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Links 12/16: Site Makes Right

The town of Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky is supposedly named because it’s in a county whose shape looks like a monkey’s head, and the town is around where the eyebrow would be.

A man involved in a homophobic hate killing and a fellow prisoner who also murdered a gay man have become the first couple to gay marry in prison.

Claritas Prizm helps companies analyze consumer demographics using their system of 66 US social classes with cutesy names.

Ribbonfarm offers a live video blogging course aimed at “beefing up [their] pipeline of potential contributors”, complete with assigned reading, homework, and a fee. It’s already over, so don’t bother applying. I guess I’m just linking this so that one day, when I get put in jail for blogging without the appropriate licenses and certifications, I know where things started to go wrong.

NASA is publishing their paper finding that the EMDrive produces meaningful thrust; more skeptical friends have recommended this and this picking-apart of some of their methods. I know nothing about physics, but the little I know of social sciences recommends extreme skepticism about effects so small that it takes heroic effort to distinguish them from noise, especially when they don’t respond to manipulations in predictable ways.

Time-waste subreddits for the week: /r/nononoyes, /r/yesyesyesno, /r/nononoawwww, /r/nonono, and various things along those veins.

Prescient Marginal Revolution post from last year on how celebrities and CEOs make better politicians than politicians

One of the better post-election-handwringing pieces: Nathan Robinson, What This Means, How This Happened, What To Do Now?

The Atlantic: are transgender people more autistic? If so, why? My thoughts on this deserve a full blog post, but for now I’ll just leave this paper on autism in congenital adrenal hyperplasia and let you draw your own conclusions.

Ben Carson declines a role in Trump’s cabinet on the grounds that he is a doctor and knows nothing about politics and would probably screw it up. On the one hand, this is admirably humble and clear-thinking. On the other, I am kind of confused what he thought he was doing when he ran for President. Update: Trump picks Carson to lead HUD.

Reddit asks people who randomly ran into Donald Trump before he was President what he was like in real life. A surprising number of New Yorkers had encounters with him, and all gave pretty much the same picture.

Kanye West: I didn’t vote, but if I did I would have voted for Trump. Possibly related: Kanye West hospitalized, placed on psychiatric hold. Old, but relevant under the circumstances: Scott Adams: The Odds Of A Kanye West Presidency Are 90 Percent.

The North Pole is 36 degrees warmer than usual right now, with extreme effects on sea ice.

Chinese scientists claim they can use machine learning to predict criminality from facial appearance. Still needs a lot of double-checking before accepted, but basically believable. Maybe related to mutational load: “The variation among criminal faces is significantly greater than that of the non-criminal faces. The two manifolds consisting of criminal and non-criminal faces appear to be concentric, with the non-criminal manifold lying in the kernel with a smaller span”.

Less Wrong is trying to regain its status as a good discussion hub and it’s actually going pretty well. Among the posts there worth checking out: A Return To Discussion, Double Crux: A Strategy For Resolving Disagreement, and Sample Means: How Do They Work?

Related to the Return To Discussion post: is an intentionally confusing interface the secret of Tumblr’s success?

Ozy at Thing of Things did a social justice Intellectual Turing Test.

NEJM: genetic risk and healthy lifestyles are independent determinants of cardiac disease. That is, whether you have a high or a low genetic risk, living a healthy lifestyle will decrease your risk of heart disease about the same relative amount.

SSC reader Fiona van Dahl, some of whose other work has been mentioned here, has a new novel out, New Night.

Remember Trump’s claim that millions of non-citizens voted in the election? It comes from a journal article in Electoral Studies (article, popular summary) calculating that several hundred thousand non-citizens probably voted in the 2008 election. But further research has challenged that claim (study, popular article), and it now seems to be very much in doubt. [EDIT: National Review defends the study, and relevant SSC]

Related: the studies above form part of the backdrop of Nathan Robinson’s excellent article The Necessity Of Credibility: To Prevent Fake News You Have To Offer Real News. I think it says a lot of important things, but it does miss the important question of when you should or shouldn’t report on exciting-sounding but not-yet-replicated studies – and so fails to have a good theory of whether the villains of the piece even did anything wrong.

In my post on Daraprim (the toxoplasma drug Martin Shkreli hiked the price of), I noted that the Daraprim molecule looks easy to make and somebody could probably cook up a batch for pretty cheap as an act of civil disobedience. Now it’s been done: Daraprim Drug’s Key Ingredient Recreated By High School Students In Sydney For Just $20.

Looking for a good charity to give to over the holidays? Aceso Under Glass makes the case for Tostan.

The wit and wisdom of new Defense Secretary pick James Mattis: “Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Andrew Gelman: How Can You Evaluate A Research Paper?

A lot of Castro retrospectives were along the lines of “Cuban communism could be brutal, but at least it brought people good affordable healthcare”. But Cuban healthcare and other public services actually underperformed most other Latin American countries during the Castro period.

Big Macs vs. The Naked Chef – on problems of scalability. And Miranda applies this to nursing.

Today in “forced to have grudging admiration for people I don’t respect very much for speaking out unexpectedly eloquently against people I respect even less”: Sarah Palin denounces Trump Carrier deal as crony capitalism. I have a really bad feeling that this ends with every company that was planning to do something good anyway crediting Trump in exchange for free Presidential goodwill, and we get a neverending string of apparent Trump victories that are very hard to disprove.

The surprising popularity of the (American) far right in China

Internationally Comparable Math Scores For Fourteen African Countries. African countries’ math scores are “significantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels, and converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s.” Apparently the African economic boom is not going to solve educational problems on its own. Best case scenario: we just need more deworming.

Also in bad news: South Sudan “on the brink of genocide”

kontextmachine on the history of county power in the US.

I’ve previously criticized Vox in general and Sarah Kliff in particular for their pieces on drug regulation, so I should give credit where credit is due: their latest article, The True Story Of America’s Sky-High Prescription Drug Prices, is pretty good and well-balanced (aside from using stick figures, which I find condescending and annoying). It also uses the word “trade-off” seven times, which is how you know you should trust it.

Globalization Not To Blame For Income Woes, Study Says. But you can mostly skip the article itself in favor of this convincing re-imagining of the famous “elephant graph”.

US labor productivity still increasing at same rate as always, apparently.

The new King of Thailand, Vajiralongkorn Borommachakkrayadisonsantatiwong Thewetthamrongsuboriban Aphikhunuprakanmahittaladunladet Phumiphonnaretwarangkun Kittisirisombunsawangkhawat Borommakhattiyaratchakuman (Vaj to his friends). Interesting fact: he got second-class honors (= a B grade) on his law degree in a Thai university. I feel like when someone feels safe giving the Crown Prince a ‘B’, that’s a good sign that your country is sufficiently non-corrupt.

New study on Swedish intergenerational mobility finds somewhere in between Clark and his critics.

Trump’s election victory raised interest in epistocracy, a hypothetical system of government where only well-informed people can vote. A new blog post pops that bubble, calculating that Trump beat Clinton among well-informed voters by an even bigger margin than among the general public, although note that the methodology uses broad demographic bins and can’t prove this is true of individual voters.

Lord Dunsany wrote a sequel to The Tortoise And The Hare, where there’s a forest fire and the animals need to send warning quickly. Since they have already determined that the tortoise is faster than the hare, they send him to spread the message, and everybody burns to death. This is probably a metaphor for life.

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837 Responses to Links 12/16: Site Makes Right

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    One major problem with the analysis of epistocracy’s hypothetical performance in the 2016 election is that it uses data from an election in which the candidates were chosen by non-epistocratic primary elections. Trump may have won among college-educated voters in the general, but in the Republican primary, one of the strongest predictors of support for Trump was not having a college degree. Making the entire process epistocratic would have changed the dynamics entirely and resulted in different candidates in the general election.

    The reason college-educated whites favored Trump is that they fairly consistently favor whoever the Republican nominee is by a substantial margin, probably because the Democratic Party is not entirely unfairly perceived as the party most likely to implement policies unfavorable to high-income whites (e.g. high taxes and spending, affirmative action).

    • Galle says:

      It also raises the question of “What counts as ‘informed’?” I don’t think a college education is a decent proxy. Being informed is not the same thing as being educated, nor the same thing as being intelligent. It has more to do with your familiarity with the issues at hand.

      I’ve long wondered if maybe, in order to be allowed to vote, everyone should have to pass a short test on what the different candidates actually stand for. The test could be administered either in written or oral form, you’d be free to take it as many times as you like, and the answers would be provided for you free of charge. The point wouldn’t be to prevent anyone from voting, but just to make sure that some accurate information collided with voters on their way to the polls.

      I doubt it would help that much, but maybe something vaguely similar to it might.

      • That sounds like a pretty good way of biasing the election in favor of whichever side writes and grades the test.

        Does candidate A stand for freedom, peace and prosperity?
        Correct Answer: Yes

        Does candidate B want to increase inequality, get into foreign wars and poison our air and water?
        Correct answer: Yes

        Citizens must get both questions right to be allowed to vote.

        It could be a lot less extreme than that and still work. Just consider what Hillary supporters honestly believe is true about Trump and what Trump supporters honestly believe is true about Hillary.

        • Aapje says:

          @DavidFriedman

          It’s the same thing with stories like ‘liberals are more informed than conservatives’ or ‘Daily Show viewers are more informed than FOX viewers.’ I strongly suspect that these kinds of surveys ask people about things that people on the left tend be right about, but not the kinds of things that they tend be wrong about; and vice versa for the right.

          I’ve even seen similar mistakes in scientific papers, where clearly biased questions were used to determine which group was ‘better’ by some metric.

          • I had a fairly long exchange in my blog with the author of a book on authoritarianism who had done a version of that. His evidence came from answers to a series of questions. Questions along the lines of “should we respect authority X” consistently chose authorities popular on the right. Questions along the lines of “what do you think about people who bravely defied authority for cause Y” consistently chose causes popular with the left.

            No surprisingly, he found that people on the left were less authoritarian than people on the right.

          • Galle says:

            That’s an… interesting claim. What kind of examples of authority figures popular with the left, but who are still recognized by the right as legitimate authority figures, would you give?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Justin Trudeau, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, might be three examples?

            He could’ve asked if they should obey Castro, we’re seeing a lot of questionable behavior in that regard right now

          • Galle says:

            The problem is, the right doesn’t regard Obama, Merkel, or Trudeau as legitimate authority figures. They regard them as usurpers.

          • Randy M says:

            [citation needed]

          • dndnrsn says:

            The Canadian right doesn’t regard Trudeau as a usurper. They regard him as an empty-headed pretty boy with a famous dad who got where he is by mouthing empty platitudes. (Hell, I’ve voted for the guy, and that’s not a wholly unfair description.)

            Sure, he got a majority of seats with a minority of the popular vote, but so did their guy.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Well there was the whole birther thing with Obama, but pretty much everyone but the craziest of the crazies dropped it once the documentation was released.

            Meanwhile Merkel seems to be rather well respected (at least on this side of the pond) and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone accuse Trudeau of being a usurper. A foppish naïf who’s coasted through life on his fathers’ coat-tails sure, but not a “usurper”.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The problem is, the right doesn’t regard Obama, Merkel, or Trudeau as legitimate authority figures. They regard them as usurpers.

            I’ve never heard of anything more than a lunatic fringe denying that any of those people are the lawful leaders of their countries. “Wrong-headed and incompetent” =/= “illegitimate”.

          • Whitedeath says:

            This “lunatic fringe” is a lot bigger than you think.
            http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/poll-persistent-partisan-divide-over-birther-question-n627446?cid=sm_tw
            41% of Republican voters disagree with the statement “Barack Obama was born in the United States”, with an additional 31% saying they were unsure.

          • Aapje says:

            ‘Trump is not my president, because the majority didn’t vote for him’

            Is that much more rational?

          • skef says:

            If the person in question assents to “Trump is the president”, then yes, it would be more rational.

        • Galle says:

          Like I said, there are a few obvious flaws.

      • suntzuanime says:

        I worry that this would effectively disenfranchise the poor, as a lot of people can’t afford a $200,000 speaking fee to find out what Hillary Clinton stands for.

  2. The Nybbler says:

    It’s not “Big Macs vs Naked Chef”. It’s “McDonalds, Chipotle, TGI Fridays, Olive Garden, and Mortons vs Naked Chef.” Sure, you’ll get a more creative meal from the Naked Chef. But you can get consistent food at various levels by picking the right chain.

    It’s true that IT methodologies are terrible. But not because you can’t get good and consistent quality by following procedures in general.

    The Nathan Robinson Trump article is a little closer to reasonable than most (even if it does dwell on the sexual assault victims, which looked like an obvious smear job whether or not they were true, and keeps trying to make Trump out to be a racist Nazi). But it misses also with

    When someone asks “What kind of world does the left want to build?” we need to have a vision.

    The left had a vision and answers; the answers, to those “someones” in the white working class, ranged from “A world where people like you are kept in your place” to “A world without people like you”. The left needs to first repudiate that vision before coming up with a new one.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Warning: last paragraph is unproductive, request fewer things like that in the future

      • a non mouse says:

        “Unproductive” is an interesting way to put it when you made the exact same point in a giant post.

        I guess the clarity about what the left has actually been saying is the objectionable part? It’s acceptable to point out that what the left does is counterproductive only if you sympathize with the left.

        • Incurian says:

          Which post are you referring to? My best guess is Social Justice and Words, Words, Words.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I believe the one that trended on twitter briefly awhile back despite the request not to over share.

        • Randy M says:

          Giant posts are less likely to be generalizations without examples. It might get tedious to support a generalization every time, but without an example or two it’s likely to provoke people.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          It’s productive to have a giant post arguing for the proposition, especially arguing for a specific version of the proposition.

          It’s not useful to have a comment asserting that it’s true in general.

          I don’t think this is me being biased – I eventually gave Jill a temporary ban for her “all Republicans just want to screw the poor” comments. I’m fine with somebody arguing for the proposition that all Republicans want to screw the poor, especially if they clarify a specific kind of poor-screwing, but I’m less okay with people just asserting it in the middle of other stuff.

          And note that this is a warning; I don’t think I would ban for something at this level.

          • Stationary Feast says:

            Ah, that explains a lot. Thanks!

            It just seems to me that Nybbler’s characterization of the left (not even just SJWs, but prominent non-SJWs who nonetheless occasionally say something about politics and demography) is dead-on accurate. For example, this is something I saw in my feed reader from an Apple news site that sometimes veers into broader political topics:

            I will say it flatly: Trump voters are ignoramuses, bigots, and/or fools. But time is not on their side. This is their last gasp.

            Now, I’ve been called worse names on an elementary-school playground, so the “ignoramuses, bigots, and/or fools” part doesn’t interest me. What’s interesting about this brief commentary on an article about who voted for Trump is how he’s waiting for about half the country to die off, or, to be charitable, be small enough so no national politician has to consider what they want.

            So. Giant post with supporting evidence good, bald assertion bad. Makes sense to me. What about chiming in with instances of this sort of antipathy to Trump voters?

          • hlynkacg says:

            So I just read that article…

            I think the thesis is that “Donald Trump lost most of the American economy in this election” is fundamentally correct but my immediate response is “well no shit”. The central message of Trump’s campaign was that “the status quo has screwed over a large portion of the country to benefit a few small enclaves and he was going to change that. It’s only natural for the people who were doing well under the status quo to vote against him while those not voted for.

            It’d be nice if the author at least considered how the American economy came to be concentrated in such a small space.

        • Reasoner says:

          Nybbler was being pretty uncharitable.

          The “white genocide” meme (which “A world without people like you” alludes to) is the far right equivalent of a “dog whistle“. Both the left and the right have a tendency to claim that their opponents are secretly thinking horrible thoughts that they only gesture at in public. I don’t think this is true in most cases. And although I am on the right, I think the accusation is more frequently true for right-wingers. Left-wingers are inclined to compete based on who is the holiest progressive, so they don’t have a strong incentive to hide their most extreme beliefs. But at least some on the right have an ethos of “hiding one’s power level“.

          I still agree with Scott that dog-whistlism is bad though. For one thing, dog-whistlism removes the incentive to not advocate extremism. If moderate statements get you labeled as an extremist, why not just make extremist statements?

          • Aapje says:

            The “white genocide” meme

            How is this more charitable/not a straw man?

            I’ve seen no one claim that white people will be taken to the gas chambers. Just that they don’t get to have an opinion, will be replaced in their jobs/colleges, etc.

            These kind of claims do have some factual evidence in the sense that there are people who advocate and implement these things, although the extent to which this will happen if the left get more power is obviously up for debate (and dependent on who wins the infighting).

          • Reasoner says:

            If your complaint is that white people don’t get to have an opinion and will be replaced in their jobs/colleges, don’t use the word “genocide”.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Nobody used the word “genocide” except you.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            I’m not sure about how prevalent it is, but I have come across people who voted Trump because they were genuinely afraid* Clinton would use BLM as deniable death-squads to wipe out white America.
            I find this a remarkable good mirror-image of the people who think Trump will place LGBT people in internment camps.

            * They were also stocking up on ammo, so perhaps ammo purchases might give a rough clue how many truly feared the Hillary administration?

          • Montfort says:

            Fossegrimen, perhaps actual gun owners can confirm, but I’m given to understand when there’s a run on ammunition for political reasons people who don’t share the same fears still stock up because they don’t want to run out if there’s a shortage.

          • Aapje says:

            @Montfort

            AFAIK, the main reason for ‘gun runs’ is that people fear strict gun laws. So it’s not so much: ‘the death squads are coming,’ but ‘if I don’t stock up now, I won’t have the chance if they ever come.’

            @Fossegrimen

            I was painting with too broad a brush, let me change my claim to: I’ve not seen any evidence that a significant portion (> 5%) of right wingers have such beliefs.

            Obviously there are highly fearful people on both sides, but that doesn’t make it reasonable to claim that many people are affected by memes like that.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The combination of political threats on supply, a small but aggressive minority of the market being comprised of very aggressive stockpilers and speculators, larger than usual LE/Military orders consuming a lot of manufacturing capacity from 2001-2014 or so For Some Strange Reason Gee I Wonder Why, all combine to make the supply and therefore the price of ammo WAY more volatile than you would expect given other areas of the US commercial market for the past 15 years or so.

            As a result, yes, even if you don’t -personally- believe that FEMA’s getting ready to spool up the death camps and that Jade Helm is a cover for plans to suppress civilian resistance to the government (that one was fucking hilarious in how wrong it was), there is pressure to buy what you can, when you can.

            There were long stretches over the past ten years or so (Can’t speak prior to 2005 as my ammo budget was “what I was issued and told to expend”) where you flat could not get common calibers for love or money, and when local stores DID get ammo in the long drought led immediately to panic buying, leading to it disappearing almost immediately if stores didn’t set strict “one brick per customer” limits and the like.

            This looks to be changing with the combination of a shift away from gun politics in favor of other issues (at least for now) and the construction and expansion of manufacturing facilities by US ammo makers over the past few years in response to the shortages and increased demand.

          • Galle says:

            How is this more charitable/not a straw man?

            I’ve seen no one claim that white people will be taken to the gas chambers. Just that they don’t get to have an opinion, will be replaced in their jobs/colleges, etc.

            I don’t know if Nybbler was dogwhistling it or not, but there is, in fact, an actual “white genocide” meme. It’s a deliberate attempt to mislead people by abusing the noncentral fallacy – basically, trying to argue that immigration and interracial marriage will eventually lead to the nonexistence (or at least much greater rarity) of people with pale skin in the very distant future, and insisting on referring to this as “genocide” at all times for maximum emotional power.

          • suntzuanime says:

            That’s sort of what the word “genocide” is for.

          • Aapje says:

            @Galle

            It’s still the opposite of being charitable to assume that someone is dog whistling. There are many ways to interpret Nybbler’s comment and “white genocide” is a very, very uncharitable one.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My remark had nothing to do with “white genocide”. I was sloppy in referring to the “left”, but in my defense I was using the same language the article I was referring to did. And this sort of attitude goes beyond the usual SJW suspects to more mainstream Democrats — Obama’s “bitter clinger” remarks, Hillary’s “deplorables” of course. Predictions of permanent irrelevance, e.g.

            http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/04/why-hillary-clinton-is-probably-going-to-win.html

            As for “white genocide”, the neo-Nazis use that phrase to refer to white people dying off and intermarrying, a message few within the left are sending (you see a little bit with the idea that we’re all converging on some shade of brown, but I haven’t seen that from the people trying to get elected), and was not at all what I was talking about.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @The Nybbler:

            Please stop:
            a) using the phrase “bitter clingers”, as Obama did not say this

            b) getting the context incorrect, as he was doing EXACTLY WHAT THE RIGHT IS SAYING THEY WANT (by empathizing with communities whose manufacturing jobs have left and not come back).

          • Randy M says:

            by empathizing with communities whose manufacturing jobs have left and not come back

            Albeit very poorly.

            like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.
            And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

            How do guns explain frustrations with jobs? Why would a Christian such as Obama paint religion as merely a coping mechanism for the unemployed? Is it really empathetic to assume rural whites hate people unlike them versus valuing the cohesion of their communities as they are?

            “Let me express the frustrations of the rural whites: ‘We’re bitter and hate people because we’re poor. Our religion is just a coping mechanism, not a deeply held belief about the world or cherished tradition.'”

          • Iain says:

            In the same vein: everybody needs to stop using Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” as evidence of contempt for the working class. Here’s the full quote in context:

            You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America. But the other basket — and I know this because I see friends from all over America here — I see friends from Florida and Georgia and South Carolina and Texas — as well as, you know, New York and California — but that other basket of people are people who feel that the government has let them down, the economy has let them down, nobody cares about them, nobody worries about what happens to their lives and their futures, and they’re just desperate for change. It doesn’t really even matter where it comes from. They don’t buy everything he says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. They won’t wake up and see their jobs disappear, lose a kid to heroine, feel like they’re in a dead-end. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with as well.

          • Whitedeath says:

            Yeah, people blew the deplorables comment out of proportion. You can’t deny that Trump’s rise has propelled racist groups more into the mainstream (although how much one should blame the media, rather than Trump for this, is debatable) and while I doubt even half of Trump’s supporters fit that profile, she did say she was grossly generalizing.

          • gbdub says:

            Obama’s statement may have been an attempt at empathy, but he conspicuously failed at it in a way that came off as pretty condescending.

            Even fully in context, it comes off as “these people only cling to their belief in God and guns (which we all obviously agree are problematic beliefs) because of economic problems. We just need to fix their economic problems and those problematic beliefs will go away!”

            Not to mention the lumping of guns and religion in with racism, as if they were all of the same type.

            It was a comment tailor-made to confirm a standard right-wing talking point against liberals – they are smug elitists who think they know better than you do what’s best for you. I mean, it’s a step up from “basket of deplorables” but still not great. Basically, you’re trying to give Obama credit for saying, “You might think these people are evil because of their beliefs, but we need to forgive those beliefs because really these people are just poor and stupid”

            A lot of people believe in God and guns quite sincerely, are quite happy holding those beliefs, see nothing wrong them, and will resent being told that those are things they “cling” to in order to deal with their real frustrations with unrelated things.

            EDIT: in response to Iain – seriously? She called half of Trump’s supporters are “deplorable” and “irredeemable” racists, sexists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, and homophobes. Allowing that the other half might be merely misguided in a redeemable way hardly seems like a major act of empathy.

            Considering the raking Romney got for “47%”, I think the upset at “basket of deplorables” was fair.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Noticing when you’ve been slapped is a very complicated, contextual, social thing. Arguments that you haven’t been slapped based on legalistic parsing of exact wordings are often, in context, a second slap for noticing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            While I agree with HeelBearCub, in the general case, I also agree with gbdub’s response. Was Obama genuinely trying to express empathy? I think he was, but in the end he was unsuccessful.

            That said, I think he does deserve some credit for trying. Clinton’s “deplorable” comment was a lot less defensible by comparison.

          • Reasoner says:

            *sigh* perils of internet communication…

            I acknowledge that Nybbler was not directly endorsing the idea that “white genocide” is a threat. My response to Aapje was with regard to those who *do* talk about white genocide. I still think Nybbler was being uncharitable and looking for dog whistles, but not as badly as people who actually use the phrase “white genocide”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Reasoner

            You directly addressed Nybbler when you made that comment, so….

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          See, someone here clearly hasn’t got a fudging clue about “the left”. You’re talking about the neo-liberal identity politics “left” as opposed to the ACTUAL left which is composed of people like Sanders and Corbyn who are far less insulting and judgmental. As in, you aren’t talking about the left at all. You’re talking about corporate centrists.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This presumes the existence of an “actual left”.

          • Jiro says:

            These people consider themselves on the left, act to oppose people on the right, and support policies clearly associated with the left. You can be all Monty Python and insist that the People’s Front of Judaea has nothing to do with the Judaean People’s Front, but lots of us care more about your similarities than your differences.

          • axiomsofdominion says:

            Funny Jiro, because I have the same opinion on centrist republicans and centrist democrats. Care way more about their similarities than their differences.

          • Sandy says:

            Centrist Republicans are closet leftists, no argument here.

          • “neo-liberal identity politics “left” as opposed to the ACTUAL left”

            I would not have lumped “neo-liberal” with “identity politics” since I think of the parts of the left that are strong on identity politics as consisting of people likely to use “neo-liberal” as a pejorative.

            Which leaves me curious about how you see the pattern of ideologies/groupings on the left broadly defined.

          • rlms says:

            @David Friedman
            There are several different groups. You have old-school socialists (Sanders, or further left if you go outside the US), hardcore identity politicians (those frequently bemoaned in this comments section), and neo-liberal centrists (Clinton). The neo-liberals aren’t hardcore identity politicians (since they are by definition mainstream, and need to appeal to everyone) but they do use some elements of identity politics (most obviously the “first female President” thing).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Leftists say they’re the real left. What is left? What is right? Clinton is a neoliberal, socially left Democrat. She’s a smidge to the left of the centre, overall, by American standards. A lot of leftists – who are all economically left – don’t want to admit that a lot of their lunch is getting eaten by identity politics.

            And, @DavidFriedman – there’s a certain variety of identity politics style left-wing activism that, when you look at what they are actually saying, fits really well with neoliberalism. They say they’re radicals, but they don’t want to tear down the system and build a better, fairer one. They speak with the language of radicals but when their demands are considered, they just want to adjust the system so the unfairness is more fairly distributed, and sometimes not even that.

            To put it another way – when campus activists for Group Y demands that the administration allocate more funds for the Group Y Student Centre, and hire more professors from Group Y to expand the Group Y Studies department, their essential demand is that they receive nice jobs in academia or academic administration – after all, administrators to administrate the newly expanded Group Y student centre, or professors to teach Group Y studies, are probably going to come from the ranks of campus activists of Group Y. I don’t blame them for wanting that – nice jobs are, well, nice; a cushy job in a university is a beautiful thing to have. But it’s not radical systemic change, and it won’t help anyone who isn’t already in position to be a campus activist – so tough luck for poor members of Group Y for whom the hurdle is graduating high school without getting shot/pregnant/jailed and then getting a job in the face of discrimination and not getting shot by a jumpy cop during a routine traffic stop.

            There’s a whole system of campus activists with low-impact jobs in student government who live on nepotism and minor-league corruption, while using the language of radicals, making claims and demands that range from disingenous to bizarre, and taking as many years to graduate as possible while they get nice salaries taken from student levies. They will go on to nice jobs in academia, academic administration, nonprofits, and so forth. Lots of sound and fury against the system, but in reality they are the system’s controlled opposition.

            They wouldn’t call themselves practitioners of “neoliberal identity politics” but that’s exactly what they are.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Serious question (also related to “how to talk to Trump supporters in their language”): what is a productive way to have discussions like this? What’s the right way to do first contact here?

        • tscharf says:

          You probably have to honestly ask yourself what your goals are.

          It’s not a foreign language and it’s probably best to assume they are respectable thinking people even if they prove otherwise. Resist the urge to immediately respond with nuclear tipped talking points, especially if they use words that end in ‘ism, ‘ic, and ‘ist.

          There is a difference between trying to win a debate and trying to understand the opposition. Probably trying to lose the debate will give you much more insight, ha ha.

          Personally I feel the last 8 months were so heavy on group shaming that my assumption would be that “everything I say can and will be used against me”, so anything that can be done to get over this would be useful.

          Everyone knows Trump was flawed, making a point to establish this is counterproductive.

          Many Trump supporters just don’t care very much about race and gender which can be confused with being opposed to common SJ themes.

          Watching Van Jones on CNN’s The Messy Truth might be instructive.

        • Aapje says:

          @Ilya

          I would ask questions like: what do you hope that Trump will achieve?

          Also, try to dig into the answers to get at their core issues. If they say ‘kick out illegal immigrants’, ask them why they want that? How do they think it will make their lives better?

          And as tscharf said, try to have some empathy that people might feel really strongly about issue A, just as you may feel really strongly about issue B, without either of you being evil.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          I have friends on both sides of the aisle and since I’m a disinterested foreigner, I’m in a position where I can hear a lot of arguments that don’t normally get across. I think the most important thing is to accept that there are very different perceptions.

          Let’s take the pussy-grabbing statement. A lot of people interpret this like most of the media, i.e that Trump is proud of committing sexual assault.

          Other people take away something along the lines of:
          Trump says that there is a significant proportion of women who are so obsessed with wealth and fame that they are willing to let men do anything just to be adjacent to the appearance of same. [And this is good fun for rich and famous guys] / [And this is a sad testament to the shallowness of many women] / [And evo psych is a bitch]

          The thing is that the charitable interpretation is probably true and even if wrong, at least worth discussing. When you call people misogynists for not hearing the ‘standard’ interpretation, all you achieve is to piss people off.

          TL;DR: Drill down until you find out what people actually believe before debating. Maybe you’ll even find that you already agree if you accept their interpretation of events, I keep getting surprised how often I do.

      • Stationary Feast says:

        I’m also unclear on how it’s unproductive. I certainly understand “here is not the place” or “now is not the time” or “we’ve done this already too much recently”, but I thought one of the hallmarks of SSC was showing the Left what it looks like from the outside.

        Considering the still-somewhat-recent election and the reactions of disgust I’m still seeing from upper-middle-class left-wingers, the comment strikes me as both true and necessary. Are you already overloaded with statements like this and don’t want any more in your comment section?

        • skef says:

          Then, after we’re done concern-trolling “the left”, who we’ve rationally determined are irredeemably destructive to society and discourse itself, we can have another thoughtful discussion about the pluses and minuses of white nationalism, which having not been rationally determined either way, deserves a dispassionate and charitable examination.

          Or what about the gays? Remember when they were all frightened and we could hug each other? That was great.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Do you really object to 10-15 posters telling…what, 2 or 3, that “No, really, there are good reasons White Nationalism is considered a Bad Thing”? If someone wants to go back and do a pro-con gravatar count, be my guest, it’s 5AM and I’m headed to a badly needed shower and bed after this post.

          • skef says:

            I do object to less charity being extended towards “the left” than towards white nationalists, yes, as long as we’re talking about how groups “look” to each other.

          • Rowan says:

            Charity is easier to extend to those who are themselves being charitable. Suggesting we should override that with disgust reactions towards politics further to the right than you’re comfortable with, and implying that those who don’t are homophobes, is not helping anything.

          • skef says:

            But Rowan, isn’t it important that the right see what it “looks like from the outside”?

            And what I have implied, am implying, and will likely continue to imply, is that it’s hard to be objective about things that directly concern you, and folks here don’t seem to be doing better with that than most people. We live in a polarized environment in which some groups don’t think well of other groups. Many of those groups have extreme fringes. Thus you have all sorts of people on Twitter and Tumblr being really shitty to other people. Some of them are sending anti-Semitic public messages to Jews. Some are picking on video game reporters. And some are asshole SJWs hoping to hold other people to absurd standards, or just to signal virtue to each other. On a more mainstream level you have one group of usual suspects hating on “flyover people”, and another group hating on “coastal elites”. And we just had an election where one candidate said stuff that sounded kinda racist and the other candidate made a big deal about how racist it sounded. Both positions were political tactics; one worked better than the other this time around. All of this is obvious and boring.

            But it’s abundantly clear that here SJWs are considered an exceptional problem, not like the other fringe groups. It’s not even worth debating whether they’re a destructive force — that was settled years ago. This is supposed to have something to do with their immense social power, although it’s unclear whether people who don’t hang out on certain social media platforms or in certain academic departments would even have much awareness of them. But of course, SJWs also just happen to be the one group likely to criticize the kind of person who hangs out here at any length. And it’s abundantly clear to anyone with a bit more perspective — such as someone in more than one commonly targeted group, that the unique boogie-man status of SJWs results from the over-sensitivity on the part of you-know-whats that is one grain of truth underlying the overwrought and counter-productive SJW rhetoric. Guess what — they’re just assholes, like other assholes. They aren’t some unique threat to society.

            So, yes, every time someone in these forums raises the prospect of aiming the trolley at group X, and someone else delicately explains that group probably doesn’t need to be run over by a trolley after all, and the gold stars are handed out to reward disinterested discussion of what doesn’t, after all, much affect the personal interests of the discussants, I wanna barf.

          • FeepingCreature says:

            I can only speak for myself.

            Personally, I don’t think that SJW are an “exceptional problem”. My opposition, as far as I can tell, comes from three directions: first, as a programmer and rationality-affiliated person, they’re the group that seems liable to actually negatively affect me; second, they’re winning and that means they could become a bigger problem; and third, they should damn well know better.

            (This is the same reason I’m more critical of Israel than Palestine – one of the two has their shit together, which makes them more morally culpable. I have higher standards of the Left, and also I think they’re at least more amenable to critique. Like, their talk is good, but their willingness to follow through on it seems lacking, and that’s … not worse, exactly, but a different kind of problem than people who are just unabashed assholes. Assholes are assholes, but sanctimonious assholes tarnish virtue.)

          • stillnotking says:

            @skef:

            I’m reminded of Scott’s walled-garden metaphor: if I’m uniquely hostile to SJWs, it’s because they’re impostors in the garden, pretending to use liberal reasoning to illiberal ends. White nationalists aren’t even on my radar screen, not simply because they don’t affect me personally — none of this affects me personally, assuming that means “in a material way” — but because they aren’t trying to appropriate and corrupt a set of ideas I believe in.

            People are always more sensitive about potential fifth-columnists than wholly external adversaries, for reasons that should be kind of obvious.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @skef:

            The demonizing/lumping together of “the left” here is bad. My observation, as someone proudly irrational, is that rationalism is in a “tragic flaw” scenario – dedicated to defeating cognitive fallacies and so forth, but equipped with the same puny meat-brains as everyone else, the same meat-brains that leads to those cognitive fallacies, which just results in putting a new spin on them.

            However, on the subject of things being debated – the nature of the internet is that it is impossible to keep things from being debated, only to force them to be debated somewhere else. Suppressing things that are bad and wrong – “you can’t say that in polite company!”, no-platforming, etc – works offline. It works very very well. But it doesn’t work online, because there’s tons and tons of impolite company, and no-platforming is basically impossible when instead of preventing so-and-so from speaking at Such-and-Such University, you’re trying to control 1s and 0s.

            Arguing with someone saying something shitty on the internet is not like letting them speak to have a debate on stage. It’s like if they’re already up on the stage, they can’t be removed (or if they can be, they’ll just go to a different stage) – do you just let them speak unhindered?

            What would you say a better solution is?

            (Further, I’d disagree with your assertion that the people discussing don’t have their personal interests affected, in this particular example – white nationalism is a potential disaster in the making that could wreck whole countries, and if white nationalists got power and started purging people, which I think they would if they did, white people would be among those purged – they don’t mean “race traitor” as a compliment)

          • Jordan D. says:

            Well, I don’t know about everybody else but I solve the problem by having my browser extension turn a list of words (iirc, “Left” “the left” “leftists” “liberals” “democrats” “dems”) into a list of more entertaining words (“those unbelievable sons of perdition” “the children of the faerie-gods” “underemployed encyclopedia salespersons” “slumbering kings below a series of unremarkable mountain-homes”).

            It also replaces “smug” with “gloriously incandescent”.

            Speaking as a moderate gloriously incandescent underemployed encyclopedia salesperson, it did a lot of good in preventing me from joining in the rambling hundred-post political foodfights of the past month.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            I’m not on the right. I’m very not on the right. I voted for a Trotskyite for president. The left-bashing bugs the heck out of me, although I don’t speak up much because it’s rarely productive.

            But I also see Social Justice Warriors as a bunch of censorship-happy fanatics who merit Popular Front style measures to combat. People who act like fascists deserve the fascist treatment. At least the white nationalists *know* they’re ultra-authoritarian; they don’t pretend to be liberals.

            I have never been banned from a forum I frequented for years for being critical of nazism. I’ve never heard of someone in the modern age getting fired from their job for being critical of white nationalism. I can criticize neo-nazi ideas all I want on facebook, twitter, tumblr, reddit, or any other major social media platform, comfortable no one I care about and no one important will take offense; heck, I can even do it on 4chan’s /pol/.
            .
            The social justice movement successfully uses blacklists, forum purges, and other forms of ostracism as routine and accepted tactics – and as such, merits extreme opposition above and beyond what any comparably vile but socially powerless ideology brings about.

          • skef says:

            @birdboy2000

            The comparison you draw is too narrow.

            And really — “banned from a forum“? Making the tenuous assumption that being banned from a forum is a reason for anything more than a frown, do you imagine that there are no forums where you would be banned for being critical of nazism? Over the years you wound up a bit to the right of some of your forums on some issues. It’s quite possible they’re wrong and misguided. Pick a different forum.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            The only forums which ban you for being critical of nazism are places like stormfront – political forums set up to discuss and agitate for nazism.

            An awful lot of large, influential forums for my interests will ban people for being critical of the social justice movement, or specific individuals therein. Some of them have similarly sized (or modestly smaller) equivalents, so if you’re okay with losing one social circle to an ideological purge you can find another. But others don’t – it’s, for instance, why I’ve basically fallen out of alternate history as a hobby.

            (And FYI, every criticism I’ve made of SJWs was from the left. Saying “the religious right does the same thing” doesn’t exactly impress me when I’ve been saying “you’re acting like the religious right” for years! If fundies ever acquire significant power on the internet I’ll be just as critical of them.)

          • suntzuanime says:

            Holy shit, alt history has fallen to the Blight? I haven’t been engaged with that community for a while, but my memory of it was always that it was uncomfortably right-wing for my tastes.

          • skef says:

            Just how are you measuring “significant power on the internet”* by any metric beyond “has affected my life”? Why is your life in particular a good metric for what is of primary importance? Why are other issues that affect other peoples’ lives less important?

            * ?

          • Aapje says:

            @Skef

            Why would ‘has affected my life’ not be a useful metric for people’s decisions on which problems they want to address? Is it wrong to want to make your life better?

            If a person or someone near that person suffer from a rare disease, do you think that they are wrong for choosing to spend their personal time on fighting that disease, rather than a much more common disease like malaria? Other people don’t have a claim to their leisure time, do they? so IMHO, they get to decide what spend their time on.

            The same goes for debating, activism, etc.

            Of course, you can debate their choices, but I only think that is helpful if you argue: your choices are not actually helping you achieve your goals.

          • skef says:

            @Aapie

            It’s a fine metric for deciding what to try to address, to a point. It’s a crappy metric for judging what social forces are more fundamentally destructive than other social forces. If you’re being annoyed by something, and on reflection you realize that it’s similar to a lot of other annoyances suffered by others, and you conclude “but this annoyance is suffered by me, so it’s fundamentally different!”, then you’re probably making the sort of mistake that rationalism is supposed to help avoid.

          • Aapje says:

            @skef

            To be honest, I see you as being annoyed and reacting with irrationality because of this.

            Stationary Feast merely claimed that at this specific time, where the left is struggling to make sense of why they lost, it makes sense to confront them with why people might not vote for them, so they can improve and do better next time. You reacted by assuming that Stationary Feast was acting in bad faith and had no actual intent to make the left more effective at attracting more voters (‘concern trolling’ is an accusation that someone tries to undermine a group by pretending to offer useful advice, that is actually destructive). I see no evidence that Stationary Feast was acting in bad faith and don’t see how the advice to mind how you are perceived by potential voters is destructive, so your accusation appears irrational to me and based on bias/stereotypes/us-vs-them thinking.

            You argued that people here consider SJW ideology to be worse than white nationalism ideology and were countered by FeepingCreature, stillnotking and birdboy2000 who said that they don’t believe this, but rather, that they consider it more important to address SJW ideology for reasons beyond the mere flaws in the ideology (like how much support SJW ideology has beyond niche environments dedicated to that ideology).

            Of course, you may believe that white nationalism is a much bigger issue overall, but if so, that belief suffers from the exact same subjectivity that you accuse others of basing their beliefs on. I would argue that there is no objective answer to this*, but that this doesn’t mean that it is wrong to hold a working theory based on the limited evidence that one has. If you allow this to yourself, which seems to be the case, you can’t very well accuse others of irrationality when doing the same, but with beliefs opposed to yours.

            * Although there is strong evidence that white nationalism has consistently been losing support over the last decades.

            If you’re being annoyed by something, and on reflection you realize that it’s similar to a lot of other annoyances suffered by others, and you conclude “but this annoyance is suffered by me, so it’s fundamentally different!”, then you’re probably making the sort of mistake that rationalism is supposed to help avoid.

            No one argued that there is a fundamentally difference in ‘wrongness,’ merely that there was a difference in actual influence, which seems like a truism, as no two ideologies have identical influence.

          • skef says:

            @Aapje

            You argued that people here consider SJW ideology to be worse than white nationalism

            I have not argued this. What I have argued is that people here do not debate whether SJWs are a problem, but do debate whether white nationalism is a problem. Here the issue of SJWs is settled, and the issue of white nationalism is not.

            I have implied, and will now argue, is that the evidence that SJWs pose some sort of unique threat to the larger culture is very weak. Most institutions outside of a relatively small list of academic department types do not care what SJWs think. Brendan Eich, who practically has the status of a martyr here, was removed from a job with a figurehead component for a controversial stance, which is not uncommon. I’ve also pointed out that people with more routine jobs are fired for their beliefs in this country. There is no good evidence of a broader movement to root out employees with particular beliefs. A bunch of jobs how have social environments where particular SJW-deprecated beliefs are open to criticism and censure, and those who hold those beliefs don’t feel comfortable sharing them. There are lots of other beliefs like that that aren’t SJW-related which those who hold them feel necessary to keep quiet about. And contrary to the ongoing focus on these changes here, there is very little evidence that such attitudes are “taking over” the larger culture. In fact, there’s a great deal of controversy about them, including the usual collection of articles arguing that people who hold SJW views are over-sensitive.

            The only thing that seems objectively distinctive about SJWs ideology is that it sometimes targets the sort of people who tend to comment here. The most common form of that “targeting” is internet crap, which is an absurd worry because: internet. Look around. “Someone is wrong about me on the internet!” The job and campus stuff is more substantively worrying, in the way a whole lot of other things are substantively worrying.

            You see me “as being annoyed and reacting with irrationality.” Indeed — that’s what tends to happen when you hear people suggest that basic aspects of your life are outweighed by their embarrassment, disgust at you, or convenience. You would prefer to hear others say “maybe that’s not a productive conversation” rather than, “well, here are a few reasons why, on the whole, it might be a mistake to make these people miserable.” This reaction of mine is not particularly rational. Folks here had an opportunity to exemplify a different attitude when it came to the one group doing that to them, and instead you collectively peed your pants. You followed-up the big pre-election Trump post with a debate about … whether his election would help or hurt SJWs. That was a priority, somehow. This ongoing fixation is a less histrionic version of the liberal overreaction to Trump you all seem so mystified by.

            You have amply demonstrated that people generally can’t manage to blandly observe suggestions that their feelings and interests aren’t very relevant. That’s not what people do, how they react. The lesson you should take away from that is that by continuing to discuss other people’s feelings and interests in that way, you’re not “being rational” but effectively choosing who is and is not going to contribute here. And for however long I happen to stick around, and am not banned, I’m going to keep pointing this out. Because, among other reasons, it’s true, and it’s at least as necessary as rehashing the usual crap over again.

          • Aapje says:

            @skef

            What I have argued is that people here do not debate whether SJWs are a problem, but do debate whether white nationalism is a problem. Here the issue of SJWs is settled, and the issue of white nationalism is not.

            My interpretation of the white nationalism debate was that a few people were trying to steel man the ideology to see whether a case can be made for race segregation which doesn’t involve violence or other oppression. I think that this is heavily influenced by the relatively big group of ancappers & libertarians here, who are fans of people forming communities of like minded people. Basically, they were wondering if they could (theoretically) let some white nationalists have their own community without conflicting with the rights of other communities. This is being debated right now because of the (disproportionate) attention to white nationalism due to the debates surrounding Trump. I don’t recall anyone arguing that white nationalism is good, at most whether it can be less bad than generally assumed.

            In contrast, Scott has written extensively in the past about social justice in a way that argues strongly that they are generally intolerant. Presumably, people are here because they like and are familiar with Scott’s writing, so it’s not strange that they don’t see much need to argue (again) about the things that Scott has written about extensively and what has been discussed here before. You also seem to believe that SJWs are intolerant, as you merely argue that SJWs don’t have much influence. At that point, your entire argument is about which movement has greater (negative) societal influence.

            I have implied, and will now argue, is that the evidence that SJWs pose some sort of unique threat to the larger culture is very weak.

            You keep doing this thing where you take what people say, dial it up to 11 and then counter that argument. I’ve seen no one claim that SJWs are a unique threat, but merely that they are a big enough threat to be concerned about.

            And contrary to the ongoing focus on these changes here, there is very little evidence that such attitudes are “taking over” the larger culture. In fact, there’s a great deal of controversy about them, including the usual collection of articles arguing that people who hold SJW views are over-sensitive.

            ‘A great deal of controversy’ is actually (weak) evidence that something is gaining ground, as things that increase tend to get way more push back than things that decrease. I can also point out specific people that lost their jobs from supposedly non-partisan positions due to saying things that SJ considers anathema, but no one who was fired from such a position for going against white nationalism.

            The only thing that seems objectively distinctive about SJWs ideology is that it sometimes targets the sort of people who tend to comment here.

            I would argue that an even more important distinction is that the sort of people who comment here are supportive of the SJ terminal values, which makes it feel like a betrayal when they realize that this group is often actually working against these goals. People who feel betrayed tend to have stronger feelings than people who dismiss something upfront (and almost anyone dismisses white nationalism upfront).

            The most common form of that “targeting” is internet crap, which is an absurd worry because: internet. Look around. “Someone is wrong about me on the internet!”

            An above commenter gave an example of how (s)he abandoned a hobby because of this. Scott wrote a story about how he was contemplating suicide after being targeted (search for ‘harass’ to find the paragraph). So you are weak manning.

            You see me “as being annoyed and reacting with irrationality.” Indeed — that’s what tends to happen when you hear people suggest that basic aspects of your life are outweighed by their embarrassment, disgust at you, or convenience.

            Come on, this is exactly how many people feel about SJWs.

            You have been minimizing the (subjective) opinion of others, while claiming that your (subjective) opinion is more valid. You can play the victim and pretend that we are ‘effectively choosing who is and is not going to contribute here,’ but you have not been extending an olive branch by being charitable, while simultaneously demanding that we are more charitable. That is not productive.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          but I thought one of the hallmarks of SSC was showing the Left what it looks like from the outside.

          It may well be, and never let it be said that I don’t enjoy some good ol’ lefty-bashin’, but even bigger hallmarks of SSC are the principle of charity and intellectual humility, both of which the highlighted comment is lacking.

        • Spookykou says:

          I am not sure how you think it is productive, the last paragraph is just an ‘obvious smear job’ on the left.

          Skefs reply in kind isn’t very helpful either, but responding to insults with insults is pretty normal, that is why leading with insults is not productive.

          We managed to have a productive and pretty civil conversation about the pros and cons of white nationalism precisely because Atlas(I think that was the OP?) didn’t lead with “The Left is just a bunch of fascists who hate me and everyone like me DAE white nationalism?!”

          Are you already overloaded with statements like this

          If this means totally uncharitable attacks, then I can’t speak for Scott but personally I certainly don’t want more in the comment section, the hallmarks of SSC for me are all about extending charity and arguing in good faith, even with your ideological enemies.

        • lvlln says:

          I’m not sure it’s necessary, given that Scott & his comment section constantly get called out for being biased against left-wing politics. Regardless of whether or not the call outs have merit, the kind of rhetoric as in that paragraph will likely rile up the critics even more. Thus, unproductive.

          And it’s certainly not kind.

          Though I must admit, I find it to be true. When I read the following:

          The left had a vision and answers; the answers, to those “someones” in the white working class, ranged from “A world where people like you are kept in your place” to “A world without people like you”.

          I think, it’s downright spooky how much that matches my own beliefs from as little as 4 years ago. And the beliefs of almost everyone I hung out with whose politics I was familiar with. Thus, at the time, I considered it to be a common, if not central, belief among leftists. And I may be wrong, but my perception from within is that that belief hasn’t gotten significantly less popular in the left in the past 4 years.

          But even if something’s true, there are productive and unproductive ways to discuss it, and I can understand why Scott would perceive that as unproductive.

          • Aapje says:

            @lvlln

            I also read the statement by The Nybbler as how the left is often perceived, more than how the left perceives itself.

            Is it really wrong when Hillary calls half of the Trump supporters ‘deplorables?’

            Of course, the other side is also quite good at using rhetoric that makes the left feels prosecuted.

          • Galle says:

            I think, it’s downright spooky how much that matches my own beliefs from as little as 4 years ago. And the beliefs of almost everyone I hung out with whose politics I was familiar with. Thus, at the time, I considered it to be a common, if not central, belief among leftists. And I may be wrong, but my perception from within is that that belief hasn’t gotten significantly less popular in the left in the past 4 years.

            Maybe this is a typical mind fallacy thing on my part, but I’m having a hard time imagining how this could possibly be the case.

            There’s certainly a train of thought present within the left that the Red Tribe are completely full of themselves and need to be taken down a peg so they understand that they aren’t inherently better than anyone else, and a somewhat related notion that laymen should know when to shut the hell up and listen to domain experts, but I don’t think the ideas that they need to be “kept in their place” or “eliminated” are widespread.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Galle:
            The rhetoric employed by a group when they are furstrated, angry, fearful, etc. usuallly contains plenty of examples of very nasty things being said which “other” their perceived enemies.

            This is true of blue tribe. This is true of red tribe. This is true of any tribe.

            The rhetoric of blue tribe is when frustrated or angry can be quite poor. My best friend made a facebook where he (white, male) said the problem was clearly “white men” and he wanted to give his race and sex back. I’m certain there were “fuck white men” posts made after the election, many of them by white women.

            The mistake is to be blind to this rhetoric when it comes from your own side, but regard it is proof that the other side is malevolent and evil.

          • Aapje says:

            @Galle

            I see rhetoric that they should be silenced and removed from positions of power, at the extreme end of the left.

            Imagine that people would say such things about Jews, would you then consider it so harmless?

    • sohois says:

      Big Macs vs Naked Chef is perhaps even better undermined by the “Naked Chef’s” own chain restaurants. It was written sometime before Jamie Oliver established anything like that, but he now has the chain ‘Jamie’s Italian’ all over Britain, which is a very solid mid-tier restaurant, as well as a number of ‘Fifteen’ restaurants, which are actually social enterprises aiming to offer disadvantaged youths a path to a career as chefs. I still think its a pretty decent insight though

    • wysinwygymmv says:

      What if you don’t demand that I repudiate views I don’t hold and I don’t demand you repudiate views you don’t hold? Doesn’t that strike you as a little more reasonable?

      “Left” and “right” are pretty broad categories and maybe not everyone on the left agrees with this “vision” of the left as presented by you?

      BTW, I think the attitude you are objecting to is actually “liberalism*”, which is mainstream rather than especially left and has been since WWII. Based on the etymology of “left” and “right”, someone truly on the “left” wouldn’t be voting for the status quo. But that’s a semantic issue and I’m happy to ignore it for the sake of understanding each other.

      *OK, so there’s a similar etymological/semantic problem with calling the New Deal consensus “liberalism”. We could call it “New Deal liberalism” or “Keynesian liberalism” or something.

      • Brad says:

        We have a number of regular commenters here that are far more likely to write posts with extravagant claims about what some other amorphous groups of other people (SJWs, feminists, liberals, “the left”, etc) believe than make posts about what they themselves believe.

        The former type of post are almost entirely worthless as you should have a strong prior that someone that so obviously loathes the people in question cannot be trusted to accurately describe their beliefs, but nonetheless the flood continues unabated. I’m glad to see Scott finally cracking down.

        • Stationary Feast says:

          I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t see a whole lot of demonstrably false right-wingery, either here or on the nominally apolitical parts of the Internet. Because of that, I’m less likely to try and correct it by saying things like “Look, the heritability of IQ is only 50%. You can turn a best-in-district school to the worst-in-district, as measured by API scores, by removing a good principal and replacing him with a series of incompetent dunderheads. I’ve seen it, it isn’t pretty, and the IQs of the kids didn’t change that much in only three years.”

          • Brad says:

            Was this posted in the correct place? It seems completely non-responsive to the post it is under.

            If you want say right wing things and you are on the right wing, that’s exactly what I’m saying is a good thing.

            E.g.
            “I am a Death Eater, here’s what I believe.”
            Interesting. Even if I disagree, now I’ll know more about what death eaters think.

            “I claim to be libertarian, here’s what those despicable leftists believe. Trust me on this.”
            Completely useless.

      • Whitedeath says:

        I have a problem with calling Hillary or any of the current Dems “left” (with the exception of Sanders and Warren type people).
        Although she may be the “left” in American politics, the Overton window in America is heavily skewed to the right. A candidate who supports Wall Street, NAFTA, and bombing other countries is far to the right of the actual left.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Whether someone is “left” or “right” can only be considered in context, though. Twenty years ago, being in favour of civil unions was a left-wing position, now it’s a right wing position – does that mean that there was a point where the statement “In 1996 Senator X had a left-wing position on same-sex marriage” switched from true to false?

          • Whitedeath says:

            “Whether someone is left or right can only be considered in context”, only if by “left” and “right”, you mean “what’s currently being debated in the country”. Being in favor of civil unions over no partership rights at all is a more left-wing position, although being in favor of marriage equality is even more left-wing. Since the Overton window is constantly shifting, a once left-wing position can become right-wing in the window, and vice versa although on the absolute scale the positions stay the same.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A once-left wing position can become right-wing (and, arguably, vice versa, although you see that less) – but it doesn’t change retroactively. Civil unions will always be a left-wing position relative to 1996 even if today it’s a right-wing-but-not-super-right-wing position.

            I think it’s perfectly fair to say “Hillary Clinton is a left-winger”. Especially because – what determines the “true” Overton Window? I would argue that while America is less socially liberal than Western Europe, Canada, etc, it is probably more socially liberal than the global norm.

          • Cliff says:

            The information I have seen says that left and right both moved to more extreme positions over the last 20-30 years, with the left wing beginning sooner and moving farther than the right.

          • cassander says:

            >The information I have seen says that left and right both moved to more extreme positions over the last 20-30 years, with the left wing beginning sooner and moving farther than the right.

            The information you are citing is probably DW nominate, and it’s misleading (i’m not accusing you, mind you). DW nominate looks at who votes with whom in congress then comes up with an numerical score. This method CANNOT measure change over time. Imagine the only political issue in the US was the number of buttons on military uniforms. Extreme republicans want 8, moderates of both parties want 6, and extreme democrats want 4. Then there’s an election and all the 8 button republicans are defeated and a bunch of super extreme 2 buttoners get into office. That would definitely be a move to the left for both parties. DW nominate, however would say that they both moved to the RIGHT, because the republicans are now all concentrated in a single position, most extreme possible, position, 6 buttons, while the democrats spread out over the entire range of possible opinion.

        • Mammon says:

          Overton window in America is heavily skewed to the right.

          The “left” and “right” only exist with respect to some frame of reference, there is no such thing as an absolute center.

          • Whitedeath says:

            I think you can determine a center by laying out all the political philosophies, from fascism on the right to communism on the left (and I mean communism in theory not communism as practiced in the Soviet Union or whereever) , and then finding the middle. Ditto for economic and social theories.

          • herbert herberson says:

            That just means you’re defining it in reference to “global ideologies that have had more than a hundred adherents.” Mammon is right, it’s still relative.

          • Whitedeath says:

            These ideologies don’t need to have any adherents at all. If we’re trying to construct an absolute scale, we take the most right-wing ideology we can think and the most left-wing ideology we can think of and use them as our endpoints. I suppose you could then say that right and left would be relative to that scale, but that seems to be semantics at that point.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Whitedeath,

            Doesn’t that just incentivize people to advocate ever-more-extreme ideologies to shift the “center” away from the actual center of the population?

            It makes no sense to say that the majority of people have extremist political views. If most people support “authoritarian populism” or the Alt Right or whatever the media calls it this nanosecond, it’s not a fringe ideology.

            Politics is the art of the possible. You don’t get to pick a starting point at any arbitrary spot on a political spectrum, you start wherever people actually are.

          • Aapje says:

            To steelman Mammon, one could try to determine the center globally or perhaps more usefully, among Western nations. The latter would surely place America to the right.

        • herbert herberson says:

          She’s a center-left liberal. Clearly a member of the leftward party, clearly on the rightward side within that party.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ herbert herberson
            She’s a center-left liberal. Clearly a member of the leftward party, clearly on the rightward side within that party.

            Bingo. more or less. But we need to distinguish someone’s personal extreme wish from a policy goal that is practical to achieve now (and is a stepping stone toward their personal extreme).

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’d prefer to say that the Overton window outside America is heavily skewed to the left. (The “fog in Channel, continent cut off” theory of political values.)

          Jokes aside: although this is a common statement that America is way farther to the right than Europe, I have to wonder how accurate it is given that historically the left and right wings of American politics have been substantially different from said wings in Europe. One of the really weird things about Donald Trump is that he’s much more of a European right-winger than (what we’ve become accustomed to thinking of as) an American right-winger — the American right has been stereotypically defined by small-government laissez-faire capitalism, internationalism, and Christian social conservatism, none of which is really Trump’s bag.

          • Whitedeath says:

            I think the Overton window in Europe is generally broader since most countries there don’t use the two-party system.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            This site lets you answer political questions and then switch countries while keeping your answers.

            (I ended up with Jill Stein in the US and the Conservative Party in Canada.)

          • Eltargrim says:

            @Fossegrimen: for an additional data point, I took the test from the US perspective, also got Stein, and ended up with the NDP in Canada, Labour in UK, Labour in Ireland, and Labor in Australia. This reflects my voting history fairly well.

          • Deiseach says:

            Very amused by that politics test; for the Irish version it said I’m basically in agreement with Sinn Féin which I can’t really argue with (though I’m on the same side as Fine Gael with regard to the environment? Nooooooo!) To compare my results against Eltargrim, I’m NDP in Canada, Labour in UK and Liberal in Australia.

            For the American results, I side 64% with Jill Stein (really?), 59% with Hillary, 44% with Gary and only 38% with The Donald.

            Ideologically, I’m a Centrist (yay!) I’m slightly left wing and mildly authoritarian 🙂

            Social matters – I’m with Trump
            Science – Johnson
            Foreign Policy – Stein (1st place of 3)
            Environment – Hillary
            Crime – Hillary (1st place of 3)
            Education – Hillary
            Domestic Policy – Stein
            Elections – Stein (oh great, that means I want a recount in those three states?)
            The Economy – Hillary (1st place of 2)
            Immigration – Hillary

            I’m a regulatin’, collectivist, traditional, populist, isolationist, Big Government, pacifist, private, tender, socialist (you and me, Bernie!), Keynesian, protectionist, assimilatin’ environmentalist! 😀

            I keep telling you lot that I come across as vaguely liberal/left-wing in American terms but you don’t believe it! Well, not when I’m ranting about morals and religion, I suppose.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But you’re only counting Western countries.

            If one wants to talk about social issues, the US is to the left compared to much of the world.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            @dndnrsn:
            My experience is that comparisons that include Saudi Arabia are rarely useful for making decisions or predictions.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I would wager that public opinion in most African countries is less friendly to gay people than public opinion in the US.

            Very few American social conservatives seem to be pushing the death penalty for homosexuality. A law like that was on the books in Uganda, then was overturned by the courts.

          • I wish people, including that site, wouldn’t use “Keynesian” to mean anti-free market or something similar. Keynesianism is a theory in macro, and it is possible to be a laissez-faire Keynesian, a libertarian Keynesian, a socialist Keynesian, …

            Either I was missing something or the site is bugged. For a number of questions it kept asking me to answer more questions even though there were no unanswered questions left.

            Not surprisingly, it correctly identified me as libertarian in the U.S., was unable to give a close match in other countries I tried.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am pretty sure I was picking several far right and far left ideas and putting them as most important to me, and it ended up saying I was a centrist because of it(for example giving me a 1 on LF vs Keynesian, I am not sure in which direction), I am not sure how to feel about this new centrist identity.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            This is an interesting exercise, so let’s see how it turns out.

            American: 75% Johnson, 48% Trump, 40% Clinton, 26% Castle Stein. My policy areas are all over the place, most favoring 2-4 way splits. Stein/Clinton/Johnson on Social issues, Stein/Clinton/Castle on Criminal, Trump/Clinton/Johnson on Science, etc. It calls me a “centrist”, which I think is the only way it’s able to parse “wierd”.

            UK: 62% Conservative, 50% LD, 39% Labour

            Canada: Almost even split, about 50% across all parties, ND a bit lower…incoherent.

            Ireland: Odd, I didn’t even get a Sinn Fein ranking. Is that right? Just 53% Fine Gael and 33% Fianna Fail

            This seems to illustrate pretty nicely that one should be cautious trying to map political patterns from one country to another, even countries with shared languages and a lot of overlap in their political, philosophical, and cultural heritage.

            The only results I’m seeing that don’t basically boil down to “reply hazy, ask again later” are the ones for the UK (Conservative) and Germany (Free Democratic Party comes out way ahead). Hell, in France I’m apparently Socialist!

          • dndnrsn says:

            It says I’m a Stein guy, followed by Johnson, with Trump and Clinton more or less tied for third. Which is odd, because were I an American voter, I would have voted Clinton. It doesn’t ask about one’s view of the candidates’ competence, etc which I think is a big problem – Clinton is a known quantity, which is most of her appeal for me.

            On the other hand, it got my Canadian allegiance right – I am in fact a Liberal voter, have been a party member in the past, and have donated.

            I think it’s a bit weird to extrapolate across the world, though – immigration, for instance, is a very different issue in Europe compared to North America.

          • Whitedeath says:

            I think they have some country-specific questions on there

          • dndnrsn says:

            For some countries it brings up a different/new set of questions, but for Canada it just goes with whatever you said for the States. Or at least it did for me.

            Which is odd, because we have some completely different priorities: our immigration situation is completely different.

            EDIT: I took it for Germany and I think I have broken this quiz. Apparently I am a Green-supporter who doesn’t care about the environment and a libertarian who favours big government, collectivism, and Keynsianism.

          • Tibor says:

            Not too surprisingly, I scored 95% agreement with Gary Johnson (I omitted some very US specific questions on which I felt like I cannot even have an approximate opinion though). Interestingly Jill Stein was number 2 for me with 42%, then Trump with 35% and Clinton with 30% (I am too lazy to write out on which issues). I also started with differentiating the answers by importance, then got bored by that and stopped.

            But I cannot see how I can transfer the results to other countries…?

            @ThirteenLetter: I agree with your right/left statement. European right wing more nationalist and at the same time oftentimes economically rather socialist. Left wing is even more socialist while usually, well what seems to me like sort of “EU nationalist”. Laissez faire parties are very weak in most European countries, although “FDP.The Liberals” (liberal usually still means laissez faire in Europe) in Switzerland, who are a libertarian-leaning party, are one of the biggest parties in the country. Switzerland is a big outlier in Europe though. Still, the non-laissez faire right-wing is also quite nationalist in Switzerland. In most other countries, liberals are happy if they get over the 5% needed to get the seats in the parliament (or whatever it is called in each country). On the other hand, the center-right sometimes adopts their ideas (I have my fingers crossed for François Fillon in France).

            Another thing is that most European parties are kind of centrist and most governments are coalition governments between center-right (usually some kind of a “people’s party”, although in France they are called Les Republicains which corresponds to the US at least by name) and center-left (usually called “social democrats”). Generally, mapping US politics onto European politics is quite difficult and definitely it is not as simple as the US being more right-wing. For example, getting US citizenship is much easier than becoming a citizen of probably any European country but immigration (for 3rd country nationals) is easier to the EU than to the US. Also, the US has more liberal abortion laws than continental Europe (where you have a limit of something around 12 weeks after which abortion is only legal in special cases…Poland is an extreme outlier, they have Latin American-like abortion laws), so Europe is kind of more “pro-life” than the US. You are also not allowed to vote without a photo ID…which sounds Republican, but also everyone is required to get an ID (again, except in Switzerland where they have no country-wide ID system), which sounds left-wing (or does it?) by US standards. Germany has no speed limits on highways (parts of them at least), which I don’t know, probably sounds rather something a Republican would propose? This is an exception in Europe though, normally the limit is around 130 km/h (80 miles per hour). Denmark confiscates property of refugees on arrival which sounds like something Donald Trump would propose.

            Trump really seems more like the European right-wing. He really seems like a hybrid of something like 60% of Marine Le Pen (socialist and protectionist economic policy included) and 40% of Silvio Berlusconi (being a rich businessman narcissist with a macho style).

          • Whitedeath says:

            It seems to me that Trump’s economic policies are shaping up to be fairly laissez-faire. Witness his Cabinet picks of Mnuchin, DeVos, and Puzder, for example. Among his first 100 days plan is “Remove two federal regulations for each new regulation passed”, although to be honest, I have no idea how realistic this is.

            Oh and to change the country, there should be a flag icon in the upper right corner to click on.

          • Tibor says:

            So I managed to find how to switch countries. It is quite interesting. In the US I scored 79% with the Libertarian party, but in Canada I had about 50% with all main parties (the least with the conservatives but not by much). In France everything is under 50% (for some reason the Green party is no 1, which is surprising to me and the National front the last, which is not surprising). In Spain I actually scored the most with the Podemos party (radical leftists and socialists…but they are also against military interventionism, for drug decriminalization etc), although again it was about 50%.

            Ironically, my political opinions are more reflected in US politics than European politics. The only party with whom I get over 70% agreement is the Libertarian party in the US (Tories in the UK came close with 67% but I omitted all UK specific questions). In continental Europe (or everywhere else save for the UK and the US) I cannot get more than 50% with any party (well, in Germany I get 51% agreement with the Free Democrats who are very mildly libertarian-leaning and in Ireland I get 52% with Fine Gael…no idea what they stand for though, never heard of them). On the other hand all other parties in the US also scored under 50% (all of them virtually the same – Constitution party 47%, Socialist party 47%, Democrats 47%, Greens 46% and Republicans 45%).

            The quiz is a bit flawed though. It is well done for the US, allowing for a variety of nuanced views (not just yes and no) but it does not always work well for other countries. For example I think that the immigration is a bit different issue in the EU and in the US (I am for open borders but I am concerned about welfare immigration because I don’t think it is sustainable and has many downsides) or military spending seems too high to me in the US case while too low in the case of most EU countries.

          • Tibor says:

            @Whitedeath: One of the first things he seems to plan is subsidizing a large corporation (I forgot its name). That is quite the opposite of laissez faire. If he actually plans to raise tariffs on China and “protect American jobs” then his presidency will be very anti-laissez faire.

          • Whitedeath says:

            Are you talking about the Carrier deal? I think he offered them a tax break. Do libertarians consider that a subsidy, being anti-taxes and all? (Or at least pro lower tax rates)

          • baconbacon says:

            from the 538 article on the Carrier deal

            To understand why, it helps to ask why Carrier made the decision it made. Carrier itself offered two explanations: incentives offered by the state of Indiana and confidence that the new administration will improve business conditions.

            Improved business conditions could (or could not) be a free market oriented approach.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ireland: Odd, I didn’t even get a Sinn Fein ranking. Is that right? Just 53% Fine Gael and 33% Fianna Fail

            That means you are more right-wing than me, you filthy Fascist 😉 Fine Gael is the slightly more to the right of our centre right parties, Fianna Fáil is slightly to the left-ish kind of in a way of Fine Gael. Labour is doing its damnedest to emulate Tony Blair’s New Labour and the Red Flag is now Somewhat A Shade Of Pink (but nothing to alarm the entrepreneurial middle-class).

            Sinn Féin is (a) the political wing of the IRA (b) devils out of Hell (c) filthy sell-outs who have abandoned The Cause for political ‘Mercs ‘n’ perks’ (d) split between the Northern and Southern parts of the party with the ensuing division that entails on matters seen as important by their constituencies (e) taking up the mantle dropped by both Labour and Fianna Fáil in representing the working class/lower middle class/rural class and moving to respectable mainstream political action involving appealing to the ballot box while leaving the Armalite behind – pick any amount of the above you like.

          • Tibor says:

            @Deiseach: In any case, the names of all Irish parties sound like something from a fantasy novel 🙂 I guess it should not come as a surprise given that Tolkien based his Elvish on Irish (or was it Welsh? both?). In any case, they sound much cooler than “Volkspartei,” “Les Republicains”, “Liberal Democrats,” “sociální demokracie” or whatever. Although maybe that’s all those words mean in Elvish Irish.

            @Whitedeath @baconbacon: I think libertarians disagree on this. Personally, I find selective tax benefits wrong, because it is kind of like breaking eveyone’s legs except for one guy and then celebrating when that guy wins the race (not a perfect metaphor, economic competition is not a zero-sum game but still). In a sense it is still better than everyone getting their legs broken (which is the argument of those libertarians wo see this kind of policy as a lesser evil) but my problem with this is that it is sold as the “free market” and people who don’t like the free market then blame it when this kind of a system doesn’t work well. More importantly, it looks like a subsidy to me when this is used simply to attract a company to a country and the tax cut is not matched with a corresponding expenditure cut. Then the effect is that this is just paid from other people’s taxes or future people’s taxes (increasing the national debt is kind of like taxing people in the future).

            But I admit that I did not read the story carefully enough – I thought he was actually proposing some kind of a subsidy.

          • Deiseach says:

            In any case, the names of all Irish parties sound like something from a fantasy novel ? I guess it should not come as a surprise given that Tolkien based his Elvish on Irish (or was it Welsh? both?). In any case, they sound much cooler than “Volkspartei,” “Les Republicains”, “Liberal Democrats,” “sociální demokracie” or whatever. Although maybe that’s all those words mean in Elvish Irish.

            Tolkien based Sindarin on Welsh, he found the sound of spoken Irish unattractive (and I won’t blame the man, everyone has different ears for what sounds pleasant to them).

            As to fantasy novel names, it’s even worse than that: a lot of them were inspired by the Celtic Dawn and the Language Revival when we were getting all inspired by our literary past and sunbursts, round towers, and Irish wolfhounds were springing up all over the place 🙂 Irish parties had been called plain names like the Irish Parliamentary Party or the Repeal Association, or Irish politicians had been elected allied somewhat with the English parties of the times (Tories or Whigs, Conservatives or Liberals). In our burst of late 19th/early 20th century enthusiasm, we wanted home-grown parties to represent Irish interests and so they had to have patriotic, historic Irish names in Irish.

            “Fianna Fáil” means ‘Soldiers of Destiny’ and is quite explicitly riffing off the legendary band of Na Fianna, a warrior band defending Ireland under the leadership of Fionn Mac Cumhail in just-about-Pre-Christian Ireland. For the nearest parallel, imagine a Greek political party calling itself after one of the war bands in the Iliad or the Odyssey to invoke patriotic, nationalist identity. “Fine Gael” means ‘Tribe of the Irish’ and grew out of an amalgamation of its parent party and two smaller ones. Sinn Féin means ‘We Ourselves’ or ‘Ourselves Alone’ and the modern party, by various tortuous routes, descends from a parent party founded in 1905 (Fianna Fáil grew out of a split in this party); ironically, Sinn Féin was not so much revolutionary when it started (it was deliberately infiltrated by the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Fenians) but since the name the British government forces picked up, in the Irish rebellion, was “Sinn Féin”, it was used by them as a blanket term for all the rebels and nationalists, and that stuck and changed the direction of the party.

            Modern parties tend to go the route of names such as “Progressive Democrats” (since deceased) and the plethora of alliances, wanna-be new parties, and odds’n’ends of our current situation are things like Renua (never got off the ground), Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit, the Green Party, Independents, and various tiny Communist Party of Ireland/Socialist Party/Socialist Workers’ Party, as well as splinters from the larger parties (splitting and forming your own party is as popular in Ireland as splitting and forming your new Protestant denomination/non-denominational megachurch is in the United States).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Deiseach

            That means you are more right-wing than me, you filthy Fascist ?

            I’ll have to get back to you on the whole kicking down your door and hauling you off to the camps thing. That’s a long-ass plane ride and my leather trenchcoat’s out being re-oiled. Maybe next spring.

            But yes, prior to this quiz Sinn Fein was the only party I could’ve named, mostly due to my teenaged/20-something exposure to them via cold war thriller and spy fiction, where they were either (a) or (c) depending on which characters were talking. Past that, I had a vague sense that they were kinda sorta populist maybe.

            Thanks for the info on the party names, that’s about what I thought they translated to (Even if Tolkien didn’t appropriate a lot of Irish concepts and words, other fantasy and RPG creators were happy to pick up the slack) and I was wondering why they were so flowery.

    • Chalid says:

      The left’s answer for the WWC, if you judge by policy as opposed to whatever insanity is happening on tumblr, was “redistribution” – steeply progressive taxation, subsidized healthcare and education, EITC, minimum wage, generous safety net, etc etc.

      The WWC didn’t particularly *like* this answer, as is their right. And many of these policies may not work the way leftists intend them to. But let’s not pretend that the working class (white and otherwise) weren’t the intended winners from many proposed leftist policies.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Actual leftist policies, yes – and a lot of those places gave a leftist their votes in the Democratic primary. The policies favored by the bulk of elected democrats (including the eventual presidential nominee), no.

        You can’t run a Wall Street centrist whose idea of a radical economic change is politely asking congress to raise the minimum wage to $12, and who’s married to a man infamous on the left for supporting NAFTA and welfare reform – and then complain that people who would benefit from leftist policies don’t vote for you or stay home.

        Maybe the democrats should try something like passing the Progressive Caucus’ budget (as a bloc) if they want to win back proletarian voters. This leftist, for one, is very dissatisfied with a party whose power structure takes money from the very people benefiting from our current, highly unequal economy, and whose standard-bearers only seem interested in issues of race and gender.

        If people like Bernie Sanders or Keith Ellison wind up running the Democrats, I’m voting for them again. If not, I might vote leftist write-in candidates downballot as well.

        • Chalid says:

          The policies favored by the bulk of elected democrats (including the eventual presidential nominee), no

          wait, I listed “steeply progressive taxation, subsidized healthcare and education, EITC, minimum wage, generous safety net” and increases to all of those are supported by Clinton and most Democrats, right? Which are you thinking of?

          For that matter Obama’s got a 55% approval rating and there’s a good chance he would have won in a landslide if he were eligible, so I’m not sure why anyone’s convinced there’s anything wrong with the Democratic message at all (as opposed to this year’s messenger.)

    • Deiseach says:

      The other secret of Big Macs is that you can have an IQ that hovers somewhere between “idiot” and “moron” (to use the technical terms) and you’ll still be able to produce Big Macs that are exactly as unsurprising as all the other Big Macs in the world.

      Annnnd this is the kind of attitude that makes me want to drop a piano on somebody’s head. “Hurr durr, I work a service job because I’m too stoopid to get a real job!”

      Goodness me, why ever would someone vote for the likes of Trump when the nice people on the side of rainbows and uplift express the notion that your kid is “somewhere between ‘idiot’ and ‘moron’ (to use the technical terms)” because they got a job at McDonalds. Or stacking the shelves and running the tills in the local low-cost chain supermarket. Or work a less than minimum wage job because that’s the only choice or go into the military in your particular small town since industrial jobs collapsed and we’re now in the era of the service economy for those not able to participate in the knowledge economy.

      Yeah, such a puzzle why the white working class didn’t all vote against Trump!

      • Winter Shaker says:

        To be fair, although it was a bit condescendingly phrased, what I got from that article was very much ‘McDonalds is optimised so that its mediocre-but-passable burgers can be made by idiots; although there are smart people working there, their intelligence is wasted on a system that assumes that it cannot reliably hire enough smart people to let them do their own thing and still consistently produce great food’, rather than ‘McDonalds is staffed entirely by idiots’.

        • Deiseach says:

          It was very zoggin’ patronising, though: the people at McDonald’s Hamburger University are only reasonably smart, and the employees globally are ranked between idiot and moron – ha ha, let us all laugh at the humour! No, saying that kids working after-school jobs and adults who may actually need to make a living out of this, plus the franchise owners operating the fast-food restaurants, are all “idiots to morons” cannot possibly be considered as in any way indicating the passer of such a remark needs a good kick up the backside by someone wearing hobnail boots >:(

          (Years and years back worked in service industry in retail; horrible job because I was not at all suited to it, and to this day the experience of Guy In Suit who literally threw the money at me, without even looking at me, to pay for his newspaper rankles – the attitude in that post rather too much striking a chord oif familiarity there).

          Meanwhile Mr IT Professional Consultant doubtless thinks he’s one of the lean’n’hungry ever-so-smart whippersnappers who zoom in and solve all the problems that the bloated corporations which are too fat and complacent to retain their edge can no longer overcome.

          Yeah. Right. I hope it stays fine for him.

          There possibly is a way of making your “McDonalds vs Naked Chef” comparison without using terms like “idiots and morons” when referring to people in the class one pretty plainly regards as below oneself? Especially as Jamie Oliver is a Mockney, so enthusing about his brilliance and fresh originality looks a bit different from this side of the water 🙂

    • ildánach says:

      Imagine you were reading a blog you followed with a largely left wing following in the comments. In a chain of comments on a post, you find the following:

      The right had a vision and answers; the answers, to those “someones” in minority groups, ranged from “A world where people like you are kept in your place” to “A world without people like you”. The right needs to first repudiate that vision before coming up with a new one.

      This blog is supposed to be rationalist-leaning, if not a full member of the rationalist blogosphere. The fact that posts like this, which completely lack self examination are being posted and fully supported, is incredibly frustrating and disappointing. The basic expected minimum of rational discussion is to view your argument from the opposing side — at the moment that’s been left beaten and bloodied by the wayside.

      To head off the upcoming:

      “But the left is different, they’ve made it clear through their behaviour that that is what they want!”

      Imagine:

      You respond to the aforementioned blog comment, pointing out that it’s rather unfair to generalise an entire side of politics as wanting to commit implied cultural genocide. The commenter responds:

      “The right has made clear through their behaviour that that is their objective.”

      Would that seem reasonable to you?

      One of the most intrinsic parts of a productive discussion and community, as opposed to this sort of partisan circlejerking, is good faith. I would argue that claiming that the left’s sole, overarching objective is to destroy or oppress an entire people is not in good faith, any more than claiming that the sole purpose of the right is to destroy or oppress minorities.

      The only sense in which it is true is that most pure ideologies envision a world with no members of opposing ideologies, but if that’s the motte that this attitude will retreat to then the way it was stated was incredibly disingenuous.

      For God’s sake, can we please stop with the random wild generalisations and hatred-signalling of the opposing side? Or at least stop with accepting it as the new normal? Can we make the comments section great again?

  3. arunkhanna00 says:

    You got a pretty big shoutout on Ezra Klein’s recent podcast with the CEO of Stripe Patrick Collison.

    • gardenofaleph says:

      I was about to post this. It was an interesting discussion. The EZK show occasionally has very interesting guests on: I enjoyed the episodes with the chefs.

      The discussion on rationalism was quite insightful, I thought. It identified one of the most refreshing parts of the rationalist culture/community: it’s often very orthogonal to many mainstream political discourses. It doesn’t match well on left vs right, religion vs secular, democrat vs. republican, and so discussions are less marred by preexisting strong emotions and biases.

      The comments by Collison on Stripe being a very non-zero sum company in philosophy and result was an interesting one. It reminds me of the following: most people’s economic intuitions are very zero-sum and people don’t really enjoy considering counterfactuals, the bread and butter of libertarian counter arguments (the ‘seen’ vs the ‘unseen’ in other words.)

      The willingness to entertain those kinds of layered debates is not unique to the rationalist community, but the rationalist community is uniquely: welcoming to non-credentialed peoples, has a relatively small canon to read before becoming a knowledgeable contributor, and is always willing to debate.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So that I don’t have to join the 21st century and figure out how to listen to podcasts – what was the shoutout?

      • arunkhanna00 says:

        Both Ezra Klein and Patrick Collison(a billionaire btw) recommended your site at least 3 times and had a discussion on rationalism and the rationalist community.

        You can check out the podcast here on Soundcloud. The relevant section begins at 44:27 but I recommend listening to the whole thing.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          It seems to continue until 1:02:11. So that’s 18¼ minutes out of a 90-minute podcast!

        • Spookykou says:

          Thank you for linking this, It was actually a really fun listen, it seems they both have a very high opinion of Scott in particular.

          My favorite bit went something like,

          E: “Half joking problem with rationalist community embedded in broader point”

          P: “I agree with everything you said, except Scott isn’t like that”

          E: “Oh no of course not, I wasn’t talking about him”

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Thanks. Good stuff.

          I disagree with them about the probability numbers, though. Remember that example from Tetlock where all these intelligence analysts agreed there was only a “small chance” of war in some area, and then they asked them to be specific and found they meant things between 1% and 40%.

          It’s dumb to use precise numbers if you’re not well-calibrated, but that’s part of why we try really hard to calibrate ourselves. Once you’re calibrated to a certain level it’s acceptable and helpful to use numbers at that level of precision.

        • Deiseach says:

          recommended your site at least 3 times

          Sounds very encouraging!

  4. Squirrel of Doom says:

    So how viable is it to cook your own Daraprim instead of buying it from The Man?

    Selling it is probably illegal (in the US), but what if you only make what you consume?

    • Murphy says:

      It’s probably extremely inadvisable to do at home unless you’re a master chemist.
      You’d need to look into all the possible nasty byproducts or contaminants you have the potential to end up with in the mix and then you have to assess purity to make sure you’re getting the dose right.

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        > It’s probably extremely inadvisable to do at home unless you’re a master chemist.

        That’s pretty much my question: How much of a master chemist do you have to be to do this?

        Any professionals reading this?

        • Eltargrim says:

          Hi, I’m a materials chemist. Not quite the same field as organic synthesis, but some of the general points carry over.

          It depends a lot on a) what you’re starting with, b) what your tools are, and c) what level of purity is acceptable. If you’re getting pharmaceutical-grade reagents, have a NMR spectrometer to test the purity, and only need something like 95% (unspecified remainder), I’d trust a competent undergrad to do the synthesis.

          If you have reagent-grade reagents, a TLC plate, and are planning on taking a couple grams of the stuff over the course of a treatment, I wouldn’t call that viable or safe in any sense of the term. The starting reagent is extremely toxic, and while I don’t have specific information about the intermediate products, they don’t look specifically safer.

          It’s a question of “how nasty are the byproducts”, and while this is a guess they certainly look nasty. The nastier the byproducts, the purer your product has to be to be safe, and the more important it is to check the purity properly.

          Anyone with the skills to make daraprim safely at home would know better than to try.

          • Peffern says:

            Chem Eng undergrad here: I can confirm that with the equipment we could probably pull it off (we do this kind of thing in lab) but as Eltargrim said, we’re taught to know better.

          • lhn says:

            Obviously there’s an extant base of people with pharmaceutical chemistry skills who are… less concerned with both safety and ethical issues. (That being why I have to show my driver’s license to buy Sudafed.)

            How plausible is it for them to be able to produce something that at least doesn’t kill enough of their customers to tank the market, at a price that’s profitable but still well beneath the cost of the legal version? (And presumably below the price of any smuggled in from price controlled countries as well, assuming that applies?)

          • Eltargrim says:

            @lhn (Is that an I or an L? I can’t tell)

            The big question is availability of reagents and tolerance of impurities. I can’t give firm answers for either, but if you’re restricted to domestically available chemicals making this stuff isn’t actually that easy.

            Let us look at this from a different perspective. As you say, there are a number of people who clearly make illegal chemicals. There are a lot of drugs out there that are expensive to buy, but not necessarily expensive or hard to make. And yet there’s a booming market in synthetic recreational drugs, but (as far as I know) zero trade in illicit non-narcotic pharmaceuticals.

            To me that states that the money isn’t there. Whether the issue is market size/availability, resilience to poor quality product, etc., I can’t say, but as you say there’s plenty of examples of chemists willing to break the law for money. If they’re not doing it here, I doubt there’s money in it.

          • JayT says:

            There are lots of people that go to Mexico to get their prescription drugs though, so you would think there would be a market for it. I wonder why there isn’t. Perhaps people that just want their prescriptions are less likely to break the law compared to people that want to get high?

          • Loquat says:

            @JayT

            Illegal drug users often put up with drugs of uncertain and varying potency, plus substantial risk of contamination with other, more harmful, substances, because with most illegal drugs there’s no alternative. I would guess that prescription drug users, particularly those who’ll suffer serious health problems if they don’t get exactly the right substance at exactly the right dose, are much less likely to accept the same risks just to save money.

          • LHN says:

            @lhn (Is that an I or an L? I can’t tell)

            It’s an “L”. Pre-registration, I always used capitals, but apparently I forgot to when I registered. And then I wasn’t able to figure out how to change it.

            (I just tried entering the caps version as a nickname– we’ll see if that worked with this post. 🙂 )

    • Eltargrim says:

      Aside from Murphy’s excellent safety point (don’t lick the spoon!), there’s also an issue of reagent availability. Most of the reagents for the simple procedure, while not particularly expensive, are not generally available for sale to the private individual.

      Check out this video for an example of some of the steps required for a synthesis that’s available for the (extremely skilled) layman, and not someone who can already raid the chemical supply cupboard.

      I would not recommend trying any of those steps without some significant laboratory experience.

      • Murphy says:

        Some of my friends found away around that, they set up a biolab in their local hackspace, set up an official company and got certified as a level 1 (the lowest level) lab suitable for the creation of GMO’s (limited to non pathogenic organisms and other similar reasonable limits).

        Made it vastly easier to purchase anything they needed.

    • John Schilling says:

      Shouldn’t be any harder than synthesizing, e.g., MPTP (1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine), or was that supposed to be 1-methyl-4-phenyl-4-propionoxypiperidine (MPPP)? I can never keep those two straight…

      And if you have to ask, neither can you. Not with the confidence you’re going to want for something like this, because there are things worse than Toxoplasmosis and some of them are very easy to cook up in your kitchen lab.

  5. CatCube says:

    “Be polite. Be professional. But have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

    The 3Ps that our battalion commander told us to have. You know, I didn’t know that Gen. Mattis came up with that quote until he was floated for SecDef.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’ve been half-heartedly trying to track down an origin for this saying and its variants, because I am pretty damn sure that I encountered it well before Mattis popularized it. Anyone have any insights?

      • FacelessCraven says:

        I am extremely sure it doesn’t originate with Mattis. What’s interesting to me is how incredibly eyeball-blastingly conservative all of Mattis’ quotes are. His popularity and current fame seem like a pretty good case study in Red Tribe values.

  6. Douglas Knight says:

    If you sort the reddit comments differently, they tell a wider variety of stories of Trump.

    • Noah says:

      There’s also a lot of deleted posts. I don’t know how reddit works very well–what does this mean?

      • Acedia says:

        Replace reddit.com in the URL with ceddit.com to see an archived version containing most of the deleted posts.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Any idea why so many comments were deleted?

          • Eltargrim says:

            It has the [Serious] tag in /r/askreddit, so any comments that are jokes, or aren’t strictly answering the question (e.g. “I heard from a friend…”) will be deleted.

            I didn’t check ceddit myself, but the /r/askreddit mods police posts with the [Serious] tag quite aggressively.

          • stillnotking says:

            A lot of people delete their heavily-downvoted comments in the interest of preserving their karma. It could also be the result of moderation, as Eltargrim said.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Looking a little deeper, looks like the common theme is that the deleted ones are all secondhand–guess the mods felt it was important to keep things in the first person.

            It’s kind of interesting that so many more of those are more negative, though. Could be overall anti-Trump bias, could be the bias of a negative experience being more likely to be shared with others than relatively boring ones, could be a little demographic gender skewing (a lot of the negative ones are of him being creepy to women). Probably all of the above.

    • J says:

      I think we’re dangerously underestimating the hazards of reddit. There’s so much astroturf, and we haven’t yet developed immunity to it in the way we have to ads. I’ve personally spent many hours downvoting obvious viral posts and looking for shenanigans, and yet I *still* found myself updating toward “huh, Trump isn’t such a bad guy” when I read that thread.

      One of my very smart friends pointed out turning on the “controversial” comment sorting mode, because “for some stupid reason people downvoted the negative stories”. The assumption that it was “for some stupid reason” made me realize that even though he knew that astroturf happens, his default assumption is still that the comments and votes largely represent what people think. And I was even worse — I claim to be skeptical, but I accepted it at face value. Really left me shaken.

      • Eltargrim says:

        What is more likely:

        That the reddit admins are unable to detect a coordinated astroturfing campaign, and are unwilling to intervene to prevent pro-Trump astroturfing;

        or that the hordes of the internet have strong opinions about things, and that there’s a legion of pro-Trump redditors (or anons) who are willing to expend low-energy actions to support their candidate?

        Is it really astroturfing when it’s crowdsourced?

        • J says:

          If they’re unable to detect astroturfing then it doesn’t matter whether they’re willing.

          And lots of known astroturfing gets through (lots of well documented shenanigans in places like /r/gaming, for example), so we know they’re unwilling or unable to stop that.

        • suntzuanime says:

          Does it even matter if it’s astroturf or real-ass turf? If negative stories are being consistently downvoted and positive ones upvoted, looking at the most upvoted stories will not give you a representative sample of stories.

          • Eltargrim says:

            Oh absolutely, but looking to reddit for representative stories for anything is an exercise in futility. Surely you’ve seen the frequent “Reddit, what’s your unpopular opinion?” threads?

            The difference between astro-turf and turf in this case is the difference between J and J’s friend: J’s friend thinks that there are a large number of people who organically downvote negative stories about Trump, whereas J thinks the downvotes are orchestrated, presumably by a pro-Trump organization. I think it’s more likely that J’s friend is right. Lots of people like Trump, use reddit, and downvote; none of this requires outside intervention.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      One pattern I’m noting among the downvoted comments is that they are hearsay. The poster is not the person who met Trump, which violates the statement of the question.

      • IrishDude says:

        Yeah, the positive comments came across as more credible to me than the negative ones based on the details included in each comment type.

  7. newt0311 says:

    I’ve been thinking a little more about the prescription drug prices thing. The problem (one of…) seems to be that other countries are free-riding off of the US consumer population. So how about this:

    1. We designate some particularly bad offenders (Britain’s NHS and co. essentially).
    2. Then either the drug isn’t available to those consumers or the prices those consumers get are a ceiling on what domestic consumers need to pay.

    This dramatically reduces the bargaining power that large national monopsonies have when it comes to drug negotiations. Right now, when bargaining with the NHS (for example), the choices the drug company has are just accept a lower marginal profit or no marginal profit (since the marginal cost of manufacturing most drugs is quite low) with the US consumers bearing the cost of the R&D either way. With the above law in place, drug makers could credibly refuse to sell to these entities for reduced prices because they won’t be able to shift their R&D costs to US consumers any more.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Note some evidence that other countries are not free riders

      • Squirrel of Doom says:

        The United States accounted for 42% of prescription drug spending and 40% of the total GDP among innovator countries

        This sounds like Americans pay about as much for drugs as other nations, adjusted for GDP.

        I don’t understand how to reconcile that with the Vox article claiming that drugs cost at least twice as much in the US as in comparable countries.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          This sounds like Americans pay about as much for drugs as other nations, adjusted for GDP.

          How so? The US is about 22% of the world economy but supplies 42% of the drug spending/revenue.

          A few months ago I picked some random European pharma companies and they got more revenue from the US than from their home markets, which is both closer and (depending on the day and the measure) bigger.

      • Brandon Berg says:

        Which countries develop the most drugs isn’t particularly relevant to this issue. It’s not like drug companies in Switzerland are developing drugs exclusively for the Swiss market.

        The ratio of drug spending to GDP is interesting, but raises more questions than it answers. If US spends roughly the same percentage of GDP on drugs as European countries, why are drugs so much more expensive in the US? Are US consumers consuming fewer prescription drugs than Europeans? The US does have substantially higher GDP per capita than most European countries, but only by 20-40%, so that doesn’t explain it all.

      • newt0311 says:

        I read that article. I don’t think it makes a good argument:

        1. I don’t think the country of innovation is relevant. The consumers of the drug ultimately pay for the development of the drug. A drug company in Switzerland can extract profits from US consumers just as easily as one in the US and would be in just as much trouble if the US decided to reduce its spending on prescription drugs.

        2. I did find their prescription health-care spending numbers to be interesting. However I don’t think that GDP is an appropriate denominator here. Just because the US has much higher per-capita GDP than the rest of the OECD countries does not imply it should automatically be spending more on drugs. I think the relevant numbers to consider would be the number of sick people in the US and which drugs they consume and in what quantity. I looked up population numbers and as of 2000, the US had ~31% of the population of the countries your paper included. That is considerably lower than the 42% of prescription drug spending that the US accounts for.

        I tracked down the source of their prescription drug spending numbers. The report has a lot more information and I’m still working my way through it but for example figure 16 shows that on-patent drugs generally cost a lot more in the US and figure 18 shows that per-capita the US spends considerably more on prescription drugs than most other countries. I’d be interested in finding out for example whether the average US consumer uses more drugs than average or just ends up paying more for each dosage.

        • Brandon Berg says:

          I think it makes sense, even without price controls, for drug companies to charge higher prices in countries with higher per-capita GDP. To give a more extreme example, there’s no way charging the same price in the US ($56k per capita) and in India ($1.6k) is a profit-maximizing strategy. Even with the UK ($43k), it probably doesn’t make sense to charge exactly the same price. I don’t know if we should expect every country to pay the same percentage of GDP, but that’s probably closer to the optimal pricing strategy than expecting every country to spend the same amount per capita.

          • newt0311 says:

            That’s a good point. If a drug needs to be priced at $X evenly to recuperate R&D costs and say consumers in India can only afford to pay $Y substantially less than $X but still higher than the marginal costs of manufacturing the drugs in the first place, then it makes economic sense for companies to price the drugs lower in India and it makes economic sense for the US to let the companies do this because whatever small profit drug companies do get from the India market can only help US consumers.

            However how much is this really happening with say consumers in the UK and Germany where they could afford prices commensurate with what US consumers pay (resulting in higher profits for drug companies even after adjusting for lower demand) but don’t because the “consumers” here happen to be large government monopsonies with outsized bargaining power (compared to US consumers)?

            For example, in the report I linked above, in Germany and the UK, on-patent drugs cost 72% and 74% as much as they do in the US but generic drugs cost 124% and 113% as much as they do in the US.

            That’s why I included the first point about identifying specific actors to price-match against. Also my proposal was a straw-man (even though I didn’t make that particularly clear). Thanks for pointing out possible problems with it.

    • Reduced profit is still profit, and price discrimination is something companies will do voluntarily. Anmd organsiations like the NHS give you the ability to make huge sales with a single sales pitch.

      • Murphy says:

        Yep, and if you know how effective your drug is and how many QALY’s it provides you can even know in advance what price they’ll be willing to pay because the guidelines are public. (20K to 30K per QALY) which occasionally surprises me when companies know this and still demand 20 to 30 times that amount for marginally effective drugs guaranteeing that the NHS won’t touch the drug at all.

      • newt0311 says:

        The point isn’t to reduce profits for drug companies. The point is give them a credible reason to refuse to sell to the NHS et al. at reduced prices.

        And I know companies price-discriminate voluntarily. My idea is to put a stop to that.

        • Murphy says:

          You seem to be reaching for any way to try to screw foreigners rather than anything practical.

          If you’ve structured your business poorly and end up pissing money at your suppliers the other companies doing business with your suppliers still owe you nothing even if it means they can negotiate better deals than they would otherwise if there wasn’t some idiot failing to control his own spending.

          The companies are already working to maximize profits. Making it harder for them to sell to the NHS is only going to screw them and screw you.

          • newt0311 says:

            Um, no. I’m trying to find a way to give companies a better bargaining position.

            My straw-man proposal makes it easier for companies to negotiate with the NHS.

            Also comparing your supplier costs to other companies and demanding the same treatment is a way of controlling costs.

          • You still haven;t exlained why some buyers being able to drive better bargains than others isn’t a problem in anything except pharma.

          • newt0311 says:

            Pharma is one of the few places where some of the buyers are government enforced monopolies/monopsonies.

            There is no comparable entity to the NHS in the UK for say oil. Here’s what that would look like:

            There would be a single entity say the National Fuel Service (NFS) that was responsible for providing fuel to the consumers in the UK. It would analyze the occupation, daily habits, justifiable requirements, etc… of people and companies and provide them with their “fair” allotment of petroleum products. The NFS would be the only source of fossil fuels in the UK. Buying directly from oil companies would be banned or at least taxed/not subsidized. For example, there could be a high tariff on selling fuels directly to consumers without going through the NFS.

            Let’s put aside what effect this would have on the UK economy. When negotiating for crude oil from drillers, I’m pretty sure the NFS would be able to negotiate artificially low prices for the oil that it gets. The marginal cost per barrel of oil is lower than the total cost per barrel because there are a lot of fixed costs (exploration, drilling the actual wells, building pipelines for transportation, etc…). It would still make sense for an oil company to sell to the NFS at below the total cost as long as the price was above the marginal cost. Thus the NFS (& UK) would end up free-riding off the R&D financed by the rest of the oil consumers.

            If this were the case I would advocate for similar rules for oil as the ones I proposed for drugs.

            We could imagine the same thing with anything where fixed costs are high and marginal costs are low (which is most things ultimately). Off the top of my head: software, electronics, and books are easy examples.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Reduced profit is still profit

        This is per-unit profit ignoring sunk costs.

        These aren’t real numbers, but they are for demonstration.

        1. Company spends $1 billion developing a drug.
        2. Company spends $1 million manufacturing drug for market A, getting $2 billion in revenue.
        3. Company spends $1 million manufacturing drug for market B, getting $100 million in revenue.

        It’s “profitable” in market B, but everyone can see how market B is free-riding. The situation wouldn’t exist without market A.

        • Why isn’t it free riding whenever anyone negotiates a good discount?

          • Jiro says:

            In the drug situation, the fixed cost, amortized over the sales, would mean that market B would be a loss on its own. The things people negotiate discounts over typically either

            1) don’t have fixed costs large enough for this to be a problem, or

            2) benefit the company in market B in ways not directly measured in revenue

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It depends what you want to do with the classification of “free riding.”

            If one can get a last-minute seat on an airplane for $30, okay, good for one.

            If one wants to argue that this proves airplanes can really operate at $30 a seat for everyone, and they are stealing from us by charging more, people have a god-given right to a $30 seat on demand, and things would work better if one were in charge of everything, one is nuts.

          • newt0311 says:

            Yeah: one definitely needs to come up with a way of distinguishing between free-riding and negotiation/price discrimination. I’d like to draw the line at government mandated monopsonies.

            Note that in my original proposal, this price-matching only applies to “some particularly bad offenders.” I don’t have a problem with companies selling drugs in Africa for a tenth of the price because the price is still above the marginal cost and that’s all that the African market can support. I object to the NHS using its government backing to extract R&D benefits from US consumers (and then adding insult to injury by bragging about it).

    • Easier to just allow re-import from other first world countries.

      • newt0311 says:

        Good point. Thanks.

        A few issues come to mind:

        1. Quality control (though you mentioned first world countries so maybe not an issue after all).

        2. Copycats: presumably we don’t want to destroy patent protection in the process. This sounds solvable.

        3. Could the companies contract with the various government agencies to sell to end-customers only? That would make re-importing difficult.

        • Murphy says:

          QC shouldn’t be too much of an issue since they should be the same drugs from the same company.

          You might have to sync american regulations with the countries that you want to allow re-import from, otherwise if american regs require something like details written in english on the package it doesn’t block the re-import.

          Syncing regulations would probably be good because it would make it easier to sell drugs across all the countries in question.

          It would largely prevent price-discrimination between the countries which would be good for the countries where the prices are higher and somewhat force similar prices.

          I don’t think I’d be particularly against such steps.

          I don’t think it would cause much problems with copycats as long as you restrict it to countries where the patents are synced.

          3 also doesn’t seem terribly practical. Governments wouldn’t be able to buy stockpiles of drugs etc.

          • newt0311 says:

            Re #3: I meant an agreement which kept the government agencies from re-selling to re-importers. A 30% discount is a pretty good reason to agree to those terms.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Other countries do not want this. They negotiate their prices based on the fact that it won’t disrupt other markets.

  8. suntzuanime says:

    I think the point “THE NECESSITY OF CREDIBILITY” was trying to make was not so much that the Washington Post shouldn’t have written an article about the exciting study, but rather that they should have shown more intellectual charity to Donald Trump. It’s one thing to call Donald Trump a giant lunatic who’s discarding all credibility, it’s something much more disingenuous to call Donald Trump a giant lunatic who’s discarding all credibility for making claims you yourself have made in the past.

  9. a non mouse says:

    Trump’s election victory raised interest in epistocracy, a hypothetical system of government where only well-informed people can vote. A new blog post pops that bubble, calculating that Trump beat Clinton among well-informed voters by an even bigger margin than among the general public

    How did he do with Hillary voters? Maybe we could limit the franchise to those.

  10. poipoipoi says:

    “I have a really bad feeling that this ends with every company that was planning to do something good anyway crediting Trump in exchange for free Presidential goodwill, and we get a neverending string of apparent Trump victories that are very hard to disprove.”

    Counterpoint:
    1) The USA runs a half-trillion dollar trade deficit with the rest of the world
    2) The matching current account surpluses are propping up both China and the (current round of) European economic nightmare.
    3) Donald Trump’s stated intentions are to at least try to hammer that number down.

    I don’t know what he’s going to do, I don’t know if he’s going to succeed, I do know that whatever he does is likely to be highly disruptive, and the importer holds the whip hand in the trade war. Because they can always just stop importing.

    It’s arguable that Donald Trump is going to be a disaster for America, it’s just that he’s more likely to be an even worse disaster for everyone else.

    So yes, I want my money in the US, thank you very much.

    • You’re welcome to keep your own money in the US, but if you’re talking about keeping dollars in the US, well, inflation lets us tax holders of dollars in other countries and giving that up would be something that Donald would call a very bad deal.

      More seriously long term trade deficits are almost entirely caused by differences in savings rates. You can see here that there’s an obvious explanation for why China is such a large net exporter. China’s Yuan has been gaining in value relative to the dollar for years except that since 2014 it’s lost ground back to where it was in 2010 so China isn’t getting it’s balance of payments via currency manipulation. I’d be in favor of increasing US savings and Trump even has some policies that might help there. But those aren’t the red meat he’s throwing to the ignorant about renegotiating US trading pacts.

      • poipoipoi says:

        But it cuts both ways because math.

        Germany and China drove up their savings rates in the last couple of decades, which created a global savings glut.

        If you fix the investment crisis, you fix the trade deficit.
        If you fix the trade deficit, you fix the investment crisis.

        • Cliff says:

          By “fix the investment crisis” you mean make people stop investing in the U.S.? And by “fix the trade deficit” you mean make it so that people can’t afford imports?

          • poipoipoi says:

            Yes. Read any Michael Pettis article. Or that Pseudoerasmus article on the EU crisis. Or any Mark Blyth talk on austerity.

    • Tracy W says:

      the importer holds the whip hand in the trade war. Because they can always just stop importing.

      Out of interest, what cases have there been of an importer stopping importing in a trade war? And how did things work out for them?
      Because, first order effects, someone who just stops importing has just made themselves worse off. (Ditto someone who just stops exporting).

      • poipoipoi says:

        Would you accept the opposite? Someone who forced massive capital inflows and suffered from economic malaise for decades until they stopped?

        http://blog.mpettis.com/2015/02/syriza-and-the-french-indemnity-of-1871-73/

        Because the key thing is that this is NOT value for value trade with specialization, it’s enforced imports caused by massive capital flows.

        • Tracy W says:

          Call me crazy but I think I would prefer an example relevant to the claim put forward, not its “opposite”.

          (I don’t even get how the French indemnity is meant to be opposite. Normal importing is importing useful goods that people want, the French indemnity case you linked was forcing money flows. Different things, I don’t see enough common ground to draw a linkage between the results of one and the results of the other. )

          • poipoipoi says:

            Forcing money flows IS forcing trade. They are the inverse.

            Trade wars are stupid because you’re losing value (ie: Why you had trade in the first place). Investment wars are fantastic ideas and we should have more of them between first world countries.

            Because this isn’t the British economic model, it’s the German one (as laid out by Mark Blyth).

            We’re not trading value for value, we’re being forced to use Chinese money to buy Chinese goods and have artificially high unemployment and low interest/savings rates. (The ability to run a trillion-dollar deficit and get 4% unemployment being non-sustainable).

            blog.mpettis.com/2016/05/the-titillating-and-terrifying-collapse-of-the-dollar-again/

          • Tracy W says:

            @poipoipoi:

            Forcing money flows IS forcing trade.

            Perhaps (though I note you make no argument to support this assertion.)
            But we appear to have drifted from your initial assertion about importers having the advantage in trade wars. May I take it from this that you have zero evidence to support your earlier assertion that importers have an advantage in trade wars?

          • baconbacon says:

            Investment is trade, if trade wars are a dumb idea it is very hard to justify investment wars.

    • IrishDude says:

      Re: Trade deficit. If someone gives me stuff I can use in exchange for paper bills, and then doesn’t use those paper bills, I consider myself coming out ahead. However, my understanding is that lots of those paper bills come back to the U.S. in the form of investment, which also is a good thing. I personally have trade deficits with pretty much every company I interact with, where I get stuff and they get money, and it doesn’t seem to create any issues for me.

      • Aapje says:

        Basically, you are selling part of your country to foreigners, which isn’t that bad if your economic growth is bigger than your trade deficit.

        • IrishDude says:

          I don’t think foreign investment is bad, regardless of how the economic growth relates to the trade deficit. Honda and Nissan plants in the U.S. employ locals and contribute to the local economy. U.S. direct investment in other countries has helped lift those countries out of poverty, with China a prime example. Chinese investment in Africa is helping lift the economy there.

          Lines in a map don’t change the economics and benefits of trade and investment.

    • Desertopa says:

      I don’t know what he’s going to do, I don’t know if he’s going to succeed, I do know that whatever he does is likely to be highly disruptive, and the importer holds the whip hand in the trade war. Because they can always just stop importing.

      No more so than the exporter can always just stop exporting. Importers often need the imported goods quite a lot, just as exporters often need the money.

  11. CatCube says:

    Hmmm. Try two.

    Derek Lowe points out that any competent organic chemist should be able to synthesize daraprim. However, it’s very difficult to synthesize it following Good Manufacturing Practices.

    As we were reminded this weekend in Oakland, you can get away with violating safety regulations until one day you don’t. Can a group of random people synthesize a drug? Sure. Can you build a stairway out of pallets? Sure. There’s a reason we don’t allow you to do those things, though.

    I will note that he believes that the price increase is a straight-up regulatory failure, and I agree with him (and you) on that score. The solution is to work on the regulatory failure, not urge a group of teenagers to think they can manufacture specialty chemicals fit for human consumption in a high-school lab.

  12. mvd1959 says:

    Re: Vox article with really annoying illustrations… One issue they don’t address and seems like a reasonable objection is that “Big Pharma” spends as much on marketing as R&D. (I’ve most recently heard Ezekiel Emanuel make this claim in a CNBC interview). If that’s true the implication is we could get the same advancements for considerably less money. I’m a little skeptical of drugs that require millions of dollars in marketing. It seems like truly revolutionary drug would sell itself.

    • Teaching the millions of doctors in the world how to use a new drug is really expensive. You have to send out educated people to meet with the doctors and answer their questions and you usually have to give them lots of free samples so they get used to using it. Oh, and they spend a little on advertising to consumers too sometimes but that’s a drop in the bucket.

      It would be really nice if we had some sort of system for teaching doctors about new drugs that didn’t run through the pharma system because of course pharma is horribly biased. But the job is very important and we would probably want to spend the same amount of money in any case.

      • Murphy says:

        drug reps have a strong reputation as being spectacularly slimy individuals.

        The “education” provided by the drug companies has a strong tendency to be misleading or simply wrong while they also run “education” campaigns which are not officially marketing but which convince people that poorly supported hypothesis are actually true when it makes their drugs look more appealing. (a problem with various companies making anti-depressant giving out “educational” material supporting various claims about how the brain works which are probably wrong but which make their drugs sounds like they should work better than they really do)

        having the companies “educate” doctors is possibly one of the worst possible solutions to the problem.

        • Randy M says:

          It seems to work okay in other industries. What’s the difference between the drug manufacturers and, say, adhesive manufacturers training the users of their product? Incentive plans employed to up-sell? Combining technical and sales roles? (Or my lack of knowledge of real problems in other industries?)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Scott has spoken about this topic and his own experiences: http://slatestarcodex.com/2015/02/17/pharma-virumque/

          • Murphy says:

            that in this context “up selling” can involve trying to create a situation where people are being proscribed drugs that can have serious, life threatening side effects that they may not need at all?

            Practically speaking if yet another antidepressant comes out you really really don’t need a multiple day “training course” in a 5 star hotel at a beach resort to let doctors know that it may be slightly more effective in [short list of scenarios].

            In terms of total time investment, these are people who’ve managed to memorise the reams of crap you need to learn to get through medical school. A basic runthrough of a few dozen new drugs per year should not be a major undertaking.

          • nyccine says:

            Practically speaking if yet another antidepressant comes out you really really don’t need a multiple day “training course” in a 5 star hotel at a beach resort to let doctors know that it may be slightly more effective in [short list of scenarios].

            This is completely, dangerously wrong.

            …being proscribed drugs that can have serious, life threatening side effects that they may not need at all?

            How many of those “side effects” are only listed because the FDA thinks what you call something affects how it works? How many of these “side effects” have ever actually been shown to exist, versus being simply assumed to exist?

          • John Colanduoni says:

            @RandyM

            In other industries where the person making the buying decision is divorced in some way from the person who is screwed most directly if the wrong product is chosen for purchase the same slimy tactics still end up being effective. Bankers will often take accountants of small business out for lunch etc. to try and pull the same shenanigans, for example.

            @Murphy

            Practically speaking if yet another antidepressant comes out you really really don’t need a multiple day “training course” in a 5 star hotel at a beach resort to let doctors know that it may be slightly more effective in [short list of scenarios].

            The differences in medications are rarely that subtle, even within the same class. The real issue is that whatever training the pharmaceutical companies do provide doesn’t seem to cover the kind of things the doctor should really know. Like if there’s any reason to believe that an order of magnitude price difference brings any benefit at all.

            @nyccine

            How many of those “side effects” are only listed because the FDA thinks what you call something affects how it works? How many of these “side effects” have ever actually been shown to exist, versus being simply assumed to exist?

            Okay, let’s ignore the side effects issue for the sake of argument. How about effectiveness? I hope you would accept that many drugs (psychiatric in particular) have wide variations in effectiveness, sometimes due to observable differences in circumstances, sometimes just randomly (as far as us lowly 21st century humans can tell). Picking the wrong drug, or not trying alternative drugs after one or more fail to treat the problem, or leading with a drug that is much less likely to be effective than others can mean the difference between life or death, or “merely” heavy depression and a balanced mood.

            As long as doctors’ choices are influenced more by the schmoozing of pharmaceutical reps than silly things like research, that’s going to be an issue, even if not a single of these choices involve drugs with serious side effects. Which is obviously not the case.

          • Aapje says:

            The real issue is that whatever training the pharmaceutical companies do provide doesn’t seem to cover the kind of things the doctor should really know.

            Pharmaceutical companies have no incentive to train doctors to be better at curing people, they have an incentive to train them to prescribe their products.

            In general it is absurd to place education in the hands of a supplier with different end goals than the buyer.

            BTW. One of the tactics that the pharmaceutical companies use is give huge discounts to hospitals, as they often get people started on a drug. Then the idea is that doctors will just keep people on the same drug, even if they later have to pay full price. It’s the classic drug-dealer tactic.

          • John Colanduoni says:

            I completely agree, I probably should have put training in quotes.

          • nyccine says:

            …have wide variations in effectiveness, sometimes due to observable differences in circumstances, sometimes just randomly (as far as us lowly 21st century humans can tell)

            I would say this is a reflection of the problem of psychiatric diagnosis; things that share similar symptoms are called the same “disorder” when it’s entirely likely they’re unrelated. To pick an example at random, look at the MADRS-S form; two different patients with no overlapping symptoms can, in theory, both score “moderately depressed”, and they can possibly score “severe depression” with very little overlap. Also look at Scott’s post on autistic patients; patients with wildly different issues get the same label – but you can’t possibly give one the same treatment regimen you give the others.

            As long as doctors’ choices are influenced more by the schmoozing of pharmaceutical reps than silly things like research

            Two points:
            1) Pharmaceutical reps are not allowed to share research information with doctors for any indication that has not already been approved by the FDA. Reps aren’t even told studies exist for fear that they may accidentally spill the beans and the company is out hundreds of millions of dollars in fines. This puts at least some of the blame on the FDA, no?

            2) This is only a relevant rebuttal if pharmaceutical companies were suppressing the publication of research. I’ve heard of some out-right evil shit, like what Merck did with Vioxx, but that’s rare.

            The research is being done. It’s being published. How is it the pharmaceutical rep’s fault that the doctors don’t look it up? The pharmaceutical industry didn’t set up a massive indoctrination system to brainwash all doctors into being too lazy to look up publications on the drugs they’re prescribing, that it’d be better just to wait for the rep to show up and tell you what to do. Doctors did this to themselves, and banning pharmaceutical outreach isn’t going to fix this.

          • Murphy says:

            @nyccine

            Actually suppressing negative research results, failing to publish results for trials that aren’t good for your drug is pretty much routine.

            it’s also part of the standard playbook that whenever the subject comes up the spokespersons of companies involved declare “oh that? oh that’s already been fixed aaaages ago”. But it’s a lie and it hasn’t been fixed and is still happening.

            A trivial example would be GSK with paroxetin:

            They had done trials in both adults and children, the results of trials in adults were good, the trials in children showed up that the drug was dangerous. (because of course some drugs affect children differently.)

            The company withheld the results from the trials in children, knowing that the drug would be proscribed to children. (since there was no public evidence that it was contra indicated in children)

            The people involved knew it was dangerous to children and freely chose to hide that information from doctors, as in any doctor who went looking for clinical trial results would not find them because the company chose to hide that information.

            But sure. it’s all the fault of the “lazy” doctors.

            it’s not just the reps, it’s the entire command structures within the companies which don’t give a fuck.

            there’s a reason the FDA doesn’t allow reps to claim that drugs should be used for uses that the FDA has not approved, because slimy slimy drug reps were constantly outright lying to doctors trying to convince them that their drugs did every damned thing regardless of whether there was real evidence that it worked and ignoring any evidence that it didn’t.

  13. CatCube says:

    Hmmm. Try three. I removed the link from Derek Lowe. Google “in the pipeline daraprim” to find it, should be the first link.

    Derek Lowe points out that any competent organic chemist should be able to synthesize daraprim. However, it’s very difficult to synthesize it following Good Manufacturing Practices.

    As we were reminded this weekend in Oakland, you can get away with violating safety regulations until one day you don’t. Can a group of randos synthesize a drug? Sure. Can you build a stairway out of pallets? Sure. There’s a reason we don’t allow you to do those things, though.

    I will note that he believes that the price increase is a straight-up regulatory failure, and I agree with him (and you) on that score. The solution is to work on the regulatory failure, not urge a group of teenagers to think they can manufacture specialty chemicals fit for human consumption in a high-school lab.

    • drethelin says:

      Or maybe requiring 7-8 figures worth of construction and certification is a huge unnecessary barrier to drug production and pharmaceutical innovation.

      • CatCube says:

        Maybe. Or it might be that it requires 7-8 figures worth of construction and certification to not put out a product that doesn’t have a small percentage of product with lethal contaminants.

        If somebody knows the details of GMP, I’d be interested in hearing them. Maybe there really are a bunch of expensive requirements that are unnecessary. Whines about how expensive it is aren’t actually informative, though.

    • Peffern says:

      Hey, is that the “Things I won’t work with” guy? I totally forgot he existed!

  14. Ilya Shpitser says:

    That Robinson piece was good, but the whole “we need to reevaluate polls and probability” annoyed the hell out of me. Probability is how you deal with uncertainty, polls are known to be a biased sample. The world is uncertain, so barring better data, your uncertainty will be high (as Robinson pointed out, Silver’s model “flip-flopped”). That’s the best you can do.

    Similarly with polls, modeling bias properly will get you good conclusions, modeling bias poorly will not. I mean what did you expect?

    It’s just so bizarre — pundits don’t know anything because, what, they are obsessed with empirical data? Are we throwing empiricism away now? That is not the right lesson here. The right lesson is better data, and better models (and less talking).

    • wysinwygymmv says:

      I think a more charitable reading would allow that he meant to suggest to revise how polls are factored into probabilistic analyses, which is pretty much exactly what you’re saying as well.

    • phil says:

      Are you sure that is the right takeaway?

      I actually think there’s an interesting critique of empiricism going on here

      if we live in a world where lots of things change in exponential manners, the world 4 years from now will be significantly more different from today, than today is from 4 years ago (and 4 years ago from 8 years ago, etc etc)

      such that it makes it difficult to assess what the relevant empirical data is, or how to model it

      its possible that history is speeding up and becoming increasingly chaotic, and increasingly difficult to predict (and the factors that interact with any model you try to create are more and more chaotic)

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Maybe. But if things are chaotic and impossible to model and reason about, then we can’t do science, and that’s an easy base case.

        Or maybe we should just try harder to do modeling, and data collection, and data analysis.

        Critiques of empiricism run into “and what do you specifically suggest we do, and furthermore, are you willing to place some bets on your proposal vs mine.”

        I am not actually aware of any non-empirical proposals for doing prediction that aren’t “amateur hour” and quickly exposed as such under serious scrutiny. But I would love to learn more, if people had reading suggestions for me.

        Personally I think people need to get a grip. This is like the opposite extreme from “deep learning is going to take us to the stars” that I also see a lot of. I expect we will have a fairly concise story of what exactly went wrong with the modeling, with lessons for doing modeling in the future. This is how empiricism progresses — slowly grind complexity down over time, with failures along the way.

        • phil says:

          I had a longer response typed out and then did something to delete it looking for links to support what I had typed out, oh well

          couple ideas:

          whether the scientific method is really appropriate for dynamic systems that change after you study them

          especially if actors that actually some control over relevant parts of the dynamic system can incorporate the knowledge of what you’ve studied and change their behavior (not that politics, or economic, or any other dynamic system shouldn’t or can’t be studied, just that its better to think of that as history rather than science)

          ———-

          its hard for me to know what counts as amateur hour to you

          I tend to assume that market information isn’t perfect, but tends to be pretty good, I don’t know if that counts as amateur hour or not

          —-

          reading suggestions:

          Black Swan by Taleb is probably the reading that influenced by thinking about this the most

          also the different sports statistics critiques that Sailer had made (which are pretty politically neutral and worth considering regardless of your opinion of his politics) influenced my thinking about this as well

          Give me a minute and I’ll see if I can find some good links for this

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Well, there are anti-inductive systems, but it’s not clear whether what we have here is actually anti-inductive or merely complicated. There is a lot of work in ML on learning in adversarial settings, and while it’s mostly doom and gloom, there are some positive results.

            Hmm, actually you may have given me an idea to think about, re: players screwing up your data. As it happens, screwed up data is basically all I think about these days.

        • a non mouse says:

          especially if actors that actually some control over relevant parts of the dynamic system can incorporate the knowledge of what you’ve studied and change their behavior

          Goodhart’s law.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Let me lay out the true horror of the situation that I’ve been grappling with.

          You know those death eater guys? They correctly predicted Trump winning. The guys over at Ascending the Tower were confident in this beforehand, and even made a pretty good guess at number of electoral votes. I thought they were a little too ensconced in their bubble, to the point of ignoring their own belief that Cthulhu swims left. But they were right.

          It gets worse. Jim was right (you all know which Jim). And not just recently. He was talking confidently about how Trump would win the primary very early in the game. I remember because at the time it looked to me like Trump was in trouble primary-wise, let alone when it came to the presidency. But Jim was right.

          Oh, and by the way, those guys have also been saying for a while now that the numbers and metric we judge our world by are wrong or even lies.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            People who support side X generally also expect it to win. Is that really so surprising?

          • Jaskologist says:

            When they beat out all the experts, and when a big part of their ideology is that the experts are wrong, I’d say that merits notice.

          • a non mouse says:

            Well, of course.

            A reasonable heuristic for figuring out who’s good at predicting things is to look at the ban register of this blog.

            Scott wants to gain status by being analytical and smart but still on the left and not stepping outside the window of permitted thought. Unfortunately, permitted thought is basically always wrong (no need to make falsehoods taboo) – so the smarter “death eaters” show up and point it out. This puts Scott in a bind – can’t engage with them successfully but also can’t ignore it when they demolish your carefully crafted Nate Silver-like models because he’s attempting to gain status by using the Nate Silver method of being accurate (within the window of acceptable thought). Only one way of resolving that tension!

          • Stationary Feast says:

            If it makes you feel any better, I was pretty sure Clinton would win even though I was pulling the lever for her opponent.

            Glad I was too lazy to go find a betting site.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Well, that part of the horror is easy — what’s their track record? It’s easy to be sometimes right, even in spectacular ways. But it’s very hard to be consistently right. Was “Jim” even in the prediction game? Is he going to keep making predictions that pan out? If that happens, it’s time to worry “Jim” knows something you don’t.

            Here’s one way to think about this — there is this thing called “Bayes theorem” we all know and love. Bayes theorem says that if your prior is that someone is full of crap, and then they are right, you plug in your numbers into the formula and your posterior is they are somewhat less likely to be full of crap than before (note : almost never will it turn out that after one piece of evidence your posterior just completely changes from the prior). If they are right a whole lot, then Bayes theorem will tell you exactly how far to move from your ‘full of crap’ prior.

            Similarly with Silver. My prior on Silver is he’s generally not full of crap, just based on his stats knowledge, and modeling experience. He also gets things right a lot. Not always — so the posterior moves a bit into ‘full of crap’ direction, but generally not very much.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ a non mouse

            what exactly are you saying? If you’re looking for people who’re good at predicting things the register of bans is a pretty terrible place to look.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Yeah, if Scott was mainly concerned about policing the boundaries of acceptable thought, you’d expect calmly-worded-yet-outside-the-left’s-overton-window HBD types like Steve Sailer or JayMan to have been banned long before a lot of the people who just said something trollish or abrasive that actually did get them banned.

            …though there was that one time when Deiseach made a successful prediction that she’d end up on the register 🙂

          • phil says:

            @ a non mouse

            I don’t think that’s actually a very good heuristic

            @ Ilya Shpitser

            above I promised some links, and then I bailed on you, sorry about that

            I tried to search Sailer’s site for a good breakdown of what I’m referencing, and what wasting 30+ minutes trying to do that taught me is that his site isn’t very searchable, and he’s prolific to the point that some of his really good ideas get lost in the weeds

            The general gist of the insight he had that left an impression on me, when baseball stats first came to prominence with the A’s, they tended to favor slow sluggers who drew lots of walks, part of that was because those guys had attributes that you could measure by stats (the A’s won a lot of games finding those guys on the cheap), but eventually the market corrected for those guys, and you had to find more and more things to measure,

            the more and more stuff you measured, the more the ideal player converged with the what the old time scouts had valued originally

            maybe the old time scouts weren’t as dumb as they were originally made out to be

            (I’ll try to point Steve to this comment to see if he has a c+p that can explain this better, I’m not satisfied that I explained that well)

            ————
            ————

            predicting things going into the future

            I think the wrong way to think about it “The guys who predicted Trump are the true geniuses, trust them going forward, don’t trust Nate Silver anymore, that guy is a bum”

            I think the better way to think about is, in many many situations, there are domain experts, who will be well positioned to see past what a model can tell you

            in the Trump phenomenon, a certain set of people were well positioned to say, you know what, this guy has a better chance that what you can see just by looking at the historical data

            the next phenomenon that breaks the model, it probably won’t be those guys (if anything, those guys will be too wrapped up in trying to fit every future phenomenon into the mental models that let them see Trump), but there probably will be some on the ground domain experts who can see past what we can put into a model

            How will we find those? That’s a good question, I think being aware that they probably exist and having the humility to keep our ears open for them is a probably a good start, past that, I’m interested in hearing thoughts about that

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            That makes sense. Actually, “real data analysis” (in epidemiology, for instance) is often a partnership between a data person and a domain expert.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Didn’t a lot of the people who are getting credit for predicting a Trump victory predict a Trump “landslide”? Scott Adams did (not a Death Eater, of course), and some of the Death Eater types and fellow travellers who did talked about a “Trumpslide”. Trump did not win in a landslide.

            If I bet on an MMA fight, and say “so-and-so will win”, and he wins, I win the bet. If I do a prop bet, and say he’s going to win by KO, and he wins a decision, I lose my bet. Further on the sports analogy, the existence of upsets doesn’t invalidate sports betting odds.

            Speaking of betting – how many of the people who were 100% sure Trump would win made a ton of money betting their life savings on a Trump win?

            There’s a point in favour of people who were saying “the metrics being used are bad”, because while everyone is shitting on Nate Silver, he gave far greater odds to a Trump win than some. I was mentally giving Trump a boost in the 538 predictions, on the basis of my highly scientific hunch that people were lying to pollsters.

          • phil says:

            @ dndnrsn and @ Ilya Shpitser

            I actually think that’s really an interesting thing to think about

            Scott Adams has been dismissed here a lot for saying stuff like 99% chance to win, and ‘Trump will win in a landslide’

            but I think it works best to think of Adams as a domain expert with a really hard to model insight

            Adams has clearly spent a lot of time around business and sales culture, and was able to look at Trump and say, ‘you know what, Trump actually has a really good feel for that stuff, he has a better chance than any model that doesn’t incorporate that insight will give him credit for’

            if that’s the extent of the insight, is that an insight that Silver is able to look at historical data and model?

            I mean its not impossible, to some degree that’s already reflected in poll numbers

            or you could go around giving each candidate a charisma score ala http://paulgraham.com/charisma.html (lol good luck with that)

            but to me, that seems like a qualitative insight that is really hard to quantify and model

            Adams was well positioned as a domain expert to have that qualitative insight (that he had earlier than nearly anyone else) but it was difficult to model

            In my mind, he deserves a lot of credit for having unique insight, that you don’t have if you’re only relying on 538

            (as well as a lot of skepticism for the surrounding his fairly good insight in a lot of BS, but whatever)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @phil:

            Scott Adams and some others deserve credit for spotting some things that other people didn’t. Generally speaking, stuff that a lot of pundits saw as dooming Trump helped him, or at least didn’t hurt him. His tendency to not back down when other Republican candidates would have probably helped him, or again, at least didn’t hurt him. That’s the strongest example. A lot of stuff that was very out of character for “generic candidate” or “generic Republican candidate” appears to have helped him, and it fits in a bit with Adams’ “Master Persuader” hypothesis.

            However, there’s a lot more went into his victory than Master Persuading, or the “he won’t back down which proves he is TRUE ALPHA” thing the DE/adjacent types seem to have been pushing. And there’s a lot of gaffes and stuff that he won in spite of, not because of, and saying that it was all “3D chess” or whatever strikes me as confirmation bias – as though his disastrous first debate performance or whatever was part of some clever plan – if Hillary had won, would her partisans have been talking about how, actually, the bit where she collapsed on tape was really a genius ploy?

            Adams’ insight explains, to me, why Trump didn’t lose. I think that if he’d apologized for everything that people wanted him to apologize for, behaved with more decorum, etc, he actually would have lost. But that’s different than explaining why he won.

            And I think that if you look at the election, the exit polling, etc, the picture is of Clinton losing more than Trump winning: the biggest predictor of Trump support seems to have been disliking the system, thinking the US is heading in the wrong direction, etc. People who disliked both candidates went for Trump over Clinton (and went for 3rd parties a lot more than the electorate as a whole did).

            By some accounts, the Clinton campaign did a piss-poor job in the states that unexpectedly went Trump and gave him the victory. There’s a chance that left-wing media-punditry types, and perhaps the Clinton campaign, buying the “we don’t need the WWC any more because demographics” idea and operating according to that meant that the Republicans kind of passively benefited from the “Sailer Strategy” without even necessarily trying or wanting to try (or, the Democrats did the “Sailer Strategy” in reverse, and it blew up in their faces – it’s kind of funny in a messed up way that you could put a Sailer post-election commentary next to one of the left-wing “WWC are racists” pieces, and they would agree on the facts but obviously not on the morals). Etc. I think Sanders would have beaten Trump, because he would have done far better than Clinton in those states that unexpectedly flipped.

            To go back to MMA analogies, because I don’t know baseball very well, Trump had a major ability to absorb punishment and recover from being hurt, he was a bad matchup for Clinton, and Clinton had a wretched gameplan. Scott Adams and some others explained Trump’s ability to take punishment and recover when most pundits were saying he had a glass chin and no heart.

          • Luke Perrin says:

            Does anyone know of any source which tried to estimate the polling error and which way the undecided voters would fall?

            Obviously Adams and co. predicted that the Trump would get more of the vote than polls suggested, but it seems like this was just because they were generally enthusiastic about Trump rather than because they had some special insight into polling error. Furthermore I don’t think the heuristic “polls always underestimate the appeal of the populist option” has in fact been very successful historically. I think the answer is a bit deeper than that.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I am not really going to take Scott Adams seriously until he gets more of a track record. It’s nothing personal, it’s just Bayes theorem.

          • phil says:

            I’d like to think that’s my more meta-point

            its hard to realize who the right domain expert is

            (which [I think] stands whether Adams happened to be a domain expert in this specific situation or not)

            and it might not be very transferable from 1 situation to the next

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Sabermetrically-enlightened scouts are probably better than either unenlightened scouts or desk-bound sabermetricians.

            One factor is that superstars like Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw tend to be drafted out of high school rather than college, and high school statistics are still pretty hopeless, so you need a scout to help evaluate whether to use your precious first round draft pick on a 17-year-old. (Both Trout and Kershaw were first round picks, but 24 teams passed on Trout and six teams passed on Kershaw.)

            Here’s an article about Trout being picked 25th in the 2009 draft (behind two dozen guys who haven’t won two MVP awards yet):

            “Trout, who hit a South Jersey-record 18 homers this past season finished his senior year batting .531 with 45 RBI and 49 runs scored, was projected to be a first-round draft pick in the MLB first-year player amateur draft.”

            The problem is that every potential first rounder’s high school stats are almost that great.

            “He had already committed to East Carolina on a baseball scholarship, and he’s defined as a five-tool player. He’s been contacted by all 30 Major League teams and 27 team representatives have visited his Millville home.”

            So one thing scouts do is visit potential 1st round draft picks at home to see what kind of background they come from (some NFL teams passed on Heisman winner QB Johnny Manziel because his father’s side of the family seemed to have been mostly out on parole) and to see if they can sell the family on signing a minor league contract rather than going to college.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            So, baseball teams are looking for high school players who are

            A) College material

            B) Can be talked into not going to college, so that the team doesn’t waste a valuable draft pick

            Billy Beane, the Oakland general manager, was good college material — he always regrets missing out on the Stanford education he would have gotten if he’d accepted the football scholarship to succeed John Elway at quarterback — but his family could be talked into signing a minor league contract with the Mets instead. But then he famously failed to develop into a hitter with major league command of the strike zone.

            But I’ve never seen anybody try to explain how the Mets should have known from Beane’s high school hitting statistics that he’d never have a decent big league on-base percentage. For one thing, high school superstars like Beane are often told by their coaches to swing because their slugging averages can be close to 1.000, so a walk isn’t better than a non-walk for potential first rounders.

            Thus sabermetricians tended to ignore the huge question of how to evaluate high school talent. Bill James back in the 1980s told ball clubs to draft college pitchers rather than high school pitchers because high school pitchers were too hard to predict. But, of course, that means not drafting Clayton Kershaw.

          • Aapje says:

            IMO, Scott Adams has discovered the same thing as our Scott: that people tend to pick (several) ingroups and then try to fit into those ingroups as best as they can, where signalling (including to yourself) is a major factor.

            A logical extension of this is that a politician gets votes by signalling group membership of a variety of groups, so a large group of people feels more ingroup vibes than outgroup vibes when thinking of the politician.

            Trump seems to be aware of how this works, although he doesn’t actually seem very competent at it. A lot of his signals were extremely crude and thus very off putting to the outgroup. Optimal ingroup signalling involves giving signals that are very (consciously or subconsciously) meaningful to one ingroup, but meaningless to the corresponding outgroup. The result is then that you can gain a lot of support in 1 ingroup, while you can still attract a lot of of people in that specific outgroup, by attracting them on a different ingroup/outgroup axis.

            For example, take the Christian/non-Christian axis. It’s very meaningful to conservative Christian if you talk about your faith, but there is only a small group of hardcore non-Christians that get upset at that. So signalling Christian group membership (in a mild way), is a standard tactic by US politicians as it is high gain and small loss. Doing that still gives you the ability to get the vote of a non-Christian who is also the member of a different ingroup, by giving a signal for that ingroup.

            These ideas are actually unconsciously part of ‘Washington wisdom,’ although they added ‘common sense,’ some of which is probably wrong. A major one is the idea that having a consistent message is key. Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that this is way less important than most politicians think.

            Scott Adams recognized that Trump had abandoned consistency and ideology to ‘play the field’ and got very exciting about being validated in his theories, which made him blind to how crudely Trump actually played the game.

            Hence his flawed 99% prediction.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            @phil

            I tried to search Sailer’s site for a good breakdown of what I’m referencing, and what wasting 30+ minutes trying to do that taught me is that his site isn’t very searchable, and he’s prolific to the point that some of his really good ideas get lost in the weeds

            The general gist of the insight he had that left an impression on me, when baseball stats first came to prominence with the A’s, they tended to favor slow sluggers who drew lots of walks, part of that was because those guys had attributes that you could measure by stats (the A’s won a lot of games finding those guys on the cheap), but eventually the market corrected for those guys, and you had to find more and more things to measure,

            the more and more stuff you measured, the more the ideal player converged with the what the old time scouts had valued originally

            maybe the old time scouts weren’t as dumb as they were originally

            This is a week late (it takes me a while to read these threads, especially on busy weekends), but could this be the post you were referring to?

            EDIT: And of course, Steve himself has responded in the 6 days it took me to read to this point.

    • tscharf says:

      Probably better would be to say pundits need to understand what probability actually is, this has been covered here before. When I saw the NYT put Trump’s chances at 25% early on I thought “Wow, that high?” in the sense that it was much higher than the tone of the media coverage would have led one to believe.

      The other point is basically just confirmation bias. They missed the previous election too by a fairly large margin which was a red tribe “wave” win. Perhaps this was just random noise, but it might be because wishing and data are getting combined into the model in unproductive ways.

      It is not likely a random chance that the more partisan a site was the more sure they were Clinton was going to win.

    • Cheese says:

      That was my issue with it also.

      http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-a-difference-2-percentage-points-makes/

      That article was my favourite post-election response. Reversing it and talking about what the talking points would have been. And I have no doubt it would have been something like that.

      Yet here we are with Scott Adams and co getting credit (despite being wrong about one of the two predictions he made wrapped up in the one) and people melting.

      Yet we know that Hillary won the popular vote (however irrelevant) and that polling was well within normal margins. Pre-election: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-is-just-a-normal-polling-error-behind-clinton/ and I think the polling margins this election ended up closer than 2012? Anyway.

      Where I do agree with Robinson is that the reason 538 were a relative outlier in publishing this stuff and having a higher % on a trump win (there’s another plethora of pre-election articles of Silver’s where he talks about how the unusually high undecided % was a reason to be cautious about the polls) than a lot of the major newspapers and prediction sites was worldview. It wasn’t conceivable for a lot of people.

      Less talking, more data as you say. Although I do wonder. People talk about the press and, specifically, opinion piece aggregation sites as if they have a responsibility to implement the kind of ideal qualities one might want in journalism – balance, no hyperbole, careful consideration of data and qualification. I wonder the extent to which that’s actually realistic in a model that relies upon click-driven ad revenue. Incentives/co-ordination etc.

      • baconbacon says:

        That article was my favourite post-election response. Reversing it and talking about what the talking points would have been. And I have no doubt it would have been something like that.

        In 15 years of reading Silver’s stuff this is one of the most disappointing things I have ever seen of his. The main problem is that he never establishes a way of determining how likely a switch of voters is.

        What would have happened if just 1 out of every 100 voters shifted from Trump to Clinton?

        Phrased this way it makes the election sound close, but you have to establish how easy/difficult it is to swing those votes or how close to random those votes are (and also if they are independent variables). Say you modeled how much it would cost in terms of campaign spending to swing those votes and you found that it would have taken X dollars to swing the election to Hillary then you could talk about a close or not close election.

        Without a baseline to estimate against you can’t talk about an election being close or not close.

        • Iain says:

          In the last two weeks of the campaign, the polls shifted towards Trump by more than the margin of victory. (Among other things, this shift coincided with Comey’s announcement of new Clinton emails.) Late-deciding voters broke heavily for Trump. Clinton is leading the popular vote by more than 2%. By any metric that we can actually access, this was a close election.

          • baconbacon says:

            In the last two weeks of the campaign, the polls shifted towards Trump by more than the margin of victory. (Among other things, this shift coincided with Comey’s announcement of new Clinton emails.) Late-deciding voters broke heavily for Trump. Clinton is leading the popular vote by more than 2%. By any metric that we can actually access, this was a close election.

            You haven’t established anything like a metric, you have simply listed several events and then left it as self evident that it was close.

            In win or lose events close isn’t the margin of victory, it is how likely/easy it is that the opposite result occurred. Two people competing on who has the higher vertical leap. If person 1 can hit a 35″ vertical every single time, and person 2 maxes out at 34″ then person 2 will never win, even if person 1 has his worst showing and person 2 his best and the end result looks “close”.

          • Iain says:

            We can’t go back and run the election again with different campaign spending. What evidence would convince you?

            The final polling numbers were actually quite accurate – more accurate than 2012, for example. (The interpretation of those polling numbers is a different question.) Polls shifted dramatically over the course of the campaign, which is at least prima facie evidence that voters are persuadable. To use your example: if Person 1 hits a 35″ vertical on the day of the competition, but Person 2 was hitting a 36″ vertical in practice, then it is dumb to assume that the result of the competition was inevitable.

            The evidence we have available lines up better with the hypothesis that Trump had his best possible showing and Clinton had her worst than vice versa.

          • baconbacon says:

            The final polling numbers were actually quite accurate

            Mother: Son, how are you grades looking this year.
            Son: Ok, I think I will get a C in all 6 subjects
            Mother: Holding report card- 3 As and 3 Fs, you said you would get all Cs!
            Son: Mom, that is a 2.0 GPA, all Cs is a 2.0 GPA, what I told you was accurate.

            Getting the right average doesn’t imply accuracy, the polls were wrong in the most important locations, but that is neither here nor there.

            We can’t go back and run the election again with different campaign spending. What evidence would convince you?

            I’m asking for an approach that would estimate the likelihood of a Clinton win beyond simply saying “if X number of voters had changed their vote in states L, M and P”. It could be quantified in a number of ways (how much money would Clinton have needed to spend in swing states to move the election would be my preferred style answer), but people are tripping over themselves to provide explanations/narratives about what happened in the election without starting from the appropriate point.

            (I don’t have an answer or opinion on if the election was close or not, but I am also not writing opinion pieces on what could or should have been done differently).

          • Iain says:

            I didn’t say the polls were perfect. I said that they were reasonably well correlated with reality, so the fact that they had significant movement pre-election implies that there were actual changes in voter sentiment pre-election.

            how much money would Clinton have needed to spend in swing states to move the election would be my preferred style answer

            This is impossible. First, there’s no way to run the election again and see. Second, it is pretty obvious that the problem in Clinton’s camp was not that she didn’t have enough ads, but that she didn’t have the correct message in those ads. People talk about Clinton not contesting Wisconsin hard enough, but she threw a lot of money into Pennsylvania and still lost it. So there isn’t even a well-defined answer to: “how much extra money should Clinton have spent?”, because the actual question is: “what is the minimal change in messaging that would have been necessary to swing enough voters in the right places?” And that’s just speculation.

          • baconbacon says:

            I didn’t say the polls were perfect.

            I never said you did, but you claimed that the polls were accurate, and I noted that having an accurate average is not the same thing as being accurate.

            First, there’s no way to run the election again and see.

            You don’t need to rerun the election to devise an estimate of the marginal value of spending.

            Second, it is pretty obvious that the problem in Clinton’s camp was not that she didn’t have enough ads, but that she didn’t have the correct message in those ads.

            This is post hoc and of little value. The next election won’t be Hillary vs Trump, but more importantly the “correct message” is something that can’t be known as a prior. This is like saying “we shot 20% from 3 in our loss, if we had not taken those 3s and gone for 2s we would have won”. Something can be true in retrospect and still unhelpful as knowledge for the future. Rejiggering the message to “work” isn’t the goal, the goal is (should be) to understand more fundamental questions about elections which are applicable to the next race.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @baconbacon:
            I’m really not seeing the Cs vs. As and Fs analogy.

            I’m thinking that he only reason that looks right to you is that you perceive an inflection point at “winning” vs. “losing” a state wherein the grade drops from a B or C to an F.

            In reality, of the polls had Clinton at +1% in a state, and she loses by 0.1%, and if last election they had Obama winning that state by 1% and he won by 3.5%, the polls in this cycle were more accurate.

          • baconbacon says:

            In reality, of the polls had Clinton at +1% in a state, and she loses by 0.1%, and if last election they had Obama winning that state by 1% and he won by 3.5%, the polls in this cycle were more accurate.

            Only in a linear model. Which is more valuable, a model that predicts the final vote tally per state within 2 percentage points, or one that predicts the winner accurately but with completely unreliable final vote tallies?

            I’m thinking that he only reason that looks right to you is that you perceive an inflection point at “winning” vs. “losing” a state wherein the grade drops from a B or C to an F.

            This is shifting the goal posts (or at least could be honestly seen as such), but the following point is way more important than the point I was trying to make with that analogy.

            How accurate the final polls are is meaningless, they are un actionable, Hillary didn’t have some devastating plan for recovery if she suddenly went from a 80/20 favorite to an 80/20 underdog two or three days before the election.

            In mid october 538 had a piece stating that Pennsylvania was “rather definitively far out of Trump’s reach” and “A Trump …… win without Nevada only about 2 percent of the time” (that is 2% of his at the time 11.7% chance of winning). Around the same time they had a piece debating if Hillary should consolidate and ensure the win or go for broke and try to crush Trump.

            Three months before the election is (probably) enough time for Hillary to alter tactics, three weeks is maybe enough time, three days is not enough time. The election eve polls don’t matter they are, pardon the pun, about to be trumped by the mother of all polls. They only reflect what has happened, but the 3 weeks, and 3 months out polls are the ones that help shape what will happen.

            In politics the prediction is part of the system (this is what Justin Wolfers totally missed in his prediction about a Trump win tanking the market), and this separates it from some other types of prediction markets.

          • bean says:

            @baconbacon

            Which is more valuable, a model that predicts the final vote tally per state within 2 percentage points, or one that predicts the winner accurately but with completely unreliable final vote tallies?

            I don’t think the second option is physically possible. If it was, you’d take it (and you could use it to improve your vote tallies in swing states, too).

          • baconbacon says:

            I don’t think the second option is physically possible. If it was, you’d take it

            Agree its unlikely that you could set up a system to do this, but it made the point that defining accuracy as “how close we got to the percent of vote” isn’t the right metric. Combine that with the other point (the high fidelity polls were the low value polls) and you have a foundation for how we should be talking about the results (I think at least).

          • gbdub says:

            baconbacon, that’s not how statistics work. Polling is “I’m going to ask X people a question, and assume they are representative of population Y. But because of random chance, my sample probably won’t reflect the population exactly, so I need to calculate a +/- margin of error for the poll”. That is literally statistics 101.

            You can predict a winner/loser without doing this, but it would be an informed guess – you can’t have polling without error bars, it’s kind of a fundamental aspect of the process. Sometimes the margin between candidates is within the margin of error, and sometimes that means the “predicted loser” will actually win. This does not make the poll wrong!

          • baconbacon says:

            baconbacon, that’s not how statistics work. Polling is “I’m going to ask X people a question, and assume they are representative of population Y. But because of random chance, my sample probably won’t reflect the population exactly, so I need to calculate a +/- margin of error for the poll”. That is literally statistics 101.

            Ask 10 people a question, 4 answer X, 6 answer Y. 4/10 people answered X is a statistic. Polls are models, not all models are linear. The goal of the poll is to predict the election outcome*, so the model you put your data into needs to recognize this fact.

            An analogy- you need to get an 80% on a final to pass a course, anything less is a fail and you are taking it pass/fail. Since there are other finals to study for and much beer to drink you cannot spend all of your time on this one final. Getting 100% on the final is closer to your goal than getting 79.9%.

            Accuracy only matters in terms of what you are aiming for.

            To be clear I have not argued that polls in the last election were less accurate, only that the statement “polls were more accurate in 2016 than in 2012 because they more closely matched final vote %s” is a bogus use of the term “accurate”.

            I am not attempting to be pedantic, or semantic. To learn a lesson you need to know the weighting of each factor involved. The statement “if 1/100 Trump voters had switched the Clinton wins” doesn’t support the idea that it is a close election. What matters is how hard would it have been to get that number of voters to switch, and the relative strengths of the candidates going into the election.

            *citation needed

  15. Sandy says:

    Aaronson on epistocracy:

    As long as we’re fantasizing, I would like votes to be allocated based on more-or-less the same criteria that top math, CS, and physics departments use to select their graduate students. Namely: analytical and quantitative reasoning ability, scores on standardized tests, etc., with strong affirmative action for races and genders that this system causes to be underrepresented.

    I lost a lot of respect for Aaronson following his post-election meltdown, but even while proposing an American aristocracy he seemed to realize this would disenfranchise millions of Democratic voters (“races and genders that this system causes to be underrepresented”). I think much of the talk about epistocracy comes from the media’s obsession with how “non-college whites” were voting; “non-college blacks” vote the right way, so there’s no need to obsess about them. Still, it seems clear to me that no one who believes that Trump’s victory was a “whitelash” (as Van Jones put it) while also believing that standardized tests are racist (as many on the left do) should seriously believe that an epistocracy wouldn’t make the electorate even whiter than it already is.

    • He seems to be another epistrocratist who can’t explain why specific knowledge of politics and economics shouldn’t override generic smarts.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        I think Trump is awful and will be a disaster for the US, but I find it amusing/sad how quickly folks are abandoning democracy as “a reasonable idea.”

        • stillnotking says:

          Especially considering the history of things like literacy tests in US elections.

          I’ve seen some articles lately about how Americans are losing faith in democracy, with this usually being attributed to a rise in sympathy for fascism, when the likelier explanation (judging by the reactions of pundits to Trump’s election) is something closer to “Why are we still letting those fucking rednecks have a say in politics?”

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Jane’s Law: “The party in power is smug; the party out of power is insane.”

        • Galle says:

          This IS a pretty extreme failure case.

    • Deiseach says:

      “Only really smart people should have the vote! Oh crap, that disenfranchises a lot of people in a way that could be called ‘racism’ or at the very least invokes uncomfortable memories of vote suppression tactics – er, everyone not smart enough white enough oh brother um, everyone who lost their vote gets it back via affirmative action!”

      That does not seem an effective way to go about convincing people your method of holding elections would give better results 🙂

    • cassander says:

      >As long as we’re fantasizing, I would like votes to be allocated based on more-or-less the same criteria that top math, CS, and physics departments use to select their graduate students. Namely: analytical and quantitative reasoning ability, scores on standardized tests, etc., with strong affirmative action for races and genders that this system causes to be underrepresented.

      this is so completely incoherent I hardly know where to begin. Rarely I have I seen such naked special pleading.

      • CatCube says:

        Rarely I have I seen such naked special pleading.

        Jim Crow grandfather clauses. Pretty much identical, except running in the other direction.

      • Deiseach says:

        What about us humanities types that wouldn’t even be let in to sweep the floors of “top math, CS and physics departments”? Do we forlornly stand outside polling stations with our little faces wistfully pressed to the windows, gazing in at all the happy citizens allowed to vote! Until the police descend upon us and beat us about the head with their truncheons to drive us despicable spectacles away lest our presence sully the gaze of the clever people who are smart enough to have the franchise, and quite right too! 🙂

        • suntzuanime says:

          Given that this already doesn’t happen to currently unenfranchised children, felons, and foreigners, I think you’re being a *tad* histrionic.

          • John Schilling says:

            And on the flip side, the franchise didn’t do black people all that much good in the age of Jim Crow. But you are missing half the equation: Voting isn’t just about ensuring good and/or responsive government, it is about ensuring legitimate government. Taxation without representation is no more expensive than the kind that comes with representation, but it does involve somewhat fewer bloody wars on the grounds that the taxpayers are far more likely to accept it as legitimate.

            Children, we already force to live under authoritarian tyranny until about the time they are capable of effective rebellion. Convicted felons, we’ve already resigned ourselves to having to lock up to keep them under control. Foreigners, can always go home if they don’t like it and if they are overtly rebellious foreigners we won’t really feel bad about mass deportations.

            But if your nation’s entire black population, or its curmudgeonly Irish social worker population or whatever, has cause to see your government as illegitimate, that’s a problem you maybe don’t want to court for just the alleged benefit of better-educated voters.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Oh, I certainly don’t support the idea of limiting the franchise to those who can pass the GRE. But it’s possible to be ridiculous and hyperbolic even if you’re on the right side of the argument.

          • Both England and the U.S. had seriously restricted franchises until well into the 19th century, and I don’t think they caused serious problems from people not feeling the government was legitimate.

            On the other hand, the U.S. has a very broad franchise at present, despite which a fair number of people on both sides of the most recent election seemed, at least by their rhetoric, to find the existing government illegitimate.

          • stillnotking says:

            @ DavidFriedman:

            I think this is one of those times when you can’t pay much attention to what people say. If Americans really believed the government was illegitimate, they’d be taking some concrete action to rectify it, not aimlessly protesting or planning to win the next election.

            The alternative is much more depressing, really.

          • I think many of the Trump and Sanders voters thought they were trying to rectify it. Sanders lost, and Trump could have lost.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            >Both England and the U.S. had seriously restricted franchises until well into the 19th century, and I don’t think they caused serious problems from people not feeling the government was legitimate.

            I don’t know about the particularities in the US, but I always thought that in Britain that was mainly about the remnant of the divine right of the kings and belief in monarchy. But it’s also easier to grant rights than then take them away. Especially after about a century or so telling people that those rights make the government legitimate. Any change to that would require major realignment of mainstream ideology in the West.

            And you seem to discount the idea there was movement to enlarge the franchise to whole (male) populace and later to women, and it did not originate from the outer space and not without a reason. (If I don’t remember, it happened around the same time as the industrialization.) Compare to Russia and other parts of Europe and China where the disenfranchised did have a revolution later. In the UK, they voted the Labour into parliament and later even into the government.

          • There was a movement during the 19th century to enlarge the franchise, which eventually happened. My point was that it didn’t consist of people rioting in the streets to demand the vote. There was some rioting over other issues starting in the late 19th century–anti-Catholicism to take one example.

          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            I think that you are underestimating to what extent the ruling classes reacted to revolutionary movements. In The Netherlands, we got our current constitution in 1848, which removed political power from the king. The king himself said that he turned from a conservative into a liberal in one night.

            What changed in 1848? The French revolution, plus enough revolutions in other countries to merit a wiki page.

            We got universal suffrage in 1917/1919 (men/women). What happened in 1917? The Russian revolution.

            In general, the early 1900’s were a very revolutionary time in Europe, with a lot of revolutionary violence and the like (WW I was triggered by the murder of Duke Franz Ferdinand). A lot of European countries got universal suffrage (for men and/or women) in that period.

            Now, I agree with you that it was not as simple as: ‘people riot, suffrage granted’. However, it seems clear to me that there was a strong dissatisfaction by people all over Europe, which generally resulted in the rulers trying to get more support, including by enfranchisement.

          • Rob K says:

            @John Schilling
            without disagreeing with your broader point, it’s worth noting that the creators of Jim Crow were worried enough that the franchise would do black people some good that they violently denied them access to it.

            @David Friedman

            Dude, Chartism! Peterloo! The constant fear of insurrection during the first half of the 19th century! The 1832 reform bill was every much an expression of ruling class nervousness over how turmoilsome the lower orders had been getting. (I don’t know much about the political history of the 1867 bill, but my understanding is that there were similar pressures.) And “no rioting” would be a pretty humorous description of English politics really at any point during the industrial revolution. Do a little homework before opining like this, man.

          • John Schilling says:

            Both England and the U.S. had seriously restricted franchises until well into the 19th century, and I don’t think they caused serious problems from people not feeling the government was legitimate.

            Don’t know about England, but the US had eliminated the property-ownership qualifications within about a generation of the ratification of the Constitution. Since then, I believe the franchise has pretty effectively tracked the subset of the population with the social mobility to meaningfully revolt and the status (also guns) to not be shamelessly beaten into submission if they got too uppity.

            That it was for another half-century or more considered legitimate even by most of the victims for white males to tell women, blacks, etc, is an unpleasant but true bit of history.

          • Deiseach says:

            I think you’re being a *tad* histrionic

            Well, I never!

            *clutches forehead, pearls, bosom, empty bottle of Mother’s Ruin*

            *staggers back in amaze, affront, affright, and a pair of slippers*

            *collapse (of stout party) onto chaise longue calling for copious applications of sal volatile, hartshorn, cologne on a lace handkerchief applied to the temples, and boxes of luxury Belgian chocolates to restore self*

            That I should have lived to see the day I – of all people! – was accused of histrionics!

            😉

          • I wrote:

            “There was some rioting over other issues starting in the late 19th century–anti-Catholicism to take one example.”

            Typo. Late 18th century. I was referring to the Gordon riots.

            On the subject of 19th century riots, referred to by Rob. The Peterloo massacre was in response to a demonstration for a variety of causes, electoral reform among them, but at least according to the Wiki article economic conditions after the end of the Napoleonic war were a large part of it.

            The Chartists are a clearer example of a movement for universal (male) suffrage that threatened violence, hence against my argument.

          • stillnotking says:

            @David Friedman:

            Voting in a democracy signifies acceptance of the legitimacy of the government, not rejection of it. If a significant number of Americans actually decide their government is illegitimate (as opposed to just using that word as an emphatic expression of dislike for the current president, the electoral college, and/or their fellow voters), we will know it.

            It should be noted that crises of legitimacy in democracies are really rare. That is their main positive attribute, in fact, pious blather about the supposed wisdom of the people notwithstanding.

          • Aapje says:

            @stillnotking

            Unless there is a revolutionary candidate or a fear that not voting will get a much worse person chosen.

            But you are correct that a decent number of people who consider the government completely illegitimate check out completely.

        • cassander says:

          Not if you’re black, apparently.

    • tscharf says:

      Wow, Aaronson has gone off the deep end there. How can someone actually write something like that and not understand how obviously flawed it is and how bad it makes him look?

      People who aren’t particularly clever understand that supporting everyone but (dumb) white males is basically the same as discriminating against (dumb) white males. The (dumb) white males are particularly perceptive to this attitude as it turns out.

      I don’t have a lot of patience for “the only way to make things fair is to discriminate according to my tribe’s biases”.

      I’m willing to forgive anything anyone wrote around Nov 9th though. A massive quantum burst of irrationality exited the earth that day.

      • Loquat says:

        He seems to be convinced that Trump is going to open up the death camps any day now, or at least make it legal for the worst of the alt-right to go around murdering all the Jews, gays, etc. It’s weirdly reminiscent of his famous cri de coeur about feminism – young Scott Aaronson read the most extreme all-hetero-sex-is-rape feminists and decided they spoke for all women, and now middle-aged Scott Aaronson has read the most extreme let’s-finish-what-Hitler-started neo-Nazis and decided they speak for all Trump voters.

        Restricting the franchise is totally reasonable if you accept that premise, and while that premise looks totally nuts from the outside I’m not sure anything can convince him of that, short of actually living through 4 years of a non-genocidal Trump presidency.

        • dsotm says:

          He seems to be convinced that Trump is going to open up the death camps any day now, or at least make it legal for the worst of the alt-right to go around murdering all the Jews, gays, etc.

          I’m pretty sure he explicitly says this is not what he is expecting to happen, his point in the Holocaust context I believe is that a reliable social safeguard that would prevent the possibility of the above should also have prevented the possibility of Trump winning and once that happened one should update his priors regarding the probability of other social failure modes previously thought to be highly unlikely.

          • Loquat says:

            Here’s his comment saying pretty much exactly that this is what he’s expecting to happen. I misremembered when I thought he attributed such views to all Trump supporters, but he’s pretty clearly expecting the pro-Holocaust minority-of-a-minority to get their way.

            Key excerpts, for those who don’t feel like clicking the link:
            When I say that I’m scared, many of our friends at Breitbart and other such sites would be the first to agree that I should be scared. Many of them are positively jubilant about the idea of all the “academic globalist elites” (i.e., me) now scurrying around like frightened rats. The more strident among them, who are never stopped by the others, go further about the reason for their joy: namely, that soon they’ll at last get to finish what Hitler started, with the glorious “Day of the Rope” (DotR).
            […]
            But even at the height of Nazism, only a tiny minority of Europeans actually wanted to exterminate all Jews. A much larger number probably only wanted to imprison or expel a few here and there, the really greedy and Jewy ones. The fear is that the tiny minority now has a free hand to do whatever it wants, and the majority can’t or won’t stop them.
            […]
            The entire question might be moot at this point: I’m not certain that the United States will have additional elections, as opposed to Putin-style stamps of approval.

          • Deiseach says:

            The entire question might be moot at this point: I’m not certain that the United States will have additional elections, as opposed to Putin-style stamps of approval.

            Didn’t I hear this before? No way Bush will hand over to Obama, he’ll declare martial law and make himself dictator for life?

            I am sure we all remember the spate of crackdowns and revocations of civil rights, military vehicles full of shock troops roaming the streets, doors being kicked in at 3:00 a.m. and terrified citizens dragged off to internment camps and the rest of the reign of terror that happened precisely as forecast above, until a merciful Providence delivered the USA from the jackbooted and iron-fisted tyranny of the Bush dynasty due to that bizarre gardening accident that wiped out three generations in one go.

            Again, I’d be a lot less mocking of the fraught “Trump is actual Hitler!” hand-wringing if I hadn’t seen it all before in equally lurid, doom-ridden, absolutely convinced the apocalypse is upon us now terms that never happened.

            Reagan (and I don’t share in the general admiration and nostalgia for him), Bush I and II, Romney, Palin, Trump – every time Chicken Little goes tearing through the village square shrieking that the sky is falling and all good people are doomed because the barbarians have broken down the gates and seized the levers of power.

          • CatCube says:

            @Deisach

            Let’s be fair: there were some conspiracy theorists on the right that said Obama wouldn’t leave when his term was up. This particular failure mode isn’t solely a province of the left. (Like believing any other demented conspiracy theory when the other guy is in office, it’s a bipartisan vice.)

          • JayT says:

            I get the impression though that the people on the right that make these claims tend to be more on the fringe, Alex Jones types, whereas I have seen many mainstream people on the left making fairly ridiculous claims about what they think Trump will do.

            Though, I will admit that I don’t watch Fox News or listen to talk radio, so it’s possible that I’ve just missed it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @JayT:
            The problem is that guys like Alex Jones aren’t really “fringe” in the Republican eco-system.

            And what mainstream people on the left are making ridiculous claims about what Trump will do? I mean, you can always find random person X willing to say they believe in lizard men, but that is universal.

          • Sandy says:

            And what mainstream people on the left are making ridiculous claims about what Trump will do?

            Bill Maher called Trump a fascist and said he would seize power for life.

          • Deiseach says:

            CatCube, your point is correct, but that’s the kind of perfervid conspiracy theorising you’d expect from loonies on the fringes of both sides. I ignore that kind of crackpottery.

            When an otherwise sensible person starts wrapping their bonce in tinfoil, though, it’s possibly a public service to remind ourselves of the crackpot theories that have been put forward before and that this particular instance is not really that much more likely to actually happen for reals this time.

          • What was odd about Maher was that he made his paranoid comments about Trump while confessing that he had wildly exaggerated how bad the past few Republican presidential candidates had been.

            But this time … .

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Let’s be fair: there were some conspiracy theorists on the right that said Obama wouldn’t leave when his term was up.

            Let’s be really fair: he hasn’t left yet!

            I’m kidding.

      • tscharf says:

        I read a few of his post election blog posts. This just goes to prove all rational people, no matter how worshiped, are not immune to going bonkers every now and then. It will be very interesting to have him revisit these on Nov 12, 2020 and see what he thinks then. The smartest people I have ever known all have some strange quirks in their personalities. Of course he could be right, but I remember when the nuclear codes were handed to a B movie actor who starred with a monkey.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      What epistocrats miss is that governance by the intelligent/qualified/whatever will quickly become government *for* the intelligent/qualified/whatever.

      There is no means short of suffrage to ensure your own interests will be represented in an electoral system, and disenfranchised subgroups throughout history routinely got screwed over by laws passed by legislatures which never had to answer to them.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      You have it all wrong. Black people voted in the utterly worst way. For fucking Clinton in the primary.

      • suntzuanime says:

        For that matter, they voted for Clinton in the general! But we’re talking from the mainstream media’s point of view, which sees both of those things as correct.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          Who cares what they did in the general? Both candidates were shit.

          • Mary says:

            Someone polled offering the choice of Clinton, Trump, and SMOD (which is to say, a giant meteor smashing into the earth and ending all life).

            SMOD polled in the double digits.

            Among independents, was in a dead heat with the other two.

            That’s one unhappy electorate.

          • The Nybbler says:

            We’re all lizardmen now.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      As long as we’re fantasizing, I would like votes to be allocated based on more-or-less the same criteria that top math, CS, and physics departments use to select their graduate students. Namely: analytical and quantitative reasoning ability, scores on standardized tests, etc., with strong affirmative action for races and genders that this system causes to be underrepresented.

      Given how often scientists seem to talk out of their backsides when dealing with non-scientific topics, I am, shall we say, unconvinced by the idea that an electorate of scientists would lead to notably better government,

  16. tcheasdfjkl says:

    A man involved in a homophobic hate killing and a fellow prisoner who also murdered a gay man have become the first couple to gay marry in prison.

    I want this to be a movie. I would cry so much.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I kind of want to hear their vows.

      • Aapje says:

        “I offer you my solemn vow to not shank you, for better or for worse, and to love and cherish you always”

    • Deiseach says:

      So it may be possible that the “homophobic hate killing” wasn’t that but was just a common-or-garden thuggish murder, and the second guy killed a man who was gay (and not explicitly “killed the guy for being gay”)?

      That’s the problem with some reporting or interpretations of crimes; A and B are drunk, get into a row, A pulls a knife and stabs B or kills B with one-punch hit, B is gay but that’s not the reason for the row, interested parties claim this is a hate crime or evidence of homophobia because B was gay.

      • Would it seem particularly surprising if a man who had killed a heterosexual woman and a woman who had killed a heterosexual man met in prison and entered a different sex marriage?

        The only difference here is that male homosexuals are a much smaller part of the population than heterosexuals, so the fact that the man who was killed was homosexual is more evidence that his sexuality was part of the motive than the fact that he was heterosexual would be.

      • tcheasdfjkl says:

        Indeed it was not claimed either by Scott or by the link that the second guy killed the guy for being gay. There was in fact a distinction made here between an actual hate crime and a murder of a victim who turned out to be gay, and no attempt to claim that any murder of a gay man is necessarily driven by homophobia. I think your skepticism here is overly uncharitable.

        It was hard to find an article about the original crime rather than about the wedding, but here’s one – it looks like the version of events accepted by the court is that the defendant & his friends intentionally went out to commit hate crimes. Of course “the version of events accepted by the court” is not exactly the same thing as “the truth”, but still, like, this conclusion wasn’t just based on the fact that the victim was gay.

  17. mobile says:

    > when someone feels safe giving the Crown Prince a ‘B’, that’s a good sign that your country is sufficiently non-corrupt

    but insufficiently meritocratic.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Him getting a ‘C’ would be insufficiently meritocratic, a ‘B’ strikes a good balance between “the people in charge are basically competent” and “the endless war of all against all sacrificing every util we have to Moloch”.

      Although as I understand it the Thai monarchy is mostly a source of legitimacy, and the actual business of running the country is left to the same sorts of elected officials or military dictators that every other country is run by these days.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Prince Charles was the first British heir to the throne to receive a university degree- a 2:2 (B- or C equivalent, -ish) in history from Trinity College, Cambridge. He had also been the first to attend school- previously they had had private tutors.

      The rumour that his bodyguard also took the course and received a better grade than him is not true- he did have a bodyguard, who attended lectures, but who didn’t take the exams.

      Of course, in the past the “gentleman’s Third” was a thing- a low grade obtained by someone who had attended Oxford or Cambridge for social rather than academic reasons.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      why are we treating as a given that he deserved a C

      I treat it is a given that he would’ve been given an A if the system was corrupt, except if the system is extremely advanced or some other anomaly exists. But I don’t treat it as a given that he deserved a C. It’s just a piece of evidence which we can draw nothing further from.

      You can try and extrapolate what kind of grade a crown prince should normally get, but I don’t think there’s a good range – some crown princes might be super lazy because of it, but a crown prince that wants to succeed, and has a father that pushes him to succeed, has all the tools to get a B average. Some monarchies are about personal responsibility, at least in books i’ve read. Why not this one?

    • uncle stinky says:

      Given Thailand’s frighteningly strict Lèse-majesté laws it’s astonishing. Here’s an example of them from the news today, many others could be adduced. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-38238779
      Did he actually study there or are these overseas qualifications?

    • dsotm says:

      There are reasons* to believe that the new king of Thailand is seriously depraved and/or borderline mentally disabled, an A would probably be too thick for Thai people to swallow (though they would be jailed for admitting it).

      Given the Lèse-majesté laws it should also be assumed that the degree of veneration commanded by his father was also manufactured over the course of his ~70 years rule, it’s not-really surprising how things like that are taken for granted for bloody dictators like Mao and Stalin and ridiculed for current out-of-favour dictators like Kim Jong Un but are ignored and accommodated when the country in question is politically aligned and/or economically productive.
      There are also the circumstances of him becoming king in the first place.

      Thailand is currently a military junta governed country following the 2014 coup which is all but admitted to have been sanctioned if not outright ordered by the (former) King with the same Lèse-majesté laws being used to jail people who oppose it.

      *
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fufu_(dog)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=io9IO2MAIPY (contains nipples)
      http://static.pulse.ng/img/incoming/origs5618782/219972771-w900-h600/Prince-Tatto.jpg

      • Montfort says:

        seriously depraved and/or borderline mentally disabled

        I’m not really sure “has some tattoos, likes dogs and casual nudity, insufficiently polite at state dinners” lives up to the hype you’re selling here.

        • dsotm says:

          Depends, how much do you have to compensate for the fact that publishing anything negative about a royal family member is a criminal offense in Thailand and even major news organizations worldwide tread on eggshells when discussing anything related ?
          And the nudity is not the issue, it was pointed out for people to be aware of when clicking at work etc. – the scene in question claims to the official birthday celebration of the canine chief air marshall.

          • Montfort says:

            It just strikes me as more nutty royalty/politically privileged kid stuff. If you’re leading with “seriously depraved” I start to expect victims, or at least mistreated animals.

            I guess if he’s actually unable to see why people think making a dog an air marshal and taking it to state dinners is a bad idea that could be caused by borderline mental disability, but I find “vaguely aware, but doesn’t care” more probable.

            As for the filter effect you postulate, that doesn’t apply to leaked diplomatic cables. If the US ambassador was willing to talk about Foo-Foo’s formalwear, I’m pretty sure he’d be willing to spill the gossip that he’s a serial murderer or whatever you’re worried about.

          • dsotm says:

            I don’t know what the official standard for serious depravity is, feel free to downgrade to ‘moderately’ or even ‘slightly’ if you feel a trail of dead bodies is a prerequisite.

            It should probably also have different standards when the person in question is heir to a very non-symbolic throne and an estimated 30 billion dollars and enjoys de-facto legal impunity in stark contrast to his critics.

            from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vajiralongkorn

            On 19 January 2009, Harry Nicolaides, an Australian national, was sentenced to three years in prison for self-publishing a fictional book deemed to have committed lèse majesté. The offending passage alluded to rumours that “if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.”[26][27] The global news network CNN refused to air the passage.[28] Nicolaides was later pardoned by the king.[29]

            so yeah fictional book, rumours etc.

            Then there’s the arguably real fact that his ex-wife and her family were all charged with something following their divorce.

          • Montfort says:

            Lèse majesté laws are bad, but he didn’t singlehandedly put the system in place, that’s just the Thai junta’s deal.

            Being depraved is about being immoral, almost evil. What you’ve posted is something like “mildly eccentric.” And it’s not good to have eccentric national leaders, I agree, but it’s not all that terrible.

            Then there’s the arguably real fact that his ex-wife and her family were all charged with something following their divorce.

            This is much better, I’d lead with this. The Guardian claims the ex-wife was merely stripped of titles and banished from the palace and that “several of her relatives were arrested and accused of racketeering and corruption,” but it’s still probably a reprehensible and arbitrary abuse of power.

          • dsotm says:

            the Lèse majesté were in place way before the junta, in fact at some point in late 1990s the former King appears to have pulled a minor version of Mao’s “hundred flowers” with them.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I just think that’s a great combination of three things, as comedy, because the third point is so dissimilar to the other two.

          • dsotm says:

            Not sure what you mean here

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Has tattoos, likes dogs and casual nudity” go together a lot more than either does with “insufficiently polite at state dinners”.

            It’s funny for the same reason that “arson, murder, and jaywalking” is funny.

          • dsotm says:

            aight, btw if the ‘“insufficiently polite at state dinners” comes from the wikipedia link – that’s still the dog.

  18. shakeddown says:

    Something that annoyed me about the Robinson article (aside from generally failing the “Tuesday shouldn’t change the narrative” trap):

    Nate Silver may have been somewhat less wrong than everybody else. But Nate Silver was still wrong, or at least useless. (His predict-o-meter flopped all over the place over the course of the election cycle, making it a poor tool for calibrating one’s behavior.)…

    The reason they do not know anything is clear: they are absolutely obsessed with empirical data. They love polls, even though polls by definition can’t account for the sorts of things that do not show up in polls. Many people treated Donald Trump’s contempt for polls as a sign that he was living in his own world. In fact, he was living in the real world, which is separate and distinct from the world of polls and data.

    Both of these are wrong. For a start, Nate Silver was reasonably consistent (especially in his polls-plus model), and fairly accurate – not just in his giving Trump 30% of winning, but also in his description of what a Trump victory would look like.
    He’s also wrong about the polls – the reason Nate Silver’s model was better than the others was because it was based on polls rather than social punditry. It’s easy to say in retrospect that everything was obvious, but at the time most of the pundits who weren’t predicting a Clinton win were predicting a Trump landslide, which was pretty far off. He says we should be careful in predicting the future, but Nate Silver already had a model that was far more accurate, complete with percentages and error margins, which is one of the best social prediction models we’ve ever had. Sure, social prediction science has a long way to go, but that’s because it’s a hard problem, not because everyone is approaching it badly (well, Slate is. But not everyone). And relying on Empirical data helped us do it.

    • nyccine says:

      Both of these are wrong. For a start, Nate Silver was reasonably consistent

      C’mon dude. You can’t rewrite history that literally just happened and not expect your audience to get a little upset. Silver’s estimates are still right there. You can see the flip-flops plain as day. His 28~ish% chance at the end was pure fudging on Silver’s part – his data didn’t support this at all, and he was having daily twitter meltdowns about polling data “unspinning” at that point.

      There’s also his emphatic chorus of “Trump has no chance” all the way through the primaries until the election: how after every debate Trump was finished; how the math literally did not add up for Manafort’s assertion that they expected to have the nomination sewn-up by mid-May, and this meant that the campaign was “delusional”; how even though the Republican party had “lost its fucking mind” (his words, not mine), there was no need to “overcorrect,” as candidates who outperform pundit predictions in the primaries just don’t win general elections; “Clinton probably finished off Trump tonight” (after 3rd debate); “A Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians World Series is now slightly more likely than a Trump presidency,” followed by “Cubs win still more likely than Trump winning the Presidency”.

      Silver has always been garbage, and I mean always. His “models” are him putting his thumb on the scales, and are frequently off. Pretending that elevating Trumps odds to sub-30% literally just a couple of days before the election is to show a complete inability to judge probability estimates.

      • suntzuanime says:

        You can see his… updates, in response to new evidence, plain as day? I’m not sure what you’re trying to prove with that link. Yes, his punditry was off the mark (like most punditry), but what I think of as Nate Silver’s whole schtick is that punditry is just airy words, and you want numbers based on data. And his numbers based on data weren’t bad, relative to others in the field. He was getting slagged on the day before the election by Sam Wang who had Clinton at 99%. He was having twitter meltdowns because he was defending uncertainty against people who said Clinton was a sure thing. And his uncertainty was more right than his competitors.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Yes, Silver getting yelled at before the election for not predicting a Clinton win sufficiently forcefully, and then getting yelled at after the election for not predicting a Trump win is amazing to me. The expected value of yelling should be zero, as I recall.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, that’s the unfair part: all the people saying he was crazy nuts looney for giving Trump any kind of a chance then lambasting him for not telling them 100% Trump was going to win? Sure he was wrong, but he was less wrong (heh) than the rest of them who were so sure Hillary would just stroll into it, even after all the “Trump can’t possibly be serious about running – okay but he can’t keep up the spending to see the campaign through – okay but he can’t win the Republican nomination – okay but he’s really going to run out of campaign money for sure this time because Hillary has all the big donors and he’s spending his own money – okay but there’s no way possible he can have a snowball in hell’s chance of winning the election, Hillary is going to beat him so badly it’ll be embarrassing” track record of opinionating and punditry beforehand.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Silver’s election-day models (including probability, not just win-lose) are by and large accurate, and if you know of a forecaster with a better record link me so I can start following them. He did better than the other aggregators I saw claiming Trump’s victory was like 2%.

        Silver’s commentary not based on said models, however, sadly bears no closer a relationship to reality than the bullshit spewed by other pundits.

      • Deiseach says:

        “A Chicago Cubs vs Cleveland Indians World Series is now slightly more likely than a Trump presidency,” followed by “Cubs win still more likely than Trump winning the Presidency”.

        Seems like when these happened, everyone should have said “It’s an omen!” and considered Trump a shoo-in 🙂

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        “Silver has always been garbage”

        Words mean things. You must mean there is an ordering of people making predictions for political contests, from best to worst, and Silver is at the bottom of this order. If I may ask, who is at the top?

        • nyccine says:

          You must mean there is an ordering of people making predictions for political contests, from best to worst, and Silver is at the bottom of this order.

          You imagination has tragically failed you, if you sincerely believe that what anything I said implies that I believe that *anyone* “forecasting probabilities” for elections is good. Not only “mustn’t” I mean any such nonsense, you literally cannot take the text I wrote, in the context delivered, and even come away with that interpretation; you are dishonestly projecting your biases onto my statements – which is creating new text – and putting your words into my mouth. This is the case even if you were completely unaware of any previous comments I’ve left here addressing what I think about election forecasters, and people who believe these models can even be tested; the text here alone cannot say anything more than that I think Silver is terrible, relative to no-one and nothing else other than intellectual honesty.

          I do not think any “forecaster” of elections is valid, because it is completely ludicrous to claim that probability modeling can in any way, shape, or form, be tested when they cover inherently unique events. It is completely inane to claim, as others have, that the election results “proved” that Silver’s 28% chance of Trump victory (hours before the end!) was more accurate than other’s 1% chance of victory. Every single “model” that had any chance of victory at all can legitimately say that “we just happen to have gotten the result that only happens x% of the time” and there is no possible way to prove or disprove this.That is not how this works, that isn’t how any of this works! That is not how a probability model is proved right or wrong. Stop praising someone who doesn’t deserve it.

          What these forecasts are actually selling is “scientism” – the belief that we’re doing something “scientific” involving MATHS! and MODELS!, that means what we believe is more legitimate than hunches about the electorate. This type of horse-racing feeds on the natural competitiveness of our tribal politics, so it makes sense that people like it, but it’s still wrong. It’s insane, there is no excuse to believe this, yet you all still believe, because it flatters your ego. This is what science looks like, therefore it is science, never mind that you can’t use these tools on these sorts of events.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Got it, this is not about Silver at all. You just don’t believe in making predictions. Ok, thanks!

            Out of curiosity how much statistics have you had? In particular, you must be aware that predictions from survey/polls/biased data is a field that existed since the 1950s. So your position is, what, we should throw the field of statistics away? Because it feeds our egos?

    • johnjohn says:

      Taleb had some reasonable criticisms (unreasonably worded, as is his style) of Silvers model. His conclusion seemed to basically be that if Silvers model had reacted correctly to the amount of uncertainty in the polls, it would have been stuck at around 40/60 trump/clinton for 99% of the election run.

      Which does seem like it would have been more correct than the close to 90% it gave clinton at one point

      • quanta413 says:

        Yeah, the way Nate’s model oscillates over time seems a bit silly. I agree with Taleb’s criticism that if there is a difficult to quantify but obviously existent uncertainty, your model should be closer to weighing options as equally probable. I’m probably paraphrasing Taleb badly but eh.

        If everybody would just assume that presidential contests are roughly 50/50 and stop worrying about every detail we could all save a lot of time and energy and lose very little accuracy

      • Galle says:

        Okay, I’m starting to wonder… do people just not understand how 538 works?

        Silver’s actual prediction never actually gave Clinton a close to 90% chance. It mostly hovered around a 40/60 breakdown. The “now-cast” did give Clinton a 90% chance, but the now-cast isn’t meant to be an accurate prediction of the final outcome of the election, it’s meant to be a rough assessment of “who’s winning right now”.

        • suntzuanime says:

          On October 17, the “polls-plus” forecast, which is supposed to be Silver’s best guess, gave Clinton an 85.3% chance. I would argue that this is, in fact, close to a 90% chance.

          • Galle says:

            Fair enough. That was definitely unusually high.

            In Silver’s defense, however, this was a genuinely surprising outcome, and arguably the result of a fluke in Trump’s favor toward the end in the form of the FBI leaks.

  19. Dr Dealgood says:

    The article on Chinese Trump enthusiasts was interesting.

    I guess it shouldn’t have been surprising that the Chinese I know, highly-educated immigrants in a deep-blue city, wouldn’t necessarily reflect the opinions of random Weibo users. But it was.

    “There are towns in Britain that are completely under the control of Muslim extremists, who are openly using white girls as sex slaves under the eyes of gutless British policemen. Trump was right when he said there were no-go zones for French policemen in their own country. Western countries are in such a degree of self-deception that politicians like Obama and Merkel can be praised for their appeasement with Islamists while political correctness deters people from talking about the existential threat to Western civilization.”

    Can we trade censorship regimes with the Chinese? We can have the CCP’s Great Firewall and they can have the MSM’s Blue Wall.

    Giving up talking about Tiananmen Square would be fine if we get to be honest about Islam. Using WeChat again would be a sacrifice but I think overall it would be worth it.

    I’m only mostly joking.

  20. thetarquin says:

    Regarding Daraprim, you might be interested in Michael Laufer’s talk “How to Torrent a Pharmaceutical” from this year’s “Hackers on Planet Earth” (HOPE) conference in NYC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py5TkirrO-U

  21. Sniffnoy says:

    Nursing link is down.

  22. Sniffnoy says:

    I am having trouble telling what the difference is supposed to be between some of these 66 segments.

    Edit: Given just how segmented these are, calling them “classes” seems a mistake. E.g. they’re age-segmented, which makes no sense for classes, assuming by “class” we mean something that perpetuates itself.

  23. Sniffnoy says:

    I think the follow-up post by Kontextmaschine that you reblogged on Tumblr is also quite interesting. In particular this article it linked, on just how messed up the old “common law” really was, how much of it is essentially ignored these days as a result, and how the bits that aren’t ignored continue to mess things up. (Although, I dunno how much I like this guy’s ideas for what would be better. A number of the ad-hoc rules he complains about seem like good ones to me…)

  24. grendelkhan says:

    On the Daraprim synthesis, my first thought was, wasn’t the drug being sold relatively cheaply before Shkreli raised the price? And didn’t he indicate pretty clearly that the cost wasn’t in any way due to the actual manufacturing cost of the drug? As CatCube was for some reason unable to link to, Derek Lowe makes the same points (this is Derek Lowe of “Sand Won’t Save You This Time” and “Things I Won’t Work With” fame).

    He points out that it’s ridiculous to synthesize something in a high school lab and compare it to well-manufactured pharmaceuticals. But if you imagine someone facing down death by toxoplasmosis who remembers high school chemistry and wonders what the hell they have to lose… it’s a stunt, but an effective one.

    Interestingly, the students collaborated using a github issue tracker, so you can see the process as they figured out how to perform the synthesis (using less-dangerous reagents in exchange for lower yields, it looks like). I don’t speak chemistry, so I don’t know how good the detail is, but I think I got the gist of it, and it’s pretty cool that it’s all out there to read through. Those are some dedicated, bright kids.

  25. Clippy says:

    That Tortoise And The Hare spin-off is a metaphor for instrumental vs. epistemic rationality.

  26. Rusty says:

    We’ve just lost every branch of government, and watched the presidency be given to a misogynistic sociopathic fraudster. Clearly we have gone wrong somewhere.

    I enjoyed the Nathan Robinson piece but I don’t see how you can say that Trump is a misogynistic sociopathic fraudster but urge respect for the people who voted for him. Well you can, but it seems massively condescending which doesn’t seem like a vote winner to me.

    • wysinwygymmv says:

      You can reconcile respect for Trump voters with negative beliefs about Trump’s character a number of ways, but the most relevant are probably: recognition that these are opinions and recognition that one can be mistaken. Also good: recognition that both choices were bad and a lot of people thought Trump was a bad choice, but marginally less bad than Clinton.

      • gbdub says:

        I would also say, “an asshole that likes me and wants me to be happy is better than a non-asshole that hates me and wants to set policies I won’t like”.

        That seems the most reasonable way for an Evangelical Christian (who clearly shouldn’t like Trump the person) to reconcile a vote for Trump.

        I was really disappointed in the Hillary campaign’s lack of a positive vision in favor of all-Trump attacks, all the time for this reason: Trump was clearly appealing rhetoric and proposal wise to people, and if your only answer is “but Trump the human being is nasty”, then you’re asking voters to vote against their policy preference in order to punish Trump’s personal foibles. That’s a tough (apparently too tough) sell.

        • drethelin says:

          Very much this. Someone who can credibly signal being on your side (regardless of whether trump actually is or shares anything in common with his voters) is MUCH more attractive to put in charge than someone who at best signals tolerant loathing.

        • Aapje says:

          @gbdub

          Also: ‘the current rulers have made my life worse. The rulers like Hillary and they dislike Trump. Trump thus probably has the opposite policies, that ought to make my life better.’

          This is pretty normal reasoning by low information voters.

          • Mary says:

            There’s also the reasoning that “Clinton is certainly to make my life worse, Trump might make it better (and besides, I get to see all the leftists go bonkers).”

  27. liskantope says:

    As for the personal accounts of what Trump is like in real life, they confirm my suspicion that Trump is quite socially adept when he wants to be, rather than the 24-7 flailing buffoon he’s been portrayed as in the media. My model of his personality is that he’s somewhat of a sociopath: he’s able to adopt more than one persona and calculates which face to put on in which situation according to what will be more advantageous to him. He got to celebrity status largely by knowing how to be charming when it really counted. But he got to the rank of president-elect by knowing how to put on a performance of outrageous, outspoken raw aggression — probably he started that performance mainly because it was fun (he had already found massive success, so why not have a little fun now?) without ever intending or expecting it to get him elected, but then became encouraged by the fact that it was actually winning him support. (To be fair, it’s quite possible that there are a few people he really cares about, like his sons and daughters, and the “charming” persona is genuine when directed towards them.)

    Let’s dispel once and for all with the fiction that Donald Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing in social interactions: he knows exactly what he’s doing.

    • JayT says:

      I mostly agree with what you say, but I don’t think he ran for president just as something fun to do. He’s talked enough about running over the last 30 years that I think this is something he has wanted for a long time, and I don’t think he would have run if he didn’t think he could win.

  28. Luke Perrin says:

    One thing to bear in mind when judging predictions about elections is that the vote has a natural tendency to be evenly split.

    If a political party is behind in the polls then it might try to take a more central or populist position in order to gain more votes, conversely when it’s ahead in the polls it might push its luck to get more of its own agenda passed. For example I suspect that if the Democrats had been polling less favourably early on then they might have nominated Sanders in order to secure their position.

    Also I suspect that the media prefers a close race and over-reports the underdog to ensure this.

    So I think it’s unfair to describe Nate Silver’s 30%/70% prediction as “useless” since I suspect it’s quite unusual for a party to allow things to get much worse than that.

    Testable prediction: Votes where the parties can’t change their position (such as referenda between clearly defined choices) tend to be further away from 50/50 splits, and are better predicted by experts and prediction markets.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      Testable prediction: Votes where the parties can’t change their position (such as referenda between clearly defined choices) tend to be further away from 50/50 splits, and are better predicted by experts and prediction markets.

      Like Brexit?

      And no, it does seem pretty useless. Nate Silver got closer than most pollsters but he still ultimately failed to call the election. These things shouldn’t be graded on a curve: this was very much a “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment and he ought to eat his fair share of humble pie over it.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        We can’t know whether Silver got it wrong or right. We can’t run 10 or 100 different versions of the elections that have identical polling numbers.

        Because he is basing everything on the polls, all he was saying was that 70 out of 100 elections with those polling numbers would go to the candidate with HRCs polling numbers.

        And he was very clear in arguing that Trump could win. Had arguments with Sam Wang about it. So it isn’t “Dewey defeats Truman” at all.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          We can’t know whether Silver got it wrong or right. We can’t run 10 or 100 different versions of the elections that have identical polling numbers.

          Because he is basing everything on the polls, all he was saying was that 70 out of 100 elections with those polling numbers would go to the candidate with HRCs polling numbers.

          Maybe that’s the problem.

          Nobody cares about how many counterfactual elections would have wound up with a Clinton or a Trump victory. The point of an election prediction is to predict the results of the election which actually occurs. If you screw up and call the result the wrong way, you’re just wrong. There’s no partial credit.

          Part of why I have little patience for this is because I think Nate Silver and company were selling something that doesn’t actually exist. Election results seem much less like neatly quantifiable Knightian risks and much more like unquantifiable uncertainty. His statistical models are very sophisticated but it’s not clear that we’re getting much from that sophistication: just as 1/N will beat most investment portfolios, calling the election a 50/50 split beats his complex analysis handily.

          Admitting that we don’t really have a good grasp on what’s going on here isn’t anti-intellectual but the reverse. It’s certainly not intelligent to cling to illusions of certainty and lose our metaphorical shirts every four years.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Just because everyone wants a “stone cold lead pipe lock” prediction of who will win doesn’t mean that Silver should or is providing it.

            It’s a little like asking the question “who will win?” for an all-in hand of hold ’em when all you know is the hole cards and the flop. The actual result is fixed because the deck has been shuffled, but you still can’t do better than just giving percent chances to win. Asking someone to “predict” the winner is a stupid question.

        • shakeddown says:

          We can’t know whether Silver got it wrong or right.

          We can look at details, like state and demographic correlations, to tell if his model was good. Turns out it was pretty damn good – He described what a Trump winning scenario would look like pretty explicitly, and he was right on the mark (see case 5 here for example, which he gave about 30%). It’s not an anti-prediction if you supply enough details to give it a low prior.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think the objection that Dr Dealgood is offering is simply that the scenario that happened actually happened. The fact that Silver said the scenario could occur doesn’t change the fact that he did not predict that it would occur.

            I think the critique is wrong, and I agree with your basic point that getting a “this is a what a Trump victory looks like” prediction correct should bolster Silvers reputation as a good predictor, but I’m not sure it actually addresses Dr Dealgood’s core concern.

            Again, we need many elections that look like these polling numbers to determine whether 3 out of 10 are the correct odds.

          • Subb4k says:

            Again, we need many elections that look like these polling numbers to determine whether 3 out of 10 are the correct odds.

            Other possibility: whoever claims to be a better predictor than 538 can try to predict a bunch of elections with numerical odds, and then everyone can see who assigned the highest total odds to candidates that actually won.

      • Luke Perrin says:

        Sure, like Brexit. Clearly Brexit is a datapoint against me but I remember other votes like the AV referendum which were one-sided and everyone knew it. I suspect that kind of one-sidedness happens much less in elections where the sides can change their positions.

        Also, predictions totally can and should be graded on a curve, and there’s a whole area of research on how to do this: Scoring rules. The log scoring rule gives Silver a score of -1.73 bits. For comparison if he had given a prediction of 50%/50% he would have scored -1 (the log scoring rule has a maximum score of 0).

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Also, predictions totally can and should be graded on a curve, and there’s a whole area of research on how to do this: Scoring rules. The log scoring rule gives Silver a score of -1.73 bits. For comparison if he had given a prediction of 50%/50% he would have scored -1 (the log scoring rule has a maximum score of 0).

          That’s a fair point. I should have said “no partial credit” instead as I do above.

          And yeah, that’s actually something that feeds into my point:

          If you knew literally nothing about the 2016 election except that there were two major candidates your totally uninformed 50:50 split would have beaten the prediction of the best model. You can throw away all of the data and improve your result significantly.

          Doesn’t that strike anyone as kind of a bad sign? That the best in the field is doing worse than chance? Why on earth should we trust these people?

          • Mammon says:

            The best people in the field are doing worse than chance in an experiment with sample size 1. This is not statistically significant.

          • Luke Perrin says:

            I agree with you that the experts aren’t very good! My original point was that we should expect elections to be really hard to predict.

            [I do expect that Nate Silver will do slightly better than 50:50 in the long run, but it will definitely take more than two data points to tell either way (so far he’s doing better than average because he gave a high confidence in 2012 when he got it right but only a low confidence in 2016 when he got it wrong).]

          • beleester says:

            Basing your conclusion on a single election is a terrible idea. If you base your conclusion on the 2016 election, that leads you to conclude that all the experts are terrible and should never be trusted.

            But if this blog had been around in 2012, a single election would have you singing Nate Silver’s praises, because he got all 50 states right!

            If one data point is enough to take you from “Experts are perfect” to “Experts are less than useless,” I think you need more data.

          • StellaAthena says:

            I would argue that rather than needing more data, you need to stop talking and come up with a better methodology. Methodologies that don’t take into account uncertainly are useless.

        • Jiro says:

          The independence of Montenegro from rump-Yugoslavia got 55.5% of votes (55% was required). I think that counts as another example.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Two-way elections are always close because the median person is an anti-persuader for their own side.

            The more people voting one way, the more there are out there annoying everyone with their bullshit bad arguments. And so the more the professionals on the other side with their carefully scripted and targeted narratives stand out.

      • Jordan D. says:

        …why?

        Silver’s odds, especially at the end, were pretty strongly about 30% victory for Trump. Does that mean he needs to eat 21% humble pie, or does he need to eat as much humble pie as the people who called it 99% for Clinton?* Silver’s the one who wrote, right before the election, that Trump still had a perfectly reasonable chance of winning. And they also predicted, entirely correctly, that they weren’t going to call all of the states right this time.

        So while Silver had Clinton favored to win, he was very explicit that Trump might come from behind in pretty much the way he did. If calling it 70/30% means anything other than 100%/0%, sometimes the 30% should win!

        Honestly I have a lot of sympathy for Silver right now. Poor guy got lambasted prior to the election for daring to predict that Trump had a fighting chance and now he gets ragged on after the election because he didn’t have Trump ahead the whole time. Silver was overconfident that Trump wouldn’t win the primary, sure, but he admitted to and apologized for that. I see only weak evidence that he did anything wrong in his coverage of the general.

        *And in fact might as well have just called it 100%, except for their vague sense that there’s something a bit wrong with explicitly claiming that something can not possibly happen.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Yeah, I agree. What makes me extra mad is people lambasting Silver know a lot less than than him about statistical modeling and poll analysis (and probability in general — many do not even know what the interpretation of his 30/70 was, precisely).

          What these people are doing is incentivizing less sanity in the national conversation. Who wants to do empiricism in difficult to predict domains? You will just get yelled at when you inevitably get things wrong.

          • a non mouse says:

            Nassim Taleb doesn’t know less than Nate Silver about statistical modeling and probability.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Taleb makes a good criticism of Silver but 99% of people citing him don’t know what that criticism is. In particular it is not relevant to this thread.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Would you call it insanity to invest in an index fund rather than an actively managed one?

            Because by your standards, sanity is a pretty expensive luxury…

            I like experts. I’m currently spending a lot of time and energy training to become an expert in my field. But what standing do people have to claim expertise when their models are regularly outperformed by such sophisticated techniques as Monkey King Geda or a coin flip?

            Are his statistical models well made? I’m certain of that. But even so they’re still not up to the task they’ve been set to. Pretending that they are is a mistake.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            How do we compute loss for Silver’s models? If you compare all his predictions vs a coin flip, I am fairly sure he will beat a coin flip handily.

            The other thing, is you are worried about the level of insanity in the national conversation, you should not be starting with Nate Silver. You should order everyone talking from least to most insane, and start telling the most insane people to sit down and shut up. Silver is not the weakest link here, by far.

            The thing I liked a lot about the Robinson piece is it explicitly said that pundits generally _do not know what they are talking about_. Saying this type of stuff is not going to win you any friends (trust me, I know), but it is important to say.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            How do we compute loss for Silver’s models? If you compare all his predictions vs a coin flip, I am fairly sure he will beat a coin flip handily. […]

            […]pundits generally _do not know what they are talking about_. Saying this type of stuff is not going to win you any friends (trust me, I know), but it is important to say.

            I agree that it’s important to say, and this is a good example of an ideal time to say it.

            Nate Silver is a pundit. A very trusted pundit. And one who rose up from a big pool of very similarly-credentialed analysts on account of a string of seemingly accurate predictions that has recently reversed.

            Like a fund that brags about making money nine years out of the last decade, we should be wondering about how well their past performance reflects skill rather than survivorship bias. Can we count on them making money again next year or not?

            The other thing, is you are worried about the level of insanity in the national conversation, you should not be starting with Nate Silver. You should order everyone talking from least to most insane, and start telling the most insane people to sit down and shut up. Silver is not the weakest link here, by far.

            I disagree.

            The most insane voices aren’t the dangerous ones; the most trusted insane voices are. Nate Silver is trusted in a way Geda the Monkey King isn’t. Once that reverses, we can focus on the people who still believe in psychic monkeys.

          • a non mouse says:

            Douglas Knight

            Taleb makes a good criticism of Silver but 99% of people citing him don’t know what that criticism is. In particular it is not relevant to this thread.

            It actually is. Taleb is arguing that Nate Silver is calling a weighted average of the current polls a “probability estimate” when it’s nothing of the sort. An election real time probability estimate would look a lot more like what you see on fangraphs for current win probabilities in a baseball game (to bring it back to something Nate Silver actually does have experience with) – near 50/50 for a long time, then slowly diverging then radically skewing as the event draws to a close.

            That his model doesn’t produce graphs that look like that shows that whatever he’s producing, it’s not a probability estimate. Once you know he isn’t even producing probability estimates the question “are his probability estimates any good?” becomes meaningless.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Nassim Taleb doesn’t know less than Nate Silver about statistical modeling and probability.

            Not of the latter, but I’d expect him to know less of the former.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            @Dr Dealgood: ok, let’s operationalize this discussion. Our job is to pick a person to listen to for the 2020 election. I am going to pick Silver. Obviously you no longer trust Silver, so: who is your pick?

            Want to make a bet on our picks’ respective predictions?

          • rlms says:

            One relevant difference is that Silver was (I presume) more accurate than a coin or Monkey King Geda at predicting the individual states results, the last election and similar things.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Can’t speak for Dr. Dealgood, but if this is an open question, I’m led to lend new respect to Allen Lichtman.

          • Whitedeath says:

            Fwiw, Lichtman has predicted that Trump will be impeached.

          • Luke Perrin says:

            I’m sad that there are no good “Trump Impeached” prediction markets. Is it possible to petition betfair for some?

          • johnjohn says:

            @a non mouse

            Talebs criticism is not really relevant to this particular thread because even with his adjustments it still gave Clinton the upper hand for the entire run.

    • Murphy says:

      re:referenda , I think you’re leaving out one element. On contentious issues the side which wants to change things is unlikely to call for referenda until they think they have a majority which will tend to lead to referenda being held shortly after a position gains traction with ~50% of the population.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Except in Brexit, where the Prime Minister was so confident Remain would win that he actually ordered the Foreign Office not to come up with any plans for what to do in the event of a Leave vote, on the grounds that they were just wasting their time because Leave would never win anyway. (Good job that particular intervention hasn’t backfired…)

      • Subb4k says:

        Scottish independence, AV/FPTP British referendum, recent consitutional referendum in Italy, 2005 referenda on European constitutional treaty in France and Netherlands (OK those last two are a bit old) all disagree with you. All those kept the status quo, and the margin was at least 10 points in each IIRC (the referendum from this week in Italy was lost by the government’s side with a 20 point margin).

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Testable prediction: Votes where the parties can’t change their position (such as referenda between clearly defined choices) tend to be further away from 50/50 splits, and are better predicted by experts and prediction markets.

      But, you see, once the population heavily agrees one way or another, no referendum is going to be held: that option is just going to happen. As soon as that 60%-or-so threshold is reached, a referendum isn’t even really necessary anymore.

      • Luke Perrin says:

        Right, but quite often referenda are announced and then there’s a lot of campaigning time before the vote.

  29. alwhite says:

    With regards to the Nathan Robinson piece, I don’t think I take his rationale as anything more than an opinion piece. There’s a massive piece of evidence that seems to be lacking. Anyone who doesn’t include this data in their analysis is probably not looking at reality and just their own map.

    Here’s an example:
    “They just knew they were angry. Trump came along and gave them a convenient narrative: the source of this anguish was ISIS, Mexicans, and Hillary Clinton. This was very powerful. Democrats didn’t have a good counter-narrative. They lost.”

    Reality check is that “they lost” doesn’t adequately describe the situation. Winning the popular vote by nearly 2% but losing the electoral vote isn’t described well under the idea of “they lost”. Reality seems more like neither side won or lost and we’re in a stale-mate. It only appears that someone lost because our system is meant to create a decision when we can’t make a decision.

    If we then think that no side won or lost and that we are perpetuating a stale-mate, I think Nathan Robinson’s piece gets rewritten in some pretty major ways.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      But it wasn’t just a stalemate — the DNC also lost a lot of other seats in Congress, and is soon likely to face a conservative Supreme Court as well. What about on the state level? The DNC received a drubbing of historic proportions, arguably. I think even more so than during the Reagan election, when Reagan took almost all the EC.

    • Randy M says:

      Trump clearly won the election game but anyone implying either won the debate (in the broader sense) is overselling it.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Especially when you really look at the numbers and see that Trump didn’t do anything more or less than maintain the Bush and Romney voters; he won because of HRC’s failure to perform at the level of Obama, not because of his own extraordinary characteristics.

        • alwhite says:

          What’s interesting to me is that such a “lack luster” performance from Trump, or “colossal failure” from Hilary, still can’t win the popular vote. W. Bush had this when we transitioned from Bill Clinton, now Trump has this when transitioning from Obama. Is this a sign that Republican presidents are losing power and ability to be viable at all?

          We also had a huge Republican primary. 17 candidates suggests to me the Republican party has been shattered and will likely die soon if not already dead. Obviously, something else will replace it under the same name so we can all pretend it’s been a continuous movement, but I’m expecting whatever this resurrected form is, to be more left than the current Republican position.

          • 2181425 says:

            GOP took the Presidency, kept both houses of Congress, has 33 governors and 32 state legislatures. On the surface, this doesn’t look like a party that’s already dead or likely to die soon. How do you reconcile that, he asked honestly?

          • alwhite says:

            @2181425

            I don’t think Trump represents the GOP in any meaningful way so I don’t think it’s meaningful to say the GOP took the presidency. Trump did, not the GOP.

            Keeping both houses of Congress isn’t a strong position. Look a comment or two down, they lost seats this election.

            I don’t follow anything at the state level but I strongly suspect that state governments have different politics than the national level.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Keeping both houses of Congress isn’t a strong position. Look a comment or two down, they lost seats this election.

            They lost seats, but given that they retained their majority, it still isn’t obvious that they’re on the verge of death.

          • tscharf says:

            “The Republican party has been shattered and will likely die soon if not already dead”

            Thank you for today’s issue of fake news.

            The pendulum always swings back and forth but the right is in one of their strongest governing positions in history. It’s certainly possible they could self destruct but I wouldn’t advise waiting for conservatives to magically become liberals as the best strategy to follow based on the results today.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            tscharf – “Thank you for today’s issue of fake news.”

            I’m a trump voter, and I think his assessment is a reasonable guess at what’s going on. You aren’t seeing fighting yet because Trump’s win boosted his opponents as well, so conflict is delayed somewhat. The problem remains that a good chunk of the GOP establishment appear to be utterly despised by the rank and file, tolerated only to the extent that they are useful from day to day.

        • James Miller says:

          This is like saying, “team X only won because they prevented team Y from scoring.” Trump put a lot of effort into demotivating potential Hillary voters (e.g. crooked Hillary).

          • herbert herberson says:

            If you’re talking about the narrow question of “the election game,” then you’re absolutely right. But if you’re trying to use the election to talk about a larger cultural debate, then these details are important.

          • suntzuanime says:

            I think a broad loss of trust in the Democratic Party (and by extension the coastal elites it culturally represents) by large portions of its traditional base is relevant to the larger cultural debate.

          • herbert herberson says:

            I couldn’t agree more, it’s very relevant. It’s also relevant that those un-trusters did not flip to Trump in large numbers, but rather chose to stay home.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Do you think the various news articles about two-time Obama voters who voted for Trump in 2016 are all incorrect?

          • herbert herberson says:

            I think they’re true anecdotes that aren’t very relevant to the big picture, unless I’m missing something more statistically based. I’d need pretty good evidence to give credence to a story that says “running as an iconoclastic anti-PC outsider causes you to lose a big chunk of Romney/Bush voters, but you’ll make it up by stealing Obama voters” vs. “the GOP coalition held strong despite an unorthodox candidate, while the Dem candidate who lost one primary and faced an unexpectedly serious challenge in another and is generally associated with a style of liberal politics which the left base considers to be 15 years out of date ended up with just enough stay-at-homes to lose the brass ring”

      • alwhite says:

        What do you mean election game? To me, losing the popular vote doesn’t equate to winning the election game. Therefore, I can’t agree that anything “clearly” happened. That’s what I’m really talking about. Anyone who says that something “clearly” happened, has completely missed the point that NOTHING clearly happened.

        • Randy M says:

          Really? When you play Settlers of Catan and someone reaches 10 victory points, do you argue that you were the ‘real’ winner because you had the most soldier cards? Or claim ambiguity because they managed a win despite fewer total resources?
          By the rules of US elections, Trump got the most victory points. Hence, he won the game. I specify game to differentiate winning the presidency from convincing the majority of the population or whatever else it is that you wish the winner were technically required to do.

          • Spookykou says:

            I think alwhite is not responding to the technicality of who won, but the broader societal implication, Trump winning the EC but losing the popular vote means that he is technically president, but it does not change the fact that a very large number of people don’t like Trump. I think this is a response to the articles saying that Trump’s win ‘changed everything’.

            I think the disconnect between alwhite and the people writing those articles is that in their opinion, Trump never had a chance, so the fact that almost half of America would vote Trump is ‘changing everything’.

            I could be talking out my ass though.

          • Randy M says:

            Clearly, as I was agreeing with and restating with my original post that he seemed to object to.

            I suppose a simple +1 would have been more in line with internet norms where one only posts objections…

          • Spookykou says:

            +1

        • James Miller says:

          If team X wins 4 games out of 7 in the world series, but overall scored fewer runs than team Y, which team was the true winner?

      • alwhite says:

        @Ilya Shpitser

        I think you’re mistaken about the congress results. Democrats didn’t receive a drubbing this election. In the Senate, Democrats picked up 2 seats and lost 0 seats. In the House, Democrats picked up 9 seats and lost 3 seats for a net 6 positive.

        They are still in the minority, yes, but the trend moved towards more balance. In congress we moved closer to stale-mate, than further away.

        http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/senate
        http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/house

        • Jaskologist says:

          Another such stalemate and you are undone.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Neither party is going anywhere. Too easy to blame a party in power for the bad things that inevitably happen for any kind of long-term one-party dominance to be possible.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I agree that the DNC did not lose seats on net in the Senate.

          More generally, I guess it depends what you mean. The DNC did not have Congress control going in. The question is, how do we judge “success” here?

          We could judge it in absolute terms, as you have done (in which case the DNC won by picking up 2 seats).

          We could judge it in expected terms — did DNC beat predictions? This varies depends on predictions made, but some folks for sure gave DNC good odds on getting control back. Compared to those predictions, the DNC did not do well. Compared to predictions that the GOP would retain control, the DNC either did ok, or had a tie. In terms of the presidential race, the DNC ended up “tied,” but lost in two major ways — they did not beat predictions, and they lost the actual race.

          We could judge it in operational terms — who has control of the government? In these terms, the DNC had a disastrous election.

          Regardless of how we judge success, it is perhaps more important what the DNC is doing. And I am pretty certain they are doing a whole lot of soul searching at the moment. I don’t think the DNC itself considers the current situation a tie.

  30. Dan says:

    When I was at UNC Chapel Hill, Julius Peppers, a two sport division 1 athlete (football and basketball, during banner years in both), beast of a man, and seemingly nice guy, won the student head administrative position (no recollection what this was called, president?) in something like 11 residence halls. Also 3rd for student body president.

  31. The prince might have gotten a B but he still made is dog Air Chief Marshal.

  32. Wrong Species says:

    More accurate look at labor productivity growth.

    Here’s the data from the BLS.

  33. onyomi says:

    I have a really bad feeling that this ends with every company that was planning to do something good anyway crediting Trump in exchange for free Presidential goodwill, and we get a neverending string of apparent Trump victories that are very hard to disprove.

    I was thinking this about the new Softbank announcement. They were already planning to invest the money, some of it probably already in America. Though it’s conceivable Trump’s promise to lower corporate income taxes convinced them to invest a little more of it in America, it’s also conceivable that, already having planned to invest, they realized “hey, it looks like now investing in America comes with a free photo op at Trump tower and a meeting with the POTUS-elect!”

    That said… what kind of dastardly mastermind would create a situation, before even becoming POTUS, where every major company has an incentive to constantly give him credit for creating jobs???

  34. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    I feel like I’m watching in real time as the mainstream media erases the phenomenon of fake news.

    The novelty this election was objective, falsifiable lies, like the story about the Pope endorsing Trump. This is qualitatively different from the games of spin and innuendo that have always been with us. Yet pretty much no one is capable of maintaining a distinction there, so “fake news” becomes just a synonym for spin.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Interesting! I never heard the Pope endorsing Trump story.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Yeah, see Snopes coverage. Note in particular the original’s claim that “news outlets around the world” were reporting the same.

        Also, turns out Slate beat me to my exact complaint by hours.

        • Subb4k says:

          Thanks for pointing out that Slate piece. It basically reinforces one of the things Scott has been saying for a long time, and where I 100% agree with him: just because the other side lies constantly is not an excuse to forgo intellectual honesty. The “fake news” debacle is the result we get when people repeatedly ignore this.

        • Deiseach says:

          As a rule of thumb, anything in the media about “Pope endorses this/Vatican slams that” should be ignored, or at least taken with an entire Silesian mine full of salt because it’s generally horribly ignorant of Catholicism/religion, boiling down a longer statement into a soundbite, and positioned (I won’t say “slanted”, that’s unfair) to fit in with the larger narrative (e.g. Benedict XVI as dour heretic-burning enforcer of orthodoxy vs Francis as nice liberal who doesn’t care about the rules).

          I didn’t see anything about “Pope endorses Trump” but if I had, I would have regarded this in the same light: (a) Francis probably didn’t say that (b) whatever he did say has been screwed up (c) is this particular organ of the media likely to be favourable/unfavourable to either the Pope or Trump, and so trying to invoke a boogeyman (e.g. “scary authoritarian right-wing religious figure endorses Trump/homo- and transphobic racist sexist neo-Nazi-supported rapist endorsed by Pope”)?

        • Deiseach says:

          The list, compiled by Merrimack College communication professor Melissa Zimdars, presented actual fake news sites such as Abc.com.co alongside openly satirical sites such as the Onion and, most damagingly, conservative blogs such as Breitbart and even Red State, an influential source of political commentary.

          The recent issue of “Private Eye” made merry over the fact that they (a satirical magazine that also does investigative journalism and sponsors a well-regarded award for the same) had been included on Professor Zimdars’ list as a “fake news” provider.

    • Reasoner says:

      Standard: I can trust whatever comes up on my newsfeed.

      Contrarian: You have to be careful to develop your opinion based on reliable sources.

      Metacontrarian: Mainstream media is an arm of the Democratic Party and therefore “fake news”.

      • Luke Perrin says:

        How about: “Any news optimised to get viewers is fake news”? It’s probably one of those Goodhart’s Law things.

        • Civilis says:

          “The more a reporter / news outlet benefits from a story, the more likely it is to be fake news.” That takes into account benefits other than ‘viewers’.

          Watergate made Woodward and Bernstein famous and led to the resignation of a president not in favor with the news media. Both of those were likely reasons for going ahead with the story. In that case, it was real news. But it’s very easy to come up with known fraudulent stories where the story just happened to meet the reporter’s political agenda and make them temporarily famous until the hoax was exposed.

      • Civilis says:

        Metacontrarian: Mainstream media is an arm of the Democratic Party and therefore “fake news”.

        Contrary-metacontrarian: Mainstream media is an arm of the right wing corporate oligarchy and therefore “fake news”.

        Meta-metacontrarian: “fake news” stories come from the conspiracy-du-jour to discredit legitimate reporting.

    • Peffern says:

      I’ve noticed an upswing in people using the phrase ‘Fake News’ to denigrate legitimate news outlets that they disagree with. I mean, you can argue that CNN has a liberal bias, but I don’t think they constitute ‘Fake News.’ Is this just run-of-the-mill buzzword-ification or is this more meaningful?

      • Sandy says:

        If fake news means “blatant lies designed to further a political agenda”, why are Walter Duranty and Sally Kohn considered more respectable than Alex Jones and the Macedonians?

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          “She is an abject, psychopathic, demon from Hell that as soon as she gets into power is going to try to destroy the planet. I’m sure of that, and people around her say she’s so dark now, and so evil, and so possessed that they are having nightmares, they’re freaking out. Folks let me just tell you something, and if media wants to go with this, that’s fine. There are dozens of videos and photos of Obama having flies land on him, indoors, at all times of year, and he’ll be next to a hundred people and no one has flies on them. Hillary, reportedly, I mean, I was told by people around her that they think she’s demon-possessed, okay?”

          To me, this sort of thing is qualitatively different to any of the examples a non mouse is able to cite below. It’s not just a lie, it’s entirely at odds with observable reality.

          I think there’s a reason that no mainstream media outlet has suggested that Trump is literally the antichrist.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @pdbarnlsey – “I think there’s a reason that no mainstream media outlet has suggested that Trump is literally the antichrist.”

            …The fact that the tribe they’re speaking to finds the very idea of an Antichrist laughably absurd? I’m skeptical that there’s a meaningful difference between claiming the other tribe’s leader is Literally And Not Figuratively Just As Bad As Hitler and claiming that they’re the Antichrist.

          • Galle says:

            …The fact that the tribe they’re speaking to finds the very idea of an Antichrist laughably absurd? I’m skeptical that there’s a meaningful difference between claiming the other tribe’s leader is Literally And Not Figuratively Just As Bad As Hitler and claiming that they’re the Antichrist.

            Well, for one thing, people who are Literally And Not Figuratively Just As Bad As Hitler definitely exist. We can name at least one universally-agreed upon example whose historical existence is well-attested. The existence of Antichrists is a subject of considerably greater controversy, including the question of whether such a thing is even permitted by the fundamental nature of the universe.

        • Galle says:

          Because they don’t tell blatant lies designed to further a political agenda, duh. Mainstream media may twist the truth, lie by omission, quote out of context, and employ some absolutely shameless logical rudeness to further their political agenda. But they never outright lie. Outright lies backfire too easily.

          Alex Jones and the Macedonians, however (who sound like, quite frankly, the worst band name ever) will happily just make up shit that straight-up never happened, like Hillary Clinton being a literal baby-eating Satanist or whatever.

          What’s really going on here is that people want there to be some kind of parity, where they can just dismiss both sides as being equally bad and ignore the question of whether the fact that most fake news is distinctly right-wing has any political significance whatsoever. Plus people on both sides who see “fake news” as a fully general counterargument.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mainstream media may twist the truth, lie by omission, quote out of context, and employ some absolutely shameless logical rudeness to further their political agenda. But they never outright lie.

            How do you characterize, e.g., deliberately rigging a truck with pyrotechnic devices, showing it bursting into flame on impact, and telling people “This model of truck is so badly-designed that it bursts into flame on impact, shame on the manufacturer, yay us for telling you about it”?

            The mainstream media frequently repeats other people’s lies as truth, either knowingly or with such credulity as to constitute depraved indifference to the truth. And sometimes, when they can’t find someone else they can quote for the lie they need to sell the story, they will indeed tell an outright lie all by themselves. They are more trustworthy than Facebook, and if you know their biases you can get useful information out of them. If you believe they “never outright lie”, you’re going to be lied to and never know it.

          • Galle says:

            How do you characterize, e.g., deliberately rigging a truck with pyrotechnic devices, showing it bursting into flame on impact, and telling people “This model of truck is so badly-designed that it bursts into flame on impact, shame on the manufacturer, yay us for telling you about it”?

            Depends on whether that model of truck does, in fact, burst into flames on impact. Using special effects to illustrate your story because the real effects aren’t splashy enough is certainly dishonest, but it’s not actually lying unless you explicitly say that the footage you’re showing is what literally happens on every occasion.

            This might seem like an academic distinction, but it’s a really big gap. You can get away with a lot of dishonesty and spin when it comes to the news. But under ordinary circumstances, you can’t get away with explicitly saying something you know is not true.

            The mainstream media frequently repeats other people’s lies as truth, either knowingly or with such credulity as to constitute depraved indifference to the truth. And sometimes, when they can’t find someone else they can quote for the lie they need to sell the story, they will indeed tell an outright lie all by themselves. They are more trustworthy than Facebook, and if you know their biases you can get useful information out of them. If you believe they “never outright lie”, you’re going to be lied to and never know it.

            I’m perfectly happy to believe that the media will frequently quote other people’s lies uncritically. That’s one of their favorite tricks for covering their asses – “We didn’t actually lie, we said so and so said such and such and they did, so we were just reporting the truth. Blame so and so if you have a problem.” But I genuinely can’t think of any occasions on which they explicitly said things they knew where not true. Can you give any examples?

          • Hetzer says:

            @Galle:

            I’m perfectly happy to believe that the media will frequently quote other people’s lies uncritically. That’s one of their favorite tricks for covering their asses – “We didn’t actually lie, we said so and so said such and such and they did, so we were just reporting the truth. Blame so and so if you have a problem.” But I genuinely can’t think of any occasions on which they explicitly said things they knew where not true. Can you give any examples?

            With modern TV media, it can be hard to tell if the talking head you see is coming up with his/her own words or reading statements prepared by someone else off a teleprompter. In the latter case, it is conceivable that someone like Bill O’Reilly might be saying things (fed to him by a producer) that he did not know were untrue. In such a situation, who bears the responsibility for lying? Bill O’Reilly, for not vetting everything he says before he goes on air? The producer, for knowingly lying? The news network, for having a production model that allows a number of people the opportunity to insert false statements into a broadcast?

            Anyway, a few names I can think of off the top of my head:
            – Stephen Glass
            – Dan Rather – the Killian documents (his production staff might be more to blame for that)
            – Brian Williams (at least 10 false/embellished statements about time spent in the middle east)

          • Mary says:

            There comes a point where cherry-picking your news stories in order to deceive is as misleading as outright lying.

            Has anyone heard of any outlet firing anyone for the Wikileaks revelation that reporters were coordinating with the Clinton campaign?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Mary:

            Donna Brazile resigned as a CNN contributor as a result of the Wikileaks revelations; as far as I know she’s the only one.

      • a non mouse says:

        “Hands up, don’t shoot”
        “Police still looking for Haven Monahan”
        “Hillary Clinton is in perfect health!”
        “Hillary Clinton with a 99% chance of being elected”
        “It’s illegal for you to look at the Podesta emails on wikileaks but it’s ok for us to do so”

      • Hetzer says:

        It is a tongue-in-cheek response to the blitz from the mainstream media about “fake news” in the wake of the election this year, particularly the Washington Post talking about Propornot’s list of around 200 “fake news” websites. In effect, the person calling CNN or The New York Times “fake news” is arguing that mainstream media is unreliable and untrustworthy, moreso than the alternative media which they are trying to smear (Googe and Facebook are also involved; cutting off advertising relationships for sites they consider “fake news”). They are also sometimes arguing that the mainstream media is calling their readers stupid by implying they cannot recognize fake news when they see it, and that they are trying to scare readers away from alternative news that might expose flaws in the mainstream narrative.
        http://www.propornot.com/p/the-list.html

        ^ Note that the methodology used to create the list in the above link involves adding what Propornot considers an editorial slant that is more favorable to Russia than to the US to be compelling evidence of Russian-funded and directed propaganda. This extends past news outlets that are already known as Russian-funded (like RT).

        Anyway, a number of sites on that list have a reliable track record of publishing valuable and authentic news that the mainstream media either did not cover, or covered in a factually incorrect way. And yes, these alternative media sites often are much more critical of the US government than the mainstream western media. That could easily be a motivator for someone founding an alternative news site: a desire to create a news aggregator that does not exhibit what they see as a slanted narrative in more mainstream media, no Russian involvement necessary. A lot of the sites on the list have been around for several years, as well, which means that Russia was apparently in this for the long haul (I guess?).

        Note also that they (Propornot, as well as MSM) fail to mention that a number of US programs exist to enable the US government to shill social media without disclosing it in the content they post. They even have names like “Metal Gear” as a wink and a nod to their video game origins. They also fail to mention that in the past, the CIA has infiltrated the media in the US, even though they were not supposed to be operating domestically. More on that here:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Mockingbird

        I think it would also be worth mentioning that the NDAA now allows the US government to use propaganda on its own citizens, a reversal of past policy. Why else would this change have been made recently, except to clear the way for a government-directed propaganda blitz masquerading as independent and impartial news?

        In short, there is reason to suspect that a lot of what you see in the mainstream western media was put out there with a deliberate pro-US and anti-Russia slant. The desperate attempt by the (slowly dying) mainstream media to tar other news sources as “fake news”, as well as the efforts by Google and Facebook to cut off their revenue sources, could be interpreted as confirmation of this. Many also find it funny and a little suspicious that this “fake news” blitz (and it *is* a blitz, you can look up Google NGrams of it) occurred in the wake of a presidential election that turned out very differently than how the MSM said it would.

    • I’m not tracking the outcry about media bias, so what I’m about to say may not be relevant to your actual point (in which case I apologise). Nonetheless, I feel like it might contribute if I point out some instances where the line between ‘spin’ and ‘lying’ is incredibly blurry, based on personal experience.

      (Disclaimer: These two examples are indeed topics I have direct or indirect involvement in. I am accordingly very emotional about them, and cannot be trusted to be an unbiased source. This is also deeply personal, and I apologise if it’s viewed as hijacking the thread.)

      Case Study #1 (the minor one):

      The German show Titel, Thesen, Temperamente signals a lot of credibility with the concerned, calm tone that they report on topics with. When I noticed them talking about seasteading, I paid attention, expecting an interesting piece on the pros and contras.

      Instead I had to hear them make claims such as that only the super rich were interested in seasteading (erasing the likes of me) for reasons of tax evasion (because that’s the only reason you’d want different rules, obviously?) and absolute control of their subjects (erasing anarchist or libertarian leanings entirely, latter which are the founding force behind the project). They ended by calling seasteads a “totalitarian nightmare that is a threat to democracy even in Germany”.

      Formally, that’s spin. The only actual lie they told in the piece was that the project was backed purely by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs (as in, they did in fact make the claim of exclusivity), but they could easily have avoided making it a lie by saying ‘backed mostly by’, so I’m not even going to count that against them.

      Informally, I think this teeters heavily on the edge of ‘fake news’. Mind, I don’t expect people to necessarily agree with the seasteading premise. I would have been completely fine if they’d said “we’re concerned the view of seasteading is naive/false and will lead to less freedom” (as in, I would be annoyed, but I would find that wholly acceptable); it’s the complete erasure of the stated motivation of most involved parties from as much as a footnote that upset me.

      All in all, it was an alarmist piece so ridiculous it made me very angry.

      Case Study #2 (the major one):

      The company I’m employed with, Goodgame Studios, has gotten bad press recently, initially for firing a handful of people a year ago, allegedly because the people in question wanted to start a workers council.

      With “bad press” I mean that e.g. some local news outlets were calling our management “tyrants”, and e.g. one of our powerful worker unions decided that our desperate attempt to get a venue to collect everyone in for a vote on a workers council was a “delay tactic” and the media nodded along with them. Completely fabricated stuff like “employees were not allowed to take their mobile phones into the announcement meeting” has turned up in the news about us, or “people are being pressured to vote against a workers council”, or “people are being asked not to attend the vote for a workers council” (of which only the first was ever redacted).

      Meanwhile, no one cared about that the union that supposedly meant to help us was disrespectful to our non-German employees (a very significant percentage) by showing up for an information meeting and declaring upfront “We’re in Germany, we speak German here”. Our company language is English for a reason. No one cared about that we hadn’t been able to find venues for our own All Hands meetings in the past months and had resorted to video conferences streamed to several meeting rooms (not an option for the workers council vote for legal reasons – we all had to be guaranteed to be physically attending, so we would be able to physically vote). No one cared that the members of the union had literally told our employees, “see those people? *point to the management* Those people are your enemies”.

      There was very little mentioned of that the supposedly so battered employees voted against a workers council at the event (where management were not allowed to attend). There’s been almost no mention of our custom employee representation which has done an absolutely breathtakingly good job since they were voted into office, as a collaboratively designed institution.

      When we had to let go of a couple of more people due to bad financial developments (in part caused by the reputational damage, thanks) and tried our best to rescue people not covered by social securities in the German law (people who had recently moved to Germany just to work with us) by giving people who felt confident they could get another job a week to quit to ‘sacrifice’ themselves for people disadvantaged by legal social selection, there was no mention of the extreme struggle we went through to make the transition as humane and supportive as possible. Some outlets even had the nerve to report it as some kind of nefarious scheme to pressure people into leaving without compensation – even though people who quit this way definitely got (handsomely) compensated. No mention of how much time, effort and money was poured into the hard cases that had to be let go regardless.

      All of this happened while every day at work I was in an environment of open communication, where I could tell my boss or any member of management “your plan sucks” (yes, in those words, if I’d wanted to) with zero fear of getting fired over it. A company that has guided me out of depression with its diligent support, and genuine care over my personal well-being, as expressed by my superiors, over a difficult year and a half where it was especially bad and absolutely impacting the quality of my work (a year and a half!). A company that lets me take a sabbatical month each year so I can be with my two other relationships without losing vacation time I could be spending with my primary. I could go on, but you get the picture. (Yes, of course all of this is some degree of selfish on their part. But there’s a world of difference between *this* kind of selfish and the kind that the media was accusing my employers of being.)

      It was surreal. It really hurt. A lot of the lies the media spread about Goodgame Studios are incredibly difficult to disprove (it’s enough if a single employee claims he “felt pressured to vote against a workers council”, for example, and irrelevant that management actively encouraged us to vote for what we felt was the right choice; it’s enough if a single employee claims he “felt pressured not to attend the event” for claims of that to be acceptable, and again irrelevant that management practically begged us to attend and vote).

      Again, it’s sort of just spin, isn’t it?

      But it’s a spin so bad I’ve literally stopped consuming mainstream media. Just stopped. I just cannot trust them at all at this point. So I automatically wonder where the line between ‘spin’ and ‘fake news’ is. This is not meant as any sort of accusation – I think it’s important to draw that line. I just wanted to share my lament to illustrate that it may be difficult to find out where that line actually ought to lie.

      [ Disclaimer: I am not an official representative of Goodgame Studios. My views do not necessarily coincide with those of my employers. My opinions are my own, etc, etc. ]

      • It’s too late for me to delete this, but I just wanted to append that I somewhat regret writing it (though on reflection, I probably wouldn’t have deleted it for honesty reasons, anyway – might have packed this disclaimer upfront, though).

        (1) On reflection, I suspect no one really wanted to hear that – it’s Germany news, it’s not even news (it’s old), and it’s just kind of awkward to talk about given someone’s been directly involved in a mess like that (= me). How do you politely say “I think you’re wrong and your company deserved it”, for example? So there’s a high chance no meaningful discussion can come from this and it’s really just clutter / noise.

        (2) I’m probably being too hard on the press. For case #2 they probably just listened to the union and didn’t bother verifying it with anyone but the handful disgruntled employees you always have when your company is sufficiently large (GGS was about 1200 people strong at the time). Arguably negligent, but I can see why they’d want to be – you only have that much time to spend on research. It just really hurt and the effects of that campaign are still palpable (e.g. we can’t actually find much of anyone willing to work for us unless it’s through personal networking).

        (3) Do I personally even draw any action items out of this experience? Not really. I’ve withdrawn from standard media as a consumer, but I don’t even know if that was a good idea or not. (Though I wrote a couple of politely disgruntled letters to editors that of course had zero effects on anything, so that’s an avenue I can’t recommend.)

        tl;dr: I thought it might be a useful cautionary tale and am not so sure any more. Sorry if this post confused anyone!

      • Tibor says:

        @Neike: I was very annoyed by the condescension and stupidity in which the media address Seasteading. German media especially tend to pontificate (belehren) and to be condescending but what I read about Seasteading came from The Guardian I think and it was just as bad as what you described. I am a PhD student, living off the PhD student wage (it is actually not that bad, at least in maths in Germany, but it is still below average wage…in München it would not be that great) and I donated money (about 4% of my yearly income, all of the donation coming, kind of fittingly, from what I made by trading Bitcoins) to Seasteading, so this kind of “it is a scheme of evil billionaires” pitch really annoys me. I acknowledge that it is a high-risk high-impact idea (which is why I made a one-time donation and prefer to spend money regularly on low-risk and efficient charities like GiveDirectly) but this ignorant and at the same time condescending sneering makes my blood boil 🙂

        As far as German media go, I now only read Die Welt, which sometimes has a tendency to be a bit tabloidy (especially in the clickbait and sometimes misleading way they write the article titles…although the BBC does that too) but it is by far the most free trade friendly mainstream German newspaper (especially Dorothea Siems is quite liberal – leaning, for example this old commentary of hers. At least by German standards that is very liberal) and they also seem to give room to a variety of views – including really grotesque ones. Some time back there was someone who advocated banning dancing during Easter or else “we lose our culture and traditions and they will be replaced by others”. But you also get similarly bizarre commentary there from people on the left (there was this guy the other day who was saying that the AfD has such support in Eastern Germany because Eastern Germans are basically all hidden Nazis and are generally morally deficient, because unlike in the enlightened West, the communists did not really purge the Nazis properly). In any case it seems more open and less PC than the rest of the German mainstream media.

        • I’m in a similar situation to you in regards to TSI. That said, I hope I can carve out some more money for it soon, but it’s been rough lately (only due to poor planning on my part).

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts – especially for sharing what you’re still consuming. 🙂 Might check it out, especially for the sake of variety.

  35. AnonEEmous says:

    the Ben Carson for President versus Ben Carson for Cabinet distinction is perfectly reasonable, in that President Ben Carson is a nice guy with neurosurgeon brains who has knowledgeable advisers to tell him how to achieve his goals best, whereas Cabinet Ben Carson has to be a knowledgeable adviser to tell Donald Trump how to achieve his goals best, something which I don’t think he can do.

    • Randy M says:

      But the cabinet position is also the head of a group of experts working on the problem. (Right?) At what point is managerial and decision making skills less important and subject matter expertise more important? Not rhetorical, I don’t have an answer.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        you might be right about that to some extent. I’ll also admit to not having as much knowledge about the cabinet as I’d like.

        But even there, it does seem like some expertise is required, especially since he will be the one hiring those below him – either that, or they’re already-in-place civil servants who might not have the same intentions as him.

        • Jordan D. says:

          I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think the distinction is as big as you’re imagining. President Carson has a lot of advisers who tell him what to do- but he had to pick those people. Secretary Carson still has a department the size of some national governments to tell him what to do, and he’s probably picking even fewer top executives to advise him.

          Honestly I think the simple answer here is the right one- Carson was never in the race seriously, he just wanted exposure and the chance to leverage it into something else.

          I was very impressed by Carson’s humility in turning down HHS, but I no longer know what the heck to make of it since he’s taken HUD.

          • Randy M says:

            I was very impressed by Carson’s humility in turning down HHS, but I no longer know what the heck to make of it since he’s taken HUD.

            That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me either.

          • Deiseach says:

            I was very impressed by Carson’s humility in turning down HHS, but I no longer know what the heck to make of it since he’s taken HUD.

            Yes, that seems odd: if he’s going to take a cabinet post, his experience and knowledge is in medicine, surely HHS would be better?

            On the other hand, if Irish experience is anything to go by, the Department of Health is a minefield (a former Taoiseach once allegedly described it as “He described his period there as like being in Angola because administrative “landmines” could detonate without warning”) and one of our former Ministers who was a doctor certainly had a few little bumps in the road (both over his financial affairs and how for some reason it was his constituency that got all new health clinics while cuts were being made in the health service, amongst other things). His successor, who was also a doctor, was widely perceived to have received the appointment as a “poisoned chalice” in punishment for his part in an attempted coup to dislodge his party leader 🙂

            Housing can be a problem but never as bad as Health, and an announcement of “we’re building X thousand new homes/earmarking funding for home loans” always goes down well because it’s perceived as creating jobs in the construction industry, unlike Health which is perceived as simply consuming money and generating nothing in return.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, probably Carson is just too smart to want to take any responsibility for the ongoing Obamacare clusterfuck.

          • Aapje says:

            But not smart enough to come up with a reason that keeps his options open…

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, it did make him look nice and humble and cool. He probably didn’t expect to be offered HUD afterwards. And it’s not like his options aren’t open, it’s just a little embarrassing. Congress isn’t going to fail to confirm him on the basis of that remark or anything.

          • sflicht says:

            As a doctor, Carson probably thinks HHS actually does work that’s beneficial to the country. The case is much weaker that this is true of HUD, so he’d be rational to worry less about screwing it up.

          • BBA says:

            HHS is a big department, full of things like NIH and CDC that only Ron Paul thinks are bad ideas.

            HUD is much smaller, and it mostly deals in making grants and loans to benefit people who will never vote Republican.

            Now I’m not saying a GOP administration would intentionally undermine HUD, I’m just saying they don’t care that much what happens to it. They do care about HHS. For Carson, HUD means he gets the prestige of a Cabinet seat without any risk of doing harm to anything important.

          • Brad says:

            HUD is much smaller, and it mostly deals in making grants and loans to benefit people who will never vote Republican.

            HUD houses the FHA which plays a part in the ongoing massive distortion of the housing market. That distortion is to the direct and enormous benefit to many many people that vote Republican. Indeed to an outright majority of Americans and a large supermajority of Americans that vote.

          • sflicht says:

            On the other hand, since 2008, I don’t think the rest of the government (Federal Reserve, Treasury, Congress) trusts HUD to manage FHA independently. I suspect there’s a fair amount of external supervision of how fiscally responsible FHA is being, and the HUD secretary doesn’t really have the authority to start another housing-related financial crisis without somebody noticing.

          • Silverlock says:

            I wonder if it has anything to do with his having spent part of his childhood in an impoverished neighborhood. Perhaps he figures he is more familiar with the situation than other politicians.

          • Mary says:

            Yes. He is literally the first person ever to run HUD having lived in public housing.

  36. Edward Scizorhands says:

    That Monkey’s Eyebrow article is sorely needing a diagram of the monkey.

  37. onyomi says:

    Humberto Fontova claims that Castro, at his worst, had more political prisoners, per capita, in Cuba than Stalin had in the USSR at his worst (as many as 5% of all Cubans being political prisoners at one time). He also claims that more died trying to escape Cuba than East Germany (though I’m sure the ocean helped a lot with that). I think most Americans think of East Germany as some dystopian hell hole and Cuba as vaguely quaint and not so bad, but this is probably not justified.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is the standard conception of the GDR “dystopian hellhole”? I would have thought it was more like “not a terrible place to live except for the vast internal security apparatus”.

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t know; as a libertarian, I may have a skewed-negative view of what “average” opinion of life in communist countries was like.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m just not sure what the “average” conception of it is. My view of the GDR is more informed than most, although I’m hardly an expert.

          The general impression I got is that the GDR had a pretty good standard of living, its economy was weaker than the West’s (Wikipedia cites the CIA factbook as saying about 2/3 the GDP per capita of the West), the security apparatus was quite repressive in some ways (tons of spying, lots of strongarming people into spying) but fairly good by dictatorship standards (that’s a pretty low bar, though). If I had to pick a dictatorship to live in, the GDR would be high up on the list. There’s a lot of countries that aren’t dictatorships I’d pick the GDR over.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          You’re also the person who seems to be in favor of smaller states in general, if not having none of them. What do you make of the large amounts of people who lived in the DDR being more than a little nostalgic (ostalgic) for those times?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I was under the impression that “ostalgia” was pretty much limited to A) former regime elites and their families who lost both status and quality of life under the new system and B) youths too young to -remember- the DDR attracted for much the same reason that a certain brand of college student loves them some keffiyehs and che iconography.

        • onyomi says:

          I am not very familiar with the East German case, but a few general comments:

          People tend to be nostalgic about the past, especially their childhoods, almost no matter what. I’m hella nostalgic about the 80s and early 90s. Doesn’t mean I want to go back to the Cold War or AOL dialup.

          People attribute a lot of value to having had a sense of purpose, especially retrospectively. Though it sucks at the time, for example, people may sometimes look back with a certain fondness on e. g. wartime, as a time when everyone was sacrificing together (people who actually fought, however, usually don’t want to talk about it). If it created a sense of “in those days… we were all in it together…” then some people might remember it fondly even if it mostly sucked at the time.

          The case with which I’m most familiar is the Chinese one, and though many claim to feel a certain nostalgia for the pre-Deng Xiaoping era, in my experience they are usually people who either weren’t born, or weren’t yet adults during e. g. the Cultural Revolution. The older people I’ve talked to about such things do not usually claim to look fondly on those times, except to the degree all old people tend to look fondly on their youth. As far as the political and economic situation was concerned, the stories are mostly of extreme poverty, paranoia, and constant, compulsory political “meetings.”

          I recall one old man telling me how he took out a loan to purchase a bicycle, which he gradually paid off over the course of a year. In other words, from their perspective, the purchase of a bicycle then was the rough economic equivalent of the purchase of a car today. And he didn’t tell this story like “ah, the simpler days.” It was more like “I had to scrimp and save for a whole year for a frickin bike!”

      • Anon. says:

        Any place that has to threaten death to prevent people from leaving has got to be pretty bad.

      • rlms says:

        Agreed, I think there is a qualitative difference between the GDR and the USSR or Maoist China (although I’m not American). Cuba had the advantage of romantic revolutionary leaders, but I’d certainly have preferred to live in the GDR.

        • Aapje says:

          Cuba had the advantage of romantic revolutionary leaders

          That seems more like a disadvantage. You can’t eat romanticism and those kind of people tend to want to prove themselves with outrageous policies.

          I’d much prefer the technocrat who simply wants to make the (flawed) system work optimally.

          • rlms says:

            Sorry, I meant an advantage in terms of being likeable to foreigners, not in terms of being a place to live.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, I agree that it is better PR. Che & Mao had major sex appeal to Westerners who fancied themselves revolutionaries, probably more due to their huge flaws than despite them.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Castro locked up 5% of the Cuban population at once. Stalin murdered 5% of the Soviet population in two years

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      How many is 5% really? According to Wikipedia, the US is at an incarceration rate of juuuust about 0.7%. I can very much imagine that when you’re busy toppling ideological enemies and establishing order, jailing many people is something you’ll want to do. Comparing this to Stalin is especially unhelpful, since as has been noticed, Stalin didn’t really leave enough people alive for him to reach 5%.

      • JayT says:

        Does that 5% include regular criminals, or was it that 5% of the population was being held as political prisoners? That would make a difference.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          I’d have to have Onyomi’s source, but communists make being a political prisoner very easy.

  38. John Schilling says:

    The prescription-drug pricing article was better than I’ve come to expect from Vox, so credit for that. Still, I have to balk at this:

    The United States has no government panel that negotiates drug prices. There are thousands of health insurance plans all across the country. Each has to negotiate its own prices with drugmakers separately. Because Americans are fragmented across all these different health insurers, plans have much less bargaining power to demand lower prices.

    In other words: Australia is buying drugs in bulk, like you would at Costco, while we’re picking up tiny bottles at the local pharmacy. You can guess who is paying more.

    The United States may have “thousands of health insurance plans”; I’d kind of like to know if Vox even bothered to count. But some of these plans are not like the others. The largest US health insurers cover customer bases equal to or greater than the entire population of Australia. And if Wellpoint et al have to offer different plans in each state, they can still offer a consolidated negotiating position over the price of e.h. Humira. Ability to buy in bulk is not the problem.

    Ability to say “no” and make it stick, might be. If Wellpoint says “No, we won’t cover Humira at that price”, millions of Wellpoint customers who know only that the nice doctor on TV sayz that Humira will cure what ails them may just switch to Kaiser Permanente – and the manufacturer knows it. An Australian citizen upset at his national health service’s decision not to offer the drug, would face somewhat greater challenges in becoming Canadian.

    • Cheese says:

      Important to your last point there (as I’m sure you probably know) is that Australia does not allow direct to consumer advertising of drugs. I’m relatively au fait with the Australian health system, and this issue seems to occasionally crop up in the case of rare diseases or issues. Very, very occasionally (1-2 years in national media maybe) you hear a story of a family having to spend a large amount of money to fly to the US for treatment. I’m unsure how our private health insurance deals with those scenarios, for myself I have private cover which extends to non-PBS medicines (which I should actually cancel as it isn’t worth it but anyway).

  39. Deiseach says:

    This morning, the people of Earth awoke to find that the fate of the human species has been placed in the hands of reality television mogul and unconvicted sex criminal Donald J. Trump, who has been given access to the nuclear codes.

    All right, by this stage I’m about ready to go “Put up or shut up”. It was horrible to accuse Hillary of unspecified crimes and misdemeanours and talk about putting her in prison? Then it’s equally horrible to talk about Trump being an “unconvicted” sex criminal (yeah, a trial isn’t needed, we know he’s guilty!) As for the nuclear codes bit, I’m about ready to push the Big Red Button myself! Ever since you lot had nuclear codes, every president has had access to them, and a few of them have been regarded as just as loopy and likely to go for the Big One – remember Reagan and “Bedtime for Bonzo”? The talk about the Evil Empire? Hmmmm?

    Never mind all that – the main point here is that with all the mourning over President Hillary not to be and how the hawkish former Secretary of State would be so much less likely to get the US involved in a shootin’ (or nuclear missile exchangin’) war, how about this linked article from within the piece, on her failed campaign of 2008? “Vote for Hillary, she’s got the experience” – well, imagine they had voted for Hillary sufficiently to have President Hillary. Imagine an administration where all the cabinet are busy stabbing one another in the back and undermining each other in order to curry favour with Her Presidentialness. Imagine a president not on top of this, with decisions being made on whims or put off until she loses her patience, demands a decision NOW and something is scrambled together in a hurry. Is this sounding any more appealing than Trump?:

    But her advisers couldn’t execute strategy; they routinely attacked and undermined each other, and Clinton never forced a resolution. Major decisions would be put off for weeks until suddenly she would erupt, driving her staff to panic and misfire.

    Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence—on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to “do the job from Day One.” In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel. What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton’s loss derived not from any specific decision she made but rather from the preponderance of the many she did not make. Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.

    …Decisions made before her 2006 reelection to the Senate were to have important consequences downstream. Perhaps the biggest was Clinton’s choosing to forgo the tradition of visiting early states like Iowa and New Hampshire. … A collective decision was made not to discuss a presidential run until she had won reelection, leaving the early pursuit of Iowa to John Edwards and Barack Obama.

    The effect of these choices in Iowa became jarringly clear when Penn conducted a poll just after Clinton’s Senate reelection that showed her running a very distant third, barely ahead of the state’s governor, Tom Vilsack. The poll produced a curious revelation: Iowans rated Clinton at the top of the field on questions of leadership, strength, and experience—but most did not plan to vote for her, because they didn’t like her.

    “Didn’t like her”? Oh well, we all know that was because of sexism! All those prejudiced male voters who preferred Obama over her because he was a man and that appealed to their sexism! Right?

    Clinton was already under attack for an attitude of “inevitability”—the charge being that she imperiously viewed the primary process as a ratifying formality and would not deign to compete for what she felt she was owed.

    Ringing any bells here? Oooh, and look at the points her chief strategist thought she should be hammering to make gains against Obama:

    1) Start with a base of women.
    a. For these women you represent a breaking of barriers
    b. The winnowing out of the most competent and qualified in an unfair, male dominated world
    c. The infusion of a woman and a mother’s sensibilities into a world of war and neglect
    2) Add on a base of lower and middle class voters
    a. You see them; you care about them
    b. You were one of them, it is your history
    c. You are all about their concerns (healthcare, education, energy, child care, college etc.)
    d. Sense of patriotism, Americana
    3) Play defensively with the men and upper class voters
    a. Strength to end the war the right way
    b. Connect on the problems of the global economy, economics
    c. Foreign policy expert
    d. Unions
    Contest the black vote at every opportunity. Keep him pinned down there.
    Organize on college campuses. We may not be number 1 there, but we have a lot of fans—more than enough to sustain an organization in every college.

    Hmmm – jobs? the economy? concerns about being the invisible and forgotten America? appeals to patriotism? And what about this advice:

    Penn also left no doubt about where he stood on the question of a positive versus negative strategy. He made the rather astonishing suggestion to target Obama’s “lack of American roots”:

    All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.
    Save it for 2050.
    It also exposes a very strong weakness for him—his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values. He told the people of NH yesterday he has a Kansas accent because his mother was from there. His mother lived in many states as far as we can tell—but this is an example of the nonsense he uses to cover this up.

    How horrifically white supremacist!

    On December 1, Clinton and her husband attended a private dinner with the influential Des Moines Register editorial board. Seated at opposite ends of a long table, they were stunned to hear journalists praise the skill and efficiency of the Obama and Edwards campaigns and question why Clinton’s own operation was so passive.

    On the next morning’s staff conference call, Clinton exploded, demanding to know why the campaign wasn’t on the attack. Solis Doyle was put on a plane to Iowa the next day to oversee the closing weeks. Within hours of the call, the panicked staff produced a blistering attack on Obama for what it characterized as evidence of his overweening lust for power: he had written a kindergarten essay titled “I Want to Become President.” The campaign was mocked for weeks.

    My, my, my: what a difference eight years makes!

    • stillnotking says:

      I thought that was a terrible article, too, even by the already-terrible standards of hand-wringing post-election autopsies. The bit about Donald Trump giving people “permission” to be more racist than they might otherwise was the purest example of unaware liberal condescension I’ve seen in… at least 24 hours. And yes, while Trump certainly bragged about treating women badly, it was bad in the old-school sense of being ungentlemanly, not literal sexual assault (remember “they let you do it”). I said all along that the left would’ve done real damage to Trump if they’d focused on his boorishness instead of his imagined proclivity for rape, but I suppose there’s an institutional incapacity on that score, considering being a gentleman is regarded as benevolent sexism by large parts of the modern left.

      • herbert herberson says:

        “They let you do it” was a rorschach test for the ages. To me, it suggests a man who is good at crossing the line of “I don’t want you to do that” without crossing the line of “I don’t want you to do that and have a strong enough opinion on the matter to make a thing about it,” but all I can really say is that the recording provides enough ambiguity to allow anyone to make whatever case they want

        • stillnotking says:

          To me, it suggests a man who uses his celebrity to take advantage of star-struck women, purely for his own gratification. I don’t doubt there are women willing, in the moment, to be used in a way they’d consider humiliating in the cold light of morning. Discouraging people from taking advantage of such flaws in human nature is precisely why we have social codes that are distinct from criminal codes.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Right. This “enforcing social codes” sword you have there is very sharp, and has two edges.

            (I am not defending Trump’s behavior at all, I am the opposite of a fan of his behavior.)

          • AnonEEmous says:

            so far as I can tell the position is as follows

            men must always be gentlemen and respect women, who are worthy of respect

            even if women act like they don’t deserve respect and openly beg men to grab their pussies, they should still be treated with the utmost of respect

            by the way, women who do this are Empowered and should never be criticized

            tell it to someone else honestly, society has established a code whereby women can do what they want, but men shouldn’t allow them to do so? what is this if not the final evolution of feminism: neo-victorianism, where women are fragile flowers that men need to protect AND empowered enough to go do anything at the same time? Dang, at least let me have the social power if I’m expected to act that way…

          • baconbacon says:

            To me, it suggests a man who uses his celebrity to take advantage of star-struck women, purely for his own gratification. I don’t doubt there are women willing, in the moment, to be used in a way they’d consider humiliating in the cold light of morning. Discouraging people from taking advantage of such flaws in human nature is precisely why we have social codes that are distinct from criminal codes

            Social codes almost always allow for the powerful to get away with more, they are typically treated differently by virtually everyone. Lets not pretend that social codes are rigid and egalitarian.

        • a non mouse says:

          but all I can really say is that the recording provides enough ambiguity to allow anyone to make whatever case they want

          Not really though – given the context.

          Trump was boasting about what fame and money and his image has bought him in attractiveness to women. This is only ambiguous if you think that a man like that would boast about an ability to terrify women into silent acquiescence. Normal men don’t boast about that – believing that they do is exactly what got the left into trouble believing a ridiculously obviously made up story about a fictitious gang rape by a group of frat brothers at U Va where one of them said “grab its leg”. It’s more tone-deafness from the left because the left is required to believe a bunch of nonsense about the nature of men (and women) (and sex) then attributes that belief system to men even when there’s zero evidence for the left’s view about men / women / sex.

          In other words, the left is pretty transparently wrong about the attitude of men but they can’t admit it because “sex isn’t about sex, it’s about power” and “men objectifying women means they literally think of them as inanimate objects” are powerful holiness signals and one of the ways that the left maintains it’s own self-image as superior. That it causes them to make ridiculous errors is never brought up because to point that out is sexist.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You’re assuming that I think Trump is aware of what’s actually happening. I don’t. I think that subjectively, he thinks the absence of protest means that they’re okay with it. This is a mistake any non-telepathic man can make, and it’s particularly easy to imagine a man with the self-regard of Trump doing so (edit: I’d add that, in at least some cases, it’s almost certainly not a mistake at all). However, personally, I think that it was commonly the case that the absence of protest didn’t reflect consent so much as the fact that it’s usually way easier to just ignore a brief and minor sexual assault and/or offensive come-on than it is to make a big deal out of it (please note that this doesn’t require anything remotely close to “an ability to terrify women into silent acquiescence,”).

            I base that on logic, the public statements of women who accused Trump, on the private statements of women in my life, AND on personal experience. I (a hetro man) was groped once. Broad daylight, busy sidewalk, and a passing dude reached out and grabbed at my crotch. I could have punched him, I could have tried to flag down a cop, but I had shit to do so I just said “woah now!” in a non-confrontational way while continuing on my way. I brought it up when I reached my destination and never thought of it again until last October. That dude could easily tell himself that I “let him do it,” but he’d be wrong

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but that is still not consistent with the charge that he admitted to rape.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Part of the problem is the term “sexual assault,” which can (correctly) be used to refer to an unwanted half-second grope or a violent rape, as well as anything in between. It wouldn’t be remotely fair to say the man admitted to a rape, but personally I do think he admitted to behavior that at least sometimes constituted a sexual assault.

          • Aapje says:

            I agree that rich and/or famous and/or extremely charismatic people can become oblivious to how their behavior is transgressive, because other people act weird around them. My anecdotal observations suggests that this group is disproportionately guilty of sexual assault.

            However, the extreme left have maneuvered themselves into a rather poor position to point this out, as the perception is that they:
            – See all men as equally bad on this front (rape culture). So the many men who would get the shit slapped out of them if they ever tried this and the women who live among men they would slap the shit out off, don’t see the accusation as credible.
            – Falsely accuse
            – Have double standards (Bill Clinton)
            – Overreact by default

            This makes it relatively easy for Trump-sympathetic people to ‘plea down’ the accusations to locker room talk or such.

    • cassander says:

      I’m personally loving all this stuff coming out about the Clinton campaign. It confirms that she was exactly what I thought she was, inept, aggressive, with terrible instincts, and a massively over inflated sense of her own intelligence and ability. The Podesta emails are equally, and similarly, damning.

      • Deiseach says:

        Hillary seems to be a case of “good servant, bad master” – that is, when someone else is Da Boss (Bill, Obama) she is the type of detail-oriented, hard-working, push-policies-through civil servant you want in the job. But put her in charge of her own campaign as the leader and she can’t hack it for whatever reason.

        I don’t want to be kicking her when she’s down, but part of her problem was the trustworthiness gap, and that article Scott linked also mentions it – not the email server, we’ve knocked that about more than enough, but the sniper fire incident which is where her instincts – which probably reasonably enough by this stage, after her and Bill being attacked both individually and as a couple for a lot of things, some completely unreasonable (Vince Forster ‘murder’), are to never admit anything, never give any more ammunition, keep maintaining you did nothing – served her ill. The better thing would have been to hold her hands up and go “yeah, I screwed up, I confused that with something else” but instead – in the teeth of photos and TV footage which proved it didn’t happen the way she said it did – she kept sticking to her story:

        This is a useful exemplification of a disturbing recurrent Clinton trait: responding to criticisms that she has lied by telling… even more lies, thus causing the whole thing to degenerate further down into disaster. It’s the same tactic Clinton thought would work when she was called out on her claim about ducking sniper fire in Bosnia. There, Clinton said that she remembered “landing under sniper fire”; “There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport,” Clinton said, “but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.” “There was no greeting ceremony,” she later repeated. CBS News then pointed out that this was false, and that the footage contradicted Clinton’s statement. The Philadelphia Daily Inquirer then asked Clinton why, if there was no greeting ceremony, there was footage of her calmly meeting a little girl on the tarmac. Clinton replied “I was told that the greeting ceremony had been moved away from the tarmac, but that there was this eight-year-old girl, so I can’t rush by her, I’ve got to at least greet her. So I greeted her, I took her stuff, and I left.” CBS then reported that once again, Clinton was lying. In fact, she lingered for ages on the tarmac in a highly elaborate greeting ceremony, not only meeting the little girl, but shaking hands with a large group of military officials individually, taking photos, and staging a group picture with an entire class of 7th graders.

        The lie about ducking sniper fire is the one most often discussed, but it was actually the second lie (the lie about the lie) that was far worse. Asked why she greeted a little girl if there was sniper fire, Clinton simply made up a story about how she didn’t want to break the little girl’s heart by fleeing from the danger, even though there was no danger and she did much more than greet the girl and run off. This was much, much more egregious than the initial lie, because it was a deliberate fabrication rather than a false memory. After she had been caught, telling the truth would have been fine. She could have simply said that our minds often tell us stories that aren’t true, we think of ourselves as braver than we actually were, and things we hear about others doing become misremembered as things we ourselves did. Yet rather than do that, Clinton became defensive, and created a whole new falsehood in which she bravely refused to rush away from the tarmac so that a little girl could meet her.

        This is precisely the kind of thing that, when you’re asking people to vote for you, they can trust you’ll protect their interests, makes them go “sorry, don’t believe you, don’t trust you”.

        • cassander says:

          >Hillary seems to be a case of “good servant, bad master” – that is, when someone else is Da Boss (Bill, Obama) she is the type of detail-oriented, hard-working, push-policies-through civil servant you want in the job. But put her in charge of her own campaign as the leader and she can’t hack it for whatever reason.

          Hard working, sure. She was well thought of at the State department for doing her homework. But she didn’t actually push many policies through there or anywhere else. I think of her as a “good student”, at best, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. I mean the sort of person who is more or less capable of processing what you stick in front of her, but has no real capability for independent thinking, poor judgement, or stepping back and seeing the bigger picture. She doesn’t just lose the forest for the trees, she seems genuinely unaware of the concept of forests.

          >This is precisely the kind of thing that, when you’re asking people to vote for you, they can trust you’ll protect their interests, makes them go “sorry, don’t believe you, don’t trust you”.

          Yeah, but more than anything, I think it was the steady accumulation. If it were just the emails, the sniper fire, or the cattle futures, she’d have been fine. But she kept doing dodgy shit, and by the end of it, even her supporters were throwing up their hands and saying “Again! Really?”

          • Deiseach says:

            But she didn’t actually push many policies through there or anywhere else.

            I was thinking more there of being told “Right, these are what we intend/want to do, make it happen” rather than her initiating policies of her own. That she’s good with a programme to follow, created by someone else, when it comes to “we’ve filled in the broad strokes, now we need to dot the is and cross the ts” and she’s suited for that kind of work – that’s what her law training is about.

            I also think she got her way on Libya which (in my opinion) was a dreadful mistake, but there you go. That’s part of what has me scoffing at the alarm about “Trump and the nuclear codes” – sure, we have no idea what Trump is like when faced with “you mean I can actually order a drone strike?” But we do know exactly what Hillary is like when it comes to that, and there’s a much greater likelihood based on past performance in the job that given the authority to order “bomb the hell out of them”, she is going to pick that option.

            Trump may be dissuaded by advisers and senior officers who will argue that they are the ones with knowledge and experience and no, Mr President, this is not a good idea. Hillary is the type to go “Excuse you, I have the knowledge and experience myself already and I’m telling you we’re doing this”.

          • cassander says:

            Libya is without a doubt the biggest thing she ever achieved. Without her there probably would not have been an intervention, plenty of others in the Obama administration were against it. It was also a catastrophically bad idea, for reasons that were obvious at the time.

            As I like to point out, the last US conflict I can’t fight Hillary supporting was the Gulf War. I haven’t found any information she was against it, I just think that, as First Lady of Arkansas, no one ever bothered to ask her. She is extremely hawkish by any standard.

            She also seems fairly inept as a manager, completely bereft of broader vision and a sense of how different elements fit together. No understanding that management isn’t about making decisions, but empowering others to do so then monitoring the results.

          • Aapje says:

            I got the sense that she is very good at making people like her (because she is a micromanager who listens to people who normally wouldn’t be listened too) and leveraging the pull that this gives her.

            However, she also appears to be a black/white thinker who fails to get that policies can have downsides, which means that she is bad at building coalitions and at recognizing that the downsides can be bigger than the upsides (like with war).

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Plus, even if you did for some reason believe her second lie, it still makes her look really, really stupid. Hanging around in the open under sniper fire because you don’t want to upset a little girl, thereby putting yourself and her and everyone with you in danger? Ridiculous behaviour.

  40. onyomi says:

    Regarding “fake news”: haven’t the Weekly World News and National Enquirer always been around? Maybe what people are worried about is just this brand of journalism making its way onto the web? But “I read it on the internet so it must be true” is an even more obviously faulty heuristic than “I read it in the checkout aisle, so it must be true,” and this is commonly known, isn’t it?

    • herbert herberson says:

      I think the main difference/problem (and to be clear, I don’t actually think this is a very big problem) is that social media allows the tabloid stuff to hijack/borrow the credibility of people in our social circles. Aunt Ethel wouldn’t believe the tabloids, and she wouldn’t believe the same article if she pulled it off a google search, but Cliff from down the road posted it and he always seems to know what he’s talking about so there must be something to it!

    • stillnotking says:

      One thing I haven’t seen discussed much is cause and effect: Did people stop liking Hillary because they saw a fake story that she ran a child slavery ring, or did they share stories about Hillary running a child slavery ring because they didn’t like her? Especially given the fact that this only seems to have been an issue in the latter stages of the election, I’d say the second is more likely.

      We also don’t know how much credibility they assigned to the stories. I’m guessing not all that much, again going by the assumption that they just wanted to discredit a person they already didn’t like; amateur spin-doctoring, if you will.

      • a non mouse says:

        Didn’t help too much that her VP pick has the most obvious case of “creepy pedo face” in politics.

        From the original post:

        Chinese scientists claim they can use machine learning to predict criminality from facial appearance. Still needs a lot of double-checking before accepted, but basically believable.

        Physiognomy is real.

        • Deiseach says:

          Chinese scientists claim they can use machine learning to predict criminality from facial appearance. Still needs a lot of double-checking before accepted, but basically believable.

          Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. There’s a long history of trying to classify criminals by all kinds of “scientific” measurement, and what it comes down is a mound of pseudo-science on a foundation of racism and classism. I have no faith that “But this time, the Chinese have cracked it with Real Science!” I rather think it will turn out that all the regime’s undesirables will turn out to have criminal features denoting their concupiscence, and so it is justified in locking them up without benefit of trial, quelle surprise!

          What are we supposed to do with this knowledge? “I see by the measure of the distance between the inner corners of your eyes that you fall into the “arson, embezzlement and mopery” category. Right, five years in jail for you! No, it doesn’t matter that you’ve never committed any crimes, we’re being proactive in reducing crime by removing the Really Scientific Science-Proven criminals from moving about and mingling with the population of good honest citizens!”

          There’s an Ellery Queen novel about a man so afflicted by this notion of “hereditary criminality” and “born criminal” that he’s afraid he will murder his wife, as his father (allegedly but it turns out falsely accused) murdered his mother, and he works himself into a state of making this a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          Take it away, GKC and Father Brown:

          “They mean getting a long way off him, as if he were a distant prehistoric monster; staring at the shape of his ‘criminal skull’ as if it were a sort of eerie growth, like the horn on a rhinoceros’s nose. When the scientist talks about a type, he never means himself, but always his neighbour; probably his poorer neighbour. I don’t deny the dry light may sometimes do good; though in one sense it’s the very reverse of science.

          …I’ve put it badly, but it’s true. No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; till he’s got rid of all the dirty self-deception of talking about low types and deficient skulls; till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            There are two separate questions here: can we trust the “unfriendly AI” Chinese gvt not to subvert a potential new acceptable norm of using algorithms for these prediction problems for its own ends? Obviously not! The Chinese gvt will totally do the evil thing here. In this sense, this case is similar to “phrenology” et al.

            And a narrower technical question: is this prediction problem actually solvable with ML techniques? This is less obvious, and the answer might actually be true. That this is less obvious makes this case very different from phrenology, et al. The worry is that type 1 and type 2 errors here are enormously politically meaningful.

            More generally, how to do prediction problems with “politically sensitive features” is a very interesting open problem. In particular, trying to define “discrimination” and related *isms formally within a prediction formalism is something I am currently thinking about (and my advisor thought about).

          • Deiseach says:

            More generally, how to do prediction problems with “politically sensitive features” is a very interesting open problem.

            We’re talking about humans here; of course we’re going to jump from “85% of scofflaws had a cast in their left eye” to “You’ve got a cast in your left eye, therefore you are a scofflaw! So you should be locked up or otherwise removed from society for our protection!”

            Do I trust the Chinese government not to use such predictive theorising for its own ends? Given that Ozy (God bless their innocence) has a post currently up about “If people are aware that the Chinese government is selling organs harvested from innocent people executed because they were political dissidents, they will not travel to China for organ transplant surgery” – what do you think my opinion on this matter is?

      • Deiseach says:

        Did people stop liking Hillary because they saw a fake story that she ran a child slavery ring, or did they share stories about Hillary running a child slavery ring because they didn’t like her?

        From that 2008 article mentioning the poll in Iowa to this 2015 article, Hillary Clinton has long had the problem with voters that “yeah, she’s probably competent, but we don’t like or trust her and we think she’s dishonest”, so it certainly wasn’t a new thing that only cropped up in this campaign (though I agree the Pizzagate story was extra).

      • suntzuanime says:

        Pizzagate wasn’t really “proper” fake news, none of the underlying facts were actually fake. The Podesta emails actually contained the sentences that were being used as evidence. It’s just that people put a totally deranged gloss on the facts with essentially no basis in order to push a political agenda. Which is essentially the “real news” MO.

      • Cheese says:

        >One thing I haven’t seen discussed much is cause and effect: Did people stop liking Hillary because they saw a fake story that she ran a child slavery ring, or did they share stories about Hillary running a child slavery ring because they didn’t like her? Especially given the fact that this only seems to have been an issue in the latter stages of the election, I’d say the second is more likely.

        Relevant: http://www.afr.com/lifestyle/the-prosperous-face-of-fake-news-20161121-gstxlt

        My visceral reaction to that article was one of anger. But thinking about it I kind of admire their ability to set aside ethical qualms in favour of giving people what they want to make money.

        Agree with someone higher up in the comments who makes the point that this is not actually fake news, just spin (on steroids if you will).

    • dndnrsn says:

      The thing is that the supermarket tabloids are clearly separated from the real papers, physically, and they’re a different format.

      By comparison, a “fake news” site looks a lot more similar to a “real news” site.

      If the National Inquirer was in folded-broadsheet format, and was sold alongside the respectable newspapers…

    • Civilis says:

      The National Enquirer has occasionally published real news. The tabloid was the one to first publicize the John Edwards affair, among other stories.

      On the other hand, the Michael Crichton described the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect back in 2005 as follows:

      “Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

    • JayT says:

      The Enquirer is not fake news like the the Weekly World News is. There is no Batboy or Elvis sightings. The Enquirer is just a paper with low journalistic standards and poor fact checking. They pay their sources, which creates an incentive to sources to make up stories. However, it’s kind of a double edged sword because it also means that they get to break a lot of scandals. People are more willing to throw acquaintances under the bus if they are getting paid.

    • S_J says:

      Wasn’t there a presentation on NBC in the 1990s about pickup trucks that exploded on collision?

      Wasn’t there a presentation of MS-Word-looking documents (mixed with memos from the Texas Air National Guard during the 1970s) on the eve of elections in the United States, in the fall of 2004?

      I remember someone claiming that Sarah Palin’s campaign put cross-hairs on a map, and that convinced Jared Loughner to shoot at then-Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords…

      Fake news stories, mistaken for real news, happen on a regular basis.

      Web-sites that live off of poorly-sourced clickbait headlines are also a new thing. But that kind of click-bait sensationalism has lived for a long time in the world of tabloid journalism.

      Claiming that this kind of thing is The Reason that a Presidential candidate lost…seems like fake news to me.

      (Unless, of course, you refer to the reason that former-Senator John Edwards washed out of his bid for Presidential-Candidacy in 2008.)

      • hlynkacg says:

        You’d think no one had ever heard of “muck-raking” or “yellow journalism” before.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          You are conflating two different things, I think. Both can be an issue, and yet not the same thing.

          Compare:
          “GM has an actual fire problem in certain vehicles, but we can’t make it happen on command for sweet, sweet eyeballs”

          “There is a child-pedophilia ring being run by the Clintons out of a DC pizza and ping-pong place”

  41. Mammon says:

    I recently saw the Electoral College described as “affirmative action for rural Americans”. This characterization feels both accurate and explosive.

    Rural Americans appear to be downtrodden, so they would fall under the umbrella of people the social justice movement should protect; so they should support the Electoral College. Ideologically consistent conservatives should oppose affirmative action in general, and the Electoral College in particular.

    This is obviously not what’s happening.

    • stillnotking says:

      Politics doesn’t contain any affirmative action (or meritocracy), and its operation is generally the opposite of that; was restricting suffrage to land-owning white males “affirmative action” for them? Politics is about seizing the greatest possible representation for your group, which is exactly what happened at the Constitutional Convention, when the smaller prospective states successfully negotiated the 2-Senators-per-state rule, and by extension an advantage in the Electoral College.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Two can dance.

      EC is like progressive taxation where taxpayers are states, and dollars are votes. The idea is to give even low population (e.g. “poor”) states some say (e.g. “purchasing power”.) Ideologically, progressives should support the EC.

      Or, you know, we could stop playing stupid fnord games. EC was a historical compromise that made the US what it is, and enabled a lot of other good things down the line (Louisiana purchase, etc.)

  42. gradaigh says:

    The freakish Arctic warmth isn’t a sign to panic, but it’s been making me think more about worst-case scenarios of climate change. As I mentioned on tumblr, most of the risk in climate change to humanity may be tied up in less likely but extremely bad scenarios. Climate shifts of the magnitude and rapidity of the Younger Dryas could have devastating consequences, to the point that the product of their probability and their human consequences could be considerably larger than the product of the probability and consequences of the most likely warming scenarios.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Any particular reason not to panic besides a general heuristic against panicking?

      • tscharf says:

        Because humanity has proven to be a supremely adaptability species?

        Because humanity has somehow survived thrived over the last 150 years with 1C warming?

        Because the gradient of warming is much higher at the poles where nobody lives?

        Because air temperature at the poles is not the primary source of sea level rise where temperatures range from -40F to 32F over the year?

        Because if China keeps their promises and we have anything near normal technical progress peak emissions should occur before 2050?

        Because we could choose to use nuclear power?

        Proving warming and proving catastrophic effects are different. Long tail effects are of course the primary risks with climate change. I invite you to educate yourself on what these effects may be and how sound the projections are. If you can convince yourself that a species level extinction event or extreme weather events have significant increases then you got farther than I did.

        There will very likely be measurable effects, some winners and losers. Panic? At least define what effect you think is worth it, and then go investigate it. Beware Cassandras with non-specific warnings.

        It’s warming, the seas are rising. National debt is accumulating. Trump just got elected. Public pensions are unsustainable. We have only found 90% of large earth crossing asteroids. Yellowstone has a super volcano. Y3K. Another Carrington event will be a huge problem. Apple’s wireless earbuds are still delayed! Pick your panic.

        • > Because humanity has proven to be a supremely adaptability species?

          And doing something about CC rather than ignoring it is a n adaptation. (“We have been able to repel invaders in the past, so let’s not bother fighting this time”).

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m pretty sure the way it works is that it’s only necessary to do something if we actually do something, and if we’re able to muster the courage not to do anything it will turn out to have been okay not to do anything. Of course there are anthropic principle issues with looking at our own track record as a species, if you believe in that sort of thing.

          • tscharf says:

            Sure, let’s do something.

            It’s important what something is. How much does it cost, who’s going to pay for it, how effective will it be in reducing the trajectory of global emissions / temperature?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I took tscharf’s point about human adaptability as meaning that humans are adaptable enough to manage changes with much less than a century’s warning. Hence, climate warnings about the GAT going up 5 F in 100 years are nothing to get worked up about, and may even be harmful if the warning turns out to be mistaken.

            And even if the warning holds, we’re facing 1 F every 20 years, which humanity might manage fine, including variations where it goes up by more in one part of the world and by less in another, alters sea levels, etc.

            Someone linked an article a year or so ago claiming that global warming could raise sea levels by 15 feet, which would put Cape Canaveral below it. The article mentioned lower down that that might happen in a century. I noted that NASA could very plausibly relocate three or four times during that period for unrelated reasons. So would any residents in the area.

        • moridinamael says:

          Because we could choose to use nuclear power?

          There’s really nothing we can pragmatically do to move the needle on climate change happening in a big way.

        • cassander says:

          >beware Cassandras with non-specific warnings.

          I take offense at that. You’d better not do it again……

      • gradaigh says:

        I do have a general heuristic against panicking, but as I’ve learned more about catastrophic risks I’m not sure I trust it as much as a used to. An independent reason not to panic is that we’ve had freak record sea ice lows before- the summer minimum sea ice extent in 2012 was freakishly low, and the previous November record low was set about a decade ago. A warming trend turns the freak events into records, but the massive decrease in winter sea ice this year probably won’t be matched next year. And there’s still a lot of sea ice, absolutely speaking.

        However: many climate models leave out various positive feedbacks, like permafrost and sea ice melting, and discrepancies between models and data suggest that the models underestimate climate sensitivity. The climate’s changing faster than we thought it would, and the science is changing fast too. I’m still trying to figure out what I think of it.

        • tscharf says:

          I don’t think that’s the case. Comparing temperature trends to observations the models are running hot. They were getting dangerously close to falling out of the 95% thresholds before the recent spike in temperatures. Feel free to find your own comparisons.

          https://judithcurry.com/2016/04/05/comparing-models-with-observations/

          https://judithcurry.com/2013/10/30/implications-for-climate-models-of-their-disagreement-with-observations/

          The models have only been running forward since about 2000 so a lot more time is needed to get a handle on it, but so far it is definitely not worse than we thought.

          The PDF of climate sensitivity hasn’t been changed in over 10 years by the IPCC but the longer observations stay on track or under the model projection the less likely the large estimates of climate sensitivity will come to pass.

          Estimating climate sensitivity has become a mud slinging contest, the only thing I trust is 25 more years of observations.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I keep hearing these two conflicting claims (climate changing faster than expected, climate changing slower than expected) and it’s annoying me. Can anyone link me to a good explanation which acknowledges that people are saying these two opposite stories, goes through the evidence people are using to support each one, and then explains which one is right?

          • sflicht says:

            It’s not quite what you’re asking for, but here is a recent mainstream paper (Nature) that discusses the 21st century slowdown in the warming rate and just how consistent it is with the CMIP results.

          • tscharf says:

            You’ll be even more annoyed when you spend 10 years looking it at as a hobby and don’t feel like you made much progress, ha ha. Short answer is we need more data because uncertainty is high and difficult to bound.

            It really depends on what aspect of climate you are referencing. Temperatures, sea level, ice sheet mass, sea ice extents, extreme events, etc.

            The expected rate of change from models is only baselined since about 2000 and 15 years isn’t long enough to make any confident assessment due to natural variability that cannot be unwound from the observations.

            There are no neutral fact checking sources in my opinion. It is a monumental polarized academic whizzing match, similar to an election we just had.

            Temperature: Discussion on observations vs models.

            Skeptics / Lukewarmer Perspective
            https://judithcurry.com/2016/11/12/climate-models-for-lawyers/#more-22472

            Proponents Perspective
            http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/09/on-mismatches-between-models-and-observations/

            http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2016/05/comparing-models-to-the-satellite-datasets/

            The IPCC AR5 is the best general source. The best stuff is beneath the SPM (Summary for policy makers) but is very detailed.

          • Some years back, in response to seeing claims both ways, I tried simply looking through the IPCC reports and, for each one, estimating what warming I would expect thereafter from what it said. I then compared that to what actually happened.

            My conclusion was that the IPCC consistently projected high. I also concluded that a straight line fit from 1911, when the current warming started, to the date of the first IPCC report consistently beat the IPCC projections.

            Details in an old blog post. I expect that Judith Curry and others have done more careful versions of that, but I thought looking at the data myself was worth doing.

          • tscharf says:

            Dilbert to the rescue!

            The Non-Expert Problem and Climate Change Science
            http://blog.dilbert.com/post/154082416051/the-non-expert-problem-and-climate-change-science

          • Wrong Species says:

            Scott Adams is certainly a master troll:

            If you ask me how scared I am of climate changes ruining the planet, I have to say it is near the bottom of my worries. If science is right, and the danger is real, we’ll find ways to scrub the atmosphere as needed. We always find ways to avoid slow-moving dangers. And if the risk of climate change isn’t real, I will say I knew it all along because climate science matches all of the criteria for a mass hallucination by experts.

          • M Simon says:

            Wrong Species

            We already have a cheap way of sequestering CO2. It is called trees.

          • Murphy says:

            @M Simon

            unfortunately the land to grow them on isn’t free and is rarely terribly cheap and if you use the wood for things which end up with the carbon back in the atmosphere in a few years then it’s net-neutral.

            Try convincing the owners of huge tracts of forestry to bury all the wood produced.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s not necessary to bury the trees; using them for lumber works fine for sequestration.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @TheNybbler:
            Not if we are going to burn all the houses at some point. 😉

          • simon says:

            Most houses don’t ever get burned, they get demolished in the end and the rubble is put in dumpsters and carried off, presumably for burial. Same thing for other wood products generally except for firewood.

            Quick googling suggests ~10 billion tonnes carbon from fossil fuels per year. Couldn’t so easily find a figure for wood, but the wiki article on “Wood Economy” has the following figures:

            1.5 billion cubic metres of “officially counted wood not used as firewood” “amounting to around 45% of the wood cultivated in the world” but no mention of how much of the remaining 55% is firewood.

            “Wood is relatively light in weight, because its specific weight is less than 500 kg/m³”

            Now, assuming the most carbon wood is basically carbohydrate (in the form of cellulose) plus stuff with less carbon proportion, it should be less than 40% carbon by mass.

            So, I guesstimate carbon in wood at less than 0.6 billion tonnes per year, or less than 6% of fossil fuel carbon emissions.

            Seems relatively small but maybe a drive towards massively increased managed forestry using fast growing tree species could make that a big chunk of carbon emissions. Or maybe not if existing practices aren’t sustainable. But, I’ve read that forests have been increasing in extent at least in western countries – so I’d guess western countries can probably harvest a lot more.

            But, yeah, the what-do-you-do-with-the-wood question. Maybe inverse carbon tax could increase the demand somewhat? It seems hard to find the price of raw logs unfortunately, but cheap “utility #3” 2x4s are at $272 per 1000 board feet (~1.6 cubic metres in 1000 board feet) according to a Canadian government website. That’s going to be a fraction of a tonne of carbon, so, hard for an inverse carbon tax to make that much difference unless it’s really high.

            (came here from comment of the week link to thread)

          • dvasya says:

            simon: Rotting is just as good as burning. If you want to bury wood non-carbon-neutrally, you better make sure it’s out of reach of any wood-eating organisms. I don’t think normal landfills work that way.

          • Trees is one thing, but Scott Adams suggestion that we can just scrub the atmosphere for carbon using technological means, at least in the absence of near unlimited clean energy, is plain ridiculous in my opinion. In many countries the CO2 emissions for every man, woman and child is >10 tonnes per year. That means you need enough energy to extract (not to mention then move to an appropriate dump site) something like 3 tonnes of carbon for each person in that country just to break even with today’s emissions. The energy required is going to be at the very least a big chunk of the energy you got by combusting and combining the coal/oil with air in the first place. The only alternative I’ve heard proposed is to try to use large scale mining of naturally occurring rocks that absorb CO2, which you still have to mine, crush, refine/treat and then rebury in insanely large quantities. And the costs in coal plants seem to bear this out, with scrubbed coal energy (where you’ve already got the CO2 conveniently gathered for you) greatly increased in cost compared with conventional coal. Without a cheap, clean energy source, you’d massively increase world power requirements and therefore emissions that need to be cleaned up, and possibly bankrupt the world economy. And if you’ve got a clean energy source to power the reaction instead, why are you still using fossil fuels at all? I’m not saying sequestration isn’t a worthwhile tech for us to investigate, and I salute people doing research in that area, but the idea that it will be used to restore CO2 levels to preindustrial levels is deeply misguided in my opinion.

            I also find his claim that we always avoid slow moving problems… interesting… especially now we’ve clearly mastered the slow moving problems of ongoing conflict, political corruption, political tribalism, crime etc etc. I don’t think the pace of a problem has any significant relation to how easy it is to solve, or if it does I’d suggest the boiling frog theory would push it in the other direction in some cases. I used to love Dilbert comics, but ever since reading his non-fiction writing it makes me quite sad to go near them.

      • suntzuanime says:

        You shouldn’t panic about the freakish Arctic warmth because it’s mostly not a result of global warming, it’s mostly a result of a warm wind blowing in from the south (well, where else), with a little bit of global warming mixed in. It’s like the opposite mistake of the people who say “how can global warming be real when it’s cold outside?”

  43. JPNunez says:

    That chinese paper about facial expressions doesn’t seem to control for income or any kind of social background…at least from skimming it.

    Would not be surprised if facial expressions are tied to different social groups and they are just measuring the social group that people belong.

    Altho their predictive power is pretty big.

  44. cassander says:

    To David Friedman. Did your debate with James Scott ever get posted online? If so, could you link us to it? I’d like to see it.

  45. Deiseach says:

    Re: test scores, for the PISA 2015 results, Ireland is doing okay on the reading but not so well on science and maths. I appear to be a typical Irish person of my gender (good at reading, bad at maths) which means that, thankfully, I am attaining the average on something 🙂

    And this probably ties into what we were arguing about what is education for? Industry says “to turn out the types of employees we want”:

    In comparison to the other 71 countries, Irish students ranked 19th in science and 18th in maths.

    IBEC, the body that represents Irish businesses, did not comment on the gender gap.

    However, it did state that Irish students’ overall ranking in maths and science needed to be addressed.

    “The overall performance in science and mathematics is not good enough to support our economic ambition. We live in a scientific and technological age.

    “A major improvement in science and mathematics outcomes at school level is required if we want to compete at the highest levels,” said Tony Donohoe, the head of education policy at IBEC.

    …In reading, Irish students ranked third out of the OECD 35, second among the EU countries and fifth out of the 72 countries that were tested.

    Comparisons: Ireland 5th in Reading, 18th in Maths, 19th in Science out of 72 countries

    USA 24th in Reading, 25th in Science, 41st in Maths out of 72 countries

    • M Simon says:

      Science/engineering is done by the IQ “tails”.

      An IQ of >130 is considered a requite for Engineering School.

      A “low” IQ population can have “enough” engineers if the population is big enough.

  46. Alex Zavoluk says:

    “Lord Dunsany wrote a sequel to The Tortoise And The Hare, where there’s a forest fire and the animals need to send warning quickly. Since they have already determined that the tortoise is faster than the hare, they send him to spread the message, and everybody burns to death. This is probably a metaphor for life.”

    Goodhart’s law strikes again!

  47. hlynkacg says:

    Comment of the day goes to Viliam in A Return To Discussion:

    The historical Socrates was permabanned from the planet for sealioning.

  48. John Schilling says:

    The second EMdrive link was particularly damning to the EMdrive folks, and embarrassing to me. I’ve used the same model of thrust stand, and I’ve observed the same behavior that “emdriventodrink” notes – a heat source correlated to some part of your experiment causes thermal distortion in the thrust stand, which shows up as a spurious force signal. But I’ve seen enough EMdrive hype that I only skimmed the latest paper and didn’t catch that signature in the data. Bad on me.

    But also bad on the EMdrive folks for not seeing a signature that is so obviously not consistent with a microwave effect and not asking “so why is it doing this funny thing?”, instead going to press with a handful of data points where the best they can say is that the force meter isn’t right at zero. Good on emdriventodrink for catching it.

  49. manwhoisthursday says:

    Steve Sailer has long been pointing out the science fiction-y aspect of late transitioning transsexuality. Guess that fits in with the autism thing.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      Thanks.

      I’m agnostic on whether autism is becoming more frequent or just more recognized. One thing we can say for sure, though, is that it’s not fading away.

      Similarly, I’m agnostic on whether transgenderism is becoming more frequent or just more recognized. One thing we can say for sure, though, is that it’s not fading away.

      It could be that both are increasing and that is not a coincidence because they are somehow linked. The odds of that being true are not high, but I would guess they aren’t so low the idea can be dismissed out of hand.

  50. jonm says:

    On the trans-autism link could the link be that autistic people are more sensitive to negative sensations and mismatches between expectations/preferred environment and reality. Examples include changes in routine, itchy clothes, sudden noises etc. on this view feeling mismatched with your gender is just another discomfort signal that autistic people struggle to filter out.

    So perhaps 10% of people feel not 100% matched to their gender but most non-spectrum people do not feel sufficiently mismatched to subjectively experience this as great discomfort. By contrast any discomfort from the mismatch is sufficient to cause distress for someone whose brain doesn’t allow them to focus away from discomfort.

  51. Steve Sailer says:

    “Chinese scientists claim they can use machine learning to predict criminality from facial appearance.”

    I’ve always wanted to see studies based on the professional perceptions of Hollywood casting agents and make-up artists. They are extremely good at manipulating my prejudices about who looks trustworthy and who doesn’t. They must have an enormous amount of tacit knowledge about what audiences expect based on the looks of different character actors.

    • a non mouse says:

      It’s also a self fulfilling prophecy with regards to Hollywood.

      Rare and sensational things are more often seen in movies – and movies are made by people who all share the same worldview and prejudices. As you watch lots of movies the language of movie-world takes up residence in your brain and you interpret things in that light.

      Picture a movie college campus rapist – looks a lot like Haven Monahan and not much like D’Qwell Washington, right?

    • Deiseach says:

      They must have an enormous amount of tacit knowledge about what audiences expect based on the looks of different character actors.

      Well, there is the coding of “disability or deformity = evil”, e.g. facial scarring to indicate this is the Sinister Bad Guy (as someone pointed out, the villain in “The Lion King” is even named Scar, not to mention has a prominent scar and oddly-coloured eyes). The exception to this is Quasimodo, and that relies on the intuition that “deformity = evil” being overturned.

      I don’t know if casting directors/make up artists have a better knowledge than general; I think it’s more a case of a visual language having been established and then reinforced by new movies/TV shows following their predecessors (can anyone think of a villain who is dressed in light colours and looks like a friendly grandpa?)

      • Wander says:

        I’d say scars should be an exception to the deformity thing, because realistically you can expect someone who is heavily scarred to have lived a more violent life than something with a natural growth defect.

      • Murphy says:

        The facial scar thing may also have been linked to the aristocracy taking part in lots of duels pretty much optimized for picking up a few respectable but not-disabling facial scars.

        So in older works it wouldn’t have been too dissimilar to having your villain be a super wealthy lex luthor figure or robber baron.

        Of course, good scars, evil scars:
        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/GoodScarsEvilScars

        • baconbacon says:

          Where does Mad-Eye Moody fit in?

        • “The facial scar thing may also have been linked to the aristocracy taking part in lots of duels pretty much optimized for picking up a few respectable but not-disabling facial scars.”

          I associate that pattern specifically with 19th century Germany and Austria, not with dueling more generally. Am I mistaken?

          • Tibor says:

            Also 20th century German fraternities. They have/had this thing called “academic fencing”. The idea is that you actually wear no head protection and almost try to get hit – and to get these “cool” scars. Supposedly, if you look at some older German company bosses and such you can notice these facial scars. Nowadays it’s kind of grown out of fashion.

            On a side note -in Germany there are fraternities but there are no sororities. I don’t know why exactly – the first seem to work as a way to get cheap housing (subsidized or owned by the older fraternity members) as well as a way to do “social networking”. It is not clear why the same would not apply to women. In any case I come from a country where there are no fraternities or sororities whatsoever and I always found the idea strange and sort of immature.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, the “Heidelberg dueling scar” worked, at least in English-language pulp fiction, to mark out the “slightly sinister, might even be dodgy, Prussian aristocrat officer” so I don’t accept that “university dueling scars = sexy not evil”, or at least “sexy and evil”, but granted that was probably after Prussian militarism was seen as threatening to the other European powers, and not virile discipline of a great nation getting free of dreamy philosophical contemplation and beer-swilling 🙂

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Tibor:

            They wore eye and nose protection, but ears and lips were fair game.

            @Deiseach:

            I wonder if more people would go for “sexy but evil” or “not evil but sexy”.

          • US says:

            (Tibor: Unrelated to the above, but I decided to leave a follow-up comment to our recent exchange of views, and as I did spend a bit of time on it I figured I might as well link you to it here in case there was no indication that you’d seen/noticed it – which there currently isn’t in that thread).

            (I apologize to David and others for the off-topic remark)

          • Tibor says:

            @US: Thank you. It looks like it is worth spending some more time looking into it and you’ve convinced me that it is a more complex problem than I thought.

    • phil says:

      Do you happen to have a good link or c+p available of your idea that I’m butchering the explanation of in this subthread? http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/12/06/links-1216-site-makes-right/#comment-442739

      Do you have any thoughts on that particular subthread?

      Thank you in advance

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      A few years back, I ran across people playing with this tacit knowledge on YouTube. They would splice together scenes from a movie to make a trailer that implied the movie was in a very different genre. Mary Poppins as a horror story. The Shining as an uplifting tale of a man trying to reconnect with his son.

  52. onyomi says:

    Probability that Palin penned an article critical of the incoming admin soon after receiving the phone call telling her she wouldn’t be offered a cabinet position?

  53. eyeballfrog says:

    Might the transgender-autism link have anything to do with the greater prevalence of transwomen than transmen? (Assuming that it actually exists and is not a skewed perception on my part.)

    Also, “gender-diverse”? I don’t think I can keep up with the euphemism treadmill.

    Finally,

    >her general practitioner, who informed her that her diagnosis from a psychiatrist, not a medical doctor, was “worthless.”

    Is a psychiatrist not a medical doctor? I thought by definition a psychiatrist has an MD.

    • Deiseach says:

      Also, “gender-diverse”? I don’t think I can keep up with the euphemism treadmill.

      Just remember: cis het BAD, everything else in every combination GOODEST BESTEST MORE SUPERIOREST 🙂

    • John Colanduoni says:

      Is a psychiatrist not a medical doctor? I thought by definition a psychiatrist has an MD.

      Perhaps they meant psychologist? Even so, a clinical psychologist would have more training for diagnosing mental illness than a family doctor.

  54. alexbecker says:

    If any Less Wrong users are here (the LW thread is essentially dead): If you’re going to reboot LW, *please* stop focusing on AI Risk. You could do so much more good on more pressing problems. Rather than copy&paste what I just finished writing, here’s a blogpost

    • This is probably the single most frequently made objection to LW. It’s not great because

      1. Standard, conventional threats that are already known about are already known about
      and don’t need to be pointed out.

      2. The solution to standard threats requires social and political
      co-ordination (eg nuclear disarmament treaties) that a bunch
      of techies are not well placed to implement.

      3. Techies are somewhat better placed to implement AI safety technologies,
      because that is something a bright high school drop out could conceivably do with only a
      computer and no public standing or political position (although there is quite a
      question about whether a Bay Area rationalist is really better placed tp solve AI risk
      than an “ordinary PhD”).

      4. Having said all that, there are still issues about whether LW/MIRI should be
      focussing on existential risk as opposed to just risk, whether it should be focussing so
      much on theory as opposed to usable technologies, etc, etc.

      • Peffern says:

        Forgive my ignorance, by do LW/Rationalists not focus more on science literacy/science communication with the general public. This seems to be at the root of many of the science-adjacent problems that we face today. Is there a reason nobody talks about it anymore?

        • Reasoner says:

          This seems to be at the root of many of the science-adjacent problems that we face today.

          Why?

          Is there a reason nobody talks about it anymore?

          See the blog *Education Realist* maybe?

      • Brad says:

        4. Having said all that, there are still issues about whether LW/MIRI should be focusing on existential risk as opposed to just risk, whether it should be focusing so much on theory as opposed to usable technologies, etc, etc.

        I would think the obvious focus would be on epistemology especially as it relates to statistics and cognitive biases.

        Instead the site and movement seems to have been lost down a cul-de-sac based on EY learning about these things, deciding that he could use them along with his self declared natural genius to see further and clearer than anyone else. Based on these visions an agenda was set in stone and now the ‘Less Wrong’ part is only the hook to get people on board with the agenda.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Listen, no one in a million years is going to listen to a word I say, but if MIRI wants an impossible problem of actual importance to work on, I would suggest the principal agent problem. That’s like the friendliness problem for today’s technology.

        re: cul-de-sac: I kept saying people need to move past EY’s “guruship.” And the only reason I kept saying anything _at all_ is that a lot of earnest, energetic, well-meaning people is a powerful resource that could have done a lot more with a different social structure than the one that actually ossified into place.

        • Reasoner says:

          Just FYI, I listened to all the words you said. If you have more relevant words I’ll listen to those too.

  55. Peter says:

    There’s a YouTube vid of a tortoise vs hare race, which puts the fable to the test.

  56. > Now a problem starts to develop: what we in the technical fields call the scalability problem

    I meant to make a comment about scalability. When considering a new social or political idea, it is not enough that it works at all, you also need to know whether
    it is scalable– the “why can’t everywhere be like Liechtenstein” problem. On the sceptical view of Charter schools, they cant’ scale because excluding problem pupils doesn’t scale across space, and having no pension liability doesn’t scale across time.

    > The North Pole is 36 degrees warmer than usual right now, with extreme effects on sea ice.#

    Also 2016 is the hottest year on record,

    But climate change still a commie plot.

    Also Chinese tell Trump climate change not a commie plot.

    But climate change still a commie plot.

    • Deiseach says:

      IT DID NOT RAIN IN IRELAND IN NOVEMBER WHAT KIND OF CRAZY UN-NATURAL WEATHER IS THIS CLIMATE CHANGE IS ALL TRUE!!!!!!

      No, climate change is not a Commie plot, but agreeing on what action to take about it is going to be difficult. Exactly how do you cut carbon emissions and yet keep the lifestyle the West is now accustomed to? And if industrialised with old-fashioned polluting industries nations like India and China don’t do the same cutting, how much good will it achieve?

    • stillnotking says:

      Chinese tell Trump climate change not a commie plot.

      Isn’t that exactly what a Commie plotter would say?

    • M Simon says:

      Hottest year on record before or after adjustments of the temperature record?

      Was El Nino accounted for?

      How about temperatures falling at the fastest rate ever post El Nino? if they continue falling at that rate we will be in an ice age (no longer in an interglacial) in ten years or less.

  57. Deiseach says:

    Related to the Return To Discussion post: is an intentionally confusing interface the secret of Tumblr’s success?

    Short answer: No

    Slightly longer answer: Given that every time Tumblr staff introduce changes (generally after the fact, like the last revelation that ads would now be on every blog by default unless you specifically turn