NꙮW WITH MꙮRE MULTIꙮCULAR ꙮ

Open Thread 75.75

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit, the SSC Discord server, or the Cafe Chesscourt forum.

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695 Responses to Open Thread 75.75

  1. blitzerrr says:

    What are currently the most promising methods of enhancing human intelligence that we are either already aware of or seem to have potential? (the definition of intelligence can go beyond IQ)

    • doubleunplussed says:

      Well, it’s easy to overlook because it’s in plain sight, but schooling, literacy, and that sort of thing seems to make people more intelligent, for some definition of intelligence. I’d say humanity has come a long way in this regard, and also that there is a lot of room for improvement in schooling without inventing something completely new (like throwing the whole thing out and having everyone do self-directed online learning, which I think is a bad idea for the majority of people).

      • blitzerrr says:

        I agree that schooling and literacy is the most basic way to improve intelligence but am particularly interested in enhancement techniques that are independent of the classroom (and extreme bureaucracy that comes with it). For example enhancements related to nutrition, highly efficient forms of pedagogy (eg. spaced repetition learning), nootropics, trans-cranial stimulation, etc.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        It’s worth noting that literacy is in most cases determined by factors outside the classroom. You can get avid readers from non-reading or anti-reading parents, but it’s a lot more rare. That being said, my money is on:

        1) Figure out a way for schools to consistently inculcate a base level of enjoyment of reading and learning in their students when sufficiently young and malleable.

        and/or

        2) Figure out ways to increase the informational density and quality of non-reading media and utilize that both inside and outside the classroom.

        The older I get, the more convinced I am that “politics is downstream of culture” is not only more important than most people realize, but that “culture is downstream of pedagogy and socialization/childrearing” is even more critical.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Decreasing parasite load and malnutrition.

      There’s a non-zero chance that the tags system used by the Stacks Project, if deployed to other fields, could increase our collective intelligence. I’d be amazed if Wikipedia hasn’t increased humanity’s collective intelligence, but its format is bad for organizing arguments and evidence. Arbital tried this, but their problem was lack of means, not a silly goal.

    • Chalid says:

      Embryo selection seems like the obvious near-future candidate.

    • Incurian says:

      Amphetamines seem pretty great.

    • Odovacer says:

      Unsexy things like eliminating lead in the environment, ensuring children get enough iodine, reducing parasite load and malnutrition. Eliminating things that decrease IQ

    • James Miller says:

      Finding supplements that work for you.

  2. gbear605 says:

    Does anyone have any ideas for what I can make in a week and a half for a physics project using Physics 101 level knowledge? My current best plan is to make a slingshot using surgical tubing, have it be winched back and calculating the work applied, and then releasing it and predicting where the projectile will land.

    EDIT: Specific topics covered in the class: projectile motion, Newton’s Laws, work-energy relationships, oscillation, universal gravitation (probably not too relevant for this experiment)

    • andrewflicker says:

      Ballistic trajectory isn’t a bad option, but be careful- air resistance might screw you up, and isn’t usually covered in 101. You might be better off doing something with rolling motion instead.

      • beleester says:

        Anecdotally from my physics class, air resistance isn’t a huge factor. The real problem is getting a consistent launch every time. If you have some sort of spring you have to release, then you need to release it in the same way each time, perhaps with a string you can cut, or a latch that you can release with a single motion. If your device is wobbly and unstable (say, because it’s made of springy surgical tubing), you might lose energy to random wobbles. You also need to make sure it launches at the same angle each time.

        Basically, just test your device and see if you can hit the same range reliably. Range and travel time tells you everything you need to know about the trajectory. Then you can start doing some cool trick shots.

        My AP Physics class was given the challenge of hitting a moving target (a piece of cardboard taped to a toy car), which required us to calculate the travel time of the target and the ball, and fire at the right moment. That’s a good challenge for your slingshot.

    • smocc says:

      It would help if you could be more specific with available topics. Are we talking just forces? Electricity? Thermodynamics? Sound and waves?

      Mechanics topics only:
      – Make Newton’s cradle with just two balls, but make it so you can vary the mass of the objects and demonstrate conservation of momentum by measuring the height the balls reach after they collide.

      – Your slingshot is a good idea. To make it really impressive, borrow a simple spring-style force meter and use it to plot the spring force of your slingshot as a function of how far back you pull it. Use that to find the spring coefficient of the slingshot, which you can then use to calculate how much spring potential energy you get / how much kinetic energy your projectile receives.

      – Make a brachistochrone. Explain how it works using conservation of energy.

      – Make a simple pendulum with a variable length to demonstrate how the period depends on the length.

      • JayT says:

        Physics 101 is usually just classical mechanics. At least, it was back when I was taking it.

    • WashedOut says:

      Construct a ramp and roll dumbell-shaped weights down it. Vary the diameter of the weights at each end of the barbell but keep the total mass constant. Demonstrate how increasing the distance of the centre of mass from the centre of rotation affects velocity.

    • A trebuchet? Calculating the optimal design might be a little tricky. Probably a small trebuchet for reasons of practicality, and perhaps some experiments on range as a function of release angle?

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      My physics teacher demonstrated the doppler effect by finding a straight bit of fairly vacant road, having the class stand by the side of it, and the driving his car past us at around 40mph while holding down the horn.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Neat idea. My HS physics teacher did similar.

        On that note, something that hums while being spun around an axis on a piece of string (driven by a quiet electric motor) would be even more efficient than driving an entire car around.

        • smocc says:

          My 9th grade physics teacher tied a buzzer to a rope and swung it in circles around is head. Cheap, easy, and effective, and we got to go outside.

          • An SCA friend had a singing axe, a throwing axe that worked like a tuning fork. He struck it on something to make it sing, then threw it.

            It doppler shifted when it passed me, went silent when it sunk into the tree it was aimed it. Very impressive.

    • Incurian says:

      Rockets are really cool.

    • bean says:

      My physics teacher did a really cool lab where we’d stand on the top of the football bleachers, and he’d run/walk at a constant pace below, and we had to try to drop eggs on him by figuring out where he needed to be when we dropped the eggs. It’s fairly basic kinematics (teacher moves at velocity v, we’re at height h1 and he’s t tall, ignore air resistance), but a lot of fun. He was a really good teacher, but we still all cheered when someone got a direct hit.

    • dodrian says:

      It might be too simple, but one of my favorite physics demonstrations was the ‘shoot a monkey in the tree’.

      If you shoot at a monkey far away up a tree and it lets go of its branch and starts to fall as soon as it hears the blast (assume instantaneously), where should you aim?

      Set up a pvc pipe as a blow gun to shoot a small metal ball. Set up an electromagnet on the ceiling to hold a metal can. Run the switch for the electromagnet through a circuit which includes a small piece of aluminum foil covering the end of the blowgun. As the ball exits the blowgun it breaks the circuit causing the can to drop. Where should you aim so as to catch the ball inside the can as it falls?

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        You just reminded me of this event we used to have at UT Austin called the “Physics Circus”. (If you search for that on YouTube, you’ll find several hits, none going to UT that I saw, but following the same spirit.) A long sequence of physics stunts, demonstrated with relatively inexpensive equipment.

        Example: ISTR them putting a 2×4 on a table, as far out over the edge as it would go (there was a vertical mark on the board that everyone could see). Put a second equal beam on top; it can go further out. Then another. And another. The beams extended less and less, but none of the fifth or sixth beam was directly above the table as I recall.

        Another example: light a candle. Put it at the bottom of a 5′ clear plastic tube, open at the top. The candle will soon go out; it can’t get oxygen from the top fast enough. Do it again, but put a small (~8″) piece of cardboard at the top, mounted so that it’s inserted into the top of the tube, effectively creating two openings. The candle will stay lit indefinitely. That’s all it took to organize the air current, even though most of the tube is still open, and neither of the two sides is designated in or out.

        Another example: Professor Coker would lie on a real bed of nails in plain clothes. Towel on top. Then a plywood slab. Then two cinder blocks. Then his assistant would hit the blocks with a sledgehammer hard enough to break them. Coker’s unharmed (he’d fake an injury for laughs).

        Coker was a character. He used to teach a course in pseudoscience – crystals, lighting a bulb with your mind, all that stuff – demonstrating the physics of each, and why they would violate this or that principle. I just looked it up; apparently that course was taught for the last time in 2013 – a shame.

  3. Machina ex Deus says:

    What piece of software doesn’t exist, but should?

    (I swear I do not refresh every five minutes.)

    • Dissonant Cognizance says:

      A possibly-actionable but unglamorous wish list:

      -A third-party, trustworthy replacement for Windows Update that reliably and automatically installs security updates and only security updates

      -Same as above but for Windows device drivers. Google will tell you this software exists, but if it does it’s lost in a sea of malware.

      -On the flipside, reliable and high-performance drivers for AMD and nVidia GPUs in Linux. They’re mostly there already but still quirky depending on your hardware.

      -Reverse Chromecast: Send video from Chromecast-enabled mobile apps to a window on your desktop

      -A multiplayer paint/drawing suite. There’s some old version of a Japanese drawing program that lets you connect to a server and collaboratively draw with people over the Internet. Newer versions removed this feature, while similar attempts tend to run in the browser and lack features like tablet pressure sensitivity and an undo function.

      I suspect some or all of these already exist, but are difficult to describe to a search engine and even more challenging to separate from shady adware and malware, so there’s another underserved area.

    • Anon. says:

      I want a mix of X3 and Factorio, with a focus on trading. And a genuinely fully-simulated economy.

      Task management software could be massively improved. Right now I’m using a self-hosted enterprise monstrosity (Countersoft’s Gemini) because all the normal solutions lack really basic features like tags, grouping, prioritization, % task completion, source control integration, etc.

      There is no good Personal Knowledge Base software. I use an ancient, unwieldy desktop-based wiki clone called ConnectedText. It’s the best there is, and it’s shit. Any sort of scripting or external access to the data is a pain in the ass. Export options are limited. And its language is extremely limited (impossible to do GROUP BY queries for example).

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        Your mix of X3 and Factorino sounds like EVE.

      • lsmel says:

        I second improved task management software.

      • James Miller says:

        I had to delete Factorio because it became 90% of what my brain cared about.

      • Reasoner says:

        There is no good Personal Knowledge Base software. I use an ancient, unwieldy desktop-based wiki clone called ConnectedText. It’s the best there is, and it’s shit. Any sort of scripting or external access to the data is a pain in the ass. Export options are limited. And its language is extremely limited (impossible to do GROUP BY queries for example).

        Did you try Wikidpad?

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Something like Skritter except for Arabic and Arabic-related scripts (including the nastaliq version used for Urdu), that does not presuppose that you are a child learning to write who already knows the spoken language.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Trn for the web.

      https://youtu.be/ZDM33CMJvp8?t=2900

      This shows an early flow chart editing program that looks really cool. I don’t know whether there’s a contemporary version.

    • cassander says:

      the notepad equivalent of excel. A super stripped down spreadsheet for dealing with large datasets or complicated formula structures.

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      I’d love it if you’d make a phone app that allows me to make predictions about things–i.e. “70% chance: Bob will be at least 5 minutes late”–and then pings me to ask whether or not the prediction was correct, and then tracks all of the data so I can calibrate myself over time.

      I’d love to help in any way that I can; I just don’t know how to code.

  4. JayT says:

    I find it very annoying that pretty close to 100% of the reaction to Tim Gurner’s comments focused on avocado toast, when it’s obvious he was using that as an example of something a spendthrift person would buy. I haven’t seen any actual discussion on whether or not he has a point.

    My gut feeling is that he’s doing a bit of “in my day…” type reasoning–housing prices have gone up faster than inflation–but I also wonder if there isn’t some truth to it as well. Do Millennials spend more money on convenience and leisure than, say, their parents did? I’d be curious to see an actual commentary on this issue, but instead I just get a Facebook wall full of pictures of avocado toast and comments about how they’ll never own a house.

    Here’s the original comments for anyone that doesn’t know what I’m talking about:
    http://time.com/money/4778942/avocados-millennials-home-buying/

    • The Nybbler says:

      Well, the New York Times does a surprisingly bad “fact check”:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/business/avocado-toast-millennials.html

      They compare millennials habits against those of the Gen-Xers and boomers…. now. The correct comparison, of course, would be against the Xers and the boomers _when they were the age of the millennials today_.

      Gurner is talking about Australia, I’m less familiar with the numbers there. But if they’re really spending $19/day on avocado toast and $16 on coffee, that’s a significant amount of money; if we assume they only do this on weekdays, it’s about $4750 a year. Add in European vacations and eating out for lunch and dinner, and you’re talking real money.

      Sydney housing prices do appear to be insane; AUD 1.15 million median.

      • albertborrow says:

        We’re not using Youtube’s form of comment markup, nor are we using reddit’s – italicized comments can be created by nesting them in an html tag, or by highlighting the text you want and clicking the “Italic” button below the comment.

        City and wealthy suburb housing prices will increase at a greater proportion to inflation because the human population is increasing at a greater proportion to inflation, or at least that’s what armchair reasoning tells me.

        • JayT says:

          I think it has more to do with the housing supply not keeping up with population growth in major cities. We’ve had inflation with falling house prices before because many houses were being built. Nowadays, most cities make it very difficult to build the necessary housing though.

        • James Miller says:

          Why don’t currently land prices already take this into account?

        • Nornagest says:

          Population in most of the First World countries where housing prices are a major concern is pretty close to level: it’s rising slightly in North America, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and most of western Europe (mostly thanks to immigration), flat or declining in Japan and most of Central and Eastern Europe. And even where it’s rising, it’s rising less than inflation: the only major First World countries growing more than 1% a year are Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Norway.

          Most of the First World is getting more urbanized too, though, and that actually may be happening faster than inflation.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Most of the First World is getting more urbanized too, though, and that actually may be happening faster than inflation.

            Indeed, that matches what I’ve read. After all, I recall reading recently that even while Japan’s overall population is falling, the populations of its largest cities are rising due to movement of people. (One might also note that this urbanization trend might not exactly be helping the “population decline” problem, given that pretty much throughout human history, cities have consistently had lower birth rates than the surrounding countryside.)

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      BLS collects some consumer spending statistics. You might be able to tease out some simple comparisons, but it wouldn’t shock me if he were somewhat myopic given national rent to income statistics I’ve seen for the economy as a whole.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      Incomes for young people have been going down, particularly since the 2008 recession. If we’re specifically comparing Millenials to Boomers, the Boomers had much higher incomes at young ages. Gen X had it pretty bad before the 90s boom too.

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t have any data, but I definitely feel like “millennials prefer ‘experiences’ to assets” is true anecdotally in my experience at least.

      I have plenty of 20-30 year old co-workers who think that owning a house is some sort of luxury only for super rich people who have been saving for decades, while they have already traveled for leisure to five different continents.

      • Zodiac says:

        Well, if it seems unobtainable you might as well use your money for something else…

        • The Nybbler says:

          This is true, but unless they’re doing it on the super-cheap (backpacking/hostels), traveling for leisure to 5 different continents and saving enough for a house are in the same ballpark, at least in the US. Probably even in the SF Bay area, though not SF itself

          • Creutzer says:

            That seems completely false to me. How does a trip to a different continent cost upwards of $20.000?

          • Anonymous says:

            One of them? Probably doesn’t.

            Five of them, however, might.

          • beleester says:

            A vacation to another continent can be a few thousand dollars, so multiply by 5 continents and you’re almost at that level.

            But even then, $20,000 is “new car” levels of money, not “new house.”

          • Anonymous says:

            It’s enough for a downpayment.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            It’s enough for a downpayment.

            Maybe where you live.

            Housing prices vary considerably based on location.

            We are also 8 years out from a stark example of why you do not want to get over leveraged on a primary residence that you only can be sure to inhabit for several years and not a decade or two.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            A year-long, comfortable but not extravagant trip around the world costs about $24000.

            A one-bedroom flat in Birmingham, England (one of the cheaper big cities in the UK) easily costs ten times as much, and most millennials never spend a whole year traveling. Even in small and more isolated cities (such as York) you won’t ever find a 1-bed apartment going under $40k. I have never lived in the Bay Area, but I can’t imagine it being any cheaper.

          • Creutzer says:

            Exactly. I meant $20.000 per trip, so that with five of them, you get $100.000, which might just buy you a house in some not overly desirable places.

            I find Zodiac’s “might as well” hypothesis very convincing.

          • John Schilling says:

            The relevant metric isn’t “is this enough money to buy a house?”, but “Is this enough money for a down payment plus other transaction costs?”

            The subsequent mortgage payments trade against rent and savings in a way that is financially neutral to the first order. Though if you’re planning to live in e.g. San Francisco even second-order housing budget effects can be severe.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            The median price for a home in SF is $1.1M.

            Why do you think people are talking about $100K as if it’s purchase price of a home and not down payment?

          • Anonymous says:

            Not everyone lives in an insanely high cost-of-living city.

          • The Nybbler says:

            As Anonymous points out, I’m referring to a down payment, not the entire cost of the house. In the US, a first time homebuyer with good credit can get a loan with 3% to 10% down fairly easily. Five vacations to other continents, not done ‘on the cheap’, should be in that ballpark.

            @HBC: I explicitly excluded SF proper for that reason.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why do you think people are talking about $100K as if it’s purchase price of a home and not down payment?

            Because, among other things, Creutzer himself clarified “I meant $20.000 per trip, so that with five of them, you get $100.000, which might just buy you a house in some not overly desirable places.”

            And why do you think people are talking about San Francisco, rather than pretty much any place else in the United States?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Matt M:
            What is the median price in your market? How likely are home prices to rise or fall? What is the average tenure in a job in your market?

            For example, Houston is a “cool” housing market, with median prices of $300K. $60K is still pretty damn substantial.

          • Brad says:

            I’m glad that along with apparently ditching the homeownership fetish, the millennials have also apparently ditched the dour Calvinist anti-spending attitude of their parents and grandparents.

            It seems baby boomers need professional help to get them to enjoy their retirements instead of hording for a rapidly diminishing future: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-05-16/rich-retirees-are-hoarding-cash-out-of-fear

            Vacations abroad in ones twenties is a great idea. By the time you get to your sixties and seventies it will be a lot harder to enjoy some of those places.

          • Iain says:

            Not everyone lives in an insanely high cost-of-living city.

            Not everybody is buying $19 avocado toast daily or taking $20K vacations, either. You can’t take the ridiculous high end of one distribution and compare it to the low end of the other.

          • psmith says:

            I’m glad that along with apparently ditching the homeownership fetish, the millennials have also apparently ditched the dour Calvinist anti-spending attitude of their parents and grandparents.

            Man. All debates are bravery debates, I guess, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard the attitude of any American generation that grew up after the Depression characterized as “dour, Calvinist, and anti-spending” before. (Meanwhile.). Especially not a group that was simultaneously characterized as having a homeownership fetish. (or consider e.g. the prominent role of Corvettes in anti-Boomer memes)

          • Brad says:

            Okay, that’s fair. It certainly isn’t the baby boomers as a whole. But there is certainly a segment of them and gen x that have that dour attitude towards spending and an irrational hatred of debt (with a mortgage as the one exception, but to be paid off as quickly as possible).

          • psmith says:

            But overall household debt hasn’t “made a comeback.” It’s at historically low levels and, at the moment, doesn’t show the slightest sign of increasing.

            (just posted downthread!)

            I dunno, still not seeing it as a generational phenomenon, or really at all to any meaningful extent (see the “unplanned $400 expense” link above.). Have you considered that this might say more about you than it does about them?

          • Chalid says:

            I’ll admit to having eaten more than my share of avocado toast but I think you have to work pretty hard to spend $20K on a “normal” international vacation – going to a major European city like Rome or London, staying in a midrange hotel, and doing normal tourist stuff like museums and viewing major landmarks. That’s maybe a few hundred dollars per day per person.

          • Brad says:

            But overall household debt hasn’t “made a comeback.” It’s at historically low levels and, at the moment, doesn’t show the slightest sign of increasing.

            That’s a very odd way of summarizing data that shows that debt service as a percentage disposable personal income is at historically low levels.

            If you want to deflate by disposable personal income, that makes some sense. But debt service is also a function of prevailing interest rates and it makes no sense to say that debt is historically low just because interest rates are historically low.

            It’s especially odd to have such a sloppy sentence in an article that accuses the Times of being misleading.

          • LHN says:

            It seems baby boomers need professional help to get them to enjoy their retirements instead of hording for a rapidly diminishing future:

            The fear of outliving one’s savings doesn’t strike me as especially irrational, given uncertainties about lifespan and financial markets. The discussion in the article about how to make that less likely (e.g., with annuities) is reasonable, especially for the richer people the piece is focusing on, but I don’t think most retirees are in a position to do that. In my experience, people frequently find themselves retiring earlier than planned, with less in the way of savings than they really need to replace their income.

            (There’s a comforting idea that expenses go down after retirement, but I’m not sure that really jibes with the costs of things like medical expenses (above and beyond what Medicare will cover) and long-term care.)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            LHN, thank you very much for using “jibes” correctly– so many people use “jives” instead. Now that I think about it, the older meanings of jives seem to have faded out, so it’s not as though there’s a loss of meaning, it’s just something that gets on my nerves.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think that you have to be taking extravagant vacations for five international trips to add up to a down payment on a house in most US cities.
            Even if you are going super cheap on the vacation, you’re looking at $2,000-$4,000 per trip, and $10,000-$20,000 for five trips.

            The median house price in the US is under $200,000, and in most population centers it’s fairly easy to get a house for $150,00. $10,000-$20,000 would be enough of a down payment to get you a house like that.

          • LHN says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz Believe me, I understand. I still can’t reconcile myself to the fact that “rein” and “reign” now get used interchangeably in conventional expressions.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve been gone a few days and I feel like this has basically died – but I just want to clarify. My point was never to say “the money they spend on traveling could have been used to buy a house” as if to imply equivalency between the costs. It’s more about WHEN you choose to make certain purchases and how you prioritize.

            I feel like among my parents generation, the idea was, you saved your money to buy a house, and THEN, if you did well, maybe later, you travel the world – whereas the millennial attitude is that you save up for your globe hopping trips and THEN, if you do well, maybe later in life, you consider property ownership.

            You can point to the housing bubble and say this is good or bad all you want, but man, even though housing is a risky asset, at least it’s an asset. A trip to Vietnam, even if cheap and brief, is the ultimate consumption good.

            If we see societal preferences shifting that people prefer more consumption goods and fewer hard assets, that has all sorts of startling implications…

          • Murphy says:

            A 10% down-payment on a 1 bedroom flat over an hour from work where we live would be easily enough to support myself and my SO for a full year while traveling around the world.

            Traveling around the world for a full year without working at all is not something anyone in my peer group has ever done.

            it’s like a lot of older people are in some kind of self-delusional bubble. Like they’re totally blissfully unaware that they basically won the lottery. (with the lottery payouts due from the younger generations)

            All they can do is grab onto anything that allows them to attribute blame to the new generation (who of course are suffering entirely due to their own moral failings)

            Normally bright older people apparently shit out their brain cells when the subject comes up.

            it would be nice to live somewhere where houses can be bought for pocket lint and buttons but those places tend to lack jobs that go anywhere. Though such places can be lovely to retire to when you have no need to be able to get to somewhere where someone is willing to pay you money for your labor.

    • Brad says:

      Widespread homeownership is bad for a society. Among other things it constrains the ability of the government to work towards lowering housing costs, in fact it pushes governments towards measures that increase housing costs.

      If the millennial generation has begun to shake off the fetish for homeownership that’s took hold after WWII, that’s a great thing.

      • John Schilling says:

        Doesn’t widespread lack of home ownership, by the same mechanism, push governments towards measures that increase landlord profits? The combined wealth that is a nation’s residential real estate will lobby for increasing the value of residential real estate, one way or another. With home ownership, the people paying the cost at least recover it over the course of their life.

        • Brad says:

          In one case wealth and a many votes are aligned, in the other wealth and most votes are opposed. The latter is less powerful than the former.

        • Anonymous says:

          OTOH, they often take on debts they are ill-advised to take, which sort of lock them down to a location, potentially lowering their overall income.

      • Chalid says:

        I’ve never looked at any research on the topic, but I’d have guessed that the reduction in labor mobility is at least as important a problem with widespread homeownership.

        • Anonymous says:

          This.

          Government this or that isn’t the problem with the homeownership fetish. Getting into debt and willingly attaching a ball and chain to your foot is.

      • James Miller says:

        But on the plus side homeowners support policies such as having better schools or improved road systems, that increase property values whereas renters are indifferent to these things since they would, on average, increase their rents by as much as they get in additional value.

      • And speaking of subsidising tulips….I give you right-to-buy schemes.

    • psmith says:

      There seems to be something wrong with my bloody comments today, but in any case consider this piece and give the original a click if you have a mind.

      When a young man in Ohio gets a better job or receives a financial windfall, he buys a Hayabusa or a jetski or Camaro and he does not worry too much about where it’s gonna go.

      Of course, better jobs and financial windfalls are in short supply here in Ohio. Money lives in the city now, to a degree unprecedented in human history. My day job would pay twice as much were I to do it within shouting distance of San Francisco or Manhattan. It would also be far easier to change jobs, to find new work if I wanted it, to advance in my career. It’s true that you might get rich if you stayed in a small city. It is also true that you might be struck by lightning. The likelihood of either event seems similar.

      Everybody wants to live where the money is. The market has adjusted appropriately. Here are your one-bedroom rental rates in the most-desired cities. The average one-bedroom rental rate in Tribeca (the neighborhood, not the Subaru) is $4,100 a month. At current mortgage rates, that is an $850,000 house.

    • tgb says:

      I’ll try to back-of-the-envelope estimate how much one could theoretically save if you were a spend-thrift. Say, a major vacation a year at $3000, brunch every weekend at $30, coffee everyday at $5, drinks twice a week with friends at $30, upscale dinner twice a week for $40, lunch with coworkers at $15 a workday, unnecessary clothes once a month for $200, new iPhone each year for $700 and unlimited data plan for $30/month more than a cheap plan. Cutting all that out is a big life change and would save $21,025 a year. This clearly is enough to make a difference for buying a house in many markets and if you invest the money instead it could be quite a lot after a decade of this. I don’t know how this compares to typical spending patterns, but it doesn’t really strike me as totally out of line with what I see people spending, even people with literally no income.

      Removing the two upscale dinners a week reduces the amount saved to just $16865 a year, which I think is the largest term above, so that would be the most likely one to be skewing the result. And, of course, you have to replace fancy food with non-fancy food which still costs something. At the very least, it really does seem like these things do add up, and I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that a stereotypical spend-thrift millenial could save at least $4000 a year by cutting down on these “frivolous” things.

      • Murphy says:

        I see you get your figures for how much young people spend from Sex In the City or something similar.

        3000 on a holiday? Every year? Are you on drugs?

        I’m taking the true and necessary defenses on this one because it deserves no kindness.

        Are you out of your mind?

        I know a few people who spent a lot on a holiday. once. For a honeymoon or similar. I know a few other individuals who go drinking twice a week, indeed for many of those items I can think of someone who ticks a single one of those boxes. But ticking one of those boxes tends to exclude ticking the others.

        But absolutely nobody who ticks all of them. And if they avoided spending of that one item each then it would only take them 15 years to save a 10% deposit at current market rates.

        it’s like you’ve taken some kind of sterotype, mixed together a dozen people, taken the maximums from each of them and then made a hypothetical person who’s maxing everything and thing pissed all over your newly constructed strawman.

        Oh Sally spends $10 a week on her cat?

        And Billy spends $3 dollars a day each weekday on coffee?

        And Jane went on a holiday this year?

        And Susan loves her cellphone and has a super-expensive model?

        “Clearly if sally ate her cat, cut out the coffee, avoided the holiday and smashed her cell phone then she’d be a millionaire because I’ve a fucking moron who’s amalgamated all of them into one person in my head and I’m assuming that all of them do anything that I hear about any one of them doing “

    • Kevin C. says:

      Something I keep seeing in all these financial discussions, whether of the “housing prices have gone up faster than inflation” variety, the “rent is too damn high for people on or near minimum wage” variety, or the opposing “modern poor live better than Medieval kings” or “you could more than afford a 70’s lifestyle… if you stuck to 70’s tech and 70’s housing, etc.”, is that nobody, in computing “cost of living”, ever seems to include or consider the costs associated with reproducing. Sure, you have antibiotics (for now) and iPhones and marvels old King Henry I could never have dreamed of. But Henry Beauclerc managed to have 29 kids (according to one source). What happens when you include those costs into these sorts of computations?

      • Evan Þ says:

        Not a total answer, but you could have kids a lot more cheaply if you could give them a 70’s (not to mention 1270’s) lifestyle. When I was growing up, I knew a family who raised 7 kids on a single pharmacist’s salary. They didn’t eat out much, didn’t have a lot of new clothes or computing devices, didn’t take part in expensive clubs or camps or activities, etc., but it worked for them.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Hey, my dad managed to support our stay-at-home mom, me, and both my younger brothers, on a single blue-collar salary (apartment maintenance) in the 80’s. Yes, it meant almost never eating out, and peanut butter & margarine sandwiches as a frequent lunch, and Mom often sewing up worn or torn clothing, and at one point living in a rural Alaskan community with no electricity, running water, or sewer, but we made it work. Could you really do that now? Even if you eschewed the modern “conveniences” that way, you’ve got housing, school expenses, and other areas where you can’t really do that sort of thing as easily anymore. Again, I’d like to see someone actually run the data and such, and include the cost of reproduction in the cost of living.

          • Evan Þ says:

            School expenses aren’t as bad as you might think if you accept a mediocre school district or (like the family in my example) homeschool. Housing varies widely across the country, too.

            And yes, I’d really like to see someone run those numbers.

          • onyomi says:

            Not disputing the overall contention that it seems harder to make ends meet now than than thirty years ago, but I think you could still support a wife and three kids today on a blue collar salary if you lived in rural Alaska with no electricity or running water, never ate out, and rarely bought new clothes.

          • Anonymous says:

            Could you really do that now? Even if you eschewed the modern “conveniences” that way, you’ve got housing, school expenses, and other areas where you can’t really do that sort of thing as easily anymore.

            It won’t work for everyone, but you can cut those costs too:
            – Living with one’s parents in their mansion. This cuts living costs in water, electricity, heating and food. Bonus: They can provide free childcare if they’re not too old themselves.
            – If you live somewhere you don’t have to pay for school unless you use the service, homeschool. You’ll probably end up using far fewer resources, and get better educated, more polite children.

            If you enumerate the other areas, I can probably give some tips there, too.

            Again, I’d like to see someone actually run the data and such, and include the cost of reproduction in the cost of living.

            Me too.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Anonymous

            Living with one’s parents in their mansion.

            Assumes one has parents with a “mansion” (rather than say, a mobile home with one of your brothers already living with them).

            If you live somewhere you don’t have to pay for school unless you use the service.

            Where on Earth is this? Everywhere I know of, you “pay” for public school via local taxes, whether or not you even have kids, let alone whether or not they attend public school.

            Seriously, are you being sarcastic, here?

            And for more examples, how about the costs of giving birth? Just this evening, I spoke to a woman whose most recent pregnancy resulted in a ~$30000 hospital bill, only partially covered by insurance (And see these articles:
            Giving Birth In The U.S. Costs More Than Anywhere Else In The World“,
            How much do women around the world pay to give birth?“,
            American Way of Birth, Costliest in the World“,
            Having a Baby in the U.S. Costs Way Too Much, Especially If You Actually Pay Your Bills“)

            And for general data, how about these links:
            1.Washington Post: “It’s more expensive than ever to raise a child in the U.S.; this one cites a Department of Agriculture report which estimates an average cost per child of $233,610 from birth through age 17 (~$13,000/yr.) They note that in some areas this is even higher, and can vary with income. But they say even that “Lower-income families are likely to spend $212,300 per child through age 17”, where, based on their graph, “lower-income” means parents making under $59,200/yr, and:

            Housing expenses — calculated as the average cost for an additional bedroom — amounted to about $3,900 per child in U.S. cities and $2,400 in rural areas for a given year. It was the largest child-related expense, accounting for roughly one-third of total spending.

            Other costs included food (18 percent of total expenditures), child care and education (16 percent), and transportation (15 percent), health care (9 percent), miscellaneous expenses such as recreation and entertainment (7 percent), and clothing and diapers (6 percent).

            Back when the report debuted in 1960, child-care and education costs accounted for 2 percent of total child-rearing expenses. Today they make up 16 percent as more women have entered the workforce. The average cost for full-time child care now exceeds $9,500 per child annually, according to a recent report by Washington-based think tank New America. Health-care costs have also increased over the years, as families pay larger insurance premiums and face higher drug costs, Lino said. State governments use the report’s findings to create guidelines for child support and foster care.

            2. Wikipedia: “Cost of raising a child“, which gives the data tables of that Department of Agriculture report.
            3. The Atlantic: “What’s Really Behind the Ever-Rising Cost of Raising a Child in America
            4. CNBC: “Kids these days … are expensive!

            The rate of inflation continues to be much lower than normal … unless you’re raising kids.

            Feeding, housing, caring and clothing the next generation of Americans can be the costliest household expense.

            Child care costs exceed rent for nearly five out of six families, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In Binghamton, New York, the monthly cost of caring for two kids exceeds the average rent by $1,300. The institute determined that in America, a two-parent, two-child family needs to earn $63,741 a year “to secure an adequate but modest living standard.

            5. Elle: “Having a Child Will Bankrupt You“.

          • Anonymous says:

            >mansion availability

            That’s why I said that it might not work for everyone. But it damn well might if their parents took out a 30 year mortgage on a big house that they’ve now paid up, and did not sell it to go gallivanting around the world.

            >education taxes

            I don’t regard taxes as payment or entitlement for anything, other than being allowed to live on the country’s turf and not be in jail. The govt can spend it all on golden castles for themselves, for all I care.

            I don’t know of any place offhand that doesn’t have public education funded from the government budget, I misspoke there; but there are plenty of places where the taxation isn’t onerous. And even in America, you can get an education regardless of your willingness to pay the learning institutions anything directly, AFAIK.

            >other issues

            These all sound like endemically American issues, especially the healthcare. My advice would be to leave America… or look into what the high fertility groups like the Quiverfullers are doing, because I really doubt that every member is a millionaire.

          • Creutzer says:

            These all sound like endemically American issues, especially the healthcare. My advice would be to leave America.

            I feel like you’re kind of missing the point if your solution for “Americans can’t afford to have children anymore” is: go to Europe.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Creutzer

            I feel like you’re kind of missing the point if your solution for “Americans can’t afford to have children anymore” is: go to Europe.

            Though that does raise an interesting Gedankenexperiment: what if a sizeable fraction of the “Red Tribe”, especially the younger adults, did in fact decamp the US in favor of moving en mass to, say, Russia?

          • onyomi says:

            @Kevin C

            Though that does raise an interesting Gedankenexperiment: what if a sizeable fraction of the “Red Tribe”, especially the younger adults, did in fact decamp the US in favor of moving en mass to, say, Russia?

            I still think the Free State Project is a good idea, personally.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Americans can’t afford to have children anymore”

            I sincerely doubt that is the problem. I think the problem is that Americans THINK that they can’t afford to have children.

            Now that I have access to a computer I can actually use efficiently, I can answer the issues more verbosely.

            >birth costs

            This one is pretty simple to avoid: Go with your wife on a vacation to Spain when she’s due to give birth. Even if you take a month off in total and get no discounts there, it shouldn’t cost half of what you would have to pay in America.

            General healthcare you can’t do much about. It’s a problem with America, and insolvent so long as you live there.

            >0-17 costs

            Don’t live in a high-rent city (really – don’t live in a city; cities are where you go to die, not to reproduce). Don’t pay for daycare, that’s your wife’s job.

            America has the general problem of lacking extra-city adequate public transportation, so you can’t do much about transportation costs, except saying no when Junior asks you to buy him a car, and pulling gas expenses out of his pocket money if he borrows yours.

            Food is actually ridiculously cheap. Stop eating out. Have your wife cook your food, instead of buying ready-made, calorie-packaged overly delicious unsatiating market products. Clothing is similarly very cheap – especially if you don’t consider it beneath you to shop secondhand, or to repair slightly damaged items (another job for your wife).

            Homeschool your kids, seriously, don’t even consider any schools that you have to pay for in addition to taxes. (Student debt should also be out of the question, but that’s what you should teach your kid; it’s not really your own cost.)

            >http://www.epi.org/resources/budget/

            I’m *really* skeptical these represent an “adequate but modest” standard. I live on the outskirts of a (granted: non-American) very high costs-of-living, high-tax western capital city. And I get by with something like $715/month for myself, including all expenses. According to that calculator, living at a modest level in rural Texas costs THREE TIMES AS MUCH (nevermind a place like New York). By extrapolating, I expect that I would spend $1473/month to support a wife and two kids there.

            I have no idea what you Yanks spend all your money on, but I’m pretty sure it’s not all necessary for life and health. This guy appears to be doing roughly what I’m doing, in America. So it’s not impossible there, either.

          • onyomi says:

            I have no idea what you Yanks spend all your money on.

            Insanely overpriced health insurance due to worst-of-both-worlds private-public combination, mortgage payments on house in the suburbs because the city’s not safe but the country’s boring, car insurance to drive to your house in the suburbs, heating and cooling your overly-large house, cell phone bill, internet bill, high-interest credit card payments…

            Yes you can theoretically save a lot if your wife takes care of kids and household, but more than she could earn? Maybe, maybe not. And so many women at least claim to prefer a career nowadays, especially if Blue Tribe, and that’s who’s around because the country’s boring.*

            *I have previously lived happily in a very rural American town before, enjoying the natural beauty and tightknit community, but driving an hour every time you want to see a movie or eat something other than Arby’s gets old really fast, and the number of women there I’d be interested in marrying was few. Put differently: one can afford to live cheaply and raise many children in the US, but it’s difficult for Grey and Blue tribe members to do so without giving up many of the things they tend to value.

          • Anonymous says:

            Yes you can theoretically save a lot if your wife takes care of kids and household, but more than she could earn? Maybe, maybe not. And so many women at least claim to prefer a career nowadays, especially if Blue Tribe, and that’s who’s around because the country’s boring.

            I would counsel against marrying any woman who values a career over motherhood. Her priorities aren’t right.

            (Also: edited in a link to Mr Money Moustache, as proof of concept that low-cost living can be done in the US also.)

          • Winter Shaker says:

            While Mr Money Mustache has inspired me to try to be a bit more careful with money, it’s probably worth pointing out for the sake of this thread that his policy on fecundity may not be aligned with yours.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Winter Shaker

            True, but his financial advice makes having any number of children easier, it’s not a specific “you can only have one with this lifestyle”. There’s no need to copy his attitude there.

  5. beryllium et barium says:

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the media’s continued refusal to accept the results of the last election?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect they’re going to be _extremely_ disappointed come January 19th, 2021, when Trump is still in office. Assuming they haven’t died of apoplexy on November 3, 2020, if he gets re-elected.

      • gbear605 says:

        PredictIt (as of today) predicts a roughly 28% chance that Trump will be impeached in 2017. If you think it’s lower than that, you stand to make a fair amount of money.

        EDIT: Even more money if you think there’s a lower than 40% chance that Trump will not be president by the end of 2018!

        • BBA says:

          I stop short of absolute metaphysical certitude, because Trump is an old man and I see plenty of reason to question his health. But the chances of him leaving office early for other than health reasons are zero, and I’d offer much better odds than PredictIt.

          (And if, as I fear, the Democrats nominate Andrew Cuomo in 2020, Trump’s going to win 49 states.)

        • Glen Raphael says:

          @gbear605:

          Thanks for pointing that out! I’ve placed a couple small wagers there just for fun. The transaction costs there are huge, so I’ll have to think about whether it’s worth betting real money. (If you win, you have to pay them 10% of your winnings *and* a 5% “transfer fee” to get your money back out. And wait 30 days for repayment.)

        • John Schilling says:

          you stand to make a fair amount of money.

          Predictit’s limit of $850 per contract, coupled with the fact that there are no sure things and even their skewed market valuations aren’t that bad, dials that “fair amount of money” down towards “a bit more than pocket money” levels. It is, I suspect deliberately, hard to make truly significant profits by beating prediction markets.

        • Nornagest says:

          I think 28% is an overestimate and 40% is a serious overestimate, and would be willing to put money on it, but PredictIt is too much of a pain in the ass and takes too much in arbitrage. If anyone wants to make a personal bet, I’ll consider it.

        • Deiseach says:

          By “impeached”, do they mean they will pay out if he is not impeached, or do they mean “well, someone successfully brought a charge of impeachment against him, so that’s why we’re not paying out on the bet” or even worse, “someone brought a charge against him, even if it was not taken up”.

          Because if they mean “Trump was not removed from office due to impeachment and we’ll pay out if that is the result”, then by cracky, that is tempting me to place a bet and I don’t even do the normal “€1 each way on the Grand National/Gold Cup” type betting.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Predictit defines impeachment as a successful House action, regardless of whether the Senate follows up with actual removal. They also offer a separate wager on whether Trump is in office at the end of the year.

            Since you are not in America, you should not use Predictit, but instead Betfair, which only offers exit date, not impeachment.

          • Brad says:

            Impeached means the House of Representatives voted by a simple majority for an Article of Impeachment. It doesn’t mean convicted and removed, that’s up to the Senate and takes a 2/3rds majority.

          • Deiseach says:

            Ah well bugger it, if that’s the case then it’s not worth the hassle. Any idiot can bring a charge of impeachment even if it’s likely to be unsuccessful. If I’m going to place any bets, I’ll stick with Paddy Power 🙂

        • I could see him flouncing out. Its not a good job for someone eho doesn’t like criticism.

      • Wrong Species says:

        What do you think are the chances that Trump colluded with Russia?

        If so, what are the chances this will be uncovered?

        And if that’s true, then what’s the probability Trump gets impeached and removed from office?

        • Humbert McHumbert says:

          What do you think are the chances that Trump colluded with Russia?

          10% (seems highly unlikely that Russia would take the risk, and given Trump’s stupidity I’d have expected a smoking gun by now if he were guilty, but Trump is highly unpredictable and there’s enough sketchy-seeming behavior from him that I can’t rule it out)

          If so, what are the chances this will be uncovered?

          85% (Trump is apparently pretty bad at playing the keeping things under wraps game)

          And if that’s true, then what’s the probability Trump gets impeached and removed from office?

          95% (it’s obviously too big of a high crime and misdemeanor to ignore)

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I think the most likely scenario where Trump is impeached involves him covering up collusion with Russia by other figures in his campaign, like Flynn or Manafort, not colluding with Russia himself.

          Remember, there’s no evidence Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in.

          • it’s obviously too big of a high crime and misdemeanor to ignore

            Doesn’t that depend on what they colluded to do?

            Suppose Trump, directly or through an intermediary, told Putin that it would be really nice if Russia did things that generated bad press for Hillary, and that Hillary would be a worse president, from the Russian standpoint, than Trump. I can’t see anything illegal about that, although it would obviously make Trump look bad if it came out.

          • Brad says:

            It might violate the Logan Act. Which may well be unconstitutional but in the context of impeachment that’s a tough point to raise.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Doesn’t that depend on what they colluded to do?

            Reminder that “collusion” is not a recognized crime in the US Code. Conspiracy is, and that would likely require specific involvement in the crimes of hacking the DNC before the actual events occurred. “It would be really nice if Russia did things that generated bad press for Hillary,” probably doesn’t cut it unless you can demonstrate that he was intending for “things” to refer to specific, illegal things.

            My current read is that this is all unlikely to end up with actual criminal charges against Trump (unless an obstruction charge sticks at some point). If that’s correct, worse case scenario for Trump is an FCI investigation that results in, “The President absolutely cannot be trusted,” and then when it leaks to Congress (and then to the public), we get to engage in a fun Constitutional argument about whether or not the President can be impeached without having committed a crime.

          • John Schilling says:

            Suppose Trump, directly or through an intermediary, told Putin that it would be really nice if Russia did things that generated bad press for Hillary, and that Hillary would be a worse president, from the Russian standpoint, than Trump. I can’t see anything illegal about that, although it would obviously make Trump look bad if it came out.

            It would make Putin look really bad, that he needed Donald Trump to explain this to him.

            Putin isn’t that stupid, which is the flaw in most Trump/Putin conspiracy theories.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            Putin isn’t that stupid, which is the flaw in most Trump/Putin conspiracy theories.

            Agreed.

            I think the most likely scenario where Trump is impeached involves him covering up collusion with Russia by other figures in his campaign, like Flynn or Manafort, not colluding with Russia himself.

            This sounds exactly right to me as well.

            Suppose Trump, directly or through an intermediary, told Putin that it would be really nice if Russia did things that generated bad press for Hillary, and that Hillary would be a worse president, from the Russian standpoint, than Trump. I can’t see anything illegal about that, although it would obviously make Trump look bad if it came out.

            I agree that there’s enough of an argument this violates the Logan Act that, combined with resulting public anger, it could easily lead to impeachment. But I also think that *if* there was collusion, it was probably worse than this (since that’s the only scenario where the Russians would have much to gain from it).

          • Evan Þ says:

            Note that nobody’s ever been indicted under the Logan Act, and one district court publically speculated it might be unconstitutional. (And, I share their concern.) I think all these concerns could easily be raised in an impeachment.

            Of course, if there was sufficient outrage, that wouldn’t necessarily stop the House or Senate.

          • Brad says:

            FWIW, I agree that the Logan Act would be unconstitutional as applied to the hypo and probably unconstitutional altogether. Though maybe some narrowing construction could save it.

            But I don’t see impeachment as fundamentally a legal proceeding. It’s a fundamentally political proceeding influenced by the shadow of criminal law.

        • hyperboloid says:

          I’ll give you a slightly different set of odds.

          I think it is likely that the FBI investigation was close to uncovering something that Tump believed would be threating to the survival of his administration, as there is no other sensible reason to have fired Comey. But I’m not going to commit to saying that that something was evidence of Russian collusion, it just as easily could have been something else.

          I have four words for you: foreign corrupt practices act. Comey was pretty obviously fired for pushing the investigation into Micheal Flynn, and while Flynn’s Russian connections have been the focus of much media attention, they are far from the only liability he has. Flynn improperly failed to register as an agent of the Turkish government, and attempted to influence US policy towards the Kurds with out disclosing his conflict of interest. The president may well have been afraid that any investigation into Flynn’s Turkish connection would ultimately spiral into other peripheral criminal matters. Remember, Trump is a partner in Trump Towers Istanbul, and if he authorized, or was even aware of, any payments to Turkish officials he committed a crime.

          I also don’t fully understand why everybody seems to think that collusion with the Russians is so unlikely. There are very good reasons Putin would want to clear any intervention in the election with Trump first. Any other Republican would have responded to Russian intervention in the election by denouncing Putin, claiming that aggression was the inevitable fruit of Obama’s weakness, and truing the narrative towards Clinton’s infamous “reset” with Moscow. Given Trump’s sometimes unpredictable nature there was good chance that he would do the same, at which point the campaign would have devolved into a contest to see who could call for tougher action against Russia, and the Russians would likely end up facing even tougher sanctions then before when the next president was sworn in.

          Moscow may well have judged that the risk was just have been too high to go forwards with out getting word from Trump’s campaign as to how he would respond. According to his memoirs soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin was ordered to approach Hubert Humphrey and offer the KGB’s assistance during the 1969 presidential election, so there is some precedent for this sort of thing.

          So I say there is something like a sixty five percent chance that there is something out there; thirty percent Russian collusion, thirty percent FCPA violations or money laundering, five percent something else. And much like McHumbert, I say that if there is something to be found there is an eighty five percent chance of it coming out, and if it does come out, a ninety five percent chance of impeachment. So we have .85*.65*.95, which gives us, rounding off, a fifty two percent chance of impeachment.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Those numbers sound about right to me.

            Anyone who is confident it is much less than that can make easy money by a google of ‘paddy power’, ‘trump’, ‘serve full term’.

            The weak spot is 95% chance of impeachment given crimes proved; a proportion of his supporters fundamentally identify with him. No matter what he is proven to have done, they will ask themselves ‘would I have done that too, for that much money?’. Those who answer ‘yes’ could easily be a veto-holding group.

            But you can easily bump up the likelihood of criminality being present to match the observed odds. After all, if they are, some people betting will know for sure…

          • Controls Freak says:

            thirty percent Russian collusion

            Reminder that “collusion” is not a crime in the USC. You need “conspiracy”, which requires specific knowledge and involvement in illegal activities prior to them occurring.

            There are very good reasons Putin would want to clear any intervention in the election with Trump first. Any other Republican would have responded to Russian intervention in the election by denouncing Putin

            Then, worst case scenario (for American democracy), Putin said, “Whatever happens, we’re friends, right? You know we like to help friends.” And Trump responds, “We homeboys ’til the end. Ride or die.”

            …still not conspiracy.

            I don’t have much to say on FCPA besides that we’ve been pretty aggressively enforcing it over the past decade, and there hasn’t really been a shred of legitimate reporting (that I’ve seen) that this is actually on the table for Trump. 30% on either of these items (in a way such that probability sums) is pretty wide-eyed stuff.

            EDIT: Your thought experiment also discounts what I think is the most likely explanation: Putin has smart intelligence agencies who thought about the same thing that literally everyone else thought – Hillary Clinton was going to be the 45th POTUS. Why would he conspire with Trump in June, before the nominations even occur… and wait to try to hack both parties until he ran specifics by Trump? It boggles the mind. It’s insanely more likely that he said, “Go get any information you can get on everybody,” and later decided to use that information to cause max chaos (which aligned with preferring Trump over Clinton).

          • John Schilling says:

            But first you need to get past the hurdle of him, say, shaking the baby to death, a category in which mother’s boyfriends/stepfathers appear to be over-represented.

            There is no sensible reason to fire Comey, period, because it is politically inevitable that firing Comey results in an independent prosecutor looking into the same allegations starting wherever Comey left off but with more people paying attention.

            But if you assume Trump doesn’t understand that, or is too impulsive to care, then being an innocent man wrongly accused is a perfectly understandable reason to want you own personal Inspector Javert and/or Gerard to just shut up and go away already damn it.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Reminder that “collusion” is not a crime in the USC. You need “conspiracy”, which requires specific knowledge and involvement in illegal activities prior to them occurring.

            You don’t need anything. Impeachment is a political process, not a judicial one. Congress writes their own articles of impeachment. If you read the articles adopted by the House Judiciary Committee against Nixon (which was as far as they got before he resigned) you won’t see any citations to the USC.

          • Controls Freak says:

            hyperboloid was talking about the FBI investigation, not a Congressional one.

            You are correct that impeachment is not limited to crimes in USC. Now, do you think the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” provides any limitation?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            There’s also the factor that, regardless of whether a crime according to the US Code is a necessary condition for impeachability, it’s not a sufficient condition. Even before the current flap began you couldn’t take any two random people and get them to agree on which high crimes and misdemeanors do or do not “rise to the level” (to use a phrase much heard back in the days when we were coming to the collective conclusion that perjury does not). Now, fuhgeddaboudit.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Two of the left wing memes about Trump I have never believed, are one: that he is an aspiring Fascist, or two: that he is demented , or syphilitic or otherwise insane.

            I don’t see much evidence of either. Instead what I see is a rational man, of above average intelligence, and no particularly extreme political ideology; but none the less a man who has lived for decades in a bubble of privilege and power that has left him profoundly ignorant about the realities of American democracy.

            This is a man who has lived surrounded by nothing but yes men longer then I’ve been alive. He takes Republican rhetoric about running the government like a business far too literally, and believes he that he can govern the United States the same way he ran the Trump organization.

            Of course the Trump organization is a privately held family business where the President is not accountable to anybody, not a board of directors,
            not stock holders, not any parent company. In his day to day life as head of his company Trump could make arbitrary changes in policy, hire and fire whoever he wanted, and negotiate deals with who ever he wanted to, and all with out justifying his decisions to anybody. The English language has a word for a country run by those principles, dictatorship.

            Now, contrary to what Trump’s most hysterical critics (and more disturbingly his most ardent admirers) think , he has no master plan to destroy democracy, he just doesn’t know any other way to run things, and at his age he is unlikely to learn. Trump’s defining characteristic is a strange combination authoritarianism and naivete, and it could well have lead him to believe he could get away with cutting some kind of deal with Putin.

            @John Schilling
            I understand what your saying, but because I largely discount the prospect of Trump being crazy I figure he must have fired Comey for some reason. Even if, due to some of the reasons I listed above, he underestimated the damage he would do to himself he must have understood there was some risk involved. Provided he was innocent, the FBI investigation would cost him nothing in the long run
            as Comey would likely clear him. Even in the short term Comey was at best a minor announce, and firing him had little upside if Trump had nothing to hide.

            Remember Javert was legally right, if morally wrong, and Valjean, though reformed, was a in fact a thief, an escaped prisoner, and a wanted man. He would not have had to disguise his identity if that were not the case.

            @Controls Freak
            As Anonymous Bosch says impeachment is fundamentally a political not a criminal process. One of the things that gets lost in the conventional histories of Watergate is that it’s remarkably hard to prove that Nixon committed a crime. Because of the president’s role as the chief federal law enforcement officer of the United States makes the idea of charging him with obstruction of justice is a very problematic idea, in the end all he did was make an administrative decision to end an investigation. As much as I hate Nixon, when he said “when the president does it it’s not illegal” he had a point.

            Now, do you think the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” provides any limitation?

            Not really, no. the congress may impeach the president for being a big fat stupid head if they see fit. This prophetic quote from then congressman Gerald Ford in 1970 says it best:

            What, then, is an impeachable offense? The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history; conviction results from whatever offense or offenses two-thirds of the other body considers to be sufficiently serious to require removal of the accused from office

            Impeachment is a political process and the remedy available to the American people in the event of that congress abuses it is a political one, namely voting the bums out. And that is something the Democrats should be cognoscente of.

            Then, worst case scenario (for American democracy), Putin said, “Whatever happens, we’re friends, right? You know we like to help friends.” And Trump responds, “We homeboys ’til the end. Ride or die.”

            I think may have been more like Putin says, “yo Donny T, my boy Guccifer 2.0 gots da hookup on dem democrat emails “, And trump says, “why ain’t you say so before? Put dat shit out dare cuz”

            …Or something to that effect.

            I won’t commit to any particular time line. Russian intelligence may have been collecting all kinds of things, including stuff on republicans, and only made a decision on what to release after trump had a lock on the nomination. Or they may have reached out to Trump earlier, before launching any operation. And of course they could have acted without coordination with Trump campaign at all. But I do find it suspicious that the most serious penetration of the DNC began in April of 2016, as Trump was moping up the Republican opposition.

            If Trump gave a thumbs up to releasing the emails I would think it qualifies as an impeachable offense. The alternative to removing Trump would be to legitimize foreign intelligence intervention in American politics. One of the long running conspiracy theories about the NSA was that American intelligence simply outsourced spying on US citizens to our allies. Now we learned that was not true after the release of the Snowden documents, but what if that becomes the norm going forwards?

            How do we have a fourth amendment if the president can pick up the phone, place a call overseas, and have his opponents phones or emails hacked?

          • Brad says:

            It’s absolutely trivial to get a legal violation to hang an impeachment on. Presidents routinely violate laws they believe to be unconstitutional encroachments on Article II powers. In the ordinary course of events this, at most, leads to litigation and eventually some sort of determination. But if the HoR wants to put it in Articles of Impeachment they certainly can.

            For Andrew Johnson they passed a new law, but in the modern era that’s not necessary. Just have a congressional staffer browse through the signing statements and it should be easy enough to find something.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Brad – Yep. I’ve believed for years that President Obama should’ve been impeached for, among other things, not faithfully enforcing the Affordable Care Act. And now, Trump can be impeached for the same reason too.

          • Controls Freak says:

            do you think the phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” provides any limitation?

            Not really, no. the congress may impeach the president for being a big fat stupid head if they see fit.

            I think this has obvious texualist problems and less obvious separation of powers problems. In the strict sense, there is little which can actually stop the Congress from such massive norm-violating (the Constitution doesn’t fix any and all problems; it sets bounds and guidelines within which human beings have to play nice to some extent)… but I’m a fan of not fighting norm-violators with norm-violations.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @hyperboloid

            Remember Javert was legally right, if morally wrong

            I’d dispute that latter assertion. (Les Mis is vile Lefty propaganda.)

      • MrApophenia says:

        If this was still just about Russia, I would think you were probably right.

        But Trump was dumb enough to try to obstruct justice in really clear, obvious ways. The deputy Attorney General is already testifying to Congress that the rationale used to fire Comey was a lie. Republicans in the House and the Senate have subpoenaed the Comey memos. I mean damn, he went on TV and admitted to firing Comey in relation to Russia.

        It doesn’t matter anymore whether Trump is directly implicated in Flynn, Manafort, etc. Russia hijinks. He’s already sewn himself up for obstruction in a way that is going to be really, really tough to get out of.

    • James Miller says:

      By media do you mean the billionaire class? (New York Times: Carlos Slim, Washington Post: Jeff Bezos, Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg)

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      When the intelligence agencies are basically throwing out buckets of chum, I don’t blame sharks for showing up.

    • onyomi says:

      I, for one, am completely disgusted, and largely agree with Scott Adams and The Federalist.

      Basically, I feel like now all politics is one fake, hypocritical outrage after another, none of which I actually care about: lying about blowjobs, e-mail servers, taxes, grabbing pussies, taxes, Russia, Russia, Russia. I just don’t care about any of this, and I don’t think most Americans really care except insofar as they can be used to bludgeon the opponent. I honestly don’t think I would have even cared about Nixon taping people and covering up a hotel breakin had I been alive at the time. Would I have disapproved? Sure. Enough to completely change the political course of the country. No.

      Where is the outrage for uh… unnecessary wars, bailouts, programs that trap millions in poverty by e.g. incentivizing single motherhood?? A president can do any of these things and no one ever threatens impeachment. It’s only if you break some of their own esoteric rules that they cynically go after you when it seems politically expedient to do so.

      I highly doubt Trump will be impeached; probably he will get re-elected as most presidents do and he is charismatic. But I also agree that if the elites plus dems impeach Trump, especially this soon out of the box, and for an offense which his base frankly doesn’t even understand, much less care about, then they are only going to be greatly damaging their ability to govern in the future, as they’ll have shown their utter contempt for the democratic preferences of the people they claim to represent.

      Not being a big fan of democracy, maybe I should be happy about this long term, but it’s hard to be very happy about it short term.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I think you misunderstand the purpose of impeachment. Presidents should not be impeached for pursuing bad policies – that would truly be anti-democratic.

        Rather, because the President is head of the executive branch, there is a real danger of him ignoring the law or (relevant!) interfering with law enforcement. Impeachment exists to counteract this possibility.

        • onyomi says:

          But even on this score it’s applied completely hypocritically and inconsistently. What about the trend of ruling by executive order? This is a much more consequential overstepping of presidential authority. But it’s one politicians like, so it gets ignored.

          On the theory that impeachment is a tool for stopping presidential overreach, TR, FDR, and LBJ should have been impeached way ahead of Nixon and Clinton.

          My theory is that, in practice, impeachment is a tool not for removing the president when he breaks the rules set by e.g. the Constitution, but for removing him when he deviates from established, customary DC practice.

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            On object-level I agree with you about ruling by executive orders, but we should acknowledge that there is honest disagreement here. You can’t expect presidents to be impeached for that which > 40% of the country thinks is one of the legitimate functions of the president.

            I don’t know exactly which misdeeds of TR, FDR and LBJ you are referring to, but some of the obvious ones fall to similar objections. LBJ lied to the country, but I think not under oath which gets him out on a technicality. FDR pushed unconstitutional laws, but this is not a crime so long as you accept it when they are ruled unconstitutional.

            I definitely agree that the impeachment mechanism is unreliable when congress is controlled by the president’s partisans.

          • BBA says:

            I suspect every single president did something unconstitutional, with the obvious exception of William Henry Harrison who simply didn’t get the chance. If you reject McCulloch v. Maryland it’s trivial for most of them. (I accept McCulloch.)

          • Nornagest says:

            My theory is that, in practice, impeachment is a tool not for removing the president when he breaks the rules set by e.g. the Constitution, but for removing him when he deviates from established, customary DC practice.

            What are you basing this on? Clinton was about as establishment as they come, if maybe slightly less so than his wife. Nixon was a pretty wonkish guy too, and had a very clear-cut case for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. Andrew Johnson was impeached for basically political reasons, so that’s one, but that case happened a hundred and fifty years ago — and in the turbulent post-Civil War era, so I’m not sure how much customary DC practice there was at the time.

          • BBA says:

            Clinton was about as establishment as they come

            Time makes anyone part of the establishment, but in the ’90s this nobody from Arkansas was definitely an outsider. David Broder, dean of the Washington press corps, summed up the scandal that lead to the impeachment as, “He came in here and he trashed the place, and it’s not his place.” And I understand that sentiment was pretty common at Georgetown cocktail parties in those days.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Russia : Trump :: Kenya : Obama

        • Anonymous says:

          Now just wait for Trump to produce a genuine certificate altered to make it look like a forgery proving that he’s not in bed with the Russians, and pass the popcorn!

        • Tarhalindur says:

          *delurks*

          Tonally, I agree – Blue Tribe’s rhetoric about Trump has the exact same angry intensity and clickbait tendencies (arguments as soldiers, natch!) as Red Tribe’s reaction to Obama did. (My impression is that it’s a notch above the Bush-era rhetoric, fwiw.)

          Something about the content strikes me as different, though; IIRC, the attacks on Obama centered mostly on eligibility up until either Fast and Furious or Benghazi. That poses a question that I’m too young to be able to answer myself (and that ties into the comment thread above): How comparable is Blue Tribe’s Trump reaction to the initial Red Tribe reaction to *Bill Clinton* (back in the Vince Foster/Whitewater days)? And for that matter, how comparable was the Red Tribe response to Bill Clinton and the Red Tribe response to Obama?

        • cassander says:

          I’d say it’s more like the benghazi nonsense than the kenyan thing. Same basic structure, attempt to smear by endless process.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Sure, if there was a giant mountain of evidence about Obama’s fake birth certificate, and a grand jury in the process of issuing subpoenas to his campaign staff for their involvement in his Kenyan connections.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            Sure, if there was a giant mountain of evidence about Obama’s fake birth certificate, and a grand jury in the process of issuing subpoenas to his campaign staff for their involvement in his Kenyan connections.

            What do you think Trump did? Let’s get specific.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I don’t know if anyone reads old Open Threads, but I just saw this so what the hell –

            I think his campaign coordinated with Russian intelligence with a quid pro quo arrangement that they would intervene in the election in return for favorable policy on issues like Ukraine, and that this is why they were in regular contact throughout the election and why they changed the official party policy on Russia and Ukraine.

            I don’t think there is proof yet that Trump personally was involved – I find it difficult to believe that his Manafort, Flynn, Page, Kushner, and Sessions were all speaking with the Russians and Trump had no clue, but I find it plausible they won’t be able to prove it.

            However, I also think there is now ample evidence that Trump actively tried to impede the investigation into the matter, and that is simple obstruction of justice, which is an impeachable offense even if Trump was completely in the dark about Russia.

        • Urstoff says:

          Did Obama have known Kenyan sympathizers on his staff that I’m not aware of?

          I doubt Trump had anything directly to do with the Russians, because he’s not smart enough to actually do anything clandestine, but known Russophiles like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn may have been. However, it’s probably better to drop the whole thing and move on (unless he brings Flynn back like he said he wants too); there are more important battles to fight.

          • MrApophenia says:

            No way that happens now. Trump ended any possibility of that when he fired Comey. He not only committed the exact offense that got Nixon removed (it wasn’t the Watergate break-in, it was interfering in the FBI investigation), but he has done it in such an obvious manner that even the Republicans in the House & Senate are holding hearings without Democrats even needing to really push the issue.

            The proverbial “smoking gun” from Watergate was getting Nixon on tape saying something Trump has already admitted to on national television, for Christ’s sake.

          • Urstoff says:

            Right; I think Trump probably fired Comey out of impulsiveness rather than trying to cover something up, but it’s obviously backfiring spectacularly.

      • BBA says:

        I just don’t care about any of this, and I don’t think most Americans really care except insofar as they can be used to bludgeon the opponent.

        Truer words were never spoken. I’m so pissed off about my fellow lefties grasping at these irrelevant Russia straws in the nonsensical hope that somehow this could lead to the restoration of the legitimate Clinton dynasty to the throne, that I’m strongly tempted to switch sides and start hailing Kek.

        I’m not going to, because I still disagree with Trump about everything that actually matters, but maaaaan…

        • herbert herberson says:

          Don’t jump ship yet, there is plenty of room on the left for eye-rolling at the Russia stuff. Certainly, everyone I follow and agree with agrees that:
          a.) it’s not going to get rid of him
          b.) even if it did, it would be silly, because none of the things Putin wants are scarier than the things Paul Ryan (or, to be more on the nose, Mike Pence) wants
          c.) the whole exercise is mostly about the mainstream Dem liberals trying to find a way to explain the election that doesn’t boil down to “your mediocre policies weren’t enough to get people to vote for your charisma-less candidate”
          d.) even if every sputtering of Louise Mench turned out to be true, it still doesn’t excuse HRC for losing to such a jaw-dropping joke of an idiot clown

          • Longtimelurker says:

            jaw-dropping joke of an idiot clown

            As compared to?

          • herbert herberson says:

            Any commenter here, for starters. I know there are people here who consider his wealth prima facie evidence of intelligence* and generally buy into Dilbertesque contortions of the last year’s events to hold him up as some kind of genius, but come on. I’ve met smart people, and I’ve met stupid people, and I know which one Trump sounds like.

            Even if you take the position that he only sounds like an idiot, because really he wants his messaging to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible–you can’t expect those of us on the left to hold back on the obvious surface critique out of respect for his ulterior motivation.

            * worth noting that this argument only suggest he was not an idiot at some point in time, and doesn’t rule out the dementia that his age and family background make a genuine possibility.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            none of the things Putin wants are scarier than the things Paul Ryan (or, to be more on the nose, Mike Pence) wants

            Forget Putin, Ryan, or Mike Pence, this sort of rhetoric is what really scares me. Opposing socialized medicine — or, to be more precisely, only supporting 85% as much socialized medicine as the Democrats do — is scarier than Vladimir Putin’s campaign of authoritarianism and outright military conquest? There is no sense of proportion here and no willingness to admit that some people think varying levels of government welfare will work better than others.

          • herbert herberson says:

            is scarier than Vladimir Putin’s campaign of authoritarianism and outright military conquest? There is no sense of proportion here and no willingness to admit that some people think varying levels of government welfare will work better than others.

            I was a little sloppy there, possibly. I hope it’s understood that I’m not talking about objective scariness, but rather his potential effect on my life and the world? With that established, Putin isn’t going to be president. I’m not worried about how he governs his people, because its not my business (plus, if it were, I’d have to account for a higher popularity rating than and US president for the last 15 years). My concern is what influence he will have on my country. The main area where he and Trump differ from the mainstream consensus is regime change in Syria, and since I happen to think that’s a bad idea, I find it hard to view the potential that he influenced Trump on that front with any particular consternation.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            My concern is what influence he will have on my country.

            Well, let’s be clear here: every potential Republican president supports at a minimum 85% of Obamacare instead of 100%. Given that, perhaps being “scared” is a wildly disproportionate and dysfunctional reaction to typical political views you have known of all your life and lived under up until 2008, and it would be a good idea to sit back and think about who benefits from that level of general fear about mainstream political views. It’s certainly good for stampeding people into the voting booth without engaging their critical faculties, that’s for sure.

          • herbert herberson says:

            it would be a good idea to sit back and think about who benefits from that level of general fear about mainstream political views. It’s certainly good for stampeding people into the voting booth without engaging their critical faculties, that’s for sure.

            This applies far more to your vague and unrigorous fearmongering towards the current foreign villain de jour than it does to the straightforward observation that block-granting and cutting billions from Medicaid will lead directly to very real suffering on an enormous scale.

          • beleester says:

            I’m not sure where you’re getting this idea that the Republican platform is “85% of Obamacare,” when even the Republicans themselves couldn’t agree on what they wanted to replace Obamacare with.

            The Freedom Caucus wants around 0%. Trump wants all the features but without the unpopular part that pays for it, which I suppose you could call “85% of Obamacare”, but you don’t get credit for promising impossible things no matter how nice they sound.

          • herbert herberson says:

            It’s also odd how ThirteenthLetter seems to view all differences between the parties and the factions thereof as limited to health care policy. Trump’s proposed budget (now pushed off ten months via yet another continuing resolution, because why would a party that controls both houses and the presidency pass an actual budget, lol) would have ended my job, and not in a way that appeared to be Vladamir fuckin’ Putin’s idea. Would it be okay for me to be scared of that, or is it too uncivil?

          • Incurian says:

            Thank you for demonstrating Bastiat’s definition of the state:

            The state is the great fictitious entity by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            @beleester:

            I’m not sure where you’re getting this idea that the Republican platform is “85% of Obamacare,” when even the Republicans themselves couldn’t agree on what they wanted to replace Obamacare with.

            What the House passed was basically Obamacare with some random waivers. The Senate claims that’s DOA, but they’re staring down the barrel of the exact same political environment the House was.

            Congress could send a reconciliation bill to Trump’s desk tomorrow that repeals the whole thing and sets the clock back to 2010. They aren’t, and they won’t, and if there’s one commonality to how most elected Republicans talk about health care it’s that Obamacare totally needs to be repealed except for basically everything it does. All their big promises were lies. Socialized medicine is here to stay. We’ve established what everyone is; now we’re just haggling over the price.

            @herberson:

            This applies far more to your vague and unrigorous fearmongering towards the current foreign villain de jour than it does to the straightforward observation that block-granting and cutting billions from Medicaid will lead directly to very real suffering on an enormous scale.

            And so we’re again at the point where we can’t just disagree about the consequences of a policy (defenders of block grants will argue that Medicaid will be more efficiently administrated at a lower level, for example, and can therefore be cheaper); no, even the slightest deviation from the Democratic program is the APOCALYPSE and must be #resisted by any means necessary. Frankly, conspiracy theories about Russia controlling Trump are less damaging to the Republic than an attitude like that which admits to no compromise and no possibility that the other side might have a few good points.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Thirteenth Letter:

            The Senate claims that’s DOA, but they’re staring down the barrel of the exact same political environment the House was.

            The position of the individual House member and the individual Senate member are different, and the positions of House members more variable. Senators run statewide (and the margin in the Senate is much smaller). House members run in much smaller districts.

            My point being that overall environment has a smaller influence on each House member, so they aren’t running in the same environment.

            Your other points seem to rest on the idea that small changes can’t have big effects. For instance, Medicaid is currently an entitlement with guarantees of coverage, and block granting changes the fundamental nature of the program. With no guarantee of coverage, that means their is no guarantee that the funding stream keeps pace or covers everyone who is elegible. There is a massive difference between an entitlement and block grant, even though it’s a “small change.”

          • herbert herberson says:

            And so we’re again at the point where we can’t just disagree about the consequences of a policy (defenders of block grants will argue that Medicaid will be more efficiently administrated at a lower level, for example, and can therefore be cheaper); no, even the slightest deviation from the Democratic program is the APOCALYPSE and must be #resisted by any means necessary

            This is what disagreeing on a policy looks like. One side says something is more efficient, the other notes that when you take away healthcare from people some of them will die. I’m sorry the bloodlessness of one position puts it at an emotional and rhetorical disadvantage, but that’s what disagreeing on politics looks like.

            Additionally, in your rush to flatten the differences between the parties to health care, then trivialize that difference, you neglected to answer my question. So, again, Trump’s proposed budget (which was taken from Heritage, a GOP think tank), would have eliminated my job (and the jobs of a number of people who I like). Am I allowed to find that “scary,” or should that, too, be treated as an abstract debate club of policy choices where anyone who brings up the human costs of policy is some kind of dick?

          • Matt C says:

            > I’m sorry the bloodlessness of one position puts it at an emotional and rhetorical disadvantage

            We should all be sorry, because it means that the USA won’t ever be able to unwind the cost-inflation messes in our health care system in any orderly way. Any substantive attempts to cut health care spending will be successfully opposed with (correct) claims that people will die.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            So, again, Trump’s proposed budget (which was taken from Heritage, a GOP think tank), would have eliminated my job (and the jobs of a number of people who I like). Am I allowed to find that “scary,” or should that, too, be treated as an abstract debate club of policy choices where anyone who brings up the human costs of policy is some kind of dick?

            Hey, go for it! Pure, naked self-interest is a perfectly valid reason to cast your vote in a particular way; indeed, at least in some respects it makes democracy better when people vote their own self-interest. But you have to own it. Don’t pretend that your vote to keep your job is more (or less) moral than, say, a defense contractor voting to keep his job.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, I don’t understand the desire to remove Trump via impeachment because that is going to result in President Pence and my understanding is that he is nearly as/even more hated than Trump, at least by a slice of the Democratic support.

          Unless they think “After Trump goes, then we go after Pence!” and that way lies madness.

          • James Miller says:

            But disgust is a stronger emotion than hate.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know about that. Pence is a bog-standard social conservative; he was squeezed out of social conservative putty by a social conservative machine into a social conservative mold. Democrats do hate that, and I’ve seen a fair number of hand-wringing articles about how when Trump gets removed, then we’ll have President Pence and that’ll be much worse for the usual victims; but it’s a familiar, comfortable hate, and at the end of the day it’s something the party’s used to dealing with. I get the feeling that the Trump hysteria we’re seeing is as much about his being different as anything else.

          • herbert herberson says:

            I might be in a bubble here because I went to school in DC and my wider circle has a lot of Beltway types, but at least from that perspective the loudest voices for impeachment are centrists. They’re not terribly troubled by mainstream Republicanism, and object to the Russia stuff directly–it’s not mere means to the end of getting rid of him, but the result of genuine and deeply felt outrage at the prospect of foreign influence.

          • Urstoff says:

            From what I’ve heard from those on the left is that they expect Pence to respect the rule of law and normal administrative and political norms. It would be more of a conventional fight than the current shitshow.

          • JayT says:

            I think that Pence is hated almost as much as Trump by the far left, but the more moderate and apolitical Democrats just look at him as a bog-standard Republican.
            That, and there’s the fact that a good number of Republicans want Trump gone, but they would, by and large, be fine with a president Pence.

          • Brad says:

            The only people I hear sounding any note of caution about impeaching Trump because Pence is behind him are pretty far down both the wonk and activist axes. One or the other doesn’t seem sufficient.

            In any event, I don’t think impeachment is going to happen. Republicans in Congress won’t turn on Trump unless his approval ratings among Republicans drops significantly. In the trailing week it was still at 84%.

            I don’t know enough about Republican dynamics to know if Fox News leads or follows opinion, but they are my proxy for chances that Trump will be impeached. Until and unless they turn on him I will continue to think it unlikely.

          • Humbert McHumbert says:

            Seems like Pence might not follow through on the build a wall boondoggle, and would have better judgment in a crisis. That’s reason enough to prefer President Pence.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In addition to all the rest, while he was on the ticket Pence did not _defeat_ them; he did not _humiliate_ them by running a campaign the New York Times said belonged in the Entertainment section, and defeating their champion with it. Trump did.

          • 1soru1 says:

            President Pence/Ryan/whoever, with elections in 2020, is a hell of a lot better option than Emperor Trump.

            There is no plausible scenario where a Republican Congress ignore blatant violations of the rule of law to keep Trump in office, but then suddenly has a collective attack of conscience and decides to permit an election under terms they would lose. If a fair election means defeat, defeat means investigation, investigation of the guilty means jail, then you can hardly expect them to vote to imprison themselves.

            There are no n-dimensional chess games to play, no political scenarios to work through. Either Trump is innocent, or he should be found guilty and impeached.

            The alternative is the fall of the Republic.

          • Anonymous says:

            Would you compromise for Emperor Obama and no elections? 🙂

          • Deiseach says:

            The only people I hear sounding any note of caution about impeaching Trump because Pence is behind him are pretty far down both the wonk and activist axes.

            The policy axes may make a calculation that they can live with getting Pence as a result of impeaching Trump, but with elections coming up in 2018 and a section of their support not being very happy with the idea of President Pence, it might spark a “we’re taking the scalps of anyone who facilitated Pence’s ascent to the top job” revolt amongst the voters they need – and, as the election showed us, the Democrats can’t afford to take the “We’ve got this section of support sewn up and locked down” tack or take any votes for granted:

            Better is a relative term and, given the low bar set by Trump, it is an easy goal to achieve depending on how you define “better.” Pence would definitely bring far less drama and volatility to the office. He would not have the entourage of family members and fringe misfits that Trump has assembled. Indeed, a President Pence would surround himself with far more “mainstream” conservatives. He would have the advice and counsel of people who have made advancing a conservative agenda their life’s work. He would employ people who have studied the issues and who, through years of practice, have become skilled in promoting a meaner, more racist, more sexist, more stratified America. And this, I believe, makes him far worse for America.

            I’m going to interject my horrible “mean, bitter, pinched, evil face” social conservative views in here and admit I would like to smack the face off the writer of the following:

            As governor of Indiana, Pence signed the most abortion-restrictive regulations in the nation, banning abortion even in cases where the fetus has a “genetic abnormality” such as Down syndrome

            We have two Down’s Syndrome toddlers in the early intervention service where I work. They may be only two years old but they have definite personalities and characters of their own. How backwards and barbaric of my nation to permit these genetically abnormal parasites to be born! Luckily, with every chance that the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution will be repealed and abortion legalised in Ireland quite soon, in the near future no longer will normal citizens be forced to endure the sight of freaks like this out in public because they will no longer exist, having been neatly terminated before they could develop from a foetus into a real baby!

          • Nornagest says:

            There is no plausible scenario where a Republican Congress ignore blatant violations of the rule of law to keep Trump in office, but then suddenly has a collective attack of conscience and decides to permit an election under terms they would lose.

            Care to put money on that? I’d bet at rather long odds that the 2020 elections will be held as scheduled, with no more serious accusations of voter fraud/suppression than in the 2016 ones.

          • 1soru1 says:

            I’d bet at rather long odds that the 2020 elections will be held as scheduled

            Not the question asked. Four scenarios:

            1. Trump investigated and found innocent
            2. Trump investigated and impeached
            3. Trump blocks all investigation, then holds fair election
            4. Trump blocks all investigation, then cancels/blatantly rigs election

            It’s 3 that is unlikely; opinions on the relative likelihood of 1 and 2 vary, as do those on the desirability of 4.

          • Nornagest says:

            Trump doesn’t have the powers to block all investigation. He has some ability to step on internal executive-branch stuff, but if Congress decides to get involved there’s nothing he can do about it short of effectively launching a coup. Same for the grand jury now that it’s got its feet under it: the people actually doing the legwork are not appointees.

            If he does launch a coup to stop a Congressional inquiry, then yeah, it’s not going to be followed up by fair elections. But then investigations are the least of our worries, and anyway it’s not going to happen unless I’ve seriously misread something. A more plausible scenario would read “Trump squashes internal probes via regular executive powers, the existing grand jury doesn’t go anywhere, and Congress declines to act”, but that’s not likely to lead to anything serious in the long term. There is a tacit understanding that these sorts of investigations are political weapons, and it’s quite rare for them to go anywhere once their target’s out of office.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Urstoff:

            From what I’ve heard from those on the left is that they expect Pence to respect the rule of law and normal administrative and political norms.

            In other words, Pence will don the damn Washington Generals jersey like he’s supposed to.

            Anyway, whatever you do, don’t divide Trump by his height….

          • John Schilling says:

            There is no plausible scenario where a Republican Congress ignore blatant violations of the rule of law to keep Trump in office, but then suddenly has a collective attack of conscience and decides to permit an election under terms they would lose.

            The way the US government actually works, the election happens under the usual rules whether Congress permits it or not. That’s handled by a part of the bureaucracy that doesn’t answer to Congress or the President except under extraordinary circumstances, and which will be shielded by the judiciary if Congress or the President tells them to significantly change anything about the 2018 or 2020 elections.

            The threat/promise of impeachment, legally justified or otherwise, goes away if the GOP congress decides to ignore it. The elections don’t go away unless somebody carries out a successful coup, and the Army is unlikely to go for that. Unless maybe somebody does something blatantly illegal or illegitimate to unseat Trump and the Army is left with the choice of determining which illegitimate government will rule, and even then they might sit it out.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Trump doesn’t have the powers to block all investigation.

            He doesn’t have the _legal_ power to do that. But if he has the power to do illegal things without being stopped, then he has the _actual_ power to do so.

            The argument that he doesn’t have the actual power to do so boils down to the argument that he would be impeached if he tries.

            And we’ll see how that shakes out.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @1soru1:
            A long chain of events could theoretically lead to a “legal coup”, but it’s actually a long chain, not a “Trump cancels elections” scenario. It would need the cooperation of too many people to simply just happen. Trump isn’t currently getting that kind of cooperation from the bureaucracy, and too much the congress knows that they lose their power (which is ultimately rooted in the vote) by giving that to Trump.

            The only thing I could see that precipitates such a thing would be a large scale attack on the U.S. very shortly before the election, and I don’t see that being at all likely.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @1soru1

            Four scenarios:

            1. Trump investigated and found innocent
            2. Trump investigated and impeached
            3. Trump blocks all investigation, then holds fair election
            4. Trump blocks all investigation, then cancels/blatantly rigs election

            It’s odd, but certain circles on the far-Right in which I circulate agree with you on the unlikelihood of your #3. They just disagree as to the ‘why.’ Because they see #3 not as unfolding as:
            Trump blocks all investigation (for a value of “blocks all investigation”, that, per Nornagest’s comment, includes Republican-dominated Congress choosing not to investigate), then holds fair election, is defeated, and then the blocked/delayed investigations ensue under the new Democrat government, leading not to impeachment but jail for Trump and his circle, and possibly as well for Republican Congresspeople for criminal collusion (or whatever you charge them with for “ignor[ing] blatant violations of the rule of law” in failing to remove Trump).

            Instead, the argument goes:
            Trump blocks all investigation (for a value of “blocks all investigation”, that, per Nornagest’s comment, includes Republican-dominated Congress choosing not to investigate), then holds fair election, is defeated, and then the entire Trump family gets murdered a la the Romanovs, along with all or most of the Republicans in Congress.

            And similarly, they see #2 as unlikely because it leads to the same place: Barron Trump is “fed to crocodiles” (as one put it), and Republican Congresspeople, those who voted for impeachment just as much as those voting against it, get slaughtered.

            Note, I’m not saying I entirely agree with this model — it seems a bit overblown to me — but your somewhat similar argument coming from a different direction does prompt me to up the likelihood at least a little.

            Now, I may have misread you, but based on your other replies here in this thread, you do seem to be claiming that if Trump is not impeached (or at least “credibly” investigated) by Congress, then when he is out of office, the next Democratic president will launch the investigation of him, with an eye to imprisonment, and possibly the Republican Congresspeople who “ignore[d] blatant violations of the rule of law to keep Trump in office”, despite, as Nornagest notes, it being “quite rare” for these sorts of investigations “to go anywhere once their target’s out of office.” Is this correct?

            Because if the Left is indeed signalling these intentions, I don’t think it will turn out well. Because, while the argument toward Congress to ‘impeach Trump now while he’s in office, or we’ll go after him (and you) when he’s out of office’ may be intended to push up the likelihood of outcome #2 (and, presumably #1 to a lesser extent), I see it as most likely working to push up the likelihood of #4. While jailing may be less of a threat than being “Romanoved”, if the core signal is that giving up power is a guarantee of personal destruction, how does that not greatly increase the probability of Holy American Emperor Donald I, vivat rex?

          • CatCube says:

            @KevinC

            That model is a little more than a bit overblown. Why on earth would somebody* bother to execute Trump’s family after he lost the next election? He’s going back to Trump tower.

            * Who this somebody is is also worth questioning. Are they imagining the Army doing this? I think Trump took that demographic by a significant margin.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Any plausible future Democrat president will no doubt issue blanket pardons.

            But if they were reasonable people, with an understanding of the mindset of actually-existing liberals, then they wouldn’t be what they are.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Okay, for “execute” read “imprison and/or reduce to relative penury through fines.” Suddenly the situation becomes… well, not entirely implausible for a future liberal President to set in motion.

          • CatCube says:

            Kind of like how Trump is working tirelessly to jail Clinton, or sending a death squad to drag her out of her house and bury her in a shallow grave? Assuming arguendo that Trump loses, his opponent won’t give a shit once he moves into the White House.

            Unless there’s enough evidence to actually sustain an impeachment (already ruled out in the hypothetical), once Trump leaves he’ll fade into the background again, and his opponents will be happy to see him go.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @CatCube

            Who this somebody is is also worth questioning. Are they imagining the Army doing this?

            No, the answer is basically “black-masked Nazi-punchers”. Recall that the Romanovs (and their companions in exile) were executed by a group of “three local Bolsheviks and seven soldiers” under the direction of one Yakov Yurovsky, when they were already in exile. The model here is basically combining this with the recent Berkeley conflicts. In short, violent leftists will show up to kill “fascist” Republicans and the Trump family, and as with Berkeley, police will stand by and watch it happen, only intervening to disarm and/or arrest any security or others who try to defend against “these poor, innocent left-wing political protestors”.

            Why? Remember the Portland parade cancelled because of threats by a left-wing group to disrupt the parade and physically remove from it “Fascists”, said “Fascists” being the Multnomah County Republican Party. Or the ever-escalating “punch a Nazi” rhetoric. The idea that mainstream Republican politicians are “fascists” that must be resisted and removed may be a fairly fringe position on the Left at present, but it looks to be trending upward. The idea that lethal violence against “fascists” is acceptable as “self-defense” is also fringe. But Cthulhu swims left. So the model is that what starts out fringe becomes mainstream. The Dreaded Jim, for example, predicts about seven years before “ordinary Republican politicians are Fascists against whom lethal violence is legitimate” becomes a mainstream position of the American Left. (I disagree, of course.) The idea is that when we reach that point, police will be ordered, as in Berkeley, to stand aside and let the gangs of left-wing “Black Block” goons slaugher right-wing politicians with impunity.

            @1soru1

            Any plausible future Democrat president will no doubt issue blanket pardons.

            Issue them to whom? Your reply is a bit unclear.

          • CatCube says:

            @Kevin C

            Well, they restored the Secret Service protection to previous presidents, so I’m not real concerned about some random assholes who have a little fit when told to remove their masks busting through a perimeter manned by federal agents.

            And I absolutely remember that parade being cancelled; I live in Portland. That pissed me off so badly, that even though I didn’t vote for Trump, if the county Republican Party submitted a permit to conduct the parade themselves I’d get a MAGA cap and a bat wrapped in barbed wire and join the march myself. And I HATE political marches as a concept.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Previous Presidents, yes. But their families?

            And the police are already stepping back and letting the leftist insurrectionists have their way; is it so unthinkable to imagine the Secret Service doing the same?

          • CatCube says:

            @Evan Thorne

            Remember, the left-wing bias is a bias, not an ironclad law of activity. It might be one thing for the mayor of a city to tell himself that has to have the cops stand back and not bust heads to avoid wooking meen to the poor widdle Black Bloc members, but you’re proposing that they’re cool with standing back and letting a bunch of people with guns ball up an entire family, including a 10-year-old.

            This is leaving aside that we’re not talking about a local mayor here; we’re talking a federal government agency where we haven’t seen them be cool with not protecting the President. You’re saying that all of a sudden they’ll decide to just not do their jobs one day. Why is George W. Bush still walking about aboveground if they’re prone to doing this?

            Look, I’ve spent more time reading Kevin C’s interpretation of the Deep State so maybe this is more addressed to him: The Deep State is a problem because it’s an interlocking set of rules that straitjacket people and privilege those who are familiar with its intricacies. Its power comes from the fact that these rules are held nearly sacrosanct, so violations of them can be used to cut an opponent’s legs out from under them. If it starts actually disregarding these rules, like, saying “Fuck it tonight at 21:23 everybody runs out there and drags an opponent into the street douses them in gasoline and sets them on fire” then that power disappears in a puff of smoke. It depends entirely upon the shared value that these rules bind everybody. That means that there’s an Overton Window that all of these people operate in (to include me, since I am a federal employee).

            The problem and frustration with “fixing” the deep state is that this Overton Window is too far to the left, but don’t fall into the paranoid delusion that that means there’s no left side to it at all.

            Kevin C. a while back was attempting to make the case that the Presidency was worthless, because otherwise “they” (I never did quite figure out who “they” were) would never have let President Trump win, and that they would have done something to prevent him from being inaugurated with prosecution or something. I maintain that there’s nobody who could just “not allow” this to happen; there are gates that make it difficult for just anybody to run, but once President Trump got beyond those the media, Congress, the courts, and anybody in the Executive Branch who had a problem with him had zero ability to do anything about it.

            What’s really frustrating is that President Trump could absolutely push that Overton Window back towards the right, if he was only competent. His staff had at least a start of a handle on the Comey firing, and then the President went and fucked it up with the Holt interview. Creating and maintaining credibility to influence the direction of things requires a message discipline that he apparently doesn’t have. I keep hoping that he’ll learn to create a unified message, make sure that all of this people know it and that he knows it, then everybody tells that story in front of a camera (and on Twitter!), but I know in my heart he’s probably not going to learn it.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I share your exasperation at Trump’s incompetence. I only pray that he hasn’t thrown away the last chance to save the country, while I wonder whether it’s less incompetence and more that he never really had a plan in the first place.

            I don’t think the Secret Service as such is just going to sit down and refuse to do their job. I’m thinking of two possibilities:

            A) After Trump leaves office, under current law, the Secret Service will be protecting him and his wife. His kids (those over age 16) are on their own, in the loving hands of the local police who have already refused to protect uninvolved people who happen to be going through territory claimed by the insurrectionists. Fortunately, they’re rich enough to hire bodyguards, and the Second Amendment is currently interpreted to allow those bodyguards to actually carry weapons. However, it remains a threat – and much more of one if Heller or MacDonald is overturned, leaving their bodyguards’ armaments up to officials who are subject to political pressure.

            B) For Donald and Melania Trump themselves, the Secret Service rules of engagement may change so that they can still plausibly claim they’re doing their job… but they’re actually leaving openings for insurrectionists. I don’t consider this as plausible a threat, but I don’t know what the country will be like in four or eight years.

          • Nornagest says:

            The argument that he doesn’t have the actual power to do so boils down to the argument that he would be impeached if he tries.

            That is one check on Trump’s power. Another is if he orders something, early implementation starts, but a judge declares it illegal and implementation stops. A third is if he orders something clearly illegal, the people in charge of implementing it say “that’s an illegal order, sir”, and nothing happens. Option 2 has already happened. I suspect option 3 has too, but we haven’t heard about it because the order didn’t pass the cabinet level.

            This isn’t a “l’etat, c’est moi” situation. The people that actually get things done in the executive branch are mostly lifers, not beholden to Trump and, outside law enforcement and the military, generally not especially fond of him. I’d expect even the military to balk at anything blatantly unconstitutional; Trump’s popular among the rank and file, but the Pentagon as an institution is ambivalent, and their oaths are to the Constitution and not to him. The intelligence community, maybe the first people I’d want on my side for a coup, are openly hostile.

            And no, he can’t threaten them with being fired, not without going through some painful and lengthy legislative contortions — Congress has effective control over executive staffing at that level, not the White House. Congress is kinda friendly to Trump right now, but mostly through common enemies: they want to maintain their own power more than they want to aggrandize him, and they’re not going to sign it away unless they have no choice.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @CatCube

            once Trump leaves he’ll fade into the background again, and his opponents will be happy to see him go.

            Unless you accept the argument that the Left becomes more agressive when they scent weakness. From the Dreaded Jim’s latest, speaking of the “Cathedral”,

            any apology or concession will excite them to even greater rage. At the slightest sign of concession, they smell blood in the water.

            He goes on to argue that it was Trump’s bombing of Syria, appointing of “establishment conservatives” (Jim uses a term banned here related to nest parasitism), and other concessions on Trump’s part, which prompted the increased drive to impeachment:

            When he did that, they smelled blood in the water.

            Trump cannot appease them. They are unappeasable. He can only deter them. That is the nature of the beast.

            Again, in this model, losing power only makes the Left more hostile, more aggressive. The conclusion:

            The likely result is, sooner or later, to blunder into war, state to state, state level civil war, nonstate war, and likely all of the above.

            Edit: and from the very first comment:

            Trump is much more popular than the RINOs — white people only vote for RINOs because Democrats would like to see us hacked to death by rioting mobs of their voters.

            Again, I offer these primarily as examples of the general attitudes in my (online) social circles.

          • CatCube says:

            @Kevin C.

            I’ll be brutally honest, I really don’t have the patience to read Jim right now, so I’ll assume you summarized him roughly correctly.

            I will agree, in a very limited way, that giving in to the type of Leftist who no-platforms speakers they disagree with will embolden these people. In some extremely left-wing cities, the mayor is willing to keep the police back behind the barricades to curry favor and avoid TV spots of the cops fighting with rioters.

            However, that’s a far cry from having left-wing death squads running around and shooting politicians who are no longer relevant; Taft and Hoover were the last presidents who did any sort of major political work after leaving office. Jimmy Carter preened by meddling in some left-wing causes and made things harder for the State Department, but even that was pretty limited. Once Trump leaves office, they’re going to forget about him, or more likely, hold him up as an example of a good Republican instead of the meanie that’s currently on the presidential ticket.

            I ask again, if there’s some sort of assassination squad running around killing people the left hates with the tacit approval of the US Government, why is George W. Bush still alive?

            This whole thing is as paranoid as the left-wingers breathlessly wondering if Bush 43 would actually leave the White House on January 20, 2009 (or, for that matter, right-wingers thinking the same thing in January of this year). To restate, the real problem here is that the permanent bureaucracy is too far to the left, but their power relies upon the legitimacy of the elected government and the rules enacted under it. If that legitimacy disappears, the enforcement organs (law enforcement and military), who are not uniformly left-wing*, will stop obeying orders. The proper way to deal with this is working to push the rules towards the right, not hiding under the bed from the Deep State boogeyman.

            * For that matter, left-wingers tend to dominate in other areas, but are not absolute. There aren’t commissars in executive agencies investigating the political leanings of employees and disappearing right-wingers. The lack of right-wingers has a lot to do with the work environment being slightly hostile and pushing them to prefer the private sector, but every agency is going to have a number of Republican voters within it, who may be careful to keep quiet about their political leanings depending on the degree of hostility.

            EDIT: Edited second paragraph because it was nonsensical as written.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @CatCube

            Once Trump leaves office, they’re going to forget about him, or more likely, hold him up as an example of a good Republican instead of the meanie that’s currently on the presidential ticket.

            Note that it was 1soru1 who initially disagreed with this, and asserted that if Congress is so corrupt as to ignore all the evidence of Trump’s obvious guilt and not impeach, that they signal by doing so their intentions to illegally suspend elections, because if they don’t, the Democrats will ‘go after’ Trump — and them — after he’s voted out. And 1soru1 doesn’t seem to be a ‘right-wing paranoiac’.

            but their power relies upon the legitimacy of the elected government and the rules enacted under it.

            I question this. To quote later in the comments that same commentor at Jim’s I quoted above,

            If the Republicans oust Trump, it settles once and for all the question of whether voting makes a difference. Non-moocher voters stay home, the Republican Party ceases to exist, and the USA becomes another Latin American kleptocracy where people hide their money and dodge taxes as best they can.

            If it becomes clear that voting can’t really change anything, that the “elected government” is no match for “the permanent bureaucracy”, then what can the R-voting American people do except give up, and try to scratch out their own “Benedict Option” retreats where they try to keep what little they can out of sight of the “eye of Sauron”?

            the enforcement organs (law enforcement and military), who are not uniformly left-wing*, will stop obeying orders.

            I also question this. Will rank-and-file cops continue to disobey the orders of their left-wing superiors after the first few to do so are not only fired, but have their pensions taken away, and are perhaps even charged with whatever IA can manage to trump up? Will troops continue to disobey their officers after the first few to do so are tried for mutiny and shot, pour encourager les autres? The latter in particular when their training so emphasizes following orders?

            I ask again, if there’s some sort of assassination squad running around killing people the left hates with the tacit approval of the US Government, why is George W. Bush still alive?

            The answer from the “Jim” perspective, as I understand it, is that we don’t have full-blown Left-wing death squads yet, only the precursors, but give it a few more years of Cthulhu swimming leftwards…

          • 1soru1 says:

            Note that it was 1soru1 who initially disagreed with this

            It seems you have hit the pitfalls in arguing in counter-factuals. It is overwhelmingly likely that Trump will be more-or-less fairly investigated, and the results acted on.

            The counter-factual is that by assumption, that doesn’t happen. Which means the factors that would cause it to happen didn’t apply, or were defeated. Those factors include the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, the Constitution, etc. Symptoms may include mass firing of judges, the closure of independent TV stations, gunning down protesters, vomiting and nausea.

            And if that happens, the consequence will not be a wave election won by Democrats who then imprison the guilty; that’s more or less the only thing that can’t happen. Instead, it will be one of:

            – Putin style populist-authoritarianism (i.e. it is generally publicly accepted the President has the right to embezzle billions and kill critics)

            – peace talks and amnesties

            – civil war, leading to one of the above

          • Deiseach says:

            Once Trump leaves office, they’re going to forget about him, or more likely, hold him up as an example of a good Republican instead of the meanie that’s currently on the presidential ticket.

            Oh, if we live so long, wait for the campaign in 2024 when it’ll be “Say what you like about Trump, and there’s no denying he was a buffoon who had no right to be in politics, but at least you knew where you stood with him! He had a vision about the good of the country as a whole, even if it was a horrible one! Unlike Evil McTerrible (the Republican candidate running against Saintly Goodwoman our candidate), who is going to set up death camps for vegans any day now and routinely eats live puppies for breakfast as seen in this live phone footage on Youtube!”

            🙂

            (Dunno if Youtube will still be going in 2024 but you know what I mean).

        • MrApophenia says:

          As a lefty who actually buys the Russia stuff, what is your basis for saying it is irrelevant straw-gasping? I mean, it is an insane thing to say in the sense that, yeah, holy crap, it would be nuts for the President has illicit ties to the Russian government. But if it’s true, it seems like it’s kind of a big deal, and we kind of have a ton of evidence now.

          At this point, it has gone way past the “Barack Obama is a secret Kenyan Muslim” point, due primarily to the fact that the FBI has gathered a bunch of evidence of it, have convened a grand jury, and have started subpoenaing people.

          Now, it is entirely possible that Trump himself may not have been directly involved. It seems fairly plausible to me that he was being manipulated by the people around him. But at this point there is an active grand jury investigation into improper ties between both his campaign manager and his National Security Advisor and Russian intelligence. There is documented evidence that his campaign was in regular communication with the Russian government throughout the campaign.

          I mean, hell, why do you think Flynn is trying to shop around for immunity? He knows they have him dead to rights.

          There is no longer any real question about whether the Trump campaign was engaged in shady ties to Russian intelligence. The only real questions now are “Did Trump know?” and “Just how shady are we talking?”

          (And of course, “Now that Trump has interfered with the FBI investigation by firing Comey, literally the only crime that we have already removed a sitting President for in the past, does it actually matter if he knew?”)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Flynn is shopping for immunity because it would be a good thing for him to have. He does not appear to have registered as a foreign agent, and appears to have been one, and that alone could be prosecutable (even if it would not normally be prosecuted).

            I really don’t see that as a particularly good point for or against the idea that the campaign was involved with Russia in an illicit manner.

            Mind you, I think there are lots of other pieces of evidence that seem to line up pointing at bad behavior with bad consequences, but someone looking for immunity isn’t a really good piece of evidence one way or the other.

          • John Schilling says:

            And of course, “Now that Trump has interfered with the FBI investigation by firing Comey, literally the only crime that we have already removed a sitting President for in the past, does it actually matter if he knew?”

            Yes, it does. You can only impeach Presidents for high crimes and misdemeanors they committed, including conspiracies they were part of but not just for having corrupt staffers on the payroll.

            Well, OK, you can impeach a president for anything you like if you have enough House members who hate him, but that puts you in VRWC vs Bill Clinton territory (who, note, had his own special prosecutor, investigating alleged presidential conspiracies up to and including premeditated murder). That’s not a healthy place for the Republic to be.

            The Trump/Russia conspiracy isn’t going to get you to impeachment. The evidence isn’t there, and it almost certainly didn’t happen. The Flynn/Russia conspiracy shouldn’t get you to impeachment even if it did happen, unless Trump was knowingly a part of it. Your best bet, if this is what you long for, is obstruction of justice. You’re probably there if you take every “anonymous source” and newspaper headline at face value, but that would be foolish and wrong and it won’t be on the list of wrongful follies a GOP-majority congress will engage in. But maybe this time there will be something incontrovertibly solid for the special prosecutor to find.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Yes, it does. You can only impeach Presidents for high crimes and misdemeanors they committed, including conspiracies they were part of but not just for having corrupt staffers on the payroll.

            Right, but that only matters if they try to impeach him for Russia. At this point it looks rather possible that they don’t even need to bother with that, they can just impeach him for obstruction of justice thanks to his efforts to interfere with the Russia investigation.

            It’s the same thing that brought down Nixon. They didn’t impeach him for the break-in, they impeached him for firing the people investigating him and trying to interfere in the FBI investigation.

          • Nornagest says:

            Who are “they”? The only people with power to impeach are in the House, and I don’t see any strong incentive for anyone with an [R] by their name to push it hard there. Even most of the [D]s would be better served by taking another tack at this stage, although I’d expect most of them to vote for impeachment if it came to that.

      • Fossegrimen says:

        I enjoyed The Federalist article and it reminded me of a statement by a friend of mine about the endless articles on how Clinton lost: (edited for grammar and excessive profanities)

        They [the media] got it backwards, they should be asking: “How did Hillary get so close to winning?” We voted for Hope And Change twice and the only change we got was the loss of hope and then we got so fed up that we were willing to put a narcissistic ass-clown in the White House. Imagine what would have happened if a competent and likeable candidate had run on the MAGA platform. The map wold be redder than 1984.

        This is a fair representation of the views in my personal US-political bubble which is mostly composed of ex-military people who are old enough to have served in Desert Storm. If I were among the DC political class, I would pause and consider the fact that the armed forces voted for the ass-clown 3 to 1 before removing him from office in a way that could even remotely be constructed to be dubious.

        Edit:
        Some of the comments on that Federalist article are above average:

        We know that whenever you right wingers bring up Clinton, you realize you are on thin ice. Time to deal with the idiot you elected to the presidency, not ancient history.

        Not our fault you idiots nominated the only idiot our idiot could beat. Idiot.

        I smiled.

      • @Onyomi

        What’s the better alternative to bailouts?

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      As someone who doesn’t already agree with you, I would like more clarity about precisely what problem you are referring to. If I came from Mars and read this comment, I would assume that some big media company was routinely claiming that the election results were illegitimate. But in fact I have seen very little of this.

      • beryllium et barium says:

        Am I crazy to get the impression that most of the articles, that I see in the “respectable” papers, are written from the perspective of, “I hate the president and his voters, and naturally you do too, dear reader.”?

        It just feels like there has been a lot of weirdness. Especially, with the crazy Elector faithlessness drive.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          My impression is that when (a) Trump does something and (b) it appears to work, he gets positive coverage. The press loved that tomahawk missile strike.

          It’s possible that news media is too focused on new events to see his virtues, since IMHO the main argument for Trump (and the one that I heard the most during the election) is that he doesn’t do very much. The press doesn’t run articles along the lines of “Today, Trump continued to not establish a no-fly zone in Syria,” even though it maybe should.

          Here’s an interesting example. One headline on nytimes.com right now is “Immigration Arrests Rise 38% as Trump’s Mandate Is Realized.” For Liberal readers this would be negative coverage: Trump’s immigration policy is the single thing that Liberals most hate about him. For his supporters this is positive coverage; he is successfully doing what they want him to do. The word-choice is pro-Trump (‘mandate’ has a strong connotation of legitimacy). So, is the NYT expressing hatred of Trump, or is the NYT expressing admiration of Trump? Derrida says ‘yes’.

          • beryllium & barium says:

            The press doesn’t run articles along the lines of “Today, Trump continued to not establish a no-fly zone in Syria,” even though it maybe should.

            “It’s a bad idea.”, say sources close to the White House.

            That made me smile ear-to-ear. I want to see more headlines like that.
            Though, my wife tells me I have a great love of boring stories.

          • Jiro says:

            My impression is that when (a) Trump does something and (b) it appears to work, he gets positive coverage. The press loved that tomahawk missile strike.

            It still got quite a bit of coverage describing Trump as a warmonger.

            I’ve seen coverage which claims that lots of illegal immigrants are being discouraged by Trump’s policies yet it is being spun negatively, even though on the face of it it is claiming that Trump did something that worked.

          • Nornagest says:

            The press loved that tomahawk missile strike.

            The press knows its audience, and so likes things that go fast and explode.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: so you’d predict Keanu Reeves’s presidential campaign to get lots of free media time?

          • Nornagest says:

            It worked for the Governator.

        • Urstoff says:

          I just looked at a few articles on the NYTimes frontpage and none of them seem to be written from that perspective, although I don’t know what they would be like had they been written so.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Kevin Drum points out:
      1) Trump told Comey he hoped the Flynn investigation could be dropped.
      2) Comey publically stated the Flynn investigation was substantive and ongoing.
      3) Trump fires Comey and admitted he was thinking about the whole “Russian thing” when he decided to do so.
      4) I’ll add that there is now an appointed special prosecutor.

      None of those things are a media creation.

      • BBA says:

        And if the whole Russian thing turns out to be true, does it affect your life in the slightest? If not, the fact that you care is a media creation.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I care if the POTUS is a competent chief executive, for what I would hope are obvious reasons. More importantly I care about the ability of the Federal Government as a whole to successfully execute in its duties to provide for the common welfare, etc.

          Trump is showing he is not competent at this job, and he is also doing damage to the institutions of the government. If you have ever worked at a job with crappy C-level management, you should be able to easily imagine just one way this damage is occurring.

          The amount of cognitive dissonance that people are willing to swallow here is … well, I won’t say it’s unexpected, but it is disappointing.

          • BBA says:

            You misunderstand – I’m a Democrat. Of course I care that the President is a blundering ignoramus whose only saving grace is that he’s too incompetent to be effectively malicious. I just don’t see what fantasizing about his downfall accomplishes. It’s not like Pence is any better, and god forbid we ever get a competent Republican in the Oval Office with this Congress.

            And again – the Russia thing, specifically, doesn’t actually matter an iota for most of us. Neither did Hillary’s email server.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @BBA:
            I’m not exactly sure what you are trying to say. The crises that keep rocking the White House aren’t media creations. OP thinks they are. The Russia story doesn’t affect my life immediately, but the fairly open meddling did do harm to the country. If someone sprayed a fine mist of peanut dust over the greater metro area, it wouldn’t hurt me directly either, but that doesn’t mean it’s inconsequential. If it was just the pre-cursors to acid-rain, I’d be hard pressed to name an immediate and direct harm as well, but it would still be harm.

            I’m not fantasizing about his impeachment. Pence would probably be more effective at getting the Republican agenda enacted into law than Trump, but, on balance, I’d probably still rather Trump were removed from office simply because he is so incompetent that I think he is legitimately dangerous.

            But the only way that happens is if enough solid evidence of his serious malfeasance comes to light that moderate Republicans feel they have no choice but to impeach. And that’s not exactly great for the country either, simply because the Republican base isn’t clued in to the fact that Trump really is a shambolic mess. The long term resentment there would be immense.

            Basically there are no good paths forward, only less bad ones.

        • John Schilling says:

          And if the whole Russian thing turns out to be true, does it affect your life in the slightest?

          In the long term, it likely decreases the number of foreign countries to which I can safely travel. It may increase my opportunity for entertainment and consulting income, but that’s a fairly specific benefit and coupled with a slight increase in the possibility of dying in a nuclear war.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @John Shilling:

            coupled with a slight increase in the possibility of dying in a nuclear war.

            Hang on: increase? If, hypothetically speaking, the Russians helped us install somebody they like better as President because the other candidate seemed too warmongery for their tastes, wouldn’t our choice to elect Russia’s preferred candidate slightly decrease the risk of conflict with Russia (and hence the risk of nuclear war with them), compared to some of the alternatives? Is it war with Russia you’d be more afraid of now, or war with somebody else (and if so, who)?

            What’s the logic chain here?

          • John Schilling says:

            The American political system is not going to tolerate an unending series of Russian puppets as presidents. It probably isn’t going to tolerate Donald Trump as a Russian puppet, and is tolerating him now only because everybody with any sense knows the “Trump is a Russian Puppet” scenario is basically nonsense, but we’re pretending to take it seriously for now.

            So, no later than 2024 and possibly as early as 2018, the US gets a president who isn’t a Russian puppet and has a mandate to roll back all the gains Russia made at US expense during the puppetocracy. Gains that the Russians have had time to internalize, in a possessively loss-averse sort of way. That results in a higher chance of nuclear war than the one where the US spends the next 2-8 years preventing Russia from making those gains in the first place.

        • Urstoff says:

          That’s kind of a weird theory to hold that caring about something that doesn’t affect your life means you’ve been manipulated into caring about it.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          And if the whole Russian thing turns out to be true, does it affect your life in the slightest?

          Perjury, obstruction of justice, and inchoate offenses are crimes regardless of whether the underlying criminal act being investigated was actually carried out, because letting that kind of behavior slide is a marginal contribution to a system where committing and concealing criminal acts is trivial. I don’t believe the President should be above the law and subject to a higher “but was what he covered up that bad” standard.

          I’m fairly sure at this point that there wasn’t any collusion between Trump personally and Russia beyond his open affection (which is why all the public statements of law enforcement have used the term “Trump campaign”). All he had to do was let Flynn (and probably Manafort) take their falls. It would’ve been a bad-but-not-fatal scandal like Iran-Contra where the President himself emerged unscathed.

          But if he’ll cover up a nothing burger, he’ll cover up a something burger, and I’d rather see that sort of behavior punished now than wait for something with concrete and immediate harms.

      • Deiseach says:

        I would definitely like to know exactly what Trump said to Comey re: the Flynn investigation. There’s “But do you have to pursue it? Is there any chance this can be dropped?” approach, and there’s the “As President I am ordering you to stop this” approach, and while both are bad, one is definitely worse than the other.

        Trying to get a good result is – what do you call it? lobbying? and that appears to be completely legal. Trump hoping he can cut a deal as he would in business plainly does not, and should not, fly with the FBI but that’s not as bad as Trump trying to use the power of the office to officially kill an investigation.

        • Iain says:

          Much closer to the former than the latter:

          “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump told Comey, according to Comey’s record of the meeting, as reported by the Times. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

          As you say, though, it’s still bad.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Oh, there’s many more Comey memos in the pipeline. I live in DC, and here are some from my anonymous source:

            Comey after meeting with AG Lynch in 2016:

            AG repeatedly assured me that HRC’s private email server was secure, that furthermore it was not an email server, and that HRC does not in fact use email, or even know what it is. This was all apparently sworn to her under oath by WJC, in an airport meeting with the AG that didn’t happen. I think the AG is using reverse-psychology to get me to step up the investigation.

            Comey after meeting Leon Panetta in 2016:

            Lunch was good (steak, medium-rare). Panetta kept going on about pizza for some reason, asking me twice if I preferred it or hot dogs. Italians like their food, I guess.

            Comey after meeting with O.J. Simpson in 2000:

            “I did it. I totally killed Nicole and that guy.” That’s a direct quote.

            Comey after meeting with Richard Nixon in 1980:

            RMH confided in me that he was the one on the grassy knoll. Didn’t know he could shoot like that. Wonder if I should do something about it besides writing a memo.

            Comey after being sent to the principal’s office in 1969:

            Principal N. told me he was the one who kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, and if I don’t shape up, the same thing will happen to me. I’ve got the bastard: no way can he suspend me now!

        • Chalid says:

          I’m not sure what the details of the conversation tell us when we already have good reason to think that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation; how explicitly he threatened to fire Comey beforehand seems kind of moot.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Ding.

            Ask him for loyalty at a dinner that is about his continuation in his position. Ask for the investigation to be dropped. Fire him after the investigation is not dropped. Admit you were thinking about the investigation as you fired him.

            Why do I have a feeling that Deiseach’s position would lead one to lament “But why didn’t those mafia guys warn me my kneecaps were in danger?”

          • gbdub says:

            The conversation and Comey’s firing happened 3 months apart, during which there was no apparent slowdown in the investigation. If he fired him over the investigation, I doubt this conversation was the trigger.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @gbdub:
            Comey had just asked for additional resources for the investigation, literally days before he was fired.

            Seriously. Think about this. What reason does Trump have to fire Comey? Trump fired Comey and I assume no one here actually believes it is because Trump was incensed that Comey treated Clinton inappropriately. So Trump not only fired him, but his surrogates lied about the reason.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Comey had just asked for additional resources for the investigation, literally days before he was fired.

            No. The source for this claim is a Washington Post article, citing anonymous sources. Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores immediately denied it, and McCabe said much the same thing the next day under oath.

            WaPo has done this multiple times now, releasing stories intended to harm Trump, sourced only to anonymous sources, and contradicted by people willing to go on the record non-anonymously within days.

            I hate that we’re at the point where we can’t even trust established news organizations with reporting of basic facts, but here we are.

          • Iain says:

            @Jaskologist: The last example in that article inadvertently highlights the problem with its entire thesis. Yes, several Trump spokespeople came forward with carefully worded statements claiming Trump had done nothing wrong. However, McMaster was careful to say only that Trump hadn’t discussed “source and methods”, while the Post accusation was that he leaked enough incidental details that the Russians could figure the source and methods out on their own. The White House has also said that Trump wasn’t briefed on the source of the intelligence, didn’t know where it came from when he passed it along to the Russians, and made the decision to share the information essentially on the spot. Even Fox News points out: “The White House has not explicitly denied classified information was shared”.

            In short: the fact that Trump administration officials push back on a story does not actually disprove that story. Indeed, Trump seems to be making a habit of sending his spokespeople out to defend one claim, then casually changing the story himself. (In this case it’s his tweets about how he’s totally allowed to share whatever information he wants; in the Comey firing case, as I’ve said elsewhere, it was his admission that his mind was made up well before the Rosenstein memo.)

            Or, to put it another way: given the Trump administration’s penchant for easily verifiable lies (“biggest inauguration crowds ever!”), if you look at the track record of the Post vs the track record of Trump officials with respect to basic facts, do you really think that it’s WaPo that comes out looking bad?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Let me suggest a third option: neither Trump nor the Post are reliable.

            Like, I agree that McMaster’s denial was carefully worded to maybe not deny the base claim after all.

            The other cases, though are much more solidly in the anti-WaPo. They claimed that Rosenstein had threatened to resign. Rosenstein flat out denied this, and also he hasn’t resigned. Against both his word and his actions, the only evidence WaPo presented is an anonymous source.

            Again, the only evidence given for Comey being fired right after asking for more money is anonymous sources (two this time!) We’ve got two actual officials with names denying that. Maybe they’re lying, in which case that’s a big deal in itself! But to press that case, you need something more than “some guys told me, don’t ask me who they were, they’re totally legit hombres though.”

            Similarly for the Comey memo, which is the NYT’s reporting of claims by anonymous sources who wouldn’t even show them the memo. That’s not the kind of thing you do when you have a smoking gun, it’s the kind of thing you do when you want to politically damage someone and the context doesn’t support your claim.

            (Also, Comey himself has already said under oath that he’s never been told to halt an investigation.)

        • Jaskologist says:

          This is an interesting one to dig down into the original documents on. Here’s what you find several paragraphs down the original NYT article:

          The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.

          Now, the NYT hasn’t been nearly as bad as the Post when it comes to reporting claims from anonymous sources which turn out false a few days later, but this is hella shady. For all we know right now*, this could be on the level of Dan Rather’s memo reporting. It’s certainly suspicious that they avoided providing the context of the memo.

          * I tried a quick google to see if the text had been posted yet and didn’t find anything.

          • gbdub says:

            Yes, at this point it is second-order or third-order hearsay: what the NYT says an anonymous source says that Comey said that Trump said.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          I keep coming back to the (alleged) detail that he asked Pence and Sessions to leave the room before he said whatever he said to Comey. That’s pretty damning and gives lie to the whole “oh, Trump’s a businessman, he’s used to cutting deals, he wouldn’t know about some crazy obscure law like obstruction of justice” line of defense.

          • Nornagest says:

            I keep coming back to the (alleged) detail that he asked Pence and Sessions to leave the room before he said whatever he said to Comey. That’s pretty damning …

            Information control is routine in business, both because asymmetrical information is critical to its strategy and because leakage increases your attack surface for legal action. If I were him, and I wanted to negotiate anything remotely sensitive with a specific person, I’d be stupid not to do it one-on-one.

            I’d be astonished if the same wasn’t true in politics, and for basically the same reasons.

        • CatCube says:

          I can’t help but wonder if Trump is so used to wheeling and dealing in private industry that he hasn’t internalized the fact that in The Bureaucracy, trying to bypass the process is bad in and of itself.

          The best gloss on Trump’s actions is “I know that Flynn didn’t do anything, and that a long, drawn-out investigation is a colossal waste of taxpayer money and crushes the subject, even if nothing comes of it. Can’t we all save ourselves the time and budget and just not do this?”

          I don’t know if he realizes that people will put the absolute worst possible gloss on trying to short-circuit the process; Hell, I was complaining about how the way I had to write a spec for construction was a minor waste of money in this comment section, and had somebody jump on me about trying to bypass The Rules, and I’m just a nobody.

          At this point, Trump is getting bent over and fucked by the process. Nothing he can do will change that. He can only influence how painful the process will be. He hasn’t quite realized that it will hurt less if he doesn’t struggle.

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah, I think it’s exactly that: he’s bringing a business mindset to this, where if there’s a snarl or a snafu, your head guy gets in touch with their head guy, they talk about it informally (games of golf!), a decision is made between them and all the rest of the box-ticking and form-filling is done by the lower echelon paper pushers back in head office.

            Government doesn’t work like that, but Trump – because he doesn’t have the background in ever having held office before – doesn’t get that yet.

        • Deiseach says:

          HeelBearCub, I’ve been in situations where I’ve been leaned on by a boss, and I’ve been in situations where I was asked for my input and opinion, and there is a difference between them.

          My kneecaps are in good shape, considering my age and weight-bearing load, thanks for asking.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            Yes, there is difference between being leaned on and being asked a simple request.

            But now you are making a different claim than at first.

            There’s “But do you have to pursue it? Is there any chance this can be dropped?” approach, and there’s the “As President I am ordering you to stop this” approach, and while both are bad, one is definitely worse than the other.

            Because “leaned-on” and “an order” are not the same thing.

            But, let’s suppose your boss made a bunch of simple but inappropriate requests of you, you did not assent to the requests, and you were subsequently fired within a short period of time.

            What would your reaction be? What would Occam say?

      • Controls Freak says:

        Trump fires Comey and admitted he was thinking about the whole “Russian thing” when he decided to do so.

        The transcript has him saying that following a claim that, “…there was no good time to do it…” Is there any reason to believe that the context in which he was thinking about “the whole Russia thing” was that that he was actually firing Comey for the Russia investigation rather than that he knew people would think it was Russia-related (and thus, it’s about as bad as all the other bad times)?

        • Iain says:

          Here’s the transcript, for anybody following along at home. (Longer version here.)

          Lester Holt: Monday you met with the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein…
          Donald Trump: Right.
          Lester Holt: Did you ask for a recommendation?
          Donald Trump: Uh what I did is I was going to fire Comey — my decision, it was not [OVER TALK]
          Lester Holt: You had made the decision before they came in the room?
          Donald Trump: I — I was going to fire Comey. Uh I — there’s no good time to do it by the way. Uh they — they were — [OVER TALK]
          Lester Holt: Because you letter you said I — I, I accepted their recommendation. So you had already made the decision…
          Donald Trump: Oh I was gonna fire regardless of recommendation —
          Lester Holt: So there was — [OVER TALK]
          Donald Trump: He made — he made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy, uh the Democrats like him, the Republicans like him, uh he made a recommendation but regardless of recommendation I was going to fire Comey knowing, there was no good time to do it. And in fact when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won. And the reason they should have won it is the electoral college is almost impossible for a Republican to win. Very hard. Because you start off at such a disadvantage. So everybody was thinking, they should have won the election. This was an excuse for having lost an election.
          Lester Holt: [OVER TALK] Okay, are you angry with, angry with Mr. Comey because of his Russia investigation?
          Donald Trump: I just want somebody that’s competent. I am a big fan of the FBI, I love the FBI. [OVER TALK]
          Lester Hold: But were you a fan of him taking up that investigation?
          Donald Trump: I think that — about the Hillary Clinton investigation?
          Lester Holt: About the Russia investigation and possible links [OVER TALK]
          Donald Trump: Look, look, let me tell you. As far as I’m concerned, I want that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I’ll expand that, you know, lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago. Cause all it is, is an excuse but I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He’s the wrong man for that position.

          Interpreting Trump’s statements is always a bit of a Rorschach test. It seems pretty clear from the bolded parts above that Trump thought the Russian investigation was a waste of time, that it was time for the investigation to end, and that firing Comey would be a step in that direction. At the same time, later on in the interview, he claims that he “wants the investigation speeded up”, and says: “Look I want to find out if there was a problem with an election having to do with Russia. Or by the way, anyb- any anybody else. Any other country. And I want that to be so strong and so good. And I want it to happen.” That is pretty difficult to reconcile with his claim minutes earlier that the entire thing is a Democratic excuse for losing.

          If you want to believe that Trump’s firing of Comey had nothing to do with Russia, I’m probably not going to be able to convince you by citing bits of this interview. The whole thing contradicts itself, so you can find an argument for whatever you want in there.

          At the very least, though, it seems indisputable that the initial claims (Trump’s decision was based on Rosenstein’s memo) are incompatible with Trump’s claims here. The Rosenstein critique is diametrically opposed to Trump’s longstanding stance on Comey, repeated as recently as the week before the firing, that Comey had gone too easy on Clinton. If the official rationale is false, and it’s not Russia, why was Comey fired?

          • Controls Freak says:

            it was time for the investigation to end, and that firing Comey would be a step in that direction

            I missed the bolded bit; can you point it out to me?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Controls Freak:
            I want that thing to be absolutely done properly. When I did this now I said, I probably, maybe will confuse people, maybe I’ll expand that, you know, lengthen the time because it should be over with, in my opinion, should have been over with a long time ago. Cause all it is, is an excuse but I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation but I have to do the right thing for the American people. He’s the wrong man for that position

            Whatever else that says, it says Trump thinks he should be in control of the length, breadth and depth of the investigation. And it also says Trump fired Comey because he was the wrong guy to do the investigation.

          • JayT says:

            it was time for the investigation to end, and that firing Comey would be a step in that direction

            Isn’t he saying the exact opposite of that in the comment you put in bold?

            I might even lengthen out the investigation but I have to do the right thing for the American people.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Whatever else that says, it says Trump thinks he should be in control of the length, breadth and depth of the investigation.

            Where, exactly does he say that, “[H]e should be in charge of the length, breadth, and depth of investigation [emphasis and Oxford comma added]”? I don’t see it in there. I see him going along with the perception that his actions may affect the investigation along with, “Fine! You want it bigger? I’ll build it YUGE!”

            And it also says Trump fired Comey because he was the wrong guy to do the investigation.

            I must be confused. The quoted part I read has him saying that Comey was the wrong guy for DIRFBI. Do you have a quote of him saying this other thing?

            (Also, even if true, neither of these claims would justify the claim Iain made that I challenged.)

          • Iain says:

            I am looking at this part:

            Cause all it is, is an excuse but I said to myself, I might even lengthen out the investigation but I have to do the right thing for the American people.

            I was reading this as “I considered letting the investigation go on longer [by allowing Comey to stay], but I had to do the right thing for the American people [by firing him]”. In retrospect, I acknowledge that there are other possible readings.

            I think that’s the less important half of my post, so I am happy to withdraw the claim if you respond to my final question: if not Rosenstein, and not Russia, then why was Comey fired?

          • Controls Freak says:

            Sorry, I just really can’t see a reason to add that bit in to his words – especially when he was saying things like, “I probably maybe will confuse people.” He’s pretty clearly explaining how making the Russian investigation more YUGE will seem contrary to firing Comey rather than corresponding to it (which is your interpretation). I just don’t see how to read it the other way.

            if not Rosenstein, and not Russia, then why was Comey fired?

            I think Dr. Schilling had a plausible answer here. There are other plausible answers. It would be a little worse if he was trying to consolidate some power by appointing a “more loyal” FBI Director (though, this is mostly just norm violating, not criminal; also, I’m not in on ideas like “Trump tried to be social/amiable with Comey, and that’s menacing“).

            Frankly, the President is able to fire the FBI Director for any or no cause. The only really bad scenario is if he really was getting rid of Comey to try to stymie the Russia investigation. It’s still possible that he could generate enough evidence for an obstruction charge, but I just don’t see it yet in, “Oh, he talked about Russia in the same conversation as talking about Comey.”

            Regardless, we have a special prosecutor now (one that everyone respects). I’m annoyed by people reading things that aren’t there into statements, but my personal outlook is that we can relax a little bit in the comfort that it’s likely being taken care of… regardless of how good/bad that is for The Donald.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Controls Freak

            I agree on all counts but have to say that I would hate to be in Mueller’s shoes at this point. The Democrats will do everything they can to ruin him if he doesn’t give them something they can prosecute.

          • Brad says:

            Ken Starr ended up with a pretty soft landing and he was widely hated by the Democrats by the end of his IC stint.

            Arguably he was on a trajectory to the Supreme Court before that, but he had resigned from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 1989, so maybe that wasn’t his life goal to begin with.

            Anyway, Mueller is 72, this is likely to be his swan song regardless.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Brad

            Fair point

          • MrApophenia says:

            On the “is there enough evidence of obstruction” front, from the NY Times just now –

            “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

            Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

            This was him talking to Lavrov and Kislyak, of course, because why wouldn’t it be.

            (The White House is not denying the story, just complaining about those darned leakers threatening national security by releasing it.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Firing the head of the FBI because you believe he is a crazy nut job is not obstruction or an impeachable offense; it is what the President is supposed to do.

            Believing that James Comey is a crazy nut job is a sign that Donald Trump isn’t very bright (or theoretically that he has inside information the entire Washington press corps missed/is sitting on), but being a complete idiot isn’t an impeachable offence and it makes for a dubious 25th amendment claim if it is the particular kind and degree of idiocy Trump’s fans elected him for.

            Lying about Comey being a crazy nut job so you can fire him as part of a deliberate scheme to obstruct justice, is obstruction of justice but hard to prove. Generally speaking, once you say “Trump is lying” you can’t use his own words to prove anything, and the lies themselves aren’t obstruction of justice unless they are made directly to the agents of justice (e.g. the police, a court, Congress in its investigative capacity).

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Firing Comey for being a crazy nut job would be fine*. Saying it takes the pressure off the Russian investigation goes to mindset/motivation, and so is one piece of evidence in building a case for obstruction.

            * If you want to fire the head of the FBI (for being a crazy nut job) while they are investigating your campaign, there are right and wrong ways to do it. Following Nike’s mantra of “Just Do It” is one of the wrong ways.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t think much can usefully said about “the media”. Maybe it’s outgroup homogeneity bias?

    • Iain says:

      Let’s not forget that, entirely separate from the question of whether Trump collaborated with the Russians during the election, he just spontaneously blurted out top secret information in the middle of a discussion with foreign officials. That has direct negative implications on national security — the Israelis were already concerned about Trump leaking their classified information, and now those concerns have become reality. We spent a lot of time during the campaign hearing about Hillary Clinton’s lax email security; this is an order of magnitude worse.

      Moreover, the White House response to the whole situation has followed a disconcertingly familiar pattern. First the White House spokespeople get out and confidently declare that the entire story is bogus and nothing bad happened. Next, after about a day, Trump casually admits that the underlying accusation is indeed true.

      In this case, Trump’s defenders were denying that he shared any secret information, and Trump pivoted to the claim that as President he has the right to share whatever he wants. (This is technically true, but not comforting to any friendly intelligence agency sharing sensitive information with America.)

      Previously, Republicans all lined up to defend the transparently ridiculous idea that Comey was fired because of the arguments in the Rosenstein memo. (There is certainly a case to be made that Comey overstepped in his public statements about the Clinton investigation, but when you’ve spent the last nine months arguing that Comey did not go far enough, you’re not fooling anybody.) After giving all his defenders the chance to make their case, Trump got on national television and casually revealed that actually the memo was just a pretext, and he was definitely motivated by the Russian investigation when he decided to fire Comey.

      Trump’s response to all of this is to tweet: “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!….”

      Even if you think the whole Russia story is utter nonsense, you should be concerned by this pattern. This is not the sign of a well-run administration. The Trump White House is blundering from self-enforced error to self-enforced error, pausing only for the occasional own-goal. Policy matters completely aside, everybody has an interest in the basic competence of the people running the country.

      This is a good article making a similar case.

      • The Nybbler says:

        So, Trump lets slip that the source for information about a certain terrorist plot to attack civil aviation was located in Aleppo. A leaker then goes to the press, reveals this information, the information that this was in fact classified under a codeword, the fact that this information was obtained from an ally under an intelligence-sharing program, and later the fact that this ally was Israel.

        And I’m supposed to believe that the leaker believes Trump’s remark was seriously damaging? Not a chance. If what the leaker said was true, Trump gave a clue he shouldn’t have (which the New York Times admits is not all that unusual for Presidents), but the leaker gave away the whole game. So, either the leaker doesn’t think this was actually damaging, or the leaker is quite willing to damage the US in an attempt to harm Trump.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Martin Longman agrees with you and disagrees with you at the same time.

          There are people leaking throughout the intelligence community and the Justice Department. They are doing so, most of them, because of sincere alarm and for patriotic reasons.

          For example, had President Obama blundered by revealing sensitive information to the Russians that had been provided by the Israelis, the reaction would have likely been to quietly do damage control, explain to the president his error, and go on with the assumption that the mistake would not be repeated. When Trump did it, the damage control involved taking steps to remove him from office.

          Nixon was abusing his power but we wasn’t endangering the country.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          Let’s assume the leaker is willing to damage the US to hurt Trump. Trump is accused of mishandling classified information. If he gave a leaker an opportunity to do this, then he mishandled classified information. The motives of the leaker will matter if they ever go to trial. For evaluating Trump’s performance they don’t.

        • Brad says:

          I’m curious as to how these things work. I assume there was an original leaker that leaked to the WaPo. They probably got more of the story than they should have, but maybe the source thought they wouldn’t belive him otherwise and trusted them to redact appropriately — which arguably they did.

          Where do all the articles fleshing out the details the WaPo left out come from? Independent leakers that figure “it’s basically out there anyway”? The same guy peddling the story to multiple outlets and some decide not to redact? Leaks from within the WaPo to other outlets? Something else?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            One thing that is weird is that the WaPo explicitly mentions some details that they redacted, but my understanding is that when sources provide lots of details to convince the reporter, they don’t print that fact.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That’s a really good question, My initial guess is “same guy peddling the story to multiple outlets” but then I’m also inclined to agree with Nybbler’s overall assessment.

        • random832 says:

          When I saw the story, the Washington Post was refusing to reveal what the specific city was. Has something changed, or is Aleppo a guess on your part? It came out shortly that Israel was the ally in question (which WaPo also didn’t publish), but I didn’t see “Aleppo” until your comment today.

          Googling relevant combinations of terms gets me lost in a sea of general syria crisis stories.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hmm, I thought I read it was Aleppo but it might have been a hypothetical. The Post claims to have been given the city.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I’m with Nybbler on this particular leak, and I’m coming from a limited background handling classified information.

          Whether fears that Trump is an existential threat to national security or to the rule of law and legitimacy of our democratic norms are justified or not, the leaker did more harm to our national security interests with their leak than Trump did with his slip.

          There are no good guys in this story. Not the media (I acknowledge the necessity of generally not throwing reporters in jail or executing them for espionage for the sake of a free press. This does not change my assessment of them as human beings and American citizens for what they do), not the leakers (if you sincerely believe that protecting the country means violating not just the law but your ethical and moral obligations, have the courage to stand and face the music), and not the Trump administration (I am agnostic to skeptical on the “Russian infuence” stories at this point and tend to think they’re overblown, but I think that Trump and his administration are incompetent and negligent in their approach to their duties to the point that there is a decent chance he won’t make it to 2020, and I won’t shed any tears at that point).

        • Iain says:

          Let’s speculate for a moment about an alternate universe, one in which this is not the first time that Trump has revealed sensitive information at inopportune times. Let’s pretend that, in this alternate universe, he has made a habit of such blunders, and the intelligence community has dutifully done their best at damage control, covering it up as much as possible and repeatedly emphasizing to the President the seriousness of the situation.

          Let’s pretend that despite the best efforts of the intelligence community, bizarro-world Trump nevertheless goes ahead and burns an Israeli source during a conversation with the Russian ambassador. The intelligence community decides it has finally had enough — unlike our Trump, alternate universe Trump is clearly never learning from his mistakes — and reluctantly pursues an alternate course.

          How do we tell the difference between this hypothetical universe and our own?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Presumably in that alternate timeline they wouldn’t have been gunning for him since before he was even elected.

            It’s hard to portray this as a reluctant act when it started before the supposed cause had occurred.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In the hypothetical universe, the leakers go to the Senate Intelligence Committee. If that doesn’t work and they still feel the need to go to the press, they _do not reveal more than the President revealed_.

          • Iain says:

            Would you care to give an example of the intelligence community “gunning for him since before he was even elected”?

            Both presidential candidates were under investigation by the FBI during the campaign. Only one of them had the details of that investigation leak before the election, and it wasn’t Trump.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Not to endorse ND’s claim, but here are two pre-electio leaks from the FBI investigation of Trump: FBI interest in the Russia dossier; FISA warrant.

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, fair, my phrasing was poor. Let me instead say:

            Both presidential candidates were under investigation by the FBI during the campaign. Only one of those investigations elicited high profile statements from the FBI, even though it was the one that was closed without prosecution. Indeed, to the extent that it ever provided commentary, the FBI repeatedly emphasized that there was no conclusive or direct link between the Trump campaign and Russia.

            There are lots of reasonable ways to describe that situation, but I don’t think “gunning for him since before he was even elected” is one of them.

    • cassander says:

      I said, back when I thought trump had very little chance of getting elected, that if he did get elected, we’d get a chance to see how democratic our political system really is. So far, the answer seems to be “not particularly”. I’m not a huge fan of democracy, but if we don’t have one, we have a system where no one is actually in charge, and that is a hell of a lot scarier to me that a system where someone, even someone I dislike as much as trump, is in charge. Once no one is in charge, the final decline has begun.

  6. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Has it been quantified how much faster young people with higher IQs learn the same course of study? And has it only been measured with academic material, or also subjects involving manual dexterity like sports and crafts?

    • onyomi says:

      I’m pretty sure I have an above-average IQ but an average-at-best ability to learn sports skills.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, my bunch is that it’s typically limited to academic learning.

        • onyomi says:

          I’m kind of surprised how rarely I see this brought up anywhere, including here, what with all the discussion of IQ.

          To me, I feel like there’s a few different kinds of “smartness,” some of which are correlated with each other, and others of which are not.

          Something like:

          1. Math/Spatial Intelligence: Whatever makes you good at physics; highly correlated with IQ, loosely correlated with 2.
          2. Verbal Intelligence: Makes you a good writer and also highly correlates with ability to weave together coherent arguments/narratives and somewhat correlates with IQ and the ability to learn languages.

          3. Creativity: Desire/Ability to create art and/or be innovative as opposed to merely workmanlike. Correlates somewhat with 1 and 2, though sometimes rather weakly in the case of some types of creativity, like:

          4. Physical IQ: Ability to learn e.g. a new dance move, ballet jump, etc. Someone with a high level of this can watch the coach do the new maneuver once and execute it near-perfectly the first go round. Someone with a lot of this is also more likely to invent the next new dance move or ballet jump. Seems to have no correlation with IQ.
          5. Musical Ability: Ability to sing and perform music including sense of rhythm, pitch, etc.; doesn’t correlate with IQ, at least not highly, though ability to compose complex music, and maybe the quality of perfect pitch may

          6. Miscellaneous other talents I can’t think of right now: Pretty sure there are a lot of random talents which probably correlate with 1-5 in various, but not always obvious ways. Some correlate with IQ, some don’t.

          On the one hand, people are probably already assuming this is racist, but I think it could actually, arguably, be a way of ameliorating the impulse to interpret Horrible Banned Discourse in strictly “superior” and “inferior” terms: for example, my stereotypical impression is that East Asians tend to be better, on average at 1, white people better, on average at 2 and maybe 3, and black people at 4 and 5, with other groups having various combinations (if you think you don’t have these stereotypes, tell me honestly you wouldn’t be surprised if the football team of a given school were mostly Asian while the Math team of the same school were mostly black).

          • Nornagest says:

            I strongly doubt that “physical IQ” is uncorrelated with G.

            I’ve given martial arts instruction to a lot of people. Some people pick it up quickly, some don’t, as you’d expect. And whether they do or not seems to do a fair job of tracking with how generally bright they seem. I’ve had a couple of students with intellectual disabilities — Downs syndrome in one case, I’m pretty sure — and they both took a great deal of instruction before they could manage simple techniques.

            On the other hand, I’ve also dealt with people who had very low levels of physical fitness when they walked in — more than one of weak, uncoordinated, exceptionally fat or skinny — and that’s also a serious impediment. But it’s an impediment to correctly executing techniques, not to learning them. Since techniques build on each other and you need to get them right before moving on, it delays teaching either way, but they’re different problems and need to be solved in different ways.

          • onyomi says:

            Certainly possible. It also occurs to me that it could be that e.g. 4 and 5, while not correlating with IQ on the inter-group level, may, nevertheless, correlate on the intra-group level.

          • Yes, it seems to me there is a lot more to the IQ thing than is discussed here. I am as guilty of the simplification as anyone. I am a huge fan of The Bell Curve, but it really doesn’t talk different kinds of IQ except to say that all of them are highly correlated with each other. I suspect, as you say, Ony, that some kinds of IQ are more correlated than others.

            And I think it gets a lot more complicated than even Ony states. LMC talks about quantifying how fast high IQ people learn, but I think even that is highly variable. I think I have a pretty high IQ, but I find that I learn pretty slowly. I spent a lot more time studying in college than others that I thought less smart than me, even if we ended up with the same grades. I think my IQ manifests itself more in a deeper understanding of the subject matter once I get it, but it takes me a long time to get there. I think there are endless variations of IQ like that.

            I am pretty sure that lots of folks have done studies on this sort of thing. Does anyone have recommendations of books that talk about different types of IQ out there? I would like to find a book that accepts that g is an important concept, but also that there can be many variations.

        • LHN says:

          @Nornagest My own ability to learn any sort of physical routine definitely doesn’t correlate with anything else. (I haven’t taken an IQ test, but my scores on other standardized tests, etc. make me reasonably confident that I’m on the right side of that bell curve, for whatever that may be worth.) I’ve been hopeless at every martial arts, dance, etc. class I’ve ever taken. (One reason I gave up on karate and later aikido: I just couldn’t learn a kata to save my life.)

          While I’m probably on the left side of the curve in overall coordination too, I’m guessing that some of the issue is speed of picking up the skill rather than pure capability. (I got a D in typing when I took it in middle school on manual typewriters, but with a few years of computer use I was a fast enough touch typist to do it as a summer job in college.) But if I were ever going to learn something involving body movement well, I suspect I’d need (extremely patient) individual instruction. Classes tend to blow past me, quickly. (And as a result I largely gave up on them.)

          If there is a common trait behind that and intellectual/academic performance, there’s something that’s strongly skewing the expression on one side or the other for me.

  7. bean says:

    When I did the column on underwater protection (series index), I said that I planned to do a follow-on on survivability and damage control. The time for that has come.

    One of the defining characteristics of the battleship is that it is a vessel designed to take hits and continue to operate. The most obvious reflection of this is the armor, but there are many other details which go into making sure that the ship can survive damage and continue to fight.

    Ships die in four major ways: flooding, fire, magazine explosions, and structural failure. The first two are the most common, while the last is very rare in battleships. We’ll deal with each in turn.

    Flooding is usually the result of underwater damage, from whatever cause, although in a few cases, ships have flooded because of water from firefighting that was not cleared properly. We can divide flooding into two major categories, flooding where the ship simply loses buoyancy and flooding where off-center weight capsizes the ship. On a high level, the countermeasures are the same for both, although detailed design can greatly affect which one the ship succumbs to, and how much water it takes to get there. But first, we need a brief detour into naval architecture.

    A ship is stable in the upright position, but not because the center of gravity is below the center of buoyancy, as you might expect. It is stable because, as it begins to roll, the center of buoyancy moves towards the side which has become more immersed, and is now outboard of the CG. This pushes the low side back up, and rights the ship. The CB can be thought of as rotating around a point called the metacenter that is above the CG, and the distance between the CG and the metacenter is the standard measure of stability, called the metacentric height. As the ship floods, the metacenter moves down, and stability is reduced. If the ship floods asymmetrically, then the water moves onto the side of the hull which is already down, and this decreases stability even more. The technical term for this is free-surface effect. (I’m aware that this section is greatly simplified, but I’m talking about survivability today.)

    The different priorities of the designer are most visible in the layout of the machinery spaces. The USN in the 30s insisted that each machinery space run the full width of the hull, so that a given hit would not produce off-center flooding. However, this arrangement meant that the same hit would put more water into the ship than if the compartments were subdivided longitudinally. For instance, each of Iowa’s boiler rooms has two boilers in it, and it wouldn’t have cost a tremendous amount of extra work to put each in its own room on either side of the centerline. The Japanese, on the other hand, put four boiler rooms abreast in the Yamato-class, and gave most of their other ships centerline bulkheads. Sometimes, this made them harder to sink, most notably with Musashi, where the attackers hit both sides with torpedoes. After that, the USN told all of its pilots to attack on only one side of the ship, and the Yamato went down to 11 torpedoes and 6 bombs, as opposed to 19 torpedoes and 7 bombs for Musashi.

    Immediate flooding from damage isn’t the only threat, either. Progressive flooding is, in many ways, more dangerous. This is when water leaks through bulkheads that are not obviously damaged, and spreads throughout the ship. There are many reasons this can happen, either damage that isn’t obvious at first glance, or, even worse, failures of construction or maintenance that allow water to pass through wiring glands, the seals of watertight doors, and valves that were intended to close off damaged piping. One of the best examples of this kind of damage is Shiano, the third Yamato-class battleship, converted to a carrier while under construction. She was sunk by 4 torpedoes from the submarine Archerfish because she was sent to sea before her compartments were tested for watertightness, leaving numerous leak paths. Combined with a green crew, there was nothing that could be done to save her. To reduce this problem, most ships are designed with a designated ‘damage control deck’, below which the main bulkheads are not pierced by watertight doors, usually close to the waterline and a deck or so below the main armored deck. There is still wiring, piping and the like piercing these bulkheads, but watertight doors left open or inadequately maintained are the leading cause of progressive flooding into otherwise undamaged spaces.

    One of the most dangerous sources of flooding is the shafts themselves. A typical warship propeller would be running at 200 rpm or more during an air attack, and a nearby explosion could bend the shaft slightly. The bent shaft would in turn rip open the shaft glands which usually kept the water out, and could flood numerous compartments. This was a primary cause of the loss of Prince of Wales.

    Fire can come from many sources. While a battleship is not as flammable as a ship of the line, there are many things which can burn, and fairly extreme steps were taken to keep that quantity down. For instance, all of the furniture in this picture is painted metal, not wood, although it’s very well-done, and not obvious until you touch it. In the early battles off of Guadalcanal, the USN discovered that not only was liquid paint carried aboard flammable, but so were the many layers of paint which had built up on the ships, and crews had to strip these en route to the South Pacific. Upholstery, carpets, and excess clothing were banned from warships. (No, I don’t know why wooden decks were left intact, and the 1945 USN damage control manual doesn’t say.)

    A typical fire kills a ship by forcing it to be abandoned, and then either doing enough damage to essentially total the ship, or getting below the waterline and doing damage there. In many cases, burned-out ships were sunk by their own side to keep them out of enemy hands.

    In World War 2, fires were mostly fought with water. Fog was used to shield the crew from the heat, and to produce steam that would starve the fire of oxygen in closed compartments. Water streams were used to cool compartments, particularly important as fire would spread through bulkheads by heating them until they ignite the contents on the far side. A more recent development is AFFF, Aqueous Film-Forming Foam. This is a protein concentrate mixed in with the water by a special nozzle, which forms a blanket of foam over fuel fires, starving them of oxygen and keeping them from re-igniting. CO2 and dry chemical extinguishers are also common, although obviously not to the extent water is.

    Magazine explosions were rare as a primary cause of loss, except in the battlecruisers. Preventing them involved good discipline in keeping the path between the turret (the most likely source of a flash) and the magazine broken, and in having good flooding systems to prevent explosions if there is time to activate them. Obviously, no flooding system could save the ship if a high-order explosion started (as in Hood), but a good flooding system, quickly activated, could prevent many disasters. If one did start, there was little that could be done, and the ship sank quickly.

    Structural failure was unknown in battleships, except as a result of magazine explosions. It was fairly common in destroyers, which were smaller and more lightly built. The typical example was a destroyer that suffered an explosion under the keel, breaking it in half, and sending both halves to the bottom quickly. There were a few battleships which suffered similar explosions, most notably Queen Elizabeth and Valiant, which were mined by Italian frogmen, and both were under repair for months afterwards. Under-keel attacks are particularly damaging because the basic principle of a side TDS, keeping the explosion away from the vitals until it vents into the air, is impossible, and the bottom cannot be made nearly as deep as the sides. These explosions also cause extensive shock damage. When the cruiser HMS Belfast was mined, many of her crew suffered broken ankles and head injuries from being thrown into the deck above, and some of the cast-iron machinery foundations cracked.

    • John Schilling says:

      While your focus is on how battleships avoid sinking, it is arguably more important to avoid being mission-killed. That’s far easier for the enemy to achieve than outright sinking, and often lead to the battleship’s owners sinking it themselves to keep it out of enemy hands. But that leads to some interesting questions.

      1. At the dawn of the dreadnought age, enemy torpedo boats and torpedo-armed destroyers were considered second only to enemy battleships as a mortal threat. But, looking at the overall record, am I correct in assuming that most battleships sunk by destroyer torpedoes were the result deliberate friendly fire when the ship was burned out or otherwise thoroughly mission-killed but still afloat?

      2. The only thing that seem to sink battleships are mines, torpedoes, and magazine explosions. We’ve gotten rid of battleships, except for museum pieces. But we still have some fairly large, tough ships out there. And we’ve gotten rid of the air- and surface-launched heavy torpedoes. We are introducing insensitive munitions that may burn real good in a fire but won’t detonate except by their own fuses. Excepting submarine attack, are we entering an age where warships will almost never be sunk by enemy action?

      3. Destroyers don’t carry antiship torpedoes any more. What do we do with burned-out hulks of warships that refuse to sink? I can see potentially great pressure to tow them back to port and so not have to admit that one of your ships was sunk, but an environment where by definition the enemy can reduce one of your major warships to a burned-out hulk is not one where you want ships literally tied up with a towing operation.

      • beleester says:

        For 2 and 3, are you ignoring antiship missiles? They’re basically the modern torpedo.

        • John Schilling says:

          They are the modern equivalent of the battleship-gun shell or the aerial bomb. Greater standoff range, but fundamentally they make holes above the waterline and blow up inside the ship. You can make an almost arbitrarily large number of holes above the waterline; to a first order they won’t let in any water or otherwise change the mass properties of the ship, so its buoyancy and stability won’t change and it won’t sink. Likewise burning out the entire interior with a massive conflagration.

          To sink a ship takes holes below the waterline, which means mines or torpedoes, or maybe the odd case of a diving shell hitting below the waterline. ASMs might in principle be set to try and mimic a diving shell, but that was an unreliable enough prospect when the Japanese tried it with actual shells and I haven’t heard of anyone trying it with missiles.

          • beleester says:

            Fair enough. They’ll kill a ship just fine, but I suppose they won’t sink it as effectively.

        • bean says:

          John’s right, although I’d also point out that modern ASMs are expensive and likely to only be available in very limited quantities. A lot of smaller navies only have the missiles that came in the tubes with the ships. Using your limited stock of those weapons on your own ships, particularly when they aren’t that effective, is unlikely.

      • bean says:

        While your focus is on how battleships avoid sinking, it is arguably more important to avoid being mission-killed.

        Blast it, John. I only have so much space (OK, I can change that, but I don’t want to) and crafting coherent narratives out of this stuff is hard!
        This is true, and probably deserves an addendum to this at some point. I’ll save it for when I don’t want to write much.

        1. Not as much as you’d expect. By my count (dreadnoughts only) the only ships scuttled by their own side were Lutzow and Hiei. For surface torpedoes vs an active foe, you have Fuso and half of Yamashiro (shared with the battleships). Scharnhorst and Bismarck were engaged with enemy surface torpedoes after they’d been more or less mission-killed.

        2. Possibly. It depends on how well the navy in question has learned/remembered the lessons of the Falklands, Stark, Roberts, and Cole. My understanding is that Stark at least would have been lost if not for things learned in the South Atlantic. That said, Sheffield was still on the surface after all the fires were out, and sank while under tow. But then there’s Coventry, which capsized within 20 minutes. Better design standards are the only thing which could have saved her, and I can’t recall what the implementation of such things has been.

        3. A good question. Gunfire at the waterline would be my first guess. Or maybe setting the ASW torpedoes to attack surface targets. It can be done, although it’s obviously somewhat risky.

    • Nornagest says:

      Shiano, the third Yamato-class battleship, converted to a carrier while under construction

      Nitpick, but I think you mean Shinano.

      (I have no good reason to know this, but I spent a lot of time playing a Pacific War submarine sim when I was younger.)

    • Vermillion says:

      How well do pump systems work to counteract flooding?

      • bean says:

        It depends heavily on the size of the hole, and how well the pumps are working. One of the bigger problems a ship can have (and I’m kicking myself for not mentioning this in the OP) is loss of power. If the engines are still operational, and the main pumps are working, ships can survive surprisingly substantial holes. If the power is out, then you lose a lot of pumping capacity, which impacts both damage control and firefighting. I’ll try to provide more details later.

        • bean says:

          Research on this hasn’t made the top of my priority list, but one example I can give is HMS Marlborough, torpedoed at Jutland. She had a combined pumping capacity of 675 tons/hr, while the maximum for ships not of the Iron Duke class was 520 tons/hr. Eventually, they were able to keep the flooding at bay with just the ash ejector pump of 425 tons/hr, but they still had most of their boiler rooms intact and operational.

  8. Chalid says:

    How did you introduce internet, computers, and screens generally to your kids? What are good apps/games for a toddler? Our 28-month-old’s experience is mainly YouTube music videos and Endless Reader and I’m not sure what to introduce next.

    • mindlevelup says:

      Unsure if 28 months is too young, but Wikipedia might be something interesting. Otherwise, Boundless, Khan Academy, Duolingo, or anything else that somewhat gamifies helpful learning might be a good bet?

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        Why is “more gamified stuff” presented here as a good thing? Get them addicted to the internet points early enough? Or is it the other way around, the idea is to desensitize them to virtual instant feedback loops?

        • Zodiac says:

          I think it’s more about gamifying learning than about gamifying general stuff. Is that actually objectionable?

    • One Name May Hide Another says:

      This is an excellent question and I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s replies.

      I know your question is broader than this, but when it comes to educational apps/videos, I do love Endless Reader. Check out Dragonbox Numbers, too. I’m also a fan of Preschool Prep videos. (They are a very effective way of teaching toddlers letters, letter sounds and basic sight words.) The old Leapfrog letter factory video (the first one about letters) is nice, too, but I prefer Preschool Prep for younger toddlers. Once your toddler knows their letters, you can teach them how to read doing 5-10 minutes a day of Reading Bear. If it keeps their interest. If it doesn’t, you can try again in a couple of months.

      • There used to be a program called Millie’s Math House for teaching very basic math stuff. One of the modules involved matching shoes to feet. Our daughter amused herself deliberately getting it wrong for the outraged reactions.

        Her (younger) brother was playing Warlords very young. That version had, I think, eight players and various sorts of troops, many fantasy, that they moved around the screen fighting each other. He played all eight, treating it as a story he was telling not a game.

        More generally, computers are wonderfully flexible devices, so a lot of it is letting kids figure out for themselves what they enjoy doing with them.

    • rlms says:

      In the same way it would be interesting to raise children as native speakers of obscure or dead languages, I would like to see someone whose only access to a computer for the first decade of their life is a unix terminal.

      • Machina ex Deus says:

        I give it a month before she discovers a program that plays mpegs as ascii art and then devolves into watching My Little Pony in black-and-green all day.

        Seriously, I am appalled by the degree to which my kids take astounding technological marvels like high-resolution displays, 2-GHz processors, and Megabps-speed connections to the entire planet and use it as… TV.

        • smocc says:

          I mean, what do you use it for?

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            Arguing with people I don’t even know, of course!

            Also, getting lost on Wikipedia. Today I spent an hour on septic systems. I live in a city.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          TV is pretty astonishing technology, and yet people used it as TV.

    • Urstoff says:

      We got our daughter an Amazon Fire Kids tablet, which has its own kids section with videos and apps. Now that she’s five, we’re thinking about getting her her own iPad so she can watch Netflix and use more advanced apps.

      • Zodiac says:

        Just reading this I can hear all the >30 year old people in my conservative corner here fulminate and scream about the degeneration of society.

        • Urstoff says:

          Meh. We limit screen time if we need to, but most days she prefers to play outside than play with her tablet.

          • smocc says:

            That xkcd comic bugs me (and the others that are exactly like it) because you can take it as evidence that nothing is wrong with societal change at that all the commenters were wrong, or that all the commenters were right and that societies do lose important things over time. It’s only convincing if you’re already convinced that all the quotes are wrong, and it ends up just looking smug.

          • random832 says:

            Er, the point of the comic seems to be that at least this one particular example of societal change isn’t real at all, not that there’s nothing wrong with it. The things that people 100-150 years ago missed from 30 years before are the same things people from now miss from 30 years ago and the same things people 30 years from now will miss about today. Your point would only really work if people were complaining about different things, with the implied assumption that today we don’t consider those changes to be bad.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            But it could just as easily be true that all these people were correct in detecting the trend and merely guilty of grossly misreading the speed of the change.

            It’s also very plausible that the speed at which these things happen is very different in different ages. For example, the XKCD examples are mostly from the same period, a time of industrialization with a lot of worker abuse. This led to unrest (see the Russian revolution for the most extreme example) and reforms to give workers more rights.

            For example, in 1908, a New England mill became the first American factory to institute the five-day week. So it’s perfectly plausible that these reforms slowed down or reversed the trend of people having less and less time for leisure.

            The underlying assumption behind the XKCD cartoon is that societal change can only happen in one direction and at the same speed. Without that assumption, the claim falls apart.

  9. JR616 says:

    Question for the crowd about human genetics:

    I understand that a significant fraction of traits we care about like IQ are genetic, and there are more and more individual genetic polymorphisms identified that are associated with these traits. However, I was under the impression that the cumulative variance explained by all of the polymorphisms put together are only a small fraction of the variance that we know is genetic (From twin studies and the like). Does anyone who knows this field have any insight into whether this is likely to change when the sample sizes get big enough or sequencing gets cheap enough? Or is it possible that the important alleles are rare enough or have complex enough interactions that it won’t be a tractable problem?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Well there’s a big problem with GWAS that nobody afaik has addressed, which is that they only look at single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). In primates like us, structural variants like copy number variations (CNV) represent about ten times as much variation as SNPs.

      Whole genome sequencing costs one and a half grand. You can cut that down to a grand for whole exome. And since you need IQ tests or educational attainment you probably can’t use the existing databases except to determine the frequency of variants in the population. So a serious attempt to find SVs associated with intelligence is probably going to set you back to the tune of a few million bucks.

      That said I’m biased because I’m on the molecular side rather than a population geneticist. There are other possibilities such as complex gene interactions which neither sort of study would be able to capture. As we acquire more data and devise better tools to analyze it more of the variation will be uncovered regardless.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      It varies from trait to trait. My understanding is at least half of the variance of height is due to common SNPs (common = more than 5%). Whereas, maybe 1% of variance of IQ is due to common SNPs. But people can predict a substantial amount from IQ from SNP chips, by looking at who is related to whom in a small town. So that’s probably variants that are too rare to be on chips, but not that rare, maybe 1/10000. Rarer than that and it becomes intractable to identify which mutations are affecting which trait. But common variation probably is a trade-off between two traits, whereas super-rare mutations are probably just bad, even if you don’t know which trait they are bad for.

      For most traits, the bottleneck is getting samples with known scores, not better sequencing.

  10. sandoratthezoo says:

    (My first attempt at this disappeared when I tried to edit. I’m posting it again? It might’ve been spam-filtered, in which case I apologize for duplication.)

    By request in the last thread, I’m going to talk about my experiences trying to build an Uber competitor that worked with licensed taxis instead of random people who signed up.

    My credentials for talking about this (skip to the * * * * * if you don’t care about my credentials):

    I worked for a company called Flywheel for about 2 years, from 2012 to 2014. During this time, we built and launched a product that allowed you to hail taxis with your smartphone, progress through the trip, doing things like notifying you when they got near you, and pay through a saved credit card on your app (so no need to handle cash). We served, I don’t remember, something like 120,000 successful trips during my time there — so, we were never terribly successful, but the software worked, and we hooked people up thousands of times per day. When I left the company, we were failing to hit our growth numbers, but still a going concern. For reasons not related to what I’m going to talk about below, right after I left the company basically it suffered 100% attrition and I no longer have any insight into the company.

    I was hired as a server engineer, part of a three person team, and in the first six or so months that I was there, I became the central server engineer. I authored probably something between 50% and 75% of the server code. It was a very small company, perhaps 20 people, and I was very familiar with almost all parts of the business and how we were doing.

    * * * * *

    I have become convinced that the business model of trying to do an Uber-like app with taxis has some non-obvious fatal flaws, as a result of my experience at Flywheel.

    The key to understanding all the flaws is to understand the nature of rides-for-hire demand.

    The taxi business has very, very, very uneven demand. Most people want rides during commute times and Friday and Saturday night at the beginning and end of nightlife hours, and demand falls down to near-zero in other times. During other times, demand hovers between “anemic” and “near zero.”

    The first flaw is the competition with street hails.

    When you’re a taxi driver, and the app hails you, you have to drive to the person who wants the pick up. This part of the trip is uncompensated! And it can be pretty slow, especially during the heavy traffic of peak times. A taxi driver tends to want to abandon the hail that they’re driving towards if they can see someone waving on the street that they can pick up right now.

    Remember, high-demand times are a fairly short period of time and coincide with times when traffic is heavy. It can be very hard for a driver to waste perhaps 1/10 to 1/5 of the peak time fighting traffic to get to a fare, when they could have a passenger in the car and earning in that time.

    However, if a driver does cancel on a passenger, the passenger has a terrible experience and you are unlikely to get them back. Especially when you have established competitors like Uber and Lyft who are much better at delivering some kind of ride during peak hours.

    Drivers are generally happy to drive considerable distances and pick up passengers during low-demand times, when they are much more dependent on the app to get any fare at all. Unfortunately, low-demand times are… low demand times. The majority of your customers — by definition — want to get rides during high-demand times. If your service doesn’t work well during high-demand times, it doesn’t work at all.

    We fought an endless war with our drivers to get them to a. accept and b. not abandon fares during high demand times. We used a lot of different incentives, both carrots and sticks, to make it happen. These ended up being very expensive for us, and only worked moderately well.

    The second flaw is mandated pricing.

    Taxi fares are set by the cities or counties that license them. Drivers may not charge other prices for their rides.

    In every major market, Lyft and UberX’s base prices (ie, their prices during non-surge times) are lower than the mandated taxi fares (obviously, this is not a coincidence).

    That means that during low-demand times (when our service worked most reliably), we were more expensive than Lyft and UberX.

    During high-demand times, Lyft and UberX surge price, and often were more expensive than us. At worst, they were much more comparable than us. But our service became flakey and unreliable, while their surge pricing smoothed out demand and meant that, if you were willing to pay the surge, you would get a ride.

    Uber and Lyft both ferociously subsidize rides, and it’s totally plausible that we would have been much more price competitive with them if they did not, or if we had funding similar to theirs. However, even then, I think that surge pricing would have mildly helped them smooth out demand.

    Those are the major two problems, and I think they’re the most irresolvable. However, there are others:

    Taxi regulation varies tremendously from city to city. In many markets, local regulators would demand that we make quirky, expensive changes to our product before they’d allow us in. Just ignoring local regulators, Uber-style, was not a winning strategy for us: our cabbie drivers have their medallion only at the pleasure of the local regulators. If we pissed off the regulators sufficiently, they’d withdraw the medallions that were the livelihood of our drivers. As such, most of our drivers were not willing to play “chicken” with regulators over bending or breaking rules.

    Taxis are also usually limited by regulation in the areas that they are allowed to pick up riders (usually to a city or county limits, sometimes in other, more complicated limits) (by contrast, they are typically allowed to drop off the passenger anywhere the passenger requests). These limits are difficult to code into the app, and more difficult to communicate to customers, and customers don’t want to care about them. Again, the taxi drivers feel dubious about breaking the regulations.

    Fares are often quite complicated by regulation (hilariously, since much of the ostensible raison d’etre of taxi regulation was to avoid predatory pricing). For example, going out of town might (in some areas) trigger an additional flat fee, or (in others) apply a multiplier to the fare. So might going to or from an airport. These pricing changes are difficult to communicate to passengers, and annoying to them. In our experience, regulators were completely inflexible about pricing.

    (If anyone suggests to you that regulators are in the pocket of taxi companies: that was not our experience. They weren’t viciously antagonistic to each other, but neither were the regulators happy to roll over for whatever the taxi companies wanted, in our experience).

    Entering a market as a rides-for-hire business means developing a certain density of drivers (good drivers who will accept hails) before launch. If you don’t, then your service sucks, and you lose all the riders who try you out. In some more spread out areas, the number of taxis that existed in that area was simply not enough to hit the level of density for a good service. More commonly, you would see that if you could get all of the taxis in the area to buy into your app, you could have acceptable density. But one of the companies in the area would be run by some old set-in-his-ways coot who was just uninterested in your stupid service. Or maybe one of the companies in the area was trying to set up their own ride-hailing app (there are a LOT of small competitors to Uber) and didn’t want to play into the competition.

    Places that you can effectively get street hails are generally a very small geographic area in any given city. VERY small. Even in a dense city like San Francisco, probably 90% of the city does not have sufficient density to be a good place to prowl for street hails. So cabbies concentrate themselves into the small areas where they can effectively get hails. In those areas, your app is often not that great a service — people would tell us that three cabs went by while they were waiting for their chosen driver to arrive on the scene. But in other areas, passengers suffered long waits while the driver who took the hail got from downtown to out where the passenger wanted to be picked up.

    If you aren’t going for a street hail as a cabbie, you’re probably waiting in a line in one place or another — usually airports, hotels, or sometimes fancy restaurants. These lines can be 30 minutes or an hour long (or two hours. Or four). Once you’re 20 minutes into a line, if you get a hail, it can be tough to abandon your sunk cost of waiting (even if it is a fallacy — and it might not be. If you’re in a hotel line, you might be more likely to get a highly profitable airport ride, while an app hail is more likely to be a low-profit short haul within the city).

    Hope this was informative!

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Interesting.

      If (when?) Uber/Lyft/etc. drive taxis out of business, I imagine street hails will go the way of the dodo?

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Well, only taxis are legally allowed to take street hails. So if there are no taxis… I mean, probably yes.

        The street hail situation may well have changed in the last three years since I left Flywheel. Uber and Lyft have grown enormously in that time. Back when I was working on things, there was a large population that just, you know, wasn’t hip to hailing rides on your smartphone.

        However, street hails were quite convenient — often faster than getting a ride with an app — in certain dense areas. You can also hail an Uber and simultaneously try to flag down a cab, and then cancel the Uber if your street hail is successful.

    • BBA says:

      As the last thread was dying I mentioned Arro, a dual-mode app. It can be used to hail cabs or to pay for a cab you hailed off the street. The latter option has been far more useful to me.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Neat. We flirted with that idea, but couldn’t find a really neat tech solution, though that the UI would be confusing, and were to some extent pessimistic about it being a game changer. I’d be interested to see how Arro did it.

        But that said, I’ll stand by the opinion that it probably wouldn’t be a game changer.

        • BBA says:

          In New York and Boston, at least, there’s a video screen in the back seat that’s linked to the meter and is used for accepting credit cards. (And displaying ads and news clips during the ride.) The screen shows a numeric code for Arro and other apps to sync with, you type the code into the app and the screen acknowledges the payment. Basically it saves the minute of fumbling with your wallet and working out the tip at the end of the cab ride, which for me is one of the more annoying bits of the taxi experience.

          I haven’t been to the other cities in a while, don’t know if they also have the video screens in cabs or they have some other way to connect an app to the meter. But not having the connectivity and trying to have the app calculate the fare itself sounds like a nightmare. (And just forget it in the smaller cities with zone-based or per-passenger fares.)

  11. Fossegrimen says:


    To those of you who are looking for marginal gains in weight loss, have you tried compression garments?

    The way they work is they compress (duh) the outer layers of flesh and by some mechanism I’m not entirely clear about increases blood flow. Increased blood flow has several nice effects, among them reduced recovery time and increased temperature in outer layers of tissue (not entirely sure how deep the effect goes either, published research is spotty at best)

    The interesting bit when it comes to weight loss is the increased temperature which leads to increased heat loss which tricks your body into upping the metabolic rate to compensate.*

    I come at this from the other end where I use compression garments after exercise in order to cut recovery time (works great btw) while desperately trying to consume enough calories to not disappear completely. After starting with compression garments, I had to increase calorie intake somewhat. After some experimenting, it seems that in my case, compression garments add ~10 Calories per hour worn, which is not astronomical**, but given Scotts observations that the human metabolism is almost perfectly tuned, it might well be enough to switch from slowly gaining weight to steady-state?

    This just a wild idea I haven’t seen promoted anywhere but afaik should have zero undesirable side effects and several positive ones such as reduced risk of DVT etc. Could be worth trying, no?

    *Turning the thermostat down does not work equally well because the body will react by lowering blood flow in order to limit heat loss which is the oposite of what we want.
    **I have very low levels of fat, so YMMV because I have no idea how blood flow is affected in fatty tissue as compared to muscle tissue.

  12. Odovacer says:

    The city of New Orleans is removing Confederate monuments. I’m from the Northern USA and it always struck me as a bit odd growing up that there were monuments celebrating the losing side of a war. I now know of other monuments/memorials about losing sides, e.g. Crazy Horse, “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, etc.. However, I’m not certain how frequent they are compared to monuments celebrating victories, or monuments mourning the deaths of soldiers/civilians.

    1) Why was there such clinging to confederate symbols in the South?

    2) Are there many other prominent examples of commemorating the losing side in a battle/war/fight?

    • Anonymous says:

      1) Why was there such clinging to confederate symbols in the South?

      Because Southerners weren’t physically removed after they lost.

      2) Are there many other prominent examples of commemorating the losing side in a battle/war/fight?

      You need not look further than the Polish field of WWII martyrology. Off-hand, I can give you the examples of the defense of Wizna, the defense of Westerplatte, the defense of the Danzig Post Office and the Warsaw Uprising.

      And that’s not even touching the pre-WWII martyrology.

      • Urstoff says:

        What is the Polish national psyche like, given their history of constantly being conquered, partitioned, re-conquered, etc.?

        • Anonymous says:

          Ungovernable; the only people Poles even tolerate to rule them are other Poles, and it’s no more than toleration then. A bit fatalistic, but not so much as the Russians. Unjustifiably optimistic about the strength of the military. Justifiably optimistic about being able to outlast the enemy.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Re #1: Confederate monuments were, I believe, near universally installed after the end of Reconstruction.

      One way of thinking about this is that the South actually won. Paying tribute to fallen heroes, even of losing battles, is pretty commonplace.

      Re #2:
      What about William Wallace, as an example? I don’t think this is actually all that atypical.

      ETA : Joan of Arc lost as well. Underdog martyr stories have their place in the pantheon of heroes.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I think Anonymous hit it on the head. Something that people forget when they say things like “the US has never lost a (declared) war” or “the US has never been occupied by an invading power” is that approx. 1/3 of the US has lost a war and been occupied by an invading power. A confederate monument in the south is no different from a WWII memorial in Japan.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      A good many people who want to keep the monuments refer to removing the monuments as “destroying history”, and all I’ve got is guesses about what they mean by history. Anyone have actual information about what’s meant?

      • Jaskologist says:

        Sure. To me, this looks to be in principle the same thing that ISIS is doing, minus the collateral damage. Or what the Soviets and Communist Chinese did when they airbrushed people out of photos. It also pricks at my “anti-book-burning” module.

        Basically, it pattern-matches to a bunch of reprehensible regimes, and I can’t think of any positive examples since King Josiah.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Is your argument that the monuments are history more because they’ve been in place for a long time (by American standards) rather than for their overt message?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Yes, a lot of it rests in the fact that they’ve been there for a long time. They’re a part of the cities’ history and we shouldn’t airbrush out those parts we don’t like.

            Partly it’s the fact that they’re being removed for anti-blasphemy reasons. I’d be much more sympathetic if monuments happened to get removed or relocated over time as the city grew and needed the space.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            Except the monuments themselves are airbrushing history.

            And they aren’t being destroyed (afaik), just removed from central display as veneration.

          • Brad says:

            I agree that time makes a difference. Nebuchadnezzar may have been more cruel and a worse leader than Sadaam Hussain, but pulling down a statute of Sadaam Hussain is more justifiable than pulling down one of Nebuchadnezzar.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Different times have different airbrushes though. If you keep the old and the new, you can see the differences, which is instructive.

            If the old gets razed and only the new orthodoxy is visible, you get: “We’ve always been at war with Oceania.”

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Brad:

            …pulling down a statute of Sadaam Hussain is more justifiable than pulling down one of Nebuchadnezzar.

            So, um, how would you feel about pulling down a statue of, say—just for the sake of argument—Ozymandias?

            Purely hypothetically, of course. No, those aren’t rope marks on my hands, and this crowbar is completely unrelated to what we’re talking about.

            Also, would it be at all mitigating if the puller-downers left the boastful inscription intact? (Asking for a friend.)

          • onyomi says:

            @Aapje

            Different times have different airbrushes though. If you keep the old and the new, you can see the differences, which is instructive.

            If the old gets razed and only the new orthodoxy is visible, you get: “We’ve always been at war with Oceania.”

            This is important. Every political hegemony and every moral orthodoxy has an incentive to make itself appear timeless, non-contingent–“the end of history.”

            I don’t think hardly anyone, right or left, would agree, in the abstract, that it’s better to have a citizenry with a short historical memory and narrow sense of proportionality/contingency, yet both sides can very easily be made to promote that state of affairs.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “I don’t think hardly anyone, right or left, would agree, in the abstract, that it’s better to have a citizenry with a short historical memory and narrow sense of proportionality/contingency, yet both sides can very easily be made to promote that state of affairs.”

            I’m tempted, so very tempted.

            If I had a “don’t take the group past seriously” ray, I’d like to turn it on Israel/Palestine. What could possibly go wrong?

            Also, “those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is all very nice for those who want to teach history, but is there any evidence that it’s true?

            My bet is that the people who are most likely to repeat the past are those who remember it and take it personally.

          • Tarhalindur says:

            The thing about “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is that as far as I can tell the first lesson of history is that people, in the aggregate, do not learn from it.

          • onyomi says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            My bet is that the people who are most likely to repeat the past are those who remember it and take it personally.

            Yes, I certainly thought about that during and after writing. I would agree there are cases when it’s a good thing, for example, when one can gain some historical distance and perspective on e.g. a major war in a way which people who lived through it and its immediate aftermath have difficulty doing.

            However, my sense is also that, while it may be easier to e.g. take a contrarian stance on an old war than a recent war with fresh wounds, there is also a very strong tendency for all of non-recent history to be reduced to extremely oversimplified little nuggets which fit into the story the dominant ideology tells about itself. Nuance and context are lost, and with them, the ability to learn useful lessons which don’t simply reinforce whatever everyone currently believes (though, of course, it works the other way around too: the past creates today’s orthodoxy): the Civil War was just about slavery; the New Deal ended the Great Depression, both World Wars were basically just about Germany being inexplicably bellicose and crazy. The Vietnam War was obviously completely stupid. And so on.

            And you think I’m talking about the dumb high school students! No, this is what the intellectuals “know” about these things. The high school students are not even sure who fought in WWII.

            So I guess my point is I can definitely see ways in which history weighs heavily, even today, and how it can be heard to break out of e.g. a “Cold War mindset” long after the Cold War has ended; at the same time, I think people need reminders that history didn’t just begin yesterday, that their values were not always obviously right and that future generations will surely see them as benighted in many ways, and so on.

            I can certainly think of many historical examples of societies (maybe most premodern societies) too much in the shadow of history–too afraid of trying anything new and deviating from custom, or even constantly chasing after a return to some mythical, ancient ideal which probably never existed. But I don’t think that’s our society at all, today.

          • Nuance and context are lost, and with them, the ability to learn useful lessons which don’t simply reinforce whatever everyone currently believes (though, of course, it works the other way around too: the past creates today’s orthodoxy): the Civil War was just about slavery; the New Deal ended the Great Depression, both World Wars were basically just about Germany being inexplicably bellicose and crazy. The Vietnam War was obviously completely stupid. And so on.

            And you think I’m talking about the dumb high school students! No, this is what the intellectuals “know” about these things. The high school students are not even sure who fought in WWII.

            +1

          • Protagoras says:

            @Machina ex Deus, I’ve always found that poem a bit odd, with the apparently intended message of how everything will be erased and forgotten, illustrated with the example of Rameses the Great, who has managed to mostly not be forgotten after more than three thousand years.

          • John Schilling says:

            If I had a “don’t take the group past seriously” ray, I’d like to turn it on Israel/Palestine. What could possibly go wrong?

            But is that the actual group past, or the imagined group past as rewritten to support present political goals? As Scott noted in passing, the adjacent Sunni/Shiite disputes get a lot of mileage out of historic “wrongs” that nobody really cares about except insofar as they can be recast to support present disputes. And while you can do that with actual history, it is so much easier with fake history.

            See, e.g., the whole Aryan mythology the Nazis cooked up, along with the stab-in-the-back myth and the blood libel and so forth. And I don’t think the history being taught in and around Palestine is much better.

            You are almost certainly better off with actual history, than with whatever fake history your enemies can cook up. The hardest part of actual history to rewrite, are the parts literally carved in stone and bronze. The second hardest are the printed books from the age in question. Tear down the monuments, burn the inconvenient books or even banish them from the reading rooms and open stacks of the school libraries, and all you really accomplish is to give people license to make up their own history while damaging your own credibility when it comes to refuting it.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think the point of Ozymandias isn’t that everything is forgotten, but the greatness of accomplishments gets worn down by time, or at least accomplishments that are basically about status.

            The poem doesn’t address scientific achievements.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling,

            That’s an interesting point, but it might be easier to get people to be less interested in propaganda history by convincing them that the past doesn’t matter much than to get them interested in real history.

            On the other hand, if we’re talking about superscience wish fulfillment, a “get interested in real history” ray would be worth trying, though you’d need to apply it carefully so you don’t have people neglecting their lives.

            I recommend Lafferty’s “Brain Fever Season”. This doesn’t seem to be available online, but it’s based on the premise that there’s strong group variation in what interests people, and one of the things wrong with the world is expecting people to have stable, convenient fascinations.

            In the real world, I expect the hard thing is convincing people that it’s safe to let go of propaganda history.

          • John Schilling says:

            it might be easier to get people to be less interested in propaganda history by convincing them that the past doesn’t matter much than to get them interested in real history.

            To do that, you’d need to tear down or at least deprecate all the monuments, which certainly isn’t what is being proposed here. Are there any good examples of people doing that?

            The examples that come to mind are Revolutionary France and the first-generation Communist governments, except that A: I’m not sure how consistently they really did try to deprecate history and B: it obviously didn’t work out well. But there’s enough historical expertise here that maybe someone can come up with some positive cases.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Tearing down monuments probably isn’t a good way to make people less invested in history.

            It would be better if psople just didn’t notice monuments.

        • John Schilling says:

          It also pricks at my “anti-book-burning” module.

          This. Monuments are specifically meant to convey the most important parts of their builder’s history and culture to future generations. They are in that sense very much like first-generation history books, and tearing them down because you disagree with the builders’ message is very much like burning books because you disagree with the authors’ message. We have a strong norm about burning books even if we’re pretty sure they are full of seductively-packaged lies; how can we not have the same norm about destroying monuments?

          Monuments do take up more room, and if there’s genuinely a shortage of prime monument-display space, editorial discretion is appropriate. But that’s usually not what’s going on when this comes up.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            tearing them down

            Has this happened?

            Or have monuments been moved (and no longer displayed in places of veneration)?

            Your position seems to be more analogous to the idea that we need to keep books in the display rack simply because they have been there a long time.

          • Rob K says:

            Oh, good grief. If some people put up monuments to convey the message “many of the people who live in this city are subhuman and properly subordinated” it’s equivalent to book-burning to want to tear those down later?

            We as a society tell our self-narrative through the things we honor with monuments or by naming things after them. The people who built those monuments wanted to enshrine their vision of what their society looked like. But we now recognize that that vision, and many of those people, sucked. And so we should use our public space to tell a different and better narrative.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If some people put up monuments to convey the message “many of the people who live in this city are subhuman and properly subordinated” it’s equivalent to book-burning to want to tear those down later?

            You say that as if the antecedent actually happened. My understanding is that that is contested. You need to prove it before you can forge on.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You need to prove it before you can forge on.

            Won’t matter whether it is proved, as we are talking about cultural iconography.

          • Iain says:

            @Paul Brinkley:
            The inscription on one of the monuments, dating from 1932 (!), stated:

            McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored).
            United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.

            Not exactly subtle.

          • herbert herberson says:

            @ Paul Brinkley Does this qualify?
            https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C-yiFjJXUAEeKNI.jpg

            Not that I agree the premise that anything so explicit is required make Rob’s comment correct. Any celebration of those who took up arms for the Confederacy implicitly either says that going to war to guarantee the expansion of race-based chattel slavery was a proper cause, or, alternatively, that while race-based chattel slavery was not good, it wasn’t sufficiently evil to morally overcome the other motivations to fight offered by Southern apologists.

          • Chalid says:

            I’d see a monument as more akin to a political demonstration than a book, especially in that it takes up public space and broadcasts its message to all that pass by.

          • Zodiac says:

            I am in favour of reframing the monuments instead of tearing them down/moving them/whatever.
            After all you can just say “Well, people back then were bigoted a-holes, so if you meet somebody that holds those views today they are a few hundred years behind the curve.”

          • John Schilling says:

            [tearing them down] Has this happened?

            The Los Angeles Times seems to think so, in those exact words. The subsequent description is of an at least partially destructive dismantlement.

            Or have monuments been moved (and no longer displayed in places of veneration)?

            Moved in pieces, and no longer displayed anywhere. More generally, a brief survey of Confederate monument-removal efforts suggests the general practice is to move whatever is left to a warehouse with a vague notion that some other place might be found to display them some time in the future, not much effort to that end, and no mention of how the remains are going to be preserved during their dismantlement and storage. Proponents and even nominally neutral commentators frequently use terms like “tear down” and “destroy” while any efforts to ensure a non-destructive removal are conspicuously unmentioned.

            Your position seems to be more analogous to the idea that we need to keep books in the display rack

            Were someone to propose removing every book by, e.g., a gay author from every display rack, and instead of moving them to the library shelves toss them in a locked room in the basement, I suspect you’d be casting them as kissing cousins to the book-burners even if they didn’t strip the bindings first.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Not exactly subtle.

            Hrmph. I agree; not subtle. Were I a NOLA native, I could stand for seeing that one go. However, it wasn’t mentioned in the linked article, and every comment I read in this thread was consistent with them being this or that statue which reliably appears to one side as a monument to slavery and to the other as some Confederate general exhibiting bravery or valor in battle. Hence why I said the previous claim is contested.

            And aye, it’s about cultural iconography – and at least two cultures appear to be in play here.

            Any celebration of those who took up arms for the Confederacy implicitly either says that going to war to guarantee the expansion of race-based chattel slavery was a proper cause, or, alternatively, that while race-based chattel slavery was not good, it wasn’t sufficiently evil to morally overcome the other motivations to fight offered by Southern apologists.

            Again, a contested claim. Was Robert E. Lee not worthy of celebration in how he conducted the surrender of the Confederate Army?

            That claim also leaves out some important detail. Many on the Union side were relatively cavalier about race superiority, or slavery. Yet we don’t appear to advocate tearing down monuments to Lincoln or other Union fighters. It gives that side the appearance of trying to make a black and white issue out of a historical event – even while they rail against the revisionism of the monuments they oppose.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Iain – I’m generally pretty strongly against removing memorials to confederate soldiers, but yeah, this one was a straight-up monument to white supremacy. I’m happy to see it come down.

            [EDIT] – …I guess there’s also an argument that it should left exactly where it is, and in fact a large billboard should be erected nearby with the words “NEW ORLEANS WHITE SUPREMACY MONUMENT HERE” and a giant arrow pointing to it. I was very surprised to learn that such a thing existed in the first place, and learning it did is useful information to have.

          • herbert herberson says:

            That claim also leaves out some important detail. Many on the Union side were relatively cavalier about race superiority, or slavery. Yet we don’t appear to advocate tearing down monuments to Lincoln or other Union fighters. It gives that side the appearance of trying to make a black and white issue out of a historical event – even while they rail against the revisionism of the monuments they oppose.

            It’s true that the Union wasn’t anti-racist. They weren’t even abolitionist. But the question at hand isn’t the virtue of the North, it’s the virtue of the South, and on that question a proper understanding of just how complacent the North was with slavery only serves as a further condemnation of the South. It is not black and white, true, but it is black and grey–and the dinginess of the Union’s grey only serves to demonstrate just how dark the vantablack of the Confederacy was.

            If the North had launched an abolitionist crusade, then one would be able to have some understanding and sympathy for those who were just “defending their homelands.” But the South seceded in response to nothing more than the election of a Free Soiler, then shot first. They weren’t defending their homes despite the peculiar institution that was found there, they were affirmatively waging war on a government that would have happily allowed them to continue the rape and bondage of millions of people. This is because complacency regarding their internal affairs was not good enough for them. They demanded expansion of their system and its enforcement in Northern states.

            It is the ugliest cause for a war in pretty much all of modern history. Even the Nazis had at least one or two legitimate beefs (the Versailles treaty); the Confederacy had nothing besides an naked ambition for more slave-derived wealth.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            Yes the lede is “tear down” but the description of the work is “workers in bulletproof vests and masks slowly took the structure apart.”

            And my objection to gay authors being removed from display would rest on the incorrectness of thinking that gay authors are bad. Having, say Mein Kampf and Mao’s Little Red Book on permanent display, with halos and rainbows over statues of Hitler and Mao, with a tiny plaque underneath saying “Just historical fact that these guys existed and lots of people thought they were awesome. Also they caused the death of millions.” would represent an incorrect choice on the part of the librarian.

            There is no need to venerate the heroes of white supremacy. Nathan Bedford Forest most especially, but the others just as well.

            There is a debate to be had about the right way to acknowledge the overall history of the nation, slavery, and the South. But simply saying “The Confederate Heroes have to stay up right where they are” isn’t it.

          • Oh, good grief. If some people put up monuments to convey the message “many of the people who live in this city are subhuman and properly subordinated”

            That isn’t the message.

            The message is something more like “A bunch of foreigners conquered us and forced us to do things their way, but we never gave in and finally won.”

            The point isn’t what issue they were fighting over, it’s the pride in winning against adversity.

            “They’ve got the guns and money and lots more men
            But we’ve got to lick them now.
            We’re not fighting for slaves
            Most of us never owned slaves and never expect to.
            It takes money to buy a slave and we’re most of us poor,
            But we won’t lie down and let the North walk over us
            About slaves or anything else.”

            (From John Brown’s Body, a novel in verse about the Civil War)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Do you really want to claim that Nathan Bedford Forest didn’t stand for white supremacy?

          • John Schilling says:

            The Nathan Bedford Forrest who dissolved the first incarnation of the KKK when it drifted from organized opposition to Yankees into random murder of Blacks?

            This Nathan Bedford Forrest?

            By the end of his life, Forrest was being publicly censured and privately shunned by the more white-supremacist segments of Southern society. He may have been a white supremacist earlier in life, but by the time anyone was building monuments to the man it is a bit of a stretch to say he stood for white supremacy in the minds of the monument-builders. Plenty of unrepentant white supremacists to erect monuments to, if that’s what you are after.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            David Friedman, suppose there were Nazi monuments to how hard they fought because they didn’t want to be conquered.

            I think it would be hard to not see that as anti-Semitic, anti-Russian, and anti-Pole.

          • Anonymous says:

            David Friedman, suppose there were Nazi monuments to how hard they fought because they didn’t want to be conquered.

            I think it would be hard to not see that as anti-Semitic, anti-Russian, and anti-Pole.

            It’s not the same situation.

            Imagine that Poland invaded Lithuania and annexed it, and that the Lithuanians set up monuments commemorating their defeat and continued defiance in the face of oppression at the hands of the evil Poles. Then imagine that the Polish government started pulling those monuments down.

          • John Schilling says:

            There is a debate to be had about the right way to acknowledge the overall history of the nation, slavery, and the South. But simply saying “The Confederate Heroes have to stay up right where they are” isn’t it.

            Neither is “Any monument to a Confederate Hero must be Torn Down”. But that’s where the actual debate is being conducted.

            Monuments staying up right where they are, is your strawman.
            If there were an active proposal to move these monuments from site A to site B(*), we could discuss that. What we have is a clear intent that the monuments be “torn down”, in that language more often than not, and that American politics means this is done with more tact than to use dynamite and jackhammers up front doesn’t much change that.

            And my objection to gay authors being removed from display would rest on the incorrectness of thinking that gay authors are bad.

            Ah, so the approval of public displays is contingent on their supposed message being determined “correct”.

            By whom exactly? Because I’m liking the idea of you spending the rest of existence in the alternate universe where the only public displays are the ones the Trump Administration determines to contain Correct Facts.

            * Not counting this site B. Even if you do promise to have Top Men studying the monument’s historic significance.

          • John Schilling says:

            David Friedman, suppose there were Nazi monuments to how hard they fought because they didn’t want to be conquered.

            There actually are monuments to how hard German soldiers fought because they didn’t want to be conquered during WWII, some of them explicitly devoted to all-Nazi SS units. As far as I know, there isn’t much controversy over this from Jews, Poles, or Russians.

            Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine does get a bit of controversy, I think mostly because its explicit (IIRC Shinto-derived) mission of naming every Japanese soldier who died in the service of the Rising Sun conflicts with demands that actual convicted war criminals not be honored. I’ve visited it, seen nothing objectionable beyond the existence of those names, and would consider it a great loss were the shrine to be “torn down”.

          • Deiseach says:

            The “pull them all down no we won’t divide out the sheep from the goats if he was a Confederate soldier he must have been an evil racist, no way he could have changed and developed in later life” attitude provokes this response from me.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:

            If there were an active proposal to move these monuments from site A to site B(*), we could discuss that. What we have is a clear intent that the monuments be “torn down”

            Let’s quote from the article you linked:
            Stone Mountain:

            the Atlanta City Council passed a resolution asking Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a study group to consider adding other significant figures

            Lee:

            In the meantime, the city has pressed on. Last week, the City Council voted to move forward in its efforts to sell the statue, requesting bids from museums, educational institutions and nonprofits.

            Calhoun:

            So far, city officials have made no move to dismantle or relocate the monument.

            Forrest:

            Last October, the Tennessee Historical Commission denied the City Council’s application for a waiver that would let it relocate the monument.

            Confederate Memorial:

            After dismantling and removing the structure, workers restored the monument about 40 miles southwest in Brandenburg, which hosts a biennial Civil War reenactment.

          • Brad says:

            The message is something more like “A bunch of foreigners conquered us and forced us to do things their way, but we never gave in and finally won.”

            A very similar story can be told about the message of removing them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Rob K

            “many of the people who live in this city are subhuman and properly subordinated”

            Those knocking them down are knocking them down because they think exactly that. And the subjects of this thought darn well know it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            I admit to being under informed on arguments against the idea that Forrest was an icon for white supremacists.

            The arguments take some strange forms, however. For instance, people dispute that Forrest was actually even a member of the Klan while crediting him with the power to disband it.

            Even if Forrest were to have undergone some late in life change in heart, it is by no means proof that his iconographic status changed. George Wallace renounced segregation late in life, but any statue erected that portrayed him as the noble governor of Alabama can’t avoid what he meant to segregation.

            But we can also directly examine the iconographic status of Forrest more directly. This article is a compilation of such evidence.

            For instance, Laura Martin Rose of the former president and historian of the Mississippi chapter of the United Daughter’s of the Confederacy, wrote The Ku Klux Clan: or The Invisible Army in 1914. This was an attempt at compiling an oral history of the Klan, as it had no written records. The book was excerpted in Confederate Veteran and endorsed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

            She writes on pages 51 and 52:

            The record of the Ku Klux Klan teaches forcibly three lessions, which are so plain that he who runs may read. First, the inevitability of Anglo-Saxon Supremacy; when harassed by bands of outlaws, thugs, carpet-baggers, and guerillas, turned loose on the South and upheld by political machinery, during the Reconstruction period, the sturdy white men of the South, against all odds, maintained white supremacy and secured Caucasian civilization, when its very foundations were threatened within and without. Second, a new revelation of the greatness and genius of General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “Wizard of the Saddle,” the great Confederate cavalry leader. As Grand Wizard of the Invisible Empire, to his splendid leadership was due, more than to any other.

        • onyomi says:

          It also pricks at my “anti-book-burning” module.

          Agree. Especially since it’s clear that most of those supporting the removal of these monuments aren’t doing so on a careful evaluation of the historical legacy of the relevant figures.

          For example, they recently removed a statue of Beauregard, who literally fought for black-white integration in the 1870s.

        • Anonymous says:

          This all is actually an interesting issue, on second thoughts. I think it’s wrong to destroy history, even if it’s evil history. But it’s right to correct falsifications of history, or remove unwanted enemy propaganda.

          I would definitely support removing the majority of Communist monuments in post-Communist countries, because they tend to have low or non-existent historical value, or say things which are patently untrue. I would definitely oppose removing the Southern memorials mentioned in this thread. While they might be offensive to some, they do have substantial historical value, and so far as I can tell, they don’t tell outright lies.

          I’d definitely keep something like this, but remove Random Lenin Statue #2653.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Why don’t we keep the monuments, but add others memorializing the victims of slavery? Correct the whitewashing of history by adding more context, more information for future generations, rather than just sending the side we don’t like down the memory hole.

          • Anonymous says:

            Why don’t we keep the monuments, but add others memorializing the victims of slavery? Correct the whitewashing of history by adding more context, more information for future generations, rather than just sending the side we don’t like down the memory hole.

            Works.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m not really sure what line you are attempting to draw between Lenin and Stalin and Lee, Jackson and Forrest?

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure it is so cut and dry that a statue of Lee put up in the 1880s has substantially more historical value than a statue of Lenin put up in the 1920s.

          • Urstoff says:

            What is “historical value” and why to Confederate monuments put up after reconstruction it them but Soviet ones don’t?

          • John Schilling says:

            Wikipedia lists no shortage of Lenin Statues, most of which still seem to be standing. And, being of cultural and historic significance, should remain wherever people are generally casting Russian and/or Communist history in stone and bronze.

            Statues and monuments established by a conquering power in a conquered nation are perhaps most appropriately sent home with the conquering soldiers; if they are torn down by exuberant liberators, that would be near the bottom of my list of cultural offenses to complain about in time of war or revolution.

            Though I note that one of the Czechoslovakian Lenins somehow found its way to the People’s Republic of Freemont (Seattle, USA). Fair enough.

          • Jiro says:

            Statues and monuments established by a conquering power in a conquered nation are perhaps most appropriately sent home with the conquering soldiers

            Why can’t you interpret “conquering power” to be Southern whites, and “conquered nation” to be blacks? Whites rule over blacks and put up monuments to this. Blacks get power and pull the monuments down.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why can’t you interpret “conquering power” to be Southern whites, and “conquered nation” to be blacks?

            The part where the whites were there first, makes that an extremely strained analogy.

            Blacks get power and pull the monuments down.

            Read again. Blacks get power and send the monuments home with the conquering soldiers. Now what?

            If you insist on both sides of a war living peacefully in the same land, and you don’t want a permanent state of subjugation, then you’re going to need to let both sides have their monuments.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            >>Why can’t you interpret “conquering power” to be Southern whites, and >>“conquered nation” to be blacks?

            >The part where the whites were there first, makes that an extremely >strained analogy.

            Kidnapping people and keeping them and their descendents in slavery is remarkably much like conquest, even if it isn’t the conquest of a nation.

          • LHN says:

            Add the fact that the first Africans were brought to the English North American colonies a little over a decade after the first English settlement, and the last legal imported slaves had certainly arrived decades before the most recent white immigrants. Who’d been there longer seems like kind of a narrow reed. African-Americans were a subject population for roughly as long as there’d been a South.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            John Schilling:

            “If you insist on both sides of a war living peacefully in the same land, and you don’t want a permanent state of subjugation, then you’re going to need to let both sides have their monuments.”

            Tiis seems at least vaguely testable. Any examples? Counterexamples?

            More generally, it’s a little hard to tell what a statue means.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            [Keeping peace by letting both sides of a war have their monuments] seems at least vaguely testable. Any examples? Counterexamples?

            HeelBearCub mentioned William Wallace earlier…

            Strictly speaking, I think this will be very hard to prove. At best, I imagine we’d have existence proofs of correlation. Hopefully that’s a start. Other potential starting points might include subjects of the Achaemenid Persians; China under Genghis Khan; the Romans; the Ottomans; or basically any empire that managed to hold out for longer than the lifespan of a person.

            If these don’t count because the subjugator was still considered in full command, then I admit I lack good examples to draw from. China still seems usable, in that I feel as if Kublai et al. effectively “became” Chinese, but this is subject to a lot of interpretation.

            Oliver Cromwell, maybe, depending on how you count a war. Wars of the Roses? Any monuments to various houses?

          • JayT says:

            Down below TheAncientGeekAKA1Z posted a link to some Irish monuments to IRA figures. I would think that counts.

          • onyomi says:

            @Jiro

            Why can’t you interpret “conquering power” to be Southern whites, and “conquered nation” to be blacks? Whites rule over blacks and put up monuments to this. Blacks get power and pull the monuments down.

            In the case of NOLA, the biggest push for this has been coming from our crummy mayor–the first white mayor of NOLA in about 40 years, I might add–who has thinly veiled presidential aspirations. His message to the nation will be “I fought Southern white racists and won.”

            Sure, black unemployment and crime are up since his tenure (and the overall black population still down since Katrina), but who needs a job or a safe neighborhood when you have symbolic victories?

          • Montfort says:

            Down below TheAncientGeekAKA1Z posted a link to some Irish monuments to IRA figures. I would think that counts.

            Well, maybe. But reading the article I see one of the monuments is apolitical, and of the remaining four, three were later destroyed (two of these were monuments to English political figures, but that is one “side” as well). The lesson this list seems to teach us is more like “leaving up monuments is a good way to invite explosions and/or paramilitary organizations to that location.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Kidnapping people and keeping them and their descendents in slavery is remarkably much like conquest,

            Remarkably much like, but not exactly like. One of the few differences is who, when the conquest is undone, gets legitimate claim to which territory for purposes like monument-building.

            What Japan did to China in the 1930s was exactly like conquest, but I think it is generally agreed that the Japanese still get to build whatever monuments they want in Japan even though they were both conquerors and ultimately losers.

    • dodrian says:

      The Alamo is a monument to a lost battle – though it was held for two weeks against an overwhelming opposition, and was used as a rallying cry when the Texicans regrouped and retook what had been lost, eventually winning the war, so it’s not quite the same as a confederate war monument.

      Much of the history of the civil war has been recast in the US South as a war for states rights. There are many today vehemently opposed to slavery and who acknowledge the appalling history of it who nonetheless (uncomfortably) still commemorate the confederate legacy of bravery, fighting for their home and culture despite terrible odds.

      The removing of monuments can easily be seen as an attack on southern culture and heritage, especially given the apparent war on the same in entertainment and mass media. It’s easy to forget that those symbols may mean something completely different to the other half of a city.

    • Nornagest says:

      Are there many other prominent examples of commemorating the losing side in a battle/war/fight?

      People love doomed last stands. Remember the Alamo!

      Or the Little Bighorn, until quite recently (and it’s largely been replaced by memorialization of Native American forces). Dunkirk. Constantinople. The Spartans (and other Greek coalition forces, much less famously) at Thermopylae. The Paris Commune, in leftist circles; also the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. And I understand there’s still a fair bit of WWII memorialization in Japan — a few years ago I happened to be on Corregidor, the site of a vicious last-stand battle in the closing days of the Pacific Theater, and found a very nice, very tasteful Japanese memorial garden up top.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      It was William Faulkner who said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

      It’s time to retire these “monuments” to murderous inhumanity, isn’t it?

      As to the psychology of revered defeat, a well-respected (and still-in-print) case-study is Ivan Morris’ The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan (1975)

    • Wander says:

      On the topic of commemorating lost battles – see: Gallipoli Campaign; Australia.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Question: to what extent do the arguments against monuments to notable Confederate figures, and in favor of pulling those monuments down, not apply as well to the “Founding Fathers” of the US? Slave-owning? The “3/5 compromise”? Treatment of Native Americans? (Was not one driver of revolution the British government limiting westward settlement into Native territory?) Why no drive to remove monuments to, say, Jefferson? (Or is that just a matter of time, once the activists are done with this set and look for some new cause to pursue?)

      • Jiro says:

        That’s ridiculous, the Confederate figures were traitors to their lawful president, and Jefferson and company were just traitors to their lawful king.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Rebellion against a king may be pardoned, or lightly punished, but the man who dares to rebel against the laws of a republic ought to suffer death.

          — Samuel Adams, on Shay’s Rebellion.

          • Jiro says:

            Even back then, the king wasn’t the kind of ruler who was able to say “off with his head” and instantly get it done. Perhaps a better description would be “lawful Parliament”.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I see a difference between slave-owning and fighting a war to continue and expand slave-owning.

        • Kevin C. says:

          But how about fighting a war to continue and expand slave-owning versus fighting a war to continue and expand stealing Native American land?

          • Evan Þ says:

            The Proclamation of 1763 was one of the Intolerable Acts.

            By no means the only one, and it barely even got mentioned in the Declaration of Independence (unlike slavery in the proclamations of secession).

      • Chalid says:

        There aren’t many wars where the moral difference between the antagonists as clear-cut as the Civil War, and the Revolution isn’t one of them.

      • Deiseach says:

        And in fifty to eighty years time, we’ll see the monuments, plaques and honorary doctorates awarded to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama revoked and pulled down because they were horrible knowing carnivores who deliberately did nothing during their time in power to end the scandal of factory farming and the torture, subjugation, and murder of billions of sentient fellow-creatures:

        Hillary Clinton, who’s competing for the Democratic Presidential nomination with Bernie Sanders, has to eat on the campaign trail, right? What exactly does she eat? Thankfully, there’s some info out there, including a Slate article from 2008. In it, it’s revealed that growing up she was a big fan of the Oliveburger at the Pickwick in Park Ridge, Illinois; it’s a six-ounce patty topped with chopped pimento-stuffed green olives and Dijon mustard.

        Former White house chef Walter Scheib also told the outlet that he always kept Boca Burgers on hand for Hillary during her White House years, and that she also encouraged him to cook American cuisine instead of French-inspired food. Clinton has also said that lamb is her favorite meat, and during her White House time she was a fan of spicy foods as well as Middle Eastern flavors like hummus, baba ghanoush, and tahini. Since then, she’s said that she likes to eat jalapenos on the campaign trail.

        See? She had the option to eat vegetarian but she still indulged herself on the flesh and bodies of fellow-animals, from scrambled eggs for breakfast up to chicken and barbecue, even though her spouse repented his sins and ethically chose to become vegan!

        Obama is just as bad, with pizza, chili and salmon. Even honey, for the absolute vegans out there, is a no-no and this bloodmouth carnist indulged himself with it. His case is even worse than Hillary, since he has a love of vegetables (claims to love broccoli) and eats pizza topped with tomato and olives rather than meat toppings, as well as lots of salads and healthy nut snacks. So it would have been easy for him to go full-vegetarian and, coupled with Michelle’s healthy eating initiatives, use the power of the office to set a good example and campaign for the end of meat-eating. But no, he preferred to give in to the cruel pleasures of murder to tickle his palate!

        The future will always find the past lacking in basic “everyone can for themselves know that is just plain wrong” good sense. We know slave-holding is morally wrong because we just know it is, and we point out those at the time who objected to it, so the society of the day could not have been ignorant of the evil they were doing. They will know meat-eating is morally wrong because they just know it is, and will point out those at the time who objected to it, so the society of the day could not have been ignorant of the evil they were doing. The meat-eaters of the mid 21st century were simply evil monsters, nothing more to say. Thomas Jefferson, the rapist and slave-owner. Barack Obama, the carnivore. People used to admire these villains and demons and hypocrites:

        We can be forgiven if we interrogate Jefferson posthumously about slavery. It is not judging him by today’s standards to do so. Many people of his own time, taking Jefferson at his word and seeing him as the embodiment of the country’s highest ideals, appealed to him. When he evaded and rationalized, his admirers were frustrated and mystified; it felt like praying to a stone. The Virginia abolitionist Moncure Conway, noting Jefferson’s enduring reputation as a would-be emancipator, remarked scornfully, “Never did a man achieve more fame for what he did not do.”

        • rlms says:

          The interesting question is how the proportion of meat-eaters today compares with that of slavery-approvers in 1800.

          • Deiseach says:

            The interesting question is how the proportion of meat-eaters today compares with that of slavery-approvers in 1800.

            There was a poll on that! Well, on how many people were vegans/vegetarians, in 2016.

            37% of those surveyed were occasional vegetarians, which means that around 63% were meat-eaters.

            In 1800 (which is going very early), of the 17 states that constituted the United States of America (see Wikipedia article), 9 were slave states and 8 were free states. It seems that it wasn’t until 1812 and after that concerns about “free states and slave states must balance out” governed the admission of new states.

            So 9 out of 17 = 53%. In 1789, the year before, it had been 8 slave states out of 13 which is 62% – around the same proportion as the 2016 meat-eaters of the USA.

            In 1845 it was 15 slave to 14 free, which is down to 52%. In 1858, it changes to 15 slave to 17 free states, only 47%. 1861, 15 slave to 19 free, 44%.

            So 62% to 53% to 52% to 47% to 44% – as you can see from this historical trend, the approval of meat-eating is doomed to fade just as the approval of slave-owning did. Our grandchildren will consider us savage barbarians and will tear down the monuments of those we currently consider beacons of tolerance and progress, to whom we should be putting up new monuments to replace those racist disgraceful replaced monuments.

          • Evan Þ says:

            I don’t think those numbers work, Deiseach.

            What the poll actually says is “Thirty seven percent of the population always or sometimes eats vegetarian meals when eating out.” That includes me – hey, sometimes the beans or the salad looks good; and besides, my mom the dietician always said it was good for me. But, more than half my meals include meat.

            The real vegetarian numbers by that poll are more like 3%-5%.

  13. Zodiac says:

    🙂

    I keep seeing posts containing light grey squares. Is my browser broken or have the illuminati upgraded to littering everything with squares instead of triangles?

    • Anonymous says:

      Looks like a quote to me…

      test

      Yeah, it’s just the visual for a blockquote tag.

      Edit: What Brad said below. Note to self, rectangles are not squares.

    • Brad says:

      This is what your post looks like to me:
      https://i.imgur.com/K1HBLiq.png

      (For the click adverse a block quote line with a smiley face image next to it.)

      Maybe your browser can’t render the smiley?

      • Zodiac says:

        That seems to be the case. I’ll have to play around with my settings and addons a bit.

        • random832 says:

          You might just need to install a font. That you got just one box is a good sign. (Mine is a rectangle that shows “01F642” in tiny digits)

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Your browser is improperly rendering the fnords. No, that’s not quite right; here:

      Your browser is (improperly) rendering the fnords.

  14. HeelBearCub says:

    Today in stupid ledes:
    NYT: Household Debt Makes a Comeback in the U.S.

    Kevin Drum:
    Household Debt Has Not Set a New Record

    It’s misleading clickbait reporting to write about a dumb, nominal, aggregate number like total debt just because you can get a good news hook out of the fact that it’s surpassed its previous peak.

    I mention this because I frequently see the mistake being made here to think that “breathless” reporting of various sorts is caused by bias towards [my ingroup/their outgroup] and is somehow proof of horribly partisan motivated thinking. There are many reasons why “stupid ledes” are more the norm than the exception. They range from the intrinsic need of media producers to make media interesting to basic cognitive biases in the content creators.

    • Brad says:

      The real story, which the Times missed, is that the USG is either the lender or guarantor of a huge percentage of that debt. More than 50% I’d guess. For a country that supposedly all about the free market, that’s rather astonishing.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I assume you’re referring to mortgages here?

        • Brad says:

          Mortgages and student loans. Together they make up 82% of household debt per that article. 90+% of student loans and 75+% of residential mortgages have the government as lender or guarantor.

          Multiplying that out, it’s at least 63% of household debt is lent or guaranteed by the federal government.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Except that it’s not true that 75% of residential mortgages have the government as lender or guarantor. Only Ginnie Mae has the government as guarantor; Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac do not. None of these three originates loans. Note that FHA-guaranteed loans are usually securitized through Ginnie Mae, so you can’t add the numbers together either.

          • Brad says:

            The originator is only the lender for whatever period of time it keeps the mortgage on its books. When Freddie and Frannie buy the mortgage they become the lender. Origination is a red herring.

            And the FHA isn’t the only federal agency to guarantee loans, there’s also the VA.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Brad

            Well, if you want to call a tail a leg, I’m not going to stop you.

            VA loans are also typically securitized through Ginnie Mae.

          • Brad says:

            Well, if you want to call a tail a leg, I’m not going to stop you.

            I assume then that you believe that primary dealers are the overwhelming lenders to the United States government since they are the first purchaser of nearly treasury instrument.

            TIL that China is not a lender to the USG.

          • massivefocusedinaction says:

            Given that Freddie and Fannie are under conservatorship, and have collected about $200 billion from the Treasury, while it’s still true that they’re not explicitly guaranteed by the government, they are about as close as one can get.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.tor.com/2017/05/03/how-to-do-karate-in-a-victorian-dress/

    I recommend the comments.

    http://www.metafilter.com/167027/I-thought-it-would-be-like-trying-to-play-piano-with-gloves-on#7030852

    To my mind, the interesting thing is that clothes cut in ways which restrict arm movement is the biggest problem. The skirt is a problem, but not as bad. A lot of corsetting wasn’t tight enough to restrict breathing or movement.

    Sleeves were horrific, and it wasn’t just a problem for women. There’s a reason why men would take their jackets off before fighting.

    In fact, there seems to have been a cross-cultural consensus that looking really nice meant having constrictive sleeves. I find this very mysterious, and I’m tempted to think that we might be stupid in ways we aren’t noticing. Actually, that’s kind of plausible from first principles, but now I have an example.

    • Tarhalindur says:

      Iunno, a social convention that people out in public have to wear sleeves that impose a trivial inconvenience on responding to perceived insults with physical violence that is likely to apply more strongly to higher-class people (who are less likely to encounter physical threats, more likely to be able to get law enforcement institutions to redress wrongs, and less likely to be sanctioned by law enforcement if they misbehave) and when dealing with situations where violence is less acceptable strikes me as a feature instead of a bug.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Likewise, it’s easy to see how dressing like you’re prepared for a fight might be interpreted by others as “this guy is looking for trouble”. Same deal with cops showing up at your door in blues (even if they’re carrying side arms) vs cops showing up at your door in full battle-rattle.

  16. Mark says:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4517846/Mother-threatened-JAIL-TRIPADVISOR-review.html#comments

    I think this is the first case where I’ve found myself hoping that the business does get destroyed by the internet mob.

    I don’t know, I suppose if your business is being destroyed by false reviews you have some right to take action against that, but, on the other hand, this definitely seems like the wrong way to go about it.

    Are crowd sourced reviews a problem? Is there a better alternative?

    • Brad says:

      TripAdvisor should offer to pay its user’s legal fees. This sort of thing is an attack on their value. If users can’t post negative reviews for fear of being sued, and all reviews are positive then why would anyone bother reading them?

    • dodrian says:

      I think crowd sourced reviews have done a lot to return power to the consumer. Often now the best way to get prompt customer service from a big company is via twitter, precisely because they’re afraid of a big backlash.

      On the other hand they make it a lot easier for an irate customer (who may have been too self-entitled or just had a bad day) to destroy a company’s reputation or business.

      Is there a better alternative? Not that I can think of. But it would be nice if news organizations would stop reporting what people are saying on platforms like twitter.

      • Brad says:

        The one savings grace is the reviews themselves. I always ignore the stars and browse the actual reviews. Generally the unreliable people (shills, unreasonably demanding, with ax to grind) can’t help themselves and write reviews that are obviously untrustworthy.

        • gbdub says:

          Agreed. It’s always good to read a few positive and negative reviews to get a flavor for the place/product.

          I also like when places show the distribution of reviews, e.g. on Amazon – you quickly get a sense of what a typical distribution for similar products are. And it does depend on the product, for example laptop computers are basically never 5 stars (for any reasonable number of reviews) because inevitably there will be a chunk of 1 star reviews that either got a dud unit (which happens, but such people are much more likely to post than the “well, it works” people) or had no idea what they were ordering (“THIS $300 LAPTOP WON’T PLAY DEUS EX ON ULTRA SETTINGS!!! TOTAL GARBAGE!!!”).

          One other thing I’ve started doing with restaurants is sorting reviews by date – a surprising number of places are weighed down by bad reviews from first-week-of-business teething troubles, or from getting slammed during restaurant week. Others are places that used to be great but have taken a visible dip lately.

          • JayT says:

            I like the way Yelp gives you the trend lines for the star ratings. There are times when you have a restaurant with several thousand reviews and good ratings, but if you look at the trend, it might be bad for the last year. I find that helpful.

            Past that, I usually just look at the 1 star reviews to see if there is something really wrong with the restaurant or not.

        • dodrian says:

          Absolutely. Perhaps a useful statistic would be to also put up how many people returned/refunded the item (if the seller/contract offered).

          I personally feel a bigger problem with the review system for consumer items is that it encourages people to review after a few days/weeks. If I’m buying a new computer component I’m also interested in knowing if it’s still working months, even years down the line (whereas most reviews tend to say “I’ve had it for three days and it seems to work good”). That may be a bad example as the pace with which new components are released is so fast, but I’m not sure how we can tweak reviews to include longevity.

          • andrewflicker says:

            @dodrian – as a retailer, and one that sells a LOT of multi-year expensive equipment, I’ve seen that a lot of people will reliably look you up and give you a bad review if their product failed early or was otherwise lacking in the expected longevity, but noone will come back in two years and say “still working great!”

            So I think the high-rated 3-day reviews are already well-balanced by the long-term negative reviews if a product has longevity problems. More concerning is the tendency for many retailers to hide or otherwise alter or reject some number of bad reviews.

            I’ve seen several companies overtly hide most or all of their sub-3-star reviews on proprietary websites, which I consider a serious ethical violation, and would be grounds for my resignation if my own company required such behavior.

        • IrishDude says:

          TripAdvisor and some other sites also allow the vendor to respond to critiques, which can be useful to see who is responsive to consumer dissatisfaction and is at least concerned about the appearance of trying to resolve customer issues.

    • random832 says:

      A Mirror article goes into more detail on some of this law firm’s past cases.

      Googling for the names involved gives a link to a Sun article that can no longer be found. Coincidentally, the Mirror article notes that the law firm has a habit of making threats against newspapers who publish claims against their clients (and the Sun URL, which was /news/… from google, redirects to /legal-removal/…)

    • dodrian says:

      Having thought about it a bit more, one way is to let businesses review customers. IIRC Ebay does this to an extent. Bricklink, the aftermarket Lego marketplace does this as well, though transactions are much more complicated there than for normal stores. On Ebay sellers tend to leave feedback as soon as they get the money, to encourage the consumer to rate them positively as soon as they receive the product. Bricklink encourages feedback when both parties are happy that the transaction is completed (as there’s sometimes going to be some back and forth based on numbers or quality). The store can say that the reviewer was easy to do business with, the reliever can say either their order was correct or the store fixed the problems they had.

      This might be trickier to do for bricks-n-mortar stores, though perhaps one way would be through codes on receipts. A yelp-like site accepts the codes and lets the reviewer publish their thoughts (simultaneously verifying that a transaction took place), whereas the business when printing the receipt can make a quick note if they were a bad or good client (was disruptive, rude, tipped well, very quick, etc). If a reviewer is rated poorly by many businesses then their ratings can count for much less. A business might try to preempt what they know will be a poor review because of their bad service, but if the reviewer has a good record elsewhere that should be easy to spot and avoid.

    • Incurian says:

      Maybe a unique code on each receipt and some system that only lets you post a review with a code (preferably managed by a third party).

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’m apt to get swamped by SSC comments and just give up on threads. This probably means I leave comments to me unaddressed that I would otherwise answer.

    Is this disappointing? If so I might start being more careful to give threads another pass or two before I abandon them.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you attach too much value to arguing with people on the internet.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I would be disappointed by there being fewer of your comments, but that shouldn’t impact your decision if you’re spending the time on something more productive instead.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Thanks for the kind words. This isn’t so much a matter of how much time I spend on ssc as whether I give somewhat more attention to older threads.

        • hlynkacg says:

          I second Jaskologist’s comment above.

        • Iain says:

          I second Jaskologist in both regards. I think you write consistently thoughtful posts; I would be happy to see more of them, and sad to see fewer. However, I don’t think you should feel any obligation whatsoever to respond to any particular discussion.

          (If it’s just a question of whether you keep reading older threads or move over to new ones, the newest threads are almost always the most densely populated, so you get the most bang for your posting buck, as it were, by commenting where the people are.)

          Edit; hlynkacg has stolen my seconds; I therefore resort to thirds.

    • John Schilling says:

      I always appreciate replies, but I am never offended if I don’t get them. Particularly yours, on both counts.

      It is a Rule of the Internet that every interesting debate must continue past the point where it ceases to interest any but a handful of fanatics each unwilling to cede the last word. Leave when it suits your purposes and don’t look back when you should be looking forward (to the next interesting debate, or to something even better in the real world).

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      You’re definitely in the top 15 or so posters whose comments I look for, maybe the top ten.

      That said, I’d simply suggest that you spend your posting time and energy where it’s most satisfying for you. I haven’t quite figured out when is the “right” time to leave an old thread myself.

  18. Longtimelurker says:

    At the risk of being impolite, could I please ask some of you to take a survey for a statistics project? It is only seven non-invasive questions, and it would help me greatly. link text

    • JayT says:

      When you ask “About how many hours do you work per day on average?” are you asking how many hours a day I spend at work, or how many hours I’m actually working (and not replying to SSC threads!)?

      • Longtimelurker says:

        The one that you get paid for. Sorry for the lack of clarity.

        • Deiseach says:

          The hours I get paid for/the hours I am at work and the hours I actually work/do what I’m being paid for may not be one and the same all the time.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I took it just to reward you for keeping the survey short. It seems to be a lost art these days.

  19. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    What do people think of Four Sigmatic products? Tim Ferriss gives them a strong recommendation, including cognitive benefits. I’ve never noticed any, but I do think it’s very tasty. Four Sigmatic sells various mushroom/coffee products.

    I’d never used instant coffee before, but I was surprised to hear a younger person need to be reassured about how it works. Just add hot water? Yes, out of the tap.

    I suppose it’s not too surprising that instant coffee has fallen out of the culture to a large extent.

  20. sixo says:

    I really like internet-fiction, which is certainly a separate genre w/ different expectations and standards than published fiction. However, it’s very hard to find and I have lost references to stories I’ve liked in the past, and google is surprisingly bad for this. So two questions:

    Anyone have links to the following short stories?
    – a story about working in an Amazon warehouse on some prolific writer’s dark-themed blog.
    – a story (linked on ssc I believe) about a group of fans who have a reading of a strange author’s last, bizarre, house-of-cards-esque book.

    And – recommendations? Favorite internet fiction? Obviously, HP & the methods of rationality is a strong rec, a friend encountering that is why I bring this up. And we all probably know about unsong (less my style, though) & scott’s other works (which I like more). Also interested in anything people have to say about how internet-fiction works, how it’s different from publish fic, I haven’t read enough to generalize but I would love to hear it.

    • Sivaas says:

      I believe the second one you’re thinking of is called The Northern Caves. Although the reference to house-of-cards is confusing… do you perhaps mean House of Leaves?

    • Skivverus says:

      On your second story request – don’t remember the title, but “Spelunk04!” and “Chesscourt” are probably useful search terms, and yes, it was linked here somewhere.

      Recommendations, I believe the standard one you haven’t yet mentioned is Worm (on the sidebar), and the other works by the same author.

      (May post discussion later)

    • rlms says:

      I strongly recommend Worm. If you start reading now, you’ll probably finish before the author starts the sequel. One subset of internet fiction is rational fic/fanfic (HPMOR being the original example). Other examples I enjoyed were Luminosity (Twilight fanfic) and The Metropolitan Man (Superman fanfic). You might also like qntm, Ra and Fine Structure are that author’s most well-known works.

      • FacelessCraven says:

        a rationality Twilight fic?

        intriguing.

      • I recently discovered Banter Latte, after someone, probably my younger son, recommended “Interviewing Leather.” It’s a very good story, as is “My White Plume,” and there are probably other good ones I haven’t found yet.

        • Nornagest says:

          “Interviewing Leather”? That’s the sort of proto-Worm supervillain story that came out in the mid-2000s, right? I remember it being good.

          • I haven’t read Worm–my son thinks it’s too dark for me. “Interviewing Leather” is a super villainess story, “My White Plume” a superhero story. Both good.

            I’m thinking about including the former in the collection of works of fiction that contain interesting economics that I am trying to put together. The obvious reason is the picture of the support industry for super villains.

            The less obvious and more interesting reason is that the author faces, and solves, a problem. The behavior of super villains and superheros makes dramatic sense, but not functional sense–someone actually using super powers for the purpose of stealing money wouldn’t behave that way. The author provides a convincing explanation of why they do.

            Which sheds some light on an important issue in economics. The central assumption is that individuals have objectives and tend to choose the acts that best achieve them. If we know nothing about objectives, that assumption has no predictive power, since anything someone does could be his objective. In practice, that means that economists have to take a position intermediate between knowing everything about other people’s objectives and knowing nothing.

            The story nicely illustrates how a believable set of objectives, but not the ones one at first assumes, could lead to the behavior in question.

          • Jiro says:

            My biggest gripe with Worm is that the story contains more than one plot device which allows characters to act in arbitrary ways and still have it be justified. It also puts arbitrary limits on those plot devices and arbitrarily ignores them in order to keep them from just taking over the story.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            My biggest gripe about Worm is that it’s a million and a half words long. To add insult to injury, the final battle takes literally the last quarter of this immensely long book. Andrew Hussie would be glancing at his watch and asking if we could move this along, please. There are good things about Worm, but somewhere in that monstrosity there’s a snappy 150-page novel screaming to be let out.

            BTW, “Interviewing Leather” is pretty good. If you find that Leather is an annoying character and want to stop reading, keep on going to the end. It’s not a long story and it does resolve pretty nicely.

          • James Miller says:

            My biggest gripe with Worm is that it’s too short.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            I don’t think it would be possible for Worm to be longer without collapsing under its own gravitational pull into a black hole.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think you could get a 150-page novel out of Worm without throwing away all the stuff that makes it interesting, but you could probably get a 600-page novel out of it. Or a couple of 600-page novels, if you wanted to keep the multi-arc structure; say, one about Taylor and Skitter, one about Weaver and Khepri.

            Its biggest problem is that its pacing is crap, and the biggest pacing problems are the timeskip in the middle and everything around the final battle. Wildbow seems constitutionally incapable of writing without constantly ratcheting up the tension, and while he’s very very good at writing tension, it’s not really possible to keep it going that long without compromising the underlying structure.

            Pact kind of went to hell around the 2/3 mark, too, and not in the obvious way.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      In the rationality sphere, Friendship is Optimal is a personal favorite. Scott linked the Madoka fanfic Fargo awhile back, and while I think it’s maybe 50% longer than it should have been, the ending was worth it.

      I’m a sucker for horror, and reddit’s Mother Horse Eyes finished(?) recently, and was delightfully weird. A lot of the stuff I’d describe as “Internet Fiction” exists in strange formats, like Project Long Stairs , the SCP foundation, or RubyQuest. Honorable mention to Dionaea House.

      A lot of internet fiction is raw, unpolished, has lots of flaws and problems. What makes it interesting to me is how inventive and just plain weird it can be despite that.

      • Longtimelurker says:

        I really like Unsong and The Good Student (still have no idead where it is good. That being said, (despite my misgivings) I recommend Worm and HPMOR to anyone who asks.

    • sixo says:

      Got an answer to the Amazon one: Fulfillment by Miracle Jones http://www.miraclejones.com/stories/fulfillment.html

    • Reasoner says:

      A long time ago, as a teen, I read this short story called “Escalation” (distributed as a .doc) about office workers who had interdepartmental nerf wars that gradually escalated into bloodshed. I’d be interested if anyone knows where I can find it again.

    • beleester says:

      A Practical Guide to Evil is a Worm-ish deconstruction of the Standard Fantasy Setting. Basically, the universe is built on narrative tropes, with capital-H Heroes and capital-V Villains, with an Evil empire that regularly invades a Good kingdom, and just as regularly gets overthrown by plucky bands of misfit heroes leading a rebellion. But the latest crop of villains is smart. They aren’t twirling their mustaches and kidnapping princesses, they’re actually governing, albeit in a ruthlessly efficient Evil way. And they’re doing a good enough job that the protagonist, Catherine Foundling, signs up with the villains herself.

      The Wandering Inn is set in an RPG-style universe where leveling up and gaining skills is a fact of life. It’s about a girl from Earth who winds up in this fantasy world, and rather than become an adventurer, she becomes an Innkeeper. There’s a lot of character drama, focusing on the clash of Erin’s pacifist character with the fantasy world’s more medieval morality. There’s also a couple other plot threads, and it’s a nicely fleshed-out world despite the stock-sounding premise.

      Despite having some of the same trappings as other /r/rational favorites (a stock setting given a deconstructive twist) I wouldn’t class it as a rational fic, it’s more focused on character than on consistent or predictable mechanics. In fact, there’s one character who, while she has the munchkin-y mindset that you’d expect to start cooking up clever combinations of game mechanics and real-world science to break the game, but has so much other baggage that you can’t say her knowledge of Earth science has really helped her.

      • Brad says:

        Warning The Wandering Inn story is not complete. I’d say significantly less than halfway unless the pacing changes.

  21. I recently watched Molly Dineen’s documentary about the passing of the House of Lords Act 1999, The Lords’ Tale (you can find it on YouTube if you look), which gave the British House of Lords its current structure. That, together with reading this article about how the House of Lords works today, has got me thinking about House of Lords reform. And I also noticed today that Labour’s manifesto includes a promise to create an “elected House of Lords”.

    But I don’t really have any clue how it should be reformed, due to not knowing political philosophy / not knowing how any other countries’ upper houses work so I can compare. So, are there any other SSC readers interested in this issue? What do you think? Should the House of Lords be elected? Even if it’s not politically feasible to place new limits on the Commons’ power? Should there be new limits on the Commons’ power? Or, going the other way, should we just abolish the House of Lords and have a unicameral legislature? Are the bishops and the hereditaries just harmless relics, or do they positively need to be eliminated from the house? Or—who knows, maybe somebody can come up with a contrarian argument for this—are they actually good to have there; did the 1999 Act go too far? Is the House of Lords actually quite fine the way it is, even if nobody quite intended it to end up the way it is today?

    • rlms says:

      My completely unprincipled thoughts are that I quite like the hereditaries and dislike the bishops. In general, I’m in favour of a general unelected (mostly chosen by members of the Commons) upper house with approximately the amount of power it has currently.

    • 1soru1 says:

      Everyone qualified gets 10 votes, which can be used to nominate an individual, or be delegated to any legally-qualified organisation, including single-issue campaign groups.

      The 600 individuals with most votes get to be Lords.

      Individuals can change their vote at any time by showing up at a post office with ID.
      Organisations can also change their delegate, including shuffling votes around to get more total Lords for their delegated vote. The results take effect weekly.

      Powers of the house are (as at present) to delay or amend details of legislation, and (new) allocate a moderate fixed budget on government communication and research. This is split 600 ways and fully under the discretion of individual Lord’s; being a Lord gives you the right to fund studies, documentaries, books or newspaper articles. It’s like being a billionaire, except elected instead of inherited. All fundamental yes/no decisions and zero-sum trade-offs, including the size of the Lord’s budget, are decided by the main Parliament.

      This deconstructs coalitions, except as and when they are necessary to make unavoidable decisions. Which means that say, if you want lower welfare but stronger environment protection, you don’t have to invent some spurious narrative about how the way you are voting is going to get you both.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      Perhaps I’m too cynical, but my reaction to a party out of power pledging to revise the political system makes me think they made the pledge because such a revision to the system would benefit them directly. So, how is an elected House of Lords better for Labour? Do they think an elected House of Lords will structurally lean their way?

      • rlms says:

        “So, how is an elected House of Lords better for Labour?”
        Probably not. It’s difficult to say, because no-one knows the electoral support each party has (we’ll find out soon!) but I think both Labour and the Conservatives have a relatively fair number of Lords. In terms of affiliated Lords, the Lib Dems currently do very well in comparison to how many votes they get, and the other smaller parties do very badly. I don’t know which way crossbenchers generally lean though. Bishops presumably lean right-wing on social issues, but there aren’t many of them.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Bishops presumably lean right-wing on social issues,

          Anglican Bishops nowadays are all squishy liberals.

  22. Brad says:

    If, as seems increasingly likely, Erdoğan sent out his bodyguards to beat up protesters in Washington DC and in the process of doing so the bodyguards also assaulted cops and state department security officials, what is the appropriate diplomatic response?

    • Urstoff says:

      Add Turkey to the travel ban?

    • Aapje says:

      A logical response seems to publicly state that Erdoğan may not make any future visits. Although this can be hard to follow through on when you host summits.

      Another possibility is to demand that the Turkish ambassador reports to the Secretary of State and then scold him and/or demand an apology and/or reparations for those affected. This can then be escalated to expelling the ambassador if the Turkish government refuses to give into the demands. Depending on how nasty you want to be, you can change the severity of the demands and how easy you make it for the Turks to deescalate, while still saving face.

      • Brad says:

        One demand that seems reasonable on its face but Turkey would never agree to would be to waive the diplomatic immunity of and extradite the guards themselves.

        • Aapje says:

          It would be a bad move because everyone knows that the US would never extradite an American official. So it would just allow Turkey to flip the tables and portray the US as giant hypocrites.

          • Brad says:

            You’re probably right. But I like the idea of making a slightly unreasonable demand.

    • bean says:

      Declare all of the people in question Persona Non Grata. That’s all they can do, legally. Then reject any bodyguards Erdogan wants to bring into the country ever again, until he publicly takes responsibility for what happened.

      • random832 says:

        Can they declare Erdoğan himself PNG? Is there precedent for doing so to a head of state?

        • Brad says:

          I don’t see why not. The only legal issue would be the United Nations, there’s a treaty regarding the headquarters that requires the US allow certain people affiliated with the UN to enter and go to the UN that we otherwise wouldn’t. But such people’s travel can be quite limited.

          Edit: added the modifier “legal” in the second sentence.

        • bean says:

          I’m not sure. The problem is that he’s the head of state of a NATO ally, which means that going after him directly has all sorts of unpleasant repercussions.
          Going after the bodyguards, and refusing to extend diplomatic immunity to any new ones, keeps the issue focused. We’ve done all we can to the people who actually committed the crime, while making sure that we have legal grounds to go after anyone who does it again. Even if he apologizes, refuse diplomatic status for the bodyguards next time he comes to drive the point home.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          i bet declaring a head of state persona non grata is a really bad idea

          especially after how he acted towards the Netherlands when they banned one of his ministers

          though to be fair, I don’t know how much he can really do about it

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      I think the Washington consensus leaves us with two options:

      1) Do nothing.
      2) Bomb Turkey.

      • The Nybbler says:

        How about we send in the 101st airborne to Ankara to beat up some pro-Erdogan demonstrators? Seems crazy, but crazy in kind of a MAGA way.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          My understanding is that that’s probably OK, as long as their boots don’t actually touch the ground.

          (Question for the more militarily-knowledgeable here: can you parachute barefoot and still be effective?)

          • Aapje says:

            The actual parachuting should go fine. It’s more that after landing, they need to be able to walk or run sufficient distance barefoot. This probably requires a decent amount of barefoot training beforehand.

          • bean says:

            I really wouldn’t recommend it. They have special jump boots for a reason.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Theoretically, but I really wouldn’t want to try. Impact force from a normal static line drop are roughly equivalent to jumping off a 12 foot high platform onto the ground unassisted (and in fact doing exactly that into a sand or sawdust pit is part of PLF training).

            Now do that barefoot. Onto a rough, uneven surface with things like rocks, gravel, sharp sticks, bits of glass, etc. Without any ankle support from footwear. And with potentially significant lateral force imparted from crosswinds you cannot control.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Whoosh.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Oh, we got it, it’s just an interesting hypothetical 🙂

  23. Zodiac says:

    SMBC about strawmen.
    It’s a shame Scott isn’t more trollish. If I were him I’d make it so that whenever a comment contains the word “strawman” it will be automatically linkified to that comic.

  24. Deiseach says:

    Tim O’Neill on the burning of Giordano Bruno for heresy (and no, it was not for being a proto-scientist, sorry Neil deGrasse Tyson and Seth MacFarlane).

  25. CatCube says:

    A question that I think some of our non-US readers can help me answer came to me a while back while reading a short story: does the military of any other country routinely build major civil works projects like in the United States? I don’t mean that, for example, a country’s navy has to approve a bridge to ensure that its ships can fit underneath it, I mean designing, building, and operating the bridge.

    I don’t recall the story or the plot, but it was an SF story with a society not related to the US. One character remarked to another that the “[some fleet] Corps of Engineers” had built some background structure. This is common in the US, where the US Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for navigable waterways and flood risk management and has built extensive systems of locks and dams. This has resulted in the US military being the largest hydroelectric producer in the nation. However, this happened in the US due to historical accident, and I’m wondering if this was actually common worldwide, or if the author just assumed it was due to it being common in the US.

    • Zodiac says:

      Reporting for Germany.
      I am not aware that our Bundeswehr does anything of that kind. A quick search with google only comes up with one instance where they build a bridge for a training maneuver with the NATO, scanning through Wikipedia also doesn’t come up with anything.
      We are very “secular” when it comes to the military in Germany, forbidding any deployment of our troops inside Germany. Since 1968 there are the exceptions that the Bundeswehr can provide emergency relief (mostly for floodings and the like) and in case of an “inner crisis” (basically a civil war).
      This secularity is part of the constitution and these exceptions are still somewhat controversial. Recent pushs of some politicians for further exceptions for terrorism prevention were unsuccessful (for now).

      • CatCube says:

        What you’re saying is kind of what I thought, but I couldn’t find a Google search that would satisfy me that it was the case. As far as deployment of troops, that sounds pretty similar to the US with the Posse Comitatus Act. For uniformed troops, the state-run National Guard is generally used for emergency operations and riots, and things really have to spiral out of control before federal forces are deployed.

        I should note that the Corps of Engineers (or, at least the part that does civil works) is mostly a civilian organization, with only the very senior leaders being military. The only two military members required in an Engineer District are the District Engineer and Deputy District Engineer, who will usually oversee somewhere in the neighborhood of 500-1000 civilian engineers, operating personnel (including mechanics, powerplant operators, lock operators, etc.), environmental regulatory personnel, contracting personnel, and the like. There will usually be a couple of other military floating through to get experience in the civil works/construction side of the Corps, too, but they’re not all that important in the grand scheme of things. All of the construction work (and often much of the design) is contracted out to civilian companies.

        So it’s not that even in the US, you see military doing construction (except for emergencies or exercises as you’ve stated) but for example, contracting for dredges to maintain a river channel is done under the auspices of a colonel (Oberst). For a project that was in the news recently, Oroville Dam was built by a local government but because it had to work as part of a flood risk management system–which is a Corps of Engineers responsibility–its construction back in the late ’60s had to be approved by the Chief of Engineers (a Generalleutnant).

        Another one from the news is the Dakota Access Pipeline project, where as part of the approval process to cross the Missouri River, which is considered navigable, a permit from the local US Army Engineer District had to be obtained for “discharging fill or dredge spoils into any navigable waterway.” They also needed it because the actual land around the site was owned by the Corps, since it was on a reservoir that was inundated by a Corps dam.

        Now, all of these are planned by the permanent civilian staff for the approval of the military officer, but the military is still ultimately responsible.

        The Corps also is responsible for construction of military bases, but I would expect that all militaries have their own contracting and construction personnel for that; whether it’s the same organization as military engineering isn’t necessarily so. The Quartermaster Department used to be responsible for much of that in the US, until that mission was transferred to the Corps of Engineers during WWII.

    • Aapje says:

      I am not aware of this ever happening in The Netherlands.

    • 1soru1 says:

      It used to happen in the UK; the Albert Hall was build by the Royal Engineers, as was a canal in Canada and most Raj-era public buildings in India. Not much more recent though.

  26. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Book review of R.A. Lafferty’s _The Fall of Rome_— claims that Rome was held together by an impersonal ideal of Rome, while the Goths built their society on family relationships.

  27. onyomi says:

    If we really needed to be told: media coverage of Trump’s first 100 days unprecedented in its extent and, in recent history, at least, negativity. By the way, if you define “fair and balanced” as balancing positive and negative coverage (which I wouldn’t claim is the only way to define those things; obviously “fair” coverage of Hitler would be overwhelmingly negative, but considering Trump just won an election, if the media are obviously not giving him any benefit of the doubt, it speaks to their being strongly biased against him relative to the population as a whole, if nothing else), only Fox achieves it.

    Also seems to indicate they may have, unwittingly, helped him win in the first place, however, in that they gave him so much more free press than any other candidate, even if often negative. Also interesting that their coverage of Clinton’s first 100 days was also net negative, though not as bad as Trump’s; not sure how much this is because of Clinton’s own relative outsider status at the time, and how much due to what the paper claims is a general post-Vietnam trend of press negativity. I’d be interested to see stats for earlier presidencies to discern any bigger trends.

    If it is true, however, that the press gave more benefit of the doubt to well-connected Republican Bush Jr. than they did to outsider Democrat Clinton, it might suggest that theirs isn’t always so much a “liberal” or “anti-Republican” bias as it is an anti-Acela-outsider bias?

    • Deiseach says:

      it might suggest that theirs isn’t always so much a “liberal” or “anti-Republican” bias as it is an anti-Acela-outsider bias?

      I think you’re on to something there. Clinton was very much perceived, at first, as the hick from Arkansas and I do think a lot of the insiders imagined he’d bring a conservative-leaning redneck sensibility to his time in office, so they tended to emphasise his background: poor boy made good with the multiply-married mother who smoked and gambled and liked Elvis and was plainly vulgar – until he proved his liberal credentials:

      They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and in the case of America’s President-elect and his mother, the proverb holds. If you want to know where Clinton first learned to use his head — not to mention where he got his indomitable, take-a-licking-and-keep-on-ticking spirit — look no further than Virginia Cassidy Blythe Clinton Dwire Kelley. In her 69 years, Kelley, a former nurse-anesthetist, has survived the deaths of three husbands (one of them an abusive alcoholic), suffered the heartbreak of having her younger son, Roger, jailed for dealing cocaine, battled breast cancer and, during her son Bill’s campaign, endured disturbing scrutiny —including a State Department search of her passport records and accusations that she provided improper care to two patients.

      Hillary doesn’t seem to have liked her mother-in-law any too much, though how much that was Hillary throwing chaff out as a distraction and to protect Bill’s reputation at the height of the Lewinsky scandal and impeachment proceedings, it’s hard to tell.

    • Iain says:

      Or maybe Trump has just been notably bad at governing?

      Even Fox gave Trump more negative coverage than positive coverage. In particular, while Fox supported Trump heavily on trade, terrorism, and fitness for office, they were nearly as negative as everybody else on immigration, health care, and personnel. Those are three areas where Trump has faced objective setbacks (often, I would argue, self-inflicted wounds). Are there comparable failures for previous presidents? If Trump has been less successful than his predecessors, it is not surprising that he has received more negative coverage.

      • onyomi says:

        In terms of accomplishing his own stated goals, I don’t have the impression that he’s been less successful, in his first 100 days, than most presidents. If anything, he seems to move a lot more quickly than most. A lot of irons in the fire will mean initial setbacks, but it seems clear to me that they aren’t giving him the benefit of the doubt offered to e. g. Obama.

        A key point to me is the following: no president has every idea he proposes fly through Congress the first time without a hitch. Question is, when people (mostly, but not exclusively the opposition party) inevitably throw wrenches in his plans, does the news depict it as “obstruction” or “loyal opposition”? Do they focus on stupid old Congress slowing everything down or do they look at the president and say “see, see, he’s a failure!!”

        Obviously it will depend on the issue, the reporter, etc. but it’s clear to me that much, much more goodwill has been given to previous presidents in my lifetime on this score. They’ve clearly been salivating for any chance to call him a loser from day one, because, as insiders, they fundamentally disdain his whole claim that being a successful businessman could make him a good president. Many Americans clearly bought that claim, and I’m not sure it’s wrong; but it clearly doesn’t make him the kind of president insiders are comfortable dealing with; they’d certainly prefer Mike Pence on this score.

        Also, your statement “Even Fox gave Trump more negative coverage than positive coverage,” in my view, reveals your own biases: your prior is that Fox is massively biased in favor of any Republican; therefore, if even Fox gives a GOP president net-negative coverage (actually close to even split) then that must mean he’s really, really terrible (though if they were genuinely as partisan as most seem to think that would seemingly never happen). What about the alternative: that Fox, with roughly even negative and positive coverage is actually the only relatively balanced major network?

        A certain segment of liberals like to claim that white men perceive fair treatment as biased against them because they’re so accustomed to receiving treatment biased in their favor. I won’t comment on that possibility, but if that might be true, it certainly seems probable to me that liberals might perceive balanced coverage of a conservative political figure as “wildly biased in favor of conservatives.”

        • Chalid says:

          In terms of accomplishing his own stated goals, I don’t have the impression that he’s been less successful, in his first 100 days, than most presidents.

          What do you see as his successes so far? Gorsuch is impactful but it’s not something that required any management skill whatsoever. Other than that, he’s withdrawn from TPP which also required no management skill. I’m coming up blank trying to think of anything else of any significance that has been implemented and could be seen as a policy success for the Trump agenda.

          Here’s the White House memo on the first hundred days, it’s almost all trivial stuff.

          • onyomi says:

            I mean, you may have a different definition of “trivial” than I do.

            Also, had he been more effective at say, passing legislation for building a wall, etc. do you expect press coverage would have been more positive?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @onyomi:

          If anything, he seems to move a lot more quickly than most.

          With all due respect, this seems to be highly motivated thinking. If you believe this, it seems to me you are either only paying attention for the first time, or aren’t paying attention now, or you are engaging in confirmation bias.

          Trump can’t get out of his own way. His administration leaks like a sieve (and its people on his team who are leaking). He careens from one self inflicted wound to another.

          Trump is like the guy in a canoe making big splashes with his paddle, sitting crosswise to the current. He might look like he is doing something, but the paddle is supposed to move the canoe, not the water, and he is in imminent danger of tipping over.

          • onyomi says:

            I wouldn’t claim he’s been more effective, so far, than e.g. Obama at passing legislation which requires Congress to, you know, pass something, but he still strikes me as having moved pretty quickly to take action on the things he claimed mattered to him: reducing illegal immigration, federal hiring freeze, “1 regulation cut for every 1 added,” etc.

            However, I also think that his stated goals, going in, were much more at odds with the status quo than were Obama’s. You’re going to encounter more resistance trying to turn a ship than adding a little wind to its sails.

            Which is not to say I’m thrilled with the first 100 days of his presidency, either in terms of goals he’s pursued or the smoothness of the transition; doesn’t change my very strong impression that both DC and most media outlets have started him out with a much lower (or negative) fund of good will than most presidents get. Which maybe shouldn’t be surprising considering their unprecedented effort to keep him getting elected in the first place. They can’t turn their “narrative” on a dime. If they predicted it would be a disaster if he were to be elected then they have to make sure to show everyone they were right.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            He is being very slow to nominate staff for agencies. He is losing staff at a decent clip as well. Those are the people who would be in charge of changing the things Trump wants to change via executive powers.

            His executive orders are mostly promises to talk about doing something in the future. Or his own statements have gotten them declared unconstitutional.

            His legislative successes are incomplete or trivial.

            He has managed to get a special prosecutor assigned to investigate his campaign less than 4 months in. This is entirely his own doing, because his mouth keeps opening without his brain engaged.

            None of that is mis-reporting. The reason he gets much of his negative coverage is because he does things poorly.

            He also gets negative coverage (from some corners) when either his desired policies are poor or when his proposed solutions don’t actually accomplish the policy goals he outlined. But those are two separate thing.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            Given that we can agree that news coverage of Trump has been overwhelmingly negative, I see at least three rough possibilities:

            1. Trump is fit to be POTUS and is actually doing pretty well, all things considered, albeit with something of a steep learning curve due to never having held elected office, and despite some people definitely having it in for him. The unusually negative coverage is due largely to bias against him.

            2. Trump is fit to be POTUS in some abstract since, but is doing poorly because so many people want to stymie him either because of what he represents/is trying to do, or simply because he’s Trump. The unusually negative coverage is accurate insofar as it reports Trump being in trouble, but not in its assignment of blame.

            3. Trump is unfit to be POTUS and is doing a bad job because he’s incompetent. Someone smarter and more prudent than Trump could swap brains with him and make much better progress towards achieving the same policy goals using different tactics. The unusually negative coverage is accurate and fair because Trump is just an unusually incompetent POTUS.

            I take it your position is roughly 3. I’m not sure the reality is not 3, but I’m also not sure it’s not 1 or 2.

            My problem is, since the election itself smashed to dust any lingering trust I had in the MSM to provide unbiased coverage, it’s become a lot harder to discern 1, 2, and 3, since my prior is that they would try to make it look like 3 no matter what.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            You have to point to things that are being done successfully by Trump and under-reported in order for 1 to be true. And it’s not like information about this should be in short supply, as he is very quick to tout what he believes are his own accomplishments. I don’t think there is very much evidence for 1, and lots of evidence against it.

            Arguably the one thing he has done fairly successfully is depress immigration by using the bully pulpit. It remains to be seen whether this will be a long term success, though. The paradoxical effect may be to promote more favorable (to increased immigration) legislation later.

            Regardless of whether 2 or 3 is correct, it still means he isn’t being successful, and thus the media coverage is accurate.

            And yes, I think there is a great deal of evidence for 3. One example is the disconnect between the messaging from his communications staff and his own messaging. This has reliably shown gross incompetence that is completely self inflicted.

          • onyomi says:

            @HBC

            Regardless of whether 2 or 3 is correct, it still means he isn’t being successful, and thus the media coverage is accurate.

            “Negative” coverage isn’t so much about success or failure per se; it’s about the interpretation. Fox News had a lot of negative coverage of the successful passage of the ACA, for example.

            As I said, 2 would mean that the coverage is accurate insofar as it reports Trump’s lack of success, but unfair in its interpretation/assignment of blame. “Patriotic leakers reveal president’s incompetence; Congress and DoJ to investigate how to address this threat to our national security” and “disloyal leakers team up with DC establishment to undermine new president” are two very different stories.

          • Jiro says:

            Arguably the one thing he has done fairly successfully is depress immigration by using the bully pulpit.

            And this just in: TPP is still dead.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jiro:
            TPP was dead anyway. Hard to give Trump credit for that.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            well Hilldog considered it to be the “gold standard”. I guess you’re saying that he didn’t do much that the status quo wouldn’t have done (I still disagree) but why discuss the status quo over the major candidate he was running against?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AnonYEmous:
            Hillary didn’t support the TPP as a candidate for president. Nor did anyone else running, AFAIK. And at least some of the reason for that is that it wasn’t going to be ratified in the Senate, so there is no reason to stick your neck out for something unpopular, no matter how good for the US economy and global position it might be in the abstract.

            So, you can’t give anyone at the level of President or Presidential candidate credit for killing it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @onyomi:
            Partisan media will spin ideological or party defeats, this is true. But Trump controls the biggest megaphone on the planet. If he is really being done wrong by the Washington establishment, he has the ability to actually make that case. The fact that he can’t competently make that case is further proof that this isn’t just media arrayed against him.

            But, there have been times when he did something successful and he got good coverage. Even relatively meaningless successes, like the strike on the Syrian airbase. So the idea that he can’t get positive coverage simply because the media wont give it seems to lack evidence.

            It’s also true that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression” so the longer his team stumbles over their own reproductive organs, the harder it becomes to get positive coverage that isn’t immediately overwhelmed by further negative coverage. But that isn’t bias against Trump.

          • Jiro says:

            Trump also chose a conservative Supreme Court justice. I don’t think Hillary would have picked Gorsuch. (Not that I wanted him specifically, but I did think that overall, it would be bad for Supreme Court rulings to be more liberal. I do think they have been too conservative on surveillance, but liberal judges won’t be any help on that.)

          • Iain says:

            I think it is worthwhile to distinguish the two different threads of this conversation.

            The first thread is: has Trump done anything that conservatives can be happy about? The answer to this one is pretty clearly yes: if nothing else, Gorsuch is a win for the right — not a hard win to achieve, but a clear win nonetheless.

            The second thread is: has Trump done anything that gives an indication of being good at governing? This is onyomi’s “fit to be POTUS” criterion. Here, I think the evidence is much patchier. Trump’s biggest successes (like Gorsuch) have also been his easiest tasks: with a majority in the House and the Senate, you’d have to try pretty hard to mess up a SCOTUS nomination. The federal hiring freeze ended over a month ago. The two-for-one regulation order still exists, but I can’t find any evidence that it has had any effect (although my search was cursory).

            Even if Fox and the mainstream media were all conspiring to construe Trump’s successes as failures, there are plenty of ways for Trump to get his message out without biased intermediaries. For example, Trump’s Twitter account and Spicer’s daily press briefings both offer unmediated access to the public. If Trump really is an effective president being unjustly maligned by the hostile media, you should be able to find evidence of his successes.

            The lack of such evidence suggests that we are living in onyomi’s case 3. Anybody who wants to argue otherwise should come bearing examples of effective governance; complaints about the nasty biased media are not going to change anybody’s mind.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Hillary didn’t support the TPP as a candidate for president.

            My recollection was that she switched her position and no longer supported TPP in the midst of a primary fight with Bernie, who was hammering her on trade. At least in my little bubble, a common thought was that she was just lying and that she would walk it back after she tied up the nomination. Then Trump happened. She was again facing an opponent who hammered on trade all day long, so she couldn’t switch back. As it became more clear that she was being forced into this position, I still thought she was lying about opposing it, and my biggest concern was that it would be much more politically difficult for her to walk it back post-election. (I think pretty much all politicians lie constantly in order to get elected; the only thing to pay attention to is when they’ve had to take a position so strongly that they feel cornered into actually doing it post-election.) I’m not sure she stays anti-TPP in a world where she’s facing Standard Issue Republican, so that might be one way a person could defend the idea that Trump ended TPP.

            I was pro-TPP, btw.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @HeelBearCub

            But Trump controls the biggest megaphone on the planet.

            [Citation needed]. I’m not sure the presidential “bully pulpit” really is the “biggest megaphone”.

            @Iain

            Gorsuch is a win for the right

            Can we be sure of this yet? I mean, he could very well be another John “ACA is Schrödingers Tax” Roberts. There’s a consistent historical pattern of “conservative” Court appointees moving steadily left, yes? And how much of “conservative” jurisprudence’s respect for stare decisis and rejection of “judicial activism” come out in practice as meaning working to enshrine as fixed precident the results of the Left’s past judicial activism, and ruling out attempts to roll such “progress back”, because that would be “judicial activism”?

  28. Deiseach says:

    Okay, I have two things about the New York Times which bopped me on the head (I didn’t go looking for them). One was the usual subscription begging email (sheesh, you leave one comment on an article one time…) but this time in the shape of a form letter from Cliff Levy, a deputy managing editor. I’m pasting the text below as I think it gives a good idea of what the Times thinks it is doing (for one, not just reporting on the news but helping shape and change the world):

    I’m writing from the newsroom of The New York Times, where I’m a deputy managing editor, helping to oversee more than 1,200 journalists across the globe. I’m reaching out because you’ve shown an interest in Times journalism, and I thought that you’d like to hear how we view our mission.

    Our journalists pursue stories around the clock because we believe in the power of information, ideas and debate to shape the world and inspire change. Just a few examples from our coverage in recent days:

    • When Syria insisted that it did not carry out a horrific chemical attack on civilians, Times reporters did groundbreaking work with forensic mapping to dispute the government’s claims.

    • Our Washington investigative team produced a special report on the F.B.I. director’s role in shaping the 2016 presidential election. After the director was dismissed by President Trump, the investigative team then came up with a series of scoops that revealed what had really happened behind the scenes.

    • With deep experience in Silicon Valley, our technology reporter exposed how Uber’s founder engaged in reckless corporate practices, touching off a federal investigation.

    Real reporting is vital in a media landscape full of deceptive or outright false news. And we can do it because we have the support of our subscribers.

    Of course, you can also look to The Times for compelling coverage on how to live a more fulfilling life. Our Cooking section offers thousands of recipes and how-to guides. Our experts offer advice on everything from how to avoid addiction to technology to how to exercise more effectively.

    We also believe in elevating our readers’ voices in order to highlight a diversity of views. In a landmark partnership with Google, we’re going to open up most of our articles to comments, creating an engaging and respectful forum for you to discuss the issues of the day.

    A little about me: I’ve spent 27 years at The Times, winning two Pulitzer Prizes, one for my work in Russia and one for exposing the abuse of mentally ill people.

    Like so many in our newsroom, I’ve devoted my career to The Times because I believe in the role that independent and original journalism can play in society.

    Did anybody know about the federal investigation into Uber for dodgy dealings? I have to go look that one up, I wasn’t aware. But that’s an aside. The second thing was the linked online front page in that subscription email.

    There’s a story there that is resonant with the post Scott made about free speech and provocative speakers, and it made me appreciate even more the sanity and even-handedness of our host. No, I know that sounds like boot-licking, but comparing the tone of what Scott wrote with the tone of this article (which doubtless imagines it is being neutral and even-handed and ‘just the facts reporting’) is really educational.

    Heard about the kerfuffle regarding free speech on campuses? Think it’s about free speech? Nuh-uh, there is a dark and sinister conspiracy afoot – funded by the Usual Suspects, of course (the Koch brothers – could it be an NYT article without mentioning them? – and the Devosses, if that’s how you write the plural of their name). It may look, on the face of it, like “The event appeared to follow a familiar script, in which a large contingent of liberals muzzles a provocative speaker invited by a small conservative student club” but in reality this is a well-funded plot (I believe it is not reaching to call it a plot) with its tentacles extending into every campus on the land!

    But the propelling force behind the event — and a number of recent heat-seeking speeches on college campuses — was a national conservative group that is well funded, highly organized and on a mission, in its words, to “restore sanity at your school.”

    The group, the Young America’s Foundation, had paid Mr. Spencer’s $2,000 fee, trained the student leader who organized the event and provided literature for distribution. Other than the possibility of outside interference, little had been left to chance.

    The speeches are a part of the group’s mission of grooming future conservative leaders — Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller, a White House adviser, are among its alumni — and its long list of donors has included the television game show host Pat Sajak, the novelist Tom Clancy, the billionaire brothers David H. and Charles G. Koch, and the Amway billionaires Richard and Helen Devos, who gave $10 million to endow the Reagan Ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif., which the foundation runs as a preserve. (Their daughter-in-law, Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education, is not a donor, the group says.)

    …In the meantime, protesters have questioned whether such events are cynically intended to provoke reactions.

    “It’s part of a larger systematic and extremely well-funded effort to disrupt public universities and create tension among student groups on campus,” said Alexandra Prince, a doctoral student at Buffalo who circulated a petition to block Mr. Spencer.

    …A small group of Young Americans for Freedom members gathered near the front, looking buttoned up in business attire and taking on expressions of disgust. [We don’t get any description of what the protesting students are wearing or their expressions, but doubtless they do not have the same “mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces” – thanks for introducing me to the Burroughs quote, Freddie!]

    The story rather fizzles out after that, ending very weakly. Wot, no comparisons to the KKK or mentions of Pepe? A missed opportunity!

    Now, the Young America’s Foundation and its programme may well be an evil, dark and sinister plot aimed at stirring up trouble and making the protesting students look like the bad guys by their reactions. But I can’t help thinking that a story written about a foundation or think-tank running a programme of speakers from the liberal side to visit conservative university campuses, teaching would-be LGBT rights activism groups how to set up on such hostile territory, and being funded by the Usual Suspects on the other side, would have gotten a beaming nod of approval and a rainbows and sprinkles treatment by the writers. Nothing about being deliberately provocative by their actions but instead allowing them all the room they wanted to describe how they were exercising their freedom of speech rights and supporting a minority that felt discriminated against by the dominant culture on-campus.

    Ah, well. It makes me appreciate the resource we have here even more.

    • CatCube says:

      I hadn’t seen that report. It’s the same sort of hypocrisy that results in stories like “Malheur Occupiers: Threat or Menace?” and “Left-Wing Group Conducts Sit-In at College HQ” despite there being almost no daylight between what these groups are doing; the only thing is one of them is on the “correct side.”

      I don’t think that a lot of the left has internalized that they’re The Man now, especially on college campuses; if a poor underdog is getting ground under a jackboot on a college campus, it’s going to be a left-wing jackboot. So they really can’t see that this is just their own disruptive tactics turned against them.

      • Deiseach says:

        This is why Slate Star Codex is such a valuable resource. Scott does try his best to be even-handed and charitable, lays his biases out up front, and is willing to discuss contrary opinion and, if necessary, change what he’s written or take into account new information.

        He can say “I think conservative student groups are deliberately going for provocation and that’s a bad tactic” without devolving into “and this is all because of a sinister right-wing group paying them and training them and using them as shock-troops and future political operatives!”

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          Yeah, Scott’s very good at being even-handed, so much so that I’m legitimately surprised when he occasionally falls victim to bias (e.g. “conservative vs. neutral” media in a recent post).

          We’re going to have to huddle closer together on this little rock as the great big sea of hyper-polarization rises.

    • You don’t have to go to hypotheticals. What they are describing is the same tactic used by the civil rights movement. Do something the opposition will object to, whether a march or a black woman refusing to sit at the back of the bus, in the usually correct belief that the opposition will respond in a way that makes them look bad.

      I don’t think the NYT ever attacked the civil rights movement for using that tactic.

  29. MNH says:

    I need project ideas.
    I have an arduino and money to buy whatever crap I want to use with it. I did robotics in high school and have written loads of code for varying purposes, so I have lots of topical skills, but have no experience using an arduino in particular. Can anyone recommend me a project or projects that do any of the following:
    * Involves critical features of the Arduino that I need to be familiar with to do typical cool stuff
    * Involves non-obvious features of the Arduino that I would benefit from getting familiar with
    * Are very cool or fun

    Thanks!

  30. Incurian says:

    Machina ex Deus: You’re awesome.

  31. Kevin C. says:

    Has anyone else read this yet, from Dr. Piper Harron, of the University of Hawaii, writing for the American Mathematical Society blog? Thoughts, opinions?

    • Mark says:

      Here is a transcription of my thoughts:

      “Uuuuuuuurrrrrrghhh…”

      And I had a mental image of myself slapping people.

      I don’t know, I feel like “shut the fuck up” is the only reasonable response to:

      What can universities do? Well, that’s easier. Stop hiring white cis men (except as needed to get/retain people who are not white cis men) until the problem goes away. If you think this is a bad or un-serious idea, your sexism/racism/transphobia is showing.

      … Are you worried it’s unfair to men? Are you concerned the quality if your institution would plummet? Are you worried about all the brilliant minds you’d be missing? List your reasons and ask yourself which ones you’d value over your own freedom. Women are not free, and even our allies tend to only want us equal-ish. As long as we get there on their terms, as long as they lose nothing.

      If you are on a hiring committee, and you are looking at applicants and you see a stellar white male applicant, think long and hard about whether your department needs another white man.

      Although, I suppose it depends on how relevant universities are. If she’s just talking about some silly little social club, whatever. If she’s talking about the right to engage in intellectual work, I’m going with “shut the fuck up”.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        In her defense, my impression is that math department hiring is already this arbitrary (since it’s hard to predict who will be productive and mathematicians don’t understand each other.)

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Run-of-the-mill. Written like someone much younger than 37. Not sure if it’s intended to be as provocative as it is, but pretty sure it’s mostly serious.

      If you think this is a bad or un-serious idea, your sexism/racism/transphobia is showing.

      I really detest this rhetorical trick. Is there a name for it?

      Her Ph. D. thesis (Princeton, 2015) is much more worthwhile.

    • CatCube says:

      That’s one of the most utterly bonkers things I’ve read in a while. Just goes to show you can have a math PhD and still be stupid.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not only did this appear on the AMS blog on diversity, but the editor of that blog section positively endorsed it on Twitter.

      Together with that thesis of hers, I believe we can now strike Princeton from the list of institutions a Ph.D means anything from.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The Nybbler, you have a moderately testable prediction there.

        It might take 10 or 20 years to see what the quality of Princeton grads are like, and it’s difficult to come up with a metric for judging them, but it’s worth a try.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I think it’s good if people can make hot takes in public. It’s not like this was in an ed policy journal.

        (Disclosure: I’ve met Harron and she was really nice.)

    • smocc says:

      A slight tangent, because I can’t comment on the article, let alone the thesis.

      Why is diversity in a math department important? In my physics department there is some real concern about diversity in the field, but I’ve never heard anyone explain why we should care so much (because it’s assumed to be common knowledge, I guess?)

      The first reason I can think of is simple egalitarian feeling. If we are egalitarian and ability in a field is distributed equally across subpopulations then on average we would like to see equal representation in the field as evidence that we are being consistent with our principles (with deviations from equal representation modified slightly because of variation in ability distributions). I don’t have much problem with this, as long as it’s treated intelligently.

      But I also seem to seem people claiming that diversity is important in itself. That it is important to have women represented in physics as an end in itself, beyond egalitarian feeling. That it is “good for physics.” This is where I get confused, because I can’t really think of any obvious reason that should be so.

      Do people actually argue this, or am I reading people wrong? If so, is there research that shows it is true? Are diverse math departments better at math? My instincts say probably not, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I were wrong.

      (Okay, just one comment. Looking at the thesis, the author seems to not only hate cis-het-white-men but also mathematicians as a whole! Or mathematics. It’s hard to tell which. I am amazed that one can spend however many years getting a PhD in mathematics and not come to at least a grudging acceptance of the benefits of rigorous mathematical language.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        If the question is “why?”, the answer is probably “money”. And it is in this case; according to an article I can’t link to, NSF grants are often conditioned on having “diversity”.

        • smocc says:

          Yeah, but why are NSF grants linked to diversity? At some point someone must have believed this sincerely. (I guess not necessarily, but I doubt it.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            See previous threads about domination of cultural institutions by particular ideological groups.

      • smocc says:

        A few thoughts on my own question.

        It’s pretty easy to imagine how non-diversity caused by non-egalitarianism can harm a field. There are historical examples of clearly excellent mathematicians being denied jobs for being women. The non-egalitarianism doesn’t have to be explicit or even conscious to do harm. One might then argue that we should impose egalitarian constraints on ourselves so as to not harm the field inadvertently with our biases.

        But by the same token it’s easy to imagine that non-egalitarianism caused by diversity can harm the field. If Asians really are the best at math, then maybe we should just let them get on with it, along with anyone else who can happen to keep up.

        So it seems to all come down to the question of how ability is actually distributed across sub-populations. This, I’m sure, is studied extensively, but I don’t know much about it.

        Then again, there may be social/psychological gains from a more or less diverse working group. Maybe increased diversity of thought makes up for a slight decrease in total ability, or increased social cohesion is more important than having a few extra high ability people. Are there ways to study this?

        • Aapje says:

          So it seems to all come down to the question of how ability is actually distributed across sub-populations.

          No, another big factor is preferences.

          It doesn’t matter to the outcomes if groups have equal ability when one group gets high status within their group for becoming mathematicians and the other doesn’t. Or any other reason why some groups prefer to do A over B.

      • WashedOut says:

        If […] ability in a field is distributed equally across subpopulations

        Found the problem

    • Deiseach says:

      Has anyone else read this yet

      I had, and couldn’t decide if it was serious or some kind of “ha ha only joking you fell for this?” piece. (I wonder what her white cishet male husband thinks of “they should give you the boot and hire me instead”? Well, he’s probably supportive of her, he married her after all and they have two kids, so they both knew what they were getting into).

      So I had to Google the lady. She has two CVs up on her liberated blog, a professional one and a liberated one. You have to go read the liberated one. You’d imagine she was the only female-type person in the world who ever had a baby before. And the White Patriarchy denied giving her medals and certificates and cash money prizes for the struggles of her life:

      Denied Awards and Recognition

      Surviving village-less parenthood is its own reward, 2011–
      Surviving patriarchy is its own reward, 1980–
      Surviving white supremacy is its own reward, 1980–

      Reading her CV, I’m getting a distinct whiff of sour grapes from that “no more white cis het male mathematician hiring” piece; she’s plainly a stay-at-home mother until recently, and I rather imagine she feels it is to the distinct loss of the universities of the world that did not snap her up as Head Panjandrum of their maths departments. Is Northeastern University (her last professional home before she had her children and took up with the University of Hawai’i) grieving her loss and ruing the day she decided to depart their hallowed groves? I am willing to consider that perhaps they are, in the main, not 🙂

      EDIT: There probably are a lot of barriers in the way of people trying to get into mathematics, especially if they’re from a background where they’re the first in their family to go to college or otherwise don’t fit the model of “a typical student of our university”. But I don’t think you’re going to open the way for the masses of brilliant female and other minorities mathematicians merely by kicking out, or aside, all the white guys and hiring the first non-white/non-male people who turn up.

      • CatCube says:

        You have to go read the liberated one.

        Wow. I mean, I know that people like this exist, but I still have the vague feeling that this is somebody trolling everyone.

      • Aapje says:

        Does anyone have an idea what ‘survived pervasive and internalized cult of genius mythology’ is supposed to refer to? That she got bad grades when getting her MA?

        • Björn says:

          From my experiences studying math, it probably means the belief that some techniques for doing mathematics (like analysis calculations where you have to see the trick) are so difficult that either you are a genius and you know how they are done or you will never learn it. This is of course wrong, mathematics can be practiced like anything else and the best mathematicians are the ones that dedicate the most time to mathematics.

          Combined with bad or mediocre teaching, this leads to things like the professor saying “Well, this proof is just really hard to understand, but at university you will have to put up with this”, while expecting that the students find out the proof strategy on their own. And even when the teaching is good, after a year or two there is so much general knowledge stuff that you are never taught but expected to know.

          This must be even harder on people from a demographic that produces less math students, since those students will think it’s their fault that they don’t have the right intuitions. Another thing that helps with those problems is knowing a person that has already studied math, who can tell you things like “The professors always forget when the students hear which lectures, so they will use terminology from functional analysis etc. in classes that come before functional analysis. “.

          So I can definitely unterstand why people of colour etc. might find studying math frustrating. But the solution is not hiring people for diversity reasons instead of skill. Pushing for a more thought-out curriculum and better teaching would be reasonable, along with maybe social support for marginalized people studying math. I have seen some smart women fail their bachelor degree in math because of fear and focusing on the wrong things, while much less intelligent men succeded by the virtue of never doubting their own abilites.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’ve also heard that people from non-typical backgrounds are likely to assume that they ought to be able to just do the classwork, so they’re less likely to make use of the tutoring or whatever that the university has available.

  32. Deiseach says:

    The simple solution to the problem of obesity 🙂

    Note: I am a fat person who is not only aware of the existence of cucumbers but loves them, so there may be something lacking in the theory.

    • Loquat says:

      Cucumbers are like brute force: if you’re not getting results, you’re not using enough.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I realize it’s from the Onion, but the video is kind of right. I have a medical condition that makes it hard to get enough exercise, and the one way I have found to successfully control my weight is to add a lot of fiber to my diet. For all the complicated diet advice out there the best option may be very simple. You want to eat because you’re hungry, you don’t want to eat because excess calories make you fat, so eat a lot of things that fill you up but add few calories.

  33. Mark says:

    Heard this song Planet Sizes by Steve Mason.

    It has a video of little mushroom headed people, going about horrible drudge work, before flying off into space with their heads turning into triangles, with pyramids and geometric patterns flying around.

    Lyrics:
    “I thought I knew where I came from
    But I heard that the teacher lied
    Told me I’m a cave dwelling ape man
    No thought to the planet’s size
    An old man made from stardust
    The monkey sings in the tree
    If you put those things together
    You won’t get close to me”

    “What is left to hide
    The love we have inside
    Just another sign
    The universe is mine”

    So, we’ve got Steve “Mason”, talking about how knowing where the planets are, their sizes, gives him the universe, and how the love is inside and that this is a sign of the fact that the universe is ours – as in the universe is somehow linked to our love. And the little mushroom men, the workers, are the lower stages of spiritual evolution.

    Clear cut case of a guy influenced by esoteric societies, spreading a pythagorean message about the harmony of the spheres.

    Then you’ve got this video Alive! where there are little devils over everyone’s heads, and only when they put on their “Mason” glasses, can the devils be seen and fought.

    Brilliant.

    • Deiseach says:

      Clear cut case of a guy influenced by esoteric societies, spreading a pythagorean message about the harmony of the spheres.

      Or, you know, a clear cut case of a guy influenced by Harmless Recreational Substances 🙂

      I gave up looking for deeper esoteric meanings in pop/rock music back in the 90s and am none the worse for it.

  34. nimim.k.m. says:

    So, spotted this trending on HN:

    A talk by Maciej Ceglowski, Notes from an Emergency (transcript for us who dislike videos).

    A couple of the points that stroke me as the most salient:

    But there are no such protections for non-Americans outside the United States. The NSA would have to go to court to spy on me; they can spy on you anytime they feel like it.

    But when it comes to the Internet, Europe doesn’t put up a fight. It has ceded the ground entirely to American corporations. And now those corporations have to deal with Trump. How hard do you think they’ll work to defend European interests?

    Google in particular has come close to realizing our nightmare scenario from 1998, a vertically integrated Internet controlled by a single monopoly player. Google runs its own physical network, builds phone handsets, develops a laptop and phone operating system, makes the world’s most widely-used browser, runs a private DNS system, PKI certificate authority, has photographed nearly all the public spaces in the world, and stores much of the world’s email.

    Facebook, for example, has only one manager in Germany to deal with every publisher in the country. One! The company that is dismantling the news industry in Germany doesn’t even care enough to send a proper team to manage the demolition.

    Denmark has gone so far as to appoint an ambassador to the giant tech companies, an unsettling but pragmatic acknowledgement of the power relationship that exists between the countries of Europe and Silicon Valley.

    How is it that some dopey kid in Palo Alto gets to decide the political future of the European Union based on what they learned at big data boot camp? Did we lose a war?

    Tech culture prefers to solve harder, more abstract problems that haven’t been sullied by contact with reality. So they worry about how to give Mars an earth-like climate, rather than how to give Earth an earth-like climate. They debate how to make a morally benevolent God-like AI, rather than figuring out how to put ethical guard rails around the more pedestrian AI they are introducing into every area of people’s lives.

    To recap: the Internet has centralized into a very few hands. We have an extremely lucrative apparatus of social control, and it’s being run by chuckleheads.

    The famous juicer also makes an appearance. I don’t share the author’s enthusiasm about various American march protests, but I do share the worry about our social life being shaped by companies whose leadership are more interested about solving the hypothetical problems of super-human AI than the very possible, very immediate harm the combined power of regular stupid ML “AI”, social media monopoly, and unaccountability to the established local governance together can wield upon the social construct that is the European democracies as we know them.

    • Mark says:

      I don’t think they’ve perfected their manipulation algorithms yet.

      Or maybe that’s just what they want me to think?

      Hmmm… I don’t really feel that there is any conflict in the message promoted by the big internet companies and the message promoted by the European governments. Maybe there is a problem with control of information, but I don’t feel like that is a new problem, or a problem at all for government. They still have the power to blitz private internet companies in the same way they could blitz a newspaper. Right?

      And, he can have a go at Elon Musk for being interested in Mars rather than sharing some other particular interest, but… it’s a bit petty isn’t it?

      To me this just seemed like he was saying “Donald Trump …. ooooooh … really appalling … internet… Peter Thiel… boooooo … nazis. Lot’s of Nazis. Facebook.
      In conclusion, fuck Trump.”

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ll be a lot more worried about Facebook and Google’s ability to control my life when Google stops serving me ads for things I’ve already decided not to buy and my Facebook feed stops pissing me off enough to block a half-dozen random things in a tiff and then close the app every other time I open it.

        • CatCube says:

          Hell, the ad tracking is even worse than that. They don’t really have a good way to know if you’ve decided not to buy something, so it’s slightly understandable that they keep showing ads for those things.

          I love it when they show you ads for things you’ve already bought. Sure, I was just thinking I needed four more copies of Breath of the Wild. I’ll put them on the wall just to be sure everybody knows how much I love the Zelda franchise.

        • Jiro says:

          Imperfect tracking can be even worse than perfect tracking, when they’re good enough at tracking that tracking brings them some money, but bad enough at tracking that you can still be hurt by inaccuracies in the tracking.

          Imagine that companies track your ads and raise your insurance if you go to too many websites featuring hang-gliding. But they’re really trying to raise the insurance rates of hang gliding people, not hang-gliding web searchers; hang-gliding web searchers are just a somewhat inaccurate proxy for that. If you go to such websites for some reason other than being a hang glider, it may be that you’ll get charged more for your insurance because the proxy isn’t completely accurate.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think that is what annoys people so much with Facebook etc., it’s not the ads as such, it’s that when you’ve clicked “no i don’t want to see this ad no i’m really sure yes definitely no more ads like this really not one more at all at all”, they keep going “ah but you do, you want more ads don’t you? how about these different ads, wouldn’t you like them?”

          There is no simple way to TURN OFF THE GODDAMN UNSOLICITED ADS AND SPONSORED CONTENT. I really do think people would be less likely to use ad blockers if there was a way to easily turn off these ads, and that they’d even be more likely to let the ads play if they knew all it took to turn them off was clicking on the “shut-down” button, instead of having to trawl through six pages and five different “you have to submit your request to be removed from the ad listings to this agency, that organisation, and the other voluntary group” hoop-jumping they put you through.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, the ads are how they make their money. Of course they’re not going to turn them off completely (though Adblock Plus does a fairly good job). But it’s in both their interest and yours to let you block types of ads you don’t like: yours, because they annoy you more than the average ad, and theirs, because a less annoyed customer keeps their ass in the seat longer.

            They just don’t do a very good job with it.

          • Deiseach says:

            They just don’t do a very good job with it.

            That is how they’ve cut off their nose to spite their face, though. They have become so desperate and intrusive with ads, it’s forced me to block every ad, instead of tolerating the sidebar and top ads as usual.

          • onyomi says:

            Data point: Faceook is great at showing me ads for things I don’t need but feel a strong urge to buy, such as a WWF shirt with a panda preparing to hit another panda over the head with a chair.

          • Nornagest says:

            …it’s too bad I don’t wear graphic T-shirts much, because that sounds great.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @onyomi:

            a WWF shirt with a panda preparing to hit another panda over the head with a chair

            My kids got me that shirt. I had to explain about the WWF —> WWE name-change lawsuit.

    • Deiseach says:

      I would broadly agree with the points in this, save that the guy making them has put them in the most objectionable, stereotypical, broad-brush manner possible and now it makes me want to go “Fly, my little Elon! Fly! Spread your wings and leave the nest and flutter off to Mars, my chickadee! Advocate for your future world of ems, Bostrom you crazy diamond! All you magnificent children of the Silicon God-Emperor, strive to bring about the eschaton where we will forever dwell in a transcended utopia of post-scarcity bliss!”

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I’m deeply concerned about Facebook’s ability to regulate discourse, too, but that complaint is a bit rich when it comes from the sort of nations that enforce blasphemy laws.

      I don’t want to ding this guy too much as he’s written some great essays on technical topics, but when it comes to politics he just goes way off the rails with the usual Internet euro-communism. It’s the typical belief that somehow a giant unaccountable governmental organization is going to be immune to the failure modes of a giant unaccountable commercial organization, or not have unique failure modes of its own that are made worse by the ability to send men with guns around to deal with anyone who really gets in their grill. At least Facebook can’t have me executed (yet.)

      Oh, and complaining about Silicon Valley billionaires spending money on research into life extension, AI, and reusable rockets is just the woke version of “why are we spending so much money on outer space when there are so many problems here on Earth.”

    • psmith says:

      If this is how he feels about Trump, who is hated by basically everyone in tech except for Thiel, imagine what he’s gonna say about President Zucc….

      • Deiseach says:

        Is there any remotely feasible chance Mark Zuckerberg could run for president as the Democratic Party candidate? I mean, not alone that he’d be interested, but that they’d select him? Because if so, I very nearly want to see him running as their guy (if they thought they had trouble getting out the minority votes for Hillary, just imagine!) and even better becoming president in 2020 because they would deserve what they get.

        I don’t know about the rest of the USA deserving it, but the howling of the Democratic-leaning masses currently excoriating Trump after getting this lump of dough as El Presidente would have me laughing (evilly, of course).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Is there any remotely feasible chance Mark Zuckerberg could run for president as the Democratic Party candidate

          No. There is not. Zuckerberg makes an awful political candidate (and for the kinds of reasons Hillary was less than stellar).

          Elon Musk? He would have a way outside chance. Mark Cuban? A slightly better chance (but still way outside).

          • bean says:

            Musk is naturalized, and thus not eligible to be President.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I actually did not know that about Musk. Thank you.

            My point still stands about the skills he has (vs. the ones Zuck does not).

          • onyomi says:

            Looking forward to 2020: Trump vs. The Rock

            Or, even better, if Trump gets removed:

            The Apprentice vs. The Rock

          • Deiseach says:

            Zuckerberg makes an awful political candidate

            That’s why I want to see him run as the Democrat candidate (when I’m in my “just burn down all the world” mood)

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        imagine what he’s gonna say about President Zucc…

        Someone needs to squat on zuckservative.com. Now.

        (It’s already a hashtag.)

  35. Mark says:

    If Goa rightfully belongs to India, shouldn’t Istanbul belong to Greece?

  36. Anonymous says:

    Thought experiment: the Hereditarian Left.

    Suppose that you had a magic wand, which enabled you to change the whole spectrum of lefties (from Social-Democrats to Communists) to believe Muggle Realism. What changes to their policies, methods and ideologies would that logically entail? The lazy way would be to just say that “you didn’t earn your genes” and continue with affirmative action and redistribution as usual, but let’s imagine that our lefties also include non-lazy ones, who want to permanently change the fabric of social reality such that invasive measures aren’t necessary, and that their brand of leftism is a stable equilibrium.

    Some things I can think of:
    – Prioritizing research in gene therapy.
    – Encouraging the rich to breed with the poor, and discouraging intra-wealth mating.
    – Removing the focus from education as a means of creating the Soviet Man, and instead focusing on selective breeding.
    – Suppressing diversity instead of celebrating it, to create very closely related societies like Norway’s, possibly through bans on too-close relatives marrying and immigration restrictions.
    – Selective sterilization (and/or more direct genocide from the more violent strains of radicals) of undesirables based on genetic instead of class differences.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You’ve hit the high points; an emphasis on “eugenics” replacing (or at least largely supplanting) the emphasis on “diversity” would be the huge one. I’m not sure if they’d go so far as to suppress diversity, but I imagine preventing “greedy capitalists” (or whatever the particular shade of leftist calls them) from having offspring would be right up there. Your levelers would encourage interbreeding to uniformity, but other idealists would want more traditional programs to reinforce desirable traits (e.g. a tendency to dedication to the community) and cull undesirable ones. So definitely no single program.

      • Eugenics was popular with the left, as well as with other people, early in the century.

        On the issue of preventing assortive mating, that’s in a way implicit in the argument of The Bell Curve. I don’t think the authors suggest preventing it, but they are concerned about undesirable effects on the distribution of abilities due to it.

        • Anonymous says:

          Eugenics was popular with the left, as well as with other people, early in the century.

          Yeah, I was reading about it in The Blank Slate the other day. The left’s supporters of eugenics apparently jumped ship so as not to share a deck with Hitler after WWII.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Also, prioritize research on ameliorating the effects of bad genes without doing gene therapy. Some of the results might be cheaper and/or safer than changing genes.

    • BBA says:

      Intelligence is multidimensional, and the common conception of g is biased in favor of the dimensions of intelligence most prevalent in the Global North. Thus we need to rethink what we consider “intelligent”, and to the extent that success in our society is dependent upon “whiter” aspects of intelligence we need to rework our society to make it more equitable towards people of color.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’d be a pretty lousy magic wand if it didn’t banish attitudes like that.

        • BBA says:

          Magic wand nothing, it’s just an extrapolation of my actual beliefs when I’m not inclined to dismiss Horrible Banned Discourse as just confirmation bias and lead poisoning.

      • Deiseach says:

        success in our society is dependent upon “whiter” aspects of intelligence we need to rework our society to make it more equitable towards people of color

        Problems there:

        (a) the assumption that certain aspects are “whiter” and therefore are less prevalent or cannot be found in “people of colour”

        (b) the concomitant reinforcement of exhibiting those traits or being interested in those topics as “acting white” and that, and those who are accused of doing so, being viewed disfavorably as cultural/race traitors, “Uncle Toms”, assimilationists, etc

        Is there a place for saying STEM is not the be-all and end-all? Yes. Is there a place for saying we should be looking for intelligent people of colour in these fields and encouraging them and bringing them forward, and that necessitates moving outside the dominant social and cultural mindset of a particular class and race as represented in academia and business? Yes. Does that mean junking logic, reasoned argumentation (hi, mate!), evidence- based empiricism etc. in favour of feminist glaciology (where the feminism is not ‘acknowledging the difficulties faced by women in the field and the outmoded attitudes of treating natives with practical experience of the phenomena as merely superstitious ignorant know-nothings who cannot contribute to our knowledge’ but ‘we demand queer differently-abled intersectional tearing down of privilege and prioritising different ways of knowing’)? I think you can guess what my view is there.

      • quanta413 says:

        Intelligence is multidimensional, and the common conception of g is biased in favor of the dimensions of intelligence most prevalent in the Global North. Thus we need to rethink what we consider “intelligent”, and to the extent that success in our society is dependent upon “whiter” aspects of intelligence we need to rework our society to make it more equitable towards people of color.

        Assuming muggle realism etc. etc. why do we think we can rework our society to lower its dependence on these dimensions of intelligence when no one ever intentionally built their societies to favor them in the first place? It was the result of hundreds or thousands of years of conflict both within and between states many of which are still very different (U.S. compared to China), and the form and idea of government changed immensely multiple times over that period.

        What we think is “intelligent” really does correlate with things like engineering, science, etc. that have been crucial to our ever rising standard of living. If we intentionally lower our weighting on “intelligence” (and we already don’t weight this sort of thing as nearly as heavily for a politician who is part of our ruling class than we would for a physicist who is only a little more politically powerful than a fast food worker) why should we expect to progress as quickly at engineering and science? Is the tradeoff simply supposed to be worth it? Are we expected to cordon off some areas from this rethinking of “intelligence”? Or are we expected to just pray that it’s somehow possible to reshape the very way we think about the accumulated knowledge of thousands of years of human civilization in a way that is no longer heavily g-loaded while maintaining all of the benefits of this knowledge and how to advance it?

    • Jiro says:

      The biggest change would not be what they do, but what they stop doing–they would stop saying that differences in outcomes are caused by discrimination, since they have an alternative explanation available.

    • Marshayne Lonehand says:

      This month’s Atlantic feature article “When Your Child Is a Psychopath” vividly sets forth progressivism’s present Enlightened appreciation of “Muggle Realism” … which is to say, an Enlightened progressive realism that is science-grounded, broadly conceived, tradition-respecting, and pragmatically dry-eyed.

      “Sociopathy is rational” — doesn’t this common-sense reality provide ample grounds for young women seeking reproductive partners to severely discount the intrinsic value of rationality?

      SSC readers who are high-IQ, hereditarian, and sociopathic — or otherwise heritably personality-disordered — especially are invited to reflect upon common-sense courtship-realities.

      As was said three weeks ago, so still it must be said:

      So long has the fundamental human right of female choice is scrupulously respected, everything is going to work out just fine, genetically speaking.

      In this respect present-day Enlightened Progressivism stands firmly on the right side of both history and science, doesn’t it?

      If there remains a residual appreciation, shared by conservatives and progressives alike, that the practice of medicine presently is in the dark ages — psychiatric medicine especially — well, that unhappy reality is altering (albeit slowly) for the better, and in this (literally) progressive hope we can all find common ground.