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Links 12/16: The Site Before Christmas

International Date Line In Judaism: Some authorities posit a “zone of pure doubt” stretching from longitudes 169W to 177E and containing Tonga, Samoa, and American Samoa, where it is so confusing when to observe Shabbat that Jews should just completely avoid that whole area of the world on weekends.

Science challenge: cure Alzheimers disease. Science challenge, hard mode: cure Alzheimers’ disease with an animated .gif. One team gives it their best shot (news article, paper). Here is a sample 30 Hz stimulus (warning: flashing seizure lights!)

Speaking of flashing seizure lights, Twitter is investigating claims that Trump supporters, angry at an outspoken liberal journalist, tweeted flashing “You Deserve A Seizure” .gifs at him and actually gave him a seizure. We are finally living in the cyberpunk dystopia we were promised.

The man who put up $1.5 million to save 200 Syrian refugees, plus a profile of Canada’s program allowing private citizens to sponsor refugee immigration.

Related to recent discussion of school costs: India’s private and public hospitals are both equally good (bad), but the private hospitals cost only 1/4 as much. Why is this so different from the US picture?

Some jails are banning in-person visits in favor of buggy video calls. Needless to say, a for-profit corporation with a dystopian-sounding name is involved.

More in the “early school starting age is bad” files: earlier school starting age increases crime in US, earlier school starting age increases crime in Denmark, earlier school starting age increases obesity in Australia. Meanwhile, on the other side, James Heckman proposes spending $18,000 per pupil per year to enroll all children in public preschool from birth. (but see here)

Smeed’s Law: London traffic will always travel at 9 mph. Accurate to within 2% over more than 50 years?

Current Affairs: Banning Smoking In Public Housing Is Just Another Experiment On The Poor. I agree with the article but disagree with the title; this policy is not an experiment at all, no one’s looking for any data, it’s just a badly-thought-out law that will control poor people’s lives in an ethos of “we know your values better than you do”. I feel the same way about smoking bans in mental hospitals, which are a bad idea and lead a lot of people who needs hospitalization to reject it; all they accomplish is to make mentally ill smokers miserable for a few days before they leave and go back to their cigarettes.

Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (ie John Ioannidis’ team) is looking for interested postdocs who want to do a fellowship there.

The collapse of the Soviet Union led to mild food shortages in Cuba, and the average citizen lost about ten pounds – making the country a natural laboratory for the health benefits of losing weight.

Buzzfeed: for profit mental hospitals commit people who don’t need hospitalization to increase the bottom line. Yet another example in the genre of “stop privatizing entities with coercive power”, also featuring a big corporation with a dystopian name. Although note that there are factors incentivizing the same behavior, albeit on a lesser scale, in every hospital system.

A warning that the ingroup can be just as vulnerable to bad science as the outgroup: Future Of Life Institute says that adding women to x-risk related groups is a top priority since higher % women “raises group IQ”. But this theory seems on shaky ground after better studies show group IQ is independent of gender of members, mostly just a function of individual IQ. [EDIT: do note that the FLI article was published before the study I cite]

Life imitating XKCD: the guy who runs Snopes.com is rumored to have defrauded the website to pay for prostitutes, and I have no idea where to go to figure out if the story is true.

New essay challenging the effective animal activist movement. Mixture of good and bad claims, not to be taken uncritically, but their point about the “number of animals helped per dollar” figures being wildly exaggerated seem broadly right.

Seasteading leaders meet French Polynesian president, receive positive signals about their plan to build a seastead in the area. I’m a little confused about this: if they’re building in French Polynesian sovereign waters with the approval of the French Polynesian government, how is this better than just building a charter city on land with the approval of that land’s sovereign government?

In 1997, the New York Times and Australian federal government investigated surprisingly plausible rumors that a death cult had detonated a primitive nuclear weapon in the Australian outback

Forget fake news. If you really want to see what’s going on with the media, check out the differing ways the Washington Post versus Marginal Revolution report the same study on historical Asian-American incomes, then read the study itself.

The Reichsbürgerbewegung are kind of the German equivalent of sovereign citizens, and believe that Germany is still legally under the control of the pre-World War II Weimar government; since this government doesn’t exist they believe that legal control devolves to anyone who claims to be the legitimate successor of that government (eg themselves). Some of them go pretty far, appointing their own cabinets, legislatures, etc, consisting of fellow conspiracy theorists.

David Shor: “Democrats’ decline among non-southern white working class voters started with Bill Clinton, not the Civil Rights Act.” (+ graph)

New study analyzes partisan bias in mainstream news sources, finds there’s not very much of it, with a few totally obvious exceptions like Daily Kos and Breitbart (Graph, graph, paper, h/t Anonymous Mugwump). Probably worth pushing and popularizing this; I had hoped that increasing criticism of mainstream media bias would cause papers to clean up their act and consumers to read critically; instead it’s mostly just pushed people away from slightly-biased mainstream sources to incredibly-biased alternative sources. Related chart.

A British journalist reporting on heroin addicts cultivated a heroin addiction to try to better understand his subjects (video link, Reddit thread). He ended up addicted for at least five years, though I’m having trouble finding out if he ever recovered. Relevant to eternal debate about “there’s no such thing as addictive drugs, just people with terrible lives”.

New study suggests female doctors deliver (slightly) better care than male doctors in some situations. As far as I can tell it looks sound and isn’t missing anything obvious. A lot of speculation as to cause, mostly repeating platitudes about women being “more nurturing”, but previous studies have shown female doctors spend more time per patient and I’d look into that first.

The Aztecs, Maya, and Inca never got out of the Stone Age before being conquered, but there was Pre-Columbian Native American tribe that technically made it into the Iron Age: the Dorset Inuit, who cheated by stumbling across a deposit of rare telluric iron which was usable without smelting. Also in “Inuit are cool” news this week: Inuit may have received cold tolerance genes by interbreeding with extinct human subspecies.

H/t Scott Aaronson: a new art form of seeing how complicated and attractive a video you can generate from a 4K exe file. Examples here and here.

Survey of expert opinion on the Flynn effect.

My home state of Michigan takes the lead in legalizing driverless cars.

Study finds that bias is common in introductory psychology textbooks, “particularly related to failing to inform students of the controversial nature of some research fields and repeating some scientific urban legends as if true”.

Ribbonfarm on the tragic history of prison reform.

Brazil has just passed the most extreme austerity measure in history in the middle of a recession, locked in with a clause making it impossible to repeal for 10-20 years. A…bold…choice. If nothing else, it’ll provide good data for future generations of macroeconomists. Register your predictions now!

Redditor describes why Trump’s tweet threatening to cancel the F-35 in favor of an updated F-18 is such a horrible idea.

A Muslim woman who claimed that a white man threatened to set her on fire for wearing a hijab just after the election of Donald Trump is to be charged with a felony for filing a false report after a police investigation. This one makes me angry because it was in Ann Arbor (where I work) and really freaked out one of my patients; it’s important to remember that these kinds of things have real-world consequences beyond The Internet Discourse. Related: during the election, a black church was set on fire and covered with Trump graffiti; a black member of the church has now been charged with the crime. Related: pro-Trump swastikas and KKK graffiti across Nassau Community College apparently drawn by Indian-American man. I do not want to cherry-pick/Chinese-robber false hate crimes, but I think these were the three top hate crime stories I hear during the election and it concerns me that it’s not being more widely reported that all three were false. Also related: SLPC investigation of hate crimes after Trump election covered up 2,000 reports of hate incidents against white students.

Obama signs law that gives protection to atheists, which isn’t that interesting, but I’m linking the article anyway because I like the picture.

Wrong Way Corrigan was a famous aviator who crossed the Atlantic solo a little after Charles Lindbergh’s famous flight. He won his nickname after constantly petitioning the authorities for permission to try the Atlantic crossing and constantly being refused; he did however receive permission to fly from New York to California. So he set off from New York, claimed to have “accidentally” gone the wrong way, and ended up in Ireland a few days later. No one ever proved anything, the worst punishment he got was a two-week suspension of his pilot’s license, and he passed into legend as the patron saint of people who go the wrong direction – with references in pop culture works like “Gilligan’s Island” and “Animaniacs”.

Myths Of Human Genetics, mostly of the sort “trait X is coded for by exactly one gene in a simple Mendelian manner”. They’re kind of nitpicky about this, though.

The latest Dweck paper on growth mindset vs. Stuart Ritchie.

Stuck with gift cards you don’t want after the holidays? CoinStar offers a cash-for-gift-cards service. I hope someone got rich off of this idea.

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587 Responses to Links 12/16: The Site Before Christmas

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In re flickering light: I don’t know about Alzheimer’s, but (as a passenger) I can get pleasant kaleidoscopic effects by facing the sun when it’s low enough for the light to be flickering from trees. The effects are similart to what I got from the 40hz video, except that the video patterns are black and white while the sun through trees patterns are in color.

    I’ve heard that artists get eidetic images rather than abstract patterns.

    *****

    I’m dubious about whether the correct person was charged in the Mississippi church burning. I haven’t seen anything about evidence and his previous crimes were all practical.

    Maybe my mistrust of the police/justice system (especially in re black people) is excessive. We’ll see what turns up.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I’m dubious about whether the correct person was charged in the Mississippi church burning. I haven’t seen anything about evidence and his previous crimes were all practical.

      Assuming that we don’t know who did it, we can still be pretty confident in knowing who DIDN’T do it — Trump supporters. Most, perhaps all, of these splashy pro-Trump hate crimes have turned out to be hoaxes. So it’s reasonable to believe that this one falls into the same category.

      • Mary says:

        Possibly even that claimed seizure.

        Hmm. Unless he was taping himself at the time, or had witnesses, I doubt he could prove he had a seizure at the time — and if he was taping himself at the time, one would suspect a false flag set-up, being a bit too convenient. (Witnesses would be more plausible.)

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        I checked the tweet where the guy said he had got a seizure, and there were people who appeared to be Trump supporters posting flashing pictures as replies to that very tweet. Why would it be unlikely? What, supporting Trump magically makes you an angel?

      • conifer says:

        The implicit point of the assertion ‘the church burning was a false flag’ is to raise awareness of a tendency towards false flags; your comment is just begging the question

    • Deiseach says:

      Re: the strobe lights, at least I am now confident I don’t have epilepsy. I don’t know if it has done anything for my famously terrible memory… um… what point was I going to make, again?

      Re: the Flynn effect survey, apparently I am so distractable that I was side-tracked by seeing the name on that site consistently spelled “FLynn”, not “Flynn”. Since I always thought this was the Irish surname Flynn, I then had to go Google to check it wasn’t actually discovered by Mr/Ms F. Lynn. Nope, it was Richard Flynn, so (possibly) the study is spelling it wrong and if they get that much basic info wrong, why should I believe the rest of it? 🙂

      Re: Obama and atheist protection, so Bill Maher says atheists are the largest minority in America? Is that true, truthiness, or factiness? What do African-Americans and Hispanics/Latinos/Chicanos have to say about that?

      Re: the Snopes guy – when I said that if you were going to grind out money-grubbing schemes, you should at least spend it on things you enjoy, such as hookers and blow, it was a metaphor

      Happy time of the times to them what celebrates it, whatever it may be, and to them what doesn’t, happy ordinary times!

      • meh says:

        Maher generally refers to the last census where ~ 20% responded in the ‘None’ category, though a far lower percentage identified as ‘atheist’.

        Maher also points out that they “have no representation in Congress.” which is officially true, but possibly not exactly true since politicians will claim a religion for political reasons, which may not be their true beliefs.

        • Matt M says:

          since politicians will claim a religion for political reasons, which may not be their true beliefs.

          I’m as skeptical of politicians as anyone, but do you have any source on this? Could you name a specific politician you think has done this? People like to throw this around but generally refuse to get specific about it.

          Keep in mind that we have politicians who admit to being Jewish, Hindu, Catholic (not a big deal anymore but was kind of a big deal for JFK), Muslim, and all other manner of religions that don’t exactly score them extra brownie points with Joe Six-Pack. If a Muslim doesn’t feel the need to lie about their religion, do we really think Atheists do?

          • meh says:

            No, I don’t know of any politician that has stated they belong to a specific religion only for political reasons. I guess I meant to say they ‘can claim’, not they ‘will claim’. Was just trying to put a foot note on the ‘No representation’ claim. I would say though that based on the demographics of congress, I think it is highly likely (though not certain) that there is at least one who is atheist.

            RE: why claim other religions?
            If someone already has a particular background it is an easier sell to be a believer of that background, than claim a convert. Even if you do, your opponent will point out to Joe Six-Pack what your background was. Look how many people are convinced of Obama’s religion.
            Also, you may be from a region that has a high representation of X.

            Yes I think atheists are more likely to lie about their religion then a Muslim.

          • meh says:

            Here is a gallup poll asking about presidential voting. Being an atheist is slightly worse than being muslim. I don’t see hindu on the list, but jewish or catholic are considerably more favorable than atheist.

            http://www.gallup.com/poll/155285/atheists-muslims-bias-presidential-candidates.aspx

          • Matt M says:

            I’m familiar with the polling, but I’m not sure I really believe it. Worth pointing out that Obama’s critics are likely to say he’s a secret Muslim. I have heard a decent amount of people accuse him of being an atheist, but this always came from people on the left who support him and use it as a compliment – they legitimately believe he’s lying about his Christianity because “you have to in order to get elected in this stupid backwards country” and find this a praiseworthy act.

            Obama of course was born to a Muslim father and IIRC was raised in a Muslim country with a Muslim step-father, and fully admits he didn’t discover Christianity until after college. What’s to stop any other person who was raised Muslim from doing the same thing? The right is fine with Muslim converts, so long as they support right-wing principles.

            Also keep in mind that national polling on this issue doesn’t really explain zero representation in Congress. Do we really think an atheist candidate couldn’t win Nancy Pelosi’s district?

            Edit: Also, didn’t Wikileaks reveal emails from the Hillary campaign where they were pretty divided on whether it would be most effective to smear Bernie as an atheist or as a Jew?

          • meh says:

            Why don’t you believe the polling?

            How many districts would you estimate it is advantageous to be atheist in?

          • Matt M says:

            More than it’s advantageous to be a Muslim in.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yes I think atheists are more likely to lie about their religion then a Muslim.

            I don’t know if I’d put it that strongly, I suspect it’s more that there are a lot who are functionally atheist/agnostic, but were raised in a particular denomination (though they stopped attending church services as soon as they were too old for their parents to make them go) and it’s simply convenient, if ever asked, to say “I’m a Methodist or Presbyterian”, even if you haven’t darkened the door of a church in thirty years.

            You haven’t formally defected, you’ve just drifted away, but you don’t really feel any need to call yourself an atheist for whatever reason. I think possibly because “coming out” as an atheist still has a very political or activist slant to it when it comes to someone in public life, it’s making a big definite statement and is seen as linking you in to all kinds of views and policies even if you don’t share them.

          • Protagoras says:

            I have encountered surveys by people investigating skepticism finding that various kinds of superstition and irrational belief seem to become less common the higher up the political ladder you go (more YECs in state legislators than in Congress, etc.) At the risk of offending some of the religious commentors around here, if there is any such pattern, I’d expect it to extend to God belief, and if top level politicians don’t report a lower level of God belief the way they report a lower level of YEC belief, my first guess would be that that was for strategic reasons. And atheists do seem to be more mistrusted than any religious groups. Plus, it’s easier to lie about being an atheist (nobody can catch you sneaking off to atheist churches, and you’re not sinning against atheism if you go to a church). And people often feel cultural attachments to the religion they were raised in, so that they might not even feel they’re dishonest in claiming to still be a whatever despite having given up the God belief (atheist Jews seem to be relatively common, and it’s certainly possible to be an atheist Hindu; being an atheist Moslem or Catholic or Baptist is weirder, but politicians pretty much have to be good at doublethink).

          • nelshoy says:

            Bernie Sanders also got huge supports despite not being religious.

          • meh says:

            Well, Mark Z is no longer an atheist. I would say that is at least some evidence.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’ve seen analysis that the “None” category doesn’t mean purely, solely or even mainly “agnostic/atheist”, it includes “not a member of, or affiliated with, a particular church but would call myself Christian; spiritual not religious; I believe in something but I don’t want to put labels on it; the eclectic pick-n-mix approach where people put together their own philosophies out of (generally) Eastern religions; ALIENS CREATED US THE GOVERNMENT IS COVERING THIS UP BECAUSE BIGFOOT IS AN AMBASSADOR FROM THE HOLLOW EARTH” and the likes.

          The Pew Forum study broke it down as follows:

          Unaffiliated (religious “nones”) 22.8%

          Atheist 3.1%
          Agnostic 4.0%
          Nothing in particular 15.8%
          Don’t know 0.6%

          For educational attainment:

          Survey year 2014
          High school or less 38%
          Some college 32%
          College 18%
          Post-graduate degree 11%
          Sample Size 7,532

          So “pure” atheist/agnostic would comprise about 7%, which is not really “nation’s largest minority”. There are some fascinating results in that survey:

          Survey year: 2014
          Believe in God; absolutely certain 27%
          Believe in God; fairly certain 22%
          Believe in God; not too/not at all certain 11%
          Believe in God; don’t know 1%
          Do not believe in God 33%
          Other/don’t know if they believe in God 6%
          Sample size: 7.556

          Survey year: 2007
          Believe in God; absolutely certain 36%
          Believe in God; fairly certain 24%
          Believe in God; not too/not at all certain 9%
          Believe in God; don’t know 1%
          Do not believe in God 22%
          Other/don’t know if they believe in God 8%
          Sample size: 5,048

          So between 2007 and 2014, the percentage of the “Unaffiliated” who were definitely atheist (“do not believe in God”) did increase from 22% to 33% of the respondents. But there were a range of “firmly to vaguely believe in God”, “not sure what I believe” (I’m taking that to mean “can’t/won’t/don’t want to put a label on it”) and “maybe there is, maybe there isn’t, I don’t know” who as a whole would outnumber the “definitely no”.

          So if we’re talking “unaffiliated” but not as meaning solely or even mainly “atheist”, then that does make them the “largest minority”. However, atheist alone? If 3%, that puts them just above those who marked themselves as “two or more races” in the census (2.6%); if we go 7% for atheist/agnostic, that sits in between Asian alone (5.6%) and Black or African-American alone (13.3%).

      • “so Bill Maher says atheists are the largest minority in America?”

        Surely males are the largest minority in America.

      • rlms says:

        Surely women are the largest minority in America? Indeed, so large that they are actually a majority.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I think they say “FLynn” to credit both James Flynn and Richard Lynn.

        • Mazirian says:

          Yeah, a few years before James Flynn’s seminal papers on IQ increases across the world, Richard Lynn published his finding that IQ had increased in Japan across generations. For this reason, some researchers speak of the Lynn-Flynn effect or FLynn effect for short. I don’t think it makes sense to credit Lynn for discovering the effect, because he wasn’t the first to identify increasing IQs in a specific population. For example, Tuddenheim (1948) reported that WW2 draftees outscored WW1 draftees in America. Flynn’s discovery was that IQ gains was a completely general phenomenon occurring in all populations.

  2. eqdw says:

    Current Affairs: Banning Smoking In Public Housing Is Just Another Experiment On The Poor.

    In Berkeley, smoking is banned in all multi-tenant housing. Live in a duplex? Your landlord is required by law to put up a no smoking sign on the property.

    Granted, I am opposed to smoking bans generally, at least in one’s home. But it is really really hard for me to get upset that the government is being paternal towards the poor, when The People Who Get Upset About Oppressing The Poor have done the exact same thing to me

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t think Berkeley people being annoying should transfer to a general contempt for everyone who wants to help the poor, even if we accept that Berkeley = liberal = poor-helping.

      • eqdw says:

        My question is more: Why is it oppressive and paternal when they do it to public housing, but a good thing when they do it to my house?

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Do you honestly think that Scott, or most of the people reading this comment, or most of the people who are outraged about that story, think that it is a good thing that smoking is banned in your house?

          • eqdw says:

            Given that a) the people who read this blog are disproportionately the same people who vote in Berkeley elections; and b) Scott’s characterization of my response as calling that law annoying, yes. Yes I do

          • “Given that a) the people who read this blog are disproportionately the same people who vote in Berkeley elections”

            Do you think they are a random selection thereof?

    • Steve Sailer says:

      “all they accomplish is to make mentally ill smokers miserable for a few days before they leave and go back to their cigarettes.”

      The Unitarian/Universalist church near me hosts a lot of Twelve Step programs, but they banned smoking inside the facility about a decade ago. So the sidewalk is always full of people smoking away during breaks. The Unitarians finally put out a big stone ash tray urn for their smokers.

      Here’s a question: are people with alcohol and/or narcotics addictions better off being allowed to smoke in terms of expected lifespan?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        That makes sense in terms of a church, but you’re not allowed to leave the mental hospital on a break. So assuming they’re not involuntary, their only option is to leave permanently, which many of them do.

        • Cadie says:

          Couldn’t they have an outdoor smoking area, like on a patio enclosed on all sides with no roof/ceiling, and let patients go outside to smoke? Either watched on camera or, for those that can’t be left alone at all, supervised by staff in person? Not ideal, but it would be far superior to “no smoking ever.” (Also would possibly help some patients build a little rapport with the nurses/etc. if the ones who smoke volunteer for smoke break watch duty and smoke with the patients.)

          • Scott Alexander says:

            My mental hospital is a locked area on the fifth floor of a large building, entirely surrounded by non-mental-hospital areas.

          • Cadie says:

            Ooh, yeah, in that case a first floor area wouldn’t work. And I bet nobody wants to go to all the trouble and expense of building such a partially enclosed space accessible to the fifth floor but almost impossible to jump from.

        • the anonymouse says:

          The most consistently accurate heuristic I know is “if in search of a meeting,” then “drive around until you see a church with a bunch of people smoking in front.”

        • Anthony says:

          When California banned smoking in all medical facilities, the staff at the state mental hospitals in Napa and Vacaville (where many of the inmates can’t leave) protested loudly. Among other things, they used access to cigarettes as a reward system for encouraging better behavior, and the nicotine was also good psychopharmacology.

    • Deiseach says:

      On the one hand, I think smoking is so lethal, I am probably in favour of a ban (e.g. the ban on smoking in the workplace here in Ireland, which also means it includes pubs and restaurants, so no smoking by the customers).

      On the other hand, I agree with Scott about the scope of such a ban being imposed on those who are generally at the mercy of authorities, so that the ban is devised and enforced without consultation of those affected by those who know better, yet have no such coercion on their own choices nor would they submit to such.

      The Berkeley ban is at least uniform and non-discriminatory so that everyone gets affected by it. That is equal treatment, leaving it open to people to argue for or against the ban on its grounds, not on “I will never be inconvenienced by this so I can vote to impose it”.

      If we must have the tyranny of compulsion, let it be uniform and not selective as to whom it tyrannises!

      A little while ago certain doctors and other persons permitted by modern law to dictate to their shabbier fellow-citizens, sent out an order that all little girls should have their hair cut short. I mean, of course, all little girls whose parents were poor. Many very unhealthy habits are common among rich little girls, but it will be long before any doctors interfere forcibly with them. Now, the case for this particular interference was this, that the poor are pressed down from above into such stinking and suffocating underworlds of squalor, that poor people must not be allowed to have hair, because in their case it must mean lice in the hair. Therefore, the doctors propose to abolish the hair. It never seems to have occurred to them to abolish the lice. Yet it could be done. As is common in most modern discussions the unmentionable thing is the pivot of the whole discussion. It is obvious to any Christian man (that is, to any man with a free soul) that any coercion applied to a cabman’s daughter ought, if possible, to be applied to a Cabinet Minister’s daughter. I will not ask why the doctors do not, as a matter of fact apply their rule to a Cabinet Minister’s daughter. I will not ask, because I know. They do not because they dare not.

      • Matt M says:

        As a libertarian anarchist, I support stuff like this, if only to draw attention to how “free stuff” from the government puts you at the mercy of the government.

        Anything that highlights how “public goods” = lack of choice in how the goods are used is a good thing to me! So yes, public housing DOES in fact mean the state gets to tell you what you can and cannot do in “your” house, and public healthcare DOES in fact mean the state gets to decide what treatments you can and can’t have, etc.

        Make people more aware of this and the support for socializing things probably goes down imo…

        • Deiseach says:

          To be fair, public housing isn’t your house, anymore than renting from a private landlord makes it your house. The landlord still owns the house and can (and does) put stipulations in the contract about “no driving nails into the wall, no painting the inside unless I approve of the colour, no deciding you want to knock through the connecting wall into the kitchen”.

          Same with public housing – you are a tenant there for a while, ranging from months to years. So a “no smoking inside the house” restriction may be contractually permissible and indeed, if it is government (whether at local or state or national level) to ban smoking, the public housing section has to comply with the local law and include such a ban.

          As I said, I am (on public health grounds) in favour of bans. But on the other side, I am not happy about “we will decide what you can and can’t consume in your home because the power differential is so lop-sided”.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Nicotine is very addictive, but a lot of the harm is due to smoke inhalation — so why not ban smoking, but allow other means of injestion (vapor, patches)? People will find a way to get their fix, the harm reduction way is to accept this.

        • Desertopa says:

          I would be in favor if I were convinced that most smokers would willingly make the transition, but I suspect that smokers who regard the different mechanisms of nicotine delivery as interchangeable are in the minority.

  3. Atlas says:

    The differences in reporting on the changes in Asian-American incomes were quite interesting, and it confirmed what I remember of Thomas Sowell’s description in Ethnic America. Something that really, really bothers me more than it should about the Washington Post article is the frequency with which words like “perceived”, “stereotype” and “myth” are used to describe the idea that Asian-Americans are a model minority, with no further explanation of why the belief that Asian-Americans are successful, and notably considerably more successful than some other groups of “people of color”, is the result of faulty perception or mythology as opposed to empirical facts. I would conjecture that it comes from a dilemma that progressives face in understanding American ethnic history:

    On the one hand, some Asian-Americans want to emphasize that they were/are an oppressed group of people of color too, just like blacks, Muslims and Hispanics, because for whatever reason in certain spaces being part of an oppressed outsider group is “cooler” than being just a boring white Christian American. (What Steve Sailer calls the “Flight from White.”)

    But on the other hand, the more oppression one alleges that Asian-Americans have faced throughout American history, the harder it is to believe progressive dogma that the reason blacks and Hispanics are less law-abiding, intelligent and wealthy, on average, than whites is various forms of white racism/bigotry/oppression.

    • stillnotking says:

      The question is simply one of cause and effect: did Asian-American incomes converge because whites started being nicer to them, or vice versa? WaPo reads it one way, MR another, and I don’t see much to distinguish them other than predilection. I will say that the WaPo version seems to lack an account of why the niceness might have happened, only noting that it was “politically convenient” in the post-war era. That ascribes a much larger role to politics, and particularly the intentional nudging of public opinion by politicians, than I find plausible. But one could conjecture that Asian-Americans are just more physically similar to whites than African-Americans are, in the gross ways race is usually defined, so the barrier to in-group feeling is lower given the same amount of proximity.

      • Chilam Balam says:

        I think it’s not so much that Asians are more physically similar to Europeans than Blacks, but that by the 1950s Asians were allowed to play a liminal role between races, just as earlier Jews, Armenians and Greeks had in the late 19th, early 20th century. Because they were small and outside of Hawai’i and parts of California tended to live mostly in white areas, they were seen as not threatening. You can see this in the way that Asian American Males are treated sexually by the media, as less attractive, and Asian American women are portrayed as attractive (the opposite of African Americans).

        As more evidence about the way Asian Americans were racially interpreted, see the early wave of Bengali immigrants from 1890-1930, who assimilated as African Americans, were treated as black, and married African American women: http://bengaliharlem.com/.

        There was also significant comparison of Chinese Americans to Blacks in 1800s California, although there was limited interest in bringing in Chinese Americans to the south after the Civil War by rich plantation owners, that never got off the ground though. Kind of a similar in thought to the role once prominent Southern Jewish population, who were able to succeed by being not large enough to threaten southern whites, and interfacing between whites and blacks as bankers, store owners. etc. Chinese workers would have been another inbetween group, although this time as laborers.

        • Aapje says:

          @Chilam Balam

          I would argue that a much more important reason is that Asian Americans tend to have a culture that is very entrepreneurial and law abiding (and to the extent that the mafia exists in Asian communities, it tends to target their own group, so it doesn’t cause resentment in others).

          Worldwide, if hatred against Asians exists, it tends to be envy, due to their economic success. I would argue that white Americans were/are successful enough and the Asian minority small enough, that envy didn’t develop.

          • Matt M says:

            “I would argue that a much more important reason is that Asian Americans tend to have a culture…”

            Right. “Culture” is usually what the right claims is the true issue here that explains why Asians have more success than blacks. On the one hand, it does sound super racist. On the other hand, I feel like anyone who has spent any significant time among whites, blacks, and Asians could not possibly claim they all have the same culture.

            “I would argue that white Americans were/are successful enough and the Asian minority small enough, that envy didn’t develop.”

            I met a few middle-class whites in California who certainly had a resentment, if not hatred, of Asians in general that, in my opinion, was largely envy based.

          • qn1 says:

            “Culture” feels like it’s sort of begging the question. “Asian American kids study more and work hard because Asian Americans tend to value studying more and working hard.”

            But how did such a culture come about in the first place? Do Asian genetics deterministically ensure good culture? Or was it like historical accident/butterfly effect that produced a now self-perpetuating Asian American culture of valuing studying/being entrepreneurial/following laws/etc?

          • Deiseach says:

            But how did such a culture come about in the first place?

            The Chinese civil service? Study hard, enter the state exams, and you can go from a log cabin to the White House digging ditches to being an important official?

            That would certainly inculcate a culture of “study study study, do well on the tests, get the rewards”.

            In 655, Wu Zetian graduated 44 candidates with the jìnshì degree (進士), and during one 7-year period the annual average of exam takers graduated with a jinshi degree was greater than 58 persons per year. Wu lavished favors on the newly graduated jinshi degree-holders, increasing the prestige associated with this path of attaining a government career, and clearly began a process of opening up opportunities to success for a wider population pool, including inhabitants of China’s less prestigious southeast area. Most of the Li family supporters were located to the northwest, particularly around the capital city of Chang’an. Wu’s progressive accumulation of political power through enhancement of the examination system involved attaining the allegiance of previously under-represented regions, alleviating frustrations of the literati, and encouraging education in various locales so even people in the remote corners of the empire would work on their studies in order to pass the imperial exams, and thus developed a nucleus of elite bureaucrats useful from the perspective of control by the central government.

            … n 693, Wu Zetian’s government further expanded the civil service examination system, part of a policy to reform society and to consolidate power for her self-proclaimed “Zhou dynasty”. Examples of officials whom she recruited through her reformed examination system include Zhang Yue, Li Jiao, and Shen Quanqi. She introduced major changes in regard to the Tang system, increasing the pool of candidates permitted to take the test by allowing commoners and gentry previously disqualified by their non-elite backgrounds to attempt the tests. Successful candidates then became an elite nucleus of bureaucrats within her government.

          • onyomi says:

            Regarding the question of whether Asians are smart because they value education or value education because they’re smart, I have a question for the supposedly more PC “almost everything is environment” crowd in a “society is fixed, biology is mutable” vein:

            If you were an underperforming minority group–let’s say, Native Americans–which of the following two sets of facts would you rather be true?

            1. Certain groups have a really long cultural memory going back thousands of years which have allowed them to develop the sorts of attitudes toward family and education necessary for success. If your culture hasn’t passed those landmarks–if you haven’t had your Confucius or your Aristotle–then you are literally millennia behind the more successful groups. What’s worse, if you experienced a cultural memory of oppression like slavery or genocide, it has a generational impact which is very hard to erase. You must find your Native American Confucius and have your own Native American Industrial Revolution or else completely abandon your culture and embrace one of the more advanced cultures. Moreover, if the members of the more advanced cultures refuse to fully embrace you due to racism, you’re pretty much screwed until they do.

            or

            2. Certain groups have genetically lower average IQ which makes it hard for them to succeed (even if you are a Native American born with IQ potential 150, if you grow up surrounded by people of IQ 90 you may not learn how to be a successful IQ 150 person, at least not as well as an Asian person of similar genetic gifts), but if you got the smartest Native Americans to all have a ton of children for a few generations, you could pretty much erase the difference, and you’d get a smarter, more functional version of Native American culture which yet preserved many of its unique qualities.

          • Anonymous says:

            Regarding the question of whether Asians are smart because they value education or value education because they’re smart (…)

            Not that sort of PC person, so I’ll refrain from opining, but I’ve got my own theory on what’s at hand here. AFAIK, China had the same kind of selection pressures as Britain – smart folks have more surviving offspring than dumb folks, excess offspring fall into the lower classes for want of infinite positions for aristocrats and over centuries the average IQ of the general populace rises.

          • onyomi says:

            China had the same kind of selection pressures as Britain – smart folks have more surviving offspring than dumb folks

            Why did Britain have this pressure, other than the usual benefits of being smart?

            In China we do have the Civil Service exam. Probably not surprising that, after a thousand+years of tying upward mobility to ability to take standardized tests in a polygamous society (so not uncommon for one smart guy to have many wives and many poor guys to have zero wives), you get a population good at taking standardized tests (fortunately for them, those abilities probably correlate to those necessary for being good at other things modern society rewards).

            My point is: if you are a member of a group without a thousand year history of exam taking, would you rather the benefits of that history to have been largely genetic or largely cultural? My contention is that the former is actually much easier to remedy, and also doesn’t require completely overhauling one’s own culture and adopting Confucianism, either.

          • erenold says:

            “The Chinese have a position more in keeping with what happens in the animal kingdom. I’m successful, I’m powerful, I multiply. You’re weak, you’re no good, you’re sterile. You have no women, I have a harem. The net result is, the next generation, many get their genes from the bright and energetic.

            The Chinese emperor, at the end of every imperial examination, he chose the top scholar to marry his daughter. It didn’t matter whether the scholar married any number of concubines after that. The emperor wanted the royal family to be infused with good genes. It is selective breeding. … Of course this is repulsive to western liberals. They want to pretend that all men are equal.”

            I’m not an expert there, but I imagine this went well beyond anything that happened in the West.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why did Britain have this pressure, other than the usual benefits of being smart?

            Primogeniture.

            See, only one son gets to inherit lands and automatic nobility for their offspring – other sons get no lands in inheritance, and their kids are not nobility unless they do something that gets them ennobled. And being intelligent and connected to nobility (even if technically just a commoner) is just a plain advantage in a Malthusian economy, regarding how many of your children survive to procreate.

            Dr. Gregory Clark probably makes the case better than I do: https://www.amazon.com/Gregory-Clark/e/B001I9OM4W

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Onyomi

            I would rather the first be true, even with all the implausible stipulations about e.g. it being impossible for some group to develop positive attitudes towards education without either going through milennia-worth of cultural development paralleling that of western civilization or completely abandoning all facets of their culture.

            Is the implicit argument here supposed to be “the environmental view gets all this credit for being optimistic and positive about group potential, but on the genetic view, all you need is a radical eugenics program!”?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Why is primogeniture an argument in favor of, rather than against, intelligence selection?

            You have one or two intelligent ancestors, or maybe just violent ones. And from there, you have a ton of free resources that you don’t have to be intelligent to use properly. The smartest kid doesn’t even get these resources, just the firstborn one. Your elite becomes a bunch of people whose ancestors were possibly intelligent, but any number of idiot genes are going to go unfiltered because they’re nobility.

            Oh yeah, a lot of those early European societies pushed intelligent people to join the church as monks or similar, where they could study to their hearts’ content but they couldn’t have any kids. I’ve never found good evidence for white intelligence selection pressures, really; it’s something that could have happened, but did it? Meh.

          • INH5 says:

            1. Certain groups have a really long cultural memory going back thousands of years which have allowed them to develop the sorts of attitudes toward family and education necessary for success. If your culture hasn’t passed those landmarks–if you haven’t had your Confucius or your Aristotle–then you are literally millennia behind the more successful groups. What’s worse, if you experienced a cultural memory of oppression like slavery or genocide, it has a generational impact which is very hard to erase. You must find your Native American Confucius and have your own Native American Industrial Revolution or else completely abandon your culture and embrace one of the more advanced cultures. Moreover, if the members of the more advanced cultures refuse to fully embrace you due to racism, you’re pretty much screwed until they do.

            I don’t see why you need to go to such extremes. Japan, for example, has successfully copied the “good parts” of more successful cultures multiple times over its history (China a really long time ago, Western Europe in the 1880s, and America after WWII) while still retaining a distinctively Japanese culture.

            We also see this with some Native American tribes. The largest federally recognized tribes in the US today are the Cherokee and the Navajo, both of which heavily adopted certain elements of white society. The Cherokee mimicked the farming and settlement practices of white settlers so well that even during the Colonial Era they were referred to by the whites as one of the “Five Civilized Tribes.” The Navajo, meanwhile, became relatively successful by adopting the Spanish practices of sheep and goat herding shortly after contact. Looking back a bit, the most powerful Native American tribes during the 19th century, the Commanche and other tribes of the Great Plains, largely got so powerful by adopting the European technology of the horse.

            More recently, of course, a number of Native American tribes have found success through the Western institution of the casino.

            Besides, if Native Americans really do generally have a lower IQ than white people, I would actually take that as strong evidence against HBD theories. Native Americans are descended from Asians and have lived for thousands of years in an incredibly wide variety of environments. Just in the continental US, we have desert, various kinds of forests, grasslands, mountains, etc. If the 10,000 years since the first settlement of the Americas isn’t long enough for genetic IQ differences to evolve, then Native Americans should be as smart as Asians, IE smarter than white people. If, on the other hand, it is long enough for those differences to evolve, then their IQ scores should be all over the place.

            Unless high IQ people are more vulnerable to smallpox, which I don’t think they are.

          • onyomi says:

            To be clear, 1 and 2 are both meant to be extreme, “logical endpoints” of a spectrum, neither of which reflect my actual view, though I’m closer to 2 than 1. The reason for the obviously incorrect stipulation that it’s extremely hard for cultures to learn and adapt new attitudes without giving up their own culture and/or first achieving a very high level of tolerance among higher achieving groups stated in 1, is that that seems to be a frequently overlooked and very pessimistic implication of the extreme “environment” viewpoint.

            Also to be clear, despite holding a view closer to 2 than 1, I think living under good institutions and having good cultural “habits” is more important to achieving a “middle class” or above-ish level standard of living and success than the number of genius IQ individuals a group produces.

            But that leaves the questions of why some groups seem to more often create good institutions and why some groups continue to underperform even when good information/examples are readily available (we’ve all met Asian Americans, right? Why can’t we just do what they do?). To me, “sperm banks, designer babies, tax incentives/cultural shift encouraging high performers to have more children,” etc. are not inherently gloomier or creepier prescriptions than “deep-seated generational racism must be thoroughly rooted out,” or “good cultural habits take centuries to learn,” or “underperforming groups should really just give up their children to be adopted by high-performing groups if they want what’s best for them.”

          • Anonymous says:

            Why is primogeniture an argument in favor of, rather than against, intelligence selection?

            You have one or two intelligent ancestors, or maybe just violent ones. And from there, you have a ton of free resources that you don’t have to be intelligent to use properly. The smartest kid doesn’t even get these resources, just the firstborn one. Your elite becomes a bunch of people whose ancestors were possibly intelligent, but any number of idiot genes are going to go unfiltered because they’re nobility.

            1. You have to compare primogeniture against the other popular inheritance system of the time – partible inheritance. Partible inheritance tends to, in the end, yield microplots of land that are too small to support any large family. Primogeniture chucks out most sons into inclement weather, but predictably leaves one with all the land, so he can raise as large a family as his wife can give birth to.

            2. The first son is likely the one least affected by genetic load and various paternal age-related maladies. It’s not a big effect, but I guess it would add up on a societal level.

            3. The ihatei, not getting any land or substantial other riches, must fend for themselves. In a Malthusian society, they compete with the other commoners over scarce resources, and in this competition they have a few advantages which let them win and reproduce, and the least capable commoners die childless or have their kids die of various shortage-related afflictions.

          • INH5 says:

            2. The first son is likely the one least affected by genetic load and various paternal age-related maladies. It’s not a big effect, but I guess it would add up on a societal level.

            Haven’t most of what seemed to be paternal age effects turned out to actually be the result of men with, for example, autism marrying and having children at an older age?

          • Anonymous says:

            One’s first child, barring multiple births or synchronous pregnancies across multiple women, is necessarily the beneficent of lower paternal age.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            But partible inheritance allows for the smartest or best genetically to take advantage of that. Single-son inheritance just means the first gets everything and the rest get nothing. It’s about as random as you can get, really. If anything, the idea of a nobility is anti-intelligence because you can just sit around in your castle even as an idiot. Sure, there’s intrigues and such, but you don’t -have- to participate in them. So I’m really just not sold on any of this, at all.

          • onyomi says:

            Interestingly, the Japanese shifted from partible inheritance to primogeniture near the beginning of their medieval age. People have written about the economic effects of this on e. g. contracts, of course, but I’ve never thought about these more socio-biological effects (one imagines it would be good for the smartest, most competent child to inherit the family business, though the correlation between that and “first son” is probably extremely loose at best?).

          • Anonymous says:

            But partible inheritance allows for the smartest or best genetically to take advantage of that. Single-son inheritance just means the first gets everything and the rest get nothing. It’s about as random as you can get, really. If anything, the idea of a nobility is anti-intelligence because you can just sit around in your castle even as an idiot. Sure, there’s intrigues and such, but you don’t -have- to participate in them. So I’m really just not sold on any of this, at all.

            The intelligence of the first son is hardly random – he gets to inherit both from his father and his mother, since mating is doubly assortative among the nobility. Sure, he might turn out poorly, but probably not – he still has a slight edge over his later siblings. In any case, it’s not so much about the first son, but rather the later ones, because they are the ones who suppress commoner fertility and spread high IQ genes in the lower classes. Primogeniture just ensures that the system keeps working over time, the first sons spawning well-bred, numerous descendants – and the later sons colonize the economic south.

            Clark explains this better, anyway. Check out A Farewell To Alms and The Son Also Rises.

          • Chilam Balam says:

            But Culture is such a frustrating argument. Let me give an example of why: when East Asia was poor, westerners blamed “Confucian Values” and now that they’re rich it’s the same values that people praise. And also, the things that westerners noticed a lot about say, South Koreans pre-boom, that they were lazy, not on time, connections and family values mattered the most in getting a job, don’t seem to have changed before the boom, but rather during. So that also bothers me.

            Or another case that I wonder about: Haitian Americans do markedly better than African Americans descended from pre civil war slaves (frustratingly I have never found a good category for this group, if you know one, let me know). Yet, Haitians don’t have a lot of the cultural traits that people associate with better success, certainly I don’t think of Haiti as being more studious etc.

            I also really do think that discrimination did matter. Asian American’s mostly arrived from 1880-1910 outside of Hawai’i, and remained mostly poor until post WWII. The next boom began in the 1960s and 70s, but to focus for a moment on the earlier cohort: My grandfather was born poor and Asian American on a very small farm. Some time after WWII, he applied to Medical School and was rejected due to his race. He did end up going into a related field where he did quite well, but I know that other relatives had even tougher times before. I do think that ending at least some discrimination did help.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Worth mentioning that there’s a study saying that being born first is worth 3 IQ points. So if you’re trying to concentrate all your resources on one kid, and also believe IQ is super-important, always going with the oldest isn’t that bad a strategy.

          • Iain says:

            In practice, primogeniture and its trappings ended up with inbred imbeciles.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Iain

            I struggle to figure out how you arrived at that conclusion. Can you illustrate how *primogeniture* – rather than strategic, alliance-forming marriages and playing the myriad complex inheritance rules of Europe – is to blame for the incentive of the nobility to inbreed? I mean, primogeniture wasn’t even all that popular outside of Britain until quite late.

          • Civilis says:

            Or another case that I wonder about: Haitian Americans do markedly better than African Americans descended from pre civil war slaves (frustratingly I have never found a good category for this group, if you know one, let me know). Yet, Haitians don’t have a lot of the cultural traits that people associate with better success, certainly I don’t think of Haiti as being more studious etc.

            I think there’s a marked distinction between groups that chose to immigrate to the US and those that did not. It takes a willingness to work and a willingness to take risks to travel to a completely different culture and find a way to survive. The groups that seem to have the most problems, African-Americans and Native Americans, have no group history of choosing to freely immigrate to the US.

            You want to look at not ‘the cultural values of Haitians’ but the values of Haitians that were able to immigrate to the US’. The person that chooses to immigrate to the US today from Haiti or Africa may have values much more in common with other immigrants to the US than they have with African-Americans descended from US slaves, at least as far as the values needed to succeed in America are concerned. We talk of values that derive from a culture, but what we need to look at is values that derive from a family; presumably, most of those values will be passed on, at least for a few generations after they reach the US.

          • Chilam Balam says:

            I don’t really understand how to make comments here, let me know if this isn’t threaded right.

            @Civilis
            Yes, that’s exactly what I suspect. Immigrants are not a representative sample of a population.

          • Iain says:

            @Anonymous:

            I struggle to figure out how you arrived at that conclusion. Can you illustrate how *primogeniture* – rather than strategic, alliance-forming marriages and playing the myriad complex inheritance rules of Europe – is to blame for the incentive of the nobility to inbreed? I mean, primogeniture wasn’t even all that popular outside of Britain until quite late.

            I deliberately mentioned primogeniture and its trappings. You can’t separate strategic marriages from primogeniture. When political power is passed down via accident of birth, there is a strong selective pressure to consolidate power by keeping it “in the family”. There’s a reason that pretty much all European royals are related. Primogeniture is worse than partible inheritance to the extent that it raises the stakes and increases the incentive for inbreeding, although really the whole idea of hereditary monarchy is to blame and the details are just gravy.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. I agree that primogeniture helps in consolidating lands, since this inheritance system has the advantage of predictability, but doesn’t exactly enable marriage-based land-grabs. What enables marriage-based land-grabs is the ability of women to hold landed titles; a strictly agnatic (or enatic, in theory) inheritance system, whether primogeniture, ultimogeniture, partible, elective, seniority or some mongrel – cannot help but keep lands “in the family”, since nobody eligible is non-family (so long as you don’t run out of male family members).

      • Jiro says:

        The question is simply one of cause and effect: did Asian-American incomes converge because whites started being nicer to them, or vice versa?

        Or did something else lead to both of these?

      • Loquat says:

        That ascribes a much larger role to politics, and particularly the intentional nudging of public opinion by politicians, than I find plausible.

        That was my main objection to the WaPo – who do they see as being influential enough to make a decision about how a minority is going to be treated by the general public, and enforce it, without leaving any evidence such as official announcements? Especially absurd was their suggestion that letting Asians become more prosperous was a deliberate strategy to create the illusion that any minority group could get out of poverty via hard work so we’d have an excuse to blame Black poverty on laziness and not do anything about it. Is there actually a White Shadow Council somewhere and I just never got the memo?

      • Kyrus says:

        I will say that the WaPo version seems to lack an account of why the niceness might have happened, only noting that it was “politically convenient” in the post-war era. That ascribes a much larger role to politics, and particularly the intentional nudging of public opinion by politicians, than I find plausible.

        It seems like an insane conspiracy theory to me. In order to believe the WP version you need to believe that there was some secret, conscious effort to lift up Asians as a model minority in order to keep Blacks down and twisting your mustache.
        To believe the MR version, you need to believe that people update their beliefs of groups based on individual experiences.

      • Anthony says:

        American attitudes towards Asians have never been monolithic. I’ve seen (too lazy too look up now) a piece about how we’ve gone from praising Japanese and demonizing Chinese to vice versa several times in our history.

        As for being more similar, the dissent in Plessy v Ferguson specifically makes the case that we shouldn’t treat blacks and whites unequally because those two groups are much more like each other than either is like Asians.

      • Cauê says:

        The question is simply one of cause and effect: did Asian-American incomes converge because whites started being nicer to them, or vice versa? WaPo reads it one way, MR another, and I don’t see much to distinguish them other than predilection.

        For what it’s worth, the author gives a short interview here (“Asian American Mobility”).

        At the 8 min mark he says “OK, so this is a bit of a misperception of my paper, I think. I don’t show that racism against Asians stopped and racism against blacks continued, that’s not what my paper shows.“. I’d poorly summarize his following explanation as “Asians had more skill, but it isn’t African-americans’ fault”.

        The way I’m looking at it, MR got the conclusions right, and just presented it without the padding. WaPo and the interviewer in my link seem to have been waylaid by the secondary theories the author uses to try to explain the existence of differences in skills, which in turn he found to be the driver of the observed differences in the evolution of earnings as restrictions against minorities were gradually removed.

        • argleblarglebarglebah says:

          The way I read it, neither WaPo or MR are quite right, but WaPo is closer than MR.

          WaPo seems to think that the paper is saying “Asian people did better than Black people because there was never any inherent reason to discriminate against Asian people, and so once people stopped being racist nothing was holding them back”. MR seems to think that the paper is saying “Asian people did better than Black people because they’re inherently more intelligent”. (And implicitly, that ‘skills’ is code for intelligence.)

          The thing WaPo thinks the paper is saying is something the paper really is saying, it’s just ignoring all the other things the paper is saying, notably the actual conclusion. The thing MR thinks the paper is saying is not something the paper is saying. It’s reading pretty far into the author’s wording to presume some things the author of the paper would not actually endorse. (Though, I grant, I actually am presuming that based how he’s writing as if “blacks are more skilled than Asians” is a super controversial conclusion, that means that he thinks “‘skills’ is a dog whistle for intelligence”. I could be wrong about this presumption, in which case I am clearly being hypocritical to accuse him of something that I am doing, and am consequently sorry.)

          If I had to summarize this paper, it would be pretty similar to what I already understood of the situation: anti-Asian discrimination mostly went away while anti-Black discrimination did not because Asian immigrants were mostly relatively skilled professionals who came over to America for a reason, while Black Americans are mostly descendants of former slaves and poor farmers and therefore were trapped in a cycle of poverty.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The WaPo article appeared to mostly be an interview with an author of a book about the Asian-American experience. The study was just used as a preface to interviewing the author. As such, I don’t think it’s fair to characterize them as trying to give a full accounting of the paper.

          Or am I missing something?

          • Spookykou says:

            I went into the WaPo article skimming and after a while I thought Scott had messed up his links because I could see nothing in the WaPo article that even mentioned the study in question, until I scrolled back up and read the first paragraph again were it was name dropped.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Come on, it’s not that it’s “cooler”, it’s that they still experience some forms of racism. Doing better in school on average or getting arrested less or whatever than the average or the majority group doesn’t preclude the possibility of something like somebody yelling slurs at them.

      • danarmak says:

        Getting arrested more or doing worse in school will clearly harm someone’s socioeconomic achievement. Having slurs yelled at you (so long as it isn’t by your boss or teacher or neighborhood cop) has a much less determinate effect. At the extreme, people argue about “microaggressions” without any real evidence.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’m not saying it harms their socioeconomic achievement in any group-wide statistical way. Something can be considered bad without having a quantifiable socioeconomic affect. I’m not talking about microaggressions, I’m talking about people who are doing great socioeconomically still getting slurs yelled at them. It doesn’t have to lead to socioeconomic ills for us to say that this is a thing that is bad and socially undesirable.

          • Mary says:

            White people have slurs shouted at them. I know it personally.

          • danarmak says:

            > I’m not saying it harms their socioeconomic achievement in any group-wide statistical way.

            That was the original point being discussed:

            > the reason blacks and Hispanics are less law-abiding, intelligent and wealthy, on average, than whites is various forms of white racism/bigotry/oppression.

            Of course, getting slurs yelled at you because of group affiliation is always bad and I’m against it.

          • Mary says:

            Is getting slurs shouted at you for any reason ever good?

          • danarmak says:

            @Mary: is doing unpleasant things to people ever good? Even when it changes their behavior or that of others to better conform with your ideals?

            The important bit is only attacking people based on their personal faults, not those of some group they belong to. Attacking only changeable traits, not immutable properties. Choosing non-offensive approaches that achieve the same goal where possible.

            Other than that, and assuming a justified belief that making slurs socially acceptable would be an effective and humane solution, I don’t think slurs are any worse than other socially and legally sanctioned violence. I can’t point to studies about slurs in particular, but in general making people feel socially unaccepted is a powerful lever.

            Disclaimer: this is purely theoretical and I don’t recall ever shouting slurs at anyone (so probably not since elementary school).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @mary: I was speaking semi-anecdotally. If I and other white people I know are getting more slurs shouted at them, in absolute terms or per capita, than Asians I know, people are keeping quiet about that. Nobody should have slurs shouted at them, but it happens to some people more than to others.

            @danarmak:

            This was Atlas’ original comment:

            On the one hand, some Asian-Americans want to emphasize that they were/are an oppressed group of people of color too, just like blacks, Muslims and Hispanics, because for whatever reason in certain spaces being part of an oppressed outsider group is “cooler” than being just a boring white Christian American. (What Steve Sailer calls the “Flight from White.”)

            So, I was responding to that, which makes no claim about socioeconomic status. Statistically, it is obviously incorrect to say that Asian-Americans are discriminated against in all the same ways or as badly as black people in the US. This was not the claim I was making.

          • Mary says:

            “The important bit is only attacking people based on their personal faults, not those of some group they belong to. Attacking only changeable traits, not immutable properties”

            You change things half-way. There’s an enormous difference between “personal faults” and “changeable traits” which makes your two statements here completely different. And the second one is vile.

            Why did you post them as if they were the same thing?

            especially as slurs are seldom about faults.

          • Montfort says:

            edit: no need to speak for dndnrsn when he just spoke for himself

          • Mary says:

            “If I and other white people I know are getting more slurs shouted at them, in absolute terms or per capita, than Asians I know, people are keeping quiet about that. ”

            Statistics are very, very, very hard to get right from impressions.

            Especially in cases like this, where people would keep silence given the knowledge that going public may garner more abuse.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This isn’t something where anybody can come up with statistics but even just considering it as a numbers game – a minority member is more likely to have a slur yelled at them than a majority member, and the smaller the minority the greater the chance, simply due to the % of people with whom they interact who are in the same group or another group.

          • Aapje says:

            @danarmak

            The important bit is only attacking people based on their personal faults, not those of some group they belong to.

            Technically, attacking people for their personal faults is attacking the group of people with those personal faults.

          • danarmak says:

            @Mary, I meant it as a conjunction. Attacking people only based on personal faults, and only those faults due to changeable traits, and even then choosing non-offensive alternatives if possible.

          • Mary says:

            ” simply due to the % of people with whom they interact who are in the same group or another group.”

            Since there is no reason to believe the correlation you posit here, it’s not an argument for the greater number of slurs.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mary:

            Assume that every member of group A is as likely to call a member of group B a “dirty B” as each member of group B is to call a member of group A a “dirty A”. If a society is 75% A and 25% B, group B will get more abuse from group A than vice versa, given that they will be interacting with members of group A more than vice versa. And this is assuming that the chances of one group insulting another are the same.

          • Mary says:

            An assumption you are not entitled to make.

            And which you somehow think favors your side if you don’t make it.

            It is however very likely the other way, since you will get furious defenses of calling whites slurs where, if the races were reversed, the person calling a black a slur would be certain to lose his job.

            I also note you are using “slur” interchangeably with “racial slur” which is unwarranted, and the assumption that anti-black slurs are somehow the most horrible of all slurs is at the heart of the issue.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            The assumption that (to be concrete) black people and white people are equally likely to yell slurs at members of the other group is the default assumption. If you don’t hold it (in such a way that it supports your argument that) then you are claiming that black people are more likely to yell racial slurs than white people. That is quite an extraordinary claim. Do you have any evidence for it? If you are just basing it on a general perception of society then we are back to a stalemate (although I know which side looks more plausible to me).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mary:

            So, you think black people, or Asian people, get racial slurs yelled at them less than white people? And, yes, I am using “slur” as shorthand for “racial slur”, because when you’re discussing people having slurs at them yelled on their race, it seems pretty basic to assume you’re talking about racial slurs.

          • Randy M says:

            Are you talking about today or throughout US history?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Today.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What even counts as a racial slur against whites? Cracker?

            The only time I’m going to get a twinge about being referred to as a “cracker” is if I happen to be walking in the proverbial Compton at midnight.

          • Cliff says:

            Well, I think if a NAM is screaming at a white person and calling them a “f*****t-ass bitch” for no apparent reason, that should qualify. It seems quite plausible to me that a white person in a predominantly black area would be much more likely to receive harassment on account of their skin color than vice-versa

          • rlms says:

            @Cliff
            Yes, that is a logical consequence of what dndnrsn is saying. But the majority of the US does not have a black majority.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @rlms:

            Exactly. Even if one assumes for the purposes of argument that it’s equal on a sort of per-capita basis, the %s would make a huge difference. And that’s a big “even if”.

        • ChetC3 says:

          And that leads you to conclude it’s reasonable to assume Asians are lying about experiencing discrimination to get SJ brownie points?

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      What if Asian-Americans, as a group, were just plain old not prominent enough for them to get so much resentment?

      Generally speaking, groups we see prejudice develop against are prominent. Blacks are 13% of the US population, and they are much more numerous still in the areas where prejudice against them is strongest. Modern antisemism, similarly, seems to have been a thing in part because people noticed Jews were somehow doing disproportionally well as a group. Prejudice against Muslims also seems to have taken off the moment 911 and the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan went large.

      I am no social scientist, and have no way to verify any of this, but intuitively it makes sense that you’d need to be seen as a threat first, for anyone to really start hating your guts. Given that Asian-Americans seem to have collectively been happy to mind their own business, and generally don’t form majority groups anywhere either, this might explain (part of) the lack of resentment.

      • Virbie says:

        If this is true, I wonder if it’s going to change. Asian-Americans (incl. South Asians) are extremely prominent in Silicon Valley, an area and industry which is itself increasingly prominent as representative of the “New neoliberal World Order” which so many people seem to be resent.

        It’s possible from the other side too: someone posted in the last Culture War thread a quote from Anil Dash about how Asian-Americans are culpable for low minority (you know, real minority) numbers in tech.

      • Matt M says:

        Blacks are 13% of the US population, and they are much more numerous still in the areas where prejudice against them is strongest.

        I don’t have numbers, but I’d bet anything that Asians are also much more numerous still in the areas where prejudice against them is strongest (probably California)

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          Agreed.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The same thing is true on the West Coast of Canada, so presumably it’s true in California. After Aboriginals – who get treated badly everywhere, much to Canada’s discredit – Asians (especially East Asians, especially Chinese) are probably traditionally the number 2 target of racism in Canada, and historically that was primarily on the West Coast. I don’t know how recently it is that there have been significant Asian populations in other parts of Canada, though.

      • Cliff says:

        Asians were discriminated against in the U.S. far worse than any race other than maybe blacks for a long period of history, about 100 years through the mid-20th century, and were #2 to blacks before that. See the MR link for evidence. So I’m not sure your explanation makes sense.

  4. Doctor Mist says:

    I’m a little confused about this: if they’re building in French Polynesian sovereign waters with the approval of the French Polynesian government, how is this better than just building a charter city on land with the approval of that land’s sovereign government?

    Well, part of the theory about seasteading is that if you find yourself hassled by a state, you can pick up your whole community and move elsewhere. Also, there are presumably lots of engineering details to be worked out; this effort would provide a chance to do so, while a charter city on land would not.

  5. mnarayan01 says:

    making it impossible to repeal for 10-20 years. […] Register your predictions now!

    I’m staking a claim to “Negated within 5 years”.

  6. ayac says:

    The Aztecs, Maya, and Inca never got out of the Stone Age before being wiped out

    None of those groups were ever wiped out. There are still millions of them. The Spanish conquered them and converted them to Christianity, but they didn’t commit genocide.

    And they did get out of the Stone Age. They had copper tools, technically putting them in the Bronze Age. Not that classifying things into “ages” is a good idea to begin with.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      50% – 95% of the different populations died during the Spanish conquest, and their civilizations and cultures never recovered. I’m not sure what “wiped out” means if that doesn’t count.

      I think you have to have bronze to make it to the Bronze Age. Copper doesn’t count.

      • ayac says:

        I don’t know about the exact numbers although I suspect that is a little high. But the idea that their culture never recovered is ridiculous. They kept speaking their languages, writing using native glyphs (they eventually switched to using the Latin alphabet, but it took some time), growing indigenous crops and preparing indigenous food, trading at markets using cacao beans as currency (which the Spaniards recognized and fixed an exchange rate to reales), making and wearing traditional clothes, organizing themselves along traditional lines, etc. Some commoners got wealthy exporting cochineal farmed using traditional methods, which upset the indigenous aristocracy who were still trying to uphold the old social order. The Aztecs and some of their neighbors sent warriors to help the Spaniards conquer other indigenous groups; the Quauhquecholteca had a glyphic manuscript made to commemorate their valor in conquering the Mayans on behalf of the Spaniards. I could go on. I’m not sure what “wiped out” means if you can be wiped out and still do all those things.

        The definition of Bronze Age doesn’t really matter, the important thing is that it’s inaccurate to describe them as stuck in the Stone Age when they had metal tools. Copper might not be bronze but it sure ain’t stone.

        • sconn says:

          Anthropologists count copper users as Chalcolithic — a transitional stage, but considered part of the Stone Age. I am not sure why.

          • Possibly because copper isn’t better than stone for tools? I wouldn’t think the use of gold ornaments would count as getting a society out of the stone age either.

          • Winfried says:

            Copper can be found in a workable state in nature and requires minimal refinement or smithing.

          • zebreck says:

            The reason copper tends to be included in the stone age is twofold. firstly, you can cold work copper. Secondly, copper does not totally replace the neolithic toolkit with metal substitutes until bronze alloys show up. This has less to do with how bad copper is and more to do with massive advances in smelting technology that accompany bronze.

      • albertborrow says:

        Wiped out is still a bit exaggerated. Kept as slaves, degraded and killed? Yeah, the encomienda was awful. But wiped out makes it sound like a genocide, which is such bad history that it makes my head hurt. I’ve seen Columbus unironically compared to Hitler, and the assertion made that he killed millions of natives with his own blade. And you can’t blame Europeans for not having a sound understanding of germ theory. Most Spanish conquerors came in small numbers – it’s what came after the conquest that was the real atrocity.

        Their culture was wiped out, and so was their civilization, but so far as I know there are plenty of surviving people descended from the Inca. From Wikipedia:

        In 2014, the 13,248,943 indigenous people in Peru formed about 45% of the total population of Peru.

        Arguably, Peru is where the encomienda system was worse, because of the mercury concentrations in the silver mines. The fact that so many people remain is a testament to the resilience of the empire, even after its demise. It definitely puts a dent in certain types of revisionist history: not every conquest went the way North America did, where there were no solid empires and the population was already sparse.

        EDIT: While I’m here:

        Spanish conquest was different from English colonization in the sense that the Spaniards conquered and the English colonized – what I mean by that is, the Spanish were more than happy to coopt native populations as a source of labor, and when those were sparse, import a secondary labor force of African slaves. Permanent settlements were less about creating a community and more about economic activity. Ironically, this most resembles the mercantilist formula Britain was trying to impose on their colonies. You’ve read enough of Albion’s Seed to know how the English settlements set themselves apart from the colonies of other nations.

        I would imagine the reliance on a native source of labor made the Spanish more reluctant to kill them in wars of conquest, but I don’t really have much evidence for that, and it seems to just so – more likely is that the Inca just had a larger population to begin with, because of the organization that comes with being an empire.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I didn’t say the Spanish were to blame for not understanding germ theory, I said that indigenous empires got wiped out.

          • albertborrow says:

            But to what extent were they wiped out? Forms of organization, forms of economy, maybe. But people, culture? Those have obviously endured.

            EdIt: Sorry if the “bad history” thing sounded like it was targeted at you – that whole first paragraph was just a general dismissal of the idea that South-American natives were killed wholesale – something that is commonly asserted, if not by you. If it helps, consider the post more bandwagoning on your point rather than a straight refutation.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I would imagine the reliance on a native source of labor made the Spanish more reluctant to kill them in wars of conquest, but I don’t really have much evidence for that, and it seems to just so – more likely is that the Inca just had a larger population to begin with, because of the organization that comes with being an empire.

          One explanation I’ve seen is that the Spanish Crown tended to see its conquests as crusades to convert the heathen, and discouraged mass exterminations for that reason (can’t convert people if they’re dead, after all), whereas the English settlements were more attempts to find a blank slate to build the ideal society upon (and if the slate turned out not to be blank, better erase it first). I’m not sure how accurate this is, however.

          • albertborrow says:

            I did say:

            Spanish conquest was different from English colonization in the sense that the Spaniards conquered and the English colonized…

            It’s indisputable that the Spanish had different motives in colonization than the English did, the real question was if that mattered. Certainly, it didn’t stop the Spanish from setting up permanent colonies. I still haven’t quite finished reading my book on Pizzaro’s conquest, and that might have a few answers that I’m too lazy to Google.

            As for conversion, I can’t recall very many events in history where the forcible conversion of conquered peoples actually worked, excepting the Muslim conquests in the six-hundreds – religion is a frightfully resilient thing. That doesn’t mean the Spanish weren’t motivated by that, but I don’t think it implicates a long-term survival and integration strategy among the natives. (anywhere.com says that 90% of modern Peruvians identify as Catholic, however, so that might be another instance of successful forcible conversion to add to the chalkboard)

          • Tibor says:

            excepting the Muslim conquests in the six-hundreds

            These were actually rarely forced conversions. In fact, the Caliphs had a good incentive not to do that – taxes. Muslims paid lower taxes than the rest of the population. If too many people converted, that meant less revenue for the Caliphate, so the caliphs were quite content with the people in conquered lands keeping their old religions. Majority population in the caliphate remained Christian for decades at least. And in fact, one thing that might have motivated the Sunni/Shia split might have been taxation. Persians converted to Islam but by then, there were too many converts already and it was a financial strain. So it was decreed that the new converts still have to pay the taxes as though they were not Muslims. This made a lot of people angry and sparked revolts.

            If Islam were really spread with fire and sword, there’d be no Egyptian Coptic church today (much like “heathen” religions were all but exterminated in the Americas). Sadly, current Islam seems to be less tolerant than it was back then and Coptic Christians might have a more difficult time today than under the Caliphate.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Albert:

            I did say:

            I know. I was elucidating/expanding upon what you said, not contradicting you.

            @ Tibor:

            Majority population in the caliphate remained Christian for decades at least.

            Egypt remained majority-Coptic until the eleventh century or so.

      • owentt says:

        The Maya were never even conquered. Most Maya continued to live in indigenous governed mountainous vast jungle communities where the foreign colonial powers could never penetrate until those foreign powers eventually abandoned America post-independence.

        In the early twentieth century, the emerging democracies of Mexico and Central America finally absorbed the Maya after the bloody Guerra de las Castas. But they did it by accepting Maya self government. Most of Chiapas, Honduras, and Guatemala are Mayan-majority speaking and Maya ethnically and Maya culturally even today. You can get by in Spanish but you are palpably in the minority.

        And the Maya passed out of the stone age a thousand years before the Spanish arrived.

      • Aapje says:

        @Scott Alexander

        50% – 95% of the different populations died during the Spanish conquest

        Was there a census before and after? If not, I would think that the error rates on these guesses are huge and pretty much make them useless.

        • albertborrow says:

          I’m no historian, but whenever I see the metric: “95% of natives died out,” I wince a little. Never mind that some historians assert a lower number, and that any number that makes the conquest less ridiculous-sounding is more likely – anyone outraged enough to provide evidence is going with the upper-bound of the estimate.

          Is there anyone who knows how exactly they get that number? I’d imagine they were extrapolating from agricultural productivity and city size, but I don’t know if we even have numbers for the agricultural productivity of bronze-age civilizations. Someone who knows would be nice.

          • Fossegrimen says:

            The usual way to judge population levels is to go by farmed acreage which is pretty simple to figure out by assessing the age and composition of a forest that have grown over former farmland. This should give you an error bar of +- 5-10%.

            Not familiar with south America, but there is a slightly amusing passage in the logbooks of Lewis and Clark where they discuss the fact that the Indians all have 5 cities for each that they live in and conclude that they are semi-nomadic and move from city to city while keeping 4 in reserve. The later forest analysis corresponds to about 80% being wiped out between 1550 and 1750.

      • zebreck says:

        I’m actually in the final stages of formatting my Ph.D. on Pre hispanic smelting technology in Peru, so I’d like to weigh in on that part of your post.

        The Inca used bronze in huge quantities, and some of their success is predicated on their using it for farming and digging tools. They made bronze in both it’s copper/tin and copper/arsenic varieties as well as playing around with copper/zinc and copper/iron alloys in much smaller batches. Bronze use dates to around a millennia before the Inca, but it was localized to the southern Highlands region and the trade links around Lake Titicaca that made it possible die off after a century or so of intensive use. Prior to that there’s at least 2,000 years of metal use in the Andes in some form.

        So no, they weren’t stone age. There’s even some neat evidence in my own research that pre-Incan people were capable of smelting iron, did so a few times, and decided it wasn’t what they wanted. I’m sure this misses the broader point of the post, but this is perhaps my one shot at being internet relevant.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I suppose it comes down to how you define “wiped out.” Were the Phoenicians “wiped out”? The Romans? The Hittites? The Spartans?

      It seems that when a state or empire falls, there are usually remnants of the people and culture which persist for quite a while.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Coincidentally, I just discovered that it was only earlier this month that Peru launched a Quechua (Inca) language TV news broadcast. That’s right up there with the fact that Argentina didn’t get around to manufacturing its own bandoneons until 2014 in the ‘how the hell can it have taken so long to show a little pride in their own traditions?’ stakes.

      Also, you can get the Harry Potter books, or at least the first book, in such spoken-by-only-a-small-number-of-people languages as Greenlandic (Inuit), Irish Gaelic, Breton and Basque, and yet you can’t get them in Quechua, the most widely spoken indigenous language of the Americas. What’s up with that, I wonder.

      • morgrimmoon says:

        This is pure speculation, but Harry Potter is published by a european publishing house. It seems plausible that they’d have contacts with trusted translators for european languages, even obscure ones, but may never have dealt with Quechua translators and won’t actively seek them unless they get enough requests to make them think there is a market there.

        I know that a university over here bought a bunch of the Latin translations as a tool for engaging their students, and because it’s easier to tell you’ve made a mistake if you know what the material is supposed to say. I wonder if many of the other obscure language translations of HP are primarily used similarly?

        • hyperboloid says:

          The vast majority of those who would be literate enough to read a Quechua edition of Harry Potter also read Spanish. There is some original literature in Quechua, but as it stands it is largely a spoken language; with members of indigenous communities shifting back and forth between two cultures, speaking Quechua at home and reading and writing in Spanish when needed.

          Interestingly, perhaps because of this strong parallel oral culture, the land of the original Tupac has a burgeoning hip hop scene.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Well, sure, but it’s also true that the vast majority of people who can read [Irish / Breton / Basque] can also read [English / French / Spanish]. Morgrimmon’s hypothesis sounds plausible, if disappointing – not that I have any plans to learn Quechua, but I like the sounds of it, and I’d certainly have a go if I was going to Peru anyway. But thanks for the Quechua rap link – I did not know that that was a thriving musical genre.

          Incidentally, the only reason I was looking this up in the first place is that I’m trying to learn Brazilian Portuguese, and it turns out that you basically cannot get the Harry Potter books of the Brazilian translation in Europe; you can only get the European translation. Which is … a bit odd – I mean, Portugal is a lot closer to me, but there are a hell of a lot more Brazilians in the world, you’d think there’s be enough people after that version of the language to make it worth someone’s while importing the books.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            JK Rowling used to live in Portugal. I’m not sure how much that contributes, but it might.

          • devilbunny says:

            Have you looked into ordering them directly from, say, Amazon.com.br? I’ve ordered a few items from Amazon UK to the US, and shipping has always been fairly reasonable.

            In the case here, you can get all seven books for about USD 50. Even with shipping, that’s not going to break the bank.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Yeah, I might just do that. Though I still feel it’s kind of, I don’t know, chutzpah maybe? to open up a branch of the famous internet retailer without changing the name, in a country that’s got the actual Amazon. Makes it a bit harder to google anyway 🙂

      • rh says:

        The Spanish version of the bandoneon wikipedia page yields several names of Argentinian manufacturers, in the case of Luis Mariani dating back to the 1940s.

        In the Peruvian case I see that the original Guardian report includes the caveats “national broadcast” and “entirely in Quechua”, from which one can deduce prior regional broadcasts, and national ones with some Spanish bits, e.g. interviews.

  7. Earthly Knight says:

    The smoking article is pretty silly. All the HUD proposal requires is that residents walk 25 feet from the building to smoke (in practice, no one will care so long as they are outside and away from open windows). I do not see how this small burden outweighs the benefits of preventing asthma and cancer caused by secondhand smoke. While we’re at it, many apartment buildings already have similar policies in place, so this is hardly a burden uniquely imposed on the poor, and the restriction apparently does not extend to e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products.

    The one decent point the article raises is that the rule might make life difficult for public housing residents with impaired mobility. But this calls, at most, for a limited set of exceptions.

    I feel the same way about smoking bans in mental hospitals, which are a bad idea and lead a lot of people who needs hospitalization to reject it; all they accomplish is to make mentally ill smokers miserable for a few days before they leave and go back to their cigarettes.

    If the patients have no opportunity to smoke for days at a time, that’s a totally different issue. It’s cruel to force smokers to go through nicotine withdrawal, but just asking them to go outside to have a cigarette is trivial.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      Anecdote: in the mental hospital I went to, they gave you nicotine patches, but you were not permitted to smoke even in the tiny outside area we were allowed into.

    • Deiseach says:

      just asking them to go outside to have a cigarette is trivial

      Depending on climate. Rain, cold, snow, wind – that does impose more of a burden with an addiction (and smoking is an addiction) than “walk down your back garden in the summertime”.

      I am torn. I hate smoking with a passion (lung cancer via smoking killed a close family member and, as I’ve harped on it before, it’s a horrible way to die) so I would favour a ban. But at the same time, “bans for thee but not for me – your comfort habit is horrible and disgusting and unhealthy, my comfort habit is cool and trendy (nictotine vs ayahuasca, anyone?), and most importantly I have the power to do this, so yah boo sucks to you” is not something I want to see in society as a whole.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        your comfort habit is horrible and disgusting and unhealthy, my comfort habit is cool and trendy (nictotine vs ayahuasca, anyone?)

        I admit I haven’t actually tried it myself, but from what I’ve read, ayahuasca, what with its horrible taste, vomiting, and potentially terrifying visions, doesn’t sound to me like anything you could call a ‘comfort habit’.

        As far as I can tell people seem to value it because, although the experience itself is pretty harrowing, the insights into one’s own mind while under its effects, and its psychological aftereffects – what you might call spiritual benefits – are worthwhile.

        • Deiseach says:

          But that is part of my point: this unpleasant experience is valuable to give spiritual insights and I derive benefit from it, so what if it’s not technically legal in this country and many would question what exactly is going on and that it’s just a drug trip and nothing mystical. I am a mature, sophisticated adult who can make their own rationally-weighed choices between risk and benefit.

          Your unpleasant habit, on the other hand, is offensive to me and I don’t care what benefits you say you derive from it, I will force you to stop it or at least make it as inconvenient and difficult for you as possible because you are too immature and uneducated to weigh up the risks and make a decision.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Yeah, I don’t think we’re actually in disagreement here, it’s just that the word ‘comfort’ seemed an odd one to use for what is usually seen as a valued but distinctly uncomfortable experience.

          • Deiseach says:

            “Comfort” was probably a poor choice but I was trying to convey “despite the unpleasant side-effects and known health risks, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages in making you feel better, be that ‘it gives me a quick boost of energy when I’m starting my second minimum-wage job for another nine hours on my feet and haven’t had time to eat’ or ‘it lets me access and clear out my accumulated bad karma'”.

      • Cadie says:

        My discomfort with total smoking bans comes partly from knowing that it’s not always a good idea for someone to quit right-this-second-at-all-costs. Obviously it’s best for people to quit as soon as reasonably possible – “now” isn’t always reasonable. Particularly for people who are in the early stages of conquering a more immediately hazardous addiction or mental illness; if keeping their cigarettes helps someone weather the first few stages of beating a heroin addiction, or anorexia nervosa, or something very serious like that, let them smoke. They can try to quit smoking when their main condition is more stable and they’ve developed a few new coping skills to a useful level, so they’re less likely to relapse. Doesn’t do much good to get them off cigarettes only to have them fall into a major relapse of something that will hurt them more and kill them faster than tobacco.

        Making it less convenient to smoke by making them go outside or something isn’t a catastrophic burden but forcing them to stop entirely before they can handle it can be.

      • Aapje says:

        @Deiseach

        My experience as a non smoker was:
        – before more strict smoking rules were introduced, a large percentage of smokers greatly inconvenienced me, sacrificing my health and making my clothes smell disgusting for their convenience.
        – afterwards, my life became much more pleasant and the smokers became the ones that were inconvenienced

        So I would say that they brought it on themselves and they justly are inconvenienced for their own hobby, rather than externalize that inconvenience on people who never got to make a choice.

        • sconn says:

          That’s kind of my feeling about it — I mean, what about the next tenant of the public housing unit, or the neighbors who are getting your smoke seeping in? They don’t have a whole lot of options of other places to live either, and personally I think it’s worse to have to live, day after day, with the smell of secondhand smoke when you’re a nonsmoker, than for smokers to go outside. Especiallly consider the kids who don’t have a choice of whether to live there and breathe the smoke or not.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      My hospital’s psychiatric unit is on the fifth floor, and so does not have an “outside”.

    • I guess I can understand a smoking ban(it gradually stains the smell of the room, can be a burning hazard, causes cancer), but what about a vaping ban(assuming the ingredients are regulated)?

      I suppose I could vote for banning smoking, but saying yes to vaping with regulated ingredients as part of both harm reduction and pleasure maximization(depending on addictive personality thresholds)

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I don’t actually care that much about marginal health effects, but if the bloke downstairs decides to take a smoke in his balcony, *my* balcony will smell like shit for an hour and I can’t even open windows, and I care about that. [and in my previous apartment they never got the the air circulation to work properly, so e.g. when a neighbor smoked in their bathroom, the smell got into my bathroom, too. That was the reason I moved out.]

        Same goes for vaping. It’s not your right to make the air the other people must breathe to smell terrible, even if it isn’t very unhealthy.

        • Oh, well vaping leaves much much smell or residue, there are scentless variants, and some just smell like candy(though who knows what that scent does to the lungs, heh)

          If its just nicotine and vapor and some aid to propulsion, its not going to leave any scent.

    • Randy M says:

      Would a smoking ban in public housing be justified for fire concerns? I don’t know how easily cig butts ignite other materials, but if these are densely populated and not terribly well maintained (likely to be cluttered with flammable materials) that could be sufficient justification.

  8. max says:

    H/t Scott Aaronson: a new art form of seeing how complicated and attractive a video you can generate from a 4K exe file.

    FYI, this isn’t a new art form. It’s been around since the 70s: Demoscene

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Yeah, Scott Aaronson had only just learned about it, and so apparently Scott here (not knowing about it either) must have concluded it was new.

      • albertborrow says:

        I discovered the Future Crew not too many months ago. It’s really interesting to see where people in the demoscene ended up. Purple Motion most recently worked on the soundtrack for Cities: Skylines, and Skaven’s newest work, as far as I can tell, is the soundtrack to Bejeweled II. Neither one is intensely famous, but it’s nice to see that hobbies can extend far into careers.

        • devilbunny says:

          It’s too bad you didn’t get to experience them at the time they were current; the stuff their demos did on the hardware of the day was way out there.

    • Murphy says:

      Some amazing ones to look up:

      fr-041: debris. by farbrausch in the 180k catagory

      http://www.pouet.net/prod.php?which=30244

      the same crowd also made a 96k game: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.kkrieger

  9. Matt M says:

    Register your predictions now!

    No matter what happens, every economist will claim to have predicted the outcome and will insist that it proves their theories correct.

    • Protagoras says:

      Brad DeLong spends a lot of time on his blog talking about things he has turned out to be wrong about in the past, so I tentatively predict that he won’t do this (unless he ends up actually accurately predicting the outcome, no doubt in a deliberate attempt to mess up my prediction).

  10. Matt M says:

    Scott – there’s a problem with the “Wrong Way Corrigan” link

  11. Nathan Taylor (praxtime) says:

    Link for Dweck growth mindset paper is bad. Though the Stuart Ritchie link is fine. Obviously (not snark, being serious) unintentional. But. You know. Sort of amusing anyway, since as a reader of your blog we know we’re both team Ritchie.

  12. Psychophysicist says:

    Most monitors have nominal refresh rates of 60Hz, so 30Hz is the highest frequency that can be represented. A youtube video claiming to present a 40Hz flicker is almost certainly wrong. 30Hz is difficult enough. You have to ensure that youtube doesn’t pull down the frame rate, that your web browser isn’t dropping frames, and that your operating system is letting the web browser’s frames get to the monitor.

    I’ve constructed actual 30Hz flashing fields (using openGL directly and checking the hardware to make sure it swapped each buffer on schedule) and they look nothing like the youtube link, they are much smoother.

    Also, most cinema is projected on a full-field 48Hz flicker — the beam is interrupted 24 times per second to advance the film frame, and another 24 times per second because 48 hz has less perceptible flicker than 24. If 40 Hz flicker is significantly helpful, anyone who spends a lot of time in a theater should have received the benefit.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      How come the YouTube video in the link is so obvious and painful, but movies don’t look that way at all?

      • doubleunplussed says:

        The uploader done goofed, the youtube link is not actually a 60fps video, so you’re seeing aliasing resulting in a much lower rate of flicker.

      • danarmak says:

        The linked youtube video is 30fps (right-click and choose “stats for nerds”, it says resolution: 304 x 240@30). Advancing frame by frame (. and , keys on youtube) shows that the frames indeed alternate between black and white. The problem is one of terminology – the uploader calls this a 30hz flicker, but most people would call it a 15hz flicker (15 cycles per second). So well out of the range of 20-50Hz as the linked paper presumably defines it.

      • tscharf says:

        Movie producers are very aware of the 24 fps limitation and design around it. For example you almost never see a fast left/right pan in a movie where this limitation becomes obvious.

        You can also deal with it differently be introducing motion blur using longer capture times to help counteract it.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      Here is a video you can use to see whether your browser/computer can correctly display 60fps videos on youtube (I can with firefox but not chrome):

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cyxixzi2dgQ

      Scott’s linked youtube video doesn’t have a little ’60’ after the different resolution options in the quality settings, so I don’t think it was correctly uploaded so as to be a 60fps video in the first place. So whatever we’re seeing watching it is probably some aliasing combined with whatever the compression algorithm decided to do with it.

      This one [warning, flashing seizure lights] appears to be at least correctly uploaded:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8adrIxAtkLU

      And is 30Hz flicker on the left – 15Hz on the right. Make sure you change the quality settings to actually get 60fps playback! It works for me in Firefox, and looks far smoother than Scott’s linked youtube video. 30Hz is actually pretty fast! It mostly looks like a flickery grey, not distinct black and white.

  13. bean says:

    I’m in complete agreement with the F-35 article. Trump’s general meddling with defense on Twitter is stupid (he’s probably being stupid on the nuclear arsenal, too, he just happens to be right). His comments on Air Force One were stupid and caused discontent at Boeing. Trying to build a MegaHornet would be even more stupid. The saddest part is that I know a couple of people who should really know better (one is a professional defense analyst) but are cheering him on, and I can’t help but think that it’s because they really want Trump to be doing well.
    There are some history errors in the linked post, though. He’s not quite right on the USAF’s plans for the F-35 vis the F-22 (in fact, the F-35 is almost more of a light attack plane). Overall, though, I endorse it.

    • Incurian says:

      Trigger warning: Ad Hominem follows.

      Put not your faith in pilots, especially the floating kind.

      The F-35 was built to meet stupid requirements (and doesn’t meet reasonable requirements), so I don’t care if the 18 can’t meet them. It may be true that it isn’t practical to switch directions at this point, but if there was a button that magically switched all 35s to MegaHornets I’d press it, provided they weren’t flown by navy air crew.

      • hyperboloid says:

        There are two families of criticisms of the F-35: the first is what I would call airframe criticisms, these are based on the notion that the platform itself is somehow inferior or fatally flawed (pierre sprey shouting at those damn kids to get off his lawn falls into this category), the second are program criticisms, focused on value for money, and the comparative advantages of legacy airframes and UAVs.

        The first sort of criticism is more or less bullshit. It tends to be based on one of two different premises; either critics argue that every US fighter should be as capable in air to air combat as an F-22, or they engage in ridiculous special pleading and claim that stealth just doesn’t work.

        The number of times I’ve heard people who have no idea what they’re talking about spout off about the Serbian shootdown of that F-117 during the conflict in Kosovo is ridiculous.

        The F-35 is in many ways a twenty first century version of the F-111,it’s design requirements were based on the assumption that having a single large common airframe shared across the services would lower costs. This assumption was wrong when the TFX program was initiated, and it was wrong when the the US started work on the joint strike fighter.

        But that doesn’t mean the aircraft in question are not extremely capable , the F-111 was an excellent fighter bomber, and the F-35 combines the ability to penetrate almost any existing air defense system in the world with a BVR combat capability that makes it a match for any operational fighter in the world, provided it it able to engage enemy aircraft from a distance ant it carries sufficient supplies of munitions.

        Any hypothetical “super duper hornet”, might have improved avionics, radar, and communication systems, but without low observable technology it would vulnerable to increasingly sophisticated ground based missiles.

      • bean says:

        I don’t blindly believe anything a naval pilot tells me. I also don’t have a bizarre hatred of naval aviation. But I agree with the article, it was simply a better statement of what I already thought. I watch this stuff reasonably closely, so you’ll need to do a lot more work to convince me on this.

    • owentt says:

      The key problem with the F-35 has nothing to do with the F-22.

      The reason we shouldn’t be buying any of either one is that manned fighter jets are as pointless as manned space flight. In the age of cruise missiles and drones, we should be phasing out the last obsolete manned fighters and moving entirely to much cheaper and more capable unmanned jets.

      Which should help us also to mothball the wasteful and obsolete aircraft carrier fleet. Any enemy powerful enough to demand a carrier group to defeat can easily sink a carrier group in an hour. If we did ever go up against China or Russia or Britain, we’d be entirely dependent on long range ballistics and submarine launches.

      As long as we’re only going to face second rate powers, ship launched drones and missiles are better for all aerial missions except ferrying passengers.

      • Sfoil says:

        There do not exist, right now, unmanned combat aircraft capable of effectively operating in a contested environment. They do not have appropriate countermeasures installed and they are not capable of executing the correct evasive maneuvers in response to detected threats (which they can’t do either, mostly). This will probably happen in the future, it doesn’t violate the laws of physics for it to happen, but it is not happening right now. The idea that we should scrap a completed program because we could develop another completely different program is an even worse idea than abandoning the F-35 for an F-18 upgrade, since at least the F-18 airframe actually exists.

        Accurate, reliable cruise missiles have existed for a while now, and they have the same problem that they’ve always had, which is something changing in the target area in between launch and impact, for instance somebody in a tank deciding to move five meters in a given direction, i.e. they’re only useful for fixed targets.

        Your argument about aircraft carriers reminds me of arguments decades ago that ground combat forces were irrelevant because of nuclear weapons. Yeah, carriers are becoming more vulnerable, and they might eventually go the way of the battleship, but for the wars actually being fought right now they get plenty of use.

      • Incurian says:

        Whoops, comms are jammed.

      • Autolykos says:

        Carriers are still really nice for force projection (the polite term for “gunboat diplomacy”). It doesn’t really matter that they’d become very expensive artificial reefs within the hour when facing off against serious opponents, since the US is not in the business of fighting serious opponents.
        The F-18’s lack of stealth is more of an issue, since it is conceivable that Russia or China will sell modern SAMs to everyone and their dog just to spite US imperialism. And ECM only gets you so far.
        Drones are also only of limited utility, since the remote controlled type is susceptible to electronic warfare (which mostly requires skills, but not necessarily a solid industrial base, so anyone could have it), and more autonomous varieties would be way too dangerous to deploy in limited conflicts.

      • MawBTS says:

        Remember the F-35 can theoretically be converted to an unmanned plane.

    • cassander says:

      >Trying to build a MegaHornet would be even more stupid.

      I’m trying to popularize the term Ultra Hornet. Help a brother out….

  14. Sandy says:

    Steve Sailer discovered one actual, genuine, confirmed post-Trump hate crime in New York that targeted Muslims, but apparently no one felt like viral-farming it because the aggressor was a black man who went around asking various brown people “Are you Indian or Muslim?” before punching them.

    • albertborrow says:

      I think they would still report it even if the aggressor was a black man, and that there must be some other reason for not reporting – I’ve seen news about Trump-Crimes with a black perpetrator elsewhere. It doesn’t take much to not mention race at all, and news outlets are already hesitant about giving evidence, even when it is in their own favor, so they do not have the added liability of putting in a video. Let the audience make their own narrative.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Well that’s the first time I’ve heard the expression ‘bias attacks’. Is the phrase ‘hate crimes’ falling off the euphemism treadmill?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Well that’s the first time I’ve heard the expression ‘bias attacks’. Is the phrase ‘hate crimes’ falling off the euphemism treadmill

        I sure hope so. The term “hate crimes” don’t make sense. Casually calling a Black person that goes by a n***** is a hate crime, but punching a detested neighbor of the same race as yourself into unconsciousness is not? Calling it a bias crime is a lot more accurate, and maybe the change would stop bringing extra legal punishment because of the incorrect description?

        • Earthly Knight says:

          Assuming you’re American, shouting a racial slur at a passerby is not a hate crime, and is protected by the first amendment. A hate crime is an action criminal on its own which happens to have been motivated by prejudice.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Yes yes you are right, I was just writing quickly. I am American. I could just amend my comment to say taking a swing at a guy while calling him a n*****. That is a “hate crime” as it is currently defined, while beating up detested neighbor of same race is not.

        • caryatis says:

          I’m sure you don’t actually think that a change in terminology by the media could change the law. Maybe over many years, if the media stopped inciting racial antagonism at every opportunity…but if anything we seem to be moving in the opposite direction.

          • Matt M says:

            You could make a plausible argument that the decision as to whether to prosecute for a hate crime or not is made by district attorneys, many of whom are popularly elected, and even the ones that aren’t are clearly influenced by cultural norms which are largely enforced by the media.

            So if the media (and various activist groups) stops talking about hate crimes, district attorneys won’t feel as much of a need to be charging them?

          • caryatis says:

            Would be nice. But never underestimate how conservative the law is.

    • tscharf says:

      The NYT has started running a “This Week In Hate” series to highlight hate crimes. What I found particularly hilarious / troublesome is they include things such as a swastika being left in snow on a car…but…never included the Ohio State terror attack where an ISIS sympathizer ran over people with his car.

      I kind of lost respect for the intent of this series after that.

      There was also a video of a person in Chicago being beaten silly while people filmed it and called him a Trump voter which also never made the NYT list.

      • Deiseach says:

        There was also a video of a person in Chicago being beaten silly while people filmed it and called him a Trump voter which also never made the NYT list.

        I’ve seen that one explained away by the “Trump’s victory encouraged all the fascists and racists to be openly violent” crowd as “No, that was actually road rage, it was caused by a row in traffic, so it doesn’t count” (they ignore the ‘calling him a Trump voter’).

        So you see – you claim you were jumped by guys yelling “Trump! USA! Immigrants go home!”, that’s a hate crime inspired by his demagoguery and appeal to the worst instincts of populism and white nationalism. You say you got beaten up by a bunch of guys yelling about this is what happens to Trump voters, that’s different, that’s just an ordinary case of assault that happens every week. Because one side is the basket of deplorables and the other side is on the right side of history, so we know who does bad things and who doesn’t, you know?

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          How long would you not snark about the left for, again? If you even want to call anti-Trump that, which is a much broader category? Given that something about 80% of people agree the media is terrible, you’re preaching to the choir here.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’m keeping off the three Open Threads as a voluntary measure not to be a right-wing commenter on what is meant to encourage those from the left to comment.

            Other posts, I feel that they are fair to comment.

            I’m not snarking about the left per se in this, rather the hysterical minority who were quite happy to run around shrieking on social media (and on mainstream media if they could get there) in the immediate aftermath of the election results about “hate crimes! swastikas! hijabs! proof that the racists and fascists were just waiting the go-ahead!” with every unsubstantiated allegation made by the likes of the geniuses who as a protest ran out into traffic on a dark night, nearly got knocked down, and then berated and blamed the unfortunate driver for their own stupidity, but when faced with an alleged hate crime from their side of the protests explained it away as completely something other.

            I doubt very much there were any actual hate crimes but if there were, then allegations of such from both sides should be treated with equal credulity or equal scepticism; not “your lot are so bad of course they would do this; our lot are such angels your lot must be lying about they did anything at all”.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Oh, so you’re being the hysterical minority about the hysterical minority. All right.

          • Deiseach says:

            Now Stefan, sometimes I’m apathetic instead of hysterical!

  15. Sandy says:

    Also, Eichenwald might just be making it all up; right before the gif incident, he was in a bizarre argument on Tucker Carlson’s show that led some people to question his sanity.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      You linked to a Daily Caller article from December 19th with the headline, “Dallas Cops Have No Record Of Eichenwald Police Report.”

      The next day the Daily Caller published an article with the headline, “Newsweek Writer Has Filed Complaint With Dallas PD Over Alleged Twitter Assault.”

      Maybe it was the Daily Caller that was just making it all up?

    • ilikekittycat says:

      The Eichenwald story is definitely bullshit; GIFs don’t autoplay on Twitter, and exactly whose wife finds them in the midst of an unwanted seizure and the first thing they think to do is to announce it on their spouses’ Twitter feed to make the antagonists feel scared about the police? A child, playing games.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I checked the original thread on Twitter, and the gif seems to have autoplayed on my computer.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        People don’t always respond rationally to surprising new situations.

      • Spookykou says:

        and exactly whose wife finds them in the midst of an unwanted seizure and the first thing they think to do is to announce it on their spouses’ Twitter feed to make the antagonists feel scared about the police?

        I remember a video of a women, I believe recorded or posted on a social media outlet, sitting next to a man who had just been shot multiple times by a police officer who was still holding his gun aimed into the car. I forget the details of the particular case so I could be mistaken, but turning to social media in a time of profound crisis seems to be something that humans do. I share your surprise.

        • Iain says:

          You are probably thinking of Philando Castile. I don’t think it’s a particularly irrational thing to do: if you are afraid that you might get shot too, it is valuable to be recording the case, and it seems plausible that the contents of the video contributed to the attorney’s office’s decision to prosecute.

          What is the timeline in the epilepsy gif case? Everybody seems to be assuming that Eichenwald’s wife found him in the middle of a seizure and immediately started tweeting; isn’t the more likely explanation that she found him, made sure he was okay, and then turned to Twitter after he was stable and the emergency was over?

    • Deiseach says:

      That interview was certainly… interesting; I would not have thought I’d see a journalist claiming to get his information about Trump from secret sources in the CIA who risk their lives to provide information and accusing a host on a conservative right-wing television station of not respecting those heroes enough.

      I think what really sunk him was the prepared and labelled binder of “Tucker Carlson Falsehoods”. That looks a bit “I’m not paranoid, I know they’re out to get me, the bastards!”

  16. cassander says:

    >Brazil has just passed the most extreme austerity measure in history in the middle of a recession, locked in with a clause making it impossible to repeal for 10-20 years. A…bold…choice. If nothing else, it’ll provide good data for future generations of macroeconomists. Register your predictions now!

    So first, of all, this is hardly austerity. They aren’t cutting spending, they’re, at most, freezing it in place. This is more of that “smaller than expected increases in spending are spending cuts game” that was so popular between 2008 and 12, and which Vox enthusiastically slung then.

    Putting that aside, my prediction is that they don’t stick to this cap. Anyone want to bet me that they won’t A) discover/expand categories of spending exempt from the cap, B) play games with the official measures of inflation and spending to evade the cap, C) ignore or repeal the cap, with or without help from the courts, or D) some similar shenanigan?

    • Virbie says:

      > So first, of all, this is hardly austerity. They aren’t cutting spending, they’re, at most, freezing it in place. This is more of that “smaller than expected increases in spending are spending cuts game” that was so popular between 2008 and 12, and which Vox enthusiastically slung then.

      For the life of me, I don’t understand this reasoning and haven’t done so since 2010. Austerity means something specific, and it isn’t “spending cuts”.

      The top three results on Google for (economic) austerity, from a combination of sources that provide a pretty strong Schelling point, which is all that matters in language:

      From the Economist:
      ‘What economists generally mean by austerity is a reduction in the “structural deficit” of the government, that is, ignoring the effects of the economic cycle. Austerity usually involves a government trying to counteract the effect of the automatic stabilisers. Critics warn that this is counterproductive. The overall deficit could actually rise if a government tries to reduce the structural deficit at a time when the economy is weak’

      From Wikipedia:
      “Austerity is a set of economic policies implemented with the aim of reducing government budget deficits.”

      Notice that none of these definitions of austerity policy requires that it has the effect of making deficits go down in absolute terms, just that the policy is attempting to reduce deficits. That’s like claiming that a law cutting tax cuts isn’t “a tax-cut” because “lol total amount of taxes paid went up”.

      This idiotic, increasingly-popular attempt to arbitrarily assert a non-standard definition of austerity so you can dismiss any policy as “not really austerity” is as dumb as the people who claim that they have the “real” definition of racism so they can tar whatever behavior they like as racist or not racist as it suits them.

      • Montfort says:

        That’s only two. Just for the sake of completeness, my third result (the first two are the same) is from Investopedia:

        Austerity is defined as a set of economic policies a government undertakes to control public sector debt.
        Austerity measures are the response of a government whose public debt is so large that the risk of default, or the inability to service the required payments on its debt obligations, becomes a real possibility

      • Redland Jack says:

        I’d guess that most people have in mind the simple ‘dictionary’ meaning of the word, as opposed to the more specific meaning:

        https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/austerity

        1
        : the quality or state of being austere
        2
        a : an austere act, manner, or attitude
        b : an ascetic practice
        3
        : enforced or extreme economy

        ‘enforced or extreme economy’ doesn’t sound too much like ‘reduction in the structural deficit’

      • cassander says:

        >That’s like claiming that a law cutting tax cuts isn’t “a tax-cut” because “lol total amount of taxes paid went up”.

        if the total amount of taxes paid has gone up, then you clearly HAVEN’T cut taxes.

        >just that the policy is attempting to reduce deficits.

        There are only two ways to do that, to reduce spending or to increase taxes. Increasing spending more slowly than traditional is also not cutting spending.

        • Montfort says:

          if the total amount of taxes paid has gone up, then you clearly HAVEN’T cut taxes.

          Does the phrase “Laffer curve” sound familiar to you? What if the number of taxpayers increases, or their taxable income/property increases?

          There are only two ways to do that, to reduce spending or to increase taxes. Increasing spending more slowly than traditional is also not cutting spending.

          If you have a plan to spend some money in the future, you can reduce the amount of debt you will have to take on in the future by reducing the amount of money you will spend in the future. I’m assuming you would call that “cutting spending” and that’s what Brazilians are doing, if you assume their population will increase or age.

          • MNH says:

            The phrase “Laffer curve,” while obviously relevant in theory, doesn’t really do much here in practice, since revenue-maximizing tax rates are much higher than the tax rates that governments actually ever choose to implement.

          • simon says:

            There have been some pretty high tax rates, such as the 95% the Beatles were talking about in “Taxman”. That’s pretty obviously above the maximum revenue level. Moreover, don’t be confused by average tax rates; it is the marginal rates that matter for the incentives.

            I do expect that the typical ~50% marginal tax rates are below the Laffer maximum in the short run but it is by no means obvious to me that they are below the maximum in the long run. Of course, even if top marginal tax rates are at the Laffer maximum there can still be revenue gains by closing loopholes or raising the rates in lower brackets.

        • the anonymouse says:

          As a former Californian, I have developed the habit of mentally translating “cut,” particularly when prepended with some dire adjective, into “a slowing of the rate of expansion.”

    • cedriel says:

      Some context on Brazil would be helpful in order to understand what’s going on there.

      First things first: Brazil has interlocked macroeconomic problems. It has a history of fiscal overspending which makes for relatively high inflation rates—you’re looking at an average of about 6% annual in the past 10 years, and between 8 and 10% rolling 12M inflation during this year.

      In order to keep inflation expectations under control, their Central Bank has to keep interest rates high: the current short-term rate is 14%. That’s not a typo, it really is fourteen percent. For reference, the short-term rate in the US is 0.75%.

      Brazil’s current fiscal deficit this year is close to 10% of GDP. Yes, that is huge—and a large part of that deficit turns out to be the huge burden of servicing the national debt, which is about 70% of GDP. 70% of GDP is small compared to most developed countries and should be a very manageable problem, but at those interest rates… 0.7 * .14 = 0.098. The cost of servicing the national debt is about 9.8% of GDP per year, which is coincidentally about the same number as the fiscal deficit.

      Put it all together and add in that: (i) Brazil’s recession seems to be bottoming out, and (ii) this austerity measure doesn’t affect current spending at all, thus avoiding any immediate negative effects in overall spending, and the picture becomes a little clearer.

      Brazil is attempting to gain credibility that it will not overspend so that inflation expectations go down. The only way to gain that credibility (because it really is an irredeemably irresponsible spender) is to tie its hands behind its back and promise no real increases in goverment spending for a decade. If people believe it, inflation expectations will go down and so will interest rates. If interest rates fall to a more reasonable level, say 5 to 6%, this will drastically reduce the cost of servicing the national debt.

      At some point in the future, when this measure is no longer necessary, Brazil will likely find an excuse to get rid of it.

      • baconbacon says:

        I find this post either confusing or misleading. If you read it one way then the inflation is caused by “overspending”, but if you read it another way Brazil isn’t overspending, it simply has high interest rates which are responsible for deficit.

        The entire situation is nuts. Consider that if the short term inflation rate is 8-10% and short term rates are 14% then the real return on SHORT TERM investments would be 4-6%. Real short term rates in the US are around -1%, so international investors are sacrificing 5-7 percentage points in yield by avoiding investing in short term Brazillian bills. There are plausible explanations for this (expectations of devalued currency, expectations of default) but they don’t tie back in with the idea that interest rates are driving Brazilian deficits.

        Brazil’s current fiscal deficit this year is close to 10% of GDP. Yes, that is huge—and a large part of that deficit turns out to be the huge burden of servicing the national debt, which is about 70% of GDP. 70% of GDP is small compared to most developed countries and should be a very manageable problem, but at those interest rates… 0.7 * .14 = 0.098. The cost of servicing the national debt is about 9.8% of GDP per year, which is coincidentally about the same number as the fiscal deficit.

        I don’t know Brazil, but if you did this calculation for the US it would be totally meaningless. The Fed remits its interest earnings back to the US Treasury (minus expenses), and is included in the budget. So if the Treasury pays out $100 billion in interest to the Federal Reserve and receives 90 billion back then the interest cost functional is 1/10th of the interest rate.

        but at those interest rates… 0.7 * .14 = 0.098. The cost of servicing the national debt is about 9.8% of GDP per year, which is coincidentally about the same number as the fiscal deficit.

        I doubt it is a coincidence. Again I don’t know specifically Brazil but this is a common shell game. Government runs up a deficit, can’t get buyers at the price they like so the CB steps in and buys up treasuries with newly printed money. When the bills mature the government issues new bills, the CB prints again to buy them up, then the government uses that money to pay the interest on the first lot, and that interest is then remitted back to the Treasury for spending. Continually repeat.

  17. cassander says:

    Re: the F-35
    I have a few quibbles with the reddit poster in question, but he’s more or less correct. The big R&D costs for the F-35 are largely spent. Going forward, the cost of the plane is down to less than 100 mil per airplane for the A model, and declining as production ramps up. For the last 5 years or so, the program has been hitting its (admittedly much revised) milestones. It’s precisely the wrong time to cut back.

    That said, a huge reason for the relatively low cost of the F-35 going forward is that hundreds of them are going to be built per year, instead of the dozens that is more common with other fighters. If the US committed to buying, say, 2000 Super Hornets instead of 2000 F-35s, the hornets would get even cheaper.

    That said,I would do that. The f-35 is much more capable than any other plane out there. Combat aviation has a 100 year history, and just about every serious study of it has come to the same conclusion, that 4 times out of 5, if you get shot down it will be by an enemy that you didn’t see. Not an enemy that was faster, more maneuverable, or better armed, but one you didn’t see. The F-35 is the first plane designed from the ground up prioritize situational awareness. Almost all the advanced technology in it is dedicated to either minimizing the enemies’ awareness (stealth) or maximizing its own (the helmet, sensor fusion). People who talk about its agility being lacking are sort of missing the point.

    TL;DR: the F-35 program, like most big weapons programs, is a clusterfuck. We should buy it anyway. If trump wants to go after someone, hitting Boeing over Air Force One is a much better idea, particularly given how absurd the Marine One replacement got.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Honestly, the problem is we trying to design a generation of aircraft beyond the last generation we’ve really got good war data for. We are trying to design a fighter to take on the next-level capabilities of Russia or China, and not any wars we will actually fight with third world countries that don’t mean the end of the world. The F35 theory sounds compelling, but when we’re not even sure what a real war between countries that all have Gulf-War generation stealth aircraft would look like, and when costs are going from the tens of millions to hundreds of millions or billions, it’s a lot of money to bet on a theory. (And also because it’s not addressing the real problem, which is that military or related industrial complex jobs are the only federal welfare/public works programs you can get a broad array of red tribers to rubber stamp in the US, even if our military needs going forward aren’t met by having more of the most advanced gear possible)

      • Error says:

        I remember hearing somewhere that part of the reason we’re working on new rockets instead of restarting the Apollo program is a sort of tacit knowledge drain — Saturn rockets worked, but all the people who built them are retired or dead.

        I wonder if part of what we’re buying with our absurd expenses on weapons we don’t need or use isn’t the weapons themselves, but the continued existence of a pool of weapons-engineers who have actually bounced their designs off of reality. We don’t know what aircraft we might need for the next “real” war. Given that we won’t have the right aircraft anyway, experienced fighter engineers could easily make the difference between being able to build them “on reaction” and not.

        The output of R&D isn’t just the hardware that comes out of it, but the people who did it.

        • danarmak says:

          The two world wars were each long enough for significantly new kinds of weapons to go from pure research to mass deployment: tanks and bomber airplanes in WW1, jet fighters and rockets and assault rifles and the atomic bomb in WW2. But I doubt that a full-out war tomorrow between US and anyone else could drag out for 6 years. The destructive potential already available is just too great.

          • Matt M says:

            “But I doubt that a full-out war tomorrow between US and anyone else could drag out for 6 years. ”

            The phrase “full out” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here.

            We’ve been engaged in something pretty close to resembling a “war” in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade and a half. We’ve certainly been conducting enough operations in those geographies against similarly-equipped opponents to have evaluated, researched, and created new weapons systems that may be necessary…

          • danarmak says:

            @Matt M: by “full out” I mean a war where the US would try to take the shortest and surest route to eliminating the enemy. Ignoring any collateral damage to civilian populations or world opinion, suppressing anti-war opinion at home, accepting any rates of loss of lives of US soldiers so long as the war was won, conscripting US citizens as soldiers and US firms and property into a war economy, etc. Just as in previous “total” great power wars that lasted long enough.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            But I doubt that a full-out war tomorrow between US and anyone else could drag out for 6 years. The destructive potential already available is just too great.

            I feel like people have said that before every major years-long war in history. When the bullets start flying, either the powerful side fails to go all-out due to idiotic ideological reasons (US vs. anybody) or the destructive potential turns out to be not quite as all-powerful and impossible to defend against as advertised (World War I).

          • Matt M says:

            danarmak,

            In that case I don’t see how a “full out” war could last longer than a few hours, given nuclear weapons…

          • danarmak says:

            @ThirteenthLetter, in WW1 although the stalemate in the trenches was not explicitly foreseen, there was a lot of belief in defensive fortifications. I don’t think people (wrongly) believed offense trumped defense so much that a general war couldn’t last long. The German plan in the West relied on flanking the French on the right in part because the French center had good fortifications.

            @Matt M, yes, that’s the extreme (but quite possible!) case. But even if for some reason nuclear weapons aren’t used, I don’t think a “serious” or “all out” war with the US could drag out for long.

        • cassander says:

          this is a little off. the reason you build a new rocket is that you can’t just go out and buy new saturn Vs. No one company can build a saturn V. It all adds up to millions of parts, huge numbers of which aren’t centrally documented, because they can’t be, it’s too much information. The whole point of a subcontractor system is to build machines that are simply too complicated for any one institution to keep track of by black boxing aspects of the program. Instead of the prime having to understand how to make, say, a computer that monitors the fuel flow, they say “hey, sub contractor, make us a computer that monitors the fuel flow that’s no bigger than a shoe box, weighs less than 10lbs, and needs less than 100 watts of power”. The sub contractor then goes to the sub sub and says “hey, we need a 2 ghtz chip that uses 50 watts of power” and so on, all the way down the line.

          At each level, the choice in parts is heavily determined by what’s already available.
          Even if you knew all the parts that were needed, and you don’t, you won’t be able to get lots of them any more because they were made by thousands of companies that don’t exist anymore by people that are mostly dead. And even if you had blueprints, starting up all those production lines to make those parts would be at least as expensive as designing a new rocket.

          Just look at the trouble and expense that it would take to re-start F-22 production . That’s a plane that is still around, that went out of production less than a decade ago, and for which the Air Force actually spent a lot of money trying to preserve big chunks of the production line.

      • cassander says:

        This is true, but it’s true of every weapon system in the modern age, and it’s no less true if the F-35 were a highly maneuverable dog fighter or a super long range interceptor. The future is always unknown, and you have to guess. Sometimes you get it wrong, sometimes not. But if I had to bet today, the philosophy behind the f-35 is what I’d bet on.

  18. dawso007 says:

    “Buzzfeed: for profit mental hospitals commit people who don’t need hospitalization to increase the bottom line. Yet another example in the genre of “stop privatizing entities with coercive power”, also featuring a big corporation with a dystopian name. Although note that there are factors incentivizing the same behavior, albeit on a lesser scale, in every hospital system.”

    Unless there are some reimbursement mechanisms that I am unaware of this story seems materially incorrect to me. Medicare/Medicaid are traditionally the poorest reimbursement although Medicare sets the billing standards for DRG payments. The “incentive” is to get the patient in and out of the hospital fast enough to beat the DRG deadline. For managed care that is typically 4 or 5 days. I suppose you could argue that if you keep the beds full for 4 or 5 days that you can make money – but involuntary holds and civil commitment court slows the process way down – in some cases to 2 or 3 weeks. Any time in the hospital past the DRG cut off results in no additional payment and huge losses. Many metropolitan psychiatric units can only function because they are subsidized by other departments so that they can quickly transfer patients from medical surgical services to psychiatry. The hospitals in this article may have contracts to provide civil commitment services, but they would have to be very lucrative in order to replace losses from exceeding the DRG length of stay (LOS).

    The rationing of staff and services and poor care is completely believable and it is a product of the overriding incentive in psychiatric care today and that is rationing due to the poor reimbursement for psychiatric services. I provide a reference to a text on healthcare management that points out that psychiatric services (and a few others) are the recipient of a double whammy of poor reimbursement compounded by further rationing on the basis of that poor reimbursement.

    There is an easy way to settle the issue and that is to post the spreadsheet looking at the LOS of the coerced versus non-coerced and actual reimbursement. Without that I am skeptical of the numbers.

    The other variable here is that a probate court judge/referee needs to determine involuntary hold status and civil commitments. Hospitals and doctors cannot legally hold anyone without a court order. Increasing the petitions should not result in more commitments or holds without a neutral judge issuing an order as a result of a contested hearing.

    My only interest is in the accurate story since the incentives as far as I can tell are strictly corporate, strictly determined by the feds (CMS), and incentivize high volume and low quality work.

  19. Charlie__ says:

    Re: the effect of school starting age.

    Those studies are pretty tricky to interpret because your first two at least weren’t about universal increases in school starting age, but individual increases – so not only were the kids in question older, but they were older relative to their classmates. Which as Malcolm Gladwell reported for hockey players, can make a big difference. And I’m slightly worried about subgroup analysis shenanigans for the first study, but I haven’t looked into it thoroughly.

    When educators think about school starting age, the first thing they think about is often a famous paper by Hart and Risley (summary here – short version is that poor kids get a lot less verbal interaction with adults, and have much lower vocabularies by age 5 than rich kids). Poor kids are more likely to be stuck in front of the TV, while rich kids are more likely to be played with in cognitively enriching ways. If we think that this big vocabulary gap is mostly nurture (not crazy, and not assumed without thought by the literature, see stuff like Huttenlocher et al. 2010), then this leads directly to the conclusion that an important way to help disadvantaged kids is to get them away from the TV and into decent-quality preschool ASAP so they can run around and have more cognitive enrichment (other kids, conversations with adults, puzzle or creative toys). This is basically for the impetus for that last link you give to Heckman.

  20. multiheaded says:

    “A new art form”? Tech demos? We had those in the nineties!

    • Stationary Feast says:

      I share your indignation. This Aaronson guy needs to get off our lawn.

      • scottaar2 says:

        In my defense, I never said anything in my post (which, like the current post, was just a links roundup) about Demoscene being new—only that it was new to me. I apologize to the other Scott for giving him the mistaken impression that it was “a new art form.”

        But in your analogy, wouldn’t I be the geezer who welcomes the kids onto his lawn, because he enjoys their newfangled Beatles music?

  21. Brett says:

    It fascinates me that none of the major civilizations in the Americas developed bronze for utilitarian purposes (such as weapons). I know it usually requires trade to produce in large amounts, but these were large empires (or large areas of urban city-states nearby).

    That Super-Hornet post reminded me of how bad a decision it was for Gates and the Obama Administration to kill off F-22 production. Yes, the fighter had a narrow set of uses – but it was very good at those uses (particularly air superiority).

    • Nicholas Carter says:

      The few sources I’ve read indicate that the Central Americans didn’t have an arms/armor arms race because the environment so inhibited metal armor that there was no advantage to the first stumbling prototypes. The Inca bronze smiths probably did experiment with armor, then discarded it as a dead end. So metallurgy existed as a luxury industry, building jewelry and decorations instead of weapons or tools.

      • Virbie says:

        > the Central Americans didn’t have an arms/armor arms race because the environment so inhibited metal armor that there was no advantage to the first stumbling prototypes.

        What form did this inhibition take? Humidity? Rough, variable-altitude terrain?

        • INH5 says:

          I would guess that heat and humidity were the most important factors. There are records of Spanish Conquistadors ditching their steel armor in favor of the local cotton armor because the latter worked almost as well against sling bullets, arrows, and so on but was far more comfortable.

          Presumably, this is also why even Sub-Saharan African cultures that had advanced iron metallurgy rarely if ever used metal armor.

  22. Stationary Feast says:

    I’ve been watching Scott worry about the right/left commenter balance ratio here for a while and, as someone on the right, I haven’t personally been worried.

    Then I scrolled through the comments on the Marginal Revolution post and got a vision of what Scott fears his comment section might become. It’s not pretty, even to me.

    I suspect the main difference between me and commenters who lean more to the left is that I think things are true that they don’t, as opposed to having differences of values but not of facts. That said, is there anything I can do to keep the commenter quality up so I don’t inadvertently drive away our liberals, the vast majority of whom are wonderful people?

    • houseboatonstyxb says:

      @ Stationary Feast
      I suspect the main difference between me and commenters who lean more to the left is that I think things are true that they don’t, as opposed to having differences of values but not of facts.

      Very likely. What are some of your examples?

    • dndnrsn says:

      What I, on the left, notice, is that the standard of precision and charity is generally much lower speaking about the left. Just avoid that.

      • birdboy2000 says:

        Seconded.

        If you dislike someone to your left, or even a tendency held by a lot of people to your left, be very specific about who you mean, and don’t indict vast numbers of people who have nothing to do with it in broad, sweeping judgments.

      • Cliff says:

        Seems like a standard complaint that each side makes about the other

    • tscharf says:

      Not sure there is a great answer here, echo chambers seem to always be the end of all discussion forums.

      I can say why I leave left leaning forums is the “getting shouted down” repeatedly gets tiring and the refusal to engage on sacred cow issues. If anyone wants to knows what being on the receiving end of forum abuse is, try to engage in a climate change discussion on a left leaning forum.

      Personally I now pretty much delete about a third of my posts after I write them based on them not being particularly helpful upon further review.

      Repeating talking points isn’t usually helpful. For the record, I’m sure I am throwing rocks in glass houses here.

  23. Brandon Berg says:

    I have a theory for why so many left-wing causes celébrès turn out to be hoaxes. For obvious reasons, the stories that best fit the narrative are the ones that go viral. Since real things that actually happen rarely fit the narrative as well as stories hand-crafted to the narrative’s specifications, the hoaxes get a disproportionate amount of attention.

    That said, I’ve seen at least a dozen of these post-election hate-crime allegations conclusively debunked. This is a tiny percentage of the total allegations, but of course not every hoax is going to get exposed, especially those where someone just posted something to Facebook and didn’t report it to the police. Most will likely never be solved either way. Notably, I can’t recall any cases in which a specific perpetrator who fits the narrative has been identified and charged with a crime, other than the hoaxes.

    They won’t, I’m sure, but it would be nice if the SPLC actually followed up on their report with results of any investigations into these allegations.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      If you go to the media but don’t go to the cops, the odds of being debunked are low. You have to get Jackie Coakley at UVA-level attention before skepticism sets in.

      On the other hand, on the whole, the police have been remarkably uninfected by the media tendency to fall for Hate Hoaxes. A few politically ambitious prosecutors like Mike Nifong in Durham, NC have gone all in, but most cops have treated them Hate Hoaxes with skepticism.

      For example, the report of unseen Trump supporters inside the Womyn-Only dorm at the New School of Social Research in Greenwich Village drawing swastikas on the doors of Jewish lesbian students doesn’t strike me as all that plausible, but Matthew Yglesias didn’t find a reason to be skeptical of it. But I can’t find any accounts of the New School victims reporting this outrage to the NYPD.

      • Deiseach says:

        If you go to the media but don’t go to the cops, the odds of being debunked are low

        Not even the media. Go on Twitter with this claim and you’ll have plenty of willing hands to spread it around.

        As for the SPLC, given that the majority of their “hate speech/hate crimes” reports came from schools, I very much doubt they are being too selective when it comes to what they report:

        Incidents by location: K-12 schools (149), businesses (129), universities/colleges (114), street (82), private property (72), driving (42).

        Americans, what are you doing about your enormous (by this selection) Trump-voting sexist racist homophobic four to seventeen year olds problem????

        For instance, the SPLC Hatewatch linked to this story as an example of Trump-supporter violence.

        Mmmm. So somebody whom we are supposed to think is one of those white nationalist types is hanging around in a gang of “white, South Asian, Latino, and possibly Middle Eastern” guys, who apparently didn’t get the memo that they are supposed to be intersectionally solid with a bunch of artists chanting “Free Palestine” and “Black Lives Matter”?

        No way this could be a not-unusual incident of “drunk/high guys get into fight with people they think looked funny at them” and our LGBTQ artist decided to gild the lily a teeny bit?

        The artist Marz Saffore, who has been involved with Decolonize This Place throughout the residency, was there the night of the party. She explained to Hyperallergic what happened after the group returned to Artists Space. “[One of the people who was attacked] came in and was just like, ‘Mic check,’” she said. “Everyone was just like ‘Mic check.’ He said, ‘These Trump supporters just beat up our dudes.’”

        I accept they got beaten up. I don’t accept the whole “white guy took off his shirt to show us his tattoos, was insistent he was a Trump supporter, and was possibly ex-military or cop and tight with the cops because we saw him talking to a patrol car” story as told here.

    • Iain says:

      Your argument is valid, but it certainly doesn’t only apply to left-wing causes célèbres.

      • Error says:

        New razor: Any story that fits a narrative is probably false.

        • danarmak says:

          Follow the incentives. Any story that someone has reason to tell, which can’t be or isn’t easily independently verified, is likely false.

        • This is close to my rule of thumb on history. Any historical anecdote that makes a good enough story to have survived on its literary merit should be viewed with suspicion.

          • Deiseach says:

            Any historical anecdote that makes a good enough story to have survived on its literary merit should be viewed with suspicion.

            Well dash it, Wikipedia seems to agree with you when it comes to Lord Uxbridge’s leg:

            One of the last cannon shots fired on 18 June 1815 hit his right leg, necessitating its amputation above the knee. According to anecdote, which is probably apocryphal, he was close to the Duke of Wellington when his leg was hit, and exclaimed, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg!”, to which Wellington replied “By God, sir, so you have!”

            Though no opinion expressed on whether this anecdote, about the amputation, is true or not:

            According to another anecdote his only comment through the procedure was, “The knives appear somewhat blunt.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Another story I’ve heard about Uxbridge is that while they were cutting off his leg his pulse remained entirely steady.

        • Timothy says:

          All narratives about reality are false.

          Only fictional narratives can be true.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Uh, that’s not new. That’s BEEN my razor for the past 5-6 years. and yes, it goes both ways.

          In fact, I started applying it to conservative/anti-government news pieces first precisely because they sounded too good to be true, and then moved on to applying that same level of skepticism more broadly.

          Except I always framed it as “If there isn’t enough evidence to support a police investigation or a lawsuit, it’s probably bullshit.”

        • DrBeat says:

          “Everyone is lying to you one hundred percent of the time in order to cause you harm because causing you harm is emotionally rewarding to them” is my rule

      • Deiseach says:

        Oh indeed; were it a group of right-wing leaning artists leaving late at night when it was chucking out time from the local pubs and they claimed they were jumped by a gang of BernieBros, I’d be equally sceptical.

        The story is just a little too good in some aspects, and really if they’re trying to claim the white guy was a Trump supporter (hence the racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic, deplorable of the popular imagination), that he was with Latino, Middle Eastern and South Asian mates? Who did not try to stop him beating up a black guy?

        I’d accept this as (unhappily) an instance of queer-bashing (e.g. the alleged “you look like a faggot” etc) where two groups with very different attitudes butted heads on the streets (and drink/drugs involved with the second group) because that happens every week.

        But the whole “taking off his shirt to show off his tattoos and claiming several times to be Trump supporter” – that begins to sound fishy. That they really got jumped by a gang of yahoos (who started chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump” as a response to this group chanting “We’re here, we’re queer” etc while walking down the street) and that queer-bashing may have been involved – sure, I’ll believe that. But also that one or two of them couldn’t resist adding a little colour to the narrative, as it were, in the name of the Cause (they were coming from a Decolonise show) and that this incident was psychically resultant of Trumpism or some such hoo-ha, so filling in the details of what really inspired it, even if the attackers never said anything – I could also believe that, as well. (Also that the white guy may not have been exactly as described, but is sort of the ideal of a white Trump supporter who voted out of ignorance and xenophobia, so it’s true in a way even if not factually true – that too). Mainly because all the quotes in the story come from one guy – perhaps he was the only one willing to speak, but he seems to be the one making all the allegations and then leading the protest/demonstration/candlelit vigil outside the place later on. So yeah, a tiny bit of “maybe milking this is going on” is in my mind.

        • Matt M says:

          “were it a group of right-wing leaning artists leaving late at night when it was chucking out time from the local pubs and they claimed they were jumped by a gang of BernieBros, I’d be equally sceptical.”

          Unlikely to happen – as the right values physical strength and superiority over plausibly claiming victimhood status – while the left feels the opposite.

          If a bunch of alt-right dudes got beat up by some socialists (I won’t get into skepticism about how likely this is to happen should such a confrontation occur), they’d do everything within their power to keep it a secret. They’d be too embarrassed.

          • Deiseach says:

            Unlikely to happen – as the right values physical strength and superiority over plausibly claiming victimhood status – while the left feels the opposite.

            Matt M, I did specify artists precisely to convey this element of weediness and likelihood of getting knocked about; hypothetically they might have been hosting a “Gentrification Now! Urban ReNewAll (sic)!” exhibition and were walking down the street chanting “Turn slums into condos!” when jumped by indignant socialists 🙂

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, but my point was less “the alt right would win the fight” and more “even if they lost, the alt right would claim they kicked ass” and/or “even if they won, the socialists would claim they were the victims of horrible aggression”

          • birdboy2000 says:

            I wish I had a link handy, but I remember hearing about Breitbart passing around a video a while back about a group of antifa attacking a group of white nationalists, complete with moral outrage.

    • Mary says:

      Thus far I’ve seen two post-election genuine hate crimes — well, one definite and one possible.

      Ivanka Trump was harassed before her three little children on an airplane. (And the harasser expressed disbelif when he was thrown off the flight.) We know it was harassment because of Tweets prior, bragging that they would track her down and harasss her.

      And Justin Barkley murdered a UPS driver and told the judge he had killed Trump. Possible because he might be doing it in hopes of insanity plea. (Which he won’t get. He knew what he was doing and that it was against the law.)

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Whatever that UPS one is, it’s not really a hate crime anymore than John Hinkley was an act of courting.

        • Deiseach says:

          That Barkley murder is damn strange; I had to Google it, and from the accounts it sounds like he got his gun (rifle?), went to the parking lot, and shot this guy whom he did not previously know.

          If he genuinely just shot the first stranger he saw, no wonder he’s pleading that he went out to kill Trump. He may not be sincere about that, but he must be a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. Does he think “I wanted to kill Trump” will get him sympathy and “yeah, I know the feeling” or that it will convince the court he really is cuckoo?

          There has to be more to it than that, and until we get information, we won’t know what the heck is going on.

    • Brandon Berg says:

      Here’s one that kind of checks out: An arrest has been made in the case of an interracial couple whose home was vandalized with swastikas.

      However, the alleged perpetrator was a former tenant who had been evicted for not paying rent a couple weeks earlier, and he had similarly vandalized a church in 2013, so this doesn’t really fit the “emboldened by Trump’s victory” narrative.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        And likewise— what looked like racist graffiti was harassment of an ex rather than Trump triumphalism.

        Well, it was arguably black vs. black racism and Trump’s name was invoked, but it certainly doesn’t fit the narrative of SJWs faking racist hate crimes.

        • Mary says:

          does fit the narrative of faked racist hate crimes — which are of course racist hate crimes, just aimed the opposite way.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Fits the narrative of faked racist hate crimes, but not all faked racist hate crimes are racist hate crimes aimed the opposite way.

            In the Philadelphia case it looks like the vandal was trying to hurt his ex-wife and the Trump stuff was just a poor attempt at diverting suspicion.

            Same goes for the “Vote Trump” on the burned church; non-racially motivated crime and an attempt to divert suspicion.

            In a few other cases, the only fakery was sloppiness on the media’s part — the doll in the elevator (intended as a prank; the doll was not hanged); the same doll used in a meme where it was hanged, but the caption made it clear it was an intentional anti-Trump meme; the kid passing out “deportation notices” to his friends (intended as a joke).

  24. arancaytar says:

    where it is so confusing when to observe Shabbat that Jews should just completely avoid that whole area of the world on weekends.

    I can completely see this being one of Uriel’s patch notes.

  25. Steve Sailer says:

    “James Heckman proposes spending $18,000 per pupil per year to enroll all children in public preschool from birth.”

    Nah, we should spend large amounts of money improving the 8 months and 29 days before birth.

    But not a day sooner!

    • Deiseach says:

      James Heckman proposes spending $18,000 per pupil per year to enroll all children in public preschool from birth

      That would be nursery care because you are not going to teach a one-day old baby anything. So really it’s a form of “mother and father are free to work proper jobs and we pay creches to mind the babies”.

      I have no real idea does pre-school etc. do anything besides act as a form of cheap childcare (and even then often the children go to childminders once the creche etc closes until mother and father are finished their work day and come to collect them – at least, that’s how I see it working round here).

      I think it probably does have some value in socialisation and so forth, but the most value would be in picking up early on learning disabilities, psychological issues and the like and making sure those get support and education tailored to the needs of the child.

      So I don’t think this proposal is serious, or if anything like it were implemented, it would have anything to do with education as such until the child was old enough to learn (toilet training, learning how to use utensils to eat, tie your shoelaces, wash your face and so on is a different thing, and that’s functionally what ‘preschool from birth’ would involve, not ‘we’re going to teach you how to code starting at the age of six months’).

      • Loquat says:

        Apparently it’s actually supposed to start at 8 weeks, not immediately after birth. Not that you can teach much of anything to a 2-month-old baby, either – my kid is going on 3 months and barely even understands what to do with a rattle.

      • sconn says:

        Unfortunately the two things often get conflated — I think free childcare is a fine idea, but once you call it “preschool” people start thinking the kids are supposed to be learning something, so they wind up sitting them in desks trying to teach them their letters at three or four. Where kids used to learn to read at six, in first grade, these days they are expected to be fluent readers by the time they arrive in first grade, which I personally think is ridiculous. And of course, not all kids will be, either because they didn’t go to preschool or because they weren’t ready to, and then from day one in first grade they’re at a disadvantage. There’s really no advantage to learning to read at four rather than eight, in itself, but there is a MASSIVE disadvantage to being even six months behind your peers at reading when you’re expected to be in a classroom together.

        So I wish that, if universal childcare were the goal, we CALLED it that and were clear about how the kids were going to be spending their time (playdough and funny hats, or circle time and quizzing on letters). But you can hardly get any sort of clear information about whether early start programs help if you are lumping both kinds into the same study.

        • “There’s really no advantage to learning to read at four rather than eight, in itself”

          My experience is with a small and very nonrandom sample, but it suggests that kids can learn to read earlier than first grade and that the skill is useful to both them and their parents–it makes taking a small child to a restaurant with adults a much pleasanter experience for the parents as well as greatly expanding the range of entertainment and education available to the child.

          Why do you think the opposite?

          • morgrimmoon says:

            If the child is interested in books and learning there is no disadvantage in them starting earlier, but I think the issue is when the child has no interest. Then the only way to teach them to read when they’re still at an age where reasoning with them is hard is to force them to do what is to them an icky and boring task, which is going to put them off reading and education for some time to come.

          • Viliam says:

            If the child is interested in books and learning there is no disadvantage in them starting earlier, but I think the issue is when the child has no interest.

            To a certain degree, a child’s interest can be manipulated. What the child sees you doing. What you verbally reward. Even, what toys are there. (The latter is the basic insight of Montessori education.)

            If you surround the child with books, if you will read the books to the child, if you will sing songs about alphabet, and if you will praise the child for remembering a letter correctly (but provide no negative feedback for getting it wrong, other than saying “no, it’s actually “)… then it is quite likely that the child will become interested in letters, and later in reading.

            And generally, any activity a child can do without interaction with a parent (such as reading) is a blessing for the parent.

        • Deiseach says:

          here kids used to learn to read at six, in first grade

          Where? Even in my day, you started learning to read at age four. (I could read before then but that’s a different matter).

          I’ve run into this before, i.e. a kid six or seven saying they couldn’t read yet (watching an old American movie) and my reaction was mildly shocked and slightly horrified; they’re that old and that big and they can’t read? Is something wrong with them?

          The idea that they’re not even taught until then horrifies me even more 🙂 How do you expect them to catch up? I don’t at all want the idea of drilling two year old children in how to read to be a thing, but I also think waiting until a child is seven is too late.

          these days they are expected to be fluent readers by the time they arrive in first grade, which I personally think is ridiculous

          I was reading this by third class (third grade) and my main gripe was that I didn’t know French (and nobody I knew spoke or read French, and there weren’t any French-English dictionaries I could get my hands on to translate) so I couldn’t understand the parts written in French. Also, I liked Caroline Helstone but thought taking to your bed in a decline over a man was uttermost tosh and she should dump the idiot and grow a backbone. Had I been aware at the time of the phrase “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”, I would have been quoting that at poor Caroline 🙂

          Though I can’t say I understood it all, not having the historical background to appreciate what was going on (e.g. the starting remarks about curates and Charlotte, as the daughter of an Ulsterman and Low Church clergyman, being very cutting about Anglo-Catholics, much less the important plot points about the Luddites). But I don’t recall having huge difficulty in understanding most of the language.

          • Anonymous says:

            here kids used to learn to read at six, in first grade

            Where? Even in my day, you started learning to read at age four. (I could read before then but that’s a different matter).

            The Soviet education system (their satellites also used it) teaches literacy around ages 7-8.

          • Tibor says:

            @Anonymous: I was in the first grade in 1995, already 6 years after the Velvet revolution, but learning to read was the first thing we did. Most kids start the 1st grade at the age of 6 unless they have some reason to start later (such as being ill or being born in August which would make them much younger than the other kids – then the parents often decide to wait a year). I am almost certain the system was the same during communism in this respect (and in fact it was structurally not very different from how it was before communism or how it is now, it has stayed more or less the same structurally since the times of the Austrian empire). I don’t know how it was (or is) in East Germany, Poland or Hungary (the rest of the post-communist countries were either under direct Soviet control or aligned more with Yugoslavia, so not really Soviet satellites…Romania was somewhere in between Yugoslavian and Russian influence)

          • Anonymous says:

            I went to 0th grade (preschool) at age 6, and they didn’t teach literacy. They did so in 1st grade, one year later.

          • Aapje says:

            In The Netherlands, 4 year old kids tend to go to school and gets to do ‘playful learning’ which includes rudimentary writing and counting and two years later at about age 6, they get taught reading and writing with a serious teaching method.

            There are attempt to get more serious earlier, especially for immigrant kids, but evaluations have found rather poor results.

  26. morgrimmoon says:

    Testing your seastead in another country’s waters is perfectly logical to me. So many people focus on the social engineering that a seastead will require, but if anything the structural engineering is much more of a challenge. We’ve had large economic reasons to have floating stable sea platforms for a while and yet oil rigs are still preferentially anchored to the sea floor. Building your prototype floating island in another country’s waters means that you can focus purely on technological issues – and you’re going to have lots of those – in an environment where something inevitabally going wrong doesn’t cost you the lives of your seasteaders and your expensive investment can still be bailed out. Possibly with more literal bailing than anyone is comfortable with, but that’s better than going down in deep water.

    Also previous ‘failed’ ocean micronations have been the victim of the local country rocking up and claiming that actually they own this area after all (like Sealand). If the local country knows about and approves of what you’re doing, that possibility is reduced.

    And hey, given the oceans are rising, there are going to be a lot of low-lying islands that may not want seasteading for the political independence but would be happy to give them political protection in exchange for access to technology to preserve their own drowning nation. Because the fishing rights around many of those islands are extremely valuable and if the country is declared ‘gone’, there are going to be lots of other nations clamoring to have that area declared international waters; anchoring a permanent artificial island on top of your sunken former island, with all your fellow countrypeople moving from the land-island to the artificial island, is a GREAT way of retaining local control.

    • Thanks for posting this, saves me from doing it. 🙂

      In your last paragraph, I wouldn’t speak of ‘retaining local control’ (which might be read as having primarily a political connotation) so much as ‘surviving without migrating too far’, given that may well be sufficient incentive to support the endeavour.

      Another thing that may be playing into this is that French Polynesia appears to not be in the best of economic situations. Wikipedia sums it up thusly (bold mine):

      French Polynesia has a moderately developed economy, which is dependent on imported goods, tourism, and the financial assistance of mainland France.

      I suspect it’s easy to hope that both building a seastead (= direct local jobs) and having a seastead nearby that itself has a successful economy (= inspire local trading as much as possible, from the seastead’s point of view to reduce transportation cost) would help bolster their economy in ways that simply expanding their territory and direct political influence would not.

      Whether it would do that or not remains to be seen, of course (assuming earlier goalposts such as ‘actually build the seastead’ are all met, which in itself is a bold endeavour), but between the rising sea levels and the economic considerations I reckon French Polynesia have enough incentives to promise and pull through with ‘not meddling with the political autonomy a seastead would like to have’.

      Out of curiosity, if you’re willing to tussle with the question, what effect do you think rising sea levels would have on the quality of fishing? Does any of it depend on above sea level detritus, or is just the shallowness of the ocean sufficient to maintain the quality? (I know nothing about fishing, but I know you have insights into some ecosystems, and I’m hoping this might be one of them.)

      —-

      Also, just so things are mostly in one place, Doctor Mist also posted on this subject a bit further up the page:

      Well, part of the theory about seasteading is that if you find yourself hassled by a state, you can pick up your whole community and move elsewhere. Also, there are presumably lots of engineering details to be worked out; this effort would provide a chance to do so, while a charter city on land would not.

      • danarmak says:

        I’m not a domain expert, but I think outside of a few very finely depth-tuned ecosystems like coral reefs, sea depth changing won’t affect much. Zones of habitation might shift towards the shoreline to compensate.

        The very worst climate change prognoses predict a sea level rise of 1-2 meters. But the daily tidal shift is already at least 0.5 meters in the open equatorial ocean, and up to 10 meters on the shore. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tidal_range)

        • skef says:

          Note that while climate change and ocean acidification are not at all the same thing, they’re both driven by atmospheric CO2. Acidification has a direct effect on shelled sea-life, and then an indirect effect on what feeds on shelled sea-life. The effects vary by species, which makes prediction tricky.

      • 6jfvkd8lu7cc says:

        I think «retaining local control» is about the local government using some of the technologies to make sure their islands are continuously habitable despite the sea rise and therefore they don’t lose control of the territorial waters.

    • 6jfvkd8lu7cc says:

      I fully agree with the other opinions (mobility, technology-testing and bargaining position), but I think there is one more effect.

      People mostly live on land, so good land is quickly filled. Sea is mostly divided in rough chunks for fishing rights. So even if you want to go charter-city style but can afford the technology, you may still find that risk/climate/space/cost tradeoff is better for sea than for land.

    • Tibor says:

      Yes, basically the two big non-social problems that are mitigated by being close to the shore are hurricanes and pirates. The storms are much less severe (if your seastead is mobile, you can move the city away from its path, but that is logistically and meteorogically not so easy) and you get the country’s military to protect you from pirates (as well as other countries). If Europa Universalis taught me anything, it is that the French military is the best choice if you want protection 😛

      By the way I always found it a bit funny that the company which does the engineering part of the Seasteading project is Dutch. They’re called DeltaSync, stationed in Rotterdam and they and they’ve already finished some floating structures (such as a floating dome in their city). Of course, the Seasteading Institute’s idea is not financing the floating city themselves but providing technical and legal support to whoever decides to invest money into actually building it. But since Peter Thiel supports them, I guess he might eventually end up doing it if nobody else wants to risk such an investment. I don’t know how rich Thiel is exactly but a small floating community should probably be within what he can and is willing to afford.

    • danarmak says:

      Could they / would they make technology for movable seasteds? Build it near an island, test the technology, then when it’s ready (or the political climate changes for the worse) take it out into international waters.

      • morgrimmoon says:

        That’s exactly what they’re planning to do, but the first small prototype is unlikely to be big enough to survive in international (and therefore deep) waters. There is a certain minimum size barrier required for stability far from shore in storms, which is why smaller vessels attempt to avoid them by any means possible. (They’re also working on a ‘movable wavebreak’ to ring seasteads that will help with that, but one step at a time.)

        In theory, a smaller seastead that’s not capable of surviving on its own may be able to if its part of a flotilla and can ‘shelter’ behind others, so if the technology matures enough that first seastead might be able to go to sea hitched to some of its bigger cousins.

    • Reasoner says:

      Why don’t Seasteaders just buy abandoned oil rigs and tow them together?

      • Protagoras says:

        They weren’t built to last forever, and while a lot of things are capable of lasting a long time as a general eye sore and environmental nuisance, remaining structurally sound enough to not raise serious safety issues absent expensive repairs tends to be a much shorter time frame.

      • morgrimmoon says:

        Oil rigs aren’t stable without a platform to sit on, and the platforms that exist are either built in someone else’s territorial waters or in bad places. There are ‘floating’ oil rigs, but they’re still tethered to the seabed and that limits their placement, and they’re dangerous enough that people are evacuated to the mainland during large storms.

  27. Linvega says:

    To India public vs private: While people like to complain about inefficiences of the public sector here in the west( and partly they’re right), it mostly gets really bad in third-world countries. There are quite a lot of countries with rampant corruption in the public offices. Especially India is known for extreme nepotism and very secure jobs in the public sector, so it got stuck with lots of lazy & incompetent workers there.
    Incidents like you have 10 counters, of which 4 are closed because the respective workers want to talk right now instead, 5 are male & age 50+ and take half an hour to work on a single requests and a single female worker being the only one who really gets things done are more the norm than the exception.

    I’m noting the gender because of India’s culture; A lot of men, especially the older ones, (try to) rely purely on caste/relations and their gender to get jobs, without much motivation to actually do anything, while if you see female workers there, you know she got there due to competence because she wouldn’t be there otherwise. Some institutions already caught on to this, for example mini-loans in India prefer to loan to woman because the guys often blew it on gambling without ever paying it back etc. . The private sector in general got much more wary, too, and as such hires much more woman than the public.

    So this doesn’t surprise me. It’s not because the private sector is uniquely efficient there, it’s because the public sector is uniquely inefficient there, with the gender distribution playing a part, too.

    Source: A bunch of various articles, personal accounts and documentaries I’ve read/heard/seen about India in recent years. So I’m not an expert or a local, but relatively well-informed. At least I like to believe that.

    • Eponymous says:

      While people like to complain about inefficiences of the public sector here in the west( and partly they’re right), it mostly gets really bad in third-world countries.

      Right. I once saw a presentation about private vs. public schooling in India at a development conference. What I took away from it was that private schools in India provide much higher quality at a fraction of the cost, mostly because public schools are cartoonishly bad. Like one of the scoring metrics was teacher absenteeism, and another was teachers doing any actual teaching (at all), and the public schools’ marks were awful on these. So the private schools were way ahead just by having their teachers show up and teach.

      On a related note, here is an experiment in which researchers tested public services in many countries by mailing 10 letters to non-existent addresses and seeing how long it took to get the letters returned to them:
      http://www.nber.org/papers/w18268

      Summary: in wealthy countries, they generally got the letters back, and fairly quickly. In poor countries, they only got the letters back 2/3 of the time.

  28. arancaytar says:

    Buzzfeed: for profit mental hospitals commit people who don’t need hospitalization to increase the bottom line.

    It’s kind of weird to see BuzzFeed doing actual journalism instead of reposting random clickbait videos or lists.

    • Deiseach says:

      I swear, The Onion is serious news, Cracked and BuzzFeed are both doing what I’d call real journalism, and the mainstream media is chasing clickbait and regularly having flaps about manufactured outrage.

      Everyone has been saying it, but it’s true: 2016 was weird, and it was the even stranger successor of 2015, where people were naively hoping 2016 would at least be better. Who knows what 2017 is going to be like?

  29. haljohnsonbooks says:

    Re: Sabbath and the International Date Line: According to Herman Melville, Tahitians used to celebrate their (Protestant) Sabbath on Saturday, because the missionaries who brought Christianity to the island “lost a day” without realizing it. The contradiction only became apparent when sailors with more scrupulous records landed, and found their services were on a different day.

    (The relevant text, from Omoo: “It must be known, that the missionaries of the good ship Duff, who more than half-a-century ago established the Tahitian reckoning, came hither by the way of the Cape of Good Hope ; and by thus sailing to the eastward, lost one precious day of their lives all round, getting about that much in advance of Greenwich time. For this reason, vessels coming round Cape Horn as they most all do nowadays find it Sunday in Tahiti, when, according to their own view of the matter, it ought to be Saturday. But as it won’t do to alter the log, the sailors keep their Sabbath, and the islanders theirs.”)

  30. Besserwisser says:

    The Creation of Adam is going to be a painting which will be changed over and over. First god gets replaced with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, now Obama is Adam. Some artist could try and make up historical events to change the resulting picture further and further, then make cash once those things happen and their art becomes sought after. Requires skill in art and prediction.

  31. Cerastes says:

    So I’ve always been confused why natural selection is rejected out of hand for the Flynn Effect. The most I’ve heard is some nebulous claim that the Flynn Effect is too fast, which is pure horseshit. Speaking from a straight organismal biology perspective, natural selection can produce huge changes on shockingly short timescales, especially if there’s lots of standing phenotypic variation and polygenic traits. I mean, a shift of that size doesn’t even require that strong of a selective force. So why is it simply dismissed?

    • Anon. says:

      1. It really is too fast.
      2. Selection is (obviously) in the opposite direction.

      • Cerastes says:

        I disagree on “too fast” – polygenic traits such as animal size can change by large fractions per generation under sufficient selection.

        As for selection “obviously” being in the opposite direction, can you prove that? Remember, selection isn’t just how many kids you have, it’s how many grandkids you have too. It’s the classic r selected vs k selection reproduction – you can have huge numbers of kids with minimal investment in each, but terrible mortality, or a few kids with high investment and high change of grandkids. Having 5 kids isn’t an advantage if 2 of the 5 die before reproducing, a third never has kids, and the others have 1 and 3 kids, versus having two kids who have 2 and 3 kids each. I am unconvinced that “stupid people have more kids” is a real selective advantage versus just a r-selected life history as opposed to a high-investment k-selected – show me the number of grandkids.

        On top of that, you don’t need a linear selection coefficient. If intelligence is a bell curve, and reproductive output is also a bell curve but shifted slightly upward (such that the people who have the most kids have a 110 IQ), then you will have directional selection for higher IQ while at the same time being able to say that those in the top 10% of the IQ range have less kids than those in the bottom 50%.

        • Ralf says:

          That may be true in ancient times, but in todays industrialized world not many neglected children are dying of hunger.

          Education in general does lead to fewer kids, but also look how many women in acadamia are childfree. That is a very strong selection bias!

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s not just women in academia. I’ve seen some research that western education (as opposed to, say, islamic education) beyond age 11 for girls drops fertility by 75% or so.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Your research needs to look harder, then. ‘Islamic’ isn’t uniform at all, and it’d need to explain why Iran’s fertility level is far below, say, Saudi Arabia’s. I’d also not consider Russia very Western at all, and its fertility level is much lower than most Western countries’ levels are, also.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Stefan Drinic

            Take a look at it yourself. Page 38.

            Also, “western education” means education inspired by the Prussian model, which is now used pretty much almost everywhere. Russia, Japan, India, China – same basic model of how and which things are taught, even if details differ. Everywhere that aspires to be called first world/developed uses that form of schooling.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Stefan Drinic:

            My guess as to why Iran’s fertility is considerably lower than Saudi Arabia’s is that Iran was far more cosmopolitan, westernized, etc before the fall of the Shah than Saudi Arabia was at any point/is now. Some of that is going to remain.

          • Chilam Balam says:

            @Stefan Drinic
            @dndnrsn

            Iran’s fertility rate is low for several reasons including: the Islamic Regime has worked very hard to increase education in Iran since the revolution (with their own peculiar ideology), so now female students are actually a majority of college students, so the education hypothesis is strong. Also, after the revolution the government encouraged a large baby boom, but got scared by the growth (peaked at 4.1% in 1983), and started a family planning campaign, leading to today’s sub replacement growth.

    • stillnotking says:

      Sexual selection is a far more plausible theory given the time scale involved, but seems to be contradicted by the evidence — smarter people tend to have fewer children.

      Natural selection can produce rapid effects, but only in the presence of major changes to the environment that are associated with substantial differences in mortality. If global warming turns the Earth into the hellhole Al Gore thinks it will, I’d expect to see natural selection rear its head, but it’s hard to come up with a plausible selection mechanism for the Flynn Effect in stable, prosperous times.

      • Cerastes says:

        See above on “smarter people have few kids”. Also, sexual selection is a sub-type of natural selection.

        As for when natural selection happens, this in empirically wrong, as shown by The Red Queen. Basically, these systems are named after a part in Alice & Wonderland where everyone has to keep running as fast as they can just to stay in place, because everyone is running.

        And again, even modest selective pressures can produce large results rapidly, as seen in many artificial selection experiments and several natural systems. This is especially true if intelligence is correlated with mutational load; lots of small selective pressures against mutation will add up to more intelligence.

        I should note for clarity that I am not saying “I 100% believe the Flynn Effect is due to natural selection”, but rather “I don’t see a good reason why the hypothesis is not being at least considered, other than possibly poor education in evolutionary biology among psychologists”

    • This has been considered.

      Population data on intelligence and child breeding and how that effects the next generation is very very hard before the 1950’s…but there is good reason to believe that during the age of scarcity, the long term planning in the 1600’s indicated the trend was eugenic.

      After the 1970’s, almost every researcher believed the trend was dysgenic, reasons humorously given by this video (And population research supports the dysgenic trend)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwZ0ZUy7P3E

    • Mazirian says:

      Let’s say that IQ has a narrow heritability of 60%. Then the response to selection R is

      R = 0.60 * S

      where S is the the average phenotypic difference between the potential parent generation as a whole and the subset of parents selected for reproduction. For example, if the average IQ of the selected parents is 5 points above the population mean, then R = 0.6 * 5 = 3. The average IQ of the offspring generation would then be 3 points above that of the previous generation.

      On average, the Flynn effect has been about 3 IQ points per decade (with larger or smaller effects depending on test and country). In 100 years, we’ve gained about 30 points, or two standard deviations. Let’s say 100 years corresponds to five generations.

      With five generations, we would then need a total selection differential of 30/0.6 = 50 points for natural selection to account for the Flynn effect. This means that, on average, each successive generation would have to have a mean IQ that is 50/5 = 10 points above the mean of the previous generation (with constant variance across generations). This means that there’s a correlation of about +0.30 between midparent IQ and fertility in each generation.

      However, in practice we find that there was a small negative correlation between fertility and IQ throughout the 20th century. The thesis that natural selection for higher intelligence could account for the Flynn effect can be decisively ruled out.

  32. Intellectually Honestest says:

    The charts on MSM bias put NPR, WaPo and NYTimes as down-the-middle non-partisan. My admittedly unscientific observation is that cannot be correct, although it certainly reflects the conceit of partisan outlets like NPR, WaPo and NYTimes.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      The charts on MSM bias put NPR, WaPo and NYTimes as down-the-middle non-partisan. My admittedly unscientific observation is that cannot be correct,

      I agree, although there is a straightforward way to confirm that news sources like the New York Times indeed have a liberal bias. If you do a LEXIS/NEXIS word search, what you will see is that conservative American politicians are a lot more likely to be described in extreme terms than liberal American politicians. So for example, if you compare the use of “ultra-conservative” with “ultra-liberal,” you will see that the former label is a lot more likely to be applied to an American politician than the latter.

      • Montfort says:

        On what basis do you prefer this test to the judgment of a large number of humans both blinded and unblinded, reading randomly-selected articles and weighting for article popularity?

        • fortaleza84 says:

          On what basis do you prefer this test to the judgment of a large number of humans both blinded and unblinded, reading randomly-selected articles and weighting for article popularity?

          It’s more simple and straightforward so there’s less opportunity for bias and other errors to creep in.

          • Montfort says:

            Is this intended to be an argument generically against any experiment that takes more than 10 minutes to perform?

      • rlms says:

        Not necessarily. Firstly, it could just be the case that other terms are used instead of “ultra-liberal” (such as “radical”). Secondly, and more interestingly, it could be that left-wing politicians are more moderate than right-wing ones! By that, I mean that popular “extreme” right-wing movements do have political representation (the Tea Party etc.) whereas popular “extreme” left-wing ones (BLM etc.) do not.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Not necessarily. Firstly, it could just be the case that other terms are used instead of “ultra-liberal” (such as “radical”).

          I used “ultra-liberal” as an example. If you want, choose the 3 most common terms for a very liberal politician and compare them to the 3 most common terms for a very conservative politician. Then see for yourself.

          Secondly, and more interestingly, it could be that left-wing politicians are more moderate than right-wing ones

          That comes down to what your understanding is of the word “moderate.” Figuring out what the baseline is — the border between conservative and liberal — is perhaps a tricky thing. What’s “moderate” today might have been considered far-left-wing 50 years ago.

          Are you able to propose an objective definition?

          • rlms says:

            Did you read my next sentence?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @fortaleza84:
            You’re also ignoring the possibility of self-appellation affects. If, for whatever reason, conservative politicians gain an electoral advantage by labeling themselves as more conservative than their opponent, especially their primary opponent, than that will have knock on effects on the language used in describing both those politicians and other politicians similar to them.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Did you read my next sentence?

            Yes, but if you think I missed something important in your post, please spell it out.

            Also, please answer my question:

            Are you able to propose an objective way of defining “moderate”?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            You’re also ignoring the possibility of self-appellation affects.

            I’m ignoring lots of possibilities. Which is always the case when you look at the evidence and draw a conclusion, no matter how reasonable.

          • rlms says:

            @fortaleza84
            I don’t need an objective eternal definition of moderate. Provided you recognise which groups are left and right wing, more moderate just means more right-wing if applied to a leftist, and vice versa for a rightist. People fairly clearly use “left” and “right” in context- and time-dependent ways, so the same applies to “more moderate”.

            Let me clarify what I meant with a hypothetical example. Imagine that instead of leftists and rightists, we have Redists and Greenists. Like the left-right scale, there is a Red-Green scale. Redist activist groups and media hold opinions ranging from “everything must be Red, Green is the worst thing ever” to “people should be free to choose Green without punishment, but ultimately the government should lean towards Red”, and Redist politicians also hold opinions at all points on that scale. In comparison, while Greenist activist groups and media hold opinions ranging from “Green is the one true path, Redists should be purged from society” to “Green and Red can coexist peacefully, but Green is inherently a bit better”, Greenist politicians only ever hold weak “soft Green” opinions (but still get Green votes because even a moderate Green is better than a Red).

            In this situation, it makes sense that Redist politicians will be described as anything from “ultra-Red” to “moderate Red” (because their opinions can fall anywhere on the broad scale of Red opinion), but Greenist politicians will mostly be described as “moderate Green” (because their opinions are moderate on the broad scale of Green opinion). I’m proposing that the same thing is possible with the left-right scale in actual politics (maybe it isn’t actually happening, but it’s certainly worth considering).

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t need an objective eternal definition of moderate.

            I’m not sure how you got the idea that I was asking for an “eternal” definition.

            Provided you recognise which groups are left and right wing

            Seems to me that this assumption just kicks the can down the road. But let’s follow the can:

            Are you able to propose an objective method of determining which groups (or policians or institutions) are “left wing” and which are “right wing”?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @fortaleza84:
            I believe there is ample evidence that conservative politicians do engage in self-appellation as very and extremely conservative.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I believe there is ample evidence that conservative politicians do engage in self-appellation as very and extremely conservative.

            Could you give me 3 examples so I can see what you are talking about?

            TIA.

          • rlms says:

            @fortaleza84
            Certain groups are widely recognised as left and right-wing. Let’s define a “left-wing” thing as “if asked whether this thing is left-wing or right-wing, most people would say left-wing”, and a “right-wing” thing likewise. But this is irrelevant to my main argument, which you seem to refuse to engage with.

            Regarding, self-appellation as “very conservative”, see one example here (quote “I am very conservative”).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @fortaleza84:

            I can give you three who were all presidential candidates this cycle. And this was the first three I looked for.

            Donald Trump
            “I’m very conservative. I’m the most conservative person in the world on the border. I’m the most conservative person in the world with respect to getting rid of Common Core. I’m the most conservative person in the world with getting rid of ObamaCare. I’m the most conservative person in the world having to do with our military, and rebuilding our military, and taking care of our vets.”

            Ted Cruz
            “If you want a strong conservative who can win, join our campaign”

            Marco Rubio
            “I am the consistent and strong conservative that will beat Hillary Clinton and undo the damage Obama has done.”

            It’s these kinds of arguments, where people won’t admit the blinking obvious things, that drive me nuts. It makes for great “winning” argumentative strategy. Force your opponent to prove everything.

            But it’s bullshit.

          • Matt M says:

            Strong =/ extreme, radical, etc.

            Other than Trump’s typically Trumpian hyperbole which is sort of a weird character thing unique to himself, conservative politicians do not seem to describe themselves as “ultra” “radical” etc. in the way that the NYT and other media outlets typically describe them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:

            Let me repeat what I said above.

            If, for whatever reason, conservative politicians gain an electoral advantage by labeling themselves as more conservative than their opponent, especially their primary opponent, than that will have knock on effects on the language used in describing both those politicians and other politicians similar to them.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Certain groups are widely recognised as left and right-wing. Let’s define a “left-wing” thing as “if asked whether this thing is left-wing or right-wing, most people would say left-wing”, and a “right-wing” thing likewise.

            Assuming for the sake of argument that going by popular consensus is an objective approach, you may as well just ask people directly about media bias. Which Gallup apparently does.

            For example, in 2014, 44% of their respondents opined that the media was “too liberal”; 19% of their respondents took the view that the media was “too conservative.”

            But this is irrelevant to my main argument, which you seem to refuse to engage with.

            I disagree, since if there is no way to test your hypothesis then it does not mean much. But anyway, as I mentioned up-thread there are always millions of possibilities for why an observation might not actually imply any particular conclusion. So yes, if your hypothesis is correct, and given the way you define your baselines, then the tendency to to describe conservative politicians in more extreme terms might not be the result of the conclusion I reached.

            Regardless, as I mentioned, if popular consensus is the standard then it would seem we already have our answer.

          • rlms says:

            Popular consensus can determine what the word “apple” means (and is in fact the only thing that can do that, because that’s how words work). Popular consensus cannot determine whether apples fall downwards or upwards, because that is a fact about the world. Which bias is more prevalent in the media is also a fact about the world.

          • Matt M says:

            “If, for whatever reason, conservative politicians gain an electoral advantage by labeling themselves as more conservative than their opponent, especially their primary opponent, than that will have knock on effects on the language used in describing both those politicians and other politicians similar to them.”

            I agree with this statement generally, I just don’t think the statements you provided from Cruz and Rubio are good examples, that’s all.

            I am a little confused though. Are you implying that the NYT, and similar media outlets, are describing people like Cruz as “ultra-conservative” ends up helping Ted Cruz? If so, are they helping him intentionally, or are they just dumb?

            Like, if we concede that the NYT leans liberal and thinks poorly of Ted Cruz, presumably they would try to describe him in ways that harm him. So if he enjoyed a benefit from being thought of as a “strong conservative”, shouldn’t they be the ones calling him a RINO and declaring he’s “not a real conservative” (the way that NRO went after Trump?)

          • Protagoras says:

            @Matt M, newspapers want to sell news more than they want to push any agenda. They describe people in whatever way makes for a story they can more easily sell; when there are no such economic factors, defaulting to describing people as they want to be described avoids offending people and generating unnecessary and potentially costly conflict. You seem to be imagining the NYT as the propaganda arm of the Democratic party, rather than as the business that it is.

          • Matt M says:

            “You seem to be imagining the NYT as the propaganda arm of the Democratic party, rather than as the business that it is.”

            Well, given their recent financial performance….

            But in all seriousness, why would there be an economic motive to call Ted Cruz a radical but NOT to call Bernie Sanders one? That was the original suggestion here, remember? That they use extreme sounding labels on conservatives but not on liberals. How does economics explain that exactly?

            And then saying “well it defaults to just describing people how they describe themselves” is also wrong, because as I said, Cruz calls himself a “strong” conservative, not a radical or an extreme or an ultra, which is qualitatively different.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I assume the idea behind the “knock-on effect” is that, when even Mitt Romney describes himself as a strong conservative, your reporter has to come up with something else to describe Ted Cruz. The main reason I’m skeptical of the idea is that I’ve seen the same pattern with the term “right-wing”, which is practically never used as a self-appelation by conservative pols.

          • BBA says:

            I think they just try to describe politicians the way the average person on the street would, if the street is Columbus Avenue (for the NYT) or M Street (for the WaPo).

            In other words there’s no conscious effort to influence politics here, just a reflection of the simple biases of the writers and their core readership.

          • Matt M says:

            “I think they just try to describe politicians the way the average person on the street would, if the street is Columbus Avenue (for the NYT) or M Street (for the WaPo).”

            Is it not possible that the average person on the street is trying to influence politics in their day to day speech?

            What’s the point of describing Ted Cruz as a “radical right-wing extremist” when what he prefers to call himself is a “strong conservative.”? One obvious answer is, “to express displeasure with him and/or discourage people from voting for him.” If the NYT chooses to use similar language, it may very well be for the same reasons.

            Conversely, the average person in Podunk, Mississippi isn’t likely to call Cruz a “radical right-wing extremist” either.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I can give you three who were all presidential candidates this cycle. And this was the first three I looked for.

            Thank you. Having looked at your examples, I am skeptical of your hypothesis. It’s true that at times, political candidates stress or even exaggerate their leanings in order to appeal to primary voters. However I am skeptical that this is primarily the practice of one side or even that it happens much outside of primary season.

            Moreover, if someone stresses their beliefs in a positive way, e.g. “strong conservative” or “true liberal,” it doesn’t necessarily follow that an unbiased journalist will do the same in a negative way, e.g. “ultra conservative” or “far left.”

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Popular consensus can determine what the word “apple” means (and is in fact the only thing that can do that, because that’s how words work). Popular consensus cannot determine whether apples fall downwards or upwards, because that is a fact about the world. Which bias is more prevalent in the media is also a fact about the world.

            But whether a particular media source is left-wing or not is NOT a fact about the world?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            If the NYT chooses to use similar language, it may very well be for the same reasons.

            The obvious explanation is that your typical MSM reporter or editor leans left. From that perspective, someone like Ted Cruz or Jesse Helms seems to be “ultra-conservative” or “far right” while at the same time someone like Teddy Kennedy or Elizabeth Warren seems to be more moderate.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            However I am skeptical that this is primarily the practice of one side or even that it happens much outside of primary season.

            “I reject your evidence because my gut told me to. Also, I would like it if the evidence didn’t exist so I will pretend like it doesn’t.”

            Again, those were literally the first three guys I picked out of the presidential primary. As I said, it’s a great debate strategy to force your opponent to substantiate every little detail, but lord is it uncharitable. I would hope the zeitgeist here would reject it, but I have yet to see much evidence of that.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            BBA’s interpretation of the issue is mine as well.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            newspapers want to sell news more than they want to push any agenda.

            One would think, but it’s not necessarily the case. We’ve seen plenty of examples recently of businesses and institutions which, if they operated purely out of profit motive, should be apolitical, deliberately and aggressively taking stands on highly controversial issues that are guaranteed to push away half of their potential audience. The opportunity to give the outgroup a public kick is apparently worth quite a lot of lost business to some people.

          • DrBeat says:

            People don’t actually want to make money. They want emotional rewards.

            As an institution is devoured by popularity, it loses the ability to do things for reasons other than emotional rewards of its high-status members.

            These groups that you say “should” be motivated only by the bottom line are literally and not figuratively incapable of seeing that bottom line, or conceptualizing it as a goal. All they can interact with are the emotions of the people making decisions. They will never again do something because it is useful.

          • Montfort says:

            People don’t actually want to make money. They want emotional rewards.

            As an institution is devoured by popularity, it loses the ability to do things for reasons other than emotional rewards of its high-status members.

            Are you personally acquainted with the high-status members of the various organizations named? If not, I’m not sure how you came across enough accurate information on what they find emotionally rewarding for this position to actually be capable of producing useful predictions. For instance, you claim they are “literally and not figuratively incapable” of seeing the bottom line, and yet we observe behavior that seems profit-motivated.

          • genemarshblog says:

            Do Republican’s not purge their party of RINO”S every election season?

            Why is this controversial here?

          • Viliam says:

            We’ve seen plenty of examples recently of businesses and institutions which, if they operated purely out of profit motive, should be apolitical, deliberately and aggressively taking stands on highly controversial issues that are guaranteed to push away half of their potential audience.

            If you believe that some entrepreneurs are “predictably irrational”, the obvious question is: how can you use this knowledge to make the money flowing out of their pockets get into yours? Because in theory, knowing in advance what will happen, especially when others disbelieve it, should translate into being able to make money.

            For example, if it is a publicly traded company, and you know that something irresistibly tempting just happened on the political scene, could you simply make a bet that their value will soon decrease?

            (Here is an alternative explanation of what happens, somewhat conspiratorial: Maybe this is what actually happens; maybe losing money by joining a political wave is not a bug, but a feature. If you are a director of a publicly traded company, and you make the company do something really stupid — but you have a credible excuse why you did so — you could make money by secretly betting against your company. Of course this is just an example of insider trading, but maybe the “I was politically mindkilled” makes you much less suspicious. Especially if the people who decide whether you keep the role of the director are mindkilled in the same direction.)

          • Spookykou says:

            @rlms

            Speaking to your Redists-Greenists point, because I think it is interesting and nobody else seems to want to respond to it.

            This actually matches pretty well with my, admittedly limited exposure to news media in the US with regard to the number of moderate left/liberal versus more extreme right/conservative views held by politicians.

            My gut is telling me that this might be expected/predicted by a leftward shifting overton window, but I am not sure why exactly.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            If you believe that some entrepreneurs are “predictably irrational”, the obvious question is: how can you use this knowledge to make the money flowing out of their pockets get into yours?

            Fox News certainly used it to make a crapton of money, by filling the vast empty vacuum to the right of the alphabet networks and CNN.

            Other people have come up with variations of this theory as well — cf. Sarah Hoyt’s “Roll Hard Left And Die” theory — but I don’t know if there’s really much anyone could have done to, say, make money off predicting Newsweek’s death.

        • Deiseach says:

          By that, I mean that popular “extreme” right-wing movements do have political representation (the Tea Party etc.) whereas popular “extreme” left-wing ones (BLM etc.) do not.

          Well, they had the president speaking up for them at a police memorial service, so that might count as not needing to form their own political party when there’s already an established one happy to represent them.

          But I do take your point about the grassroots activism not translating into anything more permanent.

          And “moderate” is a term that is built on such shifting sands, it means “yesterday’s radical and tomorrow’s regressive”. Take the shocked tone of articles written by nice liberal thought-they-were-left academics writing about how their students are attacking them for being insufficiently progressive; time has marched on and “question authority” has come to bite them in the behind now that they are the authorities and a new generation of rebels has come along to protest against the establishment.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          There is a straightforward way to confirm that news sources like the New York Times indeed have a liberal bias. If you do a LEXIS/NEXIS word search, what you will see is that conservative American politicians are a lot more likely to be described in extreme terms than liberal American politicians.

          I reject your evidence because my gut told me to. Also, I would like it if the evidence didn’t exist so I will pretend like it doesn’t

          :shrug: Suit yourself.

          As I said, it’s a great debate strategy to force your opponent to substantiate every little detail, but lord is it uncharitable.

          Indeed. It’s also a great debate strategy to force your opponent to disprove lots of alternative possible explanations for his reasonable conclusions.

    • Deiseach says:

      The New York Times suffers from/rejoices in (it depends how one feels) what the GetReligion blog calls Kellerism, from a talk recorded in 2011 by its former editor, Bill Keller:

      “We’re liberal in the sense that … liberal arts schools are liberal,” Keller noted, during a recent dialogue recorded at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. “We’re an urban newspaper. … We write about evolution as a fact. We don’t give equal time to Creationism.”

      Moderator Evan Smith, editor of the Texas Tribune, jokingly shushed his guest and added: “You may not be in the right state for that.”

      Keller continued: “We are liberal in the sense that we are open-minded, sort of tolerant, urban. Our wedding page includes — and did even before New York had a gay marriage law — included gay unions. So we’re liberal in that sense of the word, I guess. Socially liberal.”

      Asked directly if the Times slants its coverage to favor “Democrats and liberals,” he added: “Aside from the liberal values, sort of social values thing that I talked about, no, I don’t think that it does.”

      Even back in 2004, its public editor did admit that the NYT covers stories from a particular urban perspective, and that they must try and include other viewpoints in their journalists.

      And from 2005, an awareness that it does make a difference when you decide who gets to be called a “moderate” when covering hot-button topics:

      Too often we label whole groups from a perspective that uncritically accepts a stereotype or unfairly marginalizes them. As one reporter put it, words like moderate or centrist “inevitably incorporate a judgment about which views are sensible and which are extreme.” We often apply “religious fundamentalists,” another loaded term, to political activists who would describe themselves as Christian conservatives.

      We particularly slip into these traps in feature stories when reporters and editors think they are merely presenting an interesting slice of life, with little awareness of the power of labels. We need to be more vigilant about the choice of language not only in the text but also in headlines, captions and display type.

      It’s not so much that they pick a side and deliberately slant everything towards it, it’s that they draw from a pool of reporters that shares particular values and views and tends to talk to its readers, whom they assume (often correctly) share the same values and views and will of course have opinions that are “on the right side of history”, in a particular tone and style. This does give their journalism (and that’s the straight reportage, not just the opinion columns and the lifestyle pages) an air of “anthropologist reporting on quaint native customs from darkest out-there” when they cover people and places that are not urban north-east upper-middle (or aspiring to be upper-middle) class.

      • Matt M says:

        We’re starting to see this play out in tech too.

        Someone asks Zuckerberg, “Is Facebook biased against conservatives?” He gasps and a look of horror crosses his face, “No, of course not!” he exclaims. And he’s accurate in the sense that he never issued an edict saying “go out there and make sure you censor conservative viewpoints!” nor did any of his executives.

        But it just so happens that he exclusively hires the “top talent” from the best elite schools and everyone who works for him lives in a left-wing enclave and, wouldn’t you know it, the entire atmosphere in the environment is completely and totally left, and it turns out when you tell people “go out there and delete offensive posts” and they all have a very specific and common idea of what counts as offensive and what doesn’t, it manifests itself as “conservative posts get deleted and liberal ones don’t.”

        • Bjorning says:

          Interesting, in that it seems counter to my experience, where someone was temporarily banned from FB for what amounted to “Trump sucks!” but “Hilter really should have finished the job” “does not violate community standards”. I suspect most of it is handled by some kind of algorithm that sucks at its job – perhaps relying mainly on volume of reports than on any metric of awfulness.

  33. Tekhno says:

    Related to recent discussion of school costs: India’s private and public hospitals are both equally good (bad), but the private hospitals cost only 1/4 as much. Why is this so different from the US picture?

    (Just skimmed this for now, because I have to go somewhere)

    Totally grabbing a hypothesis from the aether here, but perhaps its because even if hospitals are private in America they have to, or rather will, follow more extensive regulations, so private hospitals in India are able to escape from the bureaucracy and have more room for making cuts without affecting the actual healthcare part. They also probably don’t have CON in India either. As far as I’m aware, India is a pretty bureaucratic place officially (even though the License Raj was abandoned in 1990), but it’s also a lot harder to enforce regulations due to the lack of development in large parts of the country, so if private care is able to move into undeveloped parts of the country then it would be able to escape a lot of enforcement of deadweight bureaucracy that might otherwise be there. In the USA there is no such space to escape federal and state laws, and the result is that private hospitals still have to follow much of the same procedures as public hospitals, meaning that the main thing that gets changed is their exposure to competition, rather than their ability to react to it by changing procedures in a completely free manner.

    Some evidence that would go towards proving or falsifying this is whether the gap goes away as India’s poorer rural areas develop and the country as a whole becomes “first world”, meaning that enforcement of the law of central government/s becomes more consistent, and public and private hospitals bear mostly the same regulatory burdens and just differ in ownership, leaving less that private hospitals would even be allowed to cut.

  34. onyomi says:

    Interview with Assange further increases my respect for Wikileaks, Assange, Snowden, Manning, et al. The issue of “whistleblowers will be tried as traitors” seems like a very big problem which major governments have not resolved, and I am largely sympathetic to the “secrecy breeds incompetence” argument. Also, he has a kitten.

    • >he has a kitten

      Welp, he’s fine in my book then. What breed is it, or is it a mutt?

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      As one would expect, he’s just full of excuses for why Russia and China don’t get Wikileaks’s tender attentions. They really do fit right in with the drunk-searching-for-his-keys-under-the-streetlight school of human rights advocacy.

      • Because doing that with russia and china would have a better chance of him just flat out getting murdered.

        Well, according to the American news sources, which may or may not be true.

      • Tibor says:

        As the Bears pointed out, the US will try to arrest you, Putin will assassinate you. Remember Alexander Litvinenko?

        But it becomes a problem only insofar as you view it in “us vs. them” – if Russia does not get exposed, then “we” cannot get exposed either because that gives Russia an advantage. But “we” are not identical with the government and forcing at least European and (mostly) American politicians to play more straight is a good thing, I’d say. It would be nice if you could force the Russian and Chinese politicians to do the same but here Assange is a bit boastful – he may be able to shake power structures in a democracy but he cannot do it in an authoritarian regime (even if it let him live). But again – that’s good for us, bad for the Russians and the Chinese (except for those who are in power).

        As for what information Russians or Chinese get their hands on and can use for their interests, I doubt their secret services are so incompetent that they would not know what the Wikileaks publish before they even do so, so it can hardly be argued they pose a security threat either.

        • Autolykos says:

          Looking at what happened to Chelsea Manning, I think I’d very much prefer the Russian treatment, thank you. And that’s still ways better than what you can expect when you get “arrested” by the US and happen to be Muslim.

          I think the difference is mostly in what kind of material Wikileaks can get their hands on. There might just be less of a whistleblowing tradition in Russia or China, or they might be better at vetting (or indoctrinating) their bureaucrats. Wikileaks does not do their own espionage, they rely on sources. And if they don’t get anything, they can’t report it – no matter their intentions.

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          As the Bears pointed out, the US will try to arrest you, Putin will assassinate you.

          So the takeaway, then, is that the United States should start assassinating its critics.

          • Tibor says:

            The takeaway is that the US government is better than the Russian.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            The takeaway is that the US government is better than the Russian.

            If you sat down, did a little research using multiple sources, and carefully analyzed the situation, yes, you would come to that conclusion. If you’re a normal person who spends your time doing your job and taking care of your family instead of digging into what foreign governments are up to, and just sees mentions in passing on the news all the time about how Wikileaks has revealed yet more malfeasance on the part of the United States Government, you wouldn’t.

            The second group is far larger than the first group. So if the US government’s goal is to be criticized less, it clearly needs to make with the polonium. That’s where all the incentives lead.

          • Viliam says:

            This is a horrible thing about politics, that the less evil a regime is, the more people complain about it. Simply because they are less scared of the consequences of complaining. And there is always something to complain about.

            But then other people (for example, the next generation in the same country) look at the lists of complaints, compare them, and conclude that the more evil regime was actually better.

            Seems to me that the solution (other than “so, you should also become more evil”) would be to speak the complaints in the name of those who can’t. For example, if Russian journalists cannot criticize Putin without being assassinated, perhaps American journalists could spend some time describing Putin’s regime as it is.

            But here comes Moloch. The less evil regime consists of factions that fight against each other. If one of them spends resources to complain about the more evil regime, they will have less resources to fight their competitors. Sometimes, they could even get a tactical advantage against their competitors by claiming that the more evil regime actually isn’t that evil. Complaining about your own country (and blaming everything on the other side) is what gets you the votes of the people who complain about the same things.

          • Deiseach says:

            If you’re an American living in America, you care about what the American government is doing more than you particularly care about the Russian, German, Syrian or Cameroonian governments, because it affects how much tax you pay, what services you are supplied, and if you have a job next month.

            Saying “But the US government is much better compared to global dictatorships”? Yeah, fine, but I – Joe Citizen – care a heck of a lot more about what Tweedledee and Tweedledum are doing, particularly when Tweedledee’s internal party memos show that they think “Joe Citizen is a maroon, just tell him we’ll give him a free electric car in his garage and he’ll vote for us, that’s how you win this state full of granola-munchers”.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            Then why is Assange spending all his time going after the American government?

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps because the only people giving him stuff are people with that agenda?

            If you want to go after Russia, the US government isn’t going to mind, so you don’t need as much protection.

          • Matt M says:

            Just curious here – is the issue that people aren’t giving anti-Russia/Chinese stuff to Assange, or that he has such stuff and is choosing not to publish it?

            If it’s the former, I don’t really see him as culpable here. He publishes what he has – his role isn’t to be the spy that obtains information himself. If it’s the latter then sure, you could say “I’m worried they’ll kill me” but that indeed does show him to be less “heroic” than he might be perceived by some.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @Deiseach: I was thinking in particular of non-Americans hearing this news.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Matt M

            Obviously the only solution is to hack Assange, associated Friends/Staff, and Wikileaks and publish everything recovered.

      • onyomi says:

        I mean, if you can only expose American fraud, corruption, abuse, and incompetence because you don’t speak Chinese or are afraid Russians will kill you, that’s still better than nothing, no?

        • ThirteenthLetter says:

          If Wikileaks advertised themselves as “We hold the United States government and only the United States government to account, if you have a problem with Russia or Germany or Cameroon you’re going to have to go elsewhere” there’d be an argument there. But they do not.

          If you pose as opponents of all illiberal regimes, and then only ever criticize one, that creates the impression that the one you targeted is the most villainous.

          • Tibor says:

            They could say something like “we don’t publish information in case we have a based suspicion that it could endanger our lives”. That would clear out all at least moderately powerful authoritarian regimes.

            I don’t think they’re omitting Germany though. However, Germany is less important geopolitically than the US and they only have limited resources so it makes more sense to concentrate on the US government.

  35. FerdJ says:

    I saw the Reddit post on the F35 previously. A few thoughts:

    I have a feeling that this is yet another example of Trump negotiating. His real goal is probably to get the price on the F35 program down, and is just asking about Super Hornets to put pressure on Lockheed. Actually switching aircraft now seems kinda nuts, but you won’t get anywhere in a negotiation unless the other party thinks you have an alternative to them. If so, that would also make this yet another case of Trump claiming to want something wacky as a negotiation ploy, and his political opponents using it as ammo by saying “Oh My God, Trump Seriously Wants To Replace F35s With Super Hornets!!!!!”

    I’m skeptical of Trump too, but geez, he’s been following this pattern for quite a while, and even wrote a book about it. Maybe we should wait and see what he actually does instead of drumming up faux outrage yet again.

    I’m also amazed to see a highly-upvoted post on /r/politics praising the F35. Somehow, I don’t think that would ever happen unless there was a way to use that position to make Trump look bad. It sure fits the argument that their only consistent position is more political power for the Democrat Party, and none for the Republican Party, no matter what.

    • Incurian says:

      lol, Trump makes the F-35 look good.

    • Maxwell says:

      Based on everything you know about Trump, which is more likely:
      a) Trump has immersed himself in the details of the defense budget, or
      b) The company making the F35 somehow wronged Trump, at least in Trump’s mind. This is Trump’s revenge (and a warning to others).

      • Matt M says:

        c) It’s easy to send a Tweet about something costing a figure that seems, to someone without specific knowledge of aircraft construction, to be unreasonably high as a signaling device that you’re serious about saving money, etc.

        I actually think Trump is being kind of clever on this stuff. He’s going after things that

        1. The average person knows nothing about, so can’t easily dismiss him out of hand
        2. Seem to cost a lot, thus scoring him points with the “economic conservative” crowd
        3. Are related to the defense budget, thus scoring him points with the “smash the military industrial complex!” crowd

        People seem to be analyzing Trump’s tweets as if they are serious policy statements by a trained politician who always takes their words really seriously and only says things they intend to follow through on.

        Needless to say, this is not quite the case when it comes to Trump.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Do people think Trump actually accomplished anything with Air Force One costs?

      I mean, did Boeing merely swear or did they pinky swear they would keep costs lower? Or do you think the terms of the contract actually changed?

      • bean says:

        That caused serious discontent at Boeing. If he’d talked about the KC-46, he might have had a point, but to people who know just how much goes into AF1, his comments just looked idiotic.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I predict that Trump is going to be “all hat and no cattle” when it comes to “negotiating” on behalf of the U.S.

          • DrBeat says:

            I know this is a real phrase but it always reads like a mixed metaphor to me, like it’s crossing “all hat and no head” and “all horn and no cattle” (neither of which I think are actual phrases).

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            I think you’re supposed to picture a guy who’s not a cowboy at all, but for some reason has bought himself a hat so he can pose as one.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @CPZ

            Exactly, though it’s not really “for some reason”. It’s not as common as it once was but for a long time Cowboy Culture and the mystique and look were something to imitate to impress.

            There’s a pretty straight line comparison to middle and upper middle class kids aping the urban gang-banger look, or dumpy account executives rolling around in Sturgis in leathers on their Harleys trying to ape the tough guy look and act of the actual 1%-ers.

            Sub-cultures that at various times have had a romantic mystique and been seen as particularly tough or cool or otherwise manly.

          • Deiseach says:

            “All hat and no cattle” to me is like the British saying all mouth and trousers: it conveys the idea of showing off in great style but with no substance to back it up; someone aping their betters – dressing like the real wealthy cattle owners but without the same land, herds or money in the bank; having a big, fancy hat* is like somebody having a fur coat or expensive watch and ostentatiously flaunting it, but that’s the extent of their fine possessions – like the baldric of Porthos in “The Three Musketeers”, where he is wearing a long cloak wrapped around himself to disguise the fact that his fine belt is only fine on one side:

            Alas, like most things in this world which have nothing in their favour but appearances, the baldric was glittering with gold in the front, but was nothing but simple buff behind. Vainglorious as he was, Porthos could not afford to have a baldric wholly of gold, but had at least half. One could comprehend the necessity of the cold and the urgency of the cloak.

            *According to Wikipedia:

            Stetson produced a very expensive hat. The cowboy riding the range wearing the “‘Boss of the Plains’ hat showed the world that he was doing well”.

            …In the 19th century and first half of the 20th century, a hat was an indispensable item in every man’s wardrobe. Stetson focused on expensive, high quality hats that represented both a real investment for the working cowboy and statement of success for the city dweller.

    • beleester says:

      Nah, Reddit’s opinion on the F-35 has gradually swung in favor over the past year or so. Once the F-35 actually started flying, and the news stories started to be “rave reviews from pilots” instead of “yet another problem found in testing,” it started to look a lot better.

      Actually switching aircraft now seems kinda nuts, but you won’t get anywhere in a negotiation unless the other party thinks you have an alternative to them.

      It still seems kinda nuts, because an updated Super Hornet isn’t a credible alternative to the F-35. Lockheed Martin will probably either call his bluff, or make some token concession that reduces costs 0.01% so that Trump can declare victory without changing anything important.

  36. jackgriffith says:

    the 4k (demoscene) animations are similar to mandelbulb renderings, i.e. 3d fractals, as shown below.

    here’s one that explores the cenobite homeworld:

    https://youtu.be/P5EkdJRtF-4

  37. AnonEEmous says:

    Not really sure if this falls into -politics- and I promised not to do that, but a bit on the Kurt Eichenwald saga:

    Firstly, I’ve been reliably informed that most epileptics disable autoplay features, and it seems that Eichenwald as recently as a day before the incident did have autoplay disabled, from a story he told. So there’s that argument, that he should’ve taken precautions. But that’s not really my main point.

    Places I frequent were pretty skeptical that Kurt would even file a police report, but I thought he obviously would, regardless of the truth of the matter. Why? Well, consider this:

    On the day of the supposed incident, Kurt Eichenwald…lost his mind and his credibility. I haven’t seen the Tucker Carlson show, because >foxnews, but supposedly he went batshit loco, accused Trump of some stuff and when asked for proof evaded the question for 8 minutes straight. He then took to Twitter and melted down even further, while once again saying that Donald Trump was in a mental hospital once, that Trump was a methamphetamines addict and so forth. This, against the guy willing to file a libel suit for an accusation of “small hands”.

    In other words, Kurt Eichenwald exposed himself to a very expensive libel suit which…frankly, Trump might win? (Real lawyers feel free to weigh in lol). And also lost enormous quantities of credibility and respect. So where does he go from here?

    The move against “jew goldstein” is his pivot. By playing the victim of alt-right trolls and playing up his epilepsy, he can avoid being roasted by anyone who’s anyone and hopefully move on in some fashion. Of course, this argument is divorced from whether or not he actually had a seizure, as such – just don’t use the filed report as proof that this really happened. Personally, the idea that ‘his wife’ sent back a tweet saying “this is his wife, we’ve called the police and we are coming for you” or whatever it was, is ridiculous to me, so I don’t believe it. But I fully acknowledge that I’m not entirely sure about this, heh.

    • Deiseach says:

      Personally, the idea that ‘his wife’ sent back a tweet saying “this is his wife, we’ve called the police and we are coming for you” or whatever it was, is ridiculous to me, so I don’t believe it.

      Oh, man. I only vaguely heard about all this and wasn’t at all happy that idiots sent an epileptic something to deliberately trigger an attack, regardless of what politics or views.

      But now this makes it all sound like those dear old days back when I first got onto the web, when concrit or any kind of disagreement on a board/forum/fansite would result in Sparklefairy leaving in a huff, silence for days, then an announcement by friend/family member that they were posting on Sparklefairy’s account because Sparklefairy had killed herself due to the harassment from the rest of you, and it turns out to be Sparklefairy herself looking for revenge/sympathy.

      I really don’t know what to say when it comes to the point where I’m hoping a man had a genuine epilepsy seizure due to malicious content sent to him by a troll, because otherwise – oh, man.

      This year cannot end fast enough, even if there’s only a week or so left.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        “This year cannot end fast enough, even if there’s only a week or so left.”
        If we bring the year to a premature end, the remaining celebrities who were destined to die in the great celebrity cull of 2016 will have missed the dates of their death, and be condemned to roam the Earth forever, watching everything they loved wither and fade…

        • Deiseach says:

          They can die in 2017-2020, spread it out a bit, so that it’s not every week I’m reading “Wait, no, who is dead now?? Ah, no!”

          2016 was over-achieving in that field, I rather feel 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            Unrelated; there’s a question for you in 65.25. If you would care to answer it somewhere, despite your self-ban.

          • Deiseach says:

            (Checking in ‘cos the turkey is sitting in the oven merrily cooking and I have everything else ready to go but it doesn’t need to be put on for another hour – happy 25th to you all!)

            You mean the Ulster Plantation thing? From a very quick read of the linked article (because quite frankly I got tired of the whole “our white culture is being deliberately undermined” thing), I think the best summation is “incomplete”.

            The historical facts that the writer copied in a chunk are basically correct. However, he neglects to mention the preceding Elizabethan plantations, and indeed you might say the Cromwellian settlement was another attempt in this area. How well these succeeded may be judged by the fact that today we have a 26-county independent republic, so plainly plantations to transplant an entire culture and replace the existing one don’t work as intended – America itself is a case in point, are you still subjects of the queen or citizens of a republic? Despite the English colonisation?

            Not unless you manage to vastly outnumber the original inhabitants, which may be why the American replacement of the native tribes via that very Anglo-Scots culture the author is lamenting (that’s another thing, he’s being contradictory: so the English and Scots culture replacing the Irish one was bad, but the transplanted English-Scottish culture in America is good?) worked out in the end: a combination of better technology and relentless immigration over a couple of centuries.

            But really, we’ve been complaining about and trying to classify and differentiate between the native Irish, the Old English, the New English, the Anglo-Irish, the Scots-Irish, etc. since the Norman Invasion and if you like, we can throw in the Book of Invasions of Ireland about the waves of (legendary) settlers for pre-Norman times:

            Irenius
            Yes, there was an other, and that the last and the greatest, which was by the English, when the Earle Strangbowe, havinge conquered that Lande, delivered up the same into the handes of Henry the second, then Kinge, who sent over thither great store of gentlemen, and other warlyke people, amongst whom he distributed the Land, and setled such a stronge Colonie therein, as never since could, with all the subtile practices of the Irishe, be rooted out, but abyde still a mightie people, of so many as remayne Englishe of them.

            Eudoxus
            What is that you say, of so many as remayne English of them? Why are, not they that were once English, abydinge Englishe still?

            Irenius
            No, for the most parte of them are degenerated and growen almost meare Irishe, yea, and more malicious to the Englishe then the very Irishe them selves.

            Eudoxus
            What heare I? And is it possyble that an Englishman, brought up naturally in such sweet civilitie as England affordes, could fynd such lyking in that barberous rudenes, that he should forgett his owne nature, and foregoe his owne nacon? how may this be? or what I pray you may be the cause thereof?

            Irenius
            Surely, nothinge but that first evill ordinance and Institucon of that Common Wealthe. But thereof now is their no fitt place to speake, least, by the occation thereof offering matter of longe Discourse, we might be drawen from this that we have in hand, namely, the handleinge of abuses in the Customes of Ireland.

            Irenius
            …And first I have to find faulte with the abuse of language, that is, for the speaking of Irishe amongst the English, which as it is unnaturall that any people should love another language more then ther owne, soe it is very inconvenient, and the cause of many other evills.

            Eudoxus
            It semeth strang to me that the English should take more delight to speake that language more then ther owne, whereas they should (me thinkes) rather take scorne to acquiante ther tonges therto: for it hath alwayes bene the use of the conqueror to dispose the language of the conquered, and to force him by all meanes to learne his. So did the Romains alwayes use, insomuch that ther is almost not a nacon in the world, but is sprinkled with their language. It were good therfore (me thinkes) to search out the originall course of this evill; for, the same beinge dicovered, a redresse thereof wilbe the more easily provided: for I thinke it were strange, that the English being soe many, and the Irish soe fewe, as they then were left, the fewer should drawe the more unto their use.

            So to sum up: the Ulster Plantation may serve as a microcosm for Irish-English relations, but the history is not as clearly “a concerted effort to bring in foreigners will wipe out your native culture” as the case he is trying to make re: America and immigration, and by taking it in isolation he is not helping his case because it rose out of, and flowed into, previous and continuing policy. Also, it was a considered and deliberate attempt to introduce and replace what was considered a superior and more advanced culture and civilisation; I don’t think American immigration policy, even by open borders enthusiasts, has at all the same kind of deliberation or foundational impulse (it is rather ‘diversity for the sake of diversity’, not ‘replacing one monoculture with another’).

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you!

            (that’s another thing, he’s being contradictory: so the English and Scots culture replacing the Irish one was bad, but the transplanted English-Scottish culture in America is good?)

            I don’t think he’s saying that at all. The impression I got was that he thinks both are bad; indeed, his post is mostly about how they’re the same thing – and irreversible without some truly major upsets, anyhow.

          • onyomi says:

            Regarding concerted attempts to wipe out a culture by bringing in a ton of immigrants from a supposedly more advanced culture: one doesn’t need to look to shadowy agendas or the Jacobean era; China’s doing it pretty explicitly to Tibet and Xinjiang right now.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yeah, but contemporary examples tend to bring along contemporary knee-jerk opinions and function a little worse for proof-of-concept.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Historical examples aren’t that hard to find, anyway. England itself is an example of this happening on accident, as the replacing of the Anglo-Saxon nobility with Normans ended up in such a thing halfway happening, also. More pointedly, the Spanish did this in the reconquista: the rulers of its various kingdoms systematically disciminated against Muslims and even arabised Christians when handing out freshly-conquered land. The Greeks tried doing this in the wake of Alexander’s conquests, but both a lack of time and colonists to really inhabit so many lands meant the imported Greeks have ended up assimilating into the local culture, rather than vice versa.

            (Note: I’m not making value judgements here, don’t pile on me for using the word discrimination. These people are all long dead. Nobody cares anymore.)

  38. mobile says:

    Is it OK to observe Shabbat two days in a row when in Oceania just to be safe? Or is there an issue with observing Shabbat on the wrong day? More importantly, is this going to get worked into Unsong?

    • Anonymous says:

      Is it OK to observe Shabbat two days in a row when in Oceania just to be safe?

      That’s sounds decidedly like the orthodox thing to do. The whole set of rules to live by is basically an off-limits danger zone around God’s actual laws, so as not to accidentally step into transgression by dint of stepping too close to the line.

  39. Space Viking says:

    That error made by the Future of Life Institute is troubling not so much for the bad science but for the bad science with a leftist bias.

    To any x-risk people reading this: please, please do not allow your field to become politicized. Your work is too important, and you’ve seen what happened to climate science. If you become associated with leftism, half the population will automatically oppose you.

    Obviously, the same is true if you’re associated with rightism, so stay the hell out of politics as much as possible. If you care about politics more than you care about x-risk, then you’re in the wrong field.

    • Virbie says:

      I don’t think the problem is generally “people interested in issue X” deciding that they’re not political enough, it’s “people who are obsessed with political purity” deciding that it’s not okay that an apolitical space exists (since, to many people, an apolitical space = a space that doesn’t full-throatedly agree with their obviously-correct politics = a hive of scum and villainy).

      It’s happened time and time again.

  40. Tibor says:

    About the guy who saved the Syrian refugees – I wonder whether this is a good idea. 200 people for 1 500 000 CAD means 7 500 CAD for each person. That is significantly more than the estimated amount of money needed to save a life with charities promoted by GiveWell (plus staying in Syria does not actually mean death).

    Also, this might be a logistical problem, but it also seems to me that building refugee camps in neighbouring countries and subsidizing it seems like a more effective way to protect people from war than having them come to yours (probably richer and more expensive) and subsidizing their life there (a whole different scenario is when the people come and can find a job and support themselves – but I think this kind of immigration should always be legal with no restrictions, working visas, etc.). This is my main beef with EU refugee policy, as far as there is one (that and the fact that it destabilizes the EU countries politically).

    Slightly related – I know a girl from Syria who studies in Germany and at least based on her Facebook (I have not actually talked about this with her), she and her friends are very much in support of Assad’s regime and against both IS and the (in her words) “Turkish-lira backed rebels”. AFAIK she is not connected to the regime herself, she seems to prefer a relatively predictable dictator (and most importantly peace) to rebels, some (perhaps most) of whom are islamists of various degrees. Because of things like this I view the European and US media narrative of the “evil Assad supported by the dark lord Putin against heroic rebels fighting for freedom” really annoying and possibly very harmful (since it influences the politics of countries as well as expectations of the various groups which are actually fighting in the Syrian conflict). This is a complicated war which gets reduced into good vs. evil (instead of pretty much “perhaps bigger evil vs. maybe smaller evil”). Also, in these articles, Syria often seems strangely unimportant – it all becomes a “test for the western civilization” or “a mirror to our sense of morality” or whatever. It is treated an opportunity for Euroatlantic virtue signaling and whether it actually helps anyone or makes things worse for the people in Syria is secondary.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      Yeah. ‘Bad people are shooting at each other a lot, all of which is a mess where people are getting hurt’ doesn’t sell that well, though. Once the people being hurt are valiant fighters for truth, justice, and the American way, that’s when people read your stories.

      • Tibor says:

        The thing is, if your justification for state-run media (like the BBC) is information value above what sells then things like these make it look laughable (the BBC and others are just as bad as the private media in this). In a sense it might be worse, since at least the BBC still has this aura of “trustworthiness” around it.

        Of course, most of the so called “alternative media” are just as bad – they just flip the whole picture around – now Assad is this good secular guy trying to bring peace to a country ridden by sectarian madmen…never mind him being a brutal dictator who is willing to do pretty much anything to stay in power.

        Maybe Gary Johnson is the wisest of the Greeks when he says “what’s Alleppo?” for perhaps he alone of all the Greeks knows he knows nothing about it 🙂

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          State media often aren’t even really state media. They still rely on viewers, since that’s how the state then decides who gets how much funding; the result is a flawed imitation of what commercial media might look like, though I’m not convinced commercial stations do a better job.

          Really, though, what can we expect? How big is the market for completely unbiased news really? And aside from that, how big is the pool of completely unbiased journalists? By Moloch’s decree, I think both are going to work against us forever.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            let me counter with my personal position, namely the death of subscriptions

            to put it simply, I like things that are biased in favor of me, to read. I think everyone does. It’s…not worth paying for, though. Worth clicking or viewing, but not paying for.

            Because everyone’s on a click / view model instead of a subscription model, they don’t need to cultivate a reader base. Instead, just piss people off and spew partisanship, and you can keep on keeping on.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Interesting comments Tibor. So much has happened in Syria in the last few years that I have forgotten what were all the terrible things Assad did that resulted in much of the liberal establishment to call for his immediate dismissal. By liberal establishment I don’t mean left vs right but first world vs more repressed countries.

      And I think I am far from alone. I think it is getting to the point that most people would rather see the stable and brutal dictatorship of Assad rather than the constant killing there. Also because all the possible alternatives to Assad appear to be at least as brutal as he is. So maybe it isn’t that people were wrong about wanting Assad to be gone, but subsequent events have shown us all the worse possibilities.

      It would be nice to get a peaceful democracy in Syria, but that isn’t one of the choices. It appears to me that the best choice is to support Assad at this point, while encouraging him to be less brutal, and hope for a transition to a more democratic regime in a few decades.

      • Tibor says:

        I think there are two ways to democracy. One is the “French way”, which involves a violent revolt, another is the “British way” which is gradual loosening of the monarch’s power (monarchies are just a kind hereditary dictatorships), eventually confining the monarch to a ceremonial role.

        The French way is quicker but way more risky. It works if the anti-monarchists are a more or less ideologically homogeneous group and if they also represent a really big part of the society. Even then, it can end up pretty bloody and just pave a way for another dictator just as it did in France. And Syrian anti-Assad opposition is a complicated web of various groups which partly hate each other as much as they hate Assad. I’m not even sure that the people who desire some kind of a secular representative democracy or something of that kind have any non-negligible military power. Most of the non-IS rebels seem to be just less radical islamists.

        The British way is slower but much more stable. It might take a different turn and end up resembling Singapore more than European democracies, but that seems to be a possibly well-functioning system too. It might not be as democratic but I think it is a mistake to value democracy as an end in itself, rather than one of the relatively better means to other ends (freedom and prosperity).

        I think that non-interventionism is the best thing one can do. A well done interventionism can sometimes do good (South Koreans are probably very grateful for the US military involvement), but more often leads to making things much worse, especially if the situation is very complicated and there are many actors (Assad’s government, the IS, the Kurds, other rebel groups, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Russia) already involved. I remember John McCain calling for shipping weapons to the rebels at the beginning of the civil war, when the IS was not yet distinct from the other groups. In retrospect, that would have been a(n even bigger) disaster – arming the IS by US weapons (although not the first time the US did something like this, Taliban was a US ally against the Soviets until it wasn’t). Now the US is training and equipping other rebel groups there but it is not clear who those people really are. They might as well be supporting their next enemy again.

        • Stefan Drinic says:

          The French and the British ways of achieving democracy are largely superficial when the One True Way of achieving it has long been very clear: have a middle class.

          We will note that, back in 2011, it was because of some happy go-lucky middle class sorts that some in the West thought the Middle East might be looking up.. After which it turns out such people were a tiny minority, all of whom have now been silenced, radicalised, or expulsed. The pattern holds up in all other places where democracy has been either created, succesful, or failed also: Athenian democracy came and went with a middle class existing, the Roman republic faded along with its middle class, what democratic republics Italy retained were concentrated around cities with urban middle classes. Later on, we have the Dutch republic, the USA, and later most of Western Europe join in. Where a middle class is weaker, it takes longer: Spain, Portugal and Greece took some time to turn out as they have. Where a middle class feels threatened or impoverished, you get fascism.

          Assuming all of this is true, then, the reason why spreading democracy is hard is modernity: nobody wants to be a middle class citizen in Iraq or Syria. It’s a problem in Eastern Europe also, or even just the Old South in the US. A combination of technology and opportunity makes it far too attractive for people with the skill to live decently well to migrate for them to build up proper nations at home. Given coordination problems, I’m not even sure what could be done about this, either. It really does seem to me that those places which didn’t in time develop a good society are going to have to lose out for now.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            A couple of lovely quotes in those two posts:

            It might not be as democratic but I think it is a mistake to value democracy as an end in itself, rather than one of the relatively better means to other ends (freedom and prosperity).

            The French and the British ways of achieving democracy are largely superficial when the One True Way of achieving it has long been very clear: have a middle class.

            But Stefan, please explain that last paragraph. Nobody wants to be a middle class citizen in Iraq, Syria, Eastern Europe, USA old South? I think it is your point that those who have the opportunity to be middle class would rather be middle class somewhere else? I am not sure how true this is. Tibor, could you comment as far as Eastern Europe? As an American, I don’t think this is true for the Old South, since the South is growing faster than other areas in the USA. Perhaps it is true in Iraq and Syria, just because it is so dangerous in those countries, everyone with the means might want to leave. Democracy very rarely grows where violence is endemic.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I think it is your point that those who have the opportunity to be middle class would rather be middle class somewhere else?

            Correct.

            The Old South isn’t quite as affected by this as the other places I mention are, but it’s still an example.

            Eastern Europe, though? Absolutely. There are multiple countries where the amount of citizens living abroad is in the double digits; Moldavia and the various ex-Yugoslavian republics have the excuse of conflict contributing to this, but that still leaves the Baltics, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria with their respective citizenries just having taken off en masse.

            Violence isn’t even really a problem; it was endemic in every single premodern state, ever, and many of the democracies I mentioned in my post formed all the same. Likewise, the lack of violence in Eastern Europe seems to do its democracies little good. It alone seems a poor predictor for the development of democracy, and so I’d argue you need something more.

          • Tibor says:

            @Stefan: India is a democratic country, although it seems quite absent of a strong middle class. There is a rigid caste system still more or less in place there and people are either poor or rich, so India seems to be a data-point against your statement. I don’t know how functional Indian democracy is (in terms of functioning like a democracy, not in terms of bringing prosperity but that was not the issue), but it seems to work better than in Ukraine. Poland also seems to be getting somewhere strange now, I though the media bashing of PiS was mostly exaggerated but I am less sure of it now. Even if many Poles leave, it still seems to me that Poland has more of a middle class than India.

            One country with a very high emigration rate seems to be Estonia. Yet at the same time, together with the Czech, their economy is the fastest growing of all post-communist countries and their government seems to be very democratic and also reformist – cutting state expenses and taxes, introducing things like e-citizenship (which reduces the need for so many bureaucrats). Either it is not the middle classes which emigrate or they do but not enough to eliminate the middle class entirely, or your assumption is false (or at least not the full story).

            Actually, what looks like a good model to me for how well a democracy works is simply the democratic tradition of the country. Czechoslovakia was the only real democracy in Central Europe before WW2 and had a democratic tradition even in the Austrian empire. The 7 ears of a Nazi regime followed by 40 years of a communist one diminished that but did not manage to erase it entirely. Of course, dramatic geopolitical events can break this. It is unlikely that the communists would have taken over had it not been for WW2.

            @Mark: Well, I don’t really know that much (aside from what I already told Stefan), I’ve never been to Poland, only once in Romania but that was on a hiking trip and I haven’t been to any cities there. Insofar as the Czech republic is considered Eastern Europe (personally I don’t like that categorization, but it is definitely a post-communist country, so let’s do that for the moment), it does not follow that emigration pattern which you can see in Poland, Baltic countries or Romania – there are not many Czechs living abroad and most of those who are emigrated during communism (mostly in two waves – in 1948ish when the communists organized a coup and in 1969 after the Red Army invaded Czechoslovakia to stop the Prague Spring but it was still relatively easy to leave the country compared to the 50s and the 70s-80s).

            In fact, even people from regions with high unemployment (the nationwide unemployment rate is slightly below 5% but in some regions it is as high as 11%) are often unwilling to move for work. We have currently 400 000 unemployed (in a country of 10.5 million) but also 150 000 unoccupied jobs. But most of those jobs are in Prague and other big cities and many people are unwilling to move even about 100-200km for work (of course, not everyone is qualified for every job, so there will always be a mismatch, but I’d say that this one is quite hight to be caused just by this).

            Prague has a population of 1.2 million which is slightly more than 10% of the whole country. Economically, Prague is comparable to Bavaria (the richest part of Germany) outside of München, whereas the rest of the country is much poorer (apart from bigger cities), kind of like rural Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (the poorest Bundesland). What I’m getting at is that when Czechs from small towns want higher living standards, they usually do not emigrate to another country, they move to Prague or they stay at home because they just don’t want to move anywhere. Also, since over 50% of the country’s borders are with Germany and Austria, some people from close to the border also work in Bavaria or Austria over the week and come home every weekend. These are usually manual workers.

            The country has I think the 3rd lowest income inequality in the world (Slovenia, Denmark and Norway are lower I think) and in terms of per capita local purchasing power it is currently above Portugal and slightly under Spain, so there is a wide middle class (big differences are mostly between cities and small towns or villages). Politically, the biggest threat to stability is the current finance minister, who is sort of a Czech Berlusconi (well, he’s actually originally from Slovakia, but anyway), except that he does not have sex with underage girls. He owns a couple of companies from the food-processing and chemical industry as well quite a few media (which is why I likened him to Berlusconi) and runs a vaguely centre-right party which is currently in a coalition government with the social democrats. I really dislike some policies they introduced (such as the fact that all purchases in restaurants, pubs and shops now have to be immediately reported to a central electronic database, reportedly to prevent tax fraud). Still, it still seems quite far from Orbán’s Hungary or the Polish PiS which really seems to be openly anti-democratic now. If he keeps gaining support, I will be more worried. I am mostly worried about him owning several media outlets. Although he is not openly anti-immigration like Orbán, I think that he is giving the people a feeling of security that the Czechs won’t introduce the sort of refugee policies of Germany and so he is unfortunately scoring a lot of points there (even though I don’t believe that the opposition or the Social democrats would follow Merkel’s policies otherwise). Fortunately, the parliament has introduced a law which should prevent government members in the future to own any media or be eligible for any corporate welfare (in case they own companies). The president (who is in many respects the finance minister’s political ally) vetoed it, saying that it is a law designed to punish a particular person end hence “undemocratic”, but it looks they will override the veto, so that might limit this guy’s power in the future.

          • Tibor says:

            More generally, I think that one mistake to avoid is to lump all post-communist Europe together in an analysis. Nor for nationalist or aesthetic reasons but simply because those countries are simply too different, culturally, historically and even economically (both in the past and today). Apart from speaking a language from the same language group, Czechs about as little to do with Russia as Germans do. One would usually not do the same lumping with say Ireland and Italy or Austria and Iceland. That is not to say that 40 (or more in some countries) years of communism had no effect on the culture. In fact, I think that the cultural damage of communism was at least as bad as the economic one (I think both will take about 2-3 generations to mend completely in the Czech republic, assuming “business as usual”) and this is shared by all post-communist countries. But this is pretty much all that many of them have in common. One should then be careful about sweeping conclusions. There was this article I read the other day which compared post-communist Europe by democracy and economic prosperity. The most democratic countries were also the richest. But one cannot conclude much based on that, since they did not really have an equal start in 1989. Even though 40 years of communism decreased the welfare of Czechoslovakia considerably (by going from something like 7th in the world to something like 60th economically), it still stayed richer than Russia or Romania or even Poland and Hungary. Similarly, Slovenia was already the richest part of Yugoslavia before the war (in which it managed to split off after only a few weeks of fighting, incurring little costs to Slovenia). And as I mentioned above, those post-communist countries where democracy worked the best also had some sort of democratic tradition to build upon.

            By the way, the only Czech interaction with Russia prior to communism came from the national revival movements which tried preserve Czech as a live language (most Czechs, at least most Czechs in cities, spoke German by then) and promotion of Panslavism by some intellectuals. However, they really knew nothing about Russia (I can’t help to see a parallel with the communist intellectuals of the early 20th century in Europe and the US and their uncritical admiration of the Soviet Union) and painted an extremely idealized picture of it. In it, Russia was an egalitarian and largely democratic and free society – they argued that this was a general “Slavic nature”, but unfortunately the authoritarian “Germans” are suppressing that in the Austrian Empire. If anything was bad in Russia, it was due to “corrupting” French or German influences on the Russian elites. One famous nationalist intellectual from the 19th century, Karel Borovský, who had also shared that mindset, wrote about his visit to Russia where he sobered up pretty quickly. He loathed the way the nobility treats the commoners (he worked in a minor noble’s family as a teacher and was shocked that the children of his employer were rude to and even routinely beat up the serving staff…Borovský punished the children when they did that, which was met with a lot of disapproval on the parents’ side and eventually he was fired) and described the Russians as superficial, obsessed about status and in the case of the lower classes easily manipulated and superstitious. He then warned against getting too friendly with Russia and ended up writing that “The Russian calls everything Russian Slavic so that he can then call everything Slavic Russian”.

          • Tibor says:

            @Stefan: I disagree that violence is not a problem. External violence might not be, but internal definitely is. If you feel insecure, you will more likely prefer a strongman who promises to deal with the problems. You see that in Europe now. Many people feel insecure about refugee immigration and terrorism. The political parties who are very vocal about dealing with that are gaining support in pretty much all countries in Europe – in particular in those where there are many refugees or already a lot of problems with assimilating previous immigrants (France). Now, those parties might actually say some things that are fairly reasonable but they usually take it much further and also tend to be authoritarian in other respects. It might be that many of their voters actually disagree with them on many things but see them as the only alternative to the mainstream parties who refuse to change the refugee politics but the effect is that authoritarian political ideas also gain power. Actually, this is mostly a case of Germany now – most other countries seem to have started adopting more restrictive refugee policies, but in some places it might still be too late or not enough (and hence the people mistrust them) and parties like FPÖ in Austria or PVV (Geert Wilders) in the Netherlands are likely to win the next parliamentary elections.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            India, together with Indonesia, is something of a strange case: it would be more accurate to say that it lacks a strong upper class more than it has a strong middle class. As colonies, both were fortunate enough to have the British/Dutch involve many natives in local government, which was a marked difference from the way colonies under French or Portuguese rule were ran. Being a middle class Indian has a lot lower bar than it does in the West, yes, but it is still strong relative to a ruling class that wasn’t yet there.

            Agreed, though, that Eastern Europe is too broad a category; I was generalising too much. I’m not sure about Estonia, but your own country at least doesn’t have that many migrants, Tibor. Disagree that some generic kind of preexisting democratic tradition: it doesn’t simply come into being from nothing!

          • Tibor says:

            @Stefan: True, it doesn’t come from nothing. I guess that having a strong middle class is a condition favourable to forming a democracy. Apart from India I cannot think of an actually democratic regime which would not have a reasonably strong middle class. I think you’re still wrong with the violence being unimportant, or rather security. Essentially, having a well-functioning economy (not one based on state-owned natural resources) which helps with establishing a middle class and a physically safe country seems like favourable conditions for forming democracy. If that is correct, then one should focus on promoting material welfare in non-democratic countries and expect democracy to come on its own. This was generally Milton Friedman’s view, if I got it right. It seems to have worked fairly well with Chile, we’ll see if it does in China also. I think it is true, by and large. It is hard to control well-off people whose welfare is largely independent of the state. This is why I think that US policy towards Cuba was a disaster and I think that Obama’s decision to abandon that policy was probably the best thing he did in office (at least in terms of foreign policy, I don’t know much about domestic US stuff). Similarly, I think that the EU economic sanctions against Russia are harmful for the same reason.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I mean, we don’t even disagree anymore, I think.

            Violence and security are a problem now. Nowadays, if your country is going to shit because of corruption/warfare/oppression, there’s a dozen places you can take your skills to and make a good living. Yugoslavia might have looked as well as your country does nowadays, Tibor, and Slovenia pretty much does, but its civil war drove out its middle class en masse.

            In the past, though? No such thing. Athens’ middle class couldn’t simply jump ship and move elsewhere just because times got hard. Rome’s couldn’t, the US’ couldn’t, the Dutch republic couldn’t, and they were highly insecure, warlike, violent nations all. I’m not completely right about this, mind you; the Sephardim leaving Spain behind, or the Huguenots fleeing France, would be examples of premodern middle-class sorts fleeing their lands. Still, I would argue that today the bar is much lower than it once was, and once your middle class poofs, you’re liable to get into a vicious circle only ever driving away more people.

            So.. Yeah. Seeing prosperity come to the third world would be nice, I guess. I don’t think it’ll happen, but it’d be neat.

        • Tibor says:

          Correction: Looks like I was wrong in my claim that the US provided weapons to the IS. It seems that the US government has learned the lesson of Afghanistan (however unlikely it sounds) and introduced much stricter requirements for providing military equipment to the rebels. At least that is what this book says (I have not read it but a friend of mine has and cited the relevant passages).

          I remember that John McCain advocated helping the rebels militarily (either by providing weapons or even direct US military support, I thought the first actually happened, but it looks like it didn’t). I don’t know who opposed those plans but those people definitely did a good job. On the other hand it is still pretty far from the ideal which is IMO no intervention at all, even at a cost of Putin having his way in Syria. Or perhaps an intervention aimed at local powers – making sure they don’t interfere in the conflict, come what may (and only providing humanitarian support to the civilians). But that is very hard when one of the powers is Russia, so one has to reach an agreement with them first if one hopes to accomplish something like that.

      • Viliam says:

        It appears to me that the best choice is to support Assad at this point, while encouraging him to be less brutal, and hope for a transition to a more democratic regime in a few decades.

        I am afraid that with Russians in your background, even this is not an option. 🙁

        The historical example could be Czechoslovakia 1968 with the explicit goal of a transition towards a more democratic regime; it was called “socialism with a human face”. That was enough for Russia (technically, Soviet Union) to come with their tanks.

        I want to emphasise this. It’s not about membership in NATO, western liberal democracy, or anything going that far. Just trying to be a good ally but a bit more humane is enough to get Russia triggered… and the next step is their tanks in your cities, reverting any improvement you achieved and moving you a few decades backwards.

        (My hypothesis is that Russia simply cannot afford to have people in their near countries live a good life, because the obvious next question for Russian citizens would be “why can’t we also have the same good things?” And it is easier to ruin the other country than to improve the living standards of their own citizens.)

        • rlms says:

          I think I’m pretty anti-Russia for an SSC commenter (since I don’t want to sacrifice Estonia to our benevolent Russian overlords), but have you considered that the Soviet Union and the modern Russian Federation are different things? Like, more than technically. Possibly you should also consider the fact that Eastern European countries are no longer part of a Russian Empire.

          • Viliam says:

            Sure, the greatest difference is that the Russian Empire is smaller these days. (But keeps slowly growing again.)

        • My hypothesis is that Russia simply cannot afford to have people in their near countries live a good life, because the obvious next question for Russian citizens would be “why can’t we also have the same good things?”

          Wouldn’t Finland’s interaction with the Soviet Union be a counterexample?

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            There is a reason word “Finlandization” is a pejorative word.

            Of course, the life wasn’t as bad as in the countries directly under the control of the Soviet apparatus. On the other hand, the status Finland “enjoyed” with the Soviets was an incredibly corrupting relationship that made great damage to the democratic traditions and procedures in this country.

            We had a de-facto president-for-life, who was once nominated as a candidate for all parties, and another time when presidential elections were scheduled, he decided the elections were not needed at all, and thus amended constitution extending his term — all this while nominally retaining the democratic procedure. In the media, hijinks like that were mostly lauded as wise statesmanship!

            As an another example, no publisher dared to publish Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn. “Because the book was banned and they were scared of the secret police?” you might ask: no, it wasn’t formally banned nor there was KGB-like apparatus who would disappear the dissenters; publishing such a book just would have been terribly anti-Soviet, fascist, and in general not conductive for friendly relations, so such things were not done! And thus the Finnish translation was printed in Sweden. (An act which was greatly criticized in the newspapers.)

            Members of the elite would travel to East Germany to study and admire how wonderful society they had, while in the meantime the border guards were shooting people on the Berlin Wall, and no one would dare to acknowledge any problems with that; moreover, significant number of politicians simply could not see any problems with that! Famously, when the Soviet empire collapsed (to everyone’s surprise), and West Germany started tipping off the Finnish authorities about politicians listed as collaborators and informants in the Stasi archives they had got hold of, all such information was promptly declared secret and stored in the safe.

            The ability to leave good life next to the Soviet Union was contingent on everybody repeating aloud that it was good because of the Soviet Union in Orwellian fashion, and the free and democratic government of Finland would freely and democratically make every and all decisions Soviet would possibly demand, so that there was no need for occupation. In exchange, Finland was allowed to trade with the West.

        • My hypothesis is that Russia simply cannot afford to have people in their near countries live a good life, because the obvious next question for Russian citizens would be “why can’t we also have the same good things?”

          Wouldn’t Finland’s relation with the USSR be a counterexample?

        • Tibor says:

          Russians in 1968 were afraid that Czechoslovakia would go Yugoslavian way – ending the vassalage, so to speak. After Yugoslavia went its own way they wanted to make sure it does not happen again. Also, they were probably correct to assume that making the regime more benevolent (notably censorship was practically ended in 1968 for a few months) would lead it to become more capitalist and aligned with the west or “at best” becoming an officially neutral country like Austria (where the neutrality was pretty much the price for not becoming a Russian satellite – something that could have happened in the 1950s with a non-negligible probability).

          Also, ordinary Soviet citizens had little idea of what was going on in other countries. It was even harder for them to travel abroad than for the citizens of other communist countries and it was not entirely easy for those citizens to come to the Soviet union either (while their contact with locals was kept to a minimum). People from East Germany or Czechoslovakia still had a far higher standard of living than ordinary Soviet citizens and neither was supposed to know that. Soviet Union was supposed to be the progressive example for all, showing others the way to the future and if you see that others actually have higher living standards or that you have better living standards than them, it looks even more ridiculous. I heard stories of Red Army soldiers in WW2 who were amazed by running water in houses and who kept collecting watches of fallen German soldiers so that many of them would have several watches on their forearms at one time. And the soldiers who came in 1968 were not much different (also, at least in the beginning they rarely knew where they even were, as in which country, their high command did not bother telling them).

          However, Assad is unlikely to become Putin’s enemy or even stop being his ally. Putin probably does not care squat about the regime or ideology of Syria as long as it remains his ally.

          A more relevant example might be Ukraine. If Syria showed signs of wanting to become a western ally, one could expect something similar to the Ukrainian scenario. Of course, there are other players in that game, i.e. Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which might complicate things even further. One reason for Russian aggression is the (I believe mostly sincere) belief that Russia is under a constant threat from the foreigners. Ukraine moving westwards politically was seen as a big threat to Russian security – most Russians see NATO as their enemy and they might even believe NATO would attack them if they did not have nuclear weapons. Then having Ukraine possibly join NATO would be equivalent (from their view) to Soviet nuclear warheads on Cuba. From this perspective (I think it is largely false but Russians do seem to think this way), Russia is not doing anything else than what the US is doing in foreign policy (which I think is also mostly stupid and harmful but that is neither here nor there).

        • Matt M says:

          “My hypothesis is that Russia simply cannot afford to have people in their near countries live a good life, because the obvious next question for Russian citizens would be “why can’t we also have the same good things?””

          Not only is Syria not particularly near Russia, it seems VERY unlikely that anything we can do to Syria is going to raise its average standard of living even to the level of Russia, much less significantly above it such that Russian citizens become jealous of Syrians…

    • Virbie says:

      > it also seems to me that building refugee camps in neighbouring countries and subsidizing it seems like a more effective way to protect people from war than having them come to yours (probably richer and more expensive) and subsidizing their life there (a whole different scenario is when the people come and can find a job and support themselves – but I think this kind of immigration should always be legal with no restrictions, working visas, etc.).

      Did you read the article? The person behind the program mentions multiple times that he’s trying to choose people who can support themselves and their families, and has quotes like:

      He has a clear definition of success for the program: 50 families who work, pay taxes, buy their own groceries and speak English. “We’re not encouraging them to be dependent on us,” he told me. “You’re not doing anyone any favours if you just hand them cheques.”

      I know you handwave this away with “well that should be legal for all regardless”, but given that we’re not living in the alternate universe in which that’s true, it’s pretty irrelevant as far as this guy’s actions go (unless you think he’d have more luck using those $1.5M lobbying to change the law: I sincerely doubt that’s the case).

      • Tibor says:

        I haven’t and apparently should have. I thought this guy was doing more or less what the German government is doing and that seems like wasting money to me. This is different. Now, from a point of view of maximum life saved for your buck it still is not quite the most efficient thing to do but the idea seems to be right.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The Canadian way of handling refugees is very different, because our geographic situation is completely different. Canada has oceans on two sides, the arctic on another, and the fourth has the US’ northern border. Canada can thus pick and choose immigrants and refugees in a way that Europe, and even the US when one considers the southern border and Cuba, cannot. Most illegal immigrants in Canada are people who got in on a visa of some sort and then didn’t leave once it was up.

          The Canadian approach to refugees can thus be a lot more selective, do a lot more vetting (not just security but also “will they be economically self-sufficient” like this guy is doing), and focus a lot more on bringing over families. Both qualitatively and quantitatively, we face a much easier situation than most European countries do. The same is true of the US regarding refugees from the current conflicts in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

          Frankly, Canada and the US can (and, I think, should) be doing more, whereas I do not think Europe can take the strain, and we are far, far better at integrating immigrants.

          • Tibor says:

            I think you are better at integrating immigrants, mostly because you are not nation states in the sense European countries are. Your nationhoods are based on an idea, ours are based on a common culture or ethnicity (the latter is not as important now as it used to be before WW2).

            I think there is a difference between Latin American immigrants in the US, even illegal ones, and refugees in Europe. The first group is either there legally or by the virtue of their illegality cannot get any welfare. Therefore they are no cost to the tax payers (unless they’re criminals and once they catch those, they probably deport them) and possibly a benefit (if they work).

            The refugees are partly war refugees (about 60% of them come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) and partly economic immigrants like those from Latin America, who are however provided with a refugee status nonetheless. This costs tax payers a lot of money (about 1000 Euro a person a month in Germany). Also, perspectives of many of them of getting a job are fairly low, since they often have very low education, some cannot even read in their own language. About two thirds are young men, which brings about another set of problems (particularly as European women don’t tend to be attracted to uneducated unemployed men from an extremely partiarchic culture). And while a terrorist attack is not likely to kill you, the terror it produces does have significant consequences – namely political destabilization and calls for more surveillance and restrictions of freedom. I haven’t heard of Latin American terrorists killings in the US (I’m not trying to say that all Muslims are terrorists or supporting terrorists or any such nonsense…but it only takes a few terrorist attacks to have political ramifications and for that you only need a few terrorists).

            You even have people come from places like Albania, they usually have their asylum request refused (although this is grossly inefficient in Germany and takes several months to decide, during which these people still receive welfare payments). Part of them come because they are unemployed in Albania and living off a few hundred Euros a month in Germany for a few months is still a better deal for them than staying at home. Part of them want to get a job in Germany but they would not get a working visa, so they try this as a workaround. This is particularly stupid since now you pay for people (even though temporarily) who could actually work and make themselves and you better off.

            Since I don’t see having people in our country illegally as a problem per se – those people do not get any welfare payments – it is really not that difficult for European countries to pick and choose who gets asylum and who doesn’t. They could set up asylum centres in northern Africa and eastern Turkey and only grant asylums to people from those regions who come in through these centres. That way, nobody makes a perilous journey to Europe to get asylum only to be rejected and so you can reject asylum requests with good conscience – there is no problem of getting back home. Also, for those who do get asylum, you can provide a safe transport, unlike today where getting to Europe is an expensive gamble (expensive since the smugglers usually charge something around 1000-2000 USD and gamble because they provide horribly unsafe boats and many people drown in the Mediterranean). Instead we get a strange refugee-exchange deal with a Turkish version of Putin which nobody seems to respect anyway, especially not Erdogan, and a fence in the Balkans which works but which is probably not a good long-term solution (you cannot possibly put fences all along the Mediterranean coastline and have enough men to guard them all).

          • Matt M says:

            “Therefore they are no cost to the tax payers”

            Whether this is factually accurate or not, a large portion of the population believes it’s false – and legitimately thinks that illegal aliens frequently collect tax-funded benefits ranging from welfare, medical treatment, public schools (this one IS accurate at least I’m pretty sure), etc.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @dndnrsn. I agree with you whole-heartedly. I wish the US would take in a bunch more refugees to take some of the pressure off of Europe. The current anti-immigrant narrative in the US is kind of ridiculous since that is what this country has been about since the first Europeans came here 4-500 years ago. I think the same is true with Canada. But I have haven’t heard of the same anti-immigrant narrative going on in Canada, although it is true that little news leaks over the border. Even though I live closer to parts of Canada than I do to much of the US, I know a lot more of what’s happening in far away Florida and California than I do in Manitoba and Ontario.

            @Tibor. I have often been curious about this idea of nations being ethnic tribes writ large in Europe ( I think that is what you saying). And yet historically, over the last thousand or two years, I thought that the ethnicities of Europeans have been thoroughly mixed up by constant movements of populations, although perhaps more by invasions than peaceful migration. Or have I been too influenced by the fact that wars are what historians most like to talk about, and so they over-state their influence.

            I’ve had the impression that in Europe has more problems with immigrants than the US because they don’t let immigrants become part of the country. Yes, The US and Canada definitely do not consider themselves to be defined by ethnicity, and so it is easier for us. But I do think in the long run, Europeans will need to think of themselves less as ethnic enclaves also, because the rest of the world WILL be pounding on the door even more as time goes on. And your front steps are closer to the third world than ours are. I don’t think even Mexico is really third world anymore. I think it won’t be long before refugees from Africa become a much bigger force than they are today.

            I like the melting pot metaphor we use in the US, where immigrants come in and become Americans, or at least their kids do. The US changes too, as these immigrants also change the US even as they become assimilated. Admittedly, perhaps the difficulties of this constant assimilation is part of the reason for the higher level of violence in the US, but I don’t think so. Canada has less of a melting pot methodology, as there are many more ethnic enclaves that remain there. But I think even in Canada, immigrants are expected to become Canadian citizens, even if they remain with their ethnic compatriots. But it is my understanding that at least in France and Germany, these refugees do not become citizens, because they aren’t allowed to. Or maybe I am just generalizing from what I’ve heard about Turkish guest workers in Germany? I admit I don’t have a lot of knowledge here; so I could be completely off.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Your impression is wrong, Mark. European nations do not have the US’ version of jus soli, if we even have it at all: your kids aren’t suddenly Swedes or Dutchmen just because their parents were squatting on your land when the kids were born. Legal immigrants however end up with their children being granted citizenship just fine.

            Ethnicities did end up pretty mixed up, yes, and most of modern Europeans’ identities are the result of nineteenth-century nation building. Despite that though, I don’t think the difference with the US is that large: immigrants who adapt into local culture and don’t raise a fuss are generally well-received. The Indonesians and Chinese in my own country are completely uncontroversial, and anti-immigration rhetoric just ignores them. It seems to be groups who are seen as a threat that get the most attention, be they islamic immigrants, people from the Dutch antilles who some argue shouldn’t come over here, or even people from Eastern Europe, which much of Brexit was about.

            (Again, trying to abstain from value judgements. Be nice.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            Since I don’t see having people in our country illegally as a problem per se – those people do not get any welfare payments

            Illegal people in The Netherlands can get an education for their children, necessary healthcare, food and shelter, etc. These all cost money.

            Illegal people are also disproportionally criminal, which has a cost too (damage cost and policing costs).

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            “Illegal people are also disproportionally criminal”
            Citation needed, if you mean that they are disproportionately criminal when controlling for wealth and/or education. If you don’t, then clarification why we shouldn’t deport poor/poorly educated natives in favour of rich/well-educated foreigners is needed.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            Well, they’re definitely committed at least one crime!

            If you don’t, then clarification why we shouldn’t deport poor/poorly educated natives in favour of rich/well-educated foreigners is needed.

            I think this is one of those issues that you either understand implicitly, or you don’t and no argument will convince you.

            To put it as simply as I can, natives, regardless of their poverty and education, are members of your society. Foreigners are not.

            Natives are entitled to stay where they are by dint of being there legally, short of committing crimes that get them sentenced to exile. Foreigners have no claim to enter and stay unless they are invited and permitted to stay. The bar is, and should be, much higher for the foreigners than the natives, regarding the right to residence.

          • Tibor says:

            @Mark: I think that is mistaken – getting citizenship in European countries is definitely harder than in the English speaking former British colonies, but it is not impossibly hard. Usually, it is required that you have lived in the country for at least something around 10 years, that you speak the local language and have some basic knowledge of its history. In Switzerland they’re a bit more demanding and the process is more complicated – your local community has to consider you Swiss enough and you cannot get federal citizenship without the approval of that community. You can be rejected Swiss citizenship for example for not having any Swiss friends or I remember a recent case in the news where some Arab girls’ request was rejected because they refused to participate in a swimming class with the rest of the pupils. But it is definitely not true that German Turks are denied citizenship. It used to be German policy that the Turks are just “Gastarbeiter”, i.e. guest workers who are supposed to return to Turkey. But that ended in the 80s when it turned out those people were not coming back.

            However, there is a distinction between citizenship and nationhood in Europe which does not seem to exist in the Americas or Australia. An ethnic Turk can be a German citizen, but many people won’t consider him a German the way he would be considered American in the US. Now about that ethnicity – as I said, it is less important than it used to be. I think that the Turk would be considered German by pretty much everyone if he chose a German sounding name and got culturally assimilated. But I think this is still more difficult in Europe than in the US.

            Even before WW2, ethnicity was not that important. It is definitely a very imprecise pictures to imagine countries in Europe as something like supersized tribes. That was the narrative of the 19th century nationalists pretty much everywhere in Europe, but their definition of ethnicity relied mostly on culture and language anyway (after all, they had no genetic testing back then), sometimes as in the Pangermanic or Panslavic movements, the criteria were extremely loose (I’d say even looser in the Panslavic case since the Pangermanic movement at least did not consider Icelanders or Norwegians basically German AFAIK). However, from a genetic standpoint, European populations are too mixed for ethnicity to be a practical criterion (aside from the fact that it is pretty stupid) anyway. Some are less than others, but particularly central Europe is genetically very mixed, not just due to wars (although there are even noticeable genetic traits shared with Swedes in the Czech population – a heritage of the 30 year war when the Swedes occupied Bohemia at one point) but also due to it being (except for Germany and Switzerland) a part of the Habsburg empire inside of which migration was pretty much free (especially after the abolition of serfdom by Josef II. in 1781) and there was a lot of “interbreeding”. It is funny for a Czech to visit Vienna and see the many Germanized Czech names on the doorbells. Similarly, many Czechs have German surnames, sometimes “Czechized”. In a sense, belonging to an “ethnicity” is and was a personal choice – Franz Kafka’s father was mainly Czech-speaking but Kafka mostly German-speaking for example, making him a bit more “German” than his father (of course, both were actually Jewish).

            There are some countries in which the supersized tribe description holds, especially Iceland where they even have an app to check how related you are to someone in case you want to have children together. But Iceland is an isolated island and so a big exception in Europe. You can of course still see some ethnic distinctions – Norwegians look very different from Sicilians for example and even on a more local scale – I can tell Czechs from Germans with an accuracy slightly better than chance (it is easier with northern Germans than with southern Germans), but it is definitely not clear-cut. But ethnicities form a continuum rather than discrete cells corresponding to countries and sometimes you have influences even from a far away country due to major European wars (like the Swedish example).

          • Tibor says:

            @Aapje: I’m not sure how illegal immigrants can get education or healthcare. Don’t Dutch schools require an ID when you register yourself or your kids? And don’t hospitals require an insurance card (and insurance companies an ID and possibly a job contract to issue you that card)?

            It seems to me like most government, or government-related services require you to show them an ID. If you are a foreigner I assume you have to show them your residence permit (or be a citizen of another EU country but then you can’t be an illegal immigrant).

          • Anonymous says:

            However, there is a distinction between citizenship and nationhood in Europe which does not seem to exist in the Americas or Australia. An ethnic Turk can be a German citizen, but many people won’t consider him a German the way he would be considered American in the US.

            There are some people who don’t consider American people who aren’t descendants of the Thirteen Colonies settlers. (Funnily enough, this includes the US blacks, given how many of them are descendants of some 17th century white guy.)

            Now about that ethnicity – as I said, it is less important than it used to be. I think that the Turk would be considered German by pretty much everyone if he chose a German sounding name and got culturally assimilated. But I think this is still more difficult in Europe than in the US.

            He’d only be able to truly assimilate if he actually looked German enough to pass casual inspection, I suspect. If he were some Eurasian descendant of a German soldier sent to Siberia, he might be cut some slack, but otherwise Germans wouldn’t consider him German, and he wouldn’t either.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            This report gives an estimated 10% ‘suspected of a crime’ rate for illegal residents vs 4% for legal asylum migrants. The report is in Dutch, though.

            I think it’s also common sense that people who can’t get welfare or a legal job, are more likely to become criminal.

            @Tibor

            The system is set up to ensure that illegally residing children do get an education and that crucial healthcare can be offered. This is similar to how physician-patient privilege ensures that criminals or victims who don’t want the criminal to get punished, can get healthcare without legal repercussions.

            In the case of education, the education ID number is different from the ‘social security number.’ The school asks all kinds of information from the illegal person/parent and reports this to the national administrative organization that handles education, which may not share this information with the police.

            In the case of healthcare, there is a system separate from healthcare insurance, for illegal residents or people in an asylum procedure. The healthcare provider can file a claim to the organisation* that also determines the ‘base insurance package’ that all insurance providers have to offer for everyone (they cannot turn anyone down for this).

            * Actually in English, for your convenience

          • Matt M says:

            “@Aapje: I’m not sure how illegal immigrants can get education or healthcare. Don’t Dutch schools require an ID when you register yourself or your kids? And don’t hospitals require an insurance card (and insurance companies an ID and possibly a job contract to issue you that card)?”

            Can’t speak for the Dutch, but in the US the education system is liberal enough that they simply don’t care if you’re an illegal immigrant, they will let your children come to the school and not report you to authorities. Speaking out against this practice makes one seem like a heartless jerk who wants innocent children to suffer for the crimes of their parents, so there is no particular drive to change it – even in red states.

            Hospitals are legally required to treat anyone who shows up and has need. They send the bill later of course, which illegal immigrants simply ignore and never pay, good luck collecting from someone who doesn’t officially even exist in your country. This is one of the reasons proponents of more government involvement in health care insist it will lower costs – the claim is that illegals basically “use the emergency room as their primary care provider” because they can’t be turned away, but it’s more expensive and drains resources away from true emergencies (and doesn’t allow them access to preventative medicine which theoretically is lower cost)

          • Tibor says:

            @Matt M: That is strange. And in fact something I never understood about the US – if there are so many illegal immigrants, the right thing to do seems to be either to get rid of them by deporting them or to make them legal (by making immigration easier). The laws are either stupid and so should be gotten rid of, or are sensible and then they should be followed. Presence of so many illegal immigrants in the US indicates that most people find them stupid or unjust and so they should probably be changed to more pro-free immigration.

            You could argue that since there’s a bunch of anti-immigration bigots who would not want more free immigration, or conversely, since there is a bunch of starry-eyed hippies who don’t want to get rid of all illegal aliens, the status quo is the best thing you can get. But if it is like this, then you should have a compromise (like deporting all illegal immigrants but making legal immigration easier).

            I’m also quite (although not entirely) sure that almost nobody (save for radical left) would see it as morally wrong to report illegal immigrants to the police in Europe.

          • Matt M says:

            “But if it is like this, then you should have a compromise (like deporting all illegal immigrants but making legal immigration easier).”

            No see, this IS the compromise. The right says “these illegals are moochers who deserve nothing!” and the left says “you heartless bastards, let’s give them a bunch of awesome free stuff” and the compromise is “fine, their kinds can go to school and we won’t have them bleeding out on the hospital steps, but that’s all they get!”

            The specific compromise you propose is favored in theory by both sides, but neither side trusts the other enough to do their part of it. So the left says “hey GOP make legal immigration easier now and we promise to deport all the illegals later” and the right says “deport all the illegals now and we’ll work on improving the process later” but both are almost certainly lying. But the government is constructed such that a minority party can block things from happening much more easily than it can cause new things to happen – so the status quo continues basically indefinitely.

            It’s also worth noting that framing the issue as “legal immigrants vs illegal immigrants” is largely missing the point. “Immigration” as an issue in the U.S. is largely tied to identity politics of hispanics and latinos (or at least, people try to sell it that way – even if opinion is more divided than they might suspect).

            “Illegal immigrants” as a group are almost exclusively hispanic in any large number. Deporting illegal immigrants would involve rounding up large numbers of one specific ethnicity of people and sending them away in huge groups.

            But “legal immigrants” are typically educated, high-skilled individuals of some sort of means and ability from all around the world. To the extent that you “make legal immigration easier” it would probably scale appropriately across race/nationality/ethnicity/religion whatever.

            It’s like eliminating sugar tariffs. Generally speaking most people agree that you probably should. But the group who would be harmed is incredibly vocal about it and has significant political influence – while the benefits would be widely dispersed to non-homogeneous groups across the world who have little influence in total (the notable exception being tech companies, who desperately want and lobby for more skilled immigrants to start displacing white-collar Americans in the same way that illegals can displace blue-collar construction workers).

            But consider the imagery. The news would be showing live pictures of a bunch of dirt-poor people who all look the same being rounded up and put into huge trucks and being ripped away from their lives. That’s much more emotionally powerful than say, a middle-class Indian IT professional whose life could be made 30% better by being allowed to immigrate to the U.S. being denied a Visa.

            “I’m also quite (although not entirely) sure that almost nobody (save for radical left) would see it as morally wrong to report illegal immigrants to the police in Europe.”

            The state of Arizona tried to pass a law mandating that police check for immigration status upon routine stops and interactions with the public. This was loudly denounced as irredeemably racist and evil and facing a huge PR backlash (including the typical “corporations threaten to boycott the state” stuff) they ended up backing away. Even if they had stuck to their guns, the supreme court almost certainly would have struck it down as a violation of civil rights.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @ Mark V Anderson

            I agree with you whole-heartedly. I wish the US would take in a bunch more refugees to take some of the pressure off of Europe. The current anti-immigrant narrative in the US is kind of ridiculous since that is what this country has been about since the first Europeans came here 4-500 years ago. I think the same is true with Canada. But I have haven’t heard of the same anti-immigrant narrative going on in Canada, although it is true that little news leaks over the border. Even though I live closer to parts of Canada than I do to much of the US, I know a lot more of what’s happening in far away Florida and California than I do in Manitoba and Ontario.

            I don’t know the degree to which “the US and Canada are nations of immigrants” is a new perception. I say perception, as opposed to fact – one could argue that, say, Canada has been a nation of immigrants for such-and-such a time, but until fairly recently, it was seen as a country not just only for white people, but only for Anglos.

            While I think it is positive that Canada and the US are, as far as things go, two of the best countries in the world at integrating immigrants (and I can’t think of many other countries that are) it isn’t due to any great virtue on the part of Canadians or Americans, but rather that the indigenous population of both countries was mostly wiped out by a combination of disease and violence. Somebody can come to the US and become an American in a way that they could not become whatever the local nationality is in much of the world (not just Europe).

            We have less anti-immigration rhetoric than the US. Part of this is that we are in a better position to pick and choose potential immigrants. American anti-immigrant sentiment seems mostly to originate in anti-illegal immigrant sentiment and spread outwards. We also have less anti-refugee sentiment than the US. I’m not sure why that is. Be assured we are patting ourselves on the back for all this – a smug sense of moral superiority over the US is a basic Canadian thing.

            There’s a single candidate running for the Conservative party leadership who’s playing up “Canadian values” and is striking right-wing populist poses but she doesn’t seem to be sparking much excitement (none of the Conservative hopefuls are). The Conservative party is better at attracting visible minority and immigrant voters than the Republican party is, by and large.

          • Matt M says:

            “We also have less anti-refugee sentiment than the US. I’m not sure why that is.”

            Whether it’s well founded or not, I think a lot of the anti-refugee sentiment in the U.S. comes from deeply held beliefs about the potential for terrorist activity. I would speculate that Canadians are slightly less paranoid about this as they aren’t as highly visible of a target for terrorist groups as Americans are.

            Refugees as a class are also easily lumped in with illegal immigrants in the sense of “here’s a bunch of non-productive people who we will have to support with our tax dollars who probably don’t even want to assimilate to our culture” so the built-in anti-illegal sentiment you already discussed is easily applied to them as well.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            I’m also quite (although not entirely) sure that almost nobody (save for radical left) would see it as morally wrong to report illegal immigrants to the police in Europe.

            In The Netherlands, there is some stigma to reporting specific people to the authorities to have them deported, given what happened 70 years ago.

            I get the impression that the main way that people get found is when they commit crimes or when illegal employers are reported.

          • Tibor says:

            Well, when I said making legal immigration easier, I essentially meant that you’d allow anyone in the country who can support himself. In schools, you check whether the parents if non-citizens pay taxes (i.e. have a job). If they do, you will treat them as citizens in terms of providing education to their children. If they don’t, you require them to pay in cash. With welfare benefits you do the same (although you probably already do that). This way, you can have Mexican manual workers as well as Indian programmers. The only people you keep out are those who can’t support themselves. You might do a security check-up on arrival, but that would be it, no need for a worker’s visa.

            If I understand it right, conservatives don’t want to pay the welfare of immigrants from their taxes. So you introduce measures to make this more difficult (you probably still don’t want to make them bleed out in front of a hospital, but if they can’t pay afterwards you deport them from the country). At the same time, liberals and libertarians want people to be allowed to freely come to the country (while libertarians also don’t want to pay their welfare from their taxes). This is again achieved by this.

            The solution to situations where you need to do two things at once is to tie them into one package law and pass it at the same time. Instead of treating the other party like an opposition, you put a law together which is passed by something like 75% of congress – which also ensures its stability. I suppose there is something in the political mechanism that prevents this. Perhaps this kind of free immigration without free stuff is really only appealing to libertarians.

          • Matt M says:

            “The only people you keep out are those who can’t support themselves.”

            This starts to get tricky though. Most illegal immigrants are viable to employ specifically because they work off the books for below minimum wage. Most of them speak no English, have no connections, likely have no reasonable “home,” etc. There’s almost no chance they’d be able to find on the books labor for $15 an hour. I’ve heard some speculation that because of this dynamic, even if amnesty was offered, a lot of them wouldn’t take it. They aren’t here because they eventually want to become U.S. citizens as a goal in and of itself – they’re here because they can make more money working here then they can at home (and most of the money they do make they send back home to support their families who stay behind).

            “The solution to situations where you need to do two things at once is to tie them into one package law and pass it at the same time.”

            No see, there is so little trust between the parties that even if you pass the laws together at the same time, people will start demanding practical answers. When are you literally going to build the wall and start the deportations? When are you literally going to start letting in anyone who wants to come legally and “can support themselves.” Nobody trusts the people in power to actually do these things, regardless of what laws Congress passes.

            “Perhaps this kind of free immigration without free stuff is really only appealing to libertarians.”

            Almost certainly yes. The left would denounce the lack of free stuff as inhuman – if we continue to give our own citizens free stuff and not immigrants, it would be decried as racist. The right will resent increased competition for labor (mostly blue collar but there’s some white collar elements who are onto this now too) and will suspect that the immigrants probably ARE collecting welfare even if the law says they can’t.

          • Brad says:

            But “legal immigrants” are typically educated, high-skilled individuals of some sort of means and ability from all around the world. To the extent that you “make legal immigration easier” it would probably scale appropriately across race/nationality/ethnicity/religion whatever.

            By far the largest category of legal immigrants every year are immediate relatives of US citizens (spouse, parent, unmarried child under age 21). They aren’t selected for their education or skills, except perhaps in a very indirect fashion.

            Employment based first and second priorities, which are those visas that select for the highly educated and/or skilled are together only account for only about 10% of the total — and that includes not only the principal applicants but also their derivative family members.

          • Matt M says:

            Fair point.

            But the “increase legal immigration” argument doesn’t really expand that pool of people, right. Relatives of current citizens are a fixed pool, unless the plan is to somehow expand who counts as a relative to include second cousins or whatever, but I highly doubt that’s the type of thing people have in mind.

            I suppose you could make it less costly and complicated for foreign spouses, relatives, etc. to actually get their citizenship (I’ve heard from friends that even if you do everything right it’s a long, nightmarish prospect full of fees and delays and constant interviews with bureaucrats treating you like a criminal trying to pull off some sort of massive fraud). But once again, I don’t think that’s what people are proposing here.

            Even if we don’t intentionally select for skill or education, I think it’s safe to say that any attempt to make it easier for people to immigrate legally will be appealing to a much more diverse and widely spread and less sympathetic group than the group of “current illegal aliens who get deported and are free to apply to come back legally if they want and can support themselves” would be.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Tibor, we did that whole compromise thing here. In 1986. Amnesty, increased scrutiny of employers, somewhat easier legal immigration.

            And here we are, back where we started, and we’ve been there for a long time. There isn’t a lot of trust left on which to base a compromise.

          • Tibor says:

            Most illegal immigrants are viable to employ specifically because they work off the books for below minimum wage.

            Well, I’d say “they you should also repeal minimum wage laws at the same time”. But now it’s really starting to sound like a libertarian proposal rather than a compromise between Democrats and Republicans.

          • If you don’t, then clarification why we shouldn’t deport poor/poorly

            educated natives in favour of rich/well-educated foreigners is needed.

            One point that I don’t think has been raised is the practical issue of line drawing.

            Suppose your objective is to reduce the number of people in your country with undesirable characteristic X (poor, criminal, …).

            One approach is to find some way of testing for X and expel everyone who tests high. This has some practical problems. If you test for poverty, you need some measure that is both reliable and hard to game. You will create an incentive for rent seeking activities, whether bribing the people doing the testing or pretending to be richer than you actually are by shuffling wealth back and forth among people as needed. And you will run into political problems, because low X and politically influential people may have high X friends, relatives, employees, tenants, … that they want to protect.

            The alternative is to find an easily identified population subgroup which is high X on average and expel them. That does a less precise job of achieving your objective than the first approach done perfectly, but it may be a lot easier to achieve. It should be particularly easy if the subgroup consists of potential immigrants who are not yet in your country.

            That seems to me a reasonable steelmanning of the argument for the position you are questioning.

          • Tibor says:

            @David: You’re right that if the assertion that illegal immigrants by and large cannot get a minimum-wage job, then it’s hard to argue for free immigration for such low-skill people on the grounds of welfare of your citizens. I wonder how much overlap there is between the people who are against free immigration and for minimum wage laws. Bernie Sanders seems to be one example, I’m not sure about average Trump’s supporters. How long has there been a minimum wage in the US by the way? For example, in Germany it was only introduced a year ago and there is quite a lot of opposition to it (mostly in the liberal FDP, but ironically also in Merkel’s CDU which proposed the minimum wage law as a concession to their social democratic coalition partner) and the Swiss keep rejecting minimum wage proposals by very wide margins (some 75% of the population is against it).

          • Matt M says:

            Support for the minimum wage in the US is almost certainly over 95%

            Only really hardcore libertarians oppose it openly and entirely – the conservative position is usually something like “let’s just keep it where it is rather than doubling it within five years”

        • Tibor says:

          @Aapje: It looks like the rules for uninsured aliens are the same as for non-EU tourists who come to the Netherlands without an insurance and cannot afford the medical costs. I guess this is the same arrangement in all countries. However, you would then expect that those people are deported from the Netherlands (and by extension the whole Schengen area) once they are provided with the necessary medical care. So essentially, they can get medical treatment only once. Assuming they know about that, they will probably be hesitant to take it, unless they are in a critical condition. It still does incur some costs, that’s true.

          As for the social security number – it seems like to get that in the first place, you still need to show them your ID and they won’t give it to you if you don’t have one. Even in Germany I did not get this number without showing them my work contract and my Czech ID. Maybe it’s different in the Netherlands.

          I would have enjoyed reading it in Dutch. I like to guess Dutch by combining my German and English vocabularies and using the “chhhh” sound a lot 😛

          • morgrimmoon says:

            A difficulty is figuring out where deport them to and how to go about doing it. Australia has many cases of people who have come here illegally claiming asylum, had their asylum claim rejected for a variety of reasons, and then when the government has gone the deport them their country of origin has said “nope, they don’t have documents to prove they’re who they say they are, we’re not taking them, finders keepers”. And it’s not like you can just fly them over and dump them, but keeping them imprisoned for the rest of their lives is extremely expensive. (Some people here have suggested shooting them. I sincerely hope they are being sarcastic.)

          • baconbacon says:

            (Some people here have suggested shooting them. I sincerely hope they are being sarcastic.)

            Best/Worst case scenario: Threaten to shoot them, then they apply for asylum on legitimate grounds somewhere else.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The argument in favour of letting illegal immigrants use medical services is that if they are leery of using medical services, it’s a public health issue. Having people who have an incentive to avoid medical care encourages the spread of disease, for one thing.

          • Aapje says:

            @Tibor

            The doctors do not report the illegal immigrant whom they help to the police (and may not do so), so this doesn’t happen. I presume that a tourist who refuses or is unable to pay for the treatment, violates the travel visa (which requires that he or she has the means to fund their stay). I know that they are much more strict for people from Africa about this than other Westerners and require proof that one has money and for someone to vouch for the person (who can be made to pay).

            As for the social security number – it seems like to get that in the first place

            As I said, the system is set up that this is not necessary to have for schooling of underage kids and healthcare.

            I like to guess Dutch by combining my German and English vocabularies and using the “chhhh” sound a lot ?

            The Germans messed up their language with a consonant shift, sadly enough.

            I actually found English much easier to learn than German. My theory is that German is too close to be clearly a separate system, but to distinct to be able to adapt Dutch a little to cope (many Dutch people like to ‘speak’ German by pronouncing Dutch with a German accent, but this doesn’t work very well).

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Wow this is one of the most fascinating threads I’ve seen on SSC. Didn’t this start with discussion about Syria?

            I was wanting to contribute to the discussion on how the US does things, but Matt M said almost everything I wanted to say, with the added benefit of a couple of others.

            But there are two things I wanted to add:
            1) Tibor said that pretty much all Europeans would turn in illegal immigrants, except perhaps the radical left. I don’t think that is true here in the US. I would never turn one in — they are just trying to make a living here; I can’t begrudge them that. Of course I am radical in some ways, even though not very left. But also there is a growing group of so-called “sanctuary cities,” where the cities have agreed that their law enforcement will not turn in illegal immigrants (or maybe just that they won’t ask about it, I am not sure of the details). This is mostly a movement of the left, but there are too many of them to be considered radical left.
            2) The main reason for anti immigrant attitudes in the US is because of the belief that they are taking jobs from Americans. There is some discussion on welfare, but I think that is a side issue, and I think it is probably true that immigrants in aggregate pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits. But it probably is also true that it is more difficult for low skill Americans to get jobs because of all the Mexicans around, and it may also be somewhat true for IT workers because of all the well educated Indian immigrants. But from my personal point of view, I still think these immigrants are just trying to do the right thing for themselves and their families, and are a net addition to the country. Maybe I would think differently if the immigrants took my job, but I don’t think so.

          • Tibor says:

            @Mark V Anderson: I’m not absolutely sure they would. I would not report an illegal immigrant on the grounds I explained above (illegal immigrants are not likely going to consume much welfare) unless I thought he was a security threat. But I’m not quite representative. It is also an issue on a much smaller scale than in the US – most immigration in Europe is legal and just coming to the EU and getting a working visa (as opposed to obtaining citizenship) might be easier for a citizen of a 3rd country than in the US. In any case, it is not a big issue, not even on the same scale as in the US. I’m pretty sure very few people would consider reporting illegal immigrants to the police as immoral though.

            What you mentioned is also why I think that the anti-immigration sentiments in Europe and in the US are fundamentally different and should not be mixed. In Europe the main issue is that people don’t want welfare immigration – people who come to the country and then collect welfare. They actually are against immigration because they fear the immigrants won’t get jobs. In the US it looks like the exact opposite. They are afraid that the immigrants will get a job – the one they had. The only thing which is similar is that both are also worried about increased criminality and in Europe also terrorism.

          • Aapje says:

            @Mark

            I think it is probably true that immigrants in aggregate pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

            I expect that this to be true for silicon valley immigrants and such, but not for asylum seekers and other groups that tend to earn little.

            You have to keep in mind that many benefits/services are shared (like roads) and not individual, where the level that you can support depends mostly on the average income of citizens. If you lower the average income, those services will suffer.

            @Tibor

            Another issue and one that may more specific to my country, is that I think that there are just too many people in my country. The roads & public transport are congested, there is a lack of houses in the places with jobs, etc.

            Of course, one could fix this by turning part of the country into a city-state, but this would fundamentally change the nature of the country.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            I mean.. How would you ever find out about an illegal immigrant, anyway?

            Most here live rather secluded lives, in trailers by agricultural jobs they work or in large cities. How would an average person find out about someone being illegal? Do I ask everyone with a funny accent to see their papers? I just don’t see it happening very easily. People dealing with illegal immigrants the most are law enforcement and employers, I think, not average citizens going about their lives.

            Also: really? The US has entire cities quite simply deciding not to enforce the law? How does that even work?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Stefan Drinic:
            Given a non-nationalized police force, very easily.

            If the US Congress passed a law banning the importation, sale or possession of Russian made balaclavas, how are the going to make the local police force find or confiscate them? The best they can do is incent them to do so by making money available if they agree to make it a priority.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Mm. That just seems like a most blatant violation of the rule of law. Does the US not have courts for in-government disputes?

          • But from my personal point of view, I still think these immigrants are just trying to do the right thing for themselves and their families

            This reminds me of something that was at one point the quote of the month on my web page:

            “I don’t like illegal immigration, but I’ll tell you something: I don’t run stop lights. But you put me out on the road at two o’clock in the morning on the way to the all-night drugstore to get medicine for my babies, and you give me a stop light that is stuck on red, and no traffic in sight, and I’m gonna go through that red light.”

            (Dick Armey, ex majority leader, currently head of Freedomworks, in defense of illegal immigrants.)

            You have to keep in mind that many benefits/services are shared (like roads) and not individual, where the level that you can support depends mostly on the average income of citizens.

            That argument depends on the funding being shared as well. In the U.S. highway costs are paid with gas taxes, so an extra driver increases both costs and revenue–whether one by more than the other I don’t know.

          • Does the US not have courts for in-government disputes?

            It does. But the U.S. is a federal system. States are not simply subdivisions of the national government, they are separate governments and the federal government has limited rights with regard to them. Cities and counties, on the other hand, are creations of their state governments.

            The federal government doesn’t have the legal power to order state or local law enforcement to enforce federal law. The obvious place where this is an issue is marijuana, which is illegal under federal law, legal for medical purposes and now, in some states, for recreational purposes, under state law. Federal law enforcement agencies can try to enforce the federal law but it is up to state and local authorities whether to help them do so.

            There is actually a constitutional issue referred to as “commandeering.” There is a limit to the degree to which the federal government is permitted to use its control over things like federal money going to the states for various purposes to force the state government to take actions that the federal government doesn’t have the legal right to directly force them to take.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            Okay, thank you.

          • Jiro says:

            “I don’t like illegal immigration, but I’ll tell you something: I don’t run stop lights. But you put me out on the road at two o’clock in the morning on the way to the all-night drugstore to get medicine for my babies, and you give me a stop light that is stuck on red, and no traffic in sight, and I’m gonna go through that red light.”

            That analogy sounds like it could mean two different things. Is it saying that we should take in illegal immi8grants that are more desperate than normal (and less harmful than normal)? Or is it just saying that we should take in all illegal immigrants, period, and that illegal immigrants typically come here because they are desperate?

            If it means the former, then fine, but you cannot then apply it to illegal immigrants in general. And if it means the latter, it’s just wrong, because it’s doing a motte and bailey between “accept unusually desperate illegals” and “accept all illegals”.

          • nyccine says:

            The federal government doesn’t have the legal power to order state or local law enforcement to enforce federal law.

            State governments also have no right to set immigration policy, but this point seems to be lost on those arguing against commandeering.

          • nyccine says:

            (Dick Armey, ex majority leader, currently head of Freedomworks, in defense of illegal immigrants.)

            Argument by assertion…isn’t. I might just as well suggest that my desperation in providing for my family justifies robbing you. I mean, if I’m desperate enough.

            The scenarios have no relation; protection of the citizens is the sole reason for the State’s existence, and cannot be set aside simply because you might gain benefit from screwing them over. Do open borders advocates want Reigns of Terror? Because having attitudes like this is how you get Reigns of Terror.

          • “That analogy sounds like it could mean two different things.”

            I don’t think Armey in that quote is proposing a policy. His point is that illegal immigrants are not bad people, that many of them are behaving in the same way he would and should behave in the same situation.

            He might still believe in keeping them out–there may be legitimate conflicts among people without any of them being wicked.

          • “State governments also have no right to set immigration policy”

            They have no right to set Federal drug policy either. In both cases they have the right to decide tp what what extent they will use their resources to enforce federal law.

          • Brad says:

            State governments also have no right to set immigration policy, but this point seems to be lost on those arguing against commandeering.

            No state government is trying to “set immigration policy”. They aren’t opening consulates and issuing visas or anything even vaguely similar. What they are doing is entirely in the nature of refusing to cooperate plus some jawboning. Both of which are entirely within their rights.

          • Jiro says:

            His point is that illegal immigrants are not bad people, that many of them are behaving in the same way he would and should behave in the same situation.

            The reason that he would and should behave that way is that in the situation described, running a stop light 1) is unusually harmless compared to most cases of running stop lights, and 2) provides unusual benefits compared to most cases of running stop lights.

            It is impossible for all, or even most, illegal aliens to be in such situations, for the same reason that all the kids can’t be above average.

          • Matt M says:

            “They aren’t opening consulates and issuing visas or anything even vaguely similar. What they are doing is entirely in the nature of refusing to cooperate plus some jawboning. Both of which are entirely within their rights.”

            Of course, on many other issues, states who “refuse to cooperate” with federal policy are punished – most often through the withholding of federal funds, which is also within the federal government’s rights.

            But a paranoid person might suspect that the feds selectively pick and choose which issues they need to coerce state cooperation on and which ones they don’t based on entirely political reasons – and that failing to coerce on certain issues (like immigration) is, in fact, a tacit endorsement of said policies. “Cut funding to sanctuary cities” is a regular cry from the socially conservative right. Why do you suppose nobody has done that?

          • Brad says:

            Withholding of federal funds for failure to cooperate is extraordinarily rare. There are many provisions sprinkled through the federal code that enable it, but I’m at a loss to remember a single instance during the Obama years when such a provision was actually triggered.

            What might a “paranoid person” have in mind for these “many issues”?

            As for why no one has cut funding to sanctuary cities, I imagine because Congressmen, if not their constituents, are wise enough not to try to kill the geese laying the golden eggs.

          • Of course, on many other issues, states who “refuse to cooperate” with federal policy are punished – most often through the withholding of federal funds, which is also within the federal government’s rights.

            When that is or isn’t within the federal government’s rights is precisely the commandeering issue. According to the Supreme Court, sometimes it isn’t.

          • Matt M says:

            “What might a “paranoid person” have in mind for these “many issues”?”

            Isn’t there a bunch of money related to health care that people who didn’t implement Obamacare exchanges missed out on?

            The national speed limit was famously tied to highway funding, wasn’t it? Or am I thinking of the 21 drinking age?

            The paranoid person would probably assume that whichever party holds federal power will allow states to flaunt federal power in ways that party supports, but will coerce in ways they don’t. In other words, if I’m a paranoid democrat, I might fear that Trump might try to withhold funds from sanctuary cities, but that he would ignore it if states say, violated the civil rights act and imposed unauthorized voter ID laws or something like that.

          • Matt M says:

            “According to the Supreme Court, sometimes it isn’t.”

            Key word being “sometimes” which helps fuel the paranoia.

            If you decide on a case by case basis rather than making a sweeping ruling, it gives the impression that the government is picking and choosing these issues for political reasons rather than on sound constitutional principles (even if it’s the supreme court doing the picking and even if they give various arguments as to why some cases are constitutional and some cases aren’t – the layman will look at the situation and say “this seems to be all about politics”)

          • Brad says:

            Isn’t there a bunch of money related to health care that people who didn’t implement Obamacare exchanges missed out on?

            The ACA scheme was for expanded Medicaid to be paid for entirely by the federal government for some number of years and then the percent to drop to less than 100 thereafter. States that declined to expand Medicaid don’t get the money to pay for expanded Medicaid. Even granting paranoia it is hard to see this as punishment for failure to cooperate. If there was a federal program that paid a bounty for every detained aliens it would be unremarkable that cities that detained no aliens received no bounties.

            The national speed limit was famously tied to highway funding, wasn’t it? Or am I thinking of the 21 drinking age?

            Decades ago. I hardly think these examples justify our hypothetical interlocutor’s paranoia. In any event if he wants to propose dissolving our federal government and replacing it with a national one, I am certainly all ears.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The paranoid person would probably assume that whichever party holds federal power will allow states to flaunt federal power in ways that party supports, but will coerce in ways they don’t.

            Why is that paranoid? That sounds like politics as usual to me. Probably it would be modified somewhat by what people (and the Supreme Court) would be likely to accept.

          • Cypren says:

            @Brad: The relevant Obamacare case was NFIB vs. Sebelius; the text of the ACA technically makes all of a state’s funding for Medicaid contingent upon implementation of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion coverage groups at the discretion of the HHS Secretary.

            The SCOTUS majority ruled this an unconstitutional coercion of states; their solution was to suspend the authority of HHS to sever a state’s existing Medicaid funding that was unrelated to the expansion.

            The majority opinion (like many of the Supreme Court’s rulings around highly politicized issues) is unpersuasive to me and reeks of tortured object-level justifications for keeping the status quo rather than any kind of meta principles. But there you have it.

          • Brad says:

            Cypren:
            That’s true, there was that extra wrinkle.

            However, as you note the now-declared-unconstitutional provision allowed but did not require the HHS to cut off all of a state’s medicaid funding. As I mentioned, provisions like that are common in the federal code but it is my contention that they are rarely or never used. So the notion that immigration policy is some outlier where the federal government is forgoing the tools it uses everywhere else to coerce cooperation is, in my opinion, entirely unwarranted.

          • BBA says:

            Medicaid has always been an optional program that a state can opt into or out of at its own discretion. Arizona opted out for 17 years after the program’s creation.

            The NFIB decision seems nonsensical to me. Let A be pre-ACA Medicaid and B be post-ACA Medicaid. It’s unconstitutional coercion for the federal government to change the terms of Medicaid from A to B. Implied here is that the terms of A are not themselves coercive. So would it be coercion for the federal government to abolish Medicaid A entirely, and then separately create an entirely new health care program whose terms are B? If so, which of the two actions is coercive? If not, what’s the difference between that and what the ACA says?

            Not to mention that tying highway funds to the drinking age was ruled non-coercive in South Dakota v. Dole, which seems like much more of a stretch to me, and that decision still stands as far as I can tell.

        • Hardcore libertarians and economists.

          • BBA says:

            But you repeat yourself. /snark

          • genemarshblog says:

            “…..and economists.”

            Not so fast, slick.

            http://www.igmchicago.org/surveys/15-minimum-wage

          • The poll you cite doesn’t ask if people oppose the minimum wage. What it finds is that, of their sample, slightly more think raising the minimum wage will substantially increase unemployment among low wage workers than think it won’t, and that almost nobody thinks it will substantially increase aggregate output and many think it won’t.

            Is it your thesis that everyone in your poll with a negative view of the effects of the minimum wage is a hardcore libertarian?

            For an older and much larger poll of economists:

            “A Confusion of Economists?,” Kearl, J R, et al, American Economic Review, 1979, vol. 69, issue 2, pages 28-37.

            The article is webbed, but limited to JSTOR subscribers, unfortunately.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The title of that article reads to me like “confusion” is the collective noun for “economists.”

          • @Jaskologist:

            I think that was deliberate.

          • genemarshblog says:

            You implied there was a general consensus among economists about the mw that no longer exists.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Relevant to the last little bit of it, the character of Toronto Life magazine is very much of interest. It’s, basically, targeted at affluent (very affluent – living the lifestyle they present involves dropping huge amounts of money on clothes, eating at fancy restaurants, expensive real estate, etc) cosmopolitan sophisticates (or, wannabe sophisticates, who confuse dropping tons of money with sophistication) of a left-wing bent (vote liberal or maybe NDP) but are in no way radicals (after all, radical social change would fuck up their restaurant reservations) – in fact, fairly neoliberal, in a lot of ways that count.

      This article is kind of emblematic of Toronto Life coverage of serious issues (as opposed to multi-million dollar divorces, etc). It takes a generally left-wing perspective (we need to be helping refugees), lionizes a single rich person, is generally pro-free market (after all, his money has let him save all these refugees, and they will get jobs through the free market), and it is, as Tibor notes, quite self-centered. It’s not for nothing that the rest of Canada mocks Toronto as “the centre of the universe”. Its focus is not “this is the refugee crisis” or “here is the Canadian policy response to the refugee crisis” but rather “here is one heroic rich person who is saving a number of people that can still be related to on an emotional level”.

  41. Maryana says:

    More in the “early school starting age is bad” files: … earlier school starting age increases crime in Denmark…

    In the festive holiday spirit of “be the change you want to see in the fake news world,” I think this section is worded and framed misleadingly, given the conclusions of the Danish study. A more accurate summary would be:

    New one for the “keep kids in school as long as possible” files: keeping kids in school later decreases crime in Denmark.

    The Danish crime researchers attribute the crime reduction effects of a later school start primarily to the lock-in effect (i.e., reducing crime by keeping kids off the streets for most of the day) in 18-19-year olds, and not to, e.g., age interaction between younger and older kids in school together at the same grade level, or anything going on at the early grade level (clearly, it’s not the 6-year-olds committing crimes). From the conclusions: “Detailed studies of the age-profile of the effects indicate that the reductions to crime are likely to be caused by an incapacitating effect of schooling, as those who start school later graduate later.”

    My take on this would definitely not be “let’s make sure kids start school later,” but “for the love of god, keep teenagers in school as long as possible, because they’re terrible.” The other crime paper is gated, so I’m not sure if they also explored this dimension.

    • Oh, I believe your interpretation is probably the most directly correct one. I believe criminality peaks at ages 17-20, and gradually declines after that. Of course locking up educating the criminally prone for as long as possible is important.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Yes, I looked over some of those links on the downsides of starting kids earlier, and none of them really had any arguments against the push for four year old school. The left is very very insistent that this is the newest silver bullet to save the world, so it may be inevitable. I am not very happy about this trend, because I don’t think we want to further institutionalize our kids, but those links were no help at all. The Danish one was mainly emphasizing the benefits of kids staying in school longer, as you stated, and the US one was mostly about how the older kids in a classroom do better than the younger ones, as an earlier comment upthread pointed out.

  42. Squirrel of Doom says:

    It seems that swastikas are always drawn by leftists trying to frame “the right”.

    I suspect this is a case of the left misunderstanding the world. They *think* it’s something those evil racists on the right would do, Meanwhile, virtually no one among actual right wingers is an actual swastika fan.

    So the only population left to draw them is a tiny crowd of leftist provocateurs.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Meanwhile, virtually no one among actual right wingers is an actual swastika fan.

      Does this make /pol/ one very deep-cover false-flag operation?

      • DrBeat says:

        /pol/, like /b/, are “anything that makes other people upset” fans. They only want to make other people upset. They do not believe words and symbols have value outside of their ability to make other people upset. They sincerely hold beliefs only because sincerely holding beliefs allows them to make other people upset.

        This is why people saying “Look how someone from /b/ or /pol/ said something upsetting! This proves that ideas that are upsetting to me are commonly accepted, and I should be given more power!” makes me want to decapitate myself with a band saw

        • Anatoly says:

          The argument “those people don’t really believe the terrible things they’re saying, they’re just trolling” is too convenient. How do you falsify it? What if for example /pol/ was a contest to out-shock and out-troll originally, but by now a large part of its crowd takes these things very literally and believes them sincerely? How would you tell if it were/were not the case?

          I think that whenever there’s a shared wink-wink-let’s-troll-the-cucks-with-terrible-words culture, there *will* be a large contingent – perhaps the majority of the silent readership – who will miss the whole wink-wink aspect and take it all quite literally. Partly this is because many people are dumb. Partly because irony doesn’t travel well on the internet. Partly because a mask you wear constantly tends to fuse with the face.

          For example, when Pizzagate started in earnest two weeks or so before the election, I thought that at least some of the leadings sites/blogs that promulgated it were distinctly carrying the wink-wink-nudge-nudge attitude: “we know this is ridiculous, and you know that we know, and we know that you know that we know, but let’s say outrageously horrible things about HRC just before the election anyway – who knows what’ll stick”. But soon it became clear that thousands (millions by now?) people were taking it very seriously; I know people IRL who were utterly convinced, and the episode with the guy who came in with the gun is telling.

          • DrBeat says:

            What if for example /pol/ was a contest to out-shock and out-troll originally, but by now a large part of its crowd takes these things very literally and believes them sincerely? How would you tell if it were/were not the case?

            It is both of these. They believe them literally and sincerely. But they believe them literally and sincerely because it makes other people upset. They choose their beliefs in order to make other people upset, or to IMAGINE they make other people upset, or to reinforce their self-identity as a person who makes other people upset. When you see a “/pol/ psyop” starting, almost every time it happens, it is in the form of “What will make other people upset?” When they put out new things for their belief system, the thing they are always explicitly optimizing for is the ability of those beliefs to make other people upset.

            You know how rationalistoids talk about “belief as attire” or beliefs held not because they are true but because they serve useful goals?

            /pol/’s only goal is making other people upset, and the attire they wear to fit in are with people whose only goal is making other people upset. They do not think that their beliefs have no relationship with reality; they think that the purpose of holding beliefs, like every other thing in the entire world, is to make other people upset.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’m not sure there’s much of anyone* — certainly not a subculture — which wants to just upset everyone. Instead, we get subcultures that specialize in upsetting particular groups of people (white men, cucks (hey, that’s probably a slightly different bunch of white men), women, liberals, whatever).

            *Razib Khan wrote a piece about the pleasures of generating offensive Markoff chains/word salad, and he didn’t care what the ideology was.

          • BBA says:

            It’s not so much “upset everyone” as “upset anyone, we don’t care who” which rapidly converges on swastikas as the way to upset the maximum number of people with minimum effort.

            Schoolyard bullying as political philosophy.

          • Aapje says:

            Maximum bang for the buck trolling, basically.

            Smart trolls target the thin-skinned.

          • “The stories and information posted here are artistic works of fiction and falsehood. Only a fool would take anything posted here as fact.”

        • Sandy says:

          No, there actually are literal Nazis on /pol/. There are plenty of contrarians and trolls, but there are also people who are deadly serious about what they say.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          makes me want to decapitate myself with a band saw

          I am envious of your workshop space; I’ve only got room for a tiny bandsaw that could manage a hand, maybe a foot 🙂

      • Matt M says:

        I feel like the phenomenon of the extreme right openly embracing nazi images and symbolism is fairly recent – the last couple years or so, and is an extreme backlash to being called nazis already.

        Prior to VERY recently, nobody on the right actually used swastikas, but the left constantly thought they did anyway. Now some of them actually do use them, but very much in a “fine you want to call me a nazi, im a nazi now, how you like that?” sort of way.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Yes I think you are right. Some of the crazies on the right have indeed picked up swastikas and such as symbols, but only in response to the left. Can anyone find a news article from 20 or more years ago when anyone actually used the swastika as a serious symbol for their right wing views?

          • Brad says:

            From wiki:

            In 1995, neo-Nazi skinheads Malcolm Wright Jr. and James N. Burmeister were charged in the murder of an African American couple in North Carolina. Wright and Burmeister were in the United States Army, and part of Fort Bragg’s 82 Airborne Division. Wright and Burmeister were both arrested at a trailer park where police found a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol, a Nazi flag, white supremacist pamphlets, and other gang paraphernalia. Both men were sentenced to life in prison.

          • Matt M says:

            Brad,

            To add a bit of nuance – it’s not that neo-nazi groups did not exist. They always have. But I would suggest that in the past, they were relatively isolated from the “politics of the right” in general. They were small splinter groups that, other than the occasional hate crime, mostly walled themselves off and weren’t (nor did they typically try to be) any well organized and/or public political force. They held their meetings and they stockpiled their weapons and they talked about the coming race war and maybe once in awhile they even killed a black person, but they didn’t amount to any significant numbers of people going online and telling you which Senator to vote for.

            Even today’s alt-right trolls who WILL post swastikas and WILL say “Heil Hitler” and stuff like that are categorically different in that I don’t think most of them belong to a particular cell or group. Basically, I don’t have any proof of this, but my opinion is that the guy on 4chan posting pictures of himself doing a nazi salute and the literal skinheads that have been with us forever are categorically different types of people. Literal skinheads are still quite rare and very isolated and unlikely to pop up in a restroom stall at your local liberal arts school, which is what makes reports of swastikas showing up there seem incredibly suspicious. The left tells us (correctly) that we should fear the literal skinhead, but they also tell us (incorrectly) that literal skinheads are everywhere and post a clear and immediate danger even within the heart of our most left-wing institutions, a danger that can clearly only be solved with more diversity scholarships, segregated dorms, and mandatory sensitivity training for white freshmen. Even the 4chan guy who enthusiastically shouts “Heil Hitler” and self-identifies as a fascist is not a literal skinhead and is probably not much of a threat until he shaves his head and buys ten rifles and goes off to live in the woods with 20 like-minded friends.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Literal skinheads are still quite rare and very isolated and unlikely to pop up in a restroom stall at your local liberal arts school

            Even taking this as true, that actual honest to goodness 1488 white supremacists are so vanishly small in college that we can’t expect them to do anything there, why don’t you think the trolls of 4chan wouldn’t try and take their trolling off the internet?

            A liberal college strikes me as exactly the place where said troll would derive the most pleasure from upsetting people.

          • Matt M says:

            “A liberal college strikes me as exactly the place where said troll would derive the most pleasure from upsetting people.”

            Right, but in this case the troll is a “false flag” in roughly the same sense that a left-wing student doing it in order to “start a conversation on racism” is a false flag. Neither represents a real, legitimate, physical danger to anyone on campus. Neither signifies the presence of literal skin heads on campus. Both of them are doing it to “send a message” it’s only the political orientation of the message that differs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            You appear to think that emotional harm does not count.

            They want to harm people. They like doing it. It gives them pleasure.

            I really don’t see how this should be a comforting thought.

            @BBA:
            It’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.

          • Matt M says:

            “They want to harm people.”

            Yeah, and so do the leftists who draw swastikas in order to implicate the alt-right as well.

            They just want to harm different people.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            matt let us stipulate that false flags and true flags are there for entirely different purposes

            false flags are there to advance a political agenda, and thereby cause indirect harm, while true flags are there likely to cause emotional distress, to stake one’s claim on the territory and announce one’s presence. There’s a clear difference.

          • Aapje says:

            I would argue that the false flags are intended to cause emotional harm on their own side, so get them to lash out against the other side.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            why don’t you think the trolls of 4chan wouldn’t try and take their trolling off the internet?

            A liberal college strikes me as exactly the place where said troll would derive the most pleasure from upsetting people.

            The appeal of online trolling isn’t just to make people upset, but to do so from anywhere in the world at essentially zero monetary cost, physical effort or risk of punishment.

            We know there exist trolls “on 4chan” but we can’t extrapolate from that to conclude there are trolls within a hundred-mile radius – or even a thousand-mile radius – of your local liberal arts college.

            For all we know, the trolls on 4chan might entirely consist of 13-year-olds who live in Brazil. Living where they are, any 4chan troll can rile up people at liberal arts colleges via twitter but most would have to get on a plane to troll the same people in person. Absent some sort of sustainable funding model, it doesn’t seem likely.

          • Matt M says:

            I would argue that the false flags are intended to cause emotional harm on their own side, so get them to lash out against the other side.

            That’s an intermediate step. Their long-run goal is to advance whatever particular agenda they have at the university – the ironic thing being that when they inevitably deliver their “demands” to the administration, the vast majority of them (things like more scholarships for minority students) have little to no relevance to anything that might legitimately stop right-wing trolls from drawing swastikas on the walls.

            Stuff like “mandatory courses on white privilege” assumes, directly, that the messages AREN’T trolling, but rather genuine messages of racial hatred the likes of which can be easily eliminated by simply telling people to stop hating.

          • Brad says:

            That’s an intermediate step. Their long-run goal is to advance whatever particular agenda they have at the university – the ironic thing being that when they inevitably deliver their “demands” to the administration, the vast majority of them (things like more scholarships for minority students) have little to no relevance to anything that might legitimately stop right-wing trolls from drawing swastikas on the walls.

            In how many cases can you prove a connection between swastizka drawers and those that make demands of administrations?

          • Matt M says:

            At least as many as you can prove a connection between swastika drawers and legitimate nazi organizations that commit hate crimes more serious than bathroom stall vandalism.

          • Brad says:

            I made no claims that there were any such connections. Meanwhile you’ve made multiple claims in this sub-thread that turn out to have no factual basis. Perhaps you should stop making things up.

    • sconn says:

      I dunno; I live in a very Trumpish town (scads of Trump signs, no Hillary signs anywhere) and I’ve seen swastikas drawn around town. Maybe a person who wasn’t brave enough to put up a Hillary sign in their yard is nonetheless brave enough to draw swastikas on public property. But that isn’t the possibility I would consider most likely.

      • DrBeat says:

        The vast majority of swastikas drawn are not by left-wingers or by right-wingers, but by asshole teenagers who want to make people upset.

        • Deiseach says:

          Exactly. Remember the college campuses having meltdowns with scared minorities (or at least, allies scared on the behalf of minorities) when mysterious sinister anonymous Trump supporters were leaving messages in chalk (and later in a few instances sticks of chalk) around?

          Loutish late teenage/early twenties males at the universities in question thinking the flapping and fussing ensuing was the funniest thing since Grandma fell down the well, not neo-Nazis on parade, are the most likely suspects. Sensible reaction to this is not to ban chalk.

  43. Wander says:

    I notice that the biased-news-media thing doesn’t mention the nightmare that is the Guardian. And people still claim that they’re an unbiased paper, or at worst “slightly left-of-centre”.

    • Earthly Knight says:

      It’s bizarre that you would cite a single opinion column as if it were damning evidence of the Guardian’s bias (if I were to link to a George F. Will column, would that prove the Washington Post is a conservative rag?). Even more bizarre given that the Guardian has been unapologetically left-leaning since forever. From its Wikipedia article:

      Then Guardian features editor Ian Katz, asserted in 2004 that “it is no secret we are a centre-left newspaper”.[119] In 2008, Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley said that editorial contributors were a mix of “right-of-centre libertarians, greens, Blairites, Brownites, Labourite but less enthusiastic Brownites, etc,” and that the newspaper was “clearly left of centre and vaguely progressive” […] In the run-up to the 2010 general election, following a meeting of the editorial staff,[122] the paper declared its support for the Liberal Democrats, due in particular, to the party’s stance on electoral reform.

      (In Britain it’s common for newspapers to forgo any pretext of neutrality and explicitly adopt an ideological stance.)

      • Wander says:

        I’m hard-pressed to believe that a paper that considers something like that acceptable to host will give a fair go to any view even slightly to the other side of politics. People made the case that Fox News technically categorizes most of its shows as “opinion”, and that therefore they’re not actually that biased – and were rightly called out on it.

        And even that quote says that it’s “centre left” and “vaguely progressive”. It’s definitely more extreme than that.

        • Matt M says:

          Right. I feel like the typical cycle involves a media outlet initially claiming total neutrality and objectivity, a bunch of people pointing out how obviously untrue that is and how extreme they are, and then the media outlet “admits” something like “oh sure we’re center-left there’s no denying that” and therefore expects that anyone accusing them of bias now has to simply shut up.

        • Earthly Knight says:

          I’m hard-pressed to believe that a paper that considers something like that acceptable to host will give a fair go to any view even slightly to the other side of politics.

          This reflects serious ignorance on your part about the media. Major newspapers in America traditionally maintain a stable of columnists from across the political spectrum. For instance, the New York Times hosts the conservatives David Brooks and Ross Douthat, and previously featured the great William Safire, while the Washington Post employs George F. Will, Charles Krauthammer, and Jennifer Rubin. Sometimes these columns are acerbically, even venomously partisan, but this is intended to promote a marketplace of ideas and need not reflect the ideological bent of the newspaper.

          It’s definitely more extreme than that.

          As you can see from the wikipedia article, the Guardian is aligned with the British center-left– they were vocal supporters of Tony Blair but view Jeremy Corbyn as too radical. In general, it’s probably a mistake for you to think you can estimate how extreme a newspaper is by reading a few columns and seeing how angry they make you. There’s nothing in the piece you linked to which suggests that the author is anything but a generic labour voter. He evidently despises Trump and Farage and believes in global warming, but this does nothing to set him apart from the vast majority of Britons.

          • Virbie says:

            > This reflects serious ignorance on your part about the media. Major newspapers in America traditionally maintain a stable of columnists from across the political spectrum. For instance, the New York Times hosts the conservatives David Brooks and Ross Douthat, and previously featured the great William Safire, while the Washington Post employs George F. Will, Charles Krauthammer, and Jennifer Rubin.

            Did you click through to the linked article? I’ve read plenty of Douthat, Brooks, and Will, and often disagree with them (as with Krugman and Dowd); to my knowledge, none of them have ever written anything as pathetically pandering as the article linked above, and I can’t imagine the Times (or the Post) ever publishing an article like that, regardless of the political bent. It would, however, fit comfortably in as a lighter piece on something like The Daily Kos or Breitbart (though I admit I have had fairly light exposure to both of those).

            You’re assuming that the complaint was merely “man that was a super liberal view, they can’t possibly publish any conservative views”. One only stoops to publish something like that when you’re starting from the editorial perspective of “I’m clearly right about this, so this smug, empty garbage is acceptable”. And I say this as someone who agrees with pretty much all of the views espoused by the author!

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The author of the column, Stuart Heritage, is principally a TV and movie critic. I think it’s meant to be a humor piece.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The Guardian has been a left-wing, Old Labour-type, basically-socialist-by-American-standards paper since forever. I don’t know anybody who would claim the Guardian is unbiased.

        However, it’s interesting to note the difference between the Guardian’s different editions. The international edition focuses (as one might expect) more on international stuff. Britain-specific stuff seems mostly to be there for the expats. Carries fairly little local, lifestyle, entertainment, etc news. The regular UK edition includes all the stuff that is cut out for the international edition. It’s my impression that the online Guardian is different, and is a lot more clickbait-y. I may, of course, be completely mistaken.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        I mean, have people not read George Orwell? If I recall, his account of Spanish Civil War included a considerable bashing of the “leftist” Manchester Guardian for their reporting.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Quite the contrary, IIRC — Orwell said that the Manchester Guardian was one of the best (/least bad) for reporting on the war.

    • Tatu Ahponen says:

      Yes, Guardian is left-of-center. If they were to the left of the left of center, they wouldn’t have had the raging hatefest for Jeremy Corbyn they’ve had for the most part of his tenure as the Labour leader, some columnists like Owen Jones excluded.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I hope you appreciate this, the most Guardian-y Guardian headline of all time:

      “Eventually, jellyfish might rule the world. What should the art world do about it?”

      • rlms says:

        Wrong, from here, the headline with the most Guardian per word is clearly either “…It’s time to nationalise Twitter” or “Help! Is my quinoa destroying the planet?”. There was another good one I remember about vegan cupcakes and gentrification, but I can’t seem to find it.

  44. Aapje says:

    This doomsday cult purchased the cattle station in April 1993 and the seismic event happened on 28 May 1993. So at the most generous, that is 2 months. The story says that they mined the uranium near the cattle station. So that means 2 months to mine the uranium and centrifuge it, which is something that took Iran and N-Korea far longer, despite having many more resources.

    Something doesn’t add up.

  45. poipoipoi says:

    Re “Smeed’s Law: London traffic will always travel at 9 mph. Accurate to within 2% over more than 50 years?”

    I find it makes a lot more sense when you reformulate it as: “London Traffic will always travel at approximately the speed of the London Subway system door-to-door”. Since the London Subway system doesn’t get appreciably faster or slower, the speed of traffic stays more or less constant as well.

    This is because while traffic is high-speed, it’s also low-capacity. Which means that the marginal traveler will always use the subway, and thus any improvements to road traffic simply serve to draw said marginal traveler off the subway onto the newly congested roads.

  46. onyomi says:

    Studies on class cues in resumes, and how employers read them.

    Tl;dr: besides just looking at the fact you went to Harvard, employers and graduate admissions officers might look at things like last name, choice of extracurriculars, types of scholarships and awards received, etc. to divine an applicant’s “class.” Twist: being perceived as high class may be an advantage to men but a disadvantage to women. Thankfully avoiding a pat “there’s patriarchy for you,” the author mentions the obvious reason: high class women are perceived as bigger “flight risks.”

    Now, more than ever, seemingly, being a one-income household is a luxury–one upper class women are seen as more likely to be able to indulge than lower class women or men of any class.

    So, if you’re a man applying for jobs, play up your participation in crew and golf and be named Thurston Howell, III. But if you’re a woman, conversely, maybe play up how dedicated you are to the career, rather than how high class you are (the “high class” signal might be to signal an “I can take it or leave it” attitude toward any given position, which might work for men, but backfire on women?)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Makes sense. After all, historically, one-income households were mostly a thing for the middle and upper classes, weren’t they? Women in the lower classes have always been more likely to work, no society based on subsistence agriculture could survive without women working, etc, same going for girls in some contexts.

  47. John Fouhy says:

    The story about Judaism and the international date line reminded me of the case of the Samoan Seventh Day Adventists, and the time zone change.

    Samoa used to be basically a day behind New Zealand and Australia, which was a real pain for them. So they decided to change from GMT-11 to GMT+13, by means of having one 6-day week (skipping Friday).

    SDAs usually celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday. But some SDAs decided that since the Saturday after the switch would only be six days after the previous Sabbath, they should therefore switch to celebrating the Sabbath on Sundays.

    This caused a bit of a schism, which (I think) eventually resolved itself when the bosses in the States told them, No, it’s Saturday, stop being silly.
    NZ Herald story

  48. rlms says:

    Merry (((Christ)))mas SSC!

  49. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Should we conclude from the Cuba link that less food and more exercise– enough to cause mild weight loss– improves health, but people don’t think it’s worth the trouble?

    • Virbie says:

      I thought this was well-understood, no? I may be wrong though. “Don’t think it’s worth the trouble” is also often (and perhaps more fairly) formulated as “even people who strongly believe in this find it very difficult in the food and leisure environment they’re presented with”. Under this view, your formulation would be akin to “smoking (or heroin) cessation improves health, but no user thinks it’s worth the trouble”.

  50. Murphy says:

    Re: smoking and mental health hospitals:

    For normal hospitals it’s easy to just say “not smoking is a condition of being here” but for mental hospitals it seems more ethically and legally problematic.

    I mean it sounds like a gross violation of basic ethics.

    Patients who’ve been committed may lack capacity in one area while still having capacity in relation to other areas of their lives. A patient in with anorexia may totally lack capacity when it comes to the issue of getting calories and nutrients into their own body while still being entirely capable of making medical decisions about other things and having the right to make medical decisions in other areas. For example they could refuse treatment for some other problem unrelated to the area in which they lack capacity.

    Banning mental health patients from smoking is effectively treating patients without their consent and against their explicit wishes in the case of any patient who has capacity as it relates to smoking.

    Any doctor who said to a patient with capacity in regards to their tumor “we’re want to operate on your tumor”, the patient said “no, I refuse treatment” and then the doctor ignored that and wheeled them screaming into the operating theatre anyway: that doctor would be in serious hot water ethically and legally.

    Commitment is not a blanket “we can do anything”. It has sharp limits that differ by patients.

    Now from personal experience I know there’s a lot of doctors who don’t really believe in the right to refuse care, I mean they don’t internalise it. They see it as an awkward rule, that they know best and if they could get away with it they’d happily strap people down and inflict whatever they thought was best and to hell with consent. But how have all the other doctors not raised hell about this in this case?

  51. Buzzfeed: for profit mental hospitals commit people who don’t need hospitalization to increase the bottom line.

    Sounds really dystopian if true. I’m not from the US, but one thing I’d like to say is that the solution to this sort of thing seems relatively simple. The core of the problem seems to be that combining the assessment and the treatment part of the process sets up a conflict of interest, especially for private hospitals but also for subtly public ones that I think are increasingly funded based on simplistic “output” figures these days. You could fix this by legislating structural separation of the process so that the assessment of needs is done by a totally different party to treatment (eg. one public one private). You can then also structure the government/insurance payments to provide incrementally decreasing revenue for longer treatment, plus a follow up assessment to assess the outcomes of treatment. This would remove most of the perverse incentive and softly encourage fast/efficient/prompt treatment. The regulator also will have to police the industry for collusion between assessors and treatment functions, which will require significant resources, though vastly less than the taxpayer money that’s wasted if you don’t.

    In Australia we don’t have a separation of this kind either, but afaik we do at least have a not-for-profit health consumer advocacy service which has on the spot access to any facility or patient, guaranteed by law. Patient’s also have a right to speak to an advocate. I’m told it’s still a bit hit and miss but it improves the system a little, at least.

    More generally, we really need to stop being so rubbish at designing regulatory frameworks for markets/industries. I mean I know its not a sexy topic and all, but with the current partisan approaches its always going to be a disaster. There’s more options than unaccountable, heavy handed government control on the one hand or anti-competitive unregulated monopoly-prone marketplaces on the other. If legislators understood incentives and structural separation better and thoughtfully designed the market framework, I feel a lot of this sort of problem would never develop.

  52. onyomi says:

    I had noticed recently that Googletranslate had recently improved dramatically–from “you can maybe barely guess what the original was talking about” to “this is a pretty idiomatic translation with a few errors.”

    And apparently the improvement is due to AI? I haven’t read the whole thing, nor do I know much about AI, but simply from the perspective of someone who has worked as a translator, I can testify that the results are dramatic. Though it’s certainly not enough yet to make translators obsolete, it is one more data point I can see where cell phones and the like are rapidly becoming more like portable robot assistant/cyborg brain enhancements.

  53. Deiseach says:

    Happy Feast of Stephen!

    Meanwhile, in the world of high culture, there’s a-feudin’ and a-fightin’ going on, but for once it’s highly entertaining. This involves a cross-over with science, so it may be of interest.

    I don’t know if you all have heard of vantablack, the “world’s blackest black”? Well, forget all the boring old scientific and industrial uses, the achingly trendy British artist Anish Kapoor bought exclusive rights to use it in his work, meaning no other artist in the world can legally acquire or use this pigment.

    Some people thought this was contrary to the spirit of art, but whatever – massive installations critiquing contemporary whatsit don’t create themselves you know, and how else can he keep body and soul together?

    Anyway, in response to Kapoor’s monopoly on the world’s blackest black and his refusal to share it with fellow artists, Stuart Semple (another British artist) created the world’s pinkest pink and put up an obligatory disclaimer for purchase that this was not to be purchased by, for, or on behalf of Anish Kapoor. Everyone else in the world could have the pinkest pink, but not Kapoor.

    But alas! There is no honour amongst artists! Some nark bought some of the pink and gave it to Kapoor, who responded with this classy, well-bred proof that he’d gotten his hands on some despite Semple.

    However, not permitting this setback to crush his spirit, Semple has now introduced the world’s glitteriest glitter and, once more, banned it to Kapoor. Will someone breach this agreement as well, or will Kapoor be foiled? Tune in next week, same art-time, same art-channel!

    This little spat (a) is probably doing Semple no harm at all when it comes to getting his name more widely known (b) is probably doing Kapoor no harm at all because there’s no such thing as bad publicity, even (or especially?) if you look like you’re playing the part of the baddie in a Christmas panto (c) is way more entertaining and accessible than any of the art Kapoor has produced (I have no idea what Semple’s work is like, see point (a)).

    • BBA says:

      Just popping in here to make the obligatory link to Spinal Tap. Carry on.

    • Anthony says:

      When I was at college working for a concrete researcher, we got our hands on some carbon black. Looking into the jar of the loose powder was a trip, because you could not tell where the surface of the material was.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      That was pretty fun to read. I hope you manage to find more such stories for our delectation.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      The vantablack is rather spectacular tbh, you can walk in a gallery and see black discs that looks unreal like they are photoshopped on. It gave me a bizarre “is this real?” feeling. 8/10 would look at again.

  54. Deiseach says:

    Update! Semple has acquired some of the blackest black!

    What will Kapoor do now? Surrender? Try for the glitteriest glitter? Invent a new ultimate pigment of his own (he’s a sculptor though, what’s he going to do – invent the world’s hardest material to carve? Can he make something harder than diamond?)

    This is absolutely hilarious and part of me hopes that both of them realise this and are only engaging in a huge game because they know how entertaining everyone is finding this. Another part of me hopes that they’re deadly serious because that is even more absurdist.

    Best thing to happen in 2016!

  55. baconbacon says:

    Something about the Brazil article that no one has pointed out (I’m taking Vox’s description as accurate, which is possible a large mistake). The “cap” is not a cap, it increases along with inflation. The Vox article decries this and complains that it should be indexed to GDP growth but Brazil is in a inflationary recessions, which means that inflation is > than nominal GDP growth. Under these circumstances spending as a fraction of GDP can increase (this assumes the near future is like the recent past, and also assumes that the half paragraph description if Vox is accurate and there aren’t other stipulations that counter this).

    This points to the complete idiocy of definitions of austerity. This would only end up being austerity if it “works”, that is if growth > inflation returns. If inflation remains > growth then the structural deficit (assuming that the government spends up to the cap every year) will increase, it won’t be “austerity”.

  56. nickcampbell says:

    Scott,
    A couple of points that I would like to bring up in the gender-battle doctor article. Firstly, I am always skeptical of these types of studies where there is no obvious reason for there to be a difference between the two groups being compared. It always seems (to me at least) that it is more likely that any difference found is a result of forgetting to control for something rather than a real difference.
    Secondly, and they mention it in the study, is the different work load between the men and the women. The men worked an average of 180 days a year, versus 120 for the women. Might this account for the observed difference? To confuse things further, women might be working harder outside of the hospital due to uneven childcare duties etc.

    • Aapje says:

      My default assumption is now that any differences that studies find is because the two groups differ in ways that are not controlled for, unless I can be convinced otherwise. I feel that it makes me way more likely to be right.

    • 57dimensions says:

      On the number of days worked for male vs female doctors, that might not be the best way to measure how much work is being done as far as doctors go. My mother is a doctor and she works 3.5-4 days a week, she has gotten criticism for being “part-time”, but if you look at the RVUs (Relative Value Units, used in the Medicare reimbursement formula) she does more work and produces more revenue for the hospital than the other two doctors (individually, not combined) in the same specialty–surgical oncology specializing in breast cancer–even though they work 5 days a week. So there can be quite a discrepancy between ‘days worked’ and ‘services provided to patients’ in the medical field. This gets even more complicated because of the vast number of specialties in medicine, a psychiatrist, a pediatrician, a surgical oncologist, and an orthopedic surgeon all spend their time doing radically different kinds of work, but they are all doctors.

  57. Egalitarian says:

    Apparently the study about male/female doctors patient mortality isn`t so sound after all. They did not control for the age of the doctors (male doctors are older), or their workload (male doctors have MUCH more patients), or nights shifts which male doctors presumably have more of:

    https://www.reddit.com/r/FeMRADebates/comments/5jagpw/comparison_of_hospital_mortality_and_readmission/?

    • The Nybbler says:

      They did control for age of doctors, in their “Model 3”. “We accounted for patient characteristics, physician characteristics, and hospital fixed effects. [..] Physician characteristics included physician age in 5-year increments”

      It appears they didn’t control for shift, but expected their sensitivity analysis based on hospitalists to handle that. I’m not knowledgeable enough to know if it would. I also don’t know the significance of shift for older patients; for younger ones it’s an enormous one as there are patterns in trauma cases (car accidents and the gun-and-knife club).

    • dumky2 says:

      This study compares 18k female internists to 39k male internists.
      Assuming that medical school are decently competitive, then it should be expected for the top 18k female students to be better than the top 39k male students, just like the top 18k male students would be better than the top 39k students, no?