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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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857 Responses to Links 3/17: Siteochrome P450

  1. The Sun is well known for its influence on UK elections, as well.

  2. I posted on why the second-hand smoking claims were dubious four years ago. The context was my university’s plan, now implemented, to ban all smoking on campus. I would give pretty high odds that even if it turns out that the scientific claims used to justify it were entirely bogus the policy will not be reversed.

    • eqdw says:

      Nanny State policies are never withdrawn after being proven broken. Hold them accountable? HAH.

      I’m still salty about the Berkeley soda ban

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I mean, it’s fighting dirty to cook the research so you can claim a public nuisance is actually medically harmful, but it’s not nanny-stating to ban public nuisances.

  3. On Perez vs Ellison, I wonder if the real reason the Democratic establishment preferred Perez was that Ellison is a Muslim. From the standpoint of the ideological left that’s a plus, since it proves how unprejudiced they are. But from the standpoint of people who want to win future elections it’s probably a minus.

    As best I can tell, Ellison was part of the Nation of Islam some years back, is now a conventional Sunni Muslim.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can see how a Muslim presidential candidate might have some image problems, but does Joe Prejudiced Voter really know or care who the party chair is?

      • Error says:

        Right now, no; but motivated news sources could easily change that.

      • Deiseach says:

        I don’t think it’s Joe The Voter that they’re worrying about (or that they have to worry about); it’s the internal divisions which seem to be widening (I saw a selection of left and progressive calls for abandoning the Democrats altogether in the wake of this decision, and of setting up an alternative really progressive really left-wing party that would draw the youth and activist vote).

        If the Democratic Party is going to make any headway in the forthcoming elections for Congress, it has to be united, have a simple core message it can sell to the public, and be sure that local party committees and organisations are all on the same page, not splitting all over the place over “we need to recapture the blue collar vote”, “no, we need to offer a true Social Democrat/Democratic Socialist vision”, “no our main appeal is the middle-class college-educated voter, remember?” “well what about demographics?” etc.

        The interesting thing is all the murmuring about Perez being Obama’s candidate, which (a) shows that Obama apparently isn’t content to tread the ‘making money by speeches’ route of retirement but wants and intends to be active in the internal workings of the Democratic Party (b) that this is in opposition to the Sanders (or perceived Sanders) progressive wing/splinter/six gender-fluid persons and a companion non-human animal (c) the complaints about the “Obama-Clinton wing” fixing, rigging or otherwise stealing the election from Ellison who was the popular choice of the majority of the party (allegedly).

        It’s (being presented as) business as usual, fat cats and big donors buying influence, the Establishment Democratic Party versus genuine reform, which is going to have an effect on the future: can they win back seats in the Congress elections if they’re still perceived as the party in bed with Wall Street? who is going to be selected for the 2020 presidential campaign? how are those selections going to be made, and will we see more accusations of rigging the primaries as we did under Wassermann Schultz?

        Money (via fund-raising) and power (via setting the rules for the presidential primary) are what is at stake here; after all, if it’s just a minor paper-pushing job that is a result of all the bylaws and regulations of the party organisation, what is all the fuss about who won it or got it?

        • Lasagna says:

          can they win back seats in the Congress elections if they’re still perceived as the party in bed with Wall Street?

          No, probably not. They also can’t win back Congress by being the “progressive wing/splinter/six gender-fluid persons and a companion non-human animal” party, though.

        • JDG1980 says:

          the Sanders (or perceived Sanders) progressive wing/splinter/six gender-fluid persons and a companion non-human animal

          I think this is a misinterpretation. The Sanders wing was more focused on bread-and-butter economic liberalism. It was Clinton who talked incessantly about white privilege, intersectionality, etc., and her surrogates who disrupted one of Sanders’ events and made up a bunch of baseless slanders about sexist “Bernie Bros”.

          • Sanders appears to have pivoted more recently to racial/social justice as well.

            Source: I follow him on Instagram.

          • Deiseach says:

            I’d be very sympathetic to Sanders on economic liberalism; he reminds me of the old-school Labour politicians over on this side of the water. But I think that if there’s a division between the Clinton-Obama Establishment wing and the Progressive/Truly True Left wing, then Sanders, for lack of a better figure, is the representative of that side of the division. I know there was much ado about BernieBros but was anyone (apart from a few of the starry-eyed and self-deluding) really convinced that Hillary was down to her bones convinced about trans rights, intersectionality, and the rest of it (as distinct from her campaign running focus groups and telling her “and the message you address to the 18-24 white female college student demographic is…”)?

            I don’t know where I read it (there is so much discussion online in various quarters) but I’m broadly in agreement: the Democrats dumped the blue collar union workers/Labour vote and went for the middle-class college-educated demographic, so they became more conservative fiscally (by a relative measure) and instead went more liberal/progressive on social liberalism (e.g. same-sex marriage).

            Sanders would be the old style economic issues/class issues candidate but that horse has probably long since bolted. For whatever reason, young voters are probably locked into the social liberalism model of activism; it’s a whole lot easier to pass laws about gender-neutral bathrooms than it is to dismantle or reform the tax code/capitalism, so for the progressive element (apart from the hard-core left who would more likely be disdainful of the Democrats anyway and have their own little parties of purity) that’s where the emphasis will be (in the near future at least) and pinning their colours to “African-American Muslim! Diversity! Inclusivity! Intersectionality!” was their way of trying to make themselves heard as relevant to the voters they hope to capture.

          • static says:

            “economic liberalism”
            If by liberalism you mean the opposite of economic liberty?

          • Nornagest says:

            If by liberalism you mean the opposite of economic liberty?

            I’m probably more on your side than Deiseach’s on this one, but still, I’d rather see less of this kind of jab.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The three of you are probably all largely on the same side, aside from this unnecessary jab. Deiseach is making a subtler point about what’s driving Sanders’ economic views, and implying free-market capitalism would suit him just fine, provided labor concerns have a reasonable amount of advocacy. I think Sanders’ views are misplaced (his enemy isn’t employers and the 1%; it’s regulatory capture and a general lack of market awareness), but I don’t see him as a crony bureaucrat saying anything that would get him elected, so much as an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

        • reytes says:

          A few points:

          1) the Democratic Party absolutely does not need local party committees to be on the same page, at all. That’s one of the virtues of federalism. It’s probably a good thing that Barbara Lee, Cory Booker, and Joe Manchin can be in the same party, all things considered, and of course with the complexities that surround primaries etc.

          2) Obama is certainly still part of the Democratic Party and part of the centrist establishment wing of it. It’s the Obama-Clinton wing. That’s not new and it’s certainly not outside of the norm. The establishment is the establishment and the Sandersites are the anti-establishment.

          3) As JDG1980 points out, although there’s a tremendous amount of variation, the Bernie Left wing of the party has broadly tended to emphasize aggressive populist economic policy over identity politics, and the establishment wing has emphasized identity politics more.

          4) I don’t think any of these rifts are insurmountable, It’s definitely going to be necessary to show aggressiveness towards finance and banks, and it’s going to be necessary to be elaborately open towards the left, but it’s possible. I think Perez’ commitment to reaching out to Ellison is a really good symbolic thing here.

          • Deiseach says:

            the Democratic Party absolutely does not need local party committees to be on the same page, at all.

            They still need a broad agreement on “I’m a Democrat and this is the Democrat Party and these are our principles”. Sure you can have Joe or Jane Representative running as practically an Independent, but that really depends on Joe or Jane having built up their own fiefdom in the state and being able to count on delivering the necessary votes at every election to return them to Congress. If the electorate will vote Joe or Jane back into office whether they’re Democrat, Republican, or Monster Raving Looney Party, then being on the same page is no help at all.

            At the same time, it’s no good for the party as a whole if Joe or Jane Representative is doing their level best to sell themselves to the voters as “Well, yeah, technically I’m a Democrat but” (I disagree with the national party on coal power/bathroom laws/the price of eggs) “so vote for me in the assurance that I’m not like one of those Democrats, I’m safe!”

            Because when it comes down to it, will Joe or Jane vote on legislation according to what the party line is, or will they have one eye on their constituents and decide “if I support/oppose this I’ll lose the next election”?

        • Eli says:

          “we need to recapture the blue collar vote”, “no, we need to offer a true Social Democrat/Democratic Socialist vision”, “no our main appeal is the middle-class college-educated voter, remember?” “well what about demographics?”

          Problem for the Dems is, the first four of these criteria are so easily mutually satisfiable as to be nigh-equivalent, but the last one is an excuse not to satisfy them.

      • wintermute92 says:

        Yep. Ellison’s Nation of Islam background has already made the rounds of some conservative commentators and news sites, and I fully expect it would become a Breitbart headline if he had been picked. The DoC chair may be unimportant, but he can be spun into a story on demand. Older conservatives still have some pretty strong feelings on the Nation since it combines modern concerns about Islam with older concerns about black nationalism.

        I’ve heard more than one person on the right say, basically, “if these people pick Ellison it proves they don’t even want to win elections”.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        ellison was a member of the nation of Islam, which means he has a lot of association with not only anti-semitism but black nationalism

        then again, Obama’s reverend was on some other shit and that never mattered, so who knows? A coldly realistic stance indicates big jewish megadonors (Saban, Adelson) wouldn’t touch an Ellison Democratic party, and that’s what this battle was really about, authenticity v. donor cash.

        • shakeddown says:

          Obama’s reverend wasn’t part of the party. Nobody left of Fox News would really care what he did. The party chair, on the other hand, is more central.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’d argue it speaks volumes that this guy is your priest and you go to hear him preach for 10 years.

            Like, I’m not a fan of hitting people on what their religious leader says, per se, but this guy really was on some other shit if I recall.

            Then again, research into his statements I conducted just now showed that Obama did denounce him a couple of times, and you’re right that priest of president isn’t necessarily as important as “head of DNC”. Though then again, I hear the DNC isn’t that important anyhow, but it’s a figurehead position and you don’t want your figurehead to be on that Nation of Islam shit. So fair enough.

        • Deiseach says:

          Reverend Wright was considered enough of a liability that Obama stopped attending his church and a lot of disavowal was done by all sides.

          It wasn’t a big deal because Obama was smart and quick enough to cut it off before it could become a big deal.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            No, it wasn’t a big deal because he was running against John McCain who is only capable of saying things the NY Times approves of and the Times didn’t approve of mentioning Wright. On top of that journolist made it a point to ensure that all their members coordinated attacks on anyone in the media who mentioned Wright. No platforming was still effective then.

          • Tatu Ahponen says:

            …except that Wright was still discussed in the media intently, even obsessively? Conservative media is media, too.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        He will know because the other side will tell him. Repeatedly, in exaggerated way, every day. I mean, the ad about “they have Nation of Islam member chair the party” practically writes itself. The “party chair” has a big halo effect, even if the actual influence is not that huge.

        Muslim chair of the party may still work, but Muslim chair of the party that was friends with Farrakhan (no matter how long ago, people dug up Romney’s teenage antics and high school albums of other politicians, there’s no limit to it) would make Joe the Random Voter into Joe the Very Concerned and Unsettled Voter pretty quickly. Not the hardcore Democrats, of course, but the fight is always on the margins.

    • suntzuanime says:

      Yeah, the reason we haven’t heard the rebuttal is not that one doesn’t exist, it’s that they can’t admit to it. The candidates’ ideologies might be pretty much the same, but one’s a black Muslim and the other is a white (Zimmerman-white at least) Christian.

      I’m not sure this is actually a good argument, given that things turned out all right for Obama, and given that nobody particularly cared who Debbie Wasserman Schultz was until she started rigging the primaries, but it’s a plausible sort of thing to believe, and it would make sense of their actions.

      • Steve Sailer says:

        I always thought Debbie Wasserman Schultz was pretty comically biased.

      • reytes says:

        Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was extremely terrible at her job, not just for reasons connected to primary stuff. I would argue that the fact no one paid attention to DWS is a problem with the Democratic Party structure (one that’s hopefully being remedied) and a good argument for paying attention to who the chair of the national party is and what they’re doing and how competent they are.

        • cassander says:

          is it even possible to be a good party chair? How are you supposed to run a political party when you have zero control over the members of your party?

          • reytes says:

            I don’t think it’s about running the political party in terms of determining everything that happens, but in terms of running it as a political organization. I would say that the main things I would want a party chair to do include:

            – Fundraising. DWS was good at this.
            – Organizing and strategizing – making sure that the party’s mechanisms work well and efficiently and that the party is well organized from the grassroots to the top and distributing money and spending it well. DWS was really, really, really bad at this.
            – Being an advocate for the party’s candidates and policies. DWS was also really bad at this.

            So, I think, yes, it’s possible to be a good party chair.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I would say the quality of the party chair is inversely correlated with how many people can name him/her.

          • cassander says:

            >– Fundraising. DWS was good at this.

            Yeah, but that’s on behalf of candidates, no? I’m realizing now that I’m not sure how much fundraising parties can do as party entities post soft money ban.

            Organizing and strategizing

            Again, isn’t that dominated by the campaigns themselves?

            Being an advocate for the party’s candidates and policies. DWS was also really bad at this.

            that’s definitely dominated by candidates.

          • reytes says:

            @cassander:

            Being an advocate for the party is definitely mostly dominated by the candidates but it’s still nice to have someone who can be effective on TV.

            Organizing and strategizing absolutely should not be done exclusively by the candidates. It’s extraordinarily valuable to have an engaged grassroots base, to have well-developed party machinery, to have organizations and fundraising bases that don’t disappear when someone retires, to have someone around to recruit candidates – all of those things. Now, a lot of that is done on the local or state level, but it’s also really valuable to have it all organized and connected and to have those state parties supported from above. Arguably one of the problems for the Democrats in 2016 was that too much of the Obama organization was Obama organization and not Democratic organization. And Democrats have also done incredibly poorly in state houses and governor’s race and other state-level things, which is in part a result of not emphasizing state-level organization or paying attention to it, which is something that DWS was a major part of.

            And then fundraising is definitely important on a national party level – in part because you need money to do everything I mentioned above, and then in part because you can donate like $30,000 a year to parties compared to $2700 to candidates – they’re very efficient fundraising vehicles.

            So, the reason that I think that DWS was bad is that she was bad at – or did not care about – building the organizations and systems that are required to win elections nationwide, and I think that party chairs should do that.

        • JDG1980 says:

          In my more cynical moments I wonder if Schultz was simply incompetent, or if intentionally writing off Congress and the statehouses while focusing on the Presidency was in fact the point all along.

          Look at the Democratic donor class – wealthy (obviously), socially-liberal, disproportionately Jewish. These donors tend to favor environmentalism, progressive views on social issues like gay and transsexual rights, and a hawkish pro-Israel policy, while being far more skeptical of Bernie Sanders-style New Deal liberalism. In other words, a lot of things these donors want can be accomplished via the Presidency and the federal courts; conversely, a Democratic Congress would raise expectations among the party base and might lead to economic legislation that would pinch the donors’ pocketbooks. From the perspective of these donors, the second Obama term was just about exactly what they wanted.

          • reytes says:

            This is certainly an argument that’s made by parts of the Democratic left, so you’re not alone in thinking that.

          • cassander says:

            Never blame conspiracy where idiocy is a sufficient explanation.

          • Eli says:

            Look at the Democratic donor class – wealthy (obviously), socially-liberal, disproportionately Jewish. These donors tend to favor environmentalism, progressive views on social issues like gay and transsexual rights, and a hawkish pro-Israel policy, while being far more skeptical of Bernie Sanders-style New Deal liberalism.

            Really? In that case, they’re pretty separate from most American Jews, who are quite simply liberal on everything, worship FDR as a demigod, and also have a pro-Israel foreign policy.

      • I don’t think the fact that he is black would be a negative in terms of winning elections. If he were still a Black Muslim in the Nation of Islam sense it would be, but he doesn’t seem to be.

        But I think being a Muslim would be a negative. The Republicans would find excuses to bring it up and that would play on the general hostility to Muslims which is pretty common for obvious reasons.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      There’s a much more concrete reason that the Democratic establishment can’t have a Muslim (even a weird heretical offshoot) head.

      If the Jerusalem Post is right, Jewish donors contributed about 37% of all of the money in 2016’s federal elections and 2/3 of that money went to Democrats. Pissing off wealthy Jews is something neither party can really afford, but the Democrats especially are highly dependent on those donations.

      • Creative Username 1138 says:

        Especially when one of the major Jewish donors of the Democratic party came out very strongly against Ellison.

      • Deiseach says:

        From the Pew Report:

        Like Hispanic Catholics, religious “nones” and Jews were strong Clinton supporters. Indeed, nearly seven-in-ten religious “nones” voted for Clinton, as did 71% of Jews. Most people who identify with faiths other than Christianity or Judaism also favored Clinton over Trump, 62% to 29%.

        I don’t want to start sounding like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion here, but maybe a Muslim chair of the DNC – even a converted to Islam, African-American one – would be regarded as a little risky, unless you could be sure he was Sound On The Topic (and given the background with Nation of Islam, probably not regarded as being Sound On The Topic).

        But mainly I think the pick of Perez over Ellison was down to some Democrats realising they’d actually like to win something in the near future, and going the route of ultra-progressivism won’t do that.

        • reytes says:

          I don’t think Perez over Ellison is a tactical preference in terms of Ellison being too progressive to win elections. There’s a lot of complicated currents going on here but as far as I can tell from following it, it comes down to a bit to actual genuine ideological disagreement, occasionally over Israel but mostly over soft socialism versus progressive liberalism, but mostly to in-group out-group stuff with the Democratic party establishment – Perez is part of that group / hierarchy / structure / establishment in a way that Ellison isn’t really, and so it was a question of who should control the Democratic Party.

          To the extent that it was a tactical/strategic argument, what it came down to was that the liberal establishment in the Democratic Party thinks that Clinton lost in 2016 because of various relatively minor tactical errors like not investing enough in local parties, and because of outside interference from Comey and Russia; in contrast, the social democrat portion of the Democratic Party thinks that Clinton lost because the establishment is incompetent and that they should double down on an aggressive economic populist anti-big-banks message.

          • TheWorst says:

            Is it inconsistent to think both are true?

          • Tarpitz says:

            Maybe this is me projecting paradigms from the other side of the Pond, but my impression was that while various tactical errors and happenstances of the sort you reference contributed to Clinton’s defeat, a more likeable, more charismatic, less obviously establishment/elite-ish candidate would have won in spite of those problems given what I believe to have been a weak-but-probably-not-as-weak-as-Romney Republican candidate uniquely suited to attacking Clinton’s flaws. On the other hand, I think once Sanders had been selected, the Republicans would have been able to effortlessly paint him as a wing-nut socialist and he would have been utterly crushed in the election. If Biden had run, and been selected, I believe he would have won in a landslide.

      • Ellison seems to get along fine with Jewish activists in his state. Nation of Islam would be a major negative from the Jewish standpoint, since Farrakhan is pretty clearly anti-semitic, but I’m not sure that being an ordinary Muslim would be. Islam and Judaism, despite the current state of Middle-eastern politics, have a lot in common, probably more than Judaism and Christianity.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          That’s a really huge ‘despite’ though, especially given that the pro-Israel lobby is a big chunk of said donors.

          Very few people are going to take the academic view of comparative religion when their coethnics are being slaughtered.

          • Eli says:

            Very few people are going to take the academic view of comparative religion when their coethnics are being slaughtered.

            Being Jewish, I’d rather be allied with Muslims in America and Christians in the Middle East, as long as it’s my life on the line. I know who my enemies are in each place.

          • Randy M says:

            “Jewish lives in America are threatened by Christians” is the implication of your statement, I’m curious how you’d back that up.
            Or are you just assuming the majority is always your enemy?

      • AnonYEmous says:

        from a similar article I found when googling, I bet they included Soros

        which is not to say he isn’t jewish but I feel like it’s a bit misleading to include him; I doubt he cares much about anti-semitism, seems to care more about progressivism

    • J Mann says:

      Ellison had some somewhat extreme articles as a law student, including some support for Farakhan, thinks that American middle eastern policy should shift to be less supportive of Israel, and is at least comfortable hanging out with people who are openly supportive of Palestinian jihad against Israel.

      Granted, he’s been doing his best to walk that stuff back, but under the circumstances, I don’t think the DLC really wanted the drama.

  4. MawBTS 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?

    neat.jpg

    pro-Palestine journalist Rania Khalek was kept from talking at UNC based on her opinions about the war in Syria.

    Though I don’t doubt stuff like this happens to leftists all the time, maybe Rania isn’t the best example. The Syria question is hard to cut into right/left size pieces at the moment, and she seems in agreement with Trump, Cruz, etc that Assad should stay. See also things like this.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Commies are somewhere between agnostic and supportive of Assad, liberal lefties not. Speaking as someone who is more of the former than the latter, Trump’s Syria policy is one of the few things I like about him.

      There’s a very similar cleft on Russian hacking skepticism, for similar reasons.

      • Could you expand on your commies vs liberal lefties distinction? Russia is no longer communist so I assume “commies” doesn’t mean pro-Russian.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Basically boils down to how skeptical/hostile a person is of the US military/intelligence apparatus. The hard left doesn’t trust it as either a source of information or as a potential ally against a shared enemy. This means completely rejecting R2P by US forces, which functionally makes you anti-rebel in Syria (if Western intervention is off the table, then there’s no real path to defeating Assad, which means the best thing that could happen there is his victory, since for all his faults it would at least promote the end of a horrible war). It also means being both initially skeptical of the hacking claims and reluctant to center them in anti-Trump efforts even if they were true, since that would be making common cause with forces we don’t trust and do not want to be considered credible.

          Also, for me at least (I’ve not really seen anyone else state this, but the logic is straightforward) there’s some direct synergy between the two positions. If the Russians are influencing Trump, it’s likely that one of the main areas where they are doing it is his Syria policy, a.k.a., one of the few things about him that I like. It’s hard to get upset about foreign influence when you consider that influence to have had a somewhat positive effect, particularly when you’re neither particularly patriotic nor influenced by memories of the Cold War.

  5. notacc says:

    [For perspective, I am currently a phd student in the sciences who recently went through the graduate admissions process and still has the college admission process in recent memory]

    If we put aside the debate on what Scott calls “college student closed-mindedness” and just go ahead and assume all the worst of it to be true, it still seems to me completely laughable that any normal student would use the FIRE / Heterodox Academy lists to inform their admission decision. For a graduate student to do so would be completely unheard of – they are exclusively interested in the quality of the research done at the institution and the research lab groups at the institution. This is how it should be: these are the factors that determine success in graduate school. It seems impossible to justify to any graduate student that they should seriously consider these sort of FIRE lists when choosing to join an institution, because they are simply so utterly irrelevant to their future success. Perhaps there are some people who just feel really, really strongly about this issue, but I can’t imagine any of the young graduate students I know even weighing it for a second over the many reasons they choose to attend some institutions and not others. It’s a slightly different but similar picture at the college admissions level: intellectually minded high school seniors are thinking about future success and weighing the ability of schools to help them attain that success, whether it’s through the prestige of the school in academia or elite industry/NGO/government connections and recruiting. Perhaps more generally (and likely higher up on the importance list for slightly less intellectually minded students) are things like quality of food, room and board, and living space at the school. How can anyone reasonably expect any student to weigh something like “This school disinvited one conservative speaker in the last 5 years, experienced student protests at one other, and has an hour long diversity training during orientation week, and therefore scores low on our FIRE list” against things that *actually matter* every day in their day-to-day life and that will have an far larger effect size on determining their future success? Honestly it’s offensive and insulting to expect any student to weigh their own self-interest against these silly criteria in any meaningful capacity (and students who are open-minded enough to do so in the first place are ironically the ones who could attend any kind of institution without giving in to some sort of group think, and therefore should weight FIRE ranking importance even less!).

    To summarize that: to someone deeply embedded in the academic system, it feels very silly and out-of-touch to expect people to use these lists to inform their choice of institution.

    • suntzuanime says:

      As a graduate student, I wish, in retrospect, that I had paid more attention to this sort of thing. I do not feel offended or insulted.

      EDIT: Well, I guess I feel offended and insulted by your suggestion that I ought to feel offended and insulted.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      After the protests and borderline violence at U Missouri, it was a big conservative talking point that enrollments dropped and the school ended up with a big budget deficit. I haven’t looked into it enough to be sure this isn’t just noise or due to some other trend, but if not it suggests that incoming students are taking this sort of thing very much into account.

      (I don’t know if the students were conservatives turned away by SJWs, black people turned away by the claims of racism that inspired the protests, or just everybody turned away by apparent risk of violence. But these no-platforming things seem to be turning into violence more and more, and violence is a big deal for people; witness eg white flight out of cities that have even minor race riots)

      I think I would have taken this thing into account when choosing colleges. I’m not saying I would have turned down Harvard just because its FIRE rating wasn’t good enough, but I got accepted to a couple of schools that were all around the same tier and ended up deciding between them on a kind of arbitrary basis. If that were happening this year, and one of them were Middlebury or Berkeley, and another was a school that was well-known for being tolerant and safe and Jonathan-Haidt-approved, you bet I would thought about that long and hard.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      Most university students aren’t grad students nor go into academia, lifestyle matters are relevant to these people.

    • Steve Sailer says:

      My guess is that the single most valuable kind of alumni are successful movie directors. And my assumption is that successful movie directors — e.g., Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Damien Chazelle, etc. — hate being pushed around by political correctness.

      • TheWorst says:

        My guess is that the single most valuable kind of alumni are successful movie directors.

        Interesting. Why is that?

        • Steve Sailer says:

          The single best publicity is a superstar athlete in a sport where the college is announced whenever he runs out onto the court. For example, “From the University of North Carolina … Michael Jordan!” was good advertising!

          But movie directors and movie stars get interviewed more than just about anybody else other than athletes. People are interested in networks of celebrity friends that got started in colleges.

          • TheWorst says:

            That’s a good point. I would’ve guessed that politicians and musicians might get interviewed even more, but it seems less likely that their college would come up.

    • Brad says:

      intellectually minded high school seniors are thinking about future success and weighing the ability of schools to help them attain that success, whether it’s through the prestige of the school in academia or elite industry/NGO/government connections and recruitin

      You’ve managed to confuse intellectualism and overweening ambition.

    • cbv says:

      I made my college decision about 50 percent based on the attitude of the student body with respect to politics. I toured some schools that felt suffocating politically and I knew that I didn’t want that. I was able to determine my school would not be politically homogeneous. Primarily, this meant that everyone was a more coolheaded and focused on the work of college, rather than the election at the time.

      I would have paid much less attention to that if I was looking at vocational graduate schooling. Though, in a way, it was exactly an aversion to the political focus in the fields I wanted to study that kept me out of grad school.

      And I wasn’t thinking about no-platforming, but that is a proxy for what it’s going to be like to sit around and trade ideas with your classmates.

    • doubleunplussed says:

      There could be some sort of Schelling coordination going on that could make the choice not so irrelevant for grad students.

      My day to day experience in grad school was very much driven by the sorts of people I was around. Yes, the research is important, but I’d become miserable if I had to be around hyperpartisan activists all day. So I’d strongly rather be around other people from my side of the culture war (I don’t mean the partisans from the other side, I mean the people who want to avoid partisanship in the workplace).

      But given that undergrad politics is irrelevant to grad students, knowledge of the undergrads’ stance on the culture war shouldn’t affect my decision, right? Wrong – that knowledge is an opportunity to coordinate with other prospective grad students. If grad students conflate, intentionally or not, the undergrad culture war with the situation in grad school, they can make themselves better off in grad school by ending up at the same schools as people who think like them

      The common knowledge of the undergrad situation breaks the symmetry and allows for this coordination.

      If you look at it superficially, conflating undergrad and grad school seems like an error. But at a deeper level I think the human brain automatically looks for coordination opportunities like this, even though it presents as a seeming error to system 2.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s a slightly different but similar picture at the college admissions level: intellectually minded high school seniors are thinking about future success and weighing the ability of schools to help them attain that success,

      Note that at the college admissions level, what the “intellectually minded” high school seniors are thinking about, may not matter so much as what their parents are thinking about.

    • eqdw says:

      My impression of the US college system, speaking as an observing outsider, is that it’s 100% credentialism, with lifestyle on top. Most students’ decision process appears to be “what school will look most impressive on future resumes”.

      Very few future employers give a shit about campus ideological openness. I expect efforts like this to have a marginal at best effect, unless future employers’ attitudes change.

      Incidentally, I think that’s not likely. There are enough alternative educational mechanisms for people who don’t care about signalling value, that I would expect them to skip college entirely and go right to one of those.

      • cassander says:

        most people have a pretty realistic assessment of which band of credentialism they lie in though, and, particularly as you get higher up the spectrum, will apply and get in to multiple schools in that band. FIRE isn’t going to make you choose some shitty State U over harvard, but I can definitely see it leading you to chose Haverford over Amherst.

        • Quixote says:

          Haverford isn’t in anywhere near the same band as Amherst. With the exception of Wesleyan, all the other top tier liberal arts schools are pretty politically similar. I don’t think there is enough political difference between Williams and Swat for anyone to make a choice on that basis, rather than location and sports culture.

          It might make someone choose Cornell over Dartmouth though, or vice versa though.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Agreed.

            Without giving up too much personal info:

            At the end of my grad school admissions process, after interviews, I had a choice between a program at Johns Hopkins and another at the school I actually ended up in. One of the reasons I picked my program over JHU’s was that the atmosphere there seemed hyper-political. During interviews one of the PI’s went as far as saying that a good side effect of that year’s riots was that conservative students would be less likely to want to come to Baltimore.

            That’s not to say that I would have picked a no-name school on those criteria. But if everyone in the world is going to recognize the name of the school anyway, it matter where you’re going to spend 4-6 years of your life.

          • bbeck310 says:

            Obvious example: UChicago and Northwestern are at about the same level of prestige, but Chicago is one of the best schools in the country for academic freedom while NU is on the weak end. There are other big differences in school culture between the two, but a high school senior could definitely take it into account.

            The super-Ivys also have substantial differences here, with Yale being most left (see the Halloween Costume fight) and Princeton being most neutral/apolitical (most students supported keeping Woodrow Wilson’s name on campus buildings out of tradition; social conservative Robert P. George routinely is one of the most popular teachers in the Political Science department).

          • Judging by my daughter’s experience, there was a large difference between Oberlin and Chicago–larger with regard to student culture than faculty culture.

            @bbeck310:

            I would have said that Chicago was much more presigious than Northwestern, but I may be biased by the econ departments and the law schools. Consider the relative count of Nobel Prizes. Chicago has 92, making it fifth among world universities, Northwestern has 11, making it fifty first.

          • cassander says:

            Haverford isn’t in anywhere near the same band as Amherst

            Both are top 10 liberal arts colleges. That’s about as narrow a band as you get. I’ll give you that the top 4 or so have substantially more money than the others, but the idea that they’re not comparable is silly.

            I don’t think there is enough political difference between Williams and Swat for anyone to make a choice on that basis, rather than location and sports culture.

            I’d say campus culture is a huge part of the reason people chose one or the other, and that’s not going to be at all distinct from FIRE type ratings.

          • skef says:

            Chicago has 60ish Nobel prizes and 30ish Advertising Gimmick After Alfred Nobels.

  6. suntzuanime says:

    What is a totalitarian mindset, according to Peterson? Well, one example would be supporting laws against hate speech, of any form. Now, we can disagree about where exactly is the best place to put the boundaries of free speech. That can be a productive discussion. But when one side is screaming that anything less than total adherence to their absolutist position makes you the same as Stalin, that discussion evaporates.

    lol fuck this guy

    “we can have a productive discussion, provided you more or less agree with me”

    • suntzuanime says:

      Gosh, guys, we can disagree about exactly which forms of rape should be legal, that can be a productive discussion. But honestly your screaming absolutist position is making the discussion evaporate.

      • Deiseach says:

        Gosh guys, your insistence that “that man looked at me without my explicit consent” is rape is certainly not a screaming absolutist position and anybody who disagrees must think that some types of rape should be legal!

        A sample of things that have been explicitly compared to rape.

        Maybe we should all lay off the “this is like rape” metaphors for a bit?

        • albertborrow says:

          I think people attribute too much emotional significance to the word rape – as in, when people hear it, it provokes fear more than it does sympathy. That isn’t to say the metaphors are made in good taste, but I’m not going to get worked up over the definition being eroded. This is like people getting offended by the word “retarded” being used colloquially. People are going to do it whether or not you think it’s wrong or misguided, and so long as we have academic alternatives to the word we’re not going to suddenly run out of ways to describe it.

          I also think the WHO citation in that article was made in bad faith. The actual statistic is a global average on sexual violence, including third world countries, but she makes it sound like one in three women you’re going to encounter on a day-to-day basis have had this experience.

    • Royal Night Guard says:

      Where is he saying that you have to agree with him at all? He’s saying that if you make discussion illegal then productive discussion can’t happen, which seems fairly tautological.

      And I know Peterson argues that banning discussion of ideas can backfire in various ways. For one, if open discussion is restricted then it becomes hard to figure out what people in your society actually think. For two, if open discussion is restricted you risk driving discussion of those topics underground where they are less likely to be challenged.

  7. Luke Perrin says:

    Here are some current odds from Betfair:

    Trump makes it to the end of his term: 53%
    Trump Republican nominee in next election: 47%
    Republicans win: 48%
    Trump next president: 35%

    So Trump has a 90% chance of being nominated if he makes it to the end of his term, which makes sense. What surprises me is that he has a 73% chance of winning if he becomes the nominee. The incumbent bias in the U.S. isn’t that high, Trump lost the popular vote this time around, and next time he’ll be facing voters who are four years younger. So why are his conditional odds so good?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that’s high, but maybe not that high. Incumbents win 70% of the time. And some of Trump’s main negatives last time were his lack of experience, lack of presidentialness, loose-cannonness, and just an impression that he couldn’t possibly do the job. If he makes it to the end of his first term without screwing something up so badly that they don’t nominate him, then he’s neutralized all those negatives while keeping his substantial positives (good with the media, lots of support from his base).

      • Jon S says:

        These long term markets have a lot of impediments to liquidity. Say that you know for a fact that the true odds of Trump being the next president are 25%, not 35%. Would you put money on Betfair to sell 35%? You need to put up the money for your max loss now (65%) for an expected return of (10/65) = 15% over 4 years, or 3.6% annually. I would not loan money to Betfair for a 3.6% annualized return, let alone taking on the extra risk of the actual bet.

        PredictIt is even more skewed for tail events, since they only allow a max investment of $850 per contract. So take that 22% figure for Trump making it to the end of 2017. Someone who thinks it’s too high can trade $1090 notional selling 22% ($850/.78), but someone who thinks it’s too low could trade $3864 ($850/.22), more than offsetting 3 max-size sellers.

        Edit: PredictIt also has insanely high fees. They take 10% of the profit on individual trades (so if you sell 22% and wind up being right, you only make 19.8%), and they charge a 5% fee on all withdrawals. If you make a number of bets in serial, this 5% gets spread around, but you it’s a huge fee if you are depositing to make a single bet (or series of parallel bets).

        • doubleunplussed says:

          It would be pretty cool if the percentage probability reported on sites like this included an uncertainty range to reflect this – you should be able to calculate a crude uncertainty range pretty easily based on what return rates someone could get for a similar amount of risk elsewhere.

    • Acedia says:

      They’re seriously giving a 47% chance that he won’t make it to the end of his term? That seems much too high to me.

      • Luke Perrin says:

        It is surprising! At first I thought some of this number might be due to possibility of death or ill health, but PredictIt puts his probability of being impeached this year at 18% and his probability of not being president at the end of the year at 22%, suggesting that they think health issues aren’t likely.

      • Quixote says:

        You don’t know what the insiders know. Consider the possibility that the Russian thing is real. What is your estimate for
        (POTUS is impeached | POTUS is a Russian agent)

        If you think POTUS is impeached number is high, then you should raise your estimate of the likelihood that POTUS is a Russian agent

        • Nornagest says:

          I’d buy this reasoning if we were talking about, say, the S&P, but Betfair is a very small and illiquid market comparatively. What makes you think the people in it are insiders?

    • Deiseach says:

      I didn’t think Trump would be interested in running for a second term, but given the huge amount of disruption in the early days of this presidency, I’m now willing to entertain the notion that if he makes it to the end of his first term, he may be aggravated enough to run for a second term on the lines of “Now I can get my stuff done without all this interference”.

      I can’t see him being impeached; besides the fact that it’s very much wishful thinking on the part of the losing side, even with all the intelligence community rumour-mongering nothing substantive has come out yet and he really would need to be shown to be a deliberate traitor or the likes to get impeached.

      If he does run for a second term, I think it depends (a) if the Republican Party put up any candidate to oppose him (b) who the Democrat candidate will be (Hillary 2020: This Time For Sure Third Fourth Time’s The Charm! is not a potential winner).

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Yeah, it’s always good to quote not just predictit odds, but also betfair odds, because predictit has a lot of limitations coming from American betting laws.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      If I apply The Keys to the White House:

      1. Party Mandate: the House would have to have more Republicans in 2018 than in 2014. They were 247-188 in 2014, 241-194 in 2016. I suspect this trend will continue, although Reps will still hold the House.
      2. Contest: Trump probably has the best chance I’ve seen of having serious Republican contention in 2020. Even so, he’s working with Speaker Ryan and Senator McConnell now, and I don’t see that changing.
      3. Incumbency: 100% by definition (assuming he avoids impeachment).
      4. Third party: the Libertarians may push hard again, but even I don’t think they’d clear 5%, and I voted for them.
      5. Short term economy: I think the economy’s on the way up no matter what he does. Slow recovery from the housing bubble.
      6. Long term economy: Same thing. (Worst plausible scenario IMO: we run spending up high enough that T-bill ratings get downgraded again.)
      7. Policy change: I suspect ACA will indeed get replaced by 2018. I think that counts as major.
      8. Social unrest: 50/50, depending on how much gas SJ has left in the tank.
      9. Scandal: oddly, I think this is a fight between the near certainty someone will find something, vs. the apparent Immunity Idol Trump seems to have permanently won. Another 50/50?
      10. Foreign / military failure: it’ll have to be something new, probably involving Iran, NK, or Russia. And it’d have to be a problem Mattis couldn’t handle. And we appear to be increasing defense spending soon.
      11. Foreign / military success: unlikely – if war were thrust upon us, I think we’d win, but aside from that, we’re still too weary.
      12. Incumbent charisma: I’m going to go with “no”.
      13. Challenger charisma: “no” here as well.

      I see 1, 11, and 12 as false, plus maybe 8 and/or 9. The GOP would need six or more to break before losing, so by the Keys, barring any major news, Trump wins in 2020.

      • Deiseach says:

        Scandal: oddly, I think this is a fight between the near certainty someone will find something, vs. the apparent Immunity Idol Trump seems to have permanently won. Another 50/50?

        The scandal would need to be something pretty bad and pretty big. I think a financial scandal is the most likely one here, but really since he wasn’t a politician before this, and has never served in public office, it’s going to be a business scandal.

        And that means lots of boring legal and accountancy detail as to how a shell company off-set to a sub-contractor a payment for services which wasn’t technically a bribe, see subsection (14).1(a) xvii of the relevant act, which will have everyone but the most committed falling asleep after the first two paragraphs of the newspaper report and may end in acquittal or even a settlement, not jail time. Nothing as simple and juicy as “Senator Tom Johnson hired his mistress as parliamentary assistant, put her on the public payroll, and then brought her with him on junkets to resort locations all on the public dime!”

  8. Jiro says:

    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.

    The biggest example of that in the article is of someone who finds that check-cashing places are better for paying illegal aliens than banks.

    This does not make me any more approving of check cashing places, and I don’t consider this to be providing value. If anything, it provides negative value for citizens.

    • Spookykou says:

      I think the context is something like.

      ‘Check cashing places are predatory and take advantage of poor people’

      ‘No actually they are providing additional value commensurate to their additional costs.’

      This is not about check cashing places total value or societal value, it is a direct respond to the liberal view point ‘check cashing places are bad for poor people’ so the value in question, is value for poor people who use their services.

      In particular as I understand it, check cashing places are intentionally very easy to use, and help more than banks do with general financial problems, these additional services are particularly valuable for the poor because they have a particularly hard time managing their finances(citation needed). For example, helping somebody pay their rent when they don’t have a checking account, so they help the person get/get to a place where they can get, a money order, explain what a money order is, etc.

      Edit (I didn’t actually read the article, this was just my understanding of this issue so I might be off on some details)

      • caryatis says:

        For example, helping somebody pay their rent when they don’t have a checking account, so they help the person get/get to a place where they can get, a money order, explain what a money order is, etc.

        Banks offer money orders too, but at a significantly higher cost. I’m not exactly the target market for check-cashing, but I wouldn’t get a money order at a bank.

    • caryatis says:

      That’s only one of several examples in the piece. You don’t need to be an illegal immigrant to want transparent fees, friendly cashiers, and quick access to money.

  9. skef says:

    On the check-cashing link: It seems like I’ve read a capsule summary of that argument in articles that advocate for postal banking. To the extent that banks make money off the non-wealthy (and I mean bank wealthy — a high bar), it’s now mostly in the form of fees tied to various psychological/cognitive (“I really want this today”/”I thought I had the money”) trip-ups. Few people think much about the fee schedule signing up, so it’s not an element of competition. Poorer people don’t generally maintain the right sort of financial relationships with banks that let them reap that bounty, so banks make the terms for those customers obviously unattractive. Check-cashing outfits serve in the gap, making (sub-)bank off of high fees up front, but still epsilon in the overall scheme of things.

    Postal banking advocates argue that this part of the financial industry should be boring, like a lot of industry used to be, and whatever “innovation” check-cashing constitutes is outweighed by its social costs. The post offices are already there (with a good geographic distribution), they’re doing less, why not let them do low-level banking like other countries do?

    Of course, this view depends on the extent to which check cashing can be separated from payday loans. From my limited understanding, they can be somewhat separated, in that customers both understand the difference between the two services and have one or the other in mind on a given trip.

  10. Jiro says:

    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.

    Read the article more carefully. The group that invited her, a pro-Palestinian group, cancelled the speech because they thought that the speaker’s views on Syria would reflect on themselves.

    In other words, this is left-wing infighting, not left versus right, unless you think the group was lobbied by the right, which would be a curious omission if true (and unlikely, since Syria is way down on the list of things the right is concerned about). As far as left versus right goes, this is still just a problem for one side.

    • Leonard says:

      Right. I was going to make much the same comment.

      To be fair, though, Scott did say “college student closed-mindedness and violence aren’t just a problem for one side”. Not “of” one side, “for” it. So maybe he was not meaning to comment on the left/rightness of the speakers being no-platformed, just saying that even left-wing audiences don’t get to hear stuff they want to hear because of further-left extremism.

      Scott’s statement does seem a bit broad though. Even if we’re only worried about left and right audiences getting to hear what they want, the “violence” appears to be a problem for just one side. Khalek was “kept from talking” by being disinvited. This is different from being kept from talking by being shouted down, and different again from rioting.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Yeah, I was going to say basically the same thing. There isn’t the slightest indication here that conservatives shouted down this speaker; lobbied to have this person’s speech cancelled; or silenced this speaker in any way.

      When Scott says that “college student closed-mindedness and violence aren’t just a problem for one side,” what he apparently means is that everyone — left or right — is vulnerable to left-wing mob intolerance on college campuses. Which, of course, is true. Mobs can and do turn on their own;

      In large part, Leftism is a status competition in which white people try to outdo each other in demonstrations of moral and intellectual superiority by demonstrating concern for others. So it would not be surprising at all if they start targeting each other. Probably it would happen pretty regularly if they didn’t have hatred for Haven Monahan to unite them.

  11. Fossegrimen says:

    Even if Nature rejected the results, I’m curiously comforted by the fact that (after I dropped Scientific American for being too poulist and simplistic) all my regular information sources at least touches on the top left corner of that infographic.

  12. enkiv2 says:

    Regarding the ritual on the 24th: there are a couple problems with treating this as an experiment.

    One is that there are chaos magicians on both sides of the divide (chaos magic has historically had a vaguely leftist / civil-libertarian bent because of the association with the punk community, but it’s entirely unclear what the division is now).

    Another is that it’s impossible to determine how many people are participating (not only because the ritual is meant to be done in one’s own home, but also because the original post encouraged people to modify the ritual — meaning that it’s very difficult to say whether or not something counts as part of the same ritual or as a distinct one).

    The third big problem is that the ritual isn’t *only* on the 24th, but is in fact the midnight of every waning moon for the next eight years — and it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that nearly everyone will drop out early, but that early adopters of the ritual might keep going for longer.

    Problem number four is that chaos magic is an aggressively syncretic tradition that appropriates all sorts of ritual mechanisms and isn’t picky about which gods to invoke, so it’s completely reasonable to consider the wiccan-style western occult form of the original ritual, the meme magic of the channers, and the prayer of the evangelicals to be within the domain that chaos magicians use (although sigil-casting is the most popular technique with most chaotes). Basically, because of the involvement of chaos magicians, there’s no clear distinction in terms of techniques or even deities between the two camps (since a chaos magician is generally equally willing to pray to satan, yhvh, saturn, or batman).

    If this were a one-time thing between two distinct groups, where we’ve counted the number of participants, it would be a lot more reasonable to treat it as an experiment. (In fact, if somebody would like to seriously try a series of side-by-side simultaneous opposing rituals using different mechanisms with randomly assigned groups, that would actually be very interesting.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      On the witch side, there were people who thought the ritual was too dangerous (the threefold law says that what you send out comes back to you three times) and there was at least one person who thought the ritual was so badly designed that it had no chance of working.

      I have no idea whether there were splits among the evangelicals.

      • S_J says:

        I strongly suspect that most evangelicals would be pleased (or at least slightly relieved) if something happened to Trump and V.P. Pence stepped up to the office of Presidency.

        However, they would most likely still pray for the safety of the President. Especially when a bunch of [apparent] pagans are invoking [apparently-]demonic forces against the President.

        I, as someone who grew up in the Evangelical culture, found myself concerned for the safety of the President. But this barely registered on my mental radar.

        I find that I still have the instinctive sense that attacks on America and its leaders are bad for Evangelical Christianity. That’s the attitude that I grew up with, and it’s an instinct that is hard to shake.

        (Which may be part of the Trump phenomenon: the cultural sense that some form of Christianity is part of American Civic Religion ran up against an apparent blue-tribe effort to de-ligitimize and stigmatize certain ideas that often part of the culture of American Christianity.)

      • Deiseach says:

        I have no idea whether there were splits among the evangelicals.

        Prior to the election? Oh yeah. The “cultural Evangelical” (if we can adopt that term from “cultural Catholicism”) who wasn’t any too bothered about going to church, giving up drinking or stopping stepping out on their girlfriend with her best friend were very much in favour of Trump (we can call this the “white working class” vote everyone was so exercised about). The involved, church-going Evangelicals and most importantly some of the leadership in the various (non) denominations were much more dubious or even strongly opposed.

        So all the notions on the anti-Trump side that his victory represents the Moral Majority trying to win back a position of influence or it’s a Christian Theocracy in action or that it’s the Usual Suspects (pro-life zealots etc.) are mistaken. What does seem to have happened is that when it came down to Trump versus Hillary, they voted for Trump “despite”, not “because of”.

        Regarding this witchcraft (or Wiccan or whoever thought it up, it seems to be unclear) ritual? Frankly, I doubt they even know it happened 🙂

        • kenziegirl says:

          “I’ve got a whistle that scares elephants away. But it’s too high for a human to hear.”
          “Then how do you know it does anything at all?”
          “Do you see any elephants around here? QED.”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I didn’t mean divisions in general between Evangenicals– I meant divisions about praying to protect Trump.

          And I’d be very surprised if word didn’t get out to Evangelicals about the binding spell.

      • Mary says:

        Well, I have also heard calls among Catholics to pray against this.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        …There was at least one person who thought the ritual was so badly designed that it had no chance of working.

        Yeah, when I googled it, there were two different groups claiming to have found zero-night exploits in the chant—though possibly the same one; it’s customary to wait for the third full moon after discovering a vulnerability to reveal it, to give the White Hats time to patch the ritual.

  13. Ruben says:

    Regarding the naturalistic therapy study by Chow & Roberts, here’s some Twitter discussion with Roberts
    it’s not like they didn’t think about selection effects, but they don’t have standard diagnoses, severity indicators (they do have depression etc though). Interestingly, propensity score matching didn’t shift the estimate though!
    https://twitter.com/BrentWRoberts/status/834062055346954242
    His preferred explanation is 1/2 therapy is poorly implemented and 1/2 RCTs overestimate efficacy.
    https://twitter.com/BrentWRoberts/status/834059623363670016
    https://twitter.com/BrentWRoberts/status/834064218148192256

    He recently published a MA of psychotherapy effects on personality, so he’s very aware of the contradiction.

    Although I can believe that TAU is harmful on average (where I know, in Germany), I’m not convinced the naturalistic study shows this/estimates the harm well. But he’s right, this needs to be tested more.

  14. luispedro says:

    “””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?”””

    The explanation I have heard is that older people associate Marine with her father more than young people do. She expelled the father from the party, together with his anti-Semitic friends: older people still remember the father vividly and are more likely to believe it was cosmetic, while young people are just more likely to think of Marine first and the father as a historical figure.

    She’s also not a social conservative (the party briefly flirted with social conservatism, but now fields openly gay candidates).

    Finally, unemployment is a bigger issue in France than in either the UK or the US (where it may be a regional issue, but is not a national one). Young people are especially hurt by higher unemployment and a message that appeals to that (even if misguidedly, namely, “foreigners took your jobs”) may resonate more deeply with them.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      Youth unemployment is 25% and has been around that for several years (nationally it’s about 10%). So yeah, it’s not hugely surprising.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Yeah, French employment law protects incumbents a lot more strongly than British, which means youth unemployment is higher relative to unemployment as a whole – and the latter is already higher in France than Britain.

    • bysstah rhymes says:

      I believe that in europe, being a social conservative doesnt mean u have to oppose gay rights, and especially not gay candidates.

      That being said, front national isnt a socially conservative party.

  15. rlms says:

    RE British Rail:
    I find it very difficult to believe that passenger satisfaction is that high. British trains are notorious for being crowded and delayed. Also, the article doesn’t seem to mention a 20% decrease in cost, the graph of fares/km shows a small increase in price since privatisation (continuing the trend from before then). British trains may well be very safe, but that doesn’t matter to passengers since fatal rail accidents are pretty rare. In any case, the ICL study quoted suggests that around 7 fewer people have been killed each year following privatisation, which doesn’t seem like that many to me. I’m too young to know how the privatised system compares with the previous nationalised one, but it certainly seems bad in comparison to the German one.

    • Salem says:

      The current state of our railway network is a disgrace, but it is infinitely better than in the BR days.

      • 1soru1 says:

        Not many people can go back to the 70s to see what that was like, and then properly correlate for inflation and technical change. Many people can pop across the channel and see the excellent state-owned railways every other western European company has.

        A few then say facts don’t matter, in theory private is better, therefor it is. They will look at a stinky dog-turd and say ‘in theory this is caviar, so I love the taste’.

        Most disagree, but the anti-factists are the ones in power.

        • Salem says:

          Hang on. France had excellent state-owned railways back when British Rail was doing its worse, so “just pop across the Channel” does no justice.

          Given that some approximation of our current system has been in place for 5 Prime Ministers now, of every ideological persuasion and none, you’re straining when you place the blame on “anti-factists.” You are right on one thing though – eventually, people will forget the 1970s, and when people no longer remember how terrible the old system was, it will be much easier for people like you to bamboozle them.

      • Tarpitz says:

        This. When the starting point is that low, you can have substantial improvement and still be terrible and justly reviled.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I find it very difficult to believe that passenger satisfaction is that high. British trains are notorious for being crowded and delayed. Also, the article doesn’t seem to mention a 20% decrease in cost, the graph of fares/km shows a small increase in price since privatisation (continuing the trend from before then). British trains may well be very safe, but that doesn’t matter to passengers since fatal rail accidents are pretty rare.

      I wonder if that’s more of railways getting safer everywhere because of new technology, procedures, and other such external trends. Living in a totally different country, I remember a couple of accidents (trains off the rails and so) where there were dead people in 1980s and 1990s, but that kind of thing seems not to happen here anymore, and our railways are still more or less nationalized.

      Well, guess what, let’s take a closer look at “railways got safer post-privatization” statement. It is mainly based on this curve, which is apparently from this study.

      First thing you notice, is that the study is ten years old, so we have ten years of data missing.

      Playing a devil’s advocate, it looks like that if you fitted a similar regression curve (or heck, a linear line) on the whole data, you’d not notice any break around the privatization moment, it would just look like the variance of accidents getting smaller in quite undramatic fashion over the years. Also, if I recall my classes correctly, you break a regression model into two parts at almost any point, you probably would get a better overall fit.

      (edit. I don’t know what would be a more robust way to infer such changes when the change is not eye-catching. Maybe try to infer the breakpoints with the most explanation power from the data?)

      Britain’s trains are safer after privatization than before, but it’s rather not clear if it is caused by privatization. Presumably Britain’s trains would be getting even more safer after they were renationalized, too.

      Of course that still counts as a plus for privatization: it does not look like the privatization worsened the railway safety, statistically speaking, even if there was a famous cluster of big accidents post-privatization.

    • bean says:

      I suspect it’s just British Railfan Association lobbying. After all, if BR comes back, chaos and small buys of various train components will return. This is good if you’re a trainspotter.
      (Possibly influenced by one of my best British friends being really into trains.)

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      Some fares are regulated (including season tickets and off-peak journeys), so the increases are capped depending on inflation – although they use the higher RPI rather than CPI. Unregulated ones can be pretty wildly expensive – if I went to Euston now and got on the train to Manchester, it’d cost me £169. A coach would cost ~£20. And a return flight would cost £114 from Heathrow.

      The British rail system seems a bit like one of the awkward intermediate privatisations where instead of introducing the good aspects of markets, you fudge it and just get some crap bits. The infrastructure is still nationally owned (by Network Rail, which was re-nationalised after collapsing as RailTrack), and you get 1-2 companies bidding for control of ~7 year franchise to actually run the service.

      • dodrian says:

        It’s a very poor example of privatization. The companies don’t own any infrastructure (they pay Network Rail for its use), meaning they have little incentive to invest in it, nor any long term plans (all the track around Euston/King’s Cross is ancient and in dire need of replacing, but with companies facing the prospect of being kicked out a not far down the road there’s no way they’d be willing to allow the multi-year disruptions that replacing it would cost).

        The companies don’t even own the trains – those are rented too. In practice, the need for different classes of trains on different lines means that there’s not even any competition between the companies that rent out the trains.

        And of course the rail company still often has a monopoly over the region they operate in – the poor Southern travelers don’t have any rail-based alternatives to avoid the recent disruption.

        The most interesting example to study would be the London-Birmingham route. There are three different companies (Virgin, Midland and Chiltern) that offer services over two separate lines (Euston-New Street, Marylebone-Moor Street), my personal experience is you can get quite good prices on this route. Has privatization helped there?

      • Rosemary7391 says:

        I often wonder how anyone expected competition to happen. If I want to go between A and B, I have little to no choice about which company to use. If I care about what time I get there or not taking a ridiculous route, then there is no choice unless A and B are pretty close mainline stations. I just have to put up with the service and price offered by the train company running that route, or take something totally different. Sometimes that service is shockingly bad, other times it’s inexplicably both quite good and inexpensive if advance booked (I liked East Coast, but I don’t live on their route anymore).

        How do privatized railways work elsewhere?

        • AnonYEmous says:

          While there isn’t direct train competition, there is competition in the form of driving, walking, biking, or just going somewhere different entirely. (And very occasionally flying)

          • Rosemary7391 says:

            Those are all materially very different though! You can’t walk or cycle from Glasgow to London. I don’t drive, buses make me sick and both take significantly longer. You can’t take the same luggage on planes. Just going somewhere different entirely really isn’t comparable – I don’t take the train for the fun of a train journey, it’s because I’m at A and want to be at B. It’s not much competition for any sort of train to be better than those options. It sets the bar far too low, hence things like Southern Rail happen – those folk have no other realistic option.

          • bysstah rhymes says:

            Rosemary7391 says:

            Those are all materially very different though! You can’t walk or cycle from Glasgow to London. I don’t drive, buses make me sick and both take significantly longer. You can’t take the same luggage on planes. Just going somewhere different entirely really isn’t comparable – I don’t take the train for the fun of a train journey, it’s because I’m at A and want to be at B. It’s not much competition for any sort of train to be better than those options. It sets the bar far too low, hence things like Southern Rail happen – those folk have no other realistic option.

            This is how most competition works, most people wont bother going to the second supermarket down the road, or cant because they are old and cant walk that far. The competition is always driven by the people who can choose, and the people who cant still get to enjoy the benefits of a free market.

            There are alot of people who can choose between renting a car and taking the trains.

            But the free-market could be upset by alot of other things.

        • shakeddown says:

          My area has some public transit competition – if I want to go to Boston I can take megabus, Greyhound, or Peter Pan (or spend 4-5 times as much on an amtrak ticket).

          The results are terrible – the three bus lines have basically the same times (they’re off by half an hour or so from each other, but none of them give me any option except “leave in the morning, come back the following afternoon”), except they each have some days they don’t run on. Service quality is terrible – the only way to figure out who goes when is to go on all three (terribly built) websites, and figure out who has what timetable. They also have a habit of occasionally leaving early and leaving you stranded (it’s in the fine print that you should arrive twenty minutes early).

          This isn’t exactly a universal problem – I’ve had an okay experience with greyhound on other lines – but it does suggest that competition between private companies isn’t a panacea.

        • Tarpitz says:

          The first time I accidentally found myself on a Grand Central train, I was like, “What is this, The Last Battle? Am I actually dead? I have payed the usual price but have tons of leg room, board games built into the tables and an excellent beer selection at reasonable prices.”

          Actually, the whole Trump thing is a bit Last Battleish too. Have I been dead since 2013?

  16. Daniel Frank says:

    Re: Marine Le Pen support – I suspect it’s because the older French generation knows her father, while the younger does not.

    (Which means her policies are likely much more popular than is currently believed.)

    • Sandy says:

      Some group recently conducted a sort of experiment where they recreated the presidential debates with a woman playing Trump and a man playing Clinton, using the same lines and behavior as the originals. Observers really liked the female Trump, and felt that the male Hillary was dull and unmemorable. Obviously this sort of experiment has a lot of methodological problems, but it fits with the feeling that I have (and others like Ross Douthat as well) that Trumpian policies are more popular than Trump himself. There might be a similar effect at work for the Le Pen family. It’s not so much that Marine’s policies are unpopular, it’s more that the name “Le Pen” carries baggage in respectable society.

  17. Kaj Sotala says:

    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.

    “Achieved transfer learning” makes it sound like it’s an atomic milestone, but there’s been plenty of results on transfer learning before, and even more impressive results on it are no doubt yet to come. Compare “Western society has achieved medicine”, “the US has achieved education”, or even “frogs have achieved vision“.

  18. Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

    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.

    It doesn’t. I’m not sure how it came to be that there’s a cultural divide about it in America, maybe it’s the “Blues love everything Europe and vice-versa” thing?

    • leoboiko says:

      I’m skirting close to a veto Scott once put on me about discussing this topic here, so I hope it’s OK, but I’d just like to politely remind people that acquired tastes exist. Some things are very easy to like (sugared drinks, pop songs, salty fried food,). Some things take time getting used to before you can dig them (bitter drinks, avant-garde jazz, vegetables). Often, people who have taken the time to get used to the latter find them to be hedonistically more rewarding than the former. People who don’t have a (pardon my French) “taste growth mindset” just try the latter once, find it grossly bitter/boring/bland, and conclude the other people are snobs who must be pretending. I’ve successfully hacked my children into liking vegetables, bitter tea, Japanese food etc. by demonstrating to them that taste is malleable (“oh, so you don’t like this yet? That’s OK, we’ll try again later.” then later when they like it “remember you used to hate this?”)

      (Aside—I dislike “signaling” arguments a lot; they seem to me to be just a particularly unfalsifiable form of argument from intention. Anyone who does anything at all can be accused of merely trying to signal something or other subconsciously.)

      With steak, there’s the further complication that rare steak is trickier to get right; the cooking process for well-done is “just scorch it”, but in the case of rare, if your technique is off, it will get chewy, with an unpleasant aroma. I also suspect rare will be more affected by the general awfulness of grain beef, in the same way that e.g. unsweetened coffee is more sensitive to flawed coffeemaking (my country uses grass-fed, so I can’t compare them directly).

      • gbdub says:

        The grass/grain finished beef divide is overblown in my opinion. The health differences (other than total fat content) are marginal at best, and grass-finished typically has less marbling so it’s easy to get a dry steak if you’re not gentle with it.

        To the extent there’s a taste difference, the “gamey” quality of grass-finished beef is itself an acquired taste, and in fact can actually be an off flavor (some of the fats in grass-finished are more volatile, so they can overage and get rancid more quickly).

        Then again I might also be biased since most beef, even some of very high quality, in the USA is corn-finished.

        I’ve been to Australia where everything was grass-fisinished and honestly failed to find a good steak (had an excellent kangaroo curry though). The very highest quality grass-finished beef might be better than the best corn-finished, but for “supermarket cuts” corn is probably tastier.

        • roystgnr says:

          IIRC there was a surprising difference in the Omega-3/Omega-6 ratio found in meat (fat) from grass-finished vs grain-finished beef, even with cattle that had been solely grass-fed for the majority of their lives.

          I stopped looking into this after discovering that the health differences were outweighed by the price differences; if there’s also a taste difference I never investigated far enough to find out.

          • gbdub says:

            Right, there’s a big difference in fat type distribution, but the actual health effects of the omega-3/omega-6 ratio are overhyped.

            And I think it’s the omega-3s in grass-finished that are the volatile ones.

          • Ketil says:

            Why was this surprising? Here, at least, cattle is fed largely on soy, which is extreme in Omega-6 fatty acids. Not sure what constitutes grass, but many plants and herbs have way more Omega-3 than soy.

        • Mary says:

          I had grass-fed beef once.

          It was somewhere between “Eh” and “Eww.”

          As in, I had bought enough for two meals. I did eat the second batch, but only because I reminded myself that otherwise I would have to buy something else to eat.

      • Deiseach says:

        the cooking process for well-done is “just scorch it”

        No no no, what kind of barbarians are you lot? Heat the pan hot to sear and seal in the juices first (yeah, I know this has been debunked, but the caramelisation of the outside provides the taste), then turn the heat down a little and let the meat do on one side for however long you like (five minutes or so, depending on thickness), turn over, do the same on the other side. Plate it and let it rest in the warm (not too hot) oven while you fry sliced onions in the fat/juices in the pan to accompany it, make the gravy, serve, and enjoy!

        If it’s burning, you are DOING IT WRONG. BBC cookery site:

        Our cookery team have outlined what you can expect from each category of steak.
        – Blue: Should still be a dark colour, almost purple, and just warm. It will feel spongy with no resistance.
        – Rare: Dark red in colour with some juice flowing. It will feel soft and spongy with slight resistance.
        – Medium-rare: A more pink colour with a little pink juice flowing. It will be a bit soft and spongy and slightly springy.
        – Medium: Pale pink in the middle with hardly any juice flowing. It will feel firm and springy.
        – Well-done: Only a trace of pink colour but not dry. It will feel spongy and soft and slightly springy.

        Indeed, depending on thickness, if it’s a very thick piece of meat then you’re probably best to pan-sear it first then let it finish cooking in the oven, which lets the fat of the meat melt and make it even tastier.

        I acknowledge the point about developing your tastes and learning to like food you thought you never would, but on the other hand, sometimes you will never like something no matter how often you try it. I’ve had that problem with quinoa (tried it several times in several methods, wanted to like it, no go) and I have that problem with rare steak.

        • gbdub says:

          I worked at an upscale restaurant, and honestly it wasn’t speed per se, as much as all the entrees on the menu were optimized to take about the same amount of time to prepare. A well-done but not burnt steak takes way longer than say a salmon filet.

          We had a filet minon on the menu that was a particular problem when guests wanted it well done. It’s literally a 3 inch thick hunk of meat, and very lean. I’m not a huge fan of filet as a steak anyway, kind of tasteless to me, but it’s especially bland when overcooked.

          Anyway if a guest wanted it anything more than medium we would recommend “butterflying” it (slicing it horizonatally almost all the way through so you could open it like a book and lay it flat on the grill). That way we could grill cook it in a reasonable time without burning it.

          I had one guest who wanted it well done but refused to let us butterfly it and it ruined the whole dinner – chef had to sear it and finish in the oven, but at that point it’s basically a small roast and it literally took half an hour to cook. I explicitly warned the guest about this, but of course it didn’t stop them from complaining about the horrible service to the manager when their meal took exactly as long as I told them it would.

          EDIT: this was meant to reply to your next post down.

          • baconbacon says:

            I have heard a fair number of accounts of lower end restaurants keeping over cooked steaks (sent back by the customer with a corner cut off) in the fridge until someone ordered a well done one, or just having some well done ones pre cooked and reheated.

          • Deiseach says:

            Oh, I do see the problem there and yes, three inch thick is going to take time to cook like you said, so ordering it well-done and expecting it (a) fast (b) not burned is expecting too much. I would definitely cook a steak that thick in the oven with plenty of oil or fat. Your customer should either have decided to have it medium-rare or ask for a different cut of meat, or pick something else.

            I do sympathise, but I stick with my point: if it’s not a case of someone not knowing what the food will turn out to be (as with your customer to whom you explained it would take longer), then cook it as they ask! 🙂

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Here’s the personal data point:

        I like my steak medium rare, but I haven’t explored a lot.

        I think rare roast beef is nasty. There’s a better texture if it’s cooked through.

        I like brisket cooked according to the traditions of my people. That is to say, cooked through with ketchup and onions. I expect it was roasted (I could find out) because it didn’t have a pot roast texture. I have no idea how they did it in eastern Europe, but I bet they didn’t have ketchup.

        I like corned beef. I don’t like pastrami.

        I like steak tartare.

        I hate steak-shaming.

        I’m a bluish libertarian.

        • LHN says:

          I like corned beef in the New York style, which extends as far west as the Detroit area. (Zingerman’s Delicatessen is the last homely house east of the mountains and west of the sea.[1])

          But much though I love Chicago, it does corned beef Wrong. At length, I’ve discovered that pastrami is a better choice here.

          [1] For all I know it’s been transplanted to California by expats, but I haven’t spent enough time there to know.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve seen corned beef in supermarkets in California, but I’ve only seen it in the wild once or twice, and that usually on St. Patrick’s Day.

      • johnsonmx says:

        I wonder if the pattern with the steaks falls along the “liberals have a weaker disgust response than conservatives” axis.

        • Nornagest says:

          Counterexample: pork rinds.

        • quanta413 says:

          What foods people even think of as disgusting is way too culturally influenced for this theory to make any sense.

          Just to add the pork rinds comment: chitlins, headcheese, etc. are southern and probably more likely to be eaten by conservatives due to the south being more conservative. Similarly, liver and onions and a lot of other organ meats are found repulsive by most younger americans, but some older americans still like them (of course, some other cultural groups also find organ meat delicious but I don’t think they map to the liberal/conservative divide). Also, you can eat roadkill in some states! But I’m pretty sure most straw arugula eaters probably wouldn’t find that appealing.

          • johnsonmx says:

            Areas and eras where the (conservative) disgust reflex makes the most adaptive sense would be areas & eras where you could catch something nasty from eating or touching disgusting things.

            In such areas, cooking meat thoroughly would be adaptive, and an expression of this reflex.

            Hypothesis: conservatives will tend to prefer their meat at least slightly more cooked than liberals, because conservatives experience a stronger disgust reaction to foods more likely to contain parasites etc.

          • Deiseach says:

            Similarly, liver and onions and a lot of other organ meats are found repulsive by most younger americans, but some older americans still like them

            To quote “The Screwtape Letters”:

            You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favour of the “best” people, the “right” food, the “important” books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions.

            As for your straw arugula eaters, I do think that a lot of this is food faddiness: I still haven’t forgotten a few years back when black pudding became trendy and ended up served in all the aspiring restaurants with new twists on it. Call “road kill” by a French or even more exotic name* and throw some açaí/pomegranate/jicama/whatever is this season’s up-to-date fruit dressing on it, serve it in an upscale restaurant fronted by an achingly hip chef, and they’ll ooh and ahh over it 🙂

            *Oh, I know! Ethical omnivorism! You’re not killing the animal yourself or raising it to be killed, you’re respectfully disposing of the corpse already slain (throw in some Buddhist quotes, bits about animist hunters praying to the animal spirits before going on a hunt to let them use their flesh, an off-hand reference to the Eucharist in Christianity, etc.)

          • quanta413 says:

            *Oh, I know! Ethical omnivorism! You’re not killing the animal yourself or raising it to be killed, you’re respectfully disposing of the corpse already slain (throw in some Buddhist quotes, bits about animist hunters praying to the animal spirits before going on a hunt to let them use their flesh, an off-hand reference to the Eucharist in Christianity, etc.)

            Truly, you have an untapped talent for marketing. You’d just have to write less acerbicly (although that’s my favorite part of your writing!) and you could be a trendsetter.

      • Quixote says:

        I’m really curios how the topic “acquired tastes exist” is near veto worthy. This seems self evident to me.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          I feel like the actual ban relates to something in the broad penumbra of acquired tastes, but of course I can’t really know.

          Obviously, it’s hard to tell how much bad stuff topic bans keep off these threads, but the main was I encounter them is in posts rendered confusing by their need to skirt a ban.

    • gbdub says:

      I don’t know about class either, but I grew up eating well-ish done steaks (preference of my mom at the time, I think mostly for her it was an aversion to “bloody” meat) and medium rare really is much better. (I wonder if it’s an age effect as much as class?)

      It’s mostly a texture thing, lean cuts of steak get super dry and tough when cooked well done. The other issue is that the methods optimized for cooking steaks medium rare at steakhouses (basically super-high heat to sear the outside before the inside cooks) are going to leave a well-done steak basically burnt.

      On the other hand some people seem to think “rarer is always better”, often involving some masculine posturing (regardless of class). But all but the tenderest cuts can be unpleasantly chewy if undercooked. Generally at a good steakhouse I’ll just ask “what does the chef recommend for that cut?” and it’s hard to go wrong.

      Another thing: stop being afraid of saucing your steak. Yeah don’t put Heinz ketchup on it, but e.g. steak au poive is a delight. This is where I depart with Texans on barbecue. The meat should be good enough to eat plain, and you shouldn’t drown it in sauce, but a good barbecue sauce on well-smoked meat is one of life’s true pleasures.

      I’m just glad the USDA stopped requiring pork to be well done. A dried up overdone pork chop is a travesty and I hope the pig haunts you for desecrating its corpse.

      • Deiseach says:

        The other issue is that the methods optimized for cooking steaks medium rare at steakhouses (basically super-high heat to sear the outside before the inside cooks) are going to leave a well-done steak basically burnt.

        I honestly think that’s behind so much of the “properly cooked meat is still pink in the middle and oozing juices”: restaurants want to get as much food cooked and served as fast as possible to get the highest volume of customers in and out, so they need to cook food fast – and long-cooking things like steak means (a) taking up time in the kitchen (b) hungry people waiting longer and probably getting unhappy.

        Fast cooking methods and using the chef/restaurateur prestige to convince the public that “we cook it like this because it’s the proper way they all eat it in France, you peasant”, means you overcome that problem 🙂

        And possibly it has to do with the thickness of the meat, as well; a thick piece of steak well-done certainly runs the risk of being burned on the outside, while a thin piece will be rock-hard if you leave it too long. If you cook it to your own taste and carefully, you shouldn’t reduce any steak to shoe leather.

        • Nyx says:

          I’ve heard the contrary, though, that when someone orders well-done that’s basically a blank check for the chef to leave the steak on the grill and forget about it. It requires more attention to cook a steak medium rare, and that’s what’s in short supply in a kitchen.

        • Autolykos says:

          The way I learned it, the longer you fry the meat, the harder it gets to tell its quality. So if you order it well-done, you’re effectively telling the chef “give me the oldest, chewiest thing you can find at the bottom of the fridge”. If you really want it well-done, order it medium-rare and complain that you want it fried for a little longer.
          And I also think it’s a bit of an acquired taste. As a child (or even teenager) I preferred it well-done. Now I’m closer to “take it, kill it, and bring it right here”. At least for beef.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Seconded on the age thing. As a child, I found the idea of eating bloody meat repulsive. Now, I think the trouble with rare steak is that it’s a waste of a good tartare.

            This may make evolutionary sense: food poisoning is a severe, sometimes lethal problem for small children, but a minor inconvenience for healthy adults.

      • John Schilling says:

        I honestly think that’s behind so much of the “properly cooked meat is still pink in the middle and oozing juices”: restaurants want to get as much food cooked and served as fast as possible to get the highest volume of customers in and out, so they need to cook food fast

        I don’t think I ever ordered a steak in Ireland, or anywhere in the British Isles for that matter, so I’ll defer to you on custom there. Here in the United States, pretty much every place I ever order a steak, asks me how I want it cooked without offering an opinion of their own. And, yes, I prefer medium rare. Well done (by American standards) makes it just an overpriced substrate for steak sauce, in which case I’d rather have a hamburger.

        In France, I was also asked how I wanted my steaks cooked, but forgot to apply the conversion factor for French vs. American well-doneness.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          This isn’t about restaurants having opinions about how you should have your steak. The staff might have opinions, but they aren’t going to tell you. (There was some restaurant where part of the charm was being insulted by the waiter, but this isn’t typical *and* you aren’t going to get an honest opinion there either.)

          This is about various people online who are steak-shaming.

          A thing I also posted to facebook:

          “Sometimes I like to think about an unfortunate writer– they don’t have any ideas, but they do need to get a column written. The easiest topic is complaining about other people getting something wrong.

          Pitying the writer is much easier on my nerves than getting angry at them.

          This line of thought was inspired what was possibly the stupidest article I’ve seen– someone claimed women wouldn’t vote for Obama because they were jealous of him for being thin.

          Admittedly, identifying the stupidest article involves a vague standard and a lot of competition. I think the women-won’t-vote-for-Obama one gets points for creativity. The author didn’t just repeat stupid things other people said, they invented new stupidity of their own. At the same time this wasn’t timecube craziness, it was drab stupidity.

          Anyone else care to describe the dumbest thing you’ve seen online? Link if you like, but I’m more interested in why you chose the thing you did.”

          • random832 says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            This is about various people online who are steak-shaming.

            I think the steak-shaming comes from a somewhat unique combination of demographics – rare steak is associated weakly with upper-class liberals, but is also associated strongly with Texas (inflating the “republicans prefer rare”), and well-done steak is somewhat associated with African-Americans (inflating “democrats prefer well done”), which lets one get numbers like “more Republicans than Democrats prefer steak rare” to paint Trump’s well-done steaks as a betrayal of the red tribe, while also being something that the (upper class liberal) author disagrees with on a personal level – which gives the story legs that it wouldn’t have if it were transparently straight-up “blue shames red for red tastes”

        • skef says:

          Here in the United States, pretty much every place I ever order a steak, asks me how I want it cooked without offering an opinion of their own.

          I think this is sort of true, but overstates the extent to which the various designations are objective. It seems more like what “medium rare” means in practice is “how the chef thinks it should be cooked”, and the other designations are treated relative to that. (This is assuming you’re at a place where the chef is capable and attentive enough to cook the meat a particular way.)

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This is where I depart with Texans on barbecue. The meat should be good enough to eat plain, and you shouldn’t drown it in sauce, but a good barbecue sauce on well-smoked meat is one of life’s true pleasures.

        As a native Texan, I can safely say that this attitude would still place you comfortably within “Texan in good standing” range. Particularly since you qualified with “good enough to eat plain”.

        • gbdub says:

          I guess I’ve just run into a fair number of un-sauced purists. Maybe it’s Texas transplants having to signal outside their native land 😉

          I probably will upset you when I say that brisket is one of my least favorite barbecued meats (still very good, but I prefer pulled pork and ribs of all sorts). One thing Texas does brilliantly though is beef ribs, which are magically delicious and have the added benefit of making you feel like Fred Flintstone. For whatever reason I’ve never been able to find a good beef rib outside Texas (and southern Oklahoma, though that experience was helped by us stumbling into a local joint on all-you-can-eat rib night and being served by a very cute brunette).

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It is indeed a shame that you dislike brisket; I agree that that’s a Texas specialty among the beef cuts. Although it’s very possible that you’ve never had a good batch of it, even in Texas. Brisket is one of the toughest, driest cuts; proper cooking requires hours of smoking, and a fair bit of care. So, Famous Dave’s is famously disappointing. Mission BBQ actually does decently well at it. Rudy Mikeska’s out of Taylor, TX has some of the most consistently good brisket catering I’ve tasted.

            Meanwhile, I’m not much of a rib fan, so there you go.

            Pulled pork is a different specialty altogether, and I trust the crews in Memphis and the pig belt in NC over even the able-bodied outfits in TX.

          • bbeck310 says:

            Your best bet for a decent beef rib outside of Texas is a kosher barbecue restaurant (or halal, I suppose, but I’ve never heard of a restaurant that tried to do American-style barbecue with halal meat). I asked a local butcher about this in Chicago, and was told that outside the kosher/halal stores, beef ribs usually are not worth it; you get a better price selling bone-in ribeye steaks. So, when I wanted to smoke beef ribs, I went to the halal butcher shop instead.

          • gbdub says:

            To be clear, I don’t dislike brisket, but like you said it’s harder to find a good batch. Even at good places it seems like it’s much less consistent than the other meats. Hell I’ve had plates where one slice is fantastic and moist, the next is chalky and dry, and the third is juicy but only because it’s mostly melted fat.

            Anyway my opinion is that it’s low on my list of barbecued meat, but all barbecued meat is pretty high on my list of tasty food.

            Thanks for the suggestions on beef ribs. I have a backyard smoker now so I’ll have to track some down. I did try to make them once and I recall the main issue being the super-thick inner membrane that’s a pain in the butt to remove but inedible if you don’t.

    • RDNinja says:

      My first thought is that it’s a class thing, rooted in the use of ground beef.

      Growing up lower-middle class, I don’t think I ate a steak (that wasn’t chicken-friend) until I was a teenager. But we used cheap ground beef all the time, which you have to cook all the way through. I know for a fact that’s why I eat steaks more well done, because of the aversion to pink when cooking ground meat.

      • yodelyak says:

        Yep. Seconded @rdninja… For atleast some people, a consistent unreflective preference for “well done” steak is about what happens when you take attitudes toward beef that you learn from cooking ground beef to an uninformed consumer purchase of non-ground meat.

        From a young age–maybe eight or ten or so–I helped cook ground beef (and ground chicken, which was often our cheaper substitute) for my mother’s cooking for many years. I was taught that even a smidge of remaining pink was a risk of illness for everyone who ate what I cooked, and so unsurprisingly I developed a pretty clear aversion to pink meat. In restaurants as a child and a young teenager, if I ordered anything that came with a need to specify “medium” or “medium-rare” or etc., it would be the chicken-fried-steak, and feel I’d had a treat. I would always order it “well” if anyone asked (I don’t think restaurants even consistently ask on this point, maybe because if you’re in a Village Inn and you’re buying a chicken-fried steak, the help staff may not have had all that much training, and they might not be too far wrong if they infer you don’t know what you want anyway.) And sometimes the steak would be so badly overcooked that its texture would more resemble biscotti than meat, but I would excitedly relish it as a delivery vehicle for the thick white gravy it was slathered with and can specifically recall eating even the “crunchy” bits, although I didn’t exactly enjoy it.

        I also noticed that a lot of teenage and adult men seemed to like their meat “rare” or etc., as a signal of their manliness. I took this for a way to signal health by engaging in unhealthful behavior, a kind of signalling to which I’m generally morally opposed (or like to advertise I am?) so that was another strike against red or pink meat. I can recall once joking (as a high school senior I think, but anyway in high school) about how ovens, like plates and knives, are for sissified men who don’t know true manliness is a raw steak off the floor.

        At some point in my late teens my mother mentioned to me that ground beef includes small amounts of skin, which in turn may have rolled around in or otherwise been exposed to cow feces, which means you have to cook it thoroughly or you’re risking making everyone who eats it very sick, because e.coli of the kind that kills people is usually from contamination with cow poop. She then went on to distinguish this risk for ground beef from the risks of steak, which is generally cow skin-free and hence e.coli-free. In my own head, I further went on to simply ask if I’d ever tried eating slabs of beef prepared some other way than “well” and to ask if I liked that better… and I realized I had, and did.

        Once I was thinking about it, I realized my mother’s corned beef >>> my local Village Inn’s treatment of “well”. And I started experimenting, and found that I tend to like my cow parts the best if I get help ordering it from someone who knows more than me, which I take as evidence that it depends on a lot of things, including the cut of the beef and the amount of cook time available, which I think makes wintermute92’s comment make that much more sense. But I still do really love the white gravy…

        I also note that my mother it turned out knew much or all of this all along, but was playing nice with my father, who always but always ordered his steak with a variant on the phrase “Well done please, kill it dead.” He was a rocket scientist, but came from deep-red Christian roots, so there may be a fair amount of willful ignorance = salt-of-the-earth type of signaling going on there. Then again, he also had really remarkably weird food preferences, including an aversion to almost all fish (even moderately “fishy” fish like salmon could make him vomit) but a raw delight in the frozen haddock and pollack in “fish sticks” you get in the freezer section.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Ground beef – preferably, ground to order – from a good butcher doesn’t have to be cooked well-done. I wouldn’t cook it medium rare, but medium is fine.

        Chicken always should be well-done, though.

        • Spookykou says:

          Ground beef – preferably, ground to order – from a good butcher

          I have never spoken to a butcher or gotten meat ‘to order’ in my life and I grew up on hamburger helper. I think the ‘class’ hypothesis is getting stronger in my mind.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s definitely a class thing, although quality ground beef is cheaper than mediocre steak.

        • baconbacon says:

          If you want a medium rare hamburger at home buy a roast, brown the outside, and run it through your own meat grinder (stand mixer attachment) just before you cook the burger.

        • gbdub says:

          The explanation I always heard was that cuts of meat, if contaminated at all, will have bacteria on the surface – short of rotted meat, the bacteria won’t really penetrate. So a quick sear is all you really need to kill off the vast majority of the surface bacteria.

          Ground beef, on the other hand, mixes up the outside and inside of larger cuts (plus you usually shape it before cooking), so it’s more likely to have interior bacteria.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Yes, this is what I’ve also heard, instead of yodelyak’s “cow skin and poop” explanation.

            I prefer full / at most slightly medium-ish full (and certainly not bloody, it makes me want to vomit), but I never got it right when I tried making it myself, which is very expensive way to make a food you don’t like, and I don’t have the cash to go the fancy restaurants, so in practice I don’t eat steak.

            I suppose it’s a class signal. In addition to ordering my steaks the wrong way, I’ve been informed at various different times I’ve had either wrong kind of haircut, wrong kind of scarf (or rather, doing it wrong way by not having a scarf), wrong kind of shirt (multiple times), shirts ironed the wrong way, wrong kind of shoes, wrong way of using the Western utensils (first too loud, then too obviously avoiding to make noise), wrong way of using chopsticks (in not knowing how to use them), in general totally wrong food preferences, ranging from fast food (I have deduced that the approved fast food is random n-Asian variety, more obscure the better, especially if you can tell stories how it’s really done in some random n-Asian country), fine dining (…I won’t even start there) and home cooking (hello again the well-done steak; “what, you don’t drink wines? so you are a beer person, there is this new craft beer I tried… “), or wrong kind of socks.

            I have stopped trying, or rather, I insist in “not caring anymore” out of spite. Fuck you and fuck your caste system, it does not even come with publicly available manpages, and the only common theme I’ve been capable to infer is that if you have not grown up with it, it’s freakishly expensive and no matter what you do, other better people will find some low-class signal they can sneer at. I know it’s a bit childish attitude, but there’s only a limited number of ways to react to being constantly reminded how inferior your tastes — the things you like because you like them — are.

            (also, from N-European supposedly “egalitarian” country)

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            I suppose it’s a class signal. …

            Regarding this part of the comment above, I apologize for commenting while too angry to think clearly. (More frustration than factual content.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think you know the wrong people.

            Seriously, I don’t know whether I do excellent middle class (or slightly upper middle class) signallng while not actually following a bunch of the rules, or if I know a bunch of much less aggressive people, or what. Maybe it’s luck, maybe it’s subculture.

            Editted to add: That may have been too harsh, but who *are* these people telling you you’re doing things wrong?

      • hls2003 says:

        I think you’ve hit on the right mechanism, but possibly deduced the wrong result. At least from my experience.

        My family didn’t have a lot of money, and the cuts of beef we usually got were very cheap. Also, my mother was busy and didn’t have time to lovingly eyeball each piece of beef’s level of done-ness. When cooked too long – which happened often due to aforementioned – they became very dry, as cheap pieces of beef are wont to do. So you always wanted to look for the ones with some pink, as a way to preserve some moisture. Less done = more juicy. The chewy texture of less-done cheap meat was preferable to the less chewy but much drier texture of well-done cheap meat.

        That same instinct transferred to high-quality cuts. I still prefer my filet mignon or NY strip rare, even though I have tried well-done steak and it is still quite juicy. I think it is a leftover preference for the chewier, juicier texture of my youth.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I really don’t get Steakghazi.

      My family always ate their meat well-done, so I grew up on it. But rare steak is just so much tastier: it’s juicy, and the juice is the best tasting part.

      At the same time, when I’m cooking for other people I’m not going to slam their meat preferences or refuse to burn their food if they want it that way. I don’t have to taste the food other people eat so if they want it cooked in a way I don’t like that’s fine. Who has the time and energy to care about things like that?

    • wintermute92 says:

      The cultural divide is largely proxy-economic, I think.

      Simply: the ‘right’ amount to cook beef is entirely a function of what cut you’re cooking. High-fat cuts get slow-cooked to dissolve fat (special stuff like Wagyu aside), tough cuts get well cooked (slow or not) to break the meat down into something chewable, and lean/tender cuts get cooked minimally to not damage flavor and texture.

      So… who eats what beef? The richer you are, the more room you have to eat expensive steak cuts like porterhouse. Those are tasty when cooked rare. (Flatirons and other modern-popularity cuts are tougher, but still workable medium-rare.) As you get poorer, you generally move into less tender cuts or frozen steaks. They’re tougher and less flavorful, so you cook them medium or better and often add sauce (rich people eating dry-aged steak don’t use A1).

      Broadly, I think people on the American left (i.e. people in cities) are less likely to eat a big plate of steak, and probably substitute it out completely when they can’t afford good steak. The rural right has steak in a much larger cultural role, so you eat it even if you can’t get really good steak, so you have to cook it more. My rural family eats well-done steaks, my urban-elite friends eat steak tartare and rare cuts.

      That doesn’t explain Trump, but I suspect the cultural status now steamrolls personal preference and individual wealth.

      • Quixote says:

        I think this basically nails the relationship between meat quality and ideal doneness. And of course better stuff is usually more expensive (barring weird stuff like finding super delicious legacy breeds for very cheap in lesser develop countries)

    • Jordan D. says:

      I’m kind of amazed at the variety of opinions wrt steak in this thread here. I’m not a connoisseur (I prefer fish for expensive dishes), but I’ve had enough steak of various cuts and cooks to think that the common wisdom is broadly correct: well-done steak has less flavor and a worse texture. That’s fine if you’re just catching a meal and don’t care much about it, but it seems like a waste if you’re ordering a 20-30 dollar cut.

      As for steak sauce, my real complaint would be that it drowns out the actual flavor of the meat pretty thoroughly, so again it seems like it should be avoided if you’re paying enough to care about the steak itself. But rubs and sweet glazes, I think are an excellent idea.

      All of that aside, the best ways to do beef are briskets and london broil anyway, so it doesn’t seem super worth fighting about.

    • shakeddown says:

      I’m going to disagree here. I was scared of trying anything above medium in steak for years, and when I finally tried steak medium-well it was great.

    • eqdw says:

      I grew up thinking that I liked rare steak, because everyone in my family likes rare steak, and will complain super hard if steaks are overcooked.

      I’ve since discovered that, while Im not going full on well-done, I prefer something solidly medium more than something rarer.

      I consider this to be (incredibly) weak positive evidence for the “preference falsification” hypothesis

  19. Steve Sailer says:

    Steak is really pretty bad, other than as evidence of how rich you are. Most other cultures prefer small chunks of meat. The British liked thin-cut roast beef (e.g., the Beefeaters of the Tower of London) to show how prosperous they were. Americans had to top that with thick slabs of steak.

    I can recall explaining to a date in 1981 this entire theory about why cheap Asian food was better than expensive American steaks. But, now that I think about, she didn’t seem that tangibly impressed by my reasoning.

    Maybe I should have taken her to a steak place.

    • cheap Asian food probably tastes good because there is a lot of flavor

      • onyomi says:

        The issue with steak is that good quality (expensive) meat tastes best rare-to-medium rare and without a bunch of extra seasoning and sauces (personally I prefer just cooked in butter with some kosher salt crusting on the outside; a little coarse pepper is fine).

        But cheap steak is inedible rare because it’s too sinewy. It needs to be thoroughly cooked and would really taste better in some kind of stew, chili, or other matrix of slow cooking and spices. It is therefore unsurprising that lower-income people would prefer steak well-done: because the steak they can afford is inedible rare.

        It also makes sense, then, that upper middle class culture would tell you that only uncultured rubes eat steak well-done. Because upper middle class people can afford the kind of steak which is basically ruined/wasted by very thorough cooking.

        As for Asian food, the meat is typically a flavoring for the rice or noodle, and is thinly sliced/chopped to cook quickly and be eatable with chopsticks. As a result, few Asian places understand how to do American-style steak well (the very idea that just a big chunk of meat without a lot of slicing and seasoning could be an upscale meal is somewhat foreign, besides being unaffordable).

        Every time I tried a steak in Taiwan or China, for example, it was very thinly pounded, well-done, and served with a heavy sauce of some kind. But, then, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to eat the meat they were using rare.

        Upscale Japanese tend to focus more on the quality of the meat (e. g. Kobe beef), though even that I’ve only eaten in thin strips (yakiniku), not as a steak in the American style (though “Kobe beef burgers” etc. seem now to be a popular menu item all over).

    • Silverlock says:

      “Steak is really pretty bad . . .” — Sacrilege! A good steak is one of life’s wonderful pleasures. As for the whole “medium-rare vs well-done” thing, I wonder how much of it comes down to generational factors. My mother always cooked steaks well-done because it was the only way to make steak (well, the steak her family could afford, anyway) edible when she was growing up, so it’s what she was used to.

      • gbdub says:

        I wonder about the generational aspect too. Trump is pretty old (and weren’t Leave voters generally skewed old too?)

        • JayT says:

          My parents are the same age as Trump, and they are both definitely in the well-done camp. I grew up on petrified pieces of meat, but as soon as I was on my own I would go rare with steaks and pork chops, and have never looked back.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      As someone who has always loved cheap asian food, and now lives in a place where it is ubiquitous, thick slabs of American steak (medium-rare, of course) are among the things I miss most.

      • caethan says:

        Apparently if you really like steak, Argentina is the place to be: http://idlewords.com/2006/04/argentina_on_two_steaks_a_day.htm

        • dodrian says:

          Oh yes!

          My family is from Texas, and I thought I knew good beef. As I was preparing to move to Argentina (from Britain) everyone told me how the steak there was something special. I always smiled and nodded politely. “I’m sure it’s good,” I thought to myself, “but I’m used to Texan steak houses.”

          It turned out that Argentine steak was on an entirely different plane of existence. To the point where now, when my friends praise the local brisket joint (it made Texas Monthly’s top 50 BBQ restaurants) I can only close my eyes and reminisce for my time lived in Buenos Aires.

          The pork there is crap though.

        • Steve Sailer says:

          One of the tastiest restaurants I’ve ever been to was an Argentinean steak house in Mexico City in 1974. But I made the mistake of assuming the superb food meant I could drink the water.

    • Mazirian says:

      Steak is really pretty bad, other than as evidence of how rich you are.

      Steve, I’m a big fan, but that’s simply crazy talk.

      • Protagoras says:

        I, on the other hand, am not a fan at all, but I agree completely with him on this issue. Steve clearly needs to brush up on his tribal signals, or his allies are going to exile him as a heretic any day now.

      • Spookykou says:

        I, on still another hand, have no idea who Steve is, and I think he is half right, Steak is over rated high status food but it’s hardly bad.

    • wintermute92 says:

      I think you’re wrong about steak (to whatever extent it’s possible to be ‘wrong’ about the quality of food). But, I agree that the American relationship to steak produces disgusting food constantly.

      Steak is very, very good when it’s done just right. But really great steak is very expensive to produce, and hard enough to cook right that it’s restaurant food. A $60 restaurant steak can be one of the tastiest foods there is for a lot of people. (So can a $20 home-cooked one, if you have a good butcher and know what you’re doing.)

      But steak also has a cultural role as “a classy all-American dinner”. Which means that there’s huge demand for providing the steakhouse experience in lower-middle-class priced chain restaurants. The results are terrible.

      Depending on your budget, there’s everything from Ponderosa Steakhouse to Outback Steakhouse, and they’re all bad. The entire system of cheap franchise steakhouses is an affront to good food – you can easily get a delicious meal for $8, but people choose $20 steak dinners instead. (This isn’t just a cultural or urban/rural thing: everything from a big-city Asian noodle place to a rural fried-chicken diner can give you an amazing meal for <$10.)

      I think this is symptomatic of America's larger love of shitty food with classy chain settings: Applebee's is crummy food at a high price, but it's reliably not-atrocious and looks nice for a sit-down dinner. Steak places just have it worse because their product is inherently pricy to do well, so they have to compromise quality even worse than other sit-down chains.

      Steak is great, but not for a cheap meal. For that, everything else beats "American food".

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s absolutely possible to get a good restaurant steak for twenty bucks — but you’ll never find one in a strip mall. Anywhere with clean tablecloths is somewhat suspect at that price, actually — you should be looking for plank siding and bare linoleum tables, the older and more smoke-stained the better. But chains are especially so.

        I think this is basically down to the franchise business model, which thrives on checklists and founders on anything requiring individual initiative. Some dishes, even entire cuisines, can be made well if not exceptionally so by following a checklist. Steak is not one of those dishes, and the cheaper the meat, the less forgiving it is.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Of the low-to-mid-priced steakhouse chains, I’ve found Sizzler to be the worst (never been to Ponderosa though), and Kentucky Texas Roadhouse the best. But some of this is location; these steakhouses are not as uniform as McDonalds (or Morton’s), and the King of Prussia, PA Lone Star was definitely better than the Allentown PA Lone Star.

        • quanta413 says:

          I haven’t been to Sizzler in a long time, but I always found the draw for me was the buffet. Corn fritters are great. Although, now that I’m older, I dunno if I would enjoy eating so many corn fritters as much.

      • BBA says:

        Side note: apparently TGI Fridays started out as an actual singles bar in New York, before becoming a watered-down national franchise approximating what it used to be. The founder of TGI Fridays, after he sold out, went on to start the high-end steakhouse chain Smith & Wollensky.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The founder of TGI Fridays, after he sold out, went on to start the high-end steakhouse chain Smith & Wollensky.

          Which he ALSO sold, except the NYC location which is owned by his current company “Quality Branded”. Man knows the restaurant business.

      • gbdub says:

        I’m mostly agree. I basically never order steak at restaurants unless it’s a good dedicated steakhouse. It’s pretty easy to make a better-than-$20-restaurant-steak at home, so what’s the point? Better to order a cheaper, tastier option that actually requires some effort to replicate.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Yes. For the price of a restaurant steak you can almost always spend less on a comparable or better piece of meat and cook it yourself. Steak isn’t very hard to cook.

          • JayT says:

            And it is especially easy to cook if you have a sous vide!

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JayT

            Do you need a fancy sous vide setup or will a vacuum sealer plus a pot of water (maybe a slow cooker) work?

          • Eric Rall says:

            It can be done with a vacuum sealer, a pot of water, and a good thermometer, but it’s a pain since you need to keep the water pretty close to the target temperature (130 F for a medium-rare steak) manually for at least an hour. A slow cooker on “keep warm” will give you a well-done steak, and a pot of water at a boil will be quite a bit past that.

          • JayT says:

            Just buy one of these:
            https://www.amazon.com/Anova-Culinary-Bluetooth-Precision-Cooker/dp/B00UKPBXM4/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1489201553&sr=1-2&keywords=anova

            You don’t really even need a vacuum sealer, you can just use Ziplocs, but vacuum sealer works better. I just use a large stockpot for things like steaks that don’t take much time, and I use a cooler when I’m doing cooks that take a long time, like say brisket which I’ll run for 36+ hours.

          • JayT says:

            If you don’t want to buy the machine, then I suggest putting your steak into a cooler and then heating some water up to the temperature you want on the stove top. Then you dump the water into the cooler, and it will stay close enough to that temperature for about a half hour, at which ooint you just switch it out. It’s a lot more work, and the machine only costs $130, so I would definitely suggest buying the machine.

    • alchemy29 says:

      other than as evidence of how rich you are

      Taste being being a matter of taste aside. I think this is crazy talk. I’ve gone to restaurants alone and ordered steak, and I make steak alone for myself once a month (because I’m cheap). My default is to make cheap Asian food and I’ve been told that I’m pretty good at it, but sometimes I just want a steak.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      @Steve Sailer:

      Steak is really pretty bad, other than as evidence of how rich you are.

      Agreed. Here’s the best way I know of to eat steak:
      (1) go to a really expensive steak restaurant and have them cook you a steak however they feel like making it (“medium rare” is fine). Eat half of that steak(meh), taking the other half home in a doggie bag to put in the fridge.
      (2) The next day, take your leftover steak and slice it thinly. Arrange the thin slices atop a slice of sourdough toast and broil to make it hot and crispy. Broil melted cheese on another slice of sourdough toast at the same time. Once the cheese is melty, bring the two halves together for a steak sandwich that tastes far better than the original meal due to extra Maillard reaction applied to more surface area. Yum!

  20. Steve Sailer says:

    “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.”

    In general, academic economists can learn a lot by asking business/corporate people why they do X instead of Y. People tend to have carefully considered opinions about why X will make them more money than Y will.

  21. Steve Sailer says:

    “preregistered experiments remove the ability of researchers to fiddle with techniques until they get the results they want.”

    But what if you are smarter after fiddling with the results than before?

  22. Steve Sailer says:

    If David Gelernter isn’t an intellectual, who is?

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    That link about marrying off Black September terrorists doesn’t generalize.
    http://www.npr.org/2016/02/02/465257993/who-are-americas-homegrown-terrorists

    “But of this three – we looked at 300 cases plus of Americans convicted since 9/11 of some kind of jihadi terrorism crime ranging from the relatively minor to the major, such as murder. And the profile we found was average age 29, a third married, a third kids, as educated as normal Americans, mental problems actually at a lower incidence than the general population. And so you’re looking at middle-class – these are not young hotheads of the popular imagination there. You’re looking at kind of middle-class, married, you know, late 20s. And in fact, when we came to that conclusion, we didn’t know that the San Bernardino attackers, one of them is 27, one is 28. They were married, they had a child. The male perpetrator had a job earning $70,000 a year. They were very much solidly part of the American middle class. “

    • RDNinja says:

      If I recall, they found the same sort of profile of kamikaze pilots in WWII. I think it takes a certain amount of middle class leisure to get wrapped up enough in an ideology to commit suicide attacks for it.

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Do the ingroup/outgroup genes being conserved imply group selection?

  25. 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.

      • doubleunplussed says:

        I think some anthropic reasoning is required. You have to talk about the probability of things conditioned on you being able to discover those things.

        So I think it’s fair to declare things “not luck” that, if you didn’t have them, would have precluded you discovering them. Or for things that merely affect your probability of finding out about them, it modulates the size of the luck component.

        So you’re not lucky that you’re not a rock, because finding out that you’re not a rock requires not being a rock.

        You are lucky you don’t have $GENETIC_DISORDER_WITH_ADULT_SYMPTOMS.

        But you’re not lucky that you don’t have for $GENETIC_DISORDER_THAT_KILLS_BABIES_WITH_CERTAINTY

        And you’re somewhat lucky that you don’t have $GENETIC_DISORDER_THAT_KILLS_BABIES_SOMETIMES

        • Salem says:

          You have to talk about the probability of things conditioned on you being able to discover those things.

          Your two uses of the word “you” here are different, if the second “you” encompasses the possibility that I am… not me!

          If we don’t assume an unchanging “I” that could have been poured into different vessels, then what does it mean to say that “I” could have been born a woman? Or do you bite the bullet and say that “I” could have been a bat?

          • suntzuanime says:

            You, or you not. There is no I.

          • Protagoras says:

            As a Lewisian, I think you could certainly have been a bat. What counterfactuals about you are possibly true is context dependent, and by and large just raising the question will generally be enough to establish that this is one of the contexts where “you could have been a bat” is true.

            Oh, and for the record, a non-bat is perfectly capable of knowing quite a bit about what it is like to be a bat. I’m with Dennett on that one; I actually think that’s one area where Lewis grants too much to the other side, and should have been more like Dennett (sure, Lewis also thinks Nagel’s argument doesn’t work, but he gives it more credit than it deserves).

      • Ketil says:

        Is your prior existence important for whether you consider yourself lucky or not? Wouldn’t it make sense to say, for instance, that it is lucky for you that your father won the lottery, even if it happened before you were born? You have what genes you have, and inasmuch as they are good genes which neither you nor anybody else worked for, it seems reasonable to attribute you having them to luck.

        You could argue that with different genes, there would be no “you”, only somebody else in your stead. The counterargument is that you are shaped by the environment as well – so in a strict sense, you (precisely) wouldn’t exist unless the world is exactly as it is.

        • I again argue that the response to all of this is that we are predicating desert not with regard to the disembodied soul that you were before finding a body–feel free to substitute your preferred metaphor–but to the you who actually exists. If that you is an honest, benevolent, productive individual than he deserves whatever honest, benevolent, productive individuals deserve. The fact that some preexisting potential person did not deserve to be him is irrelevant.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          I think that you’re only lucky that your father won the lottery to the extent that his winning the lottery didn’t cause you to exist.

          Basically, it is not possible to infer that your dad won the lottery without asking him – your existence alone is not good evidence that he did. Whereas your ability to ponder the question of whether you had a fatal childhood disease indeed is evidence that you didn’t.

          Or whether your father was infertile. I don’t think you are lucky your father wasn’t infertile, because you can never be uncertain about that fact. Merely being able to consider it is evidence of the answer.

          I think it only makes sense to call things ‘luck’ about which uncertainty is possible. Things that are required for your existence are therefore not lucky, however improbable they may have been for your ancestors, they are a certainty to you.

          And ‘your existence’ I think means any possible existence that lets you ponder the question. “I’m lucky that disease didn’t make me a vegetable” isn’t true under this definition because if you were a vegetable you wouldn’t be able to consider the question, similarly if you were a bat.

          This perhaps has a bit of a reductio ad absurdum in that it leads to you never being able to say “phew, I’m lucky that near miss didn’t kill me!”. Perhaps the answer is that past you was lucky, but present you isn’t.

    • Nyx says:

      That’s because genes aren’t something strictly exogenous: they’re literally part of who you are. I mean, where do you draw the line? People don’t control what kind of personality they develop either, or what kind of moral attitudes they possess, and these things are undoubtedly shaped by factors outside of people’s control just as much as genetics are.

    • caethan says:

      What link is this in reference to?

    • suntzuanime says:

      The idea that some people don’t consider the choices you make part of luck, despite the fact that free will is an illusion, is mind boggling.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      “It’s the children who are wrong.”

      It’s one of the tasks of analytic philosophy to formalize people’s intuitions. People have intuitions for what “luck” is and it doesn’t seem to include genetics. Two responses are possible: (a) people’s intuitions are stupid, and (b) let’s consider why people’s intuitions differ here (this is the analytic approach).

      For one thing, genetics also determine _you_ in a very real way. And we attribute credit to people acting virtuously, even if this is genetics-determined. Maybe we should not attribute credit in this way — but people have their intuitions about credit for a reason.

      (See also above comments).

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Others have already given the basic response here, but let me spell it out explicitly:

      I’m not sure exactly what you’re trying to say given that this doesn’t seem to be in reference to any particular link above. I don’t think I’d endorse the position I’m about to describe, but since you apparently find it “mind-boggling”, I think it would be good for me to help clarify it, regardless of whether I hold it myself.

      Basically the position is that what matters is people’s decisions, and their effects — not the input to those decisions. After all, we basically live in a deterministic world; in that sense, everything that determines what one does is “luck”, if we use your notion of “it’s out of your control”. But people are decision-making systems, and, at the end of the day, some decision-making systems make good decisions, and some make bad decisions, and it’s worth rewarding the former. Of course, sometimes a bad decision might pay off, or a good decision fail to, since what makes a decision good or bad is its expected value. And there’s the luck people are talking about — luck that interferes with outcomes; not luck in the input to these systems. Because that’s the luck that interferes with “good decision-making systems should be rewarded”. The luck you are talking about, by contrast, affects which decision-making systems are good in the first place.

      Honestly, I find your position fairly boggling, in that I can’t figure out what it is. Is there anything you wouldn’t consider luck, considering that all decisions are driven by outside circumstance (and possibly randomness)? There is no underlying essence, as others have pointed out.

      I get this impression — it’s hard for me to say, since you didn’t state anything explicitly, but this is the impression I get, based partly also on your other writings — that your position consists of:
      1. Starting with the idea of desert
      2. Noticing that “it’s all luck” if you count inputs to decisions
      3. Concluding that everyone deserves the same things.

      But step 2 is wrong if you really accept the position outlined above, because you shouldn’t count input to decisions as worth paying attention to if you believe that; and honestly I think fundamentally step 1 is wrong as well. (Like I said, I wouldn’t actually endorse the position I was describing above!)

      That said, I do think that analogues of the point of view I describe above are correct if you replace generic moral “desert” with specific resources we might want to allocate. And it seems obviously correct if we’re talking about allocation of responsibility rather than resources.

      • 3. Concluding that everyone deserves the same things.

        It seems to me that the natural conclusion to that line of argument is that nobody deserves anything.

        • John Nerst says:

          It’s both. “Desert” is undefined in a model that doesn’t actually have moral choices as a fundamental component, but instead models them as the outcome of blind forces. Not that that’s wrong, it’s not, but deserts requires that we apply a particular, physics-incommensurable paradigm to the world.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            This sounds quite a lot like one of Rand’s central critiques (that there’s no point in trying to blame random external forces for the majority of outcomes).

        • Tarpitz says:

          I think there is clearly a sense in which that’s true: as Dr De Boer says, half of everything is luck. But if that’s the way we want to use “deserve”, then deserve’s got nothing to do with it. The non-existence of independent moral absolutes doesn’t preclude social structures designed to reward behavious we approve of or punish ones we disapprove of, be it legally, financially or in any other way.

          Personally, I do find the awareness makes it very hard for me to really blame, hate or even be lastingly angry with people, though. And it certainly doesn’t seem compatible with punishment as an end in itself (as opposed to for deterrence, prevention etc.)

          • lvlln says:

            The non-existence of independent moral absolutes doesn’t preclude social structures designed to reward behavious we approve of or punish ones we disapprove of, be it legally, financially or in any other way.

            Personally, I do find the awareness makes it very hard for me to really blame, hate or even be lastingly angry with people, though. And it certainly doesn’t seem compatible with punishment as an end in itself (as opposed to for deterrence, prevention etc.)

            This is where I’m at. It makes sense to have punishments, but punishments should always be considered necessary evils and done so compassionately while still being effective. The idea of celebrating or enjoying the pain or injury or death of someone who committed any crime feels utterly vulgar to me.

            One reason why I’m so disgusted at seeing that my side is more or less filled with people who take pleasure in the pain of those they deem sufficiently Nazi-like.

          • Aapje says:

            There is also substantial evidence that relatively little punishment is more effective at reducing crime.

          • Nornagest says:

            My understanding is not that light punishments are more effective, as such, but more that the severity of punishment is a much less effective deterrent than the swiftness and certainty of punishment. That is, we could be hanging people for minor crimes, but if it takes months or years for an execution and there’s a good chance that it won’t go through for whatever reason, then its extreme severity isn’t buying us very much.

            (This is a decent description of the British legal system in the early 1800s, by the way — and crime was indeed high back then.)

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, the chance of being punished is far more important than the level of punishment, at least up to a point.

            It seems pretty clear to me that when a chance of something bad happening is (perceived to be) below a certain threshold, people tend to make the mistake of discounting the risk entirely.

          • but if it takes months or years for an execution and there’s a good chance that it won’t go through for whatever reason, then its extreme severity isn’t buying us very much.

            (This is a decent description of the British legal system in the early 1800s, by the way — and crime was indeed high back then.)

            There was a good chance that someone convicted of a non-clegyable (capital) felony would not hang, but that usually meant either transportation for fourteen years of indentured servitude or, if there was a war on, enlistment in army or navy. So the chance of some punishment was high.

            It didn’t take months or years for an execution. If the convicted defendant wasn’t pardoned (conditionally or otherwise) he was hanged pretty promptly.

            I don’t know of evidence that crime rates were much higher under the bloody code than in the 19th century. Do you have a source?

          • Yes, the chance of being punished is far more important than the level of punishment, at least up to a point.

            I’ve seen that claim and it could be true, but I’m not sure how good the evidence is. When I looked at it a very long time ago, the claim was, essentially, that doubling the length of the sentence had a lower effect than doubling the probability of being caught and convicted.

            That sounds like evidence that probability matters more than severity, but it isn’t, because the length of the sentence is a poor measure of severity. In addition to time in prison, there are a bunch of other costs, such as stigma, money spent on bail bond or possibly lawyer, time in jail before trial, which are more or less fixed. If those costs are equivalent to (say) a year in prison, then increasing the sentence from one year to two years isn’t really doubling the punishment, only increasing it by 50%.

            Could you describe the evidence on which the claim is based, ideally with a source?

          • It seems pretty clear to me that when a chance of something bad happening is (perceived to be) below a certain threshold, people tend to make the mistake of discounting the risk entirely.

            I believe I have seen the opposite claim in the context of behavioral economics. The standard example is that many people think of flying as more dangerous than driving. Flying involves a very low probability of a strikingly bad outcome, and people don’t adequately discount it for the low probability.

            The book I’m currently working on has a chapter on 18th century English criminal enforcement. I speculate that the combination of severe punishment with very low probability of getting it might have been deliberately designed to take advantage of that effect.

          • Protagoras says:

            @DavidFriedman, Surely the badness of the outcome isn’t the reason flying seems more dangerous; driving can kill you too, and I doubt the prospect of many others dying at the same time is what’s really weighing on people’s minds in the flying case. I think a big part of the reason people feel safer driving than flying is because they have an illusion of control when they’re driving, that they can avoid a bad thing if it comes up. Since I expect criminals to feel a similar illusion about their ability to avoid getting caught, I am not confident that the prospect of death will do much to deter people who are willing to drive from crime.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      What it means for someone to be “lucky” turns out to be pretty hard to cash out. One view is that X happening to you is a matter of luck when there is a sufficiently nearby possible world where X doesn’t happen to you, for reasons outside your own actions. Combining this view with many standard views about personal identity make it difficult to justify the thought that having bad genetics is bad luck (because some things about your genetics are essential to you, and someone with different genetics in other possible worlds isn’t you at all.)

      Maybe that just means we should look for a different account of luck.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        > someone with different genetics in other possible worlds isn’t you at all

        I think that’s going a little off-topic. The same conception and gestation process that gave rise to “you” could have gone slightly differently, and the resulting individual would have very different genes from “you.” That’s a reasonable point to make.

        • Philosophisticat says:

          But then you weren’t unlucky. At best, the universe was unlucky, to get you instead of someone else. And that has very different implications with, for example, moral principles concerning what we do for people who have bad luck.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

    • 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.)

  30. 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]

          • 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.

  31. 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.”

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. Stezinec says:

    The full text of the personality/IQ and achievement study is available on ResearchGate: link

  35. 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.

  36. 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.

  37. 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.

  38. Edward Scizorhands says:

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

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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?

  43. 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.

  44. 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?

    • 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 :/

          • 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).