SELF-RECOMMENDING!

Open Thread 94.75

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

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

977 Responses to Open Thread 94.75

  1. Deiseach says:

    Has anybody ever read anything by Rodney Stark? Can you tell me anything about him? The Wikipedia article leaves me not much the wiser as to his current stance on belief/Christianity/is he a Christian; it tells me he was raised in a Lutheran family, became a sociologist of religion, is currently working at Baylor University (Baptist and I’d expect of the type ‘can you sign our code of conduct as a Bible-believing Christian’ but is it moderate/liberal as a private Christian university, i.e. the Baptist version of a “university in the Jesuit tradition”?) and was ‘not quite atheist but not a believer’ until he seemingly has changed his stance recently.

    Why I ask is that I’m settling down to a good read of Protestant-bashing with two Kindle ebooks recommended to me by Amazon 🙂 (I think re-fighting the War of Independence over Irish neutrality has fired up my blood) and while I know where Eamon Duffy is coming from on the English Reformation, I have no idea about Stark.

    So while I could see a ‘not a Christian’ giving a critical overview of “so what has Protestantism really done for us” on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I have no idea what a professor at Baylor is going to say. Hence wondering about things – I mean, if I thought this was a case of Roman fever, I’d understand, but that seems to be an assumption too far if he’s only recently decided he is in fact a believing – for whatever value of ‘believing’ – Protestant. What books I’ve seen in his bibliography certainly sound like “teetering on the edge, if not actual recent Catholic convert with all the zeal of that” but he does not seem to self-describe as such.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I recall, a long time ago, being profoundly unimpressed with an article of his assigned as a reading. It drew a pretty broad conclusion from a few examples and some major assumptions. However, I can hardly condemn him based on one article.

    • JDG1980 says:

      I’ve read several of his books. For the most part, they could be described as Christian apologetics from a secular POV – in other words, they don’t try to argue that the factual claims of Christianity are true so much as they try to argue that the social effects of Christianity have been good. I think he sometimes goes too far, but it’s a useful counterbalance to the excessive glorification of pagan Rome that many secular Westerners have inherited from the Enlightenment.

      Stark also has a habit of re-using parts of his writings – you’ll read two of his books and find that a section of several paragraphs was copied and pasted from one to the other, with minimal if any changes.

  2. johansenindustries says:

    In relation the latest Canadian news, why do the liberals that oppose ‘man’ seem to have no problems with ‘person‘?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Because complaining about the words is just arbitrary posturing. They complain about the ‘his’ in ‘history’, for instance, even though it has no relation to the male possessive pronoun other than being spelled the same.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I think the complaints about “his” in “history” are meant to draw attention to the fact that women are often left out of historical readings.

        I’d like to see the return of ‘werman’, or some other variant with a sound more distinct from ‘woman’.

        • Aapje says:

          I agree, if I then get to bite people.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think the complaints about “his” in “history” are meant to draw attention to the fact that women are often left out of historical readings.

          Yeah, but the trouble with that is that it makes the complainants sound like illiterate idiots, and I say that as a woman. It annoys me intensely and does no good for the cause – oh the word HIStory deliberately ignores women! You sound like a three year old what don’t read gooder yet.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I meant more actively left out of history (e.g. Nannerl vis-a-vis Wolfgang), but couldn’t find a good way to phrase it.

            So it’s not a complaint about the name, but about wermen controlling HIS-story by keeping the wifmen as bit players.

        • Lillian says:

          Relatedly, i think that all words in the form of “nounman” should be gender neutral, so that’s how i use them. A female police officer is a policeman, a female firefighter is a fireman, a female assassin is a hitman, a female shady political operative is a hatchetman, and so on and so forth. People sometimes get offended and confused by it, but being a wifman myself i get more of a pass than a werman would. They say you should be the change you want to see in the world, so i am!

        • Baeraad says:

          Oh, me too. I won’t say it worries me unduly, but having the word for “human” and the word for “male” be the same one is really kind of iffy. And, if you want to look at it that way, lends itself far too well to cheap feminist gotchas. :p

          And anyway, it’s such a cool word. Werman. It sounds like something big and strong and hairy. 😀

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Can you link something on this topic? I can’t find anything from a cursory search.

      • johansenindustries says:

        I messed up my memory. It was a reference to he Trudeau thing but he said ‘people-kind’ not ‘person-kind’ (apparently, it was a joke too). I would edit my original post noting my error, but I’m out of the window.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      As far as I understand, the ‘man-‘ in ‘mankind’ is cognate with ‘man’ as a standalone word, where as the ‘his-‘ in ‘history’ and the ‘son-‘ in ‘person’ are both from Latin roots that have nothing to do with the English words ‘his’ or ‘son’.

      So, given that ‘man’ went from meaning persons of any gender to specifically meaning male persons, I don’t think it’s that unreasonable to have a sense of the ‘man’ in ‘mankind’ having the same connotations.

      That said, we have the perfectly familiar word ‘humankind*’, in case anyone actually did mean ‘peoplekind’ to be taken seriously. Whether or not you will actually achieve a detectable level of change in gender relations by using ‘humankind’ instead of ‘mankind’ is not clear – the fact that cultures as gender-egalitarian as Finland and as non-egalitarian as Iran have majority languages that lack grammatical gender, while plenty of cultures that do have grammatical gender sit between them on the egalitarianism spectrum suggests that it would not be a large effect, but, unlike, say, spivak pronouns, or indeed gender-neutral ‘they’ for a specific named person, using ‘humankind’ rather than ‘mankind’ doesn’t feel like a difficult thing to use in one’s ordinary speech.

      *Which, of course, also contains ‘man’, but this time is another syllable inherited from Latin…

      • Thegnskald says:

        So “human” is okay because 2,000 years ago its constituent parts didn’t refer to males, but “mankind” is not because a few hundred years ago one of its constituent parts was redefined to refer to males?

        (I wonder if Spanish feminists argue over whether it is sexist for tables to be male or female or whatever the hell they are, or whether having gender throughout the entire language, as opposed to it surviving only in specific contexts, makes it seem more obviously stupid to argue about it…)

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Spirometers tend to have an automatic “correction” for race built in.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4631137/

    https://news.brown.edu/articles/2013/06/spirometers

    Debunking the salt retention during the middle passage hypothesis for black hypertension.

    http://raceandgenomics.ssrc.org/Kaufman/

    • The Nybbler says:

      The Brown paper is rather unconvincing.

      So despite the fact that this central variable isn’t defined, a significant number of researchers explained difference as fixed and then on this basis corrected for race.

      That’s their big objection? That “race” isn’t defined? I think they’ll find that “height” isn’t defined either; is it to be measured with the ankles extended or relaxed? To the top of the head, or to the tip of the middle finger with arms raised? Or perhaps “height” actually refers to vertical extent when lying supine or prone, or even decubitus left or right? No, of course not — everyone knows what height is. Similarly, everyone knows what “race” is, at least to the extent of distinguishing black from white from Asian. It’s fuzzier than height, certainly, but not all _that_ fuzzy.

      The NIH article descends into social justice jargon at the end.

      It is, of course, quite possible (as both articles note) that the previous research was confounded by poverty and other environmental factors. If that’s the case, updated studies need to be done to see if this assumed racial difference in lung capacity is an artifact. But pretending that we don’t know black from white isn’t going to help anything.

  4. Mark says:

    I understand that you’re not supposed to say “White Trash” anymore because it indirectly implies that “trash” = default for nonwhite; but I wish that wasn’t the case because it’s the most perfect description possible for who it’s meant to describe.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Any particular reason you’re quoting Moviebob?

      • Mark says:

        I find the sentence to be remarkable.

        It’s so far outside anything I would ever have thought that I don’t really know where to begin. I can’t even.

        Maybe I’ve just completely missed the nuances of American racism.

        • toastengineer says:

          No, just some people are just trapped in massive Affective Death Spirals.

          The civil rights movement was portrayed as the Ultimate Good Thing in American history – deservedly! – and thus to be good you must not only be anti-racist like the people involved in the Ultimate Good Thing, not only more ‘anti-racist’ than any of them, but more anti-racist than all your peers who are all trying to be more ‘anti-racist’ than each other. So saying things like “all I want for christmas is white genocide” and such becomes a sign that you are a Good Person and everyone should like you, and saying things like “everyone is a human being regardless of race” makes you a neonazi.

          • albatross11 says:

            And yet, I have a hard time imagining anyone in any social group I am a part of talking about white genocide in any way, nor giving anyone any trouble whatsoever for saying everyone is a human regardless of race. I live in a fairly liberal state, and am probably surrounded by people who voted 80% or so Democratic in the last election. At work, it’s probably more like 95% Democratic.

            Your description of the country does not track well with my experiences.

          • Brad says:

            albatross11++

          • Matt M says:

            nor giving anyone any trouble whatsoever for saying everyone is a human regardless of race.

            I feel like I definitely know a few social circles where this would get some pushback.

            Not in the “No, that is incorrect, white people are subhuman” sense but in the “Yeah but the only reason anyone would bother saying that is to detract from the real issues black people face today and your attempt at equivalency is very troubling and suggests you are probably a racist” sense.

            See: All lives matter

  5. johan_larson says:

    Suppose the US were to adopt a voting system that was more friendly to minority parties than the current first-past-the-post, such as proportional representation. What parties might emerge?

    Right off the bat, I think two groups would split off into parties of their own. African-Americans would probably have an ethnic party of their own. Also, on the right, you’d have a God & Country party that represented the most conservative Christians, focused on traditional values and God-centered living.

    I think a Green party would also be viable in such a system, and perhaps a libertarianish Don’t Tread on Me party.

    What else might we see?

    • johansenindustries says:

      I think a libertarian party. Definitely a green party. I feel like most Christian counties with a PR have Christiam Democrats so that too. Definitely, a hispanic party unless the CD party I suggested becomes more or less a hispanic party.

      I would hope that the Democrats would try to keep hold of the AA vote, since distinct racial lines would be ugly (and even in a system favourable to minority parties like the German one, you’d need half of the AA vote for an AA party to have any representation.)

      Edit: Probably democratic socialists too.

      • Brad says:

        I’d be interested to see how big the libertarian party would become and what sort of libertarians they’d be. When push came to shove would the priorities be:
        1) Gun rights
        2) Tax cuts
        3) Land use deregulation

        or would they be:
        1) Drug legalization
        2) Eliminating barriers to the free movement of goods and people
        3) School choice

        In a system with explicit coalition agreements it is really difficult for a smaller party to fudge on what are its true priorities.

        I agree that there would be a viable green party, but I’d expect it to be smaller than the ones in Europe. For a lot of reasons, but the most of important of which is that the United States is much more suburban than Europe. (Defining suburban here in terms of density and car dependency rather then on the basis of inside/outside official city limits.)

        • dndnrsn says:

          Depending on how the cutoff was managed, who’s to say you wouldn’t have two libertarian parties? If there was no cutoff, it would be even likelier. There could be a guns-and-get-off-my-lawn libertarian party with a more rural and suburban base, and a more urban so-high-they-don’t-even-know-what-a-border-is party.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’d be as many libertarian parties as it took to ensure none of them got a seat.

          • In my preferred version of such a system–on aesthetic not consequentialist grounds–there is no party too small to get a seat. Each representative casts as many votes as people who have chosen him as their representative.

            Assuming that there is still a physical chamber with a limited number of seats, any individual or coalition of individuals that represents enough people gets one–if it’s a coalition, they are free to share the seat in any way they agree on.

          • Brad says:

            Direct democracy with proxies? I assume re-assignable or revocable at any time?

          • I assume re-assignable or revocable at any time?

            Of course.

    • Wrong Species says:

      There would definitely be a split between Trump Republicans and other kinds of Republicans. The left could either be split in to economic/social leftism or moderate/extreme. I highly doubt they would lose the minority vote, since it’s one of their most important constituents.

      • johan_larson says:

        Let’s try this on for size. Six parties: Libertarian, Great America, Christian Democrats, Greens, Social Democrats, Working Americans.

        The Libertarians fight for personal freedom and a small, non-threatening government that provides only the most essential public services. Formed from the libertarian right and the most hard-core pro-civil-rights left.

        Great America fights for a country that stands tall on the international stage, and provides ample freedom for the capable and ambitious to accomplish great things at home. They favor moderate taxes, low regulations, and a substantial military. They are at peace with the welfare state, as long as it’s not too expensive, because the Musks and Gateses of the world need trained labor forces to do their bidding, and it’s better to buy off the losers than have them causing trouble in the street.

        The Christian Democrats fight for traditional values and God-centered living. They idolize the breadwinner/homemaker household as a desirable social norm, and try to focus on supporting such couples through social policy. Compared to Great America, they are more suspicious of disruptive behavior and more focused on ordinary people; compared to Social Democrats, they are more focused on right living and religious values.

        The Green party focuses on living lightly on the land. They worry a lot about pollution, food quality, and global warming. They tend to be suspicious of big business but no great fans of big government either.

        The Social Democratic party is the hearth and home of the welfare state. They want an extensive network of social support mechanisms, enabling people to live good lives from cradle to grave. That said, they are not wildly tolerant, and tend to insist that people who benefit from the system need to get with the program. This is what is left of the Democratic party, after the environmentalists headed off the the Greens, the individualists went to the Libertarians, and the truly aggrieved formed the Working Americans party.

        The Working Americans party is the party of grievance. If the Man done you wrong and you’re living in shit because of it, these are your people. They tend to focus on providing more support for those who are just barely getting by, better opportunities for their children, fewer opportunities for the wealthy to lord it over everybody else, and more lenient treatment from law enforcement. Most of the supporters are poor or from poor backgrounds. Generally speaking, Working Americans are the people who are too angry about their personal circumstance and the System as a whole to vote Social Democrat or Christian Democrat. People who make it out of poverty and credit themselves tend to vote Great America; people who credit the system as a whole tend to vote Social Democrat.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Johan, that’s as good as any I suppose. Although I can’t imagine the Working Americans party existing. Yes there are lots of people who think this way, but I can’t imagine them coalescing as a party. For one thing, probably they would be as mad at the ones in their own party as outside, so it wouldn’t be stable. Kind of like an Autism party couldn’t exist even if half the people were autistic. You need enough people, but also they need to be able to work together.

          Johan, aren’t you Canadian? How would Canada look using the same voting process?

          • johan_larson says:

            Yes, I’m Canadian.

            Canada’s main political fault lines are linguistic (English/French) and after that regional. There are plenty of people in western and Atlantic Canada who resent how much power Central Canada (meaning Quebec and Ontario) have, because of their large populations.

            So, the single most aggrieved group, the natives, would probably go their own way. They have plenty of internal divisions, of course, but they should be able to organize a First Nations Party to speak for them. And they are roughly 5% of the population, which is nothing to sneeze at.

            After that come the Francophones. There’s enough of them that they might have two parties actually, one accommodationist and the other separatist or close to it.

            Then the two other regional parties, one for Western Canada and one for Atlantic Canada.

            What remains after that is the population of Ontario and the English-speaking Quebecois and anyone in the east and west who doesn’t identify with their specific regions. Here I’m not quite sure what would happen, because I don’t think these people are all that pissed off about anything. I think they could quite plausibly be represented by a pair of center-right and center-left parties, or possibly hard-right and hard-left parties would appear. I’m not really sure.

            But I’m confident the current three-party system is keeping a lid on a lot of frustration in the east and west that would become much more prominent in a system with national-level proportional representation.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think it’s likely that if the US adopted a good, solid electoral system – let’s say, a model like the German one, which doesn’t result in too many wacky little parties – you would see a lot of parties. After all, the US is over 330 million people, spread over an enormous land mass. You might see a lot of regional parties (the California Party, the Texas Part), or regional-political parties (the California Greens might have a different set of priorities than the Oregon Greens), or regional-ethnic parties (you might have a Cuban-based party in Florida that would have a different set of priorities than a Latinx party in California that would have a different set of priorities than a Hispanic party in NYC). You’d probably see some city-based parties. Consider that even with a population 3/4 of California, even under a FPTP system Canada has two federal parties that vie for the top spot, a more or less social democratic party that is fairly successful, a Green party that usually gets one or two seats, and a Quebecois nationalist party.

      I think you’d probably have more than one party dedicated to black people. You might have multiple African-American (defined as black people descended from people brought as slaves to the US) parties – say, one with an older base, more religious, more socially conservative, the other younger, less religious, more socially liberal. You might see in, say, Florida, a party dedicated to the interests of Haitian-Americans. There’s probably not enough Somali-Americans to have a party, but there’s almost a million Haitian-Americans; between the two, about a million – maybe you’d have a party that was dominated by Haitian-Americans but was generally dedicated to the interests of those Caribbean and African communities that were/are made up heavily of people who came to the US as refugees/asylum seekers, or their descendants – maybe tack on voluntary immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa in general. Perhaps you’d see an African-American party that was relatively anti-immigrant – after all, there are jobs that once were done by African-Americans that now are done by immigrants from elsewhere, there’s the resentment in African-American communities of businesses owned by Asian immigrants and the resentment of well-off African foreign students taking advantage of quotas and preferences that were meant to help the descendants of plantation slaves, and there’s no inherent reason that African-American nativism couldn’t be a thing (imagine the rhetoric – “America should be helping the descendants of the people who came here against their will, the descendants of the people who were denied their rights, the descendants of the people who were lynched and beaten, not the people who chose to come here!”). So maybe you’d have four parties aimed at different segments of black Ameica: the 60s-style-church-oriented civil rights party, the younger-and-woker civil rights party, the African-American populist party, and the black-immigrant party.

      In general, I guess what I’m saying is that it’s not safe to assume that the members of the current coalitions would necessarily hold the same package of views as independent actors as they do as members of those coalitions (each party being, broadly speaking, a coalition). So the coalitions that did form (I don’t think a US using the German system would ever have a majority government) would be different. You’d see the same thing on the right: you might have a socially conservative but economically fairly centrist Christian party with little interest in foreign policy except for support for Israel and pushing for more Christian refugees to be let in. Why would they keep teaming up with the bomb-everything-everywhere crew and the tax-and-regulation-cutters? Conversely, why would either of those two keep teaming up with the Christian socons, or with the bring-the-factories-back types?

    • BBA says:

      It depends on certain details, like number of seats overall and whether all seats are elected nationally (a la the Netherlands) or by state or other region (a la Spain). An Asian-American identity party could pick up seats designated for Hawaii and maybe California, though not overall nationally.

      I’d like a competent centrist Bloombergite party but I don’t know that there’s a real constituency for it, outside corporate boardrooms and Georgetown cocktail parties.

      • dndnrsn says:

        That’s how the Liberal party here in Canada has, historically, viewed itself – “the party of government” and so on. They tack more or less left when it’s campaign time, but by and large the liberals govern like competent technocrats; unfortunately, sometimes the technocrats aren’t competent.

        • BBA says:

          Yeah, I don’t think my hypothetical Reasonable Centrist Party would be running a Trudeau-style hopey changey identitarian campaign. They’d be closer to Ignatieff, and look how Ignatieff did.

      • Aapje says:

        @BBA

        The Dutch senate (‘First Chamber’) is elected by state, the House of Representatives (‘Second Chamber’) is elected nationally. So we actually have a hybrid system.

    • Matt M says:

      I think all of you are dramatically underestimating the extent to which the two-party system is embedded within American culture.

      It may have had its origins largely as a result of the technical rules of the system, but that’s hardly the only thing keeping it going. If you changed the rules tomorrow, I suspect it would still take a couple decades for us to get anything other than “big red party vs big blue party” because that’s how we tend to view how politics works – and changing the cultural is a far more gradual process.

      Particularly when you consider the power of and obsession with the Presidency in particular. Without dramatic constitutional reforms to change how that works, that’ll still be where the main battlefield is, and will still be conducive to fewer parties. And most people will still treat Congressional elections like they do now – which is “vote for the party of the President I want.”

      • Aapje says:

        Approval voting may make the transition easier.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m cynical enough to think that if the incentives changed to support a many-party system, people would change over fairly quickly (five years to build up the social infrastructure?) and then claim it was what they wanted all along.

      • Wrong Species says:

        In the 2016 elections, how many Republicans do you think were voting against Clinton rather than for Trump and vice versa for Democrats? People do not like the current system and would gladly chose a different party if they thought it wouldn’t make things worse.

  6. Deiseach says:

    I’m enjoying today’s weather forecast:

    There’ll be sunny spells and scattered showers of rain, hail, sleet and snow today. The showers will be heavy at times with a risk of thunder.

    So if going outside, be sure to wear our woolly undergarments, our wellies, and our sunglasses 🙂

  7. Mark says:

    Holy Cow.

    I replied to a “Polish Death Camps” comment here a few days ago, now I’m getting this advert on my youtube.

    Pretty high production values, looks like a video game advert.

  8. johan_larson says:

    This one’s for the civil engineering fans. What’s the next big gap that might get spanned by a bridge or tunnel that has never been spanned before? At this point we have a bridge from Sweden to Denmark and a tunnel from the UK to France. What’s next?

  9. Doctor Mist says:

    I know I waited too long to ask this, but by any chance is anyone here going on the JoCo Cruise next week? This is my first time and I’d love to connect with any SSCers who might be attending.

    • BBA says:

      I’ll be there.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Oh, cool! I can be reached at ImDoctorMist g mail dot com.

        My wife and I are on the red team for dinner, and I’ll pretty likely be at the Cardboard Concierge at 10am Monday morning. If we don’t figure out anything more definite, look for a skinny 60-year-old with glasses, a mostly white beard, and a Hawaiian shirt. (This is where I find out this describes everybody on the cruise.)

    • Aapje says:

      An interesting list of performers and guests, albeit with one huge culture warrior.

      Have fun, guys.

    • Glen Raphael says:

      Somewhat moot now that you’re not going but I’ll be at JoCoCruise, running a couple of Shadow Events. (I’ll be leading the Filk Circle and giving a concert).

      Hope you guys have better luck in the future!

  10. skef says:

    sigh Another Kinesis Advantage bites the dust. The bucks I and various of my employers have paid that company …

    It’s a bad time, too. Such an indignity to have to pay for one’s own keyboard.

  11. BBA says:

    Today in rail safety: the acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration has resigned after it was revealed he was still working in his previous job doing PR for a Mississippi sheriff’s office.

    If anyone can explain to me what the hell is going on at the FRA, I’m all ears. I don’t think it has a whole lot to do with the recent string of train crashes, but it’s certainly not helping.

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So I just learned of a moral panic on the tabletop roleplaying fora:
    People are being urged not to play the Dungeons & Dragons retro clone Adventurer, Conqueror, King because its publisher, Alexander Macris, is now CEO of Milo Inc.

    • dndnrsn says:

      They’ll have to play one of the other eight hundred OD&D clones, I suppose.

      It’s weird how the more time I’ve spent actually gaming, the less time I’ve spent giving a hoot about the “RPG community.” A lot of people who buy games don’t actually play them; I suppose they have to do something to fill their time.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        They’ll have to play one of the other eight hundred OD&D clones, I suppose.

        Ha!
        The one of those I’m interested in getting a group to try is Dark Dungeons*, which clones the D&D line published in parallel to Advanced D&D in the 1980s. You progress from risking your life in dungeons and wilderness at low levels to ruling a map hex as your fief at 9th level, then ascend to immortal rank if you level up enough. Also there are spaceships.

        *Yes, named after the Chick tract in a display of hipster irony. It uses Black Leaf the Thief in the character generation instructions.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I don’t get the proliferation of new-old games. If you want to play old-school D&D, it’s easy to find copies of the original books, and I’m pretty sure everybody has copies of the 2nd ed corebooks lying around somewhere. Yeah, sure, a newly-designed game is going to be less dysfunctional than old editions of D&D, but that’s part of the charm. No, only thieves can hear things, shut up.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            There have been few AD&D clones, probably for precisely the reason you say. The 800 new-old versions are mostly modified single-volume versions of the OD&D versions printed as saddle-stitched booklets in boxed sets.
            Why is this preference strong enough to produce a proliferation of clones? I would guess it’s because pre-3rd Edition D&D was a game of different subsystems for resolution of different tasks, and the ’80s “Classic” line had many fewer than AD&D (“you need to write a Bend Bars/Lift Gates stat on the character sheet in case you want to attempt a specific feat of strength from old Sword & Sandal movies”). D20 for attacks and saving throws, D6 for various checks in the dungeon, roll percentiles if you happen to be a Thief; done.

          • dndnrsn says:

            OD&D was simpler, but there were some huge gaps in it. AD&D was very complicated, and downright weird (only demihumans can multiclass; only humans can use the bizarrely complex dual-classing system; why? Shut up, that’s why!) but you had a complete game with no need to fill in gaps. I like this take:

            But one of the interesting things about the OD&D rules is that they are, basically, a set of typeset house rules. There are notable passages which are literally nothing more than a description of how you can kit-bash your copy of TSR’s Chainmail and Avalon Hill’s Outdoor Survival into a semi-cohesive system.

            Nor is there any way to actually play OD&D “by the book”. Not only are multiple options frequently given for accomplishing the same thing, but sometimes the rulebooks just flat out contradict themselves. In addition, while Dave Arneson is widely recognized as the original innovator of D&D-style gaming, it’s fairly clear to me that Gary Gygax was in large part responsible for the writing of these rulebooks. And while I will praise Gygax for many things, the man was never skilled at writing or organizing rules — which means that even when there is only one rule for a given situation it will often be written so vaguely as to leave itself open to a myriad of equally valid interpretations.

            So, thinking about it, I suppose you’re right – people want something simpler than AD&D. But they also want something that isn’t fragmentary like OD&D.

            Personally, I think AD&D is simple enough if you stick to the three main books. A lot of the complications came in with all the player’s option books, the books for classes and races (somewhere I still have my copy of the old brown-cover 2nd ed elf book – the general point of which is that elves are better than everyone else, both in game terms and otherwise), all that stuff. The weirdness in the corebooks I can think of off the top of my head is fairly limited – the excessive derived stats you point to, multiclassing vs dual classing, however druids worked.

            In general, my taste is that simpler is better. If I was going to run d20, you get the core books, and there’s more than enough there for everything you want. Although at least there the complications are just adding more stuff, instead of bolting on new rules systems.

    • Baeraad says:

      Oh, is that why people are mad at him? I heard it mentioned on a roleplaying forum, but since that forum has (quite wisely!) rules against dragging politics into everything, it was only referenced in passing. Googling “ACK controversy” or similar didn’t yield me anything useful, either.

      Wouldn’t let it keep me from buying ACK if I wanted to buy ACK, though.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      That’s a surprise, I had the impression that he was a standard liberal.

      Adventurer Conqueror King really impressed me because it did what 3.X and Pathfinder claimed to do with one hundredth the number of sourcebooks. The game is an extremely detailed fantasy world simulator: you can determine how much wool a randomly generated barony exports by looking at the trade routes it sits on, figure out how many soldiers the baron could raise with that income, run a mass battle between that army and a tribe of ogres, then figure out how many wands of fireball the baron’s court mage could make using the enchanted skulls of the ogre casualties.

      I don’t play it often but I constantly raid it for ideas and that was well worth the cost of the books.

  13. toastengineer says:

    Let’s say I believe in the “FPGAs will be the new GPGPU” thing. How do I profit off of this? I’m not sure “invest in companies that make FPGAs” is the right thing to do because presumably NVIDIA or Google or Intel would just make their own FPGA accelerators from scratch and not buy them from someone else.

    The TL;DR is that an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) is basically a software-defined integrated circuit; you just show the FPGA chip the same kind of schematic that you’d send to the chip factory and the FPGA arranges itself to match it. It’s an array of logic gates that is programmable “in the field.” Nowadays they’re mainly used for prototyping ICs and some more specialized applications but they have some interesting advantages vs. mainstream computing hardware and some people think an FPGA accelerator will be included in every PC in ten years or so just like what happened with floating-point accelerators and GPUs. Looks like Microsoft has done some of this kind of stuff in production.

    • Brad says:

      Let’s say I believe in the “FPGAs will be the new GPGPU” thing. How do I profit off of this? I’m not sure “invest in companies that make FPGAs” is the right thing to do because presumably NVIDIA or Google or Intel would just make their own FPGA accelerators from scratch and not buy them from someone else.

      The answer may be that you can’t, but things to think about are:

      1) Even if NVIDIA et al end up making their own accelerators from scratch, if the market size explodes 1000x, might those existing manufactures be juicy takeover targets?

      2) Do any of the existing manufactures or other players in the ecosystem have defensible patents that would be expensive to work around?

      3) Speaking of ecosystems, are there players in the industry aside from the final manufactures that future manufactures are less likely to try to replicate? Things like sub-component manufacturers or tooling suppliers? For an analogy here, think about the parts of the automobile manufacturing ecosystem that would be just fine if Tesla started to displace the existing car manufacture because Tesla uses them too.

  14. Mark V Anderson says:

    There has been lots of discussion on this blog about terrible journalism, and in particular how journalism about one’s own area of expertise is always so bad. That is, journalists just don’t get complicated subjects.

    So I thought I should include a Kudo here for an article about a subject in my area of expertise that got it totally right. She talks about how General Motors is doing so well, and yet had a $5 billion loss in the 4th quarter of 2017. Her point was that even though the accounting was done correctly and the accounting rules do make sense, and yet in this case it makes sense to ignore that giant loss. She got the entire thing totally right! This was in my local paper, and I was so impressed that she understood and explained well a somewhat complicated accounting story.

    I can’t vouch for her last few paragraphs of what this means for Washington. But it is great that she got the technical part right.

    • John Schilling says:

      I read the same article when it first came out, and my response was that I’m not an accountant but I was pretty sure she got the technical part right. Glad to hear that confirmed.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Megan McCardle is one of the two journalists/pundits in the mainstream who’s worth half a damn. (The other is her Bloomberg View colleague Matt Levine, whose column Money Stuff is one of the funniest, kindest, and most interesting expositions of what would normally be deeply boring technical market microstructure and the like.)

      Megan’s work is consistently…well, let me just quote from the fan mail I sent her before I started talking about tupperware:

      On a more general note, I have a deep love for your work. You and Matt Levine are the only columnists who make my day brighter when I find you’ve posted something new; who seem utterly invested in the truth and the way things *are*, not how they *ought* to be or how your political team would like it; who make me smarter and better for reading you, not just happier about the opinions I already had. Do keep it up.

      (Oh, yeah, the tupperware. When she’s not explaining important details of technocratic leadership or defending Enlightenment values, she gets autistic-level interested in The Right Way To Cook, and sticks it into her columns. My kind of gal.)

      I’ll leave you with her version of the recent 12 rules for life meme.
      9 and 11 are the hardest for me.

      • shakeddown says:

        9 11 was hard for us all.
        …Sorry.

      • CatCube says:

        McArdle is one of the few bloggers that I follow daily. And follow in another way–I’ve been reading her since she was blogging from “Live at the WTC” and have followed her to each subsequent website. Come to think of it, I think I might have actually found this site from her.

        I used to really enjoy the comment section, but it feels like a drag now.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Megan McArdle is probably more exception to the rule here. She has a MBA from Booth (University of Chicago) and is pretty diligent, so she’s got a leg-up over other journalists.

      You’d probably like the article on student loan accounting. See here: https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-case-for-fair-value-accounting

      There’s obvious bologna like this:

      in the depths of the recession, Ohio senator Sherrod Brown proposed that the federal government buy up private student loans, convert them to federal loans, and then reduce the interest rates that borrowers pay. Lenders holding the loans would be paid face value for them — that is, the government would pay the lenders the full outstanding balance on the loans. Borrowers would receive new, better terms and repay the remainder of their loans to the Department of Education. The CBO was required under FCRA to show that this transaction would result in an immediate $9.2 billion profit to the government.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        That is a very good article, but it is not written by journalists. It is extremely complicated and could not have been written by a journalist without being a specialist in the field themselves.

        Although the article makes a very good point that government accounting does not account for risk as it would in a more precise system, the article implies in places that one cannot diversify away risk. You can diversify away some risk, as they indicate elsewhere about investment portfolios. But they are right that no one cannot diversify away ALL risk.

  15. DunnoWhatToDo says:

    Weekend, SSC. How’s it going?

    It’s been better on my end; I’m 50% over it, and 50% of me still wishes I could’ve spent Valentine’s day with her.

    I went job hunting yesterday, and I picked retail fashion jobs because those places are usually full of women and I might be able either meet or establish a good network to work with. While passing through those stores, I approached a few girls I fancied and they were all very nice, two of them even gave me a smile and told me I was awesome. They all had boyfriends, but it’s still something.

    I hope you all had equally happy days.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s OK. I bought a whiteboard and just set up a kanban for my self-proprietorship. And am doing pretty good replicating this guy’s antics on the local Catholic dating site.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Sounds like you’re doing a great job, keep at it!

      As for me, I’m doing pretty well all things considered.

      In the middle of the written portion of my qualifying exam so I’m getting essentially zero real work done, just page after page of experimental design mixed with screwing around on SSC. I’ve been away from the bench long enough working on this that I might not be able to hold a pipette properly when I get back to regular lab work.

      I started a keto diet recently and I’m more than halfway to my target weight way sooner than I expected. It turns out that while keto + resistance training has worked for me really well in the past, adding endurance training has really sped things up a lot. I’m still not noticing any of the supposed cognitive benefits but I’m definitely hungry less often then when I’m eating carbs.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Are you eating more often or less often? I’m eating kinda-sorta keto right now, avoiding carbs but not really regulating calories, eating when I’m hungry. I’m finding that I get hungry less often than when I was doing bodybuilder-style “20-30g of protein every 2-3 hours” stuff; sometimes I forget to eat.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The first two days, definitely more often. After that probably a little less often: without sugar, snacking loses a lot of it’s appeal.

          • dndnrsn says:

            So you don’t just smash a bunch of almonds or whatever? That’s my problem. I’m not really doing pure keto right now even on my diet days, though, not counting carbs or anything; and having cheat days probably screws it up. I really am going to do hardcore keto one of these days, I promise.

      • DunnoWhatToDo says:

        Sounds like you’re doing a great job, keep at it!

        Hey, thanks! I’m trying hard to do better. Maybe not enough, but still, working on it. I’m particularly working on not feeling bad about past things, because that can suck a lot of energy from me.

        I’ve been rejected to a job I really wanted today, and it just felt like.. the interviewer(/manager) seemed like a nice person, seemed like he cares about his team, and he even smiled when I told him it’ll be awesome to work here because it’s the best place in town. I truly had the enthusiasm for the job. And yet he didn’t even give me chance.

        Yeah, I’m totally aware that nobody owes me anything, and it’s not like I have any divinity to myself that I should demand sacrifice or prayers or whatever, but I’m still a little bitter because of the missed opportunity, or perhaps, more annoyingly, failure. To not even be given a chance.

        Feels a little bit like sour grapes, but part of me that insists “stop that fucking rambling already, you’re still awesome no matter if you got that job or not” also says that it wouldn’t be great to work under such a guy.

        On a positive note, I try to learn as much as possible from my failures, so next time will go better. Here’s some wholesome motivation I found.

        • sharper13 says:

          This is tougher for introverts, but have you considered asking the manager why you didn’t get the job? Something along the lines of “I was really interested in the job you had available and am wondering what I was missing so I can improve on that in the future.”

          They may not say much beyond “Someone else was better qualified/better fit”, but they may also give you some clues to help for your next attempt. Sometimes it’s just a matter of not really understanding what they’re actually looking for, which may not have been communicated very well.

    • Randy M says:

      Weekend, SSC. How’s it going?

      I have the youngest daughter to myself this weekend, as my wife is taking the other two to winter camp. We will probably go to the local dog park and then catch up with the Berenstein Bears.
      Tomorrow I expect my gaming group to meet after her bedtime, at which time many goblins will be hunted.

    • I came back Wednesday from a conference on blockchain stuff, which was interesting. I arranged one session on anonymous digital currency. There were people there from two of the projects attempting to produce one, and the one thing they both agreed on was that it was impossible–that you could make it hard for someone observing the network to know who was giving how much money to whom, but that there was no way of preventing someone willing to spend enough effort and enough time watching from figuring it out.

      • albatross11 says:

        David:

        There are techniques for getting anonymous payments to work against an attacker who just sees the messages going back and forth. I think Zcash and maybe Monero use these techniques. (I haven’t looked much at Monero.)

        So I’m assuming the issue they’re raising comes down to the difficulty of anonymous communications and not leaking information. That is, I can see that you talk to the network at the same time as someone buys drugs from me a few times, so I eventually figure out who you are even though there’s nothing in the actual payment protocol leaking information. Is that right, or am I missing something?

      • hyperboloid says:

        Which privacy coins are we talking about? Because I would argue that zk-SNARK based coins like Zcash have incredibly strong anonymity; the sort of thing that would be very resistant to even a large state actor such as the NSA.

        The magic of zero knowledge proofs means that for any given shielded transaction the blockchain contains no unencrypted information about the senders, receivers, or amount transfered (though it does contain a time stamp).

        Even If you spend the time to make fundamental progress in paring based elliptic curve cryptography, or go as far as building a quantum computer, then all you would be able to do is forge tokens, and not deanonymize transaction on the blockchain.

        Now a chain is only as good as it’s weakest link, and your cryptocurrency wallet is running on an actual system somewhere, and communicating across a network, both of of which can leak information if not properly set up, so it is still vulnerable to some kinds of side-channel attacks. But the same thing can be said of giving somebody a envelope full of cash in a back alley.

      • toastengineer says:

        I mean, at the end of the day money is going to disappear from one bank account and appear in another one. That’s the sort of thing the NSA is built to watch in the first place, that’s how they get you when you’re using Tor. Sure the black box is perfectly impenetrable, but that doesn’t matter when you can just watch all the ways in and out.

    • James says:

      I’m OK. I had a slow and unfocused week at work, for reasons I’m not quite sure of, but probably have something to do with being given a new chunk of work and for some reason feeling a bit demoralised by it. I don’t feel very good about that. But now it’s the weekend and I can clock a few more hours on work that really matters!

    • AG says:

      I booked tickets to see a Japanese idol group in Paris, resulting in a parent literally saying “you should be ashamed of yourself” to me about it, because somehow I was “forcing” them to vacation with me afterwards instead of whatever location they wanted, even though it’s only because they thought that doing a weekend trip to Paris would be too much of a waste.

      I hung up on them. Went back to planning the first part of the trip with my friends, and we might snag a press interview with said idol group. Plan to do some more solo hiking this weekend, as well as attending a musical livewatch online. Will get to collaborate on arranging/playing a short percussion trio piece for my community orchestra.

    • Muro says:

      Weekend, SSC. How’s it going?

      These past few months I’ve been feeling very disoriented. It’s no exaggeration to say I’ve felt better and worse than ever before.

      Now that it’s February I can see that I have also been growing up. I am more mature, audacious, social and confident. Furthermore, my values are aligning with my emotions and actions on an unprecedented scale.

      This week (month?) I have been very unhappy, but inside I feel myself gaining strength and will.

      My weekend’s fine, thank you. Good luck in your quest to mate with a high-status female.

    • Loquat says:

      I should really spend some time planning my home office setup, because my employer is, among other things, vacating my entire office building and switching us all to work from home. No word yet on what to do if some client refuses to enter the digital age and insists on sending necessary documents in hard copy via the US postal service. I have very mixed feelings about the whole thing – it’ll be nice to be able to go to my own kitchen for lunch, or go water my garden on my break, but I’ll miss interacting with coworkers and it’s actually not a reduction in commute since I live close to the office and still have to leave the house to take my one-year-old to daycare anyway (spouse can’t do it, his work schedule is too weird).

      But I’m probably just going to avoid that and hang out with the kid instead.

      • CatCube says:

        That’d drive me absolutely bonkers. I can’t get into a “work” headspace at home, and I’d end up putting about a half hour in per day after a couple of months.

        • Aapje says:

          There are some tricks:
          – Set up a dedicated room for work and only work in that room.
          – Do actually work in that room.
          – Don’t insist on doing 8 hours of actual work, but instead try to get your task load/planning done and then give yourself the rest of the day off
          – Mimic a commute, to get into and out of the work headspace (can just be a long walk)

        • Matt M says:

          I’ve actually found that working from home makes me more efficient, because I get an attitude of “as soon as I get this done I can start playing video games or do whatever it is I’d prefer to do with my free time” whereas, when at work, the attitude is more “I have to be here for eight hours anyway, might as well stretch this two hour task out to take all day…”

        • Loquat says:

          I actually expect to have a fairly easy time getting into “work” headspace, though I won’t have the option to finish fast and knock off early; I work in a call center, so I have to be logged in for my whole defined shift and having someone talking to me on the phone tends to hold my attention. I’m just glad I don’t have any noisy dogs to bark inconveniently in the background.

          • Aapje says:

            I once developed call center software that was designed around allowing people to easily use it from anywhere. The idea was not so much to save on office space, but to allow people to work who otherwise couldn’t, like handicapped people and people who have to do care for someone. The head of the company was a rather idealistic person (fun fact: he played the role of Big Bird in the Dutch version of Sesame Street in his youth).

            It actually was the most fun and challenging job I ever did, because of the complex design. There was lots of concurrency, since call center workers would work for multiple inbound and outbound projects*, so it was not so easy to see who was available to handle a call (mixing outbound and inbound calls gave workers something to do during the times where few people called the help desk). The outbound calls were automated, where only those who picked up the phone were actually connected to workers who were not yet engaged. This allows for far higher efficiency (since many people don’t pick up their phone), but it means that when someone does pick up their phone, it is very similar to an inbound call, where the system has to scramble to find a worker to handle the call.

            * Calling people to sell them stuff and such

    • DunnoWhatToDo says:

      Disappointment: got rejected to a job I really really wanted. Could’ve made some good connections there; I’m really weak on my social connections area, and I feel like if I was better in that area I could’ve gotten that job, or maybe even something better.

      Any suggestions for improving on that? I’m “weak” in a sense that I have a few people I know but not much social media presence. I’d really like to get a better social circle but I don’t know how to.

      • bean says:

        Any suggestions for improving on that? I’m “weak” in a sense that I have a few people I know but not much social media presence. I’d really like to get a better social circle but I don’t know how to.

        My solution has involved finding friends at church, but that may be problematic depending on your religious beliefs.

        • DunnoWhatToDo says:

          Not likely; I’ve had bad experiences with religion. But I suppose a generalized version of “common interest” would be good advice.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Take up a hobby with both an individual and a social component, where there’s individual development so you aren’t completely dependent on others, but where you have to socialize. Something with a physical component is good too because then you’re killing more birds with one stone. I’d recommend Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but I always do – it turns out sweating on other people while smushing them into the ground/vice versa is a great way to make friends! Or, another martial art, or rock climbing, or powerlifting, or something like that.

        • DunnoWhatToDo says:

          I already lift weights in the gym, and I’ve been thinking of looking for people who might be interested in that and doing it together.

          I’ll take up your offer and generalize it to other stuff as well and break out of my “do it alone” mindset.

        • Whereas my recommendation, on a similar basis, would be the SCA–historical recreation. You can fight people with sword and shield, dance, or stay at home trying to research medieval recipes or write poetry on medieval topics or …

  16. Deiseach says:

    For some light amusement on this weekend, let me bring you back to the 70s and the hey-day of Celtic Rock.

    But first let me explain why I want to bring you back to the 70s. Recently, there was a conference in Dublin about Irexit, since Brexit is going so well, and the organisers invited Nigel Farrage to come give a talk to any like-minded Irish who might want to scrap the EU (editorial comment: and return to the loving maternal embrace of the great British Empire, the toadying shower of West Brits).

    Well, for a good rabble-rousing atmosphere, you need a bangin’ choon, right? Bonus points if it’s one with Irish connections. Unfortunately, they never bothered asking permission to use it, and the band aren’t any too happy about that:

    Some of you may have spotted that the saddos in the Eirexit conference had the feckin’ temerity to use Dearg Doom as a soundtrack and to show the image of the album cover on the big screen.

    Needless to say, they didn’t ask us.

    If they had, we’d have pointed out that we wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire – which they’re unlikely to be, anytime soon. Five hundred damp, self regarding eejits being patronised by the Crazy Frog lookalike Nigel Farage isn’t going to set the heather blazing in the near future.

    Horslips stood for a hopeful, outward looking, inclusive vision of Ireland with plenty of drink and a Blue Range Rover.

    This lot stand for a diminished, fearful, xenophobic state. Little Irelanders.

    Checking out whether we can do them for copyright infringement.

    We’ll keep you posted. Feel free to share.

    And what pray tell is Dearg Doom, you ask? Well, come with me to the heady days of 1973 when the style in this video was the height of fashionability!

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      BRB, creating Irish supervillain Dearg Doom.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Is this a reasonable complaint for them to make? I don’t have any stakes in Irexit, this is a legitimate question.

      I’ve heard of this happening fairly often during the 2016 presidential campaign, where Trump would play someone’s music at one of his rallies or a deplorable would make a pro-Trump meme with musical accompaniment and the musicians would complain that the use of their music goes against their artistic intent.

      On the one hand, I can understand why musicians would be upset. If you believe that your music is “making a difference,” seeing the opposition use it is a punch in the gut. On the other hand, once you put it up on your YouTube channel it’s a bit silly to expect that everyone who plays it is going to be doing something that you approve of.

      • DeWitt says:

        I think this was a thing with Reagan as well, who caught some flak from Bruce Springsteen after the former used Born in the USA as part of some pro-war material.

        • Matt M says:

          This happened with pretty much every Republican Presidential candidate ever.

        • skef says:

          This is a slightly different issue, though. The lyrics of “Born in the USA” aren’t particularly subtle and it must be really annoying when people either blatantly misinterpret your song or just not care about what it says.

          • John Schilling says:

            It’s a peppy song whose refrain is unabashedly patriotic, and what sort of unhip square pays attention to lyrics? It’s not like they are going to stop their pep rally long enough for anyone to listen to the whole song, just play a few feel-good lines and then fade to an instrumental opening for the real star of the show.

            See also Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”, about domestic violence leading to a murder-suicide, co-opted by both Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity.

          • rmtodd says:

            Perhaps if Mr. Springsteen is upset about people misinterpreting his lyrics he should have hired someone who can actually sing understandably to sing them instead of trying to do the job himself.

      • Brad says:

        I have no idea what Irish copyright law is, but in the US the default rule is that you can’t play a song publicly without a license, with the wrinkle that certain kinds of public performances are subject to compulsory licenses.

      • Deiseach says:

        I think part of it is that Dearg Doom comes from a concept album (remember those, fellow kids?) about the Táin, which is an Irish (probably) Iron Age epic, and the Irexit bunch invited in Nigel Farage who is UKIP and representing the point of view pining for the glory days of the British Empire, who were our Former Colonial Oppressors, so treading on a few historical/political toes there 🙂

        Particularly after the showing the Tories made in the past couple of months pooh-poohing Irish government concerns over the border with the North of Ireland, and politicians and others going on British TV showing their pure ignorance of the fact that the Republic of Ireland is an independent state now and they don’t own us anymore and cannot, in fact, tell us to shut up and do what our betters tell us.

        • johansenindustries says:

          If the UK Prime Minister started demanding that the Irish bend to her every wi.ll or she would start funding and supporting a terroristic bombing campaign again Ireland (sorry declared that there was a nice country you had there and it sure would be a pity if it started getting blown-up which unfortunately might happen if you don’t bow to her every whim) and the Irish PM objected; would that be evidence of the Irish think they own the UK?

          I think you can tell a lot about a peoples by their willingness to whine “you don’t own me”, rather than deal on the issue by the actual relevant facts.

          (And indeed the whole reason that Irexit is desired is that you are still owned are still just doing what your betters tell you. Just not your best betters.)

          • Deiseach says:

            If the UK Prime Minister started demanding that the Irish bend to her every will or she would start funding and supporting a terroristic bombing campaign again Ireland (sorry declared that there was a nice country you had there and it sure would be a pity if it started getting blown-up which unfortunately might happen if you don’t bow to her every whim)

            From Winston Churchill’s Victory in Europe Day speech:

            The sense of envelopment, which might at any moment turn to strangulation, lay heavy upon us. We had only the northwestern approach between Ulster and Scotland through which to bring in the means of life and to send out the forces of war. Owing to the action of Mr. de Valera, so much at variance with the temper and instinct of thousands of southern Irishmen, who hastened to the battlefront to prove their ancient valor, the approaches which the southern Irish ports and airfields could so easily have guarded were closed by the hostile aircraft and U-boats.

            This was indeed a deadly moment in our life, and if it had not been for the loyalty and friendship of Northern Ireland we should have been forced to come to close quarters with Mr. de Valera or perish forever from the earth. However, with a restraint and poise to which, I say, history will find few parallels, we never laid a violent hand upon them, which at times would have been quite easy and quite natural, and left the de Valera Government to frolic with the German and later with the Japanese representatives to their heart’s content.

            Yes, it has always been “quite easy and quite natural” for the British to lay violent hands upon the Irish.

            From Eamonn de Valera’s speech in response:

            Mr. Churchill makes it clear that, in certain circumstances, he would have violated our neutrality and that he would justify his action by Britain’s necessity. It seems strange to me that Mr. Churchill does not see that this, if accepted, would mean Britain’s necessity would become a moral code and that when this necessity became sufficiently great, other people’s rights were not to count.

            It is quite true that other great Powers believe in this same code – in their own regard – and have behaved in accordance with it. That is precisely why we have the disastrous succession of wars – World War number one and World War number two – and shall it be World War number three?

            Surely Mr. Churchill must see that if his contention be admitted in our regard, a like justification can be framed for similar acts of aggression elsewhere and no small nation adjoining a great Power could ever hope to be permitted to go it own way in peace.

            …That Mr. Churchill should be irritated when our neutrality stood in the way of what he thought he vitally needed, I understand, but that he or any thinking person in Britain or elsewhere should fail to see the reason for our neutrality, I find it hard to conceive.

            I would like to put a hypothetical question – it is a question I have put to many Englishmen since the last war. Suppose Germany had won the war, had invaded and occupied England, and that after a long lapse of time and many bitter struggles, she was finally brought to acquiesce in admitting England’s right to freedom, and let England go, but not the whole of England, all but, let us say, the six southern counties.

            These six southern counties, those, let us suppose, commanding the entrance to the narrow seas, Germany had singled out and insisted on holding herself with a view to weakening England as a whole, and maintaining the securing of her own communications through the Straits of Dover.

            Let us suppose further, that after all this had happened, Germany was engaged in a great war in which she could show that she was on the side of freedom of a number of small nations, would Mr. Churchill as an Englishman who believed that his own nation had as good a right to freedom as any other, not freedom for a part merely, but freedom for the whole – -would he, whilst Germany still maintained the partition of his country and occupied six counties of it, would he lead this partitioned England to join with Germany in a crusade? I do not think Mr. Churchill would.

            Would he think the people of partitioned England an object of shame if they stood neutral in such circumstances? I do not think Mr. Churchill would.

            Mr. Churchill is proud of Britain’s stand alone, after France had fallen and before America entered the War.

            Could he not find in his heart the generosity to acknowledge that there is a small nation that stood alone not for one year or two, but for several hundred years against aggression; that endured spoliations, famines, massacres in endless succession; that was clubbed many times into insensibility, but that each time on returning consciousness took up the fight anew; a small nation that could never be got to accept defeat and has never surrendered her soul?

            Let Britain go where it will, but we are not obligated to follow behind like a dog on a leash.

          • johansenindustries says:

            If my nation had been neutral towards the Nazis, I’d be far less proud of it than you. If they had mantained that neutrality after Germany’s defeat and the horrors of the concentration camps were becoming known, then I’d be thoroughly ashamed.

            Petty much nobody cares whether Ireland is in or out of the EU. But if you bring up the Troubles in a veiled threat just to get more cash from from us then your ‘independent’ nation can just shut up.

            (Also, the ‘Irish’ are no less invaders than the Ulstermen are. The Ulstermen have been there for hundreds of years. The ‘Irish’ a few hundred more.)

          • Mark says:

            Would it have been better if they had declared war after Germany was defeated?

            I think that neutrality would probably have been better for Britain and France.
            I guess the only way it could have been worse is if we ultimately ended up with a Soviet occupation of West Germany/Austria/Italy.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Mark

            No, it would not have been better if Ireland declared war after the defeat of Nazi Germany. But mantaining their equivalancy afer the war is proof that any sort of real politicks of self-interest excuse for not opposing the Nazis aren’t true (they still would not oppose the Nazis even at the point where the Nazis posed no threat) and that in fact the ‘Irish’ were proto-Nazis kept from proto-Naziing by their closeness to the UK (that’s the way the self-interested real-politicks go).

            It is genuinely stunning to me that Deiseach has such mild opposition to the crimes of Nazi Germany that she would consider the fact that Britain would be willing to violate RoI’s neutrality to defeat the Nazis not only a terrible act, but such a terrible act that it justifies vile, vulgar money-grubbing threats by the Irish premier 70 years later.

          • Mark says:

            Meh – I would be suspicious of grand “ethical” foreign policy at the expense of local independence too.

            Tends to be bad. If British and French declaration of war was an example of ethical foreign policy, it failed. Absolutely failed. So, can’t really blame the Irish for being smarter.

            Also, have to wonder how big a threat Irish nationalists without a nation, calling for an end to nations, can really be, in the long term. Bit like the Scots nationalists – seems to be mainly based on prejudice.
            Maybe European nationalism is the real threat.

          • Deiseach says:

            If my nation had been neutral towards the Nazis, I’d be far less proud of it than you.

            You know what? I am extremely proud that my nation was neutral towards the Germans, and the Japanese, and the Russians, and to all sides in any kind of conflicts that went on in the past fifty years.

            Because we don’t have to be like the English (the most recent movie about “Weren’t we great during the war?” has just come out to help them keep pretending they aren’t the Americans’ bitches, I really think they’ve made more films post-war about ‘yay us!’ than were actually made during the war itself) and sometimes countries trust us to be neutral intermediaries and mediators because we weren’t tied in with NATO or anyone else, and because of our history as a small country that was under a global colonial power.

            And because when you’re in the aftermath of a fight – like the Cold War -when former allies are getting ready to slip the dagger into one another’s backs, and when you come to the negotiating table and both sides have a long list of grievances against the other, then you need somebody who can say “Guys, I’ll treat you both fairly”.

            When there’s something like the Rwandan situation, who is the impartial judge there? National courts made up of the very tribespeople who have just been trying to slaughter each other? International bodies with the Western bodies that were your former colonial overlords and maintained close ties with one side in the conflict?

            I’m proud of the Irish record as part of UN peacekeeping forces, because we were regarded as not part of any side. I’m also very cynical about “you were neutral towards the Nazis” argument, because the British never mention (as Mr Churchill fails to mention) the other neutral states – Andorra, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland/Liechtenstein – when they bring up this argument. It’s never “oh those untrustworthy Swedes, oh those cowardly Liechtensteiners” , but it’s this hurt tone of “Why didn’t you join in with us during the war?”

            Because eight hundred years of past experience taught us not to fucking trust the colour of daylight from your lying mouths, is why. And no English or Anglophile or West Brit crypto-unionist sympathiser is going to change my mind on this one. You tell me what the difference between “Austria is naturally part of our sphere of influence” and “If we feel like it, we can roll our tanks over the border and overthrow your government, Ireland” is? Oh, one side is doing all this illegally and is a nasty bad dictator, and the others are nice good bringers of enlightenment? Yeah, nothing self-interested there!

          • bean says:

            @Deiseach
            Neutrality didn’t help Belgium, Denmark, or the Netherlands. I don’t think Hitler would have hesitated to invade Ireland if he’d been able to, and he wasn’t only because the British stopped him. And then there’s the petty stuff, like de Valera’s sending condolences on the death of Hitler, but not doing the same for Roosevelt. And Hitler, not Roosevelt, was the one who was sinking neutral shipping left and right. I’ll grant that there was some tacit cooperation, most notably the Donegal Corridor, but Ireland’s position was vastly different from that of Sweden or Switzerland.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @Deiseach

            Of course, since the Irish ained independence it has only been the Irish that have actually made efforts and plans for the invasion of our nation rather than the other way round.

            On the subject of poodlism, I do not think it is quite true – although I wouldn’t mid if it was – we wanted Iraw earlier/more, we wanted Libya more and we didn’t want Syria (and it wasn’t gotten)

            We’re probably equally aware of the issues around the Nazi attempted conquest of Europe, so if you think that it is Britain who was the bad guy in that being forced to make more films in the last seventy years about our action in than in the five years of the war, then I highly doubt I’d be able to convince you otherwise.

            @Mark

            I doubt I’l be able to convince you of the righteousness of defeating the Nazis. However, I do think there’s complete difference between Scottish nationalists and Irish nationalists even if they do share the same motives. Irish nationalists without a nation are probably more dangerous that islamists without a caliphate. It simply is not something with which one wants to deal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Neutrality didn’t help Belgium, Denmark, or the Netherlands.

            True, but fighting back actively hurt them. Denmark offered only token resistance to the initial invasion, and suffered only very limited damage. The Netherlands fought on until Rotterdam was flattened, and, well, Rotterdam was flattened. And a BEF in Holland would likely have faired no better than one in France but offered more opportunities for collateral damage. On purely pragmatic grounds, Denmark’s policy probably ensured the least harm to Denmark and Holland could probably have surrendered a day sooner. And in the exceedingly unlikely hypothetical where the British Isles are going to fall to German invasion, Ireland’s pragmatic best bet might be to note that there are lots of Irish in e.g. Boston and the Third Reich could benefit from a Switzerland on the Sea to launder their trade with the Americas.

            On moral grounds, I am only somewhat sympathetic to the argument that literally every human has an obligation to punch Nazis, even if they are literal Nazis. I am inclined to give a pass to people whose only way to effectively fight Nazis is to form an alliance with people whose bloodstained hands have in living memory done them more harm than literal Nazis ever did. See also Finland.

            And the bit where England needs Irish bases to cover sea lanes that are vital to England’s survival, was not exactly an unknowable surprise. If you need someone to cover your back in time of war, maybe it’s on you to treat them as an ally before the war starts.

          • PedroS says:

            Has the Irish prime minister acted that way? If so, please provide a source. If not, what is the relevance of your counter-factual?
            Regarding your parenthetic remark, is Irexit desired by any visible fraction of the Irish?

          • PedroS says:

            Although no visit of condolences was paid to the American legation when Roosevelt died, de Valera did pay a public tribute to Roosevelt’s memory.

            https://www.irishexaminer.com/viewpoints/analysis/eacuteamon-de-valeras-moving-tribute-to-franklin-roosevelt-that-surprised-critics-323525.html

          • johansenindustries says:

            @PedroS

            It is desired in sufficient numbers as to have a conference that played music that caused a band to respond in such a way that caused Deisach to post about it.

            For the Irish PM bringing up the GFA with the implicit threat of reneging it if Britain continues to act in such a way that RoI disaproves of: https://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/taoiseach-warns-theresa-dup-deal-10605242

            (Nobody can seriously think he’s suggesting that the Good Friday Fairy will magic away the Good Friday Agreement away. The only way it can harm the GFA is if RoI decides to start funding and gunrunning for the IRA again.)

            (I’m aware that they’ve recently got a new one, but he’s far from taken back his predecesor’s words.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I am inclined to give a pass to people whose only way to effectively fight Nazis is to form an alliance with people whose bloodstained hands have in living memory done them more harm than literal Nazis ever did.

            I don’t think that British rule in Ireland was ever even remotely comparable with the Nazis, and it certainly wasn’t during any period which someone alive in WW2 would remember.

            (Unless you’re trying to argue that, since the literal Nazis hadn’t gotten around to attacking Ireland yet, even a small amount of British harm would count as more than the Nazis did. But that seems like a very solipsistic and short-sighted way of looking at things to me.)

          • because the British never mention (as Mr Churchill fails to mention) the other neutral states – Andorra, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland/Liechtenstein – when they bring up this argument.

            “Never mention” is a high bar. My memory of Churchill’s history of WWII is that he was sufficiently unhappy about Swedish neutrality to argue for military action to block the transport of Swedish iron to Germany. Spain was expected before the war, at least by Orwell and I gather by a lot of other people, to ally with Germany and Italy and permit an attack on Gibralter, so its “neutrality” (there was a unit of Spanish volunteers fighting on the Nazi side) was an improvement over expectations.

            Portugal was “neutral” with British permission and in fact tilted towards Britain, retaining the ancient alliance.

            The British Ambassador in Lisbon, Ronald Campbell, saw Salazar as fundamentally loyal to the Alliance and stated that “he [Salazar] would answer the call if it were made on grounds of dire necessity”. When, in August 1943, the British requested base facilities in the Azores and invoked the alliance that had existed for over 600 years between Portugal and Great Britain,[8] Salazar responded favorably and virtually at once:[9] Portugal granted naval bases on Portuguese territory to Britain, in keeping with the traditional Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, letting them use the Azorean ports of Horta (on the island of Faial) and Ponta Delgada (on the island of São Miguel), and the airfields of Lajes Field (on Terceira Island) and Santana Field (on São Miguel Island).[10]

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think that British rule in Ireland was ever even remotely comparable with the Nazis,

            What harm did the Nazis ever do to the Irish, ever?

            Your proposed standard justifies every harm except the one worst harm in the world, by allowing an offender to do grievous injury to his victim and say “You must now set aside your grievance and join me in battle against the Very Worst Harm or you, yes you, are evil”. Pick the right Worst Harm, and the right strategy against them, and you can get away with anything.

            Examples left as an exercise for the student.

          • bean says:

            True, but fighting back actively hurt them.

            And if the British and French had remained neutral when Poland was invaded, they might not have gotten hurt either.

            Denmark offered only token resistance to the initial invasion, and suffered only very limited damage.

            Denmark was in a position where they were going to lose and everybody knew it. I’m not attempting to criticize them, just pointing out that Hitler didn’t have any inherent respect for neutrality.

            The Netherlands fought on until Rotterdam was flattened, and, well, Rotterdam was flattened. And a BEF in Holland would likely have faired no better than one in France but offered more opportunities for collateral damage.

            It was considerably more complicated than that. Lots of cities got flattened during the war, and if the Germans hadn’t gotten very lucky in bypassing the Water Line, and if the French C2 had been even slightly less awful, things might have been very, very different.

            And in the exceedingly unlikely hypothetical where the British Isles are going to fall to German invasion, Ireland’s pragmatic best bet might be to note that there are lots of Irish in e.g. Boston and the Third Reich could benefit from a Switzerland on the Sea to launder their trade with the Americas.

            Yes, a bet on Hitler’s reason and good sense. This can’t possibly go wrong.

            In a lot of ways, my biggest problem is the bit where de Valera continued to pretend that Hitler was just like any other Head of State when they were finding the camps. Pretty much everybody else who stayed neutral had some realpolitik reason to do so. Sweden and Switzerland both had the Germans on their frontiers. Spain staying neutral was a swing in favor of the allies. Who knows what Portugal coming in might have done, but they were on the continent. And I’ll even grant that allying with the English would have been a hard sell. But refusing to extend condolences over Hitler’s death when the Russians are in Berlin is the easiest thing in the world to do, and the Irish didn’t do it.

          • Aapje says:

            Neutrality is actually not so easy. You need to convince both sides that they would be better off leaving you alone, which is best done by giving each side a little something something that the other side either doesn’t know about, underestimates and/or cares less about. When they both feel they got the better deal, you are safest.

            As for Dutch and Belgian neutrality: there was little other option when living in the armpit of The Hulk. Both countries can best be seen as buffer zones that gave the French a little warning, not as a viable place to mount a lasting defense. It would make even less sense to spearhead an attack.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What harm did the Nazis ever do to the Irish, ever?

            Were the Nazis ever in a position to do the Irish any harm? If every country adopted this viewpoint, there would be absolutely nothing to stop Hitler picking off the nations of Europe one by one.

            Your proposed standard justifies every harm except the one worst harm in the world, by allowing an offender to do grievous injury to his victim and say “You must now set aside your grievance and join me in battle against the Very Worst Harm or you, yes you, are evil”. Pick the right Worst Harm, and the right strategy against them, and you can get away with anything.

            I don’t actually think the Irish were obliged to fight the Nazis; I’m just annoyed at the sort of chest-thumping Anglophobia that leads to people proclaiming themselves “extremely proud” that their country was the only English-speaking nation not to oppose two of the most evil regimes in twentieth-century history. The Irish have every right to wallow in centuries-old grievances about Mean Old Oliver Cromwell and his Nasty Roundheads, and I have every right to tell them to Get The Fuck Over Themselves and Stop Whining.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Particularly after the showing the Tories made in the past couple of months pooh-poohing Irish government concerns over the border with the North of Ireland, and politicians and others going on British TV showing their pure ignorance of the fact that the Republic of Ireland is an independent state now and they don’t own us anymore and cannot, in fact, tell us to shut up and do what our betters tell us.

          I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to call bullshit on this, for two reasons. First of all, one of the things about independent countries is that they sometimes choose to put up border controls on their borders with other nations. If you lot are going to thump your chests and insist that you’re a free, independent nation and no Brit is gonna tell you what to do, that’s fine, but you have to accept the downsides of independence as well as the upsides, not start whining about foreign bullying when the former colonial overlords start treating you like a foreign country. Secondly, Ireland is to all appearances a contented member of the EU. If your country wants to avoid being London’s bitch by becoming Brussels’ bitch instead, that’s your prerogative, but don’t kid yourselves into thinking that you’re now independent just because you’ve chosen a new master for yourselves.

          • PedroS says:

            “First of all, one of the things about independent countries is that they sometimes choose to put up border controls on their borders with other nations.”

            From the little I have read, I get the impression that the problem of Irish authorities is not that: it is that the ease of travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland comes from a bi-national agreement which predates both countries’ entry in the EU (then called EEC). As such, UK leaving the EU should not (in their view) void the previous agreement. However, since Ireland remains in the EU that border is also an external border of the EU, and it is not clear how to cut that Gordian knot without (on the one hand) allowing one member of a bi-national agreement to renege it without consequences (if a hard border between UK and Ireland is placed) or maintaining an effectively open external border of the EU. If my understanding of the issue is correct, it is not immediately evident that the Irish government is being unresonable: I would say, rather, that the British proponents of Brexit had plenty of time to realize that the Common Travel Area agreements presented a conundrum.

            I don’t know how the situation is solved regarding the Channel Islands (which are part of the Common Travel Are but not the EU), although I guess thing are easier to manage there due to the inexistence of a land border there and the much smaller population, but maybe the Irish could look there to find some hints to solve it.

          • johansenindustries says:

            @PedroS

            The British government does not want to impose a hard border. If the RoI government doesn’t either, then voila problem solved!

            What is the conundrum that the Irish need to solve?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            What is the conundrum that the Irish need to solve?

            The conundrum is that Ireland’s new masters in Brussels want to impose punishing tariffs on the UK to discourage other nations from leaving, and an open border between the UK and Ireland would make this impossible. At the same time, they don’t want to openly impose a hard border, because they know that would be unpopular with the Irish. So, they’re trying to make out that imposing a hard border is some sort of obligation of Brexit instead of an entirely manufactured requirement imposed out of spite, because that way they get to blame the small-minded xenophobic Brexiteers; and Theresa May is going along with this idea, because she’s an incompetent negotiator with less spine than a jellyfish.

  17. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    There are a lot more people at our office than I expected. Was expecting 10 on our floor, max…currently about 25 (still like /16 of the normal people).

    Still somewhat frustrated that the company didn’t just let everyone work from home, especially since literally everyone has a laptop….well, except for the janitors and such, I guess.

    • Randy M says:

      Now I’m imagining a world of robotics advanced enough to telecommute by controlling a robot to mop the floors, but not enough to automate the task.
      Though, in such a world, why are the floors dirty?
      Wait, why is there an office?

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        we need an office no matter what! How else can we tell that the robot-using janitors are really working?

      • Deiseach says:

        Wait, why is there an office?

        If you do not have a honking big lump of contemporary architecture cluttering up the skyline and getting faintly rude nicknames from the populace, how on earth will your peers and investors know you are a genuine Big Commercial Concern with enough spare cash sloshing around to blow on vanity projects*? 😀

        *Though the original owners sold it off after about two years, trousering a neat £300 million profit over the cost of building it – those Swiss gnomes are indeed canny with their cash!

  18. meh says:

    help, I can’t post

    • Brad says:

      performative contradiction

      More seriously, if you having trouble posting a long post the two main things to consider are:
      1) The spam filter, which doesn’t like a lot of links.
      2) The banned word list. It’s not publicly available but think things like N R X & H B D. Any post in which they appear won’t post.

  19. Thegnskald says:

    So, some thoughts on FISA…

    If we are going to fix this program, we have three major points to consider. First, the validity of the need for internal counterespionage efforts. Second, the need for checks and balances. Third, the opposing interests of security and transparency. And fourth, the infringement on liberty natural to such a process.

    First, I will take it as a given that we do need some sort of legal mechanism of engaging in counterespionage. So, given that counterespionage needs to happen, the validity of the broad strokes of FISA look obvious, if not the precise implementation.

    The lack of genuine checks and balances is concerning, and to that end, instead of the chief justice assigning all of the judges, each member of the Supreme Court should be a member of the Court, with the right to assign a single proxy to act on their behalf.

    Penultimately, transparency and security. First, it seems obvious that counterespionage requires secrecy; however, it likewise seems obvious that Democracy can’t function in the dark. So, all data recovered from a FISA warrant must be anonymized and made public ten years after it’s collection, with a process to extend this deadline for five years for specific data pertinent to specific ongoing investigations.

    And, ultimately, liberty. This is the hanging point: The use of FISA to acquire data then provided to local police department to use parallel construction to build a criminal case is just an elaborate run-around of the Constitution. So parallel construction must be made illegal, and the provision of data for the purpose of parallel construction must be made illegal, with strong whistle-blower laws. If FISA is for counter-espionage, it must not become just another tool for government to lean upon for ordinary crime. Likewise, in the event of a non-whistleblowing leak, everybody who had access to the data leaked is immediately fired. Gives some incentive to firewall their data.

    Any other thoughts?

    • albatross11 says:

      The biggest problem with any reform is an institutional trust one. We’ve had several times in the war on terror where some part of the government broke the written law, was caught, and faced zero consequences. That makes it very hard to trust any legal or procedural guarantees that these surveillance powers won’t be abused–it’s pretty obvious that if they are abused, and there’s a New York Times front page story detailing the abuse, the only person at risk for going to jail will be the whistleblower whose leaks led to the story.

      This makes me, personally, a lot more inclined toward the “burn it all down” approach. A well-run, limited domestic surveillance apparatus used to protect us from terrorist attack and infiltration by foreign spies is probably a lot better than no such apparatus, but no apparatus is better than an above-the-law domestic surveillance apparatus that even the oversight committees are unable to seriously investigate.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I agree, but it is a fully general issue, not one limited to FISA; theoretically the media is supposed to fulfill this role (as ultimately our government is only as functional as our democratic institutions), but in practice, the media doesn’t function in this regard (owing to it’s own practices of burning down institutional trust, in part, and also because the media has a vested interest in keeping the powers that be satisfied).

        The question, supposing counter-espionage is a necessity, is how to make it not-terrible. I think a mandatory firing of all personnel in the event of a leak – whether for the purposes of parallel construction or political sniping – is a useful start, and has the bonus of “If classified information about this program is released by a conscientious objector, everybody gets fired”. (Intended consequence, institutional norms against shit that somebody would find horrible enough to want to leak. Possible unintended consequences, there might be strong institutional norms against hiring ethical people in the first place. I feel the unintended consequence can be balanced through other means.)

        • albatross11 says:

          I think a major factor in the media’s ineffectiveness here is that most media sources are losing money, closing bureaus, etc. Another factor is that long-term, even the big news players may not be able to survive, which makes them less scary to stomp on/piss off/etc.

          • Thegnskald says:

            They have never been effective at it. Amazingly, the media as a whole is probably more effective today than it was thirty years ago, when it was still common practice to report whatever the government told them to report.

  20. skef says:

    Controls Freak:

    Nothing on the Nunes memo? Isn’t this your beat?

    • Vermillion says:

      He talks about it a lot downthread of here.

    • Controls Freak says:

      There was a lot of discussion in the main thread, and it went in a lot of different directions that I don’t think are particularly on point or interesting.

      I linked another release from Senate Judiciary Republicans here, which is a bit more specific in places, but it’s still difficult to say much without the Democrats’ counter-memo or the underlying documents. My personal opinion is that it’s probably nothing. Of course, my personal opinion is that the Russia collusion thing is probably nothing, also. I could be wrong on either or both. I think each issue has pointed out a plausible storyline that is really problematic, but they’re both smack dab in the middle of a hell of a lot of other, completely innocuous plausible storylines. We have no smoking gun yet for either.

      As I mentioned above, the storyline that they’re trying to push is that FBI relied heavily (nearly solely) on a political document which they knew to be false in order to get the Carter Page FISA warrant. If this is true, it would be very problematic. Counter claims are that it wasn’t relied upon as much as claimed or that the information was corroborated or otherwise good.

      Furthermore, as folks like Iain point out, Page was already apparently out of the campaign by this time, so the story that they were doing this to surveil the campaign is likely a bit of a stretch (modulo some reporting I’ve seen that they submitted a FISA application in the summer that was rejected). If this is the case, then the best that they can hope for depends a lot on what information was actually gleaned by the surveillance. People on both sides want to focus on “the investigation (writ large)”. Folks on the right want this to be the original sin; folks on the left want to say “the investigation” started with Papadopoulos. Neither talking point matters all that much. What matters is that if the Page warrant is tainted, then the specific information gleaned by it may be tainted by the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine… but only to whatever extent this concept could be applied in a counterintelligence investigation and possible impeachment proceedings.

      This is suddenly weird. Fruit of the poisonous tree comes up less often in COINT, because oftentimes, the targets are folks without 4A protections, and moreover, these investigations tend to not result in criminal prosecutions (of course, we care more in the cases where these factors go the other way). Impeachment proceedings are entirely their own beast. It’s going to be an extremely difficult question if we get there. Investigatory misconduct is bad, and we have decided to let guilty people walk free in those cases, because, uh, what else is a better way to discourage it? …but if a guilty person is leading? Yeah, we definitely don’t want to encourage politically-motivated investigatory misconduct directed toward opposition leaders, but man… I don’t even know.

      In any event, that’s the only scenario I’m really worried about at all (aside from the politicized revealing of classified information, be it through legal congressional channels or illegal leaks), but I think it’s still pretty low probability.

  21. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0164121216301005?via%3Dihub

    A pair of small experiments found that mindfulness meditation made computer programmers faster at getting a task right but not more skillful.

  22. Matthew S. says:

    According to current wisdom, is it better to pay for the extra health analysis from 23andme, or just to get the basic package and look up the SNPs elsewhere?

    • superbee says:

      Basic package. Prometheasse +Rhonda patrick’s tool

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The health analysis package is carefully curated so that you won’t act on it. You should get it because it will have a prophylactic effect of discouraging you from looking up stuff elsewhere.
      Seriously, such analyses are virtually all worthless and this is the best way of not doing them.

      • Matthew S. says:

        To clarify: I’m not on a wild hunt for weird orphan conditions; I’m turning 40, colon cancer is very common on both sides of my family, and I’m attempting to determine how often I need to subject myself to colonoscopies.

        (If I turn up the SNP associated with delayed sleep phase, that would also be useful.)

        • Nornagest says:

          I doubt the current 23andMe health package has anything useful about colon cancer risk. If you’re gonna go looking for colon cancer correlates, third-party SNP tools are the way to go, but even from them I wouldn’t expect anything worth going to a doctor with.

          I don’t remember seeing anything about delayed sleep phase, either in the current version or in the early non-crippled one (I got in early), but if you have a specific SNP in mind and you know its name, you can just look it up on 23andMe without using an analysis tool.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          I was out of date. They now have 7 reports actually on the subject’s health, although I think that it is still correct that they are curated to discourage action. Hence, none of them is for colon cancer. I doubt anyone else has anything useful to say about colon cancer.
          Should you get a colonoscopy? I haven’t looked into it, specifically, but the general rule with cancer is: no.

          What good would a sleep-phase SNP do you? You already know how you sleep.

          • Matthew S. says:

            According to SNPedia, there are several that have more than one study suggesting a link to colorectal cancer.

            What good would a sleep-phase SNP do you? You already know how you sleep.

            I already know how I don’t sleep, because I have unsympathetic management even though working standard hours is not necessary for the job. If, however, it’s a genetic condition, then ADA accommodation comes into play.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t believe that’s how the ADA works. The definition of a disability in the law is “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”. Causation isn’t relevant.

            Although maybe you’d have better luck getting a doctor to write it up if there was some gene you could point to.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            For the sake of argument, let’s say I believe those studies. Still, you shouldn’t get a colonoscopy. There’s way better evidence for BRCA in breast cancer, but no one should get mammograms. if you actually have a broken BRCA, the cancer moves too fast to be detected by a mammogram.

  23. wimpledapple says:

    Basically any time I start meditating I’ll feel giddy precisely when I finish exhaling my first breath (it’s also surprisingly insensitive to the duration of the breath.) Does anyone else have this same experience or an explanation for what’s going on?

  24. An issue I have been thinking of …

    Imagine society of 99 million peasants living near subsistence and 1 million aristocrats, living off the peasants, and producing the sort of stuff we remember about civilizations–music, cathedrals, art, poetry, … . Assume that nothing the aristocrats are doing is of any value to the peasants–from their standpoint, the income of the aristocrats is pure exploitation.

    Now imagine that something eliminates the exploitation. In the short run, the aristocrats either die or become peasants. Either way, the peasants are now richer, since the aristocrats are not living off them. Their population expands, as per Malthusian population theory, until the individual peasant, of which there are now (say) 110 million, is no better off than before.

    Is this an improvement? Judged by average utility it is a worsening, save in the transition period. Judged by total utility it might or might not be an improvement. Judged by, I think, most people’s intuition of justice it clearly is an improvement–the aristocrats were parasites. Judged by the standards we routinely use in evaluating past civilizations, it is clearly a worsening.

    Thoughts?

    • Incurian says:

      until the individual peasant, of which there are now (say) 110 million, is no better off than before.

      Do we take for granted that the peasants have no method of improving their lot in life? Maybe with the elites’ boot off their neck they’ll be able to build a better society. Or do we assume this part is true and the question is how we should judge the results?

      ETA: If the latter, then it’s kind of a weird question. Our justice intuition might not have evolved the same way (either culturally or biologically) if it didn’t actually contribute to better results for society.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      You should read some Nietzsche if you haven’t already. It’s incredibly dense, it seems like most if not all of the English translators had their own agendas to push, and he wrote exactly the way you would imagine a syphilitic man to write. But it’s worth doing anyway because he gives a really good framework for understanding this sort of problem.

      For a really quick, almost entirely wrong, summary:

      Master morality defines good1 and bad in practical egoistic terms. If you remember the only part of Plato’s Republic that anyone bothers to read, Socrates agreed with Glaucon’s premise; if unjust behavior led to a better life than just behavior, injustice would be better than justice. This is because in master morality virtuous behavior is good because virtuous men lead good lives and vicious behavior is bad because vicious men lead bad lives. Thus it’s virtuous to rinse your hands before eating and to tend to your responsibilities dutifully, while it’s vicious to fondle lepers or be a deadbeat.

      Slave morality defines good2 and evil in abstract, nominally altruistic terms (really the impulse is spiteful leveling). If you remember the one sermon everyone has heard from the Bible, Jesus opens with a somewhat baffling list of the blessed; the poor, the mourning, the meek and those who hunger and thirst all get top billing over others who have actually done anything. This is because in slave morality singular behavior is evil because the sinful men lead good1 lives and holiness is good2 because the holy lead bad lives. Thus it’s sinful to be rich or to resist those who would harm you, while it’s holy to live as an itinerant beggar and die as a martyr.

      If I wrote that right, it should be clear that slave morality is simply an inversion of the values of master morality. Healthiness, strength, beauty and other traits which we naturally value are denigrated by the theological / philosophical equivalent of proving that one and one million are equal by dividing them both by infinity. If you bring everyone down to the same level of wretchedness then nobody can say that he’s better than anyone else.

      The reason that you instinctively side with the aristocrats in your thought experiment is that they lead beautiful joyful loves while the peasants live in endless ugly misery. But at the same time the morality that you were taught your whole life is screaming that the high need to be made low. The aristocrats are good1 / evil while the peasants are bad / good2.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        There are some weird autocorrect errors in here and I can’t edit the comment. Sorry about that.

        Also I wrote this before I read your username. I assume that none of this is really new to you.

      • AeXeaz says:

        Just wanted to say that this is pretty good for a short post-sized summary of master/slave morality, and second the Nietzsche recommendation! The “almost entirely wrong” is what makes it, since it’s hard not to be entirely wrong when summarizing Nietzsche!

        I’ve been going through his entire bibliography over the last year, and it’s been… life-changing. I was lucky enough to not have to resort to the English translations, but even if you have to go there I think a good idea would be to stop by the originals from time to time. Like, when you come across an especially interesting aphorism, take a look at the original, do a really literal translation word by word and let it… do its… thing.

      • James says:

        Haven’t really read Nietzsche, but useful summary, thanks. Must get around to reading the couple of volumes of his I have knocking around.

    • alef says:

      You don’t tell us enough (and frankly, I don’t think it’s even possible to do so) to answer.

      110 million people living _extremely_ similar lives, with similar thoughts, however happy or miserable they may be, isn’t (necessarily) interestingly or morally that much better than 100m (or 10m) doing so.

      Take the extreme: if we get to the point where I can upload my consciousness into a machine, and make 110m copies of me living the very same simulated existence, do I deserve 110m votes/util-representatives? That’s silly. (But if I perturb my simulated environment slightly? Quite a lot?).

      I don’t know how to weigh things, but it’s not impossible that the with-aristocrats version compensates with diversity (or interestingness) over any wrongness.

    • Baeraad says:

      It’s an improvement for the peasants. They are no longer subjected to the insult of having a bunch of stuck-up bastards sneering down on them. That’s not a material benefit, but nor are they materially worse off, so the moral improvement tips the scale.

      It is a worsening for future civilisations, because it makes the peasants’ civilisation less interesting to read about in books – which is, frankly, what we judge past civilisations on.

    • Mark says:

      The government of peasants isn’t necessarily going to be preferable to the government of aristocrats, and if peasants are fundamentally incapable of appreciating anything that we would recognise as art, or culture, it may be even worse.

      Peasants object to the government of aristocrats because they must work more to fund things they don’t appreciate. Unless they appreciate larger populations, why wouldn’t they institute some kind of population limiting rule?

    • beleester says:

      If the peasants get literally zero utility from the music, art, and poetry that the aristocrats produce, I have to wonder what it is they’re working for.

      More generally, if morale or rest time is at all important for the peasants’ productivity (and it probably is), then even a Malthusian dystopia should devote some labor to something besides producing food. Maybe we call them “bards” instead of “aristocrats,” but they probably would still exist.

      However, if the peasants don’t benefit for some reason – maybe the aristocrats put all the cathedrals and concert halls behind barbed-wire fences so the riffraff can’t get into them – then I don’t see much disutility in removing them. The fact that cathedrals, music, and art exist doesn’t mean much if nobody can enjoy them.

      (Indeed, you could argue that the existence of the art and music is of negative utility to the peasants – the aristocracy is flaunting all sorts of awesome things that peasants will never get to enjoy.)

      • Randy M says:

        I agree with the implication here that traditional peasants probably did gain some utility joy from literature, art, poetry, drama, etc. and most peoples lives throughout history were probably not as empty as the though experiment implies. Certainly the aristocrat was not motivated entirely or even mostly by altruism, but I think the peasants lives would have been impoverished by removing the cathedrals, festivals, statues, bards, etc., even if it wasn’t a fully equitable trade.

        • DeWitt says:

          It’s a thought experiment for a reason; assume most convenient worlds, and so on.

          If it weren’t a thought experiment, your feudal nobles are less nineteenth century socialite patrons of art and culture, and more a mafia-style protection racket.

          • Grek says:

            The problem with thought experiments of this sort is that the actual circumstantial differences between the real world and the most convenient world are what do almost all of the heavy lifting. The chain of logic that demands getting rid of the aristocrats in the present example is valid (the stated circumstances demand this result), but not sound (it’s not actually true, because the stated premises are obviously a poor fit for the real world). The moral intuition that there’s something wrong with the 110 million peasants result is down almost entirely to the intuition that any real life attempt to do the same would run afoul of exactly the externalities that got hand-waved away in the premises.

            Compare the Trolly Problem. In terms of utility, saving the most people is obviously correct. But in real life, the decision to make that choice involves a whole lot of uncertainty, outside consequences (social, legal and emotional) as well a nagging feeling that there’s bound to be some superior solution unrelated to pulling the lever.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’m assuming that the peasants produce adequate folk music, cooking, etc. It’s possible that some of it will be picked up by later artists (there are folk tunes in classical music), but they’re not doing anything like that Taj Mahal which is easy to appreciate directly.

    • James says:

      I think about this a lot. A scant few years ago I was a fairly EA-aligned utilitarian, but nowadays I spend all my surplus labour producing Art For Art’s Sake (actually, music), which is hard to justify in utilitarian terms. All I can say is that beauty seems capital I Important to me in some way beyond pure utility, pleasure, hedons, whatever.

      Pleasure is temporal; beautiful is timeless.

    • Thegnskald says:

      An increased population supports increased specialization, right?

      So it seems that the peasants would be better off even given Malthusian bounds, since the marginal products would be more specialized, and hence, better. This would also lead to more rapid technological development, since there are more people around who might stumble upon an innovation.

      Additionally, without an aristocratic class purloining their product, the peasants would be more incentivized to produce (and innovate, for that matter).

      • AG says:

        The assumption of Malthusian population expansion also seems forced. Increasing wealth waterline should also lead to a leveling off of the reproduction rate, no?

        • I agree. The original question assumes the premise that the aristocrats understand the interests of the peasants better than the peasants themselves…or, at least that the aristocrats are better at implementing the peasants’ interests than the peasants themselves (whether out of enlightenment, better impulse control to keep peasants from just piddling away the new surplus wealth on new babies…or alcohol…or whatever).

          I find this mentality similar to Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth.” “Pay my workers more? Nah, they’ll just piss it away on liquor. Better that enlightened philanthropists like myself accumulate and centralize the wealth so that the wealth and labor go towards building libraries, etc.”

          If workers/peasants valued libraries, there is nothing keeping them from pooling their new surplus to build libraries, or hire sculptors, or fund writers, or even to fund full-time organizers/managers/intelligentsia who perform the same useful function of the former aristocrats (organizing this widely-scattered surplus into a coherent vision), but even better because they serve at the pleasure of the people and have an incentive to respond to the desires of the people rather than siphon off a large portion to their own interests and/or consumption.

          Obviously, for this to work, the peasants/workers need to keep a firm leash on this intelligentsia and constantly threaten it with overthrow if the intelligentsia doesn’t do what they want. Otherwise, you are just empowering the intelligentsia to act like a new aristocracy.

          It also helps if the peasants and workers see themselves as having similar interests. If they have widely divergent interests (as they did in the Soviet Union), then it will be difficult for them to present a united front against the intelligentsia, and the intelligentsia can whisper to each side, “Give me more power, and I’ll help you smite your enemies.”

          Thankfully, we no longer have any substantial peasantry in the developed world, so we no longer have this inherent conflict of interest between a large portion of society that would benefit from unleashing simple commodity production (the peasantry) and the rest of society that would benefit from socialized planning (the proletariat).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re there being nothing stopping workers from building libraries etc., coordination really is a challenge.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            The original thought experiment wasn’t saying that the peasants are better off with the aristocrats present, just that they’re more numerous and no worse off with the aristocrats absent. These hypothetical peasants are proletarians in an unusually literal sense: they reproduce themselves and left to their own devices would eat up the entire surplus they produce doing so.

            The point of the thought experiment as I understood it is how you trade off between the greatness of a society as measured by its achievements in art, architecture, scientific discovery, etc against the fairness of a society as measured by inequality and lack of oppression. Are the pyramids worth the Pharoahs that build them?

            As I mentioned above, the answer is easy if you know what your values are. A slave moralist, whether Judeo-Christian or Marxist, sees nothing wrong with toppling the heights of human achievement if it means no one can look down on anyone else. A master moralist sees no value in the multiplication of mediocrity and laments the loss of that society’s exceptional achievements. I have no idea what the superman would think but then again that’s rather the point.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I agree. The original question assumes the premise that the aristocrats understand the interests of the peasants better than the peasants themselves

            To the contrary. The original question assumes the aristocrats are doing nothing to further the interests of the peasants. They are purely parasitic.

            “Pay my workers more? Nah, they’ll just piss it away on liquor.

            No, they’ll use it to make more peasants; that’s the Malthusian assumption.

          • The original question assumes the premise that the aristocrats understand the interests of the peasants better than the peasants themselves

            There was no such assumption, explicit or implicit. I wrote:

            “Assume that nothing the aristocrats are doing is of any value to the peasants–from their standpoint, the income of the aristocrats is pure exploitation.”

          • The point of the thought experiment as I understood it is how you trade off between the greatness of a society as measured by its achievements in art, architecture, scientific discovery, etc against the fairness of a society as measured by inequality and lack of oppression.

            That was half of it. The other half was average utility vs fairness and, possibly, total utility.

            Consider Rawls’ initial position argument, or the original version by Harsanyi. If you were going to be randomly placed in one of the two societies you would prefer the unequal one, since average utility is higher.

          • The Marxism that I understand does not simply want to topple human achievement out of spite, jealousy, slave morality, or some other leveling impulse. There are even parts of Marx’s writings that hint at the idea that a period of exploitative “primitive accumulation” under capitalism is necessary in order to propel human society to a breakthrough in productivity.

            The reason why this period is necessary, however, has nothing to do with some master class (whether the aristocracy or the bourgeoisie) being more enlightened (Marx would not dispute that they were more enlightened…indeed, he expected ruined small capitalists to help arm the proletariat with their enlightenment when they inevitably lost the battle of competition with big capital and became proletarians themselves; however, that is not what’s important here).

            The reason why primitive accumulation is necessary is so that more powerful means of production can be built with the surplus labor-time of society. Whether this primitive accumulation takes place under capitalism or Stalinism, it is going to be an ugly but necessary period.

            Nevertheless, this all has nothing to do with the original hypotheticals of the thought experiment which I am fighting, yes, even though one is “not supposed to fight the hypothetical” of a thought experiment. But these hypotheticals have been implied as obvious fact so often ever since Malthus (regardless of whether David Friedman intended this implication) that I must speak up about it.

    • Levantine says:

      I suspect my reasoning is so different from yours that it’s doubtful whether you’ll see any benefit from it. Having said that, I already have some thoughts on your hypothetical. “Thoughts” is what you asked for, so here they are:

      1. The latter society is evidently of such a kind that people would hardly fight for it, except in some passive-aggressive manner.

      2. If there is a re-emergence of circumstances that created the initial society, they will undermine the latter society.

      3. Humans are socially hierarchical animals. To keep people subordinate would often raise their ‘utility’ (their benefits from their own PoV) compared to giving them a higher status, or trying to treat everyone as equal.

      This leads me to the issue of ever present desires for change in social hierarchy, and tying them with the interest in great achievements…

      … which strikes me as a fairly banal thing to say. This seems to have failed to get to anything remarkable.

      I haven’t thought much through this, plausibly I’m missing important facets.

    • yodelyak says:

      I think this thought experiment points at something valuable, but maybe aristocrats/plebs is unnecessarily freighted?

      Maybe it’s helpful to also think children and adults. Children are legally and in basically every other way, in society, different from adults, and it’s uncontroversial that this is for good reason. Even though this distinction sometimes ends up cutting unfairly/arbitrarily, and while none of us are likely to agree on exactly where the line is, pretty much everyone who has any experience with children can agree that if we try to shift that node too much, and treat kids and adults the same, we’ll run into disaster eventually.

      Then again, surely in *some* ways it’s possible for a rising tide to raise all boats for both children and adults (or for both elites and plebs), so the question just becomes what kinds of change are *progress* and what kinds of change are the things that should get us standing athwart history and yelling “stop” and so on.

      • yodelyak says:

        Reading my comment, I’m reminded of Scott’s article about right is the new left, and specifically of this line: “But actually, if we look at this from a game theoretic perspective, marriage and social trust and forager values are all in this complicated six-dimensional antifragile network, and it emergently coheres into a beneficial equilibrium if and only if the government doesn’t try to shift the position of any of the nodes.” (from right-is-the-new-left).

        In Right-is-the-New-Left Scott pointed at the awful thing that happened in a college debate contest… I feel that’s enough to make any thinking person feel pretty horrified, and every time I think about it, I want to grab someone and make them write a letter to someone smarter than them about something important (material science, economics, epistemic hygiene, the proper raising of children or navigation of marriage, idk) and say “you are smarter than me at ___ and I am grateful for every piece of advice you give me or others, because I know enough to have noticed how terrified I should be at the prospect of living in a society making do without your guidance, and I’m aware that compared to you, I’m not even wrong” or something equally and properly aware of how valuable people who are right about things are for all of us. Or make them read and copy out on the blackboard Asimov’s full essay on the cult of ignorance.

        But I also sometimes see undisciplined toddlers in positions of power and authority, and then what I want to do is grab obsequious people and tell them to trust themselves and empower themselves more, and defer to so-called “authority” less. Or I see authority being used in a predatory way–fox for henhouse secretary! climate denier for EPA chief!–by an oversize/undisciplined population of predators, and wish more plebs would develop spines and work together better. Because if the foxes eat all the hens, it’s not just the hens that die.

        • Aapje says:

          Holy moly:

          I knew there would be backlash when we won CEDA 2014.

          Anytime there is an epistemological shift away from hegemonic knowledge production and subjugated knowledges refuse to be hidden, there is always backlash.


          However, the responses are worse than backlash. They reflect the intentional and unintentional targeting and killing of two Black women in an educational activity (but to be honest I don’t expect much of this academic machine). Audre Lorde said it perfectly, “the machine will try to grind you into dust anyway, whether or not we speak.”

          So FINALLY, I am deciding to speak, despite my fear. After all, everyone else has been so busy giving their two cents on our performance during the round and the “his-stor(y)-ic” win with their terrible articles, uneducated comments, and endless tirades.

          The entire text seems to be an exercise in weaponizing victimhood.

  25. Vermillion says:

    Overall Goal: To fix the US Military over a ten-year time frame.

    Let’s say the congress empowers a kind of Super-Secretary of Defense with a sweeping mandate and ability to affect a pillar of the country: the entire US military – from high level strategic goals and funding decisions, to individual weapons systems. Any change you wish to make to increase efficiency, force projection, R&D etc. could be suggested and investigated. If an independent investigation and evaluation say that it would increase net [metric] it’ll be implemented.

    Couple things to keep in mind: 1) Your appointment is for 10 years but there’s no guarantee you’ll serve out that term. If your overhauls are so unpopular that the polity are calling for your head on a platter, well then you probably won’t last more than a year or two.

    2) Try and consider the likelihood that your reforms will be implemented how you envision. For instance, if you’re first reform is to cut 40% of the Pentagon’s staff (make it a triangle basically) how enthused will the remaining 60% be with your other moves?

    3) You have no control over what your overall budget allocation will be. Safe to assume you’ll get what you requested the previous year, inflation adjusted if you’re lucky.

    4) In terms of your budget to accomplish this-sky’s the limit, but that might affect #3.

    I’ve got some ideas of my own I’ll post in a bit, I just wanted to put out this framework first to see if the thought experiment intrigued anyone else.

    • Nornagest says:

      Man, that’s way too big a problem. There are parts of the military I know a reasonable amount about, and there are a lot more parts of the military I know next to nothing about, and for any issue I could quote for the former there’s a decent chance that considerations in the latter make it irrelevant.

      With that caveat, here are a few large-scale problems that I’ve noticed:

      – The traditional American way of waging war is to make a mountain of stuff, paint it green, ship it overseas and suffocate our opponents under it. We’ve historically been very good at that, when we’re fighting the kind of war that can be won with it. But it’s a strategy that’s poorly suited to the low-intensity warfare that we’ve typically found ourself in for the last forty years, and the doctrinal adaptations that come out of any particular low-intensity conflict have tended to evaporate before the next one. Also, the underlying advantage in industrial base is eroding — though we’ve still got far and away the best military logistics systems in the world, which helps a lot.

      – Relatedly, we’ve been slow to adapt to our rivals’ strategic innovations over the last fifteen years or so. “Hybrid warfare” is too underspecified and buzzwordy for me to be happy with it as a concept, but we could say instead that the current environment presents new political and informational dimensions of warfare that our rivals have successfully exploited but which we’ve tended to approach as obstacles.

      – On the purely technical side of things, we have a bad habit of starting sweeping programs intended to replace whole categories of weapons systems with a common platform, spending billions of dollars on R&D, and then being badly disappointed when the warts show up. That leaves us with the choice of cancelling them, which wastes the money completely, or dealing with the inevitable cost and schedule overruns and performance problems. Both are bad.

      – Our primary nuclear forces are at least thirty years out of date, and the ground-based leg of the triad in particular is looking increasingly hoary and vulnerable following advances in guidance systems.

      At the moment I’m not going to try proposing solutions.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What does “fix” mean? In this scenario, what’s broken that needs fixing – presumably, for the hypothetical, we need some simplification of the real-world situation. Plus, different people who are all informed (better than I am, certainly) differ on the problem.

      One starter: seriously lean on other NATO members to meet that 2% target. Some portion of problems with the US military are certainly caused by the fact that it’s supported by the tax dollars of whatever portion of ~330m people pay taxes, but is responsible for being a military for far larger a number of people than that. The US, being essentially an imperial power, needs to have a globally active and present military, but the US military does too much free work for other developed countries that can definitely afford the target. This is true of most European NATO members, it’s true of us Canadians; we take the savings we get from Uncle Sam not really having a choice other than to defend us, and put it to other things.

      But this isn’t something someone in charge of fixing the military could affect, unless they’re going to say “hey we should just tell ’em we’ll withdraw in 5 years” or something like that.

      • John Schilling says:

        One starter: seriously lean on other NATO members to meet that 2% target.

        This should be done as a matter of principle, but how does it help the US military?

        Most US military commitments are in places where NATO can’t or won’t fight in more than a token sense, except for the Brits and they are already above 2%. The main part of the US military commitment to the defense of NATO is telling Europe, “If you wage total war for Europe, it will probably go nuclear and then you get obliterated”. Nobody but Britain or France is going to help us there for the foreseeable future, and France is at about 2% itself. Conventional forward defense of Europe is now a negligible fraction of US military activities and commitments, so if e.g. Germany were to double the size of its army I don’t think there’s so much as a US battalion that we would point to and say, “we can stand that unit down and free up resources to be used elsewhere”. And that’s if anyone trusted Germany to fight in defense of Poland or Estonia, which for a number of reasons they don’t.

        • Incurian says:

          Maybe we could collect that 2% directly and spend it on our military.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Nice country you’ve got there. But in such a bad neighborhood. Shame if something were to happen to it…”

            Do I need to enumerate the ways that is likely to go wrong?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I think that’s a reference to the Delian League (Athens-led mutual defense pact against Persia, which turned into “you can give Athens money to buy and crew ships instead of providing your own”, which turned into “look at this nice Parthenon I built with the Delian League’s money!”)

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            Good luck with that.

            PS. Does Europe then get to force you to pay more for solutions for climate change?

          • Incurian says:

            Does Europe then get to force you to pay more for solutions for climate change?

            If they had a military capable of forcing anything, there wouldn’t be a need to start up the collection in the first place.

            I think that’s a reference to the Delian League

            Yup, I was just reading about it recently. The Athenians could be dicks sometimes.

            Do I need to enumerate the ways that is likely to go wrong?

            Compared to what? NATO is likely to go wrong in a number of ways, I think.

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            Do you think that the American people are going to support a war against Europe just to collect some money?

            Or the military for that matter?

            I think that any US president who orders that is more likely to end up in an asylum than with filled coffers.

          • Matt M says:

            The media raked Trump over the coals for merely bringing up the topic in conversation – even not accompanied with any specific or direct threats. European officials responded by basically telling him to F-off.

          • Incurian says:

            Do you think that the American people are going to support a war against Europe just to collect some money?

            I wouldn’t start a war over it, I’d just refuse to defend them. Just because it’s a protection racket doesn’t mean we’d have to act like the mob.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Do you think that the American people are going to support a war against Europe just to collect some money?

            I don’t see why the colonies shouldn’t be made to pay their fair share.

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            The US can’t afford to have Europe be taken over, if they want to preserve their status as an empire.

            You do not understand the constraints that exists.

            PS. Note that I’m not arguing justness, but merely how power works.

          • Incurian says:

            We could stop Europe from being taken over without defending it, per se. Just treat it like a piece of terrain that needs to be denied from the enemy, but doesn’t need to come out intact or free after we’re done. To continue the Delian League metaphor, consider the fate of Melos.

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            Denying access to the terrain and/or turning Europe into uninhabitable radioactive wasteland is far less valuable to the US than having allies with a relatively similar values. You might underestimate how much the rules of the ‘international community’ are shaped by Western values, which is possible because there is a strong block of wealthy and powerful countries that pushes for that.

            Remove Europe from that equation and the ‘soft power’ of the West is substantially weakened.

            But ultimately the equation is rather simple. The cost to the US of promising to defend Europe is very low compared to the costs of not doing so. European leaders know this.

            Furthermore, even if Europe would substantially step up their military spending, it would not result in a unified, strong military like the US; nor would it always act like an auxiliary to the US military. So the benefits to the US are less than the expenditure would suggest. Europeans actually have their own desires, culture, interests, etc. A stronger military allows us to become uppity and start challenging US dominance now and then; where we now mostly trundle after you. Does the US really want a militarily uppity Europe?

          • Incurian says:

            No, I’d much rather defend Europe AND be paid for it. I think it’s a good deal. Just give us that 2%, or heck, let’s call it 1% since it’s leaving your economies entirely and you’ll probably still want your own small forces under your own commands.

            And I didn’t mean denying terrain through weapons of mass destruction (the Melos example was probably too extreme), we could just go defend it conventionally when the time comes, but without the consent or input from the deadbeat government, and probably with less concern for collateral damage than they’d like. Again, I feel like this is also a good deal because even though it’s not optimal, it’s free.

          • Aapje says:

            @Incurian

            I’m not under the illusion that if a large scale invasion of Europe happens, the defense forces will seriously concern themselves about collateral damage anyway. This seems like an idle treat.

            In general, I don’t think that you see the situation clearly. The US simply has no credible treats that they can make, that will convince the EU leaders.

            Furthermore, I don’t think that you realize the non-military contribution that Europe has made. The expansion by the EU towards the east has created a substantial buffer zone and has isolated Russia. A lot of money was and is being sent to the Eastern Europeans to ensure that they have the economic growth that keeps them looking to the West. So most likely, the EU leaders feel that they already spending enough to increase European & US safety in this way.

          • Incurian says:

            It is very likely I’m not seeing the situation clearly, I’m far from expert on this kind of stuff. Just musing. Has Russia been terribly isolated though? I thought they annexed a couple of places. Maybe it would have been a lot worse otherwise?

          • DeWitt says:

            Has Russia been terribly isolated though?

            Uh, yes.

            A lot of the EU’s eastward expansion has been toward countries that aren’t very fond of the Russians in the first place; the Polish aren’t ever going to be annexed as quietly as the Crimeans were. But beyond that? There are terribly few countries remaining the Russians can use as reliable allies. Both Georgia and Ukraine had some very sudden and suspect revolutions with likely foreign backing spring up, and both countries then had part of their borders cut into in Russian attempts to save what they could. The Baltic states are part of NATO, in the Balkans Serbia is doing its best to qualify for EU membership; the only ally in Europe Russia really has left is Belarus, which is going to be a puppet state for as long as Lukashenko remains in power.

            So yes, the Russians are very isolated. In some cases, the EU even took in countries because it was feared they might turn to the Russia, as happened with Bulgaria. I suppose a parallel to the Marshall plan would be apt, in the sense that countries are being bribed to not be part of Russia’s sphere of influence.

          • Incurian says:

            Thanks, that was very informative.

          • a reader says:

            @DeWitt:

            After almost half century of soviet embrace, the Eastern European countries were like rape survivors. Don’t know the details about Bulgaria’s case, but the Eastern European countries usually were more wishful to enter NATO and European Union than the EU was to receive them.

          • Matt M says:

            Funny, I visited the nation of Georgia a few years ago, and actually saw some EU flags flying outside some of their government buildings. I was told that they were “aspirational.” Either that, or they were hoping that if Russians soldiers came marching in, they’d maybe get confused and stop attacking?

        • dndnrsn says:

          You probably know about this more than I do. However, I was thinking along the lines that, knowing that everyone else was carrying their weight would simplify US decisionmaking – there would be less in the bucket of “stuff that might have to get covered.”

    • cassander says:

      so, just to be clear, I don’t think you can really fix the US military. It’s too big and has too many goals and tasks assigned to it to ever be anything but a mess. that said, I don’t think that there’s nothing you can do.

      1, institute a loser pays rule for challenging contract awards. This has been talked about for years, but no one ever does it.

      2, build an entirely new procurement bureaucracy from scratch. You actually have to do this 3 different times, one for each service. You probably don’t need fundamentally new principles here, the goal is just to clear out the decades of accumulated veto points, processes, and other cruft with a relatively clean slate. You don’t set up a whole new system overnight, you start it small, keep it elite at first, then gradually give it a larger and larger share of the total procurement work, while keeping it as independent as possible from the old system and its people. We’re actually seeing the air force do something like this turning over the B-21 program to the rapid capabilities office, so we’ll actually see if it works.

      3, a few changes to promotion for senior officers. One, remove the requirement for purple billeting and replace it with a cross billeting system to reduce the profusion of needless HQ billets. for promotion pass one star, either have a single promotion board or divide the flag billets into “purple” and “service” career lines.

      4, figure out what role actually want the joint chiefs of staff to do and be for, then have them do it. Frankly I almost don’t care what it is, as long as it’s a meaningfully defined role.

      5, Abolish guard and reserve formations. orient guard and reserve service around the idea that their purpose is to do tasks stateside that free up active duty soldiers to deploy, abandoning the idea that we’ll ever be mobilizing reserve brigades and divisions.

      6, burn the VA to the ground and salt the earth where its administration buildings used to be, then divide up its budget among the eligible as cash payouts. Everyone will be better off.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        One, remove the requirement for purple billeting

        For what now?

        • AlphaGamma says:

          “Purple” is at least UK defence speak for posts or organisations that are joint between the different services- because the traditional colours of the RN and the RAF are (different shades of) blue, while that of the Army is red.

          See, for example, the flag of the Chief of the Defence Staff.

          I didn’t realise it had entered US parlance, though.

        • cassander says:

          AlphaGamma is correct, purple in US parlance means things that are joint, not specifically one service.

          In order to get promoted, senior officers in the US military are required to do some of their posting to positions that are considered joint. This requirement was put in place as part of the 1986 goldwater nichols act which was meant to improve inter-service cooperation. It was probably a good idea then, but over time it has led to the proliferation of a very large number of effectively supernumerary joint billets in order to sure everyone can get their ticket punched. what I want is that instead of being required to do these sorts of joint billets, that the services open up certain of their service to posting by members of other services, and make those a requirement for promotion, not the joint billets. So an army artillery officer could, for example, get his ticket punched by doing a tour as a member of a marine artillery regiment instead of a marine, not as an addition to the existing staff.

          • Incurian says:

            So an army artillery officer could, for example, get his ticket punched by doing a tour as a member of a marine artillery regiment instead of a marine, not as an addition to the existing staff.

            This particular example is a good case to see that having different services can be redundant. The marines use the same equipment and same training (literally, they go to the same school) for artillery as the army. They do, however, do fire support a little differently since they coordinate with the navy more closely and have an organic air wing, so that could be a valuable trade.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Something I’ve read is that there’s an oversupply of officers, at least at the higher ranks, and this contributes to excessive ticket-punching. Is that the case?

          • bean says:

            Something I’ve read is that there’s an oversupply of officers, at least at the higher ranks, and this contributes to excessive ticket-punching. Is that the case?

            That’s a really complicated question.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t know if we have too many officers… it may be more correct to say that we don’t have enough good ones.

      • yodelyak says:

        I somewhere picked up “cruft” as being a portmanteau of “corruption” and “graft.” It’s actually from programming, and is a noun for “badly designed, unnecessarily complicated, or unwanted code or software.”

        • cassander says:

          That’s a bit harsher than the usage I intended. I think of cruft as the accumulation of unnecessary, redundant, or obsolete process. That can be things that were never a good idea to begin with, things that had a function but are no longer necessary, or just that cost more than the benefit they provide.

    • Incurian says:

      In no particular order… Make it 100x easier to fire low performers [out of a cannon, into the sun]. Reduce the amount of mandatory training on bullshit HR and IT stuff by 95%. Promote based on a standard, not based on need – if we run short on rank then maybe some kind of temporary position-based brevet system is in order. Reduce the focus on “risk mitigation” and increase the focus on “determining when and how to take prudent risks”; substantially increase the acceptable level of risk in training. Fire every civilian in range control and replace them with military. Double the number of major training centers (e.g. JRTC, etc.) and make them even jointer. Professional military education (the sit down in class kind) should also be joint wherever feasible. No direct to guard/reserve enlistments/commissions, but over-hire for active duty and shift people to guard/reserve after their first tour if necessary (I have less confidence in this recommendation, but it might be a good one). Substantially increase the troop levels for all services, and increase the number of divisions (or whatever basic echelon) to facilitate a high department-wide OPTEMPO while allowing reasonable time for maintenance, training, and rest. Figure out why the USAF is losing pilots and make it stop (if they have enough LTs and are just losing people at the end of their contract, make the damn contracts longer (I do not know if this is in fact the case)). Guillotine everyone in charge of acquisitions, make commercial-off-the-shelf purchases 1000x simpler and allow more of it at lower echelons. Continue to pursue high tech equipment but expect to fight in a degraded environment and plan accordingly. Ban defense contractors (and microsoft) from providing user-level computer software, let google and amazon take a crack at it. Make missile defense work reliably and buy a ton of it. Increase ADA numbers in general and integrate them into the force. Set physical standards per MOS and enforce them rigorously. Crucify everyone involved in the creation, promulgation, and support of PRT in the army and use their crosses for pullup bars. Recall LTG Legere and do same. Conduct enlisted, officer, and warrant intelligence training together and jointly, and with FIVEYE partners. Make the air force use warrant officers like they know they should. Integrate all the service intelligence branches and then integrate them with all the civilian intelligence agencies, make them collaborate a common suite of social media software. Get everyone drunk and integrate the services into one service like they know they should – they can still have branches and specialized training and history and specialized units, but all the service support should be standardized and all the MOSes across services that actually do the same thing will be part of the same branch (they can have a branching training pipeline to support further specialization). Stop holding USO shows for fobbits.

      • bean says:

        Guillotine everyone in charge of acquisitions, make commercial-off-the-shelf purchases 1000x simpler and allow more of it at lower echelons. Continue to pursue high tech equipment but expect to fight in a degraded environment and plan accordingly. Ban defense contractors (and microsoft) from providing user-level computer software, let google and amazon take a crack at it.

        Many of your ideas are good, but I don’t think that this is viable. The full explanation is going up on Naval Gazing in about 10 hours, but basically, commercial procurement isn’t really the answer. The military is a very picky customer, but it works surprisingly similarly to the other big customer that is equally picky, commercial aerospace.

        Get everyone drunk and integrate the services into one service like they know they should

        Terrible plan. Canada tried it, and it didn’t work all that well. Also, no. Traditions are important. We’ve got a lot of jointness, possibly too much already.

        • Incurian says:

          commercial procurement isn’t really the answer

          I didn’t mean to imply that we couldn’t have an acquisitions corps after we killed all the existing people. I don’t have any good recommendations for how to actually fix acquisitions (other than making it easier to go around it), but I do think making an example of the current regime might be a good start.

          Terrible plan. Canada tried it, and it didn’t work all that well. Also, no. Traditions are important. We’ve got a lot of jointness, possibly too much already.

          Could you (or possibly some Candian service people, if we have any) elaborate on this? I’ve worked with a few Canadians and haven’t heard them complain about it, and to the contrary I was very impressed that all their field artillery officers are also JTACs (it makes so much sense!).

          As for traditions, it’s possible to keep traditions alive through reorganizations. The army switched from the regimental system to the modular brigade system but allowed all the units to keep their historical lineage. So for example in my new system we would have just one “infantry,” but certainly we’d still need an amphibious infantry unit, and they would draw their traditions and lineage from the marine corps – they could even be CALLED the marine corps, but there would be a unified command at the top.

          I’m not sure what you mean by too much jointness. If you mean what cassander said about having pro forma joint billets that do nothing, then I agree. I’ve seen it and it’s a travesty. Not only is it taking up space, but sometimes a headquarters will be made joint when all of the functions could easily be handled by one intact, organic unit – and handled BETTER. Not only because of the cohesion that unit would have going in, but because words like “operations” and “intelligence” mean different things to different services, and (in my extremely limited experience, feel free to disagree here) the navy and air force are less likely to adapt well to jobs outside of their training since their jobs tend to be more specific and technical compared to the army and marines.

          So while there’s a lot of superfluous fake jointness, I don’t think there’s enough real jointness. Currently the services have some vastly different capabilities that in theory could be employed synergistically, but in practice sometimes the knowledge, communication, and accountability gaps are too much to bridge to actually make that work (knowledge – oh I didn’t know they could do that, communication – how do I even request this?, accountability – I’m not supporting you because you’re not my rater).

          • bean says:

            I don’t have any good recommendations for how to actually fix acquisitions (other than making it easier to go around it), but I do think making an example of the current regime might be a good start.

            I think you vastly overrate how much it’s the fault of the “current regime”. Producing high-quality systems is really hard. A minor bug in Google’s code is irritating. A minor bug in the F-35s code is potentially lethal.

            As for traditions, it’s possible to keep traditions alive through reorganizations. The army switched from the regimental system to the modular brigade system but allowed all the units to keep their historical lineage. So for example in my new system we would have just one “infantry,” but certainly we’d still need an amphibious infantry unit, and they would draw their traditions and lineage from the marine corps – they could even be CALLED the marine corps, but there would be a unified command at the top.

            But in the BCT switch, they were still Army. This is very different. I actually think that one of the most valuable functions of the Marine Corps is to provide competition to the Army, because they have to make sure that they are relevant and worth keeping around. In this case, you’re throwing that away in favor of turning the Marine Corps into regular divisions with amphibious training. They have a different mission and a different culture.

            Re jointness, there’s a balance between synergy and competition. Yes, it makes no sense to duplicate stuff everywhere. But by insisting that nothing at all be duplicated, we give ourselves an entirely different set of problems. My go-to example is the starvation of the FAA when the RAF was given responsibility for all aviation, and the neglect of Coastal Command in favor of Bomber Command during WWII. You also have the monoculture problem. If all the intelligence people work for the same boss, then they’re all going to be coming at it from the same perspective. That’s terribly dangerous. I think that in at least some areas, we’re overcentralized, although I’m sure there’s unnecessary duplication in others.

          • Incurian says:

            I think you vastly overrate how much it’s the fault of the “current regime”. Producing high-quality systems is really hard. A minor bug in Google’s code is irritating. A minor bug in the F-35s code is potentially lethal.

            I have more faith the industry’s ability to write software for their own equipment than I do for them to make an intelligence suite (e.g. DCGS-A which is hot garbage for no good reason).

            But in the BCT switch, they were still Army. This is very different. I actually think that one of the most valuable functions of the Marine Corps is to provide competition to the Army, because they have to make sure that they are relevant and worth keeping around.

            I don’t think they do a good job of this. In the first place, we generally use them for the exact same missions and already treat them as interchangeable with the army. And from people I’ve talked to, including Marines, their infantry is not as tactically proficient. They make up for it with aggression, but there’s no reason that can’t be instilled at the amphibious infantry training school and further developed in the marine corps division. Divisions already have different missions and cultures, we don’t need service level distinctions to make that happen.

            Yes, it makes no sense to duplicate stuff everywhere. But by insisting that nothing at all be duplicated, we give ourselves an entirely different set of problems.

            I agree, but I don’t think the competition needs to be at the service level, it impedes collaboration too much. We could have redundant “centers of excellence” or whatever that have a common core but wide latitude with implementation details, and they compare notes every so often. This is better accomplished within one service. I’d rather have a federation than a confederation.

            You also have the monoculture problem.

            Our cultures are too different right now, we need to be more alike. It is possible to overdo it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address the current problem, and I think divisions already do a fine job as agents of cultural diversity. To put it another way, I’d rather have one culture with many sub-cultures, instead of 4 distinct cultures.

          • bean says:

            I have more faith the industry’s ability to write software for their own equipment than I do for them to make an intelligence suite (e.g. DCGS-A which is hot garbage for no good reason).

            Ah. That’s a rather different thing, and one I have no specific knowledge of. It might be hard to talk Amazon and Google into playing ball, but if you can, go for it.

            I don’t think they do a good job of this. In the first place, we generally use them for the exact same missions and already treat them as interchangeable with the army.

            That’s a natural result of the situation since 9/11. It won’t last forever (probably) and when we return to what might be jokingly called normal, they’ll separate again. I’d rather we didn’t mistake our current situation for a permanent one.

            I don’t think we’re likely to agree on service unification. I admit to never having had to work across those lines, so I’m drawing on more of history. I’ll think about what you’ve said, though.

          • Incurian says:

            Point well taken. I too will try to think about it from a more historical perspective in the future, as my own limited experiences may have given me a false impression that doesn’t generalize.

      • Matt M says:

        Make it 100x easier to fire low performers [out of a cannon, into the sun].

        At TREMENDOUS SPEED?

        • Incurian says:

          I just googled that, and I was only trying to make a Futurama reference, wasn’t aware of the fake Trump tweet.

    • bean says:

      That’s a good one! Actions to be taken immediately:
      1. All training related to non-military matters such as sexual harassment, diversity, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide prevention, and the like, will be capped at 8 hours total annually for active-duty personnel. The time allocated for non-active personnel will be in proportion to the time they are on duty. The time freed up will be spent on training for military missions instead. I’m fairly certain everyone has already fulfilled their allocations this year, so they get the rest of the year off.
      2. Personnel, both uniformed and DoD, assigned to the above activities will be reduced in proportion to the reduction in training time. They can either find something useful to do, or be replaced by those who can.
      3. The entire A-10 fleet is to be retired immediately, and all aircraft are to be rendered permanently incapable of flight as soon as possible. Funds will instead go to accelerating F-35 procurement.
      4. All ships in the mothball fleet are to be rendered incapable of reactivation as soon as possible.
      5. All work on the Zumwalt-class destroyers is to be suspended.
      6. All ships named by former SecNav Mabus are to be reviewed immediately. Former naming traditions are to be respected! The B-21 is to be renamed the B-3 B-72, and I am open to undoing McNamara’s renaming of naval airplanes.
      7. I request the immediate withdrawal of the US from all nuclear arms limitation treaties. I believe we should have at least 10,000 deployed warheads.
      8. Modernization of nuclear forces is of the highest priority.

      I’ll figure out what other actions to take after careful study.
      (Just to be clear here, only 6 is an action that I don’t think wouldn’t have a significant and positive impact on the US defense posture, but it’s also one I really, really want to take.)

      • cassander says:

        We also need to ditch the nickname Raider. I suggest “Dragon Slayer”.

        • bean says:

          I don’t love Raider, but I like Dragon Slayer even less. I’m rather fond of LeMay personally, which brings me to Point 10. (Point 9 was removed from the list at the last minute for being too inflammatory.)
          10. Strategic Air Command is to be reestablished immediately. Paint for bands will be issued.

          • Nornagest says:

            I always thought planes looked good in anti-flash white.

          • bean says:

            They look good, but I’m ultimately concerned about effectiveness, so the B-2 isn’t getting a white paint job. (I’m still trying to figure out where the bands go.) The basic point here is that we need to get the nuclear forces out of a funk, and this sends a clear signal that we’re going back to the days when they were the best.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Are 7 and 8 worth the monstrous argument they’ll provoke even above the rest of the crazy ideas people have been proposing?

        (I’m also not clear what your reason is, and I say that as someone for whom the ABQ museum may have been the closest I’ve ever gotten to a holy shrine.)

        • bean says:

          8 is very important. The nuclear systems in service are all at least 30 years old, and that means they’re past due for replacement.
          On 7, once you start looking at the actual targeting, the warheads we have start disappearing awfully fast. I’m genuinely not comfortable with the current size of our strategic arsenal, and think it could do with increasing. But if I had to, I’d sacrifice 7 to get the rest of my list.

          • Nornagest says:

            The Trident D5 is still a damn fine missile, and if it came down to it it probably wouldn’t be that hard to make most of our modern cruise missile fleet nuclear-capable. Or to strap a JDAM kit onto a B83 if for some reason you needed to drop 1.2 megatons down someone’s chimney. But there’s no excuse for the Minuteman. Hell, I’d even say there’s no excuse for still using silo-based ICBMs at all; even the North Koreans are going road-mobile.

          • John Schilling says:

            On 7, once you start looking at the actual targeting, the warheads we have start disappearing awfully fast.

            A: What target set are you planning to destroy, that needs ten thousand nuclear warheads?

            B: What horrible thing happens if we don’t destroy most of those targets, that doesn’t happen anyway in the sort of war where ten thousand nuclear warheads are used, against the sort of arsenals everyone else will have shortly after we say “fuck you all, we’re building ten thousand nukes”?

            C: How hard is to going to be for whoever it is you are imagining plastering with nukes, to build twenty thousand credible decoys of the things you are trying to blow up with your ten thousand nukes?

            We have enough warheads right now to win any nuclear war that can be won, and to deter any war that can be deterred. You are right that they need to be assuredly reliable, but adding more to their number is not going to be helpful even before we consider the ruinous expense.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            Granted on Trident. I’m less sanguine about bolting nuclear warheads to our cruise missiles. Nuclear-rating is a massive thing, and I doubt it’s economical on a weapon not originally designed for it. I think our best bet there is to accelerate LRSO.
            And I’m not really sure we need an ICBM at all, actually. Trident is accurate enough, and we can use bombers for the rest.

            @John:

            A: What target set are you planning to destroy, that needs ten thousand nuclear warheads?

            I’m planning to be able to destroy the existing arsenals of Russia and China, and their warmaking capabilities, and have enough left over that I can deter whoever is left. When you start looking closely at it, the existing arsenals go really, really fast.

            B: What horrible thing happens if we don’t destroy most of those targets, that doesn’t happen anyway in the sort of war where ten thousand nuclear warheads are used, against the sort of arsenals everyone else will have shortly after we say “fuck you all, we’re building ten thousand nukes”?

            Whose arsenal? The Russians can’t afford a bigger one, and the Chinese seem to have figured out that you can deter the US with a fairly small one.

            C: How hard is to going to be for whoever it is you are imagining plastering with nukes, to build twenty thousand credible decoys of the things you are trying to blow up with your ten thousand nukes?

            Decoy industry is kind of hard to do. We may have to bring back bombers for the rest.

            We have enough warheads right now to win any nuclear war that can be won, and to deter any war that can be deterred. You are right that they need to be assuredly reliable, but adding more to their number is not going to be helpful even before we consider the ruinous expense.

            The marginal cost of extra warheads isn’t that high compared to the existing cost of maintaining the infrastructure. Delivery systems are more of an issue, granted, but I was planning to concentrate those on the bombers.

            I’ll admit that this is the point I have the weakest justification for, and if it was for real, it wouldn’t be on the first-day list. I might replace it with ABM work, instead. But I’m also not sure why we should cut our nuclear arsenal every time Russia decides they don’t want to pay for all the hardware they have left over from the Cold War. (I won’t pretend the US hasn’t ever given up something that was too expensive to keep and claimed diplomatic credit for it, but it happens a lot more on their side.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m planning to be able to destroy the existing arsenals of Russia and China, and their warmaking capabilities, and have enough left over that I can deter whoever is left.

            Pointless to destroy their existing arsenals if you don’t also destroy the new weapons they will build in response to your plans. You are planning a massive nuclear arms race, and positing that the adversary will never leave the starting line.

            But even so, how many nuclear warheads do you think it takes to destroy an SSBN on patrol, and how does that even work?

            Nor do nuclear weapons do you much good against a mobile ICBM parked in a shelter ten miles from the one you saw it in when you launched. You need something with guidance and real-time (re)targeting for that, and if you’ve got those a JDAM will do for the kill mechanism. Even for silo-based ICBMs, to the limited extent that those are still relevant, nuclear warheads are now only a marginal improvement over conventional PGMs.

            Whose arsenal? The Russians can’t afford a bigger one, and the Chinese seem to have figured out that you can deter the US with a fairly small one.

            The world in which the US builds ten thousand nuclear warheads, is a world in which a whole lot more people are going to be buying Russian weapons and looking for Russian alliances; that’s going to give their military-industrial complex a bit of a boost.

            The Chinese, for their part, can definitely afford more missiles. And your strategy is to explicitly demand that the US not face unacceptable damage from a Chinese attack, which is to say for the US to not be deterrable by China. The Chinese government can do the math, and they’ll build the missiles they need to restore the status quo.

            And if either they or the Russians can’t afford that, they can certainly afford satellites and spies, and they can do launch on warning. How many nuclear warheads does it take to destroy a Russian missile that launched ten minutes ago? And do you have any idea how dangerously destabilizing it would be to back them into that corner?

            There is one and only one sure way to destroy a Russian nuclear warhead with a single American warhead. Even better, if China becomes a peer competitor in this game, a way to destroy one Russian and one Chinese warhead with the same single American nuclear warhead. And it’s a trick we’ve already used to destroy almost 90% of the Russian nuclear arsenal. I’d rather not see you reverse that.

            Decoy industry is kind of hard to do. We may have to bring back bombers for the rest.

            Industry? You said the ten thousand nukes were for destroying Russian and Chinese nukes on the ground. With a side order of deterrence, but that doesn’t take ten thousand warheads.

            Sheet-metal decoy missiles are cheap. Concrete for imitation silos is cheap. Chinese-built TEL chassis for ICBM-class missiles sold for under $1E6 each back in 2010. Hardened cut-and-cover tunnels are maybe $5E6/km, and a W-87 surface burst will collapse less than half a kilometer.

            Or do you really want ten thousand nuclear warheads for blowing up cities “industry”?

            But I’m also not sure why we should cut our nuclear arsenal every time Russia decides they don’t want to pay for all the hardware they have left over from the Cold War.

            Because only justification we ever had for the damnably expensive (and just plain damnable) things was to counter the Russian arsenal. And because the Russians don’t want to pay for ten thousand nuclear weapons of their own, but they will if they feel they have to and so will the Chinese. But they’ll have to cut corners we don’t want them to cut, and they won’t be able to help but think that something they’ve invested that much in ought to be put to good use if they can find an opportunity for it.

            Meanwhile, the rest of the world will not look upon this and say “It is good that the Americans have Nuclear Omnipotence, because everybody knows that the Americans are the good guys”. You are proposing to replay the same damned arms race that nobody could win during the cold war, but without the justification. We won the cold war by taking Russia to the brink of economic collapse and then saying “here’s a better way”. You propose to say, “just kidding”.

            And you think they are all going to do nothing in response.

          • bean says:

            You make a good case, John. I’m not comfortable with the current level of our arsenal, but 10,000 is probably too many. I do want a careful study (or two) of the actual force level we should be aiming for, and I don’t want to rule out increasing our force levels in response. At the margin, it won’t be hideously expensive, because we can increase the number of warheads on the Tridents and Minutemen, and when B-21 starts rolling off the line, we keep the B-52s. But I’m not sure those would hold if we got to the levels I was talking about.

          • John Schilling says:

            “No new nukes” is such an obvious diplomatic schelling point on that front that I don’t think it is realistic or wise to try for more. Likewise, New START may expire, but if Russia tacitly keeps to its terms and the US doesn’t, Russia gets to be the Good Guys in the next arms race.

            So figure out what you can do with 1,411 deployed warheads, another 3,000 or so in reserve, plus conventional strike and missile defense. And if you really think it is imperative that the US be able to destroy everybody else’s nuclear arsenals, you’re going to need an ASW miracle up your sleeve. I doubt it will be a cheap one.

          • There is one and only one sure way to destroy a Russian nuclear warhead with a single American warhead.

            I assume you mean by an arms limitation treaty. Is that a sure way? Under current circumstances, how verifiable is compliance?

            Bean can correct me if I’m wrong, but my memory of the outcome of some previous arms limitations treaties was that both the Germans and the Italians managed to get an amazing amount into hulls limited by treaty to ten thousand tons displacement.

          • cassander says:

            @davidfriedman

            I assume you mean by an arms limitation treaty. Is that a sure way? Under current circumstances, how verifiable is compliance?

            The russians do cheat a little, but so far the arms limitations treaties, by focusing on limiting the number of delivery vehicles rather than actual warheads, have worked fairly well and are fairly viable. And even if you go back to the washington treaties, sure people lied about displacement from time to time, but no one managed to build an entire fleet in secret.

          • cassander says:

            @davidfriedman

            I assume you mean by an arms limitation treaty. Is that a sure way? Under current circumstances, how verifiable is compliance?

            The russians do cheat a little, but so far the arms limitations treaties, by focusing on limiting the number of delivery vehicles rather than actual warheads, have worked fairly well and are fairly viable. And even if you go back to the washington treaties, sure people lied about displacement from time to time, but no one managed to build an entire fleet in secret.

          • bean says:

            “No new nukes” is such an obvious diplomatic schelling point on that front that I don’t think it is realistic or wise to try for more.

            So how about if we limit the expansion of the arsenal to the number we think the North Koreans have? After all, they’re already in violation, and we need a few extras to counter them. Of course, they’ll be in the form of heavy bombers….
            Yeah, that probably won’t fly either, although it really should.
            Right. New plan: Cancel GBSD, draw down the Minuteman force as we bring the B-21 online, while keeping the B-52 fleet at full strength. After all, each only counts as one warhead, even though you can hang a lot more than that aboard. See. Problem solved.

            Bean can correct me if I’m wrong, but my memory of the outcome of some previous arms limitations treaties was that both the Germans and the Italians managed to get an amazing amount into hulls limited by treaty to ten thousand tons displacement.

            There’s a big difference between even a ship that’s 20% over treaty tonnage and a completely secret fleet. The Naval Treaties actually worked fairly well at preventing an arms race, which wouldn’t have been pretty.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            Yeah, that probably won’t fly either, although it really should. Right. New plan: Cancel GBSD, draw down the Minuteman force as we bring the B-21 online,

            If we’re talking fantasy plans, then the US already has a perfectly good nuclear capable ballistic missile in service, the Trident. It’s unclassified range is 4600 miles, compared to 8000 for the Minuteman III. That sounds like a lot less, but it’s enough to hit almost anywhere in the northern hemisphere from bases in alaska.

            Now, Alaska bases aren’t ideal. They would impose serious logistical and political headaches. That range, though, is for a fully loaded missile. Reduce down to one warhead, then save some additional weight by removing the pressurization equipment needed for underwater launch and you get much longer range. I’ve seen as much as 7500 miles just with reduced payload. If that still isn’t enough, you can design an expanded first stage that, because it doesn’t have to fit in a submarine, can be taller.

            That’s if you want to keep going with a triad at all, though. I think a fair case can be made for just ditching the ICBMs entirely, and spending the money on more B-21s and Columbia’s. And I think that even helps fix some of the air force’s nuke malaise. The missiliers have always had an awkward relationship with the rest of the AF, and I don’t think that re-establishing SAC will solve it.

            while keeping the B-52 fleet at full strength.

            And give all the people who maintain them big fat raises! That’s the most essential thing.

            There’s a big difference between even a ship that’s 20% over treaty tonnage and a completely secret fleet. The Naval Treaties actually worked fairly well at preventing an arms race, which wouldn’t have been pretty.

            I wouldn’t say that they prevented it, but they certainly limited how much money was spent.

          • bean says:

            That’s if you want to keep going with a triad at all, though. I think a fair case can be made for just ditching the ICBMs entirely, and spending the money on more B-21s and Columbias.

            Which is exactly what I was proposing we do. We don’t need the ICBMs any more, so scrap that leg and spend the money and warhead slots on other things.

            And give all the people who maintain them big fat raises! That’s the most essential thing.

            I’m sure those people would appreciate it, but that’s not why I called out its retention. The main point is that focusing on bombers gives us more nuclear firepower without having to mess with the arms control treaties, and the B-52s currently work quite well. Yes, it will have to be replaced some day, hopefully before we have to upgrade all of the maintenance computers to support triple-digit ages. But given the money going into it right now, it’s going to be a while.

            I wouldn’t say that they prevented it, but they certainly limited how much money was spent.

            If the amount of money spent is limited, then it’s not really a race, is it?

          • Protagoras says:

            The age of the B52s and what I know of progress in aircraft technology since they were built has always made me wonder about something. I know it would be totally alien to military procurement practices, but suppose they were to try to design a new plane which didn’t try to massively upgrade all the systems to deal with the latest threats and technology, but just tried to make a cheaper, easier to maintain, more fuel efficient version of the original B52. How much better could they make it with current tech, and how long would the new planes have to be in service before the savings from fuel and reduced maintenance made up for the cost of replacing the old planes with new ones?

          • bean says:

            @Protagoras
            A lot of the B-52’s systems have been upgraded over the years, and even more are currently being worked after the most recent extension of the planned service life. There are currently projects to finally fit new engines (not sure exactly what type yet) and a new radar, as well as quite a few other features. It survives because it’s cheaper to run than the alternatives and it’s a good bomb truck. Part of it is that the US is historically bad at not gold-plating things, so it’s hard to talk about a new bomber that isn’t stealthy and fast and otherwise incredible. From what I understand, the B-52 structures are in quite good shape, so it might be a long while yet before replacement becomes economical.
            Of course, there’s always the BKC-46 if we want to go that route…

          • cassander says:

            @Protagoras says:

            The age of the B52s and what I know of progress in aircraft technology since they were built has always made me wonder about something. I know it would be totally alien to military procurement practices, but suppose they were to try to design a new plane which didn’t try to massively upgrade all the systems to deal with the latest threats and technology, but just tried to make a cheaper, easier to maintain, more fuel efficient version of the original B52. How much better could they make it with current tech, and how long would the new planes have to be in service before the savings from fuel and reduced maintenance made up for the cost of replacing the old planes with new ones?

            You could do better, but the cost of building a whole new production line would be enormous, far more than you could save through a more modern platform, and that’s if you assume the air force could resist complicating things, which I doubt it could. This is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement on the existing airframes, but to make that sort of project work, I think you’d have to base it on an existing airliner (the B-52 is a little bigger than a 767) or cargo aircraft, and I’ve been told that putting in a bomb bay on such a plane is extremely difficult from a structural perspective.

          • Protagoras says:

            I guess if they are actually considering replacing the engines, that had been the biggest thing that stood out for me as “I know these have gotten a lot better since the 1950s.”

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            Bah, you beat me to it. But do you really think that that a cost effective B-46 is possible? I’ve thought of the idea too, but I’ve been told that the structural issues are huge. The 767 has external doors for belly cargo, but it was designed with the expectation that they’d be closed during flight and would need substantial structural changes to be able to survive opening them. Also the pressurization system (and thus much internal structure, would need a complete re-design.

            You’ll note that they didn’t go with any sort of rotary launcher on the P-8. I don’t know for sure that the idea wasn’t considered and rejected, but I have a hard time imagining that no one thought of the idea and looked into it.

          • bean says:

            But do you really think that that a cost effective B-46 is possible? I’ve thought of the idea too, but I’ve been told that the structural issues are huge. The 767 has external doors for belly cargo, but it was designed with the expectation that they’d be closed during flight and would need substantial structural changes to be able to survive opening them. Also the pressurization system (and thus much internal structure, would need a complete re-design.

            I don’t think it would be exactly easy, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world either. In structural terms, you basically restrict the pressurized area to the flight deck and some space behind it for the weapons people and crew rest. Build a bulkhead and leave everything aft of it unpressurized. That reduces loads a fair bit. The bomb doors will be a bit tricky to fit in, particularly with the low wing, but Boeing has done much weirder stuff to its airplanes in the past.
            Am I sure the result would be cost-effective? No. It might well be cheaper to keep the B-52 around. But it’s almost certainly cheaper than building a new bomb truck from scratch.

            You’ll note that they didn’t go with any sort of rotary launcher on the P-8. I don’t know for sure that the idea wasn’t considered and rejected, but I have a hard time imagining that no one thought of the idea and looked into it.

            But why would the P-8 need a rotary launcher? It’s a maritime patrol aircraft, not a strike platform. And because of that, it also needs a fair bit of internal volume, which any rotary launcher would cut into in a big way.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            But why would the P-8 need a rotary launcher? It’s a maritime patrol aircraft, not a strike platform. And because of that, it also needs a fair bit of internal volume, which any rotary launcher would cut into in a big way.

            The same advantages internal carry has everywhere, reduced drag and more payload capacity. And with the P-8 In particular, no need to re-design the 737 wing to have pylons and carry the weight of weapons on them. You might be right that they needed the space in the cabin, though.

          • bean says:

            The same advantages internal carry has everywhere, reduced drag and more payload capacity.

            Granted, but for most missions, they only need a couple of Mk 46s, which fit in the bay. For the 5% of the time when you need more, wing pylons are a cheaper solution. You do lose a bit of range, but if you’re flying with a weapons-heavy load, you probably know what it is you’re trying to kill, too.

            And with the P-8 In particular, no need to re-design the 737 wing to have pylons and carry the weight of weapons on them.

            AIUI, the wing redesign was pretty minimal. The military doesn’t fly its planes nearly as hard as the airlines do, and the 737 wing is tough. (Well, the 737NG’s wing is tough, at least.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I assume you mean by an arms limitation treaty. Is that a sure way? Under current circumstances, how verifiable is compliance?

            As others have pointed out, we’re pretty good at verifying compliance when it comes to the number operational delivery systems. Even when the weapons are mobile or the basing mode involves concealment or deception, you just need to watch the manufacturing facilities and maintenance depots to see what comes in and what goes out. If you’ve got the level of trust to negotiate arms control treaties at all, you can usually include on-site inspectors at the gates who get to peek inside every container big enough to hold a missile.

            Secret bunkers full of surplus warheads are harder to rule out, but warheads without delivery systems don’t count for much and in the event of nuclear war the logistics for rapidly mating secret warheads to deployed weapons is going to rapidly go up in radioactive smoke.

            The place where verification gets tricky is with the capabilities of weapons, and we have seen examples of nations probably lying about the exact range and payload of some of their missiles to get them counted in different categories of the relevant treaties. This is the modern equivalent of the 12,000-ton “treaty cruisers” piously claimed to be under the 10,000-ton limit. But, as with the cruisers, there’s a limit to how much cheating you can get away with and not be bloody obvious about it. Also, weapons tests are much more visible than they used to be, and if you can’t test your weapons realistically then there’s a good chance that your clever scheme to get away with cheating, gets you weapons that don’t actually work.

      • Aapje says:

        @bean

        rendered permanently incapable of flight as soon as possible.

        All ships in the mothball fleet are to be rendered incapable of reactivation

        Are these euphemisms for using them for target practice?

        • bean says:

          That’s certainly one option. I’m afraid that any retirement of the A-10 fleet that leaves them flyable is going to make me fight off idiots who want them reactivated every year, so we might as well avoid that. Target practice would be a good use for some of them, in answer to the “A-10 is invincible” brigade. And I want the reserve fleet gone to avoid tempting similar idiots. Sinkexes are an option, but so is scrapping.

          • dndnrsn says:

            You really want a museum ship in every port, don’t you?

          • bean says:

            You might think that, but no. My policy on that would be to make sure that any museum ships that do get donated are fully-funded and able to sustain themselves in the long term. A lot of ports can’t sustain anything bigger than a rowboat.

          • dndnrsn says:

            [Canadian navy joke]

      • Incurian says:

        3. The entire A-10 fleet is to be retired immediately, and all aircraft are to be rendered permanently incapable of flight as soon as possible. Funds will instead go to accelerating F-35 procurement.

        Nothing else can do what the A-10 can do. If we need the F-35 (which I doubt but don’t feel that strongly about) fine, but the A-10 needs to be replaced with something designed for CAS if we have to retire it.

        The A-10 can fly low and slow for a long time and take a beating while dropping a fuckload of hate on bad guys, and it’s pilots are all FAC(A)s who do nothing but practice that. Multirole fighters are great, it’s good to be flexible, but it’s not enough that the F-35 is stealthy (and it won’t be if configured for CAS). It’s going to burn fuel fast and have less time to spend on station building situational awareness and conducting repeated attacks. It’s not going to have the same low speed capability so it’s not going to be able to see the ground as well and its turning radius will be large (more time between attacks). It’s not going to be to take hundreds of round of 23mm and survive – so it won’t fly at all in the most dangerous areas (where we need CAS the most). And its pilots are going to be fighter pilots first, not CAS experts.

        • bean says:

          Nothing else can do what the A-10 can do. If we need the F-35 (which I doubt but don’t feel that strongly about) fine, but the A-10 needs to be replaced with something designed for CAS if we have to retire it.

          In any environment that’s less permissive than Afghanistan today, the A-10 is going to do CAS the same way that everyone else will, with SDBs from medium altitude. CAS by playing in the mud is a good way to give the enemy’s air defense gunners target practice. We desperately need to stop having that capability so that nobody tries to use it. And in Afghanistan today, explain to me the advantage of the A-10 over a Super Tucano with a GAU-8 gun pod.

          The A-10 can fly low and slow for a long and take a beating while dropping a fuckload of hate on bad guys, and it’s pilots are all FAC(A)s who do nothing but practice that.

          It doesn’t take beatings half as well as you think. It’s a lot better at limping home after damage than other airplanes, but it’s not really capable of continuing its mission after missile hits or heavy AAA fire. In Desert Storm, they had to go to medium altitude to stop being shot down. This lesson had been forgotten during OIF, and had to be learned again. Playing in the mud gets you killed. If we need a dedicated CAS capability, let’s look at other options. Maybe we fit a C-130 with a pallet full of SDBs. Lots of loiter, large payload, we can put Army people onboard to make sure it’s hitting where we need it to, and it’s not another fleet we have to support.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            So what I’m hearing is, the asymmetric enemies we fight have really good low-altitude anti-air capability but poor medium-altitude anti-air?

          • bean says:

            The asymmetric enemies we fight have mixed low-altitude AA capabilities. Currently, they seem to have only poor MANPADS, which makes low altitude operations feasible. But if someone who doesn’t like us starts supplying them with better ones, things could get bad. If we go up against a more symmetrical threat, then things are likely to get really bad low down. Medium-altitude systems are larger, rarer, and can realistically be suppressed.

          • Incurian says:

            I don’t agree that the threat environment is either “so permissive that anyone can do it” or “so restrictive A-10s don’t have an advantage,” but I admit that it’s possible and will harass my air force intel buddy about it and report back their thoughts.

            Being able to limp home means that there are more missions that they’re willing to take on in the first place.

            As for other aircraft such as the Super Tucano, yeah, that might be an acceptable compromise, but I want to see those squadrons rolled out before we start chopping up the A-10s.

            Check out the new AC-130J, it will use SDBs and AGMs. The problem there is that it’s super vulnerable, and I’d still want something to fill that gap between completely permissive and very restrictive threat environments.

          • Nornagest says:

            a Super Tucano with a GAU-8 gun pod

            That’s an entertaining mental image.

          • bean says:

            I don’t agree that the threat environment is either “so permissive that anyone can do it” or “so restrictive A-10s don’t have an advantage,” but I admit that it’s possible and will harass my air force intel buddy about it and report back their thoughts.

            I’ll admit that there’s a small gap where it might beat a Tucano, but I don’t think it’s worth maintaining a fairly expensive capability to fill it. Buy more fast movers instead.

            Being able to limp home means that there are more missions that they’re willing to take on in the first place.

            In theory. In practice, it’s best not to lose the airplane, which is why you use PGMs.

            As for other aircraft such as the Super Tucano, yeah, that might be an acceptable compromise, but I want to see those squadrons rolled out before we start chopping up the A-10s.

            Some of it is that I really don’t like the A-10 mafia, who seem willfully blind to technological developments since the 60s. I want the planes gone, period.

            Check out the new AC-130J, it will use SDBs and AGMs. The problem there is that it’s super vulnerable, and I’d still want something to fill that gap between completely permissive and very restrictive threat environments.

            It’s very vulnerable if you bring it in to use the 30 mm. SDB has a range of 100 km+. Keep it well behind the lines, and I don’t see how it’s more vulnerable than an A-10 at low level, or even at high level. The avionics on the A-10 aren’t that good.

            @Nornagest
            The GAU-8 is only there for airshows. It gets taken off when we go to war.

          • Incurian says:

            It’s very vulnerable if you bring it in to use the 30 mm. SDB has a range of 100 km+.

            One of the huge advantages of an AC-130 is not just its firepower, but its sensors. CCA (army aviation) and AC-130s typically work like this:

            Observer: Hi, I’m over here and the enemy is shooting at me from that general direction, please kill them.
            CCA: I see them… They’re dead now. I found some more guys you couldn’t see… and they’re dead.

            CAS works a lot more like artillery because fast movers aren’t so good at getting situational awareness on what’s happening on the ground by looking through a soda straw at 600mph from 20kft. You need to tell them exactly where you want the bomb to go. It’s very illuminating to compare a CCA/AC-130 5-line, a CAS 9-line w/ remarks restrictions, and an artillery call for fire – CAS is by far the most complicated (you can find these by googling JFIRE, which is an awesome little handbook). As an aside, I’ve never personally employed A-10s, but given their capabilities and FAC(A) pilots, I imagine they tend to be closer to CCA than other CAS platforms. So anyway, if you’re using an AC-130J like a flying GMLRS, I think you’re really missing out on its biggest advantage (that’s not to say it might not be cheaper and more effective per missile than GMLRS).

          • bean says:

            @Incurian
            Granted on all points. I’m not so much advocating more AC-130s as a notional BC-130 which basically is a flying GMLRS, and doesn’t have the fancy sensors. If you still want eyes-on from the air, who says that they need to be on the same platform launching the weapons? Pair the BC-130 with an appropriate drone, and we’re 99% of the way to an A-10 replacement at a lot lower cost.

          • Incurian says:

            That’s a good point, although I wouldn’t say 99% because missile time of flight will make that arrangement rather less responsive, and drones are slow and vulnerable in an EW environment, but yeah that would be a good thing. I’m ok with replacing the A-10, but I don’t believe that the F-35 is an adequate replacement, and I see the USAF’s desire to get rid of the A-10 as more of a desire to abdicate their responsibility for CAS entirely (which I’d be ok with, the marines have their own air wings and it seems to work for them, except I doubt the army will ever get the same privilege).

          • bean says:

            That’s a good point, although I wouldn’t say 99% because missile time of flight will make that arrangement rather less responsive, and drones are slow and vulnerable in an EW environment, but yeah that would be a good thing.

            Fair point on EW. For response time, fit the SDB with a datalink.

            I’m ok with replacing the A-10, but I don’t believe that the F-35 is an adequate replacement, and I see the USAF’s desire to get rid of the A-10 as more of a desire to abdicate their responsibility for CAS entirely (which I’d be ok with, the marines have their own air wings and it seems to work for them, except I doubt the army will ever get the same privilege).

            I suspect the Air Force would be OK with it so long as the Army coughs up the money, and could guarantee it wouldn’t go further. But they never seem willing to give up anything for it….

          • CatCube says:

            It’s been a while, but the last time I looked at it, the Army was looking at taking over the A-10 when the Air Force had declared their intent to give up the capability. Then the Air Force changed their mind, because they’d rather play dog-in-a-manger than give up a mission guaranteed them in the Key West Agreement.

            To a certain extent, this is a manifestation of the old bureaucratic rule of “where you stand depends on where you sit.” From the Air Force’s perspective, they’re looking at a small-scale map of a whole theater, and the front line is basically the width of a pencil line on a 1:500,000 map. They don’t want to have their aircraft and personnel shackled to a pencil line when they could be conducting interdiction or strategic bombing missions over the whole map.

            For the Army, that pencil line is the most important thing going on in the theater.

          • gbdub says:

            Talking a lot about the A-10, but what about the retired OV-10?

            It seems like a good capability to have would be a multi-seat, long loiter time aircraft that would be more survivable at mid-altitude than a C130, capable of some light attacks of its own but primarily a FAC aircraft for shepherding a flock of drones and fast movers to be the heavy hitters.

            The Tucano seems like it could fill this role, but maybe something more like a two-seater A-10 without the gun would have some advantages over that?

            I don’t know, it really does seem like the niche that the A-10 fills in modern warfare is quite narrow.

          • John Schilling says:

            Talking a lot about the A-10, but what about the retired OV-10?

            Someone brought a pair of OV-10s out of retirement and sent them to support US special-operations forces in Syria, so that niche apparently hasn’t closed yet.

            It seems like a good capability to have would be a multi-seat, long loiter time aircraft that would be more survivable at mid-altitude than a C130, capable of some light attacks of its own but primarily a FAC aircraft for shepherding a flock of drones and fast movers to be the heavy hitters.

            It’s not clear what you gain by putting the weapons anywhere other than the observation platform. The sort of weapons you need for CAS today aren’t that heavy, and they have the performance to promptly destroy whatever it is you just spotted that needs to be destroyed. What other platform is going to be in a better position to take the shot? And, given that you’ve already eaten the risk of putting your observation platform there, why have anything else, even a drone, duplicate that risk?

            There’s definitely a need (more than a niche) for a persistent, survivable platform capable of operating within visual range of the battlefield, carrying tactical surveillance and targeting gear, a reasonable supply of small precision-guided missiles(*), and a crewman with good situational awareness who is trained and focused on using those systems. The A-10 was pretty good at filling that need, and the OV-10 could be, but they both have the problem of being so old that they are no longer survivable against wear and tear on their out-of-production parts.

            The Tucano isn’t bad, but its single engine limits survivability – bean can dismiss the A-10 as “not really capable of continuing its mission after missile hits or heavy AAA fire”, but having reasonable confidence that you can “limp home” means that you don’t have to run home the moment you start taking fire. And a single pilot can’t stay focused on the job that needs doing.

            JSF has both of those problems, with less fuel endurance and greater temptation to jet off and do something higher-profile than CAS.

            Drones might eventually be able to take over the job, but a drone built for the job might look an awful lot like an OV-10 with less glass up front. For now, drones fail on the survivability and especially the situational-awareness front.

            If I were tasked with doing the job with an infinite development budget, you’d probably see something that looks like a new-build OV-10 or a twin-engine Tucano. Given real budget constraints and the fact that I don’t want the job, I’d accept the issues that come with a single engine. Then tell both bean and the USAF that they can retire the A-10s as soon as they can replace them on a one-for-one basis with whatever Tucano-equivalent platform they settle on.

            * And probably a gun, but it doesn’t need to be a GAU-8

          • bean says:

            Given real budget constraints and the fact that I don’t want the job, I’d accept the issues that come with a single engine. Then tell both bean and the USAF that they can retire the A-10s as soon as they can replace them on a one-for-one basis with whatever Tucano-equivalent platform they settle on.

            Done. I’m calling the management of Embraer, Beechcraft and Air Tractor right now. Whoever can get me the planes the fastest gets the contract, and anyone who protests is going to find their factory the victim of a tragic “training accident”. I’m not opposed to keeping some sort of dedicated CAS platform around, but I really want the A-10 gone, because it’s way too expensive for the special capabilities it gives us, and I’m irritated by the fact that most of its proponents don’t realize that CAS has moved on since the 60s. (In fact, I suspect that lots of them did CAS the old way in Vietnam or saw it done there.)
            Of course, if we’re thinking way outside the box, could I interest you in a BP-8?

          • John Schilling says:

            Done. I’m calling the management of Embraer, Beechcraft and Air Tractor right now.

            And you’re keeping the last of the A-10s circling ominously low over the corporate headquarters of all three, towing banners saying “if anyone files a protest when the losers are announced…”, right?

          • bean says:

            John, I already threatened their factories with tragic “training accidents”. Believe me, I want the planes in service even more than you do, because I means I can get a new source of target drones.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’ll have to leave the detailed stuff to guys who know more, but big picture stuff:

      1) Make our nuclear arsenal superb. Like, phase out the silo ICBMs, maintaining our deterrent with better delivery systems. Our SSBNs are the gold standard here.
      2) Reduce what @Nornagest called “the mountain of stuff [we…] suffocate our opponents under.” Give our ground troops everything they need to fight the battles they’ll actually fight. Drill into the armed forces that they don’t exist to fight Russia or China. Nuclear powers don’t go to war (skirmishes between India and Pakistan excepted), so they’re going to learn for the first time how to fight when the enemy is guerrillas or terrorists photogenically hiding among the populace.
      3) Start explaining to me why the Navy needs as many ships as the next 17 powers combined when the British Empire maintained hegemony of the seas with a 2-power standard. I’ll start decommissioning while you talk.

      • bean says:

        Start explaining to me why the Navy needs as many ships as the next 17 powers combined when the British Empire maintained hegemony of the seas with a 2-power standard. I’ll start decommissioning while you talk.

        I’d better talk fast, then.
        It’s a matter of geography. Britain was doing that in a world where all of the battleships (which is actually what the 2-power standard covered) were concentrated in Europe. And the Britain of 1889 is perfectly positioned to deal with all of those from their home base. Essentially, they could throw all of their ships, modulo the ones in the yards, at any threat. Note that this started to fray fairly quickly. The presence of large warships in the Far East threatened to make the whole thing uneconomical, so they signed the Anglo-Japanese alliance. The US was neutralized diplomatically.
        Today, the US has to deploy. Because of the increasing complexity of ships, and the lack of an Empire to base them in, and because we want our sailors to reenlist, we have to rotate the deployed forces. Which means we need 3-4 ships for every one that’s out doing our bidding worldwide. To a large extent, the size of the active fleet today is set by peacetime considerations, not wartime ones, which is admittedly a slightly odd place to be.

        • bean says:

          I should add that sea power has gotten much more versatile in the intervening years. Back then, you had land power and sea power. Land power couldn’t do much at sea, and sea power couldn’t do that much on land. These days, it’s possible to trade off sea, land and air power much more freely. The US has a big navy because it trades off against a bigger army or air force much more effectively than it could have in 1889. The RN played no part in the Afghanistan campaign, beyond making sure that troops could get to India. The USN played a major part in the opening days of Enduring Freedom.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @bean: OK, you get to keep the carrier battle groups. 🙂
            So we need 3-4 carriers for each one that’s out doing our bidding. How many do we need out doing our bidding? Surely no less than 3, so that puts the floor at 9 battle groups. And how efficient are they at exercising sea hegemony and providing air support wherever our fighters fight, rather than waiting for war with Russia? I want to keep those two missions optimized.

          • bean says:

            So we need 3-4 carriers for each one that’s out doing our bidding. How many do we need out doing our bidding? Surely no less than 3, so that puts the floor at 9 battle groups.

            This is oddly close to the current force structure.

            And how efficient are they at exercising sea hegemony and providing air support wherever our fighters fight, rather than waiting for war with Russia? I want to keep those two missions optimized.

            They’re quite good at both, tending a bit towards air support, actually. The really nice thing is that we don’t need permission from other people to use them, which is a serious problem with land-based air. Naval forces need to be flexible. A bunch of European countries ended up with only marginally useful ASW frigates after the end of the Cold War.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Bean: reading up on it, it seems the Navy needs two CVNs in port for every one deployed, so to keep three deployed they need a tenth, one of the three sailing home as the tenth takes its place?
            Why is it necessary to have nuclear power plants that require $4 billion refueling during the carrier’s service life, when they spend 2/3 of their time sitting in port and all their escorts already rely on tankers when deployed? Couldn’t we buy two Wasps for the cost of refueling a CAN?
            So, about those Wasps. With F-35s replacing the Harriers, why do we need two complete fleets of aircraft carriers, one CVN and another for the Marines? Billion for billion, which of these navies is going to be more efficient at ruling the oceans and providing our ground troops with air support we don’t have to ask permission for?
            This question is becoming acute with the America-class, a Wasp-based hull that sacrificed the well deck because being more of an aircraft carrier was considered more relevant to the Marines than storming beaches (and of course it cost $4 billion rather than the Wasp price tag, because screw you taxpayers).

          • bean says:

            reading up on it, it seems the Navy needs two CVNs in port for every one deployed, so to keep three deployed they need a tenth, one of the three sailing home as the tenth takes its place?

            Pretty much.

            Why is it necessary to have nuclear power plants that require $4 billion refueling during the carrier’s service life, when they spend 2/3 of their time sitting in port and all their escorts already rely on tankers when deployed?

            Time in port is mostly irrelevant, because the reactor is off then. The big advantage of nuclear power is that it significantly reduces the logistical burden of the carrier itself, and gives it more space to carry aviation ordnance. I don’t have the numbers to hand right now, but I’ll look when I get home.

            Couldn’t we buy two Wasps for the cost of refueling a CAN?

            Leaving aside industrial limitations, the Wasps aren’t the right tool for this job. The RCOH does a bunch of extra work to keep the carriers viable, too.

            So, about those Wasps. With F-35s replacing the Harriers, why do we need two complete fleets of aircraft carriers, one CVN and another for the Marines? Billion for billion, which of these navies is going to be more efficient at ruling the oceans and providing our ground troops with air support we don’t have to ask permission for?

            The Wasps aren’t aircraft carriers. They’re designed to move troops over the beach, with a sideline of a little bit of air support. This has imposed massive compromises on their aviation facilities. You could in theory put a bunch of Harriers/F-35s on one, and it’s been done a time or two, but it’s never been worth doing in a big way while we have big-deck carriers around.

            The big difference is that STOVL is not well suited for strike missions, and CATOBAR is. Ground support is only one part of a CVN’s mission, and the unique capability those bring is that they can do almost everything a land-based air force can do. Nobody else can do that, and you can’t do it with STOVL.

            This question is becoming acute with the America-class, a Wasp-based hull that sacrificed the well deck because being more of an aircraft carrier was considered more relevant to the Marines than storming beaches (and of course it cost $4 billion rather than the Wasp price tag, because screw you taxpayers).

            I’ve been aboard the America. (I really need to get around to telling that story.) You could very much see that her design was driven by the need to move troops ashore, which is rather different from what you want on a carrier. It’s also worth noting that they’ve reversed course and put the well deck back starting with the third unit of the class. As for costing, military pricing is a lovecraftian mess. We might be able to bring it down some, but there’s a lot more that goes into it than you’d think.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @bean: makes sense, thank you.
            So what’s the most efficient number of Expeditionary Strike Groups (Wasps/Americas with their destroyers, fast attack subs and other support) to support our global asymmetric conflicts, with 10 Carrier Battle Groups to do the heavy work?

          • bean says:

            I’d lean towards keeping about 3 ESGs forward-deployed as well. Note than an ESG is based around a big-deck amphib, with a couple of other amphibious ships in addition to the escorts. Total Marine complement is about a battalion, which is a nice unit for fire-brigade duties. So we need 9 or 10 of them, too. They pair nicely with the carriers, although most of the time we shouldn’t be operating them together to cover more ocean.

          • Nornagest says:

            How do the LPDs fit into this?

          • bean says:

            How do the LPDs fit into this?

            A typical ESG is an LHD/LHA, an LPD and an LSD, plus a couple of destroyers. It’s sort of the independent/all-in-one amphib. I really need to do the writeups on modern amphibious operations.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @bean: I still can’t fathom what mission we need 6 battle groups deployed for.
            So the CVNs are for giving our ground troops anywhere in the world air support without having to ask permission for bases, and the amphibious assault carriers are for supporting our group troops on the coast?
            The problem with those missions is, as soon as our troops invade a Third World country, their fighting men take off uniforms and attack us with Kalashnikovs, IEDs, and man-portable missiles while looking like civilians, and our troops lose. The Viet Conf did it to us, now every Muslim country on Earth knows how to do it to us, and we haven’t come up with any strategy to win such a war.

            From my perspective as a civilianess, it looks like we have this unfathomably large and expensive Navy for the purpose of supporting an Army and Marines who don’t know how to win a war unless we fight a Great Power and they throw their industrial capacity at ours while politely not using their nukes even if we win (and that’s the only kind of war we know how to win) and occupy their capital.
            So fine, we either keep that Navy force structure to support an Army that knows how to win when they invade Third World countries, or keep one ESG per ocean and some cruiser equivalents to control the world’s sea lanes and decommission the rest of the Navy.
            Didn’t it cost the UK a smaller fraction of its Edwardian GDP to rule the seas and 25% of the world’s land than it costs the USA to rule the seas and incompetently police the world?

          • Nornagest says:

            Whenever we can get away with it these days, we prefer not to commit substantial ground assets, relying instead on proxy forces, airpower, and sometimes small numbers of Special Forces-type units. We could argue about how well good a strategy that actually is: for it to work it needs political conditions that we’ve often deluded ourselves over, and which all those shitty little militias have every incentive in the world to lie about, so in practice it often seems to produce short-term victory and long-term chaos. But it’s pretty inarguable that our fleet carriers are well suited to executing it, as well as to anything else that takes a big air wing and good support facilities.

            Expeditionary forces have a different mission. Those are for kicking in the door on a country that we’ve actually decided to invade, and their aircraft are mainly there to move troops around and to do close support of them — air assault, in other words. We have serious institutional and cultural problems dealing with asymmetrical resistance once we’ve landed our troops, but that’s a problem with Army or Marine doctrine, not with the hardware or even really with the Navy’s force structure; we could have the best counterinsurgency force in the world and we’d still have to get it to the insurgency.

          • bean says:

            So the CVNs are for giving our ground troops anywhere in the world air support without having to ask permission for bases, and the amphibious assault carriers are for supporting our group troops on the coast?

            Not quite. CVNs can do a lot more than support ground troops. A lot of the time, our interests are fairly well-served by simply bombing people. ESGs can put a battalion of troops ashore anywhere there’s water. That may be for an invasion, it may be for disaster relief, or it may be because we need to get our embassy out of the middle of a revolution. Ideally, we wouldn’t be

            The problem with those missions is, as soon as our troops invade a Third World country, their fighting men take off uniforms and attack us with Kalashnikovs, IEDs, and man-portable missiles while looking like civilians, and our troops lose. The Viet Conf did it to us, now every Muslim country on Earth knows how to do it to us, and we haven’t come up with any strategy to win such a war.

            There’s a lot of cases where we don’t need to keep troops on the ground forever, and in those cases the freedom from bases given by amphibious lift is really important. We’ve been rather distracted over the past 15 years, but even the initial Afghan campaign was actually a near-textbook example of this kind of thing in action.

            From my perspective as a civilianess, it looks like we have this unfathomably large and expensive Navy for the purpose of supporting an Army and Marines who don’t know how to win a war unless we fight a Great Power and they throw their industrial capacity at ours while politely not using their nukes even if we win (and that’s the only kind of war we know how to win) and occupy their capital.
            So fine, we either keep that Navy force structure to support an Army that knows how to win when they invade Third World countries, or keep one ESG per ocean and some cruiser equivalents to control the world’s sea lanes and decommission the rest of the Navy.

            That’s really, really not how the navy is set up. They’re set up to protect the sea and to give us the ability to project a lot of force anywhere. Not just in support of the Army. In fact, the whole point is that the Navy is independent of the Army, and can work separately. I covered some of this here.

            Didn’t it cost the UK a smaller fraction of its Edwardian GDP to rule the seas and 25% of the world’s land than it costs the USA to rule the seas and incompetently police the world?

            I don’t know offhand, but the Empire was more expensive to maintain than is generally realized. And the threat environment today is a lot worse, particularly the wide dispersal of reasonably high-end military equipment.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:
            Whenever we can get away with it these days, we prefer not to commit substantial ground assets, relying instead on proxy forces, airpower, and sometimes small numbers of Special Forces-type units. We could argue about how well good a strategy that actually is: for it to work it needs political conditions that we’ve often deluded ourselves over, and which all those shitty little militias have every incentive in the world to lie about, so in practice it often seems to produce short-term victory and long-term chaos. But it’s pretty inarguable that our fleet carriers are well suited to executing it, as well as to anything else that takes a big air wing and good support facilities.

            Yes, unarguably so. However, if a massive show of airpower and some Special Forces strikes just produces long-term chaos, we have to ask whether it’s just to take so much taxpayer wealth to do it.
            Hence the urgency of a total overhaul in Army and Marine doctrine, finding one that works at winning the kind of wars we’ve been losing since Vietnam.

            Expeditionary forces have a different mission. Those are for kicking in the door on a country that we’ve actually decided to invade, and their aircraft are mainly there to move troops around and to do close support of them — air assault, in other words. We have serious institutional and cultural problems dealing with asymmetrical resistance once we’ve landed our troops, but that’s a problem with Army or Marine doctrine, not with the hardware or even really with the Navy’s force structure; we could have the best counterinsurgency force in the world and we’d still have to get it to the insurgency.

            Of course. Having listened to bean, I’m in agreement with the hardware and force structure he supports, so long as we know how to win conflicts with it.

          • bean says:

            Hence the urgency of a total overhaul in Army and Marine doctrine, finding one that works at winning the kind of wars we’ve been losing since Vietnam.

            This isn’t quite true. We pretty much won in Iraq, before Obama went and threw most of it away. Afghanistan may be a lost cause, but that seems to have more to do with Afghanistan in particular and less to do with us. The British and Soviets both got thrown out, and we’ve done a lot better than either of them did. Leave it, and threaten to back the rivals of anyone who irritates us there.
            We also did a lot better than is commonly realized in Vietnam. After Tet, the Viet Cong were spent, and the war was basically being fought entirely by the NVA. The US, for political reasons that I’m not even going to try to explain because of how stupid they’ll sound, refused to seriously go after North Vietnam. Once that happened, losing was inevitable. Note that the one time we did really take the gloves off, during Linebacker II, we brought them back to the negotiating table and made them give us what we wanted. Of course, they promptly broke the Paris Peace Accord and we did nothing, but that’s a political problem.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It’s so weird that the unrelated issue of sketchy Nixon domestic stuff aside, the South Vietnamese probably would have been able to hold out with continued US air support.

          • Incurian says:

            Afghanistan may be a lost cause, but that seems to have more to do with Afghanistan in particular and less to do with us.

            FWIW, my first deployment was during the surge, and it sure seemed like we were able to keep the place on lockdown. Now I don’t know if my perception was correct, or if it was similar all over Afghanistan, or if it would have been enough to set conditions for a stable government, (and I heard there was some report that claimed the surge was ineffective) but it seemed to me that if we could have sustained those troops levels things might have been ok.

          • bean says:

            @dndnrsn
            Precisely. Vietnam is massively misunderstood, and didn’t have to end the way it did.

            @Incurian
            I’m not sure about Afghanistan one way or the other. I was mostly pointing out that the one case I couldn’t answer is historically an unusually difficult problem to solve from a counterinsurgency/conquest perspective.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            EDIT: Oh, Dndnrsn I think it was you who was asking me about Patreon the other thread. I haven’t had a chance to run down the numbers, but no, wouldn’t feel comfortable making an estimate about how much to discount them in general. Too many unknown unknowns like whether the situation that applies to content creators like writers, artists, and the like would apply to Pedersen’s lectures. I just know it’s -enough- of a problem that I’ve seen a LOT of people with Patreon bitching about it and showing screenshots of the difference between their theoretical backing level and what they actually get. In one case, they were getting something like $400-500 (depending on how successful people were at cancelling/disputing chargeS) out of the nominal $1,500-2,000 he had showing on his front page.

            …finding one that works at winning the kind of wars we’ve been losing since Vietnam.

            I’m late to the party on this thread, but this isn’t really a problem we can address with structural, doctrinal, or hardware reforms. Or rather, building a specialized COIN/Nation-Building force would be necessary but by no means sufficient. And as Bean has pointed out, the other part of the equation is political and cultural. We are not prepared to commit the blood, treasure, and time needed to win the kind of wars we’ve been ‘losing’ since Vietnam (I think Bean is mostly right there as well),

            We’re too casualty averse, we don’t care enough to tolerate the financial burden (especially since there’s not really any prospect of making a profit in either direct financial or even political terms on these sorts of efforts, no matter what the “It’s All About The Oil” people think), and our political system and current internal political landscape could hardly be more poorly suited to maintain a 10-20 year campaign abroad if it had been designed that way on purpose.

            We could defray the costs in money and lives if we had allies who had both the war-fighting capacity to sustain longer term and larger scale overseas deployments on their own, but we don’t have that and as Incurian is hashing out with others elsewhere in this thread we really have no leverage to convince them to commit to helping us there. And since we aren’t really willing to go the distance either it’s hard to make the argument that they should…

            Bean, I think we’re in about 80% agreement, but I do think your statement that we’d pretty much won in Iraq is a modest exaggeration. Mostly true in the purely military sense, but in terms of the big picture goal of walking away from a stable and self-sufficient democracy capable of holding itself together and fending off attackers…well, demonstrably not so much. That said, I don’t think getting there would have been an insurmountable challenge. It WOULD have required more time, though, and it’s hard for me to say even now how much MORE time that would’ve taken. Five years? Probably not another ten? But really, in what world could we expect the American public to have really gotten behind a “ten more years” promise and pushed?

            I’m less experienced on the ins and outs of democratic (and non-democratic) politics in the middle east, but I can say that trying to build functional modern militaries in Arab states is capital-H HARD.

          • bean says:

            but I do think your statement that we’d pretty much won in Iraq is a modest exaggeration. Mostly true in the purely military sense, but in terms of the big picture goal of walking away from a stable and self-sufficient democracy capable of holding itself together and fending off attackers…well, demonstrably not so much.

            I think it’s a reasonable one. If Obama had signed the Status of Forces agreement and hadn’t been so abrupt about the pullout, we would have been much better placed to head of ISIS. Iraq wasn’t completely won, but we were definitely on the path to victory, and I think it’s a path we could have walked, too.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            From what I’ve read, the war is indeed misunderstood. It’s been taken as the archetypal counterinsurgency situation, but a lot of it was a conventional war, fighting a conventional opponent. I think that the various problems in the South Vietnamese military’s organization and operations, and more broadly weaknesses in South Vietnamese leadership and society, were more significant than the US not hitting upon the right anti-guerrilla magic.

            The view of it as a war that the US fought lost, with the South Vietnamese seen as this combination of civilians treated almost as scenery, or as incompetent and unreliable semi-allies, is part of the problem in understanding it. The South Vietnamese, for all their problems, were able to more or less stalemate the North until US support dried up.

            American accounts of the war sometimes tend towards viewing it as this unforced error, too, which ignores that the North Vietnamese did what they were doing really, really well. Giap was an excellent strategist, and the North Vietnamese seem to have had a coherent strategy in a way that the Americans didn’t (and, perhaps, couldn’t, given the way that military decisions were sometimes beholden to domestic political considerations). The framing of it as an exclusively or primarily guerrilla war also functions to obscure that the North Vietnamese were very clever and found some very effective ways to try and counter American advantages.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @bean: I did not realize the NVA was on its own after Tet. I thought the Viet Cong went for broke then, our troops beat everything they had, and then they built back up because of a lack of political will (which is basically what happens with Islamic insurgents when we draw down troop levels in the countries we’ve occupied since 9/11).

          • bean says:

            Pretty much. “Lack of political will” pretty much describes the US since the end of WWII, but the military has been surprisingly successful at routing around it.

            Also, I’m thinking of writing up the conversation on carrier force levels at Naval Gazing, and I think it would work best as a dialog. Would it be OK to use your name in it as the questioner? I think you’ve been asking good questions throughout, and I’ll send it to you before I post if you want.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @bean: Yes, that’s fine. 🙂

    • dndnrsn says:

      Thinking about it more, something I have never heard anyone say anything good about, ever, at all, regardless of the field, is extraneous Powerpoint presentations. This is not a military-only problem, and seems to exist in the government at all levels, as well as private businesses above a certain size. However the military is most able to form penal battalions.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Special note: anything you do with the US military will have to avoid disclosing what we’re doing in such a way that opponents can neutralize that action. For instance, just saying “we’ll consolidate all our forces in Slobovistan” is a really good way to double the number of ice cream salesmen outside the Slobovistan embassy.

      Of course, if you’re smart, you go ahead and say that, and then keep a skeleton crew in Slobovistan and move the rest of your stuff to Elsewherevria.

      Which brings me to a more central point: US planners are that smart, and that leads to an intrinsic problem in military logistics: carry that principle to its logical conclusion and you can’t tell anyone outside of your planning unit what you’re up to, even if they’re on your side, because the walls are (probably) listening. The USM has a strong culture of need-to-know, and that lesson was hard won, so don’t expect it to be unlearned. Every person of rank colonel or higher and every civilian with equivalent pay grade can be expected to use that principle to hide what they’re doing. Coordination, and its money saving benefits, can be expected to quickly go out the window. And a great deal of cost saving depends on coordination.

      This has the added benefit / curse of making the overall military budget very unknowable, except in a very broad tens-of-billions sense. You won’t know what all it’s being spent on. You don’t get to know; if you did, so would the bad guys. And even if you get to know, half the time, the military doesn’t know.

  26. Anonymous says:

    How likely is it that the Antarctica mining ban will not be renewed in 2048?

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Not likely, I think. It’s still too cold there. (How busy is the mining industry in northern Canada? That would probably be my first lead.)

      • Iain says:

        How busy is the mining industry in northern Canada? That would probably be my first lead.

        Quite active, actually. For example, there are three major mines in Nunavut, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize that the entire territory has less than 40K people.

  27. dlr says:

    I went back and read your original book review on GUYENET. I’ve got a comment or question on the original book review, but the comments on that post is closed, so I thought I’d put it here.

    Basically my concern with Guyenet’s book is, what about all those studies showing ALL animals, including wild animals have started getting fatter? Human beings eating hyper-palatable food isn’t going to rebound somehow to make deer get fat. I can’t remember the long list of animals that have been examined, but it seems like every animal they’ve looked at is getting fatter, not just humans. Something that impacts wild animals as well as humans sounds like some chemical that is inadvertently being released into the environment. Something to do with the manufacture of ______ (fill in the blank, your guess is as good as mine). Nothing that only impacts humans (Doritos) can possibly be the explanation.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s perfectly reasonable for human food to be making mice or raccoons or foxes fatter — unless they live in the wilderness far away from human settlements, they get a lot of their calories from eating human garbage. Browsing animals like deer are more of a stretch, but even they eat garden plants, so human presence could still imply more or more palatable food for them.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        More food shouldn’t cause deer to get fat. It should cause a population boom instead. Even if chemicals in food made raccoons eat more and/or store fat, if they have a malthusian environment, they should evolve not to store energy. (Maybe erratic food means that they should store energy, I don’t know, but the selective pressure is very different from humans, and unlikely to be the same direction as the effects of a chemical. And it’s unlikely to be in the same direction for deer and raccoons.)

        • Nornagest says:

          There’s been a deer population boom, but I’m under the impression that we’re trying to keep a lid on deer population through hunting and other forms of wildlife management; predation pressure might have kept deer populations below strictly Malthusian levels in the past, too. And erratic food supply is probably the rule, not the exception.

    • AG says:

      One explanation was that plants have also been showing increased carbon content (relative to their other nutrients). Which makes sense. Fossil fuels used to be live biomass.

  28. Incurian says:

    Sigh. Here I am on a Mexican beach but I can’t enjoy it because I have to do homework, and I can’t do my homework because I’m reading SSC!

    • Well... says:

      Some beach
      Somewhere
      You’ve got homework to do, but that open thread ain’t lookin’ bare
      There’s cold margaritas
      And hot señoritas
      But SSC — so who cares?
      On some beach
      Somewhere

      • Incurian says:

        writin’ an essay
        it’s such a cliche
        need some escape from this torment and toil
        more typing than thinking, the word count is my king
        fuck my life
        guess i’ll pour some cuervo

        wasted my day again in slatestarcodexville
        open threads, i don’t know how to hault
        if you ask yvain, no willpower’s to blame
        but i know, it’s really scott’s fault

        use logic and reason
        just like david friedman
        with nothing to show for it but this empty page
        it’s inconsequential
        but full of potential
        and what I should write i haven’t a clue

        wasted my day again in slatestarcodexville
        open threads, i don’t know how to hault
        if you ask yvain, no willpower’s to blame
        now i think, it’s society’s fault

        opened my laptop, thank god for bakkot
        read the new comments, collapse all the old
        but there’s bayes to remember
        and soon it will render
        an updated prior (notwithstanding black swans)

        wasted my day again in slatestarcodexville
        open threads, i don’t know how to hault
        if you ask yvain, no willpower’s to blame
        but i know, it’s my own damn fault

  29. albatross11 says:

    General question related to reproductive technology: What’s the probability that there has been at least one human successfully cloned by now?

    How would we get a good estimate of this probability?

    My very imperfect understanding is that:

    a. Cloning mammals is done routinely.

    b. There are some potential problems cloning humans, so it might turn out to be hard to do or might lead to humans with major medical problems.

    (i) Some of those problems might be subtle and take a long time to show up.

    c. The main bar to trying this is ethical/legal. If enough people decide they want to try it, they will almost certainly succeed.

    If human cloning were pretty well-established and known technology, like IVF, then I’d expect that it would be done a lot. Lots of people would like to clone themselves or a relative; others would want to raise a clone of some notable person if they could. Still others would want to clone a tragically dead child or spouse. Some would want to make clones of themselves for spare parts, if they could figure out how to get away with it.

    But I’m not sure how much demand there would be for human clones in a world where there’s not much track record and we don’t really know how well it will work….

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      0% chance, or close enough as to make no difference.

      You seem to understand the reason:

      But I’m not sure how much demand there would be for human clones

      The only benefit to human cloning right now is bragging rights. Any of the other things that you could imagine using a clone for could be done more cheaply and easily through other methods. The reason to do it is to show that you are capable of doing it.

      A lot of people have tried to claim that they’ve cloned a human but since none of their claims are credible we can safely assume that no one has successfully cloned a human.

    • a reader says:

      It doesn’t seem yet feasable to clone a human. Now it needs hundreds of egg cells and dozens of pregnancies for a live birth of a mammal clone (who sometimes dies soon after birth). Not even a chimp or gorilla was cloned, only 2 macaques, very recently, in China (Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua).

      I doubt that an operation needing hundreds of human egg cells and dozens of women to be inseminated with clone embryos could be kept completely secret. Maybe in China – but for now, they cloned only monkeys, so they are not yet there.

  30. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So I’ve discovered Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, a collaborative history from 1577-87 that was, along with the Bible and Plutarch, one of Shakespeare’s favorite books.

    It’s a fascinating glimpse into where rationalism could take people without skepticism, as the authors combine a pre-Marx focus on economic causes with a total lack of source criticism, using everything from Elizabethan state papers to medieval pseudo-histories. So you get such delightful weirdness as the third chapter of the first part, “What sundry nations have inhabited in this island”:
    “As few or no Nations can justly boast themselves to have continued since their country was first replenished;No Nation void of mixture, more or less, with other people, no more can this our Island, whose manifold commodities have oft allured sundry Princes and famous captains of the world to conquer and subdue the same unto their own subjection.” … and the first to steal the land and its commodities from its previous inhabitants were FREAKING GIANTS DESCENDED FROM HAM.

    • DavidS says:

      One of the things I loved about Herodotus is that he os happy to believe in suoernatural accounts but is sceptical of historical narratives that seem likely to have been invented by the ruling powers, copied from neighbours or similar.

      Shows scepticism and materalism don’t have to come together.

  31. johansenindustries says:

    https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/matthew_van_eerde/2017/05/09/how-far-apart-can-squares-be/

    “Consider the squares: 0, 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36…

    “No two squares are 6 apart,” I say. After some subtractions you believe me.

    Exercise: prove no two squares are 6 apart.

    “Nor are any two squares 134 apart,” I say. You look at me in surprise. After some puzzlement, inspiration strikes.

    Exercise: prove that any two squares differ either by an odd number or by multiple of 4.

    “In fact,” I say, “the set {2, 6, 10, 14, …} = {4k + 2} completely describes how far apart two squares cannot be…”

    Exercise: given any n not of the form 4k + 2, prove that it is possible to find two squares that are n apart.

    “… with one exception.”

    Exercise: find the exception. Find what was wrong with your previous proof. Convince yourself the proof is now correct and there are no other exceptions.

    Anyone know the exception?

    • James says:

      If he means zero, then fuck this guy.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Hm. The difference between two consecutive squares is given by the derivative, 2n + 1, of the first square root n. So the general formula for the distance between two squares, k1 and k2, is sum(2n +1) from sqrt(k1) to sqrrt(k2).

      Hm. I don’t have the paper handy to calculate out the integral. It should be pretty easy to set up a pair of equations and solve for possible values, though.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The difference between two squares x^2 and (x+m)^2 is m^2 + 2xm, by simple algebra.

      The m^2 term is congruent to 0 mod 4 if m is even, 1 mod 4 if m is odd. The 2xm term is congruent to 2 mod 4 if x and m are both odd, otherwise 0 mod 4. Thus the total difference is congruent to 0 mod 4 if m is even, 1 mod 4 if m is odd and x is even, and 3 mod 4 if both are odd. 2 mod 4 is not possible. This settles the first two exercises.

      So the problem is to prove there exists a k for which no m and x exist such that

      4k = m^2 + 2xm (m even)
      or
      4k + 1 = m^2 + 2xm (m odd, x even)
      or
      4k + 3 = m^2 + 2xm (m odd, x odd)

      For the first, if we pick m = 2 and x = k – 1, we can get any k > 0.

      The second two are covered by the difference between consecutive squares being the sequence of odd numbers.

    • S_J says:

      Trying not to look at the other answers that have been posted…and assuming that all unknown values discussed are integers greater than or equal to zero.

      For any given n and (n+j), the difference of the two is

      (n+j)^2 – n^2 = n^2 + 2nj + j^2 – n^2

      which simplifies to
      (n+j)^2 – n^2 = 2nj + j^2 = j(2n + j)

      In the above equation, the term 2n is even. The other term, j can be either even or odd.

      If j is even, then the term (2n + j) is a sum of even numbers, and is thus even. Thus, both parts of the product j(2n + j) are multiples of 2. Since both parts have a factor of 2, their product can be re-written as 2(2)k = 4k, for some k.

      If j is odd, then the term (2n + j) is a sum of even and odd numbers, and is thus an odd number. The product j(2n + j) is a product of odd numbers, and is thus odd.

      Odd numbers are often expressed as 2m+1 for some m, but can be written as one of {4k+1 , 4k+3} when we are comparing to multiples of 4:{4k}, and when comparing to even numbers that are not multiples of 4:{4k+2}.

      Thus, for any two non-negative integers, the difference of their squares is either a multiple of 4, or it is an odd number expressed by one of 4k+1 or 4k+3.

      After pursuing that train of logic, I think I’ve stated that there is no case where the difference of two squares is an integer which can be written as 4k+2.

      The big question is, does every number that is one of {4k+1 , 4k+3} actually represent the difference of two squares? What about every number from {4k} ?

      For every pair (n+1), n, the difference of their squares is

      (n+1)^2 – n^2 = 2n + 1

      Thus, for every odd integer from {2n + 1}, there exists a pair of squares that has this integer as their difference. The members of {2n + 1} are all also members of {4k+1 , 4k+3}, since each of them can be re-written in one of the two forms.

      Among multiples of 4, there is one number that is of the form 4k that is not the difference of two distinct squares…that number is 0, which can be expressed as 4k when k = 0.

      This looks like a question of definitions: does the challenge refer to two distinct squares, or simply two squares?

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I think this is trolling.

      a^2 – b^2 = (a+b)(a-b)

      So let u = a+b, v = a-b. This tells us that a = (u+v)/2, b = (u-v)/2, so for a,b to be integers, we must have u=v mod 2.

      So a number can be written as the difference of two squares if and only if it can be expressed as the product of two numbers that are equal mod 2.

      Any partition of an even number into factors must have at least one even factor, so both factors must be even, and hence if it is even the number must be a multiple of 4, so it can’t be of form 4m+2. But for any other number this gives us simple formulae to express it as the difference of two squares:

      Any odd number 2m+1 = 1 * (2m+1), so 2m+1 = (m+1)^2 – m^2
      And any number of form 4m = 2 * 2m so 4m = (m+1)^2 – (m-1)^2

      So I’m reasonably confident there are no exceptions; either this is trolling or wordplay, he’s just plain wrong, I’ve misunderstood the question or I’ve done something stupid. And I think the first of those is the most likely.

    • Anatoly says:

      Just to point out a less heavily algebraic and more visual explanation, looking at the sequence of squares

      0, 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64…

      If we put two pins on the numbers 0 and 1 (“jump by one”), with the difference 1, and now keep moving those pins rightwards simultaneously, we’ll be increasing the difference by 2 every time (1-4, 4-9, 9-16 and so on), and so will cover all odd differences.

      If we put the pins on 0 and 4 (“jump by two”) and keep moving rightwards, we’ll be increasing the difference by 4 every time, and so will cover all numbers that are multiples of 4, except 0. 0 is realized by any difference between a square and itself, and was maybe meant as a gotcha by the OP.

      For the other direction, take any two different squares. The difference between them can be covered by “jumps of two” from the smaller one until you reach the larger one – or the one just before it and then you need a “jump by one” at the end. So the difference is a sum of multiples of 4 plus maybe an odd number at the end – so it can never be of the form 4k+2, which is an even number not dividing 4.

  32. AlphaGamma says:

    Paging bean- with particular reference to your recent posts about overweight ships:

    The German Navy has officially refused to accept the FGS Baden-Württemberg, the lead ship of its new class of frigates, on various grounds including systems integrations issues, weight, inability to reach top speed, and a persistent list to starboard. Apparently this is the first time the German Navy has rejected a ship and returned it to the builders- though I don’t know if this is just the Bundesmarine or also going back to Kriegsmarine, Reichsmarine or Kaiserliche Marine.

    How rare is it for a ship to fail sea trials? Are there any other notable cases?

    • gbdub says:

      One thing that struck me with bean’s histories of the pre-dreadnoughts was just how much experimentation was going on. Some of the ships were undoubtedly duds, but it didn’t matter so much because there was always another ship in the works that lessons learned could be directly applied to.

      Not so much now, where it seems like new warships are designed only every few decades (and even worse for small navies like Germany). This leads to knowledge rot (everyone who knows how to design a ship from scratch retired), a desire to cram in every bleeding edge technology because you won’t get another chance for 30 years, and a too big to fail attitude (out of necessity – there’s no backup).

      • bean says:

        All of this is very, very true. It doesn’t help that it’s just gotten a lot more complicated to compete on the bleeding edge of military technology.

        Some of the ships were undoubtedly duds, but it didn’t matter so much because there was always another ship in the works that lessons learned could be directly applied to.

        Less of this than you’d think, actually. When you look at the timing, it’s amazing how much they got right by analysis, because it was normal for the ships commissioning to be 2-3 classes behind the one you were designing.

        • gbdub says:

          Either way though, being two or three design cycles ahead, on ships that actually had a reasonable likelihood of getting built, would indicate a robust and healthy naval design knowledge base, right?

          And probably more of an attitude of, eh, just get this one launched, we’ll roll this upgrade into the next revision.

          • bean says:

            Definitely. I agree that their shipbuilding base was much healthier than ours, and that it meant they could afford to take more chances and make mistakes, although the cost of the ships meant they did have to be careful. My main point was that the process was not just “let’s build ships and see what works”, because they got an amazing amount right on thought and slide rule calculations.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Although the German shipbuilding industry builds a lot of ships for export as well, which might slightly mitigate that issue (for instance they have delivered 25 MEKO 200 frigates to foreign navies over the past 30 years).

    • bean says:

      Well, it appears that the Germans have returned to form in naval construction. For a while, I thought they might have gotten good at it.

      How rare is it for a ship to fail sea trials? Are there any other notable cases?

      Nothing is springing to mind as failing sea trials in quite this way, but I wouldn’t be at all sure it didn’t happen in smaller ships. That said, it’s not at all uncommon for the first unit of a class to have some fairly serious issues. The USS North Carolina was dubbed the Showboat due to the number of short-duration trials she ran off of New York City trying to solve a particularly nasty vibration problem. The USS South Carolina (missile cruiser) was inoperable for a couple of years due to computer problems. Doing modern military systems is hard. (Post about this coming tomorrow.) I have no clue what’s going on with their weights, which are probably driving the speed problem. (Unless they screwed up their hydrodynamics. Wouldn’t be the first time there, either.) The list is a bit weird, but totally in keeping with German precedent. Graff Zeppelin was the only aircraft carrier built with a symmetrical hull, and then they discovered why everyone else didn’t do that.

      That said, the whole program makes little sense. My best theory is that she’s actually intended as a commerce raider, which explains a lot of the weirder design choices. Maybe the Germans have gotten bored of being peaceable…

    • Anonymous says:

      On one hand, I don’t care. On the other hand, that’s a western legal idea we shouldn’t be copying.

    • Mark says:

      How is “nation” defined.

      The government? Polish people?

      I wonder if ‘Ida’ might fall foul of this new law.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I think this law makes it an obligation for those outside of Poland to specifically look for evidence of Polish complicity in Nazi crimes. I don’t think we’ll find much of any such complicity of the Polish government, because it didn’t exist at the height of Nazi crimes, but there are plenty of cases where Poles assisted in killing Jews. There are many examples just in the one book “The Holocaust.” These should be brought up often.

      Anything to discourage more laws like this.

      • No signal says:

        Disclaimer: I am Polish

        Yep, “there are plenty of cases where Poles assisted in killing Jews”. Some Poles were helping Jews. Most were just… trying to survive. You know what was the penalty for rescuing Jews? The death penalty. For you and your family. And there was no mercy. There was no mercy for Józef Ulma, his pregnant wife Wiktoria, his 8-year-old daughter Stanisława, 7-year-old daugter Barbara, 6-year-old son Władysław, 4-year-old son Franciszek, 3-year-old son Antoni, 2-year-old daughter Maria and, of course, there was no mercy for the Jews the Ulmas were hiding: Saul Goldman and his 4 sons (we don’t know their names), Gołda Grünfeld, Lea Didner and her little daughter (we don’t know her name).

        You know, what makes us, Poles, angry is the extent to which the world is not aware how brutal the German (and, by the way, Soviet) occupation was for the Polish people. Yes, the chances of survival were much higher for Poles than Jews, that’s obvious. But… I am pretty sure you did not hear about Intelligenzaktion, did you?

        I don’t know why I am writing this in a language which not mine. I’m sure you will stay convinced that we, Poles, suck anti-Semitism with our mothers’ milk and this law (which, personally, don’t think is a good idea) is just to white-wash our “Nazi crimes” (you used the word “Nazi” twice along with the words “Poland”/”Polish”/”Poles”, where are – I dare to ask – Germans in the whole picture?). So look hard for evidence of Polish complicity in them and God bless you.

        • Brad says:

          The war ended, the Germans were defeated. Many Jews had been killed, but many were still alive. There were up to a quarter million living in Poland proper just after the end of the war. Where did they go? Even as late as the mid-60s there were 40,000 Jews in Poland. What happened in 1967-1971? By 1989 there were less than 10,000 Jews in Poland, and not many more than that today. Why is that?

          Irish-Americans whose ancestors were forced out by the famine consider themselves Irish, go back to the “old country”, and blame the famine 100% the British–having no ill feelings towards the Irish. Yet how many Jews with Polish ancestors consider themselves Polish, want to visit the old country, or have warm feelings towards Poland?

          What is the Polish people’s and government’s attitude and outreach programs for the people of Polish ancestry living abroad that are Catholic (who are just called Poles) versus those that are Jewish?

          Is everything a giant conspiracy against the good name of the Polish people, or is there maybe a little something there?

          • No signal says:

            The war ended, the Germans were defeated. Many Jews had been killed, but many were still alive. There were up to a quarter million living in Poland proper just after the end of the war. Where did they go?

            Well, I don’t know, some went abroad looking for a better life, running away from the dunghole the Communist Poland was, like many (Catholic) Poles did. I don’t claim there was no antisemitism (there was), but even without it, it would have not been the nicest place to live for a Jew, or for anybody.

            What happened in 1967-1971?

            This was mostly the effect of the factional struggle within the Polish Communist party (controlled by the Russian overlords, anyway). The antisemitic wing was winning in 1967-68, the fact that, till then, there had been a great over-representation of Jews in the Party and the secret police (especially the upper echelon) was fueling this struggle and a lot of Jews were forced to leave Poland — of course not only the bad guys from the Communist apparatus (and I mean really really bad guys), but also lots of perfectly innocent Jewish men and women. In a grim twist, many Polish people were envious, as they wanted to emigrate, but would not get a passport.

            By 1989 there were less than 10,000 Jews in Poland, and not many more than that today. Why is that?

            I think this likely to be understated, but have no data to back up this hunch… How would you count somebody who is half-Jewish and half-Polish? And some people do not want to disclose their Jewish ancestry (which in itself might not be the best testimony of attitude of Polish people…). And there were cases like Stanisław Lem who was downplaying (and not caring about, seemingly) his Jewishness and feeling (I guess) as belonging to the Polish culture.

            Is everything a giant conspiracy against the good name of the Polish people, or is there maybe a little something there?

            Is there a vast conspiracy against the Polish people, due to which nobody knows about Generalplan Ost? No idea.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          You know, what makes us, Poles, angry is the extent to which the world is not aware how brutal the German (and, by the way, Soviet) occupation was for the Polish people. Yes, the chances of survival were much higher for Poles than Jews, that’s obvious. But… I am pretty sure you did not hear about Intelligenzaktion, did you?

          I think I do realize how brutal the Nazis were to Poland. Not quite as nasty to the non-Jews than to the Jews, but yes pretty darn nasty. And yes I’ve heard of as many times when Poles helped Jews (at risk of their own death) as killed Jews themselves. But that isn’t my point. The terrible law passed is the point.

          The law is intended to hide the truth. Poles can argue as you do that Poles were at the mercy of the Nazis and had little responsibility for the Holocaust. But if anyone argues the opposite they are breaking the law. I tend to side more with your side on the Polish responsibility for the Holocaust. But as long as this law exists to hide the truth, I will instead tend the favor the side which cannot speak.

          • Matt M says:

            How do you feel about the laws in Germany which ban holocaust denial?

            Now, I’m sure your response to that would be, “Well that’s different – because holocaust denial is false.”

            Which is also what the Poles seem to believe about Polish concentration camps.

          • Aapje says:

            @Matt M

            The Polish law intends to outlaw a perfectly sensible word choice, because it can be misinterpreted. Fact is that Auschwitz was situated in Poland and thus a Polish camp. It was also a Nazi camp. The camp was not run by the Polish government-in-exile. So it was merely not Polish by that definition.

            The Polish government shouldn’t get to mandate what definition of ‘Polish’ people should use

            The law also seems to make it an offense to attribute blame for acts to ‘the Polish,’ even for those cases where the Polish did those acts on their own initiative and/or participated eagerly and/or participated where they could have refused. I believe that this mandates blaming ‘the Polish’ less than is reasonable and effectively is Holocaust denial.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            How do you feel about the laws in Germany which ban holocaust denial?

            Yes that is terrible law too, and I think this Polish law was passed partly because of the German law made such censorship acceptable. At least the German law outlaws very flaky beliefs, but probably the worst part of it is the slippery slope that is now becoming evident.

  33. fion says:

    What do people think about this article, claiming that Africa is not poor, we are stealing its wealth?

    • Anonymous says:

      Just having natural resources doesn’t make you rich. Intelligent, cooperative populations operating under a market economy is what makes you rich. If you have that, natural resources will help you. Otherwise, not so much.

    • Aapje says:

      @fion

      The way in which Western people, companies & countries act, makes it harder for African nations to profit from their resources.

      The way in which African people, companies & countries act, makes it harder for African nations to profit from their resources.

      Any one-sided narrative is wrong.

      • johansenindustries says:

        When one considers the mobile phones and general technology of African nations, it strikes me as hard to believe that the west is having a negative effect of African profits. Although, obviously, we’re not acting as African profit maximisers.

        • Aapje says:

          @johansenindustries

          Western farming subsidies reduce the profit of African farms.

          Western tax evasion reduce the tax income that African countries get.

          Etc, etc.

          Of course, it is debatable to what extent such things are morally wrong. For example, non-open borders and the welfare state also reduce African profits, but many Westerners don’t think that the costs to them of changing these policies is reasonable.

          • johansenindustries says:

            But do those subsidies and evasion reduce the profit and income compared to what they would have if somehow the west could have nothing to do with the African continent?

            Certainly one can look and see things that if suddenly switched would boost Africa, but taken as a whole I think the package ‘West’ is an enriching deal.

          • albatross11 says:

            How would Western tax evasion affect Africa at all? I guess you could imagine some second-order effect of the government being more flush with cash and so sending some more dollars Africa’s way, but it seems pretty tenuous.

          • DeWitt says:

            I think the issue is less Western companies and wealthy sorts evading taxes, and more the sheer ease with which African plutocrats can evade taxes abroad, though I might still have gotten that wrong.

    • Mark says:

      I can believe it.

      I think it’s fairly likely that their institutions could be corrupted by Western money to the detriment of the people.

      Though having said that, exploitation by the West is probably just a (relatively minor) symptom of the major problem, which is weakness of institutions.

    • John Schilling says:

      It would seem to me that the existence of tax havens and the like where western or global money flows into and out of little African enclaves in vague and inscrutable ways for the advantage its foreign owners (against other foreigners), ought to be mostly irrelevant to the economic well-being of actual Africans. A few of them will get decent jobs in supporting industries, a few of them will suffer policemen and civil servants corrupted by the process, mostly it won’t affect the population at large.

      I saw little in the article to convince me that any sort of wealth that the people of Africa could reasonably have expected to use for their own benefit, is instead being taken for the benefit of foreigners. That may be happening, but Dearden did a poor case of arguing it.

    • Odovacer says:

      Take this all with a grain of salt. I’m not an economist, nor do I know much about international aid.

      IANAE! I think the report linked in the article has some decent points. Too much debt is probably bad for a country. Weak and poor institutions can’t enforce their laws and are open to corruption. The West does take a lot of of their top talent in brain drain. However, I’m really not certain about their numbers. I don’t have any expertise in this field, but putting numbers on “brain drain” and “climate change” effects strikes me as being open to easy manipulation.

      Also, some of their solutions in the linked report are interesting, others a little wacky.

      Economic policies that nurture domestic companies over foreign investors are likely to have the greatest development impacts. In East Asia, which has spectacularly reduced levels of poverty in recent decades, a key policy was state intervention to nurture and develop domestic industries. This often involved imposing protectionist trade barriers to keep out foreign competitors, until the point when those industries were strong enough to compete in world markets

      Protectionism doesn’t always work. Again, IANAE, but protectionism is frowned upon by many economists. But I don’t know everything, maybe there is a good case for protectionism here. I mean, South Korea was very protectionist in its film and entertainment industry, and now it produces some of the most popular shows in many parts of the world/Asia.

      Reconfigure ‘aid’ as reparations to – at least – compensate for the wealth extracted from Africa.

      While I think direct harm should be compensated. I worry that this could easily be gamed, because in many cases it may not be clear who or what is the cause of damages. Or what damages are even.

      Sections of the media and NGO community need to stop falsely claiming that Western
      countries, including the UK, are playing generally positive or ‘leadership’ roles in international development.

      This just sounds like sour grapes.

      • bean says:

        Reconfigure ‘aid’ as reparations to – at least – compensate for the wealth extracted from Africa.

        Wait, what? That is a truly dreadful idea, not just because it’s basically impossible to calculate. International aid can be an important part of foreign policy. This article is a look at this from a British perspective. If you turn it into something that the recipient gets because they “deserve” it, instead of something you give “out of the goodness of your heart”, it undercuts that badly. Particularly when you throw in the usual third-world dictatorships/human rights violations, which are a good place to use aid as a lever under the existing framework. I have to wonder if the author just didn’t think this through, or if they actually want to enable those kind of regimes.
        Edit: It’s from Al-Jazerra. Enabler.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Even with the heavy authorial thumb on the scale, the riches we’re stealing from Africa only come to $33 per capita.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Right. Africa is mainly poor because of low productivity, meaning that there isn’t really that much to steal. It’s certainly not the case that Africa would otherwise have first world living standards like the title implies.

  34. fion says:

    Has anybody here had psychoanalysis? Was it interesting/helpful? How skeptical were you beforehand about it? Did you have a particular problem that you wanted it to address and did it do so?

    I know little about psychoanalysis, but my impression is that it’s kind of deliberately unscientific and it works for some people and not for others. Is it one of those things that “works if you believe in it”? And if so should I be as skeptical of psychoanalysis as I am of psychics?

    The small part of the theory that I do know about is very interesting and sometimes compelling, but I don’t know how to deal with hypotheses that defy testing.

    Also, if there are any psychoanalysts or knowledgeable critics of psychoanalysis I’d be interested to hear your opinions on the above.

  35. James says:

    So how ’bout that Jordan Peterson?

    • God alone is ominpresent. (definition)
      Jordan Peterson is omnipresent. (empirical fact)
      Therefore, JP is God.

      • James says:

        Good point, though we might need a few more subthreads on him just to be sure.

      • Aapje says:

        @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z

        Blasphemy!

        Peterson is merely a person who:
        – recognized that the old narrative was flawed and could not guide people well enough
        – abandoned this narrative, accepting chaos into his life
        – distilled a new, better narrative from this chaos
        – taught others this new narrative, so they would not have to make the same sacrifice as him

        In other words, he is Christ.

        • Well... says:

          That’s right! And when Cathy Newman crucified him, he begged his father to forgive her for she knew not what she did. Then he rose again in that interview with that short Dutch guy.

          • Aapje says:

            Here is a picture of that second interview.

            PS. It’s amusing how the period in which the painter lived changed the way that the scene was depicted. Caravaggio’s painting is very different.

          • Well... says:

            When Channel 4 said they had to call in a security analyst, this was the Roman soldier piercing Peterson’s side. What came out? A mixture of sacrificial blood (validation that security was needed, provided by the fact that Peterson asked people to stop harassing Newman) and the water of life (the public’s instantly becoming wise to Channel 4’s ruse).

            Peterson’s disciples (Boyan Slat, James Damore, Lindsay Shepherd) will carry his message forward to the rest of us pagans.

        • Blasphemy! JC is the true saviour!

        • toastengineer says:

          Naww, we all know he’s actually Kermit the Frog.

          • Vorkon says:

            The two are not mutually exclusive.

            He suffered and died for us, because It’s Not Easy Being Green.

    • Well... says:

      There has of course been an outpouring of fantastic content derived from Peterson. Here’s an example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PESYQ6TGwhQ

    • Urstoff says:

      Boring and tedious, but hardly outrageous.

  36. gbdub says:

    The Winter Olympics kicked off today with Mixed Doubles curling. Blowout win for USA over the “Olympic Athletes from Russia”.

    • The Element of Surprise says:

      Is doping actually unusually common for Russian athletes, or do they just not have the right kind of influence with the right people / the right amount of money in the right people’s pockets?

      • Aapje says:

        They seems unusually prone to doping, due to a culture where the assumption when losing is that the winner must have been cheating and where there is no faith that the authorities are even slightly fair. I think it is obvious why living in the USSR would cause people to have such a culture.

        Westerners have both a greater belief in their ability to defeat others by legitimate means and have more faith in (the) man.

        So it is more likely for Russians to conclude that they are being cheated and that cheating is the only way they can win.

        • Well... says:

          This is kind of a tangent because I know what you meant, but how many current Russian Olympians remember life the USSR?

          Someone born in 1992 is today no older than 26, and in the case of a successful athlete much more likely 25 (due to redshirting, successful athletes’ birth months tend to cluster toward the second half of the year, at least in the US and Europe). [Edit: nevermind, my analysis on that is probably wrong.]

          It’s probably uncommon for Olympic athletes to be much older than 30, but supposing the very oldest is 35, that still means he was only about 9 years old when the USSR dissolved.

          …and I’ll go back to feeling ancient and unaccomplished now.

          • Aapje says:

            Culture is transmitted by parents to their children and by society to their youths. There is absolutely no need for the athletes themselves to have grown up in the USSR for them to be influenced by how life was then*. Aside from the fact that we have athlete testimony of being forced into doping by older people.

            * Also see my other comment(s) about WW II impacting Western German culture.

      • gbdub says:

        In Sochi, Russian athletic officials are alleged to have systematically supplied PEDs to Russian athletes and covered this up by destroying and replacing hundreds of positive test samples (they had compromised the local test facility), and this was apparently part of an ongoing state doping program. That’s the biggest difference it seems – these aren’t individual athletes choosing to cheat, this is a state sponsored organized effort to cheat as a team. This dates back to the Soviet era (there is evidence they had a state doping program for the 1980 games and had plans for doing the same in 1984 before the boycott).

        There are accusations of wiretapping, visits from the FSB, bribes to French officials, and mysterious deaths – all your standard Russian conspiracy tactics. Wikipedia summary

        So Russia got banned, but they have 168 athletes competing because there was no direct evidence of their personal doping (which of course there isn’t, because the whole point of the original bad behavior was to destroy the evidence of doping).

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Eastern Europeans use the cheap stuff and get caught a lot more easily. At least that’s my impression of what is was like in the nineties and oughts when I was following track and field very closely.

        Generally you can figure out for whom “doping is unusually common” by looking at who is winning.

        I have this project that I want to do one day, where I use face embeddings to define a human growth hormone signature and then track how the faces of top athletes changed over time. Given that you can see tell-tale signs of HGH in the faces of a lot of current famous athletes there should be an interesting signal.

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          Maybe successful athletes naturally have more pronounced signs of HGH and you would just measure more thorough recruiting from a larger candidate pool? Apparently the height of NBA players increased over time, but I’m not aware of any controversy around cheating by height boosting treatments.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s often not so much cost (although BALCO happened), but rather professionalism. Many Western ex-dopers have testified that it is possible to avoid being caught by using doping wisely and that only dumb athletes get caught.

          We know from this testimony that the effective doping was most often not some rare, expensive new product, but rather fairly mundane products/techniques used in such a way that it is undetectable when tested.

          In most sports, the testing regime is very predictable and it is relatively easy to create a doping schedule where the athletes is almost guaranteed to no longer ‘glow’ (have detectable doping) during the normal testing times.

          I think that the same higher locus of control that makes Western athletes less likely to dope, also makes them more conscientious when they do, because they trust the doping authorities more to follow their own rules.

          • albatross11 says:

            Suppose we wanted to get an estimate of the fraction of, say, NFL players who were doping, how would we do that from available data?

          • Aapje says:

            A truly accurate estimate is hard, because I don’t think that we have relatively reliable data specific to the NFL.

            In athletics, there have been anonymous surveys among top athletes, which found that 29 percent of the athletes at the 2011 world championships and 45 percent of the athletes at the 2011 Pan-Arab Games admitted to having doped in the preceding year. Unfortunately we don’t know how the american athletes answered specifically.

            AFAIK, no anonymous survey has been done among NFL players.

            The NFL has various risk factors: a highly competitive sport, high pay and it being a team sport. Furthermore, people who play the sport are already risking their health, which repulses risk averse athletes in the first place.

            So my very rough estimate would between 30% and 50%, but I would not be shocked if it is 80% (and I would consider less than 20% very unlikely).

    • gbdub says:

      I will say I mostly brought this up because I love curling and wanted to know if anyone else was interested in an ongoing Curling Update thread in this and ongoing open threads.

      • bean says:

        I’d read it, although it might be better to wait until the end and do an effort post on Curling in the 2018 Olympics. If you come up with enough to get a discussion started before then, go for it earlier.

        • gbdub says:

          Not necessarily committing to an effort post, but what sort of questions do people have about curling?

          • bean says:

            I’d suggest that you might consider another angle. If we were talking in person, and I said “I know you like curling. Tell me more” what would you say?

          • Bobby Shaftoe says:

            I’m interested in the breakdown between tactics vs skill in curling. How much control do they have over the placement of the stones? How much of the variation between teams is based on where they decide to try to place their stones, versus how well they can execute their plans?

            For instance, given one shot with no other stones involved, how often could an average olympic curler get a stone to stop inside the inner red circle of the target area? And how much better are the very best curlers in this regard?

            Put another way, if we have many iterations of our average olympic curler trying to get a single stone to the center of the target, each shot starting with blank ice, what would the distribution of final positions look like?

            In the “many single shots” experiment, my guess is that the distribution would be wider in the direction parallel to the motion of the stones, i.e. that the distance the stone goes is harder to control than the angle. Is that correct? Or perhaps the ability to sweep or not sweep makes the distance control better than I expect.

          • gbdub says:

            @Bobby Shaftoe – I answered below to give us a couple extra levels for replies.

      • gbdub says:

        Curling Accuracy, Shotmaking, and the Impact of Strategy

        Shotmaking, the ability to place a stone exactly where you want it, or to strike another stone at just the right angle and speed to yield the desired result, is the biggest factor in winning curling. Generally speaking, the team that makes more shots, more consistently, is going to be victorious.

        At professional or high-level amateur bonspiels (curling tournaments), a statistician will track and report the shotmaking success rate of each player. Every shot is given a score from 0 to 4, with 0 being a complete miss, and 4 being an excellently executed shot. This is reported as a percentage – e.g. if a player throws 2 stones, and one is a 4 and the other a 2, their shotmaking percentage would be 75% (2+4 points)/(2 shots * 4 points per shot) = 0.75.

        The very best men’s curlers will have shotmaking percentages in the mid 80s, with elite players on a good day scoring in the low 90s over several games. Elite women tend to score slightly lower (high 70s to mid/upper 80s). We’ll come back to that in a bit.

        A couple important things to note: Shotmaking percentage is results based and (even though it is reported individually by player) takes the impact of the whole team into account – it doesn’t matter if the shot was missed because of a bad throw, bad sweeping, or the skip placing the broom (aimpoint) in the wrong spot, it will be scored the same. The score only measures the result of the shot relative to what shot was called for / attempted, so a well executed shot will score a 4 regardless of whether that was the right shot to play in that situation.

        Finally, the score does not consider degree of difficulty of the attempted shot. As a result, it can be hard to compare players on a team. The lead (first thrower) will tend to have easier shots, and will tend to shoot similar shots in every end. As the end develops and the ice gets cluttered with stones, shots get harder and more varied, so that can negatively impact the percentage of the vice (3rd) and skip (last) throwers even though they might be objectively better shotmakers.

        This link has a detailed explanation for how different shot types are scored.

        It’s easy to see how this could cascade – a losing team will be forced to make harder shots, take more chances, be more aggressive, etc., making them miss more shots, which compounds the problem.

        To answer Bobby Shaftoe’s exact question, an open draw to the 4 foot circle is a common and relatively easy shot, and elite curlers should expect to make that ~90% of the time. Then again sometimes you have to be even a little better than that – Becca Hamilton basically lost the game for the American’s in last night’s match against Switzerland when her last shot in the 6th end went about two feet long (she needed to be fully inside the 4-foot circle at least touching the 1-foot circle (button), but ended up partially outside the back of the 4 foot).

        How Accurate is Accurate?
        On a curling sheet, the distance from the hack (where the player starts their slide) to the tee line (the horizontal line that bisects the center of the house (target circles)) is 126 feet. That means that an error of half a degree in your line of delivery results in a 1 foot horizontal error at the target. Since curling stones are only ~11 inches wide, that’s not a lot of room for error. Going from one side of the 4 foot to the other is only a 2 degree difference.

        In terms of distance, a 4 foot error is only a 3% change in speed. In a more practical sense, the speed of a delivery is often measured by the time it takes for the nose of the stone to go from the back line (the first horizontal line the thrower crosses after leaving the hack) to the near hog line (the line before which the player has to release the stone, 27 ft from the back line). This varies a bit from player to player (some players will have a “firmer” release where their arm adds a bit more speed). The ice conditions matter too, ice can be slow or “keen”. But a typical value for this time is around 3.5 to 4.0 seconds for a draw to the button. An error of a tenth of a second can be all the difference.

        Sweepers will often have a stopwatch attached to their broom to measure this speed precisely, and you may hear some chatter related to this – e.g. “How was my weight?” “You threw about a three-six”, meaning they measured 3.6 seconds. The speed of the ice might also be described by this time, with “three-six” ice meaning that a throw of that speed will land on the button. Note that a lower time means a faster/harder throw, so “Three-six” ice is actually slower than “Three-nine” ice – the stone won’t travel as far for a given release speed.

        Some players are better at line, others at weight (speed), but in my experience getting the weight right is a bit harder. For one thing you have to go off of feel rather than vision, and for another, “draw weight” (the speed you need to throw for a shot to the button) is more variable from game to game (or even during a game – the ice tends to get slower as it wears down).

        The Impact of Sweeping
        I think one of the biggest misunderstandings about curling among novice viewers is that sweeping is silly, easy, and pointless. In reality, it takes a great deal of skill, strength, and stamina, and good or bad sweeping can be the difference between victory and defeat.

        Sweeping generally has two impacts on a stone: it makes it go farther, and it makes it go straighter. These effects aren’t really separable, since both come from the same source, the reduced friction caused by the pressure and speed of the brooms on the ice (as an aside, there is still a fair amount of scientific debate over what exactly sweeping does – the general consensus is that it reduces friction by warming and polishing the ice).

        A good rule of thumb is that good sweepers can change the distance of a delivered stone by about 12 feet, a few feet more for elite curlers and a few feet less for novices. That’s the diameter of the house, so it can obviously be a huge impact. The impact on direction is harder to pin down, as it depends a lot on the shot (faster shots for take outs go straighter) and the ice (ice is usually described as “straight” or “swingy” and it can vary a lot from tournament to tournament, from sheet to sheet, or even during a game). But a draw shot will usually curl several feet – often you will see a draw to the button being aimed somewhere in the 8 foot circle. Sweeping can take maybe half of that out (although it will obviously impact the distance a lot).

        So good sweepers can make the thrower’s job easier – the thrower doesn’t need perfect weight, they just need to throw somewhere between 12 feet short and right on. Of course, too much weight can’t be fixed by sweeping, nor can a throw that is “outside” or “wide” of the target (i.e. a shot that is thrown too far opposite the direction of curl). So the most common misses you see will be long and/or outside.

        This partially explains the better accuracy of male curlers – the more upper body mass and strength you have, the better you can sweep, so male curlers are essentially throwing to a wider target. Strength also helps with the delivery itself (men can throw harder while staying in control) but this is a smaller effect.

        Strategy
        This is already too long, so I’ll be brief here – strategy could be its own very long post.

        At the elite level, the difference in strategy between teams is pretty meta. You will rarely see the skip (team captain, who is ultimately in charge of strategy) call for a truly wrong shot, and in any case usually they are deciding between a small handful of options for a given shot. They might call for the wrong ice (give the wrong aimpoint) for a shot, or call for the sweepers to sweep or stop at the wrong time, but those errors fall under shotmaking. In other words, you might say that tactical errors are relatively uncommon.

        So the most important thing about strategy is knowing the ice, knowing your team, and knowing your opponent. You need to know which shots you can make, and which shots your opponent can and can’t make. For example, for your final shot you might have to choose between guarding (and taking away) a draw shot from one side, or guarding a raise shot on the other side. Typically draws are easier, but if your opponent is struggling with weight, forcing them to make that draw could be the better call.

        The other difference in strategy is basically aggression. Do you play conservative, easy to make shots, or high risk / high reward shots that are more difficult to execute? Some teams like to play with lots of stones on the ice, playing precise draws and raises through narrow windows, looking to score lots of points. Other teams prefer to keep the sheet clean, taking out most stones and methodically racking up points one or two at a time. This can change throughout the game – if you’re behind, you need to score multiple points or try to steal points when the other team has the hammer, which tends to force you to play with a lot of stones on the ice. Conversely, to hold a lead, you will try to keep it clean, trading single points back and forth with the hammer but reducing the possibility of a multi-point end for either team.

        • Bobby Shaftoe says:

          Thanks! That is very informative.

          I’ve heard some people wax poetic about the chess-like strategy of curling, but that never sounded right to me given how difficult the mechanics of the game appear to be. So hearing that the game is dominated by shotmaking ability is reassuring to my intuition.

          I have a hard time imagining getting such a precise feel for the speed of a shot in terms of the time it takes to go a certain distance, but I guess it is something you’d get a sense for if you do it a lot.

          • gbdub says:

            I don’t want to give the impression that there is no strategy – there is a lot of that, and it is in some sense “chesslike”. You do have to think ahead, and quickly. You have to anticipate what your opponent will do. You have to be smart about your shot selection.

            But chess is a game that is ONLY strategy, there is no “execution”. Wheras the need to execute underlies all the strategic decision making in curling. Can my team make that shot? Will my opponent execute a good response? Can I execute the follow up to the other team’s likely responses?Am I calling a shot that favors my teammate’s skill?

            Like I said, in most scenarios there are only a couple plays that make sense. At the top level everyone is going to know what those are. What separates the master strategists is the ability to smartly manage risk and know which of the handful of sensible strategy makes the most sense for their team in that situation.

            I’d say it’s not as strategic as chess, which is a game of nothing but. But it’s more strategic (or at least very differently strategic) than a much more flowing game like soccer, or something more fixed like baseball. Certainly it’s much more strategic than say bowling, which is 100% execution.

            I should follow up a bit on your question about draws to the button – while that shot is not executed at quite 100%, it’s common enough that basically all strategy is built around the assumption that the team with the hammer will execute that shot (and thus has a guaranteed option to take one point unless you deny them the draw). Missing that shot can swing the game.

      • Protagoras says:

        So presumably you’re already familiar with this song, which should probably be brought to the attention of everybody following this thread?

  37. Well... says:

    We’ll probably need a dedicated Jordan Peterson open thread at this rate, but another thing I was thinking about re. the Cathy Newman interview is that while it was a nice moment of reckoning for the absurdities of PC logic and the nastiness of SJW tactics, it also put on display what ought to be a more perennial theme: the disingenuousness of journalism.

    In discussion about the interview later, Peterson missed this. He seemed shocked that a journalist (and with the “threats” thing, her organization) would stoop to those levels. She “broke a rule” by conducting the interview the way she did.

    But I think Peterson must have an at least somewhat naive view of journalism to see it that way. The view I believe is correct is that journalism is just a form of entertainment media like any other, and it can mix tones and tactics on a whim. The only thing essentially separating a distinguished masthead from a trashy tabloid is branding and perception — not so much content or conduct.

    It’s a bit like being shocked that reality shows are staged. Journalists are not scholars, they’re not even particularly bright necessarily. If they didn’t wrap their product in pseudo-academic language and tone, if they didn’t use that funny sing-song voice when addressing the camera or mic, if they didn’t wear suits and appear with graphics of the earth spinning and lots of TVs behind them (to impress upon the viewer their authority and omniscience) then their product would be indistinguishable from 3rd rate water cooler gossip.

    (Ironically, the one person who seems to understand this is Milo!)

    So anyway, I would have liked to see Peterson/Newman held up as an example of what journalism really is all about. But I guess not many people see it like that. And by the way, I don’t think journalism’s worse now than it used to be. You can look up images of 100 year-old NYT editions if you don’t believe me.

    • The Nybbler says:

      But I think Peterson must have an at least somewhat naive view of journalism to see it that way

      Given that he handled it well, and that he’s been at this for a while, I suspect it’s disingenuousness on his part rather than naivety. His shock was feigned.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Yeah, that was strategic shock. It may be more effective than my total cynicism toward journalism. 🙂

        • Well... says:

          Interesting hypothesis, but I don’t think it’s true.

          I’ve since seen Peterson express similar sentiments about journalism standards in other interviews, while engaged in on-the-fly conversation. If he’s feigning the attitude even then, he’s internalized it so well we (and maybe he?) can’t tell the difference between feigning it and meaning it, and so any difference is irrelevant.

          Unless you were being facetious; the sarcasm filter’s broken.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            No, I wasn’t. So wow, that’s interesting: Jordan Peterson sincerely believes that journalism is a noble duty to seek truth and uphold freedom of speech.

          • Well... says:

            Well, that fact alone isn’t interesting; lots of people believe that. What disappointed me (but didn’t surprise me, to be clear) was that the Newman interview wasn’t used as a watershed moment to reflect on, and begin a more serious discourse on, what journalism really is.

    • meh says:

      These seem to be mostly agreed upon aspects of news entertainment. Like you say, it has been going on for 100 years; not sure what the big reveal in the Newman interview was.

      Given the universal realization of this, and his having a history of mistreatment, I doubt his reaction was due to being naive.

      • Well... says:

        Peterson said he felt Newman had “broken a rule” when she asked him what right he had to offend others with his speech. He said “that’s all journalists have” at the end of the day. That is consistent with someone who believes that journalism is beholden to rules, and that journalism is fundamentally about challenging people and their ideas.

        But journalism isn’t beholden to any actual rules, and journalism fundamentally is talking in a non-fiction mode with the fake appearance of authority and omniscience cultivated (rather successfully) through various pseudo-scholarly, pseudo-royal affectations.

        • Aapje says:

          @Well…

          There is also the paradox of advocating something that if implemented, will destroy your ability to advocate.

          In practice, when people demand to forbid things that they themselves want to do, you typically get tyranny. Others are forbidden from doing something, while an exception is demanded for the person herself.

          Peterson is extremely concerned about tyranny and I think that this hypocrisy is very offensive to him.

          • Well... says:

            I don’t follow.

            You can advocate for freedom [esp. of speech] while not pretending journalism is something it isn’t (beholden to rules, a “fourth estate” that keeps governments, private companies, and citizens honest).

            It doesn’t sound like it was simply Cathy Newman’s hypocrisy that offended Peterson. It was her hypocrisy while journalisting.

          • Aapje says:

            Peterson has the romantic notion that journalists should do what they say they do: question the dominant narrative. Cathy Newman shares this romantic notion of her job:

            “Our driving motivation is to speak up for those who don’t have a voice,” Newman said. “With the interviews we do, we don’t take things at face value – we’re questioning all sides of the story.”

            Her statement during the interview is inconsistent with the mission that she claims she has & that nearly all journalists claim they have.

            I think that Peterson strongly believes in duty. So he finds it particularly galling when she doesn’t uphold the duty that comes with the status of being a journalist. This is similar to how it is especially galling when a doctor starts murdering his patients.

          • Well... says:

            Peterson has the romantic notion that journalists should do what they say they do: question the dominant narrative.

            Yes, that’s what I was saying.

            But I’m also saying that journalists only say they do this; it isn’t something they actually do by default (although a few journalists now and then have done it), and they almost always get away with it when they don’t.

            So he finds it particularly galling when she doesn’t uphold the duty that comes with the status of being a journalist.

            But that status is pure fantasy, and in a greater sense than other statuses (stati?) are fantasies. There is no real status to being a journalist. Thus why I say Peterson is naive about this.

            To use your doctor murdering patients analogy, it would be more like finding it galling that a murderer who dons a white coat and stethoscope and mutters the Hippocratic oath over and over again would kill people. But why should it be galling? He isn’t a real doctor, he’s a murderer. But he plays a doctor on TV and Peterson fell for it.

            Journalists aren’t really people who “speak up for those who don’t have a voice” or “question all sides of the story.” It isn’t even that they once were those kind of people and are no longer, or that they aspire to be those kind of people and fail. Rather, that mission statement is itself part of the artifice.

            We already have a term for people who speak up for those who don’t have a voice (wait, isn’t that a paradox?): depending on the context, this could be activists, political representatives, lobbyists, etc. We already have a term for people who question all sides of a story: depending on the context this could be historians, scientists engaged in peer review, auditors, etc.

            Journalists put on the clothes of those professions, trying to shine under the reflected credibility, but they aren’t actually credible. Not in the least. But remarkably, they’ve managed to trick almost everyone. Looks certainly can be deceiving.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Journalists put on the clothes of those professions, trying to shine under the reflected credibility, but they aren’t actually credible. Not in the least. But remarkably, they’ve managed to trick almost everyone. Looks certainly can be deceiving.

            It depends on who you’re talking about. I don’t have any problem with journalists who state their biases. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, Mother Jones, Breitbart. These people and organizations are all fine. It’s CNN that’s insidious. They present themselves as neutral, when they are very much not.

            And as for them presenting themselves as brighter than they are, well, there was that time Wolf Blitzer was on Celebrity Jeopardy!.

          • Well... says:

            I don’t have any problem with journalists who state their biases. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rachel Maddow, Mother Jones, Breitbart.

            I agree with the direction of that, but all of them still retain the journalistic framing. Sitting at a desk, TV screens or the globe spinning behind them, lecturing in a way that’s meant to sound authoritative (if not like a scientist, then like a father figure, or angry aunt in Maddow’s case). Or in the case of Breitbart/Mother Jones, the former calls itself a “news network” and the latter calls itself “smart fearless journalism” right there in the tabs at the top of my window. In the job descriptions page, Breitbart calls itself “the biggest source of breaking news and analysis, thought-leading commentary, and original reporting.” On their about page, Mother Jones says they do “independent and investigative reporting on everything”.

            Pretty sure I’ve said this before on previous threads long ago, I think it’s probably good that there is an institution whose members look into things and disseminate their findings. But I think the problem is that journalists’ product is consumed directly by the public. Journalists take advantage of Joe Public’s general ignorance, if not low intelligence, to indulge their own biases.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is that Andy Richter with ~37,000?

          • Aapje says:

            @Well…

            But that status is pure fantasy, and in a greater sense than other statuses (stati?) are fantasies. There is no real status to being a journalist. Thus why I say Peterson is naive about this.

            This is false. There pretty clearly are quite a few people who will by default automatically trust ‘Jayson Blair – NYT Journalist’ more than ‘Aapje – Random Internet commenter.’

            A good example is Wikipedia, which actually has a policy that they will believe lies in the media over hard evidence. I very selectively trust them, because I (think that I) recognize their biases pretty well, but the average person surely is not capable of that to the same extent. So by proxy, many people are trusting the media when they use Wikipedia (and often probably not even aware that they are doing so).

            Journalists take advantage of Joe Public’s general ignorance, if not low intelligence, to indulge their own biases.

            I would argue that it’s not so much taking advantage, but rather that they are not being corrected effectively. It’s not that they think that they are getting away with are failing the public, it’s the opposite. They think that there biases are The Truth and no one will with sufficient societal power shames them into correcting themselves.

          • Well... says:

            There pretty clearly are quite a few people who will by default automatically trust ‘Jayson Blair – NYT Journalist’ more than ‘Aapje – Random Internet commenter.’

            Right but this is begging the question.

            I suppose one way to describe status is that it’s as real as what it lets you get away with in practice. Using that definition you’re right.

            But real status, I think, is more than just that. Yes, when you go to the doctor, it’s partly his white coat and the diplomas on the wall that tell you he knows what he’s doing, but it’s also his ability to heal you, or for his advice to check out against second opinions, or if you’re really scrupulous, maybe it’s to accord with what medical literature recommends. And yes, there is to some degree an infinite regression there (you have to trust the status of those giving the second opinions, of the literature, etc.) but the more it’s networked in with other stuff and with actual measurable results (“Yup, my strep throat cleared up in two days”), the more you can trust it.

            Meanwhile when a journalist, even an esteemed one, says something that ought to discredit him, it’s routine. At best it gets published in the errata section.

            I would argue that it’s not so much taking advantage, but rather that they are not being corrected effectively.

            Both could be true simultaneously. Was NBC taking advantage of public ignorance when they showed the edited Zimmerman 911 call, or were they just not corrected effectively? Probably both.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well…:

            I think you’re assuming that Jordan’s starting worldview was similar to yours, but there’s not all that much reason to believe that. I think a lot of people expect journalists to mostly be trying to tell the truth and report honestly on the stories they cover, and I don’t think that belief marks Jordan out as hopelessly naive.

            I’ve seen comments by other public figures along the same lines–notably from Charles Murray.

            FWIW, I expect journalists to be more-or-less trying to tell the truth. I think they tend to be limited in their ability to do that by lack of knowledge and time constraints, and also by the requirement to avoid lawsuits or pissing off too many advertisers or viewers or powerful people who can retaliate. And I think they tend to be limited in their willingness to do that by their prior beliefs. An awfully large number of people can find justifications for lying or behaving deceptively in the service of some higher goal, and even people trying to be fair have a hard time doing so when they’re really upset by some idea or movement.

          • Well... says:

            I think you’re assuming that Jordan’s starting worldview was similar to yours

            Well no, I don’t think I assumed that. In fact, a good portion of this subthread was about a major difference in our worldviews: how we view journalism and its role in discourse.

            I don’t think that belief marks Jordan out as hopelessly naive.

            Well of course he isn’t hopelessly naive! I’m just saying he’s naive about this one thing. He’s a smart guy, it isn’t hopeless.

            FWIW, I expect journalists to be more-or-less trying to tell the truth. I think they tend to be limited in their ability to do that by lack of knowledge and time constraints, and also by the requirement to avoid lawsuits or pissing off too many advertisers or viewers or powerful people who can retaliate. And I think they tend to be limited in their willingness to do that by their prior beliefs. An awfully large number of people can find justifications for lying or behaving deceptively in the service of some higher goal, and even people trying to be fair have a hard time doing so when they’re really upset by some idea or movement.

            I agree with all of that for the most part, but I think putting on your journalist hat and then trying to tell the truth is like playing a surgeon on TV and then trying to actually operate on someone. Except you and everyone you know, including your audience, thinks TV character surgeons are fit to perform surgery. You might by some stroke of luck successfully remove an appendix without killing the patient once in a while, but jeez.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Well of course he isn’t hopelessly naive! I’m just saying he’s naive about this one thing. He’s a smart guy, it isn’t hopeless.

            Pretending to actually believe that journalists aren’t completely biased and garbage at their job is the best way to skewer them for being completely biased and garbage at their job. If you don’t think that this is what Peterson is doing, maybe you’re the naive one. (Arguments are soldiers, and don’t you forget it.)

          • Well... says:

            OK, I’ll play ball…

            Peterson has said he doesn’t want to skewer journalists, he wants to sit down and have illuminating conversations with them for mutual and public benefit.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Peterson has said he doesn’t want to skewer journalists, he wants to sit down and have illuminating conversations with them for mutual and public benefit.

            Which is the best way to then skewer them. Think about it; presenting yourself as biased means people will discount it when you say things that go along with that bias. Presenting yourself as a neutral observer who is forced to come to a certain conclusion… makes you much more effective at communicating that conclusion.

          • Well... says:

            I disagree. It only means you are less likely to persuade people who already strongly disagree with you. Journalists never cared about those people anyway.

            Scott has certain views, and although he is relatively very fair to those who disagree, he argues in favor of those views. Thousands of people read his blog and consider him a trustworthy and effective communicator of those views.

            Jordan Peterson, like Scott, is not a journalist.

      • meh says:

        Is this working?

    • lvlln says:

      I don’t think Peterson is particularly naive when it comes to this. Perhaps that speaks to the overall naivete of the general public. But in my social circles, it’s basically taken as fact that the good journalists do honestly seek out the truth, and by doing so, they naturally create outlets like CNBC, NPR, NY Times, John Oliver, etc., while the bad journalists purposefully distort and misrepresent in order to push forward their own narrative to feed to their biased audiences, and by doing so they naturally create outlets like Fox News, Breitbart, Rush Limbauch, etc. And any suggestion that anyone in the former group might be playing a similar game as the latter group, even to a far smaller extent, is seen as crazy talk. It wouldn’t surprise me if much of the country saw things this way, just with the specific outlets switched around.

      I saw this topic mentioned on the Rubin Report very recently when he had on the Weinstein brothers Bret and Eric, and they were all of the impression that more and more people were starting to wise up to this and starting to recognize just how much mainstream media was primarily focused on creating bias-reinforcing entertainment, as evidenced by the rise of online shows like the Rubin Report or the Joe Rogan Experience, where they regularly show 1-3 hour long conversations without editing.

      Though I also have to cynically believe that such shows are also ultimately selling entertainment products and deserve no more respect and prestige than the mainstream media outlets. I guess they can point to showing unedited conversations in full, but there are always unknown unknowns when it comes to this sort of thing, and good manipulation is almost impossible to actually identify as such.

      • albatross11 says:

        One really nice introduction to this issue for me was reading _The Bell Curve_ around the time it was published, and then reading/seeing various prestigious journalistic organizations review or discuss it in ways that made clear they were either massively dishonest or hadn’t bothered reading the book.

        • lvlln says:

          I haven’t read the The Bell Curve, but funnily enough, one of my own experiences being disenchanted with an outlet revered by my tribe involved Charles Murray. Following his appearance on Sam Harris’s podcast, Vox wrote a piece admonishing Harris for using his very popular podcast to give Murray a platform without challenging him properly on the stuff he claimed. The challenges that Vox raised were utterly intellectually bankrupt, and it seemed highly unlikely to me that the smart folks at Vox could be that stupid when it came to this topic to actually believe the contents of the article. That is, they were running a disingenuous hit-piece.

          Interestingly, I saw that they did the same thing with Damore’s memo, which was just a whole bunch of non-sequiturs completely unrelated to the issues Damore raised in his memo, and my friend who introduced me to Sam Harris and is a much bigger fan of him than I am (as well as just overall more intelligent than me, I suspect) ate up that article and considered it to be a slam dunk debunking of Damore’s memo. It seemed utterly bizarre to me.

          That said, I had already been primed to be a bit skeptical of Vox before, when, I think their head editor wrote an article talking about how rules of affirmative consent was totally awesome because it was so overbearing and would hopefully cause every male to feel a shiver to run down their spine every time they were propositioning a woman, based on the “1-in-5” stat of rape on college campuses which is very easy to recognize as garbage with even a cursory bit of research on the source of that stat. Either that editor hadn’t done that bare minimum amount of research, or he had decided to purposefully ignore or misrepresent it because it was inconvenient to the central support of the case he was arguing in that piece. Neither scenario made Vox look good, at least to me.

          • Iain says:

            Vox is by no means perfect, but in my experience it’s generally pretty good. I’m pretty sure that this is the Charles Murray piece you are talking about, and this is the Damore one. Note that these are both editorials written by outside contributors.

            As for the piece about Yes Means Yes: for people who would like to evaluate for themselves, here’s the original, and here’s the follow-up. Klein is quite clear about the source of his data; you may have methodological issues, but I do not think it is fair to say that citing the Justice Department’s Campus Sexual Assault Study is “very obvious to recognize as garbage with even a cursory bit of research”. (See, for example, this national survey, released after the Vox article was published, which got the same 1 in 5 number.)

            In the spirit of not trusting other people to give unbiased summaries, I encourage anybody who is on the fence to go evaluate Vox yourself instead of taking my word or lvlln’s for it.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            What is an “outside editorial”? I think of an “editorial” as something signed by the editorial board, the kind of document most endorsed by the journal. Thus I am confused by the idea of an “outside editorial.”
            Do you mean an opinion piece? previously called an “op-ed” in reference to the physical layout, now anachronistic. Are you distinguishing opinion pieces written in the first person from Vox’s “explainers”?

            How can one tell that these pieces are written by outsiders? The byline is not distinguished from the Klein pieces you cite. If the publication does not want to make that distinction, should the reader?

          • lvlln says:

            In the spirit of not trusting other people to give unbiased summaries, I encourage anybody who is on the fence to go evaluate Vox yourself instead of taking my word or lvlln’s for it.

            I second this.

            Klein is quite clear about the source of his data; you may have methodological issues, but I do not think it is fair to say that citing the Justice Department’s Campus Sexual Assault Study is “very obvious to recognize as garbage with even a cursory bit of research”.

            Even a brief skimming of the study – which I would consider not to even meet the bare minimum that an honest journalist should do before writing a piece using it as support – linked in the 1st piece shows that it’s a garbage study with respect to supporting the arguments in that piece (I didn’t mean to imply that the study itself was garbage – it may or may not be, but I’m not enough of an expert scientist in this field to make that call). At the head of the Research Methods section is:

            The CSA Study involved conducting a Web-based survey of random samples of undergraduate students at two large public universities, one located in the South (University 1) and one located in the Midwest (University 2). Both universities are located in semi-urban areas. University 1 has a student body of approximately 30,000 students; University 2 has approximately 35,000 students.

            (bolding mine)

            The study is based on exactly 2 colleges in environments somewhat similar to each other (to Klein’s credit, he does mention that it’s 2 colleges), though at 2 different areas of the country. The policy being talked about in the piece applies only to a certain subset of California colleges. There is no reason to believe that the data collected in that study can tell us much about the set of California colleges being affected by that policy. He’d have a better case if the study had taken 2 random colleges from the subset of Californian colleges affected by that policy rather than 2 colleges completely outside of the state, but even then, that would probably upgrade it from “garbage” to “stretching it,” since n=2 usually can’t tell us that much even if they’re randomly chosen from the population in interest. When that n=2 is from a completely separate population, it’s garbage.

            Another issue is the flattening of the definition of “sexual assault,” and then acting as if a policy that specifically applies only to the worst cases – actual rape – is justified based on the prevalence of the wider loose definition. So even if that study indicated that that 1-in-5 stat accurately described the population of colleges to which the policy would be applied – which it definitely didn’t – it would be poor justification for that law.

            There’s also the question of how reliable Web-based surveys are for this sort of thing, but, again, I’m not an expert in that. But I would certainly expect an honest journalist to mention the possible biases that might introduce – better yet, how the researchers avoided those pitfalls, or why those pitfalls are minimal/trivial – when using the results of the study to justify something.

            I’m not some super-genius to notice these things. My guess is that Ezra Klein is just as intelligent as I am, probably more, and it’s actually his job to study these things when he writes a piece like this.

            Now, one scenario I see in which Klein’s piece could make some sort of sense is (1) if one believes that the entire spectrum of sexual assault, from the most offensive to the barely-over-the-line, all have the same cultural source in America, and (2) if one believes that this cultural source is prevalent in all college campuses to about similar levels. This would mean that (1) attacking the worst of the spectrum could help in attacking the entire spectrum (depending on the specifics) and (2) one can draw conclusions about a subset of Californian colleges based on stats taken from any other colleges in the USA. But those are both just pure faith-based belief, not things empirically supported (at the least, I’ve seen no empirical support for them, and Klein certainly doesn’t cite any).

            There are other issues with the piece, like his “but [false accusations] happen very, very rarely,” which isn’t actually statistically supported. Accusations are proven to be false very, very rarely (between 2-8% from the best sources I could find, usually just averaged to 5%), but that’s a very different statement than saying that false accusations happen very, very rarely. It’s certainly weak evidence that false accusations happen very, very rarely, and he could have said that – something like, “the current state of evidence isn’t strong either way, but there’s reason to believe that false accusations may be rare.” But he didn’t say that. He said that they happen very, very rarely. In italics. Then he followed up with “Sexual assault on college campuses, by contrast, happens constantly” – i.e. 5% is “very, very rarely,” while 20% is “constantly.”

          • Iain says:

            @Douglas Knight:

            By outside editorial, I mean that they are published as part of the “Big Idea” section: “Outside contributors’ opinion and analysis of the most important issues in politics, science, and culture”. This is indicated at the top and bottom of each piece. They’re not written by people who work for Vox. The Murray piece was written by a trio of pyschology professors; the Damore piece was written by a lecturer at Stanford. Our gracious host has written one, too.

            You can evaluate Vox based on the mix of outside experts it chooses, but you shouldn’t take the “Big Idea” pieces as necessarily representing Vox’s editorial position, any more than this WaPo editorial by Marc Thiessen (“Trump’s speech nailed it. Let’s see what he does now.”) should be taken as proof that the Washington Post is in the bag for Trump.

            @lvlln:

            C’mon. Klein is clear about the limitations of his data. His original piece linked to this Washington Post fact-checker article making the same criticisms you are making now. If you follow that WaPo link, it says: “NOTE: This article has been expanded and updated, with a new URL. Please read the updated version.” From the top of the updated article:

            This is an update of an article that originally appeared on May 1, 2014. It originally had a Pinocchio rating but that has now been removed in the wake of the publication of The Washington Post-Kaiser Foundation nationwide survey that confirmed the 1 in 5 statistic. The original issue with the statistic was that it was based just on a sample of two universities but was being treated as a nationwide sample. But that concern no longer exists now that a nationwide poll of college-age women has achieved the same result.

            Klein cited the best data available, acknowledged that methodological concerns existed, and was later vindicated by a more rigorous study. That’s not exactly damning.

            Like, fine, you disagree with Ezra Klein. That doesn’t mean he’s an unscrupulous hack. It is possible for two people to make good-faith efforts at finding the truth, and still come up with different answers.

            Indeed, the fact that he was right and you were wrong about how well the original study would translate to a national scale should give you some pause. Are you really doing an unbiased evaluation of the evidence? Consider: you seemed pretty confident that the 1 in 5 number could not be extrapolated to other schools, and that the real national number would be lower. But why? I don’t see (and you don’t give) any reason to think that the two original schools would have an abnormally high rate of sexual assault; given that, although the error bars for a two-element sample can obviously be quite large, there is no principled reason to predict that the bias goes in any particular direction, and the maximum likelihood estimation should be 1 in 5. Given that data, it was equally likely that the national number was higher than 1 in 5. Why were you so confident it was lower?

            Consciously or not, you appear to be searching for ways to minimize these numbers. You can accuse Ezra Klein of pushing a biased narrative if you like, but please also consider the possibility that you might be inadvertently doing the same thing.

            PS: This is a good piece on false accusations.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Iain, thanks! I missed “the Big Idea,” I guess because it was below the photograph, distant from the byline.

            I strongly advise you not to use the word “editorial.” Note that your WaPo example doesn’t use it.

          • lvlln says:

            C’mon. Klein is clear about the limitations of his data.

            Considering the tenor of that piece and the arguments he makes based on the data, this isn’t an accurate statement. Being clear about the limitations of the data means being clear about the inability to use that data to support a policy designed to correct what the data purports. The idea that saying, in essence, “It’s totally awesome that this policy will create a repressive regime of fear and uncertainty!” is entirely incompatible with being clear about the limitations of that data. It’s more compatible with the implicit fully confident belief that that data accurately reflects the population in question – anything less than fully confident belief in the problem makes a wholehearted support for a repressive regime absurd.

            Like, fine, you disagree with Ezra Klein. That doesn’t mean he’s an unscrupulous hack. It is possible for two people to make good-faith efforts at finding the truth, and still come up with different answers.

            Indeed, the fact that he was right and you were wrong about how well the original study would translate to a national scale should give you some pause. Are you really doing an unbiased evaluation of the evidence? Consider: you seemed pretty confident that the 1 in 5 number could not be extrapolated to other schools, and that the real national number would be lower. But why? I don’t see (and you don’t give) any reason to think that the two original schools would have an abnormally high rate of sexual assault; given that, although the error bars for a two-element sample can obviously be quite large, there is no principled reason to predict that the bias goes in any particular direction, and the maximum likelihood estimation should be 1 in 5. Given that data, it was equally likely that the national number was higher than 1 in 5. Why were you so confident it was lower?

            Consciously or not, you appear to be searching for ways to minimize these numbers. You can accuse Ezra Klein of pushing a biased narrative if you like, but please also consider the possibility that you might be inadvertently doing the same thing.

            (bolding mine)

            I’m honestly not sure where you’re getting the parts that I bolded. Could you explain to me better where you got those impressions? My point was that that 1-in-5 data couldn’t be extrapolated to the country generally or the subset of Californian colleges for which the policy would apply specifically. I didn’t think I made any assertions about the direction of the error. And that’s because I honestly don’t believe the numbers are lower. Or higher. I simply don’t know.

            On the one hand, you can argue that if you pick a random person X out of the population, then the average height of the population is equally likely to be greater than person X’s height as it is to be less than person X’s height. But on the other hand, the randomness of choosing one person from the population makes it such that it’s irresponsible to posit that, therefore, we can go forward at full speed on the presumption that the average height of the population is the same as that of person X. Now, if you pull 2 people out, and the population is very small, it can make it slightly more reasonable, but still, proposing that we start enacting some overbearing policies based on the presumption that the average height of those 2 would be absurd.

            Of course, like I wrote in my previous comment, even if we assume that the data upon which Klein was basing his piece on was as rock solid as the evidence for AGW or evolution, the piece falls apart just from noticing the fact that the data pertains to a wide range of sexual assault, while the policy pertains a narrower subset of the most extreme cases of that. Again, I believe this could be salvaged if there were empirical evidence supporting the notion that the same sorts of cultural and societal forces are behind everything in the entire spectrum, but Klein never makes that case.

          • Iain says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            Sure, sloppy wording on my part. Probably “outside opinion pieces” would have been better. I will try to be clearer in the future.

            @lvlln:

            I’m honestly not sure where you’re getting the parts that I bolded. Could you explain to me better where you got those impressions? My point was that that 1-in-5 data couldn’t be extrapolated to the country generally or the subset of Californian colleges for which the policy would apply specifically. I didn’t think I made any assertions about the direction of the error. And that’s because I honestly don’t believe the numbers are lower. Or higher. I simply don’t know.

            Okay. Looking back, it seems I was reading stuff into your posts that you did not intend. I apologize.

            (To explain how I got there: your outrage really only makes emotional sense if you assume the number is lower, not higher. “How dare Ezra Klein base his support for Yes Means Yes on 1 in 5? Doesn’t he realize that it could actually be much higher!” is not a compelling case.)

            But sure. You are angry because Ezra Klein was too confident that his source could be extrapolated to a national scale, and based his argument on that overconfidence.

            Unfortunately for your argument: he was right. As I have already linked multiple times, an equivalent study has been done on a national level, and it got the same results. These results are consistent with a bunch of other studies. Now, maybe there’s some sort of common flaw, but the most parsimonious explanation is that — by the definition of sexual assault that was used — 1 in 5 really is a pretty good estimate.

            This should give you pause. You should be recalibrating. You were previously quite confident that Ezra Klein was misreading the evidence. Now he has been vindicated. It would certainly feel good to dismiss this as Ezra Klein getting lucky, but the correct response is to seriously consider that you might have erred.

            And since you keep coming back to this: yes, it would be silly to estimate national height by picking two random people. But that’s not a good comparison to what Klein did. Instead, ask: would it be unreasonable to take the average height at two American universities, and extrapolate that to American universities in general? Your result won’t be perfect. Some universities will have more student athletes dragging up the average. Women’s colleges will be shorter. But overall, you should end up in the right ballpark.

            In the same way, Klein’s extrapolation is actually pretty reasonable.

            I believe this could be salvaged if there were empirical evidence supporting the notion that the same sorts of cultural and societal forces are behind everything in the entire spectrum, but Klein never makes that case.

            This is false. Klein absolutely makes the case. He further links to another article that makes the same case in more detail. His follow-up piece makes the case again. (Look for “Taub’s piece really isn’t about that, though.”) Your problem isn’t that Klein doesn’t make the case. Your problem is that you don’t like the case.

            And that’s fine. You don’t have to like the case. All I’m asking is that you accept that Ezra Klein made it in good faith, in the same way that — even though I think most of your arguments are wrong — I accept that you mean what you say and are not trying to mislead me.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eh.

            I trust the polls about as much as I’d trust a poll including 20% MRAs evaluating the statistics of violence against men.

            There are a significant percentage of people involved who probably have at least some moral impulse to try to overcompensate for underreporting. Certainly the forcible-vs-incapacitated rates look off, as they suggest forcible rape is 50% more prevalent on campus than off compared to incapacitated rape, whereas my priors would be that incapacitated rape should be overrepresented as compared to the general population.

            But ultimately it doesn’t really matter; we can pick the studies which support our conclusions. I’ll stick with the ones which ask specific questions about specific experiences instead of leaving it up to the recipient to decide what sexual assault and rape are, which conveniently to end to support the worldview I already have. And everybody else can do the same thing.

            Democracy of facts in action!

            (Seriously, though. The first 70% of the survey is spent reminding the surveyed that they are unhappy with the status quo; if your purpose is to find out useful information about college sexual assault, why is most of your survey asking how you feel about how the system currently handles sexual assault, and whether it is an underreported problem, and whether enough attention is paid to the problem? That is not a recipe for an unbiased survey.)

          • lvlln says:

            Unfortunately for your argument: he was right. As I have already linked multiple times, an equivalent study has been done on a national level, and it got the same results. These results are consistent with a bunch of other studies. Now, maybe there’s some sort of common flaw, but the most parsimonious explanation is that — by the definition of sexual assault that was used — 1 in 5 really is a pretty good estimate.

            This should give you pause. You should be recalibrating. You were previously quite confident that Ezra Klein was misreading the evidence. Now he has been vindicated. It would certainly feel good to dismiss this as Ezra Klein getting lucky, but the correct response is to seriously consider that you might have erred.

            That the statistic was replicated doesn’t really affect my argument at all, because I wasn’t arguing that the statistic was false. I was arguing that Klein displayed a confidence in the state of evidence that wasn’t warranted. My point wasn’t about the prevalence of sexual assault in colleges, it was about losing faith in Vox by seeing them confidently publish arguments that fall apart upon the slightest bit of scrutiny.

            And since you keep coming back to this: yes, it would be silly to estimate national height by picking two random people. But that’s not a good comparison to what Klein did. Instead, ask: would it be unreasonable to take the average height at two American universities, and extrapolate that to American universities in general? Your result won’t be perfect. Some universities will have more student athletes dragging up the average. Women’s colleges will be shorter. But overall, you should end up in the right ballpark.

            I agree. But then to take that average height and to argue that it’s totally awesome to implement overbearing legislation that depends heavily on that extrapolated height actually being the average American university height implies an unjustified confidence far beyond that it’s just “in the right ballpark.” And this confidence remains unjustified even if later studies show that your initial extrapolations were accurate.

            This is false. Klein absolutely makes the case. He further links to another article that makes the same case in more detail. His follow-up piece makes the case again. (Look for “Taub’s piece really isn’t about that, though.”) Your problem isn’t that Klein doesn’t make the case. Your problem is that you don’t like the case.

            I shouldn’t have used the word “case” there, as it’s confusing. He does make a case, you’re right. What he doesn’t make is the case that empirical evidence exists that supports the case he’s making. Which was my point; his piece and the piece he linked to are full of anecdotes and arguments, but no actual empirical evidence that shows that, say, the “status quo puts women in the position of having to constantly police their own behavior to make sure that they are not giving the appearance of passive consent. That’s not only exhausting; it’s limiting. It reinforces power imbalances that keep women out of positions of success and authority” (from the piece he linked to).

            Where are the studies that show the measurements of “policing [one’s] own behavior” by women, and how they compare to those of men? Where are the measurements of “power” that show these “imbalances,” as well as the correlations that support the notion that these imbalances cause women to be kept out of “positions of success and authority?”

            They’re heavy on rhetoric, but lacking in empirical evidence. And that was my point; he builds his case upon a statistic that no one is justified in believing is reflective of the population for which the law applies, by heaving on it a bunch of rhetoric for which empirical evidence in support is lacking (obviously he doesn’t have limitless space to supply all his citations, but I was also primed by having done a lot of research into that rhetoric before I’d stumbled upon Klein’s piece, and having found the empirical evidence to be quite lacking).

            Now, perhaps Klein believes that rhetoric despite it being unsupported faith, and perhaps he also expects his target audience to believe that same rhetoric. I admit that’s possible.

            And that’s fine. You don’t have to like the case. All I’m asking is that you accept that Ezra Klein made it in good faith, in the same way that — even though I think most of your arguments are wrong — I accept that you mean what you say and are not trying to mislead me.

            Fair point. The mere fact that you seem to be making these arguments in good faith has made me more believing that Klein was also making the arguments in his piece in good faith. It doesn’t make me any more trusting of Vox media as a journalistic outlet, but it does tilt me towards seeing them as journalists who actually do believe that they’re searching for and presenting the truth. Perhaps I over-corrected way back when I first read that piece, when I was starting from a baseline that Vox media was a generally trustworthy outlet whose arguments I could rely on to be well-formed and well-researched.

          • Iain says:

            I’ll stick with the ones which ask specific questions about specific experiences instead of leaving it up to the recipient to decide what sexual assault and rape are, which conveniently to end to support the worldview I already have.

            What? From the article:

            The poll defined sexual assault to include five types of unwanted contact: forced touching of a sexual nature, oral sex, vaginal sexual intercourse, anal sex, and sexual penetration with a finger or object.
            After they were read this definition, 5 percent of men and 20 percent of women said they had been sexually assaulted in college. Their assailants used force or threats of force, or they attacked while their victims were incapacitated.

            I mean: sure, I can’t force you to believe this study. If another study were done that addressed your stated concerns about question order, I’m sure you’d be able to find a problem with that one, too. If you want to deliberately wallow about in your own priors and shut out conflicting evidence, then — hey, it’s a free country. Some of the rest of us have more aspirational goals.

            @lvlln:

            Why is “all these women are wrong about their own behaviour” the null hypothesis? Klein has no studies to prove his claims, but where are your studies disproving them? It is certainly not correct to assume that the maximal version of this argument is true in all particulars, but it’s equally wrong to say “well, it’s really hard to measure this stuff, and nobody’s done a study, so I will assume the effect is zero”.

            Consider: can you present a study that conclusively demonstrates the harms of a Yes Means Yes standard? Where are your measurements and correlations?

            This is what an isolated demand for rigour looks like from the inside.

            (That said: thank you for seriously considering my arguments. My main goal in this discussion was to talk you out of Conflict Mode into Mistake Mode; if I have succeeded in doing that, I’m willing to call it here.)

          • lvlln says:

            To expand on that, here’s what Appendix A of the paper says, in Part 1. Interview Questions Used in Sexual Assault Classification.

            These questions ask about five types of unwanted sexual contact:
            – forced touching of a sexual nature (forced kissing, touching of private parts, grabbing, fondling, rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes)
            – oral sex (someone’s mouth or tongue making contact with your genitals or your mouth or tongue making contact with someone else’s genitals)
            – sexual intercourse (someone’s penis being put in your vagina)
            – anal sex (someone’s penis being put in your anus)
            – sexual penetration with a finger or object (someone putting their finger or an object like a bottle or a candle in your vagina or anus.

            It seems the sexual intercourse category only covers female victims of males, and there’s no similar category for (someone’s vagina enveloping your penis), though it also seems to me that that can fall under the 1st category described by touching of private parts.

          • Matt M says:

            From Iain’s QZ piece on false accusations:

            But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true. This is not because of any political dictum like “Believe women.” It’s because this story looks exactly like tens of thousands of date rapes that happen every year, and nothing at all like a false rape accusation.

            I have a bit of a problem with this… the rationalist in me loves the “let’s look at the data!” approach… but I’m not sure the data in this case is as meaningful as we think. The notion of “There have been few exonerated rapists, but many exonerated murderers… therefore false rape claims are rare” strikes me as missing the whole picture.

            There are a lot of ways to exonerate a murderer. Murder cases usually rely on hard physical evidence. Rape cases, meanwhile, are almost always he-said/she-said. In the typical case, the alleged rapist often acknowledges that sex did in fact take place, but there’s a dispute as to whether it was consensual or not. This is already conceding about 95% of the matters that would be in dispute in the typical murder trial. Any murder case where the defendant said “Yes, I admit the last time the victim was seen alive, I was with them, and we were alone with no witnesses, and a few hours later I reported my handgun as missing… but no, I didn’t kill him!” would be seen as a pretty easy win for most DAs.

            There are many routes to disproving murder – prove you weren’t at the crime scene, prove you never had custody of the murder weapon, prove you had no association with the victim, etc. Evidence can easily be discovered, after the fact, on any of these dimensions which might result in an exoneration.

            But how do you exonerate a rapist when the fact that sex took place is not in dispute? DNA does you no good here. Neutral eyewitnesses are unlikely, as is surveillance footage. Pretty much the only way is for the accuser to admit she had been lying, which is also very unlikely.

            I think the article pulls a bait and switch – in that its initial premise uses exoneration data about people who were convicted and then exonerated but then goes into discussing cases like Jackie and UVA, and Duke Lacrosse… which were NOT cases like that. They were cases where nobody was convicted, in fact, in the case of Jackie, charges were never filed.

            And cases where the accuser has a long history of chronic lying, criminal activity, drug use, and/or mental illness are precisely the ones we should expect to fall apart before a conviction is made. The Duke lacrosse “victim” was shady AF on every possible dimension and the accused had rich families with high priced attorneys. Of course they tore that apart quickly and easily.

            Getting back to the passage I quoted above – it seems a little too obvious. Like a just so story. Yeah, if someone falsely accuses you of rape, you better hope they have a long history of shady behavior. Because in case that ultimately comes down to “he said, she said”, credibility is incredibly important – and those people have none of it. If a professional businesswoman with no questionable history accuses you of something, you better hope your life is just as spotless as hers, or you have no chance. This seems like basic common sense to me.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Iain –

            That is so far from the core of my objection it is laughable.

            Asking specific questions reduces certain types of response bias – reading a definition doesn’t. This is what forced-choice items are all about.

            This is a subject in which response bias is a known issue, and this survey seems intended to maximize the response bias.

            There’s really not much more to it than that. It is a joke.

            ETA: But try it for yourself. Try to figure out what you would do differently to get a higher response rate; that is, you are in charge of creating a survey that reports the highest possible rate of sexual assault; you aren’t concerned with accuracy at all, you just need a scary headline. Your main constraint is that you can’t be obvious about it.

            What would you do differently?

          • Iain says:

            @Thegnskald:
            And if you were trying to get a really low number, you would put the detailed questions about how often you’ve been anally penetrated without your consent at the very beginning of the survey, to minimize any comfort or rapport between the interviewer and the interviewee. If you read enough to learn the order of the questions, you presumably also read the part where they explained why they did it this way.

            If you are going to get huffy about response bias in a study of sexual assault while ignoring the response bias caused by people not wanting to talk about their sexual assault with a stranger on the phone, forgive me if I don’t take you entirely seriously.

            Do you have a better study? Do you have a more accurate number?

            @Matt M:
            One reason that you won’t see many exonerations in pure he-said she-said cases of sexual assault because they generally don’t lead to convictions in the first place. From this Canadian report:

            Other research has found that in absence of third party witnesses or other corroborating evidence, sexual assaults are not likely to proceed to court.

            You have to prove a criminal case beyond reasonable doubt. Without some sort of additional evidence, that’s hard to do.

          • Aapje says:

            There was a good (double) comment on the Reddit yesterday, which analyzed police statistics.

            PS. A story just broke that one of Time Magazine’s ‘Silence Breakers,’ who is a member of the California Assembly, has today been accused of sexual assault. One accuser is named and the other is anonymous. Both accusers said that she was drunk and that she went for a crotch grab. The Assemblywoman claims that she has “zero recollection of engaging in inappropriate behavior and such behavior is inconsistent with my values.”

            Amusingly, she earlier said that being inebriated is not an excuse, nor that alcohol fueled parties are the problem, but that men choose to misbehave. I wonder if she will apply the same logic to herself.

          • Matt M says:

            One reason that you won’t see many exonerations in pure he-said she-said cases of sexual assault because they generally don’t lead to convictions in the first place.

            So how do we apply this to the section I quoted?

            But if a woman without any history of dramatic falsehoods says she went home with a man and, after they’d kissed a while consensually, he held her down and forced her into sex—in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, you can just assume it’s true.

            It seems like you’re saying that most people won’t just “assume it’s true” and that this is a reasonable and proper thing.

          • Randy M says:

            One reason that you won’t see many exonerations in pure he-said she-said cases of sexual assault because they generally don’t lead to convictions in the first place.

            That’s nice to see.

          • Aapje says:

            Interestingly, one of the accusers in of the assemblywoman has stated that he had trouble framing what happened in his mind, because his mandatory sexual harassment training at the Capitol had never included examples where the victim was a man and the perpetrator was a woman.

          • Randy M says:

            his mandatory sexual harassment training at the Capitol had never included examples where the victim was a man and the perpetrator was a woman.

            …huh. I’ll have to update my model of the sorts of people who push for things like these. I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently, as a progressive foot soldier (that’s fair, given the context, isn’t it?) he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar which the rest of us (right…?) roll our eyes through and endure as either preaching to the choir or misguided propaganda for cya purposes.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Iain

            I think part of the issue here is that there’s a definitional thing going on. The evidence shows that something like 1/5 women are sexually assaulted at university, ~3/4 lifetime (per NISVS). However, the language used usually talks about campus rape. The WaPo article says “1 in 5 women violated” and the individual stories it tells are largely of assaults that aren’t unwanted grabbing, etc. The statistics used concern all sexual assaults; the language used is of rape and violation. It’s like the difference between “deaths” and “casualties” – a lot of people use the latter as shorthand for the latter, mostly through ignorance. If the pattern in the NISVS between rapes/attempted rapes and sexual assaults in general holds for campuses, and I’ve done my math right, that means the number for what would be defined as rape is something like 1/20.

            Klein doesn’t use the word rape for most of the article. He uses the term “sexual assault” but the way he frames it is, perhaps, a little misleading. When he says

            …men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.

            that implies sex, penetration, etc – I don’t think many people, when they hear “sexual encounter”, think of some asshole who thinks he has the right to grab women’s asses, but the central example of sexual assault for the 1/5 number is almost certainly closer to that than to penetrative rape. Then Klein writes

            …where the ambiguity of consent gives rapists loopholes in which to hide…

            which I think is more than a little misleading when the earlier part is considered (where he says “sexual assault”).

            The actual situation – in which a majority of women are sexually assaulted at some point in their life, about 1/5 experiences rape or attempted rape, the numbers for men are higher than you’d think, nonbinary people report very high numbers (not in the NISVS but in the campus climate report) – is very bad, but the 1/5 on campus number is frequently cited as rapes, or without clarification that sexual assault is not a synonym for rape. Even if clarification is provided, most people don’t read past the headline anyway.

          • Nornagest says:

            I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently […] he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar…

            I wouldn’t quite take that at face value — it stretches credibility to say that one particular mandatory training seminar taken as an adult defines anyone’s model. But it’s pretty plausible that none of the examples of sexual assault in any of the dozen or so roughly similar mandatory morality plays we all sit through by the time we graduate college featured female perpetrators and male recipients, and the phrasing in this particular case might just have been synecdotal. I certainly can’t remember seeing any.

          • Vorkon says:

            …huh. I’ll have to update my model of the sorts of people who push for things like these. I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently, as a progressive foot soldier (that’s fair, given the context, isn’t it?) he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar which the rest of us (right…?) roll our eyes through and endure as either preaching to the choir or misguided propaganda for cya purposes.

            I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not, here.

            To me, that just makes it seem more likely that at least one of the accusers is insincere, and even if he isn’t lying about the harassment itself, he’s at least fabricating an argument to try to make his accusation stronger.

            I suppose there might be some people who don’t just roll their eyes through those training seminars, but I have yet to meet one. Meanwhile, I have met plenty of people who are quite proficient rules-lawyers. It seems more likely to me that this is the latter case, than that my entire mental model of how people respond to mandatory training seminars is wrong.

          • Aapje says:

            I really don’t understand why this is taken of evidence of insincerity.

            There are obviously a lot of people who swallow the standard narrative that the media & society teaches them, until they personally have an experience that is so at odds with the narrative that they can no longer believe it.

            It is also pretty typical that upon realizing that they have been deceived, people get upset at those who they feel had a duty to teach them something, but didn’t.

            If one is made to attend a sexual assault seminar that has the explicit goal of making people more capable of dealing with unwanted behavior, but one later realizes that it was designed around a stereotypical narrative, then it seems logical to blame the seminar for not actually doing what it was supposed to do.

            Note that I’ve read a decent number of rape accounts by male victims who also said that they didn’t realize that men could actually be victimized and that they were not capable of quickly coming to grip with what happened to them. So the behavior of this person doesn’t seem at odds with that of a real victim at all.

          • quanta413 says:

            I suppose there might be some people who don’t just roll their eyes through those training seminars, but I have yet to meet one. Meanwhile, I have met plenty of people who are quite proficient rules-lawyers. It seems more likely to me that this is the latter case, than that my entire mental model of how people respond to mandatory training seminars is wrong.

            Or you may have a biased sample. I’ve known many people who basically agree with what’s in the training, although I don’t know if they’ve invested a ton of thought into the issues or the training. It would be one thing if the training ran counter to most other social narratives about sexual harassment and assault, but it doesn’t. And I’ve known very few rules lawyers.

            If I understand correctly, the complaint isn’t that the training says women can’t assault men; the complaint was that the examples were all one way. This hasn’t been true in the annual employee training I’ve had to do in the last couple years, but states vary (and so do employers) and things vary over time too. It’s not really that strange of a complaint (if true, which I think is a roughly 50/50 proposition).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M:

            “…huh. I’ll have to update my model of the sorts of people who push for things like these. I didn’t know anyone took them seriously, but apparently, as a progressive foot soldier (that’s fair, given the context, isn’t it?) he took his view of sexual morality from the mandated training seminar which the rest of us (right…?) roll our eyes through and endure as either preaching to the choir or misguided propaganda for cya purposes.”

            It wasn’t just the training, it’s the whole culture. There’s damned little about women sexually assaulting men.

            Let’s see. There’s Potiphar’s wife in the bible, who falsely accused Jacob of rape when he wouldn’t have sex with her.

            There’s Shakespeare’s “Venus and Adonais”– a while ago, I looked up discussion of it, and I didn’t get anyone with the idea that there was something abusive going on till I got to a fairly recent modern woman’s comments. C.S. Lewis mentioned how unlikable it was to be hugged by a large aunt when he was a child.

            For a while, John Barnes was writing science fiction which included some very scary women.

            What else?

          • Well... says:

            You guys are having this debate over whether Ezra Klein was faithful or honest in his reporting of facts, whether he should have been more transparent about the trustworthiness of those facts, etc. I’m proposing that Ezra Klein had no such actual obligation to be honest in the first place.

            As a journalist he wants you to think he has such an obligation because then you are primed to think he will meet it most of the time, especially since he is a successful and prominent journalist. Just like if you learn that engineers are supposed to abide by a code of ethics, you will believe that a given engineer is likely to have abided by it or at least tried, especially if that engineer is very successful and highly esteemed.

            In reality Ezra Klein could have written an Onion article but had it published straight-faced in Vox and he still would be doing his job no differently, on a fundamental level. This is because journalism is basically just a form of acting, only it’s a weird performance art version of it where everybody, including the actor, believes the performance is a real thing.

            Ezra Klein is acting like someone who is qualified to draw meaning from one study and apply it to another scenario. But he isn’t qualified, and this is true regardless whether you believe he happened to draw meaning/apply meaning correctly this time.

            Those kinds of “drawing meaning from this particular study over here and applying it to that general thing over there” arguments occupy whole sections of academic papers where they are qualified and qualified and qualified, and then they are pored over scrupulously in peer review by highly trained scientists.

            Ezra Klein has a BA in poli-sci and has never done anything other than write blogs and newspaper articles. He might happen to get the answer right, but nobody should be asking him for it.

            The reason (I hope one of the reasons anyway) we read and put credibility in Scott’s posts is because when he talks about something, he applies his high level of training in his field, giving us confidence that he knows what he’s talking about. Sometimes he stretches by going outside of his field into areas where his training isn’t as applicable and it’s more just an area of interest to him (e.g. AI risk) but his strongest posts are the ones that relate to his field (e.g. stuff about psychiatric medicine, the difficulties of doing studies at hospitals, etc.). When Scott writes those posts he isn’t being a journalist, PRECISELY BECAUSE he isn’t pretending to be the world’s biggest expert about stuff he has no idea about.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is he even technically a journalist? It’s not like he has some professional code of conduct – someone can’t report him to the Thinkpiece Board and get him disblogged – but it’s relevant whether or not he’s being truthful or accurate, and whether that’s conscious or not.

            If he’s decided that 1/20 rapes is serious enough to do something drastic about, but knows that people won’t take 1/20 seriously, but will take 1/5 seriously, or if he thinks 1/5 sexual assaults is serious enough to require drastic measures but frames it in a way that suggests 1/5 rapes because he knows that will have more of an effect, that’s dishonest – he’s a pious fraud. That’s relevant. If he himself is confused regarding the difference between rape and sexual assault, that’s relevant.

            He might not have an obligation to be accurate or honest or whatever, but it matters that he’s inaccurate or dishonest when making his case, if one happens to think that inaccuracy or dishonesty are bad. You can still be pissed off that a car salesman sharked you, even if car salesmen have no obligation not to shark you.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Thegnskald:

            This is a subject in which response bias is a known issue, and this survey seems intended to maximize the response bias.

            Obligatory Yes, Prime Minister clip.

          • Well... says:

            You can still be pissed off that a car salesman sharked you, even if car salesmen have no obligation not to shark you.

            It’s actually not a fair analogy because journalists for the most part, by default at least, aren’t trying to pull one over on their audience — other than the basic misrepresentation of level of expertise/authority/qualification to speak that goes along with just being a journalist, but most journalists aren’t even aware of that.

            Now, the numbers around what percentage of college students actually get raped is a perfectly reasonable thing to debate. Ezra Klein is as welcome to participate in that debate as anyone, and is as welcome as anyone to argue for the wrong numbers or misrepresent the numbers or whatever else.

            He doesn’t have some special duty to work harder to get the numbers right, and he hasn’t committed any especially grave sin by not doing so, simply because he argues under the auspices of a Journalism Publication.

            He would only have that duty if he argued under the auspices of, say, a government body put in charge of something related to that issue, or a company whose product or service dealt with something related to that issue.

            But as a journalist, his opinion is essentially irrelevant so he can say whatever he wants. The real problem with it is that calling himself a journalist grants him this fake status.

            (Wikipedia says he’s an “American journalist, blogger, and political commentator”. That’s good enough for me.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Investigative journalists generally aren’t, staff journalists generally aren’t, but opinion journalists are generally a bit untrustworthy, and a lot of them are just propagandists hired to say the same thing regardless of the facts in a given case.

            Even if Ezra Klein was some random guy arguing on Facebook, I think it’s still a general standard that lying and misrepresenting are bad.

            I agree that it’s unfortunate he gets this status as an authority.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well…”

            I think you’re being a little too cynical. Most of us expect journalists in their information-reporting role[1] to at least make a good-faith effort to report the facts straight. That’s because we rely on journalists for a lot of on-the-ground reporting about what’s going on.

            Further, I think we need someone in that role. In order to find out what’s going on in our world, and what problems need solving, we need journalists to report stuff that’s happening, just as we need official statistics to be honest and scientists to truthfully tell us what they’ve discovered and policemen to honestly report the results of their investigations.

            People will occasionally come up with justifications for why people in these roles should be “responsible” by withholding facts from the public or lying to us. There are probably a few cases where withholding facts to protect some innocent person’s privacy is reasonable, but for the most part, getting the people who stand between us and reality and tell us what’s going on to lie to us is a good way to break some really critical bits of our society.

            [1] One difficulty here is that reporters are sometimes basically writing opinion pieces (where supporting your side is more valued than honestly reporting the truth), and are sometimes basically writing entertainment pieces (where the goal is keeping people engaged).

          • Thegnskald says:

            Mr. X:

            Huh. I need to watch that show I think.

            And yeah. That is pretty much exactly what happened with this survey.

            Iain:

            No. I do not play that game. Your survey is garbage; that is all there is to it. I don’t need to provide you a good survey in order to argue that the survey you are using is nonsense; my point is not “The true figure is X”, my point is that you are trotting out garbage evidence.

            It may be there is good evidence, it may be there is not. Doesn’t matter. Yours isn’t among the former, and arguing that Ezra Klein was justified after the fact, based on a survey which literally reads like the linked Yes, Minister joke about how surveys arrive at an answer they want…

            Well, it smells just a bit of motivated reasoning.

          • Vorkon says:

            I really don’t understand why this is taken of evidence of insincerity.

            There are obviously a lot of people who swallow the standard narrative that the media & society teaches them, until they personally have an experience that is so at odds with the narrative that they can no longer believe it.

            Sorry about the late reply, I haven’t had much time to get online lately.

            Anyway, yes, it’s absolutely true that society doesn’t do much to establish that “men can be sexually assaulted by women” is a real thing that happens, and that many men don’t have a narrative built up in their heads to give them an idea of when this is happening. I have total sympathy with any man who says they had no idea what was happening until after the fact, and I’m sure that’s a thing that happens to men all the time.

            Where the insincerity lies is the fact that he tried to blame this misunderstanding on its lack of inclusion on the mandatory training. It would be one thing if he JUST said that he didn’t realize what was happening at first because he didn’t know how to frame it in his mind, with no culprit given for why he had never been exposed to that narrative, or even if he had tried to blame society in general for never giving that narrative to him. But he specifically said that he had trouble framing it in his mind BECAUSE THE MANDATORY TRAINING never included that narrative.

            The official training was obviously not his first or only exposure to the idea of sexual harassment, so why would he treat it like it was? The only explanation I can think of is as an appeal to authority; his superiors can’t dismiss a claim based on the official training that they, themselves, approved and need to be seen to endorse, so referencing it makes his claim harder to ignore. That doesn’t necessarily mean his claim is false, or anything, but it does mean that he’s willing to employ disingenuous techniques to try to make his argument seem stronger, which makes me ever so slightly less inclined to take his argument seriously.

          • Aapje says:

            @Vorkon

            I think that your assessment betrays a typical mind fallacy error.

            I suspect that you have strong doubts about the ability of a single seminar to teach people to take sexual assault of men seriously; or perhaps more generically, for a single seminar to teach anything of substance that was not already believed. So you probably can’t believe that others can believe any different.

            However, many people clearly don’t think this way or we wouldn’t see so many people push for these single seminars in the first place, where those same people tend to make far reaching claims about how big a problem ‘rape culture’ is. That they rarely push hard for more extensive programs suggests that they either have immense faith in education and/or believe that any well-meaning person will automatically ‘get it’ after a single seminar (and it is easy to engage in good sexual practices once ‘you get it’).

            In other words, they think that this equation works fairly reliably: person indoctrinated into rape culture + good sexual assault seminar = person with good sexual practices.

            Based on this belief, it makes perfect sense to blame the seminar for not being good enough, when one notices that a good sexual practice was not being taught (in this case, that women should not sexually assault men). After all, the person probably believes that the woman would likely have known not to assault men, if only the seminar had told her not to do that.

            Ultimately, lots of people sincerely have silly beliefs. The belief I described above is really quite minor silliness compared to other beliefs that quite a few people actually believe.

            My personal policy is to generally assume good faith and high stupidity, which I found far more explanatory than to assume bad faith and low stupidity.

          • Vorkon says:

            Oh, yeah, I’m certainly exhibiting the same sort of reasoning employed in a typical mind fallacy error. However, like a lot of informal fallacies, I don’t think it’s fair to actually call it a “fallacy.” Can you reach flawed conclusions by employing that line of reasoning? Sure! Very often, in fact. But absent conflicting evidence, modeling someone else’s mind after yours is often the best way to lead yourself in the right direction.

            Meanwhile, like I said in my original post on the subject, referencing the official training pattern-matches with a lot of other weaselly appeals to authority that I’ve seen in the past. When I weigh, “is this guy trying to appeal to authority to make his accusation seem stronger” with “does this guy’s mind work so fundamentally different from mine that he might as well be a different species,” I find that the former seems more likely.

            Am I ignoring Hanlon’s razor in favor of Occam’s? Maybe. But in this case, I think it’s warranted.

            I’ll admit that I might be biased by all of the horrible mandatory sexual harassment training I’ve been forced to sit through, though.

      • Well... says:

        To me it’s about how it’s done more than whether it’s mainstream. If you put on a suit and sit at a desk, show a globe spinning and a bunch of TVs behind you, and talk in a weird sing-songy voice, even if you only have one subscriber you are still doing “journalism”.

        Joe Rogan/Dave Rubin/etc. are just conducting long-form interviews, and they don’t have much of an artifice of authority or whatever. The sets are casual and appropriate to the content (recording studio/comfy-but-tidy-looking-den-or-hangout-place, respectively), and there’s very little formal structure arbitrarily applied to it. Charlie Rose was sort of half-way there: he sat with his guests in what appeared to be God’s Lair or outer space with a very serious-looking oak table between them, the kind of table you’d expect Jesus to have made.

  38. Wrong Species says:

    Has there ever been an instance where someone said there was a market failure and that we needed government to regulate it, but then the market became much more efficient to the point where it was no longer so?

    • BBA says:

      I was reading about the Beer Orders in the UK recently. I’m not sure whether they count, but they’re an example of regulations that were repealed after the government deemed them no longer necessary.

      Before Prohibition, most bars in the US were “tied houses” owned by a brewery that exclusively sold that brewery’s beers. This was seen as creating a moral hazard, as the brewer would be in a position to directly encourage as much drinking as possible, leading to all of the societal ills that the temperance movement warned us about. When Prohibition ended, there were new laws imposed banning any form of cross-ownership or exclusivity contracts between an alcohol producer and a bar or other retailer. Although the reasoning behind these laws was suspect, they survive to this day.

      In the UK, tied houses were the norm until the Beer Orders were enacted in 1989. These restrictions were much more lenient than the ones in the US – they allowed a brewery to own up to 2,000 pubs and required them to give pub managers the option of serving a “guest beer” from another brewery. Modest as these restrictions were, they directly caused all the major breweries to sell off their pubs to independent “pubcos.” Vertical integration vanished, and in 2003 the Orders were repealed as no longer necessary.

      It’s unclear whether the Orders improved competition – the pubcos aren’t as dominant as the brewery-owned pubs were, but meanwhile the big six breweries have consolidated into the big four, now all owned by international conglomerates – but they did have one unintended effect. Independent craft breweries couldn’t break into the tied house system, but “guest beers” and independent pubcos gave them a foot in the door. One commentator I read claims this was no great benefit because America had craft beers a decade before Britain, but then we banned tied houses over 50 years before Britain did. On the other hand, in Mexico, tied houses are still dominant and craft beer is nearly unknown.

      • gbdub says:

        The big breweries are still using laws originally meant to separate brewers from distribution and sales to force out craft brewers.

    • Jaskologist says:

      “The Population Bomb” said that we needed governments to force the population to stop growing. It was already too late to prevent the mass starvation that was sure to come in the 1970s.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I don’t mean where someone warned of some impending doom. I mean where there was actually some market problem that resolved itself.

        • Randy M says:

          How was that not an example of unregulated exchanges leading to predictions of negative externalities that resolved itself?

          • Wrong Species says:

            It’s not predictions of market failure I’m wondering about. It’s about actually occurring market failure(or rather strong market inefficiencies).

          • Matt M says:

            This seems like a weird request though.

            You’re asking for examples of when the market failed, followed by when the market corrected itself. But obviously the most likely outcome is that the market anticipates failure, and corrects itself before the failure could occur…

          • Wrong Species says:

            That’s assuming that markets are these autonomous things where every opportunity for profit is immediately seized. Sometimes it takes a certain person to come and completely disrupt the industry after throwing a lot of resources at the problem. Think about SpaceX. If Elon Musk hadn’t built it from the ground up, its not like someone would have automatically done what he has done. Not that I’m trying to point to space exploration as a market failure but it’s the general idea I’m getting at.

          • Matt M says:

            Not “immediately”, but pretty quickly, and perhaps before widespread market failure is inherently obvious to most everyone.

            To use a probably irrelevant medical analogy, think “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If we assume it’s much easier for the market to correct itself BEFORE a huge problem emerges, then it makes sense that you would not notice a whole lot of huge failures followed by solutions.

            It’s like your asking for examples of how to prevent lung cancer and someone says “Don’t smoke, eat healthy, and exercise” and your response is, “No – I mean, how do you CURE lung cancer?”

          • Wrong Species says:

            It doesn’t take a communist to realize some markets are more inefficient than others. Let’s say that 99% of the time, some potential market failure is identified and the problem is prevented. That still leaves the 1%. And I don’t think it’s easy as someone noticing there’s a marketing inefficiency and then it gets fixed. If it takes a lot of resources attacking the problem to fix it, then it’s nontrivial to exploit that market for profit. But if some billionaire decides to do so, maybe he can eventually do so. Elon Musk didn’t see that there was an easy opportunity to make money and then followed through. It took a ridiculous amount of effort with overwhelming odds just because he wanted to get to space. Surely there is one example of something like that but with a market failure stuck in an equilibrium?

        • Incurian says:

          Doesn’t this beg the question of what constitutes a market failure? As I understand it, it’s a subjective value judgment. Can you give some examples of historical events that are uncontroversially described as market failures? Maybe I’m being stupidly pedantic.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The main example I have in mind is healthcare. Yes, some people would object to it being called a market failure because they believe that government regulation is at fault. I’m not trying to find out who to blame but I think the majority of us would agree that there are inefficiencies in the market as it is now. I’m wondering if someone can fix it working within the current system. If there was historical precedent for something similar, I would feel more optimistic.

          • Matt M says:

            the majority of us would agree that there are inefficiencies in the market as it is now. I’m wondering if someone can fix it working within the current system

            I would suggest that “cash-only” doctors who serve low income communities have largely fixed it, and are reasonably efficient.

            They don’t provide as high of a standard or as wide of a service offering as richer people might like, but there do exist places where you can get a price quote for a standard basic service, pay in cash, and have it done – and the cash prices are reasonable such that poor people can afford them.

          • Doesn’t this beg the question of what constitutes a market failure?

            At possibly a tangent, I think this whole discussion is misusing a technical term, assuming that what “market failure” means is situations where the market fails to give the best result. In my view, that’s both too narrow and too broad. It’s too broad because there are lots of situations where the market fails to give the optimal result that have nothing to do with what economists call market failure–for instance any case where giving the optimal result requires information that nobody has at the relevant time. It’s too narrow because there are lots of examples of market failure–the standard prisoner’s dilemma story or the logic of rationally ignorant voting–that have nothing to do with what we usually think of as the market.

            It’s as if people interpreted the theory of relativity as “everything is relative.”

            For a detailed explanation of what I think the term means, see this (a chapter from the third edition of Machinery).

          • skef says:

            This isn’t uncontroversial, but whatever one’s opinion of smoking regulations, I think it’s clear that there was a much larger market for restaurants that banned smoking (as opposed to just having non-smoking sections) than was being served 25 years ago. I can’t remember having talked to a smoker who preferred the old conventions (sometimes with the exception of dive-bar type places that also served food). That smoke smell generally lessens food enjoyment.

            Does anyone doubt that if all of the regulations were reversed tomorrow, restaurants that allowed smoking would be the rare exception? (And, genuine question, does anyone think there was a clear route to a better equilibrium without regulation? It seems like many restaurants that would have preferred to ban smoking, all things being equal, faced the combined problem of communicating that they didn’t allow it, and not wanting to tell customers they couldn’t do something they expected to be able to do when that communication failed.)

          • Incurian says:

            And, genuine question, does anyone think there was a clear route to a better equilibrium without regulation? It seems like many restaurants that would have preferred to ban smoking, all things being equal, faced the combined problem of communicating that they didn’t allow it, and not wanting to tell customers they couldn’t do something they expected to be able to do when that communication failed.

            This doesn’t make sense to me. There were already smoking and non-smoking sections, it wouldn’t have been hard to just not have a smoking section (which I’m sure lots of places did but I’m barely old enough to remember smoking sections in the first place). If the regulations were repealed, LOTS of places would start to allow smoking, though I imagine most wouldn’t. I think the cause of no smoking in restaurants was a culture shift, not a regulation shift.

          • skef says:

            This doesn’t make sense to me. There were already smoking and non-smoking sections, it wouldn’t have been hard to just not have a smoking section (which I’m sure lots of places did but I’m barely old enough to remember smoking sections in the first place). If the regulations were repealed, LOTS of places would start to allow smoking, though I imagine most wouldn’t. I think the cause of no smoking in restaurants was a culture shift, not a regulation shift.

            Given that you seem to know very few facts about that actual period, should we take it that what you’re “sure” about can be justified a priori, perhaps starting from the NAP?

          • Incurian says:

            I am a libertarian if that’s what you’re asking. I would ask that you illuminate me with more historical detail to support your point rather than doing whatever you’re doing (which I’m interpreting as very hostile), since your point was about as well-support from personal anecdote as mine was.

          • skef says:

            I would ask that you illuminate me with more historical detail to support your point rather than doing whatever you’re doing (which I’m interpreting as very hostile), since your point was about as well-support from personal anecdote as mine was.

            Actually, anecdotes strung together while living through a period provide at least somewhat better support than imagining what anecdotes one would have strung together while living through a period. Going to various restaurants over a span of a decade or two provides some idea of the proportion that have this or that policy, even given the possible sample biases.

            I was feeling a bit hostile, perhaps. Probably because this statement:

            There were already smoking and non-smoking sections, it wouldn’t have been hard to just not have a smoking section

            suggested that you didn’t think for even ten seconds before emitting a rote answer. I mean, I suppose it also “wouldn’t have been hard” to just close a restaurant entirely. But maybe there are other relevant interests at stake?

          • quanta413 says:

            Actually, anecdotes strung together while living through a period provide at least somewhat better support than imagining what anecdotes one would have strung together while living through a period. Going to various restaurants over a span of a decade or two provides some idea of the proportion that have this or that policy, even given the possible sample biases.

            This is vaguely true for some cases, but in other cases it’s the opposite. Actually living through a period can cause inaccurate biases as well as giving some useful information. It’s not at all obvious which direction this case runs in.

          • skef says:

            Oh my, yes. Did American men used to wear hats? Are forks a thing? Better hope there’s a peer reviewed study or it’s probably all a bunch of he said he said!

          • Incurian says:

            So enlighten me instead of being a jerk.
            (edited for language)

          • skef says:

            Seriously?

            Someone arrives at a restaurant with smoking and non-smoking sections expecting to smoke. The host says “you’ll sit in this section.”

            Someone arrives at a restaurant that doesn’t allow smoking expecting to smoke. The host says “you’ll have to not do that or go to another restaurant.”

            You portrayed this as an inconsequential change.

            As far as past prevalence is concerned, I haven’t turned up any U.S. data that doesn’t collapse establishment smoking bans and non-smoking sections, which should give some idea of how much attitudes have changed. Here is something from Australia in the mid-90s:

            No significant differences were found between the restaurants participating and not participating in relation to the type of smoking restrictions enforced or the size of the restaurant.

            Of 86 restaurants, including participating and non-participating restaurants, only 49% had smoking restrictions. Fifty-one per cent allowed smoking anywhere, 25% allowed smoking at allocated tables (not in separate room to other tables), 15% restricted smoking to separate areas (separated by a wall) and 8% didn’t allow smoking anywhere.

            Of those with smoking restrictions, 86% commenced their smoking policy in the years between 1990 and 1997. Among those restaurants that had smoking restrictions, the amount of floorspace allocated for non-smoking areas was less than half in 81% of cases. The restaurants varied in size: 27% had 20–50 diners on a Friday night, 46% had 51–160 diners and 27% had more than 160 diners

            “Wall” doesn’t mean “air filtering” or even “door”.

    • pontifex says:

      One argument that I’ve often heard is that anti-trust action against Microsoft in the late 1990s was unnecessary because Microsoft’s dominance was disrupted by Google, a revived Apple, and other technology companies, in the decade after the DoJ’s antitrust suit fizzled out. (Minimizing the impact of the anti-trust suit was one of George W. Bush’s first big executive actions, as I remember. I forget exactly how he did this… something to do with reshuffling the bureaucracy.)

      I’m not sure I fully believe this argument since the markets Microsoft (semi) monopolized, operating systems and office software suites, are still pretty locked down. It feels more like technology companies got bored of desktop software and routed around the monopoly.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ve also read that by the time they got around to breaking up Standard Oil, its market share had already been falling somewhat significantly (along with consumer prices)

        • baconbits9 says:

          From Antitrust: The Case for Repeal (any typos mine)

          The Standard Oil Company was a major force in the development of the petroleum industry in the nineteenth century. It grew from being a small Ohio corporation in 1870, with perhaps a 4-percent market share, to become a griant, multidivisional conglomerate company by 1890, when it enjoyed as much as 85 percent of the domestic petroleum refining market….

          Standard Oil’s efficiency made the company extremely successful” it kept its costs low and was able to sell more and more of its refined product, usually at a lower and lower price, in the open marketplace. Prices for kerosene fell from 30 cents a gallon in 1869 to 9 cents in 1880, 7.4 cents in 1890, and 5.9 cents in 1897. Most important, this feat was accomplished in a market open to competitors, the number and organizational size of which increased greatly after 1890. Indeed, competitors grew so quickly that in the years preceding the federal antitrust case that Standard’s market share in petroleum refining declined from roughly 85 percent in 1890 to 64 percent in 1911. In 1911, at least 147 refining companies were competing with Standard, including such large firms as Gulf, Texaco, Union, Pure, Associated Oil and Gas, and Shell.

    • Not quite what you are asking for, but there is a fairly famous case where a prominent economist claimed there was an insoluble market failure problem and later authors demonstrated that it had been being privately solved for the previous century or so.

    • Chalid says:

      It’s not exactly what you asked for, but underprovision of public goods is a commonly cited market failure. Public goods that go obsolete no longer need to be provided by the government – for example, the classic public good is lighthouses, and they aren’t needed as much anymore due to electronic navigation.

      (I suppose someone will point out that there existed private lighthouses; Wikipedia suggests that these tended to be publicly supported, which sounds plausible to me, but I am not a lighthouse historian.)

      There must be a lot of regulations that were obsoleted by technological change too, though nothing immediately comes to mind.

  39. baconbits9 says:

    I’m more than 10 years out of the genetics game (and that was plants to boot) so don’t take this to seriously, but often (a decade ago) you can develop a test for one thing at a time. So it is plausibly likely that ‘next generation sequencing’ is going to be a “you can test for height, or IQ, or eye color, but not all 3 or even 2 out of 3”. Since pre implantation embryos are small you aren’t getting more than a few tests out of them while still allowing them to be viable, and then you need to run the combinations, you might find the embryo with the highest predicted IQ but you have a 50/50 shot (if uncorrelated) that it will be below the average of those embryos in height.

    Unless you can sequence the entire genome from a small sample turning this type of selection into dynamic action where we get smart, tall, blue eyed, athletic babies, and is unlikely.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I posted about this upthread, but yes a LOT has changed in the last ten years.

      Last year a WGS method was developed that claims one error per hundred million bases. Standard methods aren’t that good but they’re not bad either.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I pointed out earlier in this thread, that you get the accurate sequence from the parent’s genomes and use the embryonic cells only to find out which sections of the parent’s DNA are there.

  40. limestone says:

    Overfishing is often used as an example of a free market failure. However, this article claims that, based on the a World Bank study, this might not actually be true, and that overfishing is caused by governments subsidizing unprofitable fisheries:

    Out of 139 countries evaluated, 64 generated profits from their fisheries, even after accounting for subsidies. But the fisheries of 75 countries aren’t actually generating wealth.

    There’s a word for these fisheries: zombies, unprofitable enterprises kept on life support by government subsidies.

    One problem with zombies is that they waste resources that could be directed toward productive uses—for example, retraining fishermen to work in other industries. Another problem is that, freed from suffering the punishing effects of economic logic, they can keep prices low. That can drive sustainably operating fishermen out of business.

    What do you think?

    • toastengineer says:

      Reminds me of this bit from the Non-Non-Libertarian FAQ:

      The example of the Atlantic Northwest cod fishery was an example of government failure: the fishery was government (mis)regulated. What would have happened had there been property rights on the whole fishery? The government didn’t allow that to happen. The US fishery policy has its problems (White, 2000).The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy also seems (Khallilian et al, 2010) to be failing. Governments can succeed or fail at solving common resource coordination problems, but so can private or communal institutions (Tarko, 2012).

      That said, the state of global fisheries today is dim, even with plenty of national and international government regulation. Creating common property in fisheries that span national borders conflict with sovereignty (Ha, mere fishermen telling States what to do with their territorial waters!), so in a way States could be making their governance more difficult.

      2.1.2 But Fishermen won’t do it!

      As said above, they actually, empirically, do it, especially for non-international water regions, and when rights of some sort are in place. Formal external enforcement will be a feature of any libertarian political order, with or without a state, so the fact that it is required is no critique of libertarianism.

      For international waters, things are trickier, to the point that, as pointed out above, States are not able to deal with it (right now). But would we go as far as claiming it is impossible?

    • gbdub says:

      How did the zombies become unprofitable in the first place? One possible path would be private overfishing – a previously profitable fishery is overfished, making it hard to harvest additional fish at a profit, so to prevent job loss or whatever, the government subsidizes it.

      Which doesn’t mean that they should continue to subsidize it, of course. Just poking at the idea this might be a chicken and egg problem – did the subsidies cause the overfishing, or were they a (bad) response to previous mismanagement of the fishery?

    • zz says:

      It is possible for there to be overfishing or not-overfishing in absence of regulation, depending on how elastic fish price is. This is material that should be standard in introductory microeconomics courses*. Anyone who tells you either (a) overfishing is inevitable without regulation/coordination or (b) that the free market will inevitably self-correct without need for coordination/regulation, without reference to elasticity, should be ignored on any issue relating to economics. Seriously, this shit is all in Introduction to Economic Analysis, which is Creative Commons licensed and only 330 pages long, what excuse could they possibly have?

      Without appealing to anything beyond 330 pages of introductory economics, it is blindingly obvious that:

      1. In the case where overfishing is the default, it’s extremely plausible that regulation can prevent overfishing. (See the section on maximum sustainable yield).

      2. In the case where not-overfishing is the default, it’s extremely plausible that regulation can induce overfishing. (See the section on price support.)

      I’m not surprised to learn that zombies are eating our fish. Concentrated benefits and diffuse costs are also discussed in IEA. Given that overfishing is a thing, this just makes an already-wasteful subsidy extra stupid. But unless we know about the elasticity of demand for fish (which I don’t), it’s entirely possible that zombies fail but-for causation because it’s not true that, but for zombies, there would be no overfishing.

      *Preston McAfee, author of Introduction to Economic Analysis, describes his text as containing “the standard intermediate microeconomics material and some material that ought to be standard but is not.”

  41. Jaskologist says:

    You may have heard that blue states are the net tax payers and red states the takers, probably without much backing. Meghan Mcardle finally tracked down data for that. It turns out that it’s not that clearcut, and it’s even less clear what blue staters feel should be rolled back in order to rectify the situation:

    On a per-capita basis — which is the right way to calculate this — deep-blue New Jersey is the biggest donor state. But red-blooded Wyoming is the next biggest, and North Dakota makes the list too. There is certainly a preponderance of blue states at that end of the spectrum, but it’s not a clear “Donor states are blue” story. And if we match the 2013 data to the closest election (2012) we find that New Mexico, the biggest net recipient, went for Obama in 2012, as did Virginia, Maryland, Maine and Hawaii. What’s driving the net subsidies isn’t anything as simple as political identification.

    Most of the transfers do not come from “red state welfare” like agricultural subsidies. They derive from Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, welfare, the maintenance of the national highway system, the purchase of goods and services for the federal government, and the operation of federal facilities and lands.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      It turns out that it’s not that clearcut, and it’s even less clear what blue staters feel should be rolled back in order to rectify the situation:

      Generally I don’t see this cited as an argument that these programs should be cut, but that they should be denigrated less.

      • gbdub says:

        It was cited as an argument for why rolling back the SALT deduction was unfair to blue states, since it will presumably exacerbate the disparity.

      • Rex says:

        I’ve usually seen this comparison arise in response to conservative disdain for welfare and social programs (conservatives complain about handouts, but red states are the ones taking the most etc.).

        • The Nybbler says:

          And it’s not really news that those numbers consider payments to Raytheon for building Air Force rocket components, SSI disability, Social Security retirement, corn subsidies to Archer Daniels Midland, and the maintenance of the Washington Monument to be all in the same category.

        • JulieK says:

          On the other hand, liberals feel compassion for the poor, and then turn around and sneer at red states for being needy.

    • TheContinentalOp says:

      Isn’t it possible that ALL states get back more in federal spending, than they pay in taxes, since we routinely run deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars?

  42. Matt M says:

    Here’s something for you guys…

    The Players Tribune is a popular sports journalism website, which claims to give athletes a voice. It frequently publishes long, eloquent, and well-written pieces of writing, written by athletes themselves. Many of these pieces have gone viral and received a lot of praise.

    At the same time, professional athletes are not professional writers, many of them received somewhat dubious college educations, if any at all. There has always been some suspicion that many of the pieces are almost certainly heavily ghost-written.

    And now, we have a hockey player essentially confirming such, on the record. Not only did he not write the piece attributed to him – he’s never even read it. Which begs the question – exactly how unethical is this setup? I know that ghost writing is a long and well established thing. I know that many autobiographies and political books by famous people and celebrity memoirs are, and have been, heavily ghostwritten. I consider it entirely legitimate for non-writers to get significant help from professional writers. I don’t know where exactly you draw the line from “getting some good help” and “fraud” but I think this particular case crosses it.

  43. johan_larson says:

    Could anyone recommend a historical novel of the Roman empire that presents a view from the bottom that society? I’m not looking for life was lived in purple-fringed togas, but in the plain tunic of a common laborer, craftsman, farmer or soldier.

    • cmurdock says:

      I assume you’re familiar with Steven Pressfield, but if not, his books are kinda that except they’re of Greece instead of Rome (sorry).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I can recommend Birds of Prey by David Drake, but only in the sense that I liked the novel (it’s a fine example of kitchen sink science fiction) and that it’s got that researched feeling.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birds_of_Prey_(Drake_novel)

      Vg’f tbg n cyrfvbfnhe va gur Gvore. Gung’f n fvqr rssrpg bs n gvzr geniryre sebz gur qvfgnag shgher jub’f va Ebzr gb qrny jvgu na nyvra zranpr.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t have any novels for you, but HBO’s Rome miniseries spends a lot of time following middle- or lower-class Romans: its protagonists, insofar as the show has any, are a centurion and legionary who later go into civilian life.

      It’s TV and therefore deserves to be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s definitely a cut above your average sword-and-sandal story in terms of historical accuracy.

    • littskad says:

      You might like Lindsey Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco novels. They’re mystery/crime novels. Falco is a delator, basically a private investigator, who lives in a tenement in Rome during the reign of Vespasian.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        They are good books, but I think Falco is a patrician, not a plebian, so maybe not what he is looking for. The stories are told similar to a gritty American detective story, so it does delve into the lower classes a bit.

        • littskad says:

          According to Wikipedia, his family is of plebeian rank, but he eventually reaches equestrian rank.

    • SamChevre says:

      It’s not about the very bottom of society; the narrator is a mid-tier Roman officer–but you might like The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, which are about the Roman withdrawal from Britain and it’s aftermath.

    • DeWitt says:

      All prior recommendations here are modern texts, which is a little scarce. Contemporary descriptions of Roman life aren’t at all easy to get by, but I will recommend Petronius’ Satyricon if you want something nice to read.

    • johan_larson says:

      Maybe Simon Scarrow’s “Eagles of the Empire” series would qualify. How high a rank is centurion? Is a centurion a minor nobleman (like knights in later times) or were they more like senior enlisted men of our own era?

      • DeWitt says:

        The who, where, and how of being a centurion says very much about how high in rank the specific person was, but it wasn’t a heritable position nor one restricted by birth.

  44. James says:

    What’s a readable introduction to Jung?

    • Eric27 says:

      I just bought “The Origins and History of Consciousness” by Erich Neumann, who was a student of Jung. This book is said introduce a lot of Jungs ideas in an accessible manner.
      I haven’t started reading it yet, so I can not judge that myself.
      Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691163596/

  45. j1000000 says:

    Maybe this should just be combined with the post by “Well…” above, but I didn’t want to take away from his post. What should I read or watch by Jordan Peterson that’s most representative of why people are so obsessed with him?

    I have never read or watched anything by him, but even plenty of smart people I respect won’t shut up about him. I’m assuming this new book is not the essential piece, since this book is the result of, not the cause of, his popularity.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know if this is the best place to start, but I started with his Cathy Newman interview. From there I went back and watched what I could of the events surrounding his criticism of Bill C16. And then from there I got more into his lectures, “at home” videos, and appearances on various TV/Youtube shows/podcasts. His post-analysis of the Newman interview is also worth watching sooner rather than later in this sequence.

    • Anonymous says:

      The chan-4 interview is an excellent example of his verbal prowess. For details on his actual teachings, the Bite Sized Philosophy channel is pretty good at distilled chunks for casual consumption.

    • lvlln says:

      After his appearance on Sam Harris’s podcast last year – my 1st time ever hearing of Jordan Peterson – I decided to check out his YouTube channel and eventually ended up watching his lectures of his personality course at University of Toronto. I do NOT recommend his conversations with Sam Harris, as they mostly didn’t really go anywhere. The 1st lecture from his 2017 class is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYYJlNbV1OM. Given that this is an entire semester’s worth of lectures, this is over a dozen hour’s worth of content, but if you want to get a sense of what his thinking is and where he’s coming from, it’s probably the best way, because he sort of builds everything up as you’d expect a good college course to do. It’s pretty easy to see how the stuff he covers in that course leak out into all the conversations he has with interviewers, like the stuff about dominance hierarchies, the big 5 personality traits & IQ, the hero’s journey, the pareto distribution, understanding the formation of totalitarian regimes, among others.

    • Brad says:

      To piggyback on this, what about if I’m only interested in text and refuse to click any youtube links? Are there any sub-book-length writings that serve as a good introductions to whatever it is that makes him so compelling?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Not that I’m aware of. He wrote a book, made video lectures about it, put them on YouTube, then got famous for a YouTube video where he argued with social justice people, and then made more YouTube videos. It’s all YouTube.

      • Aapje says:

        @Brad

        I would read this summary of Maps of Meaning.

        Note that the full book is freely available too, but it is reportedly a difficult read.

        • Brad says:

          Thanks. Assuming that was a good summary, I think that gives me a strong idea of where he is coming from. I guess I can see the appeal, but not my cup of tea.

    • IrishDude says:

      I enjoyed his recent discussion with Joe Rogan where he touches on a lot of subjects I’ve seen him discuss elsewhere. I’ve only watched him when he’s been interviewed by other people and haven’t seen any of his solo talks, so I don’t know if the interviews are representative of his wider work, but I have found him an interesting person to listen to with insightful commentary.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I think I saw his second Joe Rogan interview first and then jumped around. I would recommend this particular interview and the other Joe Rogan interviews with him as well.

  46. Matt M says:

    Office e-mail etiquette question:

    How do you feel about “thank you” (and even worse – “you’re welcome”) e-mails?

    I’m thinking of an example where, say, someone asks a co-worker for something minor, and it is completely within the realm of that co-workers responsibility to do the thing being asked (as in – it’s not some huge personal favor – it’s something they are generally expected to do and might even get in trouble for refusing). The person then complies with the request. Is the requester then socially obligated to send an e-mail saying “Thanks!”?

    I tend to error on the side of not sending a message like that, in the feeling that it’s basically a waste of time. Not just my time to write it, but also their time to read and delete it. It adds no real value. I don’t like receiving them either, as it’s just one more e-mail for me to check and deal with. People can express their gratitude by not distracting me further.

    Am I being weird and unreasonable on this one?

    • Randy M says:

      I’m similar in that I’d prefer to avoid the pointlessness in written communication. In person is different, go ahead and apply the social lubrication sloppily.
      But I don’t see e-mail as an extension of casual conversation, but more formal. Occasionally you’ll need to do a formal thank you, like to a supplier or customer or whatever, but for a coworker I’d prefer to say thanks in person next time we met and end the chain of short back and forth sooner than clutter in boxes.

      Though if a third party (ie, both your boss) is cc’ed, it is another matter. If it costs you nothing, the thank you may be a minor boost to their prestige; if it is something that makes you look less competent, be mindful of that; no “thanks for helping me with the report Mr Smith assigned to me!” unless you think they deserve a boost at your expense.

      I have the same reticence here (believe it or not), in that I’d prefer to edit my post than post a reply that says little more than “thanks, I hadn’t thought of that.” or “good point.”

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know about weird and unreasonable, but I don’t have the negative reaction to receiving those kinds of “thank you” emails and I suspect most other people don’t either. Furthermore you can think about it in the meta-sense of personal branding; i.e. branding yourself as someone who goes out of his way to be kind and appreciative. Sorta related to the principle of staying on the good side of the secretary/receptionist because she’s the key to the whole company.

    • yodelyak says:

      I don’t think we need a norm for this. People can have their own styles.

      Do great work, and periodically make sure–in your own way–to let everyone you appreciate feel appreciated. If you are management, don’t take management tips from chat rooms (even the inimitable SSC), but if you must listen to me, I’d say make sure everyone you managed feels appreciated and use at least two modes of communication to achieve that, where one is more informal (high fives, oral thank-yous, etc.) and the other more formal (meetings, emails, performance reviews, bonuses).

    • gbdub says:

      I like “thank you” emails as a form of closure – you’re acknowledging that you received my response, verifying that it met your needs / expectations, and declining an opportunity to ask for more.

    • John Schilling says:

      “Thank you” is, in this context, the civilian version of “Roger that”.

      There is an exchange of messages. There is a last message saying anything of substantive value, which is properly received and understood. But the sender can’t know that, so either he goes on wondering whether the purpose of this whole exercise has been satisfied, or there is one more message to be sent that has no substantive value other than to definitively end communication. You did the favor for your friend, but he hasn’t said anything so maybe he doesn’t know and is about to duplicate your effort – do you need to follow up your email with a text, phone call, stop by his office, whatever?

      Meanwhile, things like “I’m done here” can easily carry an implicit connotation of “…because you never had anything useful to contribute”. So, how do you tell people that you are absolutely done with talking to them on a particular subject, in a positive way? “Thank you” works really well for that.

      • yodelyak says:

        Yeah, I do things like this a lot. I avoid “thank you” except when I’m intending to say “thank you”–call that a personal preference–but I often say “this was a good talk” or “I like working here; people get stuff done” or something that is otherwise generic and positive so it’s clear I got the previous message, and have nothing of substance to add.

    • j1000000 says:

      I also very very much dislike them, but what gbdub and John Schilling said is true. In the past I have legitimately gotten in trouble with a boss for not sending enough emails along these lines. I suddenly felt like an alien — I was like, you’re telling me everyone doesn’t hate those emails? I thought I was doing everyone a favor.

      • gbdub says:

        I guess I don’t get the annoyance with them? Personally not getting one is more annoying to me, because it feels like I’ve been ghosted. Not that I need a pat on the head for doing my job, but if I put some effort into a response or a product for you, I’d like to at least know you received it. Otherwise I’ve got it hanging over my head that you might pop back out of the blue and ask for additional follow-up (or worse, come back two weeks from now and say you never got it).

        It’s probably not necessary for all emails, but if my response to you took more than a few minutes of my time, a simple “thanks” as acknowledgement of receipt is very much appreciated.

    • Jaskologist says:

      The real problem is people who respond with “Thanks…” emails.

    • Incurian says:

      I used to never send them until I found I enjoyed receiving them, so now I send them. Also if you have a particularly grating personality like mine (and I suspect many of the people here?) it helps to be extra scrupulous about manners and stuff.

      • quaelegit says:

        Well since we’re talking about manners and I’ve been waiting months and haven’t found a better time:

        A while ago I made an offhand commenting insulting your posts… if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then don’t worry about it. Since then I’ve really appreciated several of your comments and thought they really contributed to the discussion. (Can’t remember any specific examples, again, it’s been over the past few months.) So I just wanted to apologize; to say I regret the offhand comment and no long agree with it. Thanks for contributing here.

        [Sincerely, quaelegit… it feels weird to end a blog comment like a letter but it feels appropriate here.]

        • Incurian says:

          Thank you, I appreciate you saying so. While that sort of stuff did hurt my feelings, it also motivated me to try to make my comments more thoughtful, so I hope you don’t feel too bad about it.

      • Matt M says:

        I used to never send them until I found I enjoyed receiving them

        But I’m having the opposite reaction. I hate receiving them, so I figure I should stop sending them!

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I always respond thanks when the other person gives me what I ask for. As others have said, it is a good final word. But it is also to tell the other person that you aren’t taking them for granted. I can’t say I get any warm fuzzy feelings when people send thanks to me, but I am less social than many others in the corporate world, so I don’t take my own feelings as determinative of how others feel. And I don’t find them at all annoying when I get them, I just delete. Doesn’t take much time.

    • quaelegit says:

      I try to respond with “thank you” acknowledgement emails for the reasons John Schilling and the others discussed. Also, although I also often feel like I’m wasting people’s time with them, there are SO MANY stories where protagonists triumph because they are polite* that I really think most people appreciate it. Same thing with hand-written thank you notes (although I’m TERRIBLE at those and only managed to send them to about 1/3rd of people who gave me college grad gifts.)

      * My favorite that comes to mind now is a SciFi story called something like “Courtesy”, in which planetary colonists keep dying of a mysterious plague. Eventually one recovers — and they realize it’s because he held the door for someone. The cure for the plague is courtesy! (I swear it seemed much more interesting in the original telling.)

      • Jiro says:

        My reaction to such a sci-fi story is something like “This isn’t specifically a death based on lack of courtesy, it’s a death based on something arbitrary, which just happens to be lack of courtesy for now, but which could be anything from eating shrimp to getting divorced tomorrow.”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      There doesn’t seem to be a consensus. At a previous workplace, we had a big discussion about this, with no conclusion either way.

      I send TY only to specific people that seem like they would enjoy it, and drop the “reply all.”

      I don’t care if I get one. It takes 2 seconds to delete it.

      • Matt M says:

        I don’t care if I get one. It takes 2 seconds to delete it.

        True – but I’ll also add that my workplace is full of people who are constantly complaining that they have 500 unread e-mails and never have time to read or deal with them all. I’m not one of those people (seriously – handle your shit), but to the extent that this is true, surely I’m doing them a favor by not adding to the stack, right?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m wondering whether there’s a good way to put the thank you in the subject line so that it isn’t necessary to open the email.

        • Nornagest says:

          The people with 500 unread emails are probably the most likely to appreciate thank-yous, for the same reason that if you need something to get done you want to ask someone who’s busy. No one gets to 500 unread emails if they don’t have a lot of email conversations going on all the time and therefore have a use for an implicit sign-off.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          My understanding about people who have 500+ unread messages is that they read the messages, determine they have to do something, can’t do it at the moment, and mark the email as unread so they can return to it later.

          To me this seemed silly. Outlook has a follow-up system specifically for that reason. I always kept the inbox clear, even when jobs decided to load up 10x worth of work on me. I may not be RESPONDING to your email, but I’m definitely reading it!

          • Matt M says:

            My understanding is that these people are insecure and are humblebragging about how much work they have (while bullshitting with you about last night’s sports game in the break room).

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, those sorts are definitely the humble-braggers about how much work they are (which means they are so important!)

            Maybe not in all cases. My Mom used to be a 40-45 hr a week employee until the ’08 recession, and has now been perpetually behind on her volume of work.

    • IrishDude says:

      My workplace switched to an email system (Outlook) where there’s a thumbs up icon on received emails. If you click the icon, the sender (and all people on the cc list) is notified that you ‘liked’ their email. This works as a quick method to give acknowledgment or minor thanks without having to send another email and helps keep email clutter down.

      • Matt M says:

        How are they notified, if not by receiving a message in their inbox that they then have to deal with?

        • IrishDude says:

          In the list of emails, a thumbs up notification shows up next to ones that were liked by the receiver. Also, there’s a notifications icon at the top of the email app that shows if you have any notifications, including when your emails are liked, and you can click on the icon for details. Last, if you click on the email you sent then at the top of the email it shows who liked your email. The notifications are subtle and non-intrusive and work as a good substitute for “Thanks!” emails, particularly for minor things.

    • Deiseach says:

      It depends – usually I don’t see the point of someone sending me a “Thanks!” email for doing what they requested which is my job, after all.

      On the other hand, a “thanks!” email does show that the other person got it and is aware of it, so you know that your email isn’t in a queue of “to be read later” (or if it is, at least the recipient knows it’s there, so there’s less likely to be “oh crumbs, you mean that important email that I should have read but didn’t?” fallout). And it does save you sending a “so just checking to see you got that” if you don’t hear anything back, if you do need to be sure they got it.

  47. AdamDKing says:

    Does anyone have suggestions for a neat github project using Python that a newbie could contribute to? I’ve been script-kiddie-ing in Python for a few years, but lately I’ve been teaching myself good practices, how to set up testing, using git, etc.

    I figure I can try to contribute to something and see how it goes, now that I’ve got the basics.

    • toastengineer says:

      I wouldn’t mind some contribs on this and this (which is a project to replace a terrible library the first is dependent on.)

      First one has some open issue reports (click ‘issues’ on the bar on the extreme left) that you could tackle. I’m just beginning to set up some unit tests on the second one; simple unit tests are unpleasantly boring for me but might be interesting practice for you.

  48. Robert Liguori says:

    I have, as I was recommended, continued to press forward in Bujold’s Miles books. Made it through Captain Vorpatil’s War, and am in Cryoburn now. (As usual, moderately-vague spoilers here.)

    And…eh.

    OK, first thing. Reading a book and seeing Game 101 strategy mentioned by the protagonist in a book whose primary focus is a romance is surreal. And seeing Advanced Dread Game used aganist him later in the book is super-duper-surreal. It reminds me anew of the annoyance that discussion of how to date, build attraction, and be seen as romantic and a potential sexual partner can only take place in Culture War No Man’s Land.

    I really didn’t like this book, though. Ivan as a character felt hollow. Some of his best interactions in previous books are the ones where he calls up Miles randomly to complain, gloat, and pass plot-critical information along. That, combined with his outgoing and continual-flirting personality, should add up to a fairly large circle of friends, or at least casual acquaintances. The one vague-approximation of a friend we see is Byerly, who I just find annoying and tedious.

    Now, the skeleton of the story was really interesting. Ivan is asked by his spy buddy to take an interest in a particular woman who seems to be in Peril. He does, of course, shenenigans happen, a moderate amounts of sparks fly between them as the woman’s snarky unimpressed-by-Ivan friend color-commentates. (Heh. Color. I kill me.) The woman, it turns out, is in hiding and in a great deal of peril, and is targeted for kidnapping by very bad people, and recent events have brought down the law to have her deported to where she can be easily grabbed, so Ivan does the logical thing and marries her, with the intent of getting her to safety and then safely divorcing her. (Needless to say, things don’t go according to this plan.)

    Telling a romance story that starts with the marriage is a really neat idea. But the structure of the story makes it incredibly lacking. Both of them go into it with a moderate amount of irony, and the understanding that it’s very temporary (even if Ivan might want it to be otherwise). Then they go for their divorce…but there’s no no-fault divorce on Barrayar, and neither of them have actually done anything to each other that would allow a divorce to be granted, so they’re stuck together, and Ivan gets reprimanded by the judge for speaking marriage oaths he clearly didn’t intend to keep. But the whole thing is pointless, because Ivan’s bride is planning on and has the full capacity to skip town as soon as she can get fast, quiet transport, so neither of them treat it as a signal that they might need to rethink their plans.

    Then there’s the bride’s extended family, who were presumed dead but aren’t, and show up, and draw her into a big complicated heist thing, and I don’t care about any of them or if their bid to go back to being medium-big crime lords in the Planet of Crime Lords comes to anything, and they’re all really obnoxiously boring characters as well, and they just suck all of the momentum out of the story.

    You know what we should have gotten? There’s a poitn where, as I mentioned above, Ivan’s wife is blowing off his carefully-made dinner, being out at all hours, and communicating with him only through terse statements and terser notes. This, of course, inflame’s Ivan’s desire to regain his wife’s interest…

    But we’ve seen it said how Ivan’s courting strategy works, in the first few pages of the book; find a place where available, interested women gather in numbers, pick a prospect, try to seem interesting and make her laugh, and if she’s not interested, move on and try another, and another.

    What the story needed was for Ivan to, at the point where his wife blew off his homemade dinner (for tedious family heist reasons, which he didn’t know) was to recognize that no matter what either the papers said or what he wanted, it was clear that his wife was not invested in even pretending to have a relationship with him at this point, have a rather sad and grim night alone, probably drinking…and then set out the following night back in his old ways, wooing anew and looking for a rebound.

    Then we have an extended section from his wife’s point of view, with her doing heist stuff and not sparing any thought for Ivan…and only realizing several scenes later that Ivan isn’t going to gamely pursue her, and that if she wants his interest, romantic or otherwise, she’s going to have to fight for it, while prioritizing her family stuff.

    Ivan was always set up as The Man With 1000 Options. Having the one he settles down with be because he has one adventure with her (and, admittedly, her being quite attractive, skilled, and smart) feels off, in a wrap-up-loose-ends kind of way. It would be far more appropriate for the script to be flipped and the long-time expert seducer be the one pursued.

    On the plus side, Cryoburn is really interesting so far. I’m not that far into it, but it seems like a wonderful return-to-form of the books like Ethan of Athos and Cetaganda, where the book is about exploring an interesting setting, and the interesting ways a technology could be explored, and how those would wrap back around to the parent culture.

  49. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://theestablishment.co/metoo-has-made-me-see-anyone-is-capable-of-sexual-abuse-including-me-6455f93309a9

    A woman looks at her and other women’s history of ignoring whether men are fully consenting to sex with them.

    I’m wondering what folks here think.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think it’s a good article, and I think I broadly agree with the author. With regard to actual criminal conduct, men are certainly guiltier. With regard to “not serious but kinda shitty” behaviour, it might be more even. I remember a relationship where there was extremely mild (like, being frowny and passive-aggressive) pressure if I didn’t want to, when the converse didn’t happen – if she didn’t want to, go to sleep. I always gave in, because it was easier that way. I would never consider myself to be “violated” by this in any real way, but it sort of makes me feel a bit sad in retrospect, more because of the double standard than anything else. I think there are a decent number of women who convert “I am not a physical threat to a man” into “it is impossible for me to behave unpleasantly to a man in a sexual context”.

      • Thegnskald says:

        As usual, I will contest the “criminal” thing.

        We can’t know that in the current sociopolitical climate; until misbehavior by women against me is taken as seriously as misbehavior by men against women, there is a systemic bias that makes it extremely difficult to gauge frequency. We do have reason to believe crime by women is both underreported and under-punished, as we have strong evidence of systemic bias both in the reporting of crimes, and the police and judicial responses to them – often legislated that way, such as with the Duluth model of abuse.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think that being pushed into unwanted sex can have effects that range from annoyance to trauma.

        It wouldn’t surprise me if being that pushy about sex is part of a pattern of inconsideration which grinds down a relationship.

        “I think there are a decent number of women who convert “I am not a physical threat to a man” into “it is impossible for me to behave unpleasantly to a man in a sexual context”.”

        Bingo. There’s been some push-back against the idea that men always want sex with any reasonably