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OT78: Oprah Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible 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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1,294 Responses to OT78: Oprah Thread

  1. Stationary Feast says:

    Odd. When I’m logged out “Hide” hides the comment and all child comments, but when I’m logged in it only hides the comment itself and leaves the child comments alone.

    Can the logged-out “hide” behavior be applied to the logged-in behavior?

  2. Well... says:

    A senior colleague once told me that the gravatar “quilt” icons WordPress assigns us are rife with usability problems. That was maybe a year ago, so having incubated on that I now kinda wonder if the icons might inadvertently give impressions about the users they’re assigned to. Hypothetical examples I just made up:

    – People with simpler gravatar icons are perceived as easier to understand
    – People with pink or baby blue icons are perceived as less aggressive
    – People whose icons are pointier or more saw-like are perceived as more aggressive
    – People with black-on-white icons are perceived as having a more official status

    I haven’t reflected on whether I’ve been “tricked” in any of these ways by people’s icons–it’s possible, though obviously the effect could wear off after becoming familiar with different users–but I do wonder if there is an effect.

    • Nornagest says:

      I wonder how this relates to swastika-like icons.

      • Well... says:

        Or more generally, icons that resemble other things. For instance, if your icon happens to be the same color as a distinctive brand (e.g. T-mobile) will there be some unintended cognitive association there?

        My icon looks a bit like a crab–sandy color, four eyes, a thick “shell”, spindly legs–so I wonder if on some level I am perceived as having crab-like qualities such as robustness or hermit-ness (to say nothing of being delicious when boiled and dipped in butter).

        • Zodiac says:

          I think that’s stretching it a bit.
          The only conscious association I have with gravadars is Buddhism since they somewhat resemble mandalas. Sub-consciously something like your crab is too specific I think, though after this post I might get hungry when I see you.

          Edit:
          Upon closer examination I now associate you with peanut butter on toast. I am not hungry anymore.

    • Randy M says:

      Well…’s gravatar is sedate and orderly, like a European roundabout, in a staid mustard yellow. I assume he is calm and contemplative but not particularly open to new ideas. Feel free to engage with him, but do not expect too lively an interchange, though it is sure to be cordial.

      Nornagest, on the other hand, is a wild rush of arrows swirling round haphazardly in a blue torrent, with a bastion of calm and aloofness in the center. Expect a variety of surprising insights to come forth that never end up resolving satisfactorily.

      John Shilling is a little turtle shaped go-kart of purple, revealing his tendency to contribute slow and steady in a politically moderate tone and to be unlikely to take offense.

      Iain is a neon green buzzsaw, dangerous to underestimate, incisive, and prone to growth.

      rlms is a protective ring of blue candles around central diamonds; valuable insights, for sure, but of course carrying a torch for the blue team.

  3. meh says:

    Another response to the VOX response from the links thread:

    http://quillette.com/2017/06/21/vox-goes-junk-no-good-thats-bit-intelligent-progress/

    Also, there was mention of basilisk ideas in that thread.. this linked article claims

    “The most far-reaching implications for science, and perhaps for society, will come from identifying genes responsible for the heritability of g [i.e. the g-factor].” The Chinese government apparently is devoting considerable resources to this endeavor.

  4. Mark says:

    Which would be easier to create:

    (1) A deadly engineered virus that targeted people of a particular race.

    or

    (2) A (nano?) tiny robot that took a dna sample and sent off the results for a 23 and me analysis and then killed you if your percentages were wrong.

    I feel like 2 would be the better weapon.

    • John Schilling says:

      #1 is something that might plausibly be done in this generation (for some races, with a substantial margin of error). #2 very much isn’t.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      1 would probably be easier to commit genocide with, but you’d kill a lot of innocents and fail to kill a lot of the people you’re trying to kill, but 2 would probably be a logistical nightmare to make that many killbots and do that many DNA tests.

    • Civilis says:

      Depends on how accurate you want your disease to be.

      [Caution: quick and dirty summary of complex science. I would appreciate someone knowing more about biology correcting any faulty facts or logic.]

      People with a certain genetic abnormality in producing blood cells have increased malaria resistance. In some cases, that gene is dominant, which results in a generic disorder called sickle-cell anemia after the shape of the cells. The genetic abnormality, and hence the disorder, is concentrated largely in Africa and parts of India. In a sense, malaria is a naturally occurring disease ‘targeted’ at non-Africans, it’s just very inaccurate in its targeting.

      One could presumably engineer a disease that would target the abnormal blood cells resistant to malaria for a disease targeted at Africans, as long as you were satisfied with 20% of the people affected would be outside of Africa (and a lot of Africans would be immune). Likewise, if you could isolate a genetic trait common to a particular race or ethnic group and a means to exploit that to kill them, a disease would be relatively easy, but you’d have to be satisfied with natural genetic variation protecting a lot of people.

      The tiny robot has all the problems associated with nanotech. Given the right assumptions, nanotech is effectively magic. If it can take a genetic sample and send it out for processing, it can look up their family tree on the internet. For that matter, it could also look up their posting habits and you could have a nanotech agent capable of targeting SSC posters. If nanotech isn’t magic, it’s pretty much going to be much easier to use a human agent to take the sample and send it out (or the nanotech is going to be basically indistinguishable from an artificial virus anyways).

      • bbartlog says:

        If you engineer a disease where the virus needs a particular genetic variant in the host in order to spread effectively, but kills essentially everyone it infects regardless of genetic makeup, you might be able to aim for some kind of non-linear effects where it effectively wiped out populations with a high frequency of the variant while not spreading much at all in others.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Neither method is going to give a very exact match for the usual understanding of who’s of which race.

        Perhaps the best bet would be targeting the genes which affect appearance. Good luck.

        • albatross11 says:

          I think the targeting of any such virus would be statistical, just like different prevalance and severity of diseases across races works now. My understanding is that you can almost certainly predict what someone will say his race is (or what an observer will say his race is) by a DNA test, but those aren’t looking at a single gene, they’re looking at a whole bunch of chunks and then doing a kind of statistical distance measure.

          It’s hard to imagine a virus managing that. Instead, you’d probably have some allele that was in 80% of whites and 20% of Asians and 10% of blacks, and the virus would make people with that allele much sicker than people without that allele. (In the best-for-the-virus-writer case, the allele is something that controls a molecule on the membrane of the cells the virus needs to infect, and the virus targets that molecule to gain entry to the cell.).

          As an example of that, there’s a variant of one of the surface molecules on T cells and macrophages that won’t allow entry of HIV. People with that variant almost never get infected with HIV.

          • Instead, you’d probably have some allele that was in 80% of whites and 20% of Asians and 10% of blacks, and the virus would make people with that allele much sicker than people without that allele.

            Could you do it with multiple viruses? Each by itself makes you only mildly sick, but there is an interaction effect such that if you get three out of four you die. Each of the four is targeting a different allele. That ought to increase the percentage of the target population killed a little, decrease the percentage of the non-target population killed a lot.

  5. bintchaos says:

    @all
    To start, I’d like to apologize for my own confirmation bias.
    When I started here I didn’t know a lot of the consensual knowledge. I didnt know what steelmanning was and I still dont entirely understand muggle realism. But I was taken aback by the initial hostility and suspicion– that I was a troll or a moby doing a lazarus from the banhammer. I also don’t understand why when you dont understand something you wouldnt just google it. That is a part of my world view. Also in my bubble I guess…things you think are buzzwords and jargon are common shared language for my cohort. Social Physics and sociophysics are not the same thing to me. Socio-physics is just what it sounds like, application of properties of classical physics and mathematics to social systems, been around a long time– from 1800s actually, with the conceptualization of society as a vast machine. In the 20th century sociophysics became more quantitative by pairing social indicators with statistical regularities like Zipf and the gravity law. Now, in the 21st century we have new kinds of data and can extract statistical regularities within human movement and communication. When I say “Social Physics”, that is the 21st century application of socio-physics formulae and expressions to Big Data. I would think conservatives would be very interested in this…in theory we may be able to analyze and describe the social forces and idea flows that power Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
    Its been difficult for me communicate what I do know because of constant strafing attacks by D. To facelesscraven, the reason simple TfT is an accurate model now is polarization– all games have become zero-sum games.

    • Randy M says:

      I also don’t understand why when you don’t understand something you wouldn’t just google it. That is a part of my world view

      I think the rule of thumb would be, if I want to understand something, I will google it. If I want someone else to understand something, I will explain it, not assume they will go google it based on a mention. There’s a lot of comments on just this site, the ones that require homework to even evaluate the relevance of will not garner much positive attention. See also the discussion Brad started about a recent Supreme Court decision.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      Socio-physics is just what it sounds like, application of properties of classical physics and mathematics to social systems, been around a long time– from 1800s actually, with the conceptualization of society as a vast machine. In the 20th century sociophysics became more quantitative by pairing social indicators with statistical regularities like Zipf and the gravity law. Now, in the 21st century we have new kinds of data and can extract statistical regularities within human movement and communication.

      Citation needed.

      – There’s no wikipedia page for anything called “sociophysics”.
      – A Google search does not seem to turn up any university departments of sociophysics, anywhere.

      This is, as I’m sure you realize, highly suspicious.

      More searching turns up the following:

      1. This book, whose author page says:

      Serge Galam is a theoretical physicist specialized in disordered systems with doctorate degrees from Paris and Tel-Aviv. After being a research associate at the City College of New York and an assistant professor at New York University, he joined the CNRS in Paris where he is currently working at the Research Center in Applied Epistemology at the ‘Ecole Polytechnique. He is the proud father of sociophysics, a new field of study that he envisioned and initiated more than thirty years ago.

      [emphasis mine]

      Now, this fellow also has no wikipedia page. He does seem to be featured in a few articles in your less-respectable outlet, your various Breitbarts and what-not, with titles like “French physicist Serge Galam says math supports Le Pen victory, correctly predicted Trump, Brexit”. Hmm.

      Galam’s papers on the subject have hundreds of citations. This speaks for him being a real academic doing respectable work. Beyond that, I can’t say much about the field.

      2. This humorous post at LanguageLog. I daresay this does not support any claims about “sociophysics” being a respectable science (the author does not even seem aware that there’s a “real” thing by this name which is very unlike his humorous conception).

      3. Not much else.

      —-

      For comparison, let’s see what happens if we stumble across the term “psychophysics” (having never heard of it before), and think “hmm, sounds fake, lol”:

      Wikipedia page, with history and summary of the field, and links to papers and such
      Courses and degree programs studying psychophysics at many major universities
      Several international conferences
      A journal

      A stark contrast.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I did google socio-physics and it said the same you did: socio-physics is just physics models applied to society. But that doesn’t tell us anything. You made some big claims without explaining how it’s connected.

    • Zephalinda says:

      I’ll admit that I also went ahead and Googled it (after-lunch procrastination ftw), and am confused as to how this differs from garden-variety behavioral economics or similar quantitatively-inclined, Big-Data-friendly social sciences. I mean, sure, similar statistical patterns sometimes turn up in different domains, because the universe is pretty much made out of numbers. Is there a plausible similarity of underlying mechanism that justifies the specific “physics” connection here, or is it just branding/ hermeticism/ poetic license?

    • bintchaos says:

      Look upthread where I [hopefully] do a better job. I’m sorry, I should have done it here, but I was replying to someone else. ^^^

    • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

      Forget google. Can you point to some journal articles and the textbooks needed to understand them?
      Without those it just comes across as “trust me, my personal model of psychohistory predicts everything
      And, no offense, coming from an undergrad student that kind of claim can’t help but sound sophomoric.

      • bintchaos says:

        I did up there^ with quotes/definitions from Dr. Pentland’s book.
        ??
        I thought we already had the discussion where I’m not a follower of Hari Seldon?

  6. Jaskologist says:

    Given GA06, should we just start assuming that polls have about a 5 point left-wing bias? These complete and utter failures are getting embarrassing.

    • registrationisdumb says:

      Oversampling issues aside, I have another question.

      This was apparently the most expensive House election in history, costing over $50m in advertising alone, with the Dems outspending Repubs 2 to 1.

      Is there any sane case to be made that spending $50m to give any individual candidate, a say, 20% extra chance to win, especially in a minor election that won’t even effect party majorities? I’m personally not an effective altruist, but this sort of campaign spending seems the opposite. Huge blobs of money wasted in a factional dispute, where neither candidate will significantly impact the lives of their constituents.

      I know doing so may be questionable in terms of 1st amendment rights, but every election I think more and more we really should have limits on campaign spending.

      • Jaskologist says:

        There may not even be a sane case to be made that spending $50m extra gives a candidate a 20% extra chance to win.

      • Matt M says:

        Is there any sane case to be made that spending $50m to give any individual candidate, a say, 20% extra chance to win, especially in a minor election that won’t even effect party majorities?

        That politics is largely a confidence game, where things like momentum and the appearance of changing momentum matter a great deal.

        I think you can bet every journalist on Earth had an article ready to go celebrating the Democratic victory here, and explicitly saying “This may seem like a random, unimportant Congressional district, but it actually matters a lot because they ‘flipped’ a district, which is a clear indictment on Trump and evidence that the Democrats are going to kick ass in 2020!”

        • registrationisdumb says:

          Is printing that headline worth $50 million though, even assuming that $50 million would’ve granted them victory?

          Beyond that, no matter how much you spend, the other party will spend enough to keep a safe seat competitive. These sorts of fights give a marginally small benefit to citizens, and are only becoming increasingly expensive.

          I’d wager money I could get a bum off the street and he wouldn’t be able to do $50m in damages as a House Representative.

          • Matt M says:

            When the potential payoff is embarrassing Trump, no price is too high!

            (I’m seriously starting to wonder if Trump is trying to destroy the left the way that Reagan destroyed the Soviets – get them to waste all their money in an arms race of negative campaign ads)

          • baconbacon says:

            (I’m seriously starting to wonder if Trump is trying to destroy the left the way that Reagan destroyed the Soviets – get them to waste all their money in an arms race of negative campaign ads

            Reagan didn’t destroy the Soviets with an arms race, the Soviets destroyed themselves with their own economic system.

          • gbdub says:

            Dems badly need a tangible win, and need to sell the narrative that “Trump will doom the Republican Party” to keep people engaged through the 2020 midterms.

            This seemed as good as any a place to get one, unfortunately their tactics were apparently better at generating out-of-state donations than in-district votes.

          • Nornagest says:

            Reagan didn’t destroy the Soviets with an arms race, the Soviets destroyed themselves with their own economic system.

            The economic system was a bigger problem than the arms race, but the arms race put stress on the system that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Would it have collapsed anyway, or developed into some kind of Communism-with-Russian-characteristics? Sure, probably. But it probably wouldn’t have been in the early Nineties.

            Cuba’s still limping along with a command economy, although the (small) private sector’s grown somewhat in the last twenty years.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is printing that headline worth $50 million though, even assuming that $50 million would’ve granted them victory?

            Yes. Going by twitter and reddit, there are a lot of people (the kinds of people who gave money from out of district to Ossoff) who believe Trump is Gigahitler + Voldemort and if the GOP is not stopped everyone is going to die.

            I thought Trump’s victory would maybe snap some of the polarization insanity. When Trump won the New Hampshire primary Huffington Post ran in “WAR IN EUROPE” letters the headline “NH GOES RACIST SEXIST XENOPHOBIC!!!!” No they didn’t. New Hampshire has a heroin epidemic and they want the wall to help stop some of the cheap heroin that’s flooding their state. I wondered if when Trump won the election the people who believed that sort of thing would stop and ask, “wait, maybe I’m wrong about the motivations of my political opponents?” No. My FaceBook feed after the election and since is still full of people who would rather believe that half the country, their friends and neighbors and family members, are literally Nazis.

            I don’t know if there’s a way back, either. Once you’ve been screaming that Trump is Gigahitler for a year, you can’t walk it back and say “weeeelllllllll maybe we were exaggerating about the extent of the Hitlarity…” No. There is no compromise with Gigahitler. Bloody severed faux-heads, murder fantasy plays in the park, shooting up the baseball fields…that’s not stopping any time soon.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @gbdub

            This seemed as good as any a place to get one, unfortunately their tactics were apparently better at generating out-of-state donations than in-district votes.

            I wonder if those two are anti-correlated. Obviously no one’s going to complain if their party’s candidate is getting lots of donations from outside their district. But if you’re not really partisan and just looking for “best person for the job,” I could see getting very annoyed by outside interference. Is the candidate going to represent your district, or the politics of the backers? I’d be tempted to vote the other way just to flip the bird to the outsiders and say “this is my congressman, go buy your own!”

          • baconbacon says:

            Cuba’s still limping along with a command economy, although the (small) private sector’s grown somewhat in the last twenty years.

            Cuba isn’t a good comparison, first the Russian revolution happened during WW1, the Cuban during the 50s. Second the USSR financially supported Cuba for years, there was no such entity supporting the USSR in that way, and finally the USSR had geopolitical aspirations for its entire existence which dwarfed those of Cuba (though Cuba did have some).

            The evidence for a major response to Reagan’s spending is mixed, and non definitive. At best it was one of many contributing causes and not at all worthy of the position many seem to attribute to it.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I don’t know if there’s a way back, either.


            There is not…I don’t mean this as flippant or shallow, but when two sub-populations are diverging and theres no cross-migration then the result is (at minimum) psuedo-speciation.
            –Sewell Wright
            I suspect that there is one way migration though, that of young college graduates turning blue.

          • bbartlog says:

            when two sub-populations are diverging and theres no cross-migration then the result is (at minimum) psuedo-speciation.

            Interestingly however the drive towards actual speciation (lack of interfertility) is stronger if there is physical proximity, but sufficiently separate ecological niches. The reasoning is this: a hybrid offspring between the two separately specialized subspecies will have inferior fitness as it is not well-suited to either niche. So in situations where such a mating could occur, there is positive selection to avoid it happening at all and/or to avoid actual gestation if it does take place. In cases where geographical separation makes such mating impossible in the first place, there is no pressure to develop any such avoidance or interfertility adaptations, though genetic drift will eventually do the job anyway.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos

            I suspect that there is one way migration though, that of young college graduates turning blue.

            What about people turning Red as they age? Every generation of young liberals thinks their ideology will be running the place as soon as those old evil conservatives kick the bucket…until they turn into the new old evil conservatives.

          • Brad says:

            Red and blue refer to cultures, not ideologies. As far as I know people don’t spontaneously start watching NASCAR when they turn 40.

          • Randy M says:

            What about people turning Red as they age? Every generation of young liberals thinks their ideology will be running the place as soon as those old evil conservatives kick the bucket…until they turn into the new old evil conservatives.

            However, events that used to turn people more conservative–or were somewhat more correlated with being conservative, however you want to see it–namely marriage and child rearing, are more rare or occurring later for the younger generations, aren’t they? This may have affect and increasingly blue tint.
            I wonder how that will wash out with the genetic component, though.

          • I’d wager money I could get a bum off the street and he wouldn’t be able to do $50m in damages as a House Representative.

            I think you are badly underestimating how much damage the federal government can do.

            The federal budget is about four trillion dollars. Suppose ten percent of that is spent on activities that do net harm–the War on Drugs, the Farm Program, … . That’s a cost of four hundred million wasted plus damage done, say five hundred billion total. Suppose we distribute the blame to Congress per capita. The each congressman is responsible for about a billion dollars worth of damage.

            That’s very much a back of the envelope calculation and there are lots of things wrong with it in both directions. But I think it suggests that you are badly underestimating the scale of government activities, hence the importance of elections.

          • John Schilling says:

            Then each congressman is responsible for about a billion dollars worth of damage.

            Attributing all of the government’s harm to congress, and then dividing it evenly, is I think wrong.

            Handwave 1: About 90% of what the government does, good and bad, is done by the bureaucracy working on autopilot. You can blame that on congressmen of earlier generations when the system was still in the process of being carved in stone, but it is beyond the scope of congressmen working in today’s lithobureaucratic era.

            Handwave 2: About 90% of what congress does have the flexibility to do, is done by the party apparatus acting under party discipline and either following the President’s lead or following the minority imperative to block whatever the President attempts.

            That leaves $10 million/year for damage within the scope of an individual congressman’s independent authority, presumably horse-trading “You support my damn fool program and I’ll go along with the party agenda on everything else”.

            Still, a representative who was trying to do harm, or trying to do good but competent only in the horse-trading and not the policymaking, or who is elected to three terms, should be able to cause $50 million in damage.

          • registrationisdumb says:

            @DavidFriedman I think you’re overestimating the differences between any two random given politicians. If you take average Democrat and average Republican, they will probably agree on most things. Drug war? Bipartisan support. Farm subsidies? Bipartisan support. Pork projects and military spending? Bipartisan support. The actual party differences these days seem to basically be down to how much immigration we want, who gets guns, whether Trump is Gigahitler, and how we solve healthcare. The rest is all cosmetic based on which pork projects you like better.

            If anything, I’d say Bum on Street would probably be against a lot of the things you hate, like the war on drugs.

            (Also keep in mind that this spending does not guarantee a win, only offering a slightly larger chance of one. The exact number of damage or benefit possible is arguable, but we’re pushing up to the point where it’s worth reconsidering whether the right to spend $50m on a campaign and the benefits of electing people good at fundraising outweigh what we’d get out of an election where any candidates war chests were limited to say, 1 year’s salary for the median worker in that county.)

      • Iain says:

        Fun fact (which my friend told me about last night at pub trivia, so I don’t have a source to hand): more campaign money was spent on GA06 than the entire 2011 Canadian federal election.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          That’s only true if look at spending per party. The big three Canadian parties averaged 33 million CAD, while the two GA candidates were each supported by 30 million USD. Which is bigger depends on whether you use 2011 or 2017 exchange rates.

      • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

        I know doing so may be questionable in terms of 1st amendment rights

        10 years ago the claim was that we must make 1st amendment sacrifices because money was definitely buying elections outright. Now the claim is that we must make sacrifices because the money is wasted and that’s harmful.

        When the problem reverses but the proposed solution is identical, I can’t help but suspect the sacrifice is the actual goal.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t know what the name for this is, but it is definitely poor reasoning. If you were to change the passive voice to put in who is doing the claiming it would be even clearer what’s wrong with your argument.

          • Chalid says:

            We had a thread trying to name this once. My favorite was “hivemind fallacy.”

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            Well then: registrationisdumb, what did you think of the Citizens United decision at the time? It would be really cool to hear from someone whose position on it has changed, because it was such a polarizing/binary issue at the time.

            Brad and Chalid: a link to a left-wing writer who disagreed that money was buying elections in 2004 would do a good job of disproving my argument. (Ideally one that believed speech should be restricted anyway.)

            I was actively engaged with the left and the democratic party until 2010. I met nobody with this view. The “hivemind” was real, not a fallacy.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Money doesn’t outright buy elections, but a large disparity can help. And a severe lack will torpedo a campaign (good staffers and ads cost at least some money). The problem is that untethered campaign contributions make the electee beholden to big donors ahead of constituents.

          • Brad says:

            A) I don’t believe that registrationisdumb is a particularly left wing.

            B) https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/citizens-united-v-federal-election-commission-aclu-amicus-brief

            C) Those you were surrounded by until 2010 were not a random sample, and in any event your recollections of them are surely tinted by your current bitterness towards “the left”

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            The ACLU (to their credit) made a constitutional argument against the law because it “threatened speech that lies at the heart of the First Amendment”, which isn’t consequentialist opposition based on a belief that money was not buying elections.
            Good proof would be someone saying “I oppose this law because the problem isn’t real, not because I care about freeze peach”.

            In fact, the CU decision itself isn’t really a vital point, in that someone could have supported the law for other reasons, even through they didn’t believe in the problem it was purporting to solve.

          • Brad says:

            Good proof for what?

            You claimed there was some nefarious plot to undermine the first amendment via a series of bad faith arguments. “When the problem reverses but the proposed solution is identical, I can’t help but suspect the sacrifice is the actual goal.”

            You didn’t actually say who this nefarious plot is being undertaken by, but based on your follow up, I take it that it is supposed to be the dastardly leftists.

            As proof of this nefarious plot you point to unnamed people who purportedly claimed ten years ago that the first amendment needed to be sacrificed because money bought elections and to registrationisdumb’s comment that perhaps election money would be better spent on bednets. Apparently registrationisdumb is a part of the hive mind that you are certain is real because 7 years ago you were “engaged” with the left.

            Now you insist that the only way to falsify your incoherent theory is to find someone on the left that back in 2004 didn’t money in elections was a problem. How that would in anyway relate to your original claim that there is a nefarious plot to undermine the first amendment I have no idea. I would think that the fact that the most aggressive and effective defenders of the first amendment are on the left would be some evidence against this theory, but apparently I haven’t understood all the epicycles.

            Can I ask you how you came to find this site in the first place and what made you decide to start commenting here?

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            I take it that it is supposed to be the dastardly leftists.

            This is not a productive response, and looking at your other comments in this thread, I think it’s pointless to continue interacting with you. Have a good one.

          • registrationisdumb says:

            “what did you think of the Citizens United decision at the time?”

            I wasn’t quite as politically knowledgeable at the time, so it probably boiled down to “The Daily Show said the Koch Brothers are evil, so this must be evil too!”

            So I’m on the same side of the issue, but coming to the table with different knowledge, and apparently against the team that I was previously on. I didn’t particularly think that that corporations should have the same Consitutional rights as people then, and I don’t particularly think that today either.

            In terms of “buying” elections, the word “buy” is way too simple of an explanation. It’s true only in the same sense that an athlete will do better if they have fancy shoes, a good manager, a dietitian, and a personal trainer. If I have $100 to fund my campaign, and the opposition has $1,000,000,000 of course I’m gonna lose. But every dollar you spend has increasingly diminishing returns after a certain point.

            As for my political affiliation: Fuck the blue tribe; fuck the red tribe; fuck the gray tribe. All of them are looking out for their own interests and not yours. I’ll vote for the guy who fixes shitty zoning regulations where I live, cleans up our water supply, and works to keep up the quality of our libraries and state parks.

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            Makes a lot of sense, thanks for the reply. Finding myself in much the same boat these days.

          • Matt M says:

            Man, one of the most underrated good things about Trump’s win was that it got the left to shut up about Citizens United for a few minutes.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          >implying briberyspending is speech

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            It’s critical always to note that these are two entirely distinct questions: (1) is Law X/Government Action Y a good thing?, and (2) is Law X/Government Action Y Constitutional?

            Sorry, I should have said more clearly that I was looking for disagreement based on what Greenwald calls “policy grounds”: on (1), not (2). Because the beliefs that money is buying elections but it is also unconstitutional to restrict speech don’t conflict with each other.
            Greenwald and the ACLU were both arguing on constitutional grounds, and I don’t deny there was dissent from the prevailing consensus along those lines.
            What I never encountered was anyone saying “no, money does not buy elections”, rather than “free speech trumps regulation”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Achilles:

            It seems like the only way to have a useful opinion on whether money buys elections is to look at some data on the actual impact of money on elections. I understand that the expected answer to the question is bound up in ideology right now, but it’s quite possible that we live in either:

            World #1: Money really does buy elections. Once I have two or three times the money you have, your situation as my opponent in a major election is pretty much hopeless, and all you can do is hope I have some kind of scandal before election day.

            World #2: Money really doesn’t buy elections. Having more money, even lots more money, gives you a small advantage, but is typically overcome by other factors like incumbency, party, appeal of your message, etc.

            There is no way we can reason from first principles to find out which world we live in. (And which world we live in may change over time, as the importance of advertising changes.). The only thing we can do is try to find a way to analyze existing data to figure out which world we’re living in. To the extent a liberal and a conservative political scientist looking at the data are good at their jobs, they ought to tend to come to the same answer.

            The free speech/principled argument is the one you actually can get to from ideology. You don’t need to analyze how money is actually affecting election outcomes to know that you’re not okay with putting the government in the business of regulating political speech. (In the same way, if you are a supporter of the second amendment, you don’t have to analyze the impact of gun ownership on crime rates to know that you’re not okay with banning guns. Whether the guns are causing or preventing crimes is entirely irrelevant to the argument.)

            I’m belaboring this point a bit because I think it’s very important, and often missed. All kinds of questions of fact get turned into questions of ideology (or worse, questions of morality), and that’s pretty much an algorithm for making it harder to think straight about those questions.

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            Those are really good points, thank you. I can see why I didn’t encounter anyone at the time making the factual claim I’m asking for examples of.

            It was immensely frustrating to sit in the middle of a conversation with a group of friends who all accepted #1 as unquestionable fact, so that any disagreement about policy could only be expressed through ideological arguments.
            People only had false equivalences to choose between, and so none of the eternal intraparty debates were solvable. Which, come to think about it, is why I ended up drifting away from the scene entirely.

            I checked the Daily Kos liveblog threads the night of the special election, and saw a lot of interesting but very discouraging conversations. At least there’s some reflection happening these days.

    • bintchaos says:

      @Jaskologist
      The problem, like in Brexit and the 2016 election, is you cant poll the voting booth.
      Poll aggregators deal with lag despite their best efforts.
      Also, most poll aggregators are Blue Tribe and so exhibit blue confirmation bias to some extent. Why are they Blue Tribe? Because being a poll aggregator requires university training.
      Anyways, you should be watching the aggregate shift, not the results of a single election. A shift from a 20% win to a 5% win is mega. If there is a national shift of >8% the GOP will lose the house.

      • Also, most poll aggregators are Blue Tribe and so exhibit blue confirmation bias to some extent. Why are they Blue Tribe? Because being a poll aggregator requires university training.

        According to Pew, college graduate+ political affiliation as of 2016 was 53/41 D/R. So there are lots of Republican college graduates available to be poll aggregators, even if fewer than Democratic college graduates.

        High school or less runs 46/45 D/R.

        These figures are for Republican or leans Republican, Democrat or leans Democrat.

        • bintchaos says:

          Thats where Social Physics might help to understand the dynamics…why dont those conservative graduates choose to become poll aggregators– I think some become pollsters, not the same thing– the famous quants like Silver and Natalie Jackson, Drew Linzer, Sam Wang, Andrew Gelman.
          But yes, what I said was wrong– there are plenty who could become quants if the only requirement is a university degree. Why do you think there isnt a Nate Silver on the right, David?

          • bean says:

            Right. I’ll bite. How does social physics explain this?
            (To be useful, this explanation should not require the use of google. Everyone here is smart, and most understand at least basic physics.)

          • bintchaos says:

            OK…what I said was dumb. If the only requirement to become a poll aggregator is “a college degree” then yes, there are plenty of conservatives that could be poll agreggators. But what if another requirement is that they have the specific degree, set of degrees, and also the desire or personality traits to become one? Right now we are in the middle of a data revolution…I dont know how aware the SSC commentariat is of that– I have seen some references to how Big Data is changing the field of cognitive genomics (again Steve Hsu is awesome on this, and even though I’m “a liberal” I go there first). I better define Big Data–
            I will use Dr. Pentland description.

            Big Data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes impossible to use traditional data processing applications or hands-on database management tools.


            I think people here may be most familiar with this through Dr. Hsu mention of datasets for genomics research on the order of 80,000, 100,000 or even a million samples.
            So another term used in modern Social Physics is Reality Mining (Pentland 2006). The idea that vast “rich” (as opposed to impoverished) databases can be harvested and maintained to do fine-grained examination of social structures and causal phenomena and idea flow.
            So there is a kindof a big data goldrush right now.
            Of course, the first application from the business community is to sell more stuff, and there are already commercial products available. Also to improve performance, and there are commercial products for that. But for a study about what kind of college education and social indicators shape peoples career choices its perfect!
            hmm…this IS a lot harder than trading links to supporting papers in twitter combat.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Why do you think there isnt a Nate Silver on the right

            Less tolerance for fraud on the right? I do not believe Nate Silver is intellectually honest. Not just “biased” but that he is purposefully deceptive.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Not just “biased” but that he is purposefully deceptive.


            Could you explain what you base this on?
            His statistical methodology is sound as far as I can tell.
            While he hasn’t ever published the ingredients of his secret sauce he always does a with-and-without comparison.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Doing what Nate Silver does is only half the battle. To become the right-wing Nate Silver you also have to get the good left-liberals in the press corps to report on what you do the same way they report on what Nate Silver does.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos

            If you don’t know his methods, how can you determine that it’s sound? Nate’s pattern (and the pattern of many other political statisticians) is propaganda. They return the result the people who pay them want. So all during the presidential campaign Nate and pals were paid to produce polls that say Trump is down by 10+ points and can never win and this all horrible for them so that the news anchors can have Democrats on TV to be asked “why do you think your message resonates so well with all the good and smart voters?” and then have the Trump surrogate on to ask “the polls show everyone hates you and that you’re the Devil, why do you think everyone hates you?” And then just before the election the results will mysteriously tighten (when they inexplicably stop oversampling Democrats by 20 points) so they can claim some kind of accuracy for the next cycle. It’s just a propaganda con-game, not science. Nobody pays you to tell the truth.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The right-wing press could support a right-wing statistician if it wanted to.

          • bintchaos says:

            So why dont they?
            It seems like that might deal with the accusations of oversampling and secret thumb on the scale moves?

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            You say many things that I disagree with, but this one is just wrong.

            The 538 election forecast included links to all of the input polls. (See here, for example, for the national polls.) If you wanted to double-check Nate Silver’s work, you could look at those polls yourself and verify that they did indeed show the race tightening towards the end of the campaign. This is why all the other polling aggregators showed the same effect. (Take, for example, the Upshot.) In previous elections — especially midterm elections — where the Republicans have been ahead, Nate Silver has consistently reported them being ahead. In 2012, your narrative was flipped: Obama’s lead widened in the final days of the campaign. (Or should that be “mysteriously widened”?)

            If you want somebody to build a model that crunches all the available polling data and summarizes the likely outcomes, Nate Silver is your man.

            If you still want to claim a conspiracy, you have to do it at the level of the individual polls. At that level, though, “nobody pays you to tell the truth” is just false. Polling companies make money because people pay them to produce polls. Election polling is how they demonstrate that they are good at their job. Nobody who wants good data is going to hire a polling company who consistently bombs the election. Even if you’re just looking for a fake poll to push a narrative, you need a polling company with a reputation for putting out good polls.

          • bean says:

            @bintchaos
            That’s interesting, but it’s not “how social physics explains this” it’s “how social physics could explain this if we had used it” and I’m not convinced. Yes, being Nate Silver takes more than a college degree. But the only fields which are so dominated by the left that the right shouldn’t be able to scrape up a competitor somewhere are things like race/gender studies which basically have leftism built into their basic architecture. Data analysis isn’t one. Until you have numbers, I’m going to continue to believe that the problem is not just lack of candidates.

          • cassander says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            The right-wing press could support a right-wing statistician if it wanted to.

            It could, and he would get exactly as respect and outside attention as anyone else who works for Fox News does.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            I’m saying they try to be “correct” just before the election because that’s the only time you can check their work, but during the year-long media cycle before the election they serve to drive a media narrative for propaganda purposes.

            I can’t prove it, because I can’t prove what the vote would look like in July when the July poll is released, but similarly neither Nate nor you can prove he’s right. My model of Nate is “in any race that isn’t an obvious Republican/right lock, predict a Democrat/left win.”

            When he starts predicting right-wing upsets (for races that actually wind up being right-wing upsets…or even ones that don’t) I’ll update my model.

            If you want correct polling, well, that’s what internal polls are for.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            If something can be predicted by quantitative, as opposed to qualitative, means, doesn’t that indicate it wasn’t an upset?

            EDIT: Michael Moore predicted Trump’s victory, for example. But he did so on qualitative grounds, as a pundit.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            Nate Silver publishes his methods and commits to them in advance, doesn’t he? How do you imagine he’s shading them? If you mean in the narrative articles written around the numbers, maybe, but the numbers he gets from his aggregation models don’t seem like they’re susceptible to an immediate bias. They may be biased in some long-term way (over-weighting polls that are biased toward Democrats, say), but not in a short-term way about a particular race.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn

            I don’t know if the definition of “upset” matters enough to distinguish between quantitative or qualitative means. My point is that no, Silver is never going to predict a blue Mississippi, but anywhere close he’s just going to pick blue and massage numbers until he gets to it so pundits can drive blue bandwagon / red demoralization propaganda.

            On Red places on the Internet, the joke is to continuously downgrade the quality of the material in his last name based on his predictions. First he was Nate Copper, then Nate Tin, and I think now he’s down to Nate Quantum Foam. The Blue Tribe still thinks he’s actually doing something objective with numbers, all evidence to the contrary.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            It seems like he gets it from both sides, though. Before the election, he was getting all sorts of hostility from left-wingers who said he was being too nice to Trump’s chances, for whatever reason.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dndnrsn

            Which is also part of the issue. I mean, imagine if he actually predicted 300+ electoral votes for Trump, Brexit, or GA06. He’d have been crucified by his followers.

          • John Schilling says:

            What does “crucified” mean in this context? His supporters would say bad things about him in the interval between his predicting Trump-300+ and Trump actually scoring 306 EV? Not clear why he would care, if he were confident he would be vindicated soon enough.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @John Schilling

            You’re forgetting that in the court of public opinion, if he predicts it and it happens then it’s (at least partly) his fault. And I wish I were joking.

          • The right-wing press could support a right-wing statistician if it wanted to.

            There are right wing statisticians, defining right wing in terms of which side takes what position on an issue. The first serious statistical work I know of on both concealed carry and the effect of the death penalty was done by people offering evidence for the position conservatives liked (Lott&Mustard and Ehrlich). That then set off a controversy with serious statistics employed on both sides.

            I expect the Republican party employs people to do statistical analysis, just as the Democrats do. So the question is why the left wing polling analysts get more attention than the right, assuming they do. I gather that in this election, most of the polling analysis turned out to be wrong, with Silver a partial exception. Were there people with the opposite bias making more accurate predictions but getting less attention?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, for Nate Silver, making a wildly unpopular prediction that turns out to be right when everyone else is wrong is exactly the problem he dreams of having.

          • bintchaos says:

            @bean
            I’m sorry, I wrote a long comment with some specific examples in it and the SSC comment monster ate it. It must have had a bad word in it.
            When this happens I get a timeout for a while and I cant comment.

            It maybe this thread is just getting too cumbersome for me to navigate successfully, the nesting is too deep.
            Maybe a reboot on the next thread?

          • bean says:

            @bintchaos

            Maybe a reboot on the next thread?

            Sure. My biggest question is how Social Physics is different from simply applying Big Data techniques to social data. Because that seems like the kind of thing which the patent office would call an obvious extension of prior art, and I’d think a more accurate name would be something like mathematical sociology.

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            My model of Nate is “in any race that isn’t an obvious Republican/right lock, predict a Democrat/left win.”

            Are you claiming that control of the Senate in the 2014 midterms was an obvious Republican lock? In the final predictions, only the Washington Post and Daily Kos had the Republicans above 80% to win, but 538 nevertheless had the Republicans ahead, wire to wire.

            This seems very much like you are spouting received tribal wisdom, rather than an honest evaluation of Nate Silver’s reliability.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            Doesn’t that fit my model? If the Daily Kos and WaPo say “Republicans are going to win” that’s a lock, right? Those aren’t exactly right-wing shill organizations.

          • Wrong Species says:

            When did Nate Silver become politicized? He’s one of the least political pundits there is.

          • baconbacon says:

            Yeah, for Nate Silver, making a wildly unpopular prediction that turns out to be right when everyone else is wrong is exactly the problem he dreams of having.

            No, not really. Silver wants to be right frequently across a broad range of topics, not to have one or two glorious stands of being right, and has based his entire career on that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Wrong Species

            When did Nate Silver become politicized? He’s one of the least political pundits there is.

            Does reality have a liberal bias?

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            If you think I’m a liberal you clearly haven’t seen my other comments. While political polling is often mixed with object level politics, it doesn’t have to. And Silver, more than anyone else, has tried to separate the two. Does this sound like an ideologue to you:

            All of this data is nevertheless consistent with Clinton being an Electoral College favorite. She has a 64 percent chance of winning the Electoral College in our polls-only model and 65 percent in polls-plus, putting her somewhere in the range of being a 2-1 favorite.

            At the same time, it shouldn’t be hard to see how Clinton could lose. She’s up by about 3 percentage points nationally, and 3-point polling errors happen fairly often, including in the last two federal elections. Obama beat his polls by about 3 points in 2012, whereas Republicans beat their polls by 3 to 4 points in the 2014 midterms. If such an error were to favor Clinton, she could win in a borderline landslide. If the error favored Trump, however, she’d be in a dicey position, because the error is highly correlated across states.

            There’s also reason to think a polling error is more likely than usual this year, because of the high number of undecided voters. In national polls, Clinton averages about 45 percent of the vote and Trump 42 percent; by comparison, Obama led Mitt Romney roughly 49-48 in national polls at the end of the 2012 campaign. That contributes significantly to uncertainty, since neither candidate has enough votes yet to have the election in the bag.

            To be honest, I’m kind of confused as to why people think it’s heretical for our model to give Trump a 1-in-3 chance — which does make him a fairly significant underdog, after all. There are a lot of ways to build models, and there are lots of factors that a model based on public polling, like ours, doesn’t consider.3 But the public polls — specifically including the highest-quality public polls — show a tight race in which turnout and late-deciding voters will determine the difference between a clear Clinton win, a narrow Clinton win and Trump finding his way to 270 electoral votes.

          • albatross11 says:

            Everyone believes reality has a bias toward their point of view, or they’d have a different point of view.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, there’s this interesting claim floating around that says, basically, some combination of pollsters and Nate Silver are trying to improve the prospects of the Democrats in elections by lying about their results.

            Nate Silver’s numbers seem to come pretty clearly out of the polls, and there are other poll aggregators (electoral-vote.com, for example) that do a much simpler and harder-to-game aggregation strategy that track closely with his numbers. So let’s focus on pollsters. If pollsters are biasing their results, then the aggregators will automatically report biased results unless they notice this bias and introduce some kind of unbiasing term in their models.

            Pollsters want to look good in terms of their predictions, so the claim I’ve seen is something like this:

            A. Pollsters lie about their numbers to bias their results toward Democrats early in the race.

            B. In order to avoid being caught, they slowly decrease their bias as the election gets nearer, so that they can both help their preferred party and also look like good predictors.

            Let’s imagine there are two pollsters. One is employing this biasing strategy, the other isn’t. How will we tell the difference?

            Here’s something that won’t distinguish them: seeing the error between the poll’s predictions and the election results get smaller as you get closer to election day. That will happen with both of the pollsters. (It should be a bigger effect from the biased pollster, but polls get more accurate as you get closer to elections, just because voters change their minds over time–asking me how I’m going to vote in six months will give you a less accurate prediction of my vote than asking me a week before the election.)

            But there is a pattern we should see in the bias-strategy pollster. Poll results are basically predictions about how the vote will come out. A pollster who is biasing early results toward the Democrats will have early poll results that consistently overpredict Democrats’ results. Looking at a single election isn’t so useful here, because the predictions are very noisy. But if you look at a few hundred races for governor and congress, the bias-strategy pollster will show this pattern. Further, we should see the bias (consistently in the same direction) going down as the election gets closer–polls 6 months out give Democrats a 2% advantge, 3 months out it’s a 1% advantage, etc.

            Now, if we see that pattern, that’s not 100% evidence of the biasing strategy being in use–you could imagine some weird effect of who answers their phones or something creating this bias. But it would at least be some reason to suspect the pollster was running this strategy.

            If we don’t see that pattern, then either the pollster isn’t running this strategy, or he is, but some other biases in who answers their phones or something is pushing in the other direction, and they’re lucking into being more accurate than they want to be.

            So, has someone done this analysis and shown a consistent (not cherry-picked) bias of this kind?

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            Not to mention that “slowly decrease their bias as the election gets nearer” would be a great way to hand republicans a ready-crafted “Real American Underdoge coming from behind to whup the establishment” narrative as the polls tighten.
            So as a manipulation strategy it seems risky at best.

          • beleester says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            First of all, if there’s anything rationalists should be opposed to, it’s statements of the form “I have no evidence of this but I believe it anyway” or “I can’t prove this, but can you disprove it?” That’s the textbook conspiracy theorist’s argument and shame on you for using it.

            But anyway, it sounds like your model could be disproved if Nate Silver predicts a win by a Republican with a narrow margin. It’s not a lock, and it’s plausible for the Democrats to win, so he has an incentive to predict a win for the Democrats to increase their turnout.

            For instance, the North Carolina, Indiana, and Missouri Senate races in 2016, where he predicted margins of +2.2, +2.5, and +0.7 for the Republican. Or Iowa, Colorado, Alaska, and Georgia in the 2014 race, where the Republicans were leading by about 2 points.

            Your model also needs to explain the changes over time. For instance, if he’s trying to sell the narrative that the Democrats are winning, why would he start off by predicting that they’ll lose the Senate? Or are you saying that even in September, two months before the elections, it was already obvious that the Republicans were going to win?

            (If Nate Silver knew it was a lock two months in advance, he’s an even better predictor than I thought he was!)

          • Matt M says:

            The “Nate Silver of the right” is Kellyanne Conway. It just turns out that the press coverage you get for correctly predicting a red-tribe victory is SLIGHTLY different from the press coverage you get for correctly predicting a blue-tribe victory. Who knew?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @beleester

            First of all, if there’s anything rationalists should be opposed to, it’s statements of the form “I have no evidence of this but I believe it anyway” or “I can’t prove this, but can you disprove it?” That’s the textbook conspiracy theorist’s argument and shame on you for using it.

            Do we live in a world where conspiracies don’t exist? If we don’t, what is the rationalist who cannot get data one way or the other to do?

      • albatross11 says:

        Actually, the tribal affiliation or beliefs of the poll aggregator should have much less impact on their predictions than on the predictions of people just doing the pundit thing–someone like Nate Silver spends a lot of time thinking about his models and then uses those, not his feelings. He famously missed seeing Trump as a serious candidate early on (he’s in good company) by doing a kind of pundit-type analysis rather than a numbers and models analysis.

      • dvr says:

        It should be noted that Rodney Stooksbury, the Democratic candidate in 2016, raised $0 compared to Tom Price’s $2 MM and may not have actually existed.

        In the recent special election Ossoff outspent Handel by $19 MM, and had the advantage of definitely being a real person who actually existing and ran ads and talked to people and went on TV.

        I’m not sure that the fact that a real human being with a multimillion dollar warchest improved on the performance a penniless phantasm can be generalized to the country as a whole, where the baseline in key districts is usually a hard fight between experienced politicians rather than a 12-year incumbent going up against the real-life equivalent of a twitter egg avatar.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Okay that’s funny.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          That second link made my day.

        • bintchaos says:

          Its a trend– the democrats are still losing in deep red districts– they are just losing by less.
          cite: special elections in California and Kansas.

          • dvr says:

            I’m skeptical that the results of these special elections are strongly indicative of how the 2018 midterms will play out, mostly due to losing the incumency advantage and disproportionate national fundraising. I did some quick searching to find out more.

            The Georgia election is the most egregious example, but for all three I checked there’s been a general pattern. In 2016, a long-term incumbent with a major fundraising advantage absolutely crushed a fairly weak challenger. In the special elections, the fundraising advantage was eliminated or reversed, and the Democrats had swung hard right from their 2016 candidates.

            For example, in Kansas in 2016 Mike Pompeo, a 6-year incumbent, spent $1.4 MM, while Dan Giroux, who had never run for office before, spent $250k. Dan’s issues included infrastructure spending, fair trade, ending the gender pay gap, and reducing the cost of student loans.

            In the special election, Ron Estes spent $500k compared to James Thompson’s $700k. Further, Thompson was a Republican until 2016, a veteran, and campaigned on things like “Fighting For Our Constitution” and “Fighting For Our Rural Way Of Life”.

            In Montana in 2016, incumbent Ryan Zinke won after spending $6MM, compared to Denise Juneau’s $2.5 MM. Juneau had a serious campaign, but it looks like it was focused on Native American issues, plus standard Democratic platform things like fighting the gender pay gap and raising the minimum wage.

            In the special election, both candidates spent around $2.5 MM, and neither was an incumbent, although Gianforte did bodyslam a reporter from the Guardian- almost as good! Rob Quist’s website shows him wearing a cowboy hat in literally every picture, and his top issues were listed as tax reform to help small business and protecting the Second Amendment.

            The bottom line seems to be that culturally-red Democrats with traditionally Republican policies backed by massive fundraising can close the gap in deep red districts.

            There’s definitely some warnings to be seen here for Republicans. Voters could turn on them in 2018, especially if there’s a recession or they’ve failed to make significant progress on their legislative agenda or Trump’s campaign promises before then. But the special elections so far are less a sign of impending doom and more a small red flag.

        • Lasagna says:

          DVR, you are hilarious. This post made my day.

    • Iain says:

      As Nate Silver has been angrily tweeting: the polls called the race a dead heat. The average polling miss in a House race is 4 points. This is exactly the sort of outcome that you should have seen as likely based on the polls; if you thought the polls said something else, then the problem lies with you, not the polls.

      This is not just hindsight, either: he was cautioning people that the race was a tossup before the vote, too.

      • bintchaos says:

        I think @jaskologist must be referring to dem in house polls, which gave Ossoff a slight edge. as far as I know no poll aggregator called it anything but a toss-up.

      • Jaskologist says:

        But consider the source; Silver has to defend the polls in order to defend his livelihood.

        I don’t think pollsters get to spend the entire race saying Ossoff was leading (often by large margins), then tighten the polls at the last minute and claim they were vindicated because the final poll wasn’t off by much, any more than I would get to claim vindication if I made 19 very bad predictions, but my last prediction was only a little bad. Basically all the polls prior to the very end were garbage if you wanted to predict the result. Why shouldn’t I treat future polls more than 2 days out from the election as garbage as well?

        The final polling wasn’t very good either. They claimed “toss-up.” Handel won by ~4 points. That’s not really very close. How many toss-ups have gone R so far? Because if Silver declares (hypothetically) 4 races toss-ups, and the Republican wins them all, he’s actually doing pretty poorly from a Bayesian perspective.

        tldr; Pollsters can’t just pretend away the previous 2 months of polling that got it wrong, and the most recent polls didn’t get it very right either.

        • Iain says:

          You seem to be implying that pollsters knew all along that Ossoff was going to lose, but lied about it (?) until the very end. The obvious alternative explanation is that, over the course of the campaign, the vote shifted in Handel’s favour. This does not seem to me to be a particularly implausible scenario. We have campaigns for a reason: over time, the messages put out by the parties involved sway the opinions of the voters in one direction or another. The electorate is not a static entity. If there is late movement towards one candidate, then polls taken before that movement are obviously going to look wrong. That doesn’t mean anybody did anything wrong; it’s just an inevitable hazard of polling.

          What is the hypothetical justification for pollsters even putting their thumbs on the scales? People keep claiming that they’re trying to encourage Democrats and discourage Republicans — but if that were the case, then why is it that the Democrats aren’t winning? If the pollsters have so much power that it’s worth publishing deliberately misleading polls, then you have to believe that the Democrats were actually even further behind, and the pollsters managed to drag them close to the finish line but not across?

          Polling is hard. Margins of error exist. There is no need to postulate elaborate, ineffective conspiracy theories when simple statistics suffice.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If the pollsters have so much power that it’s worth publishing deliberately misleading polls, then you have to believe that the Democrats were actually even further behind, and the pollsters managed to drag them close to the finish line but not across?

            Yes, that’s exactly what I think. Again, we can’t prove it one way or the other because we have no idea what the actual vote would have been two months ago, but the pattern fits.

            If Dems are winning: tell the truth that Dems are winning. When they win, claim you predicted it so you can command attention next cycle.

            If Dems are losing slightly: lie and say Dems are winning. If they still lose, blame margin of error. Otherwise maybe you add a few points and Dems actually do win because bandwagon effect. People are more motivated to show up to be able to say they were on the winning team in a close race than they are to “go down fighting” in a close loser.

            If Dems are losing badly: tell the truth the Republicans are winning because you can’t spin away a 10+ point swing. Also lends to credibility in future elections.

            Polls are just part of the advertising budget. The better question is, knowing this is possible, why wouldn’t political machines do it?

          • baconbacon says:

            The better question is, knowing this is possible, why wouldn’t political machines do it?

            Probably because the size of the conspiracy would be staggering. You wouldn’t just have to have pollsters in on it, you have to have every high level policy manager and strategist on every winnable campaign clued in with the relevant details so that they would know how to really interpret the poll results and be able to target ads and visits for their campaign.

            The only way around this is if polling numbers effect the outcomes of races, but ad spending and speeches don’t, which is a crazy proposition.

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            I do agree with you, but couldn’t help but think “you’d need some kind of List. Of Journalists. An organized ‘JournoList‘, if you will.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m fairly agnostic on the mechanism of the dysfunction. At this point, we seem to still be at the “admitting we have a problem” stage. Polling seems pretty broken. Maybe it’s just impossible to poll a race with any reliability in advance. If so, that’s a good thing to know!

            But yes, it does seem to consistently be broken in one direction lately.

          • xq says:

            It’s not consistently in one direction. Parnell, the Democrat running in the SC05 special, considerably outperformed the pre-election polls yesterday.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @baconbacon

            Probably because the size of the conspiracy would be staggering.

            But the stakes involved are also staggering. How many trillions of dollars is the Presidency, Congress and Senate of the United States worth? If there’s anything worth rigging, isn’t that it?

            90% of the news media in the US is owned by 5 corporations, which all have similar interests. How tough is it to buy a couple of nerds to give the news media “data” to drive their talking points?

            Right now, my heuristic listed above seems to be working. If it’s a big race garnering lots of media attention and Nate says it’s close but the left is squeaking it out, bet on the right. When that heuristic fails I’ll change it.

          • Iain says:

            @Achilles_de_Remilia

            I do agree with you, but couldn’t help but think “you’d need some kind of List. Of Journalists. An organized ‘JournoList‘, if you will.”

            This is nonsense.

            Conservative journalists had access to JournoList. The contents of JournoList were leaked. That’s why you know about it. If journalists were actually engaged in a large scale conspiracy to falsify polling data, do you really think the controversy would have been about Jeremiah Wright? Given any conspiracy, organized through a defunct mailing list or no, do you really think it is plausible that zero young journalists, hungry for fame, decide to blow the whole thing open and instantly make a name for themselves?

            @Jaskologist:

            Polling seems pretty broken. Maybe it’s just impossible to poll a race with any reliability in advance. If so, that’s a good thing to know! But yes, it does seem to consistently be broken in one direction lately.

            This seems like a clear case of confirmation bias. What are your data points? Brexit, Trump, and GA06? In all three of those, the actual polls indicated that the outcome was uncertain. (The punditry surrounding the polls may not have reflected that, but if that’s your complaint you should be a steadfast member of Team Nate.) As one counter-example, right-wing parties have been consistently under-performing their polls in European elections since Trump’s election. Were French pollsters trying to drag Le Pen to victory?

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            If it’s a big race garnering lots of media attention and Nate says it’s close but the left is squeaking it out, bet on the right. When that heuristic fails I’ll change it.

            So, like, the 2012 election? Look at the polls here, and tell me that it was obviously foreordained that Obama was going to win.

          • John Schilling says:

            But the stakes involved are also staggering. How many trillions of dollars is the Presidency, Congress and Senate of the United States worth? If there’s anything worth rigging, isn’t that it?

            The issue isn’t whether it is worth rigging, but whether it is possible to rig. It isn’t. Conspiracies of more than about forty people cannot be kept secret, no matter how much it would be worth if they could.

            People are no damn good at keeping secrets. If the secret is an illicit one, such that you can’t count on random outsiders in your culture to help you keep it, then you have to keep it small. By the time you’ve got fifty people involved, three of them have blabbed to e.g. pretty girls they are trying to impress but who weren’t impressed, and some reporter or detective is tying those narratives together. Positing a really, really valuable secret, makes it worse – it’s now more blabworthy for impress-pretty-girls purposes, and more likely to be pursued by reporters and detectives who get wind of it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @John Schilling

            Media figures defect all the time and say yes, the media is biased and make up the narrative and then hunt for “facts” and pollsters are just PR firms who return the results the people who commission the polls want. And they write an article and they go on some Fox News show like Sean Hannity and say “yes, the liberal media is just carrying water for the Democratic party” (of course Fox is carrying for the Reps) and everyone says “huh, amazing, there you go” and then that’s it and it’s right back to the next spin cycle.

            Your model of what happens when you spill the big secret is wrong. The media does not rush to investigate itself. They ignore it. And most people who like the things the media says (i.e., the blue tribe) ignore those people, too, or dismisses them as partisan hacks lying for the other side.

          • baconbacon says:

            How tough is it to buy a couple of nerds to give the news media “data” to drive their talking points?

            How tough is it then for one of those nerds to write a book and make millions more after the fact? Only one has to decide to come clean and become a national bestseller overnight, and from a $ standpoint the Ds would have to pay every single one of them more than anyone could make individually on that book deal to keep them all quiet, and the more they pay them and the deeper the conspiracy goes the more that book deal would be worth.

          • John Schilling says:

            Media figures defect all the time and say yes, the media is biased and make up the narrative and then hunt for “facts” and pollsters are just PR firms who return the results the people who commission the polls want.

            So where are the pollsters who defect and say “yes, we deliberately skew the results in favor of Democratic candidates in the early polling and then bring them back to reality just before the election so we don’t get caught”?

            That, specifically, is what you accuse pretty much the entire polling industry of doing, so that, specifically, is what we should see some of them saying as they defect or otherwise blab.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            That still fits with the “if it’s close, he’s going to call it for the Dems” model. Show me something where Nate calls a squeaker for the right and then it turns out to be an upset for the left. The goal is to drive left-wing turnout up a point or two by telling them they’re going to win but it’ll be close. What he will not do is things that will depress left-wing turnout in a close race.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Iain
            How soon they forget.
            Nate got famous in the 2012 “rise of the quants” epic triumph.
            Remember when Rove had a public meltdown on FOX when the team called Ohio?
            When Orca sank and OFA ruled the GOTV wave?
            GOP was utterly blindsided by OFA and the dream team relational db.

          • Matt M says:

            Conspiracies of more than about forty people cannot be kept secret, no matter how much it would be worth if they could.

            And these conspiracies haven’t. Alex Jones has TOLD you that the world is run by baby-eating lizard-people. It’s right out there in the open!

      • engleberg says:

        Silver is angrily tweeting that the polls called the election a tossup, but that the media spun the polls as a landslide.

        Anyway, that’s what I think I read by him.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Do you watch television? Why?

    • johan_larson says:

      You mean broadcast television? Then no, not since 2007 or so. Too many ads.

      I do watch a lot of video, including material that first aired on TV. But I watch it on iTunes, Netflix, or Prime Video. Or if it’s just not available there I’ll pirate it off YouTube. But there’s not a lot of stuff there anymore.

      As to why? It’s entertaining. I enjoy it. The best of modern TV is excellent.

    • Zodiac says:

      No. Too many obnoxious ads.

    • smocc says:

      I do not watch TV proper because I don’t have one and I wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did.

      I don’t really watch shows online because it takes so much effort. I can never sustain interest in a show long enough to spend several days or weeks or months watching all of it, and I like regular sleep too much to binge-watch.

      My wife and I will occasionally watch Top Gear in the evening, or something else that is not plot-based.

      That said, I am putting in a lot of effort to overcome my show-watching weakness so that we can watch Jane the Virgin because it is one of the best things ever made.

    • J Mann says:

      Yes. I enjoy watching TV and discussing it on the internet, and I want something to do while I work out. Other than sports, I could probably cut the cord and live with whatever’s on netflix, but my family likes having TV, and we do like watching live sports.

    • Urstoff says:

      Yes, because I love Jeopardy and football. Everything else I can do without.

    • Randy M says:

      Wife and I watch basically one show at a time through streaming on Amazon Prime, at a rate of about 3-4 nights a week. As to why, because there are enough good shows to do so, and it is entertaining and relaxing. (I regret to reveal that my life is not optimized)
      Right now we are watching the Americans. We’ve seen Dr Who, Eureke, Deadwood, and Rome within the last couple of years.

      • Wrong Species says:

        The Americans is fantastic. I really like how Jenning’s will do the most horrific things possible in their line of work and the show doesn’t condemn them or justify it. It just is.

    • Well... says:

      Hypothesis: Watching TV has become a marker of low class.

      In a few years, Charles Murray will be able to add “Do you watch more than an hour of broadcast, cable, or satellite (i.e. non-internet-streaming) television per week?” as a question in his Bubble quiz, if he hasn’t already.

      • engleberg says:

        John D MacDonald was saying no one he knew watched television regularly in the late 70s. You may be making a more-and-more story out of this. That is, people who read a lot don’t watch as much tube. This has remained constant, but intermittently noticeable. When people notice this, people say, more and more people who read a lot aren’t watching as much tube.

    • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

      Only with company, and no live broadcasts. Except for one Saturday morning cartoon once a week, which I catch regardless of whether anyone’s over.
      It’s a nice pointless bonding experience, like playing cards.

  8. tayfie says:

    Here’s a means/ends question for the commenters here:

    When, if ever, is it acceptable to knowingly lie about a fact to convince someone of a true principle. It is sadly the case that bad arguments are often simpler and “stickier” than good arguments. Even worse, producing good arguments is harder than producing bad arguments, so bad arguments come to dominate all popular discourse. The strictly truthful have a seemingly impossible task if they value the truth. Should people practice the dark arts in defense?

    This is closely related to a “killing one to save many” question, but does the fact that lying is a less severe moral infraction than killing affect the answer?

    • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

      So then it turns out you need to keep the person fooled forever about the lie you told them, no matter the consequences, or your support base will turn on you regardless of your principles’ actual merits.
      You’ll need to be a very good liar, and the best liars train themselves to believe their own lies. You can see where this is going.

      Exploiting our opponents’ delusions is my side’s entire strategy, and it seems to be working relatively well to chip away at the foundation of their ideology.
      You wanted a moral argument, but “that’s a shit means bro” is a consequentialist one, I guess?

      • abc says:

        You’ll need to be a very good liar, and the best liars train themselves to believe their own lies. You can see where this is going.

        And even if you don’t the people you thus recruit will believe those lies, and if you’re successful eventually your movement will come to be filled with those people.

        • Nah, you just introduce them gradually to the inner teachings. Look into the history of the words “esoteric” and “exoteric”.

          • abc says:

            I have, I see a bunch of cults that tend to implode for the reasons I described. For example, the Gnostics claimed to be the esoteric inner circle with respect to Christianity. Note what happened to the Gnostics and to non-Gnostic Christianity.

          • Note that “introducing them gradually to the inner teachings” is exactly how science works.

      • Wrong Species says:

        This assumes you need a personal relationship with the person. Let’s say you decide to use twitter to support your bumper sticker arguments and convince 1000 people of your position. Even if 100 of them defect, you’re still up 900.

      • So then it turns out you need to keep the person fooled forever about the lie you told them, no matter the consequences, or your support base will turn on you regardless of your principles’ actual merits.

        Distinguish arguments from facts. Facts are much more available than arguments. Someone who cannot understand a good argument will probably carry on not being able to understand it.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I pass no judgment on the morality of if. But I think you need a better plan. At the very least you need to consider the consequences should your lie be revealed because it almost surely will.

      • But I think you need a better plan. At the very least you need to consider the consequences should your lie be revealed because it almost surely will

        Depends on your definition of “revealed.” It is likely that someone will demonstrate that you lied. It is much less likely that the people fooled by your lie will believe him–especially the ones who wanted to believe what you told them.

        For a real world example, I believe I have demonstrated that the source of one of the most prominent factoids in the climate debate lied in print about his own work. Almost nobody who is on his side of that dispute is willing to believe it.

        • It is likely that someone will demonstrate that you lied. It is much less likely that the people fooled by your lie will believe him–especially the ones who wanted to believe what you told them.

          That will not apply evenly. In-group people will forgive the liar, out-group people never believed him anyway, so you are going to sway the undecided.

          In defence of the first claim, note the way you have forgiven climate change denialists for their many lies.

          • In defence of the first claim, note the way you have forgiven climate change denialists for their many lies.

            Could you fill that out? Who counts as a denialist, what has he said that is clearly a lie, and in what sense have I forgiven him?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that you have said don’t find incorrect claims by climate change “skeptics” or “deniers” interesting. Therefore, you don’t care to keep track of what claims are made, by whom, and don’t care when they are wrong.

          • Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that you have said don’t find incorrect claims by climate change “skeptics” or “deniers” interesting.

            That sounds about right. That doesn’t mean I have forgiven anyone for anything. If I notice that someone has made claims I consider incorrect I lower my probability that other things he says are true. So far as correcting them, there are plenty of other people out there willing and able to correct mistaken criticisms of the current climate orthodoxy, many fewer willing and able to correct mistaken defenses of it.

            For some evidence, not in the climate context, that I object to people who agree with me saying things that are not true, see this on gun rights and this on a fellow libertarian.

          • Not interesting

            Bias doesnt’ feel like bias. What might it feel like instead?

      • The consequences may be no more than “we believed the right thing for the wrong reasons”. Is that so bad?

        • albatross11 says:

          If implemented by humans in reality instead of in a thought experiment, you probably have to consider the possibility that you are wrong about the big thing you want people to believe. You *know* that only through socialism can we become more prosperous, or that the only long-term hope of the human race is an aggressive program of eugenics. It’s just that the ignorant proles don’t understand the subtlety of your brilliant reasoning. So you can solve the problem by lying in a good cause. Only, you’re actually wrong, your socialist utopia will be an impoverished hell-hole with border guards’ guns pointing inward; your eugenics program will sterilize a lot of harmless weird people and be hijacked to do a bit of ethnic cleansing but won’t do much else. And the facts people needed to figure out whether your claims were true or not were the ones you successfully lied about, so your initial error became everyone’s error.

          • I discussed this in an old blog post with a more recent example.

            Let me offer the many player version of the problem. Suppose you are a climate scientist and inclined to view AGW as a problem. You therefor deliberately slant the presentation, perhaps also the conclusions, of your professional work towards high estimates of the problem. If, for instance, you are making an estimate of climate sensitivity, you make a series of judgement calls each of which tends to give a higher rather than a lower value. If you notice yourself doing it, you justify it on the grounds that since AGW is a problem, you don’t want to risk understating it.

            The overall effect of putting CO2 in the atmosphere, however, is too big a problem for any one person or even any small team to solve–it involves not only complicated physics but statistics, economics, chemistry, biology, ecology, … . So your belief that it is a serious problem is based one percent on your own work, 99% on other people’s work. All the other people are slanting their work for the same reason you are slanting yours. The combined effect is to give you (and all the others) a considerably inflated estimate of how serious the problem is. Which gives you even more reason to slant your work, possibly even to the point of deliberate dishonesty–you can’t be too scrupulous with a planet to save. Further feedback occurs.

            The result may be to misrepresent a minor problem as a world threatening catastrophe, with everyone involved believing that the conclusion he is arguing for is true even if he is slightly misrepresenting his part of the evidence.

            If you are going to be tactically dishonest you should allow for the possibility that other people are being tactically dishonest as well, hence that some of your beliefs that you think justify your dishonesty may be the result of theirs.

          • you should allow for the possibility that other people are being tactically dishonest as well,

            Indeed. You should allow for the biases of the people, politicians, who are eventually going to act on your proposals. they are biased to act slowly, act late, and do things on the cheap. Assuming universal rationality is not rational.

          • t’s just that the ignorant proles don’t understand the subtlety of your brilliant reasoning. S

            So it’s something that can go wrong. What about the alternative? Does that have a downside?

    • Bugmaster says:

      Let’s assume that we all agree that lying to people in order to convince them of a true principle is perfectly acceptable. This notion ends up being propagated to society at large, and now the overwhelming majority of people in the world believe it and act accordingly. Did we make the world better, or worse ?

      • hlynkacg says:

        Wetter.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        If the notion propagates then people will know you’re lying to them anyways, meaning you failed from the start

        This is part of the problem to begin with: we cannot all agree on this. It must be a shadowy cabal, a conspiracy if you will. Because if people know they’re being lied to they won’t believe the lies!

        • random832 says:

          Because if people know they’re being lied to they won’t believe the lies!

          Worse, they won’t believe the truth either.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, this is the biggest problem with top-down “lie to the proles for their own good” strategies. The people who should be able to speak with authority about the safety of vaccines or the dangers of smoking or the consequences of global warming have already been seen to lie routinely for their political and social causes, so it’s pretty easy to imagine they’re lying again.

          • baconbacon says:

            The people who should be able to speak with authority about the safety of vaccines or the dangers of smoking or the consequences of global warming

            One of these is not like the other.

          • You are someone else who needs to distinguish lies from simplified explanations.

    • When, if ever, is it acceptable to knowingly lie about a fact to convince someone of a true principle.

      I am not sure what “acceptable” means here. If it is known that you do it, people will conclude that you are not to be trusted.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s not acceptable.

      • “Acceptable” is a bad argument. It elides the difference between what the speaker accepts, and what everyone else does.

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m answering his question. Furthermore, I’m taking a moral stance on this issue, not appealing to popular support.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m not sure I disagree with your moral stance, but to play devil’s advocate:

            There’s a famous story in Buddhism called “the parable of the burning house.”

            Basically, it goes: a man comes home to find his house is on fire, but his children are still playing inside. He yells at them to come out. They don’t listen. He then says “I’ve got some great new toys out here for you (specifically, I think a new cart, maybe made of gold)! Please come out and see them, quickly!”

            The children, lured by the promise of toys, safely leave the house. The excuse offered for the lie about the cart is that the “vehicle” of the Buddhist law is better than any cart, because it ferries you over the sea of suffering to the bliss of nirvana, etc.

            This story is used as justification for something called “expedient means,” which, though I think “lying to get people to see the truth” might not be doing it justice, is still sort of like that.

            Anyway, without getting too much into Buddhism, whether or not its techniques are good and whether or not this burning house is a good metaphor them, a more basic question: is what the father did in the parable wrong?

            Or to get closer to the original question, if we posit that x is true, but also posit that the fastest way to get people to see the truth of x is basically to lie to them, play a trick on them, etc. is it wrong to do so, especially if one believes that the truth of x leads to eternal salvation?

          • Anonymous says:

            IMO, that’s just an excuse for taking a shortcut. It’s not mortal sin or anything, but neither is it right.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            From a consequentialist perspective, the morality of authoritarianism is entirely predicated on the correctness of the authority.

            For example, in Onyomi’s story, the authority knows that his kids are in danger of dying and knows how to get them out of danger. But imagine if, say, the front door was trapped and the fire brigade was on the way. The kids might die instead of living.

            So that’s really what it boils down to – are you right or not? Problem is, the more people you rule over, the more likely that any dictate you make will not work for everyone, and the more information you would need to work effectively. Of course, most forms of authoritarianism usually prevent the information the authority needs from reaching the authority – it would be dissent against the monarch, or whatever the case may be. Not to mention that the authority needs to be a good person.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @onyomi

            That has the same problem as any example based on an emergency. Which is that an emergency is a special situation where violating the usual moral rules may be justified. It compounds it by using actors who are not adults.

            Believing that adults who do not change their course are going to eventually suffer really bad consequences is a different situation.

          • onyomi says:

            @Nybbler

            To further play devil’s advocate, how much urgency does one have to sense before one is justified in suspending the normal ethical boundaries?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            So, what’s the moral status of telling people they should meditate because it’s a good method of losing weight?

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            @onyomi et al:

            I don’t think we really need to invoke consequentialism for the Buddhist parable. We can just say, “the harm of a lie is in believing it, internalizing it, carrying it forward. Telling someone what they need to hear in order to take an immediate action, and then immediately revealing the truth once the danger to them is averted, does no harm.”

            You can say the same thing about some of the instructional untruths that people have called out, like electrons orbiting the nucleus of an atom or DNA looking like a ladder.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s not hard to come up with scenarios in which lying is the best thing to do. If the Nazis are searching for Jews to murder, please lie about whether or not there are any Jews hiding in your attic. If you’re in the middle of a war, you should feel free to lie about your planned troop movements and what all those researchers in that lab are working on.

            But as a general guide to behavior, this is pretty awful. If you base support for some true belief on a platform of lies, you end up having to expand your lies to protect that platform. Elezier has some quote about “once you tell a lie, the truth becomes your enemy,” and it applies here.

            If your argument for the wrongness of kicking blacks around was made on the basis of noble lies–say that there are no differences in abilities between blacks and whites, or that the whole concept of race is biologically meaningless–then in order to keep arguming for not kicking blacks around, you have to call any discussion of racial IQ differences pseudoscience, and spread lies about genetics. One downside of that is that it leaves your general structure of beliefs weaker. Probably a bigger downside is that your efforts now make everyone more ignorant about an increasing footprint around your original lies. If race must be biologically meaningless, then shouldn’t you demand that mainstream medicine stop talking about differences in disease prevalance across races? If abilities must not differ across races, then shouldn’t you assert that differences in IQ scores or achievement test scores or graduation rates are proof of bias?

            One likely outcome (which I think has happened many times) is that powerful social forces are unleashed toward suppressing information and asserting lies, powered by the desire to support some good idea or belief. And that makes everyone dumber.

    • Should people practice the dark arts in defense?

      Defense of what? “A good argument supports X, but people won’t understand it , so I’ll use a bad argument instead”.

    • Civilis says:

      When, if ever, is it acceptable to knowingly lie about a fact to convince someone of a true principle.

      I think it’s acceptable to lie about a fact if the intent is not to deceive; it’s not lies we object to but deception. Any instructional lie has to be taken with the assumption that the truth will eventually come out, and has to be based on that realization that it’s not the lie but the exposure of the truth that teaches the lesson.

      I can think of two examples:

      Recently, I had to submit to a number of medical procedures. I’m afraid of doctors and especially needles. I made sure the medical staff were aware of this in advance of any bloodwork. Inevitably, I’d get a reassuring lie like “you won’t feel a thing” or “this won’t hurt”. It’s a lie, and I knew it was a lie going in, but being distracted from my fear made it easier. Being told that it wouldn’t hurt made it hurt less. It’s the same with a parent trying to get their child to try something new and saying “this tastes good, try it!” That’s a lie as well, and you know the child is going to know it’s a lie right away. Still, even if the needle does hurt or the food doesn’t taste great, the lie has imparted an important principle, that your fear makes things worse than they would otherwise be.

      Telling your kid that a particularly unpleasant food tastes good imparts another valuable principle, that people in authority sometimes lie. You want them to use their own judgement, to not blindly trust any authority. It’s best if they learn this in a controlled, safe environment from someone that they know is not going to do any worse than discomfort or embarrass them. This one principle can only be taught by lying to them; better a harmless lie than a harmful lie to be their exposure to the principle.

      [Added:] The ever popular ‘Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide’ petition and asking people to agree or disagree with quotes while giving a false author are examples of instructional lies. Like the above examples, they have their power not in the lie but in the revelation of the truth.

      At some level, any effective lesson about the power of lies (and, reflexively, any lesson about the power of the truth) is going to involve demonstrating that power, making those principles impossible to teach without lying. It’s an odd specific meta-contextual problem, and I don’t think teaching any other principle benefits from lying.

    • Murphy says:

      I think a couple of quotes from pratchett fit here…

      “All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”

      REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

      “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”

      YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

      “So we can believe the big ones?”

      YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

      “They’re not the same at all!”

      YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME…SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

      “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”

      MY POINT EXACTLY.”

      And from the science of discworld:

      A “lie-to-children” is a statement which is false, but which nevertheless leads the child’s mind towards a more accurate explanation, one that the child will only be able to appreciate if it has been primed with the lie.”

      “Yes, you needed to understand that” they are told, “so that now we can tell you why it isn’t exactly true”

      There are many well known lies-to-children including that electrons orbit the nucleus like a little solar system, DNA looks like a spiral ladder etc

    • baconbacon says:

      There are situations where you obligations to a person trump your obligations to telling the truth. These situations are rare, and in terms of political discourse vanishingly rare. A reliable heuristic is if you need to tell a lie to convince someone of your position then your position is inherently weak.

      It is sadly the case that bad arguments are often simpler and “stickier” than good arguments.

      It is? perhaps you should look at what you think of as good arguments before you make this case.

  9. I have a question for Bintchaos, and an implicit argument.

    As I understand her position, it contains at least two different elements:

    1. She regards herself as a “hard sciences type.”

    2. A lot of her views are based on socio-physics.

    That suggests that she considers socio-physics an example of a hard science, which raises the question of why. I can think of at least three reasons why one might view some set of ideas as a science:

    A. Consensus. Most people working in the relevant field(s) accept it. Examples would be Darwinian evolution, classical physics (within the context where it is applicable), special relativity, quantum mechanics, neo-classical economics. That doesn’t prove it is true, of course–classical physics was accepted back before the limitations of its applicability were recognized. But it’s a pretty good reason to regard something as true unless you have some good reason to think it isn’t.

    B. Internal logic. A lot of the reason I believe in Darwinian evolution is that it makes strong logical sense. Without looking at the actual evidence, that gives me a pretty strong reason to believe it. That isn’t true about classical physics, special relativity, or Q Mech. It’s closer to true about neoclassical economics, but only if you accept assumptions that are less obviously correct than the assumptions of evolution.

    C. Evidence. One particularly persuasive form of evidence is successful prediction. Your theory says something will happen, other theories say it probably won’t, it happens. Repeat a few times and you have a pretty good reason to think the theory is true.

    The question is which of these is your reason for regarding socio-physics as a hard science, assuming I am correct in thinking you do. Or is there some other reason?

    It pretty clearly does not fit A. It seems to be a reasonably new approach to the questions studied in sociology, political theory, history, and perhaps some related fields, one which most people in those fields have never heard of. I don’t know enough about it to tell whether it fits either B or C, but presumably you do and can explain why.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Did she ever explain what sociophysics is and how it’s relevant to her argument?

      • I don’t think she ever explained what it was beyond social science invented by a physicist or how it generated her conclusions, but perhaps she can correct me on that.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I think it’s Ising models applied to opinion formation rather than atom spins.

  10. Well... says:

    What kinds of random things do you wonder about other SSC readers?

    I’m putting together a survey and am ready to field ideas for more questions. So far my categories are:

    – You/your family
    – Life/work
    – Body/abilities
    – Lifestyle/preferences/misc.

    I’m trying to stick more to the kind of random stuff that wouldn’t be picked up in Scott’s regular survey to his readers. (No politics or ethical views, for instance.) I figure it’d be interesting if some unexpected patterns jumped out (e.g. if SSC readers disproportionately owned pet fish and were over 6 feet tall).

    • Nornagest says:

      – Mother’s maiden name
      – Street where you grew up
      – Name of first pet
      – Model of first car
      – Last four digits of Social Security number

    • Level of mutual regard and fascination.

    • johan_larson says:

      Best estimate of the year of:
      – the first successful manned expedition to Mars
      – fusion of >80% of humanity in the global hive mind
      – the Second Coming

    • Well... says:

      Not sure if I should be surprised at the complete lack of serious responses.

      • Zephalinda says:

        OK, some ideas:
        — Did previous surveys ask about age brackets? Would be very interesting to see the distribution there.
        — MBTI/Myers-Briggs type– pseudoscience, sure, but a good convo starter. And I have some theories about likely overrepresented subtypes among the commentariat here.
        — Similarly, 5-Factor scores if known.
        –Aesthetics always interesting– tastes in music?

        • Well... says:

          Thanks!

          I have a few “taste” questions and am inclined to add more. Any other ideas besides taste in music*?

          I’m not asking about stuff like age or personality scores because my survey is meant to cover more unusual/non-SSC-ish topics that wouldn’t show up in Scott’s surveys.

          *I’m having trouble thinking of what to ask about music. I’m not terribly interested in knowing “What kind of music do you like” but it might be interesting to see if a disproportionate number of SSC readers listen to a certain not-very-popular band, etc.

          • Zephalinda says:

            I guess it’d depend on whether you were planning on offering open-ended questions at all, or sticking to multiple-choices.

            Music tastes would probably be hard to do well, but I’d be fascinated to know how many folks here play instruments, and what sorts. Also interesting to hear about reading habits– how much fiction people read, how much poetry, philosophy, how much pre-1900 vs. contemporary stuff, etc. IF write-ins are permitted, “favorite poem/poet” would be one list I’d be fascinated to see.

            In cooking, what proportion of folks slavishly follow the recipe, vs. improvising?

    • johan_larson says:

      Which of these do you treasure most: your intellect, your sex-appeal, your net worth, or your humility?

  11. Mark says:

    Can someone give me a quick summary of bintchaos’s most controversial positions?

    As far as I can see, she’s a super-high IQ Islamic revert who supports ISIS. Her family are old money, or otherwise dangerously connected power brokers, who wouldn’t tolerate such treachery, and she is therefore deeply concerned about being exposed.

    She thinks that Conservatives are dum-dums, and probably doesn’t have much time for the sadly deflated Trump supporting working class males.

    Is that about it?

    [
    Something I’ve been wondering about – this might be uncharitable, or rude, or off-base, but it’s been on my mind for a while, so I’ll just throw it out there.
    Above, some of the veteran posters give bintchaos a bit of advice about how to gain status, or get along, in the ssc comment community.

    Firstly, is the idea that status is the primary conscious motivation behind social games related to the ssc Aspergerish tendency?

    It’s a bit “Yes, fellow human, I also enjoy eating the chocolate. I enjoy the nutritional values.”

    Secondly, in my opinion as a veteran comment reader, I think it’s alright for people to be stupid and wrong, as long as they are also somewhat open minded and kind. There might be limits to that, but, I feel like y’all are a bit too harsh on the weirdy-beardies who rock up here occasionally – Sidles, Moon, bintchaos. You need at least some of these characters to make things more interesting.
    (Not that any of those people are stupid – all highly intelligent as far as I could make out. They just seem to have unpopular (“wrong”?) opinions.)
    ]

    • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

      They somehow managed to get their twitter account suspended, which is an impressive feat for anyone without a frog avatar. From what remains it looks like the usual “start fights with well-known people to drive traffic to my blog and get attention” thing. Engaging on the merits may not be productive, but I’d enjoy being proven wrong.

      Congratulations to Scott for being big enough for that now.

    • Nornagest says:

      Her actual positions as far as I can tell are nothing exotic — basically your standard naive millennial progressive suite, although with more sympathy than average for euphemism. She is interested in Islam and long on its future prospects as a belief system, and in particular has shown sympathy for Salafist positions, but has not actually claimed to be Muslim in my hearing. (Similarly, she likes dropping hints that don’t quite claim privileged knowledge about any number of things — classified intel, all sorts of academic stuff — but seem to at a casual reading.) I don’t think she supports ISIS beyond trite oppressed-brown-people rationalizations, which I don’t much care about being as no one’s blown themselves up over them yet. Your take on the rich-girl thing seems accurate, though I’m not sure how seriously to take it.

      Nothing we haven’t seen before, in other words. Her real problems here are lack of charity, presumption of intellectual superiority, and an endless supply of weak excuses for both. That is, being neither open-minded nor kind.

      ETA:

      Firstly, is the idea that status is the primary conscious motivation behind social games related to the ssc Aspergerish tendency?

      Sort of, but not the way you seem to think. The idea is that it’s a primary unconscious motivation for most people, and implicitly that a conscious understanding of it helps ‘spergy types get along in neurotypical society.

      How well that works is left as an exercise to the reader.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      It seems sort of rude to talk about someone instead of to them.

      Ask her yourself, since she appears to be still posting?

    • cassander says:

      For the record, I would not include bintchaos in this group I’m about to describe, I haven’t been following her conversation much.

      That said, the trouble with moon et. al wasn’t them being wrong. I daresay most of us consider most others wrong on most points, that’s why this place is interesting. The problem was the combination of extreme lack of charity for the positions of others combined with a preening moral superiority that made it clear they had no interest in the ideas of others. If you want to say I’m full of shit, by all means do so, but do it by explaining why I’m wrong, not by prattling on about how woke you are. Moon, sidles, and the rest kept making the same mistake over and over again, despite repeated requests to knock it off.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        There’s no real point in engaging with someone who makes vague and insulting generalizations about large groups that are emphatically untrue in order to back up their preconceived notions.

        “but dont right leaning posters do that a lot here” yeah, and I now fully acknowledge that this is a problem.

    • BBA says:

      I had a flashback to the run-up to the 2012 election, when on another blog a certain Islamophilic commenter was oddly knowledgeable about–no, you know what, it’s probably a coincidence, and I’m a cudlip for even thinking otherwise.

    • As far as I can see, she’s a super-high IQ Islamic revert who supports ISIS. Her family are old money, or otherwise dangerously connected power brokers, who wouldn’t tolerate such treachery, and she is therefore deeply concerned about being exposed.

      No evidence for “super-high IQ.” Almost certainly significantly above the national average, not obviously above the group average.

      No clear evidence that she supports ISIS.

      She is worried about being exposed, but I don’t think she has made it clear why.

      And you left out her attachment to socio-physics, which seems to be someone’s grand theory of social behavior modeled on physics, perhaps via metaphors. She is also fond of game theory terminology.

    • Anonymous says:

      Have you considered the Occham’s Razor that it’s just a large green humanoid with regeneration and vulnerability to fire and acid?

    • Can someone give me a quick summary of bintchaos’s most controversial positions

      Failure to adhere to one of the two acceptable positions: right wing liberatarianism, and right wing authoritarianism.

      • Nornagest says:

        Don’t be a dick.

        • bintchaos says:

          As an outgroup, that looks pretty accurate to me.
          I thought Dr S was a libertarian before I ever commented here.

          • Nornagest says:

            I question your objectivity on this subject.

            ETA: Okay, maybe this deserves a more detailed reply. It’s not an uncommon charge; it’s almost a cliche, really. But when survey after survey shows Scott’s readership to be mostly leftist or liberal (seriously, every reader survey for years has said this), then we’re looking at a pretty odd outgroup, even if conservative voices here are louder (the surveys track commenters, not comments).

            Either way, contentless partisan sniping like TAG’s is something I need like I need more holes in my head, and you should not encourage it.

          • John Schilling says:

            I thought Dr S was a libertarian before I ever commented here.

            Just a nit, but by common usage the proprietor of this blog would be “Dr. A” (at least under his preferred pseudonym). He’s also the author of the non-libertarian FAQ, so while he understands and to some extent sympathizes with the philosophy, he can’t really be accused of being one of us.

            “us”, because the confusing part is that I think I am the only person here who can be properly titled “Dr. S”, and I am a card-carrying Libertarian. Well, card-owning; my wallet was getting a bit fat.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Nornagest
            Rightly so.
            I thought Dr. A. was a libertarian based solely on his output and writing style.
            I perceive libertarians as being vastly too high verbal for me…I’m too impatient to wade through all that verbage for a few nuggets of information.
            And I don’t understand what the composition of the SSC commentariat has to do with Dr. A.’s perceived politics.

          • Nornagest says:

            And I don’t understand what the composition of the SSC commentariat has to do with Dr. A.’s perceived politics.

            Two things. First, it’s evidence as to what is an outgroup relative to the views expressed in Scott’s writing. Whatever Scott identifies as politically (he has not stated this directly for a while, but I get the impression it’s something in the neighborhood of “aieeee get it off me”, which I can respect), he clearly isn’t othering or alienating the whole left side of the political spectrum if he is read primarily by them. (He might still be othering or alienating parts of that spectrum, and probably is. But that’s everyone these days.)

            Second, Scott rules with a pretty light hand here. Most of our norms are self-enforced, so the above applies almost as much to the commentariat at large as to Scott’s writing.

          • This has nothing to do with Scott, it is about the arrival of a small number of loud and frequent right wing posters, who have no connection with any kind of formal rationality.

            They have been happily sharing ridiculous claims like “the UK is a tyrany”. Honestly, i don’t mind rational right wingers who actually check facts and so on.

            They piled on bintchaos and they drove Herbert Herbertson off the blog entirely. When less wrong melted down, pretty much the same thing happened then. ….including shooting the messenger.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think Eugene Nier had a hand in Less Wrong‘s demise — or rather its final decline into total irrelevance years after everyone interesting had left — but that wasn’t because he was a right-winger, it was because he was a large-scale abuser of the voting system. The same thing would have happened if it had been, say, requireshate. No one cared about the other right-leaning posters except, perhaps, you.

            Moving back to SSC, I think you’re getting, shall we say, a motivated view of what’s going on here. Deiseach’s probably been the most critical of bintchaos of anyone; she’s not a right-winger, she’s been here about as long as anyone (though she is not as far as I know a LW veteran), and she has a long history of making valuable posts. Same goes for most of her other critics (though I might be tooting my own horn a bit there, as I’ve occasionally been one of them).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It seems pretty unfair to single someone out to compare Eugine, even if hypothetically. If you have to name someone, why not someone who really did abuse a system, like MsScribe or requireshate?

          • Nornagest says:

            Fair enough. It is now requireshate.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            loud and frequent right wing posters […] have been happily sharing ridiculous claims like “the UK is a tyrany”.

            Citation needed. I can believe this from a driveby snipe but I highly doubt a regular would seriously say that (maybe kevin c or suntzu, but they’re the board’s doomsayer and designated jester).

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            See here.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @rlms

            All right. It reads as exaggeration-for-effect (or potentially a difference of definitions) to me, but point conceded.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They piled on bintchaos and they drove Herbert Herbertson off the blog entirely.

            Herbert Herberson left because he couldn’t handle people who disagreed with him. As for the other, in deference to the rules of this blog I’ll only say I do not believe she is posting in good faith.

          • Brad says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

            This has nothing to do with Scott, it is about the arrival of a small number of loud and frequent right wing posters, who have no connection with any kind of formal rationality.

            This matches my observation. Over the last 3-6 months we’ve gotten 2-3 new prolific right wing posters that never post anything other than attacks on “the left” or the like, and not very interestingly at that, to go with the 3-4 we already had.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This class of sentiment continues to strike me as closeminded and silly.

      • That describes quite a lot of commenters here, perhaps even a majority, so doesn’t distinguish Bintchaos. Belief in Sociophysics, red brain/blue brain, interest in Islam all do.

    • Randy M says:

      I think it’s alright for people to be stupid and wrong, as long as they are also somewhat open minded and kind. There might be limits to that, but, I feel like y’all are a bit too harsh on the weirdy-beardies who rock up here occasionally – Sidles, Moon, bintchaos.

      None of those people are attacked for being stupid and/or wrong, but for being insufferably smug, unwilling to acknowledge opposing points, intentionally obscurantist (not Moon), and taking unsupported pot-shots at opponents. So I find that an odd defense of them.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        yeah, exactly

      • Mark says:

        Right, so from your perspective they were uncharitable and closed-minded.

        I guess when J.S. rails against the “alt-boetians”, or Moony Jill starts going off on one about right wingers, I don’t really take it seriously. I don’t find it annoying because I lack the decency to treat their views seriously.

        Perhaps banning them is a greater mark of respect than tolerating them.

        Perhaps not though. Perhaps I just like their style.

        I mean, you need to believe in something before you will look for it, and you need to look before you can see.
        As such, obduracy has its benefits.

        And there wasn’t anything particularly abhorrent about their fundamental beliefs.

        • Randy M says:

          Right, so from your perspective they were uncharitable and closed-minded.

          Right, which is why I disagree with you that we are “too hard” on them, at least given your own stated metrics.
          Anyway, they got honest engagement at first, that faded to the verbal equivalent of eye-rolling.

          Perhaps not though. Perhaps I just like their style.
          And there wasn’t anything particularly abhorrent about their fundamental beliefs.

          In Jill and Sidles cases, it was the style that got them banned, not the beliefs. They were sent off for being irritating in a way that derailed threads, after warnings, not for hating the right or anything.

          • Mark says:

            Yes, I think you are right. I need to reformulate my position.

            I’m going with this: I don’t mind closed minded or obscure people as long as they are somewhat humorous…. hmmm… not humorous. Decent?

          • bean says:

            I would actually put the recent Sidles as a way to do this right. He was obscure and confusing, but not disruptive. (He shouldn’t have tried to evade bans, but that’s a different issue, and it’s possible that we’d all learned to carve out exemptions in the general rule of taking people seriously.) Bintchaos and Moon were/are both… thermodynamically inefficient. A lot more heat than light was generated by their participation. Obviously, politics is less efficient than non-political issues, but there are quite a few left-wing participants here who manage to be reasonable discussion partners and don’t cause the sort of drama we’ve seen recently.

          • bintchaos says:

            @bean
            So this is all on me?
            I wasn’t targetted, repeatedly strafed, and ultimately hate-stalked by a particular member of this fine community?
            I have to get this paranoia under control…

          • Randy M says:

            [edit:I didn’t realize that was to Bean, so on reflection I’m deleting what looks like dog-piling.]

          • I wasn’t targetted, repeatedly strafed, and ultimately hate-stalked by a particular member of this fine community?
            I have to get this paranoia under control…

            It would be prudent. I think you were the only person here who interpreted her listing the only two universities she could find that taught courses in sociophysics as a deliberate attempt to doxx you. That is evidence of what, in common usage, is labeled paranoid.

            Deiseach repeatedly strafed you. I don’t know what beyond that you consider hate stalking.

          • bean says:

            So this is all on me?
            I wasn’t targetted, repeatedly strafed, and ultimately hate-stalked by a particular member of this fine community?
            I have to get this paranoia under control…

            Deiseach was not entirely innocent, and I won’t claim otherwise. As Randy said (and then deleted, but I’ll continue to credit him), she’s not the best at letting go. But your attitude that you were walking innocently along until she jumped you without provocation and brutally attacked you is no closer to the truth of the situation. You’ve repeatedly been unclear in a manner I find difficult to believe is not deliberate, tried to play stupid status games, and generally done things that are not in keeping with the overall tone here. When you’re called on this, multiple posters (myself included) have offered advice, which you ignore, and continue to act as if we’re the ones in the wrong. When you go to a foreign country, you don’t act as if they’re the ones in the wrong for not using the manners you use at home.

    • Brad says:

      A subthread here disappeared, right?

      • Randy M says:

        No, it seems to respond to some discussions at the bottom of recent threads. Despite my sanctioning it with so many replies, I don’t think it’s a good trend to have threads for the purpose of calling out posters.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @Mark – “Above, some of the veteran posters give bintchaos a bit of advice about how to gain status, or get along, in the ssc comment community.”

      my advice to Bintchaos, and to sidles before her, has mainly been about getting along and not about status per se. Mainly this is because people who post the way they do tend to be extremely disruptive. They annoy people without persuading them, they deplete patience for their adoptive tribe from the side they attack, and don’t actually advance their own tribe’s interests in the bargain. Basically, they make everything worse for everyone. Given how often they tend to post, they make everything a lot worse really fast, too.

      “Firstly, is the idea that status is the primary conscious motivation behind social games related to the ssc Aspergerish tendency?”

      Maybe, sorta-kinda. Are you familiar with the classic formulations about how everything in human behavior is status-seeking? I don’t particularly agree with that view or find it useful, but I think it’s a pretty influential one around here.

      “Secondly, in my opinion as a veteran comment reader, I think it’s alright for people to be stupid and wrong, as long as they are also somewhat open minded and kind. ”

      I generally agree. I rather liked sidles, and thought he was getting downright coherent last time he showed up. Moon seemed to fail at being open-minded, even by the standards of people who generally agreed with her, and she banged out a ton of posts every thread all of which were pretty much impossible to respond to. Bintchaos, I’m hoping will hang around, but I’m not too optimistic.

      It’s not the wrong opinions that do it either. There’s a way of framing things that is conducive to having a discussion, and a way that is not conducive. If I make a statement about how I’m right and you’re wrong, and then when you disagree I just tell you that’s what a wrong person would say, and when you offer evidence I dismiss it out of hand as bad evidence with no explanation why, and when you ask questions to try and get justifications for what seem like unsupported assertions, I say “because that’s what the truth is” and refuse to engage further, the problem isn’t that I’m wrong, it’s that I’m demanding that you listen to me while actively refusing to listen to you. That’s a really rotten thing to do, and it makes people angry, especially here where everyone is trying really hard not to do it themselves.

  12. Moaaz Bukhari says:

    What does everyone think about cargo delivery with rockets? Elon Musk gave a presentation on Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species:

    Maybe there is some market for the really fast transport of things around the world, provided we can land somewhere where noise is not a super-big deal because rockets are very noisy. We could transport cargo to anywhere on Earth in 45 minutes at the most. Hence, most places on Earth would be 20–25 minutes away. If we had a floating platform off the coast of New York, 20–30 miles out, you could go from New York to Tokyo in 25 minutes and across the Atlantic in 10 minutes. Most of your time would be spent getting to the ship, and then it would be very quick after that.

    If we find a way to commercialize the Mars Vehicle for terran use, we could reduce the ticket price for a trip to Mars even further. Rocket Spacelines, anyone?

    • bean says:

      This has been around since the 50s, and hasn’t gotten anywhere. Concorde hasn’t been repeated, and a rocket is going to be a lot less efficient. The transatlantic market is probably your best bet for this, and I expect someone to have tried it if it looked even remotely viable anywhere other than Musk-land.

      • Moaaz Bukhari says:

        Concorde hasn’t been repeated

        Boom is a YCombinator company. Some of their engineers are ex-SpaceX.

        a rocket is going to be a lot less efficient

        Don’t forget reuse. Constant workhorse reuse (300 tons). You’ll have significant price reductions. Oil prices are dropping too, because of electric vehicles.

        • bean says:

          Boom is a YCombinator company. Some of their engineers are ex-SpaceX.

          I’m aware of Boom. I also work at a major manufacturer of airliners, doing regulatory compliance work. Boom may or may not know how to build an airplane. They definitely do not know how to turn that airplane into a vehicle they can use to carry paying passengers.

          Don’t forget reuse. Constant workhorse reuse (300 tons). You’ll have significant price reductions. Oil prices are dropping too, because of electric vehicles.

          Concorde was reusable, too. The problem is that throwing things fast is usually less efficient than throwing them slowly, particularly when the fast thing has to carry its own oxidizer and the slow thing doesn’t.

          • gbdub says:

            And it’s not like jet airliner development will be standing still that whole time.

          • BBA says:

            There’s also the NASA/Lockheed project, which looks more realistic to me simply because Lockheed isn’t a Silicon Valley-backed startup. But it’s also much earlier in the planning stages than Boom.

            I wonder if we’ll ever see another supersonic airliner again, or if Concorde is it. In which case I’m a little sad – I never got to fly faster than sound and I never will.

          • Nornagest says:

            I never got to fly faster than sound and I never will.

            Could always buy one of those flights in a surplus MiG.

    • cassander says:

      to add to what bean said, there’s a real limit in terms of practical utility of fast transport based on the cost/time of packing and unpacking. If it takes you a day to load your cargo vessel, the value of the difference in transit time between 10 minutes and 10 hours is pretty marginal. In order to actually be useful, very vast cargo delivery (e.g. anywhere on earth in less than an hour) almost by definition, has to operate at the retail level. Above that level, processing delays rapidly wipe out and advantage in transit speed, even before you consider cost.

    • hls2003 says:

      I have to say, sometimes it seems like Musk is trying so hard that it looks like not-trying. I mean, this is the sort of idea a 10-year-old would sketch on a napkin. I have seen cartoons where this method of transport is employed. At what point does “Hey, dig a giant bank deposit partial-vacuum tube – but for people!” (see also Futurama) or “We could get it there faster by rocket!” (see also The Incredibles) no longer qualify as helpful?

      • Matt M says:

        Long-distance transport is easily solved by painting the entrance of a cave on one side of the Earth, traveling through said cave to the other side, then laughing as your adversary tries to run through a rock with black paint on it.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Yeah, I don’t know what to think about Elon Musk. On the one hand, some of his ventures have been spectacularly successful. On the other hand, most of his proposals are comedically absurd. So, what’s going on ? I can think of a few hypotheses:

        * Musk is the tech equivalent of George Lucas or arguably Gene Roddenberry: someone who is basically totally bonkers, but who has a highly competent team that keeps him away from any mission-critical stuff. His successes should be attributed primarily to his team, not to him personally.

        * He’s got a complex long-term plan in play, and part of that plan requires him to move the Overton window a little. The best way to do so is to pretend like he’s trying to move it by a lot, then compromise against the inevitable backlash, thus ending up exactly where he wanted.

        * He’s just trolling people for the lulz.

        * He’s simply trying to make as much money as possible, be it by releasing useful products or by defrauding investors.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          isn’t it also true that most of his successful ventures are just sucking off the government teat? The only one not included here is SpaceX, and I’ve heard some very good and very bad things about that, but either way I heard they did, in fact, have problems with rockets blowing up.

          • gbdub says:

            SpaceX relies fairly heavily on the government teat. NASA has/is cost-sharing development of Dragon and Falcon 9 under commercial cargo and crew programs, and are of course major customers for the final product. And they’ve sold rockets to the DoD and continue to seek additional contracts and development money from them.

            Now, this is no worse than any other government contractor, and the Falcon 9 is at least commercially viable, unlike Atlas/Delta. I don’t think SpaceX goes away if NASA disappeared tomorrow. But they’d not be as far along as they are now without government dollars.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Yeah, I wanted to leave that part out, since at the end of the day selling the government a product is a bit different than government subsidies. Don’t know about cost-sharing development, though.

          • dodrian says:

            SpaceX has had 36 launches of their various Falcon rockets. They’ve had 2 RUD events (rapid unscheduled disassembly – ie, it blew up), and one more mission where a problem with the booster led to a loss of the secondary payload (IIRC they were launching an ISS resupply mission – they could probably have saved the secondary payload but NASA stepped in and exercised a clause in their contract saying ‘we want all the rocket’s resources dedicated to making sure our cargo makes it’).

            Some of SpaceX’s competitors (Atlas and Delta) have better records in recent times, but are much older technology. The US’ early foray into rocket design had a much, much higher failure rate. Also, SpaceX’s cost/kg to LEO is anywhere from half to a quarter of that of its competitors (a best guess, most companies don’t price publicly).

            So, they haven’t got the best record yet, but for a new company they’re doing really well.

          • Matt M says:

            RUD events (rapid unscheduled disassembly – ie, it blew up)

            Happy to see that the private sector is at least as good as the DoD in utilizing creative acronyms!

          • gbdub says:

            Some of SpaceX’s competitors (Atlas and Delta) have better records in recent times, but are much older technology.

            This is a common misconception – Atlas V and Delta IV are Atlas/Delta in name only. Other than the Centaur second stage, which can more credibly be called a continual evolution since the 60s, Delta IV and Atlas V are brand new vehicles that first flew in the 2000s.

            Yeah, I wanted to leave that part out, since at the end of the day selling the government a product is a bit different than government subsidies. Don’t know about cost-sharing development, though.

            I agree with this, but there is a tendency of certain SpaceX fanboys to insist that SpaceX never takes a dime from taxpayers while ULA is a horrible government-sucking military-industrial hegemon, when in reality both are commercial government contractors that provide a service to the government for a negotiated price. So I was trying to preempt that.

            ULA charges too much, and got some sweet deals when they were the only kids on the block, but it’s not as clear cut as Elon would want you to believe.

          • dodrian says:

            @gbdub Aha – it appears that you are correct and I assumed too much – they are new vehicles.

            However, both were in development long before SpaceX was even founded, and both by established heavy-hitters in the aerospace industry. I still think SpaceX’s safety record is impressive considering their circumstances.

          • bean says:

            @dodrian
            Yes and no. Rocketry is very hard, and we blew up a bunch of the things learning how to do it. And yes, SpaceX is starting from scratch. But there are textbooks, articles on lessons learned, and people you hired from Big Aerospace. SpaceX has a bad habit of not paying attention to that. There’s a fine line to walk here, because some of the old rules are stupid, and others are really important, and it’s not usually obvious which is which. They seem to default to the first interpretation. It’s a way of making progress, but I do wish their attitude was less “stop bothering us with all of your rules”.

          • dodrian says:

            @bean
            Good points.

            For some unrelated fun, let’s try replacing SpaceX in your post (after the first sentence) with any silicon-valley type startup and Aerospace with their industry, seeing how many still fit your paragraph. Eg., Uber/ Big Taxi 🙂

            But yeah, I get your point, it’s a lot more serious when you’re spending millions of dollars on a single launch and intend to stake peoples’ lives on the safety of your rocket, instead of just ‘disrupting the home juice industry’.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yeah, I don’t know what to think about Elon Musk. On the one hand, some of his ventures have been spectacularly successful. On the other hand, most of his proposals are comedically absurd.

          I would say that all of his ventures have been spectacularly successful. Comical absurdity is limited to proposals that don’t become ventures. Knowing the difference is a key indicator of wisdom.

          As for “sucking off the government teat”, I’m confused – who are the small-government libertarian ideologues here? The United States Government is by far the biggest player in the US economy. If it decides it wants ISS transportation, rapid uptake of electric cars and household solar power, jobs in economically depressed regions, enough to pay for them, and says “this is what we want and this is how much we will pay”, then there should be no shame or disrepute in providing the services requested.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Never said there should be shame or disrepute. But it’s clear that, absent subsidies, his “successful ventures” wouldn’t work at all. The question is whether or not his success at selling to the government carries over to actual business sense, and I’m not sold that it does.

          • John Schilling says:

            Selling to the government is an “actual business”.

          • gbdub says:

            I do think there’s a qualitative difference between:
            1) Selling a rocket to launch a payload, that happens to be a government payload.
            2) Getting paid by the government to develop a product for the government from scratch, that may or may not be something you plan to sell commercially later
            3) Getting paid directly/tax credits/low or no interest loans to do something the government wants you to do, but doesn’t directly provide a service to the government.

            SpaceX participates in 1 and 2, as does everyone who is anyone in the rocket business.

            Tesla and Solar City do a lot of 3. For example, electric car buyers get a significant federal tax credit. And Tesla is selling California ZEV credits to other car companies in a cap-and-trade like scheme.

            Anyway, to me 1 and 2 seem like “doing business with the government” where 3 seems like “getting a subsidy” or “sucking the government teat” if you want to be uncharitable.

    • Winja says:

      Even given the cost savings that Musk is proposing, my guess is that the only organizations that would have a need and the money to do this sort of high speed global delivery would be state level actors, e.g. the military.

      • Nornagest says:

        About the only use cases I can think of are medical samples and certain types of mail, and the latter’s been tried. (There are even stamps.)

        The bandwidth of a milk jug full of compact Flash cards hurtling across the sky at 12,000 MPH is probably pretty high, but I can’t think of many situations where you’d need that much data that fast.

      • bean says:

        The military already has this system, and has for 60 years. But they seem to have found that nuclear weapons are the only things worth paying the premium to be able to deliver in this manner.

        • Randy M says:

          The upside of nuclear weapons is that you don’t have to worry about collateral damage from the rocket itself landing forcefully near the intended recipient.

          Also, if you are ever in the situation where you need to send someone some atomic fire, the added cost of the ICBM is probably negligible to the assumed benefits.

      • John Schilling says:

        my guess is that the only organizations that would have a need and the money to do this sort of high speed global delivery would be state level actors, e.g. the military.

        Bean can correct me if I am wrong, but I would guess that e.g. Boeing would pay real money for a couple of suborbital delivery vehicles based out of Seattle, that could deliver spare parts in an hour or so to any airport where a Boeing airliner is stranded for lack of a backup turboencabulator or whatnot. Putting up two hundred passengers in a hotel overnight, refunding their tickets, and patching together a day’s worth of scheduling fubar due to a misplaced widebody, is expensive. So is maintaining a warehouse with a stockpile of every sort of part used by every Boeing jet within easy reach of every major commercial hub.

        They probably won’t pay enough real money for a private spaceship, even at SpaceX’s more optimistic price predicts, but it’s not many orders of magnitude beyond reality. And no, 3D printing isn’t nearly capable of solving this problem.

        • bean says:

          Hmm. If we ignore all of the practical difficulties involved (such as the fact that most ATC systems are not set up for the short-term arrival of suborbital delivery systems), that might or might not be worth something. My group works on projects with timescales of weeks to months, but I know some people who might have a better idea of how common this is.

          • bean says:

            I talked to one of my friends who works short flow, and he said that this sort of thing happens a lot.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Depends on what sort of flight characteristics they have once they’ve descended to altitudes (say, FL 450 and below) where ordinary aircraft are operating. I don’t know the answer to that one, but it’s not obvious that they’d be different enough to pose an insuperable problem.

        • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

          Cost of suborbital delivery rocket: Eleventy billion dollars

          Cost of backup turboencabulator storage at the airport rent-a-shack: $20/month*number of airports you use.

          I think thirty years ago there’d be a case for being able to dispatch The Guy Who Knows What Buttons To Press anywhere in the globe at short notice, but their salaries are already a pain before any strapping-you-to-a-rocket hazard multipliers.

          • bean says:

            Cost of backup turboencabulator storage at the airport rent-a-shack: $20/month*number of airports you use.

            Try 10 times that (turboencabulators don’t like to be stored except between 60 and 70 Farenheit, and the humidity needs to be kept between 25 and 28%, and they still need function checks every six months), and you have a thousand parts you need to store for each airplane. And they cost an average of $2,000 apiece. American, the world’s largest airline, flies to 350 destinations. Let’s assume they only fly two models to each. That’s a total of $1.4 billion in parts inventory, and $140 million/month in storage. American had a profit of $2.6 billion last year. You can see the problem.

          • baconbacon says:

            Try 10 times that (turboencabulators don’t like to be stored except between 60 and 70 Farenheit, and the humidity needs to be kept between 25 and 28%,

            How well is it going to handle mach-20 then?

          • bean says:

            How well is it going to handle mach-20 then?

            Because I’m not leaving it hanging outside, it doesn’t care how fast it’s going.
            Being less snarky, a lot of aerospace parts are vulnerable to corrosion, and other forms of degradation while sitting on the shelf. With careful packing, G-forces shouldn’t be a huge issue.

        • baconbacon says:

          If you aren’t sharing a platform (ie your airport isn’t 20-30 miles out to sea) then by the time you load, lauch, land, unload, and then ship the 20-30 miles to JFK, go through security and then finally fix the plane. 30 mins is a pipe dream, it is always going to be 2+ hours, and realistically 3-4 unless for some reason people are totally cool with a 20 mile ride out to the floating airport and all that cost of moving millions of passengers around is worth getting those parts quickly (which it won’t ever be).

          Maybe there would be a market for human organs if they were unharmed by the extreme travel, where you build the hospital as close to the landing pad as possible (a floating hospital for organ transplant surgery sounds terrifying to me, but perhaps it could work).

          • bean says:

            I think John was assuming you could land at the same platform. I’m not sure why a suborbital payload carrier couldn’t land at an airport, particularly if you kept it small, and landed in a manner that is comforting to the airport authorities. Landing like an airplane would be a lot more acceptable than landing a rocket on its engine.
            As for organ transplants at sea, the current USN hospital ships don’t do them, but I’m not sure if that’s because of an inherent limitation of a ship as a platform or because it’s not worth it to give them the capability. Also, we currently don’t have a worldwide organ market, so there’s no need for that kind of delivery.

          • baconbacon says:

            Also, we currently don’t have a worldwide organ market, so there’s no need for that kind of delivery.

            There are multiple barriers to this kind of market, but one of them is the length of time organs remain viable for transplant. The graph here has heart and lungs having less than 10 hours as a best case scenario, and 3-4 hours in a a typical case.

            I think John was assuming you could land at the same platform. I’m not sure why a suborbital payload carrier couldn’t land at an airport

            I’m a long way from an aviation expert but just clearing out the emergency flight path would often be extremely expensive. For busy airports causing a 5 min delay on one flight landing means a 5 min delay on dozens to perhaps hundreds flights if it happened at the wrong time. For the set up to be worth the capital cost it you need lots of deliveries, so you are talking about near constant but random interruptions.

            At sea at least you have enough potential flight paths that you could dedicate a single one for these landings.

          • bean says:

            I’m a long way from an aviation expert but just clearing out the emergency flight path would often be extremely expensive. For busy airports causing a 5 min delay on one flight landing means a 5 min delay on dozens to perhaps hundreds flights if it happened at the wrong time. For the set up to be worth the capital cost it you need lots of deliveries, so you are talking about near constant but random interruptions.

            If you can manage to land like a civilized person, 90% of this goes away. The controller slots you in like they do anyone else, even if you start at a higher altitude and airspeed. They should have at least an hour’s warning of your arrival, so it’s not going to be last-minute diversions everywhere.
            And if the service is frequent enough to cause lots of interruptions, then it will get scheduled (although depending on demand, the scheduling could be only used on an as-needed basis, so that FedEx can bring 1 rocket to JFK per hour, but that rocket can come from anywhere, subject to launch clearance from there, because it flies over everything else). If the only people using it are Boeing, Airbus, and the military, then a normal airport only has to deal with it once in a long while. (The organ-transplant people probably can’t use it because they have to get the organ to somewhere with a rocket, and they can’t afford to have enough rockets sitting around.)

          • baconbacon says:

            My concerns certainly sound conceptually addressable, I would still be surprised if this was something in the next 20-30 years, but I am no futurist.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Considering the time-scales I’m pretty sure that landing arrangements would be made prior to launch. IE mission control would be on the phone with the receiving airport and verifying that ATC will be prepared to receive them 27 minutes hence prior to the vehicle even lifting off the pad.

            Edit: ninja’d by bean

          • Aapje says:

            @hlynkacg

            But then you may need to wait for a slot to become available, while the organ is getting ripe.

          • dodrian says:

            I got the impression that Musk was implying that the Mars Spaceship technology could be used with minimum adaptation for Earth suborbital flights (running the numbers on the proposed Mars Spaceship it looks like well within the delta-v and TWR to do that without a booster).

            If we’re now wanting it to land like a conventional plane we’re talking a major redesign. If we want it to be able to take off again like a conventional plane (assuming Space X doesn’t want to have to send or maintain a truck to recover it and take it to a launch pad for reuse) that’s an even bigger redesign – to the point where the only bits being reused are the rocket engines (maybe) and heatshield.

            It would be really cool, but at this point I don’t think it’s helping to subsidize the Mars Missions any more!

          • bean says:

            @dodrian

            I got the impression that Musk was implying that the Mars Spaceship technology could be used with minimum adaptation for Earth suborbital flights (running the numbers on the proposed Mars Spaceship it looks like well within the delta-v and TWR to do that without a booster).

            It’s way too big to make sense doing that. This thing has more capacity than a 747 (by a factor of 2 or so), and you’re just not going to get better operating economics. Given Concorde, it’s safe to say that the market for ultrapremium high-speed tickets just isn’t that big. BA made money on their service, but that was after the government basically wrote off the planes themselves. Air France didn’t make money at all. The important thing is going to be running high enough frequencies that it’s the same speed or faster for any given departure time. That means much smaller rockets. Frankly, when starting out, single-person capsules might make sense. If nobody buys that flight, just cancel it.

            If we’re now wanting it to land like a conventional plane we’re talking a major redesign. If we want it to be able to take off again like a conventional plane (assuming Space X doesn’t want to have to send or maintain a truck to recover it and take it to a launch pad for reuse) that’s an even bigger redesign – to the point where the only bits being reused are the rocket engines (maybe) and heatshield.

            I’m working off of John’s hypothetical about Boeing (or someone else who occasionally needs to deliver parts Right Now), not Elon Musk’s version. The system is a lot smaller, and it’s probably not scheduled. Also, I’d guess it doesn’t carry people, except maybe for tourism.

          • hlynkacg says:

            If we want it to be able to take off again like a conventional plane (assuming Space X doesn’t want to have to send or maintain a truck to recover it and take it to a launch pad for reuse)

            This is a capability that CTS should have by default as it’s supposed to be able to be able to both land and take off from an unprepared surface (AKA Mars).

          • dodrian says:

            @bean
            Fair enough!

            @hlynkacg
            From the the technology standpoint it could take off nearly anywhere, sure. But then we’re back to the political/logistics problems of now wanting a rocket launch in (presumably) the middle of an urban zone, with air traffic, range safety, etc. etc. to consider, which again is a long way away from Musk’s original proposal, which I assume used floating launchpads to specifically circumvent these issues. But as bean said he’s not strictly talking about Musk’s original design.

        • skef says:

          that could deliver spare parts in an hour or so to any airport

          This seems like it’s bordering on the most fraught application of the technology, given the airspace issues. Do you really want your sub-orbital landing area anywhere near a busier airport?

          Come to think of it, this is quite similar to an obvious problem with his .2-mile-a-day tunnel proposal: how to transport all the displaced material. All cows seem to be spherical in Musk’s world.

          • baconbacon says:

            It is a common theme of innovation though. You have to have confidence/faith that difficult barriers can be overcome to launch ambitious projects, which naturally means you are sometimes going to be very obviously and embarrassingly wrong.

          • bean says:

            This seems like it’s bordering on the most fraught application of the technology, given the airspace issues. Do you really want your sub-orbital landing area anywhere near a busier airport?

            Depends heavily on how you land. If you insist on using the Elon Musk-approved method, then no, it won’t. I’m pretty sure John is thinking of something which lands like an airplane. Compatibility with standard airspace schemes would be mandatory to this model, and basically means that you become an airplane at 40,000 ft, and don’t have anything too dangerous onboard when you land. The result might well look like some of the early shuttle sketches, when they were planning a reusable winged booster and orbiter.

          • baconbacon says:

            Aren’t you adding extra time (and probably cost) then? How fast can you decelerate (seriously I don’t know), the space shuttle doesn’t land on a normal tarmac, right? You have to get below supersonic speed before you hit any populated areas as well, correct?

          • bean says:

            Aren’t you adding extra time (and probably cost) then?

            At a guess, 15 minutes or so, and yes, it’s probably more expensive. But you can land at airports, instead of in the middle of nowhere. That’s probably worth it.

            How fast can you decelerate (seriously I don’t know),

            How fast do you want me to decelerate? It depends on a lot of factors, most notably trajectory, thermal protection system, and shape.

            the space shuttle doesn’t land on a normal tarmac, right?

            It does not, but this isn’t the shuttle. The shuttle is an early 70s design, and had a lot of weird design drivers we can skip here. You could make something which could land on normal tarmac, although you might have to haul it home on the back of an airplane.

            You have to get below supersonic speed before you hit any populated areas as well, correct?

            This, I’m not sure on. The shuttle went subsonic at ~25 km up, about 5 minutes from landing, and I don’t recall hearing that it was considered particularly disruptive. On the other hand, it didn’t fly very often. This will be smaller.

          • John Schilling says:

            The space shuttle could land on any normal airport with a 8,000 foot runway, which was a plot device in at least one amusing story but never in practice. The 12,000 foot runway at LAX would have been adequate for routine operations, if anyone had wanted to do such a silly thing. The biggest problem from a traffic-control problem would be the inability to fly holding patterns or conventional missed approaches, but that can probably be accommodated.

            I wouldn’t rule out vertical landing either, because most of the airspace that would be used is airspace ordinary airliners have no interest in. You’d want the actual pad to be offset from the runway by half a mile or so, but most large airports should be able to fit that in somewhere. Noise pollution issues on takeoff would probably be the big issue there.

            More generally: Major airports don’t simply monopolize every bit of airspace for twenty miles around and say “nobody but scheduled airline flights allowed”; they tend to be located in major cities where there are lots of people who need that airspace for lots of different things, and ATC is quite good at facilitating that. This would be one more minor inconvenience from their point of view, and probably less inconvenient than the average police or traffic helicopter.

            The economics are still seriously questionable, but the traffic coordination isn’t going to be a showstopper.

          • skef says:

            Major airports don’t simply monopolize every bit of airspace for twenty miles around and say “nobody but scheduled airline flights allowed”; they tend to be located in major cities where there are lots of people who need that airspace for lots of different things, and ATC is quite good at facilitating that.

            I’m not at all an expert on this stuff, but my rough understanding is that most of the multiple uses in busy areas are in virtue of allocating separate volumes of space with shapes appropriate to need. With a suborbital system that doesn’t land like an airplane that practice seem less viable — the thing is going to come all the way from the edge of the atmosphere to the ground. So unless you make a substantially sized vertical “hole” for it, you’ll have to time-switch, and therefore carefully integrate the system with air traffic.

          • John Schilling says:

            So unless you make a substantially sized vertical “hole” for it, you’ll have to time-switch, and therefore carefully integrate the system with air traffic.

            About every other weekday, I fly directly over the Los Angeles Intercontinental Airport at 2500 feet altitude. Sometimes I tell ATC as much as twenty minutes in advance that I want doing this, sometimes only five. And if I’m willing to stay at 3500 feet, I can do it without asking permission.

            This isn’t me abusing privilege, it’s one of their preferred procedures. The airspace directly over an airport is in very little demand because that’s the one place where everybody either landing at or taking off from the airport will be safely out of the way on the ground. The existing corridors are laid out horizontally north to south, for aircraft transiting in those directions, but setting up a vertical corridor from the surface (offset from the runways) to 10,000 feet would be about as easy an airspace modification as you could hope for.

            If you plan to fly your suborbital vehicle out of LAX, the noise abatement issues could be a showstopper. If the vehicle is small enough, you might set it up to land at LAX and then be trucked up to Mojave Spaceport for the return flight. Or you could make Mojave the suborbital terminal and add ~45 minutes for a local delivery flight to any LA area airport. In either case, Boeing’s central spare-parts delivery terminal (or whatever hypothetical killer app we’re looking at) should probably be in a relatively unpopulated area.

          • bean says:

            If you plan to fly your suborbital vehicle out of LAX, the noise abatement issues could be a showstopper. If the vehicle is small enough, you might set it up to land at LAX and then be trucked up to Mojave Spaceport for the return flight. Or you could make Mojave the suborbital terminal and add ~45 minutes for a local delivery flight to any LA area airport.

            I’m not sure either is necessary. If it’s an SST(S)O vehicle, you can load it up with a tiny bit of fuel and fly it to Mojave, then load it up for the flight home. Because you’re running really light and not going very far, you shouldn’t make too much noise.

      • Brad says:

        Anyone know what kind of items make up the bulk of services like FedEx same day?

        • bean says:

          I don’t, but I do know that FedEx looked at buying Concordes as freighters, and did ship a fair bit on the Concordes when they were flying.

    • dodrian says:

      Well… at the end of that paragraph he admitted “there are some intriguing possibilities there, although we are not counting on that”

      • Winja says:

        I sort of love how, in a paper about bootstrapping a city on the surface of Mars, the least believable thing is a secondary application of the technology for doing point-to-point delivery at very high speed on Earth.

        • gbdub says:

          You mean “what Musk wants to believe is the most believable thing”? Because I definitely think the bootstrapping a city on Mars thing is harder, and has even fewer obviously worthwhile commercial applications.

    • baconbacon says:

      If we had a floating platform off the coast of New York, 20–30 miles out, you could go from New York to Tokyo in 25 minutes

      NYC to Tokyo is ~6,000 miles, in 30 mins that is 12,000 miles an hour. What cargo is there that we value so highly that we want it across the ocean that fast that also would be unaffected by the g forces associated with that kind of acceleration? And how are we landing a rocket going 12,000 miles an hour?

    • Aapje says:

      1. It seems like a tiny market. How much stuff needs to be shipped so quickly to the other side of the world? This is especially true now that we have the Internet, 3D printers, etc.
      2. To make good on the promise of 25 minute transport, it would have to be a private rocket, carrying 1 item. Really expensive.
      3. Safety/nukes. Which country is going to want unscheduled rockets flying around, landing close to major cities? Imagine such a rocket being fired from America to Russia, during a crisis. Security measures are going to be huge, which means that those 25 minutes are probably end up just a small part of the total travel time, mostly due to bureaucracy.

      • bean says:

        The easy confusion with ICBMs is probably part of why we don’t have these. The current rule is that if one flies, they all fly. That’s why all of the proposals to put conventional warheads on ICBM-like vehicles fall apart. Giving a potential bad guy ready access to something which can be turned into an ICBM seems like a bad idea, particularly when you have no way to shoot it down if he’s successful in getting one off the pad.
        So a working ABM system is a prerequisite for this coming to pass. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all.

        • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

          Except TSA baggage screeners would be in charge of the ABM system monitoring the Intercontinental Ballistic Delivery Units.

          You’d be sitting on your lawn expecting a package when a rain of burning metal destroyed your neighborhood, followed by a little note fluttering down that reads

          To protect you and your fellow citizens, your package was among those selected for physical destruction. The TSA sincerely regrets having to do this, however TSA is not liable for damage to resulting from this necessary security precaution

      • Moaaz Bukhari says:

        1. That’s what we need to find: the market. Military transport? Disaster relief? Spaceliner?

        2. Why? SpaceX’s ITS (Interplanetary Transport System) launch vehicle can carry 300 tons.

        3. That’s a problem for later. How about commercializing the London and New York; Amsterdam and Buenos Aires; Sydney and San Francisco routes first?

        • gbdub says:

          Why? SpaceX’s ITS (Interplanetary Transport System) launch vehicle Power Point Presentation can is theoretically designed to carry 300 tons.

          FTFY.

          Anyway, the problem is, what’s the likelihood that a single customer needs to have 300 tons of something half an hour from now? Organizing 300 tons of anything at either end is already going to take longer, by more than an order of magnitude (probably at least two) than a half hour travel time.

          I don’t think the “Is it a nuke?” problem is unsolvable. After all, Russia doesn’t go on high alert every time a subsonic jet approaches their airspace, because most of them are scheduled airliners. When things other than nukes commonly go suborbital, we’ll stop treating everything suborbital as a likely nuke.

          • Moaaz Bukhari says:

            A Boeing 747 freighter can carry 100 tons from Shanghai to LA in 11 hours for $260,000.

          • gbdub says:

            That’s my point. A rocket that could do that for 10 times the price would be a remarkable engineering achievement. How often does saving 10 hours (over a total transit time of probably a couple days) justify an order of magnitude cost increase?

          • bean says:

            A Boeing 747 freighter can carry 100 tons from Shanghai to LA in 11 hours for $260,000.

            That’s not really how air cargo works. They run basically like a normal airline, but with cargo instead of passengers. There are obviously charters, but even then, I doubt you can charter a 747 on less than a few day’s notice. It’s just not necessary in most cases, and in the few it is, you presumably make some sort of deal with the air freight people ahead of time.
            I’d expect any suborbital rocket to focus on the small-scale market. It’s safer, cheaper, and you’re a lot more likely to fill your rocket. Load factors are important in this business.

          • I’d expect any suborbital rocket to focus on the small-scale market.

            This is reminding me of the historical novels by Turtletaub (Turtledove writing under a pseudoname),e set in the eastern Mediterranean in the generation after Alexander. The protagonists are the captain and cargomaster of a trading galley.

            One of the background issues is the question of cargoes. A galley is considerably more expensive to run than a sailing ship. On the other hand, it delivers faster and if necessary against the wind. So an earlier example of the same issues being discussed here.

        • Aapje says:

          @Moaaz Bukhari

          2. Why? SpaceX’s ITS (Interplanetary Transport System) launch vehicle can carry 300 tons.

          My point is that if someone wants to send a new Formula 1 car part to the other side of the world, you can’t wait for other customers to fill up the rest of the space with high priority items, if you are going to achieve the promised travel time.

          So you’ll end up with either a mostly empty rocket, a rocket that is 99% filled with low priority items for which you get fairly little money or a long wait before enough shipments have accumulated to fill the rocket.

    • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

      This was the point where I started filing most of what Musk says as publicity hype for his public-private partership fundraising. It’s not really even dreaming, just “how can we get people thinking about sweet-ass rockets today?”

      • Moaaz Bukhari says:

        I don’t see what’s wrong with such publicity.

        • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

          There’s nothing wrong with it, but it does mean that it’s a waste of time to cost out all of his wacky proposals, because many of them simply aren’t intended to be practical suggestions at all.
          It would be a bit like wasting your time trying to figure out how fast Warp 9 is in Star Trek, or how many horsepower the Millennium Falcon’s engine has.

    • skef says:

      I’m sometimes surprised that we haven’t seen more of the opposite of this. E.g. slow sail-driven, computer managed container ships. (Trains arguably fall under this heading, given the low grade requirements, but have obviously been around a while.)

      • bean says:

        I’ve seen proposals for that in the past, but they haven’t gone anywhere. My guess is that the extra expenditure on wages and capital eats up the fuel savings. You can’t really cut manning more than you already have, and you need more ships because the existing ones are going more slowly. Also, you probably get paid less because you’re slower.

        • skef says:

          So maybe if there’s an energy crisis on the longer side, but probably not otherwise …

      • Moaaz Bukhari says:

        Natilus is trying the opposite. Large cargo drones that take 3x longer to deliver but at half the cost of regular air freighters.

      • John Schilling says:

        As any homeowner knows, weather (acute and chronic) is the #1 cause of expensive home maintenance. If your propulsion architecture is basically “grab hold of as much weather as possible and hang on”, and your work site is the literal middle of the ocean, you wind up needing a fairly large and expensive staff of maintenance workers who spend most of their time doing busywork.

        The trade of fast vs. slow in commercial shipping is definitely a thing, but it’s a thing done with propulsion systems that can be enclosed in steel-walled rooms and tended by maybe half a dozen people.

      • dodrian says:

        Sky Sails – adding a robotically controlled kite to a container ship reduces fuel costs by about 5%.

  13. Winja says:

    A couple of weeks ago, I inadvertently took a rather large dose of 5-HTP.

    Later while at work, I was listening to music on headphones (a daily occurrence) and had a just utterly transcendent reaction to an album that is something that I normally just play as background music.

    5-HTP is supposed to be a seratonin precursor, so I’m wondering, is there a link between seratonin and how much you will enjoy music?

    The album, in case any one cares, was In Return by Odesza.

  14. bintchaos says:

    I don’t know IFF I have standing to ask this…but could we restart the discussion of islamic jurisprudence between DAVIDFRIEDMAN and QAYS without all the culture war stuff?
    I would very much like to ask Qays what his interpretation of mutawatir is…I was told that it was something like “unbroken transmission and continuous signaling”. Arabic is hard.
    Now that I understand David’s reasons behind his questions I’m more interested in his approach…but to reiterate a caveat I’m way more focused on theory (tafsir) than practice (islamic jurisprudence).

    • bintchaos says:

      guess not.
      tant pis

    • I would very much like to ask Qays what his interpretation of mutawatir is

      I’m not Qays, but since he hasn’t responded yet let me offer my less expert explanation.

      In order for a hadith to be considered an entirely reliable account of something the Prophet did or said, it has to meet two conditions:

      1. It must have a reliable chain of transmission (isnad). All the links in the chain, from the original source to the person who wrote it down, must be considered trustworthy transmitters, both honest and careful. That, I think, is what qualifies it to be in one of the standard collections, such as that of Salih Muslim.

      2. There must be several independent and reliable chains of transmission for the same hadith–how many varying with the school. I believe that’s what makes it mutawatir

      As I mentioned in the exchange, there is an alternative version of 2–multiple different reliable hadiths with the same implication. A prominent example is the claim that the Prophet said something like “my people will never be agreed on an error.” That’s the basis for consensus as a source of authority.

      • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

        And even within Sunni Islam, different madhhib have major(?) disagreements over which hadith are legitimate?

      • bintchaos says:

        Ah…Thanks. So in jusrisprudence is isnad and reproducibility. Like I said, my primary focus is on tafsir, and mutawatir is described as “continuous signalling or unbroken transmission”.
        But I see…its like the difference between theory and practice. In jurisprudence isnad and reproducibilty are determinants, tests of whether something is in continuous transmission.

        • So in jusrisprudence is isnad and reproducibility.

          I don’t understand what that means. Typo?

          The isnad is the chain of transmitters. The quality of the isnad is one of the things determining how sure you are that the hadith is true. The number of parallel isnads for the same hadith is the other thing.

          It’s perfectly reasonable except that the bottom line, if both tests pass, is certainty not probability. In that respect it reminds me of Ayn Rand’s approach to things.

  15. Silverlock says:

    For those software developers out there, here is a somewhat-tongue-in-cheek blog post with interesting stats purporting to show that developers who use spaces make more money than those who use tabs.

    The stats used were taken from the raw data from the Stack Overflow 2017 developer survey.

    From the post:

    The model estimated that using spaces instead of tabs leads to a 8.6% higher salary (confidence interval (6%, 10.4%), p-value < 10^-10). (By predicting the logarithm of the salary, we were able to estimate the % change each factor contributed to a salary rather than the dollar amount). Put another way, using spaces instead of tabs was worth as much as an extra 2.4 years of experience.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I suspect it’s causal, but the causation goes the other way. The Google style guides (except for go, because Rob Pike is such a troll) calls for spaces; I imagine many later tech company guides are based on them, especially for C++. I’m pretty sure Apple’s code uses spaces (IIRC the Darwin source uses spaces). So chances are if you’re at a high-salary tech company you’re using spaces, leaving tabs for the riff-raff :-).

      Doesn’t matter nowadays. If you’re not using an automatic formatting tool you’re wasting your time. I haven’t even bothered to get my emacs style approximately correct; I just write what I want, let it make a mess of my code and run clang-format over it. There was an ongoing war at my previous company over 80 vs 100 (or other) columns; at one point I suggested it would be simple enough for the heretics to solve it by reformatting it on open to 100 columns and back to 80 on save. This was barely practical at the time (there would have been a significant amount of code for which that process would introduce spurious changes) but it’s probably eminently practical now.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Microsoft also uses spaces, which I think predates the Google style guide. I suspect preference for spaces over tabs comes from the days of 80-column command window text editors: horizontal space was at a premium, and many environments defaulted to 8-character tab widths, so coders got in the habit of using 2, 3, or 4 spaces instead to fit more text in a line. The practice got established and entrenched in culture and various codebases (established company style guides, programming teachers requiring style guide compliance for course projects, open-source codebases (GNU uses spaces, for instance), etc).

    • bintchaos says:

      !!
      Shades of Silicon Valley (the HBO comedy)– my friends that work there always say that isnt a comedy, but a reality show.

      • cassander says:

        I can’t speak to the dynamics of the tech world, but I grew up a couple miles from the house the characters live in, and the portrayal of the local culture hysterically on point. I nearly lost it the episode where everything goes to hell because the weather was slightly below freezing.

        • bintchaos says:

          I love it so much…I laugh so hard I cry sometimes.
          Especially Guilfoyle and Richard.
          But Guilfoyle the best of all…in their different aspects they are the Hero-Nerds of nerddom.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I disagree, Guilfoyle is good, but Jared is easily the best/funniest character.

    • skef says:

      The correct answer is tabs then spaces, each in the right amount. Set the background color on tabs to be slightly different if it worries you. If you have a column length restriction (generally a good idea, although 80 seems increasingly crotchety), pick a tab length and enforce by that.

      It amazes me how many times I’ve begun this conversation with the other person mystified as to what I could even be talking about, and ended it with the person admitting that is, in fact, the correct approach but it’s “too hard”, as if he was some kind of super-producer.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Seconded.

      • Reasoner says:

        Using a mixture of spaces & tabs is bad practice in a language that has significant whitespace (e.g. Python). Say my editor is configured to translate a tab to two spaces, and your editor is configured to translate a tab to four spaces. Then I could see this code:

            if failure_mode():
                fix_things()
            blow_shit_up()

        While you see this code:

            if failure_mode():
                fix_things()
                blow_shit_up()

        (Assuming 4 spaces before the first line, 8 spaces before the second line, and 2 tabs before the third line.)

        Python has a -t command line option that issues a warning if it thinks something like this might be going on. Unfortunately it’s not enabled by default.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          This would be a bad mix of tabs and spaces, but it doesn’t really apply to what skef and I are talking about.

          I use tabs to take the starting point of every code statement to the same indent level.

          I use spaces to make individual lines within the same code statement more legible.

          • bzium says:

            What’s the point?

            Is it that different people working on the same codebase can use their preferred indentation widths by customizing editor’s tabstop settings, while preserving the pretty alignment on multi-line statements?

            Sounds nice, but multi-line statements get used when a statement would go over line length limit. And which statements are those depends on the indentation width. People who used smaller indents would produce code that was fine for them but had overlong lines on screens of people using a larger one. So you need to standardize the indent width anyway. At which point you might just use spaces and mixed style looks like a pointless overcomplication.

      • Stationary Feast says:

        The people who say it’s too hard are/were right…in the absence of a gofmt-style utility that does this on save/commit.

        I strongly suspect Go’s largest unique contribution to software engineering over the next 20 years will be how it popularized automatic code formatters.

  16. Brad says:

    Ziglar v. Abbasi

    I have to say I really love Part II of the Thomas concurrence. Briefly, it suggests that modern qualified immunity doctrine is completely unmoored from any kind of statutory or common law basis and is essentially made up out of whole cloth. This seems to me to be very hard to dispute as a factually matter.

    It’s unfortunate that every last liberal member of the court is so enmeshed in the culture of stare decisis that they wouldn’t even consider joining. It’s hard to overstate the difference on this axis between Justices like Douglas, Brennan, Marshall, and even Stevens on the one hand and your Kagans and Breyers on the other. If you look at Breyer’s dissent on the main Bivens question, it’s pretty milquetoast – “In my view, these claims are well-pleaded, state violations of clearly established law, and fall within the scope of longstanding Bivens law.” Where is the forthright and passionate advocate for returning to “the heady days in which this Court assumed common law powers to create causes of action”?

    • Wency says:

      Is it just me, or does this sound like a play-by-play of blernsball?

      I’d be curious to know what you’re getting at though, if you’re able to dumb it down 1-2 notches.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t know what blernsball is, though maybe that’s your point.

        I can try to elaborate.

        The case I linked at the top of my post came down from the Supreme Court yesterday. A group of people that had been detained after 9/11 sued a variety of federal government officials both for being detained and for being mistreated while being detained. At issue was whether or not that lawsuit could go forward.

        In order to understand the exact issue you need some background. During Reconstruction, Congress passed a law called the Klu Klux Klan act. Among its other provisions was this one, today codified at 42 USC 1983 and often just referred to as 1983:

        Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress …

        Although pretty broad on its face, this provision mostly languished in obscurity until the 1961, when the Supreme Court interpreted it to allow plaintiffs to sue state police officers that they claim had violated their constitutional rights. (Monroe v. Pape) Today it is the primary vehicle used for such lawsuits. (More on that later.)

        However, if you go back and look at the language it pretty clearly doesn’t apply to officials acting under color of federal law. And indeed there is no other parallel statute that does apply to federal officials. In 1971, the Supreme Court held that a case could nonetheless be brought against Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents that had conducted a search and made an arrest in violation of the Constitution. It held that the Constitution implied a cause of action. That case was Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents and cases brought under it are sometimes referred to as Bivens actions.

        Eventually the 70s ended and the court got some new justices — Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy, O’Connor, with Rehnquist elevated to Chief. These justices did not care for the notion that the Constitution implied any sort of cause of action. They thought (in some cases think) that if there is going to be a cause of action, it is up to Congress to create it.

        The Court never quite got rid of Bivens actions but the case decided yesterday was one in a long line narrowing the doctrine and/or refusing to extend it to new circumstances. In this case the Court ruled the 9/11 detainees could not sue the high level government officials for ordering them detained and frequently strip searched, and while they held that they might be able to sue the prison guards for mistreatment, they set a high barrier for the lower court to judge the issue.

        In terms of my second paragraph, part of what I was saying is that the liberal wing of the Court today is qualitatively different from the Justices that were on the Court that originally created Bivens and many other pro-civil-liberties doctrines. Breyer wrote a dissenting opinion in yesterday’s case but it argued on a relatively narrow grounds dealing with individual prior cases. It was essentially defensive in nature, rather than a full throated defense of the correctness of implying causes of action from the Constitution in general.

        The first paragraph referenced Thomas’ concurring opinion. In it he begrudgingly agreed with the controlling opinion on the main Bivens issue — he would prefer to all but eliminate Bivens actions altogether. However, he wrote an entire second section on the issue of qualified immunity, inviting the bar to bring a case asking that it be struck down.

        Qualified immunity is a doctrine that grew out of 1983 cases and was then imported into Bivens cases. The doctrine has to do with what standard a state official should be held to when he is sued for violating someone’s constitutional rights. Under the current rules it is not enough that constitutional rights be violated, there is a much higher bar involving proof, among other things, that the officer violated clearly established law as determined by the Supreme Court.

        What Thomas’ concurrence said is that this extensive qualified immunity doctrine, which makes it much harder for a plaintiff to win a 1983 case, ought to be tossed out because it isn’t based on the statute or the Constitution but was put in place by Justices on the basis of their own views of public policy.

        While in one sense this is a very “conservative” viewpoint because it sounds in judicial restraint and political branch supremacy, in another sense it could appeal to the “liberal” wing of the court because they tend to be more solicitous of the rights of the people as against the police, prison guards, and other state officials. However, as I lamented, all the current liberal justices are so myopically focused on precedents and reasoning from them that I don’t think any will accept Thomas’ invitation.

        Hope that was both clearer and interesting.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Hope that was both clearer and interesting.

          Indeed! Thanks! And best of luck to Justice Thomas, qualified immunity IMO is basically quasi-legalization of the Nuremberg defense.

        • RedVillian says:

          Thanks so much for your explanation. I am not equipped to weigh in on the discussion, but I would recommend LEADING with this kind of point-by-point explanation if you’re not reliably expecting your audience to be equally well versed on the subject.

          I would have just scrolled on past if not for the apt Futurama reference.

        • CatCube says:

          From a conservative non-lawyer, the biggest problem with liberal justices is that they’re so myopically focused on precedents.

          By continually focusing on precedents and how we can cleverly lawyer a current case to be almost like but just different to another case, and not referencing original intent is why we are where we are. For example, the first amendment was originally passed to ensure that people could publish their thoughts on their government and check its powers by effectively threatening chances of election or reelection of candidates that they oppose. However, by slowly mutating the “meaning” of the amendment, inch by inch, we’ve come to a situation where legal understanding of the first amendment absolutely guarantees your right to ride a float with an 18′ dick down Main Street, while a colorable argument can be made that publishing a documentary opposing a major party candidate right before an election when it would do the most good is illegal. Completely turned the amendment inside out.

        • Wency says:

          Thanks, that is interesting and informative.

          For the record, blernsball is a variation on baseball with comically inscrutable rules from the show “Futurama”.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          really appreciate this writeup, and especially the elaboration. Very, very good to hear that Qualified Immunity is starting to show cracks; it’s one of those things that, when I learned of it, the love of my country died in my heart.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      agree with Wency

      understand if you don’t want to put in the effort though

      🙂

    • Jordan D. says:

      Bivens has been in trouble for decades now, and there is not one on the Court who will step up to champion it. It saddens me. Where there is a right, there must be a remedy, people!

  17. entobat says:

    I’ve been going through an interesting time personally in the last year, and this seemed like the right community to reach out to and see if there’s anyone else with a similar experience. Apologies for how long and meandering this ended up; it touches on a lot of ideas that haven’t yet had time to crystallize in my mind. In one sentence, I would describe it as my personal journey towards a philosophy of defaulting to kindness.

    Imagine you are jogging on a trail just wide enough for two people to walk abreast of each other. At every entry point onto the trail is a sign that says walkers should keep right so that people moving at a faster pace can pass them. You approach (from behind) a pair of women walking lackadaisically next to each other, wandering back and forth on the trail, etc. You might be considering one of the following three options:

    1) Jog around them (perhaps even going off the trail briefly); say nothing.
    2) Gently address the problem (“I don’t know if you saw, but the sign says…”; “Could you please move over?”; On your left!”) while continuing on your way without significant delay.
    3) Jog past them, or even stop to confront them, and say something aggressive (“Can’t you see the sign says…”, “You’re in the way!”).

    For most of my life I would have taken option 3 in a heartbeat, perhaps justifying it to myself as follows: I do not have to feel guilty about breaking social norms, since the social contract is already being breached. Worse, their obliviousness makes other people hesitate to correct them for fear of being rude. If the women cared to think about others they would realize that they were being inconsiderate; they should be told off for not thinking along these lines. Even skeptics who disagree with my approach should agree that I am doing a service for the community. Once they admit that, then they’re just showing that they’ll let the confines social roles prevent them from doing what is right.

    My choice is not merely the best one: it also shows that I am abnormally righteous and intelligent. I am willing to shoulder the burden of performing weird antisocial behaviors for the benefit of my community, and I do this because I can see through heuristics (“don’t be unpleasant to strangers”) and use cost-benefit analyses instead.

    In truth, I think I just enjoyed being mean, and was good at coming up with excuses to do so when it couldn’t come back to bite me.

    We don’t know that the women are *actually* negligent here. Maybe one of them is grieving the sudden loss of her husband, and they didn’t quite notice where they were because they were focused on more important matters. Even if they are negligent, I can accomplish my goals in a socially better way. If I run off the trail to pass them, that may even be enough to give them the hint they need; if not, a few “On your lefts!” from my fellow joggers will probably get the message across, and they’ll feel a bit embarrassed when they finally get it (or see one of the signs!).

    I think this serves as an illustrative example of what, in my head, I thought of as being a grizzled cynic.

    It’s easy for naive liberals to feel sorry for rent-controlled grandmas whose landlords want to hike up their rents. The cynic sees that Grandma is living alone in a two-bedroom apartment in the middle of Manhattan, that other people need somewhere to live too, and Grandma is actively harming the as-yet-nameless future tenants who would live there and make better use of it than she does. Not to mention that Grandma has no real claim to that place—the landlord owns it, remember! The cynic doesn’t merely want the market to come in and work its magic; he sees that Grandma is a selfish person who’s willing to harm others because she’s too lazy to move, and the naive liberals paint her as the victim.

    The wise cynic is no fan of his fellow college students who are there due to athletic scholarships or affirmative action. They took seats away from more qualified students; who knows how those faceless students’ futures will be impacted by going to a worse school? Not to mention the anguish the rejection put them through. As willing participants in a system that takes away what other people deserve, the athletes have Fired The First Shot. It is therefore acceptable to remind them that they don’t belong, and that they should feel Very Guilty if they struggle academically.

    (I’m not making any object-level claims about what social / economic policies are correct in either of the above cases, just outlining my motivated reasoning in both.)

    The cynicism pill was a powerful drug. Anyone can come up with good arguments for obvious statements; I could show off how smart I was by coming up with “good” arguments for statements most people disagreed with. This combined favorably with the allure of cynicism, which feels like a mark of maturity, and I was hooked.

    I’m not sure where I’m headed now; I do think I had a bias towards meanness (sometimes disguised as “honesty”), and I’m working to counteract that now. I’ve given some thought to volunteering at the local soup kitchen, just to work my Niceness muscles, but have always managed to come up with excuses why it’s too inconvenient. I don’t know how many of my political opinions had motivated “find good excuses to do things others would call mean” reasoning behind them, but there’s probably a lot down there that I need to reexamine.

    I do feel myself changing, more quickly than I remember changing at any previous point in my life. On trigger warnings, I’ve gone from “make the crybabies broaden their horizons” to “unsure and somewhat uncomfortable” and to “meh, I don’t really understand it, but the people asking for them seem sincere enough, so just help build Community“. I used to be the kind of person who would gleefully go to a Draw The Prophet event (if I knew how to draw), and would laugh off “imagine your [monotheist] friend was here” objections as attempted emotional manipulation.

    If I had to pick one common thread uniting all of these changes, it would be “lower your prior probability that you are being hoodwinked”. The trail girls aren’t taking advantage of social norms to get away with being inconsiderate, they’re just oblivious. Grandma’s not playing with our heartstrings to stop us from kicking her out. Student athletes are not evilly rubbing their hands together over how they don’t deserve what they have. Not nobly rejecting their scholarships is just them seizing an opportunity for a better life for themselves, which is a pretty low bar to start demonizing people for. When I was applying to schools I remember desperately hoping my legacy status would get me in to one of my top choices, which was pretty un-noble of me and yet somehow I didn’t care.

    I’m told that caring about / trusting / not being hoodwinked by other people makes me a bleeding-heart liberal, but is there a better word for the set of concepts I’ve been trying to point at?

    • Mark says:

      Generosity?

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      Congratulations on making this journey. Very few people, I think, are capable of changing in this way. If you happen to be in North Carolina or DC I’d be happy to meet up with you sometime.

      I think “giving people the benefit of the doubt” is maybe what you are looking for? Also “forgiveness” maybe? Or “Solidarity?”

      If I had more than one word to describe it, I’d say that you seem to be shifting from blaming individuals to blaming systems in which individuals are embedded. Individuals are often misguided, oblivious, and self-interested. The way to fix societal problems is to promote norms that reduce misguidedness and obliviousness (and self-interestedness when possible, though often that’s asking too much) and to try to design institutions that work around and with people’s flaws.

      We’re all on the same team. If we handle the next century right, astronomical quantities of resources and technology will be at our disposal, and as long as everyone gets a slice of the pie–even if the size of the slices differs by many orders of magnitude–we all can be satisfied.

      (More or less. Of course there will still be conflict and rivalry and jealosy, especially in the long run as people get used to the initial windfall. But for a while at least we’ll have peace and celebration, and in that time we can set the groundwork for what comes later.)

      • entobat says:

        Congratulations on making this journey. Very few people, I think, are capable of changing in this way. If you happen to be in North Carolina or DC I’d be happy to meet up with you sometime.

        *blush*

        Thanks! I didn’t post here for congratulations, just as a place to find other…”rational-minded noncynics”? Yeah, rational-minded noncynics, who might have some perspective for me. But I’ll take your positive reinforcement too.

        Unfortunately I’m rather far from both those places. Currently in California, visiting from New York.

        If I had more than one word to describe it, I’d say that you seem to be shifting from blaming individuals to blaming systems in which individuals are embedded.

        That’s an interesting take. I hadn’t put it in those terms at all.

    • Matt M says:

      The trail girls aren’t taking advantage of social norms to get away with being inconsiderate, they’re just oblivious.

      I’m okay with your other examples, but this one still bugs me. Why should people get a free pass to being generally oblivious to social norms? I feel like I don’t, in most cases.

      I don’t really care whether they are engaged in some vast conspiracy to violate social norms and get away with it or not. “Being aware of the social norms” is, itself, a social norm. Obliviousness is not an excuse.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’m okay with your other examples, but this one still bugs me. Why should people get a free pass to being generally oblivious to social norms? I feel like I don’t, in most cases

        Enforcement of social norms is only permitted against those of lower or the same status. If you are on the bottom in status, you may not enforce any norms, but all norms may be enforced against you (even those invented in the moment by higher-status people).

      • AnonYEmous says:

        Why should people get a free pass to being generally oblivious to social norms? I feel like I don’t, in most cases.

        this is a tee-up to a sick burn

        Just Kidding. Look, how about this: I hereby give you one. Pass it on, and then the next person passes it on, and then everyone is a little bit happier. And that should suffice to answer your question, as well.

      • entobat says:

        That’s not the strongest line in what I wrote.

        I could see an argument for telling off the two girls if we knew they were acting maliciously, since “you’re inconveniencing other people” is apparently something they already knew. There are Nicer ways to still handle the situation if there’s no malice in what’s going on.

      • I interpret the norm as fuzzier than the discussion suggests. It’s easier to chat with your friend side by side than one ahead of the other. So the real norm is not “always walk single file on the right” but “if a jogger is coming up behind you, move right to let him pass.” Hence “on your left” is a perfectly reasonable response.

        That might not be the case if there were a lot of joggers, but it doesn’t sound as though there are.

        The context where I usually see this issue is not jogging trails but moving walkways at airports, where the advantage of being side by side is less and the opportunity to just jog around them mostly nonexistent.

        • Iain says:

          I agree with this, and therefore think that the aggressive forms of option 3 are way over the top. A nice calm “on your left” seems like the best option.

          • gbdub says:

            Agreed. But if they get huffy about having to move (which has certainly happened to me), all bets should be off. At that point they’ve been politely informed that they are inconveniencing others, and have chosen to continue.

    • lvlln says:

      It seems to me that one thing you’ve noticed is fundamental attribution error. It’s a general default tendency for most people to think that poor behavior of others is caused by their character, while poor behavior of yourself is caused by circumstance. I think identifying and attempting to overcome this bias is an important part of empathy (though I wonder if it’s ever possible to fully overcome it).

      • RedVillian says:

        I try to use an inversion of that error as my interpersonal heuristic. Basically:

        In dealing with other people, acknowledge that no one has made ANY decisions here. They’re all just processing out the function of their genetics and circumstances–neither of which are their fault.

        In dealing with yourself, acknowledge that the awesome power of “Humanity” only works if the individual agents actively engage as if they had 100% free will and volition.

        Thus: I am responsible for every action and mistake I personally make, but no one else is. Obviously, I’d like it if everyone followed this same heuristic, but some people just don’t have the circumstances (and I suppose on some level: genetics) to come to that conclusion.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Thus: I am responsible for every action and mistake I personally make, but no one else is.

          Retail: The Philosophy?

        • andrewflicker says:

          I mostly take this same approach- it works wonderfully interpersonally, but it’s a little risky by one’s self- if you happen to have a number of unlucky and challenging circumstances all arrive at once, and are philosophically attributing all of them to a defect of one’s own deliberate and voluntary behavior, it can get a bit overwhelming. At my current rate, I get that feeling every 6-12 months, and have to remind myself at that time that I can spare some of the forgiveness for myself as well!

          PS: Two examples of “bad circumstances aligning” to give you a sense: In the first, I had a brief stint of depression that culminating in losing my very-well-paying job, started a divorce (which involved losing basically all of my savings and both of my beloved pets), and sat through an eight-hour dental surgery (they rotated doctors!), in the space of a week. The second confluence was a two-week bout of pneumonia while I was trying to close escrow on buying my first house, dealing with repairs gone badly and work emergencies blowing up while I was out sick- my first day that I felt well enough to go to the office, still on antibiotics and generally miserable, my compact sedan got crushed between an SUV and a minivan on the way to work, had to kick my door open in the middle of a busy highway facing the wrong way in traffic, the whole nine yards. You have to remind yourself that some things really shouldn’t all be laid on your own conscience when they stack too high!

          • baconbacon says:

            In the first, I had a brief stint of depression that culminating in losing my very-well-paying job, started a divorce (which involved losing basically all of my savings and both of my beloved pets), and sat through an eight-hour dental surgery (they rotated doctors!), in the space of a week.

            If you don’t mind the question, was the depression caused by the three events, or did it cause the 3 (or first two) events, or was there some interplay where problems at the job and home precipitated the depression which snowballed into the job loss and divorce?

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      If I had to pick one common thread uniting all of these changes, it would be “lower your prior probability that you are being hoodwinked”.

      Believing that one’s opponents are just insincerely trying to increase their own power will usually lead one down the wrong path, yeah. Most people are sincere about what they believe. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea to let them get away with acting on those beliefs, though, such as in the case of:

      I used to be the kind of person who would gleefully go to a Draw The Prophet event (if I knew how to draw), and would laugh off “imagine your [monotheist] friend was here” objections as attempted emotional manipulation.

      It is upsetting to see your religion mocked, absolutely. But in a nation based on Enlightenment principles, you have to tolerate it, and people who refuse to tolerate it are far more dangerous than the people who do the mocking.

      • entobat says:

        It is upsetting to see your religion mocked, absolutely. But in a nation based on Enlightenment principles, you have to tolerate it, and people who refuse to tolerate it are far more dangerous than the people who do the mocking.

        I do not dispute this.

    • sourcreamus says:

      You seem to be undergoing a personal transformation in order to be a more caring person.
      However, don’t fall into the trap of assigning motivations to political issues and then judging the issues based on motivations. Maybe you were enforcing norms out of the joy of being mean, but that does not mean norms should not be enforced. You don’t have to think that the women blocking the path are awful people to ask them to move so that the path is not blocked. Likewise you can understand why a grandmother would not want to move and still think it is a bad idea to control rents.

      • entobat says:

        I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t declaring any particular solution to be right in any of the political cases I brought up. Just that my old feelings were probably colored by the fact that I enjoyed thinking of clever reasons to be mean to people.

        One can derive correct conclusions from faulty premises.

    • Said Achmiz says:

      It makes me sad to read things like this. :/

      #3 seems like the correct behavior. #2 is also acceptable, I suppose. I usually do #1, because I hate and fear interacting with people (especially confrontationally, especially strangers)—but this is a personal failing of mine! I try to overcome it (sometimes successfully). I admire people who don’t share my character flaw. When I see someone confronting bad actors, standing up for social norms, it gives me visceral relief and reassurance about the state of our society.

      Norm violators should be punished. That you went from being one of the few people in today’s society willing to shoulder the responsibility of norm punishment, to no longer being willing to do this, makes me sad indeed. It makes me even sadder to see this change held up, and supported, as an improvement.

      Please consider that this change may not be nearly as positive as you suggest.

      (N.B. the “Grandma” example is a bad one, imo, but the other two are spot-on)

      • entobat says:

        If someone non-maliciously breaks a rule, why should they be punished when a gentle correction will work just as well?

        I think “bad actors” is an exaggeration for the trail example.

        Political examples are less about what is correct and more about what sorts of arguments I was motivated to think of. I tried to include variety.

        • The Nybbler says:

          If someone non-maliciously breaks a rule, why should they be punished when a gentle correction will work just as well?

          If you ignore the trail blockers and go around them, they will get annoyed at all these other people going by them, and use their status to push for some sort of rule against this sort of behavior on the trail.

          If you gently admonish the trail blockers, they will get all huffy and self-righteous and question you on why it’s so important that YOU get by at that particular time.

          If you harshly admonish them, they’ll be shocked by your rudeness and you’ll be gone before they have a response. While they will never, ever, believe they are in the wrong, they may then decide the trail is full of assholes, stop using it, and tell their friends the same. A win of sorts.

          • entobat says:

            > While they will never, ever, believe they are in the wrong

            This seems like a harsh judgment for two people who are just being a bit inconsiderate about trail space.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m not sure what the severity of the offense has to do with my judgement on how resistant they will be to believing they have committed one.

          • entobat says:

            There is a certain moral threshold for how bad a person you have to be to be inconsiderate about trail usage, and another moral threshold for how bad a person you have to be to get angry at other people pushing back on your encroachment of a public good. I think knowing someone is below the first threshold is only weak evidence that they are below the second.

            More broadly, to us outside observers the evil-women and the good-women are equally counterfactual. I don’t mind trading off some chance of antagonizing away the evil women (which I think is unlikely anyway) in order to be nicer to the good women (who are not bad people and don’t deserve to be treated as such).

          • The Nybbler says:

            There is a certain moral threshold for how bad a person you have to be to be inconsiderate about trail usage, and another moral threshold for how bad a person you have to be to get angry at other people pushing back on your encroachment of a public good.

            And the second threshold is lower than the first.

          • Little_Jimmy_Twoshoes says:

            This is the most buckwild way of viewing the world I have ever seen. It is very foreign to me. Are you exaggerating for humorous effect, or is this actually what you see as the full range of likely outcomes for this social interaction?

            If it’s the latter, might I suggest that you get a new peer group and/or get out and have more face-to-face interactions with other people? It is quite common in the real world to have disagreements with strangers and have them resolved amicably. The scenarios you outline here imply that you believe everyone who disagrees with you, or even trivially inconveniences you, is an idiot and/or an asshole.

        • Said Achmiz says:

          when a gentle correction will work just as well?

          Will it? (It won’t.)

          But, ok. Are you saying you do still gently correct people? You don’t just let it go?

          I think “bad actors” is an exaggeration for the trail example.

          There’s a certain sort of person who is oblivious to rules. They break a rule not because they’re aware of that specific rule and are blatantly flouting it, but because they just don’t think about rules, most of the time; the notion that almost any part of life has rules, and that those rules are there for reasons, and that breaking those rules harms other people—these ideas just don’t occur to such a person. This person just does whatever they feel like, unless stopped/punished/prevented—not out of malice, you understand!—but just because… well, why shouldn’t they…? If you ask them why they did a thing, they’re usually genuinely mystified, and vaguely offended, that you’re challenging what, to them, is a perfectly ordinary action, which they have every right to take.

          Such a person almost certainly didn’t deliberately break the rule. Are they “bad actors”?

          Yes. Yes they are.

          Punish them.

          • Matt M says:

            I actually think these people are WORSE than those who know what they’re doing is wrong, but break the rules anyway. It takes a very special level of arrogance and narcissism to not even understand that rules exist and that they apply to you as well.

          • Said Achmiz says:

            @Matt M:

            Yep, basically agreed.

      • Nornagest says:

        I don’t think there’s a general right answer. Norms exist for a reason, and the proper respect for a given norm depends on the reason it serves and how well it serves it: I’m a lot happier with #3-style responses, especially from random people who aren’t getting paid to enforce the norm, when a violation could e.g. actually get someone killed (failing to do proper safety checks on climbing or diving equipment; negligently pointing live weapons at people). If it’s there for e.g. aesthetic or convenience reasons, or if its usefulness is unclear, then I’m happier with #2-style responses and even then mainly from people with actual authority.

        Chesterton’s fence is a good argument for giving established norms the benefit of the doubt, though.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      Wondermark gave me a nice heuristic a while back, which I’ve tried to remember:

      http://wondermark.com/c1293/

      • RedVillian says:

        I’m impressed you’ve remembered it for so long with such an itchy butt! Props!

    • Drew says:

      I’m told that caring about / trusting / not being hoodwinked by other people makes me a bleeding-heart liberal, but is there a better word for the set of concepts I’ve been trying to point at?

      You’re looking at the gap between stages 5 and 6 of Kolhberg’s theory of moral development.

      Stage 5 is rights-based social contract thinking. People imagine moral conflicts a civil trial. Each party states their position. They lay out the rights / duties that support their case. Moral reasoning is about ranking the rights, and deciding in favor of the person who’s able to appeal to the most-central principle.

      Apply that to the Grandma augment. Stage 5 reasoning might be something like:

      We want a society with stable communities. We want old people to be independent for as long as possible.

      This goal is pretty compelling, so it’s probably higher precedence than a property owner’s right to seek profit. So we’ll give people a right to rent control since that creates stability.

      But it’s not infinitely compelling, so we won’t force children to live with their parents if they want to move out.

      Stage 5 is emotionally satisfying because there are “correct” answers. You find the highest-precedent right and uphold that. You’re not denying someone’s lower-order rights. You’re just noticing that they’re trumped, so don’t apply.

      The big limit of Stage 5 reasoning is that, per the trial metaphor, you need identifiable parties. And you’re appealing to ‘rights’, which are binary in a way that our true goals are not.

      Stage 6 is closer to “social optimization” in the sense of economics. Instead of routing everything through rights, you try to reason in terms of a social utility function that takes everyone’s well-being into account.

      So, the Grandma Argument would go:

      We want a society with stable communities. We want old people to be independent for as long as possible. But we also want young families to be able to find an appropriate home that’s close to their work.

      Granny Addams and Granny Brown are both living in 3-bedroom apartments that that would be outside of their means at market rate rent.

      Granny Addams has a good support network. And she’s able to adapt. She’d lose 20 utility if she had to move to a new home. Granny Brown would lose 100 utility.

      The young Clark family is losing 50 utility because they have to make a long commute.

      The least-bad solution is one that encourages Granny Adams to move, but allows Granny Brown to stay. Perhaps some kind of partial rent subsidy?

      In theory, Stage 6 could be joyful. The solutions are higher net-utility than Stage 5 (since you’re optimizing for max net-utility, instead of min right-violations).

      And, in theory, we could imagine clever trade-offs that re-distribute these utility gains so everyone’s better off. But, in practice, it’s almost impossible to find policies that actually do that.

      Instead, you’re often shifting harms around. Often from an unidentified and disparate group (‘people who haven’t moved in yet’) onto an known and sympathetic individual. This feels like Triage. Necessary, useful, but grim.

      • Drew says:

        To go through the other examples:

        Stage-5 approach to running is, “look for a correct set of rights and duties.” And then the debate is if the women have the right to occupy the whole path until they know someone’s coming. Or if the runners have a right to a clear left lane.

        People don’t always want to derive things from 1st principles, so I’d expect a bunch of analogies about cars or boats.

        Stage-6 was your concern for the minimizing the net harm summed over all interactions. Rather than a rule, you’re looking for some policy that would make individual interactions go as well as possible.

        To really see the difference, propose the scenario to a group of friends. Then suggest a $1 ‘fine’ for walking left.

        I think you’ll get a split between, “Fines are a penalty for for breaking social duties. It’s immoral to treat them like indulgences,” and “How do we optimize the value of the fine so that widows can pay it — like an indulgence — but rich people can’t?”

        The first one is a Stage 5 argument about rights. The second one is a Stage 6 argument that financial penalties are a bad proxy for utility loss.

        College admissions is also a Stage 5 vs Stage 6 splt.

        The standard Stage-5 argument for affirmative action is that a duty to promote racial equality trumps a duty to have equal treatment by the state.

        This leads to people arguing that a given school’s affirmative action policy is just, without discussing the magnitude of the race-based ‘boost’ that the college wants to give.

        From a social-optimization perspective, it would be surprising to suggest that an 800-point SAT boost was wise. And similarly surprising to suggest that a 5-point SAT boot was particularly important.

    • Itai Bar-Natan says:

      In truth, I think I just enjoyed being mean, and was good at coming up with excuses to do so when it couldn’t come back to bite me.

      I’m skeptical of this, based on intuition I’m not sure I can convey well. “Excuses” implies that you reasons you gave to yourself were not genuine but intend to mask baser reasons. However, the reasons you describe sound pretty reasonable, there are even commenters that are defending them, and seem to me more like genuinely held principles that you now judge as mistakes than as excuses. It’s possible that they functioned as excuses during the transition period when you started changing your mind but still haven’t changed your habits.

      I acknowledge that you know more about your psychology than I do, and this reduces how much people should take my complaint seriously.

      • entobat says:

        The reason I found arguments in favor of being mean was because I wanted to be mean, not because of any merits those arguments may have had.

    • Cheese says:

      Good comment.

      I think what you’re describing is sort of fundamental attribution error and sort of about being charitable. For me, it tends to be ‘what other motivations might explain this (norm-breaking) behaviour other than maliciousness’. And usually if you actually think about it, and think about in what situations you might behave in an identical or similar manner, maliciousness as a cause is so far down the list of probabilities. And it’s not even that they may have a ‘good’ justification for ignoring said social norm, sometimes you just don’t see the sign or you forget. Many people do seem to characterise that approach as being a ‘do-gooder’; which is something I tend to take as a positive thing, with the caveat that occasionally, yeah, people are just being dicks and you might need to guard against that possibility to some extent.

      I’d counter some other comments in that, in your scenario, I think taking approach 2 is more effective in terms of changing behaviour than approach 3. From a personal standpoint that’s something i’d respond to far more graciously. I’m more inclined to have a more visceral response in approach 3 and deliberately antagonise you, especially if my initial motivation is non-malicious. I also think it’s a more powerful approach for making change generally. If you attempt to understand the motivation of actors in circumstances where they are making decisions detrimental to others or society, I think you have more chance of changing it by addressing those motivations.

    • gbdub says:

      I’m actually much more likely to do 2 or 3 now than I used to be, and consider this a good thing, because I used to get walked all over.

      Old ladies on a trail maybe deserve a pass and a polite “on your left”. It is after all more pleasant to walk with someone side by side, and so long as you’re not blocking anyone that’s perfectly fine.

      I think a better example would be people talking loudly or using their cell phone in a movie theater. There is zero excuse for not knowing that this is very bad behavior, and essentially everyone who does this is well aware of the rule, but thinks that for whatever reason or circumstance, they are special and the rule should not apply to them.

      So they get an immediate 3, and deserve it. I stand by this because, on the sort of aggressively oblivious ass who thinks it’s okay for them to screw up everyone’s viewing experience, a polite request is going to result in them getting all indignant at you for daring to question them and cause a greater commotion. A more aggressive “hey, turn that off!” is in my experience more likely to work the first time.

      • entobat says:

        There are certainly times when 3 is justified. Unless someone’s life is on the line, I would prefer to stick to (at most) 2. You have plenty of practice being meek; I do not. I want more before I begin wielding the dread power of meanness again.

        There are jerks out there who think the rules don’t apply to them, for sure. I am probably morally justified in giving them a 3 in that situation. But it’s unlikely to change who they are as a person, and it’s an odd battle to decide to pick—that I must get angry at and berate this person for talking on their phone in the movie theater, for taking up an extra seat on the bus.

        Do I have to act because my dominance is being challenged—they are trampling my rights, and I’m letting them?

    • gbdub says:

      In defense of cynicism (as opposed to just being mean): you’re right not to be mad at the grandma in the rent controlled apartment. She’s just trying to live her life, and taking what was freely offered.

      But that doesn’t make rent control good, or something you should be happy about. Rather, it just means you need to direct your ire at the people pushing for bad policy because they know that accusing their opponent of grandma-hating will get them re-elected. They deserve ire because they’re practicing their own brand of abusive cynicism. Like the movie theater cell phone user or the aggressive driver, they are not only violating social norms, but taking advantage of others who are too polite/timid/swayed by manipulative emotional appeals to call them on it.

      • entobat says:

        I continue to be amused at how many people step in to comment on what the correct answer to the political issues I brought up is. 🙂

    • Douglas Knight says:

      This reminds me of Be Nice, at Least Until you can Coordinate Meanness. Just because there is a posted sign doesn’t mean that it is the Social Contract. Maybe there is a simple misunderstanding or maybe there is a war. Maybe there was a war and you have lost. In that case, you should concede gracefully.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      IMO, the critical flaw here I’d say is the self-congratulatory aspect. That by escalating the situation, you are somehow doing a service because others won’t and these people need to be taught a lesson. This encourages you to take the confrontational approach at every opportunity. I guess you kind of acknowledge this, but it’s important to note that the motivation is the real problem, not necessarily the action itself. I would say 1, 2, and 3 can all be correct responses to social norm breaking, but which one is appropriate should be judged by situation. If a woman is putting her purse on the seat next to her on the bus, this is a violation of social norms. But if the bus is not crowded and there are many open seats, it’s probably best to just ignore it and find a different seat. On the other hand, if the bus is full, then addressing the issue is best. But this is not a particularly severe violation, and a polite request will likely solve the situation. If she refuses, then it may be time to escalate.

      Now there are times when going straight to 3 is appropriate. Particularly flagrant violations, especially ones that can’t be attributed to simple absent-mindedness, should be admonished harshly. To use the bus case, if the person were laying down across a bench of seats, that would probably warrant a 3 approach. The example others have given of talking during a movie is another one. For the specific example of the women on the road, a non-confrontational approach (such as yelling “excuse me” or “on your left”) should suffice. There’s not much harm in what they’re doing. Now, if they were doing this and the path were busy, such that many people were having to go around them, then a harsher approach might make sense.

      (I guess practicality is another concern. The guy who sits at a green light because he’s texting on his phone is a pretty big violation of norms, but I wouldn’t recommend following him home so you can read him the riot act.)

      Your other cases of affirmative action/athletic scholarships and rent control seem to fall into a different category. The students and the grandma aren’t actually doing anything wrong–it’s the system that’s causing the problem. I guess you’re worried about whether you’re not showing enough sympathy to people who come out worse with the change in policy? But almost any change will benefit some and detriment others. Now that’s not to say you *shouldn’t* have sympathy for those who end up worse off. In fact, if you think you’re supporting the change *because* it hurts those people, you should probably start worrying about cynicism levels. But recognizing that an idea doesn’t have to be strictly beneficial to everyone to be a good idea isn’t inherently cynical.

      I guess to summarize in terms of SSC articles, contrarianism doesn’t necessarily make you right and you should err on the side of being nice to people, but any policy decision usually has tradeoffs, because the ones that don’t have already been implemented.

  18. entobat says:

    I recently (last 15 minutes) submitted a rather long, somewhat personal comment that seems to have disappeared shortly after being posted. Did the blog eat it? Did I get flagged (either by a machine or by Scott) as a spammer? I haven’t been active at all recently, but I have made sporadic comments here over the last couple years, and I don’t think my community impact was negative. I have the contents copy and pasted elsewhere, so no harm no foul, but I am curious about what happened.

    Weirdly, just before refreshing the page to find it gone, I saw “You can longer edit this comment” (or some such) in place of the blue edit link that normally shows up at the bottom of comments.

    • Aapje says:

      You probably used a banned word. No, I don’t have a list.

    • Zodiac says:

      My posts are very frequently swallowed up by the comment system for no reason at all. I have made it a habit to cntl+c my posts before submitting.

    • Deiseach says:

      WordPress, or the shoggoths, or something seems to eat comments at times. I think it might have to do with length, or number of links. Or maybe the phases of the Martian moons 🙂

      • bean says:

        It’s not pure links. Unlike my normal method, I posted the latest battleship index straight into the system. It was ‘awaiting moderation’ for most of a day, but I could still see it while logged in, and it didn’t disappear.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Somehow it ended up in spam. Since it looks like you posted it successfully since then, I haven’t taken any action.

  19. Kevin C. says:

    Lot of interesting material in the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group’s report “Political Divisions in 2016 and Beyond“, but what I found a bit surprising, and which I think may of be particular interest is Figure 2, a scatterplot on a standard two-axis model with an economic axis and a social axis. What first really stood out was the economically “conservative”, socially “liberal” quadrant — the “libertarian” corner. While I expected it to be less populated than it’s neighbors, I didn’t expect it to be so sparse. Nor the opposite corner — the “populist” corner — to be as dense as it is. Also interesting is where the centers of the Clinton voter and Trump voter clusters lie.

    (The comparison to 2012, for the analysis of the “swing” voters, in both directions, and the data as to what motivated the “Romney to Clinton” and “Obama to Trump” groups to make those shifts is also a point to note, as is the analysis of the major divisions within each party’s current constituency.)

    • Wency says:

      This is interesting. Obviously, libertarianism, like certain other philosophies, is much larger on the Internet than in the world. Still, I’d be interested in comparing that quadrant map to 2012, if it existed. Anecdotally, it seems that libertarianism’s heyday has passed, if the abundance of ex-libertarians in certain circles is any indication. But as an ex-libertarian myself, I’m sure my perception is biased.

  20. johan_larson says:

    The season finale of the TV series American Gods was on Sunday, and this episode featured Jesus or rather Jesuses since there were a lot of them, matching different conceptions of what this fellow was all about. But still, Jesus was portrayed as a god like all the other gods we saw in the series. And that’s a big no-no for a monotheistic religion.

    Anyone know what the reaction to this series has been among Christians? I’m not hooked into the ecosystem of Christian commentary.

    • RedVillian says:

      Nor am I any longer, but I was for long enough to probably accurately model the response: “Liberal Hollywood attacks Jesus by presenting him as ‘just another god.’ Not only that, but they present him as if there are diverse sub-groups of Christendom with an idiosyncratic view on him!!!”

      To test my trust in my mental model of Christian reflex-surface-reactionism, here are some top-level google results for ‘christian response to jesus on “american gods” starz’:

      Gizmodo article. I’m going to try to only talk about the obviously “Christian” responses.

      http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/christian-movie-reviews/5-things-christians-should-know-about-i-american-gods-i.html Shockingly evenhanded, though bent in support of Christianity. Haven’t seen the show, but I have read the book and this seems pretty fair, just-the-facts style reaction. Nice going Christians.

      http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/march-web-only/in-american-gods-deities-of-myth-meet-modern-world.html Another pretty even-handed review. This seems to predate Jesus’s appearance.

      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/kateohare/2017/04/american-gods-neil-gaiman-starz-bryan-fuller-trump/ Whiny self-indulgence about why the show is just plain bad–before we even get to the “possibly incredibly offensive” Jesus scene. I painfully recall writing movie “reviews” like this when a film didn’t mesh with my cultural sensibilities. More of what I expected.

      That’s the extent of the obviously Christian sources on the first page of Google, so maybe the Christian community is getting it’s stuff together and accepting that it exists in a broader culture. I struggle to make that align with my current experience of a very openly intolerant batch of Christians. I might theorize that there exists a tech-savvy, more-open strain of Christendom that is more likely to come to the surface on a Google search, but that’s a just-so story that I am constructing to fit my data set. So: I’ll try to be more aware to re-frame my thoughts on Christians. Update the ol’ model.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I struggle to make that align with my current experience of a very openly intolerant batch of Christians.

        Those probably don’t watch these kind of shows, so they don’t bother writing reviews about them.

    • vV_Vv says:

      The season finale of the TV series American Gods was on Sunday, and this episode featured Jesus or rather Jesuses since there were a lot of them, matching different conceptions of what this fellow was all about.

      Interesting. Did they also have a Sunni Allah and a Shia Allah? (rhetorical question)

      • Aapje says:

        No, it was about how Easter was turned from a pagan into a Christian holiday. So Allah would have been out of place.

    • dodrian says:

      I haven’t heard anything about it (nor seen the show, though having enjoyed the audiobook I’d like to at some point). I expect that’s largely because it’s been released on an obscure cable TV channel (OK, it’s one I’ve never heard of, not one of the big networks), and only people who already like the book are likely to try and watch it (or even know about it).

      I suspect had it been broadcast through someone like CBS, or even HBO or Netflix it would have gotten a much bigger reaction. I also suspect that like any community as loosely-defined as ‘Christian’ you’d find a pretty wide range of views about it all written by prominent Christian commentators:

      There will no doubt be a (probably large) group that find any portrayal of Jesus that doesn’t fit into their understanding of him to be offensive. There will be another group who will say that this show will make those watching it want to talk more about Jesus, which Christians can use positively to share what they believe. Another group will say that it’s a shame to see Jesus portrayed in such a way, but it’s not our job to defend him from popular culture. Another group will say there are much more important things to be thinking or talking about. Another group will say we really liked the show because it’s clearly fiction and okay to separate that from your religious beliefs.

      Similarly I have a few pagan friends – their reaction to these types of shows tends to vary around “it’s good to see our god[s] portrayed in popular culture, though that’s not really what [Odin] is about,” with varying degrees of positivity/disappointment/anger depending on how well they thought certain gods were depicted.

  21. fahertym says:

    I just started a blog which I hope is vaguely in the same style as SSC. I plan on reading about a different random topic I’m interested in every week and writing my thoughts on it.

    My first article is a comparison between Dr. Stephan Guyenet and Gary Taubes on nutrition and weight gain: https://randomreadingtopics.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/first-blog-post/

    Second article is a critique of the way scientists tend to view politics by examining Guyenet’s political recommendations: https://randomreadingtopics.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/dr-stephan-guyenets-default-scientific-statism/

  22. One Name May Hide Another says:

    Some time ago Scott urged skeptics to “look through the evidence that Russia was involved in the hacking” of Democrats during the 2016 elections. So I looked and ended up finding something very interesting instead: evidence that someone is trying to make it look like Russia hacked the Democrats. The best part is that this evidence is out there and can be verified by anyone. It is not difficult but not completely trivial either, and having some CS/IT experience would probably be helpful. And that’s why I thought of coming here: the place with the highest concentration of very smart, very techy people that I regularly attend. I would like you to look at the evidence and tell me what you make of it.

    Some background. On June 15, 2016 – three days after Julian Assange stated he’d be releasing some “great” Hillary emails and the same day CrowdStrike (a company hired by the DNC) made a claim about Russian injection of malware onto the DNC servers – Guccifer 2.0 published some DNC documents that he claimed to have obtained by hacking. Guccifer 2.0, who named himself after a hacker recently in the news, said he was a Romanian hacker responsible for the upcoming leaks. Pwn All The Things, with his 10s of 1000s followers on Twitter, did some quick analysis and concluded that Guccifer 2.0 left accidental Russian fingerprints on the files. His work was then cited by numerous journalists and today Wikipedia authoritatively states that Guccifer 2.0 was “a persona that created by Russian intelligence services to cover for their interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

    Now, in February 2017, /u/tvor_22, with his 24 followers on Medium, published a much more detailed analysis of the metadata in Guccifer 2.0’s files. He discovered that what Guccifer 2.0 actually did was first create a Russian stylesheet template using a copy of MS Word registered to “Warren Flood”, and then copy-paste the contents of the original DNC documents into the pre-tainted template while changing the author name to “Felix Edmundovich [Dzerzhynsky]”. Now, Warren Flood used to be a White House employee, but he is actually not the author of any of the actual DNC documents. (We know this because the documents were later published by Wikileaks in the Podesta emails batch. Not all of the Guccifer 2.0 documents ended up in the actual Wikileaks but the first three did.)

    This is it, in short. There is much more information, misinformation and speculation surrounding Guccifer 2.0, and it’s all highly interesting. But what I’d like to focus on today is /u/tvor_22’s and Adam Carter’s analysis of the metadata. I inspected the Guccifer 2.0 files myself and tried to come up with an alternative explanation for all of it, but so far have been unable to. (I’m hoping some people here will be interested enough in this subject to play with it themselves and either verify or poke holes in the analysis.) The most important part of the argument is that docs 1, 2, and 3 all contain the same Russian stylesheet RSIDs. They also have the same author and creation timestamps (afternoon of the day the docs were published.) Given that RSIDs are random numbers generated upon save whenever an element is added or edited, this means that all 3 docs derive from the same document.

    Anyway, I hope people do have a look for themselves. The documents leaked by Guccifer 2.0 are still up on his website! Links for those who are interested, containing all the sources and reference material information needed:
    Minimally guided version for people who want to do all the work themselves.
    A slightly more guided version.

    • Ivy says:

      Thanks for taking the challenge and digging through to the primary sources!

      While /u/tvor_22’s analysis is clever and interesting, it doesn’t really shift my opinion from when I first read about the documents’ author being “Felix Edmundovich” – on balance more likely to be a frame job than a Russian state-sponsored leak, but the frame-job was done so incompetently that there’s a high probability of trolling or some sort of triple-bluff n-dimensional chess going on that I don’t understand.

      Do you have the sense that this is the strongest or most important evidence for Russia’s involvement in the DNC hacks? Or did you pick the piece of evidence you thought was weakest? Not accusing you of cherry-picking, I’m genuinely curious: Scott seemed to refer to some publicly available, well known body of evidence, but I’ve yet to find one. Most people I’ve seen arguing for the Russia-hacking connection cite the consensus of the intelligence community rather than specific evidence.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        I’m bringing up Guccifer 2.0 and the metadata in his files for two reasons. First, I believe he is central to the claim that Russia actually interfered with the US elections by releasing DNC documents to the public as opposed to just hacking the servers. And second, I think the detailed metadata analysis showing that Russian fingerprints were left on purpose is virtually unknown. It took me hours of digging to come across it. (Since it hasn’t received a lot of scrutiny, there very well might be some errors in it. I’d like more eyes on it to see if people come up with better interpretations of all the available metadata.)

        Now, if the analysis is correct, then, in itself, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it wasn’t Russia. As you mention, it could have been some sort of a triple bluff thing. But if so, then it was awfully bizarre in itself and very unsuccessful. Bizarre, because, say, why choose the obscure name of Warren Flood, who wasn’t even a DNC employee at that time?

        Unsuccessful, because, as far as I understand, Pwn All The Things, with his 10s of 1000s of followers on Twitter, took the fingerprints at face value. He called it a Russian opsec fail. His analysis was then repeated by journalists. Moreover, /u/tvor_22 says he got blocked when he questioned Pwn All The Things’ view of things. This could have been for variety of reasons. For all I know, /u/tvor_22 may have been asking his questions in a rude way or something, but the bottom line is that most people don’t seem aware of the additional evidence he uncovered.

        There is much more to this story that seems worth discussing and that I plan to go over with people here in the future, but for now I’m hoping to get some opinions on whether or not the available metadata, including the matching Russian style RSIDs, means that the original DNC documents were copied pasted into a pre-prepared Russian stylesheet template prior to being published on Guccifer 2.0’s website.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, from the recent WikiLeaks release of the lost CIA hacking tools, they have a tool called “UMBRAGE” which allowed the CIA to leave behind evidence fingering other states/hacking groups to cover their tracks. These tools were floating around for at least a year before the DNC hacks, meaning anyone could have done it, and fingered Russia.

          Even without UMBRAGE, it seems obvious to me that any motivated hacker would want to implicate someone else in the hack, particularly if they planned on making the information publicly available (that is, the victim is going to know they were hacked when the information is released and then go look for a perpetrator as opposed to situation in which the information obtained is used privately and the victim may never know they were hacked). The very fact the IP addresses traced back to a Ukrainian proxy was a red flag for me. I’m pretty sure the first rule of being behind 7 proxies is “don’t have the last proxy be anywhere near you.”

  23. dndnrsn says:

    There’s a perception that police in the US shoot unarmed people more than they used to and/or are less likely to face punishment than they used to. This is usually tied in with the idea that police have become militarized. This isn’t just from left-wing activists – I’ve seen more than one criminal defence blogger make the claim, and they, uh, tend to hold a lot of opinions that would make them unfit to be left-wing activists.

    Is this the case? Is there a way to quantify it? I know from doing light Google research that US police shooting numbers are often rather sketchy and speculative – record keeping seems to vary a lot from place to place.

    Assuming the answer is yes: what could be done to reduce the number of people killed due to police overreaction/screwups/etc?

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I think at least one of the arguments made is that the degree of danger associated with being a police officer is both low and falling, which suggests that police should act in ways less tailored to minimising the risks they face and more tailored to keeping the people they interact with alive and healthy.

      As for reducing it: our general response to seriously socially undesirable activity is to criminalise it, work to catch the people who are doing it and gather evidence of their infractions, and then punish them. That feels like a decent starting point here, too.

      There’s probably a balance to be struck between treating shootings by police as a matter of occupational negligence (you will be disciplined/fired) and treating them as flat-out crimes, not dissimilar to shootings by not-police. I’ve got some sympathy for the view that the punishment should be fairly certain but not excessively severe (for a lot of crimes, actually) if only because that makes it more likely that police will be willing to enforce the rules against their colleagues.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        which suggests that police should act in ways less tailored to minimising the risks they face and more tailored to keeping the people they interact with alive and healthy.

        Kind of easy to say when it’s somebody else’s life on the line, isn’t it?

        • Brad says:

          That’s why they get the very high total compensation considering the job requirements. Taking hazard pay and then refusing to be exposed to hazard is dishonest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And all I’m saying is it’s much easier to define how much hazard is acceptable when someone else is facing the hazard.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It’s also easier to exaggerate when the taxpayer is paying for it.

          • Brad says:

            It’s generally up to the employer to decide the terms of the employment and the employee to take it or leave it. But there’s this weird thing where many on the right start spontaneously humming L’Internationale the second we are talking about cops instead of teachers.

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s why they get the very high total compensation considering the job requirements. Taking hazard pay and then refusing to be exposed to hazard is dishonest.

            It’s worth noting that protective services work isn’t unusually risky by the standards of hands-on labor. It’s a lot worse than white-collar work, but construction workers die on the job about twice as much, and vehicle operators more than twice.

            Dunno how that ought to hash out in terms of compensation.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          To have a high-trust society, the police have to be accountable too.

        • hls2003 says:

          Personally, given the policy choice, I would rather compensate more (though most police are already well-paid considering their socio-educational background) and require more restrictive rules of engagement, than compensate less but offer qualified immunity from most abuse-of-power complaints. In fact, I would argue that the latter system exacerbates the problem, because it is more attractive to people who tend to exercise power in a potentially abusive way (because they can max out that part of their “compensation package” more than the mild-mannered).

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          Kind of easy to say when it’s somebody else’s life on the line, isn’t it?

          As should be kind of obvious in the context of a debate about people who are not police being killed by people who are police, everyone’s life is on the line in this discussion.

          I think it’s reasonable to suggest that the institution we rely on to, well, protect and serve, should try to avoid killing too many of us, even if that increases the risks they face. A police force optimised to maximise the safety of the police would leave the precinct only very rarely, and wouldn’t work all that well.

          Obviously you’ve got to compensate people for what you’re asking them to do, but, as others suggest, the market seems to do a better-than-reasonable job of that already.

          Along with the money and the benefits, have you ever heard of a male stripper dressing up as a health economist, just to pick a random profession?

          • Barely matters says:

            Along with the money and the benefits, have you ever heard of a male stripper dressing up as a health economist, just to pick a random profession?

            I used to know a guy who did a pretty good Tax Accountant set, but it relied heavily on subverting the trope and doing a Clark Kent Takes Off His Glasses transformation. So your point here is solid with respect to the social benefits of police work. Police/Fire/Ambulance are some of the easiest roles to play straight for status on the stage.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            I’ll file that piece of knowledge, and mental image, away in case it becomes useful in the future.

            Thanks

      • cassander says:

        which suggests that police should act in ways less tailored to minimising the risks they face and more tailored to keeping the people they interact with alive and healthy.

        I suggest an alternative rule, worry more about keeping people alive and less about them being healthy. Allow greater latitude in the use of non-lethal force and less for lethal force.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Right, because going to jail for a few nights on bullshit charges wasn’t a costly enough disproportionate outcome of not Respectin Mah Authoritah, now we can also look forward to hospital bills! I would bet actual money on insurers refusing to cover costs associated with such altercations, since clearly it’s Joe Commoner’s fault for not kowtowing deeply enough.

          • cassander says:

            If the cost of fewer people getting killed is a larger number of people getting bruised, I call that a win. What do you call it? and please, “Respectin Mah Authoritah”? Can we not leap straight to emotional digs at rival tribes?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            rival tribes

            Lawl. If you mean, Jock Tribe, sure. Red Tribe, not really.

            The monopoly on violence needs to be carefully monitored. One doesn’t need to be a bleeding heart liberal to know that if a cop is having a bad day he or she has a lot of leeway to make yours even worse. The consequences of asserting one’s constitutional rights are already alarmingly high – I’d rather not add “feel free to smack Obvious Criminals around if they get lippy”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Cassander probably meant “red tribe”, and I think he’s right, but I have a related point: if you treat cops like a hostile rival tribe, they’re going to act like a hostile rival tribe. Ditto for minorities of all stripes, members of weird religions, jocks, nerds, and short people, but it seems especially worth thinking about in the case of cops, because they carry guns and act under color of law.

            Trust goes both ways. If you want enforcers of any kind of norms to have productive relationships with the people they’re enforcing norms over, you need to ensure they’re using their powers ethically without making them feel hamstrung, or unappreciated, or like they need to bend the rules to get their jobs done. Do any of that and you’ve got a recipe for perverse incentives. Stricter rules of engagement are not an unqualified good in this context.

            That’s a hard needle to thread, and I feel like a lot of damage has already been done, but we definitely don’t want to make it worse.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m not saying cops are a rival tribe. I’m saying they’re human beings, prone to all the same sort of failings and biases as the rest of us. Allowing more leeway in the use of violence will inevitably lead to even greater misuse of violence.

            Trust is a two-way street, yes. But since they are the ones with the guns and the connections to prosecutors, the onus is on them to demonstrate accountability. When they can act with impunity and anyone wronged by the police has to just put up with it or face even worse, it does not exactly win hearts and minds.

            Now I’ve liked most if not all of the cops I’ve met personally. Good folk in it for the right reasons. But when one bad apple can turn your life upside down (or just shoot your dog) on a whim, well, I’d really rather decrease the incentive for meathead bullies to join up. Not give them the extra allure of bruising folk who dare to slight their egos by claiming to be human beings with rights.

          • Nornagest says:

            Allowing more leeway in the use of violence will inevitably lead to even greater misuse of violence.

            I’m saying this is not true, not inevitably. Misuse of violence can happen when license to use violence is extended to “meathead bullies”, to use your phrasing. But it can also happen when options involving less, no, or earlier use of violence are closed, or unattractive for other reasons.

            Rules of engagement work by closing off options, and they’re typically a pretty blunt instrument. There are subtler ways for bad dynamics to be created, too: if any use of force automatically leads to an investigation, for example, then you’re incentivizing “shoot him dead and sprinkle some crack on the corpse” in some situations that might have been resolved with a nightstick or Taser, because dead men can’t tell their side of the story.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But it can also happen when options involving less or no use of violence are closed, or unattractive for other reasons.

            Sure, I’ll concede that.

            if any use of force automatically leads to an investigation, for example

            I still think that this would be the healthy police culture to have. Though perhaps “review” would be a better term than “investigation”.

            If we can get a law saying that any time dashcam/bodycam footage is “missing” then Law Enforcement automatically loses their court case, I will gladly support one allowing them more appropriate application of nightsticks and tasers. But accountability has to be demonstrated before granting more responsibility.

            This is admittedly a rule exaggerated for effect. The point I’m trying to make is that in the current climate they need to do something big and splashy to earn the public trust. Or make some honest goddamn statistics available to watchdogs, and have departments actually willing to act on them. And unions that will rigorously excise bad eggs instead of hiding them behind the blue shield.

            I’m saying this is not true, not inevitably.

            Power corrupts. Without functional accountability, it is inevitable. With credible accountability, I agree with you.

            Perhaps a middle ground would be “if any use of lethal force automatically leads to an honest investigation, then you may have more leeway with non-lethal force”. I don’t think this is sufficient, and undecided on whether it would even be a net gain, but it’s a start.

          • albatross11 says:

            I have very little confidence in my ability to design better rules of engagement for the police from my armchair. So what I’d like to see is a serious commitment from, say, the DoJ, to collect data on police use of violence and police shootings. I’m much less concerned with sending anyone to jail than I am with noticing which departments are having problems, and which sets of rules of engagement/department policies/enforcement strategies works at reducing these things. But this has to start with the data, or we all end up arguing from our mental images of police shootings cobbled together from imagination, news reports (with a bias toward sensational and outrageous stories), and TV shows.

            As far as shootings: The Washington Post database shows that a lot of police shootings involved an armed person getting shot or a violent crime in progress, (That’s drawn from police reports, so it might not be entirely reliable, but it’s the best data I know of.). That suggests that the total number of avoidable police shootings might not be all that high. Some of the cases where the person shot was armed were avoidable (that’s the claim in the Philando Castille shooting–it looks like the cop just panicked), but a lot of them probably weren’t. Similarly, some cases where the police intervened in a violent attack might have been resolved nonlethally, a lot of thr time, shooting the guy was exactly what we want the cops to have done. And there is no way to avoid some tragedies–if you put thousands of cops pr year in situations where they’re scared and armed and have like three seconds to make a decision, some of them are going to panic and kill someone who wasn’t really a threat. That’s what you get for using humans instead of robots for law enforcement.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The DoJ is implementing a collection plan as of last year, but even assuming no serious bumps in the road by way of poor local and state police participation and/or record-keeping, etc, it will be years before we have a particularly robust data set.

            I doubt that will satisfy anyone to whom this is quite literally a life or death struggle against the murder of the downtrodden.

          • cassander says:

            @Gobbobobble says:

            I’m not saying cops are a rival tribe. I’m saying they’re human beings, prone to all the same sort of failings and biases as the rest of us. Allowing more leeway in the use of violence will inevitably lead to even greater misuse of violence.

            I agree, but since the role of the police officer is inherently one backed by force, we need to think about where to give them licence and where not.

            My logic is simple, I’d much rather we have several people who don’t deserve it get beaten up than one killed. I also think that cops who constantly fear which hunts for the use of force might not be very good at their jobs. Hence, a two pronged approach, one, give them wider latitude to use non-murderous force in exchange for extreme oversight of (and with severe penalties for improper use) the use of murderous force.

          • albatross11 says:

            At the risk of going back to terrorism vs chairs, the total number of blacks shot dead by police last year was 233. Of those, 145 had guns, so maybe a plausible first cut estimate of the number of blacks needlessly killed per year by the police is around 88. (Some people with guns shouldn’t have been shot; some without guns should have been.). This is a rough estimate, but I doubt it could be off by a factor of two. So we’re talking about maybe 100 killings of blacks by the police a year that could be prevented if we could really get a handle on police shootings of blacks. That’s worth fixing, but it doesn’t seem like so much of a life and death struggle by the downtrodden. It’s roundoff error in traffic deaths, and a small fraction of all murders.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There’s more to this than the number of people killed– one is whether you can trust police to be helpful rather than destructive, and another is the risk of being beaten.

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            There’s more to this than the number of people killed

            It has recently become popular among a segment of people to (smugly) cite how much more likely one is to die in a tragic banana accident than from a terrorist attack, to dismiss fears of terrorism as ignorant and probably racist.
            I’m curious what kinds of murders this logic applies to, and if there is a consistent rule.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nancy:

            I agree that’s also an issue. But the one that’s capturing lots of attention for the last several years, and that Trofim eas commenting on, is police shootings of black men. So it’s worth spending some time trying to work out how many peoples’ lives we might save if we eliminated all the unnecessary police shootings of blacks. My estimate is less than 100, and given the data we have, it’s hard to see how that could be off by more than a factor of two or so, though if I’m wrong, I’d like to see why.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            @albatross1

            Police shootings are not directed exclusively (or even primarily, despite the attention directed this direction by a particular stripe of activist) against black people. Get the full dataset and adjust numbers upward accordingly.

            It might not change your underlying point, mind.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            My logic is simple, I’d much rather we have several people who don’t deserve it get beaten up than one killed.

            Beatings and other ‘hands on’ policing also cause deaths, so it’s not as clean a dichotomy as you present.

            Also, many US police officers work solo and it’s risky to try to subdue someone physically without superiority in numbers.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje

            The point is to create, or more accurately clarify, a very strong distinction, to create a culture where the attitude is “you can do what you need to do, but if someone dies, there will be serious investigation and consequences” and to create a situation where we can judge people on concrete results, not nebulous intent.

          • The point is to create, or more accurately clarify, a very strong distinction, to create a culture where the attitude is “you can do what you need to do, but if someone dies, there will be serious investigation and consequences”

            An extreme example of doing this is traditional Cheyenne law. Casual violence seems to have been fairly common. Kill a fellow Cheyenne, on the other hand, and you are exiled from the tribe, more or less whatever your reason, at least for a period of years. And ceremonies are required to purify the tribal totems.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          That’s obviously a laudable goal, cassander, particularly since killing destroys evidence as well as ending a life.

          I will say, though, that something like this was the idea behind routinely issuing tasers, which were intended to be used instead of a gun, in situations when the officer would otherwise have shot the target. Needless to say they ended up being used much, much more broadly than that (there’s no “don’t shoot me bro” video) by opening up the option for a less consequential form of violence.

          Maybe the many extra incidents of people being tased (which is mostly nonfatal, but is a pretty big deal in the context of public order policing) are a worthwhile trade for some small number of averted shootings, but you are talking about a geometric growth in the number of incidents as a result of a new technology loosening rule of engagement for “minor” violence by officers.

    • qwints says:

      Radley Balko’s “Rise of the Warrior Cop” is worth reading if you haven’t yet.

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t think there is good data on police shootings nationwide, which makes it hard to know if the shootings are becoming more common or just get reported more often.

      The FBI’s homicide reports show justifiable homicide by police officers, and I don’t think there was an uptrend in those numbers, but they also didn’t get reports from all police departments. The Washington Post and the Guardian have collected data on when civilians are killed by the police for the last couple years, and both have websites where you can see the data. The Washington Post even has a very nice web frontend for simple queries on the data. But that doesn’t tell you much about long term trends–it only goes back to 2015.

      • albatross11 says:

        Washington Post fatal police shootings database

        This lets you drill down a bit. In 2016, they counted 963 fatal police shootings. About a quarter (233) of the people shot were black. More than half were claimed in the police report to have a gun. (I don’t know how often the police threw down a gun after the shooting to justify it–I suspect that would be a bad strategy, given the extremely low fraction of poiice shootings that end up with the cop prosecuted, but I really don’t know for sure.). There is a lot more detail if you dig around.

        For reference: blacks are about 13% of the population, so they’re shot at about twice the rate you’d expect if police shootings were random. However, blacks also get arrested at a disproportionate rate. From this data you get blacks accounting for about 28% of arrests. (This reflects the much higher black crime rate.) The most plausible model to me is tha more hostile interactions with the police = more opportunities to get shot.

        I think you can get far more out of spending half an hour digging through the numbers on the Washington Post website and doing simple calculations than reading or listening to almost any debate or news story about police shootings.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          There’s this study done by a Harvard economics professor on the subject, where he looks at the likelihood of blacks being shot given comparable circumstances relative to others races. The findings: police officers are more likely to use force in general in apprehending blacks, but their likelihood of shooting blacks, specifically, is the same as it is for other races.

          However, this doesn’t mean that blacks aren’t unfairly, disproportionately shot. The author admits that his study doesn’t cover the likelihood of blacks being accosted in the first place, and suggests it’s this area where blacks could be getting screwed over.

          So, not a greater likelihood of being shot once pulled over, just a greater likelihood of getting pulled over in the first place.

  24. Trofim_Lysenko says:

    So, for about half the day, this open thread was blocked by my workplace’s filters (Our Internet AUP allows for personal use during breaks, but software blocks a lot of sites and content), but ONLY half the day, as “Content: Gaming”. As of yesterday OT 77.75 was suddenly blocked for “Content: Marijuana”.

    Is it tripping on keywords or somesuch? If so, it can’t be that sensitive because that entire discussion of, well, gaming, E3, and Steam accounts didn’t trip the ‘Gaming’ block the way something did today…

    Color me confused.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Is “gaming” on the filter as being about games as we understand them, or is it filtering to keep out online poker and sports betting? Perhaps someone was discussing prediction markets?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I’m able to access wikipedia articles and even online general articles about betting/table games topics (I work at a casino and have used wikipedia to explain Blackjack and Baccarat to my team during slow times for example), so I’m guessing not, though I suppose there could be a whitelist.

      The bit that confuses me is the page suddenly becoming -unblocked-, after being blocked for hours. I can only assume that a post was deleted.

  25. philosophicguy says:

    I’m relatively new here, so I don’t know if even mentioning this guy is off limits since he’s a culture-war lightning rod, but I found these two podcast episodes with Jordan Peterson to be excellent:

    Joe Rogan podcast #877 and #958 with Jordan Peterson:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04wyGK6k6HE

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USg3NR76XpQ

    Those are nearly 3-hours each, and I’m finding each one worth multiple listens. The guy’s a genius with a great ability to speak extemporaneously.

    • rlms says:

      Culture-war things are banned (or at least supposed to be) on specific hidden open threads, but if the post doesn’t mention it you can talk about anything (as long as you do so vaguely truthfully, kindly and necessarily, and don’t use banned words).

    • Bugmaster says:

      I think he is indeed a great speaker; very passionate, articulate, and engaging. I think his opposition to compelled speech laws is commendable, and perhaps even courageous. At the same time, though, I find his religious/philosophical positions to be mostly bonkers. Sad, but true.

      • philosophicguy says:

        I completely agree that his weak spot is his religious/mythical fascination. For a while I was really put off from him after his difficult conversations with Sam Harris highlighted these weak spots. But after listening to him on the two Rogan podcasts, I’m a fan again. He’s more clear than anyone right now on the way our currently PC culture war is just rebranded Marxism in a new guise, and he’s more courageous than just about any public intellectual I can think of. Despite his shortcomings, I wish we had a hundred more like him.

    • Atlas says:

      Trivial observation: while I don’t honestly find Peterson all that interesting as a thinker/speaker, my YouTube app keeps recommending me videos of him, and I find the overly dramatic titles hilarious, along the lines of:

      “AN INTELLECT TOO GREAT FOR THE SENATE TO EVEN COMPREHEND!!!”

      “JORDAN PETERSON: BEAST MODE ENGAGED!”

      “JORAN PETERSON: THE ONE MAN ARMY!”

      “Dr. Jordan Peterson TRUTH BOMBS everyone in a Harvard audience!”

      And it’s funnier because the videos in question tend to be, to me at least, rather underwhelming in terms of the actual alleged evisceration/disembowelment/crucifixion of Peterson’s opponents.

    • lvlln says:

      I first heard of Peterson through Sam Harris’s podcast and actually just in the past week listened to both of those Joe Rogan interviews. I agree he’s an excellent speaker with a lot of charisma. His ability to explain things simply and with uncanny clarity reminds me a lot of Sam Harris, actually, which makes the semi-disasters of his appearances at Harris’s podcast quite ironic in retrospect. I also couldn’t help but notice that both Peterson and Harris seem to elevate “telling the truth” as the highest virtue or perhaps the most important thing one can do for the betterment of humanity.

      I do find Peterson’s obsession with religion and mythology to be a little hooey. He seems to connect dots which it’s not clear are actually connected, constantly coming back to things like “the hero myth,” “slaying the dragon,” “saving your father from the underworld,” “the snake in the garden,” etc. What makes this easier to swallow than otherwise is that he makes it explicit to the listener that he’s not talking about these in literal terms – unlike actual cult leaders, he says that these myths can be useful even if you don’t have an iota of belief in them.

      And I think that connects with the fact that he’s a clinical psychologist rather than an academic or religious leader. He’s not concerned with discovering things about reality, he’s concerned about helping his patients accomplish their goals, and he defines “truth” around that concept – what’s useful for that goal, rather than what reflects empirical reality? That’s where I start to lose him a little, and that’s what made his 1st appearance on Harris’s podcast so bad, but I can appreciate where he’s coming from.

      His explanation of social justice warriors seems a little bit of an ad hoc just-so story, but I can’t deny that it’s 100% consistent with their observed behavior. I think not enough research has been done about how this group came about to really confidently assert any explanation, but the way he speaks, he seems quite sure of himself. I admit, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s a clinical psychologist, Bret Weinstein is an evolutionary biologist, Erika Christakis is an early childhood educator, all professions where you’d expect them to have some empirically based understanding of how people and groups of people work.

      I do highly recommend anyone to check it out if they’re interested in modern culture war issues. I expect he’s not going anywhere anytime soon, since he sees YouTube and online platforms like it as the future of education where he can do more to teach than traditional avenues like universities (which he sees as too corrupted, or in an inevitable slide towards being too corrupted) or books, and I think he’s got a point there.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        actually him being a psychologist makes a lot of sense in that regard

        basically as I understand it he subscribes to the consequentialist notion of truth: you should believe as true what will be good for you, and society should believe as true what will help society

        the problem is: who makes that call? And it can’t be the members of the society themselves, or they won’t actually believe it, which defeats the whole purpose. For example, Christianity: people like Petersen may convince themselves to believe for the greater good, but if everyone’s just pretending does it really work? Probably not, so it has to be decided by some elite or whatever, and that makes it highly vulnerable to being wrong about what people should believe, both accidentally and purposefully

        but as a clinical psychologist it makes sense on two axes: first, your patients are in some sense not fit to judge what they need, since they need psychological help, and second, you as a clinical psychologist are in a position to be that elite, and be a responsible one with enough learning and experience to usually be correct, plus you can consult other clinical psychologists and professors and so forth

        don’t think this works for society as a whole though. At best it demands the enlightened leader, and that usually ends poorly.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          the problem is: who makes that call?

          But Peterson’s whole point is that it’s evolved. The behavior comes first. Monkeys came out of trees and acted in ways that succeeded long-term for monkeys. As the monkeys figured out how to talk they started trying to describe notable ways of being a successful monkey, for the monkey now, the monkey in the future, the monkey’s family, the monkey’s community. And he doesn’t mean proposing possible ways of being a successful monkey and then debating them. He means abstracting out the features of already proven successful monkey behavior.

          So the stories aren’t invented, they’re discovered. And dismissing as mere superstition important stories that articulate ways of acting in the world that are useful for individuals and groups is therefore extremely foolish.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Just to be clear: we’re talking about Christianity here, right?

          So, what, the Bible…evolved? You may argue that a certain way of living associated with Christianity evolved, but the bottom line is that the religion itself was written and thus invented, whether by whatever Roman Emperor or by the apostles themselves.

          And by the way, another problem emerges, namely that Christianity and religion generally have proven themselves to be totally vulnerable to atheism, or maybe “neoliberalism”, or whatever. So if you were the man on high picking Christianity to push, you done fucked up, because however good it is for the people who follow it, it’s not good enough to convince them of its goodness.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So, what, the Bible…evolved?

            That’s Peterson’s thesis, yes. Although he talks about lots of other mythologies, too, including Buddhism, ancient Greek, Egyptian and Babylonian mythologies. Early people observed human behavior, abstracted useful knowledge of modes of behavior that “work,” and attempted to articulate them. But articulation of such concepts is hard, and took a long, long time.

            And by the way, another problem emerges, namely that Christianity and religion generally have proven themselves to be totally vulnerable to atheism

            I’d say it’s the other way around. Europe has abandoned Christianity, their birth rates are in the toilet and in another hundred or so years they’ll have been replaced by Islam.

            Also, what you’re describing is basically what Nietzsche said. He wasn’t happy that God was dead, he believed that Christianity contained within it the seed of its own undoing (highest moral value is Stating the Truth. The perfect man spoke truth and suffered anything for it). Without God, the core would be ripped out of western civilization and men would have to become ubermensch and forge their own values, which is very, very hard. Hitler, Stalin, others would eventually attempt to do this and fail catastrophically and horrifically because invented ideologies are pathological.

            Watch the Maps of Meaning lectures, they’re really insightful and entertaining.

            ETA:

            So if you were the man on high picking Christianity to push, you done fucked up, because however good it is for the people who follow it, it’s not good enough to convince them of its goodness.

            I believe Christianity has within it the seeds of its own resurrection, as well. The history of Christianity is a pattern of abandonment and revival. Don’t judge the faith by its current ~50 year malaise when we’re working on a 2,000 year time span. Christianity’s not dead yet.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            It makes some sense to describe the Bible as having evolved. The Hebrew Bible plus the New Testament are not the result of one person writing in one place at one time.

          • lvlln says:

            You may argue that a certain way of living associated with Christianity evolved, but the bottom line is that the religion itself was written and thus invented, whether by whatever Roman Emperor or by the apostles themselves.

            I think this is actually exactly what Peterson argues. Christian myths are false because they were invented, but the reason those myths became so popular is that they resonated with behaviors we as social animals figured out were beneficial to our survival. So he considers them “true” in a religious sense, which he considers to be the highest value of “true,” rather than an empirical sense.

            Again, this is where things sound a bit hooey to me, perhaps even new age-y, but I can appreciate that he’s not asserting that Christianity or any other religion is literally scientifically true. So according to his vision, even if no one was actually a Christian, that would be fine, as long as they bought into the way of living it espouses. And it’s not like that way of living is uniquely Christian anyway – things like taking responsibility for one’s life, strengthening oneself to face dangers, preventing needless suffering, using dialogue to adjudicate conflict, etc. doesn’t belong to Christianity. He seems to find the myths of Christianity useful as metaphors for those concepts which he believes evolved from social animals struggling to survive for millions of years.

            It’s a good point that history isn’t over yet, so we don’t know just how fit his principles are. Maybe a form of fascism or totalitarianism espoused by Islamists or SJWs is actually the one that would lead to survival of humanity, and the principles of personal responsibility he espouses will actually doom humanity to extinction. I think he convinces himself that this is not the case by looking at history and evolution. I do think his case based on the history of USSR and Communist China, as well as behavior of chimps in dominance hierarchies are pretty strong, but I’m honestly not sure if he’s onto something or just fooling himself with very nice sounding charismatic words. Just-so stories can sound very convincing.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’d say it’s the other way around. Europe has abandoned Christianity, their birth rates are in the toilet and in another hundred or so years they’ll have been replaced by Islam.

            But that just means that Christianity contained the seeds of this failure all along, doesn’t it? Is it any accident that pretty much every Christian country who got moderately wealthy has promptly entered a death spiral?

            And sure, I won’t pre-judge Christianity. But this is rather the point: who is the person who makes the call? Whoever it is, if they’re wrong, they’re fucked. And especially problematic is that they can’t exactly have a large-scale debate about it, because the entire enterprise depends on secrecy – either that, or everyone subscribing to consequentialist truth and mouthing along with everyone else. Maybe that actually works and I’m an elitist for thinking it doesn’t, but I think it doesn’t.

            the reason those myths became so popular is that they resonated with behaviors we as social animals figured out were beneficial to our survival.

            This is not how people decide if they like something or not. It’s certainly not how they decide if they believe something or not.

            It makes some sense to describe the Bible as having evolved. The Hebrew Bible plus the New Testament are not the result of one person writing in one place at one time.

            How many people in how many places? Two groups at two times? I’m shamefully unaware of Hebrew religious history, and I know there’s debate about Christian religious history.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is it any accident that pretty much every Christian country who got moderately wealthy has promptly entered a death spiral?

            How do we know it’s Christianity’s fault and not wealth’s fault, or the fault of something else that correlates with wealth? Japan’s birth rates are even lower.

            (I think the rich Gulf petrostates have high birth rates, but petrostates are a weird case and most of them are tiny.)

          • lvlln says:

            the reason those myths became so popular is that they resonated with behaviors we as social animals figured out were beneficial to our survival.

            This is not how people decide if they like something or not. It’s certainly not how they decide if they believe something or not.

            That’s not how evolution works. It doesn’t matter how people decide if they like or believe something. What matters is whether societies that do or don’t like or believe something survive/thrive relative to other societies that do something different.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Then let’s rephrase: Christianity, when it comes into contact with wealth, fails to a large degree. Other systems may fail even more prodigiously. But life doesn’t grade on a curve.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            That’s not how evolution works. It doesn’t matter how people decide if they like or believe something. What matters is whether societies that do or don’t like or believe something survive/thrive relative to other societies that do something different.

            Cool, but the problem is that the religion grew popular, ultimately, because people believed in the God himself. The Bible isn’t considered to be popular to non-Christians. Why?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @AnonYEmous says:

            But that just means that Christianity contained the seeds of this failure all along, doesn’t it? Is it any accident that pretty much every Christian country who got moderately wealthy has promptly entered a death spiral?

            And sure, I won’t pre-judge Christianity

            Maybe, maybe not. The last time this happened Islam got to the gates of Vienna.

            who is the person who makes the call?

            You do. I do. We do, individually and together.

            The following is just my opinion rather than Peterson’s. He doesn’t predict the future. I believe that Christianity is a faith that flourishes under persecution and suffering. An awful lot of people discover their faith during times of extreme distress. Illness, death, war. And the common atheist trope is that this is fear of dying, or punishment in the afterlife or something, but as a believer who found my faith through suffering, I don’t think it is at all. I think it’s a way of dealing with the suffering, and finding right ways to act and think that make the suffering okay. It clicks one day and you get it, but it’s very difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it.

            This becomes the self-correcting nature of Christianity. Obey the precepts, do the rituals and you get a workable, high trust society. As you abandon them, people fall into moral and spiritual decay, which results in material decay as well. And when they’re really suffering is when they discover, personally, what made Christianity work all along, and the Truth of it. So I gaze into my crystal ball and think things will get way worse, and then they will get better, and Christianity will snap back. Whether or not this happens before Europe is consumed by Islam remains to be seen, but the idea that atheism or neoliberalism or whatever it is is the last ideology on the Tech Tree and we’re just waiting for everybody else to catch up is unlikely to be true. This is not the end of history and we don’t just go by a points victory in 2050.

          • Randy M says:

            But life doesn’t grade on a curve

            If we are talking about evolution, cultural competition, or anything analogous, isn’t that exactly what it does?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Cool, but the problem is that the religion grew popular, ultimately, because people believed in the God himself.

            No. The religion survived and thrived because its followers out-bred, out-competed, out-expanded and/or conquered others who had a less workable memeplex. That’s evolution, applied to memetics.

            This is the problem with Dawkin’s meme theory of religion. He sees it as a virus. Essentially a useless or destructive pathogen, when in fact it’s more like a symbiotic relationship with the host.

            This is how you wind up with people saying things like “if it weren’t for Christianity we’d be exploring the galaxy by now!” No you wouldn’t be. You’d be in mud huts probably without the Church preserving and expanding knowledge and generally telling people not to murder each other too much.

          • lvlln says:

            Cool, but the problem is that the religion grew popular, ultimately, because people believed in the God himself. The Bible isn’t considered to be popular to non-Christians. Why?

            I’m not seeing the problem here, could you break it down further? Christian myths obviously predate Christianity and the Bible by quite a bit, and Peterson’s point seems to be that those myths survived because societies found them useful. I haven’t heard him say anything about the specifics of the history of Christianity, but I think his point would be that because these myths were popular, they ended up in Christianity, not the other way around.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            You do. I do. We do, individually and together.

            But this is precisely the downfall in regards to religion. It works fine as a way of life, as a culture, and as shared myths. I can cop to that and I agree with its insightfulness.

            But if it comes to a religion, something which requires belief? I don’t think most people can consciously choose belief. Again, maybe I’m wrong.

            If we are talking about evolution, cultural competition, or anything analogous, isn’t that exactly what it does?

            Not really. You’re either trending upwards, trending downwards, or neither. If christianity causes downward trends, it doesn’t help that other ideologies do too – you’ll still end up with zero people. Either that, or an incredible amount of sortition and selection a la Ideocracy, in which case as usual we’ll see, a reality which makes leaving it up to a few elites a really bad idea.

            No. The religion survived and thrived because its followers out-bred, out-competed, out-expanded and/or conquered others who had a less workable memeplex. That’s evolution, applied to memetics.

            But…so far as I can tell, the growth of Christianity came from conversion. How do you know that the various religious bits and pieces and myth of Christ didn’t just appeal to people in a way that isn’t evolutionary? Evolution is strong, but it most certainly produces artifacts.

            I haven’t heard him say anything about the specifics of the history of Christianity, but I think his point would be that because these myths were popular, they ended up in Christianity, not the other way around.

            I guess.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @lvlln

            I’m not seeing the problem here, could you break it down further? Christian myths obviously predate Christianity and the Bible by quite a bit, and Peterson’s point seems to be that those myths survived because societies found them useful. I haven’t heard him say anything about the specifics of the history of Christianity, but I think his point would be that because these myths were popular, they ended up in Christianity, not the other way around.

            Not exactly. Peterson says (essentially) there are only a limited set of workable monkey behaviors, so everyone who tells stories about successful monkeys will tell similar stories. For instance, he talks about how the tiny native American tribe he talked to had basically the same Flood story as the bible (and others) despite being separated by 12,000 years. (The flood story being a metaphor for “there is a time for prehistory before which nothing remains”)

            Epistemic status: I’m talking about my own personal conversion experience. If conversion to faith experiences were easily articulable and transmitted via interweb you’d all already be converted.

            When I had my religious conversion experience a few ideas crystallized in my head which were “there is only one well” and “I see a dim view of a more perfect geometry.” Suddenly I saw bits of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit in everything that contained some part of “Truth,” especially in any sort of narrative story of heroism or suffering. LoTR, Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Matrix, etc. And I know some of that’s intentional, some of it’s not. The point is everything sounds the same, everything rhymes because you’re just experiencing different aspects of the same universal truths.

            Difficult to articulate, which is among the reasons I sympathize with Peterson’s argument that “articulation is hard, and comes after behavior.” But in my view, Christianity didn’t take the stories from earlier stories. Everyone took the stories from the same, singular well (God).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @AnonYEmous

            I had a long response but it gotten eaten, or a broke a rule. Either way long story short:

            You can “choose to believe” by either making a Leap of Faith (see Kierkegaard) or by just doing the behaviors so well there’s no difference between your actions and those of a believer, and then just…stop pretending you don’t believe the things you’re clearly acting like you believe. I call this “stop LARPing.”

            Also, as for spreading and making people, religious communities make children. The problem with secularism/atheism is it puts no emphasis on reproduction and has many memes against it. Long term this is evolutionary/memetic failure.

            It’s not about “elites deciding.” It’s a bottom-up thing, not a top-down thing. We talk about low birth rates in the US or whatever, but my church is full of families with children.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @AnonYEmous:

            How many people in how many places? Two groups at two times? I’m shamefully unaware of Hebrew religious history, and I know there’s debate about Christian religious history.

            INFODUMP TIME; TL;DR: biblical scholarship complicated

            The Hebrew Bible was put together by various ancient Jews over a period of probably a millennium, and consists of various different sources, sometimes in the same document (eg, there’s two creation narratives in Genesis, and two versions of the story in Job) – in some places, the editing is smoother than others, but generally scholars think they can spot the different versions by various means (eg, in parts of the Hebrew Bible, by the use of different names/pseudonyms for God).

            Jews traditionally subdivide the Hebrew Bible into the Torah (“teaching”, 5 books traditionally associated with Moses, consisting of an account of the supposed history of the world/Israel plus a bunch of laws and such), Nevi’im (“prophets”, further subdivided into some books giving further history of Israel, the important prophetic books, and some lesser prophets), and Ketuvim (“writings”, consisting of poetry, wisdom literature, and some stuff that appears to have been written late and didn’t fit anywhere else).

            The books of the New Testament mostly seem to date from the mid to late 1st century to the early to perhaps mid 2nd century (scholars, of course, disagree). They consist of the gospels (accounts of Jesus, consisting mostly of things he’s supposed to have said and things he’s supposed to have did; there’s various debates over the sources of the different gospels but the important bit is that Mark was probably the first; Matthew and Luke appear to have used Mark as a source, to share another source often called Q from, imaginatively, the German for “source”, and probably had their own sources too; John was probably the last and is very different from the others), Acts (Luke 2 basically), Epistles (a whole bunch of letters, some written by Paul, some forged in Paul’s name to address stuff that came up later, an anonymous letter traditionally associated by Paul, and some letters by other guys), and Revelation (this is the one with all the monsters).

            In both cases, what books were official was decided upon fairly late in the game. We know when better for Christians than for Jews. We also have more stuff that didn’t end up in the Bible (IIRC) for Christians than for Jews, some of which was really really wacky. There’s also some stuff Jews composed but didn’t become official for Jews which Catholics have kept around.

            The whole thing is made complicated by the fact that, although I used the word “forgery” earlier, that’s a little bit mean and inaccurate. We are more sticklers for things like authorship and historical accuracy and such than used to be the case. With the pseudo-Pauline letters, for example, you had a situation where new problems came up, so somebody wrote letters in Paul’s name addressing them, probably thinking something closer to “well, this is what Paul would think about this, based on what I know of Paul” than “suckers!” Or, some of the prophetic books explain past events as though the books were written before those events, to explain why they happened via the format of “this is what’s gonna happen and why”. Or, the Gospels were written to fit the understanding of the world of the communities they came from: you can read all of them as answering the question “so how exactly does a peasant Jewish religious leader, executed in horrible fashion by an imperial occupying power, bring about salvation for all mankind”, for example.

            And this isn’t even going into the history of either religion after the canons were laid down. So the point of this infodump is that in fact it is pretty accurate to say that the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Judaism, and Christianity all “evolved”.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            But if it comes to a religion, something which requires belief? I don’t think most people can consciously choose belief. Again, maybe I’m wrong.

            I know I can’t, which is why I’ve always found Pascal’s Wager style arguments ridiculous. His suggestion is “just go through the motions and eventually you’ll start believing.” Maybe some people’s minds work that way, but I don’t think everyone’s does.

            I attended church as a child/teenager and was surrounded by believers for years. I didn’t dislike it and found some of the rituals soothing (partly just because I enjoy rituals and routine), but it never moved me an iota closer to actually believing.

          • Aapje says:

            If you agree with Jordan Peterson that the myths are useful, regardless of their historical accuracy, you can also chose to use the myths as guidance, without actually believing in God.

            A subset of Western Christians do seem to believe like this, either by no longer defining God as a thinking entity (for example, by equating God with nature) or sometimes actually calling themselves atheist. The latter even has a wiki page.

          • lvlln says:

            @Conrand Honcho

            Difficult to articulate, which is among the reasons I sympathize with Peterson’s argument that “articulation is hard, and comes after behavior.” But in my view, Christianity didn’t take the stories from earlier stories. Everyone took the stories from the same, singular well (God).

            It sounds to me like you’re just restating what I stated, substituting “God” for “popular myths,” with the understanding that popular myths became popular because our social ancestors observed that peers who behaved in a certain way tended to create successful societies. Which is a fine just-so story and, as far as I can tell, the only way I’ve seen that actually allows for religion being compatible with empirical reality. This, combined with the fact that he doesn’t ever ask you for faith or even suggest that you trust him without taking small incremental steps to try out his suggestions is why I find Peterson’s case compelling.

            At the same time, it IS a just-so story, and I haven’t seen evidence that the hard empirical work necessary to prove that this story is actually true has been done, which is where I find Peterson a bit cult-ish. Yes, we see the same sorts of stories popping up over and over again, but No, that doesn’t prove or even strongly assert that they aren’t just coincidence or that they have any sort of relationship with how real societies in the real world involving real humans actually work. We humans are incredibly good at pattern matching and confirmation bias.

          • ddenly I saw bits of God and Christ and the Holy Spirit in everything that contained some part of “Truth,” especially in any sort of narrative story of heroism or suffering. LoTR, Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Matrix, etc.

            You forgot Dr Who.

        • > it can’t be the members of the society themselves, or they won’t actually believe it,

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokononism

  26. James Miller says:

    A few Americans, 7% according to a survey, are being mocked for believing that chocolate milk comes from brown cows. But these Americans are of course correct as brown cows exist, produce milk, and milk is by far the main component of chocolate milk. (From Nate Silver’s 538 podcast.)

    • rlms says:

      Are you suggesting that 3% of Americans enjoy pedantically answering surveys (and 4% are lizardmen)? That does seem plausible.

    • skef says:

      I tried to find the text of the question. From the comments:

      For the several comments asking about the survey. The full survey currently isn’t posted anywhere. The survey was conducted by Edelman Intelligence to kick off our Undeniably Dairy campaign on behalf of the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy.

      The purpose of the survey was to gauge some interesting and fun facts about consumers’ perceptions of dairy, not a scientific or academic study intended to be published, yet the USA Today Snapshot’s interest in the chocolate milk stats, and subsequent coverage of that, has brought on the attention.

      While the study wasn’t intended for public consumption, it is statistically valid. The study polled 1,000 American adults online between May 5 and May 9, 2017. Responses came from all 50 states, and the regional response breakdown was fairly even.

      So basically the dairy industry did a survey for a campaign about milk. Various news outlets reported ” … Milk … ” and Nate Silver responded with ” … Milk … ” prompting you to note that ” … Milk … ” and me to clarify that ” … Milk … “.

      • James Miller says:

        So we should treat this as a public relations learning experience.

      • Deiseach says:

        So it wasn’t a serious survey, it was an “interesting and fun facts” survey? If it was phrased in that manner (i.e. the questions were all light-hearted and humorous), then no wonder some people responded in kind: “sure, brown cows give chocolate milk! ha! ha! okay, do I get my Moo Cow Cap now?”

    • AnonYEmous says:

      I don’t think anyone has discussed this, but shouldn’t Lizardman’s Constant be subject to how funny the wrong answer is? “Chocolate milk comes from brown cows” seems amusing enough to bump it to 7%.

  27. Odovacer says:

    When is it all right to feel afraid? What about acting on that fear?*

    I’m referring to non-obvious conditions, not like falling from a tall height or actually being attacked/in danger.

    Terrorism is fairly rare in the US, but the government does and spends a lot to try and mitigate it. Campus rape is also fairly rare, but activists and the government do a lot to try mitigate it too. Most black people aren’t criminals, most white people aren’t seeking to oppress and hurt minorities. Yet in certain circles you have people cultivating a culture of fear
    , where many lives are at stake, and those who don’t take it seriously are then considered “part of the problem”.

    Another example is Muslims. IIRC, most Muslim Americans don’t want to impose sharia law on the US, and most Americans don’t want to kick out/attack Muslim Americans. However, if you go to certain groups/tribes you get a lot of fear about either the former or the latter.

    Also, is it all right to have different standards for individual vs group in terms of fearing things/acting on that fear? think of a person who would cross the street if they saw a teenage male walking towards them at night. Is it all right for the individual to avoid that male, but not ok for society to advocate for teenage males making themselves “less threatening”?

    *I think Scott has posted about this, but I can’t recall it.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I think you need to distinguish between the emotional experience of fear, the involuntary and unaware behavioral biases due to emotional fear, and the deliberate behaviour of perceived-harm-avoidance (or whatever you want to call it).

    • IIRC, most Muslim Americans don’t want to “impose sharia law on the US.” They want, at most, Islamic law for themselves. It was pretty normal, in past Muslim societies, for different ethnic groups to be under different law.

      To impose it on the U.S. they would need to control the government, and they are currently a very small minority.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        It was pretty normal, in past Muslim societies, for different ethnic groups to be under different law.

        Weren’t the Muslims basically always at the top of the ladder, though? I don’t relish the idea of imposing Jizya or Janissaries much more than I do sharia.

        • Weren’t the Muslims basically always at the top of the ladder, though?

          In Muslim ruled societies, I believe that a controversy between a Muslim and a non-Muslim went to a Muslim court unless the parties agreed to a non-Muslim court, but I’m not certain. And the penalty for killing a non-Muslim was, I think, usually less than for killing a Muslim.

          On the other hand, various features of Muslim law applied only to Muslims, such as the prohibition on drinking wine.

          My point was rather that, just as Muslim ruled societies allowed non-Muslims to conduct their activities under their law, it wasn’t unreasonable for them to want societies ruled by non-Muslims to do the same for them.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            My point was rather that, just as Muslim ruled societies allowed non-Muslims to conduct their activities under their law, it wasn’t unreasonable for them to want societies ruled by non-Muslims to do the same for them.

            Ah, fair enough. I haven’t read your book (draft?), are there modern examples of different courts for different folks (Belgium, maybe?)? IANALS but I’m pretty sure in the US at least the parent system (the Constitution and the relevant state constitution) would pretty severely restrict the reach of enclave systems (i.e. no you cannot enter a contract that you agree to be executed if the religious police catch you committing adultery).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      You also have to differentiate between hardcore support for and engagement in Bad Thing, tacit approval of Bad Thing, indifference to Bad Thing, and opposition to Bad Thing. Consider various pieces of rhetoric:

      When Hitler took power, only ~3% of Germans were members of the Nazi party.

      Only 5-6% of colonists took up arms against the British in the American Revolution.

      “It’s not just that Trump is a racist, sexist, xenophobic, islamophobic, transphobic, homophobic and arachnophobic bigot, it’s that his supporters don’t care!” — everyone on /r/politics

      “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

      “The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful so it’s stupid to get worked up over terror.”

      It’s hard to reconcile these observations. I’m tempted to say the “peaceful majority” doesn’t matter. The vast majority of Nazis were peaceful. 99% of Nazis never gassed a Jew. The problem was the peaceful majority supported, enabled, or didn’t oppose the ideology and political structure that eventually led to the gassing of Jews.

    • tayfie says:

      The commonality of X is far from the only consideration. @Conrad Honcho touched on this.

      Other important factors include the harm of X, how the frequency or severity of X will change over time, the influence and moral standing of the people practicing X, the reaction of the general populace when X happens, and how hard is it to prevent X.

      The super-intelligent heuristics that I came up with just now: It’s good to be afraid when the expected harm of an event to a group you care for exceeds your personal tolerance. It is good to act on that fear when the value of the harm prevented exceeds the cost of implementation over the lifetime of the affected group.

      That doesn’t say much, because these factors are hard to calculate, but putting numbers on these things gives you a model rather than using your gut every time.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      Campus rape is also fairly rare, but activists and the government do a lot to try mitigate it too.

      How common rape is (and particularly campus rape) is a hotly debated topic, and the numbers change dramatically depending on how someone defines rape. The most-cited study focusing on college-age women says that 1 in 4 will be raped. That study has also been criticized a lot for having confusingly worded and misleading questions, and I don’t think the numbers are that high, but I also think it’s probably not rare.

      I do agree, though, that overall the things that people are afraid of are not the things most likely to harm them, and that there are a lot of groups invested in inflaming fear for political purposes.

      • cassander says:

        when you look at actual crime stats, campus rape is rare to none-existent, which is what you would expect given the lack of other violent crime on college campuses, itself largely a phenomenon of the demographics of the attendees.

      • Aapje says:

        @Hyzenthlay

        The most-cited study focusing on college-age women says that 1 in 4 will be raped.

        That would be by Mary Koss, who is an extremely poor researcher, who injects her bias into her research.

        For example, her studies assume that every woman who had sex after drinking alcohol was raped, even if the woman in question doesn’t consider herself to have been unable to consent. Of course, by those lenient standards, many men would have been raped as well, so she simply excluded men from her studies (arguing based on a single source that is not even available online that they don’t suffer from rape as much as women, which is a horrible reason to not collect the data in the first place). Most other studies exclude men and/or use sexist definitions which excludes almost all rape of men by women (only counting sodomy perpetrated against men, which is not the common type of rape that women perpetuate on men, for obvious reasons).

        It requires very careful cherry picking to pad the rape/assault numbers for women, while still pretending that men are rarely raped/assaulted.

        A more recent study found that 1 in 4 of college seniors experienced sexual assault since entering college and 1 in 8 were raped. Note that the survey was sent out as a mail with the subject ‘Campus Climate Survey.’ I’ve seen anecdotal claims that some/many students deleted the mail because they thought it was about Climate Change, while activist feminist students had been made aware of what it was and they were thus more likely to answer. AFAIK, activist feminists (believe that they) have experienced sexual assault & rape substantially more often than other women, so one would expect some bias to higher numbers due to this. The survey had a very low response rate in general.

        The Bureau of Justice Statistics also did a survey where they found that the yearly rate of rape was 7.6 per 1,000 for non-student college-age women and 6.1 per 1,000 for students. So these are drastically lower figures to the previous survey. The BJS study uses different definitions though.

        PS. Note that activists quite often equivocate sexual assault and rape when they cite prevalence statistics.

        • hlynkacg says:

          The thing I’ve never understood about the “1 in 4” figure is how it ever passed the smell test. It requires one to believe that college campuses are quite literally the most hostile environment for women in the country by an order of magnitude.

          • Matt M says:

            I think you have this backwards. That statistic was made up to fit a narrative that a surprisingly large amount of people already believed.

            It requires one to believe that college campuses are quite literally the most hostile environment for women in the country by an order of magnitude.

            College campuses have a whole lot of young, middle-class, white males. How could they NOT be one of the worst, most violent, horrible, places on Earth?

          • Brad says:

            College campuses have a whole lot of young, middle-class, white males. How could they NOT be one of the worst, most violent, horrible, places on Earth?

            This is the kind of terrible comment that detracts rather than adds value to the comment section here.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Matt
            I’m inclined to agree with Brad on this count.

          • Matt M says:

            Why? I’d love to hear an alternative hypothesis.

            You correctly point out that a statistic like that is essentially unbelievable (in the most literal sense of the term) on its face, and yet, millions of people DO believe it.

            My best explanation is that they believe it because it confirms their existing beliefs.

            How could one possibly believe that Harvard has a higher incidence of rape than Somalia without invoking the line of thinking I just outlined? You asked the question, I’m giving you a plausible answer. If you find my answer implausible, or if you have a better explanation, feel free to provide it, rather than just telling me to shut up.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            a better explanation

            “feminists believe stupid thing that serves their purpose”

            there you go

          • dndnrsn says:

            Alternative hypothesis: we don’t have the concepts/language to discuss problems with the current sexual culture, which is caught in a nightmare twilight zone between the Olden Days and the Brave New World of sex positivity.

          • lvlln says:

            @hlynkacg
            I think your question has an incorrect premise. The belief in “1 in 4” doesn’t require the belief that college campuses are any more hostile than anywhere else in the country if one also believes that everywhere else in the country is just as hostile to women. The people claiming “1 in 4” or even “1 in 5” tend to describe the USA and Western society in general as a “rape culture” where rapes of females by males regularly happen and are excused/covered up/accepted, to the extent that official stats could easily be off by 1 or 2 orders of magnitude.

            @Matt M
            I think your explanation is a little too complicated. The “young, middle-class, white” is unnecessary. As an aside, the boogeyman of the people who wholeheartedly buy and repeat the “1 in 4” claim is more “old, upper-class, white male.” But really, it’s just the “male” – specifically a cis straight male in the case of the “1 in 4” statistic – that matters. And cis straight males make up a significant proportion of most college campuses, as well as most other parts of society. Like I said above, the belief in “1 in 4” doesn’t imply a belief that college campuses are any safer for women than anywhere else.

            All this is just my impression from being part of social groups whose members uncritically repeat the “1 in 5” claim – “1 in 5” tends to be far more popular than “1 in 4.” It’s possible that the people who buy the “1 in 4” claim act differently, but I suspect that they’re somewhat similar. It’s also likely that one person’s impression is not a particularly accurate guide, so take all this with a heavy dose of salt.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I think most people aren’t especially numerate, so they don’t check claims which are more or less in line with their prejudices. I also think extreme claims can have the effect of shutting down people’s capacities if they aren’t good at getting their system1 somewhat offline.

          • albatross11 says:

            Because almost nobody does basic sanity checking of claimed numbers in news stories. It’s shockingly common to see numbers quoted, even in top newspapers and such, that are obviously wrong and impossible, if you spend five minutes thinking about them.

          • albatross11 says:

            AnonYEmous:

            That’s not a feature of feminists, it’s a feature of humans. Most people accept claims of fact that support their beliefs more easily than claims of fact that challenge them, and almost nobody bothers doing a back of the envelope calculation/Fermi estimate to figure out whether some claimed fact is even consistent with observable reality.

            It’s easy to forget how massively unnatural things like logic and probability theory and numerical reasoning are. Even most smart people find them really hard to do well. When you reflect on how we evolved, it’s a miracle we can think at all.

          • Nornagest says:

            the boogeyman of the people who wholeheartedly buy and repeat the “1 in 4” claim is more “old, upper-class, white male.”

            Upper-class, maybe, or at least the upper half of the class distribution. White, definitely. But I’m really not sure about “old”. “D*debro” (bowdlerized because filter) connotes young, and there is no equivalent slur for old ciswhitemales.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            That’s not a feature of feminists, it’s a feature of humans

            then it is a feature of feminists by definition, thanks for playing homie

            nah but seriously, feminists believe way dumber stuff than normal people and on the regular no less. I mean, what is blank-slate theory if not really dumb, but perfect for the ideology? How about “drunk sex = rape”? And of course the college rape statistics mentioned here are almost humorous in their idiocy.

            But maybe you’re somewhat right; the big difference with feminists is not only that they get dumb-ass ideas, it’s that they manage to hold on to them through various means, mostly shutting up people who disagree with them. That’s also a big problem.

          • Matt C says:

            Nobody really believed it. People just enjoy repeating dramatic-sounding bullshit on Facebook, and don’t care if it’s true or not.

            If people really thought it was true, families would bring their daughters home from college immediately. Nobody did that. Nobody even considered doing that. Because nobody really believed it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ lvlln

            That just makes the claim more absurd. I may no longer be in a position to observe a college campus directly but I can observe my immediate surroundings and peers. Where (and with whom) are these people living that would make a 20 – 25% incidence rate for rape in a 5 year span sound remotely plausible?

            On the whole though I think Nancy and Albatross have the way of it. People aren’t especially numerate, and thus fail to “sanity check” the claim.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            AnonYE, I suggest presenting your argument in a more focused way. Right now, you’re running afoul of your own

            There’s no real point in engaging with someone who makes vague and insulting generalizations about large groups that are emphatically untrue in order to back up their preconceived notions.

            The majority of human beings hold at least one, if not several, fairly dumb and untrue beliefs if only because it’s easy to do so in any sphere where you aren’t forced to test your beliefs against reality and suffer the consequences when you’re wrong.

            At the very least, I suggest that if this is the argument you really want to go with that you provide some measure for “way dumber” and “on the regular”.

          • lvlln says:

            That just makes the claim more absurd. I may no longer be in a position to observe a college campus directly but I can observe my immediate surroundings and peers. Where (and with whom) are these people living that would make a 20 – 25% incidence rate for rape in a 5 year span sound remotely plausible?

            The “rape culture” narrative posits that when women claim being raped by men, they are by default not believed and punished by having their honesty and virtue questioned. Furthermore, the narrative posits that many women and men know this, so women tend not to report their rapes, and men tend to feel emboldened to rape willy-nilly as long as they leave plausible deniability.

            Given that, the answer to your question is that they’re living the same places everyone else is living at, with the same people everyone else is living with. The fact that the people around them don’t appear to be raping or being raped doesn’t imply that there isn’t a whole lot of rape happening, whose reporting is just being suppressed. That’s rape culture.

            If this looks to you like an unfalsifiable belief system, I think there’s a darn good reason for that. And I think history has shown that huge swaths of people buying into unfalsifiable belief systems is the norm rather than unusual.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            It requires one to believe that college campuses are quite literally the most hostile environment for women in the country by an order of magnitude.

            Students on college campuses drink and party a lot (or at least, that’s my stereotype of them) and if that’s true, I don’t find it hard to believe that there would be more rapes on campuses than in other types of environments. Having sex with a drunk person isn’t rape, but someone who’s really drunk and too out of it to resist is probably more likely to get actually raped.

            But yes, the Koss study is pretty terrible, because it doesn’t differentiate between “having sex with someone who is basically unconscious/unable to resist” (rape) and “two people drinking together and then having consensual sex” (not rape). And the latter situation is way more common than the former.

            Most of the women in that study who were classified as rape victims didn’t consider themselves as such. Which makes the “listen and believe” mantra kind of ironic. “Believe women! Unless they say they weren’t raped, in which case, don’t believe them because they’re clearly just in denial.”

            In generally I think it’s just really hard to get accurate numbers on rape. It is an under-reported crime so just looking at crime stats won’t give you the whole picture. But also there are a lot of people who have a motivation to exaggerate its frequency, so a lot of studies about it just aren’t very good.

          • Matt M says:

            Having sex with a drunk person isn’t rape

            The people who believe in “1 in 4”, generally speaking, STRONGLY disagree. In fact, I think that’s a large part of why this is believable to many that we haven’t discussed yet.

            It turns out that there really is no strong agreement on what “rape” actually is.

            If you’re flexible enough with the definition to include things like “you repeatedly asked someone for sex and they eventually gave in” (which many colleges consider sexual harassment at least), then you can get to a place where 1 in 4 is entirely believable.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            AnonYE, I suggest presenting your argument in a more focused way.

            Sure, let’s put it like this: feminists believe in dumb things that cannot be easily falsified in many cases, and more importantly, they think you are a bad person if you try to discuss critically or disprove these dumb things, which then justifies them attacking you for attempting to do this (which they will do), all while trying to indoctrinate people into their beliefs at every opportunity.

            It’s not that we haven’t had other groups try to pull this crap before; they just usually get censured by society until they learn to keep it to themselves. Well, in the modern era, anyhow.

            As for extra-dumb beliefs, pretty much any variation of blank-slate theory. Usually people will try to extend this to races, but personally, even as a pretty girly guy, I have a ton more in common with the average male PoC than the average white woman. And that was true even before I became a total wigger. Purely biological sex differences are huge – breasts, genitals, and hormones – and certainly much more relevant than skin color. The bottom line is that women and men, across cultures and across the world, have patterns of behavior, likes, dislikes, interests, and desires, which line up remarkably well and without blemish. Despite this, the belief of feminists is that this is all due to some type of oppression. This is extra-strength dumb.

            Oh yeah, you’ve also got the wage gap, which posits that employers aren’t smart enough to pay women less for the same job and thus profit greatly. Actually, at this point feminists have mostly moved on from that form, and now argue that women’s labor is just valued less – which I guess admits that employers are smart enough to pay women less for the same job, but instead complains that they manage to get away with it because…reasons? This is where a basic understanding of economics could come in handy, but feminists – admittedly, like many – do not possess such an understanding.

            That said, I will admit that the problem isn’t even so much that these things are extra-strength dumb, so much as, again, saying so makes you a bad person. Maybe there’s some truth to blank slatism, or some truth to the second version of the wage gap. But try having that conversation in public and see how far you get.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Usually people will try to extend this to races, but personally, even as a pretty girly guy, I have a ton more in common with the average male PoC than the average white woman.

            I don’t know about race specifically, but I’ve always had the opposite impression in terms of culture: I probably have more in common with a man from my own social grouping (middle-class American) than I do with a woman from a radically different class or culture.

            There are certain sex-related differences that remain pretty stable across the board, but as far as overall personality/values/interests, culture/class seems like a better predictor of commonality to me than either race or gender.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            I think a big part of the problem is that when intoxication is involved there is a big gap between what we culturally consider rape, and what is legally considered rape (or, some variety of sexual assault; many jurisdictions have gotten rid of “rape” as a crime and replaced it with some variety of sexual assault). In Canada, for instance, for someone to be intoxicated enough to not be able to consent, they have to be really wasted: drunk enough to not be aware of what is going on, not be aware they have the choice not to consent, etc. The legal standard is not “would not have done that if sober”. However, the line of “this is a bad person” is crossed a ways before that, and the line of “this person can be considered a rapist” is, in most people’s minds, crossed before that.

            Example: Alice and Brenda go out on a date (I’m using women because it might engage people’s system 2 more, and because same-sex sexual assault and sexual assault by women are among the most underreported forms of sexual assault). Brenda ends up rather more drunk than Alice, and they end up back at Alice’s place. Alice initiates sex, Brenda consents – verbally, or not. Brenda would likely not have consented sober, and Alice knows what she is doing – she is taking advantage of Brenda’s drunken state to get some sex. However, Brenda is fully aware of what is going on, is not blacking out, etc. This is not criminal on Alice’s by the legal standard in Canada, and I would guess the legal standard in the US is similar. However, most people will instinctively think “Alice is a shitty person”, and possibly, “Alice is a rapist.” I would judge Alice; and it would be a fair thing to tell women “hey, stay away from Alice when you’ve been drinking; she’s not safe to be around if you’re drunk.”

            The issue with statistics comes in where words like “intoxication” are used, but how intoxicated is not described. Most people will fall towards the cultural rather than the legal standard.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            Brenda would likely not have consented sober, and Alice knows what she is doing – she is taking advantage of Brenda’s drunken state to get some sex.

            How drunk is Brenda? There’s a big difference between someone who is pleasantly buzzed and has lowered inhibitions and someone who is still conscious but stumbling around and can barely speak a coherent sentence. But both mental states might result in people doing things they wouldn’t do while sober.

            I mean, most people drink with the awareness that it lowers their inhibitions, and some people drink specifically for this reason. So “would not have done that if sober” does seem like a pretty low bar to me, in terms of counting something as rape. Alice is probably behaving selfishly and unethically in this example, but in my mind there’s also a difference between “selfish and unethical” and “rapist.” And in order for it to qualify as the latter, the victim has to be in a state where they actually can’t consent (i.e. their mental capacity is diminished to the point where they’re incapable of thinking or making a decision).

            Granted, this can be kind of a fuzzy line and if you’re a decent person who doesn’t want to take advantage of someone else, you probably should avoid going near that line at all.

            But I also think there’s some level on which people are responsible for decisions they make while drunk, if they make the choice to get drunk.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Hyzenlathy: closer to the former than the latter, for the case of the example. The case law in Canada puts the bar pretty high – in the case that as far as I can tell (IANAL) set the standard, the victim was so drunk she mistook one of the guys having sex with her for a different guy and didn’t recognize her own sister shortly thereafter.

            Most people would personally consider someone a rapist before the law did. I would not say “well, she wouldn’t get convicted in a court of law, so no harm in inviting her to parties” – the standard for “thinking someone is a bad and predatory person” is a lower standard than “should be punished by state authority.”

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Matt M, I think it’s not just that people don’t agree on what rape is, they chose definitions of drunk which support their point of view.

            If you want to believe that intoxicated sex is rape, you imagine the drunk person as clearly barely able to communicate if at all, and certainly not able to react quickly or forcefully.

            If you want to believe laws against intoxicated sex are ridiculous, you imagine someone who deliberately had a few drinks, possibly with the purpose of lowering their inhibitions.

            Neither side seems to be invested in coming up with more sensible laws.

          • Aapje says:

            My problem with the mainstream feminist stance on this issue is that it seems perfectly clear what one could do to reduce this problem of drunken (semi-)rapes: take measures against drinking.

            However, you generally see feminists react violently to this suggestion, using various fallacies, generally based around the claim/assumption that only men can be rapists and claiming that men should be changed/be restricted. The debate then becomes about which groups should suffer, rather than efficacy of the measures.

            At that point, the revealed preference is that they don’t consider these huge claimed numbers of rapes as a good reason to take the most effective measures, even if those may inconvenience women (as well). The result is that I see a lot of the rhetoric as hyperbole, not as true beliefs.

            If one believes that only men rape, then another logical solution presents itself: separating men and women (like women-only colleges). Yet again, this is generally rejected.

            This fits a pattern that I very commonly see in SJ, where there is an immense willingness to inconvenience/harm the outgroup to achieve desired results, yet extremely little willingness to inconvenience/harm the ingroup.

            For me, it is evidence that a main motivation is harming one group and/or seeking unfair benefits for another group, when such a pattern exists.

          • Brad says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            If you want to believe that intoxicated sex is rape, you imagine the drunk person as clearly barely able to communicate if at all, and certainly not able to react quickly or forcefully.

            If you want to believe laws against intoxicated sex are ridiculous, you imagine someone who deliberately had a few drinks, possibly with the purpose of lowering their inhibitions.

            Neither side seems to be invested in coming up with more sensible laws.

            There’s a lot of confusion between what the actual criminal law is, what various authority figures teach about moral sex, what colleges enforce using their own administrative rules, and how people at large use the word rape (which in turn affects surveys).

            Under the New York State Penal law, if a person voluntarily takes alcohol or drugs that impairs their judgment the standard for lack of capacity is physically helpless which the law defines as “a person is unconscious or for any other reason is physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act”.

            That’s a pretty high standard, and the burden of proving every element beyond a reasonable, including the lack of consent, is on the prosecution.

            I understand that some MRAs still object to this on the basis of implied or prior consent, or the basis that they think being married gives them the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, but in the context of colleges it is hard to see the argument that it is too restrictive.

          • rlms says:

            Consent is a silly moral standard. The classic example of it failing is when two really drunk people have sex, and it also often leads to question begging (calling a situation rape because there wasn’t consent because the victim is of a class that by definition can’t consent). A better moral standard (in my opinion) is expected benefit/harm to the other person. However, this can’t be directly translated into a legal system, so we use a combination of consent-based law, “common sense”, and obviously non-rape cases of “non-consensual” sex not making it to court instead. A consent-based moral standard also has at least one advantage over a harm/benefit one: it is harder for would-be rapists to convince themselves/convincingly argue that someone did actually consent when they didn’t than that expected benefit actually exceeds expected harm.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            I understand that some MRAs still object to this on the basis of implied or prior consent, or the basis that they think being married gives them the right to do whatever they want

            Implied or prior consent doesn’t mean ‘the right to do whatever they want.’ Implied consent refers to the defaults of the culture that you are part of, where certain behavior is considered normal/reasonable and for these, explicit consent is not needed. Prior consent refers to agreeing with the partner on the rules beforehand, but not in the context of a specific event.

            If you are part of a culture where it is normal for partners to just steal a kiss, not asking before you kiss your partner is implied consent. If it is not part of that culture to slap your partner on the rear, then doing that cannot be defended by implied consent.

            However, if you and your partner have agreed that slapping each other’s rear without permission for each slap is fine, then this is prior consent. This overrides the defaults of society.

            Of course, some people may dislike the defaults of the culture and at that point the burden is generally on the person who wants to deviate to make that clear. So this is sort of the reverse of prior consent, but similar in that an agreement in the context of the relationship overrides the societal default.

            Note that implied and prior consent are obviously all around us, which makes the people who apply the same concepts to sex consistent with the rest of society, while those who oppose it are advocates for special rules for sex.

            PS. I have great trouble seeing your equivocation of the two terms with ‘the right to do whatever they want’ as a good faith argument. Both the fact that two distinct terms exists, as well as the obvious meaning of the words ‘implied’ and ‘prior,’ should make it abundantly clear that your interpretation is most likely false.

          • Brad says:

            Aapje, it seems like you always read what I write in a strained and maximally hostile manner which is why I rarely respond to you.

            In this case the implied or prior clause was separate clause from the one mentioning marriage. Hence the comma and the repetition of the word basis.

          • random832 says:

            @Matt M

            The people who believe in “1 in 4”, generally speaking, STRONGLY disagree. In fact, I think that’s a large part of why this is believable to many that we haven’t discussed yet.

            I’ve never been able to get anyone to admit it. They generally retreat to the motte of “no, ‘drunk’ in this context only means when someone’s unresponsive and almost passed out, not just having had one or two drinks and loosened their inhibitions”

            I’ve even deliberately tried to lead people into the “would not have done if sober” standard and they won’t admit to actually believing that should be the standard. Maybe I’m arguing with the wrong people though.

            @Brad

            In this case the implied or prior clause was separate clause from the one mentioning marriage. Hence the comma and the repetition of the word basis.

            I think he misread “or” as “on”, with the result of seeing “on the basis” repeated, resulting in the form “A on the basis of B on the basis of C” suggesting “A <- B <- C" rather than your intended "A <- (B or C)"

            The repetition of the word "basis" doesn't actually help with this, so the distinction between the two forms rests on only a punctuation mark (and most people randomly sprinkle commas anywhere in casual writing) and two extremely similar looking words. Even "or on the basis" might have been enough to make it clear.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Brad

            I understand that some MRAs still object to this on the basis of implied or prior consent, or the basis that they think being married gives them the right to do whatever they want

            I’m going to try very hard to resist snarking. Please take a look at this statement and compare it to statements with similar animus directed at “SJWs” that you are so fond of railing against.

          • Brad says:

            @Gobbobobble

            I’m going to try very hard to resist snarking. Please take a look at this statement and compare it to statements with similar animus directed at “SJWs” that you are so fond of railing against.

            I don’t see what the problem is exactly. Some MRAs think that implied or prior consent should allow for sex with an unconscious person. I’ve seen that very argument here. Aapje comes close to making it in the very next response. I don’t even necessarily disagree, especially with respect to prior consent.

            As for the second part, yes a pretty hostile way of framing the position that the marital rape exception ought to be reinstated, but it is entirely accurate. When the marital rape exception was in place that the accused was married to the victim was a complete defense to the charge of rape. Case over. And there are indeed people that hold that the marital rape exception ought to be reinstated. I’ve had that discussion in these very comment sections.

            Also, I was careful to caveat my statement with “some”. I didn’t say “MRAs believe” like the ubiquitous “SJWs believe”.

            Finally, MRA is primarily a self descriptor whereas SJW is primarily a strawman.

            I took the last critique re: libertarians as a fair cop, but I’m rejecting this one.

            In any event, the entire point of my comment was to suggest that the NYPL definition of rape is a high bar and that even people that are very unhappy with college rape adjudication standard or that used in some surveys ought to be mostly satisfied with it.

          • lvlln says:

            @random832

            I’ve never been able to get anyone to admit it. They generally retreat to the motte of “no, ‘drunk’ in this context only means when someone’s unresponsive and almost passed out, not just having had one or two drinks and loosened their inhibitions”

            I’ve even deliberately tried to lead people into the “would not have done if sober” standard and they won’t admit to actually believing that should be the standard. Maybe I’m arguing with the wrong people though.

            Hm, maybe “wrong” isn’t the right word for it, but in my social circles – the ones with people who behave as if they believe the “1 in 5” statistic – the “would not have done if sober” is the standard, and any attempt to differentiate between that and “unresponsive and almost passed out” when it comes to determining rape or consent is just rape apologia and a reflection of rape culture. I see it as sort of a “one drop [of alcohol]” rule.

            In fact, I myself was convinced this was the correct standard until fairly recently. It made a lot of sense to me that if someone is not 100% in control of their cognitive faculties, they can’t reasonably be held responsible for their choices. It was only when thinking things through and realizing that no one is ever 100% in control of their cognitive faculties, and that it makes sense that there should be some responsibility for someone choosing to decrease their cognitive control – i.e. we hold drunk drivers responsible – and that interpersonal interactions are always negotiated along hazy, non-clear-cut lines that I realized that this simple “one drop” standard was not reasonable.

            But, again, I saw this as the standard everyone seemed to buy into, and its simplicity makes it very easy to do so. Perhaps it’s more that the people buying into this standard were the loudest, and there was approximately zero pushback I observed from anyone else among my peers. The zero pushback is perhaps more evidence of a fear of the social punishment that comes from such pushback, which I’ve observed can be quite severe – it certainly motivates my silence – than evidence that many people buy into this view.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            A better moral standard (in my opinion) is expected benefit/harm to the other person.

            I see a lot of issues with this. For one thing, people aren’t always good at predicting what will be beneficial or harmful, either to themselves or another person, and particularly if we’re talking about benefit/harm from a psychological standpoint.

            For another, it’s feels kind of infantilizing. It implies that a person’s actual decision doesn’t matter, or that people aren’t moral agents. This might be a personal bias, because I’m libertarian-leaning and place a lot of importance on personal choice.

            I can see particular cases where a harm/benefit calculator would work better, such as with non-verbal disabled people who can’t consent in the usual sense of the word (because the alternative is to say that they can’t have sex at all, which seems pretty cruel). But consent, despite its issues and gray areas, seems like a more logical standard for society in general than “is this ultimately beneficial or harmful to the person?”

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            I misread and I withdraw my suggestion of that you may have been acting in bad faith. I don’t think I wrote in a maximally hostile manner though.

            I’ve seen unconscious sex brought up in the context of:
            – kissing a sleeping partner
            – waking a partner up with sex

            The first seems to fall within the implied consent standards of Western society. The second can IMO be negotiated in advance, but should not be initiated without prior consent.

            In general, I believe that men and women should be treated as adults, rather than children, which means that they have to tell people if they don’t want to be treated according to societal standards. If they want to deviate from societal standards, that should generally be respected. And by respected, I mean both the people they interact with, but also lawmakers and other busybodies.

            @lvlln

            I don’t think that the ‘regret standard’ is compatible with blaming/convicting the other person.

            IMO, it is utterly absurd to expect not just mind-reading, but also expect a person to accurately predict the future mental state of another person. Many people cannot even do this for themselves, so to expect people to be able to do this perfectly for others is to expect them to be superhuman/godlike.

            This is actually a good example of how mainstream feminism doubles down on patriarchy in some respects. After all, the idea that men have to decide for women is one of the major underpinnings/pretenses* of patriarchal societies. When the patriarchal narrative is compatible with a female victim narrative, it has generally been adopted by mainstream feminism.

            * There is a lot of evidence that many/most people in patriarchal societies/setups are perfectly aware that women can decide for themselves and/or can decide for men. So in reality, you regularly see that there is a understanding in patriarchal societies/setups that decisions are made in unison or quite often by the women, while pretending that it was the decision of the man. For example, this is evident from sayings like ‘happy wife, happy life.’

          • Barely matters says:

            Also, I was careful to caveat my statement with “some”. I didn’t say “MRAs believe” like the ubiquitous “SJWs believe”.

            Oh I get it. You meant it in the same sense as if one said “I understand that some feminists also object to this based on rampant innumeracy, or on the grounds that *All* PIV sex is rape, but given the context of modern life, their concerns are safely ignored”. Which is technically a true statement, while being at the extreme end of weaksauce in terms of good faith due to lumping in other good criticisms in with these obvious ridiculous ones, all while simultaneously generating a lot of heat.

            Parallel to the way that I doubt we could find an “All PIV Sex is Rape” feminist that you would endorse as sensible, I don’t think you could find a single example of anyone who believes “Marriage means you can do whatever you want to someone” that the “MRA’s” (Self named or not) here would not line up beside you to denounce.

            I’d say you should think more on why people are reacting poorly to your statements if the reasons are still mysterious to you.

          • Brad says:

            @Barely matters
            If I dig up some posts on SSC of posters that think we should reinstate the marital rape exception would it change your mind? Because if it won’t I’m not going to bother.

            As for why some posters are reacting poorly, it is not a mystery to me at all.

          • random832 says:

            To steelman the marriage thing… I have seen MRAs argue that refusal of sex should be grounds for divorce on the basis of that being what the “marriage contract” is, and I have seen feminists argue that a threat of divorce or even a breakup of a sufficiently stable non-marital relationship (the issue is financial dependency, so let’s call “living together” the line) is coercive and that sex by someone who considers such a thing is rape. Neither of these positions is obviously even particularly extreme, but they are nonetheless obviously incompatible with each other.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            I have seen MRAs argue that refusal of sex should be grounds for divorce

            Isn’t ‘grounds for divorce’ completely meaningless in the West now? You no longer need any reason, but ‘I don’t want to be married anymore.’ So any man or woman who is unhappy enough with the amount of sex to want to divorce is already fully legally empowered to do so.

            I have seen feminists argue that a threat of divorce or even a breakup of a sufficiently stable non-marital relationship (the issue is financial dependency, so let’s call “living together” the line) is coercive and that sex by someone who considers such a thing is rape.

            It quite amusing/sad to see left-wingers working to undo major left-wing victories. It’s not that long ago that people were trapped in bad marriages because they didn’t get permission to divorce and the ability to leave those marriages was seen as a major gain, primarily for women.

            But I guess it’s quite impossible that a man would ever be trapped in a bad marriage and even if he is, he deserves that for his toxic masculine desire to have a pleasant life. So as long as women get to leave marriage at will and men are at the mercy of women, we are on the path to gender (in)equality, as is the goal.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            If I dig up some posts on SSC of posters that think we should reinstate the marital rape exception would it change your mind? Because if it won’t I’m not going to bother.

            Posts on SSC do not prove one way or another whether an idea is central to a label. Besides the obvious weakman potential, there is the question of whether the label even applies to the poster.

            How would you respond if a comparable test was proposed about something SJW-y?

          • rlms says:

            @Hyzenthlay
            By and large, I think both standards produce the same outcomes. Central examples of rape where the victim is expressing non-consent obviously fail under the consent standard, but also fail under the benefit/harm standard because people who express non-consent are almost certainly going to be harmed by sex. Likewise, if someone consents you can generally assume they will benefit from sex. A lot of the time, the benefit/harm calculation is basically reduced straight to the question of whether there’s consent, because most people care a lot about it.

            But benefit/harm works a lot better in the edge cases I can think of. Having sex with young children is unethical regardless of how enthusiastically or informedly they consent, because they are likely to be harmed by it. Having sex with your drunk-almost-to-unconsciousness husband with the knowledge that he has been fine with that every time you’ve done it in the last 50 years is ethical, even though there isn’t consent (for that specific act, which is what the consent standard generally seems to require).

            I agree to an extent that it is difficult to predict benefit/harm outcomes, in that people are likely to misestimate in their favour. This is a point in favour of having norms/guidelines associated with consent: explicit/enthusiastic consent is good, don’t have sex with really drunk people etc. But that’s because these guidelines are reliable heuristics for estimating expected benefit/harm, not because those rules are absolute standards. And if you blindly follow those heuristics, you can make mistakes in both directions: having sex with really drunk people can be OK if you know them well and know they will be happy with it, and having sex with people who have explicitly consented can nevertheless be unethical if there are other signs it will harm them.

          • rlms says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Quote from Barely matters:
            ” I don’t think you could find a single example of anyone who believes “Marriage means you can do whatever you want to someone” that the “MRA’s” (Self named *or not*) *here* would not line up beside you to denounce.”
            (my emphasis)
            Examples of SSC commenters supporting a marital rape exception fit those requirements.

          • Randy M says:

            rlms, technically they would not so fit; if marital rape includes every not previously explicitly consented to encounter, an exception decriminalizing it would not necessarily also allow assault or battery or otherwise “whatever you want to do.”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @rlms

            Okay, well then that’s pretty shitty requirements that could be used to prove damn near anything. Like I could say that we should build more pyramids and worship cats and by those standards someone could use that to claim that it’s a central tenet of communism.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            by MRAs, do you mean actual MRAs, or just people in the quote on quote manosphere?

          • Brad says:

            @aapje

            Isn’t ‘grounds for divorce’ completely meaningless in the West now? You no longer need any reason, but ‘I don’t want to be married anymore.’ So any man or woman who is unhappy enough with the amount of sex to want to divorce is already fully legally empowered to do so.

            Agree that this doesn’t make much sense. Not only is no-fault divorce now universal in the US, but even when fault was required to file it had for an even longer period of time not been used to determine property division, custody, or spousal support.

            I have seen the argument, I won’t attempt to characterize by whom, that no fault divorce ought to be eliminated and that fault be reintroduced as a factor in property division, custody, and spousal support determinations.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            Women initiate divorce ~69% of the time and studies find that divorce is much harder on men, causing more health issues, more alcoholism, more suicide, they are more likely to end up alone, etc.

            Furthermore, divorce courts seem quite biased against men on the whole.

            So I think that a good argument can be made that divorce has disparate impact on men and I understand why an advocate for men might want to make divorce a bit more difficult to initiate and/or seek to reduce the burden on the man when the woman caused the divorce by sleeping around. It does seem unfair that if a woman sleeps around (in a monogamous relationship) and is found out and the couple divorces due to this, the man ends up worse.

            The most analogous situation to divorce law in employment law are jurisdictions where firing employees results in the payment of a termination fee. AFAIK, all jurisdictions that have such a law include a ‘just cause’ exception, where some behavior, like stealing, results in the fired employee not getting a termination fee and sometimes, also no benefits.

            So the stance of a hypothetical advocate for men who wants the divorce court to take culpability into consideration, does seem consistent with fairly common legal principles and laws that have been enacted by a majority of the populace in certain jurisdiction. So I don’t consider it a radical stance.

            I personally favor assigning custody more fairly and greatly reducing spousal support. If marriage is going to be/remain an institution that one can leave easily and if we have a society where women get a better education on average than men, it seems that not much of the original justification for spousal support remains.

          • Brad says:

            @AnonYEmous

            by MRAs, do you mean actual MRAs, or just people in the quote on quote manosphere?

            I don’t read the manosphere. I’m not even sure what it is exactly–pick up artist stuff?

            I was thinking of posters at SSC. For more own edification (not as an attempt to prove anything) do you think that you, aapje, dr beat (I think), and other regular posters at SSC that post about these topics are fair representatives of “actual MRAs”?

            @Aapje
            I don’t really wish to debate divorce more broadly. Certainly not here, buried at the bottom indent of the not-current open thread. I was just saying that *if* divorce law were to change such that fault was once again legally relevant then treating refusal to have sex as fault would be a more live issue than it would be under the status quo. The position that both of these things should happen is, in my opinion, more reasonable than the position that the marriage as an affirmative defense to rape rule should be reinstated.

          • treating refusal to have sex as fault

            For what it’s worth, the rule in traditional Jewish law, as per Maimonides, was that if a wife refused intercourse with her husband (a “rebellious wife”) the husband was to divorce her and she did not get her ketubah, the money that normally went to a wife when her husband died or divorced her.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            AFAIK, in most of Western history, although not so much in the present, the continuation of the family line was considered of great importance.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            do you think that you, aapje, dr beat (I think), and other regular posters at SSC that post about these topics are fair representatives of “actual MRAs”?

            I’d say OK for me and Aapje, and so forth. Sorry to be touchy, especially given that I like to broad-brush feminists, but I do feel that a lot of people that don’t call themselves MRAs get lumped in, as opposed to feminism where everyone takes the title and they fight it out amongst themselves. So uh, just don’t take it to a bad-faith place, please.

          • the continuation of the family line was considered of great importance.

            Certainly in Jewish culture. If a man died without a son, his widow was supposed to marry one of his brothers in order to bear a son who would be considered the son of her previous husband. “Levirate marriage.”

        • Barely matters says:

          @Brad

          If I dig up some posts on SSC of posters that think we should reinstate the marital rape exception would it change your mind? Because if it won’t I’m not going to bother.

          Would it change my mind how, exactly? To think that there are some assholes I disagree with on SSC? I fully agree with you there. You’re more than welcome to find some of those quotes, and I’ll stand right beside you in telling them that their stance is awful.

          My point being that you can find someone on every side thinking and pushing for absolutely horrible things, but we have a sanity check where we say “Oh, those are fringe nuts and I (Along with $group in general) definitely don’t support them”, and move on. Outgroup homogeneity makes it way easier to take those noncentral examples as active parts of the movement, and your statement definitely comes off as you doing exactly that.

          I mean, we could just ask. Does anybody here actually support the idea that “being married gives you the right to do whatever you want, whenever you want” to your spouse? I’d be really surprised if we had any takers, but I’m ready to be surprised here.

          • Does anybody here actually support the idea that “being married gives you the right to do whatever you want, whenever you want” to your spouse?

            What the marital exemption says is that forced intercourse with your wife is not the crime of rape. Killing her is still the crime of murder.

            My guess is that even when the marital exemption was good law, not very long ago, beating up your wife in order to make her have sex with you would count as assault.

          • Barely matters says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Yes, you’re correct, and I know. I’m quoting Brad’s original words here.

            I understand that some MRAs still object to this on the basis of implied or prior consent, or the basis that they think being married gives them the right to do whatever they want, whenever they want

  28. Immortal Lurker says:

    Remember when Scott suggested two reporters who disagreed write an article together? Could we get politicians to do this? I am thinking of writing an email to some representative of mine encouraging them to do this. I want the commentariat to give me any ideas they think will boost the odds of this actually happening.

    Current ideas:

    Get people to sign a petition.

    Suggest a specific, nonthreatening issue.

    Send the idea to my state representative, instead of my federal representative.

    Does this have any chance of working? Will the idea even make it past spam filters?

    • Witness says:

      My recommendation: find others who would like to see the project happen and are willing to donate money (split evenly) to the campaigns of those who participate. Bonus points for somehow crowdfunding the idea.
      (Alternate suggestion: make it a charity drive, donating the cash raised to a very nonpartisan cause, encourage participants to raise campaign contributions independently by advertising their participation in the project).

      (Also, congratulations on posting the comment that got me to register an account.)

      • Immortal Lurker says:

        That is an excellent idea. Cursory googling shows that a site called Crowdpac is capable of raising enough money to attract attention in some state races. And the fundraiser could attract some media attention, which would help even more than the money.

        Other than pitching my idea there, I am wholly ignorant of how to raise political money, and having it attached to a separate charity runs into the similar problem that I have no idea how to raise charitable money. Would I spam companies in the relevant district, put up fliers, or set up a lemonade stand?

        • Witness says:

          Yeah, I don’t have great knowledge on that front. I just know that petitions are mostly worthless, phone calls and letters can work if you get enough of them, but willingness to part with your own money (and especially convince other people to part with theirs) over an issue/event/whatever sends a strong signal of seriousness and commitment.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Don’t really have much to contribute but encouragement 🙂 This is a great idea and I would really like to see it work.

      What state are you in?

      • Immortal Lurker says:

        Indiana. But in a few months I will be moving to Ohio. I think I will try a quick and sloppy attempt here in Indiana, and use the likely failure to inform my attempt in Ohio.

    • My version of the idea was to get two statisticians with very different political views to collaborate on an attempt to estimate the false positive rate in the criminal justice system–what percentage of the people convicted of crimes are innocent. But it never happened. It’s a crucial fact about the system, and nobody knows it.

      • Error says:

        What torpedoed the attempt?

        Wouldn’t adversarial collaboration be even more difficult on this subject than most? The justice system is already supposed to separate the guilty from the innocent. If we have a reliable method of figuring out when it was wrong, we should be using that method for the justice system.

        • There have been some attempts to figure it out after the fact, using the introduction of DNA testing, and a few people have published estimates, but on weak evidence. There are other possible approaches based on evidence not available at trial.

          I’ve tried to get people interested in the idea on and off for a long time. One of my colleagues is involved with an innocence project, so I talked to her about it. She wasn’t interested. I wasn’t sure if the reason was that she was already busy with other things or that she was afraid the false positive rate would turn out to be low. It’s not the sort of work I do myself, so it’s just been a matter of floating the idea to law professors and getting no answer.

          • Aapje says:

            The problem is surely that crimes differ (greatly), which probably impacts their false conviction rates substantially.

            For example, for murder we generally know that a crime occurred and the only point of contention is whether the suspect did it. For rape, the point of contention can (also) be whether a crime occurred at all. So I would expect certain types of mistakes to be more common for rape cases.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Honestly, how does one go about determining the rate of false positives? If you can do that, doesn’t that implicitly mean that you can tell who did the crime or not? And if you can do that with certainty, why can’t the justice system?

          • Aapje says:

            @AnonYEmous

            Some measurements are fairly accurate on the aggregate level, but not on the individual level. If those exist for false convictions, they can be used to assess the correctness of the legal system, but not the correctness of individual cases.

            Imagine a weighted coin. For a single coin flip, I couldn’t tell you if it is wrong. But if I flip a million times and it lands on ‘heads’ 80% of the time, I can be highly confident that the coin is unfair. But then I still can’t say that any specific coin flip among those 1 million ought to have been different.

            Similarly, we might be able to determine that X% of convictions are wrong, but not the specific convictions that are wrong.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Some measurements are fairly accurate on the aggregate level, but not on the individual level.

            Sure. How do you acquire one which works for this problem?

            Your given example relies on prior knowledge of coin flip probabilities. We don’t have that for criminal convictions, so that’s a no-go. Got any other ideas?

          • albatross11 says:

            As a first cut, would it make sense to interview selected prisoners and ask them to explain how they ended up in prison? That’s not perfectly reliable, but it’s at least a good starting point.

            If you could start with all (say) rape convictions in the days when DNA tests werent yet available but semen samples were kept, you could get a really good estimate of false positives in rape cases. The confounder there would be whether more careful investigations were the ones that kept samples.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            As a first cut, would it make sense to interview selected prisoners and ask them to explain how they ended up in prison? That’s not perfectly reliable, but it’s at least a good starting point.

            Sure, but this is just a subset of “being able to tell who really did the crime”.

            If you could start with all (say) rape convictions in the days when DNA tests werent yet available but semen samples were kept, you could get a really good estimate of false positives in rape cases.

            This is fine for determining the number of rape cases where it really happened but they got the wrong guy. On the other hand, you miss out on all of the cases of consensual sex or even nonexistent sex claimed as rape, which are conveniently the hot-button issues. That also means you’re not getting the full story vis-a-vis false positives, but I guess you could establish a baseline rate of sorts.

          • The problem is surely that crimes differ (greatly), which probably impacts their false conviction rates substantially.

            Yes.

            More specifically, almost all convictions in the U.S. criminal justice system are the result of plea bargains, not jury trials. If you have gotten in a fight and the prosecutor threatens to try you for attempted murder if you are not willing to accept a plea bargain for assault, it may make sense to accept the deal, even if you think you are innocent of both.

            So we would expect false convictions via bargained guilty pleas to be more common for less serious offenses. But most of the evidence used to try to establish the false positive rate is from DNA testing on convictions from before DNA testing was available, and that’s most likely to be murder and/or rape cases. So the estimates from that, which run around 3%, may be much too low.

          • Honestly, how does one go about determining the rate of false positives?

            Method one: (Risinger, 2007))
            1. Count up the number of people convicted of rape+murder over a period before DNA testing was available, that being a crime likely to leave tissue evidence.

            2. Count up how many were found to be false convictions by later DNA testing.

            3. Assume that all dubious cases got tested (this is the weakest part of this particular attempt).

            4. Take the ratio. Deduce a minimal factually wrong error rate of 3.3%.

            Method two: (Roman et. al. 2012)

            Take advantage of a random collection of tissue evidence that happened to have survived in Virginia, covering a variety of crimes. Test it all. In each case, conclude whether the result of the testing would have been evidence for or against conviction. In about 16% of the cases the evidence would have made conviction less likely. (My analysis of their results)

            Method Three (Gross et. al. 2014):

            Look at the statistics of people awaiting execution who got their convictions reversed, and try to use statistics to figure out how many would have eventually been. This one struck me as the weakest. Conclusion: 4.1%

            My proposal:

            Get a friendly jurisdiction to let you test tissue evidence for every case for which it survives from before DNA testing. If that’s too costly, test a random sample.

            There are two obvious problems. One is that a jurisdiction willing to let you do this may be one that correctly believes it rarely convicts innocents. The other is that offenses for which tissue evidence survives are themselves a non-random sample of all offenses.

            Method I have thought of but not really worked out in detail:

            Look at the statistics on cases where A was convicted of a crime to which B later confessed. Try to use fancy statistics to figure out the probability of this happening conditional on A being innocent.

            Those are a few examples. The critical point is that you are using information not available at trial, whether due to a new technology or due to events, such as the confession of B, that occurred after the trial.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What is the difference between Roman et al and your proposal?

            Why do you call Roman et al “weak”?
            Why do you quote 3%, when Roman et al get 15%?

          • AnonYEmous says:

            So basically “find out if they really did it or not” and the mechanism is DNA testing, or maybe confession by another source.

            This is fair enough for this specific instance, but I really don’t think there are many others. And both of those examples are by necessity extremely limited; these days people actually use DNA evidence, and before it was a thing DNA evidence probably wasn’t collected as often. But the results you draw from DNA evidence seem fine as a minimal baseline rate; I already pointed out some of the problems replying to another poster.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            EE, while false identification in rapes is probably no longer a problem, the rate of false identification in rapes before the advent of DNA is suggestive about the rate of false identification today, in situations where there is no DNA, which is most situations.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think academics papers should be written more like a dialogue. When you write from one perspective, you only have to do the bare minimum to engage your critics. But adding another person, just as knowledgeable and intelligent, really forces you to be the best you can be.

      • Nornagest says:

        If Plato’s anything to go by, this would just give us a lot of “clearly you’re right, Socrates, and I am a blithering idiot”.

    • Immortal Lurker says:

      Okay, here is a first draft of the letter. Since the faster way to get help on the internet is to post the wrong answer, I haven’t put too much thought into the structure or formatting of the letter. Anyone who wants can post comments.

      In case we want a coordinated email campaign, does anyone have a clever date in mind?

      • Aapje says:

        I really dislike your second paragraph. A legislator isn’t going to see legislation as a method to ‘find the truth.’ That argument is anti-persuasive, as it exposes you as a starry eyed idealist.

        A more persuasive argument is that it is hard to find a compromise when starting off from what divides, rather than what binds people; and that this method has a far better chance to result in legislation that is supported by both sides and that gets approval from swing voters (<- this is the bit where you appeal to the naked self-interest of the politician).

        And don't call it something distinct from bipartisanship, because 'a better form of bipartisanship' is an excellent way to sell this plan. By painting this as not being bipartisan, you are anti-persuasive, because if the politician is to gain from this, (s)he needs to be able to connect this to an existing meme. By isolating adversarial collaboration from the most appropriate near meme, you are lowering the value to the politician.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        First, find someone you respect, but disagree with.

        As hog^5 says below, the incentives are wrong — this requires a politician to announce respect for someone with a contrary opinion. Later, they get hammered in primary for softness.

        • this requires a politician to announce respect for someone with a contrary opinion. Later, they get hammered in primary for softness.

          It seems to be pretty common for two legislators from opposite sides to jointly sponsor a bill for something both approve of. The Rohrabacher-Farr (originally Hinchey-Rohrabacher) Amendment, later introduced into the Senate by Rand Paul and Corey Booker, would be an example.

          Dana Rohrabacher has been accused of a variety of things but not, I believe, softness towards Democrats.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yeah, but the proposal is for them to work with somebody on something they disagree on.

            Maybe I’m being too cynical, or I’ve been called names by the opposition too many times.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I can’t imagine this working with politicians – all the incentives are wrong. But this has not even been accomplished with journalists/pundits/speechwriters/whatever Steve Bannon is, and these sorts can be easily motivated by paying them. This is a good enough gimmick for a quarterly magazine. Has any progress been made in this direction? Assuming not, there are concrete things to do right now:
      1) Write a standard contract that can be used when commissioning writers who probably hate each other.
      2) Call up Current Affairs or N+1 to find out what they did. AFAIK the editorial staffs of both publications have an average age of 14, so presumably running a magazine isn’t that hard. Still, we shouldn’t reinvent the wheel.
      3) Kickstarter.
      4) Begin compiling a list of thoughtful people who already have established intellectual commitments but who don’t have a regular writing gig (e.g. Freddie deBoer), or who are so unbelievably productive that they will write for cheap.

      • Immortal Lurker says:

        I think I will try this instead of Witness’ idea. I will try it after the petition/letter campaign, because that takes very little effort.

        by my best guess tell, since 10 different people have commented in this thread, 50 to 100 people are watching it. I am going to tap those people for information. Does anyone have any opinions on what such a magazine should look like, or how it should operate?

        Again, posting the wrong answer in hopes that someone will correct me:

        I think that there would be a small staff of writers would contractually write a few articles per quarter (What is the right price here? $50/article? $200?). If there was a large demand for a particular topic with particular authors, the magazine would reach out to them for a one off deal.

        I have no idea what the right editor/word ratio is, or how much an editor needs to be paid. I assume it would start out small enough that only one editor (me, though I think I would be rubbish) would be needed.

        Most articles would be posted online as soon as they were written, and all of them would be in the quarterly magazine available only to subscribers. After being in the magazine, every article which hadn’t been online yet would slowly trickle onto the website.

        If a lump some of cash was needed quickly after the initial kickstarter money ran out, a dollar auction could be held for particular adversaries and topics.

  29. Deiseach says:

    Distinguished readers, commenters, lurkers and others of Slate Star Codex!

    Further to an entanglement I have gotten into regarding bintchaos and their perception that I was threatening them personally, either directly or by implication, to doxx, harass and generally out them via an attempt to locate universities offering a course in socio-physics, I wish to appeal to a jury of my peers!

    I promise, upon my solemn word of honour (and if that is not sufficient I am willing to take an oath compatible with my religion) that if a simple majority (e.g. if ten people respond, four say “no I did not think you meant that” and six say “yes I did think that”, then the six are deemed to win) respond to the question: Did you think, perceive, or take it to be meant that Deiseach intended to doxx or otherwise harass bintchaos by talking about what universities they might be attending for a course on socio-physics, then I will voluntarily absent myself and abstain from commenting on this site for a period of four weeks, commencing with the end of the vote.

    Anyone who wants to say “yes you were” or “no you weren’t”, please reply to this. I’ll give it a couple of days.

    I think bintchaos is being over-sensitive (and frankly, I think they’re not entirely honest in their allegations of being genuinely terrified by the hatred I’m spewing at them) but I recognise and admit that I may be under-sensitive to how I come across and may be more aggressive in tone than I intend to be. Intention doesn’t count so although I wasn’t trying to doxx bintchaos (and don’t even know how to do that even if I wanted to), what matters is if I sounded as though that were what I was doing.

    I’m serious. This is a matter of honour with me: I have been accused of a scandalous behaviour that I personally consider cowardly and dishonorable, and so I must answer this charge as best I can, and trial by jury will have to suffice.

    Yes or no, and four weeks’ guaranteed silence from me if “yes” wins. Start voting now!

    • Gobbobobble says:

      No, but making a big to-do of it makes me wonder if a few weeks’ cooloff would not be such a bad idea.

    • bean says:

      No. It may have been a bit further than you should have gone, but there was a fairly obvious inference that could have been drawn from the information you posted, and you didn’t even attempt to hint at it.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I am inclined to agree with Gobbobobble. While I do not think you meant any actual harm I do feel that your interactions with Bintchaos have been unnecessarily antagonistic. I see no need for “four weeks’ guaranteed silence” but I would urge you to simply disengage from her and perhaps take a few days to cool off.

      This is also a friendly reminder that your perfectly welcome to join us in the Naval Gazing or Cooking threads. 😉

      Edit: Might I also suggest that an apology may be in order at a later date but that for moment discretion is the better part of valor.

      • Deiseach says:

        Might I also suggest that an apology may be in order at a later date but that for moment discretion is the better part of valor.

        I’m too steamed right now to offer a sincere apology. I will try to get into a charitable and repentant frame of mind and get myself to a point where I can do so, without mentally tacking on (“and….” not so charitable sentiments).

        If bintchaos wants to stick around and engage with everyone else while I’m engaging in “silence, exile and cunning” and is prepared to accept an apology when I’m back, then that’s probably a good time to do it.

    • J Mann says:

      I have a conflict of interest, since I enjoy your posts, but I’ll take a look and vote as honestly as possible.

      Without reading the posts in question, my first thought is (a) you know whether you intended to threaten to doxx the other person; (b) they know whether they interpreted you to be doing so. It’s possible that either of you are lying, but isn’t the whole situation best resolved by “I apologize if you understood me to be threatening to doxx you – I assure you that wasn’t what I intended to express and that I would not have done so.”?

    • J Mann says:

      No, you didn’t intend to doxx, unless you are Moriarty from the Sherlock revival.

      That said, bintchaos has said before that she isn’t confident in her ability to read context, so I’d probably just leave it at that rather than pile on. I find your forthrightness refreshing and charming, but you and bintchaos probably aren’t a very productive mix in large quantities.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/ssc-block/omoblondlbpljpjpegjknicfhoicjfnk?utm_source=chrome-app-launcher-info-dialog

      I can’t speak to your interactions with user bintchaos because I made wise use of this Chrome add-on. Use it yourself, and soon you will be able to say the same thing!

      …seriously, user bintchaos pretty much confirmed that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and doesn’t care to find out because it would be too hard. If you want to engage with his perspective, there are plenty of places you can find it, but why bother?

    • My reaction to Bintchaos’ comment was that she was paranoid–nothing you posted implied any desire to dox her or organize an online mob against her.

      I didn’t bother to say so, both because I’m arguably biased and because she seemed to be announcing her departure.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Well, if we are to have a jury, we should have the opportunity to debate.

      The instructions from the judge indicated the question we should answer is:

      Did you think, perceive, or take it to be meant that Deiseach intended to doxx or otherwise harass bintchaos by talking about what universities they might be attending for a course on socio-physics

      I submit that Deiseach did intend to “otherwise harass” the complainant. It is not required that the question of doxxing be answered in the affirmative for the jury to return a guilty verdict.

      Less cleverly, I think it’s pretty clear you were attempting to antagonize bintchaos and disparage the seriousness of the academic field they chose to highlight. Had the location of study been Cambridge or Oxford, I don’t think you would have referenced it. So I do see the reference to geography as a part of “otherwise harass”.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Fair points.

      • bean says:

        On the other hand, I do think the geography was at least somewhat relevant. Bintchaos was talking in a difficult-to-understand manner about a field that none of us understood very well, and claiming that strong conclusions could be drawn from it. This isn’t necessarily proof that the field is useless/irrelevant, and one part of doing due diligence on this is looking at who else may believe this field/be doing work there. When the sum total of apparent academic work is two universities which are not particularly prominent, this is relevant information.

      • I think you are now using “harass” in a sense weak enough so that many posters, Bintchaos among them, would be guilty of harassment. There is a large difference between “trying to make someone you are arguing with look bad” and “trying to organize an online mob attack on someone you are arguing with.

        By your definition, wasn’t Bintchaos’ post accusing Deiseach a clearer case of harassment than Deiseach’s post?

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Go read everything Deiseach posted to bintchaos and examine the pattern. It’s not merely one comment that establishes the harassment.

          I would say bintchaos could be read as (generally) insulting, but not harassing. More in a casual manner based on assumptions she is making about the competence of her interlocutors. As to her response to Deiseach’s “doxxing” post, I really don’t see how you get harassment from that.

          • I would say bintchaos could be read as (generally) insulting, but not harassing.

            Can you expand on the distinction? I would have said that Deiseach was insulting to Bintchaos.

            As to her response to Deiseach’s “doxxing” post, I really don’t see how you get harassment from that.

            Doxing people and organizing internet flash mobs against them are forms of behavior that most people here strongly disapprove of. Confidently claiming that someone else is doing so when she isn’t looks like an attempt to get other people angry at her, which is what I thought was considered harassment in this context.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            So, I am going off of a sense of meaning that maps with the dictionary definitions:
            – subject to aggressive pressure or intimidation.
            – make repeated small-scale attacks on (an enemy).

            All of those things seem to match what D did, but, if bint was pressuring or intimidating it was defensive (it could also simply have been genuine).

            D was aggressively and repeatedly specifically targeting bint. Not so the other way around.

          • bintchaos says:

            Given: I was raised in a bubble of wealth and privilege that I completely understand. I had a graduated set of welsh ponies growing up (section A, section B, section C). My ponies all had fucking permanent cards if you know what that means. I have ridden with The Hunt multiple times, which is magnitudes more exclusive than a golf club or a yacht club. So how do you think my parents or my university would feel if I’m exposed as an “Islamist apologist” on the inter-webs?
            But I also perfectly understand what stalking is. I have been stalked. So I get @Deiseach subtly implied threat at a visceral level, fight or fight level.
            The very worst thing about stalking imho is how you question yourself…it must be my fault somehow…should I have been nicer…should I have been meaner…should I have ever made eye contact… should I have run away like a scalded cat in the beginning …did I draw this on myself…
            This commentariat just validated my anxiety hormonal cascade.

          • Mark says:

            “I have ridden with The Hunt multiple times, which is magnitudes more exclusive than a golf club or a yacht club. So how do you think my parents or my university would feel if I’m exposed as an “Islamist apologist” on the inter-webs?”

            Is this a joke?

            If not, I don’t imagine that it’d be any worse than for anyone else, and maybe better?

          • bintchaos says:

            @Mark

            I don’t imagine that it’d be any worse than for anyone else


            Maybe it wouldn’t be…but it might because I’m a defector from a very rich and powerful tribe.
            Not a convert.

          • bean says:

            @bintchaos
            If you’re really worried about being doxxed, I’d suggest that you don’t give details like ” I have ridden with The Hunt multiple times, which is magnitudes more exclusive than a golf club or a yacht club.” Being charitable, you’re freaking out over a speck Deiseach has placed in your eye after you’ve shoved a log there.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Bean
            good advice probably.
            I have to admit that one thing D said that really stung was something about my privileged bubble upbringing– that was just the first thing that came to hand. Its incredible the investiture in equestrian sport for the kids of the well-off. What would be great for American culture would be for every child to have a pet, to have exposure to nature, exposure to training and manners and honor and discipline. And I’m not just in the meritocratic bubble due to ancestry, I’m also in the bubble of what Dr. Haier and others call “genetic luck” for IQ and g.
            Would you guys call that white guilt?