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Links 3/17: Siteochrome P450

Greek scholar Philitas of Cos “studied false arguments and erroneous word-usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death”.

Outgroup Threat Responses, Ingroup Bias, And Nonapeptide Involvement Are Conserved Across Vertebrates. “In particular, the evolutionarily conserved, hormone-regulated nonapeptide systems (oxytocin, arginine-vasopressin, and homologous neuropeptides and their receptors) are involved in the mediation of the detection and avoidance of out-groups and response to in-groups and facilitation of in-group responses across multiple vertebrate species. Consequently, comparative investigations of both the behavioral expression of and the mechanism underlying out-group avoidance and in-group bias are necessary for a full understanding of the evolution of social behavior and responses to in- and out-groups.”

YouGov poll: Pro-Brexit voters are less likely to trust experts – not just political elites but even sports commentators, weather forecasters, and their own doctor. Some kind of fundamental psychological difference, or just a feeling that the experts aren’t part of their culture?

Related: Leave voters prefer their steaks well-done, compared to Remain voters preferring them rare. Possibly related to the media horror at the revelation that Trump likes his steaks well-done? I know nothing about steak, but I was always told as a child that I needed to order it medium rare because if I asked for it well-done everyone would laugh at me/hate me. In retrospect, this is really suspicious, and I should probably try well-done steak sometime to make sure it’s not one of those things where it tastes vastly better but everyone has to signal sophistication by pretending that it doesn’t.

Also in European polling news: even though older Americans support Trump and older Brits support Brexit, it’s the youngest French people who are some of the most likely to support nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen. Why the difference?

Jared Rubin on why the Middle East fell behind Europe during the Renaissance. One theory: their corporate partnership law wasn’t as good! Also, how come everyone writing about why Europe was so successful has the first name Jared and a surname based off a precious stone?

Ozy is running an intellectual Turing test on transgender and gender identity. Submissions are already closed, but if you go to the front page of their blog you’ll find the recent entries you can vote on.

DeepMind claims to have achieved transfer learning, the ability of an AI to transfer knowledge gained in one task to a superficially different one. In this case, an AI that learned to play one videogame was also able to apply that knowledge to play a slightly different videogame. A milestone on the road to AGI?

Bill Gates warns tens of millions could be killed by bio-terrorism.

Belarus passes a sort of reverse welfare law in which underemployed people have to pay the government extra, to make up for all the taxes they’re not paying because they’re underemployed. Needless to say, the law is not proving popular.

Wikipedia: Post-positive adjectives in modern English. Why do we use postpositive adjectives with indefinite pronouns? Eg “some nice place” vs. “someplace nice”?

U Penn professor studying poverty goes to work in a check cashing store to see why poor people use them, discovers that they provide better value than banks for poor people’s needs.

Big Pharma is very worried that a Trump appointee might deregulate the pharmaceutical market. A heuristic: the kind of deregulation worth pursuing is the kind that all the big companies in the industry hate.

ASI: Peer Effects Exist But They’re Not Very Big. A one standard deviation increase in your peers’ test scores causes a 0.03 increase in your own.

More on the psychopharmacological iron curtain: Cytisine (not to be confused with cysteine or cytosine, not that anybody here would do that) is an Eastern European anti-smoking medication which may be safer than existing American anti-smoking medication like Chantix. (h/t Aaron)

Mother Jones: We Should Practice Truth In Statistics, Even When It Hurts

A team from AEI has released a paper preregistering how they will analyze future data on the effect of minimum wage increases. This is really important; preregistered experiments remove the ability of researchers to fiddle with techniques until they get the results they want.

Which is more important for success in school, intelligence or other personality characteristics? The latest results: Intelligence is more important for standardized test scores, personality is more important for grades. This makes a lot of sense: whether you do well on your SATs is IQ, whether you turn in all of your homework on time is conscientiousness. Probably not too surprising, but useful in explaining differences in other research with different education-related endpoints. Related: the heritability of cognition vs. personality over the lifespan.

There’s a stereotype that intellectuals are more likely to be Democrat, but previous studies have failed to find a clear IQ/partisan association. A new study finds that IQ/partisan associations do exist but are a very recent phenomenon: they only hold for people born in the late 20th century.

Many people have been linking this study suggesting that psychotherapy changes personality for the worse – ie makes people more neurotic, more depressed, less conscientious, etc. I am very skeptical of this, since it’s a longitudinal study that contradicts the results of many previous randomized controlled trials. On a very quick first glance (maybe wrong?), it looks to me like they didn’t do much to control backwards causation – eg people who are more neurotic, more depressed, less conscientious, etc are more likely to get therapy. To which the correct response is “Duh”. Remember (I somehow find myself saying) not to believe a study just because it’s counterintuitive. If other people disagree with me on this one I’ll take a closer look.

Related-ish: Has Increased Provision Of Treatment Reduced The Prevalence Of Common Mental Disorders? Review Of The Evidence From Four Countries. In Anglosphere countries, number of people getting psychiatric care (broadly defined) has increased tremendously over the past thirty years. But the prevalence of psychiatric disorders has stayed approximately the same. Why? One obvious possibility is that it’s getting diagnosed more (or even that people with depression in remission because of good treatment are still saying they “have” depression) but the study tried to control for that by asking about prevalence of symptoms rather than diagnoses, and the symptoms really ought to respond to treatment. So what’s going on? The authors suggest that treatment is generally terrible; for example, less than 40% of mental health treatment in the US meets their criteria for being “minimally adequate”. “The current prevalence estimates of mental health treatment based on population surveys greatly exaggerate the prevalence of effective treatments received.”

Sad news: Dr. Mickey Nardo, who wrote one of the best psychiatry blogs on the Internet, passed away last month (obituary). His family asks that “in lieu of flowers, [we] would appreciate it if you would donate to” an organization promoting integrity in medical research in his name.

Belgians find that the sun illegally cast over four thousand votes in their local elections; other countries now concerned about possibility of solar-related voting fraud.

The prediction market for whether Donald Trump will be President at the end of 2017 thinks that there’s a 22% chance that he won’t be.

Related: Metaculus, a prediction website for science and technology.

Department of Justice revokes Obama-era rules phasing out use of private prisons at the federal level. For some reason this is more depressing to me than everything else, and really hammers in the fact that you can fight however hard you want for progress and then some moron can just come along and reverse it.

Wikipedia: Impact Of Privatization On British Rail. After privatization in the 1990s, ridership doubled, percent of travelers unsatisfied with their journey was cut in half, safety improved to be #1 in Europe per passenger-km, average satisfaction increased by 7 pp, and cost per passenger mile decreased by 20%. Nevertheless “70% of voters want a renationalisation of the railways, while only 23% support continued privatisation”.

Nobody has principles, part #56069384: Why does the White House support deferring to states’ rights on transgender bathrooms, but not on marijuana?

The Atlantic: 20 Ideas Of David Gelenter. I think a lot of this is wrong – and worse, it’s wrong things said well and convincingly – but I’m linking it anyway out of anger at the Washington Post trying to paint him as “anti-intellectual”.

List Of Kim Jong-Il’s Titles, eg “Dear Leader Who Is A Perfect Incarnation Of The Appearance That A Leader Should Have”.

The big politics news recently is Tom Perez beating Keith Ellison for DNC chair. Current Affairs argues that the Democrats “must be trying to fail”; their opponents seem to agree. The pro-Perez argument is that he’s pretty much the same as Ellison so there’s nothing to be upset about and the party should maintain unity. The counterargument, which I haven’t heard anyone rebut effectively, is then how come when Ellison was leading the race, the establishment was so eager to tap Perez to run against him?

In my article on cost disease, I mentioned that the price increases in the pet health industry were a useful comparison for the price increases in the human health industry. In the same way, can we use price increases in textbooks to better understand price increases in college?

Study points out that, contra the myth, most lottery winners use their winnings wisely and don’t go bankrupt. This is true, but the interesting story isn’t that lottery winners always go bankrupt, it’s that lottery winners are no less likely to go bankrupt than others. That is, if you were fiscally responsible anyway, you’ll be fiscally responsible with lottery winnings; if you were always fiscally irresponsible, winning the lottery won’t help.

With all this discussion on how much discrimination there is, it’s interesting that I’d never before seen a study that just surveys a lot of people on how much discrimination they face. Key result: 5% of black people (compared to 4% of white people) say they “often” face discrimination; 29.8% of black people (compared to 30.3% of white people) say they “never” face discrimination.

Witches declared February 24 a day to cast spells against Trump; evangelical Christians and 4chan chaos magicians vowed to mystically defend him. A useful natural experiment in which religion is true?

Robert Trivers has been saying for a long time that self-deception evolved as a way to help us effectively deceive others; now he’s got a paper presenting some empirical support.

Secondhand smoke might not be so bad. I don’t want to make a big deal of this yet because I haven’t checked if it’s true. If it is, it might represent another rare case of science failure and heads ought to roll.

Could we terraform Mars quickly and cheaply by planting a magnetic shield at its L1 point?

The Twitter feed of the journalist suspected in some of the recent Jewish community center threats; good for schadenfreude. Also: “vandalized” Jewish headstones in NYC probably fell over due to weather, natural causes. Plus: one actual neo-Nazi arrested, swastika tattoo and all.

By now you’ve probably heard about the attacks on Charles Murray at Middlebury. But it’s worth remembering that increasing college student closed-mindedness and violence aren’t just a problem for one side; pro-Palestine journalist Rania Khalek was kept from talking at UNC based on her opinions about the war in Syria. I continue to think that the only potentially effective counter to this kind of thing is Heterodox Academy and FIRE‘s attempts to rank colleges by tolerance level so that people interested in intellectual inquiry stop attending the most totalitarian, positive feedback loops create divergent selection, and administrations that want their schools not to become completely devoid of scholarship have US-News-style incentives to tone down their students’ worst tendencies.

There will be a temporary suspension of expedited processing of H1B visas starting in April. Unclear if this is some Trump-related plot or just normal bureaucratic variability, but if you need an H1B visa renewed you should probably look into it.

Alex Tabarrok notes that illegal apartment buildings keep getting demolished in Mumbai – then get rebuilt, because it’s cheaper to keep rebuilding the same building every time it gets demolished for being illegal than it is to deal with the bureaucracy involved in getting permission to construct things legally. I think I’m supposed to be horrified that any country, even a Third World one, could possibly be that inefficient. Instead I’m wondering if anyone’s ever tried this in San Francisco.

sinesalvatorem: The best way to keep terrorists out of terrorism is to convince them to settle down and raise a family. Plus: subsidized terrorist speed dating.

@outsideness described my silly story about Greek gods as “meme war”; when I asked him what he meant, he said that everything was meme war and didn’t explain further. Right on cue, I run into this article on people who think everything is meme war. A lot of other good stuff in there, including a critique of Chapmanesque post-rationality.

Theory: modern activism, and possibly the entire modern left, is shaped by what techniques are optimized to succeed on a college campus with a moderately friendly administration.

The American Council on Science and Health, which sounds important, has released this infographic on which sites’ science reporting to trust. I expected a simple division between eg “NYT good, InfoWars bad”, but they actually claim major differences in seemingly mainstream respectable news outlets. I don’t know if any of them are true. I also don’t really know what they mean by “compelling” and why I should trust the American Council on Science and Health to determine whether a story is “compelling” or not. [EDIT: Nature pulls a Trump and rejects the results even though they won]

Man tracks all of his son’s first words since birth. This is amazing, not just in seeing which words people learn when, but in seeing that it makes a beautiful natural exponential curve. I wish there were data for a longer period, though I can understand it would probably get out of hand after a while.

Study: militarizing police cuts crime, does not increase police-related civilian deaths. What other metrics, if any, might be used to study downsides of police militarization?

Brookings Institute on big government. Key takeaway: despite inflation-adjusted federal government spending quintupling in the last 50 years, there’s been minimal increase in government employees, mostly because government is now doing more of its work through private partnerships, nonprofits, and local administrations. It looks like the electorate wants both more stuff and smaller government, and politicans have “satisfied” both preferences by making government activities less visible and more proxy-administered. But proxy-administered government activities might be less efficient than just doing government activities openly with real federal employees, so arguably this hurts everybody.

Aella: Evidence-based camgirling.

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859 Responses to Links 3/17: Siteochrome P450

  1. michaelkeenan0 says:

    > Study points out that, contra the myth, most lottery winners use their winnings wisely and don’t go bankrupt.

    From the abstract, it seems the study seems to be based on responses to a mailed questionnaire. Is that a good way to measure these results? People with more embarrassing outcomes might choose not to reply, or might lie.

  2. LIB says:

    Dangit, Phaethon! Who gave him the controls again?

  3. Tatu Ahponen says:

    Re: Trump and steaks, while there’s a limited utility to explaining all of Trump’s moves as some sort of a devious power play / fifth dimensional chess, the whole steak thing came across, to me, as Trump ordering his steak in a way that’s calculated to get some hoity-toity urban liberal type call him a crude barbarian and thus allow him to score political points with the people who get angry about hoity-toity urban liberal types getting miffed about steaks. Which, of course, raises the question – sure, the way how some person eats their steak is unimportant, but is getting upset about some other person’s steak-eating opinions particularly better?

    • Aapje says:

      the whole steak thing came across, to me, as Trump ordering his steak in a way that’s calculated to…

      For the love of God, please allow for the possibility that not everything people do is a ploy and that Trump, like many people, may just have peculiar food preferences.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        Yes, exactly, that’s why I said that I don’t think everything is calculated or fifth-dimensional chess. That still doesn’t mean some things cannot be calculated.

      • Tatu Ahponen says:

        …and I didn’t propose this in the sense that Trump would otherwise be ordering rare steaks and suffering through a well-done steak for a ploy, but rather that the choice to focus on Trump’s preference for well-done steaks might involve the factor I described.

  4. ianhominid says:

    The militarization of police being more effective in cutting crime makes some sense.
    Consider the logistical miracle of placing numerous, highly armed teenagers with minimal training in foreign countries and having incidents like this (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/01/military-admits-33-civilians-killed-taliban-clash-170112081032540.html) as the exception to the rule rather than the rule. And many, if not most, soldiers aren’t educated beyond High School.
    Selling this policing model would be understandably difficult unless the transition continues as slowly as it has.
    I’d not sure how many people, especially on the left, would be okay with a domestic military state, even if the lowered rates of civilian casualties and crime are significant.

  5. Murphy says:

    Re: Privatization Of British Rail

    Remember that these things don’t exist in a vacuum. When a political party wants privatisation they first crap-ify the service since it makes it easier politically. it’s like page one in the “how to sell public services to your buddies for a song” playbook. Degrade the service, tell everyone that privatisation is the sollution and eliminate any data collection likely to show a disimprovement.

    It’s also a bit of a pity that Scott only mentioned part of the results. It also promised lower prices for passengers but the price kept going up in real terms per passenger km.

  6. Murphy says:

    Re: better value than banks article.

    The 2 top comments from the reddit r/economics thread on this I think are relevant.

    The other aspect completely missed in the article is that a bank account can be seized by bill collectors once they get a judgement against you. When you keep your money under the mattress, they can’t.

    Poor people are much more likely to ignore a small claim summons, resulting in a default judgement that is then generally collected on by finding bank accounts and other property then freezing it. The usual practice is to freeze the entire account, even for a small judgement. If all your money is in that account, you are getting kicked out off your house, or won’t b be able to eat. Even though there is due process, it takes 30-60 days to get a hearing, so many people are screwed.

    I worked in a small claims court doing meditations for these cases, I can’t tell you how many people told me that was the last time they would ever go to a bank.

    __________

    I get confused for a PR exec and get these types of “articles” into my inbox all the time.I can’t emphasize enough how misleading this is.

    First, let’s start with the PR red flags:

    Any headline that starts with an appeal to authority is an instant “not worth my time.” Am I supposed to be in awe because she’s an Ivy League professor? A quick look-up shows she’s a BA in political science, an MA on the History of Art, and a PhD in Urban Planning. She’s a “Professor of City and Regional Planning” in the Penn Design school! WHAT?
    A title with “we’re getting it all wrong” is another big red flag. How am I supposed to take anything after this pointless title seriously?

    Okay, now with the serious problems in her piece:

    Going undercover is great for story-telling, but terrible for learning about business models. It’s the “TED Talks” of being educated. Plus, nothing about her journey was undercover.
    The first two paragraphs waste my time telling me about her “nagging feeling” and “personal experience with unbanked and underbanked.”
    The third paragraph is a logical fallacy. “I know these people to budget their money well, so if they use a check casher, it must be for a good reason.” Even if they do budget well (a judgment call at best), that doesn’t mean they are most efficiently using the services available to them, or that they have all efficient services available to them.
    After all this “deep research” we garnered from the first few paragraphs, it apparently exhausted her to the point she decided she wouldn’t learn anymore from doing any sort of economic study.
    Here’s where it gets terrible. “It felt like the only way I could answer this question: If alternative financial service providers are so bad — if they’re so predatory and so sleazy and so much in the business of taking advantage of people — why are people using them in growing numbers?” A service being used often does not make it a desired service. Here, let me try: “If internet service companies are truly so dishonest – charging bogus fees and giving poor customer service – why do so many people use them?” This is an intellectually dishonest question.

    Now where I get pissed:

    “The RiteCheck she worked at charged $1.50 to pay a bill, $0.89 to buy a money order, and roughly 1.95% — as regulated by state law — of the face value of a check to cash it. These small fees add up, but they often paled in comparison to the unexpected charges, maintenance fees, and overdraft fees customers had experienced at banks. The rate for money orders is cheaper than at most banks, which commonly charge $5 to $10.”

    The state mandates limits because check cashers regularly bilk their customers out of loads of cash. News alert: if there’s a cap on what someone can charge, you can bet it’s because some business in the past was regularly screwing over its clientele. Regulators don’t make up rules for fun.
    She attempts to use the cost of a money order to the cost of check cashing. It’s an apples-to-oranges comparison only used to make her point. If you go to a bank with a check and say that you need the money right away, they will either extend a short-term line of credit to you for cheap, or, if you are are a regular client, may clear the money for you before the check clears.

    Where she may possibly, accidentally, have a point: – Bank fees can be confusing. It can be hard to know if or when you will be charged for something if you don’t read up on the features of your account. Some banks charge per month if you dont maintain a certain balance, a poor business decision. However, it’s dishonest to say that just because a check casher has a wall of prices up top that they are somehow more honest about it. We regularly catch companies like that slipping in extra costs on the receipt, hopeful that the person on the other end feels too awkward or isn’t scrupulous enough once the charge has gone through to catch it.

    The loyalty line is a total load of bull. High-volume stores, by definition, don’t rely on loyalty. Go walk into your town’s busiest Starbucks and tell the lady at the register you want “the usual.” Go ahead. No, small-dollar clients aren’t going to be “known” by their bank, but I can bet if you walk in once a week at the same you’ll at least recognize the staff.

    Here’s what I can tell you, outright:

    Check cashers and payday lenders aren’t the slightest bit similar, so shoehorning them into the discussion is stupid. One gives you cash for a check you already have, the other is a short-term loan on money you have yet to receive. They charge and operate differently.
    Compared to banks, these businesses are far less stringently regulated. This nearly always means they are more prone to abusing their customers.
    Both of these industries spend an enormous amount of money buying state Congressmen and “researchers” to prop up their causes. They do it because the business models only make sense and provide profit if they are able to continue abusing their clients and keep them in a cycle of debt.
    These services aren’t used because they are smart; they are used because the clientele have no other choice. Banks, realizing that collecting from low-income clients was too difficult, exited small dollar markets and began making business relationships with payday lenders and check cashers to basically export their risk and pull in a piece of profit without handling the risk or operating costs. Check cashers will take your money to cash your check, but they store their money in a bank.
    Your regulator is, more often than not, powerless to stop this or fix it. Legislators have to provide solutions, and most state legislative bodies are paid off by these companies to ignore the situation. At the federal level, nothing is being done because it means the government must accept risk to prop safer, lower-interest small dollar loans for the poor. That was the governing idea behind post office loans. However, given the current Congressional environment, nobody is interested in taking on a new expense.

    I’m not saying to use a bank. But, if I had to choose between a bank and a check casher/payday lender to do my business, and I truly had an option, I wouldn’t even blink before picking a bank.

    If a bank truly isn’t an option for you, I would suggest looking at lower-cost digital options. They are still risky, but not nearly as much as the blood leeches at you Quick Ca$h store.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The second comment is coming from an authoritarian view (which immediately prejudices me against it), but it trips over itself. If people use these payday lenders because they have no other choice, and they have no other choice because banks won’t serve low-income clients because it’s unprofitable with their existing business model, then it stands to reason that if banks were to serve low-income clients and make a profit doing so, they would have a similar business model. It’s not like there’s some regulation preventing banks from serving the low-income.

      As it happens, I think this claim is nonsense; in what way do banks not serve low income customers, aside from the fee structure?

      (no one’s mentioned it so far, but it IS possible to be blacklisted by the US banking system via a company called ChexSystems, which would be another reason to use the cashing places. But you don’t get blacklisted for being low-income)

      • John Schilling says:

        As it happens, I think this claim is nonsense; in what way do banks not serve low income customers, aside from the fee structure?

        In what way does Gulfstream Aerospace not provide transportation to poor people, except for their prices?

        • The Nybbler says:

          In what way does Gulfstream Aerospace not provide transportation to poor people, except for their prices?

          As far as I know, that’s the only way. So poor people take Greyhound when they need to get from city to city, despite its long list of disadvantages compared to private planes.

          The argument about check-cashing places is that their fee structure is too high for it to make sense to use them, so poor people only use them because they have no choice. They have no choice, the argument goes, because banks no longer serve that market. But if the only way banks don’t serve that market is their fee structure, then it is the banks and not the check-cashing places that have the worse fee structure.

          • John Schilling says:

            The argument about check-cashing places is that their fee structure is too high for it to make sense to use them, so poor people only use them because they have no choice.

            That argument wrong, almost to the point of being nonsensical. The fee structure is appropriate for the service of e.g. cashing checks for customers who will need direct interaction with tellers for every check and will never maintain a significant balance that a bank could make a profit by loaning it out. The fees are clearly not beyond the ability of poor people to pay. The fee structure is not “too high for it to make sense to use them”.

            The fee structure is higher than the one your bank charges you, but you are asking for a different package of services from your bank than poor people are from theirs, and you are getting a package deal, not a la carte.

      • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

        Another way the second comment trips over itself:

        News alert: if there’s a cap on what someone can charge, you can bet it’s because some business in the past was regularly screwing over its clientele. Regulators don’t make up rules for fun.

        ….

        Compared to banks, these businesses are far less stringently regulated. This nearly always means they are more prone to abusing their customers.

        • Jiro says:

          They can be regulated with respect to the aspect that the original article writer bothers to mention as a positive feature, while still being not regulated in other areas that she doesn’t bother to mention or glosses over.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            That’s not where the contradiction lies; it’s in the inconsistent appeal to “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. In the first excerpt, the presence of regulation is a bad sign; in the second, it’s a good one.

          • Murphy says:

            @Cerebral Paul Z

            You’re comparing apples to the category of fruit.

            He first points to a specific regulation that when you see it tends to be a sign that some similar business in the past was regularly screwing over its clientele.

            Lets try for comparison: I say “a warning label on a product ‘WARNING: CARCINOGENIC’ is a strong sign that it contains something which gave someone cancer at some point.”

            later I say

            “ya, this company puts massive numbers of warning labels for every possible thing on their products, it can be a sign they’ve put effort into thinking about what their product contains, nuts, gluten, mustard, etc”

            And then you come back with:

            “OMG, first you say warning labels mean cancer and now you say warning labels can be a good thing! CONTRADICTION!”

            A specific case is not the category.

          • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

            If there’s any apples-to-fruit comparison going on, I think it originates with the guy at Reddit. It’s hard to see what force there is supposed to be in “Compared to banks, these businesses are far less stringently regulated. This nearly always means they are more prone to abusing their customers”, unless the regulations in question are closely comparable (i.e., targeting the respective ways in which the two types of business might abuse their customers).

            If banks are in fact subject to more regulation of this type, then a person who is willing to follow the first excerpt’s slide from “regulators make up rules for reasons” to “regulators make up rules for good reasons” would just about have to conclude that it’s banks who are (or were) the worse abusers.

          • random832 says:

            I think the idea is that the likelihood of a type of abuse isn’t subject to whether the person doing it is a bank or not (because why the hell would it), and that limiting the regulation to banks was a mistake.

      • Jiro says:

        If people use these payday lenders because they have no other choice, and they have no other choice because banks won’t serve low-income clients because it’s unprofitable with their existing business model, then it stands to reason that if banks were to serve low-income clients and make a profit doing so, they would have a similar business model.

        He said that banks indirectly serve such customers by profiting off the check cashing places. It may be that serving such customers is not actually unprofitable, but is less unprofitable than having deals with check cashers, and if there were no check cashers, the banks would serve them directly.

  7. FullMeta_Rationalist says:

    The Kelly Criterion is well-known among gamblers as a way to decide how much to bet when the odds are in your favor.

    I’ve been reading old bookmarks. I just finished an HN article about the Kelly Criterion. Which is defined as follows.

    (PW - L) / P
    where
    P = pot odds
    W = probability of win
    L = probability of loss
    L = (1 - w)

    The expression represents “optimal fraction of bankroll to bet”. Rearranging terms begets

    (W) - (1/P)(L)

    From here, I notice a few things.
    A. (W) sets a ceiling on the bet.
    B. (1/P)(L) then walks back from this ceiling.
    C. (1/P)(L) goes to zero as Pot Odds go to infinity.

    So if (W) is infinitesimal, then Kelly advises to bet nothing. Even if the potential upside is infinite. So uh… I guess that solves Pascal’s Mugging. But given Gwern’s comment on HN, he’s already familiar with the Kelly Criterion. And he’s too smart to have overlooked this. So maybe this is common knowledge?

    • Jiro says:

      It doesn’t sound like it solves Pascal’s Mugging since it assumes repeated betting.

      Also, it assumes that you care about whether it’s likely that you’ll lose–that is, it assumes risk aversion.

      • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

        The Kelly Bet optimizes Expected Value as a geometric mean. But like a Carnot Engine, it’s impractical irl. Irl, repeated betting must account for variance. I.e. a pragmatic bet is always lower than the Kelly Bet.

        A single iteration begets max variance. Therefore a pragmatic bet over a single iteration is akin to epsilon squared. Which continues to align with my intuitions​ wrt Pascal’s Mugging​.

        • Jiro says:

          The Kelly Bet optimizes Expected Value as a geometric mean.

          How does that work? Accepting the Pascal’s Mugging offer optimizes expected value, period, compared to not accepting it.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Kelly’s Criterion optimizes Expected Value over repeated iterations geometrically because both the wager and reward (in the scenarios under discussion) consist of money. Therefore the gain (or loss) of each gamble affects the size of future bankrolls. E.g. if I go All-In and lose, all future bankrolls become zero. Traditional EV calculations optimize longterm EV arithmetically rather than geometrically, because it assumes each bankroll state is independent of prior gambles.

            E[x] = PRODUCT {n:=1 -> n} (E[x_n])
            cf
            E[x] = SUM {n:=1 -> n} (E[x_n])

            Kelly rejects both the single-iteration bets and the repeated-iteration bets regarding Pascal’s Mugging. Which aligns with what I consider common sense. (We agree that Pascal’s Mugging is obviously a scam, right?) EA’s who pretend otherwise are probably biting the bullet for the sake of reflective equilibrium rather than lack of risk aversion.

          • Jiro says:

            Therefore the gain (or loss) of each gamble affects the size of future bankrolls.

            That assumes repeated betting, which Pascal’s Mugging isn’t.

            (And I’m not convinced it doesn’t work, anyway. If giving in to Pascal’s Mugging produces a positive expected gain after one iteration, then it produces a positive expected gain after two iterations, etc. despite the high frequency of scenarios where you’re out of money. Not playing produces no gain, so it has to be better than not playing.)

            Also, it wouldn’t apply to the decision to have everyone put their money into a single charity, since the “win” or “loss” just means that the charity helps or doesn’t help people, but is not plowed back into future charity donations.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Maybe I’m just dense, but I still don’t understand how EA was relevant to begin with.

            That assumes repeated betting, which Pascal’s Mugging isn’t.

            Real Life assumes repeated betting. Neither you nor I live in a toy universe where we’re offered 5 minutes to make a single wager, then vanish into the void. Maybe Pascal was on his way to a casino, or a stock exchange, or an insurance agency. Which is why “Pascal should surrendering his wallet” does not reflect Real Life intuitions. It doesn’t matter if Pascal’s Mugging is a once-in-a-lifetime offer. What matters is that gambling for money is an endomorphism. And therefore an EV function of type “money -> money” should optimize a geometric average.

            If giving in to Pascal’s Mugging produces a positive expected gain after one iteration, then it produces a positive expected gain after two iterations, etc.

            False. E.g. a single All-In might have positive EV, but each each additional All-In increases the chance of bankruptcy. Consider Pascal’s Triangle. As (n) goes to infinity, more and more W^(a) L^(n-a) terms become infected by an (L). Any term where (n-a) > (0) implies bankruptcy. W^(n) L^(0) may be greater than 50% when (n=1). But the graph f(n) = (W^n) monotonically decreases, given (W<1).

            1 = (W + L)^n

            Declining the wager protects his wallet. Kelly’s Criterion optimizes net EV by finding the difference both a positive EV term and a negative EV term for each wager. If we assume the wager can be any non-negative value (rather than EITHER the contents of his wallet XOR nothing), there always exists a wager which returns a positive net EV.

            It’s just that in Pascal’s Mugging, the Kelly Criterion recommends a wager of infinitesimal magnitude. E.g. if Pascal believes there’s a (10^-9) chance that the mugger is honest, then his wager should lie between (0%) and (100% * 10^-9) of his bankroll. Pascal should consider wagering a “wallet containing a penny” only if Pascal has more than $10 million in the bank.

          • Jiro says:

            E.g. a single All-In might have positive EV, but each each additional All-In increases the chance of bankruptcy.

            If you go bankrupt you can’t play any more. A series of bets with an unnecessarily high chance of going bankrupt can be suboptimal since you are unable to make any more expected-value-increasing bets.

            This is of course worse than a series of bets based on Kelly’s Criterion.

            The problem is that although the series of bets with the high chance of going bankrupt is worse than a Kelly’s Criterion-based series, it’s still better than doing nothing.

            In the Pascal’s mugging scenario, you calculate that the optimal bet is, in the long run, to bet (give the mugger) a miniscule fraction of a cent each time. Then you notice that you can’t bet a miniscule fraction of a cent. You have to bet nothing or bet a fixed amount (let’s say $5). Betting the $5 is still better (by long-term expected value) than betting nothing, even though it’s worse than betting exactly according to Kelly’s Criterion (which you can’t do).

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Retraction:

            False. E.g. a single All-In might have positive EV, but each additional All-In increases the chance of bankruptcy.

            I originally claimed EV decreased wrt (n). I was wrong. EV is independent of (n). My intuitions were saying each additional All-In further concentrates the EV into a single basket. Upon reflection, All-In’s appear to be an edge-case. Because usually, an increase in (n) decreases variance asymptotically. But an increase in (n) actually increases variance when the wagers are All-In’s.

            The retraction does not affect my thesis. The Singleton vs Iteration distinction is a red herring. What separates the Arithmetic Case from Geometric Case is that the Arithmetic Case is for purchasing, while the Geometric Case is for investing/gambling. Money compounds; commodities don’t. Arithmetic EV would be appropriate if the mugger were offering anything other than money.

          • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

            Though unique, Pascal’s Mugging is not isolated. Money gained/lost in one context carries over to the next. Its raison d’etre is to flow across different financial contexts.

            RibbonFarm once blogged about thinking of economics in terms of cashflows instead of corporations [0]. Cashflows are first-class citizens. They’re primordial and eternal. Corporations merely tap into them, like deer drinking from a brook.

            Analogously, all your investments through life are connected. Money made in one context influences the money made in the next. Your investments mark a river through your timeline. This is not true of mere purchases.

            [0] I don’t feel like digging up the link. But I did bookmark Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System which an SSC commenter shared recently. It has a similar perspective.

      • FullMeta_Rationalist says:

        I don’t understand the risk aversion critique. Would you give your wallet to someone claiming to be Jesus? Or maybe you’re saying the Pascal in the original wager bet nothing? A lifetime devoted to piety and goodworks sounds like a bet to me.

        • Jiro says:

          The people who are troubled by Pascal’s mugging, or the people who claim that every person should give to the single most optimal charity and not spread their donations around, don’t seem to care about risk aversion. They might not give their wallet to someone claiming to be Jesus, but wouldn’t be able to figure out exactly why not.

          More generally, giving in to Pascal’s mugging seems to be implied by utilitarianism.

  8. Elijah says:

    I asked a self-proclaimed expert on Caliphal history and Islamic Fiqh(law) his opinion on that Rubin article. This is his response:

    “I have an opinion that often differs from some scholars in that, I do not take Western decline and weakness for granted. When authors mention the wars in Europe as proponents of fiscal advancement, it seems preposterous as someone who studies Islamic history exclusively, the Muslim world was beset by near constant warfare. If the situation of war led to fiscal competition, which is a massive stretch, we would have seen the same effect on the Muslim world. Yet, we do not see that happen.

    In my opinion, Islamic early economic growth had much to do with several things:

    1. Slavery and warfare: The height of the Abbasid Caliphate possessed a massive quantity of booty from dozens of wars from the beginning of the Khilafah and had accumulated the vast slave markets of East Africa and vast amounts of slaves from its wars on the borders.

    As long as the Abbasid continued to win, money was guaranteed and as a result, much of the labor force of men was directed toward purchasing weapons and armor to them travel to serve in an army on the border. Most of these wars, were glory died raids, where private soldiers captured slaves, money and loot.

    2. The Taxing and economic system of the Khilafah:

    Taxation of Dhimmi, land taxes, etc,,, were all effective in the early Islamic states. It is a correct opinion to say that Islamic entrepreneurs were much more active in the earlier periods than later. Part of this could be chalked up to Islamic innovations, but also due to the loot and wealth gained in war, especially slaves.

    So In short, I would agree that Islamic fiscal law or Fiqh al-Muahmulaat had a hand in holding the Islamic world back. However, it is a secondary issue. The real issue was the demographic and geographic reality of France possessing better farmland than any land in the Islamic world and a larger population than any sector of the Khilafah and likewise almost as large a population as the entire Khilafah. It also must be noticed, that, Byzantium was the equal in nearly every way to the Abbasid throne in this period, including its capital of Constantinople which was easily the greatest city west of China. “

  9. onyomi says:

    The Atlantic basically promoting Federalism, albeit peppered with Blue Tribe-alliance proving anti-Red barbs, and Mother Jones urging for honesty in statistics seems to indicate a more general trend I’m sure many have noticed: whoever’s not in power right now is probably being more principled and intellectually honest… because they don’t have to act on those principles (as all the Republican Tea Party activists gear up to pass a health care law they would have chained themselves to a tree to prevent Dems passing…).

  10. Alex Zavoluk says:

    “militarizing police cuts crime, does not increase police-related civilian deaths. What other metrics, if any, might be used to study downsides of police militarization?”

    The abstract specifically states ” increased drug crime arrests” as a positive; to me, it seems like a negative. Drug crimes don’t actually hurt innocents, but arresting people with a propensity to break the law and no prospects is likely to turn them into harder criminals with no legitimate job prospects and thus, no options but to return to the black market. Moreover, if you are successful at reducing the supply of drugs, you drive up their price, encouraging more people to enter the market, which is just counterproductive.

    It specifically doesn’t mention actual crimes, and I don’t have access to the actual paper, but presumably if there were reduced thefts or murders or something like that, it would have been mentioned.

    The paper also mentions “reduced complaints.” I’m skeptical that’s actually a good thing, in this case; what about having military grade equipment causes police to interact with civilians better? I would want to see evidence that this is not simply the result of people being more scared of retaliation after they see the police driving their armored personnel carrier down Suburbia Lane.

    As for additional metrics, I would want to see anonymous surveys of questions like:

    Do you think the police respect your/criminals’ rights?

    Do you feel comfortable complaining about the police?

    A world where police go around in tanks and carry RPGs might have very few anti-police complaints, offender deaths, low crime, etc. But that doesn’t make it a good place to be.

    (I would also like to see the method they used to determine that offender deaths dropped, because that should be a rare enough event that standard statistical techniques won’t apply).

  11. JayT says:

    With regards to the illegal apartment buildings, San Francisco is full of illegal in-law units and single family homes that have been converted to flats, so it is something that happens here, just not quite at the scale of an entire illegal building.

  12. Patrick Merchant says:

    I’d be very interested in hearing your objections to Gelernter. I mean, I can make an educated guess about the parts you disagreed with, but I’d like to read an in-depth counterargument if you’ve got the time/inclination to write one.

    Personally, I found his stance on the impossibility of constructing a conscious AI a little silly. “No, no, it’ll just look and act exactly like something that’s conscious, it won’t actually be conscious!” (It’s the philosophical zombie debate all over again)

  13. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    > really hammers in the fact that you can fight however hard you want for progress and then some moron can just come along and reverse it.

    When your progress depends on government regulation, this is always the case. You can’t really revert invention of electricity or concept of gender equality, at least not by a government edict, but you certainly can revert anything done by government fiat by the same government fiat. Maybe those libertarians saying government fiat is not the right way aren’t that stupid after all?

    > Why does the White House support deferring to states’ rights on transgender bathrooms, but not on marijuana?

    “States rights” is completely hypocriticized by both parties – they use it when the fed regulation club is not in their hands, and forget about it when it is. Sad!

    > how come when Ellison was leading the race, the establishment was so eager to tap Perez to run against him

    They were reasonably worried that “you’ve got Farrakhan’s buddy running your party” is not going to play well (or, from the other side, is going to play very well for their opponents) in 2018 and 2020. It doesn’t matter that it was in the past. By having Perez be the chair and Ellison being #2, they essentially have the same people but without as much bad publicity PR-wise.

    > mostly because government is now doing more of its work through private partnerships, nonprofits, and local administrations

    The benefit of private partnerships and nonprofits is that usually the barrier for stopping to use them is minimal (corruption excepted) if they mess up the job. Unlike replacing the whole local staff of Ministry of Good Deeds, which is probably unionized and protected by miles of red tape, cancelling a contract with Good Deeds, Inc. should be much easier. Of course, that does not solve the problem of bad goals (is it better to efficiently achieve bad goal?) which is present in both cases, but IMHO it makes the problem of bad execution more manageable.

    • beleester says:

      When your progress depends on government regulation, this is always the case. You can’t really revert invention of electricity or concept of gender equality, at least not by a government edict, but you certainly can revert anything done by government fiat by the same government fiat. Maybe those libertarians saying government fiat is not the right way aren’t that stupid after all?

      If every problem could be solved by coming up with the right invention, and all governments had to do was sit around and wait for problems to go away, this would be a great argument for libertarians.

      But that’s not the case. We have the capacity to grow enough food for everyone, and people still starve. We’ve had the technology to purify water for a century, but Flint, Michigan somehow still doesn’t have clean drinking water. Implementation of the solution is every bit as important as the discovery of the solution, and implementation requires the fragile, reversible systems that you’re dismissing.

      And the fact that you can’t un-invent something cuts both ways. Nuclear weapons put the whole world under a Sword of Damocles, and we now have no way of getting rid of them. All we have are reversible government efforts to stop them from spreading further.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        > If every problem could be solved by coming up with the right invention, and all governments had to do was sit around and wait for problems to go away, this would be a great argument for libertarians.

        This wouldn’t be just great argument, this would be a devastating argument for any rational person. I mean if libertarians could prove every problem is solvable without any government intervention and predict time when it’d be solved, it’d be excellent. Of course, nobody can do that. Nobody can prove government can solve all problems either, but somehow this is not considered an argument against having government.

        However, absent this argument, there are other arguments, less definite, but still worth considering. Such as, if you have two potential way of achieving X, A and B, and you know that A is faster, but can only hold if your comrades hold power forever, and will immediately be undone once your comrades lose the power, and B, which will take more time, but ensures X will stay achieved regardless of who holds the stick currently – in this situation it may make sense to at least consider going with B.

        > We have the capacity to grow enough food for everyone, and people still starve.

        And in fact, they do even more in places where the government is relatively strongest – such as in dictatorial regimes. Turns out having a very strong government is neither prerequisite of having little or no starving people, nor a guarantee against it. In fact, a very minimal government is enough to ensure non-starving people.

        > but Flint, Michigan somehow still doesn’t have clean drinking water

        Is that the city where government officials – in charge of providing the city with clean water – chose bad provider, violated technical guidelines and caused public health danger? And all that because they didn’t want to pay the costs of abundantly available clean water, even though the local taxpayers continued to pay taxes? Surely, only more government could solve this conundrum.

        > Nuclear weapons put the whole world under a Sword of Damocles,

        Ah yes, those terrible private nuclear weapons stockpiles. I’m concerned about them too, unlike government nuclear weapons which every kid knows are completely harmless.

        • Synonym Seven says:

          Nobody can prove government can solve all problems either, but somehow this is not considered an argument against having government.

          It certainly is, in the mind of a Libertarian.

          And in fact, they do even more in places where the government is relatively strongest

          Ah, yes, the plight of those starving Singaporeans, or the heart-wrenching victims of the 21st-century Scandinavian Famine…

          In fact, a very minimal government is enough to ensure non-starving people.

          {{citation needed}}

          Surely, only more government could solve this conundrum.

          Well, the free market never stepped in, so I guess that’s what we’re left with. I’d personally prefer “more efficient government”, but given the options you present…

          Ah yes, those terrible private nuclear weapons stockpiles. I’m concerned about them too, unlike government nuclear weapons which every kid knows are completely harmless.

          Maybe once the free market proves themselves capable of designing cellphones that don’t explode, or at least mature enough to refrain from selling childrens’ toys after finding out they contain asbestos, we’ll consider letting them play with the gadgets for grownups.

        • beleester says:

          Such as, if you have two potential way of achieving X, A and B, and you know that A is faster, but can only hold if your comrades hold power forever, and will immediately be undone once your comrades lose the power, and B, which will take more time, but ensures X will stay achieved regardless of who holds the stick currently – in this situation it may make sense to at least consider going with B.

          “B” would be great, but libertarianism isn’t B, it’s just another form of A. A libertarian society can be undone by someone seizing power just like a government can.

          Libertarianism may be a better way of implementing an invention than government, but it’s still just a means of implementation. It’s simply not true that once something has been invented in Libertopia, it will be guaranteed to be available for everyone and can never be lost.

          Ah yes, those terrible private nuclear weapons stockpiles. I’m concerned about them too, unlike government nuclear weapons which every kid knows are completely harmless.

          If we dissolved all governments tomorrow, would nuclear weapons disappear? Nope. Can you un-invent fission power? Nope. Would someone be willing to pay money to own a nuclear weapon, if they could? Yup.

          This implies that in the absence of government, people would still own nuclear weapons.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            A libertarian society can be undone by someone seizing power just like a government can.

            Certainly. Just like in any other form of government. The catch is that in other forms of government, there exist seizures which are considered legitimate. In a libertarian framework, no seizure is considered legitimate.

            From a consequentalist standpoint, this is important, because it makes the difference between whether society will resist the seizure on grounds of illegitimacy. Any seizure will wake the giant, so any aspirant to power will reliably find seizure to be much more expensive than in any other framework.

          • Mary says:

            The catch is that in other forms of government, there exist seizures which are considered legitimate.

            Not all of them. And all of them would consider some seizures illegitimate.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Hmm. What example are you thinking of, of a non-libertarian government in which all seizures of power are considered illegitimate?

          • Mary says:

            Absolute monarchy

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I was insufficiently clear, then. “Seizing power” was intended to include a monarch taking power. Seizing doesn’t have to be particularly violent, as in a coup; it includes any case in which someone lays claim to authority to do something to someone else without their consent.

            Now, if every libertarian consented to yield to an absolute monarch, I guess that’s kinda legitimate – but if even one of them refuses an order, it’s all over. (I believe a contract that cedes all (how absolute are we talking here?) power in perpetuity cannot possibly be legitimate, but I admit I don’t have a complete proof.)

          • Mary says:

            Huh?

            Under an absolute monarchy, all seizing of power — which, of course, has to be from the monarch — is illegitimate.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’m saying that one person (the monarch) is seizing power from the rest of the people, and that under an absolute monarchy, that is considered legitimate, and under a libertarian government, it’s not.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Seizing doesn’t have to be particularly violent, as in a coup; it includes any case in which someone lays claim to authority to do something to someone else without their consent.

            Under that definition, any law enforcement counts as “seizing power”. I think your use of the term is probably too broad.

          • Mary says:

            I’m saying that one person (the monarch) is seizing power from the rest of the people, and that under an absolute monarchy, that is considered legitimate, and under a libertarian government, it’s not.

            In other words, you are defining seizing power in libertarian terms. Saying that only a libertarian government does not regard it as legitimate would therefore be tautological, and not particularly useful.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @The original Mr. X: To be perfectly honest, something about that post bothered me when I posted it. You may have put your finger on it. I knew what I meant, and it wasn’t supposed to include that, because I typically think of a libertarian viewpoint still putting a stake in the ground at initiation of harm to others or their property, and being willing to advocate force there, and only there. Or to put it in terms more common among libertarians I’ve met: it’s legitimate to seize power back from someone who seized it previously. So, if someone seizes power and declares themselves monarch, that’s illegitimate (by libertarian standards); if we seize it back, that’s legitimate (by same).

            Contra Mary, I do not believe I am defining seizing power in libertarian terms here. “Taking authority from another individual without their consent (who had not themselves done the same previously)” does not strike me as subjective, although it does admittedly bear libertarian connotations.

            It was intended to reply to a point that “libertarian society can be undone by someone seizing power just like a government can.” Well, if an absolute monarch seizes power in an absolute monarchy, is that legitimate? Is that society undone? I suppose not, in a way. But does that point really mean to imply that an absolute monarchy leaves everyone better off? Or are we making value judgments on societies based on how stable they are by their own standards?

          • Mary says:

            Contra Mary, I do not believe I am defining seizing power in libertarian terms here. “Taking authority from another individual without their consent (who had not themselves done the same previously)” does not strike me as subjective, although it does admittedly bear libertarian connotations.

            “The eldest legitimate son of the last monarch is the right and absolute sovereign” is not subjective either, but it’s still absolute monarchist. Therefore not being subjective doesn’t mean it’s not libertarian.

            In particular, by using “authority” you are running on the libertarian premise that the authority is as innate as the eldest legitimate son’s.

      • johnvertblog says:

        Aren’t nuclear weapons essentially the reason that the Cold War didn’t go hot? And, more generally, the reason World War III hasn’t happened?

        • beleester says:

          Possibly. But whether it’s a net improvement, to trade a very small probability of the entire world dying for a higher probability of a small fraction of the world dying, is a bit more math than I want to do.

          If you need another example of a thing whose invention made everyone worse off, how about leaded gasoline?

  14. TomA says:

    Your comment on the prediction market got me thinking. Does the result indicate a potentially accurate estimation of future reality, or is it a reflection of the impact of the dominant messaging that is occurring within the major meme propagating institutions (e.g. news and social media)? In other words, is there objective efficacy in the prediction market or is it a demonstration of the power of memetics?

    • Patrick Merchant says:

      The former.

      Let’s say that there is a particular meme – for example, “increased gun regulation will decrease the homicide rate” – that gains widespread acceptance regardless of predictive accuracy. (For the sake of this hypothetical, we’ll assume that it’s incorrect, although in reality I have no idea one way or the other when it comes to gun control). This will temporarily bias the prediction market in favor of “gun control = less homicide.” Anyone who notices this (and many people will notice this, especially partisan opponents of gun control) can then bet against it and make a killing, stabilizing the market in the process.

      Even if everyone’s beliefs is just the product of memetics (which I don’t think is true), there is some evidence to suggest that merely averaging out everybody’s erroneous beliefs leads to greater objectivity; when you average out people’s guesses regarding the number of jellybeans in a jar, for instance, you typically get a number that is much more accurate than any individual guess. This may seem arbitrary, but I think it happens because people tend to be wrong about object-level predictions in consistent ways – we all have our preferred biases, which we can be quite stubborn about! The result is that (in certain contexts) biases end up cancelling out, which is the concept of “the wisdom of the crowds” in action.

      • random832 says:

        Anyone who notices this (and many people will notice this, especially partisan opponents of gun control) can then bet against it and make a killing, stabilizing the market in the process.

        What prevents prediction markets from suffering from the, shall we say the “Cubs fan” problem? (i.e. supposedly the odds on betting for the Cubs to win the world series were perpetually skewed by loyal fans betting on them every year) Partisan opponents of gun control will bet against it whether they will make a killing or not.

        • Synonym Seven says:

          I’m not entirely sold on prediction markets (they were even more wrong about 2016 than FiveThirtyEight), but believe the counter to that would be:

          There’s a big difference between “I totally believe ” and “I totally believe , and here’s money to prove it”. There’s also the “effort factor” – the same reason we tend to pitch those “sign up for our mailing list and receive $10 off your next order” circulars, but gleefully fill out the forms needed to submit jackpot lottery tickets.

          If the prediction market isn’t particularly tilted one way or the other, there’s not much excitement – but if $1 gets me $100 if it turns out a new gun control bill does/doesn’t reduce the homicide rate by X, I’m much more liable to jump through the hoops needed to join/place a bet on a prediction market. This, in turn, is countered by the Cubs Fan Problem – “who CARES if it takes $100, seven forms of ID, a European IP proxy, and reading fourteen inscrutable CAPTCHAs to win $1, the Cubs are so obviously winning it all this year that it’s like free money!” – but that, in turn, is countered by the fact that there are far more “meh, ‘only’ even-money? And it requires an email address? Nah, not bothering” sorts, and one can make the argument that their hesitancy to place that even-money bet stems in large part from their own subconscious doubts about their vocalized belief.

          • I think the relevant question is the size of the market and the limits on the size of bets. If the market is small, it isn’t worth the effort of a specialist speculator to figure out the real odds and take advantage of a bias in the market odds. The same is true if you are limited to small bets.

            But if the market is large and the size of bets is not limited, there should be enough people out there who like free money to swamp any plausible number of people betting their biases.

          • random832 says:

            There’s a big difference between “I totally believe ” and “I totally believe , and here’s money to prove it”.

            Yes, the difference is in whether someone is willing to spend money. This doesn’t necessarily correlate with whether they believe a specific predicted consequence of the policy they support is true. Maybe they find a particular level of gun control policy desirable for some other reason, despite (or maybe even because of, though that’d be weird and probably very rare) it having no impact on the number of homicides and/or leading to more homicides.

            the Cubs are so obviously winning it all this year

            I think you’re misunderstanding the problem – it’s not a matter of actually believing the Cubs were particularly likely to win (this analogy worked better for the Cubs in particular before they actually did win in 2016), it’s a way to signal support for the team.

  15. MostlyCredibleHulk says:

    Steak data point: I used to like it well-done, but then switched to medium-well and then to medium. Like it more that way. Though I know people who like well done and hate medium and below, so I guess the only way to know is to try.
    Also, in different places the meaning of “medium” can change pretty widely. I’ve been served “medium” that definitely qualified as well-done.

  16. Urstoff says:

    I like steak

  17. n3rmt says:

    You’re summarizing the results of the discrimination survey in a highly misleading way. It didn’t ask just about race, but also about gender, disability, etc.

    Of course it is hard to see a difference in levels of discrimination by race when race is only one of nine categories investigated (eg white people might report being discriminated against because they are women, disabled, LGBT, etc). See page 12 of study linked.

    You can do better, Scott.

    • IrishDude says:

      There’s two main aspects to the survey:
      1. How often do people report being discriminated against
      2. Among those who report being discriminated against sometimes or often, what do they think is the main reason they were discriminated against.

      Scott summarized the first aspect, which isn’t misleading at all. Even the abstract of the paper analyzing the survey says “The results provide a broad estimate of self-reported discrimination experiences—an event that, on average, was relatively rare in the sample—across racial and ethnic categories.”, indicating the authors consider this a primary result.

  18. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    In Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl, a way to find out what sort of universe people are from is to ask them what they mean by religion, chance, luck, magic, truth, science, and country.

    (I think I’ve got this right– the list of words is from google books, but what’s being tested is from memory.)

  19. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    You can tell at a glance that the infographic is a crock because the upper right is empty. Apparently there’s no compelling false or exaggerated content being published?

  20. fightscenegrades says:

    You know, I really would have guessed that Scott would have linked to that “swap Hillary & Trump’s genders” experiment. Seems right up his alley.

  21. Well... says:

    I didn’t click the link; with the IQ/partisan association thing, did they rule out the “younger people tend to be more liberal” pattern?

    Jacob Sullum argued that second-hand (and depending on your definition of “bad”, first-hand) smoke isn’t so bad for quite a while.

    There’s no link for the bit about the Jewish gravestones being knocked over by weather.

    I like the idea of civilizing people by convincing them to get married and have kids, and I’ve suggested it to others in different contexts. One question that popped into my head just now is why the world has gotten less violent despite the decline of lifelong marriage and the rise of illegitimacy.

    I’m gonna track my newborn son’s words like that guy did. Starting a spreadsheet today. Wish I’d done that with my first child.

  22. Well... says:

    Scott should number the links so they’re easier to reference in the comments. Is there a good reason why he doesn’t do this?

  23. james317 says:

    “Nobody has principles, part #56069384: Why does the White House support deferring to states’ rights on transgender bathrooms, but not on marijuana?”

    I see the point, but I hate when people cite states’ rights as proof of lack of principle. It’s not that either side is unprincipled- its that even when you have some principled interest in states’ rights (which I imagine conservatives often do and liberals often don’t, in accordance with their beliefs about centralized government power in general), that interest is almost always going to be subordinate to some more important principle. For instance, if one is a conservative/libertarian, it makes sense to be in favor of both states’ rights and tax cuts- but if handing more power to the states would result in much higher taxes for some reason (say, doubling them, for instance), it is obvious that the same small-government principle DEMANDS that the states’ rights interest be subordinated to the interest in lower taxes.

    An example on the other side would be a liberal who is committed both to egalitarianism and liberal rights- their egalitarianism might demand that they equalize some thing (wealth, for instance), but this would be subject to the constraint that basic rights- bodily integrity, freedom of conscience, etc- are upheld. Their commitment to rights in this case is prior to their egalitarianism.

    Tl;dr: States’ rights is a weak/low-ranking principle for conservatives- their neglect of it does not make them unprincipled

    • J Mann says:

      Well, and a distinction doesn’t indicate a lack of principles. Presumably, you’re more likely to defer to state’s rights in issues where (a) there is significant local variance; (b) you think experimentation is likely to be helpful, and/or (c) there is no national interest.

      Spicer’s quote indicates that Trump thinks that recreational marijuana is a public health issue and that transgender bathrooms are not. I don’t know that I believe anything Spicer says, but that seems like a principle.

      I guess a bigger question is why medical marijuana is a states rights issue and recreational marijuana is not.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      The problem isn’t people who are inconsistent about states rights. The problem is people who claim states rights as a principle and then are inconsistent about when they apply.

      • random832 says:

        I’m not sure how you can be inconsistent about state rights without claiming it as a principle – “never claims it as a principle” is a fundamentally consistent position.

        (I’ll concede that it can be hard to call someone out on their hypocrisy without giving the appearance of claiming it as a principle)

      • J Mann says:

        Nancy, I think it’s pretty hard to really make a case that someone is inconsistent in their principles. It’s likely that some people are, but just as often, it just turns out that the principle is more complex than the challenger allows, or that there are competing principles.

        If your principle is “we should leave decisions to the states unless there is a very good reason not to”, then “transgender bathrooms are a states’ rights issue; recreational marijuana is not” is not necessarily a violation of that principle, depending on your priors. And most people’s principles are probably a lot more complex than that.

        I’ll grant that if your principle is “we should shut down the federal government and leave everything to the states,” then nationalizing recreational marijuana policy would be inconsistent with that principle.

  24. Markus Karner says:

    I think a lot of this is wrong – and worse, it’s wrong things said well and convincingly […] anger at the Washington Post trying to paint him as “anti-intellectual”.

    Thanks goodness I am not the only one who was thinking both of the above when reading this piece. There were a few astute comments in it, but many more were statements that seemed obviously false to me, and quite in the standard “reactionary” fashion: sleight of hand, nostalgia for past culture (the thing about “best composer!” the comments about art!). Yet I am also uneasy about really visible liberal media bias. People really have coalesced into tribes.

  25. Bugmaster says:

    I would be fairly surprised if, absent any serious health problems, Trump is not the Republican nominee in 2020. I would likewise be surprised if, given that Trump is nominated, he does not win. This is by no means because I think that Trump is some sort of a political genius, but simply because the US political system has only a little bit less inertia than the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Oh, and the fact that the Democrats pointed their party bus directly at the cliff and are still flooring the gas pedal helps a bit, too…

    • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

      I’m not even sure who they plan to field in 2020 as the potential candidates. I’d say Warren wouldn’t look to bad but given Schumer comments about how despicable it is for Rs to present Warren as the face of Democratic party, I guess Dems don’t like the idea too much. Otherwise, they have a bunch of boring old guys, like Steve Beshear, which unless Trump does something really outrageous, have no chance against him. They have non-boring old guy in Sanders, but I don’t believe an open socialist has a chance either. Then what? Admittedly, I am not super-well-knowlegeable about second-tier Democrats, but the bench there appears rather short to me. Am I missing somebody important?

      Maybe Booker? There’s also Michelle Obama option being mentioned repeatedly, but I’m not sure after Hillary Clinton’s loss it’d be wise to go there just yet, especially given that Obama, unlike Clinton, doesn’t have any governmental record at all.

      • herbert herberson says:

        They have non-boring old guy in Sanders, but I don’t believe an open socialist has a chance either

        Moreover, while reasonable minds can differ as to this (personally I think it wouldn’t have been a dealbreaker in 2016, but that 2016 was an anomaly in terms of accepting unorthodoxies), but no one can argue with the fact that Sanders will be 79 in 2020. DJT was the oldest President-elect ever at a mere 70.

        My outside suggestion? Trump broke the seal on electing celebrities, and if the Dems are smart they’ll take advantage of that by drawing from their vastly superior celebrity stockpile. Oprah & Clooney are the first names that come to mind.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Oprah & Clooney are the first names that come to mind.

          You want Mark Cuban.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oprah & Clooney are the first names that come to mind.

          I’m going to assume that by “Trump broke the seal on electing celebrities”, you mean “without previous political experience” because otherwise, what do you consider Ronald Reagan, Arnold Schwartzenegger and Clint Eastwood? 🙂

          George Clooney? No. I like him reasonably as an actor, I appreciate him as a handsome man (who grew into it as he got older) and I don’t think he’s stupid, but as president? No.

          Same with Oprah. Apart from the first twenty minutes of “President Mommy Who’ll Make It All Better” (and I really don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I just have no better way of trying to phrase the appeal here – the kind of comforting, older woman, successful, you can do it because the universe wants you to do it, upbeat and self-help without being preachy or treacly, genuineness of Oprah), what then?

          I agree the Dems have a lot of celebs but who do you think could actually run the country? Even Trump ran on “I am a successful CEO” (which again, I grant, Oprah could match) but what do you say about an actor or musician with no prior political experience?

          President Lena Dunham? (and to be fair, from the Republican side of the aisle, President Adam Sandler)? If that doesn’t make you want to move to one of the seven new planets discovered around Trappist-1, you are made of sterner stuff than I am!

          • John Schilling says:

            Reagan’s first step into the world of politics was as SAG president, which gives us, hmm, future president Gabrielle Carteris? She at least played the smartest person in the room in “Beverly Hills 90210″…

            OK, going through the list:

            Ken Howard, dead
            Alan Rosenberg, played Boba Fett, so gets the geek vote
            Melissa Gilbert, in league with the Shadows, so no
            William Daniels, will be 93 in 2016
            Barry Gordon, actually ran for congress and nearly won
            Patty Duke, dead
            Ed Asner, will be 91 in 2016
            William Schallert, dead
            Kathleen Nolan, who?
            Dennis Weaver, dead
            John Gavin, Republican

            And I think everyone before that is dead.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Melissa Gilbert, in league with the Shadows, so no

            LOL ….heyy, wait a minute. Alan Rosenberg gets geek cred for playing Boba Fett, and Gilbert doesn’t? Is it a woman thing? Down with the glass geek ceiling!

            William Daniels, will be 93 in 2016

            I feel like playing the world’s smartest car and the nation’s most neurotic lawyer ought to overcome the age thing.

        • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

          The problem with celebrities is that they may have celebrity’s past, and that creates two problems:

          1. Even Trump by then would have 4 years of experience governing, they’d have none. And Trump is “disruption” candidate, running against him on “disruption” platform would be much harder. “Let’s get serious now and elect somebody less chaotic and more substantial” would be stronger message but choosing Oprah for it doesn’t look like a winning bet for that one.

          2. All past controversies will be dug up and aired in worst possible light. Trump as a businessman celebrity mostly had business-related ones, which I suspect most people didn’t fully appreciate (though IMHO *that* is the worst part about him), but his “pussy” comment and similar accusations did him considerable damage. If he didn’t have a strong base in electorate who is inclined to excuse such comments, he’d probably be done in by it. I imagine in actor’s or TV celebrity’s past one could find some juicy moments too, if you dig enough. Given no past political record, that’s the only thing that will be discussed. Not a good position, especially not against Trump (who by then would have some policy results behind him, and will still be the master manipulator of the media he is now).

        • shakeddown says:

          538 had a point that the opposite party tends to nominate someone who’s the opposite in personality/history to the incumbent. So I’d expect the democrats to nominate someone serious, experienced, and unflashy (I’ve heard the likes of Sherrod Brown mentioned as potential candidates, to the degree that Trump had people look for dirt on him in preparation).

      • Iain says:

        Michelle Obama has also been repeatedly and vehemently clear that she does not like politics, has no desire to run for office, and can’t wait to get out of Washington.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Good on her. Quitting while you’re ahead is a wonderful idea. (Compare to the Clintons, who didn’t.)

      • Deiseach says:

        There’s also Michelle Obama option being mentioned repeatedly, but I’m not sure after Hillary Clinton’s loss it’d be wise to go there just yet, especially given that Obama, unlike Clinton, doesn’t have any governmental record at all.

        There was a rather silly T-shirt going around when the Inevitable Ascension of the Empress looked to be at hand (until it proved all too evitable) and this is one iteration of it.

        I found it annoying, not alone that it dragged in Michelle Obama who – as you say – has never given any indication (unlike Hillary) that she wants or intends to move into a political career after being First Lady but for the whole dynastic implications and hereditary political seats. To be charitable, it was probably meant as fun, but I found it grating and the hubris was too much of a challenge to the fates (not alone would Hillary win, but be a two-time incumbent).

        • Nornagest says:

          Particularly obnoxious for those of us who’re old enough to remember the Bush-era liberal hand-wringing about dynasties, but I suppose it’s probably not the same people doing it. And if it was, I suppose hypocrisy’s a pretty ubiquitous sin.

  26. One Name May Hide Another says:

    Pro-Brexit voters are less likely to trust experts – not just political elites but even sports commentators, weather forecasters, and their own doctor. Some kind of fundamental psychological difference, or just a feeling that the experts aren’t part of their culture?

    To some extent it seems natural that if your life experiences make you distrustful of one type of expert, you might transfer that distrust to other types.

    And then maybe there’s a bit of the following causal relationship: if you don’t trust experts in general, you’re less likely to be convinced by all the anti-Brexit talk promoted as “expert opinions”, so – all else being equal – you’re more likely to vote Leave?

    Now, “not trusting experts in general” might very well be correlated with some personality traits and/or be cultural.

    In the States, it seems like not trusting experts is culturally more of a red tribe thing? And those who are of the blue/gray tribes, and who nonetheless don’t trust experts, call themselves contrarians?

    On an intuitive level, I don’t find these survey results surprising. Personally, I went from trusting experts blindly in my early 20s to being very much a contrarian in my 30s, which coincided with a gradual change in my political sympathies. So if I were British, my younger, expert-trusting self would have likely sided with Stay, while my current, jaded self would have probably voted Leave.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not trusting _Blue Tribe_ experts is a Red Tribe thing.

    • P. George Stewart says:

      Yeah, if it’s true that Brexit voters tend towards older, then it seems likely that their distrust of experts comes from long, painful experience.

      Many of those who voted for Brexit remember the promises (“oh no, we’re not trying to create a superstate here, it’s just about economics and stuff”) going in. I was a kid then, but I remember.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        And of course, a lot of the predictions about what would happen if Britain didn’t join the Euro (“We’ll be shut off from trade with the Continent! We’ll sink to being an irrelevant, impoverished backwater!”) were pretty much exactly the same as the predictions about what would happen if Britain left the EU. Given that the former predictions were 100% wrong (the financial crash of 2007 would have hit Britain much harder if it was in the Euro), I’m not surprised people distrust the latter predictions too.

  27. Synonym Seven says:

    Also, “evidence based camgirling” is pretty weak. Self-report is notoriously finicky – how do we know that people who rated themselves “10”s were basing that on a detached, objective look on their own attractiveness, rather than using the heuristic “I make lots of money camming, ergo I must be attractive”? And of course, in order to accept this “evidence” in the first place we have to accept the notion of a singular, objective metric for “attractiveness” that can be readily quantified – which is absolute “wisdom of herds” idiocy at its most naked.

    Might as well start applying the “evidence-based” label to the stuff pumped out by the Institute for Creation Research.

  28. Synonym Seven says:

    Ozy’s Intellectual Turing Test seems really elaborate, but unfortunately it’s fundamentally broken. The surveys are so poorly-worded that I don’t think the results can really be held to any level of trust.

    For instance, let’s assume there’s a piece that reads like (and, for our purposes, is) a laughable strawman of the Gender Identity position, clearly not written in sincerity. It also contains several “tells” that the author is actually a proponent of Blanchard-Bailey. I, the reader (who is filling out the survey) subscribe to the gender identity “side”.

    The options are:
    1. Blanchard-Bailey, and I support neither
    2. Blanchard-Bailey, and I lean towards gender identity
    3. Gender identity, and I lean towards gender identity
    4. Blanchard-Bailey, and I lean towards Blanchard-Bailey
    5. Gender identity, and I support neither
    6. Gender identity, and I lean towards Blanchard-Bailey

    Now, how do I answer? Is the “I” in those questions supposed to mean me, the reader? Or am I trying to “guess” how the original author would have answered?

    If I’m “guessing”/answering on behalf of the original author, obviously I would choose “6”. But this seems like an odd way to construct the survey, as it basically wastes half of the space, because all the “Blanchard-Bailey” options (#’s 1, 2, and 4) would be useless, and would only be picked by the same people who choose “YES” on “Is the President of the United States a lizard in a Mickey Mouse suit” or, my favorite MTurk “attention-check question”, “I am currently deceased”.

    If I’m answering for myself, well, do I choose “3” (saying that the response was using gender identitarian philosophy – even if poorly worded / inconsistent – and that I’m a gender identitarian as well) or do I choose “2” (saying that the response was clearly from someone who wasn’t really a gender identitarian)?

    So basically, a completely unambiguous piece, with the survey responder having perfect information, could have three completely different, and completely defensible, answers, in good-faith. It measures nothing, and cannot be used to gain any insight as to whether the Turing test was successful or not.

    • Aapje says:

      What is even worse that people ‘win’ the game by tailoring their votes and essays to the visitors to the blog. People actually argue that they voted fake because the essay is a argues in a way that is typical for a decent group of people, but very atypical for visitors to the blog.

    • Rachael says:

      You would answer 2.
      It might make more sense if you’d followed Ozy’s previous ITT. There, the options for what you (the reader) believe were added part way through the series, because people were curious whether allies or opponents were better at spotting fakes.
      If the essay is clearly intended as GI, there’s no need to say that in your answer. Your answer is meant to indicate whether you think the author is really GI, or BB pretending to be GI.

      • rlms says:

        Furthermore, it should be obvious if the essay is intended to be GI, because it will say “Gender Identity” at the top.

  29. Patrick Merchant says:

    That dirdle essay about meme-wars was very unfair to Jordan Peterson! It made him out to be some kind of shrill, hysterical absolutist, which couldn’t be farther form the truth.

    Peterson frequently advocates for arguing with people who don’t share your worldview. Simply put, his position is that any system of thought that is coherent must necessarily be incomplete, since the world is very complicated – the mind must reduce reality to a low-resolution model in order to navigate it. Consequently, you should constantly be updating your system of thought, but without becoming totally paralyzed by self-doubt; always have one foot in the door of belief, and one foot out. Constantly exposing yourself to ideas that you don’t agree with is his advice for immunizing yourself against totalitarian ideologies, which are ideologies that do not acknowledge their own incompleteness.

    To say that this point of view is incompatible with rationalism strikes me as being a pretty odd conclusion!

    • AnonYEmous says:

      so here is a question to you since you seem to know him somewhat:

      I hear Jordan went onto Sam Harris’ podcast and basically argued for the construction of truth based on consequentialism (what is ‘true’ is good for the society). Did he really do that? And I mean epistemic truth, not consequentialist truth, so don’t try anything funny. And if he didn’t, what did he really mean?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        He said that you have a choice between basing your definition of truth on utility or basing your definition of utility on truth and it’s better to do the former. I guess that’s what you mean by “consequential truth.” He seemed perfectly willing to distinguish two notions of truth in hypotheticals, so why he insisted on choosing one, rather than distinguishing them, but only when necessary, I don’t know. Sam Harris wasted two hours giving him repetitious hypotheticals. Sometimes Peterson pushed back against them. Sometimes he said: I accept that there are costs, but there are worse costs going the other way. But instead of asking what those other costs are, Harris would just give another hypothetical.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          So basically truth as a function of consequentialism, “If the party believes it then it is so”.

          If anything that seems like the only way to outduel Sam, but it seems kind of cancerous overall.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            “If the party believes it then it is so”

            huh?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            it’s a 1984 reference and if you knew that already: the party can easily argue that believing in their truth creates the most utility, especially as they control the government and could, say, threaten to blow up the entire country if enough people didn’t believe their truth, or especially since the other two countries would demolish them if the people rebelled

            just sayin’

          • AeXeaz says:

            Peterson’s idea of utility when it comes to this question is simply “do we survive as a species”, though. As humans (evolved to grasp what Dawkins calls the “Middle World”) we can never find “true truth”. The best we can hope for is “true enough”. If something destroys us as a species Peterson would claim that that thing wasn’t “true enough”.

            I don’t really agree with Peterson on this, but I *do* follow his train of thought, and I believe the reason Sam Harris doesn’t do this is tied up in his dismissal of the is/ought gap.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Peterson’s idea of utility when it comes to this question is simply “do we survive as a species”, though.

            Yeah, I get that part, but I have serious problems with it. Seems like you don’t agree with him though so I won’t elaborate.

  30. Michael Watts says:

    Peer Effects Exist But They’re Not Very Big. A one standard deviation increase in your peers’ test scores causes a 0.03 increase in your own.

    I suspect this depends heavily on what you think of as an important “peer effect”. How much effect does a one standard deviation increase in your peers’ test scores increase your girlfriend’s test scores?

  31. eqdw says:

    Theory: modern activism, and possibly the entire modern left, is shaped by what techniques are optimized to succeed on a college campus with a moderately friendly administration.

    Read a tweetstorm on Twitter a little while ago that pointed out that the same incentives apply on Twitter. It’s a platform that is totally 100% under control of Twitter Inc. They are moderately friendly to one group of people, but mostly just want money coming in without too much hassle. Is it really surprising that similar dynamics dominate there?

  32. eqdw says:

    There will be a temporary suspension of expedited processing of H1B visas starting in April. Unclear if this is some Trump-related plot or just normal bureaucratic variability, but if you need an H1B visa renewed you should probably look into it.

    One thing I would really like to know (this is directly relevant to me) is why this happened. I’ve heard it said that in the wake of foreign policy uncertainty there’s be a dramatic uptick in the number of people applying for visas, green cards, etc. If that is the case, it could be that they are understaffed and unable to make their existing processing deadlines. In this case, the above is nothing more than the government frankly acknowledging it can’t actually make it’s own commitments, and rescoping them to something more modest. AKA not a problem.

    Does anyone have any light to shed on this?

    • shakeddown says:

      No, but I’m applying for one too this year, so pretty worried.

    • cassander says:

      If that is the case, it could be that they are understaffed and unable to make their existing processing deadlines.

      I’d bet a fair bit of money this is true, but I’d bet just as much it was equally true before january 20th.

      and rescoping them to something more modest.

      I’d be shocked if they did this.

    • In this case, the above is nothing more than the government frankly acknowledging it can’t actually make it’s own commitments, and rescoping them to something more modest.

      Speaking of which … . I needed to renew my passport. Looking at information online, I found the nice tool for filling out the form, which you can then print and sign. The site also listed “local passport acceptance facilities,” which I was hoping provided a way of doing it that didn’t require me to actually mail my old, not yet expired, passport somewhere.

      The ones near me were a bunch of post offices and the County Clerk’s Office. All said they required an appointment. I called a post office. The line was busy. It was still busy the next couple of times I called. So I tried another. The phone rang, kept ringing, was never answered. I tried another, same result. I think one more. Eventually I tried the County Clerk’s Office. I got to an actual human there and was told that they only made appointments two months out and there were no spaces for appointments in the next two months.

      I also confirmed, what I was by then suspecting, that although they might help me I would still have to mail the application, check and old passport. So I did. Now I’m worrying that perhaps I failed to sign the check or made some other error.

      My old passport expires on June 25th, I am speaking in Moscow on May 30th, I expect to speak in other cities before and after, and I believe some countries require not only a passport but one that is not about to expire.

      If all else fails, there is a more expensive expedited process which I would have time for, provided I can show evidence that I will be traveling within the next two weeks.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @DavidFriedman:

        [getting a passport] I got to an actual human there and was told that they only made appointments two months out and there were no spaces for appointments in the next two months.

        Next time keep this in mind: the web pages and phone messages and people who say you need to make an appointment 2 months out to renew your passport are lying. Realistically, people without internet access or a working phone still need a way to get a passport. The way they do that is they just physically show up at the passport office (preferably with all forms already filled out) first thing in the morning (say, a half hour before it opens) and stand in line.

        If you pay a third-party service to expedite your processing, that is also what they do – stand in that same early-morning line with a dozen prepared forms for a dozen different people.

        • As best I could tell, even if I stood in the line and someone paid attention to me, all they would be doing was helping me fill out forms which then get mailed in, with the standard four to six weeks wait. That was my conclusion when I finally found a friendly human being willing to answer the phone and answer questions.

          The only procedure faster than that seems to require that you actually have a trip and tickets for the trip within the next week or two.

          The places I was calling were not some state department passport office but post offices and a county office which were listed as places to go to for applying to get or renew a passport.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            The places I was calling were not some state department passport office but post offices and a county office which were listed as places to go to for applying to get or renew a passport.

            The place one needs to go for a quick-turnaround passport is an actual passport office, of which the nearest one to you is probably San Francisco. If you go stand in line there, they can print the passport locally and give it to you in person that very day or the next day, obviating the need for an indeterminate postal delay.

            There are relevant Yelp reviews.

            People who are in desperate need of a passport right now go in a shorter line – that’s their “requires you have a ticket” process – but they secretly have a little spare capacity to also accommodate random walk-ins so as long as you arrive early or during a slow period (and don’t mind paying a $60 “expedited service” fee) they can help you too. At least, that’s been my experience.

            If you need a passport in a hurry but don’t want to waste a day waiting in line the other option is to pay even MORE money to a private passport expedite service. You go to their local office, take any needed photos and fill out forms, then THEY send a motorbike courier who drives to, yes, that same SF office to stand in that line on behalf of a small stack of customers.

  33. Sniffnoy says:

    Man tracks all of his son’s first words since birth. This is amazing, not just in seeing which words people learn when, but in seeing that it makes a beautiful natural exponential curve. I wish there were data for a longer period, though I can understand it would probably get out of hand after a while.

    Is that really exponential? That’s not obvious to me…

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The third graph is on a log scale. It’s pretty straight for words 20-100, which is only 6 or 7 weeks. Maybe going back the previous month to word 10.

    • youzicha says:

      For more data in this style, consider The Human Speechome Project. This was a project by Dep Roy et al, where they recorded audio and video of all daytime hours of their home for the first 24 months of their child’s life. So they have data on the first 517 words produced by the child, but they can also correlate it with how often those words were spoken by the parents and nanny, in which room it was first used, etc. It’s been the subject of various academic publications and one TED talk.

      Unfortunately I don’t think they have published a list of what the 517 words were, but they do say something about the beautiful exponential curve:

      A total of 517 word births were found in the 400K word
      sample. Figure 6 shows the number of word births binned by
      month. Although it is widely known that children’s
      vocabularies grow more or less exponentially in this
      developmental period, we found the rate of worth births
      abruptly drops at 20 months leading to a “shark’s fin” curve.
      Note that the child’s cumulative productive vocabulary size continues to grow since there are new births each month, but
      there is a surprising pivot in the curve at 20 months of age.

      We are not certain why this curve has the form that it does.
      One possibility is that in spite of the rate of externally
      observed word births, the child’s vocabulary is continuing to
      grow exponentially but due to Zipf’s distribution, words
      learned later are less likely to be observed in productions. The
      convolution of the exponential vocabulary growth curve and
      the falling tail of the Zipf distribution lead to the shark’s fin
      form. Another contributing factor may be that as the child
      discovered the combinatorial power of multiword utterances,
      he shifted effort from learning and producing new words to
      putting known words together in new sequences. Further
      investigations will aim to explain the shape of the curve.

      The person on imgur stopped keeping track at exactly 20 months… maybe he just missed the peak of the shark fin! 🙂

  34. Sniffnoy says:

    sinesalvatorem: The best way to keep terrorists out of terrorism is to convince them to settle down and raise a family.

    Gwern could have told you that…

    • scriptifaber says:

      I was going to comment on the same fact. Gwern’s content is great, and I remember reading that essay nearly half a decade ago now. I highly recommend refreshing on gwern’s content every year, and of course, subscribe to his newsletter.

      /shill

  35. shakeddown says:

    Your British Rail description seems misleading. Since privatization train subsidies per passenger-mile also shot up, and real cost of tickets has kept steadily increasing (unless I’m misunderstanding those graphs?). The best you can say is that private management has managed to use the increased subsidies to actually increase ridership and customer satisfactions (which isn’t nothing, considering cost disease).

    In the defence of privatization, it looks like ridership started increasing right after privatization while subsidy increases took a few years, but that could also be explained by the privatized rail management spending money they didn’t have on ads and stuff at first, and needing to be bailed out. Again, this may still be a good thing overall, but isn’t nearly as one-sided as you make it sound.

  36. Lasagna says:

    The thing that struck me most about the check-cashing article was the bubble it reflected. Why didn’t “we” already know that check-cashing places provide a benefit to their customers? Why was it assumed that people who went there were being bilked, lacked the sophistication to understand they were being scammed, and were so powerless that they could do nothing about it even if they did understand the scam?

    I know Scott had a recent article downplaying the recent obsession with bubbles. My feeling is the opposite – this is where we need to be focusing our attention. The only reason this article exists – that the author was required to work at a check-cashing place to develop a more nuanced understanding of check-cashing customers – is not only because she has zero contact with working people who take advantage of them and whom she could talk to, and not only because everyone in her orbit ALSO has zero contact with those people, but because, apparently, there is nobody at all in media or politics with those contacts who could have spread the word to the rest of the population. That’s awful, and I don’t see any reason why it should be this way.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why didn’t “we” already know that check-cashing places provide a benefit to their customers?

      I suppose they could have asked “actual lower middle-class/working class person” (there must be some of them hanging around the university changing lightbulbs and vacuuming the offices) but that would probably be way too simple and direct an approach 🙂

      Yeah, I succumbed to the reaction “Well, somebody has plainly never been paid by cheque, needed to cash it fast because that is all the money you are going to have, and the bank is closed/won’t cash cheques drawn on other banks/won’t cash cheques drawn on other branches even though they’re the same bank, so you have to cash it in a shop”.

      Honestly the level of service in banks has definitely gone down Since My Time. Along with the various inconveniences listed above, the fact that they stick all kinds of fees and charges on your account plus push you to lodge payments that won’t clear for three working days so they can stick you with overdraft charges – if you need money now or else you have nothing to pay rent/buy groceries with, you’re going to take the “convenient, fast and will not screw me around despite having to pay a percentage of the cheque” over “we don’t care if you’ve been banking with us for thirty years, at ten o’clock this morning Head Office decided we won’t cash cheques of the bank literally on the other side of the street from us, and that bank won’t cash the cheque because you don’t have an account with them, so ha ha gotcha sucker!”

      • Jiro says:

        I remember a Skepticality podcast which pointed out that quack doctors have really good bedside manner and make the patients feel welcome and cared for.

        I don’t thin providing good service is inconsistent with being a fraud.

        • suntzuanime says:

          This would be a reasonable point if the check cashing places gave their customers counterfeit currency, but by all accounts they generally provide the service they advertise.

          • Jiro says:

            They don’t have to be a fraud in the sense of providing counterfeit money. It’s enough to provide services which are poor bargains, but do it with a smile.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, I disagree, because quality of service is one of the things you pay for when you purchase a service. The analogy with friendly quack doctors is not a good one because there you think you’re purchasing effective medicine when you’re not, and trying to make that analogy indicates that you don’t really understand the point being made.

          • Loquat says:

            I feel like “fraud” should be reserved for situations where there’s actual dishonesty or at least misleading going on. The check cashing places are apparently quite open and honest about what you’ll pay and what you’ll get – indeed, some of their regular customers might be more inclined to call a regular bank “fraud” after getting burned a few times by fees they weren’t expecting.

          • Mary says:

            Check cashing places plaster the walls with signs detailing what everything will cost. In large friendly fonts.

            This is one of their charms.

      • The Nybbler says:

        the bank is closed/won’t cash cheques drawn on other banks/won’t cash cheques drawn on other branches even though they’re the same bank, so you have to cash it in a shop

        I suspect this is a big part of it. The banks in the US, with the active support of the Federal government, have made it a real pain to obtain cash for a check drawn on that bank. It used to be you could take an endorsed check, walk into the bank it was drawn on, and walk out with cash. Now they’ll want to thumbprint and proctoscope you, demand ID, and charge you a high fee (higher than the check-cashing places). Some of them won’t even do it at all.

      • Mary says:

        I overhead a woman at my college talking on the phone explaining how she was bouncing checks because she didn’t tell the teller that she wanted to cash the check and deposit the cash.

      • What struck me about British banks was that they would not cash their own checks. That struck me as fraud, since the check says something about being payable. Apparently the only way of getting money from a British check is to deposit it in your own account and then draw the money out, which doesn’t work very well if you are a foreigner with no British bank account who has been paid by check.

        • Rosemary7391 says:

          It takes a few days for the cheque to clear. I suspect that’s why they won’t just let you walk out with cash – that would leave the bank wide open to fraud. Also, the instance you mention must be quite rare? Literally the only people who give me cheques are church, my mother and hmrc. I can’t envisage the circumstances under which a visitor to the UK would receive a cheque, especially with no alternative.

          • Happened to me. Probably an honorarium for a talk I gave.

            The check was on the bank I was trying to cash it in, so presumably they could have checked that there was money in the account before giving it to me.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            Fair enough, although why they wouldn’t just do a bank transfer I don’t know! I don’t think there is a real time system where they can do that sort of check. Not in the UK. Very few people use cheques with any sort of regularity.

          • random832 says:

            It absolutely should not “take a few days to clear” if you are presenting it at the bank it is drawn on. The entire concept of a check “clearing” involves sending it to the bank it’s drawn on, that bank seeing if the account has the money (which, if you’re at that bank, they should be able to do in front of you while you wait), and that bank sending the money (or a notice that it failed) back to the bank you tried to deposit it into.

            I don’t think there is a real time system where they can do that sort of check.

            That’s total nonsense. You’re literally at the place that other banks would have to go (not in real time) to do it. There is no travel time / communication time, because you’re in the same building (and if the branch you’ve gone isn’t the right place, then they should print the right place on the checks).

          • John Schilling says:

            Fair enough, although why they wouldn’t just do a bank transfer I don’t know!

            Doing a bank transfer requires giving the payor the payee’s account number, which they will then have to propagate through their system and on to their bank while treating it always as sensitive personal information. Writing a check involves, from their point of view, no third parties, less recordkeeping, and less responsibility.

            Like Dr. Friedman, I am accustomed to getting paid by check for occasional speaking or writing engagements. And there’s a range of independent professionals, e.g. mechanics, who very much prefer I pay them by check,

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            A bank not cashing their own check is BS.

            If I had to steelman, the one problem might be a fraudulently written check, and if they give you cash for the check they cannot undo it. Still, they should be able to say “come back in one day to pick up the cash.” That gives the fraud department time to work and have cops ready to arrest you when you show up tomorrow.

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            Clearly I’m just in a totally different world. Even when I had to hire a locksmith, he took a credit card via his mobile phone. I’ve always given my bank details for expenses rather than getting a cheque. The idea of an institution having a chequebook on hand for that sort of thing seems really odd to me, but clearly it does happen.

            random832, I guess you should be right, but I can definitely imagine this happening so rarely that the average counter staff don’t know it’s possible. Most folks don’t get cheques, those that do normally just pay them into their own account. I’ve just gone and pulled my chequebook out of the drawer – it has a PO box address on it, not my branch, which makes me think the function to deduct it from the correct account is normally held centrally rather than at branches, although presumably it could be done electronically if the bank could be bothered. Why would they though, for someone who clearly isn’t going to become a customer anytime soon? They’d probably also have to keep a record of your ID for money laundering regulations (and to prove that they didn’t just hand over cash to a randomer who found it on the street), and that makes it even more of a hassle for no gain.

            My cheques also have “Account Payee” printed across them, which means that they can only be paid into the account of the person I write them to, not cashed over a counter:
            https://www.chequeandcredit.co.uk/information-hub/faqs/crossed-cheques
            Although that page later contradicts itself about the cheque cashing places, as they apparently have a special arrangement that means they can cash such cheques, provided they take the hit if it doesn’t clear. Which would be why they charge fees. I don’t know what their ID requirements are, presumably similar.

            I think UK and US banking is very different both in actual processes and customary usage. The latter is also likely affected by demographic, possibly primarily age? I’m 25, and pretty unusual that I have a chequebook and know where it is…

          • rlms says:

            Yes, I think in the UK the only thing you can do with a cheque is pay it into your account.

        • The Nybbler says:

          US banks don’t have to cash their own checks for non-customers nowadays either (I don’t actually know if they ever had to, but they used to do it). Most of them do, but charge a fee and demand ID and a thumbprint (to be entered in the Feds anti-money-laundering database)

      • newt0311 says:

        Honestly the level of service in banks has definitely gone down Since My Time. Along with the various inconveniences listed above, the fact that they stick all kinds of fees and charges on your account plus push you to…

        Yeah… I don’t get this at all. I’ve literally never ever in my life been charged for opening and maintaining a bank account. And I have a number of them over a number of different institutions. For example, opening the checking account at Chase required only $25 for a minimum deposit and even that only because I was lazy and $25 is a nominal amount to keep lying around. The bank’s income was purely from the use of funds that I deposited.

        Chase may or may not charge more for money orders but that is rather academic when their (free) bill-pay service handles pretty much all the payments I need to make quickly and easily and I can use personal checks for the rest.

        The impression I got was that the “better service” from check cashing places came down entirely to

        1. making it harder for people to make stupid financial errors (like over-drawing an account which leads to the fees that everybody here seems to be complaining about) and

        2. Getting rid of the need for a small amount of working capital (this is the cashing checks immediately part).

        This in exchange for what look to me like some rather onerous charges.

        Really, think about this: 1.95% for how long to clear a check? 3 days? A week? Two weeks? At two weeks to clear a check, the check cashing place is charging an effective annual interest rate of ~50.7%!!! Credit card debt would be cheaper. And this is a very conservative estimate.

        Let’s take the contractor in question. He cashed a $5000 check because he needed the funds immediately to pay suppliers etc… But how many of these checks does he cash in a given year? He has to pay 1.95% on every single one of these. If he just maintained ~1 week of working capital he’d save all of that money.

        With decent financial management (most of which comes down again to a small working capital cushion) the contractor likely wouldn’t need to pay any fees for a vanilla bank account either.

        Call me a snob but I don’t think maintaining a minimum amount of liquidity for working capital and managing short-term cashflow are a high bar for financial management.

        It looks to me like check cashing places are providing an honest service but if their customers had even basic financial management skills (like keeping around enough cash for the next two weeks) they wouldn’t need the services of a check cashing place and would save a considerable amount of money.

        • John Schilling says:

          With decent financial management (most of which comes down again to a small working capital cushion) the contractor likely wouldn’t need to pay any fees for a vanilla bank account either.

          And people without “decent financial management” are supposed to, what, crawl into a ditch and die?

          Seriously, “decent financial management” is a thing that some people do not have, just like some people don’t have e.g. three-digit IQs or perfect pitch or color vision. Unless your plan actually is for these people to starve in ditches, or be wards of their families/the state for life, you’re going to need a way to provide them with basic financial services. And some of these people are really quite good at providing useful services to their customers, so we probably don’t want them starving in ditches or being institutionalized.

          The way typical commercial banks do that is, charge them a small fee for setting up a checking account, and then charge them $30 every time a check bounces, structured in the worst possible way for the customer, because what do they want with a customer who only keeps a few hundred dollars in their account at any time?

          Check cashing services, yes, charge a couple percent up front per check. Most of which is going to cover the transaction costs of handling the physical check in meatspace, independent of clearing time. What else do you have, aside from sneering, for people without “decent financial management”?

          • newt0311 says:

            starving in ditches or being institutionalized.

            And I eat kittens too! Are we done with the BS ad hominem attacks now?

            You say that decent financial management is hard to come by and maybe it is but should it be? I don’t think it requires anywhere near a 100 IQ. Basic financial management like knowing what expenses are going to be coming up in the next few weeks, not taking on high-interest credit-card debt, tracking expenses, etc… aren’t complicated skills*. I suspect that they can be taught and should be and if they were taught, the need for things like check cashing shops and payday lenders would reduce dramatically.

            At the very least, can we agree that lack of these skills is a serious handicap and that check cashing shops and their ilk are not efficient in any meaningful sense but rather necessary evils at best? Because the linked article makes it seem like everything is fine and maybe more people should use check cashing places.

            * Concrete data on this would be nice.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Chase bank’s non-premium ($25 to open) checking account has a $12/month fee unless you maintain a $1500 minimum daily balance or have a $500 direct deposit. Bank of America is the same except only $250 on the direct deposit. TD Bank has a $6 monthly fee. Also a “paper statement fee” of $1. And, banks being run by banksters, the way they really get you is that if your account runs low, the fee causes an overdraft — $35 for TD. And if a check written to you bounces, the fees snowball. For people with regular employment who can direct deposit to get around the fees and have good enough credit to get overdraft protection, a bank works. For someone running a mostly-cash business with little margin (and no direct deposit), the fees can be cheaper and more predictable at a cashing place.

          • newt0311 says:

            Chase may have been a bad example. Capital One 360 checking accounts have no monthly fees. Neither do HSBC online banking accounts.

            Also consider the actual example in my post (taken from the article). It sounds like $1.5k would be well below the working capital balance for such a contracting business. And at a 1.95% fee, it would take ~75k worth of checks cashed to just earn/save that 1.5k outright. How much business is 75k for a contractor? Half a year? A year?

            Or if we look at a normal household: median income in the US is ~50k/yr. At a check cashing place with a 1.95% fee, that works out to $81.25 per month so it is already more expensive than Chase by a cool 7x. In about 21 months, the savings would be enough to fund the 1.5k minimum and then even the $12/mo charge goes away. In fact it would take an annual income of lower than 7.3k for the costs of the check cashing place to match Chase’s prices assuming somewhat contradictorily minimal working capital but good enough financial management to avoid the fees. That’s the bottom 7% of households in the US. For the rest good cash management with a bank is a better option.

            Long-term (i.e. > 1yr horizon) Chase with its 1.5k minimum wins out by a large margin. And there are other options that don’t have monthly fees as I pointed out so the actual discrepancy is even larger than what I’ve described above.

            The account running low thing is silly. A person with < $35 in their account is almost certainly not maintaining any capital cushion which goes back to the basic financial skills I was talking about.

            You haven't made a convincing argument that check cashing places are cheaper. You've made a weak argument that their fees are more predictable but my argument is that this predictability comes at a rather high cost.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Capital One 360 and other online accounts aren’t all that useful for cashing checks. You can’t use them to walk into a bank and get cash; at best you can deposit via an ATM and get cash 2 business days later. And still get hit by fees if the check bounces.

            The working cash for a lot of contracting businesses is much less than $1500. It can hover around zero, including going below zero (the contractor delays paying others and gets by on promises and lies while trying to collect amounts owed or get a deposit on another job)

            Yes, ordinarily employed people at or even significantly below the national median are absolutely better off at a bank, especially because of the direct-deposit fee waivers.

          • newt0311 says:

            Capital One 360 lets customers use a mobile deposit app for small (< 5k) amounts*. For larger checks, if the choice is between going to a check cashing place and going to any random Capital one ATM, I really don't see the advantage that the check cashing place has. The fact is that to turn a check into cash, you'll have to go somewhere and that somewhere may as well be an ATM.

            As for the immediate vs. few days thing, I addressed that point in the very first comment I posted in this sub-thread! Could we please stop bringing up the same old points over again?

            As for checks bouncing: I check and Capital One 360 accounts do not charge a returned deposits fee. With good financial management, a person should never have to pay a NSF fee and either way, the default for the 360 accounts is to just reject the overdrawn checks without incurring any NSF fees.

            The income and cost-benefit numbers I gave were for income from any sources, not just people with regular jobs. And that was sticking to Chase’s basic accounts with no starting capital and their $12 fees. There are better options.

            Finally and more broadly, the claim I made was that with decent financial management skills, traditional bank accounts are vastly cheaper than cash checking places. That quite a few people do not have DFM skills (i.e. your contractor with less than 1.5k in working capital) is irrelevant.

            Perhaps the argument you want to make is that a significant fraction of the US population is simply incapable of learning and exercising DFM skills? That sounds like a rather extraordinary claim to me. Unless you have actual data to back up that claim, we are at an impasse.

            * https://helpcenter.capitalone360.com/Topic.aspx?faq=TRANS4

          • quanta413 says:

            Perhaps the argument you want to make is that a significant fraction of the US population is simply incapable of learning and exercising DFM skills? That sounds like a rather extraordinary claim to me. Unless you have actual data to back up that claim, we are at an impasse.

            Nybbler already agrees that “Yes, ordinarily employed people at or even significantly below the national median are absolutely better off at a bank, especially because of the direct-deposit fee waivers.”

            Perhaps you should make a coherent argument for who and what will successfully teach people financial management skills. Keeping in mind how badly schools already do at educating their less successful students on even more rudimentary things like addition and multiplication. And I’m not making a crazy exaggeration; this is very typical of where I grew up which is a low/middle class town. A lot of people manage to reach the bar where they understand what it means to be charged 2% of an amount X. They can’t calculate it without a calculator and they might screw up entering it on a calculator and won’t realize their mistake because they can’t estimate roughly what the answer should be, but they roughly comprehend it. God forbid they have to deal with calculating out a safe amount of holdings to cover themselves in a market with unpredictable cash flow and consider recurring fees and interest. Otherwise, everything you say is along the lines of “in this other hypothetical world with much better educated and far sighted people”, which everyone may agree is a better world that wouldn’t have check cashing places but so what? We’re not in that world.

    • onyomi says:

      Why was it assumed that people who went there were being bilked, lacked the sophistication to understand they were being scammed, and were so powerless that they could do nothing about it even if they did understand the scam?

      Because the elite commentariat takes it as a given that poor people are simultaneously noble souls who are poor through no fault of their own and yet also gullible fools who need all kinds of regulations about the kind of transactions/contracts they can enter in to to prevent them making bad decisions and being taken advantage of. Smart enough to vote for who should run the country, of course, but also too dumb to make an informed decision about something directly affecting their lives (well, except when they vote for people the elite don’t like, in which case they are brain-washed idiots “voting against their own interests”).

  37. Chris Said says:

    Scott, just yesterday I came across a striking example of the Pharmacological Iron Curtain that you may want to dig into.

    Neuropathic pain is an often debilitating and chronic condition with apparently no good treatment options. The current top line medications are gabapentin and amitriptyline. In most studies, these drugs cause about a 1 point drop in the 10 point VAS pain score compared to placebo. It is rare to find a study with a >2 point drop relative to placebo. Both drugs have side effects like dizziness and drowsiness.

    Palmitoylethanolamide is a drug that is virtually unheard of in the US. It was first researched extensively by Czechoslovakian scientists in the 1950s but was recently rediscovered by Spanish and Italian researchers. The effect sizes they report are astonishing. In the largest study on 636 patients with sciatic pain, the VAS improvement was 4 points better in the treatment group than the placebo group (see summary in English). Effects of this size are unheard of in the neuropathic pain literature. In dozens of other recent studies (many of which are admittedly not as well-controlled as the main study), the effect sizes are similarly massive. In the total of 30 clinical trials ever done on the drug there has been no significant adverse effects and no evidence of tolerance.

    Since not a lot of English-speaking researchers want to sift through Spanish-language and Italian-language papers, and since no major pharma company wants to test a drug without IP protection, palmitoylethanolamide is not well-known in the US. Recently, however, a Dutch researcher named Jan Keppel Hesselink heard about the drug at an international conference and has attempted to popularize it in the English-speaking world. As far as I can tell, he seems credible and earnest. His website describes multiple competing brands in an even-handed way, making me thing he has no serious conflicts of interest.

    Palmitoylethanolamide is either the greatest drug ever discovered for neuropathic pain, or it is a massive fraud perpetrated by Spanish and Italian researchers.

  38. Secondhand smoke?

    Fermi calculations to the rescue!

    Simply do an experiment watching smokers, analyzing air-compound density, and projecting total particular inhalation.

    its partical based damage. My guess is that being exposed to multiple packs worth of cigarettes, if not super close to the person smoking, amounts to like 1 or something actual cigarette a day….which I believe actually isn’t that damaging.

    I don’t know the actual amount, but there is a solid chance that its so absurdly low that nobody should care on a risk ratio extrapolation calculation.

    A guess: If its something like a diner hall, where there are *lots* of smokers there all day, it might matter. But even then probably only a low increase in risk ratio, even small enough. It also might matter for people in a car with 2 smokers inside and one non-smoker.

    Banning it outside with wind, and people are not close to each other probably doesn’t make any sense at all and right now I think it stupid.

    • caryatis says:

      The median level of exposure for nonsmokers reporting tobacco smoke at home, work, or both was roughly 0.02 milligram of tar and 0.01 milligram of nicotine per day. The most heavily exposed subjects were inhaling perhaps 0.8 milligram of tar and 0.1 milligram of nicotine–compared to 16 mg of tar and 1.1 mg of nicotine from a regular Marlboro.

      –paraphrased from the Jacob Sullum book on smoking

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’ve seen a lot of generalizing from studies of airline flight attendants during the smoking era. I expect they were far more exposed… long times in flight with a lot of smokers and little air exchange.

      • So, its nanny-state nonsense, and to justify the paranoid simply have a smokers section of a place.

      • So, finding what I could get easily…

        “Women between the ages of 35 and 49 years who smoke 1 to 4 cigarettes per day have 5 times the risk of developing lung cancer (relative risk, 5.0; 95% CI, 1.8 to 14.0) and men have 3 times the risk (relative risk, 2.8; 95% CI, 0.9 to 8.3) as nonsmokers”

        This is about one tenth of a normal cigarette for those in the most exposed category, probably those working around lots of smokers constantly, and substantially less for the average person who lives and works around those who smoke.

        As nybbler said, perhaps the risk ratio increase is worrisome for those who worked in the conditions of airline flgiht attendants. Once the slightest precautions are made(designated smoking areas) this is true.

        • 1soru1 says:

          By what authority do you claim the right to increase my rate of cancer by even 1%?

          ‘It’s probably small, maybe around 10%’ doesn’t cut it. If you want to smoke in public place, you need to fund studies that comprehensively prove that the relevant figure is 0%

          • lvlln says:

            0% is far too high (low? Could use limbo metaphor instead of high jump metaphor) a bar for anything in the real world. Simply by someone else being in your presence, they’ve increased your risk of getting an infection, compared to their not being there. And if you get to absolutes like 0%, you have to consider crazy questions like, does the fact that the person next to me is wearing reflective sunglasses in the sun increase the chance of my getting skin cancer by 0.0000000000001%?

            Any sort of policy is going to have to be about balancing the risk with the rewards. Is the utility and pleasure gained by someone having the freedom to move around in public wearing clothes they like outweigh the risks it gives to everyone else to catch diseases? Is the utility and pleasure gained by someone smoking outweigh the risks it gives to everyone else to get cancer? Those are the questions worth discussing, not advocating absolutes that can never be met.

          • Aapje says:

            Is the utility and pleasure gained by someone smoking outweigh the risks it gives to everyone else to get cancer?

            Frankly, my experience is that too many smokers ignored my utility and pleasure at clean air and non-smelly clothes. So I’m extremely happy that these people were forced to enjoy their irritating hobby away from my face.

            That it was even necessary to invoke the risk of second hand smoke, rather than that society expected these people to behave as non-assholes was in itself bad.

          • If you want to smoke in public place, you need to fund studies that comprehensively prove that the relevant figure is 0%

            Define a public place. U.S. law frequently treats private property which individuals choose to be on, such as restaurants, as public, but I don’t see any excuse for doing so in this sort of context. If I go into a restaurant where people smoke I am assuming the risk.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            Does this apply to any other action in public place? Using cell phone? Car? Deodorant? Wearing clothes (maybe they are made from asbestos-like materials?!)? Eating a banana (radiation!!!)? Farting? Breathing? Is it prohibited for everybody to show up in public until they rigorously prove that chance they will influence your health is exactly 0%, and is everybody allowed only perform those actions for which it there is proof on file that they 100% can not influence your health in any imaginable way?

            That’s quite a thing to demand.

          • 1soru1 says:

            I’m not worried about a theoretical non-measurable 0.001%, but 1% is clearly way too high for anything but a private membership club.

            And the real figure is somewhere around 10 to 20%, which puts it outside the bounds of reasonable debate. Smoking without permission is a potentially deadly assault, and any proportionate means of self-defense are justified.

            https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/secondhand_smoke/protection/improve_health/

          • And the real figure is somewhere around 10 to 20%

            Can you point me at the published research that supports those numbers? When I went looking for it a few years back, all I could find were unsupported assertions plus work using an approach that permitted extreme cherry picking.

            Find a city that passed a law designed to reduce second hand smoke, compare heart attack outcomes to heart attack outcomes in similar cities that didn’t. Keep doing it until you find a case where, for some reason possibly unrelated to the law, heart attacks in the first city dropped substantially after the law was passed. Publish that case.

            As the article linked to in the OP points out, those results were for small cities, hence cities with a lot of random variation in health outcomes. When repeated for larger populations, the effect fell as the size of the population increased.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Link above gives several studies, here is another:

            http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001175

            Key diagram:

            http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1001175

            Feel free to be skeptical about the mass of such studies and meta-studies painting a consistent picture. But don’t confuse any such skepticism with sufficiently justified belief in the opposite that you get to act on the assumption that they are false.

          • John Schilling says:

            Link above gives several studies, here is another:

            That is a study of pregnancy complications.

            You made one, specific claim: that exposure to second-hand smoke increased cancer risk by 10-20%. Your initial link pointed to many studies, yes, but on careful review none of them had anything to do with cancer risks.

            I am willing to believe that secondhand smoke may cause significant health problems in the nonsmoking population. I am also willing to believe that this risk is mostly hype backed by cherrypicked studies. Put this on the long, long list of things I would like to see Scott do a deep dive into sometime, with the understanding that he probably won’t get around to it until the 22nd century.

            In the meantime, if the best I can get is someone who is certain they are qualified to be the standardbearer for the cause but can’t tell the difference between cancer, asthma, and pregnancy, that shifts my evaluation in the direction of cherrypicked hype.

            Also, the thinly-veiled threat of lethal force against smokers is empty posturing, which again shifts me towards believing you are peddling hype.

          • random832 says:

            If I go into a restaurant where people smoke I am assuming the risk.

            The argument (particularly for banning them from having smoking sections) is generally based on the effect on people who work there (who, it is assumed, do not have enough agency to avoid working for restaurants that have smoking allowed.)

          • 1soru1 says:

            > can’t tell the difference between cancer, asthma, and pregnancy

            Do you really think that is likely?

            Cancer was mentioned upstream, but so was heart attacks; the core discussion was of generalized ‘risk’. DF said the only studies he knew of were from small cities; I knew the UK and Ireland had a decade ago introduced a smoking ban incrementally country-by-country, not a city at a time. Which obviously makes the results stronger and harder to cherry-pick. As all of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England show effects at the (different) times of introduction, there not a lot of room for a plausible hypothesis of null effect.

            Cancer is harder to produce a comprehensive study on, as smoke contact decades ago can cause clinical cancer now. So change is gradual, and even by the time you have a smoke-free-generation, enough other things about the world have changed there is always room for doubt as to which mattered, and how much.

            There are a large number of easily-measurable health figures that do make big visible changes within months to a year whenever air quality is changed. So focusing on the one case that is hardest to measure is difficult to see as anything but obfuscation.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            This is a much messier question, but does anyone have information about secondhand smoke and overall health effects?

            The most obivous issue is that secondhand smoke is very bad for (a lot of?) people with asthma. That might make for less pressure to restrict secondhand smoke because people with asthma as a pretty well-defined minority, while heart attacks are something which could happen to anybody.

            Here’s a little anecdata: I can get a moderately bad heachache from a few hours of exposure to very smoky air.

            I’m pretty sure that my rather mild childhood carsickness was a result of my parents smoking in the car. (We’re talking about the 60s, when that sort of thing was normal.) The car sickness went away when I started getting rides with non-smokers.

            I wonder how much minor physical aggravation is caused by secondhand smoke, and how this should be balanced against people’s desire to smoke. Also, while libertarians tend to oppose secondhand smoke laws, if the insides of a person’s lungs aren’t private property, what is?

          • Jiro says:

            who, it is assumed, do not have enough agency to avoid working for restaurants that have smoking allowed

            By that reasoning, hazardous working conditions shouldn’t be prohibited at all.

          • @1soru1:

            Your first link tells me that the CDC thinks second hand smoke is bad, which I already knew. When I tried to trace a particular claim of theirs a few years ago I found it cited to the California EPA and that source not giving the basis for its claim, which I concluded was probably from the cherry picked studies I mentioned. So I’m curious as to how many of the sources the CDC cites you have actually looked at and which you believe support your claim.

            Two comments on the Scottish piece, which is, as you say, a sizable population. Their statistics are starting three months before the legislation, which suggests that they tried multiple start dates and reported the one that worked best. That’s a reasonable way of looking for an effect but it means their confidence statistics are bogus, since the chance of getting an effect by chance increases the more different versions of the experiment you run.

            Further and more important, the reported figures are combining the effects of first hand and second hand smoking. As the article says, “Previous studies have shown that the introduction of the legislation led directly to a reduction in smoking.” Unless I missed something, and I do not think I did, the figures are giving the overall result, not the effect limited to non-smoking mothers. So the article provides no evidence of the effect of second hand smoke–it could be a large part of the total, it could be zero.

            So far as what outcome you were talking about, the earlier percentage statement in the thread, by you, was:

            By what authority do you claim the right to increase my rate of cancer by even 1%?

            A little farther down the thread you wrote:

            but 1% is clearly way too high for anything but a private membership club.

            And the real figure is somewhere around 10 to 20%

            The obvious implication was that that was the figure for cancer.

            The studies I referred to were actually on heart attacks. Do you have a source that supports your 10 to 20% for those? Again, I’m asking about second hand smoke, not first hand smoke, and I’m asking for an actual study, not a claim by the CDC or other organizations. Preferably a study you have read.

          • Also, while libertarians tend to oppose secondhand smoke laws, if the insides of a person’s lungs aren’t private property, what is?

            They are. But the laws generally restrict smoking on private property such as restaurants, where people, customers and employees, have chosen to be. The inside of my stomach is private property too, but that isn’t an argument for forbidding restaurants to sell anything that might be bad for me.

            To make your argument, I think you have to limit it to second hand smoke in the open air, which in my experience is much more diluted. I got into the controversy as a result of my university forbidding all smoking on campus–it was already forbidden in buildings.

            I should add that since the university is a private institution I believe it has a right to ban smoking on its property–but I can still disapprove of its doing so, and do.

          • Aapje says:

            @Friedman

            I agree based on my liberal feelings, but I disagree based on ‘fed upness.’

            At a certain point, a large amount of anti-social behavior by a group wears down the level of tolerance that people are willing to extend.

            For example, my place of employment has an outside area with protection from the wind, 20 feet from the entrance. Yet a bunch of smokers prefer to stay near the entrance, where the smoke bothers the people who enter the building. They simply can’t be arsed to make a minimal effort beyond what the law requires, even if society provides seemingly perfectly adequate provisions that are 100% specific to their hobby.

            During my entire life I have experienced a substantial number of smokers not even taking minimal measures to accommodate others beyond what the laws require and taking advantage of every little loophole in the laws. ‘Tight’ laws are inherently dependent on people’s willingness to behave well even if the law doesn’t demand it, resulting in a quid pro quo in tolerance. If one side defects too much and puts burdens on others far more than they are willing to accept burdens for themselves, then you get sweeping laws that criminalize even the cases that don’t need to be criminalized, because they are too similar to the ones that do.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I banned you. I don’t know why you’re still here, but I’m banning you again.

  39. Sniffnoy says:

    Greek scholar Philitas of Cos “studied false arguments and erroneous word-usage so intensely that he wasted away and starved to death”.

    Like Diotallevi!

  40. dndnrsn says:

    Is meat doneness and condiment usage a culture war topic?

    • Aapje says:

      Food preferences seems to be a popular class warfare topic way to attack politicians.

      • Deiseach says:

        Food preferences seems to be a popular class warfare topic way to attack politicians.

        In 2014, Ed Milliband (who later became Leader of the Labour Party after a tussle with his brother) was photographed attempting to consume a bacon sandwich while on the hustings. The sandwich came out of the affray looking considerably better 🙂

        Even the Grauniad got in on the act, claiming Nigel Farage of UKIP was better able to tame the beast that is a bacon butty!

        The attempt most fraught with pitfalls is, of course, the slightly posher politicians who try to connect with the electorate in a faux-matey way (e.g. David Cameron’s “Call me Dave”) and George Osborne fell foul of the staged “just a bloke eating a burger” set-up:

        Hundreds replied, saying it was a publicity stunt, an attempt to project a populist image. But it was the forensic reporting of the Sun which revealed that Osborne’s burger was not any old burger but a “poshburger”, bought from upmarket chain, Byron. The paper contrasted the cheapest Byron burger, at £6.75, with the lowest priced MacDonald’s at 99p and said Osborne was “ridiculed”.

        Osborne’s attempt to sidestep the issue by claiming that MacDonald’s did not deliver only made it worse – Byron does not deliver either and it later emerged that Treasury staff were sent to pick up the burger from Waterloo station.

    • keranih says:

      Only if we’re talking about eating ham for supper.

    • reytes says:

      If it’s not yet, give it 3 months

  41. David Chapman says:

    Dirdle’s explanation of what I’m trying to say appears mistaken, based on a quick skim… I haven’t done a thorough reading yet, though.

    In the comments to that post, several people point out misunderstandings, and Dirdle seems to accept at least part of that.

    I may try and clarify, there and/or here, if I get the time to do so carefully!

    • David Chapman says:

      OK! We’re discussing it over there—please join in if interested!

      (I’m unsubscribing from comments here, since most aren’t relevant, so I won’t see follow-ups about this on SSC.)

  42. JPNunez says:

    Hey, did you know that Google shows a warning that slate star codex may be hacked?

    should look into it

  43. theodidactus says:

    Hello,
    Academic Librarian here. Side issue of your discussion of textbooks.

    I had wondered when your cost disease article got posted a few weeks ago if you had looked into academic journal articles when you were considering examples of cost disease. They’ve been getting vastly more expensive with no clear indication of a concomitant (I think that’s the right word) rise in quality (in fact, you can have a fun and lengthy discussion about what exactly publishers add for their price in the first place, see here: http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-science-publishing-1.12676 ). The rate’s generally higher than textbooks, which themselves are getting more expensive at a rate far higher than the general rate of inflation: http://www.library.ucsb.edu/collection-development/budget-challenges

    I’m not gonna suggest that I have a perfect explanation for the cause, but “inefficiency” seems to be the most likely one. Scott’s statement that “Any explanation of the form “administrative bloat” or “inefficiency” has to explain why non-bloated alternatives don’t pop up or become popular” can be answered by looking at the complexities in open-access publication: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_access_journal#Debate

    • Hamiltonicity says:

      Here’s my mostly anecdotally-backed perspective as an academic. In my field, the role of journal publishers has slowly shifted over the last few decades from disseminators of knowledge to overt leeches on the academic body. Running the journals, writing the articles, peer reviewing the articles, and disseminating the articles (via arxiv or similar) are all done by academics at zero or minimal cost. None of them are paid at all except the editors, who generally subsist on their academic salary and get a pittance extra if that. Arxiv itself is funded from the ground up by universities and the Simons Foundation at a total cost of about $800,000 per year. The publishing companies, meanwhile, provide an endless source of spam, incompetent copy editors who create more work than they save, significant obstacles to disseminating your work in the form of a 4-5 figure open access charge (if they allow it at all), and a snazzy web interface. For this they charge the taxpayer truly obscene amounts of money via university libraries, then turn around and charge the taxpayer *again* if they want to access the articles without being a member of one of said libraries.

      Unfortunately, they also provide one other thing – they allow the editors and referees use of a little rubber stamp saying “this work was approved by Prestigious Journal X”. Prestige, in this context, is not determined by useless fripperies such as the competence of the editorial board or the quality cutoff for submissions, but by tangentially related metrics like journal impact factor which heavily penalise new journals. And since various government and university bureaucrats much prefer looking at nice simple numbers to actually evaluating research quality, it is often this definition of prestige that really matters.

      The result is that it’s functionally impossible to get either a permanent academic job or long-term funding without publishing lots of papers in Prestigious Journals. Since most high-ranking academics hire postdocs on temporary contracts or take on PhD students, most papers will involve at least one person without a permanent job and will therefore need to be submitted to Prestigious Journals to avoid destroying their careers. Universities then have to buy the Prestigious Journals – at any price – because otherwise they get locked out of too many important papers and no-one can do any research.

      So the reason papers are getting more and more expensive is that the publishers have near-total control over our means of production and can tighten the screws at their leisure. As far as I can tell, the correct solution is for the governments of the world to join forces, bomb the publishers into rubble, and transform all science journals into low-overhead arxiv overlays while keeping the editorial boards unchanged. While this plan admittedly has several flaws, it does have the advantage of being substantially cheaper than an Elsevier bundle subscription.

      • Would an alternative approach be for authors to web almost final versions of their articles–the old preprint system? The article is then submitted to a journal so you can count it as a publication, but there is no need for anyone to read the journal.

        • Hamiltonicity says:

          This isn’t ideal – some publishers stop you from updating your preprints to fix errors the referees point out, for example – but it’s certainly better than nothing and most academics I know see it as a moral duty. Unfortunately not everyone does it, and for papers predating arxiv it can’t legally be done since the publishers already own the copyrights. (The authors and editors don’t get a say.)

          Also, funny story: if you’re on an EU grant (not sure about US) then you legally have to make the actual final version of your paper freely available – putting the preprint on arxiv isn’t good enough, even if you can and do correct all the errors the referees point out. This was ostensibly intended to rein in the publishers, but of course the result is that most of them now allow open access while requiring authors to pay them large amounts of money for the privilege. So it’s mostly just made the problem worse.

          • and for papers predating arxiv it can’t legally be done since the publishers already own the copyrights.

            They may own the copyright on the final draft they published but I don’t think they can use that to force you to take down a previous draft you webbed, unless there is some specific contractual agreement to do so.

            I’m not sure what the situation would be if you webbed your draft only after they had published the article. I’ve generally asked (and gotten) permission in that situation–most of my articles are webbed–but I don’t know if I was legally obliged to or not. In principle, the work was copyrighted as soon as I saved it to my hard drive.

    • HoustonEuler says:

      Hi,

      I wrote the linked essay on textbook cost growth. You bring up another great example of rapid cost growth which can’t be justified by productivity growth.

      As you point out, there’s no easy way to substitute, despite all the theory about how inefficient firms are weeded out of the market. That was my conclusion in the essay: the social proof/signal value of the current university system is so high that it’s very hard for people to substitute it with more efficient ones, so they have no incentive to keep costs down.

      • theodidactus says:

        Another thing that I think is REALLY important about social proof/signaling is that it necessarily limits the number of possible firms that can compete in certain arenas.

        I’ve been struggling with a way to articulate this, frankly for selfish reasons: it’s a running motif in my serial novels: http://www.theodidactus.com/cryptocracy/

        …basically it goes like this: there are some professions, academia is a great example (another that comes to mind often might be law) where the vast majority of those in the field attempt entry at the very top, then work down when they can’t “cut it.”

        “the very top” is by necessity a very limited place, and one of the interesting limiters on it is the finite capacity of human social networking, think Dunbar’s number: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunbar's_number

        You can only have so many really close friends (like five), your institutional allies can only be so numerous (like twenty), there can only be so many “prestigious medical journals.”

        This limiter makes sense for universities as well. If a bunch of rogue academics decided to break away and, in scott’s words create a “non-bloated alternative” to university, their first hurdle would of course be to sit in a room and figure out what exactly that means. What are the ‘bare bones’ and what is the ‘bloat’…and they wouldn’t agree (so that’s your “markets don’t work” explanation). But even if they got a school underway, they’d be unable to create a ‘good school’…because there’s a finite and quite low number of ‘good schools’ and everyone knows what they are already.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          My guess is that creating a new good school is hard and risky, but not impossible.

          The path would include being right enough about choosing students and educating them.

          Part of what’s needed is that some potentially excellent scholars are being excluded by the current system. You’d need to be able to recognize them and give them a good enough education that some of them become eminent. And you’d need enough money to keep your university going for that long.

          • HoustonEuler says:

            If you think about what it would take to make a successful cheaper alternative to the university system, you end up with something like online education or a physical for-profit university. Both of which seem extra scammy because they attract low caliber students.

          • Nornagest says:

            For-profit chain universities like Phoenix have a (largely deserved) reputation for being scams, but I’m not aware of any such reputation for online education platforms like Coursera — unless Coursera’s developed one in the last couple of years.

            I think there’s two reasons for this — first, because online is cheap to free, while for-profit physical can be quite pricey; and second, because doing some courses online doesn’t carry the status implications of Having A Degree, and so attracts people who actually want to learn. (Or think they want to — most online students drop out.)

          • rlms says:

            I think it would be interesting and possible for some reputable celebrity to try to create a highly focused elite new university.

          • One way in which new important schools can come into existence is by finding some niche that isn’t being filled. You have, say, five or ten professors scattered among an equal number of schools, all with a common interest that none of the schools is especially interested in. An academic entrepreneur raises some money, establishes a center or institute in a not particularly elite university, and recruits them.

            The example I am thinking of is the Public Choice Center at VPI, but I expect there are many others.

          • One approach I’ve seen to creating a new elite college is to do it inside a large non-elite university. I’m not sure how successful it has been. The example I am thinking of was in Arizona.

        • Adam says:

          You might be interested in Georgia Tech’s online master of science programs they’ve begun offering through MOOC platforms. They’ve offered a MS in Computer Science for a few years now through Udacity and are launching an Analytics MS through edX this coming fall. The former has been extremely successful so far and they’re both offered at a huge discount, around $7,000 and $10,000 for the entire degree, respectively.

          Presumably, this works because 1) it’s not rogue outsiders, but a university that already has a very good reputation in these fields doing it, and 2) these particular degree fields are fairly vocational and there is an obvious market for qualified candidates not interested in academia but interested in learning more and getting additional credentials, who can’t feasibly quit their jobs and move to Atlanta for a few years, but will gladly do this when the remote option is given. It’s like community college for mid-career professionals.

          I’m kind of surprised this never comes up and Scott (apparently) doesn’t know about it. UIUC is also doing an MS in Data Science through Coursera, though not at quite the same level of discount that Georgia Tech is offering. At least in these limited fields, the answer to “why is no one doing this” is starting to become “they are.”

  44. batmanaod says:

    I know there’s already a lot of discussion about steak above, but I need some clarification about Scott’s comment that he needs to try well-done steak. Scott, are you saying that you *have* had steak multiple times in your life, and have never asked for it well-done, but you’ve somehow consistently managed to avoid receiving inadvertently over-cooked steak? Because all “well-done” means is “intentionally cooked more than medium”. It is entirely possible to get a pretty good basis for comparison just by comparing the range of steaks one eats even when trying to avoid well-done steak.

    • Autolykos says:

      Also, “medium” usually means “the way the chef likes it”, which covers pretty much the whole spectrum already…

    • Deiseach says:

      Scott, are you saying that you *have* had steak multiple times in your life, and have never asked for it well-done, but you’ve somehow consistently managed to avoid receiving inadvertently over-cooked steak?

      Has Scott Alexander ever cooked a steak with his own fair hands himself? Thousands of inquiring SSC readers demand to know the truth! 😀

  45. greghb says:

    Is “Nobody has principles, part #56069384” a bit unfair to the White House? I thought there was federal legislation making marijuana criminal, so in a practical sense it isn’t a states rights issue, but there isn’t federal legislation protecting trans people. So if their argument is that they enforce legislation when there’s clear legislation and make judgement calls otherwise — isn’t that reasonably principled? And/or do I have my facts wrong?

    Not that I believe they wouldn’t ditch their principles if it suited them, either — it’s really hard not to! But just that this isn’t a great example of such a case.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      The problem is that any reading of the commerce clause broad enough to allow for federal marijuana prohibition without a constitutional amendment is also broad enough for a federal trans bathroom law. If the latter is an example of federal overreach, which it obviously is, then the former is as well.

      American federalism means that power devolves to the states unless it is one of the explicitly enumerated powers of the federal government. The states, on the other hand, have more-or-less free reign to self-govern as much or as little as they want. Hell, until very recently states weren’t even bound by the Bill of Rights.

      So refusing to use federal power to fight World War T is a classically Federalist move, while trying to force Colorado to obey the DEA is anti-Federalist. Not that it matters: Trump isn’t a federalist and I don’t think anyone expected him to be.

      • greghb says:

        I guess I’m saying there may be a higher principle than federalism at play: it sounds reasonable for the administration to say that, all things being equal, they default to the principle of federalism, but their higher principle is to be faithful executors of the law. In the case of marijuana, both Congress and the Supreme Court have said pretty clearly that it is and can be illegal federally. So the principle of enforcing the law trumps (sorry) the principle of federalism. The administration doesn’t see it as their role to second-guess the SCOTUS reading of the commerce clause. In the case of trans protections, however, there is no such legislative and judicial clarity, so the administration defaults to its principle of federalism.

        I still say that sounds consistent — what do you think?

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          It’s consistent, just very limp.

          People can value enforcing the law, whatever it might be, for it’s own sake. It’s not even an unreasonable position: the stability provided even by a very poor system of laws is better than total lawlessness.

          But that attitude is at odds with federalism. If any branch of the federal government, including the Supreme Court, oversteps it’s Constitutional bounds then they are the ones in violation of the law. Enforcing the law would mean ignoring illegal acts of Congress or Supreme Court rulings rather than aiding them.

          • greghb says:

            Ok, sure. I guess I disagree that it’s so limp, but maybe there isn’t much more to say. I think there’s a good case for the executive branch having a very high standard on when to overrule congress and the courts. Otherwise, chaos. And I could believe that an administration in good faith determines that current drug laws fall short of this standard.

          • GregQ says:

            “People can value enforcing the law, whatever it might be, for it’s own sake. It’s not even an unreasonable position: the stability provided even by a very poor system of laws is better than total lawlessness.

            But that attitude is at odds with federalism.”

            No, it doesn’t.

            Federalism is the position that they are Issues that are “Federal issues”, and issues that aren’t. Believing that most things “shouldn’t be a Federal case” has zero relationship to whether or not you think all laws should be enforced.

        • random832 says:

          Except Marijuana being a Schedule 1 drug is not a matter of law, it is defined by the DEA. The administration gets to decide if it’s illegal or not, much more clearly than they get to, say, restrict immigration however they want.

          • Nebfocus says:

            Remember when it took a constitutional amendment to ban a product?

          • greghb says:

            Isn’t it sort of a matter of law? Like, the Controlled Substances Act gives criteria for the DEA to use. And anyway, applying the criteria poorly isn’t the same thing as violating some principle of states’ rights.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Controlled_Substances_Act#Schedule_I_controlled_substances

          • GregQ says:

            So, what is the process for getting the Marijuana removed from the “Schedule I” list, and why didn’t the Obama Administration do that?

          • greghb says:

            Apparently they considered it but chose not to?

            http://www.businessinsider.com/dea-refuses-to-reclassify-marijuana-2016-8

            And I guess the administration declined to really enforce the federal law in states where it was legalized — which I remember hearing some principled folks complain about. Even if you wish marijuana were legal, you might wish even more that the executive branch doesn’t choose which laws to enforce.

          • Brad says:

            The executive branch doesn’t have even close to enough resources to “really” enforce all the federal criminal laws. Picking and choosing is absolutely necessary. People that don’t like that can encourage their congressional representatives to dramatically increase the size of the federal law enforcement, prosecutorial, and prison departments or greatly narrow the scope of federal criminal law.

          • BBA says:

            The DEA is staffed from top to bottom with drug war dead-enders hardliners. They’re about as likely to deschedule marijuana as the Pope is to convert to Hinduism. Hell, has the DEA ever descheduled anything? I can only think of times when they’ve added drugs to the schedules, or moved them up to higher schedules.

            There’s also the question of drug treaties: marijuana is in the strictest category of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and legalization would put us in violation.

          • greghb says:

            I guess what’s a little surprising is that Obama didn’t just fire the head of the DEA and appoint someone with a more lenient attitude toward marijuana. (Surprising, that is, if you only have a shallow understanding of what politicians want and how they might operate to get it — which is all I have.)

            It’s not like there wasn’t political will to do so. From Wikipedia on marijuana in the US:

            In January 2009, President Barack Obama’s transition team organized a poll to clarify some of the top issues the American public wants to have his administration look into, and two of the top ten ideas were to legalize the use of cannabis.

            Not one but two of the top ten ideas!

            Drug treaties is an interesting point.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ greghb

            Really not to say “Baptists and Bootleggers”, but there’s another direction to follow the money.

            Elderly veteran was taking “70 pain pills a day”, all from the VA, at considerable cost in co-pays. When he was allowed Medical Marijuana it took care of the pain, so he did not need the expensive pills any more. So it wasn’t just the Bootleggers who lost sales, Big Pharma lost also. BP’s lobbyists were legal; I doubt the Bootleggers’ were.

          • random832 says:

            Drug treaties is an interesting point.

            My suspicion is that this is like copyright treaties – the US is the one pushing for things to be more strict, and therefore does not have any credibility to say “but the treaty” when justifying their strict policies domestically.

          • John Schilling says:

            My suspicion is that this is like copyright treaties – the US is the one pushing for things to be more strict,

            Cite, please? The Berne Convention was established in Not The US by essentially Everybody But The US, in 1886, setting the duration of most copyrights at life of the author plus fifty years regardless of whether the author registered the copyright. The United States, at that time, allowed a maximum term of 42 years and that only if the author registered the work and later filed for renewal. It took the US ninety years to adopt life-plus-fifty, and twelve years after that for the US to formally adopt the Berne Convention rules. Not to be outdone, the proto-EU in 1993 increased copyright duration to life plus seventy years. It took the United States another five years to catch up.

            So where is the United States pushing for things to be more strict?

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Berne Convention was established in Not The US by essentially Everybody But The US, in 1886

            That was then, this is now. The rise of Hollywood and the US recording industry has occurred since.

          • BBA says:

            It’s only been since the 1990s that the US has taken the lead in internationalizing restrictive intellectual property regimes (TRIPs was 1994, WCT was 1996), but we’ve done it in a big way.

            Anyway, the point isn’t so much that there’s anything wrong in itself with us violating a treaty that we forced on the rest of the world by legalizing marijuana. We’d get a sternly worded letter from some UN subcommittee, but that’s it, the substantive enforcement provisions can’t really be aimed at us. But it would certainly hurt our standing regarding harder drugs – opiates, cocaine, etc. – and make it that much more difficult to get other countries on board with our efforts regarding them. Which, if you’re a libertarian who thinks everything should be legal and uncontrolled, all right, but “heroin should be available OTC” is a fringe minority position.

          • Protagoras says:

            But it’s so frustrating that “heroin should be available OTC” is a fringe minority position! A decent number of the most notorious banned drugs are actually quite old, and were around a long time before they were banned, so we know what happens when they’re legal. And while it was certainly bad, it doesn’t seem to have been nearly as bad as what happens when they’re illegal.

          • John Schilling says:

            That was then, this is now. The rise of Hollywood and the US recording industry has occurred since.

            Did you miss the part where I described a hundred and ten subsequent years of Europe taking the lead on stricter copyright treaties with the United States following?

            Blaming all the evils of copyright on Disney and Hollywood and their Congressional stooges is an easy, stupid, false cliché. Do you all really want to double down on it?

          • Aapje says:

            @Schilling

            A country can have a long history of doing X and yet have a reputation of doing Y, because of fairly recent events.

            Whether that reputation is fair is a separate question to whether that reputation exists.

            As far as I can see, random832 was arguing about the consequences of the reputation, not its validity. Something can be an easy, stupid, false cliché; and yet something that will have strong consequences, because people see it as true.

      • Controls Freak says:

        any reading of the commerce clause broad enough to allow for federal marijuana prohibition without a constitutional amendment is also broad enough for a federal trans bathroom law

        Not if Scalia’s reading falls under the category of “any reading”.

      • GregQ says:

        “The problem is that any reading of the commerce clause broad enough to allow for federal marijuana prohibition without a constitutional amendment is also broad enough for a federal trans bathroom law”

        So what?

        Yes, Federal Marijuana laws are a bad idea. but they are on the books.

        There are no Federal laws on the books requiring schools to let a boy use the girl’s bathroom or locker room just because he claims to “identify” as a girl.

        Since there’s no Federal law on the issue, the Trump Admin isn’t doing anything on the subject. Where there are Federal laws (marijuana, illegal immigration), they’re enforcing them.

        No, you do not get to legitimately call someone a “hypocrite”, just because they chose to enforce laws you don’t like. Esp. when that someone has sworn an oath to faithfully enforce the laws of the US.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          The Constitution is the highest law of the land. The oath to faithfully enforce the law necessarily requires that unconstitutional laws not be enforced.

          That said, I couldn’t care less about weed legalization. Whatever silly things the Trump administration needs to do to keep the R’s in Congress happy is fine so long as he starts seriously working towards ensuring America’s demographic survival. If the Wall comes up on time he’ll have earned the right to knock over as many ‘medicinal’ dealers as he feels like.

          It’s not federalist, and that’s ok. Federalism is a good bet long-term but we’re in a national crisis now: once we’ve sorted out our larger problems we can hopefully move back towards a legitimately federalist system.

          • The Nybbler says:

            once we’ve sorted out our larger problems we can hopefully move back towards a legitimately federalist system.

            Hmm, that one sure sounds familiar. I think Julius Caesar used a variant.

            What is the short-term crisis that Trump would solve? If we cut the number of illegal immigrants by 90%, how would things get better?

  46. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Belgians find that the sun illegally cast over four thousand votes in their local elections; other countries now concerned about possibility of solar-related voting fraud.

    I don’t see the problem here, In the Politics, Aristotle says that democracy is the most just government because men are roughly equal and that if gods were part of our political system, such political equality would be a gross injustice. 4,000 votes for Helios to a human’s 1 seems a minimum level of fairness. =)

    • Deiseach says:

      Belgians find that the sun illegally cast over four thousand votes in their local elections; other countries now concerned about possibility of solar-related voting fraud.

      So either Russians hacked the sun, or the sun is a Russian stooge? Should we be alarmed either way (who knew Putin’s dastardly influence reached that far!)

  47. jimrandomh says:

    Regarding the claim that a cosmic ray caused a bit-flip in a voting machine: Bullshit. That was a fraud attempt gone wrong.

    Cosmic ray bit-flips in computers are (a) extremely rare and (b) uniformly distributed across memory addresses. The latter is key to why the solar flare explanation is invalid. If you flip a random bit of memory you’ll probably flip a code, string, or pointer, and if you do happen to flip a bit in a vote total, the possible changes are uniformly distributed between the powers of 2 from 1 to 2^31. Whereas malware aimed at stealing an election will definitely change vote totals, and is much more likely to change them by 4096 than by 2^31.

    (This is true even if the election where the flip was observed wasn’t one anyone was interested in; a badly designed piece of malware could be left over from a previous election using the same machines, or be tested in preparation for a future election of greater importance.)

    • Garrett says:

      I am certain that events similar to this can indeed be non-uniform. Give me a decade and then hit me up in-person and I’ll regale you with a facinating tale or two.

    • Autolykos says:

      On the other hand, single bit errors are also completely consistent with what I would have expected from a submission to the Underhanded C Contest…

  48. drethelin says:

    With regard to well-done steak: You can cook a tasty steak well-done, but a lot of restaurants aren’t set up to do this. They use extremely high temperature grills designed to cook steaks rare to medium rare without overcooking them, and you will end up with a gross, burnt steak.

  49. AlphaCeph says:

    > Could we terraform Mars quickly and cheaply by planting a magnetic shield at its L1 point?

    Where did the idea that this process would be quick come from? It seems horrifically wrong to me…

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      The guy in the video says there is a kilogram of oxygen lost to space every second [those are his words, although the slide doesn’t say oxygen, so listen for this], which would apply a lot more CO2 every second, which would stop getting stripped off if the magnetic shield were in place, so it could build up if not stripped to a useful level in a few decades.

      I’m really skeptical of “build something huge, then space is free” crowd. They are usually worse than useless, sucking oxygen for useful ideas out of the room. So far people online are just discussing the video, not discussing a scientific paper. Where is that paper?

      • AlphaCeph says:

        The stripping of Mars’ atmosphere by the solar wind is a repeated mistake that I see made about Mars terraforming.

        It’s so slow that it is completely irrelevant.

        > The guy in the video says there is a kilogram of oxygen lost to space every second

        > Mars Total mass of atmosphere: ~2.5 x 10^16 kg

        That’s 1 part in 10^16 of Mars’ atmosphere per second, or the entire atmosphere in about 600 million years (and feel free to give or take a factor of 3 or something for O2 –> CO2)

        > so it could build up if not stripped to a useful level in a few decades.

        Where in the name of Ra do you get that from?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          ICYMI, I’m skeptical of all this. I’m typing the wild claims here so people can see them as part of the discussion. If that means I get beat up by people who are too lazy to watch the video but do have the energy to attack commenters, I guess I’m done here.

          • simon says:

            I watched the video and saw/heard nothing about “a few decades”. The only time frame mentioned was “700 million years … or sooner“.

            Now, the popular mechanics article did say “According to simulation models, such a shield could help Mars achieve half the atmospheric pressure of Earth in a matter of years” but there is nothing in the video to support that. The video talked about 5-year simulations made under the assumption that particular pressure thresholds had already been achieved, but did not say anything about how long it would take to achieve the thresholds.

  50. rlms says:

    I like my steak part of a living cow, because animal lives have value (unlike human ones).

  51. vaniver says:

    I know nothing about steak, but I was always told as a child that I needed to order it medium rare because if I asked for it well-done everyone would laugh at me/hate me. In retrospect, this is really suspicious, and I should probably try well-done steak sometime to make sure it’s not one of those things where it tastes vastly better but everyone has to signal sophistication by pretending that it doesn’t.

    As someone who’s not great at tasting things, I don’t think there’s a huge difference. But I always order it well-done for food safety reasons, which seems like it’s potentially a factor here; the wusses are the ones who order things well-done, and you’re not a wuss, are you?

    Also in European polling news: even though older Americans support Trump and older Brits support Brexit, it’s the youngest French people who are some of the most likely to support nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen. Why the difference?

    If I had to guess, it’s because the younger people are noticing the downsides of immigration more. A 60-year old entrenched in their position probably isn’t fighting migrants for jobs, and certainly isn’t going to school with them.

    • reytes says:

      If I had to guess, it’s because the younger people are noticing the downsides of immigration more. A 60-year old entrenched in their position probably isn’t fighting migrants for jobs, and certainly isn’t going to school with them.

      So why does the age pattern reverse in the UK and America?

      • Clippy says:

        Hypothesis 1: meme war. American college students are responsible for a lot of the writing about social justice. It leaks to similar demographics in the UK via meme war, but doesn’t quite get to France because of the language barrier.

        Hypothesis 2: the framing is wrong. It seems to me that we (France) used to be a lot more “to the Left” culturally and philosophically a few generations ago. I mean, we get blamed for almost all the weird stuff associated with the worst of the left, like the fiasco of anthropology and postmodernism. Maybe we’re experiencing a regression to the mean and so Cthulhu is swimming right for a while.

        For what it’s worth, as a French person I was very surprised by this graph. The conventional narrative is the classic “bitter old racists from the boondocks vs. right side of history young urbanites”. In my experience, the name Le Pen is a swear word, interchangeable with “xenophobic far-right Nazi hatemonger”, especially among young people. I’m not rural but definitely not from the French equivalent of Brooklyn either.

        • dndnrsn says:

          With regard to your last point – it could be that there’s young people who publicly curse her name but privately would put an X (or whatever) next to FN in the ballot booth.

        • reytes says:

          With regards to hypothesis 1, the question would then have to be: why does meme war exist in America and the UK and not in France?

          (I don’t really have an answer to any of these questions, to be clear)

        • Aapje says:

          @Clippy

          Hypothesis 1 appears wrong to me, because Dutch youngsters are also more right wing than previous generations and are extremely tuned into American culture.

          Isn’t a more logical explanation that young people are forced into schools with other ethnic groups and see the cultural clashes there first hand? My personal experience is certainly that as I got older, my bubble tightened very much. For example, I’m quite sure that the people that I (seriously) interact with are the upper tier in their ethnic group. I don’t interact with redneck Bob or jihad Muhammed. I interact with theater Henry and modern Islam Fatima. Anti-bubble facts that I gather show that the latter are far from average.

          So it makes sense to me that the general disillusionment with the speed of integration/assimilation would be felt most by the young people who experience ethnic conflicts. Add in the relative lack of nuance that young people tend to have.

          • reytes says:

            So – again – why aren’t young people in America anti-immigration?

            It seems to me that explaining why young people in America are not anti-immigration, but young people in France are, requires offering some differentiating factor between young people in America and young people in France. It’s not enough to explain why young people in America might be pro-immigration, or young people in France might be anti-immigration. The interesting question is why they differ. Do you think that young people in France experience ethnic conflicts, while young people in America don’t? If so, why is that the case?

            (Assuming, of course, that it is in fact the case that young people in France are anti-immigration and young people in America are pro-immigration – I feel like we’re going off a handful of studies here)

          • Aapje says:

            The makeup of the migrant population to the US is drastically different to France, as well as the ethnic problems. The French underclass is the offspring of fairly recent migration waves, while the American underclass is black people who have been there a long time. So it ought to be obvious to them that the friction that white and black Americans have is not related to migration.

            Also, the N-Africans that form a large group in France have a specific culture that is highly incompatible with Western culture. So the friction is probably much bigger in French schools.

    • shakeddown says:

      If I had to guess, it’s because the younger people are noticing the downsides of immigration more. A 60-year old entrenched in their position probably isn’t fighting migrants for jobs, and certainly isn’t going to school with them.

      There’s a way to check this – in the UK and US, people living in areas with large numbers of immigrants tend to be more pro-immigration. If you’re right, this should be reversed in France. Does anyone know if it’s actually is?

      • cassander says:

        “large numbers” is a bit slippery. I imagine that anti-immigration sentiment is driven more by the rate of change in the number of immigrants than the absolute level. I.e. Take a hypothetical border state. the most pro-immigrant places are going to be far upstate, where very few immigrants show up and never have, and the border towns, where a ton show up, have been showing up forever, and where mechanisms (both cultural and political) for dealing with whatever issues are caused by large numbers of immigrants are long established. the places that are anti-immigrant are going to be the places in between, where immigration used to be low but is increasing rapidly because (A) there’s innate aversion to change and (B), because the coping mechanisms don’t exist yet or are weaker.

        • Aapje says:

          You also have to keep in mind that white flight is a thing. Some of the most anti-immigrant areas in my country are places where houses were build fairly recently. The people who went to live there mostly came from the big cities and moved out when migrants started coming in big numbers. So it makes perfect sense to assume that they had negative experience with migrants in the past, fled to areas with few migrants and then are extremely wary of migrants coming to those areas.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Food safety: Do you eat raw fruits and vegetables?
      Practically speaking, they are more dangerous than raw meat.

      • Nornagest says:

        Raw fruits and vegetables are more likely to kill you, but raw meat’s more likely to give you a nonlethal but incredibly disgusting parasitic infection. Insofar as food safety concerns are motivated by disgust, that might be significant.

      • Deiseach says:

        Not raw vegetables. Raw fruit yes, but take the peel off those fruits that have peels, and wash other fruit well before consuming.

  52. Douglas Knight says:

    Steak is about texture. It is tasteless. If you cook steak too much you ruin the texture. Maybe you improve the taste, but if want good tasting beef, order something else.

    But for that same reason, it is OK to put sauce on steak. Putting ketchup on steak is no worse than putting ketchup on anything else.

    • Anon. says:

      Steak has tons of flavor, this is probably one of those “universal human experiences” you’re missing. Faulty tastebuds?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Compared to other cuts off beef?
        Hyperbole is one of those “human universals” …

        • batmanaod says:

          “Less tasty than other cuts” != “tasteless”. Also, what “other cuts”? Steak isn’t a particular cut.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            “Less tasty than other cuts” != “tasteless”.

            Hence, hyperbole.

          • batmanaod says:

            Sorry, thought you were saying Anon had engaged in hyperbole by saying that steak has “tons of flavor”.

    • Nornagest says:

      The problem with ketchup on steak isn’t that ketchup is bad on steak, it’s that ketchup is bad on everything except French fries.

      • batmanaod says:

        Even on French fries I typically prefer barbecue sauce.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I argue that ketchup is acceptable, if not ideal, on fried chicken.

      • batmanaod says:

        Fancier ketchup can make a surprisingly big difference, though. Or maybe I’m just susceptible to priming.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m very fond of ketchup on hamburgers and fries. I can’t see the point of putting it on steak, and I can’t imagine it being a good idea on scrambled eggs.

        While we’re on the subject, I love skirt steak, especially if it’s chewy. Any other favorite cuts?

        In general, I love mayonnaise (best part of the sub/hoagie/hero*!), but I don’t think it works very well on french fries. Fries already have as much fat as I want, and I’d rather have a bit of zing in the sauce. For whatever reason, flavored mayonnaise doesn’t offer the right kind of zing.

        *A long sandwich with usually cold cuts, cheese, salad, etc.

        I spent enough time in Delaware that I believe sub is the one true name for this, and I’m willing to bet that adding hoagie and hero didn’t help much to make matters clear.

        Vegetarian subs and tuna subs exist, but I don’t think they’re the prototype sub.

        If it’s heated up so that the cheese melts, it’s a grinder.

        • Deiseach says:

          Vinegar on the chips/fries – I can’t understand putting mayonnaise on them, as you say, there’s already enough fat there. But chacun à son goût and all that!

        • Aapje says:

          In general, I love mayonnaise (best part of the sub/hoagie/hero*!), but I don’t think it works very well on french fries.

          The Dutch often use a lower fat (25% instead of 70-80%) and sweeter variant of mayonnaise because of this (literally called “fries sauce”).

          However, more recently we decided that this was too healthy, so we developed the kapsalon: fries, topped with döner or shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese until melted and then subsequently covered with a layer of dressed salad greens (to make it healthy).

          1800 kcal per serving FTW. I’m surprised that the Americans didn’t catch on to it yet, it seems quite compatible with US snack culture.

          • baconbacon says:

            American’s are miles and miles ahead of you, having invented Notso Fries (and many other variants), which are covered in melted cheese, sour cream and bacon which come in at something like 2,400 calories a plate.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m fond of the barbaric northern dish called poutine. Fries topped with cheese curd and gravy, high in calories for a long day of lumberjacking or fighting grizzly bears.

          • quanta413 says:

            However, more recently we decided that this was too healthy, so we developed the kapsalon: fries, topped with döner or shawarma meat, grilled with a layer of Gouda cheese until melted and then subsequently covered with a layer of dressed salad greens (to make it healthy).

            Tell me more about your wonderful culture.

            Here in the U.S.A. we’ve got fries with chili and cheese, fries with carne asada salsa and cheese, fries with steak and bleu cheese, and of course rarer variants, but this fries with shawarma intrigues me.

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            It’s classic fusion between local and Turkish food. Not much more to say about it, really.

            We also have ‘Chinese’ restaurants that serve food that you can find nowhere in China. The origin is Chinese migrants to Indonesia, who mixed Indonesian with Chinese food and adapted it to Dutch (colonizer) taste. Then these people moved to the Netherlands and adapted again to popular taste, for an audience with very little experience with foreign food. Taking out the heat, increasing the portions, more sweetness, etc. Then they all copied the success formula.

            As for variants of french fries, a popular classic is ‘war fries,’ which is fries with low fat mayo, diced raw onions and Indonesian sate sauce. It is named for resembling the chaos of the battlefield (white clothes, blood, mud). Another is ‘fries special,’ which is fries with low fat mayo, spiced ketchup and chopped onions.

            A more recent classic is fries with ‘joppie’ sauce, which is a sauce made from mayonaise, curry and other stuff. The original recipe is secret, but people have tried to reproduce it.

            Other popular fast food:
            – Frikandel: a deep fried, sort of minced-meat hot dog (Dutch people on average eat 37 of them a year!)
            – Kroket: ragout filled croquettes (Dutch people on average eat 29 of them a year!). Often eaten with mustard sauce.
            – Bitterbal: a small round croquette, eaten as finger food during parties and dipped in mustard sauce.
            – Cheese souffle: a deep fried puff pastry envelope filled with cheese
            – Raw herring with diced onions, classically eaten by grabbing the tail and lowering it into your mouth.
            – Oliebol, deep fried dumpling of dough. Properly done, there are raisins and apple bits in there. Covered with powdered sugar. Only eaten in wintertime.

            If you ever come to the Netherlands, you should try some of this (but don’t go overboard, or you won’t fit in your airplane seat when you go back to the US).

          • dndnrsn says:

            Dutch bar/snack food is the best. My experience of Dutch food is that the standard meal fare is pretty meh (traditional Dutch food; Indonesian food is good) but sweets, baked goods, cheese, and snack/bar food is all top-notch. Unfortunately, it’s one of those cuisines that’s very hard to find in North America, as the Dutch are one of the groups that has basically disappeared into the category of “generic white people”. Indonesian food is pretty hard to find too.

            As for poutine: who invented it and how it should properly be prepared can be quite controversial. All sorts of tarted-up varieties exist, mostly consumed by people who are under the influence. But there are many purists who say that all you need is proper squeaky cheese curds and piping-hot gravy over fries.

          • Nornagest says:

            Filipino food’s pretty good too. Its roots are basically Malay, but influenced in succession by Chinese, Spanish, and American cuisines — thanks to colonization for the Spanish and Americans, and cultural osmosis for the Chinese. Does amazing things with pig. Also quite hard to find in the US outside a few small cultural enclaves.

            Banana ketchup is actually better than the regular kind. I’m still a little weirded out by the Filipino habit of sweetening hamburgers, though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Filipino restaurants are getting food writer attention in parts of Canada. If it’s more available than in the US, I’d imagine that’s because the per-capita number of Filipinos in Canada is double that of the US. It’s still in the “ethnic cuisine gets popular with outsiders due to being tasty and cheap” phase (agreed on the pig). Next up is the “gets trendy and expensive places start opening” phase.

          • soreff says:

            Was kapsalon developed as a competitor to poutine? 🙂

          • quanta413 says:

            @Aapje

            I see that your people too have a love for deep fried foods! I am now sad that I can’t get Dutch food in the U.S. but excited by the possibilities.

            Deep frying stuff is kind of a pain though. I’ll probably try making joppiesaus though. Looks good.

          • Aapje says:

            @soreff

            Poutine is obviously inferior:
            – The cheese is not grilled
            – No meat!
            – No veggies (just kidding, this is the worst part of the kapsalon)
            – Gravy :/

          • Aapje says:

            @quanta413

            You can get some of it if you are willing to pay 10x the Dutch prices.

            Also, a fairly recent Dutch invention is croquettes that can be prepared in the oven. Very convenient. But I couldn’t find any English recipes to make them yourself.

          • Tarpitz says:

            With all due respect to both US and Dutch drunk food, when it comes to artery-clogging beer-aborbers, the Scottish chippie remains undefeated and untouchable. Until you’ve eaten deep fried haggis, you haven’t lived. I’m also partial to deep fried black pudding, deep fried white pudding, deep fried king rib (NB no ribs involved) and deep fried Mars bars. Deep fried pizza I can take or leave; deep fried cheeseburgers I recommend avoiding. I hear deep fried Creme Eggs are pretty good too.

      • Autolykos says:

        Though (unsweetened) tomato paste is strictly superior to ketchup even in those cases where it would be acceptable, IMHO.

      • Iain says:

        A hotdog without ketchup is barely a hotdog at all.

      • Wander says:

        Is ketchup different from tomato sauce? Over here no one would ever criticise you for have a bit of tomato sauce with your steak.

        • I believe that tomato sauce is the English name for what Americans call ketchup.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Specifically, when Americans say “tomato sauce”, we usually mean a sauce based on diced or crushed tomatoes cooked with herbs (most commonly basil, oregano, and parsley) and aromatic vegetables (most commonly onions and garlic, sometimes with carrots as well).

            Pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and marinara are fairly central examples. Other terms I’ve heard used as near-synonyms are “red sauce” or “tomato gravy”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That’s what I (Canadian) would call tomato sauce. I’ve heard “red sauce” mostly applied to that sweet red sauce mostly used in North Americanized Chinese food. I’ve never heard “tomato gravy”.

          • Protagoras says:

            The place I’ve most commonly encountered “red sauce” is as the name for standard tomato based pizza sauce at pizza places which have more than one pizza sauce option (where they have a “white sauce,” garlic heavy and obviously without tomatoes, as an alternative pizza sauce option, and perhaps others).

          • Eric Rall says:

            That’s the same context where I’ve heard “red sauce”. “Tomato gravy” I hear from my father, who grew up in an Italian immigrant community in northern New Jersey. I suspect it’s either an Italian-American thing or a New York/New Jersey thing.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’ve seen pizza with olive oil and garlic called “white pizza” but I would assume “white sauce” to be alfredo if I saw it on a menu with no description.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Eric Rall, tomato sauce being call gravy is geographically complex. It’s common in South Philadelphia, and I was just talking with someone with an Italian background who was surprised that gravy is the term anywhere else.

            “However, if you try to actually map the gravy-sauce divide, inconsistencies and contradictions emerge. Why would it be gravy in Louisiana and East Boston but so frequently sauce in between? Why is there disagreement even among the five boroughs of New York City, forget about New Jersey? And how come two major outposts of Italian American life in the Midwest, Chicago and Detroit, don’t use the same word? Even if we could establish a detailed geography of gravy vs. sauce, we still wouldn’t understand why the split exists, or what (if anything) it signifies.”

            http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2015/11/16/it_is_called_sauce_or_gravy_a_slate_investigation_into_the_linguistics_of.html

          • Tarpitz says:

            There’s regional and class variation within Britain. As a middle class southerner, I would call ketchup ketchup, and if I said “tomato sauce” I’d probably mean something Italian on pasta or meatballs or some such. “Tomato sauce” = ketchup I would guess is a northern/Scottish and/or working class usage here, in the same way that what I’d call “squash” they’d call “juice”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Squash? That’s one I haven’t heard before, and I thought I was pretty good with Britishisms.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Squash is a kind of concentrated juice, usually with sugar added, which you dilute to drink.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I suspect you and I use “juice” identically, and I use squash to describe a kind of cheap, poor quality cordial or syrup which is popular in the UK but rarely seen in America, and which you consequently may not have come across.

          • Protagoras says:

            OK, there is clearly only one solution. We must find some Confucius DNA, clone him, teach him English, and set him to the project of rectifying the names of our various sauces and condiments. Then I suppose we must institute a single world government, or at least a single government of all the English speaking lands, to ruthlessly enforce whatever standards he arrives at. I know some will say I’m just being a typical leftist, but read this thread; does anybody really think the current utter chaos is remotely acceptable?

          • skef says:

            a kind of cheap, poor quality cordial or syrup which is popular in the UK but rarely seen in America

            Wouldn’t that be “drink” here?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Wouldn’t that be “drink” here?

            From the sounds of it, yes.

        • Aapje says:

          It seems that some people use tomato sauce as a generic term for any sauce with tomatoes, while ketchup is a more specific product with tomatoes, sugar, vinegar/acetic acid, and spices.

          There also seem to be regional differences, for example, in one place they can use tomato sauce for a more basic sauce and ketchup for a more seasoned sauce, while in other places, the basic sauce is called pasta sauce and tomato sauce is used for the more seasoned sauce.

          So the answer is that we life in a chaotic world and inevitably will run into situation where Babylonian confusion of tongues will lead to horrible outcomes (like using a slightly less or more spiced sauce than was intended).

    • drethelin says:

      I’ve cooked hundreds of steaks in my time and it’s definitely not tasteless. I think this must be one of those things like different bitterness taste receptors on the tongue, because it’s an opinion I’ve seen before and it makes no sense to me.

    • gbdub says:

      If you think steak is tasteless, there’s a good chance you’re under salting it. Judicious application of kosher salt during cooking might be the single biggest thing the average home chef can do to make their food taste more restaurant-like. It doesn’t make steak taste salty, it makes it taste like steak.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      If you ask for your steak “medium,” like I do, it won’t come out grossly red _and_ the waiter won’t smirk at you.

      Trump, in contrast, doesn’t care what waiters think about him, so he asks for it “well done” because he’s Donald Trump and the waiter is a … waiter.

  53. Sigivald says:

    I should probably try well-done steak sometime to make sure it’s not one of those things where it tastes vastly better but everyone has to signal sophistication by pretending that it doesn’t.

    As someone who has had good quality steaks cooked everywhere from too-rare to well done, I’d say it’s not plausibly better, let alone vastly better – and I second “medium rare” as the ideal target for most people, though one’s own taste is the only true guide.

    (Medium rare is both an excellent … medium … if properly achieved, but it also helps ensure a restaurant neither serves you shoe-leather nor bleeding raw meat.)

    However, while I’d never intentionally ask for a well done steak, I’ve accidentally overcooked my own enough, before perfecting my technique, to know that they’re perfectly edible that way.

    Partially it might also be an artifact of age; my grandparents’ generation seemingly never ate beef with any pink in it; if Trump picked that up and doesn’t like change in his food, that’s a fine explanation for me, and I won’t judge him for that.

  54. reasoned argumentation says:

    Also, how come everyone writing about why Europe was so successful has the first name Jared and a surname based off a precious stone?

    Jeez Scott, you could have just used ((())) as a shorthand.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think Jareds are usually Mormon, aren’t they?

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        Precious metal and precious stone last names are almost universally Jewish.

        Jared is commonly but not universally Jewish.

        • Sandy says:

          This is true for Gold and Silver, but not necessarily for Diamond, which has a significant Jewish lean in terms of frequency but is also an Irish and Scottish surname.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Rubin is a variant of Reuben. But it is influenced by the existing German name Rubin, meaning Ruby.

          There is a long history of Jews in America choosing a given name for the purpose of assimilation, but not noticing when Jews all pile into it and it becomes a recognizably Jewish name, though I don’t know if that’s true with Jared.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            American Jews tend to prefer Old Testament boys’ first names that begin with J: Jared, Joshua, Jonathan, etc. But not New Testament first names: Joseph, James, John, Jesus, etc.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “There is a long history of Jews in America choosing a given name for the purpose of assimilation, but not noticing when Jews all pile into it and it becomes a recognizably Jewish name ….”

            It’s almost as if Jews like being Jewish.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            There’s an old joke about the new state of Israel hiring a PR firm. The firm’s report began: “The first thing the country must do is change its name to ‘Irving’.”

            (It had to be explained to me that back then, “Irving” was a WASPy name.)

        • Gazeboist says:

          The only Jared I can think of off the top of my head is Asian. Maybe smart races like naming their kids Jared?

  55. Z says:

    RE: The best way to keep terrorists out of terrorism is to convince them to settle down and raise a family…Google “terrorism polygamy” and you’ll find a long-standing hypothesis that polygamy creates a population of men that can’t start families due to a lack of supply.

    You can convince them all you want, but if there’s a population of 100 men and 100 women, and just the top 5 wealthiest men get 2+ women each, you’re not changing anything.

    See Polygamy Map, compounded by Gender Ratio Map.

    • baconbacon says:

      The Polygamy/Terrorism connection gets the causation wrong, the issue isn’t polygamy its the hierarchical structure of the countries. If young men had a hope of becoming one of those many with several wives then they would have cause to do things other than terrorism, but in these societies what you do has minimal impact on your prospects compared to how you were born. This explanation covers all the current terrorist breeding grounds along with most of the historical record, such as Ireland and Russia (the latter rebranded “heroes” and “revolutionaries”) a century ago.

      The issue isn’t “young men have no outlet” it is that “ambitious young men have no outlet”.

    • Nornagest says:

      You can convince them all you want, but if there’s a population of 100 men and 100 women, and just the top 5 wealthiest men get 2+ women each, you’re not changing anything.

      If I remember right, this is in fact the case in those parts of the Middle East where it’s legal and not heavily restricted. I’m having trouble finding numbers now, but I remember single-digit percentages for Saudi Arabia, probably lower in most other countries.

      • According to The Modern Egyptians, which described life among ordinary people in Cairo in the 19th century, not one man in a hundred had more than one wife.

        Of course, it might have been higher among richer people.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The bigger problem with the Middle East than polygamy is cousin marriage. Here’s my early 2003 article on why invading Iraq wasn’t going to accomplish anything due to Middle Eastern inbreeding:

          http://www.unz.com/article/cousin-marriage-conundrum/

          • Mary says:

            Come to think of it, that may be another reason why Europe surged again: the Catholic Church pushed wide restrictions on cousin marriage. In fact, too wide to be workable at first, but both first cousin and second cousin marriages were prohibited under the narrower restrictions.

            I have, in fact, read that some major trading fairs got their start from people foreseeing that they would have to look aboard for brides and bridegrooms and making the venture to make connections. (In The Knight, the Lady and the Priest by Georges Duby IIRC.)

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Polygamy is extremely expensive when wives aren’t allowed out to work.

          The places where you typically see extreme polygamy, such as some handsome old devil having 100+ wives, is not the Middle East but Sub-Saharan African where it’s expected that wives get out in the fields and hoe the yam patch.

          And if the gerontocratic polygamist’s working wives occasionally sneak off into the bushes with lonely young bachelors, well the elderly husband isn’t going to bring home the bacon to his nominal children anyway, so he doesn’t really care whose child, technically, it really is.

          • INH5 says:

            Polygamy is extremely expensive when wives aren’t allowed out to work.

            A slight correction: in most places it’s not that wives are prohibited from working, it’s that Islamic law requires a husband to financially support the basic needs of all of his wives even if they have jobs of their own that are perfectly capable of supporting them.

            In practice, this does tend to lead to lower female workforce participation rates for obvious reasons (sex segregation is also a factor, from what I’ve read), and I think you’re right about the difference between polygamy in societies that follow Islamic law and societies where wives are expected to support themselves.

          • Steve:

            Interesting article. Two points:

            1. In the early centuries of Islam, it was a very successful civilization. Why didn’t the same logic you describe prevent that?

            2. I don’t know if it’s relevant to the Middle eastern case, but one argument for marrying relatives among the Romani is to protect yourself against being cheated on bride price. A family buys a wife for their son, the wife doesn’t get along the son–perhaps deliberately–and returns to her family, and the family refuses to refund the bride price. It’s less of a risk if you marry within the vitsa (a kinship group many of whose members may be cousins) because social bonds are stronger–you can trust your relatives.

          • According to the account in The Modern Egyptians (Cairo in the 19th century), the (non-elite) polygynous families he observed typically had working wives.

            The legal requirement is that the husband support the wife at her standard, i.e. that of her family, so a wife might work in order to maintain a higher standard of living than that. Also, of course, whatever the law might say, the family couldn’t consume more than their income for long.

          • cassander says:

            @DavidFriedman

            The early centuries of islam consisted of a relatively thin strata of arabs/muslims ruling over large dhimmi populations. Perhaps it was sustainable for a small elite, but not a mass population.

          • @Cassander:

            Why do you assume the people being ruled over did not also have cousin marriage? It isn’t an Islamic principle, it’s a custom common in that part of the world.

          • cassander says:

            @davidfriedman

            I thought we were talking about polygamy, not cousin marriage. I was thinking of the mediterranean areas that got conquered by the muslims, which, afaik, were fairly monogamous by the time of their conquest.

          • @Cassander:

            I was referring to Steve’s point about cousin marriage. Note my point 2 about the Romani.

            But I may have put it in the wrong thread.

    • INH5 says:

      The glaring counter-example to the polygamy->terrorism theory is Tunisia, which is both the single largest source of foreign ISIS fighters and a country where polygamy has been illegal for more than 60 years.

  56. cassander says:

    Brookings Institute on big government. Key takeaway: despite inflation-adjusted federal government spending quintupling in the last 50 years, there’s been minimal increase in government employees, mostly because government is now doing more of its work through private partnerships, nonprofits, and local administrations. It looks like the electorate wants both more stuff and smaller government, and politicans have “satisfied” both preferences by making government activities less visible and more proxy-administered. But proxy-administered government activities might be less efficient than just doing government activities openly with real federal employees, so arguably this hurts everybody.

    They’re leaving out contract employees, which is the big increase. And I know they’re leaving it out because it’s official OPM policy NOT to collect centralized data on the number of contract employees the US government employs, and so everyone leaves them out. There are millions of contract employees, but no one knows how many millions.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Also, about a third of the budget is transfer payments, which don’t require a lot of employees per dollar spent.

      it’s official OPM policy NOT to collect centralized data on the number of contract employees

      Good news for the contractors if that means each OPM data-dump doesn’t expose their PII.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      It’s a little bizarre how much churches are now funded by taxpayers.

      For example, the refugee racket is heavily the feds handing taxpayer money to religious groups.

      This was very much intentionally part of George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism:” to fund churches via the IRS.

  57. zima says:

    On the France thing, the most convincing explanation I’ve heard for why older people are less likely to support the National Front is that their savings would likely lose a lot of value if France were to leave the Euro and convert everything to devalued Francs. That’s not a big deal for people who are just starting out, and could even be good for them if devaluation reduces unemployment, but if you’re living off your savings, protecting the value of those savings is likely priority number one.

  58. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I didn’t realize this was a links post until the fourth or fifth paragraph.

  59. cassander says:

    Department of Justice revokes Obama-era rules phasing out use of private prisons at the federal level. For some reason this is more depressing to me than everything else, and really hammers in the fact that you can fight however hard you want for progress and then some moron can just come along and reverse it.

    This is a very lazy take on private prisons. Even if everything people say about them is true, but it’s even more true of public prison guard unions.

    • suntzuanime says:

      It’s also a lazy take on fighting hard for progress; there are mechanisms which are harder and easier for “morons” to reverse, and if you don’t want “morons” to reverse your “progress” you should try to achieve your “progress” legislatively, rather than through executive/bureaucratic decrees. Or, even better, you can judicially discover your “progress” in the penumbra of the Constitution.

      Now, it’s much easier to just decree things, but that’s sort of the point. The actual lesson you should be taking here is that IF you don’t fight hard enough for “progress” some “moron” can come along and reverse it, so fight harder next time.

      • gbdub says:

        Exactly. “Some moron” was able to come along and reverse it because it was just “some moron” who came along and implemented it in the first place. Live by the pen, die by the pen.

  60. Nyx says:

    “Leave voters prefer their steaks well-done, compared to Remain voters preferring them rare. Possibly related to the media horror at the revelation that Trump likes his steaks well-done? I know nothing about steak, but I was always told as a child that I needed to order it medium rare because if I asked for it well-done everyone would laugh at me/hate me. In retrospect, this is really suspicious, and I should probably try well-done steak sometime to make sure it’s not one of those things where it tastes vastly better but everyone has to signal sophistication by pretending that it doesn’t.”

    First point is that well-done steaks really do taste inferior, in the measurable, chemical sense of having fewer of the molecules that trigger flavor.

    The second point is that if you’re going to spend a bunch of money and Animal Cruelty Points to have an animal wastefully slaughtered and brought to you, don’t then cremate it and smother it in tomato sauce. I’m not opposed to putting any sauce on steak, but if you cook it well done and then also put sauce on it, then you’re not going to taste the steak.

    The third point is that well-done steaks are more popular on the right because the right skews old, and old people can barely taste anything anyway.

    • suntzuanime says:

      First point is that well-done steaks really do taste inferior, in the measurable, chemical sense of having fewer of the molecules that trigger flavor.

      Pretty dumb to conflate that with tasting worse, unless your idea of a delicious meal is chugging a bottle of soy sauce.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      old people can barely taste anything anyway.

      My impression, in contrast, is that taste is about the last sense to go. Old people don’t care about, say, music, but they still do usually care about food.

      • JohnBook says:

        Regardless of the order, it is still the case that the senses become less acute with age, including taste and smell.

        In any case though, I imagine generational factors would be the more likely culprit in differential food preferences by age.

      • Noumenon72 says:

        I was really surprised and disappointed when I volunteered in a nursing home that no one liked to listen to music. I thought that people whose sight was going, but could still hear fine, would be amazed at the chance to go on http://thenostalgiamachine.com/ and hear their favorite songs from past years. Not a single one did.

    • lvlln says:

      The third point is that well-done steaks are more popular on the right because the right skews old, and old people can barely taste anything anyway.

      This seems backwards to me. If old people’s taste is less sensitive, shouldn’t they be more likely to prefer the version with more flavor molecules, since it would take more flavor to get the same pleasurable taste sensation?

      • JohnBook says:

        As flavor becomes less important, other factors like texture or disease risk might become more important. Perhaps well-done steaks do better on these other metrics.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Disease (in the form of food poisoning) is also a bigger problem for old people anyway. If there were a biological element to the explanation, I would expect this to be the mechanism.

  61. John Schilling says:

    On Ra’s meddling in terrestrial elections: If a single bit flip can change the vote count without also tripping an error flag, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

    Or, possibly, you’re not being entirely honest. “A cosmic ray must have flipped a bit” is often the lazy way out of tracking down a non-obvious bug, and rarely possible to actually confirm.

    • histsciguy says:

      Yea, there was probably some bad programming, but the fact that it was off by 4096 (2^12) is what made the cosmic ray explanation seem plausible.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        I agree with both of you. (And it’s borderline criminal that the article didn’t see fit to point out that 4096 = 2^12.)

        Furthermore, I’ve gone in my thinking from demanding that there always be a voter-verified paper trail to just wanting no computers anywhere near any election ever. Plus a Faraday cage around each polling place wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

  62. Stezinec says:

    The full text of the personality/IQ and achievement study is available on ResearchGate: link

  63. Deiseach says:

    I think we discussed steak (how well or not should it be done) on here before and honestly I’m surprised at the fuss (though if it’s used as a class marker, and America likes telling itself it doesn’t have “classes” like they do in Europe, then that gives it plenty of importance).

    I like my steak well-done. This means I am low-class? Well, yes, I am! But really, if you’re going out to order food, then you should be able to get (a) food you like (b) done the way you like. It’s one thing to say sushi is meant to be raw or vichyssoise served cold, but when it’s “how well done do you like your meat?” then leave the snobbery out of it. Yes, it may be charring it to charcoal and ruining the flavour, but so what? If you’re not paying for it or eating it, it’s not your tastebuds or stomach involved!

    As to the ketchup – again, so what? If the chef had prepared a two hundred year old recipe handed down in his family using heirloom tomatoes and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar and called it Great-Grandaunt Maude’s Catsup, would there be the same fuss?

    I mean, when it comes to this in the HuffPo thing (bolding mine), I want to slap the face off the skinny cow:

    When you cast your vote for president this year, think about how the candidates interact with the world on a more intimate level. What would they do if they saw a stray dog on the side of the road? Would they be willing to let someone else take the last spot in the elevator, and wait for the next? How would they navigate a menu at a nice meal out?

    Remember: We are what we eat.

    Then going by this, Ms Bratskeir must subsist on a diet of lemon juice, pickles, industrial grade acetic acid, and “I do yoga so I can better look down my own nose at the proles”.

    She at least has the excuse of being Food and Health Editor. The Jezebel piece is just haw-hawing in the comments over how Kultured and Klassy they all is unlike the plebs and dullards what eats their meat cooked through and with ketchup.

    As I said, this same crew would be spraining their fingers tweeting about the amazing new trend that’s so hot for now – pizza! And not the traditional Neapolitan thin crust as served in Italy, no, American-style pizza!

    The Return of the Old-School American Pizza Joint
    In 2017, pizzerias are going to be ditching personal, charred, Neapolitan-style pizza for doughy, old-school, American pies, served in spaces that look less like a classed up rustic barn and more like the neighborhood pizza joint of your childhood. Red checker tablecloth, Tiffany lamps, and a pitcher of soda poured into those red, see-through plastic cups. It’s a scene we all know from our childhood, usually post-sporting event, where cheesy slices were the sign of victory. Spots like Scarr’s in NYC, Pizza Jerk in Portland, and Dino’s in Seattle are already hopping on the trend.

    Ms Vorona Cote, who was sneering about “eating like a child”, will be churning out pieces about “childhood memories that inevitably came to mind as I ate my slice of pizza with soda in that iconic red cup”.

    • Brad says:

      If you want to be left alone about your well done steak maybe you should consider laying off the mockery of yoga. Wasn’t it your religion that was supposed to be all about the golden rule?

      • Deiseach says:

        Brad, you can pry my mockery of yoga from my typing fists when Food and Health Editors desist from “crinkling their noses”.

        It’s one of the biggest crimes a person can commit while dining out. Steaks ordered “well-done” have been known to crinkle the noses of talented chefs.

        Too bad, Mr Talented Chef: if I’m paying over the odds for a meal in your vanity project restaurant, you can damn well cook it the way I like it.

      • quanta413 says:

        @Brad

        Christianity also derives from a religion that had “an eye for an eye”. Really though, with silly issues like how to cook foods, there is no real harm and nothing at steak and it’s more fun to verbally skewer your target. Of course, sometimes you end up being verbally skewered instead but that’s all part of the fun.

        I would say your actions are just proving that you agree that it’s more fun to cook up a saucy response. But your response to Deiseach is a little bit rare for my tastes, so I can’t be quite sure.

      • Ketil says:

        Mocking yoga while eating junk food. Well, that’s the lower classes for you!

        Personally, I will have my steak rare. I’d like to think this is less about posturing (possibly with myself as the recipient) than taste – but how could I tell?

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Deiseach, it’s morally wrong to like steak well-done because it then tastes like boot leather.

      That said, I also disagree with Steve Sailer (who once again confused personal preference with natural law).

      • Deiseach says:

        Deiseach, it’s morally wrong to like steak well-done because it then tastes like boot leather.

        I am beginning to think the problem here is that Americans have no cuisine in between “still bleeding” and “turned to charcoal” for cooking steak. If meat is over-cooked to the point of being dried out and tasteless, then of course that’s wrong. But who cooks it like that? And if your restaurants are cooking it like that, complain to them, instead of meekly submitting to “quick, we need to get another fifty patrons seated and served, stick this under the grill for two minutes and get it served, eaten, and the table cleared”.

        And nobody knows how it was cooked, anyway, apart from being “well-done”; they’re assuming it was hard as a rock and drowned in an entire bottle of tomato sauce which by the way is another thing – do you not put just a dab of sauce on when you’re eating it, as you would with mustard? Is it really a thing in American restaurants that unless you order “medium-rare” at most that a smoking lump of charcoal is presented and then an entire 20 oz bottle of sauce is upended on it?

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          Well look, well-done means you don’t see any red in the cross-section. At that point, unless it’s some amazing Kobe-quality super marbled beef, it’s just dry by simple physics of heating muscle fiber.

          The Japanese often eat beef raw or very lightly seared, and it’s quite good that way.

          The best steaks are in the US and Japan. The worst steak I ever had was in England (this ought to surprise precisely no one).

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          “I am beginning to think the problem here is that Americans have no cuisine in between “still bleeding” and “turned to charcoal” for cooking steak. ”

          I live in America. I have no trouble getting medium rare steak.

          The problem is that people who like to rant portray the world in extremes.

        • quanta413 says:

          The best steaks are in the US and Japan. The worst steak I ever had was in England (this ought to surprise precisely no one).

          Oh dear, I hope they didn’t boil it.

        • random832 says:

          they’re assuming it was hard as a rock

          If you’re talking about Trump’s steak, that comes from the man himself: “It would rock on the plate, it was so well done”. That is not a description of something slow-cooked and tender.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Steaks suffer from diminishing marginal returns. A huge slab of beef is too much of a good thing. I get bored after a few bites.

          It’s like watching all 100 hours or whatever of “Mad Men.” Okay, I say after about six hours, I get it. I now understand Matthew Weiner’s point of view. I’m glad I experienced this much of Weiner’s worldview, but I don’t particularly need to watch the next 94 hours. Similarly, I don’t need to eat a pound of steak to get the flavor of steak.

  64. IrishDude says:

    Department of Justice revokes Obama-era rules phasing out use of private prisons at the federal level.

    To the extent the decision to phase out private prisons was based on the Inspector General’s report (which is what I remember reporting at the time stated), this critique of the IG study’s use by the Department of Justice by Sasha Volokh should be of interest. The study compared 14 federal private prisons with 14 ‘comparable’ BOP prisons in that “they housed male inmates with “the same security level (low), similar population sizes, and similar geographical locations.””

    The IG report finds that the private prisons are 3 to 12% cheaper than the public prisons, but then cautions against drawing conclusions because, as the report states “We were unable to compare the overall costs of incarceration between BOP institutions and contract prisons in part because of the different nature of the inmate populations and programs offered in those facilities.” That’s a reasonable stance! To highlight the demographic differences between the private and public prisons the report notes “As of January 2014, inmates incarcerated in private facilities were primarily non-U.S. citizens with 72.1 percent from Mexico, while the selected BOP institutions had an average of 11.8 percent non-U.S. citizens.”

    The problem is the study then goes on to compare “safety and security” metrics like contraband, inmate discipline, and sexual misconduct, finding private prisons worse* on 6 out of 8 measures. The IG report does a good job cautioning against drawing conclusions about the prisons because of demographic differences, but the Department of Justice memo throws that caution out and states:
    “Private prisons . . . compare poorly to our own Bureau facilities. They simply do not provide the same level of correctional services, programs, and resources; they do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”

    So, how do private and public prisons compare on quality? A literature review of 17 studies comparing public and private prisons found 15 of them showing private prisons to be higher quality than public prisons. As to cost, 14 cost comparison studies found private prisons about 10-15% cheaper than public prisons.

    *There are issues with using the 8 metrics to evaluate quality, and as one example Volokh notes that one explanation for higher rates of contraband in private prisons might be they have better procedures for rooting out contraband than public prisons, thus more contraband found doesn’t imply private prisons are lower quality.

    • IrishDude says:

      Late edit: “A literature review of 17 studies comparing public and private prisons found 15 of them showing private prisons to be higher quality than public prisons.” should say “equal to or higher quality” rather than just “higher quality”.

    • Thanks for this, it’s very helpful. I never looked into this, but I was curious to know what the evidence was.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Dammit, no matter how many times the government lies to me, I still default to trusting the government. (Well, except on electronic surveillance, and anything else having to do with information technology.)

      Also, I feel like I should say something about steak here.

  65. Regarding corporations and development, when I was reading Medieval Machines I was struck by how much of the development of water power in Europe in the high medieval period involved ad hoc joint stock corporations.

    Here’s a Monkey Cage article I came across today on how college tolerance for racists, communists, and atheists have all fallen over the last few decades.

    Half the reason I read The Economist is that their technology reporting, which I can judge for myself, is so accurate.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Jean Gimpel for the win! My Penguin edition (in English) is titled The Medieval Machine, in case anybody wants to look it up on Amazon, which would be a good idea that I heartily recommend. The original French title was more like, The Industrial Revolution of the Middle Ages, which I like a bit better.

      I especially liked the part with the floating water wheels stretched out across a river.

      This book will give you a very different view of the “Middle Ages.”

  66. newt0311 says:

    Re Charles Murray at Midlebury et al.

    Nobody seems to have mentioned this yet so: perhaps we could just enforce pre-existing laws on assault and battery?

    • Civilis says:

      My understanding is the whole ‘black bloc’ thing is to make identification for individual crimes impossible. If you can’t actually figure out which one of the mass of almost-identical protestors committed the assault you can’t convict them, and they’re going to be as uncooperative as possible.

      You could arrest the whole lot of them on conspiracy, but eventually the PR problem with that (with all the arrested going ‘I’m just an innocent protestor victimized by the Man!’) is going to get insurmountable.

      • caethan says:

        It’s a misdemeanor in California to wear a mask for the purpose of “escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense”. May not be able to identify the one who was beating up the old guy, but pretty much anyone masked at a protest (in California, anyway) could likely be charged with a misdemeanor.

        • caethan says:

          Oh dear, this bit of the conspiracy section is interesting too (from section 182 of the penal code):

          (a) If two or more persons conspire:

          (6) To commit any crime against the person of the President or Vice President of the United States, the Governor of any state or territory, any United States justice or judge, or the secretary of any of the executive departments of the United States.
          They are punishable as follows:
          When they conspire to commit any crime against the person of any official specified in paragraph (6), they are guilty of a felony and are punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170 for five, seven, or nine years.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s a misdemeanor in California to wear a mask for the purpose of “escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense”.

          As civilis said, you could arrest the whole lot of them. If you want to lose the battle that matters, because when you next see them on TV it will be sans mask, and the most telegenic and sympathetic among them, correctly pointing out that they didn’t hurt anyone and you’re destroying their promising future because someone else did something violent.

          Quite possibly one of them will commit suicide.

          • Mary says:

            Yeah. Right.

            When the interviewer says, “Why were you wearing a mask then if you weren’t afraid of being identified doing something wrong?”

          • JDG1980 says:

            As civilis said, you could arrest the whole lot of them. If you want to lose the battle that matters, because when you next see them on TV it will be sans mask, and the most telegenic and sympathetic among them, correctly pointing out that they didn’t hurt anyone and you’re destroying their promising future because someone else did something violent.

            If the whole bunch is convicted in federal court and sentenced to prison, that will serve as a meaningful deterrent to others who might be tempted to join Black Bloc-type groups in the future. These are mostly young, educated people with something to lose; for that reason, they are likely to respond to incentives more so than your run-of-the-mill criminal. The reason they do it now is that they know that they won’t receive any meaningful punishment from craven (and often complicit) local authorities, who are ideologically on their side. This is conceptually no different from the KKK in the pre-Civil Rights South; as long as the local authorities looked the other way, a lot of people were willing to join in on beatings and lynchings, but when the FBI started going after the Klan, it dried up very quickly.

            I’m not convinced that a martyr act like the one you describe above will be convincing to anyone who wasn’t already firmly on the side of the Intersectionalist hard left. You linked Aaron Swartz, but did his death do anything meaningful to change open-access policy? Not as far as I can see. And Swartz’s acts were completely nonviolent and could much more plausibly be positioned in the American tradition of civil disobedience.

            If the Justice Department does go after the Black Bloc, they should make the KKK analogy explicit.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “This is conceptually no different from the KKK in the pre-Civil Rights South;”

            Well, sure, except that you are forgetting that the KKK is Bad while the masked vigilantes who put Professor Allison Stanger in the hospital for daring to question Charles Murray are Good.

            As Stalin liked to point out that Lenin had suggested: All that matters is “Who? Whom?”

        • Steve Sailer says:

          There were scores of masked anti-Free Speech vigilantes at the anti-Milo riot in Berkeley but virtually none of them were arrested.

          The general problem is that cops in towns with liberal mayors are averse to enforcing laws against rioting, as we’ve seen during the attacks on Trump supporters in 2016 in place like San Jose and the anti-First Amendment riots this year in college towns.

          On the other hand, the cops have been impressively good about not getting themselves dragged into all the hate hoaxes going on in recent years. Despite the large number of hate hoaxes, very few innocent victims have been thrown behind bars because the cops usually do a much better job than the media of running reality checks.

          You’ll note, for example, that the UVA fraternity initiation gang rape on broken glass hate hoax that so impressed Sabrina Rubin Erdely and Rolling Stone was never mentioned to the cops. Jackie Coakley spent a year or two retailing her tall tale around campus, but she had too much animal cunning to think her ridiculous story about Haven Monahan could fool cops for more than about ten minutes.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I think you underestimate the PR problem of the left proving to the right that they will not protect them from violent attacks. If you guys can’t clamp down on this fast, Trump will seem like minor backlash in comparison.

        • Civilis says:

          In the long run, it’s better to stand up to the protestors. The problem is that the first college administration or local college town police department to do so is going to pay the price. The right’s backlash against the thuggery from the left is national in scope and their anger spread out amongst all liberal colleges.

          If the local police / college administration crack down at leftist abuse, the people that are going to get angry at them are right there, and they’re going to fight back against the police / college administration. From the local police / college administration point of view, it’s better to kick the can down the road and let someone else be the first to get the wrath of the angry left directed at them for being the first to crack down on the campus left.

          • JDG1980 says:

            In the long run, it’s better to stand up to the protestors. The problem is that the first college administration or local college town police department to do so is going to pay the price.

            This is why the Justice Department should take the lead against Black Bloc.

          • Civilis says:

            This is why the Justice Department should take the lead against Black Bloc.

            To start with, the PR issue: You have a lot of leftists (and even some on the right, like the pro-Life types) that think of protest marches as generally a good way to advertise your dedication to your cause. All of those are going to see any violent actions by protestors as the acts of lone wolves (if not agents provocateur) and believe any change in government policy which would look like it could criminalize protesting as a threat.

            As far as federalizing the prosecution, what federal laws are they going to be charged with breaking? For most of the protestors, you might be able to charge them with ‘trespassing’ or ‘jaywalking’ or some misdemeanor, but those are local crimes. The problem is that there are many protest marches that you could apply this to, and most people that think protest marches are good are going to worry about this being used against them.

            Even for the violent ones, if you could pick them out from the crowd, you’re still limited to vandalism, destruction of property or assault, all still local crimes.

            [Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer] In theory, you could use RICO to make the whole enterprise a federal crime. The court has ruled that pro-life organizations (among others) qualified as an organization for the purpose of RICO prosecutions, but there were no cited acts that fell under the RICO statutes. The only RICO offense that looks to be potentially applicable for these protests would be terrorism, but qualifying protests that turn violent as a terrorist act is a PR nightmare of the highest order for the reasons above. Both sides already believe the other side uses false flags to make them look bad, the ‘useful idiots’ used as cover for the hardcore leftist protestors are going to scream bloody murder once government terrorism charges come into the picture.

            As someone on the right, I think the black bloc is much more of a threat than the decaying corpse of the KKK or any of the other fringe right groups constantly trotted out, and the Justice Department should be investigating them at least as hard. Still, it’s not a simple matter, and I fear any expanded government power will be brought back against the right the next time we have a leftist in the White House.

          • Mary says:

            The only RICO offense that looks to be potentially applicable for these protests would be terrorism,

            The Berkeley protests included arson, which is a RICO offense.

        • Kevin C. says:

          “I think you underestimate the PR problem of the left proving to the right that they will not protect them from violent attacks.”

          How is this a PR problem? Does not the portion of the left associated with the “violent attacks” benefit from making unambiguous that nothing can protect those they target from them, so that the only choice is to comply with theirr demands and cease being the kind of person they attack? Much as an armed mugger benefits from signalling unambiguously that it really is “your money or your life”?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Does not the portion of the left associated with the “violent attacks” benefit from making unambiguous that nothing can protect those they target from them, so that the only choice is to comply with theirr demands and cease being the kind of person they attack?

            They certainly think so. It seems to be provoking violence in return rather than compliance, however; there’s the antifa shot at UWashington, and now “Based Stickman”. Neither one (yet) charged.

          • Mary says:

            the only choice is to comply with theirr demands and cease being the kind of person they attack

            that’s not the only choice.

            The other choice is “blow the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks.” True, they have to avoid the “cops” who are, in reality, protecting their ability to engage in such attacks, but it could be done.

          • TheWorst says:

            And now we’ve shifted from “hundreds and hundreds of posts saying that liberals are subhuman” to “literally calling for their murder.”

            When people talk about the tone of the comment section here, this is the kind of thing they (we?) mean.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Well sure, if you want to pretend that someone said something that they didn’t actually say, you could then conclude that this comments section is awful.

            Trouble is, you could do that on any comments section. That you choose this one to make false claims about says more about you than the commenters here.

          • rlms says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            I suppose there have been cases where people have lost the majority of their brains but still remained alive. They are very much a minority. I suppose that you could also claim Mary is not endorsing blowing out the brains of leftists. I also suppose that one could posit blowing out the brains of Mary, but I don’t think that would be a very nice thing to do.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            The more dubious claim is the “hundreds of posts claiming leftists are subhuman” one, Mary certainly did suggest blowing their brains out.

            Still, even if it’s just one person that said it, and that the concept of disavowing has been consistently pushed against here, if it makes you feel better, I’ll personally state that in no way I endorse blowing up the brains of violent protesters, left-wing or otherwise.

          • lvlln says:

            Examples, TheWorst? As best as I can tell, there is no reasonable way to interpret any comment in this subthread as “literally calling for [liberals’] murder.” Or even metaphorically calling for it, for that matter. Positing that something is a plausible choice for a group of people does not in any way advocate that choice as a good one.

          • Civilis says:

            Charitably, Mary could be pointing out that self-defense is always an option if the police won’t defend the right from violent attacks by the left.

            Given the right’s views on self-defense generally involve erring on the side of making sure that there won’t be a repeat offense, ‘blow[ing] the brains out’ is a convenient if vulgar shorthand.

            She was careful to only endorse the use of violence against those already engaged in violence, not all on the left. This is one of the reasons I and many others on the right have been very vocal about insisting that ‘speech is not violence’.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ TheWorst, rlms

            While I agree that Mary deserves to be chastised for that comment but she does highlight what I find to be an obvious and ludicrously fucking dangerous blind-spot in modern progressive thinking. Why fight the Black Bloc on the Black Bloc on the Black Bloc’s terms?

            For the moment at least the main-stream the “Red Tribe protest culture (the Tea Partiers, Pro-Lifers, Open Carriers, etc…) have been content to sit this fight out, but that could easily change. What do you think will happen if the Black Bloc tries to pull a Middlebury in someplace like Eastern California, or West Texas and run headlong into a crowd of Bundy Ranch Standoff-types?

            The red tribe traditionally views war and political violence in terms of existential conflict.
            The Black Bloc says they want a war? They better pray that the red tribe doesn’t take them at their word because the red tribe doesn’t believe in punching Nazis, we believe in shooting them on sight and burning their cities to the ground.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And now we’ve shifted from “hundreds and hundreds of posts saying that liberals are subhuman” to “literally calling for their murder.”

            “Literally calling for their murder” is a ludicrously misleading and uncharitable framing of her statement, in exactly the same way that framing “Blow out the brains of KKK members trying to lynch you” as “Literally calling on black people to murder white people” would be ludicrously misleading and uncharitable.

          • Jiro says:

            While I agree that Mary deserves to be chastised for that comment

            No, she doesn’t. Blowing out the brains of people who engage in violent attacks is self-defense.

          • lvlln says:

            “Literally calling for their murder” is a ludicrously misleading and uncharitable framing of her statement, in exactly the same way that framing “Blow out the brains of KKK members trying to lynch you” as “Literally calling on black people to murder white people” would be ludicrously misleading and uncharitable.

            That’s not a good analogy. Mary never told anyone to blow out anyone’s brains; she merely said that one choice of someone on the right who is being subject to violent attacks by the left is by blowing their brains out. This seems a downright banal observation, given the general reputation the right-wing tends to have when it comes to responding to violence.

            A better analogy would be “some people’s response to KKK members trying to lynch them may be to choose to blow their brains out.” Again, a fairly banal observation that doesn’t advocate any particular response as the correct or recommended one.

            I mean, yeah, even if Mary were telling people, “go blow their brains out if they violently attack you,” that is advocating particularly violent self defense, which isn’t murder, but we don’t have to go there. She didn’t even advocate that self defense.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            No, she doesn’t. Blowing out the brains of people who engage in violent attacks is self-defense.

            It’s disproportionate retribution, though…

            Probably, depends on the level of violence.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Honestly I’m ambivalent. I do feel that Mary strayed dangerously close to the line of advocating violence, but I also fully agree with lvlln. In any case I would like to see less of that sort of talk because it could very easily blow up all our faces.

            That’s the thing that I personally find so troubling. It’s one thing to play with fire, its another when someone does not seem to realize that they are playing with fire.

          • TheWorst says:

            Remember what happened to Deiseach when she wished a purely-fictional hell on someone?

            Note that murder is non-fictional.

            It’s also worth noting that Deiseach’s ban was only retracted on her exceptional record of valuable contributions, and that Mary doesn’t have that. Content-free expressions of hatred for Blue Tribe aren’t in short supply here, and has anyone seen Mary post anything else?

          • lvlln says:

            Remember what happened to Deiseach when she wished a purely-fictional hell on someone?

            Note that murder is non-fictional.

            It’s also worth noting that Deiseach’s ban was only retracted on her exceptional record of valuable contributions, and that Mary doesn’t have that. Content-free expressions of hatred for Blue Tribe aren’t in short supply here, and has anyone seen Mary post anything else?

            Mary’s comment did not wish murder on anyone. It did not even posit murder as a possible or likely event. If her other comments show content-free hatred for Blue Tribe, then it’d be fine to respond to those. But this comment was an innocuous observation that was obviously lacking in antipathy or hostility. At least, as a fairly hardcore member of the Blue Tribe, I certainly didn’t sense any towards me and my peers from that comment.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Mary –

            The other choice is “blow the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks.”

            TheWorst says:

            And now we’ve shifted from “hundreds and hundreds of posts saying that liberals are subhuman” to “literally calling for their murder.”

            I’m going to take that as an admission that leftists will never stop engaging in violent attacks and that TheWorst at least knows full well that the only reason they can do so is because the police are there to protect the leftist from people exercising their right to self defense.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ TheWorst
            I am fully aware that murder is “non-fictional” which is why I’m treating this as something deadly serious and felt the need to point out that Mary’s comment was not “content free”. I’m begging you to think about the signals that are being sent here, by you and Mary both.

          • Mary says:

            I’m begging you to think about the signals that are being sent here, by you and Mary both.

            See, there’s your problem right there. Why are the two of us the only ones who have to think about it? You certainly are putting out some very ugly signals.

          • random832 says:

            Probably, depends on the level of violence.

            Part of the problem is I read it in the context of other ‘red tribe’ voices, in recent comment threads, objecting (rightly or wrongly) to the notion of considering property damage to be non-violent. Which more or less requires me to read it as “kill people for damaging property”.

            I mean, people say stuff about nonspecific people being beaten up, but the victim of violence in the most iconic image of the Berkeley protests is a light stand, not a person.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Mary
            Wars are ugly, that’s my point.

            @Randomuser
            Property damage still has human costs. Likewise, bricks and molotov cocktails are not toys. At the very least they represent a readiness to use lethal force to achieve the protests’ aims.

          • Mary says:

            Part of the problem is I read it in the context of other ‘red tribe’ voices, in recent comment threads, objecting (rightly or wrongly) to the notion of considering property damage to be non-violent. Which more or less requires me to read it as “kill people for damaging property”.

            No, it doesn’t require you. You chose to read it in that context, instead of its actual context.

            The specific context in this case is “the only choice is to comply with their demands and cease being the kind of person they attack.” There is nothing in there that puts any limits on how far they will escalate if they don’t get what they want.

          • Mary says:

            Wars are ugly, that’s my point.

            Mass murder of the helpless is even uglier.

          • Mary says:

            “I’ll personally state that in no way I endorse blowing up the brains of violent protesters, left-wing or otherwise.”

            So, if violent protesters are beating someone to death, what DO you think is the appropriate response?

            Let us, for the sake of argument, posit that there are enough of them that you can not possibly just drag them away from their victim.

          • Mary says:

            Mary doesn’t have that. Content-free expressions of hatred for Blue Tribe aren’t in short supply here, and has anyone seen Mary post anything else?

            Funny, I’ve seen people here list me among the representatives of conservative thought about here when they were discussing right vs. left distribution.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Blowing out the brains of people who engage in violent attacks is self-defense.

            It’s not necessarily (or probably) reasonable self-defense, though. Are there hypothetical situations in which shooting with intent to kill is appropriate? Absolutely. Have any such situations arisen so far in the course of any of these protests? Not that I’m aware of, and I think there is a real risk that encouraging people to consider it as an option will result in the use of lethal force in situations that don’t call for it.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            A crowd of masked men carrying pipes, chasing you while yelling “beat his ass!”, is the most reasonable case for using lethal force in self defense that I can easily imagine.

            The victim, or intended victim, of a beating has no responsibility to preserve the lives of his attackers at the cost of his own. Once you decide to go out and assault strangers you lose the right to complain when one of your would-be victims is packing heat.

          • gbdub says:

            In 2014 in the US according to the FBI, 435 people were killed by blunt objects and 660 by “personal” weapons (i.e. hands, feet, etc – “unarmed”).

            Someone being helplessly beaten with or without a metal stick (a form of violence that apparently happened at the protests) is actively being subjected to potentially deadly force and responding in kind is hardly disproportionate. Self defense doesn’t require a “fair fight” (and in fact smart self defense actually discourages it).

            Life isn’t Hollywood. Someone who takes fists and feet to the head doesn’t just get up and carry on with a few photogenic bruises. Someone who gets shot doesn’t instantly die.

            When you use potentially deadly force, be it fist or bullet, in self defense, you do it in the way that ends the threat quickly with minimal risk to the defended. Unfortunately with guns that means a potentially fatal bullet wound, but, well , the attacker started that with a brutal beating, so my sympathy is minimal.

          • rlms says:

            But the context of Mary’s comment was that “comply with the demands of the violent left” is not the only choice, as “blow out the brains of the violent left” is also an option. I.e. she is advocating some sort of specific self-defence. That could be anywhere on the scale from “if you see lefty people hanging about in balaclavas, shoot them” to “find the addresses of people who might be violent leftists, shoot them”. Either way, it can’t be defended by claiming it is common sense self-defence.

          • gbdub says:

            You’ve done a subtle thing that Mary didn’t – generalized from “leftists who indulge in violent attacks” to “the violent left”. The former makes reference to people specifically committing or threatening to commit violence, the latter to a general class of people some of whom may be violent.

            Your twisting of Mary’s statement is the only plausible way you could make it cover hunting down random leftists in their beds. That’s on you, not Mary.

          • rlms says:

            By “the violent left”, I meant “leftists who commit violent attacks” (the same group Mary is referring to). But this group is larger than “leftists who are actually attacking you right this minute”. I presumed that Mary was advocating violence against either the whole group, or a subset of it not limited to the latter group. If she was actually only suggesting violence in immediate self-defence, then I agree. But it seems like an odd and pointless thing to point out; violence in immediate self-defence is OK against anyone, not just Black Block guys chasing you with pipes.

          • Mary says:

            I presumed that Mary was advocating violence against either the whole group,

            That’s very presumptuous of you. Especially considering I made an observation, rather than advocated anything.

            But it seems like an odd and pointless thing to point out;

            Only to someone extremely ignorant of the violence is being engaged in right now, and the rhetorical vapors at the notion that its victims have a right to defend themselves.

            Prime example right here, which, as it happens was exactly what I responded to:

            Does not the portion of the left associated with the “violent attacks” benefit from making unambiguous that nothing can protect those they target from them, so that the only choice is to comply with theirr demands and cease being the kind of person they attack? Much as an armed mugger benefits from signalling unambiguously that it really is “your money or your life”?

            Actually a mild example, and possibly given as an example of how they think, not personal thought. But I have seen protesters who say the same thing about their own violence

          • rlms says:

            “Especially considering I made an observation, rather than advocated anything.”
            Coyly bringing something up as an overlooked possible option and failing to present any moral judgement suggests that you condone it. If you say that you strongly oppose whatever it was you presented I will happily take you at your word.

            “Only to someone extremely ignorant of the violence is being engaged in right now, and the rhetorical vapors at the notion that its victims have a right to defend themselves.”
            I’m not quite sure what you are referring to, or how it responds to my point. Could you be more explicit about what the violence being engaged in right now is?

          • Mary says:

            Coyly throwing about the word “coyly” in order to impugn my character suggests an argument made in bad faith on your part.

            Especially since you made no such comments about “Does not the portion of the left associated with the “violent attacks” benefit from making unambiguous that nothing can protect those they target from them, so that the only choice is to comply with theirr demands and cease being the kind of person they attack? ”

            Why doesn’t that fit under your “coy” rule and why haven’t you called Kevin C. on it?

          • hlynkacg says:

            Could you be more explicit about what the violence being engaged in right now is?

            If you scroll up a bit you’ll that Dr Deelgood posted a video of multiple protestors committing acts that, at the very least, constitute “assault with a deadly weapon” (in this case metal pipes) and could have very easily lead to charges of “attempted murder” if the local District Attorney was feeling froggy.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            I don’t see what Keven C.’s comments have anything to do with anything. Plenty of other people do and don’t say coy things, that has no relevance to whether you do. I’m not sure what you mean by “bad faith”.

            @hlynkacg
            Yes, and I think pretty much everyone agrees that the victims there would not have been unreasonable if they’d pulled out guns and shot their attackers if they’d not backed off. So it seems weird to interpret Mary’s comment as supporting that (if she claims it was I would gladly accept that though). Instead, it seems more plausible she was supporting more preemptive action. Compare with if I suggested we could “blow the brains out of violent racist policemen”. That could be interpreted as an reasonable suggestion of self-defence, but it seems like an objectionable statement to me due to other possible interpretations.

          • Mary says:

            I think pretty much everyone agrees that the victims there would not have been unreasonable

            It has already been drawn to your attention that no, not pretty much everyone thinks that. Therefore, your entire argument is shamelessly based on a false premise. and you have offered nothing in support of your “more plausible” claims except more bad faith.

          • rlms says:

            Then you will clearly have no problem pointing to a person who opposes reasonable self-defence, whom you could have been it reply to. I agree that the violent leftists involved probably oppose it, and so do hardcore pacifists. I have not noted any of them in the SSC comments section. There is no evidence that Kevin C. is an example, as he has said nothing on the subject. If you want you can ask him.

            Again, I’m not sure what you mean by bad faith. But, again, if you say that you were only advocating reasonable self-defence, I will joyfully take you at your word and retract my objections about your comment. However, you don’t seem to want to do that, which makes me think you are trying to suggest that it should be interpreted in the palatable way, while actually endorsing an objectionable interpretation (this might be called “arguing in bad faith”).

            I would also like to ask a question. Suppose I said “we could blow out the brains of Mary, if she’s violent”. Would you agree wholeheartedly that that is nothing but a justification of reasonable self-defence, and that there is no reason to be discomforted by it?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I would also like to ask a question. Suppose I said “we could blow out the brains of Mary, if she’s violent”. Would you agree wholeheartedly that that is nothing but a justification of reasonable self-defence, and that there is no reason to be discomforted by it?

            Since, as far as I’m aware, Mary isn’t going around beating people with potentially lethal items whilst law enforcement looks the other way, I don’t think this is a particularly good analogy.

          • TheWorst says:

            That’s very presumptuous of you. Especially considering I made an observation, rather than advocated anything.

            Mary, you seem to be assuming (again) that you’re addressing people who don’t have functional pattern-recognition modules. That assumption is incorrect.

            “We’re going to murder some of you, because we hate you, but don’t worry, we’ll only murder the bad ones, and you know you can trust the integrity of this process (which will be decided by whichever rightist has the strongest predilection for murder, with no oversight whatsoever)” is not an unfamiliar signal from the right, and it seems to universally mean “we are going to authorize the worst people in the world to murder all of you, because we consider you subhuman.”

            I understand that you’re doing the motte (“We’ll only murder the ones that deserve it”) but the bailey isn’t so well-hidden as you seem to assume.

            Edit: If a leftist – who you’d never seen post anything other than hatred for conservatives (assuming those didn’t get banned, which they do) – posted of conservatives: “You know, we could murder them. Just saying, it’s a possibility. Just a thought. We don’t have to let them act stupid in public.”

            …I suspect the response here would be very different. I also suspect neither Mary nor any of her fellow-travelers would pretend not to have noticed that this was a call for murder.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I’m just saying that if she were coming at you with a knife, it would be fine to shoot her in self-defence. I don’t see why you could have a problem with that. You are right that the analogy fails if we interpret “if she’s violent” in a broader sense. That is why my statement is objectionable, and defending Mary’s comment as a bland justification of generic self-defence is wrong.

          • lvlln says:

            @TheWorst

            Mary, you seem to be assuming (again) that you’re addressing people who don’t have functional pattern-recognition modules. That assumption is incorrect.

            “We’re going to murder some of you, because we hate you, but don’t worry, we’ll only murder the bad ones, and you know you can trust the integrity of this process (which will be decided by whichever rightist has the strongest predilection for murder, with no oversight whatsoever)” is not an unfamiliar signal from the right, and it seems to universally mean “we are going to authorize the worst people in the world to murder all of you, because we consider you subhuman.”

            Pattern recognition is not an argument and doesn’t allow you to jump to any conclusions. Taking your own pattern recognition module and positing that it reflects some sort of reality is the talk of conspiracy theorists.

            Also, you keep using the word “murder” when Mary never once used it or implied anything near it. She very clearly very specifically stated killing in response to violent attacks from the left was an option for the right. Representing that as anywhere in the same universe as “We’re going to murder some of you, because we hate you, but don’t worry, we’ll only murder the bad ones, and you know you can trust the integrity of this process (which will be decided by whichever rightist has the strongest predilection for murder, with no oversight whatsoever)” is incredibly dishonest.

            If we could salvage that quotation somewhat, it would be more like “One option some of us have is to kill some of you, because you are violently attacking us, but don’t worry, we’ll only kill the ones who are violently attacking us right now, and you know you can trust the integrity of this process (which will be decided by whichever rightist believes he is being subject to violent attacks from the left).” Though honestly, might as well start from scratch.

            The worst that can be honestly and reasonably inferred from her comment is that she was positing a disproportionate form of self defense as a possible option (she wasn’t even advocating it as a good or just option!). Stop putting words into people’s mouths. You’re not fooling anyone.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @rlms:

            I’m just saying that if she were coming at you with a knife, it would be fine to shoot her in self-defence. I don’t see why you could have a problem with that. You are right that the analogy fails if we interpret “if she’s violent” in a broader sense. That is why my statement is objectionable, and defending Mary’s comment as a bland justification of generic self-defence is wrong.

            You’re completely ignoring the context in which these comments are made. In the case of Mary’s statement, the broader context is a spate of recent incidents in which leftist protesters committed potentially lethal acts of violence whilst law enforcement stood by and did nothing, and the more immediate context is somebody saying that, since law enforcement isn’t going to do anything to stop these protesters murdering people, everybody else has no choice but to bow down and give in to their demands. Given this context, the obvious and natural reading of “The other choice is “blow the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks”” is that it’s referring to somebody defending themselves against a violent mob which is attacking them, quite possibly in a manner which would result in their death. Interpreting it as advocating for vigilante killings of people who might possibly be violent is an incredibly uncharitable and strained reading.

            As for your hypothetical example, Mary is an internet commentator whose biggest offence, as far as I can see, is to occasionally get snippy with people who disagree with her. She’s never attacked anybody, she’s never threatened to attack anybody, and there’s no reason to believe that the police would let her get away with it if she did. It really shouldn’t be difficult to see why listing circumstances in which it would be OK to kill a random blog commenter comes across as creepy and weird in a way that saying victims of lynch mobs can use lethal force to defend themselves doesn’t.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ TheWorst:

            We’re going to murder some of you, because we hate you, but don’t worry, we’ll only murder the bad ones fascists

            …is the explicit position that the Berkley and Middlebury protestors have taken. It is the position that Mary suggested be opposed with violence, and it is the position that you are currently making excuses for.

            Someone with a functional pattern recognition module ought to be able to recognize this. As such the question needs to be asked, do you believe that people have the right to defend themselves or don’t you?

          • John Schilling says:

            We’re going to murder some of you, because we hate you, but don’t worry, we’ll only murder the bad ones fascists

            …is the explicit position that the Berkley and Middlebury protestors have taken.

            Be fair. Their explicit position is, unless I have missed something, that they are going to beat some of us up. This carries the risk, and indeed statistical inevitability if pursued on a large scale, that some of us will be manslaughtered. This is not the same thing as murder.

            It still justifies the use of lethal force in self-defense, but it is not actually a conspiracy to commit murder.

          • Mary says:

            Then you will clearly have no problem pointing to a person who opposes reasonable self-defence, whom you could have been it reply to. I agree that the violent leftists involved probably oppose it, and so do hardcore pacifists.

            And off comes the mask. In plain English, when you were asserting, “I think pretty much everyone agrees that the victims there would not have been unreasonable” you were lying. You knew perfectly well that the examples you give here did oppose it. (I could add, of course, the Berkeley cops, who arrested only the right-winger who acted in self-defense.)

            I have not noted any of them in the SSC comments section.

            Bad faith once again. You said, “pretty much everyone” — well, pretty much everyone doesn’t post here. You openly, dishonestly, and shamelessly try to shift the argument away from the blatant lie you told.

          • Mary says:

            unless I have missed something, that they are going to beat some of us up. This carries the risk, and indeed statistical inevitability if pursued on a large scale, that some of us will be manslaughtered. This is not the same thing as murder.

            Killing someone when you have the intention to cause grievous bodily harm is, in fact, murder. They could also be hit with depraved heart murder.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Be fair. Their explicit position is, unless I have missed something, that they are going to beat some of us up. This carries the risk, and indeed statistical inevitability if pursued on a large scale, that some of us will be manslaughtered. This is not the same thing as murder.

            I don’t know what the legal situation is like in America, but here in the UK, if you attack someone with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and end up killing them, you’re liable to be convicted of murder, even if you didn’t specifically intend to kill them. Beating somebody with a piece of metal piping, as some of the protesters tried to do, would probably count as inflicting grievous bodily harm.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @John Schilling

            First off, I think you are crediting the Anti-Fa types with entirely too much restraint.

            Secondly, manslaughter only applies to cases of accidental death. As per the state of California a killing that resulted from the intent to do serious bodily injury would still be murder, it just wouldn’t be murder in the first degree.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            “And off comes the mask. In plain English, when you were asserting, “I think pretty much everyone agrees that the victims there would not have been unreasonable” you were lying.”
            There are not many hardcore pacifists who oppose violence in all situations. The category of people who are not hardcore pacifists is “pretty much everyone”.

            If you are beating me with a pipe it is pretty obvious you would prefer me not to fight back and kill you. I kind of took for granted that you would see that. Your preference in that situation doesn’t stop you from supporting self-defence in general. And again, I don’t see any pipe beaters in this comments section.

            But once again, this whole point is irrelevant. Arguing about the best way to interpret something can be necessary if the author is dead or inaccessible, but here we are arguing about your words! We can ask you! If you just say that you were only justifying reasonable self-defence, I will jubilantly take you at your word (and kindly suggest that you make similar clarifications earlier in the future). Or failing that, please at least give some sign that you read this paragraph (unlike the previous times I made this request).

          • rlms says:

            @hlynkacg
            “…is the explicit position that the Berkley and Middlebury protestors have taken. It is the position that Mary suggested be opposed with violence, and it is the position that you are currently making excuses for.”
            Presumably TheWorst opposes both the indiscriminately violent protestors, and indiscriminate violence against leftists. That is not an odd position to take.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If you [Mary] just say that you were only justifying reasonable self-defence, I will jubilantly take you at your word (and kindly suggest that you make similar clarifications earlier in the future).

            Presumably TheWorst opposes both the indiscriminately violent protestors, and indiscriminate violence against leftists. That is not an odd position to take.

            You’re demanding Mary go out of her way to clarify what she says, and simultaneously claiming a charitable interpretation of what TheWorst said was the default. And all this, after several people demonstrated that a charitable interpretation of what Mary said was a reasonable default. And ignoring TheWorst’s bad faith claim after that. Why do you demand clarification from one while providing it for the other?

          • random832 says:

            @rlms

            Presumably TheWorst opposes both the indiscriminately violent protestors, and indiscriminate violence against leftists. That is not an odd position to take.

            The problem is that the whole thing that caused this argument is that Mary (and her supporters) is playing a motte-and-bailey game with what level of “indiscriminate” the violence she endorses is, whether she’s talking about murdering “leftists who indulge in violent attacks” (what she said, with no discussion as to how to determine that someone is a leftist or indulges in violent attacks) or only “leftists who are indulging in a violent attack at this very moment” (what she has inconsistently claimed to have meant, and which still leaves open the definition of ‘violent attack’)

            @Paul Brinkley

            You’re demanding Mary go out of her way to clarify what she says, and simultaneously claiming a charitable interpretation of what TheWorst said was the default.

            If we’re going to give everyone charitable interpretations, why not just assume Antifa will only beat up actual Nazis and call it a day?

            (Also, the suggestion that TheWorst supports Antifa murdering anyone they call fascists is so out of nowhere that it’s disingenuous to claim anyone who objects is giving him an unreasonably charitable interpretation. Is there something else you mean? What exactly of what he said are you referring to, and what are the charitable and uncharitable interpretations in play here?)

          • rlms says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            I’m not suggesting that Mary go out of her way, a couple of words would instantly solve the argument which seems a lot easier than arguing. I’m not asking her to disavow something as a rhetorical trick, and I don’t think I (or anyone here) has a reputation for making onerous numbers of requests for clarification. So I don’t think my demand is unreasonable.

            The situation with TheWorst is slightly different, as they’ve not made any comment either in favour of or against leftist violence. But I agree that it is similar in that I’m implicitly assuming they are more likely to be against it. If hlynkacg or anyone else disagrees, then, yes, we should ask TheWorst to clarify. I might think it is unnecessary, but if I think Mary should be willing to humour me, then I/TheWorst should be willing to humour others.

            @random832
            Yes, exactly.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @random:

            If we’re going to give everyone charitable interpretations, why not just assume Antifa will only beat up actual Nazis and call it a day?

            Because we can see how they’ve behaved in recent protests, and they made little to no effort there to distinguish “actual Nazis” from “centre-right”, or even from “left-wing but disagrees with them” or “happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Even if we assume that they only intend to assault actual Nazis, their Nazi-detecting procedures are clearly too exiguous to trust.

          • random832 says:

            Because we can see how they’ve behaved in recent protests, and they made little to no effort there to distinguish “actual Nazis” from “centre-right”, or even from “left-wing but disagrees with them” or “happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Even if we assume that they only intend to assault actual Nazis, their Nazi-detecting procedures are clearly too exiguous to trust.

            I believe that this can and should be generalized to say that any human who has already decided to commit violence against the worst members of their outgroup is likely to lack good procedures for identifying the worst members of their outgroup, and we’re back to the question why conservatives planning on “blowing the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks” are an exception.

            Is there any reason not to expect someone who’s already hyped up in anticipation of getting to* shoot someone to, on failing to find anyone beating an innocent Trump supporter with lead pipes, to decide that someone burning down an innocent light stand is an acceptable substitute? Or maybe just anyone wearing the wrong color of hoodie.

            *My choice of words is deliberate, I expect that both the left and right have a small minority of people who just want to hurt people, and that they will use any socially acceptable excuse to do so. This is why creating socially acceptable excuses is harmful.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I believe that this can and should be generalized to say that any human who has already decided to commit violence against the worst members of their outgroup is likely to lack good procedures for identifying the worst members of their outgroup, and we’re back to the question why conservatives planning on “blowing the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks” are an exception.

            It takes an incredible amount of bad faith to read anybody in this comment section as “planning on” blowing out the brains of anybody. You’re clearly either trolling or paranoid, and either way, I don’t think there’s any point in engaging you further.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ random832
            How I interpreted the opening of this thread…

            Kevin C. says that the protestors are offering those on “the right” two choices; comply, or die.

            Mary observes that there is a third option, escalate / fight back.

            At this point you’d be hard pressed to find point to anyone planning or “calling for” anything yet TheWorst responds with…

            And now we’ve shifted from “hundreds and hundreds of posts saying that liberals are subhuman” to “literally calling for their murder.”

            Was my own suggestion really “out of nowhere” in the context of that?

            I feel that there is a distinct asymmetry here where documented cases of sectarian violence are either dismissed or being interpreted extremely charitably, while the mere suggestion that victims might defend themselves or respond in kind is painted as a prelude to genocide.

            To me the connection between being attacked and responding in kind seems obvious and fundamental, yet to others in this thread it clearly is not. As such the question must be asked, do people have the right to defend themselves against a violent mob or don’t they?

            Edited: to be more general.

          • random832 says:

            Kevin C. says that the protestors are offering those on “the right” two choices; comply, or die.

            I think this might be where the disconnect is coming from. (His exact words were “so that the only choice is to comply with theirr demands and cease being the kind of person they attack”)

            But this only makes sense if this ‘choice’ is being presented to all rightists, everywhere – It may not be a particularly appealing choice, but “stay away from the location of the protests while they are going on” doesn’t seem to fit in the “comply” category either. The suggestion is that there is a threat to conservatives everywhere doing anything – that the escalation has allegedly already moved far beyond the locations of organized protests, and conservatives cannot feel safe anywhere.

            Primed with this, then, Mary’s suggestion seemed to be that liberals (at least any that anyone identifies as “leftists who indulge in violent attacks”) should likewise be made to feel unsafe everywhere, rather than only at the protests.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            But this only makes sense if this ‘choice’ is being presented to all rightists, everywhere – It may not be a particularly appealing choice, but “stay away from the location of the protests while they are going on” doesn’t seem to fit in the “comply” category either. The suggestion is that there is a threat to conservatives everywhere doing anything – that the escalation has allegedly already moved far beyond the locations of organized protests, and conservatives cannot feel safe anywhere.

            What leads you to believe that antifas intend to impose their values in only those restricted areas where they happen to have been protesting at the time?

            Also, the suggestion that TheWorst supports Antifa murdering anyone they call fascists is so out of nowhere that it’s disingenuous to […]

            The suggestion that I suggested that TheWorst supports Antifa murdering anyone they call fascists is even farther out of nowhere!

            The problem is that […] Mary (and her supporters) is playing a motte-and-bailey game with what level of “indiscriminate” the violence she endorses is,

            We’re not playing a motte-and-bailey game. You think we are, because you clearly simply didn’t understand what Mary meant by what she said, assumed TheWorst’s interpretation of it, and further assumed that that interpretation was the most reasonable one.

            In a weird sort of upside-y way, this all boils down to a mere misunderstanding. The trouble is that it has to boil down pretty far to get there, now. And more interestingly, it suggests a long-standing disconnect between the two positions here, that is worth straightening out.

          • Mary says:

            And again, I don’t see any pipe beaters in this comments section.

            You’ve already been called on this, and yet you repeat this again to try to obfuscate with a total irrelevancy.

            You have no plausibility left. I believe nothing you say.

          • Mary says:

            It may not be a particularly appealing choice, but “stay away from the location of the protests while they are going on” doesn’t seem to fit in the “comply” category either.

            Of course it does. It means that an arbitrary group of people can at any time for any reason deny you your constitutional right to freedom of movement, and if you try to assert your right, you risk being lynched by a mob.

          • random832 says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            The suggestion that I suggested that TheWorst supports Antifa murdering anyone they call fascists is even farther out of nowhere!

            I was forced to wildly guess at what you might have thought people were giving TheWorst a charitable reading on. Clearly I guessed wrong, then, and you haven’t responded to my question of what you meant by it.

            Is there something else you mean? What exactly of what he said are you referring to, and what are the charitable and uncharitable interpretations in play here?

            —-

            @The original Mr. X

            It takes an incredible amount of bad faith to read anybody in this comment section as “planning on” blowing out the brains of anybody. You’re clearly either trolling or paranoid, and either way, I don’t think there’s any point in engaging you further.

            I didn’t say anyone in the comment section was planning any such thing. But nevertheless if such violence is actually carried out, it will probably be by people who were planning it, and those people will probably have been inspired by rhetoric similar to Mary’s (though maybe most of those people probably don’t hang out here).

            And, how is your argument about whether anyone in this comment section is personally doing anything bad fundamentally different from @rlms’s “And again, I don’t see any pipe beaters in this comments section.” which was rightly dismissed?

          • hlynkacg says:

            random832:
            “stay away from the location of the protests while they are going on” is not a viable option so long as the anti-fa continue to actively seek out conservative events to crash. And even if it were an option you’re still, as Mary points out, implicitly endorsing notion that an arbitrary group of people can at any time for any reason deny you your constitutional right to freedom of movement, and if you try to assert your right, you risk being lynched by a mob. which brings us right back to “comply, or die”.

            At the end of the day I’ll echo’ Paul’s idea that this suggests a long-standing disconnect between the two positions here, that is worth straightening out before it kills someone.

            Edit in reply to the comment you wrote while I was replying:

            As for violence those people will not have been inspired by rhetoric such as Mary’s so much as a long standing moral and intellectual tradition on the use of force. Namely…

            “don’t fight unless you have to. But as soon as you have to, bring your entire power to bear as quickly and brutally as possible in order to end the conflict immediately.”

            The anti-fa keeps telling us we have to fight? God help them if they actually manage to convince anyone.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            But nevertheless if such violence is actually carried out, it will probably be by people who were planning it, and those people will probably have been inspired by rhetoric similar to Mary’s (though maybe most of those people probably don’t hang out here).

            The silly part is that you are completely skipping over the part where there are already people on your side of the political fence who are planning and executing violence. When people understandably don’t want to accept that they can by chance just end up as the victim and they perceive the government as letting it happen; it’s completely understandable that some resolve to arm themselves and defend themselves if attacked. This is perfectly consistent with what Mary said and your attempt to hold her accountable for what she did not argue for is quite unfair.

            You also fail to appreciate that appeasement only works if the side that you are conceding to is willing to at one point stop. It was necessary to have strong defensive capability and a hard Schelling fence to keep Soviet Russia from taking over Western Europe. It was necessary to actually go to war to stop Hitler.

            It seems pretty clear to me that antifa are extremely intolerant and will just shift targets if they win somewhere. It’s also seems to me that large parts of the American left, even including people like deBoer, are quite happy with violence as long as it happens to their ideological enemies. These people need a reality check that they can’t just expect those enemies to keep taking a beating, without them at one point starting to defend their rights with defensive or offensive violence*. Arguing that people who tell this obvious truth are actually making it happen is as rational as blaming De Tocqueville for the French revolution.

            * A complicating factor here is that a lot of the left feels just as under attack as the right, although at this point it seems that most of that perception is due to misinformation about supposed right wing violence that didn’t actually happen.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            And again, I don’t see any pipe beaters in this comments section.

            deBoer is a visitor to this comments section and he has defended offensive attacks on ‘fascists*.’

            * Although not here, but on his deceased blog.

          • Mary says:

            A complicating factor here is that a lot of the left feels just as under attack as the right, although at this point it seems that most of that perception is due to misinformation about supposed right wing violence that didn’t actually happen.

            The real complicating factor here is that a fair amount of left — as openly professed by the Berkeley and Middlebury rioters — define violence against them as, bluntly, anything they don’t like. When you call speeches violence, you are in need of a mental institution.

          • Aapje says:

            @mary

            Yeah, that is an issue too. Word inflation enables people to be the aggressor while pretending to be acting in self-defense.

            People on the left are not the only ones doing this though (‘killing unborn babies’).

          • lvlln says:

            Gotta say, the idea that “blow the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks” can be naturally or reasonably interpreted as “determine which leftists indulge in violent attacks, then track down and murder them” is ludicrous. Particularly when the more natural reading is “engage in homicidal self defense against leftists who are violently attacking you.” Especially given the context is what right-wing people can do against leftists who are indulging in violent attacks in order to coerce them into not acting right-wing.

            It’s downright insulting to be treated as if we’d buy this blatant pretzel logic designed to justify the initial bizarre reaction by TheWorst.

            The question of what constitutes a “violent attack” isn’t a bad one, but that’s a general question about self-defense and what justifies it. Needless to say, it’s very possible to twist the meaning of that term in order to rationalize offensive attacks under the guise of “self-defense,” for instance, by re-defining certain opinions as being a “violent attack” on oneself, and then using physical violence to shut down expressions of those opinions. I don’t think there’s any reasonable way to read Mary’s comment such that she was implying that this is what right-wingers should do in response to leftists attempting to coerce them.

          • random832 says:

            Gotta say, the idea that “blow the brains out of leftists who indulge in violent attacks” can be naturally or reasonably interpreted as “determine which leftists indulge in violent attacks, then track down and murder them” is ludicrous. Particularly when the more natural reading is “engage in homicidal self defense against leftists who are violently attacking you.” Especially given the context is what right-wing people can do against leftists who are indulging in violent attacks in order to coerce them into not acting right-wing.

            So is it just that you don’t recognize that “leftists who indulge in violent attacks” and “leftists who are violently attacking you” are two different phrases with different literal meanings? What was actually said was about a category of leftists rather than a response to an action.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje, Mary
            OK, I forgot about de Boer, and possibly Multiheaded (although neither of them actually are pipe beaters). I concede that they might believe that reasonable self-defence against violent leftists is not reasonable if you are a fascist, and she was addressing them. Is that the case Mary? As I have said several times before, you can settle this entire argument by clarifying what you meant. Were you just applying the idea that if someone is running at you waving a pipe, it would be reasonable to shoot them to Black Bloc protestors? Maybe you think that it’s obvious you were doing this, but there’s no harm in indulging bumbling fools like me who might somehow have misinterpreted you. I’ll be happy to reciprocate if anyone misinterprets anything I say!

            I suspect you won’t answer this, since you failed to the previous times I asked. So, an open question to anyone: why won’t Mary answer? Is my request for a couple of sentences clarifying her intent (even the single word “yes” would do) unreasonable?

            @lvlln
            Sure, maybe it is ludicrous to interpret Mary’s comment as anything as “the principle of self-defence applies to attacks by violent leftists” (although I would suggest that the lengthy argument here means maybe it isn’t). But we aren’t arguing about interpretation of some ancient book, or whether an politician’s speech contains racist dogwhistles. Mary’s right here! We can just ask her what she meant! I have done so! Repeatedly! But for some reason she won’t answer. This suggests that her comment actually had some less defensible intent (bailey) but is trying to make people think she was just making a banal generic statement about self-defence (motte). Of course, sometimes you can do an effective motte-and-bailey even while explicitly not endorsing the bailey. But that doesn’t apply here, so I’m happy to take her at her word if she states she was only arguing the motte.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            OK, I forgot about de Boer, and possibly Multiheaded (although neither of them actually are pipe beaters). I concede that they might believe that reasonable self-defence against violent leftists is not reasonable if you are a fascist, and she was addressing them.

            That is completely not what I was getting at. I’m not arguing whether or not DeBoer thinks that right wing people have a right to self defense against violent leftists.

            My argument is that he and others with similar ideas on the left treat violence as something that you can just use to get your way with no blow back. DeBoer seems to make some very serious errors:
            – Believing that antifa violence will merely target actual white supremacists, rather than the entire outgroup of the antifa’s
            – Ignoring that right wing people are in fact also humans, with actual feelings like fear of being harmed
            – Ignoring that the same tribalism and fear of a gradual loss of rights that made DeBoer support antifa, exists in reverse on the other side

            I merely read Mary’s statement as a claim that DeBoer’s authoritarian/bully fantasy, of beating up and oppressing his opponents, won’t necessarily work out as he dreams. The oppressed do have the option of actually fight back.

            Mary never said that this ought to happen, but merely that it could happen. It is really rather irritating how her critics cannot distinguish between an analysis of how the world works vs a call to action. ‘The other choice is’ is a description of what people can do, not a call to action.

          • lvlln says:

            So is it just that you don’t recognize that “leftists who indulge in violent attacks” and “leftists who are violently attacking you” are two different phrases with different literal meanings? What was actually said was about a category of leftists rather than a response to an action.

            Context matters. The conversation was specifically about how people can respond to leftists using violent attacks to coerce people into behaving in certain ways, with explicit comparison to an armed mugger giving someone the choice of “your money or your life.” Obviously “leftists who indulge in violent attacks” is a category – that category obviously being “leftists who are violently attacking you in order to coerce you” given the aforementioned context. It takes a reading that is uncharitable to an outrageous extent to say that this should be interpreted as saying “track them down and murder them” rather than “act in self defense that rises to homicide.”

            If someone suggests that one possible response to a mugger who is holding them up is blowing their brains out, it is unreasonable to say that this is a suggestion to track down the category of people they believe are armed muggers and then murder them in an act of vigilante justice. When the obvious interpretation is that they can practice homicidal self defense.

            And, I’ll repeat, Mary never once advocated this action. She merely posited it as one possible choice that Kevin C. seemed to ignore (he seemed to consider only 1 choice – compliance – as possible). So even if we took this pretzel-logic interpretation of the choice Mary posited as being murder in the form of vigilante justice rather than homicidal self defense, it’s unreasonable to say that she was calling for murder or saying it was a good thing in any way.

          • random832 says:

            Context matters. The conversation was specifically about how people can respond to leftists using violent attacks to coerce people into behaving in certain ways

            No, the conversation was about how people can respond to the problem of leftists using violent attacks to coerce people into behaving in certain ways. Talking about being presented with a choice to “cease being the kind of person they attack” takes it far beyond the immediate context of any single incident of violence.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ random:

            So is it just that you don’t recognize that “leftists who indulge in violent attacks” and “leftists who are violently attacking you” are two different phrases with different literal meanings? What was actually said was about a category of leftists rather than a response to an action.

            What was also “actually said” was that shooting people was an option, not that people should actually do it. Either we should interpret people’s statements with slavish literalism, or we should take them “seriously, not literally” (to coin a phrase). You’re just trying to have it both ways, switching between positions based on which one allows you to portray your interlocutor in the worst possible light.

          • lvlln says:

            Sure, maybe it is ludicrous to interpret Mary’s comment as anything as “the principle of self-defence applies to attacks by violent leftists” (although I would suggest that the lengthy argument here means maybe it isn’t). But we aren’t arguing about interpretation of some ancient book, or whether an politician’s speech contains racist dogwhistles. Mary’s right here! We can just ask her what she meant! I have done so! Repeatedly! But for some reason she won’t answer. This suggests that her comment actually had some less defensible intent (bailey) but is trying to make people think she was just making a banal generic statement about self-defence (motte). Of course, sometimes you can do an effective motte-and-bailey even while explicitly not endorsing the bailey. But that doesn’t apply here, so I’m happy to take her at her word if she states she was only arguing the motte.

            I don’t think you get to make an inference to motte-and-bailey. If I were in her situation, I would probably interpret requests to clarify such an obviously innocuous statement as a power move, designed to force me to legitimize blatantly motivated reasoning as within the realm of reason. I can see why she wouldn’t want to give in to such a demand.

            But neither of us are mind readers, and we don’t get to claim knowledge of her motivations. And I don’t see your interpretation of her behavior as any more plausible than mine.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            Yes, that deBoer might not realise that the right might bite back (although I suspect he does). But then the question is whether Mary was suggesting them biting back by shooting people beating them up, or by launching unprovoked attacks on leftists in the same way leftists attack them.

            I disagree that she was dispassionately presenting an option without endorsing it at all. It is true that one can theoretically do that, but when the option is “kill someone” it seems an odd thing to do; most people have very strong opinions on the morality of killing in different situations. Of course, if she was referencing immediate reasonable self-defence then there is nothing wrong with endorsing it. But presenting something controversial you support as a possibility, and then responding with “Oh, no, I’m not *endorsing* that. Just saying it’s a possibility…” is a common rhetorical trick. And Mary hasn’t even done the second part yet (although if she did I would happily take her at her word, as SSC commenters are supposed to be charitable (and I don’t think there is any danger of her causing terrible things with evil dog whistles)).

          • lvlln says:

            No, the conversation was about how people can respond to the problem of leftists using violent attacks to coerce people into behaving in certain ways. Talking about being presented with a choice to “cease being the kind of person they attack” takes it far beyond the immediate context of any single incident of violence.

            The problem of leftists using violent attacks is the violent attacks. Ceasing being the kind of person they attack is one option to stop the violent attacks to oneself. Another option is for one to act in homicidal self-defense in response to anyone who is causing that problem for oneself – i.e. blow the brains out anyone who is indulging in violent attacks.

            If each and every time some leftist violently attacked someone with a metal pipe for not appearing sufficiently leftist, that leftist was responded to by getting their brains blown out, the pattern of leftists freely violently attacking people with metal pipes for not appearing sufficiently leftist would start to go away. This is a banal and wholly inoffensive observation, which is what Mary made (without in any way advocating this as a preferred or just solution to the problem, merely as a possible solution). It’s unreasonable to twist that to “go track down the class of people who have done this in the past and implement vigilante justice via murder,” especially since it’s pretty obvious that such actions would be ineffective for solving the problem – when someone is killed in self-defense, it’s immediately obvious what behavior they were engaging in that got them killed, and others can change their behavior accordingly, whereas the reasons behind vigilante murder can be more obscured.

          • rlms says:

            @lvlln
            No, we aren’t mind readers. That’s why asking people to clarify what they mean is a sensible thing to do. You could view it as a power move, but a norm of not doing so is beneficial. In any case, her statement objectively doesn’t seem to be “obviously innocuous”, given how many people expressed problems with it (including people who I don’t think are at all sympathetic to the Black Bloc such as Civilis (who said that the reasonable self-defence interpretation was “charitable”) and hlynkacg). And making ambiguous, controversial statements then refusing to elaborate is itself a power move (and I think a much more powerful one than interpreting things in a odd way, which just makes you look silly if you are truly suggesting an implausible interpretation).

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            No, we aren’t mind readers.

            That is simultaneously obvious and yet a belief that you don’t actually seem to hold, given your far reaching inferences.

            Anyway, if there was ever a thread in need of a ‘lock,’ it was this one.

          • rlms says:

            Interpreting words doesn’t require mind-reading. Attempting to justify your interpretation by arguing about the words’ author’s mind does, so it’s lucky that instead of doing that I have attempted to get the author to explicitly clarify which interpretation she desired (written communication being one of the main tools used to circumvent humans’ lack of telepathy).

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            random832 wrote: I was forced to wildly guess at what you might have thought people were giving TheWorst a charitable reading on. Clearly I guessed wrong, then, and you haven’t responded to my question of what you meant by it.

            You never had to guess. All you had to do was go to my comment, which had the quote I had just copied from rlms:

            Presumably TheWorst opposes both the indiscriminately violent protestors, and indiscriminate violence against leftists. That is not an odd position to take.

            I guess I don’t know what “Presumably TheWorst […]” means to you. To me, it means that rlms is intentionally expressing a charitable interpretation of something TheWorst said previously.

            If rlms expressed a charitable interpretation of something someone said, it implies that rlms is capable of expressing a charitable interpretation of something someone said. Let this be claim (I).

            However, in my same comment, I quoted something else rlms said:

            If you [Mary] just say that you were only justifying reasonable self-defence, I will jubilantly take you at your word (and kindly suggest that you make similar clarifications earlier in the future).

            This implies that rlms was either unwilling or unable to express a charitable interpretation of something Mary said.

            However, we already established by (I) that rlms is able to express a charitable interpretation of something someone said. Therefore, we are left with rlms being unwilling to express a charitable interpretation of something Mary said, or that rlms is perhaps able to interpret charitably only conditionally, perhaps on the content of the quote. However:

            I was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            hlynkacg was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            lvlln was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            Civilis was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            Jiro was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            gbdub was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            Dr Dealgood was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            John Schilling was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            The original Mr. X was apparently able to understand what she meant.

            Why wasn’t rlms? Why weren’t you?

          • rlms says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            Charitableness isn’t the issue. Interpreting Mary as banally suggesting reasonable self-defence isn’t charitable, it is either right (if that was what she intended) or wrong (if it wasn’t). And likewise for TheWorst. In both cases, asking the people involved to clarify what they intended is the obvious way to get to the bottom of things. If anyone disagrees with my interpretation of TheWorst’s comment, I suggest they ask for clarification (as I have done repeatedly (but to no avail) with Mary).

            You list 9 people who apparently “can understand what she meant”, but I don’t know how you are actually know what she meant. Are you a mind reader? Or has she actually finally stated which interpretation was intended? Maybe you meant to list 9 people who interpreted it in what seems to you to be the obvious way. But only 7 actually belong there, as Civilis only agrees with your interpretation if charity is applied (so they clearly see objectionable interpretations as plausible), and hlynkacg thinks she deserves to be chastised (ditto). As far as I can see, that puts the numbers at 7 people who think she was incontrovertibly making a perfectly reasonable statement, to 5 who think that objectionable interpretations are plausible. I could equally well ask you why you can’t see the blindingly obvious other interpretations of her statement, since plenty of other people can. Furthermore, I think that all of the seven are broadly politically aligned with Mary, but only three of the five are broadly aligned against her. That seems telling.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That seems telling.

            What it’s telling us that there is a fundamental disconnect between how “the left” and “the right” approach the use of force/violence.

          • rlms says:

            That wasn’t what I meant. The telling thing is that one interpretation is bipartisan, the other is not.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Furthermore, I think that all of the seven are broadly politically aligned with Mary, but only three of the five are broadly aligned against her. That seems telling.

            Well, you’re wrong, since lvlln and Aapje both apparently “understood” Mary (whatever that means) while identifying as left-wing.

          • random832 says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            You never had to guess. All you had to do was go to my comment, which had the quote I had just copied from rlms:

            I guess I don’t know what “Presumably TheWorst […]” means to you. To me, it means that rlms is intentionally expressing a charitable interpretation of something TheWorst said previously.

            What “of something” specifically? To me this is a presumption regarding his probable position in general – that being a position that almost all reasonable people have, and which TheWorst has shown no evidence to the contrary – rather than an interpretation of something he has said. And since you are the one claiming it is a charitable interpretation, you are not excused from explaining what it is an interpretation of and what your alternate interpretation is.

            EDIT: It was @hlynkacg who claimed (with no explanation of precisely what he interpreted as such) that TheWorst was “making excuses for” Antifa, and it’s this claim I meant to characterize as being out of nowhere. If you didn’t agree with it, you shouldn’t have stepped in. If you did agree with it, you should have provided a better defense of it than simply asserting that the objection to it was an unfairly charitable reading of… “something”.

            I am honestly sorry for not making that explicitly clear before (though it would be just as reasonable to expect you to have figured it out – we both failed, and we were both bitten by the same limitation of the comment system); this whole discussion has been taking place at the nesting limit and it’s a pain to recheck what is in reply to what.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            What “of something” specifically?

            It doesn’t matter what. What matters was that rlms was able to do it at all, which means rlms was apparently unwilling to do it in Mary’s case.

            it’s [hlynkacg’s] claim I meant to characterize as being out of nowhere

            …well, all right then. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell what you were referring to. But only a little. In my defense, you restated and rephrased the quote, mentioned Antifa, and hlynkacg never referred to Antifa (I checked), and I distinctly remembered you using Antifa the last time you were replying to me, and you were obviously replying to me all through that comment, and never mentioned hlynkacg yourself, so I assumed you were replying to me again. If I’m sorry about anything, it’s for not making it clearer up front that I’ve been going out of my way to be careful to track who said what and who meant what, since that was the core of what drove me to step into this thread in the first place.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Well, you’re wrong, since lvlln and Aapje both apparently “understood” Mary (whatever that means) while identifying as left-wing.

            This. Personally, I look forward to discussions with someone honestly disagreeing with someone else’s sentiment. What burns my butter is when the former completely misunderstands the latter and then disagrees with their own misunderstanding.

            Moreover, I see Mary’s comment as so consistent with the typical American right outlook on violence – a viewpoint I’ve known as pretty sensible and self-consistent, for decades – that the American left really ought to have at least passing familiarity with it. More so when I find American left who do appear to understand it, and work with it. (For example, I’ve lost count of the number of otherwise yellow-dog Democrats who are on board the gun rights wagon.) When someone misinterprets that view, the natural default assumption is that they’re either in a bubble or trolling.

            Maybe I need to find a link to an article describing that view, to get people on the same page, and avoid future misunderstandings…

          • random832 says:

            It doesn’t matter what. What matters was that rlms was able to do it at all,

            It certainly matters if I don’t concede that it was a charitable interpretation.

            Even if the characterization being objected to weren’t out of nowhere, “charitable interpretation” and “uncharitable interpretation” are not opposites (in the sense of anything not one being the other), they are both opposed to natural interpretations. Therefore claiming that someone is giving “something” a charitable (or uncharitable) interpretation is a claim that some other interpretation is the natural interpretation.

            What burns my butter is when the former completely misunderstands the latter and then disagrees with their own misunderstanding.

            The problem is that accusing someone of misunderstanding your position and declining to clearly commit to the supposed correct interpretation is the substance of which motte-and-bailey arguments are made. If you can’t “make an inference to motte-and-bailey” (@lvlln’s words) when someone is doing that, when can you? If Mary really meant it that way the first time, she shouldn’t have any objection to saying so again, “power move” or no.

            —-

            EDIT:

            …never mentioned hlynkacg yourself, so I assumed you were replying to me again

            I was replying to you. I was replying to your objection to rlms’s objection to hlynkacg’s characterization of TheWorst’s position. That hlynkacg’s characterization of TheWorst’s position was out of nowhere (and therefore that you were wrong to characterize rlms’s objection as a charitable interpretation of nothing in particular TheWorst had said) was entirely relevant to my reply to you, since that was what you were talking about.

            I’ll admit I may have been sloppy in using “Antifa” as a general term for the sort of leftists that go around beating people with pipes, when some may not be members of an organized group that uses that name. Though, hlynkacg used the phrase “the Anti-Fa types” for the same category.

          • rlms says:

            @Paul Brinkley
            “It doesn’t matter what. What matters was that rlms was able to do it at all, which means rlms was apparently unwilling to do it in Mary’s case.”
            As I said before, “unwilling” and “charity” aren’t relevant. Either she was making a banal comment about reasonable self-defence, or something else. If the latter, then interpreting it as the former isn’t being charitable, it’s being wrong (and vice versa, of course). Actually interpreting it as the former but lying and pretending you think it’s the latter would be uncharitable. Are you accusing me of doing that?

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous
            Firstly, I don’t see Aapje stating that the only non-ludicrous interpretation is the banal reasonable self-defence one (hereby abbreviated to the BRSDI). Secondly, I don’t think either of them are broadly aligned against Mary on this topic (because obviously left and right are vague, nebulous categories and it makes sense to narrow down the axis of alignment). Consider the axis of views about left-wing protests. I think everyone involved here would disapprove of Black Bloc types bombing the White House, and approve of them calmly standing in a designated area waving mildly-written placards. But there events in between the two which some people would classify as being on the dubious end of acceptable protest, but others would consider to be the least objectionable end of unreasonable violence. I am in the former group, Mary is in the latter. Which do you think that Aapje and lvlln are in?

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Firstly, I don’t see Aapje stating that the only non-ludicrous interpretation is the banal reasonable self-defence one (hereby abbreviated to the BRSDI).

            I mean, it seems like you’re definining your opposing position as narrowly as possible while while taking the broadest possible meaning for your own. I objected to Mary’s comment because I found it excessive and, honestly, I didn’t like the optics (it was “crass”, if you will), but broadly speaking, I’d be on the side of those who say that the most reasonable interpretation of the comment was, by far, one of self-defense.

            But there events in between the two which some people would classify as being on the dubious end of acceptable protest, but others would consider to be the least objectionable end of unreasonable violence. I am in the former group, Mary is in the latter. Which do you think that Aapje and lvlln are in?

            Wait, are you saying that violence against bystanders (on the level displayed in the past months) is on the acceptable (if dubious) end of protesting? (genuine question, I don’t mean to shame).

          • rlms says:

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous
            I’m defining that group narrowly because the people in it seem to have narrow views (e.g. see The Original Mr X.’s description of other interpretations as “ludicrous”). If they’d said “yes, you could see it as calling for violent persecution of leftists/Weimar-Germanyesque streetfighting, but it could equally be the BRSDI, then our disagreement would be less.

            No I don’t (no offence taken). I’m thinking of something like a right-wing protestor aggressively shouting a slur at a left-wing one, who then punches them.

          • Mary says:

            If Mary really meant it that way the first time, she shouldn’t have any objection to saying so again, “power move” or no.

            Should? Why not? I can imagine several legitimate reasons for a person to object.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            But there events in between the two which some people would classify as being on the dubious end of acceptable protest, but others would consider to be the least objectionable end of unreasonable violence. I am in the former group, Mary is in the latter. Which do you think that Aapje and lvlln are in?

            I think it’s quite telling that you think that this is an interesting question in this context. It speaks to the inferential distance between us.

            I am quite anti-hawk, specifically the kind of hawk that glorifies violence as a great solution while pretending that the downsides don’t exist. One way to point out why such a position is dumb, especially to those who buy into a good/evil & ingroup/outgroup point of view, is to point out that violence by ‘good’ tends to result in violence by ‘evil’ (self-defense, retaliatory & pro-active).

            The advantage of this frame is that it takes advantage of already existing beliefs that the outgroup is a very dangerous group of people. So it allows for a large gain (making people stop supporting/doing violence), while requiring minimal change in beliefs. The more people need to change their beliefs to come over to your argument, the less persuasive it is.

            So in general, I support this kind of argument as it seems a relatively effective way to convince these kind of hawks to keep violence in check.

            Of course, one can argue that this is the wrong venue for such statements and/or that Mary was too crude. However, this wasn’t the main objection being leveled.

            I think that this is due to you and some others not understanding the argument that I defended above and instead, seeing it as being primarily directed at the beaten, rather than the beaters, while the opposite is true.

            PS. Of course, I may be guilty of projecting my beliefs on Mary as well.

          • rlms says:

            @Mary
            Care to expound any of those reasons (preferably the ones that actually apply here)? Or am I using a power move of such dark magic that you can’t even explain why it’s a power move without being rhetorically devastated?

            @Aapje
            I think that the best way to politically clarify people is to look at intuitions and feelings on specific events, as if you try to do it based on political statements you have to distinguish between lots of similar sounding comments about freedom, justice, equality etc. Self-identification works, but only if you can get people to agree on terminology. So I think the example I gave is a good way of sorting people into political tribes on the issue of leftist protestors being violent, and I think the political tribes sorted that way are useful, in that if even some members of Mary’s tribe object to her comment, that is strong evidence there is something objectionable about it.

            On the object level, I disagree with you that pointing out the possibility of retaliatory violence is a good way to stop violence. Saying “the outgroup might attack you if you attack them” seems more likely to be interpreted as “the outgroup might attack you” and met with “well, we’d better preemptively kill them all then” than a peaceful equilibrium. And the argument has no chance of working if the group you are talking to is more powerful than their enemies; they’ll just say “we don’t care about violence from them because we are stronger”.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            in that if even some members of Mary’s tribe object to her comment, that is strong evidence there is something objectionable about it.

            Or that is simply because those people don’t understand or agree with this argument either. Tribes are not clone armies. People disagree and have communication breakdowns within their tribes as well.

            If we are going to limit discussions to things that entire tribes agree on, this comments section will be very, very quiet.

            On the object level, I disagree with you that pointing out the possibility of retaliatory violence is a good way to stop violence. Saying “the outgroup might attack you if you attack them” seems more likely to be interpreted as “the outgroup might attack you” and met with “well, we’d better preemptively kill them all then” than a peaceful equilibrium. And the argument has no chance of working if the group you are talking to is more powerful than their enemies; they’ll just say “we don’t care about violence from them because we are stronger”.

            Being stronger doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer casualties. At a certain moment it was clear that Germany was going to lose in WW II. The allied armies still suffered many deaths and injured after that point. Similarly, one of the motivations for dropping the nukes on Japan was that even a hopeless Japanese defense could still be extremely nasty.

            My mental model is that people generally have a more nuanced view on violence than winning/losing and that they weigh costs vs gains. My opinion is that quite a few people underestimate the costs and overestimate the gains. My mental model is that a lot of these people have a weird view on the world, where their opponents are simultaneously very dangerous and yet easily beaten by employing violence. For various reasons, it seems much more difficult to change the former belief than the latter. Changing that belief ought to change the costs vs gains calculation, so that violence seems less attractive.

          • rlms says:

            I definitely agree that many people are too eager to consider violence (because they don’t consider the likely costs and benefits well enough). But historically, especially on a smaller scale than nation states, I think the main things that stop violence are liberalism (willingness to tolerate differences/norms against violence) and overwhelmingly powerful enforcement from a relatively neutral power (generally a government). The only long-term peace between two groups based on each not wanting to provoke the other I can think of is that induced by nuclear weapons. I can’t imagine MAD working between smaller groups that can’t fully accomplish the D.

          • random832 says:

            @Mary

            Should? Why not? I can imagine several legitimate reasons for a person to object.

            How fortuitous that as the actual person objecting you don’t actually have to imagine anything. Of course, since your objection is to having to explain yourself, I imagine you won’t want to explain this either. (Speaking of power moves, you seem to have stumbled into inventing a fully general counterargument.)

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            If they’d said “yes, you could see it as calling for violent persecution of leftists/Weimar-Germanyesque streetfighting, but it could equally be the BRSDI, then our disagreement would be less.

            Well, I’d disagree with that too, because I don’t think “equally” applies, I can see how you could see it a different way, but to me it seems like BRSDI is way likelier, there’s middle ground between “this interpretation is so obviously correct that any opposer must have brain damage” and “both are equally likely”.

            (no offence taken)

            Offense meant, you damn Brit!

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            the main things that stop violence are liberalism (willingness to tolerate differences/norms against violence)

            Presumably, humans evolved in a situation where threats were relatively common. High sensitivity was a feature, not a bug. In Western society there are far fewer threats, so people could do with less sensitivity, yet I see people overreacting constantly and making mountains out of molehills. This includes people that make ‘tolerance’ their rallying cry.

            IMO, trying to get people to reduce their sensitivity (= increase tolerance) is good, but also a high-failure strategy. You are working against human nature. You can’t count on that.

            I can’t imagine MAD working between smaller groups that can’t fully accomplish the D.

            This is why we have the police + legal system. Small groups like LGBT suddenly become very powerful if they have institutional protection.

            There is a reason why various people here got really upset at the Berkeley police supposedly standing idly by and started talking about how red tribers may respond by increasing their D.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            rlms wrote: As I said before, “unwilling” and “charity” aren’t relevant.

            And as I’ve implied repeatedly before, they are centrally relevant, for they are symptoms of how you’re making your arguments here.

            Either she was making a banal comment about reasonable self-defence, or something else. If the latter, then interpreting it as the former isn’t being charitable, it’s being wrong (and vice versa, of course).

            From where I sit, the chance of the former is around 99%. From your perspective, it’s much lower; based on your earlier comments, you seemed to put it lower than 25%.

            With no further information, I’d agree that you’d have a point. However: over 75% of the people still reading this subthread alone seemed to set it where I did. Given that SSC managed to gather 9 out of 11 readers that understand that comment, and gathered only 2 (well, 3) that could not, what do you think is the group that is more likely to have the wider understanding?

            Actually interpreting it as the former but lying and pretending you think it’s the latter would be uncharitable. Are you accusing me of doing that?

            If I assume you’re being honest here, then I’m forced to accuse you of stumbling into Rome, misunderstanding what the Romans do, and demanding clarification of why it’s considered rude to flick grape tomatoes at the praetors, even if you’re being somewhat good-natured about it.

            Like, I’m sorry if that hurts you, I guess, but it’s not my fault you don’t grok something that seems to be common knowledge here.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            random832 wrote: It certainly matters if I don’t concede that it was a charitable interpretation.

            I don’t see how you could have missed that. Here’s what rlms said:

            Presumably TheWorst opposes both the indiscriminately violent protestors, and indiscriminate violence against leftists. That is not an odd position to take.

            You might have a case if I’d just replied without quoting, but I had put that quote right above my reply.

            And this doesn’t actually have anything to do with motte and bailey, either. Mary’s comment had a common understanding, which should now be as evident here as it was to at least nine of us before it was even made. If the motte and bailey analogy applies, she was hanging out in the motte one day and you, rlms, and TheWorst came along and declared it the bailey so that hilarity could ensue.

            I was replying to your objection to rlms’s objection to hlynkacg’s characterization of TheWorst’s position.

            Well in that case, then the problem on that front should be obvious now. My objection wasn’t to rlms’s objection to hlynkacg’s characterization of TheWorst’s position. It was to rlms’s method of objection of the characterization of the position.

            So hopefully that’s all cleared up.

          • random832 says:

            @Paul Brinkley

            I don’t see how you could have missed that. Here’s what rlms said:

            I don’t concede that that quote is a charitable interpretation. I’ve already explained that I regard “charitable interpretation” as a non-neutral term and that it implies (which you’ve provided no evidence for) that the neutral interpretation is worse than the ‘charitable’ one, and I’ve also said over and over that I do not agree with your belief that what rlms said is an ‘interpretation’ of any kind of anything at all that TheWorst has said. You’ve repeatedly refused to point out what TheWorst said that it (or hlynkacg’s characterization) is an interpretation of, or what the neutral interpretation that this ‘charitable interpretation’ is more charitable than is.

            As I said, hlynkacg’s characterization was out of absolutely nowhere. TheWorst said nothing that is even remotely connected to the concept of “making excuses for” leftist attacks. That makes it a non-interpretation, not an “uncharitable interpretation”, and that likewise means that objections to it do not require “interpreting” anything, charitably neutrally or otherwise.

            This is entirely different from the issue with Mary’s comment. She was indisputably talking about shooting leftists, the only disagreement is which leftists (whether those currently in the act of a ‘violent attack’, however defined, or those who have been identified by a vigilante as being the type to do so) and on what occasions (whether on the scene of the protests or as vigilante justice) she was referring to shooting them, and whether she meant to condone the idea of shooting them or neutrally observe it as a possibility.

          • Mary says:

            On the object level, I disagree with you that pointing out the possibility of retaliatory violence is a good way to stop violence. Saying “the outgroup might attack you if you attack them” seems more likely to be interpreted as “the outgroup might attack you” and met with “well, we’d better preemptively kill them all then” than a peaceful equilibrium.

            More likely? Only by a tiny proportion of the population, and we have laws on the books to use force against them. To get them into insane asylums. Where they belong.

            Or possibly in jail, where they might also belong

            Interpreting such a statement as a threat is either wrong or right. If it’s wrong, it’s paranoia, and the person is an obvious danger to everyone on earth. If it’s right, it can only be because the person is plotting such attacks, which is criminal.

          • Mary says:

            Of course, since your objection is to having to explain yourself, I imagine you won’t want to explain this either.

            Want? What does what I want matter when something’s obviously completely impossible? You can not clearly explain anything to anyone who’s going to uncharitably interpret it as something unclear. (Which also makes claims of believing me if I say it “clearly” moot, since the person making the claim is also the person who judges whether it is.)

            We are, after all, discussing the demand begun by a liar who said that everyone thinks something, later cited examples of people who didn’t, and when called on this, so far from apologizing, said that he took it for granted the people would exclude them. As if you could exclude the counter-examples by default! Could anyone be more shamelessly dishonest?

          • hlynkacg says:

            It should also be noted that my intial objection was to what I saw as needless antagonism on Mary’s part, rather than disagreement with the content of her reply. As I said, she does highlight what I find to be an obvious, dangerous blind-spot in the modern progressive discourse, namely that “the enemy always gets a vote”.

            There was nothing in Mary’s reply to suggest that she supported indiscriminate violence so the fact that TheWorst immediately went there tells us more about their assumptions about the use of violence than it does Mary’s (which, as noted, are well within the mainstream discourse). In short TheWorst’s replies only make sense within the context of someone who wants to be able to use violence against their political opponents without fear of retaliation.

            the fact that WHTA actually had to ask, suggests that I’m not the only one who got that impression.

          • random832 says:

            In short TheWorst’s replies only make sense within the context of someone who wants to be able to use violence against their political opponents without fear of retaliation.

            The word “retaliation” is another thing that suggests you’re not talking about – how did someone put it – ‘banal reasonable self-defence’. Retaliation suggests a temporal gap between violent action and violent reaction that means you’re asking a lot for me to trust that you* will retaliate only against people who really deserve it.

            *collectively conservatives who go out armed and looking for trouble, regardless if that actually includes you or not.

          • hlynkacg says:

            First off, “Retaliation” is by definition specific rather than indiscriminate.

            Secondly, if the left weren’t smashing people’s head in with pipes there wouldn’t be any “trouble” for conservatives to find outside of the police. By condoning violence against you agree to accept any violence visited upon you in return.

          • rlms says:

            But then we get into the questions of “can you guarantee you will retaliate against the right people?” and “even if you can, is vigilantism sensible?”. Regarding your last sentence, did you mean “if you commit violence, you accept violence against you”? I don’t think that’s true; if you shoot someone who’s trying to murder you in reasonable self-defence, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be surprised if someone mugs you.

          • hlynkacg says:

            can you guarantee you will retaliate against the right people?

            If the retaliation is occurs organically/in situ? Absolutely. Likewise the sensibility of vigilantism is inversely proportional to the amount of police involvement. In the absence police efforts to limit violence vigilantism is not just sensible but genuinely desirable.

            Regarding your last sentence, did you mean “if you commit violence, you accept violence against you”?

            Yes of course. If you shoot someone because they trying to murder you, you are accepting the fact that they’re trying to murder you. If you try to murder someone you accept the fact that they might shoot you.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The whole “looking for trouble” thing is often part of a pretty nasty argument. Group B starts noticing that when they show up at events events, people in Group A tend to start attacking them. So some members of Group B starts showing up at events armed. Group A shows up to attack, those people in group B respond with weapons. Then the Group B people are tried for assault with a deadly weapon on the grounds that it’s not self-defense if you’re “looking for trouble” and that bringing weapons to a peaceful event counts as “looking for trouble”.

        • Mary says:

          That’s been obvious for years.

      • hlynkacg says:

        My understanding is the whole ‘black bloc’ thing is to make identification for individual crimes impossible. If you can’t actually figure out which one of the mass of almost-identical protestors committed the assault you can’t convict them.

        This is the exact same game the Ku Klux Klan used to play. It ultimately lead to many states to adopt “klan laws” that either criminalize the wearing of masks or allow the whole group to be charged as “accessories to” or with “aiding and abetting” the violence in question.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        My understanding is the whole ‘black bloc’ thing is to make identification for individual crimes impossible.

        [Edited to remove flame bait.]

        What we need is a chemical that dissolves only ski masks.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @Civilis:

        My understanding is the whole ‘black bloc’ thing is to make identification for individual crimes impossible. If you can’t actually figure out which one of the mass of almost-identical protestors committed the assault you can’t convict them, and they’re going to be as uncooperative as possible

        It seems crazy to me that this strategy still works. There’s an obvious counterattack method: paint. The next time “black bloc” protests are likely, police could issue snipers a paintball gun. When an anonymous black-masked protestor is seen committing a crime, they immediately shoot him with paint. Now instead of an anonymous all-black outfit that blends in with all the others, the identified criminal is wearing a black outfit with, say, a prominent neon-orange paint splatter near the left shoulder. Could make apprehending the right guy a little messy – the cleaning/replacement bills for police uniforms would go up – but the court case is simple.

        Private citizens could get into the act too. I imagine a world where wherever the “black bloc” shows up, counter-protestors just immediately tag them using paint-filled water balloons and spray paint cans, rendering them identifiable and silly-looking and massively photogenic. It’d be like a Festival of the Colors out there!

        • LHN says:

          I’m dubious of counterprotesters having the fire discipline to only tag someone who’s actually committed violence with paint. (I’m pretty dubious of the police having it too, but they’re at least theoretically under orders.)

          That said, if you could get a group sufficiently organized to tag each masked protester with a different color, it would go pretty far to defeating the anonymity they rely on. At the very least, they’d have to ditch the outfits before an arrest, and hope that they didn’t get paint on their skin that would tie them to something illegal on camera. And being hit with a paint-filled balloon doesn’t present the same degree of escalation as a lot of physical counterprotesting might.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            I’m dubious of counterprotesters having the fire discipline to only tag someone who’s actually committed violence with paint.

            Sure. The police need to fire paint only at people they are convinced are breaking the law, after a warning order to disperse/retreat. If the police load their paintball gun with a variety of colors we can tell when playing back the tapes that upper-half-orange-splotch guy was breaking a window, lower-half-green-splotch guy was assaulting somebody etcetera. Or if different police snipers use different colors we can unambiguously tell which sniper made the judgment call to tag someone.

            I’m not holding counterprotesters to the same standard. Anybody wearing a mask with the clear intent to get away with crimes or help others do so, is likely to get hit with a private paint tag just on that basis even before actually committing any more serious offense…and that’s probably okay. In fact, having gotten tagged would be likely to prevent the more serious offenses.

            Thinking about it a bit more, paint balloons would be hard to clean up and easy for those tagged to call “assault”. So a better option would be to tag using chalk or the sort of pigments used in the Festival of Colors. Wrap powder in tissue paper, secure with a rubber band, you’ve got a projectile that makes a big color splash but doesn’t hurt and easily washes off pavement. Amazon has it.

          • LHN says:

            Though that will suck badly for journalists and others documenting the protest with an interchangeable lens camera (SLR or mirrorless).

            I’m never one to worry much about lens dust. I’ve written about why you shouldn’t worry about some dust in your lens. But the color bombs they throw out at Color Runs are different. In the last month we’ve had over 20 lenses and several cameras nearly ruined by these things. For what it’s worth, all of the renters tell us they really weren’t near any of the major ‘color bombs.’

            https://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/05/how-to-ruin-your-gear-in-5-minutes-without-water/

          • John Schilling says:

            Sure. The police need to fire paint only at people they are convinced are breaking the law, after a warning order to disperse/retreat.

            These are the same police that half the country believes will randomly arrest black men for driving in the wrong neighborhood, and occasionally shoot them just for the lulz? And now you’re going to go before a jury with nothing more than “Officer White wouldn’t have tagged the guy if he wasn’t obviously guilty”? Or maybe “The window-breaking vandal you see getting tagged with orange paint in the video is the only person tagged with orange paint that day because Officer White and all of his buddies say they only shot one orange paintball between them that day”, but that isn’t much better.

            And that’s before the black blockers start ditching their jackets as they flee. Or swapping them, or self-tagging them. “We are all Orange Spartacus!”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            If you’re going to get police snipers involved, you might as well just give them tranquiliser darts and orders to shoot anybody they see committing a crime. That would help with identification, and make actually arresting the people easier as well.

          • Protagoras says:

            While it’s convenient for TV and movie plots to pretend otherwise, anything that reliably and quickly knocks people unconscious is something that with only slight variation causes death. A slightly more sensitive target, somebody gets hit by two darts instead of one, perhaps somebody already took some other drug, whether therapeutic or recreational, that interacts with the drug in the dart, and the result is the same as if the sniper were just firing bullets. I’m skeptical of the paintball strategy too, but there’s a good reason that police don’t typically use the strategy of giving people knock-out drugs.

          • Nornagest says:

            Doses are also heavily sensitive to target weight — what’ll knock out a 150-pound man might only make a 300-pound man a little groggy, and might kill a 100-pound woman.

            And to make matters worse, even the most dangerous, fastest-acting tranquilizers don’t operate on the timescales you need for police action. Let’s say you’re a police sniper dealing with a hostage situation, and you get a tranquilizer into the guy holding up a B of A and demanding recognition for the Republic of the Terrible Marching Powder: well, you’ve just given that hostage-taker an intramuscular injection, which will take at least a few minutes to take effect (tranquilizers for animal use can take up to an hour), and he now knows you’re shooting at him (because there’s a dart in his chest). By the time he’s asleep, even if you got the dose right, all the hostages will be dead.

            The last large-scale use of tranquilizers on hostile people that I know of was the 2002 Spetsnaz raid on the Chechen-occupied Moscow Theater. At least 170 people died there, mostly hostages and mostly from overdose.

          • houseboatonstyxb says:

            @ LHN
            At the very least, they’d have to ditch the outfits before an arrest, and hope that they didn’t get paint on their skin that would tie them to something illegal on camera.

            Whatever color is used, I’d suggest aiming for their shoes, or at least their pants.

    • suntzuanime says:

      IIRC enforcing laws is heartless and evil. That’s how you get Neil Young to write songs about you.

    • Mary says:

      “perhaps we could just enforce pre-existing laws on assault and battery?”

      We?

      It’s been very clear for a long time that the police, prosecutors, and judges in the area are perfectly willing to do nothing to leftists. Cops are willing to stand there and watch leftists savagely beat someone for being a Trump support, but will leap to arrest anyone who returns to violence.

      Probably going to require sending in the National Guard, and one can only hope it ends like Little Rock, not Kent State.

      • Kevin C. says:

        “Probably going to require sending in the National Guard”

        But who would be doing that sending in? Trump? Cue ‘OMFG, Russian-puppet dictator Trump begins open Fascist takeover by sending armed jack-booted military stormtroopers to stifle political opposition. Impeachment now!”

        “It’s been very clear for a long time that the police, prosecutors, and judges in the area are perfectly willing to do nothing to leftists. Cops are willing to stand there and watch leftists savagely beat someone for being a Trump support, but will leap to arrest anyone who returns to violence.”

        Yes, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Because there’s no way to fight back against them; the System is too strong to defeat.

        • Mary says:

          But who would be doing that sending in? Trump? Cue ‘OMFG, Russian-puppet dictator Trump begins open Fascist takeover by sending armed jack-booted military stormtroopers to stifle political opposition. Impeachment now!”

          So what? That’s what they are saying now.

          Yes, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Because there’s no way to fight back against them; the System is too strong to defeat

          There is no mystical super-strong “System” out there. And there is always a way to fight back. Witness that this country was founded by fighting back against a System.

          • Kevin C. says:

            “So what? That’s what they are saying now.”

            Does that “they” who are saying it include the Democrats (and NeverTrumper Repubs) in Congress? Because if Trump orders in the Nationa Guard, expect impeachment proceedings to begin before the ink on those orders is dry.

            “And there is always a way to fight back.”

            No, there really isn’t. There is such a thing in this world as an insurmountable advantage. And for an (extreme) example/thought experiment, consider this scenario: You’re standing alone in an flat patch of desert, no one and nothing around for miles, equipped only with the clothes on your back and a slingshot. A nuclear-tipped ICBM is ten minutes away from impacting your location. How do you “fight back”, since you say there’s always a way to fight back?

            I’ve seen plenty of my fellows on the Right propose various schemes for fighting back against the Left, and they are always all, without fail, obviously (at least, obvious to me) doomed to utter failure. There is literally nothing the Right can do that the Left cannot weather, counter, and retaliate even harder.

          • Mary says:

            Because if Trump orders in the Nationa Guard, expect impeachment proceedings to begin before the ink on those orders is dry.

            On what charges? Eisenhower sent in the National Guard without any such things.

          • Mary says:

            No, there really isn’t. There is such a thing in this world as an insurmountable advantage.

            A statement as vacuous as vacuous can be.

            And for an (extreme) example/thought experiment, consider this scenario: You’re standing alone in an flat patch of desert, no one and nothing around for miles, equipped only with the clothes on your back and a slingshot. A nuclear-tipped ICBM is ten minutes away from impacting your location. How do you “fight back”, since you say there’s always a way to fight back?

            The mere fact that you resort to such an absurd and hyperbolic example, having nothing to do in any way with the situation before us, argues that you can not make a valid argument for the actual circumstances before us. Which is reinforced by:

            I’ve seen plenty of my fellows on the Right propose various schemes for fighting back against the Left, and they are always all, without fail, obviously (at least, obvious to me) doomed to utter failure. There is literally nothing the Right can do that the Left cannot weather, counter, and retaliate even harder.

            Which is again vacuous as vacuous can be. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but you have advanced NOTHING that even vaguely supports what you are saying here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m gonna respond with what I usually do: I know people on the left who are convinced that America is a fascist state, that the white supremacists/white nationalists/fascists/Nazis (they never really define these terms or indicate what the differences are) are winning, that there are brownshirts out in the streets as we speak. After Trump’s election, some of them – the most emotionally fragile ones – were convinced that they were in immediate physical danger (did I mention this is not in the US?)

            It is impossible for both them and the people who say that the left is in control and can never not be in control to be right. I see no reason to take either group seriously.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I see no reason to take either group seriously.

            There are different meanings to ‘take seriously.’ If you are deciding if their argument is correct then it seems like a good reason to decide that they are hugely overreacting.

            However, another meaning of ‘take seriously’ has to do with consequences and that same overreaction can cause these people to do bad things. So the more you answer ‘no’ to the first meaning, the more you should probably answer ‘yes’ to the second meaning.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje:

            Yes, I mean it in the first sense.

            I don’t know if I’d agree with your statement, though, that taking someone less seriously in terms of whether or not what they’re saying is factual, means you should take the consequences of what they’re saying more seriously. The people I take most seriously in the second sense are people who have a more realistic narrative, because they’re more likely to cause something to happen in the real world.

            “Our opponents are strong, but we can still beat them if we fight hard” and “we are evenly matched with our opponents, so we must strike” are both more dangerous, as far as I’m concerned, than “our opponents are all-powerful and we can’t hope to beat them.”

          • Mary says:

            “Our opponents are strong, but we can still beat them if we fight hard” and “we are evenly matched with our opponents, so we must strike” are both more dangerous, as far as I’m concerned, than “our opponents are all-powerful and we can’t hope to beat them.”

            That entirely depends on your opponent.

            “If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.
            ― Winston S. Churchill

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            At this moment in time, a fairly rational assessment would probably lead to people openly declaring Schelling fences, putting pressure on the people who ought to function as checks and balances* and arming yourself (where this can range from actual weapons to donations to legal funds).

            A fairly irrational assessment would probably lead to people going out to find others with wrongthink to beat up or worse.

            Note that I attempted to keep this neutral to apply to both sides.

            PS. Of course, the more people on one side choose to proactively act, the more rational it becomes for people on the other side to take a stand or retaliate.

            * Mary’s warning/assessment that a lack of willingness by the authorities to protect the safety of her ingroup could lead to them taking a stand, is itself a form of pressure on the authorities that ought to function as a check on how much pressure people can put on others.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Mary

            “Eisenhower sent in the National Guard without any such things.”

            Yes, on the Left-wing cause of racial integration. You ask on what charges Trump would be impeached. Well, to start with, violating the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of political speech, of tyrannically suppressing the speech of the Left. After all, isn’t sending jackbooted military thugs to silence Left-wing opposition on “trumped up” charges of violence, sedition, conspiracy, etc. a trademark of Right-wing dictators. You can be sure the Media Megaphone will be spinning and pattern-matching it that way, Trump as Pinochet/Franco/etc. Then there’s whatever the appropriate charge for attempting an auto-coup is (I think under US law it fits as sedition; treason specifically requires aid and comfort to an (external) enemy, which I don’t think they could make plausible without really playing up the “Russian puppet” bit). It’s not like a presidential impeachment can be appealed; once a majority of the House has voted for impeachment, and a majority of the Senate for conviction, that’s it, he’s out. They just need to make the charges plausible enough for the media to sell it to enough of the public.

            “A statement as vacuous as vacuous can be.”

            You’re dodging the point. Is there such a thing as an insurmountable advantage, yes or no? Answer the question!

            “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but you have advanced NOTHING that even vaguely supports what you are saying here.”

            Well, what would you consider evidence? To make again a point I’ve made here before, that with regards to any specific plan to address a problem, the burden of proof is clearly on those putting forth the plan to show that it will work (as the alternative is to assume that any solution will work unless specifically shown it won’t, which is a fairly absurd position). Do you want me to list a bunch of examples of Right-wing proposals for “fighting back”, and how they’re hopeless and futile? Do you want to put forth a plan yourself, so that I may point out ways the Left can beat it and where it would most likely fail?

            And is not the Leftward drift of the last 300-500 years evidence for my position?

            @dndnrsn

            Just because two extreme positions cannot both be right, does not mean that they’re both wrong and the truth somewhere in the middle. Relevant XKCD.

            “I see no reason to take either group seriously.”

            Again, what sort of evidence would bend you toward taking my position seriously?

          • Mary says:

            Well, to start with, violating the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of political speech, of tyrannically suppressing the speech of the Left.

            Ha. Ha. Ha.

            Sending in force to deal with rioters has never ever been treated as a crime. They would not dare because they know that such facilely trumped up charges would cause civil war. And they know which side owns the guns.

            They just need to make the charges plausible enough for the media to sell it to enough of the public.

            One, those aren’t plausible enough.

            Two, the media tried to sell us President Clinton even in breach of journalistic ethics as revealed by Wikileaks. Note we aren’t talking about what she would do

            You’re dodging the point. Is there such a thing as an insurmountable advantage, yes or no? Answer the question!

            See, this is your problem. You fudged up an irrelevant question, I called you on it, and you, without even deigning to notice that I called you on it, try to browbeat me in submission. An insurmountable advantage is something you ain’t got over me.

            Well, what would you consider evidence?

            So you believe it on no evidence? Produce your evidence.

            To make again a point I’ve made here before, that with regards to any specific plan to address a problem, the burden of proof is clearly on those putting forth the plan to show that it will work

            False. YOU have put forth a specific claim and by the standard you put forth here, the burden of proof is clearly on YOU to back it up. You are not entitled to maintain that the Left has an insurmountable advantage merely by default.

            (Not to mention that you are conflating, in the most irresponsible manner, fighting back with victory. There are those who would rather go down fighting. And right after I posted in this very thread an example of that.)

            Do you want me to list a bunch of examples of Right-wing proposals for “fighting back”, and how they’re hopeless and futile? Do you want to put forth a plan yourself, so that I may point out ways the Left can beat it and where it would most likely fail?

            What on earth makes you think that would prove your case? How many assassination plans to kill Lincoln that wouldn’t work would it take for you to prove that Lincoln could not have been assassinated? You are claiming an absolute rule; you must prove there are no counter-examples; that was the burden of proof you took on when you claimed that rule.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Mary:

            I meant more within a peaceful civil system. Two factions within a country are different from a hostile foreign power that must be opposed.

            @Kevin C.

            Just because two extreme positions cannot both be right, does not mean that they’re both wrong and the truth somewhere in the middle.

            When two extreme sides are using similar rhetoric and both seem to show a tendency towards catastrophizing, that both are wrong seems likely.

            Again, what sort of evidence would bend you toward taking my position seriously?

            For counterevidence not to be explained away by ad-hoc hypotheses. Before the election, you had people saying that Trump couldn’t win – the game was rigged against him. Then when he won, it became “he was allowed to win, because it works into their plan.”

            Some on the right (when they bother differentiating between liberals and leftists) say that liberals always give leftists what they want. It appears to be what you are saying here. And yet leftists mostly despise liberals, claiming that it is the liberals standing in the way of what they (the leftists) want. There was liberal condemnation of the violence at the Milo rally in Berkeley, and there’s been a lot more of the assault of a female prof whose crime was to debate against Charles Murray at Middlebury. How does what you’re saying explain this? Is it all part of an elaborate long con?

            If the rioters at the inauguration – 214 indicted on felony charges – are convicted and sentenced to prison: what is the explanation for that, if things like that aren’t supposed to happen?

            How does your explanation of things explain the Hard Hat Riot? After all, if in Eisenhower’s time things were already controlled by “the left” enough that the military could be sent in – but only to enforce left-wing objectives – then what explains the police doing nothing and only arresting six men after 200 construction workers beat the shit out of students, injuring dozens of them, and 4 cops?

            How does your theory explain the behaviour of the cops at the G20? They kettled people, beat up protesters, obscured their identities, used force on a subsequent rally protesting their use of force, etc. I thought the police were just supposed to let left-wing protesters and rioters do their thing?

            Basically: there is evidence that liberals and leftists, peaceful or violent, don’t always get their way. This doesn’t gibe with what you’re saying. I’d like to see an explanation that isn’t an obvious ad-hoc hypothesis.

          • The Nybbler says:

            When two extreme sides are using similar rhetoric and both seem to show a tendency towards catastrophizing, that both are wrong seems likely.

            Why? A symmetry in rhetoric does not imply a symmetry at the object level, and IMO it’s quite common for the rhetorical similarity to be deliberately constructed by one side or the other in order to obscure the actual situation.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybber:

            In this particular case, it’s the “tendency to catastrophizing” that’s the important bit.

            Someone who holds that a few cases of black bloc types getting away with assault or aggravated assault on university campuses, where the cops were probably not prepared for what happened, in a country that sees over 3/4 of a million cases of aggravated assault recorded by the FBI per year (as of 2015; it’s up a bit for 2016), shows that “the left” is winning and will always win and is unstoppable and that any evidence to the contrary is part of the left’s long game? Probably not someone who should be taken as accurately seeing or reporting the nature and scope of the threat posed by the far left.

            Similarly, there are people on the left who were terrified after Trump’s victory that alt-right brownshirts were roaming the streets dealing out violence. This is true of people who live in places where maybe 1/10 didn’t vote for Clinton. It’s true of people who don’t even live in the US – I’m a Canadian, and I know multiple people (not people living in right-wing parts of the country, and most Conservatives here would be Democrats in the US) who expressed immediate and physical fear following the US election – one person of my acquaintance was so afraid following the election that they did not leave their apartment for several days. These are not people who can be relied upon to accurately perceive or report the nature and extent of the threat posed by the far right.

            Obviously you can have cases where both sides have similar rhetoric. But when both sides make rhetorical claims that are completely diametrically opposite in their truth claims, and neither truth claim fits observed reality, and both are suggestive of a highly emotional fear reaction…

          • Kevin C. says:

            @dndnrsn

            Some on the right (when they bother differentiating between liberals and leftists) say that liberals always give leftists what they want. It appears to be what you are saying here. And yet leftists mostly despise liberals, claiming that it is the liberals standing in the way of what they (the leftists) want.

            This is at least partially a failure to distinguish long term vs. short term trends. In the short term, the “liberals” are in deed “standing in the way” of some of what the “leftists” want. But at any given moment, they are indeed giving those further Left at least some of what they want, with which portion that is changing over time, with no apparent long-term limiting principle. And the same for the “respectable Right” with regards to the Left. It’s the salami-slicing, “Leftward-ratchet” effect; each “compromize”, while falling short of immediately meeting all of the Left’s demands, still have the effect of net Leftward movement. Most “defeats” for some (more extreme) portion of the Left usually turn out to be temporary, and often at the hands of another Left-wing faction combined with more quickly reaching the inevitable unworkability and conflict with human nature; Soviet Communism was defeated by Anglo-American Leftism (see Moldbug’s “America is a Communist country” slogan).

            Consider your examples of the “Hard Hat Riot”, G20 cops, etc. What were the long-term effects of those? Were they comparible to the effects of using the National Guard to enforce school integration? Did they have the effect of actually pushing back the Left long-term, or were they merely temporary oscillations atop the larger trend.

            This Halloween is the half-millenium anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door. Can you really dispute that Western Civilization has moved pretty consistently Leftward over that period? Does there appear to be any plausible, workable plan on offer for not merely halting temporarily some portion of that trend, but for actually pushing it back long-term? To quote our esteemed host:

            If you don’t like women’s lib, your enemy isn’t Gloria Steinem. Your enemy is the Vast Formless Thing controlling Gloria Steinem. In this case, that would be the demographic transition.

            You might be able to beat Gloria Steinem in a fight, but you can’t beat the demographic transition. Or if you can, it’s going to be through something a lot more complicated than going on a soapbox and condemning it, more complicated even than becoming Czar and trying to pass laws to reverse it.

            If the Left can, in fact, be stopped (by something other than it’s own inevitable, civilization-extinguishing collapse), then how? What’s a workable plan for truly reversing that long-term trend?

            I see the white supremacist/Neo-Nazi types, whose plan seems to be along the lines of ‘repeat the Fourteen Words enough and play enough metal songs about vikings riding wolves, and WEIRD types will suddenly overcome the effects of centuries of outbreeding, embrace clannishness, amoral familism, and “rise up” to achieve what the Axis could not.’ Not exactly a plausible scheme, no? Or the Moldbuggian “Death Eaters”, as it were, whose response is mostly ‘build out the doctrines of our hypothetical better civilization on weblogs, then wait for Leftism to collapse, wherein the survivors will immediately embrace our ideas for the rebuilding’, as if Leftism cannot survive and delay its inevitable collapse long enough for Our People to go extinct first, and as though the decline, collapse, and attempts to stave off the collapse will not consume and destroy irreplaceable resources essential for any “Restoration” (if they haven’t already been depleted), leaving the destruction of Western Civilization irreversable. (What’s the proposal for an Amalekite Restoration?) Or the White Nationalist sorts whose plan is move to New Hampshire/Washington State/wherever, take over the politics through voting majorities, then demand to be left alone in your Whitopia, as if the rest of the world would simply let them be (for pushback on this from further Right, “Padishah Emperor Julius Ebola” at The Right Stuff has written a couple of recent posts on why that’s a stupid idea.) Ditto for the seasteaders, with added vulnerability and economic unworkability. Or the Landians, with the ‘move to China and build Skynet so it can smite us all like an Old Testament God’ proposals. Or the “mainstream right”, with ‘vote for the candidate with an “R” after their name, so they can stand athwart history saying “slow down just a smigen” and install “right-leaning judges” like Chief Justice “PPACA both is and isn’t a tax” Roberts’, while the Cathedral and the Media Megaphone remain the arbiters of “respectability” and get to set the limits of the debate. Or the Trumpenproletariat, who are either ‘praise Kek, meme magic’-ing on the chans, or otherwise declaring victory while the candidate they elected serves mostly to discredit for generations to come all the beliefs and causes they hope to promote.

            Nowhere do I see a plan that passes the laugh test. I mean, c’mon, lay out a reasonable, workable proposal for, say, repealing the 19th Amendment. Or taking marriage back to being about procreation and family alliances, not “love and companionship”, with arranged marriages common and divorce rare or impossible. Or restoring hereditary aristocracy. Or cuius regio eius religio and a healthy Inquisition to protect the official religion from entryism. Or ending rootless modernism and “urban anonymity” in favor of stable, close-knit, multigeneral communities of blood-and-soil traditionalism.

            Yes, absense of evidence is not evidence of absense, but at a certain point it should definitely cause one to update one’s priors. Particularly when you note the paucity of counter-proposals set against a winning streak of centuries, marked only by temporary and highly-limited setbacks. Add in demographic decline; the declining lifespans, suicide and drug use that look like the behaviors of a defeated culture who know it; the continued decline of religion. It all starts to look like, to quote Ambassador Kosh, “the avalanche has already started; it is too late for the pebbles to vote.”

            What evidence do you have to the contrary? What proof, with solid evidence backing it, do you have that this centuries-long Leftward trend can be defeated and reversed?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Kevin C.

            The failure and fall of communism worldwide wasn’t a defeat for the left? Again, the “oh, a different kind of leftism won” explanation is an ad-hoc hypothesis.

            You are saying that the conservatives and the liberals both give in to the leftists, whether they know it or not, but I don’t think this is the case. Does our world really look like what a leftist 100 years ago would have wanted to see? If we took a time machine and grabbed a true believer communist from 1917 – do you think they would rub their hands and say “aha! ALL GOING ACCORDING TO THE PLAN!” or would they be horrified by what they saw?

            The ratchet has been towards crony capitalism plus social liberalism. It has not been towards leftism. The victories of the left are far greater in the social sphere than the economic sphere. Sure, developed countries all have social safety nets, public spending and taxes are way higher than they used to be, but huge multinational corporations are incredibly powerful, vast government apparatuses are in large part captured by those corporations, etc. That hardly seems like a victory condition for a leftist 100 years ago.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @dndnrsn

            With how you continually insist on distinguishing between the class-warfare, economic equality, revolutionary “leftists” and the more culture-war, incrementalist “liberals”, you seem, at least to me, to be implying with your arguments that the former constitute the One True Left, (rather than just one Left-wing strain/faction among many), and the latter as compromising sell-outs, playing academic status games, and not truly belonging to the Real Left at all, so that the loss to the class/economic “leftists” of Soviet Communism proving unworkable and collapsing before the other strains of the Left is a defeat for the Left as a whole.

            You see how this looks like a bit of “no true Scotsman” here, where (failed) Marxism is the only true Left, and everyone else who looks or claims to be on the Left are “no true Leftists”, so their victories are no victory for the Left.

            For example, you say:

            The ratchet has been towards crony capitalism plus social liberalism. It has not been towards leftism.

            As though “social liberalism” is not on the Left, as if nobody who is willing to countenance capitalism can be considered to be on the Left.

            Recall that the “Left-Right” terminology was coined in the French Revolution, based on seating arrangements in the National Assembly; the Right were the supporters of the King and the Ancien Régime, while the Left supported the Revolution. Do you disagree that by that standard, your “liberals” also lie on the Left?

            For lengthier argument on the goals of those on the Left in the past, let me refer you to first to Moldbug’s “Technology, Communism, and the Brown Scare,” and to Thomas Barghest’s “You Say America Is Not A Communist Country” at Social Matter.

            It seems to me here that at least some of our disagreement is definitional, a matter of either line setting or emphasis of different axes. It seems like you’re implicitly drawing the line between Left and Right — or at least not-Left — in a place whereby the incrementally-ever-more-triumphant “neo-Liberal” democracy falls in the latter, while I, of course, prefer sticking close to the original definitions and dividing line. That, or a near-total emphasis on the “economic” axis of equality above all others, whereby the failure to defeat (managed, regulated) market capitalism and the continued failure to eradicate income inequality constitutes an utter failure for the (true) Left, despite the continual victories and progress on a multitude of other fronts. If you wish to limit the term “leftist” solely to the “true believer communist” and their modern heirs, then what term should I use to describe all those on the Left, including the “liberals”, where, as you admit, “[t]he victories of the left are far greater in the social sphere”. You admit there are continued victories of the Left as a whole, just not the section you call “leftist”. Do those victories you admit exist look at all reversable?

            So the revolutionary socialist types aren’t getting the total, rapid reworking of society and mass wealth redistribution they want. That still doesn’t mean we aren’t still moving further and further away from the Bourbons, from Throne and Altar, blood and soil, heredity and hierarchy, et cetera, nor does it mean that this long-term trend can be reversed. Again, if it can be reversed, if we can move significantly back toward the Ancien Régime, then how?

            [Edit: fixed ore/or typo]

          • dndnrsn says:

            With how you continually insist on distinguishing between the class-warfare, economic equality, revolutionary “leftists” and the more culture-war, incrementalist “liberals”, you seem, at least to me, to be implying with your arguments that the former constitute the One True Left, (rather than just one Left-wing strain/faction among many), and the latter as compromising sell-outs, playing academic status games, and not truly belonging to the Real Left at all, so that the loss to the class/economic “leftists” of Soviet Communism proving unworkable and collapsing before the other strains of the Left is a defeat for the Left as a whole.

            You see how this looks like a bit of “no true Scotsman” here, where (failed) Marxism is the only true Left, and everyone else who looks or claims to be on the Left are “no true Leftists”, so their victories are no victory for the Left.

            I would say the left is: leftists, and liberals. There are different kinds of each. I, personally, am a liberal of a particular sort. So I’m hardly saying the Marxists are the “true left” – I’m not a Marxist, and I consider myself on the left.

            I have a distaste for a lot of Marxists, because many of the ones I’ve encountered simply have no ability to meaningfully acknowledge the monstrosities done by their co-ideologists. I also have a distaste for the liberals-who-call-themselves-leftists because they have the virtues of neither. The bad elements among the culture warriors of the left mostly fall into this category.

            As though “social liberalism” is not on the Left, as if nobody who is willing to countenance capitalism can be considered to be on the Left.

            Social liberalism is on the left, and I by and large am a social liberal. More on some counts than others.

            For lengthier argument on the goals of those on the Left in the past, let me refer you to first to Moldbug’s “Technology, Communism, and the Brown Scare,” and to Thomas Barghest’s “You Say America Is Not A Communist Country” at Social Matter.

            I have read the first, not the second; there are no “goals of the left” because there’s more than one group that’s on the left.

            It seems to me here that at least some of our disagreement is definitional, a matter of either line setting or emphasis of different axes. It seems like you’re implicitly drawing the line between Left and Right — or at least not-Left — in a place whereby the incrementally-ever-more-triumphant “neo-Liberal” democracy falls in the latter, while I, of course, prefer sticking close to the original definitions and dividing line. That, or a near-total emphasis on the “economic” axis of equality above all others, whereby the failure to defeat (managed, regulated) market capitalism and the continued failure to eradicate income inequality constitutes an utter failure for the (true) Left, despite the continual victories and progress on a multitude of other fronts. If you wish to limit the term “leftist” solely to the “true believer communist” and their modern heirs, then what term should I use to describe all those on the Left, including the “liberals”, where, as you admit, “[t]he victories of the left are far greater in the social sphere”. You admit there are continued victories of the Left as a whole, just not the section you call “leftist”. Do those victories you admit exist look at all reversable?

            Why not just look at the classic two axis right-left social-economic model? The social left has gotten a lot of what it wants and has made massive progress over time. Economically, however, things are a lot messier. The economic situation would please neither a leftist nor a laissez-faire capitalist.

            So the revolutionary socialist types aren’t getting the total, rapid reworking of society and mass wealth redistribution they want. That still doesn’t mean we aren’t still moving further and further away from the Bourbons, from Throne and Altar, blood and soil, heredity and hierarchy, et cetera, nor does it mean that this long-term trend can be reversed. Again, if it can be reversed, if we can move significantly back toward the Ancien Régime, then how?

            So, you noted, in a bit I snipped, the French revolutionary origins of the right/left terminology. And here’s the thing: is a movement of power from monarchs to merchants a victory for the left? Is it a victory for the right? Or is it just hard to classify?

            Personally, I don’t want to go back to absolute monarchy, or whatever. I’m quite happy with constitutional monarchies such as the one I live under. The monarchs behave better than the merchants. Prince Harry is a combat vet – how many hedge fund manager’s sons go into the military?

          • skef says:

            Oh come now @Kevin C, you don’t actually use left and right in those senses. You’ve made it quite clear in the past that both sides of the French revolution lie tragically and likely irreversibly to the left. Feudalism was mostly kaput by then and the state was hopelessly centralized. All was already lost by the 1780s!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Kevin C.

            I posted something yesterday, but it must have tripped the word filter, or something else went wrong.

            You’re wrong on your read of my politics. I am a liberal. I have a distaste for many Marxists – because I have encountered many Marxists incapable of engaging productively with awful things done in the name of Marxism, and some even incapable of acknowledging those things, although I will acknowledge I have encountered Marxists capable of productive engagement. I also have a distaste for liberals-who-think-they’re-leftists, because they don’t even have the good bits about liberalism (eg, a belief in basic personal freedoms). The crappy ones among the culture warriors of a left-wing persuasion tend to be the latter: convinced that what they want is radical, but with nothing they want truly incompatible with the status quo.

            I do not think that there is any one objective of “the left”, it’s just a rough-and-ready categorizing scheme that often breaks down. Over, say, the 20th century, social liberalism has done better than economic leftism. The situation now vs 2017 is beyond the wildest dreams of the social liberals of those days: imagine being told by a time traveller that your favoured team will win the World Series dozens of times over the next hundred years. Conversely, the economic leftist would be told by the time traveller that their team is still in the Majors but just never manages to make it to the playoffs.

            There is an argument to be made that a leftism or pseudo-leftism focusing on issues of identity over issues of class has emerged, primarily in the Anglo world, and has taken a lot of the energy that class-based leftism used to have. I’ve made it. But I don’t think this is a victory for leftism. An ideology focused on identity is incredibly easy to reconcile with capitalism, the system as it currently exists, neoliberal globalism, all that. To be coopted in this way is not a victory. If you told a leftist revolutionary or would-be revolutionary 100 years ago “hey, in 100 years college kids from rich families will spout variants on what you’re saying while arguing for jobs to be made for them post-graduation at the incredibly wealthy elite university they attend” … I don’t think they would consider that a victory.

            The general trend over the past several hundred years, in Europe but also elsewhere, has been from rule by monarchs to rule by merchants. Is this a left-wing change, or a right-wing change? I don’t know if it’s been either.

            The general trend, over the past hundred years especially, has been for the victory of social liberalism, and a harder-to-categorize move towards larger government, greater power in the hands of corporations, more concentrated wealth, crony capitalism, etc. It would not please a laissez-faire capitalist nor an economic leftist.

            Now, I’m a social liberal, generally speaking. Some things I think are very good. Some, not so hot – there’s been a clear collapse in family formation and an increase in violent crime since the middle of the 20th century. If you want to say social liberalism is winning, go right for it. But that doesn’t mean “leftism” is winning, or that “the left” is universally winning.

  67. baconbacon says:

    The Atlantic: 20 Ideas Of David Gelenter. I think a lot of this is wrong – and worse, it’s wrong things said well and convincingly – but I’m linking it anyway out of anger at the Washington Post trying to paint him as “anti-intellectual”.

    Ugh. I can’t get past the first few paragraphs of “The things I like are super duper important, people like me are the best”, does it get more interesting later or not?

    • Spookykou says:

      Yes, I got to the first paragraph of the interview where David started talking and I had to stop, the NYT might have been inaccurate in their chastisement, but they had cause.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Cause to dislike him? Sure; he’s supremely full of himself if nothing else.

        Cause to claim him to be an anti-intellectual? None at all.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Force yourself to read it. I’m in computer science, and Gelernter* is a giant in the field. He’s had half a dozen Big Ideas that would each be enough to make a single career.

      One of the the things he touches on in the Atlantic article is that someone who knows only science won’t make a good scientist. He’s also written a novel.

      The thing I most disagree with is the supreme importance he gives to the shift in universities after World War II. I think it’s important, but mostly for how things will be in another thirty years or so. Of course, he’s been in academia most of his life, so campus phenomena are going to loom large for him.

      (* Scott: note the correct spelling.)

  68. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/purple-america-has-all-but-disappeared/amp/#fn-1

    At the county level, elections are being won by larger percentages.

  69. The Obsolete Man says:

    Maybe the well-done steak thing has something to do with contamination fears?
    I don’t know anyone that likes it well done for the taste.
    They always say they are worried about parasites and such.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m not at all sure how “well-done” correlates, most people complaining about it seem to think it means “cooked until it’s hard as a rock”. I like mine “well-done”, that is, no trace of pink inside, but certainly not burned or hard.

      When I’ve had meat (and that includes joints of beef not just steak) that is still pink, I don’t like the taste or texture (depending on how uncooked it is, I can’t eat it at all).

      For me, it’s not fear of parasites or any thing of that nature, though agreed I don’t like the bloody-looking juices on the plate 🙂

    • Steve Sailer says:

      The President is germaphobic (he dislikes shaking hands), so that may be related to his liking his steak well done.

      By the way, germaphobia is not an unreasonable prejudice in politicians. I can recall how sick with colds and flus Bill Clinton was during the 1992 campaign. In 1996, therefore, Clinton had his body man carry a dispenser of Purell alcohol gel and give him a squirt after every time he shook hands with voters. He seemed healthier in that campaign than in his first one.

  70. Aapje says:

    With all this discussion on how much discrimination there is, it’s interesting that I’d never before seen a study that just surveys a lot of people on how much discrimination they face. Key result: 5% of black people (compared to 4% of white people) say they “often” face discrimination; 29.8% of black people (compared to 30.3% of white people) say they “never” face discrimination.

    Note that the study shows that white people give different reasons for that discrimination. They report a lot of discrimination that black people report far less (by gender, age, height/weight, etc), while black people more often report racism. One possible explanation is that feelings of being discriminated is primarily determined by the mindset of the person, rather than a simple response to their experiences: a person with a ‘victim mindset’ will (rightly or wrongly) feel held back by discrimination; while a person with a ‘master of the universe mindset’ won’t. This would explain why different groups report very similar levels of discrimination, as people who tend to feel discriminated will simply become more sensitive to small slights if they don’t experience major slights and people who dislike feeling discriminated will be insensitive to even major cases of actual discrimination.

    The most interesting part is that most respondents chose ‘other’ as a reason, rather than one of the supplied categories (race, gender, age, religion, etc). The authors of the study appear unsure of the cause. I was confused too, until I noticed that ‘politics’ was missing as a reason. Given the culture wars & general climate, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a major part of the reported cases.

    • IrishDude says:

      One possible explanation is that feelings of being discriminated is primarily determined by the mindset of the person, rather than a simple response to their experiences: a person with a ‘victim mindset’ will (rightly or wrongly) feel held back by discrimination; while a person with a ‘master of the universe mindset’ won’t.

      Interesting potential explanation. If true, it would then be interesting to know what affects the mindset of a person and why this isn’t different between whites and blacks.

    • Saint Fiasco says:

      Another possible explanation is that race is more salient than age, height and weight.

      If I had tall-people-phobia and acted nervous around a tall black person, the black person might mistakenly believe I am xenophobic, and would answer ‘race’ in that survey.

      • Buckyballas says:

        If I understand correctly, you are not “explaining” the same thing that Aapje was trying to explain. Aapje was trying to explain why all races had approximately the same proportion of people who claimed discrimination. You are trying to explain why black people (and hispanics and asians) believe that the perceived reason for the perceived discrimination is race.

        Regarding your explanation, I happen to think that the face value explanation is a greater contributor than yours: black people (and hispanics and asians) perceive more race-driven discrimination than white people because they experience more race-driven discrimination than white people. Not to say that your explanation is not a significant contributor.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Race is about who your relatives are, so it’s not just about you, it also affects people who are related to you. So that makes it more important and emotional to most people than more idiosyncratic differences among individuals such as height.

        For example, organized baseball ruthlessly discriminates against left-handers at the position of catcher based on the stereotype that catchers must be right-handed. There hasn’t been a left-handed catcher in the major leagues since the 1980s. This is not controversial even though if you ask why a left-hander couldn’t play catcher successfully, you get a lot of not particularly persuasive and often contradictory rationalizations.

        People care an awful lot about baseball and people care an awful lot about some kinds of discrimination, but almost nobody in any organized fashion cares about baseball discrimination against left-handed catchers.

        In general, why is there no interest in the long, deplorable history of discrimination against the sinister-handed?

        I think it’s because left-handedness is fairly random in distribution (it’s somewhat hereditary, but not terribly so). Left-handers don’t have much else in common, so they don’t form politically salient groups easily.

        Here’s a Taki’s Magazine column I wrote five years ago about why nobody cares about discrimination against left-handers:

        http://takimag.com/article/the_forgotten_leftists_steve_sailer/print#axzz4aunJJX4f

        By the way, I’m right-handed, as are all members of my nuclear family.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I was confused too, until I noticed that ‘politics’ was missing as a reason. Given the culture wars & general climate, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a major part of the reported cases.

      I’m terrible with survey questions because they never seem nuanced enough to make it clear how I should answer, and it’s possible I would have answered “never” because on some reasonable understandings of discrimination I never face any, but insofar as I do (and for the values of discrimination for which I do, it’s extremely frequent)… well, I’m a straight, upper middle class white dude who doesn’t have children and has never been through the divorce courts, and I’m an approximate classical liberal who works in theatre.

  71. Freddie deBoer says:

    The idea that some people don’t consider genetics part of luck, despite the fact that you have literally zero control over your genetics, is mind boggling.

    • Salem says:

      I don’t know what it means to say that it’s luck that I have my genes. Everything that I am is downstream of them – there is no sense I can see in which there is a “me” prior to my genes that “got lucky.”

      Am I lucky I’m a human and not a rabbit? Or a lichen? Or a rock for that matter? Am I unlucky that I’m not a hyper-intelligent pan-galactic being? And if we agree those questions don’t make sense, then how does it make sense to say I’m lucky I don’t have Tay Sachs, or unlucky that I’m not the locally favoured ethnicity?

      It seems that any notion of “luck” that broad has swallowed the rest of the universe.

      • Dr Dealgood says:

        +∞

        This is something that has always mystified me about Rawls and his followers. The ‘Veil of Ignorance’ is something that only works if you posit a mind independent of the body. Once you allow that our minds are a physical process of our brains, you have closed off the possibility that a person could possess any body with equal probability. And once that happens the whole edifice falls apart without even having to get into genetics.

        It’s weird because, while ostensibly secular, the left/liberal concept of identity depends so heavily on the existence of the soul.

        • Protagoras says:

          Rorty condemned Western thinkers for almost all still being Cartesians, however much they might pretend otherwise. I certainly don’t agree with everything he had to say, but I do think he was right in his observation that there’s still a tremendous amount of dualist thinking among those who claim not to be dualist. I’m also with Rorty in thinking the solution is to actually stop being dualist, not to return to being openly dualist.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I’m convinced there really are mental substances; I’m a lot more skeptical about physical ones. So that’s… a kind of monism, right?

          • Protagoras says:

            @Tarpitz, Sure, the Berkeleyan view is one part of logical space, and honestly probably preferable to the Cartesian view since it avoids all the tricky interaction issues. But not the version of monism I would pick, as I’m sure you guessed.

        • Mary says:

          What gets me is that you know you’re human, not a rabbit, a lichen, a rock or a hyper-intelligent pan-galactic being.

          that is, the “experiment” has already chosen your humanity as the only significant thing about you.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          From Wikipedia on John Rawls:

          During his last two years at Princeton, he “became deeply concerned with theology and its doctrines.” He considered attending a seminary to study for the Episcopal priesthood[9] and wrote an “intensely religious senior thesis (BI).”[10] …

          He completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1943, and enlisted in the Army in February of that year.

          During World War II, Rawls served as an infantryman in the Pacific, where he toured New Guinea and was awarded a Bronze Star;[12] and the Philippines, where he endured intensive trench warfare and witnessed horrific scenes such as seeing a soldier remove his helmet and take a bullet to the head, rather than continue with the war.[13][14] There, he lost his Christian faith.[10]

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rawls

          • Steve Sailer says:

            So maybe Rawls stopped being a Christian but kept being a Protestant?

            My vague impression of Rawls is that he was an admirable example of the WASP.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          Interestingly, Rawls had no patience for Open Borders:

          “Concerning the second problem, immigration, in #4.3 I argue that an important role of government, however arbitrary a society’s boundaries may appear from a historical point of view, is to be the effective agent of a people as they take responsibility for their territory and the size of their population, as well as for maintaining the land’s environmental integrity. Unless a definite agent is given responsibility for maintaining an asset and bears the responsibility and loss for not doing so, that asset tends to deteriorate. On my account the role of the institution of property is to prevent this deterioration from occurring. In the present case, the asset is the people’s territory and its potential capacity to support them in perpetuity; and the agent is the people itself as politically organized. The perpetuity condition is crucial. People must recognize that they cannot make up for failing to regulate their numbers or to care for their land by conquest in war, or by migrating into another people’s territory without their consent.”

          http://www.unz.com/isteve/john-rawls-immigration-restrictionist/

          Rawls’ sensible attitude about how one country can’t be allowed to dump its irresponsible over-population on another country raises some serious questions about the applicability and validity of his Veil of Ignorance gimmick. Human beings need to take some degree of responsibility for subsequent generations.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            A fundamental Protestant prejudice is toward quality rather than quantity of offspring, as highlighted in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifgHHhw_6g8

            Rawls’ impatience with the idea that Catholic Mexico should get to overwhelm Protestant United States just because Mexicans were breeding irresponsibly is indicative of how Protestant Rawls was.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            That surprised me a lot to be honest.

            Rawls’ construction is purpose-made to artificially divide descent from desert, and the idea of an inter-generational ethnic / national duty is directly opposed to that. Responsibilities and rights are paired: you can’t very well say Americans are responsible for protecting our country without us having some right to it.

            But I won’t call him a hypocrite for it. Someone who is absurd when it comes to philosophy but practical in regards to real life concerns is preferable to the reverse.

          • JohnBook says:

            I think the important bit here is what he thinks about sustainability.

            If I am behind the Veil of Ignorance, and I believe that Open Borders will substantially degrade the society/economy/politics of the U.S., then I might still oppose Open Borders.

            A chance at being born a U.S. citizen in our world, and reaping the benefits that currently flow from that birthright, is better than being born into a world where I know I’ll be free to immigrate to the U.S., but I also know that doing so will do nothing to improve my material conditions.

            There’s no problem with the Veil in this case, the only question is whether he’s right about the problems Open Borders would cause.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Responsibilities and rights are paired: you can’t very well say Americans are responsible for protecting our country without us having some right to it.

            Indeed you can; much of modern liberalism is about telling the middle class (broadly construed; anyone in a household where the primary wage earner(s) both can and have to work for a living) they have responsibility for the welfare of the less well-off while not having any rights over them.

          • Jiro says:

            If I am behind the Veil of Ignorance, and I believe that Open Borders will substantially degrade the society/economy/politics of the U.S., then I might still oppose Open Borders.

            This has problems:

            1) Veil of ignorance, at least naively, doesn’t allow you to say that people should bear the costs of their own actions, or their own culture’s actions, as long as the people who don’t want to bear the cost are more numerous than the people they’re imposing the cost on. (I suppose you could make some argument about incentives and being behind the veil of ignorance with respect to whether the incentives encourage things that harm or help you.)

            2) Veil of ignorance doesn’t work with precommitment, which is actually a variant of #1–in order to avoid creating incentives for people to do irresponsible things in the knowledge that you will then help them mitigate the damages, you need to credibly precommit to not help. But veil of ignorance would analyze the situation at the moment that you have to follow through on the precommitment, and say that following through is immoral.

            (“I won’t help them because it’s their own culture’s fault” is just a way in which non-rationalists implement precommitment.)

            3) Veil of ignorance doesn’t work well here because in this scenaro the immigrants are overpopulated, and veil of ignorance shows preference to the group which is more numerous (since if you are equally likely to be any person, you would probably be on the more numerous side.)

          • JohnBook says:

            Jiro, I don’t understand your reply. Or perhaps I don’t understand the original quote.

            I’m not saying anything about who should bear what costs. I’m just saying that if my expected outcome looks worse if I’m born into the Open Borders world, then I don’t support Open Borders.

            All of us behind the Veil of Ignorance should use the same calculus, so weight of numbers on any “side” doesn’t apply.

            The argument is (I think) that Open Borders will ruin the U.S. for everyone, so the right that it gives you (to move to the U.S.) is worthless.

            All of us behind the Veil agree that it’s better to gamble on potentially being born into a good U.S. than to have a guaranteed right to move to a ruined U.S.

            I don’t understand the relevance of precommitment here.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not saying anything about who should bear what costs. I’m just saying that if my expected outcome looks worse if I’m born into the Open Borders world, then I don’t support Open Borders.

            I was arguing in the other direction: the veil of ignorance argument can’t really justify closed borders and that’s a problem with veil of ignorance. In this case, one of the problems is that veil of ignorance does not allow you to say “one should not impose one’s costs on others” because if the group imposing the costs is more numerous, veil of ignorance dictates that you should side with them.

            I don’t understand the relevance of precommitment here.

            Precommitment means you can say “I won’t pay for the costs that you impose on me” and mean it, even if paying the costs, at the moment they are paid, leave people better off on average. Such precommitments discourage imposing the costs in the first place, but only if you can make the precommitment credibly.

            Veil of ignorance looks at the situation at the moment you are asked to pay the costs and asks whether you would prefer that they are paid or not if you don’t know which group you’ll be in, so it dictates that you must pay.

          • All of you, possibly including Rawls, seem to be using Harsanyi’s version of the Veil of Ignorance argument rather than Rawls’.

            In the former you believe you have an equal chance of being anyone, so you maximize the expected value of the lottery by choosing the world with the highest average utility.

            In the latter you don’t have probabilities so, for some reason I have never understood, you assume that you will end up with the worst life in the world hence try to maximize the minimum utility.

          • JohnBook says:

            Re: Jiro

            In World A, people are not allowed to freely immigrate to the U.S. (You might phrase this as, “Non-U.S. citizens are not allowed to impose costs on U.S. citizens.”)

            In World B, people are allowed to freely immigrate to the U.S. (You might phrase this as, “Non-U.S. citizens are allowed to impose costs on U.S. citizens.”)

            For the sake of argument, let’s say that we agree that people are, on average, worse off in World B. Couldn’t we then agree, from behind the Veil of Ignorance, that World A is what we want? I’m afraid I still don’t understand your objection to this line of argument.

            And I still don’t see the relevance of precommitment. If the world with moral hazard is worse, why should we choose it?

            Re: DavidFriedman

            Optimizing solely based on the minimum is an extreme position, but risk aversion would probably encourage most people to worry disproportionately about outcomes for the worst off.

            As I understand it, Rawls generally didn’t try to apply the Veil to international relations, but I still don’t see how the views expressed in the quote are incompatible with it.

          • Jiro says:

            For the sake of argument, let’s say that we agree that people are, on average, worse off in World B. Couldn’t we then agree, from behind the Veil of Ignorance, that World A is what we want?

            No, because the *number* of people who are better off in world B is larger, even though the *average* person is worse off in world B. Veil of ignorance can’t possibly require averages; if it did, that would mean that it would permit, for instance,. a dictator making the nation poor to make himself rich, as long as he became rich enough.

            And I still don’t see the relevance of precommitment. If the world with moral hazard is worse, why should we choose it?

            Even ignoring the first problem, you are faced with the question of at what time you need to compare the worlds. The world is made worse by adding the moral hazard, and it is later made somewhat better (although not enough to compensate) by people bailing other people out of the moral hazard that was created.

            In order to avoid this, you need to credibly precommit to not bail others out, even if it seems heartless.

            Veil of ignorance says that you are not permitted to follow through on your precommitment, since at the moment you need to follow through, veil of ignorance says that bailing people out is a moral necessity. And if your moral system doesn’t let you follow through on your precommitment, it isn’t a credible precommitment.

            Also, the moral hazard consists of excessive reproduction, which is its own problem for veil of ignorance, since you would prefer to be born rather than not be born.

          • Spookykou says:

            Given how many things have diminishing returns, it seems like maximizing minimum utility would probably be a decent strategy for optimizing for overall utility?

            I would guess the ‘assuming you will get the worse’ is some form of risk aversion which is IMO a hard problem to tease out.

            I think there are plenty of situations where I would pick the lower total expected outcome option if it also sneaks in worse options because, like above, diminishing returns. 90% chance to get a billion dollars 10% chance you get nothing, or 100% chance you get a million dollars, I will take the million dollars every time.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Personally, I prefer Galileo’s Telescope of Intelligence to Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Given how many things have diminishing returns, it seems like maximizing minimum utility would probably be a decent strategy for optimizing for overall utility?

            I think diminishing returns tell the opposite story. We can construct a Lack of Utility Monster. Or, well, a few of them. Consider the worst diseases known to man – disfiguring, disabling, extremely painful, whatever. Importantly, they’re really difficult to cure. Nevertheless, we are obligated to pour every single ounce of society’s resources into the search for said cures. It doesn’t matter that adding massive additional resources have diminishing returns in working toward cures, because the only thing that matters is an incremental increase of the worst off.

          • Spookykou says:

            I think we are working from different assumptions on what ‘maximize the minimum’ would mean. You seem to interpret it(and or it might normally mean this, I am not familiar with this conversation in general) as ‘we must irrationally waste resources for minimal gains because these gains impact the worst off’ and I just assumed we could still rationally allocate resources in our efforts to improve the conditions of the worst off.

          • Given how many things have diminishing returns, it seems like maximizing minimum utility would probably be a decent strategy for optimizing for overall utility?

            On the contrary, it’s a terrible strategy, since it only makes sense if you assume infinite risk aversion.

            Consider two gambles, each on a coin flip. One give you a choice between an income of $50,000/year and an income of $51,000/year, the other between $49,000 and $1,000,000. Do you think anyone would prefer the former? Yet that’s what Rawls’ position implies.

          • Spookykou says:

            Again, this could just be my ignorance of Rawls and or the broader conversation here. But this seems similar to Controls freak complaint in that it relies on a rigid mathematical reading of what I would assume is more of a general principle. Given that physics can’t even pull off a unifying theory of everything, the idea that any sort of external/objective moral/society theory will perfectly encapsulate every possible problem/hypothetical is, wishful thinking?

            Also, assuming your hypothetical distribution system is a ‘fair’ comparison, then it should have equivalent resources across both groups the 50/51k system might be better in as much as wealth inequality has some baked in harms, possibly increases the danger/harm from zero sum positional games, jealousy, envy, class divides, etc. Where as the relative utility gains for someone going from 50k to a million dollars is almost nothing, and less than a percent of the population would actually get the million dollars. It is not obvious to me at all which of those two conditions would have greater overall utility.

          • Jiro says:

            But this seems similar to Controls freak complaint in that it relies on a rigid mathematical reading of what I would assume is more of a general principle.

            When it’s used to draw a conclusion that Rawls likes, it’s rigid. If it isn’t going to be rigid when used in a reductio ad absurdum, then it’s just a mechanism for making morality be “whatever I say it is”, when principles are used if they produce the right result and discarded if they produce the wrong one.

          • Also, assuming your hypothetical distribution system is a ‘fair’ comparison, then it should have equivalent resources across both groups

            Why? Rawls’ principle implies that you should be willing to sacrifice any amount of income for the rich in exchange for any gain to the poor however small. He isn’t talking about costless income redistribution, he is talking about alternative ways of organizing a society.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Jiro @ David

            What moral philosophy beyond ‘Do what you want’ can survive reductio ad absurdum. It was my understand that a fool proof morality system was not exactly jumping into the boat.

            If we ever want to strive for a morality more complicated than ‘Do what you want’ then anyone and everyone can discount your moral theory with “But what about this ridiculous situation that could probably never happen in real life?” and we can either throw up our hands and admit defeat, or we can just nod and smile and keep striving for a morality more complicated than ‘Do what you want’.

            Again, the appeal to a unifying system of everything, in an area so complicated, seems rather strange to me.

            p.s. I am not actually familiar with Rawls, as I said, he might hold an unwavering view and believe he has found the unifying theory of everything, I disagree(with all similar claims), but am amenable to the idea that half steps in that general direction might be ‘better’ for some values of better.

            p.p.s. I’m partial to utilitarianism (I know, it also ‘fails’ reductio ad absurdum!) and I was only viewing this through the lens of, focusing on the lowest utility, when dealing with humans who are bad at utilizing excess utility, seems like a potentially good system for increasing total utility. Which might be why I don’t care about/am not interested in the particular points at which Rawls views happen to break.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Spookykou, I would add that “do what you want” also does not seem immune to reductio ad absurdum. And trying to have no moral theory at all seems to have problems as well.

            I’m afraid this is an area where one must pick one’s poison; anyone who claims that their view has no massively counter-intuitive elements or as yet unsolved problems is either lying (hopefully their theory permits that!) or deluding themselves. To me, it is utilitarianism which seems to have the most palatable bullets, and the problems I have the most hope of solving, but the bullets are tough and the solutions to the problems are no more than hopes. If a Rawlsian thinks their bullets are tastier and their problems are more likely to be solved, well, I disagree, but I don’t think they’re hypocrites or fools.

          • Aapje says:

            We have a severe lack of understanding of many cause-effect mechanisms, which IMO is often overlooked as an important factor.

            If you don’t, in fact, know for sure what outcome turning a knob will result in, it becomes far more important to focus on how actually to achieve desired outcomes. It’s worthwhile to define goals, but if you don’t actually have the understanding to achieve those goals, you may not want to spend too much time debating whether A is the best outcome or B, which is marginally different from A; while the error in your tools is way bigger than the difference between A and B.