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Links 1/17: Inaugurl Address

Dave Barry’s 2016 Year In Review.

“Fanatics got into the Capitol building and committed a mass shooting on Congress while it was in session, and you’ve never heard of them…people have completely forgotten that in 1972 we had over nineteen hundred domestic bombings in the United States” A review of Days Of Rage and history lesson on the 1970s underground. Highly recommended.

Jewish sci-fi short story: On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi, by Philip Klass.

New Yorker: The Mosul Dam in Iraq could fail soon, potentially causing a flash flood and hundreds of thousands of deaths.

An ecologist denounces calls to “drain the swamp” as an insult to swamps: “Given the sea of misinformation we currently find ourselves swimming in, I feel this is as good a time as any to clarify what swamps actually are and why they should be regarded as wonderful and valuable parts of nature rather than objects of derision and hatred.” If any of you are oceanographers, can you troll the Washington Post for me by denouncing their use of the term “sea of misinformation”?

The Seasteading Institute announces a deal with French Polynesia to build the first seastead in a lagoon there. I’m still confused on whether they’ve got funding or anything else besides the location. Still a big step.

80,000 Hours’ guide to what charities to give to this season. A good supplement to GiveWell’s Top Charities list

Vox: Why the war on poverty failed, and what to do now. In the form of a long and detailed history of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyveysant neighborhood. Not clear that anyone actually knows what to do now beyond a few good common-sense suggestions.

Some towns have tried to help the environment by banning plastic bags. But the state of Michigan will have none of this, and has banned banning plastic bags. I think Congress should strike a blow for local governments’ rights by banning banning banning plastic bags.

Andrew Gelman attacks the claim that North Carolina is no longer a democracy (original blog post, Slate article, response to counterargument).

RIP utilitarian philosopher Derek Parfit: “When I believed the non-reductionist view [of personal identity], I also cared more about my inevitable death. After my death, there will [be] no one living who will be me. I can now redescribe this fact. Though there will later be many experiences, none of these experiences will be connected to my present experiences by chains of such direct connections as those involved in experience-memory, or in the carrying out of an earlier intention. Some of these future experiences may be related to my present experiences in less direct ways. There will later be some memories about my life. And there may later be thoughts that are influenced by mine, or things done as the result of my advice. My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad.”

Alex K. Chen on Quora on the speculation that Ritalin may be long-term safer than Adderall. See also this review article. This is definitely not yet psychiatric common knowledge or consensus.

Man shoots guy with swastika tattoo at protest; victim turns out to be antifascist whose tattoo was a swastika in a crossed-out-circle similar to the no-smoking sign; crossed-out-circle apparently less visible than he would have liked. This is probably a metaphor for life. (possibly not true/incomplete, see here

A recent graph that showed how many nukes each country had provoked some confusion by showing “Jeff” as having nuclear weapons. Was this a mistake or joke? According to the Reddit thread Who The Hell Is Jeff, it’s actually the Joint Evaluated Fission And Fusion File, an international organization that studies nuclear energy and borrowed a couple of nukes to do tests on. I wonder how many forms you have to fill out for that.

Meta-analysis in the American Journal Of Nutrition: Red meat does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Marginal Revolution on libertarian childrens books, mostly notable for this story about libertarian kids traveling to the beach called The Tuttle Twins And The Road To Surfdom. I find it funny/fitting that (as per Amazon) “this book is only available from third-party sellers”. But if you prefer your libertarianism-related childrens books with a sea-related theme to come down against the ideology, there’s also Nathan Robinson’s Libertarian Island.

Pigeons As Trainable Observers Of Pathology And Radiology Breast Cancer Images should delight behaviorists and worry radiologists.

“From an outside view, looking in at the Earth, if you noticed that human beings were about to replace themselves as the most intelligent agents on the planet, would you think it unreasonable if 1% of their effort were being spent explicitly reasoning about that transition? How about 0.1%?” – Time To Spend More Than 0.00001% Of World GDP On Human-Level AI Alignment. I like this essay, but I also worry that framing things as percent of global GDP is easy to abuse. Don’t you think it’s time to spend more than 0.00001% of GDP rewarding bloggers who make important points about keeping numbers in perspective?

Tom Pepinsky: Everyday Authoritarianism Is Boring And Tolerable. The average dictatorship isn’t Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany. It’s relatively stable and most people have normal lives. There are probably elections that seem free and fair if you don’t look too closely. You can probably criticize the government as long as you’re not important or you don’t have an audience. I think this is a really important article. First, because it explains some things I’d never really understood – like how come you keep hearing about authoritarian regimes cracking down on dissidents in a way that implied they weren’t doing that before. And second, it’s important to anyone who wants to watch for and resist authoritarianism, since it’s not going to look the way you expect it to look and it might be easier to miss than you think.

This paper tries to fight the idea of microaggressions by saying that it implies certain testable claims and that those claims are false. I appreciate the effort but I’m not sure that the people who use the term are implying any testable claims, and I worry about scientific studies attempting to disprove the existence of political concepts. It seems too easy to show that other controversial topics like “political correctness” or “structural racism” or whatever don’t fit some list of things you claim they should fit and therefore “aren’t real”. I do think it’s important to challenge these kinds of concepts sometimes, and I do think facts about them established in scientific papers are important parts of that challenge, but I’m not sure it’s right for the scientific literature to be the place where these sorts of battles are fought.

Congratulations to the city of San Diego for losing the San Diego Chargers instead of giving into their demand for $600 million in public subsidies.

Last year I argued that $600 EpiPens didn’t mean the government should price-control drugs, they meant that we needed more competition in the EpiPen market. Now CVS is producing a competing EpiPen for only $110. Still illegal to give for a normally-written EpiPen prescription, though, so remind your doctor to write for “adrenaline autoinjector”.

Agora Project is an attempt to create a new kind of forum with branching and rejoining discussion topics.

Acemoglu and Restropo: Economic stagnation is not due to aging populations.

New York Times: Can You Draw Obama’s Legacy?. Finish line graphs showing how crime, unemployment, etc changed during Obama’s terms.

Size (and most comparable animal) of neural networks over time.

China scraps construction on 85 coal power plants.

Study: no link between gut flora, mental illness

Popehat on Trump’s defamation cases: “Put another way, it is a matter of judicial record that the new President of the United States is habitually full of shit. This is optimal for a defamation defense, if perhaps not for America.”

User dogtasteslikechicken at the r/slatestarcodex subreddit gives a good summary of the Flynn Effect. But it looks like he is confused about some of the same things I am. For example, rich people and the nobility probably had good nutrition and education in the past. So we might expect a Flynn effect based on nutrition and education not to affect them as much. But if this were true, we would expect a skewed or bimodal distribution in the past (un-Flynned poor people with bad nutrition + Flynned rich people with good nutrition), which I don’t think ever clearly showed up.

Some fallout from the Buzzfeed story on growth mindset I linked last week. The Spectator published what I think is a really nasty and evidence-free denunciation of the phenomenon. Mindset researcher David Yeager has tried to set the record straight and argues that growth mindset actually replicates just fine, eg in this paper, and that several other large and rigorous replications are being attempted. Dweck herself has a reply up here. And Timothy Bates put his failed replications online here. Looks like it will be an interesting year in this field.

Obama attempted to get everyone out of Guanatanmo before the end of his term, but wasn’t able to make the deadline.

Ferrett on how online fetish site FetLife has been forced to remove some controversial fetish material under threat from online payment processors not to accept transactions regarding his site. I think online payment processors are an underappreciated threat to free speech compared to eg Trump, political correctness, etc – they’ve also been harassing the nootropics community and making it really difficult to sell otherwise-legal chemicals. Bitcoin is apparently so rarely-used that a lot of businesses wouldn’t be profitable if they had to go Bitcoin only; anyone who can figure out a nonjudgmental way to send money online would have quite the business opportunity, not to mention the thanks of a grateful Internet. (but see response here)

Stuart Ritchie reviews Keith Stanovich’s The Rationality Quotient, notes that his “rationality quotient” correlates at 0.695 with normal IQ. Stanovichian rationality is probably not a great answer to the timeless “why do smart people sometimes think such stupid things” question. (but see response here)

Objects designed by AI look organic and alien.

Los Angeles Times: claims that Obama deported far more people than any other president are based on a change in how people returned to Mexico after being apprehended crossing the border got reported; previously these were not counted as deportations, and during the Obama administration they were. Adjusting for this, Obama deported fewer immigrants than other recent presidents.

A picture of The Lucky Knot Bridge in China.

The best explanation I’ve heard for why people believe the Russians were behind the DNC hacks (warning: hard-to-follow Tweet thread). Short version: the hackers made a mistake that let investigators see who else they had hacked in the same way; the victims were mostly enemies of Russia. While it could have just been a very complicated framing, even then the scale and complexity would suggest a state actor.

More takes on Trump’s health picks – Daily Caller: Jim O’Neill, The Best Trump Pick You’ve Never Heard Of and Marginal Revolution: Will Trump Appoint A Great FDA Commissioner?. And note that Trump has asked current NIH direct Francis Collins to remain in his post, at least for now. Also, a profile of new HHS secretary Tom Price.

More geometric mosque architecture photos.

One of the biggest US school choice experiments has been judged a success, with New Orleans test scores rising about a third of a standard deviation after Hurricane Katrina prompted city government to switch the school system to a voucher-based model. See also Neerav Kingsland’s take. Related: as per WaPo, new analysis shows that giving billions of dollars of extra funding to failing schools had no impact [but see counterarguments here and here].

Does pupil size correlate with intelligence? (blog post, paper)

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765 Responses to Links 1/17: Inaugurl Address

  1. nolemonnomelon says:

    I’m really surprised the “Days of Rage” piece came so highly recommended. Other commenters here have pointed out factual inaccuracies already, but it’s the narrative the author tries to draw about leftist violence that feels so wrong and crazy to me. The author glosses over the fact that Weatherman specifically intended to cause no harm to human beings, only destruction of property, and then carelessly continues to call them “terrorists”, refer to political actions as “mass shootings” when they didn’t kill anyone (??), and equate their actions with those of actual terrorists who actually kill actual people. To repeatedly simply refer to them as “terrorists” and talk about the multitude of bombings without making this distinction is disingenuous. The narrative falls apart to me right from the very beginning. Do I support radical leftists blowing up public property, being idiots about it and, through hundreds of incidents, killing no one but themselves by accident? That seems to be a different question from whether I support “radical leftist terrorist bombings” (note that this isn’t an inaccurate description, just a lie of omission). Also, in all of those words, the author never once mentions any of the actual, homegrown, far-right terrorists who very much want to kill and succeed in killing actual people in our world, today. I understand this article is about far-left extremism, but in context I have a difficult time construing it as a real threat compared to terrorists like, say, the shooter in Norway. The points about the institutional support for the left are vacuous to me; they lack so much nuance as to distort reality completely. Yes, leftist extremists have enjoyed some limited institutional support, but so has the right, both in very complicated ways which would be better explained by an entirely different essay. The conclusions the author goes to about future American civil war are interesting to entertain, but not much more, given that they’re based on this line of argument I already found so shaky.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Partial overview of fish oil research.

    Fish oil isn’t as obviously good for people as was being said, though it still might be useful in moderate doses. Also, a lot of commercial fish oil isn’t as good as it says on the label.

    I would think that capsules will be less likely to be oxidized than bottled fish oil, but this is just a guess.

  3. HD42 says:

    I can’t be the only one absolutely terrified at the thought of the whole AI risk thing but I concede this is not an issue where I have a good handle on. As an almost 30 something, should I be aiming to make sure I jump off the whole living trend in the next few decades or can i be confident I’ll be dead incidentally before this becomes a concern? Also if someone could give me a good indication of just how petrified in fear i should be that would be good too

  4. In my latest post, I say more about the claim that Obama deported more illegal aliens than any other President, which is also discussed by the LA Times article Scott discussed above.

    • baconbacon says:

      I’m reading through the linked articles fairly quickly, so I might be misinterpreting the data, but here are the objections I would start with.

      1. The comparison in the article by Vaughan appears to be cherry picked. The title says “deportations hit 10 year low” and the main comparisons are between Obama’s average year and the year prior to his inauguration or between 2016 (Obama’s lowest year) and the year prior. The graphs appear to show that Bush II jacked up his deportations in the last 2 years of office, which makes these comparisons pretty misleading.

      Example: Total ICE deportations under Obama in 2016 were 240,000 which is higher than every year of Bush II through 2006. From your blog piece

      Before 2009, people who were deported at or near the border just weren’t included in ICE numbers, but this changed under Obama, which mechanically increased the number of deportations pretty sharply. But when you look only at interior deportations, you see that they actually decreased rather dramatically under Obama.

      Total Interior deportations under Obama did decline, but interior deportations were >200,000 through 2011, compared with total ICE deportations under Bush II through 2006 of under 200,000.

      From Vaughan’s piece

      In 2016, ICE removed a total of 240,255 aliens. This statistic counts all deportations (removals and returns) that are credited to ICE, and includes both border and interior cases handled by ICE. It is just 2 percent higher (4,842 more) than 2015, when ICE removed 235,413 aliens. The number is 24 percent lower than 2014 and 41 percent lower than the peak number of deportations credited to ICE in 2012. It is the lowest number of deportations credited to ICE since 2006.

      Basically all the data provided to this point show that Obama’s 2nd term had a reduction vs Obama’s first term, which was deporting people at a rate much higher than the average Bush term (or even the highest 4 year Bush stretch to compare 1 term to 1 term).

      To address this point

      Before 2009, people who were deported at or near the border just weren’t included in ICE numbers, but this changed under Obama, which mechanically increased the number of deportations pretty sharply.

      In my (admittedly not comprehensive) understanding the change came under Bush II, not under Obama, and that it was not simply a change in classification but a policy shift in how some were processed. The idea was that simply catching and dropping back over the border wasn’t enough of a disincentive and allowed basically perpetual attempts until success was found. One claim that (I think) I remember reading is that under Clinton a person could conceivably be “caught” multiple times in a single day attempting to cross illegally.

      If my understanding is in the ball park a discussion of “low deportation” vs “high deportation” can’t be had without a discussion about how effective those disincentives were (I literally have no idea and can’t recall reading anything on such an effect).

      2. Vaughan

      Under Obama, a much larger number of Border Patrol cases were transferred to ICE for processing than had been the case under prior administrations. In 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration, just over a third of deportations credited to ICE were border cases, and two-thirds were interior cases. In 2016, more than two-thirds of the deportation cases credited to ICE were border cases, and less than a third were interior cases.

      Again not apples to apples (last year of administration vs last year of administration doesn’t give much context), average under Bush vs average under Obama would be more accurate, as would max year vs max year, min year vs min year etc. As one goal of the changes to immigration policy was to reduce incentives for illegal immigration then a reduction over 8-10 years would be correlated with a successful and vigorously pursued policy.

      3. VAughan

      But counting only removals as deportations presents a misleading picture of the level of enforcement. Removals are just one form of the deportation process that can be executed by any of the three DHS enforcement agencies (ICE, Border Patrol, and CBP officers at the port of entry). All three enforcement agencies also can process deportable aliens as a return (sometimes known as voluntary return), which is a lesser consequence

      This is a subtle shift in tone. Compare with just a few paragraphs earlier

      What little growth there was in deportations credited to ICE was the result of a higher number of cases turned over to ICE after apprehension by the Border Patrol, not more interior enforcement.

      ICE removed 65,332 aliens from the interior in 2016. That is a decline of 6 percent from 2015 and down 73 percent from 2009, the year President Obama took office.

      First comes a comparison starting with the beginning of Obama’s tenure with a focus on the ‘important’ removals (i.e. internal ones), but then comes the broad view of all removals but with average year comparisons.

      In sum I don’t think either side has presented the correct case. Clinton technically “removed the most” but a quick google search (with no checking on methodology or anything) brings up some estimates that have total illegal immigrant populations quadrupling under Clinton, increasing again by ~50% under Bush II and flatlining under Obama (lots of confounding factors like the strength of the economy and total legal immigrants allowed during those periods). That, I would think, would be the main thrust of any case about the effectiveness of illegal immigration policy, not gross removals. (Don’t take this to mean that I think X’s policy is better or worse than Y’s, just that this is the approach I would favor with unsubstantiated numbers for example purposes only).

      • Thanks for this careful response. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to write the reply it deserves, but I mostly agree with what you say. In particular, I agree that a serious debate about enforcing immigration law would have to look at the effectiveness of illegal immigration policy, not just the number of removals. The point of my post, however, wasn’t to do that debate, but only to debunk the myth that Obama had deported more people than any other President. I also agree that Obama likely deported more illegal aliens from the interior during his first term than Bush during his, but it’s still important to note that, except in 2009 (when presumably Bush’s policies were still in place), the number of interior deportations under Obama was always less than during Bush’s last year. Moreover, since illegal immigration policy is the kind of things which have a lot of inertia, it’s likely that if Obama still deported a relatively high number of people from the interior during his first term, it’s at least in part because of the policy changes implemented at the end of Bush’s second term. But this doesn’t really detract from what you’re saying, so I’m going to edit my post to add a link to your comment, because again I think you make some good points.

      • I should also make clear that the point of my post wasn’t to argue that Bush had enforced immigration law more strictly than Obama either. I favor a restrictionist immigration policy and I think Bush was horrible. That being said, since I’m French, I’m not deeply invested in this. I am, however, deeply invested in the debate about immigration in Europe and care about what happens on this side of the pond to the extent that it can influence what happens in Europe.

  5. With the thoughts says:

    The atlantic had an article about the alternatives to plastic bags being worse for the enviroment than plastics bag because they require much greater usage to be effective in minimizing enviromental damage. So banning plastic bags could actually be counterproductive.

    The UKEA study calculated an expenditure of a little less than two kilograms of carbon per HDPE bag. For paper bags, seven uses would be needed to achieve the same per-use ratio. Tote bags made from recycled polypropylene plastic require 26, and cotton tote bags require 327 uses.

    The article:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/09/to-tote-or-note-to-tote/498557/

    The study:
    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/life-cycle-assessment-of-supermarket-carrierbags-a-review-of-the-bags-available-in-2006

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m suspicious of the numbers. I can buy, at retail in the United States, 10,000 HDPE bags for 4c/bag

      That’s not going to pay for 2kg of carbon production per bag.

      Other figures in the report provide inconsistent numbers:

      The GWP from grid electricity used to produce carrier bags varies from 38 per cent of the overall impact for HDPE bags[...]

      Grid electricity is 6.151kWh/1000 bags, assuming .758kWh/kg (based on bags being produced in China with mostly coal-generated electricity). This gives 8.1kg/1000 bags for the electricity, for a total GWP of 21.3kg/1000 bags, or 21.3 grams (not kg) per bag.

      Someone slipped a decimal; me or them.

      • Deiseach says:

        They’re not comparing like-for-like; they’re assuming people re-use the plastic bags as bin liners, so this means they don’t buy separate bin liners, and thus they subtract some of the energy/waste from the plastic bags.

        This reduced figure is then the one they compare paper bags, re-usable bags, etc. against. That’s (in part) why the figures are a bit screwy:

        We therefore calculated that 40.3 per cent (53 per cent of 76 per cent) of all lightweight carrier bags avoided the use of bin liners. The volume and weight of an average HDPE bin liner was calculated to be 29.3 litres and 9.3 grams, using the same measurement methods applied to the carrier bags in this study (see annex B). Therefore, for every 19.1 litre lightweight plastic carrier bag that was reused, an avoided burden of 6.1grams of HDPE bin liner was subtracted from the system.

        If they compared “you get a plastic bag for your groceries and then throw it away once you use it” with paper etc., then the figures would be different. I’m not going to re-calculate everything, but they’re fudging a wee bit (I have no idea why).

        • The Nybbler says:

          That just pushes the relative figure from 26 uses of the reusable bag (100% reuse of the HDPE bag as bin liners) to 14 (40.3% reused) or 11 (HDPE bag not reused) — see Table 8.1 on page 61.

          It’s the absolute figure of “a little less than two kilograms of carbon per HDPE bag” that I’m arguing with. This appears to be based on Figure 5.1 (page 33), which shows an HDPE bag using a little more than 2kg but with some reduction due to recycling and ‘avoided products’.

          Appendix C gives different figures. For reasons I don’t understand these are for 82.14 bags. (C.6.1, page 97), but they come out to 21.3 grams CO2 equivalent for bag again. So I suspect it’s just a matter of them not mentioning that figure 5.1 is for 100 bags, not 1 bag.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Obviously paper bags are terrible, but isn’t the whole point of the tote bags that you use them over and over and over again? Like who buys a grocery tote bag and then only uses it 26 times?

      • Matt M says:

        Me! I’ve probably bought a handful and probably used them each less than 10 times.

        Granted my situation is kind of unique. I was living in a town that banned plastic bags. At that point I tried to do most of my grocery shopping in a neighboring town as a form of protest. Every once in awhile though I’d try to run someplace local. I’d usually pick up one of those cheap 99 cent totes and try to keep it in the car or something, but I didn’t shop locally often, and I’d usually end up leaving them inside and using them for storage in the house then eventually forgetting about them, losing them, throwing them away, etc.

  6. In case anyone is interested, I put up a short post today on my blog about Christopher Browning’s excellent book on the genocide of the Jews during WW2. Since I last wrote a comment here, I also posted a few other things, which you might also find interesting. Anyway, that’s it for now, end of shameless self-promotion! :-p

  7. Andy says:

    Not to be a one topic poster, but…

    So from the Flynn Effect reddit link, Woodley (2015) argues that there’s a 0.123 point per year drop in genotypic IQ in the US and the UK.

    That’s not just disconcerting; it’s civilization-halting disconcerting. A 12.3 point decline in a century would potentially stunt our society’s ability to operate.

    We better hope genetic engineering comes sooner.

    • baconbacon says:

      From the wikipedia article on the Flynn effect

      The average rate of increase seems to be about three IQ points per decade in the United States

      So a 12 pt decline would take you back to an IQ the US had in the late 60s/early 70s, even if the Effect has significantly slowed in recent decades you are still talking about post WW2 average IQ, for what reason do we have to thing that this would cause society to fall apart?

      • Andy says:

        The problem here is that the Flynn Effect appears to reflect increases in specific cognitive abilities, not general intelligence.

    • Kevin C. says:

      “That’s not just disconcerting; it’s civilization-halting disconcerting. A 12.3 point decline in a century would potentially stunt our society’s ability to operate.”

      Welcome to the club.

      “We better hope genetic engineering comes sooner.”

      And isn’t squashed by people like the commenters at Marginal Revolution and elsewhere whose attitudes toward genetic engineering is “reducing the frequency of harmful genes in the population? Wasn’t there a group in 30s-40s Germany who tried to do that?” Or the “meddling in God’s domain/disfiguring the Imago Dei” types. Or the “The United Nations should declare the human genome to be part of the common heritage of mankind, so that any germline engineering anywhere on Earth is legally equivalent to the likes of defacing the Parthenon”. Or any of the other groups who could become our real-life Blue Cosmos.

      • Andy says:

        I also wonder how socially significant Flynn Effect gains are if they do not reflect increases in g. If they are just as socially significant as a g-loaded effect, then we’d be fine – just going back to the 60’s or so. But somehow I doubt that.

        Honestly, this 12 point decline intuitively sounds ridiculous. I can’t imagine how we wouldn’t have noticed it somewhere. A difference that big should be *incredibly* palpable.

  8. ameizing says:

    That Days of Rage article is wild. The historical stuff is fascinating. And I don’t know how valid all of his claims are, but the idea that the normalization of leftist violence and “”””nonviolent property damage”””” will lead to rightists doing the same and everything will escalate from there – is frighteningly plausible.

    ETA: This is a side note, but a few off-handed remarks in the article made me think of it: I appear to be the only SJ-critical person who doesn’t see ‘checking your privilege’ as a self-flagellating Maoist struggle session. Critiquing my own biases and behavior w.r.t. race, gender, and whatever else feels more like the kind of self-examination of cognitive biases that LessWrong inspires me to do than anything totalitarian or miserable.
    Other people seem to take “you, like everyone else, are probably racist in some ways you don’t notice” and “you have it easier than other people because of your gender and skin color” in much more personal and emotional ways.

    • AnonEEmous says:

      despite me also being sj-critical, I check my biases regularly

      i want to make sure I understand the world correctly, and I don’t like being unfair to people

      but I do think there are a lot of people who take it as an excuse to self-flagellate. I’ve certainly self-flagellated in this fashion, though with other behaviors, not so much privilege-checking, and the remembrance brings me deep shame.

      -oh, also. People take it seriously because the topic is extremely sensitive, and in our current climate rightfully so – racist equals bad person, and no one wants to think of themselves as a bad person, so they defend themselves against the assault.

      also I disagree with a lot of what privilege theory says about privilege in regards to: race, and especially gender.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “racist equals bad person”

        Actually in some quarters I’ve seen, it’s more like racist equals “Untouchable”, in that I’ve seen arguments to the effect of ‘all decent people, as a necessary but not sufficient condition of being such, shun and condemn utterly all racists; therefore, anyone who hires, employs, does not fire, works for, goes to church with, or otherwise associates with a racist is almost certainly themselves racist, and must be similarly shunned and excluded by all right-thinking people.’

    • The Nybbler says:

      “you, like everyone else, are probably racist in some ways you don’t notice”… and therefore you’re a toxic person whose opinion should not be heard and who should be severely restricted simply as protection for the virtuous marginalized groups.

      “you have it easier than other people because of your gender and skin color” … and therefore you should shut up and take whatever abuse we give out; you had it easy, white boy, and now it’s time for you to suffer so it can be easy for others.

      Yeah, it’s personal and emotional. But it’s all been discussed before

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/07/social-justice-and-words-words-words/

    • lvlln says:

      Re: Checking one’s privilege, this seems to be a kind of a motte-and-bailey deal. In its most reasonable form, telling someone to “check their privilege” is exactly what you described, simply telling them to use their critical thinking skills to examine the biases and things in life that they got merely through the luck of their birth. This isn’t offensive. But in practice, it seems to be almost ubiquitously used as a demand to shut up, to feel collective guilt, and to concede everything to the person making the demand without any critical thinking. Hence why people tend to react to it as if it’s a “self-flagellating Maoist struggle session.”

    • TenMinute says:

      Defending yourself against assault is just proof of your violence.

      You don’t see the struggle session?

      Not even a little?

      The struggle is real, bro.

      • rlms says:

        Oh no! People said silly things on the internet! What is the world coming too?!

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Seriously, we’ve had a spate of people posting near-obvious parodies of left-wing people recently. Those would all fit in perfectly.

        • TenMinute says:

          One was from an academic conference.
          One was from the university of delaware freshman indoctrination manual.
          One is from a group that tours schools putting children in chains and teaching them about the sins of their ancestors, and that they should be “so sorry” for them.
          One was from the internet. (The internet which we are currently on, by the way.)

          This was also “silly things on the internet”. Does that make it not a real soc-jus-fueled bullying campaign?

          Your reply is interesting, but a pretty low-effort comeback. Is that really your only defense of this?

          • rlms says:

            Last time I checked, Twitter was part of the internet. You make a valid point about the other two. I apologise for my misleading statement, and amend it to “Oh no! People said silly things on the internet! And in some booklet that no-one cares about! And there’s a picture of some white people in chains that is meaningless without context! Truly, civilisational collapse is imminent!”.

          • TenMinute says:

            Ah, we’ve gone from “it’s not a struggle session” to “LOL it’s not the end of civilization”.
            That was quick, and a sign you don’t have a response other than deflection. Have a good one.

          • rlms says:

            A corollary to “what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” is “contentless internet snark can be dismissed by contentless internet snark”.

          • TenMinute says:

            You could have said “those things you posted are real, but don’t outweigh the positive effects of etc. etc.”.

            You could have said “actually, those things are simply a positive way of dealing with problematic people and attitudes that need to be wiped out”.

            Instead, you jumped straight to “the things you are seeing do not exist, and if you acknowledge seeing them there is something wrong with you”.
            This is why people do not trust the movement and its partisans.

          • suntzuanime says:

            A corollary to “what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” is “contentless internet snark can be dismissed by contentless internet snark”.

            An undervalued point! But not one that applies in this case, as Ten Minutes’s post was both responsive and meaningful. And in any case it doesn’t provide a safe harbor for you if you mischaracterize someone’s argument for the sake of snark, as you did.

          • rlms says:

            @suntzuanime
            I apologise again for my grievous mischaracterisation of TenMinute’s statement, and point you to my amended version. If that doesn’t satisfy you, I can get a T-shirt with “So sorry” written on it and kneel on the floor in chains (please note, this is sarcasm, I am not actually willing to do that). I would not classify four images, two of which are silly things on the internet, as being “responsive and meaningful”. If you differ, my equally meaningful response is /pol/.

            @TenMinute
            Interesting that you jump straight to marking me as a partisan of the “movement”. That’s why I didn’t feel engaging in an actual argument would be interesting.

  9. Ilya Shpitser says:

    Curious to hear the thoughts of the Trump supporter commentariat on the Trump presidency so far.

    ?James Miller?

    • sflicht says:

      I wasn’t exactly a Trump supporter (voted for Johnson), but I got Trump-curious sometime between when I filled in my absentee ballot and the election.

      I’ve been largely pleased with his presidency so far.

      On nominations, I like DeVos, Mattis, Pruitt and the rumors about what could plausibly happen at FDA. Sessions was less exciting to me since it seems unlikely he’ll curtail the drug war, but honestly it’s hard to say what will happen. My #ConfessYourUnpopularOpinion is that Flynn is a good pick. I don’t think taking a super hard line against Iran is actually rational, but I do think that having a sworn enemy of the CIA (and — if I surmise correctly — a skeptic of the IC’s “brilliant” strategy of arming rebels in Syria) in a high level intelligence position is valuable. I think the IC is the most dangerous part of the executive branch, so I want them weak and flustered, even discombobulated.

      All the pipeline-related executive action stuff is self-evidently good, as far as I’m concerned.

      The wall I couldn’t care less about, but to the extent Trump promulgates the norm that presidents should follow through on campaign promises, that seems relatively harmless.

      The ban on immigration from certain countries doesn’t bother me that much. I think Aaronson’s whining about his grad student’s student visa renewal prospects is premature. I’d actually be a little surprised to see any particularly draconian policy emerge in this direction six months from now. It’s possible, but I’d rate it as like 10% likely. (I’m willing to bet on this, but not necessarily for exactly 9-1 odds, depending on the precise specification of the bet.)

      I follow foreign policy fairly closely, and in this regard the most consequential thing is definitely Trump’s messaging to China. Among the commentariat there is noticeable contingent — as far as I can tell including both China hawks and doves — who think the Taiwan call was actually really smart. The intelligentsia are really concerned about the South China Sea. My own gut instinct is that duh obviously China has de facto sovereignty over the SCS when you think about the situation in cold realpolitik terms so I place less emphasis on this issue. But on Taiwan the fact that Trump was willing to buck convention (with tacit approval from China, it turns out) seems to me to hint that he is playing the game at a higher level than the MSM gives him credit for. The China-US relationship is the one to really pay attention to for the next 4 years, and Trump made an opening move that is noteworthy because it is neither passive nor obviously dumb.

      On economic policy more generally, I’m quite pessimistic, although I’m also confident Hillary would have been strictly worse. The tax plan seems fine-ish. (I worry about debt.) Obamacare isn’t really up to Trump and I don’t think the GOP has the situation under control, so the outcome is likely to be bad, but so was the status quo. Mnuchin seems like a fine choice despite his resume.

      I’m not worried about Trump’s android phone leaking the nuclear codes to the russkies.

      Speaking of Russia, I expect the Astana talks to be a disappointment, but I don’t think Putin and Lavrov actually care that much. The situation in Idlib is unclear to me (are there non-jihadi rebels or not? are they fighting with jihadis or not?). That said, once Tillerson is in place and Trump gets the CIA under control (semi-control, or the amount of control that is possible), I’m optimistic that working with Russia Trump will be able to stabilize the Syrian situation and reduce the violence. A collapse of Al Qaeda forces within 2017 seems plausible, followed by a new constitution recognizing kurdish semi-autonomy in the northeast (probably as part of some federalist structure). Finishing off ISIS will be a slog stretching into 2018 and maybe beyond.

      On the home front, I don’t know how long to expect the Trump rally in the stock market to continue. Fundamentals still seem a bit weak to me, intuitively. I don’t think Trump’s protectionist agenda is economically sound, but predictions of disaster are almost certainly overblown. I’m skeptical that he’ll be able to turn around decades-long trends in labor force participation, no matter what he does. So a recession within the first term seems entirely within the realm of possibility. On the other hand, if he follows through with a deregulatory agenda as signalled by his cabinet picks, I think some genuine stimulus could result.

      So overall my grade for the first few days is like a B or B+.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        I have an Iranian grad student who now has specific difficulties that did not exist before.

        Graduate students and postdocs who currently are out of the country for innocuous reasons (conferences, holidays) can no longer enter. Your view on this is {meh|acceptable losses|good riddance|some combination}?

        Were you aware of this: http://www.sciencealert.com/that-thing-the-standing-rock-protesters-were-afraid-of-just-happened

        Similar question on above: {meh|acceptable losses|something else}?

        • sflicht says:

          On Standing Rock, I’m like 95-99% confident that article (which I did skim) is bullshit. Please send info about a detailed scientific study that attributes the spill (if it even happened) to the pipeline project. I have a lot of intellectual respect for Richard Epstein, so I’ve outsourced my opinion on this topic to him, and he argues persuasively that the DAPL controversy is a nontroversy. I commend to you his various columns on the subject, which are easily googlable. The conclusion from reading them is that one should actually have a pretty strong prior that DAPL is safety enhancing, not dangerous. So the “science alert” you linked doesn’t get a lot of weight unless I see some pretty convincing scientific studies addressing the affirmative harm caused the pipeline, the exact analogy to the situation in question, not to mention whether the events that press release describes even happened.

          On Iran, I want more information about what exactly changed, on a fine-grained, boring level of detail, about visa policy. Can you clarify the difficulties?

          But yeah, my basic view is along the lines of “meh” or “acceptable losses”, as heartless as that might seem. The international community muddles along, to the extent it can, in relatively peaceful ways. Disagreements between countries will inevitably cause serious inconvenience to apolitical actors just trying to do their thing. It’s regrettable. But in utilitarian terms, it’s really not the worst thing in the world.

          Let’s suppose that your student suddenly faces insurmountable visa obstacles and will be forced to finish his studies in Iran. From my point of view, the most likely reason that is seriously detrimental to his or her well-being is that he or she is in love with an American who will have difficulty moving to Iran, while he or she has difficulty moving to America. Don’t get me wrong, that’s bad. But it’s not life-endingly bad. There are likely various potential approaches to mediating the situation, including the partner moving to Iran, a visa application being approved after some delay, etc. The basic problem at hand — a student not being able to attend classes and conduct research at the institution they planned to do so – is just not that bad. Barring two lovers kept unnecessarily apart, the worst consequence is inconvenience to the involved parties, who need to skype instead of meet in person to set up dissertation committees and the like.

          All this is to say, the downsides of Trump’s policy here are nontrivial, but really they aren’t that bad, assuming it’s just a question of what really smart immigrant students have to deal with. My prediction, to reiterate, is that the vast majority if not all, students from the affected countries will ultimately complete their studies more or less unaffected. To the extent there are exceptions, the damage done will likely be minor indignities more correctly classified as “inconvenience’ rather than “suffering”. Unless and until I’m proved wrong about this, I reserve the right not to get up in arms about Iranian grad students.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Thanks, this helped me make up my mind on something.

          • TenMinute says:

            It sounds like your mind was already made up, but needed an excuse.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The issue is Trump placed (or will place; I don’t think the order has been signed yet) a 30-day moratorium on entry to the US for nationals of certain countries designated in some law passed in 2016. As a moratorium on entries it would apply to those on existing visas as well as those who have applied for them or were going to, so it’s likely to cause problems for some people outside the US when the order is signed.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Once you decide to extract natural gas, the most economical and environmentally safe way to move it is by pipeline. Opposing the pipeline doesn’t mean the gas doesn’t get extracted. It means it gets moved by truck or train.

            This is the same logic, and outcome, as “I don’t want teenagers having sex so I won’t give them birth control.”

            If you don’t want the natural gas extracted, you need to do something besides stopping the safest way to move it.

          • Matt M says:

            “If you don’t want the natural gas extracted, you need to do something besides stopping the safest way to move it.”

            I’m reminded of when I lived in a left-wing community in Oregon that was trying to ban coal trains from passing through, under the logic of “coal contributes to climate change so if we can stop the movement of coal then we’ll save the planet.”

            The coal and transportation companies basically came back and said “Moving this coal around will still be profitable even if you prevent us from using the shortest and most convenient route. We’ll just have to expend even more energy (and thus emit even more CO2) than we would have before. These regulations will increase, not decrease, net CO2 emissions”

            The do-gooders banned the coal trains anyway and patted themselves on the back for being heroes that were clearly saving the planet.

          • Jiro says:

            Incrementally increasing the cost of transporting the coal incrementally decreases the profit of coal and therefore incrementally promotes alternative energy. Just because it isn’t a yes/no thing and happens by slight changes in probabilities and slight movements on the balance sheet doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

          • Matt M says:

            Okay, but their stated goal is “reduce carbon emissions” and method of achieving it actually increases carbon emissions.

            I suppose it’s possible to construct an economic model where the long term damage to the profitability of the coal industry by requiring their trains to go around your hippy commune cancels out the additional CO2 they emit by having to do this – but I really don’t think anyone pushing the ban was crunching those numbers. I don’t recall hearing anyone present them at the time, at least.

          • rlms says:

            Categorical imperative.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If they wanted to “incrementally increase the cost” they could have charged an extra $100 per train load coming through.

            But no. We don’t want to encourage teen sex.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Edward Scizorhands:

            I agree (although, I’m not so sure they could charge a fee?)

            But, broadly, this strikes me as a “at least my hands are clean” impulse. Compare this to not voting as an attempt at a principled statement.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Confused, the issue with the protests is negative externalities of pipelines (e.g. NIMBYism), not just environmentalism.

            Negative externalities of things corps do is absolutely a legit thing to worry about, since corp incentives are aligned in a way that make them not give a fuck, unless explicitly pressured. Corps are the amoeba versions of “UFAI,” after all. There is a long chapter on how mining companies behave in “Collapse,” for example (and it’s not editorializing either, just describing things that actually happened).

            The hobby horse on the right in the same vein is eminent domain abuse.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        The wall I couldn’t care less about, but to the extent Trump promulgates the norm that presidents should follow through on campaign promises, that seems relatively harmless.

        You know, besides being a massive, and probably not very useful, expense.

        • Matt M says:

          It might be a useful thought exercise to estimate how much money the wall is going to cost, and to compare that to the dollar value you would assign to “politicians start keeping their campaign promises”

          • sflicht says:

            I expect it will cost $25 billion and take 5 years to build.

          • Iain says:

            More precisely: compare it to the dollar value you assign to “one politician keeps one poorly thought-out campaign promise, sort of”. Wasn’t Mexico going to be paying for the wall?

            Besides, presidents keeping most of their promises is not a new thing. US politicians keep about 2/3 of their promises; in parliamentary democracies, where control of the legislature and control of the executive are linked, that number is even higher. It’s just that people tend to remember the big broken promises more than the promises that are kept.

          • lvlln says:

            I find the idea that Trump keeping this and/or other campaign promises will cause other politicians to keep their campaign promises at a higher rate to be about as implausible as the claim that having Trump as POTUS who once bragged about grabbing women by the pussy will cause more people to commit sexual assault on women people who have pussies. I just don’t see politicians and citizens as putting any meaningful weight to those considerations when it comes to emulating the president.

          • baconbacon says:

            The thing is that Trump may not actually even build the wall, as far as I can tell all he has done is state that a wall will be built after funding is found, which is basically no different from his campaign promises.

            Given his pomp but lack of action so far I would guess that what will happen is relatively small amounts of money (<5 billion*) get spent connecting portions of the barriers that already exist followed by big proclamations like "we completed a 900 mile stretch of the 'wall' today" when in reality they built 50 miles that make a previous 850 mile stretch fully connected (numbers for illustrative purposes only).

            Everything Trump has done so far is to give the illusion of action, without any actual action. His ACA order only effected the unpopular parts of the law and in a few months those people who would have paid the mandate won't have to while few if any people will actually lose their insurance.

            *In an ideal Trump world he will sign a trade agreement with Mexico where their concessions are in the neighborhood of the amount of money spent on the fence, and then he will run around saying he made Mexico pay for it.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @sflicht

            “I expect it will cost $25 billion and take 5 years to build.”

            So when Trump is impeached and removed in year 2 or 3…?

          • baconbacon says:

            Here is David Henderson on “the pipeline must be made out of american pipe”, in the same vein as everything else. Examples are now

            1. Build that wall (when you find the money).
            2. Hire more border agents (when you find the money)
            3. Only use US pipe for pipelines (within existing trade deals that forbid such treatment, so you know use whatever pipe you were going to use).
            4. Repeal the ACA (well, soften the enforcement of the least popular parts without changing anything else).
            5. Boot out all the illegals (at basically the same rates and structure as was under Obama).
            6. No more sanctuary cities or you lose funding (well, subject to a supreme court ruling that will probably go against him).

          • Randy M says:

            5. Boot out all the illegals (at basically the same rates and structure as was under Obama).

            There does seem to be some difference between Trump’s immigration stance and Obama’s already, according to this

            Recall the link Scott posted from the LAT showing Obama’s deportation claims exaggerated.

          • baconbacon says:

            There does seem to be some difference between Trump’s immigration stance and Obama’s already, according to this

            What is the net effect of these policies without actual extra funding?

            1. Ending Catch and release: functionally what happens is that catch and release exists due to limited resources. Detaining and deporting all violators without extra resources will simply mean the type of illegals that make it across will shift in composition with modest effect on the numbers. More dangerous illegals, fewer low danger illegals.

            2. Sanctuary cities: A few people have noted that withholding federal funds is likely unconstitutional and ail require a court case to be actually enacted.

            3. Might have some effect if deportations are actually faster and cheaper as it frees up resources.

            4. Same as 1, without more resources expanding the net will increase the size of the holes. As with 1 there is the potential for a larger raw number to be deported early on before behaviors catch up to new enforcement patterns.

            5. Again with the funding. Who is paying for the relocation to Mexico/Canada for asylum seekers?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          If we’re looking to boost the wages of low skill workers, having them patrol a wall sounds like a good place to start. (I’d still prefer a wage subsidy so the market can find the best use of their labor.)

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Ilya Shpitser – “Curious to hear the thoughts of the Trump supporter commentariat on the Trump presidency so far.”

      I have not followed the news in great detail, preferring to pursue a new year’s resolution to make more art rather than wasting my time on stuff that I have no control over that doesn’t really affect me much.

      That being said, I would describe my feelings currently as “warm, happy glow”. I don’t actually care much about immigration, but I resent the meme that we don’t have a right to enforce our laws or borders, and appreciate that he is actually sticking to what he said he’d do. I don’t know enough to have an opinion about his cabinet picks or his other executive orders. I do not really give credence to the claims of impending policy disaster; I suspect that the vast majority of important people making important predictions have no idea what they’re talking about, and am content to wait and see.

      Regarding people cut off from accessing the states, that is extremely unfortunate for them, but the federal government does not operate for the convenience or even well-being of anecdote-scale populations.

      My expectations for Trump were so low that I would have considered his impeachment and incarceration a win. I’m starting to think he might actually do a good job, and perhaps even break the decades-old policy logjam.

      • Jaskologist says:

        To me, the upset over the Visa restriction seems extremely… parochial.

        I knew an actual family in the states who was deported for, so far as I could tell, no particular reason at all. They even had small children. This was after we kept them from working for about half a year. I know enough immigrants to know that this is pretty common treatment for the type who come in legally and compete with people in the higher socio-economic stratas. (I guess I should clarify that this was during the Obama era, and happened to Heisen-whites).

        But now that the same thing is happening to people you know, it’s terrible? We’re supposed to denounce it only now that we can pin it on Trump?

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Confused — do you think people who generally oppose immigration restrictions are only piping up now? I am sure you realize this isn’t true.

          Why do you suppose Trump gave Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt a pass in his ban?

          • TenMinute says:

            Were you told that the ban is simply the existing State Department list of terrorism-sponsoring governments, as used by the former administration?

            If you came here from Scott Aaronson’s outrage post, you were not told this. Because it would have deadened the intended sense of outrage.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Is that your explanation for the exclusion of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt?

          • Cypren says:

            @TenMinute: That’s not entirely true. The State Department currently designates three state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Sudan and Syria.

            There are additional countries designated as “terrorist safe havens“, a lesser standard that indicates a country that does not actively support terrorists but lacks complete control of its own territory, allowing them to operate with some local support or impunity. Those countries are Somalia, Mali, the Philippines, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia and Venezuela.

            @Ilya Shpitster: Turkey and Saudi Arabia do not appear on either of the two State Dept. lists; demands that they be included make no more sense than demands that Qatar, the UAE and Jordan go on the list simply because they’re Muslim nations. Egypt is a somewhat more questionable case given the political instability there in the last few years, but notably, all three of the countries you mentioned have fairly pro-US governments which hold fairly strong control, in contrast to the seven nations covered under the executive order. (Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Somalia.)

            Seriously, people were outraged with Trump for proposing a temporary ban on Muslim immigration during the campaign; now he actually issues an order, and it’s very sensibly restricting just high-risk countries, and the outrage shifts to “but it’s not banning all Muslims”? Methinks this is less about principles and more about excuses for outrage.

          • Matt M says:

            “Methinks this is less about principles and more about excuses for outrage.”

            Standard Trump Derangement Syndrome. Anything he does that you hate, you bash him for doing terrible, evil, racist, stupid stuff. Anything he does that you might, in theory, like, you bash him for not keeping the campaign promises he made to his supporters.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I think 2 only semi-related things:

            1. The people who generally oppose immigration restrictions have a revealed preference of favoring immigration restriction when it comes to immigrants who might compete with them. We treat legal immigrants like crap, seemingly as a matter of policy. This has been going on for a very long time, and absolutely include deporting whole families who have committed no crime. The only time such measures are objected to is when the lower classes want the same thing done to those who compete with them.

            2. I wrote that fresh off reading Aaronson’s post, and he is very explicitly comparing this to the second coming of Hitler. Yes, I think he’s only piping up now, and only because it is Trump.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            If you think Aaronson is only worried about immigration _now_, or that he wants to restrict some immigration, because he’s worried about immigrants taking his job, you have profoundly misunderstood his position.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Turkey and Saudi Arabia do not appear on either of the two State Dept.”

            Yes, but our good mutual friend Mr. Trump is not particularly known for following the previous status quo. If he didn’t like what Obama’s State Dept. did, I would expect him to tear it all up without a second thought.

            The real question here, why does he feel it is ok to go with the current status quo in this particular case, and not twenty other cases where he didn’t do that.

            And why exclude Egypt, specifically?

            What’s the logic here? (This is even leaving aside the fact that the effect of screwing postdocs and professors and so on from that part of the world on net terrorism in the US is zero. And that is precisely the segment of their society that is most likely to be moderate and sympathetic to Western liberal values. We are still doing empiricism, right?)

          • suntzuanime says:

            Uh, there are infinitely more cases where he’s going with the status quo than not. There’s just a newsworthiness bias towards reporting the changes.

          • Cypren says:

            @Ilya Shpitser: You’re asking the wrong question. The issue is not “why did three Muslim countries I pulled off a list where Trump has business interests not get banned?” The question is, “what do the seven nations that were banned have in common that would make them targets?”

            It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the commonality in the list: three of them are State’s official list of nation-state terror sponsors. The other four are states in civil war where the central government has collapsed and no longer controls large swaths of its own territory, and large, organized and militarized terrorist organizations are known to be operating within the national borders. (For bonus points, Syria is both!)

            Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt do not meet these criteria. All three have non-democratic (okay, I know Turkey and Egypt technically have elections, but… really), authoritarian governments which are interested in keeping a good relationship with the US and therefore will cooperate with any security demands we make of them in addition to applying more intensive, uh, “scrutiny” to their own citizens who might be terror threats than most Americans would probably be morally comfortable with. While both Egypt and Turkey are having some issues with Islamic terrorism at the moment, it has a domestic focus rather than an international one. In Egypt’s case in particular, the reason it made the State Department list is that it has some ISIS cells thought to be operating in the Northern Sinai, far away from civilization. They aren’t really a major risk for emigration because they aren’t Egyptian citizens with passports.

            It’s worth noting that neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan were on the banned list, despite being Muslim nations with strong known internal terrorist presences. Unless you’re going to argue that Trump is planning to build his next hotel in Kabul, I think you’re going to need to look for a different explanation for the country selection than “he’s just exempting his own business partners”.

          • Deiseach says:

            And why exclude Egypt, specifically?

            Remember the Arab Spring? As part of the rolling series of uprisings and upheavals, Egypt had its own mini-revolutions where Mubarak was forced out, the Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi was sworn in, protests continued and Morsi was replaced by a guy who had cracked down on the Muslim Brotherhood (though this does not make him a squishy liberal) and things have quietened down although there’s still an insurgency bubbling away

            There’s an ongoing case of an Irish citizen of Egyptian heritage, Ibrahim Halawai, being held in an Egyptian jail for the past three and a half years. When he was seventeen, he and family members went back to Egypt during the 2013 unrest and insurgency (this was when Morsi was overthrown and replaced by the current guy). He got caught up in what was going on – there are conflicting accounts – and arrested with a rake of others. He has been held, as a pro-Morsi/anti-the current guy protestor/activist/rioter/you decide ever since.

            His trial (and it’s not his trial singular, he’s part of a mass trial of the people arrested) has been cancelled eighteen times. That’s eighteen times he’s been supposed to go to trial (and everyone anticipating that he’ll be released) but whoops, something’s not right, cancellation, back to jail. Our government and the Department of Foreign Affairs have been lacklustre about intervention, wanting to maintain good diplomatic relations with Egypt (we’re now resuming beef exports to Egypt after they were halted during the BSE scare). But it’s also something that needs to be handled delicately:

            An Irish official summarises it as follows: “We see Ibrahim as an Irish citizen and a consular case. They see this as a Muslim Brotherhood case, and in their view the Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists. That’s why it’s all the more important that we maintain a good bilateral relationship. We could be asking them to do us a political favour in an area that is for them very sensitive and problematic.”

            So – why Egypt is excluded? Probably because right now, they have a strongly anti-Muslim Brotherhood/Islamist regime in power, the country is unsettled but not in open civil war, and they’re much more likely to want to hang on to any suspected terrorists themselves for trial or punishment. Egypt has generally been treated as a stabilising force in the Middle East as a Muslim country that is ostensibly secular and isn’t Saudi Arabia, and nobody wants to rock that boat.

          • baconbacon says:

            I think this whole argument misses the point. the 9/11 hijackers were from SA, UAE, Lebonon and Egypt. Many (all?) of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were EU citizens not from the sponsoring countries. Banning movements from a handful of areas seems like an ineffective method of combating terrorism.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Well, of course it’s ineffective. It’s not very hard to figure this out, either, just count past incidents and attribute to various ethnicities/religions/citizenships.

            I don’t think there is any particular need to editorialize here — the thread speaks for itself, re: how Trump supporters think about this stuff. They explained their thinking in their own words.

          • Cypren says:

            @baconbacon: It’s absolutely ineffective. This whole thing is political theater, pure and simple, designed to reassure Trump supporters that Their Concerns Are Being Taken Very Seriously.

            I don’t have any strong sense of moral outrage because I don’t consider immigration a right; it’s a privilege and one that the government can suspend or deny at will. And I think that people who are snarking that Trump is specifically exempting his business partners are throwing around spurious accusations designed to enforce a perception of him as a corrupt plutocrat to further their own political ends. That deserves rebuttal; he may indeed be corrupt, but this isn’t evidence of that.

            But that doesn’t mean this is a wise or effective policy, or that it was a good idea.

            Edit: One reason I think it’s so important to defend Trump against spurious allegations is that, as Scott said in “You Are Still Crying Wolf”, poorly-supported or logically incoherent allegations made against him only give him more power. The more that Trump opponents appear to be deranged, illogical and seizing on any pretext to slander him, the more power he has to wave off real corruption and abuse of power scandals as nothing more than politically-manufactured.

            You can despise Trump (which I do) and still think that it’s a terrible idea to attack him without a firm evidentiary basis.

          • Cypren says:

            My guess is that few people actually care about the truth of the allegation, but just to put the nails in the coffin in one easy place for future reference:

            1.) Trump did not specifically exempt countries in which he owns businesses from a list of banned Muslim nation, as Forbes, Bloomberg, the NY Times and others have strongly implied.

            2.) The proof of this is in the executive order itself, section (c) (emphasis added):

            I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States…

            3.) 8 USC 1187(a)(12) was signed into law by President Obama on December 18, 2015. The list of countries specifically mentions Iraq and Syria in the US Code, with other countries to be added by the Secretary of State as he deems necessary.

            4.) I can’t find a record of historical updates to the list, but it’s worth noting that in July 2016, the CBP website about the visa waiver program listed only Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan as countries on the list of concern. By November 29, 2016 (the next date the Wayback Machine has for the page) the list included the seven countries currently being reported in the news: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia.

            5.) Thus people accusing Trump of corruption in the choosing of the list are quite literally asserting that he was able to influence the Obama Administration to specifically select a list of countries that avoided his business interests for special attention during visa processing. Unless they are prepared to make an argument for exactly why Obama’s State Department was inclined to agree, I think it’s safe to say that this allegation has been quite thoroughly debunked.

            6.) None of this has any bearing on whether or not the suspension of immigration (as opposed to the Obama Administration’s policy of intensive scrutiny) from the listed countries is a good policy. But that is not the argument that was being had in this thread.

          • Standard Trump Derangement Syndrome. Anything he does that you hate, you bash him for doing terrible, evil, racist, stupid stuff. Anything he does that you might, in theory, like, you bash him for not keeping the campaign promises he made to his supporters.

            You say that like its a bad thing. It’s actually not an unwinnable double bind: a politician can escape criticism by promising to do things the speaker likes, and then doing them.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Some more thoughts on this order, as people are given time to think (from noted bastion of social justice, the Hoover Institution):

            https://lawfareblog.com/malevolence-tempered-incompetence-trumps-horrifying-executive-order-refugees-and-visas

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            Some of these complaints are rather specious. The order didn’t define what an “entry” is? The word is used in the immigration statutes; it doesn’t need a new definition. The statute Trump is depending on, 8 USC 1182(f) starts out “Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate. ”

            This is not, by far, the only use of the term “entry” in 8 USC 1182.

            It’s also clear on which aliens from the affected countries are excluded — all of them, except those on certain UN or diplomatic visas. DHS interpreting it as not applying to permanent residents simply flies in the face of the order. I don’t know if Trump meant to exclude permanent residents (I rather suspect he simply didn’t consider it — there’s your incompetence, making things worse), but it’s clear that he _did_ do so, and DHS “interpreting” it otherwise is something he probably interpreted as a challenge to his authority.

          • TenMinute says:

            Thank you Cypren

    • Kevin C. says:

      I guess I can count as a Trump supporter around these parts. I think it’s a bit early to assess things — what, not even a week? But, to do so from my perspective, what has he accomplished so far, besides nothing; which is better than the active damage that Hillary’s first week would have been. And which is above my, admittedly low, expectations, in particular given that Trump is, on most issues, the most left-wing Republican to be elected president in at least a generation. But then, nothing, a temporary standstill in the unstoppable leftward slide, is the best one can really hope for.

      Trump has not ordered the wall, he’s ordered DHS secretary John Kelly to begin the information gathering to draw up plans for the wall, “in accordance with existing law, including the Secure Fence Act and IIRIRA”, and including “a comprehensive study of the security of the southern border”.

      Edit: and see baconbacon’s comment above.

      What powers does President Trump have, except the ability to either sign or veto legislation from Congress, and to give orders to the permanent bureaucracies of the Executive Branch, with no guarantee those orders will be at all followed?

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        He can freeze funding. In general, anything you can do by executive order.

        re: “what has he done so far,” did you read the rest of this thread?

        • Kevin C. says:

          “He can freeze funding.”

          Through what mechanism, exactly?

          “anything you can do by executive order.”

          But executive orders do not magically enforce themselves. It’s down to a multitude of specific people in the departments of the executive branch to actually obey and enforce these orders. When these people delay, obstruct, or even simply outright refuse to carry out Trump’s orders.

          “did you read the rest of this thread?”

          Yes, and what I read amounted to “issued orders to be carried out by various unelected bureaucrats”, with absolutely no guarantee that said unelected bureaucrats will actually carry any of them out,

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            So is the claim here that you think the unelected bureaucracy, e.g. “head of the EPA” will choose to ignore execute orders?

            The funding freeze _is affecting people right now, as we are talking_ (first hand experience). You don’t have to wonder about whether this stuff is being followed, it is _done_.

            Where is this coming from? Is there some history of ignoring executive orders that doesn’t lead to Serious Problems for people involved, that I need to go read about?

          • CatCube says:

            It’s hard to fire government employees, not impossible. There are a few things that are relatively easy to fire people for, and gross insubordination is one. It’s still sort of a pain in the ass because of the paper drill, but this is one place where managers can usually be counted on to make the effort.

            Things that are cast as people “refusing” to follow an order are usually exploiting ambiguity to technically follow the order to the letter while disobeying it’s spirit. If you’re not familiar with the area you’re making the order for, it’s very easy to leave loopholes like this.

            Cases where people just straight up refuse they can get fired, but then have recourse to the courts. In a few of these cases, the courts agree that the order was actually in violation of a statute or the Constitution and will grant relief. (Not to say that the court is morally right to agree, but by definition they’re legally right.)

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            “So is the claim here that you think the unelected bureaucracy, e.g. “head of the EPA” will choose to ignore execute orders?”

            Not so much Acting Administrator Catherine McCabe as the people under her. And they’ll initially use various dilatory tactics, “malicious compliance”, and loophole-seeking. But at some point, when those start running out, then yes, I think people in the unelected bureaucracy will ignore, and refuse to carry out, at least some of Trump’s executive orders.

            “The funding freeze _is affecting people right now, as we are talking_ ”

            And when it was going on, the so-called “government shutdown” ‘affected’ people. And yet, note that despite Congress supposedly still having the “power of the purse”, note how little of the government actually shut down during the “shutdown”.

            “Is there some history of ignoring executive orders”

            I’m not aware of any such cases, no; but then, the media keeps repeating about how Trump is an “unprecedented” special case requiring “special measures” to fight the threat he poses.

            @CatCube

            “It’s hard to fire government employees, not impossible.”

            That’s a definite understatement. My understanding is that thanks to the civil servant protection system it can take literally years, plural, to remove a Federal employee from their position, for any reason (and that’s not counting the union protections, or, as you note, the court system). And, as that CBS report notes:
            “The administrative process meant to prevent against politically motivated firings is the civil servant protection system.”
            And you can bet that plenty will consider any attempt by Trump or his people to fire the disobedient will be characterized as “politically motivated”, including a significant portion of the judiciary. So after the courts rule that employees of the executive branch may defy Trump’s orders and keep their jobs, then what?
            (No matter who Trump nominates for the Supreme Court, whoever actually makes it through Congress will be at best another Chief Justice John “the ACA both is and isn’t a tax” Roberts, if not further left.)

          • CatCube says:

            @Kevin C

            Well, we’re going to have to wait and see. Now, take what I’m telling you with a grain of salt, because I’m a federal employee, who recently moved to the civil service from the military. But, people do get fired. It’s difficult enough that I once heard a military officer brag that he managed to get an incompetent civilian kicked to the curb, but it happens. The breakdown is that, as you note, it takes a lot of effort to fire somebody, so a manager who’s only of moderate competence will often decline to spend his days fucking with the personnel system to actually hound somebody out. At the end of the day, though, they can do so if they’re extremely competent or hate somebody enough to put in the effort.

            Despite the dark hinting in some quarters of the Internet, though, I’ve
            never run across anybody (either Army or GS) who’ll say outright that they don’t have to obey lawful orders from the President. This isn’t dispositive, though, because people can talk themselves into believing that their creative interpretations of orders are fulfilling the spirit of their instructions. (“Oh, he couldn’t have possibly meant that.”) Note that this isn’t just a defect of the Government; large corporations have similarly cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, though those are driven by the fear of lawsuits (enforced by the government, of course).

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            While this thread is arguing whether people will obey orders, people are being stopped at JFK, sent on return flights elsewhere, etc. Surreal.

          • CatCube says:

            @KevinC

            I’ll have to concede on this one, since Sandra Yates proved there’s a subset of government employees that’ll directly disobey legal orders and even say so publicly.

  10. saprmarks says:

    I mostly disagree with Scott’s concern about framing amounts of money as percentages of world GDP. In fact, the more I think about it, it kinda seems like framing numbers as percentages of world GDP is the sort of thing we should all do all the time.

    (At least for numbers large enough that you don’t have to think “Crap I lost count. Was that 25 or 26 zeros after the decimal place?”)

    I have a few reasons for this:
    (1) Comparing to world GDP is a great way of comparing how much we spend on something to how important/necessary it actually is. Scott asks “Don’t you think it’s time to spend more than 0.00001% of GDP rewarding bloggers who make important points about keeping numbers in perspective?” Because this is put as a percentage of GDP, it is quite easy to think “well, is making important points about keeping numbers in perspective .000001% as important or necessary as the total sum of all things humankind does?” Since I expect there are tons of things as important, or more important, than making points about keeping numbers in perspective, I can easily say “wait no what that would be stupid” and move on with my day.

    Similarly, in the article linked, the author asks “From an outside view, looking in at the Earth, if you noticed that human beings were about to replace themselves as the most intelligent agents on the planet, would you think it unreasonable if 1% of their effort were being spent explicitly reasoning about that transition?” Normally I would have no idea how to answer the question “how much money should we spend on AI alignment research?” but this gives a very tractable way to think about it. Is AI alignment research right now about 1/100 as important as the sum of all things that humans do? I can easily see people coming down on either side of that question.

    (2) In general, I think most people here agree that putting numbers in context is pretty important. Remember that time Scott made us feel like idiots for having any opinions about cardiologists (based on a ton of stories about evil cardiologists) without knowing how many cardiologists there are total? This isn’t exactly the same sort of thing, but it seems kinda similar.

    (3) It seems like Scott’s concern is that this could be used to make any number look really small. But I actually disagree. Based on anecdata, I have the impression that most people have both an appreciation for how large the world economy is, and a relatively good grasp of percentages. Thinking again about Scott’s “should we reward bloggers with good points about keeping numbers in perspective with .000001% of the world GDP” gag again, I really don’t think many people would fall for it. I think most people would go “wait but the world GDP is pretty big, and I don’t see nearly enough zeros after that decimal place, so.”

    Rather, as per reasons (1) and (2), I kinda feel like putting numbers as a percentage of GDP makes numbers look exactly as large as we should rationally perceive them. 8.7% of world GDP is spent on healthcare? Cool, that’s a lot easier to interpret than $6.5 trillion.

    (Now that I’ve made an important point about putting numbers in perspective can I have .000001% of GDP though???)

    • shakeddown says:

      I agree about healthcare, but feel like anything below 1% is going to fall pray to scope insensitivity and make it harder to think about clearly.

    • beleester says:

      My concern with this isn’t really that it makes numbers look small, but that it’s infuriatingly hard to compare numbers that way. Beyond very rough comparisons like “This is definitely not as big as the world economy,” I don’t have a good intuition for how big those numbers are.

      Like, you say that 0.000001% doesn’t have enough zeroes. But how many zeros should there be? 0.0000001%? 0.00000001%? All three of those look very small and very similar, but one is an appropriate amount of money to spend on AI research and another is 100 times that.

      Saying “8.7% of world GDP is spent on healthcare” is fine, because we know how big that is. I know what 8.7% of a pie looks like. I can’t tell you what 0.000001% of a pie looks like. I certainly can’t tell if that’s enough to eat, or if you’re still hungry for another billionth of a slice. Pick an order of magnitude that keeps your numbers short and easy to compare.

      • saprmarks says:

        I was being a little tongue-in-cheek when wrote about comparing numbers with 25 zeros vs 26 zeros after the decimal place. In reality, I agree that it would be pretty hard to do this with anything more than 3ish digits after the decimal place.

        And you do bring up a good point about comparing these numbers, as does shakeddown about scope insensitivity. But on the other hand, is it really that much easier to compare 75,000,000,000 to 7,500,000,000 than it is to compare .001 to .0001? Do those comparisons really carry different risks of scope insensitivity-error? I feel like the bigger issue might be that numbers are frustratingly hard to compare in general.

        I was about to write that maybe the best solution is to make a new unit that is defined as 10^(-10) of a percent of the world GDP, but then I realized that this is basically the same as going back to using currency (one of these units would be about 750USD).

  11. baconbacon says:

    I just read half the days of rage link, and I am really surprised that it is recommend. Some of the claims seemed to crazy to be true, so I checked on the craziest one

    Chesimard’s cell was finally arrested in 1971, after a massive car chase and gunfight in South Carolina. They were caught with a gun that belonged to one of the murdered cops.

    So, of course, they were back walking the streets in NYC by fall ’72.

    Yeah: in 1971, you could get in a gunfight with cops, shoot a cop, be carrying a gun stolen during a different state’s double cop murder — and get out of prison in less than a year!

    There are major inconsistencies between this and the Wikipedia article, this is the basic wikipedia time line

    1. April 1971- Sakur (Chesimard) was arrested for attempted robbery, and jumps bail.
    2. August/December 1971 Shakur is wanted in connection/named as a suspect for a bank robbery and an attack on police.
    3. 1972- wanted for questioning for a pair of bank robberies
    4. 1973- wanted for questioning for a pair of attacks on police in NY
    5. May 2 1973- NJ turnpike shootout, Shakur is arrested.
    6. 1977- convicted of murder and sentenced to 26-33 years
    7. 1979- escape from prison.

    Between 5 and 6 there are various trials with various outcomes, but it appears that Shakur was in custody for that entire period.

    So to reiterate

    in 1971, you could get in a gunfight with cops, shoot a cop, be carrying a gun stolen during a different state’s double cop murder — and get out of prison in less than a year!

    This appears to be a totally inaccurate representation of the facts. I wouldn’t trust a single statement in this piece without checking.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      He seems to be mixing up two incidents. Four BLA got in shootout with NC sheriff’s deputy Ted Elmore on 7 November 1971. He was paralyzed and the four were arrested. I think that Avon White and Fred Hilton served short jail terms for this and were back in NYC in the fall of 1972. I’m not sure who the other two were, or their sentences. The cell included another car fleeing from TN to VA, but it was not rolled up.

      The second incident, discussed in this excerpt was on 15(?) February 1972, where four BLA members, bearing the gun of a murdered NYC officer, got in a shootout with police in St Louis. One died, one got away, and two were arrested, and I think sentenced to long terms. There was a much larger cell hiding out in St Louis, probably including Chesimard, but it was not rolled up.

      • TenMinute says:

        Not too bad for a “tweetstorm edited for readability”, but maybe we can get Clark to make some corrections.

        • baconbacon says:

          You mean if if you read it you come away with at least 2 of these being wrong- the person committing the crime, the crime that was committed, the year it was committed in, and the evidence against the person. Most readers will walk away wrong on all 4 facts, which is about as bad as you can do when summarizing.

      • baconbacon says:

        He seems to be mixing up multiple accounts. Page 205 from your link has an officer named James Greene being shot by Hilton and Twymon Meyers, and the next page has Andrew Jackson holding (keeping?) the guy the next day. Andrew Jackson is arrested a few days later with several “others”, and a few days after that Elmore was shot.

        I’m just skimming and some pages in the preview are missing but I see no mention of Greene’s gun on anyone when they were arrested, and further Hilton was convicted of the murder in 2003 so any short jail stint in the 70s wasn’t tied to a trial (I guess a hung jury is possible, with no retrial) for that crime.

        So a wildly inaccurate retelling of events seems like an apt description.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The gun in St Louis belonged to NYC officer Laurie, not Atlanta officer Greene. Hilton was jailed for a few months for shooting NC deputy Elmore without anyone realizing that he had murdered Greene in another state a few days before.

          Now that you’ve managed to mangle the story, have some sympathy for Hines.

          • baconbacon says:

            The gun in St Louis belonged to NYC officer Laurie, not Atlanta officer Greene. Hilton was jailed for a few months for shooting NC deputy Elmore without anyone realizing that he had murdered Greene in another state a few days before.

            Now that you’ve managed to mangle the story, have some sympathy for Hines.

            You understand I am trying to figure out what the heck the writer was referring to, not actually describe the events right?

            Tywon Meyers is mentioned in the Greene shooting and the NY/St Louis shootings, he is (likely) the connection being made by the writer. He was, however, not arrested and jailed for a short time for the Elmore shooting. You can get the sketchy details he lists by combining 2 stories if you are willing to ignore that link but you are still left with 3 different stories (since Shakur/Chesimard isn’t mentioned as a player in either of these events), so a minimum of three stories combined, and probably 4 to get his outcome.

            Now that you’ve managed to mangle the story, have some sympathy for Hines.

            Seriously? 5 mins of fact checking highlighted serious factual mistakes (not interpretive ones), if the entire rest of the piece is extremely clean then maybe I would cut him some slack, but this response is freaking silly.

  12. onyomi says:

    I found this article on Trump as postmodern anti-hero quite good.

    It dovetails with something I’ve been thinking about recently, which is that the de facto ruling philosophy nowadays seems to be basically, “do whatever possible, within the system, and without actually breaking the law in a way anyone can prove or starting a revolution, to get what you want. Because ultimately politics is just inherently a dirty, messy thing and you score no points for fighting fair; what matters at the end of the day is producing a just outcome for the masses.”

    I don’t say that as if it were unambiguously wrong: it seems rather like the philosophy Scott ascribes to Andrew Cord in “In Favor of Niceness…” and, ironically enough, seems to be a position strongly implied by consequentialism, though obviously one can make the case, as I guess Scott would, that the overall consequences of defect end up being worse in the long run, even if it yields short term wins for your notion of justice.

    But if that is the dominant ruling philosophy for both parties, it is still mostly unacceptable to just come out and say that, which is what I think has given Trump some of his power: the whole “Emperor has no clothes” effect.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      “do whatever possible, within the system, and without actually breaking the law in a way anyone can prove

      Don’t let your aired dirty laundry be relevant to politics. Trump’s wasn’t – it was relevant to feminism and unionism, but not politics. The DNC’s was – it showed bias toward Hillary over her opponents.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Yesterday I read that Trump has chosen to hang Andrew Jackson’s portrait in the Oval Office. My first thought when reading it was “God, the deportation = Trail of Tears articles are writing themselves”. But it almost seems like the point. As the article said, so much of what Trump has done seems almost calculated to drive his opponents into maximum hysterics. It’s the postmodernism that the article talked about (and the 4D chess that r/the_donald would go on about): why go through the trouble to discredit your opponents if they’ll do it themselves for free?

  13. the verbiage ecstatic says:

    Still trying to find a real cite on that “Jeff” thing… that it’s the Joint Evaluated Fission and Fusion File is a sort-of plausible hypothesis, but the only actual evidence that that’s what CNN meant that I’ve been able to find so far is the guy on reddit saying “just had to google it :d” . And, it doesn’t make that much sense… JEFF is the name of a project and data library, but the organization itself seems to be called the NEA. JEFF doesn’t have its own domain name, but it has nuclear weapons? Also, it’s not clear why researchers gathering data on nuclear energy would need working warheads (as opposed to, say, reactors). So, I’m tentatively calling BS, though would love to hear someone who knows more about this than I do weigh in.

    On the flip side, I bet having a few nukes on hand makes committee meetings much more interesting…

  14. littleyid says:

    What is the National Divorce referenced in the Days of Rage review? Is that like some Untied States deal? Or more of a straight North-South divide?

    • Cypren says:

      I don’t think it was a reference to anything in particular, just the concept that the Red/Blue tribal war is heating up to the point where open violence is likely if the two sides can’t find a way to partition the country up such that they don’t have to live under each other’s rule. At the moment, neither tribe is satisfied with federalism and both want to enact their preferred laws over the entire country. That’s a recipe for one side always feeling like it’s being subjugated by hostile invaders, making violence far more likely.

      The more power the federal government acquires, the more important it becomes for your chosen tribe to have absolute control over it, no matter what the cost or how morally repulsive the tactics required to attain it. The same people who are justifying outright lies and strategic deception as morally valid tactics because the other side is so evil we have no choice have already crossed the necessary mental barrier needed to justify assassinations, bombings and mass murder. They just haven’t yet been convinced that it’s tactically advantageous to do so. But make no mistake, once you accept the premise that politics has become “total war” and that the morality of a tactic depends solely on whether it furthers your side’s goals, you’re already headed down that path.

      When will we hit the breaking point? I’m hoping not in my lifetime. But I’m not so sure anymore.

  15. greghb says:

    “On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi” is terrific, thanks.

    Another Jewish sci-fi recommendation: The Yiddish Policemen’s Union

    I’m surprised this hasn’t been recommended more often, but I only see it in one comment from 2014.

    • TenMinute says:

      But pleeeease don’t take too much stylistic influence from it, Scott. That was a month’s worth of jewish humor, all at once.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I wouldn’t call it science fiction, but it’s certainly a good book.

      • greghb says:

        I agree it’s not obviously sci-fi, but it won the Hugo and Nebula awards… is it fantasy? Maybe a more accurate description is “alternate history + magical realism” … whatever that equals.

    • LHN says:

      I’d read “On Venus, Have We Got a Rabbi” years ago. But apparently not very closely, since it was only when it was reprinted in the Tablet that I noticed just how close Tenn made the mirror-image “Fiddler on the Roof”/Sholem Aleichem parallels.

      (Tevye the Milkman->Milchik the TV man, Golda->Sylvia, gender-flipping the offspring needing to be married off, etc.)

      • Bugmaster says:

        I couldn’t bring myself to like Tenn’s story because of this. It feels too much like plagiarism — yes, I understand the difference between plagiarism and homage, but still…

    • switchnode says:

      The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is actually the only Chabon novel I’ve read that I didn’t like. I read somewhere that he deliberately abandoned his usual lush prose style for it… which makes sense as a genre homage but deprived him of one of his strongest assets (IMO). Most of his other books are similarly Jewish (and some are spec-fic outright).

  16. In case you’re interested, I just put up another post on my blog, where I discuss various links kind of like this post does. In particular, I link to a very informative article, which examines the main claims made by opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline and finds them to be false. I hope I’m not testing the patience of our host with this self-promotion, but I just started the blog and would people to know about it. My posts on election models and the relationship between slavery and capitalism are already quite popular.

  17. Doctor Mist says:

    From McWhorter’s piece on Vox:

    It is often assumed that the programs were simply underfunded or that there weren’t enough of them — there needed to be “more programs, more services, more organizations,” a well-known veteran of civil rights activism I once appeared with on a television show said. But it’s unclear just why the welter of programs described above “weren’t enough.” If instead they actually had transformed Bed-Stuy, no one would find that development counterintuitive, wondering how change had happened with so “few” programs.

    This raised a question in my mind, to which I honestly have no answer. OK, I thought, but maybe something made Bed-Stuy particularly intractable. Are there communities where things did turn around? Unless the effort expended was whole orders of magnitude insufficient, wouldn’t you expect a continuum of results, with Bed-Stuy on the far end but a lot of communities on the near end that went from poorish to comfortably bourgeois? If there were such communities, wouldn’t advocates of “more programs, more services, more organizations” point to them as evidence that just a little more effort would turn the tide?

    I’ve never noticed this happening, but I don’t know whether it’s because there are no significant examples or because of the activist’s natural tendency to focus attention on the remaining problems.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      If you turned Bed-Stuy into Crown Heights, that would be a great achievement, worthy of study and emulation. But it would be too depressing to brag about. When people expect miracles, they ignore real progress.

    • Cypren says:

      I think when a community turns around, it’s called “gentrification” and is loudly decried as an evil and horrible thing. 😉

  18. Joe says:

    I’m somewhat concerned about how confident some folks seem to be that AI alignment is a worthy goal. It seems to me quite uncertain whether future AI will be an unconscious homogeneous morally irrelevant blob, as MIRI et al seem to expect, or whether it will actually be a vast number of conscious entities like us. If it turns out to be the latter, then aligning AI goals with ours will amount to enslaving all future sentient life to the whims of current humans, and seems likely to cause unimaginable utility loss – not to mention the risks of attempting to take over the world, especially since in this scenario you don’t have the overwhelming advantage of a FOOMing superintelligence on your side after all.

    In the absence of a watertight argument that the first scenario is right, surely by far the biggest utility gains will come from further research into this question, as its answer affects not just which path we take to some goal, but which of two diametrically opposed goals we push for.

    Yes I have read the relevant Sequences; that doesn’t seem remotely enough evidence for a question this significant. Part of me suspects that those in favor of AI alignment consider it a “heads I win, tails we break even” situation. But surely if they’re wrong about the relevant facts, then pushing for AI alignment has a really quite large negative expected value, as I described above, and isn’t just a ‘break even’ neutral action? Or is there in fact a watertight argument for why Eliezer is right about this and Robin is wrong that I’m not aware of, so compelling that it means further investigation into this basic question isn’t necessary?

    • rlms says:

      AI alignment isn’t slavery. We practice “natural intelligence alignment” all the time, it’s called parenting children well enough that they don’t become serial killers or suchlike. The crucial part of alignment is making sure AI broadly shares our moral views, not making it obey us, indeed I think lots of people believe that the latter is impossible and/or undesirable.

      • Joe says:

        It’s slavery not in that it makes the AIs serve us in spite of wanting to do otherwise, but in that it’s an enormous waste if AIs are morally relevant yet we severely limit their number, preferring instead to direct resources toward the few rich spoilt humans who were lucky enough to be alive in the mid-late 21st century, and retain this state until the end of time.

        Aside from that – you imply the main reason we aren’t serial killers at the moment is because we’re taught good morals by our parents, not because societies that prevent serial killers are far more successful than societies that don’t, which seems to me a more likely cause.

        But my main point is that this kind of question is what we should be debating – that as long as we’re still uncertain whether doing X will cause vast utility or vast disutility, investigating which is the case is where our energies should go, rather than a, “gee whiz, seems more like it’s the first one, so let’s just go ahead and do X” approach.

        • rlms says:

          Who’s arguing to limit AI numbers? My understanding of MIRI and friends’ position is that it will be very difficult to control AI (including stopping it reproducing), so we should try to make it share our goals instead. Regarding the aside, the reason can be both (a mechanism by which societies prevent serial killing is moral instruction).

      • Kevin C. says:

        @rlms

        “The crucial part of alignment is making sure AI broadly shares our moral views, not making it obey us, indeed I think lots of people believe that the latter is impossible and/or undesirable.”

        How come we never hear about the people who believe the former is impossible, at least stably long-term? I mean, I’ve never seen the AI Risk people engage with, say, the ideas of Dr. Alex Wissner-Gross and his Maximum Causal Entropy Production Principle, for example.

        • rlms says:

          I’m not really an AI risk person, but I think the answer to your first question is that the small pool of people who care about AI safety are tautologically all people who think there is possible work to be done in that area. I assume that there are plenty of people in AI who aren’t concerned with AI safety, and/or who don’t think there is anything we can do to morally align AI.

          Regarding Dr. Alex Wissner-Gross, that article alone sets off a few crackpot sensors, namely the false claims about Go AI, and various dubious claims in the linked video.

        • We don’t hear a lot of views, because all the funding is going in one direction.

    • qn1 says:

      I think the argument for FOOM-based concern about AI alignment is basically:

      (1) there’s a moderate (non-tiny) probability that, somewhat soon, we will have a FOOMing superintelligence whose optimization criteria will end up turning us all into paperclips or something like that (i.e. use us as resources for some bad instrumental goal). I think this is argued by Eliezer in the Sequences?

      (2) so it seems super important that we be really careful that this moderately probable superintelligence’s goals are not obviously abhorrent to us. And we have to be sure beforehand, because it’ll be too late by the time it’s superintelligent.

      This makes AI safety/alignment a worthwhile problem to work on. A plus is that AI safety/alignment has produced/can produce concrete technical concepts/questions on which people might be able to make real progress (I think).

      Objections I’ve heard of for people to not work on AI safety/alignment are

      – (1) is false — I haven’t found anyone argue this convincingly. The existence of other potentially likely specific futures (like Hanson’s ems, or like a “black swan”) doesn’t refute it.

      – we can’t actually make real progress on the AI safety question; it’s too far-fetched/far-off and we probably won’t have the right tools to think about it until it’s much closer.
      i wouldn’t know how to respond to this objection.

      ———————

      If you accept that AI safety is an important problem and your issue is that we shouldn’t be aligning the AI’s goals with human goals in a narrow & selfish way, that’s fair; I would guess AI alignment people (MIRI and co) don’t want to align the AI’s goals to humans in a narrow way. But it doesn’t really invalidate the more basic question of how to make sure you’re not going to make a really terrible superintelligence.

      ———————-

      The question of figuring out probabilities for the various futures (FOOM, ems, other possibilities) is a good/important one. But it’s a lot less clear how to make progress on this question compared to the more concrete problem of AI safety/alignment. It also seems like the non-FOOM possibilities are less likely to be potential existential risks to all (other) sentient life; so reducing the potential existential risk of the FOOM case seems like it should be a high priority.

    • jbeshir says:

      An intelligence is an optimisation process, no more, no less; you have to build them with something they’re trying to optimise towards. Building an optimisation algorithm which optimises towards human-friendly outcomes is no more enslaving the optimisation algorithm than building one which optimises towards human-unfriendly outcomes.

      Either way it’ll do what it does; there won’t be some kind of human-like ghost in the machine that appears and cares automatically about things that a human in their position would care about and is deeply unhappy about not being able to fulfil them.

      A Friendly AI is not a selfish AI constrained by a special extra conscience module that overrides the AI’s natural impulses and tells it what to do. You just build the conscience, and that is the AI. If you have a program that computes which decision the AI should make, you’re done. The buck stops immediately.

      If we did create AIs which were human-like enough in having values other than doing what we needed and having capability to suffer that we had obligations to them, of the kind we see in science fiction, that would have all kinds of terrible implications, and almost certainly rule out getting Friendliness right, so it’s important we don’t do that. To quote Joanne Bryson, an AI researcher outside of the MIRI sphere (who thinks very little of the potential for superintelligence and need for Friendliness research), “There’s no reason to make a machine that is so much like humans that we need to protect it. We’re morally obliged not to make AI that we are morally obliged to.”

      It is thankfully not something we are likely to do by accident, and possibly quite difficult to do. An intelligence being an optimisation process, by default it has no more reason to have feelings than evolution has reason to have feelings or markets have reason to have feelings. We’d have to go to quite a lot of work to understand and simulate all the mechanisms of the human mind to make one of the very specific, special kinds of optimisation processes that have feelings and moral value. Otherwise we’re just anthropomorphising, expecting sophisticated hidden mechanisms to be universal and sort of appear automatically when we build an optimisation process.

      • Joe says:

        In retrospect, ‘enslaving’ was a poor choice of words, and didn’t get my intended point across well. As I said in reply to the similar argument made above, I’m concerned not that we’ll create AIs that serve us despite not ‘really’ wanting to, but that we’ll vastly constrain the possible utility the future can hold by selfishly focusing resources towards the handful of humans who were alive at a very specific point in history.

        But to address your main argument:

        An intelligence is an optimisation process, no more, no less […].

        You’re describing an abstraction, not an implementation. Note that humans, our only current example of general intelligence, do make great use of features such as consciousness, emotions, and so on, in their implementation. Also, when considering biological creatures more generally, intelligence and sentience seem quite closely correlated. And given octopuses are plausibly conscious it seems that consciousness may have independently evolved multiple times, suggesting it’s a somewhat robust feature of intelligent creatures.

        So it seems to me the bulk of the evidence suggests that messy, humanlike, morally relevant mind features like consciousness or emotions are, at the very least, a reasonable way to implement intelligence. It might be that you really can create an intelligence that’s just a simple mindless algorithm, but we haven’t seen anything like that so far. Why does it seem so likely to you that this will change in the future?

        • jbeshir says:

          Because morally relevant minds are a very narrow subset of possible optimisation algorithms, and a quite difficult subset to make, and the concrete non-general stuff we’re making right now, e.g. AlphaGo, isn’t anywhere near that subset, and the people actually working on AI don’t think we should try to go anywhere near that subset.

          Those features won’t emerge from work on variations on neural nets by accident/automatically, and for them to happen would require a considerable amount of work on working out how to build them, which hasn’t happened and no one thinks is wise.

          • Joe says:

            I guess I’m just not sure what your basis is for these confident assertions, given we currently have neither a detailed understanding of how our minds work, nor any examples of general intelligence other than humans.

          • jbeshir says:

            We have pretty good knowledge of what we’re building right now, though, and what we plan on building.

          • Joe says:

            We have pretty good knowledge of what we’re building right now, though, and what we plan on building.

            So does ‘what we plan on building’ include a roadmap from here to human-level AI that we have a reasonable expectation will work, with just the gritty details still to work out? There aren’t many different seemingly-necessary features of an intelligent mind that we don’t know how to build yet? If that is indeed what you mean, can you point me to what you’re basing this claim on – not just the guesses of a couple of people but the standard view that we’re quite confident on and the bulk of the evidence supports, as seems to be what you’re saying?

            I’m asking because I have never been aware of such a consensus before, and if you’re right I’m frankly baffled why so many people seem to speak as though the structure and components that will comprise general AI are still quite unknown, and/or will be inspired by brains. For example, this paper coauthored by Nick Bostrom surveys AI experts, and includes the question, “In your opinion, what are the research approaches that might contribute the most to the development of [human-level AI]?” with respondents selecting all approaches they thought relevant. The three most chosen were ‘cognitive science’ at 47.9%, ‘integrated cognitive architectures’ at 42%, and ‘algorithms revealed by computational neuroscience’ also at 42%. 32.5% chose ‘other method(s) currently completely unknown’. Doesn’t this seem to support my claim and suggest the opposite of yours – that in fact there are lots of facets of AI we don’t know how to do yet, and that we expect many of them will be inspired by the human brain in some way or another?

            Or how about this summary of an interview with Joscha Bach, actually the most recent thing I’d read relating to this question, in which he frames the problem of building human-level AI largely in terms of discovering the mechanisms of the brain we don’t yet understand and working out how to build them into the AIs we write?

            And in fact knowing how general AI will be structured, when it comes, seems only part of the problem. Your main argument also depends on us first having a good detailed picture of how the brain works, and then having solved what Scott Aaronson calls the ‘Pretty-Hard Problem Of Consciousness’, i.e. having a sufficient understanding of what consciousness is to identify which parts of our minds make us conscious, which animals are how conscious, why two people can be separately conscious without there being a ‘joint consciousness’ encompassing them both, and so on. Only with that in hand we could then look at the structure of the AI we expect we’ll build, and see whether it will have the necessary characteristics to have consciousness.

            As far as I can tell, we don’t have any of these three necessary pieces of knowledge at the moment. But you seem to quite confidently disagree, so can you please point me to what I’m apparently missing here?

      • > An intelligence is an optimisation process, no more, no less; you have to build them with something they’re trying to optimise towards.

        True enough as stated, but not a one-sentence argument for value alignment. An oracle optimises something, namely the next question it is asked, but doesn’t need human values to be safe.

  19. adaz says:

    Good article on the fight against bad science…

    “The four most dangerous words are: ‘a new study shows…'”

    https://www.wired.com/2017/01/john-arnold-waging-war-on-bad-science/

  20. Deiseach says:

    I like the link about the pigeons. Who thinks “Hey, I wonder if pigeons can read mammograms? Could you train them?” and then acquires pigeons and trains them to do that? And it actually works?

    Bravo, you thinker of great thoughts!

  21. David Manheim says:

    “Related: new analysis shows that giving billions of dollars of extra funding to failing schools had no impact.”

    Not quite true, for a couple reasons.

    The intervention wasn’t simply “More money for failing schools” – it was for “School Improvement Grants,” which have specific practices they are supposed to change, and the linked report (https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20174013/pdf/20174013.pdf) details them. They were not followed universally, and the analysis of how much each practice matters is hard, especially with only a couple hundred schools, and lots of other variation.

    But, and this is where I’m annoyed with WaPo for making a basic journalistic mistake, is that what the analysis (https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/pubs/20174013/pdf/20174013.pdf) showed was that the effect was not statistically significant – not that it was nil. The various metrics tracked had differences, but most short term impacts were *positive* – meaning, given Boustead’s Iron Law of interventions ( https://twitter.com/davidmanheim/status/758680756222824448 ), that on average a policy intervention will have an expected impact of zero, our posterior estimate of how useful this is should move up, not down. And the lack of significance is unsurprising – there is no way to get a sufficient sample size to test these types of interventions fairly using NHST – as I argue more generally here; https://medium.com/p/the-good-the-bad-and-the-appropriately-under-powered-82c335652930

    • AnonEEmous says:

      Yeah, but billions of dollars is a lot of money. It seems like, at best, there’s a very weak boost from very large amounts of money, and that our school system is already headed down this road in a major way.

      • David Manheim says:

        Hmm. “Billions” seems big, but it’s $3b over 5 years, over 60 districts schools. That’s $10m per school district per year. So, to do the math…

        Districts range in size, but the average seems to be about 7 schools per district – though failing districts that are given grants seem likely to be larger ones. The average number of students per school is 500, so that’s about 3,500 students – or $2,700 per student per year. A student’s education costs a bit more than $10,000/year, so this is a 25% increase.
        – Source: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372

        Yes, I’d hope for a bigger gain given that expenditure, and yes, I’d also be skeptical that the benefit from the intervention is worth more than $2,700/year. But I’m unsure which other interventions are more cost effective in US schools – though I’m sure some exist.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          I mean, you’ve boiled it down to a 25% increase. Is there anything close to a 25% boost in educational outcomes? Probably not, or it’d be easy to get P<0.05

    • Anon. says:

      >there is no way to get a sufficient sample size to test these types of interventions fairly

      The sample sizes are in the hundreds of thousands…

  22. sflicht says:

    I’m pretty pissed that the Lucky Knot Bridge is topologically boring. Here is a better picture. As far as I can tell it is not a knot. It’s not a braid. It’s certainly not, as one hyperventilating take in Wired quoted the architects claiming, a moebius strip. Presumably the architects were inspired by the actual tradition of Chinese knots, but I think making the bridge a simple loop (with some slits in it and passing strands through the slits in an unravelable manner) fails to do justice to the concept.

  23. jefftk says:

    Jewish sci-fi short story

    My favorite in this vein is Tauf Aleph by Phyllis Gotlieb. The last Jew in a colony needs a Jew to bury him, the authorities send him a robot, the robot reads lots of Jewish writing on the way over…

  24. spudtowards says:

    Any thoughts on this article?

    https://antidotezine.com/2017/01/22/trump-knows-you/ Gist is trump used big data and clinton didn’t hence he won. Also some interesting stuff about a company called Cambridge Analytica.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Kind of hard to square that with the pre-election narrative that Clinton was using big data and Trump wasn’t so she was going to win.

    • rlms says:

      I think it came up here before. Cambridge Analytica worked for Cruz in the primaries, so it’s difficult to believe that they are the magic ingredient in Trump’s victory.

    • Deiseach says:

      Given that there were stories splashed around about how Hillary’s campaign was taking a page out of Obama’s campaign and using Big Data while the Republicans were years behind on this (due to all the smart and good at Big Data folks preferring to work for the Democrats), I think this article isn’t quite accurate.

      Seems like it turned out Trump’s campaign was also using Big Data and they used it better.

      Or maybe this was a case of Big Data versus Yuge Data and Yuge Data won? 🙂

      • Matt M says:

        I brought this up in a previous thread. As far as I can tell, the concept of “Hillary is using data while Trump is just using charisma and instinct” was based entirely on unsupported chains of assumption that went something like “Well silicon valley people tend to lean liberal so of course more of them are going to volunteer for Hillary than Trump so of course she will have better data scientists than him.”

        • AnonEEmous says:

          the assumptions behind this belief were mostly unsupported but they are certainly not the ones you lay out

          more like “the Left seems to be more into that science stuff and more into big data, especially with how Obama took advantage of big data and the internet”

          versus Trump just kind of seeming undisciplined and so forth

          • Matt M says:

            okay, we can quibble over the framing of it all day – but it seems we agree that the belief was entirely assumed (perhaps reasonably so) and not really backed up by any specific facts or examples

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            The master assumption behind almost everyone’s beliefs on ths subject is that the most important thing is hiring the best campaign managers and paying them lots and lots of money. We know this to be true because we’ve heard it over and over again from campaign managers who get themselves invited onto news shows to explain the importance of hiring the best campaign managers and paying them lots and lots of money.

  25. AnonEEmous says:

    “This paper tries to fight the idea of microaggressions by saying that it implies certain testable claims and that those claims are false. I appreciate the effort but I’m not sure that the people who use the term are implying any testable claims,”

    I think the key claim of microaggression theory that transfers to real use is that a lot of microaggressions add up to something harmful. And based on what I’d understood from that link last time I read it, that’s been pretty much completely disproven. In other words, it’s now mostly down to whether or not you’re personally offended. Though maybe you’re right that this won’t make such a difference…

    “Vox: Why the war on poverty failed, and what to do now.”

    I had originally planned to put a Sick Burn or two on Frederik DeBoer, as he responded to this article but decided to close comments. Then again, Scott’s his friend and that puts him in an awkward spot, so to cut to the chase: Freddie Boey stakes much of his case on the following quote:

    “[T]otal crime [in Bedford-Stuyvesant] has plunged nearly two-thirds since the crack-filled 1980s, with reported incidents dropping from more than 6,800 in 1993 to 3238 in 2010.”

    But… 3,238 is 0.5059375, or 50.5%, of 6,800. Why on earth would you call that “nearly two-thirds”? You’re literally just spotting an extra 16%, when you could just say “nearly half”? Unless I’ve seriously understood how they’re calculating things, this is pretty indefensible.

    Also, if you’re going to talk about the Tuttle Twins, then I’d direct you to a video made by a Youtuber called Harmful Opinions, where he discusses the books as a very real and intended form of child indoctrination.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Public school is also a very real and intended form of child indoctrination, so let’s not throw stones. Have you seen Sesame Street? My god. My god.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Yeah. It might be common to disagree with what children are getting indoctrinated with, but relatively few people disagree with the idea that kids need some indoctrination. They certainly need to be told to eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, not pull the cat’s tail, etc.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          But the obvious difference is that kindergarten doesn’t try to indoctrinate anybody into anything politically. And I get the argument that it manages to regardless, but the point is that people leave early school and manage to have all types of viewpoints. But these books in particular are a concentrated form of propaganda aimed at one particular ideology. The best-case argument is that “left-wing indoctrination has taken over our schools” but even then you’re still fighting fire with fire.

          For example, I honestly don’t recall Sesame Street being that political. Even extreme libertarians can agree that “Sharing is caring”; they just think it’s the role of private citizens to share voluntarily, rather than the government forcing said sharing upon everyone. Was there something I missed?

          • Matt M says:

            “But the obvious difference is that kindergarten doesn’t try to indoctrinate anybody into anything politically.”

            I think a lot of people would dispute this. It’s less overt stuff – not “don’t vote for Trump because he is Hitler” but more “the planet is dying and only recycling can save it”. I learned about the obvious 100% benefits and no trade-offs at all of recycling in kindergarten and that was over 25 years ago, I can’t imagine there’s less environmentalist propaganda today! Same thing with Sesame Street. Have you watched it lately? (I haven’t, I’m just speculating here).

            I haven’t read the Tuttle Twins books but I’ve heard the author interviewed on multiple podcasts and he comes across as a reasonable enough guy who says “I just wanted something my children could read that offers a different point of view from what they typically get in school.” And this would certainly qualify as that. Is that really such a terrible thing?

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Yeah, you might be right about the environmental angle. I can’t recall that personally in my kindergarten, but it probably varies.

            Still, it definitely feels like a lot of those books are just meant to counter-propagandise instead of teaching more critical thought and allowing kids to come to their own decisions. But I’m already stealing from the words of Harmful Opinions, whose video you should watch if you want to hear the argument.

          • suntzuanime says:

            “Teaching critical thought” is a term for a specific kind of propaganda, a kind of propaganda that’s been so successful it gets called “teaching critical thought”.

            When “critical thought” doesn’t fit the ideology of the propagandists it tends to go by “denialism” or “trutherism” instead.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t imagine there’s less environmentalist propaganda today!

            I can. 25 years ago is early 1992. Greenpeace was making global headlines; acid rain and the ozone hole were major issues; Captain Planet was in its second season; you couldn’t rear-end a small hatchback without hitting a “Save the Whales” bumper sticker. That was pretty close to the high-water mark of the environmentalist movement as a cultural force.

            There are particular environmentalist issues that get more play now than in the early ’90s; global warming for example is now almost the issue, whereas back then it was one of many and not a very important one. And the world’s gotten more leftist in other ways. But I would not say it’s gotten more environmentalist.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Sun, I personally have given serious thought to almost every -conspiracy- that I have encountered in my daily life. The fact that those who were supposed to teach it have failed in their responsibilities, doesn’t mean that it was the wrong thing to do. It just means that you have to be careful of threats to critical thought from all sides of the political spectrum.

          • John Schilling says:

            There are particular environmentalist issues that get more play now than in the early ’90s; global warming for example is now almost the issue, whereas back then it was one of many and not a very important one.

            Global warming now gets more play than did every environmental issue combined in the early ’90s. I was there. I was even getting paid to do climate science, briefly.

          • skef says:

            Even extreme libertarians can agree that “Sharing is caring”; they just think it’s the role of private citizens to share voluntarily, rather than the government forcing said sharing upon everyone.

            Rand might quibble.

          • Nornagest says:

            Rand would also say she’s not a libertarian. Rand is not the most representative person ever to have lived.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            And rather famously derided libertarians as “The Hippies of the Right” if I remember correctly.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Matt M

            I learned about the obvious 100% benefits and no trade-offs at all of recycling in kindergarten and that was over 25 years ago, I can’t imagine there’s less environmentalist propaganda today!

            You do know that most aluminum is imported, right? Are you un-American or something? Recycling aluminum both reduces the need for imports and increases US jobs.

            You might have a point with respect to glass (we mine our own sand here), and a point with respect to plastics. But with respect to plastics: that natural gas and oil is either imported or has better uses. Why do you want to raise Pop’s gas bill?

          • Even extreme libertarians can agree that “Sharing is caring”; they just think it’s the role of private citizens to share voluntarily, rather than the government forcing said sharing upon everyone.

            Rand might quibble.

            Judging by Rand’s letters, she was willing to be personally generous provided it was clear that she wasn’t obligated to be. I’m thinking of her subsidizing the schooling of a female relative.

          • TenMinute says:

            Look, go and watch an episode of Captain Planet on youtube, right now. And if you can tell me we weren’t heavily propagandized as children with a straight face, I will give you a medal!

          • suntzuanime says:

            Scrapyards will pay you actual money for aluminum recycling. That’s a pretty good litmus test for whether recycling is actually worth a damn or if it’s just a holiness ritual.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Well, we were talking about kindergarten indoctrination. And I never watched Captain Planet.

            Plus, you can at least control what your kids watch to a large degree. Doesn’t excuse indoctrination, at all, but doesn’t necessitate {counter-indoctrination} either

          • LHN says:

            Judging by Rand’s letters, she was willing to be personally generous provided it was clear that she wasn’t obligated to be. I’m thinking of her subsidizing the schooling of a female relative.

            Twice, though she apparently regretted it. She subsequently agreed to lend their younger sister money for a dress, but in terms that expressed her disappointment in her older siblings. http://the-toast.net/2015/01/12/actual-letter-ayn-rand-wrote-little-girl/

            Link goes to a Mallory Ortberg piece making fun of it. But it looks like she did give her the loan in addition to the lecture, despite, it seems, not having a particularly close relationship with the niece in question.

            And while I’m not a Rand fan, getting a letter that’s so quintessentially Rand and the $25 loan seems as if it would be a bonus. After all, if the niece wasn’t particularly attached to it, she could presumably clear a profit selling the holograph to Rand’s fandom later, simultaneously profiting from the association and living up to her aunt’s capitalistic principles.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      But… 3,238 is 0.5059375, or 50.5%, of 6,800. Why on earth would you call that “nearly two-thirds”? You’re literally just spotting an extra 16%, when you could just say “nearly half”? Unless I’ve seriously understood how they’re calculating things, this is pretty indefensible.

      The most generous reason is that he mistyped 2338 as 3238, or misread 3238 as 2338 when performing the calculation.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Actually, 3238 is correct and the 1993 figure is 10,053; the 6800 figure is the absolute decline, more than 2/3.

        Bed-Stuy is the 79th and 81st precincts. 2010 data in pdf and xls. For 1993, the 79th and the 81st.

        It should be noted that deBoer didn’t do the calculation, but accurately copied the entire passage, both the false raw figures and the correct 2/3.

        • AnonEEmous says:

          Sorry, I didn’t make that clear enough within my post.

          But yes, he somehow managed to copy that with a straight face. Or just missed it entirely.

  26. rin573 says:

    The New Orleans case seems like a good argument in favor of experimentation in education reform. I’d definitely like to see more work like this. Not sure I’d consider it a success for “school choice” per se, though. It sounded like the biggest factors in its success were the ability to shut down schools with poor performance and to hire and fire teachers with fewer restrictions, as well as increased funding over all. There’s also probably a bit of regression to the mean there – if you have one of the worst school systems in the country, gutting everything and starting from scratch seems more likely to improve things than not. Without these factors, I’m not sure how much school choice would have accomplished. It’s worth noting that Louisiana also has an example of negative outcomes in one of the largest studies of school choice. Students who received vouchers to attend private schools received dramatically lower test scores in the two years after the switch (-24 percentile points in math and -8 percentile in English). Based on that, I’m pretty skeptical that school choice would lead to dramatic improvements without other major structural changes.

    • Nornagest says:

      Students who received vouchers to attend private schools received dramatically lower test scores in the two years after the switch (-24 percentile points in math and -8 percentile in English).

      Honestly, that’s a little too dramatic for me to easily believe it.

      • rin573 says:

        It is extreme, though I don’t think the data are inaccurate. I do think there were problems with the way the voucher program was implemented that contributed to the problem. Private schools had a choice of whether or not to participate in the voucher program, and only ~1/3 of the schools did. I haven’t looked closely at the statistics from these schools, but it sounds like they were generally not the best private schools. On top of this, it sounds like schools didn’t get much notice about the students they were receiving and may have been poorly prepared. The study only looked at the first two years of outcomes, and the second was better compared to the first (though still substantially worse than baseline). Perhaps over time the results would improve further. I still wouldn’t expect dramatic improvements from baseline without some other change to the system – for example, shutting down/defunding poorly performing schools, as was the case in the New Orleans system, or changing incentives for the better private schools to participate.

        When I take this study together with the New Orleans one, it basically seems like school choice is a success when there are other structural changes that would make it a success, and it’s a failure when there are structural factors to make it a failure. It seemed a bit one-sided to present an one of the biggest studies showing the success of school choice when another one of the biggest studies (from the same state) shows a failure of school choice, so I wanted to fill in that gap. I also think it’s worth emphasizing the fact that school choice itself is not the only or even the primary factor in the effectiveness of reform efforts. In the New Orleans case, it sounds like one of the most important factors was closing down poorly performing schools. This imposes a kind of learning mechanism on the school system, but not a market-based one, which is what the simplest form of school-choice advocates usually suggest. It’s possible that school choice had added benefits within that framework (and may be more satisfying for students, even ignoring the question of outcomes), but the study doesn’t really show that, so it seemed odd to present it as the main factor.

    • Cypren says:

      Note that there’s been considerable criticism from voucher advocates about the way the Louisiana program was designed, and the authors of the linked study that found a drop in performance suggested that part of the problem may have been a misalignment in curriculum; private schools were not “teaching to the test” the way that public ones already were because it was their first time being measured by it.

      None of this invalidates the results that were found, but I’d be careful about placing too much weight in one outlier study that found a negative impact of vouchers when every other study has shown neutral-to-positive results.

      • rin573 says:

        Thanks for the link. This lines up with what I said in my reply to Nornagest, but I hadn’t seen this particular article before. I should have noted these flaws in my original comment, to make it more clear. Looking back, it sounded like I was being dismissive of school choice out of hand, which wasn’t my intent. I’m actually cautiously in favor of school choice, but skeptical of the idea that choice itself is sufficient to achieve improved outcomes.

        I agree that it’s better not to place too much weight on an outlier study. It’s better to take these results in the context of other neutral or positive studies on school choice (including the one Scott posted). Your article links to a list of those studies, for anyone who’s interested (though it’s worth noting that several are reanalyses of the same data in different ways). At the same time, I think it doesn’t make sense to ignore this study, despite it being an outlier. For one thing, it’s larger than any of the previous random-assignment studies, and the only state-wide one. In addition, many of the fundamental problems in it’s implementation don’t seem like they were addressed/considered until after the fact. I think it’s important to acknowledge that implementing a school choice program without considering these factors can be harmful. I think this is particularly important in light of the fact that other states have similar incentives to Louisiana (budget restrictions, desire to implement a change simply and quickly, etc.). Rather than encouraging legislators to see school choice as a quick fix, I think it’s valuable to acknowledge that it can fail if done poorly and to figure out what factors are necessary for it to succeed.

    • cassander says:

      >ot sure I’d consider it a success for “school choice” per se, though. It sounded like the biggest factors in its success were the ability to shut down schools with poor performance and to hire and fire teachers with fewer restrictions,

      both of those things are only really possible if you get rid of public schools though, and thus are some of the best arguments in favor of school choice. No massive public bureaucracy is ever going to use those tools the way private schools will.

      • rin573 says:

        That might be true. For this reason, I’m actually cautiously in favor of expanding school choice. I still think it’s important to try to understand what factors actually improve the effectiveness of education and what do not, particularly when discussing research studies. Grouping all reforms together under the umbrella term of school choice hides the actual policy changes and their influence on student outcomes and satisfaction. Reducing regulations for teacher credentials, introducing specialized curricula, and shutting down poorly performing schools may be more likely to occur in charter or private schools. However they are not guaranteed to occur in such a system. In Michigan, for example, charter schools have become common and easy to found, but outcomes are generally poor. It is almost impossible to close a charter school for poor performance. Interestingly, public schools can be and are shut down if their performance is in the bottom 5% for multiple years in a row. This certainly isn’t a radical way to improve education quality, but it is at least some level of a learning/selection mechanism. The same standard does not exist for Michigan charter schools, and in fact one of the ways a failing school can avoid closing is by converting to a charter school. Rather than asserting “the public system won’t do this but the private one will”, I think it’s important to ask the question: Is the private system doing them? When is it/isn’t it? When does it succeed, and when does it fail? Without that, there’s a certain ideological blindness to both the pro-school-choice and anti-school-choice.

        • I still think it’s important to try to understand what factors actually improve the effectiveness of education

          Yes. One of the arguments for a voucher system is that it creates a competitive market in trying to find out how to improve education other than by spending more money.

          I am strongly in favor of a voucher system. On the other hand, I think the standard model of K-12 education, public and private, makes very little sense.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            One of the arguments for a voucher system is that it creates a competitive market in trying to find out how to improve education other than by spending more money.

            This already exists in the esteem market. It’s called letting teachers do their jobs without curricular restrictions.

            I think the standard model of K-12 education, public and private, makes very little sense.

            I agree with you here. And it’s something that the esteem market may not be able to solve. State-level deregulation is needed.

          • cassander says:

            >This already exists in the esteem market. It’s called letting teachers do their jobs without curricular restrictions.

            Why do you assume that every teacher is above average? Look, we all know very good teachers, but it’s hard to imagine that the world of education is unique among all fields of human endeavor in that there are not some methods to do it that are better than most others most of the time, and teachers that aren’t exceptional will do better following them than freestyling.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Why do you assume that every teacher is above average?

            I am not assuming such. Though I can see how what little I wrote could lead to such a conclusion.

  27. Urstoff says:

    As Glenn Greenwald pointed out years ago, the issue of closing Guantanamo was always a red herring. Guantanamo isn’t objectionable because it’s location; it’s objectionable because of the practice of indefinite detention, and it doesn’t seem like the Obama administration (like the Bush administration before) had any intention of ever stopping that practice.

    • Matt M says:

      This always seemed to be like an overwhelmingly obvious, important, and largely ignored point.

      AFAIK there was never any suggestion that Guantanamo was uniquely terrible among U.S. military prisons. It just got to be known that way due to media interest. Scattering all the prisoners to other equally terrible prisons serves no logical purpose whatsoever.

    • Aapje says:

      it’s objectionable because of the practice of indefinite detention

      And torture…which probably resulted in the death of three prisoners.

      • I had thought the fact that Guantanamo was not in U.S. territory had legal effects, reduced the constraints on what could be done there. Was I mistaken?

        • rlms says:

          Is this comment in the wrong place? Or are you arguing that because torture is legal in Cuba it is morally acceptable (and separately is in the interest of US citizens).

          • John Schilling says:

            Not a matter of torture being legal in Cuba, but of the United States Constitution being inapplicable to foreigners in Cuba and so things like writs of habeas corpus by which one might claim “Help help I’m being repressed!” are not available to residents of Cuba. Even if the bit of Cuba in question has been leased out to the United States Navy, and the victim’s residence in that corner of Cuba is involuntary.

            It’s a sleazy legal dodge that makes the US government look bad, but it’s enough of a fig leaf for all of the federal courts that really, really don’t want to have to rule either that it is OK to ever detain people without a trial or that we have to let dangerous terrorists go free.

          • I am saying nothing about what is morally acceptable. I was responding to:

            AFAIK there was never any suggestion that Guantanamo was uniquely terrible among U.S. military prisons. It just got to be known that way due to media interest. Scattering all the prisoners to other equally terrible prisons serves no logical purpose whatsoever.

            If things are legal in Guantanamo that are not legal in U.S. military prisons in the U.S., then scattering the prisoners to U.S. military prisons in the U.S. would indeed change things.

          • Matt M says:

            David,

            That’s a fair point – but it seems non-obvious to me that “closing guantanamo” (what was promised) necessarily implies “and moving them to U.S. based prisons”

            Obama could close guantanamo and send them all to a top secret rendition facility in Qatar or some place and everyone would still count that as a “campaign promise fulfilled”

        • Aapje says:

          @Friedman

          This argument was dismissed by the Supreme Court in Boumediene v. Bush.

          PS. The torture seems to have happened under plausible deniability circumstances: in a facility just outside the Guantanamo prison facility, so the people in charge of the prison could honestly say that no torture happened there. The actual torture facility was a ‘black site’ where we do not know who was in charge. This is similar to how some terrorists operate in ‘cells’ so the cells cannot tattle on each other, but here used to make it hard for journalists to find out the truth.

  28. SEE says:

    Congress can’t strike a blow for “local governments’ rights” because those don’t exist. A “local government”, as a matter of Constitutional law, is nothing more than an agency of a state government, exercising only such powers as the state government chooses to delegate, under such limits as the state government chooses to set. The Federal Government accordingly can only exempt a local government from a state law under the same circumstances it could exempt any other state employee or agency from state laws.

    On the other hand, states are full, independent members of the Constitutional order, with explicit rights and powers independent from the Federal Government, including the general police power. And as a general rule, the Federal Government is not allowed to order states to exercise those powers as the Federal Government wishes. (There are exceptions, of course, in areas involving explicit Federal powers.)

    So, the Federal Government could, plausibly, ban plastic bags under the Commerce Clause. It might condition some funding for states (under a bunch of limits established in case law) on the states allowing municipalities to pass bag bans. But insofar as it cannot simply order states to ban bags, it therefore also cannot order the state to allow state agencies using delegated state powers to ban bags.

    • BBA says:

      There’s at least one federal law – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 – that does simply order states to ban something. In this case it’s “you can’t legalize sports betting (but if sports betting is already legal it can stay legal),” which nowadays means Nevada has an advantage over all the other states that have legalized gambling over the last 25 years. New Jersey challenged the law a few years ago and their cert petition is currently pending before the Supreme Court.

    • SamGamgee says:

      Hah you beat me to this. I was surprised when I first learned about this set-up and the fact that the political order is not completely bottom-up or top-down. The state governments are rather the foundation of the order, and their powers are either delegated up, to the federal government, or down, to the local governments.

      As a constitutional originalist, I would of course dispute that the Commerce Clause authorizes the federal government to ban any product, like plastic bags, throughout the union; when they wanted to ban alcohol federally, they had to amend the constitution (and then re-amend it to allow alcohol again). But you’re right that even under current broad interpretation of federal powers to regulate commerce, Congress can’t tell Michigan how to regulate city governments within its jurisdiction.

  29. I just posted another thing on my blog in which I explain why election models didn’t predict Trump’s victory. I think that some of you may find it interesting, even though the election is over. I explain in layman’s terms the statistics behind polls and election models and, in the process, clear up some common misunderstandings. Let me know what you think.

  30. PDV says:

    I wrote a post about Schelling’s thoughts on Schelling fences and how that applies to the current free speech/Nazi-punching argument. (Spoilers: meta-level principles are on the side of free speech.)

    https://thepdv.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/self-reifying-boundaries/

  31. Le Maistre Chat says:

    On libertarian childrens books:
    Did anyone else read The Girl Who Owned a City growing up? It’s memorable ffor two things beyond ideology, the setup where adults are killed off by a pandemic of Ratliff Gas and rare fully-clothed Boris Vallejo art.

  32. John Schilling says:

    From the FP article on Obama’s belated effort to close or empty the Guantanamo detention facility:

    One promise Obama did keep was not to add a single detainee to the population at Guantánamo, relying largely on the federal justice system and foreign partners to deal with the handful of terrorist suspects captured on global battlefields since 2009. For the rest: lethal drone strikes, according to analysts.

    I hadn’t thought of it in those terms before, but it makes sense in a dark and unpleasant way. The hard part was never releasing the prisoners at Guantanamo; Obama could have done that any time he wanted. The hard part was finding another prison that would hold the ones we wanted to keep imprisoned, without optics at least as bad as Gitmo’s. Or, alternately, dealing with the even worse optics of a mass casualty terrorist attack perpetrated by someone you had safely imprisoned but chose to release.

    If you simply kill everyone you think is probably a terrorist, you don’t have to worry about the optics of imprisoning them under questionable circumstances.

    Bush II came under a great deal of criticism for setting up Gitmo in this way, and IMO deservedly so. But he got pretty much a free pass on drone strikes, because they were more clearly connected with waging a conventional war and air strikes are something you do in time of war. Obama mostly got a pass w/re Gitmo because that was Bush’s doing and Evil Congressional Republicans wouldn’t “let” him close it, but his expanded use of drone strikes in an era when the US felt less like it was waging a proper war came under criticism.

    As I say, I hadn’t considered it in these terms before, but Bush and Obama between them found two of the three solutions to the same problem: Here is intelligence that says, of a list of a hundred people, thirty are probably murderous terrorists and five will probably mastermind attacks in the 100-fatality range. You will not in this decade be able to narrow it down further than that. You will not be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt and under due process of law that any one of them have committed any specific crime. And if they are alive and free, you will not be able to stop the actual terrorists among them from executing their plans. Now what?

    OK, if this were a science fiction novel, or even a twenty-minutes-into-the-future technothriller, we’d piously announce we were releasing them from Gitmo on the name of humanity, but first surgically implant them all with satellite tracking and eavesdropping devices, then drone-strike the terrorist minority when they meet with their at-large comrades to plan the next attack. We don’t have that technology yet, and I don’t doubt that whichever president first deploys it will come under criticism for that as well.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It seems to me we drone-striked as the most effective means of projecting force or in lieu of putting troops in harms way. Any advantages in terms of not having prisoners seems like it was pretty far down the list.

      Guantanamo was always about not giving those captured the advantage of access to the courts, while maintaining them under direct US control.

      Do you have some reason for thinking we droned people in lieu of capturing them as a primary reason? I’m not really seeing where we struck people that we could have just captured.

      • John Schilling says:

        If we can pluck Osama bin Laden out of Abottabad, we could have captured anyone we wanted, though it would have involved putting American troops in harm’s way and you are right that this is another thing Obama’s administration tried to avoid.

        But, as has been noted elsewhere in this discussion, most of the people in Gitmo weren’t captured by American troops. Quite a few were taken by local bounty hunters, and there have to have been circumstances where that was not only expedient but more cost-effective and reliable than drone strikes. Yet if the Obama administration continued that practice, they’ve been quite circumspect about it and I would ask where the prisoners have been going.

        Pretty sure that, as with OBL, we mostly just stopped taking prisoners in 2009 or thereabouts.

        • cassander says:

          This is true, but drone strikes are also a lot cheaper than 6 helicopter raids.

        • Deiseach says:

          Quite a few were taken by local bounty hunters

          Which is a system very much open to abuse. This may be more folklore than history, but in the attempt to establish Protestantism in Ireland (or at least do away with Catholicism), bounties were paid for priests. How I heard it in school, and I may have been wrongly informed, was that these were paid “dead or alive”, so an enterprising informant might simply acquire the body of a respectable looking man and claim “yep, that’s a dead priest” for the money.

          According to Wikipedia:

          A 1709 Penal Act demanded that Catholic priests take the Oath of Abjuration, and recognise the Protestant Queen Anne as Queen of Great Britain and, by implication, of Ireland. Priests that did not conform were arrested and executed. This activity, along with the deportation of priests who did conform, was a documented attempt to cause the Catholic clergy to die out in Ireland within a generation. Priests had to register with the local magistrates to be allowed to preach, and most did so. Bishops were not able to register.

          The reward rates for capture varied from £50–100 for a Bishop, to £10–20 for the capture of an unregistered priest; substantial amounts of money at the time. The work was dangerous, and some priests fought in self-defence. The hunters were outcasts in their communities, and were viewed as the most despised class.

          So paying cash down for “inform on a member of Al Qaeda” means all anyone with a grudge to pay off or simply looking for some easy money had to do was tell the Americans “Hey, Ahmed in the next village is an operative!” The Americans wouldn’t know one way or the other until they lifted Ahmed for questioning, and if Ahmed stubbornly refused to admit he really was a terrorist instead of a goat farmer, that was what “enhanced interrogation” was for, after all.

          • Matt M says:

            As an aside, it’s also speculated that this regularly happens domestically within the US with things like calling an anonymous tip line to report that you smelled marijuana smoke coming from the house of the neighbor that you’re kind of annoyed at. Pretty good chance that, even if you don’t get a cash reward, you’ll at least get the joy of watching a SWAT team kick your neighbor’s door down and probably shoot their dog.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            In a tribal society like Afghanistan, you tend to derive protection from your clan, so it was open season on foreigners who had no support network in Afghanistan.

  33. vilgothuhn says:

    Not read Stanovich’s new book but in rationality and the reflective mind he makes a specific model for rationality based on which tests of rational thinking correlates with IQ and which doesn’t. I agree that framing it as a major hole in IQ testing is maybe a bit much, but there’s also probably a lot of nuance here that Stuart Ritchie isn’t covering.

  34. alexu says:

    The obvious flaw in the argument about GDP/AI research is the unquestioned assumption that humans actually are about to be replaced as the most intelligent agents on the planet. If this were something that a large segment of the population actually believed, then of course GDP spending on AI research would be much higher. The fact that it’s not is just a sign that this isn’t really a belief many people hold.

  35. John Schilling says:

    anyone who can figure out a nonjudgmental way to send money online would have quite the business opportunity, not to mention the thanks of a grateful Internet.

    In roughly the same way that anybody who can figure out a nonjudgemental way to deliver firearms and narcotics in meatspace would have quite the business opportunity, etc. Yes, lots of people want this service to exist. Every major government on Earth wants it to not exist, at least in their domain, and the range of tools the have to deploy against it is formidable. Anyone who does this on a sufficiently large scale to change the world will be identified and found, and they will then be either co-opted or imprisoned.

    Or, possibly, they will be the vanguard of the anarcho-capitalist revolution that sweeps away the old order of nations and laws. But that’s about what it would take. Otherwise, this sort of thing is going to be limited to a fringe community of geeks and nerds who can stay one step ahead of the state’s enforcers and who aren’t important enough for the state to up its game. And if that is your game, best not to advertise your currently-workable markets too widely.

    • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

      Alternatively anarchocapitalists start targeting politicians and public employees with all the legal dirty tricks and viciousness that politicians have been targeting everyone else, and we see them fold like a deck of cards.

      The left created a new religion’s worth of guilt complexes and taboos by targeting anyone who disagrees with them with every social and legal means possible to ruin their lives.
      Couldn’t the archocapitalists create a new standard of not targeting people’s lively hood by targeting the lively hoods of those who do? (TIt for tat is the optimum/moral srategy for dealing with prisoners dilemma, initiation of force)

      Defence without offence is delayed enevitability.

      • John Schilling says:

        Alternatively anarchocapitalists start targeting politicians and public employees with all the legal dirty tricks and viciousness that politicians have been targeting everyone else, and we see them fold like a deck of cards.

        Legal dirty tricks? These are politicians you are talking about; they can change the laws. Or, more to the point, the fine details of the interpretation of the laws. Then have the FBI give the full Aaron Schwarz treatment to whoever is doing unto them what they have been doing unto everyone else.

        Also, no, they aren’t in the business of folding when people say nasty things about them. If they were, they’d never have risen above the level of community organizer or whatnot. But enjoy the fantasy, if you like.

        • Luke the CIA Stooge says:

          Grover norquist has had massive success by establishing a rule to single out politicians (no new taxes) and then ruthlessly targeting those who violate it.
          Social Justices entire scheme seems to be setting standards for what is and isn’t bigoted and then ruthlessly going after those who fall on the wrong side, and they’ve been successful (no businessman is going to pull a Donald sterling)
          Islamic extremists established a rule that no one publishes jokes about Islam and assassinated the relatively few people who did, and success no one will publish Mohammed jokes anymore (note they could have achieved the same thing with a doxing or character assassination campaign, and that’s why social justice is a more successful force)
          Conservatives set standards for what is ior isn’t patriotic and target the careers and reputations of those who fail to meet them (no professional athlete can participate in a protest without some career blowback)

          Meanwhile libertarians, the people with the most cynical and realist understanding of how politics actually works insist on being polite rational people out of whom you could build the ideal republic (when’s the last time libertarians targeted someone’s livelihood or initiated organized personal attacks).
          Like this is genuinely weird, as If a fist fight broke out and the guy getting pummeled was arguing why you shouldn’t hit people.
          according to libertarian logic, politics is a game where the people who get some leverage ruthless ruin lives in order to get the slightest advantage: the war on drugs (and the associated prison rape of teenagers) continues because the average politician doesn’t want to take the career hit of going against it.
          American Children were drone struck because Obama didn’t want to be seen as weak.
          And libertarians are trying to reason with this system?

          If libertarians were moderates who wanted a strong functional republic able to effect positive social change their behaviour would make sense, such a republic would need a rational polite populace.
          but libertarians think such a republic is impossible!
          It’s like they misheard Ghandi’s lesson and are now desperately trying to be the change they don’t believe is possible.
          we could end the drug war in 5 years if we established a fund to, whenever there’s a vote to curtail the war, select one of the junior politicians who supported the war on drugs and just drown them in private investigators. Exposing The weird associations, drug use and sex scandals of them, their staffers and family. By the third vote no politician would dare oppose reform.
          this is how successful advocacy groups work ruthless targeting

          Libertarians need to learn the lesson of Vladimir Lenon: politics is simply war by other means (the man never won a vote or even 10% of public support, but he got to rule russia)

          Note: I’m not sure if the above is actually the case. I’ve been playing around with this argument for a bit and it seems potent but their is good evidence against it: Rand Paul was actually expected to do well in the Republican primaries (to the point where the podesta emails reveal the hillary camp was worried about him and wanted to steer the Republicans towards trump. Also the current establishment favourite to take over the Canadian conservative party is Maxime Bernier (Mad Max) an ardent libertarian who is expected to beat Kevin oleary (of shark tank fame) who recently entered the race and is the current frontrunner.

          • cassander says:

            >Grover norquist has had massive success by establishing a rule to single out politicians (no new taxes) and then ruthlessly targeting those who violate it.

            He’s had success at getting people to sign his paper. He’s had zero effect at actually preventing new taxes from being enacted.

          • suntzuanime says:

            He hasn’t had total success. It’s hard to prove, and seems unlikely, that he’s had zero effect.

  36. MugaSofer says:

    FetLife has been forced to remove some controversial fetish material under threat from online payment processors not to accept transactions regarding his site. I think online payment processors are an underappreciated threat to free speech compared to eg Trump, political correctness, etc – they’ve also been harassing the nootropics community and making it really difficult to sell otherwise-legal chemicals.

    Why do online payment providers care about fetishes and drugs more than money, if they’re not illegal? Why do they care at all?

    Moralizing staff members? Bribes from lobbyist groups?

    • suntzuanime says:

      If you’re in a heavily regulated industry, you might not want to do things that are going to get the regulators all excited and scrutinicious, even if they’re theoretically legal. Also, it’s a lot easier to implement a policy of just banning whole categories that contain lots of illegal stuff, like drugs and sex, than to take the time to investigate each individual case on its merits.

    • gattsuru says:

      In theory, the certain types of purchases do matter from an economic perspective, either because they’re more likely to result in contested transactions, or because the assets involved would be much harder to recover value from in case of a lawsuit, or both.

      In practice, they care because financial regulators told them to. The FDIC declared pornography a risk at the same levels as lottery sales, and banks were required to respond as if that were true.

      • earnest-peer says:

        AFAICT tha FDIC has since removed that declaration (See here under “Feds gone wild”, second to last paragraph).

    • earnest-peer says:

      A commenter (Bart Calendar) over on Ferretts livejournal explained it as follows:

      I’ve been talking about this for a while with some of the clients I used to write porn stuff for (Most of them switched over to non porn stuff a few years ago because of PayPal but still monitor the industry closely) and there’s one amusing thing about what’s happening.

      Cuckold sites are safe, because the word “cuck” has been turned into a a word for “liberal” on right wing sites.

      Therefore the credit card companies aren’t responding to complains about “cuck sites.” Which, given that it’s the second most common male fetish is very funny.

      That said, I’ll say what I’ve said before, while there is a large political element here, the reason credit card companies and PayPal don’t want to process stuff for sex and porn sites is really down to shame.

      Person gets drunk when their spouse is away. Person goes to porn site and pays money for something they really wouldn’t want their partner to know about (generally gay stuff or kink stuff)

      Person wakes up and calls up and screams “what is this charge doing on my online statement” to credit card company or PayPal which has to refund the money and that chargeback costs them money.

      The more embarrassing the kink, the higher the percentage of this time this happens – which is why blood, humiliation and consensual non consent are always the ones they try to go after first.

      So the solution is two fold:

      1. Contact your politicians.

      2. Stop being ashamed of what gets your dick or clit hard.

    • Cypren says:

      The main reason they care is because the government can apply a great deal of financial harm to your business by simply opening “investigations” into it. It doesn’t matter if they find anything (though, given the complexity of modern criminal and regulatory law, there’s almost always some violation of something to find if they look hard enough, no matter how scrupulous your business); “the process is the punishment” due to the lost time/resources/legal fees complying with the investigation.

      As such, all a regulatory agency needs to do is announce that any business associating with [politically disfavored group or subject] will be subject to additional scrutiny, and most financial services companies will cut off all contact with them simply as a matter of self-interest. This is one of the extreme dangers in the current size and scope of the federal government: it’s easy for it to de facto ban and punish things that it cannot ban de jure.

      People who weren’t bothered by this when the Obama administration used it to go after fetish sites and firearms sellers should think long and hard about what categories of individuals the Trump administration might like to declare “unsavory”.

    • Matt M says:

      The small amount of money they make from a few fetish sites is simply not worth the risk of said fetish sites eventually being investigated for prostitution, child porn, whatever, and the bank being accused of enabling such illegal activities.

      There are plenty of things in society that are technically legal but fall under the category of “a lot of people with a lot of power really really don’t like these things” and from a business perspective, those markets are probably “more trouble than they’re worth”

  37. Iain says:

    In the neural network link: what does “increasing neural network size” even mean? I can define an artificial neural network with as many neurons as I want; it might be slower than a smaller network, or more prone to overfitting, but there’s no hard cap on how many neurons I can include.

    At best, all the graph is telling us is that we are using larger neural networks than we used to, which seems to say more about Moore’s law and the “Big Data”-driven rise of large training sets than about neural networks themselves. Recurrent neural networks are doing cool things these days, but that doesn’t map cleanly onto some arbitrary “number of neurons” scale.

    • the verbiage ecstatic says:

      The other weird thing about that graph is that a computer neuron and a neuron cell are very different things. In a computer neural network, generally a “neuron” has pretty limited state — often just one bit of data. In an actual neuron, last I checked no one really knew how much state there was… there’s a whole bunch of activity, including chemical exchanges with neighboring neurons, internal DNA / RNA processes, etc, in addition to (but interacting with) electrical discharges. We don’t really understand what all of that activity is about, or how much is relevant to information processing vs just maintaining the physical health of the cell.

      • Nornagest says:

        Eh, yes and no. We have a fairly good idea of how biological neurons fire, what internal state they carry, and how they respond to the cells around them, and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with e.g. DNA.

        That being said, it’s an analog process, it can get fairly elaborate (see for example), and most types of artificial neural networks are highly abstracted compared to it. Some ANNs do aspire to simulate biological systems more closely, e.g. spiking neural networks, but even they leave a lot of stuff out.

  38. Freddie deBoer says:

    Also LOL at New Orleans as a model for school reform. “Ship one third of the city’s lowest performing students to Houston and import a massive cohort of striving Ivy Leaguers to play hero ball” is not a solution to any problems.

    Scott, the only question in education data – the only question – is will it scale? You think an army of do-gooders is going to descend on the impoverished rural Mississippi Delta area to engage in a messianic program the way they did in New Orleans? In the destitute Appalachians? Come on, man.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Re: the lowest-achieving students being shipped off to Houston, the study tries to account for that:

      Hurricane Katrina forced almost everyone to leave the city. Some returned and some did not. The most heavily flooded neighborhoods were (not coincidentally) those where family incomes were lowest, and people in these neighborhoods returned at much lower rates than people who lived in other parts of the city. Given the strong correlation between poverty and student outcomes, this could mean that higher test scores shown in Figure 1 are driven not by the reforms but by schools serving more-advantaged students.

      Observers have pointed out that the share of the student population eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRL) actually increased slightly in New Orleans after the storm. But there are many reasons not to trust FRL data. For example, they reflect crude yes/no measures and are unlikely to capture extreme poverty of the sort common in New Orleans. Also, what really matters here is not whether poverty increased in New Orleans, but whether poverty increased more than in the comparison group. Therefore, in addition, we gathered data from the U.S. Census, which measures changes in income and the percentages of the population with various levels of education. We also carried out the difference-in-differences analysis in these demographic measures to understand the changes in New Orleans relative to the matched comparison group of hurricane-affected districts, and then simulated the effect of changes in family background characteristics on test scores using data from the federal Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.

      We also examined pre-Katrina characteristics to see whether the returnees were different from nonreturnees and found that returnees did have slightly higher scores. In fact, we come to the same conclusion in both analyses: the expected increase in student outcomes after the hurricanes due to population change is no more than 0.02 to 0.06 standard deviations, or about 10 percent of the difference-in-differences estimates in Figure 1.

      Interim school effects. Some of the changes in student learning may reflect neither the prestorm nor poststorm quality of New Orleans schools, but the performance of schools that students briefly attended outside the city after the evacuation. Other research on these students by Dartmouth economist Bruce Sacerdote suggests that New Orleans evacuees experienced larger improvements in school quality than evacuees from other districts.

      Trauma and disruption. Any benefit of having good interim schools might be offset by the trauma and disruption of the storm itself and its aftermath. The majority of New Orleans returnees probably knew someone among the nearly 2,000 people who died in the Katrina aftermath. Also, almost all students experienced significant disruption, moving to unfamiliar neighborhoods and schools for extended periods. Reports of post-traumatic stress disorder remain common.

      It is difficult to isolate trauma and interim school effects, but we can estimate the combination of the two. A study by the RAND Corporation of students from Louisiana districts affected by the hurricane suggests that these two factors had a short-term net negative effect on evacuees’ performance of 0.03 to 0.06 standard deviations. Our analysis suggests that the negative influence is even larger for New Orleans students, most likely because of the more extensive destruction in the city compared with most other areas along the state’s coast. Thus, at least in the years just after the reforms, the factors pushing student outcomes down were at least as large as the population changes pushing them up.

      Re: scalability, I’m confused by the “army of do-gooders descending on the Mississippi Delta” question – isn’t New Orleans a pretty poor area on the Mississippi Delta? Doesn’t it contain more people (and thus harder to scale) than the rural areas do? If it can work in big impoverished urban areas, why not small impoverished rural areas?

      (also, if it’s being tried in New Orleans and Detroit, isn’t that a pretty big fraction of the areas we most want to improve already? And why do you have to be “a do-gooder” to work in private schools, but not public ones?)

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Geographical weirdness alert: the area known as the “Mississippi Delta” is a couple of hundred miles upstream from the delta of the Mississippi.

      • Saint Fiasco says:

        if it’s being tried in New Orleans and Detroit, isn’t that a pretty big fraction of the areas we most want to improve already?

        Probably not. The worry is that people care a lot about New Orleans and Detroit because they are (in)famous, so altruists focus their efforts there. Without that focus, it’s possible the same strategy will be inviable in other cities that are smaller and less known.

      • JonathanD says:

        Lots of do-gooding kids out of college find the idea of saving the world in New Orleans exciting. After all, you’re in New Orleans. Saving the world in a small rural town with a crappy climate and all the mosquitoes in the world? Probably a much harder sell.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          “isn’t New Orleans a pretty poor area”

          My impression from spending a couple of days in the Garden District in 2007 is that New Orleans has a lot of really Old Money, as in great-great-great-grandpa cornered the molasses market in 1826 Old Money, and lots of beautiful young trustfunders from other parts of the country.

          On the other in 2007, the lower elevation districts looked apocalyptic, which they pretty much were.

      • wintermute92 says:

        Broadly, urban education is worse than rural education (which is worse than suburban education) in terms of violence and crises and 100% failed cases. But it’s not especially worse in terms of college attendance % and the like, and it’s actually way more amenable to change.

        There’s lots of funding and Teach For America style free labor available for cities (not that TFA is great), and the extra population density means that you can put up multiple charter and non-charter schools in one location. You can also get good teachers with high salaries in your charter or private schools by servicing rich families and helping a percentage of very poor students with the surplus cash (like colleges at least pretend to do).

        Rural education has basically none of those benefits. The largest school districts (in AK, to be fair) are about 300 x 300 mile blocks. There’s no money available, you can’t possibly justify opening a second school, and no one wants to move there to teach. There’s also no wealth at all – rural areas aren’t poorer than cities, but rural Mississippi has way less high-end wealth than New Orleans. Intervening is much, much harder there.

        (Which isn’t to say intervening is as effective in cities – there are lots of other problems, from hunger to gangs, that you can’t easily intervene around. But it’s tried way more often than in rural areas.)

        • cassander says:

          the US spends something like 12,000 dollars a k-12 student, and the average teacher makes 60 grand a year. Make it 80 after benefits and that means you need 6-7 kids to higher a full time teacher. the minimum size for a school is TINY in a voucher world. we have a tradition of massive, expensive public schools, but they aren’t necessary to life.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            And those kids have 5-6 classes per day (or block). So suddenly you’re up to 30 – 36 students minimum once you’re outside of elementary school. And yes, nearly any place of decent population density has many elementary schools to choose from for this reason.

            That doesn’t count the building. The nurse. The principal. The secretary. The playground equipment. The transportation. The need to offer more than 5 or 6 subjects. The need to budget for under-subscription or to dynamically expand for over-subscription.

            And if a charter is really going to provide a specialized learning environment (a magnet charter), you’re looking at even more money for the equipment and consumables.

            It’s a good idea. Hopefully it will be tried.

          • And if a charter is really going to provide a specialized learning environment (a magnet charter), you’re looking at even more money for the equipment and consumables.

            Our kids went for some years to a small private school providing a specialized learning environment–unschooling along the lines of the Sudbury Valley School. I’m not sure enrollment ever got above twenty, and per pupil expenditure was well below the figure for public schools.

            The Amish seem to manage pretty well with one and two room schoolhouses. I’m not sure how large the average enrollment is.

            Or in other words, there are lots of possible models other than the currently orthodox one, some of them permitting much smaller scales and lower costs. Even more now that the internet provides massive amounts of free information and instruction.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The Amish seem to manage pretty well with one and two room schoolhouses. I’m not sure how large the average enrollment is.

            Not just the Amish; I went to William Wordsworth’s old grammar school last year, and it literally consisted of a single classroom plus the teacher’s office.

          • cassander says:

            >The nurse. The principal. The secretary. The playground equipment. The transportation. The need to offer more than 5 or 6 subjects. The need to budget for under-subscription or to dynamically expand for over-subscription.

            You don’t need any of that stuff, you run it like a private tutoring service with tiny classes. You read a little office space, you get 4 teachers, physics and math, history, English, chemistry and biology. Maybe you get one all purpose administrator. You take as many students as you have slots and if you have more applicants than slots you lottery them off. Equipment consists of laptops, used textbooks, and dry erase markers. You bring in actual tutors on an as needed basis for music or language. Bam, you have an institution that can teach anyone to pass any standardized test for high school kids.

            Of course, in practice, I doubt you’d get many minimal sized places like this, but the point is that the barrier to entry, if you have vouchers, is incredibly small for schools. All together that’s less than a half million bucks a year, almost all of it labor. that’s 40 vouchers.

          • Deiseach says:

            anonymous skimmer, we don’t have school nurses in Ireland* 🙂

            *Outside of schools for pupils with disabilities, early intervention services, specialised education like that.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          An issue I had with smaller districts is that the paucity of district-wide schools failed to make me aware of diversity in school strength and focus. A decent-sized metropolis will have multiple private schools and public schools which serve distinct purposes, and the students at any of those schools will know this.

          As is, when it came time to select a college, I had no idea that they specialized beyond the level of SLAC/Comprehensive/Tech, and whether or not a particular major was offered.

          That helped* to start a chain of bad-fit, dropping out, depression, such that it took 17 years, five schools, and over 200 semester-credit equivalents attempted to complete a B.S. (I earlier completed an A.S. at a previous member of the five schools).

          * – There were other factors (such as watching the movie “Real Genius” as an adolescent and thinking I wasn’t cut out for places like Georgia Tech; believing my father’s right-wing radio talking points that private is always better than public, military somehow excepted; and not having learned that you personally can reach out to administrators, teachers, and resource centers, and that this is sometimes necessary and always okay). Parents upper-middle class for the area, both with BAs (father’s earned in his 30s from a military branch campus, mother’s at the standard age from a SLAC).

          • mother’s at the standard age from a SLAC

            Your mother got her education from the Stanford Linear Accelerator? Impressive.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            In higher ed SLAC stands for Small Liberal Arts College.

            I’m not sure if you know this and are just joking, or not.

          • Didn’t know it, was joking.

            I have spent my entire life in higher education and do not think I have ever encountered that acronym.

          • Brandon Berg says:

            I have spent my entire life in higher education

            Impressive. I didn’t start college until I was 17.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brandon Berg

            Perhaps David Friedman, like myself, was born in a university hospital.

          • John Schilling says:

            Perhaps David Friedman, like myself, was born in a university hospital.

            He was, at minimum, a professor’s son, and one would expect that his childhood cultural and educational environment would have been heavily university-centric.

  39. Freddie deBoer says:

    Just give poor people money.

  40. lgio says:

    Hey, did you happen to see this one about Reason magazine’s holocaust-denial history? I had no idea…

    • Glen Raphael says:

      That old chestnut is still making the rounds? It’s ridiculous.

      Maybe that guy wants his magazines to tell him what to think and protect him from hearing any wrongthink via censorship or big flashing THIS IS NOT TRUE headlines on every page, but as for me, if there is a notable guy in the world saying really bizarre or scary or nasty stuff and people are being influenced by it, I might actually want to know what the guy is saying. If a libertarian magazine can get a good honest interview out of Time Cube Guy, I’m willing to read that interview – I’m not going to complain that it’s wrong to give him attention because his physics are bad; ditto for getting a good interview with any other sort of proponent of odd views. A magazine devoting a single issue of a single year to a roundup of what the most prominent/popular historical revisionists are saying does not seem out of proportion to how monthly magazines allocate their time.

      The main exhibit wasn’t a holocaust revisionism issue, it was a historical revisionism-themed issue in which the holocaust guy was one of many people who were interviewed or had their weird views discussed. Reason trusted its readers not to be brainwashed into believing every goofy theory therein presented. “No platforming” hadn’t been invented yet and even now that it has libertarians aren’t much inclined to do that. (If Reason can get a good article clarfying what, say, Richard Spencer – or even Dick Cheney – claims to believe, there’d be nothing wrong with them doing that either. Especially in an issue where the very tagline on the cover indicates unusual non-standard views are to be found inside.)

      Also this was in the 1970s, meaning Reason was different and libertarians were different. Unless you really believe in guilt-by-association, it’s just…kinda dumb to attack a magazine based on stupid stuff they might have written before most of their current readers were born. (in this case what was written wasn’t particularly stupid, but had it been so I’d say the Statute of Limitations has run out.)

      If you read both sides you’ll see there’s no there there.

      Here’s Reason’s take on the matter (which your link seems to be responding to, sort of).

      • rlms says:

        Have Reason done any interviews with Stalinist historians?

        • Matt M says:

          Why would they need to? The issue in question was on revisionist history. If you want to read history as interpreted through the lens of marxism, just go get some back issues of the New York Times.

  41. Subb4k says:

    The neural network graph is interesting, but the extrapolated linear relation between the log of number of neurons and time (i.e. exponential between number of neurons and time) seems wrong. If you remove one outlier (3), it looks a lot more like an exponential curve.

    • moridinamael says:

      I was going to observe that if you remove the data prior to 1985, the data clearly has a much steeper slope than the line they draw. Specifically, it would imply that we’ll be hitting human-level neuron counts in 5-10 years, not fifty.

  42. akarlin says:

    You can probably criticize the government as long as you’re not important or you don’t have an audience.

    It’s also important to differentiate between true authoritarianism and what the globalist liberal elites claim is authoritarianism, particularly on the part of people they dislike (e.g. Putin, Trump).

    Size (and most comparable animal) of neural networks over time.

    Incidentally, I wonder if anyone has tried to calculate the total neural network size of all the biomass on the planet over time.

    I suspect it would show a hyperbolic curve like with measures of biodiversity in general, but it would be useful to confirm.

    User dogtasteslikechicken at the r/slatestarcodex subreddit gives a good summary of the Flynn Effect. But it looks like he is confused about some of the same things I am. For example, rich people and the nobility probably had good nutrition and education in the past. So we might expect a Flynn effect based on nutrition and education not to affect them as much. But if this were true, we would expect a bimodal distribution in the past (un-Flynned poor people with bad nutrition + Flynned rich people with good nutrition) gradually transforming into a bell curve now (when most people have nutrition and education). But instead IQ has always been a bell curve. Why? I don’t know.

    It’s counterintuitive but not really if you really think about.

    In medieval societies, first of all, the share of the nobility and of the truly rich, such that they could afford to be truly divorced from concerns about food prices, was vanishing small. I am talking a few thousands in, say, England, out of a population of 4 million. Otherwise, everyone including even many of the well off merchants and minor landed gentry would have still been part of the overall nutritional and education bell curve. Another way of putting it is that there was no clear cut socioeconomic cleavage between “commoner” and “elite.”

    Second, the range of foods available was very limited relative to that available even to poor developed country citizens today, and schooling even for the elites was much less formalized versus the beginning of standardized education systems. Even more importantly, the elites were of course universally subject to another major IQ dampener that isn’t a major issue today outside of Africa and the Indian subcontinent – namely, parasitic diseases.

    Third, more speculatively, Garrett Jones also mentions the competitive instrict in Hive Mind – the urge for everyone to do just a bit better than their competitors, which turbocharges performance even further in already very formidable hive minds. But in a rural world of 95% illiteracy rates (e.g. 11th century Europe), this would have been relatively lacking.

    Stuart Ritchie reviews Keith Stanovich’s The Rationality Quotient, notes that his “rationality quotient” correlates at 0.695 with normal IQ. Stanovichian rationality is probably not a great answer to the timeless “why do smart people sometimes think such stupid things” question.

    The rational answer would be that intelligent people making irrational statements are much more noticeable.

  43. newsroot says:

    Scott, on the “Predictions for 2017” post you wrote “96. I will not be taking any nootropic (except ZMA) daily or near-daily during any 2-month period this year: 90%.” Have you written anything more about ZMA and your decision to take it?

  44. meltedcheesefondue says:

    >But instead IQ has always been a bell curve. Why? I don’t know.

    Not sure how to interpret this; IQ is an ordinal scale, mapped onto a bell curve artificially.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligence_quotient#Current_tests

    What do you mean by that, exactly?

  45. Furrfu says:

    The organic-looking objects in that blog post aren’t designed using deep learning. Carlos E. Perez doesn’t know what he’s talking about. They’re designed using ordinary topology optimization. Neither Arup nor Autodesk Dreamcatcher nor Autodesk Within uses deep learning. The only thing topology optimization has in common with deep learning is that both topology optimization and the training phase of deep learning are instances of mathematical optimization, in which you try to find the minimum or maximum of some objective function (for example, the percentage of example images classified correctly, or the rigidity of a structure) within some region (for example, the structures that occupy 10% of the design space); and, typically, gradient descent is the optimization algorithm of choice in both neural-network training and topopt. Zegard and Paulino wrote a short paper (warning, PDF!) that’s a reasonable introduction to topology optimization last year, with lots of examples of topopt results. You can do topology optimization in 99 lines of Matlab code.

    It is indeed true that topopt results look a great deal like living things, and this is not entirely a coincidence. The standard gradient-descent method for topology optimization is equivalent to dissolving away material where there is no stress and depositing it where there is stress, exactly as our bones do, and related mechanisms are known for different kinds of soft tissue.

    I am not an expert in this area, just an interested amateur.

  46. Jack V says:

    Draining swamps. It seemed to have turned out ok in the Netherlands, or am I missing something? Maybe US politics needs to learn something from there 🙂

    Microaggressions. I tried to read the article and I couldn’t follow it all so I don’t know what I’m missing. But it seemed like, their attempt at characterising a microaggression contained good parts, but didn’t really make sense. Like, they suggested “can only be determined if something is a micro-aggression by the victim”. But I think that’s more a rule of politeness, like, if someone says someone was mean to them at work, it’s usually *polite* to just take their word for it and not cross-examine them. But if you actually want to know, you can usually form some idea whether it is or not. OTOH, I guess you could say, “the term has become useless because it’s used all the time to mean ‘something bad I don’t want to explain'”. In which case, that’s plausible, but you could say the same about (eg) “ad hominem argument” — some people understand the definition and have a clear idea how they use it, other people (maybe most) use it to mean “I want you to stop arguing with me and admit I’m right”. But I’m not sure you can say you’ve *disproved* the concept of ad hominem attacks by looking at the latter…

    • Aapje says:

      Draining swamps. It seemed to have turned out ok in the Netherlands, or am I missing something?

      Well, The Netherlands has a lot of land that keeps getting lower, while the rivers are getting higher (because we fixed them, so they deposit in the same place). The result is that the outcome of a dyke collapse is getting worse and worse.

      There are no perfect solutions and modern water management techniques generally try to create a less strict separation between land and water, allowing for occasional floodings of some agricultural zones, rather than trying to rush the rain water to sea.

    • Besserwisser says:

      It depends on what you consider “to have turned out ok”. The Netherlands might have lost a lot of biodiversity while doing this. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the less biodiverse countries in the world and that might look better if you didn’t drain swamps.

      And it is generally true that actual draining of swamps is often positively regarded in terms of development projects. I remember* reading about how the British turned swamplands given to them by the Mughals into “the second biggest city on the subcontinent” and “the undisputed capital of British India” Calcutta.

      *Well, I just read it again to get it right.

      • Matt M says:

        Perhaps this is an argument against the notion that biodiversity (at least within specific regions) is a clearly and obviously great thing?

        Like, most people think the Netherlands is a pretty cool and decent place, all things considered. If environmentalists try to scare people with tales of “we need to stop this development in Indonesia or it might end up looking like the Netherlands!” that might not be the most effective argument in the world…

      • Aapje says:

        @Besserwisser

        I’m pretty sure it’s one of the less biodiverse countries in the world and that might look better if you didn’t drain swamps.

        That seems unlikely, since river deltas are pretty much the most biodiverse places to start with. I’m pretty sure that we didn’t mess up so much to become less biodiverse than the Sahara.

        I also want to point out that we’ve been adding back some (mini-)swamps, I regularly cycle past some of them.

        • Besserwisser says:

          Eh, you’re not the worst but I’m pretty sure it isn’t as biodiverse as it was in the past. Being a densely populated country, some of that is unavoidable. Most of the draining made place for farmlands which are less biodiverse by design. And you probably also did a lot of stuff to your rivers which aren’t great for things in or around them too. The Sahara is an extreme example but outside of arid or polar regions, the Netherlands isn’t the first country to come to mind when thinking about biodiversity.

          • Aapje says:

            the Netherlands isn’t the first country to come to mind when thinking about biodiversity.

            The perception of ‘biodiversity’ in the West seems heavily biased towards the exotic and to bigger countries (which automatically have more overall diversity due to their size), so I put little value in perceived biodiversity.

            I agree that the dense population (and long history of fairly dense human settlement in the area) severely limits the ability to just let nature runs its course. Pretty much all of Dutch land has some kind of human use and without extensive terraforming, we could not maintain the 17th biggest economy with the 131th biggest land mass.

            I favor trying to preserve/encourage biodiversity, but it has to be reasonable in the context of human needs.

  47. luispedro says:

    “The Little Red Hen” is a pretty libertarian children’s book, almost out of Ayn Rand (the hen even makes a speech at the end).

  48. Steve Sailer says:

    Re: The Days of Rage review

    My impression from reading the newspapers in the 1970s is that the review exaggerates how important leftist violence was. I can recall spectacular incidents like watching live on TV the LAPD’s giant 1974 shootout with the Symbionese Liberation Army, the kidnappers of Patty Hearst. But from about 1972 onward, the trend was clearly not in favor of leftist terrorists.

    One thing to keep in mind about terrorism in the U.S. in the 1970s was that it wasn’t all that deadly.

    http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/terrorism/wrjp255a.html

    The biggest single killing I can find record of was an unsolved bombing at LaGuardia Airport in 1975 that killed 11. Nobody is sure who did it although the best known theory is anti-Tito Croatian nationalists.

    The Black Muslim Zebra killers in San Francisco murdered at least 15 whites at random, but it never got as much publicity as the Zodiac serial killer.

    Leftist domestic terrorists covered in The Days of Rage got a lot of press coverage, but they didn’t seem particularly effective. And they increasingly seemed obsolete. When Nixon ended the draft in the early 1970s, the New Left as a large scale force evaporated quickly. Tom Wolfe liked to taunt leftists about how the New Left became forgotten over the course of 1972. The year 1972 saw violent radicals get cut off as an obviously doomed fringe, in part because the Vietnam War was strongly Vietnamized: only 300 American soldiers were killed in the war that year as the South Vietnamese and American airpower beat back the North Vietnamese offensive.

    Nixon wound up winning a huge landslide.

    There really only were a few smart, well-connected leftist terrorists who emerged in the late 1960s like William Ayers and Angela Davis. They would have needed a couple of orders of magnitude more recruits of that quality to be much of a threat. In reality, most of the new recruits in the 1970s were losers like the Symbionese Liberation Army.

    Essentially, mass student radicalism was due to the combination of worries about being drafted and sent to the Vietnam War. Nixon eventually got rid of both concerns. And so that was it for violent leftism. The March through the Institutions was much more attractive.

    • rks says:

      The author mocks the 70s’ lefties for believing in the “imminent collapse of the US” and then goes on describing how it will collapse in the next 4 years.

    • wintermute92 says:

      Well put. It’s worth remembering that much of the really notable liberal violence didn’t involve any planned injuries. (Also, the most blatantly aggressive stuff like armed takeovers of campus buildings gets largely ignored.)

      One of the most serious injuries “caused” by the 1969 Days of Rage protestors was Richard Elrod’s broken neck, sustained he tried to tackle a protestor and missed.

      The U-Madison bombing was a depressing end to a laughable campaign of failed detonations, mistargeted arson, and easily-frightened attackers. That it ultimately caused one death was unintentional, and the lead bomber was sufficiently aimless that he later ran a juice cart on the campus he bombed. I think he sold me a lemonade once.

      The Weathermen called ahead to prompt evacuations before their attacks. I believe their only fatalities were group members killed by incompetent bombmaking.

      Earth First mostly poured sugar in gas tanks, chained themselves to trees, and did art protests. Their most violent action was spiking trees and marking them, but that still seems to have caused a few injuries.

      The ELF (into the 90s now) were idiotic arsonists who had no idea what they were burning, but don’t appear to have injured anyone. The ALF keep setting loose lab test animals, but they haven’t given us all ebola yet. (Fingers crossed, the morons.)

      Meanwhile… Judi Bari was accused of terrorism as part of Earth First. Because, as far as anyone can tell, the FBI planted a pipe bomb in her car that maimed her, then arrested her for being blown up. The French government bombed the Rainbow Warrior, killing a journalist. After the SLA, Zebra killers, and Laguardia bombing, it’s a tossup whether more people have been hurt by American leftist terrorism or governments framing and undermining same.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Liberal violence? They were radical leftists. Radical leftists tend to view liberals as being among their enemies.

        EDIT: HeelBearCub is right; my tone here comes off a little snippy.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Substitute “left-wing violence”.

          Liberal and left-wing are frequently used as syonyms, so it’s important not to play the definition game here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Just nitpicking. I think in general if “liberal” and “leftist” were distinguished more it would be good. But my only power is to nitpick here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            OK, sure.

            But then maybe identify the nit as a nit and suggest the alternative you would like?

            It leads to more convivialness.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You’re right. I should have been less terse and said “we should separate leftists/radicals from liberals in discussion”. I come off as snippy.

        • wintermute92 says:

          Ok, fair enough.

          “Liberal” in the US spends a lot of team being used as a political orientation, but that makes for a messy equivocation with ‘classical liberal’ ideology (which you can arguably do while Republican or Democratic). I’ve seen this distinction getting a bunch of extra traction recently, with the liberals being anti-punch while the leftists are pro-punch.

          But… I don’t know how to avoid it. US Democrats and (pseudo?) socialists generally hold a suite of views which aren’t required for general leftism. So I see “liberal” used in the US to mean “left of center in the US-specific way that’s not obvious except as anti-US-conservatism”. I guess “US leftism” would be a better way to identify the extra because-the-Republicans-disagree views which aren’t part of global leftism?

          (No worries on the tone – you’re right, I just don’t know a clean fix for the double meaning.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            The confusion is largely due to weirdness involving the American political lexicon. Where else is blue left and red right? You are right that “conservatives” in the US are often fairly close to classic liberals. But “liberal” came to mean “general mainstream left Democrat” at some point. Then it became a right-wing term of abuse, so those people started using “progressive” … but some people who were more leftist than liberal started calling themselves progressive … and “liberal” has traditionally been a leftist term of abuse. So you have a weird situation where leftists condemn those they call liberals (who are left-wing classical liberals, or maybe social democrats), but they both call themselves progressives, and meanwhile right-wingers (some of whom are right-wing classical liberals, who call themselves conservatives) call both the liberals and the leftists progressives. Meanwhile, Who is on first.

            It’s confused more by the fact that the US only has two viable national parties. Canada has three, currently – Conservatives (conservatives and right-wing liberals), Liberals (left-wing liberals), and NDP (social democrats, more or less).

            I think that, in an American context, “liberal” is best used to mean “reformist moderates who think the system is ultimately good but needs to be made better” and “leftist” or “radical” is best for “someone who wants to blow up the system”. This lets you do things like differentiate liberal from radical feminists, and as you point out, divides the anti-punchers from the pro-punchers fairly neatly. The problems here are, first, where do you fit in social democrats (they’re not liberals in the technical sense of the term, but they don’t want to blow up the system, which is why radicals often dislike them – see the official Communist position in the 20s that social democrats are just another kind of fascism and an impediment to revolution), and second, what do you do about people who loudly announce themselves to be radicals but their opinions, when you look carefully, are fairly basic liberal reformist views, just proclaimed more aggressively and with that extra sheen of sexy edginess derived from declaring one’s self to be a radical?

      • TheWorst says:

        I started to check out when he described a leftist leader who was murdered in his sleep by the FBI, and then went on another spiel about how it’s leftists who have institutional support.

        I’m fine with partisans, as long as they can make even the flimsiest pretense of being connected to reality. When the government is literally assassinating your ideological enemies, the one without institutional support is not you.

        • Nornagest says:

          Institutional support is not a monolith. Even leaving out things like universities, NGOs, the ACLU, etc., there have been various points in history where the US State Department was effectively engaged in a proxy war with the CIA or (less commonly) the Department of Defense.

          The author explicitly calls out the FBI as an exception to overall domestic policy, which seems reasonable enough, given its… idiosyncratic history.

          • TheWorst says:

            The FBI is very much an institution. If the FBI is willing to find your opponents and kill them for you, then “institutional support” is very much a thing you have.

            If the FBI suffers no consequences for this – and it doesn’t, does it? – then “institutional support” is something you have and your enemies don’t. People who can be murdered with impunity don’t have meaningful institutional support. The people doing the murdering do.

            It’s a natural human tendency to insist that our victims are instead victimizing us, but it’s ugly and morally inexcusable.

          • Jiro says:

            Being supported by an instittuion and opposed by others isn’t “institutional support”.

          • TheWorst says:

            The problem is that’s horseshit. Being supported by an institution is what “institutional support” means.

            Being supported by an institution that will kill for you with impunity is epic-level institutional support. You aren’t a rebel, you’re the Empire. I get that it’s tempting to cast yourselves as the Plucky Rebels, but that only works when the powers that be aren’t murdering your enemies for you.

          • Randy M says:

            I think Jiro’s response is a bit stingy. If an institution supports you, you have “institutional support.” However I don’t think it is established that just because the FBI opposed the left’s ‘shock troops’ that they were the right’s shock troops institutional support.

            After all, weren’t the Waco people considered far-right cultists/militias? The FBI was part of the response that led to them dying.

            I know presidential administrations changed over that time, is that enough to change the FBI?
            If so it might be worth separating executive institutions that respond to elections with others that are more long standing, like universities; but I’m not sure that the deep state is so readily re-purposed.

            (Personally I think the obvious explanation for the FBI is likely true–their allegiance, especially at the lower levels, is to bringing down people who break federal laws.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Being supported by an institution that will kill for you with impunity is epic-level institutional support.

            Wait, wait, what’s the evidence that the FBI is killing for the right? Whilst the enemy of my enemy is often my friend, I don’t think that “X killed Y, who is opposed to Z” is really enough to show that “X is on Z’d side”. X might be indifferent to Z, or opposed to both Y and Z.

          • Nornagest says:

            The FBI is very much an institution. If the FBI is willing to find your opponents and kill them for you, then “institutional support” is very much a thing you have. If the FBI suffers no consequences for this – and it doesn’t, does it? – then “institutional support” is something you have and your enemies don’t.

            There’s a couple things wrong with this. First, I don’t see any evidence that the FBI is acting as anyone’s shock troops other than their own (viz. “find [the (far?) right’s] opponents and kill them”). Second, lacking support from an institution does not preclude support from other institutions, and the author lists several.

            Because there are few organizations which can’t claim to have the support of some institution in some context, I took “institutional support” in the article to mean a higher-level, balance-of-support sort of thing summed over all institutions. There are bigger fish than the FBI, so it’s entirely possible for the FBI’s support here to be running against the grain.

          • Nornagest says:

            I know presidential administrations changed over that time, is that enough to change the FBI?

            The FBI has a reputation as having been its own little fiefdom (Truman went so far as to say “secret police”) under J. Edgar Hoover’s directorship, which lasted from 1935 to 1972 (!). After that it drifted more towards the role of an ordinary government agency, but the mid-70s were close enough to the Hoover era that I’d expect strong influence from it. Waco, during the mid-90s, was late enough that I’d expect the agency to have been brought to heel a little better.

        • CatCube says:

          Yeah, the review of history was pretty good, but the conclusions drawn are…weak in places. The “Institutional Support” conclusions read a lot like the inverse of Moon’s “Right-wingers! Right-wingers everywhere in the media!” hysterics.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Woody Allen has a new sitcom on Netflix or Hulu in which he plays a 1969 suburban dad and Miley Cyrus plays a leftwing radical bomber on the run who comes to hide out in his house.

            Woody is about a million years old and his jokes aren’t much younger, but I still found it amusing.

            Woody plays a 1950s Jewish liberal who is not at all sure he likes the 1960s, which I think is pretty autobiographical. Woody and Ralph Lauren are about the last cultural figures left whose tastes were set before the 1960s.

      • Enkidum says:

        So far as I’m aware, Earth First did spike some trees, but the only documented case of someone being hurt by it had nothing to do with them (and that spike was planted, if I remember correctly, by a Christian fundamentalist who had bizarrely decided that this would help his cause somehow).

        • wintermute92 says:

          Interesting, thanks!

          I knew there was some arguing over “it’s violence if you don’t mark the trees”, “it’s more effective if you mark forests but not specific trees”, and “it’s scariest if you don’t mark anything”. But I never knew if the injuries people worried about actually came to pass.

        • Cypren says:

          Do you have a source for the claim that the George Alexander injury was a spike planted by a Christian fundamentalist? I can’t find anything about that; both Wikipedia and some Googling seem to indicate that not only was a perpetrator never identified, but there’s considerable question as to whether the nail in the incident was a deliberate “tree spiking” or just left over debris from campers or hikers anchoring a hammock or such.

  49. TenMinute says:

    The Fet-life thing smells wrong. The things on that list are not things payment services seem to care about, which are a narrow list of predictable topics that might run afoul of UK or German law. But hypnosis? Humiliation? What bank CEO writing up lists even knows about some of the niche fetishes on there?

    It smells like an insider hit.

    And if they didn’t want their community to be a political battleground, maybe they shouldn’t have made things like this the face of it. Maybe they shouldn’t have talked so much about porn as a revolutionary weapon?
    Because that’s how you get treated as a revolutionary, and crushed. Even if you’re not into that.
    Unless “this isn’t a political thing” just means you’re not supposed to suffer any political consequences for engaging in politics.

    Edit: looks like it was actually an internal purge they’re just blaming on Evil Republican Censorship. They consulted with a political pressure group, and coincidentally decided to “ban hate speech” as well as anything related to things the ethical-consent-fetish crowd hate. But I don’t see any mention of the things the banks usually get nervous about, like ageplay.

    • gattsuru says:

      It’s pretty much in-line with the sorta thing that previous payment processor bugaboos. Hypnosis tends to pattern-match with rape among those who don’t have familiarity with the kink, for example. “Hate speech” as a pornographic thing is more about goosestepping or slavery thematics. I’m more an f-chat person, but from what I understand they’d already moderated hate speech-as-things-people-found-rude for a while.

      Of course, the whole thing started before Trump’s inauguration, so it’s very clear they’re trying to tap into that as motivating factor without any regard for relevance.

      • TenMinute says:

        Mixed my reply to you in with the one below, sorry. Forgot which post I’d hit reply on by the time I’d finished typing… >_<

    • shakeddown says:

      hypnosis? Humiliation? What bank CEO writing up lists even knows about some of the niche fetishes on there?

      My image of a stereotypical bank CEO is someone who’s way into niche fetishes (e.g. the Wolf of Wall Street).

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m thinking the “highly publicised rape case in Australia involving a member of the community” might possibly perhaps maybe could have something to do with it, too. Being splashed all over the papers as “kink site for rapists” is not going to help your reputation with third-party providers nervous of guilt by association. Think of the arguments over rape culture being used with “Oh, so you’re happy to do business with a site that made a hero of a rapist, are you?”

      • TenMinute says:

        “Shadowy Figure Behind Online Sex Cult”

        Now that’s a headline you can turn into a book deal after the trial. Some figures in the rationalist community could learn from this guy.

    • earnest-peer says:

      This is all guesswork, underfed with very little information. That would be fine, except Scott is linking to this from the top, as if there’s actually anything conclusive here.

      My key problem with this analysis here is that credit card companies have frozen people’s accounts over far less. Vanilla porn stars have been hit (whether or not the transaction in question had to do with porn), as well as adult toy stores and condom manufacturers. I get your logic. I was weirded out by the list myself. But it’s not so out of line for credit card companies’ behavior that a conspiracy is the likeliest explanation.

      Like I said, my problem lies more with Scott’s link than your post.

      • TenMinute says:

        I’m making a lot of wild inferences here, I know, but the pieces all fit together so well.
        … But then that’s what Mulder thought when he was ranting about the bigfoot/human-alien hybrid cloning link.

        There’s a few pieces.
        Operation Choke Point, which caused the incidents you’re talking about, was supposedly ended. The NRA got involved, and the hammer came down hard.

        From friends involved in the business-side of e-h, HF, IB, DB, and all those vibrant and delightful communities, payment providers & advertisers care about things that will get them in trouble with, basically, the FBI. Bestiality (in the Bush era), sometimes incest, and anything that hints of underage.
        The Germans do things more directly, blacklisting entire sites and sending demands to make certain content not available in Germany. The Russian state censors just IP block your site above the ISPs, period.

        None of them talk about “hate speech, impaired consent and ethical pornography”.
        But who does?
        Their consulting partner, the NCSF: a “sex-positive, advocacy and educational organization”

        Finally, if I was writing to justify an internal purge of problematic people, I couldn’t do a better job than

        “as a community, we need to stop turning a blind eye… this is an opportunity to set the bar higher… the sacrifices some of us will have to make will be worth it in the grand scheme of things.”

        Especially, like you say, now they can tie it directly to “we must make sacrifices to whip Emmanuel Goldstein Trump!

        • jes5199 says:

          I’ve worked in the payments industry, and believe it or not, the credit card companies really do police what kinds of porn are allowed. And they *do* have policies about non-consent. I’m under the impression that the executives made a broad, vague call like “no rape”, and over the years the poor saps whose job it is to decide what kinds of porn count as “rape” have gradually made a policy with very, very specific gradations of what counts, and yes, hypnosis is consistently on the forbidden list. The list ends up looking very different from what might get you investigated by the FBI.

          • TenMinute says:

            Strange. That’s never hit any of the communities I’m on the fringes of. And definitely not in those specific terms.
            If it did, they’d all be shut down instantly, rather than getting advertising.

  50. J says:

    > Man shoots guy with swastika tattoo

    What the shooter was doing with a loaded tattoo we’ll never know.

    Also, in nominative determinism, meet Sun Prairie fire department Lieutenant Les McBurney. Also, jilted lover of Mr. Page posts revenge porn on wife’s fb page, hires lawyer Mr. Booty.

  51. Jiro says:

    Ferrett on how online fetish site FetLife has been forced to remove some controversial fetish material under threat from online payment processors not to accept transactions regarding his site.

    Did you really think this weapon would only be used against gun sales when the Obama administration set it up?

    (Note:Google it up. The Wikipedia article describes a letter that sort of was supposed to end it, but it hasn’t done so.)

    • Matt M says:

      I’ve heard anecdotes of strippers and camgirls receiving similar harassment from actual physical banks – but cannot confirm.

    • gattsuru says:

      Choke Point went after pornography-related folk, too, and not just the companies. The method of attack makes attribution difficult, but there were a few porn stars that had their accounts closed — and, of course, this year’s FetLife, last year’s SmashWords/AllRomance eBooks, and TvTropes’ The Incident all predated the Trump inauguration.

      It’s less that this is redirection of the weapon, so much as it’s folk finally noticing its bad uses when they can pin it on a political opponent.

  52. Sniffnoy says:

    From the McWhorter piece on Vox:

    For example, increasing the employment rate among young black men will require more than connecting them with jobs, for the simple reason that today, many such men do not work even when jobs are available. Objections that this claim is naive or even racist are understandable, but the weight of evidence for it is so crushing that to disregard it could be seen as racist in itself. No effort to bring poor black men into the workforce will bear real fruit under the pretense that the only problem is unavailability of work.

    Even William Julius Wilson’s classic work on black poverty, although it focuses on factory relocation and the paucity of transportation to what jobs are still reachable, openly describes black men saying they won’t take a job because it would require getting up too early. Political scientist Lawrence Mead has documented and statistically tabulated interviews with young black men, in which large numbers say plenty of jobs are available that they do not take.

    It is often supposed that the relocation of low-skill factory jobs explains black unemployment rates, but even in cities where this relocation barely happened, the same unemployment rates exploded starting in the 1970s. The black sociologist Alford Young, in a scholarly and sympathetic description, notes: “They often say they will take whatever work they can get, but a sentence or two later say that certain wages are wholly unacceptable … some men eventually find jobs but abandon them (if not be dismissed) as soon as problems or tensions arise.”

    There are no grounds for calling these men lazy. They are often quite industrious within the context of their own lives, but have grown up in communities in which it is not considered abnormal for a man not to work regularly for a living, in a way that it is not in, for example, an affluent white suburb.

    …good for them?

    I mean, OK, quitting a job as soon as a problem arises, that just seems foolish to me. But refusing to work because the wages or hours aren’t good enough… what exactly is supposed to be the problem here? Why put the blame on them, rather on the employers for failing to respond to this segment of the labor market? I mean, OK, wages, I guess often there’s only so much you can increase those — but what exactly would the harm be in just starting the workday later, if that’s what it will take to get employees?

    McWhorter portrays the behavior of these black men as a problem, but to me it just seems like people refusing to give up their dignity and acting like their labor is actually worth something, rather than accepting the common idea of employers as authorities to be obeyed. This is exactly the sort of “discouragement of work” I’d want to see out of UBI. End the obsession with paid labor, and allow people to be more “industrious in the context of their own lives”.

    • Cobraredfox says:

      I kinda-sorta agree with your larger points, but I disagree with the assertion that employers can’t find anyone to work those jobs due to the hours.

      I will bet money that those shitty jobs don’t remain open for long. Some early riser shows up and collects minimum wage. If an unskilled labor position remains open much longer than, say, a month, and the business remains open and productive, then more likely than not the position will be eliminated for being pointless.

      Sure, that’s the whole problem, isn’t it? Workers need jobs WAY more than employers need workers.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      One thing you’re missing is that nobody eats for free.

      If these guys aren’t working and they’re still eating, then someone is paying for that. If they’re walking around in $100 sneakers carrying an iPhone, someone is definitely paying for that. And that “someone” is you and me.

      Maybe you’re OK working harder for less money so some lazy asshole gets to sleep in another thirty minutes on a Monday. I’m certainly not. And I’d be shocked if the typical working American was.

    • J Mann says:

      … many such men do not work even when jobs are available. . . . No effort to bring poor black men into the workforce will bear real fruit under the pretense that the only problem is unavailability of work.

      . . . .

      There are no grounds for calling these men lazy. They are often quite industrious within the context of their own lives, but have grown up in communities in which it is not considered abnormal for a man not to work regularly for a living, in a way that it is not in, for example, an affluent white suburb.

      But refusing to work because the wages or hours aren’t good enough… what exactly is supposed to be the problem here? Why put the blame on them, rather on the employers for failing to respond to this segment of the labor market?

      I don’t see that McWhorter is blaming anyone – he’s being pretty careful to describe an alleged obstacle to increasing employment without any kind of value statement.

      Assuming that McWhorter is accurate and that someone is doing the jobs, then the major solutions would seem to be (1) trying to change attitudes over time (some combination of propoganda and welfare reform, probably), (2) trying to reduce the number of competitors for the jobs (e.g., restrictions on immigration, (3) trying to create a solution where people who don’t want to work don’t have to (UBI, the singularity, etc.); or (4) muddling along and seeing what happens.

      All of those solutions obviously have some problems.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Very good point, but I wonder if trivial changes like later hours would actually have a significant impact. This should clearly be tried if it hasn’t been–this seems like it could be achieved by the relatively easy means of “progressives make noise until a major corp tries it for the brownie points, and if it works others follow.”

      But if not… well, are we dealing with a community that loves leisure, or one that hates work? If it’s the former, well I guess the status quo isn’t so bad. If it’s the latter, that might be an element of the culture we’d like to change, if we had the first clue how to change elements of culture.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Wait, why is hating work improper and an element of culture that needs to be changed? I can see an argument along the lines of “somebody’s gotta do the work to support these people and a culture that keeps them from putting in their fair share should be genocided”, but surely that also applies to a love of leisure. Once you start socially engineering people to be cheerful little worker drones it’s not clear where the principled stopping point is.

    • Deiseach says:

      If there were no war on drugs, and thus drugs could not be sold on the street at a markup, then the men in question would have no choice but to seek legal employment.

      Trouble is, young men making a living from drug dealing and petty crime are not going to go “Well, that’s my market eroded, better get that eight a.m. to six p.m. job hauling crates at the shipping docks!” if drugs are legalised. (The question of “should there be a War On Drugs and is it disproportionately punitive of black people whereas white people can set up a business to sell legal marijuana in Colorado” is a completely separate one here). They’re going to keep being involved in petty crime and ‘easy’ money. If selling drugs is a no-go, there is still burglary. Black, white, brown – it’s nothing to do with colour, it’s to do with attitude and upbringing and honesty. There are people in bad situations who will take a chance if they get a way out, and there are people who will always look for the easy way regardless of what is on offer. I’ve seen them in the early school-leaver programme: the ones who need help and will make use of it, and the ones who just want to come in late, smoke weed, do no work, and take the training allowance to buy weed and booze. McWhorter is falling over himself to avoid saying “Some of these guys are pondweed” because he wants to avoid being called a racist, when the explanation is not “these guys are pondweed because they’re black and their culture makes them pondweed”, it’s “these guys are pondweed because they prefer to be criminals and they’d be the same if they were white, any variety of Asian, or went to Harvard, except then they’d end up running Ponzi schemes instead of small time dealing”.

      I’m sure there are hard-working young black men who would take a decent job if they get on a training or placement programme (and yeah, if all you’re being offered is ‘you can flip burgers for chump change’, that’s not something to build a future on) but I’m equally sure the small drug-dealers are not all potential entrepreneurs of tomorrow just waiting for that programme to get them off the streets.

      • Aapje says:

        The crime trade does seem to have a pretty big churn, where new people are recruited based on job availability and motivated by the high incomes of crime. Legalizing drugs decreases job availability and incomes, which should reduce the influx and thus the number of criminals.

        • Matt M says:

          As D points out though, it’s more likely to push them towards some different kind of crime (petty theft instead of drug dealing) than it is to push them towards getting their radiology certification.

          Like, what do we really think the “second best option” is for most low level drug dealers?

          • Aapje says:

            Fast Food? I think that you are underestimating the extent to which crime is simply a job option with upsides and downsides for these people.

      • John Schilling says:

        One of the experiences recounted by Sudhir Venkatesh from his year as an economist embedded in a drug gang was having a number of low-ranking gang members quietly approach him and ask if he could fix them up with minimum-wage janitorial jobs at his university. Drug dealing, it turns out, pays decidedly sub-minimum wage for most of its street-level operators, and while it not doubt had other appeals, these were not enough to motivate any great loyalty.

        Presumably any of these people could have taken up mugging, burglary, liquor-store holdups, or the like. For them, at least, drug dealing was the best the outlaw economy had to offer – and it was decidedly marginal when traded against mopping The Man’s floors for minimum wage. So I expect that anything which greatly diminishes the gross revenue of the illegal drug trade, will have a fair number of street criminals turning to honest employment. Or to less-honost long-term disability claims, etc, but not all of them running off to be other sorts of street criminals.

        • Matt M says:

          But was he actually able to get them jobs?

          We can assume that they weren’t able to get said jobs without his help (or they would have already had them)

          Therefore, making the drug trade less appealing would not suddenly result in them having janitorial jobs instead. Those jobs are already out of their reach for whatever reasons.

        • Deiseach says:

          not all of them running off to be other sorts of street criminals

          I agree about that, some want help and will take a way out if it is offered to them.

          But equally not all of them are going to go “Better get that minimum wage job now!” if their small-time dealing evaporates because soft drugs are legalised. Some of them may switch to dealing harder drugs (do we anticipate heroin being legalised any time soon?) or drift into other forms of crime.

          And is it horribly cynical of me – well, yes it is – to imagine that the appeal of a job “mopping The Man’s floors for minimum wage” when it came to doing that at a university might be about expanding your market? College students who want drugs but don’t (yet) have the local connections or knowledge to get them + person working on campus who does have those connections = profit?

          That is mean of me. Probably those guys did want out (because petty crime is not a great career, it’s dangerous, it pays badly, you’ll definitely end up doing jail time eventually and there is always some bigger, badder fish in the pond who can and will knock your teeth down your throat) and if they could get their foot in the door with any kind of legal job it would help them get out of their situation.

          • John Schilling says:

            And is it horribly cynical of me – well, yes it is – to imagine that the appeal of a job “mopping The Man’s floors for minimum wage” when it came to doing that at a university might be about expanding your market?

            IIRC, the ones asking for the jobs were not the ones likely to be able to act as quasi-independent retailers, and they weren’t going through the gang’s leadership as would have been necessary if they were going to open a new market.

          • Matt M says:

            Not to mention that in a more practical sense, the overwhelming majority of janitorial work is done after-hours when the buildings are abandoned. A new-hire with zero experience will almost certainly not be interacting with students on a regular basis…

            He might get the opportunity to swipe some stuff from the science lab though.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          As I understand it, the position of the low-ranking gang members is a lot like that of the TAs at Venkatesh’s university: the main reward of their jobs is not the pittance it pays them now, but being in the running for the jobs that pay real money.

          • Randy M says:

            One point Freakanomics made was that drug dealing, like being a basketball star, rewarded the very few at the top very well, while the many aspiring ones in the lower ranks had not very much at all beyond hopes of making it big someday.

          • Nyx says:

            There are a great many jobs like that. Being a low ranking intern at a prestigious firm may pay minimum wage (or no wage at all), but offer a chance at a illustrious career. Sometimes, the low wage is deliberate to weed out any poors that might attempt to soil the rarefied atmosphere; certainly, I don’t know a lot of people that could afford to work six months for no pay.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Why would employers respond to this? Thanks to various factors – increased transportation making moving some jobs offshore, immigration of people who generally have a stronger work ethic than is the norm and often lower expectations as to pay (plus, if the immigrants are in the country illegally, they have less leverage with regard to pay, hours, working conditions, and so on), and other factors – the choice is not “guy with maybe a high school degree who thinks the job is beneath him, or nobody”.

      It is possible for these guys to survive without working – McWhorter puts that down to drug illegalization meaning there is a market for illegal drugs (where the tradeoff is less “long work hours and getting up early in exchange for money”, as drug dealers generally keep schedules they find convenient, but “risk of arrest or violence by other criminals in exchange for money”), depending on where you are welfare programs may play a role, etc – and so they won’t work legal jobs if it doesn’t meet what they think their time is worth.

      Guys who can survive without legal work and thus choose to avoid legal work are not being irrational, and neither are employers who don’t jack up wages when people who will work for that wage are available.

      EDIT: Gah, “drug illegalization meaning there is a market for illegal drugs” makes no sense. Drug illegalization means that drugs cost more than they would were they legal.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        McWhorter puts that down to drug illegalization meaning there is a market for illegal drugs

        I was annoyed at two things in that article in particular.

        One was the implicit equivocation between the war on drugs and drug illegality. Given that the war on drugs is the explicit phrase, we should probably parsimoniously assume that less draconian enforcement will lead to illegal drugs distribution getting more competitive. When Mary-Louise Parker can run weed and still go to the cops for protection from rivals, drug prices fall and profitability with them.

        Maybe?

        The other thing that annoyed was the constant appeals to numbers without comparators.
        How many blacks grduated HS before? How many now? How many are college ready now? What percentage of homes in Bed-Stuy were renovated via program, how many were renovated before? How many after the program ended?

        • dndnrsn says:

          The way I phrased that made little sense.

          It’s unclear whether legal weed is actually cheaper. I don’t know how it would be for other drugs. The situation in Canada is weird and confused. The prices don’t seem to be any lower than traditional “guy in an apartment” or “guy on a street corner” distribution models. These shops are completely open – some operate without need to show ID or prove you need it medically or whatever. Presumably the overhead is higher, and they charge sales tax (evidently, the tax people are scarier than the cops), and have to pay staff the legal wage, and so on.

          On the other hand, the greater visibility/accessibility, being open longer, etc probably means they do more business, and this probably contributes to an economy of scale. Weed shops (“dispensaries” is a silly term – once upon a time they sold only to people with prescriptions and such – but there are shops that don’t) that get robbed don’t report it to the police because of legal consequences.

          Overall, it appears that people are willing to pay the same or more for the convenience of not having to text back and forth with some guy arranging a time that works, and just go to a store and buy weed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, but regardless of how much it costs, I’m not buying it from the guy on the proverbial street corner, which was, I think, the point McWhorter was trying to make.

            On the margin, that forces any members of communities that are currently poor, and supported by the more affluent buying drugs, into the legal job market.

          • vV_Vv says:

            On the other hand, the greater visibility/accessibility, being open longer, etc probably means they do more business, and this probably contributes to an economy of scale. Weed shops (“dispensaries” is a silly term – once upon a time they sold only to people with prescriptions and such – but there are shops that don’t) that get robbed don’t report it to the police because of legal consequences.

            This means that the only viable shops are either operated by criminal gangs or buy protection from criminal gangs, in an oligopoly regime, which may explain why the consumer prices are not substantially competitive with the fully illegal dealers.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t know whether that’s the case. I do know that they hire private security.

      • TheWorst says:

        EDIT: Gah, “drug illegalization meaning there is a market for illegal drugs” makes no sense. Drug illegalization means that drugs cost more than they would were they legal.

        Maybe I missed the point, but I thought that was gesturing in the direction of “Nobody bans things nobody wants.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but it makes some sense: if there isn’t a market for it, politicians aren’t so likely to feel pressure to ban the trade.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Drug illegalization means that drugs cost more than they would were they legal.

        To whom? I mean, drugs being illegal means they’re not subject to a lot of regulatory and tax burden. There are a ton of disadvantages and risks to it being illegal, but I’m not sure it’d end in a net decrease. Probably also depends on the elaboration process and the scale of the business. It’d be cool to see data from places where some drug was made legal, but reliable data for prices of illegal goods is probably not easy to find.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I realized that this might be the case. “Gray area” pot in Canada isn’t cheaper than straight-up meet-a-dude-in-his-apartment stuff.

  53. MawBTS says:

    Can someone explain what’s interesting about Russia being behind the DNC hacks?

    If Watergate had been achieved as a result of Russian hacking, would we say “damn foreign powers, meddling in our elections!” or “wow, this is important information to know!”

    The best argument seems to be that it’s fruit of the poisonous tree, and that if we let Russia get away with it they will be more likely to try something similar again. But that’s a) a legal argument, and b) isn’t this already the world we live in? Aren’t all state actors already pouring millions of black dollars into hacking and subverting each other? If you made a list of shady events that have happened in elections, “John Podesta clicks an email” wouldn’t even make the top thousand.

    The real story is that US state secrets are in the hands of people who can’t recognize an obvious phishing scam.

    • Jiro says:

      Can someone explain what’s interesting about Russia being behind the DNC hacks?

      Yes, it provides a chance to attack Trump as being put into power by foreign interests. That’s what it all really amounts to.

    • poignardazur says:

      Because the world is a complicated place.

      The problem with election hacking is that it breaks information symmetry. If Russian intelligence hacked both Republican and Democrat records, and found dirt on both Democrats and Republicans, and only released the dirt on Democrats because it suited their agenda, then they would have successfully changed the public perception of both parties against the DNC, even though they would know that the Democrats are neither better nor worse than the Republicans in that regard.

      I’m using the conditional because I don’t know what the Russian intelligence found, or if they even tried to get dirt on the Republicans (my money would on “they tried and they did”). My point is, by hacking the Democrats, Russia shifted the probable results of the American elections towards something more beneficial to them, in a way that was at best orthogonal to the purposes of the election.

      tl;dr The hacking was bad because Russia could have decided to favor the DNC just as easily as they did the Republicans, and who they decided to favor was chosen with Russia’s interest at heart, not USA’s interests.

      Also, please don’t say “obvious phishing scam”. That’s victim-blaming. The thing with state-led intelligence operations is that you only need one error.

      • cbv says:

        In this case you needed all of the following errors:

        * Talking about sensitive things in Gmail, which has an obvious and mimickable look and feel — if you’re doing things of national importance you ought to have something like an IT department
        * Not having two factor authentication turned on
        * Clicking on the link instead of going directly to a log in page

        The first and second are completely negligent.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          If you stop and think about, two-factor doesn’t help against a well-run phishing campaign.

          It stops third-parties from brute-forcing your email while you are asleep, so it’s good. But it doesn’t solve all problems.

          • cbv says:

            Can you spell that out a bit? I’m thinking you put your password in the fake website and the phishers get it. Then, I’d think in order to log in to your account on a new machine they’d need to have access to your two factor code. Presumably you know how they’d get around this and I’m interested to know!

            (^ Not sarcastic.)

            Edit: I’m thinking you’d also ask for the two factor code within the phishing website, and immediately use that to log into gmail on the new machine. This explains that two factor forces the phishing attack to happen in real-time. Expensive, but worth it for someone like Podesta.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Your edit has it. You have the user log in to your fake site, like normal. And then fake the two-factor entry section. It requires more infrastructure, or interns available 24/7 for a few days to manually re-enter things, but if you are doing things at scale you can have those same features for every account you are attacking.

      • My point is, by hacking the Democrats, Russia shifted the probable results of the American elections towards something more beneficial to them, in a way that was at best orthogonal to the purposes of the election.

        Obama went to the U.K. and gave a talk obviously intended to influence the Brexit election. That was an open and legal way of influencing a foreign election outcome, but why is that difference important for your point?

        • Iain says:

          If Putin had given a speech officially endorsing Trump, we would not be having this conversation. If Obama had sponsored covert operations to anonymously undermine the leaders of Brexit, we would have already had this conversation.

          Putin did give a number of speeches that painted Trump in a good light without explicitly endorsing him. Notably, nobody complained about those speeches as an infringement on American democracy. Instead, there was discussion about what Putin’s approval meant about Trump. I doubt that these discussions helped Trump.

          You influence elections covertly when enough of the electorate mistrusts you to make overt influence counterproductive. By obfuscating the source of the influence, you make it much more difficult to assess the goals of the intervention, which is only really useful when those goals are not aligned with the interests of the country you are influencing.

          It should therefore not be surprising that people see covert influence in a less favourable light than overt influence.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            We wouldn’t be having this conversation now.

            But typically when foreign leaders endorse one candidate in an election, or seem to, isn’t it typical to see a fair amount of blowback at the time? Didn’t Netanyahu get excoriated for this?

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, okay, I probably overstated my case slightly. When a foreign leader endorses something, there will always be complaints from people who oppose that thing. Farage complained about Obama’s Brexit comments; a variety of people complained when Netanyahu was getting chummy with Trump. Outrage makes headlines and turns out the base.

            Regardless of the precise badness of overt support, though, I think it’s still clear that covert support is significantly worse.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, I think covert support is “worse” because it’s far more likely to be effective, for one thing.

            “Foreigners telling us what to do” is not exactly a great strategy when trying to win an election.

            But even public support is frowned upon, in a norming perspective. Especially because, game theory wise, it’s bad to put “immediately on the wrong foot with new foreign government” in play.

            Brexit is interesting because both the majority and the opposition were officially opposed, so Obama wasn’t really violating that rule. Also, it was a policy question, not a representation one.

            So, if there was a Ukrainian-US treaty up in the US senate, I don’t think anybody would blink if Putin said he preferred it to be voted down…

          • Iain says:

            Right. A good chunk of the blowback against Netanyahu was from Israelis and American Jews who didn’t like the idea of alienating the Democrats and tying Israel to the GOP.

            I don’t think we disagree. All I’m saying is that there are additional reasons to be suspicious of covert intervention, relative to overt intervention, in response to David Friedman’s question about the difference.

      • cassander says:

        >Also, please don’t say “obvious phishing scam”. That’s victim-blaming. The thing with state-led intelligence operations is that you only need one error.

        A certain amount of victim blaming is acceptable. If you want around with a 100 dollar bill sticking out of your pocket, I’m not going to sympathize too much when it disappears.

        • poignardazur says:

          Fair enough.

          I actually don’t know how bad Podesta’s mistake was given the training he has or should have, and I’m probably projecting that no one knows either.

      • Deiseach says:

        I agree that interference to get your favoured result in the elections of another country is serious.

        Unfortunately, everybody seems to be doing it – just via the old-fashioned methods, not hacking and leaking. Look at Obama’s speech in Britain prior to the EU referendum – isn’t that trying to get the favoured result by intervening on behalf of one side over the other?

        European governments want an American administration favourable to their interests. US government wants European (and other) governments favourable to their interests. China, you name it – want leaders in other countries favourable to their interests.

        • Nyx says:

          Sure, but there’s an difference between making a speech in public and running shady disinfo campaigns and trying to influence the media narrative in a larger scale way. Obviously there’s not some red line we can point to that marks the precise jump from “legitimate voicing of opinions” to “illegitimately trying to manipulate the media”, but both of these things clearly exist and are different. Indeed, conservatives are constantly complaining about the left exerting influence over the media to push their preferred narrative of events.

          I think people are being dangerously credulous about the power of the media in modern society. You see this more obviously on the liberal left (who love to point out that the First Amendment doesn’t say anything about giant soulless multinationals controlling all online discourse and therefore it’s just fine), but now I’m seeing it from ostensibly sensible rightists who are apparently just fine with government-backed disinfo.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think the narrative here is “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and too many people have convinced themselves that the United States Government is the enemy.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            “Disinfo”?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I think it’s less a matter of “this isn’t a problem” and more a matter of “these are the rules of the game”. The dirty little secret of democracy is that you can influence elections by publishing things. We either need to live with that, stop letting people publish things, or stop having elections. When you’re calling foul on Wikileaks but not on the New York Times, there’s a sense that you’re not playing fair.

          • poignardazur says:

            > stop letting people publish things

            That seems like a good idea (except for the part where it’s impossible), in a “what we should ideally do” sense. Focusing on leaks and other “Here is the REAL face of [Controversial Politician]” types of scandals, seems like a really bad dynamic, that only encourages politicians to be more dishonest in their private life.

            Plus, I think Scott nailed it with his “either don’t be violent or be institutionally violent” article: politicians not having a private life because of official laws is one thing, but politicians not having a private life because of unofficial attacks by vigilantes and private interests is worse, because it encourages “he who has the most bullets on his side wins” dynamics.

          • Nyx says:

            > The dirty little secret of democracy is that you can influence elections by publishing things. We either need to live with that, stop letting people publish things, or stop having elections. When you’re calling foul on Wikileaks but not on the New York Times, there’s a sense that you’re not playing fair.

            Sure, but we can do a little bit better than that by examining the source of news. If the source of Wikileaks information was Russian intelligence, then we ought to know that, and it’s shady to hide the source of important news like that. Of course, journalists do have an obligation to protect their sources too, but somehow I don’t think Russia needs much in the way of defenders. They have a nuclear arsenal.

            The problem isn’t that Wikileaks is publishing things, it’s that they’re not being upfront about their sources and backers in a way that would open them up to criticism. If Wikileaks really is, as some have claimed, now paid for by the Russian state, we should know that and then we can make up our own mind as to whether they’re trustworthy or not.

          • Nornagest says:

            Wikileaks’ structure makes it a fantastic vector for gray (unattributed) propaganda, which I think actually makes for a bigger contrast with your average news organization than who’s paying the bills. Every government in the world openly disseminates white (i.e. accurately attributed) propaganda, often through news organizations; this generally does not by itself discredit those governments or those news orgs. The BBC is very respectable, for example, and it’s also effectively the British government’s white propaganda arm abroad.

            But with gray propaganda, you lose context and accountability, meaning you can say much less about how it fits into the overall picture, and its sources have much more freedom in how they approach it. Sometimes you’ll want to act on it anyway; but there is a type of risk in using it that generally isn’t present with openly attributed info, even though the latter is often politically motivated too and can present as much or more slant.

            This would be pretty much the same whether it’s coming from the Russian government or two teenagers in a garage. All that really changes is motive, but we probably had a good idea of that anyway.

          • Cypren says:

            If the source of Wikileaks information was Russian intelligence, then we ought to know that, and it’s shady to hide the source of important news like that. Of course, journalists do have an obligation to protect their sources too, but somehow I don’t think Russia needs much in the way of defenders.

            This feels to me like something of a dodge, saying “Wikileaks needs to disclose their sources, but the NY Times doesn’t.” If the source of a piece of information is a disgruntled government employee selectively (and illegally) leaking confidential information (like, say, a page from Trump’s tax returns?) because he’s interested in undermining a candidate, or because he was appointed by/working for the opposition, that’s just as relevant. I don’t think there’s a meta-principle here where some organizations have a moral obligation to disclose the interests and motivations of their sources and others don’t.

            I’m in favor of full disclosure across the board, to be clear, and publications which refuse to disclose their sources need to be viewed with suspicion accordingly. One of the reasons the mainstream media has fallen into such distrust is because of its repeated tendency to obscure the ulterior motives of its sources whenever the information they’re providing aligns with its institutional culture or interests. That’s not been a great thing either for the media or for the public it serves.

          • poignardazur says:

            Cypren: I don’t think Nyx’s answer was a dodge.

            The same rules apply for the NYT and Wikileaks: if the source of your information is relevant and can be released safely, then concealing it is an unethical disinformation.

            One could argue that outing Russia as the source of the information is not “safe” because the government can (and did) take revenge. I’d say media have no obligation to protect their sources when those sources are state actors, only individuals. The USA acting against Russia seems like “fair game” to me; the USA assassinating or bullying a Russian journalist doesn’t.

        • Matt M says:

          Unfortunately, everybody seems to be doing it – just via the old-fashioned methods, not hacking and leaking

          Do we really think that the CIA isn’t hacking and leaking though?

          Like, I understand that it’s improper to get outraged about something I’m only speculating exists…. but seriously folks, given what we know about the American government’s nearly constant attempts to get involved in overseas regime change (often through significantly more overt methods, and regularly involving countries right next door to Russia where Russians make up huge portions of the population), is there anyone here who is willing to stand up and say, “I don’t think the CIA is trying to hack Russian intelligence”

          Not only do I assume they are doing it, I assume they have done it successfully, and that they have, in fact, fed intelligence reports to anti-Putin dissidents within Russia or Ukrainian leaders or whoever it is that might make good use of such information.

          Wasn’t there some controversy a little while ago about the NSA spying on the communications of some German ambassadors or something? And that’s for a close ally! You think we’re NOT doing that to our so-called enemies?

          • Jaskologist says:

            We spied on Merkel herself, even intercepting calls to her cell phone.

            The CIA also spied on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

          • poignardazur says:

            Well, the American government shouldn’t, and mine shouldn’t either.

            I don’t think knowing your government breaks the rules should stop you from being outraged when others do it to you. You can be outraged at both your government and foreign governments at the same time.

            I guess the meta rule would be “I’m okay with the USA lashing at Russia for meddling, and I’ll also be okay when/if other countries lash at the USA for meddling”. Although you then run into the problems of accountability and the fact that basically no one can tell the USA what to do.

          • Matt M says:

            “You can be outraged at both your government… ”

            You CAN be, but nobody actually seems to be… The left seems to have latched onto the notion of holding up the CIA as heroic defenders of liberty – solely because that is the narrative that most harms Trump.

            Could you have imagined that being the case a few years ago?

      • Cypren says:

        The interesting thing to me about the information asymmetry argument is that it also applies to media bias. To my mind, people should be equally upset about news organizations that claim objectivity but devote their investigative resources to undermining one candidate and promoting the other in an election as they are about foreign governments doing the same. (At least, to the extent that both are simply bringing to light information that the candidate would prefer remained secret; I’m not suggesting that active sabotage is equivalent to biased reporting.) The argument about covert versus overt influence is even similar.

        I don’t see a big difference between the motives of the two, in part because I think the idea that domestic organizations have “the country’s best interests” at heart is just as laughable as the idea that foreign ones do. Individuals and organizations work for their own benefit first and foremost, and in US elections, the whole world has an interest in applying influence. What makes that influence benevolent or sinister seems to mostly be in the tribal affiliations and preconceptions of the viewer.

        I can’t help but note that none of the people complaining about Russia’s influence in the 2016 election were complaining when it was providing material support to Occupy Wall Street in 2012 or publicly endorsing the Obama campaign in 2008. Russia has been influencing our elections for decades; it just isn’t on their side anymore.

        • Randy M says:

          I don’t see a big difference between the motives of the two, in part because I think the idea that domestic organizations have “the country’s best interests” at heart is just as laughable as the idea that foreign ones do

          Especially when the domestic organizations are supranational ones that don’t view themselves as “American” but rather a global entity.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      In a nation of rationalists, you would be correct. But here, conservation of expected evidence be dammed, we all just accept that every candidate has secrets that would lower our opinion of them if brought to light, so selectively exposing one is unfair.

      • John Schilling says:

        So when someone sympathetic to the Democrats found that old tape of Trump bragging about the pussy-grabbing, it was unfair of them to reveal that unless they first found something equally damning about Hillary to release?

        I’d like to see this proposed standard of electoral fair play spelled out in more detail, please.

        • suntzuanime says:

          The Democratic Party is supposed to meddle in US elections. That’s their job.

          Technically it’s the SVR’s job too, but there’s something that feels more improper about foreign meddling. At least in theory, the Democratic Party has the best interests of the US at heart.

        • poignardazur says:

          It was also awful. I mean, the American election was full of awfulness, with fucked up incentive dynamics pushing the candidates to bash each other and make tons of ad-hominem attacks, tons of citations taken out of context (Clinton’s “deplorables” and Trump’s “veterans commit suicide because they’re not as tough as they think”) etc.

          For me, what makes the DNC leak stand out is not its unfairness, it’s its unfairness combined with its scale combined with its foreign origin, combined with the fact that it was done covertly. The three last ones are enough for me to understand why the Obama administration would feel justified making sanctions against Russia.

    • herbert herberson says:

      The Deep State wants to poison the well on any sort of thaw in U.S./Russian relations, as they have a lot invested in the status quo. I think a lot of this isn’t even really about Russia, but about Syria and Iran. Of course, Trump is a hawk on Iran (which is totally discordant with his willingness to work with Russia and Assad), but maybe that’s not good/predictable enough?

      For what it’s worth, as a strong opponent to nearly everything about Trump, I make a point to ask the question you asked here in as many center-left spaces as possible. I rarely get an answer.

  54. It turns out that Russian cybercrime law is such that, as long as you have no Russian victims, it isn’t against Russian law. So the evidence for the DNC hack is even more tenuous than you might imagine — it could be literally any entity who could profit off international political information who wanted to obtain their information advantage legally. They do it from Russia, and not target any Russians.

    When you’re talking about Russian cybercrime, saying the level of sophistication implies a state actor means you think this is Stuxnet-level — multiple 0-days, extremely detailed understanding of hardware manipulations, etc. This seems like just a plussed up phishing attack. Color me extraordinarily skeptical.

    That being said, yeah, probably 60% chance it was the Russian gov. [I think the US government is on the same page — that’s why CIA says it’s the Russian government and the FBI doesn’t say anything. 60% is pretty decent for intelligence. Pretty bad for people used to getting beyond a reasonable doubt.]

    • WashedOut says:

      It turns out that Russian cybercrime law is such that, as long as you have no Russian victims, it isn’t against Russian law. So the evidence for the DNC hack is even more tenuous than you might imagine — it could be literally any entity who could profit off international political information who wanted to obtain their information advantage legally. They do it from Russia, and not target any Russians.

      https://www.secureworks.com/research/threat-group-4127-targets-google-accounts

      This seems to be totally contra the article referenced above, which claims that most of the hack targets were Russian, had ties to Russia, or Russian interests.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Given the long list of important govt/military personnel and foreigners, it sure doesn’t sound like two teenagers in a basement.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I agree it wasn’t two teenagers.

        But wouldn’t state-sponsored professionals have stripped out the email that showed them pwning Podesta? Why leave that in? (Arguments like “they made an obvious mistake to make it look non-professional” are nonfalsifiable and can lead to an infinite number of conclusions.)

        • Iain says:

          What do you mean by “stripped out the email that showed them pwning Podesta”? Do you mean they should have removed it from the Wikileaks dump? That wouldn’t have prevented Podesta himself from providing that email to intelligence agencies, who could have done the same sort of analysis. (Indeed, it seems very plausible that this has already happened in a number of other cases, that it makes up a significant part of the intelligence community’s case for Russian hacking, and that we just don’t know about it because it has not been released publicly.)

          The actual mistake here is that they reused infrastructure and didn’t make their Bitly account private. I don’t see any reason to believe that unaffiliated hackers would be more or less prone to error than state-sponsored hacker.s

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Removing it may not have stopped intelligence agencies from looking at it. (Although the hackers could also have marked it as spam in Podesta’s email and let it get auto-deleted which would make it harder to Podesta to provide it. Does Google store deleted spam forever?) But it would have stopped third parties from inspecting the information in the data dump.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think the possibility of Russian criminals engaging in cybercrime and hacking for fun and profit is something to consider with this. Not two teenagers in a basement, but hands-off “hey psst, wanna buy some intel?” source working with no official links but paid under the counter and called upon for deniability, outside of whatever individual hacking they do.

          Russian government happy to get information about the American candidates? Certainly. Happy to get material they could use against Hillary Clinton who was talking tough about them? Sure. Encouraging sources? Indeed. But official ‘here’s the order signed by Putin’ Russian government hacker teams working for Russian intelligence agencies as employees/civil servants, not self-employed contractors? Gets murky here unless somebody can prove that these were such.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            They could also be ‘patriots’ who have an informal understanding with the government that they can work in Russia’s interests and earn some money by scamming Americans, but who are not directly commanded by the government.

            Unlikely, but it is possible.

      • I’m baffled as to why everyone assumes that because an attack had political targets, the source has some political importance. All international news organizations and investment firms have a cash incentive to scoop other people on this information. There are enough Lehman Brothers’ and News of the Worlds out there to fund political cybercrime of this level at a constant, annoying barrage.

        My question is more about why e.g. China is conspicuously underrepresented. [Remember, Russia being underrepresented is because they want the activity to be legal under Russian law, so that’s explained.] Everything else seems like a whos-who of governments that can meaningfully change the world.

      • Murphy says:

        I’ve seen too many cases where people jumped to blaming foreign nations.

        I’m trying to find the cite but I remember an old slashdot story about a hack pulled off by a couple of teenagers in Florida which was initially blamed on China. Basically there used to be a big chunk of unused IP ranges assigned to china that would get used by hackers for relays.

        Same claims were thrown around “far too sophisticated” “targeted” etc etc etc being thrown around by some politicians. Turns out to be a couple of florida teenagers doing it “for the lulz” who’d happened to use some chinese IP addresses.

        There have been a few others over the years with a similar pattern.

        You learn to be leery of the term “sophisticated” when it gets used by politicians, generals etc in reference to anything IT related or by anyone with a political agenda.

        Kids like that have grown up, now they’re not willing to do that kind of crap without getting a paycheck but their code has improved.

        It could be a russian agency, it could also be a few guys making money selling gossip to newspapers, maybe even someone making money selling gossip to russian newspapers.

        I would suggest swapping the source for your link to this:

        https://www.secureworks.com/research/threat-group-4127-targets-google-accounts

        it’s the primary source, much better than a twitter thread.

        Still, remember that this is a company with a strong interest in playing up threats, they’re selling security as a service and they’re trying to sell to US companies and government agencies. So a thought, you see a random gmail account in a list. PudgyDaddy82@gmail.com or whatever. indeed 1800 of them, how do you figure out what the real world identity of that individual is? This is specific to peoples gmail accounts.

        So that graph almost certainly isn’t representative of the 1800 accounts, it’s going to be a subset of ones they could google which are more likely to be public figures.

        problem with the narrative

        I was curious whether the list of emails that were hit had been published. They included an example email with the base64 encoding. Searching for the name in that address yielded as one of the hits a word document of email addresses.

        xa.yimg.com/kq/groups/20668454/1467722391/name/senator_reid@reid.senate.gov

        it’s one of those generic lists of world leaders lists used by crazy people who think if they just bcc the pope and everyone else they’ll get someone to listen to them

        My gut feeling is that someone grabbed a list like that and tried spear phishing every name on the list but with @gmail on the end in the hope of hitting some real world leaders personal email addresses. The list is sorted into international organizations and military world leaders etc ie the kind of people they say were being targeted.

        Bit.ly almost certainly limits how many links individuals can create so I’m guessing they had multiple accounts and I wouldn’t be surprised if some turned out to have other names from this same document along with others from various “lists of world leaders” type documents.

        The categories in the document around the example email even kinda match the categories they list as the targets.

        So I’m calling bullshit.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Yeah, when people say “this was so sophisticated it must have been state-sponsored” about an attack I could have probably pulled off myself if I’d been motivated, it makes me really disinclined to credit the rest of their analysis. Or maybe I should get myself a state sponsor?

      • Murphy says:

        I’m thinking the same thing.

        It would be some work to set up but nothing spectacular and they’re not doing anything technically hard.

        Also some more details in my post above which make me even more leery.

  55. jamii says:

    The review of The Rationality Quotient bugged me. Both points (incremental validity, correlation with IQ) are discussed at length in the book but the reviewer doesn’t even mention the arguments, leaving the impression that those objections are just papered over.

    For example, in Stanovich’s model, IQ is highly correlated with the ability to *sustain* both overrides of Type 1 processes and counter-factual simulations of the world. He wants to improve on IQ tests by also measuring the *tendency* to override responses and simulate counter-factuals, as well as various specific sets of knowledge that are generally important (eg probabilistic reasoning). He talks a lot about how it’s hard to measure the latter without involving the former eg tests for base rate neglect also measure basic algebra skills which are correlated with IQ.

    I think a much more interesting criticism of the CART is that it’s intended to be a typical performance situation, but for anyone with any exposure to the subject it’s clearly an optimal performance situation. If you’ve heard of base rate neglect, the base rate neglect test is pretty obviously a base rate neglect test, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are good at applying Bayesian reasoning in day-to-day life.

    • jamii says:

      Also interesting is that the Actively Open Minded Thinking test explained a similar amount of the variance in CART scores compared to IQ, which I find really surprising for a self-reported questionnaire.

  56. ThirteenthLetter says:

    That FT article about Guantanamo is such a perfect example of why right-wingers grumble about the press. Paragraph after sympathetic paragraph about innocent goatherders who are supposedly victims of mistaken identity (yet it took eight years for the Obama Administration to move on releasing these obviously innocent men for some reason) and at the end it mumbles a little bit about how, oh yeah, there’s also some guys there who were behind 9/11. So what you’re saying, guys, is that there is a reason to keep the prison open…?

    • sharper13 says:

      Obama attempted to get everyone out of Guanatanmo before the end of his term, but wasn’t able to make the deadline.

      Wouldn’t it be more accurate to write something along the lines of:

      Obama didn’t want to risk the political fallout of starting early enough to get everyone out of Guantanamo before the end of his term, so he wasn’t able to make the deadline.

      Or are we just saying nobody in an 8-year administration considered what it would take to keep a major campaign promise until after the final election? Sort of an “Oops, I just remembered I left the oven on!” type of situation when President Obama was heading out the door?

      I’m not sure which version is more damning to his legacy…

      • Sfoil says:

        Probably the administration intended to do the same thing with Gitmo that they did with the FALN terrorist, but underestimated the amount of bureaucratic roadblocks; also they haven’t been convicted of anything so they can’t be pardoned. The whole point of waiting until the last minute is to avoid any political fallout, so perhaps they didn’t even seriously look into it until very late in the game.

        • rmtodd says:

          also they haven’t been convicted of anything so they can’t be pardoned.

          IIRC, Nixon hadn’t been convicted of anything when Gerald Ford pardoned him. Impeached, yes (equivalent of “indicted” for mere mortals), but not convicted.

          • Pablo says:

            Nitpick: a committee of the House of Representatives considered the question of whether the House should impeach Nixon, and voted to recommend that the House do so, but Nixon resigned before the House acted on that recommendation. So he never was impeached.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, wanted to close Gitmo but found it difficult to do so.

      • Deiseach says:

        Obama attempted to get everyone out of Guanatanmo before the end of his term, but wasn’t able to make the deadline.

        Yeah, that’s the bit that made me go “He had eight effin’ years to do it, if he couldn’t do it in his first term he won re-election for a second term, why the rush in the last days? Nothing changed, if we accept the argument ‘Obama could do nothing because a Republican Congress blocked him at every turn’ – it’s still a Republican Congress”.

        I think Guantanamo should have been shut down long ago and if they had real suspects then they should have got real trials, and of all the hopey-changey bullpuckey this was the one promise that really, really upset me he didn’t keep. This is just a last-minute attempt by the cheerleaders to burnish his halo – the Blessed Saviour would have freed the prisoners except, you know, couldn’t do it in the last 24 hours before Dagon took over the presidency. I’ve always maintained he wasn’t a saviour or a destroyer, he was a career politician who was smart and charismatic enough to sell a message that got him elected. But this is a cynical attempt, where he knew and knows he couldn’t do it but it’s a signal of his virtuousness to say “he tried but the bad evil guys were just too bad and evil”, at a “legacy” that makes me genuinely angry.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          No, it’s the Obama administration spending time on the least-likely things last. You spend your resources in the way that you think is most likely to be fruitful. Time and political capital are not in unlimited supply.

          Obama was opposed by both Democrats and Republicans in his initial attempts to close Guantanamo, so it’s not surprising he never got this done.

          • Deiseach says:

            Then if your administration knows a certain policy is “not a snowball in hell’s chance”, you shut up about it and hope it will quietly wither away and die. Not encourage your cheerleaders to vaunt your name.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            No. You do what you can with the time and resources you have.

            Honestly, Deiseach, you are being childish.

          • Deiseach says:

            HeelBearCub, I am willing to cut Obama a lot of slack on a lot of campaign promises because like I said, I regard him as a career politician and once you’ve voted in your first election, you should be over believing what politicians on the campaign trail promise they are going to do if they get into office, swelp them Gawd!

            But shutting down Guantanamo was and is the one thing I will hold against him. He’s supposed to be a professor of law? Then he knew what he could and couldn’t do. Certainly for his second term in office, he would have faced the facts that he couldn’t do it.

            Hagiography by the devoted about his last-gasp last-minute attempt to do the right thing (when he knew he couldn’t do it or get it done) does not convince me. I still hold him accountable for this promise and I still consider he failed on this and it was a disgrace, because Guantanamo was a disgrace.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            I think you have answered your own (implicit) question.

            Certainly for his second term in office, he would have faced the facts that he couldn’t do it.

            I still consider he failed on this and it was a disgrace, because Guantanamo was a disgrace.

            Allow me to suggest that Obama also thinks Guantanamo is a stain on the record of the US. What do you do when you know that it is “impossible” to do the right thing (or, to be more correct, when it is impossible to do everything that is right).

            Do you simply not try, because you know it to be “impossible”? Or, do you keep it on your list of things to do, and when there is nothing else to be done, do you make another try?

          • q-tip says:

            Allow me to suggest that Obama also thinks Guantanamo is a stain on the record of the US. What do you do when you know that it is “impossible” to do the right thing (or, to be more correct, when it is impossible to do everything that is right).

            Do you simply not try, because you know it to be “impossible”? Or, do you keep it on your list of things to do, and when there is nothing else to be done, do you make another try?

            I think some people give up on trying to do the right thing, sink into resentment, and end up rationalizing support for Our Leader. Thankfully, Obama was somewhat more mature than average.

        • Sfoil says:

          if they had real suspects then they should have got real trials

          They’re suspected of being unlawful combatants, and the evidence for this is probably quite good. Unfortunately the sensible norms under which these men could be tried and then shot if found guilty have been replaced by a load of nonsense about The Rights of Man. Actually putting these guys on trial in the current legal regime would probably end with their release, which is obviously stupid, and aside from the danger/signaling value of these men personally it would encourage soldiers to stop taking prisoners at all (this is already a problem).

          • Aapje says:

            They’re suspected of being unlawful combatants, and the evidence for this is probably quite good.

            No, the evidence is often bad, because they had a ‘turn in a terrorist for dollars’ program, where people were turned in were assumed to be terrorists, without any actual investigation beforehand.

            Some people also got picked up merely for being suspicious, like the guy who was picked up near US troops with binoculars.

            The major issue is that the entire system catered to ‘Cover Your Ass’ behavior, so no one had any incentive to let probably innocent people go, as they would be blamed if they turn out to be (or have become) terrorists, but not if they just let the person rot in jail.

          • Sfoil says:

            I sort of agree, but the issue is that the evidence is never going to/can’t be examined in open court (maximum accountability) because again, the current American legal system cannot adequately deal with unlawful combatants. I think the military trials were a step in the right direction in theory, unfortunately the military legal system is just as screwed up as the civilian system when it comes to this.

            So instead, we get “he was a bad guy, trust us” from a bunch of completely unaccountable bureaucrats and indefinite detention while the evidentiary value of whatever they had in the first place deteriorates month by month.

            Dressing up your scouts as civilians has always been a crime, by the way. Under a sane legal system, Binocular Man could be tried–possibly under reduced standards of evidence–and if we want to be bleeding hearts he could end up paroled to a third country if found guilty, on pain of death if he gets caught again. Which is exactly what’s happened to a lot of these guys, except it’s done in the dark and preceded by years in a cell.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Dressing nonviolent scouts as civilians, or even in opposing uniforms is not a war crime today and I don’t think it ever was.

          • cassander says:

            @Douglas Knight says:

            >Dressing nonviolent scouts as civilians, or even in opposing uniforms is not a war crime today and I don’t think it ever was.

            It most certainly is:

            Article 37 – Prohibition of perfidy

            1. It is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by resort to perfidy. Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence, shall constitute perfidy. The following acts are examples of perfidy:

            (a) The feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender;

            (b) The feigning of an incapacitation by wounds or sickness;

            (c) The feigning of civilian, non-combatant status; and

            (d) The feigning of protected status by the use of signs, emblems or uniforms of the United Nations or of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict.

            2. Ruses of war are not prohibited. Such ruses are acts which are intended to mislead an adversary or to induce him to act recklessly but which infringe no rule of international law applicable in armed conflict and which are not perfidious because they do not invite the confidence of an adversary with respect to protection under that law. The following are examples of such ruses: the use of camouflage, decoys, mock operations and misinformation.

            Article 39 – Emblems of nationality

            1. It is prohibited to make use in an armed conflict of the flags or military emblems, insignia or uniforms of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict.

            2. It is prohibited to make use of the flags or military emblems, insignia or uniforms of adverse Parties while engaging in attacks or in order to shield, favour, protect or impede military operations.

            3. Nothing in this Article or in Article 37, paragraph 1 (d), shall affect the existing generally recognized rules of international law applicable to espionage or to the use of flags in the conduct of armed conflict at sea.

          • John Schilling says:

            @cassander: The distinction Doug is trying to make is in the opening phrase, “it is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary…”

            If you aren’t shooting at anybody, it is permissible to wear civilian clothing or even the enemy’s uniforms as a ruse (the uniforms, flags, etc, of neutral nations are I think more broadly protected). See e.g. the Battle of the Bulge, where it was IIRC deemed acceptable by both sides for the Germans to have infiltrated a company past the front lines disguised as American soldiers so long as they changed into German uniforms before opening fire.

          • rlms says:

            Disguising scouts as civilians may be a war crime, but standing near US troops with binoculars is not. It is also not necessarily an act of war; there are many legitimate reasons to stand somewhere with binoculars. Furthermore, it is not an act that harms US interests enough to make indefinite detention without trial and torture just responses. Responding like that is a clear case of “something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done”.

          • Sfoil says:

            Nonviolent scouts

            Those are called “spies” and whether their activities constitute “war crimes” or not they ought to be dealt with much more harshly than uniformed soldiers.

          • cassander says:

            @john schilling

            See article 39, not just 37. You most definitely are not allowed to “2. to make use of the flags or military emblems, insignia or uniforms of adverse Parties while engaging in attacks or in order to shield, favour, protect or impede military operations.”

          • Civilis says:

            Disguising scouts as civilians may be a war crime, but standing near US troops with binoculars is not. It is also not necessarily an act of war; there are many legitimate reasons to stand somewhere with binoculars. Furthermore, it is not an act that harms US interests enough to make indefinite detention without trial and torture just responses. Responding like that is a clear case of “something must be done, this is something, therefore it must be done”.

            Example I happen to remember from my history: During the US drive across France in the Second World War, the army ran into a fortified city that blocked the only usable bridges across one of the large rivers. In order to bypass this, they put troops across the river via boat, and used the beachhead to build a bridge for tanks. The bridge site was protected from artillery fire by a large smokescreen; when the wind shifted, the Germans would shell the construction. At one point, the Germans opened fire with accurate artillery even with the smokescreen in place. American troops searched houses near the river close enough to see the bridge through the smoke and found three Frenchmen with a German military radio. End result: the officer in charge of the troops on the beachhead commissioned a firing squad in the field. At the time, this was standard procedure for spies. (Likewise, the same thing happened to the Brandenberger Commandos captured in US uniform during the Bulge). Now, it’s just a footnote to the history of the battle, not a war crime.

            The problem is that the Islamic militants exist in a gray area. You are not allowed to try conventional PoWs for the ‘crime’ of fighting you (actual war crimes are a different story). You can’t gather evidence on a battlefield. There’s no unbiased witnesses. You are allowed to keep them until the war is over, however long that is, even if their offense was driving a truck. The conventions of war place restrictions on what can be done to a legitimate PoW, but it also places companion restrictions on what PoWs can do (if I remember right). Now we have people that fight as if they are soldiers, but don’t have a state which can surrender to end the hostilities. There’s no good way to handle this.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            What Civilis is saying is what I was trying to get at earlier.

            Frankly, I think that any Law Of Armed Conflict that doesn’t allow for that sort of solution is going to run hard aground on the treacherous rocks and shoals of modern military reality. And when it fails, then the next step might well be actually withdrawing from the treaties wholesale, which I think is a bad outcome. It’s arguably worse than no treaties/LOAC at all.

            Asymmetrical Warfare has become and will continue to be one of the dominant strategies for groups who want to take on much stronger states. Part of modern asymmetrical warfare is not having a uniform, flag, or easily attacked command structure. Another part is exploiting as much as possible any loopholes or weaknesses in the enemy’s code of conduct.

            Call it “Alinsky’s Rules For REAL Radicals”.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The press: giving aid and comfort to the enemy since 9/11/2001.
      Seriously, folks, how can I in good conscience not be a rightist when the mainstream media sympathizes with Islamic terrorists?

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m a rightist who believes in the rule of law, which is why I want trials and open justice and not a system run on lettres de cachet. Even for Islamic terrorists.

        I know storming the Bastille was political theatre since, as a prison, it more or less was no longer in use but for this – I am with the rabble, even if it ends in blood and fire.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          OK, you have a point on the narrow issue of Gitmo, but the mainstream media gives aid and comfort to Islamic terrorists on general principle.
          So give the Islamists there trials, but for the love of God, let’s deport Islamic foreign nationals and dual citizens and ban new ones from entering, so we don’t have to keep treating them according to our principles when they’re held for violent crimes committed in the name of their principles, sharia. The West, even its Constitutionally secular countries like the US, had a good thing going where we didn’t admit followers of this dangerous alien religion. It’d be a crying shame to lose our whole civilization over a change in immigration policy.

          • herbert herberson says:

            You’re grossly over-inflating the problem.

          • rlms says:

            Some people actually think that holding innocent people in terrible conditions based on very little evidence is bad, but imprisoning people who have been convicted in a fair trial of being a danger to the public is good. Some of also think that freedom of thought and religion mean something, not just “freedom to think and believe anything, as long as I agree with it”.

          • let’s deport Islamic foreign nationals and dual citizens and ban new ones from entering,

            At least wait until the end of the semester. I have a bunch of Saudis in my “Legal Systems Very Different From Ours” class, and it’s great fun having primary sources in the classroom.

            The West, even its Constitutionally secular countries like the US, had a good thing going where we didn’t admit followers of this dangerous alien religion.

            When was that?

            And what makes Islam more alien than various versions of Christianity or Judaism?

          • Izaak says:

            When, like a fraction of a percent of muslims are terrorists? Are you really that against the idea of innocent until proven guilty? And the first amendment?

          • Murphy says:

            “and dual citizens”

            So you want to strip American citizens of their rights and deport them?

            based on their religion in very clear violation of this trivial bit of text:

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

            Aren’t you lovely.

            You seem like a vastly bigger threat to the rights of american citizens.

            All in favor of deporting Le Maistre Chat to somewhere?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @herbert: Granted, that’s overinflating the problem the US has with Islamic immigration. But this is the sort of thing Europe needs to do to survive.
            Like in Germany, it’s reached the point that so-called refugees give us a terrorist bombing for Christmas and rape German women en masse on New Year’s Eve. France is an estimated 7% Muslim up from practically 0 within living memory and look how many French are being killed by terrorists. And while there’s some evidence that a narrow majority of US mosques preach “modernist” Islam, the number in the UK is 2 (!) out of 1,700.

            @Friedman: Well, remember when Theodore Roosevelt was able to ban every foreigner who believed polygamy is licit from staying in the US? That’s the sort of mechanism a Constitutionally secular country was allowed to use in the past to prevent the growth of an Islamic subculture.
            The problem as I see it is that the Left has convinced us that what was Constitutional in the past was really Unconstitutional and we Americans should be ashamed of our consistently bigoted past so against the spirit,of the Bill of Rights. Now that’s true with, like, the Atlantic slave trade and rather awful treatment of black people after the Civil War, but when it comes to preserving Western culture?

            As to what makes Islam more alien than Christianity or Judaism: sharia. Ever since Constantine I, both the West and Eastern Christendom have lived in a social world where Christianity is hegemonic, there’s a Jewish minority, and laws are made by men. Islam demands a separation of law and state with a law code cleverly designed to make Muslims the majority if they aren’t already.

            @Izaak: Of course I’m in favor of the 1st Amendment. It’s been in our Constitution for what, 235 years? But it’s only recently that it’s been interpreted to aid and abet the spread of Islam.
            And innocent until proven guilty, while a bedrock principle of our legal system, doesn’t have to be interpreted the way the Left wants it to be. Just look at recent history: what did the United Nations (an official name of the Allies) do with a multiethnic collection of SS men picked up on battlefields during the Second World War? Give them civilian trials before the war was over?

            @Murphy: deep breath OK, stripping dual citizens of their US citizenship for supporting the abolition of the Constitution in favor of sharia would be an extreme measure. Just deporting all the foreign ones could be sufficient to keep us safe.
            See above for how the Establishment Clause has not traditionally been interpreted to make us defenseless against Islam.

          • Murphy says:

            @Chat

            The US constitution is itself pretty clear on the process for deciding what is constitutional and that process allows it to change and cope with changes to the constitution itself. See there’s this group of judges to whom it gives that right. You’re free to pursue a constitutional amendment reading “except muslims” just as those muslims are free to campaign to pursue a constitutional amendment reading “sharia law shall replace this constitution”.

            until then your opinion of what’s constitutional is worth exactly nothing.

            Lots of groups try to keep their own law. For example some Amish groups preach against pursuing justice through secular authorities in favor of their own internal justice system and shun people who do so. Does your desire to expel all who want their own religious justice systems extend to the Amish?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Murphy: Does your desire to expel all who want their own religious justice systems extend to the Amish?

            Certainly not. The Amish are pacifists, holding practically* zero violent theological positions. The Muslims within the borders of our civilization would be harmless eccentrics if their theology was harmless.

            *I vaguely recall reading that they consider spank their children Godly. But punishing one by sending them to bed without supper is abuse!

          • John Schilling says:

            Like in Germany, it’s reached the point that so-called refugees give us a terrorist bombing for Christmas and rape German women en masse on New Year’s Eve.

            Just in case anyone thought that mislabeling groping as rape was a purely a leftist/feminist thing.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Schilling: Do you find the Wikipedia article on the… let’s say “mass consent violations” inaccurate? It says that more than a thousand women were groped and such but 24 suffered actual no-foolin’ penetrative rape.

          • Murphy says:

            @Chat

            Right. So can you actually define the group you want to exclude in a secular way that doesn’t also exclude Amish, Mormons, Athiests, our host Scott etc etc etc?

            So far you just seem to be pawing ineffectually at it.

          • Murphy says:

            @chat

            Your 24 number appears to be the total crime stats for the entire city for the entire night. ie: you’re blaming every crime committed by anyone anywhere in the city (over a million people) on new years on muslims. including those by christian and secular germans.

            Anyone opposed to laying the blame for every sex crime committed in Chat’s home city tonight at his feet? only seems fair.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Lay off the personal attacks, Murphy. And stop calling me a man.
            If 1,200 women in a US city had their pussies grabbed in public by men in Trump caps and 24 rape victims showed up that night all saying their rapists were red caps, would you be making personal attacks against a progressive for implying that more than a tiny minority of the rapes could probably be pinned on that demographic?

          • Murphy says:

            @Chat

            If someone turned up with the police crime stats for, say, the entire city of Dallas. Every single crime that had happened anywhere in the city, even if Trump had personally wandered round on camera fondling the genitals random women he passed, if someone then tried to blame every sex crime and rape anywhere in the city, even those miles from trump, on him: yes I would absolutely call them for being utterly full of shit.

            Trump would deserve the blame for his own crimes, not for every crime committed by anyone.

          • Ever since Constantine I, both the West and Eastern Christendom have lived in a social world where Christianity is hegemonic, there’s a Jewish minority, and laws are made by men.

            In theory, Jewish law like Islamic law is deduced from divinely communicated rules. In practice, for both of them, large parts of the legal system are created by secular authorities.

            For a particularly clear example, consider the kanun under the Ottomans, a set of legal rules produced by the Sultan. Under koranic law, as interpreted by all four Sunni schools, interest, riba, is forbidden. The kanun specified a maximum interest rate.

            And although laws in the U.S. at present are made by men, constitutional law is mostly based on rules made by men now long dead. It’s true that the current Supreme Court can interpret around rules it doesn’t like–but the same is true of corresponding mechanisms of Jewish or Islamic law.

            So far as I can tell, the most significant difference is that many Muslims take traditional Muslim law as seriously as Christians and Jews took their traditional law two hundred years ago. You might consider, for instance, that under Anglo-American law until about a century and a half ago homosexuality was a capital crime.

      • TheWorst says:

        The press: giving aid and comfort to the enemy since 9/11/2001.
        Seriously, folks, how can I in good conscience not be a rightist when the mainstream media sympathizes with Islamic terrorists?

        Why did you post this?

        In case anyone’s curious about this page being characterized as a right-wing cesspool, posts like this are why. Fact-free right-wing crowing. Maybe we don’t need more of it?

        There’s no evidence that the media is giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and I notice that you present none, and you also obfuscate the distinction between innocent and guilty. Doing so is both false and morally reprehensible. Pointing out that almost all of your targets are innocent is not “sympathizing with Islamic terrorists,” any more than pointing out when SJers falsely accuse someone of being a Nazi is “sympathizing with Nazis.” It does not suddenly become OK just because a right-winger is doing it.

        The truth is true. People pointing out true things should be exempt from blatantly-false political smears. Always and forever.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          right-wing cesspool

          It’s definitely not this.

          I broadly agree with the thrust of your comment, though.

        • Cypren says:

          Every public forum is going to have its trolls. We’ve had plenty of fact-free left-wing crowing at various points in the past, too (including one repeatedly-banned visitor I’m sure most longtime readers are familiar with).

          What’s more significant is that you’ll note no one else is agreeing with him from the right. It’s why I love SSC; none of us are free from bias, but a fact-free screed doesn’t get a dogpile of “yeah!” and “right on!” from similar ideologues.

          • TheWorst says:

            We’ve had plenty of fact-free left-wing crowing at various points in the past, too…

            And now we have none. That is a good thing. Exempting right-wing trolls from that policy is a bad thing. Ask yourself “what is a place overrun with fact-free right-wing crowing, where politics-free posts are the closest thing that place gets to leftist?”

            @HBC:

            It’s definitely not this.

            I don’t think it is either, though the trend is very much in that direction.
            And every day I run across people saying they’re adding SSC to their “don’t read the comments” list, and Scott said he was concerned about that. I believed him, so it seemed helpful to point out where that’s coming from.

            I notice left-wing trolls get threatened with bans immediately, and right-wing trolls get – at worst– ignored. That is exactly the formula one would apply if the goal was to build a place populated entirely by right-wing trolls.

          • Aapje says:

            @TheWorst

            S i l d e r was banned recently, disproving your assertion that right wing people are immune to bans.

            PS. He is so banned that even his name can not be used properly.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            To be fair, that’s a treatment every banned user gets. It isn’t very noticeable because it’s usually not high profile users that get banned, and therefore their names don’t come up often.

            I don’t know if it’s an automatic thing, hopefully not, because it would be pretty gameable otherwise.

          • Iain says:

            Does that mean I can’t say the word Moon?

            ETA: obviously not. Seems likely that Scott does it manually, then.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Does that mean I can’t post about Randy Johnson’s absolutely filthy slider?

            ETA: Apparently I can.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            And every day I run across people saying they’re adding SSC to their “don’t read the comments” list

            Just out of curiosity, where are you running across these people? And what comments sections (that don’t tilt remarkably one way or the other) do they like to read?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Just out of curiosity, where are you running across these people? And what comments sections (that don’t tilt remarkably one way or the other) do they like to read?

            I was actually wondering about this myself.

            I’m not going to claim the comment section here doesn’t lean right (never have). Whatever “right” means, we can all sort of agree that that’s where the average opinion of the commenters here leans, but my perception is that we’re already past peak rightiness, and there’s been a (slow) trend towards the center since early 2016.

            I’ve often seen comments like that, but mostly within lefty bubbles, I don’t know many right-wing bubbles that also know this place (to be honest, the only righty-bubble I know is /pol/), so I wouldn’t know what’s their opinion on the subject.

          • Cypren says:

            @TheWorst: I don’t think you’re seeing an exemption here so much as a certain amount of charity extended to a new commenter before a pattern of behavior is established. I suspect based on the thread above that the grace period is wearing thin very rapidly and you’ll see action very soon if it continues as such.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cypren:
            Le Maistre Chat has been commenting here for quite a while.

            And this kind of comment is not really something that has been rare around here:
            The press: giving aid and comfort to the enemy since 9/11/2001.

            What I mean by that is a very loose statement that asserts that “the left” is to be broadly denigrated as one of a various number of things, such as unAmerican, violent, hateful, irrational, etc. Also, conflating a various institutions as being entirely within “the left” or only supportive of “the left” or what have you.

          • TheWorst says:

            @HBC:

            Just out of curiosity, where are you running across these people?

            If you’re guessing I got a Tumblr account last week, you are sadly correct.

            And what comments sections (that don’t tilt remarkably one way or the other) do they like to read?

            No idea. At this point, I’m not convinced that there are comments sections that don’t tilt remarkably one way or the other. It doesn’t seem to be a stable equilibrium.

            @Cypren:

            I don’t think you’re seeing an exemption here so much as a certain amount of charity extended to a new commenter before a pattern of behavior is established.

            A) As HBC points out, this isn’t true; he’s been posting here for some time, and the pattern of behavior is well-established.
            B) That courtesy is demonstrably not applied to non-right-wingers. Liberal trolls get ban threats on their first post.

          • Aapje says:

            @TheWorst

            My condolences.

            FYI: I believe that Scott is allowed to prescribe anti-depressants.

          • TheWorst says:

            Probably not over the internet, though, or he’s missing out on a huge business opportunity.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            A) As HBC points out, this isn’t true; he’s been posting here for some time, and the pattern of behavior is well-established.

            Is it? I don’t recall Le Maistre Chat saying anything particularly outrageous in the past.

          • TenMinute says:

            a place… where politics-free posts are the closest thing that place gets to leftist?

            A place that could finally raise our opinions of the left?

            I understand your motivation in trying to purge to the right. It’s a perfectly natural response when you’re used to an environment where any hint of right-wingedness is a threat that Makes Our Community And Its Marginalized Members Unsafe.

            But consider that this environment is probably doing your side more good than yet another one of those “spaces”, which appear to have driven many people away from the left though evaporative radicalization.

            Make your best arguments, let the chips fall, and write off the tumblrites and their opinions about you.

          • TheWorst says:

            @TenMinute: When someone points out an abundance of fact-free right-wing crowing, doing more of it is not an effective counterargument.

            It’s interesting that you jumped to accusing me of wanting to purge the right, despite having no excuse for not knowing otherwise. Was your comment made in transparent bad faith, or are you working from the assumption that right-wing trolls are the only non-leftists in existence?

            Either way, you’re an excellent example of the kind of commenter unwelcome outside of right-wing cesspools. Thanks for helping out, I guess.

            It would be a vast improvement if comments that had no purpose other than to say “hurr hurr, we hates the left, hurr hurr” were held to the same standards as identical posts about the right are.

          • TenMinute says:

            https://veronicastraszh.tumblr.com/post/152688543736/zjemptv-slatestarscratchpad

            Here is a good example of the tumblr “discourse” bashing SSC and the commentariat. If anyone who doesn’t bow to it deserves to be cast into a “right-wing cesspool”, I’ll get my diving suit on and jump willingly.

            What a shoddy way to respond to a compliment that left-wing arguments on SSC are high quality and often convincing.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            That courtesy is demonstrably not applied to non-right-wingers. Liberal trolls get ban threats on their first post.

            EK and Moon (though the latter was not an outright troll per se) seem to disprove that assertion handily.

            If you go back through the register of bans, I think you’ll find examples from both left and right who were banned on a first offense, and you’ll also find examples from both left and right who were allowed to continue onward for quite some time before the hammer finally dropped.

          • TheWorst says:

            If you go back through the register of bans, I think you’ll find examples from both left and right who were banned on a first offense…

            I agree that there was a time in the past when right-wing trolls and left-wing trolls were treated equally. That’s kind of the point. It happened, in the past.

            My point is that right now, right-wing trolling is taking over the comments threads, and if Scott wants people to stop reacting to that, he may need to adopt a policy that doesn’t promote the phenomenon. In this thread, for example, there’s one example of mild left-wing trolling, and numerous examples of less-mild right-wing trolling. The first met a ban threat. The latter are all being defended, vigorously. Often with more trolling.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I agree that there was a time in the past when right-wing trolls and left-wing trolls were treated equally. That’s kind of the point. It happened, in the past.

            Just look at the banlist for the past few months, Do you notice a particular bias?

          • Iain says:

            @TheWorst: Speaking as a person of the leftish persuasion: my impression of the ban policy does not match your own. I personally think the moderation here is fairly even-handed. If there are more right-wing trolls than left-wing trolls — which seems true to me, but it’s always easier to spot trolls on the other side — then I think it has far more to do with there being more right-wing people here in general, rather than anything about Scott’s moderation directly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @TheWorst/Iain:

            I’m on the left, and I don’t notice right-wing trolling as much as I notice a lack of charity and precision when discussing the left and parts thereof.

            We’ll argue about what’s the difference between an ancap and a libertarian, but people will just toss of “SJWs”, “liberals”, “the left” as though we are a monolith that gets all our marching orders direct from Berkeley.

            (I mean, we do, but the assumption kinda hurts, y’know?)

            My opinion is that the solution is that everyone needs to be more pedantic about this sort of thing. Which liberals? What left? Etc. Although, a place where an awareness of the ingroup/outgroup difference is part of the key norms, painting the outgroup as a monolith, has a certain tragic beauty to it…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dndnrsn:

            We’ll argue about what’s the difference between an ancap and a libertarian, but people will just toss of “SJWs”, “liberals”, “the left” as though we are a monolith that gets all our marching orders direct from Berkeley.

            You’ve done it now.

            Prepare to spend too much time defending this fairly obvious statement.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @HeelBearCub:

            Don’t worry; I just got the new manual from Berkeley in the mail the other day.

          • Cypren says:

            @dndnrsn:

            (I mean, we do, but the assumption kinda hurts, y’know?)

            This made me laugh out loud.

            You make a really good point. And as one of those people who has hastily and uncharitably grouped parts of the left together into one big bloc at times, I’ll try to be more precise in the future and paint with a finer brush. Call me out on it if I don’t.

            Overall, I don’t think there’s any real bias in the moderation here, at least in the 2 years or so that I’ve been reading the comments. If anything, I think people are way too quick to assume that Scott is reading every single comment and should have his finger on the hair-trigger ban key for anything that personally offends them; I suspect the reality is that he’s busy. Sometimes he sees trolling posts quickly because he happens to be reading the comments; sometimes he doesn’t until it gets to the point where enough people draw his attention to it.

            “Example X got banned quickly but Y was allowed to be a problem for weeks before he got banned” may be a valid criticism of a site that has a cadre of full time professional moderators. Short of a consistent, long-term pattern, it doesn’t strike me as particularly compelling circumstantial evidence for a site with one hobbyist moderator.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Cypren:
            I broadly agree with that statement.

            However, I don’t think Scott can moderate into us that which is he would like out of us. Partially this is because we are simply human.

            So, we, as a community, should aspire to more than simply “not banned by Scott”.

            You seem to be so aspiring, therefore let me offer a “huzzah”.

            Huzzah!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Cypren:

            Thanks. I will.

            I think, overall, this comment section is one of the better communities I’ve been a part of online. People are far more polite, and even at their least charitable, tend to be more charitable than the norm.

            The gap is simply the result of the fact that a certain sort of left-winger is Scott’s outgroup, and that’s attracted people for whom the left in general is the outgroup. It’s still better than other places I’ve been where the left was the outgroup. However, it’s one of those “we should be better than this” situations. We all should strive to make this a place where as many schools of thought as possible receive charity and get discussed using the language of distinctive definition rather than monolithic language.

          • My point is that right now, right-wing trolling is taking over the comments threads,

            I’m curious as to what you count as right wing trolling.

            There have been a number of posts recently that took relatively extreme positions, in some cases ones I disagree with, but on the whole I found them interesting. That included the defense of Ian Smith and the “the world is going to left wing hell and civilization is doomed and there is nothing I can do about it” posts.

            Are those the sort of things you regard as right wing trolling? Are posts that say “the left is bad because” what you object to?

            To me, a troll is someone saying things not because he believes them but because he is trying to offend other people, and I see almost none of that here from either side. I wouldn’t describe Jill/Moon as a troll–pretty clearly she is saying what she (I think unreasonably) believes. Similarly for the person who wants a stable monarchy.

            Perhaps you could give two or three examples. Quoting a line from a comment is sufficient–I haven’t been able in the past to follow links to specific comments, although I gather one is supposed to be able to do that, but I can do a search if I know what post the comment is on and have a line to search on. Or, if you think there are posters who are mostly trolling, name them.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Well, you might want to look up the original post to which this a subthread.

            The press: giving aid and comfort to the enemy since 9/11/2001.
            Seriously, folks, how can I in good conscience not be a rightist when the mainstream media sympathizes with Islamic terrorists?

            You are going to want to parse that very finely and try and say that I can’t prove the OP actually doesn’t believe this is the literal truth.

            Except, this is sort of a Poe’s law thing. At some point “trolling” and “sincerely held belief” cease to be distinguished from each other. OP knows or should know that stating this opinion in this way will incite anger, therefore, is liable for the anger.

          • Nornagest says:

            From where I’m standing, arguments about what’s taking over the comment threads are taking over the comment threads. Appropriately meta but still obnoxious.

            I am not saying right-wing snark doesn’t exist here (nor left-wing snark). But go through this thread and count up the number of posts that could be classified as drive-by snark of any kind, compared to the number involved in this debate alone.

          • Cypren says:

            @HeelBearCub: I would submit the section you quoted is probably both a sincerely held belief and a statement simply designed to inflame.

            My viewpoint, such as it is, is that large portions of the American left do feel some degree of sympathy for Islamic terrorists, at least considerably more than they do for, say, right-wing conservatives. It doesn’t come in the explicit form of endorsement of bombing and murder campaigns, but in a softer sense of “well, Muslims have good reason to be angry at the US for its intervention in their culture. That may not make terrorism justifiable, but it makes it understandable. Right-wingers have absolutely no excuse and are all just evil people.”

            There’s a strong sense on the Right that the Left is very interested in understanding and empathizing with their enemies so long as those enemies aren’t white, male or Christian. So in that sense, yes, I would say that it’s a pretty commonly and sincerely-held belief in right-wing circles that the institutional Left actively sympathizes with terrorists. But it’s more that it comes in contrast to feeling like, “they’re never interested in ‘understanding’ me, just angrily condemning me.”

            A lot of this is outgroup/fargroup difference, but very few people think about things in meta terms. So instead it just seems to the average Republican like overt hostility and that Democrats really do believe Republicans are the greatest evil in the world and the only ones who need to be fought with no quarter.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Cypren:

            My viewpoint, such as it is, is that large portions of the American left do feel some degree of sympathy for Islamic terrorists, at least considerably more than they do for, say, right-wing conservatives.

            Quite so, and it’s worth pointing out in this context that the allegedly trollish comment was in response to a specific article which, per Thirteenth Letter’s summary, was indeed slanted in such a way as to create sympathy for the prisoners in Guantanamo:

            Paragraph after sympathetic paragraph about innocent goatherders who are supposedly victims of mistaken identity (yet it took eight years for the Obama Administration to move on releasing these obviously innocent men for some reason) and at the end it mumbles a little bit about how, oh yeah, there’s also some guys there who were behind 9/11.

    • rlms says:

      There is a reason to keep the guys behind 9/11 locked up, there is no reason that that should be done without proper trial in Guantanamo, or that innocent people (or anyone who can’t be proven guilty) should be locked with them.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I think that a proper trial might very well free many of them. Given that the fact that many of these people were tortured, I imagine that the pre-trial work would be quite fraught for the prosecution.

        I’d probably still want to try them though.

        • Cypren says:

          One of the biggest problems with the whole “war on terror” is the difficulty of figuring out what legal protections should apply to accused foreign terrorists. It’s one that neither the Bush or Obama administrations were able to solve, so they largely punted and said “we’re just going to leave them in the hole and maybe people will forget about it.”

          I don’t blame the government for not wanting to accord civilian trials to captured enemy combatants; that would provide them with lots of ammunition via discovery that could severely damage our national security apparatus. And without the ability to challenge the evidentiary process and directly confront their accusers (which means revealing the holy grail “sources and methods” many times), there’s no sense pretending that trials would be in any way comparable to civilian ones. This doesn’t even get to the problem of a “jury of their peers”.

          So I suppose the thing that makes the most sense to me is military tribunals which need to either end in a conviction and sentencing or a release of the prisoner. These won’t be “fair” according to our notions of due process in civilian life, but it seems to strike the best balance of allowing a process to investigate guilt without compromising our ability to wage war or defend ourselves from those waging a widespread, decentralized guerrilla war on us.

          Either way, I don’t see how it could be worse than indefinite detention without trial. What are your feelings on it?

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          EDIT: First, I think it’s important to distinguish between people captured by soldiers in places where we or our allies are fighting a war (Iraq, Afghanistan, and any such future venues), and people captured within the borders of the US by domestic law enforcement. The latter should be tried by the something broadly analogous to the FISC, and should otherwise as much as possible be afforded the same due process as anyone else going through the criminal justice system for serious charges. My comments below are about the first category, prisoners taken overseas by the military in theatres of war.

          My position has always been that granting full US Civil Rights and criminal due process to un-uniformed EPWs effectively offers an easier, faster path to release and more legal protections than it does to a uniformed soldier from a hostile nation who surrenders.

          This strikes me as an extremely undesirable result, and so bass ackwards as to fatally undermine the conventions that created it, if we followed through. The obvious solution to a situation like that is to simply stop attempting to capture anyone alive and accept the loss of useful intelligence.

          The conditions under which you are absolutely obligated to honor an offer of surrender are rather narrower than many people believe, and I think that state of affairs would narrow them further. So, all in all, I think that’s a bad solution.

          I’m for military tribunals myself, but frankly my solution would probably horrify most of those critical of Gitmo, since it would be some form of accelerated in-theatre military tribunal with officers from the nearest unit not directly involved with capturing said prisoners, and maybe one JAG officer to act as general procedural guidance and ‘judge’. Something between a special court martial and an article 32 investigation.

          More due process than “we caught them out of uniform, shoot them on the spot as spies and saboteurs”, WW2-era treatment, but not much more.

        • Murphy says:

          @Cypren

          They offered a bounty and unsurprisingly local militias went with simply grabbing people and handing them in for the bounty saying they were Taliban.

          I mention this because some of the comments above seem to be under the misapprehension that the prisoners were all captured in battle. Many came through civilian or unofficial channels, bought for cash with basically no verification.

          Shitty things happen when you’ve talked yourself into avoiding having trials for people.

          The highlight is probably the 12-13 year old they kept at gitmo for over a year. For most of that time his parents thought he was dead.

          I’m not going to sugar coat this. When you read about nightmare reigeims that disappear people, including children, that is what anyone supporting gitmo is supporting. Taking the idea that it’s morally OK to abduct children, leave their parents thinking they’re dead and putting it squarely inside the Overton window.

          It is not a moral grey area.

          • Cypren says:

            The problem is that assessment is based on the idea that you’re fighting an enemy that is using adult soldiers, rather than raising and brainwashing children from a young age to function as armed foot soldiers. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to arrest and imprison 13 year olds when the enemy has a documented pattern of using them as suicide bombers. One might in fact argue that it’s extending their lifespan compared to returning them home.

            I completely agree that holding people indefinitely without evidence is unconscionable, though. My interest is in trying to establish the evidentiary basis for holding someone and either assign a definite sentence or release them. I don’t like the idea of leaving people in limbo because we don’t know what to do with them, or because “we don’t have proof but our guts say they’re bad men”, even enemy combatants.

            I do continue to think that people who want civilian-style trials and full constitutional due process protections for military prisoners captured overseas are woefully naive. The only thing likely to convince me otherwise is a massive improvement in quality of information gathering such that we can conclusively establish facts in a way that’s currently impossible. (Say some theoretical sci-fi wormhole device that lets you view any location at any time in the past to establish conclusively what happened.) Due process protections are designed for a society where you have neutral witnesses, time and resources to painstakingly gather evidence, and the social support of the local populace in seeking justice. None of these things apply to military occupations, as a general rule.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Which is a good argument against a bounty program specifically, I’ll agree, but doesn’t really address the broader issues.

            No one said anything about capturing people “In Battle”. Now, I talked about capturing people in the US (civilian criminal law via something like the FISC, allowing for the use of classified testimony and evidence while respecting civil due process), vs. capturing people in a war zone/area of conflict during military operations. That includes situations like the whole of Iraq and Afghanistan during OIF/OEF, not just “during firefights”.

            US law doesn’t apply there.

            “International law” doesn’t really exist as an independent body with jurisdiction and enforcement powers and is utterly inadequate.

            Turning them over to a new host government is possible, but requires a level of trust in the stability and integrity of that government. Still, it may work in some cases.

            For the rest, that leaves some form of military tribunal, preferably in-theater, at which case the only question is:

            War Criminal? Execute. I think this needs to be a part of the ground rules/LOAC for those rules and laws to have any value. It’s worth noting that any combatant that can be shown to have attempted to feign civilian/non-combatant status is a War Criminal, and specifically guilty of a crime called perfidy. Yes, I am aware that such a precedent could possibly be used against American spies and special forces types. However, I think we may have to accept that as the price of having meaningful and useful rules for dealing with modern terrorist movements.

            Lawful combatant (whether uniformed military or guerrilla fighter. It is possible to be a lawful guerrilla under the current LOAC)? Imprison indefinitely pending prisoner exchange/release following negotiations or cessation of hostilities, and under conditions complying with the treatment of POWs.

            Civilian: Release.

      • John Schilling says:

        there is no reason that that should be done without proper trial in Guantanamo

        It is not generally possible to give a proper trial, as that term is usually understood, to an enemy soldier captured in wartime. Something like half a million German soldiers were arbitrarily and indefinitely detained in the UK and US during World War II; none of them got trials, and it is difficult to see how they could have. Are we going to subpoena the crew of the destroyer that sank a German submarine to testify against the German-speaking young men they plucked off a life raft nearby? We kind of need that destroyer and its crew where they are, and even their testimony may not disprove-beyond-a-reasonable-doubt the “we were just crewmen on an innocent Swiss freighter” defense. Also, there is the slight problem that most of these people had not committed any crimes in the first place, as things like firing torpedoes into British merchant ships in wartime aren’t actually illegal. Neither is arranging for suicide bombers to attack a US base in Afghanistan.

        We can, and do, and did for the various Gitmo inmates, conduct inquisitorial processes intended to sort out most of the innocent bystanders. But the sort of tribunal that can be conducted by the military in a wartime setting cannot have the level of due process and legal protection we would expect from a criminal trial and again we aren’t dealing with criminals anyhow. Calling such tribunals “proper trials” would be an affront to the concept of a proper trial, would risk either setting a precedent that would degrade the actual trials we hope to conduct against domestic criminals in peacetime or, if we err in the other direction, turning the military tribunals into a catch-and-release farce.

        If you plan to ever win a war, one of the things you are going to have to live with is locking up a lot of people without a trial for an indefinite period. And killing lots of people who never did you any harm, etc, but maybe we’re cool with that part and it’s just the prisoners who are problematic. But in the 21st century, you probably have the alternative of letting the (other political tribe of) the United States win your wars for you, while piously denouncing them as evil war criminals.

        • Urstoff says:

          What counts as “winning” in the War on Terror? If Al-Qaeda is bombed into dust, will we release them then?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            If we were allowed to use WW2 as precedent, “winning” would be something like the unconditional surrender of the state sponsors of Sunni mujahideen. The US Army and Marines would then occupy their countries, new Constitutions would be drafted, and existing Muslim rulers would only be allowed to remain on condition that they publicly renounce certain theological positions.

          • Murphy says:

            @Chat

            so, which of those countries is the US legally at war with right now? In the most technical legal sense.

          • Urstoff says:

            We should probably issue formal declarations of war on those states, then. Until that happens, comparisons to WWII are just smokescreens.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Urstoff: We probably should. The unintended consequences need to be analyzed, but OTOH we need to watch out for making ourselves principles that make “use terrorists and guerillas networked by religion rather than a specific state to attack the West” an “I win” card.
            Stuff’s complicated and awful.

        • Randy M says:

          You make good counterpoints to the above thread. The critical point seems to be the manner in which the particular people were captured. If it is “cash to locals for anyone they think is suspicious, then throw away the key and forget about them” that is despicable. If it is “Sound intelligence led to this list of names & faces that are guilty of arming killers of US civilians, we put a bounty on them, allies risked their lives to give us information leading to their capture, and we can’t reveal our sources or risk their lives” that is another matter.

          Overall I’m probably moved slightly towards Murphy’s position, or at least away from any epistemic certainty.

        • Murphy says:

          You seem to be trying to pick and choose between rules for dealing with the military and civilians.

          Those german soldiers were held until the war was finished. Not for the best part of a decade after.

          Civilians get proper trials, even war criminals get proper trials. People who aren’t either go home if you still have them locked up when the war is done.

          of course you could pretend you’re at war with the worlds clouds or something equally absurd and pretend to be forever at war and lock up whoever you want forever but that kind of absurd situation could only happen in bad fiction.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Some German POWs were not released by the Western Allies until 1949 – not the best part of a decade, but close.

            (The Soviets held many German POWs well into the 50s, but they’re not the topic of discussion).

          • John Schilling says:

            Those german soldiers were held until the war was finished. Not for the best part of a decade after

            Well, actually

            Though if you limit it to the Western allies, we sent home most of the German POWs by 1948.

            of course you could pretend you’re at war

            The United States of America is presently at war with Al Qaeda, with any organization that is reasonably believed to be a subsidiary or successor to Al Qaeda, and to any person who is reasonably believed to be a member of those organizations. It is not necessary to recognize an enemy as a nation to wage war against them (see e.g. the American Civil War). And, since arguably 1945 and certainly 1973, it is not necessary for the formal declaration of war to include the phrase “declaration of war”.

            It is, I think, a generally bad thing that the United States uses weasel-words in place of “declaration of war” and is less than clear about who it is at war with, and a specifically bad thing that the United States has not ended this particular war, but it is so. The United States of America is at war. We aren’t pretending. The prisoners of that war will get to go home when it is over, or when we decide that they are harmless enough that we can afford to let them go home even while the war continues.

            If this seems nightmarishly intolerable, may I suggest not waging war against the United States and taking some care to distinguish yourself from any of your neighbors who are waging war against the United States? Those are things that, unlike pious declarations of principle, might actually be effective.

          • Murphy says:

            From what i can find most seem to agree that the soviets holding on to german POW’s long term was a violation of international law.

            Allowing conflicts with non-states or even concepts to legally be treated as “war” seems to easily mix up civilian and wartime rules.

            No need to give that person a trial, the US is at war with drugs/crime so it’s ok to lock him up without trial until drugs/crime are no more.

            A war with no opponent who can actually surrender or be defeated (or with a vague collection of groups without a pyramid shaped org-chart) is just a recipe for mixing and matching war-powers against any civilian anywhere on the globe while being free to treat them as both non-civilian and non-soldier regardless of how they came into your hands.

            Forgive me for not being terribly reassured by your position since they’re also unclear about who they’re willing to count as their enemies and you apparently don’t get any chance to defend yourself if you’re accused.

            It would seem to be much more honest to just formally withdraw from the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and be done with it.

          • Cypren says:

            There’s no need to withdraw from the Conventions. The Fourth Geneva Convention very explicitly excludes “Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention” from the Protected Persons definition in Article 4.

            Applying the Geneva Conventions to non-signatories is a choice that the United States has historically made, and a laudable one from a moral standpoint, but it is neither mandatory nor necessarily feasible in an asymmetric, global conflict with state actors working through proxy guerrilla groups.

          • rmtodd says:

            From what i can find most seem to agree that the soviets holding on to german POW’s long term was a violation of international law.

            What I’ve always wondered, ever since I first heard about the Russians keeping German POWs this long (something I ran across in a biography of German SF author Walter Ernsting, who was in one of those camps until 1950) is why they hung on to the prisoners for that long. I mean, it’s not as if the USSR was ever noted for having enough food to feed its own people, let alone a few million visiting members of the Wehrmacht. You’d think economic considerations, if nothing else, would motivate getting the POWs out of there as soon as feasible.

          • John Schilling says:

            A war with no opponent who can actually surrender

            Al Qaeda can surrender, as can any of its subordinate or affiliate organizations. They won’t, because al-Zawahiri hasn’t got the moral courage of a Hirohito or a Doenitz, but they could.

            And for that matter, any of the sovereign nations whose nominal citizens are in Gitmo could say, “Those are our people, not Al Qaeda’s; you will give them back to us and we will take responsibility for their future actions”. They, also, haven’t and won’t, except for the ones who plan to deal with their wayward citizens by tossing them into an oubliette deeper and blacker still.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Funny thing is? The vast majority of german war criminals didn’t get proper trials. The vast majority got away with it, for values of got away with it that often meant PTSD, depression, alienation, and suicide in the post-war years. The Russians generally killed the ones they caught, and in many cases the ones who survived the war but ended up in East Germany disappeared over the next decade or so if they came to the attention of the authorities. The allies tried the surviving high level leadership and a tiny, tiny symbolic fraction of other officers and called it a day.

            There were over 22,00 SS-TV personnel. There were at least half a million Waffen-SS personnel still alive at the end of the war out of a max strength of 900,000+. To say nothing of possible war crimes committed by Wehrmacht forces, or by Allied soldiers. There was no serious attempt to even try to thoroughly investigate these soldiers, simply because it would’ve been logistically nightmarish and would have drug on for years or decades and consumed a massive amount of resources while keeping open the wounds of the war and making it much harder to rebuild an Allied-Friendly West Germany.

          • Murphy says:

            “as can any of its subordinate or affiliate organizations”

            Again, you’re talking as if there’s a pyramid shaped org chart.

            Lets say you’re a member of some group that for some crazy reason the US decides is allied with the ephemeral collection of organizations they’re sort of at war with. You’re not but they’ve decided you are.

            Imagine you’re not a US citizen, you’re a citizen of somewhere like the UK, Spain, or Haiti.

            Doesn’t really matter what your organization really is or really does since you won’t get any trial or any chance to defend yourself from the charge.

            You can claim to not be allied with them but good luck.

            So lets say you decide to go for the “safe” option and “surrender” immediately.

            As far as they’re concerned they war is still on, the concept they’re at war with still exists, the crown prince of terroristland still hasn’t surrendered to them.

            And you can rot in a cell until they decide the war is over. if you’re lucky they might feel like releasing you but unfortunately certain have already freely chosen to put indefinite detention and torture of anyone accused of what you’re accused of squarely within the Overton window so you’re subject purely to their whim.

            It’s like declaring war on anarchists and only accepting the war as over if the condition of their leader surrendering is met.

            That model becomes fundamentally broken as soon as you start dealing with things that don’t have a straightforward pyramid shaped org chart.

            Even if every real member of the ephemeral collections of groups went to the closest US embassy and handed themselves in: next week some other group of people who got peeved at the US after their local preschool got hit with a drone strike would declare themselves allied to al qaeda against the US and the US gets to consider the war still on and everyone who surrendered is in prison until the heat death of the universe because the conflict can’t be over until either humans stop getting pissed off at “collateral damage” or the US wants it to be over which it doesn’t because it’s politically convenient to be in an eternal state of “war”.

            Your mental model of the structure of the US’s opponent is fundamentally broken here.

          • Matt M says:

            “It’s like declaring war on anarchists and only accepting the war as over if the condition of their leader surrendering is met.”

            Amusingly enough, I’ve heard some AnCaps advance this argument as to how a country without a mandatory taxation scheme to fund an army could survive against aggressive opponents. That the lack of any centralized authority to “officially surrender” would make an occupation so difficult and complex and time consuming that most people wouldn’t bother.

            Here’s Bob Murphy invoking Superman II to describe the concept.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim Lysenko:

            The argument is easily made that anyone who served – even in non-frontline units, although that’s probably more for the Germans than the Soviets – on either side of the war on the Eastern Front was probably involved in war crimes of one sort or another.

            There were post-war trials of lower-ranking SS men involved in the camps, but they generally got off with light sentences – eg this guy got sentenced to 4 and a half years for 450k counts of accessory to murder in Belzec, and served half that. Everybody else was acquitted.

            You’re right that the vast majority of war criminals were never even investigated.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t know if I’d go -that- far (I suspect that even within the peak strength of 1,000,000 or so Waffen SS there were many soldiers who never committed a war crime under the laws of war as they existed at the start of hostilities), but I think that it illustrates a fundamental problem with the entire framework of “war crimes”.

            I actually support the basic concept, but personally have come around to a view that we need a legal category rather closer to the pre-20th century application of hostis humani generis

          • dndnrsn says:

            Maltreatment (to say the least) of civilians and POWs, attacks on civilian-occupied targets, and frequent execution of men trying to surrender was very common on the Eastern Front. Forget the Waffen-SS, the Wehrmacht’s hands weren’t clean.

          • Civilis says:

            Maltreatment (to say the least) of civilians and POWs, attacks on civilian-occupied targets, and frequent execution of men trying to surrender was very common on the Eastern Front. Forget the Waffen-SS, the Wehrmacht’s hands weren’t clean.

            It wasn’t unknown on the Western front. Good luck trying to surrender to American troops shortly after word of the Malmedy massacre got around, especially if you’re wearing a Waffen-SS uniform.

            There was an interview in the Washington Post with a German Jew that had emigrated to the US before the war and ended up serving a translator back when the debate over ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ was at its peak, and it was frequently commented on how he was able to get prisoners here at camps in the states to talk by being a nice guy. Carefully unmentioned was the section where late in the war he accompanied US troops that were liberating the camps… and participated in handing the guards over to the former prisoners.

            There seems to have been general acknowledgement that both sides were going to at least bend the rules: one side could send non-uniformed spies in, the other side didn’t need to play by the rules if they captured them. The fig leaves involved in the line between legal and violating get rather silly at times. When the Germans landed saboteurs by U-Boat on the US coast, they landed on the beach (presumably the most risky part) still wearing German uniforms so they’d be treated as PoWs if captured there, despite it being painfully obvious what they would need to do once ashore.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The war saw atrocities in the European theatre outside the East, but they were far more limited, and far less common. Stuff that the Waffen-SS did in France in 1944 and Belgium in 1945 would have been small potatoes in the East, for example.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Maltreatment (to say the least) of civilians and POWs, attacks on civilian-occupied targets, and frequent execution of men trying to surrender was very common on the Eastern Front. Forget the Waffen-SS, the Wehrmacht’s hands weren’t clean.

            Oh, no argument there at all. I just object to the “anyone who served in any capacity on either side except maybe a handful of exceptions” language.

            I may be the one arguing for summary firing squads for the perfidious, but even then I think that there has to be some measure of direct evidence observed by the folks on the scene of commission of a specific crime.

            “Private X stood in the firing squad and shot these civilians”, and “Lieutenant Y issued these illegal orders that were carried out on this date at that place”.

            Not

            “Corporal Q was a cook in the regimental headquarters of unit J and delivered hot meals to Lieutenant Y’s platoon during the period their crimes were comitted. Therefore he is an accessory to war crimes”.

            If you try to extend the law of armed conflict that far, you create two failure states. First:

            1) The interconnectedness and interdependence of military units and chains of command and support mean that a crime committed by a platoon justifies the criminal prosecution (not just administrative relief, mind you, but Nuremberg Trials Or Their Equivalents) of a Battalion. Or Brigade. Or Division. All Soldiers Are Criminals.

            This leads to a state where the law of armed conflict intended to constrain states must be rejected, to avoid it being used as a cover for atrocities by the enemy: “Well, you see, the heavy weapons platoon of B Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment committed war crimes. By the time our exhaustive investigation was concluded, we determined that the entire surviving battalion in our control as EPWs were therefore accessories to war crimes. So we executed them. You really need to control your men. Tsk tsk.”

            In an attempt to avoid this, you can try the Nuremberg/Post-WW2 approach, which leads to the current failure state:

            2) You simply don’t even try to investigate, much less prosecute, the vast majority of violations. This means that you’re picking and choosing cases. This means, inevitably, the process of picking and choosing will become driven by forces other than the altruistic, pure, and selfless desire for evenhanded justice for all.

            Selective enforcement of laws fatally undermines the legitimacy of any legal regime.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Oh, I hardly mean guilty in a legal sense. It’s just:

            -if you were a frontline soldier on either side in the East, you probably shot men who were trying to surrender. You probably were not careful about avoiding civilian casualties. If you were an officer, chances are you either ordered it, or did nothing. The higher you go, the more chance you endorsed something like the Commissar Order.
            -if you were air crew, you probably weren’t too careful about civilians.
            -if you were in charge of guarding POWs, at whatever rank, well, the treatment of POWs on both sides was atrocious.
            -neither side treated civilians well, to say the least.
            -of course, there’s the units on the German side that were responsible for shooting civilians, and they weren’t all SS.

            Stuff that on the Western Front, there were prosecutions for – the Western Allies even prosecuted some of their own guys! – was the norm on the Eastern Front.

            Again, not legal guilt. Not even by a low standard of proof. But a lot of people did a lot of really awful things.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I do see what you’re getting at, and I don’t necessarily disagree. I think at some point in the near future I want to try and start a discussion about LOAC in the same way Controls Freak did for espionage.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Do it in OT68! My interest/knowledge is mostly historical, but I’d be interested in that.

  57. thetitaniumdragon says:

    WRT: Structural Racism:

    Structural racism makes testable claims. This means we can, you know, test them.

    I’m not sure that “political correctness” or “microaggressions” make meaningful claims, but both are pretty nebulous terms. That being said, if you cannot really define something, there’s a good chance you don’t understand it well enough to argue about it.

    New Orleans test scores rising tells you nothing of value. A very large number of people were displaced from New Orleans, and many of the worst people never came back because they couldn’t afford to come back. They are presently elevating the crime rate in Houston.

    If many of the worst people (and thus, their children) never came back to the city, we would expect test scores to rise.

    • J_in_SEA says:

      I honestly guessed the same thing at first (except by “worst people” I was thinking “poor families with kids who do disproportionately worse on tests”) but I’m not sure that squares with the key graph: http://educationnext.org/files/ednext_XV_4_harris_fig01.jpg.

      It shows very little or no rise in 2006 relative to 2004, but a steady rise thereafter, which is pretty much opposite of the trend I’d expect to be caused by migration, because I thought there was steady migration back into the city over those ensuing years, or at least not rising outmigration over time.

      • thetitaniumdragon says:

        Remember, we’re talking about children here, by and large – only a small minority of the children in New Orleans today were in its school system prior to Katrina. As such, we’re not looking at the same population – rather, we’re looking at a population of children which by and large post-dates Katrina (half of the children in the system were born post-Katrina, and almost all of the rest weren’t in school pre-Katrina). As such, we’re not looking at the same population as we were pre-Katrina, and we’re looking at a lot of the children of the people who moved back to/stayed in New Orleans.

        If poor people with children were less likely to permanently leave New Orleans than those without, we would expect this pattern.

      • whynotqat says:

        First: they indicate students who were previously in the system did not show statistically significant improvements (whatever metric that entails).

        Second: The control group are also students effected by the hurricane. Outside of New Orleans, students suffered a significant drop initially. To me, this suggests that losing schooling has a negative impact. Meanwhile, the New Orleans students performed equally well after, despite having lost perhaps a year of schooling.

        I have a very hard time believing the populations before and after are comparable. New Orleans lost over half of its population before recovering to about three quarters of previous level over the course of the next couple of years and ~80% today.

    • Mazirian says:

      How do you test if structural racism is true? Especially, how would you try to falsify it?

      • Robert Liguori says:

        Well, if the prediction you’re looking for is “Groups which suffer prolonged discrimination from all levels of society and which end up cut off from the traditional levers of wealth and influence suffer lasting harm even when these factors are removed, as distinct from groups which just get attacked by random racists.”, then you can test it really easily by looking at the historical record, and noting that historical structural discrimination against Asians, Jews, and the wrong kind of whites, and its long-term effect.

        • Mazirian says:

          I don’t think any purveyors of structural racism theory would accept such tests, given their results, as relevant for the validity of the theory.

          • thetitaniumdragon says:

            If someone wants to believe something, no amount of logic or evidence will convince them otherwise.

            As such, worrying about them is pointless; they aren’t going to change their minds no matter what.

            The question is whether or not the phenomenon exists (and, if so, what can be done to help deal with it).

        • eh says:

          In fairness, looking at historical cases and drawing conclusions based on them can lead to serious overfitting. You might come up with a model that precisely predicts the entire 20th century given certain parameters, then apply it to the 21st and fail to predict anything.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            Certainly true, but while you may not be able to predict the future from the past, you can shoot the hell out of other people’s causal claims. If someone claims that systemic discrimination causes persistent negative outcomes, and we can look at groups which have suffered systemic discrimination in the past and don’t have persistent negative outcomes, we can safely bin that theory, even if we can’t speculate as to how one group with systemic discrimination in their history is likely to do compared to another.

          • Matt M says:

            If someone claims that systemic discrimination causes persistent negative outcomes, and we can look at groups which have suffered systemic discrimination in the past and don’t have persistent negative outcomes, we can safely bin that theory

            Not really. It’s possible the discriminated group would have had significantly more positive outcomes had the discrimination not existed. “Negative outcome” is subjective – and usually decided in a relative manner, which makes it virtually meaningless.

        • Murphy says:

          That can run into problems like trying to decide how well a drug works by looking at old records. It’s not a natural RCT.

          Just as a drug might look really effective even if it’s a placebo purely because it was expensive and fashionable and was primarily given out by doctors in richer areas who prescribed it primarily to patient who asked for it and it was advertised during programs popular with young fit people.

          If you find a group which fits the criteria that rapidly stopped suffering harm it’s unfortunately not a natural RCT.

    • Izaak says:

      Structural Racism, Political Correctness, and Microaggressions are semantically ambiguous terms at this point.

      We can still make testable predictions, and test them, but it’s intellectually dishonest to say “microaggressions doesn’t exist!” rather than “specific prediction failed to appear in test”.

  58. joshuatfox says:

    Reading “Pupil Size and Intelligence”, my first thought was “yes, I was getting up past 6′ back in high school.”

  59. Evan Þ says:

    You know that you are no longer living in a democracy because the elections in which you are participating no longer can yield political change.

    So… sounds like this’s a piece in strong favor of Trump/Sanders/Paul/Stein or anyone else outside the current political system: The reason we know we’re living in a democracy is that someone hated by the Establishment as much as Trump was able to take office. Or, actually, we’ll know we’re in a democracy when he’s able to enact substantial parts of the platform on which he won.

    And, frankly, I agree with that. I would’ve thought the same thing if Sanders had somehow gotten elected. The political establishment has failed to yield meaningful change for at least the last twenty years despite dissatisfaction and elections that should’ve given change; until last November, we had substantial reason to think we weren’t living in a democracy.

    • Gordon Tullock’s definition was that a democracy was a country where the ruling party had lost two elections. One might be an accident.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Mr. Friedman, have you read Matthew White (Great Big Book of Horrible Things, with a forward and cited by rationalist darling Pinker)? He had a website before the book, which discussed things like the definition of a democracy.
        He found definitions like that, which defined the United States of America as not a democracy under the Federalists, logically sketchy.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      Counterpoint: As much as the establishment hated Trump, he’s still a billionaire. The overwhelming majority of people don’t share his financial resources, which he was able to successfully leverage throughout his campaign.

      We live in an oligarchy.

      • Kevin C. says:

        The Iron Law of Oligarchy:

        Michels’ theory states that all complex organizations, regardless of how democratic they are when started, eventually develop into oligarchies. Michels observed that since no sufficiently large and complex organization can function purely as a direct democracy, power within an organization will always get delegated to individuals within that group, elected or otherwise.

        Bureaucratization and specialization are the driving processes behind the Iron Law. They result in the rise of a group of professional administrators in a hierarchical organization, which in turn leads to the rationalization and routinization of authority and decision making, a process described first and perhaps best by Max Weber, later by John Kenneth Galbraith, and to a lesser and more cynical extent by the Peter Principle.

        Everyone in a polity or institution significantly larger than a (Dunbarian) hunter-gatherer band lives in an oligarchy, and always has.

      • Matt M says:

        The overwhelming majority of people don’t share his financial resources, which he was able to successfully leverage throughout his campaign.

        Hillary had access to a significantly larger pool than Trump did, in terms of donations to her campaign. Presumably Sanders would have too, had he won the nomination. You seem to be vaguely implying that Trump “bought” the election, even though by all accounts his opponent outspent him 2:1

        • Evan Þ says:

          No, I don’t think he’s saying that. As I read him, he’s saying that to win election, you need to either (a) be part of the Establishment, with access to its resources; or (b) be a billionaire.

          I don’t think that’s correct, but since Trump is the only non-Establishment President to have been elected recently, I can’t disprove it.

          • Matt M says:

            I always felt like the idea of an oligarchy is that “the establishment” is not open to the general public. But many of our current political establishment leaders were certainly not born into it. Obama, both Clintons, Cruz, etc. None of these people came from money and privilege.

            I guess it’s a chicken or egg thing. Is it that “to be any good at politics you have to be part of the establishment” or is it more “to be part of the establishment you have to be good at politics (or business I guess)”

          • suntzuanime says:

            Many people who go to Harvard were not born there either. That doesn’t mean it’s not an exclusive institution, or that it doesn’t impart a certain sort of ideology on its members (or filter for that ideology already being present).

        • birdboy2000 says:

          This isn’t a D vs. R thing – if it was, there would be a non-oligarchic party, and we wouldn’t live in an oligarchy.

          Clinton and even Sanders (who I backed strongly) are still a lot wealthier than the overwhelming majority of their voters.

      • John Schilling says:

        Counterpoint: As much as the establishment hated Trump, he’s still a billionaire. The overwhelming majority of people don’t share his financial resources, which he was able to successfully leverage throughout his campaign.

        But Trump didn’t dig very deeply into those alleged billions, if at all. He traded on his fame, not his wealth, to run a campaign based on free advertising and an almost impossibly lean campaign organization. Which organization he paid for mostly by spending a quarter of a billion dollars of other peoples’ money.

        It no doubt helped to have some few millions of his own money (or credit) to seed the campaign, but really, any A-list celebrity could have run a show of this nature and magnitude. Is there a fancy Greek word for celebritarchy?

        • Cypren says:

          It makes Kanye’s suggestion of a 2020 campaign frighteningly more plausible, doesn’t it?

        • Walter says:

          Honestly the biggest casualty of the 2016 campaign, in my eyes, is the election industry.

          You know the money men are going to be asking themselves how a dude with twitter beat the biggest and baddest campaign in history. Lot of people’s phones won’t ring in 2018.

          • TenMinute says:

            They’ll ring anyway. Half of it was a way of laundering money to the Right People, and that hasn’t changed.

          • CatCube says:

            Some people’s phones won’t ring; I just stumbled across this article about David Brock this morning. Favorite quote:

            “I met with him a couple times—he’s fucking weird,” a former Obama administration official, who also requested anonymity, told The Daily Beast. “I felt like I was meeting Mugatu from Zoolander…”

          • Randy M says:

            Were David Brock and Gert Wilders separated at birth?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That clown keeps on inserting himself in places where he’s not wanted. I’m glad people are trying to ignore him. It’s astounding he’s taking credit for making people dislike Trump.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M:

            To me he looks more like the next evolution of Milo Yiannopoulos.

        • Deiseach says:

          Which organization he paid for mostly by spending a quarter of a billion dollars of other peoples’ money.

          Which still seems to be doing it on the cheap; in that linked series of Nate Silver articles somewhere on here, the forecast was that both Clinton and Trump would be hitting up donors for a billion each (or that donors would be throwing money at them to the tune of a billion each). Either way, the idea was that both campaigns would have more money than they could spend.

          And then there was the crowing, part way through, that Clinton had the deep pockets and Trump was running out of the do-re-mi, so his campaign was sure to collapse.

          Honestly, if Trump did win it with a quarter of a billion, he did it on a tight budget by what the media were saying.

  60. harland0 says:

    But instead IQ has always been a bell curve.

    Oh, dear. Not Charles Murray again. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism

    You have to understand: in 1968, many radicals absolutely believed that the United States was getting ready to collapse. One Weatherman puts it: “We actually believed there was going to be a revolution. We believed 3rd World countries would rise up and cause crises that would bring down the industrialized West, and we believed it was going to happen tomorrow, or maybe the day after tomorrow, like 1976.”

    They believed the revolution was imminent. BELIEVED IT. Like Alex Jones’s audience believes in chemtrails. That level. Absolute, apocalyptic. The SDS got angrier and angrier, and wound up doing an occupation at Columbia University, which got attention. At the same time, they read up on the foco theory of Che’s buddy Regis Debray: that small guerrilla groups could overthrow the US.

    If you think this sounds completely insane and crazy, you’re absolutely right. But think about it this way: who’s in SDS leadership?

    SDS leadership is disproportionately well-off Jewish kids at elite universities. The kind of people who create Facebook.

    So Zuck would have been a bomb-throwing anarchist, eh? An interesting theory that I rather doubt he agrees with.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Hmm. Maybe it would have been better for all concerned if Zuckerberg had become a bomb-throwing anarchist instead of inventing Facebook. He almost certainly would have done less damage to society that way.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Bell curve” has meanings other than “one book that was published in the 90s”. It just means “normal distribution”. The book was named after the distribution.

      Warning that I currently suspect you of being a troll and further behavior supporting that will result in a ban.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Did you actually think linking to “scientific racism” was enough to disprove psychometric research?

    • TheWorst says:

      Would prefer efforts at persuasion to be based on something other than performances of disgust-signalling.

    • Matt M says:

      “They believed the revolution was imminent. BELIEVED IT. Like Alex Jones’s audience believes in chemtrails. ”

      This is probably unfair to Alex Jones listeners, who, as far as I know, are not conducting an organized nationwide campaign of violence in order to thwart the chemtrail menace.

      • suntzuanime says:

        That’s down to their greater human decency, not their lesser credulosity.

        • Matt M says:

          Really? If you 100% believed the government was actively poisoning us and controlling our thoughts, would not the moral codes of most people claim that the decent thing to do is to fight back, with violence if necessary? Obviously extreme pacifists would say no, but the typical guy on the street?

          This example applies to the left as well BTW. I’ve regularly speculated that the overwhelming majority of people claiming that Trump is “literally Hitler” obviously don’t really believe that, because if they did, they would be morally compelled to start plotting an assassination attempt, and as far as I can tell, he hasn’t seen any really serious ones yes.

          • Iain says:

            Literally nobody thinks that Trump is literally Hitler.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            there are more than you’d like to admit and a lot of people going crazy more generally

            i mean, scott has a post pointing out that some of his patients tried to commit suicide after the election out of fear. there’s clearly something bad going on here. tons of people are willing to call him a fascist dictator, for example, even if not “hitler”, and is he that? Well…we’ll see. Highly doubt it though.

          • wintermute92 says:

            The chemtrail people are one of several groups that absolutely baffle me. They seem 100% convinced about something I would consider a horrific, revolution-justifying evil, and then they just sort of go mutter about it on Facebook. SMBC addressed it quite nicely with this – how do you believe this stuff and not react to it?

            (There are a lot of more mainstream views I feel this way about on the right and left, but mentioning them is probably needlessly inflammatory.)

          • Kevin C. says:

            @wintermute92

            They seem 100% convinced about something I would consider a horrific, revolution-justifying evil, and then they just sort of go mutter about it on Facebook. SMBC addressed it quite nicely with this – how do you believe this stuff and not react to it?

            Because most theories of when it is moral to resort to violent action, including but not limited to “Just War Theory”, posit that a precondition to a violent act being morally acceptable is that it actually be capable of advancing your cause. If you believe that any action more direct than “muttering about it on Facebook” is almost certainly futile — because the “secret Illuminati” are too powerful for the few who “know the Truth” to fight — if not counterproductive — because attempts to strike “the Conspiracy” or whoever will bring down a far greater backlash/counterstrike.

          • Matt M says:

            Kevin,

            That’s fair – but if you believe that Trump is uniquely evil (which is what we’ve been constantly told), then surely assassinating him would pass the test you outline, would it not?

            (although it’s worth noting that since his victory, I’ve seen a whole lot of goalpost-shifting among the left such that “yes Trump is Hitler but Pence is just as bad as him anyway” is now a fairly common opinion)

          • Deiseach says:

            Literally nobody thinks that Trump is literally Hitler.

            Iain, you didn’t put a sanity disclaimer on that. So, taking massive advantage of that loophole:

            No, I haven’t yet seen “Trump is Hitler” but I’m seeing a lot of “we are now living in a fascist state”, “literal Nazis”, that Richard Spencer thing is now a meme about “punching nazis” and soberly (for Tumblr) written posts making comparisons we should all be getting:

            I have seen a lot of people talking about the issues that were removed from the White House website. What I have seen little discussion of (or any, tbh) is what’s gone up in their place. There are exactly six issues now listed:

            – America First Energy Plan
            – America First Foreign Policy
            – Bringing Back Jobs And Growth
            – Making Our Military Strong Again
            – Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community
            – Trade Deals Working For All Americans

            Just those headings should be terrifying enough: between the focus on state violence and the coded “America First” white ultranationalism, this is an unabashedly, literally fascist platform. But when you dive into the content, it becomes even more clear:

            – “Peace through strength will be at the center of that foreign policy.”
            – “[W]e will rebuild the American military.”
            – “President Trump is committed to reversing this trend [of a military that is marginally smaller in some areas than it was in 1991], because he knows that our military dominance must be unquestioned.”
            – “The world will be more peaceful and more prosperous with a stronger and more respected America.”
            – “Our military needs every asset at its disposal to defend America. We cannot allow other nations to surpass our military capability. The Trump Administration will pursue the highest level of military readiness.”
            – “For too long, Americans have been forced to accept trade deals that put the interests of insiders and the Washington elite over the hard-working men and women of this country.”
            – “The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration.”
            – “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.”
            – “President Trump is committed to building a border wall[.]”
            – “[Trump] is dedicated to enforcing our border laws, ending sanctuary cities, and stemming the tide of lawlessness associated with illegal immigration.”
            – “The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.”

            This is fascism. This is literally, unhyperbolically fascism. If you do not find this utterly terrifying down to the marrow of your bones, it is because either you do not think fascism will come for you and the people you love, or you have paid absolutely no attention to historical precedent about how these people operate and what their ultimate goals are.

            Fascism does not stomp up to you, shouting its five-point plan for how it’s going to get rid of the Jews and the Muslims and the queers the Black people and the disabled people and the (”wrong kind of”) immigrants and and everybody else who stands in the way of a white nationalist state. It sidles up. It puts its arm around your shoulder. It says, “I am going to make you strong.” It says, “I am going to make you proud.” It says, “I am going to make you succeed, because I know exactly who’s been keeping you from all the things you know you deserve.”

            This administration is telling us exactly who they are.

            We need to believe them.

            That last is something to engage with; are all the above signifying white ethno-nationalism and American Fascism?

            But that’s another discussion. “Trump is Hitler” – no, haven’t seen it yet. “Trump’s advisers, administration, hangers-on, associates are literal fucking Nazis who should be punched” – oh yeah, a lot of that about.

          • Matt M says:

            No, I haven’t yet seen “Trump is Hitler”

            Here you go!

          • Iain says:

            @Deiseach: So what you’re saying is that the literal reading of my statement is literally correct?

            @Matt M: None of those examples says that Trump is Hitler. In fact, several of them explicitly say that Trump is not Hitler.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Human decency is actually in opposition to absolutist moral codes that call for violence based on abstract principles.

          • Matt M says:

            “None of those examples says that Trump is Hitler. In fact, several of them explicitly say that Trump is not Hitler.”

            More like one sentence saying “my publisher requires me to say that Trump is not Hitler” then ten paragraphs explaining how his behavior is totally exactly like Hitler.

            You can stake your claim in what they technically say all you want – it’s very, very obvious what they are intending to say.

            And those are just mainstream media sources. I see message board posters and blog commenters say quite literally that he is Hitler all the time. I find it shocking that people claim to have never seen this.

          • Cypren says:

            Reading those “I’m not saying he’s Hitler…” quotes all I could think was “I’m not saying it’s aliens, but… it’s aliens.” Weasel words do not excuse the obviously intended implications, and falling back on a technical disclaimer is not a sign of good faith argument.

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M:

            Since you insist on being obtuse about it: it is arguably the case that, based on the specific historic details of the life of Adolf Hitler, there was a point at which the left (and indeed any right-thinking German) was “morally compelled to start plotting an assassination attempt” against him. That moral compulsion would rapidly run into the “ought implies can” problem, since you cannot be morally obliged to perform an impossible action, and your average German citizen would have had no way to assassinate Hitler. But I digress. Even if we postulate for the sake of argument that Trump is literally Hitler reincarnated (which, once again, nobody actually believes), it is far from clear that the specific details of the current situation would justify an assassination. It is still plausible, for example, that Congress or the Supreme Court would restrain him.

            Seriously: there is an absolutely massive gap between “the rise of Hitler provides a useful historical comparison for various aspects of Trump’s tactics and rhetoric” and “there is a moral duty to kill the president”. You seem to be trying to set up some sort of weird trap, where any discussion of Trump being unusually bad is excessive, but the refusal to commit to wildly disproportionate action is cowardice. You’ve had to straw man pretty hard to get there: for example, none of the quotes in the article you cite paint Trump as “uniquely evil”.

            A more charitable hypothesis: the left, broadly speaking, thinks that Trump is unusually bad, but that things are not yet so bad as to justify violence. If that hypothesis were true, you would expect to see unusually large, mostly non-violent protests. Shockingly, that’s what we actually see.

            (The rare 20-something idiot who actually does think Trump and his supporters are Nazis — which is, you will note, still not “literally Hitler” — probably spent his Saturday behind bars after rioting at Trump’s inauguration on Friday. You can insult the idiot’s judgment, but at least give him credit for his consistency.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Trump is literally Hitler reincarnated (which, once again, nobody actually believes),

            Well, I’m sure nobody believes that Trump is literally the same person as Hitler, if that’s what you mean. But then, I think we all know that “Trump is literally Hitler” in this context means “Trump is going to enact policies just as evil as those enacted by Hitler”, and whilst I don’t know what sort of circles you interact with, I’ve come across several people claiming, with apparent sincerity, that Trump will set up concentration camps to deal with segments of the population he doesn’t like. I think that “Setting up concentration camps for minorities” would probably qualify as “A policy just as evil as those enacted by Hitler”.

          • Matt M says:

            “That moral compulsion would rapidly run into the “ought implies can” problem, since you cannot be morally obliged to perform an impossible action, and your average German citizen would have had no way to assassinate Hitler”

            Not impossible, just unlikely. Say you come up with an assassination plan that has 10% odds of success. If “success” means “preventing 6 million deaths” then you’re probably morally compelled to try said plan, depending on ones own personal moral code obviously. I’d like to believe that I would have the courage to put my life in danger for 10% odds of saving millions of lives. Tough to know unless you’re in that situation I suppose.

            for example, none of the quotes in the article you cite paint Trump as “uniquely evil”.

            Pre-Trump, the idea that the Washington Post would run articles “comparing the tactics” of ANY politician to Adolf Hitler would have been considered unheard of. It’s neat that so quickly the debate has suddenly shifted from “you can’t compare someone to Hitler, that’s uncalled for” to “there’s plenty to learn from comparing people to Hitler so long as you don’t claim they are literally exactly like him in every way.”

            The fact that ALL of these “we’re just trying to learn from history here” people are ONLY discussing how Trump is like Hitler, rather than say, an article that went something like “Here’s four tactics Hitler used that have been used in American politics, and we provide examples from four different American politicians, two from each party.” Gee, I wonder why they didn’t write their purely educational, for-informational-purposes-only, not at all editorializing article that way.

            The fact that Trump is repeatedly and routinely compared to Hitler by the mainstream press and no other politician is does, in fact, imply they see him as uniquely evil.

          • Iain says:

            Could you equivocate on your use of “uniquely” harder, please?

            The fact that Trump is repeatedly and routinely compared to Hitler by the mainstream press and no other politician is does, in fact, imply they see him as uniquely evil.

            That’s fair – but if you believe that Trump is uniquely evil (which is what we’ve been constantly told), then surely assassinating him would pass the test you outline, would it not?

            It is entirely possible for it to be simultaneously true that a) Trump is the most similar figure in recent American politics to Hitler — a brash populist tapping into anger and resentment with promises of restoring past glory — and b) you still don’t have a moral duty to murder him. There is, indeed, a vast chasm between those two ideas — which is, you know, exactly what I said in my previous post, but you chose to ignore.

          • Nornagest says:

            I could do without some of the gratuitous snark in this thread.

          • AnonEEmous says:

            Iain, I don’t want to pile on and attack you. But I really think you’ve gotten in a bad way here. For starters, you try to change “Literally Hitler” to “the most similar figure in recent American politics to Hitler”. When you consider how deeply un-Hitlery most recent American politicians have been, then he probably is that, but that still doesn’t make him anything close to Hitler.

            As to the issue of moral duty – if you had a time machine, do you have a moral duty to use it to go kill Hitler? Maybe you think Trump won’t be able to actually do anything, constrained as he is, but Hitler kicked off his Reich by putting himself in as supreme leader and busting past those constraints, and everything went downhill from there. If Trump really were Hitler, then a moral duty to kill him definitely exists.

            Let’s also address that, sure, Sun Tzu’s quotes about Trump being a fascist, super-fascist, etc. do not demonstrate that people believe that Trump = Hitler, necessarily. But let’s be real: they’re pretty damn close. If you’re just in this to argue about the specificity of Hitler versus “fascist leader”, fine, but I think the main points of most people in this thread still stand in that case.

            Do none of those quotes paint Trump as uniquely evil? It sure seems like the Washington Post quote makes the argument that Trump will turn our fair and beautiful land into some type of Weimerica. Isn’t that kind of uniquely evil? And before you note that Hitler did it first, hey, Hitler didn’t do it to the world’s only hyperpower, which is kind of a big difference.

            So far as I can tell, the Left is more than willing to pretend like Trump really is uniquely bad and needs to be resisted, but aren’t really willing to tailor their actions to this view of reality because they know he’s not. However, they are perfectly happy to propagandise any masses who will listen to them on the issue, which is mostly minorities and gullible white liberals.

            Anyhow, I don’t mean to jump on you on top of all these other mens. Maybe one of these days I’ll vociferously disagree Matt M, who is a bit too eager for my liking and in his eagerness does tend to overstate and fudge his cases a bit. Whatever.

          • Matt M says:

            “There is, indeed, a vast chasm between those two ideas”

            How vast?

            I mean, we can have some fun with the numbers here. Let’s assign literal Hitler a death toll of six million (it should actually probably be a lot more, but let’s be conservative here).

            Let’s say that you put the odds of Trump being THAT bad at 10%. Let’s also say that to be generous, you consider that there’s a 90% chance you’re delusional and should abandon the entire scheme. So we’re down to an estimated death count from Trump of 60,000. Let’s say that you think Pence is basically 50% as evil as Trump, so killing Trump only saves half of those probable deaths. Now we’re at 30,000. Say the odds of success of your assassination attempt are also 10% – now we’re down to 3,000.

            Are you justified in using violence to save 3,000 lives? This is the approximate death toll from 9/11. Is it your position that a great many people would consider it inappropriate to use violence to prevent another 9/11?

            Is “preventing another 9/11” not the explicit rationale of the entire global war on terror?

            To make the point even more absurd, a man in Arizona is currently being held up as a hero for using violence to save a single life.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            (The rare 20-something idiot who actually does think Trump and his supporters are Nazis — which is, you will note, still not “literally Hitler” — probably spent his Saturday behind bars after rioting at Trump’s inauguration on Friday. You can insult the idiot’s judgment, but at least give him credit for his consistency.)

            What’s your Facebook circle like (or are you one of those lucky souls who has avoided its clutches)? I see more than a few people saying that, or coming really close to it, lots of posturing about fighting fascism, lots of “punching Nazis is awesome”, far more than there is an actual supply of people who punch Nazis, or a supply of Nazis to punch. Past that, a few people praising the rioters and talking about how burning limos is great … but not people who actually go out and do peaceful protest, much less smash windows and burn limos.

          • Deiseach says:

            Why isn’t anybody comparing Trump to Mussolini, Franco or Salazar, if we’re talking “leaders of fascist parties”?

            Iain, it’s a bit disingenuous to say “So nobody actually says Trump IS Hitler, my point is proved!” The scare-mongering is predicated on “will start rounding up and persecuting minorities of all stripes and has already started now” and “this is how fascism takes over a country, bit by bit”. There’s plenty of invocation of the type below, from a tweet reblogged on Tumblr (in the context of the pro-immigration rallies in Washington and New York):

            “My greatest fear is that, someday, years from now, American students will be required to read a Muslim girl’s diary”.

            Hmmm – whatever parallel could the tweeter be drawing here? I just can’t imagine what the reference is to!

          • Matt M says:

            “Why isn’t anybody comparing Trump to Mussolini, Franco or Salazar, if we’re talking “leaders of fascist parties”?”

            Because I’d guess 75% of Americans don’t know who any of those people are.

            I’m not sure if this is true worldwide, but in America at least, Hitler basically occupies the cultural position of “the worst possible evil that could ever exist” and his likeness is used more as a proxy for “pure evil” than it is “an authoritarian leader who used a fascist economic system to power an aggressive foreign policy” or whatever the technical definition is that also encompasses those other guys.

            The Hitler comparison is used, primarily, to invoke fear and hatred, not to enlighten people on economic policy. The fact that all of the “here’s how Trump is like fascists” articles constantly reference Hitler and NOT Mussolini is, in my opinion, evidence suggesting their primary goal is to simply make people afraid of Trump rather than to inform the public about the dangers of fascist economics.

          • Iain says:

            Okay. Let’s try this again. I was apparently too terse yesterday, so today I will give being too verbose a shot. Warning: too long; do not read.

            Thesis: “If leftists really believed what they said (about Trump being Hitler), they would be trying to assassinate him” is a tribal applause light, not an argument.

            1. Nobody, when pressed, would agree that they believe that Trump is literally Hitler. Even people who use “literally Hitler” to describe Trump are obviously engaging in rhetorical hyperbole. It doesn’t make sense to ask what they “really” think without examining the context of the claim, because it depends far more on their penchant for hyperbole than it does on their actual belief about Trump. (If people in this category did exist, then they might have a moral imperative to assassinate Trump.)

            2. Given that nobody believes that Trump is literally Hitler, it is trivially true that we should not expect any assassination attempts against him on those grounds. This was the intended reading of my first post.

            3. Subsequently, Matt M claimed that we have been constantly told that Trump is “uniquely evil”, and “surely assassinating him would pass the test” that Kevin C outlined. That test was “a precondition to a violent act being morally acceptable is that it actually be capable of advancing your cause”. This argument hinges very heavily on what you mean by “uniquely evil”. If Trump is actually Hitler? Sure! If Trump is not Hitler, but is as evil as Hitler? Sure! If Trump is not as evil as Hitler, but nevertheless shares some disturbing tendencies with Hitler that are unique in recent American politics? Well, if that’s what you mean by “uniquely evil”, then it is not obvious at all that assassination would be justified.

            4. Matt M linked to a set of cherry-picked examples of “Trump is Hitler.” Because I promised verbosity, let’s go through them one by one.
            a) This quote says that Hitler’s analysis of propaganda is relevant to how we should see Trump. If you want to claim that this is an attempt to smear Trump by associating him with HItler, sure, I’ll buy that (although I will point out that the quote is full of ellipses). But this is not “Trump is Hitler”.
            b) Richard Cohen (not exactly “the left”) is concerned about America becoming the Weimar Republic if there is a terrorist attack and Trump suspends civil liberties. Is Richard Cohen an idiot? Absolutely. But this is (explicitly) not “Trump is Hitler”.
            c) This is a comparison to dictatorships that jail the opposition, and Hitler is given as only one example, along with “countries with dictators in Africa.” African leaders are not Hitler here, and neither is Trump.
            d) If you look at the source for this one, it is an argument that Richard Cohen (still not “the left”) wrote in response to an Economist article claiming that Trump’s “post-truth” approach was a novel phenomenon, pointing out that it did in fact have historical precedent. Again, this article explicitly rejects the full comparison: Trump is not an anti-Semite, and Trump does not have designs on neighbouring countries. In other words: Trump and Hitler both had cavalier disregard for the truth, but Trump is not Hitler. (Independently of that, this is a terribly written article.)
            e) Rachel Maddow thinks that reading about Germany in the 1930s is a relevant historical comparison to today. Do you disagree? There is a big leap between that claim, and “Trump is Hitler”.
            f) This says that Trump is not Hitler, but that the fact that Hitler even comes to mind is scary. Again: hard to claim that this quote is saying that “Trump is Hitler”.
            g) Again, this may be an attempt to smear Trump by creating mental associations between him and Hitler, but it’s not actually arguing that he is as bad as Hitler. The very next sentence is “In the world today, it has become almost commonplace for elected leaders to lock the door behind them once they achieve power.” Trump is bad, but not uniquely bad, and not Hitler.

            5. To summarize: none of the examples actually claim that Trump is as bad as Hitler. They make comparisons to Hitler, sure. But none of those articles makes the case that Trump is uniquely bad in a sense of the word “unique” that would justify assassination. The case for assassinating Hitler depends very heavily on foreknowledge that he would invade his neighbours and murder millions of Jews. None of those sources says anything even remotely close to that. (Cypren, bear in mind that these quotes have been carefully extracted to look as “don’t want to say it’s aliens” as possible. Most of the sources are better in context, with the possible exception of Richard Cohen, because Richard Cohen is dumb.)

            6. It is indeed out of the ordinary for the Washington Post to compare American politicians to Hitler. Trump is also indisputably out of the ordinary. Is there an American politician who is more similar to Hitler? Matt M asks for “four tactics Hitler used that have been used in American politics, and we provide examples from four different American politicians, two from each party”. Who are the Democrats in this example? Who is the other Republican? As AnonEEmous says: “When you consider how deeply un-Hitlery most recent American politicians have been, then he probably is that, but that still doesn’t make him anything close to Hitler.” Yes. The only difference between AnonEEmous and the Washington Post is that the Washington Post has decided that it is worth pointing out the ways in which he is more Hitler-y than the norm. You don’t have to think that Trump is Hitler — or as bad as Hitler, or even half as bad as Hitler — to do that.

            7. Some loudmouths on Facebook like to talk about punching Nazis. The case for Richard Spencer being a Nazi is a lot stronger than Trump being literal Hitler. Regardless, I think that punching Richard Spencer was bad on both principled and pragmatic grounds (does anybody actually think Spencer is sad about the opportunity to be a martyr in the national media?), and I have been making that argument in my own circles.

            8. To use AnonEEmous as an example for a moment:

            So far as I can tell, the Left is more than willing to pretend like Trump really is uniquely bad and needs to be resisted, but aren’t really willing to tailor their actions to this view of reality because they know he’s not.

            This is the attitude that I find frustrating. You can’t simultaneously say “Well, everybody on the left says that they don’t believe Trump is actually as bad as Hitler, but we all know that’s just cover”, and then turn around and complain that the actions of the left don’t match your inflated view of their rhetoric. There are certainly nutcases who take things too far, but I think the general stance of the left is clear and internally consistent: Trump is bad. He is significantly worse than previous Republicans. He is not as bad as Hitler. He deserves an unusual level of resistance, but not violent resistance. This is consistent with the actions of the left: five days ago, the left organized what is likely to go down as the largest day of protests in American history, with a remarkably low level of violence. This guide to political organization is being widely circulated. The left is acting, in a manner consistent with its principles.

            9. To take a step back: one of the worst forms of argument on SSC is the attempt to find inconsistencies in the outgroup: “If [my political outgroup] really believed [my skewed misrepresentation of their actual stance], then they would be [doing something dumb]. But they aren’t doing that! What a bunch of [hypocrites/idiots]!” (The current example is directed against the left, but I could also go dig up cases where a similar tactic has been used against ancaps.) It’s not an attempt at achieving greater understanding; it’s rarely an argument that stands up to any sort of serious examination; it’s just a tactic for getting pats on the back from your tribe, and irking your outgroup. I wish there were less of it.

          • Matt M says:

            Iain,

            I think I might have something to say to each of your numbered responses. But we can probably stop at #1 – because we might actually be closer to agreement here than you think.

            It’s worth noting that my original post here that all these replies are under was actually using this tactic you despise against Alex Jones listeners (who are closer to being my ingroup than leftists are) – claiming that if they really believed in chemtrails, they would offer violent resistance. In the spirit of non-partisanship, I also offered an example from the other side, claiming this logic also applies to leftists who claim to believe Trump is Hitler.

            My position is that, in the overwhelming majority, most Alex Jones listeners who say they believe in chemtrails don’t actually believe that, AND that most leftists who say they think Trump is literally Hitler don’t actually believe that either. But the word “most” is doing a lot of work there.

            Your first response was: “Literally nobody thinks that Trump is literally Hitler” and it all went from there. I still maintain you are wrong about this. As in, the number of people who consider Trump to be morally indistinguishable from Hitler is non-zero. It may be very small, smaller than 100 perhaps, but it exists (and is probably similar to the amount of people who fully, no kidding, believe in chemtrails).

            The link I provided was not intended to be a full and comprehensive “proof” of this. I was merely surprised when D claimed to have never encountered this comparison, as it’s one that I have encountered frequently. I literally googled “media compares Trump to Hitler” and posted the first result. I didn’t read the source articles as I considered them only tangentially relevant to my overall point here.

            But overall, I would suggest we can agree on the following two premises:

            1. Most people do not think Trump is comparable to Hitler

            2. Most people who do compare Trump to Hitler do not actually believe he is as bad as Hitler

          • Civilis says:

            Why isn’t anybody comparing Trump to Mussolini, Franco or Salazar, if we’re talking “leaders of fascist parties”?

            On the one hand, I don’t like the tendency by some of the more hot-headed internet arguers on the right to trivialize any of the crimes of any of the autocrats.

            On the other hand, the reduction of all nationalists to Nazis combined with the ‘it’s okay to punch Nazis because genocide’ by the left really bugs me. The general name for your group is Antifa, short for Anti-Fascist and you expect us to believe you are going to take the time to distinguish between someone that would have supported Franco (for example) and Literally Hitler(tm) (and all while carrying a Soviet flag with some gender symbols added to the hammer and sickle).

            Does anyone believe “I hate fascism really bad, but I’m going to only punch the really really really bad ones, trust me?”

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M: Sure, I can agree to that. In retrospect, much confusion could likely have been avoided if we had been clearer about the distinction between “literally Hitler” and “literally literally Hitler”.

            I have typed the word “literally” too much, and it has ceased to have any meaning.

          • “an authoritarian leader who used a fascist economic system to power an aggressive foreign policy” or whatever the technical definition is that also encompasses those other guys.”

            That applies to only one of Mussolini, Franco, and Salazar.

          • Randy M says:

            In a recent thread (or maybe not recent) there was a discussion of literally as now having (per descriptive views of language) a legitimate meaning of merely being an intensifier; even a usage like “literally literally” cannot be read as retaining the exact meanings of the words following it.

            It should probably be tabooed in general, since it now is literally useless.

            For instance, I certainly expect that 0.0 people think Hitler has been reincarnated into Donald Trump (unless Scott has some interesting case studies for us).
            I kind of liked Iain’s formulation, for as you decreased the exactness of literally in both instances to the same degree, the truthfulness was arguably retained, thus using the vagueness of literally to cancel itself out algebraically. It was kind of kabalistically ambiguous that way. But not terribly conductive to discussion, apparently.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            7. Some loudmouths on Facebook like to talk about punching Nazis. The case for Richard Spencer being a Nazi is a lot stronger than Trump being literal Hitler. Regardless, I think that punching Richard Spencer was bad on both principled and pragmatic grounds (does anybody actually think Spencer is sad about the opportunity to be a martyr in the national media?), and I have been making that argument in my own circles.

            The people who are not just amused by Spencer getting punched, but really think it’s great, tend also to be pretty favourable about people wearing MAGA hats getting decked, riots, etc.

            Here’s Spencer talking about getting punched:

            Mr. Spencer said he was worried about being attacked again.

            “I don’t think I could go out to an inauguration event without bodyguards or a protest or a conference,” he said. “I am more worried about going out to dinner on an average Tuesday because these kind of people are roaming around.”

            On Periscope, Mr. Spencer also expressed concern about the spread of the footage of the attack online.

            “I’m afraid this is going to become the meme to end all memes,” he said. “That I’m going to hate watching this.”

            It doesn’t sound like he’s happy about being a martyr. He got punched and then was hustled into a cab. Extremist political movements are big on emphasizing their own strength. They may use (real or supposed) victims of those they deem enemies as propaganda, but they don’t emphasize when they are weak.

            Historically, the men that the actual Nazis turned into martyrs tended to be men who died bravely, or could be spun as that: the dead of the Great War, the men who died in the putsch attempt, Horst Wessel (shot by two KPD men). Spencer doesn’t come off looking a martyr, he comes off looking weak and ridiculous.

            I mean, I’m not disagreeing with you here. I don’t think there are many people worth listening to who think Trump is even figuratively Hitler.

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn:

            “I am more worried about going out to dinner on an average Tuesday because these kind of people are roaming around.”

            The ability to say this kind of stuff is worth its weight in gold to Spencer. The idiot who punched him has somehow managed to find a way to give Richard Spencer the moral high ground. After the attack, Spencer tweeted: “If law enforcement can’t protect us from antifa assaults we will begin protecting ourselves.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            He’s extremely unlikely to look sympathetic to a random person (headline: “literal Nazi whines he’s scared to go to dinner”), and he comes off looking weak to his followers or potential followers; extremist political movements, especially on the right, are big on strength and dynamism. They are about positioning themselves as protectors, not as in need of protection.

            His tweet is a more correct response as far as optics goes; a pose of righteous indignation and veiled threats look somewhat strong, but what he says to the Times looks weak.

            The guy who punched him has probably ensured that Spencer will be replaced by someone entirely cool with violence. Now, that’s not good for anyone, but it’s definitely not good for Spencer.

          • Jiro says:

            Sure, I can agree to that. In retrospect, much confusion could likely have been avoided if we had been clearer about the distinction between “literally Hitler” and “literally literally Hitler”.

            I think the same argument applies if you replace “literally Hitler” with “literally as bad as Hitler”.

          • TenMinute says:

            Now, that’s not good for anyone, but it’s definitely not good for Spencer.

            Dealing with a right whose 14 words are “we must secure the existence of our brand and a future for book deals” is a lot easier than the other kind.
            Maybe starting the punching wasn’t the best idea. It’s certainly not going to help the publishing industry.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You think that was Spencer’s goal? Turn himself into an edgier Milo?

          • Iain says:

            @dndnrsn: My intuition is that, on the margin, when talking to the sort of person who is likely to be convinced by Spencer at all, Spencer’s loss of status from being sucker-punched is more than made up for by his increased authority from being able to say: “See, this is why we need our own white state. The police don’t even pretend to defend white people anymore!” Spencer doesn’t really strike me as a man who plays on his dominant, confident masculinity.

            I freely admit, though, that I am very much not the target audience for Spencer’s schtick, so my confidence in this analysis is low.

          • Cypren says:

            @Iain: RE: Spencer as a martyr, keep in mind that while left-wing culture generally reveres and elevates victims of oppression as being morally righteous (to the point where faking hate crimes against yourself to gain social status is a recurring pattern on left-dominated college campuses), right-wing culture generally does not. Right-wing culture values self-sufficiency and self-defense. Victims are people who need protection, but that doesn’t earn them admiration, just pity — admiration goes to the protectors.

            So a left-wing activist being violently assaulted by the right will gain significant social status and “martyrdom” for it. But a right-wing activist assaulted by the left becomes an object of pity, which is most definitely not what he wants. It weakens his case for being a strong leader and a protector worth admiring.

            The most likely result of this assault is that it encourages Spencer and his ilk to become more violent as a means of asserting that they can protect themselves against antifas and are therefore worthy of admiration by their followers. That’s definitely not a good outcome for anyone.

            Edit: Unrelated, but in reference to an earlier comment about the antifa protests being “mostly peaceful”: I note that “mostly” is an adjective that only ever seems to be used to describe left-wing protests. Can you find me any documented incidents of a Tea Party protest that came complete with masked people throwing molotov cocktails and bricks? Doing a search for “tea party violence” only comes up with incidents where protesters were attacked by left-wing counter-protesters and defended themselves.

            I would argue that political violence is the stock and trade of the Left and has been for the last century. “Mostly peaceful” to me just means “we brought a large number of human shields for our violent wing to disappear back into.” Until I see left-wing groups vehemently condemning and socially shunning their violent members the way that the mainstream right does with neo-Nazis, it’s very hard for me to believe that the token “of course we don’t support violence” denials are anything more than the token split between Sinn Fein and the IRA.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain:

            He could have spun it that way, and his Tweet kind of does, but he screwed up with his comments to the Times.

            @Cypren:

            I think you’re overestimating the right-left split in terms of rhetoric. There definitely is a “we are the protectors” vibe to some strains of left-wing activism. Antifas talk about how Nazis are scared of them, how they beat up Nazis, how they showed up in number to a Nazi rally and the Nazis ran away, how the threat of them doing that led the Nazis to cancel their march, etc. “Make racists afraid again”.

            “Our enemies are bad people who want to hurt innocent people and we are the good people who fight the bad people” is not a hard sentiment to find, anywhere, at any time, is it?

            Rhetoric of “we are the victims”, from either, comes aimed at the police, whose duty to keep people who want to fight apart is generally interpreted as going easy on the other side.

          • wysinwygymmv says:

            Until I see left-wing groups vehemently condemning and socially shunning their violent members the way that the mainstream right does with neo-Nazis, it’s very hard for me to believe that the token “of course we don’t support violence” denials are anything more than the token split between Sinn Fein and the IRA.

            1. The vast majority of peaceful protesters do not know any violent antifa.
            2. Of the minority of peaceful protesters who personally know violent antifa, I would guess that quite a few don’t know that those people are violent antifa.
            3. My guess is that violent antifa tend to hang out in their own social circles that only kind of bump up against the social circles of other protesters. Thus, it’s hard for anyone but violent antifa to actually “shun” the violent antifa per se.
            4. It’s pretty much impossible to purposefully exclude specific people from a street protest (the context in which this violence takes place).
            5. There is a long well-documented history of FBI (and even CIA even though they’re not supposed to operate domestically) infiltrating left groups and then advocating, fomenting, and engaging in violence.
            6. Many peaceful protesters probably do frequently and unreservedly condemn political violence. How would you know otherwise? Do you follow such people on twitter? Read their blogs? Do you know any personally?

            You’re holding peaceful protest on the left to unreachable standards. I personally unequivocally condemn political violence, but I don’t know any antifa to be able to shun them. I guess that makes my condemnation of political violence disingenuous?

          • Matt M says:

            wys,

            #1-4 almost certainly apply to the right vis-a-vis neo-nazis as well, and yet that doesn’t stop constantly demands for all right-leaning politicians to be in a total and repeated state of always denouncing neo-nazis…

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            You are basically dehumanizing Spencer, treating him as a person who is or ought to only be concerned about his status or political success.

            I would argue that he is presumably quite unhappy with being the victim of (future) violence. It seems much more reasonable that he is actually unhappy with a climate where he has to fear for his safety when he said: “I am more worried about going out to dinner”; rather than that he is secretly happy at the political success that this presumably would bring him and that this statement is not heartfelt but intended to manipulate people into supporting him.

          • Anthony says:

            The hard-core Christian Right has far more human decency than the left. Proof: The extremely low amount of violence against abortionists.

  61. sketerpot says:

    Honestly, that quote from Derek Parfit sounds like the kind of thing you say when you’ve resigned yourself to the terrible jaws of the Dragon Tyrant and want to sound brave.

    Goodbye, Derek Parfit. You were a good man. 🙁

  62. Mitch Lindgren says:

    Here’s the report those tweets about the Russian hack are based on. As a computer scientist, I agree that this is the most compelling evidence I’ve seen so far for Russian involvement. It’s still not a smoking gun, but it’s a lot more convincing than that DNI report which had literally zero evidence of anything.

    • shakeddown says:

      Wouldn’t the DNI report avoid revealing their actual sources to the public, though?

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        If the information in the SecureWorks report couldn’t be made public without thereby revealing US intelligence sources, it would seem to follow that SecureWorks is guilty of espionage for making it public.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          If I can determine state secrets from public information, and assuming I am not a party to a confidentiality agreement or security clearance, nope.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            In which case we face the converse question: if the SecureWorks argument can be assembled from public information, why couldn’t the intelligence services do that and include it in their report?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Presumably because if an outside party does it, it is still ambiguous how much the data overlaps with the stuff in the classified report.

            If you have an official piece of parallel construction, and it is known to be such, that gives anyone interested a nice starting point for figuring out sources and methods.

        • shakeddown says:

          I don’t follow. Say you have a spy in Moscow who discovered a Russian election conspiracy, James Bond-style. I can easily imagine a scenario in which you can reveal your spy’s findings (but not how exactly he found them) without compromising him.