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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. eucalculia says:

    > when someone feels safe giving the Crown Prince a ‘B’, that’s a good sign that your country is sufficiently non-corrupt

    Prince William got a 2:1 in Geography from St Andrews, which is also effectively a ‘B’, so that’s a good sign for the UK.

    Also, I know this is a joke, but I think the government of Thailand has changed sufficiently since 1982 that anything happening in 1982 isn’t really a sign that Thailand is non-corrupt.

  2. a_psu says:

    That reddit thread about Trump is interesting if true; does anyone know of any similar reddit threads about (alleged) personal encounters with Hillary Clinton? I remember that thing about Eric Bonner and the K9 story going around the internet, and I have met someone claiming to be an ex secret serviceman who told me that the Bushes and Reagans were always much more friendly and accomodating to the White House support staff than the Clintons were (things like George W. would order extensive room service and deliver it to them personally, would try not to schedule travel around holidays so they could be with their families).

    • hlynkacg says:

      Complete hearsay, but I know a couple of 5th Fleet VIP transport guys who’s own stories corroborate the K9 story.

  3. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I think the Vox article still misses at least one important but basic point:

    Why is the government better at negotiating than many insurance companies? In particular, why is the government making one decision for everyone better than each person getting their own insurance company to negotiate? If you have a product that is twice as expensive and no better, there shouldn’t be any insurance company willing to cover it at all. There might be many insurance companies, but there are also many grocery stores and we don’t need a government board to negotiate the price of food! Each individual should be able to express their preference for whether a drug is worth the cost, especially if drugs have different effectiveness in different people.

    I think part of the problem is tightly regulated insurance markets (choice of insurer is limited, so they have little incentive to negotiate their costs down instead of passing costs on to their customers) and part is the ridiculous IP laws we have (IIRC, pharmaceutical companies make absurd profit margins, upwards of 40%, indicating we could make changes that would cut down on their profits by a factor of 2-4 and still have plenty of investment and research, a roughly 20-30% cost savings; in addition, if they really are producing drugs that are more expensive but no more effective, that sounds like an over-investment in R+D that is being propped up by IP).

    In other words, we’re just playing whack-a-mole again: introducing more regulations that limit choices to fix the problems caused by the previous sets of regulations, which may or may not be effective enough but will probably cause other problems down the road (sounds like a great way to screw over minorities).

    • Murphy says:

      Looking at the profit margins of the top drug companies is misleading because many drug companies only have a couple of products on the market and some fail without ever developing a marketable product so that 40% may not be representative of the risk of investing in any particular pharma company.

      That being said I wouldn’t be surprised if their margins are thicker than they really need to be to incentivize investment.

      People love to blame regulation for all their problems (without naming particular regulations so I’m going to take a leaf out of EY’s book and say “name 3”) but whatever the cause the US seems to be stuck on some kind of peak in cost-efficiency space where you’re spending more and getting a worse deal than people in much more pure state systems. You seem to have the worst of both worlds. A move in any direction, towards a single payer or towards a better market would probably improve matters.

      The state is better at negotiating because they’re such a massive single market. Sell to the NHS and you get volume akin to supplying a quarter of the USA exclusively. |

      As someone living under the NHS there are also some significant “soft” benefits that americans rarely seem to mention. I never have to worry that if I lose my job or my income is interrupted that I’ll lose my healthcare.
      If my SO gets hit by a car when we half way across the country I don’t have to worry about whether there are hospitals nearby that the insurance company will accept.I don’t have to worry about fees for an ambulance.
      I don’t have to worry about an insurance company trying to weasel out of paying for some inane reason, I don’t have to worry about losing my healthcare if my boss fires me for being sick. I don’t have to stress about what will happen if a family member ages out of their parents insurance because they’re covered. Full stop.

      You know that sick feeling in the bottom of your stomach when you’re worried that the small print on some insurance document might screw you in some way you don’t expect and leave your child to die? I never have to get that feeling.

      That alone has a massive cash value.

      and as a bonus if I don’t like the level of care the NHS provides, if I think it’s not good enough I’m free to buy my own insurance. Which is spectacularly cheap vs US insurance. The NHS still has my back even if the insurance company welch on their side of the deal.

      • The Nybbler says:

        You seem to have the worst of both worlds. A move in any direction, towards a single payer or towards a better market would probably improve matters.

        We might be stuck in a local maximum between two minima, so a move in any direction makes it worse even if there’s better in that direction eventually. Certainly the ACA appears to have made things worse.

      • gbdub says:

        I agree with much of your paragraph on “soft” benefits, and that’s why I was confused by the direction the ACA went.

        Everyone seemed to agree that two of the big problems with the US system were lack of portability and keeping you tied to your employer. But the ACA entrenched both of these by forcing more employers to offer insurance and by failing to address the patchwork of regulations that effectively prevent insurance plans from being sold across state lines.

        Certainly, the ACA makes it easier to buy insurance if you’re unemployed, but you still lose your original plan if you lose or switch your job.

        Why not shift the tax benefits for providing health insurance from employers to employees? That would seemingly also stall the “death spiral” since adding a bunch of working folks to the individual market would presumably substantially improve the risk pool.

  4. onyomi says:

    Many people complain that we beat up too much on SJW-style, Blue tribe political correctness here. So let’s take a moment to complain about what is, roughly, its Red Tribe, right-wingish equivalent, “Patriotic Correctness.”

    I think the worst example of this in recent memory was when, after 9/11, any discussion of the causes of the attack, other than “we’re just too awesome,” were shouted down as “blame America first-ism.” In fact, it seems almost exactly parallel to the SJWish position that any discussion of how to avoid victimization is insulting, since all the focus should be on telling people not to victimize. If you said, for example, that maybe our foreign policy had made us less safe, the “patriotically correct” reaction would be something like “are you saying the people in those towers DESERVED to die???”

    • Aapje says:

      As a non-American, I obviously didn’t experience the trauma that Americans had nor did I share in the absurd tribal ‘rallying around the flag’ that followed. I remember back then getting into discussions with Americans how some people who were angry at America had a point (like American support for the Saudi Arabian dictatorship), although this obviously didn’t excuse terrorism. It wasn’t well received.

      Then what was even worse, we then got this abusive ‘either you are with us or you are against us,’ where other countries were bullied into uncritically supporting whatever the Bush administration deemed a correct response to 9/11 (like the Iraq war).

      On a tangent: Not too long ago, the Russians shot down a plane (MH17) over Ukraine, which killed a larger percentage of the Dutch population than the percentage of Americans that were killed on 9/11. It was interesting how much of a shit Americans gave about that (not much) and how willing the American government was to help us get justice (not much), compared to how much empathy, support, etc they expected from the rest of the world after 9/11 (a lot).

      Stuff like that really drives home how these ‘I will bully you into helping me because I am a victim and my cause is just’-narratives are tools that the powerful wield against others, but rarely make the people who wield that club for their in group, willing to wield it to benefit the out group (even if the out group is not even that far out there).

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I may have been in my own bubble but I thought Americans were pretty pissed about MH17 and thought that the Russians’ excuse was a big case of bunk. But at a national political level, yeah, we didn’t do much.

        • John Schilling says:

          We also didn’t do very much when they shot down KAL 007, and that was chock full of Americans including a Senator. The American people don’t have a good model for being really pissed at people with nuclear weapons that work, which is going to be increasingly problematic in this century.

          • Whitedeath says:

            @johnschilling I’m pretty sure our model is “get involved in a bunch of proxy wars and engage in massive military spending to scare them”.

          • I think there is a significant difference between 9/11 and the two cases mentioned of planes being shot down. 9/11 was a deliberate attack on the U.S. The other two were at least arguably accidents and I don’t think there was any reason to think that MH17, if intentional, was targeted at Holland.

            The number of people killed by 9/11 was about a tenth of the annual highway death rate, but it got quite a lot more attention.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            If you look at Russian behavior in general (including the famous dashboard youtube video’s), there is a strong sense of not having to care about any possible negative consequences in the culture.

            This goes back to the recent criminal negligence debate: there is a point where negligence becomes criminal.

            Furthermore, Russians tend to go into denial-mode, rather than fix any problems if they do happen, which I also see as criminal (just like when people hit-and-run).

            Now, I do agree that this can change the ‘revenge’ component of a response, but nevertheless we have to fight back against this mindset.

            Then again, perhaps this is my Germanic mindset speaking.

      • Jiro says:

        I remember back then getting into discussions with Americans how some people who were angry at America had a point (like American support for the Saudi Arabian dictatorship), although this obviously didn’t excuse terrorism. It wasn’t well received.

        Saying that people who are angry with America have a point is, on a Bayseian level, evidence that you have something more explicitly anti-American in mind that you are leading towards. And people know this.

        You can’t just claim that because the statement, literally parsed, is negative but not mailcious or false, its okay–such statements are highly correlated with beliefs that are malicious and/or false.

        • Whitedeath says:

          I feel this way when people bring up IQ differences and crime differences between ethnic groups. “I’m not racist, I just happen to be really interested in IQ studies”.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          but it leaves out in the cold people like me, who at least some of the time are capable of divorcing their feelings to give factual analysis

          it also leaves out in the cold factual analysis

          and just to clarify, if my finger was on the nuke button for the arab parts of the middle east, I…uh, wouldn’t do it, but I’d do it more than almost any commenter on this site. I don’t think of myself as an apologist for Islam. But it’s clearly a case of some provocation and some wildly disproportionate response + a crazy ass desert religion feat. 66 virgins

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          You can’t just claim that because the statement, literally parsed, is negative but not mailcious or false, its okay–such statements are highly correlated with beliefs that are malicious and/or false.

          Ooooohh. O brave new world, where we can finally be complete asshats to one another.

          Trump supporters, bad news! You’re all neo-nazis and racists now!

          Democrats of this blog, hoist your red flags!

          What other terrible and awful traits can we smear our opponents with now, ever since we have determined a link is all we need?

        • “Saying that people who are angry with America have a point is, on a Bayseian level, evidence that you have something more explicitly anti-American in mind that you are leading towards. And people know this.”

          Similarly, the fact that I argued that Hillary’s cattle futures profits were a disguised bribe to her husband is Bayesian evidence that I was a Trump supporter–but as it happens I wasn’t. Jumping from “this fact raises the probability of X” to “X is true” is a serious mistake.

          And, in contexts like the ones being discussed, it’s a mistake that prevents the person making it from considering evidence against his own position. A pattern I routinely observe in online discussions, where I am commonly misinterpreted as not believing in AGW, occasionally, by the other side, as believing in CAGW. Considerably less common here, but … .

          • Jiro says:

            @Whitedeath: I feel this way when people bring up IQ differences and crime differences between ethnic groups

            Congratulations, you’ve given an example of how the same thing happens with the right as well as with the left. Bringing up IQ and crime differences is legitimately Bayseian evidence for racism, even if the statements themselves are only factual.

            @David: Jumping from “this fact raises the probability of X” to “X is true” is a serious mistake.

            The degree to which the fact raises the probability of X depends on the specific case. This is one in which the degree is high.

            Of course, in either case, there are circumstances which can reduce that. We should have been able to figure out by now that IQ discussions from the libertarian side are less likely to indicate racism than from the right-wing side, and that discussions which point out that Jews and Asians have the highest IQ are exceptionally unlikely to be associated with racism.

            And I’m pretty sure there are contexts in which you can bring up “people who are angry with America have a point” without it being taken as enough Bayseian evidence for anti-Americanism to matter. There isn’t as much a witchhunt for that as there is for racism, so probably any forum that is not dedicated to pro-Americanism would be okay, as long as you’re not posting about that and not much else.

            (Also, in both cases, in casual conversation, the Bayseian probability that someone who says that has something sinister in mind is high. Always be aware of context.)

          • “Bringing up IQ and crime differences is legitimately Bayseian evidence for racism, even if the statements themselves are only factual.”

            That’s true.

            For similar reasons, reacting to it as evidence of racism is legitimately Bayesian evidence for dishonesty, for wanting to suppress true facts inconsistent with one’s ideology.

          • Jiro says:

            It has to be handled on a case by case basis. In some cases, the correlation is stronger than in others. Saying such things is strong evidence for racism outside rationalist blogs. Calling such statements racist is only weak evidence for dishonesty; almost every non-rationalist will call such thigns racist, as well as rationalists who manage to analyze what the non-rationalist does instinctively.

        • Aapje says:

          Indeed, isn’t this exactly the kind of tribalism that rationalists should reject?

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Didn’t you just answer your own question? After 9/11, Americans were upset and demanding support, and your own reaction was disinterest. After MH17, you were upset and demanding support, and Americans’ reaction (officially, at least) was disinterest. You’ll take something way more seriously if it happens to you than if it happens to some strangers literally on the other side of the planet.

        • Aapje says:

          My reaction was not so much disinterest (I did want to discuss this after all, I could have not done so), but the expectation that a rational discussion could/would be had about what caused it and how to best respond to it.

          I was hoping for something similar in return, not necessarily an emotional response.

          You’ll take something way more seriously if it happens to you than if it happens to some strangers literally on the other side of the planet.

          Yeah, but the US did expect the rest of the world to take it very seriously when it was on the other side of the planet for them, which is again: hypocritical behavior where it’s about who is powerful enough to coerce people.

          Of course, the US may act that way and arguably, humans often cannot help it. But it clashes very strongly with all that rhetoric about ‘leader of the free world,’ ‘home of the brave,’ etc.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            My reaction was not so much disinterest (I did want to discuss this after all, I could have not done so), but the expectation that a rational discussion could/would be had about what caused it and how to best respond to it.

            Would you prefer “unsympathetic” and “lecturing” then? That’s what it’s starting to sound like.

            Yeah, but the US did expect the rest of the world to take it very seriously when it was on the other side of the planet for them, which is again: hypocritical behavior where it’s about who is powerful enough to coerce people.

            Again, you literally just got done complaining about how the US did not take MH17 very seriously. Are the US and Holland both hypocrites?

          • Aapje says:

            Last time I checked, Iraq wasn’t involved with 9/11. The US went overboard in demanding support for that war by connecting it to 9/11.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            When you said you weren’t taking the situation as seriously and emotionally as Americans did, we were specifically discussing 9/11 in comparison with MH17. The situations are identical, just with the participants reversed.

          • Aapje says:

            You seem unable to grasp my argument, but I will try one more time.

            My objection after 9/11 was not that the US wanted the help of others (we are in NATO after all), but that the anger over that event was redirected towards Iraq. The result was bullying to get Europe to support a war based on disinformation and bad rhetoric.

            In the case of MH17, I’m not asking for help to go after Nigeria or any other country that wasn’t actually involved in that. Just more assistance and vocal support to get those responsible for that attack in court.

            So I don’t see how I’m being inconsistent here. In both cases, I’m (fine with) asking for help to go after the actual perpretrators…

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Okay. If that’s all you’re saying, then I don’t really disagree. I got the impression that it was America asking for sympathy/support right after 9/11 that you weren’t on board with, but it sounds like that’s not what you were saying after all. There were good arguments for invading Iraq — no, don’t laugh, there really were — but it was a complete war of choice and so “you’re not standing up for America if you don’t agree” simply isn’t one of them.

            FWIW, I also agree that the United States should have taken MH17 more seriously. (Which makes it extra-double-hilarious to see how the American politicians and journalists who swept MH17 under the rug are now all of a sudden huge Russophobes, but never mind that.)

          • CatCube says:

            @Aapje

            It’d be hard for the US to push (diplomatically or otherwise) on MH17 without it mostly turning into a relitigation of Iran Air Flight 655.

            As far as I know, the most likely explanation for MH17 is incompetence; a missile system was supplied to a paramilitary group who mistook the radar return for one with military significance. IA655 was shot down by a crew that belonged to the US military and must have had at least ten times the training of the insurgents in Ukraine.

            John Schilling already brought up KAL007. Combined with us doing something similar to Iran a few years later, there’s no way we can pound the table and credibly demand that this time Russia do something.

          • Aapje says:

            @CatCube

            It is pretty clear that the missile system was operated by Russians. We have the rebels stating this in intercepted communications. We have witnesses who stated that the crew had ‘Russian Russian’ accents, rather than ‘Ukrainian Russian.’

            Bellingcat made a good case that the (operators of) the missile system were part of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Rocket Brigade.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I’m with ThirteenthLetter in feeling that our response to the incident was unsatisfactory. That said, I don’t think there’s much more that -could- have been done.

            More vocal support, ok, we all agree, but does anyone think that vocal support matters in these sorts of situations?

            Do you think that if the US had joined the investigatory team, Russia wouldn’t have used its security council veto? I agree that we should have, but I’m also very confident it wouldn’t have affected the outcome.

            Does anyone think that any sovereign nation will EVER hand its soldiers over to an international (much less a foreign national) court for trial without being forced to at gunpoint in the aftermath of a military defeat? Much less a country that is still maintaining it has no soldiers in the AO at all?

            And from what I’ve read, the Netherlands doesn’t seem interested in increasing military aid to Ukraine nor even in increasing sanctions on Russia.

            Which leaves…what? War, which no one is willing to court yet. And the only other option left I can think of is some sort of unilateral extradition (which is to say, kidnapping) of russian soldiers either from a war zone, or from Russian soil when they return there. Does the Dutch Intelligence service even have the sort of institutional capability to begin attempting a mission like that, if they were willing to?

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Do you think that if the US had joined the investigatory team, Russia wouldn’t have used its security council veto?

            The US definitely shouldn’t have joined the investigative team, that would just have played in the hands of the Russian propaganda. However, it seems like they didn’t share certain data with the team.

            Does anyone think that any sovereign nation will EVER hand its soldiers over to an international (much less a foreign national) court for trial without being forced to at gunpoint in the aftermath of a military defeat?

            Yes. See the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. However, Russia will not do this, of course. But we should try to identify the perpetrators and put Interpol warrants on them. Hopefully the JIT will have solid conclusions about specific people.

            And from what I’ve read, the Netherlands doesn’t seem interested in increasing military aid to Ukraine nor even in increasing sanctions on Russia.

            Military aid is not going to get the guilty behind bars, unless you think that Ukraine could defeat Russia. Sanctions were increased before and The Netherlands merely didn’t want to push for more sanctions at one stage of the investigation, merely because Russia criticized the results. It makes much more sense to increase the sanctions if specific people are implicated and Russia refuses to have them interrogated under oath and/or handed over to stand trial.

            only other option left I can think of is some sort of unilateral extradition (which is to say, kidnapping) of russian soldiers either from a war zone, or from Russian soil when they return there. Does the Dutch Intelligence service even have the sort of institutional capability to begin attempting a mission like that, if they were willing to?

            No. Dutch intelligence is shite. I also disagree that it is the only option.

            Anyway, it is rather frustrating that the investigation is taking so long, although it is understandable that the team wants to make their conclusions as solid as possible. Unfortunately, the longer it takes, the less people still care about the tragedy.

            PS. Perhaps the US is doing a lot behind the scenes, which we will see when the final report becomes public. Let’s hope so.

            PS2. We’ve also seen with the doping scandals that some Russians ‘defect.’ So if we give asylum in the West, we may get one or two key witnesses from within. The Russian soldiers who shot down MH17 were most likely simply ordered about and they not want to take the fall.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            See the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

            Yeah, like I said, at gunpoint in the aftermath of a military defeat. And furthermore after a period of occupation, albeit a very limited one with a light hand. If any of the Balkan sucessor states had the sort of military and economic leverage against Europe that Russia does now, they would’ve told ICTY where they could shove their subpoenas.

            That said, we do agree that the US should have been more forceful in the aftermath of the MH17 shootdown. In fact, it sounds like I’m rather more belligerent about it than you are. I’m at least in favor of more aggressive economic moves against Russia.

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Yeah, like I said, at gunpoint in the aftermath of a military defeat

            All sides handed over people and technically, no country was truly defeated.

            Although there was clearly huge pressure to hand over people.

            In fact, it sounds like I’m rather more belligerent about it than you are.

            The Dutch cannot necessarily afford to be too belligerent.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Yes, all countries involved (except the ones who intervened with superior military force) gave up cases to the court under the effective control of said countries with the superior military force.

            If anything, I’d point to that, compared to Russia’s stance on MH17 as being the difference between a court with the implicit threat of force behind it, and one without.

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Yes, all countries involved (except the ones who intervened with superior military force) gave up cases to the court under the effective control of said countries with the superior military force.

            NATO never invaded or threatened to invade Serbia. The Serbian people did not get to choose their leaders after the breakup of Yugoslavia and at the first opportunity, they apparently favored Koštunica, rather than Milošević. The latter clearly manipulated the elections though, which resulted in protests that ended with Milošević’ resignation.

            The Serbian government that came to power was mostly pro-European and was willing (with the carrot of being allowed to start the EU member process) to work with the tribunal.

            It is simply not true that the ‘superior military force’ of NATO forced Serbia to work with the tribunal.

            If anything, I’d point to that, compared to Russia’s stance on MH17 as being the difference between a court with the implicit threat of force behind it, and one without.

            It’s more that Putin’s power derives from reviving the cold war and painting the Russians as being hated and prosecuted by the West. However, he can’t go too far with this. Both for MH17 and the doping scandal, the Russians have walked back their earlier claims.

            It’s not impossible that if sufficient evidence is presented, they may be willing to sacrifice some pawns. Also, Putin doesn’t necessarily stay in power forever.

          • John Schilling says:

            If we are talking about precedent for MH17, surely Siberia Airlines flight 1812 stands out above all else. The Ukranian air force, in peacetime, shot down a Russian airliner in international airspace. Most of the passengers were Israelis.

            Surely whatever it is we are supposed to have done to Putin’s Russia because their nasty little green men shot down an airliner flying over a war zone, we should have done in spades to the even more nefarious Ukrainians thirteen years earlier. As an added bonus, if we had reduced Ukraine to the status of a Russian protectorate then and there, the MH17 tragedy would presumably not have occurred.

            Alternately, this sort of thing falls into the category of high-grade Shit Happens, and we don’t actually use it as an excuse for saber-rattling. Take your pick, but please be consistent.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            If we are talking about precedent for MH17, surely Siberia Airlines flight 1812 stands out above all else. […] Surely whatever it is we are supposed to have done to Putin’s Russia because their nasty little green men shot down an airliner flying over a war zone, we should have done in spades to the even more nefarious Ukrainians thirteen years earlier.

            How is a training accident where the target was a drone more nefarious than intentionally targeting transport planes in an area where commercial airplanes are flying (with a minimalist AA system that cannot distinguish those commercial airplanes from other planes)? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

            Furthermore, AFAIK, Israel didn’t ask for prosecution of those responsible and did accept a compensation agreement. If you think that Israel should have demanded more/prosecuted those responsible, you can take it up with them, but don’t blame me for being inconsistent. Last time I checked, I never talked about SA1812, nor are the Dutch a party in that incident (in any way, including not being asked for help, specifically or generically).

            So I really don’t understand why SA1812 is supposed to prove that I’m inconsistent.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I think John was directing that at me, not you, Aapje.

            John, for what it’s worth my position is basically that we should try to incrementally increase pressure in an attempt to get what seems to be the traditional settlement for this sort of things: an apology, sometimes without an admission of actual responsibility/culpability, and restitution to the families of the survivors. I don’t much care whether this happens as a backroom deal or through the ICJ.

            Since the Netherlands isn’t about to treat it as a Casus Belli, neither should we, and while part of me wants to wade in on Ukraine’s behalf with military assistance, that’s somewhat tempered by my uncertainty that there’s a government there uncorrupt enough to be worth helping.

            At the same time, I think it’s pretty plain that right now Russia can safely blow off any diplomatic heat over this incident. The sanctions we’ve already put in place aren’t holding up well (Trump in power, noises about abandoning them being made by other European powers) and they can be fairly confident that we aren’t willing to risk escalating things further absent a rather more dramatic provocation on their part.

            Aapje, back to the intervention in the Balkans, let me make it clear that even at the time I was as in favor of it as a book-smart but rather unworldly teenager could be. These days, I think it stands out in massive contrast to the generally mediocre to crap performance of the UN over the past few decades. I am absolutely comfortable with forcing people to play nice at gunpoint in certain circumstances. But let’s not pretend that this isn’t what we are doing when we send troops anywhere: using military force and the threat of military force, combined with the carrot of international acceptance into the community of economic and political integration, to coerce the behavior we want out of people.

            I think that you cannot get involved militarily, even as “peacekeepers” or a “stabilizing force” in a conflict region and then subsequently claim impartiality or neutrality. If nothing else, by intervening to stop the violence at one particular point in time rather than sooner or later, you are effectively opposing whichever side is winning at the time you intervene. It makes you partisan, and your ability to compel a stop to the violence through force and the threat of force is proof that you have the power to intervene again if you so choose. That proof necessarily colors all future negotiations and interactions on any relevant issues. There is now the permanent understanding that if they won’t do it the easy way, there’s always the hard way.

            So, Imagine if one or more European powers had intervened in the American Civil war to the point of having troops in CSA territory, and in the aftermath the Union Copperheads took power and graciously handed over soldiers like Sherman and his staff to be tried for his march through Georgia and march to the sea, While the CSA paid for said military intervention that saved them from defeat and absorbtion by turning over men like Quanttrill and the officers in charge of the prison camp at Andersonville. Would you really hold that we couldn’t consider European military force to have been a decisive influence on the decision to hand these people over, and that the US was never really invaded or occupied? Just pure democracy and the rule of civil law, nothing to see here, folks?

            Obviously, the Balkans situation is rather more complex than the US Civil War, starting with an increased number of factions and successor states, and the conflict got even uglier than the American Civil War, but I think the core point remains.

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            I did not claim that NATO didn’t choose sides or shaped history.

            My claim was very specific: that NATO military superiority was not used to force the Balkan nations to hand over suspects to the tribunal. If you have actual evidence to the contrary, please show it.

            It’s a clear mistake to pretend that nothing that happened is caused by ‘our’ actions, but it is also a mistake to pretend that everything that happened was caused by ‘us.’ It’s a fact that Serbia had elections where they could choose for the old regime or for the opposition. It is a fact that they chose the opposition. It is a fact that after the election results were falsified, Otpor managed to get Milošević to step down. Nowhere in this history did NATO use their military might to force a specific outcome.

          • John Schilling says:

            How is a training accident where the target was a drone more nefarious than intentionally targeting transport planes in an area where commercial airplanes are flying (with a minimalist AA system that cannot distinguish those commercial airplanes from other planes)? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

            You are being unusually selective with your facts here. The Ukrainians in 2001 targeted a drone in an area where commercial airplanes were flying, with a minimalist AA system that could not distinguish those commercial airplanes from other aircraft. Somehow, to you, the things that are true of both cases are only worth being cited as a specific indictment to the Russians.

            The morally significant differences I see are:

            The Ukrainians shot at what they thought was a drone in a training exercise, which could have been trivially rescheduled if there had been any doubt about the target. The Russians/Separatists shot at what they thought was an enemy aircraft in wartime, which could have attacked them from the air or delivered reinforcements to people attacking them on the ground if it wasn’t shot down then and there.

            The Ukrainians fired their inadequately-guided missile into international airspace in peacetime; the Russians/Separatists fired theirs into the airspace of a belligerent nation during a declared military conflict.

            The Ukrainians fired two missiles, no more than one of which could have hit the intended and supposedly-legitimate target as said target wouldn’t have existed when the second missile arrived. The Russians/Separatists fired only one missile at their one intended target.

            The Ukrainians initially denied responsibility, but a little more than two years later paid compensation to the victims’ families (without admitting guilt). The Russians initially denied responsibility and it has been two and a half years without any payment of compensation.

            Both of these appear to have been accidents by people who were careless with heavy ordnance, not malicious attacks on civilians. But the appropriate standard of caution is higher for military forces operating in international waters or airspace in peacetime.

          • Aapje says:

            @Schilling

            The Ukrainians in 2001 targeted a drone in an area where commercial airplanes were flying, with a minimalist AA system that could not distinguish those commercial airplanes from other aircraft. Somehow, to you, the things that are true of both cases are only worth being cited as a specific indictment to the Russians.

            I was simply basing my comment on the wiki page, which does not give these details. For example, where is it written that the 2001 incident was done with a bare BUK, instead of with a full system?

            Of course, this doesn’t actually matter, since that detail is only relevant if the plane was actually targeted, which was not the case in the 2001 incident, so IFF wouldn’t have helped, while it could have helped for MH17.

            As for your other point, the SA1812 missile flew 250 km from it’s intended target to reach the plane, while the MH17 missile obviously reached its intended target. This means that theoretically, the SA1812 incident might possibly have been prevented with better procedures or a non-malfunctioning missile, for example by making the missile self-destruct (it’s unclear to me whether the command was sent and not executed by the missile or not sent).

            Israel doesn’t seem to have done a (public) investigation into the SA1812 incident, which means that there seems a dearth of reliable information about that incident. This is different from the MH17 incident, which the Dutch government seems to have taken more seriously. As I argued before, this matters.

            Not offering much help to a government that asks for help is different than not offering much help to a government that doesn’t ask for help.

            Anyway, you seem to have decided that I am arguing in bad faith, which makes this conversation rather pointless, as you just seem intent on proving that I’m a bad person who has double standards.

          • John Schilling says:

            For example, where is it written that the 2001 incident was done with a bare BUK, instead of with a full system?

            Of course, this doesn’t actually matter, since that detail is only relevant if the plane was actually targeted, which was not the case in the 2001 incident

            Siberian Airlines Flight 1812 wasn’t shot down with a Buk, but with an S-200 missile. This is an older, 1960s-vintage weapon that among other things uses straight semi-active radar guidance. The missile does not have a complete radar in its internal guidance system. In order for it to hit anything, a fire control radar on the ground has to lock on to the target and continually illuminate it until missile impact, a very unnatural thing for a radar to do because in the four minutes or so while it is thus engaged it can’t do anything else.

            At some point, someone in the Ukrainian air force looked at a radar screen, saw a blip, decided to destroy whatever aircraft was behind that blip, and pressed the button(s) that did exactly that – to exactly that target. If at any time in the next four minutes he had changed his mind, all he had to do is switch the radar back to search mode and the missile could not have hit anything.

            This is the only way an S-200 can do anything but crash into the ocean. The missile doesn’t have a mind of its own, it can’t fly off into the distance and find an airplane to hit. Someone on the ground pointed a radar at an airplane and said “destroy exactly that airplane – here, we’ll highlight it for you so there’s no confusion” (except in the mind of whoever designated the target).

            Anyway, you seem to have decided that I am arguing in bad faith

            I’m not certain what else to think. In order to shoot down SA1812, the Ukrainian Air Force had to do almost exactly the same thing the Russians and/or Separatists had to do to shoot down MH17. Maybe you don’t understand how surface-to-air missiles work, but if that’s the case you should probably be asking questions. Instead, you seem to be viewing these incidents through a filter where the Russians are the Bad Guys and everything they do is nefarious or at least reckless, while the Ukrainians are the Good Guys and everything they do is an honest mistake or the missile’s fault.

            They did the same damn thing, and it’s a thing we’ve done too. Shit happens. There is less excuse for it happening in a peacetime training exercise than in a war zone, so if the world is going to bend over backwards to give the Ukrainians a pass, the condemnation of Russia seems blatantly hypocritical.

          • Aapje says:

            @Schilling

            The wiki page says that two different missiles were fired at the same target, but that one acquired a new target. Again, if you have different information, I’d like some proof.

            The missile doesn’t have a mind of its own, it can’t fly off into the distance and find an airplane to hit.

            An S-200 doesn’t use command guidance (remote control), but semi-active radar homing. This means that the target merely has to be ‘illuminated’ with an active radar and that it does in fact ‘have a mind of its own.’

            Presumably, the civilian planed could inadvertently have been illuminated by a civilian radar or by a military radar that was tracking the plane. It’s also possible for radar signals to bounce, so the target may have been illuminated by reflected signals. Ukrainian authorities claimed that the cause was ‘reflections from the water’s surface,’ which fits this possibility.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Aapje

            I’m not claiming that George Robertson was on the phone promising that bombers would be overhead within 24 hours if Dindic didn’t extradite Milosevic and make it snappy. I’m claiming, and I fully admit that this may be unprovable, that absent NATO’s interventions in 90s and their effect on Serbia and, and absent the implied threat of NATO scrutiny and possible future interventions, those elections might very well not have taken place, and if they had and there had been similar vote-rigging, Milosevic’s control would not have been weakened to the point that he couldn’t simply crush the protests the same way authoritarians have crushed them so many other times and places in history.

            This is admittedly a pet peeve/hobbyhorse of mine, but I am profoundly, deeply skeptical of the mythology and narrative around democratic, nonviolent reform and regime change against authoritarian governments absent either threat of superior force (external or internal), or the inability of the authoritarian regime to deploy it’s force becoming so severe that the reformers end up being the ones with the superior capacity to get their way through violence if their demands aren’t met.

            That said, your point that we shouldn’t assume that everything’s all about us is well-taken. Perhaps I am indulging in excessive Western or American chauvinism, but since I believe the pattern holds consistent whether the “West” is involved or not, I don’t think that’s it, or at least not ALL of it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            I agree that NATO influenced the outcomes, although I would argue that this was not merely by military force or threats of using it, but also diplomacy. An example is that the US gave millions to Otpor and/or DOS and taught them about non-violent resistance.

            NATO obviously didn’t send in the bombers after Milosevic falsified the elections, just like they didn’t during the 96/97 protests. IMO, this is sufficient evidence that Milosevic didn’t step down due to (credibly) being threatened with military intervention, but rather, because he lost support from within his nation.

            IMHO, you are severely overvaluing the importance of military superiority and undervaluing other factors.

          • bean says:

            An S-200 doesn’t use command guidance (remote control), but semi-active radar homing. This means that the target merely has to be ‘illuminated’ with an active radar and that it does in fact ‘have a mind of its own.’

            No, John’s right on this one. SARH is a basically passive system, and the missile will home in only on targets illuminated by the tracking radar. They do not just look for the strongest source of reflected radar energy (if they did, they wouldn’t be any good against someone with any electronic warfare capability, so the seeker looks for a specific set of radar characteristics), and if you want them to miss a target, you simply shut the radar off. The Ukranian shootdown was a deliberate decision to destroy that blip.

          • John Schilling says:

            No, John’s right on this one. SARH is a basically passive system, and the missile will home in only on targets illuminated by the tracking radar.

            And just to be clear, “illumination” in this context is not a normal function of a radar, but a special high-intensity continuous illumination that is only ever done in practice when someone specifically wants a missile to hit the thing being illuminated – or sometimes as a test or warning, but illumination + SARH missile in flight means always and only that the thing being illuminated is going to be blown to bits as a deliberate act.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It is too bad that “political correctness” has the connotations it currently does, because it’s a useful concept, if you look at it right. There are things where reality gets overridden by politics. There are things that are true that people do not say because it is not feasible to say them. No political stance has a monopoly on this.

      The example of “why do you hate America so much?” in response to “uh hey maybe our foriegn policy has caused us some problems” back in 2001 or whenever being analogous to “stop blaming the victims” is a good one. It is extremely unsurprising that people bring the same guns to bear on different issues – we all have the same brains (or, most of us do).

      • Randy M says:

        It is too bad that “political correctness” has the connotations it currently does, because it’s a useful concept, if you look at it right.

        Do you mean it’s progressive connotations, or it’s negative connotations?

        There are things it is impolitic to bring up, but we want this category to be vanishingly small in practice.
        (Not saying rudeness for its own sake is desirable)

        • dndnrsn says:

          Well, “politically correct” has become a right-wing term of abuse, then adopted as a left-wing snark term. It’s a useful concept, but using it marks you as a certain sort of person.

          It would be nice to have a shorthand to say “there are things that are factually true that you aren’t allowed to say because people from whatever side will yell at you”.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Crimethink? Badthought? There are lots of ways to say it, but there will never be a non-tribal way to say “those guys won’t let me speak the truth!”

          • James Miller says:

            “there are things that are factually true that you aren’t allowed to say because people from whatever side will yell at you”. Hate facts.

          • Aapje says:

            Hate facts.

            Me like.

          • Brad says:

            That political correctness is all about truths you aren’t allowed to say is just spin.

            The central example of political correctness is the social bans on slurs. It’s the reason you can’t call someone a: nig-ger, sp-ic, ki-ke, f-ag, or ret-ard.

            What ideas or truths are you being prevented from expressing by these terrible impositions on your free word choice?

          • skef says:

            To add to Brad’s point, the parts of political correctness that are about things that are factually true that people will yell at you for saying are similar in form to parts of etiquette, which is chock full of rules about things that are true but that people will yell at you for saying. (Which is of course not to say that political correctness or etiquette is right to do so in any given instance.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            The central example of political correctness is the social bans on slurs. It’s the reason you can’t call someone a: nig-ger, sp-ic, ki-ke, f-ag, or ret-ard.

            We’re way past that.

            Other things that will result in an attack based on PC principles:

            That no, we do not have a rape culture in the United States.

            That any given accusation of rape by a woman is a lie, or even just not credible enough to accept unquestioningly.

            That group “X” is statistically not as good at activity “Y” as some other group “Z”, provided “X” isn’t “whites”, “males”, or “white males”.

            In general, that underrepresentation of a minority group in a “good” vocation or overrepresentation in a “bad” vocation is not due to racism/sexism.

            Note that “good” and “bad” can change based on the
            claim being made; normally “elementary educator” is considered good and thus the overrepresentation of women is fine. But if the PC point being made is that women are somehow forced into undervalued “nurturing” jobs, now that overrepresentation is considered sexism… against women.

            That black men are statistically overrepresented among criminals compared to white men, and this is due to actual differences in criminality rather than systemic bias/oppression.

            That most of the things called “microaggressions” are just life and the so-called victim should shrug them off.

            That affirmative action in the form of lowering minimum acceptable scores on exams or providing additional attempts to make it through a hurdle results in the group benefited statistically being less qualified than groups who made it through without such help.

            Any claim of racial discrimination against white people or sexism against men.

            A few from the subreddit:

            Women 18-24 who are not in college are more susceptible to rape than those who are in college.

            When controlled for all known variables, the gender pay gap is less than 5%.

            Many Muslims consider western norms about the rights of women to be incompatible with Islam.

            @skef:

            PC is generally not similar in form to etiquette. Etiquette proscribes you from discussing certain topics at certain times. PC proscribes you from discussing certain positions when those topics are under discussion. It’s the difference between ignoring the elephant in the room and insisting the elephant is actually a hippopotamus.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad – the term originally appears to have been a semi-sarcastic term among American communists, that then became more-than-semi-sarcastic among the American left in the middle 20th century, that then became a right-wing term of abuse and a sort of tribal marker.

            So, it’s far from clear that slurs are the central example. Or at least, not originally the central example. And saying “it’s just slurs; what profound truth are you not allowed to say because you can’t call someone a slur” is a motte-and-bailey.

            It’s not the simple prevention of slurs that means that a politician talking about police brutality has to hem and haw in the “police are mostly good people; they’re doing a very hard and extremely dangerous job; of course we here in the legislature all respect the good work they’re doing and can’t judge the decisions they make in the heat of the moment; but maybe they go a teensy bit over the – honourable! Righteous! – line when they empty an entire magazine into a 13-year old who’s running away then handcuff his corpse” fashion. And I would argue that is political correctness in the simplest, most ideology-neutral sense. It goes beyond “don’t call cops pigs”.

            @skef: yes. Perhaps “political etiquette” would be a good neutral term.

          • skef says:

            @The Nybbler

            A lot of that really depends on who you’re talking about.

            I personally haven’t seen any convincing evidence that the group of what might be called “tumblr SJWs” is that much bigger, or more of a problem, than the twitter crowd for whom the slightest deviance from conservative orthodoxy will get you called a “cuck”. So there are extremes on both sides that will yell at someone for almost anything.

            I do think it’s fair to say that portions of academia (and only portions) are in self-reinforcing bubbles and not very tolerant of dissent. Too many of those folks will make some reductive accusation (e.g. racism) for stating one of those positions. There’s no equivalent conservative power-base like that right now, outside of economic conservatism of the financial sector, which isn’t really the same thing.

            Outside of those groups, there will be vigorous disagreement about those issues, but that’s because they’re contentious. The substance of the disagreements is also often distorted by confusion or cynicism. An idea might have one set of arguments and scope in its academic context, but then get blown out of proportion when people find out it works well rhetorically.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            I would say that not being allowed to use slurs is the “Motte” of political correctness while not being allowed to acknowledge that men of a certain age and ethno-social group are (on average) more violent than others is the “Bailey”.

          • Whitedeath says:

            People like Heather Macdonald, Mona Charen, Dinesh D’souza and a host of other prominent conservatives point out that black people have higher rates of crime and therefore the police aren’t racist, and they get millions of listeners. It’s not like anyone is censoring these people.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s not like anyone is censoring these people.

            It would be more accurate to say that thus far attempts to censor them have not been successful. It’s not for lack of trying.

          • Whitedeath says:

            That’s because D’Souza committed campaign finance violations. While you could argue they only targeted him because of his views, that would be a significantly harder argument to make.

          • hlynkacg says:

            The eight months in a work-release center, five years of probation, a $30,000 fine and community service were for pleading guilty to campaign finance violations.

            The psychological evaluation and the judge’s choice to overrule the first psychiatrist’s diagnosis, not so much.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I personally haven’t seen any convincing evidence that the group of what might be called “tumblr SJWs” is that much bigger, or more of a problem, than the twitter crowd for whom the slightest deviance from conservative orthodoxy will get you called a “cuck”.

            Counterpoint: would you be comfortable publicly and repeatedly expressing any of the opinions in that list if you were working in the tech industry? I certainly wouldn’t. Enough people have been (metaphorically) publicly executed that the autres have been thoroughly encouragered.

          • skef says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            Having been in the tech industry, I would say that for the most part (and below the level of management) talking extensively about any political view on any side (as opposed to the occasional telling joke) is likely to lead to you being viewed as tiresome, which could hurt your career. And in general if you have a public political reputation, a lot of places are going to be reluctant to hire you, whatever that reputation is.

            It’s probably better on the whole to be liberal, in terms of what politics you do wind up expressing. But there isn’t as much of a “positive” obligation about anything political or social in tech as there is in, for example, finance, where a significant part of advancement can depend on conspicuously living a certain way, and expressing certain views and not expressing others.

            A lot of people here seem to be confusing issues that characterize the tech industry with issues that characterize the open source community and with conferences. Both of the latter need to encourage participation that isn’t motivated in part by receiving money, and so are especially anxious to avoid association with issues not directly relevant to their missions.

    • John Schilling says:

      My first thought is that if you have to reach back to something as remote and exceptional as 9/11 and its immediate aftermath, you’re probably talking about a non-problem. But then there’s the fuss about Colin Kapernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem, and that’s a straight-up example of what is now being referred to as “Patriotic Correctness”.

      Now, let’s start referring to it as something else, because that term seems to me to be deliberately contentious in a way that is almost childish and unlikely to foster a productive discussion.

      And, for the record, my reaction to anyone refusing to stand for the national anthem, complaining about someone refusing to stand for the national anthem, or complaining about the complaints, is the same bored “whatever”.

      • Chalid says:

        An example today would be how it’s difficult say anything negative about police. In some circles, when you’re talking about even the most egregious police conduct, you have to include long paeans to the honor, bravery, etc. of the vast majority of police officers before you can say that maybe, just maybe, a cop who kills a 12 year old carrying a toy gun ought to face charges.

        Same with military. (This was especially noticeable back when torture scandals were in the news.)

      • onyomi says:

        But I think 9/11 is the watershed moment which ushered in a new era of “patriotic correctness,” which seems to define itself somewhat by what it’s opposed to. The last big one had been communism. Now the great enemy to struggle against is radical Islamic terrorism (note that politically correct politician’s apparent refusal to call it that is one of the most common complaints of the “patriotically correct”).

        It may be, however, that “patriotic correctness” has stronger and more obvious ebbs and flows, with nothing serve to whip it up to a fever pitch like a foreign attack on the homeland. “Rally ’round the flag” and all that. I think things have ebbed significantly since 9/11 (as dndnrsn points out, one no longer has to reflexively support every military intervention or be branded a traitor; contrast the lead up to Iraq with Obama’s abortive “red line” in Syria), but that 9/11 is still setting the tone in many ways (as others point out, some new issues like “blue lives matter” and active, direct opposition to SJW have also arisen, though).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I think things have ebbed significantly since 9/11 (as dndnrsn points out, one no longer has to reflexively support every military intervention or be branded a traitor; contrast the lead up to Iraq with Obama’s abortive “red line” in Syria)

          You know what the big, huge, unmistakable confounder is there, right?

          Let’s see what happens when Trump invades Syria to crush ISIS with his secret plan after the next attack by some lone wolf, self-recruited terrorist before we declare it dead…

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            A useful metric does seem to be that whoever is in power gets to decide what is politically correct, yes.

        • herbert herberson says:

          In my opinion, 9/11 didn’t just usher in the new era of patriotic correctness, but of political correctness as well. The flavors of political correctness that people object to now seemed to largely be at a nadir by the late 90s; perhaps it was minorities doing pretty well throughout the 90s, perhaps it was a left that had put a lot of energy into minimizing the importance of a sexual relationship between a 22 year old intern and a President (granted, I was still young in the 90s, so this may be rose-color glasses–but certainly in the schools, anyone with the inclination to whichhunt were more worried about Columbines than Klan members, something my friends and I personally suffered under in a way I think some of the younger anti-PC warriors might fight familar).

          But then we have 9/11. We have journalists losing their jobs for pointing out inconvenient facts, the Dixie Chicks getting booed off the stage. As a result, we had a sub-generation (people who are ~22-30 now) who found patriotic speech policing normalized and vigorously enforced.

          Then, finally, we have a few years go by and a funny thing happens: the cause is discredited before people ever really grapple with or reject the method. An entire cohort thinks to itself: I was trained to ideologically contort myself to support, or at least respect, the Great Patriotic War, but the Great Patriotic War was fuckin’ bullshit. However, you know what’s not bullshit? Racism and homophobia. And thus the master’s tools were taken up….

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think there’s a lot of “Patriotic Correctness” on the right, but it pales next to “Political Correctness” nowadays. The anthem thing is an example but a weak one, because the whole point of the protest was to show disrespect. Sillyness like “Freedom Fries” counts, but I note they didn’t last and were widely criticized. The Dixie Chicks are probably the best example.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Bill Maher?

          Edit: And if Political Correctness is so fearsome, why is Ted Nugent so popular with Republican politicians?

      • hlynkacg says:

        As someone sympathetic to the “Patriotically Correct” mindset (even if some people take it too far) there is an issue I would like to raise.

        In his Reactionary post Scott says;

        Unity doesn’t just arise by a sudden and peculiar blessing of the angel Moroni. It’s the sort of thing you can create. Holidays and festivals and weird rituals create unity. If everyone jumps up and down three times on the summer solstice, then yes, objectively this is dumb, but you feel a little more bonded with the other people who do it: I’m one of the solstice-jumpers, and you’re one of the solstice-jumpers, and that makes us solstice-jumpers together.

        …and I do not think this can be overstated. Unity rituals are important, and standing for the anthem is one such ritual.

        I would assert that in the interests of peaceful coexistence it is a good thing that we encourage the more aggressive elements of our society to seek their glory and settle rivalries through ritualized combat rather than actual combat. Furthermore I assert that without the shared sense of unity and “fair play” that pre and post game rituals are designed to foster ritualized combat would devolve into actual combat in short order.

        Regardless of intent, the signal that Kapernick sends when he refuses to participate in the unity ritual is “I am not onboard with this whole shared sense of unity thing”. He is, in essence, advertising a willingness to defect.

        Now as per the 1st Amendment that is his right, but I for one do not like defectors in my prisoners dilemmas, or my ritualized combat. Likewise while you have a right to burn the flag in protest there are places where doing so could be reasonably construed as “Fighting Words”.

        • Whitedeath says:

          But can’t a liberal say the same thing about political correctness?
          That it’s necessary so that minority groups don’t feel unwelcome or whatever?

          • hlynkacg says:

            But can’t a liberal say the same thing about political correctness

            Which part?

          • Whitedeath says:

            The part how unity is an important value and therefore it is necessary that we carefully watch what we say in order not to offend any marginalized groups.

          • hlynkacg says:

            To the extent that such rules encourage unity yes. As Randy M says above there is a useful category in the sense that “things it is impolitic to bring up” but we want this category to be vanishingly small in practice and that is not how the concept of “political correctness” is typically employed.

            As an aside, please stop equivocating between “minority” and “marginalized”. Those words do not mean the same thing, and the answers will be different depending on which you use.

        • onyomi says:

          I think that both political correctness and “patriotic correctness” “nucleate” around something worth protecting: decency in the literal and rhetorical treatment of underprivileged and vulnerable groups on the one hand, and some sense of shared socio-cultural assumptions enabling high social capital, on the other.

          The danger with both of them, I think, is when they become a strategy to narrow the Overton Window such that it only includes one’s own views and all other views do not even merit serious consideration. As bad argument gets counter-argument, not bullet, so it should also not get ridicule or bingo.

          The question this raises, then, I guess, is whether there should be an Overton Window at all. Are there no statements or positions so insulting, so outrageous, so ludicrous that we don’t get to just dismiss them? And if there are, who’s to say that the boundaries of my Overton Window are right and your ridicule of so-and-so for their bigoted/unpatriotic statement was not justified? I guess my view is that if an idea is worth your time to engage with it, it’s worth engaging with it seriously; and if it’s not, then just don’t engage.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I don’t think the existence of an “Overton Window” is really up for debate, so asking whether it should is silly.

            The only question is how much unity or disunity are you prepared to tolerate?

          • Whitedeath says:

            I’d argue that we should tolerate a fairly high level of disunity. If the system is in fact bad, we don’t want to repress dissent in the name of unity. Maybe the national anthem doesn’t deserve to be stood for, and maybe the American flag deserves to be burnt.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That is a fair position but you need to understand that it’s a trade off.

            A dis-unified society (to the extent you can call it that) is under no obligation to care whether or not a given individual or group is marginalized or “feels welcome”. In fact, those concepts pretty much loose all useful meaning.

          • suntzuanime says:

            There’s a difference between “feeling unwelcomed” and “being shut out of all the good jobs/neighborhoods”. In a dis-unified society, maybe we pay less attention to the microagression-hurt-feelings forms of marginalization, but more material, substantive forms are still relevant.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:

            A dis-unified society (to the extent you can call it that) is under no obligation to care whether or not a given individual or group is marginalized or “feels welcome”.

            This feels very “snake eating its own tail”. Let’s assume that a group is not made to “feel welcome”. If that group then does not engage in visible displays of patriotism, or even protests, it seems very disengenous to then argue that what is keeping them from being made welcome is their lack of patriotism.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ suntzuanime
            I disagree.

            @ HBC
            More to say that the “being made to feel unwelcome” or “marginalized” presupposes the existence of a greater unified society that the individual or group in question wishes to join. Otherwise it’s just intersectionality all the way down.

            Or, to borrow the villain’s line from The Incredibles, when everyone is marginalized no one is.

          • rlms says:

            @hlynkacg
            ‘I don’t think the existence of an “Overton Window” is really up for debate, so asking whether it should is silly.’

            Are you saying that you think questioning the existence of the Overton Window is outside the Overton Window?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The unity rituals hlynkacg is describing don’t get to “views” at all. You can stand for the national anthem and then criticize America all you want afterwards (though other “patriotic correctness” rules, not connected to unity rituals, may be a problem).

            If you do that, you’re criticizing America as an insider, the “loyal opposition”. If you refuse to participate in the unity rituals, the message you’re sending (to those who believe in the unity rituals) is that you’re an outsider, opposing the country as a whole.

            @rlms
            I’m guessing you’re joking but it’s not that denying the “Overton Window” is taboo (outside the window), it’s that it’s contrary to obvious evidence. Like standing in the middle of a busy highway and denying the existence of the trucks going by.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            In a dis-unified society, maybe we pay less attention to the microagression-hurt-feelings forms of marginalization, but more material, substantive forms are still relevant.

            I don’t see why; it’s not exactly controversial that people are more willing to help those for whom they feel a greater affinity; in a disunified society, people feel less affinity for their fellow citizens, and are hence less likely to want to help them. It’s probably no coincidence that, e.g., as the Scandinavian countries have become more diverse, public support for generous welfare provisions has started to drop.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The difference between “My country, right or wrong” and “This country’s so wrong it’s not even my country anymore, and I don’t want any part of it until YOU people fix it!”.

    • cassander says:

      How long did that last though? If it wasn’t dead before the invasion of Iraq. that certainly killed it.

      • dndnrsn says:

        My memory of arguing with strangers on the internet is that you had people defending the Iraq war and pulling the “if you don’t support this hawkish foreign policy you are a traitor” for quite some years after 2003, up until the dial turned to “Iraq was a failure” and suddenly people who had supported the war were quite difficult to find online.

        • hlynkacg says:

          My memory was that it peaked in early 2004 around the 1st battle of Fallujah and then fell off rapidly. with a second (much lower) peak in late 2006 corresponding to the post election violence and Iran’s reindeer games. and the dial didn’t really turn to “Iraq was a failure” (outside of the campus lefty bubble) until after the SOFA negotiations broke down in 2011.

          • Chalid says:

            If you go by Gallup polling of the question, majority opinion has been that Iraq was a mistake for the US since about late 2005.

            Recall that in 2008 Obama used his opposition to the war to good effect both in the primary and the general election.

          • keranih says:

            peaked in early 2004 around the 1st battle of Fallujah

            Online life is not offline life, and now is much different than ten years ago (but not as different as 1995, when we were in the post-Cold-War giddiness and even moreso than 1985, when The Soviet Union Will Last Forever Until We All Die In Nuclear Fire was the dominant (only?) theology.

            But.

            My sense is that prior to the mid 2000’s, online “blogging” (as opposed to the university-dominated Usenets and the various “hobby” forums/email groups) was heavily dominated by libertarian sorts, a number of which were emmm…anti-leftist more than anti-right. Marko Kos’s strident reaction to the barbaric actions by militants in Fallujah got a great deal of attention, and drew people’s attention to the fact that yes, there were non-university leftists out there in the blogosphere.

            It’s a fairly well known idea that disseminating an idea helps increase the open support for this idea, because savanna apes don’t like to be alone. It’s not clear to me that anti-war opinion among the public – even on line – shifted nearly as fast as did the mainstream media (think of the ‘memorial events’ and attention paid to Cindy Sheehan, which went away pdq when it wasn’t needful to beat up on Bush), and that the shift in MSM-expressed pov shifted slower than the mix of voices online. For the most part, it seemed to me to be less of “people changed their minds” and more of “more disagreeing people spoke up.”

            I do wonder how much of this was due to the ramping up of anti-war/anti-Republican voices in academia, which could arguably have fed an increase in young adult anti-war activists 3-4 years later. I was in school at this time, and *damn* didn’t the older teachers turn *hard* left.

            I supported the Iraq war, I cheered when Saddam’s sons were killed and I was glad when Saddam was captured. I think the America intent was right, that what we went in to do was both good and necessary, and that we did not do that thing. I think the failing was both our own – in planning and in execution – and in the situation we faced – a state-dependent society built on competing tribal affiliations and a seriously craptacular infrastructure.

            I still think we should have gone into Iraq. I think someone needed to, and there wasn’t anyone else more competent lining up to do so. I wish to hell we had done a better job of it.

            That we failed doesn’t make it a thing we should not have tried to do.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        If it wasn’t dead before the invasion of Iraq

        Say what?

        Pushback on the Iraq invasion was routinely met with accusations of being un-American. Most politicians on the left were flat out scared to vote against the war. Once the war started, any conversations about how it is was being executed in a manner that was poor, given its ostensible objectives, was also met with accusations of giving comfort to the enemy, etc.

        “Mission Accomplished” was not mocked on the right, nor even met with embarrassed silence, but viewed as self-evident.

        • cassander says:

          >Most politicians on the left were flat out scared to vote against the war.

          A about 126 reps and 21 senators voted against it. That’s a pretty large chunk, an outright majority of democratic reps and senators.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            29 Democratic Senators voted for it vs. 21 for.

            House seats are much safer seats. House votes are much more about whether you will be primaried. The general election is a foregone conclusion in many/most districts.

          • Randy M says:

            A politician being worried about being voted out of office for a critical vote his constituents disagree with is zero evidence of any kind of worrisome anti-free speech norms. If they fear for their personal safety, or citizens not in office face legal or economic pressure to conform, that is a different matter.

        • hlynkacg says:

          “Mission Accomplished” was not mocked on the right, nor even met with embarrassed silence, but viewed as self-evident.

          I remember a lot of grumbling about it being in bad taste and “there’s still being a lot of work to do” but nobody wanted to rain on the Lincoln and CAG 2’s parade.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hlynkacg:
            You are a veteran, IIRC?

            If that is the case, I’d just say that the military is always going to have a different take than the general public, especially on military matters.

          • CatCube says:

            @HBC

            hlynkacg is referring to the fact that the “Mission Accomplished” sign was referring to the USS Abraham Lincoln’s accomplishment of her mission, not to the entire war. It was a celebration of the ship’s return to the US at the end of her deployment.

          • Aapje says:

            It was an example of a very badly thought out photo opportunity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Bush used the speech to declare the end of major combat operations in Iraq. Flew in on a fighter.

            The military may have experienced this as “Lincoln is back in port, yawn”, but the general pop did not. And in the general pop on the right, people thought Mission Accomplished meant just that.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ HeelBearCub
            I am, and that’s a fair point.

            @ CatCube
            Granted, but that’s not how the administration or the press spun it, hence the grumbling about it being in bad taste.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Well, there’s two things going on there.

      First, if right after something horrible happens to a person you start lecturing them on what they did wrong which contributed to the situation, they are going to be really, really angry at you. We all understand this in the context of crime victims; so is it so weird that right after the worst terror attack in the nation’s history by an enormous margin, people are going to be pissed off at someone who rolls up and says “actually, this was a consequence of you doing X and Y and Z”?

      And second, Americans are used to taking abuse about real or imagined crimes against whatever. But when right after we get sneak-attacked straight out of the blue by one of the most, if not the most, straight-up purely malevolent political forces on the planet, the opprobrium continues to be directed at us and not them (even that famous “we are all Americans now” article in Le Figaro ultimately took a swift left turn into those-imperialists-brought-it-upon-themselves) the reaction is going to be to dismiss the complainers as just haters who don’t have a point worth listening to.

      Unfortunately, someone who does have a legitimate point to discuss about to what extent past American actions might have led unintentionally to the existence of this malevolent force that would one day attack us was going to get pattern-matched against a lot of high-profile assholes who really were playing footsie with “yes, the people in those towers DESERVED to die.”

      So you can call the reaction right after 9/11 “patriotically correct” if you want, but I’d argue there’s a big difference between someone getting upset after being attacked and someone getting upset over the long term. Referring to it in the context of the Iraq war makes a little more sense.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        “Unfortunately, someone who does have a legitimate point to discuss about to what extent minority actions might have led unintentionally to the existence of this negative societal force that would one day hurt us was going to get pattern-matched against a lot of high-profile assholes who really were playing footsie with “yes, the minorities in those trees DESERVED to die.””

        what is your argument against this except scale

        i’m not even using this argument myself, but what’s your counter?

        you can probably argue that “black america is always under attack!!!” Sure OK one black guy gets shot, but then again 3K americans is a drop in the bucket too. Both are basically media-fueled panic events.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          I’m not really making an argument “against” or “for,” more, “well, what did you expect?” It’s human nature and you’re going to have to be conscious of it if you want to get anywhere.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            “I’d argue there’s a big difference between someone getting upset after being attacked and someone getting upset over the long term. Referring to it in the context of the Iraq war makes a little more sense.”

            besides, how does that argument you just put out not apply perfectly to political correctness?

      • onyomi says:

        But when right after we get sneak-attacked straight out of the blue

        Like Pearl Harbor, it was only “out of the blue” to Americans who weren’t paying attention to what their government was doing overseas, which I’m ashamed to admit included myself–I can only defend myself by saying I was young at the time and that I don’t think the govmt wants us paying attention to what they’re doing overseas.

        To say this is in no way to “blame” the innocent civilians killed, nor to excuse the people committing the evil acts, yet, at the time, you couldn’t even suggest that our foreign policy had made us less safe, because it was “patriotically incorrect.”

        This might be reasonable courtesy in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, but when the aftermath of a tragedy involves knee-jerk legislation of far-reaching consequence (Patriot Act) and military interventions of very questionable wisdom (Iraq), then it’s perfectly appropriate to say “wait, before just doubling down on a theory that this came ‘out of the blue’ as part of a Manichean struggle, maybe we should reexamine how we’ve been doing things.”

        Not only did the “patriotically correct” response to 9/11 result in wasting millions of lives and billions of dollars, it probably allowed the parties actually responsible to evade capture much longer than they would have, because our focus was elsewhere.

        • Aapje says:

          9/11 wasn’t even the first major attack by Al Qaida, they orchestrated several attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa and perpetrated the USS Cole bombing. So it was only ‘out of the blue’ in the sense that most Americans thought that their homeland was safe.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            9/11 wasn’t even the first major attack by Al Qaida, they orchestrated several attacks on U.S. embassies in East Africa and perpetrated the USS Cole bombing. So it was only ‘out of the blue’ in the sense that most Americans thought that their homeland was safe.

            It was “out of the blue” in that it was executed using a completely unprecedented and spectacularly cruel method of attack, killed far more people than any other terror attack in history, intentionally killed civilians (at the WTC) instead of only US government employees and military personnel, destroyed major landmarks that were famous the world over as the symbol of the most famous city in the world, was a direct hit against the US military headquarters… shall I go on? No one expected this specific thing to happen and anyone who claims they did are full of crap.

          • “killed far more people than any other terror attack in history, intentionally killed civilians (at the WTC) instead of only US government employees and military personnel,”

            You don’t count things as terror attacks if they are done by a government during wartime? The firebombing of Tokyo killed more than ten times as many people as the 9/11 attack, most of them civilians. Dresden about five times as many.

          • hlynkacg says:

            You don’t count things as terror attacks if they are done by a government during wartime?

            No, you do?

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            May I assume you’re just being nitpicky about the terminology? Feel free to replace “terror attack” with “act of terrorism” if it makes things clearer.

          • I’m not just being nitpicky. I’m pointing out that terrorism, killing civilians and destroying property in order to change what the relevant government is doing, is something that governments do on a large scale. As a rule, people only get indignant about it when it is a non-governmental organization doing it, which doesn’t seem to me to make much sense.

            If someone approves of the fire bombing of Tokyo and Dresden and the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasake, I don’t think he has grounds to claim that the 9/11 attack was evil because of the method. He can, of course, argue that such methods are justified for good causes but not for bad causes, but that isn’t how the argument is usually put.

          • Montfort says:

            I’m not just being nitpicky. I’m pointing out that terrorism, killing civilians and destroying property in order to change what the relevant government is doing, is something that governments do on a large scale. As a rule, people only get indignant about it when it is a non-governmental organization doing it, which doesn’t seem to me to make much sense.

            Even assuming we put terrorist acts on the same playing field as military actions, people generally do get indignant about surprise attacks, gratuitously “cruel” or “barbaric” attacks, or attacks from parties that can’t be struck back. For instance, Pearl Harbor, submarine warfare in WWI, chemical weapons use, or franc-tireurs/guerrillas in practically every war that involved them.

            America once went to war with a nation that decided to try crashing planes into military objectives and people were still outraged even when no civilians were killed.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ DavidFriedman

            People tend to see a qualitative difference between actions taken over the course of mutually acknowledged hostilities and those not. That is why we make a distinction between being stabbed, and being stabbed in the back. And that’s why the latter carries very different social connotations and much more moral weight.

            Edit:
            To put it another way, IIRC you participate in the SCA. If so, it is safe to conclude that you condone smacking people with rattan swords and other such implements. If you approve of such behavior when it’s done in the lists how can you condemn it at the dinner table?

          • “People tend to see a qualitative difference between actions taken over the course of mutually acknowledged hostilities and those not. That is why we make a distinction between being stabbed, and being stabbed in the back.”

            Al Qaeda had, as someone pointed out, made attacks earlier, so the hostilities were explicit by them and recognized by us. Similarly, mutatis mutandis, for Irish terrorism and Palestinian terrorism.

            At the time of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was embargoing oil, an essential military supply, to Japan, so although hostility had not reached the point of war it was known to exist. Further, at the time of Pearl Harbor the U.S. government was engaged in a project, disguised as a volunteer civilian operation, to make war on Japan without any declaration of war. The only reason the Japanese launched a surprise attack on us before we did it to them was that it took longer to get the Flying Tigers into action than expected.

            Would it have made Americans feel significantly better if they had known that the Japanese intended to declare war just before the bombers hit Pearl, but messed up and did it after instead?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Al Qaeda had, as someone pointed out, made attacks earlier

            Yes and as was also pointed out those attacks had all been made against military targets on foreign soil. 9/11 represented a substantial escalation. Kind of like agreeing to “step outside” only to find that the other guy brought 3 friends and a switchblade.

            Would it have made Americans feel significantly better if they had known that the Japanese intended to declare war just before the bombers hit Pearl, but messed up and did it after instead?

            If Japan had actually declared war before the bombers hit. Yes. I think the vast majority of Americans would have felt significantly better about it.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Al Qaeda had, as someone pointed out, made attacks earlier, so the hostilities were explicit by them and recognized by us. Similarly, mutatis mutandis, for Irish terrorism and Palestinian terrorism

            By this argument, a repeat offending mugger would be no different from Imperial Japan. After all, the mugger had made attacks earlier, so the hostilities were explicit by them and recognized by us, right? No other axis of distinction exists or is necessary!

            Certainly there are gray areas in between, but attempting to erase the difference between violence committed by disorganized and secretive private groups in a time of peace and violence committed by uniformed military forces of a recognized nation during a declared war doesn’t strike me as a productive way to figure out what our policy approaches should be. (Not to mention reaching back to eighty-year-old events in the process when we’re discussing stuff that happened far more recently in a completely different geopolitical context.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The distinguishing characteristic between the bombing of Dresden or the Nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the 9/11 attack on the WTC comes down to intent and targetting.

            In none of the WW2 examples were civilian casualties the intended effect of the attacks, but rather collateral damage, undesired but accepted as the price of accomplishing military objectives and destroying military targets as understood at the time. Under that Framework, industrial capacity and rail transport were considered valid military targets.

            As a side note, the standards on targetting have grown tighter, and there’s a pretty good argument to be made that almost every single bombing campaign on the part of every military power in WW2 would be a war crime under the -modern- framework, specifically Article 51 of Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

            When determining whether a military attack is acceptable, it is generally agreed that the metric for civilian casualties is whether the death and destruction inflicted on the civilian population is commensurate with the importance of the military objective. So for example, if the military objective is “kill or capture the insurgents holed up in this building”, flattening it and every building within a city block with a full B-52 payload of bombs “Just to be sure” would not be considered acceptable. But depending on military importance of the insurgent in question, planting a single 500 or even 2,000 lb bomb on the house might well be considered ok to ensure success and minimize our own casualties in assaulting a well-defended location, even if that meant likely civillian deaths in surrounding buildings.

            There is an entire framework around this for most modern militaries. At the ground level, they break it down to “If you think it’ll kill X civilians or more, you need a Battalion/Brigade/etc commander to authorize it”. As X grows, the level of authorization and the requirement for the establishment of military necessity becomes higher.

            We can argue, after the fact, whether the people making those decisions were right in their assessments, for example whether the use of two nuclear weapons to avoid the need to go through with Operation Downfall and invade Japan was really justified or whether surrender could’ve been obtained if the US had just waited longer, or had applied pressure using less destructive means, etc.

            So, in the military framework, civil destruction and civilian death and injury is “collateral damage”, to be minimized to the extent practical and tolerated only in proportion to the “military necessity” of a given attack.

            In a terrorist framework, civil destruction and civilian death and injury is not collateral damage but the primary goal.

            To that end, I’ll note that the 9/11 attack against the pentagon is a -slightly- more grey area because the Pentagon as a military command structure would undoubtedly be considered a valid target. But even then, you’d have a pretty clear case for perfidy (concealing an attack by means of disguising it as civilian is one of the types of perfidy).

          • Whitedeath says:

            Even the World Trade Center is not as clear-cut as a civilian target. After all its not like they attacked some random neighborhood in the Bronx, the WTC was the center of America’s economic power and might fall under the category of “industrial capacity and rail transport” that you mentioned.

          • Aapje says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            In none of the WW2 examples were civilian casualties the intended effect of the attacks

            This is false. Directive ‘S.46368/111. D.C.A.S’ gave as its objective: “To focus attacks on the morale of the enemy civil population and in particular the industrial workers. In the case of Berlin harassing attacks to maintain fear of raids and to impose A. R. P. measures”

            This is pretty transparently an order to attack civilians.

            When it comes to Dresden, Churchill himself wrote that “the destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing”

            Here is more about how civilians were intentionally targeted.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Even the World Trade Center is not as clear-cut as a civilian target. After all its not like they attacked some random neighborhood in the Bronx, the WTC was the center of America’s economic power and might fall under the category of “industrial capacity and rail transport” that you mentioned.

            The World Trade Center was not the “center of America’s economic power,” to the extent that such a thing even exists (or existed.) It was office space mostly rented by a miscellaneous collection of medium-sized companies, no more the center of American economic power than any random office building in any other city, and its disappearance was of little relevance to the economy on a grand scale.

            One can argue that it was a symbol of American economic power, since it was a famous symbol of New York City, but if one is allowed to then claim that a privately owned office building full of civilians is not a civilian target merely because its silhouette is stenciled on a lot of T-shirts then the definition has been stretched so far as to become meaningless.

          • Whitedeath says:

            “It was office space mostly rented by a miscellaneous collection of medium-sized companies”
            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_tenants_in_the_World_Trade_Center_(1966–2001)
            These companies are huge multinationals with a significant effect on the US economy, hardly “medium-sized companies”

            “There are ways you can argue that it was a symbol of American power, since it was a famous symbol of New York City, but if one is allowed to claim that a privately owned office building full of civilians is not a civilian target..”
            It definitely was a symbol of American economic power, just as the Pentagon was a symbol of American military power. And yes it was full of civilians, just as the “industrial capacity and rail transport” that were considered legitimate targets in WW2 no doubt were.

          • skef says:

            The World Trade Center was not the “center of America’s economic power,” to the extent that such a thing even exists (or existed.) It was office space mostly rented by a miscellaneous collection of medium-sized companies, no more the center of American economic power than any random office building in any other city, and its disappearance was of little relevance to the economy on a grand scale.

            One can argue that it was a symbol of American economic power, since it was a famous symbol of New York City, but if one is allowed to then claim that a privately owned office building full of civilians is not a civilian target merely because its silhouette is stenciled on a lot of T-shirts then the definition has been stretched so far as to become meaningless.

            The issue is a bit more complicated, because the World Trade Center was a group of office buildings marketed as a center of America’s economic power. That marketing was always kind of BSy, but it was there, and the attitudes of foreigners towards it didn’t necessarily just depend on an association with New York City.

            However: still clearly just a group of office buildings.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Under this theory, every major skyscraper in the world could be considered a legitimate military target. This doesn’t pass the laugh test.

            (I suspect that if the United States blew up the Petronas Towers and then claimed they weren’t a civilian target because they were a symbol of Indonesian economic power, our theory would get a rather chilly reception.)

          • Whitedeath says:

            I agree that defense is laughable, and it’s just as laughable when applied to the bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Nagasaki, yes. But Hiroshima and Dresden were arguably military targets in much the same way that San Diego or Norfolk are.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Well, it’s one thing to blow up a railway yard, it’s another thing to blow up the whole city to get the railway yard. I’m comfortable with calling Hiroshima and Nagasaki both civilian targets.

            (Of course, if one was then inclined to condemn bombing them it would first be a good idea for one to look up Operation Downfall and Operation Ketsugo. War is full of horrible choices.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Aapje
            I actually differ in your interpretation of that particular order given the target lists it generated (factories, U-boat pens, more railheads, bridges, etc). I’m certainly interested if you can point me to a target list or bombing order that explicitly targets residential areas, or that targets commercial/business (as opposed to industrial/logistical) areas of cities, since that would indicate my understanding of how the bombing campaigns of WW2 evolved is wrong (see below). I will admit that my “none” may be hyperbolic, but before I retract it I’d like to see more concrete evidence.

            My understanding is that yes, in the real world the distinction between industrial/infrastructure targets and more indiscriminate targeting often became academic or even non-existent in practice, due to the limitations of technology at the time, weather conditions, combat conditions, and so on. I believe that it is this erosion of distinction that the RAF officer was referring to in the speech cited in the link you provided, and there are plenty of other WW2-era air force personnel from the various allied air forces who have pointed out the ways in which the ostensible goals and targets and procedures broke down, Dresden being one of the more egregious example of this.

            Which is precisely what led to the shifting norms and subsequent revisions of international law and custom I mentioned in my original reply and refer to again below.

            @Whitedeath
            There is a difference between industrial capacity and economic capacity. The former is a subset of the latter. Even under WW2-era legal and moral norms I doubt that it would have been explicitly targeted. However, that’s a moot point, because those standards don’t apply. In large part because of WW2 we have shifted away from that, and strategic/area bombing is now specifically listed as a war crime in additional Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, and even the countries who have failed to ratify Protocol I (including us here in the US) have generally pledged to implement that provision. I actually pointed that out in my initial post, but you seem to have missed it. So, to reiterate, I am making two distinct points here:

            1) David’s contention is that military action and terrorism are functionally identical because both involve killing civilians and destroying property in order to influence a political outcome. I am pointing out that a major distinction is in the targeting and the framework in which the decisions are made, and the way in which norms have evolved specifically to balance civilian casualties against military necessity.
            2) His further contention is that for consistency’s sake we must either view WW2 bombing campaigns AND the 9/11 attacks as valid, or view neither as valid. I am pointing out that under modern norms, pretty much EVERY strategic bombing campaign from WW1 through Vietnam would be considered war crimes. So comparing 70 year old military history to 15 year old terrorism is misguided due to rather significant changes in the ways in which military force is employed.

            That said, my personal take would be that Dresden and probably a few other cases in Europe late in the war were borderline, while Tokyo (due primarily to the foreknowledge that the wooden construction would allow fire to spread indiscriminately and the deliberate choice of weapons to maximize that probability) crosses the line and DOES qualify as terrorism under my personal definition. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, see hlynkacg’s comment.

            @ThirteenthLetter
            Not -just- to get at “a railhead”. The reason I mentioned Downfall in my original reply is precisely that it was then and is now considered reasonable to scale your use of military force proportionally NOT to the minimum amount needed to destroy a specific target, but to the amount of concrete military advantage expected on success of the mission.

            “30-150,000 Dead and 70-350,000 wounded vs. several dozen plane crews” is a LOT of anticipated concrete military advantage.

          • bean says:

            I’m certainly interested if you can point me to a target list or bombing order that explicitly targets residential areas

            The British dehousing campaign springs to mind here. I’ll defend Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki as necessities of war, given how the Japanese were doing industry and their sheer insanity. Dresden, not so much. For some reason, the British got it into their heads that the best way to attack German production was to render their workers homeless. Not only was it morally repugnant, it was ineffective.
            My take on the rules would be that you shouldn’t specifically hit civilian targets if you can do the job another way. The British bomber offensive fails that (I recall that the few mining missions Bomber Harris allowed were the most effective things Bomber Command did during the war by a large margin), while I can’t see a better way to destroy the dispersed Japanese infrastructure than what LeMay did.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko:

            Pre-war, there were military theorists who claimed that through large-scale bombing aimed directly at enemy civilians, an enemy’s will to wage war could be broken. Strategic bombing forces were, at least partially, built on this notion.

            It turned out to be inaccurate – partially because the the technology wasn’t good enough, partially because AA was better than expected, and partially because civilians (whether in London or Berlin) turned out to have a stronger will to keep going in the face of bombing than expected. It was also much more costly than expected.

            Of course, specifically targeting sites of military value – which generally involved daytime bombing, flying lower to hit smaller targets – was even costlier. The Germans (having already hit civilian targets intentionally in Poland, and having flattened Rotterdam semi-intentionally) started off hitting British airfields during the Blitz but switched to nighttime bombings of civilian targets due to the cost. The British reciprocated – a bad deal for the Germans, because the RAF was considerably better at area bombing than the Luftwaffe.

            The British made decisions to target enemy civilian morale by rendering them homeless and that seems pretty clearly to be targeting civilian populations. The USAAF targeted civilian populations too – Robert MacNamara cut his statistics teeth calculating how best to set Japanese cities on fire. The Germans, as noted, were pioneers in hitting civilian targets. The Italians used poison gas on African civilians.

            Of course, the line between “bombing enemy factories” and “bombing enemy factor workers” is a vague one, but it’s fairly safe to say that targeting enemy civilians was a key part of strategic bombing.

            EDIT: Beaten to it by bean.

          • “His further contention is that for consistency’s sake we must either view WW2 bombing campaigns AND the 9/11 attacks as valid, or view neither as valid.”

            That isn’t quite right. My contention is that either both were terrorism or neither was, hence that if one disapproves of 9/11 on the grounds that it is always wrong to deliberately attack a civilian population in order to pressure its government, then one should disapprove of some of the WWII bombing on the same grounds.

            One might still argue that it is not wrong to engage in terrorism for sufficiently good ends and that defeating Hitler qualifies but is wrong for insufficiently good ends, and 9/11 qualifies. What I object to is the idea that the same behavior is morally legitimate when done by a government, illegitimate if done by a non-governmental organization.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Bean, David, Aapje
            Thanks for directing me to the dehousing paper. That casts the area bombing directive Aapje linked in a sufficiently different light that I have to agree with his interpretation. Which in turn leads me to agree with David’s characterization that both the European campaigns and the incendiary attacks against Tokyo can be fairly framed as terror attacks, though I still think that comparing 70 year old actions that would be considered war crimes under contemporary law against contemporary actions is obfuscating the issues somewhat.

          • Whitedeath says:

            @davidfriedman I completely agree with your point and I think that this exposes an inconsistency in most Americans thinking. Once you accept that there is no moral difference between a government attacking civilians and a private group attacking civilians, you must accept that there is no real moral difference between someone like Osama Bin Laden on the one hand, and Harry Truman on the other. And if you think that it was acceptable to kill Osama with an extrajudicial assassination squad as we did in 2011, then you must accept that it would have been acceptable for the Japanese to have to done the same to Truman.

            @trofimlysenko I don’t see why the fact that these actions occured 70 years ago to have any moral relevance. Unless you are a relativist, terrorism was just as wrong then as it is now.

          • bean says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Which in turn leads me to agree with David’s characterization that both the European campaigns and the incendiary attacks against Tokyo can be fairly framed as terror attacks, though I still think that comparing 70 year old actions that would be considered war crimes under contemporary law against contemporary actions is obfuscating the issues somewhat.

            I would draw a distinction between the European situation and what happened in Japan. Bomber Command made a deliberate decision to attack worker’s housing to the exclusion of everything else. They chose to hit city centers, which is precisely where the factories weren’t, and suffered heavy losses doing so. The 8th Air Force was much more effective. The Japanese had largely given up home industry by 1944 (I didn’t realize this, but the Strategic Bombing Survey proved me wrong), but they did rely more than the Germans on small factories scattered throughout their cities, particularly Tokyo, where they made up 50% of the industrial output. There’s no good way to take those out except burning down the city. The Tokyo raid, for instance, brought Japanese production of radars nearly to a standstill because most of the electronic component factories were destroyed. And the night fire attacks alternated with daylight precision attacks on factories and oil refineries, which Bomber Command generally rejected, even when they had disproportionate effects (the mining of the Danube and the Dambuster attacks are examples, notable by their rarity).

          • bean says:

            @Whitedeath

            I don’t see why the fact that these actions occured 70 years ago to have any moral relevance. Unless you are a relativist, terrorism was just as wrong then as it is now.

            Is-ought dichotomy, at least WRT Japan and the US in Europe. At the time, we didn’t have precision-guided munitions. We had iron bombs. If you wanted to kill something with them from high altitude, you had to use a lot of them. If you wanted to kill something from low altitude, you got shot down. So you used lots.
            Example:
            In 1944, your intelligence people have located Hitler. He’s going to be staying in a hotel in the middle of a densely-populated city. There’s no air-raid shelter for some reason. You can take him out with a bomber raid with good confidence, but you’re going to do a lot of damage to the city, and probably kill several thousand people, and render tens of thousands homeless. Is this morally acceptable? Hitler is very important, and if he’s killed, it could shorten the war considerably. (I’m aware that this is not an accurate description of real Hitler, and that he’d almost certainly have an air-raid shelter.)
            In 2009, your intelligence people have located Bin Laden. He’s going to be staying in a hotel in the middle of a densely-populated city, and he has no air defense network. You could take him out by flying a couple of squadrons of B-52s overhead and flattening the heart of the city, or you could use a single laser-guided bomb to destroy the hotel with minimal casualties to the surrounding buildings. Obviously, you use the second, and I don’t have a problem saying that carpet-bombing would be immoral if you have better options. (It’s also stupid, which is almost as bad.)

          • Whitedeath says:

            @bean Al Qaeda isn’t in possession of precision guided munitions, does that justify their blunt force strategy? And in WW2 we certainly had less destructive weapons than the atomic bomb.

          • bean says:

            Al Qaeda isn’t in possession of precision guided munitions, does that justify their blunt force strategy?

            Maybe the strike on the Pentagon. Not the WTC, and that strike kind of disqualifies the Pentagon in my mind, as it shows their targeting plan to be clearly interested in just causing terror, not in directly destroying things that support the ‘war’ against them.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Whitedeath
            Because while we can make categorical judgements about historical actions (for example, that WW2 bombing and the 9/11 attack on the WTC is functionally identical as acts of terrorism), we must also look at historical examples in terms of the legal and moral frameworks that existed at the time.

            The only relevant constraints in WW2 were 3 provisions of the Hague convention:

            -No attacking undefended cities, villages, towns, or other built up areas.
            -Warning must be given to the civilian population if practical except in cases of assault.
            -“buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected,” should be protected as far as possible. It is the duty of the defender to mark such protected areas and communicate the marks to the enemy beforehand.

            That’s it, Prior to Additional Protocol I in 1977. Again, “as far as possible” means not “anything in your power not to damage them” but “as much as you can given the exigencies of combat”. That’s a very broad standard.

            As far as assassination/targeted killing, it really comes down to how much weight you put on “commander-in-chief”, but under those same WW2 norms I am not aware of any reason why we shouldn’t regard a Japanese attack to specifically kill Truman (as Commander-In-Chief) as legitimate as long as it was neither treacherous nor perfidious (note that those terms have specific meanings and are not just ways of saying ‘were bad’. As I noted, even under the relaxed standards of WW2, The 9/11 attack would run afoul of the restriction of perfidy.

          • ” and I think that this exposes an inconsistency in most Americans thinking. ”

            I doubt it is limited to Americans. Calling your enemies terrorists seems to be effective in many places.

            “you must accept that there is no real moral difference between someone like Osama Bin Laden on the one hand, and Harry Truman on the other.”

            You must accept that if there is a moral difference, it is not that one employed terrorism and the other didn’t. There might be other relevant differences, such as the purpose for which terrorism was employed.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          Like Pearl Harbor, it was only “out of the blue” to Americans who weren’t paying attention (YT: Ron Paul Predicted 9/11)Click to play video inline. to what their government was doing overseas, which I’m ashamed to admit included myself–I can only defend myself by saying I was young at the time and that I don’t think the govmt wants us paying attention to what they’re doing overseas.

          If you’re saying in 1997 “the US is going to get attacked by terrorists sometime in the future,” well, gee, Kreskin, that isn’t exactly an earth-shattering prediction. It happens every couple of years and has done so for decades. And the attempt to link it to US actions overseas is shaky at best, because the specific perpetrators here — while they might have a few legitimate grievances — also has a whole lot of illegitimate grievances that are going to be impossible to address. Please don’t forget that Sayyid Qutb was famously radicalized by attending a sock hop in Colorado in the 1950s; people who are going to lose their shit over Frankie Valii and the Four Seasons are not people you can accommodate with a few tweaks to foreign policy.

          This might be reasonable courtesy in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy, but when the aftermath of a tragedy involves knee-jerk legislation of far-reaching consequence (Patriot Act) and military interventions of very questionable wisdom (Iraq), then it’s perfectly appropriate to say “wait, before just doubling down on a theory that this came ‘out of the blue’ as part of a Manichean struggle, maybe we should reexamine how we’ve been doing things.”

          Because dumb things were done in response to 9/11 does not automatically mean that this random theory about how it’s all our fault is true.

          • onyomi says:

            Because dumb things were done in response to 9/11 does not automatically mean that this random theory about how it’s all our fault is true.

            Uh… do I need to point out what you’re doing here?

          • keranih says:

            do I need to point out what you’re doing here?

            Yes. In as charitable a manner as possible.

            (I see what he’s doing, debate/rationality wise, and I agree that it’s sub helpful, but it also strongly matches my first (and third) reactions, so for the sake of the new kids in the class, please convince me of the better way to make his point.)

          • onyomi says:

            What I was suggesting was that he was doing exactly the thing described in the OP, right down to the object-level issue:

            Problematic Political Correctness:
            A: There’s an epidemic of young black men getting shot by police!
            B: Police definitely need to do better, but maybe we should also consider the problem of drugs and single-parent households?
            A: So it’s all their fault! You think young black men deserve to die!

            In other words, instead of dealing with the object level issues raised, you strawman the opposition as a victim blamer beyond the pale and therefore not worthy of serious consideration. What’s worse, by narrowing the terms of socially acceptable debate, you probably decrease the probability of the problem actually getting solved.

            Problematic Patriotic Correctness:
            A: We were attacked out of the blue! We have to do something!
            B: I’m not blaming the innocent civilian victims, nor excusing the evil attackers, but maybe we should also consider whether our foreign policy has made us less safe?
            A: So you think it’s all America’s fault!

            Even as B explicitly says it’s not all America’s fault, A can seemingly only hear any criticism of any US policy in the wake of an attack as giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and therefore beyond the pale, and therefore not even worthy of consideration. It’s the same exact rhetorical strategy, and bad for the same reasons.

            Note that my point here has nothing to do with the object level issue of the causes of 9/11. Obviously I have my own opinions, and am open to debating them: maybe I’m wrong that, with a different foreign policy and different national security priorities, 9/11 might have been avoided. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with challenging that on the object level, and I didn’t claim that stupid things done in the wake of 9/11 somehow proved it was “all our fault.”

            But the object level question of the causes of 9/11 is not the point here at all: the point is, shutting down debate by strawmanning all dissenting opinions as traitorous victim-blaming did, in fact, impoverish the post-9/11 debate, thereby increasing the probability of us reacting stupidly, and that this particular mode of thinking seems quite parallel to the SJW logic we complain about so often here.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Meh, well, I suppose I did just prove your thesis right, didn’t I?

            I do get emotional on the topic, but part of that comes from living through the events (not personally, I hasten to add, just being an American) and seeing the oceans of assholes, both foreign and domestic, who really, genuinely were smugly asserting that those racist bankers in the Twin Towers had it coming and any attempt by America to defend itself or even say that the other side is bad is racist Islamophobic imperialism and completely invalid. These people existed. They continue to exist. Not a few of them have held political power since 9/11, or are celebrated pundits, celebrities, and journalists. So, you know, it’s hard to maintain equanimity sometimes.

            So, unfortunately, someone saying “we should examine if overseas behavior by the United States may have created a situation where 9/11 is likely” is going to get a similar reception in certain quarters to someone saying “we should examine if certain racial groups have a higher or lower average IQ than others.” 95% of the people who say that give the other 5% a bad name.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            95% of the people who say that give the other 5% a bad name.

            When it comes to the racial question, do you actually think the percentages are this way?

            Because, in a Bayesian sense, that means if I hear someone express those viewpoints, I really should just go ahead and assume until proven otherwise.

            As I have said at other times, usually these conversations end up mired in the non-central fallacy. The argument taking the form of “Not All XXX” is used as a pretext for (undeserved) umbrage. Useful as an argumentative tactic, but horrible in a search for truth.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            When it comes to the racial question, do you actually think the percentages are this way?

            I’m conflicted on the issue and don’t know the answer.

            I strongly dislike the climate of de facto censorship on the issue just on general principles and believe that if we want to improve outcomes for everyone, we have to start with the facts and go from there, even at the risk of finding things out that contradict our deeply held beliefs. (Which is not to prejudice the question, I don’t personally think there are meaningful IQ differences, but if there are we should know.) On the other hand, one can’t deny that a lot of the voices in the peanut gallery, quite probably a solid majority, are just looking for something to “scientifically” confirm their own prejudices, and political background noise does influence the scientific process no matter how much we wish it didn’t.

            The similarities between the two issues are more striking the more I think about it. I suppose in my ideal world the scientists/historians would do the research and come up with a consensus and the peanut gallery would find something else to do in the meantime, but I know that’s not realistic for a huge number of reasons.

          • Aapje says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            A group on one side of the argument can be nicer people and still be wrong.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            A group on one side of the argument can be nicer people and still be wrong.

            Oh, of course. But in my experience, someone who’s nicer is also more likely to take opposing views seriously and attempt to understand their point of view, and therefore is going to have a better handle on where the truth really lies.

          • stillnotking says:

            I suppose in my ideal world the scientists/historians would do the research and come up with a consensus and the peanut gallery would find something else to do in the meantime, but I know that’s not realistic for a huge number of reasons.

            That’s because the answer to the question of whether races differ in mean IQ shouldn’t matter to anyone besides academics. It wouldn’t make me any smarter or dumber than I was yesterday if I found out something about my race as a whole, and it’s irrational to allow such knowledge to influence one’s treatment of any individual, given the extreme intra-racial variation, and the easy availability of much more reliable indicators of intelligence.

            But, of course, people aren’t rational actors, and race always gets promoted to a salience it doesn’t deserve, so I understand the reluctance.

          • Jiro says:

            That’s because the answer to the question of whether races differ in mean IQ shouldn’t matter to anyone besides academics.

            It matters because differences in outcome are attributed to racism, and there’s a lot of political and social benefit in saying that you are affected by racism. If they are explainable by differences in IQ, the racism charges can’t be made to stick.

          • Aapje says:

            @ThirteenthLetter

            But in my experience, someone who’s nicer is also more likely to take opposing views seriously and attempt to understand their point of view, and therefore is going to have a better handle on where the truth really lies.

            This is highly questionable. A lot of people who are ‘nice’ in the sense that they care about people whom they claim are oppressed, yet they often have little empathy for or willingness to understand, people who disagree with them.

          • “That’s because the answer to the question of whether races differ in mean IQ shouldn’t matter to anyone besides academics.”

            Only if the question of whether the differing outcome of different groups is due to discrimination shouldn’t matter.

          • stillnotking says:

            It matters because differences in outcome are attributed to racism, and there’s a lot of political and social benefit in saying that you are affected by racism. If they are explainable by differences in IQ, the racism charges can’t be made to stick.

            It could easily be both, or it could be some third factor that has nothing directly to do with either, which I strongly suspect is the case: many American blacks are raised in cultures of honor, the values of which are antithetical to success in a modern state. A 17th-century Scottish Highlander would encounter very similar problems adapting to a job at Google, even if he was a genius.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aapje

            Just because those people claim to be “nice” doesn’t mean they are. I assert that their claims to be the nice and decent people (and everyone opposing them assholes, toxic, and awful) are simply spin. Their vocal opponents (including myself) may indeed be assholes, but there are no conventionally nice people on the field.

            @stillnotking:
            I think that’s not the point, since the “culture” argument is similarly tabooed. The point is that these taboos on certain arguments are in essence used as arguments in themselves.

            Suppose we know
            A -> (B or C or D)

            and we also know “A”.

            Now, someone asserts “D” on the grounds that we know A, and A->D. The logical response is “No, we don’t know A->D. It’s possible that (B or C) is true” If B and C are taboo, that argument is unavailable and “D” can’t be refuted. That doesn’t make D true.

            Basically if you’re going to taboo B and C, relying implicitly on (not B) and/or (not C) renders your arguments invalid even if irrefutable within the system of taboos.

        • Montfort says:

          This doesn’t really directly hit on your argument, but the article you’ve linked to about Pearl Harbor makes several controversial (to say the least) assertions about the US having advance knowledge of the attack. In particular it approvingly cites (and prefers the narrative of) Barnes and Stinnett, who are not very well-regarded.

          It is true that our economic policy made war with Japan quite likely, and so in a sense Pearl Harbor wasn’t “out of the blue” – but I mean that in the same way that the USSR launching an unprovoked invasion of West Germany in the 60s might not be properly “out of the blue.”

  5. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    Apropos of TheBearsHaveArrived’s comment above, what does SSC think of The Last Psychiatrist? I discovered TLP via the SSC blogroll a few months ago and I’ve been wading through the archive. It took me quite a while to interpret Alone’s worldviews. I have mixed reactions.

    On one hand. Alone’s entire shtick is that our generation suffers narcissism. Not grandiose-narcissism e.g. “I’m the best and ya’ll are losers”, but solipsistic-narcissism e.g. “I’m the protagonist of my own biograpy, events are significant only insofar as they affect my idpol and character development”. While I think Alone’s writing is brilliant, the shtick is contrarian enough and writing-style wily enough for me to suspect I’m getting Eulered by Malcolm Gladwell [0]. It’s like when you see a “proof” that (2 = 1) for the first time. And you feel cognitive-dissonance because you know the proof is false, despite that each step appears valid a first glance [1].

    On the other hand. Even if some of Alone’s sketchier claims are false, the blog has indubitably shifted my perspective. Additionally, Alone appears to actually be a licensed psychiatrist. He or she frequently demonstrates a technical understanding of psychiatry, as well as experience in the industry. Also, Alone’s analyses of adverts remind me of a college English professor of mine who gave the class a 101 in semiotics. So that’s a third indicator that Alone isn’t just a crazy conspiracy theorist. If nothing else, I find Alone a gifted and entertaining persona.

    For those who want example pieces, essays which impressed me include: The Dove Beauty Sketches Scam; No Self-Respecting Woman would Go Out without Makeup; Funeral; etc.

    Related to PRIZM, which Scott linked to above. The TLP memeplex includes “if you’re reading it, it’s for you” & “ads are aspirational, not representative”.

    [0] I’ve never read Malcolm Gladwell. All I have to go by is his reputation. (But really, what is it about him that rustles people’s jimmies?)

    [1] Solution: gur cebbs rkcybvgf qvivfvba ol mreb.

    • Apropos to your comment, I will comment.

      His commentary is a mixed bag when it comes to general subjects. Narcissism seems to be his schtick he comments on. I liked his/her commentary on why the harvard cheating scandal was stupid. He posted the material, and it was pretty clearly a “fake class” with no actual answers to any question. Post-modernistic crap in an introductory course.

      He is best when he comments on lots of the absurdities and corruptions of the psychiatric industry. He touches in lots of posts why the Hamilton D is horrible and antidepressants basically mean nothing due to that. Comments on the arbitrary definitions of lots of disorders. When his lower quality posts and random social commentary posts are filtered out, its basically a blog against corruption.
      Or at least, a blog about insanity , even if its not the patients themselves.

      You have to read it though. Its not as if every point about corruption has it in the title.

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      If you like Alone’s writing style but don’t want to feel Eulered, take a look at The Most Important Article On Psychiatry You Will Ever Read. It explains an important pharmacological (and semiotic) concept in a way a layman can understand.

      He also used to write for a collaborative blog called Partial Objects, which sadly doesn’t exist anymore. Here’s a sample from the Internet Archive.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Obviously brilliant, especially when he’s talking empirical minutiae of psychiatry, and I hope to one day be half as good a psychiatrist or writer as he is. But a lot of his cultural stuff seems too pattern-matchy and doesn’t ring true.

      After reading a lot of his stuff, I still am not sure I 100% understand his idea of narcissism in a way that feels natural and foundational.

      • AnonEEmous says:

        yeah, the article about makeup linked seems to assert powerlessness for the most part without actually proving it. To the extent that the Senate seems powerless, it’s probably because they and Obama were at war. Nursing…doesn’t seem appreciably more powerful than before, and any perception I have of such seems to come from powerful female nurses in media. It really feels like, as one of the pillars of his argument, he could’ve spent more time on it, and tried to come up with more concrete proof.

        plus, i think he fails to take into account the interlocking systems of female competition for males and male competition for females, something which i’m not sold is pushed by culture necessarily

        • baconbacon says:

          He isn’t writing a proof, its a perspective.

        • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

          Ye, the senate and nursing parts were totes sketch. What impressed me was the (buried) analysis of “The System” in Jango Unchained. I’ve watched Jango myself, and the depth of my analysis was limited to “No way! Was the butler really Samuel Jackson?”

          “The System” is another TLP meme. It sounds cringey, but I think it’s really just another name for the Bystander Effect, writ large.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            i thought his analysis of the system was very, very interesting

            but the proof there is strangely missing too, the reason being that it is a movie

            basically he’s saying “the reason Django was able to pull off this seemingly impossible feat was because of the way the system works”. OK, but if Tarantino didn’t know that it was impossible, and assumed it was easy, then he would just write the film like it was easy.

            the system itself sounds like it totally exists, mind, but again : his main proof is probably not there, especially since this movie is all about badassery > reality – the better explanation for Django’s shift is that he is Just That Cool.

            and to Bacon, yeah, it’s a perspective, but one written based off of a claim, which…he hasn’t proven and isn’t assumed to be proven. You can still theorize stuff, don’t get me wrong, but he’s gone beyond that in a fundamental way without really having any backup.

      • “and I hope to one day be half as good a psychiatrist or writer as he is.”

        I can’t judge either of you as a psychiatrist, but judging by the small sample of his writing I just read, you are a better writer.

    • nyccine says:

      While I think Alone’s writing is brilliant, the shtick is contrarian enough and writing-style wily enough for me to suspect I’m getting Eulered by Malcolm Gladwell.

      There’s nothing contrarian about it; you can draw a straight line from Freud to Kohut and Kernberg’s differing views on the nature of narcissism, and the varying types, to Alone’s analysis. What’s off is the belief that “only” the grandiose form of narcissism -NPD – that is legitimate narcissism, or alternatively, the only one that can pose harm to society, the only one that matters.

      Example: when we discuss the Narcissistic family, the concern isn’t that one or both parents suffer from NPD, it’s that the emotional needs of the child always lose out to the emotional needs of the child. It’s a mother proud that her 5 year old daughter sees her mom’s happiness as more important than her own, even when that means mommy is going to blow up the family because getting fucked by men she isn’t married to is more important than honoring her marriage vows

      To the extent that the Senate seems powerless, it’s probably because they and Obama were at war.

      Obama and the Senate haven’t been at war for the past 35+ years, unless I’ve missed something. Congress has been ceding more and more power to the Presidency/the bureaucracy. Whatever nominal power it’s supposed to have, Congress has arguably never been weaker, and it’s telling that what’s admirable is not that more women are exercising power – they aren’t – it’s simply that they’re filling more slots. Why is that?

      Nursing…doesn’t seem appreciably more powerful than before, and any perception I have of such seems to come from powerful female nurses in media.

      I have to assume you’re young. Nursing gained power completely independent of changes in media representation; point of fact, it was the change in the status of nurses that caused media portrayals to change. I remember well the change – I started seeing ads pushing nursing as an amazing career, the ads featuring men. This was weird, but obvious in retrospect.

      OK, but if Tarantino didn’t know that it was impossible, and assumed it was easy, then he would just write the film like it was easy.

      This just moves the question under a different shell. Tarantino is, depending on how much coke he’s done that day, a good to great story-teller; I’ve never seen him worse than competent. If he wrote a script that had a character that had never shown any of the skills necessary to be a bounty-hunter, and showed us no scenes in which that character is taught how to be a bounty-hunter, even if it’s because Tarantino thought it was unimportant, we would want to know why he thought it wasn’t necessary. Even if it’s unconscious on his part, that still tells us something very important about how society is changed that he would not think it at all unusual that a man that’s lived his whole life as a slave instantly becomes a bad-ass once someone else – he doesn’t even have to earn his own freedom, he just happens to be in the right place at the right time – gives him a piece of paper that says he is.

      TLP has a number of features on this very topic; used to be, this kind of protagonist had to earn their l33t skills, hence the development of the training montage; even God-awful movies like Gymkata knew the audience wouldn’t believe you could just tell an olympic gymnast he was an agent and send him off as an undercover agent. Yes, they hilariously botched every aspect of it, but they knew what they had to do to make it believable.

      This all changed with The Matrix; now, it’s enough that the hero simply exists. Someone else – some other – is going to see past the loser playing COD all day between masturbation sessions and see the real you, who is totally awesome.

      “The System” is another TLP meme. It sounds cringey, but I think it’s really just another name for the Bystander Effect, writ large.

      That’s not it at all. If anything, it’d be closest to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy, but even that’s a loose fit. In TLP’s world, the “System” realized it could con you into working for its benefit simply by playing to your ego. Like in the “Dove Beauty Sketches” article, the “System” is more than happy to tell you you’re beautiful because that means you’ve implicitly accepted that they have the authority to tell you if you’re beautiful or not, at the bargain basement price of $56.2 Billion (that’s US only, 2015).

      Note that the only sane response to society telling you you aren’t beautiful is to either:
      a) change yourself so that you meet society’s standards of beautiful, or
      b) refuse to accept society has any authority to tell you you’re beautiful.
      The “System” convinced you that there was an option c) you can change society’s standards so that you are beautiful, but this was always a lie, even if no part of you can believe this (“you” here is obviously the generic “you”).

  6. M Simon says:

    Re: criminal faces.

    My experience in an Outlaw MC gang leads me to believe that a considerable amount of criminality is due to PTSD. Every single member that I had a conversation with on the topic of their childhood had been severely abused in childhood.

    I wonder if PTSD changes faces?

    On a similar note:

    Dr. Lonny Shavelson found that 70% of female heroin addicts had been sexually assaulted in childhood.

    Maybe we don’t have a drug problem.

    • Murphy says:

      part of the problem is that we also have to consider if the line of cause and effect is more complex.

      So just from background rate you’d expect some fraction to have been abused and some fraction to have come from normal homes so an article with a few people saying “non-addict parents, abused, heroin addict now” should be pretty easy to find and doesn’t really tell us anything.

      Imagine a world where some set of genes strongly predisposed people towards substance abuse. Many of the people with the gene end up with serious substance abuse problems and are much more likely to end up having kids together.

      The kids end up doubly fucked over: Likely to be born with genes predisposing them to substance abuse, growing up around people with substance abuse problems and dramatically more likely to be abused by the crowd mom and dad hang out with or rented out when mom or dad needs money for a fix.

      Alternatively kids of drug addicts taken away are likely to end up in the foster system and kids in the foster system are also more likely to be abused.

      So it becomes difficult to say with certainty: perhaps the line of cause and effect goes the opposite direction from addiction to abuse.

  7. FacelessCraven says:

    Trailer for Scorsese’s newest film Silence, based on the novel by Shusaku Endo.

    I read the novel a couple years ago, and it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Has anyone else read it, and if so, what did you think of it? I’m especially curious what Deiseach or some of the other serious Catholics think of it.

    • Deiseach says:

      I haven’t read it and I probably won’t, even though it seems to have received critical praise and to be a good novel. There is just some strange reluctance in my head about it; a mix of (perhaps) fear of cultural tourism, as if reading this account will give me the genuine experience of what it is to be in that milieu and that situation (I am not saying it cannot give insights, but that people sometimes confuse ‘reading about something’ with ‘ah yes, now I really understand what it is like’, which you can’t) and a reluctance to read “It’s Catholic, you’re Catholic, you should read it!” (possibly again because burned too often on that).

      Much the same reasons I didn’t read “The Sparrow” 🙂

      • FacelessCraven says:

        @Dieseach – The cultural elements were interesting, but largely tangential to the point of the book in my opinion. What the book was actually about was the conflict between faith and practicality. It seemed to me that the message translated quite well even to myself as a non-Catholic Christian, but I’m curious if there’s depths to it I missed due to lacking the necessary background.

        ********Spoiler Warning*******

        Spreading the Word is obviously good. Holding to the faith despite persecution is obviously good. The question in the book is, when does spreading the word and resisting persecution become more about one’s pride than about principles? The priest in Silence is confronted with other Christians being tortured in his place; the victims have already apostatized, but the authorities will continue torturing them until he apostasies. The accusation is that if he truly cared for them, if he truly loved them as he claims, he should perform the apostasy ritual to spare them their torment. The author seems to come just shy of endorsing this view:

        [Gur Cevrfg’f ivfvba bs Wrfhf fcrnxvat:] “Lbh znl genzcyr. Lbh znl genzcyr. V zber guna nalbar xabj bs gur cnva va lbhe sbbg. Lbh znl genzcyr. Vg jnf gb or genzcyrq ba ol zra gung V jnf obea vagb guvf jbeyq. Vg jnf gb funer zra’f cnva gung V pneevrq zl pebff.”

        It raises some excellent questions about what it means to be faithful. Is there some fundamental difference between explicit apostasy and all the other ways we deny Christ through our actions?

        • Deiseach says:

          That’s part of why I haven’t read the book, I think you can only really argue that as a dilemma if you truly see it as a dilemma, and in our culture (whatever the opinion of the writer, and his opinion as a person may and will be different from his opinion as a writer writing this particular book with this particular plot and these particular characters) the view is that it is not; of course you will do what is for The Greater Good, because religion is (at the most) a private and personal view of how you should behave and has no greater meaning than that; when it comes to suffering you burn that incense to Caesar. God has no reality outside of your notion of what God/god is. Even sympathetic critics will, on the whole, think the dilemma is no dilemma other than an interesting psychological study of how faith can warp one man’s value system. It’s of a part with “If I had to choose between betraying my friend and my country, I hope I’d have the guts to choose my friend” being seen as a good thing because a country is only an abstract notion, your friend is a real person.

          The only way a dilemma like this would be seen to be a genuine struggle would be to cast it as, for example, a resistance fighter in the Second World War. Some members of your cell have been captured, tortured, and given up information. The Gestapo/SS is threatening to shoot ten villagers a day every day unless and until you give yourself up and reveal the entire network, passwords, escaped Allied soldiers, radio contacts, the works. What do you do – if you give up, you and the rest of the cell will be killed anyway and the struggle against the Nazis, who are genuinely bad, will be harmed. Are the lives of ten/fifty/a hundred villagers right now worth more than the lives of millions in the next year?

          Think of the Soviet show trials – the regime wants you to not alone admit your guilt and deny your former connections, but to express how mistaken and wrong you were and that your loyalty is now to the new (or old) regime. Imagine being pressured to stand up in the square and say that the Nazi Party is right and you were wicked for fighting them, and you must urge all the rest of the people not to resist and indeed to co-operate, or else the deaths of those fifty villagers are your fault.

          That would be seen as a dilemma: do what you believe is wrong in order to save lives? Co-operate with the regime that is killing people? But religion? Pffft, we know better than that – putting an imaginary sky fairy first in importance over real human beings is blind ignorant wicked zealotry.

  8. Wander says:

    I’ve heard that Shkreli has been increasing drug prices specifically because research into their production has stalled, and that he wants to see cheap competitors develop. People seem to bring up that the change in price for the AIDs drug that there was the uproar about would only affect healthcare providers, and that patients would pay the same for it. Also, that he’s a generally weird guy who could possibly do something like this for this reason.

    • Loquat says:

      “I swear, I’m not jacking up my prices to line my own pockets, I’m doing it to encourage my rivals to develop cheaper alternative products for the good of society!”

      I’m not saying it’s impossible that’s really his motivation, but it’d take a hell of a lot of evidence to convince me.

  9. pyroseed13 says:

    From the study that claims to “refute” the findings of that Electoral studies paper:
    “The article concludes that the rate of non-citizen voting in the United States is likely 0.”

    Really? This strikes me as equally ridiculous as Trump’s original claim. In reality, no one knows because we just don’t have very good data on this. But I have a strong suspicion that the rate is not zero, although it may be small.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Yeah, I agree that was a crazy thing to say. If you’ve got say it, say “near zero”.

      • skef says:

        This same criticism came up just a little while ago. Is the idea that “0” constitutes an exception to the convention of significant figures for some reason? Or that it looks especially misleading and calls for clarification? Or that “0%” would be OK but “0” is not (with respect to this specific case) because of the lack of scale?

        I read “0%” as equivalent to “<0.5%".

        • M Simon says:

          The problem with assigning numbers is that any study of the effect is likely to reduce the effect.

          It would work the same as drug use surveys.

        • Luke Perrin says:

          So if I thought there were fewer than 5000 non-citizen voters I could express this my saying that the number of them was 00000?

          Presumably if “0%” means <0.5% as you say, then "0" just means <0.5 i.e. less than half. Not that reassuring!

        • Montfort says:

          Skef, I think it’s just that it looks a bit misleading since people tend to see the difference between “literally none” and “1 in a million” as much more significant than the difference between 5% and 5.000001% (and in some contexts it is). Personally if I came across a situation like that I’d just render it with the error attached – something like “0% +/- 0.5pp”.

          • skef says:

            But it’s a paper published in a scientific journal. To read “0%” as even implying “0.0%” is no more valid than reading “2%” as implying “2.0%”. There are established conventions for interpreting these symbols. If the authors found the percentage was lower than .5 then it certainly isn’t “crazy” to represent that as “0”.

            (Obviously the “Well…” reply I linked to isn’t in a scientific context. His revised view, which he gives “pretty high confidence”, is that the chance of the United States breaking up in the next 50 years is around one in ten million. It makes you wonder whether he thinks there’s something particularly special about the next 50 years, or if he expects the country to remain unified for 500 million years or so. At least his first answer had an easy way to interpret charitably.)

          • Montfort says:

            Actually, hold on, let me clarify some terms, because I’m not sure I understand what you’re getting at. 0% has 0 significant figures. A number like 0.005 still only has one.

            I’m assuming you mean in the original paper the uncertainty was larger than the result by a large enough factor that they rounded down to zero (e.g. 0.005 +/- 0.1 -> 0 +/- 0.1)? I forget exactly whether there are other ways to “correctly” render that, but I’d definitely put an explicit uncertainty figure next to it.

            Edit: I see in engineering practice is (allegedly) to use 0.00 to signify 0.00 +/- 0.01 or similar. That’s not how I was taught to do it in physics, Your guess is probably as good as mine what the convention is in “electoral studies.”

          • CatCube says:

            As an aside, small numbers rounding to zero is allowed by the FDA.

            If you see something marketed as “Calorie Free,” they’re allowed to round anything under 5 cal to 0.

    • Deiseach says:

      I see what they were trying to do – if it’s under 0.5% then it’s really so small as to be nearly meaningless.

      On the other hand, estimates of the voter turnout for the 2016 election are 130 million (57.9%) of the eligible electorate.

      If 0.4% (under 0.5%) of those voters were in fact ineligible due to being illegal immigrants, that means 5.2 million votes were cast by non-citizen voters. 0.1%? Gives you 1.3 million votes. That’s not nuthin’, either, given the recount squabbles over tens of thousands or fewer:

      President-elect Trump won [Michigan] by just 10,704 votes, garnering 2,279,543 votes to Clinton’s 2,268,839.

      The recount has been stopped in Michigan and Jill Stein is less than gruntled about it.

      (There are figures for people ineligible to vote due to felon status or non-citizenship; there’s an estimation 20% of California’s voting-age population are ineligible to vote. Did every single one of those say “Oops, I can’t legally vote, better stay home on polling day”? Especially if there was fear about “not voting for Hillary and she loses means you’ll be deported”?)

      Even more alarming(?), if the figure for ineligible voters voting is anywhere between 0.1 and 0.2%, and we assume those ineligible voters voted for Hillary, then that wipes out a hefty chunk of Hillary’s “she won the popular vote by 2.7 million votes”!

      0.1% of voter turnout is by ineligible voters: 1.3 million 0.2% of voter turnout: 2.6 million Winning margin of popular vote: 2.7 million.

      So yeah, it’s kinda important to nail this down: non-eligible voting happened, yes or no? How many? Even if it was only a fraction of a percentage, that still has a large effect on the end result!

      • beleester says:

        If 0.4% (under 0.5%) of those voters were in fact ineligible due to being illegal immigrants, that means 5.2 million votes were cast by non-citizen voters.

        I think you misplaced a decimal point. 0.004 * 130,000,000 = 520,000, not 5.2 million.

        • Deiseach says:

          You are absolutely correct and this proves once again why I’d be disenfranchised under an epistocracy 🙂

          Yes, I got the decimal points wrong – should not attempt maths on Friday afternoon when I’m brain-fried after the work week and gearing up for a cold!

          Still, 520,000 votes are not nothing in the context of “Trump only won by 20,000 in this state, suppose Hillary’s votes were miscounted, she might be due a win here!”

          And suppose some of those 520,000 votes were ineligible? This cuts both ways. It’s certainly a tiny and indeed negligible figure in the context of the entire valid electorate, but given that recounts are often (and especially in this case) about thousands of votes, a firm figure for “Some of these voters on a nationwide scale are technically and legally not entitled to vote” would be helpful, at least for the sake of neutral information (I agree that tribal politics on either side wouldn’t be satisfied whatever the result).

    • Reasoner says:

      You think people who broke US laws to come to our country illegally might also be willing to break US laws in order to vote illegally? Wouldn’t shock me.

      • For most people, there is little incentive to vote illegally, since one vote is unlikely to change the outcome of an election. My guess is that most non-citizens, illegal or otherwise, who vote do it because they don’t realize they are not supposed to and everyone else is doing it.

        On the other hand, there are enormous incentives for someone from a poor country to immigrate to the U.S., illegally if he can’t do it legally. So the willingness to do the latter is little evidence of willingness to do the former. It’s evidence that he is not absolutely unwilling to break the law—but few people are.

  10. Jules says:

    I’ll nitpick, because it’s meaningful:
    The linked comment does not give arguments for the idea that “celebrities and CEOs make better politicians than politicians”, but that they make better political candidates.

    The idea that the value of a politician is set by his ability to get (re)elected, rather than his ability to improve society, is one that is arguable, and that I personally find downright toxic.

  11. Perhaps transderism implies more autism, but it dosen’t matter because that diagnosis dosent make much sense anyways.

    http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/02/two_causes_of_autism.html

    http://thelastpsychiatrist.com/2009/10/how_am_i_going_to_get_paid_if.html

    Any discussion about the link is close to a not even wrong territory.

  12. aleksanderpwnz says:

    On the first picture in the arctic warming article, why is there a huge area (in purple) which is 20 degrees celsius colder than usual, right on the other side of the north pole from the warm area (in red)? Just from that picture alone, I see no reason to focus on the warm area alone and not the cold area, but I can’t see it mentioned in the article.

    • Jules says:

      It’s mentioned right above the map: “even as a vast area of cold polar air has been displaced over Siberia”

      The 36° on the pole are definitely trouble because of ice melting.
      I’m not aware of any significant global issue caused by the extra cold in Siberia, notwithstanding those poor Siberians. Besides of course it being part of the same movement that caused the extra 36° at the pole.

      • “The 36° on the pole are definitely trouble because of ice melting.”

        It’s worth noting that ice melting at the North Pole does not significantly affect sea level, since that ice was floating, hence displacing its weight in water. It may affect other things, in particular the albedo of the Earth, however.

        • Chalid says:

          Seems worrisome that this sort of thing can happen though. If Greenland or the South Pole got 36 degrees warmer it would be pretty dangerous.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          And ice melting at the North Pole on a particular day in November really doesn’t affect sea level, because it’s bound to refreeze pretty soon. Current temperature: -27C.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            That seems a lot like saying “If there is ever ice at the north pole then global warming is not a concern”. Which may not have been your intent, but your argument isn’t a whole lot better than that. The day to day variability is not the concern, its the overall trend and how that plays on net.

          • M Simon says:

            HeelBearCub,

            I’ll worry about the overall trend when the snow/ice in the Chicago region doesn’t dissipate completely in the summer.

            Of course by then reductions in food production should be noticeable.

          • psmith says:

            I’ll worry about the overall trend when the snow/ice in the Chicago region doesn’t dissipate completely in the summer.

            You’ll worry about the overall warming trend when the snow/ice in the Chicago region doesn’t dissipate completely during the summer?

            (Incidentally, I have some relatives in their eighties in northwest Indiana who assure me that “it used to get down below zero with snow on the ground right around November first and pretty much stay that way till April” when they were in high school, so make of that what you will.).

          • Protagoras says:

            Ice melting at the north pole doesn’t affect sea level directly regardless, since that ice is floating; the ice that affects sea level when it melts is the ice on land (primarily Greenland and Antarctica). But as HBC says, it’s part of an unsettling trend.

  13. 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 turned them off – oh, and they’ll make the money off those ads long before they’ll share it with you, even though they’re using your content and followers to generate revenue) there is widespread outcry, because usually the changes are crappy, I would say that is not the reason.

    Why does Tumblr work/what is the secret of its success, if it can be said to be successful (Yahoo are still trying to monetise it)? I think at least part of it is people who left LiveJournal after the last straw, Dreamwidth never quite replaced it, and Tumblr (at least at the start) was more oriented to that kind of blogging. For community building it’s horrible, but it was never intended to be that – it was intended to be for content creation and sharing. It’s not great but it’s as least as good as any of the alternatives, and by now has evolved its own culture and communities (the fandom side and SJW side are distinct from the fashion, photographers, achingly hip blogs side – it makes me laugh to see the blogs Tumblr recommends to me because I have totally no interest in them).

  14. > 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.

  15. Peter says:

    There’s a YouTube vid of a tortoise vs hare race, which puts the fable to the test.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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?

  19. 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? https://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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. hlynkacg says:

    Comment of the day goes to Viliam in A Return To Discussion:

    The historical Socrates was permabanned from the planet for sealioning.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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?”

  29. 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.)

  30. 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”

  31. 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.

  32. 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).

  33. 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.

  34. Edward Scizorhands says:

    That Monkey’s Eyebrow article is sorely needing a diagram of the monkey.

  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. 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.

  37. 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???

  38. Wrong Species says:

    More accurate look at labor productivity growth.

    Here’s the data from the BLS.

  39. The prince might have gotten a B but he still made is dog Air Chief Marshal.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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).”

  45. Clippy says:

    That Tortoise And The Hare spin-off is a metaphor for instrumental vs. epistemic rationality.

  46. 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.

  47. 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…)

  48. 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.

  49. Sniffnoy says:

    Nursing link is down.

  50. 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

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. 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.

  55. 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,

  56. 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

  57. 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!

  58. 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.