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Open Thread 120.75

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1,051 Responses to Open Thread 120.75

  1. Joseph Greenwood says:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47169549

    So Finland ran an experiment with universal basic income, and the experiment turned up with “increased happiness, decreased stress, and no significant change in employment.” According to the article, the setup was as follows:

    From January 2017 until December 2018, 2,000 unemployed Finns got a monthly flat payment of €560 (£490; $634).

    This is pretty much what I would expect. If you lower the cost of not-working by giving people money, they will probably not work more, but they will be happier and less stressed because the marginal dollar is quite important when you are making little/nothing.

    Where do we go from here?

    • baconbits9 says:

      Nowhere, these are not experiments.

      1. Are these people guaranteed the income for life? There is a big difference between winning $50,000 and $50k a year for the rest of your life.

      2. How did they adjust for positional status gains (hint they probably didn’t). We’ve been told for years that inequality causes suffering in one half and a sense of gain in the other, giving a tiny fraction of the population a special bonus is going to make them feel, well, special (according to claims made by UBI proponents) THIS WILL NOT SCALE, so any study that doesn’t differentiate between the two benefits has no meaning.

      3. How did they test the costs of the program for those paying the taxes… oh they didn’t? Thats a good way to approach the situation.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      From January 2017 until December 2018, 2,000 unemployed Finns got a monthly flat payment of €560 (£490; $634).

      ???
      That’s not universal, it’s an unemployment check. UBI would be at least an order of magnitude more costly than giving each unemployed adult a flat cash payment.

      • rlms says:

        The difference is that the subjects of the programme continued to be paid after they got jobs. Obviously it’s not universal since it’s a trial, but it is a trial of UBI (where the subjects where chosen to be initially unemployed) rather than normal conditional welfare.

        • Aapje says:

          Welfare recipients are not average people, though, in circumstance or traits. The current setup doesn’t test whether:
          – low-earning employed people will lower their working hours
          – gainfully employed people switch to lower-earning careers
          – young people will abandon their education and/or get stuck in a life of gaming

          It seems to me that the chosen setup maximizes the potential upside and minimizes the risk, in a way that is not sustainable for the long term (because the welfare recipients who get a job will be better of than the people who already had a similar job, but who don’t get an additional payment).

          So if this already doesn’t give substantial good results, I doubt that expanding it to everyone will work out well.

        • If I understand this correctly, perhaps I don’t, the experiment was rigged to eliminate the most obvious downside of a UBI–people choosing not to work. Everyone started out unemployed, so the number who were employed couldn’t go down.

          Did they have figures on how probable it was that someone unemployed at time t would be employed by t+1, and compare that with what happened in the experiment?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Yes, it was a randomized controlled experiment, with the control group of people also on status quo unemployment. The UBI group were employeed at neither a higher nor lower rate.

          • Aapje says:

            It wasn’t properly randomized, because people could only get additional allowances if they had traditional welfare. So the people with extra needs (problems?) opted out of the base income.

          • @Douglas Knight:

            Thanks.

    • Aapje says:

      It’s only a 2 year trial and the currently reported results are for the first year. It seems a bit optimistic to think that people will change their life for such a short period.

      Most likely, these people mostly just see it as a welfare check without the irritating requirements.

  2. Evan Þ says:

    Is the new visible open thread going to be posted?

    Also, what’s going to happen with the comment ordering?

  3. CatCube says:

    After some news over the past week, I’ve got a question that I’m wondering if people here can answer. Given that it’s possibly CW, I figure I’ll throw it out here rather than in the visible thread:

    Is staff work in Washington dead?

    What prompted this is some of the astonishing own-goals over the past week or so. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez published a FAQ with the Green New Deal that included providing economic security to people who are “unwilling to work,” while Sen. Booker asked Neomi Rao if she had ever hired LGBT clerks, only to be told that she had never hired any clerks, never having been a judge. Either of these things are things that I’d have expected them to run by their staff before putting them out, and being told by their own office that these are not going to be a good look in public.

    Going further afield, I’ve only had personal knowledge* about one proposal from the White House, and it was–how to put this–not tightly coupled to reality, in a way that a few conversations with the head of my organization could have fixed. I didn’t think about staff work in general at the time, because the way the election went left the current Administration with fewer options for experienced political staff, and it’s a famously difficult work environment; however, seeing similar dropped balls from the Democratic side prompts me to wonder if there’s a wider breakdown rather than something particular to this Administration.

    * To be clear, the only knowledge of the proposal that I had was from public news releases; I’m talking about the intersection between that news release and my personal knowledge of the facts on the ground of my job. I’m not going to go into more detail, except to assure people that it was obvious that some of the essential work on the proposal was not done prior to release, in similar fashion to the examples for Rep Ocasio-Cortez and Sen Booker, above.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I think that the increasing partisan nature of politics will tend to undervalue bureaucratic competence compared to more centrist positions.

      Which may not be a bad thing. I mean, publishing an overly-honest FAQ and asking a question that gets you slapped down in public may be embarrassing for the Congresspeople involved, but don’t strike me as big losses for the nation.

      (To expand: I think that there’s a colorable argument that staff-work per se is mostly about making fundamentally objectionable policy about 3% less objectionable in return for making it 50% easier to pass, and thus that leaving the warts on makes it easier to fight bad policy.)

      • I think a lot of it is also about making a politician look more intelligent and better educated than he really is.

        Some of that work has now been eliminated by automation–I don’t have a staff but I do have Google, so in online interactions can look better informed than I really am.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think this is a symptom of Twitter-first politics. AOC and Booker and Trump are all optimizing for rapid-fire hot takes, and doing basic editing and fact checking first would slow the process down more than it’s (seen to be) worth.

      This has some serious drawbacks when it comes to actually turning your hot takes into policy, but that seems to be a distant second priority.

      • Mr. Doolittle says:

        I’m going to agree with this. I don’t think even AOC believes fully in her own plan (as written), but she wanted to get out very strong stances to push an agenda. She’s essentially about as safe as can be in her own district, and has a national platform to work with.

        I understand that she pulled the GND from her website, due to the criticisms of it. Either she, or someone with influence over her, noticed that it was going to cause more harm than good. I don’t know if that kind of thing could lose her seat in the next election, but it could certainly get her labelled as a crank even by the wider Democratic base that seems to like her now. That’s exactly the kind of response I would expect from a hot take and/or an unserious proposal, both of which fit my mental image of “Twitter-first” politics.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Americans of all walks of life have always liked political outsiders in theory, and with the decades-long beclowning of mainstream politicians we’re actually willing to vote for them in practice.

      The thing about political outsiders, though, is that they’re not likely to be practiced politicians. If anything, their lack of polish is a big part of their appeal. That isn’t necessarily a defense of having a poor staff: Trump, for example, had a lot of experience in business and really should have been able to put a better team together.

      From my perspective, the larger problem is a total absence of real candidates for large swaths of the political spectrum. Nobody with any options elects Donald Trump: he got my support because he was literally the only man in either party running on a paleoconservative platform. I’m assuming the same applies to people who supported Bernie Sanders or support AOC now: if you want an explicitly social democratic candidate, it’s them or nothing. If the only serious candidates are a neoconservative/neoliberal in a red tie or a neoliberal/neoconservative in a blue tie, those of us who are fed up with neoconservatives and neoliberals will continue to vote for unserious candidates.

    • Erusian says:

      DC is a town where social connections are more important than talent. You might be thinking that’s every town. But DC is dialed up to 11. It’s a place where thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of people make millions of dollars for being friends of the right people. Where everything flows from the government so influence there is paramount. Staffer positions are rewards for allies and a way to become influential, not disinterested bureaucratic appointments.

      Actually talented people, those who can stand on their own two legs, also need to be really good at playing social games. If they don’t want to, the private sector is waiting with less backstabbing. Seriously, the office politics in a political office are really bad. And most politicians and bureaucrats are not good managers. Additionally, the increasing growth of the professional political and professional bureaucratic class has created a viable career path for people who have some decent connections and want to play DC power games.

      So you end up with a class of people who are really good at playing courtly games and mass market elections (secondarily). That is not selecting for competence. Cortez and Trump are much stronger in the latter than the former. In fact, both are infamously not great at the courtly bit.

    • BBA says:

      In addition to previous points: One lasting legacy of Newt Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker in the 1990s was a major reduction in the budget for Congressional staff. This would have been appropriate if the rest of his ambitious plan for massive reductions in government had been enacted, but obviously that didn’t happen. So a lot of the people whose jobs would’ve been to deal with these issues got laid off back then and never replaced.

  4. Plumber says:

    SSC commetariat, please help me out with my reading comprehension.

    Once again it’s a New York Times editorial that’s caught my attention, this time it’s titled “The Case Against ‘Border Security’
    Voters want more open borders, not a ‘smart wall.’ Democrats should listen
    “, except in my reading of the links in it seems to be the majority of Democratic Party voters not the majority of all voters who want more open borders.

    Am I correct in my interpretation that the headline implies all voters but the actual polls show otherwise?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Do we get to use this article every time Democrats claim to not be in favor of “Open Borders”?

      In all seriousness, the article does make fairly clear that they are talking about Democrat voters here:

      Democrats should follow their voters, who increasingly want more open borders

      • Chalid says:

        It is really tiresome how often this comes up. If someone says they want lower taxes, we don’t claim that they’re anarchists who want no taxes.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I have heard plenty of Democrats claiming exactly that about Republicans.

          Have you never heard Democrats telling Republicans to go to Somalia for their perfect no-tax libertarian paradise?

          • Chalid says:

            Yes, there is a vast constellation of shitty arguments in the world. Let’s keep them off SSC.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I think @John Schilling made my point quite well.

            There is the not unreasonable belief on the left that Republicans don’t want their expressed policy positions, especially on social issues, but instead want positions substantially to the right of those positions.

            It is reasonable to use the fact that people keep trying to expand the Republican positions right-ward on those issues with no pushback as evidence for that.

            The converse remains true.

          • Dan L says:

            I agree with John’s argument maybe ~80%, but even at 100% it just gives you “a minority of the coalition is going to sabotage the ability to prevent the slippery slope”. That’s a far cry from “your party is secretly in favor of the most extreme version of this policy spectrum”.

            “Republicans actually want zero taxes” is a profoundly stupid claim, and it’s still on better footing than “Democrats actually want open borders”. If you bother to look for the pushback, you’ll find it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Except that the pro-illegal coalition of the Democrat Party is the one with the whip hand.

            I suppose part of this is outgroup bias, but when the actual Democrat party is in favor of legalization for every illegal in the country except those who have created a major crime, and THEN they will define down crimes in order to not ensnare illegals.

            For example, Denver reduced the punishments for urinating in public in order to not deport people:

            https://www.9news.com/article/news/crime/certain-crimes-will-now-have-lighter-sentences-in-denver/442367895

            But those are ultra-left people who are only in charge of major cities, not the overall platform, right? Let’s look at the platform:

            https://democrats.org/about/party-platform/#broken-immigration

            More than 11 million people are living in the shadows, without proper documentation.

            It doesn’t say quite exactly what we should do with them, other than that we need to legalize lots and lots of them.

            The platform is against effective methods of arresting illegals:

            We will end raids and roundups of children and families, which unnecessarily sow fear in immigrant communities.

            In addition they want to naturalize MILLIONS (their words):

            promote naturalization to help the millions of people who are eligible for citizenship take that last step.

            I will politely suggest that the step to “open borders” is pretty small.

          • Dan L says:

            At this point you’re just repeating the tired argument. dick‘s complaint remains valid. My personally preferred rebuttal is to skip the showboating politics and just reference the Gang of Eight as indicitive of what bills Democrats actually back when they’re trying to pass legislation. If you want another data point from further back, here’s one from 2006.

            Except that the pro-illegal coalition of the Democrat Party is the one with the whip hand.

            I favored the bipartisan consensus represented by the bills above, flawed as it was. But that is bleeding out in the dirt, after being mortally wounded in the Republican 2016 primary. I judge anyone surprised by the symmetrical polarization as politically illiterate, which is doubly galling when Scott called out this dynamic in September ’16.

            I will politely suggest that the step to “open borders” is pretty small.

            Border security and paths to citizenship aren’t incompatible, the latter doesn’t preclude the former. Supporting a combination used to be a dominant position in the Democratic party (again, look at those bills), so I’d be inclined to attribute ignorance of this to outgroup bias… except it was explicitly called out in the OP article.

          • albatross11 says:

            A path to citizenship plus strict enough enforcement of borders/employment law that the inflow of illegal immigrants stops seems like the best possible outcome for our immigration policy, but it’s hard make it work.

            Strict enforcement of borders/employment law is painful–it raises costs for a lot of businesses that have a political voice, it hurts people who can’t bring their family members here from overseas legally, and it involves a lot of sympathetic people who just want to get out from under the gangs in El Salvador getting turned away at the border.

            Legal residency and work permits plus a path to citizenship is much easier–it’s kind to broadly sympathetic people, it creates new voters who will probably be pretty reliable Democratic voters, it helps existing citizens whose family and friends are here illegally, etc.

            So the easiest way for this to work is that we actually get some kind of amnesty for people here, with legal residency and work permits and a path to citizenship. And we also get a commitment to border enforcement/employment law enforcement that turns out to never quite happen–we’ve been ineffectively policing our borders and enforcing immigration law for decades, so this is definitely something we can do. There are plenty of businesses and industries that are used to using illegal immigrant labor, and will be happy enough to employ new illegal immigrants. And potential illegal immigrants seem likely to feel like there’s a good chance of them eventually getting an amnesty, too.

            The end result will be that the current set of illegal immigrants mostly becomes legal immigrants, and a new crop of 10 M illegal immigrants is soon waiting their turn for the same.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Dan L

            At this point you’re just repeating the tired argument. dick‘s complaint remains valid. My personally preferred rebuttal is to skip the showboating politics and just reference the Gang of Eight as indicitive of what bills Democrats actually back when they’re trying to pass legislation. If you want another data point from further back, here’s one from 2006.

            The Gang of 8 bill was defeated because of overwhelming constituent opposition. It was actually an extreme bill from the POV of the American people at that time. It was, essentially, a compromise between 2 minority coalitions who were the only ones focusing on immigration at the time (Cato libertarians and “demographics are destiny” progressives).

            Not that those fact necessarily make the bill bad, but I just want to clarify the facts around it. It was the most extreme bill the Congress thought it could sneak past the public, and it actually went in the opposite direction from the status quo than the public wanted at that time.

          • Dan L says:

            @ albatross11:

            You’ve reiterated a (reasonable, imo) criticism of the 2006 bill, which led to a number of adaptations that showed up in the 2013 bill – notably including mandatory e-verify, and the path to citizenship being conditional on the border actually being secured successfully. One might argue their insufficiency, but it’s then ironic how often they’re suggested from the Right by commenters here. The less understanding sort might be led to believe that such aren’t actually aware of what the Left’s willing to negotiate on…

            Or was willing, at least. *sigh*

            (Largely tangential, but the assumption that new Hispanic voters would skew Democratic is a pet peeve of mine. Ok, in the short term obviously yes, but for a number of social and economic reasons I could see them being a natural constituency for the Right. But that would require national Republicans to actually try to court them for more than 2 years in a row… and I fear Trump’s polarized the bloc good and hard for at least a generation.)

            @ Clutzy:

            I’ll have to ask you to substantiate that narrative in order for it to be compelling. As a point of legislative fact, S.744 passed the Senate with a commanding supermajority before falling victim to the Hastert Rule. It wouldn’t surprise me if you could dig up a negative opinion poll – compromise bills are like that at the best of times – but it’s hard to claim it’s extremist when it’s following in the footsteps of decades of such unpopular compromise.

          • The Nybbler says:

            (Largely tangential, but the assumption that new Hispanic voters would skew Democratic is a pet peeve of mine. Ok, in the short term obviously yes, but for a number of social and economic reasons I could see them being a natural constituency for the Right. But that would require national Republicans to actually try to court them for more than 2 years in a row… and I fear Trump’s polarized the bloc good and hard for at least a generation.)

            1) W tried courting Hispanics. Didn’t move the needle much.

            2) Trump, with all his wall-building, Mexican-dissing rhetoric, did better with Hispanics than Romney did.

          • Nornagest says:

            1) W tried courting Hispanics. Didn’t move the needle much.

            2) Trump, with all his wall-building, Mexican-dissing rhetoric, did better with Hispanics than Romney did.

            That means the GOP leadership doesn’t understand the Hispanic vote. But it also means the DNC doesn’t, so Dan L’s take is still plausible.

          • Clutzy says:

            @ Dan

            This article sums up the 2012-2015ish sentiment on the Gang of 8 Bill:

            The TLDR version is this:
            46% of Americans were in favor of significantly increasing deportations.
            Large majorities favored lower overall immigration. Only a tiny minority favored increases.
            Amnesty of any kind was opposed by a plurality, citizenship opposed by majorities.

            And, the worst for the bill is that all those opinions tracked away from Gof8 style reform as people became more informed (such as telling them the number of immigrants present in the US, the foreign born pop %, etc.

            There is a reason they rushed the bill through the Senate and tried to rush it through the House. It was a total disaster with voters on a bipartisan basis. The Democrats have since polarized on the issue (IMO largely because of Trump), but if we had a Marco/Clinton campaign I expect most Democrats would still be in the camp they were around 2013, which means about 50/50 on amnesty, 20%ish supporting increased immigration, 70%ish for increased border security, etc with republicans significantly more hawkish as they were in 2013.

          • Dan L says:

            @ The Nybbler:

            1) W tried courting Hispanics. Didn’t move the needle much.

            W tried courting Hispanics and moved the needle thirty points. I get that Bob Dole could make anyone look good by comparison, but that effect is massive. And now it’s nearly gone.

            2) Trump, with all his wall-building, Mexican-dissing rhetoric, did better with Hispanics than Romney did.

            Technically true, but a misleading framing. Trump significantly underperformed with Hispanics throughout the 2016 primaries. But Romney was quite a low baseline by Republican standards, and Trump beat him by barely a point.

            @ Clutzy:

            Opinion polls of the type your link refers to are notoriously sensitive to question wording, and you’re citing some of the most favorable numbers to your claim and still don’t reach a majority. Meanwhile, “Do you favor or oppose allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the country and eventually qualify for U.S. citizenship, as long as they meet certain requirements like paying back taxes, learning English, and passing a background check?” got ~75% support. Reference. If you want a dozen more that cracked 60% I can provide them. You’re applying an egregious amount of spin.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “Moving the needle” in primary performance is irrelevant to moving the needle for the GOP as a whole.

          • Dan L says:

            Epirically false. And spurious, when I’m talking about general election results anyway: exit polling by Pew had Hispanics in 1996 and 2004 at D+51 and D+13, respectively. (And I see a few other methodologies that could add another 4 points on top of that.)

        • John Schilling says:

          If someone says they want low taxes, and that they want to abolish the IRS, and sets up “tax haven” cities wherever the local politics are favorable, I’d be looking closely at whether maybe they do want to abolish taxes after all.

          And ultimately I wouldn’t much care, because the important question is whether they will actually abolish taxes. People who want to abolish taxes and say they want to abolish taxes, are unlikely to win on that platform. People who want to cut taxes but hate tax collectors with the fire of a thousand suns, could wind up doing enough damage to both the enforcement mechanisms and the norm of voluntary compliance that paying taxes becomes widely recognized as a chump move and taxes are de facto abolished for anyone with real money. Even as the people responsible complain, “but we wanted some taxes, why aren’t people paying?”

          And the same goes for immigration.

      • Plumber says:

        @EchoChaos,

        That’s what I thought, that the headline was misleading, and the author is prescribing a “purity platform”.

        Since swing voters exist, this advice seems like a prescription to alienate most of them, though I suppose denying Trump fulfilling any of his promises to his base so he’s less likely to be reelected is the goal?

        • My impression is that the headline is often written by a different person than the author of the article.

          • Chalid says:

            This is true for any print publication, in large part because the person who creates the pages’ actual physical layout needs flexibility to write the headline so as to make sure everything fits onto the page properly.

            I’m not sure if it is true for online-only stuff.

          • Viliam says:

            I suspect that for online-only stuff it is even worse, in general. Some newspapers probably have multiple different headlines for each article, do real-time A/B testing, and display the most viral one.

      • Clutzy says:

        I think its also fairly bad as far as arguments go. From what I’ve seen, immigration has never been a high priority issue for most voters until recently. It was also somewhat bipartisan where illegal immigration was seen by an overwhelming majority of voters as bad, and they supported efforts to reduce it + deport criminals when discovered, even if that crime was just a DUI. On the other hand a slightly smaller, but still significant majority supported keeping legal immigration at the same or even slightly higher levels.

        However, there was then a movement primarily in California that embraced illegal immigration, and there was a small change in Democratic alignment, but not much. Simultaneously there was an outcry by on the right (Primarily by Republicans living in California) and they started really agitating about it (Ann Coulter being the most high profile). Then Trump brought that to the primary and people on the right appeared to like the message. Trump, essentially, took a California set of sentiments, and made them national issues.

    • Chalid says:

      If you just naively take Gallup tracking, you have 39% saying that immigration should be at its present level, 29% saying it should be decreased, 28% saying it should be increased.

      • Plumber says:

        @Chalid,

        That seems about right, I feel the headline should have read “Their voters want….
        ….Democrats should listen”, that would’ve been more clear.

    • Guy in TN says:

      The headline doesn’t imply that all voters want it, it just says “voters”, which is “voter” plural. So, at least two people.

      That you’ve crystallized the pattern of “x’s want this” into “the majority of x’s want this” is a mistake that click-bait writing headline editor’s can’t be held responsible for.

      If you think such levels of pedantry are beyond the NYT, check out this “fact check” that chides Donald Trump for claiming that the U.S. has been fighting in the Middle East for 19 years. False! Because Afghanistan is not in the Middle East, its in central Asia.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      My impression in sometimes reading the Times is that it is aimed pretty much exclusively to the left. They really don’t expect right wingers to be reading it. Especially on the editorial pages. So when they talk about voters, it is understood they mean left wing voters. The Times doesn’t pretend to understand right wing voters, and have little interest in doing so, other than perhaps as kind of an anthropological interest.

      This isn’t really attacking the NYT. It’s simply their niche.

  5. johan_larson says:

    The NY Times has an article about the surprisingly secretive glitter industry.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/21/style/glitter-factory.html

    When I asked Ms. Dyer if she could tell me which industry served as Glitterex’s biggest market, her answer was instant: “No, I absolutely know that I can’t.”

    I was taken aback. “But you know what it is?”

    “Oh, God, yes,” she said, and laughed. “And you would never guess it. Let’s just leave it at that.” I asked if she could tell me why she couldn’t tell me. “Because they don’t want anyone to know that it’s glitter.”

    “If I looked at it, I wouldn’t know it was glitter?”

    “No, not really.”

    “Would I be able to see the glitter?”

    “Oh, you’d be able to see something. But it’s — yeah, I can’t.”

    Guesses anyone?

    The auto industry, maybe? There are some very shiny, shimmery automotive paints these days.

  6. JohnBuridan says:

    A historian/social science friend who doesn’t do any programming asked, “How can I learn enough to understand the Urbit primer?”

    Anyone have suggestions?

    • johan_larson says:

      Gosh, that’s a tough one. I have a very strong background in computer science, and there are parts of that primer that don’t make a lot of sense to me, particularly the bits about block-chain. It’s hard to give advice when we don’t know what your friend already knows. It might be useful for him(?) to give it a try, so he could give a more precise description of where he gets lost. That would let us give more specific advice.

    • dick says:

      I know a fair bit about Urbit and this might not be possible. First, the primer is (IMHO) not very good; second, urbit is not ready for users. It’s a platform with nothing on it yet – explaining it is like trying to explain how the Apple app store would work to people who have only seen nokia phones. And (extending this app store metaphor) the Primer video would be like a video about the Apple app store, but it spends most of the time on fine details about how sandboxing will be implemented, and never shows you an iphone with an app running on it.

      If I were tl;dr’ing urbit, it would look like this:

      Hey, you ever thought about getting a virtual server on AWS or DigitalOcean or somewhere like that, and running your own web server for your blog, an IRC server to chat with friends, and also using that space to store your file backups, and also keeping your crypto assets on it? But then realized that would be a spectacularly bad idea, because you’d have to administer all that stuff, harden it against hackers, apply frequent updates, and generally become an expert in a bunch of shit you’re not interested in? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do all that effectively and securely without knowing shit about linux or webservers of file permissions? Well, that’s a hard problem, too hard to be solved just by writing better software for our current computers. Urbit is an attempt to make a kind of virtual computer on which those problems would be easier to solve – but right now no one has written the software you would want to run on it yet. And it’s not clear if anyone ever will, partly because it’s very new and weird, and partly because the guy who invented it is widely disliked for running a politically unpopular blog. Unless you want to help build it, you can and should ignore it until you’ve heard about people using it to host their blogs and irc servers and cryptowallets and saying positive things about the experience.

  7. There seems to be a problem with the commenting software. Recently, when I post comments, I don’t get the option of editing them during the hour after they are posted. I’ll see if I get it for this one (if no more is said, I didn’t).

    (revision) This time I did.

    • Plumber says:

      @DavidFriedman,

      That’s happened a few times with me as well, it seems to happen more often when the threads get big.

      Sometimes opening a new tab of the thread will allow me to Edit where the old one didn’t.

  8. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Just something I wanted to mention before the CW-free visible thread:
    Since Donald Trump was elected POTUS, some Italians have made a 10-meter high float of him as the Emperor of Mankind to pass through Carnivale (?) escorted by a Trump-headed Space Marine and a chorus line of Warhammer 40K war nuns.

  9. Well... says:

    Maybe this is a rare “DuckDuckGo isn’t good enough, you should be using Google” instances, but I’ve been searching for an image — any image — of a car with Fender guitars photoshopped in where the car’s fenders should be, and I can’t find any. I don’t know whether such an image exists but it’s one of those lame visual puns hilarious visual jokes I’m surprised nobody’s created and posted to the internet where others can easily find it.

    It might also be that it’s just tricky to come up with the right search string…

  10. Plumber says:

    As I’ve probably mentioned one or a hundred times the essayists I most read besides our host are Ross Douthat and Paul Krugman, and both of their tomorrow’s columns seem to be more similar than usual.

    Thoughts?

    • Deiseach says:

      The Krugman opinion piece says nothing at all about the Green New Deal, so either he had it written before the revelation of the proposal or he couldn’t find any way to make it sound sensible, so he decided to go for “Republicans – is there any lie they won’t stoop to telling?”

      Having seen a précis of the thing, I am now not surprised that after gaining a degree in economics, Ms Ocasio-Cortez ended up working as a bartender.

      Krugman is correct in that American socialism so-called isn’t really Socialism, apart from the tiny miniscule minority of True Believers Stalin Did Nothing Wrong types and the Maoism Is Fashionable Again types for whom Socialism would not be radical enough, and is more like Social Democrat movements in Europe. Douthat is correct in that the plan can be presented without much exaggeration as everything the opposition said was really behind the climate change agenda. I’d love if every American did have a job that paid a family-supporting wage, but where are you going to get that in the new economy? Everone will get a job working on the production lines making solar panels, and those jobs are going to be like the good old unionised jobs in the motor plants in days of yore? Yeah, you might want to look into that a bit more first.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It’s been fashionable to believe in Maoism for a long time. John Lennon never apologized for claiming to be bigger than Jesus, but did vocally regret a Beatles lyric critical of Mao. The closest Krugman comes to being right is noting that such fashionable people are a tiny minority, and most claims of being a socialist in America refer to Bernie-style proposals to make the government bigger with taxes, not seizing the means of production.

        Douthat is correct in that the plan can be presented without much exaggeration as everything the opposition said was really behind the climate change agenda. I’d love if every American did have a job that paid a family-supporting wage, but where are you going to get that in the new economy? Everone will get a job working on the production lines making solar panels, and those jobs are going to be like the good old unionised jobs in the motor plants in days of yore? Yeah, you might want to look into that a bit more first.

        Right. We can visualize everyone (every man?) getting a factory job that conforms to Catholic Social Teaching and contributes to a zero-carbon economy, but that’s wishful thinking without so much as pixie dust to realize it, especially in the hands of economically illiterate leftists.

        • cassander says:

          >The closest Krugman comes to being right is noting that such fashionable people are a tiny minority, and most claims of being a socialist in America refer to Bernie-style proposals to make the government bigger with taxes, not seizing the means of production.

          I disagree with this. Relatively few people get excited about nationalizing the steel industry, but there is a lot of excitement about medicare for all, which amounts to nationalization of the medical industry, free college for all, which amounts to nationalization of the higher education industry (lower education is already mostly nationalized). During the last recession, we DID nationalize the mortgage industry. There are still a lot of people out there who want to nationalize the commanding heights, all that’s changed is which heights are considered commanding.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Depending how you implement them, you can have a free, very competitive market underneath. For example, vouchers for education.

            As for medical industry, I’m not familiar with the (apparently very large) complexity, but in principle there are solutions. Make the government a bidder for medical services on the free market, with a mandate to optimize a trackable metric, like QALY/USD.

          • cassander says:

            @Radu Floricica

            You could do something like that, but that’s not what’s being proposed. Medicare sets prices through time and motion studies and the American left considers vouchers anathema.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            On the one hand, yeah, “socialism” is usually rhetorical overkill. On the other hand, Krugman’s just about the last guy on the planet who’s entitled to complain about rhetorical overkill. On the gripping hand, I don’t have a third thing to say about it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yeah, the Krugman piece is sneeringly subtitled “The Commies are coming for your pickup trucks.”, and AOC is indeed promising to come for your pickup truck.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “In other news, Paul Krugman sneered today at the belief that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez exists. Mr. Krugman could not be reached for comment on the existence of other controversial subjects such as KFC Double Downs and Sweden.”

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          My question is, if AOC is sincere about cutting greenhouse emissions, why her preliminary document asserts we absolutely will not use more nuclear power.

          • cassander says:

            Because women hate nuclear power. The question is why…

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            NB – I haven’t read the document but have read lots of takes on Twitter.

            I would guess (if they were being sensible, rather than ideological, in their objections to nuclear power) it is because nuclear is vastly more expensive than solar + battery at present and that is only likely to get worse for nuclear.

            IMO there’s a justification for safely keeping nuclear going whilst also going for 100% solar/other renewables so you can use nuclear as baseload for Hydrogen/Ammonia production for longer term energy storage. You’ve built the things, they cost next to nothing to run, so use them. But the investment case for newbuild nuclear is incredibly difficult to make. 100% solar is a viable option in the US (where it isn’t in Northern/Western Europe), but add some wind and biopower into the mix along with some seasonal/decadal energy storage as hydrogen/ammonia and you have a very resilient system with high Capex, low Opex (still lower Capex than nuclear, likely equivalent Opex).

            (I have no indication they aren’t doing it on ideological grounds tbh)

          • 10240 says:

            There has been discussion around here about the validity or otherwise of arguments of the form “My opponent claims to want X but they can’t be sincere because they reject potential solution Y.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Nuclear power doesn’t really have popular advocates on the climate advocacy camp. Yes there are people who advocate its usage, but they don’t have the megaphone required to make an impact.

            The democrat elite doesn’t call for its usage and the public itself when they think of nuclear power they think of fukushima, 3 mile and Chernobyl. Oil and Coal based environmental disasters that are worse in magnitude can happen on an annual basis but their ubiquity has dulled the public to them.

            [to clarify, I think the pelosis of the world probably know the nuclear is a good option but that running on a pro-nuclear platform is political suicide — both b/c of the ‘renewables only’ crowd and also the nimbys]

            Sad

          • Randy M says:

            How much of the difference in price between solar and nuclear is the result of either subsidies or regulations?

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @Randy M – I don’t have any figures to quantify it, and my calculators for cost of electricity take into account the high Capex of nuclear (which is a function of regulation) so I can’t say.

            But: Solar is learning on an incredibly cost curve that is driving down prices by more than 10% a year and looks to have a good few cycles left. Sure, China and Germany started that by subsidising their markets like crazy but the world is benefiting from cheaper electricity as a result so I’m not complaining.

            Nuclear has no similar cost curve, sure if you build one and then build another identical to it you cut costs on the second, third and so on, but the learning curve has already been done for nuclear. Regulation does make up a (hand wavey) chunk of the cost but there are well publicised good reasons for that. They’re likely overzealous in the UK, France, and most of the USA (not really earthquake risk zones, for one) but I’m unlikely to gainsay them.

            This has a good breakdown of the cost of nuclear on a reasonably granular level – but the cost of regulation is baked into each line-item, and if you could say use cheaper concrete or be less careful about the weld quality you would certainly cut costs but it’s unclear to me that you would cut costs across the board without decreasing the safety of nuclear.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “My opponent claims to want X but they can’t be sincere because they reject potential solution Y“.

            And such arguments may be valid or invalid; the form itself is not enough to tell. “My opponent claims to want omelets for everyone, but they can’t be sincere because they reject cracking eggs” is a pretty good argument. It’s possible they are sincere, but even if so it means they have some rather odd and impractical ideas about how omelets can be made.

            Nuclear power isn’t quite that level, but it’s a lot closer to that end than e.g., “My opponent claims to want a chicken in every pot, but they can’t be sincere because they reject strict controls on the number of pots”.

          • Randy M says:

            @kieranpjobrien
            I’m a fan of cheap clean energy, so it’s great if solar takes off.

            they’re likely overzealous in the UK, France, and most of the USA

            France, really? They get 75% from nuclear.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            when they think of nuclear power they think of fukushima, 3 mile and Chernobyl.

            No radiation was released at 3 Mile Island and no one was injured. And we’ve gotten better at understanding nuclear safety since.

            The form of “my opponent doesn’t really believe…” argument is salient here because we are led to believe that climate change is going to end the world and/or the human race and we therefore need drastic action. AOC and presidential hopeful Corey Booker have both compared the fight against climate change to the US involvement in WWII. Something that requires massive sacrifice from every American because the stakes are just that high.

            Okay. But apparently the stakes aren’t high enough for the left to give up their anti-nuclear stance. So why should I give up my SUV?

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @Randy M – yes. But look at when they were built. Flamanville is the only newbuild reactor going ahead. I think it’s generation 3.5, same model as the unspeakable one in Finland and the upcoming one at Hinkley Point in the UK.

            It’s years behind schedule and billions over budget. At least partially due to things like welds being out of spec. I don’t have evidence in front of me that cost disease (see Scott on the subject) is responsible but given the complexity of nuclear I’d assume it’s all very hard to solve/cut cost disease issues.

            That link above also indicated that cost per unit was only half current at peak unit construction. Maybe if we’d kept building that could have been cut another 25% or so from that lower base level but the high cost of specialised steel and so on makes me think it’s difficult to cut most non-regulatory costs (if we assume cost increases in France are due to a lack of scale and increased regulation since the 1980s).

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, thanks. France stuck out to me since I’d seen it used as an example for “The left wants us to be like Europe, but look at how much energy France gets from the supposedly dangerous nuclear power!” kind of argument. I guess they (you?) have changed focus over the last few decades.

          • 10240 says:

            @The Nybbler Yes, there are extreme cases (such as your omelette example), where an argument of this form is valid. However, to discuss the object-level issue, it’s clear that environmentalists tend to believe that renewable sources are a feasible way to produce our energy, and that nuclear power is bad, just like fossil fuels, though for different reasons. These beliefs may be true or false (and whether nuclear power is actually a good alternative depends on that), but I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of those beliefs; and under the assumptions that renewable energy is feasible and nuclear power is bad, it’s clear why one would oppose the use of nuclear power.

            What’s more, you or Joseph Greenwood probably know perfectly well that environmentalists tend to believe that renewable energy is feasible and nuclear power is dangerous. Arguments such as Joseph Greenwood’s seem to come from a lack of theory of mind (or, more likely, failure to use your theory of mind): you think that renewable energy is prohibitively expensive and/or that nuclear power is not actually that dangerous (which I agree with), and when you evaluate Ocasio-Cortez’s sincerity, you fail to take into account her different belies about those issues. Alternatively, it’s just an unnecessarily antagonistic way to say “environmentalists overestimate the problems with nuclear power, and it should be considered a good alternative to fossil fuels because it’s cheaper than renewables”.

            @Conrad Honcho In the Green New Deal proposal they have listed various (claimed) problems caused by global warming, but no claims that it’s the end of the human race. I don’t know if she has made such claims elsewhere.

            A bit more charity please, guys (well, a lot more, actually).

          • Randy M says:

            It’s not that we don’t know environmentalists don’t think nuclear is perfectly safe; it’s that we think they don’t claim it is nearly as dangerous as they seem to believe fossil fuels driven climate change is (like this “ending the world in twelve years” from AOC), therefore they should be willing to compromise on it. (At least, not anymore)
            Usually, in an end-of-the-world scenario, you don’t take time to find the perfect solution, but are willing to deal with some trade-offs. If you refuse those, it gives the impression that the threat is less dire than is presented.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            @Randy M – I’m not sure what France did 1990-2005ish, I imagine a hangover of new nuclear projects but don’t have my database in front of me to say so. But anecdotally over the last decade or so I’d say wind, solar, sporadic nuclear.

            I’m UK based but a global energy analyst so not ‘us’ but but far off considering interconnection between EU markets.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m UK based but a global energy analyst so not ‘us’ but but far off considering interconnection between EU markets.

            Hmm, does that extend to energy? Do different countries within Europe share power?

            Here in the US, different states negotiate water and power usage. I don’t see why different countries couldn’t do this, but I wouldn’t have assumed the grids were interconnected enough to allow it.

          • and under the assumptions that renewable energy is feasible and nuclear power is bad, it’s clear why one would oppose the use of nuclear power.

            Both that and your point about costs are a reason not to build new reactors. But Germany has been closing down existing reactors, and presumably that’s what AOC is proposing that we should do.

            If renewables get to the point where they have entirely replaced fossil fuels, it might make sense to start replacing nuclear as well. Short of that point, every reactor you shut down means that much more coal, or possibly natural gas, being burned. So it is only if existing nuclear is worse than existing fossil fuel that shutting down nuclear makes sense.

            And I don’t think one can defend that claim while simultaneously saying the sorts of things about the dangers of climate change that AOC and most of the left have been saying.

          • Lambert says:

            There’s a certain amount of buying and selling electricity around Europe.
            Undersea HVDC across the Channel and the Baltic, for example.
            A cable allowing Iceland to sell its cheap power to the UK has been discussed for a while.

            Not sure what goes on over land borders.

            But I think this is all moot. It’s not about logic or consequences, but purity.

            11
            And the Lord spake unto Moses and to Aaron, saying unto them,
            2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, of them that divide the nucleus shall be an abomination unto you.

          • kieranpjobrien says:

            There’s an EU directive that says either 10 or 15% of electricity capacity (or supply, one f them) has to be met by interconnectors by 2020(?) and that is likely to increase to 15/20% by 2030. This is fine for continental Europe, it’s just a matter of running a cable over the border (though there are proposals for subsea cables between France and Spain). But for post-Brexit Ireland it’s a more difficult problem (Ireland is unique in having the Single Electricity Market with Northern Ireland, it also historically imported electricity from the UK but I believe they’re currently a net exporter (this may be in gas rather than electricity). There are proposals for a France-Ireland cable but I’m personally dubious as to the economic case, but the political case may make up for it.

            The idea behind the interconnectors is to increase resilience in the market whilst increasing the ability to send summer sun to Northern Europe and winter winds to southern Europe, maybe eventually Algerian/Moroccan sun year round. At least that’s the marketing sale, some would say it’s another entangling connection tightening the grip of the EU on continental Europe.

          • 10240 says:

            I don’t think AOC is sincere about thinking the world will end in 12 years, that I grant.

          • Randy M says:

            Next you’ll be telling me Al Gore doesn’t really think the Earth is in the balance.

          • rlms says:

            @DavidFriedman

            But Germany has been closing down existing reactors, and presumably that’s what AOC is proposing that we should do.

            You may presume that, but I don’t see any evidence that it’s true. This factsheet proposes no *new* nuclear power plants (which for reasons explained upthread seems perfectly sensible) and this document doesn’t mention nuclear at all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, that’s because she changed some things after putting it out originally. Accidentally put too much on the table face up, apparently.

            NPR has the old version, which is the same as the Heartland version and DOES say the plan is to decommission the old ones.

            “A Green New Deal is a massive investment in renewable energy production and would not include creating new nuclear plants. It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible. “

          • @RLMS:
            From the factsheet you linked to:

            It’s unclear if we will be able to decommission every nuclear plant within 10 years, but the plan is to transition off of nuclear and all fossil fuels as soon as possible.

            That makes it clear that wants to shut down existing plants, although she isn’t sure we can manage to shut down all of them in ten years.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I apologize for the needlessly uncharitable wording of my original question. I stand by my implicit claim that nuclear power seems like the most economically viable alternative to fossil fuels and (conditional on that being true, which some of you dispute) it should be a major part of any plan to reduce or eliminate dependence on CO2-producing compounds. But it is generally true in my experience that most accusations of political hypocrisy are really of the form “Your positions are incoherent in the presence of assumptions that I make and you don’t” and typical-minding in this way is counterproductive and politically toxic. I know that, and I have lectured others on it, but I fell into the same trap here, and I am sorry and embarrassed about it.

            Let me change my question to this (which some of you have already started to answer): what is the steelmanning of the position that we should radically rearrange and disrupt our patterns of life to mitigate or eliminate CO2 emissions but we should not increase our use of nuclear power?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            The simple argument is that nuclear has too much entrenched opposition, and would thus take too long, and have an unacceptable risk of projects being derailed by legal and political sabotage. – That is, that solving the technical problems with an all renewable grid is easier than convincing the anti-nuclear lobby.

            I do not believe this, but that is because I expect the total electricity requirements of a decarbonized economy to be ridiculously vast.

          • Plumber says:

            @Joseph Greenwood

            “….what is the steelmanning of the position that we should radically rearrange and disrupt our patterns of life to mitigate or eliminate CO2 emissions but we should not increase our use of nuclear power?”

            The same as why giant windpower projects in Texas, the Midwest, or wherever aren’t a solution for production of my electricity,

            Losses due to long transmission lines.

            Because every time I see any advocating for building more nuclear power plants there’s always the caveat of: “except for in places that are subject to earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes”.

            That’s not electricity generation that’s useful for me or anyone I know than.

            Both rooftop solar and burning natural gas provide electricity where I and everyone I know live.

            Far away nuclear and wind not so much.

            Make it earthquake resistant and I can use it.

            Make it flooding, hurricane, and tornado resistant so the rest of the U.S.A. may use it would be a big plus as well.

            For 30 years I’ve read of “tidal power plants”, “offshore wind”, and “we need more nuclear”, but I haven’t seen any of that, but what I have seen is more solar panels and natural gas plants.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

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

            There are plenty of places in the Western Interconnection where nuclear power plants can be built completely without risk, including the entire states of Arizona and Nevada (there is already one in Arizona).

            A plant is being built (slowly) in Idaho as well.

          • The Nybbler says:

            High voltage transmission lines are pretty low-loss, and there are (expensive) ways to make them lower loss.

            The problem with writing off nuclear in favor of renewables is that the same groups opposed to nuclear will oppose renewables whenever they seem to be becoming practical for large scale power production.

            Quoting myself:

            There’s also an effect where there are sufficient environmentalists of various factions (plus others) to oppose any large scale solution, so you have to solve global warming without wind (kills birds, transmission lines disrupt environment, ugly), solar (disrupts delicate desert environment, mining for materials is environmentally harmful), dams (kills fish, ruins ecosystems), nuclear (glows, heats rivers, waste, accidents), etc

          • baconbits9 says:

            The other issue is that most groups are arguing that GW has to be stopped NOW, but when it comes to solutions its fine with waiting 2 to N years for Solar to get cost effective and then another 2 to N years for it to be produced in high enough quantities to make a difference.

          • albatross11 says:

            Groups (political parties, social movements, religions, electorates, bureaucracies) aren’t rational, even if all the individuals who make them up are. I always think of this as a broader version of Arrow’s theorem. So it’s not the least bit surprising to find mutually-incompatible desires or goals in these groups.

            Every political movement has hypocrisy and incompatible goals/desires and crazy fringes and all other kinds of irrationality. There is very little value in doing the “Checkmate, fundies!” thing w.r.t. a political movement you don’t like, whether that’s small-government advocates who want to keep their Medicare, or people who obsess about the threat of privately-owned guns to their kids but keep an unfenced pool in their back yard, or people convinced global warming is a threat to mankind but who still oppose nuclear power plants and will file NIMBY lawsuits to prevent windmills messing up the sightlines from their homes, or people who want the cops to crack down on drugs except they think it would be unduly harsh for their kid to get in serious trouble for that little bit of pot he got caught with.

            I’m more interested in what good ideas are out there. For example, I saw a talk a few years back advocating for building a very high-efficiency transmission grid, to accomodate renewable sources. (A lot of the intermittent nature of wind and solar is less of a problem when you spread them out across the whole US and have high-efficiency lines linking them together.)

          • The Nybbler says:

            @albatross1

            In this case, what all those incompatible desires mean is there’s no point in compromising. You’ll get opposition from environmentalists no matter what sort of large scale power you want to build. So you might as well forget about satisfying environmentalists and push for the power sources with the most powerful proponents, which means fossil fuels.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos
            "....A plant is being built (slowly) in Idaho as well"

            A new atomic power plant is being made in the U.S.A.?

            That’s AWESOME!

            All the guys who worked on them in my old local are retired, dead or about to be retired or dead.

            Nice to know that 20th century style techno-optimism survives in Idaho.

          • 10240 says:

            @The Nybbler If all energy sources are opposed by some people, that doesn’t mean that they are all opposed by everyone, that they are opposed to the same extent, or that left-wingers are not willing to make a compromise where some are supported and some are opposed I’m pretty sure you know this. By and large, the left tends to support renewable energy, especially wind and solar, and Ocasio-Cortez have just made a proposal that includes a massive increase in renewable energy production. Your comment also only makes sense if you don’t actually want any measure against global warming, and the only reason you might support one is as part of a compromise with the left.

            Again, your comment was a gotcha-level argument motivated by hostility towards the left, not by a desire for a constructive discussion or truth-seeking. I’m saying this as someone who is middle-ground on the issue, and leans right-wing overall.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            https://sightlineu3o8.com/2018/01/new-nuclear-power-plant-coming-to-idaho-falls/

            They hope to be operational by 2026, which is an ambitious timeline and would be exciting if they can pull it off.

      • Plumber says:

        @Deiseach

        “The Krugman opinion piece says…”

        What caught me attention was the juxtaposition of the two pieces, with Krugman saying that the Republicans are slandering Democrats as being “socialists” when actually they’re at most Scandinavian-style ‘Social Democrats” or just plain mid 20th century U. S. style “Liberals”, and for most of my lifetime I’d say “sure” except (as Douthat’s column speaks on) here comes Representative Ocasio-Cortez proposing the most statist turn for the U.S.A. since the 1940’s, which has precedent from Congressional Representatives from New York City, and I would’ve just regarded it as her showboating except that she got a Senator to co-sign it, and four prominent Democratic presidential candidates voicing their support. 

        Probably my age but my immediate response is “Jeez Democrats, baby steps! This talk may help one win a California or Massachusetts Democratic primary election but it won’t fly in the national general election, and actually trying to implement this (instead of just doing a 2009 stimulus style slap on a few solar panels on some school buildings, and call that your “Green New Deal”) will result in a massive backlash from the electorate”.

        • dndnrsn says:

          If what AOC and co are presenting is going to be detrimental to the Democrats as a whole – about 3/4 of the things I see about this Green New Deal (not following news closely right now) sound like they would be popular, then the other 1/4 seems… not so much – perhaps it’s a case of bad incentives. I can’t remember who coined the “law” or “principle” but people often prioritize their advancement within an organization over the advancement of the organzation itself.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It’s beneficial if you are running for “president of the progressives.” It’s not beneficial for the worthwhile efforts of getting CO2 out of the atmosphere.

            I have an extremely strong dislike for people who think “they are moving the Overton window.” As if that was the hard part. There is always someone willing to say something crazy.

    • Erusian says:

      “We’re not socialists! Also, socialism isn’t bad and people who oppose it are liars!”

      The Democrats do believe in a form of socialism, probably most closely something like Latin American democratic socialism. (They often cite the Nordic countries because those are more successful, but there are too many key policy differences for that to really be their model). They are not tankies or Stalinists, though they have recently been flirting more with opposition to capitalism-as-capitalism. We now have two proposals, one from a presidential candidate, that would effectively abolish capitalism. That’s definitely an overton window shift in a bad direction.

      And their interest in environmentalism is directly tied to that socialist strain of their thought. If it was really ‘pure’, you’d see a lot more Red Tribe support. The Red Tribe loves the environment, often in a more direct way than the Blue Tribers who live in concrete jungles. They often live near nature and hunting requires a healthy hunting ground. I’ve seen no less than three environmentalist outreach attempts fail when they had some very conservative people 100% on board… until they started to demand Red Tribers accept Blue Tribe shibboleths and/or socialist style government control policies.

      But they can’t admit that because it would alienate moderates. (There are Republican equivalents, by the by. They’re just not relevant here.) And in some sense this is AOC and Warren giving the game away. The 3D chess explanation is that by alienating moderates they push the party more in their direction. Or perhaps they’re just true believers.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The Democrats do believe in a form of socialism, probably most closely something like Latin American democratic socialism. (They often cite the Nordic countries because those are more successful, but there are too many key policy differences for that to really be their model). They are not tankies or Stalinists, though they have recently been flirting more with opposition to capitalism-as-capitalism.

        They don’t want to admit that that the Nordic countries were monocultures until they started letting Muslim immigrants in, because that would raise mentally-polluting questions about the benefits of a monoculture to society in general and high-trust welfare states in particular.

        The Red Tribe loves the environment, often in a more direct way than the Blue Tribers who live in concrete jungles. They often live near nature and hunting requires a healthy hunting ground.

        Exactly. Nobody in the Red Tribe wants the environment destroyed. They just resist proposed laws that might preserve it because they can’t trust the people proposing them, so they err on the side of libertarianism (hardly anyone is a dogmatic libertarian outside of nerd discussion groups like this one, either).

        • phi says:

          How do you know that monocultural societies have an advantage over multicultural ones in forming high trust welfare states? I.e, what looks different in a world where both are equally effective, or in a world where multiculturalism is more effective?

          • Clutzy says:

            There are all those studies on social cohesion. This would indicate that there is less resentment of “the unfortunate guy”, making people less likely to think they are, “the lazy guy” when he went to the same schools and churches, is the same ethnicity, speak the same language, etc.

            I think the other oft overlooked things about Scandinavian countries is that they were all in the top 20 in GDP/capita before implementing the welfare state, are all very high on the IQ distribution for countries, and have always been low on corruption indexes. Also they all implemented market reforms to de-socialize basically everything not related to welfare in the 90s (or around there).

            There is no evidence this happens in the US. Demographically we have more in common with Brazil than Sweden. Pockets of the US are high crime and high corruption. There hasn’t been a massive dismantling of regulations like they did in Sweden in the 90s, etc.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Gypsies. It’s an example of a subculture that holds as a core value that it’s perfectly ok to cheat outsiders, so any form of welfare that involves the honor system is out.

            It’s a bit of an extreme example, but, well, I think a pretty definitive one that there are at least some advantages to a monoculture (including one 100% gypsie – it’s the mixing that fails)

          • @Radu Floricica:

            I don’t know if you have read Anne Sutherland’s book Gypsies: The Hidden Americans but if not, you should; it provides strong support for the point you are making.

            Of course, a monoculture has disadvantages as well, fewer opportunities for gains from trade since less diverse abilities and tastes. I think Britain pretty clearly gained by having both Scots and English, for example.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @DavidFriedman
            I’m halfway through your book actually (Legal systems…), which is why it was fresh in my mind. But it’s not something new to me, I grew up literally next door to gypsies in Romania. Funny thing: only now I realized exactly why women shouted very vivid expressions relating to genital organs when arguing, up to lifting their skirts 🙂

            I’ve read Making Things Work recently, and it makes a pretty compelling argument for separating people that don’t get along (Scots and English didn’t share territory after all, were mostly a federation). A few other interesting insights as well, some I haven’t heard anywhere else.

          • albatross11 says:

            At a guess, some cultures are better adapted to getting along well with surrounding groups than others. And cultures that are too good at that tend to assimilate into those larger groups and just end up as “Germans” or “Frenchmen” or something, so we don’t notice them anymore. In Europe, you have Jews and Gypsies and then some small religious groups that managed to really keep themselves separate. And the difference in how the strategies Jews and Gypsies adopted/evolved to survive as outsider groups is really striking–Jews’ strategy seems like a *way* better fit for the modern world than Gypsies’ strategy.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            But isn’t it most logical to then have separate nations/states and polities, so cultural groups can have policies that match their culture, while they trade across the borders?

          • AG says:

            @Aapje:

            At that point you get into the issue of geography. Someone gets the shitty land with less resources.

          • Jews’ strategy seems like a *way* better fit for the modern world than Gypsies’ strategy.

            Yes and no. The Nazis tried to eliminate both groups. As best I can tell, they killed a much smaller fraction of the Romani than of the Jews. My conjecture is that that was because part of the Romani strategy is keeping a low profile.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @DavidFriedman

            The Nazis were far, far, far more into going after the Jews than the Roma. The SS couldn’t even really make up their mind whether the latter were a danger, or whether the danger was only from them intermarrying with ethnic Germans, or what. In contrast, getting rid of the Jews (one way or another – scholars debate over it; I think the most plausible take is that they had wanted to deport them, without much care as to the survival of those deported, and switched to mass murder when the various planned deportation sites didn’t plan out) was one of the major goals of the Nazi regime.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @Clutzy

            I think the other oft overlooked things about Scandinavian countries is that they were all in the top 20 in GDP/capita before implementing the welfare state, are all very high on the IQ distribution for countries, and have always been low on corruption indexes. Also they all implemented market reforms to de-socialize basically everything not related to welfare in the 90s (or around there).

            Do you have a source for this? I am not so much doubting this as just trying to understand. I kind of looked around for the info, but building the data would take some time. If you have a source that’s already done it, that would be great.

          • Clutzy says:

            Not for all of them. The national IQ one I can assume you just look up. The other’s are just things I’ve picked up. I’m sure Dan Mitchell at Cato has a few posts that are about each part besides IQ because he’s constantly commenting on the Scandinavian countries.

      • The Nybbler says:

        And their interest in environmentalism is directly tied to that socialist strain of their thought. If it was really ‘pure’, you’d see a lot more Red Tribe support.

        It’s a bit more than that. I’ve seen environmentalist proposals that basically come down to “cram all the people into 400 square foot apartments in high rises in the city, and then keep the rest of the environment pristine so the urbanites can go visit now and again.” Not sure what they want with food production; some no doubt think “robots”, others have silly ideas like urban farming, and I darkly suspect there’s some who would allow Red Tribers to continue to farm — under close and careful supervision, of course.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Rich Blue burghers are heterogeneous on the issue of agriculture. There’s the locavore movement, which orders people to save the world from global warming by eating food grown within X miles of you, ignoring the farmers’s politics. There’s “fair trade” agriculture, though 95% of the time that’s just coffee. Technocratic Blues no doubt have a different idea.

        • Aapje says:

          @The Nybbler

          You forgot organic food and vegetarianism/veganism. There are those who argue that meat is so inefficient, that if we abandon it, we can feed people when switching to organic farming, which in turn improves biodiversity.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I think you can file that one under “silly ideas”.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Google Bjorn Lomborg and follow him. He’s pretty good at poking big holes in ideas like this. In this particular case, it turns out there is a difference, which you can easily offset by buying a few dollar’s worth of carbon credits per year – and be a guild free carnivore.

            Of course, someone could also poke holes in the math he quotes, but the main message is that it’s not straightforward – we do need our protein, and replacing it is expensive in many ways. Some of which go back to being non-ecologically friendly.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Fully mechanized greenhouses. That scene from the new Blade-runner movie where they overfly unpteen square miles of glass? That is real, and where an astonishing amount of europes vegetables are grown. Mostly by people straight off the literal boat from across the med, because it is badly paid work in very hot and humid conditions, but mechanize that, and you could feed the world on very, very limited amount of landuse – the yield per square kilometer is absurdly high, and as an added bonus, having the food supply under glass also largely protects it from climate disruption.

          It also is not hard to way down on the use of poisons – If you have a greenhouse minded by robots zipping around on rails in the ceiling, just give them a five watt laser and an algorithm with a greenlist of what bugs it is going to suffer to live. Pesticides? Who needs them. As a bonus, pests are not going to evolve mirror carpaces – that would involve some of them surviving the attention of the death-bots.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        The ‘concrete jungle’ thing irked me. Western cities, even US cities, are cleaner than suburbs on a per-person basis.

        Red tribe are probably less averse to visible methods of environmental clean-up and conservation then they had been 30 years ago but that’s likely due to an overton window shift. They’re generally more negatively affected [economically] by the kinds of land-use regulations related to these issues. There might also be more concern about hormones in water/plastic and the effect on young men and women but it’s hard to tell.

        I mean there’s Carlson and his rants about garbage, pollution, and wind turbines killing birds but he’s exceptional in more ways than one.

        The role-reversal, if it exists anywhere, comes from blue support for open borders and to a lesser extent industrial outsourcing. There are specific issues with garbage accumulation on the Arizona border, IIRC, but more generally trying to reduce carbon emissions per-capita within a country becomes more of a holding action when your populations are growing from transfers abroad to less carbon-emitting countries.

        One counter-argument could be that it’s not ethical to reduce gross carbon emissions until living standards [and to an extent, carbon emissions] have been equalized globally. But if that’s the case, even aggressively reducing emissions per capita in the developed world might not reduce emissions needed by the necessary time-frame a la the IPCC. Pick your poison I guess.

        • Erusian says:

          The ‘concrete jungle’ thing irked me. Western cities, even US cities, are cleaner than suburbs on a per-person basis.

          The fact that ‘not in a city’ means ‘a part of the city, just another part of the city that’s slightly less urban’ to you is revealing. You are aware there are other patterns of settlement besides ‘urban’ and ‘commutes into urban from nearby’?

          Yes, they are on a per person basis when counting carbon emissions because they have more people. In absolute terms, they’re much worse and have a much larger part of their budget taken up by things like billboards while rural areas have a much larger part of their budget taken up by necessities like heat and cars. They’re also much worse on measures like biodiversity impact.

          So there’s a story to be told either way.

          Red tribe are probably less averse to visible methods of environmental clean-up and conservation then they had been 30 years ago but that’s likely due to an overton window shift. They’re generally more negatively affected [economically] by the kinds of land-use regulations related to these issues. There might also be more concern about hormones in water/plastic and the effect on young men and women but it’s hard to tell.

          I mean there’s Carlson and his rants about garbage, pollution, and wind turbines killing birds but he’s exceptional in more ways than one.

          Actually, it’s the opposite. The Red Tribe has gotten more hostile, largely because the Blue Tribe has started to signal hostility to Red Tribe environmentalists. The oldest environmental organizations go back to the 19th century. But in roughly the last few decades they’ve started to take the liberal positions on gun rights, hunting, animal rights, etc. And they’ve been expelling conservatives who don’t agree.

          Carlson is, afaict, trying to play to the popular/anti-elite wing of the conservatives. His views on pollution are more typical of my experience with on the ground small town Republicans and less typical of big city, multi-millionaire talking head type Republicans.

        • Western cities, even US cities, are cleaner than suburbs on a per-person basis.

          What do you mean by “cleaner”? The term is not self-explanatory.

      • dndnrsn says:

        “Blue Tribe” isn’t a synonym for Democrats and “Red Tribe” isn’t a synonym for Republicans.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Where do ssc-ers buy their supplements? How did you choose where to buy them?

    • Plumber says:

      I usually get my vitamins and melatonin from Grocery Outlet which used to be called Canned Goods when I was a child and was usually referred to as “the dented cans store”, so yeah by price without having to buy online which I don’t trust or support.

    • Yair says:

      Nootropic Depot, even though I’m in Australia so postage costs a bit.

      Why? Because Scott said he trusts them and I trust him 🙂

    • Deiseach says:

      Online stores like Holland & Barrett, which does at least have a reputation (though not unclouded), and chose by looking up and reading as much as I could about various minerals and supplements and what they were good for, working backwards from, for example, “if I have night time leg cramps what could be causing that?”, finding a recommendation for supplementation with magnesium, and reading up about various forms of magnesium sold as supplements and what the pros and cons of each were.

      Then Googling to see who sold them/what best recommended brand was, and what the best price was. Then discounting half the fervent “this will cure everything and is wonderful for the planet” guff to try and get “okay, this does in fact have a good proportion of the active ingredient and you wouldn’t be as well off eating a stick of chalk”.

      EDIT: And just to show the byways that following links can bring you down, the Holland & Barrett article mentions that the Heath & Heather company was taken over and rebranded under that name, and since I’ve recently seen Heath & Heather herbal teas on sale plainly the old brand has been revived. Looking up the history of the original company, it turns out the Ryder Cup in golf was established by one of the founders, Samuel Ryder, who started off as a seed merchant, sold that business off and started a herbal remedies business with his brother, took up golf for the sake of his health, got really into golf, retired to spend more time golfing and promoting golf, and founded the Ryder Cup competition:

      1926
      Samuel proposed a challenge match between US, Great Britain and Ireland on 26th June at Wentworth. Unfortunately, this first challenge was deemed an unofficial tournament when it was later realised that half of the American Team were not truly American-born (although having lived and played in the United States).

      1927
      The first official competition was held in Massachusetts USA, the beginnings of a biennial tournament now known as The Ryder Cup.

      The trophy, worth £250, was designed by Mappin & Webb Company. Samuel insisted there be a golfing figure on top of the Cup to represent his personal golf tutor and British Team player, Abe Mitchell. A keen gardener himself, Mitchell was considered one of the finest players in Great Britain to have never won an Open Championship.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Leg cramps at night?

        Do you happen to drink either bergamot tea, or tonic water, on a regular basis, but particularly right before bed?

        • Deiseach says:

          No. Bergamot tea only once or twice ever, tonic water sometimes but not right before bed. It seems to be more that my electrolytes get out of whack so then I need to adjust my calcium/potassium/magnesium levels, and I do find the magnesium supplements really help.

  12. Vincent Soderberg says:

    last summer I got the book The procrastination equation to see if I could use something to feel more motivated for stuff since that is honesly my biggest problem. I kinda started reading it at first losing motivation (irony, IKR), and then I decided to jump ahead to some particularly interesting part before continuing where I left off.

    THe procrastination equation is basically : MOTIVATION = (Expectancy x Value)/ (impulsivness x Delay)

    I decided to check out the chapter on VALUE, titled “Love it or LEave it”, which seemed interesting at first, but then I got pretty stressed out when it felt like what the chapter said is that “You have to value/want something”, which yeah, makes sense, but also, bugs me because. I really don’t want that much at all?

    I mean, there is stuff that I SHOULD want (be an effective altruist, make stuff, make art since I’m really good at it I just lack motivation do something bigger then doodling, etc etc.)

    But, there is very little that I want, and what I want is mostly just to be left alone, maybe cuddle with my cat, and have a good time. Sure, there is stuff that I enjoy like videogames and food and feeling smart, but I feel like extremely little? I do have something something depression which I take antidepressants for, and I have certified high functioning autism, but it still feels like I should just want something. which I don’t really know how.

    Also, there’s the fact that the chapter talks about energy being a major factor in feeling motivated, and I feel tired like, almost always. it was worse before antidepressants, gets better when I exercise and take daily walks, but is still a big issue.

    I’m not really sure what I’m asking. I should want something but don’t know how, it’s just so random. Sometimes I get like super into 1 thing, and then I do it for 1 week/month, but it never lasts longer than that. it can be a math course or tv series, or more often a video game like stardew valley or fortnite, or sometimes, I just get way into eating 1 type of food. Like, this week I got way too into eating uncooked bread dough, so I made and ate some everyday.

    And then after that period of super interest, there is usually a period where I lose interest in the thing, but I don’t want to lose interest in the thing so I do it even though I no longer like it. I often do that with video games I love, play it and love it X amount of hours, lose interest but play it anyway X/3 amount of hours despite me not liking it anymore

    sorry for the ramblings. I’ve considered nootropics and such but can’t build up the energy and enthusiasm to actually try something there-
    ¨
    Just want to say that I generally like living, it’s like. 6-7 out of 10. could be much better but I enjoy it. it just nags at me occasionally

    • arlie says:

      Two thoughts:

      – beware of the tyranny of “should”

      – I’ve been there

      I think it makes sense to do the things you know make you feel better, and the things you need to avoid problems (e.g. keep going to work, if you have a job), and not try to follow up on shoulds that don’t have a real reason for them. It’s your life; it can be seriously unhelpful to borrow and internalize other people’s expectations.

      For me, the whole effect was much worse when I was a child, and got better the more options I had, and the less contact I had with major sources of shoulds in my family.

      Sure, I get less done even of things where I care about the results, than some hypothetical person might accomplish. But I get enough of the important stuff done, and that’s good enough.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        beware of the tyranny of “should”

        +1 to this. It sounds like you are obsessing too much on what you should like. Don’t let other people tell you what you should like, or tell yourself that just because something is good, that you should want to do it.

        It sounds like you have issues beyond the “shoulds,” in that you have a hard time getting motivated to do anything. But I think it would help to some extent to get past what you should want, and find out what you really want.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      You mentioned feeling tired all the time. This is probably a stupid question, but have you ruled out medical causes?

      I was constantly exhausted for years. I chalked it up to depression and trying to hide my autistic traits. I’m sure dealing with that didn’t help, but the root of my problem was simpler. I went to a doctor and had blood work done for the first time in 10 years, and it turns out I was severely deficient in… I want to say it was Vitamin D and Vitamin B12? I was amazed by how much more energetic I felt once I started supplementing my diet with those vitamins.

      Granted, I still had some problems with motivation and procrastination, but at least they weren’t compounded by being too tired to function after 1 pm every day.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I read that book, and thought that while it answers many questions about what procrastination is and how it can be modeled, there’s nothing really useful about managing it.

      I’ve dug into EY’s reading list and found Breakdown of Will by George Ainslie. It’s a weird book, with somewhat paradoxical effects – but one of them is that for at least a few years I had no problems with procrastination, and I don’t think I ever will, not the same as before. Downside: it’s not an easy read.

      Also, I’d suggest playing less video games.

      • Vincent Soderberg says:

        I’ll give Breakdown of Will a shot

        I’ll do the video game thing too at some point. did it once, kinda worked? i dunno. worth trying again.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          The video game thing isn’t for procrastination, it was just life advice. There was a comment I read once on Slashdot (yes, I’m that old) about how spending time gaming just means you’re missing the games you can enjoy in real live: work, career, dating, friends, hobbies, family. Shook me a bit.

          • Aapje says:

            Only if those are the kind of games you enjoy.

            Not all games are the same.

            Arguably, computer games tend to condense things down to the most enjoyable parts, although in a relatively short term way that may not be most enjoyable long term.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Aapje

            > Only if those are the kind of games you enjoy.

            And that’s part of the point. I didn’t get good at dating until I started to see it as “dating socially”, aka just enjoying the time, instead of seeing it as an obstacle on the way to a relationship.

            If you keep seeing life as a series of chores instead of games, you’ll never get good at it.

  13. savebandit says:

    For people who believe in a post-scarcity society happening eventually:

    What do you think of DeBeers? We effectively live in a post-scarcity diamond world right now, but with relative ease it seems that DeBeers has managed to keep diamonds rare. It looked like synthetics were going to make a big dent in the market a few years ago, but prices are still inflated relative to supply. And it looks like years of sitting on high profit margins has given them the ability to buy up the major synthetic diamond players.

    Does it look like other industries will avoid this trap? How do you avoid the DeBeers problem and distribute resources equitably?

    • AG says:

      I mean, part of it is that people who can’t afford diamonds have other non-diamond ring alternatives, right? Diamonds never were anything but a luxury good, compared to housing, food, and healthcare.

      And then, as I posted below, in a post-scarcity situation, “authenticity” becomes currency. A large part of the marketing is about devaluing synthetics, that only “real” naturally made diamonds count.

    • According to the Wikipedia article, the price of synthetic diamonds only fell below that of natural diamonds in 2016, so there hasn’t been much time for the market to develop.

      I doubt that deBeers is keeping synthetic diamonds rare–once the process is known, which it has been for a while, if deBeers buys one factory at a high price, someone else can build another. Do you have some reason to believe it is, or is it just someone’s speculation?

      Consider the case of synthetic ruby and sapphire. Those are much older technologies and widely used–lots of class rings and such are synthetic corundum (or spinel, also an expensive gemstone in its natural form). Yet natural corundum (and spinel) still sells for a much higher price than the synthetic.

      You might also consider that CZ (cubic zirconium) has been around for a long time, is adequately hard and has an even higher index of refraction than diamond, so ought to be a close substitute–but, judging by price, isn’t. Pretty clearly, people value the natural gemstone more than the synthetic, even when the observable characteristics are essentially the same.

    • LesHapablap says:

      As civilization gets more and more wealthy, a greater portion of consumption will just be pure signalling. The diamond example is perfect: (from casual googling) in the 1930s the rule was to spend one month’s salary on an engagement ring. By the 80s it was two months. Now it’s three months salary. University degrees are another example: years of many people’s lives spent on worthless signaling.

      Between signalling-cost inflation and the hedonic treadmill, we will never feel like we are in a post-scarcity society until both those things are somehow altered from the human experience.

    • Well... says:

      I’m curious how this affects the industrial diamond sector (because diamonds are used in industry and manufacturing, maybe more than most people are aware), if it does at all. Does industry/manufacturing get their diamonds through some other supply network where there isn’t this artificial scarcity? Or do they have special deals worked out? Or…what?

      • bullseye says:

        IIRC, most natural diamonds are ugly yellow or brown, so industry uses those.

        • I think most industrial diamonds have been synthetic for quite a while.

          • sentientbeings says:

            The bar graph here certainly suggests that you are correct.

          • albatross11 says:

            Is it possible to make diamonds that are as attractive as jewelry diamonds, or do those have to be found? (Basically, is the reason we pay lots of money for jewelry diamonds because De Beers et al are effective at marketing and running a cartel, or is it because they’re actually scarce?).

            [Of course, the scarcity and cost is the point–if an engagement ring cost $100, it wouldn’t work as a costly signal of how much importance the man puts on the relationship.]

          • sentientbeings says:

            @albatross11

            Is it possible to make diamonds that are as attractive as jewelry diamonds, or do those have to be found?

            Yes, although until recently it tended to be too expensive to be worthwhile for larger diamonds. They are visually identical but can be distinguished using spectroscopy.

          • It has long been possible to make CZ (cubic zirconium) which is visually as attractive as diamonds. The only special visual characteristic of diamonds is the high index of refraction, which gives you colored sparkles, and CZ has an even higher index.

            As both that case and the price difference between natural and synthetic corundum (ruby and sapphire) demonstrate, what goes into the utility of consumers of gemstones is more complicated than their observable characteristics.

            For another example of the same pattern, consider the price difference between an antique in good condition and a good replica.

            I think the importance of deBeers is considerably exaggerated in the popular imagination. Their market share is currently about 33%.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I don’t know whether post-scarcity will actually happen.

      But if we get a world in which you can either 3D print anything with a relatively cheap printer or make robots (that can make more robots) that can make anything, then this is fundamentally unlike the DeBeers situation. If one person or organization breaks ranks from a cartel of the capitalists (which would be many orders of magnitude bigger than the DeBeers cartel, and thus more prone to long-tail defectors), then they can give the people outside the cartel the ability to start up a means of production that doesn’t require anything from the cartel.

      Unless the cartel routinely suppresses every given away 3D printer or robot with highly effective military actions (which seems likely to be counterproductive), the whole thing falls apart quickly. This is not a parallel with the DeBeers situation. A cheap synthetic diamond factory does not create its own self-sufficient economic system that need not interact with the DeBeers economic system.

    • Lillian says:

      What do you think of DeBeers? We effectively live in a post-scarcity diamond world right now, but with relative ease it seems that DeBeers has managed to keep diamonds rare. It looked like synthetics were going to make a big dent in the market a few years ago, but prices are still inflated relative to supply. And it looks like years of sitting on high profit margins has given them the ability to buy up the major synthetic diamond players.

      Does it look like other industries will avoid this trap? How do you avoid the DeBeers problem and distribute resources equitably?

      Is this the same DeBeers whose share of the diamond market has been dropping for 30 years? Because while DeBeers is still the largest single player, their market share these days is less than 40%, which isn’t enough for them to single-handedly dictate price or keep diamonds rare. In fact, in terms of raw production they’ve been surpassed by the Russian company Alrosa, which according their site accounts for about a quarter of production, with DeBeers having about a fifth. The five largest producers together seem to account for about two-thirds of all diamond production. For comparison, this is what the smartphone market looked like four years ago, with the six largest manufacturers accounting for over 60% of all shipments. In short, diamond production these days is only somewhat less competitive than smartphone production.

      So to answer your question: There is no DeBeers problem, it largely solved itself via market mechanisms. You might want to look into other reasons why diamond prices are not coming down.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I’m not sure I would go quite this far, but in general, I would say people need to put greater faith in institutions (including the market) than they currently do. It takes time to solve big problems, even with the correct feedback mechanisms in place.

        The analogy might be to turning on your air conditioner and getting annoyed it has not dropped your house 20 degrees in an hour. Give it time before blaming the AC unit.

    • Another Throw says:

      A couple of notes that may impact this discussion:

      1. The brilliance of a stone—the ability to return incident light back out the top using total internal reflection—is a function of the stone being well cut to match the index of refraction of the material. The fire of a stone—the coloration of that light—is a function of the dispersion of the material splitting white light into a spectrum. Since CZ has been mention, it actually has a lower index of refraction than diamond, and higher dispersion. I don’t know offhand if cuts have been designed for CZ that match a diamond’s brilliance. Or are even possible, because it relies on a high index of refraction. And if so, whether the resulting geometry is conducive to mounting. The higher dispersion would imply a greater fire. The observation that CZ is substantially cheaper than diamond in current markets is evidence that the benefits of having a higher dispersion may be insufficient to overcome having a lower index of refraction compared to diamond.

      2. It is worth noting that DeBeers has now begun selling synthetic diamonds, up to one caret and for any use other than the bridal market. They are significantly undercutting both the natural and existing synthetics in those markets.

      3. The article I read on the subject of (2), in the WSJ I think, mentioned that the output of diamond mines is expected to drop in the next couple of decades unless new sources are found. Because diamonds rely on fairly specific geological phenomenon, I’m not certain how likely finding new sources will be. The economies of reduced output increasing prices until previously uneconomical sources become economical is an exercise for the reader.

  14. fion says:

    Has anybody here ever paid for a dating app/website? Is it worth it?

    I use Bumble, Tinder and OKCupid and have done for about three years. In that time I’ve had three relationships from Tinder, all positive, and been on dates with maybe half a dozen further people, mostly positive, mostly Tinder.

    All three apps have ways of paying money to get more matches. Sometimes it’s a one-off expenditure to make yourself more visible, sometimes it’s a subscription to their full app which has various features such as seeing who’s liked you before you’ve liked them. I’ve never really been tempted because I have a (possibly irrational) aversion to paying for things when there’s a free version that’s almost the same. But on the other hand, meeting a romantic partner is pretty important to me, and it’s only a few pounds a month. The companies have an incentive to make their paid version (perceived to be) significantly more effective than their free version, so maybe it’s worth it.

    Unable to figure it out, I turn to the experience of others. What do you think?

    • SamChevre says:

      I had a paid subscription to e-Harmony about 15 years ago. It did a reasonable job of matching me to people I enjoyed meeting, but that was long ago.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I never paid for a dating site but I got the premium version of OkCupid for free about three years ago as part of some kind of customer retention thing.

      The big difference was that premium users had more useful filters on searches: I could search by answers to specific questions, which helped me eliminate unsuitable people. But that didn’t really translate into more dates or even higher quality dates. I did just as well before and after.

      I would suggest not paying for dating sites and apps. If you’re going to spend money, spend it on improving your wardrobe, taking higher quality pictures, or on a gym membership. Those will pay off a lot more.

    • AG says:

      I know a real life long term couple that happened because one party used the “seeing who’s liked you before you’ve liked them” feature.

    • cassander says:

      I use a matchmaking service. It’s basically online dating but for a couple hundred bucks a month (price schemes vary) they comb through the lists and guarantee you a date. Quality is about the same but you don’t have the drudgery of working through profiles, and I hate legwork so it’s not bad deal for me.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Do you have any recommendations?

        • cassander says:

          I haven’t been super impressed with any of them yet, thb. So far they’ve been pretty interchangeable. If you want to try it out, I’d suggest going with someone who has a straightforward pricing scheme (e.g. X per month, one date per month). it’ll cost a bit more per date, but you won’t have to lay out a lot of money for a long term membership.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Are the matches significantly better? The amount of legwork is not extreme, and hundreds of dollars a month seems like a fair bit. On the other hand, if the business model is “pay us a lot of money and we will find you a match, for realsies” that might justify it.

        • cassander says:

          No, they’re about the same. but you get one a month on the reglar, and you don’t have to spend any time at it and I value both of those things more than the money. You also get a more “normal” people, since you’re drawing from a pool of people who can afford and are willing to pay for a paid matchmaking service. For most people that’s a good thing, I would think. I tend to get along better with square pegs, so it’s been a little less than ideal.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t remember online dating being that much work, after the initial hassle of setting an account up, and it wasn’t that hard to set up a date or two per week. I found the downside to more be that there was a general sense of everyone (including myself) as being replaceable – which reduces the incentive to keep working at a relationship if it hits any bumps.

    • LesHapablap says:

      I pay for extra features on tinder which are hardly worth it where I live, but in a big city would definitely be worth it. Choosing a significant other is pretty important and the cost per month is half what you’d spend on a single casual date.

      • fion says:

        What are the extra features on tinder that you think are worth it (in a big city)?

      • LesHapablap says:

        Being able to see who has liked you means that you can just scroll through those, which would save a lot of time. Having 5 super-likes per day is handy as well.

        • fion says:

          Where I’m swiping, I get the impression that most people view super-likes as too keen, and bordering on creepy. “He’s only seen a handful of photos of me and read a two-sentence bio and he ‘super-likes’ me? No thank you”. Many people explicitly state in their bio “if I super-liked you it was by accident”. So I don’t even use my one per day.

          Being able to see who liked you is the one thing that sounds useful to me, but maybe not that useful since I’m realistically going to be scrolling through everybody else anyway.

          • Aqua says:

            don’t think this is true

            super likes appear to have a much higher accept rate than regular likes, so I don’t think they are actually seen as too keen, even if that might be their reputation

          • LesHapablap says:

            There are some girls who find the super-like creepy, but there are also girls who only look at guys who have super liked them, since trawling through all the likes/matches would take them forever.

            And there are lots of girls who don’t use tinder all that much but still have the app, and they will never come across your profile unless you super-like them. If they like the look of you, they aren’t going to think you’re a creep.

          • fion says:

            @Aqua

            super likes appear to have a much higher accept rate than regular likes

            but is this true everywhere?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Depends a lot on location, so I don’t think advice will be very applicable. In my neck of the woods I can’t get matches without paying for Tinder, at least not for my SMV and preferences. But it varies a lot.

      And speaking of SMV, sexual market value is painfully obvious if you Tinder and travel. At least age and race.

      • fion says:

        I haven’t heard of sexual market value before and gave it a quick google. It doesn’t sound very applicable for those in search of relationships as opposed to hookups. Is that right or am I missing something?

        • toastengineer says:

          Replace “sex” with “relationship” and alter some of the rules to match; the fundamental idea that interpersonal interactions follow supply and demand still applies.

          • fion says:

            I mean, sure, there are some traits that are desirable and uncommon, and those will have a bigger impact on attractiveness than traits that are desirable and common, which I suppose is kind of supply-and-demand? Is there anything more to it than that?

            The idea of it being a women’s market is out the window, because women want relationships at least as much as men do.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Markets, plural. The science of economics applies the same, but there are many contexts. For example there is a phenomenon where if you have a slight imbalance between parties it drives the equilibrium dramatically to one side – like having 9 women for 10 men, or vice-versa. Even relationship types depend on distribution of sexes – more sex-oriented where male are rare (after wars), more relationship and resource oriented in China.

            In western societies the biggest differences are of age. It’s a women’s market during the 20s, but more and more a men’s in the 30s and 40s, as more men are married or simply opt out of the sexual market altogether.

            There are also particularities which I don’t think have ever been studied formally – for example man’s appreciation of women’s attractiveness is linear, but woman’s seems to be exponential – everybody is “average” up to Brad Pitt.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Yeap, different values for long/short term – well, not as much different, really, as additional ones. Both sexes are still looking for attractive and interesting mates, just they also want additional things so they have to compromise.

          Also there are “markets”, plural. For example I spent the holidays failing to hook up in a bar I was a regular in – mostly for the simple reason that I was surrounded by taller guys. Relative market value was very low. In other contexts it’s the opposite.

          • Is height in general an important element in SMV? If so, it’s a good thing I long ago managed a long term contract.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @DavidFriedman

            More in a bar than in online dating, definitely.

            I’ve spent time some years ago reading all the relevant studies I could get my hands on, and the one I liked the most – among other reasons because it was not based on asking women what they want, but on actual success in dating – correlated attraction to three characteristics: height, size (circumference of biceps, shoulder, chest) and dominance (from asking subjects about each person in their circle of friends something like “could I take him in a fight”).

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            I dunno–I always figured my advantages in dating were in intelligence and wide interests and a good sense of humor–stuff that worked pretty well for me when I was in the dating market, but would have been a disaster if I’d been trying to find dates at loud smoky bars. (Quiet coffeeshops run by retreat hippies were a much better plan. Less bad loud music and more bad poetry FTW.)

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            In my neck of the woods, men commonly state their length in Tinder profiles and women regularly state demands for a minimum height. So this suggests that it is a major factor.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Aapje,

            In my neck of the woods, men commonly state their length in Tinder profiles

            Wow, the Dutch are pretty forward.

            That seems to be very easily gamed however. Guys already lie about their height online and that’s something that the woman can see immediately upon meeting him. If a guy is lying about length the woman won’t know unless they’re either already 90% of the way to sex or
            he sends a dick-pic to confirm.

          • I dunno–I always figured my advantages in dating were in intelligence and wide interests and a good sense of humor–stuff that worked pretty well for me when I was in the dating market, but would have been a disaster if I’d been trying to find dates at loud smoky bars.

            According to the woman I am now married to, her reaction on meeting me was “I’ve finally found someone interesting in this place” (VPI). It still took several years for me to persuade her of the virtues of long term contracting.

            Finding dates in bars, loud or otherwise, is something of which I have no experience at all.

            I find reading about all of this interesting, but it feels like a different world. How much of that is time—I have been entirely off the dating market since 1983—and how much different personal styles I don’t know.

    • JonathanD says:

      I paid for Match, and met my wife there. At the time it was a fairly straightforward model. You could browse for free, but had to pay X dollars/month to be in contact. I think I was active there for six or so months.

    • Garrett says:

      I’ve spent money on both dating sites ($$) and professional matchmaking services ($$$$). I’ve gotten more dates out of the later, but nothing that I would consider any “better”. Absent gold-digger money, I’m not sure that there’s any reliable way to use money to find a SO.

  15. Viliam says:

    Saw yet another zombie movie, and I think that in real life zombies actually wouldn’t be a big problem. I mean, in the movies, there are essentially two problems with zombies:

    (1) Zombies have the moment of surprise. The first victims get killed by zombies simply because they have no idea what a “zombie” is, and how to properly defend themselves against one. So they go like “uhm, sir, you seem somewhat unhealthy, let me help you” and the zombie bites them; or a zombie approaches them and they just stand there shocked and scream until the zombie finishes them; or they don’t have any weapon in hand; or they get surrounded by a group of zombies. But these are all beginners’ mistakes — reasonable people who survived one week in the zombie world would avoid most of them. But as soon as you adapt to the presence of zombies, your actual problem is that…

    (2) The civilization collapsed. Zombies per se are no longer your main problem. Your main problem is that you have no food, because the supermarkets don’t function anymore; you have no gas, because the gas stations don’t function anymore; and you are randomly attacked by thugs or local warlords, because the police and army don’t function anymore. You already know how to deal with the zombies, but your whole infrastructure has collapsed. (Fictional evidence: in “Walking Dead” the first episodes are about surviving zombie attacks, but most of the problems afterwards are inter-human conflicts.)

    Well, if the civilization collapses, then obviously you have a big problem that you can’t fix. You could create your local commune that can defend itself and produce its own food, but the life will never be the same as when you had supermarkets and internet. Sooner or later you will run out of antibiotics and modern tools, and your quality of life will revert to medieval, which means bad.

    However, my point is that if the civilization somehow wouldn’t collapse, living in a zombie world would be relatively easy. Less comfortable than now, but we would get used to it.

    There are different types of zombies in different movies, so for the purpose of debate let’s assume that they are: (1) stupid and incapable of learning, (2) can’t move faster than walking speed, and (3) their strength is within an order of magnitude of human strength.

    If that is the case, then all you need to secure a city is (1) a lot of fences everywhere, (2) a lot of spears or halberds, plus some basic training for citizens how to use them, and (3) a specialized anti-zombie brigade you can call from your smartphone using an app that makes a photo and sends it along with GPS coordinates. When you are at home, you are pretty much safe; a zombie cannot break your wall or doors (and if they could break weaker doors, gradually everyone would upgrade to stronger ones), so in case of emergency you call the anti-zombie brigade and wait 30 minutes until they arrive. When you are on a street and you see a zombie, simply run away. The fences are not there to create a permanent safety, but rather to slow down the zombie that is following you. The zombies are stupid, so if you have a fence along each sidewalk, with an opening every 100 meters, you just cross the street and move so that the fence is between you and the zombie. If you are followed by a group of zombies, you go through the opening in the fence, some zombies keep following you, some get stuck.

    The spear is a cheap weapon that can kill a zombie and doesn’t run out of ammo. It would be socially acceptable to have a spear with you when you walk outside. Homes and shops would be legally required to keep an “emergency spear” on the outside. Cars and buses would have some emergency weapons inside them, too. So if you meet a zombie, get through the nearest fence, grab the nearest emergency spear, and kill the stupid zombie that is trying to bite its way through the fence. Out of the city: always have a spear with you, attach a V-shaped metal bar on the front of your car (so when you meet zombies on the road, you can just hit them), always have a phone with you, and don’t do anything stupid. The anti-zombie brigade is simply a group of volunteers or professionals with spears in an armored car. (Yes, they will probably also have guns in addition to the spears.)

    In the movies, an average hero kills hundreds of zombies. But that would imply that 99% of population has died, in which case the collapse of civilization seems inevitable. But if e.g. only 50% of population does, we have only one zombie per one living person; or let’s say, three zombies per one adult male. That seems quite doable.

    tl;dr — the only really dangerous thing about zombies is the collapse of civilization when they catch us by surprise; if we can somehow avoid that, we can easily adapt to living in a world containing zombies

    • The Nybbler says:

      If a handgun loaded with appropriate rounds can stop a zombie, it’s all-around a better idea than a spear. Smaller, easier to carry and use and maneuver, can be used by a wider variety of people, and you can probably carry more rounds than you can make thrusts with a spear. If anti-gun ideas reign following a zombie attack, civilization deserves to collapse. If a handgun can’t stop a zombie, you’ll need something which can, but a spear and a gun work on more or less the same principles of putting holes in people and so a spear won’t be sufficient. If you need to cut off the head, for instance, handguns are useless but a modified spear might be useful as a standoff weapon along with a halberd or battle-axe to sever the head from out of biting range. This will require either much more skill and strength or multiple people per zombie.

      If you have a LOT of zombies, your best weapon might be a bulldozer or other tracked vehicle with a secure cab, especially if merely putting holes in them doesn’t work.

      But yeah, if civilization doesn’t collapse initially and there’s no way of making new zombies other than zombie bite, shambling zombies should really be less of a problem than rabid dogs were. Even with faster zombies, the “28 Weeks Later” scenario happened because the authorities in that movie were carrying the idiot ball.

      • AG says:

        Yeah, the limited spread Ebola shows how even the highly contagious diseases can be contained even in the dense first world settings, and we aren’t even shooting Ebola victims!

    • The problem with zombies is that it’s essentially impossible to have a zombie world. Those movies never show how it gets started because it simply couldn’t happen. Imagine that in a contrived scenario someone catches a zombie virus in the middle of a large concert. In the confusion, it manages to spread to those attending. What happens next? The police come in, or if somehow that doesn’t work, the National Guard and facing a group of normal strengthened humans without any weapons, easily subdues them. The end.

      • Viliam says:

        Yeah, that’s another problem that the police and army in the movies are extremely incompetent. As soon as you have an approximate idea of what zombies are and how to kill them (“only their heads are vulnerable; don’t let them bite you; your dead people also become zombies”), a team of professionals should be able to start cleaning the streets. Also, they should share the information about killing zombies efficiently.

        In the movies, the cops are always in groups of less than five, they get overrun by thousands of zombies so they get out of ammo, sometimes they just stand in shock and let the zombies kill them, and they are completely unable to update on the fact that their former colleagues also become zombies after death. (And the army is passively hiding in their fortress at the end of the world, sometimes taking a helicopter ride to observe how the rest of the country goes to hell.) In reality, at least every local police station should be able to defend itself — it is a building, with a lot of armed professionals, with enough guns and ammo, duh.

        Those movies never show how it gets started because it simply couldn’t happen.

        I think the most plausible model (within the set of the implausible models, of course) was in “The Walking Dead”. Essentially, there is a virus or something in the air, which doesn’t hurt you at all, except it turns you into a zombie if you die. This virus spreads so quickly that pretty much everyone has it, but no one is aware of it, because it has no other symptoms. The bite of the zombie simply gives you a horrible infection that kills you quickly, but it is not the thing that causes you to become a zombie; people killed by other causes become zombies, too. The virus can quickly spread across the world, because people are not aware of it.

        • It goes beyond government incompetence. Even if a zombie virus broke out in the slums of Kinshasa, I wouldn’t expect it to get far. Zombies are just stupid people who don’t use weapons. You could outsmart it with a locked door. To be afraid of zombies, you would have to believe that normal people with any kind of weapon(especially those with guns) would lose to a small group of lumbering idiots that somehow overpower them and turn in to a large group of lumbering idiots. How is that even possible?

          This virus spreads so quickly that pretty much everyone has it, but no one is aware of it, because it has no other symptom

          Sure, but then the problem is not so much a zombie apocalypse as a supervirus that just happens to turn people in to zombies.

          • cassander says:

            they might be stupid. lumbering people, but they also aren’t slowed down by pain, fear, or a sense of self preservation.

          • Which doesn’t matter if I shoot their leg with a shotgun. They aren’t impervious to physical damage.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species

            An awful lot of what slows someone down after being shot is pain, fear, and self preservation.

          • At most it gives some extra time. They’ll still bleed out or die from organ damage. Inability to feel pain isn’t magic. If you shoot someone’s leg with a shotgun, they won’t be able to walk with it.

          • John Schilling says:

            Inability to feel pain isn’t magic.

            Right, but zombies actually are magic. Be grateful that the rules of magic require that there always be an escape clause, like “OK, bullets will work but only with a head shot”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            The joke version is that you can stop zombies by burying people with their shoelaces tied together.

            Some of the scarier zombies can’t be stopped by damage or dismemberment. The pieces just keep coming at you.

            Has there been any fiction about *all* the dead rising?

          • Viliam says:

            Has there been any fiction about *all* the dead rising?

            You mean, other than religion? 😛

            I think that with population increasing exponentially, it wouldn’t make too big difference whether only the recently dead people rise, or every human who ever died rises. (Assuming that people whose bodies have already decomposed into individual atoms will magically reassemble and then wake up as zombies. Because if we instead get zillions of murderous zombie-atoms, then I agree we have a problem.)

          • @John

            True, but that’s the old zombies. I’m more talking about 28 Days Later zombies which people posit as the “realistic” alternative. The only way to make zombies work is magic, regardless of what World War Z says.

          • I think that with population increasing exponentially, it wouldn’t make too big difference whether only the recently dead people rise, or every human who ever died rises.

            One estimate of the total number who have ever lived is 108 billion, although I think I’ve seen higher estimates. How that compares with the number recently dead would depend on your definition of “recently.”

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m more talking about 28 Days Later zombies which people posit as the “realistic” alternative.

            “Realistic” in that they throw in the word “virus” because that’s a sciencey word and not a magic word, but if you start paying attention to what the virus allegedly does, it pretty much has to be a magic virus.

            Immunity to biology is in any event part of the package; zombies can remain fully active with no circulatory system and no blood, that’s one of the most consistent rules, so you’re going to die screaming “that’s not fair!” if you think a shotgun blast to anything but the head is going to make it stop trying to eat your brain.

      • John Schilling says:

        Yeah, that’s another problem that the police and army in the movies are extremely incompetent. As soon as you have an approximate idea of what zombies are and how to kill them

        You skipped a critically important step there, which is acquiring not just an “approximate idea” but clear and certain knowledge of why to kill zombies.

        Fictional zombies make for a great wish-fulfillment fantasy of how we can kill things that remind us of mindless consumerist suburbanites or mindless magahatted Trumpists or whoever it is we want to kill this week, and imagine yourself to be a badass lone wolf and/or warlord of the post-apocalypse, but now it’s OK to fantasize about all that killing because they’re zombies and zombies aren’t really people, you’re supposed to kill them, everybody knows that. And if the story is filled with lots of extras who don’t know that, well those are idiot sheeple and you’re better than they are and they need you to protect them and that’s part of the fantasy.

        But the fantasy depends on zombies being deader than dead, beyond hope of redemption, and everybody who counts has to absolutely believe that.

        The reality is, every zombie is someone’s husband, father, brother, or son, except for the ones who are even more sympathetic on account of apparent female gender, and they’re people. By the way they’re shambling and moaning, they’re sick people who need help. And you’re planning to shoot them all in the head, just because some Hatian witch-doctor slipped them some bad drugs or something?

        Raise your hands, everyone who went into this thought exercise with a focus on the tactics of zombie extermination. You’re all disqualified. Come any actual zombie apocalypse, you’re all going to be locked up awaiting trial for murder long before there’s a consensus that zombies are supposed to be shot in the head; the people with the keys to your cells are going to be eaten by zombies, and you’re probably going to die of thirst or starvation in those cells.

        The ones who were thinking of quarantine and disease control, you all get to stay out of prison, but you’ll watch your best measures subverted by millions of loving family members smuggling their sick kin through the quarantine lines to find someone who will promise to actually help them. And by government officials whose response will be patterned after that idiot mayor in “Jaws”.

        If civilization survives this, yes, once everybody knows and accepts the rules, zombies are no problem. But I’m not optimistic.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The reality is, every zombie is someone’s husband, father, brother, or son, except for the ones who are even more sympathetic on account of apparent female gender, and they’re people. By the way they’re shambling and moaning, they’re sick people who need help. And you’re planning to shoot them all in the head, just because some Hatian witch-doctor slipped them some bad drugs or something?

          The people who think this way are mostly going to get bit first. Same for those subverting quarantines. It will be a race between the more genre-savvy taking over and the fall of civilization, and which one wins depends a lot on the details. Short incubation periods, more gross damage to the brain (to reduce hope of cure), more obviously aggressive behavior all argue for the genre-savvy; the opposite argues for fall-of-civilization.

        • People are not just going to stand idly by while zombies go around biting everyone. Zombies are just braindead, violent idiots. If they are the slow lumbering kind, you can just outrun them. If they are fast, then you go find someplace to hide or wait until someone with a weapon shows up. Or you can make your own weapon. It doesn’t really matter because you’re up against a small group of people who lack the one thing that makes people so threatening, resourcefulness.

          Imagine that a zombie outbreak happens at some concert. How exactly do you go from that to nearly the entire country turning in to zombies?

      • MrApophenia says:

        The whole contagious zombie thing came in relatively late- Romero’s zombie world came about because any corpse with an intact brain got up and started trying to eat people. Zombie bites are fatal, so it was contagious in the sense that when a zombie kills you, you become a zombie too – but any other cause of death that doesn’t destroy the brain also results in a zombie.

        Even then, Dawn of the Dead did make a point of showing that this could have been a manageable problem- part of the satire comes from the fact that society ends partly because everyone freaks out and loses their shit instead of pulling together and getting organized to deal with the problem.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Much worse disease. Those with it it did not lose their reason, it was much more contagious, and there were non-player reservoirs of infection.

      • Jaskologist says:

        There’s nothing a player can do to stop another player from going where they please, spreading disease, nor can they eliminate infected NPCs. In the real world, we would be capable of stopping these defectors dead in their tracks.

    • Deiseach says:

      The spear is a cheap weapon that can kill a zombie and doesn’t run out of ammo. It would be socially acceptable to have a spear with you when you walk outside. Homes and shops would be legally required to keep an “emergency spear” on the outside.

      The Swiss Guard are ready for action, then! 🙂

    • twicetwice says:

      I’m shocked that no one has mentioned World War Z yet! It’s the most “realistic” zombie book I’ve ever read, and it covers pretty much all of these concerns.

      In particular, it has a pretty realistic model (I think) of how this outbreak spreads. The infection has an incubation period, during which many people travel and, when they start showing initial symptoms, attempt to flee in panic, which quickly spreads the outbreak around the globe. Far more importantly, at first no one even thinks the word “zombie” — the initial diagnosis is something like “African Rabies” I think, because the first major outbreak is in South Africa? It takes weeks for people to realize that this is an actual zombie plague, by which point the virus has spread so far and people are so panicked that the collapse of civilization can’t be avoided.

      However (not really a spoiler, since the premise of the book (an interviewer collecting stories from “World War Z” after the fact) gives it away), eventually people get their act together, restore civilization, develop pragmatic zombie-fighting strategies, and put the world back together. But the interesting part is the details, so go read the book!

    • bullseye says:

      Zombie movies tend to ignore animals. If animals can become zombies, it’s the end of the world. If they can’t, and zombies smell non-human, they’re going to eat all the zombies and that’ll be the end of it.

      This point doesn’t apply to 28 Days Later, because it’s made clear that only people and great apes can become zombies, and zombies are still alive so they probably smell human.

    • LesHapablap says:

      If you can convince the population of a city to wear masks, if they are infected, they won’t be able to infect anyone else. So the red cross can drop masks off at people’s homes for bitten relatives to wear. Police and soldiers fighting the zombies can be required to wear masks. Anyone using public transport can be required to wear a mask. A plastic painter’s mask would work fine, just something to act as a muzzle.

    • But if I am sufficiently genre-savvy to recognize a zombie apocalypse in progress, I should also know that the purpose of zombie fiction is to lay bare the inherent contradictions of capitalism!

      Consider that zombie apocalypses overwhelmingly take place in the United States, the world’s most advanced capitalist economy. (It’s obviously no coincidence that so many zombie stories end up in a shopping mall.) For maximum storytelling effect, I should see on the news that Patient Zero didn’t have health insurance and was only able to infect others because of America’s lack of universal healthcare. Anti-capitalism is highly correlated with opposing private ownership of firearms, so guns will inevitably be a net negative, with the survivors mostly shooting each other rather than the zombies. While the capitalist American humans turn on one another immediately and destroy the flimsy veneer of civilization, the zombie masses will cooperate perfectly, as is their purpose as the representation of New Socialist Man. Any new human civilization to emerge will have a strong collectivist ethos, taking inspiration from the zombies.

      Once I recognize that I am in a zombie story, I think I can best help the author immanentize the eschaton by pouring zombie blood in the water supply. Go Team Z!

    • sentientbeings says:

      I think zombies get a bad rap. To quote Fox Mulder:

      Well I’ve got a new theory. I say that when zombies try to eat people, that’s just the first stage.

      You see they’ve just come back from being dead so they’re gonna do all the things they missed from when they were alive. So first, they’re gonna eat, then they’re gonna drink, then they’re gonna dance and make love.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      You are correct that zombies would not be difficult to deal with, if a civilization has time to adapt to zombies. They have easily identifiable vulnerabilities, and they are not organized, so it is precisely the thing civilizations would be able to handle easily, even if individual humans cannot.

      Now, legendary, nigh invulnerable zombies? That is comparing a regular snowfall (eh who cares) to permanent blizzard (time to drink and hoard rice and bullets)

  16. proyas says:

    Can we get an accurate glimpse of the future by looking at how rich people live today?

    https://www.militantfuturist.com/the-future-is-already-here-its-just-not-very-evenly-distributed/

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Main idea is valid, but going to “the robots will do it” on everything is incredibly lazy.

    • Deiseach says:

      Longer human lifespans will also mean more grandparents will be around to serve as babysitters.

      This is particularly wrong as it’s easily demonstrable that it only works when everyone is living in the same place, most desirably next to one another. Look around at the people who are “I’m from Delaware so my parents are living there, my wife is from Houston but her parents retired to Florida, and we moved to San Francisco because that’s where the jobs are”. If you expect Granny to babysit the kids so Jack and Jill can have date night or stay late working at their high-powered jobs, Bill, you better invent teleportation first so they can all be in the same place.

      This only really works in poorer areas where families do all still live next door to each other or even in the same house, and we’ve been moving away from that in the name of Progress and Better Standards of Living for decades. The modern version is “teenager/young adult woman gets pregnant, boyfriend disappears, mom ends up minding the kid while her daughter works minimum-wage job”. And even there granny is probably working herself because she can’t afford to be a stay-at-home mother, possibly because her own marriage (if ever married) has broken up. We’re not emulating the rich there, Mr Gibson!

      • baconbits9 says:

        The bigger issue is that later child birth is eliminating a lot of that, and less physical activity and more advanced age is giving people frailer grandparents.

        • Deiseach says:

          The bigger issue is that later child birth is eliminating a lot of that

          For the middle and upwards classes, which is my gripe with William Gibson there. “Rich people can hire nannies and nurses” well duh Bill, this has been going on since forever. “Instead of robots minding your kids, granny will do so” – well, we used to have that, but with the advent of the nuclear rather than extended family, the expectation in the United States that you will pack up and move halfways across the country for a new job or a promotion in your current job, and the entry of women into the workforce (quote the two-income trap here if you like), then not alone are women less likely to be stay-at-home mothers unless their spouses are sufficiently well-off to afford living on one income at anything above the most frugal level, it also means:

          (1) Families are scattered – grandparents and parents living far apart, so no dropping the kid(s) off at grandma’s house or granny coming over to mind them while mom and dad are working or going on a short break or the like

          (2) As baconbits9 noted, starting a family being put off to later in life so again, unless both parties are the rich upper classes where mother can afford to drop out in her mid to late twenties to have the two or more kids (note that Jeff Bezos and his wife have five, and Elon Musk had six – five living – by his first wife), then it’ll be one or two children in her forties once her career is established

          (3) Longer lives may mean grandparents still being around once forty year old primiparous mother has her child, but it’s entirely likely the grandparents will have their own lives – if not still working themselves, then they’ll be enjoying their retirement, doing their own thing, and none too eager to be left raising a new generation of kids as unpaid childcare while the mother works

          So at present, the only model where it is “granny takes care of the kids” is where people are working class/lower class, the ‘single mother on welfare’ model or the ‘single/separated/divorced/maybe still married mother working low-paid job, grandmother on pension or otherwise not working herself looks after kids while mom works’ model, where there remains a strong tendency and preference for families to live near each other and people don’t move out or far away. And for those well-off enough to have stay-at-home mothers, the mother will herself be doing full-time childraising, or they’ll be rich enough to have nannies.

          So we won’t be going back to the “grandparents looking after the children” for the middle classes unless the economy does change to one where it’s heavily automated, you don’t need to move miles away for work because everyone is working part-time jobs or on UBI since the robot labour force is making things so cheap you only need a small wage to live on, or you can work remotely from home, so families can regress to the extended family model where three generations live in one household or near enough to each other that grandparents, siblings and offspring mingle.

      • Plumber says:

        @Deisearch’s and @baconbits9,

        That so many feel forced by economic necessity to migrate and delay being parents is one of the lamest part of the 21st century!

  17. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    I got to sit through iteration #1,002,789 about how “our company believes in collaboration!” You know the drill: we want a culture of openness and teamwork, where we place the business first and the function second, and all the generic stuff EVERY company wants.

    In your experience, how do companies (or, more likely, departments) actually get that kind of culture?

    • The Nybbler says:

      In your experience, how do companies (or, more likely, departments) actually get that kind of culture?

      By being a very small company run largely by its co-owners, where the principal-agent problem isn’t nearly so stark. Pretty much anywhere else, it’s not “teamwork” that’s valued, it’s “leadership” — so you’d best place yourself first or the company will place you last.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t entirely disagree with you, but I’ve definitely seen places that do teamwork better and do teamwork worse. So companies, even big companies, should be able to improve from wherever they are right now, even if they can’t perfectly mimic a start-up with 110% comradery.

    • cassander says:

      Things I’ve seen work.

      get people in different departments sitting very close to one another. Like not even down the hall, the same hall if you can swing it.

      hire people that are passionate about what they’re doing and who want to do it well.

      make it clear to managers that socializing with other departments basically should be counted as work, if you’re not on a deadline.

      make collaboration an explicit goal in your bonus/review cycle all the way down the chain of command.

    • Eric Rall says:

      Teamwork across organizational and functional boundaries comes at a cost: time and energy spent helping out another team for the good of the company as a whole is time and energy not spent on achieving local goals and deliverables. And usually the local goals and deliverables are the main things that get monitored, so spending time being open and collaborative to help out distant parts of the company (at the expense of your normal day-to-day responsibilities) tends to get you complained at, dinged on your performance review, or even fired in extreme cases.

      If the company actually wants openness and collaboration, then they need to fix the incentive structure to explicitly reward it rather than implicitly punish it. One way that I’ve seen that seems to work pretty well is to make “contributing to the success of other teams” one of the dimensions that gets evaluated in performance reviews and promotion evaluations. Another is to define the ways in which a give team is expected to support the rest of the company and to build that into the team’s formal deliverables they’re supposed to plan against and that their manager gets evaluated against.

    • Incurian says:

      Leadership. Set an example, punish selfish behavior, and reward collaboration. There is no number of memos that will substitute.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Related question. There is a retail chain in my country that’s just INCREDIBLE at customer support. The honest, immediate reactions of the employees when asked about something are just way better than anything else. I’ve tried chatting them up to ask about the training process, but they never mentioned any 6-month secret training facility in Antarctica. So I’m forced to conclude it’s mostly the selection process. Any idea what they’d be filtering?

      • Lambert says:

        Maybe they have a mediocre training process, but the training process of all their competitors’ customer support is entirely abysmal for whatever reason.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Partially Related Anecdote: what my business professor noted about Southwest Airlines campus visitors was that they consistently pointed out of the same kinds of people, and said those people would instantly breeze through any interview based solely on strength of personality.

        I really wish I asked more questions about WHAT that personality was, but I was in my early 20s and not half as smart as I thought I was. That question did not occur to me.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Stock options is probably the best option, because it explicitly aligns the interests of workers, managers, and owners. Or some other way where the compensation explicitly depends on teamwork, but other metrics are easier to game.

      Everything else is just words, mostly disingenuous, told to you by people who are making money off your labor.

      • brad says:

        Unless you have an absolutely enormous amount of options ordinary career rewards (raises, bonuses, etc) are going to outweigh whatever marginal value you personally can add to the stock price. So your time is always going to be more efficiently spent doing what it takes to achieve better ordinary rewards than push on the stock price.

        There’s no good substitute for good management. Which is why people of a certain persuasion should stop poo-pooing it so consistently.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Stock options are better for talent retention than motivation.

        • John Schilling says:

          Is there evidence for this, or is it just conventional wisdom?

          • baconbits9 says:

            My opinion based on people I knew who had stock options in large companies. Their work had basically no direct effect on stock prices, but one medium to big win from stock options would shift their attitude toward work for a few weeks to months.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Certainly stock options, as a specific instance of the class “money”, are a strong way to retain talent. This doesn’t sound controversial. His claim is that they’re not particularly motivating, which is less trivial, but seems reasonable.

    • Chipped Belief says:

      Here’s my against-the-grain view: collaboration across teams is bad. Small teams should focus on the thing they do well, expose automate-able interfaces to those things, and only rarely and irregularly talk to other teams.

      As the number of teams grow, the number of possible connections between teams grows at O(n^2). This is a bad curve to be on – coordination problems and time consumed get worse and worse as teams need to communicate with each other.

      Steve Yegge’s seminal rant describes how Jeff Bezos used this insight at Amazon, vs. how it’s not in operation at Google (or wasn’t in 2011). In my opinion this post is more important than any business book published in the last quarter century – if you’re leading a growing organization, it should cause you to sit bolt upright and re-evaluate everything.

      Simplified, not-quite-right version: Amazon has “two pizza teams,” i.e. teams that two pizzas would feed if lunch needs to be catered. Such a team develops thing – software, business reports, etc., and expose ways for other teams to consume those things without needing to involve the first team. Create an API so other teams can use your software, create an internal site for your reports, etc.

      Sure, teams need to get together to discuss what to build, the effect of one team’s use of another team’s product, etc. But in general teams should be focused inward, doing the thing that they do well, and have permissionless access to the things that other teams are doing well.

      This idea, put in to practice, is why Amazon is dominating, and will continue to eat entire industries. The company I work for is big, respected, and good at what it does. It doesn’t compete with Amazon currently, but one can imagine Amazon expanding into its core business. When it does, we’ll fold like a house of cards because we won’t be able to solve the coordination problems needed to compete.

      So: small teams, communication within them, and automatic interfaces. Shout it from the rooftops.

      • gbdub says:

        I generally agree, but one problem with small teams is that they tend to evolve idiosyncrasies over time. This can create problems – duplicated effort, mutual incompatibility, inability to share insights on common problems, and difficulty in integrating / swapping new team members

        So I think for that to work as the company grows, you need to have a team dedicated to defining and maintaining common interfaces and tools. You don’t want every team thinking the same way, but you do want them doing the things that every team does in a mutually compatible way.

        The trouble is that starts to sound a lot like “overhead money” and it’s an unpopular team to work on that is constantly in danger of getting their budget cut in the name of “lean”.

    • phisheep says:

      Mostly I think it is a matter of avoiding the perverse incentives that come from a business being too static. You know the sort of thing I mean: jobs for the boys, defending your own budget above all else, fiddling the figures, the inter-department blame game, promotion by favouritism etc etc.

      I worked a long time for a big company that did this stuff *exactly* right, and we did it mostly by moving people around the business a lot – coupled with a ruthlessly objective system of management accounting so it was hard to cheat. Technical team unresponsive to customer demands? Transfer a couple of customer services people in there. Salespeople selling big unprofitable deals? Transfer an accountant in. Whereas in a bad company you’d transfer out of your department the people you don’t like, here you’d transfer out the people you want to succeed – because that’s the way it is done, flexibility and breadth were valued. Find yourself out of your depth or in trouble? Pick up the phone – there are 50,000 people out there who are willing to help. It was bloody hard work, but exhilarating.

      We grew very fast, and largely by acquisition, so all the time we were bringing new organisations into the culture – took about three months each time, and we started switching people in and out on day one. That’s a bit unnerving for the people being taken over, but made much easier by the fact that nearly all of the team doing it had had it done to themselves only 6-12 months before.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Interesting– this is the opposite of the idea of needing repeated interactions to get cooperation, though maybe it works if you can maintain cooperation in the larger system.

        • phisheep says:

          The co-operation in the larger system just happened as a matter of course, I think because all this moving around drastically reduced the degrees of separation between different bits of the business. In the bad old days to get cooperation from another department you’d go all the way up and down the management chain, which took ages and got the message garbled. In the new way, there’s someone in your own team who says “Hey, department X in city Y does this sort of stuff all the time, want me to give them a call?”.

    • sentientbeings says:

      IMO, two important prerequisites to having openness are:
      (1) Actually wanting openness
      (2) Having transparency, which is different than openness

      At all hands meetings, one of our account execs frequently speaks way over time about information that is totally irrelevant to most of our jobs or interests. He then tends to solicit questions and not end until he gets several questions in (and this is usually at the close of the meeting). He has the gall to say that it’s all for openness, but how would he react if I asked him (presumably more politely) why he was wasting my time? Not well, I’d wager. He is not interested in openness, only some window dressing he calls openness.

      As companies get larger, they increasingly punish and stigmatize openness and also adopt policies for non-transparent reasons. I’ve been frustrated at my current company over the adoption of policies for reasons that are apparent to me (but seemingly not most others) and are different from the publicly-stated reasons. Misinforming your workforce, indeed training them to think in a structurally misinformed way, is a terrible business strategy.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://www.ted.com/talks/ray_dalio_how_to_build_a_company_where_the_best_ideas_win?language=en

        I don’t know whether his company is as good as he says it is, but he at least sounds as though he’s aiming at and getting openness.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Bridgewater is a rough place. Every meeting room, maybe every other room to, is video recorded so people can see what actually happened. You are encouraged to shout “THAT IS THE STUPIDEST FUCKING THING I EVER HEARD” if you think it is true, and the other person is encouraged to shout it back.

          First-year turnover is around 80%. I don’t know the turnover numbers after that.

          A colleague said “if you work here, you will get more money than you know what to do with. You will also have no life.”

          Brutal honestly sounds nice, and it might even work for some people, but it’s a lot more like “democracy, good and hard” than most people expect.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            A colleague said “if you work here, you will get more money than you know what to do with. You will also have no life.”

            Maybe that goes together? If all your time is devoted to the company, you won’t have a lot of time to spend your money. If I had plenty of leisure time, I cannot imagine ever having more money that I know what to do with. Maybe if I reached $1 billion, but I doubt he is talking that kind of money.

          • brad says:

            I heard from a colleague that used to work there that intra-employee romance is explicitly encouraged. If you are having sex in the office you are still in the office …

  18. unagflum says:

    For the past 5 years or so I’ve been having what seems to be a problem with my sleep / wakefulness. I wrote this to collect my thoughts. Writing this out has made me understand better how to address the situation going forward. I am also posting what I wrote to see if anyone else has run across anything similar so I can maybe figure out the root cause as well.

    Problem statement:

    I’m a 42 year old male, lean and physically fit, and by all markers (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, physical capability) in very good health. I run 2 days a week and lift 5 days a week. I’m 6’0″ and ~165 lbs.

    Quite often (2 to 10 times per month), after a night of seemingly good sleep (7-8 h duration, good subjective quality), I feel extremely tired soon after waking up, and feel bad throughout the day. Subjectively, I feel really bad, as if I’ve pulled an all-nighter. I have no indication that others notice my tiredness. I am able to work and exercise at close to normal capacity, but I feel terrible, and don’t feel like doing anything. When possible, I take half-days from work on such “bad” days so I can go home and nap. napping makes me feel much better. I have discussed this problem with my doctor and we’ve tried a few things, but to no avail.

    – If I can nap for 1.5 to 2.5 hours, that will usually fix that day.

    – On some nights sleep quality does feel bad, and then I’m guaranteed to have a bad day the next day

    – I have these bad days 2 to 10 times per month. There are periods where they are less or more frequent

    Hypothesis: Sleep being interrupted by snoring

    – I snore. However, I have had my blood oxygen tested on what turned out to be a night of bad sleep; it was normal.

    – Using snore-prevention devices (mouth guard to advance the mandible, nose strips), may help but I’m not sure. I’ve had bad days after using them.

    Hypothesis: Hormonal

    – Usually, bad days occur after seemingly good sleep if I wake just a little early (sleep 10pm to 5:30am instead of 6:30am). However, there are good days I wake at 5:30: I focus on my breathing and try relaxing. On days that turn out good, all of a sudden I feel a change in my head, like a quick-onset drug. I feel suddenly more sleepy, fall asleep till 6:30, and have a good day.

    – At my doctor, I had hormones tested in the morning on a good day and a bad day. Everything was normal, except on the bad day my testosterone was low at ~200ng/dL, and on a good day it was normal at 500ng/dL.

    – I tried a grey market drug without a prescription: an aromatase inhibitor. This inhibits conversion of testosterone to estradiol. It lowers estradiol and raises testosterone. It raised my testosterone to ~850 ng/dL and guaranteed me “good” days for about two weeks, until it stopped working and I felt bad every day.

    – DHEA is a precursor of all steroidal hormones. My salivary DHEA (tested with a home kit) came back very low (~level of a 70 yo). Supplementing DHEA orally (available over the counter) seemed to help for a few weeks, then also stopped helping.

    – On good days my libido is good. On bad days I feel nearly asexual.

    Hypothesis: Gut microbes / diet

    – I’ve severely restricted all carbs (ketogenic diet) for the last 3 months. I’ve had fewer bad days, maybe 2 per month, on average. In particular, I had 2 bad days in the week following the one time I cheated by having creme brulee at a nice restaurant.

    – While on the keto diet, one week I had to take antibiotics for an ear infection. The week after that I had mild acid reflux and two bad days.

    – In fact, while eating a keto, most or maybe all of the bad days have been under such special circumstances (e.g. after 1 cheat dessert, after taking antibiotics)

    – Prior to starting keto, I’d also have nights where I had trouble falling asleep at bed time and after waking up to pee at night. Now, I can reliably fall asleep in either of those cases (even preceding bad days).

    – Bad days may correlate with more frequent diarrhea / loose stools

    – All this may have started not long after I had to take antibiotics for an ear infection a few years ago

    Other:

    – Having coffee at any point in the day will give me a bad day (>50% chance) the next day. I got in a bad cycle where I would drink coffee on an already bad day to try and feel better, and get stuck in a bad cycle. I’ve stopped drinking coffee.

    – I also used to drink alcohol in order to help me fall asleep when I couldn’t otherwise. I haven’t had alcohol in > 3 months. This probably helps a lot too.

    • AG says:

      Shallow answer, but my instinct is that it’s less about quantity, as it is that you may be waking up in the middle of a cycle. The ideal 8 hour number isn’t “number of hours slept,” it’s that cycles are 1.5 hours (so 5 cycles at 7.5 hours), and 15 minutes at both ends to fall asleep/wake up. That’s why a 1.5 hour nap works, it resets you to wake up at the end of a cycle. (Whereas I expect the 1.5-2.5 range is the variable amount to get to sleep/wake up).

      Some people who have had issues with waking up groggy have switched to calculating what time to go to bed from what time they need to wake up, using cycle calculators. There are also some fancier alarms using a Fitbit type equipment to sound the alarm at a variable time near a target time, based on when your body is actually ready to wake up.

      • MrApophenia says:

        There is an app on the iPhone called Sleep Cycle that detects vibration while you sleep to detect what part of your cycle you are in and wake you up during the right part. You need to give it a span of about a half hour to wake you up at the right part of the cycle, but when I started using it I found it helps a lot with not being groggy when I wake up.

      • A1987dM says:

        Some people who have had issues with waking up groggy have switched to calculating what time to go to bed from what time they need to wake up, using cycle calculators.

        I’m pretty skeptical about that being more than just placebo — it seems unlikely that the duration of the cycles is that consistent, and if your cycles last say 85 minutes rather than 90, assuming they last 90 minutes would lead you to mis-estimate the phase of your cycle 7.5 hours from now by almost a third of a cycle.

        • Jake says:

          One thing knowing that sleep cycles are ~90 minutes lets you do is wake up for good if you know you don’t have time for another sleep cycle. So, if my alarm is going off at 6:30 regardless, and it’s after 5 at all, I know it’s not going to do me any good to try to get back to sleep, so I may as well wake up and start doing things, instead of getting half a sleep cycle in.

    • hash872 says:

      So, I had a similar situation, except that I was diagnosed with mild sleep apnea despite not being particularly overweight (I was a bit heavier then). I slept with the CPAP for a little while until I lost weight and it was amazing, the difference in sleep quality was incredible. As I lost weight, I needed it less and less. I got rid of it eventually as I really did not want to sleep with a CPAP for the rest of my life.

      However, my sleep quality without it was never great, and I frequently felt tired during the day. Until! I very recently changed my pillow to a larger one. I sleep exclusively on my stomach, and I used to prefer a thinner pillow as being more comfortable. However, I switched to a larger, firmer one which I find a bit less comfortable- I’m short & stocky, with short limbs and not much of a neck- the larger pillow puts my head & neck at a slightly uncomfortable upwards angle (not a huge deal, really just a minor change from the thinner pillow I’ve used for my entire adult life).

      And my sleep quality magically improved as a result of that larger pillow. My hypothesis is that the greater angle which keeps my head at a slightly higher angle, while a bit uncomfortable, also opens up my airway and allows for more natural & unrestricted breathing. Like- head & neck flat with the thinner pillow, perhaps my airway gets slightly restricted at times (while I’m not overweight now, I do tend accumulate fat in my neck first). Head & neck at a slight upward angle with the larger pillow- unrestricted airway.

      This slight difference has been amazing for me. I now wake up before my alarm, feeling refreshed, which basically never happened before. (I’d add in that no screen time for an hour before bed aids the sleep quality too). So- experiment with different pillows, *or* anything else that unrestrict your airway (snoring aids, whatever). It changed my life man

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I feel your pain. I’m currently in the middle of a few weeks of not enough sleep, with similar symptoms. Mostly I wake up too early or in the middle of the night. The difference is not huge – I sleep maybe 6 hours when 7 would be optimum, but it accumulates.

      I suggest a sleep tracker if you haven’t already. I use an Oura ring right now, I’m pretty happy with it.

      About carbs – I’ve had a major issue with feeling like I’m about to fall off my feet in the afternoon (almost like low blood pressure) and zero productivity. It turned out to be because of eating carbs in the morning. I’ve started either skipping breakfast or eating protein, and it disappeared instantly and completely.

      About keto – if if works for you, great. If you feel like you need to add carbs to your diet, a harmless way of doing it is in the pre-workout meal. They’ll be preferentially used for energy. They won’t take you out of ketosis – you can test this if you have the gizmo.

      Also, if you give up keto, I’d suggest moving all of the carbs to the evening meal (and before workout).

      I agree with giving up daily coffee, but I still keep it in reserve for bad days. It’s really wonderful when you’re out of tolerance.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Unrelated but, how is “pre-workout meal” a thing? I ordinarily feel wretched if I try to work out after eating anything bigger than a protein bar or similar.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          That’s simply the parasympathetic system at work – you eat, so you want to rest after. As far as pre workout goes, for muscle building you want some protein into you, though not much. If you don’t have it at hand, even a bit of carbs work better than nothing – but worse than protein. And it doesn’t have to be right before the workout, pretty much any time 2 hours before is ok. Or even a bit more, if it was a big meal.

          tl;dr: a protein bar is just fine.

    • broblawsky says:

      Have you tried probiotics? When I was on keto, I felt much better with them. Most people on keto don’t get enough dietary fiber, which can hurt the health of your microbiome (maybe?).

    • Robin says:

      Perhaps you need a new mattress?

  19. SamChevre says:

    Question about changing social norms:

    When did “using dark makeup to imitate a specific black person” become categorized as inappropriate “blackface.”

    Traditional minstrelry blackface has been considered unacceptable for as long as I’ve known it existed. However, current thinking (see Virginia) seems to be that “dressing up as Kurtis Blow or Michael Jackson, wearing dark make-up, in a talent show” is equally unacceptable, and I think that norm is new.

    Commentariat?

    • ana53294 says:

      In Spain, blackface is quite common, and not yet considered very racist, although I am sure this American tendency will arrive soon.

      In Spain, the night before Epiphany, towns celebrate it by having a carriage with the three Biblical Magi. Now, I don’t know how true it is, or where their names come from. But according to popular tradition, one of them is black. All these carriage rides go around the town and throw candy at kids, and this is all volunteer work (local businesses give money for the candy and stuff). Big cities like Madrid find suitable black volunteers, but small town with no black people in them just paint somebody.

      This is still done, and my best guess is this will stop when we have enough black people to be able to volunteer in the smallest of towns.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        The candy they throw might include Conguitos.

      • Evan Þ says:

        To follow up on your “I don’t know,” the Bible doesn’t give any names or ethnicities, and doesn’t even say there were three. All it says is that “Magi from the east” came to visit the baby Jesus and gave him three gifts. As the Magi were a well-known priestly class in Zoroastrian Persia, I’d presume (along with most modern commentators) they were all Persian.

        Wikipedia says their traditional names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, together with the identification of Balthazar as black, probably derive from “a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500.”

    • Deiseach says:

      I can’t speak for America, but I’m old enough to remember when golliwogs were non-controversial toys (and then they became controversial) and The Black and White Minstrel Show, an English light entertainment programme that ran on the BBC from 1958 to 1978. You look at it now and wonder how on earth it could possibly have been made, but back then it was simply another form of entertainment*. So 1980s dressing-up was okay then but by today’s standards is unacceptable, and I wonder if that change started in the 90s? I remember something in an episode of “Designing Women” where they were arguing over dressing up (including dark makeup) as The Supremes for Hallowe’en or a costume party, and asked their black male employee if this was okay or not.

      *Just like The Good Old Days, which ran from 1953-1983 and emulated Victorian and Edwardian music hall, with the audience dressed in appropriate costume and singing along. Yes, Irish and British TV when I was a small child was strange.

      • Plumber says:

        @Deiseach

        “I can’t speak for America, but I’m old enough to remember when golliwogs were non-controversial toys (and then they became controversial) and The Black and White Minstrel Show, an English light entertainment programme that ran on the BBC from 1958 to 1978”

        I can almost imagine something like The Black and White Minstrel Show on U.S.A. television in 1958, but still on in 1978?!!

        The Atlantic Ocean is wider than I thought!

    • J Mann says:

      I was wondering this too. My rough read is that it was always seen as offensive, but has grown into an n-word-style tripwire over the last couple decades.

      Some data points.

      1986: The 1986 movie “Soul Man,” about a white kid who attends Harvard in blackface to get a scholarship, then learns a valuable lesson about life, doesn’t seem to have set off major alarms around blackface. An NAACP statement at the time objected primarily to the message, stating “That notion itself–that some white kid can take a bunch of ‘tanning pills’ and all of a sudden understand all the things we have to deal with–is very offensive to us. … That simplistic attitude treats the problem as if it were merely a matter of dark skin and not of 400 years of diversified culture. It’s a very misleading film.” The spokesman also objected to “the Al Jolson-like portrayal of the main character,” but that was secondary, not the trip-wire it would be today. Similarly, Rae Dawn Chong gave an interview a few years ago where she said that Spike Lee was one of the drivers, but none of those stories seemed to be republished. C. Thomas Howell, who played the male lead, also said that the movie “didn’t play well among some segments of the black community” because a “white man donning blackface is taboo.” Roger Ebert, a reliable liberal, hated the movie, but never mentioned blackface.

      1993: Ted Danson puts on blackface and does minstel comedy, white lips, n-word, watermelon and all, at the Friars Club roast of his then girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. Although Friars’ roasts are supposed to be as offensive as possible and Goldberg vouches for him on stage, it is a complete disaster.

      2000: Spike Lee makes Bamboozled, a film that centers around the emotional impact of blackface and the offensiveness of the minstrel era, among a bunch of other things. This time, Roger Ebert objects to the blackface(!), finding it “so blatant, so wounding, so highly charged, that it obscures any point being made by the person wearing it.”

      Rough interpretation: in 1986, blackface was offensive to a lot of African Americans, but wasn’t a big enough issue to prevent Soul Man, or to be the lead objection when people were criticizing the movie. White liberals like Ebert didn’t even see the problem, at least for a superficially well-intentioned effort.

      Based on events like the Goldberg roast, Bamboozled, and others, awareness has been steadily increasing, to the point now where it can be a career killer regardless of intentions.’

      There’s a separate issue, which is viral outrage culture – when things like a person calling the police on people grilling in the wrong place go viral, blackface is going to set off alarm bells.

      • bean says:

        On the other hand, Ted Danson’s career wasn’t exactly sunk by the roast, and Robert Downey Jr. did blackface in Tropic Thunder in 2008 without too much trouble.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          First, I really would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when RDJ’s agent called him up and said, “Robert! I’ve got a great script for ya! You’re in blackface!”

          That said, I think he was able to get away with it because the point of the character is that he’s so up his own ass he’s oblivious to how terrible an idea this is. See also Mac and Dennis on It’s Always Sunny playing Danny Glover in their sequel to Lethal Weapon. The joke of the show is that the Gang are horrible people who are completely socially inept. You’re not laughing at the blackface, you’re laughing at the kinds of morons who would think they should do blackface.

          • convie says:

            Only Mac did the character in blackface. They were actually debating whether it is ever acceptable, Mac saying it is if done tastefully and giving Lawrence Olivier in Othello as an example. The reason the tricked Dee into bringing her class into to watch it was to help settle their debate.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Wait, I thought they switched in the middle? It’s been awhile since I saw that episode but I thought they both did it.

          • convie says:

            Wait, I thought they switched in the middle? It’s been awhile since I saw that episode but I thought they both did it.

            They switched but Dennis did the character without the makeup.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Othello was black? I thought he was a Moop.

          • Tarpitz says:

            There is considerable debate over exactly what Shakespeare meant by “Moor”. Both Berber and Sub-Saharan African interpretations are pretty common, but the latter more so.

        • Plumber says:

          @bean

          “Tropic Thunder”

          Either Tropical Thunder or Hot Fuzz were the two funniest movies I’ve seen made these past two decades with The Grand Budapest Hotel a distant third (but still a fun film).

          Except for maybe someone in Othello Robert Downey Jr. killed it, and that may be the last acceptable comic Hollywood use of “blackface” for a long time to come.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Tropic Thunder is a comedy, but it’s a specific type of comedy, the kind that is also social commentary.

            The movie is fully aware that it is not acceptable for an actor to don blackface, and the interactions between Stiller and Downey highlight this fact, as well as being aware of some intrinsic hypocrisies involved.

            That said, Stiller probably can’t make that specific king of commentary work today, but Jordan Peele might be able to.

          • J Mann says:

            Peele could probably do it, but he’d probably also get some flack.

            Here’s Sam Riegel apologizing for appearing in blackface in a video created by will.i.am in 2010. (will.i.am thought of the video and hired Riegel, and an African American makeup artist applied the blackface.)

            I can’t tell from the context how much trouble Riegel was actually in – he refers to “some chatter” that caused him to publish his apology – but I think it’s probably a fair summary of where we are with blackface.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Peele and the associated actor would undoubtedly get some flack, (note that Downey, Jr. did as well).

            But, Will.I.Am is not Jordan Peele. His takes tend to be simple and simplistic. Peele is far more nuanced, and frequently with an uncomfortable social bite. I don’t think I am going to search out the video, but portraying “Tigga Hoods” in a music video about the sexual scandals surrounding Tiger Woods doesn’t strike me as any sort of take on blackface itself. That’s the take someone could potentially do without too much criticism, not one that takes the piss out of black man for his sexual infidelities.

          • AG says:

            Peele’s partner Key did an episode on House of Lies, lampooning Dolezal. He played a white person who pretended to be black to promote and “urban” fashion line.

          • John Schilling says:

            The movie is fully aware that it is not acceptable for an actor to don blackface,

            Was the movie aware that it is not acceptable for an actor too say the ‘R’ word?

            Yes, yes, social commentary delivered by comedy. Both superbly done and spot on target when it called out Hollywood’s double standard w/re the mentally handicapped. So I have to wonder whether the reason Downey got away unscathed from his blackface experience, was not respect for comedy’s ability to invert oft-hateful tropes to deliver social commentary, but that the mentally handicapped get more oppression points than the albedo-deprived and so the former offense acted as a lightning rod.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @John Schilling:
            The entire movie is a send up of various of Hollywood hypocrisies, another in a long, storied tradition. It leans heavily into the idea of Hollywood as exploitative. This is itself an exploitation, allowing the script to say and do things it otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get away with. Yes, some people are just going to laugh uncritically at the “You never go full retard” line. Some people thought Lenny Bruce was just being an asshole, because he WAS being an asshole, but that wasn’t the endpoint of his act.

            Comedy is about context. Change the context, take the context away, and the joke changes.

      • JulieK says:

        I was surprised by the current condemnation of the scene in Mary Poppins (1964) in which the chimney sweeps have ashes on their faces, because it resembles blackface.

        • rlms says:

          You were surprised that someone wrote a silly online article saying something that’s not actually racist is racist?

        • Plumber says:

          @JulieK

          “I was surprised by the current condemnation of the scene in Mary Poppins (1964) in which the chimney sweeps have ashes on their faces, because it resembles blackface”

          Since I’ve only seen any mention of that here at SSC so far I don’t think that’s widespread.

          Ignore it and it will likely go away.

          Edit: I did a web search and found ‘Mary Poppins,’ and a Nanny’s Shameful Flirting With Blackface which I was surprised to see was an essay in The New York Times (so more prominent than I thought likely) still, judging by many of the essays that I see in response to it, the overwhelming response is: “Dude you’re being ridiculous!”, so I still wouldn’t worry about it.

        • BBA says:

          My instinct is to dismiss this as nonsense, but all my instincts are wrong. So I’ll try to steelman the opposite: if someone is offended by it, it is ipso facto offensive. That it wasn’t intended as such, or seen as such at the time, is irrelevant.

          Hmm… although this argument does work for some things (like “Baby It’s Cold Outside”) I’m really not buying it in this case. But I don’t know if there’s any objective place to draw the line – who is the “reasonable person” here? It certainly isn’t me, I’m not in the identity group being targeted. But if you take every claim of offense as reasonable, you end up in an infinite cycle of offense and apology for ever smaller microaggressions. Here’s a real-life example and I don’t see how this organization accomplishes anything anymore because it’s too busy calling itself out.

          Yeah, I don’t know, there are no hard rules here. It’s one of those annoying play-it-by-ear deals that we’re going to keep arguing about for eternity.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @BBA

            This cuts both ways – the person on the left says “the thing with the coal miners wasn’t meant to be offensive, but it still brings up unpleasant associations” and the person on the right says “Kap might not intend the kneeling to disrespect The Troops, but it can still easily be interpreted as that.” (I had an exchange with someone here, can’t remember who, some time back – they didn’t respond after I pointed out that this was the exact reasoning of campus lefties caught on tape scream-crying in some prof’s face, and asked whether I could expect to see the same from white guys in trucker caps)

            If someone perceiving something as offensive – doesn’t matter who, doesn’t matter what – gains the ability to shut it down, then it incentivizes saying you find things offensive, which incentivizes self-modifying to actually find things offensive (because fibbing a little and saying something you just don’t like is extremely upsetting is less convincing than actually finding it extremely upsetting). People here like to find examples of this on the left, but you can find plenty on the right, I’m sure.

            Ill intent is an important factor in determining guilt and responsibility in wrongdoing, and establishing it usually involves some kind of hard evidence. If you exchange that for a paradigm where what matters is someone else’s subjective emotional state, the most power goes to whoever peels off their own emotional defences the most. This is bad for them, and bad for everybody else – for reasons like the example you posted.

            Anything that’s actually bad, and not just a nuisance or a misunderstanding, can be dealt with by other means. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” isn’t just bad because it’s old-fashioned and today seems intensely creepy – it’s bad because, even in these relatively woke times, the expectation is often that men are socialized to push harder than they should, and women to put up tacit resistance so they won’t seem too easy. (It is not hard to find men and women who give lip service to affirmative consent, but who in their own lives find it a turnoff one way or another.) There’s a lot of old stuff we leave by the wayside or edit to remove stuff that’s left by the wayside – and, within reason, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, in sources like what you posted, it isn’t old-timey books having chapters cut out, it’s stuff happening now where everyone seems to be competing (eg, if I’m reading it right, older white women only started complaining in response to complaints about older white women, etc).

          • There’s a lot of old stuff we leave by the wayside or edit to remove stuff that’s left by the wayside – and, within reason, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, in sources like what you posted, it isn’t old-timey books having chapters cut out …

            I disagree–there is something very wrong with it. By deleting passages in old books that reflect attitudes not currently acceptable you distort the reader’s picture both of the past and of the range of human behavior, norms, beliefs. You encourage the idea that current beliefs about what is or is not acceptable, in particular his beliefs, are so obviously true that everyone must share them, hence that anyone who disagrees with him is either ignorant or evil, probably the latter.

            Lying about the past is not a sensible policy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Mary Poppins is a children’s book, though. I should have specified I was riffing off that article – my bad. I don’t think books for grown-ups should get edited, but if people are giving their kids books to read or whatever, I think it’s fair for them to be concerned about stuff like that. You don’t want to have your kid thinking it’s OK to put on blackface, because down the road what if they’re governor of a state? A bit older kid, sure, I think it’s a problem to censor something a bit more advanced than that.

          • arlie says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think that even with children’s books we’re better off with new books than with putting false faces on old books. And depending on what age of “children” the books are for, it’s likely they can – and should – be aware of real history, not just the myths the folks editting the books happen to want to see believed that decade.

          • BBA says:

            In the case of the novel Mary Poppins, PL Travers herself rewrote the portions that became seen as offensive during her own lifetime, so later editions exclude them. I’m a lot more comfortable with this than with taking a knife to works by deceased authors – we should probably just lock Laura Ingalls Wilder away from the children altogether, rather than try to edit her anti-Native American racism out.

          • actualitems says:

            Earlier this year I read Little House on the Prairie to my 8 and 6 y/o kids, they loved it but the Ma character’s hatred of Native Americans was jarring.

            Pa didn’t seem to have an issue with them so I kept waiting on a redemption arc for Ma by the end, but that never came.

            I was like, wow, they’re just going to leave one of the main characters just hating Native Americans (without any explanation given) for the entire book?

          • littskad says:

            I was like, wow, they’re just going to leave one of the main characters just hating Native Americans (without any explanation given) for the entire book?

            Well, the books are, more or less, true stories.

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            Trying to divide things in to “offensive” and “inoffensive” is almost never a good idea. It’s much better to divide things into “will cause offence” and “will not cause offence”, and then to subdivide the first category according to whether or not you care.

            If what you’re saying has offended someone, “no you’re wrong, this is not offensive” is always an objectively wrong response – their offence proves that it is. There are three potentially good responses in that situation:

            “I am sorry for offending you, I withdraw my remark”
            “I regret offending you but nevertheless sadly stand by what I said, are there other steps short of withdrawing it that I could take to make it up to you?”
            “I do not regret offending you; this is a declaration of war!”

            Depending on the circumstances, any of the three can be an appropriate response, but simply denying that something that has caused offence is offensive never is – that’s what “offensive” means.

            One metric I find useful is “will this cause distress, or merely offence?” – I am less bothered about making people annoyed than I am about making them unhappy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If “offensive” is merely defined according to the person taking offense, it is useless as a moral guide. And your responses to having something called “offensive” boil down to

            1) “You are socially superior to me, therefore I will grovel and submit to your arbitrary will.”

            2) “I am somewhat socially superior to you, so I will sneer at your offendedness”

            and

            3) “I am extremely socially superior to you, therefore I will ignore you entirely”.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I’ll try to steelman the opposite: if someone is offended by it, it is ipso facto offensive. That it wasn’t intended as such, or seen as such at the time, is irrelevant.

            I find there’s a useful heuristic to be developed here: does anybody care if you’re offended or whether you have registered the “offensive speech” at all?

            The fun thing about watching this from Poland is that we have a much greater tendency for the right side of the isle to protest something as offensive – typically, but not exclusively, on religious grounds. Often without any actual contact without the content in question (cf. complaining about shows you don’t watch; TVTropes warning).

            It’s even funnier if we consider that there’s a joke from deep Communist times that is still surprisingly relevant:

            Q: “Did you read what [obscure politically proscribed author] wrote?
            A: “No I didn’t, but I condemn him!”

            The long and short of it is this: if you find something offensive, avoid contact with it. It is only when contact is unavoidable – when measures are taken specifically to ensure you are confronted with material offensive to you – that we should intervene.

            The difference – not to put too fine a point on it – is between a bunch of white folks down South complaining about the “n-s” over their beer and a white guy calling a black guy a “n” to his face.

            (Aside: I am not at all comfortable with having to self-censor like that, but I figure this ain’t my place to speak plain and I certainly don’t want people getting up Scott’s business over it. We all know what I mean.)

            The alternative is to descend into a spiral of ever smaller offences, together with denying the outgroup the right to be offended (cf. only white people can be racist).

            It’s a self-serving approach that has understandable psychological benefits. However, it only works until the designated outgroup is prepared to co-operate in the face of repeated defections. Past a certain point, the ones who can do no right simply give up and adopt a defensive approach – hence: conflict. In conflict situations, the side with the greatest instrumental advantages (people, wealth, guns) tends to prevail.

            In other words, the last thing any economically disadvantaged minority should be looking for is a direct confrontation with the economically advantaged majority.

            Oddly enough, the best approach for diffusing such potential conflicts is to marginalize those who would seek petty grievances, as the crazies they are. It worked for the neo-nazis.

            (Aside: The inflation of the term “nazi” actually stands to undo much of this work.)

          • albatross11 says:

            Faza:

            The usual sort of outcry about how such-and-so said/did something offensive is not merely a statement of personal offense, it’s a claim that others should help you tell the offensive person to knock it off. The whole point is to get people angry and responding to the offense[1] so you can {sell their eyeballs to advertisers, establish your status as a social media opinion leader, have some desired political or social impact}.

            Now, people are offended and hurt by other peoples’ words every day of the year. That hurt is real–whether it’s a woman who gets talked over in every meeting, or a guy who keeps being reminded of his low social status and income, or a mother who keeps hearing about how all her friends’ kids are excelling while she has a special-needs kid at home that will never even be able to live independently. Paying attention to those peoples’ hurt is a part of being a decent human being. And it looks to me like the online clickbait media companies and social media influencers and PR companies and political operations of the world exploit that tendency to manipulate us.

            [1] There’s an old saying that for the Spanish prisoners con to work, it’s not necessary that there be any prisoners, and in fact, it’s not really even necessary that there be any such place as Spain. Something like that is true with the outrage stories–you can get a good clickbait outrage story and maybe even an angry social media mob without the outrage having even taken place, and perhaps without anyone actually ever having been personally outraged.

          • If what you’re saying has offended someone, “no you’re wrong, this is not offensive” is always an objectively wrong response – their offence proves that it is.

            That he says he is offended is some evidence that he is offended, but not proof even of that. And “that is offensive” is a stronger statement than “that offends me,” in part because it implies that the speaker should have known it was offensive, that its offensiveness is an objective fact.

            There are three potentially good responses in that situation:

            “I am sorry for offending you, I withdraw my remark”
            “I regret offending you but nevertheless sadly stand by what I said, are there other steps short of withdrawing it that I could take to make it up to you?” …

            These assume that you should be sorry for offending someone unless you were deliberately trying to start a fight. That isn’t, in general, true.

            Suppose someone asserts a fact that you are confident is false. Under most circumstances it is appropriate, even desirable, to politely point that out to him. If he is offended by being told he is mistaken that is a fault in him, not in you, so there is no reason you should be sorry for offending him.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If what you’re saying has offended someone, “no you’re wrong, this is not offensive” is always an objectively wrong response – their offence proves that it is. There are three potentially good responses in that situation:

            How can you tell whether you’ve offended someone? Them telling you they’re offended isn’t enough. If it’s common knowledge that expressing offense gets you stuff, there will arise people who will express offense in order to get stuff, even if they’re not actually offended.

            What if you’re sure they’re in the latter group? What’s the objectively correct response, if it’s not claiming they’re not offended?

          • albatross11 says:

            I would far rather have my kids read problematic works (Kipling, Twain, Wilder) than have them kept ignorant of the best parts of their culture for fear of letting them see something we’d now think of as unacceptable.

            If you adopt this strategy, you have to basically flush your whole culture down the toilet every few years. It’s hard to imagine that being a good way of raising your kids or maintaining your culture.

          • Dan L says:

            @ albatross11:

            The usual sort of outcry about how such-and-so said/did something offensive is not merely a statement of personal offense, it’s a claim that others should help you tell the offensive person to knock it off. The whole point is to get people angry and responding to the offense[1] so you can {sell their eyeballs to advertisers, establish your status as a social media opinion leader, have some desired political or social impact}.

            Relatedly, I can’t help but interpret the word “problematic” as a target designator. There’s lots of use for such a tool, but the one thing it can’t do is operate without the assumption of significant backing.

        • toastengineer says:

          I have a conspiracy theory that leftist bloggers deliberately write obviously bizzare stuff like that so right-wingers will freak out about it and make themselves look ridiculous.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Just to piggyback, what are the predications for how the situation in Virginia will shake out? For those unfamiliar, The Atlantic has a good quick rundown.

      On the one hand, they’re sorry, it was a long time ago, it was a different time, and dressing in a racial costume does not mean one has animus towards that race. Perhaps mercy should be in order, and they should stay?

      On the other hand, I agree with the recent commenter who said Social Justice is satanic: justice without mercy. They did the thing, they will be infinitely punished, and no redemption is possible. So they should go.

      On the gripping hand, Northam and Herring know this, and that once they go they will never be heard from again. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t so they might as well stay and ride it out. Wait until the media cycle moves on. Gets focused on Jeff Bezos’ dick pics instead.

      I predict 65% confidence Northam and Herring will not resign, despite calls for them to do so.

      Then there’s Fairfax. #MeToo still has social capital, and a vested interest in making sure their demands are met. This may not be the scalp they want, but it is a scalp they can get. I’m curious as to whether or not they’re going to be shrieking and clawing at the statehouse doors like they did the doors of the Supreme Court, but I think they’ll go after him, just to protect their own social capital.

      Fairfax will be forced out, 75% confidence.

      Thoughts?

      • SamChevre says:

        My prediction:

        Northam will survive the accusations he acknowledges (dressed up as Michael Jackson), but will not survive if anything comes out to confirm that he’s in the picture he denies.

        Fairfax will survive unless Northam is forced out: he’s got enough support to be LT Gov but not to be governor.

        Herring will be fine in his current role–dressing up as Kurtis Blow when you are 19 will be forgiveable–but will not become governor.

        ETA: Republicans control the Assembly, and a clean resolution is not in their interest. They won’t either force anyone out, or let the issue die–having the Democrats spend the next year quarrelling and excavating skeletons is the best possible outcome for them.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, it definitely won’t get down to Herring (or the Republican below him) becoming Governor. If Northam and Fairfax are forced out, Fairfax resigns first, Northam appoints a new Lt. Governor, then Northam resigns.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Virginia doesn’t have the ability to replace elected officials midstream, which is one of the reasons this gets so nasty.

            If the Lt. Governor resigns, nobody replaces him. His duties are taken by the head of the State Senate (a Republican) until the next election.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I did not know that. That’s interesting.

      • Deiseach says:

        I have no idea what is going on in Virginia. The fact that everyone in line to be governor, or succeed the governor, or succeed the successor to the governor, is going down like ninepins is hilarious in a black comedy way (er, pun not intended).

        Given that I am a social conservative and given Northam’s support for the controversial bill about letting unviable babies die naturally without medical intervention if that is what the mother and doctors decide, which I haven’t seen an adequate explanation of so I don’t know if it really is “let the retards that didn’t get aborted die” as one side is putting it or “it’s to let doctors not be legally obligated to use extreme measures which won’t work anyway because the baby is too seriously disabled to survive” as the other side is, I’m not particularly sorry to see him get embroiled in the whole progressive virtue trap, because after the Kavanaugh Affair and the hay the Democrats and others on the socially liberal side made out of “he drank beer a lot in college, even to the point of getting drunk and doing stupid drunk young guy crap! and there are secret sexual coded meanings in his high school yearbook, look them up on Urban Dictionary!” then I think it is completely fair that he should be hung, drawn and quartered over his medical school yearbook. Fair as in “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”, not fair as in “stupid young guys being stupid” and then getting hanged for it decades later. But that’s how they wanted to play it, so live by the sword, die by the sword.

        I am more interested in the sexual assault charges made against the lieutenant-governor and the vastly different way these are being handled; I’d like to think this is in reaction to the steaming mess they made of the Kavanaugh accusations but I rather think it’s more “this is a guy on Our Side so it’s different”. I’m waiting for the sobbing and wailing ladies in elevators to happen. Supposedly the woman in the case has now retained the same law firm that represented Christine Blasey Ford? I am wallowing, wallowing I tell you! in the Schadenfreude of the pure, virtuous, ‘we don’t disrepect women and minorities unlike those bad, bad conservatives’ Democratic establishment getting all the chickens coming home to roost in Virginia.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, yes, yes it can be nice to see fools hoisted upon their own petards. But maybe we could express the tiniest bit of Christian charity and mercy?

          At least for Northam and Herring, who admit what they did and are sorry. Fairfax is a tougher case as he’s accused of literal rape as an adult and concedes the facts except for the consent part.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the alleged rape case is in a completely different category–if he did it, he should definitely lose his political position. The blackface stuff just looks like scalp-collecting to me.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Christians are allowed to judge people according to the measure they use on others. Northam made calling his opponent “racist” a significant part of his campaign. Do watch that ad about how Gillespie voters spend their time looking for minority children to run over.

            I see no reason not to eat all this tasty popcorn here, and am a little surprised that you, our staunchest Trumpist, would feel hesitation at going for the jugular.

            I do agree that this is definitely scalp-collecting.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            1) The norm I want is “stop collecting scalps” and not “collect enemy scalps.”

            2) Yeah but this is SSC. The mission of the blog is charity.

            3) I don’t have a dog in this hunt. I’m certainly not going to go advocating on the Dems’ behalf. But should they tar and feather them I’ll throw out a “No. Stop. Don’t.”

            ETA: And I’m only talking about the decades ago offensive non-crimes of Northam and Herring. Forcible rape is a different story.

          • Nick says:

            Perhaps when progressives see #BelieveSurvivors or outrage over teenage offenses take down one of their own, they’ll realize that due process and forgiveness are good ideas. I don’t see by contrast how enshrining a double standard is going to help us or them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well you know me. Conrad Honcho just a big ol’ bleedin’ heart softy overflowing with love and forgiveness.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “stop collecting scalps”

            I agree with this. We need to stop caring about the yearbooks of our adult politicians.

            Northam baked himself into this pie. When you actively court a demographic, you don’t earn brownie points for that group. Instead, you become more and more indebted to them. It is nuts that this is true, and I wish it worked the other way, but at least it is true and predictable, so everyone can plan accordingly. (The Dixie Chicks got into trouble for criticizing Bush because they were country singers and that was their audience. Surely their views are more in line with their audience than most other singers, but the point of locking your allegiance to a group is that it is painful to defect.)

            Also, that ad was over the top. Holy cow.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands says:

            I agree with this. We need to stop caring about the yearbooks of our adult politicians.

            Totally agree. Your tribe has to put the gun down first, though….

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick

            “Perhaps when progressives see #BelieveSurvivors or outrage over teenage offenses take down one of their own, they’ll realize that due process and forgiveness are good ideas. I don’t see by contrast how enshrining a double standard is going to help us or them”

            Doesn’t former Senator Al Franken already count?

            And I think that just emboldened more hunts.

            @Conrad Honcho

            “Well you know me. Conrad Honcho just a big ol’ bleedin’ heart softy overflowing with love and forgiveness”

            Judging by the posts I’ve read of yours over the months Conrad, I’d say kinda yes.

            If we were neighbors we’d probably have different yard signs but I imagine I’d still lend tools and share barbecue with you, unless you parked in my driveway, politics is one thing but parking is war!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Doesn’t former Senator Al Franken already count?

            Not a big enough loss. You’d need to see a shift in power as a result, like the Republicans taking the seat.

          • Deiseach says:

            You’re a good person, Conrad. I’m enjoying, in a “well this stings” fashion, the fruits that I’ve long prophesied would ripen out of the whole “now we’re in power, let’s use that soft/hard power to hunt witches!” mindset, that it was a double-edged sword that could and would turn in their hand and cut them.

            Now, I don’t know if the originator of the “hey, do you know about Northam’s old yearbook?” rumour was a Republican or not but the people clamouring for the scalps are their own party and the progressive side. This is the snake eating its own tail and it’s what I said about “don’t they realise this can turn on them?” happening in reality.

            The rape accusation is even more piquant as there seems to be a hefty dose of the good old double standard going on there – now suddenly it’s not #BelieveAllWomen, it’s Politically Motivated False Accusation. I certainly don’t want the guy ripped apart as was done to Kavanaugh, but the same extension of credence should be given to the accuser in this case as to Blasey Ford – that there’s a good reason why this accusation took years to come to light, that women wouldn’t lie about such a thing, and all the other lectures in the opinion sections of the news media and from the social media twitterati and their ilk that were dinned into our ears.

            I want the same bloggers who were all too eager to tell us how much more credible the Swetnick allegations were than we thought to give us an estimate of the credibility of the Tyson allegation, especially now as I see by the news that a second accuser has come forward. Yes, this is me being a pissy little bitch, but I really do resent being told “now this may sound like pants-on-head crazy talk about high school drug rape gangs, but I can assure you that Really Smart People I Respect have told me that they evaluate such accusations as ‘quite credible’ so, you know, update your priors” and any expressions of doubt are met with “I’m really sorry I didn’t explain this clearly enough for your tiny minds to comprehend”.

            And as people have pointed out, the racist truck ad was the kind of over-the-top fearmongering that would have to come back to bite you in the butt. I don’t think Northam himself was involved, it seems to have been a group called the Latino Victor Fund, but Northam’s campaign and political supporters seem to have been happy to throw around accusations of racism and pure evil if this report is true:

            State senator Barbara Favola followed the Northam campaign’s lead on messaging, calling Gillespie and his supporters “evil” during a community meeting in Arlington, Va., in November.

            “What my colleagues didn’t really tell you is how dangerous it will be if the other side wins. They’re evil, we’re the good guys,” Favola said. “Every one of you is an angel.”

            So yeah, it would be good to be kind and loving and I wish this whole affair would put an end to trawling back thirty years to dig up stupid teenage/young adult crap and use it as ammo, but I fear it won’t, and this really is a case of “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him”.

          • dick says:

            now suddenly it’s not #BelieveAllWomen, it’s Politically Motivated False Accusation.

            To whom are you referring? You seem to be claiming that there are a lot of people about who argued for uncritically believing Blasey Ford and are now arguing for uncritically dimissing Fairfax’s accusers. I don’t think that’s true.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            You seem to be claiming that there are a lot of people about who argued for uncritically believing Blasey Ford and are now arguing for uncritically dimissing Fairfax’s accusers. I don’t think that’s true.

            I think there are a lot of people with very strong opinions about Kavanaugh that are conspicuously silent about accusations in Virginia. Like, my Senators and my representative. But also my sister-in-law, all the “#believeallwomen” people I follow in Twitter, and all my former college classmates on Facebook.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “…the fruits that I’ve long prophesied would ripen out of the whole “now we’re in power, let’s use that soft/hard power to hunt witches!” mindset, that it was a double-edged sword that could and would turn in their hand and cut them….”

            While I’m in broad sympathy and generally supportive of the American Left (because I’m a reactionary who wants bits of the U.S.A. of 1954 and 1973 back), I and anyone who’s read some history knows that purges and “circular firing squads” are endemic to the left (maybe in the U.S.A. partly because of puritan heritage).

            It’s been that way since the beginning of the Left:

            “Like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.” 

            -Jacques Mallet du Pan
            Considerations sur la nature de la Revolution (Brussels, 1793)

          • dick says:

            I think there are a lot of people with very strong opinions about Kavanaugh that are conspicuously silent about accusations in Virginia. Like, my Senators and my representative. But also my sister-in-law, all the “#believeallwomen” people I follow in Twitter, and all my former college classmates on Facebook.

            I’m not sure who you’re agreeing with. Any particular reason to think they’ve all concluded Fairfax’s accusers are politically motivated frauds, as Deiseach suggested? Is it not reasonable to think maybe they’re not inveighing against him because they don’t think they need to, because they think the Democratic party will not protect him, in accordance with their rhetoric?

          • Nick says:

            I’ve absolutely seen folks on the left calling for Fairfax to step down. The National Organization for Women put out a statement saying they stand with Tyson and they believe survivors and all. And I haven’t seen anyone argue Tyson’s allegation is false or not credible, though I did see Cory Booker, I think, call it an “unsubstantiated allegation”—a term which makes no sense post–Kavanaugh Affair.

            I think ADBG’s suggestion that there’s a conspicuous silence is more plausible—my impression is that the calls for resignation have been dramatically less than for Northam, and I don’t see any reason why they would think it’s unnecessary in Fairfax’s case but necessary in Northam’s case. After all, if they succeed in pressuring Northam out, Fairfax will be the governor.

          • suntzuanime says:

            It seems pretty clear that the yearbook coming out was some Democratic operative throwing him under the bus to avoid the party as a whole getting caught up in his advocacy of post-birth abortion.

          • Jaskologist says:

            For a more relevant double standard than your Facebook wall, look to the Washington Post’s coverage. Fairfax’s accuser approached them a year ago, and they decided not to publish because there was no corroborating evidence.

            That same publication broke the Kavanaugh story. A lack of corroborating evidence doesn’t seem to have been a problem in that case.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Washington Post did not break the Kavanaugh story; the New Yorker did.

          • John Schilling says:

            Doesn’t former Senator Al Franken already count?

            By the time Franken went down, I believe he had stopped playing any significant leadership role in the Democratic party, and was simply Reliable Democratic Senate Vote #27 or whatever, and by Virtue of Minnesota’s Democratic governor, guaranteed to be replaced by Even More Reliable Democratic Senate Vote #27B. Pressuring him to resign is an incredibly cheap signal.

            Northam looked like an equally cheap signal when Fairfax and Herring looked safe. And it’s similarly cheap to demand “He must resign!” knowing that he won’t. If the Democratic party instead goes ahead and arranges the actual removal of Northam, Fairfax, and Herring, leaving the Virginia governor’s mansion to Cox, that will count for quite a bit.

          • Jaskologist says:

            @The Nybbler

            I think you’re mixing up the timeline. The New Yorker broke the story of the second accuser. But it was the Post that first made Ford’s accusations public.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Jaskologist

            USA Today (not the greatest source but at least no paywall) claims the New Yorker broke the story on September 14, with the Post publishing an interview on September 16. The Post is the first to use her name, however.

            Axios omits the New Yorker story for some reason.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I stand corrected.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Perhaps when progressives see #BelieveSurvivors or outrage over teenage offenses take down one of their own, they’ll realize that due process and forgiveness are good ideas.

            This is a lot less likely than people think, the reaction to losing one of their own. In general as long as they are collecting more from the other side then they are winning, which is a fairly obvious statement. Less obvious though is that as long as it is men taking the brunt of the accusations then women will become more electable relative to men and there are going to be those that figure that as in the Ds advantage.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          To be fair, the claim that Kavanaugh should be disqualified did not center around the stuff in his yearbook or his drinking, it centered around the belief that he had probably committed attempted rape. The yearbook and drinking stuff was circumstantial evidence to support the view that he was the sort of person more likely than others to have committed attempted rape.

          That said, it is absolutely true that what Fairfax is accused of is at least as bad and his accuser at least as credible. FWIW, as someone who thinks Kavanaugh is a probable attempted-rapist who should have been disqualified on those grounds, I also think Fairfax should resign, and that it is 100% fair to call out those who support Fairfax but opposed Kavanaugh for hypocrisy.

          Northam and Herring, as you note, are a completely different story, since their behavior was offensive but not violent or criminal. The best argument I have heard for their resignation (and I don’t think it’s very good) is that in a time when actual violent white nationalism is resurgent it is important to send the strongest possible signal of social stigma against anything that even remotely looks like white nationalism.

          • J Mann says:

            he best argument I have heard for their resignation (and I don’t think it’s very good) is that in a time when actual violent white nationalism is resurgent it is important to send the strongest possible signal of social stigma against anything that even remotely looks like white nationalism.

            Yes, I think that’s the best argument too. Basically:

            1) We know that the right wing and GOP are full of racists, but it’s hard to convince middle America.

            2) When you catch a crypto-racist with a college blackface picture, you can convince middle America.

            3) If we don’t punish Democrats with college blackface pictures, we give up #2, even if their subsequent bona fides show that they’re not really the racists/have reformed/whatever, (And besides, once you see the picture, that has to at least increase your internal assessment of the likelihood that even a Democrat is a crypto-racist).

            4) Plus, since we know #1 to be true, we can assume right wingers and/or racists will have more college blackface pictures than left wingers, so the policy will be net beneficial notwithstanding some false positives.

          • albatross11 says:

            The original accusation (credible but with no corroborating witnesses and no evidence and made decades after the alleged crime) is what started the yearbook stuff, but later the folks trying to stop his nomination were just looking for any reason to justify stopping him–maybe he lied about what boofing was, or maybe he claimed a sexual conquest he hadn’t actually had, or…. And the other side was looking for arguments against them–perhaps that we shouldn’t troll through high school year books looking for incriminating things, maybe that various phrases that reflect K being an obnoxious jock in high school somehow were being taken the wrong way. None of the people involved in that exercise had the least interest in the truth, though. They were just trying to win.

          • albatross11 says:

            J Mann:

            It’s hard to imagine a process like that doing a good job of selecting high-quality people for important jobs. Fortunately, jobs like president, governor, supreme court justice, attorney general, etc., are unimportant show-jobs, so I guess it’s okay to fill them in a crazy way that drives away most of the good candidates. It’s not something *important*, like which dentist you trust to drill on your teeth, or which electrician you trust to rewire your house.

          • That said, it is absolutely true that what Fairfax is accused of is at least as bad and his accuser at least as credible.

            His accuser is much more credible. The problem with the evidence in the Kavanaugh case was that there were thousands, probably tens of thousands, of women who could have made as plausible a case as Ford did and had a strong incentive to do so, given how fierce the opposition to him was. It only takes one such woman willing to lie for the cause to give us what actually happened.

            Fairfax admits that sex occurred but claims it was consensual. That means that there are only a few women in a position to make such a charge, and no reason I know of to think that they had an incentive to do so similar to the incentive that Ford and pretty nearly every other left of center woman had to get Kavanaugh. So “most women wouldn’t invent such a story” is a much stronger argument in the Fairfax case than in the Kavanaugh case.

          • J Mann says:

            @albatross – I agree.

            It’s premise #1 that does the heavy lifting, and where I disagree with the argument.

            If I knew that the Democratic party was made of mostly lizard people posing as humans (and that was bad) and that the only way to convince people that someone was a lizard person was to point out they keep their thermostat above 72, I guess I’d put up with some wrongful shamings.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            There is a second accuser against Fairfax.

            https://www.npr.org/2019/02/08/692836826/2nd-accuser-comes-forward-against-virginia-lt-gov-justin-fairfax

            It’s early so no idea if the accuser will remain credible, but assuming she does, it’s hard to see him hanging on. There is a pattern where the first woman to come forward publicly emboldens the others who have been quiet.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There is a pattern where the first woman to come forward publicly emboldens the others who have been quiet.

            I think the Kavanaugh thing showed that the same pattern applies to others who are making stuff up, however (regardless of Ford’s story’s veracity).

          • albatross11 says:

            In high-publicity cases, I think there’s substantial danger of spurious accusers coming forward, but I also think that most of that kind of spurious accuser will have their story come apart with a little questioning (like the Kavenaugh gang-rape-party accuser). That wouldn’t be true for a carefully coached or prepared false accuser, but it would for a crazy or publicity-seeking person hoping to ride this moment to fame.

            So the question is, will anyone wait around long enough for an actual investigation, and will anyone do one? Partisan advantage, desire for a sensational story, ideology, fear of witch hunts, and just plain laziness may keep such an investigation from happening, and partisan news sources may either claim a story was debunked falsely, or ignore obvious holes in the story because it would be convenient if it were true. And the current media environment sure seems to reward outrage of the moment rather than careful deliberation.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            According to the second accuser’s lawyers, there are contemporary statements she made to friends that she was raped, and they have the receipts. Not decades or years or months later, but immediately thereafter.

            That doesn’t mean he’s criminally guilty, but it means she isn’t just making this up to get into the news.

          • Randy M says:

            there are contemporary statements she made to friends that she was raped, and they have the receipts.

            They have the what now?
            Am I supposed to be giving my friends itemized records of our conversations?

        • But that’s how they wanted to play it, so live by the sword, die by the sword.

          You are blaming particular Democrats for things done by other Democrats, which is not just. It’s possible that these three have pushed the “believe women/if we say it’s racist, it’s racist” line, but I don’t actually know they have; they could have been sitting on the sidelines saying as little as possible about such issues.

          Looking at a comment after the one I was responding to, Northam seems to have used accusations of racism pretty freely in his campaign, so it may be just in his case.

          • Deiseach says:

            Professor Friedman, I’m not saying it’s fair or just or any such thing. I am saying “This is what their party hammered on and on about quite recently, and they don’t seem to have done anything too strenuous to distance themselves from such opinions, so when the same measure is used against them they don’t really have much of a leg to stand on”.

            Such weapons are dangerous, and there is and was no reason to think they would only be used against the other side, you know, the bad guys, not us! And now they’re being used against their own. So everything I was gloomy about happening is currently happening, and I’m feeling a bit like Cassandra – yes I’m vindicated but it would have been better had the warnings been heeded before the city got razed in flames to the ground.

          • albatross11 says:

            Throwing around spurious claims of racism to win elections is a good way to lose my vote, but I don’t think that would make it a good idea to impeach a state governor over decades-old yearbook photos showing him in blackface.

      • J Mann says:

        National Review had a good point. If Northam, Herring AND Fairfax all go, the Speaker of the House (a Republican) becomes Governor, so there’s a strong political incentive to keep at least one of them.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I’ve heard it called a “political Mexican standoff” for that reason. If one of the two blackfacers resigns, the other will have to, which makes it very likely that a Republican becomes governor.

      • John Schilling says:

        Just to piggyback, what are the predications for how the situation in Virginia will shake out?

        Northam gains nothing by resigning, so he won’t do it . Being the lamest of ducks for the next two years beats being a dead duck, and if he resigns now his public life is basically over. As governor, people will have to pay some attention and they might have to pay attention to him doing something substantially inspiring and redemptive like e.g. heroically leading the reconstruction after the North Korean nuclear missile strike on Arlington next year. If he were going to resign he’d have done it by now, and the transparent implausibility of his evasions so far suggests that he doesn’t care what other people think and has an almost Trump-like ability to demand the rejection of other people’s reality and substitution of his own. p~0.75, because there could be other means of putting pressure on him that we don’t know about.

        He’s not going to be impeached either, because he hasn’t committed any actual crimes and there’s no political advantage to anyone setting the precedent that a governor can be ousted for historic wrongthink. The Republicans might do that if they thought the Democrats would let them get away with a triple impeachment and a Republican governor, but everybody knows that’s not going to happen and so the GOP will be happy to see the Democrats saddled with Northam for the rest of his term. p~0.8, but possible that brinksmanship on both sides could push them over the edge.

        If Northam is forced out, the Virginia Democratic Party will probably rediscover the concept of presumption of innocence w/re Fairfax, and definitely ignore the concept of hypocrisy w/re Herring.

      • Jaskologist says:

        At the moment, I’d lay 60% odds that the net effect of all these VA politicians having blackface/klansman cosplay scandals will be the one black guy getting pushed out.

      • BBA says:

        Speaking as a certifiable liberal Democrat: My instinct is to forgive past sins and focus on what good can be done in the present and the future. But my interactions with women and people of color, not to mention the sheer volume of misdeeds unearthed in the past year, have convinced me that I’m like George Costanza. All of my instincts are wrong.

        So we have the unfortunate choice between ceding power to the enemy or retaining power by betraying our core ideals. To me it’s obvious that Northam and Fairfax and Herring must go, Fairfax more so than the other two because his conduct was actually illegal while the others were merely unspeakably offensive. Unfortunately Northam is stubbornly refusing to resign, and it would be transparently silly to impeach him for something that isn’t a crime, so there it is. I just want to punch a hole in the wall.

        • The Nybbler says:

          unspeakably offensive

          And there’s where your instincts fail you, IMO. Blackface of the type Northam was wearing (assuming he wasn’t the KKK dude) is offensive. But “unspeakably”? Hardly. We’ve ratcheted up certain offenses to ridiculous degrees, like use of the n-word working corruption of blood. Loudly farting at a funeral is offensive. So is telling ‘dead baby’ jokes. Or ‘Polack’ jokes. None of these are so offensive that they should have any effect on the teller’s career (not even their political career) 35 years later.

          Herring apparently dressed up as a rapper. This is only considered offensive because certain activists have decided to make anything anywhere near blackface super-offensive as a weapon.

          • SamChevre says:

            Herring apparently dressed up as a rapper.

            Not just “a rapper”–Kurtis Blow, the first rapper to sign with a major label. In 1981, when rap was still very new and very identified as a black thing. I’m pretty certain the anti-black Virginians weren’t listening to rap in 1981.

            This whole mess is a little bit weird for me, because I despise Northam and Herring, as traitors to their state and their oaths respectively. I hate sounding like I’m defending them, but…

    • albatross11 says:

      There’s also the meta-issue of why it matters that someone created an offensive-now-but-ok-then picture several decades ago. I’ll admit, I don’t see why I should care.

      I mean, would you change your dentist or lawyer or doctor or accountant or electrician or plumber based on finding out they’d appeared in blackface several decades ago? That would seem nuts to me. So why would I want to change the governor, lt governor, etc? What good purpose does it serve?

      • Eugene Dawn says:

        If you were black, you might. And since, if I did my math right, a full third of Northam’s support came from black voters, it’s not crazy that they would want a Governor who doesn’t have a history of caricaturing them.

        • albatross11 says:

          Okay, so would you expect that most blacks would change doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, plumbers, and electricians upon discovering that they’d appeared in blackface in a school yearbook decades ago? I don’t have any data here, but that seems incredibly farfetched to me.

          I’m not a Virginia voter, but personally, I want competence and honesty in my elected officials. I don’t see how this kind of scandal informs me at all about their honesty or competence. Instead, it looks like what happened is:

          a. Some people were a little insensitive and rude at a time when blackface was not a taboo, but was at least seen as a little insensitive.

          b. Norms changed so that now, appearing in blackface is seen as a major no-no.

          c. A bunch of people have pictures that were taken decades ago, when this norm didn’t exist, in which they were violating today’s norm.

          How does enforcing today’s norm on yesterday’s actions make anything better? What benefit does this bring, that’s worth removing people from top jobs and overriding the result of an election?

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            I don’t have any data here, but that seems incredibly farfetched to me

            I also have no data, and I don’t think it’s certain, but I don’t find it too farfetched. I’m Jewish and I’m almost certain I have family members who would stop going to a doctor if a picture was discovered of him dressed as a Shlomo Shekelstein-type parody of a Jew, standing next to someone dressed as a Nazi.

            Black attitudes in general are much more hostile to blackface than white attitudes, so I wouldn’t count your personal incredulity for too much.

            Some people were a little insensitive and rude at a time when blackface was not a taboo, but was at least seen as a little insensitive.

            It’s true that blackface was not a taboo among whites in the 1980s, but black opposition to blackface goes back to Frederick Douglass; the NAACP characterized blackface as degrading in the 1930s and 1940s, which seems to have been a turning point in black attitudes towards blackface; the NAACP organized a boycott of Amos n’ Andy advertisers to get the show taken off the air in the 1950s.

            So, among blacks it’s been regarded as racist and degrading to put on blackface since before Ralph Northam was born; the fact that Ralph Northam didn’t think so in 1984 is evidence that Ralph Northam was dismissive of the feelings of black Americans on sensitive matters.

            I agree that the distance in time matters; people can change a lot in 35 years, and I don’t necessarily think that what a politician did before I was born is necessarily an overriding concern–but it’s a concern, and probably moreso to Northam’s (substantial number of) black constituents, who, if at all possible, deserve a representative without a history of racist mockery.

          • the fact that Ralph Northam didn’t think so in 1984 is evidence that Ralph Northam was dismissive of the feelings of black Americans on sensitive matters.

            Or entirely unaware of them. He wasn’t a politician then.

          • albatross11 says:

            Eugene:

            I think the Jewish example isn’t at all parallel. You need something that was not widely seen as especially offensive twenty years ago, but is now. I’m not sure what that would be, but re-enacting Nazi anti-semitism isn’t it.

            And even so, I think offensive stuff people did decades ago in school is a dumb thing to base your current attitudes about them on. That’s especially true when you have some important job you want them to do.

            If black voters (or anyone else) wants to refuse to vote for politicians who appeared in blackface in a high school or college yearbook decades ago, that’s their choice, but it sure doesn’t seem like a sensible choice to me, and I certainly am not going to go along. Which matters not at all here–I don’t live in Virginia and don’t get a vote.

        • SamChevre says:

          Are we talking about the yearbook picture (typical minstrelry blackface, which Northam maintains isn’t him) or the Michael Jackson imitation?

          • MrApophenia says:

            It is worth noting he first admitted that he was in the picture (although he didn’t say if he was the one in blackface or in Klan robes) and then changed his mind and started denying it a day later, which does seem to undercut his credibility a bit.

      • Theodoric says:

        Was it really OK then? The movie White Christmas changed a musical number that was blackface in the source material to not be blackface, so even in 1954, there seemed to be a sense that blackface wasn’t something respectable people did.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Apparently the two people in question didn’t think it was a big deal, the person who took the picture didn’t think it was a big deal, the Yearbook staff didn’t think was a big deal, the faculty adviser didn’t think it was a big deal, the people who used the Yearbook didn’t think it was a big deal (because there wasn’t a controversy at the time)…

          • MrApophenia says:

            Well, yeah. Virginia has a history of being super racist. Ralph Northam was a kid in Virginia in the 60s, when stuff like Loving vs. Virginia took place.

            “A bunch of white people in Virginia in 1984 thought it was cool to put blackface and KKK pictures in the yearbook” doesn’t mean they thought it wasn’t racist, it means they didn’t think being racist was a big deal.

            I mean, take another look at those Klan robes. Those weren’t some hastily made Halloween costume – somebody brought their Klan robes to the party.

            And whether or not he was in the picture (which, you know, he already admitted he was before he decided to change his story), Northam still thought it was a cool picture to submit to be in his medical school yearbook. So either it’s a picture of him which he wanted to preserve for posterity, or it’s a picture he’s not in and he was just so tickled by that hilarious blackface/Klan aesthetic that he wanted everyone to associate it with him.

          • Plumber says:

            @MrApophenia 

            “Well, yeah. Virginia has a history of being super racist. Ralph Northam was a kid in Virginia in the 60s, when stuff like Loving vs. Virginia took place.

            “A bunch of white people in Virginia in 1984 thought it was cool to put blackface and KKK pictures in the yearbook” doesn’t mean they thought it wasn’t racist, it means they didn’t think being racist was a big deal…”

            I was 15 and 16 years old in 1984, and recall cultural attitudes on most everything except maybe “trans” matters (if even that) as being pretty much the same as today (and l’m increasingly irritated by narratives of supposed ‘big cultural changes’ since then), but if that was ‘no big deal’ there then Virginia must’ve been increadibly different. 

          • MrApophenia says:

            Where did you live? I know that in rural upstate NY even in the 90s, lots of people were openly, casually racist in ways that would seem cartoonishly after-school-special over the top today. And that was in the North.

            Virginia in 1984 was two decades removed from Jim Crow; the same actual individual people who had to be forced by the federal government and the civil rights movement to grudgingly grant a semblance of equality to black people were still the ones living there in 1984. Northam himself was 6 when Jim Crow officially ended in Virginia – but of course, the South didn’t instantly stop being racist the day the federal government overturned Jim Crow.

            In other words, yes – the South really did have different views on race than the rest of the country (and it wasn’t necessarily great everywhere else either).

          • Plumber says:

            @MrApophenia

            “Where did you live?…”

            Oakland, California (where I was born and have lived most of my life) when I was staying with my Dad), and Berkeley, California (where I attended High School) when I was staying with my Mom, with occasional visits to my Mother’s parents in Orange, California.  

            “…I know that in rural upstate NY even in the 90s, lots of people were openly, casually racist in ways that would seem cartoonishly after-school-special over the top today…”

            I remember being a victim of anti-white racism at school in the 1970’s after “Roots” was broadcast (which an older black girl defended me from), and when I worked in and near San Jose (which was far less black and far more Hispanic) in the early 21st century I heard some pretty vile anti-black “jokes”, though strangely enough the ‘joke’-tellers were usually the most friendly to the few black men who cane down to ‘Silicon Valley’ and worked construction. 

            About the only racial argument that I remember from the 2000’s was at a union meeting in which one man argued against continuing funding  of the Southern Poverty Law Center on the grounds of “Who cares if some guys wear bedspreads on the weekends?” to which one of the few black men (who I carpooled with down to Palo Alto to work) in our overwhelmingly Hispanic and white local responded: “If they’re not a good cause I don’t know what is!”, which swayed the meeting. 

            “…In other words, yes – the South really did have different views on race than the rest of the country…”

            I’m not sure that the Civil and Voting Rights Acts would’ve passed without television crews filming the attack dogs and firehosing back then for the rest of the Nation to see.

            I also suspect that much of the current “culture war” is just because of migration and people from different areas communicating with each other on the internet.

    • BBA says:

      John McWhorter provides some context.

      But context has collapsed. To use another example I’ve seen discussed lately, Blazing Saddles is a thoroughly anti-racist film. Every single time a white person uses the N-word, they are the butt of the joke. But you can’t trust audiences to get that out of it, lots of people who laugh at it just think the N-word is funny and isn’t it a shame you can’t say it anymore? So naturally the movie could never be made today, and probably shouldn’t be shown anymore, you wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. And the blackface issue is the same.

      • gbdub says:

        They can pry Blazing Saddles from my cold dead hands. Honestly anybody who thinks that movie is racist is an idiot, and we ought not define what is acceptable based on what idiots think (else we’re forced to concede that coal miners with coal dust-darkened skin from a hard day in the mines are wearing blackface). The entire point of that movie is that every racist white person is stupid. This is literally said explicitly multiple times. I think you can trust audiences to get this. I got it when I first saw it as a young teenager. It’s not complicated. But nobody has the stones to fight for context anymore. Let’s just Bowdlerize everything!

        Honestly the part that aged most poorly is the last scene with the camp gay chorus line but everybody loses it over the racial slurs.

        What bothers me is not that blackface and “the n word” are offensive. They clearly are! Highly offensive! But rather that they are third-rail, blood tainting for three generations, no apology accepted offensive regardless of context or intent. That’s just stupid.

  20. LesHapablap says:

    I’m chief pilot at a small airline and looking for some advice on how to train people to a) think ahead and constantly be evaluating a situation and b) being ‘proactive’ and ‘decisive’ instead of slow and ‘reactive’ in decision making. This is precipitated by an incident with one of our new pilots who was pretty well trained and had a lot of command under supervision time but had a couple glaring mistakes while I was supervising him the other day.

    Most everyone I’ve talked to in aviation has said those ‘skills/attitudes’ just come down to experience or natural competence and had no suggestions for training it, though one very experienced guy at CAA suggested that having a pilot do an impromptu precautionary off-airport landing was good at assessing those things.

    I know I haven’t defined the skills here very well, which is part of the problem I think, they are difficult to define. But does anyone have any suggestions from other industries or the military for ways to inculcate these ways of thinking and behaving? I have my own ideas but I’m curious if anyone else has suggestions from different perspectives.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Not from industry or the military, but some sports (my experience is martial arts, but I gotta assume there are equivalents in other sports) – drills where the idea is “things are already going wrong, what do you do?” Like, I don’t know, shark-tanking someone in grappling (consistently putting fresh opponents in against them, one after the other, very quickly – the idea being to simulate what happens if you are exhausted and your opponent is fresh). The idea, I think, is that people practicing things (especially in “live” practice like sparring) tend to gravitate towards techniques, tactics, strategies which are comfortable and safe. An off-airport landing would fit into this sort of thing. At a minimum, it would encourage not getting flustered when things are going wrong (being exhausted when grappling someone who isn’t feels horrible, I imagine it’s what drowning feels like, and this weird acquired claustrophobia, and you want to give up, but after it’s happened a few times you realize while it feels like you’re dying, you aren’t). Some scenarios (equivalent of “you’re down x points, so you need to score x+1 points to win, oh and you have a minute/an inning/whatever”) would help with decisiveness, etc.

      EDIT: I would have assumed that pilot training already does this, but the suggestion that doing off-airport landings would be a good idea indicates to me maybe not so much as I would have thought?

      • John Schilling says:

        Pilot training, including recurrent training, routinely involves the instructor or examiner reducing the throttle to idle and saying “now what”?, but the engine always comes back when the airplane is solidly established on short final to an appropriate farmers’ field or whatnot. I don’t think it would be practical to pre-clear a safe and legal landing on every spot a pilot might chose for an emergency landing when hit with this scenaro at 5000′ or whatever.

        The “precautionary landing” the OP talks about is a slightly different thing; that’s e.g. an oil-pressure indicator going to zero even though the engine seems to be running fine at the moment, and touching down at the nearest suitable spot so you can open the cowling and actually look. This could be practiced in a controlled and safe manner, I think, but almost never is. I’m not sure it would be hugely valuable, though.

        • LesHapablap says:

          The precautionary landing is demonstrated usually as “the weather is closing in and you’ve run out of options to turn back. You don’t need to rush, but you need to select an appropriate place to land, assess all the appropriate factors, plan your approach and execute it, and remain under 800ft AGL” So it involves a lot of assessment and decision making under a bit of time pressure.

          I never did it in the states for a private license but it is required here for a commercial license and we have to demonstrate it occasionally on our annual checks.

          We could do it more often, but then how well is this going to relate to other kinds of decision making etc? You can’t just practice these over and over and expect to get better generally. Plus flying airplanes is expensive and I’d rather do the training on the ground if possible.

      • LesHapablap says:

        dndnrsn,

        That’s interesting. Coming up with some scenarios must be the right way to do it, it’ll just be a case of what’s the most effective: paper based scenarios, timed-paper based scenarios, scenarios with some real elements like a recording of a radio of some traffic conflicts, incorporating a sim, etc.

        Introducing fatigue could be done by doing the training/assessing at the end of a long day. It would certainly make the scenarios more challenging.

        • dndnrsn says:

          My understanding – which is very limited – is that most airplane accidents are the result not of the pilots lacking the skills of flying the plane, but of the pilots making a mistake under pressure that they would not make without that pressure. However, it is probably not feasible to simulate the sorts of things that precede accidents – likely unsafe, for starters. I imagine simulators might be the best option, but I have no idea how good they are nor how expensive they are.

          It’s a similar problem to martial arts – training in the gym with your friends, even if you are all going as hard as you can, is just qualitatively different from competition against someone you’ve never met before in an unfamiliar environment, or a real fight. The best that can be done is to introduce artificial handicaps, like unrealistic fatigue (for example, in competition, if you’re not fresh for your first match, something has gone terribly wrong, and even in a large competition, you’re not going to have more than a half-dozen matches, tops).

          Doing something like some kind of “worst case scenario” at the end of a long day might work. Is it feasible/ethical to spring something on people when they’re sick, tired, hung over? (I know a guy who has a story about the coach taking them out drinking, then when everyone was kinda drunk, demanding that they go back to the gym and train kickboxing) – I imagine that air accidents disproportionately happen when pilots are fatigued, sick, hungover, drunk, whatever.

          • bean says:

            I imagine that air accidents disproportionately happen when pilots are fatigued, sick, hungover, drunk, whatever.

            There are strict rules against flying while in those states. I forget the exact number, but there’s absolutely no drinking allowed 8-12 hours before you fly, and there are also rules mandating crew rest. Not sure how “no flying while sick” is enforced offhand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s something.

          • LesHapablap says:

            It is certainly feasible and ethical enough for me. Would the results be better than doing it when they are more alert? I would guess in an academic setting that retention would be hurt by being fatigued, but this is different from that kind of learning. Certainly couldn’t hurt to try.

            Getting that realism and stress in a practice setting is a challenge. Navy Seals use live ammunition and real explosives, and I’ve heard that the CIA uses drugs to enhance stress.

            Could get a good effect with a high dose of caffeine at the end of a long day, then throw them in the simulator with some pre-planned scenarios. Have some other pilots looking over their shoulder to add a bit of social pressure.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            How well are those rules enforced? If a pilot got drunk last night, rolls in bleary-eyed at whenever for an evening flight, and is feeling crappy and exhausted by takeoff time – is that something where someone will notice it and keep them from flying? If someone spent the mandated time “sleeping”, but for whatever reason did not get enough actual sleep, is there any way to handle that?

            @LesHapablap

            In martial arts, the important thing to learn in situations like that is, you’re tougher than you think – the training makes you tougher, but a large part of it is about teaching you where the line between “ultimately OK” and “in danger of imminent injury” is. I would hope that if a pilot has done a demanding simulation while tired and wired, with someone yelling at them, etc, if something goes wrong in reality, they’ll be better able to keep a clear head and do the stuff they definitely know how to do if they’re a licensed commercial pilot.

    • SamChevre says:

      It’s clearly a group of skills that are used together, but I’m not sure which skills in the group you want to focus on:

      Group 1) Continuing to constantly evaluate a situation when nothing is happening, or the same thing is happening over and over. One group of people who train on this are guards, and general security personnel. I haven’t done that training, but that might be a starting point–how do you train a pilot to stay attentive to the right things for several hours of normal flight seems related to how do you train a gate guard to stay attentive for several hours of normal gate traffic.

      Group 2) Reacting rapidly in a way that gets you ahead of the situation rather than behind. This is where stress drills really help. The first time something goes wrong, you will be reactive; once the same thing has gone wrong 50 times, you can get ahead of the situation without thinking. (Trained drivers do this for skids and spins; pilot training usually includes simulated stalls and engine loss for the same reason.)

      The two are interactive, but I believe they are different skills and take different training.

      • LesHapablap says:

        What I think of group 1: constantly thinking 20 minutes in front of the aircraft. The subject in this case is good at having situational awareness for what’s going on around him, but not so much at thinking about possible future threats.

        Group 2: aviation skills don’t really require that rapid response except for in a few cases (engine failure in a piston-twin after take-off or stall recovery).

        An example of the decisiveness I mean might be: while you are 90 seconds from landing, the wind is reported as a 5 knot tail wind for your chosen runway. How long does it take you to decide whether to continue or to change runways (3 seconds would be good, more than 5 seconds would be bad)? If you decide to continue, do you blindly continue the approach as normal without thinking about how this changes things or do you make adjustments and plan for if it gets worse?

    • bean says:

      Would it be a stupid suggestion to say simulator work? I’d presume you don’t have full simulators for whatever you fly (and I’d be curious to know what that is), you could probably do a decent job of testing emergencies with a PC-based system. It doesn’t have to be your airplane, and it might even be a good thing if it isn’t to make sure you don’t train in bad responses. But it does let you throw problems at them with no risk of crashing a real airplane. And if you get something with some cool stuff, it can be a carrot to spend time on it. “We’ll let you fly an F-16 (or whatever) on company time, but be aware that we’ll throw problems at you.”
      (I have experience in the airline industry, but very far away from the pointy end.)

      • LesHapablap says:

        We fly single engine piston aircraft VFR through the mountains in an area with lots of traffic and lots of weather. Mostly uncontrolled and without radar coverage.

        We use the Google Earth flight sim in initial training a LOT to get familiar with the area, since the landscape looks a lot more realistic than in X-plane or MS flight sim. We also use it with radio recordings to help the trainee practice attaining situational awareness and getting an ear for all the radio calls.

        Simulators may be pretty useful for building up these skills. The ideal would be something like those sims they run in star trek on the bridge. Also, in the navy they constantly drill different scenarios and run war games, correct?

        • bean says:

          We fly single engine piston aircraft VFR through the mountains in an area with lots of traffic and lots of weather. Mostly uncontrolled and without radar coverage.

          Ah. I’d guess Alaska, but you appear to be in Canada, instead. Yukon?
          If so, very interesting flying. I once worked with an Alaskan airline, and got some good stories out of it.

          The ideal would be something like those sims they run in star trek on the bridge. Also, in the navy they constantly drill different scenarios and run war games, correct?

          They do, and I think you could probably do your equivalent with a good simulator package. X-plane has an instructor mode, and I suspect that you can do the same thing with Microsoft flight simulator. Put together a bunch of different combinations of traffic, weather, and systems problems, then turn them loose.

    • sfoil says:

      bean suggested simulators. I’m not familiar with flying or with what’s mandated by the FAA/your company in the simulator, but I know there is required simulator time.

      My suggestion to the extent I can make one would be to put the pilots in the simulator and have something go wrong. I believe this is already a requirement. The important part is the debriefing/After Action Review/whatever, where you get the pilot to tell you a) what went wrong b) what they did c) what they ought to have done, to include how they could have noticed something going wrong earlier — this should involve self-criticism, and you need to make it clear that it’s better for the flyer to identify the problem than his coach. Keep records of all this. Then do it again — immediately first, and then days or weeks later.

      You will probably need to incentivize this. The culture among your company’s pilots may cause them to perceive this process as a lowering in status, so you need to raise the status of people that embrace it, whether through money, promotions, favorable assignments, whatever.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Thanks that’s quite useful.

        Are you suggesting they do the exact same scenario again right away, or something different but similar?

        • sfoil says:

          Ideally, it would be different but similar. It’s difficult to check for learning if they’re just literally replaying an identical situation. But it doesn’t take much to make sure they’re not just relying on rote memorization of the scenario: “light comes on after X instead of Y minutes” is probably all you need.

        • LesHapablap says:

          I just been trying to list scenarios that I can use this way. One thing troubles me though: if I’m measuring trainees by their reaction/decision time to a new threat, is that going to be subject to Goodheart’s law? Would I be encouraging rash decision making? I will have to make sure the subject verbally goes through his thought process in real time. I’ll have some of the senior pilots do it first in order to get a baseline for what to expect from experienced pilots.

          • sfoil says:

            They don’t need explain their thinking in real time, they need to do it afterwards. You’re trying to train anticipation, so if X bad thing happens the pilot should be able to explain afterwards why he didn’t notice the precursor or, if he did notice, why he didn’t do anything about it.

            Let’s say (I’m just making this up) that when the red indicator light comes on, I need to land ASAP. If this light can come on without warning, I should always have a plan to do land. If the light comes on and I now have to decide where to land, it indicates that I hadn’t made that decision beforehand (what you want). There shouldn’t be any “rash decision making” involved.

    • LesHapablap says:

      If you want to teach someone to be decisive while flying, can you have them do something that requires decisiveness in another domain? How close would it have to be before that mindset transfers over? Or is decisiveness really just experience and confidence, and therefore they would need be confident in the specific domain?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      but had a couple glaring mistakes while I was supervising him the other day.

      What kind of glaring mistakes?

      • LesHapablap says:

        Don’t know how much I want to say in public here. First there was some opposite direction traffic that he recognized but hesitated and didn’t do enough about it. After passing those planes, he didn’t bother to check if there were any more aircraft coming from the same source and descended down a cloud break at the head of a valley with more oncoming traffic.

    • Incurian says:

      Share real stories about mistakes that other pilots have made, and discuss how they could have been avoided.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        One of my favorite engineering classes in college, and the one I think actually changed me into an engineer, was the one where a majority of class time was looking at past disasters.

      • LesHapablap says:

        We do a lot of this, but informally. Maybe it’s worth doing it in a more formal way with some diagrams and audio recordings if possible, forming a collection of incidents. And then for the informal debriefing at the end of each day we could keep a magnetized map with some magnet aircraft handy.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Too tired to offer more than a shot in the dark, but this conversation reminds me a lot of discussions on safe motorcycle riding. Maybe you can find out how they do it? One suggestion is books, other is discussing common failure modes.

  21. Atlas says:

    What are some CIA operations (that we know of) that have been largely successful? (As opposed to—and feel free to debate this—e.g. CIA involvement in the 1953 Iranian coup and the 1980s arming of anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan, the alleged long-term results of which have often been criticized.)

    • salvorhardin says:

      Limiting “operations” only to interventions aimed at regime change (ignoring intelligence gathering per se), and “successful” only to long-term outcomes for US security and the quality of life in the intervened-in country (ignoring moral questions around means employed and short-term disruption), one might cite, from least to most controversial and morally compromised:

      1. defeating the Communists in the 1948 Italian elections
      2. fomenting the assassination of Trujillo
      3. undermining Allende and subsequently supporting Pinochet

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Overcast/Paperclip advanced our marker at least one position along the “Space Race” track

    • AlesZiegler says:

      American support for Afgan rebels in the 80s is imho totally an example of brilliantly succesful operation. Heavy costs of war in Afghanistan were in all likelihood one of a key factors which gave Gorbachev political cover to pursue meaningful detente policy. And after the fall of USSR, Afghanistan would became failed state open for Taliban takeover even if US would not give single dollar to anti soviet rebels.

      Real US failure in Afghanistan happened under Clinton administration, when Al-Quaeda was allowed to make safe base of operations there.

    • spkaca says:

      Operation Gold might qualify, though opinions differ as to the value of the intelligence gained. The major difficulty with assessing any such operation is that very few people have an interest in telling the whole truth and nothing but. The 1953 Iran coup is a likely example. According to Ray Takeyh, the CIA’s role was insignificant, but it has suited many people, including the CIA at times, to exaggerate it.

      • The fascinating thing about the Operation Gold story is that the KGB knew about it from the beginning, from a mole of theirs in British intelligence, but didn’t tell anyone, including their own military, because they didn’t want to expose the source of their information. So for eleven months, the British and US were tapping phone lines used by the Soviet military and diplomatic people. Eventually the mole got transferred and the Soviets “discovered” the tunnel.

        • spkaca says:

          Given the way large bureaucratic institutions work, I speculate that the KGB were not too unhappy to follow an approach that would hurt the Soviet diplomatic corps and military.

  22. Nornagest says:

    Howdy, SSC hivemind. I have a question.

    I’m on the job market, and while it’s not my primary specialty, a lot of the places I’m interviewing with are looking for distributed systems design experience. I have done some of that in the past, but my skills in the area are five or seven years rusty, and it’s becoming an obstacle.

    Can anyone suggest a textbook or MOOC covering that territory that could help get me back up to speed? Cost no object within the usual range for technical references, but I’d be looking for something more didactic and less reference-oriented, ideally.

    • pontifex says:

      Read the DynamoDB paper, the Chubby paper, the Raft paper, the GoogleFS and BigTable papers, and maybe something about Calvin or Ceph and you’ll be able to ace any interview. Maybe also read The Tail at Scale. Reading the primary sources is more interesting than reading someone’s gloss on them anyway.

      Oh, also, you can go arbitrarily deep on trying to understand FLP impossibility or the exact taxonomy of consistency models. But you don’t really need it.

    • dumpstergrad says:

      If you’re currently working for a larger company, the easiest thing to learn will be the most relevant things to your current job. Figure out who runs your release process, and who maintains it from an operational perspective. Then shadow those teams. Read their manuals, ride along to planning meetings, and read their architectural documents. Any modern company is going to be running a distributed system. Your goal, should you choose to accept it, is figuring out what this means internal to your company.

      This also gets you points for working cross-functionally, will give you an idea what your work looks like downstream, and is a nice way to build soft skills, which tend to be highly underrated in the software development industry.

      This combined with reading the papers Pontifex recommends gives you the benefit of being up to date on the principles of modern distributed systems while having some grounded examples to speak to over the course of an interview.

  23. sfoil says:

    This is very open-ended, but I’m asking because I’m not much of an economist. What’s the deal with “Modern Monetary Theory” (MMT)? This is triggered by a thread Noah Smith posted on Twitter about the “Green New Deal”. I don’t want to focus on the Green New Deal, but rather on the fact that apparently it relies on MMT-based monetary policies. My impression is basically that MMT is at best an intellectual cover for abandoning the idea of economic scarcity without admitting to such an obviously-false idea, and at worst an attempt to declare that there is no such thing as private property.

    Based on reading Wikipedia, some of Scott Sumner’s criticism of MMT (e.g.), and picking things up here and there over the years, MMT appears on a fundamental level to be the idea that fiscal constraints on (United States) government spending simply don’t exist because of the government’s monopoly on the supply of currency. There seems to be a bit of what around here is called the motte-and-bailey, where the motte involves some true but counterintuitive facts about fiat currency to the effect that only inflation limits government spending, and massive government projects like the Green New Deal won’t trigger excessive inflation based on various fairly reasonable arguments. The bailey is that the very idea of things costing money is simply error, mostly based on obsolete thinking about commodity-backed currency but maybe created and maintained with malicious intent.

    The reason I’m so suspicious of MMT is that the main corollary of this line of thinking appears to be that the US government is in possession of an infinite cookie jar, and if we just stop pretending that there’s only so many cookies to go around then Mommy can reach into the jar and give me a cookie whenever I want one.

    Other corollaries appear to be that actually, non-government entities including individual citizens don’t “have money”; rather, the government has temporarily loaned out some tickets called dollars, which it can take back whenever it wants via taxes. Taxes under MMT have zero relation to government revenue since the state raises revenue by printing money. In fact, “government revenue” is a misnomer, a category error: there are simply things the government does. Taxes under MMT basically exist solely to redistribute currency among non-government holders.

    Some MMT proponents suggest that this model is simply a description of what already happens, and MMT based policies apply this description in advantageous ways, sort of like how alternating current lowers power line transmission impedance in a not-very-intuitive way. I am deeply suspicious of such arguments, which strike me as assuming the premises. As an example, this article written as part of the “Green New Deal” media push by someone I’ve never heard of but who claims a lot of high-status credentials. While he actually does make a few good or at least worth-looking-into points, to me this editorial just about reeks of brimstone– from its lecturing and mocking tone, its casual strawmanning of certain policies, and its suspiciously-naive but highly insistent identification of the federal government (which owns all money, remember) with “citizenry”. And I link it because it’s not the first MMT-supportive article that raises my hackles this way, just the most recent one I’ve read.

    Am I being uncharitable to MMT in thinking that it is a “free lunch” philosophy? Am I right about what MMT says but not giving enough credit to evidence that these things might be true? Is it a basically sensible economic theory being abused by ideologues?

    • Eric Rall says:

      I looked into this relatively recently. From what I gather, the “free lunch” interpretation comes from wishful thinking on the part of casual onlookers. It sounds like MMT is more of reversed re-framing of standard monetary theory.

      In standard monetary theory, fiat currency is issued by the central bank, mostly by issuing loans or buying bonds. The activities of private banks piggy-backs on the “base money” issued by the central bank to create more money in the form of bank balances, but this too is supervised and regulated by the central bank. Inflation and deflation are driven by the central bank issuing too much or too little money respectively relative to the size of the real economy. Fiscal policy (taxing, borrowing, and spending by the political branches of government) can have an effect on the real economy (more spending can be either helpful (stimulating the economy) or harmful (crowding out private sector activity), depending on the policies in question, the state of the economy at the time, and which economists you ask) which can indirectly drive inflation or deflation, but under most circumstances the central bank is able to compensate by varying how much money is being created and put into circulation.

      In an environment when the central bank is given a mandate of maintaining a constant nominal interest rate (instead of the current mandate of maintaining a low, steady rate of inflation), deficit spending can lead to inflation (by bidding up interest rates, which the central bank must issue more money in order to bid down), while a fiscal surplus does the opposite.

      MMT takes more-or-less the same activity, but re-characterizes it using a different reading convention. In the MMT model, it’s primarily fiscal policy that puts money into and takes money out of circulation, but deficit spending to a first approximation doesn’t matter because because borrowing is just a different mechanism (parallel to taxation) for taking money out of circulation. The central bank’s role, in MMT, is mostly to regulate the interest rate environment in light of government borrowing: the central bank’s policies can offset borrowing (by doing what standard monetary theory would characterize as issuing money) so the borrowing doesn’t take money out of circulation, or the central bank can raise interest rates to maintain a balance of money being created and destroyed.

      Both frameworks more-or-less describe the same things and mostly make the same predictions (e.g. a central bank policy designed to hold interest rates constant while the government spends tons of borrowed money will tend to lead to inflation), but they characterize them in different terms: in SMT, the central bank is issuing money to finance the deficit, while in MMT, it’s the treasury that’s issuing money while the central bank fails to offset the inflationary effects by raising interest rates. This similarity of predictions is where the claim that “Where MMT is true, it isn’t interesting” comes from.

      The other half of that saying, that “where MMT is interesting, it isn’t true”, probably comes from people who missed the significance of the central bank’s role in MMT. As I described it, “deficit spending to a first approximation doesn’t matter”, but it actually does matter once you look at the second-order effects policies the central bank would need to implement to offset the deficit spending. But if you miss the “to a first approximation” part, you get free lunch claims that are very interesting but completely untrue.

      It’s kinda like the misunderstandings of the Laffer Curve from the other side of the aisle: it’s generally accepted as trivially true that extremely high tax rates and extremely low tax rates both produce almost no revenue (because they tax the activity out of existence in the former case, and because the tax itself is almost nothing in the latter), which higher amounts of revenue can be raise by a tax rate in the middle. Over-eager conservative/libertarian politicians overextended this by imagining that it made any and all plausible tax cuts a free lunch, not just cuts from a very high tax rate to a more moderate one.

      • Guy in TN says:

        This is a good informative write-up, thanks Eric.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Yes but no. This explanation is internally coherent but doesn’t describe how CBs actually work, and the outlandish predictions of MMT allowing the Federal government a free lunch actually work themselves out of missing these details.

        First is the misunderstanding that CBs set interest rates, they don’t they target interest rates under specific conditions. Take the Federal Funds Rate, the FFR is a target for the price that banks charge each other for overnight lending without collateral, and the Fed adjusts toward this target through Open Market Operations (OMO). OMO basically work by shifting the need for overnight borrowing and the supply of funds available for overnight lending, if the Fed has a 2% target and borrowing costs are higher then they print money (digitally now) and purchase securities from banks. This increases the amount of cash within the banking system and decreases the amount of securities, and if the rate is to low they do the opposite with the opposite effect. However the lack of collateral means that there can be divergence between the Federal Funds Rate and the actual inter-bank lending rate, and if you look at the graph linked you will see a series of spikes in the inter-bank rate that occur with destabilizing events like 9/11, Bear Stearns having issues, the collapse of Lehman Brothers etc.

        This combination has two major implications. First is that the Fed can either target the interest rate, and adjust the monetary base in response to the demands of the market or they can target the monetary base and let the interest rate fall where it may based on the demands of the market. The second is that the Fed controls neither during a crisis through the Federal Funds rate and that the market will break away from the target rate with enough pressure.

        To jump forward a little what you have with a fiat system is a combination of repression and permission from the markets. All fiat systems have some level of repression built in, preventing the creation of competing currencies or banking institutions is basically a given, but if you aren’t going for full on repression then the market is going to be setting prices and that is the breaking point for MMT.

    • Atlas says:

      Brad Delong wrote a post on MMT a couple weeks ago that you might find interesting if you haven’t read it already. He raises a set of additional concerns with it that are I think somewhat different from the ones you suggested (not necessarily implying that your concerns aren’t valid.) Key excerpt:

      In most ways, Modern Monetary Theory—Functional Finance—is just macroeconomic common sense:

      We do not like high unemployment.
      We do not like excessive inflation.
      Thus the government should make it its first priority to use its tools of economic management so that we do not experience either.
      And maybe the government needs to be a little bit clever in how it uses fiscal and when and how it uses monetary policy to keep the task of financing the national debt from becoming an undue or even an unsustainable burden.

      So what can go wrong with MMT?

      Three things can go wrong:

      MMT implicitly assumes that the debt market is efficient—that if the government debt gets on an unduly burdensome and unsustainable path, we will see that immediately in high interest rates. If that is not true, the government and the economy can face one hell of a mess should a bubble in government bond prices develop and then collapse. Cf. Greece.

      MMT implicitly assumes that wealth-owners react rapidly when they see trouble ahead—that when investors conclude that the government cannot or will not balance its books without ultimate high inflation, inflation will jump immediately.

      MMT implicitly assumes that extra financial leverage generated by the high values of collateral assets does not serve as a significant source of risk—that it is only on a small scale that investors will borrow foolishly just because they can.

      If any of these three implicit assumptions are false, then policies that are good according to MMT can be bad in reality: Interest rates low enough to make financing government debt easy may generate an economy prone to financial collapse and disaster. Today’s inflation may not be a good enough warning sign of long run fiscal policy unsustainability. Collapses in government bond bubbles may generate “sudden stops” that require extremely rapid fiscal adjustment that the political system cannot face.

    • JPNunez says:

      There’s no free lunch. Cookies from the magic jar actually fill you up and provide some nutrition. Money at best can be burned for heat, at worst it is a bunch of bits in some computer. Sure, it can be exchanged for goods and services, but how many? That depends on the market value of money.

      It’s not that the government can take money away via taxes. It’s that the only reason we value the american dollar, japanese yen, or whatever sovereign money is that the american/japanese/whatever government is creating demand for it via the threat of charging taxes at the end of the fiscal year. If you are an american citizen, you know you gotta pay taxes around April, so you better get ahold of some of those sweet sweet dollars somehow. The whole idea of “fiat money” having value because the market and supply and demand is bunk. The dollar has value because Uncle Sam demands some of them each year or it will take away your house and send you to prison. Yes, yes, taxation is theft, we all know. We also know what a true fiat money looks like. Bitcoin has no taxes, and only some new bitcoins can be created. Turns out bitcoin is extremely volatile compared to sovereign currencies.

      Second thing is that when the government wants to purchase goods or services, it has two alternatives. It may issue debt to recover dollars, or it may print money. MMT does not say that you _have_ to print money, only that it is an alternative. Current american government only has one option, debt.

      The other thing is that, to keep the economy running close to full capacity, you need to make unemployment disappear. MMT proposes a job guarantee to combat this, where the government will give you a job at a given wage -probably close to minimum wage-. Thus anyone who really wants a job can get one, but it is not a great job. People will move on to a better job as soon as they can get one, and the government will just stop paying them. The government may even adjust the guaranteed job wage as it needs to control inflation -remember, low unemployment will drive inflation up normally-. Do note that the job guarantee is not a guarantee that you will get a good job at a salary you like where you like.

      It is interesting that MMT is becoming popular right now. My theory is that the current american economy is reflecting quasi-MMT. Trump gave a tax cut and didn’t raise taxes, thus increasing the deficit and helping the economy. The gig economy is taking the role of the job guarantee somewhat. Some of those jobs are being financed by venture capitals hoping to get a return some day, but if they don’t, they will have basically burned away their money, in a way that _resemble_ taxes. The problem is that the deficit IS debt, and those interests will have to be paid by the US government, and that the gig economy may collapse if VC decides the investment is not ever paying back and decides to put their money elsewhere -potentially driving up inflation without lowering unemployment-.

      I see some problems with implementing MMT. I think the biggest one that is not discussed much, is that the job guarantee wage may become a political instead of a technical decision. Other is that international banks qualify countries partially by their deficit, and MMT just saying that some deficit is alright may hurt them for no reason. Problems with runaway inflation are well known.

      There’s no free lunch; MMT will try to keep a country running at full capacity, but it is not without risks.

      edit: something else that’s not a free lunch. The government, even with their money printing machine running full tilt, cannot really buy stuff that does not exist. Bernie Sanders cannot promise to give a trip to Mars to all americans, simply because there aren’t enough rockets or fuel or pilots, or installations. And America can’t probably even build enough. But he can promise “free”* college to every student, because the colleges and teachers exist right now. It’s just that private citizens are paying for them. MMT doesn’t change this fact. If the Green New Deal promoters promise to pay for whatever using MMT, the question of free lunch is whether whatever they promise is buyable, whether it actually exist, or the capacity to built the promised stuff exists.

      *it is not free, obviously, it has to be paid for somehow. The question is whether the way it is paid for is efficient politically agreeable or not.

      • Randy M says:

        The whole idea of “fiat money” having value because the market and supply and demand is bunk. The dollar has value because Uncle Sam demands some of them each year or it will take away your house and send you to prison.

        That’s an interesting thought. Good Ironic riposte to the libertarian critique.
        “What do you mean, the government creates no value? Apparently you don’t value fear quite highly enough.”

    • Urstoff says:

      It’s hard not to see it as a theory people believe because it would make their political goals easier to implement.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not very well-versed in economics, but one thing that I never understood about the policies supported by MMT proponents is why any same person would keep using dollars under those circumstances.

      If the government is explicitly going to inflate or tax away any earnings or wealth denominated in dollars, then the very first thing that anyone with sense is going to do is to sell as many dollars as possible in favor of cryptocurrency, commodities and commodity-backed currencies like electronic gold, or foreign currencies. You’d need to keep some dollars for show, but the dollar would be more like the Venezuelan Bolivar or the Cuban National Peso: a currency of last resort, valuable only to the extent that the government can punish you for using anything else as money.

      To the extent that the dollar is being manipulated in a way which reduces it’s value as a medium of exchange and a store of value, people will find alternative mediums of exchange and stores of value. Not perfectly, of course, but even the most repressive socialist governments in history haven’t been able to stamp out their black market currencies.

      • JPNunez says:

        But in real life the government is already taxing away your earnings and you still don’t switch to bitcoin fully.

        Taxes are still going to be charged, so you will still need dollars. Conversely, people hired by the government, or who sell products to the government will have dollars in their pockets, so if you wish to do any kind of commerce with them, you will need to accept dollars, even if it is as trivial as splitting a bill with them and receiving some money in the exchange.

        Something interesting about MMT is that it means that it would be incredibly dangerous for any country to start accepting taxes in bitcoin (and conversely, extremely desirable for bitcoin fans to make their governments to accept bitcoin as taxes directly). AFAIK the few instances that do use an intermediary. It seems Ohio does, which is double dumb as Ohio cannot actually print its own money. MMT only works on the sovereign level.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          You missed the emphasis in my sentence.

          Taxes are obnoxious but after taxes I still end up keeping most of my own money, enough that it makes more sense to keep collecting my salary in dollars instead of hawking trinkets to tourists in exchange for their Euros or Yuan. At the end of the day, dollars are still useful for consumption in the present and investment in the future so I’ll keep working to obtain more of them.

          If government policy is to start issuing trillion-dollar bills and/or levying confiscatory taxes to pay for job guarantees and the like, that logic changes substantially. At that point, it makes more sense to leave the country or, if that’s not possible, to sell my labor on the black market for more useful currencies. Maybe I’d need to work a “guaranteed” job on the side to keep up appearances and stay out of prison, but the dollars that job would pay wouldn’t be useful for any of the things that I actually use money for.

          • JPNunez says:

            That’s doubtful, given how America constantly invests in new wars, with trillion dollars bills, and yet you still haven’t switched to bitcoins.

          • Guy in TN says:

            If government policy is to start issuing trillion-dollar bills and/or levying confiscatory taxes to pay for job guarantees and the like, that logic changes substantially. At that point, it makes more sense to leave the country or, if that’s not possible, to sell my labor on the black market for more useful currencies.

            You might find this to be grounds to leave the country, but other people might find it be a reason to immigrate to that country. For example, a country with high inflation is a good place to immigrate to if most of your wealth is in non-monetary assets.

            As for turning to the black market, its true that high taxes incentivize this more than low taxes, but the illegality aspect acts as a countering disincentive. With strong enough law enforcement, we can push the costs of doing illegal activity to be quite high.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @JPNunez,

            Maybe I’ve misunderstood but I’m pretty sure that the money spent on America’s various wars was borrowed with the intent to eventually pay them off with money from tax revenues.

            MMT advocates borrowing money and then paying the nominal value by printing money. That’s less like our current deficit spending and more like the spending habits of Weimar Republic or the various present-day failed socialist states.

            @Guy in TN,

            Are you prepared to endorse “stronger law enforcement” than Cuba or Venezuela? Those countries aren’t exactly known for their tremendous leniency yet clearly aren’t able to enforce themselves out of this problem.

            Historically, the case is even worse. I don’t see the US ever exceeding the USSR or the DDR in law enforcement and neither was able to punish their way out of this problem.

          • Nornagest says:

            a country with high inflation is a good place to immigrate to if most of your wealth is in non-monetary assets.

            It’s not as bad as it would be if all your wealth was in cash, but it’s not doing you any favors, either. Inflation doesn’t make your wealth any more valuable in real terms, it just makes the numbers for it bigger — and, if it’s high enough, it can make it harder to convert parts of your wealth into things you actually want. If you want to sell a house, you expect it to take a few months to close, and your country’s undergoing Seventies-like inflation (~10%), then the sticker price on that house is worth appreciably less at the end than it was at the beginning.

          • JPNunez says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            MMT does not advocate _only_ printing money. Bonds will still be issued, they just won’t be the only source of money. In the end, the government, and thus its people, still need to pay at least the interests on the issued debt. And economists will point out that said debt cannot be defaulted because…the government can always print money to pay for them. Thus going back to the original problem.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @JPNunez,

            Ok, so say that the Federal government announced tomorrow that this was the new plan. From now on, Treasury Bonds will either be paid off through issuing new bonds or by printing an amount of money equal to their nominal value. Would you be more or less likely to invest in Treasury Bonds upon hearing that announcement?

            If it’s impossible for the government to default on its debt, the buy / don’t buy decision boils down to your perception of interest rate risk. Basically, the interest on the bond needs to be higher than inflation by a large enough margin to justify putting money in Treasury Bonds instead of buying gold or Bitcoins or wampum.

            Well, the government just announced that they’re going to inflate their way out of paying bonds if people stop buying them. So that question is pretty much answered: if you’re stuck holding the bag when other people stop buying government bonds, they’ve promised to wipe out your profit.

            That means that nobody with any sense is going to lend to Uncle Sam and the dollar drops in value. Which means that people will try to sell their dollars, leading to a greater drop in value. Etc, etc.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Ok, so say that the Federal government announced tomorrow that this was the new plan. From now on, Treasury Bonds will either be paid off through issuing new bonds or by printing an amount of money equal to their nominal value. Would you be more or less likely to invest in Treasury Bonds upon hearing that announcement?

            This has been the de facto policy of the US government for nearly 70 years.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You might find this to be grounds to leave the country, but other people might find it be a reason to immigrate to that country. For example, a country with high inflation is a good place to immigrate to if most of your wealth is in non-monetary assets.

            Oh man no its not.

          • Guy in TN says:

            You make a good point Nornagest, but I do see a positional advantage from a business perspective of moving into a market where every other business’s wealth is evaporating but yours is not. But yes, all else equal you would see no gain in value.

            But there’s also the question of what government is going to do with this shifting of wealth (e.g. job guarantee), which could also be attractive to immigration.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This is a common complaint against MMT that actually has a ready answer. Purchasing power of individual dollars doesn’t matter as almost no dollars are held as cash on hand. Losing 2% or even 10% of a dollars nominal value in a year is no big deal if 95%+ of your dollars are in a bank account whose interest rate is >= the inflation rate (realistically it can be lower as long as those losses are less than the transaction costs of moving to another currency.

        As an example the US has inflated away the value of a dollar consistently over the last century + and yet almost no one has abandoned the dollar.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The interest rate on savings has been lower than inflation for my entire adult lifetime, so it’s a bit of a nonsequitor to even bring it up.

          The more relevant factor is the opportunity cost of transitioning to a different currency. The cost isn’t trivial, but it isn’t so high that it’s a license to print money. There’s a reason why I mentioned the Bolivar and the National Peso; this switch to black-market money is something that actually happens when governments print too much money.

          When people talk about MMT here and in the media, the numbers they talk about are huge. AOC’s Green New Deal for example is supposed to cost $2 trillion over a decade, roughly one fifth of the entire world’s supply of dollars. Paying for that by printing money means cutting the value of a dollar by 20% on top of existing inflation, which looks like approximately doubling it based playing with an inflation calculator.

          If a $1 today is worth 60¢ instead of 80¢ in ten years, that changes the math on a lot of decisions about what I do today.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The site ate my reply: I may have stumbled across a banned word.

          While the cost of switching currencies is non-trivial, the examples I gave of the National Peso and the Bolivar prove that it can and does happen even in extraordinarily repressive states with strict capital controls. Inflate the currency enough and it doesn’t matter how brutal your punishments for using the wrong currency are.

          MMT proponents like to mock the fear of inflation and extol the virtues of printing money to pay for extravagant social programs. That doesn’t fill me with confidence that they’re going to carefully manage the money supply and avoid hyperinflation.

          • JPNunez says:

            MMT relies on the assumption that the stuff you want to pay for is actually sold, priced in the currency you print.

            Venezuela nor Cuba are not in that case.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Your examples prove the ability of a country to ruin its currency, but not that simply printing money will ruin it.

          • John Schilling says:

            So what are the examples MMT proponents can point to, showing a government greatly increasing its ability(*) to pay for real stuff by printing money, without ruining its currency?

            * Beyond that achieved by collecting taxes and taking on real debt.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ John Schilling

            Japan.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      An aside: how often does the term inflation refer to the increase in the amount of money in circulation, and how often to an increase in overall prices? I generally hear it defined formally as the latter, but also hear it in reference to the former. One typically leads to the other, of course, but I could imagine some pathological case where you have one and not the other. Is there a term that draws the distinction more explicitly?

      • Eric Rall says:

        I think the former is an Austrian School thing. One of the central arguments of Austrian School economics is that putting new money into circulation is distortionary, since it artificially lowers interest rates and encourages people to over-borrow (both for capital investment and consumer spending) and under-invest (in terms of savings rate).

        The former is the standard definition of inflation in mainstream economics (both Keynesian and Monetarist/Neoclassical), since in those frameworks it’s believed that the main harm from inflation is that unexpected changes in price level can radically change the real terms of long-term contracts (purchase agreements, wage agreements, fixed-rate loans, etc) from what the parties to those contracts thought they were agreeing to.

        I’ve encountered the terms “money supply inflation” or “debasement” or “increase in money supply” for the former, and “price inflation” for the latter.

      • dick says:

        Inflation is defined as a rise in prices, which is a function of both the amount of money in circulation and the amount of valuable stuff in circulation. An “increase in the amount of money in circulation” can be deflationary, if it’s not enough to keep up with GDP growth.

    • sfoil says:

      Thanks for the replies & discussion.

  24. brad says:

    https://medium.com/@jeffreypbezos/no-thank-you-mr-pecker-146e3922310f

    This is quite spicy! Methinks some lawyers are going to be hauled in front of bar committees over this one.

    • John V says:

      Mr. Pecker threatens to publish dick pics… nominative determinism strikes again

    • jgr314 says:

      What do you think is the bar ethics violation in this case? I don’t know this area of law in detail, but think this is pretty well trodden ground for AMI. Also, very quick check of 18 USC Ch 40 suggests that this doesn’t meet the conditions for (a federal claim of) extortion or blackmail: link text

      Which is not to say I support AMI at all, I’m just curious about the technicalities of the potential claims and remedies for Bezos.

      • J Mann says:

        I’m not an expert, but the question would seem to be whether the statement AMI was seeking was a “thing of value” or “valuable thing” under 18 USC 873 and 875(d). There’s a brief discussion of the issue in US v. Hobgood, ultimately concluding that a valuable but non-property based concession can support an extortion charge.

        (Another issue whether the negotiations were structured in a way to avoid extortion – it’s theoretically possible to say: “Your client claims that my client can’t publish the dick pics because of copyright, we disagree. My client claims your client is defaming him, you disagree. How about we settle both issues.” On the other hand, it’s probably not OK to say “We have dick pics – if you don’t shut up, we’ll publish them.”)

      • dick says:

        Is it legal to threaten to publish stolen pictures of someone’s dick? I’m not clear on how that isn’t revenge porn.

        Also, isn’t it possible for lawyers to be censured for something technically legal, if enough people agree that it’s appalling and un-lawyerlike?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      1) I sincerely hope Bezos prevails because I do not want to live in a world where there is any chance I will open up a news story and see provocative photos of an unclad Jeff Bezos.

      2) The owner of the Washington Post accusing anyone else of abusing “journalism” for political purposes is extremely rich.

      • mendax says:

        2) The owner of the Washington Post accusing anyone else of abusing “journalism” for political purposes is extremely rich.

        Indeed, he is.

      • Randy M says:

        1) I sincerely hope Bezos prevails because I do not want to live in a world where there is any chance I will open up a news story and see provocative photos of an unclad Jeff Bezos.

        You especially don’t want that in your browser history when you go to Amazon and they give you recommendations for Valentines day gifts.

      • dick says:

        What has Bezos/WaPo done that is comparable to what the National Inquirer is being accused of?

        • albatross11 says:

          I’m glad Bezos did the “publish and be damned” thing. I wonder how often newspaper coverage is affected by this kind of blackmail. If Bezos had caved, then I suppose he could have managed to cause the investigation into AMI to stop and stories about AMI to cease to be written.

          In an ideal world, a prosecutor charging these guys for blackmail would require they disclose all the times they had done this in the past–not the specific blackmail material, but what news outlets and what stories were suppressed as a result.

      • Reasoner says:

        I don’t think the Washington Post is that bad. Some of their culture war articles have been remarkably evenhanded and thoughtful, for instance.

    • Deiseach says:

      I thought this was common practice for tabloids? Ring up the victim and say “we’re going to run a story about you anyway, so give us an exclusive interview or else we’ll make you look like Jack the Ripper, your choice”?

      Granted, that’s UK tabloids which have been reined in a bit recently, but are American tabloids (or indeed newspapers in general) much more ethical than that? Bezos is rich enough, and has his own media organ to boot so he can fight them on that front, to be able to fight back which is what takes it outside of the run of the mill ‘celeb versus redtop’ tussle.

      I really, really do NOT want to see pictures of Jeff Bezos in the nude, near-nude or indeed anymore than I can help even fully-clothed; I saw one of him above an article on this which, whether it was an unfortunate angle or not, made him look like he had a giraffe’s neck. So I’m in support of “no please do not publish even pixellated pics of Little Jeff poking out through the zipper of his shorts”. On the other hand, if he’s in the middle of a divorce and affair with a married woman, then he should be expecting prurient media interest of exactly this kind, and however those got leaked (from his side, the mistress’ side, or the spurned wife’s side) it was damn careless.

      I have seen some speculation that the divorce talks have turned sour and this is the soon to be ex-wife getting some retaliation in first by leaking these, anyone got any opinions on that?

      • Randy M says:

        I have seen some speculation that the divorce talks have turned sour and this is the soon to be ex-wife getting some retaliation in first by leaking these, anyone got any opinions on that?

        Only that I find my sympathy varies significantly depending of if these pictures were sent to the ex-wife earlier in the marriage or as a propositioning of his fling.
        Still with you and Conrad in not wanting to wanting to not see them.

        • Deiseach says:

          Only that I find my sympathy varies significantly depending of if these pictures were sent to the ex-wife earlier in the marriage or as a propositioning of his fling.

          Like I said, Randy M, it’s all rumours and speculation and probably about as true as “leprechauns with pots of gold at the end of the rainbow” but how I saw it put was that the wife found these on his phone and leaked them out of “so see how you like this, buster” motivations. I don’t want to know the juicy details of the grubby scandal so I have no idea how the news of the fling was broken: did he tell her “Honey, I’ve found a new love” or did she find out by accident or what, but it does seem like he was carrying on with Mrs Next Door while both were still married to their respective spouses before any periods of “loving exploration and trial separation” happened, so presumably there was some evidence of naughtiness to be found lying around if Soon To Be Ex-Mrs Bezos went looking for it or stumbled over it (people do seem to be remarkably stupid about their affairs when they’re in the pink hazy throes of romance and think they’re being a lot cleverer and more discreet than they are in fact).

      • John Schilling says:

        Granted, that’s UK tabloids which have been reined in a bit recently, but are American tabloids (or indeed newspapers in general) much more ethical than that?

        My understanding is that this used to be common in the 1920s through roughly 1970s, with local “scandal sheets” that specialized in such behavior, but that the National Enquirer and a few others of its ilk tried to position themselves a step or two higher on the respectability ladder than that and the ones with literal blackmail as a business model mostly went away for reasons I don’t understand.

        And I think AMI sank to that level in this case not because they wanted to take up that business model, but wanted some leverage in an existing political/legal dispute with Bezos.

    • toastengineer says:

      Twitter seems to think this whole thing is some kind of 4-dimensional chess ploy by Trump to interfere with some kind of investigation targeting him. Anyone know if there’s any truth to that?

      • suntzuanime says:

        Given that Twitter seems to think literally every single event that occurs is some kind of 4-dimensional chess ploy by Trump to interfere with some kind of investigation targeting him, I wouldn’t put too much stock in it without more details.

        • albatross11 says:

          Can we point to other examples of Trump playing 4-dimensional chess and having it pay off for him? That sure doesn’t look like what happened in the nomination and election–he was scarily effective there and wiped the floor with a bunch of seasoned professional politicians, but he didn’t seem to do it by machiavellian scheming.

  25. dick says:

    Any strong pro or con opinions about constructivist learning, and more generally the education ideas of Jean Piaget, for kindergartners and elementary school?

    for those not familiar: Wiki says “There are many flavors of constructivism, but one prominent theorist is Jean Piaget, who focused on how humans make meaning in relation to the interaction between their experiences and their ideas. He considered himself to be a genetic epistemologist, meaning he was interested in the genesis of knowledge. His views tended to focus on human development in relation to what is occurring with an individual as distinct from development influenced by other persons.” The tl;dr seems to be that it involves more group work than solo work, less tests, and generally a more montessori-like approach to letting kids pick their activity.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t have a strong opinion on the teaching method, just a general skepticism towards educational theories, but using “genetic” in that way should be punishable by caning.

      Picking a name for his school of thought which invites laymen to confuse it with a field of science isn’t just misleading but it hurts the credibility of science in the public mind by associating it with some guy’s idle musings.

      • Alejandro says:

        Piaget developed his theories (and named them) in the first half of the 20th century, when genetics what far less established than it is now, and the etymological meaning of the word as describing origins would have been the primary meaning for most educated people.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          Also, French was his native language, no? He may very well have been mentally translating some French term that has a stronger origins-as-opposed-to-genes connotation.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          That was my first thought, but Piaget chose this particular name in 1950 and genetic was pretty well established by then, at least in English. It may have been different in French.

          • albatross11 says:

            Language and common understanding have moved since he published his books.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nope, language moved before he published his books.

          • ilikekittycat says:

            “Genetic epistemology” is clearly riffing conceptually on what Nietzsche was doing with “Zur Genealogie der Moral” which would have been well known to European intellectuals since 1887

          • A1987dM says:

            FWIW, I recently read a nuclear physics paper from the 1970s in English using the word “genetic” in the original sense. At first I thought that was just an extension the metaphor of “parent nuclide” and “daughter nuclide”, then I remembered its etymology.

            (But both for them and for Plaget the ambiguity is most likely unintentional. What really bothers me is when people say e.g. “imaginary” or “positive” in the mathematical or electrical sense but clearly expecting the reader to misunderstand them to mean “in the mind” or “optimistic” respectively (i.e. in statements where if the reader only got the actual meaning they’d probably be like “so what?”).)

      • dick says:

        I don’t have a strong opinion on the teaching method, just a general skepticism towards educational theories

        I’m the opposite. I dislike the default “30 kids sit in desks while an adult tells them stuff that will be on the standardized test” approach enough that I’m down to try anything that isn’t clearly worse, so I’m here asking if this stuff is known to be clearly worse.

        • albatross11 says:

          There have been so many educational fads that have amounted to either rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or poking holes in a few lifeboats, that my default is to be pretty skeptical of the next educational fad. (In a similar way, I’m moderately against the next war we propose to start a priori–they keep turning out badly enough that a new proposed war will require a fair bit of evidence in its favor before I won’t think it’s a bad idea.).

          I don’t know the educational psychology literature, but my impression is that teacher certification and educational achievement shows basically no correlation with quality of education. And I think much smaller class sizes and one-on-one tutoring both do show some positive impact. But that costs money–perhaps less money, if you’re not requiring your teachers to have a masters in education, but still you’re paying more salaries for the same number of kids. Anyone know more and want to chime in?

          • greenwoodjw says:

            Most educational fads are geared towards obscuring student performance on objective measures (New Math, Whole Word Recognition, Common Core) to present a narrative of “improving schools” without the actual improving part. (My assessment)

            Teacher certification and education is about gatekeeping and controlling supply. There was a study some years ago that found that schools of education were made up of the worst students at their universities, and that the schools were geared to driving out average-intelligence people. My assessment is that the schools of education are controlled by the unions, and the unions have optimized the schools for compliant union members instead of talented educators. The added credential requirements serve the dual purpose of further restricting supply and allowing legislators to claim they are Doing Something about education.

            First-In, Last-Out is also a thing. There was a case in Wisconsin where a New Teacher of the Year recipient was fired because of staff reductions, whereas in NYC abusive teachers are staffed in “rubber rooms” – ie school facilities with no students because they can’t be trusted with children. (The Wisconsin thing actually helped push Act 10 into reality)

            I’m convinced that the current educational model is optimized to maximize dues-paying members of the educational unions and not student achievement. Student achievement only matters where 1) parents are politically active and 2) The schools are not insulated from political pressure. Then it needs to be good enough to avoid political pressure to strip them of control.

    • Viliam says:

      The description in Wikipedia is too abstract for this late hour. I would like to see a simplified version with examples in style “Piaget believed X, as opposed to his opponents who believed Y”, where X and Y would be simple statements using common language.

      My impression from the text was that Piaget believed that children gradually unlock various “mental skills”, largely as a consequence of gaining physical skills. And because physical skills for little kids come more or less predictably at certain age, so do the corresponding mental skills. Maybe. (It would be nice to have a list of the physical skills and corresponding mental skills; and perhaps specific predictions about disabled people.)

      My reaction: Not sure what exactly Piaget was arguing against. Was the previous (implicit) belief that all skills develop linearly during the child’s life, and Piaget was the first one to say: “actually, it’s more like until some moment the child doesn’t use this skill at all… then in some situation has the first successful-ish experience… and encouraged by the success experiments with the same thing over and over again… and in a relatively short time, the child learns to use the skill well“?

      Because, yes, this is what I observe as a parent. Small children develop in “jumps”. If you observe the child all the time, you will notice the intermediate steps, but from a position of a grandma who hasn’t seen the child for a week or two, the skill just magically appeared overnight. Like, at first the child seems unable to grasp the idea that you need to put the Lego brick with its empty side down, and just drops it randomly… and the child is stuck at this level for months… and then at some moment you look and the child already built a tower five bricks tall, and does it repeatedly.

      On the other hand, is this fundamentally different from e.g. not knowing Python programming for twenty years, and then writing recursive code after another month? It just means that skills only start developing after we start actually training them. They are not developing automatically, just because we get older. — So maybe this was Piaget’s main message, dunno.

      But also, Piaget connects specific skills to specific ages. (Which would go against my example with Python; not everyone learns Python when they are twenty.) It is possible that with kids, things like talking and walking are prerequisites for some mental skills, and that talking or walking develop predictably at certain age, which makes the corresponding mental skills also predictable. But this would only apply to things that “everyone does” (in given culture).

      First, we would need the specific table of physical and mental skills, to verify the correspondence. Specifically, we would have to observe physically gifted or disabled kids, and mentally gifted or disabled kids, to verify that if a physical skill comes significantly sooner or later than usual, the corresponding mental skill also does.

      Second, we need to be careful not to apply this theory blindly also to things “not everyone does”, such as chess skills. (Or perhaps rationality.) The timing of such skills will rather depend on when the child had the first opportunity to use them; with physical skills perhaps determining the minimum age. (And we can stimulate the child to grow faster by giving it the proper environment and toys… which leads us to Montessori pedagogics.)

      tl;dr — my understanding of Piaget is that human mental skills are a “tech tree” which also includes some physical skills as prerequisites; and those physical skills unlock at predictable age, which makes certain other nodes of the tree also age-predictable

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Why should there be opponents? Most curriculum design is out of habit, without any opinion on how learning works.

        • albatross11 says:

          Last year my son took precalc from a teacher who’d been teaching the subject for about 30 years. The county recently imposed a new curriculum on the class (I think under the influence of common core), which the teacher was required to follow.

          The teacher very clearly thought the new curriculum was idiotic. And a 30-year veteran math teacher is a genuine expert on the matter. I doubt my son’s teacher has a detailed academic theory of how learning works, but I think he has a really, really good mental model of how kids do or don’t learn the specific bits of math he teaches, from decades of experience, and thus what order it makes the most sense to teach things in.

      • Art Vandelay says:

        My understanding of his theory is that at it’s most basic, doing always precedes formal understanding in learning. So counting comes before a concept of numbers, or — for an example relevant to much of the commentariat here — if you want to code, you need to build things and then work out why they work.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          For what it is worth, this is a reasonably accurate description of how I learn math.

          I read about a new concept (say, the p-adic numbers), and then practice doing simple things with them (taking valuations of rational numbers, adding and multiplying, applying Hensel’s lemma, whatever) and after I have a little hands-on familiarity I go back to learning the theory. Of course, in pure math this can be obfuscated somewhat by the fact that “working with an object” sometimes means “proving things about it.”

      • dick says:

        I think the tl;dr would be that it inverts the normal didactic model – instead of the teacher telling the student something and then asking them to repeat it, the teacher asks the student first, and then discusses the answer as a way of teaching them about it.

        It’s also closely related to the “storylines” method of teaching, which involves constructing narratives around facts to make them more memorable – instead of “today I’m going to tell you about Mars”, “Today we’re going to make up a story together about a space explorer and what they discover”. But I’m not sure if that’s an integral part of Constructivism or just another approach that is sometimes used by the same people.

  26. Gossage Vardebedian says:

    Who writes the most realistic political/spy thrillers? Not necessarily the best, but the most “maybe this could actually sort of happen”-ish thrillers? I’ve just started reading a couple, and I find myself grading them partly on my – likely poor – sense of how plausible the plots are.

    • MrApophenia says:

      General consensus is supposed to be John LeCarre, right? He actually was a British spy through much of the 50s and 60s, who started writing spy novels while still working for British intelligence, which were quite unusual at the time for the degree to which they portray intelligence work as not just morally messy, but also ultimately as a kind of banal, bureaucratic job much like any other government job a lot of the time. His most famous spy protagonist, George Smiley, is a pudgy, unassuming civil servant who couldn’t fight his way out of a wet paper bag but is very good at the actual work of spycraft.

      • Trofim_Lysenko says:

        Le Carre’s early books are quite good at capturing the atmosphere and the technical details of British Intelligence in the 50s and early 60s, from the perspective of a former insider disillusioned with and very critical of the Cold War. The insider knowledge that tempers the grinding of that particular axe is less accurate and less relevant the later in his body of work you go, so things veer away from accuracy there, though in different ways than Ian Fleming or Vince Flynn. I would take everything after The Looking Glass War with increasingly large measures of salt as far as both realism and insight goes.

        To be clear, I recommend him in general as a good writer, though I personally am a lot less fond of pretty much everything after “Smiley’s People”.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Yeah, start by reading the Smiley books (including Spy Who Came in from the Cold, which only features Smiley as a supporting character, but is both integral to the ongoing plot and utterly brilliant; omitting A Murder of Quality if you feel like it, because although Smiley is the main character it’s kind of just a standalone detective story).

        So that’s:

        Call for the Dead
        (A Murder of Quality)
        The Spy who Came in from the Cold
        Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
        The Honourable Schoolboy
        Smiley’s People
        (A Legacy of Spies – not really necessary, but kind of a nice coda)

        You won’t regret it.

        • spkaca says:

          Call for the Dead
          (A Murder of Quality)
          The Spy who Came in from the Cold

          Yes to these, but the later books are weaker – the same amount of plot stretched to ten times the length. I ended up skim-reading TTSS and Smiley’s People, dipping in every 10 pages or so to see if anything had happened (usually it hadn’t).

          • Tarpitz says:

            Matter of taste, I suppose. I love both Tinker, Tailor and Smiley’s People, but they certainly aren’t as lean as the earlier books.

    • Nornagest says:

      Whether a particular take is realistic for its period, needs to take into account that Western spycraft changed hugely around the time of the early Cold War. In WWII, Western spying revolved around ad-hoc military organizations like the OSS, most of which were formed during or shortly before the war and basically all of which were making stuff up as they went along. Agents were given a pretty long leash, and the line between spying and special forces action was blurry. It was immature in every sense and often ended up being a playground for adventurers and con artists. Postwar, though, Western spies were spun off into separate, civilian branches of government, grew much more organized, shed most of their military associations and were generally brought to heel.

      Ian Fleming’s background was WWII-era — he never did field work but was attached to British naval intelligence from 1939. His writing was highly dramatized, reflects a secondhand point of view, and often had elements of power fantasy to it, but, in a World War II context, it wouldn’t have been quite as unrealistic as it’s generally thought to be. It is, however, badly out of place for its nominal Cold War setting.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’d add Len Deighton to John LeCarre for “this feels right for the period”, period pieces.

      And it’s worth noting that Tom Clancy actually used to be pretty good at this. He’s more famous as an author of high-tech war stories, but e.g. “The Hunt For Red October” was a spy thriller merging with a sea story, “The Cardinal in the Kremlin” was pure spy story, and a lot of the others had a good chunk of espionage/intelligence/tradecraft stuff mixed in with the technology and the military parts. But you need to avoid anything where Jack Ryan holds a political office, and anything where Clancy has a co-author.

      I don’t know anyone who has done this really well for the post-Cold-war era, and share the desire for recommendations.

    • Enkidum says:

      Graham Greene has a number of excellent ones – off the top of my head Our Man In Havana, The Ugly American, The Human Factor.

  27. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAbab8aP4_A

    This video argues that Democrats have been behaving like cooperebots with the Republicans, and it’s because a lot of Democrats believe that if good procedures are followed, the result will inevitably be a good outcome.

    It strikes me as a fair description of how Supreme Court appointments have been handled lately.

    Anyway, I think there could be some interesting discussion of game theory in the real world, and also of when following the rules makes sense and when it doesn’t.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I can’t get past the whining over “refuses to do his job.” Mitch McConnell’s job as the Senate Majority Leader is to decide what things come up for a vote on the floor of the Senate. He decided, “not this.” That is his job, and he did it. He also didn’t let funding for Trump’s wall come up for a vote during the first two years of Trump’s presidency. I don’t hear any whining from the Democrats about McConnell “not doing his job” there.

      ETA: And the monumental hubris to call his own interests and his own side “values neutral.” “My values are so unquestionable they’re all just ‘neutral.'”

      • The Nybbler says:

        Casting one’s policy preferences as an elected official’s or body’s “job” is something that’s been done by the media and pundits for a long time. It’s obnoxious, but it seems to work for them.

        As for the Democrats acting as cooperate-bot… have we forgotten the Kavanaugh hearings already?

        • Randy M says:

          As for the Democrats acting as cooperate-bot… have we forgotten the Kavanaugh hearings already?

          When I do it, it’s a Tit, when you do it, it’s a Tat.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Cooperate-bot doesn’t do it at all; if there’s any titting and tatting going on, it’s not from cooperate-bot

          • Randy M says:

            Hmm…. Well, then, what you call a defection was actually the wheels of justice, and if you can’t see it, that’s kind of shady itself, innit?

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Aw man, what a ripoff. It promised “violence, racism, and Nazis being Nazis” but didn’t deliver. Just a bunch of guff about how it’s okay – nay, morally required – to break the rules if you really, really believe you’re right.

    • J Mann says:

      The argument is that Democrats have been unreasonably cooperative about Supreme Court appointments?

      IMHO, the court wars have been an increasing escalation between both sides, but Democrats typically ignore theirs. The Bork wars and Biden’s slowdown of GHWB’s judicial picks are particular offenders.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      The Democrats filibustered Gorsuch, and the GOP nuked it. In what world is this cooperation? It just wasn’t the media spectacle that was Garland or Kavanaugh.

      There’s not much in this video that doesn’t strike me as silly. The GOP is united? Like, did you miss the circus that was the 2016 nomination, let alone the circus that is the GOP House delegation, which ultimately torched both Paul Ryan AND John Boehner? There is massive in-fighting among the GOP, and a lot of GOPers are actually amenable to Democratic policy positions and are possible swing voters, Democrats just aren’t particularly interested in targeting those voters.

      The Democrats have a tough coalition to assemble? They aren’t unified, but this isn’t the Democrats of the 1990s with a substantial Southern coalition. I expect their situation to become worse as the reap what they have sown in terms of radicalizing their own voter base, but right now they are sitting pretty in terms of unity, especially with a figure like Trump to unite them.

      I do agree that I’m not voting for a Democrat under any likely circumstance. The last Democrat I voted for was Pat Quinn in 2010, I don’t think I’ll vote for another one until there is another major party shake-up.

      • BBA says:

        I expect their situation to become worse as the reap what they have sown in terms of radicalizing their own voter base, but right now they are sitting pretty in terms of unity, especially with a figure like Trump to unite them.

        Dood… have you seen what’s been going on in Virginia? Apparently nobody in the party is capable of living up to progressive values – and not even particularly high standards of progressive values at that. And all right, Virginia is just one state with particularly unusual politics, but to me as a committed liberal this doesn’t bode well.

        The US is seemingly drifting into a zero-party system, much like the UK post-Brexit. Both major parties are extremely unpopular, neither has any workable policy ideas, neither would be capable of enacting its policies even if it had any… and yet, somebody has to win the election. This is what I mean by “late democracy.” The only thing worse than it is whatever comes next.

        • suntzuanime says:

          There’s no reason there have to be parties. America was designed to be functional without them. Some people even thought we’d be better off without them. If nobody likes either major party that just creates a power void for McAfee 2020 to fill.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The founders spoke at length against parties. Thomas Jefferson famously said, “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

            He formed the Democratic-Republican Party three years later. However the founders intended to design the system, what they actually created was one that consistently stabilizes on 2 major parties.

          • cassander says:

            every democracy and most even vaguely republican political systems have parties. you can’t have a democracy without them, they’re simply too useful a tool for organizing legislatures to have them not exist.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Well, good news, if it consistently stabilizes on 2 major parties, then we’re not drifting into a zero-party system at all and there’s nothing to worry about.

          • BBA says:

            Not really my point. When elections can’t accomplish anything and nobody expects them to, we no longer have a democracy. I know we have some here who welcome that, but I certainly don’t.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I expect to see more Virginias in the future. Right now, the Democrats do not have the kind of turmoil that characterizes British politics or even the House GOP debacle. But I except that to happen, because the base is further left than the leadership of the party, and that will eventually come to a head.

          Pelosi won her House speakership pretty handily and controls most of the committees with nothing more than token nods to the hard leftists, and Schumer is still leading Senate Democrats.

          • Plumber says:

            @A Definite Beta Guy,

            The Democrats haven’t power yet so nothing recent demonstrates this, but my fear is a repeat of the late 1960’s and ’70’s when it seemed “the New Left” destroyed what had been an ascendant “Liberalism” of the mid-20th century (not 19th century classic liberalism or 1990’s neo-liberalism) chased Johnson out of office, and had the majority of the public look at the likes of the S.L.A. and the Weatherman, go “Nope!”, and turn rightward, destroying the New Deal coalition.

            I can easily imagine collegiate showboating “woke” radical puritan purgists doing the same trick in the 21st century.

            The worst enemy of the Left, is…

            ….Leftists.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        An aside: it weirds me out how frequently I hear members of the [red, blue] tribe talk about how their opposition is united and powerful and if only people on the True and Good side could come together and stop in-fighting, we could overcome Evil and achieve peace in our time.

        Why is this? Is it wishful thinking? Does the Other label of [blue, red] drown out subtler distinctions? Are both sides accomplishing things (Obamacare, Trump’s tax cuts) and then downplaying their own achievements because they are more aware of how hard they were to manage? What?

        • EchoChaos says:

          It’s more that it’s easier to see the divisions in your own ranks because you’re attuned to them, I think.

          Plus, there are plenty of fuzzy purple people out there in both parties. So it’s easy to say “If all the fuzzy purple people in my party would put aside their differences and be true [red, blue] then we’d be an overwhelming majority” without realizing the only reason they’re allied with your party is because you aren’t compelling them to be true [red, blue] and if you did you’d lose them.

          • aristides says:

            I think this first point is the main one. I can’t tell you the difference between Stalin, Lenin, Moa, or Trotsky’s beliefs and views, only their actions. However, Trump and Ted Cruz seem diametrically opposed to me, with Rubio, Kaisich, and Ryan are even further apart in different directions. It’s easy to see differences in your ingroup , but nearly impossible to see them in the outgroup.

          • Viliam says:

            @aristides
            Recently I read some books to understand the differences between Stalin, Lenin, and Trotsky, but my conclusion is that this question simply cannot be answered clearly.

            First, because they kept changing their opinions dramatically, i.e. the difference between one’s beliefs at time T and T+1 was much greater than the difference between any two of them at time T; and that is not because they updated a lot, but rather because they lied a lot. (Autonomous workers’ councils, or centralized strong government? Democracy or dictatorship? Peasants: the good guys, or the scum that needs to be stomped upon? Other left-wing parties: cooperate, or murder all members and their families? Minorities: independence, or forced assimilation? — each of these options was Lenin’s official policy at some moment. His only consistent opinions that I noticed were: “Russia should stop being involved in WW1” and “it is better to have a political party of a few extremists, than of many lukewarm members”.) In Soviet Union, you could have been exposed as an enemy of the revolution and sent to death camps for speaking an opinion which a year later happened to become the official policy.

            Second, because a difference in opinion on some theoretical issue was often just a pretext for the actual conflict, which was: who should be the boss. (Who is the second most important person after Lenin: Stalin or Trotsky? At which moment of his declining health should Lenin pass his power to Stalin?)

            Yeah, I know you just mentioned it as an example of “difficult to understand minor differences in the outgroup”, but you happened to choose an example where I doubt that even a fan could provide an ELI5 summary (that other fans would agree with).

          • cassander says:

            @Viliam

            If you judge them based on what they did, not what they said, it becomes a lot clearer.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Outgroup homogeneity bias. “All those Dems are evil commies united in their hatred for ‘Merica and God.” “All those Reps are evil bigots united in their hatred for women and minorities.”

        • Plumber says:

          @Joseph Greenwood

          “….Are both sides accomplishing things (Obamacare, Trump’s tax cuts) and then downplaying their own achievements because they are more aware of how hard they were to manage?…”

          I think it was @Conrad Honcho who first provided a link to:

          https://samzdat.com/2017/02/01/on-social-states/

          which seems to explain some of that,

          “….Partisans of both the Left and the Right agree on one thing and one thing only: the enemy is running the country. Both are right, which is why both can produce graphs. The Left is winning the culture war, and the Right is winning the economic war. [5] 5. The history of political hegemony in two graphs:

          Marginal tax rate for highest earners (Right)
          Public opinion on same sex marriage (Left) Naturally, neither side wants to hear this, and I expect many comments telling me why their side is both: a) better but still, b) losing…” 

          which seems essentially correct to me. I’ve seen a lot of polls that indicate that the majority of Americans agree more with Democrats on “economic issues” and with Republicans on “social issues”, and my theory is that a lot of vitriol is because the “base” of both parties is getting half a loaf, but not the half they most want.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Citing top marginal tax rates as evidence on its own should basically be ignored, their knowledge of economics is either minimal or they are intentionally cherry picking to support their position.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Because the world is unfair and everything bad that happens to me is somebody else’s fault. It has nothing to do with me or my views being unpersuasive.

  28. Plumber says:

    I’ve been waffling about asking about this because I usually agree with Paul Krugman and his neo-Keynesian economic agenda, but his last column in which he states:

    “…Donald Trump, who ran on promises to expand health care and raise taxes on the rich, began betraying his working-class supporters the moment he took office, pushing through big tax cuts for the rich while trying to take health coverage away from millions.

    These are, it turns out, related stories, all of them tied to the two great absences in American political life.

    One is the absence of socially liberal, economically conservative voters. These were the people Schultz thought he could appeal to; but basically they don’t exist, accounting for only around, yes, 4 percent of the electorate.

    The other is the absence of economically liberal, socially conservative politicians — let’s be blunt and just say “racist populists.” There are plenty of voters who would like that mix, and Trump pretended to be their man; but he wasn’t, and neither is anyone else…”

    bugs me.

    It’s the “racist” label I don’t like (I do think most  people are racist to some extent, but calling out those who don’t fall into the “conservative”, “libertarian”, and “progressive” camps, that is those who are usually what is usually called “populist” as significantly more racist than the rest seems wrong to me), as I know plenty of “social conservatives/economic liberals” (‘liberal’ in the mid-20th century sense, not the 19th century or late 20th century ‘neo-liberal’ sense), many of them aren’t white, so I don’t think the “proponents  of systematic white supremacy racism” slur applies to them, and both the white and none-whites seem mostly motivated by their faiths and being anti-abortion, also there’s enough evidence that Obama-to-Trump voters swung the election in 2016, and while it may be argued that those voters “aren’t anti-black, but are instead anti-Mexican, so still racist”, but I don’t think being anti-more immigration is the same, as I think a strong case may be made that limiting immigration may be effective affirmative-action for black Americans who in the ’60’s and ’70’s were getting closer to economic parity with whites before falling again in the 1980’s, but even if the “racist” slur is true, those voters are still persuadable, but I doubt that they will be if they feel slandered as “deplorables”, so what is the benefit of this essay?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      so what is the benefit of this essay?

      Signalling to democrats that they are part of the “good” collective morality.

    • SamChevre says:

      Random detail, but I’m always amused with the big tax cuts for the rich comment.

      The 2017 tax bill was the largest tax increase on high incomes since 1993 (via the cap on real estate and state tax deductions). Somehow, this never gets commented on favorably by the “increase taxes on the rich” crowd.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I also have no clue where Krugman got the idea Trump ran on increasing taxes for the rich. He wanted to revamp the corporate tax structure so corps would bring more money back to the US, but that’s not a tax hike on the rich.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I suspect Krugman is thinking of Trump’s support for a one-time 14.5% wealth tax when he was testing the waters for the Reform Party nomination in the 2000 election cycle, which some conservative groups brought up as an argument against Trump during the 2016 primaries.

        • dick says:

          He talked about it colloquially a lot – “I was talking to my rich friend so-and-so, and he said hey, you can raise my taxes, I’m doing OK! and I thought that was a good idea” type stuff. I don’t think he ever proposed a detailed plan, but vague talk without a detailed plan is kind of how he proposes things.

      • gbdub says:

        “Huge tax cuts for the rich” is basically just partisan boo-lights – the point is to make people who already agree with you say “boo, rich people!” rather than to provide any meaningful insights.

        Krugman has a column because he’s a well-credentialed economist, but there’s very little in your excerpt that’s not straight pro-coastal Democrat, anti-GOP boilerplate.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Enough hispanic migrants can strengthen the democratic coalition to pursue more aggressive forms of redistributive social justice [Civil rights 2.0?] on behalf of blacks. One could argue. So even if saturating the labor market lowers wages [of blacks], one can make up for it by extracting the difference from whites; something you can’t do without national super-majorities.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Except, presumably, for white people. Including white people with Jewish and Italian forebears who lived in redlined areas (which includes a lot more people than just me, surprisingly). AOC is kind of the perfect illustration of how the Democratic Party has a set of policies all of which I find harmful. I may not like the Republicans much, but at least they aren’t diametrically opposed.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            AOC is kind of the perfect illustration of how the Democratic Party has a set of policies all of which I find harmful. I may not like the Republicans much, but at least they aren’t diametrically opposed.

            This. Not going to vote to hurt myself, thanks. (To be fair, the Republican donor/elected official class could implement policies that hurt me while only paying lip service to my tribe. Representative government sucks.)

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            In rank order, I prefer

            1. What Republicans say they will do (not counting the past few years where I can’t figure out what’s going on)

            2. What Democrats actually do, barely ahead of:

            3. What Republicans actually do,

            4. What Democrats say they will do.

            I often vote D because #2 over #3, but I am always nervous that one day the Democrats will start doing what they talk about doing.

        • Nornagest says:

          Honestly, if I could pay a few thousand bucks and in exchange we declared the whole set of race issues in US politics forevermore settled and I’d never hear about them again, I’d probably take the deal. But for some reason I don’t feel like that’s on the table.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            So would a lot of people, but if a few thousand bucks doesn’t institute equality between the self-defined races. [on a per person basis, which would amount tens of billions of dollars presumably] the politics wouldn’t change.

            Also a desire to see the obligations extinguished with an admittedly fat check in that fashion would be interpretted as incincerity/duplicity.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            +1 to Nornagest

        • Deiseach says:

          I don’t know, I get the impression that Ms Ocasio-Cortez is a smart (if green and inexperienced) politician who is throwing out a lot of these kind of policy suggestions, knowing full well there’s a snowball in hell’s chance of them ever being implemented, but it sounds great to her base and like she’s really out there being all M(s) Smith Goes To Washington (if it wasn’t for those darned entrenched power bases and special interests, we’d have our flying cars by now!) and it will enable her to grow her career. The tricky balancing act is between being radical enough to keep those who voted her in (and the members of the media and social media who are in a tizzy over how very wonderful she is) believing versus not being so radical as to piss off the heavyweights in the party who still hold enough clout to put the brakes on her progress. See her gamble in challenging or appearing to challenge Nancy Pelosi as the old guard, and Pelosi patting her on the head in response (but after not selecting her to sit on the special committee for climate change, which Ocasio-Cortez said she had been invited to do but rejected in order to concentrate on presenting her Green New Deal).

          The Green New Deal is a good example, it’s got some reasonable points, some moonbattery (does it really say every building in America to be fitted out to be energy efficient? every single building, which means every falling down old house and rural shack?) but because it’s a non-binding resolution, it’s win-win either way: it’s not implemented, so her supporters can continue to believe it was Big Bad Old Politics that put the kibosh on, or it is accepted but doesn’t commit anyone to actually lift a finger to do anything, so everyone can pat themselves on the back for being forward-thinking and proactive.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ocasio-Cortez is a young, pretty version of Trump–she’s amazingly skilled at playing the media, at least in the current media environment. And she’s charismatic as hell. I could easily imagine her becoming president sometime in the next few years.

            Part of that skill involves making proposals and claims that aren’t logically or financially sound, but that have the right emotional valence. They work at establishing her image the way she wants. Her enemies love to point out the logical flaws and errors in her comments, and by doing so, they spread her image and her words even further. This is exactly what Trump did.

            I don’t know if she thinks deeply about policy–right now, she doesn’t need to, because she’s just a single member of congress. But her ideas about policy are not going to be reflected in her public statements, anymore than Trump’s are. She’s playing a different game than that.

    • Mr. Doolittle says:

      That’s a…remarkably uncharitable take from Krugman!

      The interesting thing about the “Socially conservative, economically liberal” segment of the population is that this used to be one of the primary demographics of the Democrats – Union members. Down-to-earth hardworking people who cared about worker rights and fair treatment from business interests. For the left to have turned so far away from them that we can see articles like this speaks volumes.

      Even if he had broken it down (especially if he were very clear about it) that there were Racists in that group, and then there were Populists – but he just goes ahead and calls them one continuous group.

      I know Krugman has never been particularly good outside of economics (and increasingly partisan even within that), this seems quite low by his and NYT standards.

      • Plumber says:

        @Mr. Doolittle

        “…The interesting thing about the “Socially conservative, economically liberal” segment of the population is that this used to be one of the primary demographics of the Democrats – Union members. Down-to-earth hardworking people who cared about worker rights and fair treatment from business interests. For the left to have turned so far away from them that we can see articles like this speaks volumes”

        it does and they, we (including me) were, but even if you crave social liberalism so much that no compromise is acceptable, the numbers don’t add up!

        While the majority of eligible voters are to the left of the Republican Party on economic issues, so many are “social conservatives” that it’s impossible to have a majority coalition without some, and flat out alienating them is a fast track to losing. 

        Going by the polls a revival of the “New Deal coalition” is possible, but a post ’60’s “New Left” coalition is against the wishes of the majority of eligible voters,  as while liberals outnumber conservatives and libertarians, conservatives plus populists outnumber liberals and libertarians, social conservatives are the majority (slightly) just as economic liberals are, and any majority national coalition must include some populists.

        Half a loaf is way better than going hungry, in 2018 Democrats ran hard on healthcare, and won, because being able to see a physician is popular.

        “Social liberalism” is popular as well (especially among college graduates), but it’s still not favored by the majority of eligible voters, so not popular enough to win!

        I want some of that loaf, and the “shooting yourself in the foot” campaigning is head-bangingly frustrating for me.

        • gbdub says:

          I think “socially liberal” still has some winning positions, but most of the winnable positions of social liberalism are already won. Mainline anti-racism is popular, harder left identity politics are not really popular. Gay marriage is popular enough, a harder push for trans people in your bathroom is not. Abortion is messy… but we seem to be at the point where a majority wants the status quo or more restrictive. “Separation of church and state” is popular, hard anti-religiosity is not. Basically, the stuff that was socially liberal in the early 90s is now mainstream, but we might be hitting a bit of a (probably temporary) wall.

          Drug law liberalization is maybe popular enough? And looking for a champion?

          • Garrett says:

            > Drug law liberalization is maybe popular enough? And looking for a champion?

            I’d love to see it. But I don’t recall seeing any serious Federal proposals in the legislature. Obama at-best said that he had done cocaine a long time ago. But we I haven’t seen people pushing for drug legalization generally or in specific.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think there’s a lot of voters in the US – not all of them current Republican voters, not by far, and certainly not all of them white – who would vote for a Christian Democratic party if it existed and if the US had a system that wasn’t fixed around two parties. To say that this combination is racist is ludicrous – racists in Europe are not happy about the actions of Christian Democrats such as Merkel!

    • Not your point, but this struck me:

      pushing through big tax cuts for the rich

      In what sense does that describe the tax cuts? There was a big cut in the corporate income tax, but corporations are not actual people even if they are legal people, so to determine the distributional effect one would have to figure out how much of the cut ended up going to stockholders, how much to customers, how much to employees, the three groups most obviously affected.

      Two of the controversial elements were the limits on the deductibility of mortgage interest–applying only to interest above $750,000–and of state taxes. Both of those had their negative impact mostly on upper income taxpayers.

      • Plumber says:

        @DavidFriedman,
        There’s been lots of headlines like “The Trump Tax Cuts Did One Thing: Give Rich People More Money“, which if you read the article are actually speaking of corporate tax cuts, I think the theory of how this is “tax cuts for the rich” is shown by:

        “…For the moment, the evident impact of the tax cuts is to widen the gap between what workers earn and what people who own companies earn…”

        to which someone could respond “Workers pension funds own corporations”, as how to suss out who and what owns what your guess is better than mine.

      • Chalid says:

        The amount going to stockholders is obviously extremely tilted to the rich. The amount going to employees is closer to flat, with a bias toward the rich (corporate employees being higher-income than the general population) and the consumer component is pretty flat. So unless the amount going to stockholders is near zero, a corporate tax cut favors the rich, right?

        My understanding is that the empirical estimates of the amount going to stockholders are much higher than zero (30%-70%), which makes the tax pretty progressive, right?

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Incidentally yes. But if you want to tax shareholders, one could do so more efficiently by simply taxing shareholders directly. Taxing the income of a corporation before they figure out how to distribute the gains is less efficient in this regard. This is why most non-US countries don’t tax corporate income as harshly as the US does.

          One issue though is the super-rich of most countries makes their income through investment. Economists are loath to tax investment as harshly as income because they consider it the source of modern standards of living.

          • brad says:

            That’s a non sequitur. They didn’t simply tax the shareholders directly, so that they could have is neither nor there when it comes to the distributional consequences of the tax change.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            The law itself as it was written didn’t. I just mean that if someone wanted to tax shareholders, doing it through the corporate income tax is a bad way to do it. Not that the tax bill as it was written wasn’t redistributive because they *did* in fact do this.

            I’m still inclined to think that the bill was upwards redistributive, but someone would have to do the math to figure out to what extent in the face of the changes to SALT and the mortgage interest deduction changes they would have.

            But even if it is upwards distributive, the quality of public discourse on this is quite abysmal; wealth and income get treated synonymously as does the idea of a ‘corporation’ and a ‘rich person’.

          • Chalid says:

            Just going from Wikipedia, the CBO says that it’s pretty regressive (poorer people see increased costs, richer people get more benefits).

            During 2019, income groups earning under $20,000 (about 23% of taxpayers) would contribute to deficit reduction (i.e., incur a cost), mainly by receiving fewer subsidies due to the repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Other groups would contribute to deficit increases (i.e., receive a benefit), mainly due to tax cuts.
            During 2021, 2023, and 2025, income groups earning under $40,000 (about 43% of taxpayers) would contribute to deficit reduction, while income groups above $40,000 would contribute to deficit increases.
            During 2027, income groups earning under $75,000 (about 76% of taxpayers) would contribute to deficit reduction, while income groups above $75,000 would contribute to deficit increases.

            It also quotes an analysis by the Tax Policy Center with similar conclusions:

            Compared to current law, 5% of taxpayers would pay more in 2018, 9% in 2025, and 53% in 2027.
            The top 1% of taxpayers (income over $732,800) would receive 8% of the benefit in 2018, 25% in 2025, and 83% in 2027.
            The top 5% (income over $307,900) would receive 43% of the benefit in 2018, 47% in 2025, and 99% in 2027.
            The top 20% (income over $149,400) would receive 65% of the benefit in 2018, 66% in 2025 and all of the benefit in 2027.
            The bottom 80% (income under $149,400) would receive 35% of the benefit in 2018, 34% in 2025 and none of the benefit in 2027, with some groups incurring costs.
            The third quintile (taxpayers in the 40th to 60th percentile with income between $48,600 and $86,100, a proxy for the “middle class”) would receive 11% of the benefit in 2018 and 2025, but would incur a net cost in 2027.

            Taxpayers in the second quintile (incomes between $25,000 and $48,600, the 20th to 40th percentile) would receive a tax cut averaging $380 in 2018 and $390 in 2025, but a tax increase averaging $40 in 2027.
            Taxpayers in the third quintile (incomes between $48,600 and $86,100, the 40th to 60th percentile) would receive a tax cut averaging $930 in 2018, $910 in 2025, but a tax increase of $20 in 2027.
            Taxpayers in the fourth quintile (incomes between $86,100 and $149,400, the 60th to 80th percentile) would receive a tax cut averaging $1,810 in 2018, $1,680 in 2025, and $30 in 2027.
            Taxpayers in the top 1% (income over $732,800) would receive a tax cut of $51,140 in 2018, $61,090 in 2025, and $20,660 in 2027.

            Anyway, probably one can quibble with the CBO and Tax Policy Center, and I don’t have the expertise to critique them anyway. But it agrees with my basic economic intuition based on eyeballing the components of the bill and their relative sizes and relative progressivities.

            I actually didn’t think it was a bad bill, all in all; it was much better than I expected it to be going into the process. But it is certainly not ridiculous or deceptive to say that it’s tax cuts for the rich.

          • Putting it as “the top X% of the taxpayers receive Y% of the benefit” is a bit misleading.

            Suppose you simply cut all taxes by 10%. It would be odd, although not impossible, to describe that as “big tax cuts for the rich.” But since the top 1% of the population pay much more than 1% of the taxes, they would get much more than 1% of the benefit.

            It would seem more natural to sum up the results as “the top 1% pay X% less, …, the bottom 20% pay Y% less.”

          • Chalid says:

            Your example is a standard example of problematic language, and perhaps you’re just used to having that argument, but that is not what is going on here. The quoted CBO text claims that lower-income taxpayers in aggregate lose money as a result of the bill (“contribute to deficit reduction”) and higher-income taxpayers in aggregate gain.

          • I was referring to the Tax Policy Center figures. All of the groups they list receive a tax cut initially, and they put their results in terms of what fraction of the total tax reduction each group gets.

    • Deiseach says:

      economically liberal, socially conservative politicians — let’s be blunt and just say “racist populists.”

      So is it only socially conservative, fiscally liberal politicians who are “racist populists” or are we voters who are social conservatives and fiscal liberals racists too? I’d like to know one way or the other, is it worth my while ironing the white bedsheets and getting the lighter fluid out for the cross-burning? Only the weather forecast is giving it fierce windy tonight and I’d rather stay indoors unless it was absolutely politically necessary!

      I hear we’re racists now, Father! (Warning: TV comedy show from the 90s, Governor Northam-levels of problematic cultural imitation).

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Nothing better than taking one pair of emotionally loaded, extremely versatile, non-concrete labels and replacing them with another pair of emotionally loaded, extremely versatile, non-concrete labels.

  29. I just read a news story about Cindy McCain claiming to have stopped human trafficking at an Arizona airport.

    “I came in from a trip I’d been on and I spotted — it looked odd — it was a woman of a different ethnicity than the child, this little toddler she had, and something didn’t click with me,” McCain said in the interview. “I went over to the police and told them what I saw, and they went over and questioned her, and, by God, she was trafficking that kid.”

    According to the police, however,

    officers had conducted a welfare check on a child at the airport at McCain’s request but had found “no evidence of criminal conduct or child endangerment.”

    McCain has apologized

    I apologize if anything else I have said on this matter distracts from ‘if you see something, say something,’” she wrote.

    She does not seem to have apologized to the woman who she accused of a criminal act on no evidence at all.

    The story goes on to give various figures on the scale of sex trafficking, giving no evidence for them, merely the claims of “Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.”

    As best I can tell, this is simply the modern rerun of the “white slave traffic” campaigns of the 19th and early 20th century. There doesn’t seem to be much if any evidence that anyone is a slave being trafficked, just an excuse for persecuting prostitution, reinforced with a dose of paranoia.

    Does anyone here know of evidence for anything in the U.S. that this is attacking other than consensual sex for pay? It’s the sort of thing that makes me dubious of claims of general progress.