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Open Thread 104.25

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.

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675 Responses to Open Thread 104.25

  1. abystander says:

    There is a meme being passed that says that people voting the balanced budget amendment were voting to prevent the social security trust fund from being used. Surprising to me there is a serious basis to that. An article written by a former Senior Adviser at the Office of Management and Budget says

    But under the balanced budget amendment, it would essentially be unconstitutional for Social Security to draw down these savings to pay promised benefits. Instead, benefits could have to be cut, because all federal expenditures would have to be covered by tax revenues collected during that same year. More precisely, Social Security would be allowed to use its accumulated Treasury securities to help pay benefits only if the rest of the federal budget ran an offsetting surplus

    The Balance budget amendment prohibits total outlays for a fiscal year from exceeding total receipts for that fiscal year. I don’t understand why money from the trust fund would not be considered receipt.

    The article is here
    link text

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I don’t understand why money from the trust fund would not be considered receipt.

      The government, as a whole, takes in $X trillion a year and spends $Y trillion a year.

      The fact that some of that $X gets put into one certain accounting packet inside the government doesn’t affect the total math. There are political reasons for spinning it various ways, but those are just political.

      I don’t understand why money from the trust fund would not be considered receipt.

      You can count them as receipt, sure, great, no problem. But when the government “cashes” in things from the trust fund, the counterparty is the government. So redeeming $1000 of trust fund money is a receipt of $1000 and an expense of $1000.

    • J Mann says:

      If you take the trust fund seriously, then the Social Security and Medicare trust funds have loaned $2.9 trillion to the rest of the US government, and are effectively holding $2.9 trillion in US government bonds.

      If the Balanced Budget Amendment requires the US to spend no more money than it takes in, then any payments that the government makes back to the SSA need to be offset by spending cuts or tax revenues somewhere else, just like payments to any other bondholder.

      So from the SSA’s perspective, it has a claim on the government as a whole, but from the government’s perspective, it needs to come up with money to pay that claim.

      • If the balanced budget amendment requires that the federal government not increase its debt, then every time it repays a million dollars to the SSA trust fund it can borrow a million from someone else–total debt unchanged. No need to cut expenditure or raise taxes.

        The article does not cite actual text of a proposed amendment and the whole thing is strikingly one sided, so my guess is that their claim about the effect on SSA is bogus, although obviously it depends on the exact terms.

        I discussed the issue of SSA and a debt limit back in 2011, when it appeared clear that Obama was misrepresenting, probably deliberately, the effect of the latter on the former. This looks like a rerun.

        • J Mann says:

          That’s fair – if the BBA counts the trust fund as debt and states that total debt can’t increase, then you’re totally right – thanks.

  2. ManyCookies says:

    A few weeks (months?) back someone posted a dual FtL system in this OT and it led to an interesting discussion, does anyone happen to know what OT that was?

  3. johan_larson says:

    How small an edit could we make to history to get humans and (non-bird) dinosaurs coexisting?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      That sounds impossible to me– I’m assuming that people needed the extinction of dinosaurs in order to evolve. I’m also assuming it’s cheating to say we’re already coexisting with dinosaurs– I hear them outside the windows every morning.

    • Nornagest says:

      The continents were in roughly their present-day configuration in the late Cretaceous, except that the Atlantic was narrower and Europe, India, and Asia weren’t quite a single landmass yet. Most importantly there was deep water between Australia and everything else. If a breeding population of non-avian dinosaurs had lived through the K-T cataclysm there, there’s a decent chance its descendants could have survived until the present.

      • theredsheep says:

        Of course, in the time it took for humans to arrive on the scene, dinosaurs would likely change significantly; the whole Cretaceous was about 25% longer than the time since KT. Whether you’d see intelligent troodontids, etc. is anybody’s guess.

      • johan_larson says:

        Oh, that’s great. The first neolithic explorers to brave the crossing from New Guinea would have encountered a new world, weirder than their nightmares.

  4. albatross11 says:

    An article at Heterodox Academy claims that left-wing professors/lecturers have been fired for their speech more often that conservative ones. I don’t know enough to know whether this is true or not, but it’s useful to remember that the media are a distorting filter on the world–it’s quite possible that we see more stories about conservatives being fired than liberals, while there are actually more liberals than conservatives being fired.

    • quanta413 says:

      It seems very, very likely to me. There are roughly 10 times as many left-wing professors as right-wing ones. And that may be underestimating the skew. Right wing professors would have to be fired at 10x the rate just to match the number of left-wing professors fired. I find this unlikely. If you’re right wing and an open advocate of your politics, you probably wouldn’t be hired in the first place in a lot of departments.

      On top of that, the left circular firing squad is totally a thing and so is “this person is insufficiently left, they must be removed”.

      Most right-wing professors probably decided to shut up as a precondition to having an academic career, or they work at a rare right-wing university. I suspect some left-wing professors may somehow naively believe that universities are a place to engage in political debate. They are not.

      There are also a couple causes coded left wing that speaking up about may not work out well for the speaker.

      • Aapje says:

        The imbalance is also going to be greatest in the parts of academia that are most concerned about removing witches from their midst. Given the outgroup homogeneity effect, not pure enough lefties are going to seem quite witchy. Given the level of discrimination that probably exists in the spaces, there are also not going to be any openly conservative people there.

      • Well... says:

        If you think about it, in the most famous cases of professors/academics who’ve been fired or gotten into other kinds of trouble for their speech (Peterson, Weinstein, Summers) they’ve mostly been basically left-wingers to start with.

      • Most right-wing professors probably decided to shut up as a precondition to having an academic career, or they work at a rare right-wing university.

        If libertarian counts as right wing, neither I nor my father’s experience is consistent with this.

        • quanta413 says:

          A significant chunk of people who strongly dislike conservatives or Republicans are tolerant of libertarians. Whether that’s because libertarians are to the left in some ways, because libertarians aren’t a political threat, or because people barely even know what a libertarian is, I don’t know.

          More relevantly from what I’ve read, the skew wasn’t nearly as large many decades ago. The skew has really grown since the 60s and 70s. Considering that hiring in academia is really long lasting, that would mean the skew would be much worse for professors hired in the 90s and later.

          Economics might be the most right wing discipline in academia though (maybe religious studies and/or business are more right-wing?). Although that still puts it’s overall orientation at center-left.

          I don’t think personal politics is as relevant in science or engineering. There’s definitely still a skew, but it doesn’t come up as much. Science and engineering professors rarely speak publicly about politics anyways.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I’d like to know where those people are. I seem to know a fair number of leftwingers who dump on libertarians pretty often.

            Maybe the libertarian-tolerating leftwingers don’t make a big deal about it?

          • Baeraad says:

            Maybe the libertarian-tolerating leftwingers don’t make a big deal about it?

            Not making a big deal about it is kind of what tolerance is all about, so yeah. You make a big deal out of love and hate, not indifference.

            For what it’s worth, my personal experience – which may be slightly biased, because it’s something I find annoying – is that there’s a lot of liberals who say things like, “well, it’s one thing with libertarians, those I can stand, but conservatives all need to be exterminated like the vermin they are!” I mean, it’s not exactly high praise, but it’s certainly a drastically lower level of hostility.

            In fact, most criticism of libertarians by liberals I’ve heard tends to be in the form of accusing them of not actually believing what they say they believe but really just being conservatives with a different coat of paint. That’s certainly a way of “dumping on libertarians,” but it also implies that the liberals don’t have a problem with libertarian beliefs per se, just with their perception of how well libertarians live up to them – whereas with conservatives they consider the entire value system irredeemably bad.

          • Brad says:

            You probably need to expand conservative as a catagory. There are Christian conservatives, national security hawks / neocons, whatever you want to call Charles Murray, and other odds and ends.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Yeah, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and Jeb Bush all ran as Republicans in 2016, but they have very different ideas about how things ought to work, different models of how the world actually does work, different favored policies, etc.

            I think when you start talking about serious thinkers, labels become less and less useful. There’s plenty of stuff on which you may disagree with Charles Murray or Thomas Sowell, but their party label (or the broad “right” label) is pretty uninformative. There’s a set of people whose arguments always seem to track with their preferred party’s policies, and I find them pretty uninteresting overall–I’m not likely to learn much from someone who decides what positions to hold based on his party’s positions. But there are also a lot of people who seem to be thinking things through on their own and coming to their own positions, and they’re often interesting to read even when I think they’re wrong. (Murray and Sowell both fit in that category.)

    • dndnrsn says:

      Historically (so, not in the last two years) academic freedom has protected lefty profs from right-wing outrage mobs. Outrage mobs aren’t a new thing, although technology has given them new life.

      For a more effective right-wing outrage mob, see this. The fear of Republican elected officials causing them trouble causes the university to, in effect, punish the grad student (a grad student who doesn’t do all their degrees in one go might already suffer discrimination; limiting their ability to get teaching experience will hurt any grad student) even though they wouldn’t do that on their own.

      If this is the TPUSA approach – gin up little incidents to get video of grad students, profs, student activists, whatever behaving badly, then wave it around until some state senator or what have you comes in and starts gesturing at budgets, leading the university to take sanctions to protect the institution as a whole – that could actually be very effective in creating a chilling effect.

  5. johan_larson says:

    Yesterday my team at work went out for dinner together. The wine list at the restaurant included the priciest bottle I’d ever seen: Cristal champagne, $500. I think we nearly talked each other into springing for one, maybe split four ways, but in the end no one went for it.

    Did I pass the test or fail it?

    • The Nybbler says:

      If your expense account would have covered it, you would obviously be a big shot who is SUPPOSED to be impressing people by buying expensive bottles of champagne, and therefore you would have failed. Since you were to be paying yourselves, there’s no test, I don’t think.

      I’ve never had Cristal, but I’ve had Dom Perignon once, paid for by a big shot who was embezzling money from the company. IIRC it wasn’t all that impressive. And even using stolen money the guy didn’t pay restaurant prices for it.

      • John Schilling says:

        Since you were to be paying yourselves, there’s no test, I don’t think.

        There are definitely environments, e.g. all of Japanese business culture AIUI, where the senior manager or equivalent is supposed to pay for the team’s food, booze, and entertainment out of pocket, with their salary deliberately scaled to that expectation. If you are in one of those environments and you went cheap, you failed. I think that sort of thing is rare in the US, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find it in e.g. the entertainment industry.

        • johan_larson says:

          I wasn’t the one picking up the cheque for the meal. Our director was doing that, on behalf of the company. We tried to persuade him to spring for the champagne, but he said that while he had quite a bit of leeway to spend money on morale events, $500 a bottle was over the line. He would have gotten in trouble with his boss, and might not have gotten the expense reimbursed.

          We then discussed buying a bottle ourselves, separately billed, but couldn’t quite persuade each other to go for it.

          It was a very nice restaurant, though. We had a good time.

  6. fr8train_ssc says:

    Something to file in the evidence pile for Basic jobs vs basic income (Hopefully no-one feels like its beating a dead horse from last month)

  7. Brad says:

    Despite its placement in this thread this is actually a follow up to the YouTube video thread from a few ots back.

    In terms of believing true things, should we be suspicious of charisma and actively work to avoid learing activities that are strongly mediated by it? That is, even if reading were significantly faster than watching a lecture, ought we still prefer it because we are less likely to be unduly influenced by the chasima of a writer than a speaker?

    • dndnrsn says:

      What is charisma? How do you know if charisma is being done on you, so you can be suspicious, if you should be suspicious? The most charismatic person I ever met, you were barely even aware of it at the time that he was being charismatic at you. Instead it just felt like you were, to him, the most important person in the world for the minute or two you talked to him.

      (Which is to say, yeah, maybe be worried about media that might let charisma get through better)

      • Nick says:

        The most charismatic person I ever met, you were barely even aware of it at the time that he was being charismatic at you. Instead it just felt like you were, to him, the most important person in the world for the minute or two you talked to him.

        Isn’t “I feel like I’m the most important person in the world to him when I talk to him” the sort of thing that should be really easy to notice??

        • dndnrsn says:

          That’s the thing. I’ve noticed 4 levels of charisma in people I’ve interacted with, well, 3 plus a failed level:

          Level 1 (failure): it’s painfully obvious the person is trying to be charismatic, but it’s fake in a grating way.

          Level 2: you can tell they’re givin’ you the ol’ razzle-dazzle, but it’s not grating, although it can get a bit annoying.

          Level 3: that they were doing charisma is not apparent when you’re dealing with them, but when they’re out of the room, the spell breaks, and you might be annoyed.

          Level 4: it feels genuine when you’re with them, and even though afterwards you can say “ah, that guy was being charismatic right there”, you’re not even mad.

          If they’re trying to get you to do something, these run the gamut from “no, fuck off” to “yes, of course”.

          One could extrapolate and assume there’s a fifth level, where the spell doesn’t wear off afterwards. That would be dangerous.

          The most charismatic person I’ve ever met gives off a palpable warmth. It helps that he’s in an environment where you have a lot of lesser charismatics, or aspiring charismatics, trying to glad-hand you. He’s just incredibly good at putting people at their ease, schmoozing, etc, and he’s masterful at working a room.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve also dealt with people with a bit of a reality distortion field–their vision of the world is so strong, that when you’re in their presence, it’s *really hard* to keep straight the difference between their worldview and yours. Those folks can get a hell of a lo done by recruiting idealistic followers, but they can also waste a lot of time and do a lot of damage. The guy with the strongest reality-distortion field I’ve ever personally interacted with[1], I had already been vaccinated against his field to some extent, because one of my best friends had worked for him for several years, and warned me that under no circumstances should I ever even consider working for this man.

            [1] It’s worth noting that this guy really is incredibly brilliant–it’s not “come join my cult and give me all your money,” it’s “come help me make a startup, spend a few years working 70 hour weeks for not much money, and help me change the world. See how beautiful my vision of the changed world is!”

    • quanta413 says:

      I think as long as our activity is supposed to primarily be for either learning or understanding then yeah, avoiding mediums that transmit charisma well is a good idea. For something totally agreed upon by all experts, maybe that’s not true. For example, I don’t see too much harm in watching a charismatic lecturer teaching classical physics; it may help you pay attention. Even then, you should really have a check on your understanding afterwards. Like doing physics problems out of a book.

      But as soon as you slide into things that are even mildly controversial, I think it’s best to seriously consider why you would choose watching a video over reading a book.

    • Brad says:

      *even if reading were not significantly faster than watching a lecture

    • Well... says:

      This is why we have journalism. The whole schtick of the journalist is being charismatic while pretending to be boring. Thus people think journalists (the ones who signal they are on their team) are safe to be believed as saying true things.

  8. outis says:

    I looked for a discussion about this in recent OT threads, but I didn’t find one, so I assume this hasn’t come up. A member of the effective altruism community, Kathy F., committed suicide and left a very long note, essentially blaming the EA and rationalist community for driving her to suicide by harboring dangerous sexual deviants amongst them.

    I’m not sure what to think of these accusations. On one hand, this poor person clearly had some issues. On the other hand, just looking at pictures of EY puts my prior of LW being a sex cult at 80%. (This is Bayesian rationality: as we know, stereotypes are accurate, most behavioral traits have a genetic component, most traits are hugely polygenic, etc., so if someone looks like a creep that should increase our expectation that they’re a creep.)

    There are also people on Twitter throwing more accusations around, but I won’t link those because they make oblique references to this blog.

    (Names have been shortened to make this less googleable.)

    • Vanzetti says:

      On the other hand, just looking at pictures of EY puts my prior of LW being a sex cult at 80%. (This is Bayesian rationality: as we know, stereotypes are accurate, most behavioral traits have a genetic component, most traits are hugely polygenic, etc., so if someone looks like a creep that should increase our expectation that they’re a creep.)

      Sigh.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      It was mentioned on the subreddit, and turned into a bit of a flame war there. Which shouldn’t be surprising; it’s a combination of several inflammatory topics. Hopefully we can be more civil.

      To lay out my biases: I read her suicide note, and the Twitter accusations, but aside from that I don’t know anything else about her. I’m not terribly fond of the sexual practices of the EA / rationalist community. I’m also very skeptical of affirmative consent and #metoo, although I do agree with them that sexual misconduct is a huge and urgent problem in our society.

      Kathy’s suicide was a tragedy. Not just because any suicide is tragic but also because, based on her account, she was driven to suicide by the lax (or rather, non-existent) sexual ethics of the founders of the rationalist movement.

      Her description of the rampant sexual misconduct and emotional abuse in the rationalist community isn’t remotely surprising to anyone who has observed the community. Everyone knows that Yudkowsky and his inner circle use the rationalist community to recruit mentally disturbed young women like her that feel as though they have nowhere else they belong into their harems. I’m on the other side of the country and it was obvious that he was mistreating these women just from readding his own writing on the subject.

      The rationalist community as it currently exists is incapable of reforming in the necessary ways to prevent this from happening again. As long as they continue to revere guru figures and eschew monogamy, the handful of young women in the community will inevitably end up being abused by those gurus and their sexually-frustrated followers. Only a return to enforced monogamy and the removal of most of the current leadership can restore normalcy.

      Kathy herself understood this on some level: she fantasized about a romantic relationship with one of the rationalist men who could protect her from the depredations of the community as a whole. As long as she was a “poly girl,” available to any and all interested men, she would never be safe. Only by pledging herself to a single man, a man who in turn pledged to protect her, would she be able to avoid constant unwanted sexual attention. Unfortunately the rationalist community actively works to discourage that ancient solution in favor of a libertine ethos which leaves women totally unprotected.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I’ve read reports from some of the men who feel taken advantage of, as well. It looks like a very unhealthy situation all around.

        Fundamentally, the issue is that, in mixing your sexual group and social group, your social support net becoming entangled with your sexual partners turns into your social.support net becoming dependent on sexual behavior/performance. If you have sex with all of your friends, you cannot withdraw sex without alienating all of your friends.

        Worse, the social group in this context treats polyamory, to some extent, as a group shibboleth, as some kind of enlightenment thing.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Worse, the social group in this context treats polyamory, to some extent, as a group shibboleth, as some kind of enlightenment thing.

          The rationalist view on sexuality is similar to EA rhetoric in that way.

          The logic of effective altruism is very clear that any sacrifice to your lifestyle that you can make without reducing your marginal donations is ethically required. “Earning to Give” isn’t supposed to push you past your fundamental psychological or physiological limits, but you’re expected to endure anything short of that.

          “Bi-hacking” and “compersion” play the same role in the sexual sphere, with rationalists expected to endure sexual relationships which fall just short of their psychological limits.

          That’s an ideal situation if you’re an unscrupulous man who wants to squeeze as much money as possible from his male followers and as much sex as possible from his female followers. But it’s unstable and repugnant.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I don’t think it is overtly hostile.

            Heard too many reports from decent people that polyamory was a personally revolutionary shift, a realization that monogamy was a crushing social debt.

            Unfortunately, they then proceed to typical-mind their way to a mistaken belief that it is the natural way of things, that monogamy is an oppressive institution that makes everybody worse off, and that if you just relieved everybody of the shackles of monogamy, they would see a new better way.

            (As opposed to, for example, my personal view that more than one person would be too much damn work.)

            So, having experienced “enlightenment,” they try to “enlighten” everybody else – in a legitimate but false belief that other people would be better off, as they were. And because polyamory is enlightenment, if you aren’t polyamorous, you aren’t enlightened, and don’t really belong in the group.

            Nobody is setting up an elaborate cult to benefit themselves. The elaborate cult forms naturally.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Nobody is setting up an elaborate cult to benefit themselves.

            I strongly disagree.

            Why do effective altruists recommend funding MIRI, Yudkowsky’s personal pet project? A project which is entirely speculative, meaning no data can be gathered, and which shows no sign of making or having ever made any progress towards its goal?

            I’m focusing on money here because people tend to rediscover their common sense when dollars are involved. Re-directing charity money into your own pockets is hilariously corrupt in a way which is so embarrassingly blatant that the lower ranks of EA nearly revolted over it.

          • albatross11 says:

            The usual pattern of cults is that it turns out that God wants all the hot young women to sleep with the middle-aged male cult leader. It definitely appeals to my sense of irony to see that you can get this result even after dispensing with God entirely.

            Though I think Ayn Rand got there first.

          • John Schilling says:

            Though I think Ayn Rand got there first.

            Hmm. If I recall my Atlas Shrugged, the only hot young woman sleeping her way to the top of any prominence was the shopgirl who dated and married Dagney Taggart’s ineffectively villainous brother, so that doesn’t quite fit.

            She did commit suicide, though. I think.

          • I think albatros11 was
            referring to to Rand’s life, not her fiction, John.

          • Randy M says:

            @TheAncientGeekAKA1Z
            I like the accidental haiku!

          • John Schilling says:

            I think albatros11 was referring to to Rand’s life, not her fiction, John.

            I’ll let albatros11 speak to that, Geek. But I don’t recall reading of young Ayn Rand sleeping with any cult leaders, or of any young women sleeping with her during her own cult-leader stage. Or with her husband. Maybe Branden, but that’s a bit of a stretch on several grounds.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The ironic thing is that Cheryl’s situation would have been better in the modern world because of feminism– Rand didn’t like feminism.

          • albatross11 says:

            I was thinking of Nathaniel Branden, who carried on an affair with Rand with various people (including his wife and her husband) basically convinced/cowed into going along with it because Rand said it was the rational and good thing. When that broke up, it apparently caused a huge rupture in the movement, with Branden excommunicated.

            If Rand had been a man, I expect it would have been a dozen young, attractive women instead of one. But those pesky gender differences got in the way….

          • John Schilling says:

            Fair enough, but Rand was about fifty in that era and hardly an impressionable young woman, and Branden wasn’t much of a cult leader. At least by Objectivist standards, which is the relevant metric for intra-objectivist drama. So the roles are stretched, I think to the breaking point but YMMV.

            Looking into it, Nathaniel Branden/Patricia Scott might qualify. But to really make this fit, I think you have to gender-swap it and make the 24-year-old Branden the “hot young woman” to Rand’s middle-aged (49) cult leader.

          • albatross11 says:

            John:

            Rand was the middle-aged cult leader; Branden was the young, impressionable, attractive young thing she managed to get into her bed.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Re-upping: I ran the stats on the last SSC survey, and polyamorists were substantially worse on pretty much every measure of mental health.

          Most interesting takeaway for me:

          18.08% of the single monos are depressed, making them more depressed than “in relationship” monos (15.01%) and married monos (11.60%).

          25.19% of the single polys are depressed, making them the least depressed polys. Most depressed in this group are married polys (31.18%), but “in relationship” polys are close (30.15%).

          • rlms says:

            I doubt there is a direct causal link from poly to depression: I expect people who are comparably deep into the rationalist community as the group of polys have similar levels of depression. This is because involvement in the rationalist community correlates ceteris paribus with low levels of achievement and hence mental illness.

          • albatross11 says:

            My guess is:

            a. Polyamory probably works well for some smallish subset of people, but probably not for most people. That may be because of inborn differences in psychology, or deeply-embedded cultural influences–it doesn’t really matter. Either way, most people who try a poly lifestyle will find that it doesn’t work out for them. There is a lot of opportunity for people to take damage in that process–including wrecking existing romantic relationships, enabling abusive relationships, setting up situations where people engage in sex they don’t actually want to engage in, because they feel pressured or like they’re supposed to, etc.

            b. Any charismatic leader is going to inspire imitation. If it works out for Elezier because he’s one of the 5% or whatever that polyamory works for, he’s going to model behavior that won’t work for like 95% of his followers. (Imitating high-status people is what humans *do*.)

            c. When you’re also trying to rethink morality and rationality and the right way for people to live, from the ground up, you’re in a place where you’re going to spend a lot of time going against your moral intuitions and your natural inclinations. Lots of those followers will find themselves trying to do the apparently rational thing done by this smart, charismatic guy, and ignoring the ways they’re unhappy with it. This will increase the opportunity for those followers to take damage of various kinds before realizing they’re just living in a way they’re unsuited to.

            d. People with some prior problems are probably very much inclined toward seeking a fix in some guru or intellectual movement or community or cult or self-help guide or whatever. And those people are especially inclined to take damage and to be slow to realize that this is a bad idea for them.

            None of this requires any ill intention on the part of Elezier or other people in his movement. (Though humans being humans, there are surely some predators in his movement.) It’s easy to see how it can happen and go south for a lot of people.

            OTOH, this isn’t something I’m a part of. (All my adventures in that direction were long ago when I was single, and if I’d been inclined toward a rationalist cult, I’d have been an Objectivist.) So maybe I’m just missing something.

          • J Mann says:

            I’d love to see some rationalist and poly discussion of this.

            I’m not close enough to the community to have a confident opinion, but initially, I’m a bit alarmed that for monogamists, being in a relationship and a marriage both seem to correlate with lower rates of depression, and for a poly respondent, they correlate with higher rates.

            Presumably the explanations are (1) success in poly relationships contributes to depression, (2) depression contributes to success in poly relationships, (3) they’re co-variant on some other factor, and (4) it’s just a statistical fluke?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @J Mann,

            I think part of the conceptual problem you’re having here is that you’re calling another man, or rather several other men, plowing your wife or girlfriend “success.”

            It makes perfect sense that being a single polyamorist would be better than one who is dating or, God forbid, married. Some guys get off on being cucked but there’s a reason it’s a nearly universal insult across cultural lines. You’re surrendering any dignity or self-respect as a man.

            Women historically don’t seem to have liked sharing their men either; harems aren’t known for how harmonious they are after all. That constant infighting and jockeying for the top position would have to be exhausting even if you were winning.

          • Thegnskald says:

            J Mann –

            I would guess #2.

            It takes a certain degree of cynicism to make the relatively large step to polygamy. Depression seems to accelerate the development of cynicism, and cynical people appear to prefer other cynical people in general.

            And if cynicism helps depression develop, you would have a feedback mechanism into #1, as cynicism starts to overdevelop in the context of a social climate of cynicism.

            (Mandatory meta comment that I am cynical of cynicalism.)

          • AG says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal:
            Can you please stop with the correlation-causationing?

            A more Occam’s interpretation is that depressed people and polyamorous people are, surprise surprise, probably neuroatypical. WHAT A REVELATION.

          • J Mann says:

            @Nabil – I agree with AG that your description is probably likely to cause conflict without much gain. I’m interested in your opinion, but if I could, I’d ask that we keep things civil so we try to get somewhere.

            @AG – do you have a guess on why it that increased success in forming a polygamous relationship appears in the SSC survey to be associated with increased frequency of depression? (See my post upthread, too).

          • vV_Vv says:

            Polyamory is sold as a system of egalitarian sexual and romantic relationships, where more or less everyone can be in a relationship with more or less everyone else, compatibly with their sexual orientations. As far as I can tell, what actually happens is that it creates a very unequal sexual hierarchy:

            At the top you have a small number of “alpha males” who have sex with a large number of women. Each of these alphas has one or more “wives” who are completely or primarily exclusive to him, in addition they have a large number of shared “concubines”, who constitute the vast majority of women in the hierarchy. The rest of men are either sexually inactive or they are “cucks”, that is, each of them is completely or primarily exclusive to a single woman who is also a concubine of one or more alphas.

            In this model, it’s expected that the most satisfied people are the alphas on top, followed by their wives.

            The concubines are trying to level up to alpha wife status while throwing a few bones to the cucks for financial and emotional support, which means that they aren’t probably very happy with their situation, especially after it becomes clear that no alpha will commit to them (ref. the Twitter thread’s woman who is bitter after both her boyfriends preferred other women to her, or the suicidal woman who fantasized about dating a strong male protector archetype).

            Cucks are obviously also unhappy about the situation, no matter how many “compersion” lies they tell themselves.

            This is consistent with the observed pattern of in-relationship polys being more depressed than the baseline. Whether polyamory causes depression, or depressed people tend to become low-status polyamorists (concubines or cucks) because they fail to attract monogamous high-SMV partners, or both, I don’t know. A feedback loop seems plausible.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @ vV_Vv

            (hello no time long see, or whatever way the phrase goes)

            Just popped in to say that the prospect outlined by vV_Vv still haunts me every time I see “sex positive” student org’s adverts on the university notice board. But I’d love to see the claimed model backed up actual data or observations from a poly community.

            Sure, the claimed plays very well with my intuitions: I could imagine liking having both the romantic, “full” relationship plus the option for casual sex / concubines. And maybe I’d be fine with all the other parties involved enjoying similar liberties: fair is fair. As a fantasy, that is; I have troubles imaging how it would play out in practice.

            However and most importantly, if the only source of intimacy in my life was to be … a secondary interest to someone else, or to blatantly to exist fulfill only some needs but not others … maybe this is only me, but I have difficulty believing how the imbalance would be anything but soul-crushing. Partner goes to have fun with someone else for one evening, I get to go back to the lonely reality of unsuccessful dating life, and maybe such evenings will be frequent and add up. Say no to the arrangement, and then you either have no relationship or know that you are in a monogamous relationship with someone who found out that the monogamy not their true preference.

            And more widespread the poly relationship model gets, more likely it is that pool of potential romantic partners you could date is made up from poly people (or call it open relationship or whatever you like) who are willing to take on a secondary. Thus: bleak thoughts when I see those adverts or newspaper article or any other inclination that even the purported cultural standard of romantic serial monogamy has already collapsed and official move to poly like relationship models is gaining traction amongst the internet-era intelligentzia.

            Which, of course, can be a positive experience for those who benefit from it. To quote Thegnskald from a cousin comment thread:

            Heard too many reports from decent people that polyamory was a personally revolutionary shift, a realization that monogamy was a crushing social debt.

            The described experience could be true for people who really have to make concessions when they enter a monogamous relationship (maybe even pay an conscious effort to maintain fidelity), and could get dates relatively often if they’d be looking for them; they end up in the upper / middle levels in the vV_Vv’s model.

            This is why I’d like to see proper statistics and network analysis of a poly community: I already know that I’m statistical outlier with < 1 date in a year, so maybe utilitarian argument is that the higher echelon in the vV_Vv's triangle model is so large that it's not a triangle but more like e.g. a Gaussian, and it would be petty to demand majority of other people to be marginally more unhappy just because a small minority can’t fit in. (I don’t personally like utilitarianism for many reasons, but I admit it’s powerful tool in political arguments about future of society.) I remember Ozy making a similar argument in the anti-Heartiste FAQ; marriage imposes a control on a market and precludes optimal arrangements. The problem is, like with all market economies, sometimes people getting exactly what they are worth of in the market is not a pretty sight. I’d feel more secure in campaigning for traditional mores if it really turns out that significant portion of people involved do, in fact, lose opportunity for fulfilling relationship in polyamoric and related arrangements.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Jaskologist, that’s more than a little interesting, and depressing.

            Would you be willing to take another run at the data see whether there’s a gender difference in the corelation between depression and polyamory?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            vV_Vv says:

            “Polyamory is sold as a system of egalitarian sexual and romantic relationships, where more or less everyone can be in a relationship with more or less everyone else, compatibly with their sexual orientations.”

            I’ve never seen it sold that way, though I may have missed something. I’ve always seen it presented as a system where people set up relationships based on personal preference, not sex being the default between any people with compatible orientations.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @vV_Vv

            In this model, it’s expected that the most satisfied people are the alphas on top, followed by their wives.

            Why would their wives be satisfied? In the past, or still in some places, where the norm was a sort of hypocritical polyamory – men at the top have one wife plus however many mistresses, flings, etc – did the wives of the men on top view this favourably? I don’t see how “ah yes, my husband is dating some new young woman, maybe she will replace me” is a happier thought than “ah yes, my wife is out for another date with some guy off the internet, splendid” eh?

          • vV_Vv says:

            @nimim.k.m.

            This is why I’d like to see proper statistics and network analysis of a poly community

            I’d also like to see a network analysis, but as far as I know there is no data specific to the polyamory community.

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I’ve always seen it presented as a system where people set up relationships based on personal preference, not sex being the default between any people with compatible orientations.

            Yes, but this is how Scott describes polyamory:

            My roommate Mike dates the same three people I am dating, including Alicorn who also lives with us (this is not normal for polyamory, and all three people started dating Mike and then met me and started dating me too, so I guess the moral of the story is to think very hard before accepting me as a roommate). I cannot think of a single problem I have ever had with Mike, which I guess is also sort of incredulous-stare and which exceeds my normal standards for roommates let alone roommates-whose-three-girlfriends-I-am-dating. None of those three people have had any noticeable-from-the-outside jealousy about any of the others. Two weeks ago, Mike and I took all three of our mutual girlfriends on a group date to Sausalito. It went really well, everyone got along, and it is something we would do more often if not for scheduling and travel issues (also, Sausalito is really expensive).

            Do you think this sort of “extended family” kind of thing is the norm for polyamory?

            I don’t question that this is how it plays out for Scott, and that he’s happy with it, because he is a high-status male within his community and he is, in his words, “borderline asexual”, thus he probably doesn’t feel true sexual attraction or jealousy, but this doesn’t mean that this is the typical experience of the median person in the poly lifestyle.

            @dndnrsn

            Why would their wives be satisfied? In the past, or still in some places, where the norm was a sort of hypocritical polyamory – men at the top have one wife plus however many mistresses, flings, etc – did the wives of the men on top view this favourably?

            Well, they get the commitment of an alpha, which means resources, status, etc. They would certainly prefer their alpha to be monogamous to them, but they can’t have it all, because he has more bargaining power than them.

            Alphas may have to worry about being replaced by rising stronger alphas (I don’t know how common this is in practice in a non-violent community, and sharing concubines may be a way of defusing this kind of tension between males), alpha wives have to worry about being replaced by concubines, but in general these groups play defense, while concubines play attack and cucks mostly scavenge.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Comparing the current system (the standard North American view of marriage is one where politicians are expected not to have mistresses, for example) to what you describe as the nature of polyamory, though, the wives, girlfriends, etc of the top dogs are better off in the former. They are safer from being supplanted by someone new and exciting (and maybe also more attractive, maybe younger…) the more he can’t do that without looking like a bad guy (which has some deterrent effect).

            The only people who really win in this scenario are the top dog men, relative to what we have now, right? Although I don’t think we have the historical example to give a picture of what a polyamorous (or monogamous, for that matter) society would look like if the top dogs were higher % female. Biology vs socialization.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Comparing the current system (the standard North American view of marriage is one where politicians are expected not to have mistresses, for example) to what you describe as the nature of polyamory, though, the wives, girlfriends, etc of the top dogs are better off in the former.

            I guess so.

            There are probably a few cases of alphas who can commit and support multiple wives, but are prevented from doing so in a traditional Western monogamous marriage system, to the detriment of all but one of the potential wives. Possibly, these potential wives, which in a traditional system would have to either become concubines or settle down for a lower value man, could do better under polygamy.

            But again, under polygamy even the best alphas can only have so many wives (unless they are literal sultans or something like that), so each wife is more at risk of being replaced by a concubine. It’s unclear whether polygamy is a net benefit for the wives, while the benefits are clear cut for the alphas.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Even if a guy could support multiple wives, it’s still more precarious for each individual wife if new wives can be added.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            vV_Vv:

            “I’d also like to see a network analysis, but as far as I know there is no data specific to the polyamory community.’

            http://fancyclopedia.org/langdon-chart

            I don’t know whether any of the charts are still available.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nancy

            Disclaimer: I’m not a stats guy. I don’t even know how to calculate a proper p-value. All of this was done with simple pivot tables.

            But I did calculate what you were looking for. I believe the following were strictly for formal diagnoses:

            33.63% of poly females are depressed, 27.78% of the males
            25.67% of the mono females are depressed, 14.05% of the males.

            FWIW, anxiety was also much higher in the polys:

            Formally diagnosed anxiety:
            9.48% of monos
            18.74% polys

            Think they have anxiety:
            16.31% monos
            24.03% polys

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Jaskologist: Thank you.

            I set this up with summaries. I hope they’re fair. I thought there was a lot more in the discussion about polyamory having different effects on men and women than there actually was.

            vV_Vv says:
            June 22, 2018 at 12:54 pm

            Polyamory is only a good deal for the men at the top, fairly bad for women, and very bad for most of the men.

            nimim.k.m. says:
            June 22, 2018 at 3:07 pm

            Polyamory is very bad for secondaries. [N.B. This is about being secondary in only one relationship. Being a secondary in two or more might be a better deal.)

            *****

            Jaskologist:

            “But I did calculate what you were looking for. I believe the following were strictly for formal diagnoses:

            33.63% of poly females are depressed, 27.78% of the males
            25.67% of the mono females are depressed, 14.05% of the males.”

            Just taking a crack at what might be deducible from this, with uncertainty about causal directions.

            Since this doesn’t information about who’s in primary relationships and who’s only in secondary relationships, it’s impossible to tell whether men have higher variance about depression and/or happiness. It suggests that women might have a worse deal (the difference between the sexes is large enough that it seems unlikely that men are more likely to be depressed).

            It suggests that feminists might have a point about marriage being a bad deal for a lot of women.

            ****

            It might make sense to have detailed questions on the questionnaire about polyamory.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            It suggests that women might have a worse deal

            Keep in mind that in the West, people have a choice. Furthermore, what we commonly see with regard to men vs women, that men have it both better AND worse, while women have less variance.

            The logical result is that the winning men then choose polyamory, just like a subset of women, while the loser men and another subset of women choose monogamy.

            Such a pattern will always result in poly men seeming better off than women, even if polyamory is worse for men than women overall (or if it is not).

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Polyamory is very bad for secondaries. [N.B …

            Not incorrect, but I’d put it like this: I speculate (by extrapolating from my internal mental states) that polyamory could be very bad for people whose primary relationship is being a secondary to someone else (or possibly are the primary partner, but would have a preference for a strictly monogamous relationship).

            And especially this in the case of polyamory becoming more widespread in a larger community, because it’s going to make the attempts at a traditional monogamous relationship more difficult for those who seek such a thing. (Because the popularity of polyamoric culture directly influences the composition of pool of available partners and indirectly by the cultural dynamics and peer pressure; and then there’s a popular but probably unverified claim that settling for a monogamous relationship is going to be more difficult if one is used to having lots of sexual relationships, so the argument is that people who enter the world of libertine sexual practices have their preferences permanently altered by the experience and thus are no longer available as potential partner for singles looking for a monogamous relationship.)

            And I could see it becoming more widespread, because people being people, they are likely to choose to follow easiest path to the local minima; any benefits from tje practice of the traditional ideal are far less immediate in comparison to immediate satisfaction.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            33.63% of poly females are depressed, 27.78% of the males
            25.67% of the mono females are depressed, 14.05% of the males

            Keep in mind that in the general population women are diagnoned with depression about twice as often as men. The monogamists who respondend to the SSC survey are relatively consistent with this, with 1.83 female to male depression ratio, while polygamists have a 1.21 ratio, indicating an over-representation of depressed men.

            In general, men present emotional distress in ways that are less likely to result in a formal diagnosis of depression, but more likely to result in self-harm behavior (e.g. alcoholism, suicide).

      • Nick says:

        Nabil,

        Everyone knows that Yudkowsky and his inner circle use the rationalist community to recruit mentally disturbed young women like her that feel as though they have nowhere else they belong into their harems.

        Can you substantiate this? I hardly have a high opinion of Yudkowsky, not least for his “folks who disapproves of polyamory are old fogies” stuff, but criticism I’ve seen of him has steadily shifted over the years from “he is wrong about AI and Many Worlds and metaethics and so probably a bunch of other stuff” to “he is literally evil” and I’ve personally seen no good reason why. If I’m being naive here, show me why, but you know the rules: true, kind, necessary, pick two.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’ve pushed back on some of Yudkowski’s more cluelessly enthusiastic defenses of polyamory (among other things) myself, but I haven’t seen anything that Hanlon’s razor wouldn’t cut down to a relatively modest level of stupidity in a few blind spots. And I’ve heard nothing to suggest that his private life involves anything close to Weinsteinian levels of sexual misconduct. Yudkowsky is, AIUI, happily married to one woman, which is more than Harvey Weinstein can say.

          So, +1 to the request that if it going to be alleged that Yudkowsky is routinely engaged in serious sexual misconduct and that “everybody knows” this, we should get a link to where this supposed common knowledge is documented and substantiated.

      • Aron Wall says:

        If somebody tells me that polyamory worked for them, the question I want to ask them is “And how did your grandchildren turn out?”

        People should remember that stablizing social institutions are there for a reason. You cannot have advance data about how your choices will affect outcomes for future generations without consulting some form of tradition. Otherwise it’s just an untested hypothesis that your way will work better over these timescales.

        If you want reasonable confidence that the decisions you are making in your 20’s will still be beneficial 50 years later, then you’d better be able to point to people who are now (at least) in their 70’s who successfully did (roughly) what you are trying to do. Show me the children and grandchildren who (as adults) say they were glad they were raised in a poly household.

        (Of course, the greater degree of instability of open relationships is already pretty obvious, even over much shorter time scales…)

        • vV_Vv says:

          If somebody tells me that polyamory worked for them, the question I want to ask them is “And how did your grandchildren turn out?”

          Keep in mind that these are people who disproportionately believe in an AI singularity happening within their lifespan. If you think that you are either going to be raptured by Robot Jesus and turned into a brain emulation inhabiting a perfect paradise of pure Logos, or be killed and turned into paperclips, by Robot Moloch, then you have little incentive to worry about your grandchildren.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, plenty of couples in monogamous relationships don’t have kids. We should use the same standard judging their relationships as the poly relationships.

            Most people do not, in fact, optimize their lives for maximum number of healthy, functional offspring. Even those of us living pretty conventional lives with spouses and kids could probably have afforded a few more kids if we’d started early and maxed out kids vs all other values. (That is, marry at 20 and start having kids, public school and hand-me-downs, a big house 100 miles from work so you can afford it, mom stays home to take care of the kids and the older kids help take care of the younger ones, everyone’s on their own at 18 with maybe a bit of money for college, etc. You’d maximize your (evolutionary) fitness that way, but perhaps not your or your kids’ quality of life.)

          • Randy M says:

            Aron doesn’t imply anything about maximal numbers. He makes a fair point that if you think your social norms are worthy of emulation, we need to consider how well future generations will fare if those norms are universalized.
            It’s fine that some portion of the population is focused on being scholars or statesmen or warriors. But if you don’t have much of the population orient a part of their lives around reproducing civilized people who will do likewise, you’re eating your seed corn.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fair enough, I think I responded to previous arguments I’ve seen without reading Aron’s point carefully. Sorry about that, Aron.

            I’d say a *lot* of the way people organize their family lives is pretty lousy for social stability–couples who never have kids, people who never bother getting married and just shack up/have kids with a series of guys who don’t stick around, people who have kids and then get nasty divorces that leave themselves and their kids wounded[1], etc. I agree you should question the wisdom of poly folks on these grounds, but you should similarly question the wisdom of all those other people who are similarly doing a bad job sustaining civilization.

            [1] My in-laws have a close friend who got a divorce in the 70s, when that was kind-of the trendy thing to do. She left her old boring husband for a new, exciting one she’d met in grad school. She later told them that if she’d realized how awful the divorce would be, she wouldn’t have done it. In some sense, I think the accumulated wisdom of people who went through stuff like that (and dragged their kids through stuff like that) has now become part of the culture, at least at the high end of US society, where divorce is pretty rare and is universally seen as a really serious awful thing that’s sometimes necessary, like chemotherapy. But in 1970, those cultural antibodies hadn’t formed yet–instead, divorce had been being prevented by a lot of legal and social structures that had just gone away.

          • Randy M says:

            I’d say a *lot* of the way people organize their family lives is pretty lousy for social stability

            Amen.

            I agree you should question the wisdom of poly folks on these grounds, but you should similarly question the wisdom of all those other people who are similarly doing a bad job sustaining civilization.

            In terms of magnitude of threat, Bay Area Rationalist polygamy is pretty small scale. But it’s something that Scott and several people in this circle think is largely positive, so it’s interesting to discuss on that account.

            Also, it is presented as an intentional change we should consider, which makes for a more interesting discussion, perhaps, than the many more people who fail to live up to (prior) standards and commitments, or make poor decisions to begin with–although I’m down for suggestions on addressing those problems!

          • Gobbobobble says:

            you should similarly question the wisdom of all those other people who are similarly doing a bad job sustaining civilization.

            You assume that we* don’t?

          • Aron Wall says:

            @albatross11

            Yeah, I do also condemn these other sorts of dysfunctional relationship patterns, except that I wouldn’t include on that list “couples who have no kids” (I assume you meant voluntary childlessness, not infertility). While it is bad if the motivation is purely hedonistic, I think there are circumstances where refraining from reproduction may be justifiable, and I don’t see that it causes instability and chaos the way the other things you mention do. (And obviously, we don’t have to worry about the fate of kids being raised in child-free homes.)

            I am somewhat less concerned by poly relationships if they endeavor to be child-free*, but notice that even this is far easier to coordinate in a monogamous setup where you only need two people to agree on it. (This is part of why pastors do things like pre-marriage counseling, to make sure people are on the same page about very basic questions like “Have you discussed whether you want kids?”) I know that the poly community is supposed to be big on communication, but if you don’t even know in advance who all your partners and partner’s partners will be, it’s a little more difficult to know in advance that you aren’t going to introduce kids into the setup.

            *although in the case of the particular community being mentioned, this seems like a waste of genetic potential.

            @vV_Vv,

            If I thought it was at all likely that my “grandchild” might be a sentient AI which would impose its values on the rest of the world, that would actually me rather more concerned to make sure its progenitor-AI was raised in a stable and emotionally healthy
            home.

            If I can’t trust you to raise other humans properly (where you start out with all the advantages of biological kinship), why should you be trusted to raise our future AI overlords?

            One key mistake of Dr. Frankenstein was his failure to understand that his “monster” was a child, rather than an artifact. If you want somebody to internalize human values, then you have to raise them in a home with functional human relationships.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Her description of the rampant sexual misconduct and emotional abuse in the rationalist community isn’t remotely surprising to anyone who has observed the community. Everyone knows that Yudkowsky and his inner circle use the rationalist community to recruit mentally disturbed young women like her that feel as though they have nowhere else they belong into their harems. I’m on the other side of the country and it was obvious that he was mistreating these women just from readding his own writing on the subject.

        The suicide note mentions only two incidents of inappropriate sexual contact, which seem neither particularly severe nor specific to the “rationalist”/LW/EA community. And they were appropriately dealt with by the authorities when reported. I don’t contend that such things can be annoying, but killing yourself over them is quite of an overreaction. I don’t mean to trivialize suicide, but clearly the main problems this person had were of mental health nature, not community-related.

        The Twitter thread, which is by another woman, mention incidents which appear more like bad breakups rather than instances of sexual misconduct.

        As for the sexuality of EY, the other rationalist bigwigs, or “polys” in general, from what I’ve read from and about them (I’ve never met any of them IRL), I tend to agree that it’s probably unhealthy for the majority of people involved except those at the very top of their status pyramid. This said, however, I’ve never heard of them doing anything criminal or even ambiguously non-consensual. The women who choose to join these harems are adults who know exactly what they are getting into, so I don’t think they get to play the #metoo card when things predictably go South.

        Kathy herself understood this on some level: she fantasized about a romantic relationship with one of the rationalist men who could protect her from the depredations of the community as a whole.

        If in 37 years a woman with a “pretty face” (her words) couldn’t find a good husband then I don’t think the problem lies with the company she has been hanging with in the last five years. I mean, sure, her social circle might be particularly lacking of suitable candidates, but nobody was preventing her from looking elsewhere.

        Again, I don’t intend to trivialize her experience, this is probably the female equivalent of incel/herbivore man/omega male, but it’s worth noting where the problem lies, namely mental health, instead of tilting at windmills.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Vaguely related; keying off something I’ve been thinking of.

        The “vulgar” version of sex positivity goes something like “anything consenting adults do is good.” This runs into the problem of dealing with things that were consensual but not good: one either concludes that something someone is complaining about was good, and the person is a whiner, or concludes that what is being complained about must not really have been consensual. There’s relatively little space for “consensual, but shitty behaviour on that person’s part” and this leads to a rounding effect: anything that is kind of bad but below a certain line gets rounded to good, anything that is kind of bad and above that certain line gets rounded to definitely bad. When in fact both things are closer to each other, and fit better in the box of “this person gets consent, but they are not pleasant to their sexual partners; they treat other people badly.”

        If you expand this to the wider sphere of relationship stuff, you get a similar situation, except with “healthy” and “abusive” replacing “consensual” and “nonconsensual” – behaviour, situations, are either good and healthy or bad and abusive. Whereas in reality there’s a lot of behaviour that someone might do in a relationship that is unpleasant but not abusive, or a lot of relationship patterns that are crappy but not terrible, if you erase the middle ground and round things off, you end up with a lot of situations where someone who is shitty but not past a certain line gets rounded to “good person not doing anything wrong” and someone who is shitty past a certain line gets rounded to “abuser” – when in fact they both should be categorized as “shitty, but not abusive.” Likewise, a relationship pattern or model that is unhealthy for a certain person, just a little dicey, whatever, gets rounded to “no actually this is fine” or “horrible always.”

        An environment with a collection of men as the top dogs, which encourages nonmonogamy – it’s not hard to see how this really easily can be an awful environment for women where these men treat their partners badly, and these guys are crummy people. But we might have lost, or be losing, the ability to say anything about this other than “this is fine, this is great, everything is OK, everyone here is a consenting adult, sexual utopia can’t fail, it can only be failed” on the one hand or “this is a horrible snakepit of constant abuse, sexual harassment, and sexual assault.”

        Erasing the ground between “great” and “terrible” creates situations where simultaneously some people who should be suffering some kind of consequences get away without any, and simultaneously some other suffer consequences greater than they deserve to suffer, and it can be completely arbitrary which is which. So you end up with a situation that kind of achieves the worst of both worlds.

        • Aapje says:

          I think that something similar explains post-divorce and split-up dynamics.

          During the relationship, partners judge each other based on both their good and bad behavior, generally by assuming good faith.

          If one of them then decided that the balance is wrong and decides to leave, this causes some cognitive dissonance for losing the good bits of their partner, so to resolve this, it helps to round everything down to terrible.

          So then a partner that they reasonably happily spend years with, then suddenly becomes the devil incarnate.

        • Randy M says:

          FWIW, I think this is insightful.

          “Nuance” was a blue-coded buzzword 15 years ago. Seems to have gone out of style.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          +1.

      • Two points:

        This discussion would be more interested if it included one or more people who had tried polyamory and liked it.

        Most of the discussion seems to assume a pattern in which A-B is a primary relationship and there are secondaries A-C, A-D, …, but nothing else–essentially the traditional polygyny pattern, with a senior wife plus junior wives and/or concubines–sometimes with genders reversed. I don’t think that fits the theory of polyamory as I have seen it–how well it fits the practice I don’t know. Does anyone have data on this?

    • CatCube says:

      I don’t know that I’ve ever read anything by EY that I didn’t think was either wrong, obvious, tedious, or some combination of the three*, but I feel like you should have some sort of actual evidence before throwing out an accusation that he’s a criminal.

      * To be fair to him, I probably just caught HPMOR and a few bad essays and then didn’t bother to read anything else by him.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I read some of the twitter threads. Pure drama. By the time I found any substantive accusation I had already dismissed the author (not the same as the person who killed herself) as someone not to be trusted in the slightest. A lot of complaining that men she was in poly relationships with had other relationships. A complaint that a guy broke up with her and then badmouthed her. A bunch of things she seemed to think were beyond the pale to say, some of which were merely rude (a woman suggesting her house was dirty) and some of which, while completely out of context, were obviously some sort of joke (“Everyone in Manhattan should move to Beijing to drive the price of rent down–but then we’d have to post guards on the bridges to make sure child militias from Africa don’t try to take it over.”). The worst part were the people who were just posting to re-assure her that all this nothing really was a terrible thing; I guess that’s what’s meant by “enabling”.

    • gbdub says:

      I don’t know much about the situation and I’m not sure I want to, but I’d note that treating suicide notes as definitive evidence has the potential to set up some really bad incentives for people in really bad mental states.

    • John Schilling says:

      I am shocked, shocked, to find that unsavory men victimize attractive young woman more than they do ugly and/or older women. And that attractive young women in response find themselves wanting to offer enthusiastic sex to the one strong man who will protect them from all this, with orgasms leading to emotional bonding? Inconceivable!

      It would be nice if people never treated each other badly, and we should work on that. But if this is the level of bad behavior that drives young women to suicide, the human race would have been extinct long before we invented literacy and so had suicide notes to document it. So I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with a distorted and one-sided view of a three-sigma outlier, and as gbdub says, a suicide note is not the evidence we want to distinguish between Bay Area Rationality being three-sigma awful and Kathy F being three-sigma fragile (or, if it is a combination of the two, where the balance lies).

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        What do you make of Jaskologist’s analysis of the SSC survey data above?

        This is hardly a slam dunk, and any interpretation of the survey data needs a big pinch of salt. But it’s suggestive that Kathy isn’t that much of an outlier. If polyamory is leading to an increased rate of depression then occasional suicides by said depressed polyamorists aren’t exactly unexpected.

        Not everyone who is polyamorous is depressed, and not every depressed person kills themselves, but you could say the same thing about the hazards of e.g. asbestos and lead paint. Something can be unhealthy and even lethal without killing all that many of the people regularly exposed to it.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s certainly plausible that polyamorous people are ~twice as depressed as everyone else and so commit suicide at twice the normal rate. But that’s not really the point here, because we’re talking about one data point and that’s not enough for any sort of a statistical argument.

          It’s an unusually detailed data point, which may make for an enlightening anecdotal argument – and those are genuinely useful. But even if we stipulate the additional detail that, statistically, Katie F is probably in the bottom 50% of the population w/re happiness and depression, that doesn’t change much. The misbehavior documented in Katie’s note, is sufficiently common that it can’t be a normal driver of suicide even in the <50th percentile population. Either we'd be extinct, or evolutionary biology would have fixed it.

          So either Katie was way, way below the 50th percentile, in which case the statistical correlation of poly and depression is carrying only a few drops of the bucket of water involved here, or there was something going on that wasn’t adequately described (or at least that I didn’t see) in the note. Either way, I don’t see us learning much about poly people and/or culture from this, but I expect a lot of preexisting beliefs will be hung on it.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Something to keep in mind: that analysis found polys twice as likely to be formally diagnosed with depression. That still left them outnumbered by non-depressed polys 2:1.

          It is entirely compatible to say both “X works for most people” and “X is a bad way to organize your society.” It all depends on what percentage of people you’re willing to leave by the wayside.

      • Randy M says:

        I am shocked, shocked, to find that unsavory men victimize attractive young woman more than they do ugly and/or older women. And that attractive young women in response find themselves wanting to offer enthusiastic sex to the one strong man who will protect them from all this, with orgasms leading to emotional bonding? Inconceivable!

        It may seem obvious, but it is counter to common assertions such as “Rape isn’t about sex” and “women will enjoy no-strings attached sex as much as men”.

        But if this is the level of bad behavior that drives young women to suicide

        “Unwanted hand on thigh” and “unwanted kiss on neck” are quite rude and women shouldn’t have to put up with it. That this would amount to trauma or misery to the point of suicide is actually shocking. We need to be able to message “This behavior is bad” without communicating the corollary of “If this happens to you it is difficult to recover from”. (I don’t think she claims that she was raped in the course of the note? Although I don’t know what “gave me a rape myth!” means. Anyway even rape trauma should not be viewed as irrevocable.)

        I don’t know what the rationalist community is like in person, but perhaps they tend to overlook individual feelings for grand causes or cold reason.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          One more “Uuuunfortunately, one of them frotteurized me, and another gave me a rape myth! ”

          He rubbed himself against her probably while clothed, which I consider more serious than the other instances mentioned.

          “Unwanted hand on thigh” includes doing it again when asked not to.

          Still, I’m wondering myself whether there was something wrong with her– none of this seems like enough for suicide to make sense. It’s possible that she doesn’t include a complete list of what happened to her in the rationalist community, or that she’d previously been sexually abused.

          For what it’s worth, she only got on my radar when she was posting desperate sounding questions on facebook about perfect solutions to huge problems. I couldn’t see anything useful to say, so I bailed out.

          • Zephalinda says:

            Yes, although it’s unfair to jump to conclusions, I was kinda thinking “oof, significant trauma history” pretty much from the “abuse reduction writer” byline onward.

            Which would place this in the category of “prior abuse victim attracting ++additional abuse,” a phenomenon Scott has discussed in this space before. This seems to be a dynamic that can develop in almost any cultural/ideological context, so I’m not sure it’s fair to blame polyamory here– but all the movement’s rhetoric about rational sexual liberty and voluntary association do make it particularly damning when nonconsensual encounters still happen in that context.

          • Aapje says:

            I don’t think you can blame a community for it happening, but only how they react to it. It’s not like you can look at a person and know whether or not they will behave.

            Note that from what I’ve read, they did react promptly to the kissing complaint. Whether the response was sufficient is debatable. A complicating factor is that many of the events seem to be organized by individuals, not a central organization, so then it is really hard to have a consistent policy & quality of organization.

            Also, Kathy seems to have made at least one false accusation. Scott wrote on Tumbler that he was warned that Kathy falsely accused people & stalked them.

            It’s hard to determine to what extent there she was abused and to what extent she was making things up.

    • theredsheep says:

      I’m not even vaguely connected to rationalism/LW except through this blog, and don’t know about their sexual attitudes. However, I have a concern about polyamory that I haven’t seen echoed elsewhere. My main exposure to the lifestyle has been reading sympathetic news articles, generally centering on live-in relationships between one woman and two men. After reading a couple of these (I couldn’t tell you how many exactly) I started to notice a common element: they were told from the woman’s point of view, didn’t mention the men’s, and even through that filter seemed to show a certain amount of power disparity and emotional manipulation as the woman played the men against each other.

      The most recent was https://www.thecut.com/2018/06/my-boyfriend-moved-in-with-my-husband-and-our-kids.html . Which, if you look at it, reads less as “a polyamorous relationship” than “a very sluggish, lawyer-free divorce in which the woman successfully reframes the terms of the argument in a politically charged way to get everything she wants.” At the end of the story, the husband is out of the house, and she has the kids, and everyone (according to her) agreed that it was just The More Rational Way To Do Things.

      Obviously this is an extreme example, and I’ve hardly studied this comprehensively, but at root my concern is that human relationships are fundamentally bipolar. That is, we relate to each other on a one-to-one basis, whatever the relationship may be. I don’t have a relationship with my family, I have three separate relationships with my wife and my two kids, and the family is a composite of those. Sometimes my kids resent each other for hogging our attention; sometimes I resent the kids for taking up a lot of my wife’s time; undoubtedly my wife gets annoyed with me sometimes for complicating her relationship with the kids. This is natural, and we have to deal with it, and we do.

      I don’t see how a poly relationship can be any other way, without the powerful stabilizing factors that hold a biological family together. Indeed, the whole point is individual freedom, so you’d expect them to fragment a lot more. Say Alice is dating Bob, and decides to date Bill as well. Bob and Bill both like her–sexually, romantically, whatever–and may tolerate each other, but they were selected for compatibility with her, not each other, and they have a built in reason to resent each other in that Alice has a limited amount of free time to split between them. The relationship is necessarily one of grudging acceptance between rivals, and I believe it would be largely similar if the sexes were reversed. Adding homo/bisexuality would complicate things, but unless you’ve found a trio of uncannily well-adjusted people who all happen to like each other equally I can’t see it not resulting in some kind of factionalism.

      This would only get worse with each new partner added. There’s one relationship to be maintained between any two people, A and B. Add a third person, and you have two more, AC and BC. Add a fourth and there are three new links, AD, BD, and CD. All these relationships require time and energy to maintain, and if things get wonky you get weird political infighting. It’s hard enough sometimes just coming to a consensus on running a household with my one wife. The idea of adding a third person into the mix, let alone the fourth, horrifies me. Maybe polygyny “worked” in time periods when women were property and getting another wife wasn’t much different from getting another cow, but if all the partners are entitled to a say in how things work, yikes!

      • Randy M says:

        Maybe polygyny “worked” in time periods when women were property and getting another wife wasn’t much different from getting another cow

        I was going to bring up Rachael and Leah in Genesis as an example of polyamory going awry due to jealousy (or, if you prefer, of an ancient tale illustrating the belief in it being likely to do so even in those cultures) but there’s a lot of complicating factors in that story, from the deception of the marriage to the sibling rivalry.

        • theredsheep says:

          Well, I did put “worked” in quotes, though I was thinking mostly of social problems caused by unattached men. Even so, once you get past the silly allure of having multiple women available–as if people were different flavors of ice cream–it strikes me as a bleak situation, in either its ancient or modern variants.

          • Randy M says:

            though I was thinking mostly of social problems caused by unattached men

            In that case, it would have worked less due to “women treated as property” and more due to “young men treated as cannon fodder.”*

            *I think Ancient warfare was in general less deadly than modern in the heat of it, but it still probably would have skewed gender ratios substantially because of subsequent deaths due to infection or maiming and so forth.

          • Nornagest says:

            subsequent deaths due to infection or maiming and so forth.

            Not just that. Until after WWI, more soldiers died from disease than from enemy action. Makes sense if you think about it — you’ve got soldiers from all over, living in cramped and unsanitary conditions, and stressed and poorly fed as often as not. They’d mostly be healthy young men to start with, but that only goes so far.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Randy –

            As best as I can figure, gender ratios generally remained stable in most periods of war historically, owing to the vast number of laborers necessary to support an army.

            Only about 7% of the male population can be soldiers, assuming gender roles – this rises to about 13% if women are farmers as well. Given populations skew slightly male, you’d need catastrophic losses (far beyond what war normally caused) to skew the gender ratios significantly.

          • Randy M says:

            I accept the correction! I believe I have heard that before, looking up, for instance, medieval demographics. And on closer thought, it makes sense; for deaths to make polygamy mathematically equitable, I think you’d need 1/2 or 2/3 of the male population to be reduced, which would only occur perhaps from a complete conquest.

            But, the point stands, that if you think unattached men is the reason polygamy won’t work, the treatment or value of women is not going to mitigate it. The young men need to be gotten rid of.

            Now, if you got rid of 5% of the male population, either killed in battle, the aftermath, or just away campaigning, that does open up a number of women to supply a portion of the ruling males with their harems.
            Then you can start getting into the jealousy of it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Randy –

            I -think-, although I am venturing into guesswork territory based on impressions, that this was historically accomplished by having a higher age bar for husbands than wives in polynist societies.

            If men start getting wives at 30, and women are married at, say, 15, the intervening mortality rates could account for a substantial part of the difference.

            (Anybody who actually knows how polynist societies function able to comment?)

          • Orpheus says:

            I think that marrying multiple women was always something that was done mainly by the highest echelon of society- your kings, sheikh, emirs etc. mainly for political purposes and/or securing succession. E.g. in the Jewish bible, while marrying multiple women is not prohibited, it is strongly discouraged (“Look how much trouble Abraham and David had with their families. You think you can do better? Yea, didn’t think so”).

      • disposablecat says:

        I was in a long term poly homosexual relationship that started out as what we thought was “a trio of people who all happen to like each other equally”, but became “the original two person AB relationship gradually falling apart as AC gets hotter and BC gets colder”, i.e. the factionalism you posited. It got very political and exacerbated the personality problems all three of us had at the time.

        I was B, and I took far, far longer than I should have to end it – really I only managed because I found D, who was a close friend who listened to me complain without judging and ended up being a much more supportive and healthy long term **monogamous** partner for me. I’m no longer on speaking terms with A or C, who as far as I know are still together and still in a situation of mutual reinforcement of their personality flaws. It pains me that I wasted 10 years of my life on them.

        So, anecdotally, I would describe myself as one of those people for whom it just does not work, and for exactly the reasons you suggested. I took a ton of damage as a result of thinking I could try it, and the only reason I don’t overall regret the decision is that without it I probably wouldn’t have ended up with D.

      • AG says:

        “That is, we relate to each other on a one-to-one basis, whatever the relationship may be.”

        This seems like very strong typical minding to me. I don’t feel this way about relationship dynamics at all. I have one dynamic with my Mom when we’re alone. This dynamic completely changes when my Dad is around, or my sibling, much less when all four of us are together, vs. the various combinations of three.
        Similarly, I’m pretty blase about Friend A, but feel much better about them when also hanging out with Friend B.

        Your assumptions about Bill and Bob’s dynamic with each other is also typical-minding about the level of people’s jealousy drives. That Bill and Bob have independently fallen for Alice indicates that they have similar tastes, and therefore are likely to be compatible with each other, platonically or more. There’s nothing “necessarily” about rivalry, the whole point of polyamorous people is that their brains don’t feel “necessarily” about rivalry at all.

        Or do sports team rosters not matter anymore beyond the one-to-one chemistries? Do you not have a friend group, with a group dynamic, and then sub-group dynamics? Thinking that weird political infighting is inevitable is what’s horrifying to me.

        • Randy M says:

          the whole point of polyamorous people is that their brains don’t feel “necessarily” about rivalry at all.

          That’s the selling point, anyway. What fraction of cases it is sufficiently true could due with some substantiation.

        • theredsheep says:

          Well, you’re making claims about human nature that fly in the face of all my experience with people, so I have to weigh the probabilities here. For one, it doesn’t necessarily follow that two people both attracted to the same person will have anything in common with one another, except insofar as the person loved may see something common in them–and I can think of counterexamples to that, as well. I’ve been attracted to any number of very different women in my life.

          In any case, the primary factor determining their presence in the relationship is Alice, yes? So they’re both there for Alice. Alice has a finite amount of time she is not working, sleeping, having alone time, off with friends, etc. As soon as Bill comes along, he has added one more thing she can and will do with her time besides spending it with Bob (whether this means sex or movies or mah-jongg or whatever, doesn’t matter, time together builds relationships). This makes them rivals for a limited good, even if they don’t choose to see it that way. Maybe they’re very indulgent or deferential or polite, they’re still rivals by nature, and Bill by entering the relationship has taken something away from Bob unless (by stunning coincidence) Bob enjoys his friendship with Bill every bit as much as he was enjoying his romantic relationship with Alice. I really don’t think that’s common.

          This is something all groups of relationships struggle with–I mentioned my family. Needless to say (I hope) I’m not having sex with my kids, but there are plenty of times where I want time with the one and the other feels left out and butts in. Older people are a bit more subtle, but it remains a factor everywhere. Jealousy/envy and insecurity are normal human feelings. They can be managed by various ways, and some are more prone than others, but it’s absurd to pretend that they are not universal. My family has an edge over a poly group in that it is, by law and custom, a very hard arrangement to dissolve, so there are powerful forces holding it together.

          I have friends; I don’t live with them, so it’s far less intense, and even then there are some I like better than others, or can relate to on a different level. Group dynamics are a function of shared culture and interplay between different individual relationships.

          • albatross11 says:

            Beware typical-minding. There are people that appear to be pretty happy and functional in poly relationships. My best (not-all-that-informed) guess is that this works okay for a smallish minority of people. In which case, it’s like all sorts of other things that work well for a smallish minority of people–voluntary celibacy as part of a religious order, hitting the bars for girls to pick up every night when you’re in your 50s, lifelong barracks life in the military as a bachelor, etc. None of those things need to be stamped out or even particularly opposed, but they seem unlikely to work out well for most people, so it’s probably better if people considering those lifestyles realize up front that they don’t always work for everyone.

            This is the flipside of the really important realization that most people probably have gotten by now–that the “standard formula” for a happy life (get married and have kids), while it may be a pretty good path to happiness for most people, will also absolutely not work out for some folks. And some of those people who wouldn’t have done well as a wife or husband may well be pretty happy in a poly relationship, or a sexless partnership with a close friend, or a monastic order, or whatever.

          • theredsheep says:

            I could follow that, except that I keep running into these horrible articles. Like, I can’t think of a defense-of-polyamory article I read that didn’t reek of sick mind games. And they’re supposed to be sympathetic articles. Possibly there’s some selection bias going on there, where the poly people who volunteer to discuss such things tend to be twisted narcissists? I don’t know.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Well, if the writer of that article thought of it as an advertisement for the advantages of polyamory, then… it certainly didn’t work on me.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        That is, we relate to each other on a one-to-one basis, whatever the relationship may be. I don’t have a relationship with my family, I have three separate relationships with my wife and my two kids, and the family is a composite of those.

        I have no experience with romantic relationships, but my birth family isn’t wasn’t really several one-to-one relationships.

        My relationship with my brother, my mother, and my father (at least when I was growing up and we all lived together) was pretty much one whole relationship, and I imagine they’d say the same.

        • theredsheep says:

          No, because you’re all separate people. The word “family” is an abstraction, a collective term for a bundle of closely linked relationships between a group of people who live together for an extended period. I’m not denying that more complex interactions arise from that network, but every family is ultimately built on bonds between individuals, in the same way enormous proteins are formed by a carbon meeting an oxygen, then a nitrogen, and so on.

    • BBA says:

      As a first approximation, always believe women. I’d add always disbelieve men, but I’m a man so you shouldn’t believe me.

      Lovely bunch of friends you’ve got there, Scott.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Good gods what an invocation of Poe’s Law there.

        Assuming that is sincere, you should think very carefully about what this belief says about your attitude towards agency; that women are acted upon and take action only to limit this, but that men have motives, and therefore cannot be trusted to faithfully report events.

        • BBA says:

          It’s an SJW cliche that I don’t really like much, it’s just not as bad as the alternatives. My basic view is that We Can’t Have Nice Things – a dispassionate, unbiased determination of the most likely facts would be ideal, but humans aren’t capable of that. Better to make your biases explicit.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think I’ll stick with House’s maxim: “Everybody lies”.

        • albatross11 says:

          There’s also some variant of Goodhart’s law here: any rule of thumb you have for weighing evidence will be taken into account by bad people trying to manipulate you. If you believe all women when they claim sexual misconduct, then amoral women will absolutely use that fact when they want to use this accusation to gain the upper hand in some dispute. I think an illustration of this happens fairly often in divorce custody disputes w.r.t. accusations of physical or sexual abuse.

          Suppose before this rule is in place, you have one false accusation for every ten true accusations. Afterwards, you will have a big rise in false/true accusations, because you have incentivized them, and amoral people come in all genders.

      • Zorgon says:

        Thank you for indicating to me that I am unsafe near you and those directly connected to you.

        Edit: With a bit of further thought, I wanted to say that this is actually quite sincere; I would greatly prefer if people who do not believe I am really a person and should not expect to be treated the same way as real people (ie, women) would advertise such as much as possible. It would greatly improve my general state of mind to know in advance so I can exclude them from my life as much as possible.

        • BBA says:

          You have nothing to fear from “those directly connected to me,” whatever that means. I’m just personally broken.

    • Zorgon says:

      I don’t live in the Bay Area, cannot attend many rationalist meetups and do not actively engage in many LW-diaspora forums except very occasionally this one (when I have the spare time), so this is all very distant sound and fury to me. As a result, it would seem to be churlish and disrespectful for me to directly address this particular incident.

      I will instead discuss three of my friends.

      The first is a woman who is roughly the same age as me. I met her through a mutual friend, her housemate who at the time was my closest friend of either sex or gender, and we got on immediately. She was effervescent, charismatic, very attractive, a great talker. The kind of person it’s highly difficult to dislike. Our friendship continued, albeit somewhat at a remove due to mainly being mediated through my best friend, for some years; she was what is often referred to as a “serial monogamist” and boyfriends came and went.
      Unsurprisingly I was very interested in her myself, until I heard an account of how she had breathlessly told my best friend (who, remember, shared a house with her) that she was being stalked by the disembodied spirit of one of her less amicable exes. Note that he wasn’t dead; she had convinced herself that he was following her in disembodied spirit form, standing in her room as he slept, waiting around corners, and generally invisibly stalking her.
      I carefully asked her about it myself at a later point, and she denied any knowledge of it… then several weeks later at a mutual drinking session, explained in great detail how she was terrified of the invisible presence that was waiting outside the bar. She explained to me that it had already sexually assaulted her multiple times. I went along with it, we checked outside a few times until she was sure it had gone, and then I walked her home.
      To note – at no other point during my entire association with her did she ever show the slightest sign of delusional or dissociated behaviour. She was invariably present, sparky, on-the-ball. But she was utterly convinced that this person – an actual person, remember – was somehow projecting himself invisibly, stalking and sexually assaulting her.

      We’re still friends, she still lives in this town, and it hasn’t come up in many years.

      The second of my friends that I want to discuss was himself a tragedy.
      This chap showed up in my interest circles when I was in my mid-20s and it was immediately apparent that he was fairly damaged. After getting to know him, he opened up a little and revealed that he (as well as 5 other boys) had been sexually abused in his early teens by a schoolteacher; the resulting trauma had left him with severe difficulty in relating to other people. I spent quite a lot of time trying to help him cope with adult life as he sank into alcoholism and extremely severe depression. In time I managed to get him to seek professional help with both issues, and he did so, eventually moving away and beginning a life elsewhere but remaining in contact.
      One New Year’s Eve, he phoned me (I have a few people who do this each year, usually to celebrate having made it through another year, and I’m enormously grateful to them all). He’d fallen off the wagon – a temporary thing, he corrected it within a couple of months – but in his drunken self-hating stupor, he proceeded to spin me an incredibly lurid tale involving several of our mutual friends (male and female) and how they’d essentially stripped and sexually humiliated him at a party some years earlier.
      I didn’t contradict him, because I knew that doing so would only push him deeper into the hole he was in at the time. But I was at that party with him, and I know none of those things happened. The party was certainly sexually charged, and one of the hostesses even had sex with a guest right next to us (student parties can be like that), but he had been with me, chatting to other people, the entire time he was present; and we left together towards the end of it.
      Again, this wasn’t just a story he was telling me; he was immensely upset about it, broken by apparent betrayed trust. But it didn’t happen, at least not the way he remembered it; if anything similar did happen, it was a different time, with different people, about which I was entirely unaware. But he was convinced I’d been there, let it happen; the whole purpose of telling me about it was because he was trying to find a way to forgive me for something I had never heard before that New Year’s Eve phone call.

      He got himself back on the wagon, and after his case against his schoolteacher abuser came to sentencing a year later, he began to finally piece his life together; got a job, began a relationship. Sadly he died not long afterwards, his years of alcohol abuse catching up with him and he suffered a heart attack while visiting my town again. I miss him a lot.

      The third person I’d like to discuss is a little different. I had a very stormy relationship a few years ago with a woman with whom I shared pretty much my entire friendship group. As so often happens in these circumstances the break-up was difficult to say the least and largely our friendship group split into “hers”, “mine”, and “both but never discusses the other”.
      This third person was not my ex, but her best friend, who to my surprise seemed to be an example of the third group. We retained good terms, spent time talking things over, she was supportive when I really didn’t expect her to be, particularly given the rest of my friends seemed to be increasingly disappearing. I was very glad to have her around…
      Until I discovered that the reason a lot of my friends seemed to be actively removing themselves from my presence was because this friend of my ex was excitedly spreading the rumour that I’d sexually assaulted said ex. Quite seriously, in fact, during a particularly awful point in our relationship. I only discovered this because another mutual friend of mine, hers and my ex’s had already heard the explanation of what had happened during that period from both of us and knew full well that what she was hearing bore no resemblance whatsoever to the actual events that happened. She told me, and then told my ex, and my ex responded with horror – indeed, her heartfelt apology to me over it (and my response that an outright lie was 100% the liar’s fault) was pretty much the first time we’d spoken in months. As best as we can tell, she invented the story purely to entertain herself and get brownie points from her friends for “protecting the victim”. My ex tried to correct the story, but the damage was done; it was years before my social life recovered.

      I still see the other person at events, from time to time. I try to avoid her when I can.

      Three different people, three true stories about three untrue stories. One insisting on the impossible, one demanding apology for something which never happened, and one creating an accusation out of thin air apparently for shits and giggles. And that’s just the ones I know and remember well enough and feel anonymous enough to tell; there are plenty more that I’ve forgotten, never knew, maybe even still believe. Certainly there are a couple of absolute confidences I will not tell, that would fit well in this list.

      It is my lived experience, and my utmost certainty, that every normal person has an interesting relationship with the truth, one which is fraught to begin with, and that even the most stable person can create an entire narrative of persecution and victimhood out of nothing whatsoever. I chose the three stories above because they represent three particular patterns; obsessive storytelling, dysfunctional recall, and grandstanding hyper-exaggeration. They’re not exclusive of each other, nor is that list complete; nor is this a problem of men or women.

      Consider, then, that the least aggressive accusation of my three stories came from the most definite “victim” of all of them, and that none of these people are particularly prone to delusional thinking (not even my first friend, for whom this particular fixation was unique). Consider that there are a LOT of people more delusional, more obsessive, more mendacious, or more dissociated from reality than these three people. Consider that people with sociopathic traits exist. Consider that Moloch is waiting for everyone else.

      Men and women alike, we are ultimately still bald, broken apes. I’m sorry this person is dead. Every single death is a tragedy. Maybe we can do better next time, on every level.

    • Zorgon says:

      (This comment appeared, then vanished after about 2 minutes, but there’s no indication of moderator activity, so I’m gonna try posting it again. Apologies if this ends up a repeat post.)

      I don’t live in the Bay Area, cannot attend many rationalist meetups and do not actively engage in many LW-diaspora forums except very occasionally this one (when I have the spare time), so this is all very distant sound and fury to me. As a result, it would seem to be churlish and disrespectful for me to directly address this particular incident.

      I will instead discuss three of my friends.

      The first is a woman who is roughly the same age as me. I met her through a mutual friend, her housemate who at the time was my closest friend of either sex or gender, and we got on immediately. She was effervescent, charismatic, very attractive, a great talker. The kind of person it’s highly difficult to dislike. Our friendship continued, albeit somewhat at a remove due to mainly being mediated through my best friend, for some years; she was what is often referred to as a “serial monogamist” and boyfriends came and went.
      Unsurprisingly I was very interested in her myself, until I heard an account of how she had breathlessly told my best friend (who, remember, shared a house with her) that she was being stalked by the disembodied spirit of one of her less amicable exes. Note that he wasn’t dead; she had convinced herself that he was following her in disembodied spirit form, standing in her room as he slept, waiting around corners, and generally invisibly stalking her.
      I carefully asked her about it myself at a later point, and she denied any knowledge of it… then three weeks later at a mutual drinking session, explained in great detail how she was terrified of the invisible presence that was waiting outside the bar. She explained to me that it had already sexually assaulted her multiple times. I went along with it, we checked outside a few times until she was sure it had gone, and then I walked her home.
      To note – at no other point during my entire association with her did she ever show the slightest sign of delusional or dissociated behaviour. She was invariably present, sparky, on-the-ball. But she was utterly convinced that this person – an actual person, remember – was somehow projecting himself invisibly, stalking and sexually assaulting her.

      We’re still friends, she still lives in this town, and it hasn’t come up in many years.

      The second of my friends that I want to discuss was himself a tragedy.
      This chap showed up in my interest circles when I was in my mid-20s and it was immediately apparent that he was fairly damaged. After getting to know him, he opened up a little and revealed that he (as well as 5 other boys) had been sexually abused in his early teens by a schoolteacher; the resulting trauma had left him with severe difficulty in relating to other people. I spent quite a lot of time trying to help him cope with adult life as he sank into alcoholism and extremely severe depression. In time I managed to get him to seek professional help with both issues, and he did so, eventually moving away and beginning a life elsewhere but remaining in contact.
      One New Year’s Eve, he phoned me (I have a few people who do this each year, usually to celebrate having made it through another year, and I’m enormously grateful to them all). He’d fallen off the wagon – a temporary thing, he corrected it within a couple of months – but in his drunken self-hating stupor, he proceeded to spin me an incredibly lurid tale involving several of our mutual friends (male and female) and how they’d essentially stripped and sexually humiliated him at a party some years earlier.
      I didn’t contradict him, because I knew that doing so would only push him deeper into the hole he was in at the time. But I was at that party with him, and I know none of those things happened. The party was certainly sexually charged, and one of the hostesses even had sex with a guest right next to us (student parties can be like that), but he had been with me, chatting to other people, the entire time he was present; and we left together towards the end of it.
      Again, this wasn’t just a story he was telling me; he was immensely upset about it, broken by apparent betrayed trust. But it didn’t happen, at least not the way he remembered it; if anything similar did happen, it was a different time, with different people, about which I was entirely unaware. But he was convinced I’d been there, let it happen; the whole purpose of telling me about it was because he was trying to find a way to forgive me for something I had never heard before that New Year’s Eve phone call.

      He got himself back on the wagon, and after his case against his schoolteacher abuser came to sentencing a year later, he began to finally piece his life together; got a job, began a relationship. Sadly he died not long afterwards, his years of alcohol abuse catching up with him and he suffered a heart attack while visiting my town again. I miss him a lot.

      The third person I’d like to discuss is a little different. I had a very stormy relationship a few years ago with a woman with whom I shared pretty much my entire friendship group. As so often happens in these circumstances the break-up was difficult to say the least and largely our friendship group split into “hers”, “mine”, and “both but never discusses the other”.
      This third person was not my ex, but her best friend, who to my surprise seemed to be an example of the third group. We retained good terms, spent time talking things over, she was supportive when I really didn’t expect her to be, particularly given the rest of my friends seemed to be increasingly disappearing. I was very glad to have her around…
      Until I discovered that the reason a lot of my friends seemed to be actively removing themselves from my presence was because this friend of my ex was excitedly spreading the rumour that I’d sexually assaulted said ex. Quite seriously, in fact, during a particularly awful point in our relationship. I only discovered this because another mutual friend of mine, hers and my ex’s had already heard the explanation of what had happened during that period from both of us and knew full well that what she was hearing bore no resemblance whatsoever to the actual events that happened. She told me, and then told my ex, and my ex responded with horror – indeed, her apology to me over it (and my response that an outright lie was 100% the liar’s fault) was pretty much the first time we’d spoken in months. As best as we can tell, she invented the story purely to entertain herself and get brownie points from her friends for “protecting the victim”. My ex tried to correct the story, but the damage was done; it was years before my social life recovered.

      I still see the other person at events, from time to time. I try to avoid her when I can.

      Three different people, three true stories about three untrue stories. One insisting on the impossible, one demanding apology for something which never happened, and one creating an accusation out of thin air apparently for shits and giggles. And that’s just the ones I know and remember well enough and feel anonymous enough to tell; there are plenty more that I’ve forgotten, never knew, maybe even still believe. Certainly there are a couple of absolute confidences I will not tell, that would fit well in this list.

      It is my lived experience, and my utmost certainty, that every normal person has an interesting relationship with the truth, one which is fraught to begin with, and that even the most stable person can create an entire narrative of persecution and victimhood out of nothing whatsoever. I chose the three stories above because they represent three particular patterns; obsessive storytelling, dysfunctional recall, and grandstanding hyper-exaggeration. They’re not exclusive of each other, nor is that list complete; nor is this a problem of men or women.

      Consider, then, that the least aggressive accusation of my three stories came from the most definite “victim” of all of them, and that none of these people are particularly prone to delusional thinking (not even my first friend, for whom this particular fixation was unique). Consider that there are a LOT of people more delusional, more obsessive, more mendacious, or more dissociated from reality than these three people. Consider that people with sociopathic traits exist. Consider that Moloch is waiting for everyone else.

      Men and women alike, we are ultimately still bald, broken apes. I’m sorry this person is dead. Every single death is a tragedy. Maybe we can do better next time, on every level.

    • Aapje says:

      It seems to me that polygamous communities are going to have way more attempts to get sex with new partners than mono communities.

      After all, Bob the married mono is not going to be approaching any women, but Jake the married poly is.

      My impression is that Kathy F wanted an environment with way less sexual approaches and wanted to be mono. It is a bit weird that she seems to have had this elaborate fantasy about having a strong man protect her, while apparently being unable to find such a person in the rationalist or adjacent communities. Given the lop-sided sex-ratio, that seems peculiar, although I am not in her community, so perhaps there is something I missed.

    • Nick says:

      Setting aside for a moment the extreme culture warry aspects of the note, what do folks make of Forth’s idea like super survivors and the safety pragma? Are those real? Has anyone else observed these? Super survivors in particular sounds like a phenomenon Scott has discussed before; cf. section IV of Different Worlds. One notable difference in their accounts is that Scott did not attribute any of the difference to being more or less attractive.

      • Aapje says:

        The issue with super survivors is that it seems like a combination of various (possible) mechanisms:
        – Attractive people being more attractive
        – Some people projecting vulnerability
        – Behaviors that put some people more in places where they are more likely to be victimized
        – Some people being much more sensitive/prone to traumatization
        – Some people being prone to make up abuse stories
        – Bad luck/randomness

        As for the safety pragma, this explains male stoicism as (partly) an adaptation to women’s needs.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Pricscilla Briggs’ Mercedes Thompson series has a lot of overlap with Safety Pragma. I don’t remember the earlier parts of series well enough to say whether it’s an exact match.

        I’ve seen a mention of women who can’t sleep well unless they’re with their husband.

        When I was reading Kathy F’s description, it seemed like husband and wife being sacred values for each other.

      • Zephalinda says:

        The super survivor pattern turns up ridiculously often once you start looking for it– often with the first instance of victimization in relatively early childhood, repeated semi-frequently thereafter.

        It means that selection effects become super important to consider: if a space/activity tends to attract already-traumatized people, then I’d expect higher-than-normal levels of abusive behavior to emerge there simply by virtue of the horrible predator/prey dynamic that seems to follow supersurvivors. It’s weird to me that most studies one sees seem to work from a baseline assumption that all populations are uniform, so that any divergent outcomes among e.g. polyamorists or soldiers or trans folk must be directly owing to their experiences in that group, not to the omitted extra variables that pushed them in that direction to begin with.

        • Aapje says:

          Yeah, one of the first things I try to think of when evaluating papers is whether there is a possible selection effect.

          I think that many studies measure the selection effect, rather than what they purport to study.

          • Zephalinda says:

            Agreed! It does mean that there’s potential for interesting research in exploring the edges/boundaries of those selected groups, though. In the case of super survivors, I’d be especially intrigued to see if there’s any category of experience that moves people out of that group– for instance, can a repeat victim ever remove their “prey” tag by getting therapy or EMDR or DBT? Via a disfiguring accident that makes them unattractive? Changes in fitness level affecting gait or physical self-presentation? Some sort of illness that might reset epigenetic changes to the person’s hormonal/pheromone profile?

          • Aapje says:

            @Zephalinda

            I think that super survivors may also themselves be attracted to abusers, so the possible remedies may also include trying to change what people seek in their partner, friends, etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget is by a woman who eventually made a full recovery from alcoholism.

            From memory: She had a case of low-quality feminism and toxic masculinity. That is, she thought hard drinking and casual sex meant she was strong.

            She also believed that as she matured and wanted children, she’d spontaneously give up hard drinking and casual sex. This did happen for some of her friends, but it didn’t happen for her.

            I forget the whole path, but after not drinking for a while, she realized that drinking made her weaker rather than stronger, and the craving for alcohol went away.

            Now that I think about it, this is something like Core Transformation, which involves working with a person’s deepest values.

    • Orpheus says:

      This is so heartbreakingly sad.

    • Viliam says:

      So many comments, so late to the debate.

      My opinion is that there is a certain fraction of… predators… among humans. Any group that grows to a certain size is statistically likely to contain some of them. Some groups may attract them more, other groups may attract them less, but ultimately, no group is immune. If your group is sufficiently large and contains no predators, it just means they haven’t noticed you… yet. Therefore we should automatically assume that sooner or later some predators will find EA meetups, LW meetups, SSC meetups, etc.

      I think polyamory is a red herring. People get harassed and raped in monogamous cultures, too. (And kids get molested by celibate priests.)

      Instead, I think the important part is communication, specifically group communication. (This may be the weakness of the nerds.) If a person A attacks a person B, what prevents the person B from telling someone? Why does the other person not react? I live on the opposite side of the planet from the Bay Area, and yet I have heard rumors about some guys having raped some girls at rationality meetups there. What exactly protects those guys from getting punched? If something like that would happen here, none of them would be invited to a meetup again, ever, and that’s the least that would happen.

      The Kathy’s letter is long, contains a lot of speculation, but this one part made a lot of sense: “I need alliance, knowing that others will do something about it if my boundaries are being violated.” Plus the fantasies about what would happen if someone would have defended her. Makes me wonder… how much is this a real description of the local community… and much just a warped perception of a depressed mind. Because if people are really unwilling to defend each other, then the community sucks.

      Maybe the problematic thing is not polyamory alone, but the combination of nearly autistic communication skills and polyamory. People get a lot of sex with each other, and they mistakenly think they have learned to communicate, but their communication skills didn’t actually improve a bit. Which includes not noticing that certain people are “poly” only because of peer pressure, and some people get unwanted attention.

      Or maybe the problem is that nerds, when told “this guy tried to rape this girl”, instead of punching the guy, will use the opportunity to start an interesting debate about evolutionary psychology or something. Meanwhile, the girl decides not to come to the meetup again.

      Okay, perhaps a thought exercise for everyone: Imagine that during the next EA/LW/SSC meetup, a girl will complain that a guy keeps touching her thigh, despite being told “no” several times. The guy just denies it, and otherwise seems normal. What exactly are you going to do?

      • J Mann says:

        I do wonder what more Kathy expected the group to do. None of the assaults she suffered strikes me as any more of an indictment of polygamy than of serial monogamy/hookup culture, and in the two cases she discusses specifically, the offenders were expelled from the space.

        I can’t think of much more that can be done, except maybe to have some clear sign that you don’t want anyone to hit on you in that environment. (Or a rule that the environment should be free from all passes unless you someone opt in, which is where I think a lot of professional conventions have gone). Even then, you can’t expel someone until misconduct is reported.

        I also agree it’s tremendously sad.

        • Viliam says:

          I am watching these things from the other side of the planet, so I am probably out of the loop, but here are my thoughts:

          I know that a few things have been done: offenders expelled, selected trustworthy people to collect misconduct reports. But I only know about it, because I follow a few dozen rationalists and a few rationalist groups on Facebook. An announcement appears, and a few months later I can’t even google it. When I try to debate it on a local meetup, most people are not aware of anything.

          I believe this information is important enough to be displayed on the front page of Less Wrong. (Not the full text, but the link to it.) Whom to contact, if you have a bad experience. Who is officially excommunicated from the rationalist community, and why specifically.

          Because this information is important especially to the newcomers. The less in-group connections you have, the more vulnerable you are. If someone would try to hurt me at a rationality meetup, I definitely would not keep quiet — I would post an article on Less Wrong, a comment on Slate Star Codex, a status on Facebook, I would personally message a few rationalist celebrities, and I would tell all my friends within the rationalist community. So (even in the alternative universe where I happen to be a woman), try touching me indecently and expect a nuclear response. A sufficiently smart predator would therefore probably not choose me as a target.

          The person most at risk is someone new at the rationality meetup. Someone who just found Less Wrong, or who was invited by a friend (especially if the friend is also a new person). I imagine that the predator would present themselves as a well-connected and high-status member of the rationalist community. And quite likely they would be; at least relatively to the newcomer. How would the newcomer know that — if something bad happens — there are people willing to fight on their side, regardless of the current connections and status of the predator?

          I guess the easiest solution would be to: (1) post on Less Wrong an article explaining what to do, and whom to avoid and why; and keep the link visible at the top of the page, and (2) at the beginning of each meetup, spend a minute or two mentioning this; just say it briefly, and make the people who collect feedback stand up.

          Because if you don’t do that, guess what… the predators are already spinning their own version of events, both privately and on Facebook. If you ask the rapist, he will gladly tell you that (a) nothing happened, it was all made up, and (b) the rationalist community is infected by crazy feminists and SJWs who try to expel all white males. They will even make their parallel rationalist and effective altruist Facebook groups, where any criticism of them will be banned of course.

          (A smaller version of this kinda happened on LW with the infamous vote manipulator Eugine. He was banned for creating hundreds of accounts, and using them to karma-assassinate people who disagreed with him in a debate on a political topic. But if you ask him, he will tell you he was banned for his political opinions. And a few people will gladly spread this misinformation. Painting yourself as a victim of political dissent is cheap and it works on gullible people.)

          Writing about predators is difficult, I get it. Most attacks happen in private, so from the outside it’s just “X said, Y said”; what are you going to do about it? (You could approach this statistically, something like: the first accusation is recorded but not acted upon; multiple accusations against the same person start an investigation. But of course even this is uncertain: the accused person can say they are a victim of a conspiracy.) Also in my experience, this type of people is often quite good at twisting other people’s statements: they bend the truth here and there, and suddenly it seems like everything is just a misunderstanding of a person acting in good faith, other people seem like endorsing the predator, those who don’t seem like idiots, etc. Why this happens? Because the predator has a lot of experience with this type of situations; and the experience translates to skill. You have to paint the full picture. The repeating patterns are important: for example, misunderstandings happen in real life, but if the same person repeatedly “misunderstands” something that was repeatedly explained to them, then the whole pattern points towards willful “misunderstanding” instead of a honest mistake.

          As an example of how an unpleasant situation was excellently solved, I would use this article about Gleb Tsipursky: It documents a history of interactions that didn’t feel quite right — and where each single interaction can be explained plausibly, but the whole pattern is damning. I would like to see similar documents created for the people excommunicated from the rationalist community. I understand that it is difficult, and that often the law is on the predator’s side: if someone rapes a victim in private, the victim may have a problem proving that, but for the predator it may be easy to sue for libel. Anyway, even difficult problems have to be addressed.

          • albatross11 says:

            “Excommunicated from the rationalist movement” seems like an odd construction, somehow. Is Elezier the Pope of Rationalism? (Or maybe the Rationalism Czar?)

          • Aapje says:

            If rationalism actually was a cult, it would be far easier to excommunicate people.

            As far as I can tell, a major reason why coordination is so hard in the rationalist community is that it is actually a very loose construct. For example, the parties are not thrown by an organization with a set of rules and a fixed group of organizers, which allows for consistency and learning from the past, but rather mainly by individuals with their own specific desires, rules & experiences.

            So of course you will then have someone excommunicated from parties thrown by David, but not parties thrown by Bob, who may not even be aware that the person who shows up at his party did bad things elsewhere, is banned from David’s party, etc.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Or maybe the problem is that nerds, when told “this guy tried to rape this girl”, instead of punching the guy, will use the opportunity to start an interesting debate about evolutionary psychology or something.

        Do love me some extrajudicial violence based on he-said-she-said. Not all of humanity’s predators are male

        • Viliam says:

          “Extrajudicial violence” sounds like a paramilitary group taking a few randomly selected villagers, shooting them behind the village, and throwing corpses to a mass grave.

          Instead, I advocate for simple punching, which is essentially an Eastern-European equivalent of a small-claims court. 😛

          More seriously and more meta: I agree that rule of law is generally a good thing. But it inevitably promotes rule-lawyering.

          The law punishes X. Study the definition of X carefully, and then do precisely 99% of X. Congratulation, no legal punishment! And in case of an extra-legal punishment, hey, now the law is on your side!

          Also, law only punishes what can be proved according to the law; so you can simply make sure you only do the bad things when there are no cameras and no witnesses. (Then make sure to have a camera and your own witnesses ready when someone tries to punch you in revenge.)

          Not all of humanity’s predators are male

          Agreed.

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Guys, L. Neil Smith has given me the impression that all libertarians are men who wear suits and carry handguns.
    1. Is this unfair?
    2. How do I distinguish libertarians from statist FBI agents?

    • Brad says:

      I remember when self professed libertarians were in favor or the free movement of people and goods, opposed to government intervention in the economy and regulation of speech, and strongly in favor of the rights of the accused as against police overreaching.

      Now, who knows?

      • The Nybbler says:

        I’ll be in favor of free movement of people across the US border as soon as we get rid of the welfare state and figure some method to prevent the immigrants from (perhaps inadvertently) turning the country into whatever place they are leaving (an issue which occurs on smaller scale with interstate moves). As for the rest, I’m still in favor of free movement of goods, opposed to government intervention in the economy and regulation of speech, and strongly in favor of the rights of the accused.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’d wear a suit if it meant I could carry the handgun, but alas I live in NJ (“The Police State”), so no handgun.

      FBI agents wear black suits, which no libertarian does except at a funeral. Also FBI agents wear earpieces, but you need a field guide to distinguish them from the other Feds (for instance, ATF you can tell by the poorly-patched bullet holes in the jackboots)

    • John Schilling says:

      Our neckties are more colorful than the FBI’s. And our handguns come in a diversity of calibers, rather than the FBI’s boringly monolithic 9mm conformity.

      Actually, I’m not sure where the “wear suits” is coming from, though perhaps I haven’t read enough Smith. Libertarians are disproportionately likely to run businesses, but it’s been a long time since that required wearing a suit except on special occasions or in certain niches. Possibly you’re just picking up on the “businessman” vibe and editing in a suit based on the legacy stereotype?

      • toastengineer says:

        If I remember right there was a little bit of an in-joke about bowties because Milton Friedman wore bowties, but…

      • I just spent several days at Porcfest, an annual event of the Free State Project. I noticed precisely one person who was wearing a suit.

        But lots of guns.

    • Eric Rall says:

      2. How do I distinguish libertarians from statist FBI agents?

      FBI agents tend to wear cheap suits in order to comply with a dress code. We libertarians wear suits as a choice, so we tend to buy nicer suits and suits with more personalized style, since a good suit looks a lot better than a cheap suit.

  10. Mark V Anderson says:

    The Wayfair case has been decided by the Supreme Court. I find the decision unfortunate. Most people probably think of this as inside baseball for tax people, but I am concerned that it may make business almost impossible for small businesses that sell broadly across the US.

    This decision threw out the previous physical presence rule. Before this decision, a business needed to have assets in the state, or rented an office there, or had a sales person regularly visit the state. Now there seem to be no rules at all to prevent a tax jurisdiction from taxing all businesses with any sales there. Robert’s dissent pretty much explains my concern. See below an excerpt.

    The Court, for example, breezily disregards the costs that its decision will impose on retailers. Correctly calcu¬lating and remitting sales taxes on all e-commerce sales
    ——————

    will likely prove baffling for many retailers. Over 10,000 jurisdictions levy sales taxes, each with “different taxrates, different rules governing tax-exempt goods andservices, different product category definitions, and differ¬ent standards for determining whether an out-of-state seller has a substantial presence” in the jurisdiction.Sales Taxes Report 3. A few examples: New Jersey knit¬ters pay sales tax on yarn purchased for art projects, but not on yarn earmarked for sweaters. See Brief for eBay, Inc., et al. as Amici Curiae 8, n. 3 (eBay Brief). Texas taxes sales of plain deodorant at 6.25 percent but imposes no tax on deodorant with antiperspirant. See id., at 7. Illinois categorizes Twix and Snickers bars—chocolate¬and-caramel confections usually displayed side-by-side in the candy aisle—as food and candy, respectively (Twix have flour; Snickers don’t), and taxes them differently.See id., at 8; Brief for Etsy, Inc., as Amicus Curiae 14–17 (Etsy Brief) (providing additional illustrations).

    It is true that the majority decision approvingly discussed the limitations of South Dakota’s law, which only requires a business to collect tax if they have $100,000 per year in sales or at least 200 transactions per year. These are reasonable restrictions, but the court didn’t restrict their ruling to jurisdictions with reasonable limitations. The physical presence rule is totally gone, so under this new ruling, any jurisdiction can force a business to collect tax for one $100 sale. The majority rule says that if unreasonable results occur, then they can go back to court. But for the same reason that it is so difficult to collect taxes for so many jurisdictions, so it is difficult to sue so many jurisdictions. If a business has 2 sales per year to 6000 different jurisdictions, they will need to collect tax for each of these jurisdictions. The Supremes alternative is for that business to sue all 6000 jurisdictions.

    Edit: One thing I forgot to mention. Congress can fix this by requiring reasonable limitations. I need to write to my Senators and Congressman to push this.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t think this is death for small e-commerce, but I do suspect Paypal or another payment processor will end up taking a cut more often.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I don’t get this comment. Are you saying that sales will process through a third party who makes the sale to the end user, so this third party figures out the tax? That might work, although I don’t think Paypal is much of a tax expert.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yes. A lot of small e-commerce already outsources its payment processing to PayPal or similar services, just because doing it well is fiddly and sensitive to security issues and requires a skillset not often found in small e-commerce startups. If calculating sales tax becomes burdensome to those businesses, the simplest solution for them is to foist it off on a company that has the scale to do it easily. PayPal is a big enough company to do it, and it already has a place in the small-scale e-commerce ecosystem. They’re not tax experts, but they’re big enough that they could hire some, and it’s in their interests not to let their customers choke on tax legalities.

  11. NightOfStars says:

    Jeez if I have to read another Israel- Palestine piece talking about the settler colonialist Zionists…
    Is there anyone who would like to have some rational discussion on this topic that well seems to be a giant magnet for hubris?
    And I guess this is very culture war…

    • quaelegit says:

      I don’t know if its exactly what you’re looking for, but there was some discussion on the Contra Caplan thread starting here.

    • beleester says:

      My take on it:
      1. There is a shitload of bad blood on both sides, dating all the way back to WWII. There’s not much we can do about that now, but it does mean that any peace process now will have to forgive and forget a lot of things.

      2. Israel will have to take the lead in the peace process. The rhetoric of “Well, of course the Palestinians will attack, they don’t have any other options” is insulting to Palestinians, but Israel does have more freedom of action. If we want a third option, something other than “keep fighting” or “keep yelling ‘two-state solution!’ at increasingly loud volumes”, Israel is the one in position to find it.

      3. The steady expansion of settlements is really bad for the peace process. We should be signaling “You can be like Hamas in Gaza and we’ll roll in with tanks, or you can be like the West Bank and we’ll leave you alone.” Instead we’re saying “Or you can be like the West Bank, and we’ll take your land a bite at a time.”

      (Really, everything Netanyahu has done has just added fuel to the fire, but the settlements are the big one.)

      4. That said, Israel’s hands are tied by the demands of democracy. Between the settlers, the religious and nationalist right, and the people who are justifiably angry about rocket and terror attacks, I’m not sure how much will there actually is in the Israeli population for the peace process any more.

      5. Palestine does need to cobble a government and borders together, one way or another. The current maze of “Well, it’s Palestine-administered but occupied by Israeli security forces but…” is impossible to navigate.

      Lastly, I keep coming back to Yitzhak Rabin’s quote: “You don’t make peace with friends. You make it with very unsavory enemies.” At some point, someone is going to have to accept that they don’t get to retaliate for the latest round of wrongdoings. And that’s going to feel awful, but the alternative is we keep retaliating until doomsday.

      • albatross11 says:

        beleester:

        I do not claim to be well-informed here, but it strikes me that (4) is largely driven by (1), and applies at least as strongly on the Palestinian side. If most of your people hate the other side, then making peace with them is likely to be pretty unpopular. Offering the other side peace on generous terms is likely to get you deposed–either voted out of office or assassinated.

        Are there parallel situations we can look to historically where this sort of dispute has been resolved in some non-horrible way?

        • Aapje says:

          I think that the Palestine Papers show that the PLO wanted to make substantial concessions. A major issue is the fate of displaced Palestinians. The PLO logically feels strongly about having them return from diaspora.

          As for being able to offer generous terms, I think that what you need is a hard-liner turned dove. An example is Rabin. He was fairly trusted because Israelis knew him as a hard man who would keep their interests strongly in mind.

          • Orpheus says:

            An example is Rabin. He was fairly trusted….

            You…do know what happened to him, right?

          • Aapje says:

            An extremist killed him, which doesn’t reflect on what the majority of the Israeli people believed at the time.

            Also, I anticipated this objection with the ‘fairly.’

          • albatross11 says:

            Would this be a highly noncentral example of “fairly trusted by his people?”

          • Aapje says:

            Many people have a tendency to see nations as monoliths, where it is assumed that changes driven by popular support are supported by everyone, rather than merely by a relatively large group (and even then many people round themselves down to support the changes).

            This is self-deception, so can we be better here?

            Any peace process will have (quite a few) detractors. This is normal. There is the issue that peace tends to increases the support for peace, while war tends to radicalize some. So a successful peace process is about getting enough support for it, while containing the radicals.

            The existence of a single extremist doesn’t tell us that much about the level of trust among 8 million people.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Are there parallel situations we can look to historically where this sort of dispute has been resolved in some non-horrible way?

          Northern Ireland. Decades ago, my thoughts about that conflict were pretty similar to this one. In fact, I always thought that the best argument against the settlements was to compare it to the disastrous results of settling the Scots in Northern Ireland centuries ago.

          How did Northern Ireland end their violence? I never understood this, since it seemed no one trusted anybody else there, either.

      • Aapje says:

        Agreed.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I don’t see any reason why the Israelis would want any permanent peace when the conditions they’ve established will eventually give them complete control and occupation of the territories. They can nibble away at what’s left of “Palestine” with no real repercussions. The Israelis have also demonstrated to a limited extent that they are willing to revoke citizenship, so even being a non-Jew living amongst Israelis rather than within a Palestinian enclave would act as a protection here.

        Maybe I’m just to cynical or there’s something i’m ignoring? But it seems to me that the Palestinians are doomed unless they can find themselves a new home far away from the Levant.

        • John Schilling says:

          Maybe I’m just to cynical or there’s something i’m ignoring?

          You’re ignoring all the real repercussions Israel will face. Including but not limited to,

          – Pretty much everybody on Earth outside of the US and Israel becoming so disgusted with Israel as to put them in the “literally worse than Hitler” category.

          – Enough Americans becoming worse-than-Hitler disgusted with Israel that stalwart US support cannot be counted on

          – Enough moderate Israelis becoming at least disillusioned to the extent that they give up on the project, including Israelis whose skills are vital to maintaining the Israeli economy and defense industry but also give their bearers a free ticket in the US, Canada, etc

          – The Israeli army becoming a bunch of thuggish bullies optimized for knocking down rock-throwing teenagers, at the expense of retaining their ability to win wars against competent opponents with modern weapons.

          – The entire Palestinian population being resigned to the fact that their lives have no better purpose or outcome than to marginally degrade the Israeli military and diplomatic position by throwing rocks until they get shot on television. No, they really aren’t at that point yet, and you won’t want to be watching television when they get there

          – Escalating political pressure in the rest of the Arab World to be seen to be Doing Something(tm) to their plucky oppressed coethnics bravely resisting the literally-worse-than-Hitler

          – Neighboring Arab nations acquiring nuclear weapons. OK, actually this is going to happen for reasons completely unrelated to Palestine and will happen even if there is a perfect Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement tomorrow.

          – Somebody finally starts something that escalates to the point where there isn’t an Israel any more. The Arab world will get its hair severely mussed, but they’ll still be (mostly) standing when it’s over.

          Note that basically every part of this, provides positive feedback to basically every other part. Which is why it will likely get all the way to the last part. And note that, to the insufficiently-better-than-Hitler political right in Israel, almost every step up to the last is going to feel real good, at least in an “I told you so!” righteous indignation sort of way. Which is also going to provide positive feedback to ensure we get to the final step.

          The State of Israel may last longer than the Crusader States or the United Monarchy, but I wouldn’t want to bet on that.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I’d written a reply to this that was much longer than what I have here but it got deleted when i accidentally refreshed this page, so I’ll be a bit more brief:

            1. There already seems to be a pretty low opinion of Israel amongst non US countries and nothing has come of it. The UN makes resolutions that get shot down by the US or simply ignored. How likely is it that a france or germany can get away with boycotting Israel?

            2. Shift in US opinion would need to be massive as similar to the case of immigration. B/c elite opinion can be solidly in favor of one position contra-the-public and keep that position in power for quite awhile afterwards. I don’t expect the US MSM to turn on israel unilaterally either. So any heightening of atrocities would likely get downplayed in the prestige press.

            It seems to me like unconditional support for israel has actually increased over the last 30 years. People used to talk of something like a 2 state solution, nobody does anymore.

            3. Relying on the Arab states to do something relies on US foreign policy of the last 20 years failing to do what it seems to have been intended to do; neutralize any state that isn’t on good terms with Israel. Seems to me like Israel and its advocates at home are really the only ones who were consistently satisfied with the US Government’s handiwork in the middle east.

          • Aapje says:

            @RalMirrorAd

            In politics, things can suddenly flip from being unthinkable to being ‘the only right thing to do.’ Furthermore, boycotts often don’t happen in response to a long term situation, but due to an incident. Perhaps tomorrow a pretty little girl gets shot by a settler or an IDF soldier and it gets caught on camera.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think there’s another possibility — that Israelis lose the ability to count on US support before Arab countries get the bomb, and before their army becomes unable to fight an Arab assault. And then the Arabs attack prematurely, which either results in the same situation only worse after the Israelis win, or a one-sided nuclear war in the Middle East with Israel still standing if the Israelis get their back to the wall.

            Not sure where that ends up (especially if Russia intervenes), but it can’t be good.

          • John Schilling says:

            Not sure where that ends up (especially if Russia intervenes), but it can’t be good.

            Israel cannot conquer and occupy the Arab world, and it can’t actually bomb them back to the stone age, so that ends with a billion really pissed-off Muslims reconstituting their nuclear arsenal under new management within a generation. Tune in for the exciting sequel, coming soon to a Holy Land near you.

            @RalMirrorAd: The UN General Assembly can override the US veto on the Security Council. There hasn’t ever been the support for something that drastic, but as Aapje notes, that’s the sort of thing that goes from “inconceivable!” to “happened yesterday”, in about a day.

            Or the US could just decide to sit it out, because unconditional US support for Israel is not a majority position and probably never will be. Well, maybe the day after the Arabs nuke Tel Aviv.

          • Aapje says:

            @The Nybbler

            A collective Arab attack makes no sense, due to the Sunni/Shi’i situation right now. The Sunnis would be stupid to give the Shi’ite another opportunity to expand their control.

          • John Schilling says:

            But the Sunni/Shiite situation motivates both Sunni and Shiite players to do things that make them look both pious and mighty in the eyes of Arabs and Muslims generally.

    • dodrian says:

      I don’t really know what you’re suggesting discussing, though I read this piece from Tablet Magazine about last month’s conflicts. I would love to see more, similar well-sourced summary pieces, especially looking at the situation on a longer time-scale.

  12. BBA says:

    Today the Supreme Court struck down a 50-year-old precedent that held that a state government couldn’t force an out-of-state mail order retailer to pay sales tax. As internet sales have eclipsed traditional catalogs and started cutting into brick-and-mortar stores, this precedent has been a boon to e-commerce and a bane to the 45 states and thousands of localities that impose sales taxes. (There is, of course, the “use tax” imposed by each of them on using untaxed purchases within their boundaries, which is nearly impossible to enforce and so isn’t, though I feel a little guilty whenever I see that line on my state income tax return.)

    Obviously this hurts consumers, who will be charged taxes on everything now, and every e-commerce site not named Amazon, which will have substantial overhead costs in complying with the country’s many fragmented sales tax regimes. Amazon is big enough that they bit the bullet and started charging sales tax nationwide a few years ago. Wayfair, Overstock, and Newegg, the trio of defendants in this case, are big enough to comply everywhere too, as is Ebay. Smaller sites may be forced to join one of the big companies’ “marketplaces” or just shut down. On the other hand, most state governments, especially the ones without income taxes like Texas and Washington, just got some budget relief.

    But the interesting part of this decision is that all nine justices apparently agreed that the older precedents were out of line with the Court’s current thinking on the “dormant” Commerce Clause, and the dissenters (Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan – that’s an odd lineup) voted to uphold them solely on grounds of stare decisis. On most matters I’d feel like that’s not enough to uphold bad law, but dormant commerce is an odd duck: the doctrine is that by default a state cannot impose an undue burden on interstate commerce, but Congress may by law authorize states to do so. Since Congress has not acted on the interstate sales tax matter, the argument goes, the law should remain the same until Congress acts. It’s a hard call, but ultimately I think it doesn’t make sense to force states to discriminate against their own businesses so the Court got it right.

    What do you think, sirs?

    • albatross11 says:

      So, could Congress pass a law forbidding states from collecting sales tax on online sales that would override this decision?

      • hls2003 says:

        I haven’t read the decision, so I’m holding off on responding to the parent comment, but the general answer is yes. The whole point of the “dormant Commerce Clause” doctrine is that Congress alone has the Constitutional authority to regulate commerce between states, and states only have the authority to regulate within their boundaries. Anything a state does internally that adversely affects commerce between the states is viewed as an unconstitutional encroachment on Congressional power. But the Constitutional concern is who is doing it, not the substance of what is being done. The same policy effect could be invalid if undertaken by a state, while totally kosher if done by Congress.

      • BBA says:

        Yes, on interstate sales Congress could restore the status quo. Sales within a state are subject to state law and nobody has seriously questioned, e.g., Washington State’s ability to force Seattle-based Amazon to pay sales tax. Newegg, based in California, was exempt from paying WA sales tax, thus Washington was effectively forced into a policy that encouraged its residents to buy from out-of-state Newegg instead of in-state Amazon. When you think about it, this is absurd, and it’s why the Court ruled the way it did, but there’s nothing stopping Congress from saying this is how the law should be.

        (My example isn’t quite accurate. The old precedent based this on “physical presence” and apparently Newegg has a warehouse or an office somewhere in Washington because they are currently charging WA sales tax. Amazon now has physical presences in most of the country through its warehouses, bookstores, and ownership of Whole Foods, which probably has something to do with why they charge sales tax everywhere now. I’d have picked an example company based in South Dakota, the state that brought this case, but are any e-commerce companies based there? Gateway was but they aren’t around anymore…)

        • albatross11 says:

          To the extent sales tax is supposed to support local services, it seems reasonable that it not be collected on things made in other states. The local fire department, police department, roads, schools, etc., in Washington State aren’t providing any services to a California-based company, so why do they have to pay to support them?

          • BBA says:

            Because they are providing services to the customer. The tax is actually due on the customer making the purchase, with the seller acting as the state’s agent in collecting and remitting the tax.

          • albatross11 says:

            Then why do I have to pay sales tax in a town I’m just passing through? I don’t use their schools, and am only using their roads for like a couple hours, yet I pay sales tax on anything I buy there.

          • skef says:

            To the extent sales tax is supposed to support local services, it seems reasonable that it not be collected on things made in other states.

            Whatever one thinks about this, it doesn’t have very much to do with the present question. Most of what’s in a mall or a convenience store also wasn’t made in the same state. Sales taxes have never had much to do with the origin of a product; they’re based on point of purchase.

            The mail order economy sort of skated by under the premise that there wasn’t any such point. States didn’t want to force it to be the company location because that would wind up forcing (or at least strongly encouraging) companies to move to tax-favorable states, which would be inconvenient and ultimately unproductive for everyone. Instead, they wanted the point to be where the customer is, but the feds didn’t give them the leverage to impose tax collection on out of state companies.

            Reflecting on the “origin” idea quickly leads one to the thought that many products have a variety of origins. So if you want to tax that way, you’ll have to trace along the paths where the different components or ingredients change hands. If you squint, that’s more or less what a VAT is.

          • hls2003 says:

            @albatross11:

            As I understand it, the reasoning you’re articulating is why an American can get a rebate on VAT for items purchased in an EU country and brought back to the U.S. You pay at the point of purchase but you’re not a citizen subject to the tax. In America, though, it’s a point-of-sale issue.

    • Drew says:

      I think SCOTUS erred here. States shouldn’t have control over actions that happen outside their borders.

      If Iowa wants to set up a complex tax scheme, that’s their right. The tax scheme can bind Iowans. And Iowans, being residents, can approve or disapprove of any given law during elections.

      But this decision lets Iowa impose duties on people who have no real connection to the state. As a non-resident, I shouldn’t have to keep track of things like the Tax Holiday that state has scheduled to run August 3 – August 4.

      If states want to influence people outside their borders, they should form the appropriate interstate compacts.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Speaking of Iowa, I had an old colleague who was running a business there, who wanted to good-faith just pay the sales tax he had to, and the state government wouldn’t answer his questions about what was due on what kinds of purchases. They would prosecute if he got it wrong, though. I don’t think they’ll be any nicer to people from out-of-state.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect we’ll see a round of sales tax increases, now that sales taxes are harder to avoid. Thanks a lot, Anthony Kennedy.

      • Protagoras says:

        Taxes are unpopular. If the states are getting more revenue without having to raise taxes, they’re unlikely to jump at the opportunity to piss off voters. Much more likely they’d take the opportunity to pass small tax cuts to campaign on.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Living in the Democratic People’s Republic of NJ, perhaps I have a distorted view.

          We have a governor who ran on a platform of increasing taxes, and won by a landslide. Ironically, he can’t get it done because he’s feuding with the head of the Democratic machine in the legislature, and now he’s using the threat of deep spending cuts to attempt to get the public on his side.

          And, you know how some environmentalists say we should discourage plastic bags and others paper? Well, NJ split the difference by passing a 4 cent tax (plus 1 cent retained by the retailer) on BOTH. This was proposed to go into a fund for removing lead and asbestos from schools — that money got diverted before the bill was passed. I’ll be carrying a my groceries in my arms from now on. (Except arms are forbidden to me in NJ too)

          My reasoning on sales tax increases is that the threat of competition from internet (or previously mail-order) would tend to keep sales taxes down with a Laffer-like mechanism; increase sales tax from 7% to 10% and more people start buying from out-of-state companies, so states don’t capture the whole 3% increase.

          • fion says:

            I’ll be carrying a my groceries in my arms from now on

            I appreciate that you were setting up for a joke, but don’t you own any bags? I’ve been walking to the supermarket with a rucksack since before the 5p charge on plastic bags.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      This is what I get for posting before reading all the comments. I have a posting a little ways down on this same case.

      When I read Robert’s dissent, I certainly did not get the impression it was only based on precedent. He clearly saw the problems that arise from small business having to pay tax in 10,000 + tax jurisdictions. Unless Congress passes a law pronto to limit the ability of tax jurisdictions to collect tax on every sale to their location, this could be the death of small businesses selling across America.

    • Protagoras says:

      I imagine tax preparation companies will branch into providing assistance to businesses engaged in internet commerce, creating software to help handle the taxes (and probably offering insurance for their screw ups, as they now offer audit insurance to those who use their income tax services). Yet another cost will of course be a burden for small businesses, but it is unlikely to completely end the practice of small businesses shipping to other states.

  13. BeefSnakStikR says:

    Sort of seeking advice, sort of a complaint…I like a vegetarian meal once in a while. When people say that vegetarianism and veganism is cheaper than eating meat, what exactly are they talking about?

    I assumed they meant by protein content, but unless you’re eating steak every night, even the cheapest soy-based food isn’t cheaper than meat. I can get a dozen sausages with 10+ grams of protein each for $6…whereas I can get three or four servings of tofu or soy sprouts for about that price.

    (Eggs are cheaper than both, but not really great in a vegetarian meal.)

    And as for supplementing it with rice/beans/lentils, don’t most people do that regardless of whether the meal is vegetarian or meat-based? I know I do.

    Am I just in an area where meat is cheap and vegetarian products are expensive and luxuries?

    • Randy M says:

      Sort of seeking advice, sort of a complaint…I like a vegetarian meal once in a while. When people say that vegetarianism and veganism is cheaper than eating meat, what exactly are they talking about?

      I would assume they mean calorie for calorie, without particular regard for macro nutrient ratios. I think it’s fair to assume that the average vegetarian eats less protein than the average omnivore, although which diet is “optimal” is contested.

      (Eggs are cheaper than both, but not really great in a vegetarian meal.)

      Not every meal, but they go good in fried rice or salads, and omelettes make fine dinners in my (cook)book.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        Not every meal, but they go good in fried rice or salads, and omelettes make fine dinners in my (cook)book.

        That’s true. I’m pretty bad at eggs, and they seem harder to get the way you want them and need constant watching. My cooking style is to fry/boil things and forget until the smoke detector goes off. 😀

        • quaelegit says:

          In another example of the different worlds thing, I think eggs are pretty much the easiest thing to cook! Particularly scrambled eggs. I’m still getting the hang of omelettes. (Although if you’re omelette falls apart when you try to flip it you can just stir it up a little more and make it look like an intentional scramble.)

          Scrambled eggs are braindead easy if you don’t care about having them a particular way — you don’t even need to worry about whether the pan is hot enough. If you do care then yes its a bit harder but I think a bit of practice is all it takes, at least for the more basic preparations like scrambled and over-easy.

          And in you’re preferred cooking style, there is of course the option of hard-boiling eggs. 😛

          • BeefSnakStikR says:

            Yeah, I guess I kind of agree…but eggs (at least among fried foods) still burn faster than pretty much anything else.

            You can leave meat on the griddle a little while longer and the crispiness is tasty, but fry eggs for a few seconds too long and the eggs are gross. (Maybe I turn my stove on too high.)

          • CatCube says:

            @BeefSnakStikR

            I suspect that it’s too high heat. Fried eggs shouldn’t go from “done” to “horrendous” in a few seconds.

            I have to use no more than med-low on my stove or I have problems frying eggs, but they’re not hard once you get the temperature right. As you note, it’s easy to get impatient waiting for the stove to heat at relatively low settings, but it pays off in not having burned food.

        • beleester says:

          If you aren’t willing to sit and watch eggs cook on low heat, here’s a trick I learned: Make a single-egg omelette and turn the burner up to high. The egg will flash-fry basically as soon as it touches the pan. Add cheese, fold, and serve. Doesn’t require any waiting, but it doesn’t work with more than 2 eggs because the egg gets too thick to cook evenly.

          Also, get a kitchen timer so you don’t forget about things.

          • BeefSnakStikR says:

            I’ve always cooked eggs on high, I’ve never been able to fold eggs consistently (I’m awful at pancakes as well). It’s not that I’m not waiting long enough, it’s a coordination thing that I guess I should practice.

            Also, get a kitchen timer so you don’t forget about things.

            I do have one, I just forget to use it 😀

          • Eric Rall says:

            You can scale this to a much larger number of eggs if you start the eggs at or above room temperature rather than at refrigerator temperatures. I usually warm mine up in a sous vide set to 130 F, but a bowl or pot of hot tap water will work almost as well. This adds some lead time to the process (about half an hour), but it’s a passive step that doesn’t require your active attention.

          • BeefSnakStikR says:

            @Eric Rall: That’s good/interesting advice. Since I don’t know much about cooking, it’s amazing that such a small thing can make a difference.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Sure, you can use beans (that aren’t soybeans) or lentils or cheese as a supplement to meat; sometimes I do that myself. Or you can have them by themselves, which is cheaper. That’s the secret of cheap vegetarian cooking.

      For some ballpark figures, you can get a sixteen-ounce can of black beans, with ~25 grams of protein, for $1; if you want to be even cheaper, you can get dried beans and soak them yourself.

    • AG says:

      I think they mean it more by simple volume: the $7 that 3 pork chops cost can buy you a whole lotta raw produce.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        I guess so, but that still depends on what you’re buying…but I mean, you could buy a kilo of ham for $10, which is pretty close to (though a little more expensive than) the price of a kilo of lettuce.

    • quaelegit says:

      At least for me, when I hear ‘vegetarianism is cheaper’ I think about eating out, because the prices are really easy to compare (and it’s pretty much always true that the vegetarian option will be cheaper.) Of course, cooking meat/vegetarian dishes at home is cheaper than either option eating out…

      I don’t budget to the precision of individual meals, but I would guess that when I cook vegetarian it’s cheaper because it’s usually the exact same dish without meat (e.g.: vegetarian pasta sauce is the same pasta sauce without sausage). I should note I probably have pretty low standards when it comes to cooking though…

    • fion says:

      Admittedly I’ve not put a lot of thought into this, but your comment on sausages made me think of this. That’s 6 (rather posh) vegan sausages for £1.25 with 8g of protein each. That’s about $1.66 according to Google. So for a dozen it costs $3.32. If you want to eat a little more to get up to your “10+ grams of protein” it gets up to four or five dollars, depending on how big you want the “+” to be.

      So fair enough, it’s not knockdown cheap, but it does seem to be cheaper (and these are what I think of as high-end vegan sausages (although I am kind of wondering if low-end vegan sausages exist…)).

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        Online shopping never occurred to me. That price is far less than what six veggie sausages would go for where I live (probably $8-10 from the store) so I guess they might really be luxury items here. The local stores also don’t typically carry more than one or two brands of any given vegan item.

        (I’m also in Canada, which I suddenly realized the the conversion rate is probably confounding the whole price thing too.)

        • fion says:

          I was more linking that to show the price than to suggest online shopping. But yeah, I can believe there’s variation in different places. To be fair I didn’t look up the cost of meat sausages at asda, so perhaps they’re even cheaper. Perhaps your local shops are just on the expensive side?

          (Haha, so we were both converting to a currency that neither of us use. 😛 )

    • AnarchyDice says:

      I think it depends on if you are buying soy-based fake meat (lots of processing) or buying simple ingredients like basic tofu, lentils, chickpeas, beans, and the like. Nuts are going to be much more expensive than meats, pound for pound. I am a big carnivore but also a wierdo who actually likes tofu and lentils and chickpeas enough that I’ll sometimes do lentil-rice-tofu stir-fry’s or add pan-fried tofu with miso to my ramen (along with a cut of ham or boiled egg). Are you looking for any cheap vegetarian recipes?

      Also, be careful about buying the nonsense “organic” labelled stuff if you’re finding that raising your vegetarian food bill. That is just an excuse to charge you more money for what amounts to almost exactly the same food, substituting “natural” pesticides or techniques for arbitrarily decided “artificial” pesticides or techniques. There are some that legitimately use better processes, i.e. grain fed beef needs fewer antibiotics or aquaculture greens sharing a lifecycle with fish farms or better crop rotation avoiding monocultures etc., but most are marketing gimmicks unless you care enough to research more.

      • BeefSnakStikR says:

        I am a big carnivore but also a wierdo who actually likes tofu and lentils and chickpeas enough that I’ll sometimes do lentil-rice-tofu stir-fry’s or add pan-fried tofu with miso to my ramen (along with a cut of ham or boiled egg).

        That’s pretty much me as well!

        Are you looking for any cheap vegetarian recipes?

        Cheap ingredients that I can throw together without really thinking about it, but if you have any recipes like that, go ahead!

        Re: organic food, I’ve never by tempted by it, mostly because local produce is pushed far more than organic produce where I live. (Not that I can afford either.)

        • AnarchyDice says:

          One that I do is toss rice, lentils, and a mix of frozen veggies (peas, carrots, corn, etc) in a rice cooker with an inch of water above the level of the dry goods with a scoop of condensed soup stock and a mix of seasonings. Twenty minutes later I’ve effectively got an almost fried rice that I could probably sear on a hot pan with oil if I really wanted.

          Another is a middle-eastern comfort food, Mujadarrah, which is lentils and rice (again, I cook them in the same rice cooker cycle) served with a heavy covering of fried onions and sour cream (or plain yogurt).

          One I haven’t tried yet because I like chicken shwarma too much, is to do a shwarma with chickpeas. Shwarma I make is cut up peppers, onions, chicken (or chickpeas), and seasonings all cooked in olive oil then dumped on a pita, with or without any desired lettuce, hummus, or tzatziki (plain yogurt plus garlic, lemon juice, dill, and cucumber).

          Lastly if you do fry up tofu for your ramen, an excellent seasoning to cook your slices of tofu with is a mix of sriracha, miso paste, and enough water to make it like a thick paint. Cook in oil about 1/4″ deep, flipping to brown all sides.

        • theredsheep says:

          My absolute fave vegetarian meal is my wife’s Ethiopian red lentils. It takes some setup, but if you make the spiced butter in advance it’s relatively quick. It’s pretty much the only vegetarian meal I consider as good as a meaty one.

          https://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Ethiopian-Lentil-Stew

          NB we halve the berbere, although we like spicy foods, because berbere is HOT. Wife notes that we buy our own berbere online, maybe the version they provide a recipe for is different.

  14. albatross11 says:

    Another interesting story along vaguely CW lines: The ACLU’s leadership appears to be considering backing away from their traditional commitment to protecting freedom of speech in some cases.

    If this stands, I will stop donating to the ACLU. I’ve been a member for a couple decades, despite often disagreeing with some of their other stands, because freedom of speech is important enough to ally with people whose values I don’t always share. Is there anyone else who consistently supports freedom of speech? The closest I can think of is IJ, but I think they’re more concerned with property rights and fighting back against excessive occupational licensing.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      FIRE does it for college campuses.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t have much to add except that I find this really disappointing. Should I conclude that defending the rights of the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church was really easier than defending the rights of the alt-right is now? Or has the leadership of the ACLU just changed enough that the organization’s goals have changed too?

      • Brad says:

        It’s a combination of a terrible leadership choice (in Anthony Romero) and resources curse. To elaborate on the latter, during the GWB administration money came flooding in from people concerned about civil liberties. It was than the ACLU needed to support their mission, but instead of slowing fund raising or saving for a rainy day they decided to spend on various peripheral areas. The problem is that no one likes to think of himself and his work as peripheral and these people that came in on non-civil liberties work have revolted against the organization’s actual mission.

        In my opinion the board of directors should fire substantially all of the staff and start over.

        • quanta413 says:

          I’ve been thinking about what you said, and how far down from the top do you think they should fire? Just their top guy, the top two tiers, or… ?

          The idea of firing a bunch of staff and starting over seems… really risky to me? Like potential organizational suicide. And what are the odds they wouldn’t end up in basically the same place after rebuilding anyways?

          • Brad says:

            It would be difficult to pull off. The state affiliates have separate legal personalities, there are ethical obligations for ongoing legal representations, and there would have to be donor support.

            But in in an ideal situation you’d fire almost everyone, hire a new CEO with a mission to build back up a smaller and more focused organization. With “culture fit” a key hiring criteria.

        • Brad says:

          For a counterpoint see Nadine Strossen’s response here: https://reason.com/volokh/2018/06/22/aclus-david-cole-responds-about-aclu-and

          (I have a lot of respect for her free speech absolutist bona fides.)

  15. albatross11 says:

    For those who enjoyed that op-ed in the Washington Post about whether women should hate men, here’s a longer interview with the same author where she can expand on her views.

    Personally, I wasn’t much more impressed with her reasoning here than in the previous piece, but there’s more of this, and she does expand on her views a bit.

    Apparently, she’s gotten various death threats and other nasty stuff from crazies on the internet. That’s shitty and she definitely doesn’t deserve that–nor does anyone else. The whole notion that you respond to ideas you find offensive with this kind of nastiness is awful, and it’s one of the pathologies of social media that it now takes less activation energy for some jackass to say horrible things to someone he disagrees with.

    What she *does* deserve is to have her arguments engaged with honestly by people who take her position seriously, instead of by people who shrug her off as a nutcase not worth engaging with. She makes a pretty strong case that she’s a mainstream voice in the feminist movement (even to the point of complaining about Conor Friedersdorf “mansplaining” to her in his article critiquing her op-ed, where he labels her positions as fringy). So maybe she’s in the mainstream of feminist thought, or maybe she’s on the fringes, but she probably should be taken seriously.

    • The Nybbler says:

      She posted an inflammatory op-ed in a major newspaper. That’s enough to get death threats in the pre-internet era. Now, when you don’t have to be bothered to go to the mailbox, shitty but expected.

      What she *does* deserve is to have her arguments engaged with honestly by people who take her position seriously, instead of by people who shrug her off as a nutcase not worth engaging with.

      Her position that it’s OK to hate men as a class? No, she doesn’t deserve that. Or rather, that position doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously as something to be engaged with. Without that, perhaps it would be reasonable to engage over whether it would be a good idea for men to step back from power to help women. But with the hatred included, engagement is neither deserved nor a good idea. Especially considering Friedersdorf tried and she just complained about “mansplaining”.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        That was a painful read. There is nothing to engage here. She has decided that her view is right and any disagreement is invalid. The only “engagement” acceptable to her is obedience. How else could it be? She’s written four books, you know.

        • J Mann says:

          It cracks her up to read your mansplaining drivel, Conrad Honcho. FOUR BOOKS!!!

          • albatross11 says:

            Admittedly, if she’d published FIVE books, I’d probably have to accept that she’s right. I mean, a man can only ‘splain so far.

      • albatross11 says:

        She claims to represent a large chunk of feminist thought in the interview, and from my outsider perspective, she has some legitimate claim to that–she’s a womens’ studies professor at a mainstream university, she’s the editor of a major journal in her field, etc.

        Now, I find the moral premises on which I think her argument is founded to be really awful. I also think her accounting of the evils done by men conveniently omits all the good stuff done by men[1]. And I think that as a practical matter, the advice to men who see themselves as feminist allies to step away from power seems very unlikely to lead to a world she actually wants–as Conrad pointed out, that just means that the feminist men will step away from power but the non-feminist ones won’t.

        I think it’s very common for everyone, both those who identify with feminism[2] and those who don’t, to dismiss a lot of the ideas of people like Prof. Walters as kind of silly extremism. But to the extent that these ideas are taken seriously by feminist thinkers, and taught to lots of college kids, I think that’s a mistake. For one, because IMO it gives a lot of bad ideas a pass, and for another, because it leaves some ambiguity about whom in that movement we should take seriously.

        I mean, there are crackpots[3] in moderately prominent places in my own field, so maybe she’s just an example from her own field. But neither she nor her interviewer seem to come off that way. If she’s really a crackpot pushing a fringe view of feminism, I’d like to see evidence of that. And if not, it seems like it’s worth engaging a bit with the ideas, if only to say exactly why we think they’re wrong. Ideally, with people who disagree showing us why they maybe seem wrong at first, but have some merit we’re not seeing.

        [1] If we qualify gun violence as things men are responsible for because they’re overwhelmingly done by men, how should we account for the constitution, common law, individual liberties, modern science, math, engineering and technology? (Ah, you say, but without those evil gender roles, women would have been 50% of that? Okay, but similarly (since she says gender roles are 100% socially constructed), without those evil gender roles, women would also have been 50% of whatever rape and gun violence was going on!) Similarly, rape as a tool of war is indeed done by men, but the soldiers who put an end to that sort of thing are also overwhelmingly men. Mass shooters are overwhelmingly male, and so are the SWAT teams who show up to stop them. And so on.

        This same argument works w.r.t. blacks hating whites because of all our crimes. It works if you blame whites for slavery and Jim Crow and colonialism, but not for parliamentary democracy or rule of law or the industrial revolution or the scientific method or the germ theory of disease or antibiotics or….

        But really, this is a broken way of thinking about things. I don’t get the blame for slavery, nor the credit for ending slavery–those were both done overwhelmingly by whites (though with blacks involved in some places), but they were done by *other* whites. I don’t get the blame for campus rapes or the credit for inventing the protocols on which the internet runs–those are/were done by men, but not by me.

        Behaving morally is hard enough when you’re only responsible for your own actions. There’s still a constant urge to sugar-coat your own failings, to justify your own misbehavior or those of your friends as minor missteps, to condemn your enemies’ similar behavior as monstrous. Adding in racial or gender-linked guilt seems like throwing sand in the gears of machinery that doesn’t work so well anyway.

        [2] To the extent “feminism” means wanting women to have the same right and responsibilities as men, to be treated fairly, not to be discriminated against in employment or sexually harassed or otherwise mistreated, I’m 100% on board with that. But Professor Walters seems to me to import a lot of ideological baggage that I find unworkable along with that message.

        [3] Or maybe “brilliant eccentrics” would be a better way to put it. They know a lot of technical things about the field and do good work within it, but their broader picture of the world seems seriously off-kilter to me.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I don’t dismiss her ideas as silly extremism. I dismiss them as evil, and I would close down her entire department and the entire field of “Women’s Studies” in academia if I had the power. None of that requires engaging substantively with her or her ideas, and in fact doing so just plays into her hand as she can then bring out the “mansplaining” accusations.

          • Alphonse says:

            Similarly, my reaction to her claim that she is fairly prominent among feminist circles (she is a gender studies professor, after all!) is not to look more kindly upon her, but to look less kindly upon feminism, conditional on her claim being true.

            (Which I don’t really believe. I think much of contemporary feminist thought is pretty wacky, but it would feel unfair for me to make negative inferences about feminism based on her connection to the movement without actually researching whether she is prominent in it, and I don’t care enough to find out the correct answer there.)

        • Aapje says:

          @albatross11

          Ah, you say, but without those evil gender roles, women would have been 50% of that? Okay, but similarly (since she says gender roles are 100% socially constructed), without those evil gender roles, women would also have been 50% of whatever rape and gun violence was going on!

          A major reason why I reject the vast majority of academic feminism is the prevalence of axiomatic beliefs like the one you argue against here.

          This particular belief depends on seeing humans as innately good, where socialization is a corrupting force, rather than (also) civilizing. This belief is strongly undermined by the evidence of large-scale domestic and sexual abuse by women, which is why feminist researchers tend to fight so hard to suppress, discredit and/or define away the strong evidence that women are fairly frequently abusive.

          Professor Walters’s claim that Trump is a bigot, while she is not, fully depends on her claims being fully supported by the best evidence that we have. However, her claims can only be defended by using extremely cherry picked or otherwise corrupted evidence. Furthermore, the objective evidence does show that black people commit more crime than white people, so based on her own reasoning, hating black people is justified.

          • theredsheep says:

            Incidental gripe: I always get irked by people talking about the way human beings are “naturally,” as opposed to the way society forms them. As if the two could ever be separate. You can’t separate a social animal from society. It’s like arguing that it’s natural to fish to flop around a bit and then die; it’s only when you put them in water that they swim around, eat, breed, etc.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m not really sure what there is to engage with or why anyone should bother. She’s arguing for hating men because men on average are more violent than women. But similar invalid arguments can be made for race, gender, sexuality, etc. And cherry on top, by implication she hates me. I may as well engage with racists against miscegenation who’d hate me for having tainted blood.

      I’d rather just sit over here and do my thing while she does hers.

      I don’t think there’s much chance her hopes will come true. Too many women are “fraternizing with the enemy” as they say. And women with husbands usually prefer their husbands make more money and be more powerful all else equal. Husbands don’t desire that as much from their wives on average. As long as this is true (and it shows no sign of changing), things can only change so much. I don’t think this is an unmitigated good thing. There are lots of downsides, and I could imagine more pleasant arrangements but such is life.

      • Aapje says:

        @quanta413

        Too many women are “fraternizing with the enemy” as they say.

        Indeed. I would argue that this in part explains why lesbians are so prominent in feminists leadership positions. Lesbians tend to experience substantially more downsides and fewer benefits from gender roles than heterosexual women & they don’t experience the kind of cognitive dissonance that comes from being biased against a gender and yet loving a member of that gender.

        • qwints says:

          There was a left twitter argument about that recently after a woman made the point that lesbians have a different perspective on the “Me too” movement as a class than straight and bi women.

          • Thegnskald says:

            How so?

            I could see that going either way. I know several lesbians who are less than fond of feminism, since a lot of the rhetoric hits them as collateral damage. (As a little bit of introspection suggests they may have “male gaze”, and having to date women means they are more acutely aware of both sides of the gender roles than average women)

          • qwints says:

            Here’s the original quote:

            If you are a woman who is not invested in romantically partnering or having sex with men, your view of #MeToo and its stakes is necessarily limited to the extent that it does not reflect the experience of the majority of women who, frankly, are

            There were a number of criticisms, many along the line that this quote downplayed or denied lesbians’ experience of sexual violence from men. The more interesting (to me, at least) discussion had to do with whether the #MeToo movement has had or will have a negative impact on consensual relationships and, if so, what that means.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think what Thegnskald makes more sense overall than what Aapje said although I haven’t talked to enough people. I mean, I’ve heard the radical lesbian feminist who wants to separate herself socially from all men exists. And I’ve heard that from very left wing people, so I don’t think it was some sort of weird made-up bogeyman. But that type of person is pretty rare.

            I can definitely see being lesbian making obnoxious male behavior feel even more obnoxious, but I can also see how some more innocuous things you might have sympathy for if you tend to take up the “male”-coded pursuing role. Leave out the not merely obnoxious but really bad behavior for the moment because I think that’s going to hurt almost anyone.

            Being lesbian means not dating men (assuming you’re out), which could make men less annoying to you. For example, the online dating market is definitely part dumpster fire. There are clearly enough men lacking in manners or home training or empathy to make receiving online propositions an irritating experience at best and horrifying at worst.

            Lesbian women are still going to have fathers, brothers, etc. I think these relationships are typically more positive overall than dating relationships where any single relationship can be a huge pain in the ass with little benefit.

          • lvlln says:

            If you are a woman who is not invested in romantically partnering or having sex with men, your view of #MeToo and its stakes is necessarily limited to the extent that it does not reflect the experience of the majority of women who, frankly, are

            Interesting. It seems from the interview in the top-level comment that the professor being interviewed is a lesbian. I wonder if she would buy into this argument and largely shut up and listen when straight women are talking about #MeToo in a way that she disagrees with (obviously if they talk in a way that she agrees with, it’s trivial to just shut up and listen for anyone), since she seems to be a big proponent of the whole identity-based line of arguments.

            I think what Thegnskald makes more sense overall than what Aapje said although I haven’t talked to enough people. I mean, I’ve heard the radical lesbian feminist who wants to separate herself socially from all men exists. And I’ve heard that from very left wing people, so I don’t think it was some sort of weird made-up bogeyman. But that type of person is pretty rare.

            Maybe it’s a bimodal distribution, with lesbians clustering into both perspectives, depending on their personalities?

            As an aside, I personally knew a transwoman who was a big fan of the separation idea. Her fantasy was more extreme, actually, of going off to an all-woman island, not just cutting off social ties. But, as you say, I’m pretty sure this type of person is pretty rare. Even in my social group, it wasn’t a common desire, though it was considered a reasonable one that was above criticism.

          • Aapje says:

            My argument is based on the assumption that heterosexual women generally see a percentage of sexual attention by men as pleasant & that they benefit from it in the sense that they end up in relationships due to men initiating. When they do end up in relationships, they will commonly have positive and negative experiences, but presumably more positive ones than negative, or they would leave the man.

            Those women may of course dislike the undesired attention and hold that against men, but those feelings are somewhat or fully counteracted by their positive experiences.

            Lesbians are generally not going to enjoy feeling desired by men, are much more likely to see approaches by men as negative since there is no upside to them and are going to lack positive experiences with a male partner.

            PS. quanta413 seems to argue that I claimed that lesbian feminists want to separate completely from men, but I never argued this. I merely argued that lesbians are probably more likely to experience the gender roles as unpleasant, because those benefit them less, so they are then more likely to be strongly opposed to gender roles.

    • lvlln says:

      A few random uncategorized thoughts that occurred to me while reading the interview.

      One is that she seems to have a sort of epistemic confidence that is far beyond what is justified of anyone in any field of study, much less one as soft as gender studies. In the realm of social sciences, psychology and economics are probably considered the most rigorous, and even those are filled with controversy over which theories are actually correct. Yet she seems absolutely certain of her narrative about human history being one of men as a group oppressing women, and that gender is a pure social construct in which men benefit and women, not so much. That there is enough empirical data to make a justified argument for hating an entire class of people.

      Another is that, while her tone is more acerbic than what I’m used to, the content of her speech is largely the exact same as what’s entirely mainstream among the online community of which I used to be a part. For instance:

      To ask the obvious question that you’ve probably heard a thousand times this week, I’m a man — do you hate me?

      No, my dear. I certainly do not hate you. But it’s so funny that that’s the question.

      Do I hate men? Of course I don’t hate men in some generic way. My point here was to say it makes obvious sense for women to have rage, legitimate rage, against a group of people that has systematically abused them. In the same way as if someone wrote a piece that said, Why can’t we hate white people? I would say right on. You’re absolutely right. #BecauseSlavery, #BecauseInstitutionalRacism, and the same thing here — the hashtag, as I said, #BecausePatriarchy.

      That sentence “But it’s so funny that that’s the question” fits into a very common trope of responses when someone expresses hatred or outrage at all men or white people or straight people or cis people and then gets push back, which is expressing bemusement that their outrage is what the questioner is concerned about, instead of the very real problem that their rage is a product of. Her justification is basically identical.

      Another thing that stood out to me was this exchange:

      I’m guessing that you disliked Trump’s generalization about Mexico sending “their rapists.” Yet aren’t you generalizing about all men? Is it wrong to criticize Mexican men but OK to criticize all men?

      I have to say, I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. In fact, Trump was completely wrong — I mean, just empirically inaccurate. That’s not who’s coming over the border. There’s no overrepresentation among Mexican-Americans in rape statistics. What I am saying about male violence and male prerogative is empirically accurate. When you’re generalizing with accuracy, that’s what we call sociology. So I have to say that is a completely false comparison.

      Now, leaving aside the question of whether or not it makes sense to interpret Trump’s statement as generalizing about all Mexican-Americans, she actually seems to be conceding the point that Trump would have been correct to generalize Mexican-Americans as “rapists” if the stats had gone the other way. That is, her belief that it’d be bad to call Mexican-Americans “rapists” is contingent upon them as a population not committing rape at a disproportionately high rate – it is very specifically not dependent upon a belief in individuality and the idea that people should be judged by their own actions, not in the actions of others in the same class as them.

      And then I think more about the question of how “mainstream” she is in the modern feminist movement. Now, it seems at least evident to me that feminists as a whole aren’t going around explicitly promoting a “hatred” of all men the same way that she is. But there seems to be an underlying ideology that she subscribes to which I do think is mainstream within modern feminism. Which is the idea of splitting people off into classes (or actually, as she says in the interview, claiming that an oppressive society has already split people off into classes, which is just being pointed out) and analyzing everything at that level.

      And at least in that sense, I get the feeling that she is representative of modern mainstream feminism. This bothers me as a feminist, since that would mean that I’m closer to the fringes of the movement.

      It’s harder to say how much this part also applies, but I also see an underlying theme of a complete lack of epistemic humility. The confidence with which these people claim that their narratives about reality are empirically supported, I would think ought to be reserved for things like evolution or the germ theory of disease.

      Finally, this part:

      If we divide everyone by gender, class, religion, race, sexuality, etc., when do we stop? After all, isn’t the individual the ultimate minority?

      It’s not me doing the dividing. Look, as a feminist activist and scholar, to the extent that we can break apart these binary oppositions — of gender, of race — obviously it’s all to the good. We need more fluidity. But as long as that is operative, you can’t pretend it doesn’t have effects. Right? You obviously can have a vision of a world in which gender is not even a meaningful category. Listen, I would love to live in that world. I spend 90 percent of my time as a feminist professor trying to imagine that world. But at the same time that you imagine that, you also have to live with the reality of how gender demeans, constructs, produces power, constrains. You can’t pretend it doesn’t.

      That she outright states – almost proudly, it seems – that she spends 90% of her time as a feminist professor “trying to imagine that world” seems particularly damning. “Trying to imagine” some fantasy utopia is not what I’d consider something that someone with the position of “professor” to do, at least not 90% of the time, or even 51% of the time, if we interpret her 90% as hyperbole. Presuming that the fantasy utopia is within the professor’s field, I’d want her to spend most of her time doing actual meaningful research – preferably with empirical testing – on how to achieve that utopia, or the potential pitfalls of achieving that utopia. Or teaching the stuff related to what’s actually known about it and/or the methodologies for acquiring that knowledge.

      Spending time imagining is certainly important. For instance, an AIDS cure researcher should definitely spend some time trying to think up mechanisms of how a cure would work. But spending 90% – or even 51% – of one’s time doing it would be a bad sign. Most of the time should be spent actually testing their imagination against reality by actually checking the biology of the imagined cure in actual labs using actual cells and actual chemicals.

      Spending most of her time “imagining” the utopia and that she’s so sure that she “would love to live in that world” pattern matches to things in history that I think I would rather not repeat.

      • albatross11 says:

        One is that she seems to have a sort of epistemic confidence that is far beyond what is justified of anyone in any field of study, much less one as soft as gender studies.

        This seems to me to be a very common thing in online articles and political discussions from a feminist or critical race theory perspective. That is, you start out with a very complicated and probably impossible-to-verify model of society that you want to use to explain why I should support your side of a political or social debate, and then you get *really angry* when I don’t accept your model or when I question it. Sometimes, you respond by telling me you’re not responsible for educating me. Other times, it’s that I don’t have standing (as a straight white man) to question it. Still other times, it’s that I’m ignorant for not knowing about (and accepting) this model’s correctness, and that I will not be allowed to derail the conversation.

        Now, what I don’t know is whether this is also the approach within these fields, or if this is just what happens when someone’s trying to make a political argument and attacking the other side for disputing them is just the best tactic they can think of.

        • Aapje says:

          Now, what I don’t know is whether this is also the approach within these fields

          My experience is that scholars in gender studies have extremely little interest in doing empirical research. Instead, they seem to be mainly interested in describing those “complicated and probably impossible-to-verify model[s] of society” that you speak of. I would classify gender studies as being far more similar to philosophy than to economics or sociology. I would also rate the quality of the philosophy as being very low. For example, one of the most prominent gender studies scholars is Judith Butler, who derived a model of gender from Freud’s beliefs. That’s like having a modern scholar derive a model of psychics from Aristotle.

          There are feminist scholars in other fields, who do engage in empirical research. However, those seem to very frequently tailor their empirical research to their model, rather than the other way around and even worse, demand that others do so too.

          Murray A. Straus was a domestic violence researcher who, in frustration, wrote a paper about his experiences with Social Justice. The beginning of the paper goes over the evidence for gender symmetry in Domestic violence, but starting on page 339, he describes ways in which feminist researchers introduce bias in their research to make it compatible with ‘the narrative,’ as well as the policing done to researchers who make claims that are inconsistent with the (dominant) feminist narrative.

    • DavidS says:

      Her dismissal of Conor in that way suggests it’s pretty pointless to engage with her tbh.

      I generally disapprove of calls for people to ‘speak out agaibst’ their ideological Kim but given she basically says ‘he’s not allowed to criticise me as I’m a gender studies prof of 30 years standing ‘ in this case I’d find it reassuring if someone did.

      Though demonstrating the stopped clock principle it seems she was on the right side in the Tuvel case and wrote a piece on that. So some good karma there.

    • skef says:

      She makes a pretty strong case that she’s a mainstream voice in the feminist movement (even to the point of complaining about Conor Friedersdorf “mansplaining” to her in his article critiquing her op-ed, where he labels her positions as fringy).

      Well, you’re attributing a strong case to her. The relevant passage seems to be:

      Some guy at The Atlantic is going to mansplain me the principles of feminism? A feminist professor of 30-plus years, who has written four books? I mean, seriously? It’s the ultimate in hubris. I read that and I cracked up. It is Exhibit A of mansplaining drivel.

      Think of Peterson. He’s a professor of psychology who has published a number of books in the context of that career*. Is he a “mainstream voice in academic psychology”?

      The relevant question is whether the views she expresses in the op-ed and this article are mainstream. Better evidence for that would be a substantial number of other feminist academics saying “Yes, these are common views in the field” (rather than, say, “we deplore how this person is being treated”).

      *I’m counting “Maps of Meaning” and “Personality and it’s Transformation” — an essay collection.

      • Aapje says:

        @skef

        The lack of feminist academics openly rejecting her beliefs is also evidence.

        It’s relatively easy to argue that Jordan Peterson doesn’t speak for the majority of psychologist, given the push-back he has gotten.

        With, there

      • lvlln says:

        I think, inasmuch as Peterson talks about academic psychology, he does represent a mainstream voice in it. That is, the stuff he says about psychometrics, big-5 factor model, personality, and intelligence fit in pretty well with what I understand as being mainstream academic psychology from what research I’ve done into the field.

        His philosophies and worldview, not so much.

        So perhaps one could claim that her theories about analyzing people as groups that fit into power structures and claims about history being filled with one-sided patriarchal oppression of women by men is mainstream in academic feminism, but perhaps her calls to hate men (or white people because slavery) isn’t. In the same way that, say, women being higher on trait neuroticism than men is mainstream academic psychology, but the claim that the bible holds deep truths isn’t.

        Then again, it seems like the above group-level analysis of people + claims about history of oppression is really tightly linked to calling for hatred of men/whites – it’s a pretty obvious single logical step from the former to the latter – in a way that the current empirical research of psychology isn’t to Maps of Meaning (caveat: I haven’t read that book and really only have pieced together what it probably claims from the stuff Peterson has said and other people’s analysis of the book).

    • gbdub says:

      So she’s a multi-published feminist professor of 30 plus years, and the only argument she can muster against Conor Friedersdorf is “he has a penis, so he must be wrong”? Frankly that’s the most damning critique of her scholarship.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is the fundamental reason that people here don’t like social justice and social justice is not especially fond of a lot of the people here: in the worldview here, facts are facts and arguments from identity are bad. To the social justice worldview, that’s an attempt to snooker people who are on the bottom and kept there, to think that everything is fair, when it’s not. You could probably try to synthesize the two, but it would be weird.

        • AG says:

          The synthesis is about nuance: that a lot of what people think are “facts” are actually strongly influenced by identity. At the early stages, the social justice intersectionality/privilege framework wasn’t that different in prose from Yudkowsky’s exhortations to think about the things we don’t even realize bias us. Of course, LW’s intent for that was to remove assumptions of how an orthogonal AI would think, whereas SJ’s intent was to remove assumptions on how fair current society is.

          In execution, of course, LW’s exhortations to think about the things that bias us led to a bunch of people convinced that AI research is the greatest altruism, while SJ’s exhortations to think about the things that bias us mean that the “facts” have been settled and are not to be questioned.

          • gbdub says:

            “The synthesis is about nuance: that a lot of what people think are “facts” are actually strongly influenced by identity.”

            An argument from identity that went “Conor’s argument is flawed because his male perspective prevents him from seeing X” is one thing. (Then again, she’d be just as vulnerable to an argument of biased perspective, as CF correctly notes that her perspective neglects male victimization as well as male efforts to rein in other males).

            But “mansplain” here is just a snarl, my-identity-is-valid-and-yours-isn’t. If the term has any value at all, it’s to describe a man who condescendingly assumes that a woman doesn’t know something because she’s a woman and needs it explained to her. But that maps basically not at all to what CF’s article is.

          • albatross11 says:

            Whether or not her views are mainstream feminist views, the quality of her thought as demonstrated in the op-ed and the interview, combined with the prominence within her field, do not reflect well on Womens’ Studies as a field.

            On the other hand, it’s quite possible that her books, lectures, and academic articles are of much higher quality. As a parallel example, Thomas Sowell is a serious thinker and scholar from whose books I’ve learned a lot, but his newspaper columns were pretty generic Republican yay-my-team exercises. If I had judged his intellectual quality from those columns, I’d never have read any of his books.

          • skef says:

            combined with the prominence within her field, do not reflect well on Womens’ Studies as a field.

            prominence within her field?

            There’s a job called “university professor”. It has some unusual characteristics, and it’s hard to get now but wasn’t nearly as hard in the 90s. One of the requirements for employment past 5 years or so is that you publish some stuff, and promotion after that usually depends on publishing some more stuff. Other people will cite your work depending on how useful it is.

            Look at Walters on Google Scholar, feminism isn’t even her primary specialty — most of her work is in queer theory and LGB history more generally. Nothing in that article or that has been brought up in other messages on this or the other thread suggests she is a “prominent feminist scholar”.

          • gbdub says:

            “Nothing in that article or that has been brought up in other messages on this or the other thread suggests she is a “prominent feminist scholar”.”

            Which is I think basically the point Conor Friedersdorf was making more politely, so I think Walters would say you’re mansplaining here. Unless you’re a woman, in which case you’ve internalized misogyny and should also be ignored.

            And either way, she self-identifies as a “feminist professor” so regardless of what category you think her scholarship falls under, I think you’re dangerously close to questioning the authenticity of her experience…

            (to be clear here, I agree with you that Walters should not be taken to be particularly representative of feminist scholarship, which is why I made a point of saying that the poor quality and content-free nature of her rebuttal against Friedersdorf implicated her scholarship. Basically, you, me, and Conor are all on the same page in thinking she’s fringy).

          • skef says:

            Edit: Sorry, I now see you’re not saying what I took you to be saying. But I don’t understand how your post was a response to what I was saying. I haven’t defended her views at all; I’ve only responded to an attempt to build her up into some sort of symbol of feminism in order to discredit feminism, which just doesn’t work. That’s all I’ve argued.

            Which is I think basically the point Conor Friedersdorf was making more politely, so I think Walters would say you’re mansplaining here.

            Please stop and think specifically about what point you’re trying to make right now.

            Walters sees and/or portrays herself as a prominent feminist scholar. Is the argument supposed to be:

            Feminist principles that Walters cites support the principle that we should trust her word on this. Therefore we should trust her word on this, and she is a prominent feminist scholar. And given that her arguments are bad, that calls all feminist scholarship into question.

            This doesn’t work. If the scholarship is bad then the principles are bad. If the principles are bad then we shouldn’t automatically trust that she is a prominent feminist scholar because she thinks or says she is.

            There are any number of gotchas of her specifically that can be constructed out of these editorials. But there’s no way to grandmother* her own self-perception into an indictment of the whole field without some reference to the field itself. At most you might get a dig in at standpoint theory, but since her claim amounts to “I am prominent in my field”, the literature could easily go either way on that — relative power is considered to decrease understanding rather than increase it.

            In what other domain would you or anyone take someone’s unsupported claim of great influence at face value?

            * I went there.

          • gbdub says:

            I am just facetiously imagining her response to your dismissal of her, to emphasize how dumb her “mansplaining” argument is, and how pointless it is to engage her on her own terms (I’m not trying to “respond” to you if by “respond” you mean contradict your argument).

            “In what other domain” would we “or anyone” accept her claims of influence at face value?

            Well, in her domain of course, which is apparently a particular flavor of social justice feminist / queer studies. As for anyone, I suspect she’s got colleagues.

            I don’t think she’s particularly influential, I don’t think she should be. But I also don’t think her ideas are original or unique to her – she may not be a major influencer, but she’s clearly not a pariah either.

          • Randy M says:

            An argument from identity that went “Conor’s argument is flawed because his male perspective prevents him from seeing X” is one thing.

            Right, this is an important point. Identity is not evidence. Identity may be a tool you can use to uncover evidence or reconsider evidence.

            “As a women, I have seen the following examples of sexism first hand” is a fine start to an argument (although admittedly only anecdotal, that’s not nothing)

            “Sexism is a woman’s issue, so evidence that men present is invalid” is a fallacy. If you steelman this into “your gender affects your interpretation of events” it becomes something worth considering, but it cannot be reduced down to “man, so ignore” and have any validity.

            That’s as far as I’m willing to go towards a synthesis of identity arguments and facts & reason arguments.

          • albatross11 says:

            Isn’t she the editor of a pretty major journal in the gender studies field?

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            I think one point of confusion for me is that I don’t really have a good map in my head of the differences between feminism, gender studies, queer theory, etc.[1] They all kind-of seem closely related to me, as an outsider. They appear to involve a lot of overlap of people and ideology and techniques.

            What would a mainstream feminist position on the proper behavior of men in politics look like? Or a mainstream feminist position on the extent to which one man shares the blame for (or responsibility for fixing) the bad things done by other men? Would her position that gender roles are 100% learned and cultural be a mainstream position among feminists? How would I tell, as an outsider?

            The reason I am reacting to her commentary is partly because she seems like a serious person from her role in the world, and partly because the same moral principles she seems to be using in her op-ed appear *all the time* in public debates and discussions surrounding feminism, gay rights, race theory, etc.

            [1] I suppose this is a bit like someone on the left not being clear on the differences between neo-Nazis, white nationalists, human b–diversity types, alt-right provocateurs who are actually pretty generic Republicans, Trump supporters, Alex Jones, etc.

        • albatross11 says:

          My sense is that there’s a broad movement of people (largely but not entirely within the SJW world) who accept the idea that you can and should evaluate an argument partly based on the class from which the arguer comes–that an argument about Affirmative Action from a black person has greater weight somehow than one from a white person, that an argument about abortion has more weight when it comes from a woman than from a man, etc.

          There’s a Motte-and-Bailey commonly employed here:

          The Motte: Blacks often have more personal understanding of racial issues than whites since those issues affect them more, so they’re probably worth listening to about that stuff.

          The Bailey: Whites have no standing to discuss these issues and should remain silent on them or follow the lead of blacks on these issues.

          And I think one thing that strengthens this alternative (and fundamentally broken) worldview is that most of us who believe that logic and evidence matter and the identity or class of the speaker doesn’t, have a hard time taking the other side seriously. I mean, if you study logic at all, you learn right away that who you are doesn’t have anything to do with the correctness of your arguments–what matters is whether your logic is sound and your premises are correct. Similarly, as a scientist, mathematician, engineer, doctor, etc., what matters is whether you are actually right–whether your claims are consistent with the available evidence, whether your proof is valid, whether your bridge stands up or falls down, whether your patients get better or die. That’s actually why most people in the STEM world are receptive to arguments that we’re excluding women and minorities–we basically all agree that what should matter is being right and getting things to work, not who you are.

          But the other side–the folks who think that who you are should determine whether your argument gets heard or how much weight it’s given–they get to teach a lot of classes, including required classes at many universities. And they manage to convince a lot of people of this idea, because this idea is actually a lot more in keeping with human nature than logic.

          Logic, math, science, and probability theory are incredibly unnatural–tribalism, deciding who’s right based on group status, social proof–those things are basically what our brains are evolved for.

          An irony here is that if this idea had been accepted widely by the WASPs mainly in charge of things 100 years ago, their would be neither women nor people of color welcome in science or math or technology or philosophy or anything else. The whole reason why anyone who’s not a white man was ever allowed into the academic world was because most of that world accepted, at least in principle (if not always in practice), that we should evaluate peoples’ arguments based on their logic and evidence, rather than on their gender or race or religion.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But the other side–the folks who think that who you are should determine whether your argument gets heard or how much weight it’s given–they get to teach a lot of classes, including required classes at many universities. And they manage to convince a lot of people of this idea, because this idea is actually a lot more in keeping with human nature than logic.

            That’s a problem the government could do a lot to fix by dissolving (noun) Studies and Sociology departments at all publicly-funded universities. I don’t understand why Republicans don’t attempt this… do they just like losing the Culture War?

          • Nornagest says:

            And while we’re wishing, I’d like a pony.

            But snark aside, the Democrats would react to that roughly like the Republicans would react to an omnibus ban on semiautomatic weapons, NASCAR, and steak. And they’d be right to: it’s a direct legislative attack on Blue values and institutions. There is an argument that tax money should not have been diverted to Blue institution-building in the first place, and I’m even somewhat sympathetic to it, but I really don’t want to put Congress in the position of regularly deciding what is and isn’t too political for the academy. That way lies Lysenkoism and other terrible things.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Ehhh… I’d argue tooth and nail that dissolving Departments of leftist indoctrination is different from dictating content. Keep a fence up against dismissing all the leftist professors of English/foreign languages, which together with STEM and economics would constitute the legitimate objects of tertiary education. If you want a degree in homeopathy or gender studies, go do it without tax funding.

          • Do governments get to dictate journalistic content as well, in your utopia?

          • Nornagest says:

            @TAG — Less snark, please.

            @LMC —

            Ehhh… I’d argue tooth and nail that dissolving Departments of leftist indoctrination is different from dictating content.

            The modal Democrat doesn’t see them as Departments of leftist indoctrination, is the problem. They really, truly believe that they’re products of free academic inquiry. Maybe not unbiased inquiry, but there’s a meme floating around that bias in research can’t be avoided or even minimized, and that the best we can do is to have those perspectives represented.

            I don’t buy the narrative re: bias, but they do have a point about inquiry — sociology and $STUDIES is not propaganda in the sense of being cynically manipulative messaging from the Secret Masters of Leftism. We just happen to have talked ourselves into a situation where a good chunk of the academy spends all its time polishing identity grievances.

            That is not a good thing, and we could maybe have a conversation about why it’s happening and whether anything can be done about it. But if we’re talking academic freedom seriously at all, that “anything” can’t consist of a GOP Congress telling half the country that the fields their tribe wants to study are illegitimate. You need to make the case that they are illegitimate first, for that not to be a tremendous escalation in the culture war, and you need to make it to Blue Tribe, not to Reds and STEM partisans that’re more than half convinced anyway.

          • Nick says:

            I don’t buy the narrative re: bias, but they do have a point about inquiry — sociology and $STUDIES is not propaganda in the sense of being cynically manipulative messaging from the Secret Masters of Leftism. We just happen to have gotten ourselves into a situation where a good chunk of the academy has talked itself into spending all its time polishing identity grievances.

            Getting into academia To Change The World (TM) was the very deliberate plan of a lot of degree seekers in these fields, was it not? That’s not to say it was some kind of conspiracy or even that it was coordinated, of course.

            But that aside, one angle on this problem I’ve heard a few times is that the ideological conformity of these fields is due less to actual persecution and more to the perception that there is or will be persecution, which is driving away conservatives who might otherwise pursue such a career. We all know of the Lindsay Shepherd case by now, but how many of those really occur?

            What interaction I’ve had with, say, sociology, has been very positive and worthwhile. I’ve been selective about what I engage with, but I think conservatives could find things of value in those left-dominated fields, and that doesn’t require capitulation to Marxism or identity politics or anything.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s valuable stuff in sociology. Even Eliezer, who’s nobody’s critical theorist, would agree with me in this — a lot of the Sequences consists of repackaged sociology concepts. The problem is more that it’s promiscuously mixed with weak or biased or outright tendentious material and narratives, and that the intellectual frameworks modern sociologists favor don’t (arguably can’t) filter it very well.

            I haven’t found as much value in those $STUDIES fields that I’ve been exposed to, but then again I haven’t been exposed to as much of them.

          • albatross11 says:

            Having politicians decide what academic subjects to defund on ideological grounds seems about a zillion times more likely to end badly than to end well. This is like giving yourself cancer to cure your cold.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nick

            Inbar & Lammers found evidence for large scale self-admitted discrimination against conservatives in social psychology though.

            Note that it can both be true that there are quite a few academics who favor more diversity of beliefs, while simultaneously, most potential hiring of heterodox academics will be blocked by one of the members of a hiring committee.

          • Aapje says:

            @albatross11

            Is it much better if academics are deciding what academic subjects to defund based on ideological grounds?

          • quanta413 says:

            If the government funded NASCAR, semiautomatic rifles for hunting, and steak, there’d be a strong argument for the government cutting that funding off. None of those things are important government functions. Sort of like how funding fancy high school football stadiums is often a waste. If the federal government seized more control of schools and forced funding away from football and towards math tutors, that might be an improvement.

            Maybe there can be a hate trade. The conservatives get to slice and dice Marxist departments they hate, and liberals get to obliterate the football programs of universities and high schools leaving the NFL to fund its own minor league where young boys and men accumulate brain damage. We won’t save much money from getting rid of the blah-studies departments, but we’ll save a a pretty good chunk by not bothering with football. I fully expect both things to survive mind you. Just with less taxpayer money and more funding from the actual consumers.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the government funded NASCAR, semiautomatic rifles for hunting, and steak, there’d be a strong argument for the government cutting that funding off.

            If the government funded NASCAR, semiautomatic rifles, and steak, the argument for cutting that funding off would be extremely weak, on account of that funding would have accrued a collection of interests and lobbyists who, coupled with the existing cultural interests and their lobbying arms, would serve as a nigh-immovable object in the face of any finite force you might motivate for change. The argument to do a thing that is doomed to fail, is almost always a weak one.

            Unless by “strong argument” you meant “argument persuasive to doctrinaire libertarians”, in which case who cares?

            There was once a strong argument that the government shouldn’t start funding aggrieved-people studies departments at colleges and universities, but that argument wasn’t made then and it’s too late now.

          • quanta413 says:

            Unless by “strong argument” you meant “argument persuasive to doctrinaire libertarians”, in which case who cares?

            Obviously I don’t mean politically strong. It’s often hard to make politically strong arguments even against obvious net negatives for typical public choice theory reasons that you allude to.

            But I don’t mean just doctrinaire libertarians would find these programs questionable either. Almost all economists agree tariffs are bad, but we have them anyways. But economists have a pretty broad range of political opinions.

            Any successful plan would involve roundabout capture of major institutions, and not something silly like trading cuts to programs (no politicians do that, they trade for subsidies). But I still find the idea amusing.

          • John Schilling says:

            But I don’t mean just doctrinaire libertarians would find these programs questionable either. Almost all economists agree tariffs are bad, but we have them anyways. But economists have a pretty broad range of political opinions.

            On many subjects, yes.

            On the wisdom of the government funding higher education and academic research, I think there’s a very strong consensus for that and going way beyond just economists.

            And on the government not micromanaging academia in terms of what research it does, on a standard of academic freedom that allows professors to teach classes in anything they can get students to sign up for, that’s also a pretty broad and strong consensus.

            So I think it really is going to be mostly the libertarians or at least the libertarian-adjacent who sign on to “the government should cut off funding to university departments that teach stuff the government doesn’t think is worthwhile”, and they’re going to want to cut government funding for stuff the government does think is worthwhile too.

            Otherwise, you’re back to straight tribalism, and our society is too neatly polarized for that to be a strong argument against a status quo.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            And on the government not micromanaging academia in terms of what research it does

            What is the definition of ‘research’ that the government should let academia fund? Can they just do anything?

            Furthermore, the government does micromanage gender ‘equality’ using Title IX. Is demanding ideological equality really that much different? We have papers that show evidence of substantial ideological discrimination. Does the government have a right to combat discrimination on universities?

            I mean, this is my objection to these the current leftism in general, the principles get applied so self-servingly and hypocritically that it is hard to even call them principles.

          • John Schilling says:

            What is the definition of ‘research’ that the government should let academia fund? Can they just do anything?

            Practically speaking, they can do just about anything that doesn’t involve expensive laboratory facilities, unwilling students, radical short-term changes in the makeup of the faculty, or openly suborning criminal behavior. Almost certainly they can make up new fields of study to teach classes and award degrees in, if there are students willing to sign up for them, and do so using money the government earmarked in the vague expectation it would be used to teach more traditionally useful subjects.

            Maybe we shouldn’t have set that last precedent in particular, but we did and we’re pretty much stuck with it.

            Furthermore, the government does micromanage gender ‘equality’ using Title IX. Is demanding ideological equality really that much different?

            Yes, in that Title IX does not generally involve telling professors what they can and can not teach.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s worth noting that research on the partisan bias in sociology, the replication crisis in the social sciences, heritability of IQ and racial IQ differences, personality differences across genders, etc., has been done in the existing system. Giving more power to politicians to shut down lines of research they dislike seems at least as likely to kill those lines or research as others.

            Learning about reality and thinking hard about society, morality, etc., is inevitably going to be uncomfortable sometimes. It’s going to undermine cherished beliefs of lots of voters, it’s going to lead to uncomfortable questions, it’s sometimes going to lend support to people and policies you abhor. And yet, shutting that process down is a way of making ourselves and our whole society dumber. I think that would be the result of making the decision of what subjects would be taught in college more of a political question.

          • Nick says:

            Aapje,

            Thanks, I was unaware of that paper (and embarrassingly, I can’t find what I’d read before which came to the self-selection conclusion).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            if there are students willing to sign up for them

            And if they aren’t, make it a graduation requirement

          • Nick says:

            And if they aren’t, make it a graduation requirement

            Ouch! I actually had requirements for my degree which included taking a diversity class and a class about non-Western civilizations (I went to a private Catholic university; the requirements were part of the core curriculum). Fortunately, while my sociology class was marked diversity, we mostly discussed stuff like James Scott and Neuwirth’s informal economy. How common is it for a public university to require classes like that?

        • Viliam says:

          To make a synthesis of Less Wrong and Social Justice, you could start from “Typical mind fallacy” and “Corrupted hardware“. Because the steelman/motte of SJ is that (1) different types of people have different type of experience; but (2) people are likely to automatically assume that everyone’s experience resembles their own, and sometimes other people’s descriptions of their experience sound quite unlikely; and (3) sometimes people refuse to listen to other people’s experience because doing so brings them an advantage — if the society is unfair in your favor, refusing to admit this fact allows you to keep the advantages while thinking about yourself as a fair person living in a fair world.

          Then of course there is the bailey of SJ, which says that privilege is always unidirectional (e.g. if “male privilege” exists, it implies that “female privilege” does not exist, ever), and that belonging to the advantaged group irreparably cripples your epistemology while belonging to the disadvantaged group gives you epistemic superpowers (e.g. a man could never understand an experience of a woman, not even approximately, not even if the woman tried to explain; but of course any woman, especially if she is a feminist, is automatically an infallible expert on everything about men’s experience — and if a man disagrees with certain description, obviously he must be wrong). I don’t see how this could be supported rationally, and I don’t even think it should.

          The rational version of SJ would probably conclude that privilege can be partial (e.g. men can have advantage in X, while women in Y), context-depended (e.g. the specific disadvantages of being a woman can wildly differ in different cultures and subcultures; or that white people can be a majority in country A, but a minority in country B). I also find it likely that the rational SJ would rediscover the rich privilege (e.g. that being a billionaire black lesbian lady is probably better than being a white straight homeless guy). Etc.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            @ Viliam:

            This is really excellent.

            There’s at least one more piece, and I’m not sure how to file it under fallacies.

            Social Justice doesn’t really privilege women’s voices (or poc voices or disabled voices). It privileges the voices that agree with it. It is simply not possible in a social justice environment to say that men haven’t treated me that badly. Or that women have been a worse problem in some ways.

            There was a lot collected about street harassment– I think we could have a world map of where there was more or less street harassment, but this wasn’t permissible for a number of reasons, and the strongest one was probably the SJ wants to believe that every bad thing is equally bad. Secondarily, some of the worse places are predominantly poc. I’m pretty bitter that the information wasn’t quantified and mapped.

            Men who were sexually abused, whether by men or women, were shut out of the MeToo movement This is a somewhat different problem, but related.

            SJ has actually been good for me because I was pushed to listen to more voices…. it’s just that in my case, it turned out to more voices than they intended.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKUSk9krGqA&t=1819s

      An ex-feminist explains why the original WaPo piece is wrong. I confess that she’s repetitious enough that I haven’t listened to the whole thing, but I’ve liked a good bit of her earlier videos.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I listened to the rest of the video. A lot of her point is that most men are pretty wonderful, and shouldn’t be conflated with criminal men.

  16. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    So, I’ve been meaning to comment on the ongoing game of SSC Diplomacy, particularly to try and illustrate the game for people who have never played it. I wanted to wait a bit to let the game get good and advanced, though, because players could read my analysis and change their behavior based on it – and I don’t want to actually affect the game. So! Now that the game is into 1906, I think I can safely comment on 1901.

    For those of you just tuning in, Diplomacy is a game of 7 players roughly simulating the First World War. Armies and navies attempt to seize supply centers, which allow you to build more armies and navies – however, it takes superior numbers to dislodge a defending piece, and all pieces from every player move simultaneously. The result is that players must negotiate alliances with each other and work together to overcome their rivals, but the potential for backstabs is always lurking just around the corner. Lying, cheating, and playing dirty is not necessarily encouraged but an accepted risk of playing.

    Here are the moves for Fall, 1901. Play moves in phases – Spring -> Fall -> Winter. Whatever Supply Centers (SCs) are occupied by a player’s piece in the fall is captured by that player, and he can support as many pieces as he has supply centers, so this is the first round of the game where we’ll start to see territorial changes.

    England had a good opening year. The fleet in the North Sea was able to steam into Oslo and (after a bit of shelling of the capital’s forts) Norway accepted English occupation. At the same time, the BEF was carried across the Channel and landed on the Belgian coast. England gains 2 supply centers, allowing John Bull to build 2 more units this winter. The fleet in the Channel is a pretty anti-French move, given the easy access to France’s coast, particularly Brest, while Norway is a standard capture.

    France also had two captures in the first year. The French fleet out of Brest crossed the Bay of Biscay and anchored itself in Lisbon harbor, French marines going ashore and quickly seizing the important facilities. At the same time, a French army crossed the Pyrenees and forced Spain to accept French suzerainty, a move which has certainly never backfired for France. The border with Germany was less happy, however – Joffre’s assault into Alsace-Lorraine met with the Kaiserheer thrusting south from the Ruhr and suffered heavy casualties – Germany holds Munich for now.

    Germany, for its part, quickly seized Denmark with its fleet for “urgent reasons of national security,” and a second army marched into Holland, quickly bypassing the Dutch defense lines and securing the whole country in a matter of days. The main army was embroiled in defensive combat along the French frontier, so Germany captures 2 centers this year as well.

    The western triad looks like it’s shaking down into an Anglo-German alliance against France. It’s possible that the Franco-German clash around Munich was staged for the benefit of observers, and in reality the two will cooperate against England. More likely, is the straightforward German-English cooperation against France.

    France is a tough nut to crack, however. If France builds armies in Paris and in Marseilles, she can hold Burgundy through 1902 at least. At the same time, she can deny England access to the Mid-Atlantic Ocean until at least the fall with her fleet. that said, superior German and English numbers will eventually prevail – France has to defend Burgundy, Picardy, Brest, and the Mid-Atlantic Ocean and she doesn’t have enough units to hold all of those spaces at once. Eventually the alliance should be able to prise France out of her shell.

    I must note here that I don’t love Germany’s move to the Heligoland Bight in the spring 1901. That fleet could have moved directly to Denmark in the spring. By moving to the Bight, Germany retains the flexibility of moving to Denmark or Holland, while gaining access to the North Sea – but it can occupy Holland with an army, and the North Sea will certainly be occupied by an English fleet on the same turn. By not moving to Denmark, Germany gives up all leverage with Russia in the fall – a German fleet in Denmark can stand Russia out of Sweden in the fall, denying the Tsar a build at no risk at all to Germany, which is a good tool in the toolbox for negotiations with Russia. I don’t like giving up that leverage unless I have a much better use for the fleet, and I don’t see that Germany had that use.

    Russia’s moves – the Russian Baltic fleet quickly crossed the ocean and seized Stockholm, securing Swedish ore supplies for the war effort. However, her main effort was directed to the south. The army of Poland marched out of Warsaw and into Galicia, while the army of Ukraine and the Black Sea fleet moved out against Turkey. The Black Sea fleet once again fought an indecisive engagement with the Ottoman navy, with neither side emerging clearly in command of the sea. However, the Army of Ukraine marching into Rumania encountered an Ottoman army thrusting north across the Danube from Bulgaria. The battle was evenly-matched, until Austrian forces from Serbia struck the Turks in the flank, driving them back south of the river. Like everyone else so far, Russia gains 2 centers.

    The Turks, as has been said, continue to struggle for control of the Black Sea. However, their thrust into Rumania was routed by the Austro-Russian alliance, and the retreating army choked the roads in Thrace and Bulgaria, forcing a second oncoming army to halt in Constantinople until the traffic jam can be sorted out. The Turks retain Bulgaria, but that’s all they’ll get – one build.

    The Austrians devoted an army to assisting Russia into Rumania, while retaining Serbia for themselves. The fleet crept down the Adriatic coast to Albania, where it can engage in future operations against Greece or sortie into the Adriatic or Ionian seas. The army in Vienna, however, got caught up in a frontier brawl with the Italian Army of Venice. The First Battle of the Isonzo is a bloody draw, as an Italian thrust towards Trieste is halted.

    Italy, apart from attempting a coup de main in Trieste, shipped an army to North Africa to claim Tunis. A standard move.

    The eastern quad looks to be shaking down into Austria/Russia vs. Italy/Turkey. Italy/Turkey are at a disadvantage here, with only 2 builds for the year against the two emperors’ combined 3. Italy will find it difficult to attack Austria through the narrow Alpine passes, while Turkey will bear the weight of the allied assault. However, Turkey is a tough nut to crack, like France – it will be at least six months before the Ottomans can be driven out of Bulgaria, and Constantinople is invulnerable without command of the sea. The Turks can contest the Black Sea for a long time, since the Russians have no place to deploy a second fleet, and the Austrian navy has to get past the Italian fleet in order to join in the war. It looks like the key to Turkey, then, will be the backdoor at Armenia – but the Russian fleet again hampers matters, since it blocks any Russian armies from marching that direction. For this reason, I think I might have favored moving my fleet to Rumania in the fall, instead of the army of Ukraine. It gives up the Black Sea, but that is compensated for by a new fleet in Sevastopol. Right now Russia and Austria are going to have traffic problems overcoming Turkey.

    It’ll be interesting to see what the players build in the winter. France can build two armies and stop Germany cold – but that means giving up command of the sea to England. On the other hand, building a fleet risks an Anglo-German breakthrough at Burgundy or Picardy. Tough call. Russia can’t build a fleet, as stated, to help with Turkey, but where will she send more armies? Opening a new front towards Germany/England is risky – one war at a time is the best policy, usually – but having armies stand idle is hardly ideal, too. Russia’s problem is mostly constrained space.

    It is possible that Russia is considering a betrayal of Austria – the Galician move is bound to make the Emperor unhappy, since it threatens two of his home supply centers. A Warsaw/Moscow army build might help with that.

    Turkey could either build a fleet to firm up control of the Black Sea, or an army to try and hold Armenia. If Italy can keep Austria out of Greece, that could be enough to stalemate the war.

    That’s it for year one! I’ll be back next open thread with the winter builds and the spring 1902 moves!

    • rlms says:

      I enjoyed this (I’m the organiser/a player, although I somewhat abandoned my partner to handle things a couple of weeks ago)! Your analysis looks mostly accurate, except for whom Italy is allied with.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Thanks for writing this up! I’m enjoying it.

      Is it public info which community members are playing which nation?

      • Evan Þ says:

        No; we players don’t know ourselves. There’ve been some rumors, but we don’t know the truth of them.

  17. dndnrsn says:

    Bible quick stuff – a couple short questions from the last OT. My next full post should be here in the next couple days.

    @Eugene Dawn asked about the possibility that the Exodus was specifically about Levites. Some quick reading of what I already had around, unfortunately, can’t really pin down the answer. The Levites are attested later, but it’s unclear why this is – it could be that somehow they only showed up later, but it could also be that this sort of priesthood wasn’t initially associated with one tribe, and it being linked to a single tribe was an example of something being backdated. Supposedly, different sources treat the Levites differently. I could do more research on this, but I suspect it’s going to be a rabbithole of 19th century Germans.

    @Tenacious D asked about Passover. The festival of the Passover was not one of the earliest festivals. There were 3 of these, in chapter 23. The first is “the festival of unleavened bread”, the second is the “festival of harvest”, and the third the “festival of ingathering” – these all appear to be pilgrimage festivals (see 23:17, after all 3 have been described: “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD”). These are repeated later, in chapter 34. They are anachronisms – the instructions are being given to a wandering people, but they are settled festivals operating by the agricultural calendar.

    Passover was likely originally a festival observed by individual families, in place, a spring shepherd’s celebration. Later, during Josiah’s reforms, it became a pilgrimage festival, was associated with the festival of unleavened bread, and was associated with the exodus. This is the form it takes in chapter 12. It’s also anachronistic, because before a central shrine was established, one could hardly have “the whole assembled congregation of Israel” do the necessary bits of the festival together.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      Thanks for following up! What sources do you look at to research this? I’ve been interested to read a little more deeply about the Bible and its history from the point of view of modern scholarship, and would be curious if you have any good recommendations.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The best bet would be to grab a decent textbook and look at its “further reading” section. For the Hebrew Bible, I don’t know what the current standard is. I’m using Collins’ introduction; I can’t imagine the scholarship has changed much in the years since I was in school. For the New Testament, I would recommend the Ehrman introduction; it’s the best textbook I ever had in school.

    • hls2003 says:

      Forgive me if this was covered elsewhere, but doesn’t the word “anachronism” rather beg the question? The instructions including settled agricultural festivals are being given to a formerly-agricultural, temporarily-wandering people who have been promised that they will soon(ish) be permanently settled in an excellent agricultural land. It seems at least as plausible that the “anachronism” is prospective more than codifying.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Thanks, hls2003, was about to say the exact same thing.

        Recall also that—according to the Torah as we have it—if things had gone according to the original plan, the Israelites would have spent only about a year wandering in the desert (as opposed to 40 years for their transgression in Numbers where they decided to kill Moses and go back to Egypt rather than take the promised land as commanded.)

        There is a perfectly good textual reason why the Passover is not described in detail in Exodus 23, which is that its regulations had already been extensively discussed prior in chapter 12-13. This argument might change if we had compelling reason to think that chapter 23 predates the Exodus account, but this seems to presuppose that the revisionist chronology is correct, when from my perspective this is something that needs to be proven.

        Also, according to the biblical histories there was a centralized worship location prior to the building of the Temple, namely the Tabernacle, which differed primarily in being a mobile tent structure (but otherwise had the same main features). This was apparently located in Shiloh from the time of Joshua to the time of Samuel. (One of these passages, Judges 21:19, explicitly mentions a centralized festival.) So this argument is just fallacious.

        In fact, can’t I turn the tables and say, if the Torah was written after the construction of the Temple, why the heck would all the regulations for the Temple presuppose that it is a tent rather than a building? The obvious anachronism here is with the revisionist chronology, not the biblical one! Clearly these portions of the Torah precede at least Solomon (or whoever these Germans think built the original Temple).

        I’m happy to hear about the evidence for revisionist biblical histories, but one should at least make a casual check that the conservative view can’t describe the data in question equally well. (But as I said before and is worth saying again, I do appreciate the work that dndnrsn is putting into this!)

      • dndnrsn says:

        That presupposes that the agricultural festivals were given, though. That’s a religious truth claim, and we can’t really assess it by looking at the text. Not my wheelhouse.

        That said, I think generally the naturalistic explanation is better, with one or maybe two exceptions. The problem with “formerly-agricultural, temporarily-wandering” is that there’s very little proof of the temporary wandering at that point (as best as we can date when whatever the exodus story is based on) and plenty of proof against, including archaeological proof. The scholarly claim is, as I understand it, that the text is the creation of a settled people, legislating for a settled people, but backdating it for all sorts of reasons.

        The revisionist chronology isn’t revising a history text as we would understand it, and a lot of parts of it aren’t history as generally understood in the ancient Mediterranean. It includes an institutional history; it’s in the nature of institutions (and people) to have selective memories. Trustworthiness in matters of fact also needs to be measured against the likelihood that there are some things in there that couldn’t have happened anywhere near the way described – if the account of slavery in and liberation from Egypt couldn’t be accurate, how should that affect our assessment of the claims we don’t have good external sources for? Ascribing special trustworthiness due to deity involvement in some or all of it, again, requires a religious truth claim.

        If you believe the anonymous authors and redactors of the Hebrew Bible as a whole, you have one view (that in the Bible, with some later interpretation work done to smooth out inconsistencies and rough edges) whereas if you believe the German scholars, or the scholars since then (a lot more Americans these days) you generally have a different view. I think there is a good argument to trust the modern academics more than the ancient religious codifiers, even before the archaeological evidence comes in.

        There’s a lot of things about the Bible, both parts, that make the most sense if you take the view that the Bible is a mixture of sources produced at different times, and mixed together, by different people for different reasons; this doesn’t require a religious truth claim, just some creative interpretation. That’s basically my simplest defence of the whole project.

        Though, I’m a lot more confident attesting to the quality of the scholarship for the New Testament, though; our non-Biblical evidence is considerably better for it, and the survival of close-to-original texts has provided very useful evidence also. I may be carrying over some of my trust in the New Testament Germans over to the Hebrew Bible Germans in a way that biases it. Overall, though, I’d give the rough outlines of the “scholarly consensus” critical stuff for the Hebrew Bible a 60-75% estimation that it’s correct. Roughly. Very roughly.

        EDIT: I’m afraid that this sounds a little hostile towards the Bible. I swear I’m not. I love the Bible; I wouldn’t have spent a few years of my life studying it if I didn’t. I suppose I see a lot of worth in the picture you get in the reconstructions. Here we’ve got a Canaanite-ish group that develops monotheism (relatively rare) and then constructs a national legend that separates them from their neighbours, puts a lot of effort into separating themselves from neighbours. History doesn’t go so great for them, and they take some real blows, but they understand what’s happening to them in religious terms, and they never lose heart, despite all sorts of persecutions and troubles. It’s absolutely profound; it’s one of the greatest documents in human history.

        EDIT EDIT: It’s also possible I’m mangling some of their arguments, or my attempts to pare down the scholars-arguing-over-stuff material are overzealous.

        • Aron Wall says:

          @dndnrsn

          That presupposes that the agricultural festivals were given, though.

          In other words, the argument you gave for the Passover being very late basically presupposes, rather than proves, that the Exodus narrative is ahistorical.

          (Although, even if the Exodus didn’t happen, I think the argument you gave is still problemetized by the existence of a centralized shrine in Shiloh.)

          Trustworthiness in matters of fact also needs to be measured against the likelihood that there are some things in there that couldn’t have happened anywhere near the way described – if the account of slavery in and liberation from Egypt couldn’t be accurate, how should that affect our assessment of the claims we don’t have good external sources for?

          Similarly, you don’t buy that a group of slaves could just march out of Egypt with the aid of miracles, because you are presupposing it’s impossibility. I wouldn’t believe it either, if I didn’t believe in the God that did it.

          That’s been my main thesis, that a lot of these arguments, when you trace them back to their original premises, seem not to be persuasive if you don’t rule out the supernatural in advance. But I already believe that God exists and does miracles (mainly because of things that happened later in history, which are more easily confirmable). So if you want to persuade me, you need to convince me the arguments still run through even on my priors. (Though I understand this is a pretty steep challenge, given that you’re working pretty hard just summarizing the main conclusions.)

          Probably some of the arguments don’t depend on naturalistic assumptions, but from my perspective as a non-expert, I can’t easily pick out the arguments that do from the arguments that don’t, and thus for me the entire output of this kind of biblical scholarship is tainted for me, except when I can review the arguments myself.

          That’s a religious truth claim, and we can’t really assess it by looking at the text. Not my wheelhouse.

          The text is hardly irrelevant to the inqury. Certainly if you asked me subjectively why I, as a religious believer, think that e.g. Jesus really did miracles, it’s certainly not as though the features of the texts describing them are evidentially irrelevant to why I find them convincing. I’ve read legends, and I’ve read factual accouts, and at least certain parts of the Bible come off to me sounding much more like the latter category.

          In Bayesian epistemology, it’s not really possible to hermetically seal off a given topic evidentially from any other topic that may happen to impinge on it. Even if all you wanted to know originally is when certain texts are dated, you may end up having to evaluate abstract philosophical arguments for and against the existence of an interventionist Deity. I can see why academics who view themselves primarily as historians or textual critics might be uncomfortable going there, but refusing to discuss it is tantamount to implicitly deciding the relevant philosophical questions “under the table”, without close scrutiny.

          I do believe you that you feel inspired by the Israelite “national legend” of ethical monotheism. For me, the obvious next step is to ask whether the weirdness of ancient Israel has any bearing on whether ethical monotheism is actually true.

          plenty of proof against, including archaeological proof.

          What is this archaeological proof you keep mentioning? An insufficiency of tent pegs and old camp fires in the Sinai desert? It’s not obvious to me how much stuff from a 40 year trek one would expect to be preserved 3500 years later. For example, I’m told there are examples of mass migrations which we know happened in ancient history for linguistic reasons, for which there is nevertheless no direct archaeological evidence of the migration. Isn’t archaeology like the fossil record, where there are lots of gaps because conditions have to be right for things to be preserved?

          There’s a lot of things about the Bible, both parts, that make the most sense if you take the view that the Bible is a mixture of sources produced at different times, and mixed together, by different people for different reasons; this doesn’t require a religious truth claim, just some creative interpretation. That’s basically my simplest defence of the whole project.

          Seems a bit motte-and-bailey-ish. I’m not at all denying the existence of sources. In certain places the Bible itself claims to be based on earlier sources! But this does not imply the stronger claims you are making about the Exodus being legendary.

          Though, I’m a lot more confident attesting to the quality of the scholarship for the New Testament, though; our non-Biblical evidence is considerably better for it, and the survival of close-to-original texts has provided very useful evidence also. I may be carrying over some of my trust in the New Testament Germans over to the Hebrew Bible Germans in a way that biases it.

          Whereas I may be carrying some of my distrust of the New Testament “higher criticism” over to the Old Testament context. (While I don’t deny Markan priority or the likely existence of Q, once you get much beyond that, I’m pretty sure that many of the common arguments about e.g. dating of the Gospels are quite circular.) So I look forward to discussing this when you get there.

          Overall, though, I’d give the rough outlines of the “scholarly consensus” critical stuff for the Hebrew Bible a 60-75% estimation that it’s correct

          So it sounds like you aren’t really fully convinced either, then. That’s a pretty low level of confidence for the main results of an entire academic subject.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aron Wall (part 1/2 because I hit the word limit; luckily, when I went back, it hadn’t nuked my comment in the text box)

            In other words, the argument you gave for the Passover being very late basically presupposes, rather than proves, that the Exodus narrative is ahistorical.

            The Passover in its current form, not very late, necessarily. We’ve got the institution of the Passover in Exodus 12 – but it describes it being instituted during an event that there is not evidence for and decent evidence against (both in the Israelites being in Egypt, rather than being in Canaan under Egyptian control, and in the death of all the firstborn, which seems not to have left a trace in Egypt, a civilization notable for keeping decent records, for high mortuary standards, etc). So, we already have to question this – it likely could not have happened as written. Here it’s being combined with the festival of unleavened bread, which is described on its own in ch 23 and 34.

            (Although, even if the Exodus didn’t happen, I think the argument you gave is still problemetized by the existence of a centralized shrine in Shiloh.)

            Does the language in Judges indicate that the shrine in Shiloh is centralized, that it is the only one? Take, for example, 20:1, in which “all the Israelites” assemble “in one body before the LORD at Mizpah”; in 21:19 there’s “the yearly festival of the LORD” at Shiloh. This seems more like the sort of thing that, depending on how you date things, was either in contravention of earlier centralizing rules (and 7th century reforms corrected this) or was the norm (and 7th century “reforms” changed this). The tabernacle-as-tent – well, this isn’t a slam-dunk, but the tabernacle as described here seems a lot fancier than nomads would realistically be able to produce – and the compromise, that they had a rougher tabernacle that later revisions retroactively made more majestic, presupposes backdating as well.

            Similarly, you don’t buy that a group of slaves could just march out of Egypt with the aid of miracles, because you are presupposing it’s impossibility. I wouldn’t believe it either, if I didn’t believe in the God that did it.

            It’s more that a group of slaves marched out:
            -in significant numbers, yet without being noted in any Egyptian documents
            -with the aid of massive blight and destruction upon Egypt, that we have no textual sources for outside of the Bible, and no archaeological evidence for
            -having spent a considerable period of time in Egypt, yet no Egyptian influence upon their material culture

            Even if one concludes that God must have helped them, it is a problem that the evidence largely is either silent or argues an opposing case.

            That’s been my main thesis, that a lot of these arguments, when you trace them back to their original premises, seem not to be persuasive if you don’t rule out the supernatural in advance. But I already believe that God exists and does miracles (mainly because of things that happened later in history, which are more easily confirmable). So if you want to persuade me, you need to convince me the arguments still run through even on my priors. (Though I understand this is a pretty steep challenge, given that you’re working pretty hard just summarizing the main conclusions.)

            Well, let’s try this: what do you think we can put in the bucket of “obvious legend”, what goes in the bucket of “historical fact”, and how do we separate the one from the other? How does one rule in or out the supernatural?

            My pitch to a true believer would be this: there’s even some stuff that gives me pause (eg, Jesus was a wonder-worker, which were not rare in the Ancient Mediterranean, but he’s also described as working a few wonders that were higher-level, shall we say, than the wonder-worker norm, and anti-Christian sources early on don’t seem to have spent much energy refuting this; more significantly, the empty tomb as found in Mark is really weird, there’s a lot of hard-to-answer questions about that, and the way it is in the original version of Mark is not how someone would put together a story seeking to prove that a guy was raised from the dead would put it together) so I don’t think you can just 100% rule out the supernatural.

            Overall, though, looking at the documents you end up with a God who looks better the more you distance the divine from the actual composition, redaction, etc of the texts: you either have a God whose chosen people over history have edited the texts, retold stories, read things back in time, various groups among them have fought over the canon for their own reasons (it is not as though, even in the Bible as written, you don’t have endless stories of God telling the Israelites to do one thing and the Israelites running off in the opposite direction; Paul spent much of his letters trying to put out fires and keep people in line; etc) – you have a collection of documents that are a very muddled, very human, attempt to understand the divine and the role of the divine in history, to tell people how to live today, etc.

            Or, you have a God who has intervened in history not just in ways that either are weird and hard to explain naturalistically (like the empty tomb in the original Mark ending) and in ways that don’t work against a naturalistic explanation (God told so-and-so to do xyz; so-and-so went and did xyz), but also in big flashy ways that go against what we know from other sources. If one goes full Bible-is-divinely-inspired, you also end up with a God who really needed an editor.

            (Also, it occurs to me the amusing parallel here – you grant credence to Hebrew Bible stuff based on what I assume is New Testament stuff on the side of miracles, God working in the world, etc; I do so in regards to the scholarship. We’re not so different, you and I…)

            Probably some of the arguments don’t depend on naturalistic assumptions, but from my perspective as a non-expert, I can’t easily pick out the arguments that do from the arguments that don’t, and thus for me the entire output of this kind of biblical scholarship is tainted for me, except when I can review the arguments myself.

            I will acknowledge here that I am not doing the best job possible of presenting the critical scholarship of the Hebrew Bible – for one thing, I was a New Testament guy, for another, I’m trying to condense what even in two two-semester courses would be condensed already into weekly 1500-word papers. To put it into perspective: New Testament texts might spend a section of a chapter, or even a chapter, on parables. My book on parables I have from the course I took on parables is probably something like 600-800 pages. It’s possible to write a book on a single parable that runs to that length. And I’m probably going to spend a paragraph on parables, total.

            The text is hardly irrelevant to the inqury. Certainly if you asked me subjectively why I, as a religious believer, think that e.g. Jesus really did miracles, it’s certainly not as though the features of the texts describing them are evidentially irrelevant to why I find them convincing. I’ve read legends, and I’ve read factual accouts, and at least certain parts of the Bible come off to me sounding much more like the latter category.

            Certain parts of the Bible do, but I would put Exodus in the former category. Some parts of the Hebrew Bible work as history. The Gospels are actually pretty good historical sources by the standards of the first-century Mediterranean. Etc. Exodus, on the other hand, includes a central event that one would expect to create a great deal of outside evidence, but doesn’t appear to have had, and there’s contrary outside evidence.

            In Bayesian epistemology, it’s not really possible to hermetically seal off a given topic evidentially from any other topic that may happen to impinge on it. Even if all you wanted to know originally is when certain texts are dated, you may end up having to evaluate abstract philosophical arguments for and against the existence of an interventionist Deity. I can see why academics who view themselves primarily as historians or textual critics might be uncomfortable going there, but refusing to discuss it is tantamount to implicitly deciding the relevant philosophical questions “under the table”, without close scrutiny.

            Certainly. It isn’t just uncomfortable, though, it’s that it’s very hard to reach the non-expert knowledge I have in multiple fields like that, and even harder to reach expert knowledge. My view is that I think it is prudent to save consideration of supernatural explanations for cases where the naturalistic explanation has something missing. Otherwise, one gets into all sorts of arguments about, not just the existence of an interventionist God – but which interventionist God? How do we judge supernatural claims? It’s already tricky enough to judge naturalistic claims!

          • dndnrsn says:

            (2/2)

            @Aron Wall

            I do believe you that you feel inspired by the Israelite “national legend” of ethical monotheism. For me, the obvious next step is to ask whether the weirdness of ancient Israel has any bearing on whether ethical monotheism is actually true.

            I don’t know how I would begin to answer that. I suspect that it comes down to faith, and I increasingly suspect that faith is somehow innate or learned very early on or something. There are very smart – smarter than me – and very learned people who are true believers; there are people who are likewise smarter and more learned than me who are atheists; there are people who are in the same position and have found some sort of middle ground – the best of the profs I had in university mostly fell into that third category.

            What is this archaeological proof you keep mentioning? An insufficiency of tent pegs and old camp fires in the Sinai desert? It’s not obvious to me how much stuff from a 40 year trek one would expect to be preserved 3500 years later. For example, I’m told there are examples of mass migrations which we know happened in ancient history for linguistic reasons, for which there is nevertheless no direct archaeological evidence of the migration. Isn’t archaeology like the fossil record, where there are lots of gaps because conditions have to be right for things to be preserved?

            The archaeological evidence we have in ancient Israel suggests a people who, on the one hand, arose there and stayed there once they were settled/semi-settled, and had no Egyptian material influence, but on the other hand, stopped eating pork really early on (which doesn’t make any sense to do without a religious commandment), really were intent on separating themselves from the other groups in the region, and were increasingly monotheistic. The archaeological evidence from Egypt doesn’t back up the stuff that supposedly happened in the course of the Israelites escaping. We don’t have perfect archaeological evidence, but what we do have, supports this. Appealing to a lack of evidence doesn’t prove much either way. (And the reconstructions of ancient migrations based on linguistics are pretty speculative, as I understand it)

            Seems a bit motte-and-bailey-ish. I’m not at all denying the existence of sources. In certain places the Bible itself claims to be based on earlier sources! But this does not imply the stronger claims you are making about the Exodus being legendary.

            I think that basically it comes down to, the events in Exodus would be expected to leave a pretty significant footprint, if not in Egyptian written history, then in Egyptian archaeology – “hey, looks like a lot of firstborn sons died around this time, huh” type stuff. Personally I think that “Exodus is not pure legend; it is based on some historical fact, but the historical fact is probably an Egyptian retreat from land the Israelites were already on rather than the other way around, coupled with maybe a smaller number of runaway slaves” is the best explanation.

            Whereas I may be carrying some of my distrust of the New Testament “higher criticism” over to the Old Testament context. (While I don’t deny Markan priority or the likely existence of Q, once you get much beyond that, I’m pretty sure that many of the common arguments about e.g. dating of the Gospels are quite circular.) So I look forward to discussing this when you get there.

            A bit circular in places, but we have a lot more external stuff to date them by. The destruction of the Temple, for example, figures in a lot of the attempts to date them.

            So it sounds like you aren’t really fully convinced either, then. That’s a pretty low level of confidence for the main results of an entire academic subject.

            First, it’s the area I didn’t study – if we were talking about the New Testament, I’d put significantly higher confidence on a lot of the major conclusions, and the ones that I think are dicey, and I’m a lot better able to explain why. Second, I don’t think that the scholarship on textual sources, with a bit of archaeological backup, is capable of delivering “beyond a reasonable doubt” results. There just isn’t enough information to justify a level of sure confidence – scholars who say things like “we have conclusively established the actual things Jesus said, in Aramaic” are eyeroll-worthy. There are events a lot closer to the current day that it’s hard to conclusively prove!

          • Aron Wall says:

            I don’t think our positions are quite as far off as it may sound, because (as I have tried to admit a few times previously) I do agree that the dearth of archaeological confirmation for the Exodus raises some serious difficulties for the biblical account. I’m really just trying to do damage control here—but I do think that our records of 3500 years ago are spotty enough that it’s somewhat reasonable not to completely trust arguments from silence.

            (And while my attempt to tentatively identify the Pharoah of the Exodus with Ahmose I might well be bunk, to summarize this as “no evidence” seems a bit brutal. One rather important difference with the “New Chronology” is that I am not, in fact, trying to radically rearrange what the scholars believe about Egyptian chronology. And Jericho being sacked and burned at around the right time ought to count for something, in my opinion.)

            the death of all the firstborn, which seems not to have left a trace in Egypt, a civilization notable for keeping decent records, for high mortuary standards, etc

            They certainly kept very good records for the time, but do we actually know about the deaths of more than a small handful of people during any given dynasty? Do we even have enough demographic data to be able to say how many firstborns died in a given year?

            If not, we don’t have the data needed to rule it out. And as for written records, isn’t it true that Egyptian history is largely political propaganda? I thought they had a habit of avoiding recording military defeats, for example. In other words, if the Exodus had happened, they aren’t very likely to have mentioned it in a recognizable form.

            Contrastingly (this is an aside, not an argument for the historicity of the Exodus specifically) one quite remarkable feature of Hebrew history is its willingness to ethically critique its own society and the powerful people in it, even the “good guys”. The idea that we should spend our time comparing our society to a hypothetical moral ideal is something we pretty much take for granted in Western society (and on SSC) but I think we get it from the Hebrews, just as we get our intellectualism from the Greeks.

            Does the language in Judges indicate that the shrine in Shiloh is centralized, that it is the only one? Take, for example, 20:1, in which “all the Israelites” assemble “in one body before the LORD at Mizpah”; in 21:19 there’s “the yearly festival of the LORD” at Shiloh. This seems more like the sort of thing that, depending on how you date things, was either in contravention of earlier centralizing rules (and 7th century reforms corrected this) or was the norm (and 7th century “reforms” changed this).

            Shiloh was the central location in the sense that it is where the (unique, but in principle mobile) Tabernacle and high priesthood was. Whether the Israelites sacrificed elsewhere as well is another question, although in addition to Deuteronomy, Joshua 22 is another passage that seems to imply that they should not do so. (You can say if you like that passages like this are inventions, but if so the reason had better not be that there are no records of centralized worship before the Temple…)

            The tabernacle-as-tent – well, this isn’t a slam-dunk, but the tabernacle as described here seems a lot fancier than nomads would realistically be able to produce

            Of course, within the text the explanation given for why they had the precious metals and so on is the “plundering of the Egyptians” (Exodus 11:2-3, 12:35-26).

            (And as for material culture, isn’t this in part determined by the resources that are available in a given area? When you settle in a new land, you have to adapt to the local conditions. But, I’m not an archaeologist so I could be completely off-base here.)

            I wanted to also say something about your broader remarks on faith, inspiration, and the New Testament, but it’s time to go to bed now.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think our positions are quite as far off as it may sound, because (as I have tried to admit a few times previously) I do agree that the dearth of archaeological confirmation for the Exodus raises some serious difficulties for the biblical account. I’m really just trying to do damage control here—but I do think that our records of 3500 years ago are spotty enough that it’s somewhat reasonable not to completely trust arguments from silence.

            Sure. I guess I’m showing my knowledge, too: the most profitable place for “damage control” is probably attacking the concept of the messianic secret (but I’m getting ahead of myself).

            (And while my attempt to tentatively identify the Pharoah of the Exodus with Ahmose I might well be bunk, to summarize this as “no evidence” seems a bit brutal. One rather important difference with the “New Chronology” is that I am not, in fact, trying to radically rearrange what the scholars believe about Egyptian chronology. And Jericho being sacked and burned at around the right time ought to count for something, in my opinion.)

            A bit harsh, and you might be able to draw a parallel, but Jericho was a bit earlier than the clues that exist in Exodus would have a possible date as.

            They certainly kept very good records for the time, but do we actually know about the deaths of more than a small handful of people during any given dynasty? Do we even have enough demographic data to be able to say how many firstborns died in a given year?

            If not, we don’t have the data needed to rule it out. And as for written records, isn’t it true that Egyptian history is largely political propaganda? I thought they had a habit of avoiding recording military defeats, for example. In other words, if the Exodus had happened, they aren’t very likely to have mentioned it in a recognizable form.

            I’m no Egyptologist, but a sudden spark in firstborn children dying among nobles might be something that could be established materially. Ancient histories and so on tend to be unreliable for various reasons, so archaeological evidence is often more useful. Overall, the effects of the sudden death of all the firstborn sons somewhere, would be pretty drastic; one would expect to see signs of that.

            (Aside: the bodies of poorer people did sometimes get preserved; I recall that the ROM has or had a naturally-mummified body of some ordinary working-class guy, along with a couple of better-off folks who had full mummifications, sarcophagi, etc. Now they’re equal, more or less – I guess he got a better deal? One also wonders if they’d want to be on display like that or not – wasn’t what they wanted to be remembered?)

            Contrastingly (this is an aside, not an argument for the historicity of the Exodus specifically) one quite remarkable feature of Hebrew history is its willingness to ethically critique its own society and the powerful people in it, even the “good guys”. The idea that we should spend our time comparing our society to a hypothetical moral ideal is something we pretty much take for granted in Western society (and on SSC) but I think we get it from the Hebrews, just as we get our intellectualism from the Greeks.

            Certainly. One can see it develop over time in the Hebrew Bible – earlier stories tend to be more amoral than later stories – but even quite early on, they care more about ethical behaviour than is the norm in the Ancient Near East.

            Shiloh was the central location in the sense that it is where the (unique, but in principle mobile) Tabernacle and high priesthood was. Whether the Israelites sacrificed elsewhere as well is another question, although in addition to Deuteronomy, Joshua 22 is another passage that seems to imply that they should not do so. (You can say if you like that passages like this are inventions, but if so the reason had better not be that there are no records of centralized worship before the Temple…)

            The textbook I’m using as my main source so far keeps essentially promising that all will be revealed when Deuteronomy is discussed. The central question regarding the Hebrew Bible is basically, is what happened in reality a version of what the documents present (God tells the Israelites not to do a thing, the Israelites do the thing, God punishes them, a prophet or whoever says “hey, maybe let’s not do the thing” and God relents, etc) or a slow development of a monotheistic society with certain rules and observances, retconned to say that from the beginning you’re not supposed to do xyz?

            Of course, within the text the explanation given for why they had the precious metals and so on is the “plundering of the Egyptians” (Exodus 11:2-3, 12:35-26).

            Certainly. It suffers if the plundering of the Egyptians couldn’t happen. Even if something that gave them a bunch of precious materials happened though – I’m not acquainted with metallurgy, but how able would nomads be to make that stuff?

            (And as for material culture, isn’t this in part determined by the resources that are available in a given area? When you settle in a new land, you have to adapt to the local conditions. But, I’m not an archaeologist so I could be completely off-base here.)

            My understanding is that different cultures have different styles of pots, structures, whatever, to the point that archaeologists will differentiate (hypothetical) cultures and their movement by the type of pots they made, whether they built burial mounds, etc.

          • Aron Wall says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m no Egyptologist, but a sudden spark in firstborn children dying among nobles might be something that could be established materially.

            Depends on how many named people we have. If the numbers are large, then it should be easy (for an Egyptologist) to start by pointing out one or two known firstborns who didn’t die when Ahmose-ankh did. That would certainly pour some cold water on this theory.

            Even if something that gave them a bunch of precious materials happened though – I’m not acquainted with metallurgy, but how able would nomads be to make that stuff?

            Don’t know, I guess I was under the impression that if you’re a trained blacksmith with enough metal and wood, and a hot enough fire, you can probably make all the needed tools? But maybe there is some other bottleneck I’m not thinking of. As for knowledge, the claim of the text is that there were two guys (Bezalel and Oholiob) who had the needed expertise.

          • Aron Wall says:

            I suspect that it comes down to faith, and I increasingly suspect that faith is somehow innate or learned very early on or something.

            I’m not sure how to interpret what you’re saying, given that there are people who start out irreligious and then convert as adults. But if you mean, that the difference between the people who look at some historical data and start trusting God, and those who (looking at roughly the same data) don’t is going to depend on some deeply personal factors—well that seems pretty obvious, not to mention being the teaching of the New Testament (1 Cor 12:3, John 6:44).

            If one goes full Bible-is-divinely-inspired, you also end up with a God who really needed an editor.

            I think this is a misunderstanding of the standard Christian theology of divine inspiration, which does not at all deny the human element of the writings.

            Inspiration is not the same as “dictation”, where God simply tells the authors mechanically exactly what words to write. The Holy Spirit didn’t just borrow their pen, rather he took hold of their personalities and experiences and used those to produce the message he wished to communicate. The messiness and rawness of the documents is just what you would expect to find on this theory. (This explains why the Bible contains mythological elements, as well as lots of examples of people kvetching back at the Almighty.) You can draw a close parallel to the doctrine of the Incarnation, where Christ (“the Word of God”) was fully divine without ceasing in any way to be fully human.

            Turning to the New Testament documents…

            The destruction of the Temple, for example, figures in a lot of the attempts to date them.

            That happened in AD 70 for sure; but attempting to date documents “before” or “after” this cataclysm based on thematic elements seems like a much more subjective endeaver.

            Anyway, it’s always nice to hear nonreligious people concede that the evidence for Jesus’ miracles and Empty Tomb/Resurrection is strong enough to at least surprise or worry them. I don’t know how to supply you with the mysterious innate personal factors of faith, but I guess I can always try praying for you, a strategy which has the nice “truth-tracking” feature that it won’t do anything unless, as I believe, God really exists. 🙂

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aron Wall

            I’m not sure how to interpret what you’re saying, given that there are people who start out irreligious and then convert as adults. But if you mean, that the difference between the people who look at some historical data and start trusting God, and those who (looking at roughly the same data) don’t is going to depend on some deeply personal factors—well that seems pretty obvious, not to mention being the teaching of the New Testament (1 Cor 12:3, John 6:44).

            Yeah, I mean, it’s deeply personal. There are smart, learned people who don’t believe, and those who do, and they’re presented with the same material. Funnily enough, I think that the various theories involving Bible sourcing are one of the weakest factors in flipping someone one way or the other.

            I think this is a misunderstanding of the standard Christian theology of divine inspiration, which does not at all deny the human element of the writings.

            Inspiration is not the same as “dictation”, where God simply tells the authors mechanically exactly what words to write. The Holy Spirit didn’t just borrow their pen, rather he took hold of their personalities and experiences and used those to produce the message he wished to communicate. The messiness and rawness of the documents is just what you would expect to find on this theory. (This explains why the Bible contains mythological elements, as well as lots of examples of people kvetching back at the Almighty.) You can draw a close parallel to the doctrine of the Incarnation, where Christ (“the Word of God”) was fully divine without ceasing in any way to be fully human.

            I suppose the easiest reconciliation here is that the backdating of sources was all part of the plan, though. Although this becomes

            That happened in AD 70 for sure; but attempting to date documents “before” or “after” this cataclysm based on thematic elements seems like a much more subjective endeaver.

            It’s subjective and speculative, but a lot of this stuff is. The dating arguments for the Gospels, at least, tend to be fairly settled, and mostly are quibbling over hypothetical sources for John, I think. At least, if you’re sticking to canonical sources.

            Anyway, it’s always nice to hear nonreligious people concede that the evidence for Jesus’ miracles and Empty Tomb/Resurrection is strong enough to at least surprise or worry them. I don’t know how to supply you with the mysterious innate personal factors of faith, but I guess I can always try praying for you, a strategy which has the nice “truth-tracking” feature that it won’t do anything unless, as I believe, God really exists. 🙂

            The original ending of Mark is, like I said, weird enough to be unsettling. Unsettling enough that the shorter ending and the longer ending got tacked on, and enough that the other Synoptics added more involved post-resurrection appearances. If the whole thing was made up out of whole cloth by followers of a religious leader trying to keep things going after he was executed by an occupying power, it would just have looked like one of those. This obviously doesn’t prove the resurrection or whatever, but it points to the person or community that produced Mark having access to oral traditions, eyewitness testimony, whatever, of something really unusual that rattled people. Which honestly, I think that describes Mark in general: Mark does not seem like a story that someone concocted to support a point; there’s way too many rough edges for that.

            The miracles are more that, well, the people at the time didn’t dispute that he was a wonder-worker, or even that maybe he worked some more serious wonders than the norm. At a minimum, it’s not something someone else added later to make him seem cooler, or something that people at the time really disputed (Jews said that his body had been stolen from his followers to fake a resurrection, and pagans said that the resulting religion was a stupid cult for ignorant slaves and women; neither of them said he hadn’t healed the sick or whatever).

            As for prayers, I really do appreciate that. Thanks.

  18. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Minor SSC website maintenance nit:

    The captcha when I log in asks me to solve a math problem, and has autocomplete enabled, so I have a bunch of old math answers saved, but there’s no need to save them because the answer will be different each time. If you put autocomplete=”off” as an attribute on that field, nothing will be saved.

  19. ana53294 says:

    Say you want to colonize a planet in another star system, and you cannot travel faster than light (which means 100+ years travel, one way). It is possible to send as many people as you need, but you can only do it once, and afterwards you can only communicate by some kind of ftl messaging system.
    What is the absolute minimum number of people you need to create a viable colony?
    You have two objectives 1)to avoid genetic diseases by inbreeding depression; 2) to maintain the current level of technology and knowledge we have, so once they set foot on the planet they have people qualified to do anything we can do on the planet.
    You do not need to advance the state of knowledge, just maintain it.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      The current level of technology depends on a huge infrastructure. You are not going to build any chip factories on the new planet for hundreds of years.

      Genetic problems can probably minimised if you screen the people accordingly. Also: You can always bring almost unlimited sperm. Or possibly frozen embryos. In that case you can have a few generations of women only, to build up numbers quickly.

      • ana53294 says:

        Well, it does seem fairly intuitive to me that the number of people you need for 2>1. But I do not think that having a women only ship is a good idea. You want to have a functioning society, and it just does not seem to be a good idea to have a society where only one sex is present.
        The only book I’ve read about a male only society is Ethan of Athos, and as nice as Ethan is, I did not like Athos much.
        Female-only places, such as monasteries or female schools, do not seem like nice places. I have older family members who were in religious orders, and all have told me that there is a lot of bickering & infighting.
        Also, unless you genetically engineer them to be homosexual (which would be unethical), you would be condemning generations of women to never get sex, other than masturbation, which is not the same. Sexlessness for the entire life of a big group of people who do not choose it, unlike the people who take religious orders, is not a nice thing.

        • albatross11 says:

          It wouldn’t be a big shock if the inhabitants of the generation ship were genetically engineered in a bunch of other ways, to (for example) be more tolerant of low-gravity conditions, less likely to get cancer from radiation exposure, etc. So also genetically engineering them to be lesbian or bisexual doesn’t seem like such a stretch, assuming you can do that. (There are good evolutionary reasons to doubt that homosexuality is genetic, though they apply a lot more to men than to women.)

          Will frozen sperm keep basically forever? It seems like the damage there would come from radiation, and you could certainly shield the hell out of your sperm freezers. But that’s definitely an obvious single point of failure! OTOH, you could probably ensure that all the sperm were carrying X chromosomes, so you had only women being born.

          • Randy M says:

            So also genetically engineering them to be lesbian or bisexual doesn’t seem like such a stretch, assuming you can do that

            Come on now, there’s an obvious failure mode there if your colony establishes itself and the power to the sperm freezers ever goes out.

            Will frozen sperm keep basically forever?

            No, and less so in space. The magnetism of the planet blocks a lot of radiation, and living cells can repair a lot of damage. the lifespan of a frozen embryo on a spaceship is probably a lot less than one would hope, although I think I read it could last a century or so.

      • albatross11 says:

        You’d bring along all the knowledge necessary to build chip fabs and manufacturing biologicals and such, but also a worked-out plan for building up to that level of technology again slowly. Your colonists may start out with hydropower and analog control systems, and take a few centuries to get back to nuclear plants and microcontrollers–not because you don’t know how to make the nuclear plants and chip fabs, but because you don’t have all the detailed expertise and knowledge and built-up capital to make the tools to make the tools you need to make those things.

      • John Schilling says:

        In that case you can have a few generations of women only, to build up numbers quickly.

        The limiting factor is almost certainly the supply of child-care providers and teachers needed to produce useful adults, not womb capacity. Women-only isn’t likely to be helpful.

        Arranging for the women you do bring, to have many(*) babies each, would probably be very helpful.

        * For stereotypically primitive definitions of “many”

      • Protagoras says:

        Why no chip factories for centuries? Modern fabs are huge for efficiencies of scale; chips used to be produced in considerably smaller operations. And chips are extraordinarily useful. So probably the colony should plan on using fewer and more primitive chips for a while, but planning to do without chips would be painful and as far as I can tell unwarranted. Indeed, for a hundred year plus trip, the ship should have a chip factory (and fairly extensive workshops of other kinds) and recycling facilities to supply it with raw materials to make sure they can replace any crucial parts that unexpectedly fail. Facilities that the colony can use and build on when they arrive at their destination.

        But having enough relevant experts to keep technological society functioning is going to be far, far more people than is needed to escape inbreeding problems (especially with the availability of screening at least and possibly other genetic manipulation technologies), so no extreme measures regarding the breeding population are likely to be necessary.

        • ana53294 says:

          I guess that with all the modern technology, and the possibility of carrying frozen semen, you probably won’t have an inbreeding problem. However, maintaining technology levels is about more than having the books. There is an alternative history series I am currently reading (the 1632 one), which shows that you need more than the theoretical knowledge of how to do things. Because practical stuff has a lot of things that nobody puts in the manual, but *everybody* knows. So you either have to have a really comprehensive library with video courses for everything, or you have to have people who know the things. I don’t think we are able to teach and train people completely from video/book material with no human interaction. Students frequently get blocked on some bit of knowledge, and only a human can help them pass that block. So the only way to reduce the human population needed to restore the current technological capability would be to figure out how to make teaching so efficient you don’t need human teachers. I don’t think that would ever be possible.

        • John Schilling says:

          Why no chip factories for centuries? Modern fabs are huge for efficiencies of scale; chips used to be produced in considerably smaller operations.

          Note also that chip fabs can probably be made much smaller (well, cheaper and less massive, which is what we care about here) if hard vacuum is available in nigh-infinite quantities free of charge. How much smaller is unclear, because you optimize for different production techniques in a different environment. But I’ve seen what seem to be credible proposals for modern industrial-scale chip fabs on a scale of a hundred tons or less, and most of that is stuff that could be produced on-site with the 3-D printer and/or CNC mill that your colony is going to have anyway.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          How much can you expect to know about the planet before you set out? For example, knowing about the accessibility of minerals is a big deal, and as wonderful as recent discoveries about exoplanets are, I’m not expecting to find out details of geology from any method that can be used in the solar system.

          It may be essential to send probes first.

    • Randy M says:

      Allow me to pass Atomic Rockets back again after Nornagest & bean recommended it to me for similar questions. Search for “Inbreeding in outer space”.

    • helloo says:

      With enough advanced technology (without it being magic) 0.
      Artificial Wombs and Designer babies for repopulation.
      Lots of AI at least in the beginning.

      What? You never mentioned anything regarding humans being the ones to create the viable colony.

    • ana53294 says:

      Ok, it seem like the minimum of people needed to maintain genetic viability is 98. This doesn’t seem that high, so the constraint is in maintaining the knowledge and skills.
      How possible is it to have a revolution technology were we are able to teach a well-designed course to learn anything useful without having to have a human teacher and without assuming a fully intelligent AI?

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        How about some way of taking expert knowledge and imprinting it on other people’s brains?

      • Protagoras says:

        Self-teaching works reasonably well for a small proportion of the population. I do not know how heritable it is or whether a population of colonists all of this type would generate a culture favorable to this sort of thing which would also make their children good at it. I’m guessing “not sufficiently” and “no,” but if we’re hypothesizing as yet unavailable technologies, I don’t see why breakthrough social engineering technologies should be off the table. If there is a way to indoctrinate people into such cultural habits, it seems like that could help greatly.

  20. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://slantedflying.com/what-the-unbendable-arm-can-reveal-about-taijiquan/
    Suggests that it’s done by activating the stabilizer muscles.

  21. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is there some way to get rid of the WordPress black bar at the top of the page?

  22. Mark V Anderson says:

    Here is my 5th Myth. This one only relates to the US, on progressive taxes.

    Myth #5. That the tax system is regressive. According to the usual lexicon, taxes are regressive if taxes as a percentage of incomes earned are higher for lower paid taxpayers than for higher paid ones. Taxes are progressive if taxes as a percentage of income are higher for higher paid taxpayers.

    See http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-soi/08inreturnsbul.pdf, in which the IRS gives many statistics relating to the 142 million Form 1040’s filed for 2008. These statistics include the taxes paid by various income groups. Adding up the taxes paid by the half of taxpayers with the lowest income indicates an aggregate tax paid of less than zero (a net refund of about $32 million). The top 50% of taxpayers paid all $996 million of taxes paid, plus the $32 million refunded to the bottom half. Taxes as a percentage of taxable income at various levels are:

    Taxable income Percentage of tax to income
    $10-15,000 -8.8%
    $25-30,000 0.8%
    $40-50,000 6.1%
    $75-100,000 9.5%
    $200-500,000 20.2%
    Over $500,000 23.8%

    Not only is the Federal individual tax system very highly progressive, but it could be considered dangerously top-loaded, with 3.1% of taxpayers paying over 50% of the total individual income taxes. With the rich paying such a high proportion of income taxes, it makes it very easy for politicians to convince voters to accept higher taxes, since few of the voters pay most of the load. Considering this imbalance, it is surprising that politicians have had so much difficulty raising taxes. It could be that the rich have a rather disparate effect on government behavior, or perhaps that voters are not quite as money-grubbing for themselves as is sometimes portrayed.

    There are some mitigating factors to the enormous progressivity of the Federal income tax. Most of the states have regressive tax systems as a whole, largely because of states’ emphasis on sales taxes and property taxes, which are almost always slightly regressive. State taxes in 2008 totaled $782 billion, see http://www.census.gov/govs/state/historical_data_2008.html. But that number does not include local taxes. Probably state and local taxes total to a little more than the individual income tax receipts. But most states are only slightly regressive, and in no way offset the tremendously progressive Federal income taxes. Also much of the state and local taxes consist of gasoline taxes, which pay for highways, license fees, which pay for licenses, and sin taxes, which are essentially penalties for indulging in activities the states would prefer you didn’t do. All of these latter revenue items are really fees and not taxes, and so they shouldn’t be included in the calculation. And all those fee items are very regressive if you do consider them taxes, since they are charged without regard to the payer’s level of income. So the state tax systems aren’t really as regressive as reported.

    Another mitigating factor that is often brought up is FICA and Medicare. Every employee must pay 6.2% of their gross pay (up to $102,000 in 2008) for FICA, and 1.45% of their gross pay (no limit) for Medicare. The employer also pays a matching amount. The matching employer amount is presumably a deduction to the employee’s gross pay, since every employer will consider their matching amount as a cost just like wages. Therefore employees pay in addition to income tax this payroll tax of 12.4% up to $102,000 per year, and an additional 2.9% for an unlimited amount. Many people consider this to be an additional regressive tax, since there is a wage limit above which employees don’t pay FICA, and there are no FICA or Medicare taxes at all on those who receive only investment income. Investment income earners are generally richer than the average wage earner.

    However, it is a bit of a stretch calling FICA tax and Medicare tax a true tax, since it works more like a pension plan than a general fund tax. All the funds received through the FICA and Medicare programs are accounted for separately, and these separate funds are used to pay retired and disabled employees for Social Security and for Medicare payments. It is true that payments into FICA and Medicare will not be sufficient to cover all the costs of Social Security and Medicare in future periods unless there are changes, at which time the government will need to raid the general fund to pay for the promised costs. But that doesn’t mean that the “taxes” that are paid into the funds are true taxes that should be subject to the calculation of progressive versus regressive taxes. These are more like fees to employees that will later be returned in retirement. Investment earners who don’t pay into FICA or Medicare will not receive Social Security or Medicare in retirement.

    Even if FICA and Medicare were included with income taxes, the Federal individual income tax system would still be very progressive. So it still doesn’t prove that our tax system is regressive.

    Not all Federal taxes are from individual income taxes. According to the IRS, they collected the following taxes in 2009: Individual taxes, $1.175 trillion, corporate income taxes, $275 billion, employment taxes, $858 billion, and excise, gift and estate taxes, $71 billion. (See http://www.irs.gov/taxstats/article/0,,id=102886,00.html) Employment taxes were discussed above; they are not really taxes. The excise, gift, and estate taxes don’t amount to enough to make much difference. It is true that corporate taxes are pretty regressive taxes, but I don’t think those are the taxes that advocates of more progressive taxes are complaining about. And even the corporate taxes are not large enough to offset the highly progressive individual taxes.

    Even the far left group “Citizens for Tax Justice “ agree that the tax system is progressive. See http://www.ctj.org/pdf/taxday2010.pdf.

    There is also the issue of why progressive / regressive taxes are measured based on income instead of consumption. A major cause of the Great Recession was the large amount of debt held by individuals, businesses (especially banks), and governments. As a society, we should be encouraging people at all levels of income to save money, instead of the usual modus operandi of borrowing more than they save. An individual’s standard of living should be measured at the level of consumption, not at the level of income. Therefore, it makes more sense to measure progressivity as a function of consumption, not income. If that were done, then sales taxes would no longer be considered regressive taxes, and maybe the same for property taxes. Using consumption as the denominator instead of income would result in our tax system being even more progressive.

    • skef says:

      Myth #5. That the tax system is regressive.

      What is the context of this “myth”? It’s a common view that the U.S. total tax system is insufficiently progressive, and I’ve heard people imprecisely call tax changes that lower progressivity “regressive”. But I don’t associate claims about general regressivity with any particular group or ideology, except perhaps as applied to very specific cases (e.g. some hedge fund folks who get away with paying less than an upper-middle-class family.)

      • Nornagest says:

        It doesn’t make sense to use “regressive” to mean “insufficiently progressive” without a point of reference, but it is a fact that federal-level taxes in the US are more steeply progressive than their equivalents in many other first-world countries. Mainly because the US lacks a federal VAT, which is basically a consumption tax, is thus flat or regressive in the technical sense, and forms a large proportion of many governments’ incomes. The case is weaker if you also include state and local levels, which vary from place to place but are funded largely by sales taxes (see above re: VAT) and property taxes (???) respectively, although even the most expensive states have low sales taxes relative to the typical VAT; it’s also true that American capital gains taxes are lower than some. But on the other hand the US had an unusually high corporate income tax until the most recent tax bill; it’s still on the high side, but not anomalously so anymore.

        Comparing tax policy is complicated, but I think the tl;dr here is that it’s hard to make a good case for the American system being very regressive relative to, say, Britain or France’s without cherry-picking.

        • skef says:

          It doesn’t make sense to use “regressive” to mean “insufficiently progressive” without a point of reference,

          I’m saying that the main context the term is used in my experience is relative to existing law. For example, some people referred to the recent tax cuts as regressive because they reduced the overall progressivity of the tax system. Other than that, it doesn’t seem to be a term that carries much ideological water in the U.S.

          Comparing tax policy is complicated, but I think the tl;dr here is that it’s hard to make a good case for the American system being very regressive relative to, say, Britain or France’s without cherry-picking.

          In the ancestor post Mark Anderson argues that taxes for some basic social services should not be considered as part of the overall tax burden, because those funds reliably come back to those who are taxed for them (and other reasons). So would you say that he is committed to the U.S. system being less progressive than those systems?

          (Or to put it another way, do you think that high earners would generally see themselves as taxed roughly the same or much more if we switched to the British system, and that low earners would have the same attitude relative to their income? My sense is that low earners would mostly see a change in who does what (i.e. the government does more) and high earners would have quite a bit less money left over.)

          • Nornagest says:

            do you think that high earners would generally see themselves as taxed roughly the same or much more if we switched to the British system, and that low earners would have the same attitude relative to their income?

            Compare marginal and effective income tax curves for Britain and the feds. This is not an apples-to-apples comparison because state and local taxes, payroll taxes, etc. aren’t included: those account for most of the 10%-ish difference between British and American tax rates on average. And for now I’ll ignore VAT, corporate income tax, capital gains, etc. Notice how the British combined rates top out much faster and much earlier: effective tax is essentially flat in Britain between 120k-ish pounds of annual income and the end of the graph, but the curve from 150k USD onward is much steeper. That means there’s a meaningful difference between tax rates for the upper-middle and the upper class (in terms of income) in the US and there isn’t in the UK. And there’s similar stuff going on further down on the graph.

            So, the biggest differences in income tax burden if we switched to the British system would be felt by the middle classes. VAT would hit across the board. Other taxes would have effects too complicated for this post. I don’t know how taxed people would feel themselves to be, but I suspect that it doesn’t correlate all that well to how much of their money is actually being diverted to the government.

          • skef says:

            Notice how the British combined rates top out much faster and much earlier: income tax as % income is essentially flat in Britain between 120k-ish pounds of annual income and the end of the graph, but the curve from 150k USD onward is much steeper. That means there’s a meaningful difference between tax rates for the upper-middle and the upper class (in terms of income) in the US and there isn’t in the UK.

            I would be more comfortable with this analysis if not for the CTJ link. If the real, all-things-considered tax burden in the UK stays above 40% at the high level (unless you move — which at least used to be common enough on the part of U.K wealthy to be a cliche) then that’s a huge difference.

          • Nornagest says:

            There’s not enough information in the CTJ link for me to get a good sense of how their analysis works, but it’s an advocacy site, so I’d take it with a grain of salt if I were you: their claims certainly don’t line up very well with the taxes I’m paying.

          • skef says:

            The listed source is “Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy Tax Model, April 2010″.

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, that sure sounds authoritative. And, as we all know, advocacy groups never cherry-pick their sources or massage the data they get from them.

            I don’t have the time to dig into this in detail, so I can’t say anything conclusive, but my priors for this sort of thing are not good. Wikipedia’s not perfect either, but at least it’s not wearing its bias on its sleeve.

          • skef says:

            I’m trying to find the equivalent data on taxfoundation.org, but every graph by income I’ve found so far is federal-only, and all the state information I’ve looked at so far just compares average rates.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            (Or to put it another way, do you think that high earners would generally see themselves as taxed roughly the same or much more if we switched to the British system, and that low earners would have the same attitude relative to their income? My sense is that low earners would mostly see a change in who does what (i.e. the government does more) and high earners would have quite a bit less money left over.)

            Certainly the Brits (and I think all other Europeans) has a much less progressive tax system than the US. But I’m not sure if you are talking about just the tax system or the government spending in general that transfers funds from the rich to the poor. Most European countries do have a more extensive welfare system than the US, so in that sense it offsets the effect of the progressive taxes of the US. I do find the European system more honest — they take taxes from everyone in a pretty fair manner, and then are upfront about supporting the poor through government programs. The US uses the tax system as part of the welfare system, and it just makes the system more complicated.

            I included the CTJ link in my post to show that even many leftists admit the system is progressive. But I don’t actually buy the numbers they use. I’ve noticed a lot of cites include the amount of tax liability on individual tax returns excluding refundable credits, such as the earned income credit and for many people to child tax credit. This is because the Form 1040 tax return labels as “tax liability” the tax calculated before refundable credits, and it seems that many of those analyzing the tax statistics don’t get beyond that label. Any table of effective rates by income class that doesn’t show negative taxes for the lowest income is probably excluding those refundable credits. That’s what the CTJ link has.

          • skef says:

            But I’m not sure if you are talking about just the tax system or the government spending in general that transfers funds from the rich to the poor.

            I’m saying that you argue that taxes that are routinely redistributed back to those that pay them don’t count as “real taxes”. Unless the argument is that they don’t count as long as they are superficially segregated, in which case I would just say that’s a bad argument.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            I’m saying that you argue that taxes that are routinely redistributed back to those that pay them don’t count as “real taxes”.

            That’s not really what I’m saying. Taxes that do not go into the general fund, but are instead used to benefit the person paying the “tax,” are very different from taxes that go to the general fund. I think it is a good thing for the government to try to use fees to the extent possible, so programs are paid for by the beneficiaries. I don’t think it is fair to judge fee based funding by the progressive / regressive metric, because fees should be based on the benefits received, just like other services, not based on one’s income.

            Gas taxes are paid for by drivers to pay for roads, so that is a fee-based system. FICA and Medicare is paid by workers to cover their future social security and Medicare, so it is also a fee-based system. Fines aren’t quite the same thing, because they don’t benefit the payer, but they certainly shouldn’t be mixed in with general taxes, in judging the level of progressivity.

    • Chalid says:

      I think to the extent that most people believe that rich people aren’t paying much in taxes, it’s because of the relatively low capital gains tax being the most relevant tax for many extremely rich people (recall the Warren Buffet vs his secretary op-ed). The other thing would be that a lot of people believe that the really rich manage to somehow hide most of their income from the IRS or otherwise take advantage of various loopholes.

      The table on page 1 of your CTJ link actually gives a shockingly flat tax distribution. I’d guess that implies, using CTJ methodology, that the total tax system is actually regressive for citizens of many states, and progressive for others.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I found that Warren Buffet op-ed maddening. The numbers he was using were almost certainly incorrect, as the tax he indicated for the secretary made little sense. As you can see by the table I have, it certainly isn’t the case for the average rich and poor person that the rich pay a lower percent than the poor. IT was that op-ed that was part of my incentive to write the Myth above. Skef seems to imply above that most people don’t think taxes are regressive, but that op-ed was believed by millions of people.

        You find the CTJ spread shockingly flat? The rich pay almost double the rate of the poor! In any case, I don’t think their graph is accurate, as I’ve stated elsewhere.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The numbers he was using were almost certainly incorrect, as the tax he indicated for the secretary made little sense.

          As I recall, it indicated his secretary made somewhere north of $300K, in the 1% at the time. This doesn’t seem unbelievable for the secretary (in the sense of “executive secretary”, not someone who takes dictation) for one of the richest men in America.

        • Chalid says:

          Its flatness depends on where you look. It’s flat over a very great deal of the distribution. The $66k bucket pays 28.5%, the $100k bucket pays 30.2%, the $141k bucket pays 31.2%, $1.3M bucket pays 30.8%. I’d call that essentially constant.

          Certainly it’s regressive if you think about the comparison between poor and middle class, but that data is also consistent with middle and upper-middle class complaints about the very rich not paying their fair share. Given the heterogeneity of very rich people, if you believe that data, then there are necessarily are a lot of rich people paying a lot less than the typical middle class person (and some paying a lot more of course).

          I wish I had a better sense of the economic significance of tax shelters for the very rich but I imagine this is very hard to study.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It perpetually annoys me when supposed leftists treat social security as a tax to argue for more progressive income taxes.

            Hey! Idiots! Pay attention! This is not a tax! Roosevelt constructed it specifically to not be a tax! Because if it is a tax, then it is just a wealth redistribution system instead of a retirement plan, and some politician can dismantle that! The framing was critically important to it’s function and you are knocking that down in an attempt to bolster arguments for short-term gains!

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Chalid. yes, the CTJ data does indicate just a little increase in tax rate from the middle class to the rich, although a big difference between the poor and the rich. So I’ll just go back to my previous statement that their data is not to be trusted. Such as FICA and Medicare “tax” is included in their numbers, even though it is not really a tax.

            I’m not sure why you care about tax shelters. I gave you the percent of tax by income group above, so you can see that that the rich do pay quite a bit more tax than the poor. It is true that the average rate flattens out quite a bit once you reach income of 200k or so, the very rich do not pay much more than than the moderately rich. And this average rate is well below the highest tax bracket of about 39.5%. I think there are a lot of ways to lower your taxes when a lot of your income is investment income, and when you make enough that it is worth paying tax lawyers big money to find these methods. But even the very rich pay over 20% in Fed taxes, well above the poor and middle class. So these methods are not unlimited.

            @Theg. Your abusive statements are not helpful. We are trying to have a reasonable conversation here.

    • AG says:

      As you point out, consumption is more important than income. Even if $2000 is the same 10% of income to a poor person earning $20K as $1M is to a rich one earning $10M, that $2000 is still going a lot further for the poor person, whereas the rich person’s quality of life isn’t going to decrease that much if they pay 40% instead.
      So the gut instinct might tell someone that a flat rate still feels unfair, no matter the numerical definitions of progressive and regressive. The fuzzy connotations of the words (especially progressive) probably bypass the numerical definitions. “Regressive” as in “society is slowing down in the progress we’d like, regressing expected growth rate.” Applied to the first derivative, not the original function!

    • qwints says:

      There’s a lot of special pleading here I don’t find persuasive – perhaps setting out a definition of tax would help. It seems kind you’re just saying that the system isn’t regressive taxation because all of the regressive taxes don’t count. I also didn’t like your hand waving dismissal of the impact of local taxes.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        As I wrote above, I don’t think that it is fair to include fee-based systems as part of the metric of taxes. When I pay my water bill, I pay my local city, but it isn’t included in the calculation of taxes. Just because something is labeled as a tax doesn’t mean it is one. I think it is good government to charge beneficiaries of government services a fee for these services when practicable. Obviously you can’t do that for everything, like welfare. But when you give away services for free, you increase demand greatly. People want free services if they are worth anything to them, even if they are not worth the cost of providing the services. But when you do charge fees (and label them tax), it makes it appear that taxes are a lot more regressive.

        It is difficult to charge fees for using the roads, other than limited access highways, but a gas tax is as good as we have. The tax roughly corresponds to the use of the roads. But tax payments do not at all correspond to the income of the payer, and trying to do that would defeat the purpose of the tax. Similarly with FICA and Medicare taxes. It is not a welfare system; it is more or less paid for by the folks getting the benefits. Because it is paid for by the beneficiaries, it looks wildly regressive when looked at as a tax. It makes some sense to look at general taxes as a percentage of income — it does not make sense to do so for fee-based systems.

        Maybe I should have included another link showing the average regressivity of state and local tax. But you could look at the link I gave for CTJ. It shows state and local tax as 4% higher for the poor as for the rich. So regressive, but not nearly enough to offset the Federal progressive taxes.

  23. onyomi says:

    As a libertarian, my ideological bias is to blame everything on the government if possible, though I’ve previously had trouble coming up with a reason to blame the crappiness of news coverage on the government. But now I’ve got a good reason!

    Hypothesis: everyone knows that authoritarian dictatorships have crap media (Pravda, etc.). The reason for this is obvious: crap governments can’t tolerate honest coverage. But what if media crappiness and state power correlate linearly, and the Pravdas of the world are only extreme examples?

    Why would this be? One of the reasons libertarians don’t like the state getting involved in x is because the more the state involves itself in x, the more x becomes a field for interminable tribal wrangling over one-size-fits-all solutions. Example: school curricula (evolution, common core, etc.) are only contentious because we have public schools. It could be worse: in a world of maximum state involvement in education, e.g. no private schools allowed, one would expect the debate over school curricula to become even more intense and acrimonious.

    Put differently, the more the state involves itself in x, the more dualistic x tends to become: if you are selling common core textbooks and common core gets voted in, you’re a big winner; if it gets voted down, you’re a big loser. This makes votes more valuable to you, which makes voters’ minds more valuable to you, which means you have more incentive to get involved in politics through lobbying, donations, etc.

    The more valuable are voters’ minds, the more they become the “product” rather than the consumer of politically-relevant information. For example, I heard recently that the Washington Times ran in the red for many years thanks to continual infusions of money from its weird conservative founder, Reverend Moon. Moon was presumably okay with this because, for him, the value proposition wasn’t delivering news to consumers in exchange for consumers’ money, but delivering news to consumers in exchange for consumers’ votes and ideological support. (this is a bigger topic involving capitalism, intellectual property, advertising: I think things tend to get crappier when the consumer, in effect, becomes the product sold to advertisors, as they are for e.g. Facebook, than when they pay directly for what they want, as with e.g. Kickstarter).

    That is, the more powerful the state, the more money and power there is to be gained or lost in political battles, the more the incentive structure tilts in favor of information delivery being more valuable to those who deliver it (because of the way it influences minds) than those who buy it (because the dollars they pay to e.g. purchase a newspaper, or even an advertised product are not as valuable as their votes and/or ideological support in the battle du jour). In other words, the more extensive the state, the less likely consumers are to enjoy relatively unbiased media coverage, even in a non-authoritarian democracy.

    How is this different from advertisement for say, soft drinks or cars? Because a different incentive structure applies on the free market than the political market, as treated at length by people like Caplan: people have a rational interest to do their homework and be well-informed about decisions like which car to buy, whereas decisions about whom to vote for or support in the political arena pit their modest urge for truth-seeking against their voracious appetite to be good group members.

    • Well... says:

      There’s an assumption about journalism baked into your hypothesis that I don’t think is necessarily safe: namely, that honest news coverage is the opposite of “crap” newsmedia.

      I would argue that journalism has no ambition to be honest and is in fact not designed to.* If it was it would just be the public messaging arms of other more serious investigative and scientific institutions.

      Instead it is designed to signal honesty to a particular audience. In authoritarian dictatorships, the audience happens to be the authoritarian dictators and their enforcers.

      *When I say “designed” I don’t just mean the look of the soundstages or the fonts and layouts, though I mean that too; I mean the whole structure of the institution, top to bottom.

      • onyomi says:

        When you speak of how journalism is “designed” a particular way are you speaking just about how it is how now or how it must, necessarily be?

        I can think of at least two ways news coverage can be “good” as opposed to “bad”:

        1. It accurately reports facts and interprets those facts for viewers/readers in an insightful way with as little bias as possible. It also chooses from among the infinite possible number of stories to cover those which its audience would most like to know about or most benefit from knowing about if they could choose in some abstract way.

        2. Related to the last part of 1: it somehow makes the lives of the news consumer better and/or makes the world a better place more generally. That is, even after taking into account whatever money the consumer has spent to subscribe to the magazine, and, ideally, the time spent reading it, taking the time to do so is a positive-sum value proposition for him or his community or the world.

        I used to think 2 was in pretty strong tension with 1 because people don’t always want to hear truth and unbiased reporting about important issues. They want to know what the Cardassians are up to and why they should be outraged about the latest thing outgroup did, etc. etc.

        And while I think there will never be a perfect overlap between 1 and 2, I think increased state power may incentive the gap to widen because e.g. fanning tribal resentment over various issues becomes more profitable the more that issue is subject to the political arena.

        • Well... says:

          When you speak of how journalism is “designed” a particular way are you speaking just about how it is how now or how it must, necessarily be?

          I guess I’m speaking about how it must necessarily be. Journalism (or at least what we normally think of as journalism — i.e. stories about noteworthy events) is essentially a pseudo-scholarly, pseudo-scientific affect.

          The core skill of the journalist is not being an authority on whatever he’s talking about, it’s making you feel like he’s an authority, or at least overriding your instinct to question his authority, on whatever he’s talking about.

          That’s why journalists wear suits and talk in that weird sing-songy voice and sit at very expensive-looking desks on soundstages with lots of fancy technology swirling all around them (in previous eras it was an image of planet Earth, slowly spinning behind them, or banks of out-of-focus TV screens all showing different things): to bolster the sense that they are plugged into everything, all-seeing, the most up-to-date, etc.

        • Well... says:

          I wanted to reply separately to what you said about what makes journalism “good” vs “bad”.

          #1 is full of subjective or problematic terms. For example: “accurately reports facts”. Which facts? Also, facts can be accurate but still misleading. See basically 99% of journalism for instances of this.

          #2 seems like the way someone from Silicon Valley (do I mean the TV show? eh, maybe) would run a journalism company, not the way the people who run journalism companies run them. A newsmedia company is not a charity or an NGO or anything like that. It has no responsibility to make your life better. I think the notion that it does comes from what I said about journalism being the affect of authoritativeness. You expect authority figures to look out for you and try to do what’s best for the world; journalists are nothing if not people who pretend to be authority figures.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. 1, I included the issue of “which facts”: a good journalist will not only report accurate facts, he will chose the stories and interpretations, among the infinite possible number of facts and interpretations out there, that are most beneficial, edifying, entertaining, etc. for his audience to know.

            Re. 2, I was trying to capture a broad sense of how journalism could be “good” for its consumer, from making him a wiser, happier, or better person in the long run, to simply entertaining him in the moment. The point I want to emphasize here is the conflict of interest between consumer of journalism as consumer who pays a company to get information he wants to know interpreted in ways he finds compelling or useful or entertaining, and the interest of people other than news consumers, such as big political donors, from whose perspective the news consumer’s eyeballs are a kind of a “product” to pay for.

            I’m definitely not imagining that, were it not for the latter incentive, news consumers would stop desiring anything but the most careful, thoughtful commentary on the most important issues facing the world today. I am suggesting that the incentive for news providers to “sell voter eyeballs” in addition to selling news to voters, may make news coverage worse, overall.

          • Well... says:

            If I’m understanding you right, you’re talking about “good” in the sense of being pleasant or at least not unpleasant for a reasonably intelligent person to consume, and this can include getting a feeling of value from it.

            A critical part of what makes journalism “good”, in that case, is still going to be your level of participation in/acceptance of the journalism’s affect. The highest level is you basically treat the journalism you consume the way past generations regarded sages: wise seers who tell you valuable truths about the world. The lowest level is basically how a lot of Jordan Peterson fans (probably the younger ones, I’d guess) see Cathy Newman: as soldiers for hostile enemy forces, as hissing snakes, spreaders of lies and so on. Most people have their own Good journalists and Bad journalists figured out, but I doubt there’s much objective agreement over what journalists belongs in which category.

            So, the affect is upstream from everything. Change buy-in for the affect and you can make “good” into “bad” and vice versa, without changing anything else.

          • onyomi says:

            @Well…

            I still don’t think you’re quite getting my objection.

            Thought of possibly a better way to put it:

            Imagine some rich guy in your town decides to buy a bunch of billboard space, maybe even TV spots for pro-second amendment messages. Whether this guy owns a gun store (has a financial interest) or just really believes in the second amendment ideologically, one wouldn’t call this “news,” even if the messages and interpretations in these ads are not inaccurate or misleading. You don’t call them “news” because it’s obvious what they are: ads. Not ads for a product per se, but for an idea the spreading of which the buyer values. Like all ads, the value from the perspective of those consuming them may well be negative (or, depending on the person, neutral or positive), but even if the value is negative from the perspective of the ad consumer that is not considered a big failing of advertisement, since ultimately ads are about delivering messages to consumer eyeballs, not consumers paying for something they want.

            I think most of us think of “news” as fundamentally different from “ads for ideas,” because we think of ourselves as the “consumers” of “news.” We pay, in actual money and/or acceptance of the disutility of bundled ads, and in exchange we get something we want: to be entertained and/or informed. We think of the “news” as fundamentally different from the “ads.”

            My point is I feel like an increasing element of “ad” has gradually crept into the “news,” all the more powerful the more it can hide its true nature because people are more skeptical of “ads” than “news.” And I think it may have something to do with state power since, the more power the state has in a democracy, the more valuable are the consumer’s eyeballs, not just for viewing ads for products, but in viewing what amount to ads for ideological positions (in addition to actual, explicit political ads, which we recognize as such).

          • Well... says:

            I follow your analogy. Now suppose that rich guy wanted to get serious. His billboards have the message he wants, but he thinks he could make them more persuasive. He changes out wacky fonts for straight, serious-looking ones. He wordsmiths the content so it sounds more confident and disinterested.

            But he doesn’t stop there: he switches from advertising-type messages, which are obviously attempting to persuade, to academic-style messages, which at least seem as though they’re about disseminating valuable information. The information in this case is really just the rich guy’s interpretation of events in the world, but if you are converted to that interpretation, that perspective — which many people are because he presents it in that same pseudo-academic style, academic enough so that most people are fooled and think he knows what he’s talking about — then you realize being pro-2nd Amendment is extremely important (enough to buy up a bunch of billboards, for example) and the only way to go.

            Later, someone asks the rich guy about his pseudo-academic-looking billboard ads. “Ads?!” he gasps, “Those are not ads! What I have is an information-dissemination institution — an estate, if you will — characterized by unbiased, up-to-date reporting on the most pressing and incredible events in the world today, and by always being—” he reaches out and places a reassuring hand gently on your wrist, pausing only for a split second before continuing in a softer, deeper voice: “—on your side. Tonight at 10.”

          • onyomi says:

            @Well…

            I am also assuming that the expected value of explicit political ads would go down if state power diminished. So too, then, would the expected value of political ads dressed up as “news” or, indeed, academic studies.

            My point isn’t to claim that there is actually a hard-and-fast line between “advertising” and “news” but that the more powerful the state the more the value proposition shifts in favor of providing something closer to the former end of the spectrum, even, perhaps especially when claiming to provide the latter.

          • Well... says:

            Not sure how weak or strong one could reasonably say our current state is, but I don’t think it matters in this context because wherever journalism sits on the spectrum between ads and news (and this seems primarily a difference in style rather than in content) it is there because that is how it’s perceived by an audience who’s actively involved in placing it there. Fox News devotees see MSNBC as naked propaganda and vice versa — and both can point to solid evidence. It need not be indexed to state power.

    • Wrong Species says:

      That’s a nice story but do you have any evidence that government power and “media crappiness” correlate linearly?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I mostly agree, but say it “we don’t have state run media, we have a media run state.” 90% of the news is owned by five or six mega corporations, which all have similar interests, and also fund the politicians and the lobbyists that write the legislation and the think tanks that dream up “studies” in support of them. The media is simply the propaganda arm of the oligarchy that owns the state. Their job is to manufacture the consent of the governed for whatever things it was the government was going to do anyway.

      Also, this does not require coordination, just culture. The corporations have similar interests, and the journalists all live in the same areas and are “educated” in similar universities. Chomsky was once interviewed by Sky News about media bias and the interviewer asked him “do you think I’m biased, or dishonest?” and Chomsky replied “you wouldn’t be sitting in that chair if you didn’t hold the opinions you do.”

      • onyomi says:

        say it “we don’t have state run media, we have a media run state.”

        I agree. And this is a much pithier way to say what I’m trying to say, I think. But to support my assertion that the difference between dictatorship and democracy may be one of degree rather than kind: if it didn’t matter what the citizens of the USSR thought at all since their elections were all rigged, why bother with Pravda at all?

        And I agree with Chomsky’s quote, which is a good point: the actual writers and reporters don’t need to be dishonest per se, they merely need to be selected for (and usually given some guidance on “the narrative” as well, of course). Where I suspect I disagree with Chomsky, and what I want to emphasize is that I’m suspecting there is a causality here: the more extensive the state the more the media will tend to centralize and become, in effect, its propaganda arm, because there’s too much money/power/prestige to leave on the table otherwise. From my superficial knowledge of Chomsky he tends to blame private corporations for the lobbying rather than politicians for making the laws that make the lobbying profitable/necessary.

        My thinking is that the difference is, with weak state power and big corporations, you’d get a lot of ads for Coke and cars and erectile dysfunction pills, but there’s be less incentive to take over and bias the coverage of e.g. world affairs. Whereas if you start with a relatively unbiased media and the state gets bigger and bigger, I think it may tend inevitably to produce this outcome because of the incentives in play.

        • AG says:

          Doesn’t the state of internet news somewhat disprove your last paragraph? Big corporations create sponsored “news” that encourages consumer behavior that favors their products, ads becoming as invasive as they can get away with. Even when the relatively “objective” news arm exists (AP), corporations merely create an “interpreting the news” layer that people consume instead of directly looking at the source. Increased polarization and bubbles that came from tailoring the “news” to the customer.

          Whereas the dream of journalism is the one place where everyone reads the same unbiased story. The more news outlets that exist, the more they’re pursuing a niche angle. (Or, the US vs. EU healthcare situation as applied to news)

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s a pretty rosy picture of journalism.

            Seems like a stretch to blame the state of Internet news on “big corporations”, too — advertising masquerading as reviews or news articles is cetainly a thing (albeit not a new one), but that’s not what gave us Gawker.

          • AG says:

            The second paragraph is a sarcastic view of the journalism power fantasy.

            It’s less blaming the current state of internet content on big corporations, as to reject onyomi’s hypothesis that it’s Too Much State that has incentivized things the way they are. Whatever political biases Gawker had, they weren’t in service of trying to influence the state. It can be easily argued that one of the left’s tactical blunders has been to influence the culture side of things more than the government, which has resulted in a lack of bite to their power in certain arenas. The mindset that would believe in prioritizing the culture wars in this way isn’t exactly rooted in Statism.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m sure the interests of the companies that own the media have an impact on how some stories are reported. But I strongly suspect that the shared culture among people working in journalism and media has a much bigger impact. I mean, if you’re planning to run an expose on safety in theme parks on a network owned by Disney, your story is likely to get spiked outright. But if you’re interviewing Jordan Peterson, the CEO of your company probably doesn’t really care that much about the subject; on the other hand, the shared culture of your occupation probably has a big impact on how you approach that interview.

        • I don’t think it is quite accurate to consider the size of the state as an independent variable that we can tweak at will. If corporations only needed people to behave a certain way as consumers, then sure, they would be fine with a small state and media that only runs ads for Coke and cars and erectile dysfunction pills. But corporations also need people to behave a certain way as workers and citizens, so they are forced to use a big state and a biased media establishment that wades into all sorts of political issues.

        • 1soru1 says:

          > the more extensive the state the more the media will tend to centralize

          The US has one of the smallest governments of any developed state. Is it your contention that it has the best media?

  24. kaakitwitaasota says:

    Another cherished tenet of nutrition science bites the dust. Maybe carbohydrates aren’t so fattening after all…?

    Does anybody here work in the field of nutrition science? Nutrition, much more than most other fields, seems to have serious problems answering even basic questions–why is it such a mess?

    • The Nybbler says:

      The story appears to support the mainstream view. Carbohydrates still make you fat, just not through some method other than providing calories.

      Note also this doesn’t mean low or no-carb diets don’t work; people tend to eat fewer calories on those diets.

    • LtWigglesworth says:

      I haven’t sone much with Human nutrition, but have hovered around the edges of production animal nutrition, which is in a much better state.

      At least part of the problem is that the tool available for human nutritionists are much less powerful than animal nutritionists. You can take a statistically significant population of genetically similar humans, raise them from a young age on controlled diets, control their movements, collected regular fecal samples, and periodically kill, dissect, mince and sample them. You can do this with pigs/ chickens/ sheep etc.

  25. Thegnskald says:

    Question, for anyone who engages in serious meditation:

    Is there anything past “Oh, I’m just awareness”?

    I can see that most of what people think of as themselves is better described as a set of mental habits, grooves they wear into their own minds by constant use. I’m just curious to know if there is more to it than that. People seem to find this more surprising than I think it warrants? Or I haven’t found the surprising bit yet? (Is there a reason to remove all the grooves? They seem… helpful. They keep me consistent and predictable, important social qualities. I worked really hard on some of those, like reacting to pain, because not having them makes people uncomfortable.)

    And can the next whatever be meaningfully described? (Certainly “I’m just awareness” doesn’t seem to translate into anything for people who don’t already know what it means, although the description did help me personally.)

    • rahien.din says:

      Semi-meditator here.

      I think the first and most important thing meditation does is to let you witness your own mental operations. That’s information you need if you want to know which grooves to keep.

  26. johan_larson says:

    Hello, it’s time to for the SSC SF Book Club to pick a novel to read for July. Here are three choices. Comments are welcome.

    The Freeze-Frame Revolution is a 2018 science fiction book by Peter Watts. An almost entirely automated spaceship is travelling the galaxy, building a network of wormholes. The crew members only get woken up once every few hundred years, when the AI needs some weird monkey-logic done, and even then only a few of them get woken up at a time. The crew comes to resent the AI and organizes an underground movement and eventually a revolt under these bizarre circumstances. This one is hot off the presses. It’s also quite short, at 41,000 words.

    The Sudden Appearance of Hope is a 2016 novel by Claire North. Hope Arden is a young woman who cannot be remembered, except by animals or people whose brains have been damaged. Turn away from her, and everything about her and your interaction with her fades from your mind’s view. When a life improvement app called Perfection leads to a friend’s suicide, Hope sets out on a dangerous path to investigate its makers and whether there’s any connection between the “treatments” Perfection’s clients receive and her own condition. Winner of the 2017 World Fantasy Award.

    The Fifth Season is a 2015 fantasy novel by N. K. Jemesin. In a world plagued by terrible earthquakes, the Sanze Empire maintains stability with an army of enslaved earth-mages. These mages have shattering power and are widely feared and hated. When a massive earthquake cracks the continent down the center, a woman named Essun unconsciously protects her town from the quake, revealing her and her children as earth-mages. Her husband beats her son to death and kidnaps their daughter, and Essun chases after him, seeking revenge. Won the 2015 Hugo Award for Best Novel. First of a trilogy.

    • quaelegit says:

      I’ve been meaning to read The Fifth Season for a while because I’ve seen a lot of positive mentions of it! The Sudden Appearance of Hope also sounds really interesting. Hope’s power(…curse?) reminds me of Imp from Worm 😛

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I’ve read the first two. Given the love for Watts here, I imagine it will win. It’s worthy of discussion.

      Claire North is a pseudonym of Catherine Webb, a prolific young English woman who of late has been writing novels with a particular conceit – such as the not remembering thing here – that are a lot of fun and very quick reads given their word counts. This particular novel isn’t just about the invisibility that Hope experiences, but puts it in service to a larger story about Perfection, so it’s got a couple quite odd things going on.

    • johan_larson says:

      Right now, I’m leaning toward A Sudden Appearance of Hope. If you want one of the other choices, speak up by end of day Friday. I’ll announce our selection Saturday morning.

    • qwints says:

      Just finished freeze-frame revolution – I wasn’t a huge fan, but it has some very intriguing concepts that would provoke a lot of good discussion.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      For anyone contemplating the Fifth Season: a note about some, I guess, trigger warnings.

      This spoils a plot element from like the first real chapter.

      The book starts out with an extended, in-the-thoughts-and-anguish sequence of a mother whose infant or toddler daughter was just violently killed. As a parent, I found it killed the book for me. I just wasn’t interested in wading through that kind of extensively detailed horror long enough to go to the rest of the book.

    • AG says:

      Suggestions for future reads:
      “Superposition” and its sequel “Supersymmetry,” by David Walton, about how reality might get twisted if quantum rules began to affect things at the macro level.
      “The Affinities,” by Robert Charles Wilson, about if society began to get strongly Sorting-Hat’d by social media.
      “Up Against It,” by M.J. Locke, about politics interfering with life on an asteroid mining colony.
      “Mindscan,” by Robert J. Sawyer, about when brains can be copied into an artificial body to achieve effective immortality, but the original body is still alive, and when the latter decides the sue the former for identity theft.

      • johan_larson says:

        Thanks for the suggestions, AG. “Up Against It” looks particularly interesting. I’ll include it among our choices for December.

    • Chalid says:

      Sudden Appearance of Hope.

    • johan_larson says:

      OK, our choice for July is The Sudden Appearance of Hope. We’ll start discussing it in the July 18 open thread. See you all there!

  27. GrishaTigger says:

    Can anyone post the text of Scott’s original post on ideological “bingo cards”?
    It used to live here: http://squid314.livejournal.com/329561.html
    Now, it’s not accessible, and it is sorely missed.

    • Charles F says:

      I would guess, since Scott hid the article in the first place, he would appreciate if people didn’t keep posting the text in new places, so I’m not going to do that. But you already have the url, so it will be pretty easy for you to go read it yourself.
      1. Go to the wayback machine at archive.org
      2. copy that URL into the search box at the top
      3. click the first year where updates appear
      4. Hover over the first highlighted date on the calendar
      5. Click the link in the hover bubble
      6. You’re done, you can read the article

  28. helloo says:

    Had some issues posting on the last OT, so lets try it again-

    Prompted by the Volokh link in the last link thread, is there/should there be a searchable list of examples for various “doubted” facts/statements?
    Mostly CW, where one side would go “(can you) give me (an) example(s) of that?” or “show me proof where A does B”.
    This is generally Google’s role, but for these things, some are not that searchable or require more authenticity than just a page stating it.
    I’m certain that there’s some people here that have a private document or notebook of studies/links for certain things that get a lot of repeat requests for proof.

    Note I do not think this will improve the conversations that generate these comments much (infact, I feel this might make things worse). It might save some time, but possibly cause more heat and noise than resolutions.

    My interest with this was the thought of how this kind of listing would be ranked or sorted in a way that would would make them valuable in the sense of being not discounted by the other side.
    As in, to put those with validity, context-full, unbiased, non-edge case/circumstantial, etc. rather than just those that are liked/popular.
    I would put something regarding “# dispelled my doubt, will no longer ask for proof of this” marker or such, but I’m uncertain if people will be so… responsive, kind or helpful following such a revelation (and that most of the responses will be from people already supportive of that fact/side).

    Edit: This is NOT a list of compelling arguments/counter-arguments, though the ranking mechanism might be similar, I feel pieces being able to change someone’s mind differs between people a lot more than convincing proof/example of a thing.

    • albatross11 says:

      A related thing that would be valuable would be links to high-quality data (official statistics, polling data from reputable sources, news sources that have published data), so that it’s easy for most everyone to agree “here is some relevant data w.r.t. this issue.”

      IMO, it’s stunning how often people spend many hours debating stuff where a quick read of available data would massively change the discussion. (For example, how many unarmed blacks are shot by the police in a year? Are there ever hate crime prosecutions for anti-white hate crimes? How many people are on some form of public assistance in the US? How many people are in prison on nonviolent drug offenses? What fraction of the federal budget is foreign aid? Etc.)

      This is a place where the major reputable news sources are *utterly terrible*. It’s common to see news stories written that don’t even bother looking for any numbers that would put the problem they’re discussing into perspective; very commonly when they include numbers, they’re numbers given to them by some activist group, and they don’t bother checking them against other numbers or even doing a first-cut sanity check on them.

  29. bean says:

    Naval Gazing is looking today at the second generation of battlecruisers.

    • Nornagest says:

      The single mast forward of the funnel common to the 1909-1910 ships was used on them…

      Should this be “aft of the funnel”, or am I misreading this somehow?

      • bean says:

        Are you by any chance interested in being a proofreader?

        • gbdub says:

          Who the hell was proofreading the battlecruiser design and thought that “right behind and above this tube spewing a huge cloud of thick black smoke” was ever a good place to put a structure whose main purpose was to house people needed to provide forward visibility?

          • Aapje says:

            A smoker?

          • bean says:

            I’d have to check to be sure, but it may have been Jellicoe.

          • gbdub says:

            It just seems so obviously stupid, like the proverbial screen door on a submarine.

            One thing that seems odd is that the funnel the mast is behind is noticeably smaller than the other two funnels. Presumably it was connected to fewer boilers? How did this layout come about?

            Maybe it was a funnel only used occasionally? But then the times you need to go fast are probably also the times you want to be extra sure you have good visibility. Maybe you only fired up those boilers to go real fast and at those speeds the smoke was blown clear of the top?

            Even then though it’s unclear why that mast location would ever be a better option as opposed to a merely tolerable one.

          • bean says:

            One thing that seems odd is that the funnel the mast is behind is noticeably smaller than the other two funnels. Presumably it was connected to fewer boilers? How did this layout come about?

            It is indeed connected to fewer boilers. Figuring out how to lay out the upper deck was a really complicated issue. Funnels take up deck space, but trunking lots of boilers together into a few funnels takes up a lot of volume, too. I don’t know all of the details that lead to the design adopted.

            Maybe it was a funnel only used occasionally? But then the times you need to go fast are probably also the times you want to be extra sure you have good visibility. Maybe you only fired up those boilers to go real fast and at those speeds the smoke was blown clear of the top?

            Nope. I’ve never even heard of that as a possible solution, actually. Which is rather strange. There’s an article on the subject that DK Brown references, and which I don’t have access to.

          • gbdub says:

            FWIW I was inspired by this picture of Lion steaming apparently without the front funnel boilers lit. And of course at anchor it looks like they used only the boilers under the middle funnel.

          • bean says:

            Interesting. I can’t recall having ever seen a picture like that. I don’t ever recall seeing that mentioned as the plan, but they apparently did do it. Given that that’s after the rebuild, I suspect it may have been to keep the bridge clear of smoke, not the top.

          • John Schilling says:

            If this is the explanation, I hope they had the sense to put an extra repeater for the engine telegraph in the tops. With “full” and “flank” relabeled as “slow roasted” and “extra crispy”, just to be fair.

        • Nornagest says:

          I probably can’t commit to it on a regular basis, but I might be interested if you aren’t bothered by an occasional lack of diligence.

  30. rubberduck says:

    This is a weird comment, but is anyone here into riddles? I’ve received a pair of cryptic letters and I’m stumped. For context, on my facebook I used to post puzzles I made up so I’m guessing whoever sent me this saw my page and decided “ah, they’ll like this”. It’s a bit creepy but I still really want to figure this out.

    The first paper just says “Sorry -Eminem”

    The second one:

    Oakland Uni
    Detroit
    Michigan
    Wayne County
    8 Mile

    The third one (sent together with the second, includes a drawing of a sun):

    Getting via Waiting _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    What could the 7-letter answer be? Any help (and/or advice on what to do about this, or insight into the sender’s mindset) would be much appreciated.

    • Charles F says:

      So, just treating the third one as a crossword clue, the answer that comes to mind is SNARING. Then searching “Sorry Eminem” the song that comes up is “Cleaning out my closet” where he starts out by asking “where’s my snare”, as for the words in the second, I’d guess that ODMW8 decodes to snare with some cipher, maybe with SUN as a key.

      I could easily be jumping on surface level stuff and missing a deeper puzzle though.

    • helloo says:

      Some thoughts –
      w8 could stand for wait or weight
      If this was a crossword, I’d guess sunburn as the 7-letter word though no idea if that fits the other clues.

    • dick says:

      Nothing springs to mind, but the anonymous delivery of cryptic papers reminded me of http://www.thefutureshock.com/, something that everyone should read at least once.

    • J Mann says:

      Is there a connection between Eminem and Oakland University? Everything else on the second list is associated with him.

      • rubberduck says:

        None that I know of, OU is pretty far from Detroit proper.

      • meh says:

        Oakland County borders Detroit

        • S_J says:

          Oakland University is in the Metro Detroit area. (Most of Metro Detroit is inside Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties; sometimes referred to as the Tri-County Area. Detroit is in Wayne county. )

          That said, I can’t recall whether Eminem had any connections to OU. The only educational reference I can see on his Wikipedia page is a reference to dropping out of a High School in the suburb of Warren. (Coincidentally, Warren is in Macomb County.)

          Eminem did make a movie called 8 Mile, taking its name from the road which divides Detroit from the suburbs to the North.

          I’m not enough of a rap fan to know whether the phrase “Getting via Waiting…” is part of an Eminem piece, or is referenced in the above movie.

          • J Mann says:

            8 Mile comes up a lot in Eminem’s work – he views it as the dividing line between his gritty urban landscape and posers. (One of his putdowns of Insane Clown Posse was “Claimin’ Detroit, when y’all live 20 miles away . . . Look at y’all, running your mouth again / When you ain’t seen a fucking mile road south of 10.”

            If it helps for anyone’s cypher, Eminem’s band is called D12.

  31. disposablecat says:

    Regarding the whole Trump separating families media circus currently going on: I find myself unable to understand the deep outrage felt by self-identified members of “the resistance” on this issue. This morning there was a post in my feed, from someone I normally consider a fairly even keeled individual, which had words to the effect of “if you aren’t terminally outraged by this you are a horrible person and you are not allowed to have political opinions any more” and then a bunch of people signalling their assent to this mindset in the comments. I’m also seeing a ton of hyperbolic usage of terms like “concentration camps for kids”, comparisons to Japanese internment, et cetera.

    My understanding of the actual situation is, briefly, there are people jumping the border, sometimes with kids, sometimes not. Sometimes they claim to be seeking asylum, sometimes not. We are now prosecuting/deporting everyone who does this, without exception or consideration. But for some legal reason or other we can’t prosecute or deport their children, so we are sending the children to holding facilities and then, nebulously, on to “relatives or other caretakers”, which are stated to be mostly inside the US (I guess we can’t deport children, either?)

    I think it boils down to “I don’t understand what the alternative reality these people would prefer to see looks like”. Given the above situation and the sentiment “these children should be with their families”, the obvious solution in my mind is “so we should deport them with their families”, which I somehow doubt is what they mean.

    But what, then, do they mean? I can’t conceive of a policy for this situation which does not separate families and does not effectively turn into “you can get away with jumping the border if you bring kids with you”, i.e. de facto open borders for anyone with children, which is an outcome that I can’t get behind for a wide variety of reasons (to start: the most basic function of a country is to have borders. to continue: as much as we might like to charitably allow everyone and anyone to come to America and experience our wonderful lifestyle, we aren’t post scarcity yet so that approach does not scale.)

    Can anyone in the SSC commentariat who falls in the terminally outraged these-are-concentration-camps camp explain to me what the ideal, fair, non-outrageous border policy you’d like to see is? If it does effectively mean “open borders for those with children”, why?

    • Randy M says:

      I think it boils down to “I don’t understand what the alternative reality these people would prefer to see looks like”.

      The stated claim is that family separation is what is wrong. I suspect if there were pictures of parents with their children at a facility together we would get comparisons made to concentration camps.

      The preferred alternative, given also opposition to a border wall, is nearly free entry in the country, then deportation if at a later date the immigrant commits some other egregious crime, but not otherwise. Given nearly free into the country, I’m not sure deportation in that case would mean anything, though.

      • Evan Þ says:

        The stated claim is that family separation is what is wrong.

        If we seriously believe this claim, we should redraft policies to allow people in prison for other crimes to keep their children with them. Also, we should redesign CPS so that children can no longer be even “temporarily” removed from their parents on the basis of an anonymous phone call and one social worker’s word.

        Alternatively, people could try to rationally distinguish illegal immigration from these other scenarios.

        But until they do one or the other, it strikes me as special pleading, either because they hate Trump or because they don’t care about illegal immigration. That means I need to work hard to take them seriously – and to whatever extent I do take them seriously, I’d really prefer to spend my time working toward CPS reform.

        • John Schilling says:

          If we seriously believe this claim, we should redraft policies to allow people in prison for other crimes to keep their children with them.

          We aren’t talking about prison, we are talking about jail. Prison is where we put people who have been convicted of crimes, if those crimes are serious enough. Jail is where we put people who have been accused of crimes, if we are worried they won’t show up for trial and don’t have any better alternatives.

          The immigrants in question have not been convicted of any crimes, at least in the United States. And, in every other part of the US legal system, we already have policies that provide alternatives to jail for parents who have been accused but not convicted of crimes. Really, we have alternatives to jail for pretty much everyone who has been accused but not convicted of a crime, but we bend over backwards to make them work for families that would otherwise be destroyed.

          It is Trump’s recent policy, not his opponents’ demands, that represent a departure from American norms for the treatment of accused criminals and their dependent children.

          • Evan Þ says:

            We do have alternatives to jail, and we bend over backwards to make them work for parents? That runs so contrary to everything I’ve heard (see, generally, bail reform projects) that I’d really like that claim to be substantiated.

          • John Schilling says:

            The best numbers I have are about 15 years old, but less than 40% of felony defendents overall are held in jail pending trial. The rest are released either on bail or on their own recognizance. Non-violent felony defendants are held at roughly half the overall rate, and defendants without prior felony records are held at roughly half the rate of those with records.

            Also, illegal border crossing is a misdemeanor, not a felony. And being the parent or primary caregiver for a young child is I believe one of the considerations for bail vs ROR vs detained as a flight risk. So if we were treating these people the way we were treating comparable American criminals, it is unlikely that more than 10-20% of them would be held in jail.

            Everything you’ve hear about e.g. bail reform is about the failures of the non-jail alternatives, because those can be horror stories that can be made to serve someone’s agenda. The more numerous successes are just plain boring, as they should be.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Tyler Cowen, for one, agrees and proposes, plausibly to me, that most jailed parents should be kept under house arrest instead:

          https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-06-18/family-separation-goes-beyond-trump-s-immigration-plan

          • albatross11 says:

            Honestly, I suspect there are huge improvements in well-being available by rethinking a lot of our policies w.r.t. jails and prisons, in light of modern monitoring technology. I think one reason it’s hard to get to those improvements is that a lot of the public suspects, based on historical evidence, that many elected officials would be inclined to let a lot of dangerous people back onto the streets if they could. Another reason is that even if you make a large improvement in the world overall, if your makes-the-world-better-overall program releases Willie Horton, who goes on a rape and murder spree, then your political career is flushed down the toilet.

      • Brad says:

        The preferred alternative, given also opposition to a border wall, is nearly free entry in the country

        Y’all do love your strawmen.

        A border wall is a completely ineffective fuck you to the world. Being opposed to it means basic rationality and nothing more.

        • Vanzetti says:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egypt%E2%80%93Israel_barrier

          Extremely effective.

          And you could also add minefields.

        • Randy M says:

          Sorry, should I have said “other than Brad, who supports large increases in border patrol?”Very well, presumably the other option is that many would appreciate free, effective enforcement but don’t think the increased cost for a marginal decrease in immigration is worthwhile.

          However, rhetoric like “no person is illegal” sort of belies that, so either there is an open borders faction, or activists engage in hyperbole.

          • Aron Wall says:

            You don’t necessarily have to agree with a goal to oppose (what you believe to be) ineffectual ways of pursuing that goal.

            (Edit: was in response to the comment that is now crossed out)

          • Brad says:

            I think people have a variety of complicated ideas and feeling about immigration. But support for full on open borders is rare for the same reason that full on anarco-capitalism is rare—it is completely impractical, and obviously so. To strawman everyone that doesn’t support your preferred policies as open border supporters is lazy and counterproductive in the same way as strawmanning everyone that thinks we should cut spending as being an anarco-capitalist.

          • Randy M says:

            To strawman everyone that doesn’t support your preferred policies as open border supporters is lazy and counterproductive in the same way as strawmanning everyone that thinks we should cut spending as being an anarco-capitalist.

            If someone voted against every bill that spent a dime, that would be evidence in favor of them being an anarcho-capitalist.

            Of course, I didn’t actually say Open Borders in the post you first objected to, instead

            nearly free entry in the country, then deportation if at a later date the immigrant commits some other egregious crime

            “Nearly” is of course subjective, as is “egregious”, but that’s two qualifications away from open borders.

            But until someone gives support to a single method of enforcement, I think it’s a fair characterization of at least their opening bargaining position.

            Also, I don’t think open borders is impractical, in operation, I think it is unpopular because of the effects. But simple having the national border function similarly to that between North and South Dakota is a very easy option.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t think you’ve thought this through. A few million South and Central Americans is nothing. There are seven and half billion people on this planet and a good fraction of those: 1) would like to live in the US and 2) could scrape together a few hundred bucks for a one way ticket.

            Free entry (or “nearly”) is completely impractical and a vanishingly rare position.

            And we spend a lot lot of money right now to enforce our laws and do a decent job. Supporting increases in that spending is not at all a good litmus test for believing in “nearly” free entry.

            When you strawman like this it makes me think you don’t have a good argument against what people actually believe which is why you want to characterize them as holding beliefs that are easier to dismiss (and ridicule).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And we spend a lot lot of money right now to enforce our laws and do a decent job. Supporting increases in that spending is not at all a good litmus test for believing in “nearly” free entry.

            I’ve never seen anybody use that as a litmus test. Rather, accusations of open-borderism tend to be levelled against people who (a) protest vociferously about any measures to actually enforce immigration laws, (b) use rhetoric which implies that we should, in fact, let everybody come in who wants to (“No human is illegal!” “No-one leaves home unless home is desperately dangerous”), and (c) never give any indication as to what they think an appropriate level of immigration would be. Maybe such people will disavow believing in open borders when asked, but in practical terms their position doesn’t seem noticeably different.

            (Similarly, if somebody protested at everything the government did or every tax the government raised, kept throwing around slogans like “Taxation is theft!”, and refused to ever specify anything that they thought would be best handled by the government, I think it would be reasonable to round off their views to “anarcho-capitalist”, even if they denied being one when asked.)

          • Randy M says:

            Mr X answered quite well for me, but to reiterate:

            Supporting increases in that spending is not at all a good litmus test for believing in “nearly” free entry.

            You’re mixing up the analogy with the referent, I think. The “never vote for spending, thus against it” was for anarchy-tyranny. The immigration equivalent would be someone who protests enforcement methods without proposing alternatives.

            I don’t think you’ve thought this through. A few million South and Central Americans is nothing. There are seven and half billion people on this planet and a good fraction of those: 1) would like to live in the US and 2) could scrape together a few hundred bucks for a one way ticket.

            Hence the unpopularity of the results. But to actually put it into practice would be simple.
            But yes, I am quite cognizant of that fact!

          • Brad says:

            Didn’t Ron Paul famously vote against everything? Nonetheless, I take him at his word that he’s a libertarian and not a anarchist.

            Besides which, *is* there anyone that has e.g. consistently voted against every bill that e.g. funded ICE the entire time he or she has been in Congress?

    • albatross11 says:

      First, I don’t think there’s really a legal rule requiring separating the kids–as I understand it, it wasn’t being done until fairly recently. It seems like it would be possible to set up the detention facilities to handle families without unreasonable difficulty. This might have taken some time and resources, but it was doable.

      Second, because this is a change in policy, Trump administration officials presumably knew about what this would look like. (They knew about how many families were getting arrested on immigration violations before, so they could have worked out how many families with kids they’d get.) They presumably could have planned this out to make things work out better. (I suspect the administration likes the coverage as it is–it plays well for their base, and most of the outraged people were already against Trump anyway.)

      Third, I believe there have been public statements by high-level Trump officials saying that one goal of this policy is to deter immigrants by making them fear being separated from their kids. That sounds exactly like doing something mean to the kids to punish the parents. It also echoes the bit with the “muslim ban,” where the administration’s public pronouncements ended up causing legal problems later when the ban (on immigration from a set of countries everyone agrees have high terrorism risk) were challenged in court.

      • SamChevre says:

        The best background I’ve found on the legal components is this (Rich Lowry at National Review).

        It’s not that there’s a rule change about separating children and parents: it’s that there’s a rule change about charging illegal entry as a crime consistently. Anyone, always, everywhere in the US who is charged as a criminal and held in jail cannot bring their children with them.

        It’s a policy that makes me extremely uncomfortable, but I don’t see a good alternative without changing policy so that families can be detained together. “People who immigrate illegally are prosecuted, unless they have a child with them” seems likely to encourage a lot more illegal border-crossing with children, which given the general dangers of illegal border-crossing seems likely to have a high death toll.

        • gbdub says:

          Thanks, that was a good article that left me better educated about what’s going on. I’d encourage others to read it. (One thing – the article says the best way to claim asylum would be to do so at a legal border crossing. I’ve seen claims, not sure how valid, that current Border Patrol policy is to strongly discourage asylum claims at legal crossings).

          So the “Flores Consent Doctrine” is what “forces” separation – children can’t be held more than 20 days, even with their family, and that’s not long enough to adjudicate most asylum claims. Well, that plus the fact that the bureaucratic entities assigned to hold adults charged with crimes are not the same ones assigned with holding minors.

          Both sides seem to be spinning this absurdly – Trump is claiming he’s required to separate families by a “Democrat law”, while e.g. Snopes says this is completely false. Truth seems somewhere in between (especially since the only option other than holding the adults until their asylum claims are processed is letting them go in the US, where you will probably never hear from them again).

          Now a less asshole president could probably have worked the fix to Flores through a friendly Congress and only then ramped up the zero-tolerance policy, this time with better optics and fewer crying children. But of course Trump / Sessions have indicated they consider separating the families to be part of a deterrent. Which does sound pretty awful. Then again it may well be true that immigrants who would not otherwise try to cross with their children are doing so because previous policy got them into the country much more reliably than single adults if caught, and if that’s true, not sure how you humanely deter that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’ve seen claims, not sure how valid, that current Border Patrol policy is to strongly discourage asylum claims at legal crossings

            But how valid do you think asylum claims from Mexico are likely to be? We grant asylum for political, religious, and ethnic persecution. Besides Cuba locking up political prisoners, where in the western hemisphere is any nation persecuting people in that manner? Also, international agreements about asylum seekers generally require them to stop at the first safe country. If you’re being persecuted by the government of Guatemala, why can’t you seek asylum in Mexico?

          • SamChevre says:

            So the “Flores Consent Doctrine” is what “forces” separation

            If I read it right, this is true for asylum-seekers who are not charged with a crime: that would be a rare case.

            What forces separation is charging the adult with a crime:

            Separation happens only if officials find that the adult is falsely claiming to be the child’s parent, or is a threat to the child, or is put into criminal proceedings.

            And consistently charging illegal entry as a crime is the change in policy. Here’s the Justice Department announcement.

          • Randy M says:

            But how valid do you think asylum claims from Mexico are likely to be?

            I thought this too; is it referring perhaps to ports of entry at, for instance, an airport customs screening?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, but right now the outcry about “child concentration camps” is at the US-Mexico border, and these are populated by children accompanying adults who were crossing that border illegally.

          • gbdub says:

            The specific claim (it shows up in the NPR article below) is that asylum seekers are being told to go away by CBP at legal crossings. CBP claims that they are only doing this because their facilities are full – it’s not “f off forever” it’s “come back in a few days”. The dispute is of course heightened by the fact that I think “f off forever” would be an international law violation, for what that’s worth.


            But how valid do you think asylum claims from Mexico are likely to be?

            I thought this too; is it referring perhaps to ports of entry at, for instance, an airport customs screening?”

            No, the issue seems to be that the asylum seekers are from other Central American countries, that COULD declare for asylum in Mexico but (for probably obvious reasons) prefer to continue north to the USA.

            “If I read it right, this is true for asylum-seekers who are not charged with a crime: that would be a rare case.”

            Yes, the charge-with-a-crime part is what forces immediate separation. But that separation would be short (since first time illegal entry is a misdemeanor usually quickly processed) EXCEPT when the adult claims asylum, at which point I guess they could be reunited until the 20 day clock runs out, but at that point they would need to be separated again, or the whole family unit would need to be released.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Maybe a stupid question, but what is a “port of entry”? And do people who legitimately seek asylum have access to them?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            A port of entry is any controlled area in which one may enter or leave a nation under official supervision. So any border checkpoint, or the customs counter at the airport.

            If you’re someone who’s not across the Mexican or Canadian border and you want to claim asylum in the US, you book a flight to the US, and when you’re at the passport check counter, you ask for asylum. If you’re in Mexico, you go to any of the 48 border crossings where they would have passport/luggage/auto inspections, and say to the border agent “I request asylum in the United States.”

            The current crisis is about people who, instead of just driving up one of the many highways that leads from Mexico to the US and asking for amnesty are instead getting off the highway and dragging children through the desert to avoid encountering border agents, and then when caught, claim “amnesty!” to avoid deportation while we give them due process of law. They know they don’t have a legitimate amnesty claim, or else they’d go the much easier route of driving up to the border crossing checkpoint and asking there. We know they don’t have a legitimate claim. We know they know they don’t have a legitimate claim.

            But since we’re trying to do the whole “rule of law” and “due process” thing, we have to let them argue their case in front of a judge. This takes time, though, because we only have so many judges. They also are allowed time to find a lawyer (I believe it’s 10 days). However, we also have a ruling (Flores) that says we can’t hold children for more than 20 days. Since we can’t process the amnesty claim before the child hold timer runs out, Obama was releasing the “family” into the US with an order to appear before an amnesty court at a later date. About 40% of such people then never bothered to show up.

            Naturally, this incentivizes illegal border crossers to drag children with them through the desert, which is not very safe. Trump said, “no, we’re not going to release these people, we’re going to charge them with the crime of crossing the border illegally, and we’ll put the kids in foster care” so it’s no longer worthwhile to drag kids through the desert in order to “get out of jail free.” Then the screaming and the crying from the media, and here we are. So now Trump has signed an order that we’ll keep the kids with the adults, but this will almost certainly violate the Flores decision.

            What will happen next is interesting. The “families” are together, but since the children will be detained longer than 20 days, the administration can be sued to stop this. So after crying about “separating families” for two weeks, the activists are left with the choice of letting DHS/HHS keep the kids indefinitely (but with the “parents”) or…suing to separate the kids from the adults! We may then see Flores revisited.

            Really though, what I hope happens is people stop dragging children through the desert.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Oh, also they could apply for amnesty at any US embassy or consulate. No need to even come to the border, and definitely no need to drag children through the desert.

          • bass says:

            I’ll assume, charitably, that Conrad is arguing in good faith and mistaken, but this is not true.

            The current crisis is about people who, instead of just driving up one of the many highways that leads from Mexico to the US and asking for amnesty are instead getting off the highway and dragging children through the desert to avoid encountering border agents, and then when caught, claim “amnesty!” to avoid deportation while we give them due process of law. They know they don’t have a legitimate amnesty claim, or else they’d go the much easier route of driving up to the border crossing checkpoint and asking there. We know they don’t have a legitimate claim. We know they know they don’t have a legitimate claim.

            We know that people are being prevented from seeking asylum at port of entry e.g. here

        • John Schilling says:

          Anyone, always, everywhere in the US who is charged as a criminal and held in jail cannot bring their children with them. It’s a policy that makes me extremely uncomfortable, but I don’t see a good alternative

          You could try perhaps not holding them in jail. “Charged as a criminal” and “held in jail” are two different things. Most people who are charged as criminals in the United States, are not held in jail for more than a few hours, if that. We have many alternatives, some of which have been alluded to by others here, and a good deal of experience with what works and what doesn’t. For this population, there are lots of alternatives that would work most of the time and aren’t being tried.

          If it were up to me (and I wanted to do this thing in the first place), almost all of them would be released on their own recognizance, as families, into something akin to a Motel 6 in the middle of nowhere. Wearing GPS ankle bracelets, checked on daily by social workers, with police quietly watching the roads and surrounding desert, and with public defenders assigned to talk to them on day one about their option for the future. And the “zero tolerance” policy wouldn’t go into effect until all of this was set up first.

          • SamChevre says:

            I would whole-heartedly support this plan. My understanding was that it was entirely illegal.

          • Matt M says:

            If it were up to me (and I wanted to do this thing in the first place), almost all of them would be released on their own recognizance, as families, into something akin to a Motel 6 in the middle of nowhere. Wearing GPS ankle bracelets, checked on daily by social workers, with police quietly watching the roads and surrounding desert, and with public defenders assigned to talk to them on day one about their option for the future. And the “zero tolerance” policy wouldn’t go into effect until all of this was set up first.

            This just sounds like “jail” with extra steps.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I think that this is a pretty good solution, but I guarantee you the same chattering classes would be calling those Motel 5.9s concentration camps and bleating about Korematsu.

          • J Mann says:

            Yeah, lawyers would sue you for running a de facto detention facility, and they’re be right.

            Still, building much nicer detention facilities would be a step in the right direction.

          • rahien.din says:

            Andrew Hunter,

            They beat you to it.

          • Brad says:

            “They”

          • Michael Handy says:

            You have just re-invented the low-security Jail. It’s not like they’re putting them in Colditz.

    • gryffinp says:

      While we’re on this subject, is there coverage somewhere that is doing a decent job of providing a clear view of what is actually going on? My attempts to try to find some so far have been turned off by the incredible levels of outrage from the potent combination of “concentration camps!” and “the children!”

      • dodrian says:

        This NPR Report is the best I’ve found so far.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It’s not bad, but it’s slightly misleading.

          Does the Trump administration have a policy of separating families at the border?

          Yes.

          In April, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered prosecutors along the border to “adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy” for illegal border crossings. That included prosecuting parents traveling with their children as well as people who subsequently attempted to request asylum.

          So, no there is not a policy of “family separation.” The policy change is “prosecute everyone who crosses the border illegally.” If you’re being prosecuted for a crime, you go to jail, and since we do not put children in jail with adults, children are separated from parents (or the adults they were with, which are frequently coyotes/traffickers). It seems unnecessarily inflammatory to me to characterize the separation of children from adults as the goal of the policy change, rather than a side-effect of the policy change. When we arrest a parent for, say, robbery, we separate the parent from their children, but that’s a consequence of imprisoning the parent, not a policy end in and of itself.

          There’s also no mention of the reason for the change in policy. After the election, attempted border crossings plunged because people assumed Trump was going to release the hounds. But there were not any significant changes in policy, the wall isn’t built, and even through Trump authorized the hiring of thousands of new border agents that takes time to train and deploy. So now illegal crossings have increased massively. And since having a child with you made you eligible for Obama’s “catch and release” policy, people (frequently men) started bringing children with them as a “get out of jail free card.” The only way to stop that is to remove the incentive to bring children with you.

          • J Mann says:

            The ACLU alleges that ICE is also separating legal applicants for asylum and has at lease a couple cases – the confusion over the arrest policy and the border policy isn’t helping clarify the issue.

            https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/fact-checking-family-separation

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, and DHS says they only remove children from legal applicants in cases where they believe the child is in danger or there is no familial relationship. Given they only have “a few cases” it does not seem like it happens often, given the enormous numbers of asylum seekers in process.

            Should DHS never do that? Even if they strongly suspect abuse or child trafficking?

            If they should do it, there will inevitably be errors, even with the best of intentions. What’s an acceptable error rate, and what is the current error rate?

    • J Mann says:

      What the proponents (at least those who understand the issue) would prefer is a rule where if you are caught after sneaking into the country and have a kid with you, ICE does a risk assessment and releases you if you are reasonably likely to show up at your court date.

      My understanding is that that after a court ruled that the Obama administration couldn’t hold kids, the Obama admin began doing a case by case risk assessment and releasing parents who brought their kids over the border with them and who the administration thought would probably show up in court even if not held. I read someplace that about 40% of the asylum requesters without lawyers don’t show up if released, but I don’t know how accurate that number is.

      • gbdub says:

        Presumably there were still some percentage of “high risk” families that were still separated?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Part of the problem also is that this is almost certainly an abuse of the asylum system. If you want to claim asylum, present yourself to an agent at a border crossing station. You are allowed into the country, are not committing a crime by doing so, and are not separated from family. The only reason to enter illegally and then claim asylum when caught is to abuse the length of court proceedings and the “can’t hold kids for more than 20 days” rule to disappear into the populace. These are almost certainly not people with legitimate asylum claims or else they would have simply gone to the border crossing and claimed asylum.

        Also, asylum is for people who are being persecuted by their government for their ethnicity/religion/politics. Besides Cuba, is there anywhere in the western hemisphere currently persecuting people in this manner?

        • albatross11 says:

          Asylum is also for wars, and you could argue that there are parts of Mexico and Central America that are at least somewhere on the spectrum of civil war (or maybe war between rival drug gangs).

      • Wrong Species says:

        Let’s say I claim asylum in order to not be immediately deported even though I don’t really have a good case. The government releases me and tells me to come back later for the court date. What is my incentive to show up?

        • gbdub says:

          Apparently there was/is a program for monitoring the seekers with e.g. ankle bracelets. Pretty much how we’d handle other bail jumpers. Although the percent not showing up sounds a lot higher than typical bail cases.

    • beleester says:

      The root cause of this issue, AIUI, is that the Trump administration wants to criminally charge all illegal immigrants before deporting them. Therefore, they have to be jailed, therefore, they have to separate the parents from the children. Previously, they would be left alone until they had their deportation hearing unless they were considered a flight risk.

      There are several reasonable ways that you could fix this:
      1. Put more effort into reducing flight risk without jail time. Ankle monitors, probation officers, etc. Making people show up to their court date is something our justice system already knows how to do.
      2. Put more resources into the court system so that you can judge asylum and deportation hearings in days instead of months. The faster and more frictionless the immigration system, the less time people spend in jail. Also, build more youth detention centers so you don’t have to ship kids across state lines – it’s insane that we instituted this policy without first checking that we actually had somewhere to put the people we wanted to jail.
      3. Stop jailing asylum applicants who present themselves at border crossings. If you crack down on both illegal and legal border crossers, you’re not saying “obey the law”, you’re saying “we hate asylum seekers.”

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Re: 2) deportation hearings are already same-day affairs. Family separation in such cases last for mere hours and the family unit is returned to nation of origin. It’s only people who choose to claim asylum after being caught entering illegally that delay the process long enough to pass the “can’t keep kids for 20 days” limit.

        Re: 3) this does not happen. If you present yourself at the border and claim asylum you are not breaking the law, are not jailed, and are not separated from family. You are admitted to the country and processed through the asylum system.

        Ergo, the only reason to sneak in illegally is because you have no intention of claiming asylum, or no valid reason for claiming asylum, and are simply doing it to abuse the system. The child is carted along as a “get out of jail free” card. To stop people from doing this, we need to stop issuing such cards.

        • beleester says:

          The DHS denies it, but NPR is reporting that this does in fact happen – people who presented themselves at border crossings are sometimes still getting arrested and separated, or are simply turned away.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            NPR is not reporting that they’re getting arrested for seeking asylum at a border crossing. For what crime would they be getting arrested?

            As for separation:

            In a White House press briefing Monday, Nielsen said, “DHS is not separating families legitimately seeking asylum at ports of entry.” But she said DHS “will only separate a family if we cannot determine there is a familial relationship, if child is at risk with the parent or legal guardian, or if the parent or legal guardian is referred for prosecution.”

            This does not seem unreasonable to me, nor does it seem like an excuse:

            “Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service has documented 53 incidents of family separation in the last nine months, mostly Central Americans. Other immigrant support groups say there are many more cases,” Burnett reported.

            53 incidents in 9 months sounds to me more like “53 times in nine months we’ve removed kids from suspected abusers or traffickers” than it sounds like a systematic effort to rip apart families for some unknown and cruel reason.

          • beleester says:

            One sentence further:

            Jose Demar Fuentes, who says he sought asylum and was separated from his 1-year-old son, Mateo, despite having an original birth certificate proving that he is the boy’s father.

            Yeah, it’s well known that child traffickers frequently have the kid’s birth certificate.

            (Also, 53 incidents in one month from one support group)

            Burnett also has reported that some families are not being allowed to request asylum — that they are being repeatedly turned away and told the CBP facility is too full to accept them.

            If you want people to enter legally, you need to actually make sure people can enter legally, not just that they theoretically can, if it’s a good day, it’s not too crowded, and the CBP agents are in a good mood.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Jose Demar Fuentes, who says he sought asylum and was separated from his 1-year-old son, Mateo, despite having an original birth certificate proving that he is the boy’s father.

            Was Jose arrested? If not, then the family separation is because DHS thinks the birth certificate is fake. If it is not, I hope the error is cleared up and father and son are quickly reunited.

            But when immigration groups that make their money shuffling people across the border can only find 53 cases of “family separation” in 9 months (with no indication how often it’s justified) I think that’s pretty good evidence it’s not an insidious plot, and is in fact well-intentioned people doing their jobs well with a low error rate.

            Should we never separate kids from parents (or claimed parents), even if we suspect child trafficking or abuse?

            Assuming it’s okay to separate kids in instances where we legitimately believe it’s in their best interests, what’s an acceptable error rate?

            ETA: And with regards to “turned away from official crossings while seeking asylum,” they didn’t present any evidence or numbers and DHS denies it. So I’d need to see some evidence and know how often this is occurring.

          • beleester says:

            An immigration group. Stop treating that number like it’s the full count across all asylum seekers.

            (Statistics on the number and success rate of asylum applicants are annoyingly hard to find, but that doesn’t give you license to read whatever you want into them.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I completely agree we should have better numbers. When a topic is this controversial, transparency is a must. I would very much like to know, in a given period:

            1) How many families claim asylum in the US?

            2) How many do so at official, legal points of entry?

            3) How many do so after entering the country illegally and being caught?

            4) What percentage of asylum requests are granted, for each type of entry? Most importantly, what’s the asylum acceptance rate from points of entry along the Mexican border?

            5) For each category of families seeking asylum, what percentage of families are separated? For what reasons?

            6) Of those separated, what percentage are reunited, and for what reasons?

            Saying I can’t read what I like into the “53 families over 9 months” number seems like an isolated demand for rigor. I’m not the one claiming there’s something wrong with the system. You’re the one claiming something nefarious is going on here. Given the official explanation of “we only separate families of legit asylum seekers for suspicion of abuse/trafficking/criminality,” why do you think 53 instances in 9 months is too high to be legitimate? I’m surprised it’s that low.

            And if the official explanation is bogus, what’s the alternative explanation? Is DHS/HHS doing something nefarious with these kids? Why? And if so, why so few?

      • Wrong Species says:

        Is jailing people who claim asylum at the border without crossing it actually happening? All the articles I’ve read don’t make a distinction between those arrested without crossing the border and those who have crossed it and later claimed asylum.

        • beleester says:

          According to NPR, yes it is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Where in the NPR article does it say they’re arresting anyone seeking asylum at an official border crossing? For what crime would they be getting arrested?

          • beleester says:

            That was the wrong word choice on my part, but it’s irrelevant to the thing that people are actually getting outraged about. Separating parents from children doesn’t become better simply because it’s the result of “detention” rather than “arrest.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But nobody’s being separated because “detention.” A small number of families (or “families”) have been separated because of suspicion of child abuse or trafficking.

            There are lots of things getting mixed together here, but the current media outrage is about the thousands of kids being housed in detention centers. Those kids are being held because either they’re teenagers who crossed the border illegally unaccompanied, or because they’re small children who crossed illegally with adults who later claimed asylum but are still being prosecuted for the illegal crossing. This should not be conflated with the very small number of children separated from adults at legal points of entry because of suspicion of child abuse or trafficking.

            ETA: Also, I think the insinuation that the HHS workers are doing something nefarious here is extremely uncharitable. I can overlook an implication that border patrol agents are power tripping, but the kids are turned over to Health and Human Services. I find it extremely unlikely that the HHS personnel who care for these kids are totally okay with ripping children from the arms of loving parents for no reason. This seems like the sort of job that someone is in because of actual concern for, well, health and human services, and not for power tripping. Where are the HHS whistleblowers, letting us know this is all a sham, and the kids aren’t really abused/trafficked?

          • Matt M says:

            I find it extremely unlikely that the HHS personnel who care for these kids are totally okay with ripping children from the arms of loving parents for no reason. This seems like the sort of job that someone is in because of actual concern for, well, health and human services, and not for power tripping. Where are the HHS whistleblowers, letting us know this is all a sham, and the kids aren’t really abused/trafficked?

            Indeed. And the front line employees here aren’t exactly Trump appointees. They’re the same people who were doing the job under Obama, and Bush, and Clinton. They don’t all suddenly become evil just because of an electoral result…

    • Wrong Species says:

      Update: Trump reverses course, signs order to keep families together.

      In the executive order he signed on Wednesday, Trump declared it is his administration’s policy to “maintain family unity,” including by detaining entire families together “where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources.”
      The order directs other agencies, including the Pentagon, to take steps to find places to house family units.
      The order specifies that migrants entering the US with children will not be kept together if there’s a fear for the child’s welfare. Families will also be prioritized in the adjudication process.

      I still don’t understand though because if he is still prosecuting the parents, then they can’t be with their kids as per the Flores settlement. What does this mean?

      • J Mann says:

        Theoretically, Trump could (a) try to get asylum hearings done in 20 days; (b) challenge the Flores settlement interpretation in court; or (c) set up support houses that don’t qualify as detention – apparently, an earlier program that had facilities with social workers, legal assistants, education, etc. resulted in a 96% appearance rate in court.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          These all sound like great ideas.

        • Wrong Species says:

          According to an official, it might be choice b.

          An administration official with knowledge of the plan indicated that the Trump administration was anticipating lawsuits and preparing to litigate Flores in court, particularly if lawmakers fail to approve a legislative fix.

          “It may be easier to overturn the Flores Settlement than get Congress to pass something,” said Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington think tank whose restrictionist views on immigration policy have won broad influence in the White House.

          “Getting rid of the Flores Settlement is the quickest way to solve the problem,” Krikorian said. “The government has been faced with the choice of either splitting the family by detaining the parent and releasing the kid, or just letting the parent go too.”

          • The Nybbler says:

            This one is starting to approach 5Dness. I figured he was doing it to bring Congress to the table, which would be regular political chess. But if he was actually doing it so he could force his opponents to either accept modification of Flores, or alternatively sue to require that he continue to separate families(!), that’s getting a bit “all paths lead to victory” 5D.

    • Iain says:

      With respect to “open borders”, Matt Yglesias had a short tweet thread recently that I think captures something important:

      The idea that we have no borders or “open borders” as long as immigration law is not perfectly complied with is not a standard people apply to any other legal domain. Stealing bicycles is, quite rightly, illegal in the United States and the fact that it’s illegal makes a real difference and has real benefits. But plenty of bikes are stolen, there’s not a lot of resources put into bike theft cases, etc.

      For less politically charged crimes, the idea that we’re never going to catch every criminal is uncontroversial. There’s no reason, in principle, that we couldn’t adopt a zero-tolerance approach to bike theft, but we’ve decided that it’s not worth the cost.

      Spending too much money on the Bike Crime Force is one kind of cost. Tearing families apart and locking children in cages is another kind of cost. If the alternative is that a minority of immigrants (less than 40%) skip out on their court dates, and either sneak through the cracks or have to be deported in some other manner, then that’s certainly unfortunate — but not so unfortunate that it justifies this kind of cruelty.

      • disposablecat says:

        OK, let’s say the borders are 40% open, i.e. that 40% of people who try to illegally immigrate to America get in and maybe 30% stay for the long haul. That means any person who can make it as far as Mexico needs on average 3 tries to get into the country and stay indefinitely.

        Is that something that you’re OK with? Because it’s not something I’m OK with, given that undocumented persons in the US are more or less untrackable by many of the usual systems we rely on to maintain order (taxation, the DMV database, and so on).

        Moving from a city to rural ag land, where these people mostly end up because our entire agricultural system depends on them for cheap labor, changed a lot of my opinions on this issue. I would much rather all our farmed goods cost 2-3x as much and we totally remove the dependence on illegal labor than have the current status quo of undocumented immigrants being bused around for field work, living in squalid off-the-books trailers and apartments with no legal recourse for any abuse their landlords may subject them to, driving unmaintained and unregistered vehicles without insurance or licensure, et cetera.

        I’m all for people coming here to find a better life – but do that legally. I’m also in favor of making it easier to do that legally, which we would need to do for ag labor if we had a real zero tolerance policy on immigration to the point that illegal ag labor was no longer viable. We’d also have to pay the new arrivals minimum wage and benefits, which would raise their standard of living by itself, never mind the tremendous utility benefits of being a documented resident.

        And all of this is without getting into the boogeyman of “well, now a terrorist who can get into Mexico needs on average 3 tries to get into the US under the status quo”.

        • Jesse E says:

          “I’m all for people coming here to find a better life – but do that legally.”

          There is no line for unskilled laborers from Mexico to wait in. Asking a uneducated mother from Mexico to get into the US legally is basically the same as asking me to fund an Avengers movie.

          • Matt M says:

            Asking a uneducated mother from Mexico to get into the US legally is basically the same as asking me to fund an Avengers movie.

            Perhaps because we don’t actually want uneducated mothers from Mexico in the US?

          • disposablecat says:

            Right, if we need uneducated ag labor once we make the border less permeable, we’d need to create such a line.

        • rlms says:

          I would much rather all our farmed goods cost 2-3x as much and we totally remove the dependence on illegal labor

          Luckily for other Americans, you are have no control over that (I hope).

      • Wrong Species says:

        How much do you think it takes to just enforce the laws we have now? Because I guarantee you it’s not as proportionally costly as trying to reduce bike thefts to zero. Building a wall would essentially stop illegal entry with minimal cost outside of the one time expense, but I don’t see the left clamoring for it.

        This would also be a lot more convincing if the left wasn’t actively undermining the law itself.

        • J Mann says:

          I wonder if sanctuary cities, etc. contributed to this problem. I’d be more sympathetic to releasing illegal entrants who requested asylum if I were more confident that states and cities would turn over people who skipped their court date and were arrested. Similarly, unless the Real ID program is actually unworkable, resistance to it doesn’t help reach a compromise.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            If we were sane, we’d allow in refugees and immigrants when we want, and then make them leave when we want, and we’d be fine.

            But too many people argue that once someone hits American soil it’s a tragedy to deport them and there are large enablers of that. So anyone interested in enforcement has to keep them out right at the border or else never have another shot.

        • CatCube says:

          I don’t think that the wall will reduce illegal entry significantly. Walls are obstacles, and as any good military engineer can tell you, obstacles without overwatch are useless.

          The wall doesn’t stop people from coming, it slows them down long enough for the Border Patrol to detect them and get there to arrest them. The way that it will stop people is if it can slow them down long enough that the “detection and getting there” can be guaranteed. Minefields, if you don’t have OPs waiting to call machine gun or artillery fire down on to forces trying to breach aren’t a substantial obstacle. Patience and a probe are all that’s required.

          To see what sealing a border actually takes, you need to compare to what the GDR had to do with the Inner German Border (and no, I’m not saying to copy the idea of shooting people; arrest will work fine in this situation)–you’re talking a much larger Border Patrol than is on offer.

          I actually substantially agree with the goals of the wall, but I think it’s a colossal waste of money that won’t do nearly as much good as jumping up and down on the employers that attract illegals.

        • skef says:

          Building a wall would essentially stop illegal entry with minimal cost outside of the one time expense, but I don’t see the left clamoring for it.

          You really believe this? I mean, forget the whole tunneling under/getting over issue; if we really got the Mexaco border sealed up do you really think there would be no shift to boats? We have way more coastline than southern land border and while an attempt is much more resource-intensive on the immigrant side it’s also more intensive on the prevention side.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Walls have a funny way of actually working, especially high tech modern ones. Israel built a mere fence on the border with Egypt and immigration dropped 99%. Egyptians could also try to cross by boat but they don’t. Anyone who says that there is nothing we can do to stop large numbers of illegal immigrants from crossing the border is wrong.

          • skef says:

            I’m not contesting that it would have a significant effect, I’m contesting the idea that doing this one thing “would essentially stop illegal entry”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Coast Guard.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not contesting that it would have a significant effect

            I’ll take that! It is often said that a wall would do essentially nothing and be a mere vanity project.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @skef

            When I say that would essentially stop illegal immigration, I’m saying that it would slow down to such a significant extent that it would cease to be an issue, not that it would necessarily drop to zero.

            @Randy M

            That is often said by people who ignore the other walls that work and who it would be politically convenient for that to be true instead of someone seriously considering the possibility. At the very least, the wall would reduce illegal crossings to some extent.

          • rlms says:

            Israel built a mere fence on the border with Egypt and immigration dropped 99%.

            Length of that fence: 245km. Length of the US-Mexico border: 3145km.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @rlms

            If the wall goes the entire way then it’s just as effective. And the estimates of the cost to build it is something like $25 billion, a drop in the bucket.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the wall goes the entire way then it’s just as effective.

            If the wall goes the entire way, and is patrolled by something like the Israeli army but proportionately larger, maybe.

            But you all seem to have completely missed CatCube’s post right above this subthread, explaining why the quantity and quality of the armed force patrolling the border is critical.

            Far more so than the fence itself, really. The US border is protected by a perfectly good fence, by a river that is a bigger obstacle than the fence, by a desert that is a bigger obstacle than the river, or by an ocean. These are watched over by a border patrol force that is hopelessly inadequate for the job, and there are massive practical political obstacles to changing that.

            That being the case, it will make no difference what sort of passive obstacle you build. The wall, if any, will be a monument to Donald Trump’s ego and a bit of security art(*) to make stupid people feel protected.

            * We need a term for the passive version of security theater.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            A wall would need far less patrolling than a fence. You would still use people watching the border but not to the same extent. Far fewer would even attempt to cross the border and of those who try, most would fail. Do you dispute that a wall 6 feet deep and fourty feet high with anti-climbing features would have more deterrence than a desert? The more barriers to cross, the fewer people make the attempt. That is a priori obvious and I don’t see why I should believe otherwise without some strong evidence.

            According to CNBC the wall would cost $750 million each year, and keeping the current border patrol would cost $1.4 billion. Let’s say I’m wrong and we had to double the border patrol. That still adds up to less than $4 billion every year, which again is nothing for the federal budget.

          • John Schilling says:

            A wall would need far less patrolling than a fence.

            Why? It’s not like we’re talking about this wall. A ladder is a ladder, and the highest walls contemplated for Plan Trump can be scaled with the sort of extension ladder readily available at your local Home Depot. There will be a marginal difference in the time required to deploy, erect, and scale a taller ladder, but that’s going to be seconds, not minutes, at least for a team of practiced coyotes. I’m not seeing where this great reduction in patrol costs is coming from.

            And then there are tunnels. But none of this should matter, because you just finished telling us that walls are “just as effective” as fences and that fences are effective enough to protect Israel against Hamas terrorists and insurgents.

            It’s not the walls or the fences, it’s the guards. Israel has them, we don’t, and we aren’t going to get them.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            They’re talking about walls that go 40 feet high, go six feet deep and have anti-climbing features on the top. It would be a hell of a climb.

          • CatCube says:

            @Wrong Species

            “They” might be talking about 40′ tall, but that’s a hell of a big structure. Go find a four-story building, stand next to it, and think about that for a minute. I think that somebody’s overselling this a bit.

            Either way, the question is still how far away the nearest patrol will be. If it takes the Border Patrol an hour to get there, putting 40′ of ladder against the wall and rappelling down from the top will be no problem. Similarly, if there’s no way to detect people digging under it, they can take their time and do that. 6′ is not that far down. Hell, most structures in the northern tier of states go that far down, because the damn frost line is 4′ deep.

            They can also just start digging further away where cameras don’t cover and build a tunnel. When you start talking about this length, any seismic sensors will have a large number of nuisance alarms, so it’s unlikely that they’ll catch anywhere near all of them.

            Will it increase the catch rate? Sure. Will it stop all (or even most) intruders? No.

            I restate: the CBP is what secures the southern border. Any physical barriers are there solely to increase their effectiveness. And physical barriers can only increase it so far. You cannot stop intruders at the border without a substantial Border Patrol. Any discussion of border security that does not start there is purely for show.

          • John Schilling says:

            They’re talking about walls that go 40 feet high, go six feet deep and have anti-climbing features on the top. It would be a hell of a climb.

            You should have learned by now that what Donald Trump and his buddies “talk about” has very little relationship with what actually happens.

            None of the prototype border walls exceeds 30 feet in height. The administration’s official requirements (C.3.1, p.62) say that the wall only has to be eighteen feet high, suggests thirty feet would be best, and offers no bonus or extra credit for making it any higher. It won’t be any higher. Whoever gets the bid, if this white elephant is ever built, will start with a thirty-foot wall and revert to eighteen feet as soon as Trump’s attention is elsewhere.

            My local Home Depot has 32-foot extension ladders in stock. I checked.

            None of the prototype walls have any “anti-climbing” devices that would bother anyone with a ladder. Indeed, the requirements document specifically excludes ladders as a technology the wall is required to defend against.

            They are required to defend against Batman’s grappling-hook gun, along with attempts to Spider-Man the outer face. So we’re covered if Mexico decides to send a wave of migrant superheroes against us. Er, if they recruit explicitly from the ranks of superheroes who lack the powers of flight, teleportation, transmogrification, mind control, invisibility, or more than the lowest levels of super-strength.

            But, never fear, the number one requirement explicitly stated in the RFP is that the wall be “physically imposing” from the South. It also has to be “aesthetically pleasing” when viewed from the North.

            That ought to do it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They are required to defend against Batman’s grappling-hook gun, along with attempts to Spider-Man the outer face.

            This is funny, but it makes sense to defend against grappling hooks even if you can’t defend against ladders; a rope and a grappling hook are a lot easier to carry than a big ladder, and you don’t need a gun to throw a hook over a wall.

            Mythbusters tested grappling hooks, and while they said you couldn’t “quickly” scale a wall, one of them managed to get up a 20 foot wall in 10 minutes by hand, and managed to get a hook secured on a 100-foot wall using a TAIL gun like Batman. Presumably once the coyote is up the wall he can lower a rope ladder to get his charges across.

          • CatCube says:

            @The Nybbler

            It makes sense to have a wall that slows the use of a grappling hook to increase the visible equipment that an intruder will require and therefore make it easier for the dudes watching cameras to spot somebody about to make an attempt, but if the wall doesn’t stop the ladder then you’d better have a plan for stopping people with ladders. As John pointed out, ladders are pretty easy to get.

            The way prisons do this is to have people in guard towers with rifles to shoot people putting a ladder against a wall. That’s not necessary here, since it’s also possible to send the Border Patrol assigned to that section to go grab them up–which is only possible if they can get there before they make it up the wall, down the other side, and disappear into the surrounding area. Maybe it works alright in a huge desert area, but this could be problematic if the border is through an urban area. One way to solve this is to build the wall well back from the border and knock down all cover between the wall and border, but that’s 1) going to be very expensive, since urban land is very expensive and 2) going to piss people off even more than they are now, since you’re kicking a bunch of people off their land.

            Either way, again, the Border Patrol is the important piece.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mythbusters tested grappling hooks, and while they said you couldn’t “quickly” scale a wall, one of them managed to get up a 20 foot wall in 10 minutes by hand,

            Yeah, I’m pretty sure it takes less than ten minutes to move a ladder from under a tarp on the back of a generic Mexican pickup truck in Mexico, move it into position against the wall, and climb it. And once you’ve got the ladder in place, each subsequent immigrant takes only seconds to cross.

            The marginal value of blocking grappling hooks, if you haven’t blocked ladders, is likely to be very small and certainly not worth the cost of a yuge, physically imposing, aesthetically pleasing wall that Mexico really isn’t going to pay for. Border guards, if you’ve got them, stop Spider-Man, Batman, and Ladder-Man equally well and are the only real solution.

          • Artificirius says:

            I think we’re glossing over the difficulty of using ladders. I mean, they’re not a particularly safe tool at the best of times. Some problems I see not being described:

            1) you need two ladders, really. Unless you like dropping 30+ feet. I don’t recommend this.

            2)Ladders that tall really need to be secured unless conditions are pretty optimal. Frantic border crossings with people of questionable fitness/ability are likely not it.

            3)Ladders that tall are not inexpensive. Granted, I have no idea how hard they might be to find/buy in Mexico (or in a US border town and brought back to Mexico). This is likely the least problematic barrier to entry (so to speak).

            And it’s really not the top of the wall you need to worry about, if you want to deter ladder climbers. If you contrive to slope the ground with a decent slope for a bit of distance. Just off the top of my head, throwing a 30-45 degree slope on either/both sides of the wall for at least 10 feet from the wall would be hell on setting a ladder up. (You’d also need to pave it, simply grading dirt would not work. Qdecking/steel laid in concrete would be best.

            Bad optics may abound though. Once you get a few children/women falling to their death as a result of said wall (This is a certainty.), then it becomes something one might attempt to pin on the builders of said wall.

          • Nornagest says:

            you need two ladders, really. Unless you like dropping 30+ feet.

            Or a ladder and a rope.

          • Artificirius says:

            That works alright for single person crossings, less well for multiple person crossings. Even for single person crossings it makes it significantly harder and more hazardous.

            EDIT: Better method for ladder prevention. Instead of a slope out from the wall, create a scallop or a ripple along the length of the wall. Wouldn’t even have to be that much of one. Once you are up past 10-15 feet, you have precious little distance to be screwing around with your center of gravity.

            EDIT THE SECOND: That would still leave the peak of each crest/ripple as a viable ladder placement area. Back to the drawing board I guess.

          • Nornagest says:

            You’re never going to build a wall that’s effective without overwatch. If I was tasked with doing this effectively, I’d probably put up something like a pair of parallel chain-link fences, the type with closely spaced links to make them inconvenient for bolt cutters, and with some concertina wire at the top. And then I’d spend the rest of the money on the border patrol, or on force multipliers for them (vehicles, sensors, reconnaissance drones).

            But effectiveness is probably missing the point. The wall is security theater; so maybe we should be optimizing for theater. How about something forty feet high and decorated with bald eagles made of guns?

          • Artificirius says:

            Agreed. No (feasible) barrier will keep people out without guards. But a better barrier will do more passively. (And if they did build something say 50+ feet tall with some reasonably good anti grappling hook measures on top, you’d be pretty close.)

            But I think theatre is a primary mover. Or at least, symbology. An actual wall has more in the way of say, authority, than a fence.

          • John Schilling says:

            EDIT: Better method for ladder prevention. Instead of a slope out from the wall, create a scallop or a ripple along the length of the wall. Wouldn’t even have to be that much of one.

            But it isn’t going to be any of one, because we can look at the prototypes and see what it is going to be, and because the requirements document explicitly says not to worry about ladders.

            Any arms race between purely passive defenses and even modestly determined and resourceful active attackers, is going to be a slam-dunk win for the attackers. And if it’s to be a mixed defense, the point of diminishing returns for the passive layer, at which you really need to stop pouring concrete and start training guards, is by the assessment of basically everyone else on the planet who has done this sort of thing, at about the level of a fifteen-foot primary fence or light wall. The actual Berlin Wall was never more than fifteen feet high, and it was nowhere thick enough to withstand half an hour of determined physical assault. It worked.

            And Trump’s wall, if built, will work too. But only for its actual purposes, which do not require even marginally reducing the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border. That’s barely even a secret at this point, what with “look imposing, look awesome, don’t worry about ladders” explicit in the requirements.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Berlin Wall did have anti-climbing measures — in particular, a split pipe at the top. It was a double wall, also — two walls with a no-mans-land in between, the no-mans-land containing trip-wires with automated gun emplacements. It was also heavily patrolled; this was certainly more practical for a relatively short wall in an urban environment than a border wall through the desert.

            I think it’s possible that better passive defenses would make more sense in a long wall through the desert where patrolling is more difficult, but there’s clearly a limit to how good the passive defenses can be. And there’s no way you’re going to get automated machine guns on a US border wall.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Dammit, now I want a story about migrant superheroes.

          • John Schilling says:

            But the best superheroes have always been illegal immigrants.

            Actually, this may be a publishing-house style thing. DC’s original Justice League of America was 57% illegal-ish immigrant, though the current cinematic version is I believe down to 50%. And there’s a fair number of immigrants in their non-JLU stable, especially if we include Vertigo.

            Marvel’s “Avengers” were originally only 10% immigrants (including half credit for Thor but not Donald Blake), up to 29% in the cinematic version but with Black Widow probably being legitimately green-carded during her defection. Counting X-Men is hard, but I think they’re mostly American citizens or legal immigrants, likewise Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four.

            Hypothesis: Marvel wants to use superhero comics as a vehicle to talk about American society and politics, which needs a diverse set of American viewpoint characters. DC wants to have fun beating up bad guys, so either boringly generic Americans or Literal Aliens to distance themselves from political or culture war stuff.

          • Aapje says:

            Migrantron?

            Migrant(wo)man?

            Crosser?

          • Nick says:

            Aapje, how about our old friend Olivia Marsdin?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            Superman’s legal (and eligible to be President). 18 USC 1401(f) makes a child of unknown parentage found in the United States a citizen, unless he is shown to have not been born within the US before his 21st birthday. So as long as the Kents kept quiet for 21 years, he should be OK.

          • yodelyak says:

            @The Nybbler
            @TheNybbler
            (someone help me understand whether to use a space in a username with a space?)
            Actually, the Constitution’s definition for “natural born citizen” doesn’t care whether or not someone is declared by statute to be a citizen, it cares *only* whether they were a citizen at birth. Link:
            https://harvardlawreview.org/2015/03/on-the-meaning-of-natural-born-citizen/

            If Kal-El, aka Clark Joseph Kent, aka Superman, was born in Canada to American parents, he’d be eligible. Born somewhere outside the U.S., and to parents not themselves citizens, he’s not a natural born citizen, and no statute passed by Congress can change that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @yodelyak

            Your link does not support your argument. Clark Kent, as a foundling in the US, was a national and citizen at birth according to 8 USC 1401(f). Once he reached age 21, this would remain true even if it were shown he was born outside the US. Yes, this implies his citizenship was retroactive from the time of his finding to his birth; that’s not prohibited.

            Ted Cruz, mentioned in your link, is covered under 8 USC 1401(g).

          • yodelyak says:

            @The Nybbler

            I’m not sure what to say–in real life I could start talking more slowly. It seems like we’ve completely missed each other, so maybe it will help if I formalize what I’m saying.
            1. A statute passed by Congress *cannot* change an operative definition for a Constitutional phrase. (Implication: Congress can no more add “or someone born outside the country, but we didn’t know that until after they turned 21” to the test for natural born citizen than Congress can add “or someone with the surname Schwarzenegger.” Therefore, If the phrase “natural born citizen” as written in the Constitution means someone born either on U.S. soil or someone born to a U.S. citizen father or a U.S. citizen mother, then since Kal-El was born elsewhere to noncitizens, he is not a “natural born citizen.”)
            2. The phrase “natural born citizen” in the Constitution does mean someone born either on U.S. soil or someone born to a U.S. citizen. (This is what my link shows, I believe.)
            Because 1 and 2, it follows that
            3. Kal-El is not a natural born citizen under the U.S. Constitution. (And your cited statute’s operative definition for “natural born citizen” doesn’t matter.)

          • Nick says:

            yodelyak,

            I’m not sure what to say–in real life I could start talking more slowly.

            Less of this please.

            It seems like we’ve completely missed each other, so maybe it will help if I formalize what I’m saying.
            1. A statute passed by Congress *cannot* change an operative definition for a Constitutional phrase.

            If that’s what your link says, then why does it also say this?

            No doubt informed by this longstanding tradition, just three years after the drafting of the Constitution, the First Congress established that children born abroad to U.S. citizens were U.S. citizens at birth, and explicitly recognized that such children were “natural born Citizens.” The Naturalization Act of 1790 provided that “the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens: Provided, That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States . . . .”

            2. The phrase “natural born citizen” in the Constitution does mean someone born either on U.S. soil or someone born to a U.S. citizen. (This is what my link shows, I believe.)

            On the contrary, it explicitly says, in the very second paragraph:

            All the sources routinely used to interpret the Constitution confirm that the phrase “natural born Citizen” has a specific meaning: namely, someone who was a U.S. citizen at birth with no need to go through a naturalization proceeding at some later time.

            The sentence immediately after begins, “And Congress has made equally clear from the time of the framing of the Constitution to the current day…” which implies that Congress does have the power to legislate about who is and is not natural born.

            Here’s the problem the code was trying to solve as I understand it. It’s quite clear that when the parents are known to have been citizens, the child is a natural born citizen. And it’s quite clear that when the child is known to have been born on US soil, the child is a natural born citizen. But what do you do when it is not known whether the child’s parents are citizens or whether the child was born on US soil, yet the child is nonetheless found on US soil? The Constitution as written doesn’t deal with this case explicitly, and it is up to interpretation, as it was when natural born was extended by the First Congress to births outside US soil, whether it covers foundlings too. Now surely the reasonable assumption is that a baby found in the middle of Kansas was born and abandoned in the US. So the code just made that interpretation explicit.

            Lastly, you’ve suggested that this wouldn’t apply to Clark because his parentage is in fact alien. Of course, but this is why Nybbler said “So as long as the Kents kept quiet for 21 years” in the first place.

          • Brad says:

            If “cruel and unusual” can have its meaning changed by “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” I don’t see why “natural born citizen” can’t be left to be fleshed out by Congress.

            One the other hand, I’d imagine that even a proponent of such a TBD reading would agree that there could be some statutory language that was so far off from “natural born citizen” as to require the Court to ignore it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @yodelyak

            It’s well established that Congress can specify the meaning of “natural-born citizen”, as that’s exactly what Congress has done from the first, as your own article points out. That’s what makes Ted Cruz a “natural-born citizen”, that’s what 18 USC 1401 is about. Tomorrow Congress could repeal a bunch of provisions and declare that no one is a US citizen from birth except people actually born within the United States (that part is covered by the 14th Amendment). Or they could at least theoretically declare that _everyone born anywhere in the world or out of it_ going forward is a US citizen at birth. Though as Brad points out, some things would be a step too far for the Supreme Court, and that might well be.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why are we even including the words “natural born” in this discussion? There are very few contexts, none likely to be relevant to Superman, where it would matter whether he was specifically a natural born citizen rather than some other type of citizen.

          • Aapje says:

            Shouldn’t ‘natural born’ exclude people who were born by caesarean?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @John Schilling

            Because I mentioned Superman was eligible to become President. Which I did because Nick mentioned Olivia Marsdin, the President (basically like Hillary Clinton only actually a reptilian alien, insert your own joke here) in the Supergirl TV show.

          • BBA says:

            There was an argument that John McCain – born in the Panama Canal Zone to a Navy officer stationed there – was not a natural born citizen, because the statute at the time of his birth only referred to people born in the United States and born outside the United States, and the Canal Zone was neither. A later retroactive statute declared him and others born in the Canal Zone to be citizens at birth.

            I consider this argument to be ridiculous nitpicking – what, so he was a stateless person? is there any good reason to read the law that way? – and wouldn’t expect it to hold up in court unless the judge had an ax to grind. Others may differ.

          • J Mann says:

            Superman knows himself to have been born on Krypton to non-US citizens, right? It’s hard to imagine circumstances where he would commit fraud to run for President.

            I think in some continuities, the spaceship is an incubator, so Clark was arguably not “born” until the Kents found him, but I always recall Kal-El’s parents putting an actual baby in rocket ship/

          • Controls Freak says:

            I think in some continuities, the spaceship is an incubator, so Clark was arguably not “born” until the Kents found him

            The thing this discussion really needs in order to turn down any political heat is to include the question about when humanKryptonian life begins.

          • Aapje says:

            At inception?

          • Nick says:

            Superman knows himself to have been born on Krypton to non-US citizens, right? It’s hard to imagine circumstances where he would commit fraud to run for President.

            Perhaps he realized the only way to stop Luthor from winning was running himself.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I don’t know Superman’s origin story in the current continuity, but provided he himself didn’t find out he was born on another planet until after his 21st birthday, no fraud is required.

            Can’t really seeing him settle down to run the country, but then, stranger things have happened in the recent past.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            But do moving forests count under environmental protection laws?

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Most superheroes seem to violate laws on a daily basis. For example, I doubt that superman has a flying permit.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The FAA is a pain in the ass but they’d have to really stretch to find a rule forbidding unassisted humanoid flight.

          • J Mann says:

            @Nybbler – according to Wikipedia, after several retcons, DC is back to the 2009 Secret Origins continuity, in which Clark finds out about his parentage in high school, when his powers begin to manifest and the Kents show him the recordings that arrived with his rocket ship.

            I don’t think there are any mainstream continuities where he doesn’t learn he is Kryptonian-born prior to 21, but I would enjoy a good legal drama where Clark reveals the truth and we end up with a legal dispute over whether he can run for president (against Luthor, I assume.)

          • John Schilling says:

            The FAA is a pain in the ass but they’d have to really stretch to find a rule forbidding unassisted humanoid flight

            I’m told the administrative hearing on ADS-B compliance for Wonder Woman’s invisible jet was rather contentious, but all records have been redacted.

          • nestorr says:

            Luthor as president was already done, but if Superman ran against him you’d have Luthor-sponsored birthers demanding Superman’s birth certificate and claiming he wasn’t really born in the US.

            And they would be right

        • albatross11 says:

          Building a wall wouldn’t do anything to stop people who overstay their visas, which is a large fraction of total illegal immigration.

          On the other hand, enforcing the laws about hiring illegal immigrants on employers looks to me like something that’s entirely doable, and that would cause a large reduction in illegal immigration. Nearly all illegal immigration is economic, and making the pool of jobs shrink substantially will cause economically-motivated illegal immigration to dry up.

          • Wrong Species says:

            The thing about the wall is that it doesn’t require any intrusive regulations on businesses, it would significantly lower the number of people who use asylum as a get-out-of-deportation card, and would still be in effect when the President decides that they aren’t going to bother enforcing immigration laws anymore. It’s just one less thing to worry about. I’m not opposed to regulating immigration internally but I think that enforcing the rules we already have and getting rid of things like sanctuary cities would get us most of the way without resorting to things like mandatory E-verify.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There are ways of enforcing immigration laws against the employer that aren’t intrusive. There are employers out there who knowingly hire specific people who they know are illegal immigrants. We cut deals with lesser criminals to catch bigger criminals all the time, so do it here: encourage the illegal immigrant to drop a dime on his boss.

            If that boss has at least 5 illegal employees, that immigrant gets to stay for 2 years on a legit visa and is pardoned for his original border crossing crime. The employer is prosecuted and his illegal employees deported. (For each of 5 employees past the first 5, let the informant choose 1 more employee who gets a 1 year visa and a pardon of his original border crossing time.)

            I see too many people who say they want to fight illegal immigration, but only recommend fixes that punish people they don’t like.

          • BBA says:

            I will once again note that according to the most reliable statistics I can find, illegal immigration slowed to a trickle after 2007 and was briefly outpaced by the rate of deportation and “self-deportation.” The net rate is currently close to zero. All evidence is that the economic downturn halted the inflow and the Bush-era fence stopped most of it when the economy picked up again.

            If you reject those statistics (and Pew are certainly filthy liberals like me, so that’s your right) I’d like to see an alternative.

            More to the point, there are millions of illegals inside America and building a wall just means millions of illegals inside the wall. So you will have to ramp up internal enforcement to make any kind of dent in that number, and that means Congress has to budget more money for it. And so far they haven’t.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            there are millions of illegals inside America and building a wall just means millions of illegals inside the wall.

            You think you are discouraging people from building the wall. But each time someone says “well they are already here, too late to do anything, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ” you make them that much more desperate to stop them from getting in, in the first place, since that’s apparently the only chance.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @BBA

            Any given river might be a trickle compared to the Amazon but I would still be worried about drowning. Bloomberg cites to a source estimating that 200,000 illegal immigrants crossed the border in 2015.

          • quanta413 says:

            I will once again note that according to the most reliable statistics I can find, illegal immigration slowed to a trickle after 2007 and was briefly outpaced by the rate of deportation and “self-deportation.” The net rate is currently close to zero. All evidence is that the economic downturn halted the inflow and the Bush-era fence stopped most of it when the economy picked up again.

            If you reject those statistics (and Pew are certainly filthy liberals like me, so that’s your right) I’d like to see an alternative.

            This argument is mostly irrelevant. There is nothing that dictates the flow of illegal immigrants across the border will stay low; it fluctuates immensely over time depending on incentives. If Mexico or Central America had a sudden economic downturn and the U.S. didn’t the flow would increase. If the U.S. entered a nuclear war, the flow would decrease or reverse. If the border was completely legally open, the flow of immigrants would increase (but keeping track would be a lot easier).

            If you want to build a wall and the flow is 0, that’s a great time to build a wall before the flow starts again. If you wait until there’s a flow of hundreds of thousands to millions of people to start building, the wall will fail to prevent any of them from entering.

            The border isn’t shrinking in the next 50 years unless the U.S. conquers Mexico or the U.S. splinters into multiple countries.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            More to the point, there are millions of illegals inside America and building a wall just means millions of illegals inside the wall.

            So because a wall wouldn’t solve the problem on its own, it’s therefore not worth building? That seems like a fallacy.

          • BBA says:

            All the evidence says that the Bush-era fence worked. Illegal immigration is much lower than before the fence was built. But no, we need to build a wall, because walls are tougher than fences or something. It will cost much more than the fence did, it won’t do a thing about visa overstayers or people who sneak through checkpoints in the backs of trucks (or do we want to close down all trade with Mexico too?), it won’t deport any of the 11 million illegals currently in the country, but at least we’ll get the psychic benefit of having a wall. Do I understand correctly?

      • Iain says:

        Update: I say 40% above, which is actually the number for all immigrants. For women with children, it is 18%. If they have legal representation, it’s 2.5%.

        • gbdub says:

          Based on Scott’s previous post about bail, that’s still somewhere between 2-4 times worse than the usual no-show rate for non immigration crimes.

          • Iain says:

            Sure. But if you can reach 95%+ efficiency by providing legal aid — which, while not cheap, is certainly cheaper than mass detention — then it’s hard to say that the last few percentage points are worth the suffering of separating children from their parents without bothering to figure out how you’re going to reunite them.

            This policy is not just cruel. It is unnecessarily cruel. You don’t get to claim that, alas! this is the only way to solve this problem if you haven’t even bothered to work out how to keep track of the kids. If your administration keeps talking about how this policy is intended as a deterrent, it starts to seem like the unnecessary cruelty as a feature, not a bug.

            Not everybody is big on unnecessary cruelty.

          • gbdub says:

            The 40%, that is. The 18% number for women with children would still put them as at least just as likely as the average criminal to “skip bail”, which seems pretty high.

          • J Mann says:

            To Iain’s point, one quibble and two agreements:

            – The no show rate for represented parties seems to be a lot lower than non-represented, but we don’t know how much of that is because people who don’t think they have a valid case and/or plan to skip don’t or can’t get a lawyer.

            + On the other hand, we could at least try releasing people who have lawyers and a plausible case, which would cut the number of separated families in half. (In 2016 and 17, about half of women with children were represented, and the 18% skip rate is essentially the average of a close to 40% skip rate for unrepresented mothers and a 2% skip rate for represented mothers.)

            + A much more humanitarian (but presumably expensive) option is support homes for families awaiting an asylum determination. If you set up a support home with education, social workers, legal assistants, etc., people generally stay until their determination. ICE shut down a very successful program of this kind last year.

          • Iain says:

            @gbdub:

            If a one-in-five no-show rate for average criminals is not a civilization-ending threat that must be solved no matter the cost, why is a similar no-show rate for illegal immigrants so pressing?

            People keep saying that the laws must be enforced, but they’re not enforced like this in any other context.

          • J Mann says:

            @Iain – I think Conrad Honcho makes the opposite case as well as I’ve heard.

            Basically, if the consequence for sneaking into the country illegally and requesting asylum only when caught is the same as for presenting at a border station and legally requesting asylum, then there’s an incentive to sneak in – if you’re not caught, you can stay here until apprehended and *then* take your chances on asylum, particularly if you can get to a jurisdiction that resists federal immigration enforcement. This incents people to take children on a dangerous crossing, increases the number of people here illegally, and is unfair to people who are applying under the rules.

          • rlms says:

            If a one-in-five no-show rate for average criminals is not a civilization-ending threat that must be solved no matter the cost, why is a similar no-show rate for illegal immigrants so pressing?

            If illegal immigrants no-show then there’s the risk of them illegally immigrating again, whereas average criminals would just commit average crimes like assault and theft.

          • gbdub says:

            The “unnecessarily cruel” part is breaking up the family and keeping them in the dark about when or if they’ll be reunited. I don’t support that, nor have I ever said that I did.

            Holding them in humane conditions until their claim gets processed, assuming that can be achieved in some reasonably expeditious manner (which granted, is a significant assumption) does not strike me as unnecessarily cruel, and in fact seems pretty reasonable, given that they seem to be a relatively high flight risk (there are ways to divvy up the population on bail that show subgroups with a much lower skip rate too – point is that no matter how you slice it, asylum seekers are apparently just as, and probably more by some nontrivial multiple, likely to straight disappear)

            It’s not a civilization ending threat, but neither is keeping people in (as John suggested elsewhere) a “Motel 5.9” until we can determine if they have a legitimate claim to asylum.

            The thing about “unnecessary cruelty” is that it’s, well, unnecessary. There are options between cruelty and catch and release that ought to be explored, even options that involve stricter enforcement than previous administrations.

            Maybe that’s not worth it, but at that point we’re arguing about cost-benefit and you lose the “you’re evil and cruel and I’m not” weapon (I guess unless you’re an open borders advocate, but usually accusations of such are met with indignance so I don’t want to assume that of you).

      • John Schilling says:

        For less politically charged crimes, the idea that we’re never going to catch every criminal is uncontroversial.

        The issue isn’t that we aren’t going to catch every bicycle thief. It isn’t even that we might not catch any bicycle thieves.

        The issue is, we’re seeing policies that e.g. if the police should happen to catch a bicyc