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OT79: Open Road

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. Also:

1. A study on mathematical ability is looking for people without a diagnosis of autism with a degree in math, or people with a diagnosis of autism with a degree in math, physics, statistics, etc to register and do some brief online tests for them. They asked me to pass the word along. If you’re interested, go to the Genetics Of Mathematical Ability And Autism research site.

2. I’ve been getting a lot of emails from people here recently, which I guess is good, but I want to admit straight out that I’m not able to reply to all of them. This is especially true for “Hey, what do you think about this thing I wrote?” emails. Usually I think that I don’t have time to read it and write up a response, but I feel guilty not doing that, so instead I just say something like “Thanks, I’ll look into that” and then I don’t. Sorry if this is you. Also, please don’t send me links for the link page. If you have a good link for the links page, post it on the subreddit and I’ll probably see it. I’ll continue to accept useful announcements about studies and job opportunities and EA and so on, like the thing above.

3. Thanks to everyone who came to the Chicago meetup today. Picture here. And if you want to stay in touch with the community, there’s a Chicago Rationality Facebook page with information about meetings and stuff.

4. Ward Street is quickly becoming the center of the rationalist scene in Berkeley. We’re trying to encourage that so that as many people as possible can live near each other and it can feel like more of a community. I’ll be staying there temporarily when I first get to California, and I know a lot of other people on the street and they’re all pretty interesting. Anyway, there’s a house opening up there as the current residents leave, and we’d like to get rationalist-adjacent people to move in. It’s three bedrooms, one bathroom, and it costs $4100/month total. If interested (either in renting the whole house with friends/family, or in just renting one room and hoping two other people want the same), email jsalvatier[at]gmail[dot]com and he can tell you more / help connect interested parties together.

5. Probably some decreased blogging output since I’m moving cross-country the next few weeks. I hope to have a couple of meetups in relevant cities if I know where I’m going to be enough days beforehand.

6. Good luck/congratulations to everyone starting/progressing in/finishing residencies this July.

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1,463 Responses to OT79: Open Road

  1. Autistic Cat says:

    As an autistic rationalist I have two questions.
    First of all, does Aspergers/HFA enhance rationality?
    Secondly as an autistic rationalist I believe no taboos in thought should ever exist. By using social conventions to ban a topic we are making it less discussed and as a result popular views on that taboo topic is less likely to be accurate compared to popular views on regular, non-taboo topics.

    May I ask what does the community think about these questions?

  2. brettbowman says:

    Is anyone else other than Scott looking for/will have available living space in the Bay Area? My current lease in San Francisco is running out, and I need to find new accommodations sometime in early August.

    contact: bnbowman@gmail.com

  3. baconbacon says:

    File under things that blow my mind.

    Supreme Court Justice John Roberts spoke at his son’s graduation. My initial reaction to seeing the headline is a general eye roll, OK the top 1% lead a different life than the rest of us, but no big deal whatever Ivy League school he went to was always going to land some kind of a big name to give that speech.

    But it wasn’t a university graduation.

    It wasn’t even a high school graduation.

    It was a 9th grade graduation (from a 4 year boarding school).

    This is just, insane right?

    • Matt M says:

      I think this type of thing is relatively common in DC. I may be mis-remembering the specific person, but I could have sworn someone I knew who grew up there insisted that Al Gore spoke at their elementary school graduation while he was the sitting Vice President because he had a kid/nephew/somebody who was also attending the school.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not sure what the objection is. Favoritism, sure, but that’s the same for an Ivy League graduation. Is it somehow beneath the dignity of the Supreme Court for its Chief Justice to speak to 9th graders?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Are you complaining about the practice of having ninth-grade graduations, or the practice of having Supreme Court justices speaking at them? I agree with the first; ninth grade is more a step on the way to a larger achievement than an achievement in itself (though I suppose it might be different at some weird boarding schools?) But if it’s worth having, and if it’s worth having someone speak there, why shouldn’t the Chief Justice be that someone if he wants to?

      • Bugmaster says:

        I have no idea, but I had the same suspicion as you — it might be a bigger deal at the weird boarding schools. It’s functionally impossible to drop out of the 9th grade in a public school (unless you deal drugs or assault people on the regular basis, I guess), but boarding schools might actually have some sort of a stringent exam designed to weed out X% of students, just like in a university. I have no idea whether that’s true, though.

        • albatross11 says:

          Where I live, 8th grade graduations are commonplace. I also had one (from my K-8 school). These aren’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but they routinely happen and the parents and grandparents show up and take pictures and take their new graduates off to dinner afterwards and such.

          I can see the appeal of asking some famous person with a connection to one of the graduates to come give a speech at the graduation ceremony.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Finishing eighth grade’s a bigger thing in my circles, too. You’re generally moving from middle school to high school, and to the first year that’s going to show up on the transcripts you give to college. That’s understandably bigger than moving from the first year of high school to the second.

          • Mary says:

            They are, after all, the transition from primary to secondary education.

          • random832 says:

            @Evan Þ

            That’s understandably bigger than moving from the first year of high school to the second.

            There are school systems – even public ones – where high school is three years and the end of ninth grade marks the transition between middle school (often grades 7-9 and called “junior high”) and high school.

            The school in question, had anyone bothered to google it, is “An Independent Junior Boarding School for Boys Grades 6 to 9.”, so they were graduating from the school, not from one year to another within the school.

      • baconbacon says:

        Are you complaining about the practice of having ninth-grade graduations, or the practice of having Supreme Court justices speaking at them? I agree with the first; ninth grade is more a step on the way to a larger achievement than an achievement in itself (though I suppose it might be different at some weird boarding schools?) But if it’s worth having, and if it’s worth having someone speak there, why shouldn’t the Chief Justice be that someone if he wants to?

        It isn’t about want/not want, it is about such a ridiculously high expectations baseline. Generally you would expect some correlation between the level of achievement and prestige of the speaker. For the majority of the kids at this graduation this will be maybe their 3rd or 4th highest education level achieved. Having a supreme court justice at 9th grade graduation implies who as a high school graduation speaker? Then who as a university speaker? Then what happens for those who get a graduate degree (though they don’t all get their own major ceremonies).

        • Matt M says:

          Generally you would expect some correlation between the level of achievement and prestige of the speaker.

          Generally yes. But “one of the students fathers happens to be really prestigious and doesn’t mind speaking for 10 minutes at an event he was going to attend anyway” is a non-general case, and makes perfect sense given the context.

        • Matt M says:

          Like, if Derek Jeter coaches his son’s little league practice, would you rant about how ridiculous it is for a little league team to hire Derek Jeter as a coach?

          • baconbacon says:

            Not a good analogy.

          • Matt M says:

            Why isn’t it?

            Why are you insistent on modeling this as something like “school hires a ridiculously prestigious speaker for spoiled rich kids” rather than something like “school asks for parents to volunteer to speak at graduation and selects the most prestigious one who happens to volunteer”

  4. baconbacon says:

    Arnold Kling writes

    A cynical view is that the chances of a U.S. attack are inversely proportional to President Trump’s perception of his popularity. In that case, if you want to minimize the chances of war, you should be telling President Trump that he is very secure in his position and the American people are very happy with him.

    and also

    North Korea got some badly-needed oil shipments, and we got their promise to stop enriching uranium.

  5. entobat says:

    Does Scott or anyone else have experience with “mindfulness”-based therapy?

    My therapist recommended this approach to me last week. Apparently it is related to the article below. If you download the Headspace app you can see the exercises I’ve been doing.

    www dot actmindfully.com.au/upimages/Mindfulness_without_meditation_–_Russ_Harris_–_HCPJ_Oct_09.pdf

    The app has 10 days’ worth of ~5ish minutes meditative instruction clips, all of which seem to be roughly the same (though I’m only on day 8, so what do I know). Then once they have you hooked on meditation they charge you for additional packages (which I have not bought).

    I’ve found it sort of…marginally helpful? It gives me a good feeling of clearheadedness after I do a session, helps me relax a bit before bedtime, and (as a bonus) makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable at the prospect of being duped into believing some hokey new-age meditation thing. I’d appreciate having someone with domain knowledge tell me whether or not it’s a scam so I don’t have to figure it out myself!

    • Charles F says:

      I’m 30 days into headspace and my impression is that the general meditation hasn’t seemed to be very helpful yet. I definitely enjoy the guided meditation while I’m doing it, and I feel good for a while afterwards, but the part where I carry mindfulness into my everyday life hasn’t really happened yet. The sleep module, however, has been great. So far about 1 in 3 times I’m asleep before it’s over, instead of taking the usual 30-50 minutes. All of the things in the module are things I’ve done on my own, but for some reason being guided through them on a set timetable seems to help me. So the whole thing is worthwhile for me just based on that.

      As for the focused collections that you get by paying for the app, I’m not so sure. The creativity sequence has not seemed useful to me, but I haven’t finished it yet, so maybe. The training sequence is the one that has actually managed to affect me outside of the meditation sessions a bit, and it seems like it makes me a little bit better at both exertion and form when I’m training. And I haven’t tried the rest yet.

      So, not exactly a veteran’s perspective or the outside view you actually asked for, but that’s been my experience. If you want to try it for an extra month without paying (includes the paid bundles), I have a voucher to give away. If you want it, you can email me at cmfrayne at gmail dot com.

      • entobat says:

        I’m 30 days into headspace and my impression is that the general meditation hasn’t seemed to be very helpful yet. I definitely enjoy the guided meditation while I’m doing it, and I feel good for a while afterwards, but the part where I carry mindfulness into my everyday life hasn’t really happened yet.

        This seems roughly like what I expect to have happen. I have sorta promising results for bringing mindfulness into my everyday life? But they feel like the sort of thing that might fall through and my optimism is very cautious.

        Good to know about your experience with the sleep module.

        Any data is good to have. Thanks for the input!

        I may well take you up on that voucher offer. I’m meeting with my therapist tomorrow, and I still need to finish the first 10, so we’ll see. Thanks again!

    • Charles F says:

      P.S. Might be worth posting this to the new thread instead of here.

      • entobat says:

        This is fair, but I got impatient waiting for tomorrow. Also I have something else to post in there and felt some guilt about spamming the new thread.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I’ve not used Headspace, but I’m a pretty big fan of mindfulness meditation in general. It helped me a great deal in my late teens and early twenties, by practicing the skill of observing one’s own thoughts and actions dispassionately, and recognizing patterns and “instinctual” actions. Observation is the first step towards understanding, and understanding your own feelings and thoughts is key to changing them (if that’s desired!).

  6. Murphy says:

    I’m not 100% sure if this is covered by the 3 day rule for current events because it includes recent developments but it’s a case which has been going on for months now.

    Anyone else here been following the Charlie Gard case?

    Short summary:

    Charlie is an infant who is dying from a mitochondrial disorder and is currently at St ormond street children’s hospital in the UK.

    Charlie’s condition is a progressive mitochondrial disorder, and currently means he cannot see, hear, move, cry, swallow or breathe unaided. He has severe epilepsy, has suffered severe brain damage and has been kept alive with a ventilator, regular suctioning of his lungs and feeding by tube. Heartbreakingly, the medical opinion is that Charlie can probably feel pain.

    There is a potential treatment, “nucleoside bypass” (though since I can’t find the details on google scholar that may be a marketing name that every news report has picked up), which maybe, possibly, might slow or halt the progression of the condition but not reverse it. To be clear, the brain damage is done, the brain tissue is dead.

    That’s best case. The most likely case is that it simply won’t work because the treatment has never ever been tried on anyone with this specific condition, not even in mice.

    So to be clear, the absolute most optimistic best case realistic scenario if the treatment works as well as it possibly could for the infant charlie and he survives is basically “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”

    http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTNM0oZkdhUGRVeBpo6NOz3VrDDlw8r5OGUM11eDiVf0uIWJK4J

    it’s an extremely sad case but the reason it hit the media is because of a fairly fundamental dispute about life vs quality of life.

    Basically the doctors involved came to the conclusion that it would be unethical to prolong charlies suffering because there’s no realistic chance of recovery and he’s suffering. The hospital could do the treatment in-house, some of the worlds top experts on neurological mitochondrial diseases are literally next door, they have the capability. but they decided not to, again, because suffering.

    The parents want to take the child out of hospital in the UK and take him to some clinic in the US who’ll take about a million pounds to try out the treatment.

    It went to court because the medical team felt strongly enough that it was not in charlies best interest. The court sided with the hospital, it climbed all the way to the high court and the european court refused to hear the case because they were unlikely to come to a different conclusion. The courts agreed with the medics that charlies best interests would not be served by taking steps which would keep him alive longer in a state of suffering.

    Somewhere along the lines the information about the reasoning seems to have become extremely garbled.

    Then it got politicized, it got politicized hard though mostly it got politicized abroad.

    Somehow the narrative became a complete falsehood that the reason was anything to do with money.

    So then we had Trump tweeting a vague offer to take the child for treatment as if it’s some kind of money/charity issue.

    The catholic church weighed in with the pope offering to treat charlie in the Vatican hospital.

    I mean the catholic churches position at least sort of makes sense to me even if they have full information since the catholic position on suffering is somewhat out of line with my own, that there’s nothing inherently bad about a long life of blinding agony ( “offer it up” and all that) as long as nobody intentionally inflicted it because ultimately suffering is ephemeral and it’s all about what happens after that and there’s a vague cultural view that lots of suffering in this life sort of puts you in a good position for the next.

    but then there’s all the other groups. And I’m not sure if it’s a fundamental disconnect where they’re just kind of assuming that if you throw money at a problem anything is curable or just blind optimism with people believing that of course there will be a miracle that sees charlie healthy and happy in a few years because that’s how story books would go.

    The newspapers aren’t helping with half of them running big spreads on “child who got same treatment as one proposed for charlie gard” with lots of smiling pictures which completely fail to mention that the child had a much milder condition for which the treatment had been tested and didn’t already have horrible brain damage. But people read that and believe in miracles.

    There also seems to be some additional disputes between those who believe you basically own your children 100% and anything which interrupts that is bad vs people who believe you’re only a guardian. Add to that the dispute about whether a guardians duty is to preserve life at all costs or to reduce suffering.

    There’s also of course the very basic dispute of pain vs death. In this case the courts seem to have sided strongly with the position that there’s worse things in life than mere death.

    Any thoughts?

    • DeWitt says:

      I think part of the issue is that there’s a whole lot of people who abhor feeling helpless.

      Medical technology is good. The amount of disease today compared to that of the world in the past is tiny, and our world’s doctors can do a great many things. Even when people do die of disease, there is very much effort to save them; even people struck with harsh cases of AIDS or cancer are kept alive for long stretches of time, all to make sure they can live for a while.

      Doctors saying ‘there is nothing we can do’ is going to rub a lot of people the wrong way, then. Why aren’t they doing their best to save the child? Aren’t they doctors? Aren’t they supposed to make them better, to try something, to do anything at all?

      I really, really don’t think ‘there is nothing we can do for this child’ is something many people can accept. I feel like there is a gut level objection to anything of the sorts, and in rejecting that position, we’ll find anything to excuse our position: they’re greedy, they’re lazy, they’re bad people, and so on, and so on. That doctors might genuinely believe something is out of their hands, that someone is better off not living, is something that large amounts of people simply don’t appear to be willing to accept.

    • Matt M says:

      I’m really curious as to what we think the motivation of the parents are. In your version of events, the best case scenario seems to be that they are simply stupid, and do not properly understand the professional medical opinion that keeping their child alive is tantamount to torturing it. Are they suspected of somehow being politically motivated to embarrass the NHS? Are they members of some extreme religious sect that values “sanctity of life above all”?

      Presumably, the people most concerned with acting in the best interests of the child are the parents, not the state. So I’d like to hear theories as to what is causing the parents to make the seemingly “incorrect” decision here.

      Of course, the cold-hearted rationalist in me says “If the treatment has never been tried, it has to be tried eventually, and we might as well try it now, for the good of science and for the benefit of future victims of this disease.” But I’m sure that makes me a nazi or something.

      • Salem says:

        Actually, the parents agree with you that keeping the child alive like this is pointless, but they want to see if the US treatment has a chance. The key difference is they basically don’t accept that Charlie’s brain function is as bad as the Ormond Street doctors say. They think that Charlie is much more aware than the doctors give credit, that he recognises them, responds, etc. It’s probably wishful thinking, but it’s understandable in the circumstances.

        Given that these people are going through an incredibly difficult situation (the mother in particular seems to be having a breakdown), speculating that they have sinister motives is very unfair.

        Funnily enough, the High Court seriously considered your point about the good of science and future victims:

        This evidence prompted me to ask the question as to whether it would be worth giving it a try on the basis that, without experimentation, medicine cannot advance. The answer to this is now very clear in my mind. The prospect of the nucleoside treatment having any benefit is as close to zero as makes no difference. In other words, as I have already said, it is futile.

      • Murphy says:

        If they’re anything like other parents I’ve encountered with children very definitely doomed to die young then there’s a few strong candidates.

        The most likely in my view is some variant on:

        Stage one: “the doctors are wrong wrong wrong. My child isn’t dying”

        Stage two: “My child will be ok. I heard about this one treatment in [far off land] and lots have people have said it will fix them right up”

        Stage three: “If we sell the house and our kidneys and raise money from everyone we know then we can afford treatment in [far off land] from [miracle worker]”

        Even parents with children born with complete anencephaly who physically have no brain will still coo and insist that their child is so smart and will be completely normal one day while clutching a brainless almost-corpse.

        This happens to people who are smart and rational and sane because the urge to preserve and care for your child is pretty much one of the top drives there is in humans and our minds typically don’t cope well with being told there’s literally no hope.

        I’m quite sure the parents honestly believe that their child can be saved and brought back to normal or something approaching normal and I don’t think they’re stupid.

        It doesn’t matter if you’re Von Neumann or a normal human: when faced with something like that a huge fraction of people will delude themselves because the need to delude themselves is already inside all their defenses.

        On a related note, while I believe the american doctor in this case is acting in fairly good faith this is also why I have an utterly visceral hatred and utter contempt for woo-sellers, magic men and various flavors of health related con-artists who offer fake “treatments”. They prey on people when they’re at their absolute most desperate and weakest and they do so extremely successfully.

        I have little doubt that the parents intent is above reproach I also believe that what they actually want to do would be a bad thing for their child.

        Re: “good of science.” this is where research ethics comes in.

        If you want to experiment on a mentally competent adult you need their consent but you can do a hell of a lot of crazy things if you can get their consent.

        If you want to experiment on humans who are not capable of giving consent then you have a much higher bar to pass: any treatment you try must at least potentially be for their own good.

        Without that rule we’d be back to the days of people experimenting on mental patients and orphans simply because those people cannot stop you from doing whatever you want to them.

        The medical opinion in this case was that it wouldn’t be to the childs benefit. If you were to experiment on the child then you wouldn’t be doing anything to help them, you’d be using them as fodder, increasing their suffering without their consent to further your own goals.

        If the medical opinion was that the treatment could be in the best interest of the child then you could try the treatment because a positive outcome would be to the benefit of the patient.

    • Salem says:

      Thanks for this excellent post. I would add two additional issues.

      Firstly, that doctors are jerks. Or, to put it less provocatively, the ethics and norms of the (British) medical profession run counter to lay people’s expectations. It’s not just life vs quality-of-life, it’s issues like consent, information, and transparency. For example, doctors routinely allow patients to die on quality-of-life grounds, but they do this without getting informed consent from the patient. And they defend this on the grounds that having such a conversation with the patient would be cruel! Patients see their relationship with the doctor as customer-provider, or principal-agent, but doctors see it more like caregiver-dependent*. The Charlie Gard case makes this particularly salient.

      Secondly, there is the question of who decides what a child’s best interests are. Part of the reason this case is so controversial is the widely held view that parents have a very large leeway in judging those interests. So, for example, if parents decide it’s in their child’s best interests to go to St Cuthbert’s, raised as a Catholic, and be disciplined with corporal punishment, then we defer to that – but we’d also defer if the same child had been homeschooled, as an atheist, with no discipline at all. They are the guardians, and there are systems to make sure the parents aren’t abusing that authority, but as long as they are making reasonable decisions, we must defer rather than substitute our own judgement.

      The Gard case clashes strongly with those intuitions. The courts gave short shrift to the parents as guardians, and substituted their own view of the best interests of the child. A lot of people find that scary, for reasons that go well beyond this case in particular.

      *This may be partly due to the realities of our healthcare system – most of the time, doctors are not answerable to patients, but my experience of private medicine is very limited.

      • Brad says:

        They are the guardians, and there are systems to make sure the parents aren’t abusing that authority, but as long as they are making reasonable decisions, we must defer rather than substitute our own judgement.

        The Gard case clashes strongly with those intuitions. The courts gave short shrift to the parents as guardians, and substituted their own view of the best interests of the child. A lot of people find that scary, for reasons that go well beyond this case in particular.

        I’m curious as to where “must” and “scary” come from.

        I can see several pragmatic arguments for setting up a society such that parents have this very broad discretion. But the fundamental rights approach to the question seems to treat human beings, albeit minors, as a kind of private property and I find it disquieting.

        • Salem says:

          The argument isn’t that minors are private property, just that the parents, not the state, are their proper guardian. If the state is their proper guardian, would that make them public property?

          I imagine those who think we have an obligation to defer to parents have lots of reasons:
          * British law (most obviously the Human Rights Act).
          * Consequentialism (I know my own child much better than some social worker).
          * Tradition (this has always worked in the past).
          * Belief in limited government (by what right does the state get involved?)
          etc.

          Where does the “scary” come from? Well, if the government is forcing you to let your child die, maybe they’ll interfere in your parenting in lots of other ways. Maybe more interference would be a good thing – my mention of corporal punishment was intended to highlight that there are lots of other controversies here. But it’s not hard to see why lots of people who think deference to parents is useful are upset.

          • Brad says:

            The argument isn’t that minors are private property, just that the parents, not the state, are their proper guardian. If the state is their proper guardian, would that make them public property?

            I don’t see why they should be anyone’s property.

            Language like “the right to raise one’s children as one sees fit” pattern matches to how people talk about property rights, especially land.* That’s what I’m questioning. As long as the discussion is in the realm of “this seems to work better than any alternative idea” I’m fine with it.

            Compare the rhetoric surrounding Terri Schiavo or other medical power of attorney cases. There the conceptual framework tends to be along the lines of “this is what he would have wanted”–not “so-and-so has the right to decide what happens to his mother as he sees fit”.

            *At least to me. I could be completely off base here.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Well, if the government is forcing you to let your child die

            Help me out here, since this thread is the first I’d heard of the case: Are they? Or are they saying “we’re the government that foots the bill for your child’s healthcare and we’re saying that we’re done, appeal denied, end of story.”?

            Like if they were literally forbidding the parents from spending their own money on treatment, then you’d have a point. I’m not saying they aren’t, since I’m ignorant of the particulars of the case, but it sounds bizarrely unlikely to this Yank.

          • Matt M says:

            Like if they were literally forbidding the parents to spend their own money on treatment, then you’d have a point.

            This is what they are doing. The parents have raised the money necessary for the treatment, and others (most notably, Trump and the Pope) have offered to have it provided for as well. It is not a question of money.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            The parents have raised the money necessary for the treatment

            Thanks, I was missing this piece. That is concerning, then.

            Is there some loophole involved with the logistics of transferring, or does it actually boil down to “no, attempting this treatment would constitute [something illegal, I dunno, torture, child abuse, etc]”?

          • Salem says:

            There’s no loophole about transfers. It’s simply that this (or any) treatment was judged to be against the best interests of the child, because it would prolong the child’s suffering for nil or negligible chance of success.

            You can read the High Court judgement here it’s short and very readable.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Thanks, that was a good read. Definitely a thorny issue.

          • Mary says:

            ‘I don’t see why they should be anyone’s property.”

            If you insist that deciding on the healthcare of a child is treating them as property, then treated as property they shall be. Because there’s no way that a child under the age of five (and probably older) can decide on healthcare.

          • Mary says:

            Or are they saying “we’re the government that foots the bill for your child’s healthcare and we’re saying that we’re done, appeal denied, end of story.”?

            That would be murder in the first degree because the government seized control of the healthcare system.

            Indeed, that’s what many Americans hate about the notion of government-provided healthcare: it will obviously and conspicuously hand power to the government to do that kind of thing. The government does not need more excuses to allow it power over people.

          • Murphy says:

            @Mary

            When people talk about people treating children like property it’s not just about healthcare, it’s about the chain of logic through which they reach their conclusions about who should get to make decisions.

            In this case the same system which would protect a child who’s parents wanted to treat it’s cancer with homeopathy is making the more controversial choice that suffering is more important than death.

            But some people take a very strong position that “my children are mine. Full stop. Nobody else should have any rights over them” and can be extremely wary of any system which could interfere with that even if it’s sometimes to the detriment of some children. Their position is akin to property rights.

            Meanwhile many people only view parents as special in that most of the time parents are at least trying to be good parents and mostly care about their children more than any other individuals would and making them the default guardians is the pragmatic choice but they’re much more willing to allow the state to override guardianship if the parents are making choices that a judge agrees aren’t good.

          • Jiro says:

            But some people take a very strong position that “my children are mine. Full stop. Nobody else should have any rights over them” and can be extremely wary of any system which could interfere with that even if it’s sometimes to the detriment of some children. Their position is akin to property rights.

            By that reasoning, doesn’t everyone else think the children should be property of the state?

          • Matt M says:

            By that reasoning, doesn’t everyone else think the children should be property of the state?

            No. We have a lot of mental gymnastics going on in our society wherein we believe certain things are “private property” but at the same time, where we believe that the state can come in and dictate the terms of use of said property at its own will.

            To use a non-human example, the government has incredibly heavy-handed regulation of many key industries (up to and including “you cannot open a new plant without our permission”) and yet, few people would suggest that the state, oh, I don’t know, “owns the means of production.” Oh no, that would be socialism! The state doesn’t own the coal plant, you see, it just reserves the right to tell the owners what to do in any and every capacity it feels like, and jail them if they refuse to comply.

          • Brad says:

            By that reasoning, doesn’t everyone else think the children should be property of the state?

            No. But it is illuminating that it comes up so much. It seems like I was correct property is the dominant metaphor here. The instinct seems to be that if parents don’t own them then the state or someone else must.

            Whereas in other cases of decision making incapacity, the language is very different. If a health care proxy has his choices overruled by a court there may be a sense of affront, but it is on behalf of the incapacitated person not outrage over the interference with the rights of the health care proxy. But with children it is all about parental rights, the parents are the putatively aggrieved party not the child.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            The instinct seems to be that if parents don’t own them then the state or someone else must.

            Until children are old enough to assert self-ownership, someone must.

            I mean, let’s boil it down – if the children in your example are property of themselves, do they get to make the decision? Why or why not? I, as a person over 18, can go get any legal medical treatment I want. I’m pretty sure I can just walk out of a hospital at any time. Do the children in your example even have these rights? If not, doesn’t that point to them basically being the property of someone?

            Now, this brings up ugly examples of parents who place “property rights” over “the good of the child”. But I’m sure I can find governments doing the same thing.

          • Brad says:

            See the next paragraph after the one you quote. There are other situations where people can’t make decisions for themselves where we nonetheless don’t treat that incapacity as turning them into someone else’s quasi-property.

            Here’s another analogy: under the business judgement rule directors of corporations are given very strong deference as to control over the corporation. Except in situations that structurally give rise to strong conflicts of interest they are very very rarely second guessed. Yet the nonetheless no one talks of “directors rights” or is “scared” that the government might change that. If the government were to step in and bypass the BJR in a particular case in order to protect shareholder interests, the retort wouldn’t be “that’s treating the government as owning the corporation” (well based on his answer above Matt M might, but most wouldn’t).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            That’s a good analogy, Brad. @anybody, I’d be interested in what libertarian circles have already considered for things like “Parents as majority shareholders in Child Inc” as a means around the perennially difficult problem of jiving the limited agency of minors with libertarian principles.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            There are other situations where people can’t make decisions for themselves where we nonetheless don’t treat that incapacity as turning them into someone else’s quasi-property.

            So this is interesting: the idea here is that someone in a coma is barred from making decisions because they literally cannot, being in a coma. That brings up the question: are children just adults waiting to get out? If so, then the “real” person, the adult, also literally cannot make decisions, being in a coma of sorts. But I still feel like there’s an issue here of there being a person there already. To put it another way, the ownership of the comatose happens by default and so no one views it as “property” because the person literally can’t make the decision for themselves, but children can in fact make decision for themselves. The model of child-as-comatose-adult does map to a lot of stuff, though. Get back to me on this.

            Here’s another analogy: under the business judgement rule directors of corporations are given very strong deference as to control over the corporation. Except in situations that structurally give rise to strong conflicts of interest they are very very rarely second guessed. Yet the nonetheless no one talks of “directors rights” or is “scared” that the government might change that. If the government were to step in and bypass the BJR in a particular case in order to protect shareholder interests, the retort wouldn’t be “that’s treating the government as owning the corporation” (well based on his answer above Matt M might, but most wouldn’t).

            I don’t know the precise way that corporate property works. But as I understand it, the only difference here is the emotional charge. I’d also imagine that, if a government actually has to step in, the behavior of the director is analogically equivalent to child abuse, and people are usually fine with governments interceding in those cases. I appreciate the analogy, but I’m afraid my lack of knowledge on the subject makes it hard for me to engage as fully as I would like.

          • John Schilling says:

            What does “property” mean, beyond the legitimate authority to control a thing? Note that we’ve already got the concept of property held in trust, so a thing can be property even if the owner is constrained from broadly exploiting it for his own private benefit.

            The relationship between a very young child and its ultimate guardian, is going to be sufficiently property-like that people are probably going to default to property-like language in describing it. And most legal systems are going to draw at least informally on their extensive body of well-developed property law to deal with analogous situations that occur with minor children. So if people want to play games where they carefully launder their language and legal precedent of property-like terms while saying of others, “…but YOU talk of children as ‘mine’ like you were trading in slaves, you monsters!”, when there’s little actual difference beyond maybe who the owner/guardian/whatever is, I can recognize that this may be an effective debating tactic with some audiences but it gets an eyeroll from me.

          • but they’re much more willing to allow the state to override guardianship if the parents are making choices that a judge agrees aren’t good.

            Which means they are trusting the judge, who has less information than the parents and cares less about the children. The usual response is that this is only happening when the parents are unusually bad ones, while the judge isn’t an unusually bad judge–but that ignores the fact that there are bad judges as well as bad parents.

            Two bits of evidence on the other side. In the course of the Texas FLDS case, the relevant authorities took several hundred children away from their parents. The original reason was information conveyed in a phone call that turned out to be entirely bogus–the caller claimed to be a woman in the FLDS community, wasn’t found when the community was raided, turned out to be someone with no connection to the FLDS and a history of bogus phone calls. This was discovered fairly quickly, but the authorities avoided mentioning it in their public statements.

            The actual reason, pretty clearly, was to either prevent the children from being brought up in their parents’ (polygamous) religion or force the parents to abandon the religion in order to get their children back. If curious I can point you at a series of blog posts I made at the time giving details.

            Some years back, we were interviewing a potential hire who had graduated from Cornell Law School where he had done volunteer work providing legal services to the poor. I asked him whether, in his experience, the power of the authorities to take children from their parents did, on average, net good or bad. His response was that he could not speak for the nation as a whole, but in Ithaca where he had been working it on average did harm.

            In a way, my point is the same as the distinction between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. There are surely cases where the authorities taking children away from their parents, or making a decision for the children against the will of the parents, does good. It doesn’t follow that the authorities having that power does good. If on average it does bad, then a parental right to make such decisions is a good legal rule, whether or not it follows from a right in some normative sense.

          • Brad says:

            @David Friedman
            You’ve written about the FLDS case before and linked your blog post. To put it mildly I don’t share your moral intuitions on the matter. Per your blog post, parents were pressuring their teenage daughters to act as concubines for much older men.

            Rather than an example of unusually bad judges and perfectly fine parents it reads to me like a good example of unusually bad parents and a morally upright judge that was unfortunately overruled by a higher court.

            Contrary to this being a bit of evidence for the other side, I’d be very happy to offer it as evidence for my side of the argument.

          • Mary says:

            It seems like I was correct property is the dominant metaphor here.

            No, it doesn’t. That’s your metaphor. That other people talk using it — because there’s no other way to talk about what you said — does not give you the right to attribute it to other people.

            Especially when someone is pointing out a flaw in your argument.

          • skef says:

            the perennially difficult problem of jiving the limited agency of minors with libertarian principles

            “jive” != “jibe”

          • Per your blog post, parents were pressuring their teenage daughters to act as concubines for much older men.

            If they believed that, it might have been an argument for taking a handful of teenage girls away from their parents. What they did was to take several hundred children, male and female, from infants on up, away from their parents.

            And they repeatedly lied about it. At the initial hearing, one of them testified that women in the FLDS settlement said they knew the woman who made the phone call–who didn’t exist. They announced numbers of teenage minors without explaining that they were refusing to accept documentary evidence of age, hence “minor” meant “someone we have decided is a minor.” Take a look at how the numbers claimed shrank when the higher court looked at them. Or the two pregnant adult women whom they held until they had their babies with the claim both were minors, only to then, when they had control over the babies, conceded that they were eighteen and twenty-two.

            Where, by the way, in my blog posts do I assert that parents were pressuring their teenage daughters to act as concubines for older men? That was more or less the claim in the phone call, but the woman who made it had no connection with the FLDS or the Texas settlement, as was discovered within a few days. The call claimed she was in the settlement, and they knew that was false once they raided it.

            Their actions were found illegal first by a unanimous decision of the Texas appeals court and then a unanimous decision of the Texas Supreme Court. They were found legal initially by one judge on the basis of false, in part probably perjured, testimony.

          • Brad says:

            https://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2008/05/my-views-on-flds-v-texas-interim.html

            The FLDS

            I think it is clear that the FLDS engages in polygamy. Since there are few legal restrictions on consensual sex between adults at this point, however, it is not illegal for three or more people to cohabit, even if they regard themselves as married. Whether it is immoral would depend, in my view, on the details of the relationship.

            I think it likely although not yet proved that the FLDS violates state law on age of consent. They could probably avoid doing so by making sure that any marriages involving women below the age of consent for non-marital sex were with women who could legally marry and were done as legal marriages to husbands who were not already legally married to someone else. It does not sound likely that they have taken such precautions, however. I do not think marriage not recognized by the state to someone below the age of consent for nonmarital sex is inherently wicked or immoral, although I can easily see that in many cases it would be.

            I think it likely that the FLDS pressures young women into what they consider marriage. Under many, probably most, circumstances I would regard that as a bad thing to do but probably not something that either is or should be illegal, age of consent issues aside.

            It is possible that the FLDS actually forces young women to have sex, which I would regard as clearly immoral, but I have not yet seen any good evidence of their doing so. I have seen no evidence that the FLDS engages in activities that would legitimately be classified as child abuse other than arranging “marriages” with young women. I am confident that their child-rearing approach is one I would not approve of—but that’s true of a lot of people.

            As I said I am happy to take this example, as summarized by you, as making the case for my side of the argument. Your abhorrence of government interference is causing you to make excuses for very bad behavior.

            I think even most people that have the “don’t you dare tell me how to raise my kids” attitude would be uneasy with your outrage over Texas’ actions in this case. If you think otherwise, respectfully I believe you misread the American public. Cases where CPS intervened because of spanking or because kids were allowed to play in the park by themselves would be much more universally condemned.

          • CatCube says:

            @Brad

            Wait, you’re OK with government employees telling a bunch of lies to a court, so long as they’re pretty sure that the people they’re pursuing are doing something wrong?

            And you’re misreading that excerpt. David isn’t claiming that there’s evidence that FLDS committed abuse, he’s saying that if evidence appeared he’d probably believe that evidence. He still thinks the cops need to actually come up with the evidence.

          • rlms says:

            @CatCube
            David Friedman’s stance doesn’t appear to be “FLDS acted badly, but the government behaved improperly in the investigation so they shouldn’t have been prosecuted” but rather “FLDS did no wrong, and the government behaved improperly”, as justification for “parental power over children should be stronger than it is, and governmental power should be weaker”. Brad is saying that most people would disagree with the “FLDS did no wrong” part, and would’ve been quite happy for the government to interfere (disregarding concerns about them doing so in unlawful ways).

          • Brad says:

            @CatCube

            And you’re misreading that excerpt. David isn’t claiming that there’s evidence that FLDS committed abuse, he’s saying that if evidence appeared he’d probably believe that evidence.

            He said “I think it likely that the FLDS pressures young women into what they consider marriage.”

            He apparently doesn’t think that’s abuse, but if someone else does (and I think most would) then it follows that ‘David is claiming that there’s evidence that FLDS committed abuse’. I don’t think I’m putting words in David’s mouth here.

            Wait, you’re OK with government employees telling a bunch of lies to a court, so long as they’re pretty sure that the people they’re pursuing are doing something wrong?

            He still thinks the cops need to actually come up with the evidence.

            There is a lot of dancing back and forth here between legal and moral questions as well as between substantive and procedural questions.

            Go back to DF original post where he introduced FLDS:

            Which means they are trusting the judge, who has less information than the parents and cares less about the children. The usual response is that this is only happening when the parents are unusually bad ones, while the judge isn’t an unusually bad judge–but that ignores the fact that there are bad judges as well as bad parents.

            My claim is that FLDS is a very poor example to justify this because they are unusually bad parents.

            I’m not trying to justify perjury or suborning it — I’m saying from a 20,000 ft view this is the type of case* where most people think children ought to be removed from parents. Which makes it a poor example to offer for the proposition that parental rights ought to be very strong because they have better information and care more about their children.

            * I.e. a community where fathers are coercing their teen daughters to be concubines for their friends

          • Mary says:

            this is the type of case* where most people think children ought to be removed from parents

            In which case the first question is about it is whether it actually exists or is a figment of the authorities’ imagination, in which case the very people you are advancing as the children’s guardians are the abusers.

          • I think even most people that have the “don’t you dare tell me how to raise my kids” attitude would be uneasy with your outrage over Texas’ actions in this case.

            That depends on whether their views were based on what actually happened or the heavily biased accounts in the major media. How many of those people even know that the initial phone call on which the raid was based was known early on to be a bogus call from a woman with a history of such and no connection to the FLDS?

            Please note that there was no evidence ever offered that any of the people in the compound that was raided were young women being forced into marriages with older men. There are legitimate reasons to criticize behavior that some people in the FLDS probably engage in. But that doesn’t justify seizing several hundred children, taking them away from their parents, repeatedly lying in public about the facts of the case, holding adult pregnant women prisoner on the pretense that they were minors, and only giving the children back after unanimous verdicts by both the state appeals court and the state Supreme Court that the actions were illegal.

            And I doubt that most people, fully acquainted with the facts, would disagree.

          • David Friedman’s stance doesn’t appear to be “FLDS acted badly, but the government behaved improperly in the investigation so they shouldn’t have been prosecuted” but rather “FLDS did no wrong, and the government behaved improperly”

            More precisely, there was no real evidence that anyone in the compound raided, any of the people whose children were taken away, had done anything wrong. There has been evidence from other sources that some people in the same sect have done things I would regard as wrong, but probably not things that should be illegal.

            Unless I missed something in the controversy, the sole evidence that someone in the compound was a young woman forced into marriage with an older man was the original phone call, which was a fake and known to be a fake early on. Beyond that there was the claim that some women in the compound were minors who were or had been pregnant–a statement that would have been true of pretty much any community in Texas of similar size. The number was greatly exaggerated in public statements by the authorities involved.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s an important distinction here:

            a. The FLDS is, to my mind, a creepy cult that’s probably bad for its members, particularly for its kids.

            b. I still want the state to have a high bar before they’re able to imprison adults or take away children. That is, I think the state needs to show that the people being imprisoned have violated actual written laws, or that they are unable to care for themselves, or that the kids are actually being abused (in terms of what the written law says is abuse).

            My reasoning for (a) is probably the same as the reasoning of the prosecutors and police involved in the raid, and Brad for that matter. My reasoning for (b) is that it’s pretty easy for the authorities to justify cracking down on weird people in pretty nasty ways, and there is a long history of that happening. If I don’t want the state raiding rationalist poly homes to take away the kids, or Wiccan homes to take away the kids, the only way I know to prevent that is to make the state actually have to clear that very high bar.

          • My claim is that FLDS is a very poor example to justify this because they are unusually bad parents.

            Your claim seems to be, given the facts of the case, that if some members of a religious sect do things connected with the doctrines of that sect that make them bad parents, that justifies taking away the children of all members of that sect. Is that your position? I don’t see how else you can defend what was actually done in the FLDS case.

            To put the same point at little differently, is it your view that adhering to a religion that justifies some actions that we qualify as child abuse makes someone a bad parent who should have his children taken away, whether or not there is any evidence that that parent ever abused any child?

            My claim is that the facts of the case show that the judge who initially authorized the seizure with no evidence save claims by the authorities credited to an unnamed informant plus a phone call by that time known to be false, was a bad judge, and the state child protective authorities very much worse.

          • Brad says:

            You are retreating back to outrage over procedure instead of addressing substance.

            Your original claim was, in part, that we ought to think that parents are more likely to have their children’s best interest at heart than state officials. In furtherance of that claim you offer a case where parents — per *your* analysis* — treated their children terribly and state officials violated rules in an attempt to get children away from their terrible parents.

            Yes, people might be outraged about the rule violations, but in terms of the original claim it goes exactly to the opposite point of what you are offering it for. The state officials cared more for the children than the parents.

            If you want people to be outraged about police abuses, you don’t offer the example of Mark Fuhrman framing a guilty OJ Simpson.

            * I never read any of the media accounts, biased or otherwise. My entire knowledge of this case comes from you.

          • In furtherance of that claim you offer a case where parents — per *your* analysis* — treated their children terribly and state officials violated rules in an attempt to get children away from their terrible parents.

            That is not even close to true. It was a case where some parents arguably treated their children badly and the state responded by taking away the children of other parents of the same religion, with no evidence ever offered that those parents were treating their children badly.

            How do you get from “some FLDS parents pressure their daughters to become the second wives of older men” to “this male infant should be taken away from his mother because she is a member of FLDS”?

            I assume we both agree that some Muslims commit terrorist acts. We probably also agree that people who commit terrorist acts should be punished for doing so. Following out your principles in this case, it follows that the fact that someone is a Muslim is a sufficient basis for arresting him and punishing him as a terrorist.

            Do you really want to take that position? Can you point to any relevant difference between that conclusion in that case and your position in this one?

          • Brad says:

            I think you may be saying something different here from what I got from the blog post.

            Are you saying that:
            1) Third party after the fact observers (i.e. us) have no good reason to believe there was concubinage of minors going on in the compound before it was raided?

            Or are you saying

            2) The authorities at the time of the raid were not in possession of accurate evidence that minor concubinage was occuring at the compound?

            If it’s #1, I’d have to revise my position. I thought your blog post said the opposite.

          • Are you saying that:
            1) Third party after the fact observers (i.e. us) have no good reason to believe there was concubinage of minors going on in the compound before it was raided?

            Correct. The only evidence ever offered for that was the original phone call, known to be false as soon as they raided the compound and discovered that the woman who supposedly had called from it wasn’t there. Beyond that, there was evidence that a few minor women were either pregnant or had had children, but not that they were second wives of older men forced into marriage by their families. Once all the false claims were eliminated, the rate does not seem to have been higher than elsewhere in Texas.

            One of the adults who they held until she had her baby was the wife of a monogamous marriage.

            It’s possible that you are misreading my blog post because you assume that “FLDS” means that particular compound. It’s the name of a religious sect, most of which was elsewhere. There is evidence from a different location that they practiced polygamy–certainly they claimed to believe in it–and at least one case of a woman who claimed, very likely truthfully, to have been pressured by her family into a marriage she didn’t want, although I think as a first wife.

            Suppose, however, that there really had been evidence that some young women in the compound were second wives of older men, having been married by family pressure. That might possibly justify taking teen aged daughters away from their parents to prevent such a thing happening. How does it justify taking a one year old boy away from his parents?

            As best I can tell, there are two answers. The political answer is that the legal changes used to attack the FLDS in Texas, the raising of the age of consent from 14 to 16 and making polygamy a felony, were initially introduced into the Texas legislature by a representative local to the FLDS compound, and described at the time as targeted at it. Taking the children away was a way of driving the FLDS out of Texas.

            The ideological answer, as per one of my blog posts:

            “the only justification offered by the CPS for seizing male children was that they were being brought up to be child abusers—which is to say, being brought up in their parents’ religion. It sounds from some news stories as though the implicit deal being offered to parents was that if they would accept suitable psychological counseling, they would eventually get their children back. Combine those two and it looks as though the idea was to force people to renounce their religion, holding their children hostage until they did.”

            Under U.S. law and international convention, attempting to destroy a religious group by taking their children away is the crime of attempted genocide.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t have any problem with taking all the kids away from parents that have sexually abused one of their kids. I think that policy makes a lot of sense. Even if the abused child is a girl and the others are boys.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That’s fair if you can show that sexual abuse actually occurred.

            Otherwise you’re simply taking children away from thier parents because you find thier religion icky which is what David Friedman is objecting to.

          • Brad says:

            I accept the correction as to the facts laid out in the first part of David’s post. My last post was in response to the second part that starts with “Suppose”.

          • I don’t have any problem with taking all the kids away from parents that have sexually abused one of their kids.

            You are letting the vagueness of “sexually abuse” do a lot of work. The actual charge is that some FLDS parents pressure their daughters into marriages with men who already have one wife. I cannot see how that is a reason to take away sons, or one year old daughters. And calling that “sexually abusing one of their kids” is a considerable exaggeration. Would you feel the same way about parents who pressure their daughters to marry someone they really don’t want to marry in an ordinary monogamous marriage? If not, why?

            Parents quite often pressure their kids to do things, sometimes successfully, sometimes not.

            You say you are responding to my second hypothetical. It was:

            Suppose, however, that there really had been evidence that some young women in the compound were second wives of older men, having been married by family pressure.

            Are you arguing that that justifies taking away all of the children of all parents in the compound, which is what was done? If it turns out that one of your neighbors, who happens to be of the same religion as you, has mistreated his kid, is that justification for taking your kids away?

            Go back to the original argument. My claim is that the case is evidence that government authorities with the power to take children away from their parents can massively and indefensibly abuse that power.

          • Brad says:

            You are letting the vagueness of “sexually abuse” do a lot of work. The actual charge is that some FLDS parents pressure their daughters into marriages with men who already have one wife.

            Minor daughters and not marriages.

            I find it disturbing that you are okay-ish with this. I doubt you would be if it was the state that was doing the coercing instead of the parents.

            I cannot see how that is a reason to take away sons, or one year old daughters. And calling that “sexually abusing one of their kids” is a considerable exaggeration.

            I don’t think it is any sort of exaggeration. Child abuse by proxy is still child abuse. There are cases where mothers are charged for conspiring with their boyfriends to abuse the mother’s children, this is a similar situation.

            And again, I don’t have a problem with all the children being taken away from both sets of couples (i.e. those doing the pressuring and those doing to raping) in this sort of case.

            Would you feel the same way about parents who pressure their daughters to marry someone they really don’t want to marry in an ordinary monogamous marriage? If not, why?

            Yes.
            See the recent PBS two part series on Child and Forced Marriage in America.

            Are you arguing that that justifies taking away all of the children of all parents in the compound, which is what was done? If it turns out that one of your neighbors, who happens to be of the same religion as you, has mistreated his kid, is that justification for taking your kids away?

            No, I’m not arguing that though I can certainly see why you would reasonably think I am.

            But I am arguing that all children should be removed from both couples in the forced concubinage arrangement.

            Go back to the original argument. My claim is that the case is evidence that government authorities with the power to take children away from their parents can massively and indefensibly abuse that power.

            You seem to be outraged that the purported rights of parents are being violated. While any real system of justice requires due process and I would certainly agree that merely sharing a religion with terrible people ought not to count as evidence, why is the concern with the parents and not the children?

            There seems to be a moral blindness, and willingness to look the other way, when it comes to bad acts by parents and a laser focus on bad acts by the state.

          • Mary says:

            why is the concern with the parents and not the children?

            Because that is the subject matter under discussion.

            Were we discussing another matter, we might have come to this case discussing whether what the authorities did was child abuse, and whether the children should have the right to sue them.

            Especially when the rights of the children are, in these discussions, frequently a transparent veil for the rights of government authorities to abuse both parent and child.

          • I wrote:

            You are letting the vagueness of “sexually abuse” do a lot of work. The actual charge is that some FLDS parents pressure their daughters into marriages with men who already have one wife.

            Brad replied:

            Minor daughters and not marriages.

            “Not marriages” because they are not legally recognized, due to the fact that the government forbids polygamy? Marriage as an institution long predates its control by governments. They are what their society recognizes as marriages.

            What counts as a minor is a matter of state law—marriage below the age Texas raised its age of consent to prior to the case has been normal in most human societies, including this one, through most of history.

            I asked:

            Are you arguing that that justifies taking away all of the children of all parents in the compound, which is what was done? If it turns out that one of your neighbors, who happens to be of the same religion as you, has mistreated his kid, is that justification for taking your kids away?

            He responded:

            No, I’m not arguing that though I can certainly see why you would reasonably think I am.

            Our original argument was about whether the power of the state to take children from their parents is dangerous because it will sometimes be misused, hence the claim that without that power some parents will mistreat their children is not sufficient to justify the power. Are you now agreeing that what actually happened in the FLDS case was an outrageous act of abuse by the authorities? If so, why are you surprised that I was outraged at it? Why aren’t you?

            He wrote:

            But I am arguing that all children should be removed from both couples in the forced concubinage arrangement.

            In particular, the children of the wife who you are calling a concubine should be removed from her? That, after all, was what was happening, supposing that the mothers in the Texas case were second wives—I don’t think there was any evidence that they were, but they could have been.

            Is your definition of “concubinage” the status of a wife in a polygynous marriage? Because such are illegal in the U.S. at the moment, because you are confident that it is never in the woman’s interest to be in such a marriage, or for some other reason?

            Brad wrote:

            You seem to be outraged that the purported rights of parents are being violated.

            Where do you get that? I am arguing that giving the state power to remove children from their parents will sometimes do very bad things to the children, that the Texas authorities were guilty of mass child abuse. It’s true that they were also guilty of perjury, slander, and false imprisonment, the latter two offenses against the parents, the first against the legal system.

            If you don’t like that case, consider the treatment of Amerind children by Canadian authorities not all that long ago—removing children from their parents and shipping them across the country to institutions were they were not permitted to speak their own language, in a large scale attempt to convert them from what was seen as a disfunctional culture to the majority culture. And that was by one of the world’s more civilized governments.

            Brad seems to think this is an argument about whether parents have an intrinsic right to control their children. But if he looks up the thread, he will see that it comes from his response to a post of mine in which I wrote:

            There are surely cases where the authorities taking children away from their parents, or making a decision for the children against the will of the parents, does good. It doesn’t follow that the authorities having that power does good. If on average it does bad, then a parental right to make such decisions is a good legal rule, whether or not it follows from a right in some normative sense.

          • Brad says:

            Our original argument was about whether the power of the state to take children from their parents is dangerous because it will sometimes be misused, hence the claim that without that power some parents will mistreat their children is not sufficient to justify the power. Are you now agreeing that what actually happened in the FLDS case was an outrageous act of abuse by the authorities? If so, why are you surprised that I was outraged at it? Why aren’t you?

            Yes, I accept that your claim that there wasn’t, and still isn’t, any reason to believe that the specific people that had their children taken away were participating in trading children for sex. Thus removing those children was an abuse.

            The rest of the responses are part of the discussion of the hypo you raised regarding the counterfactual where that was such evidence. Specifically whether it would justify taking away all the children of both sets of parents (i.e. the siblings of the girl that became a concubine and the children of the man that she was forced to sleep with).

            “Not marriages” because they are not legally recognized, due to the fact that the government forbids polygamy? Marriage as an institution long predates its control by governments. They are what their society recognizes as marriages.

            What counts as a minor is a matter of state law—marriage below the age Texas raised its age of consent to prior to the case has been normal in most human societies, including this one, through most of history.

            If you want to be a moral relativist, then I certainly can’t stop you.

            But then I wonder where you get your outrage against the government from? Why not give them the benefit of your moral relativism, I’m sure by their own lights they are doing the right thing just as by the members of FLDS they are doing the right thing.

            Meanwhile most of the rest of the society you live in is outraged when teenage girls are coerced into having sex with older men. Especially when their parents are doing the coercing. If that wasn’t the case 300 years ago or today in interior New Guinea, that’s neither here nor there.

            In particular, the children of the wife who you are calling a concubine should be removed from her? That, after all, was what was happening, supposing that the mothers in the Texas case were second wives—I don’t think there was any evidence that they were, but they could have been.

            If she is still underage then she and her children should be removed from her master.* If she is an adult then alas there’s nothing to be done. Though certainly an eye should be kept on those children.

            *Apparently the usage is: concubine:master::wife:husband

            Is your definition of “concubinage” the status of a wife in a polygynous marriage? Because such are illegal in the U.S. at the moment, because you are confident that it is never in the woman’s interest to be in such a marriage, or for some other reason?

            Neither legally nor socially do we recognize plural marriages in our society. I’m not going to use a usage that is neither descriptively nor prescriptively accurate. Concubine is a better fit on both accounts. If were were speaking biblical Hebrew instead of American English maybe it would be a different story.

            Where do you get that? I am arguing that giving the state power to remove children from their parents will sometimes do very bad things to the children, that the Texas authorities were guilty of mass child abuse. It’s true that they were also guilty of perjury, slander, and false imprisonment, the latter two offenses against the parents, the first against the legal system.

            If you don’t like that case, consider the treatment of Amerind children by Canadian authorities not all that long ago—removing children from their parents and shipping then across the country to institutions were they were not permitted to speak their own language, in a large scale attempt to convert them from what was seen as a disfunctional culture to the majority culture.

            Again, I’m not a moral relativist. So I don’t need to accept “what was seen as” to be equivalent to “what I see as”. I’m happy to examine the case on the object level.

            To sum up my problem with your position: A parent has in some ways even more power over a child as a state does over a citizen. Parental power is even less based on consent than the governmental power. So why do parents get a pass?

            Again, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you would be a lot less tolerant of different beliefs if it was the state that was coercing people to enter specific marriages. If say, teen orphans in a state run orphanage were auctioned off to men in the community and heavily pressured into marrying the winners.

          • Continuing my exchange with Brad:

            He wrote:

            The rest of the responses are part of the discussion of the hypo you raised regarding the counterfactual where that was such evidence. Specifically whether it would justify taking away all the children of both sets of parents (i.e. the siblings of the girl that became a concubine and the children of the man that she was forced to sleep with).

            My hypo was on the counterfactual where there was evidence that someone in the compound was pressuring a daughter to marry an older man who was already married. The issue was whether that justified taking away all of the children of all the people in the compound.

            I wrote:

            “Not marriages” because they are not legally recognized, due to the fact that the government forbids polygamy? Marriage as an institution long predates its control by governments. They are what their society recognizes as marriages.

            What counts as a minor is a matter of state law—marriage below the age Texas raised its age of consent to prior to the case has been normal in most human societies, including this one, through most of history.

            Brad replied:

            If you want to be a moral relativist, then I certainly can’t stop you.

            I don’t want to be a moral relativist, as it happens. Is it your view that right and wrong are made by the Texas legislature? If not, why is their definition of the age of consent relevant?

            My guess from what I know of history is that many past marriages in which the bride was under sixteen were successful ones, probably not a lot fewer than where the bride was over sixteen. Marriage is a risky business, not obviously more risky in the past.

            Brad wrote:

            Meanwhile most of the rest of the society you live in is outraged when teenage girls are coerced into having sex with older men. Especially when their parents are doing the coercing. If that wasn’t the case 300 years ago or today in interior New Guinea, that’s neither here nor there.

            You don’t have to go to New Guinea. England raised the age of consent to thirteen in 1875. Age of consent in the U.S. in the 19th century varied by state from ten to twelve (source here). Hawaii only raised its age of consent from fourteen to sixteen in 2001.

            Define “coercing.” Assault and rape are illegal and should be. Pressuring your daughter to do something you think she should do and she thinks she shouldn’t is not. Do you think it should be?

            I wrote:

            In particular, the children of the wife who you are calling a concubine should be removed from her? That, after all, was what was happening, supposing that the mothers in the Texas case were second wives—I don’t think there was any evidence that they were, but they could have been.

            Brad responded:

            If she is still underage then she and her children should be removed from her master.* If she is an adult then alas there’s nothing to be done. Though certainly an eye should be kept on those children.

            You are now dealing with a wholly imaginary world of masters and slaves. You will note that after the raid, when the mothers were under severe pressure to abandon and denounce the sect in order to get their children back, none of them did. Do you have any evidence that any wife in the FLDS anywhere was forcibly prevented from leaving her husband’s home? If so, that would and should be illegal.

            I wrote:

            Is your definition of “concubinage” the status of a wife in a polygynous marriage? Because such are illegal in the U.S. at the moment, because you are confident that it is never in the woman’s interest to be in such a marriage, or for some other reason?

            He responded:

            Neither legally nor socially do we recognize plural marriages in our society.

            And you accuse me of being a moral relativist. How does the legitimacy of a marriage depend on the view of most of the U.S. population? The part of the society FLDS members live in does recognize plural marriages, which is what is relevant to them, except when outsiders to their society attempt to impose their views on it. What is now the state of Utah recognized them until the U.S. army imposed the view of people elsewhere on them.

            If it turns out that a majority of the world’s population does recognize plural marriages, almost certainly true in the not too distant past, will you reverse your terminology? Is there some reason why the relevant population for determining what is a marriage is that of the country, not the world or the town? Would you similarly refer to a woman whose husband had been divorced as a concubine if you happened to be living in a Catholic country? Henry VIII had only one wife but five sequential concubines?

            Would you use similarly loaded terminology for other cases of relationships disapproved of by the majority—describe homosexuals as perverts in America a few decades back?

            He wrote:

            I’m not going to use a usage that is neither descriptively nor prescriptively accurate.

            You know this how?

            I wrote:

            Where do you get that? I am arguing that giving the state power to remove children from their parents will sometimes do very bad things to the children, that the Texas authorities were guilty of mass child abuse. It’s true that they were also guilty of perjury, slander, and false imprisonment, the latter two offenses against the parents, the first against the legal system.

            If you don’t like that case, consider the treatment of Amerind children by Canadian authorities not all that long ago—removing children from their parents and shipping then across the country to institutions were they were not permitted to speak their own language, in a large scale attempt to convert them from what was seen as a disfunctional culture to the majority culture.

            Brad responded:

            Again, I’m not a moral relativist. So I don’t need to accept “what was seen as” to be equivalent to “what I see as”. I’m happy to examine the case on the object level.

            To sum up my problem with your position: A parent has in some ways even more power over a child as a state does over a citizen. Parental power is even less based on consent than the governmental power. So why do parents get a pass?

            That is false. Parental power over a teenager, which is what we are discussing, is based more on consent than governmental power. A parent cannot, for example, execute a child for disobeying his commands. A government can execute a citizen.

            I am in favor of abolishing laws that let a parent force a runaway teenager to return, that being the only sense in which the parent has power not based on consent. I took that position, in print, more than forty years ago.

            You continue to ignore my argument. Let me try again:



            If the state has the power to take children away from their parents, that might produce a benefit for the children in the case of sufficiently bad parents, it might produce a loss for the children in the case of sufficiently bad judgement by the state authorities. I have offered you two examples where it produced a large loss.

            This is a consequentialist argument about the consequences of alternative legal rules and you keep trying to treat it as if I was making the moral argument that I explicitly disavowed in the post you responded to.

 Saying “in those cases I disapprove of the government’s action,” which is what your “I’m happy to examine the case on the object level” amount to, does not respond to the argument, since you are not going to be the one controlling what the government does. You might as well respond to an argument against a law allowing the state to punish suspects without a trial by saying that of course you are only in favor of it when the suspects are guilty.

            Brad wrote:

            Again, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you would be a lot less tolerant of different beliefs if it was the state that was coercing people to enter specific marriages. If say, teen orphans in a state run orphanage were auctioned off to men in the community and heavily pressured into marrying the winners.

            I think it much more likely that in such a system children would be pressured into marriages not for their own benefit but for the benefit of the ones pressuring them, in your case the people collecting the auction money, than when it is done by parents. Part of the argument for preferring parental authority to authority by others is that, while nobody can be trusted to be a perfectly benevolent agent for another, a child’s parent is more likely to act in that way to the child than any other adult.

          • Brad says:

            I appreciate the engagement. I don’t think we are going to see eye to eye on the issue of children marriages (including polygynous relationships) or coercion to enter them, but I’ll continue to think on the rest of what you’ve said.

          • The most important point isn’t about this particular issue. It’s that in deciding whether government should have particular powers, the question is not whether there are ways those powers could be used that would, on net, make the world better rather than worse, but whether the way in which those powers can be expect to be used would do so.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          This is true and a problem, but what alternative do you suggest?

          I don’t even think there are any, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking? I’m objecting to the conceptualization of parental control over their children as a fundamental right. At least in this particular post, I wasn’t objecting to any specific rule about how decisions about children are made.

            That said I would expect moving from a rights based framework to a pragmatic justification would eventually lead to some divergence.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I’m objecting to the conceptualization of parental control over their children as a fundamental right. At least in this particular post, I wasn’t objecting to any specific rule about how decisions about children are made.

            This conceptualization is the underpinning for the decision-making model. If you’re interested in doing anything other than protesting against it in a token sense (and I’d join you if that’s all) then fair enough.

            I would expect moving from a rights based framework to a pragmatic justification would eventually lead to some divergence.

            So, what does this mean?

          • Brad says:

            I’m not sure. I have to think it through. You are welcome to help me brainstorm.

            But off the cuff, how about something like vaccines.

            In a rights world we have a fundamental right vs the possibility of a public health issue, but not one that looks like an immediate crisis. It’s a tough one, we don’t want to violate fundamental rights except in extreme circumstances. Does this really qualify?

            In a pragmatic world, we have the principle that in general its better to let parents decide what’s best for their children because: we aren’t sure what’s the best so it’s good to have some diversity instead of a mono-culture, plus that’s how it’s always been done, plus we don’t really have the administrative resources to make all the decisions, plus this way if someone terrible gets in charge he won’t be able to control your children, etc. On the other side we have the same public health concerns.

            In the second world, I think we have a stronger case for mandatory vaccination. We don’t have to treat the other side of the issue as a black box of “fundamental rights — do not touch”, instead we can look at each of the pragmatic justifications and see how well or poorly they fit the specific question at hand.

            To anticipate an objection, maybe this kind of reasoning could be applied to anything and we end up in a situations where parents get no deference at all. And if that world is worse than the one where parents are treated as having a quasi-property right over their children then maybe we should just swallow the “grossness” of that position and leave it be. I don’t know.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            so utilitarianism?

            this won’t be polished, but let me put forth my thoughts: all of this really boils down to whether or not you think parents or the government make the right decision (or are generally more likely to, etc)

            It seems to me that parents are more likely to want to make the right decision and have the right reasons, with two significant exceptions thus far: firstly, a lack of knowledge, as for example in the second world. This extends to superstitions and similar. And secondly, an inability to face up to the harsh truth, possibly owing to the ingrained need to pass on DNA (post by Murphy, Ctrl+f anencephaly). Also, I guess there are some bad parents.

            So it’s tough; I think giving control over to first-world parents usually produces the best results, but there are clearly times where the parents puts something else above the best interest of their child. Then again, the government is who it is.

          • Mary says:

            “I’m objecting to the conceptualization of parental control over their children as a fundamental right.”

            Whom you propose to put in their place? Because babies and toddlers are not going to control their own lives. To object to parental control only makes sense if you have a superior guardian to replace the parents. To object in the abstract is a double standard, since they are not being compared to inevitable replacement.

          • Murphy says:

            @mary

            Choosing not to make something a fundamental right doesn’t mean you discard it entirely.

            We have no fundamental right to drive yet people can drive around just fine. But it does mean that when someone is caught driving drunk they can be stripped of the privilege of driving much more easily.

            making something a fundamental right makes things like that much harder. When parenting gets considered a fundamental right (and in some countries it is because someone wrote it into the constitution) you get crazy things like systems which keep sending abused children back to their abusers because it’s so so hard to strip someone of a fundamental right.

          • Mary says:

            And where does a fundamental right differ from other rights?

            And does your removing it from the parents mean, in reality, that you are insisting that social workers have the fundamental right, and so you get crazy things like systems which keep snatching happy, unabused children from their homes (abuse in itself) and sending them into foster care where they ARE abused, and sending abused children back into the homes where they are abused?

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’m curious as to where “must” and “scary” come from.

          Because governments have a sufficient history of abusing their powers that lots of people are uncomfortable with giving the state the right to say “We’ve decided this person’s life isn’t worth living, so we’re not going to try and keep them alive, and nor is anybody else.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Right. Even if we can all agree that some lives are so awful as to not be worth living, we may still have a hard time working out a way to put someone in the position of deciding whose life is not worth living and so should be ended. There’s a *lot* of opportunity for abuse of that power, both for well-intentioned reasons and to accomplish other goals (saving money on healthcare costs, ridding the world of people with sufficiently serious intellectual or physical disabilities for some ideological purpose, etc.).

    • hlynkacg says:

      As I already said on the subreddit, I have 0 sympathy for the NHS in this case.

      As Matt M points the fact that the treatment “has never been tried” is a non argument. Assuming the science behind it is sound (I’m not a pediatric neurologist, so I don’t know) someone will have to be the first so why not Charlie? The issue is that the hospital had 3 choices here. 1) Pull Charlie’s plug and and end his suffering immediately, 2) Perform the experimental treatment and potentially prolong Charlie’s suffering. 3) Fight a long protracted legal battle and definitely prolong Charlie’s suffering. The fact that the NHS went with option 3 puts the lie to the idea that they care about the “needless suffering” of this particular child.

      Honestly, this whole debacle makes me want to take up the fiery sword and start stacking NHS bureaucrats like cordwood. I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to maintain the level of restraint and decorum that Chris and Connie Gard have displayed were I in thier shoes.

      • Murphy says:

        You may need to consider that “prolong” can mean different things in different outcomes.

        Lets imagine they went with option 2.

        potential outcomes:

        It doesn’t work at all and charlie dies shortly thereafter.
        This seems fairly close to ethically neutral.

        It does work and it stops further degeneration.
        This is the horror-movie outcome. Full on “I have no mouth and I must scream”. And it could go on indefinitely, years, decades if the treatment is even more effective than expected.

        The hospital applied to the high court in mid april and the courts ruled really quite quickly in the hospitals favor. it’s not like it’s spent years in court. Every challenge that’s slowed the courts down have been from the parents.

        You seem to have a

        heads=NHS is evil

        Tails = NHS is evil

        kind of thing going on there.

        • hlynkacg says:

          FWIW I see both options 1 and 2 as, at a minimum, ethically neutral. Option 3 is the only obviously evil choice, which is naturally the one they went with because nobody involved wanted to be stuck holding the buck. It’s pure fucking Moloch complete with child sacrifice.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            FWIW I see both options 1 and 2 as, at a minimum, ethically neutral. Option 3 is the only obviously evil choice

            To recap:

            1) Pull Charlie’s plug and and end his suffering immediately
            2) Perform the experimental treatment and potentially prolong Charlie’s suffering.
            3) Fight a long protracted legal battle and definitely prolong Charlie’s suffering

            # Euthanasia being at a minimum ethically neutral is a contentious position, to say the least. I’m not going to argue one way or another on it, but you should at least be able to agree that it’s controversial. And hopefully also that it would not require a large shift in values for someone to come to a different conclusion.

            # It sounds like from the hospital’s perspective, 2) has such a low probability of success (can’t fix existing brain damage) as to be basically reducible to the consequences of 3), though by a different path. And would require diverting NHS resources from other children who could benefit more. Say what you will about “death panels” but that’s how the calculus works.

            # Assuming my below discussion with Murphy is accurate, 1) is what the hospital wanted and it was the parents who turned it into 3). One can argue for legalizing euthanasia within the bounds of reasonable discourse – it is definitely a party foul to call for heads to roll for not engaging in extralegal euthanasia.

            I empathize with your position, I do. But such vehement, disgust-laden excoriations of folk for not operating outside the bounds of their position (and the current legally proscribed morality) is really not constructive.

          • Murphy says:

            I find it interesting that you consider option 2 neutral.

            Would I be right to guess you’re hardcore non-consequentialist.

            Option 1: illegal to implement but lets call it 1 unit of suffering.

            Option 2: legal but anything from 1 to [very large number N] units of suffering

            Option 3: legal to implement but >1 to [small bounded number M] units of suffering depending on how many appeals are lodged.

            but I get the feeling you don’t consider the moral culpability for the difference in units of suffering between options 1 and 2 to lie at the feet of whomever chooses option 2 .

            but you do seem to consider moral culpability for the difference in units of suffering between options 1 and 3 to lie at the feet of anyone who chooses option 3 (but somehow not also at the feet of anyone who increases the size of M though things like appeals.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Euthanasia being at a minimum ethically neutral is a contentious position, to say the least.

            Is it?

            The NHS’s whole case is predicated on the idea is that it is better for Charlie to die than to continue to suffer. Functionally speaking, there is no difference between a doctor “pulling the plug” to ease a patient’s suffering and administering a lethal does of painkillers to ease a patient’s suffering. The outcome and the intent are identical, in either case.

            It sounds like from the hospital’s perspective, 2) has such a low probability of success (can’t fix existing brain damage) as to be basically reducible to the consequences of 3), though by a different path.

            I understand this this, and if it was NHS footing the bill I would agree with you. However, they aren’t footing the bill, the parents are. If the issue were one of “diverting NHS resources from other children” it is in the NHS’s interests (and in the interests of those other children) to let the Gards leave with thier son. As it stands the NHS is expending recourses (both medical and legal) on what they insist is a lost cause, simply to keep the parents from taking their business elsewhere. That’s why I label it “pure fucking moloch”.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            there is no difference between a doctor “pulling the plug” to ease a patient’s suffering and administering a lethal does of painkillers to ease a patient’s suffering

            I was including “pulling the plug” in my definition of euthanasia. If this is non-standard, my apologies.

            While I think I’m at least loosely of the same opinion as you, there is definitely a values-level dispute over right-to-die issues. That’s what I meant by contentious.

            I don’t think it’s fair to lambast the doctors involved for taking the route that disentangles them as much as possible from such issues in their day-to-day. It’s reasonable to just try to do their jobs within the system they’ll have to keep working in for in all likelihood the rest of their careers. If they want to donate to or participate in advocacy groups in their free time, more power to them. But I don’t think life and death legislation is an area we want to encourage civil disobedience in, particularly that skewed toward the death side.

            simply to keep the parents from taking their business elsewhere. That’s why I label it “pure fucking moloch”.

            I can understand where you’re coming. It’s definitely an edge case of child abuse law, and moderately nanny-statish. (And I definitely get the anti-nanny-state angle, but then your ire should be directed at politicians, not doctors). But I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s an edge case. And that the hospital staff are using the tools they have legally available to prevent what they consider the greater evil. From the judgement linked above, not even the doc in the US thinks it likely to do much good: “but why not try” is their proposition at issue.

            I don’t think it’s really Molochian child-sacrifice to answer with “because doing so would cause an additional X amount of suffering for no real gain”. One could make an Omelas-adjacent argument about a society that allows its citizens to purchase hope with the suffering of their children.

          • Murphy says:

            @Gobbobobble

            That last line, wow.

            I was talking about this with my SO last night and she had a much harsher view than I did. I can’t bring myself to take a negative view of the parents but my SO in the past has had to make a similar call about a dying family member and been in disagreement with other next-of-kin and had a much harsher view of choices like that that pretty much lined up with your “purchase hope with the suffering of their children.” comparison.

          • Jiro says:

            Functionally speaking, there is no difference between a doctor “pulling the plug” to ease a patient’s suffering and administering a lethal does of painkillers to ease a patient’s suffering.

            Pople who are not utilitarians usually distinguish between action and inaction.

          • John Schilling says:

            Pople who are not utilitarians usually distinguish between action and inaction.

            Yes, and going to court to prevent someone else from taking their child to a hospital which proposes to treat their disease, falls solidly on the “action” side.

            Even pulling the plug on a ventilator or writing ‘DNR’ on a chart are technically actions, and close enough to homicide to at least give non-consequentialists pause. This case, though, isn’t even in a gray area. It’s straight-up homicide in thought, word, and deed, and can only be effectively defended on the grounds that This Time Euthanasia is Good.

        • Mary says:

          Either you are going to let untold numbers of children die of this disease, or someday, someone is going to have to treat a child with some treatment that has (obviously) never been tested before.

          That you hypothesize a horror-movie outcome for the later scenario does not strike me as good enough reason to not even try to save those children.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Those children”, presumably being future disease victims, can hopefully be treated before the bulk of their brain has been destroyed. That’s still not much of an argument for “treating” what seems to expert medical opinion to be a mouthless thing that has nothing left but unheard screams.

            If there’s an argument that Charlie Gard isn’t that mouthless thing, based on anything resembling reason. nobody seems to be making it.

            I suppose there’s also an argument that Charlie is a conveniently-available test article that should be anesthetized, treated, observed for what useful data we can get, and then painlessly euthanized. Nobody seems to be making that argument either, which is a good thing because it’s the sort of argument that makes the vast majority of humanity want to round up all the consequentialists and send them to reeducation camps.

          • Mary says:

            Your “hope” is as relevant as the “horror-movie” claim. Why should your hope trump the view of someone who thinks they will not be treated earlier?

            And, at that, not be treated earlier precisely because of the arguments you made?

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Is option 1 even a legal choice for the hospital? To make over the express wishes of the parents?

        IANABrit, but I would imagine with a single-payer system there’s a shitton of red tape and legally mandated opportunity for the family to contest major decisions like pulling plugs. Would appreciate it if any of our friends across the pond could illuminate me on this.

        • Murphy says:

          that’s pretty much what the court case was.

          The family contesting the decision.

          hlynkacg seems to believe that if a doctors isn’t willing to ignore the law then they’re not fit to be a doctor or something to that effect.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Ok, that’s what I suspected. Thanks for confirming 🙂

            hlynkacg seems to believe that if a doctors isn’t willing to ignore the law then they’re not fit to be a doctor or something to that effect.

            While I agree with the point behind this, that docs are not immoral monsters for following the law, the tone is about as helpful as hylnkacg’s vehement condemnations :/

        • hlynkacg says:

          As I understand it a primary doctor in the UK has the authority to deny life support without consulting the patient or next of kin. I remember about reading about such cases in the past (IIRC the Dr. disconnected a comatose adult’s the nutrient IV without consulting and against the wishes of their wife/husband circa 2008) and to my knowledge the rules haven’t changed. To that end, assuming the NHS is correct, the most ethical course action for all involved would have been for the primary doctor to pull Charlie’s plug and then beg forgiveness knowing that the court would rule in the hospital’s favor.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            As I understand it a primary doctor in the UK has the authority to deny life support without consulting the patient or next of kin.

            That’s kind of frightening, but okay. I don’t know whether that’s accurate, but I can better see where you’re coming from now.

            I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I still don’t think that makes

            the most ethical course action for all involved would have been for the primary doctor to pull Charlie’s plug and then beg forgiveness knowing that the court would rule in the hospital’s favor

            so obviously correct as to deserve the vitriol you’ve been slinging.

          • Murphy says:

            ” has the authority to deny life support without consulting the patient or next of kin”

            Technically that’s pretty much the case in all countries under all systems. Otherwise if there were a bus crash and the doctors only had 5 life support machines and 7 patients who needed life support machines to survive then the doctors could not make the choice in triage to allocate the life support machines to the 5 patients.

            But there’s a reason the hospital had to apply to the high court. They couldn’t legally just have someone nip into the room and turn off the life support machines while the parents were out to lunch.

            Rule of law and all that.

            I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want to be the person trying to “beg forgiveness” for breaking the law like that.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Technically that’s pretty much the case in all countries under all systems.

            This is absolutely true. The NHS, at any time, could have said “terribly sorry but it’s our bed and our equipment and we’ve decided to allocate them to someone else”. The hospital did not need the high court’s approval to pull Charlie’s plug, they needed the high court to stop the Gards from hiring thier own NICU and taking him elsewhere after they “released” him.

            Rule of law and all that.

          • Murphy says:

            @hlynkacg

            I suspect that if a hospital had unallocated resources that they refused to patients who needed it they’d quickly find themselves under a lot of scrutiny.

            Going through the high court is the standard workflow even if there are other routes normally only employed in emergencies and it’s probably the most reasonable and just.

          • Mary says:

            As I understand it a primary doctor in the UK has the authority to deny life support without consulting the patient or next of kin.

            One notes the inherent conflict of interest, since such plug-pulling can cover up malpractice.

    • John Schilling says:

      Any thoughts?

      I think one quick injection of potassium and secobarbital could have solved this conundrum without any fuss. If nobody at St. Ormond’s was willing to do that, it is presumably because they wanted Charlie’s suffering to end but they also wanted their own hands kept clean and with no possibility of being accused of being babykilling muderers. Which is understandable, but:

      The clean-hands contest and the “least likely to be a babykilling murderer” award are going to go to the people who positively act to prolong Charlie’s life. Wanting Charlie to die quickly but also wanting everybody else to affirm that you did the right thing by arranging for Charlie to die quickly, offering up as a compromise only that you will passively “let” Charlie starve or asphyxiate, isn’t a plausible outcome. Easier for everybody else to do nothing and accuse you of being a babykilling murderer (even if they privately sympathize). For Charlie to die quickly and painlessly, either someone has to kill him in secret, or someone has to stand up in public and say “I, me right here, I decided Charlie should die.”

      Charlie’s parents plausibly have the legal and moral authority to do that, and the public might plausibly accept that. Charlie’s primary doctors, maybe. Passing the buck, at best gets you purely legal cover but it makes it look like a bunch of bureaucrats have been granted the power of life and death over innocent babies with loving parents and it gives everyone else an excuse to wash their own hands of it at your expense even if they actually like the outcome. So expect to be accused of being a babykilling murderer, a lot.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Screw that, swap his O2 feed with N2, quicker, safer, and doesn’t show up on a tox-screen but yes the core issue is that these NHS doctors would rather see a child suffer horribly than own up to thier decisions which in my eyes makes them fundamentally unqualified to work in the field of medicine.

      • Murphy says:

        The UK currently has no right-to-die legislation.

        The netherlands has the Groningen Protocol

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groningen_Protocol

        It seems unfair to blame the doctors for the choices of UK politicians to not implement legislation that could allow a legal choice to actively end someones life to be made.

        To be fair: the doctors have stood up in public and even gone to court to publicly say that they’ve decided dying is the better outcome for charlie. But our system of legislation is fairly deontological and doesn’t cope well with anyone intentionally killing anyone outside of war.

        • Salem says:

          It would be more accurate to state that the UK does have right-to-die legislation; the Suicide Act of 1961 as amended. There is also the right to refuse treatment, and make an advance directive to that effect. It may not give the results you want, but the law is very clear.

        • John Schilling says:

          But our system of legislation is fairly deontological and doesn’t cope well with anyone intentionally killing anyone outside of war.

          Then you probably ought not intentionally kill anyone, or at least not act all surprised when you are treated like a bloody murderer when you intentionally kill someone.

          And that includes putting them in a “hospital room” where they will be quietly left to die and actively preventing other people from taking them to a hospital room where someone is offering to provide medical treatment that might prevent them from dying.

      • PedroS says:

        Catholic view here:

        Traditional Catholic teaching, while stating that euthanasia is completely off-limits, also condems therapeutic obstinacy and recognizes that there is no obligation to keep someone alive using extraordinary, or pain-inducing, means. There might, on the contrary, be a duty to refrain from such means. Therefore I do not think that, in this instance (and assuming the description in the OP is absolutely correct) removing technological aides (while providing a sub-lethal morphine dose to prevent pain) would be obviously wrong.

        The position of Pope Francis leads me to think that he thinks the child’s condition is not irreversible and as dire as outlined in the OP. I don’t know how he reached that decision, as he is not medically qualified nor has (apparently) a medical source unavailable to the court.

        I understand his desire to voice the need to not “stop fighting for life too soon” and his concern for good practices, but I fear he may (as he has been wont to) been too quick to provide a comforting, “pastorally-sensitive” answer rather than the informed, intelectually consistent one. I do not doubt his personal holiness or love for the Church, but I bemoan his somewhat cavalier attitude to intellectual rigour.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The reason this is an outrage isn’t because the treatment is definitely going to work and the kid will be OK. In all likelihood the docs are right and the parents would have been a million pounds poorer with nothing to show for it.

      The reason it’s an outrage is that the NHS has no right to tell parents how to treat their children or how to spend their own money. It would be one thing if the parents were trying to foot the UK with the bill for this treatment but it’s quite another to be told that you can’t spend your own money to try and save your child.

      This is part of a pattern where western states seem to have decided that parents are inconvenient and replaceable stewards of their children, who can be pushed aside whenever the whim arises. It’s a tyrannical and disgusting violation of parental rights.

      • Murphy says:

        I think this is where the narrative got garbled.

        it isn’t about money.

        Imagine a hypothetical world where parents wanted to spend a million bucks to take a healthy child for a some procedure that could leave them blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed and in agony for the rest of their long, long, long natural lives.

        Would a well run country say “It’s your money, you can do what you like with it.”

        Or would the state step in and say “we can’t allow you to subject a citizen to this”

        It seems fairly clear cut when talking about a healthy child.

        Now in this case the alternative of course isn’t a healthy child. Instead it’s a child who will die soon and is already blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed and in pain. The parents want to take it for a procedure that if it fails changes nothing but if it works could leave the child blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed and in agony for the rest of their long, long, long natural lives.

        the state step in and say “we can’t allow you to subject a citizen to this”

        It mostly seems to rest on the precept that it’s possible for suffering to be a worse outcome than death.

        I’m curious in what kinds of cases you would be willing to see parents stripped of their right to decide for their children.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          If you’re a utilitarian, there’s no distinction between maiming a healthy child and using medicine to prolong the life of a suffering child.

          Add that to the list of reasons why utilitarianism is an inhuman moral system.

          Providing a sick child with medicine is in the child’s best interests because it is in the child’s best interests not to die. And even if you think that’s a debatable question, it’s a debate for the parents to have not for the state. If anyone is in the position know the best interests of an infant it’s them and not a bunch of government bureaucrats.

          I’m curious in what kinds of cases you would be willing to see parents stripped of their right to decide for their children.

          There are some clear-cut cases, like incest neglect or severe beatings (i.e. not spanking), where it’s obvious that the parent is not acting in their child’s best interests.

          This, on the other hand, is a case where the parents are obviously acting towards the best interests of their child. Hell, they went above and beyond the call of duty and put a million pounds on the line plus court fees trying to save their child’s life. They seem a bit credulous but their parental instincts are unimpeachable.

          • Murphy says:

            Interesting.

            You seem to weight pain and suffering as basically irrelevant and continuing to live as long as possible as almost infinitely important.

            it seems like a big old sacred values thing where some people consider mere pain and suffering as a trivial materialist nothing while others are weighting it as a sacred value of [reducing suffering] vs sacred value of [preserving life].

            I don’t think this is as boring as a conflict between utilitarians and others.

            I think it may be a more fundamental conflict between different flavors of deontologist and between consequentialists and non-consequentialists.

          • Charles F says:

            If you’re a utilitarian, there’s no distinction between maiming a healthy child and using medicine to prolong the life of a suffering child.

            I’m a utilitarian and there’s a big difference there for me. You have to look at the outcomes of the next best options too. In both cases you can end up with a suffering kid but the result of doing nothing is a healthy kid in the first and a dead kid in the second. So the maiming is much worse, and whether the medicine is immoral at all depends on your views on quality of life.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Murphy,

            it seems like a big old sacred values thing where some people consider mere pain and suffering as a trivial materialist nothing while others are weighting it as a sacred value of [reducing suffering] vs sacred value of [preserving life].

            For some people involved, absolutely.

            In this case though the sacred value I care about is “mind your own damn business.” The government shouldn’t be forcing people whose loved ones want to let them die to live. And they sure as hell shouldn’t be killing people whose loved ones want to pay to keep them alive.

            Personally if it were my kid I’d hope that I was clear-headed enough to pull the plug. But that choice belongs to me and my (future) wife, not to some committee at a hospital.

          • Murphy says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            problem is that most people don’t want you to have that absolute right if, for example, you want to take your child off chemo meds and put them on homeopathic remedies.

            Or say your religion bans painkillers and you want to stand back and let your child scream while refusing painkillers for them.

            In those cases people are typically fairly ok of saying “no we won’t mind our own business, your child is not your property, you are guardians not owners”

            This is sort of an edge case of the same system. The doctors are of the opinion that the parents choice could lead to suffering with no real possibility of gain. Because it’s not the common case that what the hospital and courts are saying boils down to “let them go, stop trying, you’re just hurting them more.”

            Similar scenarios probably isn’t very uncommon with end of life elderly care but in that case there can at least be some data on the individuals own wishes when the next of kin insist that you should ignore the DNR and saw open their ribcage for one last attempt at re-sus.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Murphy,

            Your point about painkillers is interesting because it’s a more nuanced than you’d imagine. Until fairly recently it was common to operate on newborns without anesthesia. The thinking, as far as I understand it, is that anesthesia is always risky and there’s no reason to expose an infant to that risk when they won’t remember the pain anyway.

            Even for older children, anesthesia was considered optional for many procedures. My mother had a lot of unanesthetized dental work done growing up because her parents couldn’t spare the money for Novocaine injections. It wasn’t pleasant for her but it was hardly child abuse.

            If a parent is concerned about the risk or the cost of using anesthesia on their child, I’m not going to second-guess that choice. I wouldn’t make that choice if it were my children but that doesn’t mean I get to play mommy police and force everyone to do things my way.

            When it comes to homeopathy and alternative medicine, I’d rather charge the practitioners with fraud than the patients with negligence. We generally don’t punish the victims of con artists for being credulous and I see no reason to make an exception here.

          • Murphy says:

            I used to wonder why a certain generation viewed going to the dentist as such a horror show and why there seemed to be a disproportionate number of older people who seem so traumatized about the dentist they’re willing to ignore massive infections/abscesses until they’re literally dying.

            It hadn’t occurred to me that some people would take a “fuck it, they’re kids, it’s not like their pain matters to me and they can’t stop us” attitude.

            Holy shit.

            Re: con artists

            There’s plenty of dangerously bullshit medical beliefs and not all of them require easily jailed con-artist practitioners. You’ll also see parents letting their children die from easily treatable infections because they believe they need to trust in god and prayer or parents who let their child die because they’re incompetently trying to feed it a bad vegan diet or parents who really try their best but are utterly incompetent to raise children safely due to their own severe learning disabilities.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Even if you’re a utilitarian this is a silly comparison.

          A healthy child should have a net positive happiness and maiming him turns that into a net negative. A dead maimed child has a net neutral happiness and keeping him alive turns that into a net negative. The first loses more happiness than the second.

        • Yug Gnirob says:

          if it works could leave the child blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed and in agony for the rest of their long, long, long natural lives.

          Should we assume all of those will be incurable for the rest of their lives?

          • John Schilling says:

            If the child is blind, deaf, dumb, and paralyzed because the relevant brain tissue has been destroyed, then yes. Basically, you are left with the hope that maybe someday we’ll figure out how to make cyborgs and think it would be a good idea to build one where the “human” component is a bit of cortex that has known nothing but decades of pain, isolation, and despair.

            There is perhaps a case to be made for cryonics here. Euthanize and then freeze Charlie. But condemning an actual person to a life of actual suffering based only on a vague notion that maybe someday magic technology will make it all better, no.

    • J Mann says:

      I find it pretty scary – it simplifies to me as if you take your family member to the hospital and they find that he or she is “probably” suffering and that their scientific opinion is that there won’t be a recovery, they can refuse to release your family member to a doctor with a different opinion, keep them in the bed, and turn off life support, letting them die.

      There was a discussion on thingofthings a while back about whether we ethically should reduce insect populations because we believe that their lives is one of suffering, and it strikes me as somewhat arrogant to say that someone else’s life isn’t worth living. If we respect the infant or insect, shouldn’t the question be whether they would choose to live, not whether we would want their life?

      Also, ethically, Charlie’s life doesn’t have to be one of suffering, does it? Granting that he likely feels pain, don’t we have drugs for that, and wouldn’t a life of several more medicated months be superior to letting him die by turning the ventilator off?

      • Murphy says:

        “keep them in the bed, and turn off life support, letting them die.”

        …after applying publicly to the high court where you have a right to argue your case re: what you believe is in the best interest of the individual.

        There’s lots of mundane reasons they may refuse to release a family member to you, if they believe you’re abusive or simply lack competence. This seems a fairly minor implication of that. The more mundane examples tend to be things like parents who want to treat their infants cancer with homeopathy.

        painkillers are far from perfect. Keeping someone from feeling pain without giving them so much that you kill them is hard. It’s extra hard when the person cannot speak to tell you if they’re still in horrible pain.

        But I think your final paragraph kinda hits one of the central disputes on the head:

        many see it as self evident that extending life no matter what is inherently good while many see no inherent value in mere duration when pain and suffering is extremely likely with no hope of improvement.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Keeping someone from feeling pain without giving them so much that you kill them is hard.

          Shouldn’t this be a feature rather than a bug from the NHS’s point of view?

          • Murphy says:

            Then we’re back to control of care if the guardians disagree with the medical team.

            If the parents want to go with a low dose of painkillers to minimise chance of death while the doctors want to go with a high dose to minimise chance of significant suffering then you’re back to court.

            And yes it is often treated as a feature by many medical systems the world over because acceptable side effects can include death when treating extreme pain in end of life care.

        • J Mann says:

          We don’t have to prevent Charlie from feeling all pain – we just need to give him enough drugs that he is likely to feel more pleasure than pain, so that utilitarians find his life worthwhile and therefore permit his parents the opportunity to pursue that goal.

          In that vein, we don’t need to limit ourselves to painkillers – we can also prescribe pleasure enhancers.

    • WashedOut says:

      Seems like an open-and-shut case. If euthanasia is allowable ever, it must be allowable here.

      Grounds: extreme suffering, ~zero quality of life, ~zero potential life outcomes, unbounded emotional turmoil for all involved, unbounded financial cost for those involved, opportunity cost of treatable patients. The governing motive should be compassion.

      Personally I don’t care tuppence for the needs of doctors to test their mettle with long-shot experimental procedures. The choice between an additional paragraph in some specialist’s keynote speech and minimizing unnecessary torment aint no choice at all.

      • rlms says:

        The question isn’t whether it is allowable, but whether it can be done against the parents’ wishes.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        Yeah, I would probably personally euthanize my child if I were in that situation, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a good precedent for doctors to be allowed to kill people without the consent of their guardians.

  7. nimim.k.m. says:

    Another thing. Are any of the commentariat familiar with agent-based computational economics and social simulation?
    The topic sounds fascinating and I’d like to read more, but I’m having a trouble finding a good starting point beyond Wikipedia. Can you recommend good references? (A good textbook or overview article would be ideal.)

    edit. To clarify, I’m not sure which one of the ~large amount Google search results I should read, and I can’t possibly read them all. I could (of course) just blindly sample the search results (that’s what I usually do in situation like this), but the field sounds like it would align with the interests of SSC readers, so some of you might know about it, and it would be more efficient to have actual recommendations.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I think CNN is being very unwise today. Much more unwise than usual.

    The apology came after CNN’s KFile identified the man behind “HanA**holeSolo.” Using identifying information that “HanA**holeSolo” posted on Reddit, KFile was able to determine key biographical details, to find the man’s name using a Facebook search and ultimately corroborate details he had made available on Reddit.

    On Monday, KFile attempted to contact the man by email and phone but he did not respond. On Tuesday, “HanA**holeSolo” posted his apology on the subreddit /The_Donald and deleted all of his other posts.

    “The meme was created purely as satire, it was not meant to be a call to violence against CNN or any other news affiliation,” he wrote. “I had no idea anyone would take it and put sound to it and then have it put up on the President’s Twitter feed. It was a prank, nothing more. What the President’s feed showed was not the original post that was posted here, but loaded up somewhere else and sound added to it then sent out on Twitter. I thought it was the original post that was made and that is why I took credit for it. I have the highest respect for the journalist community and they put their lives on the line every day with the jobs that they do in reporting the news.”

    The apology has since been taken down by the moderators of /The_Donald subreddit.

    After posting his apology, “HanA**holeSolo” called CNN’s KFile and confirmed his identity. In the interview, “HanA**holeSolo” sounded nervous about his identity being revealed and asked to not be named out of fear for his personal safety and for the public embarrassment it would bring to him and his family.

    CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

    CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

    • onyomi says:

      Well, that’s horrific.

    • reasoned argumentation says:

      http://codes.findlaw.com/ny/penal-law/pen-sect-135-60.html

      A person is guilty of coercion in the second degree when he or she compels or induces a person to engage in conduct which the latter has a legal right to abstain from engaging in, or to abstain from engaging in conduct in which he or she has a legal right to engage, or compels or induces a person to join a group, organization or criminal enterprise which such latter person has a right to abstain from joining, by means of instilling in him or her a fear that, if the demand is not complied with, the actor or another will:
      1. Cause physical injury to a person;  or
      2. Cause damage to property;  or
      3. Engage in other conduct constituting a crime;  or
      4. Accuse some person of a crime or cause criminal charges to be instituted against him or her;  or
      5. Expose a secret or publicize an asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject some person to hatred, contempt or ridicule;  or
      6. Cause a strike, boycott or other collective labor group action injurious to some person’s business;  except that such a threat shall not be deemed coercive when the act or omission compelled is for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;  or
      7. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense;  or
      8. Use or abuse his or her position as a public servant by performing some act within or related to his or her official duties, or by failing or refusing to perform an official duty, in such manner as to affect some person adversely;  or
      9. Perform any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his or her health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.

      —–

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/01/neutral-vs-conservative-the-eternal-struggle/

      I think it’s right to consider the situation asymmetrical. Yes, CNN leans liberal, but it’s not as liberal as FOX is conservative, and it’s not as open about it – it has a pretense of neutrality that FOX doesn’t, and although we can disagree about how realistic that pretense is I think few people would disagree that the pretense is there. Nor is there a liberal version of FOX that lacks that pretense of neutrality.

      I think it’s right that the conservative side is worse than the neutral side. However biased and crappy you think CNN and mainstream academia are, FOX and the conservative academic bubble are working on a different level.

        • CatCube says:

          How does that apply? Yep, the polariziation we keep talking about here extends to trust of a particular media outlet. What does that have to do with whether or not CNN is blackmailing somebody?

          Don’t just puke a link into a comment, provide analysis.

          • bintchaos says:

            I did, further down.
            CNN is winning is my analysis.
            I think Trump’s “bad” behavior, CNN’s “bad” behavior, O’Keefe’s “bad” behavior, are pretty much noise at this point, not changing any minds.
            And none of the above changes the basic equation of Cthulu slowly, inexorably swimming left.
            Only one side is adding reps.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I mean, I trust the KSA more than the DPRK, but that doesn’t mean I trust the KSA in any meaningful sense.

          • bintchaos says:

            hahaha, you are have no idea.
            KSA is employing a constructed adaptive strategy to push Indonesian Islam to the right, e.g.: Cthulu is swimming right towards Wahhabism in Indonesia.
            The Red Tribe should get pointers from King Salman and Prince Reckless to learn how to redirect American Cthulu.
            Jakarta had a christian governor for years– now he’s in prison on a blasphemy sentence.

            JUST A FEW months ago, the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, Jakarta, seemed headed for easy re-election despite the fact that he is a Christian in a mostly Muslim country. Suddenly everything went violently wrong. Using the pretext of an offhand remark the governor made about the Koran, masses of enraged Muslims took to the streets to denounce him. In short order he lost the election, was arrested, charged with blasphemy, and sentenced to two years in prison.


            This episode is especially alarming because Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, has long been one of its most tolerant. Indonesian Islam, like most belief systems on that vast archipelago, is syncretic, gentle, and open-minded. The stunning fall of Jakarta’s governor reflects the opposite: intolerance, sectarian hatred, and contempt for democracy. Fundamentalism is surging in Indonesia. This did not happen naturally.


            Trump just gave KSA a free hand in the 30 year old GCC slap fight between KSA and Qatar (while his mil advisors looked on in shock– US major airbase in the WoT War on ISIS is in Qatar.)
            And meanwhile stabbing the US in the back with the other hand by colonizing Indonesia with Wahhabism.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            An interesting tangent, ’cause yeah that’s exactly the sort of shit I’m talking about re: KSA, but completely missed my point 🙂 I’m trying to say your link doesn’t prove much because it’s effectively asking people whether they prefer Tweedledee or Tweedledum.

          • bintchaos says:

            No it is not…KSA is orders of magnitude more powerful and more populous than NK.
            House Saud is the Guardian of the Two Holy Sites, the Defender of the Faithful for a quarter of the global population.
            My main point is that Trump is a foreign policy moron being manipulated by his vanity and inexperience.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            …the other link. The one about CNN. Does the perennially obnoxious habit of replying-by-email-to-jump-the-line also deprive you of thread context?

          • John Schilling says:

            KSA: 31.54 million people
            DPRK: 25.16 million people

            This is a strange new definition of “orders of magnitude more populous” that you are using.

          • Charles F says:

            @John Schilling
            I read “orders of magnitude” as only applying to “more powerful,” which makes a lot more sense.

            (I have problems distributing things across conjunctions properly, so I don’t doubt your reading is the more natural)

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            No it is not…KSA is orders of magnitude more powerful and more populous than NK.

            Population of KSA: 28,160,273 (July 2016 est.)
            Population of North Korea: 25,115,311 (July 2016 est.)

            https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/kn.html
            https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sa.html

          • bintchaos says:

            @Charles F
            I explained that– KSA has Mecca and Medina– KSA is actually the head of dar ul Islam, because all good muslims are supposed to do the haaj.
            Indonesia: 202.9 million muslims— 87% of total population.
            The article I linked is about KSA spreading Wahhabism in Indonesia by building mosques, sending Wahhabi clerics to staff them, building gender segregated universities, bring young Indonesian muslims to KSA to study with famous Wahhabists, etc.
            KSA is orders of magnitude more powerful in terms of influence– NK is just a pimple in comparison.
            China owns what…1.4 trillion in treasuries?
            NK is a fantasy problem, a “look! a squirrel!” moment for Trump.
            @DavidFriedman
            here I fixed it–

            KSA is orders of magnitude more powerful and somewhat territorially more populous.

          • KSA is actually the head of dar ul Islam, because all good muslims are supposed to do the haaj.

            Once in their life, if they can. But being the ruler of two of the three holy cities doesn’t make you “the head of dar al Islam,” any more than being the ruler of the third does. That’s the caliph, not whoever currently controls Mecca. There hasn’t been a widely accepted claimant to the caliphate since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

            Do you think that when the Fatimid caliphate was a going concern, they considered the Abbasids, who controlled Mecca, to be the heads of Islam? Do you think the western Umayyadds did? Have the Iranians announced their allegiance to the KSA yet?

            North Korea has a nuclear arsenal and the ability to deliver it to nearby Asian countries now, probably the U.S. west coast in not all that long.

            You keep complaining about the fact that the Trump administration treats the Saudis as our friends. Whether wise or not, that’s also been the policy of previous administrations for quite a long time.

          • bintchaos says:

            @David
            You are now just throwing radar chaff at my argument, which is that KSA is employing a constructed adaptive strategy to push wahhabism into Indonesian (relatively “moderate” by US terms) Islam. The example of the christian jakarta governor who is now in prison for blasphemy instead of “coasting” to re-election and the construction of multiple mosques and universities staffed by wahhabi clerics are proof of concept. Also gifted young students get offered full scholarships to train in islamic jurisprudence in KSA, a whole of generation of incoming young cleric-jurists sympathetic to KSA brand Islam.
            Haaj means Mecca and Medina– I assume you are referring to Qom as the third city? Even Shi’ia go to Mecca for haaj.
            KSA is the Guardian of the 2 Holy Sites– they dont claim to be amir al-mumineen (the Caliph).
            The Abbasids are not really relevant to this contemporary discussion of evolution of islamic culture in Indonesia.
            More radar chaff.

            Trump gobsmacked his military advisors, indeed the whole ME military community by publicly attacking Qatar. They have been trying to walk it back ever since, and Trump just goes on with more clueless buffoonery.

            Do you think NK will attack US or Japan w/o China sanctioning a move like that? China holds 1.4 trillion in US treasuries. Not happening.
            You think Obama was a friend to KSA?
            You are naive.
            What do you think the Iran treaty was all about?

          • @David
            You are now just throwing radar chaff at my argument, which is that KSA is employing a constructed adaptive strategy to push wahhabism into Indonesian (relatively “moderate” by US terms) Islam.

            I said nothing at all about your argument. I was pointing out that one of the claims with which you supported it was not accurate.

            Haaj means Mecca and Medina– I assume you are referring to Qom as the third city? Even Shi’ia go to Mecca for haaj.

            The three Holy Cities of Islam are Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem.

            KSA is the Guardian of the 2 Holy Sites– they dont claim to be amir al-mumineen (the Caliph).

            Correct. Hence they do not claim authority over the Islamic world in general, which is what your “the Defender of the Faithful for a quarter of the global population” was implying. Amir al-Mu’minin either means the caliph or an independent ruler of a Muslim state, which is the sense in which it applies to the ruler of Saudi Arabia–in which case it doesn’t imply authority over Muslims in other Muslim states.

            The Abbasids are not really relevant to this contemporary discussion of evolution of islamic culture in Indonesia.

            They are, however, relevant to the question of whether control over Mecca and Medina implies authority over all of al-Islam, which was the question for which I was offering them as evidence.

            Do you think NK will attack US or Japan w/o China sanctioning a move like that?

            I think the ability to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S., Japan, South Korea, or China is an effective lever to limit what any of those states does against North Korea.

          • bintchaos says:

            There is no Guardian of the “three” Holy Sites as a title.
            KSA influence is tied to its physical possession of Mecca and Media.
            There is no haaj to Jerusalem.
            And Sauds are spreading wahhabism in Indonesia via their influence.
            Its really a clever invasive adaptive strategy.
            So no.
            “complicated by the regime’s self-proclaimed role as Defender of the Faithful.”
            You are just bloviating about things you have no knowledge of.

          • Nornagest says:

            Rude.

          • You are just bloviating about things you have no knowledge of.

            You were the one who suggested that the third holy city was Qom.

            What the three holy cities of Islam are is not an obscure fact. And it is of some current relevance to Middle Eastern politics.

          • bintchaos says:

            You were the one who brought up “3 holy cities”– something I had never heard of– I wondered if you meant Qom as one– the Shi’a attempt at making their own Mecca.
            Shi’ites still make haaj to Mecca.
            And your “3 holy cities” fantasy has nothing to with KSA.
            Haaj is one way KSA spreads Wahabbism in Indonesia– an offer of haaj and study in KSA– then return to Indonesia as a prestigious high-status cleric trained in the land of the two holy sites..
            KSA is much more subtle and much more powerful than NK.
            Trump’s latest buffoonery in publicly attacking Qatar for “sponsoring terrorism” is playing right into King Salman and Prince Reckless’ hands– they plan to take over the GCC.

            What the three holy cities of Islam are is not an obscure fact. And it is of some current relevance to Middle Eastern politics.


            Yeah, because Israel is demographically unsustainable, probably in this century. Oops, I forgot, Kushner is going to solve the Israel/Palestine problem.
            My bad.

            And what is China doing in all your scenarios? Are you modeling a pre-emptive nuclear strike on NK as a two person game between US and NK?

          • bintchaos says:

            @Nornagest

            “Rude”

            pas du tout
            I’m not rude– Friedman is Stupid.
            KSA tried to kill the US fracking industry and North Seas oil drilling, supplied 19 of the 20 hijackers for 9/11, turned Egypt’s fragile attempt at pluralist democracy into a military coup.
            They are not your friends.
            And now you’re getting’ all wound up over the Hermit Kingdom blustering and launch tests.
            Just ignore NK and let China deal with them.

          • Salem says:

            The one does not preclude the other.

            But I have a lot of evidence that Prof. Friedman is not stupid.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Sheesh. I didn’t expect to kick off such a kerfuffle with an off-the-cuff metaphor for how trustworthy Trump vs CNN are. Sorry folks.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Salem
            I didn’t say that in context— I said Friedman’s continued digging on the “3 holy sites” is stupid. He’s wrong.
            And its stupid to trust KSA more than NK on empirical evidence.
            Does that mean Trump is stupid?
            Because I’m afraid that’s exactly what it means.

          • Salem says:

            I’m not rude– Friedman is Stupid.

            I said Friedman’s continued digging on the “3 holy sites” is stupid.

            Why tell such obvious falsehoods that anyone can check?

            EDIT TO ADD: Lol, and then you go back, edit your post, and put in the “in context” line, what a coward you are. Anyone can scroll up and see the context. Have some decency and apologise to Friedman, for your own sake if nothing else. The deeper you dig, the stupider you look.

            He’s wrong.

            No, he’s correct. And, fwiw, while I’m not a practising Muslim, I was always brought up to refer to the three holy mosques.

            The King of Saudi Arabia is guardian of the two holiest places, which is a big responsibility. But it doesn’t make him the head of the Muslim world, and it doesn’t diminish al-Aqsa.

          • bintchaos says:

            Im not a coward– I often edit my posts to make clear what I’m saying because people have complained about my impulsive shoot first style.
            Friedman is arguing that KSA doesnt have the influence I claim they have.
            But there is nothing in Quran or ahadith about making haaj to al-aqsa.
            All muslims are supposed to do haaj.
            5 duties.
            KSA is exploiting the haaj and its position as the Guardian of the Two Holy Sites to seed Indonesia with extremist wahhabist clerics and jurists trained in KSA mosques.
            KSA is publicly shaking Trump’s hand and ganking America in the back with the other hand by propagating Wahhabi Islam to the 202.9 million “moderate” muslims in Indonesia.

          • You were the one who brought up “3 holy cities”– something I had never heard of

            Possibly relevant to the question of which one of us is “just bloviating about things you have no knowledge of.”

          • bintchaos says:

            Now you are just being petty, because I fragged your Defender of the Faithful argument with a Brookings piece.
            Al-Aqsa is not included in the “two holy sites of KSA” description to my experience, although it is also a “holy site”.
            Muslims don’t make pilgrimage to al-Aqsa– it is not a requirement of the duties of a muslim.
            Because the Kaaba is not there.

            I really wish you would stop trying to lecture me. I’m not your student.

          • albatross11 says:

            bintchaos:

            With the extraordinary insights your social physics and game theoretic models give you on the world, I recommend that you look into Tetlock’s prediction tournaments and start making and recording falsifiable predictions.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @bintchaos:
            FWIW, I often edit my own posts for punctuation, broken HTML markup, etc. But if I make any changes to the actual wording or even content of the post, I usually add a note at the bottom, something like “EDIT: wording”, or “EDIT: fixed incorrect apple/orange ratio”. I’m not saying this is the One True Comment Policy ™ or anything like that, but I think it’s a reasonably good one.

          • You are now just throwing radar chaff at my argument

            Perhaps I am misunderstanding you but it seems, here and in other exchanges, as though your view is that as long as you believe your conclusion is correct it does not matter whether the purported facts with which you support it are true, hence anyone who points out that they are not is “throwing radar chaff at my argument.”

            In this particular case, one of the facts that you thought supported your argument was that “KSA is actually the head of dar ul Islam, because all good muslims are supposed to do the haaj.” I pointed out that controlling Mecca did not make the state that did it the head of Islam and offered two historical examples of situations where substantial parts of the Islamic world rejected the authority of the state that at the time controlled Mecca (and Medina).

            In the same thread you wrote that the KSA was “the Defender of the Faithful for a quarter of the global population.” I pointed out that that was not true. The title either refers to the caliph, which the ruler of the KSA isn’t, or is an honorific for a Muslim ruler which implies nothing about authority over Muslims elsewhere and is not unique to one ruler.

            If you are going to make false statements about Islam and I notice, I am likely to call you on them. I find it striking that you came on here posing as someone well informed about Islam and then casually admitted ignorance of a fact that any Muslim, or anyone who had studied the history of Islam, would know–that the three Holy Cities are Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem. The fact that Jerusalem is one of them is of some importance in current Middle Eastern politics.

            I know very little about the situation in Indonesia at the moment, so am in no position to either dispute or confirm your account of what the Saudis are up to there. Given how careless you are with facts, I’m not prepared to take your assertions as good evidence.

          • bintchaos says:

            You have completely forgotten the context of the argument. The only two cities included in the Guardian of the Two Holy Sites are Mecca and Medina. You were disputing the power and influence of KSA in the Muslim world. One power KSA owns exclusively is the power of haaj, visiting the Kaaba in Mecca. Haaj is one of the 5 pillars, an obligation of every muslim. I linked an article explaining how KSA is exploiting the power of the haaj in Indonesia by building mosques and universities in Indonesia, and by giving young students scholarships to study under Wahhabi clerics.
            You may dispute that KSA has the authority to assume the other title, “Defender of the Faithful”, but I do not think they care a whit about your opinion.
            Brookings.

            …the regime’s self-proclaimed role as Defender of the Faithful.


            I know very little about the situation in Indonesia at the moment, so am in no position to either dispute or confirm your account of what the Saudis are up to there. Given how careless you are with facts, I’m not prepared to take your assertions as good evidence.


            Weaponized steelman defense– “You are wrong on a point so I dont have to listen to anything you say”
            I find, much like House Saud, that I do not care about your opinion either.
            Inshallah I can block you somehow.
            🙂

          • Weaponized steelman defense– “You are wrong on a point so I dont have to listen to anything you say”

            More precisely, you have been confidently wrong on multiple factual claims, so the fact that you say something is only weak evidence it is true.

            I believe you can block me, although I’ve never had any need to figure out how. But that doesn’t keep me from seeing your comments and responding to them, it merely protects you from the embarrassment of reading my reply pointing out that something you said wasn’t true.

            As I think someone else pointed out, you can be arrogant or you can be ignorant, but being both works poorly.

            You didn’t, by the way, say whether I was correctly interpreting the quote of yours I started with.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not rude– Friedman is Stupid.

            You were being rude, and now you’re being ruder. Do yourself a favor and take the hint, rather than digging yourself deeper.

          • publiusvarinius says:

            Reading OT79, I have updated towards onyomi’s position, and now believe that bintchaos is a deliberate troll.

          • One power KSA owns exclusively is the power of haaj, visiting the Kaaba in Mecca. Haaj is one of the 5 pillars, an obligation of every muslim.

            Only a slight exaggeration–every Muslim who can accomplish it.

            That, as you pointed out, includes Shia Muslims.

            KSA is actually the head of dar ul Islam, because all good muslims are supposed to do the haaj.

            So, by your argument, Saudi Arabia is not only the head of Sunni Muslims, it’s the head of Shia Muslims as well.

            You might want to let the Iranians know.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Friedman
            This is the statement I was responding to.

            I mean, I trust the KSA more than the DPRK,


            My position is that–
            1. KSA is vastly MORE influential and therefore more powerful than DPRK. It is more populous in influence, although only marginally in territorial population.
            2. KSA is vastly LESS trustworthy because right now KSA is working diligently to spread wahhabism while head-faking a new crack down on terror for Trump’s benefit, which is actually just Saudi exploitation of Trump in a 30 year-old contest for control of the GCC.
            So I dont care.
            I dont know what the Abbasids or Shia or Jerusalem have to do with this discussion other than you trying to show you are the resident Islam expert here.
            Fine, be the expert.
            idc.

          • I dont know what the Abbasids or Shia or Jerusalem have to do with this discussion … .

            As I tried to explain, what they have to do with is whether particular claims you made in support of your argument about the KSA were true.

            You still have neither confirmed nor denied my conjecture about your approach–that you don’t think it matters whether the evidence you offer for a conclusion is true or not, as long as you believe the conclusion is. That fits your repeatedly ignoring or blowing off an argument of the form “this particular fact you assert isn’t true,” viewing it as chaff, a way of avoiding dealing with your conclusion.

      • Jordan D. says:

        I agree that CNN’s behavior here is bad, but according to the author’s twitter the apology was made before CNN contacted the gif-maker. Since CNN could have legally published the name anyway, I don’t see how it can be coercion for them to say ‘under present circumstances, we’re not publishing, but we might do so in the future if things change.’

        I mean, I get that the argument would be ‘CNN is threatening to publish his name if he ever takes back his apology or offends them again’, but I would be more than a little surprised to see a New York court buy that without more supporting material.

        • Matt M says:

          I cannot, for the life of me, imagine this isn’t coercion. By internet meme standards, this thing is incredibly tame. I probably see over a dozen memes every day that are far more “offensive” than this one. No serious memer would ever apologize for something like this unless they were coerced somehow.

          • Brad says:

            You are mixing up colloquial usage and a legally defined crime.

            The New York Penal law doesn’t care at all what a reasonable memer (ha!) would or wouldn’t do.

          • onyomi says:

            Yeah, the author on twitter said Hanasshole had apologized before we called him, not contacted him. They could have e-mailed him.

            I would have said he might have got scared when Trump tweeted it and the whole thing got so big, but apparently this began when he came onto Reddit to brag about being the originator of the thing.

            So clearly something happened to scare him before CNN called him, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it were CNN e-mailing or writing him a threatening letter.

          • Matt M says:

            I, personally, do not care about the legal definition.

            I am telling you this apology is not-genuine. I take it as seriously as I’d take an apology video made by an American soldier captured by ISIS (who assures us that he is being treated kindly and humanely and his apology is genuine and he felt this way far before his capture). I cannot “prove” CNN coerced this guy any more than we can prove ISIS coerces such victims. But it doesn’t matter. It’s overwhelmingly obvious to anyone with a functioning brain what is happening here.

          • Brad says:

            I, personally, do not care about the legal definition.

            Then why would you post in a sub-thread talking about the legal definition?

            I am telling you this apology is not-genuine.

            I, personally, do not care about whether or not Matt M thinks this apology is genuine.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Honestly, my only interest is whether or not this is a misdemeanor. It’s obviously morally pretty reprehensible.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s obviously morally pretty reprehensible.

            Obvious to who? Not to CNN, apparently.

            Does Brad agree that this is morally reprehensible behavior on their part?

            I’ll note that on other forums, I’ve seen plenty of other people defend the notion that this apology is totally genuine and non-coerced.

          • albatross11 says:

            We can’t tell from the outside if it’s genuine or forced, since he is faced with incentives that would cause him to apologize regardless of whether he really wanted to / felt bad about what he’d done.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It’s overwhelmingly obvious to anyone with a functioning brain what is happening here.

            I’m inclined to agree with you that coercion is likely, but this sort of shit does not help your cause at all.

          • Matt M says:

            I probably see over a dozen memes every day that are far more “offensive” than this one.

            Facebook never fails to let me down. Just saw one with CNN logos photoshopped over the twin towers and Trump’s head onto an oncoming jet.

            Think this one goes viral?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Q. What’s the difference between Donald Trump and CNN?
            A. One is a thin-skinned bully whose obsessive pursuit of petty vendettas leads to self-inflicted damage. And the other is President of the United States.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          What are “things” that could “change”? Most of “that” is his behavior. They sure seem to be threatening to dox him if he reverts his behavior, which seems to be straight-forward coercion. The other thing that could change is CNN’s knowledge of the past.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Well, knowing Kaczynski’s history, my first (or, at least, second) guess might have been his status as a private citizen. Didn’t Kaczynski make his name by digging up past statements and throwing them at campaigning politicos?

        • random832 says:

          @Jordan D

          I agree that CNN’s behavior here is bad, but according to the author’s twitter the apology was made before CNN contacted the gif-maker.

          There are a couple of different versions of this from CNN, and I think the only thing even halfway consistent with all of them is that he posted the apology and deleted his account after they initially contacted him but before he returned the call, so he was writing it under the conditions “CNN knows who I am and I don’t have any idea what they’re going to do with that information”

          Since CNN could have legally published the name anyway, I don’t see how it can be coercion

          The entire class of blackmail/coercion crimes consists of attaching conditions to not publishing something that would otherwise be legal to publish. Even if (maybe especially – I think the federal definition of blackmail might actually require it) his own conduct may have been criminal.

          • skef says:

            There’s at least one other plausible explanation. CNN does have extensive resources, but they aren’t magic. This guy 1) took credit for an element in a major news story and 2) apparently left enough of a trail in his postings to lead back to his real identity. Anyone with access to the information in that trail (which he apparently partly deleted before hand) might have tracked him down too. Or gotten close enough for him to hear about it somehow.

            Given the further attention, it would be surprising if his name doesn’t come out now one way or another.

          • Jordan D. says:

            Well, yes, but I think CNN could successfully argue that they’re not posting that to threaten him, but instead to say that, e.g., if he later runs for office or begins posting more stuff about CNN that they want to defend against, they don’t feel bound to avoid bringing this up. I’ve never practiced in New York, but my state has substantially identical language and the courts would not enforce this if CNN could show that they had a legitimate reason for this posting other than to silence the gif-maker.

            (As a matter of ethics, I don’t think that finding out who made a stupid .gif is newsworthy, but nobody ever consults me about what to do News at.)

          • AnonYEmous says:

            they don’t feel bound to avoid bringing this up

            Then why not just say “CNN has withheld his identity at the present time” or even add on “CNN reserves the right to reveal his identity” but without the vaguely threatening shit? I can’t think of a good reason to include any of the other words they did, outside of them being true. Maybe as an explainer to people even more rabid than them, but fuck those people too.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          according to the author’s twitter the apology was made before CNN contacted the gif-maker. Since CNN could have legally published the name anyway, I don’t see how it can be coercion for them to say ‘under present circumstances, we’re not publishing, but we might do so in the future if things change.’

          You just legalized blackmail.

          I have the legal right to publish some particular piece of information that would be damaging to you so I ask you for money in exchange for not publishing it. That’s textbook blackmail.

          • skef says:

            I have the legal right to publish some particular piece of information that would be damaging to you so I ask you for money in exchange for not publishing it. That’s textbook blackmail.

            You have to be at least a little more specific than this, because you’ve also described something completely routine, as long as the agreement is worked out in a court or through arbitration. People hand over money in return for silence all the time.

    • Matt M says:

      This makes me want to photoshop a Temple of Doom heart-ripping-out GIF with CNN’s logo on it

      Seriously, F these guys

      • bintchaos says:

        Did you see the Data?
        CNN is winning.
        I don’t see any reason for the trend line to be inflected at this point.
        All conservative strategies seem to be dependent on time travel to a magical land of the past.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Did you read the statement?

          The fact that this (presumably) got past both the editorial board and legal department points to a serious lack of competence and/or perspective on the part off all involved. CNN may be more popular than Trump, but being popular didn’t help Gawker did it?

          • bintchaos says:

            ???
            meaningless comment.
            Do you think ethics matter any more? Democrats are learning to be Sinners.
            All that matters is that in two divergent subpopulations without cross migration (Sewell Wright), only one is adding reps.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes, I think ethics matter. But even if I didn’t, competence arguably matters more. You can get pretty far as an evil dictator so long as the trains run on time and you don’t give your opponents easily exploitable lines of attack but CNN is clearly not in that position (ex 1 & 2).

            As for “Democrats are learning to be sinners”, are you implying they weren’t “sinners” to begin with?

          • Bugmaster says:

            I don’t think that ethics matter at all. Everyone’s got his own ethics; what matters is what you can reasonably get away with doing in the real world. If CNN can blackmail random redditors and thereby benefit financially, they will keep doing it, regardless of how bad it makes you feel.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I mean how is “here’s how we tracked down some guy on Reddit who made a meme” even a news story to begin with, even without the veiled threats? The level of tone deafness is breathtaking.

        And it’s not like the GIF was someone being decapitated; it was a frickin pro wrestling match. It was funny. He shouldn’t have to apologize at all.

        And now the author is on twitter defending himself saying “hey, this guy is middle-aged, not 15…” So that makes it okay to intimidate him? If anything, the “15 year old” part made it seem a little less sinister because it was like “little johnny learned his lesson,” not “we’ll doxx this dude if he makes fun of us again.”

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          You know, we have a guy in Congress who actually bodyslammed a journalist. Only it was a real bodyslam, not fake like in professional wrestling.

          4chan et al have this thing where you can post arbitrarily vile things, but their one sacred value is maintaining anonymity. Perhaps unsurprisingly, people will now try to dump on their sacred values, too. You know, for fun. I am sure they will understand, as they are familiar with the genre.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You know, we have a guy in Congress who actually bodyslammed a journalist.

            And Buzz Aldrin punched a moon-landing-denying journo who wouldn’t leave him alone. A press pass doesn’t give you the right to harass folk like a goddamn paparazzo. While I can’t morally condone physical responses, they’re understandable and it’s not like they’re the only ones in the wrong.

            You know, for fun.

            Not really. This is doxxing for profit, silencing dissent, or maybe petty revenge. 4chan could be accused of the last, but not really the former two.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            In what way was the Congress-critter-turned-wrestler harassed? Here’s a witness who was in the next room:

            “This happened behind a half closed door, so I didn’t see it all, but here’s what it looked like from the outside – Ben walked into a room where a local TV crew was set up for an interview with Gianforte. All of a sudden I heard a giant crash and saw Ben’s feet fly in the air as he hit the floor. Heard very angry yelling (as did all the volunteers in the room) – sounded like Gianforte…”

            He was a public servant hopeful being interviewed or setup to be interviewed. In what way is this like the paparazzi/celebrity relationship? This is not about his private life being sold to the tabloids, this was about his actual positions as a guy in an election.

            Gianforte just didn’t like unfavorable coverage from the Guardian. Obviously the logical step here is to slam the guy to the ground.

            But sure, assault (did you know Gianforte was charged with assault?) is understandable. Trump’s meme video of him bodyslamming CNN is all just a joke.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I had heard the Guardian dude wasn’t taking the hint to go away. Should have verified that before posting. Not gonna take your sourceless word for it, but yeah poor rigor on me too.

            While I can’t morally condone physical responses, they’re understandable and it’s not like they’re the only ones in the wrong.

            But sure, assault is understandable

            Do you truly not understand the difference between “understandable” and “justifiable” or are you just deliberately conflating them to justify your anger?

            ETA:

            (did you know Gianforte was charged with assault?)

            Good. Are you expecting me to be outraged by this for some reason?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I mean, sure, I understand Gianforte’s assault. I understand that in the context of his character as a thug with anger control problems who doesn’t belong in office. In that sense it’s understandable to me. I assume you meant something else.

            But as you recall, this discussion is about Trump’s video and about how funny it is. I don’t think it’s that funny, because of guys like Gianforte.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But as you recall, this discussion is about Trump’s video and about how funny it is. I don’t think it’s that funny, because of guys like Gianforte.

            All right, that makes sense. I think that it’s mildly funny in and of itself; that it doesn’t warrant darkly positive anticipation of memers getting what’s coming to them.

            The part where the goddamn POTUS himself reposted it is what makes the whole ordeal a shameful farce. But we live in the bizarroland where that’s just any given Tuesday on Trump’s Twitterfeed, so I’m getting numb to it by now.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            I mean, sure, I understand Gianforte’s assault. I understand that in the context of his character as a thug with anger control problems who doesn’t belong in office. In that sense it’s understandable to me.

            To me it falls into the realm of “play stupid games win stupid prizes.” How much could you take of someone coming into your office and shoving a recorder into your face so they can try to get something they can use to disparage you and refusing to leave could you take before you hit him?

            “Provocation” is still a defense. It’s harder to find a jury to agree these days because of all the After School Specials and what not, but we do not expect people to be perfectly rational automatons in the face of blatant hostility.

            Extreme example, but if a white supremacist in a Klan robe goes into an NAACP rally and starts screaming “n****r n****r n****r!” at everyone and refuses to leave, should one of the attendees deck him? No, they should not. Violence is not acceptable. But on the jury I would never vote to convict the puncher of assault. Nor would I consider him a “thug” with “anger management issues” who’s unfit for political office.

          • Brad says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            To me it falls into the realm of “play stupid games win stupid prizes.”

            Gee I wonder what else in this very discussion that could apply to that for some reason I can’t quite grasp you have a very different opinion on.

            Maybe CNN’s President should have bodyslammed the memer.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Brad, is there a difference between hot blooded anger and cold blooded revenge?

            Also, have I said either of them are right or good?

          • onyomi says:

            I didn’t even know about the real-life bodyslam and am not certain the creator of the meme did, or was intending to reference it. I’m also skeptical Trump was thinking of that when he re-tweeted it.

            In any case, the meme doesn’t depict Trump hurting a reporter. It depicts Trump comically pretending to pummel CNN the entity, as represented by a giant logo for a head. And it wasn’t even a meme depicting real violence against a cartoon entity. It was a meme riffing off a type of violence everyone knows is a theatrical spectacle.

            Knowledge of the news of the actual bodyslam puts it in a slightly different light, but it’s still hard for me to imagine anyone intended or perceived the original meme as condoning violence against actual reporters, and I don’t believe CNN’s concern is genuine if that’s why they claimed they did this (it’s because it’s embarrassing, not threatening, is why).

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            What is your opinion on the punching of Richard Spencer? If it is condemnatory, where can I get a copy of the rules on when assault is reprehensible and when it is people getting their understandable-if-not-actually-just deserts?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @rlms

            I can’t speak for Honcho, but I think we can distinguish between

            1) Richard Spencer giving an interview

            2) Richard Spencer quietly lifting weights at the gym

            3) Richard Spencer giving a Heil Hitler salute at a Holocaust remembrance event.

            Spencer-punching in cases 1 and 2 should be completely verboten. Spencer-punching in case 3 (which hasn’t actually happened, BTW) is excusable though not justifiable.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Kekism is a religion of peace.

            Getting body slammed occasionally is just part of the reality of being a journalist and journalists should just get used to it because there’s no turning back the clock on progress.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “But on the jury I would never vote to convict the puncher of assault.”

            It wasn’t a punch, and he was already charged and I think sentenced, so at the very least your intuitions aren’t shared here. I think you are barking up the wrong tree if you expect people to find bodyslams in the face of ??provocation?? a relatable act.

            Gianforte’s story about the reporter barging into his office is a lie by the way. He was being interviewed in another room. Also, there is a very easy cure for that sort of thing — stop the interview and call security. That’s what normal people do.

          • albatross11 says:

            Spencer punching in any of those cases is a crime, and should be. “He was expressing offensive political ideas” is not a justification for assault, and we don’t want to live in a society where it is.

          • rlms says:

            @The Nybbler
            To my knowledge, option 2 hasn’t occurred, so it is completely irrelevant. I can’t really see any important differences between option 1 and Gianforte bodyslamming a journalist, other than the fact that the thuggery of a congressman is more notable than that of a random protestor.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            IMO Spencer-punching is less empathize-able due to the proximity and planning. If (if!) a journo is acting like a paparazzo and getting in your face about it, lashing out is understandable as a heat-of-the-moment response, condemnable as it is. And they probably should resign over it, lord knows politicians have been made to for less. I can understand the emotions behind the person who comes home to their spouse cheating on them and reacts with violence, but I’d still vote to convict them.

            Hearing some guy you don’t like is giving a talk to people you don’t like so driving out to protest and maybe take a swing at him… that’s premeditated, so gets no sympathy from me.

          • random832 says:

            Brad, is there a difference between hot blooded anger and cold blooded revenge?

            I think the media cycle is short enough these days that it is possible to publish an article in hot blooded anger.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @The Nybbler

            I can’t speak for Honcho

            You did great though. I would have said exactly what you said.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Conrad Honcho

            I hope all further posts by you start with the phrase

            “I can’t speak for Conrad Honcho”

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, okay, losing your temper and smacking someone is understandable. But it’s also:

            a. Assault and battery, which can and should have some criminal and civil consequences.

            b. A demonstration that you don’t have all that much self-control.

            That second one might be pretty important in deciding whether or not to put you into positions of power where you might be making snap decisions under a lot of stress. And this is also something that, at least to my mind, has a very different flavor when done by a 50-year old man than when done by a 20-year-old man. A 20-year-old hothead might get wiser with the addition of gray hairs; the 50-year-old hothead is probably a lot less likely to calm down over time.

          • Matt M says:

            b. A demonstration that you don’t have all that much self-control.

            That second one might be pretty important in deciding whether or not to put you into positions of power where you might be making snap decisions under a lot of stress.

            I wonder if a lot of his defenders are implicitly making the following argument…

            We don’t know what was said between the two, whether there was any history, etc. But we do know that this man has led a successful enough life such that he was in a position to get elected to Congress. What are the odds that can happen to a person who is such a hothead that they think nothing of going around assaulting every person who causes them minor annoyance? The odds seem very small. Therefore, it is likely that this reporter did something to provoke him, and therefore, the bodyslam was likely at least partially justified.

            And I actually think this is a coherent argument. The alternative is hard to believe…. that someone with the patience and self-control of a four year old managed to get himself elected to Congress (without having the last name Kennedy)?

          • albatross11 says:

            Perhaps you have a higher opinion of Congressmen than I do….

          • Matt M says:

            Well in actuality it will come down to tribal loyalty.

            Red tribe will believe there’s no way WE would elect/almost elect someone with temperament of a four-year old.

            Blue tribe says “of course that’s what red tribe would do! why should anyone be surprised?”

          • Iain says:

            There’s an audio recording of the assault. Here’s a transcript, with a link to the audio.

            Ben Jacobs, a reporter for The Guardian: …the CBO score. Because, you know, you were waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out…
            Greg Gianforte, the congressional candidate: Yeah, we’ll talk to you about that later.
            Jacobs: Yeah, but there’s not going to be time. I’m just curious—
            Gianforte: Okay, speak with Shane, please.
            [loud scuffling noises, an even louder crash, repeated thumping]
            Gianforte: [shouting] I’m sick and tired of you guys!

            You could postulate that Jacobs did something physical after “Okay, speak with Shane”, but that’s largely incompatible with this account from Fox News reporters who were present:

            To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

            Based on that evidence, it seems very hard to make the case that Ben Jacobs was out of line in a way that would “justify” physical assault.

        • random832 says:

          And it’s not like the GIF was someone being decapitated; it was a frickin pro wrestling match. It was funny. He shouldn’t have to apologize at all.

          I think the fact that the same user had also published an antisemitic chart of allegedly Jewish CNN journalists was already out there before CNN got involved with the story.

          • BBA says:

            So he’s an obnoxious little shit. Still not grounds for doxing.

            (As a side note, as a Jew I feel like charges of antisemitism have been flung around by the ADL and its ilk for so long as to become meaningless. At this point Nazism has been dead for decades, we’re accepted by everyone who matters, and the few Western antisemites who remain are more properly mocked than condemned. And I just don’t see why non-Jews should care.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But the fact that HanAssholeSolo is racist or antisemitic isn’t why he’s under threat of being punished. He’s under threat of being punished for embarrassing CNN with the wrestling meme. The method of punishment is exposing him as a racist. If he were a sex pervert they’d expose him as a sex pervert and if he were a tax cheat they’d expose him as a tax cheat.

            The story is not “antisemitic meme goes viral, who made this thing?” The story is “man who helped Trump say mean things to CNN is a bad person.” The lesson is do not fuck with CNN or they will find your dirty laundry and punish you. It just happens that this guy’s laundry was easy to find and very dirty.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            May I ask a question? Why is preserving anonymity a “sacred value?”

            Who gets to decide how obnoxious a shit someone has to be before their name should be made public? Is there an honor code somewhere for these things? This honor code is what you seem to be consulting here.

            Let’s say it wasn’t CNN, let’s say it was some other private guy with beef. What then?

          • Zodiac says:

            I’d say you should never be allowed to reveal a persons name because anything that is suffieciently bad should be handled by a judge but I live in a country with anti-hate-speech laws.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Ok, but what’s your moral intuition here. I looked into this, and I don’t think revealing names is illegal (but it’s complicated, and definitely illegal for some types of info). So it’s not a law thing, it’s an ethics thing, right?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            May I ask a question?

            Yes.

            Why is preserving anonymity a “sacred value?”

            1) I don’t think preserving anonymity being a sacred value is the issue here. Assume preserving anonymity is a neutral value. There’s neither value in preserving anonymity or removing it. In this case, doing so hurts HanAssholeSolo. The one and only reason CNN is interested in removing his anonymity is to hurt him, because he was a participant in the mocking of CNN. It’s not like CNN goes around trying to unmask every racist asshole on the internet. I don’t think they’ve ever unmasked any random racist assholes before. They went after this one for contributing to something that was not racist or antisemitic or anything like that, it was merely negative for CNN. So the issue is CNN’s vindictiveness. Removing the person they want to hurt’s anonymity just happens to be the method they have to enact their vengeance, so anonymity is not central to the issue.

            2) I do think the preservation of anonymity is a sacred value because Truth is a sacred value. Anonymity allows one to speak Truth to power. Without it one would have to already have power (or be completely desperate) in order to speak. The Founding Fathers used anonymous speech to criticize the Crown without getting hanged.

            Who gets to decide how obnoxious a shit someone has to be before their name should be made public? Is there an honor code somewhere for these things?

            The line is true threats. The definition of a true threat varies by jurisdiction, so it winds up being like pornography: you know it when you see it. Generally something of the form of “so immediately threatening to life or property that it cannot be ignored by a reasonable person.”

            This honor code is what you seem to be consulting here.

            Really it’s not. I’m saying that the bad thing in this is CNN not acting as journalists but as persecutors. Doxxing for racism (if he doesn’t behave as they like in the future) is just the method of their punishment, but it wouldn’t be any different if they used their investigative powers to find him cheating on his wife and inform her, or if they paid a kid $5 to put poop in his mailbox. Doxxing and racism are non-central here, because nothing about the offense (anti-CNN wrestling meme) had anything to do with racism.

            Let’s say it wasn’t CNN, let’s say it was some other private guy with beef. What then?

            That private guy would probably be prosecuted for blackmail. Coercing others into behavior you want under threat of revealing their secrets. That is the definition of blackmail. CNN will not be prosecuted because corporations are above the law.

            Let’s say a Democrat makes a gif that embarrasses Fox News, so Fox News digs through their online history and discovers that he’s cheating on his wife. “Fox News has discovered that the creator of the awful anti-Fox meme is a philanderer. That’s the kind of dirt bag who supports Democrats and disparages the fine people here at Fox News. But after we sent him an email, he promised never to do it again, and thought this may be a warning to other people out there not to engage in philandery or disparaging Fox News. Fox News has decided not to reveal the philanderer’s private information but reserves the right to do so in the future.”

            That okay with you? Cheating on your wife is a pretty scumbag thing to do. Deserves what’s coming to him, agreed?

          • Matt M says:

            Honestly, I feel like the whole debate is pointless. The guy is going to get doxxed. That’s inevitable at this point. Left-wing hackers may do it. Some CNN employee may leak it anonymously. I don’t know how, but there’s too many people out there who want to know who he is and I doubt he covered his tracks exceptionally well.

            Someone will find out and it will become public. CNN was probably hoping/expecting it would happen before people even got around to realizing their disclaimer was technically blackmail.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Removing the person they want to hurt’s anonymity just happens to be the method they have to enact their vengeance, so anonymity is not central to the issue.”

            Ok so is the point here that we are worried about powerful interests being able to punish people (the Thiel/Gawker affair is another recent example)? In that case it was sort of more complicated because Thiel used uncontroversially legal methods to enact his vengeance on Gawker, because Gawker was incredibly stupid.

            I agree that we should worry about this.

            But I think my advice to this kid is the same as my advice to Gawker: “maybe don’t be so shit next time.” In fact, I don’t think enacting vengeance by lawful means is quite so simple. One could probably dig up some dirt fairly easily, but it’s only really damaging if you have been either exceptionally stupid, or sort of evil.

          • Nornagest says:

            May I ask a question? Why is preserving anonymity a “sacred value?”

            The problem we’re dealing with is that our culture and especially our social intuitions are not set up to handle the volume of easily accessible public or quasi-public discourse that anyone who’s active online generates. The Internet has moved stuff that would previously have become publicly known through gossip (which we are culturally suspicious of, for good reason) into the realm of public statements, and that’s tilted the balance of power in social conflict far towards offense.

            Ten years ago this was only a problem for a few hopeless nerds, who no one cared about, and for people whose business involves dealing with large amounts of possibly-sensitive information from the general public, viz. journalists, medical practitioners, lawyers, and clergy. Every one of the latter has developed strong anonymity norms.

            Now it’s everyone’s problem, and we’re starting to see similar norms evolving in the wild. I don’t know if they’re perfect. I certainly don’t think they’re sacred. But they’re trying to solve a real problem, and short of a credible death threat or something in that neighborhood, willfully bucking them because you personally feel some anonymous commentator is being a jerk is, at the very least, hella rude.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I agree with you. “People in glass houses should not throw stones.” That said, CNN sending the message “make fun of us in a highly visible way and we’ll ruin your life” is…I honestly don’t know. I think we’re in uncharted territory here. I don’t know what happens next.

          • Matt M says:

            But I think my advice to this kid is the same as my advice to Gawker: “maybe don’t be so shit next time.”

            The problem is that he’s not really getting punished for “being shit.” Millions of people are shit on the internet every day and suffer no punishment, and CNN seems fine with that. As has been pointed out, they are not part of some huge project to doxx every racist on the Internet.

            He’s getting punished for being critical of CNN. THAT is the crime. Racism, anti-semitism, whatever, is just the thing they happened to find to justify it. If he wasn’t those things, they’d find something else. Short of being a perfect person who has never done wrong, the relevant example being made here is not “don’t be racist” but rather “don’t criticize CNN”

          • albatross11 says:

            This is the general problem with causing the internet to fall on someone–99.999% of the time, the same crime gets zero punishment; every now and then, someone gets their life wrecked. This looks very little like justice, and a lot more like burning a witch as a form of public entertainment.

            The problem with CNN’s actions has to do with the huge power imbalance. And the irony here is that this is also the problem with Trump putting out joke memes about beating up CNN. It’s a better world when powerful people do *not* feel entitled to crush much weaker people who piss them off–enough so that we ought to push back on that even at the very beginning, where it can be waved off as a joke or showing mercy to some racist creep online.

          • Matt M says:

            Is CNN really that much weaker than Trump? I don’t see that as a vast power imbalance (particularly given that the entire rest of the government doesn’t seem inclined to allow Trump to do very much of what he wants) at all.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, if Trump is fighting CNN, he’s doing it on their turf: media and public opinion. Yes, he technically has more power as the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces…but he’s not sending the Marines into the CNN Tower. In the battlefield of media and public opinion, Trump is the underdog.

          • Matt M says:

            Or at least, he would be if CNN didn’t stop constantly shooting itself in the foot

          • carvenvisage says:

            1. I don’t think there should be much difference between what you do in the heat of the moment and what you pre plan. That’s just rewarding people for having bad tempers. Also senators should be held to higher standards and don’t bodyslam people without good reason isn’t even a low standard.

            2. One difference between this and gawker case is that this guy was some random loser and going after them makes you look crazy when you’re a big institution or celebrity. If someone’s hitting you from your weight class you have more of an excuse.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            After thinking about this more: independently of the specific thing with that reddit idiot and CNN, what I think the larger takeaway here is this.

            4chan et al were these obscure corners of the internet where folks could engage in their troll hobby in relative obscurity and protect their anonymity. Now that people will conflate (possibly fairly, possibly not) vile alt-right stuff online and these types of communities more generally, probably there will be attack and pushback in general on them (in the only way 4chan et al will care about, which is revealing identities).

            People who compare 4chan 20-somethings posting pictures of Pepe gassing Jews, or whatever the latest fad is down there, to Thomas Jefferson writing anonymously about the excesses of the Crown elicit an eyeroll from me.

            There is no “truth to power” issue in that type of trolling. If you want to defend the principle of anonymity in the community with that type of content, the argument you have to make is something like: “whenever you defend a principle, you by necessity find yourself defending scoundrels.” And then people might still disagree. Free speech isn’t an absolute, either, and privacy isn’t even explicitly enumerated in the Constitution as a right, to my knowledge. A lot of that content really comes dangerously close to hate speech, especially now that it’s basically mainstream to say “hey maybe we should ethnically cleanse America of non-whites and Jews in order to save it!” Which is still slightly hard to believe for me, but that’s the timeline we live in, apparently.

            As someone said above: “play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            to Thomas Jefferson writing anonymously about the excesses of the Crown elicit an eyeroll from me.

            If they did that, they’d deserve the eyeroll. The Declaration of Independence was not anonymous. The usual anonymous-speech example is the Federalist papers, authored by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay as “Publius”.

            There is no “truth to power” issue in that type of trolling.

            “Truth to power” is a modern left-wing concept; anonymous speech does not rely on it. Certainly Hamilton, Madison, and Jay were powerful enough in their own right.

            Free speech isn’t an absolute, either

            Approximately every time someone says that, there’s some central example of free speech they would shut down if only that pesky principle wasn’t in the way. “Free speech isn’t absolute, therefore this isn’t free speech”.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            People who compare 4chan 20-somethings posting pictures of Pepe gassing Jews, or whatever the latest fad is down there, to Thomas Jefferson writing anonymously about the excesses of the Crown elicit an eyeroll from me.

            Sure, it’s definitely not so noble. It’s more comparable to posting pics of (or photoshopping) the king of Thailand in embarrassing situations. It serves no productive purpose but why the hell does it deserve to be shut down?

            Free speech isn’t an absolute, either

            Try trope 3

            privacy isn’t even explicitly enumerated in the Constitution as a right, to my knowledge

            Neither is marriage but that doesn’t seem to stop people from promoting the idea that everyone should have access to it.

            Remember folks, if it’s not in the Constitution it’s not a right, and certainly not something people can desire for society.

            A lot of that content really comes dangerously close to hate speech

            Oh hey trope 1.

            especially now that it’s basically mainstream to say “hey maybe we should ethnically cleanse America of non-whites and Jews in order to save it!”

            No it isn’t. You should try hatereading less fringe bullshit.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya Shipster:

            First, it’s clear that CNN doesn’t have any legal obligation to withhold the troll’s identity. They can publish or not as they decide. So what we’re talking about here is not about laws[1], it’s about what kind of behavior we should try to encourage via social norms and social pressure.

            Second, I agree that a lot of people use the relative anonymity of the internet to be jackasses of various levels of nastiness, ranging from being intentionally offensive (which isn’t illegal but is kinda embarrassing) all the way up to plausible death threats or SWATting, (which is illegal and ideally would end with the perps sitting in a jail cell somewhere).

            Third, I think that there is still a lot of value in both anonymity in political / social discussions, and in the existence of weird mostly-isolated little communities where people discuss ideas that are creepy or offensive to the neighbors.

            Politics, like war, is about winning. One pretty effective technique in politics is to silence some ideas by making a big nasty example of people who express them–doxing them, mobbing them online, getting them fired, etc.

            I think it’s possible to move the world toward one in which this tactic is less (or more) effective and widespread. I don’t think it’s possible to move the world toward one in which this tactic is more carefully applied, or applied only to really bad stuff that maybe 90%+ of the SSC commentariat would agree is genuinely nasty. If the tactic is available, it will be used by amoral political actors against their opponents, whether their opponents are monsters or jackasses or thoughtful people with weird viewpoints.

            Short form: I see some value in pushing back on disclosing identities of people who express offensive ideas anonymously on the internet, even though most of those people are expressing really awful ideas (and often ones chosen to be offensive rather than ideas they actually believe).

            [1] I don’t think the stuff that’s come out so far would come anywhere close to meeting the requirements for actually violating blackmail laws, though I’ll admit I’m not any kind of expert on those laws so maybe I’m just wrong.

          • albatross11 says:

            Minor sideline: I have never seen anyone anywhere I’d consider remotely mainstream proposing ethnically cleansing the US of all nonwhites and Jews.

          • Mary says:

            “One pretty effective technique in politics is to silence some ideas by making a big nasty example of people who express them–doxing them, mobbing them online, getting them fired, etc.”

            Thinking nasty things about CNN is not one of those ideas.

          • rlms says:

            Did anyone say it was? I’m pretty sure that was a description of CNN’s behaviour.

    • Brad says:

      CNN is not publishing “HanA**holeSolo’s” name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

      This paragraph is really terrible. On the balance I don’t think they should have posted his name, but at least I could see arguments for why they might have.

      I can’t see any legitimate argument for the position that the newsworthiness of his identity turns on his apology and promise never to do it again. This is pure pettiness.

    • BBA says:

      That’s some Gawker-level dickishness. CNN has been utterly unwatchable since Jeff Zucker took over – are they still talking about Flight 370 or have viewers finally gotten sick of it? – and now clearly their morals have declined as much as their journalistic quality.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Could the president go after Time Warner on RICO grounds?

      If there’s a colorable argument that this constitutes extortion under New York law, then any evidence that higher-ups at CNN ordered the extortion would constitute racketeering activity under federal law. A second such act at any point during CNN’s existence would then be enough to move forward with a RICO case. Which means that the heads of CNN could be threatened with jailtime.

      I’ve been disappointed in the administration before but this is their chance to slay one of the giants of the MSM. The case would almost certainly be thrown out but the investigation alone could be enough to bring the current media culture down.

      Edited to add: As Trump is learning right now, a federal investigation can create new crimes even if the original charge has no chance of sticking. Catch a few CNN top brass telling inconsequential lies to an investigator and you can slap them with a felony charge of interfering with a federal investigation. He could collect a lot of scalps that way.

      • albatross11 says:

        Nabil:

        I don’t suppose Trump thinks this way, but I would find a politically motivated use of the Justice Dept to go after some hostile media source really chilling[1]. If that becomes a normal part of life in the Trump administration, it will also become a standard part of the political toolkit, wielded by Democrats as well as Republicans. There isn’t some edict from God that guarantees that the US will always be a free society.

        But Trump doesn’t seem to worry about precedents much. He seems not to be concerned with damaging institutions or violating norms that exist for some reason that he doesn’t immediately see. My sense is that a huge amount of the practical stuff that keeps the US functioning well is this institutional stuff and these norms, and once you bulldoze them, they can easily just disappear and leave us all a lot worse off.

        [1] I also think there would be enough institutional resistance to this, between the Justice Department and the courts, that it would never actually work. But a more competent and ruthless Trump could probably do it, and we’d miss that bit of Chesterton’s fence after it had been bulldozed away.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The thing about having a civil society is that it takes two to tango.

          If one side is tip-toeing around so as to avoid damaging the foundations of American civil society and the other isn’t, then you’re effectively rewarding the carelessness of the latter.

          The norms underlying our society have been systematically and deliberately undermined by generations of radical political movements. In each case, the original radicals won and become the new mainstream at the cost of another chunk of norms. This generation’s radicals have already gotten a lot of what they wanted and are gearing up to repeat the cycle.

          I’d rather not break American civil society. But it’s on it’s way out one way or another. Hopefully we can win quickly and salvage what’s left of it afterwards.

          • J Mann says:

            Nabil, the risk of a tit for tat strategy is that it’s easy to sink to your perception of the other side’s misconduct instead of the conduct that a third party might see, which produces a race to the bottom.

            I think if you’re going to do tit for tat in a subjective area, you should make a special effort to try to interpret the other side charitably.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @J Mann,

            I’m not very well-schooled in game theory but I’m skeptical to what degree strategies for an iterated prisoner’s dilemma generalize to the real world.

            The way I was taught growing up is to never start a fight, but to always be ready to end one. You don’t respond proportionately: you respond with the required amount of force to make the other guy lay down and stop fighting.

          • Charles F says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            Not that I’ve had much experience with this sort of thing since leaving high school. But what I learned growing up is that it’s important to start a few fights for a couple reasons. There’s the obvious one where if people know that you might punch them, they’re not going to mess with you as freely. And eventually you’re going to get into a fight, so you want to be the one to choose it, since the meaner groups do have a tendency to pick on people who won’t fight back, so if you get in a couple fights first, you’re less of a target.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Charles F,

            So the “beat a guy up on your first day in prison” philosophy?

            I don’t know how applicable that is to normal life. I’m a big guy so I might have a warped perspective: most of the guys you’re talking about gravitate toward easier targets.

          • Charles F says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            Well, I wasn’t exactly qualified to beat anyone up, so more like punch some guy just to prove you’re willing to resort to violence, and then get beaten up for it. Repeat at least once to send the message that you’re not overly afraid of losing. And more like when people start testing you than as soon as you’re there, but pretty much the same idea.

            Unfortunately (?) I don’t think it’s very applicable to adult life. But then again, however ready you think you are to end a fight, the person who decides to be the aggressor thinks that they’re better than you, and being the one reacting is hard.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This thread seems like it ought to be relevant.

          • Charles F says:

            @hlynkacg
            I think if we’re talking about how to avoid escalating to a fight, it’s worth mentioning that there are a few different kinds of encounters. For a better discussion of it from somebody with way more experience, I recommend Meditations on Violence, but here’s my take. (As I implied earlier, I’ve successfully avoided serious fights for a while now)

            a. Posturing (a.k.a the monkey dance). Somebody (often a belligerent drunk) doesn’t like you. You bumped into them or took “their” seat or just looked at them wrong. Now they’re going to hold eye contact, push your chest, and then punch you. This is the situation where averting your eyes and backing off (projecting lower status but not fear) is okay. They win, they’re dominant, no fighting necessary. If they’re really belligerent or you don’t back down, expect a big looping right haymaker after they shove you. Any self-defense class will give you some way to respond to that, but deescalation works well here.

            b. Intimidation/feeling you out. You’re not entirely sure whether they’re mugging you or begging, or whether talking or picking a fight. IME more often done by a pair. Involves not very aggressively invading your personal space a bit (one common tactic I’ve seen is faux stumbling towards you) and if there are two, moving to either side of you so it’s hard to watch them both. This is the time for maintaining calm confidence, establishing a bit of space without (initially) retreating past a normal distance, moving to keep both of them in sight, and generally not showing weakness. If you say you’re not looking for trouble, they’ve found an easy place to make trouble.

            c. Group monkey dance. No personal experience with this in adult life, thankfully. If there’s a group of people posturing, it can lead to some one upmanship to your detriment. You can’t just defer to the person in the lead because then the person below them will take a swing and it all escalates. And you probably can’t radiate enough calm confidence to stare down a group of more than a few people unless you’re a very impressive person. Just awful. Practice running away really fast I guess.

            d. Traditional mugging (knife or gun). Also no personal experience. Just give them your stuff if it’s an option. Don’t go with them to a secondary location if there’s any way to avoid it, it doesn’t end well. Not sure if it’s any use in practice, but self-defense classes will tell you to toss your wallet on the ground and that if they look at the wallet, they’re probably after money, but if they look around for witnesses, you need to start preparing for them to try to harm you.

            e. Violent mugging. (probably not knives or guns, maybe a bat) Again, no personal experience. Sometimes it’s easier to beat somebody up before they have a chance to resist. Stunning/damaging them and then demanding money or bringing them to your secondary location. The important thing is to “beat the freeze” and then respond as violently as you know how. Every moment you spend taking damage before you respond makes it more likely you’ll completely lose control of the situation.

            If you’re interested in this sort of thing, do read Meditations on Violence. It’s very readable. Told from a practical point of view, with very little massaging to try to sell a clean framework. Covers a pretty wide variety of ideas (without the best organization, unfortunately) And the author is just pretty interesting in general.

        • hlynkacg says:

          @ albatross

          While I agree with you on the whole I feel the need to point out that Obama joked about sicing the IRS on his political opponents and that when the IRS was caught doing exactly that it was treated by most of the media as a non-scandal so I’m not sure that particular fence hasn’t already been bulldozed.

          If it were up to me, I’d have the DOJ issue a public statement to the effect of…

          “We saw that, and seriously considered filing charges. However, in the interests of supporting a free press the DOJ has decided to let this particular incident slide on the understanding any further misbehavior on the part of CNN or it’s affiliates will be prosecuted to the maximal extent of the law”.

          …The intent being to (hopefully) reestablish the fence, without de facto legalizing extortion.

          • random832 says:

            Is this the part where we pretend that groups of people who name themselves after how much they hate taxes should not be assumed to be more likely to be tax-evaders than anyone else?

          • Charles F says:

            Is this the part where we pretend that people who name themselves after how much they hate taxes should not be assumed to be more likely to be tax-evaders than anyone else

            Do you mean that the IRS was auditing them on their own initiative, because they seemed like the sort of people who would evade taxes, or that the president should be allowed to pick a crime that some of their opponents might plausibly commit more than average and start investigating whether any of them might have committed that crime?

            If it’s the former that seems unlikely to me to be what was going on, but I don’t have a huge problem with neutral profiling.

            The latter seems more likely to have been what was going on, and even if it’s true that the targeted groups committed enough tax fraud to justify the profiling, I don’t think we should encourage targeted investigations against political opponents.

          • Matt M says:

            Given the phenomenon of “limousine liberals” who demand higher taxes generally, yet still employ armies of accountants to minimize their own individual taxes (and take advantage of every so-called-loophole in the book), it doesn’t seem to be a given that conservative groups (even ones that may have something related to taxation being evil within their names) are more likely to evade taxes than liberal ones.

            Wasn’t Al Sharpton once under investigation for tax evasion? Bruce Springsteen famously benefits from generous farm subsidies for property he owns but is never present at.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ random832

            No, this is part where we (hopefully) reach a compromise where Republicans agree not to sic the DOJ on the Democrats’ allies and Democrats agree not to sic the IRS on Republican allies because the alternative is treat using the organs of the state to attack political opponents as “fair game” and that’s likely to turn ugly.

          • BBA says:

            As I recall, the scandal was about the division of the IRS that regulates nonprofits. There are several categories of nonprofit organization (charities, civic groups, professional football leagues, etc.), none of which are subject to corporate income tax, but only contributions to charities are tax-deductible.

            One rule that applies to charities but not to other types of nonprofit is that charities cannot engage in lobbying or other political activity. So the ACLU, for instance, is a civic group, not a charity, and contributions to the ACLU are not tax-deductible. They have an affiliated charity, the ACLU Foundation, to which contributions are tax-deductible, but they can’t be used for political activity. The ACLU and the Foundation have to keep their finances separate in order to avoid falling afoul of tax law and being subject to major penalties. Clear?

            Now, circa 2009 there were several newly-formed organizations with “Tea Party” in their names that claimed to be charities. Since charities can’t engage in political activities, and “Tea Party” is a political term, the IRS was suspicious that these groups truly qualified as charities, and in internal communications listed some political terms that would flag a proposed charity for further screening before approval. (The list of terms also included left-leaning terms like “Progressive”, but since it was only used to flag new applications “Tea Party” groups got the most flak.)

            Now, there’s a colorable argument that the IRS was just trying to uphold the law, and there’s no sign that these were orders from on high directly targeted at conservatives. On the other hand, I can’t rule out the theory that this was a clever plot to enforce a neutral regulation in a neutral-looking manner that just “coincidentally” turns out to hit conservatives worse.

            But for the record, this was not a “tax audit” in the common sense of the term, nobody was required to pay more in taxes, and there is no evidence that any organization was wrongly denied charity status, some just had their rulings delayed by a few months.

          • Charles F says:

            there’s no sign that these were orders from on high directly targeted at conservatives

            There were something like seven hard drives that simultaneously(ish) failed, making it impossible for the IRS to hand over emails related to the issue. (Or maybe it was seven employees whose email histories were unrecoverable) That makes me a little bit skeptical that the orders weren’t at least from on high-er than they were willing to admit, though I have no great reason to believe it involved any person in particular. (They might even have been covering up something entirely unrelated)

            Not sure what to do about plausibly decentralized, accidental targeting of opponents, but trying to explain away one side’s attempts while asking the other to cut it out probably won’t work. (Not saying that’s what you’re doing, just that I’m making an effort not to make excuses for the left (possibly) doing this sort of thing)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            There are several categories of nonprofit organization (charities, civic groups, professional football leagues, etc.), none of which are subject to corporate income tax, but only contributions to charities are tax-deductible.

            Wut.

          • Brad says:

            The NFL is no longer non-profit, but when I went to law school they were. The teams never were though.

          • Matt M says:

            IIRC the NFL is not non-profit, but it does have a unique/specific exemption from anti-trust statues.

          • There were something like seven hard drives that simultaneously(ish) failed, making it impossible for the IRS to hand over emails related to the issue. (Or maybe it was seven employees whose email histories were unrecoverable)

            Whether that is correct I don’t know. But the central figure took the Fifth Amendment in order to avoid testifying to Congress, which strongly suggests that there was evidence she wished to conceal.

          • BBA says:

            @Charles F

            There were something like seven hard drives that simultaneously(ish) failed, making it impossible for the IRS to hand over emails related to the issue.

            Sounds implausible. If that’s the excuse I agree it’s extremely suspicious.

            (Or maybe it was seven employees whose email histories were unrecoverable)

            Sounds extremely plausible. This is government IT we’re talking about. A “small” detail like this can mean the difference between Watergate and a nothingburger.

            @Gobbobobble
            Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(6), read it and weep!

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Now, circa 2009 there were several newly-formed organizations with “Tea Party” in their names that claimed to be charities.

            My recollection is that pretty much all of the conservative organizations in question were declaring 501(c)(4) status, the same as the ACLU, meaning they can lobby and prosyletize until the cows come home, but aren’t allowed to have electioneering as a primary activity. (The IRS arguably has a partial excuse here when it comes to the groups that used the actual name “Tea Party”– that word “party”.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            30% of the targeted groups were 501(c)(3) (89/298).

          • Charles F says:

            @BBA
            Seems like it’s (a little bit) closer to the seven hard drives situation based on this. They claimed two separate hard drive failures early on, then that article talks about five more employees who had had hard drive issues. They asked about 82 employee’s emails though. So it’s a far cry from the version where they asked about seven drives and wouldn’t you know it, all of them crashed.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            hlynkacg says:

            No, this is part where we (hopefully) reach a compromise where Republicans agree not to sic the DOJ on the Democrats’ allies and Democrats agree not to sic the IRS on Republican allies because the alternative is treat using the organs of the state to attack political opponents as “fair game” and that’s likely to turn ugly.

            Absolutely. The next Democratic administration is the earliest opportunity for that though because the last one did sic the IRS on Republican allies and Republicans refraining from doing something similar establishes the precedent that Democrats can do that with no repercussions. To have a civilized norm you have to establish that collective punishment will fall on the side that breaks the norm. Once the punishment is established then the norm is established (or removed entirely if the side who broke the norm chooses to persist).

          • DocKaon says:

            That’s an interesting alternate history. Here in this timeline, the IRS investigated more liberal organizations than conservative. The media spent weeks breathlessly reporting every twist and turn in a non-scandal which will now live forever in half-remembered repetitions on the Internet.

          • Here in this timeline, the IRS investigated more liberal organizations than conservative.

            Could you be a little more precise in your claim, preferably with a link to the data? I don’t know if you mean that they investigated fifty out of a hundred conservative organizations applying and sixty out of a thousand liberal ones, or if you mean that they investigated lots of liberal organizations and promptly found they all qualified, a smaller number of conservative ones and took many months deciding whether they did, or …

            in a non-scandal

            You think that is consistent with the central IRS person involved refusing to testify on the grounds that doing so might incriminate her? The obvious explanation is either that she was doing something illegal or that she was concealing something she or others had done which would look very bad if revealed. Do you have a different explanation consistent with your view of the story?

          • albatross11 says:

            hlynkacg:

            I agree that was bad behavior, and I’m glad it caused some powerful people at least some heartburn. Similarly, the Clinton administration had a scandal involving somehow accidentally ending up with FBI files of a bunch of their political opponents. I don’t really think that got enough attention or pushback–it always seemed to me that this was about a thousand times more concerning that whether Clinton was sleeping with one of the the interns.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @Albatross

            Yes I remember that, but I also remember it as simply one in a long string of similar scandals. What you know, or what you find concerning, is not as important as what you can prove in court. The significance of the Lewinsky affair wasn’t that he had diddled an intern, it was the existence of a ironclad proof that he’d lied under oath. Perjury is to Clinton what Tax Evasion was to Al Capone.

            In any case I’d rather not go any further down this particular road.

          • albatross11 says:

            Agreed. On the list of productive uses of our time, a rehash of the Clinton Wars seems like it’s *way* far down the list.

    • J Mann says:

      CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change.

      I was honestly shocked that CNN’s story includes a threat to dox some doofus for offensive reddit postings. (I’m taking CNN’s word that this guy’s history includes more offensive material than the wrestling gif, although I probably shouldn’t.)

      Have any lefty authors opined on this, or is it all Breitbart and Washington Times?

      I guess to be fair, some of the righty sites name people like the screaming Yalie woman in the Christakis video, so maybe media doxxing is the new normal.

      • Matt M says:

        FWIW, on other forums, I’ve seen various people post screenshots (I’ve made no attempt to verify accuracy) of this guy making all sorts of horrible comments about blacks, jews, Muslims, etc. Pretty much the most extreme stuff you can imagine.

        If accurate, his behavior in this case makes perfect sense. Even if the CNN GIF is ridiculously minor compared to other things he’s done, it’s the thing CNN is mad at him for and they are the ones with the power to make him permanently unemployable, if they so choose.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          These “horrible comments about jews” that are the “most extreme stuff you can imagine” are an image that shows who at CNN is Jewish* – ya know, exactly like how progressives report on the distributions of racial representation in everything.

          * Haven’t checked the accuracy of the claims in the image.

          • Iain says:

            The fact-checking on the CNN picture is exactly as good as you would expect from such an upstanding, thoughtful fellow. Here’s one example of an Arab Christian being included.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            From screenshots I’ve seen that was the tamest of things. I also saw explicitly racist things against blacks as well as calls to kill all Muslims. Parts of that may be hyperbole or attempts at trolling or whatever, but let’s not pretend he was just pointing out “facts.”

            Note, I don’t think any of that is newsworthy. CNN is taking revenge on him for embarrassing them, and the method of said revenge is exposing his racism, but if he were a sex pervert or a tax cheat they’d be exposing that instead.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I would say that’s the problem, yes. It’s like getting Al Capone for tax evasion. CNN isn’t investigating racism or antisemitism on the Internet to discover who’s doing it and why, nor were any of his racist or antisemitic memes newsworthy (as in, they were not viral or popular, and if anything all CNN has done is invoke the Streisand Effect). CNN can’t attack HanAssholeSolo for making a meme embarrassing them, so they’ll get him some other way. The lesson is the same: do not fuck with your betters at CNN or they will find some way to wreck you. It just happens to be that in HanAssholeSolo’s case the way to wreck him was very easy to find and effective. But I’m sure if he’d been a sex pervert or a tax cheat or whatever it’d be the same story.

      • IrishDude says:

        Have any lefty authors opined on this, or is it all Breitbart and Washington Times?

        New York Times had an article on it.

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks –

            1) I was going to argue with whether WaPo is a lefty site, but I can see it.

            2) I never thought I’d write this, but that Vox article is pretty good.

          • Achilles_de_Remilia says:

            The Vox article is good, so of course the writer is being attacked by left-wing journos over it (including Sam Biddle).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the Vox article was good, but 2/3rds of it was still on the topic of “why doxxing is bad” rather than “why news outlets acting vindictively towards people who mock them is bad.” The doxxing for racism was just the method of revenge. If CNN’s revenge for the wrestling meme (which was not racist or antisemitic in itself) had been to put a sack of dog poop on his front porch and light it on fire, I don’t think 2/3rd of their article would have been about the dangers of flaming dog poop. They’re missing the meta (corporate media giant blackmailing random critic) for the object (doxxing is bad).

          • dndnrsn says:

            @J Mann

            Washington Post is probably about as left-wing as the NYT is. Which is to say, by US standards, it’s left-of-centre.

        • J Mann says:

          Thanks, all!

      • DocKaon says:

        I think it’s pretty clearly standard legal covering your ass boilerplate. They’d didn’t think it was newsworthy to reveal his identity given the facts that they knew at the time. Those facts are obviously not set in stone and they’re not giving him blanket anonymity. For example, if this guy ran for elective office that he was doing this sort of thing is something voters would like to know.

        The idea that CNN would try to extort some nobody about some troll memes is frankly silly. It’s not like there aren’t hundreds of others doing the same thing. The news story is that the President is wasting his time surfing the Internet finding this sort of meme and thinks it’s the sort of thing he should be sharing with the American people.

        • Brad says:

          There was no need need for any such covering of asses. There is no legal principle that would bar CNN from naming him in a future article after not naming him in this one.

          Both the “reserve the right” sentence and the entire proceeding “we aren’t naming him because he apologized” paragraph are garbage journalism. There’s no legal angle that changes that analysis.

          I agree extortion isn’t the right frame to look at this through, but it is extremely petty and unprofessional.

          • Matt M says:

            I would actually agree that it’s an ass-covering, but it’s a weird amalgam of a legal ass-covering combined with an ass-covering intending to signal to their blue-tribe base that they totally hate this guy and totally will give him the life-destroying doxxing he deserves if he violates PC norms ever again.

            Please keep in mind, half my Facebook feed is filled with people who are enraged at CNN for not destroying the dude’s life. Because he’s a racist piece of shit who is helping Trump destroy the first amendment. He deserves to be punished and CNN are weak, pathetic, and probably engaged in a conspiracy to help Trump because he’s good for ratings.

          • Brad says:

            A couple of points:
            1) I don’t see how it could be an amalgam that includes legal ass-covering because I don’t see any legal issues at play. If anything the “reserve the right” sentence introduces legal problems not avoids them (though on the balance I still think there isn’t a legal issue).

            2) I have very little sympathy for complaints of the form “my Facebook feed is filled with …”. Surround yourself with less shitty people.

            And don’t extrapolate from the shitty people you choose to surround yourself with to any larger groups of people unless you have some good reason to think they are representative (such as random selection).

          • Matt M says:

            And don’t extrapolate from the shitty people you choose to surround yourself with to any larger groups of people unless you have some good reason to think they are representative

            Do you have good reason to think they aren’t? Other than the fact that you don’t like what they have to say?

            Look man, I don’t claim that my personal anecdotes are the same as scientific evidence. But you aren’t exactly offering any scientific proof that I’m wrong, either. My opinions and my theories based on my own personal experience may be scientifically invalid, but you act like it’s some sort of horribly offensive act for me to even offer them at all.

            If you want to offer your own theories, go right ahead. But it’s a little tiresome to see you show up every time I’m offering a personal anecdote just to say “YOUR PERSONAL ANECDOTE MEANS NOTHING”

          • Brad says:

            Your personal anecdote do mean nothing. You want to offer them as personal anecdotes, well at least that’s just useless and not worse useless. But when you use them to slander huge groups of people that you know fuck-all about that is a horribly offensive act and you should feel bad. Even if you call those slanders theories.

            As I said the other day, just what exactly do you think your endless baseless claims about “the left” and “the blue tribe” are adding to this site? Do you really think anyone reads one of these posts and says to himself “Hey Matt M says the left believes they will ultimately control the state. Before I wasn’t so sure, but Matt M is a known expert on the left so if he says it must be true!”

    • Jaskologist says:

      Some fun context: the reporter (Andrew Kaczynski) who did this also helped make Justine Sacco infamous.

  9. rlms says:

    Interesting news: scientists discover why Roman concrete hardens on exposure to sea water, unlike modern concrete which weakens.

  10. pjiq says:

    SCOTT: Please do a meet up in SALT LAKE on your way out here. I need proof once and for all that you are not actually an artificial intelligence posing as a human, nobody can write posts with as many random links as you can bro. Nobody. Sorry I just used the term “bro”, I don’t think that is really acceptable in this setting.

    Thanks for all your work and safe travels-

    j

    • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

      As a recent SL transplant I would be happy to come out to a meetup here too!

  11. Matt M says:

    Random aside: Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that, when logging in with a username and password here, one is asked to “prove their humanity” by solving a simple addition problem?

    As if performing simple mathematical calculations is what distinguishes humans from machines?

    • random832 says:

      I think I’ve replied to someone mentioning this before – what proves your humanity isn’t your ability to solve the problem, it’s your ability to understand the form (and if someone programs a computer to do it, the form will be changed).

      • Matt M says:

        Yes yes, I know this is technically true and actually is effective, blah blah blah.

        It’s still funny though, damn it!

  12. nimim.k.m. says:

    And now for something different. OT 78.5 had a fun comic book recommendations thread, and I thought maybe we should continue, but maybe more in spirit of “discussion on comics SSC commentariat reads” than “listing bestsellers”.

    I already gave some recommendations back there. Most of those I listed there were from the category “read them ages ago, remember liking them, and I have a hunch that the other people will probably like them, because they are quite well known and popular”. During the past week, quite many other titles have popped into my mind, but I’m going to start by listing only two. Both of these were the kind of books that I didn’t think about them immediately when prompted to give recommendations: in other words, they are not as big superstars as the names mentioned in the thread I linked to, but they are not obscure either (at least, not on the eurocomics front). I know the OT is quite US-based, but we do have other European readers besides me, and I checked that these are available in English (but not sure if widely distributed); I’ll use the English names.

    Joann Sfar, The Rabbi’s Cat. (There’s also an animated film that I have not seen.) Adorable stories, adorably told. One day, rabbi Abraham in pre-ww2 French Algiers finds out that his cat can talk. This has various implications (is it possible for talking cats to be Jews? …the titular cat is not particularly observant, though), and we also observe the complications of the ordinary life in rabbi’s family.

    Li Kunwu and Philippe Ôtié, A Chinese Life. Li Kunwu’s family lived through the very interesting parts of the history of China; this is (at first) a biography of his parents’ lives and (later on also) his autobiography. From the perspective of one family, we observe the history of China after the war, starting from Mao’s reign, through incidents such as Sputnik and a Cultural Revolution (and various others), and then the gradual shift to capitalism and prosperity.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Only the first of my suggestions is really a comic book but here goes:

      Lex Luthor: Man of Steel is a favorite of mine. It’s a standard Superman story, but told from the perspective of Lex Luthor. You get to see a ‘behind-the-scenes’ view of the planning and preparation which goes into a typical comic-book scheme, all narrated by Lex’s attempt to justify his vendetta against “the Alien” to himself. It’s afflicted by the juvenile sort of maturity where sex and dead kids makes something adult, but doesn’t take it to Frank Millar levels of grimdark. Overall it’s a strong story leveraging one of DC’s better villains.

      Most people have already read Maus and it’s sequel, but it’s still very good. It’s about the holocaust, which is pretty overplayed these days. Unlike most of that genre however Maus is less about the holocaust itself and more about how it revealed and shaped the character of the artist’s estranged father. Vladek Spiegelman isn’t portrayed as a hero, or even a particularly good man, but he’s very human and engaging. You can feel the tragedy of his situation while still understanding how the personality which helped him survive the camps drove a rift between him and his son. The quality of the art is very good and never fails to put you in the story.

      This last one is cheating because it’s not illustrated. But Soon I Will Be Invincible is a really good book which, like Lex Luthor: Man of Steel looks at a superhero / supervillain conflict from the villain’s point of view. The book came out before Megamind but from what I understand of that film the two have a very similar premise. Either way, it’s a very compelling inner look at both a criminal genius and a fledgling superheroine in a comic-book esque world.

    • bintchaos says:

      Dunno if I count as within SSC, but heres my current favorites–
      just to add some variation!
      Black Panther, I have collected every comic since Ta-Nehisi started writing the reboot.
      And of course Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan).
      Peerless.
      Do any SSC commenters read manga?

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        I am (used to be, really) more of an anime guy, but Berserk and Billy Bat are pretty good, and I assume so’s Monster because the cartoon version was great.

        • Charles F says:

          I can confirm the Monster manga is good. Forgot to include that one in my post.

      • Zodiac says:

        Same as Whatever Happened To Anonymous.
        Aside from a few one-shots the only manga I have read is Nausica of the Valley of the Wind.
        I find extensive reading on monitor to be exhausting and getting actual manga was not possible for me (selection, censorship and price issues).

      • Charles F says:

        If we’re including manga recommendations, I have a few.

        Ares (Yes, I know it’s actually manhwa) is a series about a mercenary getting into fights and looking for the guy who killed his master. It’s basically a shonen series, and it doesn’t do a lot that’s really out of the ordinary, but it distinguishes itself by having particularly well put together story arcs and distributing time in the spotlight well among a variety of interesting characters, and having good action.
        Runners up in this general category include: The Breaker (very standard shonen, but has the comic equivalent of high production values), Ruler of the Land (kind of overlong, pretty funny, lots of variety) and Veritas (genre-savvy MC and plenty of violence)

        Holyland is a more seinen-style coming of age story about a nerdy kid learning to fight. Partly a platform for the author to showcase his experience with a variety of martial arts. Partly commentary on the lack of real emotional bonds in young peoples’ relationships.
        Runners up in this general category include: Gekiryuuchi if you just want the violence, PK if you want the violence without any of the realism, Kenji if you’d rather read a similar shonen. Wolf Guy? Maybe?

        Akumetsu is a series about the breakdown of Japanese culture and politics. It’s really good and you should read it. I can’t think of a lot like this, so I’m stretching the category to include: C: Money of Soul and Possibility Control, which was kind of a heavy-handed way of saying the Zaibatsus/financial industry are recklessly gambling with the future of the country, and Eden of the East, which was about NEETs.

        Kimi ni Todoke is better as an anime than a manga, but both are good. It’s an adorable story of a shy nerdy girl and the end of the first season is a crime against storytelling but I guess financial pressure to milk good series or something. Highly recommended.

        I find Prison School hilarious. It’s ecchi/femdom, and if you have any sense you’ll stay away, but maybe some people here are as terrible as I am. For a less objectionable version, try Sundome.

        If you just want to be sad, try Elfen Lied or Saikano.

        Other things I like, in no particular order: One Punch Man, Dungeon Meshi, Upotte, Houshin Engi, Karate Shoukoushi Kohinata Minoru, Teppu, Baki the Grappler + sequels, All Rounder Meguru, Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari, Vagabond, Hinomaru Zumou, Piano no Mori (way better than Your Lie in April), Arago, 1/2 Prince, Yureka, Ranma 1/2, Beelzebub, Kenichi, Uzumaki, Noblesse.

        • bintchaos says:

          wow, a true connoisseur!
          That is impressive.
          I’m just a dilettante by comparison.

      • Orpheus says:

        If you like horror, definitely check out Junji Ito.

        • Nornagest says:

          Junji Ito has done some of the scariest stuff I’ve ever read, along with and sometimes alongside some really intense bathos.

          “Uzumaki” is stronger on the scary, “Gyo” stronger on the bathos.

        • Charles F says:

          Junji Ito’s horror is super interesting. Uzumaki is probably his most famous, but I think The Hanging Balloons is the best place to start and possibly the best return on time.

          For horror, also check out the Higurashi series. I think it does a better job of being scary, but the content will be much more familiar and less engrossing.

          Also Franken Fran and Pet Shop of Horrors are pretty good monster of the week style horror series, but they can both be hit and miss.

        • bintchaos says:

          Agree on all of the above– Uzumaki gave me nightmares for weeks.
          I saw spirals everywhere IRL.

        • Vermillion says:

          There’s something really dreamlike about Junji’s best stuff. He can (and does) do body horror really well, but mixing it with a general sense of disquietude is what elevates it.

          Hellstar Remina is another good long story. The Enigma of Amigara Fault is a great short, high impact piece. Oh hey here’s a link.

      • beleester says:

        I’m more of an anime guy, but I read the occasional manga. Eyeshield 21 was amazing – the most incredibly over-the-top story about American football that I’ve ever read. It’s really more of a martial arts story than a sports story, full of secret techniques, clever trick plays, battles of strength and skill, and so on. Even if you’re not a football fan, I’d recommend it.

      • Loquat says:

        I’m also more likely to watch anime than read manga – I was actually discussing Attack on Titan with my sister recently, and we had basically the same problem (she’s only read some of the manga, I watched the show and then started on the manga) which is that it’s a lot harder to tell characters apart when they’re all silent black-and-white drawings than it is when they’re in color and also have different voice actors. My foray into the manga issues that pick up where the show’s second season ends was marked with frequent occurrences of “Wait, who the hell is that?”

        Also working my way through Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood currently, and when I’m done with that I plan to watch more of Sword Art Online.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        … not really that much nowadays. I fell out of the loop concerning the scanlation genre several years ago, and while there’s decent selection of printed mange available where I live, the expense of buying blindly would be just a bit too much in the long run.

  13. Erasmus Kradle says:

    Anatoly says (comment above): “I cringe when people here use the word ‘normies'” … [and I] wonder if others have the same/opposite reaction.”

    Please count me among the cringers in respect to appellations like “normies” — ditto for “muggles”, “brights”, “Chads”, “Stacies”, “FA’s”, “KV’s”, and “wizards” — on the grounds that these terms pejoratively restrict progressive cognitive aspiration.

    As an antidote, consider the examples of Alfred Tarski and Georg Kreisel, who were celebrated equally for three traits: (#1) extraordinary ratiocinative intelligence, (#2) their passionate romantic/erotic entanglements, and (#3) their creative mathematical accomplishments.

    Many SSC readers rate themselves highly in respect to intelligence (trait #1); less highly in respect to romantic capacity (trait #2); and no SSC readers at all — that have been noticed by me at least — have publicly claimed significant mathematical creativity (trait #3).

    All three of these capacities strengthen with practice, and this provides motivation to study two in-depth works about Tarski and Kreisel: Anita Burdman Feferman’s collection of essays Kreiseliana: about and around Georg Kreisel (1996) and Anita Burdman Feferman and Solomon Feferman’s scholarly biography Alfred Tarski: Life and Logic (2004).

    What’s nice (and unusual) about these two works is that they cover the romantic passions of Tarski and Kriesel in comparably thorough depth to their mathematical passions. E.g., in the Tarski biography we read:

    Whatever mischief and personal pain Kreisel may have caused by running off with his friend’s wife — and there was much — Mrs. Dyson, as he referred to her in public, acknowledged the “liberating effect” of the two years they were to live together. “For me,” she wrote, “it was a time for reflection and realignment that ultimately returned me to a self of deepened awarehess.” Although her relationship with Kreisel brought her emotional upheaval, it served to return her to mathematics and to a professional rather than a domestic life in the academic world.

    Tarski would have noticed Mrs. Dyson under any circumstances because of his eye for “girls,” especially one as alluring as Verena, but the fact that she wa§ Kreisel’s girl, Dyson’s wife, and a mathematician made it impossible for him to resist flirting, and indeed he made a flamboyant impression upon her. Almost as soon as they were introduced at the first reception, he recited, in German, the whole of Goethe’s “Heidenroslein,” a poem about a wild young man plucking a beautiful fresh rose even though the rose warns she will prick him and hence he will always think of her in sorrow and pain.

    Eyes gleaming, blushing, and obviously pleased with himself, Alfred told Verena that this, of all Schubert’s Lieder, was his favorite.

    Verena said, “I felt as if he were offering me a huge bouquet of flowers.” Four years later, when her affair with Kreisel had run its course and she was on her own in Berkeley, Tarski would recite the “Heidenroslein” and other poems to her again and again.

    Take notes, romantically challenged SSC readers! 🙂

    Especially commended are Verena Huber-Dyson’s memories of her long-ago affair with Kreisel in her essay “Thoughts on the Occasion of Georg Kreisel’s 70th Birthday”, and the broader social and mathematical context for the Dyson-Kreisel affair and the Dyson-Tarski flirtation that is provided by Anita Burdman Feferman’s essay “Kreisel on the Telephone: an Appreciation.”

    Another (related?) topic of perennial interest to SSC readers is the entangled relation between cognition, ratiocination, logic, and truth, with special reference to the potentialities and dangers of 21st century advances in AI. Here Piergiorgio Odifreddi’s essay “Kreisel’s Church”, with its many references, is an invaluable resource (the title punningly refers to the Church-Turing thesis and to Kriesel’s views upon it). The rich and still-developing history of the Church-Turing thesis, however, deserves its own long SSC comment! 🙂

    Can every SSC reader reasonably aspire to combine creative, passionate, ratiocinative capacities in the style of Tarski and Kreisel? An action-oriented approach to learning may be best … begin like Tarski, by memorizing and practicing, and then (upon a propitiously flirtative occasion) reciting Goethe’s “Heidenroslein”.

    References follow — happy thinking and romancing! 🙂

    • Erasmus Kradle says:

      @book{cite-key, Address = {Cambridge, UK}, Author =
      {Feferman, Solomon and Feferman, Anita Burdman}, Publisher =
      {Cambridge, UK}, Title = {Alfred {T}arski: Life and Logic}, Year
      = {2004}}

      @incollection{cite-key, Author = {Anita Burdman Feferman},
      Booktitle = {Kreiseliana: about and around {G}eorg {K}reisel},
      Editor = {Odifreddi, Piergiorgio}, Pages = {43--49}, Publisher =
      {A.K. Peters}, Title = {Kreisel on the Telephone: an
      Appreciation}, Year = {1996}}

      @incollection{cite-key, Author = {Verena Huber-Dyson}, Booktitle
      = {Kreiseliana: about and around {G}eorg {K}reisel}, Editor =
      {Odifreddi, Piergiorgio}, Pages = {51--73}, Publisher = {A.K.
      Peters}, Title = {Thoughts on the Occasion of {G}eorg Kreisel's
      70th Birthday}, Year = {1996}}

      @incollection{cite-key, Author = {Odifreddi, Piergiorgio},
      Booktitle = {Kreiseliana: about and around {G}eorg {K}reisel},
      Editor = {Odifreddi, Piergiorgio}, Pages = {389--415}, Publisher
      = {A.K. Peters}, Title = {Kreisel's Church}, Year =
      {1996}}

  14. kleind305 says:

    Part II of my blog series “On Secession” got a fair bit of discussion on a previous open thread.

    We are now onto Part IV.

    (Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV)

    • I haven’t noticed this series before, but I have read all four parts now. Why is this called “On Secession?” I thought you were going to talk about whether secession was justified or something. Are you actually going somewhere, or is this just general impressions about crime?

      Part IV was mostly about Sheriff Clarke. This is the first I’ve heard about this guy, so I don’t know if your strong negative portrayal of him is reasonable or not. It is interesting that you portray him as rather racist and unfair to Blacks, and it took me looking him up on the Internet to discover that Clarke himself is Black. Not that a Black guy can’t be racist against his own race, but I would have thought that warranted at least a mention by you.

      On a national basis, I do think that the strong push by activists like BLM to fight against cops shooting Blacks as a racial thing instead of a police thing is an irrational and ineffective approach. When cops shoot White people it is treated as business as usual, but is an outrage whenever a Black person is shot. Even though Whites are shot more often than Blacks. I think I even read somewhere that shooting of Blacks as percentage of stops by police is lower than those of Whites (yes, Blacks are stopped more often, but that is a whole other issue). I believe I also read somewhere that Blacks shooting of cops is a higher proportion of the total than that of cops shooting Blacks.

      Even more, it seems that working on the protocols that cops use when dealing with civilians to better de-escalate violence and potential violence is a much better method of lowering cops shooting people than trying to decrease the supposed racism of cops. I am trying to envision how anti-racism training would ensue. Would the trainer tell the cops that Blacks are no more likely to shoot them than Whites, which every cop knows is a lie? I am not sure if shootings can be decreased by better training, but it’s got to be more effective than trying to eliminate racism.

      I do agree that the warrior theme for cops, such as what Gorssman preaches, is a bad trend. And yes, Yanez did take that training, but it is a huge jump to say that caused him to shoot. By the way, why are you so sure that the jury was wrong to acquit Yanez? It seems that they thought it was not beyond a reasonable doubt that Yanez thought Castile was reaching for a gun before he shot. I wasn’t present in the courtroom, but I can see that might be a reasonable conclusion.

      • abc says:

        On a national basis, I do think that the strong push by activists like BLM to fight against cops shooting Blacks as a racial thing instead of a police thing is an irrational and ineffective approach.

        The fact that their “poster boy” cases tend to be based on lies and involve things like a black who has just held up a convenience store going for the cop’s gun before being shot, really doesn’t help.

        (yes, Blacks are stopped more often, but that is a whole other issue)

        Specifically, that blacks are more likely to commit crimes.

  15. vV_Vv says:

    1. A study on mathematical ability is looking for people with degrees in math, physics, statistics, etc to register and do some brief online tests for them. They asked me to pass the word along. If you’re interested, go to the Genetics Of Mathematical Ability And Autism research site.

    Won’t the results be hopelessly confounded by sampling bias? I mean, it’s an internet survey, advertised in places like this, with 7x autism incidence 2.5 stds IQ compared to the population.

  16. onyomi says:

    Related to this book I’ve recommended before: why don’t more doctors (and indeed people) think of obesity as equivalent to “food addiction”?

    “But you can quit cigarettes, alcohol, etc.; you can’t quit eating!” You might protest. Yes, but you can quit eating addictive food processed to increase the dopamine hit you get through the addition of salt, sugar, oil, and processes like frying, drying, etc. which increase caloric density.

    “I eat salt, sugar, oil, and french fries and I’m not fat or suffering heart disease!” some will say. Okay. Some people can drink and not become alcoholics. But overwhelmingly it seems alcoholics don’t do well with the advice, “drink less.” They have to quit because, for whatever reason, they are unable to use the substance in moderation.

    So our first advice to people looking to lose weight is, and probably should be: “get more exercise; try eating more fruits and vegetables; try cutting out refined sugars,” etc. etc. But for people who are really obese, why isn’t the advice just “stop eating all these addictive types of foods”?

    I mean, maybe it is? But I feel like it isn’t put so draconianly. Even for very obese people, instead of telling them to stop eating the addictive stuff, they may simply be told to try counting calories, reduce portion size, etc. But isn’t this equivalent to telling an alcoholic to start keeping a careful log of his drinking? To drink with smaller cups? It might help, but probably not.

    Which is not to say it’s easy to give up addictive foods. I haven’t. But I’m also not overweight. However, it’s a fair amount of effort for me to stay that way, and includes exercise, periodic fasting, trying to eat more of the low-density foods and less of the high, etc. etc. But I was also never really, really obese.

    Anyway, I don’t mean this to sound preachy, or like “I’m the one with the one, true weight loss holy grail solution,” I’m just suggesting that it seems to me like overeating is wholly analogous to addiction and I’m not sure why it isn’t treated a bit more that way, medically and socially.

    My guess is that it’s because cooking and eating together is so universal and socially acceptable, whereas people are okay with looking down on smoking and drinking as problematic, even sinful (I once heard an older Hispanic lady tell a smoker, “you shouldn’t do that… God doesn’t like it…”). And, since everyone has to eat something, though they don’t have to smoke, it’s easy to lump eating healthy food and unhealthy food all under the same activity heading: “eating.”

    But… I’m not saying we should make chicken nuggets immoral, but maybe it’s possible, without demonizing cooking and high calorie foods to also be more aware of their addictive nature, and how many can’t handle them responsibly? I think it’s like, if you’re one of the people who can handle your vodka responsibly (or can’t, but drinks it anyway), you don’t enjoy drinking with the AA evangelist who makes you feel bad about it (holier-than-thou, we might call it… geez why is the connection between temperance/indulgence and virtue/sin so strong??)

    Related, if we could more generally decouple the, imo, not really logical connection between addiction and moral failing, we’d probably end up with better drug policies.

    • vV_Vv says:

      But… I’m not saying we should make chicken nuggets immoral

      Why not? It worked for smoking.

    • andrewflicker says:

      My understanding is that a big part of gastric bypass surgery’s benefit (when it works) is that it imposes a draconian diet post-surgery.

  17. SamGamgee says:

    What do you think of this anti-CFAR screed?

    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=6787

    This one is a bit more measured and makes a prima facie reasonable point: there is not much evidence that CFAR/Less Wrong techniques actually work.

    http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=6789

    • Bugmaster says:

      there is not much evidence that CFAR/Less Wrong techniques actually work.

      Is that surprising ? Virtually none of the other self-help motivational programs work, why should CFAR be any different ?

      As regarding his first article, which consists of one giant (and somewhat inflammatory) comment, I think he’s wrong in one respect. He attributes the failure of the Berkeley Rationalist community to “what happens if you take a bunch of socially inept, above average intelligence, and mentally ill people and have them try to do stuff together”. However, I personally would expect that failure mode from any community who made a concerted effort to build an insular enclave, gated by the participants’ strict adherence to some very specific set of ideological norms. It doesn’t matter what the norms are, the result is usually the same.

      • Is that surprising ? Virtually none of the other self-help motivational programs work, why should CFAR be any different ?/blockquote>

        They are not claiming to have a standard self-help product.

        • Bugmaster says:

          No self-help product claims to be standard. They all claim to be special, unique, and powerful — unlike all those other garbage self-help products.

    • The second one seems on the mark. They are not good at evaluating their own products by their own epistemic standards.

  18. Mark says:

    Continuing from here:
    https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/28/open-thread-78-75/#comment-517430

    @genisage

    If we consider that a line which consists of points does not share points with a line consisting of no points, and is therefore parallel to such a line, then axiom two will always be broken, for all lines.

    So I think we have to assume that a line cannot consist of no points?

    • Anatoly says:

      If a line A has no points, then for any point X, any line passing through X will be parallel to A, because they have no point lies on both this line and A. Since axiom 2 demands there be only one such line, it follows that any point X lies on only one line. This by itself is not a contradiction, it only becomes one when you add axioms 3 and 1. Axiom 3 gives you three points, axiom 1 lets you construct three lines with them, axiom 3 again guarantees that these lines are all distinct, and *then* you have a contradiction, looking at two distinct lines passing through one point. This is essentially part of @genisage’s proof.

  19. Yug Gnirob says:

    I’ve been thinking a path to de-polarizing the country would be getting people out of their hometowns and into other people’s hometowns for a while. Combined with various calls that farmers can’t get Americans to work their fields, it got me thinking about some kind of Agricultural Draft, where all the youth get rounded up to grow crops in other states for a few years.

    So: what are the practical, economic and legal problems of implementing a non-military draft?

    • James Miller says:

      What’s the punishment for the youth who refuse to comply?

      • Yug Gnirob says:

        Don’t know. Maybe a general work license dependent on completion.

        • James Miller says:

          This would backfire as it would give an excuse for able-bodied young people to be on government assistance their entire lives. Don’t support a law you are not willing to put people in jail for violating.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This would backfire as it would give an excuse for able-bodied young people to be on government assistance their entire lives. Don’t support a law you are not willing to put people in jail for violating.

            I’m pretty sure the standard way you play this game is that the refusenik is denied not only a work license, professional license, drivers license, eligibility for university, ID valid for getting on a plane or entering a government building, etc, but also any entitlement to any sort of government assistance as well. Oh, does this mean they starve to death? Not our problem, tovarisch, perhaps they should have followed directions.

    • WashedOut says:

      This idea assumes that polarisation is related to time spent in geographical location. I find this to be a weak candidate for explanation.

      Legally, perhaps the least-bitter pill to swallow would be implementing it as part of a “work for welfare” scheme, where unemployed youth get sent to the farm and govt pays
      the kid welfare and the farmer gets compensated for housing and food.

      Practically – I think a lot of young men would rather spend a fixed term compulsory military service than go work on a farm.

      • Jacob says:

        This sounds a lot like Americorps. If nothing else it could be added to the Americorps repertoire. Might be a tough sell since farms are for-profit operations.

    • Bugmaster says:

      The “agricultural draft” idea was (and perhaps still is, I don’t know) implemented in the Soviet Union, as well as in Nazi Germany. I’m more familiar with the Soviet version.

      The official party line was that the effete young intellectuals need to get their hands dirty with the noble and proud work of the actual heroes of the Revolution — the heroes being peasants, and the work being agriculture; specifically, the harvest. This process was known as (rough translation) “going potatoing”, since the harvest often involved potatoes. The reality was somewhat more complex: firstly, the Soviet Union simply didn’t have enough manpower to collect the harvest (which requires significantly more work than growing the crops), due to virtually nonexistent industrialization; secondly, harvest time coincided with a string of national holidays, which means that the usual peasant manpower would’ve been right in the middle of their annual binge-drinking by the time the crops ripened.

      Punishment for shirking your mandatory patriotic duty was typically Soviet; it ranged from being denied entry into the Party, to jail time, to expulsion from university, to being sent to the concentration camps outright. Note that I rank “expulsion from university” as being worse than “jail time”; the reason for this is that university enrollment was the only thing that would keep you from being drafted into the Soviet Army — which was really no better than a concentration camp.

      The effectiveness of “potatoing” was… about what you’d expect from a mandatory draft instituted by a brutal dictatorship. As far as I’m aware, the practice of sleeping in unheated wooden barracks in subzero weather, and pulling up crops with your bare hands for several weeks in a row, never made any of those effete intellectuals wiser, kinder, or more patriotic. A large portion (in fact, the majority) of the crop was lost year after year, no matter how much untrained slave labor the Soviet Union threw at it.

      EDIT: Yep, looks like the practice is alive and well even today.

      • As far as I’m aware, the practice of sleeping in unheated wooden barracks in subzero weather, and pulling up crops with your bare hands for several weeks in a row, never made any of those effete intellectuals wiser, kinder, or more patriotic.

        I really doubt there was a lot of harvesting done in subzero weather (I don’t know if you are measuring in C or F, but true in both). But other than your exaggeration, I agree with your point. I have also heard much about the Chinese sending out urban workers to the farm for “political education,” I think really they meant punishment for not saying the right things. This was probably a major component of why China maintained its backwardness through its Mao period, despite its obvious potential since his death. Farming may seem romantic to urbanites who don’t do it, but the history suggests that sending city people out to farm is extremely non-productive.

        • Mary says:

          I think Chinese “political education” was a little more broadly based that punishment would explain.

          I did read an account of one woman about how her group would rush through the mandatory parts to get to the unofficial parts where they treated people for illness and injury, because they were all medically trained.

        • I think sending urban youth out to the villages was in part a solution to the problem of urban unemployment, since they knew that unemployment was a problem of capitalist societies, not socialist societies.

        • Machina ex Deus says:

          …history suggests that sending city people out to farm is extremely non-productive.

          What are you talking about? City folk have just as much nitrogen in their corpses as country folk, making them excellent fertilizer.

    • DeWitt says:

      Why did you specify non-military?

      • Yug Gnirob says:

        Military drafts are currently legal, and the military features harsher conditions and more life-and-death activities than I’m thinking of. I don’t like the idea of mandatory boot camp or mandatory time in hostile countries, and I’m wondering if the current government has the authority to issue a draft for non-war activities or if that’s exclusive to the military.

    • Matt M says:

      Yeah, I feel like having a bunch of cops point guns at you and load you onto a bus where they truck you off to some farm to do menial labor for years (instead of doing some much more productive thing you imagined yourself doing instead) would not exactly endear you to the farmer and their culture very much.

      If we rounded up Palestinian children and forced them to work in Israeli office buildings (paying them a nominal salary, of course, we’re not slavers here!) do you think this would help or harm relations in the middle east?

      I feel like this thing only has a chance of working if it’s totally voluntarily. Perhaps you subsidize or incentivize it in some way (a very far-left friend of mine did Teach for America and ended up in a very rural community and claims it expanded his outlook and is now much more sympathetic to the white working class), but you definitely can’t force it.

      • Yug Gnirob says:

        Assuming Israel and Palestine are a good analogue, the goal would be to get Israeli children doing something in Palestinian businesses as well. Probably still wouldn’t work but I think it would have a chance unless someone attacked the children.

        • Matt M says:

          Having the state take them away by force and hand them over to a bunch of people whom you don’t trust and whose culture you despise doesn’t count as an attack?

          • bintchaos says:

            Sounds a lot like the Indian schools founded in US and Canada.
            Would these kids get force-educated into Judaism too?

          • Yug Gnirob says:

            My idea was primarily getting people to move through various parts of the country and getting a feel for local issues. Agriculture’s the first thing that occurs to me as a low-skill non-dangerous national benefit that happens all over the place.

            I can’t think of a mutual benefit for Israel/Palestine, partly because starting something like that would require they recognize the other as a state with legitimate and mutual interests. US states have common ground to work with.

            (Do US youth despise farm owners? If they do, that seems like something that should be addressed.)

          • Matt M says:

            The youth may not but the parents very well might.

            Or, to be more specific, they don’t despise “farm owners” but they may very well despise “Trump voters” and hey, guess what…

          • Yug Gnirob says:

            If the problem is farm owners being Trump voters, is there a Hillary voters equivalent occupation?

          • hlynkacg says:

            is there a Hillary voters equivalent occupation?

            College Professor?

          • Matt M says:

            Sure. The parents of farm kids probably wouldn’t be thrilled about their kids being taken to the bay area to work for Facebook either. Especially if the kid, you know, would himself to prefer to stay on the farm.

          • bintchaos says:

            I dont understand this line of discussion at all.
            Would youth enjoy working on a layer factory farm or a high production wheat or orchard farm? Mostly working with machines.
            There just aren’t many small farmers out there anymore– agriculture is big business and any picking that isn’t automated is manned by migrant workers– what youth core is going to want to pick strawberries? Its back-breaking low status work.
            You are trying to to recover a culture that is dying.
            Time travel to the past is impossible because of closed form time curves.
            Conservatives/libertarians keep trying to go to the past.
            We can only travel to the future.
            Organisms must adapt or go extinct.

          • Yug Gnirob says:

            I dont understand this line of discussion at all.

            Not surprising; it’s based on half a dozen top-of-the-head questions getting smashed together and thrown haphazardly into a roomful of analysts.

            I think all the questions have been answered now. Rousing success!

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Actually, Bint, it depends on which agricultural sector you’re looking at.

            For livestock, yeah, about 99% come from “factory” operations (though even there not all of them are agribusiness-owned). For fruits, vegetables, and dairy however that drops to about 66%.

            However, since 88% of all farms in the US are small family-owned ones, and since 58% of all direct farm sales to consumers comes those small farms (‘small’ defined as gross cash income of <$350K), it's simply not true to say that they don't exist anymore.

            Source: 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture Typology Report.

            Mind you, that doesn’t make this whole wacky re-education through cross-tribal labor thing any less of a horrible and impractical idea, but it’s always worth updating your perceptions to match reality.

            I didn’t realize just how much of the US was still small to mid-size family farms until I moved out to flyover country and started interacting with farm families.

          • and since 58% of all direct farm sales to consumers comes those small farms

            That sounds like a statistic that greatly exaggerates the significance of small farms, since most agricultural output isn’t sold directly to consumers. Am I missing something?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @David Friedman

            Depends on what you’re looking at. I’m talking in Bintchaos’ terms, which was family farms no longer exist in any significant way. I’m not disputing that they no longer account for the majority of agricultural output, just that they are

            A) still extant and far more numerous than many people, her included, seem to think, and

            B) still comprise more of the business sector than than expected, albeit not nearly as much as they used to.

            If you want to look at it in terms of overall output, Small Family Owned (Gross Cash Farm Income <350K) and Midsize Family Owned ($350K-<$1M) account for 24.2% and 22.8% of production respectively. So, still a good-sized chunk of production, and still the vast majority of the 2.1 million extant farms in operation as of the last census.

            As I conceded initially, this is very uneven, with certain sub-sectors like Livestock production dominated all but exclusively by the small number of large family-owned and non-family owned farms.

          • Brad says:

            Interesting link.

            It looks like moderate sales farms ($150k to $350k) are making reasonably efficient use of their land – at 2.83 acres per $1000 annual revenue vs 2.27 for all farms. The rest of the small farm categories (low sales, part time farmers, retirement farms) are considerably worse.

            These low efficiency farms make up 38% of the total farm acreage in the US, but only 12% of the revenue.

          • bintchaos says:

            No, I just mean family farming has radically declined as an american way of life.
            You are still talking about less than 1% of the US population (small farmers) hosting/employing a large number of drafted farm-core youth.
            A horrible idea that is unworkable, and seems to depend (like all the ideas to force Cthulu to turn right I’ve seen surfaced here) on time travel back to the magical land of Conservative Brigadoon.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Bintchaos

            I agreed with you that it’s an unworkable idea, but your original claim wasn’t that it had radically declined. It was:

            There just aren’t many small farmers out there anymore– agriculture is big business

            which as I pointed out, is not actually true. As I said, even if I agree with your overall point, it is useful to update your individual map to better match the territory.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            You are still talking about less than 1% of the US population (small farmers) hosting/employing a large number of drafted farm-core youth.
            A horrible idea that is unworkable, and seems to depend (like all the ideas to force Cthulu to turn right I’ve seen surfaced here)

            To turn right? Did you totally miss the context? Forcing class enemies to labor on farms isn’t an idea with a right wing pedigree.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Trofim
            Splitting hairs over the definition of many?
            I mean many as in relative to 1950, the first time rural population of US dropped to less than 50% (43% in 1950).
            Less than 2% of citizens are farmers– 88% of those are small farmers.
            US Farmers declined from 23 million to between 2 and 3 million today(depending if secondary and tertiary operators are counted , or just primary operators.And yes, its an awful idea for a lot of other reasons.

          • random832 says:

            To turn right? Did you totally miss the context? Forcing class enemies to labor on farms isn’t an idea with a right wing pedigree.

            It may not be right-wing per se, but when your communist revolution relies heavily on the agricultural countryside as a substitute proletariat and is extremely anti-intellectual, there’s at least an argument for regarding it as (no pun intended) “red”.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @bintchaos

            Splitting hairs over the definition of many?

            No, distinguishing between two entirely separate and distinct statements. Even if I agree with your overall point and position, it’s worthwhile to differentiate:

            1)”There aren’t many small farmers anymore in the current market because the market is now filled with agribusiness-owned factory farms.”

            and

            2) “There aren’t many small farmers anymore relative to their numbers in 1950”

            Those are two entirely different claims, and while #2 may have been what you meant, it wasn’t what you said.

            Contrast how you reacted to my point, and how I reacted to David Friedman’s challenge to the information I provided.

          • bintchaos says:

            you’re right…I should have articulated that better before speaking…what I was really thinking about was what would the forced re-education camp youth farm workers be doing?
            I should have cited farm employment stats or land mass under cultivation, because automation has taken a lot of farm jobs– for example harvesting dwarf orchard stock with combines and ripening warehouses of combined fruit with plant auxins (fewer jobs for pickers). I wasn’t really thinking about relative numbers of small and large farms.
            And how many of those farms are self-sufficient? Where family members dont work outside of the farm?
            But again, the weaponized steelman defense. If I am wrong about one fact, then you can ignore the body of my argument.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            But again, the weaponized steelman defense. If I am wrong about one fact, then you can ignore the body of my argument.

            I’m not sure what would make you think that, since I said several times I agree with your underlying argument 🙂

    • The Nybbler says:

      So: what are the practical, economic and legal problems of implementing a non-military draft?

      The Thirteenth Amendment comes immediately to mind. The Supreme Court’s reasons for cravenly refusing to apply it to the military draft would not apply.

      • bintchaos says:

        This whole discussion reeks of the Cultural Revolution.
        That would solve the Red Tribes academe problem, except American youth are in the Blue Tribe for the most part.
        You need a revolution of youth, but the only youth on board in significant numbers are the Pepe-le-frogs of the al Trite.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This is a horrible idea on every level.

      The system you’re describing isn’t unique: it’s known in China as Láogǎi (reform through labor). Except your plan is somehow even worse, because that system was ‘only’ used for political prisoners while you’re talking about doing this to the entire population of young adults.

      This would almost certainly foster a sense of national unity, but it would be unity in opposition to the tyrannical government doing this to them. Which is somehow not what I imagine you had in mind.

    • rlms says:

      Various European countries with the military conscription have a civilian service as an alternative for conscientious objectors. According to this, 1/3 Austrian men choose the civilian option. I don’t think there are any terrible problems with the idea of national service (although it might be difficult to implement in the US since it actually uses its military, and hence probably needs to hold its members to higher standards than Austria) but I can’t see it being very beneficial. I don’t think European countries that have it are much better off than ones that don’t.

    • Urstoff says:

      Force labor is bad

    • R.G. says:

      If you’re thinking of forcing people to do things, why not start smaller and force them to have a reasonable media diet? Maybe ban on social media and tv and mandatory balancing of good but biased sources like NYT would be enough to mitigate the problem significantly.

  20. Kevin C. says:

    Razib Khan again argues the thesis (with reference to Bryan Ward-Perkins and Peter Heather) that the Fall of Rome was a rapid process, this time with analogies to our own situation.
    A bit which stood out to me:

    Ultimately though 476 was a coup de grace to the Western Empire. The Gothic wars tore apart the fabric of the Italian peninsula in the 6th century, and the substantive reality of the old empire faded away. There was no going back. Of course I’m well aware of the argument that the Roman world evolved, that it did not collapse. And Late Antiquity and its continuities with the Classical world, and how it bridged itself to the Medieval world, are fascinating. But I do not accept that the preservation of Roman motifs and ideals in the courts of barbarian German warlords is evidence that substantively nothing changed.

    Much of it depends on how you weight material vs. ideological parameters. The idea of Rome cast a shadow centuries beyond its substantive material integrity. After, the Byzantines called themselves Romans until the conquest of their city-stateless in 1453. But no matter the name, they were not Romans as the Romans were in 400 A.D.

    (Emphasis in original)

    • DeWitt says:

      Do we really count a century-long process as fast? Or 75 years, even?

      • Well... says:

        I would. That’s “within living memory” range.

        • DeWitt says:

          Doesn’t that make the fall of any empire a rather quick process?

          • Well... says:

            If an empire is around for hundreds and hundreds of years–potentially dozens of generations–a mere 3 or 4 generations seems fast, yes.

            I don’t know how fast the typical civilization falls; my assumption is that it’s a relatively slow process–debated while it’s going on, not readily apparent to all even after it’s over, etc.

          • DeWitt says:

            Ah, but I’m comparing it to the fall of other empires, not so much to its lifespan. And 75 years seems like a perfectly ordinary timespan for this kind of thing to happen.

            What do you count as the fall of an empire? Does it have to dissolve, or is conquest fair game, too? If the former, seventy-five years is a slow process moreso than a quick. If the latter, it’s purely a military matter.

            Consider the other empires of antiquity, the Achaemenid, Maurya, and Qin/Han empires. The Achaemenids went from being perfectly fine to Greek conquest in a period of ten years, after which it ended up being partitioned into many pieces, with no native Persian rule becoming reestablished for the next two centuries. Much faster than seventy-five years.

            The Maurya lasted for slightly longer, but the decline is usually noted as starting after Ashoka’s death, and took about fifty years or so. Again, not as long as it took for the western Roman Empire.

            The Han dissolved in a matter of about thirty years, though one could make a case for it also having been fifty or so.

            But really, what empire does take longer than seventy-five years to fall apart? You could argue that it took the Turks some centuries to conquer the Eastern Roman Empire, but do we equate being conquered to falling apart? What do we make of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, giving that 75 years is about its entire lifespan? Of Austria-Hungary going from being there to being gone by sheer treaty? Of the Brits being the dominant world power in 1910, and not even doing very well by European standards fifty years later?

            I suppose that on a level of ‘it lasted this long and things went sour this quickly’ you could call 75 years fast, but as compared to other empires, it doesn’t seem to hold up. Do you know of any examples where things went noticeably slower?

          • Well... says:

            You know what, I was mentally substituting the word “civilization” in for “empire” by mistake. You’re probably right.

          • DeWitt says:

            That’s very gracious of you. I can see how for many people it’d seem like a rapid change – and in an absolute sense, I suppose it might be. But relatively, as compared to other empires, it doesn’t seem especially unique.

    • I’d argue that all the disasters that the Romans suffered were recoverable until the Vandals conquered Africa, the breadbasket of the Western Empire, in 430. At that point the clock was ticking and Rome needed to get it back quickly to maintain its economy. They tried but the Huns distracted them. And some very unlucky winds in one sea battle.

    • Tarhalindur says:

      How does the old punchline go, in relation to how a man lost his money? “Slowly, then all at once”?

      But then, I wonder if a better term for the later years of the Roman Empire would be “senescence” – that is to say, that the later years of Western Roman Empire were driven by the national equivalent of old age, with the end of the Emperors (or some other event somewhere in the 450-550 range, but I’d lean towards 476 given my understanding of the Roman worldview) as the point when the Western Roman Empire died.

    • Carolus says:

      My own, probably idiosyncratic, view is that the Roman Empire didn’t fall until 1453. I think the Western half of the empire became unrecoverable after Justinian’s failed attempts at reconquest and the rise of Islamic Power (which definitely was sudden!) sapped the resources and attention of the Empire.

      As a side note I just visited Mission Santa Barbara and was amazed at how Roman it felt: Mission Santa Barbara

      • Eric Rall says:

        My view is that the term “Roman Empire” misleadingly conflates a long series of successor states, and that it’s the term’s equivocation between the various “Roman” states that is at the root of the debate over when the “Roman Empire” fell.

        The Principate was established by Octavian’s defeat of Marc Antony in 33 BC and fell with the stalemated civil wars following the assassination of Severus Alexander in 235 AD.

        The Dominate was established over the course of the 280s as Diocletian’s “Roman Empire” conquered the Principate’s other rival successor states and consolidated power over most of the Principate’s former territory.

        The Dominate declined gradually in the West over the course of the 400s, being replaced by the Gothic, Frankish, etc kingdoms which had originally been established as vassal states within its boundaries. The kingdoms gradually recognized less and less authority by the Dominate’s Western Emperors until Odoacer effectively abolished the office by forcing Romulus Augustus to abdicate in 476 with no successor.

        You could make the argument that the Dominate persisted in the East until 1453, but there are also arguments for institutional breaks in the early 600s and the early 1200s. The former is Maurice’s assassination in 602, the near-complete collapse in the face of the Sasanian invasion, and the reestablishment of Constantinople’s authority by Heraclius which came with significant institutional changes: abandoning Latin as the official language of government in favor of Greek, switching the Imperial title from “Dominus” (“Lord” in Latin) to “Basileus” (“King” in Greek), and possibly establishing the Theme system (although more recent scholarship appears to attribute this to Heraclius’s grandson instead).

        The latter is the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, leaving the Crusader-established Latin Empire and three separate Greek successor states (the Despotate of Epirus, the Empire of Nicaea, and the Empire of Trebizond). Nicaea conquered the Latin Empire in 1261 and more-or-less re-established pre-Fourth-Crusade institutions and ruled a rump “Roman Empire” from Constantinople until 1453.

        If you buy both episodes as institutional breaks, I suppose that gives you the Dominate through 602-ish, the First Byzantine Empire through 1204, and the Second Byzantine Empire through 1453.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          “Roman Empire” is a really strong brand. So in some sense it’s true that it was a lot of qualitatively distinct states, but in another not, because of shared culture and branding becoming a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          Ottoman Sultans used the Roman Empire branding themselves, in fact.

          • random832 says:

            Ottoman Sultans used the Roman Empire branding themselves, in fact.

            Okay, so if we buy that, when did the Roman Empire fall?

            Is modern Turkey the Roman Empire?

          • Matt M says:

            Didn’t Hitler claim continuity of reign from Charlemagne? (who was crowned Roman Emperor I do believe…)

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            So did Caesars (Czars) of Moscow, claiming relation to Byzantium, further connected via the tradition of Orthodox Christian belief.

            As far as I know, Putin does not use that style.

        • Carolus says:

          i think your breakdown is very reasonable – I probably would have agreed with you strongly a few years ago. However, I do think their is a cultural thread that connects all those states that allows one to consider them one empire with many different governmental sub-units, similar to the dynasties of Chinese History. For one aspect of that continuity I’d recommend “The Byzantine Republic” by Anthony Kaldellis. His thesis is that republican norms never left the Roman Empire and in some respects grew stronger during its Byzantine phase. Any would-be emperor needed the peoples’ support to obtain power and Justinian was unique in his use of violence against the citizens of Byzantium. Anyway, I’d highly recommend it if you have the time.

  21. Anatoly says:

    I’ve been thinking about the autism spectrum a lot recently. Why is it a spectrum? What are the epistemological criteria to unite some types or symptoms into a spectrum, while distinguish some others as separate disorders, illnesses, problems?

    It seems that with a spectrum we should expect severity of different symptoms to vary considerably, with many actual cases at different levels of the symptoms. But when we think about or speak with people on the autistic spectrum, the distribution seems to be [I don’t have hard data here and welcome challenges] bimodal. There’s “classic autism”, also called simply “autistic disorder” clinically (not to be confused with the broader diagnosis of ASD), or “low-functioning” colloquially. Scott’s post Against Against Autism Cures describes typical cases and symptoms eloquently. And there’s “high-functioning autism”, in which people have problems with language and/or social communications, but are generally able to function independently, do not have extremely violent outbreaks, do not exhibit extremely repetitious and fanatically rigid patterns of behavior, etc. The Asperger Syndrome, earlier a separate diagnosis that emphasized problems with social communications but not language, has been folded into the autistic spectrum with the recent revision of the DSM (DSM-5).

    Why are high-functioning autistics considered to be on the same “spectrum” with the “classic autistics”? Is there in fact a large percentage of “mid-functioning autistics”, who for example have average or above average IQ but are still prone to extremely violent outbreaks and self-injury? At least anecdotally, this doesn’t seem to be so. Classic autism seems to be sharply defined and easy to diagnose with very high accuracy at age 3+. What if classic autism and HFA have completely different underlying causes?

    I found much food for thought in a book I read recently, Late-Talking Children: A Symptom or a Stage? by Stephen Camarata, who appears to be a completely mainstream and respected researcher in development disorders (he’s a professor at Vanderbilt with lots of hits on PubMed). Camarata’s focus in the book is on speech delay of all kinds, not specifically ASD, but he talks at length about how children who are late to develop speech are very often diagnosed with ASD based almost solely on this criterion, which he considers scientifically wrong though pragmatically understandable (in many places an ASD diagnosis “unlocks” resources to help to the child that will likely be of value whether they’re “really” autistic or not). Camarata seems to think that a broader diagnosis “on the spectrum” (what in clinical terms would be either PDD-NOS or Asperger’s in the previous DSM-4 classification, or non-severe ASD in the current DSM-5 one) is quite often an overdiagnosis, due to lax criteria, of a language delay that’s likely to pass, or problems with social communication (what we like to call “socially awkward nerds”). If such overdiagnosis is common, that would go a long way to explaining the rising prevalence of ASD as a whole (“1 in 68” in recent estimates).

    By way of analogy, Camarata offers: “Imagine the problems that would be created if a child could be diagnosed as being “on the blindness spectrum.” This “spectrum” could cover everything from not being able to see at all to simply needing glasses or even slight myopia. Imagine the needless alarm that could be spread among parents when they heard such a dire diagnosis. Imagine the vast sums of money that could be drained away from helping genuinely blind people to be spent on a vastly larger number of other people, whose only problem is that they need glasses. Also imagine the latitude that a concept like “on the blindness spectrum” would provide for a clinician who made that diagnosis for a child who later turned out to have 20/20 vision with glasses.” The newest edition of the DSM offers, in addition to ASD, categories of “Language disorder” (including both receptive and expressive language, i.e. understanding and speech) and “Social communications disorder”. Camarata seems to think that many if not most cases currently diagnosed as ASD but not the severe subtype (not “classic autism”) should in fact be diagnosed as Social Communications Disorder, Language Disorder, or even language delay that doesn’t rise to a disorder.

    In a more recent article by Camarata I read today (it’s on sci-hub), he offers a different, more detailed analogy with the “diabetes spectrum”, which includes pre-diabetic people, as well as type-I and type-II diabetics. The parallel is between “classic autism” and type-I diabetes (that requires insulin injections, and for which diet and exercise are not reliably useful interventions). If we couldn’t measure blood glucose levels, and lacked understanding of what insulin’s role is, then our very broad diagnosis “on the diabetes spectrum” based on symptoms like obesity, fatigue, thirst, etc. will lump together very different conditions which have different underlying causes and for which different interventions are needed/will work.

    “I hypothesize that, as in the diabetes spectrum example, classic autism has an altogether different mechanism from a biomedical perspective than the broader autism spectrum, and that current researchers are in precisely the same situation as physicianscientists more than 100 years ago before Banting, Best, Collip, Campbell, and Fletcher (1922) discovered that a digestive hormone, insulin, secreted by the pancreas is an effective treatment for classic, type I diabetes. Ironically, the broader diabetes spectrum was born when Himsworth discovered (in 1935) that there were diabetic patients who were not responsive to insulin treatment. These type II (insulin resistant) patients now form the overwhelming majority of diabetic patients in the US.”

    Camarata’s book resonated strongly with some of my own thoughts and experiences, and basically convinced me to see the autism spectrum as a dubious construct. Would love to see more opinions about this, including counterarguments and links to contrary data/opinions.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      I don’t think the claim about diabetes is historically accurate. Wikipedia says that the two types of diabetes were distinguished 1500 years ago. It’s pretty simple, not just because of the association with age, but because of the course of the disease: young people with diabetes die in just a few years.

      On the other hand, the several sources I find making this claim say that it was achieved by Sushruta and Charaka c500AD. But that date is way off. Sushruta lived more like 500BC. But he is clearly talking about type II and not, I think, aware of type I. Charaka definitely lived BC, but with a big range of uncertainty. Here Charaka distinguishes two types of honey-urine, though I can’t tell if it is our modern distinction.

      Maybe 500AD is the date of the earliest surviving manuscript, but if you don’t trust the integrity of the manuscript, you should attribute the result to the manuscript, not the person.

      • US says:

        I recall that Robert Tattersall talked extensively about the history of the disease also pre-insulin in his brilliant book Diabetes: The Biography, but unfortunately I can’t justify taking out the time to hunt down a quote. But it is certainly true that the fact that different types of diabetes existed was known long before the discovery of insulin; I think Tattersall actually mentioned in his coverage that medical textbooks during the 19th century didn’t devote time to the young people who contracted the disease because those were hopeless cases anyway (that is, they were described as hopeless cases in the textbooks…), and they all died anyway, no matter how you treated them. An important early character to mention in that context is Oskar Minkowski, who discovered in 1889 that if you removed the pancreas in dogs they developed (what we would now recognize as type 1) diabetes.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Tattersall writes:

          From the middle of the nineteenth century many physicians believed that there were two distinct types of diabetes. That which has just been described in young people with an acute onset and bad outcome the French physician Étienne Lancereaux (1829–1910) called diabète maigre (thin diabetes). By contrast, the diabetes of middle-aged overweight people, diabète gras (fat diabetes), came on gradually and was relatively indolent, so that sufferers could live with it for many years. Rollo’s patient Captain Meredith, for example, survived for fifteen years. People with diabète gras did not fall into coma but were subject to complications affecting the eyes, kidneys, and nerves.

          While this contradicts Camarata, it also seems to reject the common claim that it is easy to distinguish them. Maybe some ancients did, but the knowledge seems to have been lost.

          I think at least one ancient writer also distinguished between thin and fat, but it was not clear to me that he was talking about type I vs II, rather than advanced vs early type II. If he mentioned age, it would have been clear. (Avicenna distinguished hot and cold diabetes. Both involved weight loss, but hot emaciation.)

          • US says:

            “it also seems to reject the common claim that it is easy to distinguish them.”

            I’m not sure I follow? Young/acute/thin -> bad outcomes (‘bad type’), ‘fat diabetes’ -> gradual onset and mild course (‘good type’). That would make the conditions easy rather than hard to distinguish, no? …and match the wikipedia distinction you mention above.

          • US says:

            One thing worth keeping in mind when evaluating pre-modern medicine characterizations of diabetes and the natural history of diabetes is incidentally that especially to the extent that one is interested in type 1 survivorship bias is a major problem lurking in the background. Prognostic estimates of untreated type 1 based on historical accounts of how long people could live with the disease before insulin are not in my opinion likely to be all that reliable, because the type of patients that would be recognized as (type 1) diabetics back then would tend to mainly be people who had the milder forms, because they were the only ones who lived long enough to reach a ‘doctor’; and the longer they lived, and the milder the sub-type, the more likely they were to be studied/’diagnosed’. I was a 2-year old boy who got unwell on a Tueday and was hospitalized three days later. Avicenna would have been unlikely to have encountered me, I’d have died before he saw me. (Similar lines of reasoning might lead to an argument that the incidence of diseases like type 1 diabetes may also today be underdiagnosed in developing countries with poorly developed health care systems.)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It’s easy for us to say that young/thin/acute is a cluster that is easy to distinguish, but we have the benefit of hindsight. Was it actually easy? Well, did they do it? They definitely did it before insulin, but maybe only a century before insulin. If Avicenna told them about two clusters and they couldn’t figure out what he was talking about, that suggests that it wasn’t that easy.

            Everyone says that Aretaeus was talking about type I. If that is true, the survival bias wasn’t that bad. There may well be an opposite bias, where doctors get reports of acute illness. Indeed, Galen describes diabetes despite only witnessing it twice. I think neither Aretaeus nor Galen reports the sweetness of the urine.

          • US says:

            Right, thanks for clarifying and adding additional details, that makes sense.

            One thing I was considering adding to my remarks about survivorship bias is that it is not in my opinion unlikely that what you might term the nature of the disease has changed over the centuries; indeed it might still be changing today. Globally the incidence of type 1 has been increasing for decades and nobody seems to know why, though there’s consensus about an environmental trigger playing a major role. Maybe incidence is not the only thing that’s changed, maybe e.g. the time course of the ‘average case’ has also changed? Maybe due to secondary factors; better nutritional status now equals slower progression of beta cell failure than was the case in the past? Or perhaps the other way around: Less exposure to bacterial agents the immune system throughout evolutionary time has been used to having to deal with today means that the autoimmune process is accelerated today, compared to in the far past where standards of hygiene were different. Who knows? I don’t, and I know a lot about diabetes research. Maybe survivorship bias wasn’t that big of a deal, but I think one should be very cautious about which assumptions one might implicitly be making along the way when addressing questions of this sort of nature. Some relevant questions will definitely be unknowable due to lack of good data which we will never be able to obtain.

            Once you had me thinking that it might have been harder to distinguish the two than we might think it is today, I started wondering about this, and the comments below relate to this topic. An idea that came to mind in relation to the type 1/type 2 distinction and the ability of people in the past to make this distinction: I’ve worked on various identification problems present in the diabetes context before, and I know that people even today make misdiagnoses and e.g. categorize type 1 diabetics as type 2. I asked a diabetes nurse working in the local endocrinology unit about this at one point, and she told me they had actually had a patient not long before then who had been admitted a short while after having been diagnosed with type 2. Turned out he was type 1, so the treatment failed. Misdiagnoses happen for multiple reasons, one is that obese people also sometimes develop type 1, and if it’s an acute onset setting the weight loss is not likely to be very significant. Patient history should in such a case provide the doctor with the necessary clues, but if the guy making the diagnosis is a stressed out GP who’s currently treating a lot of obese patients for type 2, mistakes happen. ‘Pre-scientific method’ this sort of individual would have been inconvenient to encounter, because a ‘counter-example’ like that supposedly demonstrating that the obese/thin(/young/old, acute/protracted…) distinction was ‘invalid’ might have held a lot more weight than it hopefully would today in the age of statistical analysis. A similar problem would be some of the end-stage individuals: A type 1 pre-insulin would be unlikely to live long enough to develop long term complications of the disease, but would instead die of DKA. The problem is that some untreated type 2 patients also die of DKA, though the degree of ketosis varies in type 2 patients. DKA in type 2 could e.g. be triggered by a superimposed cardiovascular event or an infection, increasing metabolic demands to an extent that can no longer be met by the organism, and so might well present just as acutely as it would in a classic acute-onset type 1 case. Assume the opposite bias you mention is playing a role; the ‘doctor’ in the past is more likely to see the patients in such a life-threatening setting than in the earlier stages. He observes a 55 year old fat guy dying in a very similar manner to the way a 12 year old girl died a few months back – very characteristic symptoms, breath smells fruity, Kussmaul respiration, polyuria and polydipsia…). What does he conclude? Are these different diseases?

            A small sidenote: The observation you make about the benefits of hindsight reminded me of one of the things I really enjoyed about reading Tattersall’s book; namely that he makes it clear to you as a modern reader how many things we do take for granted when discussing/analyzing diabetes today. He spends a lot of time on the history of the disease throughout the book and the coverage makes it clear that a lot of things which are totally obvious today were not at all obvious to people living in the past, and he goes into some detail in terms of explaining why these things were not obvious.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wouldn’t reduced selection pressure be a major reason for increase of Type I diabetes? Used to be if you had it, chance of surviving to reproduce was close to nil.

          • US says:

            @Nybbler:

            I’m not a geneticist and this is sort-of-kind-of near the boundary area of where I feel comfortable providing answers (given that others may be more qualified to evaluate questions like this than I am). However a few observations which might be relevant are the following:

            i) Although I’ll later go on to say that vertical transmission is low, I first have to point out that some people who developed type 1 diabetes in the past did in fact have offspring, though there’s no doubt about the condition being fitness-reducing to a very large degree. The median age of diagnosis of type 1 is somewhere in the teenage years (…today. Was it the same way 1000 years ago, or has the age profile changed over time? This again relates to questions asked elsewhere in this discussion…), but people above the age of 30 get type 1 too.

            ii) Although type 1 display some level of familiar clustering, most cases of type 1 are not the result of diabetics having had children who then proceed to inherit their parents’ disease. To the extent that reduced selection is a driver of increased incidence, the main cause would be broad selection effects pertaining to immune system functioning in general in the total population at risk (i.e. children in general, including many children with what might be termed suboptimal immune system functioning, being more likely to survive and later develop type 1 diabetes), not effects derived from vertical transmission of the disease (from parent to child). Roughly 90% of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetics in population studies have a negative family history of the disease, and on average only 2% of the children of type 1 diabetic mothers, and 5% of the children of type 1 diabetic fathers, go on to develop type 1 diabetes themselves.

            iii) Historically vertical transmission has even in modern times been low. On top of the quite low transmission rates mentioned above, until well into the 80es or 90es many type 1 diabetic females were explicitly advised by their medical care providers not to have children, not because of the genetic risk of disease transmission but because pregnancy outcomes were likely to be poor; and many of those who disregarded the advice gave birth to offspring who were at a severe fitness disadvantage from the start. Poorly controlled diabetes during pregnancy leads to a very high risk of birth defects and/or miscarriage, and may pose health risks to the mother as well through e.g. an increased risk of preeclampsia (relevant link). It is only very recently that we’ve developed the knowledge and medical technology required to make pregnancy a reasonably safe option for female diabetics. You still had some diabetic females who gave birth before developing diabetes, like in the far past, and the situation was different for males, but either way I feel reasonably confident claiming that if you look for genetic causes of increasing incidence, vertical transmission should not be the main factor to consider.

            iv) You need to be careful when evaluating questions like these to keep a distinction between questions relating to drivers of incidence and questions relating to drivers of prevalence at the back of your mind. These two sets of questions are not equivalent.

            v) If people are interested to know more about the potential causes of increased incidence of type 1 diabetes, here’s a relevant review paper.

          • US says:

            @Nybbler:

            A few additional remarks.

            i) “Temporal trends in chronic disease incidence rates are almost certainly environmentally induced. If one observes a 50% increase in the incidence of a disorder over 20 yr, it is most likely the result of changes in the environment because the gene pool cannot change that rapidly. Type 1 diabetes is a very dynamic disease. […] results clearly demonstrate that the incidence of type 1 diabetes is rising, bringing with it a large public health problem. Moreover, these findings indicate that something in our environment is changing to trigger a disease response. […] With the exception of a possible role for viruses and infant nutrition, the specific environmental determinants that initiate or precipitate the onset of type 1 diabetes remain unclear.” (Type 1 Diabetes, Etiology and Treatment. Just to make it perfectly clear that although genes matter, environmental factors are the most likely causes of the rising levels of incidence we’ve seen in recent times.)

            ii. Just as you need to always keep incidence and prevalence in mind when analyzing these things (for example low prevalence does not mean incidence is necessarily low, or was low in the past; low prevalence could also be a result of a combination of high incidence and high case mortality. I know from experience that even diabetes researchers tend to sometimes overlook stuff like this), you also need to keep the distinction between genotype and phenotype in mind. Given the increased importance of one or more environmental triggers in modern times, penetrance is likely to have changed over time. This means for example that ‘a diabetic genotype’ may have been less fitness reducing in the past than it is today, even if the associated ‘diabetic phenotype’ may on the other hand have been much more fitness reducing than it is now; people who developed diabetes died, but many of the people who might in the current environment be considered high-risk cases may not have been high risk in the far past, because the environmental trigger causing disease was absent, or rarely encountered. Assessing genetic risk for diabetes is complicated, and there’s no general formula for calculating this risk either in the type 1 or type 2 case; monogenic forms of diabetes do exist, but they account for a very small proportion of cases (1-5% of diabetes in young individuals) – most cases are polygenic and display variable levels of penetrance. Note incidentally that a story of environmental factors becoming more important over time is actually implicitly also, to the extent that diabetes is/has been fitness-reducing, a story of selection pressures against diabetic genotypes potentially increasing over time, rather than the opposite (which seems to be the default assumption when only taking into account stuff like the increased survival rates of type 1 diabetics over time). This stuff is complicated.

    • US says:

      I don’t have a lot of time or a lot of motivation to participate in this discussion, but now I’m doing it anyway.

      As for diabetes (where to start?)…

      The majority of patients on insulin in the US are type 2 diabetics, and it is simply wrong that type 2 diabetics are not responsive to insulin treatment. They were likely found to be unresponsive in early trials because of errors of dosage, as they require higher levels of the drug to obtain the same effect as will young patients diagnosed with type 1 (the primary group on insulin in the 30es). However, insulin treatment is not the first-line option in the type 2 context because the condition can usually be treated with insulin-sensitizing agents for a while, until they fail (those drugs will on average fail in something like ~50% of subjects within five years of diagnosis, which is the reason – combined with the much (order(/s, depending on where you are) of magnitude) higher prevalence of type 2 – why a majority of patients on insulin have type 2), and these tend to a) be more acceptable to the patients (a pill vs an injection) and b) have fewer/less severe side effects on average. One reason which also played a major role in delaying the necessary use of insulin to treat type 2 diabetes which could not be adequately controlled via other means was incidentally the fact that insulin cases weight gain, and the obesity-type 2 link was well known.

      Aside from the ‘both conditions are responsive to insulin’ there would be lots of other arguments one might make here. One would relate to pathophysiology. Type 1 is autoimmune, and most cases of type 2 are not, but some forms of type 2 seem to have an autoimmune component as well (“the overall autoantibody frequency in type 2 patients varies between 6% and 10%” – source) (these patients, who can be identified through genetic markers, will on average proceed to insulin dependence because of treatment failure in the context of insulin sensitizing-agents much sooner than is usually the case in patients with type 2). In general type 1 is caused by autoimmune beta cell destruction and type 2 mainly by insulin resistance, but combinations of the two are also possible (added a comment on this early on here, but then decided that this is too complicated a topic to address here), and patients with type 1 can develop insulin resistance just as patients with type 2 can lose beta cells via multiple pathways. The major point here being that the sharp diagnostic distinction between type 1 and type 2 is a major simplification of what’s really going on, and it’s hiding a lot of heterogeneity in both samples. Some patients with type 1 will develop diabetes acutely or subacutely, within days or hours, whereas others will have elevated blood glucose levels for months before medical attention is received and a diagnosis is made (you can tell whether or not blood glucose has been elevated pre-diagnosis by looking at one of the key diagnostic variables, Hba1c, which is a measure of the average blood glucose over the entire lifetime of a red blood cell (~3-4 months) – in some newly diagnosed type 1s, this variable is elevated, in others it is not. Some type 1 patients will develop other autoimmune conditions later on, whereas others will not, and some will be more likely to develop complications than others who have the same level of glycemic control.

      Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are quite different conditions, but in terms of many aspects of the diseases there are significant degrees of overlap (for example they develop many of the same complications, for similar (pathophysiological) reasons), yet they are both called diabetes. You don’t want to treat a type 2 diabetic with insulin if he can be treated with metformin, and treating a type 1 with metformin will not help – so different treatments are required. If you transfer that part of the diabetes situation to autism you might similarly expect different kinds of interventions to help different subtypes of autistics, so you’d for example expect people to write books about how it’s important to match the intervention with the need of the autistic – i.e. books like this one. Another aspect of the analogy: Both types of diabetics are sick and need treatment because they’re not doing well. When you are dealing with autism, the sort of outcomes you look at in outcome studies tend to be major life outcome variables. When you look at those, they are really shitty regardless of whether you look at the ‘milder’ end of ‘the spectrum’ or not. I believe Scott talked about this here before, but it’s obvious from the outcome studies if you look at them. For example:

      “NAS statistics show that only six per cent of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) (12% of those with Asperger Syndrome (AS)) in the UK are in full-time employment. This compares with 49 per cent of people with general disabilities who are employed.” (from this book).

      “Recent reviews of outcomes for individuals with ASD through the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NTLS2) have indicated that, as a group, individuals with ASD have low rates of employment, independent living, and lifelong friendships (Newman, Wagner, Cameto, & Knokey, 2009). This longitudinal study followed 11,000 transition-aged students with disabilities from 2001 to 2009. The age range of youth and young adults included in this study were between 13 and 26. This sample included 922 students with autism spectrum disorders. Outcomes recorded for this sample included the following findings […]: • 32 % of this sample attended post-secondary education of one type or another • Only 6 % achieved competitive employment • 21 % had no job or post-secondary education experiences at all • 80 % continued to live with their parents • 40 % reported having no friends” (link)

      So even if some subgroups of autistics are quite different from other subgroups, if you’re an autistic you’re probably not doing well, and you might benefit from ‘treatment’ (…’help’? …’support’?). I could go a bit further: If the goal is to have a diagnosis which captures the fact that people with that diagnosis are likely to do very poorly in interpersonal relationships and in terms of labour market outcomes, then autism seems at least historically to have been an excellent instrument in view of results like the above. If diagnostic criteria are currently slipping and ‘nerds’ get a diagnosis these days, you’d expect to see better outcome profiles in future studies, so that’s probably one thing to look out for if one is worried about diagnostic creep. I’m not aware of outcomes having improved significantly over time, to the extent that the diagnosis is not still a very good predictor of poor performance in a large number of life contexts. A lot of variability is hidden in the averages, just like a lot of variability is hidden in the ‘type 1’ diagnostic marker, no doubt about that, but is it enough to justify a split? I’m not taking sides there, I don’t find that discussion particularly interesting. It might be that for some purposes a split is useful and for other purposes it is not really necessary to condition on subgroup.

      • Anatoly says:

        Thank you for the detailed and rather interesting information on diabetes.

        On autism outcomes, we have to be wary of the quality of the data and the confusion between “classic autism” and ASD. I tried to chase the references to the stats you quoted. The NAS data from UK appears to be from an online survey on the charity website; their more recent number is 16%, from ~2K self-selected responders. The NTLS2 case is even more troubling. If you look at their sampling methodology, it quickly becomes clear that they were surveying students with classic autism, and not ASD. This isn’t stated outright – in fact the word “spectrum” doesn’t appear at all – because in 2000 when NTLS2 was being planned, thinking of autism as a spectrum was not yet prevalent, nor did DSM-4 include anything about the autistic spectrum. NTLS2 looked for students age 13-16 in 2001 receiving special education under various labels (note that this excludes at the outset students that had been diagnosed but did not need special ed by the time they reached age 13), and they include prevalence estimates for all the labels. “Autism” has just ~7800 students out of 20M population – one in 2.5K – and they mention repeatedly that they had to treat it as one of the special cases where they had to lower their sampling goals, to be able to meet them at all. These very, very low prevalence numbers make it clear that in the terminology of 2000, PDD-NOS and Asperger’s are not part of this “autism” label; to further verify this I looked at a few data tables to see e.g. that 75% of the sampled “autism” students were receiving speech therapy at ages 13-16. These weren’t “aspies” or “socially awkward nerds” or HFAs. Clearly NTLS2 was sampling – and then tracking for 10 years – mostly or exclusively students with classic autism.

        And yet as your quote demonstrates, the NTLS2 results are quoted as poor outcomes for “individuals with ASD”. Nor is it an isolated case – just by searching for NTLS2-related studies, I see again and again studies which claim they’re showing something about poor outcomes, or results of various interventions, for ASD in general. This is exactly the problem that Camarata warns about, and one of the reasons he says that replacing a sharply defined clinically stable diagnosis of autism with a much much broader and clinically unstable ASD was not necessarily a good idea.

        I’m not sure what to say about your last paragraph – you write it from the assumption that “autistics” (meaning ASD) as a group is a given, and possible results of future studies are needed to “justify a split”, but I’m questioning the choice (and asking for the original justifications, which remain unclear to me) to treat them as a single group in the first place. They were not treated as a group until recently – formally, in fact, until 2013 when DSM-5 came out, informally I guess until early 2000s, and I think it’s fair to ask what was/is the justification to have “the autistic spectrum”, before requiring a justification to “split” it. If there are high quality outcome studies which provide such a justification, I couldn’t find them. I strongly suspect that children diagnosed as PDD-NOS or Asperger’s as opposed to autism in the 2000s ended up with much much better outcomes on the average, but I don’t know – and didn’t find with some simple searches – good studies that carried out such comparisons.

        • US says:

          Thanks for letting me know that you liked the diabetes observations I included in my comments above.

          I would definitely agree with you that there is a limited amount of high-quality data and -studies on long-term outcomes for the ASD diagnostic group as a whole, especially if what you’re looking for is good outcome studies on adults – I have made that complaint myself in the past. This book, which I read in the past, is a research publication which tried to collect all the knowledge that was published on these topics, but the result was in my opinion a poor book which mostly just displayed how little we actually know about these things. But my starting point is that you don’t seem to find studies on ASD individuals which do not find them to perform poorly compared to non-autistics. This is as far as I know regardless of which countries you’re looking at, and regardless of whether you’re looking at data from the 70es or the 2000s. If you know of data suggesting otherwise I’d be happy to learn about them; I think I recall e.g. a few HFA studies having found ‘better outcomes’, but they’re still poor. I’m well aware outcomes vary across individuals and I’m sure the researchers do as well.

          In terms of whether it’s ideal to have one autistic diagnostic group or two (…or three, or…), I maintain that to a significant extent the answer to that question relates to what the diagnosis is supposed to accomplish. If it makes sense for researchers to be able to distinguish, which it probably does, but it is not necessary for support organizers/providers to know the subtype in order to provide aid, then you might end up with one ‘official’ category and two (or more) ‘research categories’. I would be fine with that (but again I don’t find this discussion interesting). Again a parallel might be made to diabetes research: Endocrinologists are well aware that there’s a huge amount of variation in both the type 1 and type 2 samples, to the extent that it’s sort of silly to even categorize these illnesses using the same name, but they do it anyway for reasons which are sort of obvious. If you’re type 1 diabetic and you have an HLA mutation which made you vulnerable to diabetes and you developed diabetes at the age of 5, well, we’ll start you on insulin, try to help you achieve good metabolic control, and screen you regularly for complications. If on the other hand you’re an adult guy who due to a very different genetic vulnerability developed type 1 diabetes at the age of 30 (and later on Graves’ disease at the age of 40, due to the same mutation), well, we’ll start you on insulin, try to help you achieve good metabolic control, and screen you regularly for complications. The only thing type 1 diabetics have in common is the fact that their beta cells die due to some autoimmune processes. But it could easily be conceived of instead as literally hundreds of different diseases. Currently the distinctions between the different disease-relevant pathophysiological processes don’t matter very much in the treatment context, but they might do that at some point in the future, and if that happens the differences will start to become more important. People might at that point start to talk about type 1a diabetes, which might be the sort you can delay or stop with gene therapy, and type 1b which you can’t delay or stop (…yet). Lumping ‘different’ groups together into one diagnostic category is bad if it makes you overlook variation which is important, and this may be a problem in the autism context today, but regardless of the sizes of the diagnostic groups you’ll usually still end up with lots of residual (‘unexplained’) variation.

          Just to be clear, I don’t really find myself in any need of having to defend current diagnostic practice in the area of autism – or for that matter historical diagnostic practices. I’m not a clinical psychologist, I don’t go around making autism diagnoses, and I was certainly not asked when they decided to make changes to the DSM (…well, maybe I was asked, as I belonged to one of the diagnostic groups affected by the changes proposed, but I certainly did not answer…). I agree with you that a nonverbal autistic is very different from some other individuals who also have autism diagnoses. These things are not areas of disagreement between the two of us.

          • US says:

            I’m too lazy to start hunting down other relevant outcome studies, but Scott mentions a few of them in his own previous coverage of these topics. A quote from the post:

            “Six studies have assessed what percent of adult autistics have a job – they find 22%, 21%, 31%, 4%, 4%, and 4%. The two that found rates in the twenties limited themselves to high-IQ autistics and so are unrepresentative.”

            This is sort of an illustration of what I meant. Scott goes on:

            “adults with Aspergers (recently collapsed into the autism diagnosis) are ten times more likely to be suicidal than other adults.”

            “The happy, independent autistic people whom most of us know and whose stories get told in the media are four to ten percent of the autistic population. What about the other extreme, the forty percent who are institutionalized?”

            I don’t think 40% of all with an ASD diagnosis today are institutionalized (I’d guess the number would be lower, but how much lower is anyone’s guess), but on the other hand I think his main point stands.

  22. neaanopri says:

    I’ve been having quite a few of these discussion with my friends, so I’d like to take a stab at it. Something which seems very obvious to me, and which nobody I have talked with has agreed with, is that decision theory is the most important part of philosophy, and that figuring out all of the ways values can be turned into decisions is the most interesting thing to discuss. So who does SSC side with?

    • Well... says:

      [X] is the most important part of [whatever field we’re talking about], and [central issues of X] is the most interesting thing to discuss.

      Basically everything seems like X to me once I’ve discovered it, until I discover the next thing and that becomes X instead.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Among the things that seem more important and interesting than figuring out how to turn values into decisions are figuring out

      a) what the correct values are
      b) how to form justified beliefs

      These are especially more interesting because the differences in plausible candidate answers to these questions have much more impact than the differences in plausible candidates in decision theory – compare the upshot of the debate between kantians and utilitarians to the upshot of the dispute between causal and evidential decision theory.

    • Mark says:

      In order for things to be interesting, there has to be an emotional element. It has to talk to your fears, passions, or perhaps some fundamental aspect of experience.

      I don’t think there is any reason why decision theory couldn’t be interesting, but I don’t see why it should be more interesting than anything else.
      I also think there is a bit of a danger that if you abstract away values, and focus only upon the process of living, you make things less interesting because you are diminishing the human element.

  23. Anon. says:

    If the dark forest theory is true, why not extinguish all stars in the galaxy preemptively, just to be sure? Keep a few nearby stars around for yourself of course. You’d attract attention from other galaxies of course, but does it matter on those timescales? Andromeda is 2.5mly from us.

    • Well... says:

      [I have deleted my own comment because bintchaos posted one along the same lines (not as clever as mine) and just to be safe I don’t want to be saying the same things as a self-described intellectual terrorist.]

    • bintchaos says:

      lol– we dont have the technology to do cleanse/hide yet.
      That’s why.

      • Anon. says:

        Our own level of tech is irrelevant, whatever the optimal strategy is would already have been carried out. Unless we happen to be the first, which is improbable (and tantamount to anthropic reasoning).

        Even if life is rare enough that we’re the only ones in our galaxy, we should be observing other galaxies where this is happening. We don’t, so: life is extremely rare and we’re the only ones, or galactic conquest is feasible without destroying the suns, or fundamental tech limits make the strategy implausible (doubtful), or it would attract too much attention?

        • bintchaos says:

          sheesh.
          Once you cleanse you are visible to the other Cleansers

          The Dark Forest by Liu Cixin
          “The universe is a dark forest. Every civilization is an armed hunter stalking through the trees like a ghost, gently pushing aside branches that block the path and trying to tread without sound. Even breathing is done with care. The hunter has to be careful, because everywhere in the forest are stealthy hunters like him. If he finds other life—another hunter, an angel or a demon, a delicate infant or a tottering old man, a fairy or a demigod—there’s only one thing he can do: open fire and eliminate them. In this forest, hell is other people. An eternal threat that any life that exposes its own existence will be swiftly wiped out. This is the picture of cosmic civilization. It’s the explanation for the Fermi Paradox.”
          ― Liu Cixin, The Dark Forest

          • Sivaas says:

            If firing on another civilization revealed you, no one would ever do so, because you’d immediately be destroyed yourself. It’s not worth destroying some civilization that may destroy you with <1 probability if doing so means you're destroyed with 1 probability.

            If that was how it worked, when 187J3X1 was destroyed it would immediately destroy all but 1 of the hunters within range of each other. Civilization A destroys 187J3X1, reveals itself. Civilization B destroys the now-visible A, reveals itself. Civilization C destroys the now-visible B, reveals itself. Repeat until a civilization reveals itself and there are no hidden civilizations left to destroy it.

          • bintchaos says:

            Oh sorry, i forgot part of the Cleanse/Hide paradigm.

            Once you cleanse you are visible to the other Cleansers.
            Unless you Hide.


            Probably we should revisit this after you read the third book– kk?

        • Cheese says:

          “fundamental tech limits make the strategy implausible (doubtful)”

          Out of curiosity, why do you see this as a doubtful solution to the issue?

          I tend to see it as the most plausible. The time scales and sheer numbers seem to be an obvious issue with the life is rare/we’re the first arguments. But I don’t see an equivalent problem for the technology argument. It seems equally plausible that there could be a defined upper limit as there might be no defined upper limit. Remotely extinguishing suns as a practical application seems like it’s such a high bar to set that if there is an upper limit then it seems plausible that it might be the main constraint.

    • Montfort says:

      Well, once you extinguish the first few stars, you’ve started the clock on every other civilization in your galaxy (and close enough to matter) to try to ramp up technologically and end you before you end them. Of course, there may not be any such other civilizations, but if not then extinguishing stars was probably useless to begin with (depending on minimum time from biogenesis to interstellar civilization).

    • Mary says:

      Hmmm. . . .

      As a possible interesting tangent, the implacable hostility of all alien species was once THE dominating trope of science fiction, a la War of the Worlds. But in English-language science fiction, that was pretty early. C. S. Lewis noted the switch to peaceably possibility in his lifetime. And, indeed, I’ve seen the change plausibly attributed to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen series.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Science fiction is not speculation about the future, it’s a transposition and deconstruction of your present in a fantastic setting.

        War of the Worlds was written at a time when in Europe everybody was fighting everybody else, when state nationalism was the dominant political ideology and people from different countries saw each other as inevitably alien and hostile.

        Star Trek TOS, made during the Vietnam war era, has a United Federation of Planets (the USA) in a cold war against the Klingon Empire (the USSR). Star Trek TNG, made during the Bush 1 and Clinton era, has a cold war between the Federation and the Romulan Empire that is winding down and it focuses more on inter-species diplomacy etc. Later installments don’t have a cold war theme.

        • Zodiac says:

          Huh, so Voyager might just have been bad because there was no interesting politcal climate around when they wrote it.

        • Mary says:

          Science fiction is not speculation about the future, it’s a transposition and deconstruction of your present in a fantastic setting.

          Only sometimes, only sometimes.

        • Nornagest says:

          War of the Worlds was written at a time when in Europe everybody was fighting everybody else

          War of the Worlds was written in 1897, in the middle of one of the longest continuous stretches of peace central and western Europe had seen in centuries. Pretty much all the players were constantly getting involved in minor colonial rebellions, but the Franco-Prussian War, ending in 1871, had been the last great-power conflict on the continent.

          (The Russo-Turkish War was a few years later, if you want to count that.)

    • BBA says:

      All the lights in the sky are our enemies, then? Who the hell do you think we are?

    • fahertym says:

      I’m curious what other people think of the Three Body Problem and Dark Forest books. I thought they were cool ideas but so badly written in terms of characterization and narrative that I recommend reading their wikipedia plot summaries instead of the actual books. Though I have to wonder if that’s the author’s, translator’s, or Chinese literature’s fault.

      • Mary says:

        I bounced off Three Body Problem early and hard.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I’ve only read the Three Body Problem. It starts off as a book with a decent premise marred by poor writing; but, halfway through, it degenerates into a random collection of really stupid ideas coupled with some of the most abysmal writing I’ve seen anywhere — and yes, this includes fanfiction. I am somewhat surprised a book such as this was published at all.

        • bintchaos says:

          I don’t imagine anyone here has read any of Nick Turse’s books, and especially not his FOIA book on ‘Nam, so I think it isn’t possible to relate to Wenjie’s dilemma.
          Much like Turkeys and Shooters.

          “In the shooter hypothesis, a good marksman shoots at a target, creating a hole every ten centimeters. Now suppose the surface of the target is inhabited by intelligent, two-dimensional creatures. Their scientists, after observing the universe, discover a great law: “There exists a hole in the universe every ten centimeters.” They have mistaken the result of the marksman’s momentary whim for an unalterable law of the universe. The farmer hypothesis, on the other hand, has the flavor of a horror story: Every morning on a turkey farm, the farmer comes to feed the turkeys. A scientist turkey, having observed this pattern to hold without change for almost a year, makes the following discovery: “Every morning at eleven, food arrives.” On the morning of Thanksgiving, the scientist announces this law to the other turkeys. But that morning at eleven, food doesn’t arrive; instead, the farmer comes and kills the entire flock.”
          ― Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem

        • Sivaas says:

          Having gotten through The Dark Forest as well, it continues along those lines. Pretty cool concept, but then it just introduces a bunch of stuff at a ridiculous rate, without really exploring the consequences other than the rails the author wants the plot to follow. I think you could make some cool books with the basic setup that the author presents, but it doesn’t look like any of them are going to be made.

          I just picked up the third book for the heck of it, I didn’t realize it was already translated and it’s cheap enough on Amazon to get closure. From the Wiki summary, I’m not particularly hopeful that it’ll improve, though.

          • bintchaos says:

            So?
            Any sci-fi is how we test drive a future before it gets here.
            chacun à son goûx
            And like I said, 3body will never have the powerful resonance for anyone here like it did for me, because of reading Kill Anything in the same week.
            Its like Blomkamp Oats Studio and Firebase and Rakka…and indeed, the original District 9.

          • Sivaas says:

            The sloppier sci-fi writing is, the less likely it’ll match well to any possible future. This is particularly relevant if the writer fails to fully explore the technology they present.

            Ideally, there should be no good toehold for the question “but why couldn’t they just X”, because if there wasn’t a good answer for one of those questions, when that future comes people will just X, and half the book goes out the window because real life doesn’t follow the plot rails.

            I’m happier in a world where the 3 Body Problem series exists than one it doesn’t, but I’m even happier than that in a world where the 3 Body Problem series exists and was written well.

          • Mary says:

            Good heavens, SF has never been about predictions. I’ve read some good essays by Heinlein and Asimov about how that doesn’t work. (Heinlein once pointed out that something he was credited with predicting had already existed at the time he wrote it into a story.)

    • beleester says:

      The dark forest theory assumes that every civilization in the galaxy is going to expand without bound, hence conflict over resources is inevitable with other civilizations. The follow-up reasoning – diplomacy and early warning are impossible without FTL, so getting the first strike is essential – depends on this assumption.

      But doesn’t that equally apply to your own civilization? If you decide to destroy all the suns in the galaxy that you aren’t currently using, haven’t you simply destroyed the resources you predicted you would expand to? Thus hastening the inevitable conflict? (Let’s not even get into the amount of resources you’re sinking into your fleet of sun-destroying battleships.)

      If you destroy all the other stars in the galaxy, then your endlessly-expanding civilization suddenly has nowhere to expand to. So you need to develop a civilization that can stay stable without expanding, or all your territory will fall into civil war, fighting over the last remaining suns in the galaxy.

      But if you can develop a sustainable civilization that only occupies a couple of star systems instead of endlessly expanding across the galaxy, then war isn’t inevitable, because you don’t need to conflict with other civilizations for resources. This destroys the foundational assumption.

      In other words, maybe the forest is dark, not because we’re all afraid of getting shot by other hunters, but because we’re all content to stay around our own campfires and nobody feels the need to set the whole forest ablaze.

      • bintchaos says:

        It doesn’t seem to me that people here discussing 3Body have actually read the book. Remember, the Trisolarians desperately want a new home planet to colonize because theirs was so horrifically unstable and inhospitable– because of the three body problem. The character development was fantastic, but definitely chinese-flavored.
        I happened to read Nick Turse’s FOIA book on VietNam (Kill Anything That Moves) in the same week that I read 3Body. I really didn’t know much about the Vietnam War, I didn’t take much history or philosophy coursework, preferring math and science. I completely identified with Wenjie pushing the button to invite the destruction of mankind after the horrors of the Cultural Revolution. I would have done the same after reading Kill Anything if I could have.
        There are so many parts of the 3Body cycle that I just loved so much…the Wallfacers, the Sophons, Big Shi the detective, the ETO, the Trisolarians…
        I especially loved the concept of the 3Body game as a vector for a colonizer religion.
        When the movie comes out next year the books will become vastly more popular.
        Cixin Liu is an engineer and a mathematician– so I loved the hard science in the books.

        • Sivaas says:

          The Trisolarans are different from the Dark Forest hunter civilizations: they don’t have the technology to silently destroy stars (or fixing their solar system to have fewer moving parts would probably have been easy).

          In fact, by the Dark Forest theory you need a lot of luck on the part of both civilizations: if Ye Wenjie’s message had been heard by a hunter civilization, Earth and its solar system. would have just been gone. If the Trisolarans had responded to the message with their colonization attempt, only to find that the message was a decoy from a hunter civilization, the Trisolarans likely would have given away enough information to be totally destroyed (since their technology is massively outclassed)

          That might be another problem with the Dark Forest theory: why wouldn’t you set traps for other civilizations to fall into before they get up to that tech level? Set up a planet with a bunch of signals, be carefully watching the vectors of anything that approaches that planet, and hunt back along the trail for nascent civilizations that could develop into a threat?

          • Sivaas says:

            Actually, looking at it a bit more, I think Liu made a lot of weird assumptions about the technology of hunter civilizations.

            Their ability to look at other systems for signs of life can’t have the same range as their “destroy the sun” ability, or the moment they discover a new civilization they can figure out its tech level and whether or not they need to destroy it. If they do, now they push the “destroy the sun” button a few seconds later (Maybe this is too late? But if they’re both hunter civilizations, surely there’s some travel time on whatever tech they’re using to destroy suns, so even hitting it immediately should be MAD). If they don’t, they can colonize it for decoys and resources.

            Now granted, you could look at a civilization and think it’s your inferior, and whoops: turns out it was a whole other level of advanced that made a dummy low-tech civilization to deceive you. But presumably they could also just have the tech to stop your sun-destroy button, and figure out where it came from, right? For this to work, every civilization has to be really confident about what the absolute highest level of technology possible is.

          • bintchaos says:

            You haven’t read all three books– dummies tech and low tech are already two potentialities– ways of hiding and camouflage in the cleanse/hide paradigm– another is signaling “we are not a threat” …and destroying suns isnt the only mechanism to destroy potential threats.
            And in 3body Earth was a low tech civ that destroyed a star as proof of concept just by broadcasting the coordinates with a [relatively] primitive comms system and then used that as a detante threat with the Trisolarians.

          • Sivaas says:

            Making communications that cause other civilizations to destroy stars is not the same as having the power to destroy them yourself, mainly because (a). you can’t precisely target it, merely appeal to the other civilization’s incentives, and (b). if everyone has the same tech level as you, no one is destroying stars.

            If the Trisolarans could destroy stars without leaving a trace of their origin, or change the local laws of physics as we see in Death’s End, their problems with their stars cease to become real problems: that’s about the level of physics mastery that you’d need to start doing solar system level terraforming. It’s likely that most civilizations in the same situation as the Trisolarans will solve their local resource problems before getting to Dark Forest hunter level.

            Probably not invisibly, which is a problem if you have Dark Forest hunter civilizations out there looking for a target, but this conversation started out using the Trisolarans as a counter-example for beleester’s point that “sitting quietly around your own fire is a stable equilibrium”, so we shouldn’t be assuming that Dark Forest hunters are the default.

          • bintchaos says:

            But the Trisolarians couldn’t sit around the campfire because eventually the campfire was going to burn them up.

          • Sivaas says:

            Agreed, if the Trisolarans just sat in their solar system and did nothing with their current technology, they’d eventually be dead.

            But they didn’t have the technology that let the actual Dark Forest hunter civilizations blow up stars with no trace of the weapon that did it, or do things like changing the way dimensions work in regions of space.

            Once they get that level of technology, they should be capable of doing stuff like booting two of their suns out of the system, or shielding their planet well enough to go straight through a star.

            So the civilizations that are advanced enough to choose between sitting around the fire or going hunting shouldn’t have local existential threats the way the Trisolarans do.

  24. Worley says:

    I was wondering how the discussion has been going regarding “intelligence”. I’m not so concerned with the significance of differences in measured group IQs, but rather that there does seem to be accumulating evidence that the set of cognitive skills that IQ measures is important in modern life and seems to be growing more important as we go into the post-industrial age. There are some bad social effects when the ability to be productive in a society hinges on just one skill.

    A sample is the research behind this review https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3c4TxciNeJZaEY0UjluV1djOG8/view

    There’s also a bunch of contamination within the blogosphere of people who clearly have a deep urge to prove that IQ is really, really important. (Indeed, this is explicitly warned against in”The Bell Curve”.) This implies that a lot of the discussion out there can’t be trusted as being unbiased.

    I guess what I really care about is (1) that quality research on the subject continues, and (2) the discussion isn’t taken over by people whose politics determines their science.

  25. ManyCookies says:

    A silly hypothetical:

    For time immemorial, most burger lovers liked ketchup over mustard. But in 2017, there’s a sudden huge preference shift towards mustard.

    Burger Joint A has a singular Sauce Division to handle all their sauce production. When the 2017 mustard shift occurs, the Head Saucer has no particular reason to favor ketchup over mustard and reacts accordingly to the new preferences (doesn’t renew contracts with ketchup consultants and brings in mustard consultants, shuts down company ketchup factories etc.).

    Burger Joint B has their sauce production split into two divisions, a Ketchup Division and a (much smaller) Mustard Divsion. When the 2017 mustard shift occurs, the Head Ketchuper has strong reason to favor ketchup production over mustard and tries various strategies to ensure her division’s continued relevance (discredits pro-mustard studies, calls in some favors and convinces the board to mantain funding, starts futile advertising campaigns on how great ketchup is etc.). Because of the further specialization in their corporate structure, Burger Joint B has an employee with perverse incentives and responds less quickly to the shift than Burger Joint A.

    =

    Is there a particular term for costs incurred by Burger Joint B’s overdivision? A quick chat with Professor Google talked mostly about individual overspecialization, but I didn’t find anything on this more corporate level.

    (I posted this at the very tail end of another open thread and didn’t get any replies, apologies if you’ve read this before)

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      It could generally fall under the principal agent problem (the ketchup division head is an agent of Joint B, but his own incentives are to maximize ketchup use, even if the cost is less burger sales).

      The Nobel Prize winning economic text that deals with these types of problems within firms is The Nature of the Firm. This is a scanned copy, it’s likely there’s a more readable formatted copy elsewhere.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Let be be finale of seem. There is no VP but the VP of ice cream.

    • (I posted this at the very tail end of another open thread and didn’t get any replies, apologies if you’ve read this before)

      I do remember reading this post before, and I also remember a lot of responses, including my own (as a matter of fact mine was the first comment and the first thing I said was about the principle agent problem, so deja vu).

      Maybe you should go back to that earlier comment and find the responses.

  26. Mark says:

    Community building.

    If don’t think there has ever been a successful attempt at building a community based on values. Values are just weird things that a community has – you really don’t get to choose them.

    And, if you can choose to be a member of a community, you can also choose not to be part of it. You begin questioning it – “hmmm… I wonder if Billy really *is* a rational person? Maybe there is someone more rational I could commune with….”
    Such thoughts kill community.

    So, if you really wanted to build a community with a certain set of values, you should build lots of communities (proximity based loyalty) and then build some selection mechanism for values.

    Any community where a majority can’t use a pair of giant chopsticks to solve a programming kata on their friends’ computer screens gets scattered to the winds.

    Or, rationalists should just form communities, a hundred strong, randomly selected (from the rationalist diaspora), and you have to be in that community forever. And, if the community fails, you lose a million dollars and it goes to the surviving communities.

    • Well... says:

      [I] don’t think there has ever been a successful attempt at building a community based on values.

      I do: the Amish.

      I also want to abstract your statement out and turn it into a question:

      Has a lasting, functional community ever been built that wasn’t based on values?

      • Mark says:

        I don’t think that the Amish are a community that have been built on a set of values. They are a community with a set of values.

        Being Amish comes first – then you get to have the values. It’s not really a lifestyle choice.

        Has a lasting, functional community ever been built that wasn’t based on values?

        Any community where what you are is more important than what you think. So, most of them?
        You don’t become a Rangers supporter because you want to hate Celtic. You are a Rangers supporter and that is why you hate Celtic.

        I think that the only time where a community might be built on what you think is where what you think is so peculiar, unobtainable, and vital that it can become ‘what you are’.
        Very rare. Maybe impossible.

        • Well... says:

          Each Amish community uses an ordnung–i.e. a set of guidelines based on their values–to determine what they should do. Those who won’t do it are considered no longer part of the community.

          That’s an extreme example, but even in a modern Western society that is supposedly very flexible, when a bunch of people decide their values are different they inevitably start to identify as not part of the mainstream community. Yes, sometimes what bonds them is primarily something other than values–race, for example–but it’s typically values that determine the degree to which they’re a part of the surrounding community.

    • Mary says:

      Monasteries.

      With periodic need for reform, but over a period of generations.

      • Mark says:

        Yes, of course. Good point.

        Although, in many cases, perhaps monasticism is an expression of values held by the broader community?

  27. Anatoly says:

    I cringe when people here use the word “normies” (I think it’s a recent thing?).

    Wonder if others have the same/opposite reaction.

    • Brad says:

      I don’t like it either.

    • Would “muggles” be better?

      • Anatoly says:

        Probably not.

        Remember how Dawkins wanted to rebrand atheists as “brights”? That went really well, too.

        (Whoa, the Brights are still around, and their website has a recent Bulletin listing their “Four Pillars of Action”. Amazing.)

      • gbdub says:

        No, it’s a hundred times worse.

        Grow up, read Tolkien, and call people Elves, Dwarves, and Orcs, like an adult.

    • Mark says:

      I like it.

    • rlms says:

      Yes. It sounds stupid even if it’s (semi-)ironic.

    • johan_larson says:

      “Normies” is a diminutive, which makes it sound condescending.

      “People of ordinary intelligence” is a clear and neutral phrase. Or if that’s too long, “the normal” (pl) would be fine as long as the context makes it clear that what is being compared is intelligence.

      • Mark says:

        Sometimes it’s more condescending to not be condescending. If someone calls me a normie, I assume it’s a good natured joke. And sure, they might be more intelligent than me, but who cares.

        If someone feels they have to tiptoe around the fact of my normal intelligence, I feel like they probably think it’s a bit shameful to be normal.

        • gbdub says:

          Right. Calling someone a “normie” can be okay when it’s kind of self-deprecating. “You’re a normie” implies “I’m a weirdo”.

          Hence “muggle” is worse, since it’s the opposite – it means “I’m a Wizard”.

      • Rex says:

        “Normie” means “people of ordinary intelligence”?

        • Nornagest says:

          Depending on who’s talking, “normie” can mean anything from “people without geeky interests” to “people who aren’t, or aren’t indistinguishable from, pimply virginal 40-year-old 400-pound anime-obsessed basement-dweller shut-ins caked in Cheeto dust”.

          The word “Chad” is a good proxy for the latter.

        • registrationisdumb says:

          Normie is just the normie way of saying normalfag.

        • It’s from 4Chan and similar fora. Here’s some taxonomy:

          “Normie” is the antonym of “incel”. A “normie” is someone with a normal social life, friends they see in person, romantic or sexual partners, etc.

          “Chad” and “Stacey” are caricatures of extreme “normies”, that is, people who with minimal effort can do many things that are evidently impossible for “incels”.

          An “incel” is a man who is “involuntarily celibate”, that is, unable to have sexual relationships with women, mainly because women want nothing to do with him. People who identify with the “incel” label tend to be very angry and misogynistic, and see “normies” as the enemy.

          A much milder version of “incel” is “FA”, which stands for Forever Alone. The terminology doesn’t sound milder, but the online communities of FA’s are generally non-political and much less misogynistic. Of course there is an overtone of hopeless depression, bemoaning bad luck in life, and frequent talk of suicide, but most FAs entertain hopes of becoming a normie some day.

          There are also people who identify as Forever Unwanted, which is an intermediate category between FA’s and incels.

          KV (Kissless Virgin) and KHV (Kissless Hugless Virgin, or Kissless Handholdless Virgin) are abbreviations used in all of those groups, openly declaring just how little physical attention someone has received from the opposite sex.

          A “wizard” is a male virgin over age 30.

          I think these identifications are becoming more common, (1) because of pervasive social changes which have disadvantaged less-educated, less-affluent, less-attractive and less-well-socialized young men, and (2) because it is much easier now for someone to isolate themselves from all social contact besides the Internet.

          • Aapje says:

            People who identify with the “incel” label tend to be very angry and misogynistic

            Most seem to hate ‘normie’ men at about equal levels, but their hate for men somehow goes unnoticed.

          • Matt M says:

            which have disadvantaged less-educated, less-affluent, less-attractive and less-well-socialized young men

            Hmmm, I’d prefer to break this down a little bit.

            In general, I’m not sure this captures the problem. People who are angry enough about being celibate that they go on forums and complain about it and voluntarily self-identify as FA do not strike me as a bunch of uneducated, poor, ugly, aspies. The whole point of complaining about involuntary celibacy is that you have a plausible case to be made that your celibacy is unjust. The complaint is, “I AM educated and I DO have money and I’m NOT ugly and I CAN socially interact, and yet still nobody will have sex with me.” Obviously (with ego being what it is) they may be wrong on some of those points, but that’s the general idea here. My guess is that someone with a high school diploma, no job, a horrific facial disfigurement, and a diagnosis of severe autism, would not be on the internet loudly complaining about the unjustness of their celibacy. They may bemoan their fate, but they clearly see that their circumstances make them an undesirable partner. The anger comes when you believe your circumstances make you desirable, and yet, you achieve no results. Breaking it down one by one.

            Less-educated – I plainly disagree. Scott claimed in Radicalizing the Romanceless that high IQ and education achievement increase the chance of virginity, not decrease it, and I tend to believe this.

            Less-affulent: Leaving all other variables constant, I’m willing to believe that this correlates with sexual attainment. Of course, all variables aren’t usually constant. If you achieve financial success through a nerdy, male-dominated profession, and if you responsibly save your money rather than buying $100 dinners for first-date Tinder girls, I’m not sure it helps you much. (Source: Anecdotes from my own experience. I managed to increase my income from $35k to over six figures in the span of a few years. It has made zero appreciable difference in my romantic life).

            Less-attractive: Willing to concede this a bit, although it’s worth pointing out that it’s not THAT uncommon to find examples of traditionally unattractive people still being successful. The extremes are things like burn victims and disabled people who still find love and happiness with relatively normal spouses. I think most people who complain about FA consider themselves (and might very well be correct) of at least average attractiveness, and have probably been told by others they are as well (perhaps too inclined to believe this rather than thinking people are just being nice).

            Less-well-socialized: I’ll give you this, but it’s sort of a chicken or egg question. A 30 year old male virgin is assumed to be less well socialized. And the fact that they are a 30 year old male virgin is sufficient to prove it.

          • Hmmm, I’d prefer to break this down a little bit.

            Originally, I did break it down, but the comment was already too long, and way outside the scope of “taxonomy”, so I rolled all that stuff up together.

            voluntarily self-identify as FA do not strike me as a bunch of uneducated, poor, ugly, aspies.

            I’ve seen plenty of FAs complain about each of those deficits. And high-IQ people can be less educated if they don’t have access to resources for getting credentials.

            In particular, there’s a lot of discussion among FA’s about how not being physically attractive (including being very short or having seemingly unmasculine features) is increasingly a social death sentence, and that the trend toward greater salience of physical features is, as you say, unjust.

            It is well documented that almost everyone unconsciously attributes positive personality traits to attractive people, and negative ones to unattractive people. Obviously that tends to aggravate the social isolation of people who are seen as ugly, not just from potential romantic partners, but from co-workers, classmates, employers, neighbors, etc.

            For example, the popular dating site OK Cupid has a “Love Is Blind” day, when pictures are temporarily blacked out. An FA guy (on Reddit’s foreveralone forum) wrote:

            For a couple months I had gotten no replies with the exception of a couple rejections and a couple harsher rejections but on that day, everything changed… On “Love is Blind” day I messaged women but the difference was, some of them actually replied to me in a positive way. I got into good conversations with multiple women and I thought maybe they could get past my looks once they re-enabled pictures. Instead, once my pictures were re-enabled, every single one of them stopped talking to me. I was bummed out and it solidified my belief that I was ugly.

            Another writes:

            What I’ve noticed about being ugly with aspergers is that you’re automatically considered a serial killer or pedophile until proven otherwise.

            And still another:

            I once again was talking with a woman online who asked me for a picture. I sent it to them and they never replied. This is not the first time. This is not the 2nd time. This is not the 20th time. It’s near 100 times at this point where that has happened. Why can’t people just accept that some people are just ugly. This “nobody is ugly” sentiment is incorrect. How many women think a short, socially awkward guy with Aspergers is their “dream guy.”

            You wrote that “The anger comes when you believe your circumstances make you desirable, and yet, you achieve no results.” Maybe that’s how self-identified “incels” feel. Among FAs, a group for which I obviously feel more compassion, I see anger and despair over being judged against an unattainable standard of attractiveness.

          • Matt M says:

            Interesting. Sounds like we both just have different anecdotal experiences. Most of the FA guys I’ve met are people who seem pretty darn average, and are frustrated in terms of “I’m pretty darn average in most areas – so why are my results so ridiculously below average? Something’s not right here and I don’t know what it is!”

            I’m sure there are plenty of people who complain (justly or unjustly) that certain factors (mainly physical appearance) are assigned more importance than they should, but I feel like that’s a different sort of complaint. At least you know what’s wrong, even if you’re powerless to change it.

            As a bit of a side-note, we should all thank Tinder. If nothing else, it proved pretty decisively how important physical appearance actually is, AND gave people a pretty reliable metric to judge how attractive they are to the opposite sex. I used to think I was about average in attractiveness, but the vast majority of my friends get like 5x the amount of matches I do. Whoops!

          • I’m sure there are plenty of people who complain (justly or unjustly) that certain factors (mainly physical appearance) are assigned more importance than they should, but I feel like that’s a different sort of complaint. At least you know what’s wrong, even if you’re powerless to change it.

            But one can certainly rail on about the unfairness of it all. And they do.

            As a bit of a side-note, we should all thank Tinder. If nothing else, it proved pretty decisively how important physical appearance actually is

            Tinder is an engine for making physical appearance even more critical in the real world of relationships.

            In a way, I’m grateful that I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s. If I were a young man today, I think my deficits would be judged far more harshly than they were in that context.

          • Matt M says:

            Tinder is an engine for making physical appearance even more critical in the real world of relationships.

            Did it change things? Or did it just properly reflect what was already true?

            The other cool insight from Tinder – the most efficient play from the male perspective is to swipe right on everyone. Another good reflection of the realities of dating markets.

          • random832 says:

            The complaint is, “I AM educated and I DO have money and I’m NOT ugly and I CAN socially interact, and yet still nobody will have sex with me.” Obviously (with ego being what it is) they may be wrong on some of those points, but that’s the general idea here.

            I’m not so sure. The alternate theory is that they don’t believe that women value these things, possibly because they have been told that it is misogynistic to believe that women do value income or looks. So, we arrive at the conclusion: “Chad” is rich and handsome but a jerk, and believing women care more about money and looks than personality is wrongthink. And the “incel” may be no prize himself in terms of social interaction, but (possibly skewed by ego) at least he’s better than Chad. And, at least if he has a diagnosis, he may have been told that it’s “ableist” to hold his poor social skills against him. If he’s also fat, he may even have encountered spaces where he’s told that discrimination against that is wrong (and missed the subtext that it’s only wrong when applied to women).

            For example, the popular dating site OK Cupid has a “Love Is Blind” day, when pictures are temporarily blacked out.

            What’s the point of having such an event if they’re not going to follow through and shame everyone (of any gender; I seriously doubt that only men had such an experience) who stopped replying after the pictures were revealed? Give them a sarcastic “Love is blind, but you’re not” achievement or something.

          • Did it change things? Or did it just properly reflect what was already true?

            Fifty years ago, if you wanted to buy some widget, you’d go to Sears, examine the two or three models they had available, ask questions, and pick one. Maybe Montgomery Ward across town had different ones, but unless you were very diligent, you wouldn’t know that.

            Nowadays, for many things, there is a vast online market. Instead of knowing a lot about two or three choices, you know a tiny bit about a thousand different choices. If prices are comparable, you’re likely to pick the one that, at first glance, looks best to you.

            The change in the dating market parallels this. Instead of just a few members of the opposite sex in your immediate social space, who you know pretty well, you can choose from among a thousand faces on Tinder. Of course you’d narrow your choices to the best looking faces.

            At least, that’s the way it works for most women. For a man, as you say, his best strategy is to swipe-right on every face, since he’s not the one who gets to choose.

            Supposedly, to women, 80% of men are below average attractiveness. So, no surprise that many men get zero matches on Tinder no matter how much they swipe-right. Sure, such a man knows exactly why he was unanimously rejected by hundreds of women, but we shouldn’t be surprised when he complains that this hyper-efficient relationship marketplace is unfair to him.

            What’s the point of having such an event [Love is Blind day]?

            I have no idea.

          • Aapje says:

            @random832

            The alternate theory is that they don’t believe that women value these things, possibly because they have been told that it is misogynistic to believe that women do value income or looks.

            Prejudice generally involves a dichotomy, where differences are exaggerated in both directions. The stereotype of men is that they go for looks, submissiveness, etc, while the stereotype for women is that they go for personality, income, assertiveness, etc. So it’s not surprising that men get confused, especially when outliers in wealth and status can overcome a huge looks deficiency and are highly visible (see Trump and his wife, for example).

            A lot of advice to men is how they can be better to women (like doing more chores*), but not how they can be more attractive to women. Most people seemingly cannot even grasp the difference.

            * Which studies show correlates with less ‘sex having,’ suggesting that this may be considered unattractive by women.

            What’s the point of having such an event?

            My model of human dating is that people weigh looks against other features to decide whom to date, so poor looks can be compensated somewhat by other qualities**. The uglier the person, the smaller the chance that they will have great qualities that compensate sufficiently. In a ‘rich’ environment where people have to filter their dating opportunities a lot, people will then ignore the people who are so ugly that they need to have quite strong qualities to overcome that, because the effort to success ratio is too low.

            A ‘Love Is Blind’ event can plausibly result in some people getting a chance to show their qualities, so that after the reveal, the other person would be willing to date. On the other hand, studies show that people think that looks predict other qualities, so you’d expect the opposite too, where people start imagining that their charming pen pal is an Adonis. So then the reveal could be a major letdown, causing a very negative reaction, which is stronger than their negative feelings if they knew how ugly the person was in the first place. If the second effect is greater than the first, the event would seem useless.

            ** One such quality is chance to reciprocate, which results in the counterintuitive result that the best looking people get fewer messages than the slightly less good looking.

          • Matt M says:

            Back when I was a teenager trying to pick up girls in chat rooms, I used to dread the eventual picture reveal (hers not mine). Not because I was worried she’d end up being ugly, but because I was worried she’d end up being so attractive I’d know, for certain, nothing real could ever come of it as she was far too out of my league (or that “she” was a fake/catfishing attempt, if it was like, clearly a professional picture of a model)

          • studies show that people think that looks predict other qualities

            Or, to put it more directly, almost everyone unconsciously attributes good qualities to attractive people, and bad qualities to unattractive people.

          • random832 says:

            @Aapje

            A lot of advice to men is how they can be better to women (like doing more chores*), but not how they can be more attractive to women. Most people seemingly cannot even grasp the difference.

            That was… kind of my point. It is regarded as misogynistic to believe that there is a difference, and my suspicion is that the ‘forever alone’ types are people who have internalized that so much that they may honestly not know why they’re unattractive after following all of that advice.

          • Vermillion says:

            Do advice givers in these communities ever suggest something really crazy like I dunno, hear me out, it’s pretty off the wall, interacting with women in real life?

            Dialing the snark down to 0, it just seems to me that yes, obviously it’s hard to date through a superficial medium if you are superficially unattractive. But there are other mediums! And if you want your other qualities to shine through I can’t imagine a better means than building a house with with Habitat for Humanity or somesuch. Well maybe a dorm, but there’s generally much less vomit around a build site, so that’d still be my #1.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s also worth noting that the stereotypes about what men value in women (youth, attractiveness, etc.) are largely true.

            So a young male consuming popular media about male and female desires looks at the portrayal of male desires, finds that they do, in fact, match his own desires, and concludes that the media is probably getting it right for women as well.

            Except that they aren’t. In fact, they’re almost the opposite. Media says that women want nice, respectable men who are good providers. So the young man expects that in his future, his ability to attract young and pretty women will correspond with his upright behavior and income potential.

            When that doesn’t work, he becomes noticeably frustrated, and this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. I maintain that romantic comedies are far more responsible for the behavior of say, an Elliot Rodger, than violent videogames are.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M:

            What about Rodgers’ behaviour had to do with romcoms? He clearly seems to have thought that he deserved for women to be attracted to him, without him doing very much to attract women. None of the romcoms I’ve seen (admittedly, not many) present the ideal man as a stable provider. In romcoms, men are rewarded for pushing boundaries. Which is a bad message, but a different kind.

            If anything, for young men, the problem is the “action movie romance subplot” situation, where the protagonist attracts a woman by dint of being the protagonist and doing protagonist things, without doing anything romantically-focused. While men who are strong, successful, etc do tend to attract women, only very rarely can a man attract women by being strong, successful, etc, without trying to attract women as well. TLP wrote about this.

            Both men and women receive a lot of terrible messaging about what the other sex wants. But I don’t think men are receiving their particular sort of terrible messaging from romcoms.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But there are other mediums! And if you want your other qualities to shine through I can’t imagine a better means than building a house with with Habitat for Humanity or somesuch.

            For every non-traditional way to find a date, at least one of two things happens

            1) The high-status guys find it

            2) A group of women complains very loudly about men who are in the activity to meet women, how they are horrible and creepy and misogynistic.

            That’s enough to discourage most of the dateless. The rest… well, they’ll show up, see the people around them pairing up, and note bitterly that nothing has changed for them. If you don’t know the steps you can’t dance.

          • Matt M says:

            dndnrsn,

            Perhaps I was wrong to single-out romcoms. I don’t watch many of them so it’s possible I’m not characterizing them correctly.

            I think media in general characterizes romance as, well, sort of how Vermillion puts it. That’s it’s just a natural product of being a fairly decent person in the general proximity of women such that “your qualities shine through” and then you magically have a girlfriend. People who expect this are bound to be sorely disappointed.

            And I think that’s largely what happened with Rodger. He was utterly convinced that all he had to do was to not be a dick, to show up, to be around women, to show himself generally intelligent and capable and polite, and that he would get the attention and the respect of the female gender. And not ONLY did that not work, but it actually got him the opposite. It got him scorn and ridicule.

            Maybe it’s more sitcoms or action movies than romcoms that are the culprit here, I don’t know. But a whole lot of people (myself included) grew up believing “just be nice to women and they will like you” and were horrifically disappointed that this turned out to be a fantastic lie. Some of us handled it more productively than others. I’m actually surprised we haven’t seen more cases like him though…

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            Did he do any of those things? I’ve only read secondhand accounts of what he wrote, but what I’ve read suggests a very bitter guy whose attempts at worldly success (with women or otherwise – I gather his problems did not begin and end with lack of success with women) involved a great deal of magical thinking – he took the statement “you are the protagonist of your own story” a lot more literally than most people do. Most people, additionally, do not kill other people, no matter how bad things get.

            It is true that men have been told false things about women, and false things about how to deal with women, and that women have been told false things about men, and how to deal with men. There are a great deal of unhappy men, and a great deal of unhappy women, but they are unhappy in different ways, because they tend to have different problems, because they have been told different false things, and thus take different wrong ideas into the dating/romance/sex “market”, which treats men looking for women and women looking for men differently. Additionally, there is advice that is good that is wildly interpreted. For example, “nice” is actually a positive quality, but “passive aggressive” is not.

          • Matt M says:

            Just out of curiosity, what sort of false things do you think women have been told about men?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            A few thoughts, not guaranteed to be organized well:

            The romcoms I’ve seen tend to promote an ideal of True Love (often based in serendipity). Love is something that happens to you – this is the distaff equivalent of “women will fall in love with you because you’re the protagonist.” I have met young women deeply resistant to the idea that they should be working to find the relationships they want – that it’s something that’s supposed to just happen. Related: you’re far more likely to see young women being exhorted to be aggressive, active, etc in their careers than in their love lives.

            Both men and women tend to typical-mind regarding what they think the other sex wants (to see what I mean, compare complaints regarding hetero dating by men and women to complaints regarding same-sex dating by either). Cultural messaging probably encourages this more than it used to.

            To some extent, young professional-class women (professional-class women being something very rare up until a few decades ago) are being sold a “life plan” that works far better for their male counterparts. It works better for their male counterparts because men get an extra decade or two of trouble-free fertility, by and large. Among other reasons.

            You can see a lot of what is going on by comparing the various different dating complaint standard formats. Each sex/sexuality combo has one or more. The straight female ones tend to be either “eew why do all these losers and creeps keep hitting on me,” “why do the guys I have casual sex with turn out to be jerks,” or “now that I want to settle down, where’s the One True Love I was promised?” What people are unhappy about, and how they express that unhappiness, are great clues into the assumptions they held going into whatever has made them unhappy.

            Compare the Redpill to The Rules.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Matt M

            Women have been given very poor dating advice when it comes to their long-term interests. For example, I don’t think they are properly warned about The Wall and how fleeting fertility is.

          • Matt M says:

            Jask,

            That’s almost the same thing though, isn’t it?

            I say “men have been given bad advice on what women are looking for”

            The response is “ah, but women have also been given bad advice as to what they should be looking for.”

            But these are basically the same complaint. That women are looking for the “wrong” (for lack of a better word) things, not just in ways that harm men, but in ways that harm themselves too. Such that when the “nice guy” looks at a girl dating a jerk and says “She’d have been better off with me,” you’re essentially saying that he’s right.

          • Barely matters says:

            @ Jaskologist

            What you’ve said here is on point, and very hard to convey in a way that your audience will be receptive to. As someone who spent his late teens and early 20’s working in strip clubs and advising the other dancers that maybe they should consider maxing out their RRSPs before buying more cocaine (Which went over about as well as you would expect), I’m not sure how to actually pull it off.

            I remember a part in Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise that talked about why market crashes were so hard to predict, and why nobody listens to the people who do manage to predict them. The gist was that you have more to lose personally by being a dissenter during the good times, and are incentivized to keep dancing while the music is playing, and then when everybody fails to see the crash coming you can point to everyone else who is in the same boat and argue that it was impossible to avoid. (I hope I’m not getting this too wrong, and highly recommend checking out the book itself)

            Talking about the wall seems to follow a similar trajectory, in that the women who benefit most from their youth will usually shut the negativity (ie, Haters) out and go find someone making more positive predictions. It’s not until they’re over the wall that they’re willing to talk frankly about what they wish they’d done differently.

            I do agree that a lot of those women are set up for failure in a similar way to the men who are being instructed on how to be *useful* to women when they’re asking about how to be attractive to them.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            But that’s confirmation bias. People notice unpleasant guys with confidence (“jerks”) getting girls more readily than they notice pleasant guys with confidence getting girls – because the latter does not rankle, and thus is less noticeable. Likewise, unpleasant guys without confidence do not get girls more than pleasant guys without confidence.

            The number of women who date men who are bad news is probably equivalent to the number of men who date women who are bad news.

            Further – I don’t think the correct statement is “women are looking for the wrong thing”, or “men are looking for the wrong thing.” Rather, people are doing the looking itself wrong.

            @Barely matters

            What % of strippers’ income is reported? I would assume that if they are getting tipped heavily, there’s a high level of non-reported income. Which would make the RRSP less advantageous.

          • Vermillion says:

            For every non-traditional way to find a date, at least one of two things happens

            1) The high-status guys find it

            2) A group of women complains very loudly about men who are in the activity to meet women, how they are horrible and creepy and misogynistic.

            @ Nybbler

            I think I wasn’t clear with what I meant by putting yourself out there IRL. For one I don’t think the point should be finding a date, because it doesn’t match well with the setting. It’d be like if someone at a singles bar and started refinishing a cabinet. But if you find a community to be a part of, something you can really sink your teeth into, that will be the first step.

            The point I was (poorly) trying to make is that people are attracted to a lot of things, passion more than anything else. This quote from the Sparrow gets at what I mean,

            Watching him with one eye, she wondered if men ever figured out that they were more appealing when they were pursuing their own work than when they were pursuing a woman.

            So find a small group of people doing something you care about and ask to join in. Make yourself useful. Help people with their projects and start some of your own. Grow as a human. And that’s what happens before the pairing up step. Incidentally, it’s also how people gain status.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Dndnrsn

            Based on the couple I’ve prepared taxes for, not very much. In the cases of the ones I’ve been with, both were reporting significantly less income than the basic personal deduction, while earning well over double that amount. At that point, given that they won’t be paying any taxes anyway, underreporting income is just leaving money on the table (In this case, by giving them only a very small RRSP maximum in the first place), even ignoring the fact that those contributions are further tax deductible.

            I’m using RRSPs as shorthand for the purposes of the previous comment (Besides, you’re right that a TFSA would be much better for their situation, but I don’t think those existed until a few years later.), with the full recommendation falling along the lines of “Hey, you see Olga over there? Know how she’s 45 and has to hustle way harder than she used to with diminishing results? One day you’ll be there too, and you’re going to wish you had saved enough money that you don’t have to keep working here, just like she does now. Please save some of your bucks now, ok?”

            Uniformly they’d thank me for the advice and say they appreciate that I’m looking out for them. They’re still going to party this weekend, but they’re definitely going to start saving soon (God knows they don’t want to end up like Olga). We’re in our 30’s now, and I still have a bunch of them on facebook. For the most part, their lives have turned out roughly how you’d expect.

            From here, I’m really happy that at least *I* took my advice.

            *Edit*
            Through this I’ve managed to completely sidetrack the broader point I was initially making about The Wall and women being encouraged to make shortsighted choices as if conditions will always be as favourable as they are at 18. The older strippers who served as the cautionary examples for the younger ones were in the position that they now had no one who wanted to marry/take care of them, and now that their looks had faded, no marketable skills. Which is what I think Jaskologist was driving at.

          • Matt M says:

            Vermillion,

            I just want to say that I think you’re totally wrong. If a guy says he is desperate to meet women, and your advice is “go do habitat for humanity, there’s women there you could meet” then he’s going to take that literally.

            You can push back and say, “But no, you can’t go there TO meet women, you have to go there just to build houses and then maybe if you’re good at building houses women will start to notice you.”

            But that doesn’t work. Because the guy doesn’t WANT to build houses, or he’d already BE at habitat for humanity. You can say “fine, not habitat for humanity, find some other public service you can perform that also attracts significant interest and do that instead.”

            But that thing probably doesn’t exist either. It certainly doesn’t if you’re a nerd who works 60-80 hours a week and prefers to spend their off-time pursuing nerdly hobbies.

            But hey, fine, you want a girlfriend right? Nuts to your preferences, suck it up and go do a thing like that anyway. So you go and do the thing. But don’t you dare let anyone know that you’re there to meet women… that makes you a creep and a loser. So instead, you do what you’ve always done in life, you keep your head down, you treat everyone with basic courtesy, you accomplish the tasks you are given, and that’s all. You do this and you wait for the women to suddenly notice you, for them to strike up conversation, to give you the slightest sign they may be willing to talk to you without reporting you to the police. But it never comes. She’s distracted by the better-looking dude who is constantly flirting with her in between complaining about how needy his girlfriend is. Is he there just to meet women too? Nah, couldn’t be – because he’s clearly not a creep. He’s handsome, and other women want to be with him too, so he must have something going for him, right?

          • @ Aapje

            A lot of advice to men is how they can be better to women… but not how they can be more attractive to women.

            Women’s actual partner preferences aren’t much spoken of, I think, because women prefer not to speak about them.

            @ random832

            the ‘forever alone’ types … may honestly not know why they’re unattractive

            I think those who are physically unattractive are perfectly aware that being unattractive is a problem.

            @ Vermillion

            Do advice givers in these communities ever suggest something really crazy like I dunno, hear me out, it’s pretty off the wall, interacting with women in real life?

            Actually, advice givers in those communities strongly counsel against resorting to online dating and hookup sites. Offline opportunities are not being neglected — remember, these are guys who have experienced total failure in sometimes many years of in-person efforts.

            That being said, a large and growing proportion of all real-world couplings now start online. And the culture is rapidly adapting to that. Pretty soon, in-person approaches will come to be seen as creepy and dangerous, or as oddball as, say, going to a bookstore to buy a book.

            @ Matt M

            are far more responsible for the behavior of say, an Elliot Rodger

            Do we have to bring up an aspiring mass murderer, as if he’s the epitome of lonely young men? It’s like holding up James Hodgkinson as a typical Bernie Sanders supporter.

            @ Barely matters

            Nate Silver’s The Signal and the Noise … highly recommend checking out the book itself

            Seconded.

            I think it’s worth remembering our host’s recommendations, from Radicalizing the Romanceless:

            Personal virtue is not very well correlated with ease of finding a soulmate. It may be only slightly correlated, uncorrelated, or even anti-correlated in different situations. Even smart people who want various virtues in a soulmate usually use them as a rule-out criterion, rather than a rule-in criterion – that is, given someone whom they are already attracted to, they will eliminate him if he does not have those virtues. The rule-in criterion that makes you attractive to people is mysterious and mostly orthogonal to virtue. This is true both in men and women, but in different ways. Male attractiveness seems to depend on things like a kind of social skills which is not necessarily the same kind of social skills people who want to teach you social skills will teach, testosterone level, social status, and whatever you call the ability to just ask someone out, consequences be damned. These can be obtained in very many different ways that are partly within your control, but they are complicated and subtle and if you naively aim for cliched versions of the terms you will fail.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Barely matters

            I wonder how likely the CRA or IRS are to go after strippers for possible unreported income. I have no idea what typical cash take-home is for a stripper, though, so I don’t know how high they would rank as targets.

          • Habitat for Humanity seems like a strange suggestion for meeting women. The volunteers at every HFH work day I’ve been to have been 100% men. Generally speaking, volunteer construction work doesn’t interest many women.

          • Matt M says:

            Larry,

            I certainly did not mean to imply Rodger was typical of lonely men, and I apologize if I did so. I bring him up as an example of the “worst-case-scenario” for what male loneliness and alienation can lead to.

            I probably shouldn’t admit this in public, but when I read his manifesto I was nearly moved to tears… because of how much I related to it. To this day I feel grateful that in my late teens/early 20s I had a female friend in my life who was able to back me down from a lot of my anger and frustration (she never put out though – lolfriendzone). I think there are a lot of guys out there who generally feel as he felt, they just have better impulse control or a more developed sense of morality or are less narcissistic or, who even knows what.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            Small potatoes in my experience. I’ve never known a stripper who has mentioned being audited. From the ones I know, they don’t seem to be shy about buying new cars and other easily traceable assets that would be dead giveaways of shenanigans, so I presume it doesn’t happen often.

          • Vermillion says:

            @Larry

            Yeah that was at the top of my mind for some reason. My chapter in college was a mix of both men and women and looking back the guys typically did the labor and the girls the fundraising. Still a fair bit of crossover though.

            @Matt M.

            I was very nearly a wizard. Not a KHV or KV, but for various reasons it didn’t get a lot further than that till I was about 27 or 28. I certainly engaged in a fair bit of magical thinking in the decade before that: 1) hang around girls 2) a miracle happens 3) girlfriend. Success rate was about what you’d expect.

            I don’t know what advice would have been good for you in your 20s, I definitely don’t know what to tell Kevin C. now, all I can do is say what I wish I could have told myself back then.

            It took a lot of steps, and maybe that path was narrower than I thought.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Vermillion

            My experience was that what appears to have attracted my first girlfriend was not something I went into thinking “gee, I sure hope this gets me a girlfriend” – but at the same time if I hadn’t been told she was interested in me, hadn’t asked her out, etc, nothing would have happened either. There’s stuff that is both good in and of itself, and also attractive to women, but a lot of guys are either misinformed, or choose to misunderstand, because the second bit is the scarier part.

          • random832 says:

            Small potatoes in my experience. I’ve never known a stripper who has mentioned being audited. From the ones I know, they don’t seem to be shy about buying new cars and other easily traceable assets that would be dead giveaways of shenanigans, so I presume it doesn’t happen often.

            I read somewhere that people whose income is mostly cash are incentivized to report it properly by the fact that reporting less income makes it harder to get credit. If they want to get a loan for that new car, they need to be able to show that they have enough income to make the payments, and tax-reported income is (supposedly) how people who don’t get regular paychecks do that.

            I can’t find anything on it now though (search terms I tried just find stuff about the earned income tax credit or debt cancellation being taxable), so no idea on the veracity.

          • baconbacon says:

            I read somewhere that people whose income is mostly cash are incentivized to report it properly by the fact that reporting less income makes it harder to get credit. If they want to get a loan for that new car, they need to be able to show that they have enough income to make the payments, and tax-reported income is (supposedly) how people who don’t get regular paychecks do that.

            I would take a credit hit for a 25-30% boost in income.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        why do you think that “normie” refers to intelligence

        it might correlate but it’s mostly about the divide between online people (usually channers) and offline people

        • johan_larson says:

          I think I first saw the word “normie” used in this comment.

          Kevin C seems to be using it to refer to people of normal intelligence, as opposed to his own high intelligence.

          Add in that I despair at least a little whenever I contemplate the fact that I’m smarter than something like 99.9% of the population (and most of them, a lot smarter than), despite the fact that I’m really not all that smart. (If I was, would I be such a total unemployable loser?)

          So, I ask my fellow 150-range IQ types here, how do you do it? How do you tolerate having to put up with the “normies”? Particularly when they are (comparitively) so, so stupid? Or the fact that there’s just so, so many more of them than us?

          • Well... says:

            I first saw a variant of “normie” used, I think, on 30 Rock, when Jenna and her cross-dressing boyfriend start “norming” (not acting like total freaks) as a way to derive sexual titillation.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Well my bad then. That’s not the, uh, normal usage.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve heard “normie” used by one of my kids who’s in a magnet program, as the slang for his schoolmates who aren’t in a magnet program.

      • Anon. says:

        Normies are basically just mainstream, normal people. With a dog and 2.4 kids. Obviously there are highly intelligent normies.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Sorry, from now on I will try to use “mundanes.”

      • James Miller says:

        How about “civilians”?

        • Well... says:

          Civilians, used informally like this, tends to mean “anyone not involved in the relevant activity/lifestyle/etc. you and I are involved in” but does not connote an inherent quality of those people.

      • Anatoly says:

        Why invent fanciful terminology that makes you seem like an uptight snob, when good well-known down-to-earth colloquial phrases like hoi polloi exist?

        • Mary says:

          “Mundanes” is a term of at several decades standing. Alas, it means “person not involved in science fiction fandom (or several related fields)” so repurposing it here would lead to a LOT of confusion.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Jask:

        Sorry, from now on I will try to use “mundanes.”

        …thus outing yourself as a resident of Xanth, with the implication that you have magic ability just like those who talk about muggles 🙂

      • Orpheus says:

        I nominate “plebs”.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      I really like it, but I always interpret it in the r9k usage.

    • neaanopri says:

      Nobody else seems to be saying it, but it really doesn’t bother me. It seems like a mild slur against people in power, which is by my book fine.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “If you don’t stop calling me ‘normie’ I’m going to start calling you ‘Cliff’.”

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      Agreed. I tend to be (though not always consistently) against diminutive nicknames applied to any group but one’s own.

    • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

      As it seems to refer for most to people of average IQ, I suggest something more to that point, i.e., Meanies. 🙂

    • blacktrance says:

      I like it, but I see there’s some variance in what it’s understood to mean. As I use it, it’s not about intelligence, social aptitude, or sexual success, but adherence to popular/mainstream culture, having normal interests, being unreflective, etc. This (source) is a kind of normie.

  28. ManyCookies says:

    Is there any money in being an identical twin for twin studies? It’d be a lovely backup career!

  29. keranih says:

    Anyway, there’s a house opening up there as the current residents leave, and we’d like to get rationalist-adjacent people to move in. It’s three bedrooms, one bathroom, and it costs $4100/month total.

    …am I the only one who sees this as an anti-rationalist advertisement?

    Like, people who would pay that much to rent that sort of house aren’t rational, they’re fucking bugshit crazy???

    Hyperbole aside – that’s enough to rent a three-bedroom, one bath house, with a nice yard, for six months where I live, with quite a bit left over for utilities. Not in the *best* neighborhood, no, but in a decent-enough school district (6-7 on a 1-10 scale). 1K would get you a 4 bedroom, two bath, plus yard. Not a major tech center (that’s about 90 minutes away) but the unemployment rate is less than 6%, with a mix of blue collar, health, government and tech jobs.

    So my (for real, explain it to me like I’m five, pls) question is – if people are trying to make the world better by donating extra funds to various charities, and by reducing inequality, etc, etc…why is moving to Berkeley and other parts of the Left Coast even an option?

    (Obviously it’s a big draw for many. But I don’t get it. Please help me understand.)

    • Well... says:

      …am I the only one who sees this as an anti-rationalist advertisement?

      Hah, no. I’m right there with you. But I’m also not clear on why any sane person would want to live in a place with a population density higher than about 3K people per square mile.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      You weren’t the only one, keranih. Making Rationalists a subset of Bay Aryans makes the whole EA thing look just like standard “Look, I’m so rich that I can pay $4100 for rent and still have money to give to charity!” Leftism.

      I think it would be interesting to discuss where rationalists ought to live.

    • Wrong Species says:

      The reason for moving to San Francisco is because other rationalists live in San Francisco. And coordinating to change that will probably fail.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        A Bay Aryan is the most noble thing to be, speaking Sanskrit like a computer. Paying the rent due a kshatriya (landlord) and giving alms to brahmins MIRI are just the price of entry.

    • Chalid says:

      I feel like I’m stating the obvious, but the Bay Area is filled with people who have very high incomes, and if you have a very high income, you don’t mind spending more money on rent, especially since housing is one of the few ways you can spend money that actually improves your life.

      Anyway… $4100/month is under $50,000 a year; 1/3 of that is $16400/year; a quick search suggests a new college grad entering a big tech company can get $150-$200k/year total pay (and of course senior guys will make more, possibly much more) – why would they even blink at that kind of rent?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        SF rent is more than double Seattle rent. Do Aryan tech companies pay that much more than Seattle tech companies?
        Also, not everyone moving to the Bay Area because Rationalism is employed by a tech company. Do Aryan psychiatrists earn six times as much as psychiatrists where keranih lives?

        • Well... says:

          I am replying to the 6th comment of yours that I have read where you use the term “Aryan” to refer to people in the Bay Arya–er, Area.

          The first time I thought it was so clever and funny that I actually smiled out here in meatspace.

          The second, third, and fourth times I smiled inwardly, savoring the cleverness.

          The fifth time, I appreciated it quietly.

          The sixth time I got annoyed, finding it cheap and trite and somewhat afoul of Godwin.

          I hope you don’t make it into a Thing. Can’t we just call people in the Bay Area “suckers” or “The Westward Coastal Elite” or something?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I like “suckers”! The second one is a mouthful. The “renting rich”, maybe?

        • Chalid says:

          Double rent does not require double pay to justify it.

          If a Seattle worker gets paid X after taxes, and pays 0.25X in rent, then moving to the Bay Area and paying double rent, e.g. 0.5X, is justified if he gets paid just 1.25X.

          • Mary says:

            Assuming that affects nothing else. But, of course, the grocery probably has to pay double rent, and that shows up in the prices, and so on with other stores.

          • Matt M says:

            Mary, that’s true, but I’m not sure it scales evenly.

            I haven’t pulled any actual numbers, but based on Scott’s posts it feels to me that Bay Area rent is roughly double equivalent Houston rent.

            And yet, I suspect buying a footlong from Subway does not cost double there what it does here.

          • dodrian says:

            Data not perfect, but it looks like San Fransisco is roughly 35% more expensive than Houston (not including rent).

          • Charles F says:

            Sure everything else gets more expensive too, but it doesn’t matter. This same concept applies just as well to every other expense as well. Just substitute 0.4X for all expenses instead of 0.25X for rent and you get a similar result. A doubling of expenses is still justified by just a 40% raise.

          • Brad says:

            Data not perfect, but it looks like San Fransisco is roughly 35% more expensive than Houston (not including rent).

            The cost of living adjustment problem looks to me to be conceptually impossible to ever do perfectly, or even particularly well. There’s an inherent fuzziness at the heart of the concept.

          • Charles F says:

            Data not perfect, but it looks like San Fransisco is roughly 35% more expensive than Houston (not including rent)

            The cost of living adjustment problem looks to me to be conceptually impossible to ever do perfectly, or even particularly well. There’s an inherent fuzziness at the heart of the concept.

            Taken to its extreme: Based on numbeo estimates on the one hand, and this guy on the other, it looks like Houston is about 40% more expensive.

          • dodrian says:

            The cost of living adjustment problem looks to me to be conceptually impossible to ever do perfectly, or even particularly well. There’s an inherent fuzziness at the heart of the concept.

            True, but I gave the warning as the data for the site is crowd-source and prone to a lot more errors (self selecting bias, potentially small sample size, etc) than you’d get if someone were to attempt to directly compare the two cities.

      • James Miller says:

        Don’t forget our progressive tax system and the fact that mortgage interest but not rent is deductible.

      • keranih says:

        the Bay Area is filled with people who have very high incomes

        Emm. I’ll allow that there are a lot of people there now with high incomes, because the people with low incomes can’t afford to pay the rent. And so they *left*.

        The median household income in the USA is $56K this year. Why wouldn’t anyone choke on spending nearly 90% of that on rent alone?

        And if you say “because the rationalist community isn’t the median of the US population” – welp, there you go.

        Also – double check that link – to my read, the average starting salary was $105K, and it was only with starting bonus AND stock dividends that $150K came into view.

        OTOH – I can see why rationalists put so much thought into UBI, considering that the Bay Area seems to be attempting to price the average human out of the area.

        • Brad says:

          Without intending at all to offend our host I think the explanation for why the Rationalists are in SF is that the various Rationalist projects are funded by, or those organizing them hope they will be funded by in the future, wealthy tech workers and owners living in the Bay Area. The leaders of these organizations need to be near the donor base, and around that nucleus forms the rest of the community.

        • Chalid says:

          The median household income in the USA is $56K this year. Why wouldn’t anyone choke on spending nearly 90% of that on rent alone?

          Another way to put it – purely in monetary terms, would be that if you make say $250k/year, living someplace that makes you 10% more productive is, very crudely, worth spending maybe $15k/year more on rent. The right living situation can *easily* make you 10% more productive. Indeed, the difference can be vastly more than that.

          And that’s ignoring the non-monetary benefits of course.

          Also – double check that link – to my read, the average starting salary was $105K, and it was only with starting bonus AND stock dividends that $150K came into view.

          which is why I said “total pay,” not “base salary without stock awards or bonuses”

          • Matt M says:

            The right living situation can *easily* make you 10% more productive.

            True, but low housing costs can also contribute to productivity. For half the cost of Scott’s house he wants to split 3-4 ways, I live in alone a brand new two-bedroom apartment that’s about a 5-minute drive (or 30 minute bus ride, door to door) from my downtown office. I use one of the bedrooms as an office when I want to work without being in the office. Because the apartment is new, the walls are thick, and I have no roommate, I can have complete silence and concentration whenever I feel like, and I never have to bother with doing chores or ensuring I’m not disturbing others. I can get to work quickly and easily without wasting time commuting.

            I imagine if you threw me in some random Bay Area “group home” I’d be significantly less productive than I am here. (Maybe that’s why all the tech companies want their employees to essentially live on campus)

          • Chalid says:

            At the other extreme… there are $10,000/month apartments in Manhattan that are completely justified, because it means the occupants who are earning $2M/year have just a five minute walk to their offices.

          • baconbacon says:

            Another way to put it – purely in monetary terms, would be that if you make say $250k/year, living someplace that makes you 10% more productive is, very crudely, worth spending maybe $15k/year more on rent

            The marginal tax rate around $250k a year in California is ~40%, a 10% boost in productivity isn’t worth it when you consider the higher cost of living outside of higher rent, and that assumes you capture 100% of your improved productivity in salary, without your company capturing any of that productivity. Since the company is eating large non salary costs by organizing in a high cost area this seems unlikely to be true on its face.

          • albatross11 says:

            One interesting thing about living in places with wildly different costs of living and correspondingly different salaries is that in effect, you face a very different set of prices in one place than in another.

            Imagine moving from St Louis to San Jose. Your salary goes up to compensate your increase in costs of living.

            The higher costs of living are mainly concentrated in housing and stuff you have to buy locally–you pay more for your groceries and such. It’s as though you just moved to a world where housing prices went up and car prices went down, and the price of anything you can order online went *way* down.

          • Chalid says:

            and that assumes you capture 100% of your improved productivity in salary, without your company capturing any of that productivity. Since the company is eating large non salary costs by organizing in a high cost area this seems unlikely to be true on its face.

            No it doesn’t, it just assumes the fraction of your productivity captured by you is unchanged. And I don’t see why employee fixed costs should enter into it.

            And in expectation over the long term you will indeed capture much of your increase in productivity. An increase in productivity this year may not change your pay this year that much, but it leads to faster promotion or better projects or what have you.

    • Mark says:

      I live in a more expensive area because I have an irrational fear of:
      1) People with a different accent to me.
      2) Areas I don’t know very well.

      I don’t know how common that is, but once you’re in somewhere, once you’re comfortable, it’s a big risk to move.

      • keranih says:

        Oh, I think that in your situation, that’s actually reasonable.

        I mean, you own up to the fears being irrational, and that’s not something that goes away instantly.

        It doesn’t make moving into such an area rational, but that’s not what you’re doing.

    • gbdub says:

      It is literally 4 times my mortgage payment (including taxes and insurance in escrow) on a 4 bedroom 2000 sq ft house in a Phoenix suburb.

      If I literally doubled my salary, and had a spouse that made almost as much, I maybe wouldn’t gag on that number. I don’t particularly want a roommate as a 30 yr old.

      No wonder polyamory is so popular there – it’s the only way to make rent!

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        As usual, it turns out the tribe’s seemingly immoral or irrational behavior is actually rational in its environment.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        Dating your roommates is a terrible idea. You break up with them and then you’re stuck together until one of you can find a way to move out. (That said, I rarely listen to my own advice.)

        • Well... says:

          In the Bay Area can people afford not to date their roommates?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Much to my grave displeasure, you do not get a discount on your rent for fucking your roommates. (I know, right?)

          • Well... says:

            The idea being, if you had a significant other who you didn’t live with, the significant other would be spending lots of time at your place, or vice versa, with no rent being paid. Also, the s/o or you would be NOT spending time at the place the s/o or you ARE paying rent for.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            If you’re staying over at someone’s place two or three nights a week you’re probably going to move in together so you can share a room and split the rent. (People tend to move in together quickly in the Bay.) But because of this lots of people already have someone they’re sharing a bedroom with and it’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to convince their partner to sleep on the couch on a remotely regular basis.

        • gbdub says:

          My implication was that you would move in with the people you were already dating, not to start fucking your roommates – where I live two adults cohabiting is more than enough to comfortably own a home if they both work, or if one works but has an above average salary. And this is how most of the people I know do it – they ditch roommates as soon as they are sufficiently committed to their romantic partner to move in together or they themselves have enough for their own place (which doesn’t take long on an engineer’s salary).

          In the Bay Area, it appears that for a “family unit” of romantically paired adults to own a home together, the size of that family unit must be > 2.

          It was a joke.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Own schmown, they make it sound like it takes a two-income family unit to rent a room.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      A three-bedroom house is not rented by one person, or even one family. Each of those bedrooms will be inhabited by a separate, probably financially independent person or couple. If the house contains more than one room which is not a bedroom and does not literally contain a toilet or an oven, those are magically now bedrooms, and it can be inhabited by an additional person or couple. (Depending on the preferences of the house, relatively exposed rooms may be partitioned with a privacy screen to become a bedroom.) So those three rooms are shared by three households, for a rent of $1367 a month. Financial guidelines suggest not spending more than a quarter of your income on rent, so this is accessible for anyone with a salary of $60,000. Average person in tech makes, what, $125,000-$150,000? So it is actually quite reasonable.

      A lot of people who are trying to earn to give are trying to transition into programming. If you want to do that, it is really really helpful to live where there are lots and lots and lots of people hiring programmers so eventually one of them will decide they really need an incompetent junior developer. Top boot camps make you sign a contract that you will only live in SF or NYC for a year after graduating, because that’s how important it is for people who are trying to become programmers from a non-programming background.

      Of course, you have to like having roommates. But there are a lot of advantages to living with friends. You don’t have to go out of your way to find social interaction. If you have a kid, your roommates will probably babysit sometimes. (The parents I know are unanimous about not being sure how on earth one raises kids without roommates.) Sometimes you have a roommate who cooks and then you can get delicious homemade biscuits, or a roommate who throws parties and then you don’t have to do the organization. Pretty much the only downside from my perspective is lack of space (which is a pain, I admit, but at least it’s less to clean) and the inevitable conflicts about whose turn it is to do the dishes. And the Bay itself is a pretty cool place to live: you shouldn’t underestimate the benefit of living where your friends do.

      • skef says:

        I had a job in Menlo Park during the first housing-shortage-causing boom of the 90s. The worst of it was concentrated between Mountain View and San Mateo, and after a bit more than I year I solved by problem by moving to San Francisco, which back then was not that much more expensive and less packed to the gills. (Although people were already angry about the comparatively small intrusion. Shortly after I moved, a member of my family, in an inspired act of passive aggression, sent me a copy of Hollow City*.)

        But during my time down south, there were largely two options. One was a tiny, crappy room someone would convert in their house. The other was group homes like Ozy Frantz describes. The market being what it was, the group homes would have elaborate, multi-stage interviews in an attempt to find some sort of room-soul-mate. Everything about you was on the table — hobbies, job type, background.

        I find it difficult to express how distressing this situation was for me, and I would guess anyone else who wasn’t Belle of the Ball material. I have no problem with roommates, and am responsible in that role. But I’ll take a pass on the Black Mirror-esque every-house-is-auditioning-for-a-reality-show nightmare.

        * I thought, in my defense, that being gay gave me at least a little non-tech credibility for that locale, but everyone is a critic.

        • Nornagest says:

          Hollow City

          I have little enough love for the SF Bay Area, but just the first sentence of the Amazon blurb made me not want to read that.

          • skef says:

            Its underlying thesis, which is never quite stated outright, just endlessly danced around, is that the influx of merely well-off and largely tasteless tech workers is undermining the delicate ecological relationship between artists and the super-wealthy.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Most of the people I know move in with friends-of-friends, I’ve never had the interview thing happen. (Of course, that makes it harder to live in the Bay if you don’t have friends-of-friends.)

      • vV_Vv says:

        Top boot camps make you sign a contract that you will only live in SF or NYC for a year after graduating, because that’s how important it is for people who are trying to become programmers from a non-programming background.

        Ha! I’ve always thought those things were scammy, with their money back guarantees etc.. Now I think I’ve got the trick: if you fail to find a job as a programmer you will probably have to move out of SF or NYC because you will not be able to afford to live there, therefore you will have to pay contract breach fees to the coding camp. Clever business model.

        But there are a lot of advantages to living with friends.

        Your mileage may vary, but I’ve never really became friends with a roommate, acquaintance at best, and I’ve seen decade-long friendships dissolve once they became roommates.

        • Matt M says:

          if you fail to find a job as a programmer you will probably have to move out of SF or NYC because you will not be able to afford to live there, therefore you will have to pay contract breach fees to the coding camp. Clever business model.

          Better still – if you post a negative review from somewhere in Nebraska, everyone will assume you’re some dumb hick who never belonged in the IT world anyway!

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          I have literally never known someone who had to pay contract breach fees to the coding bootcamp, and I have known dozens of people who went through one. Over 90% of people who go to a bootcamp get a job in software engineering afterward. App Academy used to let people sleep on their floor for free indefinitely before they ran into landlord problems and had to stop. That would be a very unusual thing to do if your business model were “live off contract-breaking fees” rather than “train people to take a job in an industry where the crappy entry-level jobs pay you $100,000 a year, take a cut of their first year’s income.”

          • random832 says:

            I have literally never known someone who had to pay contract breach fees to the coding bootcamp, and I have known dozens of people who went through one.

            How many do you know who weren’t local to the bay area in the first place?

            That would be a very unusual thing to do if your business model were “live off contract-breaking fees”

            That was not actually the business model vV_Vv suggested, as I read it. Unless you consider repudiating a money-back guarantee (and thus, in a wider view, their obligation to provide sufficient quality training to actually get people employed) to be a “fee”.

            I mean, if there’s a money back guarantee, that means there’s money up front, which isn’t consistent with “take a cut of their first year’s income”

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            How many do you know who weren’t local to the bay area in the first place?

            All of them?

            That was not actually the business model vV_Vv suggested, as I read it. Unless you consider repudiating a money-back guarantee (and thus, in a wider view, their obligation to provide sufficient quality training to actually get people employed) to be a “fee”.

            I mean, if there’s a money back guarantee, that means there’s money up front, which isn’t consistent with “take a cut of their first year’s income”

            I think you are confused, but I’m no sure what you’re confused about. App Academy’s business model is that they take a cut of your first year’s income. If you don’t stay in SF or NYC actively looking for a job for a year (which, again, for much of a/A’s history meant “sleeping for free on our floor”), then you have to pay tuition costs. If you stay in SF or NYC and look for a job and don’t find one, you don’t have to pay anything. There is also an option to pay tuition upfront, if you prefer. This is all communicated upfront and people who can’t afford year in SF/NYC generally don’t go (and would probably have an equally hard time paying tuition, anyway).

            In terms of business model this is far less sketchy than, say, the average college.

          • random832 says:

            I think you are confused, but I’m no sure what you’re confused about.

            I’m mainly confused about whether or not you and vV_Vv are actually talking about the same entities (or entities with the same business model as one another).

      • The parents I know are unanimous about not being sure how on earth one raises kids without roommates.

        One dissenting voice. When our kids were very young we had housemates, a couple, friends who rented our third floor in Chicago where houses are bigger than around here. As best I remember, they did little or no babysitting. We moved to California when our daughter was about five and her brother two, and have had no housemates since.

        On the other hand, my wife hasn’t been employed since we moved to Chicago and I’ve had academic positions that left me with a lot of flexibility and time, so particularly favorable circumstances.