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Open Thread 79.75

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

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935 Responses to Open Thread 79.75

  1. pontifex says:

    Why does almost everybody think home ownership is a good thing? If it introduces friction into the job market, it is surely a bad thing.

    I think we’re going a little overboard, aren’t we? Getting married and having children introduces friction into the job market. Are those “surely” bad things?

    Homeowners are more likely to improve and take care of their properties than renters. Staying in the same place for a while is better for families and children. Homeowners have more freedom to alter their properties than renters, and freedom is a good thing. People who move around all the time are likely to avoid engaging with local politics and communities, which is bad for democracy.

    I agree that there are also some harms from homeownership. Reduced job market flexibility is certainly one. Increased debt is certainly another.

    Of course, if increased homeownership is the goal, the method should be increasing housing supply, not subsidizing mortgage issuers. But implementing this would require the voting public, and government officials, to understand two difficult concepts: supply, and demand. The prognosis for the current crop of politicians (on either side) is not good.

  2. pontifex says:

    Perhaps this has been asked in an older survey or open thread, but do you generally support moves to decriminalize drug usage? And to what extent would you characterize your support? Decriminalization of possession, legalization of marijuana and softer drugs, or full legalization with no restrictions? Alternatively, if you are opposed to such measures, do you feel current restrictions are fit for purpose or would you prefer for the laws to be altered in some way?

    I generally oppose decriminalization because of the slippery slope problem. Once you have legitimate businesses with an interest in promoting these drugs, the usage and social acceptability is going to increase a lot.

    On the other hand, I wish MDMA, LSD, ketamine and similar drugs were available for use in psychiatric situations. I also think the penalties for drug use, possession, and distribution should be less than they are now.

    • DeWitt says:

      Once you have legitimate businesses with an interest in promoting these drugs, the usage and social acceptability is going to increase a lot.

      Are you very sure of that?

      I don’t think attitudes on marijuana are very different in western countries where it’s been legalised/decriminalised for a while, as opposed to still being illegal. Other than that, countries that legalise prostitution don’t appear to have greater social acceptance of actually soliciting prostitutes; it’s mostly a thing tourists and such go for, rather than anyone who’s an upstanding member of society.

  3. biblicalsausage says:

    Turn in your Bibles to Genesis 37. Let’s concern ourselves with the writing process here, and not worry about questions like “did Joseph exist” or “did Tamar exist”?

    We find Jacob loving his son Joseph more than all his other brothers, and marking this special favor by making him a passim tunic. Now, you may know this as a “many-colored coat” and I won’t argue with you. But the Hebrew word is pronounced “passim,” and it’s rare. Let’s not worry our pretty little heads about what “passim” means — instead let’s think about how passim robes function in biblical literature.

    Joseph’s brothers, naturally, hate him. It does not help that the rest of them are step-brothers, raised alongside him in a literal “sister-wives” situation. Joseph further inflames the situation by being annoying and, as annoying people do, saying annoying things. He’s 17 years old, the most annoying age, and he’s the youngest kid in the family, so all the other brothers are grown-ups and wayyy too mature for his I’m better-than-everything shenanigans. So they come to the only logical conclusion: they have to kill him. After some negotiating, they first cast him into a pit, and later sell him as a slave to some Ishmaelites. (Or was it Midianites? Whatever.) They lie to Jacob by taking his passim robe, tearing it up, dipping it in goat blood, and saying, “Hey, Dad. Look what we found? You recognize it?”

    He’s dragged off to Egypt where he does pretty well as a property manager/slave until he is falsely accused of attempted rape. (I’m just repeating the biblical story here; if you want to believe Potipher’s wife over God himself, that’s on you.) He winds up in the clink, until his magical fortune-telling abilities get him out, and he becomes effectively prime minister of Egypt. Later, he is in a position to kill all his brothers, and they’re afraid he will, but he saves their lives instead.

    Turn in your Bibles to 2 Samuel 13.

    About four (or six?) hundred years later, in the empire of king David, many sons are born to many queens. Among them are Amnon and his half-sister Tamar, and Tamar’s full-brother Absalom. As a virgin daughter of the king, she wears a passim tunic, because that’s what virgin princesses wear. Her half-brother Amnon, who “loves” her, lures her into his room under false pretences, rapes her, and throws her out of the room when he notices that he now feels hatred for her. She then tears her passim tunic, and does mourning rituals. Her brother Absalom then has Amnon killed in front of all his brothers, and in a confused early version of events, people hear that Absalom has killed them all. Absalom is then exiled.

    Not only are these two passages the only two mentions of a passim tunic, there are a number of similarities between the two passages. In both, the tense relations between step-brothers in a polygamous household headed by the leader of Israel is the setting. In both, the murder of a sibling, and the possible murder of all siblings by one, is discussed. In both cases there is an allegation of sexual assault. Given the Bible’s views about virgins and sex, blood and a torn passim tunic appear in at least proximity to one another in both stories. In both cases one sibling is sent into exile.

    Perhaps I am seeing things here. But it does look to me like one of these stories is likely to be literarily dependent on the other.

    • Jaskologist says:

      This one seems like more of a stretch than your others. I don’t see much parallel between the two stories once you take out the passim robe. The characters of Tamar and Joseph aren’t similar and don’t fulfill the same roles, and the overall narrative of the two stories is different as well. One is a bad act which God ultimately uses to uses to save Israel (and show how virtuous Joseph is), the other is a bad act which nearly undoes David’s rule, to no positive effect.

      (PS: I think Absalom would have made a great king if David had been a decent father.)

      • biblicalsausage says:

        Yeah, I think you’re right. After I posted this, I started digging around to see whether I could find any biblical scholars who connected Joseph with the Amnon-Tamar story. Instead, I found an essay by a biblical scholar (Paul R. Noble) about how easily fake parallels are generated. To paraphrase, a lot of biblical literature discusses a lot of the same general themes and addresses similar concerns, and it becomes easy to find an arbitrary number of connections between stories that really don’t have similar characters fulfilling similar roles. Basically, it was about twenty pages (IIRC) of what you said.

        I suppose the best salvageable theory here was that maybe whoever wrote the Amnon-Tamar story briefly thought of the Joseph story when he wrote “passim robe” and then that exercised some really light effects on his writing style, but not enough to amount to any real meaningful correspondence between the stories.

        The best thing about my new and more modest theory is that it’s unfalsifiable. The other option is that the Bible cares about families, inheritance, siblings, clans, ethnic groups, land, farming, power struggles, clothing, status, law, accusations, violence, sex, polygamy, monogamy, Israel, the twelve tribes, . . . and that because it primarily thinks about these kinds of topics over and over, you could find spurious connections between any two randomly picked passages without too much trouble.

  4. 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?

    • skef says:

      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.

      To pick an extreme case, contexts in which “all Xs should be killed” comes up as a conversation topic more than very occasionally are going to drive away most participants who are Xs.

      The counterpart of a taboo topic is a topic brought up not to argue for it, but because of the emotional response it provokes. In practice the same topics are often both — taboo because they cause strong emotional reactions and would otherwise be brought up for that reason.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        I agree. That’s something I never realized. Bringing up a taboo topic for the sake of provoking emotional responses is generally not autistic behavior hence I didn’t even think about this possibility.

        Assuming that Star Ford was accurate in her explanation of neurotypical behavior I agree that this is a reasonable concern.

    • James Miller says:

      >First of all, does Aspergers/HFA enhance rationality?

      Yes to the extend you can analytically discuss what is for others highly emotional topics, but no to the extent that you will do a relatively poor job modeling a non-autistic’s emotional state.

      >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.

      Given that taboos exist and we don’t have the capacity to end them a second best alternative is to go along with some of the taboos. Imagine that most of the people who discuss the strangely high percentage of Jewish people in top positions in Hollywood really do hate Jews. Well, unless there is a lot of benefit to us discussing this it’s not worth the reputational hit we would take from casual readers who would rationally conclude that us discussing it means many of us probably hate Jews.

      • Autistic Cat says:

        Yeah I think I do not understand the emotional state of non-autists at all. However I don’t think it is irrational to not know some subject.

        However I’m really against recognizing taboos. Most taboos that unfortunately still exist in rationalist community are in essence Blue Tribe taboos, e.g. no racism, no sexism, etc. However the Blue Tribe isn’t the only offender in taboo-recognition. Politically incorrect communities have their own set of taboos and hence being un-PC does not necessarily make you more open-minded. For example praising Jews is certainly taboo on Stormfront while criticizing Islam is banned in ISIS. I believe to achieve rationality we need to really get rid of all taboos regardless of whether they are from the Red Tribe, the Blue Tribe, the Brown Tribe (i.e. secular and de facto secular Neo-Nazis), fundamentalists, whatever.

        From the autistic point of view the first thing I would like to ask about the claim that Jews are overrepresented in top positions in Hollywood is whether it is factually true. Assume that it is the second question would be why this is true. For example are Jews really overrepresented after controlling for income? None of these has to involve any supposed Jewish conspiracy which is a testable hypothesis anyway. Neo-Nazi claims themselves are factual claims and as a result they are testable and hence need to be properly tested just like other claims. The funny thing is that many neo-Nazi claims aren’t going to pass the test of rationality so why not treat them as hypotheses and apply rationality on them?

        I’m not saying that we need to discuss the issue of Jewish overrepresentation in Hollywood here though. I just said that it does not have to be taboo.

        • skef says:

          I believe to achieve rationality we need to really get rid of all taboos regardless of whether they are from the Red Tribe, the Blue Tribe, the Brown Tribe (i.e. secular and de facto secular Neo-Nazis), fundamentalists, whatever.

          The evidence that open discussion will lead to agreement is sketchy at best. It’s not clear that “get rid of conversational taboos” is much more useful a principle than “get rid of tribes”.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            I agree. However the real purpose of getting rid of conversational taboos is to provide enough data and reasoning on any topic including the currently taboo ones so that at least the more rational people who participate in the discussion can have views that are more factually correct.

            We really do need at least one taboo-free forum for the rationalist community. Maybe we should warn people that it is not for everyone especially the easily offended and dogmatic people.

          • hlynkacg says:

            This presupposes that there are no taboos with a factual basis.

          • albatross11 says:

            A lot of taboo-violating conversations happen in private, where everyone knows everyone else. That’s probably harder for autistics to navigate, because neurotypicals can gauge the comfort level of others in the conversation when we mention that, say, our kids’ magnet classes have an entirely different ethnic/racial mix than the general population of students they’re drawn from.

            OTOH, I think it’s very important to have public online places where you can have factual conversations without worrying much about taboos. Because sometimes the taboos are keeping you from talking about really important stuff that needs better-quality thought than you get from being able to quietly mention to your officemate that the diversity training is a waste of time.

            One example of that is the response to the AIDS epidemic. For better or worse, if you simply can’t discuss homosexuality or condoms in public in your society, you’re probably going to have a pretty hard time responding to that epidemic very effectively.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @albatross11 I strongly agree. If something can not be properly discussed we can never find a solution.

            For example the problem on homosexuality and AIDS you mentioned is in fact easy to solve. From my autistic-Grey Tribe point of view I think only two facts need to be mentioned.

            1.Homosexuality on a small scale can not significantly improve or harm a society because homosexuals are a small minority.
            2.Anal sex which male homosexuals have a lot is more likely to lead to STD compared to vaginal sex. There is an AIDS pandemic among the gay male and bisexual male communities.

            Hence here are the proper solutions.
            1.LGBT should remain legal.
            2.We need to stop AIDS and other STD among men who have sex with other men.

        • James Miller says:

          We need to define rationality. If this definition includes “winning” or “understanding” than not understanding the emotional state of non-autistics is irrational, although it’s better to know that you don’t know than to not know that you don’t know.

          Interestingly, it’s possible the reason you think we shouldn’t respect taboos is because you don’t understand the mental state of others concerning taboos. What if the brain of a normal person would automatically register disgust at you if you violated a taboo? And furthermore, what if this normal person mistakenly thought that you knew he would feel disgust at you for breaking the taboo but you just didn’t care because you considered his opinion of you to be of zero importance?

          • Autistic Cat says:

            Not understanding the emotional state of non-autistic is similar to not understanding the Russian language. It is simply lack of knowledge which does not make one irrational. I do want to understand the emotional state of non-autistics though at least to some extent. I’m largely asexual and largely aromantic so I don’t need to worry about finding a partner which is almost impossible for me anyway. I just want to make sure that I don’t have problems at work. That’s it. The emotional state of non-autists and non-autistic culture aren’t very intellectually appealing or interesting to me anyway.

            I do suspect that the reason why others have these weird and absurd social norms is their neurotypicality. I really wish that everyone were autistic. Unfortunately this is not true. Hence I have to at least pretend to care about these social norms that sound stupid to me when I’m not at home. When I’m at home I enjoy my High-Functioning Autism and couldn’t care less about the norms of neurotypicals.

          • Charles F says:

            Lack of knowledge isn’t necessarily irrational, but it certainly can be. Not knowing any Russian seems pretty irrational if I’m moving there for work and I’ve had a year to plan. Though it does seem odd to try to classify states instead of actions as rational or not.

            One could as easily say the reason you don’t see the value in social norms and write them off as weird and absurd is because of your non-neurotypicality, and without actually addressing the questions about whether opening everything for discussion is actually helpful, it’s hard for me to see why one side or the other would be right. [Edit: right isn’t exactly the right word, I guess. Framing the situation more usefully, maybe?]

        • Jiro says:

          The funny thing is that many neo-Nazi claims aren’t going to pass the test of rationality so why not treat them as hypotheses and apply rationality on them?

          Because the claims aren’t being made for the purpose of being rational. The claims are being made in order to hurt and threaten people. Rationally showing that the claims are false doesn’t stop them from hurting and threatening people.

          Even Scott doesn’t seem to get this.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            The purpose of the person making the claim is irrelevant to the actual merits of it or lack thereof. Hence all neo-Nazi claims should be scrutinized according to the same rational standard all other claims are subject to.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Hence all neo-Nazi claims should be scrutinized according to the same rational standard all other claims are subject to.

            This fails to take into account two things

            1) There’s a cost to scrutinizing the claims. The people making the claims won’t stop just because their claims are scrutinized and found wanting; if need be they’ll make a claim just different enough to demand new scrutiny.

            2) There’s the chance of error on the scrutinizer’s part. Every claim will have a chance of being accepted even when it’s bogus. If you don’t include their purpose in making it and their history of making bogus claims (both of which are irrelevant to the claim itself) in your prior, this error rate will not drop as you scrutinize each subsequent claim, so with high probability you’ll eventually accept a bogus claim.

          • albatross11 says:

            The Nybbler:

            There are people who argue in bad faith, and giving them your time is a waste. But there are also factual claims that often get labeled as racist or neo-nazi or something, but are actually pretty clearly true, and others which are at least plausible. I don’t think excluding all such questions from public debate or consideration is a great plan, since it means the strategy for someone who wants those claims suppressed is simply to exert a lot of effort labeling them as white-supremacist or neo-Nazi or whatever. We actually see this happening, as with the accusations of Charles Murray being a neo-Nazi or white supremacist because, basically, he openly discussed the black/white IQ differences in a written-for-the-public book.

            The question is, is there a way to openly and honestly engage with questions of fact, where you are worried that the answers or even asking the question will encourage bad behavior or bad policies?

            Like, if someone wants to ask if Jews have a big influence in media in the US, answering that question is likely to re-enforce the beliefs of anti-Semites, and may even help them recruit a few more to their cause. And yet, it sure seems hard to justify suppressing the discussion because some bad people might benefit.

            Alternatively, suppose someone wants to argue that our current war on terror policies aren’t working out. That debate will be used by terrorist groups in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, etc., to reassure their members that the resolve of the US is weakening, and they just have to keep fighting to drive us away. Is that a sufficient reason to suppress such discussions?

          • Jiro says:

            The purpose of the person making the claim is irrelevant to the actual merits of it or lack thereof.

            That’s only true if you’ve completely analyzed the claim based on its merits. And that can use a lot of resources and is prone to mistakes.

            If you have not, the purpose of the person making the claim is Bayseian evidence for whether the claim is true. Nazis making claims about Nazi targets are extremely likely to make completely worthless claims.

            Also, the purpose of the person making the claim is relevant to whether you want that person making claims on your forum.

          • Autistic Cat says:

            @albatross11 Agreed. My main concern is with Blues, Reds, Browns et al throwing normative curse words such as “racism!”, “worldly!” and “Jewish lackey!” around in order to shut down legitimate discussions. This behavior is completely ridiculous to me.

            I personally believe that speech unlike actions is neither moral nor immoral. Hence nobody should be allowed to use “OFFENSIVE!!!” and “IMMORAL!” to shut down any speech.

            Browns on 4chan using “JIDF btfo” to shut down any legitimate pro-Jewish and pro-Israel speech or just any speech related to any Jewish person is as absurd as Blues using “racism!” to shut down discussions. Reds do the same with “demonic!”.

  5. dronegoddess says:

    “$X percent of people have $THING happen to them. Therefore, you have an $X percent chance of having $THING happen to you.”

    Is there a name for this fallacy? It seems to happen pretty often. The last time I saw it was in an argument for the safety of self-driving cars. The argument was that self-driving cars are safer than human-operated cars because the average fatality rate would be a few percent lower, but it neglected the fact that some people are safer drivers than other people and safe drivers are less likely than average to get into a collision.

    • Anon. says:

      Self-driving cars are orders of magnitude safer, not “a few percent”.

      • rlms says:

        Unless some dramatic changes happened without me noticing, no-one knows how safe self-driving cars will be because they aren’t frequently used yet (unless you mean that self-driving cars in the testing and development process are safer than human-driven cars in general, which is true but uninteresting).

      • John Schilling says:

        Self-driving cars are orders of magnitude safer, not “a few percent”.

        Cite, please?

        Last time I checked, Google’s self-driving cars had an accident rate of ~1 per 50,000 miles; mostly minor fender-benders, no serious injuries. That’s perhaps better than human drivers, but not several orders of magnitude better, and Google’s cars operate under an idealized subset of driving environments. Meanwhile, high-end military drone aircraft operating in a more realistic set of environments, crash about ten times more often than their manned equivalents, not counting combat losses.

        I call AI-worship bullshit, of a sort that is sickeningly common here. At least the “Any AI will be able to talk its way out of any box and conquer the world” types are talking about hypothetical future AIs. This claim is made in the present tense about AIs that we can look at today, and is trivially falsified by the available evidence.

        • Well... says:

          I call AI-worship bullshit, of a sort that is sickeningly common here.

          Word.

          BTW, the last research I saw said that self-driving cars are pretty safe if you consider only whether they directly cause accidents. but that they are less safe if you take into consideration accidents caused by human drivers who aren’t sure how to share the road with them.

          • Matt M says:

            I keep hearing this and I’m still not sure exactly what it means.

            What, exactly, do self-driving cars do that normal humans don’t do? Can’t Google program them to go five over than the exact speed limit (if such a thing really does reduce accidents)?

            Like, how exactly would I be able to tell if the car next to me was self-driving or not?

          • skef says:

            @Matt M

            Some conventions, like the stereotype of negotiating a traffic circle in Rome, have their own tricky semantics, where increased risk is part of the “language”.

            More generally, there are probably areas of the country where programming the car to “act normal” would result in increased risk of accidents, and therefore lawsuits.

            (Note: all things considered, I don”t consider this is a good reason not to introduce self-driving cars.)

          • Matt M says:

            I feel like you’re just re-stating the assertion I’m wondering about.

            Like WHAT? Do you have any examples other than traffic circles in Rome? I’m not trying to claim such things don’t exist – I just want clarity on what they might actually be.

            In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t seem like a herculean task to program the car to say “Am I in Rome? If yes, engage alternate traffic circle negotiating algorithm” (at least, compared to the other challenges in programming a self-driving car)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            skef, I think that for the self-driving car system to learn local customs and negotiate them as safely as possible would be a worthy challenge for AI.

          • CatCube says:

            Well, for one, a pedestrian has the right of way, but at stop signs I make eye contact with the driver before wandering out in front of him. A “properly programmed” car would wait indefinitely for me to cross, and it’s entirely possible that I don’t trust it enough to know that it sees me and walk out in front. So you could have us both waiting at the intersection for a long time.

            If you have it wait for a bit, then go, it’s also possible that I waited for a bit, then walked, so the car will jam on its brakes, I’ll freeze to not go in front of it, and we get stuck in this ridiculous loop. We handle that with a human driver by one waving the other on, visually yielding the right-of-way.

            At some uncontrolled intersections or 4-way stops, two cars could do the same thing.

          • skef says:

            The issue is so general it’s hard to isolate specific instances.

            Imagine a Turing test, but instead of typing at a keyboard you’re on a freeway, and it’s a condition of the test that you don’t do anything too outside of normal (if unfortunate) road behavior. So you might tailgate and honk, for example. The responses of drivers to these situations depends in part on complex emotional reactions that aren’t straightforward to program. If cars respond instead in unexpected ways, that can distract drivers (either at a sub-reasoning skill level or emotionally).

          • Matt M says:

            So give the car an LCD screen on the window that displays “Hello, pedestrian. Google has determined that you have the right of way. Please proceed. This car will not move until you cross the intersection. Have a pleasant day. :)”

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Matt, as a libertarian you won’t like the actually likely solution to the problem, contained in a post below.

            Anyways, as to your main point. Sometimes I have to lane change in stopped traffic or even in moving traffic, where I basically need someone to take pity on me. This is accomplished via human interaction or basically just discerning if someone is “letting me”. I have enough trouble with this already; an AI will have even more. If an AI gets stuck in the wrong lane, that will be a big problem. And sometimes you don’t have much of a choice. I suppose the AI could try to overprepare to mitigate this risk, though.

            Also, I can’t recall the specifics, but I recall hearing about cars which are stopped where they shouldn’t be and the AI not knowing if they are passable, even though a human can tell that they obviously are. Might be fine if they turned on the emergency lights, but in certain countries where drivers suck they don’t always do this, go figure.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There’s also the issue of enemies and/or random assholes deploying ritual magic against them.

          • John Schilling says:

            What, exactly, do self-driving cars do that normal humans don’t do?

            From the incident reports I read the last time I looked into this (1-2 years ago), what Google cars are doing now, in a <0.1% self-driving traffic environment, is responding to anything they don't understand by immediately braking to a stop and waiting for the human driver to take over. Google's self-driving cars are, notably, not driverless and for good reason.

            Since the robotic version of “immediately braking to a stop” is faster than the human version, this results in a fair number of rear-end collisions and an occasional T-boning when slamming on the brakes
            in the middle of an intersection. These can of course be blamed on the human driver in the other car, but they probably wouldn’t have happened with a human driver in both cars.

            Instead, we’d get different accidents. Perhaps more frequent ones, but probably not orders of magnitude more frequent.

            Can’t Google program them to go five over than the exact speed limit (if such a thing really does reduce accidents)?

            Google can presumably program them to not be so quick on the brake, and eventually they’ll have to. The “stop immediately if you don’t understand” behavior will be less likely to cause accidents when the car behind is also self-driving, but will likely lead to chain reaction gridlock as “the car ahead of me just suddenly stopped” and “some human driver just decided to drive around a car that stopped in traffic” are the sort of things that are going to lead a conservatively programmed robot to decide it doesn’t fully understand the situation and thus itself needs to stop. Customers won’t tolerate being trapped in a gridlock of their own robots’ making, so Google will have to up its game in that regard.

            Then we get to see what happens when Google’s finest AI is under orders to not stop even though it doesn’t fully understand the situation it is driving into. I’m not optimistic about how the first generation of that plays out.

          • Jiro says:

            Can’t Google program them to go five over than the exact speed limit (if such a thing really does reduce accidents)?

            That would subject them to liability for all accidents (“you mean you deliberately programmed the car to violate the law?” as well as make it easy to selectively prosecute if the prosecutor doesn’t like self-driving cars.

          • Matt M says:

            as well as make it easy to selectively prosecute if the prosecutor doesn’t like self-driving cars.

            As opposed to now, when they selectively prosecute based on race/gender/quota fulfillment status?

          • John Schilling says:

            @Matt M: Not helpful

        • AnonYEmous says:

          As a guy who seconded your dislike of AI-worship, I don’t think it’s warranted here. I think he was talking about a hypothetical future self-driving car which has been perfected, though I admit the current existence of some self-driving cars throws this into doubt.

          Anyways, in regards to accident avoidance: I’ve personally gotten in two accidents in about five years of driving; one of them was someone lane-changing into me because I was in his blind spot, and the other was me checking my GPS like an idiot. AIs aren’t going to suffer from either of those problems (lots of sensors and inbuilt GPS). In fact, most of the problems I’ve heard about stem from the AI not knowing how to interact with humans, as mentioned in this thread already, but once most cars become AI-driven, the only potential problem becomes pedestrians, at which point either people learn not to do dumb things around AI cars, or AI cars learn to slow down. In my opinion, the real, real problem is that people will take this as an excuse to jaywalk, so the cars will take pictures of them and send it to the police, establishing an enormous police surveillance state. But that at least cuts down on accidents.

          Anyways, there might be various glitches in an AI system, but I imagine there will be fewer than the corresponding human “glitches” which already lead to a lot of accidents. Also:

          Meanwhile, high-end military drone aircraft operating in a more realistic set of environments, crash about ten times more often than their manned equivalents, not counting combat losses.

          I’d guess that flying in the air is a lot more complex than driving on the ground. I’d also guess that drone handlers are well-trained and well-selected for. If this is meant to back up the claim that safe drivers will be safer than self-driving cars, fair enough, they probably will be. As a guy who does consider myself to be a safe driver, though, I’ll be more than happy to kick back during the car ride – and since I won’t have to deal with terribly-driving outliers, I’ll be safer on average than I was before all of this.

          • Matt M says:

            In my opinion, the real, real problem is that people will take this as an excuse to jaywalk

            More cynical prediction: People will dash out in front of the cars in an attempt to get hit, knowing that in the first few years, technology-skeptic juries will almost certainly find Google at fault and award them millions.

          • hlynkacg says:

            That’s what dash-cams are for, see Russia.

          • skef says:

            That’s what dash-cams are for, see Russia.

            Probably just a LIDAR record of the previous X minutes, black-box style.

          • onyomi says:

            More cynical prediction: People will dash out in front of the cars in an attempt to get hit, knowing that in the first few years, technology-skeptic juries will almost certainly find Google at fault and award them millions.

            I seem to recall Eliezer citing this as a reason you can’t program the car to just always slam on the breaks when pedestrian in road: because some nihilistic teenagers will jump in front of a relatively fast moving car in hopes of causing an accident. The hope of a lucrative lawsuit is also a problem, of course.

            But it seems the car will have to be allowed to do some sort of cost-benefit analysis: how fast are we moving? How close is the nearest car behind me? How bad will it be to swerve to miss object suddenly appearing in road vs. brake hard? How bad will it be to just plow through e.g. deer vs. brake hard and be rear-ended?

            In such cases having the cars behind you also be self-driving will be ideal, especially if they can communicate with each other; this can’t be an assumption to begin with, however.

          • bean says:

            I’d guess that flying in the air is a lot more complex than driving on the ground.

            You’d guess wrong. In an airplane, you usually have very little to hit. Airplanes operate on autopilot all the time. We haven’t managed to make that work for cars yet.

        • Nornagest says:

          Aren’t military drones piloted?

          • John Schilling says:

            In roughly the same sense that self-driving cars are piloted, yes, but with less situational awareness. There’s nobody doing stick-and-rudder work in normal operation.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            They are, but there’s a world of difference in the manner and degree of control. There are multiple factors that account for that much higher rate of crashes, but I think that’s probably the biggest one.

            You’re trying to control an aircraft with no feedback except numerical readouts and virtual gauges on a computer screen, with a time delay, without direct analog control over control surfaces and throttle settings. This means that your ability to respond to any sort of in-flight problem whether it’s a mechanical, electrical, or electronic issue with the UAV itself or something external like weather issues, turbulence, carb icing, etc is EXTREMELY limited and very coarse.

            To use an analogy comparable to the RQ-7’s control setup, imagine driving a car by remote control. You’re in an arbitrarily large parking lot that is mostly empty, dotted with various buildings. You have a Google Maps window with an icon of your car superimposed on a map of the parking lot, showing the buildings and the surroundings and which way your car is pointing. You have a tachometer, a speedometer, a compass (a circle in which is an outline of your car with markers every 30 degrees from 0 back around to 360), a fuel gauge, an engine temp gauge, and a tire-deflection gauge that shows you which way your tires are pointed. You don’t have a throttle, but you do have an emergency “Slam on the brakes” button.

            The google map feed and your instruments update in near real time under ideal conditions and at close range, but often various issues can make that more like once every second or two, or even worse. You can set the speed you want the car to maintain, at which point it will go to maximum throttle or idle the engine until it hits the desired speed, then maintain a pre-set “cruise” RPM. You can command the car’s movement via one of two ways: clicking a point on the map, or by dragging the silhouette of your car to a new heading on the compass. Either way, at that point the car hits the brakes, cranks the wheels to their maximum left or right, and hits the gas again to make the sharpest possible turn before accelerating back to the previously commanded speed at max throttle.

            With practice, you learn that as long as you have good link with the car, you can command a series of minor incremental speed and/or heading changes to prevent the car from simply cranking its wheel all the way over and going full throttle, but it’s still nowhere near as precise as a steering wheel and gas pedal.

            Even then, you’re sitting in a little vibrating metal box, heavily air-conditioned for the computers stuffed into it (but possibly still hot depending on environmental conditions) with generator noise filling your ears. So…

            How hard it is to diagnose an issue like ‘My left front tire just hit something and is going flat’? Or ‘My alignment is getting out of whack’? How hard is it to respond appropriately to spinning out or hydroplaning because your car hit a patch of black ice or standing water that wasn’t on your map?

            We could build control schemes that allowed for more fine-grained remote control of the aircraft. I believe, but don’t know, that Predator and similar systems are built to allow exactly that level of control in addition to their autonomous modes. However, that:

            A) Drives up the cost of the system
            B) Drives up the required training of the operators

            As I understood it at the time I was in, UAVs of the type flown by the Air Force require actual, real, fully-certified pilots, not enlisted with 6-8 months of school and a FAA Ground School certificate like myself.

    • beleester says:

      If you’re arguing “Are self-driving cars safer than human-operated cars?”, then that may not be a fallacy. That’s a general statement about self-driving and human-driven cars, not a particular driver, so it’s correct to look at the average rate for both. Some humans are better drivers than AIs, but other (and more) humans are worse.

    • albatross11 says:

      dronegoddess:

      It seems like the reasoning you’re discussing is basically the first step in figuring out a base rate. The error is in not trying to keep working on the numbers. For example, there is a base rate of murders per hundred thousand people for middle-aged white guys, and that’s a useful number for figuring out my probability of being murdered. But if I’m actually a crack dealer, or an undercover FBI agent infiltrating a biker gang, I should probably try to make a more accurate calculation of my probability of being murdered.

  6. Zorgon says:

    So the new star of Doctor Who was announced and UK-centric social media is currently entirely incapable of discussing anything else, because the Doctor is now being played by a woman.

    Now, obviously the People Who Never Learn Anything are demonstrating their unique talent by snidely remarking how absolutely anyone who has a problem with a character that has been defined as male since the 1960s suddenly being played by a woman must needs be a Deplorable Misogynist Subhuman Mutant. Doubtless they will be astonished when these Deplorable Misogynist Subhuman Mutants continue to vote against them en masse. But that’s not what is currently occupying my thoughts; I fully expect this kind of basement-level signalling from them now and I’d be amazed if they weren’t horking away.

    No, what is interesting about all this to me is that I think many of the people complaining about the casting of a woman are probably not actually fully aware of the reason for their disconcerted reaction. And given I’m not fond of “false consciousness” as a concept, it’s an unusual position to be in; but honestly, I think they don’t actually realise why they feel so offput by this. See, the general reason being put forward is because “The Doctor is a bloke and that’s all there is to it”, but… this isn’t news. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone at all; the show has been dropping not-particularly-subtle hints as regards a female Doctor sometime in the near future for several seasons now, and in the last season it reached such a fever pitch that nobody who was watching the show could be genuinely surprised.

    So what both the snide arsehole brigade and the wilful ignorance brigade are ignoring is what is very clearly happening; the show has, for some time, been a clear and obvious beach-head in the colonisation of geek culture by the SJ movement. This wasn’t a surprise either, of course, since it was brought back by Russell T Davies, a man best known for “Queer As Folk”, a show which was wholly about gay culture; while it was remarkably brave in showing negative aspects of “scene” gay culture, it was nevertheless a very clear pink culture product. In Who, however, RTD maintained a remarkably even hand; the worst that could be said is that he constructed the show in a worryingly fanfic-esque way, having a Mary Sue of a main character who was (quite sickeningly) romantically involved with the super-handsome lead, in complete contradiction of the earlier structure of the show. But overall the colonisation of the show could be ignored; it was, to a large degree, still the same show, and even showed signs of significant national fervour and historical conservatism here and there.

    Recent years have shown an ever-increasing level of SJ colonisation, however, along with a bunch of very heavy-handed moralising interspersed between the Daleks and Sontarans. That people who are sufficiently averse to this sort of thing were able to put up with it was a surprise; but in the context of this, the reason for their negative reaction to the (heavily signposted) gender swap in the lead role is something both more and less complex than whatever monkey-noises the SJers are currently spitting in their direction. There’s no ambiguity left now; the show has declared itself officially Blue-occupied territory. It is a Blue Tribe show now. It no longer belongs to its old-school fans, unless they too are Blue Tribe.

    The grand irony of all this is that the various Red and Reddish-Grey tribe members currently declaring the show anathema all over Facebook and Twitter probably don’t consciously realise that this is the reason why they have an issue with a show about a time-travelling alien from a way-way-way-past-Singularity civilisation who undergoes complete cellular reconstruction having said alien change gender on a whim, when that’s the most absurd thing imaginable to be upset by. They’re whining on about “political correctness gone mad” when they’re actually upset because the TV is wearing the wrong team colours this week.

    And I do occasionally wonder what would happen if you told them what is actually upsetting them.

    • Mark says:

      My thoughts on this:

      There will be far more talk of “who-bros getting their mind blown”, “you need to travel back to the nineties patriarchy, man” than there will be people who care that Dr. Who is being played by a woman.

      I don’t know. You’re probably right – but for me personally, I don’t think it’s so much the tribal stuff that bothers me – I love Next Generation [which I’ve always assumed to be a blue-tribey type thing, but thinking about it is probably horribly problematic]- it’s more the fact that it’s done in such a tedious way. The entertainment comes from imagining blowing the minds of those old fuddy duddies, rather than anything actually entertaining about the product in question, and it’s harder to feel that way when you know that the targets don’t really exist (or are an odd minority).
      Yeah, I kind of object to entertainment being abandoned in favour of meta-entertainment.

      An example of this: I’ve noticed that choose your own adventure books tend to have an option for choosing your sexuality recently, which they then do absolutely nothing with. If that was a meaningful choice it’d be really cool – just having it there for no reason is annoying.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m a little surprised they’re still printing Choose Your Own Adventure books.

      • Zorgon says:

        There will be far more talk of “who-bros getting their mind blown”, “you need to travel back to the nineties patriarchy, man” than there will be people who care that Dr. Who is being played by a woman.

        Already the case. They’re having to fall back on Daily Mail comment sections.

      • BBA says:

        The entertainment comes from imagining blowing the minds of those old fuddy duddies, rather than anything actually entertaining about the product in question, and it’s harder to feel that way when you know that the targets don’t really exist (or are an odd minority).

        Even when they do exist (as with, say, most of the preemptive backlash against last year’s Ghostbusters remake) I don’t find this kind of meta-entertainment particularly enjoyable. Which, to those who do enjoy it, probably makes me one of the bigots too.

        One thing I liked about the Wonder Woman movie was that it was free of any tedious messaging about “yeah, a woman can be a superhero too, take that nerdbros!”

        • hlynkacg says:

          One thing I liked about the Wonder Woman movie was that it was free of any tedious messaging about “yeah, a woman can be a superhero too, take that nerdbros!”

          I Agree, and also note that WW did much better at the box-office than the vagina edition ghostbusters. 😉

          • BBA says:

            vagina edition ghostbusters

            Please don’t do this. I really don’t care for it, in either direction.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I’m not quite sure I follow.

      Are you saying that the “real” reason certain fans are up in arms is colonization/entryism and they just don’t realize it? If so I don’t think you’re give a lot of them enough credit. I think most of the people complaining about “political correctness run amok” understand exactly what’s happening. The issue is that “colonization” is a distinctly progressive/”blue tribe” way to frame the issue when the unifying trait those complaining is that they reject progressive/”blue tribe” framing and narratives.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I edited my previous comment and it suddenly hit an unexpected word filter.

      The main points were: I don’t like this, I’m surprised that I don’t actively dislike this. If they manage to write stories without excessive signaling and such, it might turn out well enough: evil Mary Poppins version of Master was more enjoyable than RTD era incarnation played by John Simm.

      Also, everyone has been expecting this since The Curse of Fatal Death. (It’s on YouTube. Guess the name of the writer.)

    • Jiro says:

      They’re whining on about “political correctness gone mad” when they’re actually upset because the TV is wearing the wrong team colours this week.

      I think these amount to the same thing.

      Also, I think the biggest Mary Sue was River Song. She actually married him, and also managed to have some of the Doctor’s powers and to out-stage him using his own schticks. Not to mention being a child of main characters and doing terrible things that she wasn’t actually to blame for.

      • Zorgon says:

        Also, I think the biggest Mary Sue was River Song. She actually married him, and also managed to have some of the Doctor’s powers and to out-stage him using his own schticks. Not to mention being a child of main characters and doing terrible things that she wasn’t actually to blame for.

        I can forgive Alex Kingston a lot, because I have loved her for a long long time. Moffat’s writing, on the other hand… not so much.

        • Protagoras says:

          Yeah, I’m looking forward to the new Doctor primarily because Moffat will be gone. I’m quite sick of him.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Moffat wrote the best episodes of the RTD era, but he’s been a pretty catastrophic show-runner.

    • The Nybbler says:

      They’re whining on about “political correctness gone mad” when they’re actually upset because the TV is wearing the wrong team colours this week.

      And I do occasionally wonder what would happen if you told them what is actually upsetting them.

      I think you’re wrong here. A fair number of them will say exactly that — and they’ll be called paranoid by the winning team for saying so. There’s probably a thread over on the ant board complaining about how they can’t make their own characters and have to take away established white male ones. (checks ant board). Actually, less of that than I expected.

      Me, I never could stand Dr. Who, in any rendition.

      • Zorgon says:

        There’s probably a thread over on the ant board complaining about how they can’t make their own characters and have to take away established white male ones. (checks ant board). Actually, less of that than I expected.

        They’re mostly just linking to the people on SJ Twitter who are outright stating they intend to “take away” white male characters. I guess when your enemy states it you don’t really need to darkly imply it any longer.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      And I do occasionally wonder what would happen if you told them what is actually upsetting them.

      This is pretty much ubiquitous. I don’t think I’ve seen political or cultural drama that wasn’t largely a product of brainless tribalism. Even morally significant controversies like the Iraq war were probably sustained more by tribal animus than by logic or empathy.

      Not even the “great geniuses” of our age are very much aware of their own impulses.

      • Charles F says:

        Not even the “great geniuses” of our age are very much aware of their own impulses.

        Speaking of, does anybody know anything about The Elephant in the Brain yet? I think some people have early versions of it already, but I haven’t seen any posts about anybody’s impressions.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          I was re-imagining the two darkling armies ‘clashing in the night’ metaphor our host devised awhile back. Except, they would be individuals, not armies.

          Two enemies facing each other in the darkness. They have lived their whole lives in darkness and so don’t know what they look like. A harsh glare suddenly erupts in the sky and for the first time they are illuminated. They look on each other and despair, for they can plainly see they are both monsters. They are then driven to destroy themselves.

      • Zorgon says:

        It would be extremely easy to argue that the current left-wing taboo against speaking ill of Islam (despite it’s blatantly anti-progressive behaviours) is wholly and entirely the result of the aftereffects of 9/11 and the Second Gulf War on American tribal politics.

        (Gawd knows there isn’t any other reasonable explanation as to why “feminists” feel the need to defend Islam.)

        • Matt M says:

          If that were true, then why is there a strong taboo on speaking against Islam, but fairly weak support (even on the left) for abolishing the TSA, or immediately withdrawing the military from the middle east?

        • The Nybbler says:

          My belief is that it’s largely carry-over from the anti-American bent of older versions of leftism. America is evil, America is responsible for all the ills of the world. Islam is the only thing to have struck a serious blow against America, therefore they’re allies. It doesn’t hurt that they can (mis)characterize Muslims as a different race, but I think that’s secondary.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          They might do it from sheer perversity!

    • John Schilling says:

      I stopped watching after the first season of Peter Capaldi, for mostly unrelated reasons. So I haven’t been following this closely, and I don’t much care. I don’t think anything good is going to come of a female Doctor, FWIW, and if it turns out to be the Last Doctor that will be a minor shame.

      But I also don’t think anything good is going to come from this level of pontificating on the true motives of everyone involved. The ones who chose to explain themselves, probably know more about what they are thinking than you do and most of them have little reason to lie about it. The ones who don’t chose to explain themselves, aren’t obligated to do so and why do you care?

      • Zorgon says:

        If I’m completely honest?

        I am sick to the back teeth of SJ-Blue as a thing, as a phenomenon, and especially as a media phenomenon. Blame the ant crisis, blame years of people acting like Buzzfeed and HuffPo are news, blame whatever, but I am now at the point where just the suggestion of SJ colonisation nauseates me.

        It’s not just the obvious tribal reactions; I’m fairly lefty myself, so according to our esteemed host’s theories one would assume I’d be their worst enemy and vice versa. More than anything else, it’s because Blue Tribe right now have an eliminationist tone which I perceive as a long-term existential threat every bit as much as I did when the neocons were doing the same thing in the 2000s. So this leaks through into relatively unimportant areas like Doctor Who, not because the area itself is important, but because a group of people proudly waving the flag of an ideotribe which has been talking about eradicating people like me from Western civilisation have taken open control of ANOTHER piece of my life. And their opposition are atomised and barely coherent and, importantly, don’t seem to fully understand why they oppose them.

        And that frightens me rather a lot. In retrospect, I find myself wondering if that might not be the reason in general, in fact.

    • albatross11 says:

      Zorgon:

      If there is one thing the modern world is *not* short of, it is internet articles explaining why my cultural or artistic preferences are really based in my latent sexism, racism, white privilege, or other problematic attributes. These things are more overproduced than Zimbabwean dollars, and have even less value.

      • Zorgon says:

        Well, I quite agree – hence my side-comment about not being a fan of “false consciousness” arguments. But I think it’s pretty clear that human tribalism is a predictable and real phenomenon, not to mention falsifiable in a way the other pile of “isms” are not. And, indeed, most of the time when your cultural and artistic preferences are being blamed on *ism, the underlying animus is fundamentally tribal; you are Bad Person because you do not exhibit their tribal norms and are therefore Outgroup And Bad.

        But I don’t think there’s an easy way to separate “I don’t think the Doctor should be a woman” from “this media product is loudly signalling that it has been colonised by my enemy tribe”, especially when we’re talking about a 50 year old media product that is embedded so deeply in British and geek cultures.

    • random832 says:

      I’m not sure what the difference really is between “I’m opposed to female representation as a terminal value” and “My tribe defines itself by opposition to female representation and so its presence means enemy action”, or how the latter doesn’t imply the former.

      • Skivverus says:

        I can think of at least two ways to parse that first sentence:
        “I’m opposed to [female representation] as a terminal value”
        versus
        “I’m opposed to [female representation as a terminal value]”

        The latter being something I’d rate more reasonable than the former. As for “My tribe defines itself by opposition to female representation and so its presence means enemy action”, that only implies the first of the two parsings; you’d more likely get the second from “My tribe defines itself by opposition to [female representation as a terminal value] and so its presence means enemy action”.
        I mean, sure, you could start portraying a longstanding fictional protagonist as an anthropomorphic dragon – they’re fictional after all – but (aside from blowing your special effects budget) you’d also alienate those fans of yours who had implicit expectations of continuity (i.e.: them continuing to be human, like they were in previous portrayals). This despite the fact that dragons are awesome.
        The Doctor case is less extreme given the foreshadowing options from “regeneration as an excuse to use different actors”, but more a matter of degree than kind, I think. On the other hand, not particularly familiar with the show, so dose of salt etc.

        • random832 says:

          I meant the former (though, strictly speaking, “opposed to female representation” should all be together in the brackets), and I can’t see how that wasn’t clear from, at the very least, my assertion that it was equivalent to the other thing I said.

          you’d also alienate those fans of yours who had implicit expectations of continuity

          Ghostbusters, for example, carried no expectation of continuity, because it was not a sequel – and also because they were not supposed to be literally the same characters, a situation that is almost unique to Doctor Who.

          Also it’s kind of ridiculously irrational to make whether you’re opposed to something conditional on your estimation of why the people who are in favor of it want it. If you are not – as one of YOUR values – opposed to female representation, then you have no reason not to coexist with people who are in favor of it.

          But my main point is regardless of what the particular controversy is, the idea that something being a shared tribal value means neither the individuals nor the tribe are properly subject to criticism for holding that value is absurd. It’s the same argument I have against I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup, the implicit assumption that anything that is a tribal value is morally neutral and can never possibly be better or worse than the other tribe’s values.

          • Skivverus says:

            Ghostbusters, for example, carried no expectation of continuity, because it was not a sequel

            “Coherence” is a better term than “continuity”, now that I think of it; as for that particular movie, my understanding was that the controversy was more about the hype surrounding the protagonists’ genders, rather than the fact of it, but it’s not something I paid much attention to myself (haven’t seen any of the movies).

            Also it’s kind of ridiculously irrational to make whether you’re opposed to something conditional on your estimation of why the people who are in favor of it want it.

            Er. I’d conclude the opposite for any non-omniscient actor: motives may be irrelevant where all consequences of a position are common knowledge, but that’s a really high bar. Motives predict trajectories as information increases; someone claiming they want, say, anarchy, “because it makes revenge easier” might be factually (in)correct, but it’s not going to make me as happy with the idea of anarchy as someone who claims they want it “because markets are better at satisfying people”: the discoveries under which they change their respective opinions are different.

            As for your main point, of course values can be subject to criticism, and some values are better than others (and some criticisms, too). If which ones were better were common knowledge, though, we wouldn’t be arguing over them.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but:

        “I’m opposed to [female representation as a terminal value]”

        is a fair description of my stance, and I’ve seen it expressed by a lot of people.

        • random832 says:

          Putting the brackets there is a practically maliciously unfair description of what I said; would you please come back and engage with my actual question?

          My main point was that “My tribe has X as one of its values” and “I personally have X as a terminal value” is not sufficiently different to exempt “X” from substantive criticism. I’m allowed to judge people for X (in this case, opposition to female representation) whether they’re a tribe or not.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Putting the brackets there is a practically maliciously unfair description of what I said;

            With the brackets there, the position is “My tribe objects to the idea that female representation is always to be sought for its own sake, and thinks it’s a bad terminal value.”. Without them, if I’m understanding your reply, the position is “My tribe’s goal is to keep females out of our media. Boo hiss females!”. Since the latter is basically a straw man, existing only in places like Youtube comments and even THERE at only Lizardsman Constant levels, while the former much more closely matches actual positions being taken on these issues, that strikes me as more of a case of steelmanning, and an attempt at charity.

            If I am understanding your position, you seem to be arguing that Zorgon’s People Who Never Learn Anything are basically right. If that is the case, then no, I’m not terribly interested in engaging with your question, because it’s based on false premises. Given the existence of not just a few, but many genre works with female characters that do not draw objections on the grounds of “Boo! We Object to Female Representation!”, I think the claim that the issue is that we have people in genre fandom who object to female representation, period, full stop, is trivially disproved and that we can move on to assessing the actual complaints.

          • random832 says:

            Given the existence of not just a few, but many genre works with female characters that do not draw objections on the grounds of “Boo! We Object to Female Representation!”,

            Zorgon’s premise is, essentially, that those things are tolerated because they’re pre-existing “blue tribe territory”, not because the red tribe actually likes them, and that the red tribe has drawn territorial lines around anything that originally lacks good female representation, wants to keep female representation out of this territory, and views any expansion of it as an incursion.

            My point is that “The red tribe wants to keep female representation out of their territory” says bad things about the red tribe itself, regardless of how tolerant they are of things outside their “territory”.

            In other words, you’ve missed the ‘our’ in your so-called strawman characterization “My tribe’s goal is to keep females out of our media.” My entire point is that even if they only care about it in ‘their’ media, it’s still an evil thing to care about.

          • The Nybbler says:

            My point is that “The red tribe wants to keep female representation out of their territory” says bad things about the red tribe itself

            If true. Which, by and large, it isn’t.

  7. Mark says:

    Job Advice:

    Jordan Peterson recommends that all things being equal, you want to go into a profession where you’ll be in the upper quartile for intelligence, but not “the smartest guy in the room”. My IQ is around 125.

    What would be some ideal jobs for my brain?

    • Charles F says:

      I feel like this request is a bit misguided. I’m a programmer with IQ 120ish and I’ve been at a job where I was clearly the smartest guy in the room and also a job where I was in the bottom quartile. I’ve had a similar experience with math-related work environments. If your area of work is at all intellectual, you’ll probably be able to find a similar spread of environments between the most and least selective potential employers.

      I think the way to optimize for this is to do exactly what everybody else does, pick the area you enjoy, apply for jobs starting with the most prestigious place and work at the first place that will have you. That might put you a bit lower than you want, if you’re a really good interviewer (or if people are willing to hire people who are below the 50th percentile, but I think people are mostly trying to move the average IQ up, in general) so feel free to skip the first few offers if you want to err on the side of being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.

    • Jugemu says:

      This chart may help, though a.) it’s from the early 90’s, and b.) not sure how the IQ was measured. An average of 100 and std dev of 15 is typical but some tests differ.

      http://www.iqcomparisonsite.com/occupations.aspx

      Also is there any basis to the top quartile thing or is that just Peterson’s opinion?

  8. powerfuller says:

    I had a friend recently who decided to start attending church again after years of absence. I’ve not discussed religion too much with him in the past, but my impression was that he, though raised religiously, was of an agnostic/atheistic bent. When I asked him why, he responded that so many things had gone (very unexpectedly) well in his life recently that he, more than anything else, wanted somebody to thank.

    My guess is that gratitude is a very good emotion for one’s psychological health, and trying to cultivate it can improve one’s life. My question to the commentariat here is — does gratitude require someone to whom you can be grateful? To me, it seems like it does: being happy about one’s good fortune and thankful for something in a vague sense doesn’t carry the same effect (e.g. promoting humility and reciprocity) as being thankful to someone. I may feel wonder and awe in the face of nature and my own being, but I only seem to feel grateful if it’s to some person or to God. Anybody else feel differently?

    My vague sense is that there are a lot of people today who want to feel gratitude for life but lack a proper object (i.e. God), and so try to go about finding some other object. I think this is part of the rise of rituals like in Canadian universities where they say “We are on the traditional unceded lands of the XXXX people…” It’s strikes me as a bunch of people wanting to say grace before a meal, but since there’s nobody to pray to, they throw in an abstraction about the people, the past generations, or something else. Similarly, I think some portion of white guilt comes from a similar dynamic — you can’t feel grateful to whatever made the world and society you’re in (no deity and all the forefathers were evil), so at best you can feel guilty, which at least carries a sense of reciprocity/obligation.

    If people cannot express or feel a gratitude to life without a deity, is this a problem for atheistic societies? On a related note, I remember reading somebody suggesting that the old aristocratic society was better than the meritocracy because the aristocrats knew they were lucky to have their stations and thus felt the noblesse oblige. On the other hand, the meritocrats believe they deserve their stations, so there’s no similar feeling of gratitude or obligation. I know a couple of successful meritocratic folks who have said directly they have never felt grateful for their good standing, wealth, etc. since they could point to the chain of work and mutually-agreed interactions that brought them to their current places.

    • Interesting comment, but I am not sure that not having anyone to thank is a real downside for atheists. If there is really someone responsible for one’s fortune, then that is the person who should be thanked. If there isn’t, then maybe it is actually working hard that is the cause, and so why should anyone be thanked? It could be that things are going well because of good luck. Do people really need someone to thank in such situations? When people have bad luck, do they need someone to blame? In my experience, most folks credit or blame their nearest politician for luck, do we need more than that?

      I am an old atheist, and I can’t recall ever needing to find someone to thank. And my life is actually going pretty well right now.

      • nimim.k.m. says:

        If there is really someone responsible for one’s fortune, then that is the person who should be thanked. If there isn’t, then maybe it is actually working hard that is the cause, and so why should anyone be thanked?

        This brings us to the central question of powerfuller: is feeling gratitude to God or some other abstract concept — luck as semi-personified goddess, or the collective efforts of the ancient ancestors, say — useful on societal level?

        Maybe it’s just the particular strand of Christianity in my upbringing, but I believe it is quite common cultural ‘trope’ to contrast the acts of performing explicit and implicit rituals of showing gratitude (the point being that you should also really, truly entertain the philosophical attitude of gratitude while performing the rituals) with getting uppity and believing all your success is due to your own excellence. The idea is that if you acknowledge that (despite your best efforts) much of what happens to you is out of your hands, you are likely to remember the importance of community values such as reciprocity, niceness and charity in your daily life. And of course, it certainly is an anti-thesis to rubbing the noses of the unlucky in their misfortunes which … isn’t nice. (And then they are less inclined to be nice to you, either. Reciprocity, again.)

  9. rlms says:

    The latest interesting iteration in “[x] has freedom to speak, but should they be given this platform”: Erdoğan gets another article in the Guardian.

    • Of course the Guardian should publish his comments — he is the head of Turkey! I think most of Western commentary is against Erdogan’s actions of the past year; we definitely need to hear both sides. He isn’t very convincing in this article — I think only the true believers will buy it. So I doubt Erdogan benefits a lot by this essay. But we must always hear both sides.

      By the way, I am very much against Erdogan’s recent repression. But that doesn’t mean I think we shouldn’t hear his side.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I usually don’t understand the point of politicians publishing in newspapers – it’s literally reducing newspapers to stenography – but I’m happy about this. Discussion of Erdogan in the West is absurdly one sided; people just assume conspiracy theories about him with zero evidence.

        • Aapje says:

          I don’t think that listening to Erdogan leads to fewer conspiracy theories being out there.

      • rlms says:

        I don’t think that every issue needs to have both sides heard; I’m perfectly happy that most people are largely ignorant of the many stupid conspiracy theories that exist. It’s important that people don’t try to repress either side, but you don’t get the right to be given a platform just by having an opinion (apart from anything else, that would be unworkable as there are more opinions than platforms). Although giving someone a platform doesn’t mean endorsing their ideas, it does mean endorsing their presence in the Overton window. So if you are deciding whether to give someone a platform, you have to weigh up how valuable their speech is likely to be (possibly in comparison to other people you could be hosting) against how damaging their ideas could be.

        • Although giving someone a platform doesn’t mean endorsing their ideas, it does mean endorsing their presence in the Overton window.

          I don’t think so. You might believe that things outside the window are interesting. Or you might think that one way of keeping them out of the window is by letting their supporters demonstrate how indefensible they are.

          Anarcho-capitalism isn’t in the Overton Window at present, but people still choose to listen to, or read, my defenses of it.

          • rlms says:

            I misused the term Overton window (although I think other people often do the same). Pretend I said “window of ideas that get consideration from a certain group of people” (without the Overton window’s requirement that that group be the general public).

            Even though I don’t support anarcho-capitalism, I would still approve of having you write an article in my newspaper or speak at my university for classic freedom of speech reasons: you might actually be right; you might be wrong but in a way that means I will get closer to the truth from reading your article; or arguing against you might clarify my own ideas. I presume you would take the same attitude towards my hypothetical well-written article promoting Stalinism. In short, speech about both anarcho-capitalism and Stalinism is valuable enough to be worthy of consideration.

            However, I would not let you write an article about how the moon is made of cheese in my newspaper. This isn’t because I think it would be dangerous or misleading (you’re at liberty to promote that idea elsewhere), but rather because I think that idea is wrong enough in an uninteresting way that speech promoting it wouldn’t have any value.

        • I don’t think that every issue needs to have both sides heard; I’m perfectly happy that most people are largely ignorant of the many stupid conspiracy theories that exist.

          As you say, it simply isn’t practical for every side to be heard in major newspapers. If it was practical, I think everyone should be heard, IMO. Let the readers decide what theory is a stupid conspiracy theory.

          So the newspapers must decide which opinions should be published. I would like to see the papers decide this based on the importance of the topic and who is speaking it, not based on whether the editors think it makes sense. Certainly Trump’s tweets should be publicized, shouldn’t they, even though some of them are mind-blowingly stupid? In the same way, Erodgan’s opinion should be publicized, because Turkey is a significant country, and he is the head of government.

          I usually don’t understand the point of politicians publishing in newspapers – it’s literally reducing newspapers to stenography

          Huh? Isn’t most of what newspapers do is reporting the news? Repeating what someone says is what newspapers do. Giving a top politician the pen to write it is simply more efficient and more effective than writing what he says — there can be no complaints of mis-quotes.

  10. Thegnskald says:

    For the metal fans here – give Tengger Cavalry a try.

    Tuvan throat singing metal. That’s all.

    “Cavalry in Thousands” is particularly good.

    • CatCube says:

      I kinda like it. “The Wolf Ritual” is pretty good, too.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I thought the name, and the aesthetics on the first video that came up, seemed more Mongolian than Tuvan … and I was *kind of* right, but I wasn’t expecting them to be from New York.

      Anyway, I’m still waiting for a central-Asian-throat-singing-culture-x-western-rock band that can rival Yat-Kha at the peak of their powers, but those guys come close.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:
    • BBA says:

      Or, at least, become less destructive and more constructive. Unless you see destructiveness as the core of social justice, which, well, it might be, but the same could be said for almost any social movement that lasts long enough. “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

      • AnonYEmous says:

        i think the capital letters denotate the brand which is destructive and not constructive

        let me throw out a quick thought: I feel that social justice, lowercase, engages with some legitimate but extremely complex questions, and as a result has decided to basically take the easy way out. I.E.: whether or not a person is “privileged” or conversely “oppressed” (or maybe “dis-privileged”) is based on a lot of factors, many of which can only be understood by knowing the person well, and some which are based on counterfactuals and other things. So instead, your skin color, sexuality, and gender are the primary determinants, with occasionally wealth and disabilities coming in.

        Arguably, they take the easy way out in terms of activism as well; call-out culture and “educate yourself”.

        So yeah, that’s one of the biggest problems I see. Hopefully it’ll solve itself like this. And maybe the problem of being closed to dialogue can solve itself as well.

    • axiomsofdominion says:

      The things being complained about are dumb. They are human nature. There is no possible human movement which meets the standards desired in the article.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      The current “Social Justice” movement may fade away, but moral entrepreneurship, i.e. the strategy of getting wealth, power, and a feeling of superiority by pretending to be an activist for societal good, is as old as the hills and shows no sign of going away any time soon.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        “Moral entrepreneurship” may be with us forever, but Social Justice (and I do use the capitalization to indicate a brand) is an especially divisive version.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’d like to think it is, but I’ve got to admit I don’t really have any way of proving that it’s more divisive than the earlier moral entrepreneurship represented by e.g. the Moral Majority.

          • cassander says:

            The moral majority didn’t get more radical every election, the SJWs do. MM might have been a bigger problem if they were winning, but they aren’t.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t *think* the Moral Majority was so divisive that they were making each other miserable, but maybe I just didn’t hear about it. Anyone have more detailed knowledge?

          • Nornagest says:

            The moral majority didn’t get more radical every election

            The secular left sure thought they did, back when they were ascendant. From the inside, I’m sure this looked like incrementally approaching the goal they’d had all along, but that might be what it feels like inside an SJW’s head, too.

          • Jaskologist says:

            How many MM members were purged from the group? That’s probably the best way to compare it with modern SJWism.

            I assume there were some sex scandals, but even with that, the rules for what not to do were pretty clearly understood beforehand, which is an important difference. Purity spirals are a lot harder with a fixed canon.

          • Iain says:

            Fred Clark, a lefty evangelical blogger, has a whole tag devoted to evangelical gatekeepers.

  12. M.C. Escherichia says:

    What’s the state of the art in philosophical attempts to reconcile consciousness with a universe of dumb material stuff? I understand that physical things can perceive, calculate, decide, and (in a word) think, but I don’t understand how these processes can have this first-person subjectivity… this “what it is like to be”, from the inside.

    I’m not that far away from biting the bullet and saying that straight-up Mind/Body Dualism must be correct after all. Who would I read to argue otherwise?

    • Anon. says:

      Dehaene, Consciousness and the Brain. Churchland, A Neurocomputational Perspective. Dennet. Hacker.

      • skef says:

        Churchland’s target in that period was more folk psychology (beliefs, desires) than subjective experience, about which he was loosely an identity theorist. Dehaene is more interested in what Block would call “access consciousness” rather than phenomenal experience.

        Among neuro-scientific types, subjective eliminativism is probably the current dominant view. It sees the idea that we have experiences as a sort of deep conceptual mistake.

        In terms of the “space” of views, you have (among other theories):

        1) Identity theory (roughly, subjective experiences are identical to certain patterns of physical (probably neural) activity
        2) Multiple Realizability: (very roughly, that subjective experience is 1:1 with certain types of information processing)
        3) Epiphenomenalism: (Conscious experience makes no contribution to fitness, physical state determines subjective state, but there’s no influence in the other direction. A variant of dualism.)
        4) Pan-psychism and pan-proto-psychism: (roughly, that basic particles either have subjective properties, or sub-subjective properties that, when arranged in certain ways, lead to subjective properties, although Freya Matthews has argued for a top-down, rather than bottom-up, variant.)

        And there is idealism of course, which is the opposite of eliminativist materialism. Bostrom’s currently popular simulation argument is neo-idealist, although he probably wouldn’t put it like that (he attempts to tie the simulation environment to the simulator environment in virtue of psychological motivation).

        How convincing any of these views are to a given person seems to depend very strongly on priors. The arguments for them don’t tend to shift attitudes much.

    • Jugemu says:

      My feeling is that either we’ll learn more about the brain and eventually say “oh, so that’s how it works, mystery solved”, or we won’t find the answer there and we’ll have to accept some form of panpsychism.
      (Which doesn’t mean that a rock is thinking or feeling in the same way as an animal, but that it can be attributed with some sort of subjective experience).

    • M.C. Escherichia says:

      Of course, whatever explanation is right, consciousness has to be allowed to have effects on the world, since it is consciousness itself that’s causing all this confused writing about the subject. Epiphenominalism especially doesn’t work.

      On the other hand, this means consciousness has to be the sort of thing that affects the world, which — you would think — means that it’s made out of matter. Unless we’re very wrong about the “causal closure” of material stuff (which admittedly is not exactly proven, I feel).

    • Protagoras says:

      Dennett has already been mentioned; I think some of his discussions are pretty good. Lewis has some papers making the case for materialism, including, for example, “What Experience Teaches.” I think one of the key arguments, which comes up in Lewis’ discussion (and also Dennett’s at times) is that it is not remotely clear how dualism helps. If there’s anything mysterious about how physical stuff can be conscious, it’s a mystery about how anything can be conscious, and saying that consciousness happens because of magical consciousness stuff is only pretending to solve the mystery.

      • If there’s anything mysterious about how physical stuff can be conscious, it’s a mystery about how anything can be conscious, and saying that consciousness happens because of magical consciousness stuff is only pretending to solve the mystery.

        I think that’s an overstatement. We believe we have a pretty good understanding of how material things work. If that understanding implies the impossibility of consciousness, that suggests that something other than material things is responsible. We still don’t know how immaterial consciousness works, but at least we don’t known that it can’t.

        For a loosely analogous case, suppose you could demonstrate that environmental differences couldn’t explain the observed pattern of differences in some outcome–IQ, height, sexual preferences, or whatever. It’s reasonable to then conjecture that the explanation must be genetic, even though you don’t know the mechanism by which the genes control that outcome.

        • Protagoras says:

          But it is not our understanding of material things (which I think you exaggerate in any event) which implies the impossibility of consciousness. It is our understanding of consciousness that is responsible, which is a clear indicator of where the confusion lies (as Dennett and the others argue).

  13. Mark says:

    It is often implied that differences in racial intelligence account for different historical levels of civilisational development.

    Is it possible that the reverse is the case? From everything that we know, ancient cities were terrible death holes. Presumably more intelligent/successful tradesmen/merchants would have had a huge advantage in fitness.

    Is it possible that cities made us smart?

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m pretty sure ancient cities were terrible death holes because they were full of literal infectious shit, and that doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing that IQ would give you much of a leg up on. Cultural cleanliness norms, yes, but how likely are you to rederive those for yourself if you’re the only IQ 150 guy in an IQ 100 family that all thinks bathing once a year is more than enough?

      And even if you do, the benefits accrue to anyone you can talk into adopting the same norms, so your relative advantage is still pretty low.

    • DeWitt says:

      I don’t buy it. Your theory would predict that Scandinavian IQ is terribly low – urbanisation there caught on only very, very, very late in history; Finland’s oldest city, iirc, was founded somewhere in the 1200’s. On the other hand, the civilisations of the ancient Greeks, Celtiberians, and Italic peoples had urbanised much earlier, but I don’t see a massive gap in IQ between those and nordics at all – and insofar there is one, it doesn’t favor the Mediterraneans.

      Anyhow, who cares about cities? Most people in any civilisation didn’t live in those. Most countries didn’t get large scale urbanisation going on until the Industrial Revolution kicked off properly, so most people would have lived in the countryside instead. Furthermore, said cities had below-replacement level birth rates, so they attracted rurals to keep population steady, rather than the other way around.

      • onyomi says:

        Cities are very important for cultural and technological development. They allow a critical mass of people to get together long enough to create them. Most new trends are born in cities and filter to the countryside over time. If you want to hear how the city people talked and dressed a hundred years ago, go to the country.

        • hoghoghoghoghog says:

          “who cares” in the sense of genetics; city dwellers we’re a small population and unlikely to reproduce.

          I think DeWitt is still wrong though – mightn’t we expect evolution to go faster in more challenging environments? It also doesn’t pass the smell test. If cities were so deadly then why are there Jews?

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Mightn’t we expect evolution to go faster in more challenging environments?

            Wait, does evolution work like that?

            I’m not going to defend DeWitt’s birth rate statistics, but that’s secondary to what I’d consider the strong point: > 90% of the population was rural for most of the history. And then during the 19th and 20th centuries, everybody moved to cities in relatively short timeframe. If you pick a random individual in a city today, chances are that their ancestors were non-urban relatively few generations back. If urban populations had some genetic adaptations, would they stand out on population level today? [And of course, we are talking about humans: the cultural adaptations spread much easily than genetics.]

            If cities were so deadly then why are there Jews?

            Hypothesis: some parts of the city population managed to reproduce on the replacement level, some did not, and the average would still be < 2. Going by the stereotypes, it would have been the poor laborers who got sick and hungry and died in cities (and then were replaced by newcomers from the rural communities).
            In addition to jews, I'd also search for the population statistics of the city-dwelling bourgeois class, if they can be found.

          • DeWitt says:

            @onyomi

            Cities are absolutely important, but I doubt they’ve affected humanity on a genetic level very much; their influence is cultural and technological, as you note, and not so much demographic/genetic.

            @hoghoghoghoghog

            I wouldn’t say that cities were more challenging than premodern rural societies. Death by disease was much higher in cities, but rural areas tended to be struck much harsher by poor harvests and warfare, whereas city dwellers could import food from elsewhere and made for much harder targets than rural villages.

            The Jews were much more obsessed with purity and cleanliness than most anyone else. It’s no secret that the plague struck Christians much worse than it did with Jews.

  14. hoghoghoghoghog says:

    Many people talk about compromises in politics, where one side trades something the other side want for something they want. As far as I can tell this literally never happens, nor would any reasonable person attempt it – it would just let the other side move the Overton window. Instead, the goal of politics is to get a supermajority and then do whatever you want. Am I missing something?

    • MrApophenia says:

      My understanding is that a few decades ago this was actually a thing that could happen, but it relied on most people neither knowing or caring what their legislators were actually doing for the most part. You can’t move the Overton Window if no one except weird policy wonks notice the legislation.

      • BBA says:

        It appears that, in nearly all cases nowadays, simply being acceptable to one party makes something unacceptable to the other party. That wasn’t always the case.

    • baconbacon says:

      The R and D platforms are already compromises to hold their coalitions together. Every step you take to bring a moderate D from Mass on board risks losing a far right R from Iowa.

      • hoghoghoghoghog says:

        I see compromises within coalitions. But I don’t see trades all the way across the spectrum, like the currently-popular “would Democrats accept outlawing abortion in return for a carbon tax” imagines.

        Although really there are two axes here: (1) how far across the ideological spectrum is your compromise supposed to work and (2) how conceptually related are the goods offered on both sides of the trade.

    • Zodiac says:

      You realize there are a lot of multi-party democracies out there, right? You might want to look into these.
      Here in Germany the only way anything can get done right now is when two parties (or even three) form a coalition, which means they compromise on almost everything. Super majorities are not a thing anymore.
      There is a lot of controversy over how good this is for democracy but it is the current state of things.

      • DeWitt says:

        I came here to say just this. Not every country is Anglo; coalitions are the name of the game in much of Europe, with countries like France being a notable exception.

      • onyomi says:

        In all seriousness is there any logical reason other than tradition and entrenched power not to have runoffs (or “instant” runoffs–that is, ranked choice) in American elections for major positions?

        Like our current system literally punishes you for voting for a non-major party or third-party candidate since your principled vote is one less vote for your second choice candidate with a real chance of winning.

        • cassander says:

          IRV can make third parties weaker, not stronger. if you’re reasonably sure that the third party guy isn’t going to win, and that you’ll be the second choice of all his voters, why bother trying to address their issues?

          • onyomi says:

            That’s a good point; at least in terms of influence, if not actual success of the party: right now there’s the dynamic David Friedman has described whereby if a third party gains a significant amount of support, the big parties are incentivized to steal their ideas. That incentive might be weaker in an instant runoff/ranked system.

  15. JayT says:

    What does everyone think of the successful Hyperloop test the other day? Does this change your thoughts on the likelihood of this becoming a useful technology? It still seems like a “too good to be true” type thing to me, but I sure do hope it ends up working out.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2017/07/12/the-70-mph-test-run-that-hyperloop-is-hailing-as-a-kitty-hawk-moment/?utm_term=.5fa6de0b92a8

    • baconbacon says:

      I’m just generally dubious. Air travel has a major advantage over rail due to its flexibility as a plane can fly in any direction after takeoff, and can go over major obstacles. Can they realistically build this tube over the Rockies? Are they going to be going 700 mph through those sections or even 300, or even 100 if they can? Are you going to be able to route 3-5x the normal flow of traffic to a specific city for special events (papal visits, super bowl etc). And how do you deal with maintenance/damage? One section that needs a repair could shut down an entire corridor.

      This seems like it could have major advantages in the great plains areas where land is cheap and mostly flat and rivers are the major obstacle.

      • baconbacon says:

        Yellow flags in the press release

        1. It will be covered in solar panels, producing more energy than it uses.

        Sounds like the kind of thing you add on to secure major government funding, not as an inducement to private investors. Add in all the major problems that power plants have, but with the added benefit of having your panels spread out over the largest possible area, with no roads leading to them? Sounds like a maintenance nightmare.

        2. We are doing our test today, what should I wear for this historic occasion? Ah my “here kitty…” t shirt.

        • Nornagest says:

          To be fair, solar farms in the middle of fucking nowhere are very common in California and Nevada. And there’s gotta be some kind of maintenance access.

          The shirt is stupid, but nerds gonna nerd. Remember the flap over the pinup-print shirt that one of the engineers was wearing in the control room for that ESA mission a while back?

          • baconbacon says:

            To be fair, solar farms in the middle of fucking nowhere are very common in California and Nevada. And there’s gotta be some kind of maintenance access.

            Yes, but they are very densely packed with solar panels, so to maintain all of them you need one road leading to the farm and some roads along the rows of panels. If you have a square mile filled with panels are you never much more than a couple of miles away from the next faulty panel. If you have a corridor of panels (say) 50 ft wide you can be 100 linear miles away from another broken solar panel to have the same total coverage. The latter is far more expensive to maintain than the former.

            #2 was a joke. 🙂

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Propulsion is provided by the tube, so it makes sense to provide power there, too.

          • baconbacon says:

            As some guy said in Jurassic Park re delays “we have all the problems of a major zoo and a major amusement park on top of the dinosaur thing”. This is one of the most ambitious mass transport concepts ever approached, attaching all the problems of a major power plant on top seems like a poor idea without major potential benefits.

        • Aapje says:

          @baconbacon

          Solar panels have minimal maintenance due to no moving parts. If they are angled sufficiently, they are mostly self-cleaning.

          If the panels have an optimizer, you can just just leave any broken panels. No need to replace it if sending out a replacement crew/guy is more expensive than fixing a single panel.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’m not expert, but I am going to guess there will be significant numbers of electrical components along the 400 mile stretch from LA to SF controlling the power for these panels. Even if they have almost no problems with any of the components the replacement costs of these panels as they hit the end of their lifespan is going to be far higher than building solar plants.

            Perhaps what they have in mind is just solar power plants along the way providing power to the trains, in which case the line is just PR and no big deal.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            @Aapje, I specify solar panels as part of my job and this is about the worst possible layout for solar panels, just slightly better than that solar roadways nonsense. Solar panels need to be connected together in short runs to inverters that turn their low voltage, DC power to higher voltage, AC power so they don’t lose all the energy they create to wire losses. In dense arrangements, you can puts lots of panels to one inverter and then run those together to step them up more to the thousands of volts used for transmission of energy. In a linear arrangement, you are going to need lots more inverters and I can’t imagine how you would efficiently lay out any sort of further transformers to step things up to usable voltages. They will need lots of regular stations of bigger distribution equipment along the whole length rather than a single controlled room or space like a dense photovoltaic farm. Then they will need to tie those spaced out stations back to the grid, again very inefficient compared to a single or double connection point of a single dense PV farm.

            And that doesn’t even get started on the fact that PV panels have a tentative payoff in the 10-15 year range (just about when normal wear and tear estimates their end of life). PV only makes sense to grab government grants and political favorability points for “sustainability”.

          • Aapje says:

            @AnarchyDice

            In a linear arrangement, you are going to need lots more inverters…

            I thought that the idea was to power the hyperloop with them, so you’d actually have power generation right where you use it, already as the desired DC power. I agree that it’s a bad setup if the main goal is to supply the grid, but AFAIK that was not the goal.

            And that doesn’t even get started on the fact that PV panels have a tentative payoff in the 10-15 year range (just about when normal wear and tear estimates their end of life).

            My panels have 20 years warranty, so I guess that I get a free set of replacement panels then.

            PV panels tend to have gradual declining production. The industry standard is 80% output at 25 years. They can also malfunction due to thermal cycling and humidity, but those obviously depend greatly on the environment in which you use the panels. In most environments they should probably last 20+ years.

            PV ROI time depends on various factors. Mine, that I bought some years ago, have about a 7 years ROI, but I self-installed (and don’t count that labor as a cost) and benefit from net-metering.

          • Aapje says:

            @baconbacon

            ‘Producing more energy than it uses’ doesn’t mean ‘major electricity plant.’ It can merely mean producing marginally more electricity than they use themselves…which is a perfectly fine thing to brag about, IMO.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Seems like the move from air bearings to maglev is a pretty big negative to that test. We’ve had maglev technology for like 20 years, including working commercial trains for more than a decade (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Maglev_Train), and my sense is that maglev is enormously expensive and finicky, to the point where China can’t seem to make it cost effective. Adding the challenge of keeping an enormous tube in near-vacuum suggests to me “tremendous costs.”

    • Nornagest says:

      The Hyperloop is probably the Elon Musk brainchild that I’m the most skeptical of, and I’m at least a little skeptical of all of them. It’s cool that they could get it to work at small scale, but the big challenge in a project like this is infrastructure, not technology — and this gives me no confidence that they can make the infrastructure angle work at all, let alone as cheaply as they need to.

      • rlms says:

        Really? From most to least plausible, my ordering is probably PayPal, The Boring Company, Tesla/Solar City, SpaceX, Hyperloop, Neuralink, OpenAI.

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s similar to my list, except that I’d put The Boring Company after Tesla (it’s much less mature) and Hyperloop way down at the bottom. Neuralink and OpenAI are unlikely to pan out, but they’re doing blue-sky research; Hyperloop has a concrete plan which is almost certainly doomed.

          • rlms says:

            The Boring Company are interesting in that they seem much more likely to accomplish basic goals (I like to think that Elon Musk shouldn’t find it too challenging to build a 15m long tunnel in land he owns), but their long-term projects do seem a bit less probable than Tesla’s. I think Neuralink and especially OpenAI are tackling problems of sufficient difficulty that it will take decades for them to even have a chance of fulfilling them (and there’s also the possibility of someone else getting there first, given that they would be incredibly lucrative if successful). In that timeframe, I think the probability of the materials for Hyperloop becoming cheap and a sympathetic government coming along is fairly high.

        • CatCube says:

          I hadn’t heard about The Boring Company before your comment, but I don’t see how that’s going to have a better chance than Tesla, or SpaceX.

          Digging tunnels is something we do a lot of, see Big Dig and the Alaska Way tunnel. Also see the schedule and budget slips on those. What, exactly, is he proposing that will change 1) the necessity of permitting and environmental nonsense or 2) the fundamental law of civil engineering: Every Hole is an Adventure.

          Alaska Way got held up for years due to an unknown steel pipe in its path, and months because of caving ground as they were digging. Fundamentally, every tunnel is in soil, and if you had Jesus Himself standing before you and asked him what the engineering properties of the soil you’re dealing with are, He’s going to give you a range of values. It’s an inherently ill-defined material, and therefore it’s always a risk when working with it.

          • rlms says:

            I also hadn’t heard of them until shortly before my original comment (when I was reading Musk’s Wikipedia page). Your point about the frequency of digging tunnels is precisely why I think they have a good chance of succeeding (at least relative to a lot of his other projects). As far as I can tell, a lot of what they want to do is just “dig some tunnels, in the same way that people have dug tunnels before”. Their most ambitious project seems to be “dig a lot of tunnels in the same place, and faster than usual”. That might not have a good chance of succeeding, but I think it has more precedent than SpaceX’s ambition of a manned mission to Mars. Possibly I should’ve swapped its position with Tesla; I think they’re fairly close.

        • JayT says:

          Why do you put Space X so low? They have proven technology and have turned a profit in past. They have programs that I would rank low (putting a colony on Mars), but their bread and butter of launching satellites seems to be fine.

          • rlms says:

            I think the bread and butter of The Boring Company (digging uninteresting tunnels) and Tesla/SolarCity (building electric cars/solar panels, without them necessarily being world-changing) are equally if not more feasible, but the more ambitious projects (digging unusual tunnels, building really good/cheap electric cars/solar panels) are considerably easier than a Martian colony.

          • JayT says:

            The “bread and butter” of the Boring Company isn’t just to dig tunnels, it’s to dig tunnels much faster than we currently can, and to create subterranean highways. That sounds far less likely than a reusable rocket to launch satellites into space, which Space X basically already has.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          I’d rank OpenAI higher; while they might not to be able to create a AGI, it’s quite plausible that they will produce valuable research as a byproduct.

    • John Schilling says:

      The nigh-impossibility of Hyperloop becoming a useful technology have nothing to do with the ability to push a pod through a pipe. The damning problems are, A: fault tolerance and safety, and B: the inability to build new geographically-constrained infrastructure between Los Angeles and San Francisco without paying a couple hundred billion dollars in barely-camouflaged bribes to everyone with the power to say “No”.

    • CatCube says:

      My objections to the Hyperloop have always been with the finances and the infrastructure, not the bare possibility of the technology.

      The original report has, for example, a cost of $650 million for the steel tube.

      Quick back of the envelope, for a 7′-4″ ID pipe w/ wall thickness of 0.9″:
      Area of pipe = π*0.25*(88.9″^2-88″^2)/(144 in²/ft²) = 0.868 ft² / ft of pipe
      The volume of the pipe = A * 350 mi * 5280 ft/mi = 1.605×10^6 ft³ of steel
      Steel is 490 pcf, so the weight of steel required is = 490 pcf * 1.605×10^6 ft³ = 786.3×10^6 lb

      Right now, we’re paying about $6-$7 per lb for steel, fabricated and delivered. This is not quite what we’re looking at here, since that price is for weldments fabricated in the shop and installed on site; this project will have significant field fabrication, so I think it’ll be low. Use $6/lb anyway.

      The price, for the hyperloop steel pipe, in one direction only, is $4.72 billion. That is just a skooch more than estimated. This whole thing is going on a bridge, so that’s going to be even more. The costs just don’t pencil out.

      The fact that this is all on a bridge is completely bonkers, anyway. “Let’s make our road cheaper by building it on a bridge the whole way,” is something said by nobody ever. I’ve not seen anything for what the grade and curve limits are going to be, which will significantly affect the alignment of this thing in mountainous areas.

      • JayT says:

        To be fair, they have spent something like $10 billion on 100 miles of track for the California high speed rail, so $5 billion doesn’t sound so bad!

        • CatCube says:

          That $10 billion (my $5 billion is for one tube, and you need two) is the pure cost for the steel, with nothing for anything else. I also didn’t include the “stringers” supposedly welded to this, since there was nothing detailing that geometry. The steel is probably not going to be anything near a majority of the cost, either.

      • rlms says:

        Eh, just building a highway between LA and SF would cost somewhere in the single digit billions as far as I can tell from a brief search. So spending low double digit billions on a cool superspeed Hyperloop doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

        • baconbacon says:

          Highways are way more functional, and they (and airports) already exist.

          • rlms says:

            Way more functional in what sense? The Hyperloop has the major selling point of being much faster, and if other factors (price) are OK it would definitely be able to compete with other forms of transport. So spending a few times more on it than a road isn’t crazy. It seems plausible that the Hyperloop is “as good as” 10 roads, or one road 10x as long, but if it was going to cost triple digit billions it would more clearly be impractical, because a road 100x as long would fairly obviously be better.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Way more useful in the sense that they can be used by a lot more people (more than likely), who can get off at pretty much any destination they want, and don’t have to pay anything except gas costs.

            Also, trucks can use them to transport goods.

            I don’t know how many people the hyperloop is supposed to be carrying and I’m sure it’s faster, but I don’t think it can hold quite as many people.

      • Nornagest says:

        I basically agree with your bottom line, but where are you getting 0.9″ plate from? That is a shitload of metal — you usually don’t need that kind of thickness unless you’re making armor or you need to resist extreme pressures.

        • CatCube says:

          That’s what was in Musk’s proposal. (p27 here: http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/hyperloop_alpha-20130812.pdf) I assumed it was true without checking it, as 100′ is a pretty good span, and they are trying to contain vacuum in addition to all of the bridge loads. Plus, this thing is going to be really sensitive to deflections. Deflection usually controls in large structures, so my guess is that’s what’s driving this.

          Actually doing some checking, the static live load deflection of a 33 kip pod will be about 0.150″, with a dead load deflection of 0.143″; the dead load is less critical, since you can generally camber that out during fabrication.

          Seismic is another possibility, as a quick look on the earthquake.usgs.gov site gives a design response spectrum* with a peak of 2.281 g per bridge design criteria with some reasonable assumptions (Northern part of the San Fernando Valley being one). The hyperloop proposal had a fundamental frequency of 2.71 Hz, or a fundamental period of 0.369s, which is at the peak of the design response spectrum.

          * A response spectrum is a method of relating the peak acceleration of a structure to an earthquake. Since the response to shaking something is dependent upon the properties of the shaking and the thing being shaken, you can’t just say that the highest acceleration measured by a seismograph is what you’ll use for designing a structure. As a matter of fact, for most practical structures, they amplify the earthquake response above that peak ground acceleration similar to how you don’t have to move your legs much on a swing to get large motions of the swing. To wrap this back to the hyperloop, if they built this thing at grade, they only have to contend with the peak ground acceleration of 0.964 g. So this cute-ass “viaduct” actually increases the earthquake response by almost 3 times.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hard vacuum is only about 15 PSI less than atmospheric — you don’t need that much metal to keep it in. Scuba tanks get up to about 3000 PSI and the standard there is about 0.18 inches of wall thickness for steel or 0.45 for aluminum. They’re a lot smaller, but I’d expect the necessary thickness for a given pressure to scale close to linearly with diameter.

            Deflection makes sense, though, given that this thing’s supposed to be dealing with a few tons of load howling through it at 700 MPH on a regular basis.

          • CatCube says:

            @Nornagest

            ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
            Maybe there’s some other load case that requires it. Local buckling, lateral seismic, impact, vengeful ghosts, thermal expansion, frozen bearings, whatever. I don’t believe the economics of the hyperloop pencil out, so I’m not going to use my weekend working on a design of the fuckin’ thing. I mean, unless Hyperloop One wants to pay me.

            0.9″ what was in the document that Elon Musk put out. Given his radical underestimation of costs given the dimensions he did use, I ran with the assumption there was some logic behind what was in there. Of course, given how fucked up the understanding of seismic analysis was, maybe there was no logic. I note that the diameter-to-thickness ratio is 98, which is well in the noncompact region, so some sort of local effects might be the reason. FWIW, 1/2″ to 1″ elements on a 100′ span doesn’t even make me blink.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hard vacuum is only about 15 PSI less than atmospheric — you don’t need that much metal to keep it in.

            You don’t need any metal at all to keep vacuum in; you need metal to keep air out. That’s an important differenc, because cylinders are stable under interior pressure but susceptible to buckling under exterior pressure. Against interior pressure, you just need sufficient tensile strength to withstand the hoop stress due to pressure, and tensile strength is proportional to wall thickness – with a strong material like steel, a little goes a long way. Against exterior pressure, you need stiffness to prevent buckling instability – and stiffness scales with the square of wall thickness. No matter how strong the material, thin sheets or membranes won’t do.

            You might be able to get a small average thickness by using e.g. isogrid panels, but that just substitutes machining effort for material weight and ends up costing more. I haven’t done the math on Hyperloop, but I deal regularly with vacuum tubes of roughly hyperloop-ish scale and steel walls of 1/2″ thickness or better are the norm.

          • CatCube says:

            @John Schilling

            The other part of this is that since the tube is a structural member, it’s going to have bending compressive stresses in addition to the hoop stresses. They’re not terribly *high* as designed (some 2 ksi), but the tube is in a region where the upper end of the bending capacity will be limited by local buckling of the wall.

            Did any of the vacuum systems you deal with have expansion joints? I did a quick calculation using Musk’s proposed 100′ spans between piers, where I assumed the tube would be continuous over 3 spans. The expansion in that distance was 1.39″. Depending on how you arrange the bearings, you could have double that (if you want to cut down on expansion joints by having two spans expand at one pier, or if you want to have less movement and more joints you arrange spans so the expansion of one end is against the fixed end of the next span) On bridges, our expansion joints tend to fail and let in water after only a couple of years, and they are only trying to keep water out against gravity, not a vacuum. I didn’t know if there was an already-existing solution for vacuum expansion joints, or if they’re going to have to invent one.

            Of course, if they’re assuming long spans and allowing the tube to go into compression during high temperatures, that’ll also impose significant compression loads.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      We already have high-speed rail (and maglevs specifically), and like other commentators have elaborated, the problem is that the numbers won’t work out. Unlike with SpaceX, where the recycling rockets can plausibly be cost-saving measure, building vacuum tubes in addition to maglev looks like a large additional infrastructure cost.

      Also, we have spent a century longer developing and improving long distance rail technology than our “get stuff to the orbit” technology. I’m not expert, but in my eyes it gives more credence to the critics.

  16. MrApophenia says:

    So this comments section was pretty skeptical about Russia last time it came up. Recent news changing that at all?

    Question was prompted by this morning’s news that Veselnitskaya brought along a former Soviet counterintelligence officer to her meeting with Don Jr. That and a question I heard on a podcast which looped back to a previous BIG SHOCKING RUSSIA story I had forgotten about entirely – Jared Kushner trying to set up a secret back channel to the Kremlin with Sergey Kislyak.

    That happened in early December, so the official narrative we are now asked to believe by the White House is that the Russians came in and offered to help get Trump elected in June; the Trump people hold the meeting on Friday, June 9th and the Russians produce absolutely nothing of value; the news breaks of the DNC hack by the Russian government on Wednesday of the following week, and no one in the Trump campaign thinks there could be any connection; no further communication with the Russians occurs, and then in December, out of nowhere, Jared Kushner asks Kislyak for a secret back channel to communicate with the Kremlin that bypasses American intelligence, for totally unrelated diplomatic reasons.

    • rlms says:

      “So this comments section was pretty skeptical about Russia last time it came up. Recent news changing that at all?”
      No, I still haven’t seen any good evidence that Russia exists.

      • Iain says:

        Typical out-of-touch elite. Sarah Palin’s word isn’t good enough for you? She can see it from her house!

        • Jordan D. says:

          With all due respect, Sarah Palin isn’t exactly famed for her knowledge of geography.

          What she’s seeing is almost certainly Iceland.

        • CatCube says:

          Actually, wouldn’t that be taking Tina Fey’s word?

          • Iain says:

            I seriously considered adding a footnote, but decided that it would ruin the flow of the joke.

            If only I had been able to attach it in some less obtrusive way. Perhaps with a small, perfectly shaped bit of wire. Alas!

    • Jaskologist says:

      I would say “Russia” here is functioning as what Hines would call a “floating signifier,” a vague term that can encompass anything from pee tapes to hacking vote machines, allowing a lot people of people to think they’re talking about the same thing when they really aren’t.

      So it would help if you clarified what precisely you mean by “Russia.”

      • MrApophenia says:

        Fair point – I was referring to allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to win the election.

        (Although interestingly, thanks to that NSA leak the whole “hacked the election” phrase is looking rather less like an overstatement, too. We know the GRU at least tried to hack individual state voting offices in late October and early November 2016, it’s just a question of whether they succeeded.)

      • Iain says:

        Donald Trump Jr received an email saying:

        The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
        This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

        Donald Trump Jr replied with “if it’s what you say I love it”. In a later email, just in case there was any doubt, Goldstone clarified:

        Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday.

        And Trump Jr said:

        Great. It will likely be Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me, 725 Fifth Ave 25th floor

        (Jared Kushner did not mention this in his security clearance forms, obviously.)

        One month later:

        24 July 2016: On CNN’s State of the Union, Mr Trump Jr is asked about a suggestion by the Clinton campaign that Russia is trying to help his father’s election, an effort that included the hacking and publication of emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
        “It just goes to show you their exact moral compass,” he replies. “They’ll say anything to be able to win this. This is time and time again, lie after lie… It’s disgusting, it’s so phoney… I can’t think of bigger lies. But that exactly goes to show you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win.”

        (This is just one of many times members of Trump’s campaign denied that there was any contact between the campaign and Russia, or that Russia had any interest in helping Trump win.)

        On its own, this is arguably enough to indict him for violations of campaign finance law. The fact that Junior’s story about the meeting changed three times in the week before releasing the emails casts additional doubt on his credibility.

        And that’s the charitable view. Anybody with even an ounce of suspicion in their bodies should be asking themselves how likely it is that Donald Trump himself didn’t know anything about a meeting involving his son, his son-in-law, and his campaign manager, and what that implies about his repeated insistence that his campaign never ever talked to Russia.

        • hlynkacg says:

          If I’m in Donald Jr.’s shoes and I get that email, my first thought is that Aras has proof that Hillary sold State Department favors through the Clinton Foundation. (something to do with uranium perhaps?). Me? I’d take that meeting.

          The question is “what then?”, if they meet and nothing comes of it, is that still collusion?

          • Iain says:

            Me? I’d take that meeting.

            And you’d be in violation of federal law in doing so.

            Furthermore, you seem like an intelligent person, so I hope that after you took the meeting, you would not lie for over a year about its very existence, or omit it from your security clearance forms. Indeed, I hope that before entering the meeting you would have asked some basic questions, like “what sort of information?” or “what are you expecting in return” or “why are you coming to me with this, instead of the FBI?” or “should I really be bringing along the campaign manager?” or “wait, why is the Russian government trying to help out my dad?” And though you seem honest, I hope you would forgive me for my suspicion when, after you had repeatedly revised your story, I failed to believe your claim that nothing came of the whole thing.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            As Iain said,

            “why are you coming to me with this, instead of the FBI?”

            This kind of information isn’t generally provided “no strings attached”. There is a reason why in the ideal democracies (or any sovereign states, really), the crimes of the politicians are supposed to investigated the police organs of the republic, not by their rival politicians with the help of the rival states. The other outside powers having significant influence on the politics of the realm is taken as the traditional sign of weakness and subordinate status of the whole national organ, and patriotic citizens are supposed to avoid taking part in such schemes (becoming a Quisling is short-sighted, because even in the best case when you made the correct choice and root for the guy who wins in the end, you end up as a Kadyrov, which might be good for you but for not the nation).

            Sure, you could argue that such power politics and shifting allegiances have been the bread and the butter of the political history since times unknown: usurpers dethrone the weak monarch with the help of outside powers, and after reclaiming the ultimate power, often end up defending their new interests (simultaneously the nation’s interests) against their previous allies.
            But the point of the republic is that she is a state and a nation on its own right, not a Borgian monarchy where the government is equal with the name of the despot on the throne, and Borgian machinations destroy the republican fabric of the society.

          • John Schilling says:

            Me? I’d take that meeting.

            You understand that if the meeting is at all what you think it is, the Russian government is going to have it on video, possibly carefully framed to make it look like you were meeting with e.g. an Israeli rather than Russian agent? And that you’ll never be able to trust that the “proof” of Clinton Treachery wasn’t forged in ways that won’t be obvious until the forger sends the originals to Wikileaks?

            If you’re on my campaign, and I find that you took that meeting, you’re fired. And I’m going straight to the FBI with whatever you brought back, preferably unopened.

          • hlynkacg says:

            And you’d be in violation of federal law in doing so.

            How so? Don Jr. didn’t solicit anything, the Russians approached him, and for all this talk there’s still little evidence of actual collusion.

            As for the rest, You bring a confidante with you because you’re meeting a shady Russian. You don’t ask those questions because those are not the sort of questions you ask “in the clear”. You ask them in person with appropriate precautions against bugs/eavesdroppers.

            The way I see it there are multiple claims being fielded in relation to Jaksologists’ “floating signifier”. To quote myself from an earlier discussion on the subreddit;

            …there are multiple claims here that need to be unpacked…

            1 – That the Russian Government spied on Clinton and the DNC

            2 – That that they leaked their findings with the explicit goal of weakening Clinton’s campaign.

            3 – That they did so to with the explicit goal of helping Trump win the election (rather than weakening a future Clinton administration).

            4 – That they did so at the behest of the Trump campaign.

            5 – That the Russians “hacked the election” by falsifying information, fabricating votes, etc…

            1 is almost certainly true. If I were the head of a foreign power’s intelligence service, the national leadership of both the GOP and DNC (along with leading presidential candidates) would be high priority targets, right behind the current President and their Cabinet. 2 is also highly likely, bordering on certain, but not exactly casus belli. Our own government tries to influence foreign elections all the time and, turn-about being fair play, it’d be hypocritical of us to complain about others doing the same. 3 Strikes me as plausible but less likely than 1 or 2. Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State was an utter CF as far as the Middle East and Russia were concerned and it seems to me that there’s been more than enough Clinton/Obama “Tit” over the years to invite some Putin “Tat”. 4 would be a serious scandal if true, but thus far there’s been little in the way of evidence to support it. If the Russian government did take action against Hillary/the DNC I think that it’s far more likely that they were acting of their own accord (see 3). 5 is by far the most serious charge, constituting legitimate casus belli, but it’s also where the theory goes off the rails.

            At the end of the day, I feel like the whole Trump / Russia thing is an extended “motte and baily” where people use evidence for claims 1 – 3 to insinuate that 4 and 5 must also be true but I’m not convinced. Then again, I’m biased both against the DNC and against starting a war with Russia.

            Granted this was written before the email story broke, (which seriously increased my prior on item 3) but I still stand behind it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            You understand that if the meeting is at all what you think it is, the Russian government is going to have it on video, possibly carefully framed to make it look like you were meeting with e.g. an Israeli rather than Russian agent?

            Trump Jr. actually met with an Israeli posing as a Russian confirmed!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But the meeting disproved the email: there was no Russian government representative with information useful for helping Trump get elected. So Don Jr. was telling the truth.

          How do you figure Don Jr. was lying?

          I would say Don Jr. was being uncharitable, but that’s politics. The DNC maybe had knowledge of the email contents (FISA warrant? Unmasking? The fact the lawyer visited the White House and met with Obama’s ambassador to Russia?), but might not know that there was no information and no help, so the DNC would be merely wrong and not lying, and Don was being uncharitable assuming malice instead of ignorance.

          • Iain says:

            Don Jr. was telling the truth so long as you believe his claims about the content of the meeting. He demonstrably lied several times about the content of the meeting.

            Are you interested in purchasing bridges, or beachfront property? I have many fine options available.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Doesn’t that mean the Russian lawyer is lying too? Why is she lying? From what I understand she’s buddy-buddy with Obama administration officials and had posted anti-Trump stuff on her FaceBook. She doesn’t seem particularly motivated to lie to cover up for Trump to me.

          • Iain says:

            Yeah, no. I assume you’ve been getting your news from highly reliable sources who’ve been poring over her Facebook page? Bad news: if you actually click the little “translate” button, she’s very clearly pro-Trump and anti-Obama. (Scroll down to number 5.) She did post pictures of the Women’s March, yes, but her commentary is mocking them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So if we assume Trump Jr. is lying and actually something illegal happened, we can conclude something illegal happened.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No need to get snippy. She also posted stories about Trump University being a fraud, and she has worked with and for Democrats. The fact that she has some positive things to say about Trump doesn’t mean she didn’t post negative things as well. She does not seem hyper-partisan (except in so far as to be really against the Magnitsky act).

            So, your story about Don Jr on CNN in July is only relevant if something did in fact come out of the meeting and everyone involved is lying about it.

          • Iain says:

            She also posted stories about Trump University being a fraud, and she has worked with and for Democrats.

            Source? Here’s another refutation, with lots of links.

            And again: Don Jr. objectively lied about the contents of the meeting several times. First he claimed that no meetings were ever set up with Russians. Then he said they just talked about adoption, and it wasn’t relevant to the campaign. When the Times reported that he agreed to meet after being promised campaign-relevant information, he conceded that, sure, he had been told that she “might have information helpful to the campaign”, but “the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext”. So his defense is that he was looking for the goods — which I will remind you is already a violation of campaign finance laws — but was frustrated to find out that she did not have them. Also, he invited the campaign manager. And neglected to mention that a former GRU agent was present at the meeting.

            If Chelsea Clinton had done this, you would quite reasonably be losing your shit.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Source?

            Eh, I can’t find anything credible so I temporarily retract the bit about Trump University until I can corroborate it.

            I completely agree the right wing media has made a conspiracy theory out of her being a plant or in league with the Democrats, but I never made such a claim. Her focus seems to be on the Magnitsky act, and not on pro-Republican and anti-Democrat partisanship. In the current climate it’s highly unlikely she’s going to get any movement on that act since the media and Democrats have made it politically impossible to do anything that could improve relations with Russia.

            And again: Don Jr. objectively lied about the contents of the meeting several times. First he claimed that no meetings were ever set up with Russians.

            “Russians” has become a selectively ambiguous term. In the negative connotation it’s supposed to mean “the Russian government” but it’s being assumed that any Russian is part of the Russian government. So yes, he denied any meetings with the Russian government, and so far no meetings with the Russian government had taken place. That’s only a lie if you’re assuming any Russian is part of “the Russians.” To me this pattern matches to conspiracy theorizing, like insinuating that anyone meeting with an Israeli is conspiring with “the Jews.”

            Then he said they just talked about adoption, and it wasn’t relevant to the campaign. When the Times reported that he agreed to meet after being promised campaign-relevant information, he conceded that, sure, he had been told that she “might have information helpful to the campaign”

            Again not a lie.

            So his defense is that he was looking for the goods

            … meaning proof of Clinton’s criminal collusion with the Russian government. It wasn’t something like “we’ve got their personal emails.” It was evidence of Clinton’s crimes. Trying to make this out to be sinister is like accusing the police of colluding with witnesses to punish criminals. As is, don’t you want cooperation from Russian officials/defectors to prove Trump committed crimes with them? If you do that, are you guilty of treason, colluding with foreigners to expose Trump’s crimes?

            — which I will remind you is already a violation of campaign finance laws

            How so? If so, nail him to the wall. When can we file charges, and under what statute?

            Also, he invited the campaign manager.

            Yes. To get the proof of Hillary’s criminal activity.

            And neglected to mention that a former GRU agent was present at the meeting.

            Yes, the translator, who probably wasn’t wearing a name badge that said “I was GRU 30 years ago.” And he’s now an American citizen. Are you accusing him of being a spy, or double agent? On what grounds?

            If Chelsea Clinton had done this, you would quite reasonably be losing your shit.

            And you would quite reasonably be talking me down from the ledge.

            To be honest, I’m fine with the Russia hysteria continuing for the next 8 years. I don’t think there’s anything there, at all, the normal people who aren’t political partisans are completely sick of it, and it’s occupying all the Democrats’ bandwidth so they will never figure out how to get people to want to vote for them in future elections. I look forward to the midterm elections when Republican candidates for office are talking about jobs, infrastructure, and security and Democrats are screaming “RUSSSSSIIIIIAAAAAA!” in every race.

          • Salem says:

            Re: campaign finance laws.

            The argument is that the information is a “thing of value” which the Trump campaign is forbidden from receiving (or soliciting) from a foreign power. Therefore Trump Jr is in breach of these laws.

            This argument is wrong for several reasons. Firstly, even if this behaviour does fall under the statute, that’s going to fall afoul of the First Amendment for reasons of overbroadness. But secondly, the same cases that say that information can be a “thing of value” in terms of campaign finance, say that the remedy is for the campaign to pay fair market value for it. In other words, if Trump Jr had paid for the info, he wouldn’t be receiving any value, so that’s OK. Trump Jr’s behaviour is perfectly consistent with intending to pay for the info, so there isn’t even a coherent allegation here.

            See more generally the back and forth between Eugene Volokh and Rick Hasen which I have attempted to summarise here.

        • Controls Freak says:

          I know everyone bolds the “Russia is trying to help,” part, but it sounds more like, “We like you. We support you. We think you’re great. We want to help you out.” It’s boring diplomatic platitudes that you would expect everyone to do… probably toward both candidates, just in case the other one won. And if we take Jr’s story at face value, the meeting didn’t result in anything. Suppose you and I had a meeting premised on me saying, “I’ve got something to help you out. Because Group X and I love you and want to support you.” Then, I didn’t come through with anything. I just wanted to talk to you about our Lord and Savior, Phil Kessel. Try to recruit you to The Temple. Then, someone asks, “Is Group X trying to help you?” Would you respond affirmatively? (Do you even think about our meeting when there is an ongoing controversy about attribution of other acts that are vastly more consequential?)

          Jared Kushner did not mention this in his security clearance forms, obviously.

          In an ideal world, do you report the interaction? Uh, maybe, TBH. I can understand the argument for including it in an SF-86. She was held out as a representative, though again, if you walked away from the conversation just disbelieving everything she had to say, why would you trust that bit? As far as reporting the conversation separately from the SF-86? Maybe out of an abundance of caution. I can imagine doing it… but if I were calling my agency’s security person, the conversation would start, “This is really stupid and probably nothing, because there was nothing that happened,” and I imagine the security person responding, “Yea, we’re not going to do anything, but we’ll make a note of it!”

          In my agency, it would probably fall pretty squarely in the domain of, “How much time do you spend covering your butt just in case someone puts a target on your back and one thing comes back to bite you? I know some hyper-cautious people… and I know plenty of people who would say, “We’re fuckin’ academics. We meet foreigners at conferences. It’s what we do.” (Yea, we’re a different breed, but the tension of reporting every little thing is the same.)

          (By the way, this is precisely why institutionalists like me have been upset about the sheer magnitude of anti-Trump leaks coming out of the IC. In order to get them to err on the side of, “It’s probably nothing, but I’ll report it anyway,” they have to believe that the IC is credible when they say, “We don’t really care what you did or who you talked to. We’re on your side, and we work for you. We just need to know.” The route we’re going does not lead to effective counterintelligence.)

          That said, this is the first story that made me at all update toward seeing a reasonable chance of collusion. The timing makes it very plausible that something very nefarious and very terrible happened in that meeting. This is all elucidating the real charitable view that you seem to have missed.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not terribly well informed about Russo-American relations so I’d appreciate if someone more knowledgeable could point out where I’m wrong here.

      Russia hasn’t “hacked the election” in the sense of actually interfering with the vote counts: this is a question of them allegedly hacking the DNC and timing the release of the Democrats’ dirty laundry to help their preferred candidate / hurt their dispreferred candidate.

      The reason that this is a bad thing is that it allows Russia to advance their geopolitical interests by currying favor with / gaining leverage over the President. Also, hypothetically, if the information they released was false it would have undermined the voters’ ability to make an informed choice.

      Russia advancing it’s geopolitical interests is a bad thing because they want more control over Eastern European and Central Asian countries with large Russian minorities and for some reason we want to prevent that. To some extent it’s also because we disapprove of the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin’s domestic politics.

      If that understanding is accurate, which again it probably isn’t, then I don’t really see what the big deal is. Our policies towards Russia only make sense if we’re still playing World Policeman: an expensive and thankless job. Acknowledging Russian interests in their own domestic policy and immediate neighborhood removes our motivation to care about any of this.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Russia hasn’t “hacked the election” in the sense of actually interfering with the vote counts:

        I know it isn’t your main point, but the NSA thinks they at least tried to do this. They were trying to get access to local election offices a week before the election; the leaked report does not have any conclusions on whether they succeeded, or if they did, whether they actually impacted the election at all. But they tried to.

        And even if we fully accept your idea that we don’t have any reason to object to Russian geopolitical goals, we have an interest in preventing them from intervening in our elections, for its own sake. We largely share geopolitical interests with Canada, but if it came out that Canada ran an intelligence operation to change the results of an American election, it would also be bad, even if we don’t actually object to Canada’s maple syrup import/export policies or whatever.

        Also, on the Trump side, regardless of the justness of Russia’s cause, hacking the DNC was a crime; if the Trump team were involved, that’s a criminal conspiracy.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          That’s more interesting, thanks.

          And I would prefer less foreign interference in American politics. Unfortunately I think that can’t happen as long as we’re so hopelessly entangled in foreign affairs. Rattling sabers at Russia over this isn’t going to remove the incentives any more than closing down the Clinton and Trump Foundations would. We need to focus on our own affairs before this will stop being an issue.

          Also, on the Trump side, regardless of the justness of Russia’s cause, hacking the DNC was a crime; if the Trump team were involved, that’s a criminal conspiracy.

          Ideally he and Hillary would be in adjacent cells for their respective data antics.

          Since that’s got no chance of happening, why should the law only apply to candidates the intelligence community dislikes?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But why is Russia such a concern? I’m a conservative and Red Tribe, and I see them as basically a far group. I don’t have strong positive or negative emotions towards Russia. They’re a regional power, with a comparatively tiny economy so not any kind of rival for the US. Sure, their government has a lot of corruption, but that’s basically the standard for the world outside a handful of western nations and Japan.

          But to the left and Blue Tribe they seem to be an intense outgroup. Far more so than other nations that have behaved in ways similar to Russia. That is, I get the impression the average Blue Triber hates Putin way more than Kim Jong Un, Russian incursion into Ukraine way more than Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea or Tibet, and Russian lobbying/propaganda way more than Saudi or Israeli meddling. Why is that? What makes Russia “hated outgroup” instead of “typical corrupt fargroup?”

          we have an interest in preventing them from intervening in our elections, for its own sake. We largely share geopolitical interests with Canada, but if it came out that Canada ran an intelligence operation to change the results of an American election, it would also be bad, even if we don’t actually object to Canada’s maple syrup import/export policies or whatever.

          There’s two types of meddling, I think. One is propaganda efforts, and absolutely everyone does that. Trudeau did not have nice things to say about Trump before the election, and that’s a type of propaganda. The BBC was running anti-Trump and pro-Hillary articles. This sort of behavior is part and parcel of living in an interconnected world. You can’t outlaw propaganda without outlawing free speech, and I don’t think we’re going to do that.

          The other part would be hacking, yes, and obviously that should be condemned and defended against. But again it’s something everyone is doing right now because the rules of diplomacy haven’t caught up with the 21st century yet. I mean, Obama was tapping Merkel’s phone for years. And that’s our ally. I’m sure they’re doing the same thing to us. We just haven’t really figured out what constitutes unfair play in cyberwar yet. Should Merkel lob cruise missiles at US installations for hacking her phone and who knows what else? And at least that was against the government of Germany, whereas the DNC is a private entity. Should we bomb Russia because Podesta fell for a phishing attempt?

          hacking the DNC was a crime; if the Trump team were involved, that’s a criminal conspiracy.

          Absolutely. But there’s no evidence Trump had anything to do with the hacking of the DNC, and I’ve got an electrical engineering graduate degree with a focus in computer architecture and networking, and having looked at the CrowdStrike report and the IC report and I’m not at all convinced Russia hacked the DNC. It looks like a political document to me. I’d give it a 30% chance that Russians hacked the DNC, and only maybe 15% that it was the Russian government.

          So, if it was Russia: prove it. If it was Trump: prove it. And then what do you want to do about it?

          Honestly I think we need a Geneva Convention for The Cyber. There just isn’t really any standard rules or responses for what level of electronic surveillance and interference is acceptable or unacceptable, and what response is proportional or not. We’ve got all of human history to pull from for the rules of international relations and kinetic warfare, but the cyber is a whole new game. If we start bombing Russia for hacking, we’d have to nuke China, and the entire world would have casus belli to nuke us.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            What makes Russia “hated outgroup” instead of “typical corrupt fargroup?”

            Well the why seems pretty obvious if you’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof. American Jews, including some of my grandparents, see ‘the Czar’ as second only to Hitler and Pharaoh in terms of villainy.

            Modern Russophobia seems like a preoccupation of American Jews. They’re not a credible threat to us (nukes aside) but they’re a huge boogeyman for the donor class.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Also, lingering Cold War sentiments.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Don’t go all Steve Sailer on us. American Jews are quite aware that there hasn’t been a Czar in a long time, and if animosity towards Russia is in the culture, why the love of Russian Communism (for so many western Jews who _weren’t_ refugees from the USSR)?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Modern Russophobia seems like a preoccupation of American Jews.

            No, the left’s “Russophobia” is very, very recent, as in, less than a year old. See this little snippet of the Obama vs. Romney debate for the previous position.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @The Nybbler,

            Maybe you’re right and I’m on the wrong track.

            There has to be some explanation for why so many Jewish people lost their collective minds after the election. I mean half my friends and co-workers were convinced that there were going to be post-election pogroms and don’t seem to have relaxed that much in the months since. The whole media establishment is still on the hunt for brownshirts despite the fact that Trump is undeniably philo-semitic.

            These aren’t exactly idiots we’re talking about so there has to be a reason for them to be so paranoid and irrational. I just don’t know what it is yet.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There has to be some explanation for why so many Jewish people lost their collective minds after the election. I mean half my friends and co-workers were convinced that there were going to be post-election pogroms and don’t seem to have relaxed that much in the months since.

            These aren’t exactly idiots we’re talking about so there has to be a reason for them to be so paranoid and irrational. I just don’t know what it is yet.

            Probably a long racial memory of “if somebody comes for a minority they’re coming for us.” And then pattern matching “deporting illegals and banning Muslims” to “going after minorities in general.”

          • MrApophenia says:

            Also probably driven by all the actual “root for the bad guys when they watch Indian Jones” style full-on Nazis who enthusiastically supported Trump, and that Trump was very careful not to say anything to discourage them from doing so. Jewish people are kind of touchy about that for some reason.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Also probably driven by all the actual “root for the bad guys when they watch Indian Jones” style full-on Nazis who enthusiastically supported Trump

            What, all twelve of them? Or are you counting “I’m not a nazi but I play one on 4chan”-types?

          • Nornagest says:

            There has to be some explanation for why so many Jewish people lost their collective minds after the election.

            Probably the same reason so many non-Jewish people lost their collective minds after the election. I see little evidence that Trump Derangement Syndrome is any stronger among Jews, especially after accounting for the obvious demographic differences between them and Gentiles: Bluer, more urban, etc.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But to the left and Blue Tribe they seem to be an intense outgroup. Far more so than other nations that have behaved in ways similar to Russia. That is, I get the impression the average Blue Triber hates Putin way more than Kim Jong Un, Russian incursion into Ukraine way more than Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea or Tibet, and Russian lobbying/propaganda way more than Saudi or Israeli meddling. Why is that? What makes Russia “hated outgroup” instead of “typical corrupt fargroup?”

            Maybe Russia’s crackdown on homosexual behaviour? That would seem the most obvious explanation.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            As far as I can tell, it was progressives losing their minds rather than especially Jews.

            And yes, a lot of it was assuming that an attack on some minorities put all minorities at risk.

            There was a lot of pattern-matching to Nazis, not to Russian anti-Semitism.

          • Randy M says:

            And yes, a lot of it was assuming that an attack on some minorities put all minorities at risk.

            The question was “why are they so concerned about Russia?” If the answer to that is “because Trump hates minorities” that makes it appear as if the Russian connection is only a convenient charge, not an actual concern. Unless they think Trump will ship Mexicans to Siberia.

            Edit: To be more charitable to Nancy, she was probably just responding to the sub-thread about Jews, not to the part about Russians.

          • Iain says:

            This is silly.

            People on the left are concerned about Russia because they believe that Russia intervened in the election in a successful attempt to get Donald Trump elected.

            There is plenty of evidence to justify this belief. You may not believe that evidence, or find it conclusive. That’s fine. You can disbelieve the claims of Russian intervention, and still understand how a person who believes them might therefore not be a huge Putin fan.

            There is no mystery here, and no need to invoke Fiddler on the Roof, neo-Nazis, or anti-gay crackdowns.

          • Controls Freak says:

            why is Russia such a concern? I’m a conservative and Red Tribe, and I see them as basically a far group. I don’t have strong positive or negative emotions towards Russia. They’re a regional power, with a comparatively tiny economy so not any kind of rival for the US.

            Current policy focuses on five major adversaries: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremists. Of those, only the first two are considered “near peers”. That is, they are close to our capability (and in some domains, exceed our capability). Everyone on that list is considered a ‘regional power’, because there simply is no other global power out there. Everyone on that list but China has comparatively tiny economies. Nevertheless, they all have the ability to massively influence regions that we care about a lot (China/NK in SE Asia, Russia in Europe, Iran in ME; VE are unique in the global challenges they present).

            Not only are they capable, but there is a history of conflict with them all, and they have shown ongoing/recent willingness to use their capabilities in ways that are decidedly against our interests. Yes, we’re not likely talking all-out war, but that is what we plan/prepare for. The standard for planning used to be that we would be able to win two major regional wars simultaneously (deploying away from homeland for both in addition to defending the homeland). We recently revised that standard to “win one, hold one”, where we intend to be able to win one major regional war while denying a second adversary their objectives in that region until resources can be refocused. In that vein, the four countries in the Big Five are simply the most likely major adversaries to initiate major regional wars against our interests.

            Like it or not, Russia has major control over how things go in Europe, and Europe is perhaps the area of interest for the US overseas. Like it or not, Russia has not particularly cared to use that control in ways that tend to be conducive to our interests. Literally everyone wishes we could be friends with Russia. The Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations have all come in talking about how they want to improve relations with Russia (Bush “looked into the eyes of Putin and saw his soul”; Obama reset something or other). Fact is, no one has really been able to accomplish anything on that front.

            Issues with publicly-available attribution of the DNC hack aside, Russia, China, and Iran have been leading intelligence/cyber adversaries for decades (NK and smaller actors like Vietnam have built capabilities more recently). Yes, we tap Merkel’s phone, but the iceberg of covert activity goes far deeper with the Big Five. People are absolutely right to be extremely suspicious of them (and downright upset that they would attempt to influence our election in such an overt way), even if I think that many have gone a bit off the deep end in focusing their anger on the topic domestically.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Maybe Russia’s crackdown on homosexual behaviour? That would seem the most obvious explanation.

            But consider the Blue/left stance towards Islam and the Arab world. If it were about gays, then they would despise Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc. I think the anti-gay stuff is just an “and another thing!” issue, but not central. Russia bans gay propaganda (which I ban from my household, as well), but they’re not chucking homosexuals off rooftops. I don’t think that explains it.

            Also, this attitude predates Trump collusion conspiracy theories. There’s something else.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            People on the left are concerned about Russia because they believe that Russia intervened in the election in a successful attempt to get Donald Trump elected.

            Perhaps my perception is clouded by my own biases, but I have the strong impression this perception predated the 2016 election. I think Russia/Putin are an easy scapegoat for the election loss because they were already outgrouped, not that they were outgrouped because of the election loss.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Conrad

            If it were about gays, then they would despise Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc

            As far as I know, many leftists I talk about these things on the internet, do despise Saudi Arabia. Some news items from the top of my memory that received some amount of outrage: Saudi royals treating hotel staff like trash when visiting Europe , the rampant ethical issues with the migrant workforce, problems with the household slavery; all this and more gets regularly discussed in media with the tone “that’s terrible”. And we watch the on-going US-Saudi alliance with slight disgust, as they continue to ally themselves with Saudis for geo-military-political reasons. That may be a variation of the usual anti-American sentiment on the continent, though.

            But actually I think the gender/sexuality issues are quite secondary. The answer to the question of whether Russia is an enemy to the US hinges on two intertwined points: 1. whether the US and Russian interests clash in Europe in the standard economical and geopolitical sense, and 2. whether it’s a loss that the Russian form of authoritarianism and rule by corruption will appear as a viable choice to the countries that first chose to aspire to Western ideal of democracy post-1991. (Sure, China is authoritarian too, but Hungary is not seeking support and inspiration from there.)

            Europe is culturally much nearer to US than the countries involved in the South-Whatever-Kerfuffle. For one example, check the SSC survey results considering the country or origin, or the SSC meetup everywhere location list.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Conrad:

            But consider the Blue/left stance towards Islam and the Arab world. If it were about gays, then they would despise Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.

            The Arabs are non-white, non-western, and non-Christian, and therefore get more leeway in such matters.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I think your perception of left-wing beliefs is very inaccurate. Before Trump, Saudi Arabia was definitely disliked more than Russia, both by politicians and left-wingers in general (see Obama telling Romney that the Cold War is over). Since Trump’s election, that has changed somewhat (in the US) for reasons that should be fairly obvious. But there is certainly still no love for Saudi Arabia.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But why is Russia such a concern?

            I think a lot of it is that for the Left, it’s very difficult to accept that Donald Trump won the election fair and square. So the narrative of Russian interference is a coping mechanism.

          • albatross11 says:

            Instead of merely speculating on Democrats’ and Republicans’ attitudes toward various countries, why not look for some data?

            This NYT Article summarizes polling data on American attitudes toward various countries, and splits out the results by Democrats and Republicans. Saudi Arabia and Russia are both pretty far down into unfavorable territory with both Ds and Rs, but Russia has come up slightly for Rs since 2014.

            Russia is still a bit lower in the favorability ratings even for Republicans than Saudi Arabia, though it’s close.

          • rlms says:

            @albatross11
            Thanks! I think that in the case of countries such as Saudi Arabia, friendly/unfriendly is different to favourable/unfavourable. A country can be allied to the US but still be viewed negatively.

        • John Schilling says:

          Read closer: VR systems, the target of the probable attack, doesn’t have anything to do with vote-counting; they handle voter registration. That’s not likely to affect the outcome of an election – late disputes over registration status are usually resolved with provisional ballots – but does affect the legitimacy of an election as thousands of people go to the press with stories of how “they tried to steal my vote”. Which are sort of true, for a certain value of “they”.

          Everything we know or reasonably suspect the Russians tried to do fits the pattern of an attack on the legitimacy of then-inevitable President Hillary Clinton, far better than it does some hypothetical conspiracy to hack the election in favor of Donald Trump.

          • Randy M says:

            Is that kind of subtle, chess-master move what spies tend to do? There’s no immediate upside to Russia to Hillary being seen as less legitimate–especially just considering the difference in legitimacy from narrow election win and narrow election win with a few additional claims of voter suppression and e-mail impropriety is not enormous. Perhaps at some point a president Clinton would have sent some special forces to assist Ukraine against Russian aggression, but a president Clinton with a 4% less approval rating doesn’t feel she has the domestic support, but that seems like a gamble for Russia.

            Someone clue me in on how this cloak and dagger hacker stuff was supposed to pay off.

            (I’m not trying to make a point about the existence or seriousness of Russian interference, just raising an interesting tangent)

          • Iain says:

            That’s an interesting point.

            It is easy to explain what Russia gains from actually electing Donald Trump. He’s anti-NATO; he’s not interested in Ukraine; he wants to drop sanctions and give them back their compounds; in general, he is unlikely to get involved in any sort of coordinated international effort against Russia. You don’t have to think Russia had anything to do with the outcome of the election to see that they are happy with it. (This is true even if you think some of his pro-Russia policies are a good idea.)

            But it’s not as clear how much Russia would have gained from attacking Clinton’s legitimacy if Trump had lost. Clinton ends up less popular than she might have been, sure, but she’s presumably also angry at Russia when the various plots are uncovered. Not sure how to weigh that one.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know, but right now I think the media is giving Putin essentially a diplomatic nuke. I don’t really think Putin had much if anything to do with Trump’s election win, but if he fabricated some documents and said “ha ha, Amerikanski fools u r pwned, I haxx0red all of your shit, Trump is my puppet!” then our entire government would be thrown into complete turmoil and paralysis.

          • John Schilling says:

            Is that kind of subtle, chess-master move what spies tend to do?

            This is more whack-a-mole than chess.

            No matter how much fun it was to laugh at Mitt Romney when he said it, the Russians themselves understand that they are our geopolitical foe. One always, as a matter of principle, wants one’s foes weak rather than strong. One generally wants one’s foes’ leaders weak rather than strong, particularly if they have a reputation for foreign-policy hawkishness. If you have a button you can press that makes the enemy leader win election 51/49 instead of 55/45, or makes a segment of the enemy population believe the election was rigged, it doesn’t take a chess-master/super-spy Secret Plan to justify pressing the button. It’s just something you do.

            Particularly when it doesn’t cost you anything, because look at the whole lot of nothing that Russia has had to suffer in terms of real consequences for getting caught in the act.

          • Randy M says:

            One always, as a matter of principle, wants one’s foes weak rather than strong.

            As my Dad would advise while playing Risk, “Always root for the underdog.”
            I suppose if you are a peasant in a peripheral nation you are happier with the major powers sniping at each other rather than dividing up the globe evenly and leaving each other uncontested. Unless it turns into a proxy war and you are Syria and have both sides involved, prolonging the conflict.

            Are there many examples in history of this kind of meddling? That is, not hacking or even election tampering, but underhanded attempts at fomenting chaos among peaceful but rivalrous powers, for instance an agent of France trying to get a less competent heir in Britain to make a play for the throne?

          • Iain says:

            Particularly when it doesn’t cost you anything, because look at the whole lot of nothing that Russia has had to suffer in terms of real consequences for getting caught in the act.

            I basically agree with you, but I would point out that Russia’s lack of consequences is partly due to the fact that Trump won. If Clinton were president, and the intelligence community were briefing her on Russia’s attempts to undermine her, it seems pretty likely there would be some sort of retaliation. Maybe not enough to matter, though.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Iain
            So the Russians get the Crimea and thier compounds back, then what?

            The Trump administration has been selling modern anti-air/missile systems to Poland, and rolled back much of the Obama administrations’ restrictions on US energy production and export. Both hit the Russian government where its likely to hurt most, their economy, and their hegemonic ambitions. That’s not what I would expect from someone beholden to Russia.

            edit:
            Spelling, Charity

          • MrApophenia says:

            Read closer: VR systems, the target of the probable attack, doesn’t have anything to do with vote-counting; they handle voter registration.

            Read further down the article. They used the infiltration of VR Systems to get access to their email systems and send a spear-phishing attack with emails that seemed to come from VR Systems, sent to local election offices all over the country, containing malware that would give them control over the systems at the other end.

            The NSA report draws no conclusions on the success of this attack (or lack thereof), but confirms that the VR Systems hack was only the first part of an attempt to get into the actual local government offices running the election all over the US.

            (It also confirms that this wasn’t just some hacker living in their parents basement, but was an actual cyber-attack by a Russian state agency.)

          • Iain says:

            Reducing Europe’s dependency on Russian energy has been a consistent American policy for years, under both Obama and Bush. I see no reason to think the same actions would not have taken place under Clinton. If the choice is “compounds and Crimea” vs “no compounds and no Crimea”, then Putin will obviously pick the former, even if it is not magically solving every issue he has with the United States.

            Also, if your goal is to twist the screws on Putin’s Gas Station, dropping out of the Paris Accords is a strange way to do it. Really, the whole Kudlow article is pretty ridiculous: given the time taken to build out infrastructure, the LNG expansion that he celebrates almost certainly happened under Obama.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Iain

            Hmm…
            Seems I linked the wrong tab, that was supposed to be an article on the long delayed, finally completed, delivery of Patriot ABMs and Aegis radars to the Polish Air Force. A deal Obama had originially canceled after the Russians protested. (also source of the infamous “flexibility” gaffe)

            In any case, I strongly disagree with your second paragraph. One of the explicit goals of Green movement in general and the Paris Agreement in particular was to drive down fossil fuel demand by raising prices. These high prices are to Russia’s give Russia a lot of leverage as they produce a great deal of natural gas while consuming very little of it themselves and Paris agreement liabilities are calculated on the consumer’s end. As such the combined actions of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, lifting the moratorium on exploration/drilling, and opening US reserves for export dramatically weakens Russia (and Saudi Arabia’s) bargaining position.

            …Between this, the Warsaw address, and visiting France on Bastille Day, Trump (or rather Tillerson and Mattis, as this has thier fingerprints all over it) has arguably done more to “put the screws Putin’s Gas Station” than any US politician in the last 20 years.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Also, if your goal is to twist the screws on Putin’s Gas Station, dropping out of the Paris Accords is a strange way to do it.

            If the Paris Accords do anything, it is to encourage the replacement of coal with natural gas.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Douglas Knight

            Precisely!

          • Are there many examples in history of this kind of meddling? That is, not hacking or even election tampering, but underhanded attempts at fomenting chaos among peaceful but rivalrous powers, for instance an agent of France trying to get a less competent heir in Britain to make a play for the throne?

            Didn’t the French host the Stuart pretenders after the Glorious Revolution?

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, I tend to assume the biggest reason the French supported the Stuarts is because they thought the Stuarts were weak (and similarly why the English supported the Bourbons).

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      It all still looks like confirmation bias to me.

      There’s nothing wrong or unusual about back channels. They’re pretty much required in actual diplomacy. Also trying to set up the back channel in December kind of implies they didn’t already have a communications conduit before the election, when the ambiguous dirty deeds took place. Why set up a back channel in December when you’ve been a secret Russian agent in constant contact with the Kremlin for years already?

      With regards to “the DNC hack the following week,” that was just the report from CrowdStrike, a contractor hired by the DNC, and their evidence circumstantial. Yes, since the election all we hear about is RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA but at the time that story was small potatoes compared to the day to day insanity of the 2016 election and the lead up to the conventions.

      So, Don Jr. meets with a Russian lawyer who said they had incriminating info on Hillary’s collusion with the Kremlin (at the time, one would have thought “UraniumOne deal” or “payments for Bill’s speeches in exchange for State Department favors from Hillary” and not “DNC and Podesta emails”), nothing comes of it, and then a week later there’s a story about how a contractor hired by the DNC thinks Russians hacked the DNC, but while that story is very interesting to Democrats, it’s not particularly attention grabbing for Don Jr. There’s not really any reason to connect the events at the time, it’s not Don Jr’s problem, and what’s he going to do about it anyway?

      The whole plot doesn’t seem to make much sense, and is extremely convoluted, and it changes day to day whether Trump was trading favors to Putin, whether Putin is blackmailing Trump with pee-pee tapes, whether Trump has been a Russian agent since the 80s, whether he’s got Russian bank mobsters after him. So, confirmation bias: once you’ve decided Trump is in league with the Russians, any time anyone Trump knows who’s ever met a Russian is part of the plot.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Yes, since the election all we hear about is RUSSIA RUSSIA RUSSIA but at the time that story was small potatoes compared to the day to day insanity of the 2016 election and the lead up to the conventions.

        As Iain noted above, it was a big enough story that a month later, in July 2016, Don Jr. was already being asked to respond to allegations that Russia was trying to get Trump elected. The idea that this didn’t become a bigger story until later is simply untrue on its face; this was major news almost immediately following the meeting. A meeting with someone introduced as a Russian government lawyer trying to help Trump win the election, partly due to Trump’s connection with a Putin-connected Russian oligarch.

        The idea that no one in the Trump campaign connected these events goes way beyond charity.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Assume a month later when CNN asks about Russia helping the Trump campaign, Don Jr. remembers both the email and the meeting. The meeting it turns out had nothing to do with getting incriminating evidence on Hillary, the woman was not from the Russian government, and had nothing for them.

          The email then was false: there was no Russian government representative trying to help Trump get elected. Which means what Don Jr. said was true.

          • MrApophenia says:

            First of all – Veselnitskaya actually is a Russian government representative. That isn’t in doubt. She is a lobbyist for the Kremlin, publicly, as her day job. This is not in dispute, and is being reported even by right leaning news sources. That by itself means that every claim that they never met with representatives of the Russian government was a knowing lie.

            Second, even if Trump’s claims that no information was provided are true (now disputed by someone else at the meeting), the idea that he forgot about meeting with a Russian government rep who was claiming to do what he is now being asked about, regardless of whether they delivered, is patently laughable. Frankly, I’m not even really ready to entertain the idea that you actually believe what you’re saying here. It is too ridiculous as anything other than an attempt at rhetorical contortion to avoid actually acknowledging the obvious.

    • John Schilling says:

      Recent news changing that at all?

      My previous assessment was that there was a very low probability (<15%) of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as opposed to a unilateral attack by the Russian government on the Clinton campaign, because:

      High confidence Vladimir Putin isn't that stupid
      Low confidence the Trump campaign isn't that stupid
      High confidence nobody in Moscow last July was predicting a Trump win or near-win
      No known evidence of Trump/Russia collusion in spite of extensive investigation
      Evidence that Russia colluded with Assange when they could have colluded with Trump

      The latest revelation further reduces confidence in “The Trump campaign isn’t that stupid”, but there’s not much further to go in that direction and even taking it to zero doesn’t change the math very much. And this appears to have been an isolated incident where no actual collusion took place, so one more place that we investigated and found nothing. Unless this wasn’t an isolated incident but somehow connected to a broader effort, in which case whatever caused this meeting to end with no collusion may be a common factor and so suggests no collusion elsewhere as well.

      So, changes the probability on minor branches only, and in opposite directions on different branches. Call it a wash.

      • Rob K says:

        What evidence do we have that ” this appears to have been an isolated incident where no actual collusion took place” besides the assertions of people who have already told lies about the existence and content of the meeting?

    • John Schilling says:

      There’s also an interesting double standard, comparing this to the Steele Dossier. In that one, both the RNC and the DNC actively solicited a foreign agent (the same foreign agent, because strange bedfellows) to go out and talk to other foreign agents – specifically including Russian sources – in order to try and dig up dirt on the candidate they were trying to defeat. They paid actual money to have their foreign source deliver actual (albeit dubious) intelligence, which seems like it ought to be worse than just accepting a meeting invite where nothing happened.

      Yet, while there were certainly negative reactions to the dossier, they were mostly limited to “this is unseemly” or “this is inadequately sourced”, not “this is Treason!” Why, other than the obvious, is there such a difference?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        I think the true reason is the obvious one, but the Steele dossier is probably legal, because the the dirt was not donated, but rather bought. You might worry that Steele didn’t pay fair market value for it, but the arm’s length dealing of Steele acquiring the intelligence is important because the Russian intelligence agents didn’t know which campaign they were donating to. Indeed, as you say, the campaign changed.

        • Controls Freak says:

          So not only would this have been instantly legal if, at the meeting, Trump Jr. had actually been presented with credible proof of evidence and responded, “So how much do we owe you?”

          Also, same question to you as below. Check out Volokh’s hypos and ask yourself if you’re really willing to criminalize journalism on election topics unless they pay foreign sources.

      • Iain says:

        I’d think the difference between hiring Steele to create a dossier and setting up a meeting with a self-described agent of the Russian government so that she can give you a dossier should be pretty clear. Steele’s motives are clear: do a good job, collect his payment. What are the Russian motives?

        Also: your willingness to trust Trump Jr’s account of the result of the meeting seems a bit credulous, given his track record. Why should we assume that we’re now getting the full story? Fourth time’s the charm?

        • Controls Freak says:

          What?!? Above, you tried claiming that Jr’s action in even taking the meeting was, of and by itself, a violation of campaign finance laws (which should be ridiculous, by the way, if you think for more than about two seconds). Now, you can say that the difference is that one was paid for and the other was not, but you didn’t. You said that the difference was that we don’t like one of the parties. Come’on, man! Try harder!

          I agree that I dislike adversarial foreign governments intervening in our election a hell of a lot more than a freelance foreigner from a friendly nation intervening in our election, but let’s get down to legal matters, how exactly you’re going to pin legal culpability on the domestic actor. Suppose you could go back in time just far enough to write a new law so that you can prosecute Trump Jr. How, exactly, are you going to write that law so that it doesn’t also catch Mr. Steele (or the various hypos Eugene Volokh presents)? “Look at the motives of the foreigner in question,” doesn’t cut it.

          • Iain says:

            I am not a lawyer, and I have to catch a bus very shortly, but briefly: I thought that “one was paid for” was implied by “Steele’s motives are clear: do a good job, collect his payment”. At the very least, that was my intention. It may be the case that the legal argument against Trump Jr. still does not stand up in court, but there are a number of respectable legal minds who think it is worth considering. I do not think it is as ridiculous as you are trying to paint it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Whenever you get back, I encourage you to do the same thing I encouraged MrApophenia to do – go read Volokh’s hypos, especially the ones concerning the NYT investigating stories from foreign sources. Think very carefully if you really want to turn that into criminal behavior unless they pay for it.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Why, other than the obvious, is there such a difference?

        Because Steele was a private contractor working on behalf of Americans.

        Veselnitskaya is an agent of Russian oligarchs who is primarily employed in attempting to influence American lawmakers to drop sanctions (primarily and specifically the Magnitsky Act), and approached the Trump campaign specifically under the guise that Aras Agaralov, a Russian oligarch who is also a Trump business associate, was pushing the Russian government to help elect Trump, and would you like to get onboard with that, in exchange for ending the Magnitsky Act?

        One is work for hire with a private citizen acting on their own.

        The other is, even in the most innocent interpretation where both Veselnitskaya and Goldstone were lying about the nature of the meeting, a failed attempt to collude with a foreign government to subvert the democratic process. (In the less innocent interpretation, it is just one of many meetings held as part of an active, ongoing, and ultimately successful collusion to do same.)

        • Controls Freak says:

          Because Steele was a private contractor working on behalf of Americans.

          …so you’re hanging your hat on, “They hadn’t exchanged money yet”? Really?! Go see Volokh’s hypos about the NYT gathering information from foreign sources. Are you ready to make this into criminal behavior unless they pay for it?!

          • MrApophenia says:

            No, I’m hanging my hat on “private citizen vs. state actor”.

            Steele didn’t work for the British government. Veselnitskaya has been a Russian government lobbyist for years completely apart from this meeting, and approached them specifically on the basis as acting on behalf of the Russian government, who were seeking to assist the Trump campaign.

          • Controls Freak says:

            So there are at least three bullets you have to bite for that:

            1) What Conrad Honcho said below.

            2) Both were technically private citizens, formerly employed by their respective governments. So, we’re not criminalizing actually engaging with foreign governments – we’re criminalizing engaging with someone who says, “My government loves you.”

            3) Back to hypo land, suppose that an official in the Turkish government (could even be a lowly local official) contacts the Clinton campaign or NYT and says, “While Trump was building Tower X here in Turkey, he bribed me. Personally rolled a wheelbarrow full of literal bags of cash into my backyard and helped me bury them” (maybe along with the body of the former Turkish official that he helped murder so this guy could get the job… I mean, let’s make it as terrible as possible while we have the chance). You’re going to make it a crime for them to respond, “I’m listening…”

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          subvert the democratic process.

          But by…exposing the public to true information legally obtained.

          I would totally agree with you if we were talking about hacking voting machines or something, but we’re not. If the Russian government chooses to expose their illegal or unethical interactions with the Clintons (Uranium One deal, Bill’s speech fees in exchange for state department favors), I don’t see how or why we should craft legislation to ban that. Similarly if the Russians choose to disclose any collusion with the Trump campaign.

          If the Russian government had a change of heart and decided to lay bare their collusion with Trump, implicating him in crimes against the DNC, would you object because Russia was “interfering with the democratic process?”

          • entobat says:

            Imagine a purely hypothetical election where the candidates of both parties had both done some shady, borderline-illegal things in the past (heaven knows no such thing has happened here recently, but you’ll have to bear with me). Imagine further that some outside party is knowledgeable about both sides’ past transgressions.

            The problem is that, from a Bayesian perspective, “learning some truth” is not always going to improve your model of the world. Learning a randomly selected scrap of truth will help more often than not; if an adversary is sculpting the kinds of truths you hear, then they can choose to tell you about information that paints a false picture of reality.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      the news breaks of the DNC hack by the Russian government on Wednesday of the following week, and no one in the Trump campaign thinks there could be any connection

      I think the timeline is: on Sunday 12 June, Assange announces that he has emails he’s going to release, (which he claims are leaked, not hacked). I guess this triggers the publication on Tuesday of the fact that DNC has been compromised by Russia for a year, which triggers Guccifer 2.0 to come forward on Wednesday. If the Trump campaign is to make any connection from the timing, they should make it to Assange, not Guccifer, who was triggered by DNC. The DNC announcement was probably triggered by Assange, but regardless, it was out of Russia’s control. (Without the timing Guccifer looks more Russian than Assange.)

      • MrApophenia says:

        Sure, all I’m saying is – Don Jr’s defense on why he didn’t think to mention this meeting until now is that the “Russia fever” hadn’t started yet, and it had plumb slipped his mind by the time people started talking about Russia.

        In point of fact, the time between his meeting with a self-proclaimed Kremlin lawyer purporting to be acting on behalf of the Russian government trying to get Trump elected due to his relationship with a Russian business partner who is also an oligarch close to Putin, and the news that Russia has been hacking the DNC for a year and have now started releasing the most damaging info contained therein, was a matter of days. Within a month, he was being asked on air whether Russia is trying to help his dad win.

        The idea that this meeting just didn’t seem significant is such a hilarious, obvious lie that it barely stands up to scrutiny.

        • Controls Freak says:

          …if literally nothing happened in this meeting, uh, wouldn’t it actually have been insignificant? Especially in the face of an entirely different and far more consequential discussion about attribution of widely known hacks and releases of information?

          (As I said above, this was the first story that made me update at all in the direction of something really terrible having occurred, because of the timeline. But if something really terrible didn’t occur and the meeting was actually a NothingBurger, then it seems to make sense just fine.)

          • MrApophenia says:

            Even if nothing happened in the meeting, the fact that someone approached you last week claiming to be involved with something very similar to the criminal acts you are now being asked about should have raised massive alarms.

            Of course, since the former spy who accompanied Veselnitskaya to the meeting just told the AP that she actually did provide the information they said they would provide, that question might be irrelevant.

          • JayT says:

            I’m not entirely certain Russian spies are the best source of information.

    • John Schilling says:

      Because Steele was a private contractor working on behalf of Americans.

      Steele was a literal foreign spy. You think you know who a foreign spy is working on behalf of, because you paid him? Then you’re one of the ones who will be very lucky if at least his own domestic spies are actually working on his behalf.

      But it isn’t just Steele. Steele is the analog of Trump Jr in this story, except that (and I really hate to have to say this) Trump Sr had better judgement in who to trust with this sort of work. The people Steele was talking to, in Moscow and elsewhere, they certainly weren’t “private contractors working on behalf of Americans”.

      If it is innapropriate and/or criminal for Donald Trump to have a US citizen to go to New York to talk to a Russian lawyer about digging up some dirt on his opposition, because Russian lawyer, how is it not illegal for Reince Priebus or Debbie Schulz to hire a foreign spy to go to Moscow to talk to Russian IC sources (i.e. more spies) for the same purpose? How does A: using a British rather than US citizen or B: talking to Russian spies rather than Russian Lawyers, make it better?

      If the answer is really, “because we gave them money and they said they were on our side”, then yeah, whatever country you live in needs to not be a democracy.

      • MrApophenia says:

        The difference is that Steele was not acting on behalf of a foreign government. You can argue that as a former British spy we can’t know that for sure, but that is still markedly different from Veselnitskaya, who got in the door specifically on the basis of introducing herself as an agent of the Russian government who wanted to help the Trump campaign as part of a larger state effort to influence the election in his favor.

        You might think that introduction was a lie, but it is the basis on which the meeting was accepted.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          So the problem is that Veselnitskaya was honest? I mean, before she was not honest?

        • John Schilling says:

          The difference is that Steele was not acting on behalf of a foreign government. You can argue that as a former British spy we can’t know that for sure, but that is still markedly different from Veselnitskaya,

          Well yes, and there is a similarly marked difference between Trump Jr. and e.g. Oleg Erovinken, if indeed the latter was one of Steel’es sources. You’re making the wrong comparison here.

          The analogy isn’t Trump Jr : Veselnitskaya, it’s Trump Jr : Steele and Veselnitskaya : Erovinken et al.

          Trump Sr hires a US citizen as middleman to talk to a marginally disreputable Russian agent about dirt on an opposition candidate. Priebus and Wasserman-Schulz hire a dubiously loyal foreigner as middleman to talk to extremely disreputable Russian agents about dirt on an opposition candidate. I cannot see how Trump Sr’s actions are not strictly less wrong that Priebus and Wasserman-Schulz’s. And all you seem to have is, “our middleman wasn’t as disreputable as their Russian agent, so we’re the good guys”.

    • BBA says:

      There are three people who are capable of taking any action against Trump: Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell. Among Republicans, Trump is an order of magnitude more popular than all three of them combined, and they all know it, so none of them will lift a finger. I deem the Russia story a nothingburger, not because there’s nothing there, but because whatever it is, it’s not going to change those facts.

      • MrApophenia says:

        This I suspect you are correct about. I do wonder if there is a point where it could become so obvious the base turns on Trump?

        Say Mueller comes out with a detailed, ironclad case showing a quid pro quo exchange of sanctions policy for hacking assistance – does even that matter to voters?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Say Mueller comes out with a detailed, ironclad case showing a quid pro quo exchange of sanctions policy for hacking assistance – does even that matter to voters?

          After all the nonsense stories, most probably won’t believe it. It’s _The Boy Who Cried Wolf_. (N-dimensional chess theorists might suspect this is a deliberate aim of Trump’s)

        • BBA says:

          The base thinks Hillary Clinton is Satan incarnate and they’re not wrong. They’re willing to forgive anything if it means getting rid of her for good.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          ironclad case showing a quid pro quo exchange of sanctions policy for hacking assistance

          Yes, that would change my mind.

          But that’s not what we’re getting. What we’re getting is a predetermined conspiracy theory outcome and then backfilling the “facts” to arrive at that conclusion. The media and the Dems have been screaming “COLLUSION!” for 9 months now, and this is the first thing that even sort of looks like it…and it doesn’t even fit the theory they’ve been selling (i.e., they didn’t say “we’ve got the DNC’s emails,” they said they’ve got proof of Hillary’s illegal activities in Russia.)

          The conspiracy theory takes an entirely different form each week depending on which “facts” we’re including or excluding at any given time. If Trump was already being blackmailed with the pee-pee tape, why did somebody from the Miss Universe pageant need to set up a meeting with Don Jr to present the email hacking? If Trump was being coerced because Russian bank loans, why set up this meeting with an unknown person? Why talk about the proof of illegal activities instead of just saying “we’ve got their emails?” Why would Kushner need to try to set up a back channel in December if they were all Russian spies already anyway?

          Why didn’t any Russians help Trump win the Republican nomination? That sounds harder to me than beating Hillary. 40% of the country will vote for anyone with an R after their name, and another 40% will vote for anyone with a D after their name. Getting that R or D is way harder. Why didn’t they help Trump beat the field of 16 strong Republican opponents?

          This is textbook confirmation bias. It only makes any sense if you’re already assuming the conclusion. It’s like watching The Phantom Menace. The plot only sort of makes sense because you already know Palpatine becomes the emperor, but if you had to describe how he could possibly know his actions would lead to that outcome it sounds like gibberish.

          Walk me through the plot. Who decided what and when with whom, and why did they take the actions they did, weighing potential risks and outcomes?

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Why didn’t they help Trump beat the field of 16 strong Republican opponents?

            Trump was viewed as an outsider who will lose to more traditional contenders Bush or Cruz by large number of the experts, until he was already winning. It would not be a surprise if that included the Russian experts, too, and they realized the opportunity only when he was the Republican nominee?

            Walk me through the plot. Who decided what and when with whom, and why did they take the actions they did, weighing potential risks and outcomes?

            That’s tough job, as who knows how the internal dynamics of Kreml work?

            And of course, they are no more perfect chessmasters than their other counterparts. As a historical example, Russians were convinced that Nixon’s ousting certainly couldn’t be about Watergate burglary and couple of tape recordings.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it seems really implausible that the Russian government is better at predicting electoral outcomes than US political observers. So most likely, they assumed Hillary was likely to win but not guaranteed to win. Presumably they went through a thought process like this:

            We have compromised a bunch of internal correspondence of the Democratic party. None of it is particularly valuable in intelligence terms, and they know we have it, so it’s not going to be super useful for any future operations. On the other hand, we could leak it in ways that would get it into the US press and maybe have an impact on the election.

            a. Most likely Hillary wins. She’ll be p-ssed off at us if this is traced back to us, but that probably won’t change her policy toward us all that much, as she’s already quite hostile, and this isn’t important enough to trigger any really serious response. Potentially, this will undermine Hillary’s support, especially from the already-disgruntled left half of her party who would rather have Sanders, leaving her less capable of carrying out whatever agenda she wanted, which was mostly going to be stuff we didn’t like.

            b. There’s some change Trump will win. If he does, he’s already less hostile to us than Hillary, and several of his top advisors are on pretty good terms with us[1]. If it comes out, it might push Trump toward more anti-Russia policies for show, but probably not anything very major, because again, this isn’t important enough to drive big changes in our relationship. Most likely, we get relatively friendly relations with the US.

            This disclosure probably pushes the chances of Trump winning up slightly, but it’s not clear by how much[2]. That’s a pure win for us.

            The downside is pretty small, the upside is rather better, so let’s do it.

            [1] Perhaps some of his advisors are in our pay in some way now, and might be blackmailed or bribed into giving us information or taking our side in some cases in the future.

            [2] The earlier in the election they authorized the operation, the more it would have looked like Clinton was almost guaranteed to win. And indeed, I suspect that modulo a really-well-timed announcement by the FBI and a really-well-timed public collapse from the heat, she’d be president today.

        • SamChevre says:

          I wasn’t a Trump voter, but favored him over Clinton. Whether it changed my mind would depend on what the hacking assistance was with: I think hacking voting machines/vote counts would definitely change my mind, hacking the system used to manage volunteers and turnout efforts would probably change my mind, but hacking into the campaign’s internal emails and releasing the embarrassing ones to the press would not change my mind. In my mind, hacking and releasing emails is not materially different from the secret recording of Romney’s 47% comment.

  17. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is there research on how much people actually know about evolution?

    I’ve seen claims that people (including those who say they believe evolution is true) know much less than they think, but I haven’t seen details.

    • onyomi says:

      I certainly have this impression; for example, I’ve encountered people convinced that working out really hard will make it easier for their future son to gain muscle. When I say evolution doesn’t work that way, they say “no, but I’m going to work out really, really hard,” or, if more sophisticated, “but epigenetics!”

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What, you’ve never heard of genetic fitness?

      • baconbacon says:

        I believe that there is a good amount of evidence that starvation does effect the genes, or at least genetic expression of subsequent generations, and if you are a flax plant you definitely can effect future generations through exposure to environmental stresses, though I doubt more than a few % of people giving those responses are actually flax plants in disguise.

        • Well... says:

          Is there research on how much people actually know about the % of people who are flax plants in disguise?

          • baconbacon says:

            Sadly no. It has been tried but many fell into the old trope that “all flax plants look alike to me” so it was impossible to avoid double counting. Then came genetic testing, but flax plants rearrange their own genome in response to stress, so again the double counting problem.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Well, to the extent that working out will increase their chances of attracting a (more desireable) partner with whom they are likely to produce (healthier) children, they’re not wrong as such…
        It’s a lot easier to gain muscle if you exist 🙂

    • rlms says:

      Evolution can mean two things: either the theory, or the description of modern organisms as being descended from different older ones through gradual changes. I think most people who claim to believe in evolution mean that they think the description is accurate; the degree to which they understand the theory varies.

    • Well... says:

      This is right where I go when I think about all the people with Darwinfish adorning their car bumpers who would go into some kind of epileptic fit if you mentioned to them even the most non-controversial claims underlying H. Beady.

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      To be fair, evolution is hard. I tried to read Wilson’s The Ants, and the description of the evolution of eusociality left me in the dust.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think evolution is one of those weird areas where the basic thrust of the theory[1] starts out seeming utterly unintuitive and wrong, but becomes more obviously and inevitably correct, the more biology you understand. I can totally understand how someone with no knowledge of biology (DNA with conserved genetic mechanisms across all life or all animals or whatever, vestigal organisms, normal development in the embryo that goes through stages that look like earlier ancetral forms of the animal) would just say “this is nuts.”

        [1] All the complexity of life as we know it came from unthinking processes acting on very primitive single-celled life, over billions of years. Hummingbirds and anthills and human brains and the vertibrate immune system and eyes and birdsongs and deciduous trees and everything.

  18. onyomi says:

    Listening to this defense of Amazon by Tom Woods, I was struck by something I hadn’t really thought much about: though I do think there is a dearth of a good jobs in most of the developed world for reasons mostly unrelated to online shopping: to what extent have a certain proportion of jobs not actually disappeared but simply become invisible? And are there societal implications for having an increasing number of employees be “invisible”?

    For example, Google tells me Amazon employs something like 340,000 people. And that’s presumably not counting people who make a partial or complete living as an Amazon affiliate. Or the extra people UPS probably hired as a result of “Prime shipping.” Have more than 340,000 jobs at e.g. bookstores and other spaces in which Amazon competes lost their jobs? Maybe. I’m really not sure.

    But more importantly (at least for the point I’m trying to make): I have met many bookstore employees. I have not, to my knowledge, ever met an Amazon employee. Where are all these people? Presumably in warehouses and offices and distribution centers somewhere? Which is not to say my experience is entirely representative; maybe there are some towns somewhere where everybody works for Amazon. Maybe I just don’t have enough blue collar friends; still, I think the point stands that Amazon employees are not interacting with “the public” in the way a brick and mortar bookstore employee or manager would have.

    It strikes me as having a bit of a “bowling alone” quality: all else equal, I think I’d prefer a community in which most jobs allow (or require) getting to know/interacting on a personal basis with at least some of the community they serve (though having to deal with the public also has its real subjective downsides, as anyone who’s worked retail knows, and I’m also not saying there should be no jobs for introverts; rather, I wonder if even some extroverts are now required to work jobs better suited to introverts?).

    • Civilis says:

      It strikes me as having a bit of a “bowling alone” quality: all else equal, I think I’d prefer a community in which most jobs allow (or require) getting to know/interacting on a personal basis with at least some of the community they serve

      I’m usually stuck pondering the reverse of your questions: to what extent do the employees of brick and mortar establishments add value which makes that means of shopping more valuable than shopping online?

      Of course I’d prefer the friendly and personable sales staff to the cold impersonal hand of dealing with a machine, but how much do I interact with the staff? For most stores, the only interaction I have with the staff is a couple of brief exchanges at the register, so there’s little or no time to demonstrate that interaction skill. There are some ways around this; I think this was the purpose of a Wal-Mart greeter, to put someone out whose only role was to interact with the customer. And there’s the matter of how much friendliness I can expect from a retail employee. I try not to be a difficult customer, but I know that the small number of stressful interactions I experience in tech support have a lot more impact on my mood than those interactions which are quick and stress free, and I expect retail to be the same way. I don’t expect a random Barnes and Noble employee to be able to provide more knowledge on the books I’m interested in than I can get from a minute of searching on the internet; the only info I expect the employee to be able to provide is the layout of the store.

      As always, there are exceptions. I play a lot of tabletop games. Just about every game store employee I’ve dealt with has been able to provide me with useful information to make the visit worth something. But I think that has to do with the nature of the business. Game stores tend to be small, with a limited number of staff and a high percentage of repeat customers so there’s time to build up an interaction history. Every game store I’ve been to has been owned by a gamer who hires gamers as staff, so they often have a decent knowledge and enthusiasm for many of their own product ranges. There are always in store events, to further the relationship between staff and customers and to give customers a reason for a degree of store loyalty; you want the store to stay in business to give you a place to interact with other gamers and play. Often times, I’ve been a participant in a conversation between staff and customer of the form ‘I don’t know game X, but he does, so let’s ask him’, and because I like the store and the game I have a reason to act as a sales agent for the store, and my advice is unlikely to include ‘go online and buy the game’.

      I can see that sort of relationship generalizing to other specialty hobby stores; craft stores offering lessons, for example. It might be possible that it can work with a specialty sales store, like a small bookshop where the proprietor knows the stock (not B&N). I don’t see it applying to most clothing or home goods stores. It has to be a place where you will shop frequently enough and interact with the same staff to build that relationship.

      • Nornagest says:

        I can see that sort of relationship generalizing to other specialty hobby stores; craft stores offering lessons, for example. I don’t see it applying to most clothing or home goods stores.

        On the hobby side, it consistently works for bicycle shops (especially upscale ones), gun shops, and dive shops. On the home goods side, I’ve found that there’s almost always exactly one hardware store in town that’s like this; you can usually tell which one it is by looking for the one all the old guys go to. (It’s never a Lowes or a Home Depot. Occasionally it’s an Ace Hardware, but more often it’s independent.)

        • Civilis says:

          On the home goods side, I’ve found that there’s almost always exactly one hardware store in town that’s like this; you can usually tell which one it is by looking for the one all the old guys go to. (It’s never a Lowes or a Home Depot. Occasionally it’s an Ace Hardware, but more often it’s independent.)

          In that sense, hardware stores have some of the attributes of hobby stores; presumably both the staff and the regular customers are into home repair / woodworking and the staff can provide practical tips.

          It also helps that unlike most hobbies, most hardware is valued for objective reasons rather than personal tastes. I can’t expect the guy running the game store to share my taste in games, but I can expect the guy running the hardware store to want tools that are reliable and easy to use or maintain.

          To get back to onyomi’s point, for employee interactions to matter, they must add value. The stores that can make employee interactions matter will be the ones that survive when faced with internet competition. Those bookstore employees in B&N, for all that they are visible, don’t add much to the experience. It’s not that they don’t do much, it’s just that what they do is often important but invisible; keeping the shelves stocked and the store clean. We notice this only when they fail.

      • Well... says:

        I believe the Walmart greeter is there primarily because of research that shows people shoplift less when they get a signal that a human employee knows they are in the store.

        Also, I think I heard something once about a tradition–like, the first Walmart had a greeter and so now they all do. But I could be imagining that.

  19. Lately my pattern detector has been going off.

    I’ve noticed implausible amounts of trans and non-heterosexual people in the communities I hang around in on the internet. All of the political account groups on twitter seem stacked with statistically improbable numbers of trans people. When someone puts a poll on sexuality in sci-fi forums I visit, it’ll be something like 40% bi. Same with polls on 4chan, and other imageboards.

    I used to think that this was just filtration and therefore non-suspicious, but I’m getting less sure about that as things develop. Someone posted an article about some ridiculously high number of teens identifying as trans/gender nonconformant in the last thread (a quarter maybe?).

    Now, there’s a pop conservative explanation for all this which is that kids are being socialized into new genders and sexualities, but I don’t buy it. It’s not like kids have been told to be trans all of their life, and trans people are still discriminated against. Furthermore, I think that in order to believe that adopting the mannerisms and culture of the opposite sex is positive, you have to in some way have a mind primed to find that appealing. The biological explanation always made more sense, but I always thought about that in a fixed way. In reality, the environment could be acting chemically to change biology.

    I know about the sperm count crisis.

    “Reduce exposure to industrial chemicals such as those used in making plastics – they can mimic the female hormone oestrogen countering male hormones.”

    I wonder if that’s having an effect on more than just sperm count. I want to know though – How exactly are you supposed to reduce exposure to something that is everywhere?

    Could there be something to the wacky soy theories/turning the frogs gay stuff reaktionaries go on and on about? Personally, I don’t think it’s negative in a way that requires drastic action since technology is going to save (or kill) us all anyway relatively soon, so it would only imply something prescriptive in a situation where we needed to return to primitive forms of fighting and struggling in order to survive.

    • hls2003 says:

      My immediate thought is that your first assumption was more or less correct, and that the elevated levels of espousing these behaviors do not actually correlate to improbable levels of practicing these behaviors. You’re talking about internet boards and Twitter. An egg avatar can be any gender that’s trendy without having to sleep with anyone.

    • Randy M says:

      Personally, I don’t think it’s negative in a way that requires drastic action since technology is going to save (or kill) us all anyway relatively soon

      Making more people identify as trans means making more people that feel uncomfortable in their bodies to the point of desiring hormone or surgical fixes, so if there is some chemical agent inadvertently doing this fixing it would ease more suffering than raising awareness. Might not matter if you are really so fatalistic, but in terms of priorities, it would be a trend worth correcting.

      I don’t know if this is something that is recently increasing in prevalence or just the effect of mass/social media magnifying a fringe element, perhaps with an amount of trolling or people genuinely confused by the recent focus into thinking being less stereotypical means brain abnormalities.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        No chance that there always were a good many people who didn’t fit neatly into genders, and now it’s more possible to be public about it?

        • albatross11 says:

          Nancy:

          That might explain some of it, but it seems an awfully big change to happen so quickly if it was just a matter of social acceptance and such. OTOH, two of my close male friends in college were into cross-dressing, and one is now a transwoman[1]. So maybe there were always a ton of people who didn’t really fit into either category, and now everyone has a vocabulary and enough social acceptance to at least think about that to themselves.

          [1] Or, again, maybe I just had a really odd circle of friends.

        • The Nybbler says:

          No chance that there always were a good many people who didn’t fit neatly into genders, and now it’s more possible to be public about it?

          I can believe that for gender roles, but not really for gender identity. Maybe if we could somehow reverse the Great Male Renunciation, a lot of men would be much happier being men? (this would fit in with the “metrosexual” thing a few years back too).

        • Randy M says:

          Any list that begins with “I don’t know” should probably not be taken to be exhaustive. 😉

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          @Nybbler

          I can believe that for gender roles, but not really for gender identity.

          I tend to agree. However, I must confess that I’m terribly unclear on what exactly is a mere role and what is considered a fundamental characteristic of gender identity today.

      • rlms says:

        “Making more people identify as trans means making more people that feel uncomfortable in their bodies to the point of desiring hormone or surgical fixes”
        All else being equal, yes, but a plausible theory is that identifying as trans is high status in some communities, so people do it even if they aren’t really (or alternatively socially transition, which is harmless). To elaborate: I’m not saying that significant numbers of people straight-up lie about being trans, but if it is high status in your circles you might change how you dress etc. in a way that debatably doesn’t make you trans (see debates about whether you can be trans without dysphoria).

        • Randy M says:

          in a way that debatably doesn’t make you trans

          As you say, “Trans people cannot control their condition and it is deeply distressing to them” is not compatible with “More people will become trans if it is glamorous to do so”*

          Perhaps we need to bring back the old word “transvestite” for the people who are doing it without a physiological compulsion.

          *Well, perhaps it is on the margins in some people’s utility calcuations, but it seems very implausible to me given the emphasis on how bad trans people’s subjective experience is.

          • baconbacon says:

            Pretend there is a curve of trans. On the far end of one side are people who are overwhelmed by the feelings of discomfort within their own body and social pressure is an additional but lesser confounder. On the other end you have people who would prefer a different body (or experiment) and feel some discomfort but not major, for them the major inhibition is social pressure. Remove the social pressure and you only modestly impact the first group, but the second group feels almost total liberation.

          • Randy M says:

            I was trying to acknowledge the possibility with my foot note there, but point out that if that is the case we are presented with non-central examples pretty often.

          • rlms says:

            The central example of trans people are those with severe physical dysphoria, and their numbers aren’t likely to increase due to transness being high status (although transness not being so low status in society as a whole might well have an effect). However there are also non-central trans people who have milder physical dysphoria (possibly none), but still act/dress/wish to be treated as a different gender to that implied by their birth sex. I think it’s definitely plausible that social pressure could push some feminine cis men and masculine cis women into that category (or cause them to identify as genderqueer or similar without actually changing their behaviour at all).

            Transvestites are a different category: people who like to wear clothes of the opposite sex (either as a sexual fetish, or otherwise e.g. Eddie Izzard) without identifying as a gender opposite to that you would expect from their genitals. Recently, they seem to be categorised under the umbrella of transgender, but I think that’s a mistake. The defining property of transgender people should be unusual gender identity, regardless of behaviour.

          • Randy M says:

            Wouldn’t wanting to take on the trappings of the opposite be a mild form of gender dysphoria? If you are wearing the dress because it is women’s clothes and not because you really like the feel of the fabric or whatever.

            Or is this a biological/psychological distinction? (If that even makes sense)

            (edit: Letting rlms have the last word as I’ve reached the end of my interest and exceeded my ability to say anything interesting on it)

          • rlms says:

            I don’t think so. Consider people for whom transvestitism is a sexual fetish. They don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable with their gender (which I think is the usual definition of dysphoria) or feel any desire to change it (which is a plausible extension).

          • baconbacon says:

            I was trying to acknowledge the possibility with my foot note there, but point out that if that is the case we are presented with non-central examples pretty often.

            I think I focused to much on the binary aspect, when what I really want to communicate is the curve/fluid/uncertain aspect.

            Take a person who feels trans curious, has several other psychological issues that they are dealing with (anxiety or depression) that they don’t associate with their curiosity. They mostly avoid experimenting, or experimenting in public due to the social stigma. Remove the social stigma, they experiment and they find some alleviation of their anxiety/depression/xyz. You can postulate half a dozen ways that the lifting of the stigma relieved those other issues that are unrelated to the curiosity itself, but the individual is going to self report as a central case now. “Ever since I came out as Trans I felt large gains in other areas of my life, I must have been a closeted Trans always and not realized how deeply I wanted it”.

    • johan_larson says:

      My brother reported that it was practically fashionable to be gay when he was in college. I don’t really know what to make of such a claim. I mean, either you wanna bone dudes or you don’t. It doesn’t seem like a persona you would “try on” in some sense. Claiming to be gay when you’re not would an odd thing to do, outside of comedy scripts. It’s not like there’s a benefit package.

      • I think the number of people who pretend to be gay for fun are a negligible part of this phenomena.

        Upsides:
        1: Trendy in a few circles, but it’s sufficient to care about gay rights/trans rights/etc.

        Downsides:
        1: The more common neighborhood homophobes might want to beat you up, or at least bother you.
        2: If you pretended to be gay for long enough, more women might be uninterested in relationships with you. Harms later romantic life.
        3: Unwanted advances/calling your bluff.

        • albatross11 says:

          This is anecdata with probably no relevance, but a whole bunch of women I dated in college self-identified as bisexual, and I think all of them ended up in long-term relationships with men. I’m not sure why this happened–maybe I just have odd tastes in girls, or my social circle had some odd features or something. I’ve always assumed their sexual/romantic attraction was skewed 95/5 toward men, with occasional women matching whatever pattern their sex/romantic drive was looking for enough to at least catch their interest.

          • Zodiac says:

            I have similar experience.
            Probably a result of less stigma because guys will hope for a threesome as well as generally more tolerance for lesbians.

          • hls2003 says:

            The phenomenon of college girls making out with girls is not terribly new; it has been an attention-seeking behavior for decades, usually by hetero coeds who were trying to catch the eye of men. But of course “attention-seeking behavior to titillate guys” is not a very flattering description, and so it wouldn’t surprise me if nowadays the same behavior is justified by the now-more-socially-encouraged justification of being “a little bi”.

          • John Schilling says:

            The phrase “Lesbian until Graduation” is old enough for its children to be legal in every state of the union, so this isn’t just your odd tastes. “Bi until graduation” is only slightly younger. It may be a reflection on the quality or maturity of the men available on the average college campus, or it may reflect the college campus’s role as a location for deniable experimentation.

          • JayT says:

            I remember the joke in college always being “what’s the difference between a co-ed and a bi girl? About three drinks.”

          • The replies to Albatross seem to follow the path that these “bi” women weren’t really bi but were mostly just looking for novelty. This may be true, but I can imagine several reasons why most women would end up in male/female relationships even if they had equal attraction to other women as to men:
            1) You can only have children in the usual way with a male/female relationship,
            2) There is less stigma today, but you certainly stand out when you have a same sex relationship
            3) There are still many people who do see gay relationships as an abomination, and sometimes they might be relatives
            4) Until very recently, one couldn’t get officially married in a gay relationship, and the laws definitely favor the married.

            I’m not sure how important these issues were to the women Albatross refers to. But there are definitely practical benefits to the traditional male/female marriage.

          • Barely matters says:

            Or the reason I hear from every one of my Bi friends and girlfriends when asked:

            5) “Guys will do the whole process for you. Dating women is work

          • DeWitt says:

            Ha. That’s rich.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mark V Anderson and cadie both make some good points: A woman who is exactly 50/50 attracted to men and women faces incentives that encourage settling with a man–she will find more men than women interested in dating her, she will get more social acceptance (even without overt discrimination, it will be less hassle explaining her arrangements to the neighbors, the boss, odd family members, etc.), and she can more easily have kids with a man than adopting or using a sperm bank while married to a woman.

            This makes me wonder if I have been engaging in fundamental attribution bias in assuming most of the bi women I dated were actually mostly attracted to men.

        • onyomi says:

          There have always been lots of men who wanted to dress up, wear a wig and makeup; some of them liked to bone other dudes, but some of them just liked to dress up. There have always been men who preferred baking and fashion and art to wrestling and hunting and politics. Some of them, maybe more of them, preferred to bone other dudes, but not all. And some of the wrestlers and hunters and warriors were gay.

          But at some point masculinity became so overdetermined as to shut out a large percentage of actual men, many of whom aren’t necessarily homosexual or desiring to become women. Social repression kept these people in their neat boxes, but now that the stigma against it is weakening, to the point that some people even find it fun, fashionable or “interesting” to be “gender queer,” all those people who didn’t fit are suddenly claiming different identities altogether.

          My personal preference would be to instead expand the definition of acceptable masculinity (and femininity) rather than inventing a bunch of new victim categories for every non-perfectly-central example of masculinity and femininity to flee to; I guess I just resist the continual carving up of society on identity lines because I think it has bad consequences.

      • dndnrsn says:

        @johan_larson

        I mean, either you wanna bone dudes or you don’t. It doesn’t seem like a persona you would “try on” in some sense.

        Hypothesis: a significant number of people are bisexuals significantly favouring the opposite sex. In most times and places, they are functionally heterosexual, say they are heterosexual, maybe never have any same-sex experiences. However, in other times and places, it will be different.

        • albatross11 says:

          This seems reasonable. The odd thing is that there are two places this seems to show up:

          a. In high school or college, where there are many people of both sexes around, your natural sex drive is at maximum, and experimentation and openness are maxed out and socially approved. Leave college and settle down with someone (almost certainly the opposite sex, given how your attractions work), and the whole issue doesn’t come up again.

          b. In long-term same-sex environments like prison or all-male boarding school, where lots of men who are straight in the regular world end up having same-sex relationships. Get out of prison and around women again, and given how your attractions work, you’re content to go back to being exclusively straight.

        • Cadie says:

          For bisexuals, there are a lot more people of the opposite sex than the same sex who are potential partners. You have basic orientation compatibility with bi and straight people of the opposite sex, and bi and gay people of the same sex; the first group is much bigger.

    • Nornagest says:

      Someone posted an article about some ridiculously high number of teens identifying as trans/gender nonconformant in the last thread (a quarter maybe?).

      Are you talking about this post? Because that’s about sexuality, not gender conformity, and I’d be way less suspicious about a quarter of $GROUP identifying as non-straight than about them identifying as gender nonconformant — the base rates are one or two orders of magnitude higher, and there’s more cultural precedent for it.

      Meanwhile, chemical explanations need to account for gender nonconformity in biologically female as well as male people, and xenoestrogens only account for the latter. Anecdotally, it seems more common in the former, at least if we’re lumping in variations on “genderqueer”. Though there could be more than one thing going on, of course.

      • Yeah, that’s the one. Sexuality and gender are different, of course, but I do think they tend to correlate (most males identify as hetero, most females identify as hetero, if occasionally fluid in practice).

        Meanwhile, chemical explanations need to account for gender nonconformity in biologically female as well as male people, and xenoestrogens only account for the latter. Anecdotally, it seems more common in the former, at least if we’re lumping in variations on “genderqueer”. Though there could be more than one thing going on, of course.

        This is a good point, though mtfs seem more common (or are less hidden). It will be interesting to see if the rate of ftm remains relatively fixed, while the rate of mtf goes up and up, as time goes on.

    • The Nybbler says:

      When someone puts a poll on sexuality in sci-fi forums I visit, it’ll be something like 40% bi.

      I think SF fans have always been an unusual bunch with a greater than average number of homosexuals and bisexuals. And anyway, polls lie. (4chan polls lie more)

      I also think there’s a lot of trans-fashion going on. When you don’t have to do anything but put on different clothing and declare yourself a member of the opposite sexanother gender, there are reasons to do it even for someone who doesn’t actually think they are a member of another gender; some people are just straight-up novelty seekers, for instance.

      • Nornagest says:

        Different group of nerds, but the joke goes that “by and large, furries are bi and large”.

        (Not a furry, but I know several through the MUD scene.)

      • Well... says:

        Seems like there might be a transhumanist thread running through that too.

      • albatross11 says:

        It probably depends a lot on what definitions people are using, too. Bisexual might mean “I’m about equally attracted to men and women,” but it might also mean “I’m almost always attracted to men, but occasionally am attracted to a woman,” or even “I was once attracted to a woman, but otherwise I’ve only been attracted to men.” A shift in what definition people are using could easily change polling results by quite a bit, even if there’s no corresponding change in anyone’s actual sexual or romantic behavior.

        You could imagine something similar going on with trans self-identification, but I don’t really know enough to tell if that might be some of what’s going on.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        you don’t have to do anything but put on different clothing

        If you say you’re genderqueer, you don’t even have to do that.

    • skef says:

      There’s also the hypothesis that the divergence in culture itself — the subjects and objects young people spend more time thinking about now as opposed to earlier times — is leading to diversified sexual interests. This could also explain a subset of trans-identifiers (but probably only a subset).

  20. johan_larson says:

    Anyone here have an air force background? I’ve been looking through the USAF’s various military occupations for enlisted personnel, and noticed the length of training required for them varies quite a bit. What’s usually considered the most difficult one?

    • Incurian says:

      Army here, but PJs are widely considered to have pretty tough training. JTACs are cool too.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, I had a look as some of the other services too. Training in the navy’s nuclear power operations can take 18 months: 6 months of A-school (which is supposed to be brutal), 6 months of Naval Nuclear Power School, and then another 6 months in the Nuclear Power Training Unit.

        These jobs seem to require a five-year enlistment. So the navy spends nearly a third of your enlistment training you. Seems like a terrible deal for the navy.

        • bean says:

          The navy nuclear program was set up by someone who was probably crazy, although he certainly got results. When the recruiters for it would come to my school (which had a nuclear engineering program) I would just point and laugh, because I certainly didn’t want to get the Hyman Rickover Stick.

          • johan_larson says:

            They seem to have trouble getting people, particularly for the officer positions. Why else would they be offering to pick up the tab for all of college for people who agree to join the nuclear program after graduation?

          • roystgnr says:

            One of my best friends went through the Navy nuclear program a decade or two ago; I can pass along any questions anyone has. I’ve never heard the phrase “Hyman Rickover Stick” before, though (and apparently neither has Google) – could you let me in on the joke?

            He seemed to get a pretty good deal. Free ride to an expensive private college, great career path (he’s a civilian now but still working on nuclear sub parts as a private contractor). He originally wanted to be a pilot and would have been willing to be a submariner, but then he met his now-wife in college, and suddenly long terms of commitment or regular lengthy deployments looked a lot less desirable than a DC-area desk job.

          • bean says:

            It was a coinage by me on the spot. The stick goes up the ass. Although Rickover interview stories are always amazing.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I imagine it’s a reference to Admiral Rickover’s (and through him the US Navy Nuclear School’s) unofficial* motto “The stupid shall be punished”.

            *The official motto being “Committed to excellence”

            Edit: ninja’d by bean once again

          • cassander says:

            @hlynkacg

            The US Navy has one, and only one, true motto, “There is no God but Neptune and Mahan is His prophet.” All else is heresy.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Nonsense, the Navy’s motto is “Never again volunteer yourself” but then I was always a godless green-side heathen in the eyes of proper shoes.

    • bean says:

      It’s pretty much always the special forces, for any branch of any military. Beyond that, I don’t really know of any that have seriously tough reputations in the USAF.

    • hlynkacg says:

      I was Navy/Marines rather than Air Force but I would imagine flight crew is near the top. Their SAR guys the PJs get a lot of public relations love and go through some admittedly tough training but are regarded as “rich guys dabbling in SOF” while AF forward observers/JTACs are the real deal (at least that was the consensus when I was in). Their air traffic controllers were also highly regarded.

    • keranih says:

      Depends on what you mean by “most difficult.” The AF does have nuke techs, rocket techs, and aircraft mechanics, as well as the aforementioned PJs (and forward air controllers).

      There is also “most difficult” in terms of physical strength + annoying duty, which is either Security Forces (cops, which includes military police and the security guards for nukes and aircraft) or civil engineering (builds emergency runways (and a number of other things), and also includes firefighters.) Oh, and the AF has EOD, too.

  21. Meanwhile, at the global warming desk …

    New York magazine recently published a horrifying cover story about climate change, by David Wallace-Wells. It opens as follows:

    It is, I promise, worse than you think. If your anxiety about global warming is dominated by fears of sea-level rise, you are barely scratching the surface of what terrors are possible, even within the lifetime of a teenager today. And yet the swelling seas — and the cities they will drown — have so dominated the picture of global warming, and so overwhelmed our capacity for climate panic, that they have occluded our perception of other threats, many much closer at hand.

    The Atlantic asks: Are We as Doomed as That New York Magazine Article Says?. The author starts by confessing:

    “No one knows how to talk about climate change right now. I don’t have an idea about where to begin, and I write about it professionally.”

    Meanwhile, the Washington Post blasts the article: New York Magazine climate doom piece is a case study in how not to communicate risk.

    Slate disagrees, saying New York magazine’s global-warming horror story isn’t too scary. It’s not scary enough.

    And Vox chimes in with: Did that New York magazine climate story freak you out? Good..

    ThinkProgress says: We aren’t doomed by climate change. Right now we are choosing to be doomed..

    Mashable’s headline flatly contradicts the NY article: No, New York Mag: Climate change won’t make the Earth uninhabitable by 2100, but the text is more equivocal.

    Climate scientists are portrayed in these articles as basically optimistic — We can stop global warming because we have to! — but it seems that optimism has been undermined by the current administration’s policy.

    • James Miller says:

      Here is a test for climate change doomsayers: Republicans would almost certainly be willing to accept a carbon tax in return for things we want but you don’t. What are you willing to trade for? How about, for example, in a revenue neutral way we get a carbon tax, but also eliminate corporate income taxes and death taxes and we build Trump’s wall?

      • secondcityscientist says:

        Republican priorities are low taxes on wealthy people, and a carbon tax is a tax. Republicans currently control both legislative chambers and the presidency. There’s no reason for them to negotiate any new taxes, and they won’t. If Chuck Schumer made your exchange proposals they wouldn’t be enacted.

        Carbon taxes in exchange for reduction in corporate income taxes? Sure. In exchange for estate taxes? I don’t think estate taxes raise that much revenue due to tax avoidance and low numbers of extremely wealthy people, and a carbon tax would need to be high-ish to have the teeth to reduce carbon consumption. If it’s a revenue-neutral exchange I just don’t think it would work, but in principle would be an acceptable trade. Trump wants a wall and Steve King wants a wall but I don’t think most elected Republicans want a wall. Is that a real “Republican Priority”?

        • cassander says:

          >Republican priorities are low taxes on wealthy people, and a carbon tax is a tax.

          Great! a carbon tax isn’t very progressive, so it should be an easy sell to replace basically any other tax with a carbon tax.

          >There’s no reason for them to negotiate any new taxes, and they won’t

          Fair enough. Why was this offer was not forthcoming in the 6 years of mixed government under the obama administration?

        • SamChevre says:

          I think “low taxes on wealthy people” is a fairly low priority for Republicans. “Less federal government involvement in everyday life” is probably higher. So, a list of law/policy changes that would reduce the power of the courts and the bureaucracies: would the Democrats trade a carbon tax for 5 points worth of these?

          Repeal Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley (2 points)
          Repeal the NEPA (3 points)
          Require that any added protection or use restriction on Federal land must be matched by a transfer of an equal amount of federal land to the affected state (2 points)
          Modify the Clean Air and Clean Water acts to eliminate the EPA’s ability to add controlled substances without congressional approval (2 points)
          Modify the Endangered Species Act to eliminate local populations and sub-species for protection (1 point)
          Limit the Fair Housing Act to de jure discrimination and to government action (4 points)
          Limit the Civil Rights Act to de jure discrimination and to government action (8 points)
          Limit the Civil Rights Act to protect only African-Americans (6 points)
          Limit the Americans with Disabilities Act as applied to schools to interventions that no more than double the cost of education (4 points)

          My bet is that zero Democratic constituencies would trade any of these for a carbon tax.

          • Charles F says:

            What could I get for the extra three points from limiting the Civil Rights Act to de jure discrimination + government action? Could I tack on some drug legalization?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            My bet is that most democratic constituencies would accept any of them.

            But your premise is wrong. Half the Republicans in congress have taken an oath to oppose any new taxes. This is a sacred value for them.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog, I note you’re contrasting Democratic voters and Republican representatives. That’s probably significant, because I’m pretty sure Democratic representatives would reject all these tradeoffs, and Republican voters would accept.

            The reason the pledge against taxes is so popular isn’t because it’s a sacred value to the voters. It’s because past representatives have betrayed them so often that they insist on some Schilling point.

          • SamChevre says:

            @Charles F:

            I don’t know, but I’d try to get “federal law only applies to drugs that actually moved from one state to another.”

      • Urstoff says:

        A revenue neutral carbon tax seems like the most obvious solution. I don’t understand why it doesn’t get more political traction. Is it simply seen vs. unseen? People will see gas prices rise but that their other taxes are lowered will not be as noticeable? Or is it oil industry influence among politicians? Or something else?

        • Evan Þ says:

          In part seen v. unseen. But in another large part, that we don’t believe other taxes will really be lowered and stay down. Every so often, there’s a debate here in Washington State about levying a state income tax and lowering the sales tax proportionately. One huge opposition talking point, always, is to claim that the legislature will simply raise the sales tax back again several years later… and knowing politicians, I completely believe that.

          • Urstoff says:

            That seems like an ever-present worry, though. Politicians can always raise state income taxes. Is there a huge status quo bias in what the “proper” level of taxes is?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Actually, yes. There was recently an outcry about a new levy which would for the first time push sales tax over 10% in Seattle. IIRC it still passed, but more narrowly than would otherwise be expected. Sales tax is visible every time people make a purchase; income tax is also visible from year to year (and from my work as a VITA volunteer, I can confirm that people remember from year to year what it “should” be, or at least what their refund “should” be.)

            (Here in Washington, politicians can’t just raise an income tax; it’s against the state Constitution, which can only be amended by popular vote. Once we amend it, though, the floodgates will be open.)

      • 1soru1 says:

        > Republicans would almost certainly be willing to accept a carbon tax in return for things we want but you don’t

        But not willing to make the slightest or most tentative of moves in the real-world situation where they have an absolute majority and so can’t rely on someone from the other side blocking their proposal.

      • tgb says:

        As a liberal in favor of gun regulation, I’d gladly give up gun regulation to get some real legislative wins on more important topics, such as carbon tax or health care. I don’t think the democratic party can make any headway in genuine gun law reform and so is just wasting its political capital fighting for something that isn’t going to make any difference.

        • The Nybbler says:

          By “give up gun regulation”, do you mean stop trying to retake ground the gun-rights side has already taken? Or do you mean cash-and-carry machine guns, no-license-required open and concealed carry for everyone, elimination of state restrictions, etc? Because the former isn’t much of a concession.

    • John Schilling says:

      Also on the list of critics: Michael Mann. No, not the director Michael Mann, though I’m certain he has an opinion too. Who in Hollywood doesn’t?

      When Michael Hockey Stick Mann describes your article with phrases like “That’s just not true” and “I was struck by erroneous statements like this one” after declaring himself “not a fan of this sort of doomist framing”, I think we’re done. Nobody with a shred of scientific integrity is going to stand behind Wallace-Wells’ article, only journalists and pundits with an agenda. Which brings us to,

      Climate scientists are portrayed in these articles as basically optimistic — but it seems that optimism has been undermined by the current administration’s policy.

      Trump derangement syndrome strikes climatology. For what it’s worth, the scientists themselves seem mostly resistant, but that’s little consolation in a world where most people need increasingly-deranged science journalists to translate the science for them.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’ve got two books the New York Magazine writers need to read.

      Chicken Little, and The Boy Who Cried Wolf

    • Anon. says:

      I can’t take any of these pieces seriously after I-732.

      In rhetoric, climate change is an x-risk. In revealed preference, the left prefers wealth redistribution to environmental policy.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Man, I wish someone had told me about this vote I couldn’t participate in on the other side of the country before it revealed all my preferences.

        • Anon. says:

          Are you saying Washington State is not a representative sample?

          • rlms says:

            As Iain pointed out below, not everyone in Washington is on the left, and furthermore it is plausible that some of those non-leftist voters voted against the bill.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            But the establishment left actively fought against it, which is telling (at least of the state of Washingtonian establishment lefties and those they cater to, not necessarily nationwide) no matter who actually voted for or against it.

      • Evan Þ says:

        +1. (And to Jordan D., yes, the vote from this representative sample of leftists revealed there are some like you. Unfortunately, you’re a minority.)

        • Iain says:

          52.5% of Washington voters voted for Clinton over Trump. 40.75% of Washington voters voted for the carbon tax. I can’t find a partisan breakdown of the vote, but you can look at the maps here and here and verify the obvious, which is that support for the carbon tax overwhelmingly came from the left. Unless you think a full third of Trump voters checked the box for a carbon tax, a clear majority of Clinton voters were in favour.

          This is despite analysis saying that, far from being revenue neutral, I-732 was actually going to reduce revenue by $1B over four years. So, there’s your revenue-negative carbon tax. Where was the Republican support?

          “Well, I was going to take climate change seriously, but then only a supermajority of the political party I disagree with voted for a carbon tax that would do meaningful harm to their other priorities, instead of being completely unanimous. Now I am forced to conclude that it’s all made up. Aw, shucks! I am definitely not just using this as an excuse!”

          • Evan Þ says:

            Thanks for the correction about the relative numbers.

            However, as a conservative-leaning Washingtonian myself, we didn’t trust that it would stay revenue-negative. Sales tax here keeps trending up over time (even more so in perception, because levies keep needing to be renewed and thus show up on the ballot again, but in actuality as well), and my friends were pretty sure the legislature would just keep raising taxes so it wouldn’t stay revenue-negative.

            In other words… we don’t trust them. I’m sure they don’t trust us, either.

          • Iain says:

            The inherent tendency of a revenue-negative carbon tax is to get more revenue-negative, not less, because the whole point is to encourage people to reduce their carbon emissions. If conservative-leaning voters are nevertheless not willing to vote for a revenue-negative carbon tax, then the rational response for environmentalists is to stop trying to peel off conservative voters and instead maximize their appeal to the left.

            You might want to work on those trust issues, is what I’m saying.

          • Nornagest says:

            You might want to work on those trust issues, is what I’m saying.

            Less of this, please.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            @Nornagest
            I think you’re overreacting. It’s not out of line as a response to

            In other words… we don’t trust them. I’m sure they don’t trust us, either.

          • Evan Þ says:

            When have environmentalists, as a group, tried to peel off conservative voters? The Left as a whole, and the Sierra Club in specific, fought against the Washington carbon tax initiative. Look at the Sierra Club’s reasons, and then tell me they’re anything but actively hostile to conservativism.

            If environmentalists were making any effort to reach out, rather than making (your) veiled and (the Sierra Club’s) not-so-veiled threats, I might try to “work on” the distrust of this large amorphous group which I can only affect in small and indirect ways.

          • rlms says:

            What, you want environmentalists to put forward a compromise bill, maybe something like a revenue-negative carbon tax? I can’t see that happening.

          • Evan Þ says:

            One environmental group put forward a revenue-negative carbon tax; praise be to them. The environmentalist movement as a whole was at best neutral, if not opposed.

          • rlms says:

            I’m not sure if it’s possible to quantify the opinions of the environmentalist movement as a whole, but, as Iain pointed out above, the majority of left-wingers supported the bill. But let’s assume that environmentalists specifically were neutral/opposed. That’s what you would expect from a compromise bill; if it had the full support of either side it wouldn’t be a compromise. Instead, it has aspects that left-wingers dislike, which for some of them outweigh the benefits.

          • Jiro says:

            if it had the full support of either side it wouldn’t be a compromise. Instead, it has aspects that left-wingers dislike, which for some of them outweigh the benefits.

            The left claims to like carbon taxes because they prevent the destruction of our planet, not because they’re a way for the government to get revenue. Having a carbon tax that prevents the destruction of our planet but is revenue-neutral shouldn’t be a “compromise” from a left-wing point of view, if the left is sincere.

          • rlms says:

            @Jiro
            It’s a compromise because it’s revenue negative and also regressive (or at least it plausibly looks that way).

          • Jiro says:

            A left-winger who honestly thinks that carbon taxes are about saving the planet shouldn’t care about being revenue-negative or regressive, because those things are unimportant compared to saving the planet. The “compromise” grants a concession on a much less important issue in order to get their way on a much more important issue.

            Unless, of course, they don’t really alieve it’s about saving the planet, and it’s really about left-wing policies in the first place. A regressive system combined with saving the planet is a huge win for them; a regressive system combined with standard left-wing politics is much less of a win.

          • Aapje says:

            A left-winger who honestly thinks that carbon taxes are about saving the planet shouldn’t care about nuclear war, because the deaths of million are unimportant compared to saving the planet.

          • rlms says:

            One state-level carbon tax is not going to save the planet. If a carbon tax was implemented on a large enough scale to have a major effect on climate change, it would affect enough people that its revenue-negativity and regressiveness would be major problems. The balance is the same if both sides are scaled down.

          • Jiro says:

            A left-winger who honestly thinks that carbon taxes are about saving the planet shouldn’t care about nuclear war, because the deaths of million are unimportant compared to saving the planet.

            If you are claiming that, back when the main concern of the left was nuclear war, their refusal to compromise other leftist values to stop nuclear war showed they didn’t really believe it, sure, I can agree with you on that.

          • rlms says:

            What about the analogous right-wing lack of compromise on abortion (if it is literally murder, anything that reduces it by even a small amount is very valuable)?

          • Jiro says:

            I would say it does apply, but I can’t think of a situation where anyone actually tried to offer the right restrictions on abortion in exchange for something else.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Echoing Jiro here.

            Most of the “compromises” I’ve seen proposed have been of the “we’ll take half the pie no and the other half later” variety. In other words, not a genuine compromise.

          • rlms says:

            Has the anti-abortion right proposed any compromises?

          • hlynkacg says:

            From the anti-abortion side? It’s generally taken the form of supporting other forms of birth-control in exchange for tighter restriction on abortion.

          • Salem says:

            The kind of compromises on abortion that have been reached in many European countries would be unconstitutional in the US under Casey and progeny. As a result the question is a little unfair; no legislative compromise with the Democrats can get the anti-abortion right an acceptable position on abortion, no matter what they give up on other subjects.

            On the other hand, it is quite fair to use this question to conclude that Republicans are rather less invested in doing away with burdensome regulations than their rhetoric suggests.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Salem

            Good points.

          • albatross11 says:

            All this seems to me to miss the fact that we aren’t talking about compromises between individuals or even small groups. Instead, we are talking abou compromises between big unstable coalitions. Most members of the Religious Right might well be willing to accept higher corporate and inheritance taxes in exchange for more restrictions on abortions, but the rest of the Republican coalition wouldn’t go along with that, so it would not be a deal the Republicans as a whole could make without breaking up their coalition. Similarly, the set of Democrats who think AGW is really a threat to humanity isn’t the same as the set who think inheritance taxes need to be higher or who think we need affirmative action in education or whatever.

          • Zodiac says:

            How much compromising is actually happening in the US, really?
            I was always under the impression that either party will just push it’s politics as far as it can and when they can stand in the other parties way they will do so.

          • Matt M says:

            Similarly, the set of Democrats who think AGW is really a threat to humanity isn’t the same as the set who think inheritance taxes need to be higher or who think we need affirmative action in education or whatever.

            If you took a survey asking Democratic voters to rank-order their priorities, how many do you think would rank the estate tax higher than climate change?

          • albatross11 says:

            As aside: If making compromises between parties causes stress within your party’s coalition, one reason we might see fewer cross-party compromises would be if the parties’ internal cohesion got weaker–the religious right and the free market right and the strong-defense right trust each other less and less, so it is hard for their leaders to agree on a compromise that gives the religious right something they want at the cost o the free market right, say.

            An alternative cause might be less trust/cohesion between leaders and supporters, where a compromise by Senator Jones that is honestly the best available deal still makes a big chunk of his supporters feel betrayed, so they refuse to vote for him or support his primary challenger in the next election.

      • Guy in TN says:

        Every revenue neutral carbon tax presents a trade-off for the left, due to the tax’s regressive nature. If the left had chosen the carbon tax in this situation, would you say that you “can’t take them seriously on the issue of wealth redistribution” anymore?

        The left’s position isn’t that massive wealth disparity is harmless, but climate change is a threat to people’s well-being. It’s that both of them are bad, and for the same reason. So every regressive carbon tax has to be judged on the merits of whether it increases or reduces harm.

        • cassander says:

          You could always replace a similarly regressive tax such as a sales tax, and dodge the problem.

          • Evan Þ says:

            In Washington, where an income tax is unconstitutional, we would’ve been doing exactly that.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @Evan Þ

            Washington Initiative 732 also reduced the business and occupation tax. So it would be inaccurate to imply that the initiative merely swapped a sales tax for a carbon tax.

        • Anon. says:

          >If the left had chosen the carbon tax in this situation, would you say that you “can’t take them seriously on the issue of wealth redistribution” anymore?

          Obviously the situation cannot be inversed like that. Environmental policy is supposedly about saving the human race, while wealth redistribution is about incremental improvements to living standards. If one accepts the rhetoric, then taking this trade-off would make perfect sense even if you support increases in wealth redistribution.

          • Aapje says:

            A lack of wealth redistribution can severely destabilize society.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Even if a few “anarchists” were mailing bombs around because of lack of redistribution, how would that support redistribution? Giving in to terrorists seems like a terrible idea.

          • skef says:

            Stability isn’t an ethical norm, it’s a functional norm.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Sure, but if a few anarchists are causing trouble (and the 1919 bombings were not a popular uprising), deporting and/or imprisoning the anarchists seems like a better idea all around. Even if Palmer did go overboard.

          • skef says:

            Is your point that, because the link Aapje provides is not sufficient evidence, that wealth inequality cannot (or perhaps in practical terms does not) destabilize a society? Or that the risk can be mitigated by jailing or deporting anyone who breaks the law in response, so everything can just continue per normal?

          • The Nybbler says:

            My first point is that, the events described in the link being insufficient, there is not sufficient evidence on the table of wealth inequality destabilizing society.

            My second point is that if wealth inequality destabilizes society only through the mechanism of providing reasons for small groups to throw bombs, THAT can be mitigated by jailing and/or deporting the bomb-throwers.

            Otherwise, the US should have officially become an Islamic nation by now. Because a nation not being sufficiently Islamic seems sufficient reason for people to commit terrorist attacks upon it.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Even if the stakes involved for climate change vs. wealth distribution are different, there is still the question that has to be weighed as to how much is gained in the trade-off vs how much is lost. If the left viewed the carbon tax as toothless or so incrementally small to be useless, and viewed the losses in wealth distribution as significant, then of course they would reject it.

            It’s like saying to a conservative “would you accept a 2% reduction in immigration in exchange for a 90% income tax on all people who earn >$50,000? No? Aha! Show how little you really care about reducing immigration”

            The climate change problem isn’t so terrifying and imminent that I would be willing to sacrifice every other part of the leftist platform in order to have a small chance of mitigating it. I mean, if the climate crisis is really as bad as they say it is, then conservatives will be acutely aware if it themselves soon enough, and any “bargaining” will have been unnecessary.

          • Aapje says:

            Obviously history doesn’t repeat exactly. My link was illustrative, not to be taken as evidence that it will be anarchists or the left in general that will make (most of the) trouble.

            There was unrest all over the West during the beginning of the 20th century, which seems to correlate with income inequality.

          • Guy in TN says:

            @The Nybbler
            The evidence that large wealth disparities (and in effect, power disparities) destabilizes society comes not from the U.S. in 1919, but from events such as the Russian Revolution, the August Revolution in Vietnam, the Chinese Communist Revolution, ect.

            Question the true motives of the leaders, sure, but the reason the average farmer grabbed their pictchfork certainly had something to do with power disparity.

  22. Charles F says:

    Is the Bobiverse popular with SSC? It’s a (sort of) hard sci-fi series by Dennis E. Taylor about Bob, who dies shortly after signing up for cryonics. When he wakes up in the distant future, things have changed quite a bit, and he becomes part of a program to explore the galaxy and help humans expand beyond Earth.

    I loved the first book and thought it did a great job of being funny, playing with a lot of SF tropes in not completely predictable ways, and especially with organizing all of its subplots coherently/fairly. The second was still good, but understandably a bit less hectic(?), since it’s mostly buildup for the third and final book (which comes out in August).

    • James Miller says:

      I found the first book OK, but my 12-year-old son really liked both books.

    • ThirteenthLetter says:

      I wanted to like it, but it has the sort of emotionless affect that you get from a lot of inexperienced authors on Kindle Unlimited. “Earth? Completely destroyed?” Bob felt like he should be more upset, but then he hadn’t had a lot of attachment to the place. Oh well, time to fight some cardboard villain who won’t have any characterization and be easily disposed of offscreen by my clever plan.

      The era of Kindle is great, don’t get me wrong, and I wouldn’t stop Taylor from writing or anything, and for people who like it that’s fine. It’s just that you do start to get conscious of common weaknesses in writers of genres-popular-on-Kindle after a while.

      • Charles F says:

        That description sounds mostly fair, except that the clever plans are rarely offscreen, and they’re much more entertaining than feelings anyway.

        I wouldn’t recommend it for its emotional depth, but I wonder if listening to the audiobook instead of reading it makes any difference, since I didn’t get the sense that it was emotionless, just that the emotions weren’t a very big deal, which seems like it could plausibly come from a narrator doing emotions where the author hadn’t.

    • Machina ex Deus says:

      Here’s Dennis E. Taylor on Amazon; you should probably switch to Scott’s affiliate link if you’re going to spend money.

      The books (so far):
      1. We Are Legion (We Are Bob)
      2. For We Are Many
      3. All These Worlds

      The first two are apparently available in dead-tree form. No, I haven’t read them, or even heard of them before this. Yes, I probably have undiagnosed OCD. Whoops, forgot to italicize the titles…. fixed.

  23. achenx says:

    Just wanted to say hi, I’ve been lurking for quite a long time and finally decided to get an account. Especially wanted to thank everyone for that autism-spectrum/conversation thread from the other week, which I found fascinating. (Probably not autistm-spectrum myself (though I’ve never asked), but I liked the ‘low-functioning neurotypical’ term from that thread.)

  24. Well... says:

    What are the SSC commentariat’s theories for why temporary tattoos aren’t more popular among adults?

    • Eltargrim says:

      Real tattoos are available to adults. Temporary tattoos are (perceived to be) a childish imitation of adulthood.

      Personally, I find they irritate my skin. I also have a general aversion to aesthetic body modification.

    • Randy M says:

      Because they aren’t very good looking? Generally when I’ve seen them they go on spotty and come off even more unevenly, and at best you have … well, a temporary tattoo, which if it looks anything like a tattoo looks absolutely stupid I don’t care for, but are popular anyway, so who knows.

      (Edit: I was referring to the self-applied temporary tattoos that children use, not to the Henna ones that NaD references below. Those at least go appear as intended, I think? In which case they probably aren’t common because of the time it takes with each application).

      • Well... says:

        Because they aren’t very good looking?

        Usually not, but it doesn’t seem like they should necessarily be so.

        In which case they probably aren’t common because of the time it takes with each application).

        I know henna tattoos have to be applied/drawn by hand…but don’t regular tattoos too?

        • Randy M says:

          I know henna tattoos have to be applied/drawn by hand…but don’t regular tattoos too?

          Yes. Once.

          • Well... says:

            You don’t HAVE to keep going back and getting them every two weeks, though I could easily see a culture in which that was normal.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Henna is a form of temporary tattooing for young adults. Though I haven’t seen quite as much recently as I did a few years ago, so maybe it’s played out as a fad.

      That said, tattoos seem to be pretty much universal among people of my generation. I hate ink with a fiery passion and finding a girl without any tattoos feels roughly as difficult as finding a virgin.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Did you know tattoos are forbidden in Orthodox Judaism? Not that converting for that reason would make sense.

        http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/tattooing-in-jewish-law/

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          No, I didn’t know that. Thanks!

          Not that converting for that reason would make sense.

          I’m not sure I understand your meaning here. Are you saying that people shouldn’t convert to Orthodox Judaism because of this prohibition?

          I’d certainly hope that a potential convert’s zeal was stronger than their desire to tattoo! Otherwise they’ll be in for a big surprise when it comes to their Saturday commute…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            No, I meant that converting to Orthodox Judaism wouldn’t make sense for you as a means to finding an untattooed woman.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Ah ok I see what the confusion was.

            I’m in a relationship with a wonderful tattoo-free girl: I just mistakenly used the present rather than past tense when talking about looking for women.

            Besides, not to be crude, there are certain surgical requirements for conversion which sound very unpleasant. I’d much rather stay a gentile.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Normal temporary tattoos: Don’t last long enough/look bad as they peel off.

      Henna: Takes too long/is too skilled work/is too inconvenient to put on. Looks bad as it fades.

      When I was younger, I really wanted a really good removable tattoo. Preferably something that lasted until it could be painlessly, inexpensively, and permanently removed. I tried henna a few times and liked it, except for the caveats above. I (probably correctly) felt like I wouldn’t like any real tattoo in 5/10/20 years.

    • Urstoff says:

      Is that what makeup is?

      • Well... says:

        Hm. Interesting suggestion.

        I think makeup and tattoos are distinct in other ways than their permanence (and of course there is “permanent makeup” too). So, ultimately my answer would be No.

        But it does make me think it should be possible to have temporary tattoo parlors, where you go get a temporary tattoo that’s drawn on by a temporary tattoo artist, who basically works with brushes and makeup instead of needles and ink.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          It does seem as though wearing skillfully done paint would be satisfyingly conspicuous consumption.

          Maybe it hasn’t happened because no one has figured out how to market it. Or possibly it’s too expensive for the mass market, while a tattoo is more of a long term investment.

          • Well... says:

            I can’t imagine it’s a financial consideration. Many of the adults I see using food stamps at the grocery store have visible tattoos that must have cost hundreds of dollars. Millennials complaining about their college debt are frequently similarly adorned.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A tattoo lasts for the rest of one’s life. Spending hundreds of dollars on the tattoo isn’t the same as spending fifty or a hundred dollars on paint that might only last a week or less.

          • Well... says:

            My point was, the money question doesn’t seem that important to people who are adorning themselves with tattoos. They apparently find the money for it even when they can’t afford it.

            Many black women spend hundreds of dollars getting their hair did every 2 weeks even when they’re single moms without full-time jobs. I can envision temporary tattoos filling a similar niche, if they could be made to look good.

            One advantage they’d have, BTW, is more vibrant color and a wider range of color options, especially on dark skin.

    • JayT says:

      I’ve always wondered if they could produce a tattoo ink that would break down after some amount of time, so that you get a regular tattoo, but you can choose how long you want it to last; one year, five years, forever, etc. I would think there would be a large market for that.

  25. baconbacon says:

    If you like wonky economics here you go

    If the growth rate in corporate profits increases, about two quarters later, labor income will also tend to increase. On the other hand, if the growth rate in labor compensation increases, profits tend to decrease over the next few quarters.

    This suggests that there is a sort of Phillips Curve, but higher wages aren’t being paid for with higher prices. And higher wages aren’t being paid for with lower profits. Higher wages are being paid for with higher growth. And there is enough growth to go around, so that profit expectations are rising as real wages rise.

  26. DrBeat says:

    So, how does a person get some experimental treatment with ketamine for depression, if they aren’t living in or near one of the cities that apparently do it regularly? I’ve seriously tried everything else, and people keep saying it’s the most promising treatment, but I just can’t find a way to make it happen to me.

    • skef says:

      The old strategy was to go to a rave and ask the 14 year old girl with the stuffed animal backpack who had drugs, and she would take you to a dealer … but that advice may be out of date now.

      Ketamine is still a recreational drug in some circles. It shouldn’t be that hard to get your hands on some. Are you young, or do you have young friends/acquaintances who are aware you aren’t a narc?

      • DrBeat says:

        I’m pretty sure that ketamine for recreational use isn’t the sort of IV infusions they use to treat depression with.

        Also, you don’t have to pay for clinical trials, and if a doctor prescribes it your insurance will pay for it, but health insurance companies don’t like to pay for drugs you got from the raver with a backpack.

        • skef says:

          With ketamine IV would mostly be to aid with dosing level, but people don’t have much trouble figuring that out. A “trip” doesn’t last very long.

          Everything you say is true, but that chance of getting into a trial taking place where you happen to live is remote, and good luck getting a prescription for a schedule IIIN substance for off-label use.

          (I’m being charitable and assuming this isn’t an elaborate Gloria Estefan reference … )

          • Nornagest says:

            “Doctor, I want to perform an unethical medical experiment on myself.”

          • DrBeat says:

            I mean, they do it in some places. They don’t appear to even need a prescription. If I lived in one of those cities where they did it, I would be able to get the treatment without much difficulty. So it being Schedule III off-label can’t be that big a problem.

            But how do I get doctors at the place where I am, to do the thing doctors in other places do?

        • rlms says:

          I don’t know if clinical (for depression) and recreational ketamine are the same, but according to the articles I can find it seems that recreational ketamine is taken in much greater doses. That would reduce the price.

        • Dog says:

          Prescription and recreational ketamine are typically one and the same. Pharmaceutical vials are diverted or purchased overseas, and the water is evaporated to produce powder for snorting. If we assume $100/g on the black market (a high estimate) and a 50mg dose every 2 weeks for depression, that’s $10 a month for treatment. The risk would be very low purchasing sealed vials on the darknet, shipped from within the US, with a little due diligence on whatever vendor.

          When you say you’ve tried everything else, what does that include, and how desperate are you? There are a lot of other less known / less tested / potentially risky options that are not illegal like ketamine. I’ll just throw some out:

          Strong MAOIs (Nardil for example)
          Augmenting an SSRI with l-methylfolate (Deplin) – this has worked for my wife
          Tianeptine (easy to buy online)
          NSI-189 (fairly easy to buy)

  27. dodrian says:

    What books have you read that significantly improved your life or a part of it (hobby, work, etc)?

    I highly recommend the book Cooking for Geeks. Before reading I enjoyed cooking, and knew a bunch of recipes that I could cook well. After reading it I began to understand cooking and got much better at finding and executing good recipes, with more delicious results. It added a good knowledge foundation to my hobby.

    What’s different from a normal cookbook is that it takes a systematic approach to cooking, working through the different processes involved (taste theory, ingredient reactions, heat reactions, food safety, etc). It’s interspersed with lots of recipes which not only describe what to do, but why it should be done that way (and sometimes experiments that change the outcome).

    What are your recommendations?

  28. skef says:

    The Google recruiter who cold-called me last week did a respectable if incomplete job of hiding her disgust at what I’ve been doing for the past decade. If you’re wondering about the current etiquette for email boilerplate, it’s still three business days.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      If you don’t mind me asking, what have you been doing for the past decade? It’s really bugging me now.

      • skef says:

        My Linkedin page clearly states: “Gone fishin'”.

        More detail is available from my organization.

  29. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Has anyone read Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning? It should be of interest here because it has a future where everyone lives under a government they choose rather than government being mostly a matter of where one lives.

    • Jiro says:

      If my neighbor lives under the “allow loud noises at night” government, and I live under the “creating loud noises at night is a public nuisance” government, how do things proceed?

      An awful lot of things governments do are tied to physical location, and having the governments do them in a patchwork of house-sized plots interleaved with house-sized plots of other governments causes problems. If one government doesn’t want X to be imported, but their territory is interleaved with that of a government that does, do they put border guards at every house to prevent the import of contraband? How can one government have a military without the other interleaved governments free-riding? What about one government doing things to lower the crime rate on their territory? What if one government wants to restrict immigration? Is zoning impossible? Do students living in the same area have to go to different schools depending on what government they’ve chosen?

      • baconbacon says:

        Why would the smallest size be a house sized plot? In what world do you live where the only housing options are ‘house sized’?

      • John Schilling says:

        For all the talk about “everyone lives under a government they chose”, every time someone takes one of the fancy hypersonic travel pods to a new city there’s an announcement on the PA saying essentially “welcome to City X, be advised that the laws of Hive Y apply to all visitors”. So I think what they really have is a set of eight patchwork nation-states whose territory is non-contiguous on continental scales but distinct at the city level. I don’t think we get to see any non-urban environments; it’s not that kind of novel. But if e.g. the EU hive has strict gun control laws, then nobody in Brussels gets to have a gun no matter which government (or lack thereof) they “chose” for themselves.

        The fact that such nations are militarily indefensible is I think a major plot point, possibly verging on spoiler territory but the third book in the series is “The Will to Battle”.

      • Most of your examples take for granted a government on the scale we are currently used to, and disappear in a society where government limits itself to what used to be considered its core functions of police, courts, and national defense. No good reason why schooling should be linked to government, no good reason to have restrictions on imports.

        The one clear public good is defense against nations. Police protection has some public good element, but not all that large. If the main mechanism is deterrence, all you need to make it a private good is a way of telling the burglar which government is responsible for catching and punishing him if he burgles you. If it’s actually patrols there is a public good element, but it shouldn’t be that hard for different governments operating in the same area to arrange cooperation–if we see someone breaking into one of your people’s houses we arrest him, turn him over to you, and send you the bill for our efforts, you do the same for us.

        • You have answered the question in terms of something, burglary, which everyone regards as wrong, but the question was posed in terms of something where preferences vary.

    • rlms says:

      Yes, I’ve been recommending it on every book recommendation thread here for the last few months. I think that one interesting way to view it (specifically the character of Bridger) is as anti-rationalist fiction that argues against some of the implicit ideas of e.g. HPMOR. Rot13:

      Va engvbanysvp (V’z guvaxvat bs UCZBE fcrpvsvpnyyl), gur boivbhf guvat gb qb jura lbh rapbhagre rira jrnx-frrzvat fhcreangheny cbjref vf gb hfr gurz gb obbgfgenc lbhefrys vagb tbqubbq. Oevqtre nyzbfg cnebqvrf guvf, nf ur vf nyernql cerggl zhpu bzavcbgrag; ab engvbanyvfg zhapuxvavat vf arrqrq.

      Ohg ur nyfb punyyratrf guvf vqrn zbenyyl naq cenpgvpnyyl. Fhccbfr Zlpebsg jnf n glcvpny engvbanysvp UWCRI rkcl. Ur jbhyq jnag gb fbzrubj hfr Oevqtre gb tnva tbq-yvxr cbjref naq fbyir nyy gur ceboyrzf bs gur jbeyq. Gur zbeny ceboyrz pbzrf sebz gur snpg gung uvf cngu gb qbvat fb vf irel pyrne: ur vf irel tbbq ng znavchyngvat crbcyr, naq Oevqtre vf irel ihyarenoyr, fb gerngvat uvz nf n chccrg jbhyq or rnfl. Vs lbh ubyq glcvpny engvbanysvp hgvyvgnevna zbeny ivrjf, gur pubvpr gb qb fb fubhyq or rnfl. Rira vs Zlpebsg unq gb gbegher Oevqtre gb trg pbageby bs uvz, gur snpg gung qbvat fb fnirf yvgrenyyl rirelbar ryfr va gur jbeyq rire zrnaf vg vf fgvyy pyrneyl zbenyyl pbeerpg. Ohg Oevqtre vf na vaabprag puvyq, fb qbvat gung jbhyq or erchyfvir. Guvf xvaq bs punyyratr gb hgvyvgnevnavfz vf abguvat arj, ohg vg’f vagrerfgvat va guvf yvgrenel pbagrkg.

      Gurer vf nyfb n cenpgvpny punyyratr. Oevqtre pna urny nal qvfrnfr, naq oevat crbcyr onpx gb yvsr. Engvbanysvp bsgra gerngf cbffrffvba bs gubfr novyvgvrf nf na raq tbny gung’f onfvpnyyl rdhvinyrag gb univat fbyirq gur jbeyq’f ceboyrzf. Ohg Gbb Yvxr Gur Yvtugavat cbvagf bhg gung ba n tybony fpnyr, gubfr novyvgvrf ner whfg gur fgneg. Vs lbh npghnyyl jnag gb hfr gurz, lbh arrq gb jbex bhg gur ybtvfgvpf, naq fbpvny naq rpbabzvp pbafrdhraprf rgp.

      Have you read the sequel?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve only read the first hundred pages or so.

        I’m not dead certain how utopian it’s supposed to be– it may be more like prosperous and pretty good for most people, which is not the same thing as ideal. I do think a lot of people like the idea of bash’s– the typical method of organization is voluntary households with about 8(?) adults.

        I’m not surprised that there’s likely to be war– there’s a scene at the beginning which adds up to soldiers having virtue which is not available to civilians.

    • John Schilling says:

      I couldn’t help but compare it to Neal Stephenson’s “Diamond Age”, which I think did a better job of worlbuilding with the same general concept. Partly because Stephenson is better and more experienced at this sort of thing, but also partly because he isn’t trying to depict a utopia and so doesn’t have to make everything fit neatly together. Palmer is I think ultimately trying to depict a utopia falling apart, but if you’re going to spend the first two books in the utopia, you really have to sell the audience on the plausibility of it.

      As noted in my response to Jiro, I think the government is better modeled as eight fractal territorial nations, at least insofar as urban humanity is concerned. And if you are concerned only with people who live in cities that they fly between in stratospheric travel units, then how is that really different than what we have now? Everybody lives in a city, every city belongs to one of a handful of Nations That Matter, every city has one set of laws that everybody has to follow, does it make a difference that in your hour of flying between one EU city and the next you may overfly the cities of half a dozen other nations?

      Also, I have a hard time believing that everyone living under a government they chose leads to seven roughly equal Hives and the “hiveless” ubergovernment. I’d expect more of a power-law distribution, with a few large and many smaller governments, and I would expect new governments to be founded from time to time. The mechanism by which smaller hives are forced to assimilate and creation of new ones is suppressed, begs explanation in a nominally utopian setting.

      Similarly, 100% of humanity being on-board with the New World Order, and apparently within a few years because one guy gave a speech after an ugly war, is not plausible. There are still going to be people who want to live in actual nations, and the EU-themed hive doesn’t qualify. Also, the European Union as the last bastion of nationalism? Pull the other one. Stephenson had China as a remnant Nation, which seems about right. Also America, United States Of.

      The conflict-of-laws issue seems to have been neatly resolved by having everybody agree that everybody should live under the same sort of laws that e.g. California or Western Europe have today, because those are Obviously Right, but if someone wants to subscribe to some ascetic code about human development or charity or for all I know not having gay sex, hey, we’re so enlightened we’ll let them join a Hive of fellow charity-givers or not-gay-sex-havers or whatever and kick out anyone who violates the code. Whee. Show me a system that solves the hard problems.

      The broad nature of the spoileriffic conspiracy wasn’t beyond reason, but the setting I think was. It at minimum points to a huge unfulfilled void in their society, that would not have been left unfilled as long as it apparently was.

      Saving the best for last, the bit where they entirely abolished religion because there was an ugly war about religion, and everybody was OK with that once we gave everybody free psychotherapy in place of religion, I’m kind of not buying that one either. If I visit Mecca in your timeline, how long do I have to wait for the radioactivity to die down to safe levels?

      It will probably win this year’s Hugo, but I’m not planning to stick with the series unless I hear things have changed substantially and for the better in Will to Battle. Which is possible, but if that’s where Palmer is going I think she’s taking too slow a road. A Potemkin-village utopia needs to whiz by too fast for me to see the cracks.

      • rlms says:

        Eh, is it supposed to be a utopia? I’m not sure, the restrictions on religions and pbafcvenpl gb zheqre crbcyr sbe gur Terngre Tbbq are pretty dystopian. I don’t think the small number of hives is unrealistic, they are subject to many of the same forces that stop real countries fragmenting and also gurl unir frperg vaprfghbhf eryngvbafuvcf orgjrra gurve yrnqre gung cerfhznoyl yrg gurz fgbc nalbar ryfr trggvat gbb cbjreshy.

        • John Schilling says:

          Both of the conspiratorial elements you describe, IIRC, explicitly postdate the New World Order by a substantial degree and one was formed within living memory, yet there’s no indication that the Hives were a noticeably worse place to live until recently. Or, more precisely, people noticed that the rate of fatal car crashes went from 90/year (worldwide) to 5-10 but didn’t understand the underlying implications; I’m going to count that as utopian before and after the conspiracy.

          Utopias that depend on the Secret Masters making critical decisions behind the scenes are a common enough trope in fiction, I believe, and still count as Utopias. As are ones where the author sincerely expects us to believe, because they believe themselves, that the recipe for Utopia starts with “No more religion! Really, we mean it, or else! The nice therapist will make you feel happy about this”.

          Having God as a supporting character in that sort of work is, I admit, a tad unusual :-)

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Also, the narrator is subject to quite a harsh form of slavery– it might be better than imprisonment (that would depend on conditions), but not very utopian.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It’s been a while since I’ve read Snow Crash, but as I recall it didn’t do justice to a polylegal system. There was an episode about an obnoxious guy who was punished but he wasn’t really part of the system.

        It seems reasonable that some behavior is more local (like how much noise you can make) and needs to be covered by local laws or agreements or whatever, but other things (like what contracts are permissible) could be fully polylegal.

    • Iain says:

      I thought it was charmingly audacious. I don’t think the world-building really holds together under examination, but I get the feeling that Ada Palmer knows that and went ahead with it anyway because it seemed like fun.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I enjoyed the first book but thought the second book rather crummy.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I started the free sample from Amazon and got rapidly tired of how, I don’t know, precious it seemed? Like I can’t really remember very much about it now, but wasn’t it all “Oh, I’m going to tell this story with an enormous number of literary devices because I’m clever.” And I didn’t really like the literary devices in question (I’ve liked other ones, this is not a general statement about clever literary devices), and I rapidly just put it down.

      So my question is: Is it all like the first ten pages are?

      • dndnrsn says:

        I found the first book very hard to get into, but then it picked up. The second one was a slog all the way through.

      • rlms says:

        No, but also yes. The content changes a lot, but the style stays the same. I think your quote is a pretty accurate description (although I’d say it’s more “enormous knowledge of obscure historical and philosophical details”) so if that doesn’t appeal to you then you probably won’t like it.

    • rlms says:

      Ada Palmer also has some brilliant blog posts about Machiavelli and the Borgias here and here. They are probably my second favourite set of blog posts (after classic SSC ones).

    • hoghoghoghoghog says:

      Gur uvirf nera’g fgngrf; gurl ner traqref. That’s the twist of book 2 I think.

  30. gbdub says:

    Has anyone read Sarah Schulman’s Conflict is Not Abuse? It seems like it might have some applications to Scott’s recent question about polarization, and generally to improving the quality of dialogue. From a review:

    According to Schulman, conflating conflict and abuse encourages people to embrace the rhetoric of victimhood. Once a person perceives themselves as a victim of abuse, rather than a human being dealing with an uncomfortable and complex situation, they have overreacted and thus have escalated the situation. Now that the situation is escalated, the “victim” then uses their self-subordinated position to justify cruel actions. Once a person or group has been labeled an abuser, it’s “okay” to scapegoat them and shun them, which, as Schulman says more than once in this book, “never, ever” helps.

    Thoughts? If you’ve read it, is it worth the time, or do you pretty much get everything out of the (interesting) thesis?

  31. Matt M says:

    I’d like to discuss economically disadvantaged people who don’t move. I’ll start with two major questions (that are basically the same question, just phrased differently).

    1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

    2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

    This has been on my mind for some time. Almost all of the “Progressive liberal NYC reporter goes and visits rural Trump voters to confirm that they are in fact human” articles we saw before the election hinted at this but rarely addressed it directly. The story usually goes like “Back in the 1930s, Nowhere, WV was a thriving metropolis with a bright downtown strip featuring two cinemas, fancy restaurants with valet parking, and jazz clubs which served the thriving 60,000 residents who worked in the nearby coal industry. But today, the coal industry that remains is mostly automated, employs only 5,000 people, downtown is shuttered, and the remaining 20,000 residents live in dire poverty.” But the question of “So why don’t they leave?” rarely seems to come up, and even if it does, the reasons always seem pretty tame to me, things like “Well I don’t want my kids to have to change schools” or “Well my parents live here and I wouldn’t want to be too far from them.”

    As a second item, I recently read “Janesville” by Amy Goldstein, which is something of a chronicle of the town of Janesville, Wisconsin from 2008 – 2013. Janesville was known for having a GM assembly plant that employed almost the whole town for decades on end, and I’m sure you can imagine how that goes in 2008. The plant closes and suddenly, tens of thousands of comfortably middle class people making well above market wages for basically unskilled labor and enjoying cushy union benefits are dumped out into the workforce to fend for themselves. Well, kinda. The book briefly mentions that, as far as I can tell, every single one of these workers (whose sob stories cover the next 200 pages) was offered the opportunity to stay with GM and maintain their salary/benefits/seniority, if they were willing to move to another plant. The book doesn’t follow up on this much. Of the 10+ characters whose lives it follows, none chose to move (perhaps this makes sense, as the narrative is about the town, but still…). Only a fraction take a sort of middle-ground option of driving six hours away to work at the closest plant to Janesville during the week, renting a cheap apartment there, and coming home on the weekends. Once again, the reasons why are things like “Well my daughter is on the high school basketball team” and even more generally a sentiment of things like “but this is my home. I don’t want to leave.”

    And like, okay, fine. You have a right to make that decision. But I feel like people who make that decision are, in fact, less deserving of sympathy (and probably of government benefits) than those who don’t. I’d much rather my tax dollars go towards people who legitimately can’t find work anywhere than people who are are really upset that they can’t find work in the specific small town in the middle of nowhere that they’d prefer to live in. I feel like this is a VERY big difference that is rarely discussed. Don’t tell me “Bob has done everything he could and he just can’t find any work” when Bob was offered $25/hr and fantastic benefits to move to Arlington, Texas (not exactly a dystopian hellscape imho) and do the same job he was doing before. Tell Bob to either move or stop whining.

    I have a lot more to say here but this is already getting long. Maybe I’ll elaborate on some additional points once the discussion moves along.

    • gbdub says:

      There’s also probably some sunk cost fallacy going on – if they own a house, it might be nearly impossible to sell it for anything close to what they paid for it, since the town is dying.

      But generally I agree they probably just ought to move. Sucks, but them’s the breaks.

      Then again there’s a lot of the same going on in big cities, and there seem to be much stronger efforts to help / sympathize with those people (pushes for higher minimum wage laws, rent control, etc).

      • if they own a house, it might be nearly impossible to sell it for anything close to what they paid for it, since the town is dying.

        Why does almost everybody think home ownership is a good thing? If it introduces friction into the job market, it is surely a bad thing.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Why does almost everybody think home ownership is a good thing?

          “Almost everybody” doesn’t, though it’s probably still the belief of the majority in the US. There are good economic reasons; it works as a hedge against rising rents, for instance. (although like any such hedge, there’s a downside; if rents fall, you lose). But there are other reasons too. When you have a landlord, you have an extra intermediary to go through to do anything with the house, both repairs and modifications all the way down to painting the walls. You can’t make any improvements without the landlord’s permission and essentially gifting them to the landlord (who may even raise your rent for doing them). If you’re paying utilities, the landlord doesn’t care much about things like insulation or efficiency in the HVAC, and the appliances are going to be the cheapest possible for the market segment. And you have to consider that you may have to move (usually with 60-90 days notice) at the end of any lease period.

          If it introduces friction into the job market, it is surely a bad thing.

          If that were the only factor involved.

          • Brad says:

            I think the question of whether or not widespread homeownership is a good thing to encourage and heavily subsidize is different from whether it is better for particular individuals to own or rent. Especially since the second question depends on the financial environment created by answering the first.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I left the mortgage-interest tax deduction out for a reason. It doesn’t matter at all for the rather large portion of the population which doesn’t pay federal income tax, which probably includes most of the people we’re talking about even before the mine closed or whatever.

          • @Brad

            Exactly–something that is good for individuals but bad for society should be taxed, not subsidised. One of my pet peeves is subsidised home ownership…the local-benefit, distributed cost thing that conservatives like.

          • Randy M says:

            Do you mean that it is bad for society because there are external harms, or because the home owners are less free to move to maximize economic efficiency?

            I can certainly see no subsidizing home ownership if it isn’t cost-effective, but taxing someone because they have priorities other than being the optimal economic cog isn’t something I’d support.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t think home ownership is bad for society, and I’m not sure evidence exists that this would be so. After all somebody has to own the buildings, the occupants seem at least as good as any. “Subsidize it” and “tax it” aren’t the only options. Of course we do both, subsidize it federally and tax it locally (and the Feds also subsidize the local governments by letting you deduct property tax from income).

            We introduced some distortions to the market that caused problems, but I don’t think that shows that therefore everyone should be a renter.

          • Brad says:

            The MID is just the tip of the iceberg.

            The interventions that allow the US market to have 30 year fixed rate mortgages with 5-20% down, no prepayment penalty, at rates barely above the risk free rate is a bigger deal.

          • Charles F says:

            The interventions that allow the US market to have 30 year fixed rate mortgages with 5-20% down, no prepayment penalty, at rates barely above the risk free rate is a bigger deal.

            Maybe not the best thing to go into at the bottom level of a thread, but what are those interventions? I was under the impression that the rates are barely above the risk free rate because under normal circumstances they’re barely risky, what with prices normally rising with inflation and the loans being secured by a house. And in practice, is there a lot of prepayment risk on home loans? It doesn’t seem like your average family these days is saving enough to pay off their mortgage very early. And if they do, don’t banks have plenty of other people to give mortgages to? I don’t care if, for example, somebody pays off a bond early if there are a bunch of other bonds that I can buy with that payout. Even moreso if I don’t have to worry about interest rates dropping since I’ll just drop the rates I’m paying on savings accounts to match.

            No idea what factors contribute to the 5-20% expectation for down payments, but naively, it seems like if you made them a lot higher there would barely be a point getting a mortgage at all, since you could just save and buy it outright in a reasonable-ish timeframe.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Charles F

            There are a number of mortgage terms that are standardized by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA); these loans are eligible to be purchased by the government-sponsored enterprises FNMA and Freddie Mac, who take those loans and package them into securities to be resold on the investment market. It appears that for fixed-rate mortgages, the term cannot exceed 30 years and at least 5% down is required. However, prepayment penalties are not forbidden provided they are disclosed and a non-penalty loan was available at higher cost. Also, the rate is not set by the mortgage packager.

          • Charles F says:

            @The Nybbler

            So, my (possibly completely backwards) reading of @Brad’s comment was that in a reasonable environment that wasn’t heavily subsidizing home-ownership, some or all of the following would apply: mortgages would be shorter, require higher down-payments, require either higher or variable interest rates, and have more prepayment penalties, and just generally be worse for prospective homeowners.

            The things you mention don’t seem to me to be directly pushing those factors in the other direction very hard. So was my reading wrong or is something else going on? Maybe a situation where it’s easier to make the loans easy for buyers and then sell them to the government to avoid dealing with the risk yourself than it would be to make mortgages you would actually want to keep. (While competing with everybody else who’s offering great deals)

          • Brad says:

            I’m on the road and can’t make a long post, but:
            * The ultimate source of funds for most residential mortgages is not demand deposits but bonds. Mostly GSE bonds.
            * Repayment risk is a very real cost. You can google ‘pricing embedded put option bonds’ to find some models or use a bond lookup engine to try to find the spread on similar bonds, one puttable and one not. Note the longer the obligation the more valuable the option.
            * Regarding until recently housing prices always went up, take a look at the Case-Schiller chart that goes back to 1890. Keep in mind that recently is a function of the term of the mortgage.
            * Finally, in terms of seizing the collateral, recovery rates are awful and can take 2+ years.

            Holding American mortgages isn’t a financially rational thing to do. Mostly they are held by de jure and de facto government agencies (or in some cases only the default risk is held by them). Secondarily, they are held by heavily regulated institutions that are incentivized to hold them by bad risk regulation rules. Thirdly they are held by institutions suffering from bad agent principal problems where agents get paid well in the good years for picking up nickels in front of s steamroller and at worst get fired when their principals get flattened (or bailed out).

            If you want to disagree with this analysis, consider if you’d be willing to invest in mortgages from out of your retirement savings.

          • Charles F says:

            If you want to disagree with this analysis, consider if you’d be willing to invest in mortgages from out of your retirement savings.

            Ha. No.

            I can definitely see why prepayment risk is a big deal in general, it just seems like it would be mostly a non-issue in the case of mortgages, for the reasons I stated above. People don’t sell their houses or have large windfalls that often and the times when they do probably don’t correlate very strongly with the times when interest rates are low.

            The rest of the points make sense and are convincing even without prepayment risk.

          • I don’t understand this totally myself, but I read recently that before the Great Depression that most houses did not have mortgages on them, and those that did maxed out at about 10-12 years. I think it was FDR that decided that home ownership was a good thing, and so he set up semi-government loan agencies that created mortgages out to 30 years. Those agencies changed around over the years, and now consist of Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac. I may have some of these details wrong, but that is the gist.

            But I don’t really understand Brad’s comment implying that investing n home mortgages is a bad deal. It used to be extremely popular to invest in securitized home mortgages (for corporate and institutional investing at least), because it appeared that they gave great rates and were very safe. Then the Great Recession happened and people found out they weren’t so safe after all. But they are still reasonable investments if one properly takes risk into account.

            But my understanding is that the Feds do subsidize the mortgage markets pretty big time — I just don’t understand exactly how.

            Edit: Ah yes, I think the subsidy mostly comes because most investors believe the Feds will back up the investments if they collapse. And that is what basically happened in the Great Recession, so investors were mostly right.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Charles F

            The average lifespan of a 30 year mortgage is somewhere in the rough neighborhood of 5 years. And this includes refinances, which people do when rates are low. But of course the banks and the GSEs know this, so prepayment risk is priced into the loan and the into the securities.

            Mortgage-backed securities funds are of course still around; they took a big hit in 2008-2009 and another in 2013, but they’re well above their lows. The mortgages themselves are still held by the bond issuer (typically a GSE).

          • Brad says:

            @Charles F
            The repayment risk is almost entirely driven by refinancing.

            Suppose you are a GSE raising funds by selling bonds at the risk free rate (because you are de facto issuing government debt) and hold a group of mortgage at 100 basis above that. 2 years later the risk free rate drops a 150 bps and all the mortgages in that pool refinance at 50 bps below what you owe on those bonds that you still have 28 years left of coupons to pay. Now what?

            Of course you can make your bonds callable but now you are eating into your already thin spread.

          • Salem says:

            At least in the U.K., home ownership is widely considered to have positive externalities. Home owners stay in the same place far longer than renters, and have a significant part of their net worth tied up in the property; this means that they are invested, figuratively and literally, in the community to a far greater extent.

            You may be familiar with the saying that no-one ever washed a rented car. By the same token, transient, univested residents are less likely to invest in public goods such as Neighbourhood Watch schemes, youth groups, etc. They are less likely to keep their homes in good repair and looking nice. They are less likely to bring pressure on local politicians to improve amenities. Etc. In fact, all this is so broadly accepted that it is a pure commonplace to ask an estate agent whether the people in an area are mostly renters or owners.

            It may be that there are negative externalities from home ownership (e.g. potentially, increased NIMBYism) but these are rarely discussed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In fact, Freddy Mac bonds can be prepaid by Freddy Mac at any time, so the prepayment risk is shouldered by the bondholder.

            Gold PCs differ from U.S. Treasury securities and other fixed income investments in two ways: first, they can be prepaid at any time since the underlying mortgages can be paid off by homeowners prior to a loan’s maturity. Because of this call option investors have implicitly sold to homeowners, mortgage-backed securities generally provide a higher nominal yield than certain other fixed-income products.
            Second, Gold PCs are not backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, as are U.S. Treasury securities.

            http://www.freddiemac.com/mbs/docs/fs_goldpcs.pdf

          • Charles F says:

            The repayment risk is almost entirely driven by refinancing.

            I had some mistaken ideas about prepayment penalties. I thought they were for prepayments that were not refinancing, and that there was always a penalty for refinancing. I see now that there are “soft” and “hard” prepayment penalties depending on whether they apply to not refinancing, and some mortgages don’t have penalties for either.

          • At least in the U.K., home ownership is widely considered to have positive externalities. Home owners stay in the same place far longer than renters, and have a significant part of their net worth tied up in the property; this means that they are invested, figuratively and literally, in the community to a far greater extent

            .

            Those are advantages from the POV of social conservatism, , and disadvantages from the POV of free market conservatism. If conservatives only see one side of the issue, they can end up damaging the economy.

            It may be that there are negative externalities from home ownership (e.g. potentially, increased NIMBYism)

            …which includes locking non homeowners out of the market, self defeatingly…

            but these are rarely discussed

            .

            Maybe they should be.

          • Salem says:

            Those are advantages from the POV of social conservatism, , and disadvantages from the POV of free market conservatism.

            It is not clear to me how the creation of local public goods as described in that comment is a disadvantage from the POV of free market conservatism. Could you please explain?

            I agree with you entirely that we should talk about the positive and negative externalities of home ownership (or anything really) in a balanced manner. However, the negative externalities of home ownership in the UK are mostly a consequence of our incredibly restrictive planning rules. If local authorities did not have the power to block development (and they shouldn’t), then I think the negative externalities would be few indeed.

          • It is not clear to me how the creation of local public goods as described in that comment is a disadvantage from the POV of free market conservatism. Could you please explain?

            I didn’t write the comment referred to, but I am pretty sure it relates to all the discussion above; that buying a house makes it more difficult to move when the job market dries up locally. I agree with that comment. It is not just the UK where people claim that buying a house makes one a more upstanding member of the community by giving yourself a stake in it. That is a very strong meme in the US. But that claim is over-stated, and it does not account for the downsides of owning a house, which is a large drop in flexibility. Flexibility is an important aspect of a prosperous economy.

          • Salem says:

            buying a house makes it more difficult to move when the job market dries up locally

            That’s entirely true, but how is it an externality? The cost is borne by the homeowner. Where’s the problem for free market conservatism? All kinds of products have costs and benefits.

          • Matt M says:

            I think the argument is that things which make labor markets less efficient (like tying labor to specific geographic regions) would harm us all, generally. The more efficient the market, the better off everyone is. If owning a home makes you less efficient, then it makes everyone worse off!

          • Brad says:

            A couple of things about externalities:
            1) The zero point isn’t terribly significant. A loss of positive externality looks quite similar to a negative externality.
            2) The concept of externalities is strictly positive, normative considerations don’t come into it.

            Combining those two you can see, for example, that while I might well believe that no one has the right to anyone else’s labor and that everyone has the right to decide for himself what substances to put into his body, that wouldn’t at all change the fact that when someone starts taking heroin and stops working there’s negative impacts on other people.

            Going back to housing, I wonder if there’s any kind of terminology or literature on the incidents of positive and negative externalitites. While I couldn’t say this is the case for sure, it is conceivable that widespread homeownership is a good for a community and bad for a nation.

          • @Salem & Matt:

            In a straight market system, the cost of my being less productive is born by me. My wage is my marginal revenue product, when my MRP declines by $X my wage declines by $X. The basis of an efficiency theorem is that the individual making a decision on the market bears the net cost of that decision, so it is in his interest to make the decision that it is in our interest for him to make.

            The central reason that may not be true in our system is the interaction with the non-market system. If I become so much less productive that I am unemployed I collect unemployment compensation or welfare payments, a cost to others. If my income goes down by $X, the amount I pay the IRS goes down by some fraction of $X. If because I cannot get a job I turn to crime, that produces non-market costs for others.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Not a lot of sympathy, really. Sucks to have to move because the economy dried up, but it’s an ordinary hazard of living. Even some of us white collar people have had to do it.

      On the other hand, one argument might go if we can put the urban welfare class in some of the most desirable real estate in Manhattan, why not subsidize the rural welfare class where they sit in Busttown, WV?

      • Matt M says:

        Even some of us white collar people have had to do it.

        I don’t have time to get into this a lot right now (more to come!) but I would go a lot further than this. White collar people proactively seek out opportunities to do it.

        I’d be willing to bet that if you graphed net worth/income on one axis and “amount of times in your life you’ve moved more than 100 miles away” there’s a very strong correlation.

        • Charles F says:

          I’d be willing to bet that if you graphed net worth/income on one axis and “amount of times in your life you’ve moved more than 100 miles away” there’s a very strong correlation.

          I think you might be interested in Tyler Cowen’s The Complacent Class. I haven’t read it yet but I believe there’s a chapter devoted to this.

        • Wrong Species says:

          White collar people are generally considered to have pretty weak community ties as well.

        • The Nybbler says:

          White collar people proactively seek out opportunities to do it.

          This is also true, but I’d consider it a different phenomenon. There’s a difference between moving from where there is a job to where there is a better job, and moving because where there used to be a job, there isn’t any more.

        • skef says:

          White collar people proactively seek out opportunities to do it.

          I want to flip the script on this.

          Is this the underlying role of college that people seem to wonder more and more about? Providing a structured “restart” environment, complete with new friends, as a safe way of breaking with existing social relations? And with an inherent time-limit, making it inevitable that people go on to a different stage (in the place they are needed)? Without some whole-life replacement structure like college or the military, what percentage of people would break those ties?

          • hoghoghoghoghog says:

            This is a really great question. Can anyone think of a natural experiment, some random circumstance that causes very similar young people to move or not move?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @hoghoghoghoghog, the army?

        • Shion Arita says:

          I’m in academic scientific research (phd student). I know there are a lot less of us than people working in industry as we call it, but our experience with moving is that you won’t get to choose where you’ll be at all. I have absolutely no idea where I will live 5 years from now. It could well be half the world away. Because at the low levels, you have no control over things like that (and even at the high levels to be honest).

          I don’t know how similar or different industry is, but in my field, being moved isn’t like the GM thing, nor is it something to be proactively sough out, it just happens.

          • Tibor says:

            @Shion Arita: Of course you get to choose. There is nothing special about research – you’re offered a good position somewhere, you decide that the benefits of moving there and the position itself outweigh the costs and you move. Or you don’t. If you want to be in a specific place you might have to accept that the research institute is not quite ideal or that the position is not as attractive financially.

          • Corey says:

            Choosing between multiple competing job offers is something that doesn’t usually happen (graduation excepted).

            The choice is typically (if you’re lucky) taking the offer or staying in the current job, or (if you’re not) taking the offer or an indeterminate period of additional unemployment.

          • Creutzer says:

            Corey is very much right, a choice between competing job offers is not something one can expect to experience as an academic in many, many fields. It’s normally move or be unemployed/quit academia. However, the academic job market is very unrepresentative of anything, so I don’t think one should make much of it in the context of white-collar jobs and mobility in general.

          • Tibor says:

            @Creutzer: But being an academic is a choice itself. If I say “I will only work for Silicon Valley companies” and then complain about here not being much choice left, it is because I made a very restrictive choice already.

          • Creutzer says:

            I’m not really sure what point you’re making here. But I’m sure you can see yourself why the comparison with “I will only work for Silicon Valley companies” is inappropriate.

    • skef says:

      The governmental social safety net in the U.S. is quite weak, especially for adult males. Most people have an interpersonal social safety net in a place they have lived long enough (hermits aside). Moving to “where the jobs are” can therefore increase the overall risk one faces enough to be irrational.

      The “offer in a new town” aspect is harder to judge. I understand your perspective, but on the other hand everyone knows there’s no company loyalty anymore. Who knows what happens six months later?

      • Matt M says:

        I believe these types of offers were mandated by the union contract. Even during the worst of the recession, they were always made.

        (Part of the problem in this specific case was that everyone in Janesville thought the plant was coming back. Every other plant in the US was eventually re-activated with at least some work. They all thought they would be too.)

      • SamChevre says:

        When I got a similar offer (as a white-collar professional) the lack of company loyalty was a big factor in declining it (which was probably, in hindsight, the wrong decision). I figured I was better off with liquid savings where I owned a house and had a social network, than I would be if I sold my house at a substantial loss (possibly depleting my savings), moved to a new town, and was laid off in the next round of layoffs.

    • Brad says:

      In general, I do think it is a reason to have less sympathy. However, *if* what the people in question were looking for was welfare then a countervailing consideration would be that it might well be cheaper to provide them with that in situ than if they moved to somewhere more economically viable and still needed welfare.

      It’s when people demand the impossible (i.e. good jobs) and worse still believe politicians that promise it to them that my contempt level starts rising dramatically.

      Not so incidentally, support for government programs designed to create “good jobs” in targeted locations is more socialist than almost anything else in the Overton Window in the US.

    • Zodiac says:

      I have a lot of sympathy for these people.
      You ask them to abandon their social circle, safety net and relatives. You also want them to sell their house (potentialy at a loss) and to socially isolate their children (which can have severely bad consequences).
      And you ask that of them to throw themself at a very foreign situation where they need to rebuild their social circle, integrate into a new firm/plant, all with the risk of failing horribly.
      For very many people this is a very, very scary situation. Very many people have simply not acquired the necessary skills (and culture) such a situation requires.

      • Charles F says:

        and to socially isolate their children (which can have severely bad consequences).

        For most children, is a move actually particularly socially isolating? This seems unlikely to me. It’s hard for me to imagine that almost anyone who successfully made friends in their old life would not go on to successfully make friends in a new city a few hours away. This is just based on my experience switching schools a few times, though. (I’m no social butterfly, but it never took me long to at least make a few friends.) And on the many well-adjusted kids from military families I’ve met. Do you know if there are studies on the effects of moving on kids?

        And you ask that of them to throw themself at a very foreign situation where they need to rebuild their social circle, integrate into a new firm/plant, all with the risk of failing horribly.

        This seems like an almost comical exaggeration. They’re staying in the midwest, at the closest factory. They were offered basically the same job with the same company, and probably some of their social circle would also be moving to the same city with them.

        • Wrong Species says:

          If you made your friends when you were at one school system when you were young, then even if you’re not a particularly social person, you probably have your own group of friends. But moving to a different place in High School, especially in big public high schools, is particularly socially isolating. Everyone already knows each other and unless you are in sports, it’s much more difficult to find friends.

          I went to a non-traditional school from elementary through middle school. They had a high school but I decided that I wanted a change. I went from having 20 people in my grade to a 1000. After trying to stick with it for two years, I changed schools.

          • Charles F says:

            Huh. I was in sports, but I mostly made friends in classes. (Maybe there was some sort of network effect where being slightly connected to some people they knew made it easier for me to join other groups?)

        • Zodiac says:

          Do you know if there are studies on the effects of moving on kids?

          As a non-academic I have a hard time judging the quality of the study but here is one for early childhood moves that finds negative effects.

          This seems like an almost comical exaggeration. They’re staying in the midwest, at the closest factory. They were offered basically the same job with the same company, and probably some of their social circle would also be moving to the same city with them.

          You are right for the case described above but how frequent is it that you get a job offer when they close the factory?

        • achenx says:

          I have no studies, and it’s hard to work out cause and effect with my own experiences sometimes.

          Nonetheless, my own anecdote is that my family moved when I was 10. Basically the same environment: small town in a Great Lakes state to another small town in the same state. Similar schools, etc.

          It’s hard to say really. I trace some of my crippling shyness to that time, but would I have still developed that even if we had stayed in the same town? Possibly. By a few years later I doubt it was noticeable/memorable to others that I hadn’t gone to 3rd grade with them or whatever. But internally it still felt like a big deal.

          That said, I would still say I’d rather have that then my parents being out of work in a declining mill town.

    • baconbacon says:

      The first thing to recognize is the heavy selection bias in the population, if you are born into a town of 50,000 with one major employer your flowchart looks a lot like

      Have ambition? If yes -> leave town at earliest convenience, if no settle for job in town.

      Now if you stick in Janesville you probably get married to someone in Janesville, your parents live in Janesville and some number of your siblings are here as well. Other than your weird aunt that you never see (who took off to some glamorous destination like LA, NY or Milwaukee) your whole life revolves around the town. Generically everyone who moves into town does so because of the long term stable employment, everyone who leaves town does so because of…. the long term stable employment.

      It steadily gets worse, the plant closing in 2008 may have been a surprise, but GM had struggled and restructured in the early 2000s. It wasn’t a perfectly healthy company that closed the plant in 2008 (they filed for chapter 11 in early 2009), there were some warning signs. Once again you will have a selection issue where the more astute, and more willing to move segments of the population are going to take this as an impetus to gtfo, and find work elsewhere. Finally the plant closes, and again mostly the more astute and willing to make changes are the ones taking alternate jobs or moving to the other factory.

      All you have left after the plant closing are people that really don’t want to move, and have been selected for this trait for something like 50 years.

      • baconbacon says:

        This being said I am actually quite sympathetic to the feeling that these people are probably experiencing. I am now far more risk averse than I once was, in my 20s I dropped out of college 3 times to cut trails in state parks, drive to San Diego (yes that was basically the whole plan) and play poker professionally. My wife and I got engaged before our second date and were married in less than a year from our first, while we were trying to get pregnant she switched jobs and industries, and while actually pregnant she switched jobs and took a 3 month contract position. Now we are stressed about moving 2 miles, it took 2 years to find the right house to even put an offer in, after having our offer accepted yesterday we are both borderline overwhelmed by the prospect of changing houses when 8 years I was ready to move cities at the slipping on of a ring, and 5 years ago she was ready to take a contract position, while pregnant with a company that would be reviewing her status a few months before she would be due and would be intending to take a significant leave.

        Change is legitimately harder now than it was then, but the reality is that it is going to get harder every year. Right now isn’t a particularly good time to pack and move, and go through everything (turning our current house into a rental, fixing the issues with the new house, dealing with new neighbors and a new neighborhood, etc), but why is next year going to be easier? Realistically it won’t be any easier next year, or the year after and then eventually we will find ourselves in the same home, with the same limitations a decade from now feeling like it just isn’t the right time.

      • MoebiusStreet says:

        > It wasn’t a perfectly healthy company that closed the plant in 2008 (they filed for chapter 11 in early 2009)

        There’s some irony that a significant part of GM’s financial woe was the pension obligation pushed on them by the union.

        So that stability that was likely part of what kept them in town led in part to the eventual loss of stability.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My 2¢: this is the Millennial version of let then eat cake.

      1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

      If an automobile blight had swept through the rust belt and ruined the manufacturing harvest, that would be one thing. But this wasn’t a natural disaster: American manufacturing was killed by the deliberate choices of a fairly small number of policymakers and investors.

      So what do we do now? Personally, I’d rather right that past wrong and reinvigorate American industry rather than shrugging and cutting a welfare check. And responding to someone who would rather work than take handouts with “well I guess these racists are too dumb to follow their own interests” might salve your conscience but it’s wrong.

      2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

      “If only those hicks realized they could just move to the Bay Area and make six figures programming for Google. Why do they make things so difficult for themselves?”

      Seriously, where exactly are they supposed to go? Move to Manhattan and pour coffees so that you could spend 90% of your post-tax income on rent?

      Fracking brought blue collar people out to places like North Dakota because there was actually work that they could do for a wage which was worth the move. But now that’s a target of lawmakers too.

      • Well Armed Sheep says:

        “But this wasn’t a natural disaster: American manufacturing was killed by the deliberate choices of a fairly small number of policymakers and investors.”

        That is an interesting way to describe a decision to stop using violence or the threat of violence to prohibit mutually beneficial voluntary transactions with foreigners.

        “Seriously, where exactly are they supposed to go? Move to Manhattan and pour coffees so that you could spend 90% of your post-tax income on rent?”

        As is well-known, the only places in America are small rust belt towns, San Francisco, and Manhattan. I do not think that it is an exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of American cities that meet both criteria of a) significantly better economic prospects than rust belt towns and b) non-coastal-elite culture. Dallas exists. In fact, the company offered to move people to Arlington.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          That is an interesting way to describe a decision to stop using violence or the threat of violence to prohibit mutually beneficial voluntary transactions with foreigners.

          …immediately after using violence or threat of violence to impose mandatory labor and environmental regulations such that only transactions with foreigners become mutually beneficial?

      • Brad says:

        So what do we do now? Personally, I’d rather right that past wrong and reinvigorate American industry rather than shrugging and cutting a welfare check. And responding to someone who would rather work than take handouts with “well I guess these racists are too dumb to follow their own interests” might salve your conscience but it’s wrong.

        Welfare in the form of erecting legal barriers to competitors that offer a better product at a lower price is welfare just the same as cutting a check. What they want is not an honest paycheck for adding net value, it’s a government propagated lie they can choose to tell themselves and their neighbors. That’s contemptible.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          One of the key assumptions of American politics, back to the Declaration of Independence, is that the government exists for the sake of the people and not the other way around. There’s nothing contemptible or un-American about wanting an economic policy which benefits Americans and not transnational billionaires.

          Moreover it’s neither welfare nor a “lie” for a state to encourage an export-focused manufacturing economy. It’s a sound economic strategy which propelled most of East Asia and Northern Europe out of poverty over the last century. America itself greatly benefited from ourselves not all that long ago.

          Although to be fair, I really shouldn’t push back on this meme. The further and more loudly it spreads, the more people will realize how eager their rulers are to eliminate them.

          • Brad says:

            Is there anything contemptible about sending out mafiosi to stand in front of your competitor’s store and beat up people that try to shop there? Because that’s your “economic policy which benefits Americans and not transnational billionaires”.

            If you want to subsidize your neighbors by overpaying for goods and services you are more than welcome to do so. If so many people feel as you do, shouldn’t that be enough? Why do you need to force people to go along if this type of policy is so popular among the masses you claim to speak for?

          • baconbacon says:

            And what about every American that is injured by higher prices and fewer goods and lower employment opportunities thanks to the barriers you propose?

            And the US government wasn’t founded to serve the people, it was founded to secure the rights of its people, which is very different and doesn’t at all imply what you propose here.

          • Forlorn Hopes says:

            Is there anything contemptible about sending out mafiosi to stand in front of your competitor’s store and beat up people that try to shop there? Because that’s your “economic policy which benefits Americans and not transnational billionaires”.

            Nonsense. The state having a monopoly on the use of force is a respected position with a long history.

            It cannot be compared to mafia violence. Not that an import tariff even needs intimidation or violence.

          • Well Armed Sheep says:

            @ Forlorn Hopes:

            That’s an argument from labels.

            And an import tariff *very obviously does* need intimidation and violence. If getting people to buy artificially expensive stuff to subsidize someone else’s preferred way of making a living didn’t require intimidation and violence, you wouldn’t have to have the organization with the monopoly on intimidation and violence be the one to implement it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Brad,

            Luckily for me I’m not an anarchocapitalist so I’m not obligated to pretend that there isn’t a difference between the government and a criminal gang. Controlling the flow of goods, services and people across territorial borders is pretty much the raison d’être of the state.

            After all, you can’t hire the mafia to keep someone from inviting their friends over. Does the moral calculus change when they’re inviting the Huns across the Danube?

          • Nonsense. The state having a monopoly on the use of force is a respected position with a long history.

            It cannot be compared to mafia violence.

            The Mafia, in its Sicilian homeland, is also in a respected position with a long history. Probably more respected than the Italian state.

          • Brad says:

            Luckily for me I’m not an anarchocapitalist so I’m not obligated to pretend that there isn’t a difference between the government and a criminal gang. Controlling the flow of goods, services and people across territorial borders is pretty much the raison d’être of the state.

            That the government can ethically control the flow of goods, services, and people across the border doesn’t mean that every use of that power is ethical. The problem here isn’t the use of force, it’s the use of force for ends which don’t even pretend to appeal to the common good. The mechanisms used may well be legitimate but the ends are contemptible.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Brad,

            Here I was, foolishly thinking that the common good referred to the best interests of Americans.

            Obviously you’re right though. Americans looking out for our self-interest is contemptible: the common good is what’s best for foreigners and billionaires.

          • Brad says:

            It’s not what’s best for Americans. The policies you propose will on net hurt Americans. It’s pretty clear who you think counts and who you think doesn’t.

            Further, I’m not sure helping people lie to themselves is really in their best interest.

          • baconbacon says:

            Here I was, foolishly thinking that the common good referred to the best interests of Americans.

            No, you were foolishly thinking that Americans are homogeneous, and something that is good for you must be good for “Americans”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @baconbacon,

            I’m not blue-collar by any stretch: I’m a scientist who lives in a major metropolis. Some of my family was from the rust belt originally but thankfully they’ve all successfully escaped.

            I believe that my countrymen deserve a decent quality of life even when it doesn’t benefit me personally. I’m not so selfish that I think cheap gadgets or authentic foreign cuisine are worth destroying the livelihoods of entire communities.

            @Brad,

            Ah so Deplorables Contemptibles are the ones who don’t count, got it. My mistake.

          • baconbacon says:

            Still making the same mistake.

            Your “country men” are not homogeneous. Total employment within the country rose as “job destroying” free trade agreements were passed, though of course your description of “cheap gadgets and trinkets” is exactly the view of everyone else in the country.

          • Brad says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            Ah so Deplorables Contemptibles are the ones who don’t count, got it. My mistake.

            You are the one equating the people you care about with Americans simplicitur, not me.

          • rlms says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal
            “Ah so Contemptibles are the ones who don’t count, got it. My mistake.”
            Don’t be dense. It’s not that the harm to them is non-existent, it’s that the benefits to everyone else (and the benefits to them from cheaper goods in the categories they don’t personally manufacture) outweigh the harms.

          • zfrrN1qxjiInx says:

            And what about every American that is injured by higher prices and fewer goods and lower employment opportunities thanks to the barriers you propose?

            but the ends are contemptible.

            It’s not what’s best for Americans. The policies you propose will on net hurt Americans. It’s pretty clear who you think counts and who you think doesn’t.

            it’s that the benefits to everyone else (and the benefits to them from cheaper goods in the categories they don’t personally manufacture) outweigh the harms.

            Anyone mind giving me an actual argument?

          • rlms says:

            @zfrrN1qxjiInx
            Are you familiar with comparative advantage?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think an appeal to free market ideology really works in a world of environmental, labor and market regulation in our markets versus 3rd world command economies.

          • Brad says:

            Name like: zfrrN1qxjiInx
            Post effort: low

            I’ll pass.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I believe there are proto-governments– organizations which could become governments if the niche weren’t already filled.

            This includes organized crime, street gangs, and unions. ISIS has actually been a government (I think it still hold a couple of cities).

          • zfrrN1qxjiInx says:

            Naming things is hard. Random string generators are less hard. Making assertions about what is or isn’t best for Americans with no sources is similarly low effort, no?

            I’ll read that link rlms, thanks.

          • IrishDude says:

            Controlling the flow of goods, services and people across territorial borders is pretty much the raison d’être of the state.

            I’d say legal plunder is the raison d’être of the state, of which controlling the flow of goods, services, and people is just a means to that end.

            “But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

            -Frederic Bastiat

          • That theory has some implications. One is that the state would never ban or criminalise anything, only tax it. Another, is that the state would never build walls, but only impose excise duties. Liberal democrracies don’t

            The phrase “robber baron” is interesting. First time around, it referred to exploitative politcal leaders , the second time to exploitative capitalists.

          • baconbacon says:

            That theory has some implications. One is that the state would never ban or criminalise anything, only tax it. Another, is that the state would never build walls, but only impose excise duties.

            Only if you assume a broad and powerful state with no fear of competitors.

          • IrishDude says:

            That theory has some implications. One is that the state would never ban or criminalise anything, only tax it. Another, is that the state would never build walls, but only impose excise duties.

            Assuming this is a response to my post, I disagree with your asserted implications. In order to obtain the power to legally plunder, you need supporters. Support can come in the form of votes, money, connections, etc. One thing supporters might want in return for their support is banning of competitors (e.g., taxi unions and Uber). If your supporters want moral regulation of certain acts, then you’d need to promise that too, and perhaps enact it (see abortion or gay marriage restrictions).

            Also, though I think legal plunder is the primary reason for the existence of the state, it doesn’t mean I think it’s the only reason.

          • And if you have enough supporters, then everyone benefits.

            Basically, you are explaining why liberal democracies don’t look like optimal kleptocracies. But the fact that they don’t still weighs against your point.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are at least two disagreements here, right?

            a. What powers is it proper for the government to have?

            b. What policies w.r.t. trade and immigration and capital flows would be optimal for the people of the country.

            You can make the protectionism=mafia goons argument, and that is really about (a). You can have the same argument about the drug war (which also looks like armed goons interfering violently in mutually-agreeable transactions) or the draft or occupational licensing laws. The thing about this class of argument is that we don’t all agree about the proper role of the state. So simply saying “protectionism is the same morally as mafia goons shutting down your competitors” won’t convince anyone who doesn’t start out agreeing with your premises wrt the proper role of government.

            There’s an entirely different thread of argument surrounding (b), basically saying that immigration and free trade hurt some people and help others, but make the society as a whole better off. That’s a factual claim, it may be right or wrong, but it has nothing to do with the proper role of government. A person who is convinced that the state must never do more than neutrally enforce a minimal set of rights to person and property may believe that the current residents of some land would be better off hiring mafia goons to restrict some goods being sold, and yet believe they shouldn’t do so. A person who is convinced that free trade and open immigration are a win for the US long-term may totally agree that it would be a legitimate use of government power to impose trade barriers and deport immigrants, but still think it would be bad policy to do so.

            I think the discussion might be clearer if we specified which of those arguments we are trying to make.

          • IrishDude says:

            And if you have enough supporters, then everyone benefits.

            Nope. To start, 51% support is enough to gain power in democracy, and 51% is not everyone. 51% benefiting at the expense of the 49% through the coercive power of the state is still legal plunder.

            Also, in liberal democracies very small groups get catered to at the expense of the many for public choice reasons. Due to many policies having dispersed costs and concentrated benefits, special interest supporters are highly catered to at the expense of the masses. See U.S. policy on sugar for an example.

            Also, as it’s generally not rational to be a well-informed voter, politicians can get away with promising one thing and doing another without their supporters being aware.

            Also, due to systematic errors in voters’ economic opinions, even when politicians enact their supporters’ preferred policies this can lead to bad economic outcomes that make supporters worse off.

            Basically, you are explaining why liberal democracies don’t look like optimal kleptocracies. But the fact that they don’t still weighs against your point.

            Liberal democracies look different than kleptocracies, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t based on legal plunder. As Bastiat says when he’s defining legal plunder, “See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.” The defining characteristic of the State is political authority. Political authority involves state agents using coercion when the same coercive act would be considered wrong if done by non-state agents. When the State’s coercive acts benefits one citizen at the expense of another they engage in legal plunder. This seems like most of what States, liberal democracy or not, engage in.

        • Well Armed Sheep says:

          @Brad “Welfare in the form of erecting legal barriers to competitors that offer a better product at a lower price is welfare just the same as cutting a check.”

          Actually marginally worse. Market distortion, prices-as-information, etc.

          @Nabil etc. — you need a good answer to Brad’s question about sending goons to beat up your competitors. Strikes me as morally identical. Perhaps there are arguments I haven’t considered.

    • Well Armed Sheep says:

      This is, in fact, a Major Social Phenomenon, Tyler Cowen among others has written rather a lot about it recently.

      To your general comment, I think yes absolutely we should have less sympathy for those who refuse to move. Unfortunately this is probably a significantly unpopular opinion and any effort to operationalize it in public policy would be met with accusations of like, forced population transfers or something.

      • For a closely linked attitude, consider the meme “my home.” A lender foreclosing because you haven’t made your mortgage payments is a traditional villain, driving you from your home. It even applies if you are a renter who hasn’t paid the rent.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think there is a pretty big difference between being given an offer to move and keep your job and being forced to seek out offers on your own. I’m more sympathetic in the latter case than the former.

      • Matt M says:

        I think my point is that we never do force people to seek out offers outside of their hometown. If they want to stay in one place and live off government assistance forever, they can do that. And not only can they do that, they will be presented in a sympathetic light. As poor victims of the evils of capitalism.

        • Zodiac says:

          That’s not entirely correct.
          In the case of the rust belter towns they have been presented as deserving of sympathy (probably also to try to push for politics to re-develop the region) but genrally anyone unemployed is not seen as sympathetic by society. Even the rust belters will have to deal with that general sentiment.

    • dodrian says:

      I’m not sure how easy it is to move.

      If your family has a mortgage they may outright be stuck with where they’re living. As jobs move out and housing prices plummet a move begins to look like being saddled with crippling debt. Those who own their houses are going to be hit with a huge economic loss by selling, even if their long term prospects would look better. That’s not even mentioning the social loss with the move. Plus there’s the uncertainty of how secure a position at the new plant would be, if they’re already closing facilities – moving and losing a second job would be worse than not moving and not finding more work.

      If the bureaucratic cost of welfare is bad now, I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if you’re going to avoid paying people who ‘could have a job if they would move’.

      • Brad says:

        They are already saddled with crippling debt and there’s no additional economic loss by selling. It was already incurred when the market price fell.

        • gbdub says:

          There’s no strictly economic loss, but right now they have a house, and they may not be able to afford an equivalent one in the place they’d have to move for the new job (considering that they’d have to not only buy the new house, but also pay off the difference on their now-unsellable old one).

          • JayT says:

            But if they don’t move it would seem likely that they can’t afford their current house either. Most people can’t continue to make mortgage payments if they don’t have a job. In certain cases a house is a sunk cost, and it makes sense just to walk away.

        • baconbacon says:

          There are different ways to realize that loss that are not strictly equal.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m not sure how easy it is to move.

        Man, nothing worth doing is easy. Nothing that increases your long term earning potential is easy. I’m 31 years old and I’ve moved five times in my independent adult live, each time because it was economically advantageous of me to do so. It was never “easy”, but I did it anyway.

        My point is not “moving is a costless 100% guaranteed way to solve all your economic problems.” My point is more “don’t tell me that Bob has tried everything to find work and is now forced to take welfare as a last-resort when in fact, Bob hasn’t tried everything but rather, a very clear solution to his economic problems was presented to him and he refused it because he had other priorities. Like fine, you can have other priorities, I won’t force you to move. But don’t tell me you “can’t find work” when the more accurate description is that you “can’t find work in the exact place you want to be.”

        • Jiro says:

          Moving has costs, not all of which are the cost of hiring the movers, so the most accurate description is that you “can’t find work without paying a huge cost and taking a huge risk”.

          • Matt M says:

            And? Lots of things are high-cost, and high-risk, but generally considered to be prudent things to do.

            Not to get all Robinson Crusoe Economics on you here, but driving a car to go to work at all is both costly and risky. I guess people should only get jobs within walking distance?

            A college education requires an investment that can range into the six figures with the risk that the degree won’t actually improve one’s job prospects – and yet everyone still insists it’s one of the best things someone can do with their life (provided they qualify).

          • Zodiac says:

            A college education requires an investment that can range into the six figures with the risk that the degree won’t actually improve one’s job prospects – and yet everyone still insists it’s one of the best things someone can do with their life (provided they qualify).

            People automatically assume that their prospects will be better and that it will be worth it, since the perceived alternative would be a job as burger flipper.
            If people actually thought their job prospects wouldn’t be better and that it wasn’t necessary only a small fraction of people would take the risk.

    • andrewflicker says:

      I live in Phoenix. I moved here specifically because of a “GM” style choice- upend everything and follow my company and move 15 hours away but keep my job, or enjoy a sudden bout of unemployment. I decided to move, and *then* told my long-term girlfriend (who is now my wife). I still get no end of shit for that (should have involved her in the decision), but I don’t really regret it- or have much sympathy for those who chose unemployment.

      My wife’s an escapee from a dead-end redneck town in Oregon, and all of her redneck relatives are still there, working marginal jobs or collecting government checks of one sort or another. We kick in some support once in a while, like immigrants sending money back to the old country. I don’t have a lot of sympathy there either- I’ve actually told a few of them that I could get them jobs if they moved to Phoenix. She escaped by choice, lived in some gritty poverty through undergrad- and she’s working on her master’s degree in the fall and co-owns a house with me.

      My father’s immediate family were migrant farm workers (they’d follow the orchards from Northern Mexico up through Washington each year). They only settled down in my hometown when my father turned 6 so he could go to a real school for 1st grade (my grandfather got a job working at the welfare office, actually)- my parents moved a lot both prior to my birth and in my own early childhood, and my dad didn’t settle into his long-term job until my mother was pregnant with my little brother and he thought medical benefits might be a good idea. They chased opportunities- even tried to make their own with a short-lived “Flicker Inn” in a speck of a town for a few years.

      My brother wasn’t the college type- he joined up with the Air Force despite losing all of his friends and moving thousands of miles away, did excellently there, and declined a career position to join civilian law enforcement. If he hadn’t chased opportunity, I have a feeling he might have been trapped in a dead-end job in my dying hometown. Certainly my cousins who stayed are, while my cousin that left for Arizona instead is married to a great, hardworking guy, and works a good job as a schoolteacher herself.

      Needless to say- I’m a huge believer in Tyler Cowen’s complacency argument.

      • Matt M says:

        Thanks for sharing. I relate to quite a lot of this. I also grew up in Oregon, although in a middle-class college town.

        And like your brother, I got out (and was then forced to move several times) by joining the military – which led to college, which led to grad school, which led to a highly lucrative white collar career. And my cousins, back in Oregon, are (much like yours) stuck in dead end jobs with zero prospects.

    • Salem says:

      Depends what you mean by sympathy.

      On the one hand, these people are choosing to be economically “disadvantaged.” That’s fine, it can be a trade-off like any other, perhaps even an admirable one in certain circumstances. But obviously they don’t deserve subsidies or welfare. Sure, they have the right to live there if they want to. No, not at the taxpayer’s expense.

      On the other hand, I do think we should try and understand what they’re going through and sympathise with it. My knee-jerk attitude is “My dad came here from Iraq to make a better life for himself, and you can’t be bothered to move from Wisconsin to Texas, how dare you whine about being unemployed? You are everything that’s wrong with the West.” But I’m aware that makes me a jerk. These people aren’t villains, they’re human beings reacting to the world in the way that best makes sense to them. Better to restrain the emotion and understand the choices.

      • Matt M says:

        My knee-jerk attitude is “My dad came here from Iraq to make a better life for himself, and you can’t be bothered to move from Wisconsin to Texas, how dare you whine about being unemployed? You are everything that’s wrong with the West.” But I’m aware that makes me a jerk. These people aren’t villains, they’re human beings reacting to the world in the way that best makes sense to them. Better to restrain the emotion and understand the choices.

        They’re not villains, but that also doesn’t make them immune from criticism, especially when their bad choices are (literally) costing us money.

        I think there’s a lot to be said about your father coming from Iraq. While I don’t have a personal anecdote like that, I like to think that somewhere, right now, floating in the Mediterranean Sea, is a rickety plastic boat filled with dozens of African men carrying nothing but the shirts on their back, embarking on a costly and risky journey to a foreign continent where they don’t speak the language, have no marketable skills, and will be greeted with suspicion and/or hostility by half the local population. And yet, they found a way. They did what they had to do to make a living for themselves and their families. They will (in my opinion, I don’t have any particular data to back this) likely be better off, in the long run, than their peers who said “That’s too risky and I can’t afford it, I’ll just stay here in the village.”

        So long as those guys continue to exist, I’m not incredibly sympathetic to arguments about the importance of “community ties” and how it’s difficult to sell a house and whatever else…

        • rlms says:

          An alternative view is that trans-Mediterranean migrants are in a horrible situation, and if your fellow countrymen face anything remotely comparable then something has gone terribly wrong.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think those are inconsistent views–the Irish fleeing the potato famine were in an awful state, and also were able to immensely imrpove their kids’ lives by coming to the US. And also they were probably notably different in many ways from the folks who stayed home.

      • Matt M says:

        Actually, you know what, I DO have a personal anecdote about that. My father grew up in a highly abusive environment that bordered on religious cult-ism. He walked out of that place the day he turned 18 with a high school diploma and a suitcase full of clothes, and hitchhiked to the nearest town.

        He certainly had his struggles in life, but eventually he settled down, got married, had kids, and lived a very productive and useful life thousands of miles away from where he grew up.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      One of my biggest concerns about national policies is that by offering generous subsidies for housing was an enormous boondogle. Both because it means a huge amount of capital is tied into low return housing rather than high return businesses, and because it means some areas take an exceptionally long time to recover from a shock because homeowners aren’t diversified in economically focused areas.

      I would much prefer that we used Fannie and Freddie to provide individuals access to the swaps and swaptions market than tie the access to a home.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      I used to feel basically the same as you do. I’d hear people bemoan their lots – especially if they were in a small town or a remote suburb – and think “wow, a lot of your problems could be solved by moving to a large-ish city”. I still think that more people should move to big cities from small towns and remote suburbs, but I’ve softened a bit.

      The biggest thing is that moving when you have a spouse or partner who works is much more difficult than moving as a single person. If one person gets laid off but the other still has a job, then you’re proposing going from two incomes to one income to zero incomes, until one or both of you finds a position. This can be a difficult sale – when my job moved recently, I decided to look for a new job (in my large city, to be fair) rather than move in part because my wife has a good job and we didn’t want to give it up. Moving as a single person is much, much easier.

      The next thing is that moving away from your family if you have kids is pretty rough. Parents, brothers, sisters etc are great people to watch your kids, even if you just need a night off or if your daycare has an unexpected closure. Finding someone you trust in a new place is much more difficult. Finding someone who will do it for free is basically impossible. If you’re very poor and your family watches your kid for free very frequently (for example, if your retired mother watches your kid while you go to work), then moving imposes a new, gigantic cost.

      The last thing is that rent in big cities is very high, likely in a way it wasn’t when people moved more frequently. A poor person moving to a big city will have to save up an absurd amount of money (money they don’t have, because they’re poor) to not go broke very quickly in the event they can’t find a job.

      Basically none of these things were considerations for me when I was younger and moving around, so it was easy for me to think “why don’t more people move?”.

    • Civilis says:

      Am I the only person that looked at the opening questions and thought “this could equally apply to those stuck in miserable conditions in high cost-of-living cities that could move to a lower cost of living area?”

      I’d like to discuss economically disadvantaged people who don’t move. I’ll start with two major questions (that are basically the same question, just phrased differently).

      1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

      2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

      The first question seems to me to make more sense in a context of ‘I want to live in a high-cost trendy urban environment to live out my wildly improbable dreams’ than a context of ‘I want to stay in cheap nowheresville’.

      • rlms says:

        I thought of gentrification, which is kind of in between the two examples you gave. People complaining about it are in areas that were cheap nowheresvilles when they grew up, but are now trendy and expensive (which is the problem for them).

      • ThirteenthLetter says:

        Am I the only person that looked at the opening questions and thought “this could equally apply to those stuck in miserable conditions in high cost-of-living cities that could move to a lower cost of living area?”

        Legit point… and in fact, their situation is less sympathetic, because the people who are living four to a room in a $3000/mo studio in San Francisco to pursue their dreams of being a full-time furry porn artist on Patreon a) probably don’t have that huge local support network that the person in a small town does making their life there more appealing, b) certainly don’t have a mortgage to worry about, and c) even if they achieved their dream it’s still basically a hobby, it’s not the sort of thing that you do to support a family and save for retirement.

    • hlynkacg says:

      This thread is already getting pretty long so I’m not going to spend any time reiterating what others have already said. I think Nabil ad Dajjal nailed it when he called this the Millennial version of “let then eat cake”.

      I find it depressing and distressing that so many people here seem to regard earning potential as the only meaningful measure of a person or place’s worth. Maybe they’re right. Maybe setting down roots is a suckers game, and social atomization is the only show in town. Even so I can’t help but feel we’re loosing something precious in the drive towards pure undiluted homo economicus.

      • hls2003 says:

        I find it depressing and distressing that so many people here seem to regard earning potential as the only meaningful measure of a person or place’s worth. Maybe they’re right. Maybe setting down roots is a suckers game, and social atomization is the only show in town.

        Bear in mind that the posting crowd here, if the surveys are to be believed, is vastly more antisocial (medically diagnosed or otherwise) than most, and also quite a bit younger. Even putting aside the “why can’t everyone just code for Google” vibe, you would expect this board to see less value in social rootedness and intangible interpersonal values. Even something as simple as “but I love my church community and don’t want to leave” is a genuinely difficult pull that many people feel in life, which I would expect to have no relevance for the vast majority of posters here.

        • baconbacon says:

          You only get to this conclusion if you start with not reading what was written. The question asked wasn’t “why do people care about setting down roots when they could be millionaires in SF?” it was very specifically “why are you valuing staying in this town over having a job at all?”

          • hls2003 says:

            I don’t think I reached a “conclusion,” per se, but my point is that the value of “staying in this town” – whether you’re comparing it to being a millionaire or to having any job at all – largely depends on factors that SSC readers/posters are less likely to value highly.

            Personally, I think most people will move for work, and probably more should, though I don’t know how widespread the problem might be. But I do think the average SSC demographic is not going to have a background to do the relative value calculations in anything like the same way as the average member of the unemployed population.

      • Charles F says:

        In general, I don’t get the sense that there’s a trend towards judging places by earning potential. We have a lot of people from the Bay Area for reasons like community and it’s the New Athens and whatnot, despite high costs. And at least some people who are just going wherever they can do wherever the work they want to do happens to be. And probably also some people who are pretty socially atomized and would just pick a place based on earnings minus expenses.

        But I don’t think that’s quite the point of the thread. The whole “move at the drop of a hat to maximize earnings” thing is a fringe position. (Though there’s probably broader support for people doing it a couple times when they’re young, to see what their options are. I would definitely support that, at least) The thread is mainly about people who can’t support themselves where they are or at least are struggling. At that point do you really need to be a pure homo economicus to realize that (absent welfare of some kind) your choices are either run out of money or move to somewhere you can make a living.

        Personally, I have a lot of sympathy for people who don’t want to uproot their families, but not so much for somebody who won’t move themselves in order to support their family staying rooted. (Of course, for some low-skill professions, supporting yourself where you work and also sending money home would be hard, but the example we were looking at was a $25/hr job.)

        • hlynkacg says:

          Except we aren’t talking about people moving to [area] because [reasons]. The question, as baconbacon points out above, was very specifically “why are you valuing staying in this town over having a job at all?”

          I feel like the need to ask that question ought to trigger an immediate failure on the Voight-Kampff test.

          • Charles F says:

            Except we aren’t talking about people moving to [area] because [reasons].

            Sorry, I think I must have organized my thoughts poorly. You were talking about a tendency to reduce the worthiness of a place to just the earning potential, and so I was pointing out that we’ve talked about valuing a bunch of other things in a place to live besides that.

            The question [was] “why are you valuing staying in this town over having a job at all?”

            I feel like the need to ask that question ought to trigger an immediate failure on the Voight-Kampff test.

            So, I would probably manage to fail that test before I even sat down for it, but I’m not sure what you mean here.

            If you’re not independently wealthy, the options in that question boil down to either leave soon on your own terms to find gainful employment or leave later when you run out of money, and you have a three-year gap in your resume and you owe child support payments to your ex-wife who left you after a two years of money-related stress.

            I can understand that leaving would be hard on a lot of people. But I can understand a person’s self-destructive behavior without feeling obligated to subsidize it, or even feeling particularly sympathetic, necessarily.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Yes some, I think most, people value things other than money. What I am taking issue with is the apparent assumption that such concerns are secondary or otherwise unworthy of consideration.

            “Voight-Kampff test” is a Blade Runner reference based on the P. K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. It’s essentially a Turing Test used to determine whether a suspect in police custody is a replicant android. It works by inducing and then measuring reflexive/instinctual responses such as fear, hate, empathy, etc… that are (in theory) unique to biological humans.*

            I find it trivial to argue that being a Plains Indian in a world where European colonialism exists is “self destructive behavior” but does that make “Sorry, not sorry. You should have gotten on the winning team” an appropriate response to BIA abuses and incidents like that at Wounded Knee?

            *Spoiler Alert: The revelation that these traits may not be as uniquely human as initially believed drives much of the plot.

          • Charles F says:

            I think it’s common sense to make the first priority “can I actually support myself/my family here.” In most places, not being able to find a job means the place will fail that test. Is that something we can agree on or am I still failing an empathy check?

            I’m not sure being a Plains Indian exactly counts as a behavior, but FWIW I have plenty of sympathy for them. Their situation was much harder/worse than that of somebody who could move to find a job but doesn’t. Plains Indians are way on the sympathetic side, the people in the Janesville story are unsympathetic, and the rest of the rust belt falls somewhere in between.

            I was trying to say that I didn’t understand how it was a failure of empathy, not that I couldn’t figure out what the test was, but thanks for explaining.

          • Aapje says:

            Plains Indians are way on the sympathetic side

            Some of the Plains tribes had a culture of raiding their neighbors and terrorized the white settlers even after agreements had been made that the white settlers and natives had separate land. My sympathy decreased when I realized that these tribes simply could not live peacefully with anyone and had a culture designed around harming others.

          • Charles F says:

            If they defected their way out of existence by attacking/provoking the people they had agreed to coexist peacefully with, that would make them unsympathetic. But didn’t the Comanches at least honor their agreements with the Spanish to peacefully stay out of each others’ ways for some large number of years before all the trouble with the American settlers? That lends a bit of credibility to the idea that the Americans were the ones who kept breaking the agreements first and the Comanches were retaliating. Breaking agreements with a group who’s shown they won’t honor agreements is back to sympathetic.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Also, a whole lot of the treaties were signed with chiefs of one band (at most) who had absolutely no authority over the rest of the tribe. So, everyone not in their band kept doing what they had been… and then the Spanish/Americans/whoever concluded they’d violated the treaty, and went in shooting.

          • Aapje says:

            I was thinking of the Apaches.

            I any case, I think that actual reality was more complex than the genocide narrative. Miscommunication due to different ways of organizing and different cultural expectations probably played a big role, for example, here.

          • Machina ex Deus says:

            @Aapje:

            My sympathy decreased when I realized that these tribes simply could not live peacefully with anyone and had a culture designed around harming others.

            Wait, why are we calling them “Plains Indians” all of a sudden? Did Scott ban ess-jay-dubbleyou?

      • Matt M says:

        I find it depressing and distressing that so many people here seem to regard earning potential as the only meaningful measure of a person or place’s worth.

        I’m not trying to make this claim. My claim is that this is a trade-off and we should treat it as such. People who are poor because they refuse to move are, quite literally, choosing to be poor. And yet, the mere suggestion that anyone would ever choose to be poor gets you laughed out of all polite circles as some sort of idiotic, out-of-touch, extremist.

        And, to the extent that unemployment is a choice, I’m not sure we have any particular moral duty to provide benefits to such people.

        It certainly never works the other way around, now does it? Where’s my social life insurance? I repeatedly took the other side of this trade-off, maximizing for earning potential and minimizing for “putting down roots” and developing deep and compelling social relationships. Nobody bats an eye at the prospect of taking my money and giving it to people who made decisions to maximize for other things. But when do I get my piece? Where’s the re-distribution of friends and relationships? Are such people, the “social maximizers” morally compelled to help me in some way? Do the “top 1%” of social interactors have a “fair share” to pay to the less fortunate?

        After all, nobody chooses to be friendless and isolated, right? That’s as ridiculous as claiming that people choose poverty!

    • Garrett says:

      1. To what extent do you believe people have a “right” to live wherever they want?

      2. How much sympathy do you have for an economically disadvantaged person who could improve their economic situation by moving, but chooses not to do so?

      1. I believe people have a right to live whereever they have a right to live, tautologically. That is, they aren’t welcome to come live with me. And if we don’t have open borders, there’s some limit to which locations you can move to. Other than that, live wherever you want as long as you can find a legal/legitimate way to house yourself. Rent an apartment in downtown NY. Buy a piece of land in [redacted] and live in a tent. Have at!

      2. Not much. Finding work outside of your current location used to be hard, but between the Internet and cheap long-distance calling/faxing/emailing, that’s a lot easier to do. Personally, I (results not typical) moved ~1000 miles for my job, sight unseen. All interviewing was done over the phone. Paperwork by courier. I packed my measly life into my car and drove out.

      Doing this with fewer skills later in life with a family is much more difficult. But it’s also easier if you have family support. For those who were given a job offer and declined – they had a leg up. Meh.

      • Randy M says:

        Finding work outside of your current location used to be hard, but between the Internet and cheap long-distance calling/faxing/emailing, that’s a lot easier to do.

        True, but on the down side now you are competing with anyone eligible from across the country, at the least. Actually securing a position in a desirable location has got to be challenging.
        If you’re coming from an industry in decline, all the moreso.
        Doesn’t apply to people offered a position in a relocating company, of course.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Right, that presupposes you are qualified for the kind of job they are hiring for over the internet across the country.

          If you live in the post-industrial Cormac McCarthy Hellscape, that is probably not the case.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think you might be underestimating the economic barriers to moving. In my particular nowhere hometown with no jobs, there are lots of people who would love to move somewhere that isn’t a rust belt wasteland like something out of Mad Max crossed with a Depression-era newsreel.

      Doing this requires one of two things:

      1) Already having enough money to move. If you work full time in a minimum wage job in Nowhere, NY, you take home about $20k/year before taxes. Taxes are obviously very low on that, but your actual take home paycheck is still low enough that you are almost certainly living paycheck to paycheck with no meaningful savings.

      In order to move somewhere new and look for work, you need a place to live. That typically means a month of rent as a down payment, plus your first month’s rent after that. And that is in an expensive place with an actual economy. Plus food and other expenses, all in a place where you don’t actually have a source of income yet.

      Assuming you’re not trying to move to the Bay Area or Washington DC, but just somewhere less devastated – you still need several grand minimum. Which is to say, you need to have a savings representing a significant percentage of your annual income, which you aren’t likely to be able to save since you probably spend most of your income as it comes in just to survive week to week.

      2) Other option is to know someone already in the place you want to move who can give you a place to live and help out in other ways as you get on your feet. This is how I did it, and it is a great way to go about it, but only works if you are lucky enough to already have friends or family in the new place who don’t mind you couch surfing for weeks or months.

      Basically, telling people to solve their economic problems by moving to where the money is, is not light years different from telling them to solve their economic problem by not being so poor. Mobiliy itself is a luxury, below a certain income level.

      • I would have though the main mechanism was via leaving for college. But then it is not as if literally no-one is leaving Nowheresville.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Absolutely – college gives you that base level of “a place to live in a bigger city,” not to mention drastically increasing your odds of knowing someone from another place who can help you get settled there. Again, that is how I pulled it off.

          It’s not that it’s impossible, it’s that there are a set of factors such as ‘Support Network in the Target Area’ and ‘College’ that make it much more possible – and which are disproportionately unavailable in blighted Nowhere towns.

      • JulieK says:

        I’m surprised no one’s yet mentioned Kevin Williamson, the National Review writer who annoyed a lot of red-tribers by saying that people should move away from dying towns. He suggests that people receiving unemployment payouts should have the option of getting a lump sum to help them move somewhere where they could get a job.

        Update:

        My own experience in Appalachia and the South Bronx suggests that the best thing that people trapped in poverty in these undercapitalized and dysfunctional communities could do is — move. Get the hell out of Dodge, or Eastern Kentucky, or the Bronx.

        http://www.nationalreview.com/article/425116/if-your-town-failing-just-go-kevin-d-williamson

        • Randy M says:

          Does this scale? Are there really jobs for all the people in all the small towns in the rust belt, or only those that are smart and ambitious?

        • Jiro says:

          The unemployment payments are to prevent them from starving. Replacing unemployment payments with a lump sum that is used for moving would mean that they have to take the risk of starving in order to move.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Telling people to get the hell out of the South Bronx for this reason is kind of silly. There’s plenty of subway and bus routes which can be practically used to commute to a job in a more economically viable location, such as Manhattan. If they can find one, that is.

          • baconbacon says:

            If the costs of living in a poor neighborhood are high enough (commute, crime, lousy schools), and economic opportunities few enough (making it difficult to supplement income) then it can make sense to recommend moving rather than trying to tough it out.

      • beleester says:

        These are valid arguments, but it doesn’t explain the Janesville example. They were given the offer to keep their current job if they moved. I wouldn’t be surprised if GM offered to pay some relocation expenses (I haven’t read the book, can @Matt M confirm this?). They weren’t jumping into the unknown and hoping to find a new job, they had a destination already lined up.

        Some of them took the option of commuting six hours to their new job and renting an apartment there. I find it hard to believe that renting a second apartment and burning a tank of gas every week is cheaper than moving. His description really makes it seem like economics weren’t the reason they stayed.

    • entobat says:

      As someone who has some amount of difficulty with empathy / imagining the internal lives of others who are significantly different from me—likely for reasons that generalize to a fair subset of the commentariat here—I’m tempted to err on the side of “asking them to move is in some way fighting against Human Nature, and experience says most such fights are not winnable”.

      There is also some amount of “If I asked my mother, she would give me a list of reasons I hadn’t considered why this choice makes sense for them”. And, more recently, “…but if I put several minutes of thought into it I could probably figure out what she’d say.” (I think the previous commenters have done a good job playing the role of my mom on this one.)

      Aside: my comments on this blog make me seem much more autistic than my self-perception indicates. I can’t tell which one is supposed to be wrong.

    • onyomi says:

      1. I don’t think anyone has a “right” to a job for the same reason I don’t believe in any “positive” rights (to healthcare, etc.)–that is, I don’t think anyone has a right to anything which creates unchosen obligations on the parts of others (in this case, to employ you).

      1a. That said, I do think people have a right not to be interfered with in their ethical pursuit of a living. On this score, much of what the government does to regulate the labor market and economy is unethical and people have a right to be pissed if there are no good jobs in the place they’d like to live and can make a credible case it’s a result of government action and not “because you chose to live on an inaccessible mountain top.”

      2. Some sympathy, due to 1a, but less than for someone who can’t find a job despite being open to bigger moves and/or commutes. Mitigating factors might be whether or not a person really needs to take care of his sick mother who can’t practically move, etc.

  32. Jordan D. says:

    Yesterday, a panel of judges for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in the monkey selfie case, and to be honest I mostly posted because I realized that some people here might not know about the monkey selfie case.

    Questions raised by the panel include:

    1) Why would PETA have standing to represent this monkey as a next friend under Fed. R. Civ. P. 17(c)(2)?
    2) Does PETA actually have the correct selfie-taking monkey named as their appellant?
    3) Is there any cognizable injury to be addressed here?
    4) Would the Court need to re-interpret the part of the Copyright Act applying to lineal succession of rights-holders differently for monkey plaintiffs?
    5) Wait hold on one second can monkeys actually hold copyright?

    (My guesses are: 1) It doesn’t 2) who knows 3) possibly not- there aren’t any apparent money damages and injunctive relief seems iffy to me because of issues monkeys would have granting use licenses 4) no because 5) no)

    (Coverage of the argument: here and here.)

    • skef says:

      brown cows : milk :: selfie monkey : PETA

      • Jordan D. says:

        I am sorry, but I don’t follow.

        • OwanZamar says:

          He is saying that the whole court case is just a publicity stunt by PETA to increase their media footprint, in the same way that “study” that was purpoted to show that so-and-so-many% of respondents believed that chocolate milk came from brown cows was a PR stunt by the dairy industry to get articles written about them, and so that OP is playing into their hands by even so much as talking about it.
          EDIT: Unless you were just pretending not to understand what he meant in which case I apologize for raising it to the status of common knowledge.

          • No, Owan good explanation. I realized that skef was being sarcastic, but hadn’t worked out the details, so your post helped me.

          • Jordan D. says:

            No! I actually did not follow the chocolate milk thing, so I would not have seen that. Thank you for posting.

            I guess my response is: I don’t care if PETA wants coverage or not, I want to talk about monkey jurisprudence!

    • The Nybbler says:

      6) Why would the Ninth Circus even hear this case? What part of the law is unsettled or unclear?

      Ohhh, that’s why they’re the Ninth Circus.

      • Jordan D. says:

        Given that PETA filed a Notice of Appeal and not a petition, I assume this was an appeal by right. I don’t think this was part of the court’s discretionary docket.

    • Brad says:

      6) Are the lawyers going to be sanctioned for making frivolous arguments and wasting the court’s time?

    • Loquat says:

      I was not aware of this! It’s fascinating, thanks. I wonder what would happen if PETA got their way – obviously the monkey can’t handle his own finances or license the use of his copyright, so he’d need a human legal guardian to deal with all of that, but who gets to decide who’s his guardian? The case is being brought in the US so a US court might appoint someone, but the monkey himself lives in Indonesia so with enough money at stake the Indonesian government might object that he should have an Indonesian guardian instead. Has there ever been a court case where an American sued in US court on behalf of a foreigner who wasn’t legally competent and somehow had no family or legal guardian in their own country to represent their interests?

      • Jordan D. says:

        Well, PETA’s argument was, of course, that they should get the money and administer it for the benefit of the macaques. If they won, my bet would be that the court would create a trust for the monkeys, and it would probably feature at least one Indonesian citizen.

    • Iain says:

      One of my favourite details:

      The lawyer for Slater’s publisher, which is also a defendant, also raised the question of whether Peta has even identified the right monkey – something that Slater disputes.
      “I know for a fact that [the monkey in the photograph] is a female and it’s the wrong age,” he said. “I’m bewildered at the American court system. Surely it matters that the right monkey is suing me.”

      • Jordan D. says:

        Monkey trutherism!

        It looks to me like Naruto was identified as the monkey by one of the researchers there, who is probably in the best spot to identify the monkeys. If it came down to a battle of the experts, I would put my money on that expert- except that guy dropped out of the case over differences with PETA. I guess he could be subpeona’d back?

        Not that I think the case will end up turning o