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OT90: Telescopen Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread. Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. Comments of the week: last open thread we talked about standing-room-only flights, and of course bean chimed in with some knowledge of the economics of airline travel (1, 2).

2. The rationalist community is holding various Solstice celebrations this month. I’ve been asked to advertise Seattle in particular, but there are other ones in NYC, Berkeley, Boston, Columbus, Nashville (Ohio), Silicon Valley, and Chapel Hill – see this site for details, and keep in mind some are as early as the 9th. Also, I think the Sunday Assembly is running a lot of them – the only ones I can certify as definitely rationalist-affiliated are Berkeley, Boston, Seattle, and (mostly) New York.

3. David Friedman (author of the legal systems book recently profiled here) is holding a San Jose SSC meetup at 3806 Williams Rd on Saturday 12/9 2:00 PM. Go for the interesting discussion, stay for the authentic medieval Islamic cooking.

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1,185 Responses to OT90: Telescopen Thread

  1. Apropos of nothing but the latest news story about Al Franken …

    I’m not a fan of Franken, but I think the attack on him for relatively minor offenses a fair while back, at a time when he was a professional comedian, is vastly overdone.

    • S_J says:

      My opinion is that Al Franken has been swept up in a general surge of anger about entertainment-and-political-figures who abuse their power to sexually harass underlings.

      It does raise the question of what he was willing to do off-camera, if he was willing to do those kinds of things on-camera.

      For comparison, though, I’m thinking of similar charges leveled against other politicians and political appointees during my lifetime. I think I’ll limit myself to things that I can remember hearing on the news or in talk-radio. Franken’s misdeeds don’t rise to the level that many of these situations.

      –Clarence Thomas, candidate for Supreme Court. There were stories that he engaged in lewd talk, and boasted of his sexual prowess to female employees while he worked at a department of the EEOC. One former co-worker at the EEOC claimed this pattern of behavior; five other former co-workers at the same department of the EEOC denied that he showed this pattern of behavior.
      Final resolution: The charges did not derail Thomas from the path to a position on the Supreme Court. They did manage to make his confirmation hearing the most-memorable Senate hearings of the decade. And it did manage to elevate sexual-harassment law from law-school discussion to headline news.

      –Bob Packwood, Senator. Women who worked in his office, and women who worked for lobbying agencies, accused him of sexual abuse and sexual assault. I can’t track down the details of the accusations, and I don’t remember hearing the details in the news…but I do recall that the investigating committee in the Senate forced Packwood to give his diary as evidence.
      Final resolution: Packwood resigned from the Senate.

      –Edward Kennedy, Senator. There were stories that he and another Senator would occasionally squeeze a waitress in a high-class restaurant into a “waitress sandwich”, so they could grope her in a sexual way. [1] Other stories circulated that Kennedy was a womanizer who had several affairs. I’m not aware of accusations of sexual abuse of women who worked under him.
      Final resolution: on impact. Kennedy remained in the Senate until his death, several election cycles later.

      –Bill Clinton. When he was Governor-running-for-President, there were rumors that he would occasionally invite female employees of the State government into hotel rooms and request sexual favors from them. After he became President, at least one woman laid a civil suit against him for such behavior. During investigations springing from that, he tried to worm his way out of admitting a sexual relationship with a woman who worked in/around the Oval Office at the White House. [2]
      Afterwards, other stories of sexual misconduct came out. (These stories ranged from groping of females who came to discuss something with him while President, to allegations of rape that dated back to his time as Attorney General of Arkansas. [3] After he left the Presidency, there were stories that he flew on airplanes with a wealthy Florida businessmen who was running an illegal prostitution service on those airplanes.)
      Final resolution: not impeached for sexual misbehavior, but impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. First Presidential impeachment to go to trial during the 20th Century. He remained in office.

      –Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives. Had a sexual affair with a staffer, while taking part in the impeachment process of Bill Clinton. [4]
      Final resolution: resigned from the House of Representatives. Didn’t succeed at later attempt to win nomination for President, though this may have not been caused by the affair.

      –Gary Condit, Representative. Had a sexual affair with a staffer. [5] That staffer died in suspicious circumstances, and her body was not found for more than a year.
      Final resolution: lost to a challenger from his own party during the primary campaign for re-election

      –Mark Foley, Representative. Possibly had a sexual affair with a Congressional Page. Exchanged sexually explicit emails with at least one such Congressional Page. [6]
      Final resolution: resigned his position

      –Larry Craig, Senator. Engaged in behavior that appeared to be seeking an anonymous sexual encounter in an airport bathroom. Not known to have engaged in sexual abuse of anyone in his employ.
      Final resolution: a confusing series of gonna-resign, not-gonna-resign, plea-to-lesser-charges, try-to-reverse-the-plea-deal responses. Did not seek re-election.

      –Anthony Weiner, Representative (and husband to a Huma Abedin, who worked close to Hillary Clinton in her Presidential campaign). Accused of sending sexually-explicit pictures to women. Not accused of sexual abuse of anyone in his employ.
      Final resolution: Resigned from Congress, did not stop his mis-deeds.
      Strange connection: Investigation in those further misdeeds also turned up digital evidence of Abedin/Clinton moving classified information on computer networks outside of the official, classified-information network maintained by the U.S. Government.

      –Dennis Hastert, Representative. Was accused of breaking banking laws while making hush-money payments. The hush-money was for cases of sexual abuse that occurred many years in the past, when Hastert had been a teacher and wrestling coach. These allegations did not come out until after Hastert left office.
      Final resolution: sent to prison for crimes related to money-handling, left his position at a lobbying firm.

      –John Conyers, Jr. Representative. Has been accused by multiple women of groping of a sexual manner. Also accused of trying to force a female employee into a sexual relationship with him. [7] May have been paying hush-money to some harrassment victims.
      Final resolution: Conyers just announced his resignation.
      Strange connection: I just found a reference to Conyers being censured a decade ago by the House of Representative. That censure was for him forcing office employees to be baby-sitters and nannies for his family. He also used employees of his office as part of his re-election campaign.
      It is very hard to believe that this previous investigation did not turn up any reports of sexual misconduct…but I find it easy to believe that those reports were ignored at the time.

      –Roy Moore. State-level judge, and candidate for special election to U.S. Senate.
      Accused of being too friendly with underaged girls at a date long past the statute of limitations. There is one allegation of an affair with such a girl, and many stories that he appeared to be attracted to such girls. (I’ve seen claims that the timeline doesn’t quite work for the one allegation of an affair…but I haven’t been able to study the story in any depth.)
      Final resolution: not yet.

      Conclusion: Franken may not have gotten to the should-resign level of misbehavior. But in the current political climate, it is very hard to defend a man who was willing to grope/force-kiss a woman on camera.

      I’m happy that it’s become harder for politicians to defend themselves against allegations of sexual misconduct. However, I fear that if every politician who has ever done such things resigned from office, we’d need special elections for most of the elected offices in the country…

      ——————————————————————————————————–
      [1] Every mention of Edward Kennedy scandals by his political foes would also mention the Chappaquiddick incident, which did not involve sexual harassment. That incident was old news by the time I first heard about it. A strong case can be made that Kennedy should have been prosecuted for negligent homicide in the Chappaquiddick incident.
      It’s still possible to find copies of old editorials by feminists claiming that Mary Jo Kopechne would be happy to know that Kennedy supported feminist causes while he was in the Senate. I find such defenses to be obnoxious in the extreme.

      [2] At every corporation I’ve been employed at in the United States, I’ve received training from HR about how not to commit acts that might be considered sexual harassment. Every one of those training classes included the statement It is impossible to determine whether an employee can consent to a sexual relationship with someone who has authority over them in the workplace. Thus, such behavior is considered unlawful sexual harassment, even if both parties think it is consensual.
      For this reason, I do not consider Bill Clinton’s interaction with Monica Lewinsky to be an example of consensual sexual relationship.

      [3] At the time that groping charges were laid against the President, some feminists wrote editorials saying that a man should get one free grope.
      It’s still possible to find copies of those old editorials.
      Again, I find such defenses to obnoxious in the extreme.

      [4,5,6] I cannot consider these to be consensual sexual relationships, for the same reason that I cannot consider the Clinton/Lewinsky relationship consensual.
      However, I can’t find any old editorials attempting to minimize the seriousness of the allegations against these officials…

      [7] As stated above, I could not consider this to be a consensual sexual relationship. However, this accusation is that the official attempted to coerce an employee into such a relationship, not that the relationship actually happened.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It is impossible to determine whether an employee can consent to a sexual relationship with someone who has authority over them in the workplace. Thus, such behavior is considered unlawful sexual harassment, even if both parties think it is consensual.

        I’ve been to a number of those training classes, and while such relationships were forbidden by policy, the training never went so far as to say they were unlawful by definition. I don’t think it’s actually true, either, though it’s obviously playing with fire (ask Andy Rubin, but also ask Bill Gates)

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        Anthony Weiner, Representative (and husband to a Huma Abedin, who worked close to Hillary Clinton in her Presidential campaign). Accused of sending sexually-explicit pictures to women.

        It is curious you leave out one of the more incendiary parts of that: UNDERAGE women.

      • BBA says:

        I fear that if every politician who has ever done such things resigned from office, we’d need special elections for most of the elected offices in the country…

        You say that like it’s a bad thing. They should all go. Purge the sinners! Cleanse the earth with fire and fury! Mwahahaha… ahem.

        But it is a bit problematic that the only penalty for sexual misconduct of any kind is losing your job. Many deserve just that, but some deserve better, and some deserve a hell of a lot worse.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s a cheap way for the Democratic party to signal virtue by comparison to the Republicans. If Roy Moore were a sitting senator whose red-state governor would promptly appoint a GOP replacement and Al Franken were running for reelection in a tight race with the ballots already printed, it would be Moore who was being pressed to resign.

      Aside from the political considerations, I agree that Franken’s offenses are the sort that ought to be forgiven after a decade and an apology. The victims are under no obligation to accept the apology and offer forgiveness, but then the rest of us are under no obligation to pursue the case on their behalf. Statutes of limitations exist for a reason, and that reason doesn’t entirely stop at the courthouse door.

      • Brad says:

        I agree entirely with the cheap way part and that it would not have gone quite the same way if it would have cost the Democrats that seat.

        But as to the second part, I think you need to look beyond the initial accusation which was probably survivable, to the parade of women whose asses he grabbed while taking pictures including once he was a Senator. That’s not the crime of the century, but it is an abuse of power and it’s pretty clearly a pattern and not just a one time thing.

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t know anything about Franken except for what I’m reading, but it seems he was in show business (a comedian?)

          And now this – not just one “dumb broad can’t take a joke” story from years back, but now women coming forward to say “Oh yeah, he liked to drop the hand any chance he got”?

          It seems to be this weird confluence of being in entertainment and then getting power/fame, and translating that either into supporting political causes or getting into politics.

          Maybe all political parties should make a rule never to accept any candidates or potential political representatives if they’ve ever had anything to do with the media/entertainment business?

          • BBA says:

            Ronald Reagan tho.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know anything about Franken except for what I’m reading, but it seems he was in show business (a comedian?)

            He originally rose to prominence as one of the guys behind Saturday Night Live back when it didn’t suck, then developed a niche as a political comedian in the Jon Stewart mold two decades before Jon Stewart’s schtick took over the world. Wrote a book called “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot”, which is a fair sample of his style.

            Later he went into a career in real politics. Currently he’s a Senator for Minnesota.

    • Iain says:

      I’m not a fan of Franken, but I think the attack on him for relatively minor offenses a fair while back, at a time when he was a professional comedian, is vastly overdone.

      So far, eight women have come forward with accusations against Franken. Three of those accusations came from after Franken began his Senate campaign in 2007.

      The real clincher, I think, is that Franken has been calling his accusers liars. In particular, consider this case where Franken allegedly tried to kiss a woman and called it “his right as an entertainer”. Politico found two people who were willing to confirm that the accuser had privately told them the story years ago, but Franken nevertheless tried to deny that it ever happened. The “all these women are liars” defense has worked before, but the Democrats are trying to claim the high ground in a political moment where we start taking accusers seriously. Franken is a major obstacle to that plan.

      It’s certainly unlucky for Franken that he’s the guy left holding the bag for activities that people have been getting away with for years, but he has nobody to blame but himself.

    • lvlln says:

      The other day, I was catching up on Sam Harris’s podcast and listening to his interview of Kurt Andersen from November 8 of this year. At one point, they were discussing who the Democrats might run in 2020 against Trump, and amusingly enough, Al Franken was the name to come up, with Andersen outright saying “No disrespect to Senator Franken, but he’s kind of the Democratic Donald Trump.” He had no idea just how on-point he was! Though given that Franken just resigned today, maybe he wasn’t so on-point.

      I’m ambivalent on Franken as a politician or as a potential Democratic POTUS in 2020, but it does worry me that the punishments he’s facing seem to be the result of a reaction not to his specific bad actions but rather the bad actions of others. This is intrinsically bad, in the sense that it’s unnecessary harm to Franken himself, but I also wonder to what extent the Democrats are unnecessarily kneecapping our shot at taking back the White House with this. My intuition is that Franken was a long shot for the White House anyway (though back in 2013 I also would have thought Trump was a long shot for the White House), but the bigger concern to me is that I could easily see this sort of self-sabotaging behavior occurring in other contexts to other politicians when it comes to the Democratic party.

      • How much of it, in either party, is really infighting–one faction within the party using such accusations to eliminate a strong player in a rival faction?

        • BBA says:

          There is speculation in some circles that Kirsten Gillibrand orchestrated Franken’s ouster in order to bolster her feminist cred for a 2020 run. I don’t totally buy it but she’s one to watch out for – she’s like a younger Hillary Clinton, except she has some actual charisma.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve recently been looking into Ernst Haeckel, and I’m curious about what he may have written about how he thought about making his wonderful engravings.

    There seems to be a fair amount of material in English about him and science (major early Darwinist), philosophy, artistic influence, and whether he was a proto-Nazi, but nothing turned up about how he approached making images. Perhaps he never wrote about it, perhaps it hasn’t been translated, perhaps I just haven’t found it.

    I’m not saying he’s the first person I’d bring back from the past, but I’m sure he’d be fascinated by more recent biology and probably have something worth saying about it. And he’d make more art!

  3. GregS says:

    I have a long post about the economics of drug prohibition, which I thought might be of interest to other SSC-ers.

    Drug prohibition attempts to increase the cost of drug use such that we deter users. But if you factor in the cost paid by those who continue to use (even granting that the higher cost manages to deter some users), you will find this to be a losing game. Upping the penalty doesn’t help, because the costs paid by the continuing users is higher than the “savings” for those who are deterred from drug use. I feel like prohibition advocates are making inconsistent assumptions about the rationality of drug users, as if users are oblivious to the (pharmacological) costs of drug use, but suddenly become supremely responsive to the (legal) costs of drug use. You can square this circle by making weird assumptions about how they treat different kinds of costs very differently, but that seems really ad hoc and comes off sounding like special pleading. If you make consistent assumptions about drug users’ demand elasticity/rationality, drug prohibition looks like a bad idea. Whether you buy my conclusions or not, this is a useful way to think about the issue.

    Even granting that it’s a good idea to deter drug use, a system of taxes and user-licensing within a legal regime would save society a lot of costs. A legal penalty, like police harassment or jail time, is like imposing a tax on a good and then throwing away the revenue. With an actual tax, at least society at large can potentially collect the value of the added cost imposed on drug users.

    I think it makes more sense to directly target the bad behaviors supposedly attributable to drug use, but if it’s desirable to directly deter drug use there are more humane ways of doing it than prohibition. I very much doubt we would have seen this recent rash of fentanyl-related “heroin” overdoses if people could buy pharmaceutical-grade heroin from a licensed pharmacist. We’d have more potential levers of control on drug addiction and overdose issues if there were a legal market.

    • Mark says:

      Making something illegal isn’t about increasing the price, it’s about making it clear that society does not approve of that action.
      It is fair to draw a distinction between financial cost of a socially approved transaction, and the social cost of a prohibited action. It’s expected that people will respond differently to social disapproval than they would to a simple price increase.

      The best argument for drug prohibition is the argument against it. Atomised market society is bad society, basing our laws upon those principles makes everyone unhappy. Ban drugs for meta-ethical reasons.

      On the object level, we should also take into account how damn annoying drug users are. Not just because they commit more crime, but because they stink of drug smells, talk a load of rubbish, make noise, leave drug paraphernalia around and influence others with their selfish hedonism. I would pay a lot of money to live somewhere where there were no drugs, or at least I couldn’t see any obvious signs of them, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Children of drug users?
      All of this must also be taken into account also.

      • Protagoras says:

        Making something illegal isn’t about increasing the price, it’s about making it clear that society does not approve of that action.

        I am pretty much universally opposed to policies that are interested in “sending a message” regardless of whether there are any further benefits. They may make those sending the message feel better about getting to vent, but the messages are essentially never received as intended, and indeed quite frequently end up having the opposite of hoped for effects. But, of course, if people are committed to the policies regardless of the effects, because of the “message,” they will remain committed to the policies even when it becomes clear that they make things worse. Which is what seems to happen. Perhaps I am just too much of a consequentialist, but I find all of this insane.

        • Mark says:

          I can think of cases where a change in the law, and accompanying propaganda, has led to changes in attitudes and behaviour.

          The thing is, the main thrust of cultural change has been in the direction of individualistic liberalism. People don’t respond to punishment, because they receive alternative cultural signals. Signals telling them that society doesn’t agree with punishment.

          I think individualistic liberalism is wrong, because it can actually only operate as a cultural/social phenomena. It’s a culture war, where one of the competing cultures pretends it isn’t a culture.

          That’s why I want to punish drug use. Because the arguments for it are all about individualistic liberalism, and accepting those arguments means losing a battle in the culture war.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Making something illegal isn’t about increasing the price, it’s about making it clear that society does not approve of that action

        Okay, but we tax alcohol and tobacco in a way that suggests disapproval relative to other consumables, without needing to throw smokers and drinkers in jail. And in any case, if the expresses its disapproval of action A by enforcing policy B which makes the harms of action A worse and adds extra harms of its own, which is what GregS is arguing, then it would still be better to just not express that disapproval.

        On the object level, we should also take into account how damn annoying drug users are. Not just because they commit more crime, but because they stink of drug smells, talk a load of rubbish, make noise, leave drug paraphernalia around and influence others with their selfish hedonism.

        Well, that’s also true of legal drug users whom almost no one seriously proposes to (re-)criminalise – drunk people are often annoying, tobacco smoke smells at least as unpleasant as cannabis smoke (and really, the ‘smelly’ complaint only really applies to cannabis in the first place; most other currently illegal drugs are usually not smoked, and cannabis is the one drug where the harms caused by prohibition are most obviously disproportionate to the risks inherent in the drug itself). Heroin-injecting paraphernalia lying around is a distressing problem, but it is one made worse by the economics of the market pushing users towards injection (if everyone could just buy smokable opium, I’d expect a lot less injecting, though I don’t know what opium smells like so can’t say whether it would fall afoul of your other criteria), plus safe injection sites can do a lot to get needles off the streets.

        Also, because of the fact of prohibition, you only notice the most annoying minority of drug users, because everyone else who has the sense to keep their use private will not be visible to you. By all means, continue to criminalise geniunely antisocial behaviours, enact zoning laws within which people may not use or sell particular drugs, but unless you have good evidence that the behaviours you complain of are the behaviour of the typical user, rather than the annoying tail of the distribution, you cannot reasonably claim that we should punish all users to curb the antisocial behaviour, rather than just punishing the antisocial behaviour directly.

        I would pay a lot of money to live somewhere where there were no drugs, or at least I couldn’t see any obvious signs of them, and I’m sure I’m not alone

        Well, sure, if you and your neighbours want a dry village, or a dry region of a city or whatever, I don’t have a problem with that, as long as people have full exit rights, and those that do want to experience altered states of consciousness also have somewhere to go.

        Children of drug users?

        Don’t confuse worst case scenarios with typical cases – and also don’t forget that prohibition disproportionately drives off the people whose use of drugs would be least likely to be problematic in the first place. If someone neglects their child entirely because they spend all day either on heroin or committing crimes to buy heroin, sure, those children are almost certainly better off being taken into care. But if someone likes to relax with a joint after work, and once the kids are in bed, or the occasional capsule of MDMA at a concert or whatever, then throwing that person in jail, or even just damaging their future earning potential with an arrest record, is almost certainly going to be worse for their kids than just leaving them alone.

        I know DrBeat gets a lot of pushback around here for framing everything in terms of the popular people punishing the unpopular people for being unpopular, but really, the War on Drugs makes more sense if viewed as a vehicle for allowing the popular drug users to punish the unpopular drug users for using unpopular drugs, than if viewed as a policy that is actually rationally tailored towards maximising any defensible public health goals.

        • CatCube says:

          tobacco smoke smells at least as unpleasant as cannabis smoke

          This is definitely not true for me. I don’t like the smell of tobacco smoke, but it’s pretty easy to ignore. I’m hard pressed to think of a time when I smell marijuana smoke where it doesn’t make me feel like gagging, and actually gag in a few instances.

          (I actually didn’t know what marijuana smelled like before moving to Portland and having to deal with people reeking of it on the train. The first time I smelled it on somebody, I really thought they had been sprayed by a skunk.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I actually like the smell of tobacco smoke. It’s the residual smell that clings to your clothes for a couple days after you’ve been around people who’re smoking — ash? tar? — that’s really repulsive.

            Marijuana smoke smells worse in the moment but doesn’t leave the same residue.

          • Protagoras says:

            Apparently this is one of the many areas where tastes vary. Tobacco smoke definitely bothers me more than marijuana smoke.

          • Iain says:

            I second Protagoras.

        • Matt M says:

          Okay, but we tax alcohol and tobacco in a way that suggests disapproval relative to other consumables

          I’m not sure this is quite true. A lot of tobacco and alcohol taxes end up embedded into the price, such that the price is basically a black box for the consumer, who has no idea what the taxes actually are. For all they know, cigarettes are just naturally really expensive.

        • Mark says:

          There is a tradition of using alcohol and tobacco that isn’t really embedded in ideas of liberalism.

          If people were arguing for use of DMT because they wanted to become shamans or something, or smoking of cannabis in some specific cultural setting, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with them. I disagree with the idea that we should legalise drugs because individuals want to do it.

          Individuals want to do what they are told to do, the correct place for rational decision making isn’t the individual within a society. The society comes first, the individual later. So what kind of society do we want?

          Well, sure, if you and your neighbours want a dry village, or a dry region of a city or whatever, I don’t have a problem with that

          I don’t have a problem either, actually. It just doesn’t seem very likely.

          Yeah, bad parents – maybe. I don’t know what things would be like if we lived in a society that took responsibility seriously. Or if we managed to create a society amongst the lower-echelons that did.

      • GregS says:

        @Mark, signaling societal disapproval *is* a means of raising the price of drugs. If it’s a cost big enough to deter potential users, then surely it’s a cost big enough to harm continuing users. That’s largely my point. If this cost is “in play” in the sense of affecting behavior, we should count it as harm in both places. There are far less costly ways to signal disapproval. You can make something “illegal” without having draconian penalties (or *any* legally specified penalties) or even a budget for enforcement (like marijuana in the Netherlands, technically illegal but with practically no enforcement). Or just have congress pass a toothless resolution.
        “It is fair to draw a distinction between financial cost of a socially approved transaction, and the social cost of a prohibited action.”
        Yes, it’s fair to talk about different flavors of “costs,” and in fact my post does this. What seems ad hoc is to suppose that people don’t respond to costs (like the pharmacological/social risks of developing a drug habit) but then respond powerfully to other costs (like social disapproval or actual legal penalties).
        I feel like I preempted much of your comment in my post, even in my short summary of it posted here.
        “All of this must be taken into account.”
        I feel like I tried to do this, my apologies if it wasn’t very clear. I certainly didn’t duck any of these issues.
        I pretty much second Protagoras and Winter Shaker’s responses. +1 to what Winter Shaker says about the most annoying drug users being the most visible. You don’t notice the ones who never develop nasty habits. If legalization led to a significant increase in use, the new users would look more like the invisible/non-problematic users, probably not like the visible self-harming users.

        • Mark says:

          Legal prohibitions are, fundamentally, a way of shifting demand rather than a way of increasing costs.
          Conscientious people will desire drugs less if the society that surrounds them tells them it is naughty. The cost is just a signal that indicates that society is serious.

          (I don’t think you can achieve the same effect with nominal illegality but practical legalisation. People won’t take it seriously.)

          So, the costs of punishment falls upon the unconscientious. That’s a good thing. Unconscientious people should be punished.

          What seems ad hoc is to suppose that people don’t respond to costs (like the pharmacological/social risks of developing a drug habit) but then respond powerfully to other costs (like social disapproval or actual legal penalties).

          I would say that a cost has to have some kind of subjective psychological basis. It seems entirely likely that people will respond differently to different types of costs. Like the guys in the First World War.
          People put social pressure on them, and they ended up living in mud for 4 years, getting bits blown off them, and inhaling poison gas.
          How would you model the First World War, if not people discounting the physical risks, while responding heavily to social pressure?

          I feel like I tried to do this, my apologies if it wasn’t very clear. I certainly didn’t duck any of these issues

          Your post talks about anti-social behaviour that is already illegal – I’m talking about annoying behaviour that isn’t illegal. Perhaps it’s just far easier to ban drugs than it is to make being weird and smelly illegal. Those are significant externalities of drug use that it might not be easy to charge for directly.

          I think you’re defining “nasty habit” as “other illegal behaviours”. I don’t see why new users shouldn’t be equally likely to engage in non-illegal but still annoying activities.

          • Nornagest says:

            Legal prohibitions are, fundamentally, a way of shifting demand rather than a way of increasing costs.
            Conscientious people will desire drugs less if the society that surrounds them tells them it is naughty. The cost is just a signal that indicates that society is serious.

            You could just as well say that legal prohibitions are a way of lowering the expected value of undesired behavior and that putting out propaganda saying something’s naughty is a way of creating social cost. I’m just not sure it predicts anything in the wild; either way it’s a statement about models, not about reality.

            What’s paying rent here?

          • GregS says:

            From my post, quoting and linking to another post that discusses these issues in more detail:

            Perhaps the large social harms from drug use are due to things that aren’t criminalized. Things like neglect of one’s family or career are either not criminalized or are under-policed. If anyone is proposing we criminalize these behaviors, please suggest a proposal that makes sense, one that doesn’t further destroy the family. Clearly throwing a borderline negligent parent into prison has some harmful ramifications for his/her children, and throwing the same parent in prison on a drug charge has the same effect.

            I still feel like I’ve anticipated and preempted this point. Granted it’s a long post, so it’s understandable to have missed it on the first pass.

          • GregS says:

            Legal prohibitions are, fundamentally, a way of shifting demand rather than a way of increasing costs.

            My post explicitly shows a shifting demand curve. I go on to discuss high-cost and low-cost ways of accomplishing this shift. One can talk about “shifting the demand curve” or “raising the cost” but you don’t fundamentally get to a different answer just by using different words to describe it.

          • Mark says:

            Social censure as cost. Conscientious people feel this strongly, and therefore don’t pay it, since taking drugs becomes unattractive. Unconscientious people don’t feel it, therefore they don’t pay it. Social censure is a free lunch, but conscientious people have to believe that society actually believes in censure, otherwise their conscientiousness will lead them to follow these real social signals (and ignore what is said).
            If we don’t punish those who are unconscientious, we lose the ability to use this wonderful social censure tool to make society a better place.

            If we decide that being smelly and weird is one of the negative effects of drug taking, and we therefore decide to punish people who are smelly and weird, we are also going to be punishing people who happen to be smelly and weird.
            If we punish drug users, we are punishing people who choose to make themselves smelly and weird. The fact that they are selfish is a key reason to punish them.

            We punish people because we often cannot make back the costs of their behaviour, and because it makes people happy to see justice be done, for the evil to suffer. It makes me incredibly happy to see bad people go to prison. That’s why we have punishment.
            It makes me feel sad to see people paying their way out of trouble, because often it’s impossible to reverse the damage that has been done, at any cost. The cost of growing up with a horrible drug addict can’t be undone, certainly not from the income of the average drug user, so you end up with a de facto prohibition for all but the wealthiest, but lose the lovely social censure free lunch, and see selfish rich people prosper.

            So. Key points. Normal people get happy when they see punishment of bad people. That’s why we have it.
            Social censure can be a free lunch if conscientious people think that society is being serious.
            The greatest externality of drug use is the motivation and mentality of the people who engage in it – this can’t be recouped by anything but a massive tax which would result in de facto prohibition, but in order to maintain social censure, it’s better to just ban it for all.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Social censure as cost.

            Applying social censure also costs. “Society” has a deep well of standing for applying censure, but that water table is is not infinitely renewable. As censure is applied in ways that more and more people privately consider unfair or odious, the wells start running dry.

            This is problematic, because there are other places where that censure is the primary bulwark of civilization and of personal safety and trust. Society has overspent in censuring personal drug use, and so thus more and more people are being less persuaded when social censure is applied in other places.

            As I think about it, this is even more worrysome, since the mechanisms of the culture war are powered by social censure, which sinks more wildcat wells into that water table, and drains away more and more of society’s credibility to do that censuring.

          • Perhaps the large social harms from drug use are due to things that aren’t criminalized. Things like neglect of one’s family or career are either not criminalized or are under-policed.

            I have known two people who drank a lot–whether alcoholics in some technical sense I don’t know. Both had successful careers and, so far as I could tell, successful families.

            That suggests two possibilities for the problems you mention. One is that they are a result of drugs being illegal. The other is that the drug use is itself the result of psychological problems that would manifest unpleasantly even without the drugs.

            Those are only possibilities–it could be that many drug users have terrible lives and wouldn’t if the drugs were not available. But I don’t think the mere fact that there are drug users with terrible lives is sufficient evidence. There are, after all, non-drug users with terrible lives too.

          • GregS says:

            @DavidFriedman Well said. I’ve said before that it might be more useful to think of these social problems as bad habits interacting with poor conscientiousness, rather than assuming that everyone who imbibes rolls the same dice and incurs a fixed probability of becoming a problem user. Most people probably face something like zero chance of becoming addicts, others a substantially higher chance. It’s worth pondering that perhaps low-contentiousness/low-impulse-control individuals, likely to have problems for other reasons, might be disproportionately attracted to drugs. A naïve observer might see this spurious correlation and draw the wrong conclusions about causation here. I’ve heard Maia Szalavitz call this “the clinician’s error,” as in the clinician sees a bunch of addicts (without seeing any of the far more numerous non-problem users) and assumes drugs are more dangerous than they really are.

      • Standing in the Shadows says:

        I used to be more like you. Now, not so much.

        First of all, I have enough older relatives who discovered first hand how shit opiates are at dealing with of chronic pain, and how effective (and CHEAP) agricultural cannabinoids are at doing it.

        Two, I all but guarantee there are high functioning users of LSD, MDMA, and Ketamine in your larger extended social groups, that you would and will never know, and who very much do not “stink of drug smells, talk a load of rubbish, make noise, leave drug paraphernalia around and influence others with their selfish hedonism”.

        If you don’t want drugs about, don’t have them in your own house. Everything else is none of your business.

        When your knees, hips, and back start to give out, and your hands start to hurt, by all means, no cannabinoids for you. Ever. Can you precommit to that, now?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          There are neighborhoods where I have to be on guard walking my dog because the heroin addicts leave their used syringes on the ground. I want those people locked up, which can be a rehab center as far as I care. Just lock them somewhere so the streets are safe.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, they leave used needles in the parks, little drug bags outside the schools, etc. etc.

            Just completely selfish. Will legalising drugs and accepting the sovereignty of the individual – “no such thing as society” – make people less, or more selfish?

            I say we’ve found a good way to identify the worst of the worst – send them to Mars or something.

          • Matt M says:

            Just completely selfish. Will legalising drugs and accepting the sovereignty of the individual – “no such thing as society” – make people less, or more selfish?

            If we also had private property enforcement this would not be an issue. Addicts and other wastes of human life could be physically removed. There’s no problem with heroin addicts leaving their needles on the ground in gated communities, and it’s not because the law, vis-a-vis heroin is any different there than it is in public parks in San Francisco.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            You can’t enforce laws against homeless addicts; they have more powerful patrons than ordinary people.

          • Matt M says:

            The gated communities manage to keep them away somehow…

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            Well, yeah, that’s where the patrons live.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          When your knees, hips, and back start to give out, and your hands start to hurt, by all means, no cannabinoids for you. Ever. Can you precommit to that, now?

          Make it a prescription pill or something else sufficiently clinical/dissocial. Medical treatment is not a hobby; I don’t go into the pharmacy and talk to the pharmacist about what strain of Tylenol is the best or purchase Tylenol paraphernalia.

          I don’t even have much against pot smoking, for the usual libertarian reasons, but the whole “ohhhh medical marijuana, wink wink nudge nudge, say no more” schtick is profoundly dishonest. You want medicine, treat it like medicine. Treat it like a recreational drug and don’t be shocked when people question the medical need for it.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            I use a compounding pharmacy. I do, in fact, talk to my pharmacist about what syrup and binders to use, and which active ingredients to use, even for my OTC cold and headache meds.

            I don’t know if she can legally compound from cannabis tincture yet, but if she can’t, it will be soon.

            Re demanding it be given to you in a “prescription pill or something else sufficiently clinical/dissocial”, probably with a billion dollar pharma rain dance behind it, it’s attitudes like that contribute to the “cost disease” that Scott has talked about before. You want a bottle of pills that you pay a 5$ copay for, that your employers insurance company pays 1000$ for, that some team of pharma chemists have spent a billion dollars on trying to figure out how to get it to to numb the pain in your back, without accidentally making you TOO happy and giggly as a side effect.

            Or, coming at it another way, you insisting that it’s a medicine worthy of social permission only if it’s in a brightly colored pill in a plastic orange safety bottle with a funny brand name is a weird and is a WEIRD way of compartmentalizing, and little to do with underlying concrete reality.

            Full disclosure, I’ve smoked pot twice in my life. Yes, I inhaled. The rising euphoria was amusing, the pain in my lungs less so. I haven’t since, despite it now being trivial for me to get legally.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Re demending it be given to you in a “prescription pill or something else sufficiently clinical/dissocial”, probably with a billion dollar pharma rain dance behind it, it’s idiotic attitudes like that contribute to the “cost disease” that Scott has talked about before. You want a bottle of pills that you pay a 5$ copay for, that your employers insurance company pays 1000$ for, but what do you care, its invisible money, right? That some team of pharma chemists have spent a billion dollars on trying to figure out how to get it to to numb the pain in your back, without accidentally making you TOO happy and giggly as a side effect.

            Utter crap. There is such thing as generics. I can go buy a box of cold medicine for $15 and no third parties are involved. My objection, which you have completely ignored, is to the dishonesty involved in presenting recreational cannabis as a medical need.

            Full disclosure, I’ve smoked pot twice in my life. Yes, I inhaled.

            So brave.

            To reiterate, since you clearly didn’t read it the first time:

            I don’t even have much against pot smoking, for the usual libertarian reasons, but the whole “ohhhh medical marijuana, wink wink nudge nudge, say no more” schtick is profoundly dishonest. You want medicine, treat it like medicine. Treat it like a recreational drug and don’t be shocked when people question the medical need for it.

            ETA response to your edit:

            Or, coming at it another way, you insisting that it’s a medicine worthy of social permission only if it’s in a brightly colored pill in a plastic orange safety bottle with a funny brand name is a weird and is a WEIRD way of compartmentalizing, and little to do with underlying concrete reality.

            I think it’s a view shared by much of society that medicine is not supposed to be Fun!, it’s supposed to make you not-sick. If you want to take something when you aren’t sick, it’s recreational. Wanting recreational substances isn’t inherently negative. Fucking own it.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Utter crap. There is such thing as generics. I can go buy a box of cold medicine for $15 and no third parties are involved.

            One, that OTC cold medicine still had a set of FDA rain dances behind it, that probably all told cost over a billion dollars.

            Two, so, you want to buy your pot painkiller from Walgreens instead of the local pot shop? That’s not going to happen until a pharm drops the billion dollars. Two-and-a-half, and you want it OTC from Walgreens? LOL. Now you ARE smoking it! That’s not going to happen until another 30 years have passed, and another few billion dollar rain dances.

            Besides, the legal pot shops *already* sells cannabis tincture extract infused into sugar and then wrapped up to look like an OTC pill. For a few bucks a pill. Have at it.

            I think it’s a view shared by much of society that medicine is not supposed to be Fun!, it’s supposed to make you not-sick. If you want to take something when you aren’t sick, it’s recreational. Wanting recreational substances isn’t inherently negative. Fucking own it.

            And so you completely invisible the growing cohort of people who are very much not members of drug counterculture who have discovered that the pot shops have the only treatment that works and that has ever worked for them. And as I said upthead, many of those people are relatives of mind, none of whom are or ever were recreational pot heads.

            Also ref the upthread comment about Red Tribe exemplars in Missouri complaining about the lack of medicinal pot there.

            Know what’s REALLY funny? There are two very large cohorts of deeply Red Tribe people who, because of their job histories, tend to suffer a lot of chronic pain, and who talk to each other, and who are very politically active: retired police officers, and retired combat vets.

            In another venue I lurk on under another alias, I’ve been watching younger cops, older cops, retired cops, retired vets, and “corrections officers” become very heated with each other on this topic.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Two, so, you want to buy your pot painkiller from Walgreens instead of the local pot shop? That’s not going to happen until a pharm drops the billion dollars. Two-and-a-half, and you want it OTC from Walgreens? LOL. Now you ARE smoking it! That’s not going to happen until another 30 years have passed, and another few billion dollar rain dances.

            I don’t go to different shops for cold meds, digestive aids, and first aid supplies. Why should painkillers (one type of painkiller, even) be so special? Joe’s DayQuil Shop would not last long because people don’t make a hobby of taking cold meds. Pot shops are viable because there’s a recreational culture around it.

            Besides, the legal pot shops *already* sells cannabis tincture extract infused into sugar and then wrapped up to look like an OTC pill. For a few bucks a pill. Have at it.

            Thanks, but I don’t have a medical need.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Look, I agree, it’s stupid that Walgreens doesn’t stock cannabis extract painkiller right next to the aspirin. In a less stupid world, there wouldn’t have been the stupid multiaxal moral panic and demonization of the stuff a century ago, and today medications that used it would be as unproblematic as aspirin, and smoking pipeweed would be something done by weird old men over games of backgammon.

            But we don’t live in that less stupid world, and the pot shops and the patchwork legalization with a lot of hypocracy is the both the lowest energy path back to sanity on this topic, and is probably the ONLY path back to sanity on this point.

            And I reiterate, I no longer think that the “medicial” figleaf is entirely a hypocritical figleaf. The shit works, and people don’t have time to wait in pain, and their unwillingness to wait *IS* the energy source that is driving this path back to sanity.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Anecdotal, but I’ve noticed a distinct and startling upswing in people taking exactly the same pro-marijuana-for-pain-management-and-fuck-opioids line around here.

        Maybe I’m wrong, but when you’ve got a bunch of middle-aged church-going types who are about the most central example of “Red Tribe” you could think of being bitter about the lack of medical marijuana in Missouri, I feel like we’re turning the corner on this issue as a nation.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Drug prohibition is going to be less effective on drug addicts but it’s going to be most effective on marginal users, that is, the number of people who decide to try a drug out for the first time. With prohibition, most rational people are going to decide that doing one of these isn’t worth the costs, regardless of the benefits. Yes, drug prohibition hasn’t brought down the number of users to zero but that doesn’t mean it is a failure.

      • GregS says:

        “zero drug users” isn’t my standard for success. I’d settle for “passes a cost-benefit test under reasonable assumptions.” Prohibition fails even this low bar.

        It’s the irrational users who become society’s problems; presumably these people don’t respond (much) to legal penalties or social disapproval. The rational users, we don’t have to worry about. That’s my point. You can make whatever assumptions you like about user rationality, but under no consistent set of assumptions is prohibition a good idea.

        • Wrong Species says:

          How do you know that it doesn’t pass a cost benefit analysis? Did you actually do an analysis or are you just assuming it wouldn’t?

          There is not two distinct “rational” and “irrational” people. It’s a gradient. There is such a thing as marginal customers. Denying that is denying basic economics.

          • GregS says:

            I don’t assume it. It is the conclusion of my argument.

            Yes, it’s a gradient. That’s why I’m using demand curves in my argument. The demand curve implicitly captures this gradient: raise the price and you end up with fewer users (and users who use less frequently). Presumably it’s the marginal users who drop out first, and the more dedicated users who remain undeterred. I actually have a long discussion of this in my post, and how the social cost rises faster than the population of users falls off.

            I think Gary Becker, Kevin Murphy and Michael Grossman nailed the microeconomics on this one. They came to a similar conclusion, being that you have to make heroic assumptions in favor of drug prohibition to resurrect it as “good policy.” You might want to read their paper The Economics of Illegal Goods: The Case of Drugs. Parts of it are dense and very formal, but most of it is readable and very clear-headed.

    • hyperboloid says:

      I feel like prohibition advocates are making inconsistent assumptions about the rationality of drug users, as if users are oblivious to the (pharmacological) costs of drug use, but suddenly become supremely responsive to the (legal) costs of drug use

      To steelman the prohibitionist argument; it may be the case that drug pushers are very sensitive to the legal costs of selling drugs. The fact that one has resort to dealing with the criminal classes to acquire heroin, rather than buying it at the local bodega, seems to be evidence in favor of this argument. Though this still doesn’t justify criminalizing mere possession for personal use.

      • GregS says:

        With inelastic demand, the price rises so high that it inevitably attracts illegal suppliers. It appears that drug dealers are willing to endure very high costs to continue being drug dealers. Unless the supply curve has some weird cliff (again all attempts to revive drug prohibition as a good policy look really ad hoc to me), I don’t think this works.

  4. Andrew Hunter says:

    AlphaGo is now better than a human at chess and shogi using basically exactly the same model-free zero knowledge architecture. (Arguably the best in the world at chess, though that’s going to depend heavily on available hardware–most computer chess tournaments use fixed and relatively weak computers by modern standards; AlphaGo needs a slightly beefier (though by no means unreasonable) substrate and some dedicated ASICs. But the fact that it can stand toe to toe with Stockfish is damn impressive.

    The part that’s scary (in terms of AI alignment and so on): a number of people, even in forums that are very aware of superhuman AI and generally accept the idea, claimed that AlphaGo Zero was oversold as a general purpose framework. I believe someone either here or the subreddit explicitly made the claim that MCTS would never work well for chess; their given reason was essentially that MCTS can find brilliant moves, but also would insert dumb mistakes into its playouts; they believed that go so rewarded brilliancies that the good playouts could be found and rewarded in reinforcement learning, but that chess would punish the dumb parts of a playout too much. (At the time I rated this as “plausible, but unproven”–I am not a high level go or chess player and have not written battle-tested MCTS code.)

    Looks like that’s entirely wrong. Which is both exciting and worrying.

    • Incurian says:

      Which human?

      • Rob K says:

        If it can beat stockfish, it can beat every human.

        • Incurian says:

          Then all is lost.

          • Rob K says:

            Strangely enough, chess is more popular than ever even though we’ve moved from it being a game where amateurs could understand and evaluate top level games to one where the cutting edge of play is inscrutable machines making moves that even the best humans don’t try to mimic. (Not really on topic, but still interesting to me.)

          • Incurian says:

            It was very interesting and you didn’t go off topic so much as bring my little goofy sub-thread back on topic.

          • quaelegit says:

            @Rob K — any idea why it’s gotten more popular then? Is it just people reading headlines about AlphaGo or are people actually playing more chess now?

          • johan_larson says:

            Between widely available chess programs and online play, it’s easier than ever to play a game of chess. And it’s easier than ever to find a competitive game, with someone else who is at your level. That last point should not be underestimated. In 1975, if you were an adult who wanted to take up the game, you could play with your family, but the next step up was playing at a club. There even the weaklings had been playing for years, so you faced a long hard climb out of the Pit of Always Losing. This is no longer a problem.

          • Rob K says:

            I’d add that, in terms of learning, you can also get engine analysis of your games online immediately after playing them.

            Going online, instantly getting matched up with a similar-strength chess player anywhere in the world, and then immediately studying your game with a readout of your mistakes and suggested alternative moves is the some Edward Bellamy Looking Backward utopia shit, now that I think about it.

    • Iain says:

      In the vast universe of tasks that can plausibly be solved by a general purpose AI framework, does the addition of Chess and Shogi to an approach that already plays Go even count as an improvement? There’s reason to believe that alpha-beta pruning would not do well at Go, but — while the hypothesis you describe is prima facie plausible — it’s not particularly shocking to find out that MCTS can also be used effectively for chess.

      MCTS is a really really good approach for perfect information strategy games. That’s still far from general purpose.

  5. Brad says:

    Transcript of the oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case:
    https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/2017/16-111_f314.pdf

    I have a question for those that support the bakery owner:

    Sometimes there’s a Supreme Court case where the outcome is very politically salient, but supporters of one side don’t agree with the rationale that turns out to be the strongest legal argument.

    To give an example, in affirmative action in education the sole justification that the Supreme Court has accepted to justify it is that racial diversity enhances the educational experiance of all students. So any time there’s litigation over the question those on the pro affirmative action side dufully go to the Supreme Court and argue that the really really care about the educational benefits of diversity. But in reality this is not the sole or main reason people support educational affirmative action.

    My questions is: is something similar going on here? The strongest argument for the baker is that that his cake baking is expressive activity. Akin to if he were a poet commissioned to write a poem celebrating the couples’ love for each other. Under this rationale there’s nothing at all wrong with the state forcing a staffing company to provide waiters and waitresses to a gay wedding as that’s clearly not expressive. But it is my sense that the out their in the population argument for the baker has more to do with either freedom of association in general or specifically with freedom of religion than it does with freedom of speech. Is that accurate?

    • Matt M says:

      For me personally, yes, that is accurate. This is not about speech OR religion, it’s about absolute freedom of association. Not only is “cake-making is expressive” the wrong argument, but “freedom of religion” is also wrong, because even the non-religious should enjoy freedom of association.

      That said, I favor increasing liberty at virtually any cost, including using fairly dumb loopholes in the law. The left had no problem with getting Obamacare upheld by arguing it was a tax, even when all of their other utterances on the matter were loud declarations that it was NOT a tax. So I have no problem with “cake making is an expressive art” even though I don’t think that’s actually the relevant issue here at all. If the Supreme Court would actually entertain an argument that might lead to overturning all anti-discrimination law that would be fine by me, but since that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon…

      • I agree with Matt–specifically his first paragraph.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I would argue further that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are inseparable conjoined twins anyway. Good luck restricting one in a way that doesn’t impinge on the other.

        I like to think the Founders knew this and put them in the same amendment for that reason.

        • rlms says:

          It’s definitely possible to restrict freedom of speech without hitting freedom of religion (unless you are counting restrictions on (hypothetical) religions made up to get around freedom of speech laws): libel laws are an obvious example. The other way round is more difficult, but I think it is still theoretically possible: restrictions on e.g. halal slaughter would count.

    • Controls Freak says:

      I think there is some aspect of this.

      Under this rationale there’s nothing at all wrong with the state forcing a staffing company to provide waiters and waitresses to a gay wedding as that’s clearly not expressive.

      I also think this is a correct way to point it out. To place the intuition in a non-culture-war context, dial the clock back to pre-Civil War. Assume a state repealed their prohibition on murder or otherwise created a ‘lynching exception’. Not only were fugitive slaves expected to be returned to their owners, but oftentimes, those owners would put together lynching parties upon the return of said slave. They’d invite all their friends, have a big cake with a statue depicting a lynching on top of it, and then proceed to kill the slave and have a celebration about the whole thing. An abolitionist (or just a person who believes in a positive right to life; to dial the culture war back up, imagine abortion parties) probably objects to either being required to bake a decorative cake or to provide waiters/waitresses for such an obviously evil party… but if they happen to be a baker, they’re probably going to press that argument in court if they think it’s more likely to garner five votes.

      I don’t even quite know that it’s exactly freedom of association, as Matt M describes. It’s more that people haaaaaate feeling forced to support something they find morally reprehensible, in any way. The “morally reprehensible” part is likely doing enough work here to be the cause of why it’s easy to try to round it off to “freedom of religion”. Anyway, suppose the gov’t, being concerned that wedding cakes might not be readily available to homosexual couples, decided to implement a program which required all bakers to provide cakes to the gov’t. (Assume the gov’t bothers to pay them, so it’s not quite a tax or the National Raisin Reserve.) In turn, the gov’t distributes those cakes to homosexual couples who are getting married. That is the entire purpose of the program. Even though the bakers don’t technically have to associate with any homosexual couples, they know that they’re still being forced to support something they find morally reprehensible, and I think they’d still be upset… whether or not they have a suitable argument against the scheme for the supremes.

      (The specificity of the objects required is relevant for many people’s moral calculus. They would probably be less annoyed if some portion of their tax dollars were used for the same program, without a specific requirement for production. After all, tax dollars are fungible and probably used for all kinds of things they hate, and this is a battle everyone lost long ago. It’s similar to the health insurance debates and why people hate being specifically required to directly fund birth control rather than have it provided from the general gov’t coffers.)

    • Wrong Species says:

      I’m not religious or libertarian but I still think freedom of association is a good enough thing on its own to uphold. Yes, there is the “discrimination against black people” argument but I don’t think freedom of association should necessarily be all or nothing.

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        Curious. What relevant distinction do you see between “discrimination against black people” and “discrimination against gay people”?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          1) You’re born black.

          2) There’s scant evidence anyone is “born gay.”

          3) The baker is not objecting to serving gay people, but to participating in a gay wedding.

          4) Discrimination against blacks was a society-wide problem. “Go to another lunch counter” wasn’t a useful solution when lots and lots of lunch counters were “whites only.” On the other hand, “go to another baker” is a simple and readily available solution to the problem as the vast majority of bakers will gladly take your money for your gay cake. Hell, tell ’em a sob story about the evil Christian who wouldn’t bake your gay cake and you’ll probably get a discount, or a free cake.

          5) I have a sneaking suspicion this is more about sticking it to Christians than it is about standing up for gays. I strongly suspect that if homosexuals tried to commission a gay wedding cake from a Muslim bakery and the Muslims said “we are so sorry, we cannot do this as it is against the will of Allah” they would say “oh, that’s too bad, we respect your faith and will find another baker” and would be lauded for their tolerance. But because it’s Christians it’s sue, sue, sue.

          • Anonymous says:

            2) There’s scant evidence anyone is “born gay.”

            Do you mean “gay” in the sense “experiences sexual attraction to the same sex” or “has sexual intercourse with the same sex”?

            In any case, it’s not true there’s “scant” evidence about the biological basis for homosexuality. It’s true that it’s probably not “genetic”, since that doesn’t even make sense theoretically, but there are numerous studied physical differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Not the same thing and not getting into this again.

          • Anonymous says:

            I had no idea Lysenkoism survived the fall of the USSR.

          • Protagoras says:

            2 has been extensively discussed, of course, so I will set that aside and chime in with my extreme skepticism about 5.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is there a society-wide problem of gays unable to find services for their gay weddings?

            If there is, then I could agree the problem is discrimination against gays, and the need for government to stand up for them.

            If there isn’t, then it seems the problem is that there exist Christians who will not bake gay wedding cakes, and we need the government to stick it to them.

            So, which is it?

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Hmmm.

            (2) seems irrelevant anyway; I wasn’t born knowing how to program, for example, but the fact that I learned doesn’t justify discriminating against me.

            (3) is subjective, it isn’t like the baker has to attend the ceremony. (Unless that’s a thing in America?)

            (4) depends on the assumption that everyone lives somewhere where there are lots of wedding cake businesses within easy reach, and where a reasonable proportion of them are likely to be non-religious or moderate. On the face of it this seems unlikely to be true everywhere in America. I assume you disagree?

            (I will note that there might be many such businesses that would like to discriminate but are currently too afraid of legal and/or social consequences. That’s just speculation, though. We might find out, I guess.)

          • Nornagest says:

            I have a sneaking suspicion this is more about sticking it to Christians than it is about standing up for gays.

            Red Tribers, not Christians. You’re absolutely right that a Muslim bakery would probably get a pass, unless the couple also happened to be Muslim, and then it’d be treated as a local dispute, not a tribal issue. But most of the people on the other side of this issue also think of themselves as Christian, and most of those that don’t, do think of themselves as respecting authentic Christianity (viz. what you’d probably think of as a neutered politically correct one). The modal objection to Red Tribe Christianity among Blues is not “there is no god, and Christians suck”, it’s “Jesus didn’t teach selfishness and hate” — whether or not the Blue in question actually believes in Jesus. This ties into the much greater emphasis on hypocrisy in Blue Tribe ethics.

            New Atheist types are part of the coalition, but they’re considered an embarrassing fringe position.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: makes blues sound like Quakers in Moldbug’s sense.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t subscribe to a lot of Moldbuggery, but I do think there’s something to his idea that Blue Tribe ethics — one strain of them, at least — are a sublimation or mutation of Puritan ethics.

          • Brad says:

            FWIW objections #4 and 5 have some strong parallels to Rick Hills’ (well respected NYU law professor) take on the case.

            For #4 the language he uses is a distinction between material and dignitary harms, and for #5 he suggests a shift in focus to the governmental purpose rather than the purportedly expressive nature of the activity.

            His bottom line then takes off in a different direction — he supports a kind of federalism with respect to constitutional rights that is very different from current doctrine — but I’d thought I’d point out his work.

            (The spam filter did not like my link. Go to prawfsblawg and look for the first RH post.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Agreed. I think he’s most correct when revising pre WW2 Anglo-American history and a turgid insinuator when going on about policy.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            (3) is subjective, it isn’t like the baker has to attend the ceremony. (Unless that’s a thing in America?)

            I don’t think so. No one acts like this when talking about providing services to someone or something they find morally objectionable.

            Assume you think neo-nazism is wrong. You own a hotel that neo-nazis would like to rent for a neo-nazi meeting to spread neo-nazi ideas. Would it be unreasonable for you to feel as though renting this space to the neo-nazis for the neo-nazi rally enables neo-nazism? Wouldn’t pang your conscience at all?

            How do you feel about boycotts? Lots of people engaged in a boycott of Chik-fil-a restaurants in the US because the owners opposed gay marriage and did not want to enable such people. Were they wrong or foolish to do so?

            On the meta level, everyone acts as though providing service to people doing Thing X contributes to Thing X, and if Thing X is objectionable they are either entitled to or required to refuse service to those doing Thing X.

            Arguing that baking a cake for a gay wedding does not make you a contributor to or enabler of gay weddings is special pleading. I do not believe anyone would make or accept such an argument if one refused to bake a cake for a nazi party for nazis spreading nazism because they did not want to be party to enabling nazism.

            Baking a cake for gay weddings enables gay weddings. Should one be allowed to refuse to do that while still baking cakes for straight weddings or be coerced by government force into doing it is the question.

          • lvlln says:

            I don’t think so. No one acts like this when talking about providing services to someone or something they find morally objectionable.

            Assume you think neo-nazism is wrong. You own a hotel that neo-nazis would like to rent for a neo-nazi meeting to spread neo-nazi ideas. Would it be unreasonable for you to feel as though renting this space to the neo-nazis for the neo-nazi rally enables neo-nazism? Wouldn’t pang your conscience at all?

            It certainly wouldn’t pang my conscience. It WOULD pang my conscience if I decided to refuse service to the neo Nazis to hold a neo-Nazi meeting to spread neo-Nazi ideas, though.

            How do you feel about boycotts? Lots of people engaged in a boycott of Chik-fil-a restaurants in the US because the owners opposed gay marriage and did not want to enable such people. Were they wrong or foolish to do so?

            I spoke out against those boycotts at the time, and I still object to boycotting Chik-fil-a for the reason of its owners objecting to gay marriage and monetarily contributing to it.

            I also think gay marriage is an obvious human right and find the owners of Chik-fil-a to be morally reprehensible for objecting to it.

            On the meta level, everyone acts as though providing service to people doing Thing X contributes to Thing X, and if Thing X is objectionable they are either entitled to or required to refuse service to those doing Thing X.

            Arguing that baking a cake for a gay wedding does not make you a contributor to or enabler of gay weddings is special pleading. I do not believe anyone would make or accept such an argument if one refused to bake a cake for a nazi party for nazis spreading nazism because they did not want to be party to enabling nazism.

            I would make and accept that argument. I consider Nazis some of the most evil people on the planet, and I consider being gay to be exactly as morally neutral as being straight. But I would find someone refusing to bake a cake for Nazis for the purpose of spreading Nazism because they didn’t want to enable Nazism to be just as reprehensible as someone refusing to bake a cake for gays for the purpose of a gay wedding because they didn’t want to enable a gay marriage.

            I admit my opinions may not be common among those on my side.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I do not believe anyone would make or accept such an argument if one refused to bake a cake for a nazi party for nazis spreading nazism because they did not want to be party to enabling nazism.

            For the sake of argument, let’s accept that as given. And to draw an analogy with my original question, let’s suppose someone wanted a cake for a party welcoming a black person to their neighbourhood, and the baker refused because they disapproved of black people and white people sharing the same neighbourhood. I think we can also accept as given that US society would consider the baker’s refusal to be unacceptable?

            The differences between a gay marriage and a literal Nazi rally in this respect are obvious. What are the relevant differences between gay marriage and letting black people and white people live in the same neighbourhood?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @lvlln

            Great. Assume your government bans Nazi symbolism and Nazism, like the government of Germany does. A Nazi comes to your cake shop and says “please bake me this nazi cake for our nazi party to spread nazism.” You would very much like to do this because of your commitment to freedom of expression, but the government will punish you. You are thereby compelled, by government, to violate your conscience.

            Now do you understand the objection of the Christian cake bakers who would be compelled, by government, to bake a cake in violation of their conscience?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think we can also accept as given that US society would consider the baker’s refusal to be unacceptable?

            That society would find it unacceptable isn’t the issue. What you said was that baking the cake doesn’t necessarily contribute to the gay marriage. Of course it does, because that’s the way we treat everything else. I think one has to be deliberately obtuse to not understand “providing service to those performing Thing X contributes to the performance of Thing X.” And this isn’t just colloquially, we have laws about this kind of stuff. You can go to jail for providing material support to terrorists because obviously providing material support to terrorists supports terrorism.

            The question is whether or not you should provide service anyway, or be compelled to do it anyway out of a higher purpose.

            In lvlln’s case, he would make the nazi cake or rent the hotel to the nazi rally despite hating the nazis, and knowing his actions contribute to the spread of nazism, but because he serves a higher purpose: the protection of freedom of expression and assembly.

            Do you deny that renting space for a nazi rally contributes to spreading nazism? If so, do you think someone in prison for selling weapons to terrorists is unjustly imprisoned?

            What are the relevant differences between gay marriage and letting black people and white people live in the same neighbourhood?

            What’s the reason the hypothetical person doesn’t want blacks and whites living in the same neighborhood? Is it just preference, or is there some compelling reason it violates their conscience?

            ETA: Oh, and go read the oral arguments. Absolutely no one is arguing that baking the cake doesn’t contribute to the gay wedding except you. You really ought to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court and let them know the whole point is moot because the cake doesn’t contribute to the performance of the wedding.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            What you said was that baking the cake doesn’t necessarily contribute to the gay marriage.

            No, I said it wasn’t the same as participating in the marriage, which was your original wording. I wouldn’t have objected to “contributing to”. A misunderstanding, I guess.

            What’s the reason the hypothetical person doesn’t want blacks and whites living in the same neighborhood? Is it just preference, or is there some compelling reason it violates their conscience?

            I’m not sure it matters, because of course they’re going to say that it violates their conscience. They might even be sincere about it; there’s plenty of precedent.

            Personally, I find it very hard to believe the defendants in the current case are sincere. It seems much more likely that they just don’t like gays much, and I think the plaintiffs probably felt the same way. But I should really suspend my disbelief, and I think you should seriously consider that the plaintiffs may be sincere as well.

            Oh, and go read the oral arguments.

            I’m not particularly interested in the legal aspects.

          • Nick says:

            I’m not sure it matters, because of course they’re going to say that it violates their conscience. They might even be sincere about it; there’s plenty of precedent.

            Personally, I find it very hard to believe the defendants in the current case are sincere. It seems much more likely that they just don’t like gays much, and I think the plaintiffs probably felt the same way. But I should really suspend my disbelief, and I think you should seriously consider that the plaintiffs may be sincere as well.

            This actually came up in the oral arguments as well. On p. 88, Breyer asks about the situation of someone whose religious beliefs were the same as the KKK’s, such that they objected to the message of racial equality on religious grounds, and the plaintiff’s lawyer, Cole, brings up Piggie Park. Some context:

            JUSTICE KENNEDY: Well, but this whole concept of identity is a slightly — suppose he says: Look, I have nothing against — against gay people. He says but I just don’t think they should have a marriage because that’s contrary to my beliefs. It’s not -­

            MR. COLE: Yeah.

            JUSTICE KENNEDY: It’s not their identity; it’s what they’re doing.

            MR. COLE: Yeah.

            JUSTICE KENNEDY: I think it’s — your identity thing is just too facile.

            MR. COLE: Well, Justice Kennedy, this Court faced that question in Bob Jones University. Bob Jones University said we’re not discriminating on the basis of race; we allow black people to come into the school. We just refuse to admit those who are engaged in interracial marriages or advocate interracial dating. And this Court said that’s race discrimination. That’s identity-based discrimination, even if you treat others similarly.

            But — but I think one way to think about this case is — is — is analogize it to O’Brien, right? In O’Brien, nobody disputed that O’Brien’s burning of the draft card to protest the Vietnam War was expressive. It was core political expression.

            But what the Court did was it didn’t say, well, how expressive is it? Is it artistry; is it not? Is it core; is it not? It said what is the state trying to do here? Because it’s expressive conduct. And if the state’s seeking to regulate conduct, then the fact that it has an incidental effect on Mr. O’Brien’s expression is not a problem as long as the state has a content-neutral reason for regulating that conduct.

            JUSTICE BREYER: I take Justice Gorsuch’s question and substitute for the KKK a religious group, bizarre perhaps, but a religious group that unfortunately has the same beliefs as the KKK. It doesn’t — then you can ask your question -­

            MR. COLE: Right.

            JUSTICE BREYER: — and the answer is they do have to sell it to them, right?

            MR. COLE: I think if the discrimination is based on a — a protected characteristic, yes, they — they can’t say because I object to the message that equal treatment sends, right? Piggie Park objected to the message that equal treatment sent. To serve a — a black person in a segregated -­ previously segregated restaurant sent a tremendous message, a message that Piggie Park sincerely religiously objected to. And this Court said that that’s a frivolous claim in that context.

            So I don’t — I just — I don’t think you can carve out exceptions to generally applicable rules that regulate conduct in a content-neutral way, as this does. And so just as Mr. — the fact that Mr. O’Brien’s conduct, burning the draft card, was expressive did not give him a First Amendment exemption to a content-neutral prohibition on draft card destruction, so the fact that Mr. Phillips considers his cake-baking to be expressive doesn’t give him a First Amendment exemption to a content-neutral regulation of public accommodation sales in the retail context.

            This Court has already said that that interest in prohibiting discrimination on the basis of identity in public accommodations is a interest unrelated to the suppression of expression, said that in Roberts versus Jaycees, it serves compelling interests, Roberts versus Jaycees, even where race is not involved.

            I think this is one of the most important passages in the oral arguments, as it’s one of the clearest expressions of the argument the plaintiffs are making, but I’m too tired right now to get into it and oh-my-gosh-am-I-not-a-legal-expert.

            That aside, though, I think it’s a mistake to speak at all about the sincerity of the religious beliefs. That sounds like an awfully difficult thing to test, and requiring more stringent proof of sincerity would necessarily mis-identify folks who are sincere. The simplest test is to ask whether they are a regular church-goer (let’s suppose they’re Christian) in a tradition with just those beliefs, but that’s easy test for, say, a Catholic while much harder for various Protestant denominations.

        • Garrett says:

          There are a few different aspects here, though I’m not sure they change the overall principles on either side:

          1) Being black is self-evident. It requires effort to conceal that attribute. Being gay is pretty easy to conceal. If you’re by yourself, no one need know. Even if you’re travelling with your same-sex partner, it’s possibly still more likely that you’re just friends on a road trip together.

          2) Importance. There’s a far cry between “nobody will sell me any food or lodging” and “we might have to settle for a supermarket wedding cake”. There’s no requirement for weddings to have cakes. It’s pretty difficult to survive without food or shelter altogether, though.

          3) Social/legal acceptance. At the time the Civil Rights Act et al. were passed, there were strong social and legal forces prohibiting cross-race service. Eg. draining of swimming pool after a black woman put a toe in. Right now, same-sex marriage appears to have an majority of support based on polling.

          Media organizations have to go desperately out of their way to find counter-examples. See: the rural pizza joint whose junior employee didn’t think that their employer would cater a gay wedding; whatshername – the one county clerk in the country who wouldn’t sign same-sex marriage paperwork.

          4) Countervailing forces. Stereotypically, people in the wedding industry are disproportionately likely to be gay. Refusing to make gay wedding cakes means that much of the industry you work will is more likely to take offense and be less likely to direct customers to your business. So businesses who won’t make cakes for gay couples are more likely to face disproportionate business consequences, outside of broader social pressure and boycotts.

          • skef says:

            There’s an irony in the consequentialist exceptions that many libertarian-inclined people make for the 1960s civil rights legislation that seems rarely noted.

            If the standards for intervention are systemic, how should the legal system go about judging whether such intervention is needed in a given area? How far should a gay or black person — or a woman seeking an abortion, for that matter — have to drive for something before the situation is no longer just? Is the standard driven by test court cases, or what?

            One of the main reasons we have these deontic laws is because they’re simple. Systemic standards like those that would allow for the ’60s legislation would usually need monitoring and bureaucracy to figure out where to apply them, and the taxation that implies.

          • There’s an irony in the consequentialist exceptions that many libertarian-inclined people make for the 1960s civil rights legislation that seems rarely noted.

            For what it’s worth, I don’t make that exception. I think discriminating against blacks (or Jews or short people) should be legal, on freedom of association grounds.

            The closest thing to a persuasive argument I have seen on the other side, from Richard Epstein, is that southern discrimination was actually being enforced by southern local governments–if your restaurant let blacks and whites sit together the health inspector might show up–so businesses that didn’t want to discriminate were helped by being able to claim they were being forced not to by the feds.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      But it is my sense that the out their in the population argument for the baker has more to do with either freedom of association in general or specifically with freedom of religion than it does with freedom of speech. Is that accurate?

      Yes.

      I think this is what you’d call a “Rosa Parks” situation, or at least what I’d call a Rosa Parks situation. Which is to say, this is an engineered point of conflict meant to be as sympathetic as possible and probably meant to set a wider precedent. With that said, I’m basically fine with this because I believe that freedom of association – as long as it does not present an undue burden to those who are dissociated from – is important. I.E., if you can’t buy a cake at half the shops in the city, that might be an issue, but if a few random businesses won’t serve gay marriages then it’s not really a big deal and you can easily find work-arounds. And I don’t think a lot of businesses will decide not to serve gay marriages, so I’m not too worried.

      (Also; one can argue that, more than freedom of association, this is freedom of labor or work or whatever. You should have the right to refuse service, more than the right to refuse association. Those are similar and intertwined, but I think it’s worth distinguishing them.)

    • IrishDude says:

      I’ll amplify AnonYEmous’ point that this is more about freedom of labor to me. I have a strong presumption that coercing someone to perform work for you is wrong. If my neighbor puts a sign up advertising his mowing service and I ask him to mow my yard and he refuses, I don’t think I ought to be able to coerce him to mow my yard. To me, it doesn’t matter what his reasoning is, whether it’s because I said something he didn’t like a week ago, because of my gender or race, or for no stated reason; I don’t think it is right for me to coerce him into performing labor for me since he owns his body and his labor.

      The only caveat is if another set of property rights takes precedent. If my HOA–assuming it has gained jurisdiction over the neighborhood in a just way–has rules against discrimination, and each home owner consented to those rules, then it could be just for the HOA to enforce those rules against my neighbor that refuses to mow my lawn. Some people think local, state, or federal governments have just jurisdiction and consent of the governed, such that enforcement of their non-discrimination laws are just, but I haven’t seen compelling justification for these claims.

    • Anonymous says:

      But it is my sense that the out their in the population argument for the baker has more to do with either freedom of association in general or specifically with freedom of religion than it does with freedom of speech. Is that accurate?

      I just find it bizarre that people in the USA cannot refuse to do business with someone.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        There’s a weird sort of totalitarianism in play where the only options people can imagine are that something is compulsory or forbidden.

        During segregation, it was forbidden to serve African Americans. If you tried to run an integrated business in many places you were in violation of state and local law.

        Now it’s compulsory to serve every protected class. If you don’t try to run an integrated business you’re in violation of federal law.

        If someone argues against the latter, it’s seen as equivalent to arguing for the former. There’s no percieved middle ground between “I don’t want to be forced to do this” and “I want to force others not to do this.”

        • beleester says:

          People expected, with good reason, that de jure segregation would simply get replaced by de facto segregation if there wasn’t any legal force backing it up. So a “middle ground” wouldn’t have really solved the problem.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s horrible.

          • Matt M says:

            Because people didn’t understand that market forces were pushing integration in the south, only to be resisted by state force. A law saying “the states can no longer require segregation” would have ended a lot of segregation almost immediately, and the rest of it slowly over time.

            The infamous Plessy vs Ferguson was about a railroad that wanted to integrate its cars (for the purposes of efficiency), but the state law would not allow them to.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @beleester,

            This is kind of the attitude that I’m talking about though.

            Like think about it in terms of marriage. When there were anti-miscegenation laws, that was a bad thing. If tomorrow Congress laws requiring interracial marriages that would also be a really bad thing!

            It’s not the state’s business whether or not people like one another. Once you find yourself “solving” other people’s thoughts and attitudes you’re already way out of line.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I think that in the long run social and economic pressure could have made inroads into de facto segregation, personally, but we’ll never know now and it may well have taken a long time.

          That said, how do we -get- to that middle ground now? Do you think that the only way to EVER avoid segregation and cultural/racial discord is through top-down coercion? If so, that to me says that the idea of a multi-racial/multi-cultural society is fundamentally at odds with traditional western liberal principles. I hope that’s not the case.

          • Anonymous says:

            the idea of a multi-racial/multi-cultural society is fundamentally at odds with traditional western liberal principles.

            More like “with human nature”.

          • Incurian says:

            It could just mean it needs to be jumpstarted.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Anonymous

            Maybe, but I’m hoping not.

            @Incurian

            Sure, but history seems to indicate that there are few things more immutable and permanent than “Temporary” measures enacted to correct extreme/emergency issues, which is precisely the problem I think we now have.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t disagree, but that is a different argument. I’m not sure if I’m being nitpicky here or if that is an important distinction. Feedback would be appreciated.

    • dodrian says:

      I actually think the ‘artistic expressiveness’ is the important part of the argument. Otherwise, where would you draw the ‘association’ line?

      Would it be OK if the bakers had refused to sell a gay man a donut? Or a large box that will be the centerpiece at their wedding later in the day?

      What if the bakers had refused to decorate a plain birthday cake with “Happy 60th” for a gay customer?

      Can the bakers refuse a commission on a wedding cake for a straight couple because they’d have to work with a gay wedding planner to create it?

      I wouldn’t support business owners in the above situations – they strike me as outright discrimination. But I’m sympathetic to the bakers at the supreme court, and I think the “artistic expression” factor is the reason why.

      • Anonymous says:

        Whereas I would support them in every case. It’s their shop, it’s their goods, and if they don’t want to do business with someone for any reason, including no reason, that’s it.

    • Nick says:

      This is an excellent post, Brad. My only complaint is that you shouldn’t have linked the oral arguments; I went and read the whole thing at work when my boss disappeared after lunch. 😀

      I’ve read the rest of the replies and it looks like there are people coming at this from all angles, which is nice to see, because I’m going to come at it from yet another angle…. I’m personally neutral on the question of freedom of association. It’s certainly an elegant solution to questions like this, and to the pursuit of private goods in general, but I’m concerned about the implications for the common good. At the risk of being eviscerated by Matt M, David Friedman, or others, I find it telling that there’s no mention thus far of public accommodation, which I see as a potential (and prima facie reasonable) corrective to the most serious excesses of freedom of association (to take an extreme example, all the grocery stores in your town refusing to serve you).

      I’m not very sympathetic to the argument based on expression as was made. A number of concerns were raised: how to distinguish between what’s speech and what’s expressive, between what’s expressive and what’s not, and so on. I don’t know enough about the tests being discussed, and it’s been about five years since I’ve read any free speech cases anyway, so I’m not going to weigh in on whether they were being interpreted correctly or not—though you’re welcome to give your opinion as to the quality of these tests and their application if you like, Brad, that would be really interesting—but I’m surprised that Waggoner and Francisco are so quick to conclude that, yeah, sure, a chef or a hair stylist or whoever else is not protected. I’m surprised that a line like the following isn’t being drawn (this is totally open to criticism): a commissioned work such as a custom cake, a custom wedding dress, even a special restaurant dish I suppose, is a work of art of a different kind than those designed for mass consumption* (no pun intended). This explains why 1) Phillips was not willing to bake a cake for the couple, while 2) he did offer them any other cake in the shop, and 3) a chef probably shouldn’t be able to object to cooking the number five while 4) he may well object to cooking some kind of special performance dish for a guest of honor. This still raises a question about the makeup artist or the hair stylist—I’m still not sure about those, because I don’t know the kind of artistry that might be involved, but I think it’s at least plausible that it could be protected too.

      This is at a tangent, but the most interesting element in all this to me, and something I only learned from reading the oral arguments you linked, is that the Civil Rights Commission did not choose to pursue the three cases in which a cake shop refused to bake cakes with messages hostile to same-sex marriage. Was there something more involved in those?—were the messages hate speech of some kind, or was this more like a cake with a quotation of Matthew 19:4-5? I found it difficult to take the questions over whether the commission had a bias until these were mentioned; depending, again, on the details of said cases—cakes—cases and cakes—they make the charge of bias a lot more plausible. But again, while that might be enough to decide this particular case, it’s really at a tangent as to what legal principles ought to otherwise apply to this situation.

      *I don’t have a good argument for this, but to support the intuition: buying, say, a print of Pollock is a different thing than asking Pollock to paint something for you, don’t you think? Even putting on pre-order a limited edition print from Pollock (well, okay, he’s dead, so zombie Pollock) is a different thing than commissioning a painting, don’t you think?

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I’m personally neutral on the question of freedom of association.

        Does it split into positive-rights/negative-rights? I can empathize with a “You are free from laws preventing association, but you don’t have freedom from laws compelling it” stance.

        (I’ve got limited confidence whether that actually does fall under positive/negative differences, would appreciate correction if not)

        • Nick says:

          That position is possible, and it does seem to match the sorts of laws we have now that we’ve desegregated, but offhand I can’t think of a rationale for it, apart from an appeal to something more fundamental like public accommodation.

      • Matt M says:

        I find it telling that there’s no mention thus far of public accommodation

        Perhaps because this is a made up concept that holds no particular weight with any serious thinker, and depends on the obviously ludicrous logic that in order to exercise some rights (the right to trade with others), you must give up other rights (the right to freely associate). The doctrine of “public accommodation” makes no sense and should be abolished, as it is inherently antithetical to free association. I should not have to receive the state’s permission or accept it’s preconditions in order to trade with others, including “the public.”

        • Nick says:

          I only meant it was telling in the sense that free association without public accommodation straightforwardly leads to the answer which you and others have given to this, while with it the answer is potentially different, or else much harder to come to; I didn’t mean anything else by it, although I see now that a plain reading would be condescending, and I’m sorry if I offended. That aside, though, I don’t understand how a right to trade coheres with a right to free association; if trade is always voluntary, there’s potentially no one for you to trade with, while if trade is not always voluntary, you’re in the genus to which public accommodation ostensibly belongs. I’m sure I’m raising a pretty 101 objection to ancap here, but that’s why I invited you and David to eviscerate me. 🙂

      • Brad says:

        @Nick

        I’m surprised that a line like the following isn’t being drawn (this is totally open to criticism): a commissioned work such as a custom cake, a custom wedding dress, even a special restaurant dish I suppose, is a work of art of a different kind than those designed for mass consumption* (no pun intended). This explains why 1) Phillips was not willing to bake a cake for the couple, while 2) he did offer them any other cake in the shop, and 3) a chef probably shouldn’t be able to object to cooking the number five while 4) he may well object to cooking some kind of special performance dish for a guest of honor. This still raises a question about the makeup artist or the hair stylist—I’m still not sure about those, because I don’t know the kind of artistry that might be involved, but I think it’s at least plausible that it could be protected too.

        I think before you even get to what you need to figure out who. In this particular case you have a very small business and so there aren’t a lot of different whos running around. The baker is also the owner is also the one taking the order.

        But to see how you can get down to the level on an individual employee, consider Employment Division v Smith. That was an important religious liberties case. The plaintiff was a native american that had been fired from his job for smoking peyote. He applied for unemployment benefits and was turned down because he had be fired for cause. He sued claiming that denying him unemployment benefits for having been fired for having smoked peyote violated his freedom of religion.

        As it turns out he lost case, but not because he wasn’t a proper plaintiff or because the court rejected the logic of the denial of unemployment benefits being causally related to religious freedom. Rather he lost because the court changed the standard of review such that a facially neutral law not intended to target religious practice would pass muster even if substantially burdened religious practice.

        So going back to your proposed rule: does it apply to the individual chef or dressmaker or only the owner of the establishment? And on the flip side does it apply to the owner of the establishment if he isn’t also the chef or dressmaker? What about if it is a giant company (a la Hobby Lobby) — and there isn’t any single owner? Does that make a difference?

        If you think there are no serious thinkers except radical libertarians, then sure these questions are easy. But for the other seven some odd billion of us it’s a bit tougher.

        In terms purely of the strength of legal arguments in the light of current precedents, both the religious freedom arguments and the general freedom of association arguments are terribly weak. Religious freedom because of the case mentioned above (which happens to have been authored by Scalia) and the freedom of association angle because in a commercial context it is better thought of as liberty of contract and the Lochner doctrine died in the New Deal. And in case there was any doubt as to the latter, cases from the Civil Rights Era decisively put them to rest.

        As I alluded to in the OP, that just leaves free speech. It’s not the greatest fit in the world, and is a bit of a tough sell, but it is certainly plausible (consider for example that the Supreme Court has held nude dancing to be expressive conduct.) But it shows why hair dressing or cooking hypos were abandoned so quickly. Those are clearly outside the ambit of freedom of speech.

        • Nick says:

          Brad,

          This is helpful, thanks. I recall Employment Division v Smith coming up in the arguments, but I haven’t read that one, and I see the relevance now. So if I understand the challenge right, the law, if facially neutral, may substantially burden an employee for religious reasons, with the result that a state may choose to accommodate Phillips in a case like this, but is not required to. Skimming the wiki summary, it looks like exemptions are therefore granted under a sort of “hybrid right,” so that the religious exemptions are really protections of other freedoms, like freedom of speech or freedom of assembly, or wherever individual consideration is required. So I suppose that to make it a religious freedom case, it needs to be a free speech case or something anyway.

          I’m not sure the direct relevance to whether the person is employer vs employee. Is the idea that we need to determine whose speech or expression is being potentially compelled? Prima facie I’d suggest the baker, the dressmaker, the chef, etc, and not the shop, dress store, or restaurant. Or is the idea that the exemption only makes sense where the company is identified with the baker or baker’s family or whatever, because public accommodation applies to the company while religious exemption applies to the person? Sorry, I would normally look into this more and having a clearer idea what’s going on here before posting, but I’ve really got to run soon; I’ll be back on later though.

    • It was interesting reading the oral arguments (although I only got to page 13), because they talk about what I think is the pertinent issue. If the gay couple comes to the store and says they want a cake that says “To the happy couple of Bob and Joe,” I certainly think the bakery shouldn’t be obligated to decorate the cake that way if they believe that gay relationships are sinful. If the gay couple comes in and asks to buy a cake sitting on the shelf and requests no more decoration, denying that sale probably does go against the usual rules of public accommodation. And it seems the litigator on behalf of the bakery agrees with that interpretation. The liberals on the bench seemed to be surprised that the bakery was limiting their argument so much. It would be great if the court ruled 9-0 for the bakery under that interpretation, but that is probably to much to ask for.

      I don’t think this is so much artistic vs non-artistic as creating customization in favor of a particular view one finds anathema. It seems terrible to me to force a baker to create something specifically for a cause they dis-believe in.

      • Brad says:

        If the gay couple comes to the store and says they want a cake that says “To the happy couple of Bob and Joe,” I certainly think the bakery shouldn’t be obligated to decorate the cake that way if they believe that gay relationships are sinful. If the gay couple comes in and asks to buy a cake sitting on the shelf and requests no more decoration, denying that sale probably does go against the usual rules of public accommodation. And it seems the litigator on behalf of the bakery agrees with that interpretation. The liberals on the bench seemed to be surprised that the bakery was limiting their argument so much. It would be great if the court ruled 9-0 for the bakery under that interpretation, but that is probably to much to ask for.

        The fact pattern isn’t quite that clear. The plaintiffs didn’t come in and say we want a cake that says “To the happy couple of Bob and Joe” and the defendants didn’t say you can have anything you want except a cake that says “To the happy couple of Bob and Joe” (or equivalent). Ruling that such refusal would be protected by the First Amendment wouldn’t dispose of the case before them. Unless, I suppose, they ruled that *only* that such a refusal would be protected in which case AFAICT the bakers would lose, not win. Albeit perhaps on remand rather than immediately.

        • Nick says:

          The plaintiffs didn’t come in and say they wanted a specific cake because they didn’t get quite that far in the original visit, but there’s evidence they had a specific cake in mind since the cake they ended up going with was a rainbow one, and there’s evidence that the defendant would not have refused them any of the pre-made (usual at least) cakes. Rereading it, Waggoner is less decided on the question of a pre-made specific cake (say, one with a Bible verse on it), claiming at pp. 9-10 that the Court could plausibly extend their existing compelled speech protections to cover a pre-made specific cake, but that their argument for the baker doesn’t depend on the Court doing this (they’re fine either way on that one). Waggoner also suggests that a plain cake may still fall under speech, but I take it that this is where we run into questions of art-as-speech and then the analogies to the makeup artist or chef or hair stylist become relevant.

          To illustrate, as I understand it, Waggoner (I haven’t rechecked Francisco) is arguing that the defendant is compelled to sell a plain cake in the window, and he’s possibly even compelled to sell a pre-made cake that says e.g. “God blesses this union” unless the Court wishes to extend their test to protect that, but he is not compelled to sell an unmade cake with speech of that sort, or even, more dubiously, an unmade plain cake. Going back to the original circumstances, then, while there’s evidence they wanted a special cake, the plaintiffs haven’t actually said so, and are hardly required to, hence Waggoner’s need to fashion an argument to protect even a plain cake.

          Less to the point, Kennedy’s questions in the first half were pretty sharp, and he’s certainly concerned about the dignity of gay couples—he doesn’t want to author an opinion which allows e.g. “gays need not ask” signs in the store windows or something—but he seemed concerned as well about the implications for religious folks in the plaintiff’s oral arguments. I was pessimistic going in, but I’m willing to bet 60-40 that the case is decided in favor of the defendants. If it does, though, I doubt it will be on the strength of the defendant’s actual arguments.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            After reading both the oral arguments and the prawfsblawg article Brad linked in another part of this thread, I think they need to address Colorado’s purpose in enacting this law. It clearly was not enacted to protect material interests of gays, as there is no dearth of available cakes for gay weddings.

            In fact at the time it was passed and the dispute between Phillips and the complainants took place, gay weddings weren’t even legal in Colorado. So if the couple were to walk into the county clerk’s office and say “hi, we’d like a gay marriage certificate,” the government would have refused them service, but when they walk into the cake shop and asked for a gay wedding cake, refusing them was verboten.

            So it comes down to dignity. It is an affront to the dignity of the gays to direct them elsewhere for their cake. However, it is also an affront to the dignity of the Christian baker to compel him to enable behavior against his religion. prawfsblawg’s position is an extreme federalism that would defer to the state: each state gets to decide whose dignity is most important.

            I disagree with this for two reasons. One is that our constitution does not equally weight religion and sexual orientation. One is explicitly spelled out in the very first amendment, and the other is not mentioned specifically at all, but implied in another amendment about equal protection. The thousands of years old religious traditions specifically protected by the constitution has got to trump the brand new institution of gay marriage that wasn’t even legal when the law was written and the actions took place.

            Second, which affront to dignity is more shocking to the conscience? An individual or business insulting the dignity of another individual, or the state compelling an individual to abase their own dignity?

            So, it seems as though the purpose of the law is to egregiously violate the dignity of the Christians. I don’t see how that stands. They should strike it down and Colorado can write a better law with stronger carve-outs for protecting religious liberty.

            If they don’t, and this is decided on a culture war basis instead, I think I know where the next bump down the slippery slope will be. We will have once again put homosexuality as the good above all others.

            I was arguing in favor of gay marriage 15 years ago, I voted for gay marriage when it was on the ballot in my state, I have attended gay weddings, I have photographed a gay wedding, designed and printed a gay wedding album, have gay friends, patronize gay-owned businesses (my hair stylist of over a decade is a gay man). Yet, I am now considered an anti-gay homophobe because I would prefer my children not be gay and will not expose them to pro-homosexual propaganda. Being insufficiently pro-homosexual is socially unacceptable and will soon be illegal.

            I don’t think anyone who’s read my posts on this blog would consider me “anti-police.” But when I ask my five-year-old son what he wants to be when he grows up and he always, always says “police officer” because he “wants to catch bad guys,” I tell him, “FBI, son, FBI.” I don’t want him to be a beat cop. Nobody would accuse me of anti-cop hatred. But prefer him not to be gay and that’s anti-gay hatred.

            So if this law stands, what will happen next is Christian wedding vendors who disapprove of gay marriage will be compelled to perform for gay wedding ceremonies. A photographer will shoot such a wedding, and perhaps not do as good a job as he would for a straight couple because his heart’s just not in the creative work while he’s violating his deeply held religious convictions. He will then be sued for discrimination for his unequal treatment, because while he performed the service he was insufficiently pro-homosexual, and that is not legally allowed.

            I do not know where we will end up as our culture determines homosexuality is an unassailable, uncriticizable, unalloyed good, that supersedes all other interests including religion, speech, assembly, health, anything, but it’s looking awfully darn confusing right about now.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Ah, dignity.

            From Reuters:

            Expressing his concerns about anti-gay discrimination, Kennedy mentioned the possibility of a baker putting a sign in his window saying he would not make cakes for gay weddings.

            “And you would not think that an affront to the gay community?” he asked Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a lawyer for the Trump administration, which has backed Phillips.

            Unfortunately the Reuters article doesn’t contain the response. But the question wants to me want to slap Kennedy. Yes, such a sign would be an “affront” to the gay community. So what? Is preventing mere “affront” even a rational basis to restrict speech, let along enough to overcome intermediate or strict scrutiny?

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Is preventing mere “affront” even a rational basis to restrict speech

            What is the quote about the way to identify who your rulers are is to look for who you are not allowed to ridicule or offend?

          • skef says:

            It clearly was not enacted to protect material interests of gays, as there is no dearth of available cakes for gay weddings.

            This isn’t as clear as you think.

            It’s true that there is “no dearth”. But it’s not clear that that fact is relevant in the current U.S. legal system. That is, it’s not clear how judges would properly take the fact into account given current laws and precedent.

            So legally speaking the judges could be protecting the material interests of gays because counterfactually that decision is how gays would be protected under dearth conditions.

            What happened, in effect, was that Colorado decided gay people needed some protections and so they added them to a list of protected classes. And the mechanisms of protection work a certain way that (possibly) has this result.

            Whether a different system would or whether ours should is a different issue. Just because it could be nice (or, for reasons I mentioned elsewhere on this page, potentially expensive and onerous) for the law to be consequentialist in the way you would prefer does not make it so.

            “You go to court with the law you have, not the law you might want or wish to have at a later time.”

          • Nick says:

            In fact at the time it was passed and the dispute between Phillips and the complainants took place, gay weddings weren’t even legal in Colorado. So if the couple were to walk into the county clerk’s office and say “hi, we’d like a gay marriage certificate,” the government would have refused them service, but when they walk into the cake shop and asked for a gay wedding cake, refusing them was verboten.

            Alito did bring this up during the oral arguments (pp. 65-66), and Ginsburg noted that not only that, but Colorado at the time would not have given full faith and credit to, say, a Massachusetts marriage either. However, I’m not sure that this is the sort of thing which could decide the case. First, because Colorado’s law about not discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation applies to businesses, not the county clerk, and second, because as Yarger points out, they could nonetheless have bought a cake for a celebration expressing their commitment to one another. Re the second, there’s no reason therefore to suppose that the event must necessarily involve a validly signed marriage license (which is of course impossible in Colorado at the time), and re the first, Phillips’ discrimination would presumably have extended to such a celebration-of-commitment.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What happened, in effect, was that Colorado decided gay people needed some protections and so they added them to a list of protected classes.

            But without regard to how the protections for gays impacted everyone else’s rights.

            Just because it could be nice (or, for reasons I mentioned elsewhere on this page, potentially expensive and onerous) for the law to be consequentialist in the way you would prefer does not make it so.

            But the law is consequentialist. When supreme court justices decide cases they have to decide the case in front of them. They don’t just rule on an arbitrary, hypothetical case. If the consequence of a law is “unacceptable violation of rights” then they overturn that law.

            If they don’t in this case, we just keep going right down the slope. As far as I can tell, in the culture there is no allowable excuse for anything that might be an affront to gays (see article I linked on female porn star who committed suicide after intense harassment for refusing sex with a gay man for health risks). You would think a woman’s preference for who she refuses sex with would be unassailable, but not when placed against a potential affront to gays. Politics, being downstream from culture, is following right behind.

          • skef says:

            But the law is consequentialist. When supreme court justices decide cases they have to decide the case in front of them. They don’t just rule on an arbitrary, hypothetical case.

            Legal decisions have consequences. That doesn’t make them consequentialist.

            But without regard to how the protections for gays impacted everyone else’s rights.

            Why and how would the question of everyone else’s rights depend on the extrinsic availability of cakes? How would there being no alternative sources for a cake make a requirement that would otherwise violate someone’s rights not violate them? That’s what you need to explain in order to make the case you want to.

          • Brad says:

            I think everyone in this conversation gets it, but just to be clear the dignity/material harm distinction is one proposed by a law professor, not one that is currently embodied in any of the case law.

          • Controls Freak says:

            It clearly was not enacted to protect material interests of gays, as there is no dearth of available cakes for gay weddings.

            This isn’t as clear as you think.

            It’s true that there is “no dearth”. But it’s not clear that that fact is relevant in the current U.S. legal system. That is, it’s not clear how judges would properly take the fact into account given current laws and precedent.

            If we start by buying one of the arguments that this is at least on the spectrum of being a 1A case on account of expressive content, then we’re probably not in the land of rational basis scrutiny anymore. Even if they don’t go full strict scrutiny, the State probably has to present a rationale for the law, and this could come in. If they accept a broadening of scope in order to get out of this problem (“We just wanted to protect gays, generally“), then it’s potentially overinclusive. …maybe they’d still end up needing strict scrutiny.

            I don’t think this is the most likely result, but I have underestimated the Court’s pro-free-speech reflex in the past.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            “To determine the true rulers of any society, all you must do is ask yourself this question: Who is it that I am not permitted to criticize?” — Kevin Alfred Strom

            He’s a white nationalist and I think he was referring to Jews. But as Stalin once said*, being evil doesn’t mean you can’t come up with snappy quotes (sounds snappier in the original Russian I’m afraid).

            * not really

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            However, it is also an affront to the dignity of the Christian baker to compel him to enable behavior against his religion.

            I don’t think I understand this perspective. How can being asked to do your chosen job in a professional and non-discriminatory manner affront your dignity? If anything, it would seem more of an affront to dignity to assume that someone isn’t capable of doing their job in a professional and non-discriminatory manner and therefore needs special accommodations.

            Not sure whether that’s a religion/atheism thing, or conservative/liberal, or maybe just inferential distances. Whatever.

          • Aapje says:

            @Harry Maurice Johnston

            I think that most people would feel disgusted with themselves if they enabled certain behavior.

            For example, lets say that you are a web programmer and a person asks to build a phishing website. Wouldn’t you feel disgusted to use your expertise to enable another person to steal from others?

            Or let’s say that you are a recruiter and a person asks you to recruit suicide bombers for ISIS. Wouldn’t you feel some responsibility if you did that and the person killed many innocents?

            Of course, those things are illegal, but I think that it is wrong to assume that what is legal is always moral and to force people to do that. It is very valuable to allow people to follow their own conscience to a decent extent.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Harry Maurice Johnston

            Can you give me an example of a sacred value of yours so I can make a hypothetical for you?

            I don’t see why this should be difficult to understand at all. Imagine something that would be against your conscience to do, then imagine being forced by government to do it.

          • rlms says:

            @Aapje
            Those examples are different. If no programmers are willing to build the phishing website, it won’t exist, and likewise for your second example. But a wedding (or Nazi parade, to use another an example someone else brought up) can still go ahead without a cake.

            But I don’t think this difference is the relevant one for Harry Maurice Johnston. He’s taking the view that discriminating against bad people is OK but discriminating against good people is bad, and it’s acceptable to make laws on that basis.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But a wedding … can still go ahead without a cake.

            No, it’ll go on with a cake, just a cake from a different baker. I’ve worked in the wedding industry…it is super gay. There is no shortage of gay-friendly cake makers.

          • rlms says:

            Yes, in practice. But ISIS will recruit people even if you personally don’t help them too, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to do so.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            @Conrad,

            Imagine something that would be against your conscience to do

            Ah, that’s a much better wording. Thank you.

            For the record, my immediate response was along the lines of: but we’re talking about religion, not conscience! However, the fact that you apparently considered them synonymous was enough of a clue to suggest that perhaps someone who sincerely believes in their religion actually would have a conscientious objection to violating it. Obvious enough in retrospect, I suppose.

            (Kind of disturbing, but obvious.)

            There is no shortage of gay-friendly cake makers.

            You’ve said that before; are you really sure it is true everywhere in the US, not just in your particular corner of it? According to the yellow pages, my home town has exactly one business that sells wedding cakes.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      As I understand it, the following argument has no legal merit under current precedent, but it’s what I consider the philosophically correct argument on general principles:

      If people don’t want to do business with Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, or Orson Scott Card on the grounds that to do so constitutes tacit endorsement and enabling of their objectionable behavior, I think that the reverse follows: that a business owner can not want to do business with a customer on the grounds that to do so constitutes tacit endorsement and enabling of their objectionable behavior. I have trouble with any framework that allows that to go only one way, and would want to see violations of this symmetry reserved for really extreme social problems. Discrimination as it existed in the South in the 1960s met that level of severity, but I don’t think it does now.

      To me, this is entirely orthogonal from the question of whether or not someone is morally correct in their decision to refuse service (if business owner) or boycott (if customer). I support the bakery owner having a right to refuse service. I also think they’re in the wrong morally when they exercise that right in this case, which is why it’s hard for me to get really passionate about it. My principles here aren’t as strong as I’d like, and I’m letting my object level beliefs get in the way, which is a bad habit.

      I think that there IS a “compelled speech” argument possible in these TYPE of cases, but while it might be the strongest legal argument I don’t consider it to be the strongest philosophical argument. However, since (as you and Nick were discussing) they didn’t even get to discussing precisely what decorations and text the bakery would or would not create before refusing service, I’m not sure it applies.

      • Brad says:

        If people don’t want to do business with Chik-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, or Orson Scott Card on the grounds that to do so constitutes tacit endorsement and enabling of their objectionable behavior, I think that the reverse follows: that a business owner can not want to do business with a customer on the grounds that to do so constitutes tacit endorsement and enabling of their objectionable behavior. I have trouble with any framework that allows that to go only one way, and would want to see violations of this symmetry reserved for really extreme social problems.

        I’d draw a distinction between people doing business in their personal capacities as sole proprietors or partnerships with unlimited liability on the one hand vs corporate entities with limited liability on the other. I think that distinction best embodies the historical notion that chartered organization (originally royally) had special rights *and* responsibilities.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          You might not see this since it’s a late reply, but on it’s face that -sounds- sort of reasonable. On the other hand before I commit wholeheartedly I think I need to educate myself more on precisely what our current legal schema are -around- limited liability corporations. For example, I’m under the impression that we’ve structured things so that there are really strong incentives for even literal “mom and pop” businesses to do business as a LLC. It’s an area of the law outside my experience.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I’d argue that if you want the benefits you need to accept the conditions, whether you’re are a “mom and pop” business or not.

            If the government actively punishes non-LLC businesses, that would be a different matter.

          • Brad says:

            The most important benefit of incorporation is right there in the name — limited liability. If someone a baker owned as a partnership sells cakes with tainted eggs and a whole bunch of people get sick they can go after not only the assets of the bakery but after the assets of all the partners. Whereas if the bakery is incorated the most they can recover is the assets of the company.

            This is a very vaulable right for the business owner and a corespondingly large imposition on the general public. In the old days, and to this day I belive in England, entities with limited liability were required to refer to themselves explicitly with the term Ltd. so the public could be aware that they were dealing with such an entity an exercise special care. We’d have to ask David Friedman to be sure, but off the cuff I’d think that limited liability is problematic from a libertarian perspective as it is the government essentially granting a special defense in tort to certain people.

            Also originally the government made a case by case decision, usually taking into account the proposed corporate charter, whether or not to grant that right. As time went on it became entirely routine, but I think it is entirely reasonable to resurrect the idea that the special rights of incorporation, particularly but not exclusively limited liability, come with corresponding special responsibilities.

            If we had such a distinction I would feel much more comfortable with allowing the non-favored corporate form to have considerably more freedom in terms of things like serving all-commers. Thus the public accommodation laws could be viewed as a quid pro quo instead of as a unilateral imposition.

          • Nick says:

            Also originally the government made a case by case decision, usually taking into account the proposed corporate charter, whether or not to grant that right. As time went on it became entirely routine, but I think it is entirely reasonable to resurrect the idea that the special rights of incorporation, particularly but not exclusively limited liability, come with corresponding special responsibilities.

            If we had such a distinction I would feel much more comfortable with allowing the non-favored corporate form to have considerably more freedom in terms of things like serving all-commers. Thus the public accommodation laws could be viewed as a quid pro quo instead of as a unilateral imposition.

            I’m curious whether there are any other important differences between being limited liability or not, but this seems to me on the face of it to be a very fair tradeoff.

          • Brad says:

            I’m not an expert on the subject, but a few other things I can think of: you probably will have to be taxed on a pass through basis, I don’t think a partnership can elect to be taxed as a c corp. And you probably can’t seek investment (equity or debt) from the public markets (i.e. “go public”).

  6. embrodski says:

    In reply to Scott’s tumblr question on net neutrality (I don’t tumble, apologies if this has been answered) – yes, ISPs want to charge content providers (like Netflix) for things like peerage. Since over half of all internet traffic comes from 30 outfits, those companies often have direct connections to ISPs to pipe all their data in quickly. In many cases, they physically co-locate their servers inside the ISP’s facilities (“peerage”). This is how the internet is now. Good primer at https://www.wired.com/2014/06/net_neutrality_missing/ Most of the impact of these regulations will be on how these massive corporations treat each other and are allowed to do business (notably, Netflix was upset with Comcast’s plans in 2014 and made a huge public push for those Net Neutrality regulations, and won. They’ve since dropped out of the debate, because they got what they wanted).

    • BBA says:

      What I find interesting is how much the net neutrality debate has changed in the last decade or so. During the Bush era (remember Ted Stevens and his “series of tubes”?) the debate seemed to focus on networks throttling down BitTorrent and other filesharing services. Now it’s all about Netflix, YouTube, and streaming. It used to be ISP megacorps versus everyday users, now it’s ISP megacorps versus content megacorps. Yet the rhetoric is more-or-less the same.

      Oddly, I find myself more sympathetic to network neutrality now that the content we’re concerned about is legal. And in general I’m not seeing nearly as much of the pro-piracy rhetoric around “information should be free”, DRM being evil, etc. Though that may just be because it’s less relevant to me, since I can afford to buy stuff now.

      • Matt M says:

        A few people I know have suggested that we need NN because without it ISPs will crack down on VPNs, which are often used for pretty questionably legal purposes…

        • albatross11 says:

          VPNs are also used for 100% legit purposes, like preventing someone eavesdropping when you’re using a public internet site somewhere.

        • bean says:

          My company has a VPN set up so you can work from home or when traveling. If my ISP makes it so I can’t work from home, I’m going to have some very angry words for them. I’m reasonably certain that you couldn’t reliably distinguish between good VPNs and bad ones.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        And in general I’m not seeing nearly as much of the pro-piracy rhetoric around “information should be free”, DRM being evil, etc. Though that may just be because it’s less relevant to me, since I can afford to buy stuff now.

        I mean, I can afford and do buy stuff now, but DRM technology is still evil and it’s de facto technical function is still to punish legitimate users. To quote a recent EFF article:

        With that long history behind us, there are two things we want you to know about DRM:
        1. Everybody on the inside secretly knows that DRM technology is irrelevant, but DRM law is everything; and
        2. The reason companies want DRM has nothing to do with copyright.

        It’s nice to not be a broke college student any more, the last things I can remember pirating are anime (because subtitles) and an audiobook a few years ago. The former has declined markedly since Crunchyroll went legit. Audible can eat a bag of dicks though, since it’s bullshit DRM prevents me from putting stuff on my exercise mp3 player. Similarly, Ubisoft took my $60 and ran when I bought the original Watch_Dogs and their crapsack system locked me out of my account. Because, y’know, Steam isn’t sufficient.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          I have an audible subscription, and I strip the DRM out and convert my files to MP3 as a matter of course to get them on my little Sansa player.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            That’s what I have actually! Can you recommend a good resource to learn how to do that? My cursory googling at the time (was ~3yrs ago) didn’t turn up anything actionable.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I don’t have an open link, but I’ll try to find it. The tool you want is called InAudible and I believe it links in with winLAME or a few other encoders

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Thanks! I’ll take another around the web when I get home.

  7. zenmore says:

    Recent article on the Atlantic talked about how the Black Lives Matter movement really focused the police violence situation on African Americans when it was a broader problem. It gives a pretty egregious case of a police killing of a white Texan argues that the debate should be broadened again to include more publicity of all police killings so instead of the debate being black vs white it could be people vs unjust institution. Thoughts?

    Excerpt from lawyer describing police cam video of the killing:

    “This kid was begging for his life. He raised his hands, did everything the cops told him to do. And then they just executed him. It’s bone chilling.”

    • Brad says:

      I really fail to see how this is BLM’s fault. How does a group of mostly black people protesting against police brutality against black people preclude anyone black or white from protesting when the police are brutal against white people? Why is it especially their responsibility to highlight this killing as opposed to the many more white people in this country? Is this some kind of Copenhagen interpretation of ethics thing?

      • Nornagest says:

        protesting when the police are brutal against white people

        Yeah, that’s gonna end well.

      • Iain says:

        From the article:

        Given the historic abuses African Americans have suffered at the hands of police and the disproportionate ways they are affected even today by racist or inept police officers, many find the racial framing of Black Lives Matter is essential. At minimum, it is both understandable and substantively defensible. And in my estimation, the race-neutral policy reforms that the movement advances are long overdue.

        Friedersdorf is broadly sympathetic to BLM. At worst, he thinks that “Black Lives Matter and its progressive allies […] would do as much to advance its agenda” by broadening their scope. BLM can and probably will choose to keep its focus narrow, and that’s probably justified — but I don’t think Friedersdorf is wrong when he says that allies of BLM should be publicizing this case.

      • zenmore says:

        It’s really about the general antagonism and refocusing the enemy. If the enemy is “white people” then obviously they’re losing possible allies to their cause and antagonizing race relations. Of course, it’s a way bigger problem proportionally to the the black American community, but maybe there are ways of framing the situation to draw a broader coalition. Although I do admit this seems like the kind of issue that’s now just drawn into the broader “red vs blue” fight as opposed to being fought on its own merits. Which is very unfortunate.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      The racializing of the problems of class society is a major way modern elites deflect and channel popular anger into forms which leave their own positions unquestioned, and in doing so retain power. Black Lives Matter did its job; it deflected meaningful critiques of police power into people sniping at each other over race on the internet.

      BLM told white people (unintentionally at times, but vocally all the same) that they shouldn’t worry about the cops; it’s a black problem. And moreover, that if you want to fight it you had best focus on black victims and accept a subordinate role in the movement.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Wholeheartedly agree. “Wealth inequality? No, no, you should be worried about racial wealth inequality!” “Disparity between worker pay and evil corrupt oppressor CEO pay? Say, have you noticed that more of the evil corrupt oppressors aren’t women? That’s unfair!”

      • Brad says:

        As I wrote above, how exactly is it BLM’s fault that a bunch of white people looked at the BLM and said “well if the blacks don’t like the police that then the police must be my friend”? Why did white people need BLM to explain to them whether or not they should worry about the cops? How come they didn’t know already they they should?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Because they presented themselves as a much more immediate threat to white people than the police.

          Riots in major cities, unprovoked shootings of cops and massive years-long crime waves aren’t exactly endearing. Especially while rhetorically equating the police to white Americans in general.

          It’s hard to imagine a better PR campaign for the police: “We’re just like you, and BTW we’re also the only thing holding back lawless anarchy.”

          • Brad says:

            Who is ‘they’ supposed to be here? Surely not BLM?

            Trying to claim if only BLM had chosen different tactics everything could have been great is disingenuous. The reason that was never going to work drips from every paragraph of your comment.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            We’re both pseudonymous here, you can just call me a racist if you want to. Just don’t expect it to be the “I Win” button it is in real life.

            And yeah, I hold BLM responsible for the riots and shootings their supporters have committed. I also hold them responsible for the pullback of police in many major American cities which has led to a national crime wave. Those are pretty much the only things of consequence that they can claim credit for.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t need to call you anything. It’s right there for anyone to see. You think there’s a black team and white team and it doesn’t matter how abusive the police are, they are on the white team and that’s that.

            I mean here you have unionized public sector workforces that went on an illegal work stoppage because they were upset that some people were calling for an iota of accountability in how they did their jobs. Normally you’d expect conservatives to be all over that one. Imagine if I was talking about school teachers? But the enemy of your enemy is your friend.

            Which is exactly why the idea that if only BLM had been more saintly that they would have won you and those like you over is a total joke.

            I mean you’re right, we are pseudonymous here, so why even the threadbare fig leaf you are maintaining?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Previous comment was eaten.

            Because it’s not a fig leaf. I don’t give a damn about being called a racist, I care a lot about the police shooting me when I reach for my registration, and I care immensely more about people threatening to burn down my city.

            Ken White isn’t a saint, but I like Popehat (even if he wouldn’t like me much). He used to run a feature where each article was about cops shooting family dogs and then lying brazenly about their sizes and breeds to make them sound more threatening. One particularly memorable case involved cops shooting at a dog which was sitting next to a baby in it’s crib.

            If Ken White ran on the platform of “For God’s sake, stop shooting people for holding cell phones!” he’d have my vote. I’d be very surprised if his followers started smashing storefront windows much less killing anyone.

            Maybe that’s too saintly to expect from BLM and there’s no possible way that they could have organized without a four digit death toll. But that’s a really low bar to clear and it’s not on me if they can’t even manage that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You think there’s a black team and white team and it doesn’t matter how abusive the police are, they are on the white team and that’s that

            That’s the field BLM created.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’m no fan of BLM but I have a hard time accusing them of choosing their strategy unwisely. They probably would not have gotten a tithe of the support they actually got without the racial angle. People like Conor Friedersdorf and Radley Balko have been trying for years to get people interested in the problem of police violence, to a general yawn.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Hi there! Checking in to point that we have two sides here: BLM and the police.

            Of these two sides, one of them murders/rapes/tortures people for no reason, and are not brought to justice. For systematic reasons, e.g. no oversight, collusion between the police and prosecutors, and lots of similar things. They have been doing this for a very long time, far longer than BLM had been a thing.

            Things in general have lots of causes, but if your read of this situation is “this is the field the BLM created” then you are outside the set of { people with reasonable ethical views }. In particular, the whole unaccountable murder thing just doesn’t seem to bother you very much. Not enough to suspend usual tribal stuff for a bit.

            In other words, you, if you are indeed serious and not posturing for fun on the internet, need to be run out of polite civilized society.

            Your views remind me of “this is a problem the Jews have created, what with their endless usury, and refusing to convert to Christianity, and the owning of small businesses.”

            Actually getting murdered/raped/tortured is a type of situation where some measure of drastic action is reasonable.

          • Nornagest says:

            Not helping, Ilya.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Of these two sides, one of them murders/rapes/tortures people for no reason, and are not brought to justice. For systematic reasons, e.g. no oversight, collusion between the police and prosecutors, and lots of similar things.

            I know. I don’t like the police. I’ve had some run-ins with them myself. But BLM doesn’t care what the police do to me. They want to make it strictly a racial thing, where the side you’re on depends on the color of your skin rather than your uniform. So, since my skin is white, I’m stuck, by their framing, on the side of the police. This does not make me happy with them at all.

            Things in general have lots of causes, but if your read of this situation is “this is the field the BLM created” then you are outside the set of { people with reasonable ethical views }. In other words, you, if you are indeed serious and not posturing for fun on the internet, need to be run out of polite civilized society.

            Fortunately, you are not the arbiter of the Overton window.

          • Brad says:

            @The Nybbler

            You think there’s a black team and white team and it doesn’t matter how abusive the police are, they are on the white team and that’s that

            That’s the field BLM created.

            Why was there a completely blank canvas for them to paint on? Where do such a small group of people get all this power to define the terms of the debate for everyone?

            You had all the time in the world to build a colorblind anti-police brutality movement under the banner of All Lives Matter. But somehow you didn’t you discover you wanted one until you could use it to throw in the face of BLM and as an excuse to support the mostly white guys with the snazzy uniforms and the guns.

            It’s second amendment solutions, jacked booted thugs, and the blood of patriots in the abstract, but in the concrete it’s always “Hey I know that guy from down at the range. I’m sure he’s not lying when he says that the handcuffed guy in back of the police car was reaching for gun. Hillary’s emails, amirite?”

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Brad, is accusing other people of bad faith the only thing you know? Or just the only thing you like?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You had the time in the world to build a colorblind anti-police brutality movement under the banner of All Lives Matter. But somehow you didn’t you discover you wanted one until you could use it to throw in the face of BLM and as an excuse to support the mostly white guys with the snazzy uniforms and the guns.

            There are quite a few groups out there that did. The internet-famous “Don’t Talk To Cops” vid predates BLM, as does Popehat’s War on Dogs segment Nabil mentioned (and it’s the end of the day so I can’t be arsed to google more examples right now). John Q. Public just didn’t give a shit until Toxoplasma got ahold of the issue.

            ETA:
            @Paul
            C’mon man, not helpful.

          • Brad says:

            Paul:

            I might take your criticisms of my posts to heart if I this weren’t representative of the quality of yours: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/03/ot90-telescopen-thread/#comment-573304

            But since it is, I don’t particularly care what you think of my posts. You may as well save your breathe.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Where do such a small group of people get all this power to define the terms of the debate for everyone?

            George Soros’ money?

            BLM’s real problem is that the vast, vast majority of cases they started riots over were justifiable shootings of dirtbags. I can’t possibly support people who are peddling lies like “hands up don’t shoot” about a guy who was trying to cave a cop’s skull in for telling him to stop walking down the middle of the street.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya:

            Your comment w.r.t. police is insanely overbroad. (Try rewriting it in terms of Muslims.)

            *Some police* have murdered, raped, robbed, tortured, or framed innocent people. There are some genuine problems with making the justice system work to stop those crimes and punish them, given the position of the police within the justice system, the tendency of the rest of the justice system to give them the benefit of the doubt, etc. That’s an important issue, and one that BLM has been pushing. I don’t actually see anyone disagreeing with that, either.

            I’ve seen three broad complaints about BLM:

            a. Their rhetoric has turned police oversight into overwhelmingly an issue of race and tribal politics. This is a bad thing–it further divides the country along lines we were already divided on, and it make the problem harder to solve by convincing a lot of whites that this is only a problem for blacks, or that it’s just another iteration of blaming whites for everything in the political game.

            b. Their protests have led to riots, and some of their supporters have been inspired by their rhetoric to assassinate police. (If you think the far right should be held responsible for Dylan Roof, it sure seems like you should accept BLM being held responsible for the police assassinations carried out by Micah Xavier Johnson.) That’s directly destructive, and also adds to the division in (a). IMO, if you want to convince middle-class whites to oppose police accountability, increasing urban crime + riots is a pretty effective strategy.

            c. The second-order consequences of BLM protests and riots have arguably been to raise murder rates in major cities. There are about 1,000 people killed by the police per year (as far as I can see, mostly in the course of committing crimes), and about 16,000 people murdered total, so it’s pretty easy to see how we might get more deaths from raising the murder rate than we save by making the police more reluctant to shoot.

            Any or all of these complaints may be right or wrong, but I think the only way to figure that out is to actually dig down and consider them. Excluding them from consideration because they’re offensive doesn’t seem likely to lead us anywhere good.

          • Brad says:

            @albatross11

            I can’t speak for Ilya, but I think I’ve at least sketched out answers to all three of those concerns.

            To briefly recap:
            a) absolves everyone other than BLM from responsibility for having done something about police brutality generally way before they had gotten involved. The complaint is of the Copenhagen interpretation of ethics type (i.e. once BLM decided to address police brutality they needed to do it perfectly or they are worse than people that do and did nothing at all).

            b) I think held responsible is too strong for the far right vis-a-vis Dylan Root, BLM for Micah Xavier Johnson, and pro life supporters for Robert Dear. There is overheated rhetoric in all these movements that ought to be toned down, but nothing IMO that rises to the level of complicity. Compare for example ISIS indoctrination videos, which I do think cross the line.

            c) While BLM may be a but-for cause, the proximate cause is an illegal work action on the part of public sector unions (and quasi-unions). I don’t see why there is such a divergent reaction on the right to this wildcat work action vs say Reagan’s air traffic controllers.

      • zenmore says:

        This is pretty much consistent with what the article’s message is, from my reading of it.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Thoughts?

      I mean, wasn’t this the whole point that the All Lives Matter people we’re trying to make? Given how well that turned out for them I don’t see this getting mainstream approval.

      Beyond that, BLM squandered its chance at police reform a long time ago: the approval rating for police is back at historical norms, largely driven by increased approval among whites. After all we’re well into our third year of the Ferguson Effect and the riots are still in recent memory. If it’s a choice between tens of killings by trigger-happy cops or thousands of murders by criminals that’s a no brainier.

      • zenmore says:

        Well, All Lives Matter, whenever it was presented, seemed just antagonistic to Black Lives Matter. Whenever I read about it, it was just reactionism to BLM. That just increases and redirects the conflict away from where it needs to be. The case is that police need reform, regardless of whether you’re white or black. But the BLM vs ALM debate turned it even more into something just about race.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I mean, wasn’t this the whole point that the All Lives Matter people we’re trying to make?

        I don’t believe it was. “All Lives Matter”, as I understood was a statement of rebuke against the BLM movement. Basically a “You are being racist for saying only black lives matter” trolling.

        Of course the subtext of BLM was always “All lives matter, including black lives, but you aren’t recognizing that black lives matter.” But that is hardly a catchy slogan.

        It’s perfectly possible to talk about problems of policing in general, recognize the ways in which police are being militarized (and have always been subject to), recognize that stereotyping by policeman will result in false positives and false negatives, all while recognizing that stereotyping of people because they are black is one of those problems.

        When you have a black Republican congressman giving personal testimony on this issue, maybe it should be recognized as relevant.

        • skef says:

          I don’t have much confidence about the spectrum of uses of “All Lives Matter”, but I do remember that at the earliest point I started hearing that phrase (and the controversy about it), it was in a Kumbaya spirit that wasn’t really about anything. Various people were “yelling” “Black Lives Matter” and other people, when asked about that, would say “Of course, all lives matter.” Those people basically stepped into a cultural minefield and got pilloried for racism when they were more just clueless about the subject at hand.

          Wouldn’t everyone agree that the dominant oppositional slogan is, by a long shot, “Blue Lives Matter”? That’s certainly the one I always run across.

        • Incurian says:

          Of course the subtext of BLM was always “All lives matter, including black lives, but you aren’t recognizing that black lives matter.” But that is hardly a catchy slogan.

          I wish they had gone with “Black Lives Matter, Too.” I think it actually conveys the message better and more sympathetically, and without the potential objection that it’s [as] exclusive or decisive. Their acronym could have been BLM2, which is both catchy and distinguishes them from the Bureau of Land Management.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Of course, if you’re feeling trollish, you could go for ‘Black Lives Also Matter’.

          • Matt M says:

            This would be unattractive for the various radical campus types, who specifically desire to exclude whites.

            Remember, “It’s okay to be white” is considered racist hate speech.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t know to what extent that is a mainstream position.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “It’s OK to be White” falls under the exact same issue as “All Lives Matter”.

            It is/was being deployed specifically as an attempt to troll.

          • Incurian says:

            Trolling or not, people could have reacted by rolling their eyes and objecting to it on the basis that it was obnoxious trolling. I’m sure some people did, but the stories I’ve seen on the incident show people objecting to it for being racist, which is exactly what the trolls wanted and I think it proved their point. Perhaps the “racist” reaction was less common than the eye-rolling reaction, but only the former made the news?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Incurian:
            If you go to Ulster and start waving around an “It’s OK to be Protestant” sign , you know what you are doing. You are implicitly filling in the other side of that equation.

            Especially if you are Protestant, doing it in a neighborhood that is Protestant, and you are waving it in front of a house where Catholics live.

          • Nornagest says:

            It is/was being deployed specifically as an attempt to troll.

            Last I checked, trolling is not racist or hateful unless it partakes of racist or hateful content. Obnoxious, yes.

          • Incurian says:

            You are implicitly filling in the other side of that equation.

            “It’s ok to be Catholic?”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Incurian:
            You are just being willfully and perversely obtuse at this point. I will simply assume you are trolling from this point forward.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “It’s okay to be white” was indeed a successful trolling attempt. It wouldn’t have been successful if it weren’t true that the campus radical types think it’s not okay to be white, however.

            “All Lives Matter” was at least in part a response to the belief that BLM wants to make black people a privileged category prioritized over all others. I don’t think it was trolling.

          • Incurian says:

            I’m really, really not. I would fess up to it.

            I can kind of see your point of view when I think hard about it, but it doesn’t strike me as an obviously correct interpretation, and it’s definitely not so obvious that anyone who disagrees with you must be trolling. Your interpretation seems weird and deliberately controversy-seeking, exactly as much as the stupid “it’s ok” posters were, which is what makes them such an excellent foil.

            Maybe you could make the argument that I’m privileged to be insulated from racism targeted at me, but that actually a lot of people have good reason to see this prank as actually racist. I would probably listen to your evidence to support that, though I’d be skeptical, because I don’t see any reason to suppose the posters were racist. If we dig below the literal meaning of the words, the implication [for me] is not “it’s not ok to be non-white,” it’s “I doubt you will be willing to agree with or even tolerate the literal meaning of these words because you spend a lot of time criticizing white people in uncharitable ways while expounding the virtues of people of color despite claiming to be anti-racist, and I want to expose you as a hypocrite.”

            The second interpretation seems obvious to me, even if the truth of the message it is conveying is debatable. If there is a good reason to suppose the implication was “it’s not ok to be non-white,” please tell me what that reason is, it isn’t obvious, and I’m not the only one not seeing it.

          • Brad says:

            I wish they had gone with “Black Lives Matter, Too.”

            If they had would you have gone out and marched with them?

          • Brad says:

            The 4chan posters were a non-event. Quit trying to make fetch happen.

          • Incurian says:

            I was a little busy at the time, but in any case I’m not one for protests, so their name doesn’t affect my participation in them. I imagine your point is that they weren’t targeting people like me when they came up with the name. Fair enough, but a name change would have affected the way I thought of and talked about the group. It would make me less willing to believe nasty stories about them. I think groups need not only appeal to their core audience, they need to avoid pushing fence-sitters over to the other side.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Incurian:
            Do you know anything at all about the history of Northern Ireland?

          • Incurian says:

            Yes, a bit. I had a few instructors who were veterans of the troubles, and we used it as a case study for counter insurgency.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Incurian:

            So, if a Protestant pups up an “It’s OK to be Protestant” sign in a Protestant neighborhood outside of a Catholic families home … you really think “It’s OK to be Catholic?” is the implied message?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Were “It’s okay to be white” signs put up outside black homes?

          • Incurian says:

            You asked for the other side of the equation. As for the implied message, I would assume it’s “so stop oppressing me.”

      • Witness says:

        I think that is/was (one of?) the motte/steel version(s?) of All Lives Matter.

        Some proportion of the actual interactions seemed to be deliberately designed to antagonize-with-plausible-deniability, though.

        (Of course there is/was Motte-and-Bailey stuff also going on with BLM as well).

    • Matt M says:

      It gives a pretty egregious case of a police killing of a white Texan argues that the debate should be broadened again to include more publicity of all police killings so instead of the debate being black vs white it could be people vs unjust institution. Thoughts?

      I forget the title, but didn’t Scott once do a post on this issue, about how the media intentionally plays up the “borderline” cases because controversy and debate leads to increased ratings, whereas having a bunch of people nod in agreement that one case was clearly and obviously bad is boring and immediately ends the conversation?

      • quaelegit says:

        The post is “The Toxoplasma of Rage” (and it contrasts the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in making that point).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m not sure where this belongs in this thread but BLM has defended at least two white people murdered by police, one male and one female.

      http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fresno-shooting-20160721-snap-story.html

      https://www.vox.com/identities/2017/7/24/16019440/justine-damond-police-shooting-race

      • @ Nancy.

        Let me respond to the Justine Damond one, since it happened a few miles from my house, so I know the local scoop.

        In this case, Damond called the cops about some incident in her neighborhood. When the cops drove up, she went to the window of the cop car to tell them what was going on. The cop in the passenger seat shot her dead.

        This was an extra-ordinary shooting, as in this case the killed person was not a suspect at all, and was apparently killed only because the cop was so surprised to see her at his window. In my opinion, it was only because of the extra-ordinary circumstances that it made the news at all. Generally, it is only news when a cop shoots a Black person.

        I observed no BLM reaction at all. Yes, as Brad says, just because an organization focuses on a particular area, that doesn’t mean that they are obligated to get involved in an adjacent area that others are concerned about. But in two previous police shootings of Blacks in the metro, BLM shut down highways. In this case where it was more clear than ever that the victim was innocent, one would think they would do SOMETHING in support. I do get the impression that the implicit meaning of BLM is “only Black lives matter.”

        Instead you get comments like in the VOX article that complained of a greater reaction because she was White. Yes, the police chief was fired a few days later. But what came out later was that the mayor and police chief were already feuding, so the mayor was mostly looking for an excuse. In a local forum someone penned that there wouldn’t have been as big a reaction if the victim were Black. I responded that to the contrary, if the victim was Black, the whole city would have been shut down from the outrage. The police chief would have been fired even sooner.

        It may be not so much that BLM is racist, but that the media is racist, and the local government is racist. As Brad says, there haven’t been strong forces against police brutality in the past. But that isn’t because there haven’t been plenty of groups fighting against police brutality, it is that they didn’t get the publicity that BLM gets. BLM shuts down highways and the police let them do this, because they are too scared to act against them. The media love the clicks they get from the racial conflict. It probably is only because it is a Black organization that they have been able to get traction. That is too bad, because focusing on racial aspect weakens the cause. BLM wants the focus to be on racist cops, when it makes a whole more sense to focus on violent and trigger-happy cops.

  8. Matt M says:

    Is Scott going to clarify why “Against Overgendering Harassment” seems to have been deleted?

    Did a Twitter mob get to him or something?

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t expect he’ll clarify. Presumably things he tags as “I’ll regret writing” are provisional at best.
      Some people were saying that the studies he referenced didn’t support his point well on closer examination. Someone else was saying comments there were making them not want to visit the site. If not one of those, then it probably got undue notice elsewhere.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s a shame – it was probably one of my Top 5 favorite posts he’s written.

        That said, I am increasingly of the opinion that “internet mob ends up getting Scott fired from his job and shunned by polite society” is moving from an “if” to a “when,” and dreading the day that it comes…

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Dang, I missed it. My fault for not paying attention.

          • Deiseach says:

            The discussion was warming up but I genuinely don’t think we were headed for a screaming row, so it’s a pity he felt he needed to take it down.

            But I agree – too much bait for a witch smeller to pick up on and denounce him for crimethink. Unfortunately it is nowadays necessary to purge yourself before someone can set the mob on you for a forced purge.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          He’s engaging in irrational behavior for someone with a chronic truth-speaking problem: living in the Bay Area.
          Seriously, does anyone fear getting fired from psychiatry and expelled from polite society if they live in a red city?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Do you think medical doctors are all that vulnerable to Internet-based firing?

          • Matt M says:

            Well, a nurse in Indiana was fired for some lovely comments about how evil white people are.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: “All white males should be killed at birth” is not the sort of inflammatory thing Scott says.
            On the left coast, you get fired and ostracized for mainstream red tribe opinions. In Indiana you get fired for… well if you want to call that mainstream blue, I’m skeptical but won’t stop you.

          • Matt M says:

            Le Maistre,

            I was responding to Nybbler’s very specific inquiry. Generally speaking, I think your point is solid, although I would suspect Scott wouldn’t be free to be himself if he moved to a small town red-tribe area. Speaking truth to SJWs might be okay there, but having a polyamorous lifestyle with transsexual partners might not go over so well in small town rural America’s version of “polite society”?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Heck no; I didn’t realize Scott had romantic relationships with transsexuals. Indeed I remember him admitting that he only likes to date and cuddle females… so if by transsexuals you mean self-identified transmen, he’s treating them as cute tomboys and that’s another mine field… but I admit I don’t know what we’re talking about.
            Also I wasn’t saying he’d be happier in a small town. I specifically recommended a red city.

          • Brad says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            On the left coast, you get fired and ostracized for mainstream red tribe opinions.

            Invariably?

          • Matt M says:

            What type of city are you referring to?

            I live in Houston, Texas – and the city itself is still pretty dang blue. Anti-Trump jokes are routinely made during work meetings and nobody thinks twice about it.

            I estimated that you could still get fired for being insufficiently SJ, but it’s probably twice as unlikely here as in the Bay Area. But it’s not zero.

          • Nornagest says:

            so if by transsexuals you mean self-identified transmen, he’s treating them as cute tomboys and that’s another mine field…

            Matt is probably referring to Scott’s former relationship with Ozy, who identifies as nonbinary but who, at one time, said they were okay with being called “Scott’s girlfriend”. Other than that I can’t speak for the exact gender dynamics going on there.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt: Honestly? “Any Texan city besides Austin”, so beliefs updated. :/

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            @Matt M
            I think a reliably Red Tribe city needs to be irrelevant and not at all trendy. Also probably southern.

            Texan cities with functioning economies are probably out by now, but you might get by with places like Shreveport, Biloxi, or Augusta. I can’t imagine Bay Area SJW types looking to relocate to the shores of Lake Strom Thurmond.

          • Matt M says:

            Right, at that point we’re quibbling over the definition of “city” though.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Now I’m really curious about whether the SSC commentariat thinks traps are gay or not, but also terrified that topic is too explosive for even for this place to stay civil over.

          • Nornagest says:

            Not my kink, not my problem.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Maybe my own cultural biases are showing, but:

            A) why would that be in any way explosive? I think the whole encouraging pre-pubescent kids to consider whether they are trans/genderqueer would be far more emotional and we managed to discuss that previously.

            B) Assuming we accept the fairly conventional wisdom that homosexual-heterosexual attraction is on a spectrum, how is a mostly-straight guy going for trappy femboy types not simply an indication that he is, well, only MOSTLY straight?

          • Nornagest says:

            why would that be in any way explosive?

            Because 4Chan is full of twelve-year-olds and people indistinguishable from… okay, no, that’s true but has bad connotations in this context. Because 4Chan is incredibly immature. Yeah, let’s go with that.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad: I’ve been hit on by humans that were obviously non-op MtF. I’d object to using “trap” for the whole phenomenon… some of them are yellow side-blotched lizards.
            Males who call themselves she and date males are attempting homosexual acts, yes. Being a woman mentally means they have a very sympathetic birth defect, not that material reality changed to match their feelings.
            I wonder if you’d call a female a trap for passing as a man.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I was just making a joke. I thought the whole “is liking traps gay” thing was a meme argument that people pretended was super serious business on which people have really strong opinions but in fact no one cares.

            Also, liking traps is obviously gay.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Oh! I thought it was a super serious front in the Social Justice War and didn’t catch the 4chan context.

          • Nick says:

            Being attracted to a trap isn’t gay so far as they do genuinely resemble a woman. Being attracted to a trap whom you know is a man* is an ambiguous case, seeing as knowing plenty of things about a person could inhibit one’s sexual attraction to someone one would otherwise be attracted to. Having sex with one, of course, is unambiguously gay.

            *I leave aside the question whether the trap identifies as a woman; I’m only speaking of knowing the person’s anatomy.

            I thought the whole “is liking traps gay” thing was a meme argument that people pretended was super serious business on which people have really strong opinions but in fact no one cares.

            Well joke’s on you, because the SSC commentariat has strong opinions on everything. 😀

          • lvlln says:

            Another dimension (pun intended) of the “Is liking traps gay” discussion is that it’s generally about anime characters, not about real people. So we get into the issue of how much being attracted to highly stylized and exaggerated depictions of humans reflects one’s actual sexual orientation wrt real humans. And given the fictional nature of the character, how much does the actual visual depiction of the gender of the human – female in the case of a trap – matter versus the knowledge of the fact that within the fiction in which the character exists, that person is biologically (and usually also psychologically) male.

            That extra complication is part of what makes this discussion so darn fun, I think. And all that’s before it was declared that using the term “trap” to refer to any character was transphobic and contributing to the literal murder of transfolk, which obviously made it both a lot more and a lot less fun in various ways.

            @Le Maistre Chat
            A female that passes for a male is generally called a “reverse trap.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick: It’s not gay to be attracted to traps, but you may not have sex with them. This is the Rule for Trappist monks.

            @Ivlin: I’m now tempted to go into professional wrestling as a reverse trap and call my signature move the reverse trap.

          • James says:

            My only contribution to this debate is that I recently enjoyed flirting with a (I think non-op) trans woman, mainly because I really liked her make-up look, but I’d be pretty squicked out by the thought of having sex with her. Yes, I’m as confused by this as anyone.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Not sure- but it was a pretty good post. I’ve definitely been harassed in bars by drunk handsy women before, so I know he’s right that this isn’t just men (80% men sounds about right to me).

      He struck the right tone of sympathy, truth-seeking, and care about those who are too afraid to speak out (or are ignored when they do).

  9. Deiseach says:

    Holy Mother of God. The startling amount of ignorance amongst the British political classes about Ireland, given all the current Brexit negotiations, has gone from “amusing” to “what the everliving fudge? how do these people even tie their own shoelaces?”

    They’re all tripping over themselves to blame (the Republic of) Ireland for the mess, of course, nothing new there, but it’s their own goddamn nation here: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and they know nothing about it.

    I really don’t know how the Unionists stick it (though if you’re the DUP, I suppose the one consolation is that even if the English can’t tell the difference between you and a Taig, at least you’ve got them by the short and curlies to the tune of £5 billion to prop up their government or else).

    For those of you not English and thus with a legitimate reason to be ignorant: Northern Ireland does not have a Taoiseach. Enda Kenny and Bertie Ahern have never been Taoisigh of Northern Ireland.

    This gentleman, who is a Member of Parliament and is giving an interview on Sky News so presumably is being treated as having some kind of informed opinion on the matter (and not simply “random nutter in a street vox-pop”) is not aware of that, even though they are the ones who have been (and if the restoration of devolution talks don’t go right, will be back to) ruling the place.

    This is a bit like somebody talking about when George Bush was President of Canada. Someone from the far quarters of the world who doesn’t speak English as a first language and all these white guys look the same to them, that’s understandable. Senator Smith of the US Senate, not so understandable.

    • Anonymous says:

      >nation

      The UK is not a nation. It is a state, or country, or realm, or kingdom, but it is not a nation. Nations are genetic groupings of people. It houses four major (English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish) nations and a whole host of tinier ones.

      • Deiseach says:

        Nations are genetic groupings of people.

        I sit here agog for your explanation of the striking genetic differences between the English, Scots, Welsh, Irish (North and South), Cornish and Manx (possibly the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands may be different, and I’d allow you some wiggle room on the Scottish islands, particularly places like the Shetlands where it’s a toss-up if they should be Scottish or Norse).

        I accept I should have said “state” perhaps, but it gets rather confused round here with Great Britain vs United Kingdom vs British Isles, not to mention most of the English apparently believing they still own the Republic of Ireland.

        • Anonymous says:

          I sit here agog for your explanation of the striking genetic differences between the English, Scots, Welsh, Irish (North and South), Cornish and Manx (possibly the Isle of Wight and the Channel Islands may be different, and I’d allow you some wiggle room on the Scottish islands, particularly places like the Shetlands where it’s a toss-up if they should be Scottish or Norse).

          These differences don’t have to be large. These people here have intermarried for like a millennium or more, so they will be close, but geneticists are still able to discern things.

          • rlms says:

            I think genetics are a silly way to define nations; culture (especially language) is better. A lot of the time they coincide, but if you use genetics as the deciding factor then you will claim that e.g. a person who falls just on the English side of your arbitrary English-Scottish genetic border but who is a fervent Scottish nationalist and entirely Scottish culturally is actually English, which doesn’t make much sense.

          • hyperboloid says:

            Nations are genetic groupings of people

            Are you a native English speaker?

            Because I have never heard anyone competent in the English language use nation as a synonym for race.

            The ordinary usage of words like, nation, country and state, is somewhat confused; but in practice nation is either a synonym for state, or it refers to a group of people who hold a common culture and language.

            There is no sensible genetic grouping that would separate northern Ireland from it’s southern neighbor, or any given state of the former Yugoslavia from any other. Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians, are on a genetic level the same people.

            Similarly no one in there right mind would consider Chileans to be a “race” in any biological sense, as they are descended from in almost equal measure from peoples form opposite sides of the world.

            But Chile is most certainly a nation, and it’s people, I can attest, hold a strong sense of a nationhood. It is true that there is a correlation between culture and genetics, but centuries of conquest, immigration, and assimilation have rendered it weaker than you seem to imply.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            Nations as an ethnic and social group is a classic political science definition. It’s as opposed to a State (a political grouping with a government and a military and so forth), and if the borders of a nation and a state are the same, then we call it a nation-state.

            So Japan is a nation-state, but India is just a state.

          • Nornagest says:

            Because I have never heard anyone competent in the English language use nation as a synonym for race.

            It’s closer to “people” or “ethnicity” than “race”, but I have. That used to be the primary meaning of of the word, but nationalism (viz. the idea that natural ethnic/cultural groupings should have sovereign countries coterminous with their traditional homelands) won so thoroughly that it’s now most commonly used as a straight synonym for “country”.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Nornagest

            It’s true that nation has often been used as a synonym for ethnicity, but my point is that culture is not the same as genetics. There are plenty of ethnic groups, for example Latinos, and Arabs, who are very genetically diverse. There are also groups that are genetically homogeneous, and deeply divided by culture, or religion; for example the peoples of the Balkans.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Yeah, people would say things like “The Rossiyan Empire has Jews and several Muslim nations as subjects, but only Christians are Rus.”

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            e.g. a person who falls just on the English side of your arbitrary English-Scottish genetic border but who is a fervent Scottish nationalist and entirely Scottish culturally is actually English, which doesn’t make much sense.

            To you, you mean. It makes perfect sense to me. The Polish expats who’ve lived in the United States for a couple of hundred years are still Polish nationals (and often citizens, but that’s irrelevant), regardless of their American culture. To the extent that they mix with the Anglo-Americans there, they might become substantially more actually American than Polish in some cases, but nationality is a spectrum, and we just assign names to the clusters.

            @hyperboloid

            Because I have never heard anyone competent in the English language use nation as a synonym for race.

            I’m not. Races encompass nations.

            There is no sensible genetic grouping that would separate northern Ireland from it’s southern neighbor

            For the Irish, sure. But plenty of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland are descendants of English colonists. This is why Britain still holds the area.

            or any given state of the former Yugoslavia from any other. Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians, are on a genetic level the same people.

            Don’t let any Croats, Serbs or Bosnians hear you say that. According to the data I’ve seen, they have some differences.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            If your Polish nationals identify as Polish (to whatever extent), then that is cultural. To distinguish between the definitions, we’d need to look at a person who was genetically Polish by your standard but not at all Polish culturally (maybe they were adopted and don’t know their ancestry). I definitely wouldn’t call such a person a Pole. Conversely, I would say that someone who is culturally but not genetically Polish is a Pole, but I expect you might disagree.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            If your Polish nationals identify as Polish (to whatever extent), then that is cultural. To distinguish between the definitions, we’d need to look at a person who was genetically Polish by your standard but not at all Polish culturally (maybe they were adopted and don’t know their ancestry). I definitely wouldn’t call such a person a Pole.

            I’m pretty sure there are some people like that, plenty of them, too.

            Conversely, I would say that someone who is culturally but not genetically Polish is a Pole, but I expect you might disagree.

            Yes.

          • Mark says:

            I definitely think that there is a Welsh look. Like Gimli.

            Not too sure about Scottish and Irish, they seem to have a fair mix of types, to me. There is a kind of face you get in Scotland that you don’t seem to get anywhere else though – like that woman who is in charge of the SNP.

          • Deiseach says:

            A nation once again,
            A nation once again,
            When genotypes merge
            Then Ireland will be
            A nation once again!

            😀

        • rlms says:

          Great Britain is the island with England, Scotland and Wales (at least, most of them, if it doesn’t technically contain e.g. the Hebrides). The UK is a political entity with the above three plus Northern Ireland. The British Isles is the broader geographical entity that includes the whole of Ireland (the island) and probably the Channel Islands.

  10. Levantine says:

    It’s Time to Retire the Political Spectrum
    by Hyrum Lewis

    Every proposed essence for right or left is easily falsified, leading to the conclusion that ideologies are evolving social constructs. ……

    http://quillette.com/2017/05/03/time-retire-political-spectrum/

    (Hyrum Lewis is Professor from Brigham Young University-Idaho)

    • johan_larson says:

      If Left/Right is the wrong simplification, what’s a better one? I don’t expect no-simplification to be a workable position. A map is useful not just for what it shows, but for what it hides. If it tried to show everything, it would be unusably cluttered.

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect that:

        a. Peoples’ views cluster together, so that some kind of one- or two-dimensional model of politics is actually pretty useful. (In the “all models lie, some models are useful” sense.)

        b. The traditional definitions of left/right used today probably don’t track all that well with the best way to cluster peoples’ views.

        I suspect there’s a whole vast literature in political science on doing PCA on voters’ beliefs about lots of different issues and inferring a good one-dimensional model, but I haven’t read any of it.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This may be the first time I’ve seen something described as a social construct that’s actually a plausible candidate for being socially constructed. I’m very excited.

      That said, in a multi-party democracy you’re inevitably going to end up with a ruling party / coalition and an opposition party / coalition. So whatever the number of political dimensions there were originally, for all practical purposes there are only one or maybe two which matter. Calling the most important one in a given country left-right isn’t crazy as long as we remember that, say, the American left-right axis is different from the German left-right axis.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        And the names of those coalitions (left vs. right) come from that realization.

        In any system which allows policies to be implemented on anything other than consensus or autocratic rule, you will naturally end up with coalitional politics involving two sides.

        • albatross11 says:

          Doesn’t this depend to some extent on the voting method used? It seems like proportional representation + parliamentary democracy gets you a several different political parties with noticeably different ideas that aren’t all that cleanly mapped to a single left/right spectrum.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            But they will still either enter or oppose a coalition that forms the government. And that will roughly map to a binary nomenclature.

            Even single issue parties will tend to end up in opposition or in coalition (usually in opposition, but not always).

            To some extent you could say that the ruling coalition has to be in solidarity, but the opposition can each be opposed in their own way, but I don’t think it tends to map out that way. The heuristic of left/right is still valuable.

          • Brad says:

            A party that strategically joins either of the two largest parties to get what it wants on its single issue isn’t well described as left just because as one particular moment in time it is in government with the left largest party. Admittedly such parties are fairly rare but they do exist in e.g. Israel.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:

            I was trying to acknowledge that true single issue parties are something of an exception. But that doesn’t really make the heuristic of left/right less valuable.

            Let me put it this way. If you have single-issue party, they are one of: a) very small, b) well ideologically aligned with one side of the coalition, c) will break up into left/right components, or d) separatists that will would prefer to fight their left/right battles among themselves.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Not much in that argue I’d object to, except that, like many essays (and again, this is something of which I am admittedly guilty) it’s long on analysis of the problem and very short on (practical, workable) solutions.

      That said, I already agreed that applying the labels of “Right” and “Left” to the “evolving social constructs” that are modern political ideologies is a problem. But then, I do so for the reason that I consider their “evolving” to be a problem — a “Right-wing” ideology that differs substantially from the Right wing of centuries earlier is not truly on the Right — and because, in keeping with Xunzi’s conception of the Rectification of Names, I prefer that the labels be properly maintained with the meanings they held when initially coined, in the French Revolution — and thus all modern American ideologies of any significance fall in the category of the Left, meaning the need for different labels and axes to distingush them.

  11. johan_larson says:

    I’ve been thinking about various hobbies, and how they vary in price. Just to pin a target to the barn door, let’s pick $1 per day. What can you do for $1 per day?

    Reading novels fits within that budget. Assuming you want to read one book per week, C$7 per week won’t let you buy a new novel every week, even at paperback prices. But you should be able to make it work by supplementing with used books and library use.

    Martial arts won’t work. The cheapest rate for training I’ve seen here in Toronto is $90 per month, which is triple what the budget allows.

    Playing chess works. You can afford to get a set, buy books to study from, and get a subscription to chess.com or another service. You can afford to occasionally participate in local tournaments, but travelling to tournaments is probably out.

    Other options?

    • fion says:

      Most of my hobbies have considerable “start up” costs, but are very cheap thereafter.

      Running: buy a pair of shoes. Shoes costing $n will last longer than n days.

      Cycling: bikes are very expensive, but riding is free, and I reckon I spend less than $1 a day on materials for maintenance.

      Get really keen on a single computer game. Start up costs include the game and possibly a computer if you don’t have a suitable one, but once you’ve got it you can play as much as you want. (“Gaming” more generally probably wouldn’t work because of the cost of new games and possibly multiple consoles…)

      I was going to put in “playing a musical instrument”, because I currently don’t spend anything on it, but then I remembered that when you factor in the cost of lessons (which I had for several years) it becomes very expensive indeed.

      Not a hobby of mine, but I might add cooking? You’ll probably spend more than $1 a day on ingredients, but given that you were going to spend money on food anyway (it could even work out as a negative-cost hobby depending on what you currently do for food).

      Given that martial arts won’t work, you could think about the next best thing, which is, of course, dancing! I have no idea how much this would cost, though.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’ve been looking at the prices of video games. A current console like the PS4 1TB costs more than the yearly budget, and then there’s the price of games, which are about C$80 for the new stuff. Slightly older games are cheaper.

        The budget would let you play older games, like PS3 stuff, bought used.

        So being a console gamer on this budget is doable, but it’s a stretch.

        • beleester says:

          If you play on PC, where games are frequently available for <$5 and your gaming system does double duty as your everyday work system, you can make it work. But console is really a stretch.

          Still, getting really good at a single game is a much cheaper idea. Becoming a grandmaster at Starcraft could keep you occupied for years.

          • johan_larson says:

            Yeah, some of this accounting gets into issues of what the budget has to pay for. Do we assume this person already has a car? An internet connection? A computer?

            Personally, for a working-to-middle-class person from the first world, I think we can assume they already have an apartment, a car, a TV, internet, a computer, and a smartphone.

            I was surprised to learn that 84% of US households have a computer.

          • James says:

            Still, getting really good at a single game is a much cheaper idea. Becoming a grandmaster at Starcraft could keep you occupied for years.

            You should just be playing a roguelike, which is probably free and could take you a decade to finish.

            (Is it time we had another roguelike thread? At the very least, I should thank suntzuanime for convincing me to play Sil. It’s now up there with Brogue as one of the only two roguelikes I play.)

        • moonfirestorm says:

          PC games are definitely the way to go here. There’s a big startup cost, but most people already have a computer, so it’s debatable whether that should count.

          There are loads of games that can keep you interested for hundreds and hundreds of hours, at extremely minimal cost. Factorio is easily a 300 hour game for $20, WoW comes in at half the budget ($15 a month) and can be played for arbitarily large amounts of time, Path of Exile doesn’t cost anything (maybe $15 for a little quality of life).

          Depending on what kind of games someone’s into, I’m not sure you’d even need to change buying habits. Good games often last you a lot longer than a month or two, and there’s often an urge to revisit them down the road (I get really hooked on Path of Exile for like one month out of four).

          • rahien.din says:

            Don’t forget mods! A good mod is as good as a free game.

            I’ve gotten hours and hours and hours out of Madden 08 thanks to the modding and playbooking community.

          • Dissonant Cognizance says:

            The general slowdown in desktop CPU development over the last decade means the price of entry for PC gaming has come way down. You can dig an old office PC out of the trash, upgrade it with the best GPU you can afford, and play most modern games at medium-high settings. Most of the major game engines are multiplatform, too, so you can run Linux now and don’t even need to steal Windows.

            Games can cost literally nothing – the biggest multiplayer games are free to play. I’ve been playing a lot of War Thunder lately, and it seems like the “salvage plus f2p” model is just how PC gaming is done in most of the world.

      • Randy M says:

        If you enjoy the work of cooking, it probably has negative costs. Eating at home is cheaper than eating out for comparable quality, especially if you have friends or family to cook for.

        Martial arts could be done cheaply, maybe, if you have some space and follow videos on youtube.

        A lot of the computer games I’ve played the most have literally cost me nothing–I’m a free rider on the whales on some decent ftp games have have already been mentioned in this thread. (And the computer I wanted anyway).

        Board games can work if you find one that you get a lot of replay out of. The problem here is the temptation towards collecting expensive new additions.

        • johan_larson says:

          Board games cost anywhere from $20 to $100 each; Settlers of Catan, the great classic, is almost $60 here in Canada. So a serious boardgamer could afford a new game maybe every two months. That seems workable. You have a group of players and meet one evening a week to play games. It’s often one of the favourites, and sometimes something new. Maybe you also play with your family. And if you’re really serious, maybe you get together one more night a week to play one of those games people really deep-dive into, like Scrabble or Squad Leader.

      • Hackworth says:

        PC Gaming has to cost nothing besides moderately powerful hardware (I’m sitting on 5 year old hardware and it’s perfectly sufficient for my needs, even though I do spend a lot of time gaming), and internet access. You can play numerous free games of all genres, single or multi player, and in terms of quality you can choose anywhere between Newgrounds and AAA developers like Blizzard. The best F2P games also come without pay-to-win bullshit. Unless you’re a high-end graphics fetishist, there’s not much left to ask for.

    • johnjohn says:

      Programming

      You can get a cheap laptop for around $150 (or even better, getting a free old desktop computer is really easy). Then if you want to be really strict about it, you can keep it offline (because the cost of an internet connection could make it prohibitive depending on how you count it) and borrow programming books from the library.

    • Well... says:

      Used paperbacks (e.g. at http://www.abebooks.com) are often way cheaper than $7. You can also pick them up at thrift stores and garage sales if you’re open to just browsing and choosing a book while you browse and not necessarily finding anything each time.

      Or you could borrow books from the library. If they don’t have books you can usually request them, either from other libraries or that your library could purchase it.

    • Anonymous says:

      Watch public television.

    • Elephant says:

      Drawing is cheap (even with very nice pencils!), challenging, and enjoyable.

    • dodrian says:

      Plenty of sports.

      I play disc-golf. No special clothing needed, a starter set of discs is about $20, and the local park has a course which is free to use (there are others in nearby towns). You can buy 2~3 new discs a month on $1 a day. Substitute other sports depending on what your local park supports (tennis, basketball, soccer are often options, good shoes can be expensive, but other equipment can be craigslisted for cheap if it wouldn’t otherwise be in your budget).

      Performing arts – amateur dramatics, community choirs, dance and others may have local clubs with reasonable fees.

    • Thinking about SCA. It could be done.

      If you want to fight, the lowest cost approach to gear, short of a friend who passes his down to you, is going to cost at least a couple of hundred dollars. If you don’t fight, the only necessary expenses are garb, which you can make for yourself with a few yards of cloth, and charges for events. Some events are free, many are inexpensive, so you could probably manage an event every couple of weeks.

      Then there are things such as the early music get together (Monday evenings) and renaissance dance get together (Wednesday evenings) that my wife and daughter attend regularly, which cost nothing but gas to get to them.

      I think one could be pretty active spending lots of time and minimal amounts of money.

  12. Tenacious D says:

    Abdullah Ali Saleh, the former president of Yemen, was killed today, the latest victim of a devastating civil war (that he played no small part in starting). Saleh had stepped down in response to pressure during the Arab Spring, then a couple of years later joined his loyalists to a rebel movement (the Houthis). Just a day or two ago, he broke with the Houthis and reached out to the Saudi/UAE coalition indicating he was ready to enter peace talks. He was killed by the Houthis while fleeing Sana’a.
    Dancing on the Heads of Snakes is an excellent modern history of Yemen. It was written prior to the Arab Spring (immediately prior, as it was published in 2010) and the author clearly had a good sense of where the country was headed since she included a prediction of a collapse of civic order by 2012. Saleh features prominently in the book, as the president for the last quarter of the twentieth century and solidly into the twenty first at that point. In the author’s description, he had an almost unrivaled mental map of the who’s who of Yemen, knowing which influencers to appease or honour to keep the various tribes settled down. The title of the book comes from a Saleh quote about what governing Yemen was like.
    And now his dance has ended.

    • albatross11 says:

      I like my hopeless orgies of bloodshed and suffering in which Anyone Can Die better in fiction than in reality. But it seems like Yemen (and Syria, and maybe Libya) are giving Westeros a run for its money these days in the crapsack world department.

    • quaelegit says:

      Thank you for the news and the book suggestion.

      Maciej Ceglowski (of Idlewords) went to Yemen in 2014 (!!!!!) and wrote a 3-article series about it on his blog: link, which may also be worth reading for people interested in the above.

    • Tenacious D says:

      I like my hopeless orgies of bloodshed and suffering in which Anyone Can Die better in fiction than in reality. But it seems like Yemen (and Syria, and maybe Libya) are giving Westeros a run for its money these days in the crapsack world department.

      Yeah, for sure. The shifting alliances would be fascinating if the whole situation wasn’t so tragic.

      Maciej Ceglowski (of Idlewords) went to Yemen in 2014 (!!!!!) and wrote a 3-article series about it on his blog: link, which may also be worth reading for people interested in the above.

      Thanks for the link.

  13. Tenacious D says:

    Has anyone read Andy Weir’s new book Artemis? What did you think? I read it in basically a single sitting, so the plot clearly kept my attention. The actions of some of the characters did not always feel believable. The descriptions of welding did, though (disclaimer: I have never welded, although I have taken an engineering degree that included some classes on metals). Without giving spoilers, I thought the currency Weir came up with and where he located his fictional space agency were both clever touches.

    • quaelegit says:

      I have not read it yet, but I’m planning to this winter!

      I’ve heard people like his setting and world building but find the character(s?) underdeveloped or not necessarily likeable (opinions diverege on this last point). You’re thoughts here definitely seem to match these impressions. Good to hear that he’s still doing his research on the science!

      Personally, if it has one-fourth as much of the AWESOME SCIENCE/NERD STUFF as The Martian and the character development of Ready Player One (i.e., cliches that aren’t too grating), I’d consider that a major success! It’s important to remember that his first book stuck out precisely for the AWESOME SCIENCE/NERD STUFF and had no character development.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Personally, if it has one-fourth as much of the AWESOME SCIENCE/NERD STUFF as The Martian and the character development of Ready Player One (i.e., cliches that aren’t too grating), I’d consider that a major success!

        I expect you’ll like it then!
        btw, Weir did a Reddit AMA recently that was quite good (although if you’re really concerned about spoilers you might prefer to bookmark it until after you’ve read Artemis).

  14. Question: Is there anything I can read about Predictive Processing theory that wasn’t written by Andy Clark?

    After Scott’s review, I bought Andy Clark’s “Surfing Uncertainty”. However, I find it unreadable. For example, here is a sentence I picked by opening the book and blindly placing a finger:

    Nonetheless, the creature-defining backdrop is hugely important and influences both what we (in the rich sense) predict and, crucially, what we do not need, in that full sense, to predict—because, for example, it is already taken care of by basic bio-mechanical features, such as passive dynamics and the inbuilt synergies of muscles and tendons.

    I am excited about PP after Scott’s review and would like to read something more in depth, but Clark’s writing is too thick for me.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I have some tinnitus in my right ear, and I also have a way of shutting it down, generally for months at a time.

    The method is to run my attention down a muscle on the side of my neck. I think it’s the sternocleidomastoid— it starts at the back of my ear and runs diagonally down the front of my neck. It sticks out if I turn my head towards the center.

    Minor evidence of involvement of neck muscles– I’ve felt that turning my head included a sensation of pulling on my eardrum a couple of time.

    I’m not sure how long I need to keep running my attention down the muscle, but I think it’s in the range of a few minutes.

    I’ve tried stroking the muscle instead, but that doesn’t seem to work– I may not have kept it going long enough.

    I’ve tried paying attention to the tinnitus while I do this– I wanted to see if I could catch the moment when tinnitus went away– and that definitely doesn’t work.

    The idea for doing this just came into my head, apparently from nowhere. It seemed like it was worth trying and I was surprised at how well it worked.

    There’s a technique at the bottom which helps some people and makes things worse for others. While I think my technique is so gentle it’s likely to be harmless, I also believe that anything which is strong enough to do good is strong enough to do harm, so it’s a gamble.

    And that’s the specifics about my technique, the rest is a ramble about various things from the net about tinnitus.

    I had the impression that doctors said there was nothing to be done for tinnitus, but apparently they do have some methods. Informal survey– what have you heard about treatment for tinnitus?

    There are different sorts of tinnitus. Mine has some correlation with worrying. It isn’t the result of exposure to loud noise. I avoid loud noise because I find it painful– no rock concerts for me. I’ve had the good fortune to not be exposed to loud noise involuntarily.

    I get a wooshing noise in my right ear– it ranges from just barely there to moderately annoying.

    I haven’t seen any evidence people are looking into the possibility that loud noise might cause muscle tension which would lead to tinnitus. However, some drugs cause tinnitus, so presumably it isn’t all about muscle tension.

    https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/tinnitus-ringing-in-the-ears-and-what-to-do-about-it

    This article has what seems to be a thorough overview of tinnitus, including methods for managing it.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110112122504.htm

    This article offers an intriguing idea of neurological treatment for (some types of?) tinnitus, but is much weaker about existing treatments.

    Tinnitus and trigger points:

    “Tinnitus is a multifaceted symptom that may have many causes (otologic, neurological, metabolic, pharmacological, vascular, musculoskeletal and psychological) several of which often occur in the same patient. Tinnitus can often be modulated by different kinds of stimuli. In this chapter we describe the results of a study of modulation of tinnitus from stimulation of myofascial trigger points (MTPs). MTPs are small hypersensitive areas in palpable taut bands of skeletal muscles found in patients with the myofascial pain syndrome where stimulation of MTPs causes local and referred pain. We found a strong correlation between tinnitus and the presence of MTPs in head, neck and shoulder girdle (p<0.001). In 56% of patients with tinnitus and MTPs, the tinnitus could be modulated by applying digital compression of such points, mainly those of the masseter muscle. The worst tinnitus was referred to the side that had the most MTPs (p<0.001); Compression of the trigger point on the same side as the tinnitus was significantly more effective than the opposite side in six out of nine of the studied muscles. Compression of MTPs was most effective in patients who have had chronic pain earlier in the examined areas."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLEZ2H1qeoM

    20 minutes of pressing on muscles to see which ones might be involved in a person's tinnitus. This is something you can do for yourself. I've never followed the video when I have tinnitus, but I can testify that it's a pretty good head, neck, and shoulder massage.

    I like that anatomical charts are superimposed on the man demonstrating the trigger point exploration, but if you don't like that sort of thing, you've been warned.

    http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/22/health/magnesium-tinnitus-ringing-ears-partner/index.html

    This one offers hope that magnesium might help tinnitus, but leaves out any connection to muscle tension.

    https://www.healthyhearing.com/report/52726-My-accidental-triumph-over-tinnitus

    Meditation on the tinnitus sound was very good for this man.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/63etps/the_reddit_tinnitus_cure_attempted_by_people_with/

    Tapping on the back of the head works well for some people with tinnitus, causes temporary relief (sometimes a good bit better than nothing) for others, has no effect for some, and makes tinnitus worse for others. I don't have a feeling for the proportions.

    • Just a data point:

      I have very weak tinnitus: I generally don’t notice it unless I focus on it. Doctor had no advice beyond “don’t focus on it and maybe you’ll forget it’s there” (which actually is fine advice for me). Tapping on the back of the head (I hear this as advice on the internet) causes temporary relief. A few years ago when it was stronger and I heard it at night, I tried focusing on the sound (my idea) for ~20 minutes in bed to no real effect.

  16. Sluggish says:

    So I was recently reading Fredric Jameson’s ‘Archaeologies of the Future’, which is about Utopian fiction. One of the Utopian visions which Jameson discusses is ‘Utopies Réalisables’ by Yona Friedman, a French architect and urban planner. The book was published in 1975, and describes a dispersed network of societies, each their own ‘Utopia’. One of the two “fundamental mechanisms” of Friedman’s vision was the “right to migration”. I found this description from Jameson startling:

    “think of our autonomous and non-communicating Utopias – which can range from wandering tribes and settled villages all the way to great city-states or regional ecologies – as so many islands: a Utopian archipelago”. (221)

    Parallel invention? Or was there a reference to Friedman buried somewhere in “Archipelago And Atomic Communitarianism” (or in Moldbug, I guess)? Has anyone read ‘Utopies Réalisables’?

  17. johan_larson says:

    Tomorrow, I’ll spend the day doing software development and my evening playing Magic: The Gathering. Anyone have nerdier plans? Huh?

    • Randy M says:

      I could show you the spreadsheets I made for my mtg cube while running tensile tests on coating samples… but at some point some manly man (not me) is going to be manually applying the final product out of doors somewhere, so I suppose that’s marginally more butch than software development.

      • J says:

        The tensile tests are unrelated to mtg? What kind of coatings are they?

        • Randy M says:

          Yes, unrelated. Deck coatings, window sealants, roof coatings, that kind of thing.
          Sorry, I’m not investigating the poor quality of MtG cards, although that would be an interesting way to do it. Hmm….

    • rahien.din says:

      I spent much of my spare time building a spreadsheet that would guide the selection of vagal nerve stimulator parameters, and if I get any further time I will try to optimize some SQL joins.

      • Randy M says:

        guide the selection of vagal nerve stimulator parameters

        Can you clarify what that means? I might be quite interested in this data.

        • gbdub says:

          Me too. VNS for epilepsy, depression, or something else?

        • rahien.din says:

          Oh it’s probably not that interesting. I’m an epileptologist, and I recently inherited a small group of patients from a neurologist who retired suddenly. The ones with VNS had invariably been programmed with strange parameters and I have been working them back toward normalcy. But I got kind of frustrated with figuring it out. So I built a spreadsheet that will do the grunt work for me.

          My hypothesis is that stimulation current * on time / off time should be a reasonable albeit rough approximation of the overall density of charge delivery. And (even though the V in VNS stands for “voodoo”) charge delivery should have something to do with efficacy. If it all goes smoothly I may do a diddly little paper out of it. But I also need to see if anyone has thought about this idea already.

          If nothing else, it’s a fun little spreadsheet!

          • J says:

            Wouldn’t the nature of nerve firing introduce a nonlinearity (but maybe not at this time or space scale)? Like, if I dump enough charge for a nerve to fire, I could double the charge but the nerve hasn’t reset yet so it doesn’t do anything extra.

          • rahien.din says:

            Very true, but the VNS doesn’t exactly operate like that. A VNS is programmed to have “on” and “off” intervals. During the off interval, no current is applied to the vagus nerve. During the “on” intervals, 250µs pulses of current are applied at (maximally) 30Hz. This stimulation frequency is well below what the neuron could respond to, given its refractory period.

            (This is why my spreadsheet only makes a rough approximation of charge delivery. It’s good enough to compare different parameter combinations, but it’s not truly calculating charge delivery in the sense of battery output.)

    • ManyCookies says:

      I’m playing in a 4-card-blind MtG tournament, I’ve spent the past half hour on Gatherer compiling a list of decent creatures I can cast off of WW mana.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      I’m also a software developer by day. I also run a biweekly tabletop game in a variant of the Mutants and Masterminds 2E ruleset (with modifications such as an HP system to replace Toughness saves) which I use to approximate the best parts of 3.5E D&D, and am running an ongoing campaign set in the Eberron universe. I’ll be prepping plans and encounters and so forth tomorrow evening.

      But depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you get into M:tG, especially with crazy alternate multiplayer play styles, that can be super super nerdy as well.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        What is the nerdiest MTG format?

        I’m thinking Judge Tower. A format that’s designed to create a deliberately complex board state just to see who screws up the ordering of abilities seems pretty spot on.

        • ManyCookies says:

          Mental Magic would be my vote, you need to know a lot of cards offhand to play anywhere near optimally. And depending on how seriously your group takes it, 3-card or 4-card blind tournaments can end up with hours of Gatherer research.

    • quanta413 says:

      Obviously some of you lost this game when you reached the word “spreadsheet”. I mean, that’s not even Pascal and everyone knows Pascal is for quiche eaters. The question of course is whether or not johan was using FORTRAN or assembly like a real programmer would.

      I know well enough to not try with this game though. I use a quiche eater language (Python) although my work is vaguely adjacent to “possibly ending life on earth as we know it”.

      Just in case anyone missed it, I’m joking. See here.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Aren’t MtG players the nerds most harmed by capitalism?

      • johan_larson says:

        You mean because of artificial scarcity?

        That depends on how you play. In competitive Magic, some formats do give you a lot of freedom to construct a deck, and people not surprisingly want the most effective cards, which exist in limited numbers, so it gets quite expensive. Modern and Standard are like this.

        In other formats, such as Sealed and Draft, you buy a small set of random cards for the tournament, and build a deck from them. That way, there is no pressure to buy expensive ultra-rare cards. Here in Canada, joining a Draft format tournament at a local game store costs C$15, which is very reasonable for an evening’s entertainment.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I think artificial scarcity is an important part of what makes collecting games fun for people. I am not sure how to disentangle fun from “harm” here.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            There’s definitely a charm to working with a limited card pool, which is why a lot of people’s fondest memories of Magic is the early kitchen table days before they learned about all the cards, and won and lost on the backs of cards that would be terrible by tournament standards (freaking Rubinia Soulsinger). In that realm, not having access to everything is really important.

            At some point someone goes on the Internet and learns how to netdeck, and past that point the game changes, now it’s just a massive puzzle with a bunch of interacting parts, and artificial scarcity is either making your habit fantastically expensive, or locking away some of the answers to that puzzle.

            Draft kind of recaptures the feel of not having everything to work with, but you still know all the cards in the format if you’re doing it right, so it’s more a limited puzzle than the “holy crud what does THAT do” of the early days.

      • Randy M says:

        I’d say the harm comes from the intersection of capitalism and intermittent reinforcement, aka skinner boxes, though whether MtG players losing their wallets or WoW players losing their afternoons and evenings is the bigger harm is an interesting debate.
        In any case, there’s ways to enjoy the hobbies despite this, but they are hazardous for some.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m not sure this model really applies to WoW anymore. High-end players aren’t as motivated by loot as they used to be. The game is now increasingly “accessible” with nearly all bosses on normal difficulty being pretty easy to defeat with standard gear, while higher-end fights have been made harder not by increasing gear requirements, but by adding a lot of complicated mechanics that must be executed flawlessly.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            The legendary and AP systems are definitely examples of “spend lots of time playing or you won’t be as good as the people who do” though.

            Granted, there are catch-up mechanics, but if you don’t have 75 artifact traits and your BIS legendaries you’re leaving performance on the table, and I still have raiders who don’t.

            I’d probably spend that much time playing anyway, so I don’t mind too much, but some people don’t like doing random stuff in-game as much as I do.

          • Brad says:

            As of now AP is no longer a time gate. AK is so high at this point that if you didn’t have 75 traits the opening of Argus it’ll come this week easy. The BiS legendary is an issue if you start a fresh toon now but not if you’ve been raiding on and off since the start of the expansion. And that seems like the pattern these days — mythic raiders play intensely for a couple of months after a new raid comes out and then sort of drift away until the next one.

          • Matt M says:

            What percentage of players do you think are mythic raiders though?

            My whole point is that in vanilla, there was no raid “difficulty.” If you wanted to even see Ragnaros, you had to spend months grinding to get all your fire resistance gear just to get a ticket into a guild that could get near him. That provided a strong incentive for people who cared about lore to engage in the ridiculous grind.

            These days, there is no grind. If you’re been playing any reasonable amount, you can clear a raid on normal the week it opens. You can probably clear heroic a few weeks later. And the gate on mythic is less gear-based and more mechanics-based (and guild-based, PUGs generally don’t handle mythics well).

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @Brad: I basically agree with this, in AK’s current incarnation. However, this is the final refining of a system that for a long time was a significant time gate. Order Resources and logging in every 5 days to get AK? Trying to get decent Concordance ranks in 7.2.5? Much less forgiving to casual play. Technically the remaining Concordance ranks have a similar problem, although that’s a really small performance improvement.

            On legendaries… well that’s basically the point. Yes, if you’ve been playing regularly this whole expansion or playing hardcore in bursts of activity, you’ll probably have one spec’s worth of legendaries. So… spend lots of time playing or you won’t be good as the people who do.

            My main has something like 40 legendaries under his belt (all the ones for his class, plus like 5 or 6 of the BoA boxes), so it’s not a problem for me, but I have plenty of raiders who started late, changed class during the expansion, or changed specs, and don’t even have two of their top-tier legendaries yet.

            @Matt: I agree that seeing all the content is much easier than it used to be in terms of grinding. I consider “seeing all the content” to be a fairly arbitrary metric though. If you want to play top-end WoW, you need to spend a lot of time playing the game (and thus a lot of months subscribed), just like you need a fairly expensive deck to play tournament Magic. Yeah, you can also play casual WoW (and still get through heroic eventually, although maybe not Ahead of the Curve short of being carried), in the same way you can buy a preconstructed or budget deck in Magic and play with your friends. I think the comparison is still apt.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      Software development (fueled by a couple Meal Squares), probably some Magic solitaire on my phone at lunch, followed by leading a World of Warcraft raid.

      I think I have the edge: you’ll be near physical people and in an amiable setting (until someone Wraths), whereas I’ll be yelling at people over Discord to save healing cds for phase 3.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      One of my co-workers was recently promoted. Until we hire the replacement, I am covering this person’s work. Unfortunately, this worker left their A/R in quite a mess, which is probably going to take me a damn month to sort out.
      On the plus side, we have a new employee that can shadow me while I am working through this mess.

      No software development. Just standard Excel Wizardy like a few macros, some pivot tables, and some VLOOKUPs, which people seem impressed by here.

      Now, at home…if I have spare time, I am just going to keep playing DA: I. I have 55 hours in, and hopefully I’m at Act 3 by now!

      • quaelegit says:

        I miss the days when I could impress my peers with VLOOKUP (although maybe wasn’t so effective b/c I usually took three tries to get it right).

        And then there was the time I got to show my group partner (in a college class!) that No, you don’t have to retype “=ADD(…)” in every cell in the column…

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          The bad part is that most people are vastly less productive because they don’t have fluency in these things.

        • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

          Reminder that Index+Match is safer, more flexible, and ever so slightly more efficient than VLOOKUP.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        A random complaint: it is annoying how many workplaces still have phone calls as a cultural practice. I am dealing with complicated accounts that require pouring over thousands of lines on a spreadsheet. There is no way to communicate this amount of detail over the phone.

        I am reminded of a reconciliation I recently had with a client. She ended up printing out every single invoice on her account for the last 2 years, along with all the contracts, and had to book a conference room for all the paper-work. Then we had a 2 hour long phone call…with me sitting at my desk, reviewing digital copies of all the above as needed.

        In the end, she only had two disputes, which she could have easily communicated via email. One of which was a delivery date dispute (whether something was delivered on the 14th or the 15th). The net effect was $100.

        Were I her manager and saw this spectacle, I would’ve fired her on the spot.

    • JonathanD says:

      I’m spending the day doing software development and the evening playing Pathfinder, specifically the Kingmaker adventure path. That’s got to be at least a tie.

    • Rick Hull says:

      I’m working on a software version of Traveller, a D&D style tabletop game from the 70s. Come check it out: https://github.com/rickhull/traveller_rpg

      • Protagoras says:

        Are you replicating the feature of the old Traveller character generation system where characters could die during character generation?

  18. Mark says:

    I want to get dog piled to see what everyone is talking about. A “dog-man”?

    I’m going to say something left wing, and I’d like all of the right wingers to attack me with your best shots please.

    We should tax the rich ’til the pips squeak. Spend money on libraries, schools, parks. Get our brightest and best working in industry, engineering, education and entertainment rather than thinking up new ways to manipulate and exploit us.
    Tax financial institutions. Ban the speculator. Bin the adverts.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      1. Shrug. We’ve had a marginal tax rate on the top income bracket of like 91%. That’s economically dumb, but not society-destroying.
      2. OK
      3. The entertainment industry IS about thinking up ways to manipulate and exploit us (and we can think of journalism as part of the entertainment industry.)
      4. Shrug
      5 & 6. It’s unclear what these mean.

      • Mark says:

        I don’t think that entertainment has to be about manipulation – it’s only where the profit motive comes in, where everything becomes an impersonal process, that the ethical vision of the artist gets lost .
        I suppose, you’ll always have pornographers, demagogues, fakey mcnews merchants – but if the true artist had independence, he would choose not to collaborate with these reprobates, and they would lose much of their power.

        Use regulations to control price increases. Property speculators, buy to let landlords, land-bankers – they need to feel the hard press of regulation.

        Adverts – we need to stop people from spending money on adverts. It is a waste of money. It doesn’t provide people with information, just gives them a little buzz they associate with something. Manipulation for the purpose of profit.

    • johan_larson says:

      While I’m loading the ammo, why don’t you start by telling us what country you’re living in and what country you were born and raised in?

      • Mark says:

        Is that relevant?

        I’m a European. Living in Europe.

        • John Schilling says:

          Then go for it. And the rest of us will see how much wealth your rich can pack with them when they leave for greener pastures.

          • Mark says:

            Well, you can’t take land. You can’t take money.

            They can take themselves – I suppose it depends on how far superstars are relevant to actual results (as opposed to ranked positions), and whether they can keep their discoveries secret.

          • John Schilling says:

            Money is almost quintessentially the form of wealth you can take with you anywhere this side of the grave. I get that you probably mean to pass laws saying “you can’t take money with you if you leave!”, but that usually doesn’t work very well in practice.

          • Mark says:

            If I have a “John Owes Me” note, and I take it away, and you never see it again, who benefits?

          • John Schilling says:

            In that hypothetical, I benefit from your being a silly socialist who can’t think of anything better to do with foreign currency than dump it in a landfill.

            Sensible rich people, if they flee Europe with a bunch of Euros or whatever, you’re going to see that money again. Coming from completely different rich people saying “I have some of your money which I wish to use to purchase some of your Siemens machine tools and North Sea oil and fine French wine”. If you refuse to accept it at face value, then the value of your currency collapses and probably takes your economy with it. If you do accept it at face value, then a bunch of people you were hoping would be building libraries, schools, and parks for your people will instead be making machine tools and oil and wine for ours. Or, alternately, a bunch of useful stuff that you were ultimately hoping to get in trade for your machine tools, etc, never shows up and all you get is paper that you had thought was already yours because it belonged to one of “your” rich people.

          • Mark says:

            OK – so we’re on the same page. We’re talking about using money within the socialist economy, not just squirrelling it away and using it elsewhere.

            And the mechanism is that a rich person with savings is going to use those savings to purchase machines, or whatever, and build a business in a foreign land.

            Maybe. I’d say it’s a one off hit though, isn’t it, because once they’ve gone through their savings, their income is being taxed at the new rate and spent on internal investment.
            Maybe I’ll just institute a big old export tax until the rich guys have used up their money pile.

          • John Schilling says:

            Maybe. I’d say it’s a one off hit though, isn’t it, because once they’ve gone through their savings, their income is being taxed at the new rate and spent on internal investment.

            Their income is being taxed at the usual rate in their new country, which is not part of your socialist utopia and so you don’t see any of those tax revenues.

            I don’t think we’re on the same page. The scenario I am describing is, rich European businessman sees “utopian socialism” handwriting on the wall, takes his share of Europe’s wealth to the free world as cash (€ or £, and demand deposits rather than banknotes, machts nichts). Exchanges same for dollars (US, Singaporean, or whatever) and sets up business in his new home. You get only a single tax bite on whatever transactions he undertakes to liquidate his European assets before leaving; everything else is beyond your reach.

            Meanwhile, a free world bank now flush with €/£/whatever, sells those to businessmen (not necessarily the ones who fled your socialist utopia) who want to buy whatever useful stuff your socialist utopia manufactures for export. Normally, to buy your export goods a foreign businessman would have to show up at one of your banks with $ to buy €, which would leave you with the $ you could use to buy useful stuff from the free world, but because your fleeing expatriates have stashed € in foreign banks, you’re on the hook for providing export goods roughly equal to their total wealth and getting nothing but paper in return. Export taxes, sure, but paid by your exporters and thus just internal redistribution in what’s left of your economy.

            The expatriates will probably for sentimental reasons want to keep a vacation home in the old country, and maybe even make it their primary residence. If you’re not greedy about it, you can tax the cash flow associated with maintaining those estates – but if you try to use their domestic mailing address as an excuse for taxing their foreign earnings, they’ll just pull up stakes entirely.

            And you’ll get to keep the land, factories, etc, they sell to local purchasers as they head out the door, but A: those assets will likely be hard-used and depreciated in the course of being run for maximum short-term profits during liquidation and B: per above, you’ll be using them to manufacture export goods of roughly equal value and getting nothing in return.

            Or you can devalue your currency or declare autarky and see what that gets you.

        • johan_larson says:

          No country in Europe does everything you propose, but all of them do something like it, to lesser degrees. To see how much it’s hurting you, try looking up the emigration and immigration figures for your country w.r.t. the US. Then wonder why, if you’re doing it right, people with options so overwhelmingly prefer a country that does it the other way.

          • Mark says:

            Why don’t we look at the wealth of the people leaving the US compared to the wealth of those entering? Seems like the smart money, the people with options, they’re heading out.

          • Chalid says:

            Seems like the smart money, the people with options, they’re heading out.

            What data leads you to that conclusion?

          • Mark says:

            @chalid
            To be honest, I had a suspicion that johan_larson’s comment was dubiously relevant. The percentage of USians living in the EU isn’t that much smaller than the percentage of EUians living in the US – 0.3 vs 0.5 – there could well be other factors involved – it’s not clear to me that there is a clear distinction between US tax policy and EU, etc. etc. You’d probably have to look into the history of how changes in tax policy affected migration.

            That’s the kind of detail that ssc loves, but personally I think that you have to be very careful with introducing specifics into an argument. The argument rapidly becomes too complex and can’t be satisfactorily used to support any general statement.
            The argument descends into nit-picking. “Oh yes, but the US army bases in Germany shouldn’t be counted… WAIT! What about diplomats stationed in Washington….”

            Personally, I’d rather just say “maybe”. It leaves us in the same place.

            Anyway, I didn’t really want to leave the comment unanswered, but I didn’t want to get into it, so I responded with another dubiously relevant nugget – the source for this is my impression that migrants from Mexico, Puerto Rico etc. have less money than US emigrants. That could be wrong.
            Either way, it’s not relevant.

          • Chalid says:

            Thanks. Yeah, it seems difficult to answer to me too; I guess I incorrectly got the impression you were confident in your opinion there.

            If rich people really were disproportionately leaving the country I’d certainly want to know about it – that’s the sort of thing that you might expect to precede a serious decline.

          • Incurian says:

            Maybe it would be more helpful to look at migration within the US or EU, since there are lower barriers to migration. North Korea probably isn’t doing anything right, but their lack of migration just proves they’re good at border control (although the dramatic instances where defectors do manage to escape probably says a lot).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I mean, normally I wouldn’t add my thoughts in because I am lazy, so normally I wouldn’t participate in a dog pile…in this case, you’re specifically requesting it!

      re: tax the rich, I think most people over-estimate the amount of money we can get from the rich. To use some Tax Foundation data from 2014, the top 1% earn $1.97 trillion in taxable income per year. They pay an average rate of 27% in income tax (not sure if this includes the Medicare surtax). That comes out to $543 billion (rounded).

      So, if you double the taxes on this group, you will raise an additional $543 billion. This would cover the deficit of $483 billion, with some left-over, which you should probably use as a primary surplus to start paying down some of that outstanding debt.
      https://taxfoundation.org/summary-latest-federal-income-tax-data-2016-update/

      So, basically “tax the rich,” to absurd levels, will pay for reducing our current debt. It will not pay for any new entitlement programs. Hell I think until recently even Germany capped out the tax rate at a maximum of 50% of income combined across all levels, so I don’t think it’s even politically possible to get to 54%, and my prior is that it’s probably not a good idea.

      If you want an expanded social net, you need to expand the regressive payroll taxes. Using Germany again as an example, Germans apparently pay a combined 19.325 for their payroll taxes, per Wiki The US figure is substantially lower, more like 8%. So if you want to expand the social welfare state? There’s your starter!

      I could have more comments, and will add some later, but I have to go home at the moment!

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        To be fair, Mark didn’t mention entitlement spending. He said “schools, libraries and parks.”
        Using doubled income tax for the wealthiest to get out of the red and spend a bit on those things doesn’t sound terrible.

        • Nornagest says:

          Libraries and parks are cheap. Schools are hilariously expensive.

          It’s hard to see in the US budget because most of it is funded by local property taxes that no one ever looks at, but school is one of the most expensive things we do. Leftovers from anything wouldn’t be enough to improve it much, even if I trusted the various departments managing different aspects of American schooling to use them productively, which I don’t.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Schools are hilariously expensive and funded by property taxes in the US. For that matter, so are libraries and parks. So if Mark was an American, I’d have had to push back. Here, these are things you get by soaking the rich with doubled marginal income tax.
            For the record, I’m invested in real estate in a major left coast city, and I don’t trust local teachers and managing departments to improve education at all if I cast an altruistic vote to raise my property taxes. The coordination problem seems intractable.

      • rlms says:

        “This would cover the deficit of $483 billion, with some left-over, which you should probably use as a primary surplus to start paying down some of that outstanding debt.”
        By the same logic, cutting (or doubling) all federal spending on the the military would be insignificant, as it would only raise (/cost) an additional $600 billion. Instead of assuming that extra tax revenue would be spent on reducing the deficit, you could instead say that it would be enough to increase federal spending on education by a factor of 7*.

        Germany is a pretty odd example of a country with a ridiculous tax rate, given that its current one is lower than the US’s (federal + state)! Plenty of countries (Belgium is the top one) range between 50% and 65%, Germany is relatively low in comparison to elsewhere in Europe.

        Also, it’s possibly relevant that Mark is British (I don’t know where he’s thinking of enacting his proposals).

        *Unless I’ve made some stupid mistake with the numbers, which is definitely possible as the potential revenue from increasing taxes on the rich seems ridiculously huge to me. If I’m correct, your argument has persuaded me in the opposite direction to the one you intended!

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Shouldn’t that be a factor of 1/7 ($543billion, current budget ~$3.6trillion)? It’s far from peanuts (which is what I expected), but it’s not exactly fuck-you money on a federal level.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          RLMS,

          You’ll notice from your graph that the US already has one of the highest marginal tax rates on the wealthy in the entire world, especially if the GOP tax plan goes through (it will eliminate deductions for state income taxes). US dividend income is taxed generously compared to a few other nations, but is still on the high side (and US corporations also pay among the highest tax rates in the OECD, which puts the US at the #3 spot for corporate+personal capital taxes).
          http://stats.oecd.org/index.aspx?DataSetCode=TABLE_II4

          Basically, when it comes to the rich people, the US is pretty much in line/high-tax compared to a lot of other nations. I use Germany as an example, KNOWING it is relatively low-tax, because lay people on the left typically think the US has a ridiculously favorable tax structure to the rich, and everyone else is much harder on the rich. This isn’t the case, but it is the case that virtually all these nations tax regular people a WHOLE lot more.

          Several nations have maximum taxes that can go to the government. For instance, in Denmark, per Wiki, you cannot contribute more than 51.5% of your income to taxes. So the rate above I gave for the super-rich at 54% is illegal, IN DENMARK. The rate I gave for the US would also be SUBSTANTIALLY higher, because you need to factor in the state and local taxes they are paying: realistically they are giving up 60+% of their income to government entities.

          We certainly have run-room to increase our taxes, if we so desire…but even taxing the US top 1% to levels that are extremely high even by OECD standards, would give us enough money to close the current deficit…which means we’ll still be in deficit in 10 years as the government finances continue to deteriorate.

          Anyways, this isn’t any tiny deal! Eliminating the deficit is a big deal! It’s a lot of money! However, when talking to the lay people on the left (like my brother-in-law), I get the impression they think that the rich have SO much money, that “taking just a bit” (to use my BIL’s words) will be enough to entirely erase the deficit, fund universal college, universal pre-K, single-payer healthcare, etc.

          That’s just NOT the case. You have take insane amounts of money, JUST to balance the budget.

          I ran out of time to post any additional details, but this is usually my first point when talking to lay-left people when they talk about soaking the rich.

          I’m okay with your point on military spending, and I normally make THAT point, too. To balance the budget by cutting military spending would require gutting the military. Like, we spend a LOT on the military, but it’s not so much that we can just cut a bit and expect enough money leftover to cover all the loose ends, AND increase the social safety net.

          Basically everything will require raising taxes, AT THE VERY LEAST, on the Upper Middle Class, and probably the middle class, and maybe the working poor depending on what exactly your preferred government size is.

          Where the US is decisively a low-tax nation is a single worker earning the median wage, like the other Anglophone nations:
          http://www.oecd.org/ctp/tax-policy/taxing-wages-20725124.htm
          Denmark is at 36% compared to the US 30%. Thing is, 6% is a lot when you’re talking about EVERYONE. 6% of US AGI of $9 trillion is $540 billion. That’s as much money as you get from imposing radical income taxation on the top 1%.

          I realize I’m not fully answering Mark’s point here and bringing up several others, but typical lay-left people in the US are usually not on board with tax increases when THEY are the ones paying the increase in taxes. At least IME.

          In respect to this specific post, the US government fiscal position is deteriorating. SOMEONE needs to pay the debt. If the rich don’t do it because you want to spend all the money on schools, someone else needs to do it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You’ll notice from your graph that the US already has one of the highest marginal tax rates on the wealthy in the entire world, especially if the GOP tax plan goes through (it will eliminate deductions for state income taxes).

            The wealthy already lost those deductions thanks to the individual Alternative Minimum Tax (which unfortunately the Senate plan preserves, but I’m not so sure it does that much any more; it would affect the remaining $10,000 property tax deduction but I’m not sure what else)

          • rlms says:

            My point is that talking about tax increases in terms of the extent to which they would reduce the deficit is misleading. If you care about reducing the deficit, the question is whether that should be done by increasing taxes or cutting spending (or both). But the question Mark is raising is how much could spending be raised if we increased taxes (keeping the deficit fixed).

            In my experience, proposals for tax increases would cover more than the top 1%. What would happen if you increased the rate for the top 2%, or 5%?

            Additionally, when comparing the US’s taxes to other countries, you have to take into account the fact the that the US has lower sales tax and I believe lower payroll taxes than comparable countries.

          • skef says:

            The wealthy already lost those deductions thanks to the individual Alternative Minimum Tax

            Simultaneous talk of maximum tax rates and “losing deductions” due to the AMT is double-counting, given that the highest AMT rate is 28%.

      • Mark says:

        I don’t think that I want to use tax to reduce private sector net savings at this time. I’d rather use it to make nice things for people.

        You could double the amount going to poor children with 500 billion.

        I think you only really want to tax the rich if you disagree with how they spend their money. The purpose of consumption tax is to free up goods to be consumed, in the short term, by others.
        The purpose of taxing the rich is to change the focus of investment.

    • Incurian says:

      It’s always worked in the past.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      The amount of money we (meaning the US) spend on all of those things is pretty low, and could be increased several fold without affecting total spending very much. Mostly the government spends money on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security (i.e. lots of transfers to the richest age group, as well as massive distortions to the health market) and Defense (i.e. bombing random people in far away countries).

      Financial institutions are taxed, presumably at the corporate tax rate (already the highest in the developed world). I don’t know how you distinguish speculation from other investment, which is pretty damned essential to a functioning economy. Advertising, marketing, and sales are actually quite important and their reputation as 0-sum games seems to be driven by the musings of ignoramuses.

      • Mark says:

        I would say that speculation is investment in expectation of a price increase, without any expectation of, or effort to achieve, an increase in production/income.

        Maybe you need some of that, to make a market. But there are times you don’t need it, too. Regulate.
        I suppose you would say any secondary market is speculation and subject to the speculation regulation.

        Advertising, marketing, and sales are actually quite important and their reputation as 0-sum games seems to be driven by the musings of ignoramuses.

        I find this very hard to believe.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          I find this very hard to believe.

          “I don’t understand it, so it must be untrue.”

          Is there a name for that fallacy?

          • Mark says:

            The fallacy of the exaggerated operator?

            [That is to say, when I say “I find this very hard to believe” I most definitely do not mean “this is impossible because I can’t understand it” – basically I’m saying – “please provide further information, I am not yet convinced.”]

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’ve always called it the Argument From Personal Incredulity.

        • Alex Zavoluk says:

          Suppose I know that a huge wave of settlers is approaching some fertile but unsettled land, but the current owners of this land do not know about the settlers. I can buy some land, and then jack up the price before any settlers arrive. I haven’t improved the land, but what I have done, is make sure that anyone who buys my land *really wants it*. If someone buys underpriced land they have less incentive to use it most productively.

          “I find this very hard to believe.”

          When someone comes up with a new product, does everyone know everything about it instantly? No, of course not. Many people are skeptical of new things (conservatism bias) and you have to actively convince them to try it out.

    • Mark says:

      OK – here it is.

      I’m one of the few commenters here who is officially categorised as “other”.

      I’m not left or right wing, and having now experienced the terror of the dog-pile, here is my neutral and fair ruling on that despised institution:

      ======
      The right wingers of SSC operate according to basic standards of decency and show appreciation for the laws of argument. Where they stumble into ad hominem, they will accept righteous chastisement.
      Low content bandwagon cheering is rare.

      The official judgement:
      If you are discouraged from stating your opinion because of the right wing dog-pile, then you are too weak, and must become stronger.

      I hereby declare that from this day onwards, anyone tempted to use the term “right wing dog-pile” must not use that term, and must instead add the words “Please be nice, I’m not too sure of myself” to the ends of their comments.

      As it is written, so it shall be done.
      =====

      • beleester says:

        If you’re trying to incite harsh responses, prefacing your comment with a statement that implies you don’t endorse the stance and you’re just curious about the arguments seems like a poor way to do that.

        I would also point out that it’s hard to have really vicious fights about tax policy. Post something about refugees or illegal immigrants and we’ll see if the forum’s good nature still holds up.

        Lastly, I would point out that politeness in argument is not mutually exclusive with making someone feel unwelcome. I can’t say if there’s an actual effect, since I’m not personally repelled and it’s hard to prove that someone didn’t make a post on a forum, but I have certainly seen polite, reasonable-sounding defenses of positions I find repulsive, and I can imagine someone feeling unwelcome because of it.

        • quanta413 says:

          Post something about refugees or illegal immigrants and we’ll see if the forum’s good nature still holds up.

          I think there’s probably still too many libertarians here. No, to truly bring out the dogpile here, you’ve got post something about how not only is Social Justice justified in getting someone fired for voting for Trump, but they should have showed up to the persons place of work and burned it to the ground with everyone there inside because the people there might have been tainted.

          Or for a less obviously ridiculous way to get dogpiled, say something mean about how Scott Alexander is an entitled autistic white guy who doesn’t check his privilege enough and doesn’t understand obvious dogwhistles and is thus excusing and enabling horrible fascists like Trump.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Wouldn’t it be simpler just to praise the works of Sidles, Helicopter Jim, and b7s, and bemoan their banning?

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Helicopter Jim

            Are you talking about James ‘The Dreaded Jim’ Donald, the first person named on the register of bans? Where does the ‘helicopter’ come from?

          • The Nybbler says:

            That’s him; he’s fond of advocating for giving “free helicopter rides” (as in the 1973 Chilean coup) to his political enemies.

      • Incurian says:

        A polite dog pile can still be intimidating.

        What are the specific complaints people have other than “there are a lot of people who disagree with me?”

        • albatross11 says:

          The dynamic of a dogpile is that you say something that lots of people disagree with, and so many people individually disagree with you, and you end up feeling like you’re in a me vs the world kind of argument. Even when the people disagree politely, you end up with more people than you can respond to. But when you say something really unpopular, you often get rather hostile disagreement, with an assumption of bad faith.

          I’ve been in the situation before (on a well-run forum full of mostly smart and well-intentioned people) where I found myself arguing with like 20 people, some of whom started assuming evil motives for me, and claiming that I was dodging their questions when I didn’t respond to each one individually.

          The main social norm I know for preventing dogpiles is to read the other responses to something you disagree with, and only post a response if your disagreement hasn’t been brought up yet. Otherwise, don’t post anything or post a short comment saying you agree with previous post X about why the original post is wrong.

          • johnjohn says:

            This is especially bad here where you can get 4 comments of people disagreeing with you on the same points for almost exactly the same reason, 3 of them politely

          • Incurian says:

            This seems like a reasonable rule, I will keep an eye out for instances when it’s not observed. Do any particularly egregious examples come to mind?

          • quaelegit says:

            @ albatross11, Incurian —

            Very much agree with these points.

            I think (though I can’t remember specific examples to back it up) that “dog-piling” tends to be more …severe? when the original post states something confidently instead of asking “what do people here think about…”.

            (Mark did confidently state, but only after telling people this was a drilll :P)

            On “egregious examples”, the only one I can think of is actually going the other way — the response ConradHoncho got when he discussed keeping LGBT+ media away from his kids seemed like dog-piling to me (idk if it is “extreme” dogpiling).

            Some other examples — but this is vague enough I’m not even trying to search for them — perhaps some top-level comments by Guy From TN (or there’s a few other left-leaning posters who have started commenting recently but I can’t think of their names right now) suggesting a moderate-to-far left position. YES, I’m sorry, this is so vague it probably shouldn’t count as an example, but I’m mentioning it in case it jogs someone’s memory and hopefully they can point out a specific example.

            FINALLY — VERY much like the norm of “read the responses before commenting so you don’t repeat others’ points” to prevent dogpiles and streamline conversation in general.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I’ve never felt like I was unjustly dogpiled, for what its worth. I appreciate when people give my ideas an honest consideration, and it sure beats being ignored.

            However, I do sometimes have to monitor how much I post, due to the significant time investment in giving responses to so many people. It just comes with the territory of being a minority position.

          • skef says:

            On “egregious examples”, the only one I can think of is actually going the other way — the response ConradHoncho got when he discussed keeping LGBT+ media away from his kids seemed like dog-piling to me (idk if it is “extreme” dogpiling).

            I cannot believe this is coming up again. How much can you care about dogpiling if you know damn well that the last time the argument started up all over again?

            One again — and good lord please let’s not re-litigate the object level — that argument was about a factual claim about the cause of a phenomenon. It was vigorous. A couple weeks later, Thegnskald said:

            A few open threads ago Conrad opened a thread in which we mocked him endlessly for not wanting gay children.

            He was nice enough about it, so we were pretty good natured about the ribbing, but no, his right-wing views don’t actually fit in very well here.

            The difference is that he framed the conversation in an acceptable way – being about the children’s outcomes rather than his own feelings about them being gay, and admitting he would accept it if they were. I think most of us have decided he is a decent guy with ideas that would have been socially acceptable a few years ago, and don’t see much point in yelling at him about it.

            Whereas, to be blunt, the leftists here who have issues tend to be not-very-nice about it. The right-wing people mostly behave themselves, possibly because Scott has banned all the right-wing people who don’t, as, for as much as things heat up when left wing people aren’t nice, they explode when right wing people aren’t.

            Which was a) a complete mischaracterization of the what was at issue in that discussion and b) do I even need to talk about b? Just read the self-refuting quote.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Just for the record I think I was justifiably dog-piled about it as my opinion is far outside the SSC mainstream. So, no hard feelings or anything.

          • quaelegit says:

            @skef — my apologies for mis-remembering/mis-characterizing the discussion. Agree that there is no need to re-litigate the object level. I gambled that enough time had passed and the frame of reference was different enough that my mention of it would not re-spark the debate, but if I’m wrong I apologize (and would consider deleting my post if you guys think that will help more than it will cause confusiong. looks like you can’t delete posts outside the edit window)

            @Guy in TN, @Conrad Honcho —

            Glad to hear that! I think this means the blog and community is succeeding at fostering worthwhile discussion. 🙂

            This is somewhat strong evidence that a) I don’t have a good understanding of dog-piling as people are considering it here, and b) I should take Mark’s advice and continue not commenting in politics debates here (which is fine, b/c that was already my intention) 😛

      • Baeraad says:

        I hereby declare that from this day onwards, anyone tempted to use the term “right wing dog-pile” must not use that term, and must instead add the words “Please be nice, I’m not too sure of myself” to the ends of their comments.

        See, I would 100% support a system like that. I’m happy to admit my feebleness. I mean, its’ not like anyone can talk to me for more than five minutes and not notice it on their own!

        Though I’m not sure I agree with your rosey estimation of the SSC comment section. I mean, that the guy who responded to my long and heartfelt post a about the need for a more polite and respectful society a while back with a single-sentence reply calling me a virgin loser didn’t so much stumble into ad hominem as throw himself into it with great gusto! :p

      • Deiseach says:

        If you are discouraged from stating your opinion because of the right wing dog-pile, then you are too weak, and must become stronger.

        So we’re living in a dogpile-eat-dogpile world? 🙂

      • Brad says:

        The Dadaist trolling will continue until morale improves apparently.

      • Randy M says:

        Just because I agree with your conclusion doesn’t mean I respect your experiment. You can’t start with “I’m looking to be dog-piled, please show me how it feels” and expect it to teach you anything about either the other commonters behavior or your own reaction to it.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I like how Mark asked for a dogpile, got one he considered mild, proclaimed a conclusion about right-wing dogpiles on the basis of that experience, and that got a bigger dogpile that wasn’t even particularly right-wing.

        • quaelegit says:

          The original post got eight one-level down replies (excluding Incurian’s one-line response as possibly a joke but including the responses posted after the conclusion). The conclusion got five (excluding Deiseach’s joke). So the conclusion response is actually a bit smaller (though I could see it being described as more “heated” – SSCers tend to care about acknowledging experimental biases :P)

          (Now I want to go back an see how many top-level replies to past “dogpiles” — or even just average “long discussions” to what the distribution is… but I don’t have the time right now… maybe a project for the future.)

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Well stated – I was observing the “heat” more than the actual reply count.

            More seriously, this is a confounder I frequently see whenever anyone tries to analyze bias. A simple count isn’t good enough. If some newspaper printed eight pro-right articles and ten pro-left articles, but the pro-right ones were all on major issues and the pro-left were all fluff pieces on page 4, I don’t think people would consider that paper to be pro-left.

            Now I’m wondering how you’d set up the parameters for dogpile analysis. It doesn’t appear trivial.

    • Drew says:

      To help with the dogpile, you run into the problem that: income = consumption + investment

      We can imagine a hard cap on personal consumption. No one can spend more than $200k/year on personal things! Any extra is taxed to fund libraries!

      The problem is that the ultra-rich don’t actually consume all that much of their incomes. There are only so many cheeseburgers that someone can eat. So, nationalizing ultra-rich-person consumption won’t reshape society in any interesting ways.

      To really transform things, you’d have to draw down ultra-rich investments, too. Instead of a rich person getting a farming-tractors or automotive robot, a town gets earth-leveling equipment for parks. The problem is that investment makes labor more productive. Attack it enough, and wages drop. There’s less absolute stuff to go around.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      We should tax the rich ’til the pips squeak.

      Taxes on the rich should probably be higher. Not sure by how much. Apparently they do pay a lot of the total tax money, so there has to be some kind of limit.

      Spend money on libraries

      I guess.

      schools

      Only if that comes with a restructuring of the entire system. As in, why are we teaching X, who does and doesn’t need to know X, why aren’t we teaching them Y.

      parks

      I guess.

      Get our brightest and best working in industry, engineering, education and entertainment rather than thinking up new ways to manipulate and exploit us.

      yeah, the question is how you do this. And given that this designation might include me in the future, include me out of this plan. I don’t mind working for a good cause or even being incentivized to do so, but I want to choose my own job.

      Tax financial institutions. Ban the speculator. Bin the adverts.

      I don’t think the first two are good ideas, maybe the first? Binning the adverts just means I have to pay for stuff and no one pays attention to them anyways, but when I do pay attention they are fucking annoying so, uh, go for it. Or bring in some Israeli ad agencies, whose shit is actually funny.

      • albatross11 says:

        Internet advertising is a force for evil in the world. We’d be better off if everyone involved in that industry moved on to something more socially beneficial, like selling heroin to school children.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          internet advertising is a force for me getting free stuff. Does anyone actually pay attention to it enough for it to be evil?

          I guess you’re talking about how clicks have been incentivized, but that’s also a function of people not wanting to pay subscriptions, sadly

          • albatross11 says:

            The incentives for chasing clicks are bad, but the massive effort to track everyone on the internet all the time to sell ads more effectively is much worse.

      • JulieK says:

        And especially, how do you incentivize more people into industry, engineering and entertainment, when you’ve removed one of the main incentives, the hope of getting rich?

        • Aapje says:

          Most people in industry or engineering just earn a salary and have no hope of getting rich (beyond getting quite decent pay). Most people in entertainment seem economically irrational.

    • Chalid says:

      Thing is, this is inherently a quantitative question. I think most people throughout the political spectrum are ok with some degree of progressive taxation – the question is just how much. When you say “we should tax the rich ’til the pips squeak” then I don’t know whether you mean a top marginal income tax rate of 40% or 60% or a wealth tax or something about corporate taxation or a specialized consumption tax or something else entirely, so I don’t know whether I actually agree or disagree with you.

    • Anonymous says:

      We should tax the rich ’til the pips squeak.

      1. The rich are being taxed approximately as much as they can be taxed. Any increases in tax rates will be very short-lived as the rich naturally adapt to the new circumstances. After all, they wouldn’t be rich if they couldn’t make and retain money, and that includes tax optimization.
      2. The rich already do bear most of the burden of keeping the budget fed with fresh lucre. How much more do you want them to contribute? Don’t be greedy. Thank your local business owner for all the welfare he’s funding.

      Spend money on libraries, schools, parks.

      Spend your own money on libraries, schools and parks.

      Get our brightest and best working in industry, engineering, education and entertainment rather than thinking up new ways to manipulate and exploit us.

      So your plan is to:
      1. Abolish all welfare.
      2. Simplify the tax code and lower taxes in general.

      Right?

      Tax financial institutions. Ban the speculator. Bin the adverts.

      :insert slogan here:

      • engleberg says:

        @get our best and brightest working on and not

        Quis custodiet? Who will bitch-slap the best and outfox the brightest to make them do what’s gooder and less bad than what they and think best?

        When the Brits set up National Health, they didn’t chase down Albert Schweitzer and the world’s best neurosurgeons. They had a giant pool of medics with experience from two world wars, they aimed at okay care for the mass of the populace, they nailed it.

        When Obama made speeches about Obamacare’s website he said it would work like Amazon’s website. Got applause, till people tried the website. What Obama didn’t do beforehand is make a phone call: ‘Hi Jeff Bezos. Nice billion-dollar business you got there. Shame if something should happen to it. Anything does, just call me for a favor, or trust in good government. Speaking of favors, I’d like you to loan me some website guys so Obamacare’s website will work at least as well as Amazon’s. I’ll expect a speech putting your good name behind it tomorrow. Please and thank you, bye.’ Obama didn’t become president without making a much more subtle and nasty version of that call to donors twice a day for years. But he never made it for Obamacare’s website, much less for the program itself, so both suck.

  19. Mark says:

    Which is a worse thing – waiting for the next Song of Ice and Fire book, or waiting for the next Elder Scrolls game?

    Personally, I think I’ve given up on Song of Ice and Fire – I quite like the first three books, which I read about 15 years ago now, but I think I’m pretty much over the whole thing at this stage. Certainly can’t be bothered to re-read them and try and remember what the hell was happening.

    Elder Scrolls – just feel incredibly annoyed by Bethesda not doing anything. I feel now about Bethesda the way I felt about George RR Martin in 2010, but it’s worse.

    • Brad says:

      I gave up on GRRM just as I had given up on RJ before him (and never went back and read the Sanderson stuff). I try to avoid starting unfinished series now but don’t always succeed.

      Never got into Elder Scrolls.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        and never went back and read the Sanderson stuff

        I couldn’t resist finishing the series, but you made a good choice TBH

        • Incurian says:

          I thought his books were the best.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            Agreed, I really enjoyed Sanderson’s three books.

            However, they are definitely WoT-as-interpreted-by-Brandon-Sanderson, so if you’re not a Sanderson fan in general you won’t like ’em.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            I think interpreting WoT is just in itself a bad idea. WoT was good because of its many unique factors, and Sanderson dumped a lot of that out. Jordan’s WoT focuses on many distinct characters, has a main character who is going crazy and is not that powerful, and in general subverts a lot of generic fantasy tropes while not making a big deal out of it to the point of being obnoxious. Sanderson condenses the list of characters whose perspectives you see from, makes the main character OP and sane (this may have been Jordan’s original intent but it’s stupid either way), and gets pretty cliched. It seems like Sanderson’s way of avoiding cliches is to build new and interesting worlds, but with the world pre-built he didn’t have that luxury (although the WoT world isn’t that generic either really). I felt like a lot of conflicts were resolved in an extremely cliched way that pissed me off, and dumb stuff was added in as well.

            There’s a point at which a prophecy is explained by the Borderland rulers. Upon reading the name of the person who said this prophecy, I instantly cringed and still do. Not because this person was important to the story; the name is just irredeemably stupid. As is this entire scene, in fact, because the prophecy basically says “if Rand reacts a certain way then all is lost”; OK, but if all is lost then all is lost, so why even bother with it? Either way you have to fight, so skip this prophetic crap and get to it!

            Many scenes are resolved with last-minute saves, which aren’t even particularly surprising given the number of powerful characters with the ability to teleport, heal, et cetera.

            The final battle between Rand and the Dark One is also irredeemably stupid. Why didn’t he just kill him, again? Oh, because then everyone would be extremely happy (but stupid). What’s wrong with that, you ask? Good question, and I have no answer. I guess it might be expected that a regular person wouldn’t think of it that way though, but it’s presented like some kind of powerful truth, when in reality it’s just idiocy. But in any case, why does Rand believe that he’s not just being lied to? The Dark One is the father of lies for fucks’s sakes, just kill him and figure it out later. If the consequences of his death are really so bad let the Creator fix it. By the way, why does the Creator even reveal himself at the end? Why doesn’t he do more to fix the problems of this shitty, fucked-up endless cycle, if he actually exists? Did that question even need answering?

          • Nornagest says:

            Upon reading the name of the person who said this prophecy, I instantly cringed and still do. Not because this person was important to the story; the name is just irredeemably stupid.

            To be fair, that’s kind of a trademark of Wheel of Time. I understand why Jordan was doing it — the eternal recurrence thing is a lot more obvious when you recognize all the names — but it doesn’t make it any less cringeworthy whenever they end up a little too on-the-nose.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            At no point had I ever had that reaction to any name of any other character. Just that one specifically.

            Actually, based on what you’re saying, it seems like that person’s name was actually important to the plot somehow? Not sure how that would be though.

          • Nornagest says:

            I have no idea, I dropped the series somewhere around book 10 and never picked it back up for the Sanderson books. But pretty much every word with an apostrophe in it is a reference to something in real-world mythology. Sometimes subtle, more often painfully obvious.

            The names for the Trolloc clans struck me as particularly ham-handed. Though to be fair those showed up early, and a lot of stuff in the first book was less polished.

    • Randy M says:

      Certainly can’t be bothered to re-read them and try and remember what the hell was happening.

      This was my reaction to Dances with Dragons. Or rather to the wait for it. Never bothered to read it, since almost all the characters I remember are dead, anyway.

      As far as Elder Scrolls, it’s a completely different genre, but I am enjoying the Elder Scrolls Legends online card game.

    • Matt M says:

      Elder Scrolls went MMO, and if Warcraft is any precedent, once you go down that road you never really come back…

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Yeah, the problem with going MMO is that you have to invest your storyline in the MMO, and now there’s no continuity for people who aren’t playing the MMO. A hypothetical Warcraft IV would be completely incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been playing WoW: practically every major lore character has been killed off or massively changed, and areas of the world have been introduced and destroyed.

        Elder Scrolls has a much better shot at pulling this off than Warcraft does though. Typically their games take place hundreds of years apart without any character continuity between games (aside from the Daedric Princes, which are minor characters anyway, and completely consistent in their outlook). You don’t really have to worry about characters having changed through the MMO, because those characters are likely dead anyway.

        The only big problem is that Skyrim had some serious story hooks going on, and if they ended up resolving the White-Gold Concordat thing in the MMO, that’s going to be really disappointing for players like myself who were looking forward to large-scale Thalmor fighting.

        But honestly if they just jump the story forward three centuries and drop us into a jail cell in Black Marsh or Elsweyr, most players will probably be happy. I only know like 70% of what happened between Oblivion and Skyrim anyway.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I was late to the party on Song of Ice and Fire, given that I binge read the books a few months before Game of Thrones came out. So not much waiting exactly.

      That said, given the steady decline in quality of the books I wasn’t very eager for the next one anyway. The last two books especially felt like half a book’s worth of material stretched out to the length of four books. I don’t think that we need an ending badly enough to justify two more books that bad or worse.

      I feel the same way about Game of Thrones post season 5. Seasons 6 and 7 were awful and I don’t care how long it takes them to make season 8. My girlfriend and her roommates want to watch it with me so I’ll still end up seeing it but I would never see it on my own.

    • Zorgon says:

      Elder Scrolls – just feel incredibly annoyed by Bethesda not doing anything. I feel now about Bethesda the way I felt about George RR Martin in 2010, but it’s worse.

      It’s OK – Skyrim is due to be released for digital watches, Fitbits and traffic signals any day now!

    • engleberg says:

      Try the Wizenbeak trilogy- it gets better from book to book, and Gilliland doesn’t keep saying he’s going to write a fourth one real soon now.

  20. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I seem to recall a SSC-adjacent individual who was writing a blog consisting of a tour of the pan-American highway via Google Maps, starting in Alaska, but can’t find it. Does anyone have a link or even recall what I’m talking about?

  21. Paul Brinkley says:

    For those who don’t know me: I’m a fairly big game nerd. Tabletop, brainteasers, crosswords, video, you name it. One game caught my attention as being very appealing to this crowd: Exit/Corners. It’s a puzzle game within an episodic mystery involving five main characters, reminiscent of Japanime games with lots of character-driven dialogue. This one is based somewhere in Canada / US, however.

    I’d love to see what y’all think of it.

    http://exitcorners.com/

    • RebeccaCrowley says:

      I’ve played for some 15 minutes now and I don’t appreciate the dialogue. I hope it turns out at least some of them are useful. First puzzle was neat though.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I’ll be honest: the first time I played, I got bored enough by the dialogue that I put it down and didn’t try again until a month or so later. And then I felt like it really hit its stride by episode 5 or so. By episode 8, I was hooked; this game felt MUCH smarter than many others I’d played in that genre. And Percon definitely groks cliffhangers.

        Some of the puzzles get harder.

        There’s a Reddit where people speculate about what will happen next. Episode 17 is the latest one; the story is about half done, according to the creator.

    • beleester says:

      I’m really enjoying this – it’s not the most unique premise (they even lampshade how “trapped in a maze of puzzles by a psychopath” is a whole genre), but it’s very well-executed and it’s got a mystery that keeps me interested. Some bits I figured out in advance, some bits I didn’t see coming. I’ve got a few predictions that I can’t wait to see if they pay off.

      EDIT: And after looking at the subreddit, apparently there were a bunch of other neat details I missed. Also, some of the puzzle conversations actually reveal character instead of giving hints. Which was a little annoying, since I tried to solve the puzzles with as few hints as possible.

    • RebeccaCrowley says:

      spoiler alert (:
      I played some more. I just like the riddles. The riddles are neat. Notsomuch the characters though. Anyway do you know what, was it B and N, what they resemble in the riddle where the other letters resemble units of temperature?

      • Douglas Knight says:

        There are lots of scales, including D and N.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        (Not bothering with rot13, since the following doesn’t really spoil the riddle in question.)

        What Douglas Knight said. The scales in question were Newton and Delisle (N and D; I’m assuming you had a typo).

        One nice touch I liked was that in my playthrough, Ink (the main protagonist) said he figured out C was Celsius and F was Fahrenheit, and that he just guessed at the D and N. I found this very in-character for him. He’s a lit major, and exactly no one I know of, even in science fields, has ever hinted that they know of any scales besides those two, Kelvin, and maybe Rankine.

        • beleester says:

          Yeah, Ink’s explanations were a nice touch. I had to consult Wikipedia to find out about those temperature scales, so it was pretty reasonable for Ink to just guess at the solution.

          There was another puzzle (“Sort by STR”) where I got fed up and decided to just push all the buttons in order, and that happened to be the correct answer. And lo and behold, that was Ink’s solution as well!

          There was also another puzzle (the Royal Flush) where I thought about it logically and came up with a solution, and then Ink just says “Eh, I just grabbed all the high cards and it worked.” I felt a little unappreciated there, but oh well.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The “sort by STR” puzzle was solvable if lbh vagrecerg fge nf fgevat, engure guna fgeratgu. Gur vgrzf ner jrncbaf, ohg gung’f n erq ureevat. Gurl ghea bhg gb nyernql or va nycunorgvpny / fgevat beqre.

            I couldn’t get the royal flush puzzle at the time, and was in a rush, so I talked to the others until I got enough hints to solve it. (Hints from the others is another nice touch.) Also, Ink’s explanation varies depending on how much you’ve discussed the puzzle; I didn’t get the denouement you did. So do the others’ reactions. Although I suspect their reactions are short term only; it’s probably too much to expect the writer to go farther than that. Still, I was impressed.

  22. Error says:

    What are the current most trustworthy political fact checkers?

    I had an argument about politics with a highly-politically-motivated family member that devolved to (uncharitably paraphrased): “do you have any idea what’s going on in this country? You would if you just used $MEDIA_SOURCE.” I am reasonably sure that $MEDIA_SOURCE is feeding her a pack of bullshit. I would like to be able to efficiently provide references on any given claim, but I don’t want to waste my limited life-hours thoroughly researching the Current Crazy.

    My usual go-to for debunking urban legends is Snopes. I see from Google that they do politics too; I don’t know if they’re as good at it. I’m looking for something that’s reasonably comprehensive and widely considered trustworthy. I acknowledge that that’s a tall order, because any source that acknowledges stories that support Our Side are false will be assumed to be partisan hacks for Other Side. But I’m hoping something, somewhere will suit.

    Ideally I’d like a single fact checker trusted by both Scott’s left- and right-wing commentators, but failing that I can deal with separate checkers suggested by each. To make that easier, please describe your wing and tribe when making suggestions.

    • Randy M says:

      Hypothesis: Anyone motivated enough by politics to be a political fact checker is too biased to be trusted to be one. (And these days “politics” is broad enough to include journalism, parts of science, much of religion, bits of history, etc.)

      This is similar to the Hitchhiker’s Guide‘s ideas on political power.

    • gbdub says:

      If somebody is that far gone, it might be best to try a less biased source on their own side, rather than seek out a truly unbiased fact checker.

      I find the fact checker sites like Politifact or WaPo’s checks to actually be pretty good about listing the facts and the positions of both sides, but they sneak a fair amount of opinion into the write-ups that you do need to keep an eye out for. In particular I’ve found Politifact to be unreliable as to what counts as “mostly/partially true” vs “mostly false”, which are inherently subjective. This isn’t too much of a problem if you read the whole article, you’ll get a good idea of what exactly are the false and true parts and can judge their relative importance yourself, but you ought to totally ignore the frequent “Republicans are less truthful then Democrats!” articles that rely on straight counts of these subjective ratings only, and don’t account for any selection effects regarding which claims are actually examined.

      I hesitate to list a particular example because I don’t want to get into a debate on it, but as an example, there was a fact-checking article on a Trump tweet that basically said “Germany owes NATO a bunch of money”. The article noted, correctly, that Germany (along with other NATO countries) has significantly underspent on it’s pledge to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. I.e. it is true that they aren’t supporting mutual defense at the monetary level they agreed to. The article also noted correctly that this isn’t literally money owed to NATO in the form of a bill they failed to pay.

      But the article spent much more time grammar lawyering the true meaning of “owe” and “debt” than was strictly necessary, and also went out of its way to be charitable to Germany’s underspending (“they’re getting better!”). In other words, it used a fairly trivial distinction (“Germany owes NATO money” vs. “Germany has not spent the money on defense it pledged to do in order to contribute to NATO goals”) to rate Trump’s statement a falsehood, when it would be just as easy to take the same facts and say, “Well, as a 140 character summary of the issue, yeah it’s largely true that Germany hasn’t met their financial obligations to NATO”.

      Like I said, don’t mean to get into a debate on that particular issue, but if you’ll be so kind as to take my example at face value for the sake of argument, hopefully you’ll agree that that form of “thumb on the scale” editorializing is a common and easy failure mode of fact checking sites when there is any gray area.

      • rlms says:

        Agreed. There was an example before the election where Politifact or Snopes rated what was basically the same claim (I think it was about the unemployment rate) as (mostly) false when Trump made it and mostly true when Sanders made it. But if you read the articles rather than just the headlines, they will reliably tell you whether a claim is blatantly false.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          to add on to this, either politifact or snopes wrote articles commenting on the truthfulness or lack thereof of Trump’s predictions about the future, which triggered me to no end

          the articles were like ‘this is unlikely’, but I came looking for facts, not your opinions about what next year’s facts will be

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Wing: bog-standard right-wing Republican.
      Tribe: Red.

      I think all media is propaganda, because humans are naturally biased. Selection of stories to report or ignore or “facts” to check or not check are in themselves biased operations. Anyone who claims to be “unbiased” is worse than biased, because they’re also self-blind to their bias.

      I find Snopes has a left-leaning bias. The way they do it is by strawmanning or weakmanning the argument. Remember, they get to pick what goes in the “Claim” box that they’re then stating is true or false. So the situation will be something like

      Conservative person/outlet makes true claim A.

      Snopes: “Claim: Conservative person/outlet claims B. FALSE!” where B is very similar to, but not quite A.

      Snopes will then spend five paragraphs “debunking” B, that only a silly uniformed person could possibly believe, and then at the very bottom say “oh but what is maybe true is something like A.” The vast majority of people will just see “CLAIM: FALSE” at the top of the page and never see the switcheroo.

      If you want to counter specific facts from your politically obsessed family member, I recommend either finding a “debunking” from a news source they already trust, or better yet, just go look at the source documents.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think you’re best bet is that you get one fact checker who is conservative, one is who progressive and compare the two.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This.

        As I often say, every outlet is biased, even if it tries hard not to be. It’s inherent to the venue. Space is always limited, and so bias is often in what you leave out that’s as true as what you put in. This is as true for fact checkers as it is for standard news. The most unbiased news source I can think of right now is CSPAN, and they don’t do fact checking articles.

        Snopes used to be pretty good, IMO, back when it was just the Mikkelsons. Now that there’s more contributing writers, you can’t even trust them as much, sadly.

        So the best alternative I see is to embrace bias and hit at least two sources. I find I can still trust most outlets to do a good job of finding everything that supports their respective narratives.

      • Error says:

        As mentioned, that’s an acceptable if lamentable alternative — but I still need to identify the specific two to use. Hence looking for suggestions from both sides of the aisle. I trust Scott’s commentariat to be a better judge of sources’ intellectual integrity than Google, which will likely just send me to the most popular source.

        (now that I think of it, in the interests of reciprocation I should note that I’m a staunch Grey with Scott-ish left-libertarian politics. I’ve fought with friends and family on both sides of the Current Crazy; I’d rather not say which side in this particular case)

        • As a general rule, it’s useful in convincing a left winger of something to find a left wing source for information supporting your argument, and similarly, mutatis mutandis, for convincing a right winger. I like to cite the IPCC report in arguing climate issues with people who vastly exaggerate what the IPCC is saying.

          For what it’s worth, my conclusion a few years back was that the Huffington Post was a relatively honest left wing source–not, of course, a fact checker. But that conclusion is based on a fairly small sample.

  23. A few quick things:

    I’m doing a reading of Worm on my radio show/podcast Wingardium Leviosa.
    I’m heading to Seattle this weekend for PodCon! If there are any other podcast-adjacent SSCers in Seattle, I’d love to meet up.

  24. keranih says:

    So I found Cruelty Free Investing a couple days ago, via this Forbes article via a very non-sympathetic source.

    Leaving aside my strong opposition to the goals and language of this group, I do wonder about the effectiveness of their lists – they have “good” and “bad”, with narry a shade of grey. In comparison, I see Givewell, and Seafood Watch and heck, even The Livestock Conservancy which all use a spectrum method of rating charities, ocean catch species, and heritage livestock breeds (respectively) by degree of recommended action. (Heck, even the NRA rates political candidates on a sliding scale.)

    There’s a deeper question here, I think, about defining good and bad, and when an absolute is needed, and when things are more generally complex and what happens when we-as-a-society start pretending that the line between “ok” and “not okay” is broad and grey, vs narrow and pretty distinct. (That’s generally “arguing from edge cases”, isn’t it?)

    But basically I’d like opinions from people sympathetic to the “Cruelty Free” group to speak on their perception of this tactic. Is this helpful? Supportive of your efforts? Something you’d tweek?

    • gbdub says:

      I think having only “good” and “bad” might be okay if and only if you’re very clear up front that you’re only calling out the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

      If you’re trying to comprehensively rate every investment possibility, I think you need at least one or two shades of gray. Otherwise you’ll take heat from both sides over marginal cases – some percentage of potential allies will be turned off by your absolutism, and companies might be less willing to make efforts to win your approval. But your true believers will also get upset, because inevitably somebody in the “good” column will be found to have some flaw you were willing to overlook but your fanatics aren’t.

      Adding a “marginal”, “questionable”, and/or “neutral” category could help mitigate this.

      • Matt M says:

        I think having only “good” and “bad” might be okay if and only if you’re very clear up front that you’re only calling out the best of the best and the worst of the worst.

        Right, it strongly depends on your goals I would think. If you’re looking to provide one additional data point to investors who want to consider social responsibility as one of many potential criteria on which they will validate investments, a sliding scale is definitely better.

        But if you’re trying to provide a list of the best of the best to people who only want to consider socially responsible investments, good and bad works fine.

    • Chalid says:

      (Having some submission problems, sorry if this turns into a double post)

      You need a black-and-white list if you want people to actually process and act on it.

      Obviously for an individual investor it’s way less work to just look at a list than to process a bunch of numbers or, worse, essays. But that’s the less important thing.

      More importantly, most money is managed by institutions these days. If you have an eight to nine figure sum of money to invest, you can go to a variety of asset management companies and tell them to invest your money in its own individual separate account subject to some overall constraints. If those constraints are in a simple form, like the Cruelty Free Investing list, they’ll happily do it for you, because that’s a standard sort of constraint that lots of people and organizations need for various reasons. If you made something much more complicated they’ll tell you that they can’t do it. (By which they mean you’re not worth it to have as a client, and that if they let all of their 500 clients put in oddball requests then their process gets hopelessly complicated.)

      Alternately a mutual fund can market itself as being cruelty-free based on a list. Investment managers don’t have special expertise in animal cruelty so they want to outsource their cruelty metric to an external organization. If the metric was more complicated than a list (“we want the market-cap weighted average of cruelty scores in the portfolio to be less than 1.7”) then it becomes difficult for investors to monitor and see that their wishes are being respected.

      • bean says:

        Valid points, but this doesn’t rule out a black-white-grey list. Or, more accurately, an approve-disapprove-neutral list. Investors can ask for their money to only be placed in companies on the white list, or that it not be placed on the black list. The people making the list can avoid most of the problems of a black and white list, even if it’s not a nice numerical sliding scale.

        • Chalid says:

          Yeah I don’t deny that it might be better for users to have a few shades of differentiation – then one person could say to their asset manager “don’t invest in anything in list 1” and a more scrupulous person could say “don’t invest in either of list 1 and list 2.”

          But my main point is that in the end some investment firm is going to need to be handed a binary list, and they are not going to want to take any responsibility for the list’s contents.

          One similar thing I’ve seen is from religious organizations not wanting to invest in say alcohol or porn. The asset manager doesn’t want to take responsibility for deciding whether buying Time Warner might count as investing in porn.

      • Brad says:

        Alternately a mutual fund can market itself as being cruelty-free based on a list. Investment managers don’t have special expertise in animal cruelty so they want to outsource their cruelty metric to an external organization. If the metric was more complicated than a list (“we want the market-cap weighted average of cruelty scores in the portfolio to be less than 1.7”) then it becomes difficult for investors to monitor and see that their wishes are being respected.

        More realistically these days, someone will lunch an ETF. I don’t think SHE is very well put together but it’s the sort of thing that’s going to get most of the “socially responsible” investment dollars.

    • rlms says:

      I remember seeing Yudkowsky claim that these kind of funds are pointless, since decreased demand for a stock on an ethical basis that causes its price to fall will result in higher demand from investors without such ethical qualms, so the total investment will remain the same. Anyone knowledgeable have an opinion on this?

      • Chalid says:

        You get higher investment from the unscrupulous investors, but this does not completely cancel out the loss of investment from the ethical investors. And increased investment by unscrupulous investors is driven precisely by the price being lower, so you are hurting the company to some extent.

        Cliff Asness spells it out:

        https://www.aqr.com/cliffs-perspective/virtue-is-its-own-reward-or-one-mans-ceiling-is-another-mans-floor

      • actinide meta says:

        I read a paper that made a convincing (to me) case that there is an effect on prices when some investors can’t or won’t invest in some assets. Those investors have to “pay” other investors to distort their portfolios away from the otherwise optimal portfolio. The change in price is of course a change in cost of capital for unpopular businesses.

        Nevertheless, the effect is probably small unless the group of activist investors is huge. I doubt that this is ever a particularly effective form of altruism. Modeling it as cheap talk is probably, in practice, pretty accurate.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s also worth considering that if all of the socially responsible investors withdraw, that leaves only the evil, greedy, capitalists solely in charge of the company at that point, with no whiny dissenters to hold them back.

        We certainly wouldn’t want to do this when it comes to politics. Imagine the left declaring that the best way to protest Trump’s policies is for left-wingers to sell their voting rights to Republicans.

        • Deiseach says:

          Imagine the left declaring that the best way to protest Trump’s policies is for left-wingers to sell their voting rights to Republicans.

          Damn it, don’t give me ideas!

  25. theodidactus says:

    Finals are approaching at my law school, leaving little time for my creative work.
    But while I was researching for Contracts (without question, my favorite class) I started thinking about the legal principles involved in a contract with Satan. I quickly spotted an odd interplay between some passages in Genesis and some contract law principles.

    Couldn’t help myself, and wrote an extended “hypo” around it:
    http://www.theodidactus.com/dee-v-satan-an-extended-contracts-law-hypothetical/

    I think it’s still pretty interesting even if you don’t know a lot about contract law.

    • Brad says:

      When I was interning for a judge we got a case where a prisoner sued, inter alia, Satan and the Pope. Dismissed it for lack of proof of service …

      • theodidactus says:

        Yeah, I have heard of cases like that.
        Here, I guess, that problem got solved because we know Satan’s counterarguments.

  26. Deiseach says:

    Thought this was photoshopped when I saw it elsewhere, but no, this is how our Taoiseach turned up for an emergency cabinet meeting this morning.

    Ah Leo, could you not throw on an oul’ tracksuit top or something and not be displaying your toned and fit body to an adoring nation at this hour of the morning? 😀

    National supermarket chain is introducing this – any opinions? Useful initiative or gimmick? (I think this would be good for very young children and I’ve heard of PECs before, but what about any people here who are high-functioning – would this have been a problem when you were a kid?)

    • Aapje says:

      Isn’t that what you are supposed to do for an emergency meeting? Drop what you are doing and go to the meeting ASAP?

      • Deiseach says:

        The emergency meeting was scheduled for 9 o’clock this morning,so if they rang him up at home at 7:30 and said “Hey, Taoiseach, we’re having an oul’ crisis sesh, just to let yeh know like”, he would have had plenty of time to forego his morning run and turn up properly dressed.

        Plus he had time to grab an (easily identifiable) national newspaper to read in the car, so it’s not like he was out for his regular exercise and got the call half-way through the distance.

        And as a matter of fact, he is the one who sets the date and time of any emergency cabinet meetings as Taoiseach, so he is the one who is having his department ring up the rest of them and say “Put on the suit and tie, Mick, yer going to get yer picture in the paper tomorrow morning arriving for the emergency meeting!” So all in all, there is no way he had to dash straight from his morning jog to Leinster House without even time for a shower and a change.

        I have no idea what this is meant to signal (apart from “youthful, vigorous, urgency, springing into action at the drop of a hat to defend the national interest” and the likes, particularly after the little blip over “does being forced to accept Frances Fitzgerald’s resignation after defending her make him look weak?”) but this is Ireland – “urgent emergency meeting” means everyone only turns up ten minutes late instead of the usual fifteen to twenty 🙂

  27. Well... says:

    Can anyone recommend a forum for rock music, preferably one that is lively but not populated by children and jerks?

  28. 3rd says:

    The Facebook event link for Boston secular solstice links to the NYC page.

  29. TheEternallyPerplexed says:

    Are we witnessing the begining of Götterdämmerung (pinned thread on top)? Abramson presents a quite compelling story, meseems. (For a refresher, read the whole pinned thread.)

    What are your predictions for Trump, Pence, Kushner? For the GOP? The USA?

    • Zorgon says:

      I’ve put money on Trump being out of office by next year.

      • ManyCookies says:

        We talked about that once, I hope you got long odds on that bet! Mueller’s investigation looks serious, but impeachment in a year is nigh impossible. Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings took months even for a (relatively) straightforward perjury case tried by an opposition congress, and this’d be a complicated obstruction case tried by a supporting congress. And even if Mueller somehow finds a massive indefensible bombshell in the next year, I suspect Trump would be too proud to outright resign and would wait for the senate conviction.

        • gbdub says:

          What are your odds on Mueller actually finding any “bombshells”? They seem low to me, based on 3 assumptions:

          1) the whole thing has leaked like a sieve, so I doubt they are sitting on anything
          2) Mueller is already well outside the original scope he was supposed to be looking into (election interference) and digging around in the post-election activities of Trump’s staff
          3) we’re already into the frustrated prosecutors game of “I can’t prove you did anything illegal, but I don’t like you, so I’ll nail you for procedural nitpicks”. I.e. Flynn going down for lying about his probably legal activities, and Trump being accused of obstruction (not officially yet, but that’s what the left wing pundits are salivating over) for not admitting that he knew that Flynn lied to the FBI about his probably legal activities.

          Which is of course pretty much what the impeachment charges against Clinton consisted of – “you lied to us about the legal stuff you did!” and those were a farce too. But a farce driven by an opposition Congress who still wouldn’t convict. With a friendly Congress I doubt anything against Trump even goes that far.

          • albatross11 says:

            Mueller probably won’t find anything incriminating Trump directly w.r.t. the Russia probe, but will almost certainly find sketchy deals a la Whitewater or Hillary’s infamous Cattle Futures trade, and probably more and bigger ones, given Trump’s general lifestyle for the last several decades.

            That leaves the question of whether he will be impeached and removed given discovery of genuine wrongdoing from before he was president. Impeachment is about politics, not right and wrong–to impeach, they have to get a majority in the House to vote for it. To remove him from office, they need a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Both of those bodies are currently majority Republican.

            I think we can model the decision as follows: to a first approximation, all Democrats will default to voting to impeach/remove, and all Republicans will default to voting against that. (This assumes some plausible case can be made for impeachment, but I’m assuming Mueller will find *something*.)

            To overcome their partisan vote, each congressman has two things happening:

            a. His view of what each possible vote he may cast will do to his political future.

            b. His view of how important this issue is. (That is, you might vote in a way that would be bad for your political future if you thought the issue was important enough.)

            We might break Mueller’s possible discoveries into three categories:

            a. Serious national-security-impacting stuff, like actually knowingly working together with a Russian government disinformation campaign, or passing secrets to the Turkish government in exchange for campaign money, or whatever.

            b. Serious stuff that doesn’t impact national security, like having paid bribes and knowingly dealt with the mafia when building casinos in the past.

            c. Technical violations of the law that look like an attempt to get the bastard on *something*, like having violated some money-laundering/reporting or campaign-finance laws in some way that doesn’t look to have been otherwise particularly shady.

            In case (a), I think he’ll get impeached and removed–Republican congressmen will care enough to pay a price to get him out of office, and their voters will be less inclined to exact such a price.

            In case (c), he won’t be impeached, or if he is, he won’t be removed. Even Republican congressmen that despise Trump won’t want to burn down their political careers for such bullshit charges.

            Case (b) is the interesting one, and I’m not sure how that will go. It’s also a little worrying to me, because Trump could easily end up in a situation in which he knows that he’s a free man as long as he’s president, but that as soon as he leaves office, he’s likely to be indicted by federal or state authorities. I don’t think it’s a good situation to have the president have that kind of incentive to stay in power. It’s really a bad situation, IMO, when there’s no way to negotiate a safe way for him to step down (like having Pence promise to pardon him–that won’t work for state offenses, and it’s possible we get multiple states who could charge him).

          • Randy M says:

            as he leaves office, he’s likely to be indicted by federal or state authorities.

            What’s the statue of limitations on things you expect in this category? I don’t know Trump’s business practices, so maybe you expect things that happened a couple years ago, but it seems more likely to have been longer ago, statistically and due to less need and more risk as celebrity increases–perhaps mitigated by increasing hubris.

          • albatross11 says:

            That’s a good point. It’s quite possible he’ll have stuff in category (b) (serious violations that don’t really impact national security but aren’t obvious bullshit charges) that, for whatever reason, don’t really threaten to send him to jail, but might still be the basis of an impeachment attempt.

          • Randy M says:

            Impeachment as a sub-category of firing seems like a way to punish somebody when they are outside the limits of the law but have old skeletons come to light.

          • engleberg says:

            @With a friendly Congress I doubt anything against Trump even goes that far-

            I can’t name one D party congressman who could vote against impeaching Trump and still get re-elected. The R party congressmen are overwhelmingly as Never Trump as they dare to be and still face their next election. Trump has the luck of the Devil himself but he’s obviously going to be risking impeachment for the next four or eight years.

          • Deiseach says:

            Serious stuff that doesn’t impact national security, like having paid bribes and knowingly dealt with the mafia when building casinos in the past.

            Would that work, though? He’s never held political office until now, so any bribes and so on would be as a civilian. Yeah, he could be got on criminal charges but that would be the same as for any other citizen. Can he be impeached as a president for crimes committed in his non-political life? And if he could, that doesn’t really make things better for Hillary if the whole insider trading thing is correct and that was an offence committed in her ‘civilian’ life, if it could be used to unseat her via impeachment. Do the Democrats really want to risk opening a can of worms that could be used against any future candidate, unless they can be positively sure June Moon is so squeaky clean you could use her as an operating theatre? (And given all the sex scandals committed by liberal cause-supporting men being revealed all over the place now, can they ever be 100% sure any possible candidate does not have some skeleton rattling away in the far back of a closet?)

          • that doesn’t really make things better for Hillary if the whole insider trading thing is correct

            Not insider trading. The obvious interpretation of the evidence is that it was a bribe to her husband, conveyed by fraudulently assigning, after the fact, the trades that made money to her, the trades that lost money to the person paying the bribe.

            On your more general case, I think everyone assumes that impeachment has to be for offense committed in the office, not offenses committed in the past.

            I’m not sure what would happen if after a President was elected the DNA evidence turned up proving that he had committed a murder a year earlier. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t be tried for the murder until he left office, don’t know if he could be impeached for it but doubt it.

          • Witness says:

            @Deiseach and David Friedman

            My understanding is that a President can be impeached for basically anything that Congress is willing to impeach him for (limited basically by their willingness to set precedents and face their electorates).

            I wouldn’t place bets on the insider-trading scenario, but if there was a provable murder I’d bet on removal from office one way or another (impeachment if not resignation).

      • BBA says:

        That’s a sucker bet – he won’t resign and Republicans won’t turn on him. Peter Beinart agrees.

        • Anonymous says:

          Put some money on that, maybe? If you win, you get money. If you lose – hey, Trump’s out! 😉

          • ManyCookies says:

            I put a twenty on Trump for that exact reason. Should have embraced my inner trader and gone for the perfect hedge.

      • Brad says:

        At what odds? I’d certainly take the other side of that bet at even money.

        • ManyCookies says:

          It’s currently 2:1 odds on predictIt, I’d absolutely take the Remain side at those odds.

          • Brad says:

            Hmm. The only part I’m not sure of is about life expectancy. But I guess for a generic 71 year old man annual death probability is only 2.5% and so that shouldn’t change things much.

            I think I’m going to buy some contracts, thanks.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            Trump’s rich, “out of pocket replacement of all possible organs” rich. I wouldn’t worry overmuch about his health.

          • actinide meta says:

            “out of pocket replacement of all possible organs” rich

            Outside of science fiction, that doesn’t mean much. There are very few health situations in which an unlimited budget will make a big difference relative to what health insurance will pay for. Richer people do tend to live longer, but it isn’t because of better medical care (and probably largely isn’t causal at all).

          • Anonymous says:

            @actinide meta

            I know general well-being flattens out above upper working class, but does that hold for the far right of the bell curve?

          • ManyCookies says:

            How much does the promptness of medical treatment matter? The president has a doctor shadowing him, and the White House and Air Force One have emergency equipment+medication+operating tables.

          • Randy M says:

            How much does the promptness of medical treatment matter?

            Probably a lot. Treatment within an hour is a big deal for any kind of stroke/heart attack situation. In this case, though, it isn’t about being super rich, but about being president–I think Trump’s health prospects are not improved beyond baseline any more than Clinton’s would have been.

          • Brad says:

            Putting the cutoff at say $250M and above for “can buy organs for cash”. Do these guys disproportionately make it to 90 as compared to people worth, say $5 million?

          • Deiseach says:

            I know general well-being flattens out above upper working class, but does that hold for the far right of the bell curve?

            Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother lived into her 102nd year, and the current monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II is now 91 while her husband is 96 (this is part of the problem with/for Charles; he’s now 69 years old, he’s been groomed to be the next monarch all his life and since she refuses to abdicate and there is no sign of her dying as yet, his entire life is wasted hanging around waiting and by the time he does become monarch, there may not be much time left to enjoy it – shades of Queen Victoria who lived to be 82 and her son, Edward VII who was 60 when he finally succeeded her and only reigned for nine years, dying when he was 69).

          • quanta413 says:

            Holy cow, I feel like I’m looking at a pile of money on the sidewalk. Gotta not be lazy and buy some contracts like Brad.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I wish I could, but apparently even if my job allowed it (answer unclear: the Missouri Gaming Commission doesn’t appear to have caught up with Prediction Markets) PredictIt seems to have cut them off at the pass by playing it safe and not allowing bets from my state…

          • Chalid says:

            The only part I’m not sure of is about life expectancy. But I guess for a generic 71 year old man annual death probability is only 2.5% and so that shouldn’t change things much.

            And 2.5% is almost certainly too high. I’d imagine that most of that 2.5% people who die at 72 have had some serious health events by 71.

          • rlms says:

            Non-Americans can use BetFair (currently at 50%).

          • Are any betting markets set up to use bitcoin? That would make it pretty easy for an American to bet on a market that U.S. law didn’t permit him to bet on. Similarly for restrictions on ordinary online gambling.

        • Zorgon says:

          It was at 4 to 1 at the time I made it. Probably shorter atm due to CBS tweets etc.

          Seemed like a vaguely amusing use for £20 that wasn’t earmarked for anything else.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I gotta say, within a year seems nearly impossible to me, and I think there’s a good chance Mueller has him dead to rights on actual Russia conspiracy.

            I don’t care if they get audio of him explaining his evil plan like a Bond villain, a Republican Congress ain’t gonna impeach.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, anything can happen, but I don’t think so. Everyone is getting really excited about possible impeachment and how far up the chain does this go, but they’ve already had to row back on “TRUMP ORDERED MEETING WITH RUSSIANS!” to “Somebody (probably Jared Kushner is the speculation) told him go meet the Russians”, which is not looking great as chances for “Finally a do-over and get the right result this time round!”

        The most recent dogged enthusiasm for an impeachment eventually fizzled out in “what the exact meaning of ‘is’ is” and I can’t see this going anywhere either (unless somebody pulls out real provable footage of Vladimir himself in person giving orders to Trump about what he is supposed to do and what the Russians are going to do when hacking the election).

        To remove him from office, they need a 2/3 majority in the Senate. Both of those bodies are currently majority Republican.

        I think some of the recent glee over the Democrat victories is precisely this; hoping to unseat the Republican majority/majorities in the midterm elections and besides finally getting power back, the delicious prospect of being able to get Trump because now the Democrats are in control in Congress.

        I don’t know how well that will work out, but we’ll see!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It’s been backpedaled even further. Now apparently it’s Kushner told him to talk to everybody on the UN security council (which includes the Russians) about supporting Israel.

          None of this is illegal and is part of the basic job of foreign policy.

          I would put the probability of Trump being removed from office at .001%. The Dems/left would be wise to stop pinning their hopes on impeachment (for what crime no one even knows) and instead figure out, I dunno, something to make people want to vote for them? Like jobs or taxes or healthcare or something? But instead I think they’re going to go into midterms screaming about Trump and Russia and lose.

          As a Republican this is fine by me. Never interrupt your enemy while they’re making a mistake and all that.

          • Brad says:

            None of this is illegal and is part of the basic job of foreign policy.

            One doesn’t have a basic job of foreign policy until he takes office. And it probably violated the Logan Act, but I’m of the opinion that the Logan Act is unenforceable for multiple reasons including desuetude.

            So I agree with your underlying conclusion (not sure I’d put it quite that low, but low) but not all your reasoning.

          • Randy M says:

            I recall Obama getting some mockery for his “Office of the President Elect” seal, at least from some right sources. I don’t know how much foreign policy, if any, he was conducting, though.

            I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not, or if it should be changed due to new capability or norms, but getting a jump start on a job you have been given is a faux pas while conspiring to rig an election is “light treason.” If searching for the latter only reveals the former, it’s going to come off as a–what’s the technical term? nothingburger?

          • bean says:

            One doesn’t have a basic job of foreign policy until he takes office.

            This seems like a rather absurd claim. You’re the legally designated successor to the Presidency. You will be doing foreign policy very soon. Your transition team getting a head start on is exactly the sort of thing they should be doing to make sure that you take over the Presidency smoothly. It’s possible that Trump’s team went past the traditional lines for the president-elect’s transition team, but I don’t know that’s the case, and I’d like it proved before I care at all.

          • Brad says:

            The relevant historical predicates are: Kissinger allegedly intervening in Vietnam peace talks before Nixon took office and Reagan allegedly negotiating with the Iranians during the hostage crisis before he took office.

            Both have been subject to the type of strenuous denials that imply the people doing the denying would think it was wrong to do so.

            (The above is from memory, I wouldn’t swear to it.)

          • Randy M says:

            Buuuut…. not to pick nits, Brad, but the reason those cases may have been controversial, and hence memorable, is because they were interjecting themselves into the middle of active, hot conflicts at the time.
            I don’t recall in 2015 or mid 2016 very much talk about conflict with Russia (recall “the 1980’s called, they want their foreign policy back” from the 2012 election debates), and certainly no concurrent life-or-death conflict between us.

            Hold up (thinking while typing) if he’s meeting with Russia to start talks about going after Isis in Syria, that could be roughly analogous, then. Especially as it would be potentially a policy change.

          • Brad says:

            Isn’t the story that Kushner sent him out to lobby countries to vote down a UN resolution condemning Israeli settlements? That conflict may not be the hottest it’s ever been, but it is certainly an ongoing conflict.

            My sense is that the norm is that the sitting President be given room to conduct US foreign policy until he leaves office. If the above is accurate they violated that norm. As I said they also likely violated the Logan Act, but I don’t think that law is enforceable today.

          • Randy M says:

            Eh… I’m generally in agreement with you except I see a qualitative difference between trying to get allies (or at least non-belligerents) on board with your incoming policy and interjecting yourself into ongoing, 2-party negotiations with a hostile foreign power.

            But it’s not really enforceable, because an elect (of the presidential, not calvanist sort) could just make a public announcement of not intending to enforce a deal if it includes x or y.
            To be above reproach, that’s the kind of thing that should be said to your predecessor in private–but there’s always the chance that it was, and they did not want to take that into consideration because of opposing policy views.

          • Iain says:

            One of the things that Flynn talked about was Israel.

            The other topic of conversation was the sanctions that Obama had just leveled against Russia for interfering in the election. That’s a pretty clear case of a hot issue. Flynn said “please don’t escalate”; Russia didn’t escalate; the next day, Trump tweeted “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”.

            My understanding is that Brad is correct that the Logan Act is a non-starter. Nevertheless, this is a pretty big norm violation (source):

            The Trump transition team ignored a pointed request from the Obama administration to avoid sending conflicting signals to foreign officials before the inauguration and to include State Department personnel when contacting them. […] Mr. Cobb said the Trump team had never agreed to avoid such interactions. But one former White House official has disputed that, telling Mr. Mueller’s investigators that Trump transition officials had agreed to honor the Obama administration’s request

            Hitting the ground running is one thing, but if your goal is a smooth transition, then you keep the State Department in the loop, instead of secretly calling up the Russian ambassador and then lying about it.

          • Deiseach says:

            Now apparently it’s Kushner told him to talk to everybody on the UN security council (which includes the Russians) about supporting Israel.

            So how does “Trump is the president of the alt-right white supremacist Nazi anti-Semites” stack up with “go tell everyone support Israel”? I mean, it may be dodgy, but it does look like “He’s a horrible racist – well, except about the Jews” which would probably be the first time in history such a thing happened (open to corrections about Noted Historical Horrible Racists Who Liked The Jews, However).

          • bean says:

            @Iain
            This is a case which seems excessively vulnerable to partisan spin. “The Trump team disobeyed precedent and the requests of the Obama administration to consult with Russia early” vs “Obama tried to impede Trump’s completely normal contacts with foreign powers before the transition”. I don’t have the time or inclination to figure out which is right, and most people are just going to believe whichever one they want to.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Note that candidate Obama met with a pretty long list of foreign leaders in July 2008.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it’s just assumed that those all stick together. You hate Muslims, blacks, gays, Jews, Mexicans, trans people, people who wear funny hats, etc. That’s the sort-of standard way those accusations are packaged.

            Obviously, that’s nuts–there’s zero reason to think Trump is anti-Semetic, little reason to think he has any particular animus against gays, blacks, or trans people (he’s probably more positive toward gays and trans people than any other person who had a shot at the Republican nomination), and some reason think he dislikes Mexicans and Muslims. (Or at least that he thinks it’s in his interests to say so, whatever he really believes in his heart.)

          • Iain says:

            @bean:

            While I agree that people will see what they want to see, it’s not as hard to parse as all that. If there was nothing wrong with Trump’s team talking to Russia, why did Flynn do it secretly, and why did the Trump administration spend months covering it up?

            When Mike Pence claimed on January 15 that Flynn’s conversation had had nothing to do with Russia, there were multiple high-ranking administration officials who knew it was false. At the very least, K.T. McFarland’s email went to Spicer, Bannon, and Priebus. But the administration continued to deny the story until the Washington Post’s scoop a month later.

            If it’s all totally innocuous, why the cover-up?

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            “If it’s all totally innocuous, why the cover-up?”

            As for whether it’s innocuous or not, I figure Mueller will turn that up in due course (or at least fail to turn up anything actionable, which I’d consider fairly dispositive), but come on, you have to know that “the innocent have nothing to fear” and “only guilty people have something to hide” have pretty much never been true. In the case of politicians:

            Politicians and other public figures are incentivized to hide things with “bad optics” regardless of whether or not they are actually criminal or immoral. Here in the US, cases of corruption or treason serious enough to put a politician in prison are relatively rare, and politicians regularly break all manner of laws short of those most serious offenses and get away without actually being tried and convicted in a court of law. As a result, politicians rarely have to fear an orange jumpsuit and prison food. On the other hand, it is entirely possible for a politician to suffer serious harm to their power base, career, and earning potential without ever having actually broken a law. In fact it’s not even necessary for them to have done anything their base considers wrong for them to suffer negative consequences.

            This means that a public figure thinks there is some strong benefit to him to take an action and is thus motivated to take it, the relevant question is not “How illegal is this?” but rather “How likely is this to end up in the public eye?”.

            There are probably a few cases where deliberately cultivating an air of open and honest communication is an effective way to defuse potential hostile media/political scrutiny, but I’d argue that those cases are actually relatively rare and require the right combination of circumstance, social/political capital, and personal charm to pull off. In fact I think I want to start that point as a top-level comment in the next OT because it’s a conclusion I don’t like much.

            In any case, this is why the mantra of politicos everywhere for decades has been ANDEMC: Admit Nothing. Deny Everything. Make Counter-accusations. I think it’s safe to say that that is still “Best Practices” for politicians in their day-to-day operations. Of course, it’s also directly contrary to best practices when dealing with law enforcement hunting scalps, where the rule is “Say nothing at all to anyone until you have counsel. Then say the absolute minimum counsel directs you to say and nothing else to anyone else”. The problem so many public figures run into is that by the time they realize they should be running the “Talking With Law Enforcement” rules, they’ve already been running the “Be A Successful Politician” rules.

            For added amusement, I was going to try and dig up one of Popehat’s posts about lies to investigators and talking to law enforcement, only to find that he had a fresh one ready.

          • bean says:

            @Iain
            Sorry, but appealing to WaPo and NYT isn’t going to make your case to me. I don’t trust them on things like this. Just to be clear, I don’t really trust Fox or Breitbart on this either, but it’s just not worth my time to dig down and figure out what actually went on and how bad it was relative to precedent. I have a blog to write, and that’s much more enjoyable. Denying things that sound bad is standard political tactics, regardless of how things go. I’m hardly a huge fan of the Trump administration, but if they were as bad as a lot of the left says, they’d have never made it out of the primaries, let alone into the White House.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Deiseach

            So how does “Trump is the president of the alt-right white supremacist Nazi anti-Semites” stack up with “go tell everyone support Israel”?

            I saw something on a lefty news site a few weeks back that “support for Israel” is now also code for white nationalism because:

            1) WNs use Israel as an example of the sort of ethnostate they want.

            2) WNs tend to believe in Jewish conspiracies, and so they support Israel so they’ve got a place for the Jews to go to once the races segregate. It’s not entirely unprecedented for Nazis to help and support Jews moving to the middle east.

            @Iain

            If there was nothing wrong with Trump’s team talking to Russia, why did Flynn do it secretly, and why did the Trump administration spend months covering it up?

            Because at the time, the media was screaming about Russian interference in the election and Trump being a Russian puppet (like now). Trump and his supporters would prefer to have friendly relations (or at least non-antagonistic relations) with Russia. The left and the neocons think Putin is the devil, but conservatives don’t really care. It’s outgroup vs fargroup. So, Flynn would like to extend an olive branch to the Russians, but if he’s seen doing so by the media this would further feed their collusion delusions, so he lied about it. This was very stupid and he got fired and prosecuted for it.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Conrad

            On a related-ish note, what did you make of the Comey firing?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            On a related-ish note, what did you make of the Comey firing?

            After his performance in the 2016 election I don’t see how anyone could trust Comey. As a Republican, I was shaking my head that after laying out all the illegal stuff Hillary did, he then didn’t recommend putting it front of a grand jury. I also completely understand how Democrats could be very angry at him for discarding standard law enforcement ethics regarding minimal defamation to suspects: when you investigate Bob for rape and decide you don’t have enough to charge him, you do not then hold a press conference to announce all the rape-like things Bob probably did that fall short of rape. And then of course the re-opening of the investigation a few days before the election.

            It seemed to me that Comey was playing “what’s good for Comey” politics and had no intention of stopping with Trump in charge. This was then born out by Comey’s leaking of information to the press, and worse, his own failure to recuse himself from investigating Trump and Russia when he knew his own FBI was paying for the phoney Steele dossier in conjunction with Hillary and the Democrats.

            I would prefer an apolitical FBI, and Comey’s constant political maneuvering made it impossible for him to deliver that. Firing him and getting a fresh start with Wray was a very good idea.

          • Iain says:

            @Trofim Lysenko:

            Note that the Popehat article is talking about innocent people lying unintentionally or spontaneously while being interrogated. That’s not the same as a months-long campaign of obfuscation. (As another example: K.T. McFarland, whose emails about the phone call we can read, testified to Congress in July that she was “not aware of any of the issues or events described above”.)

            It’s also hard to claim that the Trump campaign was trying to keep its stance towards Russia on the down-low when Trump was loudly complaining about the sanctions and tweeting about Putin being very smart and so on. By far the most parsimonious explanation for this is that the Trump team recognized that the phone calls had crossed a line and tried to cover it up. In other words, it’s a lot like the Nixon/Kissinger/Vietnam and Reagan/Iran cases that Brad brought up earlier.

            (This is distinct from the question of whether it was illegal. I already agreed with Brad that the Logan Act is toothless, although the part where Flynn lied to the FBI obviously has teeth. If Mueller uncovers bombshells, though, they’re probably more likely to arise out of things like this sub-poena of Deutsche Bank.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Iain, what sort of bombshells are you expecting from the Deutsche Bank records? Does it have to do with Russia or not?

            ETA: Also, with respect to Flynn, it seems like you’re expecting strictly coherent statements from people, about what different people said and when. And you’re expecting that from the notoriously incoherent Trump campaign. And expecting that this lack of coherence indicates malice. I’m reminded of the famous President Reagan, Mastermind SNL skit. Trump’s a buffoonish idiot stumbling incoherently through political affairs he can’t hope to comprehend…except when it comes to Russia in which case he and his people are devious scheming political masterminds.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            It’s not about the Logan Act.

            Basically the argument is that the interference from the incoming Trump administration was with an ongoing counter-intelligence case. That is the underlying crime, not violations of the Logan Act.

          • Iain says:

            @HBC:

            If there’s meat on those bones, then I’m sure Mueller will find it eventually, and I doubt the Logan Act will matter.

            I’m just saying that:
            a) My understanding is that the Logan Act is generally regarded as unconstitutional, which is why nobody has ever been convicted for violating it.
            b) Nevertheless, even the most skeptical of people should be able to see that the Trump team’s actions here were a clear violation of norms, and that the Trump team knew it and tried to cover it up. What that cover-up might imply is left up to confirmation bias as an exercise for the reader.

          • Brad says:

            @HBC
            Interesting article. We probably shouldn’t house counter-intelligence in a law enforcement agency (or vice-versa if you prefer to think of it that way). Especially given the constitutional doctrines that relax constitutional protections in a non-law enforcement context but are vulnerable to pretextual uses.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Iain:
            I generally agree with those things.

            I was just saying that concentrating on whether the Logan Act is enforceable may be “missing it” altogether.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Brad:
            a) I don’t think espionage should be prosecuted or criminally investigated by the CIA (which I don’t believe it is).

            b) I think espionage should be illegal, and criminally prosecutable.

            A and B seem obvious to me. Am I missing something?

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think espionage should be prosecuted or criminally investigated by the CIA (which I don’t believe it is).

            It’s not, that’s FBI turf. It’s an interesting question whether we should treat counterintelligence as an intelligence domain or a criminal justice one, though. I can see arguments both ways: it’s inherently entangled with foreign policy and it has more in common operationally with intelligence work; but you can’t fold it into the intelligence community proper without giving it license to operate on American soil and collect information on Americans, which I’m not sure is a good idea. (Leaving aside the extent to which they do it anyway.)

            Maybe the way to go would be making counterintelligence its own department, the way a lot of other countries do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well this is interesting. The story about Mueller subpoenaing Deutsche Bank comes via Bloomberg from an unnamed source. Now an unnamed source tells Fox News no such subpoena exists.

            Which I suppose makes sense. I don’t think you could get such a subpoena unless Trump himself were the target of a criminal investigation.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think the CIA should do counterintellegence, but I also don’t think the FBI should do counterintellegence. We have certain constitutional doctrines that allow government agents engaged in counterintellegence to take actions that wouldn’t be allowed in a law enforcement context without it poisoning the tree. The way this is currently dealt with is by having separate teams within the FBI do counterintellegence and law enforcement, but frankly I don’t trust these measures. I’d rather have a separate agency. Preferably not even in the DOJ.

            I guess this isn’t exactly responsible to what the article was talking about, but it is what it made me think about.

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            ABC claims to have received independent confirmation. (“…a source familiar with the subpoena told ABC News.”)

            Handelsblatt, a German paper, also claims to have received confirmation. (“…sources familiar with the matter told Handelsblatt.”)

            It’s worth noting that, although Fox does not draw attention to it, their denial is quite specific: “But the source tells Fox News there has been no subpoena from Mueller’s office to Deutsche Bank about the president’s finances.” Reuters said the subpoena was for “accounts held by President Donald Trump and his family”, Handelsblatt said “dealings linked to the Trumps”, and ABC said that “specific requests of the bank were not immediately clear”. If nobody is lying, that plausibly implies another member of the Trump family. (Jared Kushner got a $285M loan from Deutsche Bank one month prior to the election.)

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Iain

            “Note that the Popehat article is talking about innocent people lying unintentionally or spontaneously while being interrogated. That’s not the same as a months-long campaign of obfuscation.”

            I addressed that specifically. To reiterate: Best Practice for national-level politicians and their retinues, regardless of the actual legality or morality of their actions, is “Admit Nothing. Deny Everything. Make Counteraccusations” whenever confronted with accusations of bad action/character. This includes entirely innocent and blameless politicians who have done nothing wrong.

            So, because we know that long campaigns of obfuscation are SOP for innocent and guilty alike, your question “If it’s all totally innocuous, why the cover-up?” is a ridiculous question, along the same lines as the old (patently false) slogan of investigative/surveillance power that “If You Have Nothing To Hide, You Have Nothing To Fear”.

            This is entirely orthogonal to the question of whether or not Trump and Co. have guilty consciences/ knew they were being bad/ were being bad/ were committing a crime. On that matter, as I’ve said before, I figure Mueller will turn up anything worth turning up, and I have pretty much zero interest in arguing that in the absence of the information he has available to him. I don’t have a dog in that fight one way or the other.

            I just strongly object to the argument “If it’s so innocuous, why the cover-up” and all associated variations and forms of “concealment implies guilt”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            “We have confirmed that the news reports that the special counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are false. No subpoena has been issued or received. We have confirmed this with the bank and other sources,” Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s legal team, told ABC News Tuesday afternoon.

            It could be a weasel-word denial, sure, but ABC news is the same crew that put out the bogus “Flynn to testify Trump ordered him to contact Russians during campaign” smear last week. They’re about as credible as Infowars, so I will not be shocked if it turns out there was no subpoena.

    • John Schilling says:

      Improprieties about exactly when and how Trump’s transition team started talking to the Russians are not going to convince 18+ Republican senators to vote to remove Trump from office. And if that’s the thread Mueller is pulling on, then it’s likely that “Trump colluded with Putin to rig the election” is a dead end. That was always a thin hope for Team #NeverTrump, not because Trump is too honest to have done such a thing but because Putin is too smart for it, but it would have been impeachment-worthy even by GOP standards and it is the scandal that was all but promised.

      There’s a small chance that Trump will engage in unambiguously impeachment-worthy obstruction of justice in response to this, and a small chance that he’ll resign if he runs out of loyal staffers and his close family starts facing jail time. Also a small chance that he’ll start a nuclear war to distract everyone. But the most likely outcome is an even more isolated and embittered Trump still holding out in the White House and the GOP too afraid of his supporters to risk moving against him however much they’d prefer Pence.

      So, who are the Democrats going to put up against Trump in 2020? Is it still Hillary’s Turn?

      • ManyCookies says:

        We’ll put up Hilary again if the GOP puts up Romney. Loser’s Bracket 2020.

      • Rob K says:

        I still don’t understand, by this logic, why this would be such a bad idea for Putin. Getting caught breaking US law is a lot worse if you’re trying to be president of the US than if you’re an outside actor.

        • John Schilling says:

          Getting caught breaking US law is a bad idea no matter who you are. Actively colluding with Donald Trump to make Donald Trump president when you could just be quietly working behind the scenes to make Donald Trump president, greatly increases the chance of your getting caught, so don’t do that. Actively colluding with some guy who acknowledges debts and groks OPSEC might have a payoff that’s worth the risk, but Donald Trump is neither of those. If it’s to your benefit to have him in the White House, sure, leak DNC emails to Assange or whatever, but there’s no need to talk to Trump about it. Why would you even consider doing such a thing?

          And yes, as bad an idea as it would be for Vladimir Putin to engage in such pointless conspiracy, it would be an even worse idea for Donald Trump with his greater legal exposure. But Putin is the veteran intelligence officer and politician here, so it’s his judgement rather than The Donald’s I trust to have avoided that gaffe.

          • Rob K says:

            The clear added benefit of active collusion is that, if it works, you have leverage over the US president in the ability to threaten to reveal the very bad thing he did.

            There’s clearly a downside in the increased risk of getting caught/getting the potential next president angrier at you. But it’s not totally clear to me that it’ll be worse for Putin in the world where Elizabeth Warren becomes president in 2021 if she’s mad at him for his active dealings with Donald Trump than just for intervening in the election without coordination.

            Edited to add: it’s also not clear how much it increases the risk of getting caught; seems like they got fingered in a pretty normal post-hoc computer security investigation way.

            This isn’t to say that you don’t have a point, or that I think there’s definitely explicit communication waiting to turn up.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, I’ve always said that the media and Democrats are doing Putin’s propaganda work for him by running with the line that he’s this all-powerful political mastermind who can control the fate of the world’s elections with a couple of FaceBook ads. And in doing so they’ve also handed him a diplomatic nuke. All he would have to do to send the west into a (further) tailspin is announce “HAHA, yes it’s true, I Vladimir Putin control your president, my puppet, ha ha!”

          • John Schilling says:

            The clear added benefit of active collusion is that, if it works, you have leverage over the US president in the ability to threaten to reveal the very bad thing he did.

            That trick never works. Or, more precisely, I don’t know of a single case of that trick ever working against an elected official in a democratic nation, and about five minutes of googling only comes up with speculation and conspiracy theories. Politicians seem to be basically immune to such “leverage” because, if they can win elections at all, they can almost always deny everything and keep their office anyhow. Conversely, if evidence of wrongdoing is going to seriously harm a politician’s career, it has to come from an absolutely unimpeachable source, and nothing impeaches an accuser’s credibility like “I tried to blackmail him and he wouldn’t give in – listen when I tell you about the very bad thing he did, damn it!”.

            Possibly I’m missing something. Do you have examples of elected officials in mature democracies changing their votes or policies (as opposed to paying some cheap hush money) because someone threatened to reveal the very bad thing they did, or having someone actually reveal the very bad thing a politician did because they refused to submit? Because if the theory is that this is a thing that happens but there’s no evidence because nobody ever gets caught, that gets us back into conspiracy-theory territory.

            Putin, being somewhat of an expert in this field, can probably be trusted to engage in the sort of conspiracies that work in reality rather than the ones that only work on the pages of second-rate thrillers.

          • Rob K says:

            @John Schilling

            Yeah, this is a solid point – I can’t think of a case of policy blackmail (or bribery coupled with followup blackmail threat) of a major elected official.

            That said, I can’t think off the top of my head of this type of election intervention (as opposed to the more straightforward “give cash to your preferred candidate” style that I assume powerful countries do with regularity in areas where they’re fighting for influence).

          • Deiseach says:

            Putin, being somewhat of an expert in this field, can probably be trusted to engage in the sort of conspiracies that work in reality rather than the ones that only work on the pages of second-rate thrillers.

            You mean the kind of thrillers that have man is poisoned in London hotel room by polonium laced tea plots? 😀

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deiseach

            By the inverse of the No True Scotsman principle, those are _first rate_ thrillers.

          • John Schilling says:

            If these sources are correct, the British government was playing that game in 1940 – in the United States, planting dubious stories in the US press without acknowledging their true origin, to favor interventionist candidates over isolationists. Also here, which looks to be the authoritative source if you’ve got a spare $220.

            Accusations of CIA interference in foreign elections are numerous and cover every possible form of meddling, but there’s too much noise to figure out what’s really true at the detail level.

          • MrApophenia says:

            @ John Schilling

            Re: Changing votes to due to blackmail

            I’ve got one – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8BJptvxCl8

            This is a former Tory party whip: “For anyone with any sense, who was in trouble, would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say now, I’m in a jam, can you help? It might be debt, it might be a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal in which a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help and if we could, we did. And we would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points and if I mean, that sounds a pretty, pretty nasty reason, but it’s one of the reasons because if we could get a chap out of trouble then, he will do as we ask forever more.”

            It is worth noting that during the British parliament-pedophilia scandal that broke in 2013-2014, it turned out that high level officials had indeed been covering up pedophilia by multiple MPs, and part of the allegations in the cover up – naturally quite difficult to prove – were that the cover-up was motivated by exactly this type of logic.

          • @MrApophenia:

            It isn’t clear whether your quote is describing the result of blackmail or gratitude. “Brownie points” suggests, if anything, the latter.

          • MrApophenia says:

            How could you separate the two? “I’m your ally who got you out of trouble! Also, I know you’re a pedophile. So, gonna vote the way I ask or not?”

          • John Schilling says:

            As David says, “brownie points” codes more strongly for gratitude than blackmail. And if you find it difficult to separate the two, the speaker doesn’t find it necessary to even try to separate “scandal involving small boys” with (financial) debt. The one could plausibly be blackmailable, the other, once paid, really isn’t.

            Also, inability to distinguish between gratitude and blackmail suggests that a significant range of human experience has passed you by in ways that will make it difficult for you to understand how other people act.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The description isn’t of blackmail, but of bribery via debt.

            https://youtu.be/XPTAjNVvrYg?t=192

            “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call on you to do a service for me, but until that day accept this gesture as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”

      • Iain says:

        Improprieties about exactly when and how Trump’s transition team started talking to the Russians are not going to convince 18+ Republican senators to vote to remove Trump from office.

        I think it is a mistake to look at the set of charges that Mueller chooses to bring and assume that he doesn’t have anything else. Mueller threw the FARA book at Manafort, but (thus far) has let Flynn off lightly. Lawfare’s analysis, which I find compelling, is that this implies Mueller is after bigger fish. Flynn has made it clear that other members of the Trump transition team knew what he was up to.

        If the Republicans retain control of the House and the Senate in 2018, impeachment is almost certainly DOA. If the Democrats win one or both, though, and Mueller continues his methodical advance, I expect fireworks.

        • John Schilling says:

          Mueller is almost certainly after bigger fish, but if Flynn and Kusher are guilty of trying to set up an illicit(*) channel to Russia after the election, that strongly implies no such channel existed during the campaign.

          (*) or dubiously licit then lying about it.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Dems winning the Senate in 2018 would require a electoral bloodbath. The class up for reelection includes everyone who rode Obama’s coattails in 2012. I can look around for the analysis I saw if you’re interested, but from memory it’s something like 6 of the 8 contested/purple state seats (many of which voted for Trump in 2016) are already held by the Dems. In order to win the Senate in 2018 the Dems would need to win all their safe blue seats, all the contested seats, and flip safe red seats. Unless Trump starts a nuclear war or the economy completely tanks next year I don’t see that happening.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            The Senate math is definitely stacked against the Democrats in 2018. But more so, it is flatly impossible for the Democrats to get within shouting distance of a 2/3rds majority in the Senate unless large numbers of Senate Republicans who are not facing a 2018 election either defect or resign.

          • Iain says:

            The president’s party always suffers in midterm elections, and the political climate looks pretty good for Democrats right now. (See, for example, the recent election in Virginia.) If the Democrats can hold all of their seats, they need to pick up Colorado, Arizona, and one more. Roy Moore is giving them a real shot in Alabama right now. If that doesn’t pan out, there are a couple of other vaguely plausible routes. Republicans are not particularly popular right now.

            This 538 chat gives the Dems about a 30% chance of taking the Senate. It’s not model-based, and should be taken with several grains of salt, but 30% is roughly where they had Trump on election day. It’s a long shot, but it’s far from impossible.

            Winning the House isn’t easy either. The Democrats have a significant edge in popularity, but the Republicans did a good job gerrymandering after winning all the state houses in the 2010 midterms, so the Dems need to win the popular vote by 7 or 8 points to take control.

            The more control Democrats have over Congress, the more likely we are to see impeachment proceedings, even without further Mueller bombshells. The single most likely outcome, of course, is still that Trump serves out his term.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Predictit and Betfair both have markets for control of the Senate. Predictit puts 30% on the Democrats. I’m not sure how to read odds, so I’m not sure what Betfair says, but I think it agrees, except that it splits the Republican win into 50% majority and 20% tie broken by Pence.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            The president’s party always suffers in midterm elections,

            Eh, I think that’s an example of a heuristic that works until it doesn’t. FDR gained seats, George W. Bush gained seats in 2002, and other times the President’s party has gained in the house and lost in the senate or vice-versa. Does the President’s party tend to lose seats? Sure, but you can’t say “always,” and there’s plenty of times when it’s essentially a wash.

            I would think this expectation would be a little more reasonable if the deck weren’t so heavily stacked against the Dems in 2018. There’s only 8 Republican seats even up for grabs in 2018, with 23 (or 25 considering D-caucusing Is) for the Dems. The Dems have to win 25 out of 33 elections just to stay where they are. And some of those Democrats are running in states where Trump won (Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin, West Virginia).

            And I haven’t seen evidence that Trump voters have turned on Trump or Trump’s policies. His disapproval numbers are about his personality more than his policies.

            and the political climate looks pretty good for Democrats right now. (See, for example, the recent election in Virginia.)

            I don’t think a blue state staying blue means much. Trump got 44.43% of the vote in 2016 and Gillespie got 44.97%. Gillespie got more of the vote share than Trump did. Northam won by a bigger margin than Hillary because he picked up libertarians by endorsing weed.

            This is further complicated by the fact that northern Virginia is basically a tributary of the DC swamp. And still further complicated by the fact that Gillespie was a GOP insider who eschewed Trump and campaigned with George W. Bush. “Guy who doesn’t like President loses means voters reject President” is an odd takeaway from the VA election. And certainly doesn’t predict anything about how voters in Michigan, Florida, etc will cast their ballots.

            Roy Moore is giving them a real shot in Alabama right now.

            Pure fantasy. Alabamans do not trust the Washington Post and are not voting Democrat.

            I’m not saying it’s impossible for the Dems to take the Senate, but the structural challenges (gerrymandering as you said, and the luck of the draw for the Senate class) would make it very difficult during a normalish political season. But combine the current hyper partisan environment with the, in my opinion, very poor choice of election issues by the Democrats and I don’t see it happening. When I imagine the campaigns next year I see a bunch of Democrats screaming about Trump, Russia, racism, muslims, and illegal immigrants, while the Republicans are talking about jobs, trade, the economy, taxes, and replacing Obamacare (for real this time!). I just don’t think the Democratic party has a coherent set of issues to present to the average American voter. And with the stock market through the roof, consumer confidence at historic highs, predicted 3.9% growth for Q4, upward wage pressure for the first time in a long time, I don’t see people voting their pocketbook wanting to abandon the current direction of economic policies.

            My predictions are:

            House unchanged: 60% confident.

            Republicans pick up 2 seats in the Senate: 75% confident.

            Republicans pick up 4 seats in the Senate: 40% confident.

          • rlms says:

            BetFair gives the Democrats about a 15% chance of taking Alabama.

          • Iain says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            I guess we’ll see in eleven months. For comparison, I’d be closer to:

            House unchanged: 40% confident.
            Republicans pick up two Senate seats: 35% confident.
            Republicans pick up four Senate seats: 20% confident.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Most obvious ones to me are Warren and Gillibrand. Cory Booker seems likely. Cuomo, Jerry Brown, McAuliffe, O’Malley from the governor side.

        There’s also always the possibility of Zuckerberg and Bloomberg…

      • Matt M says:

        So, who are the Democrats going to put up against Trump in 2020? Is it still Hillary’s Turn?

        If she wants it, doesn’t it have to be?

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but Democrats are really backing themselves into a corner by completely going in the tank for all of this “Russia rigged the election for Trump” stuff, because that narrative strongly implies that Hillary did not deserve to lose, was not a weak candidate, etc.

        She can run on the platform of “I would have won if not for Russia” and what does the mainstream left say in response to that exactly? They have no choice but to agree, to run her again, and most likely, to lose again.

        • albatross11 says:

          Yeah, “we was robbed” is a great narrative for making yourself feel better, but a lousy one for figuring out what went wrong last time so you can do better next time. Next election, it is certain that foreign governments, corporations, interest groups, etc., will still be doing all kinds of things, fair and unfair, to sway the election or convince people to believe/do stuff that affects the election.

        • LHN says:

          The idea that the 2000 election was stolen from Gore was held by a large number, possibly a majority, of Democrats. That didn’t result in their running him again in 2004.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          They can plausibly say, “It shouldn’t have been close enough that Russia could’ve stolen it.”

          But I think that instead, nobody will have to say anything, and the collective disinterest in running a loser again will peck any Clinton Presidential bid to death without anyone having to make a single coherent denial of her claim.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But the DNC leadership picks the candidate, not the Democratic voters. If Hillary still has influence and money then she’ll just get all the super delegates and that’s that.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think that the DNC leadership is probably yet more united in its desire not to pick a proven loser than the voters are. The voters can perhaps be swayed with the “it’s unjust!” business. The DNC probably less so.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think “picking candidate who will win” or “picking candidate who will do the best job” is a useful model for how political parties, especially the DNC, picks their candidate. It’s mostly cronyism, and Hillary is way high up on the crony totem pole still. And plenty of people are fine with this.

        • Nornagest says:

          Nah, that’s just face-saving. Hillary’s done; she’s not going to get any meaningful support from Dem party leaders now that she’s lost so publicly to such a weak opponent, and the party leaders were her core constituency. She has no popular base to fall back on, and she’s going to be 74 in 2020.

      • Brad says:

        So, who are the Democrats going to put up against Trump in 2020? Is it still Hillary’s Turn?

        I’d give 10 to 1 odds against HRC being the nominee. I also don’t think much of the chances of most of the other names being kicked around in the media — Sanders, Warren, Booker. My guess is someone that even many mid-range political junkies haven’t heard of yet if they don’t live in the same state.

        P.S. Cuomo is a nonstarter. He’s got negative charisma.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          My bet right now is that it’ll either be Sanders or someone who can out-Sanders Sanders. I think that there’s a powerful faction in the Democratic party who believe that Sanders would have won and will aggressively interpret Clinton’s loss as evidence that the only way to win is to go extremely left.

          I have somewhat weak confidence in this, however. 2:3?

          • Brad says:

            I don’t have much insight at all into what the ideology of the eventual nominee was. So I wouldn’t want to make a prediction as to “someone that can out-Sanders Sanders”. I just don’t think it is going to be him. For demographic reasons, especially age, and for lingering bitterness reasons.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            A core belief I have here is that the Democratic party apparatus lost major status by supporting Clinton, and that the people who have lingering bitterness against Sanders have lost a lot of ability to influence the outcome.

            I think that age will only work against him if he either has a health event of some kind or himself decides that age is a blocker. I mean, he was probably too old in 2016, too; didn’t seem to be a major strike against him.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            They will find another younger less problematic Sanders, with as many oppression Olympics checkmarks as possible. non-white non-male at least. non-straight non-cis and Muslim if possible.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think that you have a faulty understanding of how this works.

            There would definitely be a lot of interest in the Democratic party for a Sanders-like figure who was a little less old-white-dude, for sure (and Warren may be that person). The Democratic party will not nominate a gay trans Muslim woman for President. Not even a tiny bit.

          • rlms says:

            @Standing in the Shadows
            What are your odds on the Democratic nominee being Muslim, gay, or trans?

          • Chalid says:

            non-white non-male at least. non-straight non-cis and Muslim if possible.

            I will bet you that the candidate is at least one of white and male. 1:1 odds?

          • CatCube says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            non-white non-male at least. non-straight non-cis and Muslim if possible.

            Who would this be? Point us at their Wikipedia page, because anybody who’s going to be running as the Democratic candidate for president is going to have one of those already. The party leadership isn’t able to just pull a random person off the street and make them a plausible candidate in three years; they’re pulling from a very limited pool.

          • John Schilling says:

            with as many oppression Olympics checkmarks as possible. non-white non-male at least. non-straight non-cis and Muslim if possible.

            This is the sort of logic that leads to, e.g., women targeting an eighty-pound body weight because they’ve heard guys don’t like fat chicks.

            The Democratic Party will probably, in 2020, try to find a candidate with one of these characteristics. They may match several candidates each with one or maybe two of those characteristics against each other in the primary and see who the voters like. They won’t exclude cis-hetero white guys with the charisma and the reputation to make a decent go of it.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            The republicans have far out done us in the affirmative action department. In seventeen years they’ve managed to elect two mentally handicapped men to the highest office in the land. Which I for one think shows an admirably progressive commitment to supporting the differently abled.

            Nine of the past ten Democratic nominees for president have been white, and eight of the past ten have been men. All ten have been Christian, or of a generally Christian background, though I can not attest as to the strength of their personal religious faith.

            Hillary Clinton was a former US senator, and secretary of state, not to mention the wife of an ex president. Whether you think she got the nomination because of her qualifications, or because of nepotism, it certainly wasn’t some kind of ingrained preference for female candidates. Barack Obama was a member of a long standing democratic constituency, who was acknowledged, even by his most vociferous critics, as an incredibly effective public speaker.

            I would like an explanation as to why electing the idiot son of an ex president, because in between doing lines of coke he managed to find Jesus, is less of an example of demographic favoritism than electing a black man. The implication behind all of this is that there is one particular minority that naturally ought to hold all political power; namely white men. Within that group the preference should be for the relative subalterns of the evangelical white working class, or at least elites who can plausibly impersonate them.

            We have two political parties in this country, one that is willing in some exceptional circumstances to nominate people other than white men for higher office, and one that is willing to support magnificently unqualified white men, provided they can hold a pen long enough to sign a bill granting massive tax deductions to the owners of Gulf Stream G5s.

          • Iain says:

            The republicans have far out done us in the affirmative action department. In seventeen years they’ve managed to elect two mentally handicapped men to the highest office in the land. Which I for one think shows an admirably progressive commitment to supporting the differently abled.

            This is not helpful, and detracts from your more important point (that a party which has only ever nominated white Christian men might not be completely devoid of identity politics).

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Ehhh, color me skeptical, no pun intended. Are you really suggesting that the major determining factor for why, for example, Trump beat out Ben Carson, as opposed to Carson’s more moderate to liberal stances on key issues with the GOP base?

            For that argument to hold water I think you’d have to show examples of internal republican political disputes where, all things being equal including voting records and conservative bona fides, the voters preferred the white male candidate to female and/or non-white candidate.

            Another helpful point would be demonstrating that black/hispanic/female/gay conservatives are under-represented as politicians relative to the number of black/hispanic/female/gay conservatives in the US. I honestly don’t know if that’s the case or not, do you?

          • Jaskologist says:

            Objection: Romney is not a Christian.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Jaskologist:
            Are we really going to get into internecine warfare?

            If that isn’t “for the lulz” it doesn’t seem very helpful.

          • Anonymous says:

            He’s got a point. Romney is a follower of a Christian-derived, but no longer Christian sect.

          • bean says:

            I wouldn’t have phrased it quite that way Jaskologist did, but it’s a valid point. Mormons are not the same as Evangelicals, and counting everyone under the heading of ‘Christian’ is not quite right here. Also, Sarah Palin deserves to be brought up. She was fairly well-received (at least in the early days), and she wasn’t married to a former president.

          • Matt M says:

            Mormons self-identify as Christian. I’m with HBC on this one, unless you’re trying to be funny, there’s little to be gained from this…

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            What liberal views does Carson have, apart from making one oddly pro-gun control comment a few years back? Given that Trump isn’t known to rigidly stick to right-wing principles (or any principles), I don’t think that’s the relevant factor either.

          • Randy M says:

            Mormons self-identify as Christian. I’m with HBC on this one, unless you’re trying to be funny, there’s little to be gained from this…

            Purging heretics is it’s own reward.

            Or, on point, to disprove an inability to overcome bias, it doesn’t matter what he thinks he is, it matters what his voters think he is. He’s evidence R voters will vote for someone who differs from them in at least one significant way.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @HBC,

            Saying “Oh, they’re all Christians” is outgroup homogeneity bias. It’s steam-rolling some important differences.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Iain

            This is not helpful

            I withdraw the comment, and for the record state that I believe that George W Bush is a basically decent man of average intelligence, even if he was not up to the job of leading the world’s only remaining superpower.

            I harbor real suspicions that Trump on the other hand may be entering his second childhood.

            Nevertheless, Standing in the Shadows’ comment was nothing more than vulgar abuse, and as such I felt no responsibility to be polite or reasonable in response. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Are you really suggesting that the major determining factor for why, for example, Trump beat out Ben Carson, as opposed to Carson’s more moderate to liberal stances on key issues with the GOP base?

            Possibly, at least for some voters. You’re talking about two candidates who did not have very well articulated platforms, but my general impression was that Ben Carson was very much in the mold of a traditional Ted Cruz style Republican, with strong pro life, and small government credentials.Though I think Carson was to the left of Trump on immigration.

            The most salient issue isn’t race (or even gender), but the intra-white identity kulturkampf of rural evangelical grievance. It is a brand of politics who’s roots can be traced back as far back as prohibition, when small town America looked with fear, and resentment towards increasingly prosperous cities teeming with European Catholic, and Jewish immigrants.

            Looking at the cases of George W Bush, Sarah Palin, or even Roy Moore; there have been repeated instances in which Republicans nominated under qualified, or worse yet morally unfit candidates because of their ties to a certain kind of rural evangelical identity.

            Furthermore what is notable about right wing identity politics is how negative much of it is. Look at the history of the Republican party. In 1960 Goldwater ran a campaign without any hint of a identity based grievance, by the time of Nixon you have the southern strategy, followed by Reagan’s overtures to evangelicals. By 1992, as Democrats are nominating a centrist southern Governor, you have ex Nixon hatchet man Pat Buchanan declaring a cultural war on behalf of the parts of the country that grew corn, and against the parts of the country that manufactured semi conductors.

            This hostility reached such heights that by the 2016 primary the only real qualification to be the republican nominee was to project the maximal amount of contempt for urban cosmopolitan America. Which goes a long way to explain why the republicans chose a mad dog like Trump, mistaking his sociopathic abuse of his blue tribe neighbors for a genuine commitment to their cause.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I withdraw the comment, and for the record state that I believe that George W Bush is a basically decent man of average intelligence, even if he was not up to the job of leading the world’s only remaining superpower.

            Not that it’s particularly relevant, but, by most accounts, GWB is a man of above average intelligence.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Whatever Happened To Anonymous

            I’d like to know who these unnamed accounts are from.
            Because that is very much not the impression I got from reading Bob Woodward’s “State of Denial”, a book that recounts the Bush Administration’s mismanagement and paralysis in the face of the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

            Early in the book is an account of a meeting between George W. and Saudi prince Bandar Bin Sultan apparently arranged by the elder Bush in 1997 to help tutor the then Governor of Texas on foreign policy, at which G.W. apparently remarked that “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy”. Remember this is a man who is a Harvard graduate, and the son of a former president, ambassador, and CIA director, who was considering a run for White House, and at no point in his life had he developed any strong opinions on international affairs. That could be charitably described as an incurious stance.

          • Nornagest says:

            The impression I got of Bush II was that he was a fairly bright guy, but a conventional and not very inquisitive one, who played up his gaffe-prone good-ol’-boy image for political reasons. That tallies fairly well with all the personal accounts I’ve read, although I haven’t read “State of Denial”.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Not unnamed.

            On one hand, this guy probably has a biased opinion on GWB, on the other, of all the accounts I recall, this is the most detailed and from the person in the best position to properly assess his intelligence, and he’s certainly smart enough that his judgement wouldn’t be worthless.

            EDIT: Ninja’d by rlms

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @RLMS

            Off the top of my head he’s left of the GOP mainstream on medical marijuana (though as I noted in another post in this thread I think that’s more a matter of being ahead of the curve. The consensus is building on this one), immigration, and minimum wage.

            I think he lost to Trump (in pairwise terms) because he had a lot of the flaws of Trump (incoherent platform and a lot of malaprops) without any of the advantages like Trump’s celebrity cachet or apparent charisma (I’m one of those people who find him really annoying to listen to and can’t sit through a speech without turning it off and finding a transcript, but I felt the same way about Obama so I think I’m an outlier here).

            @Hyperboloid

            I considered a longer response, but I’ll just say that I think you just spectacularly failed the political turing test, speaking as someone who has spent a good chunk of my adult life embedded in GOP Base heartland and Red Tribe territory without being part of the cultural, political, or social mainstream.

            I’m not going to tell you your description doesn’t describe ANY real GOP base voters, but I think you’re making the mirror image mistake of the one pointed out by the various liberal posters when conservative commenters here try to psychoanalyze “The American Left” from the starting position that the median American Liberal is best exemplified by the shrillest and most aggressively awful SJW they can find.

          • rlms says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko
            I’m an ocean away from the Red Tribe, so I don’t know which topics are most important for them, but I would have put abortion and gun control as the big two issues, and I don’t think Trump (at least at the time of the election) gave the usual Republican signals on the first of those. My impression is that marijuana and minimum wage are fairly unimportant in comparison. Immigration lies somewhere between. So I think the main advantage Trump had in terms of policies over Carson is that he had a core group of supporters who really liked his attitude to immigration.

            I generally agree with your analysis of why Trump beat Carson. Trump isn’t charismatic in the traditional sense of being able to give speeches that are universally impressive; his advantages in that area are that he is good at coming up with attention-grabbing/memorable phrases, and his persona is attractive to a core group of his supporters.

          • Nornagest says:

            Abortion and guns are still live issues, but they were both much hotter topics 10-20 years ago. They still get trotted out every now and then, but every year that goes by without anything substantial happening makes them less effective as wedge issues. I don’t think I’ve had an unprompted conversation with a Red Triber about either in the last ten years. Well, I have about guns, but not gun control; that was an amateur gunsmith showing off his work to me.

            I have found myself in that kind of conversation about immigration, the deficit, marijuana (opinion’s split on this one), housing prices, and homelessness. The last two are probably more regionally than nationally significant.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Abortion is pretty big, yeah (I was startled by the year round prevalence of anti-abortion political signage and displays when I moved to rural Missouri). Guns, I think it varies. It’s not that it’s in the top 3 among either the Red Tribe or the GOP base’s priorities (I think it’s maybe in the top 5, definitely in the top 10, and remember that those are highly correlated but not synonymous groups). It looks larger than it is from the outside because those people that DO care about gun rights issues tend to be highly disciplined single-issue voters.

            Really, I think the number one is “The Economy Stupid”, number two is “health care reform”, both of which I think the GOP base is more incoherent on than the democrat base on.

          • In 1960 Goldwater ran a campaign without any hint of a identity based grievance

            1964.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t think Trump (at least at the time of the election) gave the usual Republican signals on the first of those.

            Trump absolutely provided the typical assurances on these issues during the campaign. It was reasonable to question whether he held these beliefs sincerely, as he had indicated roughly the opposite beliefs in the past. However, it was also reasonable for Republicans to expect him to follow through on promises like appointing a SCJ from a list prepared by The Federalist Society.

          • bean says:

            @hyperboloid

            Early in the book is an account of a meeting between George W. and Saudi prince Bandar Bin Sultan apparently arranged by the elder Bush in 1997 to help tutor the then Governor of Texas on foreign policy, at which G.W. apparently remarked that “I don’t have the foggiest idea about what I think about international, foreign policy”. Remember this is a man who is a Harvard graduate, and the son of a former president, ambassador, and CIA director, who was considering a run for White House, and at no point in his life had he developed any strong opinions on international affairs. That could be charitably described as an incurious stance.

            An alternative reading is that Bush knew what he didn’t know. Looking deeply at a complex issue occasionally ends up with you leaving knowing more facts, but being a lot less certain about your conclusions. If this has never happened to you, then you haven’t been looking at hard problems.

          • Nick says:

            An alternative reading is that Bush knew what he didn’t know. Looking deeply at a complex issue occasionally ends up with you leaving knowing more facts, but being a lot less certain about your conclusions. If this has never happened to you, then you haven’t been looking at hard problems.

            There’re a lot of alternative readings. Simple deference, if the guy is there to be your teacher. A kind of polite over humility, especially if it’s understood you’re not being entirely serious. Without more context, it’s impossible to say whether that quote implies Bush is an idiot or tactful or keen or what.

        • Matt M says:

          Brad,

          The odds are probably somewhat remote that we’ll both still be regularly commenting here in 2+ years, but I’ll take that for some nominal fee, payable to a charity of the other’s choosing.

          My $50 on Hillary and your $500 on the field?

          • Brad says:

            My only caveat is that the charity shouldn’t be one that involves mandatory public disclosures (e.g. one regulated by the FEC). Fair?

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t know what those are, but sure.

            My go-to is usually the Mises Institute, but if that’s overly political and/or not really “charitable” enough, I’m happy to swap in AMF/Givewell/whatever.

          • Brad says:

            No, Mises is just fine. If I win you can donate to WNYC.

          • Matt M says:

            Deal.

            To be clear, my bet is that she wins the nomination, but I’m neutral as to whether she wins the general.

      • Iain says:

        There’s no way Clinton runs. Sanders will probably run, even though he’s way too old. I would have said Al Franken until a few weeks ago. Really, I expect all the ambitious Dem senators and governors to come out of the woodwork for this one; as incumbents go, Trump seems pretty easy to run against.

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Do you think Franken is definitely out? I was expecting more heat against him, but it seems like some combination of the fairly mild nature of the accusations against him and solidarity among his friends has kept him from being badly damaged at this point.

          • Protagoras says:

            Franken may keep being re-elected to his senate seat if nothing worse comes out, but he was always a long shot as a presidential candidate (I don’t know what Iain was thinking), and the current accusations make him a much longer shot.

          • BBA says:

            Franken wrote a book about the downfall of his hypothetical future presidency – back when he was just a political humorist, long before he first ran for office.

            Honestly, I’m surprised he hasn’t resigned yet. There have been so many scandals lately, nobody will be able to remember that he’s (allegedly) just a groper and not a rapist.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            What was the downfall of his hypothetical future presidency? Groping accusations? 😉

            I don’t find a ton to like in Franken — my wife likes his books and they have always come off as grating to me, even when he’s taking positions I agree with — but Iain is not the only person who saw a Presidential bid for him. I think that right now, it’s fair to say that any individual name you put forward for the Democratic 2020 ticket is a bit of a long-shot, but Franken wasn’t a crazy idea.

            I think that the mass of accusations right now works at least as much for him as against him, particularly in as much as many of the other accusations are considerably more salacious.

          • Iain says:

            I think Franken is definitely out for the presidency. I’m not sure about the Senate. I think I would like to see him resign and plant the Democratic flag on the moral high ground, but until Conyers gets the hell out of office it’s hard to see how you can force Franken out for milder accusations.

            (Confidence in opinion: low on Franken; high on Conyers needing to resign.)

            Edited to add: And Conyers agrees!

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, it seems like what’s come out against Franken so far isn’t remotely enough to justify resignation or voting against him. This strikes me as one of the problems with the common way that we blend together all kinds of different celebrity sex scandals, ranging from actual forcible rape (Weinstein) all the way down to what looks like innocent screw-ups or moderately asinine behavior with a sexual overtone (Franken). It would be better if we could somehow think of those separately, since the right responses (prison time vs telling the jerk to knock it off) also cover a big range.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @albatross11:

            I continue to be convinced that America is “fucked in the head” when it comes to conversations around sex. There is a fundamentally hypocritical stance towards sex in the mainstream born from the underlying knowledge that sex is ultimately both desirable and necessary, and the relatively unquestioned belief it is sinful.

            This infects the vast majority of the discourse on the issue, on both the left and the right. And it leads directly to the inability to talk meaningfully about the distinction between rape, assault, harassment, etc. The inability to distinguish between pedophilia, predatory statutory rape, and de jure statutory rape, etc.

            Because that would involve talking about these things at a level of detail that makes people extremely uncomfortable.

          • albatross11 says:

            HeelBearClub: Agreed. I think you can see this in everything from discussion of making birth control available for teenagers to sex offender mark of Cain laws. I don’t know how to make it work better.

  30. sustrik says:

    I’ve written this article about a community in Slovakia that has almost driven itself into extinction. It may be of interest to the crowd here: http://250bpm.com/blog:113 HN discussion thread here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15830623

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thanks for the link. I’ll add it to the list of people being very vulnerable to memes.

      • sustrik says:

        What list is that? Link?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Just a list I keep in my head. The biggest example is in India, where there are (I believe) still dowries and dowry murder.

          If you have a daughter and want grandchildren, the most sensible thing (unless I’m missing something) would be to encourage your daughter to marry someone from a different culture. There would be no risk of dowry murder, and you could contribute money to setting up your daughter’s household without being concerned that it would go to your son-in-law’s family.

          There’s also an Irish custom (probably no longer in play, and Deiseach will tell me if I’m wrong) of giving younger children to the Church– again presumably causing one to have fewer grandchildren.

    • quanta413 says:

      Thanks. It was very informative.

  31. James says:

    People who know game (paging Nabil ad Dajjal?): what’s worth reading? I’ve read and liked Mark Manson’s Models. His emphasis on integrity rather than faking it and running routines suited me well. But I suspect it’s not the whole picture, and I’d like to read a bit more. But the rest of the material I can get hold of seems… mixed.

    I’ve seen “Juggler method” recommended by smart people, but I don’t think I was that impressed by the material I could find of his—basically a PDF of forum posts, I think. (Maybe he has better stuff that I missed?) Roissy turned me off (way, way off) at first, but on looking at it again (maybe after reading some worse stuff inbetween) it’s actually starting to look a little better—at least his prose is good, and I feel like the quality of thought is good enough that there might be some salvageable gems in amongst the dross.

    Are there any others that are good or might be useful?

    I might have some other related questions, but I’m reluctant to clog up Scott’s nice clean message board with them. If anyone’s willing to discuss this sort of thing by email, then let me know and/or drop me a line—you can see my email at the URL my username links to.

    • maintain says:

      RSD has pretty much taken over the seduction training market.

      • James says:

        But that’s a different question to whether they’re any good!

        Isn’t that Tyler Durden’s thing? I’m a little bit creeped out by him, admittedly coloured by his unflattering portrayal in The Game. (I don’t know whether that portrayal’s fair.) He strikes me as a little bit of a sociopath, and I’d prefer not to read them.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I’ve watched some of their videos and it’s pretty impressive how they can walk up to girls and within minutes, seduce them. If they were frauds, then it’s impressive how long they’ve been able to sustain it.

          • bean says:

            Selection bias?

          • maintain says:

            Yeah, they record a bunch of videos and then only show the most impressive ones.

            On the other hand, is it really so hard to believe that people are going out to bars and meeting people and having sex with them? It’s not like it’s some improbable thing that requires debunking.

            I’ve met many men in real life who have good game. From what I’ve seen with my own eyes, nothing in RSD’s videos strikes me as improbable.

          • Matt M says:

            If you are a socially awkward nerd who finds it unbelievably difficult to even get even below-average girls to kiss you, and you mostly hang out with other people for whom that is true, then yes – men who are successful at regularly obtaining sex from very attractive women appear to be some sort of demigods. It just depends on your frame of reference.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Matt M,

            Personal question, and feel free to ignore it, but how old are you? Because your description here matches up with me and my friends pretty well in my early to mid twenties. Now in my early forties, I’m happily married with three kids, and most of those friends have been similarly successful in pairing off. Not easy to hear when it’s you, but it may just be that your time hasn’t yet come.

          • Matt M says:

            Early 30s.

            I sound more angry and bitter than I actually am, though. I have accepted the very strong likelihood that I simply will never have a normal romantic relationship and am fairly comfortable with it. No longer really actively trying to find one. Not worth the time/effort.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not worth the time/effort.

            Now *that* outlook I find bizarre.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m an extreme introvert who hates most/all social interaction with the exception of “netflix and chill” (both in the literal and suggestive sense).

            Not many women are willing to have a relationship that accommodates this. Or at least, not for less than $200/hr.

            As I advance in my career and make more money and have less free time, my time to myself becomes even more valuable. I refuse to spend it in bars or going on long walks on the beach or whatever the hell it is girls want to do.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’m an extreme introvert who hates most/all social interaction with the exception of “netflix and chill” (both in the literal and suggestive sense).

            I’ll give you three tries to guess what the lowest value of this here NEO-PI-R result is.

            Not many women are willing to have a relationship that accommodates this. Or at least, not for less than $200/hr.

            As I advance in my career and make more money and have less free time, my time to myself becomes even more valuable. I refuse to spend it in bars or going on long walks on the beach or whatever the hell it is girls want to do.

            I don’t want to be uncharitable, but that really sounds like sour grapes. (Nevermind that you don’t go to bars to find a wife. It’s like the antithesis of the place one finds wife-candidates.)

            What are your expectations of a suitable female for you?

          • I refuse to spend it in bars or going on long walks on the beach or whatever the hell it is girls want to do.

            I’m happily married and have been for decades, and spend essentially no time in bars or walking on the beach. It’s true that I met my current wife by going to folk dancing at the university where I was teaching at the time–a colleague’s wife had suggested it as a good place to meet girls–and I don’t particularly enjoy folk dancing.

            Or in other words, you should distinguish between activities that let you find a mate and activities you will engage in once you have found her. It’s worth bearing some cost in the former if the returns from the latter are positive. And I expect there are quite a lot of women who also don’t want to spend their time in bars or walking on the beach.

            None of that implies that your choice is wrong, just that it might be.

          • sandoratthezoo says: