clinton blather on avoiding the question about her emails, preparing to come in with “And the 30,000 emails you deleted? Are you ever going to say something about that?”. But he didn’t, so the focus moved onto his scandals again. Clinton has quite a few potential scandals, some of which might even be real, and I think attacking them might have been a good strategy. I don’t think he was particularly technically bad in terms of managing the cut and thrust of the debate, but his points of minimal coherence were really really bad. However, having not listened to him speak before, I was quite impressed with his general coherence.

      • Matt M says:

        “I’m curious if they have a better idea how to respond to all the questions bringing up his scandals.”

        Ignore them and go back to your best argument: “Hillary has been in charge for 20 years and things keep getting worse.” Yeah, the moderator will keep pressing you to “answer the question” but if the question is clearly about his personal qualities and he keeps reframing it as “I’m here to talk about the issues” I think that ends up making the moderator look biased and feeding into his “the press is biased against me” narrative.

        • Zombielicious says:

          I already mentioned it in my reply, but the problem with that tactic is that Clinton is probably far more knowledgeable on policy than Trump is, so diverting it to a discussion for policy wonks isn’t necessarily a better strategy for him.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t suggest he delve into wonkish things. If I was advising Trump, I would suggest he find a way to tell the following story in EVERY answer.

            1. America has big problems
            2. Hillary has held serious political power for 20+ years
            3. During that time, the problems have gotten worse

            He did this a few times scattered across the debate last night, but he needs to work it into a repeated and coherent narrative. Bring EVERY answer back to this.

      • Zombielicious says:

        He’s pretty screwed either way. Both of them have a “pot calling the kettle black” problem with most everything they say, but Trump has it worse. He can’t effectively attack her character because he has made so many more offensive statements that can easily be brought up against him, and he can’t effectively divert the mudslinging to a discussion of actual policy because that’s also going to be a much stronger area for Clinton.

        But some of his responses still seemed exceptionally poor. The defense of his having “opposed” the Iraq War was completely unconvincing. Attention span for these things is short, most people watching will only remember clever quips and one liners (e.g. “the 80s called and they want their foreign policy back”). Going into a long spiel about a half dozen different talk show hosts and who said what to who just made it look like equivocating. The long and complicated defense based on obscure statements made at one time or another don’t make for an authentic sounding rebuttal. (ETA: Also the stamina thing. It’d be pretty easy to just say something like, “No, it has nothing to do with her gender, she just looks old and tired, and it’s obvious at a glance how unqualified she is.” But instead we get a 30 second rant about how he has STAMINA, you need STAMINA. Wtf?)

        Other parts of his strategy just seemed incomprehensible. Get accused of not paying taxes on a $600+ million dollar income, say “that makes me smart?” Openly describe your economic plan as tax cuts for the rich because it’ll “create jobs?” Maybe I misunderstand the Republican base, but I have trouble seeing even the median conservative voter getting excited about billionaires not paying taxes and focusing tax cuts on their buddies. Sure, everyone likes to hear “create jobs,” but at least dress it up a little beyond “tax cuts for the wealthy! Trickle-down works!” Plus it’s hard to play the more dovish candidate when also claiming you can blow up ships and it’ll be fine because it won’t start a war. I was expecting more of a genuine pivot to a more centrist position, but instead he seems to be doubling down on what those of us not-on-the-right see as Republican crazy.

        I don’t see much point in giving him credit for lack of experience and having to defend decades of stupid remarks and questionable behavior. A debate with Clinton is still relatively civilized and with unspoken norms compared to what the rest of the world is free to think and say about him. So that he spends so much time on the defensive for various things and can’t give convincing rebuttals kind of kills the “master persuader” thesis and makes you realize what a humiliation he would actually be to have in office. Clinton is bad, but bad within the norms of what you expect for a ladder-climbing lifetime politician – i.e. white color crime, cronyism, etc. Trump came off as all that plus genuinely unstable and unprepared. That’s why I came away with a different impression of the debate than I expected to have going in – he looks even worse when forced to directly interact with people outside of the Republican party than he does when he’s on a stage where everyone else is also saying stuff you think is absurd and offensive. For someone not-on-the-right, it’s easy to forget just how low the bar was set for him during the primaries.

    • erenold says:

      Pretty sure our very own E. Harding is going all over Twitter proclaiming loudly that Trump lost. Unless, as is very possible, he is being ironic or sarcastic in some way and I have failed to understand him.

      As you say, it appears to be limited to him, though.

      • E. Harding says:

        Not sarcastic. I am in full agreement with Ross Douthat (#NeverTrump Cruzlim) and A. Karlin (Trump supporter). There seems to be a consensus that Trump underperformed his potential. BTW, I was not expecting Trump to win the debate. The upside: Mitt was at 3% in the FiveThirtyEight NowCast just before the debate and peaked at 43.9% just after the debate (this was his high watermark in 2012). Trump was at 47.9% the day before the debate.

        • erenold says:

          Ah, thanks. Genuinely surprised to hear you predicted a Trump loss before the fact – can you elaborate more on your reasoning there? Does that same reasoning apply to the upcoming “town hall” debate and the last debate? And, to what extent would you say your feelings were typical for the “alt-right” on this point?

          • E. Harding says:


            By “effect” I meant polling effect in the FiveThirtyEight NowCast.

            Unlike some people, I actually watched some of the Sanders-Clinton debates, as well as some of the Republican debates. I think Hillary won the one in Flint by a reasonable margin, though it wasn’t anywhere near as decisive as the day before yesterday’s. Bernie looked like a chump (though a well-meaning and dedicated one) relative to Her. Trump in the primaries clearly was not prepared at all, and was just scraping by. He was not a good debater, and clearly stepped up his performance from the primary debates in this debate, by just enough not to be a laughingstock.

            A lot of alt-righters were complaining about opportunities Trump failed to exploit in the chans:

            It’s not that Trump did badly in this debate, it’s that he failed to exploit opportunities and defend himself properly and Clinton overperformed relative to the expectations of those who forget Clinton has solid debate skills. He should see that every bit of his debate performance should be turned into a 1 minute-30 second commercial for him.

            The uncertainty regarding the last two debates is too high for me to even speculate.

          • erenold says:


    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      I thought so too; but I checked the posts on r/the_donald this morning, and they were all about how Lester Holt was biased against Trump and asked him X many questions while he only asked Clinton Y many questions and so on. My takeaway is that they didn’t feel that the debate went well (although they still claim he won).

      This matches my impression of the debate; Clinton won handily by keeping Trump on the defensive throughout. Trump failed to mount a credible counteroffensive, and so the bulk of the air time was devoted to Trump defending himself against a constant stream of issues. There is no doubt in my mind that Clinton won the debate.

      I will say that Clinton did not impress me with her debating skill, either; she rose to Trump’s bait several times in a way that undermined the “collected adult vs. squalling toddler” image, and in pressing the issues she left herself wide open to counterattacks that Trump either failed to make or made too late and too weakly.

      Overall, I don’t expect the debate to significantly affect the polls.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I like Trump, but I think he lost the debate based on the fact that Betfair was giving him a 35% chance when the debate started and it has gone down to 30% as of right now (I actually had the odds in one tab and the debate in the other so I could see how the prediction market shifted in response to the questions and answer).

      • dndnrsn says:

        Weird that Betfair is giving him a 10% lower chance of winning the election than 538 (which currently has 45%; I’m predicting a drop of about 4%, 60% confidence, once the debate has sunk in).

      • Homo Iracundus says:

        Yes. The expectations were overly high that Trump would stump Hillary, or that she’d simply collapse mentally or physically. He definitely lost by that standard.

        So yeah, going to revise your claim at all Nancy?

        • I might revise my claim (that supporters thought their preferred candidate did better), but I think I’ll wait for more information to come in.

          I didn’t claim (or think) that anyone would think their candidate won by a lot, and if Trump supporters (what proportion of Trump supporteres) were expecting that, they weren’t being sensible.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve seen quite a few Trump supporters claim he lost, but no Hillary supporters claim she lost.

            Not trying to imply anything with that, just a statement of my observations.

          • Sandy says:

            Michael Moore seems to think Trump won. I personally think Clinton came off better, but James Taranto argued that the night was good for Trump because the debate normalized him as just another candidate rather than the raving far-right psychopath he’s been caricatured as.

          • Matt M says:

            Does Michael Moore actually support Hillary? He strikes me as more of a Bernie/Jill Stein kind of guy.

          • Sandy says:

            He endorsed Bernie and now supports Hillary, but he’s convinced Trump will be President because the angry white men are out for revenge.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            And “RAWR, EVIL DINOSAURS!” I believe.
            Last year he claimed he was going to make us extinct, but I wonder if he’ll outlast any of us in the shape he’s in…

        • JayT says:

          That is not at all the impression I had going into the debate, Homo Iracundus. Everything I was reading or hearing was that people were expecting Trump to go off on some ridiculous tangent that would hurt him. the fact that he didn’t say anything new that was both outrageous and sound bite worthy makes me think that at the end of the day the debate was a win for him.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Peter Watts is suffering from an unknown illness, if you like him and/or think you could maybe help, go here.

    • Murphy says:

      One of the first comments on that already suggested it but his description of the onset screams “get checked out by a neuro specialist” to me.

  10. Is the image of the “thirteenth century Tantric sculpture” mentioned in “I Remember Babylon” by Arthur C. Clarke?

  11. Coco says:

    I’ve seen some Trump ads on Twitter. Has anyone else wondered if he pays per click on those ads, and maybe on other social media platform? If so, has anyone thought about creating a bot that clicks on those ads, to drain money from his campaign? Level two: let the bot have access to a bunch of email accounts nobody cares about, and after clicking on those ads, sign up for Trump’s email list, so that the campaign concludes the ads must be really successful, and they start putting even more money into them. Anyone want to take this on?

    • Jiro says:

      If you want to commit fraud to drain money from his campaign, why not just ask for people to hack into his bank account instead?

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        Is that fraud? If someone wanted to manually go and click all the Trump links to drain money, I’m pretty sure that’s legal. I don’t think adding a bot to the equation changes it.

        With that said, this idea sounds like the sort of thing that could be flipped around pretty easily, and Trump seems to have a larger base of enthusiastic internet supporters. I could definitely see this turning out worse for Hillary than Trump if it proved to be an effective attack.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect they are pay-per-impression.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      No, no one has ever thought of that because no one thinks about elections. But, back in the real world that people care about, there is a ton of automated click fraud and companies like twitter spend a lot of resources fighting it.

  12. AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

    Thoughts on China’s one child policy, anyone?

    It was implemented in the 70’s, where doom and gloom environmentalists where very in vogue. If I was an intellectual at the time with voting capabilities there, I probably would have voted in the affirmative.

    Your thoughts?

    Secondary thoughts on Peter Woit book, “Not Even Wrong”
    namely, that much of theoretical physics, and string theory in particular, has devolved into lovely mathematical nonsense.

    • onyomi says:

      If you think human life is usually a positive good (most people, even poor, unfortunate people, seem, at the end of their lives, to be glad they lived), it’s probably the most evil thing ever done? I don’t have a good philosophical way to count potential lives never had compared to say, murders, however.

      • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

        Well, keep in mind that its still a ? if sufficient renewable energy will be created or deployed in the upcoming century to keep the global population steady, and that endlessly expanding humans may lead to a tragedy of the commons scenario.

        Or maybe I really need to update my infobanks, and its in fact the case that the current population is sustainable with solar, wind, and geothermal, while perhaps getting rid of things like centralized heating, cars, and eating most meats.

        • “and that endlessly expanding humans may lead to a tragedy of the commons scenario.”

          A tragedy of the commons scenario requires a commons. Most of what humans need to survive–food, energy, space to live in–is not owned in common.

          • Shieldfoss says:

            Most of what humans need to survive–food, energy, space to live in–is not owned in common.

            That’s a political statement though.

            The phrase “property is theft” hinges on exactly that – what you term “your property,” is in fact a commons that you have immorally decided to fence off for your own private use.

            Now I happen to be a fan of private property, but at the same time it does, in fact, annoy me when somebody fences off land and puts up “no trespassing” signs. By what right do they deny me? By the violence of the state, and none other.

          • It’s not a political statement. It’s a description of one of two things:

            1. Existing legal institutions and norms. Food is for the most part grown on private property, belongs to the producer, can be transferred by sale.

            2. Institutions that it is practical to enforce whether or not they currently exist. There are societies in which land, at least some land, is a commons. There are social contexts in which some food is a commons. But it is practical to treat both food and land as property and they are often so treated. If treating them as a commons leads to serious problems, it is likely that people will stop treating them as a commons–and they can.

            I am making no moral or political claims. Tragedy of the commons is a result of common ownership, so irrelevant where things are privately owned, less relevant where they can be.

          • sweeneyrod says:

            A tragedy of the people with the most military resources seizing all the food and everyone else starving is still possible though.

          • keranih says:

            Now I happen to be a fan of private property, but at the same time it does, in fact, annoy me when somebody fences off land and puts up “no trespassing” signs. By what right do they deny me? By the violence of the state, and none other.

            The first time you find a sheep tore to bits by a wandering dog who was accompanying a “walker” – or a three year-old fruit tree that had been beaten to pieces by twelve year olds who were “just playing” – or have to haul a dead two year old out of the pond – you might reconsider your resistance to open borders.

            In the USA, most anti-trespassing sentiment comes from two places – concern over vandalism, petty theft, and graffiti; and very justified legal concern over liability for a child, drunk, or thief doing harm to themselves while being someplace they should not be. Make those go away – ie, make humans not be humans – and most of the concern over trespassing would vanish.

          • Matt M says:

            Can confirm. I grew up in a rural environment where virtually every property owner had big “no tresspassing” and “no hunting” signs up on their land, most of which was largely unused pasture or Christmas tree farms (crops you can’t really damage unless you’re really trying hard to).

            This was MOSTLY to deter illegal poaching of deer, which was a huge problem in the community.

            The thing was, if you walked up to a house and knocked on someone’s door and asked if you could walk around on their land and provided even a halfway legitimate reason, there was about a 99% certainty they would allow you to do so. They just wanted to meet you, know who you were, and what you were about.

            So in practical terms, the situation was not really “this land is closed to everyone but me” but rather “look I have to take SOME steps to help secure and maintain this place, the least you can do is come meet me and talk to me and ask permission before you roam around”

          • sohois says:

            You’re being overly literal in your interpretation of that scenario. The Aral sea was not owned in common, or by anyone at all, but that didn’t stop the soviet union and surrounding countries from completely destroying it as a viable water source.

            In fact it seems to be quite consistent that water sources are shrunk by tragedy of the commons scenarios, with multiple countries laying large claims to the water and failing to divide it in a sustainable manner, leading to the aforementioned shrinkage. Heck, even within countries you have rivers suffering large drops in volume due to competing local claims, such as the Colorado in the US.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            That’s a political statement though.

            No. Look up what public and private goods. If a good is rivalrous (only one person can eat the same banana), it is a private good regardless of if your civilization has rules enforcing private property.

            Declaring a rivalrous, excludable good to be “public” just means political enforcers own it. It doesn’t make it public in the way that gravity and air are public.

            Even if “private ownership” of a survival resource is banned, a tragedy of the commons scenario can’t occur if the People’s Resource Allocation Bureau “owns” the good by controlling access.

          • Homo Iracundus says:

            Or to put it another way, a good being “private” is just reality, not a political statement.
            It doesn’t imply or rely on anything about your culture or political system.

          • “A tragedy of the people with the most military resources seizing all the food and everyone else starving is still possible though.”

            Practically anything is possible. I see no reason to anticipate food shortages.

            As best I can tell, mostly by trying to make sense of Figures 5.5 and 5.7 in the latest IPCC report, studies of the effect of AGW on agricultural output disagree on whether it increases or decreases it, with the median study finding a small decrease–much smaller than the increases over recent decades due to other causes.

            Further, we currently have the ability to feed many more people than exist. Maize, for instance, is the largest agricultural crop (by weight). About 15% of it is consumed by humans, the rest going for either animal feed or biofuels. If people started getting seriously hungry it could easily enough double.

      • Two McMillion says:

        I don’t have a good philosophical way to count potential lives never had compared to say, murders, however.

        The one-child policy has resulted in no shortage of murders.

        • onyomi says:

          Of infant girls, I assume you mean. That is also a good point.

          • sohois says:

            Female infanticide in China was entirely mediated by Chinese cultural norms though. These deaths were caused by a culture that believed in the need for a male heir and the practice for the son and daughter-in-law to care for the son’s parents after marriage.

            If you remove this culture from the equation then you would not have mass female infanticide due to a single child policy.

          • Saint Fiasco says:

            remove this culture from the equation

            The Chinese government tried to do just that and it didn’t work out.

          • onyomi says:

            I’d say if you institute a policy of “force everyone to wear a funny hat” in a culture where it is well-known that the only acceptable response to the humiliation of funny hat-wearing is suicide, then people instituting the policy are at least partially responsible for any deaths resulting, not just the culture itself.

      • I’m always a bit perplexed with the argument that *potential* lives have the same value and weight as *actual* lives, and that therefore preventing a life to exist at all is the same as murder.

        Anytime anyone makes *any* decision, by repercution, butterfly effect, etc, it ultimately impacts many other people’s decision to have children or not. Therefore, anytime you do *anything at all*, you commit genocide.

        Conclusion: the only acceptable moral move is immediate suicide for everyone.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Your conclusion doesn’t quite follow. Anything might prevent future lives but extinction does so by definition.

          That said, any workable consequentialist theory of ethics needs to take circles of control into account. You can’t predict or control nth order effects of your actions, so it makes little sense to consider them morally relevant.

          • Granting that, though it doesn’t really adress the initial objection of the supposed equivalence between real lives and potential lives. The reason most people object to murder isn’t because of all the years of potential creativity lost — that’s a rationalization. The reason most people object to murder is because real, existing humans form empathetic bounds together and when someone dies these bounds are brutally terminated, which causes us pain.

            We (normally) form no such bound over (virtually infinite in numbers) hypothetical human beings (whether those are potential humans that may exist some day or could have existed in different circumstances, or whether those are probabilistic humans who do exist but that we aren’t aware of individually and concretely).

            This doesn’t seem to be a bad thing — if the empathic function was boundless, if we felt as much pain for the averted existence of each of the billions of billions of possible humans that could have existed as we did for the death of someone close to us, we would not be able to function, and futhermore, it would be useless; presumably, empathy exists to encourage cooperation between existing humans in the present.

    • E. Harding says:

      China was a very poor country then. If it had been even slightly richer, like Thailand or even Indonesia, there would not have been a one-child policy.

    • onyomi says:

      On a more practical level, I think China and the world are poorer because of it, because I buy Julian Simon’s argument about human creativity being the most valuable resource, though it’s a really hard counterfactual to thoroughly imagine because I don’t think one can just imagine China as it is now plus an extra billion or so people. All those extra people would have changed things tremendously–new cities, new political institutions, new technology? Who knows?

      • Matt M says:

        Strongly recommend Simon’s book for anyone who hasn’t read it. The arguments and evidence presented are very convincing. One of the few books I’ve read that I think has the potential to really change someone’s mind about deeply held philosophical beliefs.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      This isn’t a thought on the policy exactly, but on the recent abolition of it in favor of a “two child policy.”

      This is all second hand obviously but, judging from how many aunts and uncles my ex had, it seems like the first time the one child policy was relaxed Chinese people jumped at the chance to have large families again. Which explains why one generation later it was back in force.

      Now that the policy is being loosened again, should we expect a repeat of that baby boom? Or will the Chinese emulate their childless neighbors in Japan and Korea? It’s going to be interesting either way. Although personally I’m rooting for the Chinese.

    • keranih says:

      It was implemented in the 70’s, where doom and gloom environmentalists where very in vogue.

      More to the point, it was implemented when the leaders of China were concerned about not being able to feed their population, which had been rebounding quite nicely since Mao’s disastrous policies. China’s been around as a going concern long enough that government over throws due to starving people are an ingrained part of their tradition.

      Looking at the historical birth rate chart in WP, one sees that the policy didn’t seem to have that much of an impact on the birth rate, which was already declining. (Alternatively – without the policy, there would have been an increase which we didn’t see.)

      My problem with the policy was a) making it mandatory, instead of encouraged and b) all the exceptions.

  13. I’m watching the debate. Clinton is a better demagogue than I expected, but not as good a demagogue as Trump. Both of them are mostly talking nonsense, but he’s better at it. If I didn’t know anything about economics I would probably find him convincing.

    Her strongest argument is targeting him–not releasing his taxes, claiming he stiffed lots of people, and the like. His strongest argument is pointing out that she has been running things (loosely speaking) for a long time, so if she thinks there are lots of problems that should be fixed, why hasn’t she fixed them?

    • keranih says:

      I’m watching the debate.

      I don’t have enough booze in the house for that.

      (on edit) Sorry, that was particularly low value, and funnier in my head.

      Hillary should – as a female non-incumbent – be able to play the crusading reformer well. However, it appears that Bernie, Trump, and Cruz all got to pick before her.

      • Lumifer says:

        I *do* have enough booze, but I’m not about to waste it like that.

        (pre-edit) I’m fine with low values : -P

      • LHN says:

        I can attest that High West Rendezvous Rye is a necessary if perhaps not sufficient accompaniment.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary should – as a female non-incumbent – be able to play the crusading reformer well.

        Yeah, but she’s been First Lady of a former administration, has held a cabinet position under the current administration, and is tied into the structure of the party. How is she going to be a reformer, when she is so strongly associated with The Man? Bernie, God bless him, is a genuine old-fashioned Leftist (of the Old Labour style over here) so, while he is as much a career politician as any of them, he could point to a Tony Benn-style track record (and had about as much chance of ever getting to be Top Dog for that very reason). Hillary is part and parcel of the party system. I look at her and I don’t see “reform”, I see it’s Buggins’ turn.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      They’re both pretty bad. Does “I’ve got a good economic plan and some experts said it would create 10 million jobs” actually convince anyone? Equally, how did someone who literally says “some bad people have guns and that’s bad” the Republican nominee? I’m sorely tempted to do a Big Yud and become President of the America.

      I feel like both of them should play a little dirtier, especially Clinton. She would benefit a lot from persistent digs and Trump’s competence, and while he could benefit from more personal attacks he also benefits from appearing above that.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I liked the way Clinton had to avoid saying “gun control”, you could almost hear the switch flipping in her brain when she managed to say “gun safety” instead.

    • Matt M says:

      “If I didn’t know anything about economics I would probably find him convincing.”

      One of the best lines I’ve heard about Trump yet!

    • “The longest military alliance in the history of the world.” (Clinton)

      “I have an announcement to make to the House arising out the treaty signed between this country and Portugal in the year 1373 between His Majesty King Edward III and King Ferdinand and Queen Eleanor of Portugal,” declared Winston Churchill in the House of Commons in 1943.

      • tcd says:

        When she said that I turned to my SO and said, “We finally caught her in a lie!”

        Also, I can’t believe Trump gave up on the “400-lb bed-hacker” vote so early in the campaign. Poor politics.

      • Zakharov says:

        At approximately 13000 km between Hawaii and Turkey, NATO is significantly longer than the 1600 km between England and Portugal.

      • BBA says:

        Well, England and Portugal were both charter members of NATO, so you could look at it as an extension of the 1373 treaty…

    • The Nybbler says:

      That was awful. I’d give the win to Hillary, but not by much. Big loser, Lester Holt, who managed to get overrun by Trump on numerous occasions and by Clinton on a few.

      • Odoacer says:

        What would have been a better way to control the debate? I’m not trying to be snarky, but I’ve heard this criticism about many debate moderators.

        • Sandy says:

          There isn’t one. If the moderator tries to stay impartial, he will be condemned for it. If he decides to be an attack dog for Trump, he will be condemned for it. If he decides to be an attack dog for Clinton, Trump will fend him off through sheer obstinacy and he will be condemned for not being fiercer.

          It’s a thankless job, methinks.

        • One way would be binding time constraints. You have two minutes, and at the end of it your mike goes dead. Or the chess clock approach. You have a total of forty minutes, spend it as you like.

          The latter could get interesting from a tactical point of view.

          • keranih says:

            While I am not at all about adopting UK or Euro customs more than we have…I am very found of the Prime Minister’s Questions, and would wish we did more of this.

            The tradition of the US Congress to give speeches to an empty chamber – speeches which they can later revise and extend – is rather weak tea.

          • Brad (The Other One) says:

            The latter could get interesting from a tactical point of view.

            It would also get interesting for those of us who watch the debates with the same disinterested passion as a baseball playoff. I’m all your suggestion.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ David Friedman
            One way would be binding time constraints. You have two minutes, and at the end of it your mike goes dead.

            Good idea.

          • baconbacon says:

            One way would be binding time constraints. You have two minutes, and at the end of it your mike goes dead.

            Just let them start with dead mikes, and never tell them.

        • Matt M says:

          I feel like you’d have to be an idiot to agree to accept this job. It seems all prestigious and everything, but at the end of the day, both sides are going to end up hating you.

    • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

      Meh. I found Trump to be a bit loud, frightening and angry. That really turned me off of him during the debate. It would be like watching a husband and wife where the wife eventually lets the man yell himself to calmness. Hillary’s biggest problem for me is that her voice cracked a few times and sounded raspy, while Trump’s voice, though loud, was smoother.

      Other then that, the two politicians repeated what they have been saying the last several months. I don’t think this is going to change anyone’s mind, since neither opponent obviously cracked and had a Rick Perry moment.

      But how is our subconscious processing the debate?

    • onyomi says:

      I felt like this debate was an excellent illustration of that joke you said recently about “the stupid party” and “the evil party.” Trump talks in such vague generalities that it’s honestly hard to know how much he really understands, but he certainly talks at about a 4th grade level. Clinton talks in sophisticated, reasonable-sounding platitudes which equally tell you absolutely nothing about what she’d actually do, but you get the impression she knows exactly what she wants to do but isn’t saying.

      Recently we’ve had more than one person come on and say, “are there any rationalists here who can explain why anyone in their right mind would support Trump??”

      Watching the debate makes me wonder “how do you feel about democracy when this is the level of the debate being had by two people competing for its most powerful office?”

      • Deiseach says:

        you get the impression she knows exactly what she wants to do but isn’t saying

        That’s not terribly reassuring: “if I let the morons of the common clay know my intentions, they’ll never vote me in – a tedious necessity of our ridiculous ‘democratic’ process where those who deserve power cannot simply claim it – so I must keep them in ignorance until it is too late”.

        I don’t think that is her genuine attitude, and I rather think President Clinton will not make a huge amount of difference from the guy currently in office (unless, for some reason, she feels the need to be hawkish on foreign policy having talked up her time as Secretary of State and the perceived need to get tough with ISIS), but if she is giving off the impression of “I have Plans but nobody can know them until I’m good and ready to implement them”, that’s not a good impression to give.

        Didn’t see the debate but read the analysis of it online newspaper site, and I must admit, my heart sank when I read “Clinton would increase tax revenue by $1.1tn by taxing the top 1 per cent of earners, increasing the estate tax and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies, and by implementing and a more complex tax code, according to the Tax Policy Center.”

        Does America really need a more complex tax code? From what I can see of your system, it’s already complicated enough that I have no idea how you deal with it! Plus, if “eliminating fossil fuel subsidies” means the price of petrol on the forecourt rises, I cannot see this being popular with the public – you like cheap fuel and you need it, from the fact that you routinely drive long distances to and from work and if that cost eats into your disposable income the politicians will feel the anger. I feel that’s one of those “campaign policies” which will be quietly allowed to wither on the vine if she does achieve victory.

    • onyomi says:

      My digest version of the debate:

      Trump: She is the WORST, she has negotiated the WORST deals, but let me deal you, my deals are gonna be GREAT. Greatest deals you’ve ever seen.

      Hillary: I certainly think this is a very serious issue we need to look into very carefully and work closely with all concerned parties to find smart, equitable solutions. And that’s why I’m prepared, from day one, to step into that Oval Office and seriously engage the many challenges which face this great nation.

      (Actual information communicated in either case: 0)

      • Matt M says:

        Hillary was basically a walking caricature of every useless bureaucrat who spouts meaningless platitudes while accomplishing nothing.

        And Trump was basically a walking caricature of himself.

        I’m gonna say that whole exercise this solved nothing and was of no particular use to anybody.

        • onyomi says:

          Yeah, in the end, it feels like it did very little to move the needle in either direction.

          People have been saying, correctly, I think, that a draw is a win for Trump because expectations were lower: all he had to do was not be literally Hitler and he’s start to look more like a plausible president.

          I don’t think it was a draw. I think it was a slight Hillary victory, but he held his own and didn’t seem completely unhinged or ignorant, so that is probably to his advantage, or, at least, won’t slow down any momentum he may currently have. As you say, Trump was basically just Trump; if you could imagine him being president before the debate you still can now; if you couldn’t imagine it before the debate, you probably still can’t?

          • Dániel says:

            Hillary’s numbers have dropped recently specifically because the public perception was that she has something serious to hide about her health. My model before the debate was that if she manages to complete three 90 minutes debates without scary coughing fits or fainting, that’s enough for her numbers to improve.

        • So, is an hour and a half with no advertising on major media, an hour and a half which was lost to advertisers forever a net gain or a net loss?

      • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

        Well, I did remember a few policy bits, and there only seemed to be a few.

        1. trump seemed negative on various regulations for businesses. I know little about pure income taxes, but I lean heavily on environmental taxes.

        2. Hillary seemed to oppose stop and frisk in new york, which both rudy and bloomburg credited for reducing rates of violent crime

        3. Trump wan’ts to bring the BEST jobs to america and bring the BEST deals to America, while Hillary annoyingly pointed out that the US only has 5% of the world population and probably has to trade with countries.

        On free trade, I’m annoyed a green party person isn’t there. It helps to have some person point out a major reason these trinkets are so cheap is in good part due to poor compliance to enviromental laws in some countries, instead of populist TOOK R JERBS crap.

    • Zombielicious says:

      I watched it. That was brutal; Trump did substantially worse than I expected. I’m no fan of Clinton but after that I have to consider that a President Trump would be even more incompetent than I’d thought. Also makes the Republican field look weak and ridiculous by comparison that he’s the best they could offer.

      Opinions will differ, of course.

    • Jordan D. says:

      Policy-wise the whole thing was a bit lacking, but whatever practices Clinton did clearly served her well- she managed to repeatedly put Trump on the defensive, and she rebounded almost instantly from the e-mail serve into a criticism of his failure to pay employees which he flubbed. I’m still not sure whether the decision to let him keep going for so long on his rambling, incoherent defense of his 9/11 position was a tactical error or a masterstroke.

      So basically I’m saying that this whole thing was an enormous disappointment. I get that the presidential debates are circuses and have been for years now, but god in heaven, I do not care which one of them is best at rubbing salt in the wounds of past scandals.

      So, comments on the substance there was:

      1) Not much time was spent on economic and tax plans, which is probably for the best because neither candidate’s plan makes a lot of sense. Also: if you want to impose tariffs, just freaking say so.

      2) A lot of Trump’s proposals boil down to ‘We’ll negotiate better’. Since our government does, by and large, have negotiators, I assume what he’s saying is that I should elect him because he’ll pick better negotiators, or something. If that’s the angle, I’d like some evidence that this will happen.

      3) If you campaign on Law-and-Order while criticizing the judiciary for being too protective of the rights of citizens and stopping your brilliant crime-fighting policies, I start to think you’re actually just the Order candidate. And I’ve played me some Shin Megami Tensei.

      4) I don’t care whether Trump has paid federal income taxes or not, but deflections that artless make me really wonder what the hell is up. I used to think maybe this was a clever ruse to trick his enemies into focusing on his tax returns, then he’d release them at the last minute and get a big boost. Now I think he’s just hiding something.*

      5) Both candidates should be ashamed of agreeing that the No Fly List is anything but a sham and a mockery of due process, but since Trump is immune to shame I’ll focus on the fact that Clinton is a lawyer and well-informed enough to realize how bad this policy would be while proposing it. Barring gun purchases from everyone on the no-fly list would be unconstitutional and stupid, and I don’t believe she doesn’t know it.

      6) I sympathize a bit with Trump for the thing about the Justice Department’s lawsuit- as I recall, that lawsuit was pretty far-ranging against a lot of housing companies, Trump fought the allegations publically at the time and I don’t think people should conflate settlements with verdicts.

      7) Please stop trying to make “Trumped-up Trickle Down” a thing.**

      8) When people are worried that you might start a nuclear war in office, the proper response to “Donald Trump would have fired on these Iranian sailors for insulting us and started a war” is not “That wouldn’t have started a war!” Are you kidding me.

      9) Also, don’t think I missed that confusing digression in place of answering the No First Use question.

      10) I think I’ve blocked out everything that was said about cyber-anything and I’m not about to revisit that wasteland.

      Anyway, I hope none of you were stupid enough to play the drinking games floating around. In retrospect I’m pretty sure at least half of them were deadly.

      *I know I said this segment was about substance, but seriously now.
      **Memes are substantive this election, so I’m justified in posting this one

      • Matt M says:

        “Also: if you want to impose tariffs, just freaking say so.”

        The average watcher (and probably average undecided voter) doesn’t know what a tariff is.

      • Corey says:

        4) I don’t care whether Trump has paid federal income taxes or not, but deflections that artless make me really wonder what the hell is up. I used to think maybe this was a clever ruse to trick his enemies into focusing on his tax returns, then he’d release them at the last minute and get a big boost. Now I think he’s just hiding something.*

        Josh Barro had an interesting theory (of course we’ll probably never know whether it’s correct): maybe what he’s hiding is a *big* tax bill. It would go along with “that makes me smart” – lots of people (rich and otherwise) are proud of their mad tax-avoidance skillz. Maybe he’s not that good at tax avoidance and pays 30% or so.

        /he should try my tax-avoidance strategy: keep income low

        • baconbacon says:

          I don’t understand the confusion/theories about Trump’s taxes.

          1. He is playing a willful candidate, saying he won’t release his taxes and then not releasing them in the face of pressure makes him appear indomitable. The more people cry out for it, the more angry his opponents get about it the stronger he appears when he shrugs it off every time.

          2. Who LIKES taxes? My parents are very liberal, definitely voting Hillary, have a comfortable set of assets and have spent a fair amount of time shifting contributions and assets around to reduce their total tax bill. No one gets angry at someone who pays their actual tax bill, and everyone wishes they had some deduction to take a big chunk of it off. This line of attack doesn’t work with most voters.

          There is no reason For Trump to release his taxes unless he has huge charitable contributions, then he can hang onto it until shortly before the election and dump it out there with lots of false modesty (I didn’t want to advertise myself this way, which is why my contributions are always anonymous, but since everyone keeps screaming about it look at how I have donated 10x Hillary’s net worth to charity over the years).

          Lastly I doubt there is anything there anyway. Trump has accountants and lawyers, he probably has pushed the envelope but stopped short of committing tax fraud (for obvious reasons).

          • LHN says:

            The most widely suspected “something there” I’ve seen is simply that he’s not as rich as he says, which obviously isn’t illegal but runs against his narrative. (And his factual claims, but that’s kind of coals to Newcastle.)

            I’m also not sure he looks particularly indomitable when he’s saying not “no I won’t release my returns, go to hell” but “Oh, I’d love to, but my mean lawyers (who are the boss of me) say I shouldn’t while I’m under audit”.

            That said, I doubt his stance per se will swing many votes. People who don’t like him will complain about it and observe that there’s no particular reason an audit means he can’t publicly release them, people who like him will say it’s a non issue. If the returns might be damaging in some way, it’s probably the right political call to sit on them.

            (Or, sure, it’s a rope-a-dope that will end when he displays his generous charity contributions and even vaster wealth than anyone thought. But that could be true for anything– maybe Clinton fainted in order to lull the other side and be all the more impressive when she pulls an “I am not left handed” and runs a marathon the day before the election. Whether it’s the way to bet is a different question.)

          • “The most widely suspected “something there” I’ve seen is simply that he’s not as rich as he says”

            I don’t think his tax bill would show that. It shows income, not wealth. It might show dividends from which one could deduce holdings, but I expect a lot of his wealth is in real estate.

          • Chalid says:

            I think one embarrassing-but-not-illegal thing the tax returns would show is that Trump has been lying about his charitable donations. He’s transparently tried to wriggle out of a few donations that he made during the campaign. And a guy who tries to shortchange contractors doesn’t seem like the sort of person who gives to charity.

          • Zombielicious says:

            NPR* actually had an interview with a guy who’d been investigating Trump’s charity foundation this morning. I only heard part of it, but the gist was that he’d never given anything out of his own pocket, used it to make donations with other people’s money but in his name, used it for personal and business purchases whenever possible (and sometimes even when not), and was one of the worst run charities with the least controls over where the money went of anyone the guy’d ever investigated.

            *So will inevitably be excused as meaningless lies by the liberal media.

          • John Schilling says:

            but I expect a lot of his wealth is in real estate.

            Which generates rents, in the literal sense of the term, which are income that shows up in a tax return. And this income is arguably a better measure of the real estate’s real value than “It’s got ‘TRUMP’ on the top in giant gold letters, that’s got to be worth at least half a billion!”

      • The Nybbler says:

        My problem with that isn’t so much that he didn’t use the word “tariff” (he said he was going to be taxing products brought into the country by companies who left, which gets the idea across), but that he didn’t answer the question. All he had to do is say “we’ll start taxing the products these companies who have left the country are bringing into the country, and if they don’t like it, they can bring the jobs and the factories and the what-have-you back to America”. This was a softball and Trump missed it.

        (Here I’m ignoring the issue of whether a tariff is good policy; obviously Trump thinks it is and that voters will think it is)

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      From what I watched, Trump appeared to be measuring his attacks, preserving a few for the next debate; there were several lines of attack he could have pursued but didn’t. Clinton, on the other hand, gave me the perception of having a check list of every possible attack, checking them off as she went down them.

      The biggest thing that stood out, before I got bored and went to bed, was Trump clearly and blatantly calling out to black voters, implying he’d represent them, whereas Clinton hadn’t done anything for them. It was one of a number of attacks which played Clinton’s expertise against her, repeatedly implying that, if she had any good ideas, she would have implemented them already.

      On the whole, I think Clinton probably came out slightly ahead in the short term, but used up most of her ammunition to do so; we’re still a ways away from the election. Expecting a short-term (and small) shift towards Clinton, with the long-term advantage going to Trump; his targeted appeals to black and to a lesser extent young millennial voters and other Sanders supporters were probably the most meaningful things to happen.

      ETA, a few more thoughts:

      Hillary’s best attack was pressing the birther line of attack, which Trump handled quite poorly. She didn’t really answer any policy questions at all, spending the opportunity to aggressively go after Trump on every point she could.

      Her biggest issue was her inability to maintain a poker face; she smiled broadly whenever she felt she was winning, which meant you could immediately tell every time she felt he had won one over on her as her face crumpled, making his attacks that much more effective for the audience, as each hit made her look weak.

      I suspect Trump is playing up weaknesses he doesn’t have, such as the tax return thing, to get his opponents to concentrate on something that is going to turn around and make him look good. (A few million dollar donation to help ease the federal deficit would be a relatively cheap campaign expense that could be pulled out whenever he needs a boost.)

      • onyomi says:

        I think this is pretty accurate. As debate qua debate, Trump was clearly the loser yesterday, but he made some key appeals to particular states and demographics, often, I felt, attempting to talk directly to people beyond the beltway in language they could understand. I wouldn’t be surprised if, for many viewers, one week later, the takeaway is “Trump: Great deals! deals, deals, deals!; Clinton: blahblahblah.” In this sense I do still think Trump has a natural talent for that “advertising” skill which takes such things into account.

        Second, one still has to admit he did reasonably well, considering how much experience she has, both in politicy, and in this form of debate, relative to him. He had literally never been in this kind of debate. I think he’ll probably get better at it as time goes on, as he did during the primary. I mean, I, unsurprisingly, think my views on politics, economics, etc. are much closer to the truth than Hillary’s, yet I have no illusion that I could beat her in a debate.

        Ironically, Hillary went into the debate in something of an underdog position last night: momentum seemed to be with Trump, questions swirled about her health. She had to seem smart, on point, energetic, etc. to put that all to bed, and she did. At the same time, Trump just had to prove he could sort of hold his own on the stage with her without descending into total comic-insult territory, and he did that, too.

        • Anonymous says:

          If he wins, are you going to grade his presidency on a curve too?

          • onyomi says:

            Yes, actually.

            I am voting for Johnson and have serious concerns about Trump, but to the extent I prefer him to Hillary, it’s because he represents such a departure from the status quo, which I hate. If he succeeds in disrupting the status quo in long-term productive ways on e. g., the Fed, which I was happy to hear him mention, I will forgive him some clumsiness in execution (not that I’d forgive, e. g. nuclear war, but I’d forgive a lot; for HRC, by contrast, all she even claims to be is a more polished, seasoned, refined version of what we have now. Someone running on competency has a higher bar for smoothness of execution and polish than someone running on change).

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          It looked to me like a pyrrhic victory for Clinton, who appeared more concerned with winning the debate than winning the election.

        • Matt M says:

          “As debate qua debate, Trump was clearly the loser yesterday, but he made some key appeals to particular states and demographics, often, I felt, attempting to talk directly to people beyond the beltway in language they could understand. ”

          Very much agree with this. Towards the beginning, he clearly had Hillary taking the position of “the economy is great and keeps improving” and even going as far as to defend the record of manufacturing jobs post-NAFTA. That argument may be statistically correct for the nation as a whole, but I think you’re going to have a really tough time selling that in Ohio and Pennsylvania…

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’m fairly sure Trump’s overtures towards black voters are simply an attempt to make Clinton spend resources defending her (overwhelming) lead there, rather than a serious attempt to get a substantial proportion of the black vote. But I’m not black, so maybe he’s doing better than I think.

        • onyomi says:

          It seems like a winning strategy, either way. If it actually succeeds in winning over some black voters, then that’s obviously good for Trump. If it doesn’t really win over any significant number of black voters but forces Hillary to talk more about e. g. Black Lives Matter, then it still puts her on territory more comfortable for Trump.

          Hillary wants Trump defending himself against charges of sympathy with the KKK, not accusing her of being against safe urban neighborhoods. Trump wants Hillary defending controversial claims about policing, gun control, etc. rather than calling him a racist.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          It will work either way; either reduce her turnout, or increase his own.

          On further consideration, Clinton bringing up the Birther stuff was a tactical mistake; while Trump handled it exceptionally poorly (when attempting to imply she started it, he got tangled in the names, making it entirely unclear that it was her staffers who did so; when attempting to imply he’s the one who ended it, his “I made Obama do that” attitude came off rather colonial), he did manage to pull her down into the mud with him.

          Which is pretty much where she stayed; his attacks on race were quite powerful, and when she kind-of apologized over the superpredator thing, she gave Trump “I made her apologize for her racism, I get things done for you, black America” ammo for later.

          He’s definitely going after some new demographics, however; I think he sees the black demographic as a looming and critical weakness for the Democrats, who, after all, are the ones being perceived as fiddling while black America burns, and who the Democrats critically depend upon.

          • Matt M says:

            “On further consideration, Clinton bringing up the Birther stuff was a tactical mistake; ”

            IIRC, she didn’t bring it up – Holt did.

            If you go back and think about it, almost every Trump scandal was brought up by an official moderator question (who would continue to press the issue) whereas Hillary scandals had to be brought up by Trump himself (and the moderator never followed up)

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I thought Trump’s performance might dispel the illusions here of Trump’s underlying thoughtfulness, but it seems I was wrong. Now he’s “measuring his attacks, preserving a few for the next debate” and “playing up weaknesses he doesn’t have”. If Trump had won, it would have been confirmation of his brilliance, now that he lost, it’s because he was cleverly playing the long game.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          It shouldn’t be too surprising, this is a meme-magic based campaign and one of the big Trump memes is that he’s playing 12th dimensional bocce ball.

          (That said, kudos to everyone with the patience to watch and analyze that debate. I just slept through it and thus have no comments or opinions.)

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            He’s not playing 12th dimensional bocce ball.

            He’s minimally competent at what he’s doing. It’s just that everyone else this election season is such complete and total garbage at it that he looks amazing.

            Polls have demonstrated, over and over and over and over and over again, how completely ineffectual negative ads have been against Trump.

            So what did Clinton do, through the entire debate? Tried to make it a negative ad against Trump. And succeeded.

            Meanwhile Trump – the candidate of hate, remember? – spent the debate reaching out to black voters, reaching out to Michigan, reaching out to Sanders supporters. There was a lot of rambling and bloviating, too, and a moderate amount of mud-flinging back at Clinton, but he kept his cool enough, in a debate largely centering on his awfulness, to make sure key voters knew he had their interests in mind. Ask yourself how most candidates would have composed themselves in that situation.

            So yeah. Minimal competence.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          So you saw exactly what you expected to see, and are annoyed nobody else saw the same thing?

          How fascinating.

          See, I don’t care who wins, and my expectations were split between Trump being very boring, and Trump being very offensive, and he did neither of those things.

          I saw Trump make a few tactical blunders, but also some great strategic moves; I think he might get Michigan now, for example, between his commentary on the DNC’s treatment of Sanders (who Michigan supported) and his multiple call-outs to the state and the cities within the state. He did worse than he could have, but better than most people expected.

          Clinton, on the other hand, when she wasn’t avoiding a question, spent her time talking about Trump. This made for a great debate for Democrats watching; it was burn after burn after burn, and her tactics were precisely on point. But she didn’t spend the debate building anything; she accomplished absolutely nothing strategic. She didn’t reach for any new voters; at best she attempted to persuade Trump’s supporters he was a terrible person, and, let’s be honest, that’s been going on for more than a year now, and her paltry additions aren’t going to change the calculus.

          Worse, she hit him with the worst she could have, material that would be better applied a little closer to the election. If she pursues the same strategy in the next debate, she’ll have to make do with either repeats or second-class material. I expect her to start shoring up some electoral territory instead, but I expected her to be trying to build bridges in -this- debate, instead of burning them down.

          I’d score Trump a D+ on tactics and a solid B on strategy. Clinton gets an A- on tactics and an F on strategy.

          You’re welcome to your own perspective, of course.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            I don’t think the word “nobody” means what you think it means.

            Anyway, I think that the evidence for Trump being every bit the irrational, ignorant, strategically inept egotist that ‘nobody’ saw this debate is public and overwhelming enough that holdouts are probably incorrigible. Of course, it could be my rational faculties failing me. Anything’s possible.

        • onyomi says:

          My view of Trump is that he’s neither really smart and careful in a conventional sense nor completely haphazard. I don’t think he’s dumb, to be sure, but I don’t think he’s a mastermind plotting out a multi-tiered, elaborate strategy.

          Rather, I think he’s very talented, naturally, as well as experienced, at salesman-ish skills–schmoozing, working a room, subtly taking your competitors down a peg with an off-hand remark at the right moment, that kind of thing.

          I think one can kind of observe this in real time. Notice his reaction to the last, frankly strange, question. He started off completely avoiding it with a bunch of pre-canned blather he had readied as a closing statement. While he was saying all that, I think he was buying time to decide what he should say. Someone with less of this kind of skill might have revealed they were taken aback by the question and weren’t sure how to answer, but I think he mostly avoided giving that impression.

          Yet I also doubt his handlers were like “okay, we need you to practice canned lines as a way to buy thinking time if you are taken off guard by a question.” It’s just something he does, so I do think he’s calculating in that sense.

          • Orphan Wilde says:

            If he was brilliant, he would have finished the “contractor” thing, where, when accused of not paying subcontractors, his argument was that he was working within the laws – that would have been brutally completed by reminding everybody at that moment that Clinton is part of the class that helped create the crony capitalist laws he works within. Likewise, when he fumbled the response to the birther thing.

            So yeah. Not brilliant, no super-elaborate plot, and he didn’t handle the off-the-cuff stuff terribly well, even though it was clear he was leaning heavily on his off-the-cuff responses. But he did play a strong strategy of going after some competitive demographics while Clinton was too busy with her prepared notes on how to attack him to notice or respond effectively; I think the only time she noticed was when he went after the black vote, and there her response was more defending her own guilt vis a vis the superpredator thing, which she was clearly expecting, than it was defending the votes he was attempting to poach from her.

          • Matt M says:

            Agree. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that he spent less than 1/10th the time “preparing” for this stuff than Hillary did. While she can sneer at him for that, what does it say that he can debate her approximately evenly with only 1/10th the amount of effort?

            My guess is that in some weird scenario where you catch them totally unprepared and force them to debate impromptu/off-the-cuff, without any preparation, Trump would destroy virtually all politicians.

          • onyomi says:

            I’ll add to that: all anecdotal evidence I’ve heard points to real estate being a brutal, cut-throat business in which who you know and how you handle/sell yourself are more important than basic competence. Not unlike politics. Look at those weird photos of real estate agents they use to advertise.

            I am ambivalent about the “business acumen can translate to getting things done politically” equivalence candidates like Romney and Trump try to suggest, but it may be that there is an unusual level of overlap between the skills needed for real estate success and political campaigning.

          • Matt M says:

            Didn’t “Our Scott” imply this in his review of Art of the Deal?

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ Matt M
            what does it say that he can debate her approximately evenly with only 1/10th the amount of effort?

            Evenly according to whose judgement? ‘Win’ or ‘lose’ in this kind of contest have no objective meaning. It is just whose supporters get quoted the most (or who the media choose to declare as winner).

            For some objective data, try something like this:

            Find some people who are on record for several weeks as (mildly) supporting Candidate A. Same for Candidate B. After the debate, ask each group to choose a winner of the debate. The A Group people who chose B as winner, and the B Group people who chose A as winner, are the ones whose votes should count as to who ‘won’.

          • Matt M says:

            I said “approximately” because I take no personal position on who “won” and there doesn’t seem to be lots of evidence, or even assertions that she did, say, 10 times better than he did.

        • I don’t think either of them won. My impression, watching it, was that Clinton was better at demagoguery than I expected, but Trump better still.

    • smocc says:

      I could only handle the first 30 minutes. I lost it when Clinton started trying to mug and advertised her website acting as a fact-checker. And then Trump interjected “something something my website too!” I laughed out loud and came away disliking both of them even more.

      My impression was that Clinton was strategically insinuating minor insults against Trump and letting his ego take up all his time responding to them needlessly instead of staying on point. Maybe he got it under control later, but that it worked so well in the first 20 minutes moved me away from the hypothesis that his success is due to political genius that he’s perfectly in control of.

    • AnonBosch says:

      From a strictly tactical standpoint, Trump shat the bed after a strong initial round on trade (I’m anti-tariff, but judging this debate in a vacuum, Hillary didn’t have great answers here). It’s clear that the stories about him not preparing were not mere expectations-setting.

      In the middle third, Holt’s question on cyber-security was an engraved invitation to discuss the emails, and instead he had a bunch of incoherent rambling about how his grandson was good at computers. He could’ve landed some solid punches on Iraq, but instead offered an evidence free appeal to “ask Sean Hannity.” That’s not gonna move the needle.

      He got even worse towards the end. His answer on the housing discrimination charge was an absolute disaster. “No admission of guilt” + “Everyone was doing it” + “I didn’t discriminate at my Florida property” adds up to a whole lot of very conspicuous non-denial. And I don’t know what the hell he was thinking with the whole “I could say something bad about your family but I won’t ” bit at the end. That’s the worst of both worlds; you look like an asshole and a pussy.

      Speaking non-tactically, as a somewhat rational voter, the debate reinforced my perception that Trump lacks mental stamina. He comes off as a guy with a combination of ADD and peridementia, unused to challenge and criticism, and who couldn’t stay on his game for more than a half hour (as an attorney, I’ve encountered this particular species of aging dinosaur a lot).

      Still voting for Gary, but I’d have to look very hard at a lesser-evil tactical vote for Hillary if I were in a swing state.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I watched it live, on PBS. In alphabetical order:

      Clinton came off like the kid in 8th grade who hasn’t realized that “I’m smarter than you and I know things” is a bad pitch for your class president campaign. She seemed more controlled earlier on. When she was annoyed or off-centre, her delivery suffered. She was energetic and lively – if anybody seemed low stamina it was Trump. But early on she came off as “I am calm and in control and there’s going to be a steady hand on the rudder”, and as it went on her attitude revealed increasing flashes of “why am I on stage with this idiot and neck and neck in the polls with him this is ridiculous and annoying and why can’t everyone realize my commands of facts and experience make me the logical choice”.

      She’s much better at not answering questions than Trump is – it’s much less noticeable when she does it. Giving a pseudo-apology for the emails without addressing the deleted ones, or 2/3 of the time she talked about race. Trump’s way of not answering questions is to sort of surf on a wave of word salad back to whatever he wanted to talk about. It’s a lot more obvious.

      Trump came off like a bully. He was talking – almost shouting – over Clinton and over the moderator (who was kinda useless). He came off as petulant and insecure – stuff like repeatedly interjecting “wrong” at Hillary. From the start he seemed like he just couldn’t stand to let other people talk – did it get better as the debate went on? He didn’t seem like he was in control of what he was saying. He’s very clearly ignorant on some major topics. I get the impression that he has had success in life ignoring things he doesn’t want to deal with and just bulling through. I’m surprised he didn’t answer Hillary’s repeated “the experts say my plan is better” with some rhetoric along the lines of “the same experts who are great at predicting the past? How have ordinary Americans done by these experts?” He seems to think that great power negotiation is done leader-to-leader exclusively, as far as I can tell.

      Overall a marginal Clinton victory. I’d rather take the know-it-all than the ignorant bully.

    • neonwattagelimit says:

      What really stood out to me was how much time Trump spent just rambling, more-or-less incoherently. I kind of wish Clinton had pointed out his incoherence more often, but just letting him hang himself was probably a sound strategy. The debate was a solid Clinton win.

      That said, Trump didn’t really embarrass himself, which is what was needed to swing the race decisively back in Clinton’s direction. I predict a modest bounce for Clinton in the coming days, but nothing earth-shattering.

  14. not_from_kyoto says:

    Suppose that we required all laws to contain timed empirical test clauses. These clauses would not automatically trigger some function of the bill, but be purely for measurement. Passing the clauses would require something more than a 50.1% majority vote, just to make sure the ruling party doesn’t automatically fiddle with them to make them say exactly what they want.

    So, for example, if a politician claims that a bill will reduce gun crime or increase employment, they would effectively have to answer “by how much?”

    What do you think would happen? Would it alter the culture, quality of discourse, or quality of legislation at all? Would it start to trim away at programs that spend money without meaningful results?

    Furthermore, what do you think would happen if we combined this with a prediction market, where politicians had to bet on the outcomes of legislation with a non-monetary score system?

    And if we took the percentile rankings in that, used it to sort them on the ballots, and printed it next to their names?

    • Matt M says:

      Nothing would happen. Everyone would just argue that the measure wasn’t fair or that the people doing the measuring were corrupt or some other such thing. Virtually no one admits they’re wrong in politics – even when confronted with overwhelming evidence.

    • Deiseach says:

      Would it start to trim away at programs that spend money without meaningful results?

      Speaking as a minor bureaucratic minion, nah, it would just mean that the administrators of the programmes had to show they were hitting targets of “X number employed at the end of the month” or whatever, which is easy to do if you get people into temporary jobs (e.g. Joe’s Landscaping Service needs people to mow lawns from June to September), voluntary community employment schemes, so on.

      You can set targets and you can get results showing that those targets are being hit, that’s half the paperwork you have to fill in and send off for the end-of-year returns to the Department.

      • Matt M says:

        Didn’t Soviet administrators famously engage in all kinds of creative nonsense with this stuff?

        Not sure if this is a true story but the legend has it that there was a nail factory that was ordered to make X pounds of nails in a year, so to make it easier, rather than make millions of tiny (useful) nails they just made hundreds of really giant ones that served no practical purpose (but fulfilled their plan)

    • Gazeboist says:

      You’d need to grow an analysis office (presumably under the legislature, rather than the executive) for the predictions to be meaningful. That’s probably not too hard; we already have legislative analysis offices (the CBO, CRS, and GAO) that do some of this, but they’d likely need to be expanded and reorganized.

      I suspect you’d also need to give the test clauses consequences in order to make them useful. For that, the right tool is probably sunsets. I would default to “all legal code changes need a sunset and attendant prediction.” The prediction would be checked one year ahead of the sunset, or halfway along if the sunset is less than one year. Congress could choose to keep a law that failed the test, but that choice to keep would need a new prediction and appropriate sunset. I would allow the need for a test clause / sunset to be overridden by a supermajority, on the grounds that supermajorities are rare enough that they indicate genuine consensus that a law should be permanent unless otherwise decided in the future.

      This probably needs fine-tuning to actually function properly (that is, to tie legislation to results), but it’s how I’d do this sort of thing as a first pass.

      As to scoring politicians … I don’t particularly care how closely the legislators are tied with the results, as long as the legislation itself is. I don’t think deterrence has a strong effect on federal politicians; manipulating their means is usually more effective than manipulating their motives.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Prediction markets are a really good idea because of the monetary incentives. If politics gets in the way of making money, then that’s an easy way to lose money. But if you limit the incentives to a score system, then people will choose whatever raises their social status the most.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It would create a huge incentive to mess with statistics, use statistics in misleading ways, go out of your way to pick statistics that are easy to massage, etc.

      It might also create the legislative equivalent of “can crushing”. Just like an up-and-coming boxer will fight a whole bunch of guys paid to lose, you’ll probably see politicians going after the low-hanging fruit to drive the % next to their name up. Conversely, hard issues that are hard to fix might be less likely to get addressed.

  15. daronson says:

    I’m late to the party, and might re-post in a later comment thread. But some friends and I have been looking for ways to help the Hillary campaign (I am pretty apolitical and do not identify as a liberal, but think that of all the global cataclysms people nowadays are concerned about, a potential Trump presidency is by far the most worrisome).

    The problem is that the statistics on what sways voters are terrible. Should we phone bank? Donate money? Contact the Hillary team and offer to run statistical analysis on effectiveness of phone banking conversations?

    Anyone else here have opinions about this?

    • TMB says:

      Pretend to be a trump supporter and say racist things in public.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Do you know any actual Trump supporters? If you do, have one-on-one conversations with them in which you try to express that:

      a. you think Hillary is a better candidate, for [reasons]
      b. you don’t think your interlocutor is a deplorable, in whatever sort of container.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Anyone and anything in a naive binary tree is deplorable.

      • AnonBosch says:

        I don’t actually know any Trump supporters, which is kind of disappointing to me. I’ve interacted with plenty online; I tend to rotate between a few political forums of different stripes for intellectual shadowboxing, but I feel like online interaction especially on “home turf” magnifies the tribalism and is next-to-useless from a persuasion standpoint. (Once Hillary started dropping in the polls, pretty much every attempt at anti-Trump argument was met with “u mad” or variations thereof. And I’m a Johnson voter!)

        I feel somewhat guilty about this, as it wasn’t intentional selection on my part and I used to have conservative friends, but most migrated to moderate/libertarian viewpoints and the remainder are #NeverTrump. For whatever reason, the qualities underpinning support for Trump were something I selected against when forming my social relationships during the Bush/Obama admins.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Internet arguments only seem so bad because they are one-offs. Someone might later be persuaded only after the fact. One nice thing about internet anonymity is that since we don’t necessarily care about our relationships with these strangers, it means we aren’t afraid to hold back on our true beliefs. While this can of course easily dissolve in to flame wars, it is also more likely for someone to make their point forcefully and clearly without worrying about hurting the other persons feelings. Add in the increasing likelihood that they will actually find sources for their claims and the fact that they will continue for far longer than a 20 minute conversation and I think it’s fair to say that internet arguments are far too underrated. We just need to find ways to minimize the negatives while promoting the positives. I think places like this are a step in the right direction.

      • gbdub says:

        Describing a Trump presidency as a “cataclysm” implies a certain amount of pre-existing epistemic closure that makes a believable expression of b. somewhat unlikely. If convincing people (as opposed to merely defeating them) is the goal, it would be best to work on that.

    • brad says:

      I would ask the campaign. They may not be the very best campaign staff in the history of campaign staffs, but they are likely to know what would work better for them than any of us speculating off the cuff.

      If I had to guess, I’d say they’ll tell you 1) give us money or 2) volunteer for GOTV efforts in that order.

      • gbdub says:

        As someone who really dislikes Trump, but finds it hard to support Hillary, I’d really like to see more focus on why Hillary is actually a good candidate. So far her ads are just over the top Trump bashing, and her supporters in my Facebook feed are more of the same. Arguments actually in favor of Hillary are mostly “you should ignore this scandal of hers because…” and “wouldn’t it be nice to have a woman, any woman, as president?” The Obama Hope n’ Change brand grated on my cynical self, but it was miles more appealing than “my opponent is literally Hitler”. Stop wallowing in the mud with a pig – you’re just getting dirty, and he likes it.

        And I do think GOTV is extremely important – lack of enthusiasm for Hillary is her greatest weakness, and if she loses it will be because a lot of people who don’t like Trump just couldn’t be bothered to vote at all.

        • Gazeboist says:

          Epistemic status: I’ve got no dog in this fight and no desire for one; I’m just explaining my thinking as of now.

          I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with positive arguments for anyone in particular to take a federal elected position. Appointed positions are easy; they should generally be filled by promotion from the group they will be in charge of, or pulled from a same-field group of corresponding stature; regular employees should obviously be hired for their specific, task related skills as you would any other employee. Elected positions are extremely general, though; you have to trust that whoever you favor is going to do a good job in a ludicrous number of domains, so there are only a few “skills” that will reliably apply, and these are hard to demonstrate.

          Given that, my strongest argument for Clinton*, as opposed to against Trump or against a Clinton scandal, is that she seems to have demonstrated competence at running a major department of the US federal government. Going through this, of course, will involve arguing against the two major Clinton scandals.

          She’s noteworthy as SecState for introducing specific goals to US diplomatic missions (bringing the notion over from the DoD). Benghazi and the emails are marks against her on this point, but they don’t override my initial assessment.

          Misinformation around Benghazi appears to have come from the CIA, not DoS; Clinton herself appears to have been responsible for the prior security issues only to the extent that, eg, the CEO or relevant VP of Adair Grain is responsible for the West Fertilizer explosion. She appears to have done the appropriate firings and such in the wake of the attack, which is about all I would expect from an upper level executive.

          The emails are more worrying, for two reasons. First, the 113(ish) that were classified at the time obviously should have been kept secure. I can’t figure out what proportion of those came from which of the 52(ish, again) chains the FBI reported, how many originated with Clinton herself (more than 0, fewer than all), or how many actual classified topics that covers (presumably at most 52), but someone in those conversations should have been able to figure out that the information was classified and made moves to protect it, despite the fact that it was apparently not well marked. This obviously never occurred. There also seems to be some infighting between State and the Intelligence community over what should or shouldn’t be classified and how to protect it; that’s probably involved too. In any case, lax security around sensitive information is never good, but Clinton was only indirectly in charge of the information security procedures at State.

          More troubling than any security failures, though, is the fact that she kept the emails on a private server with (apparently) no duplication to State Department records. This is indicative of a problem with administrative record keeping in the executive branch; to the extent that it can be accomplished the systems should be designed such that failure to duplicate is impossible**; relying on humans (especially professional politicians!) on this point is a terrible idea. Still, I think it’s a problem that executive branch IT needs to solve, not the DoS. I’d bet similar things can happen in every executive department and agency outside the USIC, and some inside it.

          All that said, she appears to have demonstrated the administrative skills necessary to keep the government running, which is, as far as I’m concerned, far and away the most important job of the president. She’s also on record setting up a program to make a key segment of the executive branch more goal oriented than it was when she got there. If that attitude*** could be spread to the rest of the branch, I would be quite pleased.

          * I have no intention of voting, but prefer her to Trump in a race where those two are the only option and my vote is the only one.

          ** The reasons for any organization at all, much less a government, to fully record its doings are numerous; they mostly center on accountability and reliability.

          *** There’s more to needed, of course, than just having goals and checking whether they’ve been accomplished. Some programs do need continuous organization, and some don’t; a deeper separation between the continuing tasks of the executive and the finite projects it is currently working on would probably be a good idea.

        • Lumifer says:

          I’d really like to see more focus on why Hillary is actually a good candidate

          Well, yeah, but that’s why the Dems are having all these problems running against Trump. She isn’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            I suppose what can be said is that we already know what she’d be like in office, given how she was part of Bill’s administration.

            But what would she be like ruling in her own name, rather than as unelected but influential spouse (and that’s not being snarky about her, all the First Ladies have done the same because that’s the nature of the job of being wife of the boss) is the question. Do we think she’d put her own spin on things, or would Bill be acting behind the scenes to ameliorate her views and persuade her to do things in a softer or more publicly appealing style?

          • Corey says:

            That was quite a while ago, both chronologically and politically. Both the nation’s politics and Hillary have changed in the meantime. (E.g. don’t-ask-don’t-tell was a positive for gay rights back then, a negative now).

        • brad says:

          As someone who really dislikes Trump, but finds it hard to support Hillary, I’d really like to see more focus on why Hillary is actually a good candidate. So far her ads are just over the top Trump bashing, and her supporters in my Facebook feed are more of the same.

          Seems reasonable to me, but again I haven’t done anything to confirm whether or not this type of ad has a better ROI than the other type of ad. Or maybe is even counterproductive. Daronson could in theory put together a parallel organization with the skills and resource to answer that question, but unless he is looking to spend millions he is probably better off deferring to those that are already working on these questions.

    • Deiseach says:

      Do not reach for the KKK comparison when trying to explain the threat of a Trump presidency. I read an online article where the left-wing pundits were explaining why Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” was actually true since nobody wants to talk about racism in American politics, and linked on the page were (I think) an FDR ad saying his opponent was endorsed by the KKK and then Hillary’s ad saying Trump was endorsed by the KKK. (Wow, the Imperial Wizard of the Rebel Brigade likes The Donald, well that’s about – five dozen? – votes right there! How many members does the Rebel Brigade have?)

      And instead of anyone wondering how easily and readily the “KKK like this guy” is pulled out when attacking an opponent, and if the KKK really are the same force they were back in Roosevelt’s time, everyone was nodding in agreement about intersectional racism and sexism and homophobia.

      But if every opponent gets the “The KKK love this guy” attack, it loses its effectiveness, since the average voter knows damn well that the guys in white bedsheets burning crosses on lawns are not the threat they used to be, so it’s like yelling “fascist” – it begins to sound less like an accurate political label and more like “this guy is a big meanie!”

      • sweeneyrod says:

        The political situation was a bit different in FDR’s time. It is possible that FDR’s opponent (though I’m not sure which one it would have been) was, unlike Trump, closely linked to the KKK, and that that election took place at one of the peaks in the KKK’s power. But as far as I know, none of the more recent Republican candidates have received the “KKK like this guy” attack (other than Trump). The fact that one other candidate had the same accusation (possibly legitimately) aimed at them many decades ago doesn’t mean it is worthless now.

        More relevant in my opinion is the fact that Trump’s closest link with the KKK is briefly having their leader’s endorsement (before disavowing it). That is not one of the major points against him in my view.

        • E. Harding says:

          The ad was a Johnson ad, and was unaired, and was against Goldwater. In FDR’s day, the GOP was the Vermonter party and the Dem nominee would have been nuts to alienate the KKK too harshly, as Al Smith did.

          • Deiseach says:

            Thank you for the correction, that is very useful. I am still surprised that nobody addressed the fact that apparently the first weapon in the arsenal is “Link your opponent to the KKK”. Does that really work nowadays, or is it merely signalling of the “We think he’s a very naughty boy, so naughty he plays with all his naughty little friends” type?

            I’m sure Trump’s campaign would be happy to take votes from the likes of KKK supporters, as Clinton’s campaign would be happy to take votes from the likes of those who think Amanda Marcotte is a guru, and treat them in the same fashion in both cases: thanks for the votes but we’re not going to touch you with a ten-foot barge pole or acknowledge your existence.

          • aitch reasoner says:

            “I’m sure Trump’s campaign would be happy to take votes from the likes of KKK supporters”.

            Sure racists have had 100 years to wise up. Now only the stupidest white supremacists set up Klaverns anymore.

            Is that supposed to be some kind of gotcha?

            Does it make a difference if they’re called Stormfront, American Renaissance, Council of Conservative Citizens or VDare?

            What is your point?

          • Deiseach says:

            What is your point?

            My point is that I don’t think Trump is looking for or courting the KKK vote, but that when it’s dropped into the ballot box (or on the voting machine), a vote is a vote and nobody knows who it came from (that’s the theory, anyway). Both Hillary and Trump have fringe extremists who will vote for them (if they vote) not because of what the candidate actually represents but for what the fringe imagines they might represent and, most importantly, that Their Guy is not The Other Guy.

            Remember the way the John Edwards campaign hired on Amanda Marcotte to run their social media appeal to the young’uns vote (and then came to richly regret it in short order)? I think Amanda Marcotte is a shrieking harpy, and I don’t think Edwards himself was trying to court the shrieking harpy vote, nor anything like it. But his campaign plainly felt “There’s a bunch of young women voters who follow this woman, and we can catch us some of that sweeeeet ballot box action”.

            Hillary’s campaign were going to call any Republican candidate a racist and/or KKK endorsed (though I think they’d have been hard-pressed to do that with Ben Carson) so I discount the attack ad on those grounds alone. But I also think all this media insistence that Trump is the white supremacist/nativist/white nationalist candidate is going to draw the attention of those sections who will think that if they’re going to vote, he’s the guy for them – after all, all the smart educated city folks are saying he is!

          • Matt M says:

            Agreed. Demands that Trump “disavow” certain sections of his support are basically saying, “Hey – go tell these people not to vote for you!” Why on Earth should he feel any particular compulsion to do that?

            A black panther running for office should still want the votes from klan members – after all, if he gets power he will use that power to work against the interests of the klan. It makes no logical sense for him, (or for that matter anyone) to demand they vote for someone else.

          • Corey says:

            @Matt: Support can definitely hurt a campaign, e.g. remember when nobody wanted W’s endorsement in the 2012 GOP primary? Obama also learned this eventually; there’s some stuff he realized he couldn’t endorse because such endorsement creates a focal point for unified Republican opposition.

            It would be weird for a candidate to say “don’t vote for me” but I can see a case for “don’t campaign for me because you’re not helping”.

          • LHN says:

            I don’t know if it really happened much or at all, but in the old days a standard dirty trick people talked about was to get the Communist Party to endorse the other candidate.

          • “in the old days a standard dirty trick people talked about was to get the Communist Party to endorse the other candidate.”

            Not exactly the same thing, but …

            I was a volunteer for Goldwater in 1964. One of the things we did was distribute copies of a Daily Worker (I think) piece attacking Goldwater. It was a real piece but you had to read past the headline to realize that it was being distributed by Goldwater supporters not by communists.

            We were distributing it in a parking garage when we were observed by someone who I am pretty sure was a reporter. He did not read it carefully, assumed we were communists, and was obviously sympathetic to our attempt to stop Goldwater.

        • Former leader. The current leader (Willie Quigg IIRC) endorsed Hillary.
          And don’t link that Snopes article. It’s answer was “This actually happened, but we don’t think it was sincere.”

        • JayT says:

          It’s been a very common attack to link the Republican candidates with the KKK. In like two minutes of googling I came up with this:


          • sweeneyrod says:

            The first one of those articles starts with a long editors’ note saying “This posting contains multiple, serious factual errors that undermine its premise.” The second one starts out assuming that the link between McCain and the KKK is a hoax. Regardless, the purported link between the KKK and Trump has received much more publicity than either of the other two cases. A search for “Donald Trump KKK” gets 5 million results, and the front page contains relatively reputable news sources promoting a link. A search for “John McCain KKK” gets 400,000 results, and the front page contains no reputable sources claiming he has a solid connection to the KKK (although it does have these interesting articles on the black McCains, and white supremacists endorsing Obama).

          • Jiro says:

            A search for “John McCain KKK” gets 400,000 results,

            I’d expect fewer results considering that Trump is the candidate right now and McCain was the candidate many years ago. Not every article from back then is going to still be on the Internet.

          • sweeneyrod says:


            If there were any vaguely reputable articles about McCain and the KKK, I would expect some of them to still be online. But all I can find are obscure forum posts titled “Top John(KKK)McCain lies”, featuring alleged McCain lies, and then the (rhetorical?) question “Why are the Crakkkas afraid to come out to play???”.

          • JayT says:

            The fact that they issued a retraction doesn’t change the fact that they were quick to jump on a “Romney == KKK” story with little to no fact checking.

            The second article started by talking about a hoax that said the KKK supported Obama, and then it said

            Then yesterday, a video popped up on YouTube which purports to show a Ku Klux Klan spokesman endorsing John McCain for President. Is it a fake? A fraud? A hoax? Take a look:
            /missing video
            Surprisingly, this might not be a hoax at all. There are a number of lines of evidence that suggest that this video could be the real deal.

            I would hardly say that was being presented as a possible hoax.

    • The Most Conservative says:

      Pay to administer a poll on SurveyMonkey. Ask people what candidate they support and whether they supported trump in the past. Ask what changed their mind. Look at people who used to support trump and now support a different candidate–see what changed their mind. Look at people who support Trump–ask what made them support him originally and what their biggest reasons are now. Once you’ve developed hypotheses, run more polls where you present an argument that you think will be effective. See if Trump supporters change their mind in response to the argument or not. Don’t be afraid of using unusual arguments–e.g. citing an instance where Hillary Clinton complained about political correctness is probably a lot more persuasive to the average Trump supporter than calling them a “deplorable”.

      Look at Trump’s polling history. Find the drops. Figure out what news events plausibly caused those drops. Try to create more events like those or at least keep reminding people of the past events. Make a reference to those past events part of a standard counterargument to a standard argument offered by Trump supporters. Repeat the standard counterargument everywhere you see the argument online (use Google Alerts/competing tools to find new instances) to turn it in to a forced meme.

      Post to /r/The_Donald pretending you’re a Trump supporter. Try to get a self post of yours to hit the homepage. When the mods are sleeping, edit in the effective propaganda you discovered using advice in the above two paragraphs.

      Think carefully before attacking people, there’s some evidence that it just makes them dig their heels in harder: http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/i-dont-want-to-be-right

      • Snodgrass says:

        Why is that a more useful thing to do than to give the amount it would otherwise have cost to the Hillary campaign directly? I would presume that, in a place as well-endowed with competent and motivated political logisticians as the United States, they’re the best people to know where marginal money needs allocating.

        SSC is one of the places where people are very happy with the conclusion ‘if you want to donate money to the betterance of humanity, give it to the Gates Foundation’; I’m not sure why you don’t get the same conclusion for the Hillary campaign.

  16. Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

    Ice-core data firmly establish a temperature/insolation correlation of ~3.9 ºC/(W/m^2); thermodynamics and radiation transport theory firmly establish a CO2-induced equivalent insolation of 4 (W/m^2)/(CO2 doubling); a conservative no-modeling Bayesian analysis therefore forecasts 17.6ºC of temperature rise per CO2 doubling.

    Which is a temperature rise great enough to render vast areas of our planet uninhabitable by humans. Yikes.

    So why aren’t model-skeptic libertarians and rationalists — not to mention every Presidential candidate — all over this problem?

    Why are we relying entirely upon fallible climate-models to assure us anthropogenic chimate change is not already globally catastrophic?

    The world wonders!

    • AnonBosch says:

      Pretty sure you’re double-counting on that interpretation of the ice-core data. AFAIK the current interpretation of the ice cores is that CO2 was the mechanism by which temperature and insolation correlated (since the ice cores show orbital forcing and CO2 acting as a feedback, not as a direct forcing). We also had 2x pre-industrial CO2 levels during the Paleogene and the GMST was about 4ºC warmer, not 16ºC.

    • James Picone says:

      For people who are confused: JohnSidles is asking a rhetorical question and then links to a Realclimate post that explains that trying to get climate sensitivity directly from ice-core CO2 changes and temperature tends to overestimate climate sensitivity, which answers his rhetorical question as “Because that calculation is wrong”.

      At least, I think that’s what he’s doing.

      (It’s an interesting blog post, incidentally, aimed at criticising a recent study that proposed a much higher sensitivity than the consensus estimate)

      EDIT: Another Realclimate post on the same topic.

      • AnonBosch says:

        I am actually gratified that my tossed-off thumbnail explanation was basically accurate (I didn’t read the RC post the first time)

        Maximizing exaggerations of AGW tend to grate on me more than minimizing exaggerations, for tribal reasons, which is why I don’t much care for Wadhams, etc.

      • hlynkacg says:

        I agree, but his follow on comment seems to be arguing the exact opposite conclusion. That’s where the confusion comes in.

      • Unfailingly Inamorate Killogie says:

        James Picone, your clear summary is entirely consonant with

        UIK’s earlier summary conclusion, namely “the utter irrationality of rejecting climate-modeling”

        These ideas are extended by Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, and Elisabeth Lloyd in their recent survey article “The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism” (2016)

        People who reject the fact that the Earth’s climate is changing due to greenhouse gas emissions (or any other body of well-established scientific knowledge) oppose whatever inconvenient finding they are confronting in piece-meal fashion, rather than systematically, and without considering the implications of this rejection to the rest of the relevant scientific theory and findings. … Coherence between these mutually contradictory opinions can only be achieved at a highly abstract level, namely that “something must be wrong” with the scientific evidence in order to justify a political position against climate change mitigation. … This high-level coherence accompanied by contradictory subordinate propositions is a known attribute of conspiracist ideation, and conspiracism may be implicated when people reject well-established scientific propositions.

        To be fair, the counter-worldview has to be acknowledged that (((Pope Francis, the SJWs, and the scientific establishment))) are a four-fold consilient cabal at the beating heart of a covert global-scale mind-control and social-control conspiracy, isn’t this incredibly obvious Mandrake?

        These incompatible cognitive modalities are why the above-mentioned broad-band cognitive-centric forums like SSC, OTF, and SA are destined to remain pretty lively in coming years, isn’t that right?

  17. TomFL says:

    Gallup: Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low

    “14% of Republicans express trust, down from 32% last year”

    Probably the most not unexpected revelation this year. This 18% drop is by far the largest change in one year for the last 20 years. Possibly it wasn’t taken well when the media hive mind decided it was obligated and their honor bound duty to stop people from voting for Trump. It’s merely a coincidence Trump was a Republican as they would be just as likely take up that task for an offending Democrat if the existence of one wasn’t entirely theoretical.

    Washington Post responds: We aren’t “the media”, ha ha.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Dear readers: Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

      • Kind of Anonymous says:

        Readers don’t have to be your audience. Readers are over.

        Also, this whole thing was undermined by WP’s habit of putting links to other stories in the text, in case I got bored:

        There is no media in the sense of a conspiracy to tilt perception.

        [I stood up for the national anthem by sitting down for it]

    • Matt M says:

      One thing from this that’s noteworthy is that the media is one of the very few things that has a lower net approval rating than Trump.

      So every time Trump is able to frame the narrative not as “Trump vs X” (even if X is Hillary) but as “Trump vs Media” that’s a winner for him.

      I think this goes a LONG way in explaining his success. His primary antagonist is one of the small handful of things in America even more hated than he is.

      • Matt M says:

        Hate to reply to myself, but just want to add as an addendum to the above that under this reasoning, I would suggest that Hillary would benefit from actually talking about herself and her record more, and talking about Trump and running negative ads against him less.

        If people see the election as Trump vs Hillary, she will win (because hated though she is, he is hated more).

        If people see the election as Trump vs the political and media class, he will win (because hated though he is, they are hated more).

        An attack ad that is nothing but 30 seconds of vilifying Trump plays into his hand in this regard. Getting the moderators of debates to fact-check him on the fly does as well. Even though she’s disliked, she needs to talk about herself and draw attention to her name and remind everyone that SHE is Trump’s opponent, not the Washington Post.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          I’m bemused watching people jump from explanation to explanation of Trump’s continuing success.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          It’s been a little dismaying seeing everyone decide they need to meet Trump on the battlefield of insults, distortion, off-the-cuff nonsense, and dank memes. Those are his strengths. You don’t attack an opponent at his strongest point.

      • The Most Conservative says:

        +1 Trump is basically the anti-media candidate.

    • AnonBosch says:

      I’ve grown increasingly pessimistic about the viability of democracy in an epistemically closed world where everyone surrounds themselves with agreement bubbles and there are no generally trusted information sources.

      • Corey says:

        Yeah, this ties in with something onyomi said upthread somewhere: there really are no “objective facts” in politically-relevant areas, it’s spin all the way down, basically.

        Not that I have any ideas how to improve it. Trying to bridge the bubbles, or even just expose oneself to different ones, usually just results in heartache.

      • Urstoff says:

        The world has always been like that, hasn’t it?

        • AnonBosch says:

          I do not think it was as easy in the past to avoid opposing viewpoints to the extent it is now, no.

          • To the extent that views were segregated by geography or social class, I think it was easier.

            The one clear difference is that you can have very small bubbles online, since they are not geographical.

          • Corey says:

            There’s also more variety in online bubbles, probably for the same reason (analogy: AFAIK no terrestrial radio market is big enough to support a reggae station, but nationwide satellite radio is).

          • The Most Conservative says:

            It’s not that you avoid the other side. It’s that your teammates selectively expose you to their arguments that are most easily refuted or most thoroughly enrage you.

      • TomFL says:

        The 20 year trend does seem to match my opinion of the media as well. I was fully supportive 30 years ago and things started to go south about 15 years ago and dived in 2008 and hit rock bottom this year. My own view is they stopped reporting facts and started going way too hard on convincing us what to think instead of giving us information to make that decision ourselves. This only applies to certain topics, mostly the culture wars. They have been rationalizing taking sides as avoiding false equivalence. I much prefer false equivalence to them deciding for me.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          They used to control what you thought by controlling what information, what facts, they gave you. They’re less able to do that every year.

          • DrBeat says:

            Now they control what facts you are willing to notice. A fact that someone does not want to notice doesn’t need to be kept away from them, it can be shoved in their face and nothing will happen.

    • Patrick Merchant says:

      Washington Post responds: We aren’t “the media”, ha ha.


    • Garrett says:

      I went to read that article. The top half of the “page” was a “I’m with her” Hillary add. The irony.

  18. Brad (The Other One) says:

    Can any serious theologians please explain Romans 1:18-20, at least as it related to proof for God? In what way may we see “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,” … “in the things that have been made.”? Further, is the witness of such things in anyways sufficient to act as a defeater for competing hypotheses which would attempt to disprove a god hypothesis?

    Also, how is that supposed to interact with verses like this, this and this? These verses, combined with the Romans verses, makes it sound a whole lot like there is abundant evidence… that is nevertheless, totally inaccessible to most people and that the whole exercise in the Christianity is less about apprehending data and more about coming to terms with our inability to apprehend data.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Reposting from OT58.75L

      I can’t really answer your question because I’m not a serious theologian – but I do have the secular scholarship side covered. Christian theology traditionally holds, based on stuff like this, that knowledge of God was available in some form short of revelation to everyone.

      However, at the time it was written, atheism in the modern sense seems to have been pretty unheard of: an early Christian theologian would not be trying to convince people of the existence of a higher power – they would, in the historical context, be seeking to convince people that the higher power was one God instead of whatever the local pagan tradition was.

    • bluto says:

      In Romans 1:17 Paul lays down a statement “The righteous will live by faith.” Following this statement he spends Romans 1:18 through Romans 2:16 making the case that Gentiles need faith. After that, Paul switches to make the case that Jewish law isn’t enough either (Romans 2:17-3:31).

      Those verses serve as the case against agnosticism. If God created the world everyone can see even if God’s divinity and power are invisible to mortal eyes, mortals should be able to clearly see their effects and their exploration and understanding of the effects should clearly point them toward the creator. In glib modern terms, “there’s no section on the table for “no bet” in Pascal’s wager”.

      For context, Paul continues with his case against all Gentile religions in Romans 1:21-23 and the result of said religions on their followers Romans 1:24-31, then finishing his case in 2:16.

      It interacts with the other three verses, in that they either refer to the inability to see the divine nature of God, or use sight as a metaphor for understanding. In other word’s Paul is making the case that no one can credibly claim, “I had no idea there could be a God”, while those three verses are about the process people have arrived at their unbelief.

    • Two McMillion says:

      The answer is to notice very carefully what those verses actually teach. Romans 1:20 is often taken to mean “See, unbelievers secretly know God exists and are lying about thinking otherwise.” That isn’t quite what the verses say. Verse 18 says “that which can be known about God is plain to them”, implying there are things about God that nature cannot teach. And this fact is very important! If nature could teach us everything about God, we wouldn’t need the Bible.

      So what can nature teach us, if it isn’t everything? Verse 20 lists two things: eternal power, and what the translation you’ve linked calls deity but which is probably better put by the ESV’s “divine nature”. Nature does not proclaim the existence of a Triune God who redeems his people, but according to these verses it reveals an eternal power and divine nature. Does the evidence indicate that humans have an innate knowledge of these things?

      I think it does. Eternal power seems to carry the idea of a purposive force in the universe, while divine nature carries the idea of an existence beyond the merely physical. And somehow or other humans always seem to have ideas about both of those things, even many professed atheists. Eliazar is not lying when he talks about how incredibly difficult it is to strike the notion that certain terrible things can’t happen from your head. Though we can change it with an effort, the fact is that the default state for humans appears to be thinking in terms of purposive forces and things beyond the physical. What these verses say is that while a person could deliberately choose not to believe in those things (and it does have to be a deliberate choice), it would be stupid of them to do so.

      I must add here that the degree to which humans think in these terms, including those who have shaken off a great many commonly recognized forms of them, should not be easily dismissed. In a sense, any sort of moral outrage is an invocation of both of these things. Certainly any moral outrage more substantive than, “I wish I was stronger so I could stop those people” is. Our enjoyment of stories and narratives appears to be tied to this as well- as has been pointed out many times, in stories we expect the moral qualities of the characters to determine their eventual fate, and we feel cheated if that does not happen. That feeling of being cheated is also a form of having knowledge of eternal power and divine nature.

      Verses 21 and onward in Romans 1 discuss a third thing that all humans know innately- moral standards. And they help provide the answer to your other question as well. God is the source of all right thinking, both moral and logical thinking. Since in God right logic and right morals are one, the abandonment of right morals almost always leads to the loss of right thinking. This, in a very real sense, is why there are so many “stupid criminal” stories. But the problem is that people enjoy doing wrong, usually more than they enjoy being right. Remember what Scott said in the consequentialism FAQ- most moral acts are not attempts to do good; they are attempts to not feel guilty. To avoid the feeling of guilt, people explain away, ignore, or pacify their moral senses with moral bargaining. But of course you cannot lie to yourself without consequence. Every lie told needs other lies to cover it up. So a cascade effect occurs- a person’s intellect growing worse and worse as the volume of required lies to cover their own guilt expands.

      For most people, this never becomes as bad as it possibly could, because God in his mercy creates inconsistencies in a person’s thinking. Any inconsistency in person’s thinking that prevents them from acting out a horrible aspect of their philosophy is a gift from God to that person. But if a person stubbornly insists upon having their way, God may remove this mercy; Romans 1 calls this “giving them over”. Alternatively, the Devil may work to make their state worse- for example, by taking hold of a strain of anger in a person and making it stronger and less controlled. Remember the parable of the sower. The Devil takes the word away, but only because the hard ground keeps the seed from landing. The Devil never makes anyone evil; he takes the evil already in them and makes it worse. That’s what the last three verses you linked are referring to.

    • Deiseach says:

      I am interested in is, if we presume Christianity is true, how it is supposed to work, and the internal logic thereof.

      Sounds like what you may be asking is this:

      Question 2. The existence of God

      Is the proposition “God exists” self-evident?
      Is it demonstrable?
      Does God exist?

      Article 3. Whether God exists?

      Objection 1. It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

      Objection 2. Further, it is superfluous to suppose that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many. But it seems that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing God did not exist. For all natural things can be reduced to one principle which is nature; and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle which is human reason, or will. Therefore there is no need to suppose God’s existence.

      Answer here (to start off with, good luck with the wodges of text!)

      • Brad (The Other One) says:

        Thank you for this, too… although I don’t know how far I’ll get through the lots and lots of text!

  19. ChetC3 says:

    Scott Adams became a celebrity for his work in the entertainment industry, so his political writing represents a dire threat to America’s cultural unity and I hope we can all agree that we must deplore it, or, at the very least, never speak of it again. Who’s with me?

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

      Depends, can I still read Dilbert?

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      I’m not sure I follow the “he was entertaining but now he’s political -> threat to cultural unity” jump. I’ll agree that his political writing is largely low-quality, though, mostly because he’s not at all impartial and his analysis is hindered by his agenda. That doesn’t seem to be uncommon in political media, although Adams is remarkable in being a pro-Trump pundit.

    • Orphan Wilde says:

      The Left has spent the last twenty years systemically attacking the culture of the Right. It’s not cultural unity under threat – there was never any cultural unity – it’s the illusion of superiority and inherent victory.

      The shattering of the sense of unity is in fact the abused party fighting back.

      • HircumSaeculorum says:

        >culture of the Right

        Ah yes, the “abused party” that, throughout the past half-century, has championed segregation, opposed equal rights for women, led the charge on foreign-policy debacles from Bangladesh to Chile to Iraq, tried consistently to erode secularism, hated gays with a burning passion, and fought any attempt to deal with global warming tooth and nail.

        >fighting back

        Sure, through racist memes and beating up immigrants. Very brave.

        • Anonymous says:

          Troll harder. You’re not registering.

          • HircumSaeculorum says:

            What’s your disagreement with what I said? As far as I can tell, it was all factually correct. Do you assume that SSC readers all agree with your right-wing ideas, just because they don’t generally have the energy to challenge them?

          • Anonymous says:

            I expressed zero right-wing ideas. The troll tilts at the windmill. More news at 11.

          • The Most Conservative says:

            Do you assume that SSC readers all agree with your right-wing ideas, just because they don’t generally have the energy to challenge them?

            Is there a left wing site out there that has discussion as high quality as SSC does?

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            I’m a liberal SSC reader, and while I wouldn’t wholly endorse Orphan Wilde’s comment, I think there are worthwhile ideas in it that you haven’t refuted. Specifically, being a harmful and even abusive ideology doesn’t mean the right isn’t an abused culture.

            Is there a right wing site out there that has discussion as high quality as SSC does?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        OK, read the right way, this is hilarious. Read the other way it’s depressing.

        Conservatives and liberals have been attacking each others “cultures” since the dawn of time, or thereabouts. In other news old man yells “get off my lawn”.

        • TheAncientGeek says:

          Yeah, i’m not seeing an asymmetry. Both dogs try to eat the other, surely.

        • Orphan Wilde says:

          They fight, yes.

          The conservatives, however, have been fighting a defensive battle for the past twenty years.

          This is starting to change. The difference will become apparent soon enough.

      • ChetC3 says:

        The Left has spent the last twenty years systemically attacking the culture of the Right. It’s not cultural unity under threat – there was never any cultural unity – it’s the illusion of superiority and inherent victory.

        I got the idea of entertainers voicing political opinions being a threat to our “cultural unity” from one of onyomi’s posts in the last open thread, take it up with him if you’ve got a problem with it.

    • Simon says:

      Scott Adams has always simultaneously done things his own way, and been shameless about his goal of achieving recognition and success.

      I think his current blog is fucking brilliant and not necessarily because it’s right.

      His political punditry is unlike any other pundit, but appears to me to have the same level of scientific validity, which is not much. Still, based on his evidence he provides it’s not as though he’s “clearly wrong” and some left/right policy wonks blog is “clearly right.” Providing models of the world that are as self-consistent as others, but come to totally different conclusions, is a great way to illustrate the incredible noise/variance in political analysis.

      His focus on persuasion is fascinating. I’m sure he’s not the first person to note this, but it does appear true that a leader who persuades and shapes our preferences is more effective than one who simply builds policies that match 50%+e of existing preferences. If you can shape preferences you can essentially do anything, for better or worse. And some people have the ability to shape other peoples preferences through extraordinary charisma. Clinton obviously doesn’t. Trump obviously does. It’s an interesting dynamic to explore.

      • “If you can shape preferences you can essentially do anything, for better or worse. ”

        I’m not sure to what extent this is primarily done by politicians. Consider Ayn Rand or George Bernard Shaw.

        The related point I sometimes make is that our political system has a fine control mechanism and a coarse control mechanism. The fine control mechanism is special interest lobbying. The coarse control mechanism is majority vote by ignorant voters acting on free information–what everyone knows, whether or not it’s true.

        One way of changing the world is by changing the mix of free information out there.

  20. Sandy says:

    Polls suggest Gary Johnson is taking more voters from Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. Anyone else surprised by this? I would have thought Johnson’s primary audience would be right-leaning voters averse to Trump.

    • hlynkacg says:

      Yes, I’m surprised. I would have though the same thing.

    • Matt M says:

      Well the standard (dumb) libertarian cliche is socially liberal, economically conservative. But over the last several years (and I would suggest, during this cycle as well) GJ has really emphasized the socially liberal part over the economically conservative part. Double that with the fact that it’s social conservatives who are generally much more anti-Trump than economic conservatives.

      There’s really no logical reason for disaffected red tribe voters to support Johnson, because on the things that turned the red tribe off to Trump, it just so happens that Johnson is even worse on…

      Edit: The Aleppo thing is sort of a “non-partisan gaffe” but the other biggest Johnson related stories have been things like his referring to religious liberty as a “black hole” and calling Hillary a “wonderful public servant”.

      Most of the attacks on GJ coming from the left (like Krugman’s column last week) don’t even actually attack GJ personally but rely on attacking the inherent ideas of libertarianism in general (or in Krugman’s case, the official LP party platform). As far as I’m aware, there has yet to be any big sort of controversy regarding Gary Johnson that would be seen as something that would help him with red tribe voters at the cost of alienating blue tribe ones…

      • AnonBosch says:

        Well, after briefly stepping to the precipice of sensibility by endorsing a Pigouvian approach to CO2 emissions in a few editorial board interviews, he beat a hasty retreat and is now answering questions on global warming with a dorm-room lecture on stellar evolution (the Sun’s gonna swallow the Earth eventually anyway maaaaaaaaan) and planetary colonization.

        Which, those things are cool too, but answering global warming questions with them makes him look kind of foolish, especially to the blue tribe.

        • Matt M says:

          Fair enough. But I would offer his views on climate as even on net, given that I’m pretty sure the red tribe simply saw him support a carbon tax and isn’t really forgiving him when he quickly reverses course and says “actually I meant it was just a carbon FEE and it would be like, voluntary or whatever”

          In this case all he managed to do is alienate both sides at once – a real political feat.

      • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

        Hes right about the black hole thing. “Religious freedom” of the good kind is just a standard extension of freedom of speech/expression stuff, having it as a separate category only serves to give politically influential religions special privileges or even permission to violate the rights of others (generally their children).

        • Matt M says:

          I fully agree that he’s right.

          But saying that is very likely to enrage the right and appeal to the left, which explains why he is attracting more Hillary supporters than was expected.

      • Deiseach says:

        But if we allow for discrimination — if we pass a law that allows for discrimination on the basis of religion — literally, we’re gonna open up a can of worms when it come stop discrimination of all forms, starting with Muslims … who knows.

        The problem is I don’t think you can cut out a little chunk there. I think what you’re going to end up doing is open up a plethora of discrimination that you never dreamed could even exist. And it’ll start with Muslims.

        That religious liberty question was gloriously incoherent. Was he trying to say that, if religious liberty exceptions are allowed, Muslims will be discriminated against or they will be doing the discriminating? Because I’m blessed if I can tell what he means. Would President Johnson institute a burqa ban or not? is now the question I’d love somebody to ask him, just to see the smoke coming out of the top of his head.

        And it’s kind of like the death penalty. Do I favor the death penalty? Theoretically I do, but when you realize that there’s a 4 percent error rate, you end up putting guilty people to death.

        Also the death penalty question – er, yes, Gary, it’s the guilty people you want to execute, if you’re going to execute them.

        And this is the interview that has been “edited for clarity, and reorganized thematically”! Honestly, remember what I said about a chain of little slips? He keeps making them and while individually they’re not bad in themselves, drip by drip wears away the stone and he sounds like a weird geek obsessed with certain policies but out of touch with real world concerns.

      • JayT says:

        I think you are mistaken that economic Republicans are more pro-Trump than social ones. My impression is that the free-trade Republicans are the most vocal anti-Trump Republicans.

        • sweeneyrod says:

          My impression is that there are two anti-Trump blocs: the libertarian Republicans and the ones who are socially conservative in their religious beliefs. He gets support from the ones who are socially conservative in their cultural beliefs (on immigration etc.) but lukewarm on religious matters (e.g. abortion).

        • Matt M says:

          Just my experience, but I feel like economic freedom types (of which I am one) are much more pragmatic and are like “well he sucks on economics but whatever” while social conservatives are much more militant/strict in their beliefs and more likely to be deliberately ANTI-Trump. Could be wrong.

    • suntzuanime says:

      I feel like most people who support Johnson are not voting for his policies specifically but are rather voting for the third-party candidate with the greatest prominence. After the way the Democratic Party handled the primary, it’s not surprising that Democrats feel less loyalty to their party than Republicans.

      • Nope says:

        Johnson’s also running a more competent campaign than Stein, or … whoever the Constitution Party’s guy (guessing it’s a guy) is this time round.

        If I thought Jill Stein had any serious interest in doing anything besides “running for President” over and over on donors’ dimes, I’d offer her a rebranding package centered around green=cannabis legalization. Pot leaves as the path logo, etc. Young ears perk up when they hear that message.

        After the way the Democratic Party handled the primary, it’s not surprising that Democrats feel less loyalty to their party than Republicans.

        I don’t think that Clinton does worse among Dems than Trump does among Pubs. See for instance the favorability ratings on page 8 here: https://d25d2506sfb94s.cloudfront.net/cumulus_uploads/document/q8r0rkibs1/econTabReport.pdf
        That’s a breakout of primary voters, so of course there are Dem-leaners who dislike Clinton that aren’t counted there. But someone who didn’t vote in the Dem primary is unlikely to be swayed by … what’d you say – “the way the Democratic Party handled the primary.”

        • LHN says:

          Johnson’s also running a more competent campaign than Stein, or … whoever the Constitution Party’s guy (guessing it’s a guy) is this time round.

          Though it still feels as if Johnson’s getting less media attention than e.g., Nader did in 2000, despite polling at three times what Nader ever managed and having a resume as credible as a third-party candidate’s gets this side of Teddy Roosevelt.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nader’s polling peaked at about 6%. 3rd party candidates usually underperform the polls. It’s cheap talk.

          • LHN says:

            Peaked, but was mostly at 3-4% vs Johnson’s 9-12%.

            I don’t expect Johnson to get as many votes as he’s polled, but Nader was (at least to my fallible memory) much more heavily covered in the press with a numerically much weaker backing.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Moving the goalposts.

          • LHN says:

            So replace “three times what Nader ever managed” with “three times Nader’s average” or “twice what Nader ever managed” as you prefer, for greater precision. It doesn’t really change the question.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Not more precise, but more accurate (though still false). If you don’t care about precision, don’t make precise statements. If you make precise statements, you imply that they matter, so expect corrections. If you don’t know the difference between precision and accuracy…

    • Irishdude7 says:

      I’ve seen Bernie democrats move to Gary instead of Hillary when their primary concern is an aversion to foreign intervention.

    • Two McMillion says:

      My impression is that most Republicans I know who don’t like Trump don’t like Johnson either. I haven’t seen a consensus candidate among those people.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      The Libertarians in general and Johnson in particular come off as flaky. Republicans who are turned off by Trump’s flakiness are not going to be real excited by someone else who has the same flaws.

      In addition, Johnson almost seems to have gone out of his way to push away the “conservatarian” types (your Kevin Williamsons and Charles C. W. Cookes, that sort of person), who mostly get exercised about religious liberty, freedom of speech, and economic issues. They aren’t a huge chunk of the GOP, but they’re some of the most eager to look elsewhere with Trump the nominee, and could certainly have boosted the Libertarian Party’s numbers quite a bit.

    • Aegeus says:

      My interpretation is that the “Clinton voters” he’s stealing are NeverTrump Republicans. In a four-way poll, they’d vote Johnson, but in a two-way poll, they say they’ll vote for Clinton over Trump. So while he’s technically taking votes from Clinton, they aren’t coming from traditionally Democratic voters.

      Although other people here have pointed out some plausible reasons that he’d also steal Democratic voters.

    • neonwattagelimit says:

      I read an analysis* once which found that Johnson draws about evenly from Clinton and Trump** and that the perception he takes votes from Clinton is due to the inclusion of Stein in these polls. Basically, that polls are either Clinton-Trump or Clinton-Trump-Johnson-Stein and if you adjust for Stein, then Johnson doesn’t move the needle that much.

      *The analysis was on a website called “bleeding heart Libertarians,” which I’d imagine is favorable towards Johnson. Still, it was pretty thorough and the conclusion makes sense.

      **That’s still a lot of Johnson voters who would take Clinton over Trump. I’d many of these are NeverTrump Republicans who would vote for Clinton if they absolutely had to. Some of them might also be people who, Republican or Democrat or independent, really hate Clinton but find Trump uniquely horrifying.

  21. dndnrsn says:

    Article in Slate which discusses the possibility that the rise in Chicago’s murder rate currently is a side effect of going after big gangs early in the 90s.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      No comparison to other cities? Why are you bothering to read this?

      • dndnrsn says:

        I was looking for people’s opinions of it. That it doesn’t havea any sort of control is a clear issue.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There are hundreds of idiotic theories of crime floating around. Why pick out this one to read? Because it was published last week? That should be a strike against it. My opinion: just ignore it.

          If you must read something about crime rates, try this from the Brennan Center. The analysis is hackish, but it asks better questions: large scope of time and of place; and many hypotheses. But all three are way too small. Its main value is to inoculate you against journalists.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oh, not picking it for any particular reason, just happened across it. I’m not that familiar with how criminologists do statistics, etc. Thanks for pointing out it’s tripe.

            The bit that interested me was the notion that there’s a tendency to think of gang violence as instrumental – being predictable and rational based on turf, the price of drugs xyz, etc – when it is more likely just that young men (esp. of the kind who join gangs) tend to get into dumb confrontations, and it gets worse when you add guns.

            But I know I’d read that somewhere else before so I’m probably reading some of that in.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, there are a lot of plausible statements in the article, but it’s all so vague. The Brennan report also talks about gangs — over a longer time frame, though not as long as I’d like. I think gangs are more violent than in 1960 and I think that’s an important factor. But why is that? Such a long-term change is more likely to be explicable than a short-term change. On an intermediate time-frame, fashions in drugs, first cocaine, and then crack, drove gang violence. It doesn’t explain everything, but the question of this article is about the residual after these big changes went away.

  22. Zakharov says:

    Why is Peter Thiel endorsing Trump? I thought Thiel was a libertarian, and Trump’s in most ways on the opposite end of the Republican spectrum.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      My interpretation is that Thiel is a right-leaning contrarian (much like many commenters here) first and principled second. When libertarian gets too mainstream, he leans towards edgy frog meme.

    • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:


    • Anon. says:


      Also, Peter “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” Thiel is not your garden-variety libertarian.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Strikes me as rather death-eaterish.

        • Anon. says:

          IIRC Thiel is an investor in Yarvin’s Urbit.

          • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

            Urbit? That horrible scam?

            I thought Thiel knew code?

          • The Most Conservative says:

            Why do you think Urbit is a scam?

          • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

            A lot of it is obfuscated code nonsense written in some esoteric language. His code fails any reasonable open-source readability test…and people who try looking through his code give up because its terrible on purpose.

            He mentions how great it is that his system is mathematical and deterministic, I guess hoping to catch people who don’t realize all of computing is.

            He renames core concepts like a child putting names in a hat, crossing out definitions in a textbook and replacing the names with that.

            All of his security promises are junk and terrible.

            In some way his posts are like his politics posts. Just..10’s of thousands of words that don’t really go anywhere and try and obsfucate any real point, and hoping to bamboozle people somehow.

          • Mr Mind says:

            Driven by an insane curiosity and being a bit of a language geek myself, I’ve started crawling up from the bottom constituents of Urbit, meaning the virtual machine and the functional language it supports.

            I do have to say that there is a modicum of frustration in the white papers, frequently there is a lack of formal grammar and of a unifying explanatory project. Everything is scattered among many papers and poorly focused. To be honest, unfortunately this is also true of many programming language white papers, when there is one and it’s not just a kludge of historical accidents.
            This pretty much reflects the state of the art in language design, unfortunately there’s very little that is standardized.

            On the other hand I’m not (yet) competent enough to evaluate other Urbit components, although the idea of digital land is interesting, it doesn’t strike me as particularly useful.

      • Fahundo says:

        Also, Peter “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” Thiel is not your garden-variety libertarian.

        Maybe he’s got a point, considering that libertarians, who are all about personal freedom, never win elections. Democracy and libertarianism do seem to be at odds, at any rate.

      • AoxyMouseOnArgo says:

        The china model sounds logical enough.

      • Zakharov says:

        Thiel does not clarify the meaning of “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” in his essay, but I think he was advocating anarcho-capitalism. He mentions seasteading as a way of achieving freedom, and does not mention any form of absolutism. It’s obvious that freedom and tyranny are not compatible.

      • baconbacon says:

        Sounds pretty garden variety to me. Typical libertarians include Constitutionalists that want a document to restrict the powers of government and allow freedoms.

    • JayT says:

      I think the biggest reason he’s endorsing Trump is because he’s one of the few people in the industry doing so, and if Trump wins he will be in good standing with the administration, and will most likely be able to nudge policy in a direction that he wants. If he backed Clinton, he would just be one more faceless name from Silicon Valley showing up on the donor lists.

      The downsides to his Trump support are low (if Trump loses, I doubt the majority will remember he backed Trump in a few years) and upside is fairly extreme.

      Also, by backing Trump he got to give a very pro-gay speech at the Republican Convention, so at the very least he has moved the Republican Party more towards pro-gay issues by some amount.

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      Thiel might be libertarian, but he has many idiosyncratic ideas beyond this. For example, here is an essay by him that suggests a technologist/futurist reworking of Christian cosmology:

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m probably more impressed than I should be that he had an essay in “First Things” 🙂

        I am definitely impressed that he picked out (if he did this himself and didn’t just glom onto something he looked up in Wikipedia) the symbolism in Scripture of the sea as the place of chaos, which does tie-in with the surrounding cultural milieu of Mesopotamian myths of Tiamat and Apsu, and how order and creation are brought out of chaos with the defeat of Tiamat by Marduk and her dismemberment to create the heavens and the earth.

  23. Long discussion of Luthien

    I clearly need to reread the Silmarillion. The tale of Beren and Luthien is much more complex and interesting than I remembered.

    The essay is written in Cracked style– something I used to like, but I’ve gotten tired of it. Also, LOTR is about how being metal is *not* the most important thing. I’m also tired of the habit of only praising a thing if it’s combined with insults to some other thing. I’m especially tired of misandry. It’s possible to praise Luthien without talking about Beren not being reliably up to snuff.

    This being said, the essay is somewhat redeemed because it mentions that Tolkien mostly writes about fights over jewelry. This is true of a lot of his major work. How could I not have noticed this?

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      If you’re tired of all those things, Tor blogs seem like a less than optimal destination for your light reading.

      • LHN says:

        One real problem with the culture war becoming endemic in SF fandom is that it’s getting harder to find writing and criticism about it that isn’t full of applause/boo lights for one side or the other of the culture war.

        I can’t speak for Nancy, but learning to live with some level of it in writers I otherwise like seems like the only solution short of ceasing to read about the field. (Though I admit I read Tor less often than I used to.)

      • I read it because a friend recommended it, and as noted, it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

        The funny thing is, the man who recommended it is also the person who said he’d given up on James Tiptree because she had a theme of all men being rapists. (To be fair, in “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” and “The Screwfly Solution”, the explicit message was that men are close enough to being rapists that it just takes a slight biological intervention to push them over the edge.) I may ask him if he’s become less sensitve to misandry.

        Correction about the essay: The stuff about Huan, the best dog ever, isnt’ especially blighted by insults to inferior dogs or cats. It’s just praise of Huan.

    • Deiseach says:

      That essay isn’t too bad by its own lights (though I wish people would row back a bit on “badassery” meaning “action hero/ine”) and it’s quite accurate.

      Finrod Felagund is the nicest Elf in Middle-earth 🙂

      But yes, Luthien is the powerful one in the story (which is not to say Beren is weak or not up to snuff, he survived the ruin of Dorthonion and was quite probably the last surviving speaker of Taliska, at least in the recensions where the Haladrin have their own language and the Hadorians speak the forerunner of Adûnaic – so his entire culture pretty much died out with him, which is sad to think about).

      Even in the early versions where Beren is an Elf and instead of werewolves we have Tevildo, Prince of Cats, and poor Beren is made to work as the scullion for the cats’ cook*, Luthien (or Tinuviel as she is) is quite brave and daring:

      Then partly in fear, and part in hope that her clear voice might carry even to Beren, Tinuviel began suddenly to speak very loud and to tell her tale so that the chambers rang; but “Hush, dear maiden,” said Tevildo, “if the matter were secret without it is not one for bawling within.” Then said Tinuviel: “Speak not thus to me, O cat, mighty Lord of Cats though thou be, for am I not Tinuviel Princess of Fairies that have stepped out of my way to do thee a pleasure?” Now at those words, and she had shouted them even louder than before, a great crash was heard in the kitchens as of a number of vessels of metal and earthenware let suddenly fall but Tevildo snarled: “There trippeth that fool Beren the Elf. Melko rid me of such folk” — yet Tinuviel, guessing that Beren had heard and been smitten with astonishment, put aside her fears and repented her daring no longer.


      “As for that cursed Elf, she lies whimpering in the ferns yonder, an my ears mistake not,” said Tevildo, “and Beren methinks is being soundly scratched by Miaule my cook in the kitchens of my castle for his clumsiness there an hour ago.”

  24. M.C. Escherichia says:

    I mentioned a week ago my experiments with Catholicism. Things took an odd turn today when I noticed that Revelation spells out the AI apocalypse.

    Revelation 13:18 tells us that the beast (strictly, the second beast) has a number, which is a person. How can a number be a person? If it’s an AI, of course. From the rest of the chapter we can gather that it’s an AI given total control of the economy. Possibly 666 (0x29a) shows up frequently in its compiled machine code, or something.

    “Let anyone with understanding calculate the number” means we should only let people with understanding (perhaps MIRI, mother of God) compile (calculate) such a thing. Otherwise UFAI.

    (Perhaps nobody has adequate understanding, and the meaning is analogous to “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. In other words, we’re told “let he who has understanding compile an AI”, meaning nobody should compile an AI.)

    So yeah. I am only half joking about this.

    • For a while, I was very weirded out that the number of the beast was a mark on people without which they couldn’t buy and sell. That was remarkably prescient, but I eventually decided it was a satire on Roman bureaucracy rather than brilliant early science fiction or (heaven forbid) clairvoyance.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        Interestingly enough, there was a small religious film Judgement that portrayed the book of revelations as a sci-fi dystopia. A minor plot element was people getting imitations marks and I remember some controversy amongst them about whether getting one of those marks would disqualify you from Heaven.

    • Brad (The Other One) says:

      Revelation 13:18 tells us that the beast (strictly, the second beast) has a number, which is a person.

      Something to consider:

    • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

      Wait, why is an AI any more “a number that is a person” than a human?

      But anyways (as Unsong demonstrates) it’s not overly difficult to make the Bible (or any text really) predict whatever you want it to. This is real life where things really can be coincidences.

    • Deiseach says:

      I mentioned a week ago my experiments with Catholicism. Things took an odd turn today when I noticed that Revelation spells out the AI apocalypse.

      Well, that was fast, it generally takes longer for the, er, extreme exegetical viewpoint to set in, and generally it takes a Marian twist 🙂

      • M.C. Escherichia says:

        You can take the diaspora out of Less Wrong but you can’t take Less Wrong out of the diaspora.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      M.C. Escherichia – “Revelation 13:18 tells us that the beast (strictly, the second beast) has a number, which is a person. How can a number be a person? ”

      Alternate explanation, from memory:

      The author’s contemporaries had a practice of using the sum of numerical values in the letters of a name to serve as a veiled reference to the person. If I recall correctly, pompeii still has readable graffiti in the general form of “Gaius loves she whose number is 238”, etc. It was a common practice that the original readers would be familiar with. The roman emperors put their faces and names on Roman coinage, and the inscription on IIRC Nero’s coins adds up to 666. Coins were commonly worn as a headdress by contemporary women, and having coins in the hand is obviously part of payment. No one can buy or sell without “the mark of the beast” because the mark is roman money.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I can confirm that this is at least roughly correct. Pagan numerology was definitely a thing, and Judaism had its own numerological tradition by that time.

      • M.C. Escherichia says:

        But these liberal interpretations are no fun. Anyway, what the author thought he was writing about, and what the Spirit was writing about through him, are 2 different things…

        (But yes you shouldn’t take me too seriously right now.)

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Conservative Christian here, actually. Compare Daniel 12:4 and Revelations 22:10. There’s a strong argument that the text is drawing a comparison between the near-future persecution under Nero and Domition and the far-future overthrow of Satan.

          But yeah, Revelation is a fun book. I’m actually gearing up for an in-depth study of it at church.

      • Mr Mind says:

        Also factor in that the most probable Number of the Beast is 616, not 666.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Apparently in Aramaic the numerological value of Nero’s name is 616, whereas it’s 666 in Greek. So, maybe John originally had 616, because he was after all a Jew and probably spoke Aramaic as his first language, and then somebody changed it to 666 to make sense to the Greeks.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think the scholarly consensus is that Revelation, along with most of the NT, was written in Greek. Regardless of what language a person spoke day-to-day, if they were literate, it might very well be in Koine Greek, if they were in the Eastern Empire. Similar situation with Latin in medieval Europe.

          • Two McMillion says:

            Yes, it’s far more likely that the 616 is the later addition.

          • Tyrant Overlord Killidia says:

            Even though the NT was written in Greek, there are linguistic signs that a writer probably wasn’t a native speaker of Greek.

            For example, Mark uses the word “Centurion” to describe, well, centurions. However, if he was a native speaking Greek, he would likely have used the literal definition of “centurion” but written in Greek. Which is ἑκατοντάρχης (leader of 100), the word that Matthew/Luke use.

            IIRC the writer of the Revelation isn’t the same writer as the epistles or gospel because of the poor quality of Greek, as though Greek wasn’t his first language.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Revelation was almost certainly not written by the same person (or, community, see below) as the gospel.

            Scholars argue about whether the same person wrote the gospel of John and the Johannine epistles. I think the current default position is that they came out of the same community but were probably not written by one person.

            The Aramaic-Greek comparisons are often made when dealing with Jesus’ parables – on the basis that Jesus would have spoken Aramaic, some scholars try to reverse-engineer Aramaic versions of the parables, on the basis that if something works in Aramaic it’s more likely to be original. But some scholars go really far down the rabbit hole of hypothetical reconstructions.

  25. Emily says:

    Is “all publicity is good publicity” true when it comes to protests bringing an issue to peoples’ attention? Alternatively, if you’re, say, disrupting peoples’ commute by lying in the street, is the hostility you’re creating bad for your cause? I don’t have a great model of the effect of protests in general. It seems like if you can get your opponents to overreact, this could be good for persuading the unaffiliated or making your allies more committed. But what if they don’t overreact? Or no one’s unaffiliated?

    • gbdub says:

      We had an extensive, and I thought productive, discussion on this topic a couple months back. It’s a good question.

    • Nicholas says:

      The general answer is that disruptive protests are justified in one of two models where:
      First Model
      A: Your people have a problem that either can’t be solved without the government doing something, or won’t be solved until the government does something.
      B: There is a body of people not including your people that the government at the appropriate scale cares about.
      C: These people are either ignorant of or indifferent to your problem.
      The idea is that you cannot bribe the group from B to change C, or C would not be true to begin with, and without ongoing pressure from B A will never happen. So you resort to the stick for want of carrots: Your protest is a punishment for allowing A to occur, both to the people in B, and to the government agents that B will soon be annoying.
      The chain of events is supposed to go:
      1. You inconvenience someone from B.
      2. You tell them the cause of the inconvenience is A.
      3. They tell the government to fix A, so that you will shut up and go away.
      Second Model
      Disruptive protests, protests of all kinds, are a hold over from pre-cable democratic processes, where a demonstration was an advertisement of your demographic muscle RE some upcoming election, and also a way to generate viral advertising for your issue by making it news and a big to-do. Changes in media and politics have made this impractical, but for structural reasons most popular movements cannot disseminate the knowledge that protests no longer work, and thus keep doing them anyway.

    • My model is generally that protests are a way of burning support to generate salience. You might have a cause that the majority would embrace if they cared but political ignorance and apathy are dangerous foes. By protesting you annoy some people and turn them to the other side but you also generate pressure for action which might be needed if anything is to get done.

  26. Fctho1e says:

    I believe people who worry about AI risk are boundless optimists.

    CRISPR and related technologies means making a deadly viral pathogen becomes easier than ever. Not having a pandemic is contigent on every honest research team not fucking up, ever, and on there being 0 deep ecologists or other nuts who would create and release a deadly pathogen because of whatever insane ideology or religion they espouse.


    • Wrong Species says:

      Pandemics are much more likely to happen but they are also far less likely to kill everyone.

      • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

        I don’t know the numbers, but I imagine that the probability of a pandemic times the probability that that pandemic kills me and everyone I care about is larger than the probability of a lethal AI, in the short-term. Sure, it’s not strictly an “existential risk”, but it’s existential enough for me.

    • The Most Conservative says:

      What can be done about this?

      • Vaniver says:

        Lots! Three main categories:

        1) General reduction in disease vectors and overall hygiene. (Think using gene drive to eliminate mosquitoes, or sterilizing rats.)

        2) Increased detection and response systems. (Think the World Health Organization.)

        3) Intelligence efforts to detect and deter bad actors. (Think nuclear-style anti-proliferation effects, but focused on biotechnology relevant to the creation of superbugs, as well as already existing treaties about the use of bioweapons.)

      • Anonymous says:

        Nothing, but we can send convicts back in time later to get a sample of the designer plague so we can inoculate the few survivors and return to the surface.

    • Vaniver says:

      I believe people who worry about AI risk are boundless optimists.

      On the LessWrong survey, bioengineered pandemic routinely wins as the most likely cause of civilizational collapse.

      But pandemics are already worried about in a big way; the government is well aware that someone else could release a superbug for military or malicious purposes, and does what it can to protect against that eventuality.

      The point of you worrying about AI risk is not that AI risk is the largest cause of x-risk, but that you think the marginal returns to you worrying about AI risk is higher than the marginal returns of you worrying about pandemic risk.

      For example, suppose we knew that there was a 50% chance of a gamma ray burst sterilizing the entire solar system within the next two decades, and a 5% chance of an asteroid impact that would wipe out humans over the same timescale. The right play in that scenario is to focus all of our effects on asteroid detection and deflection, since that’s the risk we can do something about.

  27. Brad (The Other One) says:

    Edit: sorry, forgot this wasn’t an open thread.

  28. Corey says:

    A nice example of facepalm-worthy press dysfunction here, Politico’s #3 is labeled a Clinton lie, that repealing the estate tax would save Trump’s estate $4 billion.

    They call that a lie because it’s based on Trump’s self-declared net worth of $10 billion, which is probably inflated.

    In other words, Clinton “lied” because she took a Trump lie at face value and ran with it.

    Anyone still convinced the press isn’t unusually hostile to Clinton?

    • Fctho1e says:

      Anyone still convinced the press isn’t unusually hostile to Clinton?

      If it was unusually hostile, she’d not be running for president! They sent a guy to slammer for taking a picture of the inside of a submarine. Not sharing it, not tweeting it, not having it on an unsecured server in his fucking bathroom. Just having a picture on his own phone.

      In contrast to that, Clinton and her associates commited giant breaches of security, and no one is going to jail.

      http://observer.com/2016/09/the-fbi-investigation-of-emailgate-was-a-sham/ (<-wasn't written by a journo, but it's a column by a former CI official)

      That and she probably has Parkinson's or some serious brain damage causing her to spazz out.

      If the press was 'unusually hostile', she'd not be a candidate. Instead they were all covering for her until the 9/11.

      • AnonBosch says:

        If it was unusually hostile, she’d not be running for president! They sent a guy to slammer for taking a picture of the inside of a submarine. Not sharing it, not tweeting it, not having it on an unsecured server in his fucking bathroom. Just having a picture on his own phone.

        In contrast to that, Clinton and her associates commited giant breaches of security, and no one is going to jail.

        You seem to be conflating the press and the FBI in this case.

        • Fctho1e says:


          If the press were hostile, there’d be a serious outcry against Clinton because of the emails and her giant conflict of interests in regards to Clinton foundation. There isn’t.

          • AnonBosch says:

            Define “serious outcry.” I’ve read numerous stories detailing the failures in her email security and the influence peddling of the Foundation, and not just in the conservative press.

    • gbdub says:

      It’s possible that they are more hostile to Clinton than they are to Obama, or a generic mainstream Democrat. But no way in hell are they more hostile to her than they are to Trump, and frankly I highly doubt they are more hostile to her than they are to generic mainstream Republicans.

      EDIT: It seems particularly disingenuous to use that article from Politico to say the press is unusually hostile to Clinton when they ran a basically identical article about Trump! That one includes as a falsehood e.g. Trump saying that Clinton would raise taxes by $1.3 trillion (a real estimate by a conservative tax think tank) instead of ~$400 billion (another estimate by a nonpartisan think tank), with no reason to indicate why the second estimate is better (except for its purportedly nonpartisan source).

    • If I recall correctly, Trump’s self-declared $10 billion net worth included intangible and non-taxable things like estimated value of his brand recognition. I don’t think anyone claimed he could sell off all of his stuff and have $10 billion at the end of it.

  29. Anon. says:

    After the election, are these threads going to be completely dead or will people simply switch to the next controversial political topic?

    • Lambert says:

      It will turn from ‘I like candidate X’ vs ‘I like candidate Y’ to ‘I like president X’ vs ‘I don’t like president X (and I like former candidate Y)’

    • Jordan D. says:

      If the past indicates future practice, you can look forward to discussions of political goings-on instead of political candidates, and in roughly the same proportion.

      I’m very much looking forward to the next round of Supreme Court cases to spark some debate.

    • Corey says:

      There will always be political controversy. Reality bubbles only grow, so we’ll always have plenty to argue about thanks to different underlying facts, while all claiming to be neutral truth-seekers.

    • These threads have been quite lively even without elections. There’s always religion, politics, science, cooking, nutrition, sf, and ai risks to argue about, and I’ve probably missed some topics.

      • I forgot to mention military history. If people get tired of WW2, there’s always the Civil War (American).

        I know I’m going to regret asking this, but what are the most interesting wars that don’t get as much discussion as they deserve?

        • Psmith says:

          War of the Triple Alliance is a common candidate.

          With an estimated 400,000 deaths, the war was the deadliest and bloodiest in Latin America’s history.[7] It particularly devastated Paraguay, which suffered catastrophic losses in population – almost 70% of its adult male population died, according to some counts – and was forced to cede territory to Argentina and Brazil. According to some estimates, Paraguay’s pre-war population of 525,000 was reduced to 221,000 of which only 28,000 were men.[8]

          I’m also partial to the First Anglo-Sikh War and Napier’s expedition to Abyssinia.

        • Corey says:

          Michigan and Ohio went to war over Toledo once. Don’t recall if Ohio got to keep the Toledo area because they won, or because they lost.

          • Gazeboist says:

            If you’re looking for “amusing” rather than “interesting”, I’m partial to the Aroostook War. It is of pretty limited consequence, though.

          • S_J says:

            Well…there was a little mob action, but the “Toledo War” never really lived up to its name. I don’t think there were any fatalities.

            The disputed land was a narrow stretch of the north edge of Toledo. The dispute arouse out of mapping problems and surveying-inaccuracies. The dispute might have threatened control the mouth of the Maumee river, which was (and probably still is) a big port for shipping Ohio-grown agricultural products to other destinations.

            Michigan got a large chunk of Wisconsin Territory as a consolation prize. (Hence that region known as the Upper Peninsula.)

            I think Ohio won in the short-term.

            Don’t know if it counts as a victory in the long term or not…but the State of Michigan became home to a copper-and-iron-mining boom in the U.P. a couple of decades later.

          • LHN says:

            Michigan also has Battle Creek. The “battle” (as I discovered when I looked into whether they had a museum the way Battle Ground, Indiana does) involved four people, and no deaths.

        • S_J says:

          A few years back, I learned a few things about the history of South Africa.

          Not the Boer War, but the Voortrekker movement. And their interactions with the Zulus…first a peace agreement, then an ambush on the emissaries, then a bloody battle in which the Voortrekkers soundly defeated the Zulu.

          Does this struggle even have a name? It predates the First Boer War, but I don’t think it has a common War-name among historians.

          • Leit says:

            The Great Trek. I’ve heard the opinion that “migration is war”. In that sense, you could probably consider the Trek to be the applicable name.

            The Boers’ attempt to get out under the thumb of the British caused a hell of a lot of trouble before they got their settlements sorted, and even then it was pointless – see the Vryheidsoorlog you mentioned and then eventually the Anglo-Boer War. Either way, the Zulus were far from the only natives with whom the Boers ended up in conflict. Then again, the Zulus also pretty much ended up fighting everyone and their pet dog at one point or another as well. Such is life in Africa.

            The Voortrekker monument – an ugly square chunk of rock that resembles nothing so much as a cartoon fortress – was eventually built as a memorial to Afrikaner exceptionalism, having survived basically fighting their way tooth and nail through all of South Africa.

        • keranih says:

          I know I’m going to regret asking this, but what are the most interesting wars that don’t get as much discussion as they deserve?

          I second the Triple Alliance, but my request would be for the military history of Afghanistan, and specifically those events related to the Mongols.

        • James Picone says:

          The Emu War.

        • jaimeastorga2000 says:

          I have a soft spot for the War of the Pacific, but that’s mostly because I grew up hearing about Peruvian war heroes like Miguel Grau and Francisco Bolognesi.

        • sourcreamus says:

          The Heavenly Kingdom War, more commonly known as the Taipang Rebellion. A chinese man gets real sick and goes into a coma. When he awakes he tells of a vision of going to heaven and God telling him he is Jesus’s brother. He then leads a rebellion that ends up in a civil war that comes very close to overthrowing the emperor. In the process more people are killed than in any war before WW2.
          There is a good book about it called God’s Other Son.

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      My impression is that this OT has been exceptionally political, relative to other recent ones. I wouldn’t take this one as representative.

  30. TMB says:

    From Scott Adams:

    I don’t really get this.

    Firstly, if perception of reality doesn’t aid fitness, then why have perception at all?
    Secondly, if he’s really just saying “the things that we perceive are not in themselves what we perceive them as being”, you need to make a metaphysical argument. If we accept that the underlying reality doesn’t match our perception, and further that “nor are their relations in themselves such as they appear to us”, surely we have just lost the right to talk with any certainty about what that underlying reality might be.
    You can’t talk about underlying fitness at all unless you’re prepared to use concepts and relations that we’re arguing don’t have any meaning in the sphere in which we are attempting to use them.

    Or is it a reductio ad absurdum?

    • Philosophisticat says:

      As far as I can tell, Hoffman is another example of someone from the sciences obliviously stumbling onto a philosophical topic that has already been discussed at length by people more competent than he is, and clumsily retreading old ground in full confidence that he’s saying something revolutionary. Philosophers like me find this really annoying.

      Anyway, more substantively, take a dog, which does not see in color. Certainly there are physical properties its perception does not distinguish – dark red and dark green objects will look the same to it. According to Hoffman’s reasoning, this means that its perception is inaccurate. But a black and white photo is not inaccurate just because it is in black and white – there’s a real similarity between dark green and dark red objects which is correctly represented by similar shading in a black and white photograph. A representation is inaccurate when it represents objects as having properties that they do not have, not when there are properties that objects have that they do not represent.

      In the extreme consequence of this, he seems to think that perception is inaccurate if its objects and predicates don’t correspond directly to the items of fundamental physics. But just because perception doesn’t carve reality at the joints most natural for a physicist doesn’t mean it doesn’t carve reality.

      Relatedly, the concepts according to which we break up the universe are shaped by our evolutionary and social interests. It is because of our needs that we care about the rough collection of particles that compose a “snake” and not the collection composed of every third carbon atom going from left to right across the united states, or those that compose the top half of bookcases. But that doesn’t mean that snakes aren’t real, or that when we perceive, or talk about snakes we are seeing or speaking inaccurately.

      His experiments, best I can tell from the description, concern organisms that break the universe up in one way versus organisms that break up the universe in some other way, and do not show that being accurate is evolutionarily disadvantageous.

      And examples like animals that misidentify mating partners are exceptions that prove the rule – while of course there are tradeoffs between accuracy and other values that matter for fitness, cases of misidentification are rare, and that is not a coincidence.

      (I won’t even begin to talk about the views about consciousness)

    • M.C. Escherichia says:

      I watched the TED talk. The achievements of science are too specific to be undermined by the generalised skepticism of the speaker; i.e. we couldn’t build lasers and 747’s and gravity wave detectors and hadron colliders and so on if our understanding of reality wasn’t pretty good.

    • fr00t says:

      His argument seems to hinge on the tautological (vacuous) definition of “fitness-tuned” contrasted with “reality-tuned”. This ignores the quite common-sense fact that, all other things being equal, more reality-tuned agents are correspondingly more fitness tuned.

      The fact that it is costly to generate a more finely-tuned reality model and therefore antagonistic with fitness at some point does not imply the two are orthogonal.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yes! Also politics, which tends to get left out 🙂

      • Gazeboist says:

        My understanding of the situation with Galileo is that it was less “he was oppressed” and more “he was an asshole”.

        • LHN says:

          Well, both. Being unnecessarily, publicly rude to a powerful person who had previously shown him favor is part of a pattern of behavior pointing towards the latter. But being put under house arrest for it is still oppression, even if the person being oppressed is a bit of a jerk.

      • caethan says:

        You really have to keep in mind the broader context too. At the beginning of the Galileo affair, there were some comparatively minor religious scuffles between German statelets. At the end of it, when he got pushed back hard, there was a massive Europe-wide religious war – the largest ever on the continent – with every great power entangled in it. Catholics and Italians started getting a little twitchy about laymen trying to interpret the Bible on their own – that sort of thing might bring the massive, decimating war down to them too, and maybe hurt the war effort in Germany.

  31. Gazeboist says:

    Historians especially:

    Suppose for whatever reason Hitler never orders the breaking of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. The Axis still loses WWII, but the USSR never enters*. How does the world change?

    * Is this reasonable? I recall hearing that it is, but not why.

    • ediguls says:

      I’m not a historian, but as far as I know Stalin had plans on his desk for invading Europe after the war had ended. He might have had a decent chance of success given that the victor of Axis and Allies would have emerged weakened quite a bit.

      • JayT says:

        Except that he wouldn’t have had the A-bomb. Beating Germany without the USSR’s help would most likely have meant the US used the bomb on Germany as well as Japan (or maybe instead of).

    • Slow Learner says:

      The tricky thing is not finding a WAllied path to victory without the USSR, the tricky thing is finding a path to victory that will not leave both Germany and Japan weakly holding territories that Stalin covets as they go down to defeat, giving the Vozhd an irresistible opportunity to rebuild Russia’s Near Abroad.

      Is this reasonable? I recall hearing that it is, but not why.

      Put it this way: defeating Japan without Soviet involvement is straightforward, Japan was on the verge of defeat when the Soviets got involved. We can accept that it might be delayed by (1) resources being diverted to the European theatre, and (2) the need for further starvation, bombing, or even invasion of the Home Islands to have the same effect on Japanese decisionmaking as the rapid defeat of the Kwantung Army by the Red Army.

      So, all we need to consider is the European theatre. First, defensively (from the perspective of the Western Allies); both the war at sea and the defence of friendly skies are largely solved problems. The German naval threat is handled; more easily, with no Soviet involvement, as the Murmansk convoys were the toughest to escort. The German air threat is handled; V2s might be rough, but existing defences are able to deal with both conventional bombers and V1s.
      Land threat – German involvement in North Africa was constrained not by resources being used elsewhere, but by logistical access to the theatre. They were unable to increase this logistical access significantly, so despite Germany not being preoccupied with the Eastern front, North Africa should go approximately as OTL. Possibly better for the Allies, depending on what happens in the Balkans/Greece.
      Italy is a tossup – it’s possible that the Germans can send more, and heavier forces down the boot to face off against Allied landings, but it’s also possible that with no Italian forces in Russia there are *no* German troops in Italy to start with. Sicily definitely goes Allied, again the logistics and balance of forces are very much in the Allies favour. My guess would be stable lines somewhere around the level of Rome; more Allied forces committed than German, but a basically static front. Allied air superiority and naval superiority, balanced by the fact that high quality German troops are on the defensive in rough terrain.

      It seems safe to assume that Franco remains neutral – his real concerns were food supplies and loss of colonial territory, both things the Allied fleets could deal with, not anything to do with the Soviet Union. So the options for invading Occupied Europe, once Italy bogs down, will come back down to the Pas-de-Calais or the Normandy beaches. Assuming more German garrison and reaction forces – because the Eastern Front is only covered against Stalin playing silly-buggers, not fighting desperately – distractions/expansions of effort like Operation Dragoon (invading southern France some weeks after D-Day in Normandy) are likely to be off the table.
      Normandy will be a tougher fight, taking higher casualties, but I don’t think the ultimate result will be any different, and once Allied forces are established on the continent it’s a long hard slog to the finish line.

      A quick note to justify my claims that allied air and naval superiority will be the same as OTL:
      1) the German system for training pilots and flight crew was inadequate both in scale and capability. Their transport pilots were also their multi-engine instructors, so every loss of a transport plane is also a loss of ability to train new transport/bomber pilots. Expert pilots never rotated out of the line, so they racked up incredible scores of enemy planes shot down, then burnt out or their luck ran out, without ever passing on their skills.
      2) German access to rare elements and high-quality steels was limited. Due to things like the Allies carefully bidding up the price of Spanish tungsten to a point Germany, with limited foreign exchange, couldn’t match (more limited if they’re paying the Russians for materiel rather than looting it!). As a result of these materials shortages, German engines had shorter service lives and lower power than Allied ones, and there’s limited ability to expand production.
      3) Linking to the above, limited access to high octane petrol. Even if Germany as a whole can get enough POL, they’ll struggle to refine the really good stuff, and that impacts on aircraft performance.
      4) The fact that the Western Allies faced the heart of the German air effort as it was…and ground it into dust.
      5) U-boats? What u-boats? Once the Allies have the combination of Liberty Ship production lines to replace losses, long-range patrol aircraft to keep the uboats submerged much of the time, and escort carriers to go with convoys, the u-boat threat has gone from being a huge problem to being a nuisance. They’re being sunk as fast as the Germans can make more, and uboats are a lot more expensive than merchant ships or air-dropped torpedoes.
      6) Kriegsmarine surface fleet – what surface fleet? Assuming Hitler decides in late 1940 that war with the Soviet Union is off the table, and lays down some more surface ships to fight the war he’s already in:
      Well, put it this way. Bismarck and Tirpitz were laid down in 1936, and only complete in 1940 and 1941 respectively. Battleships laid down in 1940 *might* be ready to fight by the time the Allies are ready to invade Europe, then again they might not. Alternatively, the Germans can continue work on their aircraft carriers…oh, whoops, they already broke one up on the slips to focus on u-boats. I guess they could finish Graf Zeppelin, so they might have one aircraft carrier; a poorly designed aircraft carrier at that, with few available escorts. Again, any new keels laid down in 1940 are unlikely to be in service in time to be of much use.

      To attempt an answer to your actual question, of how the world changes if the Western Allies defeat the Axis alone:
      I think the United Nations will remain, effectively, the Allied-club. The Soviet Union still existing – hell, being more powerful without having lost so many millions to the Great Patriotic War – means we’re likely to have a Cold War anyway, so it will be the UN vs the USSR.
      Where the Iron Curtain falls is an interesting question that will depend on too many aspects of how we get from A to B (if the Germans, not needing to clear their flank before fighting the Soviets, never go into Yugoslavia, never drag other Balkan states into an alliance, leave Italy flailing in Greece, even if Stalin does attack when the war ends, will he just attack in Poland or attack everywhere?)
      De-colonisation is still going to be a thing – I don’t think US policy towards colonial empires will be changed by the different war experience, and the imperial powers have still been embarrassed and shown up in the eyes of too many of their colonial subjects to hold on indefinitely. Details could be very different, however.
      For example, if no Barbarossa, then Singapore and Malaya would have had more aircraft, more equipment and possibly a better commander; so might never have fallen to the Japanese. Obviously this would affect immediate postwar decisionmaking in those areas, based on concerns like “how effective is a British security guarantee, and what price is it worth paying to have such a guarantee?”
      A lot of this is going to depend on exactly how the war maps out, of course.
      If the Soviets never attack Japan, Korea will be united under a pro-Western strongman much as South Korea was OTL. Does it develop similarly to OTL? I don’t know enough about Korea to be sure.
      China could get very ugly; the Chinese Communists will be weaker without the secure base of Russian-controlled Manchuria and Russian-donated equipment, but Chiang is still hella corrupt and widely disliked. I could see either a Civil War that drags on longer before the Communists win, or a Nationalist victory, depending on how everything shakes out.

      • Stefan Drinic says:

        This is not a bad comment, and I may not even disagree with most/all of it.. But how confident are you that the UK would have held out against the Germans for long enough that the US should get involved?

        Without Barbarossa, the Germans are able to pay much more attention to Britain, and I’m not entirely certain it would’ve held out in a world where it gets sustainably attacked for two more years. It is very hard to gauge this, since one would assume that the German production as it was would have shifted; they’d have to manufacture much more armaments for a proper fight over the sea and air, rather than overland, as they did against the Russians.

        Suppose, however, the UK’s mainland gets breached, and the Wehrmacht touches down on it. What, then, does the US even do? Where from do they launch their airplanes? Where do they begin naval invasions? It would become a technological and logistical nightmare for the US to get involved in the European theatre without the UK being safe and sound even still.

        The thing about Malaysia and Singapore somehow having better equipment without Barbarossa seems.. Curious. How does USSR being invaded draw equipment away from those areas? I’m genuinely confused here. Am I missing something painfully obvious?

        More nitpicky-ish, I don’t think anything at all could have saved the Nationalists in China. It appears to be the fate of middle-class lacking, agrarian empires to turn communist, and it’d take more than the USSR getting involved by the sidelines to avert that kind of force.

        • God Damn John Jay says:

          An amphibious assault on Britain is unlikely, Germany did not have much of a surface army, while the UK had a massive one. And even during the Battle of Britain when things looked the worst they had a stronger air force. You mention the war lasting two more years and that wearing down the British, but as time went on they were able to rebuild the weapons they lost at Dunkirk (massive amounts of equipment and vehicles). Finally, amphibious invasions are incredibly hard, Crete was able to inflict heavy losses against a larger force and the UK was willing to literally set their beaches ablaze with crude oil to turn back an invasion.

        • Slow Learner says:

          Re: the UK.

          Even in 1940, only months after the fall of France and evacuation of Dunkirk, the UK was functionally immune from invasion by any realistic German attempt; it’s been wargamed out repeatedly, including in the 70s by surviving officers from both sides.

          Germany was already effectively 100% focussed, in naval and air terms, on fighting the UK OTL. In naval terms, up until 1945; in air terms merely until Barbarossa kicked off.

          And remember that ships take time. Even if you ignore heavy units (“the Luftwaffe will deal with them”) and contest with the Royal Navy from light cruisers on down, you need to build say 20-25 cruisers and 50+ destroyers; train their crews; work them up into formed units…and then you’re maybe at parity with RN forces available to cut up invasion forces in summer of 1940. And it’s somewhere in 1942 or 1943, the RN has grown, so has the RAF, so have Army units available in the UK to defend the beaches.

          Basically if you want Germany to be making successful opposed landings in the UK in the 1940s, you need to start a long way back, not merely far enough back to cancel Barbarossa.

          Re: materiel in Malaya, there’s a direct link…in the mind of Winston Churchill. He could see that, as long as Russia was in the fight, huge parts of Germany’s efforts would have to be against Russia. So almost as soon as Barbarossa kicked off, he directed that hundreds of aircraft, hundreds of tanks, and large stocks of other equipment be shipped to the Soviets to make use of. Some of this equipment was specifically earmarked for equipping British and Commonwealth forces elsewhere around the world, but most of it would have ended up being issued somewhere – and any that was obsolescent in European terms would have most likely ended up in the Far East, where in 1941 it was both a) better than what the forces posted there were equipped with, and b) in terms of tanks generally better than what Japan had available to their own troops.

        • John Schilling says:

          But how confident are you that the UK would have held out against the Germans for long enough that the US should get involved?

          Without Barbarossa, the Germans are able to pay much more attention to Britain, and I’m not entirely certain it would’ve held out in a world where it gets sustainably attacked for two more years.

          How are you getting “two more years”?

          Barbarossa to Pearl Harbor is six months, not two years, and the path to US involvement was largely independent of anything happening on the Eastern Front. And Barbarossa happened after almost all of the crisis events on the Western Front had passed. France had fallen, but the narrow window where a German invasion of the British Isles would have been conceivable had closed, the Battle of Britain had been decided, the Battle of the Atlantic was a bloody stalemate. Germany can free up some additional resources if they decide not to invade Russia, but I’m not seeing the opportunity for them to do Britain any decisive harm in those six months.

          • Slow Learner says:

            I was assuming Barbarossa was cancelled in favour of Sealion 2: the Sealioning sometime in late 1940 rather than the day before, so there’s a year and a bit – still not enough to build major warships, or substantially change the strategic situation, IMO.

          • bean says:

            I was assuming Barbarossa was cancelled in favour of Sealion 2: the Sealioning sometime in late 1940 rather than the day before, so there’s a year and a bit – still not enough to build major warships, or substantially change the strategic situation, IMO.

            But Sealion 2 would have the same problems as Sealion, namely that there’s no way the Germans are getting across the channel, and everyone serious knows it. Notably ignorant are Hitler, whose Generals are producing paperwork to distract him while they enjoy Paris, and the British Public, who WSC is scaring to keep morale up. The RN outgunned the KM by an absurd margin, and the Luftwaffe wasn’t getting stronger relative to the RAF, either.

          • Slow Learner says:

            I know that, bean, and you know that; I was trying to be maximally generous to the commenters above trying to suggest it.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            Sea Lion 2 would face the fact that by that time the UK would have rebuilt their forces after Dunkirk. Plus by the time German could build a surface fleet Britain could build their own version of the Atlantic Wall.

          • Slow Learner says:

            @God Damn John Jay
            Quite. The various kriegspielen that have worked on this were mostly conducted before the British government ever released documentation talking about most of the fortifications, pillboxes and defences prepared in 1939-40. There were some 28,000 of them, which were barely considered in the 70s exercise, which even so saw the German landings thoroughly crushed. In 1940. Seelowe is a joke in Alternate History because every time you look at it more closely it gets even more impossible.

          • LHN says:

            At least back in the days of soc.history.what-if on Usenet, this essay by the late Alison Brooks was the go-to summation:

            “I do not say they cannot come, only that they cannot come by Sealion.”

          • LHN says:

            And then just today, I saw the following review of We March Against England: Operation Sea Lion, 1940-1941 by Robert Forczyk:

            Forczyk doesn’t quite manage to overturn the consensus opinion on Hitler’s mooted invasion of England: that it was doomed to fail, if not a bluff. However, his fully researched history does integrate Sea Lion far more fully into the whole story of the UK-Hitler strategic war, emphasizes that it would have been a closer-run thing than we think, and provides one or two roads-not-taken that could have made it the basis of a forced armistice if not a “swastika over the Tower” moment.

            I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how persuasive the case is, but the reviewer, Kenneth Hite, generally knows his stuff.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            And to think that all this time I thought Operation Sealion involved Hitler turning up repeatedly in Churchill’s house to remind him that he still hadn’t apologized for calling Hitler a “Narrzi”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z

            I’ve been trying to work in a “sealioning” joke but you beat me to it.

            @LHN: Kenneth Hite, the game designer?

          • Cerebral Paul Z, that’s the funniest thing I’ve seen lately.

          • LHN says:

            @dndnrsn Yes– the review’s from the “Ken and Robin Consume Media” feature that’s been introduced ancillary to the weekly podcast he does with Robin Laws.

          • bean says:

            emphasizes that it would have been a closer-run thing than we think, and provides one or two roads-not-taken that could have made it the basis of a forced armistice if not a “swastika over the Tower” moment.

            It appears that the idea was to land on the Isle of Wight. Of course, there is a small problem with that. Does anyone know what is on the other side of the Solent?
            Yes, that’s right. Portsmouth, and probably more naval firepower than Germany could muster with all of its ships. The author suggests that this made a German landing on the Isle of Wight particularly dangerous, as German artillery could have closed Portsmouth. I’m pretty sure that the Germans couldn’t have gotten that artillery ashore, let alone supplied it once it was there. (Assuming that any was left to supply, that is. The British cruisers could cover most of the island while tied up alongside.) Has the man never heard of logistics?

      • cassander says:

        >I think the United Nations will remain, effectively, the Allied-club. The Soviet Union still existing – hell, being more powerful without having lost so many millions to the Great Patriotic War

        I disagree completely there. Young men are an easily renewable resource. The USSR lost a lot of them, but it gained a massive military build up, massive infusions of lend lease supplies to build up its industrial base, the conquest of all of eastern europe, and the plundering of the areas it conquered.

      • John Schilling says:

        Possible nit-picking, but:

        2) German access to rare elements and high-quality steels was limited. Due to things like the Allies carefully bidding up the price of Spanish tungsten to a point Germany, with limited foreign exchange, couldn’t match (more limited if they’re paying the Russians for materiel rather than looting it!). As a result of these materials shortages, German engines had shorter service lives and lower power than Allied ones, and there’s limited ability to expand production.

        I’m going to guess that paying Russians for e.g. tungsten is going to be cheaper than paying for the wear and tear on an army capable of looting Russia. I think the AH where Molotov-Ribbentrop remains in place is one where the Germans can afford more, rather than less, strategic metals. Which brings us to…

        3) Linking to the above, limited access to high octane petrol. Even if Germany as a whole can get enough POL, they’ll struggle to refine the really good stuff, and that impacts on aircraft performance.

        Jet engines run just fine on straight kerosene, and aren’t too picky about impurities. If you can afford the materials to make good turbine blades, you may not be missing the high-octane petrol.

        • Slow Learner says:

          Probably, though I’m not sure of how much the Soviets would have been prepared to hand over.

          Ultimately fixing those issues would still leave a Reich that was outproduced in airframes by the UK alone (more of those airframes being multi-engine types than German production, to boot) facing off against UK&US production.*

          *I am working on the assumption here that Lend-Lease, the Two Ocean Navy Act & similar are all unaffected by whatever happens (Hitler getting a brain tumour? :P) to make the Germans call off Barbarossa.

          • cassander says:

            You’re absolutely right about the production figures (though it must be noticed that the UK was putting much more emphasis and raw materials into aircraft than germany was), but I think the issue here is more political. Say Germany just relies on browbeating the USSR for materials, building up the U-boats and Luftwaffe, and basically trying to blockade the UK. For how long do the British people keep up this seemingly endless fight for no particular gain, while German pirate radio is blasting generous armistice terms? Churchill can promise blood, toil, tears, and sweat all he wants, but you can only keep that up for so long. After a couple of years of that, after the collapse of the British far east, maybe they give up on hitler.

        • bean says:

          Jet engines run just fine on straight kerosene, and aren’t too picky about impurities. If you can afford the materials to make good turbine blades, you may not be missing the high-octane petrol.

          This assumes the Germans are able to build good turbine blades. I know their metallurgy was generally pretty good, but they had a remarkable ability to screw up technology. Also, I think switching the refineries over is nontrivial.

      • youzicha says:

        once Allied forces are established on the continent it’s a long hard slog to the finish line.

        Would there have been the political will for the long slog, though? If the U.S. is facing the main part of the German army instead of the Soviet, would they not take similar amount of causualties — bigger by a factor of 21 or 28? For the Soviet union this was an existential battle, but America is completely safe from invasion on the other side of an ocean. I would imagine they would settle without an unconditional surrender.

        • Slow Learner says:

          The Allied powers in WW2 showed the will, just as their fathers had in 1918, to see the war through to it’s conclusion.

          I guarantee that the Western Allies, fighting a thoroughly mechanised war against a power they outweigh industrially by 5-6 times, will be taking many fewer casualties than the Soviet Union did, to achieve the same effect.

          The Western Allies already faced off against around half of the armoured vehicles in Germany’s armoury, the vast majority of the modern air forces and almost the entirety of the navy.
          Sure, more leg infantry will up casualties a bit, but not twenty-fold.

        • dndnrsn says:

          A US-and-Commonwealth-only Allies would be extremely unlikely to take the same casualties the Soviets did.

          For one thing, a significant chunk of Soviet casualties came in the German offensives in 1941 and then again in 1942, when the Germans were able to pull off major encirclements during their offensives, which were only possible due to the circumstances of the war in the East at that time.

          For another, one advantage the Germans had over the Soviets was a better supply of radios, allowing more nimble tactical leadership (and amplifying the effects of their generally superior tactical leadership). While the Germans in general had superior tactical leadership to the Western Allies also, they wouldn’t have the same advantage in radios after 1940 (when the British and French didn’t have enough radios to allow radio communication by low-level armoured units, etc).

        • bean says:

          Unlikely, for several reasons. First, the Soviet casualties were at least partially their own fault. This was covered extensively several open threads ago, but it boils down to them having serious leadership problems at most levels during various parts of the war. That’s why they lost so badly during Barbarossa, and why they were outfought man-for-man later.
          Second, there weren’t many good places for the Germans to use their forces. North Africa was ultimately lost because they couldn’t move troops and supplies across the Med, and lack of Barbarossa wouldn’t help that much. I’m not sure exactly what would happen from then on with stronger German land forces. If anything, it might have meant more resources in the Med. But the allies would be a lot more careful with men than the Soviets were in any case.
          Third, the atomic bomb was coming. I’d guess they would have waited a bit to have more to use, but I’d be surprised if that didn’t end the war in late 1945 in any case, and 1946 at the outside.

    • dndnrsn says:

      The important question is why doesn’t Hitler break the M-R pact? Agricultural land in the East was one of Hitler’s obsessions, and one that was not especially uncommon among certain circles in Germany. And in 1941 Hitler became convinced that the reason the UK would settle if the USSR could be knocked out.

      If the US gets involved though – whether it’s lend-lease etc, or whether it’s entering the war (do the Germans declare war on the US in this timeline?) Germany faces a probably-insurmountable material disadvantage. And the US still has a nuclear program – what German cities are analogous to Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

    • cassander says:

      Stalin and the USSR acquire no vast empire in the eastern Europe, no massive shipments of lend lease goods, no plundering of eastern Europe post-war, no massive military buildup and massive shared sacrifice to bind the society together. As a result, the USSR is far less powerful in the post war era, and probably still something of a pariah state rather than founding member of the UN. The consequences of that are very hard to predict. The absence of a strong USSR gives the US much less interest in remaining in Europe and Europe much less incentive to unify.

      That said, declaring war on Russia was always the point for Hitler. His whole plan was carving out space for a continental sized germany.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      The USSR would certainly not have stayed on the side lines had Hitler not attacked. Why would it? It would attack when the time was right.

    • Furslid says:

      I don’t think this is reasonable, because it doesn’t take into account how Stalin’s Russia would react to that war.

      Stalin would still be worried about future conflicts between the USSR and the allies. There had already been conflict between Russia and the allies, and communist doctrine said that the capitalist powers would necessarily oppose a communist state. The US, Britain, and France allying and absorbing the full territory of the Third Reich would be a nightmare scenario. Stalin would act to prevent this from happening.

      If Hitler hadn’t attacked Russia, the allies would have had more trouble in Western Europe. There would have been more troops and material to oppose them. It would take even longer from the attack on Europe to the fall of Berlin than it did.

      There are two ways Stalin could take advantage of this to prevent the nightmare scenario. He could formally ally himself with the allies in exchange for buffer states and a sphere of influence. This would be a tempting deal for allies having more trouble. He could also pounce when the allies were making progress conquering what portions of the weakened Third Reich that he could. It’s a safe bet that the allies wouldn’t start another massive war to protect people they had just been at war with.

  32. Ezra says:

    Here’s something that may be amusing, to those of you with a certain bent:
    It’s a guy explaining (with graphs) all the obscure techniques and glitches he used to beat a level of Super Mario 64 without pressing the A button. Basically his strategies get more and more complex ad absurdum. I feel bad for posting something about video games here, I hate video games as much as the next guy, but it’s interesting and amusing apart from that. If this is a bad place for it then I’m sorry.
    To me, it brings to mind an experimental physicist taking apart the laws of reality without caution or concern for the fate of the universe.
    And it’s comforting as an example of somewhat unique high-effort content in an area known for a lot of hum drum repetition.
    I don’t have too much in the way of starting a discussion apart from that, but I think others will have a take as well, if they’re interested.

    • Gazeboist says:

      “… after all, I do build up speed for twelve hours. But to answer that, we need to talk about parallel universes.”

      This is up there with implementing pong in SMW on my list of “favorite things from the TAS community”.

    • Jugemu Chousuke says:

      I enjoyed this more than I expected. It really does feel like the Mario version of an interesting physics lecture (albeit with simpler math).

    • God Damn John Jay says:

      I feel bad for posting something about video games here, I hate video games as much as the next guy, but it’s interesting and amusing apart from that.

      Do you mind if I ask how you stumbled on a video like this then? I mean obviously, you can like whatever you like, but it just seems weird that someone who hates gaming is watching an in depth video of the behind the scenes workings of SM64.

    • Lumifer says:

      I hate video games as much as the next guy

      I have a feeling you’re misjudging your audience :-/

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Don’t play games, but do love listening to people who are both good at them and who enjoy “colouring outside the lines” like this—playing with the game itself instead of just by the preset rules.
      Thanks for the link!

  33. Chalid says:

    It is common for USians, when they have kids, to move to places that have “good schools.” In a few years my kids will be school age, and I’ll be faced with that sort of decision too.

    What would define a good school? How would one measure it?

    Test scores are the way most school rating websites seem to work. But the problem is obvious to anyone who reads SSC – you can’t know if the test scores are due to the education quality or the student quality. (It’s also not clear how much you should care about test scores of course.)

    One thing that’s pretty well-established, I think, is that your child’s peer group can matter quite a bit – they will tend to pick up the culture of their friends, both in terms of trivial things like musical tastes, and in terms of more important things like the types of career they are likely to choose. So one way to define a “good school” might be that it is a school where the culture is one that you want your child to be exposed to – but how would one determine that, short of moving to the neighborhood and living there for a few years? Neighborhood income and school demographics are lots better than nothing, but don’t take you that far really.

    Someone I know decided to look at college matriculation lists for various high schools – he’s a software engineer, and he wanted to find places where kids were generally going to tech schools and not to liberal arts schools. This is clever but only works if you have a few specific candidates in mind already, and of course is noisy.

    • Incurian says:

      “you can’t know if the test scores are due to the education quality or the student quality”

      Wouldn’t either be acceptable?

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      A “good school” is a school without bad students (“a ghetto/barrio/alternative name for low-class-hell-hole isn’t a physical location, its people). Discrimination on the basis of anything except money is illegal, so good schools are either public schools in areas in which it is expensive to live or private schools which cannot be attended without paying expensive tuition.

      Or you can homeschool.

      • Matt M says:


        It’s not perfect, but “live in the most expensive neighborhood you can possibly afford” probably gets you 90% of the way there.

        • Corey says:

          McArdle points out a downside of this: if you stretch your budget into a nice neighborhood, there will be big pressure from your kids to keep up with the Joneses (e.g. their friends will do travel soccer, whether you can afford that or not) and that can cause trouble.

          • Matt M says:

            Can it?

            My parents basically did this – sacrificed greatly in order to move to a neighborhood that was well above where we “should” have lived so that my sister and I could be around smart, rich people. Were their occasional moments of insecurity? Sure.

            But all in all I think we both benefited from it immensely and I’m very grateful for them having made this decision. Maybe it helps that my sister and I had no particular desire to fit in with the “cool” crowds and thus never demanded the designer jeans or whatever expensive stuff teenagers are supposed to have. Maybe we just got lucky. But the overall plan worked pretty much to perfection.

          • Whatever Happened to Anonymous says:

            Can it?

            For sure. Whether it causes them more often than not, or if those problems outweigh the benefits, that’s a lot harder to tell. Especially since those problems usually have an impact on difficult to measure intangibles.

          • Matt M says:

            If it makes you feel better, my sister is completely and totally lock-step in line with the standard respectable blue-tribe beliefs predominant in the area in which we grew up, so there goes your thesis on that one.

        • Anonymous says:

          That isn’t going to keep you out of meth high.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Crudely, it will; you’re looking for places where you have mostly blue and red. Meth high will tend to be almost all-blue.

          • hlynkacg says:

            No, you’re thinking of crack high.

            The Stereotype is that blues do Crack, Reds do Meth, and everybody does Mary-J 😉

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wrong blue and red. But I’m fairly sure the blues you are referring to don’t do crack; cocaine powder, perhaps, but not crack. Blue Tribe does not include the underclass.

            These reds may do amphetamines, but Adderall rather than meth; same for the adjacent blues. Nowadays some of the blues might be doing oxy or heroin.

    • “So one way to define a “good school” might be that it is a school where the culture is one that you want your child to be exposed to – but how would one determine that, short of moving to the neighborhood and living there for a few years? ”

      The culture of my household is more to my taste than that of any school my kids could go to. That’s one argument for home schooling.

      Or, in our case, home unschooling.

      • Tibor says:

        @David: Homeschooling unschooling sounds great. But it is probably easier to do that in a household with 2 academics than in one where the parents don’t have such a flexible work schedule or where they cannot easily work from home.

        At the same time, I’ve heard rather bad stuff about various Montessori schools etc (partly from your own description). I doubt it is worse than traditional schooling but still not quite the best. My hope, when I have children of my own (which probably still won’t happen sooner than in a few years from now and even then it takes a few years until you have to think about schools at all) is to find a group of like-minded people who would put an impromptu unschooling school together, essentially taking shifts in who is doing the homeschooling for a small group of children. This also has the benefit that the kids probably end up less shy than those who are homeschooled (although they can of course always do various free time group activities such as the scouts a sports team or your SCA). Depending on where you live, it might be hard to find such a group of people though.

        • Sounds like a sensible tactic.

        • ChillyWilly says:

          IANAL, but an impromptu unschooling school sounds like something that could be quickly considered an unlicensed school/daycare/etc. and subject to all sorts of regulations if you’re not careful to avoid whatever relevant legal threshold. There may be legal liabilities you wouldn’t have to consider if you’re just dealing with your own kids.

          • Tibor says:

            Depends a lot on the country. Unfortunately this plan of mine wouldn’t work in the Czech republic for very long, there homeschooling is illegal after the primary school. In Germany it is even worse, they ban homeschooling completely. In the region Switzerland is a lot better, homeschooling is not very common but it is legal. I don’t know about other European countries.

            So I guess that I’d have to move to Switzerland or another country with liberal schooling laws (I suspect this will be hard in Europe though). Switzerland does not sound at all bad though, in fact I consistently find it superior to other European (and most other) countries in most respects (e.g. their libertarian-leaning policies, a unique political system which I believe can maintain those policies in the long term better than for example the US constitution, armed neutrality, and last but not least their amazing landscape).

            But of course, man plans and God laughs and I might end up somewhere else entirely.

    • Slow Learner says:

      No matter the student body, a good school is one with a good group of teachers, who have decent leadership and high morale.

      These are best judged by talking to parents of children already at the school, and talking to the teachers themselves.

      Essentially current rating systems for schools are all weak and can’t do more than (at best) supplement personal judgement.

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I think you can judge a school pretty well by visiting it. Failing that, I don’t see why the fact you don’t know the cause of good test scores matters; good education is obviously good, but good students means a good peer group. Although if by “school age” you mean “elementary school age” I think the quality of the school is irrelevant unless it is right at the top or the bottom of the spectrum.

      • I think a lot of conventional schooling teaches despair– the idea that if you can’t learn something in school, you can’t learn it at all. I’m not sure how you avoid that, short of home schooling. One bad teacher can make a huge difference.

        It might be possible to teach children to work on getting the best out of school while not taking the crazy-making aspects seriously, but I’m not sure I’ve heard of anyone managing this.

    • Lumifer says:

      A “good school” is one where most kids are smart (easily estimated by their SAT scores) and where the cultural norms — among the kids — are to succeed via being smart. Unfortunately for you, smart kids usually have smart parents, smart parents are usually richer than dumb parents, and rich people usually set up enclaves gated by price. So a house in a good school district is going to be expensive.

      I think the education quality is mostly irrelevant (unless it gets to be bad enough to the point of being hostile and destructive, but it’s rare outside of ghe very poor neighborhoods).

    • TomFL says:

      Just do what everybody else does. Call for more evenly balanced and diverse school systems for other kids and then make sure your kids go to the good ones anyway. Schools matter. What most people will never admit is that the mixing of social groups is as likely to drag some prospective good students down as they are to make improvements to bad students. Feel free to engage in this social experiment if you wish though. I’m sure someone can respond with a study that given the proper controls this isn’t true at all, but that is total BS.

      Examine standardized test scores, SAT scores, college readiness scores, rates of college graduations, average IB, AP tests taken and passed, local crime rates and they all point to the same thing – certain schools reliably produce better outcomes. It’s irrelevant whether it is the neighborhood, the building, the teachers, the administration, or the peer groups, what matters is results. That being said, it’s not always a good fit for a student to be put through a tough academic grinder with tough competition in their teens if they aren’t ready.

      I put my kids through the local full time IB high school and they both got very good scholarships to the state universities. This has literally saved me $117,000 even though I’m not a financial need recipient. This will allow them to exit undergrad college debt free. Moral of the story – there are also financial payoffs here.

      The best schools are easy to find, they are almost always near the expensive real estate, ha ha. One easy rule of thumb is don’t go to schools with metal detectors and armed security. But the data on performance is easy to find.

      I wouldn’t get too wrapped in making sure an engineering curriculum is available in high school.

    • John Schilling says:

      But the problem is obvious to anyone who reads SSC – you can’t know if the test scores are due to the education quality or the student quality.

      If the students are high quality, the education will follow.

      This objection makes more sense if you are looking at the opposite problem, of identifying the very worst schools (say for government intervention) – there it is a viable strategy for administrators to cherrypick not-the-very-worst students and then just get them past the tests, in hope that busybody reformers will focus on another target. But the really high quality students tend to be associated with high quality parents, and they won’t let you get away with anything less than a high quality education.

      Which is perhaps the metric you should be looking for. Well-educated, economically successful parents. If there’s a local university or tech hub, ask where those people live and where they send their kids to school. If not, look at whatever other demographic data you can find, and whatever local knowledge you can find. The parents who have themselves benefited most from education will have coalesced around the best schools in the area, if necessary by coalescing about the least-worst and then taking over the PTA meetings and school board elections to make them the best.

    • bean says:

      Honestly, ratings via test scores tend to work fairly well. I went to one of the best high schools in the state, as determined by test scores. It was a really good school, helped by both its reputation as a good school (which drew good students and their families), and by hosting the regional gifted program (which drew in the best students and their families). The area was fairly middle class (lower to upper), and we beat the upper-class schools on the tests.
      After I graduated, my family moved to another city, and picked housing based on the district’s test scores. My siblings ended up in probably the best high school in the city, which wasn’t necessarily the one with the highest average income there, either.
      Parents who are really interested in education will move to the best district, and those are (I presume) the smart ones with smart kids you want to be around.

      • JohnDeere says:

        Just have to realize and be okay with the fact that this procedure is going to mean ending up in a neighborhood with a lot of Asians (east and south).

    • Yrro says:

      What are your realistic goals for your kids? Ivy league? State school? Tech school? There’s a much larger *cultural* difference than there is *educational* difference between high schools that have those targets, but the cultural differences matter if that is your goal.

      Just for example, I went to a decent rural school (A- rated, maybe) in a conservative college town. My wife went to one of the top ranked public schools in our state, although still in a “nouveau riche” neighborhood. My school guidance counselor had never had someone take the SAT-II’s before, and I was incredibly unusual in even applying to University of Chicago, let alone being accepted. But when you compare the quality of education my wife and I received, they are practically identical. I was incredibly well set up to go to a good state school and excel, which I ended up doing instead.

      I guess my point is… if you’re past the threshold where a significant chunk of the parents are college-educated and involved, the majority of the difference is going to be what culture your kids are comfortable in, not the quality of education.

  34. Gazeboist says:

    Re-reading the AI experiment thread, I noticed an important question that went unanswered (from Deiseach):

    Do Balrogs have wings?

    I claim that this question, while important, misses the mark slightly. We know that Balrogs are Maiar corrupted by Morgoth. Further, we know that in general Maiar and Valar can change (or at least choose) their forms, and that Morgoth’s corruption, whatever it is, damaged his ability to do so. Further, Gandalf displays no ability to change his form while present in Middle Earth, and Sauron loses access to a one of his forms when he dies (but is not destroyed). Saruman is able to change his form at least a bit, becoming “many colored”, but it costs him. When Gandalf is killed and restored, his form does change (again, only somewhat).

    This suggests that Balrogs do not have a unified “form” that does or does not have wings. Rather, they selected a form in the First Age, either when they were corrupted by Morgoth or when they entered Arda. These forms would have been dependent on their personalities and abilities, and may or may not have included wings. By the time they fought in the great wars of the prior ages, their form was fixed, and they had gained the additional powers over shadow and fire granted by Morgoth.

    • Homo Iracundus says:

      Saruman is able to change his form at least a bit, becoming “many colored”, but it costs him.

      Can you expand on that? I thought he was just calling himself that because he made himself a magic ring and put a Pride Robe on.

      • LHN says:

        Said ring is, incidentally, one of the most spectacularly unfired Chekov’s Guns in fantasy literature. Everything about that scene suggests that Saruman’s ability to craft rings will be somehow important. Instead, the fact never comes up again.

        • Deiseach says:

          Everything about that scene suggests that Saruman’s ability to craft rings will be somehow important. Instead, the fact never comes up again.

          Well, it does in that it reveals Saruman’s corruption and ambition; he has delved deep into Ring-lore, he has tried forging rings himself (and probably succeeded in making minor rings, as he too is a student of Aule as was Sauron) but he has been unable to copy the work of Celebrimbor (who forged the Elven Rings) and Sauron (especially the One Ring, the master ring).

          So he is consumed by trying to find the One Ring, and he is also trying (and failing) to make Rings of Power himself. His boasting of being a Ring-maker shows both that he wants and is trying to be on a par with Sauron, and that he has failed – if he had anything equivalent to the Elven Rings (and remember, Gandalf has one of these – Narya – which plainly Saruman found out someway and in his jealousy of Gandalf has attempted to copy), he wouldn’t be messing around with trying to persuade Gandalf to join him, he’d be using that rival power himself.

          Saruman is trapped: his dabbling with the palantir has left him open to the influence of Sauron, who now knows what he knows; he has failed to make powerful rings of his own; he hasn’t found the One Ring in all his years of searching and now, worst of all, it has been found and is out there somewhere, where Sauron is also aware of it and actively looking for it; his last gamble is to try and persuade Gandalf to come on his side and prop up his resistance to Sauron with his own power, and that fails.

          The fact that we never hear of Saruman’s Ring(s) means that they aren’t Rings of Power, merely one of the “lesser rings [which] were only essays of the craft before it was full-grown, and to the Elven-smiths they were but trifles”, that Gandalf mentions.

          Originally in “The Hobbit”, Gandalf recognises that Bilbo has a magic ring, but (of course, in this story which at the time had no link to the later one) not that it is a Ring of Power, much less the One Ring. So magic rings were common enough to be known, even as matters in legends and tales, and could turn up. That Saruman was able to make one really isn’t that big a deal.

        • cassander says:

          This has always annoyed me. He even calls himself Saruman Ring Maker, and no one ever bothers to mention it. I’m not even aware of Chris Tolkien ever talking about it. I always assumed that Saruman, despairing of a way to combat Sauron (and, somewhat, indulging his own pride), thought could make a ring free of his influence, but it didn’t work and merely brought him under Sauron’s power (similar to Denthor and the palantir). That’s that’s almost pure head canon, though.

          • Deiseach says:

            Calling himself “Saruman Ring-maker” is boasting in his folly. He’s using a lot of titles for himself: The White Hand, as the symbol for his Orcs independent of those created by/under the rule of Sauron and Melkor before him (and the Moria Orcs and Mordor Orcs aren’t any too impressed by that):

            ‘You have spoken more than enough, Uglúk,’ sneered the evil voice. ‘I wonder how they would like it in Lugbúrz. They might think that Uglúk’s shoulders needed relieving of a swollen head. They might ask where his strange ideas came from. Did they come from Saruman, perhaps? Who does he think he is, setting up on his own with his filthy white badges? They might agree with me, with Grishnákh their trusted messenger; and I Grishnákh say this: Saruman is a fool, and a dirty treacherous fool. But the Great Eye is on him.

            ‘Swine is it? How do you folk like being called swine by the muck-rakers of a dirty little wizard? It’s orc-flesh they eat, I’ll warrant.’

          • cassander says:

            I agree he’s boasting in his folly, but it’s the sort of boast that you’d think people would pay attention to, especially given that he’s very visibly wearing a god damned ring. At the very least, you’d have thought that, after his fall, they’d have taken care to make sure some orc or (Rohirrimish? Rohine?) peasant didn’t find it in the ruins of Orthanc, put it on, and make a tenth ring wraith. But no, everyone just forgets about it.

          • Maybe people didn’t bother about Saruman’s ring(s) because magic is going out of the world. The rings won’t work.

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy I think that’s an entirely reasonable possibility. But in terms of storytelling, it seems as if either Gandalf shouldn’t bother mentioning the trivial fact that there was a ring on Saruman’s finger at their confrontation when recounting it at the Council of Elrond, or else someone should at least ask about it and be told.

            And after all, they weren’t sure the other rings would stop working, they just thought it was the most likely outcome. That seems even more in doubt re a ring that was made independently of those the One was forged to control, by someone who knew about the originals’ security vulnerability.

            (That said, continual revising to fix and improve things was a besetting vice of Tolkien’s for the rest of his life. It’s probably just as well that he didn’t niggle with that detail.)

          • Gazeboist says:


            I think it’s just “Rohirrim”.

          • LHN says:

            Rohirrim is the plural noun, Rohirric the adjective (or at least that’s what Tolkien used for the language). I don’t think we have a singular, but I’m not a big Sindarin maven. In the text it’s usually just “man of Rohan/woman of Rohan” IIRC.

            In their own language– well, the Anglo-Saxon Tolkien “substituted” for their own language– it’s Eorlingas, singular presumably Eorling.

          • Deiseach says:

            they’d have taken care to make sure some orc or (Rohirrimish? Rohine?) peasant didn’t find it in the ruins of Orthanc, put it on, and make a tenth ring wraith

            But Saruman does not have the power to make ring wraiths; he can make the common or garden magic rings that are small enchantments, like the ring Bilbo was thought to have – in “The Hobbit”, when the rest of them find out about the ring, they are more impressed than worried, and even in “The Lord of the Rings”, Gandalf is concerned but not so much that he doesn’t let something like fifty years pass before going “Okay, that Ring? Bad news, need to destroy it now“.

            As a Ring-wearer himself, Gandalf would have been aware if Saruman was wearing a genuine Ring of Power, and he would have brought that up at the Council of Elrond – “Further bad news, guys, Saruman can now make his own Rings of Power”. That he didn’t indicates that Saruman couldn’t make a real Ring himself (and I think one of the reasons he tried to turn his subjugation by Sauron into an alliance was to get the secret of how to make those rings). Only the rings which Sauron had a hand in crafting were able to make Ring-wraiths, or be the foundation of treasure hordes (the Dwarven rings).

            If he was able to make a Ring of Power, Gandalf would not have been able to challenge him or break his staff (and a wizard’s power is in his staff). He would not have been reduced to a beggar slinking along the roads. And he died in the Shire, so Frodo and Sam and Pippin and Merry, who knew all about the peril of magic rings, would have been careful to take any of his possessions and turn them over to Gandalf or get rid of them. If he had a genuine Ring, no way he would have left it behind in Orthanc, and a ring is small enough to wear or hide when getting past the Ent guards.

          • cassander says:


            It was always my impression that Gandalf thought that Bilbo had one of the 7 dwarf rings that was lost, not some trinket. That’s why he warned him against it, but was willing to let him keep ity. And the dwarf rings were on a power level with the rings that the humans got, they just affected the dwarves less and differently.

            As for his low level of power, it’s quite clear that the same thing that happened to morgoth and sauron happened to saruman, which is that in making the uruk hai and binding them to his will, his power went into them, and he was lessened. When they were destroyed his power was broken, breaking the staff was largely a formality.

          • LHN says:

            Gandalf’s knew “from the first” that it was a Great Ring rather than a lesser one. And he knew it had “an unwholesome power” over its keeper.

            He knew it wasn’t one of the Three, since those were all accounted for. By implication, that means it would have had to be one of the Seven, the Nine (I don’t think the Nazgul had reappeared yet, so maybe Gollum had found one of theirs) or the One. Though honestly, if he thought it was any of those it seems as if it would be a higher priority.

            (Gandalf says he couldn’t take it from Bilbo without doing greater harm. But if he thought that it was reasonably likely Bilbo was possessed of something that would turn him into a wraith… And then he’s in total denial for years when Bilbo shows no signs of aging.)

            It doesn’t seem as Gandalf narrowed it down further than that till he suddenly remembered (during the search for Gollum) Saruman telling him (all the way back at the White Council) that all the Great Rings other than the One were set with gemstones.

            You’d really think that it wouldn’t take seventy-six years to think of that, especially after bearing a ruby-set Great Ring himself for two millennia. But I guess he had a lot on his mind.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Vaguely related to what cassander said upthread – there’s got to be a fantasy novel, at least one, that begins with a random NPC peasant finding the villain’s body in the aftermath of the battle and stealing said villain’s Mighty Item of Power, then becoming the next big bad, right?

          • Lumifer says:

            A fool and his Ring of Power are soon parted.

          • Saucerhead says:

            @ dndnrsn

            The Silver Spike, by Glen Cook.

        • Homo Iracundus says:

          I think the presence of a magic ring is, at that point in the book with all the backstory hints, a pretty big “oh crap something’s wrong with this guy” indicator all on its own.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Eh, everyone who is anyone has a magic ring. Gandalf, Galadriel, and Elrond all had one, as did Thrain.

    • Saruman does not become multi-colored himself (that’s a pity), it’s just that his robe goes from white to what I imagine is a rainbow shimmer.

      • Gazeboist says:

        My understanding of the situation was that by shifting to “the many-colored”, he opens the position of “the white” to Gandalf, and forfeits the powers he gained as Manwe’s favorite. He gains the powers of being Sauron’s favorite (to an extent), but that’s a losing trade.

        • Deiseach says:

          He doesn’t even gain power from Sauron, Sauron is using him (while Saruman is fooling himself that he is an ally and an equal).

          “For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!’

          I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.

          ‘I liked white better,’ I said.

          ‘White!’ he sneered. ‘It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken.’

          ‘In which case it is no longer white,’ said I. ‘And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.’ “

          • Pan Narrans says:

            I was less than pleased that the films replaced this dialogue with a playground fight where two powerful wizards stand on opposite sides of the room and pretend to hit one another.

          • Gazeboist says:

            My guess is that he did gain something (if nothing else, he got his Uruk-hai), just that it was a losing bargain. Compare Faust: 24 years of Mephistopheles’s service looks pretty great, but it’s just not enough to beat eternal damnation.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Gazeboist, Not sure which Faust you were thinking of, but Goethe’s Faust escapes eternal damnation.

          • DavidS says:

            I always thought he was gaining more powers top manipulate current bis of the world but losing the purity of power he had as white. Nothing to do with Sauron, just choosing the apparently more useful thing over the older purer one. And creating a vacancy for Gandalf

          • Outis says:

            ‘In which case it is no longer white,’ said I. ‘And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.’

            When I read that passage as a child, I thought: isn’t that what scientists do? I think there was an anti-scientific and/or anti-technological aspect in Saruman’s depiction. He tore down the trees, built great war machines, and IIRC his side sounded like the most technologically advanced.

          • Deiseach says:

            Outis, it depends if you can non-destructively break something (‘breaking’ light into its spectra isn’t making the light useless) or can mend it again. I took it that Saruman destroyed things in trying to find out what they ‘really’ were, and only ended up making bad imitations rather than real new versions (e.g. the Orcs were created by Melkor originally, so Saruman only took the existing ones and interbred them with Men – allegedly – or bred ‘better’ versions rather than creating of his own accord).

            If I kill a cat and cut it asunder to find out what the inside of a cat looks like, afterwards I’ll know what the inside of a cat looks like – but I won’t have the cat, and I can’t make the cat alive again, and I won’t have the vermin-killing/companionship/other benefits of owning a cat, as well as having killed a living thing.

          • Psmith says:

            When I read that passage as a child, I thought: isn’t that what scientists do? I think there was an anti-scientific and/or anti-technological aspect in Saruman’s depiction. He tore down the trees, built great war machines, and IIRC his side sounded like the most technologically advanced.

            If you haven’t read The Last Ringbearer, it’s probably going to be your jam.

          • LHN says:

            @Deiseach But science, from particle accelerators to dissection, really does involve breaking things irreparably to find out what they are. A scientific method that limited itself to nondestructive testing would be vastly more limited in what it can learn.

            That’s one place where Tolkien is expressing a premodern and anti-modern outlook. And while there are certainly any number of instances where I’d agree that “modern” is not necessarily better (or is decidedly worse), the scientific revolution taken as a whole is not something I’d place among them.

            That’s not to say no holds are barred in balancing how much destruction yields how much knowledge, what methods are ethical, etc. (Though there are more concerns in, say, animal biology or archaeology than in physics or chemistry or cell bio.) But a world in which scientists had consistently been limited to observational and/or guaranteed nondestructive experiments isn’t a world I’d want to live in.

          • nimim. k.m. says:

            >If I kill a cat and cut it asunder to find out what the inside of a cat looks like, afterwards I’ll know what the inside of a cat looks like – but I won’t have the cat, and I can’t make the cat alive again, and I won’t have the vermin-killing/companionship/other benefits of owning a cat, as well as having killed a living thing.

            On the other hand, to get to our current level of knowledge how cats and other animals (including members of our own species [1]) work, we did stuff that included precisely cutting them open.

            And then there’s the issue of animal testing of medicine.

            [1] Usually, however, waiting them to die of natural causes first. Though I doubt cats have enjoyed that particular benefit as often as humans.

          • John Schilling says:

            If I kill a cat and cut it asunder to find out what the inside of a cat looks like, afterwards I’ll know what the inside of a cat looks like – but I won’t have the cat, and I can’t make the cat alive again, and I won’t have the vermin-killing/companionship/other benefits of owning a cat,

            If you’re running short of cats over in Ireland, I know people here who can help you with that. It is quite possible to kill a very large number of cats, and still have the benefits of owning a cat.

            And indeed, the benefits of cat ownership are enhanced by possessing the degree of cat-knowledge that comes from having cut up other cats in the past. I can, for example, reasonably expect my current cats to provide me with their companionship for another decade or so, a wholly unnatural prospect but one the thought which pleases me greatly. I am thus disinclined to cast aspersions on the wisdom of the various biologists, veterinarians, etc, who have dissected cats in the past to reach this happy state in the present.

            Breaking up a unique resource to understand how it works is a judgment call, one that should be based on a realistic assessment of the value of the resource and the value of what you can reasonably expect to learn (e.g. the ability to mass-produce copies of that resource).

          • youzicha says:

            And the example of “breaking white into colors” was probably not chosen at random; Newton is famous for inaugurating the age of science, so when the discover of opticks in the novel is a villain, that seems like a deliberate swipe against science.

            It reminds me of Keats’ Lamia, complaining about the “touch of dull philosphy”, and giving as an example understanding the rainbow. Again, Newton is the bad guy! And the complaint about the gnomes deserting the mine seem a bit like the elves deserting middle-earth…

    • Bassicallyboss says:

      That’s a very reasonable view, but it sort of sidesteps the question. It’s all well and good to say that Balrogs might not have all had the same form in the way that all elves had similar forms. But there’s still the question of how many Balrogs, if any, had wings.

    • youzicha says:

      Indeed. I don’t think it’s clear that their current form is fixed either. In emilyenrose’s fanfics, the Balrogs can take any form they like (for example, looking like an elf).

      Or as a compromise, we can imagine that they can change shape voluntarily, but are restricted to being fiery and shadowy. Compare Sauron in the Third Age—we know that he is never again able to assume “a fair form”, but that text still leaves open the possibility that he can change between different forms as long as they are all ugly. (His inner spirit shining through, sortof).

  35. Out there in hypothesis land….

    Suppose that Trump wins and he has a Republican congress. Does this mean he gets what he wants, or is the current opposition that many Republicans have towards Trump strong enough to have a significant effect?

    • My guess is that most of the Republicans will fold, go along with Trump.

      A good deal of the reason I don’t want Trump to win is that if he does he will almost certainly have a Republican House and Senate, which makes him more dangerous than Clinton with a Republican House and Senate. So I’m hoping for a close election won by Clinton.

      Given that Johnson ending up President, while a logical possibility, is very, very unlikely.

      • E. Harding says:

        “A good deal of the reason I don’t want Trump to win is that if he does he will almost certainly have a Republican House and Senate, which makes him more dangerous than Clinton with a Republican House and Senate.”

        -Ryan and McConnell are, for the most part, compromisers: just look at the cyclically-adjusted deficit. As long as the GOP leaders have gotten their way on a few issues, they will do the bidding, for the most part, of the President, whether his name is Trump, Kaine, Baraka, Obama, or Johnson.

        I support Trump based on foreign policy and court appointments.

        • Corey says:

          Ryan and McConnell are, for the most part, compromisers: just look at the cyclically-adjusted deficit

          This is not a sign of compromise – nobody actually cares about the deficit. Mainstream Republicans only care as a club to beat spending lower. This dates back *at least* to Reagan.

      • Matt M says:

        I think this is overrated.

        Bush had an entire GOP Congress and did virtually nothing to make turn the country into a conservative paradise.

        Obama had an entire DNC Congress and pretty much all he got outta that was Obamacare (which took the willing cooperation of plenty of sell-out Republicans, a completely bizarre supreme court ruling that was entirely ‘I don’t want people to call me names so I’m caving to the left on this one’ and is currently on the verge of total collapse)

        The two parties simply aren’t that different. The idea that they can balance each other out by holding power in the executive and legislative branches is a self-serving narrative from the people who hold a vested interest in making you think they’re really different.

        • Paul Goodman says:

          Obamacare (which took the willing cooperation of plenty of sell-out Republicans

          Wait what? Didn’t Obamacare get like one Republican vote? What “sell-out Republicans” are you thinking about here?

          • Matt M says:

            Was it just one? I thought it was a few. I will readily admit to not following congressional goings closely.

          • bluto says:

            Not a single republican voted for it, in either the house or senate.


            In the senate the party break down was Yea 58 D 2 Ind (Sanders and Lieberman who was one of the final hold outs and the bill that passed had a filibuster so they needed 60 votes), Nay 39 R, and 1 R no vote. In the House it was Yea 219 D, Nay 212 (34 D and 178 R), and 4 no representative seated.

            The marginal votes appear to have been Democratic house seats in red states, pro-life Democratic house members, and Joe Lieberman.

          • LHN says:

            There were no Republican Congressional votes in favor of Obamacare as passed. The PPACA passsed the Senate 60-39 (1 not voting) with 58 Democrats and 2 Independents in favor, and 39 Republicans opposed.[1] The Senate bill passed in the House 219-212, with 219 Democrats in favor, 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats against.

            The House had passed an earlier version of a health care reform, the Affordable Health Care for America Act[2] 220-215, where the majority in favor included one Republican, freshman (ultimately one-term) representative Joseph Cao. The votes against included 39 Democrats.

            [1] https://projects.propublica.org/represent/votes/111/senate/1/396

            [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Affordable_Health_Care_for_America_Act

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Was it just one? I thought it was a few. I will readily admit to not following congressional goings closely.

            This should cause you to think about your political opinions and how strongly you hold them.

      • Civilis says:

        A good deal of the reason I don’t want Trump to win is that if he does he will almost certainly have a Republican House and Senate, which makes him more dangerous than Clinton with a Republican House and Senate. So I’m hoping for a close election won by Clinton.

        For me, it’s the composition of the executive branch and the media. “Clinton will be more dangerous with a Democratic federal bureaucracy and media than Trump will be with a Democratic federal bureaucracy and media.”

        I don’t know that there’s anything to these scandals, but there’s enough smoke in enough different places that someone should do a serious independent investigation. That’s currently not happening.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I’d see him as more of an Arnold Schwarzenegger type. Elected on a platform of We’re Mad As Hell And We’re Not Going To Take It Any More, gives up at the first sign of pushback and becomes a lapdog of the establishment. The takeaway there would be not that Trump gets what he wants, but that Congress gets what it wants (or at least what it can squeeze past a continuous Democratic filibuster.)

      Expect more Bush-style big-spending “compassionate conservatism” with a few token, feeble, and quickly abandoned swipes at traditional targets like public radio and Obamacare. Do not expect any right-wing culture war victories (anti-abortion legislation or an end to Title IX, for instance) or major foreign policy initiatives of any sort.

      • cassander says:

        Schwarzenegger had to deal with a system that was more hostile to change than the US federal system. Politics in California is, to put it mildly, madness. The Governor and legislator both have, respectfully, less power than the president and congress. Any big changes require ballot initiatives, and the initiative process is overwhelmingly dominated by large special interest groups which can raise the money and get people out to vote for them.

        I’m not saying you’re wrong about trump’s ultimate fate, just that California is not a good comparison to anywhere.

        • JayT says:

          Yeah, Arnold got a few ballot measures up right away that, had they passed, would have accomplished a lot of what he wanted to do. They lost, and after that he was pretty much toothless and couldn’t do much of anything.

          • cassander says:

            it was definitely a mistake to take on all the unions at once. Scott Walker’s approach of divide and conquer was much smarter.

    • Rebel with an Uncaused Cause says:

      My guess is that he’d get what he wants, at least at the outset.

      Trump winning is a strong indicator that popular opinion supports him.
      Trump is very much the sort of person who would “call out” an obstructionist.
      Being called out by someone who holds the mandate of heaven reins of popular opinion is a good way to become very rapidly unpopular.

      With a Democratic congress I’d expect the opposite; opposing Trump is a good way to demonstrate value to your base. The fact that Trump has won in this counterfactual indicates that he holds the bulk of the support; enough that (I’d expect) congressmen would shy away from confrontation.

      • JayT says:

        If Trump wins with something like 45% of the vote then I don’t think that would be enough to convince all the Republicans to go along with him, especially on his economic stances. If he somehow won in a landslide, then he would probably get most of what he wants.

        I think the first option is the more likely.

    • TomFL says:

      Probably about the same effect as with Obama in 2009. Some signature changes in policy but no tsunami of ideological legislation, followed by a Democratic takeover of Congress two years later for doing this. The EPA is very likely to be officially “redirected”. Congress is not made up of pure red and pure blue people.

    • Deiseach says:

      If Trump really is at odds with the party (as distinct from the voters), then having a Republican congress might not work to his advantage; they might fight his proposals just because. In which case, voting in Republicans to temper a Trump presidency might be the best thing to do 🙂

      • Nope says:

        The best way to ensure that congressional Republicans oppose his platform (such as it is) is for him to lose. They’ll oppose Clinton’s platform instead. Much safer all round.

      • LHN says:

        Politicians mostly trim their sails to the prevailing party winds, especially in the face of possibly getting a primary challenge next time round if they don’t. (As witness the increasing cascade of endorsements, most recently and famously Ted Cruz.) The idea that a Republican majority will act as an opposition to a Republican president strikes me as wishful thinking.

  36. Is there any research on whether beauty affects the odds of people staying married and if so, how much?

    (I don’t pay attention to celebrity gossip at all.)

    • I can imagine it going either way, especially for women. The fact that your wife is beautiful is a reason to make efforts to keep her. The fact that she is beautiful may give her opportunities to trade you in on a better alternative.

      • My guess (and it’s only that) is that fairly high levels of beauty (let’s call it 90th percentile) add to people’s pleasure in each other, but extremely high levels (99th percentile?) add a lot of opportunities and pressure to change partners. Or it’s possible that Hollywood is a very weird high-pressure environment which doesn’t tell you much about people who aren’t celebrities.

        • Forlorn Hopes says:

          Or it’s possible that Hollywood is a very weird high-pressure environment which doesn’t tell you much about people who aren’t celebrities.

          I think it’s self evident that Hollywood is a very weird high-pressure environment which doesn’t tell you much about people who aren’t celebrities.

        • Tibor says:

          I’ve never met any Hollywood actors, but I know a few Czech ones (no big stars either) personally. I doubt there is a group of people which is more prone to drama (pun intended) and being difficult in relationships. They tend to be people who get easily interested in something and lose interest just as quickly. Also, their working environment does not help. You end up working with a lot of people of the opposite sex in a very emotional and intimate way. The old cliché is that the good actors become the characters when they play them and I think that it is at least partly true. And part of it probably stays with you even after the show. So it is really easy to fall for someone and because of their prevailing personality type, it is easy to lose interest in someone else.

          They also often tend to be charming and charismatic at a first glance but rather annoying if you spend more time with them (but that might just be me and what I like about people). This does not help either.

          • JayT says:

            That all sounds right, and in addition to that, Hollywood stars tend to have schedules that involve lots of travel and being away from home for extended periods of time. If both people in the relationship are stars, the chances that they will both be in the same place at the same time with any regularity is low, and I would guess it becomes easier to end a relationship with someone you never see.

      • TMB says:

        Yes, and if you marry your wife mainly because she’s beautiful, you might be tempted to trade her in when the beauty fades.

        Personalities/character change more slowly than appearance?

    • Gazeboist says:

      Your desirability as a partner is probably the biggest predictor of your number of romantic partners, assuming (1) you can switch partners after a period of time and (2) you are seeking a “final” partner. These two conditions (which apply to monogamous marriage with a divorce option) approximately reduce the situation to the secretary problem, also helpfully called the marriage problem. A perfectly optimal reasoner will switch partners after dating/marriage about once if they’ve got about five potential alternates, or maybe three times if they’ve got closer to ten (the actual result is a simple linear equation where your number of “relationships” is equal to n/e, where n is the number of relationships you might have if you just keep switching and e is the natural logarithm; you want to stop on the best relationship you can, but don’t control the order).

      Human dating and marriage doesn’t actually quite meet the secretary problem’s conditions for a number of reasons, but it’s close. Humans also aren’t perfect reasoners, of course, but I think people generally tend towards that result, especially since dating pools are usually rather small and we’re talking about averages.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t think men usually think like that. Even the stereotypical Ladies Man who goes around sleeping with his secretary doesn’t usually leave his wife.

        • Gazeboist says:

          No individual man (or woman) thinks like that. But it’s a pattern people fall into on average, especially if they take monogamy seriously but do not believe that marriage is necessarily permanent (at least the first condition is broken by your Ladies’ Man). The specific number of potential partners is ill-defined at best, but I think there’s reason to believe that “number of relationships you participate in” is linear in “number of relationships you have the option to participate in”. It’s dead simple, if nothing else.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        You know talking about potential romantic partners and then bringing up the “Secretary Problem” makes me think this conversation is going in a whole other direction.

        Also of note I had heard of the Secretary Problem before and variants and have never heard it referred to not being in the context of relationships. The weirdest version was a mathematical analysis of finding what men were sponge-worthy (inspired by an episode of Seinfeld where Elaine has only a finite supply of contaceptive sponges to last her the rest of her life)

      • Deiseach says:

        Okay, looking at the Wikipedia article on that, it would seem to be: your best chance at getting hired is not to be one of the first three applicants interviewed 🙂

        Also, this:

        Experimental psychologists and economists have studied the decision behavior of actual people in secretary problem situations. In large part, this work has shown that people tend to stop searching too soon. This may be explained, at least in part, by the cost of evaluating candidates. In real world settings, this might suggest that people do not search enough whenever they are faced with problems where the decision alternatives are encountered sequentially. For example, when trying to decide at which gas station to stop for gas, people might not search enough before stopping.

        Yeah, but people tend to stop for petrol only when the car is running low on petrol, so they don’t have enough to search for the lowest price amongst X number of petrol stations, depending how far apart those stations are: if you are going to run out of petrol now, you probably don’t have enough to drive ten miles down the road to a cheaper petrol station.

        If we were perfectly rational, we would say “I will drive fifty miles to examine the prices of petrol at every petrol station along the way and find which is the cheapest, and then I will always purchase my petrol there”, but we’re not perfectly rational, we’re “oh crap, I forgot to buy petrol yesterday and now I’m nearly out, quick where’s the nearest station?” 🙂