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Links 4/2019

[Epistemic status: I have not independently verified each link. On average, about two of the links in each links post turn out to be wrong or misleading, as found by commenters. I correct these as I see them, but can’t guarantee I will have caught them all by the time you read this.]

List Of Places With “Silicon” In The Name Because They Are Branding Themselves As The Next Silicon Valley. I knew the UK had a “Silicon Roundabout”, but I didn’t know there was a Silicon Bayou, Silicon Taiga, Silicon Fen, and even a Welsh “Cwm Silicon”.

You probably knew that sperm count and fertility were declining rapidly and mysteriously. Now scientists have narrowed down the search for a cause by finding that something similar is happening in dogs.

Econ professor on Twitter picks apart a bad study in JAMA trying to claim that car accidents spike on 4/20 because weed.

Did you know: Saudi prince Khaled bin Talal participated in a trophy hunt in South Africa in the 1990s. He regretted his actions, went vegan, became a major investor in vegan food companies around the world, and is now opening his own chain of vegan restaurants across the Middle East.

The Lancet publishes a great article on antidepressant tapering arguing that tapers should be much slower, and should be hyperbolic rather than linear. Great article, though I think it underemphasizes that 90% of people have no problem with antidepressant tapering no matter what you do, and you don’t have to put people on a drawn-out year-long taper unless they fail the usual regimen.

Some people have different theories of consciousness? And they’re going to try to test them? By experiment? Using an adversarial collaboration? Pretty weird.

Some effective altruists suggest you save up to donate later. Others warn against “value drift”, eg later you might drop out of effective altruism and not care at all. Now they have empirical data: of 22 people who were donating 10% of their income five years ago (or doing other equivalent work), only 8 continue to do so today. Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.

From Less Wrong: a good post explaining how exponential curves like Moore’s Law can be best understood as a series of S-curves on top of each other.

Study suggests victimized employees are vulnerable to being seen as bullies themselves, with real bullies given passes. It concludes that we must be extra-vigilant against “victim-blaming”. This might be the right lesson from a god’s-eye view, but seems like exactly the wrong lesson when implemented by people like the subjects of the study, which it will be. The words “victim-blaming” are what people use to shut down discussion about whether you might be wrong about who the victim vs. the bully is. If studies show people are frequently wrong about this, then launching a campaign to shut down that discussion just means preventing anyone from questioning or correcting frequently-wrong people.

I was on board with the narrative that “prostitution leads to human trafficking” was a lie spread by anti-sex-worker authoritarians like Kamala Harris. But a study suggests that legalized prostitution does increase human trafficking and that “the scale effect dominates the substitution effect”. Interested to hear pro-legalization people’s perspective on this. [EDIT: here is a critique]

Reddit survey of drug users: How Much Better/Worse Would Your Life Be If [Various Drugs] Ceased To Exist? Tobacco, heroin, and synthetic cannabinoids do worst; LSD, amphetamines, and the Internet do best.

This is a great interpretation and modern translation of “Yankee Doodle”. Bonus fact: “macaroni” meant “high fashion” because everything Italian was considered cool at the time.

Against over-emphasizing behavioral economics.

I honestly thought this study had been done a long time ago, but I guess it hadn’t been, and now it is: e-cigarettes are definitely more helpful for smoking cessation than normal nicotine replacement.

A really good and deep exploration of cost disease in subway construction, though with only partial applicability for cost disease in other things.

This blog on brain size (warning: some racist language elsewhere on the blog) has a weird obsession with the size of Oprah’s head, and claims she is probably the largest-headed woman in the world.

Warning from Gwern: magnesium supplementation may make you slightly less intelligent/functional, to a degree you will never notice unless you test it. See also this r/nootropics thread.

I don’t claim to 100% understand this, but it looks like it’s an app called rationally.io for designing replicable experiments, so I guess I have to link it.

Nutrition scientist Stephan Guyenet (author of The Hungry Brain, reviewed here on SSC) and his colleagues are launching Red Pen Reviews, a site where top nutritionists review and grade the latest books on nutrition.

Servant Of The People was a popular Ukranian TV comedy about a mild-mannered schoolteacher who gets elected President of Ukraine after making a video about politics that goes viral. Earlier this week, actor Volodymyr Zelensky, who played the starring role, was elected President of Ukraine in real life.

Website TheSpiritLevelDelusion has been critiquing popular-in-the-media book The Spirit Level from Day 1. Now, ten years later, they demonstrate that using the book’s own methodology none of the trends it highlights have continued to hold, potentially because they were p-hacked to fit the data as it existed when the book was published.

Related: 25 years later, Scott Aaronson reviews how John Horgan’s article The Death Of Proof has fared over the past 25 years. Summary: not well, proof continues to be an important part of math, Horgan admits he was wrong on this one.

Burger King introduces vegetarian Whopper made with Impossible Burger vs. McDonalds is main holdout against new farm welfare standards. If you’re a meat-eater who supports animal welfare, consider switching your fast food business to Burger King for a while.

French European Affairs minister denies viral rumor that she named her cat “Brexit” because “it wakes me up meowing like crazy every morning because it wants to go out, but as soon as I open the door, it just sits there undecided and then looks angry when I put it outside.”

The big politics news is, of course, the Mueller Report, and how much its finding of no illegal collusion between Trump and Russia discredits a media that had been talking rather a lot about how much illegal collusion between Trump and Russia there definitely was. The “it does discredit the media” case is made most strongly by Matt Taibbi in Russiagate is WMDGate Times A Million; for the “it doesn’t discredit the media” perspective, see eg The Atlantic‘s The Mueller Probe Was An Unmitigated Success. I prefer the pro-discreditation narrative, just because the media will never face any negative consequences for things like the constant hyping of The Spirit Level and anything else that agrees with their biases, over and over again, times ten million. So when Fate tempts us with a remote chance that the media might actually face some negative publicity for getting something wrong, I am 100% in favor of everyone being as angry and punitive as possible, even though honestly I didn’t follow the whole Mueller thing and find it hard to pay attention to. If you want people with more reasonable opinions on this, you can check the first and second Mueller Report threads from The Motte.

On March 24, Donald Trump tweeted “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” You can learn a lot about our society by reading the 67,000 ensuing comments

I recently learned about SketchyMed, a site that makes mnemonic-device-esque videos to help medical students study. Eliezer once claimed that the only place it looked like our civilization was really exerting effort was predicting stock prices; this makes me think that “studying for medical licensing exams” is a second example. May be worth watching to see the technique in action even if you are not a med student. See eg their video about salmonella.

Deep roots: which European ethnicity settled each area of the United States centuries ago determines how much inequality it has today, with the level of inequality in the American region corresponding to the level in the European home country. Appears to be a cultural rather than purely genetic effect since it holds for black people in each area as well. See the study and the article describing it.

Related: Noah Smith twittereviews “Replenished Ethnicity”, a book theorizing that continuing Mexican immigration prevented Mexicans from fully assimilating, and now that Mexican immigration has slowed, we should expect Mexicans to assimilate to the same degree other groups like the Irish did.

Education can probably increase IQ, but only up until age 20. Does this mean the effect is something real about brain development, and not just that education helps you ace IQ tests? And some good Twitter discussion.

More on cost disease / wage decoupling / civilizational decline/ housing crisis: as per these tweets, the average rent in NYC went from 15% of average income in 1950 to 65% today.

In India, private companies can do surgical procedures for 2% to 3% the amount American hospitals charge, apparently with equally good or better outcomes. Now India’s universal health care plan is trying to cut costs further and scale the model to the entire population.

Previous studies found that variation in height across European countries was primarily due to differential selection across ethnic groups. A new paper finds that these studies were confounded by methodological error and we don’t know whether there was selection or not. Relevant partly because height is determined similarly to IQ and other socially relevant traits.

US monthly budget deficit is now largest in history.

I’ve been a big supporter of “housing-first” policies on homelessness (ie don’t try to force homeless people to become model citizens, just give them housing), so I guess I owe it to present this article pushing back against them. It argues that some small fraction of homeless people are loud or violent or defecate in inappropriate places, and that cities which have tried housing them have found that when they put them in nice apartment buildings, they ruin the apartment for everyone else (including other homeless people). One obvious solution is giving houses in nice apartment buildings to everyone except that small fraction, but I think people worry that looks too much like trying to separate the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, so it’s politically difficult. The actual “solution” that DC (the city profiled here) has proposed is to mandate that any apartment building that accepts homeless people must provide them with lots of on-site social services. This sounds like a great way to ensure no apartment building ever accepts homeless people ever again (or that they get ghetto-ified from normal apartments with a healthy mixture of different classes into a few slums that specialize in meeting onerous requirements).

Related, from The Motte: Dueling GoFundMe Campaigns Highlight A San Francisco NIMBY Battle (one is to fight against an attempt to open a homeless shelter in a nice area, the other is to fight for the shelter).

New paper analyzes data from an unnamed online dating website (realistically, OKCupid), discusses differences among cities.

If you were into astronomy thirty years ago, you’re probably familiar with the Nemesis theory: the sun has a brown dwarf partner whose orbit sometimes sends deadly comets hurtling at Earth causing regular extinctions. But I hadn’t realized that the theory has since fallen apart as scientists failed to find it with sky surveys that should have been good enough to find it if it existed (also, extinctions don’t seem to happen that regularly).

538 analyzes their past predictions, finds they have nearly perfect calibration.

In all these years of people using “BUT WHO WOULD BUILD THE ROADS?” as their knockdown objection to libertarianism, I never realized that the Nordic countries already have privately funded roads and they work great.

The government knows how much tax you owe well enough to arrest you if you try to cheat them, so how come they can’t just tell you that number and save you the trouble of preparing your taxes? They could, but the companies that make tax preparation software have good lobbyists and have gotten Congress to ban them from doing that. Now they’re trying to enshrine this system permanently. Related: TurboTax is blocking search engines from indexing what little help that they are legally required to provide.

Boston Corbett, the man who killed Lincoln’s assassin, was a colorful character. (Puritanism level: literally named “Boston”)

The Azolla Event was a time 50 million years ago when so many freshwater ferns grew in the Arctic Ocean that when they sank into the sea, it locked up a substantial fraction of Earth’s carbon, caused an anti-greenhouse effect, and initiated an ice age. Very, very related: Rogue Geoengineer Dumps Iron Into The Pacific to Create Massive Algal Bloom (from 2012, but rogue geoengineering is always in fashion).

There will be a free Introduction To Effective Altruism workshop in Berkeley from May 18 – 19.

80,000 Hours Podcast interviews two economists working on charter cities (transcript available on the bottom). It looks like Zambia is going to go ahead with one.

VR researcher Hamish Todd lists his predictions for the future of VR/AR/MR (no individual confidence levels, but he predicts globally that 80% of them will be right).

I’m not saying Unsong was necessarily right about everything, but a spacecraft called Beresheet (Hebrew name for the Book Of Genesis) just crashed into the moon.

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591 Responses to Links 4/2019

  1. Kathlyn Ross says:

    During the past years i was diagnosed with ALS disease which has broke me down even affected me financially because i almost spent all my savings,i really thought i wont get rid of it not until i saw post celebrating how his mom was free from als disease ,i was really surprised because i have search all angle yet nothing happened,this disease weak me to the extent i was having difficulty speaking,difficulty raising my foot so i decided to contact the email i saw which was IherbalMedicalclinic@dr.com and they gave me all the instruction tho i actually purchased the herbal medicine from the clinic,i used it just the way i was told and right now am fully free from ALS disease just as my Dr said and i no longer experiencing the symptoms anymore.

  2. hc says:

    Oprah’s head size thing looks like a case of Foppington’s law: Once bigotry or self-loathing permeate a given community, it is only a matter of time before deep metaphysical significance is assigned to the shape of human skulls
    (src: https://youtu.be/fD2briZ6fB0?t=359)

    Or maybe this falls into the same category as people going into research projects about some famous person’s penis size? (which the same groups of people tend to fixate on, now that i think about it)

  3. Galle says:

    Study suggests victimized employees are vulnerable to being seen as bullies themselves, with real bullies given passes. It concludes that we must be extra-vigilant against “victim-blaming”. This might be the right lesson from a god’s-eye view, but seems like exactly the wrong lesson when implemented by people like the subjects of the study, which it will be. The words “victim-blaming” are what people use to shut down discussion about whether you might be wrong about who the victim vs. the bully is. If studies show people are frequently wrong about this, then launching a campaign to shut down that discussion just means preventing anyone from questioning or correcting frequently-wrong people.

    I think the different attitude is based on a different view of why people are frequently mistaken about who the victim is. One possibility is that it’s genuinely difficult to tell who the victim is. Another possibility is that it’s actually very obvious who the victim is, but because the bully is charismatic, a close friend, or an authority figure, people use motivated reasoning to come to an incorrect conclusion semi-intentionally, because the correct conclusion would have unpleasant policy implications. In my experience, the latter seems to be far more common than the former. In that case, the recommendation of “stop victim-blaming” means “when trying to figure out who the victim is, take the outside view and try to avoid being too clever.”

  4. mcpalenik says:

    It’s kind of disappointing that the Yankee doodle thing didn’t fit the rhyme or meter of the song. You might have to tweak it a little, but you could make it work, like:

    Dumbass Yankee went downtown
    in an Uber Pool,
    Had a man-bun and a hat and thought that he looked cool.
    Dumbass Yankee, you do you,
    dumbass Yankee hipster,
    dance your dubstep with that chick
    then tell your friends you kissed her.

    • bullseye says:

      I’m pretty sure it’s not an accurate translation either. Yankee Doodle is a dumb hick (that being the stereotype of Americans) who can’t afford a full-size horse or actual fashion; calling him a dandy is a joke because he so obviously isn’t one. He’s not a hipster either; hipsters use their money to buy weird anti-fashion, but Yankee Doodle has no money and is attempting actual fashion.

  5. midjji says:

    Been hoping someone would try iron sulfate (alge) seeding for a while now, I’m guessing its more effective if measured purely against co2, but less effective than artificial coral reefs in general. The size and scope of the bloom, along with 3 year fishing yields, will be useful to figure if it is a viable alternative.

  6. ManyCookies says:

    Glossing over whether The Media (TM) was or wasn’t vindicated by the Mueller Report, you basically just looked at whom you distrusted most a priori, which seems beneath you. Like if you don’t think the Mueller stuff is important or interesting, that’s 100% fine! But if you’re not taking even a cursory look it’ll be difficult to add much, and so going “Ehh I wasn’t following this but the media sucks so I’ll say they sucked here” was lazy swiping and pretty offputting.

  7. Deiseach says:

    I think this is an interesting story, because with the run-up to the next election heating up you’ll probably be hearing a lot more about “Evangelicals and Trump”.

    So – all these (hypocritical) white Evangelicals that voted an adulterer and pussy-grabber into office – who are they?

    Well, there’s the thing: the really committed ones? Didn’t vote him in. The ‘cultural Christians’ who probably haven’t darkened the door of a church since the last funeral they attended? They were the ones, and the entire thing is more complicated than the face of it. Forget the spectre of the Moral Majority – that moment has come and gone, everything is a lot more splintered, old names have faded away from influence, new ones have come and have different emphases:

    In his book, Carney digs into some case studies that indicate that — if the goal is to find the Make America Great Again core — then reporters need to look outside sanctuary pews. The key is to focus on primaries, when voters had non-Trump options, as opposed to the general election, when the only real option was Hillary Clinton.

    Carney’s work focusing on zip codes in coal-country Virginia, the most Mormon corner of Utah and Dutch Calvinist territory in Iowa (Trump didn’t win a single precinct in state’s most evangelical county).

    He noted: “So you can boil the anti-Trump places in the early primaries down to two categories: (1) the highly educated elites and (2) the tight-knit religious communities.”

    Also: “To explain Trump’s core supporters, many commentators pointed to the factories that were closing, but they should have been pointing to the churches that were closing.”

    One more: “Economic woe, social dysfunction, family collapse and community erosion all characterized the places where Trump was strongest. … So did empty pews.”

    …Religious convictions among voters in some communities across America – in Iowa, in Utah and elsewhere – clearly had something to do with their rejection of Trump and support for other GOP candidates. These fault lines have not disappeared.

    “That’s not something the national media know about,” said Carney. “Most of the national media don’t know that there’s a difference between the Reformed Church of America and the Christian Reformed Church and that there’s a difference between types of evangelicals and this was a central story to what happened in 2016.”

    If potential voters are supposed to get educated on the difference between Progressives, Socialists (Real), Democratic Socialists, Communists, Stalinists, and Left Liberals because hey the Left is not a monolith and it’s not fair to lump very different views all together, then I think it’s not too much to ask to learn the difference between various strands of American Christianity – that there is a Religious Left as much as a Religious Right but it’s not as visible, paradoxically because it’s so much part of the mainstream (remember Hillary’s group of ministers texting her inspirational Bible verses every morning of the campaign? No? Yeah, see what I mean?) such as The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (in all the Culture Wars over abortion, how many of you even knew this lot existed?) and that the “Evangelicals and Fundamentalists and Traditionals are all the same thing” is not, in fact, the case.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      remember Hillary’s group of ministers texting her inspirational Bible verses every morning of the campaign? No? Yeah, see what I mean?

      Uh, yeah, didn’t I just point out that this is certainly a mistake that the right makes? It’s generally unremarkable to the left when a Democratic politician talks about their faith. In fact, the right made sure everyone was exquisitely aware of Obama’s faith in 2008. You think we weren’t paying attention or something?

      The left is actually quite familiar with the idea of using the pulpit to argue for social justice based in religious morality. It’s not like we are strangers to the fact that MLK was the Reverend Martin Luther King. You think the people on the gay rights side of church schism aren’t covered by the left and for the left?

      ETA: As to the rest of the argument, you seem to be arguing that “no true Scotsman” embraces Trump.

      • theredsheep says:

        No true scotsman implies ever-shifting goalposts; here there’s a fairly simple and logical criterion. Someone who identifies as Evangelical, but never goes to church, is kind of like someone who identifies as gay, but exclusively dates the opposite sex. Merely cultural Christians are a thing in countries around the world, and everyone has a C and E crowd–you get baptized, because that’s how you do [ethnicgroup], but you don’t go through the hassle of routinely getting up for church on Sunday, you don’t let it impose limits on your behavior, and you certainly don’t accept any mealy-mouthed clergyman as an authority figure. And yes, this type of “Christian” tends to double down on the tribal ID aspect, because it’s all he has (and he’s pretty well jettisoned the bits about humility and forgiveness).

        • HeelBearCub says:

          A: “Evangelicals would never vote for someone like Trump”
          B: “Here are a bunch of Evangelicals who voted for Trump, support Trump, say Trump is God’s will, etc.”
          A: “Those are cultural Evangelicals who probably don’t even go to Church. They aren’t true Evangelicals, they just say they are.”
          ——————————-

          I certainly am not claiming that all Evangelicals support Trump. There are certainly Evangelicals who object to him.

          But it’s simply false to suggest that people like Mike Pence, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, etc. who profess faith, claim to be Evangelicals, go to church regularly and represent and influence large number of self-identifying Evangelical Christians aren’t actually Evangelicals.

          One really big tell here is counting opposition in the primary as dispositive, when the entire question of hypocrisy rests on the dichotomy between what they said and did during the primary (and before), and what they say and do now.

          • theredsheep says:

            No. The article argues that there’s a strong inverse correlation between churchgoing and support for Trump in the primary–when there are multiple choices, many of them (such as Pence) vastly preferable from a devout Christian’s POV.

            But Trump won, so it became effectively a contest between him and Hillary. So now it’s a contest between a probable sex criminal who doesn’t respect their values but pledges to throw them a bone every now and then, and the spouse of a probable sex criminal who doesn’t respect their values, calls them deplorable, and basically promises to grind them into dust underfoot. That’s not much of a choice, especially in the wake of Obergefell, the stupid cake lawsuits, the sudden wave of talk about transgendered kids in girls’ bathrooms, etc. That ruling, and its aftermath, were more or less perfectly timed to convince anxious Evangelicals that the Tribulation was at hand and they had to take any protector they could find. You could argue that it’s not a particularly effective move in the long run, but I don’t view it as hypocritical per se. Only desperate.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The article argues that there’s a strong inverse correlation between churchgoing and support for Trump in the primary

            You are going to have to point out where this is actually argued rather than simply claimed based on a few potentially cherry-picked locations.

            As a counterpoint to even the claim however, the split between the Mormons and Trump was actually quite heavily covered in the mainstream media.

            Nonetheless, none of this has to do with the stance towards trump right now from the people I mentioned. They aren’t pushing back on Trump, but supporting him. Trump is the most godly, biblical president of our time, etc.

  8. Dan L says:

    538 analyzes their past predictions, finds they have nearly perfect calibration.

    Glad you saw that, if you didn’t link it I’d have brought it up! Digging a little ways in, my main takeaways:

    1) Calibration for sports predictions is extraordinarily good. Calibration for politics cannot be shown to be statistically significantly in error (partially due to how heavily correlated same-year elections are, N=3 in many ways), but if anything 538 is slightly underconfident.

    2) Beyond Calibration, 538 has quite good Discrimination – that is, in addition to being correct on how confident the probabilistic predictions are, those predictions also give you information about the outcome. (Ex: A 50/50 prediction for everything would be well calibrated, but bad at discrimination.) Discrimination is very high for politics, but this is partially inflated because most races are actually quite easy to call.

    3) I desperately want to see this kind of analysis from more journalistic outlets, but a) it’s an enormous amount of work unless the outlet in question deliberately planned in advance for this to be easy, b) its usefulness as a metric directly trades off against how reliably it makes the outlet look good. I doubt it will spread. (Though, that does mean its existence is a metric of another sort.)

  9. Michael_S says:

    I wonder why US health insurance can’t structure a pricing scheme that would incentivize people to go to India (or the branch in the Cayman Islands) for surgeries. Even if you have to cover US procedures, I could see a cash back system where you pay people half the difference or something. Eg. You need a heart bypass, but if you go to the Narayana Health Cayman Islands branch, the patient gets 50k back and makes a profit. My guess is there’s a good reason this wouldn’t work, but I don’t know what it is.

      • Michael_S says:

        Even with risks of lawsuits, it seems like there’s plenty of room for profit. Malpractice insurance isn’t that expensive.

        • Lambert says:

          It’s not that expensive because all the insured are already racketeering rent-seeking certified in the US.
          And they’re in the jurisdiction of the US.

          When somebody gets complications from a surgery done in Hyderabad, From which stone do we draw the blood? The risk of it being the insurers is too great.

          • Michael_S says:

            I don’t see why it would be a problem for the insurance company to pay it out. They should be paying much less in malpractice claims than they would get from being able to do surgeries for a fraction of the cost.

          • CatCube says:

            @Michael_S

            Just like it made more sense from a BCR ratio for Ford to pay for deaths and burn injuries than to fix the gas tank on the Pinto? Politically, “no deaths due to cutting costs” will be handled deontologically, and regulation and court awards will be adjusted until the BCR again cuts against using overseas facilities to cut costs.

            I think the insurance companies know that as soon as you get’s somebody’s photogenic daughter dying from a septic infection acquired during overseas treatment splashed across the news media they’ll be forced to onshore treatment again. They’re probably electing to skip the whole “they get demonized further and forced to do what they’re doing now” and just go to that last step.

            Note that this calculus doesn’t change despite the fact that you can find a photogenic child with sepsis acquired here in a US hospital; it’s the perception that it was changed to a “less safe”* facility to cut costs. The child with the US-acquired infection was a victim of bad luck on the part of the insurer (and the hospital will pay for it); the overseas-acquired infection was due to the insurer’s “malice”.

            * Just because it’s overseas and cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less safe; it’ll be easy to spin it that way, though.

          • Michael_S says:

            @CatCube
            I think that’s a good argument for why say BlueCrossBlueShield wouldn’t do this. The risks might be worth the rewards until this becomes standard practice.

            However, if you’re a smaller insurance company, it seems to offer a chance to dramatically expand and turn enormous profits. If you’re risk neutral, it would seem like a good idea. It might turn out that established interests are able to showcase rare deaths and successfully lobby congress to pass laws stopping you, but they may not. There’s a lot of uncertainty.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Forget India. What about Europe for the cheap drugs, or Canada for quality, or Oklahoma.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        Europe’s “cheap” drugs are the result of price controls and the US ends up footing a large portion (if not all) of the bill for research. Canada is foreign and foreign is India. The Surgery Center’s whole shtick is that they don’t take insurance.

    • ana53294 says:

      As far as I understand, there are laws that force insurance companies to spend X% of the money on patient care. So any savings accrued from this politically risky move would not go to them.

      Also, if your expenses are a fixed X% of your revenue (r), the best way to get more income from capital is to increase revenue (R), because (1-X)R > (1-X)r. In free market businesses, reducing X is a good way; but if X is fixed, you are better off focusing on increasing R.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        As far as I understand, there are laws that force insurance companies to spend X% of the money on patient care

        This explains nothing if you think people buying insurance are sensitive to the price of insurance. Which they pretty explicitly are.

        There are (obviously) other reasons why this isn’t a thing, but theoretical barriers to insurance company profits aren’t one.

  10. benf says:

    Mueller did not find “no illegal collusion”, he found evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump Campaign members and the Russian government hacking and manipulation efforts but not enough evidence to establish such beyond a reasonable doubt. Basically, he ran the numbers and got a p-value of .1, which isn’t good enough to run with but also doesn’t mean “there definitely is nothing there”.

    He also found quite a lot of evidence of a partially successful coverup, with deleted messages, fuzzy memories, and highly implausible circumstances. The media began self-flagellating because that’s their second-favorite thing to do and it’s a much easier story to think about than “the President is a criminal and his party keeps him above the law”.

    • The Nybbler says:

      This is apparently going to be the party line It’s grasping at the thinnest of straws, as you can see in the editorial. Claimed violations of campaign finance laws that require no agreement between the parties. Messages exchanged with Wikileaks. Manafort’s dealings, which got him fired by Trump.

      This is desperation.

  11. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    I didn’t get a chance to read the study on bullying yet, but I would imagine most workplace bullying does not involve any kind of physical component, since adults beating adults in workplace would be a matter for police, not HR. It is likely mostly involving hurt feelings which are inherently subjective.

    I would imagine most of that involves higher status employees joking about something they don’t care about but a lower status employee is sensitive about, then take offence when lower status employee either complains to them, to HR or jokes back about something they are sensitive about. Other high status people in company would empathize with the former and ostracize the lower status employee as a stuck-up prick who can’t take a joke and does seriously offensive stuff in return. While the kind of people who write papers on bullying instead of earning hundreds of thousands dollars and banging supermodels would side with the lower status party and see them as innocent victims.

  12. suntzuanime says:

    I prefer the pro-discreditation narrative, just because the media will never face any negative consequences for things like the constant hyping of The Spirit Level and anything else that agrees with their biases, over and over again, times ten million. So when Fate tempts us with a remote chance that the media might actually face some negative publicity for getting something wrong, I am 100% in favor of everyone being as angry and punitive as possible, even though honestly I didn’t follow the whole Mueller thing and find it hard to pay attention to.

    What a joke. You banned people in your comments from giving the media their negative publicity for getting things wrong. The exact narrative that you forbid turned out to be exactly right in the case of the Mueller probe, don’t spit in my face by pretending to have been alongside it all along.

  13. rlms says:

    RE homelessness:
    Has anyone tried funding apartments for homeless people where the occupants can choose to evict/not accept new tenants? That would mostly solve the optics problem.

  14. alexmennen says:

    A lot of the places in the list of places with names mimicking Silicon Valley don’t seem to actually be commonly used names for those places. Just looking at the ones in California: Silicon Valley is the original. Silicon Beach checks out. “Silicon Coast” (Orange County) and “Silicon Valley of the Sierras” (Nevada County) appear to be in use by a fairly small number of people who probably don’t expect anyone else to recognize the term (in the latter case, all hits of the phrase I found were suggesting the term, not using it). “Silicon Shore” (Santa Barbara) and “Silicon Surf” (Santa Cruz) don’t have sources, and I haven’t been able to find any uses of those terms to refer to those places (except in lists of places with Silicon in the name) with a quick Google search.

    • Froolow says:

      I lived near “Silicon Fen” and can confirm that term is in pretty routine use – although people use it with quite a healthy dose of irony (because Cambridge and Californian cultures are dissimilar enough to make it funny). I’ve never heard anyone seriously use “Silicon Roundabout” except to make fun of companies’ promotional materials.

      So I suppose to your list of ‘not in routine use’ you could also add ‘not meant seriously’ / ‘not used seriously by anyone other than the local tourism board’ / ‘used metonymically to mean “technology-focussed” like “-Gate” suffixes are used metonymically to mean “scandalous” ‘ – it would surprise me if there was much left after that!

    • Deiseach says:

      We have “Silicon Docks” over here in Dublin, which I’ve only ever seen used in the newspapers hyping up “Another American tech giant is buying office space for their European headquarters here, we’re really becoming a digitally plugged in modern tech hub on the Information Superhighway!” stories.

      Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that AmaGooBook are creating jobs in Dublin, but this concentration of offices does not make us a tech hub nation. If ever they pull out because they get better terms elsewhere, we’re as screwed by our over-reliance on foreign investment as ever in the depths of the 80s or the 2008 recession.

  15. Yaleocon says:

    the media will never face any negative consequences for things like the constant hyping of The Spirit Level and anything else that agrees with their biases, over and over again, times ten million. So when Fate tempts us with a remote chance that the media might actually face some negative publicity for getting something wrong, I am 100% in favor of everyone being as angry and punitive as possible

    is a close match to why some of the Trump voters I know broke the way they did. Of course, that’s a far less rational response to being upset about media reliability than taking a chance to criticize them for a story they seem to have botched (or at least, should have been much more careful about).

  16. Andrew Cady says:

    In all these years of people using “BUT WHO WOULD BUILD THE ROADS?” as their knockdown objection to libertarianism, I never realized that the Nordic countries already have privately funded roads and they work great.

    Reading more closely, the roads aren’t privately funded, they’re privately owned — even as they are subsidized by government.

    They’re also altogether the wrong roads to prove any point (as they’re the roads in residential neighborhoods).

    The government also forbids the private owners from restricting certain forms of traffic. So it’s not even libertarian-style ownership. It’s ownership that is limited by government-imposed obligations to serve the public good. That kind of restriction is much closer to the antithesis of libertarianism.

    • m.alex.matt says:

      Referring to Sweden (the articles gives fewer numbers for Finland):

      An estimated 140,000 kilometers (about 87,000 miles) of roads are the responsibility of 60,000 PRAs…Around 24,000 PRAs receive government subsidies.

      PRAs that do not accept government subsidies can prohibit traffic at their discretion. Those that receive subsidies must allow all vehicles to travel on their roads. Regardless of whether they receive funding, however, the associations may not ban horses, bicycles, and pedestrians from using the roads.

      So, no, they are not ‘subsidized by government’: Roughly 40% of them are. The rest aren’t.

      While requiring them to not ban horses, bicycles, and pedestrians is indeed not purely libertarian style ownership, it’s certainly a hell of a lot further in this direction than direct government ownership.

      As to your middle point…

      The private sector can be engaged to provide transportation services through several different approaches. Depending on population size, certain frameworks may produce more favorable outcomes than others. For instance, toll roads operated by private companies, as is the case with the Dulles Greenway in Northern Virginia, are preferable to local associations composed of community residents due to high volume of vehicular traffic.

      This article isn’t trying to be a comprehensive study on the matter, nor is it presenting Finland and Sweden as completely laissez faire lands of private road-ownership. It points in a direction and highlights something that actually exists which is in that direction.

  17. JohnBuridan says:

    I did a test with the Whopper and Impossible Whopper and could not tell the difference. However, Whoppers are not generally that good. It costs 1 dollar more.

    Nonetheless, it really points to a real possibility for affordable replacement meat patties.

    I will savor this brief moment in which others are jealous of St. Louis.

    • acymetric says:

      However, Whoppers are not generally that good.

      Quite possibly the worst fast food burger out there. I’m pretty sure I liked Burger King when I was a kid, but it has not aged well for me.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      St. Louis is the chess capital of the world the US. So at least chess players are regularly jealous of St. Louis.

      • JohnBuridan says:

        This is true! And the chess museum is awesome. And Gary Kasparov sits around at the coffee shop drinking black coffee ruminating on the Russian afterlife.

        • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

          Wait, I’ve been browsing SSC less than two miles from Garry Kasparov for years and I’m only just now finding out?

          Screw this thread, I’m going over to the chess club.

    • bean says:

      I will savor this brief moment in which others are jealous of St. Louis.

      Oh, everyone is jealous of St. Louis when I show them pictures of City Museum. And they would be jealous of you/us for having Ted Drewes, except that they have not yet been enlightened.

    • MilfordTrunion says:

      “I did a test with the Whopper and Impossible Whopper and could not tell the difference. However, Whoppers are not generally that good. ”

      Yep–that’s the place that these burgers are going to go, is steam-table fast-food. Everyone is trying to compare them to fresh-ground Wagyu-beef patties prepared in some $30-burger place, but that’s not the high-volume meat-user that this product is supposed to replace.

  18. Harry Maurice Johnston says:

    According to the linked Wikipedia article on Nemesis, the newer data on periodic extinction (Melott & Bambach in 2010) shows that it is too regular to be explained by a companion star, not that it is not regular enough. (Although there is also a contradictory quote from a NASA press release. That press release does not provide any references.)

    Does anyone know what the latest consensus (if any) is on Melott & Bambach’s claims? And if they are still considered sound, and given that Nemesis is out of the running to explain them, have other possible explanations been suggested?

  19. Andrew Cady says:

    One obvious solution is giving houses in nice apartment buildings to everyone except that small fraction, but I think people worry that looks too much like trying to separate the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, so it’s politically difficult.

    Give housing to everyone, except people who were already given housing and were subsequently evicted for destroying it.

    Nothing would look bad about that.

    • Deiseach says:

      people who were already given housing and were subsequently evicted for destroying it. Nothing would look bad about that.

      The problem is, those people have to be housed in some way, shape or form, because now they are homeless and that makes them the responsibility of the local council who are legally obligated to provide services (plus some at least of them are operators who know how to game the system, e.g. the person I’ve mentioned before who carefully orchestrated the local radio station and newspaper to do a sympathetic report on ‘why is this poor single mother with x kids not being helped by the mean ol’ red-tape bound bureaucratic pencil-pushers?’ when the real story was greatly different).

      So the bad apples end up on the streets (or claim they will) and you’ve still got a homeless problem, plus do-gooders taking up the cause without knowing the background – that’s where the “oh yeah it will look bad” part comes in. Single mother of three kids kicked out by heartless local authority! All down to jealous, moralising neighbours who took against her for no reason and persecuted her!

      Never mind that this eviction was because she and her druggie boyfriend were intimidating the neighbours, engaged in petty crime and anti-social behaviour, had other junkies and dealers coming in and out like they owned the place, refused to pay rent, the kids were neglected and allowed run wild and turn feral, and they wrecked the place so it was unfit for dogs to live in. Those parts of the story never make it into the heartstrings-tugging pieces reporters love to write since it makes them feel like Pulitzer Prize winners doing searing social commentary. You can try to put them in shelters, but that’s a limited solution since (a) shelters have more applicants than places (b) it really is only a temporary solution (c) it’s not ideal for families with children and (d) the clever operators milk that for every bit of sympathy from the bleeding-hearts (“I only want a house of my own so my kids can have a garden to play in”).

      • Andrew Cady says:

        The problem is, those people have to be housed in some way

        Huh? We’re talking about giving housing to people who are currently homeless. The fact that they’re homeless right now as we talk about this demonstrates that they don’t “have to be housed in some way.”

        I don’t really know what to make of any of your comment. All of it seems to be the same in this regard. It’s completely unacceptable that there be any homelessness at all, therefore we need to keep the homeless homeless?? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

        Never mind that this eviction was because she and her druggie boyfriend were intimidating the neighbours, engaged in petty crime and anti-social behaviour, had other junkies and dealers coming in and out like they owned the place, refused to pay rent, the kids were neglected and allowed run wild and turn feral, and they wrecked the place so it was unfit for dogs to live in.

        One of those things is not like the others.

        • Deiseach says:

          The fact that they’re homeless right now as we talk about this demonstrates that they don’t “have to be housed in some way.”

          The situation in Ireland, which admittedly is all I’m qualified to talk about, is governed by the Housing Act of 1988. The obligation (not statutory but as the relevant body) is on local authorities to find, provide, or otherwise deal with accommodation for the homeless, as set out in sections nine and ten of the Act.

          The obligations to support the homeless mean that the local council, as well as the various charities that provide emergency services, is the first port of call for people who are already homeless or will be made homeless shortly. The local council also works in tandem with voluntary housing associations and charities such as Focus Ireland which provides services to the homeless including building and running their own apartment buildings (and they also deal with young adults who have aged out of the State care system and are now dumped at the age of eighteen on their own resources, it may surprise you to learn that quite often kids who’ve been bounced around the foster and care system with no family capable or interested in helping them end up unable to manage things like ‘getting a job and accommodation given I have no money or qualifications’ hence at risk of homelessness).

          Anyway: you’re a middle-aged alcoholic who has finally been kicked out of the family home by your wife who is at the end of her tether and can’t handle your drinking any more. What do you do? Well, ideally you sober up first, but drunk or sober you head on down to the local council offices and present as homeless. Then you’ll probably be put in contact with emergency accommodation like hostels, and begin engaging with the system. You may also apply for social housing, often the system is set up that whether or not you want social housing you need to apply anyway to get on the list and start the wheels turning:

          A person is regarded as homeless if they:

          Have no accommodation available which they can reasonably occupy. This includes people who would normally reside with the homeless person

          or

          Are living in a hospital, county home, night shelter or other such institution because they do not have accommodation available and are unable to provide accommodation from their own resources

          A person wishing to avail of Homeless Services must present themselves to the Customer Service Desk at [redacted], between 2pm-4pm and meet with the Homeless Services Officer. The Homeless Services Officer will make an assessment and refer a person, if necessary, to an Emergency Accommodation Provider.

          How can we help?
          Following the assessment, and if appropriate, emergency accommodation will be provided.

          Consideration will also be given to making a referral to other services to assist the client, examples of which are:

          – The Advice & Information Centre
          – The Tenancy Support & Sustainment Service
          – The Department for Social Protection (DSP) for financial assistance

          One of those things is not like the others.

          You mean the not paying rent? Sure, you’d think! But in effect, people are often on social welfare payments and paying only low rents, and some people easily run up arrears. In many cases these are genuine temporary emergencies and the tenants engage with the council and agree on a repayment schedule.

          Other cases, however, they deliberately run up arrears. What are you gonna do, evict them? Yeah, you have to go to court first. Then they go crying to their social worker, who turns up as a character witness and swears blind the unfortunate person is only in arrears due to struggles and will pay back, and the judge tells the council no dice, they can’t kick them out. The defaulter then sits back laughing up their sleeve as they can’t be kicked out until things get a lot worse and they know it and we know it but nothing can be done because that’s the way the courts operate.

          (Remember what I said about “bleeding heart” being a pejorative?)

          But suppose we do get a judgement and they are evicted. Well, now they’re officially homeless, so they turn up at the council offices looking to access homeless services, and they have to be considered like everybody else.

          Rinse and repeat.

    • John Schilling says:

      Nothing would look bad about that.

      The people lying about in gutters would look bad.

      The fact that they “deserve” it for having destroyed the last housing they were given, doesn’t change the fact that it looks bad. People can’t see what they did in the past, only that they are suffering now. The part they can see, looks bad. And even if everyone somehow knows and agrees that they deserve it (they won’t), having people lying around in gutters still looks bad in the sense of being unsightly and aesthetically displeasing to the point of disgust.

      So the voters will demand that you provide the violent abusive unsanitary people who destroy whatever housing they are given, a place to sleep that isn’t a city street. And you then have to either A: make it more appealing to them than the city street, or B: lock them up so they can’t leave. And lots of people are going to feel bad enough about Plan B that you probably won’t have the votes to make it a strictly-enforced reality.

      If you do make Plan B a strictly-enforced reality, now you’re going to have lots of people who go beyond merely being OK with that and start trying to figure out how to get other classes of people they don’t like on the “deserve to get locked away in the camps” category.

      • LHN says:

        For completeness though not endorsement, there’s also “use carrot and stick as needed to encourage them to clutter up some other city’s street instead”. It’s not unheard of for municipalities to combine the threat of B (or alternatively harassment short of arrest) with a free bus/train ticket to Somewhere Else. Which solves the problem of unsightly homeless in that particular place, at least for the towns/neighborhoods that can afford it.

  20. Eigengrau says:

    That’s a pretty bad take on the Mueller situation. I think it’s partly due to Scott’s admitted ignorance on the issue, but I do wish he’d put more thought into it.

    Basically, what the investigative journalists said about the Russia story wound up being like 99% correct.

    What the op-eds and cable news talking heads said was all over the place, with much of it being hysterical nonsense.

    It’s a mistake to combine both groups and dismiss them all as “the media”. There is already a record high distrust of “the media”, due largely to the unreliability and pervasiveness of the second group. This widespread distrust absolutely does not manifest itself as healthy skepticism of media reporting on, say, something requiring advanced statistical knowledge, like the criticism of The Spirit Level, but rather supercharges everyone’s confirmation bias engines and contributes to the ongoing destruction of discourse by eroding our shared knowledge. We do not get an audience asking earnest questions about p-hacking when people like Taibbi call for “the media”s heads. Instead, we get an audience forever not believing anything ever published in The New York Times (especially if it doesn’t gel with their personal/political opinions).

    Also, you’re wrong to say that the media never gets criticism for getting stuff wrong. They do, all the time (again, there is an all-time low trust in media), and are even quick to self-flagellate. The months following the 2016 election was non-stop the media going on excursions in the midwest to talk face-to-face with “economically anxious” Trump voters and op-eds about What We Have To Learn About 2016. The asymmetry of polarization in politics means a lot of news figures, themselves mostly centrists or left-leaning, are confounded and bending over backwards to represent increasingly right-wing viewpoints to avoid the appearance of bias.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      This seems like one of those “lying by telling the truth” things.

      First, though, “99% correct” is way too high when there’s completely fabricated stuff like the pee-pee tapes, Cohen in Prague, secret Trump Tower servers communicating with Russians, etc.

      The rest of it falls into “lying by telling the truth” because the context is false. The “serious journalists” were seriously trying to sell a false narrative: that cooperation existed between the Trump campaign and Putin or the Russian government to swing the campaign.

      So we’ll get reporting on the true fact that Jeff Sessions spoke with the Russian ambassador during the campaign. With the heavy implication that it was secret or improper. In fact it was public and incidental. And I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with a meeting between an ambassador and a candidate or campaign, because discussing foreign relations with the foreigners in question seems like a good idea when crafting one’s proposed foreign policy. The Chinese ambassador requested secret meetings with top aides for Hillary (no word on whether the meetings took place) and no one seems to think this is a big deal. And with good reason: it’s not a big deal. So why bother reporting on non-issues like Sessions talking to the Russian ambassador? It may be true, but the story is selling a false narrative of “Russian collusion.”

      Similarly, we were told “Trump campaign guts GOP’s anti-Russia stance on Ukraine”. The reality of the story is that initially the platform said nothing about Ukraine as the platform is updated every 4 years and the Euromaidan protests that kicked off the Ukraine-Russia thing didn’t happen until 2013, after the 2012 platform was written. One of the hundredish delegates wanted to insert language that the US strongly supports the Ukrainians and will give them aid including lethal weapons to use against the Russians. The Trump delegate wanted to walk that last bit back a tiny bit to just say something like “appropriate aid.” Why pre-commit to providing lethal weapons to kill Russians? So the strength of the statements on Ukraine started at 0, someone proposed an 8 (I guess 9 would be killing the Russians ourselves and a 10 would be nuking Russia), the Trump rep (who probably wouldn’t have been in on the treason with Russia anyway) suggested a 7 instead, everyone agreed, but this sort of true story gets blown massively out of proportion in support of the completely false narrative that the GOP platform was dictated by Putin. Oh and then the Trump admin provided Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainians anyway as it deemed that level of aid “appropriate.”

      So, sure, in some cases, maybe 80% (not 99%) of the time, the media reported sort-of true but completely irrelevant facts in support of a 100% false narrative that drove half the country insane and ruined our chances of detente with a foreign nuclear power. Great job, guys, great job. No need for any introspection or corrective action here, no-sir-e.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I’d be curious to see how much of an overlap there is between the group of people who wanted the Republican platform to call for sending weapons to Ukraine, and the group of people who thought Trump was a reckless bomb-thrower because he called the president of Taiwan the president of Taiwan.

      • Eigengrau says:

        The difference is that things like the pee tape were consistently viewed as extremely dubious by journalists. I also consider it due diligence to give extra attention to things like Sessions’ contacts with Russians, given how many other suspicious contacts there were between the Trump campaign and Russia. Cohen in Prague was false, I’ll give you that. The Washington post has a good rundown of which details reporters fumbled on:
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/22/what-media-got-right-wrong-about-mueller-report/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.0aee8b93b5c3

        Did the Chinese hack the RNC servers and disseminate that information with the purposes of aiding Clinton’s campaign? No? Maybe that’s why no one followed up on those meeting proposals.

        We were told the Trump campaign gutted the GOP’s anti-Russia stance by… an op-ed in the Washington Post. This is exactly my point. The overwhelming majority of reporting on that aspect of the story was done by opinion writers and talking heads. At the same time, it was absolutely true that Trump had a skyscraper-sized conflict of interest with his Trump Tower Moscow deal, which he then lied about a whole bunch.

        And oh my lord, the narrative was not 100% false. The Russians *did* attempt to sway the election in Trump’s favour, Trump’s team knew about it and at times even welcomed it, and Trump very much did try to cover it all up. What the media was gunning for, and what the investigation did not produce, was a smoking gun to rise the level of evidence to a prosecutable criminal conspiracy. Only the opinionists and tv hacks were saying that Trump was literally a Russian spy or whatever. “Ruined our chances of detente with a foreign nuclear power” is a pretty bold claim. I seem to recall Obama trying to ease tensions with Russia too and the Republicans at the time accused him of being a weak little bitch getting slapped around by Putin. I wouldn’t take the theatricality of partisan politics as a primary driver of foreign policy.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Who knows what efforts the Chinese took to influence the US election in Hillary’s favor. We haven’t had a massive investigation into it. Are we to believe the Chinese are too principled to meddle in US politics? They obviously would have preferred her, just like the Russians would obviously prefer Trump, since Trump pledged to get tough on China trade-wise while Hillary rattled sabers against Russia. But the Russian stuff has been blown massively out of proportion. So what that they bought a few FaceBook ads? Even the hacking of the DNC/Podesta emails did little damage, assuming that even was the Russians. There are several odd things in those allegations that leave me unconvinced.

          The Clintons also had massive foreign conflicts of interest, with foreigners either directly paying Bill for speeches or donating millions to their foundation. I assume you’re able to brush these conflicts aside as unimportant. Why not so with Trump? The Trump Tower Moscow deal didn’t even happen. Whatever you’re assuming that plot was, it failed.

          The Russians did little, as did most every other government on the planet, all of whose efforts were dwarfed by the influence of the US media and the campaigns themselves.

          Trump was unconcerned with these efforts, assuming he was aware of them at all, given that he was consumed with his obvious and effective campaign strategy of holding rallies, talking to the media, and tweeting.

          He did not at all try to “cover up” the no engagement he had with the Russians.

          The media completely screwed this up. You fell for a hoax. Hillary lost because she was deeply unlikable, failed to address the economic concerns of the rust belt, while she shat on them for being “irredeemably deplorable.” Not because Trump cheated with the Russians.

          Usually I’m happy when my political opponents are fixated on foolish things, but this has gone on too long. It’s really unhealthy for the Republic when half the people are brainwashed into believing the President is a foreign traitor by the corporate media. Wake up. Move on. Come up with ideas to appeal to American voters.

          • Clutzy says:

            Moreover, the evidence is stacking up that that, even if Russia preferred Trump, they did so because they assumed the media would rabidly go after him and hamper the efficacy of American government.

            NYT

            Another possibility — one that Mr. Steele has not ruled out — could be Russian disinformation. That would mean that in addition to carrying out an effective attack on the Clinton campaign, Russian spymasters hedged their bets and placed a few land mines under Mr. Trump’s presidency as well.

          • Eigengrau says:

            Yeah, you’re right. This is no big deal. Totally blown out of proportion. It’s not like there’s some very famous historical precedent where a Republican president knew about and welcomed an illegal breach of the DNC committed on his behalf, then blatantly attempted to obstruct the subsequent investigation. And the current news just keeps being hysterical! Now they’re saying the Republican president, even though he was never found to be criminally involved in the break-in itself, is threatening a widespread defiance of congressional subpoenas! Ridiculous! An impeachment investigation would be totally without merit and precedent, especially since the Republican president has also definitely not committed a whole bunch of financial crimes. No, the real scandal is George McGovern’s — er, I mean, Hillary Clinton’s — charitable organization.

            (The whataboutism of Hillary is hilarious because you know she would have been tit-deep in congressional investigations from day one of her presidency.)

            Anyways, this is getting off topic, so here again is the point I’m trying to make: the widespread bashing of “the media”, as a homogeneous entity, is a dangerous mistake. We need to differentiate between the Actual Journalists and the Hacks, because the former is a mostly trustworthy, essential part of a functioning democracy, while the latter is further ruining our ability to think.

            Look, the Mueller report, even in its redacted form, is an *extraordinarily* damning document, much of which was already reported on by Actual Journalists. But because the Hacks have drowned us in competing narratives of “Trump literally invented crime and wears Putin’s shock collar” and “Trump is a perfect little angel and it is secretly the Democrats who literally invented crime”, people don’t know how to react properly to a report that lands somewhere in the middle. And once again we see asymmetric polarization in effect: we got an apology tour from those who represented the first narrative, and a gloating tour from those representing the second narrative, even though the first narrative erred closer to reality.

          • cassander says:

            @Eigengrau says:

            Yeah, you’re right. This is no big deal. Totally blown out of proportion. It’s not like there’s some very famous historical precedent where a Republican president

            the fact that republican presidents are the only ones who seem to get media scrutiny is precisely the problem here.

            (The whataboutism of Hillary is hilarious because you know she would have been tit-deep in congressional investigations from day one of her presidency.)

            Whataboutism is bringing up IRRELEVANT comparisons. Comparing the media reaction to over Trump and Hillary’s scandals is about as relevant as you can get. It’s especially relevant now given the new hubbub over obstruction considering that Hillary Clinton destroyed tens of thousands of emails that were under subpoena, with nary a peep out of the people who are so incensed that trump’s supposed obstruction of crime that they mostly admit he wasn’t guilty of.

            We need to differentiate between the Actual Journalists and the Hacks, because the former is a mostly trustworthy, essential part of a functioning democracy, while the latter is further ruining our ability to think.

            This is axiomatic. What, precisely, is your test for determining who is what?

            Look, the Mueller report, even in its redacted form, is an *extraordinarily* damning document, much of which was already reported on by Actual Journalists. But because the Hacks have drowned us in competing narratives of “Trump literally invented crime and wears Putin’s shock collar” and “Trump is a perfect little angel and it is secretly the Democrats who literally invented crime”,

            I know no one who claims the latter. I know plenty who claimed the former. Perhaps your experience is different, but given the numbers, I’m much more concerned with the former.

          • fluorocarbon says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            The media completely screwed this up. You fell for a hoax. Hillary lost because she was deeply unlikable, failed to address the economic concerns of the rust belt, while she shat on them for being “irredeemably deplorable.” Not because Trump cheated with the Russians.

            Less of this please. Your comment is not true, necessary, or kind.

            The legitimate media didn’t screw it up, as @Eigengrau pointed out. In this thread, you’ve been leaving long angry comments about how stupid the media and everyone believing it is. But you haven’t provided a single example that’s not an opinion article.

            Hillary didn’t lose the election for the reasons listed or because she couldn’t “come up with ideas to appeal to American voters”. Hillary won the election by about three million votes. She didn’t become president due to the unpredictable behavior of the electoral college when the votes several states are close and correlated. This is really important and everybody needs to remember it: whoever you are, whatever side you’re on, the result of the 2016 election doesn’t prove your narrative. It could have gone either way.

            If you actually think that the Mueller report completely exonerates Trump, you’re the one falling for a hoax. I suggest reading the thing! It sounds like you’re getting your talking points from the right-wing equivalents of those stupid lefty talking heads you hate (reasonably, I might add, they’re pretty ridiculous and misleading).

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            While Taibbi does come up with a few good counterexamples, my impression from the start was that the narrative pushed by the mainstream press was of the form “Trump mumble mumble Russia”– too vague to ever be falsified by anything short of a finding that no one in the campaign had ever so much as met a Russian. I interpret their bummed-outness now as less “We got caught peddling a false story” and more “Now we’re stuck in this wretched motte”.

          • @fluorocarbon

            Hillary won the election by about three million votes.

            Every source I’ve read suggests that she lost the election by exactly 77 votes. You seem deeply confused about how American elections work.

          • ManyCookies says:

            @Brendan

            Fluro’s point is it’s hard to claim grand narrative stuff like “Hilary was deeply unlikable” or “Her loss was a clear refutation against X/Y/Z” when the popular vote was much closer than the EC implied and in fact favored Clinton (and the Electoral College is straight up archaic nonsense if we’re doing any tapestry of everyone gets to vote, but that’s another discussion).

        • Deiseach says:

          Only the opinionists and tv hacks were saying that Trump was literally a Russian spy or whatever.

          That’s an easy way to rewrite what happened. I’m happy enough to class all the loudmouth Democratic politicians as “opinionists” but gee, what do you do about all the ignorant Democratic supporters, party members and voters who swallowed the story put out by hacks and firmly believed Trump was Actual Russian Spy And Traitor?

          Remember Jane who used to come on here? Generally sensible, functional adult; also posted time and again that it had been PROVEN BEYOND DOUBT that the Russians HACKED ACTUAL VOTING MACHINES TO STEAL VOTES FOR TRUMP. And there were other cases on the sub-reddit (I’m thinking of one party in particular) who posted almost daily “Trump has only days left before impeachment” and who did firmly believe all the “literal spy” stuff.

          But hey, if you want to call the Democratic half of the electorate ill-informed ninnies without brains of their own who were led by the noses by hacks into believing “The Mueller Report will prove Trump was a Russian spy”, don’t let me stop you!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            No, please do not do this.

            “I found someone on reddit who says things that are hyperbolic!” You don’t want this conversation. Well, you don’t want it unless you get to veto when some version of HeelBearCub posts asinine examples from the Republican ledger. Which is generally how things tend to work around here.

        • cassander says:

          The difference is that things like the pee tape were consistently viewed as extremely dubious by journalists.

          This was definitely not my experience.

          I also consider it due diligence to give extra attention to things like Sessions’ contacts with Russians, given how many other suspicious contacts there were between the Trump campaign and Russia.

          Convenient, that. I feel like one could just as easily say “I also consider it due diligence to give extra attention to things like Obama’s birth certificate, given how many other suspicious contacts there were between the Obama and anti-american figures.” Or clinton, if you prefer. emotive conjugation is not an argument.

          Did the Chinese hack the RNC servers and disseminate that information with the purposes of aiding Clinton’s campaign? No? Maybe that’s why no one followed up on those meeting proposals.

          Why do you think the Russians wanted to help Trump’s campaign?

          And oh my lord, the narrative was not 100% false. The Russians *did* attempt to sway the election in Trump’s favour, Trump’s team knew about it and at times even welcomed it, and Trump very much did try to cover it all up.

          None of that is the case. The russians spent several million dollars in an election that saw several billion spent on troll farms, who trolled against a lot of candidates. Most energy was spent on anti-Clinton stuff because she seemed likeliest to win. the russians were almost certainly not delusional enough to think that their paltry spending could alter the election results.

          Whether trump new about it in a meaningful sense is doubtful, he had no ability to cover it up, and didn’t.

          What the media was gunning for, and what the investigation did not produce, was a smoking gun to rise the level of evidence to a prosecutable criminal conspiracy.

          it reached the opposite of that. zero evidence of such a conspiracy. which should have been obvious to everyone from the beginning.

          Only the opinionists and tv hacks were saying that Trump was literally a Russian spy or whatever.

          In what world are the not part of the media?

          • Clutzy says:

            The #1 important thing that needs to be proved for Russia conspiracy theory adherents to be legitimate is what benefit has Russia gained.

            The reality is that Russia has only gained because of conspiracy theorists.

          • cassander says:

            @clutzy

            I agree that the conspiracy theorists have done far more damage than the Russians, but a conspiracy doesn’t need to have been successful to have been a conspiracy.

  21. ana53294 says:

    Some effective altruists suggest you save up to donate later. Others warn against “value drift”, eg later you might drop out of effective altruism and not care at all. Now they have empirical data: of 22 people who were donating 10% of their income five years ago (or doing other equivalent work), only 8 continue to do so today. Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.

    I think that values change, absolutely, but sometimes it’s not so much values (what we think we should do/what we wish we were doing), but habits that change. Hedonic adaptation happens, and we want more money than before to maintain the same level of happiness.

    In Spain, university education is fairly cheap, but living costs still have to be covered. Scholarships are only given to kids from poor families, and only give you enough money to lead a student lifestyle (share apartment with roommates, avoid restaurants and bars, have potlucks and outside drinking parties instead).

    Because scholarships are means tested, and the means required mean a middle class family would not qualify, many people are too poor to afford studies but too rich for a scholarship. Some work and study (this means taking 3-4 more years to finish), some start working.

    Many of those who started working full time instead of studying start living a much nicer life than a student can afford. They earn an income, and they don’t have to share house with many roommates, they are independent from their families, and they can help their families. Even though many of them start with the plan of spending a couple of years saving to later return to their studies, most of them do not return. Their lifestyles change, they get married, and they get kids, and every year, the sacrifices required to go to university become harder.

    I’ve met a few such people, and they all said that they regret not making sacrifices earlier, but that they are too used to their higher standard of living, that they are too old to live like students, and they felt like they couldn’t go to university while having kids and paying a mortgage. They still wish that they could go to university, but they don’t have the time/energy anymore.

    Some people in EA may have changed their opinion about the effectiveness of EA, or they may have stopped being utilitarian. But some people may have gone on the hedonic treadmill, and their lifestyles have improved, and whereas in the beginning of their work career they were happy to live slightly better than the students they were a year ago, and share an apartment with just two people instead of living in a dorm, and go out once a week instead of having potlucks, all while donating 10% of their income and living a life much more comfortable than the one they had as students, that may not be acceptable anymore in later stages of one’s life.

    Also, younger people tend to be a lot more passionate about their values than older people, even when they share identical values.

  22. caryatis says:

    More on cost disease / wage decoupling / civilizational decline/ housing crisis: as per these tweets, the average rent in NYC went from 15% of average income in 1950 to 65% today.

    Why exactly should we believe random guy on twitter “@folksy_sean” on this? I don’t even see a source. Kevin Drum says rent in NYC has increased less than 20% relative to median income since 1990.

    There’s no question that rent has gone up substantially in some cities. And this data is for MSAs, which usually include the surrounding suburbs. If you want to live in Manhattan or downtown Seattle, rent inflation has probably been higher than this chart shows. Still, there are only six MSAs where rents have gone up more than 15 percent relative to the rise in incomes. And that probably overstates the problem since median incomes are higher in cities.

    • j r says:

      Yeah. My guess is to make that comparison, 1950s rent likely includes things like SROs and boarding houses.

      From Wikipedia:

      For much of New York City’s early history, housing was provided in shared accommodations that would probably be described as SROs today.[17] These units provided housing for single, low-income men, and to a lesser degree, single low-income women.[17] In New York City, the number of SRO units increased a great deal during the Great Depression, but with the deinstitutionalization of mentally ill people, SRO units became filled with tenants with mental health diagnoses, which led to bans on the building of new SRO units in the 1950s and taxation benefits for landlords to convert SROs into regular apartments.

      And it’s not clear that he is comparing NY rent to the median NY wage or to the median national wage. A more useful comparison would be housing costs in the NY metro area relative to the median wage in the NY metro in 1950 v. now.

  23. Viliam says:

    of 22 people who were donating 10% of their income five years ago (or doing other equivalent work), only 8 continue to do so today.

    There are several possibilities why that could happen:

    * older people are less likely to donate in general, e.g. because they prioritize spending on their kids;

    * as people grow up, they become suspicious about EA causes, and choose to donate to other causes;

    * it is all completely random, each year some people randomly join the EA movement and some people randomly leave it.

    It would be good to find out which of these models is closest to reality, before jumping to far-reaching conclusions. (Seems to me that some comments here already assume it is one of these options, without considering alternatives.)

  24. Mablun says:

    >Some effective altruists suggest you save up to donate later. Others warn against “value drift”, eg later you might drop out of effective altruism and not care at all. Now they have empirical data: of 22 people who were donating 10% of their income five years ago (or doing other equivalent work), only 8 continue to do so today. Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.

    To me, this is a strong reason why I should hold off donating to causes now and wait. I seem to recall a study showing how some people identify themselves with the “elephant” part of the brain as others as the “rider” and I wonder if this is something similar with some people trusting present-self and other’s trusting future-self more. Personally, if future-me came and said “I don’t think you should donate to x,y, z causes because you will care about them much less in the future,” I’d listen and comply because my assumption would be that future-me has more information, wisdom, or maturity than present-me. Would other people behave differently and ignore the advice of future-thems? If so, that kind of shocks me as I didn’t realize this might be a dimension that people would differ.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      If my future self told me that donating to these causes would be counterproductive, I’d listen. If my future self told me I had the wrong values, I’d entertain the idea but wouldn’t assume it to be correct, and if he couldn’t convince me I’d ignore him. Mostly because I think “what matters to you?” is a question for the elephant, and I’m comfortable with the answer changing over time.

    • Clutzy says:

      To be honest, its a close call. I consider the 18 year old version of myself to be, in many ways, smarter than the current version of myself. That is, he was better at figuring out complex situations presented to him at the time being. Of course, he had less information than what I have now, particularly because I know the future (from his POV). I still know the choices he made, and I can evaluate them (and he did pretty ok in hindsight), but unfortunately I don’t know what choices he would make for me currently when tackling my hardest choices.

      That said, I have consistently been much more optimistic about younger people than just about everyone of my particular age group at just about any age I have been at. I am, to be sure, a youth optimist. This is probably because my younger siblings have always seemed reasonable to me, or maybe I just have excessive confidence in young me. Schoolteachers, in particular, always grate on me with the air of superiority they often project when talking about students. Its not that I side with all the students, but I do kinda side with the smart students. Often I hear a 35 year old biology teacher complaining about a student and think, “yeah, he/she just put you into an utter clownsuit and you don’t even know it.”

  25. Deiseach says:

    It argues that some small fraction of homeless people are loud or violent or defecate in inappropriate places, and that cities which have tried housing them have found that when they put them in nice apartment buildings, they ruin the apartment for everyone else (including other homeless people).

    There are a lot of sarcastic (and so unhelpful) remarks I could make here, so I’ll confine myself to: yes. Ask any social housing/voluntary housing association/whoever builds houses for the homeless in your country and they’ll tell you this.

    Not all the homeless, but a fraction. Some because of mental illness/other mental or emotional problems they are not handling well, need a ton of support but don’t have it, or other reasons; some because they’re criminal scum. (That last sounds harsh but it’s true).

    Solutions? Well, as you say: “people worry that looks too much like trying to separate the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, so it’s politically difficult”. If you ever wondered why “bleeding-heart” was a term used as a put-down and disparagement, this is why: eight times out of ten, dealing with problem tenants who engage in anti-social behaviour and ruin it for everyone else would be easy if you could just turf them out (and preferably stick them in jail for the petty criminality they’ve engaged in) but you can’t do this because some do-gooder liberal will start squawking, and the problem tenants know this and depend on it (aided and abetted by ambulance-chaser law firms who use “suing the council/other local governmental body” as their bread-and-butter business; I could tell you about a couple such cases I saw when working in social housing but confidentiality, you know?)

    Many, many, many people who need social housing are genuinely in tough circumstances and need help and want to get out of their situation. But there are always the tiny few who are incapable of handling independent living, and the slightly larger few who are plain and simple in it for themselves, have imbibed an attitude of entitlement, have no sense of proportion, vehemently refuse taking any responsibility for owing any kind of civic duty but expect to get everything they demand handed to them on a plate, and involved in a lot of petty and not-so-petty crime (often drug-related, which is another reason I’m anti-legalise soft/medium hard drugs).

    EDIT: All that being said, there are no easy, cheap, quick solutions. Any solution will cost money and resources and will have to be ongoing, and it’s a tough line to balance between leaving people free to live their lives as they please (and it pleases some people to wreck things) and instituting such a system of oversight and external control that it does infantilise people and remove any capacity for taking responsibility from them (so they passively expect everything on a plate and don’t develop a sense of “we all live in common society and the environment around me is for us all to enjoy, so I don’t piss and shit on the streets”).

    • Well, as you say: “people worry that looks too much like trying to separate the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor, so it’s politically difficult”.

      Although we could pay a price for going too far, we are paying a price right now for barely tackling the issue at all. The problem is that although the “deserving poor” and “undeserving poor” are over-simplifications, there are real underlying divisons being pointed at with these terms. People talk a lot about class conflict, but intra-class conflict seldom gets discussed as being a class issue alongside inter-class conflict in the traditional sense. In the UK, People like Owen Jones will write books defending the “Chav” because he believes it’s a form of demonization of the working class, even though most of the animous towards this social group is coming from other working class people (and not because they’ve been brainwashed into seeing things that aren’t there by the “Murdoch media”).

      There are many reasons people can be poor, and the people who are poor because of hard luck or a lack of ambition, have to share space with people who are poor because they are violent, unstable, or legitimately mentally ill. The merely unproductive versus the destructive. One of the underdiscussed problems of being poor is that you have to live around other poor people, on a street level, including that nasty criminal element. The rich have the luxury of being selective with who they interact with.

      Without institutiing very hard policy that could backfire(hard on crime, hard on the mentally ill, round ’em all up), the only way to solve this in the long term would be:
      1: Automate everything (organically happening anyway) so that poor people aren’t forced to live crammed in where the jobs are, with other poor people.
      2: Institute UBI (Not beforehand) so that people aren’t dying on the streets after step 1.
      3: Encourage massive population decline (organically happening anyway but agonizingly slowly and can’t be sped up with evil things we will not discuss here) so that there is less competition for land, and each person has more space to engage in freedom of association without economic compulsion.

      On the slightly less utopian end of the scale, we could probably just kick violent, destructive, and unhygenic people out of these apartments on an individual level by enforcing some set of consistent standards that naturally sorts out who is “deserving” and “undeserving” without having to prescribe who is who beforehand. Give the homeless houses that are free in the sense of not costing them any money, but have a behavioral cost instead.

      If the effect is to sort the neutral and positive homeless into homes, and to sort the unstable, mentally ill, and dangerous homeless onto the street, then that’s still an improvement over the status quo, and when it comes to mental illness specifically we could at some point in the future more confidentally commit people off the streets into mental institutions, as we would have already established that when given everything they still can’t cope, and therefore need direct supervision and control by medical professionals.

      • Encourage massive population decline (organically happening anyway but agonizingly slowly and can’t be sped up with evil things we will not discuss here) so that there is less competition for land, and each person has more space to engage in freedom of association without economic compulsion.

        I can’t speak to other countries, but the U.S. is essentially empty–our population density is very low compared to many other developed countries. Fly from one coast to the other and look down.

        The population is dense where people live because there are real advantages to urban living, not because there isn’t plenty of land out there.

        • The Nybbler says:

          but the U.S. is essentially empty–our population density is very low compared to many other developed countries. Fly from one coast to the other and look down.

          A lot of the US’s area, especially in the west, is wasteland without enough water to support much human life without heroic measures, though. Though people live there anyway.

        • John Schilling says:

          I can’t speak to other countries, but the U.S. is essentially empty

          In the literal, geometric sense, yes.

          But if (to oversimplify) the United States has just barely enough honest policemen to effectively police its current population and the next new US resident would be able to steal and rape and murder without restraint for the lack of anyone watching, and if the next name down on our police hiring list is a corrupt scoundrel who can’t be trusted not to run a protection racket from behind the badge, then the United States could be said to be “full” in a very real if non-geometric sense. And would be wise to accept new immigrants only from populations with a disproportionate number of honest-policemen candidates.

          • Clutzy says:

            On top of that, its not like immigrants are moving to North Dakota all that often. They tend to cluster in already highly populated areas.

            A second important thing is, who the hell cares about GDP? Russia has a higher GDP than Tennessee. Would you rather live in Nashville or Perm? GDP/Person is much more important. GDP/ (Person*COL) is probably even more important.

      • The biggest advantages are to do with employment, and this is going to be greatly minimized by automation. Obviously some people like the nightlife and the hustle and bustle of the city, but all the other people who were forced into it by their careers would surely move if they could.

    • DeservingPorcupine says:

      Not all the homeless, but a fraction.

      I think this fraction is something like 9/10 or 95/100.

      • Andrew Cady says:

        A couple decades ago I read a book on homelessness. I believe it was titled Homelessness. In any case, I remember a statistic from it: a little under 50% of the homeless found on the streets are “long-term homeless,” while most will be homeless for a period of under 6 months. Meanwhile those who have been homeless for longer than 6 months tend to have been homeless for 2+ years. (IIRC.)

        It follows that the majority of people who are currently homeless are capable of living non-homeless types of lives. And also that the vast majority of people who have ever been homeless at any point in their lives (i.e., the homeless by headcount) would be similarly capable.

        The long-term homeless population, though, probably all have something seriously wrong with them, so that housing or even cash income won’t solve their problem. But it would still surely improve things for almost all of them.

        • DeservingPorcupine says:

          This strikes me as correct. As a society, we probably overreacted to the era of horrible asylums and are now a little to hesitant to force people into mental health care facilities.

      • acymetric says:

        This is probably just because those are the homeless people you notice. The “regular” homeless people that comprise the majority of the homeless you just walk right by without necessarily realizing they are homeless. This isn’t exactly confirmation bias, but something like that.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          I am told by people on both sides, and also my own experiences observing my own extended social circles, is that most “people experiencing homelessness” are couch surfing with friends, or move in with family for a while, or live out of a car, until they can get another home. And most “homeless” kids move in with one of their friends, from a length of time ranging from a day to being unofficially adopted.

          Such people are “homeless” in that they don’t have a *their* home, but they are not “sleeping rough”, nor are they occupying beds in a shelter.

          Some metrics count these people, and some don’t. Which makes metrics thrown around even less useful.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            That was me for over half this decade. It’s technically “homeless” but realistically about the same as rent-sharing.

    • brad says:

      The answer is incarceration–in prison or mental institutions–for people that constantly break all the rules and make everyone unfortunate to come across their path miserable. It isn’t cheap, pleasant, or easy but it is part of the fundamental bargain that the productive people make with societies. That those societies will protect them from the antisocial in exchange for large percentages of their productive output.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Sorry, incarceration’s been ruled out by the Supreme Court and by public sentiment.

        There is no bargain. The government will take large percentages of the productive output of people, and use that money to protect the antisocial from the consequences of being antisocial, if they can be considered “poor homeless” rather than “hardened criminals”. It’ll give them a place to sleep and food to eat. It allow them to monopolize public spaces such that public benches and parks and libraries become homeless shelters. It will give them immunity from the myriad laws the rest of us have to follow, from shoplifting to public drunkenness to lesser forms of assault. And it will punish severely any productive person who attempts to remedy this situation for themselves. And if you complain about any of this you’re labeled a heartless person. I’m a libertarian… what’s your excuse?

  26. Anon. says:

    What about Jack Ma? Have you seen the skull on that guy? He couldn’t fail even if he wanted to.

  27. S_J says:

    Saw a report about the kinds of health insurance purchased by various customers in the U.S.

    The headline of the report claims that 1.4 million fewer people bought health insurance in the U.S. in 2018, relative to 2016…and tries to place the blame on ObamaCare.

    I’m not quite sure I follow the argument, but I was able to look closely at the table embedded in the article.

    Employment-based coverage is still the largest category, and was flat for 2015-2016, then jumped up about 2 million for 2017-2018.

    Medicaid-eligible-under-ACA jumped by 3 million from 2015 to 2016, and remained flat afterwards. Medicaid-eligibility outside of ACA declined by about 1 million.

    Individual/Non-Group health coverage purchased through ObamaCare/ACA Marketplace went up by a small amount from 2015 to 2018, mostly in the “subsidized” category.

    The big decline mentioned in the headline is in Individual coverage purchased outside the ObamaCare/ACA Marketplace. In reading the table, I can’t find the numbers cited in the article…but I’m seeing a decline of about 3.3 million in that category, spread evenly across the years 2015-2018. The entire subcategory of Individual/Non-Group coverage declined by about 2.5 million across that time frame.

    The Uninsured category decreased from 2015 to 2016, then climbed in 2017, then climbed again in 2018…for a total rise of about half a mllion.

    Eyeballing these numbers, it looks like a big change from Individual/Non-Group to Employer-provided results in most of the changes seen on the table. But there is a worrisome climb in the total number of Uninsured.

  28. Jiro says:

    I think the theories about Mexicans assimilating raise the question of just what counts as assimilation. “Assimilated” Americans of Mexican descent vote Democratic at rates much higher than the average American.

    Whether the immigrants and their descendants speak English and shoot off fireworks on the Fourth of July is not the whole issue.

    • educationrealist says:

      ““Assimilated” Americans of Mexican descent vote Democratic at rates much higher than the average American.”

      I suspect you mean “average white American”, and that’s not true. Hispanics* (why the hell is everyone confusing Hispanics with Mexicans in this post?) who speak English as their native language supported Clinton over Trump at just 48-41. This pattern has also been shown by tracking immigrant Hispanics vs native born Hispanic Americans.

      *Although technically it’s supposed to be Latino or that idiotic Latinx, but the census still says Hispanic, so there.

  29. Deiseach says:

    A heartwarming (I suppose is the intention) news story, but the reflexive response of most Irish readers to “cheap food crop for the peasantry to stave off hunger” especially when it’s about potatoes is to wince and think “yeah, we thought it was a wonder crop too – before the Famine”.

    Hopefully, history will not repeat itself down the line!

    • baconbits9 says:

      As long as the Ethiopians are allowed to own their own land and another country is blocking food imports for them during tough times they should be OK.

      • Deiseach says:

        Mostly the worry is “all your eggs in one basket”. Ethiopia has plenty of experience with famines, the problem is switching from a former staple like barley to a new introduced crop like potatoes, which when they grow well really are a wonder crop, then people become dependent on that as their main food source, and then all it takes is one infestation of blight…

        So yes, lessons of the past really do need to be learned and I assume both the Irish and the Ethiopians involved remember enough about famines not to make the same mistake twice.

      • LHN says:

        In Ethiopia in the 80s it was their own country’s government that was blocking/redirecting the food imports.

  30. Sigivald says:

    Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.

    Well, yes.

    But is there an ethical equivalent of the time-value of money suggesting that future-me is likely to be more wronger about that than current-me?

    (I think the economic argument is probably stronger there – spending $N on GOOD_WORK_X now is better than later, because doing good now allows follow-on effects to start earlier, and most good works have follow-on effects, almost necessarily.

    But I’m also not an interested party, since I’m not an EA in the tithing sense.)

    • HowardHolmes says:

      if you’re going to put something off until later

      We talk as if “putting something off” and “not doing a thing” are two different species. Actually they are equivalent. Something can be either done or not done. There are no other categories. We take “not doing” and relabel it “putting off” because we are unwilling to face the truth squarely. So if the current self chooses to put off contributing the current self is NOT contributing regardless of how determined he is to obfuscate. NOT contributing is in line with the current self’s values. This is clear because the current self chose to not contribute. A future self contributing would require a change in values.

  31. Picador says:

    Something eerily familiar about those VR predictions from Hamish Todd.

    “Once we have VR everyone will telecommute!”

    “Once we have VR people won’t feel the need to live in a fancy or conveniently-located place because they’ll spend their time VRing with their remote friends!”

    “Once we have VR everyone will be able to learn instantly about ethical consumerism and they’ll do that!”

    No to be overly snarky, but it sort of seems like he just took a list of “Internet” predictions from 1998 and did a search and replace.

    I guess I’m a VR/AR/whateverR skeptic. In a world where everyone experiences the world through a handheld screen connected in real-time to the global Internet, I just don’t see how anything changes when you strap the phone to your face instead of holding it up to your face with your hand as everyone does 24/7 right now.

    • Hamish Todd says:

      In comparison with other responses are received, this is at worst only 5/10 level snark! Originality was not my main aim.

      I think we agree that the internet has lead to an increase in telecommuting and ethical consumerism? The difference from the phone is that there is no longer a choice between looking at information coming from a computer versus the physical world, they both come at the same time, so eg having a “video” attached to a packet of coffee beans is no more strange than how strange it is to have a list of ingredients attached to it now. “Video chatting” with AR will feel very much more like ordinary chatting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d59O6cfaM0&t=22s and I think that that is what makes the difference for communicating (and Mark Zuckerberg agrees with me)

  32. Douglas Knight says:

    Value Drift:

    This is exactly backwards.

    The original argument was that donations from young people are worthless, but that they should make them anyways to prevent value drift, rather than investing in themselves. If that doesn’t actually prevent value drift, then that is a reason for young people not to donate.

  33. Anonymous Bosch says:

    On March 24, Donald Trump tweeted “Good Morning, Have A Great Day!” You can learn a lot about our society by reading the 67,000 ensuing comments

    5 years ago: Weak Men Are Superweapons

    Now: Superweapons! Superweapons! Half off on superweapons!

    • greenwoodjw says:

      I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Me neither.

        • Anonymous Bosch says:

          It’s entirely possible I misunderstood what *you* are implying these Twitter replies will teach us about society. I’ll disambiguate if you will.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            We go from insane anti-Trump tweets, to insane pro-Trump tweets, to animated GIFs that probably make some Trump-related point but I’m not sure what, to “Ghost not a big fan of Cocaine Mitch BOOt Ghost like what he is doing with the judges.” to “Obama is a criminal Islamic terrorist”, to a picture of the sunrise with Trump’s face as the sun, to a picture of Pepe as an Egyptian Pharaoh, to covfefe memes, to somebody comparing anti-anti-vaxxers to Nazis, to some sort of meme about shaving your balls, to somebody demanding Trump stop Child Protection Services, to the #LiberalismIsAMentalDisorder hashtag, to thousands of people who just want to wish their president a good morning to you too on Twitter.

            I don’t think I have to have some secret agenda, I just find this really interesting.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Fair enough, my error.

        • ManyCookies says:

          @Scott

          I think Bosch thinks you’re going “Look at these crazy responses to Trump saying good morning, lol the Libs are so hysterical!”, the weakmen being the folks who twitter stalk Trump waiting to post infographics on every single tweet.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            That’s the gist of it, yes. You’ll find these people in the replies of *every* Trump tweet, whether or not the Orange Man is Actually Being Bad. Using … possibly the most innocuous Tweet since his inauguration? Seems a pretty blatant set-up.

            Especially since, Twitter being Twitter, you’re not gonna know how many are bots, how many are Americans, how many are deadpan parody accounts taking a piss (I have, no lie, been linked Titania McGrath tweets as an example of SJW craziness justifying someone’s rightward turn.)

          • greenwoodjw says:

            I have also had trouble screening MacGrath.

            But I think Scott’s point was a jest “People are terrible” and not a serious or deep point.

          • MilfordTrunion says:

            I think sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

      • emiliobumachar says:

        From https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/05/12/weak-men-are-superweapons/:

        “The weak man is a terrible argument that only a few unrepresentative people hold, which was only brought to prominence so your side had something easy to defeat.”

        I didn’t read the twitter stream as it’s blocked in my workplace, but presumably it contains “terrible argument[s] that only a few unrepresentative people hold”, which are being “brought to prominence” here, and readers invited to draw conclusions about our society from it.

  34. Douglas Knight says:

    What do you think of the style of the Taibbi piece? Is it his usual style?

    It seems pretty different to me. I’ve never been able to read more 1000 words of him at one time. Like his Goldman Sachs piece. The stylistic choice may have been good strategy, not just as clickbait, but for propagating information. Lots of people attacked it saying things like “Goldman Sachs is not uniquely evil! All the banks are do that!” In fact, almost all attacks I’ve seen of it are in the text of the piece, pretty explicitly contradicting itself, so this may well have been intentional.

    If he’s writing a book about clickbait and polarization (Hait, inc), it makes sense to use a calmer, more coherent style. Or is it just a decade of evolution?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Taibbi is annoying to me, too, but he might be one of the few people with the credentials to be taken seriously about this. (Someday, if/when there is a serious enough thing about Trump to warrant his impeachment, I won’t believe it.)

      My eyes glazed over as I read through the article. Was that the point? That there were just so many atrocities? It could be, but I think it would work better with some formatting.

      He does a good job when pointing out the fourth estate is supposed to be skeptical of what Big Important people from the military, the government, big business, or the church are claiming. “How could we know they were lying?” Well, it is your entire reason for existence.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Did you find this article annoying in the same way you found his earlier work annoying? “eyes glazed over” is not how I read the vampire squid piece.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I just noticed Scott linked to a different Taibbi Russiagate piece than I expected from this description. The linked one is relatively calm. This is the Taibbi Russiagate piece where he’s screaming mad.

  35. Jacobeus says:

    Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.

    Maybe silly question, but why should we assume that our current selves are wiser than our future selves? Obviously, procrastination is an issue, but that seems separate from value drift to me. If I in the future regret not taking an action now, that I could have taken and considered taking, that will be because my values have not changed substantially, i.e., was simply a relatively small shift in prioritization. On the other hand, if I regret not having taken some action in the past due to a substantial shift in my values, does it make sense to comfort myself with the thought that my younger self definitely knew what he was doing? Do I need to now attempt to revert my values back to my previous ones?

    I always thought that the term “coherent extrapolated volition” meant that I should try to predict what kind of values an older, wiser, more experienced and conscientious version of myself would have, and adopt those, which seems like the opposite of the above advice.

    • profgerm says:

      It’s not that you should think of your current self as wiser, but your current self is more aligned with what the Effective Altruism Movement wants you to do. They want your money while you’re willing to give it, before other things change your mind.

      The goals of the movement are not aligned with the goals of the self. The self is just a cog and a wallet to the movement (this is uncharitable or at least rudely phrased but it’s the simplest explanation for the ‘your personal future self doesn’t matter’ attitude, which is only one part of what I think turns off a lot of potential EAs).

      If “the movement” sees a risk you’ll drift away, they’ll want to milk you now before that happens. From the perspective of the movement, they don’t really care if future-you regrets giving that money: they’ve already been paid and hopefully they did something good with it. Future-you is not a concern of the current-movement.

      Perhaps amusingly, it’s the exact inverse of impulse-purchase advice, in which you tell someone to wait on buying something because they might change their mind.

      • Heterosteus says:

        8I don’t think copy pasting a (very uncharitable) comment multiple times in the same thread is considered good practice.

        Can you really not think of any reasons EAs might bu worried about value drift, beyond “they’re a cult that wants to take your money before you get wise”?

        • Jacobeus says:

          I agree it seems like an incredibly uncharitable take, but reading through the linked-to post on EA forums, it does seem like the author is genuinely worried about the possibility of people coming to disagree with the movement and no longer contributing. The most charitable take is that the author is only concerned about people who still agree becoming “less motivated” as measured by % income donated. But then value drift seems like the wrong term for that. A lot of EA’s started when they were in their early 20s and then eventually decided to do things people normally do when they get older, like get married and have kids. So the author seems to be mostly concerned about people starting families and becoming more “selfish” over time. It really highlights just how much of a problem it is for the EA movement to settle on some norm of expectations of levels of self-sacrifice. This has never been clear to me, and I think an important question, given that some huge % of “value” generated in the world is created by individuals for themselves.

        • profgerm says:

          No, it was not my best commenting etiquette, I’ll agree there. I’ll consider that in the future. I was phrasing it bluntly, and you’re right, my words could have been kinder even if the reasoning would be the same.

          I said nothing about them being a cult, but no, I find it hard to imagine reasons other than “they want your money while you’re willing to give it.” A guaranteed dollar today is better for them than an unguaranteed two dollars in ten years (roughly speaking).

          Which is fine! They’re a charitable movement, they want funding. Current-you wants to be charitable and has money to give. That’s win-win-win for current-movement, current-you, and whoever the charity is helping.

          I see no reason why people think the EA campaigners would have your personal (future) best interest at heart over the (current) needs of their preferred charity (I mentioned that in another reply but it hit the “chain reply limit” so I don’t know if you’ll see it). They want you to “do good” while you’re willing to, and whether future-you thinks that was stupid or is unwilling to continue doesn’t really matter. There’s all sorts of individual vs society and time-preference “calculations” that muddy all this up.

          I repeat: I don’t think EA is a cult, and I did not say it was in any of my original messages.

          However, I think it has the potential , and is easily portrayed that way by actors more uncharitable than I.

          I also think it (this is over-generalizing, it’s a relatively big movement with a hell of a lot of facets and subgroups) is ripe for self-defeating behaviors, like treating people as cogs and nothing more or some impressively universalist levels of self-sacrifice. That’s a consequence of strict Singerian utilitarian philosophy, as I understand it.

          Some of the leaders of the movement (I’m thinking of Rob Wiblin specifically discussing this on the Rationally Speaking podcast) have been working to move away from “work to give” and other ideas because it burns out so many. Hopefully (IMO) over time the movement will moderate or better-present some of its more… controversially utilitarian ideas, let’s say, improve marketing a bit as well, and in the long run end up doing more good because of those changes.

          • Heterosteus says:

            I don’t have time to get into an in-depth discussion about this now (at home with my family for the weekend), but I wanted to say I appreciate the content and perspective of your more recent round of posts much more and would be happy to engage on this more in the future.

          • profgerm says:

            Thank you, and have a great time with family and friends! I’ll be doing the same come the end of the work day.

            Edit: I’d also like to say that kind of comment is appreciated, that atmosphere brought me back to commenting here, and now I feel like a heel for not better-phrasing my original uncharitable snark. But now I recognize my room for improvement, so that’s something.

          • Heterosteus says:

            Thank you. 🙂

            In turn I acknowledge you didn’t actually call EA a cult, and I apologise for putting words in your mouth.

      • Jacobeus says:

        I feel like that’s the obvious conclusion, but also far more cynical than I think is warranted given the overall reputation of EA. I mean, I’ve definitely heard “You should hurry and give me your money right now, because these things are selling out fast!!”, but I’ve never heard “You should hurry and give me your money now, because your future self doesn’t want you to, and who likes that jerk anyway??” Either it’s the worst marketing campaign ever, or I’ve severely misunderstood some complicated nuance and am strawmanning this to hell.

        • profgerm says:

          That kind of depends on where you get your perception of the overall reputation of EA, too. This post from the subreddit comes to mind in illustrating some of the potential pitfalls that can occur in the community and the bad behaviors that can crop up when the philosophy combines with a certain mindset.

          I rag on EA and especially weird EA perhaps a bit more than I should, but I like to think my intent is to be steel sharpening steel, not just a crank complaining about well-intentioned people.

          Though speaking of “the worst marketing campaign ever” I do think their marketing is… awful, though this depends heavily on perspective. I’m thinking that the marketing broadly appeals to the kind of person that works in tech, lives in San Francisco, and has more money than they know what to do with… but has very little appeal to anyone else. To some extent that’s founder effects, and to some extent that’s probably by design (one charitable billionaire can donate more than… what, a thousand middle-class joes like me?).

          On the topic of bad marketing, I get that weird EA can be about “exploding the idea-space to find undiscovered concepts” or however it’s phrased, but the negative utilitarians (among others like insect suffering) also make for an easy bludgeon against the rest of movement. I assume someone decided the trade-off is worth it; I remain skeptical.

          There’s also the issue of hard-line topics that distract people or make semi-obvious coalitions hard. Somewhere Scott talks about a vegan EA event has a few mild grumbles, but a non-vegan EA event gets thrown into chaos (I’m paraphrasing) by questions about why it wasn’t vegan. Ozy writes rather nicely about why EA should be welcoming to religious people, but even they can’t make it through one essay without referring to World Vision (perhaps amusingly, they’re a reasonably cost-effective organization as I recall) as “homophobic fuckwits.” I get disagreeing with WV’s stance, and I do disagree with WV’s stance, but I could also phrase my disagreement in a less inflammatory way to, you know, help people in need instead of writing off a useful charity partner or driving off people that might have been recruited to EA. But I should also acknowledge they’re writing to their own audience and not a general one; I’d imagine most of Ozy’s readers are perfectly happy with that phrase and would be happier with even worse.

          It’s probably worth mentioning that I have had values drift of my own as well. I used to donate more to Givewell charities but have shifted (not entirely) towards local charities that seem effective. Much like “what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul,” I don’t see a value in saving the world while my own community degrades. Which is part of the reason I’m tossing around the idea of writing about effective-ish altruism, without the strict universalist utilitarianism but still focus on the most efficient/effective charities on a more local scale.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If you write about that, I’d love to read it. I think I’ve arrived at the same conclusions as you from different reasons: I’m not a utilitarian; I think we have a greater moral obligation to people in our communities than to people outside them. In accordance with that moral obligation, I donate some amount to Givewell-recommended charities (they do great research!) and some other amount to charities I consider more effective on a local scale.

            I also agree with you completely on the marketing. I’m a Christian; I think a lot of other Christians I know would benefit from EA lines of thought… but I would never recommend the community to them; they would be instantly turned off by the anti-religious rhetoric and controversial assumptions being taken for granted. Worse, the halo effect might make them more reluctant to accept anything about cost-effective malaria treatments that sounds like EA. So, I keep silent, and the EA community loses opportunities.

          • profgerm says:

            Evan, thank you! Consider your comment another motivator for me to actually put pen to paper (er… fingers to keyboard?) regarding those thoughts. I’ll be sure to link/post it in an open thread once it’s done.

            I don’t consider myself utilitarian either, though I think they’ve got some interesting ideas. I suppose I’d be a Christian virtue ethicist, mostly; Peter Kreeft’s Back to Virtue had quite an impact. There are pragmatic reasons to give preference to your community as well: it’s easier to monitor what’s nearby rather than far away, and it’s likely you have a better understanding of the needs based on the local culture.

            Ha, same here! I’ve told a couple church friends that I thought would appreciate EA writings and causes despite the rhetoric, but that’s a carefully-chosen few. The overlap between EA and some rather… dare I use the word, toxic cultures is unfortunate.

  36. zima says:

    Regarding the Mexican assimilation point, I think it makes a difference that Mexicans are more visible minorities than European ones. If you want to study whether limiting immigration would help visible minorities assimilate, I think the best policy to study would be Chinese Exclusion. Chinese Exclusion most definitely did not help Chinese-Americans assimilate; it made them more ghettoized. When combined with a skewed sex ratio among Chinese-Americans due to immigrants being predominantly workers and therefore male, this ghettoization resulted in the slow destruction of the Chinese-American ethnicity. The number of Chinese-Americans according to the Census fell from over 100,000 in 1880 to only about half that number by 1940 before Chinese Exclusion ended. Despite immigrating in much larger numbers, Chinese-Americans today are *far* better assimilated than their 1880s counterparts, and Chinese-Americans in places like Hawaii and California where there are more of them tend to be more assimilated than ones in college towns in flyover country surrounded by white people.

    • Etoile says:

      I would have attributed most of the isolation of the Chinese immigration to the skewed sex ratio – we’re talking orders of 10:1 men to women here, not <2:1.

      Also, I'm not sure where you get thet Chinese Americans in college towns are less assimilated? Do you mean the international students, who aren't "Americans" really? Because in New York at least, there are laege enclaves where all the signs are in Chinese and only the high school students speak English. Thst said though perhaps your point is correct: their kids do go to school and learn English and assimilated quickly.

      • zima says:

        I agree that skewed sex ratio was the proximate cause of the problems, but that’s still something to keep in mind when designing immigration policy; sometimes sensible choices like favoring workers over families can create very negative side effects such as skewing the sex ratio. Not saying we shouldn’t do that, but we should be aware of these impacts.

        Regarding assimilation, I’m just going by my personal experience having been a Chinese-American in a Midwestern college town and then going to college and meeting Chinese-Americans from California, who seemed much more likely to have mixed-race friend groups and be more culturally knowledgeable. I don’t have data on it (although I have seen exit polling suggesting a smaller gap between whites and Asians in party support in California compared to the country as a whole) but it would be interesting to see if anyone does.

      • ana53294 says:

        A skewed sex ratio does not have to mean lack of integration.

        From what I’ve read on the current Chinese migration wave to Africa, it is very skewed towards men. And they seem to marry local women, and join churches (because Chinese people abroad engage in heavy proselytizing; it also helps to create ties to the community).

        Of course, foreigners pouring in and marrying local women creates problems. In the past, communities and families would put heavy pressure on the women not to marry the immigrants; modern societies, even third world ones, seem to be much more tolerant to local women marrying foreigners now than in the past.

        • bean says:

          Of course, foreigners pouring in and marrying local women creates problems. In the past, communities and families would put heavy pressure on the women not to marry the immigrants; modern societies, even third world ones, seem to be much more tolerant to local women marrying foreigners now than in the past.

          The financial aspect of this springs to mind. Back in the day, immigrants were likely to be poor. The sort of Chinese who immigrate to Africa are likely to be pretty well-off by local standards. Also, I suspect they’re going to be hanging around with the more elite, cosmopolitan locals, who are usually fairly westernized/globalized in their attitudes. If you tried this in the backcountry, not so much.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’ve been surprised how bad I am at telling Mexicans and generic white people apart (source: sometimes having patients with very Mexican names who still just strike me as generically white)

      I assume it matters how much Spanish vs. Native ancestry they have.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Also, despite their names, they might have a lot of “generic white” ancestry too. I know someone with an Irish name who looks very Asian… because her mom was Asian, and her dad passed on the name while her mom passed on a lot of externally-visible genes.

      • Clutzy says:

        This is not surprising. Mexico is very complicated racially and the White-Mestizo lines have been blurred there (and in states like Cali, Arizona, & Texas) for hundreds of years. This is why Bush could get 43% of Latinos in Texas, but only 28% in California. They are different populations.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        I can’t tell either, but I just don’t care, mostly.

      • Aapje says:

        @Scott Alexander

        Half of Hispanics in the US consider themselves to be white.

      • educationrealist says:

        “I’ve been surprised how bad I am at telling Mexicans and generic white people”

        If you don’t mean this literally, then jaysus, dude, edit your thoughts before you type them and for god’s sake, edit your spoken words before you get fired.

        Literally: you meet people who are from Mexico and you aren’t sure if they are from Mexico or a white people who are not from Mexico. Some guy could be from the Dominican Republic and you’d be like “Man, you look totally like you’re from Mexico!” Or he could be Russian and you’re all “Holy cow, you look just like this dude I met in Acapulco!”

        Not literally: you are having trouble distinguishing people who are of what we refer to as Hispanic ethnicity from white non-Hispanics (generic, because you aren’t considering white immigrants unless you routinely confuse an Irish immigrant with a Guatemalan).

        “Mexican” means “from Mexico”. If they are born here, you don’t call them Mexican. You call them American. If they are born in Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, or the Dominican Republic, you also don’t call them Mexican. You call them Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, and Dominican.

        The whole reason we refer to Hispanic as an ethnicity, not a race, is because a lot of Hispanics are “racially” white. Many Central American immigrants are now identifying as Native American.

    • educationrealist says:

      “. Despite immigrating in much larger numbers, Chinese-Americans today are *far* better assimilated than their 1880s counterparts, and Chinese-Americans in places like Hawaii and California where there are more of them tend to be more assimilated than ones in college towns in flyover country surrounded by white people.”

      Yeah, that’s completely…not true.

  37. Edward Scizorhands says:

    That salmonella video is amazing. It is directly trying to hack my brain to my own benefit. And it took a lot of effort to make. How does this guy support himself?

    I’m not a medical student in any way, so the specific content is not really useful, but I can still appreciate it. Is there a community for people who want/create these things in general?

  38. Robert Jones says:

    Some effective altruists suggest you save up to donate later. Others warn against “value drift”, eg later you might drop out of effective altruism and not care at all. Now they have empirical data: of 22 people who were donating 10% of their income five years ago (or doing other equivalent work), only 8 continue to do so today. Moral of the story: if you’re going to put something off until later, keep in mind it will be a different you with different values who decides what to do with it.

    I’m not entirely sure whether Scott is saying that this is an argument for or against saving up, but the linked article views it as an argument for donating now, e.g. “if the risk of value drift is higher, a dollar in a savings account is more likely to later be used for non-altruistic reasons and thus not nearly as good as a dollar put into a donor advised fund.

    This seems to me backwards: if you were confident that your values wouldn’t change, that would be argument for being neutral between giving now and giving later (and you would then assess those options simply on the expected impact of a dollar now versus a dollar later, as many have). But if you think that value drift is a realistic possibility, you should try to keep your resources in a high potential state, so as to maximise your future self’s agency. If your future self seeks to pursue different goals from your current goals, then you’re going to be annoyed that you expended resources on your current goals.

    The OP actually says, “It’s like only having healthy food in the house.” But of course it only makes sense to only have healthy food in the house if you anticipate that your future self will only want to eat healthy food. If you anticipate that your future self will want to eat ice cream, you should keep ice cream in the house, even if your current self deprecates eating ice cream. Deliberately seeking to frustrate your own future desires would be perverse.

    The key point is that your future self will form preferences with the benefit of your current data plus additional data that you will have accrued in the meantime, so you should anticipate that your future self will have better preferences than your current self. E.g. in the ice cream case, you imagine now that you will crave ice cream in future, but your future self actually experiences the craving and is therefore able accurately to weight it against the disadvantages of eating the ice cream.

    If it seems to you now that the arguments for effective altruism are compelling, then the only reason your future self might fail to act on those arguments would be that you are subsequently convinced by other arguments, and you wouldn’t be going to have been convinced by those arguments unless they were sound arguments.

    This assumes of course that you’re not concerned about losing self-efficacy.

    • profgerm says:

      The goals of the movement are not aligned with the goals of the self. The self is just a cog and a wallet to the movement (this is uncharitable or at least rudely phrased but it’s the simplest explanation for the ‘your personal future self doesn’t matter’ attitude, which is only one part of what I think turns off a lot of potential EAs).

      If “the movement” sees a risk you’ll drift away, they’ll want to milk you now before that happens. From the perspective of the movement, they don’t really care if future-you regrets giving that money: they’ve already been paid and hopefully they did something good with it. Future-you is not a concern of the current-movement.

      Perhaps amusingly, it’s the exact inverse of impulse-purchase advice, in which you tell someone to wait on buying something because they might change their mind.

      (The above reply was also posted below but it was relevant here, and I found it easier to repeat than link)

      My interpretation of Scott there would be that he does agree with the article, though perhaps not as strongly as the article.

    • The Pachyderminator says:

      This whole argument holds only if I trust my future self to act rationally and in accord with his most deeply held values. Experience shows that this would be a foolish assumption to make.

    • VNodosaurus says:

      If they found out that their future self became a serial killer, I think that most people would be repulsed rather than deciding that their future self has it right.

      The assumption that your future self has better preferences than your current self is not, generally, a fair assumption even without value drift. Your future self may have information your current self doesn’t, but may also forget information that your current self holds; then there’s also cognitive decay. It’s also very possible for people in general to be convinced by false arguments, as a brief glance at the world shows; ergo, assuming you’ll never be convinced by false arguments is inapplicable, and in some cases you may consider it likely that your overall rationality will decline with time.

      But even aside from all that, value drift is there in and of itself. Deliberately frustrating your future self’s goals for the sake of it is perverse, but frustrating your future self to pursue your current goals is not, at least when they’re fundamental goals. In most cases actions and fundamental values are separated by a lot of layers, and we deal with derived values that can shift for logical reasons, but since effective altruism’s whole point is to draw a direct connection, it has a lot more chances to expose conflict in fundamental values between your present and future self – and if your present self truly has those values, then you’ll be disgusted by your future self rather than thinking they have a point. The serial killer example is obviously extreme, the amplitude in practice is much smaller, but the point is the same.

      • Robert Jones says:

        I think your last point is a good one (cf anorexics refusing therapy because if they stop wanting to be thin, they’ll stop being thin). I guess maybe I just don’t have any fundamental goals: I give 10% of my income to effective charities because it seems good to me rather than through some sense of deep conviction.

        • MilfordTrunion says:

          “I give 10% of my income to effective charities because it seems good to me rather than through some sense of deep conviction.”

          Which is why this argument seems strange to you: it’s because it’s not for you, it’s for people who feel a sense of deep conviction motivating them to donate rather than Feelsgoodman.

  39. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I could get at-least-as-good results if I travel to India at much cheaper prices, but I don’t wanna. This is probably irrational. Why?

    1. I don’t travel much, particularly out-of-country.
    2. I especially don’t travel to India much. I have no idea what the culture is like. New things scare me.
    3. I think “if something goes wrong” I will get zero sympathy. If I get an infection, I should have known better to go a third-world country for surgery, even though on a rational basis I’m sure the facilities are as clean as America’s, and might even be better in terms of getting doctors to submit to boring things like checklists.
    4. I can’t think of any surgeries that are both expensive and that I can schedule at will. I will probably be able to imagine more of these as I get older.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Columnist Claire Berlinski has written about a plane ticket to India being her health insurance plan, but she lived there for a bit.

    • AG says:

      Seems like getting a social “in” is the solution, becoming friends with someone who has done it themselves. For example, plenty of Asian Americans have been able to take advantage of medical tourism to Taiwan because they have family there.

    • sharper13 says:

      I last visited Bangalore (where the primary facility is) 18 months ago. It’s a long plane flight, so do yourself a favor and fly BA, who don’t charge extra for stopovers, so you can take a vacation in London/Paris/Anywhere near London with no travel costs, plus it makes the flights more bearable.

      That said, reading the article makes me want to schedule knee surgery (assuming they do it) next time I’m heading there, because I’ve been putting it off for almost a decade due to the cost (Not critical enough to spend my HSA on, as it would take all that to hit my deductible, plus the recovery time involved).

      Might also be worth looking into a Cayman’s vacation to visit his other facility which caters more to Americans.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      India is far away, but a model that actually works is dental tourism from Western Europe to Romania. It started with the Germanic population in Transylvania that left immediately after ’89, and started coming back for treatment to their old doctors when they realized how expensive is in the west. Grew to a fair size in the meantime – some clinics also mix it with actual tourism (come for a great vacation, fix your dental issues in the meantime).

    • sidereal says:

      It’s not necessarily irrational, but it might be worth assigning probabilities and values ($) to see. For #2, being scared by new things is honest self-awareness, but it can be worth deliberately violating such instincts when you know they are misplaced. #3 What do you mean, why does sympathy matter?

  40. Virriman says:

    This might be a little off topic as I’m not sure if declining sperm counts are related to declining testosterone in the population, but when I first heard that claim, it sounded like it would make for good science fiction. *Serenity/Firefly spoilers*:

    In Serenity, the government experiments on a planet’s population by exposing them to a chemical agent called “the PAX”. The government had recently put down a rebellion by outlying planets and the PAX was intended to make a population more peaceful/content/submissive to authority, but the experiment goes horribly wrong. Most of the planet’s population become so passive that they basically lie down and die while the rest become murderously insane.

    One could easily imagine that a somewhat more successful present day version of “the PAX” might operate by reducing testosterone levels in the population. Society exhibits a decline in aggression, violence, and criminality perhaps at the cost of a modest decline in ambition and GDP growth. I’m sure one could even fit problems caused by naturally resistant members of the populace into the narrative.

    Anyway, in the real world, I highly doubt there is some chemtrail conspiracy to drug the population into submission, but if the cause of declining testosterone is ever identified, and it turns out to be something that can be “fixed” at modest expense, would “fixing” it be uncontroversial?

  41. emiliobumachar says:

    “Nemesis” is also a great Asimov book, which I just learned must have been inspired by the serious astronomy theory that preceded it.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nemesis_(Asimov_novel)

  42. OriginalSeeing says:

    “But the Beresheet mission, which launched on 22 February from Cape Canaveral in Florida, spent weeks reaching its destination.
    Its journey took it on a series of ever-widening orbits around the Earth, before being captured by the Moon’s gravity and moving into lunar orbit on 4 April.”

    This is the correct methodology to employ if you think that the Earth might secretly be surrounded by a giant shell.

  43. IrishDude says:

    The article on private companies in India performing surgical procedures for 2-3% of the cost U.S. hospitals charge was pretty fascinating. The key seems to be something like assembly line surgeries with extreme specialization even within the same surgical procedure:

    “In the mid-1990s, Shetty began experimenting with a business school concept alternately called upskilling or task-shifting. The idea is for everyone involved in a complex process to work only at the top of his qualification, leaving simpler tasks to lower-paid workers. In a hospital, this might mean that the costliest staff—experienced surgeons—enter the operating theater only to complete the most difficult part of a procedure, leaving everything else to junior doctors or well-trained nurses. Then they move to the next theater to perform the same task again.”

    This process allows surgeons to perform their particular part of the procedure many more times a day than a surgeon could if he did the whole surgery himself, steeply increasing the skill/knowledge/efficiency gain in any given year.

    Is there any regulatory reason this same assembly line process couldn’t be used in the U.S.?

    • Murphy says:

      It might relate to liability.

      In the US, if a senior surgeon may face liability if the patient develops complications they may want more power to supervise more of the procedure.

      • IrishDude says:

        That would be my guess as well. I wonder what the liability regime is like in India. Perhaps they’re much more forgiving of doctors for medical mistakes.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Perhaps surgeons with smaller egos are more willing to be made a cog in a machine, even though everyone (including the surgeon) ends up with better on-paper results?

    • Deiseach says:

      Reading that article, I have some scepticism about the cost savings because I think for one thing, as pointed out by the prices charged for operating theatres, the American healthcare system has crazy cuckoo nutso insane pricing baked in “yes we’ll charge you $10,000 for three days in bed but that’s because we expect your insurance company to argue/deal down the price to $1,000” and I wonder if India simply doesn’t have that level of “$300 for a sandwich” pricing from the start.

      It’s easy to make ‘savings’ by comparison when one country is charging “This is the real cost and real price” and the other country is charging “Of course we don’t expect you to pay this unless you’re the unfortunate schmuck who hasn’t got an insurance company to pay the real price”.

      For example, out of curiosity I was looking at the price of a particular drug recently and the ‘bargain’ pharmacist price in the US was $500 for 30 tablets if you were paying out of your own pocket – unless you got the pharmaceutical company deal where they struck some bargain with the insurers so 90% of patients would only pay between $0-50 for a month’s supply. By comparison, over here that same medication would run for €40 for 28 tablets if you’re a medical card holder because the HSE struck that price with the pharmaceutical company (and if you’re a medical card holder, the HSE pays it, not you).

      If I was writing an article, I could make it sound like a huge saving – “under the Irish system, you only pay $50 for what in the US runs for $500!” and that would be true, but not including anything about “except if you get the deal where you too only pay $50”. That, I think, is a large part of the price problem.

      That being said, I now understand in regard to the chain of cut-price hospitals where Dr Gulati’s 50-50 Hospital comes from! 🙂

      • IrishDude says:

        I think there’s something to what you say and it reminds me of this recent EconTalk episode “Drugs, Money, and Secret Handshakes” that talks about pharmacy benefit managers and the complex and secret deals they make on drug pricing with insurance companies.

        That said, this critique seems more applicable to pharmaceuticals and less applicable to surgeries. I haven’t heard about a huge pricing range for surgeries depending on insurance involvement, though I do know the cash only Oklahoma Surgery Center, with transparent upfront pricing for every procedure they perform, comes in under what other hospitals charge. Not a 97% reduction in costs, like you can apparently get from India for some procedures, but some reduction.

      • Garrett says:

        As a good first approximation, you can go to GoodRX and look at the pricing available. Pick a major US city (eg. New York City) for location and look at the prices. These prices are available to everybody (with the free goodrx discount card/coupon). They also likely serve as a good approximation for what the total cost is under the discounted insurance pricing.

    • Etoile says:

      I suspect if the government of India gets into the model and tries to generalize it, either prices (to the govt at least) will increase or value (e.g. in terms of quality) will suffer.

      There’s also so much overhead just for being in the US that one would have to adjust for, starting with labor costs.

      As an aside, I’ll also add that turning surgery – or medicine -into an adsembly line and hyper-specializing them may cut costs od the procedure, but it will come out in terms of that doctor’s skill as a doctor more generally and thr ability to implement any kind of “whole person approach” or inspire critical thinking. (And anyway, people already complain about doctors being too specialized here in the US.)

  44. RalMirrorAd says:

    Concerning TurboTax, I need some clarification. Presumably the IRS has the wherewithal to figure out if someone is underpaying their taxes on a person-by-person basis, but are they actually already automatically calculating everyone’s liabilities and simply letting people pay for a private company to do it a second time superfluously?

    Or is it that they could *theoretically* expand their operations to do what TurboTax does for every taxpayer and simply send them a bill but doing so would end up costing about as it much to pay for a private tax service?

    If it’s the latter my instinct would be that it’s probably cheaper in the aggregate to let each individual decide how they want the tax liability calculation to be performed. But this isn’t true if the IRS already knows what everyone owes.

    • Clutzy says:

      For the vast majority of people, the IRS knows how much you earned already because your employer(s) are incentivized to report your income to them as income paid to employees is 100% deductible by businesses. The reason for reporting on the other side is so that there isn’t an incentive for businesses to over-report pay and hope employees/contractors get screwed over.

    • zoozoc says:

      While the IRS maybe doesn’t currently compute as much as TurboTax does now, they definitely check tax returns for simple errors.

      Twice now I have made mistakes on two different tax returns and the errors have been caught (both resulting in a larger return!). I did my own return both times with “free fillable forms”, so it was a digital version of the normal tax forms.
      1) I used the wrong value in the lookup table for my federal tax. Instead of using the value in married filling jointly column, I accidentally used the value for “head of household”. The feds caught this and fixed my return accordingly (giving me a larger return)
      (2) This year, for Oregon state tax return, I failed to include an additional reduction in tax liability (multiply the number of dependents on one line by $Y, then subtract from tax liability). Oregon fixed my mistake and gave me a larger return.

      In both cases, the mistake was very trivial, but they obviously have some kind of software that runs through the returns and checks for these simple errors.

    • Don P. says:

      Another issue is that incomplete reporting can be worse than none. A couple of years ago I had a large-ish mutual fund sale where the gross was reported to the IRS but not the basis, meaning that a naive computation would have generated thousands of dollars in excess taxes (the taxable amount being gross – basis). The basis was reported to in a statement from my financial guy, but for some reason it was in a class of transaction where the basis is not reported to the IRS.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I do think the Us tax system is complicated enough that the IRS couldn’t actually complete a tax return for anyone, like is done in other countries. I do volunteer taxes for low income people. These are simpler on average than middle class taxes, but even so the IRS doesn’t know enough. Some of the stuff that taxpayers need to fill out that the IRS doesn’t know:
      1) Filing status. Single, married or head of household
      2) Dependents and their ages. The new tax law no longer allows exemptions for them, but it does affect the child tax credit, other dependent credit, head of household status, earned income credit.
      3) Education credit information. Colleges do send forms to the government, but they are not always right, and also don’t include the cost of books.

      Plus of course states will likely require more stuff.

      To me this is the best reason for greatly simplifying the US income tax system. There is an incredible amount of extra work done by individuals, the tax profession, and the IRS, which adds no value to the economy.

  45. Nuño says:

    >The government knows how much tax you owe well enough to arrest you if you try to cheat them, so how come they can’t just tell you that number and save you the trouble of preparing your taxes? They could, but the companies that make tax preparation software have good lobbyists and have gotten Congress to ban them from doing that. Now they’re trying to enshrine this system permanently.

    But why can the governments trust the information they have? Perhaps because they get it from several independent sources of information: the tax payers and their employers, bank records, etc. Thus, cheating would require coordination. This would not be the case if there were only one source. In other words, the first source might only be reliable if there is a second one with which to compare it. If that is the case, the second source is not superfluous.

    I am not familiar with intricacies of the American case, though. But it reminds me of an argument about VAT. If you tax value added, then every firm is incentivized to report what they have paid to the previous firm in the supply chain (because that means that they themselves pay less), and thus cheating is more difficult. See: No Taxation without Information: Deterrence and Self-Enforcement in the Value Added Tax, Pomeranz. https://www.nber.org/papers/w19199.pdf

    As a final note, I am not affiliated with any of those software companies. This conclusion was not written beforehand. But I think that Scott’s proposal might be less than enlightened.

    • Steve Winwood says:

      Taxpayers in America (at least, the 95% in question here) are not independent sources of information: they get the tax forms from the companies involved, then copy those numbers directly onto their returns.

      IMO it’s hard to overstate the amount of deadweight loss up and down the line: from the rote labor of copying forms onto other forms to the amount of intellectual capital that is expended in the functionally zero-sum battle between tax legislators/the IRS and tax lawyers, CPAs, etc.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I was going to argue that getting people to self-report when the government knows an answer is a good way to catch cheats, but your point seems to demolish mine.

        Are there any cases where a third-party (employer, stock broker, whatever) reports something to the government but not to the taxpayer?

        • Steve Winwood says:

          I can’t think of anything offhand that fits that description, plus the tax cheats that matter know what gets reported to the IRS and carefully structure around that.

          In practice, there wouldn’t be much upside to letting average-taxpayer cheats hang themselves anyways (vs. autocalculating the return and getting the “cheated amount” up front), and the IRS certainly doesn’t have the manpower or cost-benefit incentive to meaningfully follow up on what would ensue (say, detailed audits on self-reported totals for the “cheat” years — there just isn’t that much that they don’t already know).

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Mr. Simpson, this government computer can process over 9 tax returns per day. Did you really think you could fool it?

      • Clutzy says:

        There is probably a better way, but the current system does catch a lot of fraud.

        Last year my girlfriend got a notice from the IRS that she had underpaid about 25k in taxes. She works at a reputable place with automatic withholding so, obviously this was confusing. Apparently some other company claimed she was an independent contractor for them that had earned something like 90k in IC income on their tax returns. Those people had assets frozen at least temporarily, although we don’t know if they were prosecuted, or if it was a mistake. But if it was a mistake, 2 different entities shat themselves over it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Would that have turned out different if the government had said upfront to her that she had an extra 90K in income instead of waiting for her to file and then reporting it?

          • Clutzy says:

            Not with such a huge liability. But I assume there has to be some sort of instance where rounding errors can be missed.

    • I’m curious about whether part of what makes it possible in some countries for the government to calculate your taxes is a simpler definition of income.

      Consider my case. Part of my income comes from writing books and giving talks. When I fill out my taxes I go to Amazon, look at all my book purchases over the year, figure out which ones were an input to my own writing—in recent years, books with information on legal systems to use in my Legal Systems Very Different from Ours book—and then put them into my Schedule C as a business expense. Similarly for other expenses which could be costs of earning income or ordinary consumption, depending on details of what they are for.

      In the countries being discussed, does the calculation of income not allow for subtracting such expenses or is it just that almost everyone is earning money in a fashion that doesn’t raise such issues, and anyone in my position still ends up largely doing his own taxes?

      • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

        The latter, at least in New Zealand.

        A few years ago my wife and I bought the house we had previously been renting, and it happens to be a split residence, so we are now renting out the other flat. Previously we did not need to do taxes, apart from receiving an income tax assessment to check each year, and claiming any charitable donations.

        Now that we have rental income, we need to fill out an individual tax return, including details like figuring out what expenses we can claim. (Took me a good part of a working day the first time around, though this is exactly the sort of task I’m particularly inefficient at, so that may not reflect the actual difficulty. It still takes me a few hours each year.)

        I’m not sure what you mean by “ordinary consumption” in the context of expenses, in New Zealand the typical wage or salary earner cannot claim any sort of expenses. For example, the cost of commuting to work is not claimable.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          Addendum: I’ve just read this post which puts a slightly different light on things; New Zealand’s tax code is not that complicated. Whether or not you are a “head of household” makes no difference to your taxes, and there is no such thing as “married filing jointly”. Nor does the number of dependents you have affect your taxes.

          Oh, and we don’t have any capital gains taxes either. Not sure how relevant that is, but it may simplify some things.

          • Aapje says:

            We have capital gains tax. The banks report to the Dutch IRS how much money you have in a bank account, investment vehicle and such. So they can just prefill this. The local government knows house values for the local tax and report this to the IRS.

            So you only have to report capital you have that they don’t know about.

          • We have capital gains tax.

            Are you describing a wealth tax–some percent of your wealth?

          • Aapje says:

            We get taxed for fictional* capital gains, over our (net) assets minus a
            tax-free sum. Until 2016, this was 4%, which was taxed for 30%. So it really was just a 1.2% tax on capital, but the government pretends that they are taxing capital gains by first assuming fictional capital gains.

            Note that bank savings accounts typically gave less than 1.2% in 2016, so many people were taxed more than they actually got in capital gains.

            The reason why they don’t actually tax capital gains directly is due to administrative complexity. The Dutch IRS has severe problems with their systems, so tax law now has to keep their abilities in mind.

            This law for 2016 and before was considered unfair because paying more tax than you get in interest makes a mockery of the claim that capital gains are taxed & because people with lots of money tend to have better capital gains. So it was changed in 2017 to have two tax brackets, or actually fictional capital gains brackets. These brackets are in turn calculated based on a fictional mixture of savings and investments, which each have different fictional capital gains.

            For 2019, for first €71,650 one is expected to have 2/3rds in a savings account at 0.13% capital gains and 1/3 in investments for 5.6% capital gains. So the average fictional capital gains would then be 1.935%. The next bracket is for the assets from €71,651 up to €989.736. 21% of this is expected to be in a savings account and 79% in investments, for the same 0.13% and 5.6%, respectively. So that makes the average fictional capital gains to be 4.451%. Then everything above €989.736 is expected to be invested completely, at 5.6%, for an average of also 5.6%.

            All these numbers are non-arbitrary. The fictional division between savings and investments are based on old tax returns. The fictional capital gains for savings accounts are based on an actual average interest of savings accounts, etc.

            * That’s literally what the Dutch IRS calls it.

            So an example calculation for a single person with €130,360 in net assets:

            €130,360 (net assets) – €30,360 (tax free sum) = €100,000 taxable assets.

            First €71,650 has a fictional capital gains percentage of 1.935%, so multiplying these gives €1,386.

            The remaining €28,350 has a fictional capital gains percentage of 4.451%, so that comes to €1,261.

            So the total fictional capital gains is €1,386 + €1,261 = €2,647, which is taxed for 30%, so €794.

            Simple.

          • ana53294 says:

            @Aapje

            Do you have to sell your assets, or do they tax unrealized fictional capital gains?

            Or do they assume you sell your asssets every year?

            In most countries, you get a 15-30% tax on the capital gains after you actually sell, and you just report to the government how much you bought them for, and how much you gained (or lost)

            Does it also mean you cannot offset losses with gains, since gains are fictional?

            Fictional capital gains could be a way for expats to avoid capital gains tax. Say your assets have grown 50% – in another country you would have to pay 30% of 50%. Instead, you would pay 8% of the 50% – still a pretty good deal. Of course, you could also move to Belgium for a year, and avoid CGT completely, but because the Netherlands seems better with English speakers, it could make sense.

          • Aapje says:

            @ana53294

            I looked into it a bit more and it’s actually more complicated. The tax is only for invested assets, not for valuables that you ‘use’. For example, a cellar with expensive wines is not taxed for capital gains if you are going to drink the wines, but is taxed if you intend to sell the wines after they have appreciated in value. Similarly, if you buy a Van Gogh with the intent of enjoying it yourself, you are not taxed, but you are if you buy and sell art to earn money.

            Of course, there is an opportunity here if you stay on the right side of plausible deniability.

            There is never a need to sell the assets. You are supposed to report the value of investments, no matter what form they take.

            Does it also mean you cannot offset losses with gains, since gains are fictional?

            Indeed. This is a major reason to tax fictional gains.

            Say your assets have grown 50% – in another country you would have to pay 30% of 50%. Instead, you would pay 8% of the 50% – still a pretty good deal.

            It’s probably smarter to buy a house in your home country (and rent it out) or something like that.

            PS. If your investments routinely give high returns, the Dutch IRS may tax it as income, based on tax brackets from 36-52%.

          • ana53294 says:

            Could I say that I don’t intend to sell my dividend paying index fund, since the enjoyment I get from that sweet, sweet dividend is for my personal use? *sarcasm*

            Do you have any tax sheltering accounts like ISAs in the UK or the IRA or 401(k) in the US?

            In Spain, we have pre-tax sheltered accounts (fondo de pensiones). You can contribute up to 8000 euros, fully deductible. The only issue is that you can only take out the money when you are retirement age or have been documented long-term unemployed. And you pay taxes on the principal+the interest as if it were a wage.

            There are also post-tax investment funds, and you only pay tax on the interest and re-invested dividend once you take money out.

            In Spain, you can also offset capital losses 100% with capital gains, and 20% of capital losses can be offset with dividends (you have 5 years to offset losses).

            I thought the Spanish system was complicated and the taxes were high (at least compared to the UK, with their 10,000 GBP capital gains allowance).

          • Aapje says:

            The tax free sum is increased for pensioners or when the investments are in these forms (and then only for a limited amount):
            – additional pension savings to fix a undersized 401(k) or IRA
            – green investments
            – savings in a death insurance or funeral insurance

            401(k) and IRA savings itself are also exempt.

  46. honoredb says:

    One newspaper editor declared that Corbett would, “live as one of the World’s great avengers.”[

    We need a third unrelated The Avengers franchise that’s just a super-team of people who killed people who killed famous people.

  47. Murphy says:

    Nutrition scientist Stephan Guyenet (author of The Hungry Brain, reviewed here on SSC) and his colleagues are launching Red Pen Reviews, a site where top nutritionists review and grade the latest books on nutrition.

    quick reminder that ”nutritionist” isn’t a protected term.

    Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist.

    “Dietitician” is the legally protected term.

    “Dietician” is like dentist, and “nutritionist” is like “tootheologist”.

  48. Quixote says:

    Your comment on the Mueller report makes it seem like you haven’t read much (any?) of it. If you don’t read it you will sound like a fool and will be embarrassed later. Seriously, open the darn thing and at least read the executive summaries for each section. They are like 8-12 pages long, if you read the main summary in the intro and then the one for each of the two main sections you will actually know what the report says and will not need to listen to any talking heads or read blogs or follow links to listicles. This is a net time saver. Seriously, 30 pages of reading is not a lot to ask with regards to understanding the biggest issue in your democracy today.

  49. J Mann says:

    Has anyone looked at the bullying study?

    I’m interested in the study design – I’ll grant that the study designers and the managers disagree about whether victims are also bullies, but I’d love to see some more info on why.

    • Robert Jones says:

      This is the study (annoying that it wasn’t linked in the article). That link is gatewayed, but I expect you could find a way to download it for free if that’s your thing.

      I find Table 3 interesting: there is a strong correlation between experienced rudeness, as reported by co-workers (i.e. based on how often the co-workers reported having been rude to that employee) and leader perception of interpersonal deviance. That correlation is stronger (0.60 vs 0.44) than the correlation between other-reported perpetrated rudeness and leader perception of interpersonal deviance (although as you would expect, there is a strong correlation between experienced and perpetrated rudeness, whether self- or other-reported).

      As usual, it is unclear that this result can really be accurately summarised as “victimized employees are vulnerable to being seen as bullies themselves” because (a) experiencing rudeness isn’t the same as being victimized and (b) being seen an interpersonally deviant isn’t the same as being seen as a bully. It does not seem totally far fetched to imagine that employees who are interpersonally deviant do in fact experience rudeness more often, e.g. an employee fails to communicate effectively with other team members, with the result that their effort is wasted, which provokes them to be rude.

      • J Mann says:

        Thanks – I did find the study after I posted, but I’m not good at reading statistics.

        It does seem like what they were actually looking at was whether employees whose managers saw them as interpersonally deviant and/or low performing also reported that they were the victims of rudeness more often than other employees did, and reported that they were the perpetrators of rudeness less often that other employees did. (And in at least one experiment, whether those employees’ co-workers reported them as being the victims/perpetrators of rudeness.)

        I agree that if you hypothesize that a particular employee has poor social skills and/or is a low performer, they’re probably more likely to experience rudeness from other employees.

        • aristides says:

          I’m very concerned about this methodology. I work government HR, so every complaint of harassment is investigated by at least one independent fact finder, and often 3 plus a formal hearing. Rough one out of 5 complaints the investigators conclude that not only was the employee not harassed, the employee harassed the coworkers and and even used EEO as a threat to get the coworkers to do what they want. Those employees would be consistent with the results of this study, but in my interpretation show the opposite problem. It’s also revealing that the author used Kavenaugh as an example. That is the single biggest dispute on who is lying in the country, and the author thought it was the best example to support their point that victims don’t lie.

          • Deiseach says:

            not only was the employee not harassed, the employee harassed the coworkers and and even used EEO as a threat

            I think that’s a real problem; how do you distinguish between “this person is unpopular and bullied and part of that bullying includes blaming them for causing trouble” and the type of Professionally Offended person who waves their Special Oppressed Status around and is only waiting for an excuse to go running to HR or whomever complaining about being bullied/victimised?

            I haven’t experienced this myself, thankfully, but I have heard/read anecdotes about “the office busybody who eavesdropped on a private conversation between two colleagues, then ran off to HR to complain about one person swearing as ‘creating an unsafe environment’ for them because of whatever terms were used, and HR pulled the guy in to officially warn him and it had a negative impact on his career”.

          • CatCube says:

            Rough one out of 5 complaints the investigators conclude that not only was the employee not harassed, the employee harassed the coworkers and and even used EEO as a threat to get the coworkers to do what they want.

            I’m actually really surprised it’s that high. I mean, I knew it happened, but not to that extent. I’d have guessed that people filing false EEO reports to harass their coworkers would be closer to the 5%-10% range. Granted, I know this is anecdata, not data, but I’m still surprised there’s even one data point like that.

          • acymetric says:

            @CatCube

            Well, one take if you really have a hard time accepting that anecdata is that the investigations aren’t doing a very good job and are reaching this conclusion more than they should.

            Personally I’m not surprised, and I would probably have fairly easily believed a higher number (certainly less than half, but if it were 30% I would have bought that too). I tend to have SJ or SJ-adjacent views but it doesn’t stretch my imagination a bit to consider people using some policies at weapons against others.

          • caryatis says:

            It’s also revealing that the author used Kavenaugh as an example. That is the single biggest dispute on who is lying in the country, and the author thought it was the best example to support their point that victims don’t lie.

            I agree that was a bad example. The authors cite “victim-blaming” of Ford, but the narrative I was hearing from the right wasn’t “she’s a dirty slut who deserved to get raped,” it was “can she really be sure of something that happened so long ago?”

            If that’s victim-blaming, the term has been defined down incredibly far.

          • Deiseach says:

            Granted, I know this is anecdata, not data, but I’m still surprised there’s even one data point like that.

            Well, some people are the Office Busybodies who spend more time on keeping an eagle eye out for any infractions (imagined or not) that they can then use to police their colleagues, while casting themselves in the role of Martyr for the Cause, than doing their job (think of the Damore case where one of the prominent critics, Tim Chevalier, later got fired themself for being an overbearing SJW, took a case against Google for wrongful dismissal but was referred back by the court to the mediation service they’d agreed to by signing the employment contract, and has consistently represented themself as being persecuted for being trans and speaking out on behalf of the minorities at Google, instead of what seems like “spent too much time involved in SJ politicking instead of working” as the real reason).

          • aristides says:

            I checked my records to confirm, and yes I had 1 in 5 that fit this category, but my sample size was only 20. Further, three of the cases are post independent investigation and pre formal hearing. I think it is quite likely that the formal hearing of at least one and possibly two will disagree with the investigation and find either mutual harassment, or exactly what this article is describing. This could put it right about the 10% that CatCube estimated as the upper bound, but that is still making a judgement that the formal hearing is more accurate than the independent investigation. It is an extremely hard area to study, and I think a biased researcher could make numbers ranging from 2% to 40% if they only used the data that favored them the most.

            I personally estimate 15% of EEO claims are harassing an innocent party, but considering I work in HR, I’m definitely biased.

    • Furslid says:

      My hypothesis is that people don’t often notice bullying. Bullies tend to isolate their victims or be low key about it. When the victim reacts, observers see a conflict without knowing the history. This can be interpreted wrong for two reasons. The victim’s reaction may be seen as starting the conflict. For instance, a victim might raise their voice, and observers hear someone raising their voice without seeing the provocation. Or the bully may be higher status, and there is a natural tendency to side with the higher status person in unknown circumstances.

      • Aapje says:

        @Furslid

        The victims are often also socially awkward people, who have trouble acting as victim are supposed to.

        • Furslid says:

          Right. In the example I gave, they’re the first one to raise their voice. That’s the wrong social response. It can look like they started yelling at someone for no reason, which looks like bullying.

  50. MilfordTrunion says:

    gah, that ProPublica article is junk, and they got pissy when told it was junk.

    The bill changes NOTHING about the existing plan, except for formalizing actual funding to do what’s already being done, and authorizing additional funding for the free-filing and free-assistance programs that are already happening (something ProPublica forgets to point out in their FUK U BUSSINES yelling.)

    PP leans very heavily on “shall”, and darkly hints that the government Might! Shut! The! Whole! Thing! Down! ANY! TIME! Which, like, sure, I guess that’s not not possible? That’s a pretty far distance from “actually will do it”. It’s been my experience that you can’t bank on the US government actually doing any particular thing until they’ve already done it, and sometimes not even then.

    I mean, the law sounds mostly like “there’s a bunch of private companies who’ve already figured out how to do online filing, let’s contract with them to handle it for us instead of reinventing the wheel at great expense and probably ending up with a square one”, which is only sensible.

  51. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    I find the idea of considering “human trafficking” in any sense as a factor in legalizing prostitution to be lacking in cause and effect connection. We don’t ban services just because someone somewhere might be compelled to do them against their will, do we?

  52. ownshoes says:

    Scott it’s worth noting that on sex work, the debate isn’t and shouldn’t be presented as legalisation vs criminalisation. Decriminalisation also has a lot of backing among sex workers. I would recommend reading Revolting Prostitutes for an in-depth breakdown of different legal approaches to sex work, from a pro-decriminalisation perspective. The focus is on the impacts of criminalisation, legalisation, and decriminalisation on sex workers, including migrant and trafficked workers.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Can you briefly summarize the argument for decriminalization over legalization?

      From my admittedly limited understanding, drug legalization is supposed to prevent organized criminals from raising funds through the drug trade while decriminalization often leaves them in the profitable position of being the primary importers and distributors. I would expect that legalizing prostitution would likewise reduce the market share for pimps and human traffickers while decriminalizing it would make prostitution an even more attractive source of revenue for organized crime.

      • Protagoras says:

        Legalizing drugs involves taxes and regulations which ensure that the black market continues to exist (since it can undercut the legal market on cost). Decriminalization means organized crime must effectively compete with legitimate businesses, which is not what they are good at. So even in the case of drugs, decriminalization is more promising. But in the case of sex work, research has consistently found sex workers to have more problems with abuse by the authorities than with abuse by clients or employers; legalization effectively makes government pimps mandatory rather than actually getting rid of pimps.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Legalizing drugs involves taxes and regulations which ensure that the black market continues to exist (since it can undercut the legal market on cost). Decriminalization means organized crime must effectively compete with legitimate businesses, which is not what they are good at.

          This logic applies to literally every industry. Yet the black market for e.g. moonshine is small compared to the thriving legal market for alcohol. Likewise, for services that in theory anyone with a car can provide like gypsy cabs: they exist but they were a small fraction of the taxicab market even before disruption by ride-sharing apps.

          While I’m sympathetic to deregulation and lowering taxes in general, this seems like special pleading.

          But in the case of sex work, research has consistently found sex workers to have more problems with abuse by the authorities than with abuse by clients or employers; legalization effectively makes government pimps mandatory rather than actually getting rid of pimps.

          Can you elaborate on what you mean by “government pimps” here?

          • Virriman says:

            The hostility that many prosecutors and police have toward sex work isn’t going to evaporate overnight. If you “legalize” sex work by decriminalizing it and then immediately subjecting it to a big regulatory framework enforced by the same hostile authorities, all that hostility is just going to translate into them enforcing the regulatory framework in the most onerous ways possible. It’s like telling a domestic abuser that they can’t hit their victim for talking back to them any more, but then giving them explicit permission to use their fists in response to a slew of other new “offenses”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Virriman,

            On the one hand, yes, legalization won’t make regulators any fonder of prostitutes than police and prosecutors are today. Regulations will be written and enforced in a hostile manner.

            On the other hand, that’s hardly unique to prostitution. The alcohol, tobacco, and firearms industries have their own dedicated heavily-armed hostile federal regulatory agency plus state and local equivalents.

            Again, I’m not defending BATF-style abuses. But I don’t see why decriminalization is the answer rather than employing trade associations like other industries in similar positions.

          • Virriman says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            It is precisely the issues of historical context and stigma that make sex work unique here. If it wasn’t for the history of animosity and bad faith from the authorities, a path of “legalization” and regulation probably wouldn’t be quite so disfavored by sex workers. I can’t think of many industries that ever had quite such an adversarial relationship with the authorities. Certainly not the firearms industry which sells the authorities their guns! Maybe weed, but legalization there is more about creating new producers and distributors, not legitimizing the previously outlawed producers. With that in mind, part of the corrective necessary to normalize and de-stigmatize sex work is a crystal clear message to the authorities that they no longer have any specific jurisdiction over sex work – a message that “decriminalization” can send much better than “legalization”.

            Beyond the matter of rectifying historical injustices, you suggest “employing trade associations like other industries in similar positions”. But if we’re looking to similar industries to decide how to regulate sex work, wouldn’t the best examples be nearly unregulated personal service industries? Why should an individual sex worker who advertises on Craigslist be regulated differently under the law than a photographer, gardener, personal trainer, makeup artist, DJ, interior decorator, spiritual guide, maid, or cook who does the same?

          • acymetric says:

            @Virriman

            I’m not sure the way you are using the terms “legalization” and “decriminalization” matches what those terms actually mean.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Virriman

            . I can’t think of many industries that ever had quite such an adversarial relationship with the authorities.

            Alcohol was prohibited by constitutional amendment and its production and distribution was vigorously suppressed. As one example, an estimated ten thousand people died due to the deliberate poisoning of industrial alcohol in an attempt to prevent bootleggers from using it.

            But if we’re looking to similar industries to decide how to regulate sex work, wouldn’t the best examples be nearly unregulated personal service industries? Why should an individual sex worker who advertises on Craigslist be regulated differently under the law than a photographer, gardener, personal trainer, makeup artist, DJ, interior decorator, spiritual guide, maid, or cook who does the same?

            I can’t speak to all of these examples, but I know from personal experience that cooks and their kitchens are actually quite heavily regulated. If I cooked a burger and gave it to you for free that’s perfectly legal, but if I tried to sell it to you I would be facing a fine and possibly prison depending on how much I had pissed off the local DA.

            I agree that this sort of government regulation is absurd and tyrannical but it’s hardly unique to prostitution. Look at the legal hoops hairdressers who do nothing but braid hair have to jump through for an excellent example. This is something that we all already have to deal with.

          • rlms says:

            Why should an individual sex worker who advertises on Craigslist be regulated differently under the law than a photographer, gardener, personal trainer, makeup artist, DJ, interior decorator, spiritual guide, maid, or cook who does the same?

            Because sex is different to other things.

          • Virriman says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Admittedly I don’t know much about how the legalization of alcohol went down after prohibition. If prohibition was mostly enforced at the federal level, perhaps the current regime of mainly state level regulations was tolerated since the enforcement wasn’t done by the same people. Also, ending prohibition was popular enough to amend the constitution. Doesn’t seem like people in the alcohol industry were fighting a stigma by the time prohibition ended. If “legalizing” sex work were that popular, maybe sex workers wouldn’t be so worried about regulation under legalization.

            When I was talking about personal services, I meant ones that take place at the client’s home or a temporary location like an airbnb rental/hotel room. I don’t think a cook would be subject to too many regulations if you hired them to use your kitchen. I recognize that like any business with a physical presence, organized sex work with immobile assets and employees like brothels would never escape regulatory scrutiny.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Virriman,

            There are still “dry” counties where alcohol is prohibited to this day. Prohibition’s excesses generated enough backlash that it was overturned at the federal level but the temperance movement was very powerful as was the stigma on drunkenness.

            Anyway the argument from stigma doesn’t make much sense to me given that stripping and pornography are both legal and regulated rather than “decriminalized.” Porn is literally having sex in front of a camera for money and stripping is only marginally more socially acceptable than prostitution. Yet both of them were successfully legalized.

            There’s some fundamental assumption that I’m missing here which explains why prostitution should be less regulated than other “vice” industries like the aforementioned alcohol tobacco and firearms or stripping and porn. It would be one thing to raise a libertarian object to the idea of regulating commerce at all, or a libertine objection to sin taxes and the state defining vice. But this seems like it’s coming from somewhere else and I can’t figure out where.

          • Lillian says:

            I agree that this sort of government regulation is absurd and tyrannical but it’s hardly unique to prostitution. Look at the legal hoops hairdressers who do nothing but braid hair have to jump through for an excellent example. This is something that we all already have to deal with.

            If you agree that it’s absurd and tyrannical, then surely you can see why sex workers don’t want that kind of regulation. The fact that everyone else has to deal with isn’t an argument for putting onerous regulation on sex workers, it’s an argument for removing it from everyone else.

            The way i see it, private transactions between individuals should not be regulated at all. If something is legal and unregulated when people do it for free, it should be legal and unregulated when people do it for pay. The introduction of money into an activity is not alone enough to justify a state regulatory interest. That interest should come from the inherently nature of the activity, such as having a public establishment, or dealing with exceptionally dangerous substances like explosives.

            In other words, the government should be regulating restaurants, bars, hair salons, brothels, and casinos, but not regulating private chefs, personal hair stylists, independent escorts, or your friend’s Sunday poker game.

          • Virriman says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            There’s some fundamental assumption that I’m missing here which explains why prostitution should be less regulated than other “vice” industries

            My argument is that it is the stigma that makes sex work different. The libertarian and libertine arguments certainly still apply, but it’s the stigma that invites an extra level of scrutiny and paternalism from lawmakers and regulators that very few other professions have to deal with (maybe abortion providers) and that requires special consideration in order to counteract. Unlike stigmas around alcohol, the stigma in sex work is directly attached to individual workers in addition to the industry as a whole. I’d say that stripping and pornography count as sex work and share the same stigma as prostitution, but they have a couple of advantages in dealing with it.

            First, those industries were traditionally dominated by organizations like studios and strip clubs rather than individuals. As such, they are better equipped to lobby for their interests. Second, the regulations of stripping and pornography are focused on the level of organizations, leaving individual strippers pretty much unharassed if they want to work at private parties or strip in front of their webcam for money.

            Few people are trying to argue that larger organizations like brothels should be completely unregulated, but individual sex workers in the business of prostitution basically need something kind of like section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to protect them from onerous regulation by historically hostile authorities. Like section 5, it might become obsolete as the stigma fades.

          • ana53294 says:

            Is prostitution really more stigmatized than porn?

          • albatross11 says:

            Virriman:

            I think you can make a much better public health argument for regulating escorts than wedding photographers. I’m also having a hard time seeing why a grey-market in prostitution is better than an above-ground market. I don’t know anything about sex work, so I don’t have strong beliefs here, but it sure seems like making it explicitly legal and maybe putting some minimal public-health requirements on it (STD tests once a month, lots of encouragement to use condoms) would leave everyone in a better place than having it be technically illegal but the police don’t plan to arrest anyone for it.

          • Protagoras says:

            @albatross11, shockingly, prostitutes don’t particularly want to contract STDs, and people who engage in sex for a living seem to think slightly more about the health issues connected with sex than other people. And, as they are also on average not brain dead, it has therefore been found that it is not actually necessary to encourage them to use condoms; they are apparently able to figure that one out on their own.

            People really should look at the empirical evidence. A badly written Rhode Island law meant that recently, for a period of several years (until the legislature “fixed” the law), indoor prostitution wasn’t violating any state laws. Some researchers have taken advantage of this situation, and looked at data on conditions in RI during this period, compared to the before and after periods when the police would arrest people engaged in indoor prostitution. One of the notable effects that the research found was a decrease in rates of new STD infections in Rhode Island during the period. I’m not entirely sure what the explanation is. It could be more people seeing sex workers rather than fooling around with amateurs, as certainly amateurs seem to be much less safe in their sex practices. Or it could be that not having to worry about police (who sometimes have such brilliant ideas as using possession of condoms as evidence of prostitution) means that during this period sex workers were able to take better care of their own health. Or something I’m not thinking of, but regardless, there is empirical evidence that when police stop harassing sex workers things get better (the RI research isn’t the only example suggesting this). There is no similar empirical evidence that taking further steps like trying to get sex workers to submit to mandatory registration or testing provides any additional benefit.

          • acymetric says:

            Arguably the “wellness checks” or whatever you call them are to protect the client as much or more as the worker. Certainly sex workers have personal incentives to protect themselves from STDs. The problem is that sex workers who have STDs do not necessarily have incentive to protect their clients from them.

        • John Schilling says:

          Decriminalization means organized crime must effectively compete with legitimate businesses, which is not what they are good at.

          I’m not sure how you mean this. “Decriminalizing” drugs almost always means that possession and use of drugs are not prosecuted, but commercial manufacture and sale are still felony crimes and so there are no legal businesses selling the decriminalized drugs. If you want your marijuana, you still have to get it through the black market with all that this implies w/re tax evasion, criminal cartels violently resolving business disputes they can’t take to the police and courts, etc. The state of affairs where your local dispensary legally sells marijuana or whatever, procured through open commerce without having to go through the black market, requires what is generally called “legalization”.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, I should have taken into account the way that decriminalization vs. legalization terminology is used completely differently in the context of drug policy than in the context of sex work.

          • Deiseach says:

            The way i see it, private transactions between individuals should not be regulated at all. If something is legal and unregulated when people do it for free, it should be legal and unregulated when people do it for pay.

            I think there are two different approaches to life being demonstrated in this discussion. One is “people are Naturally Good, take away the layers of unnecessary regulation and things will go well because people only want to exercise their liberty”. The second, which is the one I operate by, is “Original Sin is a thing, baby. If you permit loopholes, they will be abused”.

            I’m sure people like the bitch (and yes I do mean that term) in this story would be perfectly happy for “sex work should be decriminalised, private transactions are nobody’s business but the parties involved, keep regulation and the state far away”. The fact that such a scenario would make it easier than it already is for her to pimp out her vulnerable underage girlfriend for drugs and money – well, that’s not pertinent at all! After all, if it’s acceptable for the girl to have sex with her girlfriend, why isn’t it acceptable for the girlfriend to charge for sex with her? Private transactions!

            The agency sought the orders over concerns for the 15-year-old girl’s life and welfare following several incidents in recent weeks.

            The concerns include that the girl, who has a history of absconding for days and is deemed extremely vulnerable, has been sexually assaulted and abused on many occasions.

            She was pimped out to several men by her older girlfriend for “€20 and drugs” including crack cocaine and heroin, Tusla claim.

            The girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has been taking illegal drugs and alcohol before being pimped out to the men.

            One of several men that had unprotected sex with the teenager is an Irish-based Eastern European male prostitute who is HIV positive.

            While the girl has not developed the condition, she has not been taking medication prescribed to her aimed at preventing her from getting HIV.

            There is also a risk the girl may become pregnant, as the only contraceptive she is known to have used on occasions is the morning after pill.

            I’ve seen a lot of these arguments in various culture war topics; X vehemently argues for the Natural Good Personal Liberty Minority Rights No Stigma position, when Y comes along (like me) and instances cases where that position was abused, X comes back with “but that’s not real [whatever it may be], that person was not a real [whatever minority]”.

            If it’s happening under the aegis of Make This Legal And Tolerated And Force Society To Say Actually It’s Perfectly Cromulent, then it is Real Whatever, no matter how inconvenient that is for the Liberty Rights arguers.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Deiseach, the arguments against regulating or prohibiting prostition aren’t that people are naturally good, the arguments are that overwhelming empirical evidence shows that the laws make things worse rather than better.

          • Virriman says:

            @Deiseach

            The fact that such a scenario would make it easier than it already is for her to pimp out her vulnerable underage girlfriend for drugs and money – well, that’s not pertinent at all!

            That is no fact. It’s an entirely unsupported assertion. The example you gave would still be a crime, would still need to be committed covertly, would still risk exposure every time it was committed under decriminalization. I can easily make the equally unsupported assertion that committing such a crime under decriminalization would be harder because other sex workers and clients would be less afraid to report the crime to the authorities.

          • ownshoes says:

            Indeed, exploitation is easier under criminalisation. Even under legalisation, if a trafficked or otherwise coerced individual is being forced to operate outside of the regulated industry then there’s potential for them to be punished for this ‘crime’. The authorities won’t find it hard to prove they were operating outside of a licensed premises, while sadly abuse can be far harder to prove. So a person who is already vulnerable now has a criminal record/eviction/fines/all of the above to contend with, on top of everything else. You *could* put support measures in place to help them escape their abuser, but you could also do that under decrim.

      • To_do_list says:

        Regarding decriminalization versus legalization, I agree with many points already outlined by Protagoras and Virriman. Additionally, the terminology and way of thinking can be somewhat specific to sex work due to historic precedents and continued stigma.

        Historically, “decriminalization” referred to the model introduced in New Zealand, where sex work was decriminalized and then regulated with Occupational Health and Safety standards that applied to most businesses already.

        Whereas “legalization” referred to a wide variety of micro-managing approaches practiced by other countries. This included Germany and Nevada in the US: both models that were criticized heavily for reliance on brothels instead of allowing (and encouraging?) individual operators. I mean, given that sex is complicated, individual sex workers making their own rules and decisions arguably aligns the best with a harm reduction model. Additionally, regulation in sex work is far more connected to it being a “vice”: Regulation in so many other service professions attempts to enforce standards for training or practice; nothing like that exists in sex work.

        People also weave in and out of sex work; and many fear having any kind of record that could later jeopardize families or careers. I think this is one of the principal distinctions between porn stars (who somehow learn to tolerate this) and workers in more shadowy parts who treasure their relative anonymity and therefore ability to re-integrate into mainstream somewhat more smoothly.

        Yet in overly-regulated models of legalization, bizarre situations were pretty common where brothels with inane rules and tremendous amount of power over individual workers have been okay, yet an individual worker making their own choices becomes effectively illegal. My city for example would issue escort licenses to agencies only – but not to individuals, and pursued unlicensed individuals with $2000 fines! (Canada). So an independent worker was effectively prohibited by the municipal rules – unless they were willing to open, own, and operate an escort agency of 1 person (at the same fee level as a typical escort agency, and with all the implications of forever being listed as an agency owner/madam, however untrue, should any of that info potentially get leaked; and who knows how the city was actually storing any of those records).

        So yes, the concerns regarding over-regulation, as connected to a life-time stigma and ability to make decisions regarding consent to sexual activity? I really do think those are more valid than the more typical business concerns over regulation.

        • ana53294 says:

          Once something is legal, there is usually a record of it.

          The government doesn’t want sex workers to lie about the services they provide, so they do need records of who did what. How would they otherwise identify typhoid Mary? If she lies and says she only provides emotional support but no sex, how will they know to ask her for STD checks?

          It is perfectly legitimate for the government to act in the interest of public health, and regularly check that the prostitute doesn’t have an STD, that they use a condom, and that they are not being abused. For this, the way the government functions, you need a paper trail. Somebody needs to tick the health inspection box, and the safety box, so a file needs to exist on the prostitute.

          Many service providers are heavily regulated; lawyers need a license, CPAs need a license, food handlers need a license, hairdressers need a license, etc.

          Decriminalisation, i.e., demanding that the police stop harassing prostitutes, while at the same time not regulating the activity, is wanting to have cake and eat it too. Porn is quite heavily regulated. If sex work is regulated, it will be rather like porn, except without the cameras.

          • Lillian says:

            Sex worker registration has a history going at least as far back as Roman times and the results are always the same: Most sex workers are unable or unwilling to register, and simply continue operating illegally. Just recently Germany implemented a law requiring that sex workers register with local authorities, and be subject to regular health check-ups. As of two months ago, only 76 out of Germany’s estimated 200 000 sex workers registered. That’s a compliance rate that’s basically indistinguishable from zero. It’s probably going to slowly climb up higher, but it’s unlikely it will ever be more than a minority who register. Consider that legal prostitution in Nevada accounts for maybe 1% of the market there, and the most successful registration regime i’m aware of is Queensland which captured all of 10% or so.

            This is the reality. There is very little daylight between requiring registration and making sex work illegal, the result is the same. If you require any kind of registration, whether it be explicitly or implicitly, the vast majority of sex workers will wind up being criminals subject to policing and with no recourse of law. As a practical and empirical matter, you can’t have a world where prostitution is regulated and you’re not sending cops to harass prostitutes. It’s one or the other, because regulations only work when people abide by them, and sex workers have made it abundantly clear that they will not.

            Also, New Zealand did implement a very light regulatory regime like most sex workers advocate for, and it seems to work fine for them. The short version is that the only requirement independent sex workers are subject to is mandatory condom use, but there are no means of enforcement other than a complaint being brought to the police. They are not subject to mandatory health inspections or registration of any sort, and can work anywhere they are otherwise legally permitted to have sex.

            Moreover any brothels containing no more than four workers where they each control their earnings are not subject to any further regulation, making it easy for prostitutes to work together for safety without requiring any additional arrangements or paperwork. There are a bunch of regulations for proper brothels and agencies, including special licenses, but generally speaking nobody is advocating against regulating those. It’s the private transactions that sex workers want to remain private.

            Personally, i apply this principle more generally. As stated in my posts elsewhere, i believe that personal individual transactions ought not be regulated at all. As long as no one’s rights are violated, if it’s out of the public sphere, then it’s simply none of the government’s concern.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s one or the other, because regulations only work when people abide by them, and sex workers have made it abundantly clear that they will not.

            Which completely wipes out any sympathy I might have. All other kinds of businesses have to comply with regulations for public health – if I want to sell sandwiches out of my kitchen, I’m going to have someone come round to make sure it isn’t infested with rats and cockroaches and that I’m not going to give the sandwich-buying public food poisoning.

            If I piss and moan about how this violates my rights to private transactions, that the state doesn’t regulate mothers making sandwiches for their kids’ school lunches and this is totally the same thing, then I should be willing to take the hit if I do give a customer food poisoning and they then sue me. I can’t claim a right to do whatever I goddamn well want but also the protection of the law and state if I am not willing to abide by the law myself.

            If sex workers want to be totally independent and unregulated, then the harsh truth is that they are going to run the risks of that: from violent customers to disease. You can’t eat your cake and have it: it’s no business of the state if I sell sex, but if anything goes wrong as a result of me selling sex, I demand the state intervene.

            You have a right as a citizen not to be assaulted, even for selling sex. You have a right as a citizen to the protection of the law, even if selling sex. You have no right to tell the law butt out and then go running to it when you get hit in the pocket.

          • ana53294 says:

            Service work that involves public health tends to be much more regulated than other services.

            There are much fewer regulations in cleaning jobs than they are in food handling.

            Private property and freedom are ignored when it comes to public health, for good reason. People who are suspected of disease are quarantined and privated of their liberty; their clothes and possessions may be destroyed if there is suspicion they carry and infective disease.

            Lawyers, CPAs, and lots of other professions are heavily regulated, because informational assymetry (are they really qualified?) can mean that a person unwittingly hires somebody who can harm their finances, or they may end up in jail.

            And contracting HIV is much, much worse than owing $BIGBUCKS to the IRS. You can declare bankruptcy, go to jail and start over. You can’t start over after HIV.

          • To_do_list says:

            I would think that this community pays attention to how things actually work in practice and on the ground as opposed to only how things may be should be. I debated posting this comment because I do not have sources right at hand. So I am going to make claims without connecting each to a source at the moment, because if I were to try to wade through hundreds of saved research papers on my computer, I would never complete it.

            But basically, there is plenty of research out there that supports the following assertion: Paradoxically to regulation proponents, data shows that to promote public health in sex work, increasing regulation often backfires – whereas supporting and empowering individual workers works more consistently. What happens is, when government and police (who are already hostile and prejudiced, as pointed out by others in the thread) attempt to “regularly check that the prostitute doesn’t have an STD, that they use a condom, and that they are not being abused”, sex workers avoid them at all costs – partially because the rates of abuse and rape BY police and government officials are substantial. You can’t expect increased regulation to work effectively until this issue is addressed effectively.

            When instead, the government helps to create conditions where individual workers feel able to make and enforce their own rules, including those about condom use; and make it easier to come forward and report crime and abuse; then things improve. Specific examples include recruiting sex workers as outreach staff and co-educators, and creating dedicated liaison on police force for both sex crimes in general and to cooperate with sex workers. These things actually work. Also, supporting sometimes means not intervening: Self-organization and buddy safety practices (i.e., sex workers working with each other to promote safety) arise on their own quite effectively. Many regulation measures end up interfering with safety because they ignore research and practice. Regulation in sex work is notorious for not following best practices identified by on-the-ground research – another issue regulation proponents need to deal with, if they truly care about evidence-based policy.

            Actually, for HIV specifically, I would encourage everyone to check out this special issue of Lancet on HIV and sex work (2014). They would have the most nuanced and evidence-based picture.
            https://www.thelancet.com/series/hiv-and-sex-workers

          • Virriman says:

            @Deiseach

            Which completely wipes out any sympathy I might have.

            If you only support “legalizing” sex work in a way that predictably continues to label almost every sex worker as a criminal, then you haven’t legalized anything and you don’t get to pat yourself on the back for being sympathetic and willing to “help” them. Especially not when there are real world examples of decriminalization like NZ that actually bring them all into the mainstream economy. You may as well just point at the legal brothels in Nevada and smugly proclaim you have no sympathy for most sex workers in the US because they aren’t all following the legal requirements to work there.

            if I want to sell sandwiches out of my kitchen, I’m going to have someone come round to make sure it isn’t infested with rats and cockroaches

            If you are selling food out of YOUR kitchen, yes, but if I hire you to come to make me a sandwich in MY kitchen or hotel room, that’s not regulated, even though you could theoretically screw up and give my family salmonella. It’s perfectly reasonable for independent sex workers to demand a similar carve out from public health regulations intended for higher volume businesses.

          • Lillian says:

            @Deiseach

            You have no right to tell the law butt out and then go running to it when you get hit in the pocket.

            The law’s purpose is firstly to redress grievances, and secondly to regulate public affairs. If there is no grievance, and the matter is not public, then the law has no business getting involved. So the law staying out of my private matters until such a time as i get hit in the pocket is pretty much exactly my conception of how the law is supposed to work.

            @ana53294

            Service work that involves public health tends to be much more regulated than other services. There are much fewer regulations in cleaning jobs than they are in food handling.

            In my jurisdiction there are zero regulations for food handlers hired for temporary events or as private staff. That is to say, if i hire someone to come to my house and make me dinner, or be the grillmaster at my barbecue, or do an entire buffet for my block party, then they do not be to be food handler certified. Similarly, if i ask my nanny to make meals for the kids, she doesn’t need to be food handler certified or have to obey any regulation that i wouldn’t as their parent.

            The whole idea that private transactions shouldn’t be regulated already exists in US law, it’s just rather inconsistent in its application. Such inconsistencies are best resolved in favour of less regulation of private transactions not more, with exceptions only for things which are especially hazardous. There neither is nor should there be any regulation if i hire someone to come to my house and make me a burger. It’s not clear to me why it should be any different if i instead hire someone for sex. In both cases it’s a private matter. On the other hand, i’m fine with regulating brothels and burger joints because they are public, and so within the government’s purview.

            Also international public health and human rights experts increasingly recommend decriminalization as the best approach. The World Health Organization and UNAIDS published a joint programme for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS among sex workers. Their very first recommendation is: “All countries should work toward decriminalization of sex work and elimination of the unjust application of non-criminal laws and regulations against sex workers.” They also recommend offering condoms, sex education, STI testing, and other health services to sex workers, but stress that these need to be non-coercive and not mandatory.

            So if you want to defer to the experts, they’re telling you that decriminalization with little to no regulatory burden is the way to go. The evidence as it stands is that attempting to regulate sex work does nothing to improve health outcomes, and may very well worsen them due to abysmally low regulatory compliance. So it seems that by going with what i want, which is not regulating people’s private behaviour, you get what you want, which is controlling the spread of disease. We can all win here by making people more free.

          • John Schilling says:

            I would think that this community pays attention to how things actually work in practice and on the ground as opposed to only how things may be should be.

            The way things work in practice and on the ground in the real world is, if a thing substantially impacts public health, there WILL ABSOLUTELY BE laws that either prohibit or regulate that thing. Not everyone will obey those laws, but they will be on the books and the police will make some effort to enforce them by arresting people who violate them. This is a fact. If is the way things work in practice and on the ground. You can’t change it. So deal with it.

            If you succeed in changing the laws so that prostitution is not a crime, then you will instead have laws that regulate prostitution. There is some latitude for what those laws will be, but if you demand “no regulation” that just means you’re letting other people decide what the regulations will be. And they’re mostly going to be the ones who don’t want prostitution legal in the first place.

          • ana53294 says:

            The fact that almost nobody would follow a certain law is not an argument for not having the law. For example, almost nobody in Spain bothers to actually legally hire domestic workers and pay Social Security on their behalf, and they are paid in cash. Is this a reason to legalize this kind of thing? People should have a standard to aspire to.

            In Spain, your dream is true: prostitution is alegal*, or decriminalized. Meaning that it is not criminal or illegal, but it isn’t legal, either. Pimping is illegal, and benefitting from prostitution is also illegal. But prostitution itself is not.

            But this hasn’t made the life of prostitutes easy, or solved all the issues. Because, although there aren’t laws about prostitution, there are laws about street indecency, disturbance, and other issues that affect street workers. There are also laws about immigration laws, and if prostitution is not a legal, regulated job, then non-EU prostitutes will get deported.

            If you don’t make laws that regulate prostitution, that say you can solicit in certain places, and the law gives you explicit permissions for that, but there isn’t a law that specifically bans solicitation, other laws will be applied. Public indecency, illegal immigration, endangering public safety, etc. Enforcers will find ways to bend the law to ban a non-specifically legal activity, especially for something this controversial.

            I favor legalization. Meaning that prostitutes get registered, there is a health standard, they can sue clients that haven’t paid in court (but they would have to pay VAT), they can unionize, and they get working visas (which would allow you to keep the visa if you find a similarly paid job in any other industry, so they aren’t trapped).

            After legalization, we may end up with EU citizens in Spain not registering, and only non-EU immigrants would register, in order to get a visa. But I would still view it as a positive thing. EU citizens enjoy many rights automatically, and they are protected by many laws (and I don’t think there are that many EU citizens who are prostitutes, because they usually have better options; some may be elite escorts, but they won’t be street workers). They can openly go to the police if they are in serious trouble, without being afraid of the law. But if a registered foreign sex worker is like any other worker, with licenses, and Social Security payments, guaranteed healthcare, a right of abode, unemployment benefits, a pension, and all the other benefits of being in a legal profession, then that is a good thing, even if it means that in the future, they may be ashamed when evidence is uncovered. So what? At least they have unemployment benefits, and a pension, and after five years of sex work, paying taxes like everybody else, they can become permanent residents. Considering how difficult permanent residency is to obtain, exchanging future shame for that is a great deal.

            In Spain, prostitutes want legalization.

            *Not being illegal does not mean that you won’t get punished for doing it. For example, education choice is enshrined in our constitution, but there are laws about compulsory schooling that are frequently enforced on homeschoolers, even though homeschooling is not illegal.

            TLDR; the majority of sex workers in Spain, according to police, are illegal immigrants. Legalizing their status would require for them to have a job. Legalizing prostitution would mean that they would have a job, and that job would count towards getting a visa and Social Security.

          • Virriman says:

            @ana53294

            You bring up a good point. In a society where everything not explicitly permitted by law is either illegal or otherwise disfavored, decriminalization may be useless because of how all the other laws are interconnected. In the context of the United States, that isn’t such a big issue. Simply decriminalizing sex work here would leave the workers no worse off than any other self employed professional in terms of rights and services.

          • ana53294 says:

            Except for illegal immigrants.

            In Spain, an illegal immigrant can legalize by having an employer hire them full-time, officially. I know this is much harder in the US; but still, having legal work, as opposed to not illegal work, is probably disadvantageous for immigrants to get a visa/residence.

            As I said, you could both decriminalize and legalize; have US citizens engage in sex work without registering, if they so want to. And then have foreign workers register, so they can get a visa. And have a separate quota for prostitute visas.

        • Simply decriminalizing sex work here would leave the workers no worse off than any other self employed professional in terms of rights and services.

          I am confused by the distinction people here are making between legalization and decriminalization.

          As best I can tell by a little googling and the literal meaning of the words, decriminalization doesn’t mean an activity is legal, it means that doing it is not a crime but may still be punished by the law in other ways. Legalization means the activity is legal–not punished by the law at all.

          People seem to be conflating legalization with regulation. If prostitution is legalized but there are regulations requiring (say) condom use, then prostitution with condoms is legal, without is not. If it is decriminalized, there can still be rules making prostitution without a condom an offense, even a crime, and there can also be rules making prostitution with a condom a civil rather than a criminal offense.

          It might help if someone in this thread could explain precisely how the two terms are being used.

          • Virriman says:

            I agree that the terms are confusing, but I think Protagoras gave the best explanation:

            In the case of sex work, [decriminalization] refers to repealing the laws against prostitution, without introducing a bunch of new laws restricting and regulating it (on the basis that we already have plenty of laws regulating economic activity and related abuses, and contrary to what some believe there’s no particular reason to think any special additional ones are needed for prostitution). Changing prostitution from being completely illegal to being the subject of lots of special regulations is, in the context of sex work, what is called legalization.

          • acymetric says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I had the same problem. In a separate thread on the same subject I asked the same question and Protagoras responded:

            Decriminalization means different things when talking about sex work than when talking about drugs. In the case of drugs, it means what you say. In the case of sex work, it refers to repealing the laws against prostitution, without introducing a bunch of new laws restricting and regulating it (on the basis that we already have plenty of laws regulating economic activity and related abuses, and contrary to what some believe there’s no particular reason to think any special additional ones are needed for prostitution). Changing prostitution from being completely illegal to being the subject of lots of special regulations is, in the context of sex work, what is called legalization.

            A couple others have alluded to similar views. I can’t say I’m a fan of using these words the way they are using them as it is more confusing/misleading than it is helpful but this is how they are using these words.

            Edit: Ninja’d by Virriman (is it still ninja’d if it is a full 8 minutes later?) but I’ll leave mine up since I included the full post.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’m not really fond of the terminology either, but it seems to be standard among sex worker advocates.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I didn’t understand the terminology either, and I think that basically invalidates my previous point.

            As far as I can tell, the best way to avoid situations where sex workers are being abused/exploited/trapped into sex work is some mix of:

            a. Make sure that they won’t get arrested/deported for going to the police with a complaint about how they’re being abused/exploited/trapped.

            b. Make sure they have enough freedom to move to other businesses/ start their own business / change employers that they can get themselves out of bad places.

            c. Make sure there’s a social safety net available so nobody faces a tradeoff between sex work and starving.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Decriminalisation also has a lot of backing among sex workers.

      Is the difference that with decriminalization they don’t have to pay taxes?

      • acymetric says:

        I think that is what is being implied, but only by using a weird distinction between decriminalization and legalization.

        Decriminalization doesn’t mean “no taxes” with legalization meaning “taxes”. They both would require paying taxes, although as with any industry there is a possibility to hide (or attempt to hide) such earnings from the government.

        Typically “decriminalization” mostly just means you won’t get arrested or have a criminal record (but there could still be fines imposed if you are caught). Case study for this: places where marijuana was decriminalized (hint: there were still penalties for having/using it, just not criminal penalties).

        Maybe I am way off here, but I would like to hear a fully fleshed out explanation of what the differences are, because I don’t think the implied differences match the real world differences between the terms.

        • Protagoras says:

          Decriminalization means different things when talking about sex work than when talking about drugs. In the case of drugs, it means what you say. In the case of sex work, it refers to repealing the laws against prostitution, without introducing a bunch of new laws restricting and regulating it (on the basis that we already have plenty of laws regulating economic activity and related abuses, and contrary to what some believe there’s no particular reason to think any special additional ones are needed for prostitution). Changing prostitution from being completely illegal to being the subject of lots of special regulations is, in the context of sex work, what is called legalization.

          • Lambert says:

            *screams at the English Language, in general*

          • Lillian says:

            It’s a difference in degree, not kind. Drug decriminalization advocates want to reduce or eliminate the criminal penalties for drug possession, but maintain all the others. Sex work decriminalization advocates want to eliminate all the criminal penalties related to the sex trade. So both groups want decriminalization in the same sense, meaning the removal of criminal penalties, sex workers just want way more of it.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I propose that in place of “legalization” you say “legibilization.”

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        You’re already supposed to declare your income from illegal activities on your taxes. That’s how they got Capone after all.

        So far I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from anyone about decriminalization versus legalization. It sounds like advocates for sex workers either don’t understand how heavily regulated ordinary commerce is in the US or are looking for specific carve-outs or exemptions for prostitutes. Not rent seeking exactly but a sort of unprincipled libertarianism that only cares about one industry.

        • acymetric says:

          Right. I’m pretty sure both terms (decriminalization and legalization) are being used to mean things that they don’t actually mean, which makes this kind of a hard conversation to have until we square that up.

        • Lillian says:

          Generally speaking industry advocates only care about their industry. You don’t tend to see the banking lobby demanding a lower regulatory burden on manufacturing or agriculture. Thus sex worker activists generally talk a lot about the regulations they want for themselves (usually laissez-faire), but not very much about the regulations they want for other personal service workers like masseuses or hair stylists.

          Now, the reason you have a lot of third parties showing the same single industry libertarianism without regard for the large context is that historically speaking prostitution is seen as a social problem in the way that hair styling isn’t. People tend to see laws around prostitution as social policy, which inherently interesting and worth devoting a lot of thought to, so you get all these nuanced views about harm reduction and whatnot. Whereas laws around hair styling licenses as just boring industry regulation rather than social policy, so they don’t pay much attention.

          Speaking for myself, i am not a sex work activist, but i also don’t see prostitution as anything special with respect to regulation or social policy. Consequently i have the single position that applies across the board: Transactions between individuals should not be regulated. If i want to hire a random person to come to my home and cook my food, watch my children, cut my hair, and fuck my body, that’s none of the government’s concern. This is not an absolutist view, i’m okay with some regulation when two people decide to privately exchange three tons of ANFO, but in general the government shouldn’t be butting into people’s personal affairs.

        • The Nybbler says:

          @Lillian

          It’s too late for that. The current system is that if (but not only if) money or any thing of value is exchanged, the full weight of the government comes upon it. That is as free as it will get. That’s why it’s impractical for all but the richest to lawfully hire any domestic help at all, that’s why so many agencies which provide household services are cutting corners with the law, that’s why you can’t sell any food items you make, or provide handyman services on the side, or anything similar. It’s not going to be different for sex work if it becomes legal.

          • Lillian says:

            I don’t want it to be different for any trade in particular, i want the whole edifice scaled back to the point that i can do random-ass shit for money without being made a petty criminal for having the temerity to make a god-damned living without the government’s permission. It’s true there is no realistic hope that the Tower of Barad-Dur will ever be made any smaller. Those of us who are unable or unwilling to live by its dictates must instead live in fear that the baleful gaze of the Eye of Sauron will one way turn in our direction. However my opinion has zero influence on public policy one way or the other, so while i’m speaking my mind into the void, i’m going to damn well speak it in favour of maybe taking some bricks out of the frightful thing.

      • John Schilling says:

        With both drugs and prostitution, and most everything else where this comes up, “decriminalization” means “we won’t actually arrest and prosecute the little guys”. The commercial trade remains illegal at some level, but retail consumers (and in the case of sex work, providers) don’t have to fear anything more than a citation and a fine and maybe not even that. Pimps, madams, drug dealers and smugglers, meth lab operators, etc, are all still facing felony time. Advertising the trade is illegal, renting a storefront for it is illegal, banks aren’t allowed to take cash deposits associated with it, etc.

        “Legalization” means that no aspect of the trade is inherently illegal, and we expect that there will soon be corporations listed on the local stock exchange selling the product openly through retail storefronts, not having to worry about banks taking their big cash deposits because everybody is paying by credit card, etc.

        Legalization implies that all aspects of the trade will be regulated and taxed because modern societies regulate and tax all aspects of every legal trade. Decriminalization implies that there will be no taxes and regulations because we are piously pretending that we are going to shut down the trade wherever we find it, it’s just that we’re going to do it by targeting the Evil Kingpins and not the Little Guys.

        And nobody ever seriously proposes “we won’t arrest anyone in the supply chain, and we won’t tax and regulate the business”. I mean, libertarians, both of us, but otherwise either you’re being taxed and regulated or someone is going to jail, anything else is crazy talk.

        • acymetric says:

          Per Protagoras slightly higher up in this thread, certain parts of the sex work advocacy movement are in fact using completely different definitions for the terms than the rest of us, which explains it.

          It seems like a poor choice to me, since the dichotomy isn’t legalization v. decriminalization (which is confusing to everyone else) but regulation v. anti-regulation.

          They’re basically using “decriminalization” to mean “pro-legalization, anti-regulation”. Kind of wish they just used those words since we already use them to mean those things.

          • Lillian says:

            It’s not a different definition. Decriminalization means the same thing in both contexts: the removal of criminal penalties. The reason for the confusion is that in a drug context people are only advocating for decriminalizing drug possession, but not sales, distribution, or production. There is very little lobby in favour of decriminalizing the entire trade, so by the default “drug decriminalization” came to mean just removing the criminal penalties on possession while keeping all the others.

            In contrast, sex workers do want their entire trade decriminalized by not just repealing laws prohibiting the buying and selling sex, but also those prohibiting pimping, pandering, brothel keeping, and living off the avails. Sex workers feel that such laws on ancillary activities still make criminals of them, since they make it illegal to work together, help each other with advertising, or assist each other with expenses. They also criminalize their room mates, friends, and relatives, and make it impossible to legally hire people to help them with their business. So in their view all those laws need to go.

            Frankly, i’d say it’s the drug policy side is making the poorer use of the term. You can hardly say an industry has been decriminalized when criminal penalties still apply to the majority of the supply and distribution chain, with only the exception of the end user. It’s the sex trade side that is being reasonable in its use by saying they want all criminal penalties removed.

  53. Minor: “The Death of Proof” was not a book, but a cover story in Scientific American. The book was “The End of Science.”

  54. Peter says:

    Cats and Brexit: that analogy has been used so many times that the satirical news site NewsThump broke the story Cats in doorways getting tired of being used as Brexit metaphor.

  55. There are a bunch of places given “Silicon” nicknames for having a bunch of fabs that aren’t in that Wikipedia list because they’re just another industrial center rather than being a technology center in a general sense. Silicon Tundra near Portland, Maine, for instance, where TI and ON have fabs.

  56. 6jfvkd8lu7cc says:

    The article on Zelensky misses one more point for completeness of deliberate art-imitation: Zelensky was nominated by a party that has been renamed to «Servant of The People» in the end of 2017.

  57. deciusbrutus says:

    Is there any good reason why a ‘private industry’ couldn’t work with the IRS to provide the benefits that the IRS could provide and not be purely a vehicle for upselling premium service to taxpayers after making them do the work under the premise that it would be free?

    • Alkatyn says:

      Because you can profit more from artificially creating demand than from fixing the underlying problem

    • Aapje says:

      @deciusbrutus

      Do you want the government to share your savings, salary, etc with private companies?

      I know that Americans care little about their privacy (or identity fraud), but surely that is a bridge too far?

    • JPNunez says:

      Perverse incentives?

    • Doctor Mist says:

      The tax code is effing complicated, and I can’t make myself believe this is just because of lobbying by TurboTax et al. It’s mostly because the tax code has grown over time and because Congress has no incentive to fix it and because of whose ox is gored by any change and because Moloch rules us all.

      And TurboTax saved me a good ten percent of my taxes this year by sorting through the new rules about “section 199 A dividends”, which I would have missed entirely. I credit that to the fact that they are a for-profit enterprise which has competition from other for-profit enterprises.

  58. Ms. Morgendorffer says:

    Re: “The government knows how much tax you owe well enough to arrest you if you try to cheat them, so how come they can’t just tell you that number and save you the trouble of preparing your taxes?”

    In France, the ‘administration fiscale’ has massively improved itself in the past 10-15 years : I’m employed with a regular longterm contract by a standard company, and employ a lady that comes every week to do some cleaning. As I declare and pay charges (social security and retirement, stuff like that) on the cleaning lady’s salary, I’m eligible on a rebate on my taxes.
    15 years ago it was a nightmare of complexity. Today I log in to a website once a month to declare how much I paid, for how many hours, the lady that I registered via a SS number. My employer already declares my salary to the administration, so in the end I just have to log in to the gov website to confirm a prefilled declaration that take into account my rebate from employing somebody and paying taxes on it, and to click a button to pay from my checking account that I linked to my gov account. I spent total ~30 min a year doing taxes. Our fiscal admin has made a great job streamlining the process for the usual cases, and I can only wish that a similar system comes soon to yours!

    • Aapje says:

      In The Netherlands, the tax form is filled in already and you only have to add/change things that are missing or incorrect. I didn’t have to change anything and my taxes take 5 minutes (although admittedly I am an easy case).

  59. vV_Vv says:

    Deep roots: which European ethnicity settled each area of the United States centuries ago determines how much inequality it has today, with the level of inequality in the American region corresponding to the level in the European home country. Appears to be a cultural rather than purely genetic effect since it holds for black people in each area as well.

    This doesn’t rule out genetics, since African Americans strongly outperform homogeneous countries with similar average “characteristics” (ref) probably because they benefit from redistribution from the surrounding community, therefore, even if African Americans were completely genetically separated from the surrounding community (they aren’t) the genetic effects on performance would spill.

  60. Alkatyn says:

    > The big politics news is, of course, the Mueller Report, and how much its finding of no illegal collusion between Trump and Russia discredits a media that had been talking rather a lot about how much illegal collusion between Trump and Russia there definitely was.
    […]
    > I prefer the pro-discreditation narrative,

    I disagree that it discredits the media. It provides independent confirmation of a lot of media reports that were aggressively denied at the time. And it seem like the only reasons that it wasn’t formally considered obstruction is that the attempts to block Muellers investigation didn’t succeed (Donald Trump asked aides to do things but they didn’t) and that Justice department guidelines say you can’t indite a sitting president.

    See:

    * https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/is-the-mueller-report-a-bfd/

    * https://www.ft.com/content/0cbf2628-61d5-11e9-a27a-fdd51850994c

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47983489

    * https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/04/mueller-report-release-barr-trump/587176/

    Or even better read the original report, which includes executive summaries of the relevant points. https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf

    • HeelBearCub says:

      honestly I didn’t follow the whole Mueller thing and find it hard to pay attention to.

      Well, it doesn’t interest him, and he isn’t paying attention, but he does have an axe to grind with people who are Trump critics.

      I think this is reflexively contrarian, blue tribe is my hated enemy, Scott, not careful analysis Scott.

      • Aapje says:

        @HeelBearCub

        Scott explicitly said that he has an ax to grind with the media for not facing consequences for errors that they make in their reporting due to their biases:

        I prefer the pro-discreditation narrative, just because the media will never face any negative consequences for things like the constant hyping of The Spirit Level and anything else that agrees with their biases, over and over again, times ten million

        So your accusation seems quite unwarranted.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Scott does not seem to care about conservative media errors.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            1) The entire media system will call out conservative media
            2) Most conservative media doesn’t produce a lot of original reporting
            3) Traditional media has promoted apolitical garbage *forever*

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            4) The conservative press is almost entirely advocacy press, and not claiming the mantle of neutrailty. If the mainstream press wants to drop its claim to neutrailty, then we can judge it by the same standard as the conservative press.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The conservative media have correctly predicted 12 of the last 5 hate hoaxes. I don’t want to go to them, but they are often the only people pointing out the obvious questions that need to be asked.

            I said elsewhere that the job of the media is to get things right, but I understand when they get things wrong. It’s the job of software developers to write software that works, but sometimes there are bugs. The test of professionalism is what happens when a bug is pointed out. Do they deny it until the last possible moment, long after everyone else is making fun of them for saying fake but accurate feature not bug, to admit they were wrong?

          • xq says:

            What’s strange isn’t so much that Scott ignores conservative media errors as that he ignores the many mainstream media errors in favor of conservatives. So Scott promotes Taibbi’s article comparing Trump-Russia to the media’s deference to Bush on Iraq, but has Scott ever acknowledged the media’s failure on WMDs in his own media criticism? It would seem to complicate the story that the media just dislikes Republicans/conservatives. See also the decision by the media in the last 10 days of the 2016 election to make the biggest story (which turned out to be nothing) about Clinton emails found on Weiner’s computer, which may have given Trump the election.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            WMD was a thing 16 years ago. Was he writing then?

          • eyeballfrog says:

            The conservative media have correctly predicted 12 of the last 5 hate hoaxes.

            Is this a typo?

          • Aapje says:

            @eyeballfrog

            It’s a claim that they overzealously call out the leftist media, correctly pointing out problems that should be called out, but also calling out things that they shouldn’t. So they should neither be dismissed automatically, but neither believed automatically.

          • xq says:

            WMD was a thing 16 years ago. Was he writing then?

            Scott writes broad media criticism that covers periods longer than 16 years ago (e.g. here.) and asserts a consistent anti-conservative media bias. He also writes all the time about how the media and academic establishment suppress conservative views. The media’s massive failure on Iraq–which included firing dissident voices–seems very relevant to these issues (and thus to how one should interpret the media handling of Trump-Russia).

          • sorrento says:

            Has Scott ever acknowledged the media’s failure on WMDs in his own media criticism? It would seem to complicate the story that the media just dislikes Republicans/conservatives

            It only complicates the story if you forget that the mainstream Democrat Party supported the Iraq war around the turn of the century. Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the war in 2002, for example. The war had bipartisan support.

            That’s why Bernie Sanders likes to talk about having opposed the war. Not many people did! But Bernie was a kooky independent (not a member of the Democrat party at that time), so he could do what he wanted.

            Of course, from the perspective of 2019, both parties like to say as little as possible about the war. The Republicans are probably even quieter than the Dems at this point.

          • xq says:

            Most Democrats in congress voted against. It’s true that the war had bipartisan support, but the claim that “not many people” opposed, or that only “kooky” politicians did, is just false. And it was the Bush admin that pushed for the war.

          • sorrento says:

            That is a fair point. Wikipedia has 215 / 221 Republicans voting for the resolution, and 82 / 208 Democrats voting for the resolution. So technically only only 40% of democrats voted “aye.” The ayes read like a who’s who of the Democratic establishment, though. Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Diane Feinstein, Schumer, Reid, John Kerry, etc.

            As I recall, the NYT was pro-war but anti George “Dubya” Bush. This is a combination that now seems absurd, but like Pets.com, it all made sense at the time.

            I have a hard time finding a citation on what the NYT’s W coverage was like. I vaguely remember them being hostile, but it’s a been a very long time. They certainly were much more respectful of W. than they ever were of Trump, for what it’s worth.

          • 10240 says:

            @Paul Zrimsek The part I find weird is that in the USA (at least according to Scott or you) much of what you call mainstream press claims neutrality. Do they really? Is that claim of neutrality taken seriously by a significant number of people? As much as I’m aware of, in many countries most of the press has pretty explicit, self-admitted political alignment. The Guardian wouldn’t deny that it leans left any more than the Daily Mail would deny that it leans right. Most countries also have press that is generally described as centrist, and it generally does lie between the left-leaning and the right-leaning ones (though exactly where neutrality lies of course gets debated). And even for the US, Wikipedia says e.g. “The New York Times editorial page is often regarded as liberal.”

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            @10240 The claim of neutrality is taken very seriously indeed, and in one sense it’s well worth taking seriously: journalists themselves, as far as I can tell, believe quite sincerely in it, and make a good-faith effort to live up to it. At the same time, they are an overwhelmingly left-liberal bunch, and I suppose they’d be more than human if their biases didn’t leak into their stories (or, what may be more important, into their ideas about what is or is not a story). I am referring here only to the news side of the organization; it’s usual for newspapers and cable (as opposed to broadcast) TV news to openly stake out an editorial stance that leans one way or the other, but that sort of partisanship officially isn’t supposed to stray into the newsroom.

          • BBA says:

            Broadcast television (and radio) used to be required to be politically neutral under the (in)famous Fairness Doctrine, repealed during the Reagan years. I don’t know where or when the professed neutrality of newspapers originated – in the 19th century, American newspapers were overtly partisan, as in the rest of the world.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            The part I find weird is that in the USA (at least according to Scott or you) much of what you call mainstream press claims neutrality. Do they really?

            Yes. They absolutely do and it’s a key element of their credibility vs. “right-wing” sources.

            Is that claim of neutrality taken seriously by a significant number of people?

            It’s huge in the US. Officially, there is no Liberal or Left-Wing press, it’s all “Mainstream” or “Neutral”. There are left-wing commentary sites, like Salon.com or Slate to mirror Townhall.com or The Daily Wire. There is, officially, no left-wing version of Fox News (in reality that’s both MSNBC and CNN)

            And even for the US, Wikipedia says e.g. “The New York Times editorial page is often regarded as liberal.”

            That line is in the editorial section near the bottom of the article. This line:

            The editorial pages of the Journal are typically conservative in their position. The Journal editorial board has promoted fringe views on the science of climate change, acid rain, and ozone depletion, as well as on the health harms of second-hand smoke, pesticides and asbestos.

            is in the article’s summary.

            So, even by this comparison, the NYT is portrayed as largely neutral.

            If you view the talk page, you find a long campaign against portraying the NYT as liberal as well. (Even some comments about adding notes about a ‘conservative’ bias.)

          • imoimo says:

            He’s less invested in conservative media errors sure, because those errors are so bad and blatant that they’re “not even fun to dissect.” (https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/01/15/lies-damned-lies-and-the-media-part-6-of-∞/)

            He lays out his goals pretty clearly in In Favor of Niceness Etc, i.e. the most important goal is to change the minds of people adjacent to him, to preserve his local “garden”. The closest people he has serious disagreement with are on the left, so they get most of his ire. (https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/02/23/in-favor-of-niceness-community-and-civilization/)

            The other approach is to yell over such huge inferential distances that you’ll never be heard and understood by your intended target, aka most modern media outlets.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @imoimo:
            Sure, he is tending his garden. Except that who is the guy who is deadly afraid of cougars, but thinks the mountain lions are nothing to be worried about.

            He seems blind to his own bias, and unwilling to examine it. The exact thing he purports to rail against.

            He seems to have convinced himself that he had to purge himself of anti-right bias and pro-left bias, and has forgotten to do the opposite. And the truly unfortunate thing is that one of the biggest formational events seems to have been when was threatened by the left.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            And the truly unfortunate thing is that one of the biggest formational events seems to have been when was threatened by the left.

            So what should do, close our eyes and ignore the fact that certain tactics (doxing, online harassment, trying to get people fired) are much more normalised and mainstream on the left than on the right?

          • rlms says:

            So what should do, close our eyes and ignore the fact that certain tactics (doxing, online harassment, trying to get people fired) are much more normalised and mainstream on the left than on the right?

            Citation needed. Unless you just mean that social media users in general (and so harassers in particular) lean left, which is true but not very interesting.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Citation needed. Unless you just mean that social media users in general (and so harassers in particular) lean left, which is true but not very interesting.

            All the examples of people being driven from their jobs or hobbies or online groups over unrelated purity tests that I can recall involve people being driven out for being insufficiently progressive, not for being too progressive, though I don’t expect you to accept that as a citation. Maybe it would help if you gave an example of the sort of thing you’d count as valid evidence in favour of the proposition.

            As for the idea that this is just an artefact of left-wingers making up the majority of social media users, I’m unconvinced that this is either true or relevant. On the truth side, I haven’t noticed any right-wing equivalents of, say, this sort of thing, whereas if it were just a matter of there being fewer right-wingers I’d still expect there to be at least some, albeit fewer, examples of the phenomenon. Moreover, the left has a whole set of justifications for being nasty to certain types of people (white/male/straight/etc. privilege, punching up vs. punching down, racism as a structural phenomenon, etc.) which are just absent from right-wing thought. As for the relevance, when considering whether or not it’s rational to be more afraid of the left ruining one’s garden than the right, we have to consider the real world, not hypothetical alternative realities. Sure, there’s no doubt a possible world in which the right goes around imposing unrelated purity tests on everyone and threatening to get left-wing bloggers (or even right-wing bloggers who don’t dismiss the entire left as evil), but that’s not the world we live in, and bringing it up just feels like a red herring.

          • quanta413 says:

            The first non-SJ purity test that comes to my mind is support for Israel, but some of that comes from the center or center-left not just the right. Steve Salaita got unhired for saying stupid shit on Twitter. Arguably worse than the norm, but not that much. I remember there being another case related to BDS too.

            It’s sort of an orthogonal political axis (or centrist since really far left and really far right wingers both often dislike Israel). But it leans right.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The first non-SJ purity test that comes to my mind is support for Israel, but some of that comes from the center or center-left not just the right. Steve Salaita got unhired for saying stupid shit on Twitter. Arguably worse than the norm, but not that much. I remember there being another case related to BDS too.

            You’re right, that is a purity test one comes across on the right, but I don’t think it’s applied with nearly the amount of vigour and vitriol as left-wing purity tests are. Like, when is the last time a bunch of right-wingers got somebody fired or no-platformed for expressing anti-Zionist views unrelated to their work?

          • Clutzy says:

            You’re right, that is a purity test one comes across on the right, but I don’t think it’s applied with nearly the amount of vigour and vitriol as left-wing purity tests are. Like, when is the last time a bunch of right-wingers got somebody fired or no-platformed for expressing anti-Zionist views unrelated to their work?

            I don’t think support for Israel really counts as a purity test on the right. The issue is that many on the right suspect anti-Israel positions to be merely cover stories for blatant antisemitism. This suspicion has not been helped by our new set of female Congressman who have strengthened this idea on the right as they used criticism of Israel as a retreat position. This is made all the more difficult because Israel is not all that interesting of a country from an objective POV. Yet it gets criticized a lot.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I suspect, though I may be wrong, that many on the left consider such accusations of anti-semitism to be merely cover stories for a purity test. (I’m doubtful of either position.)

          • Aapje says:

            Clutzy

            This is made all the more difficult because Israel is not all that interesting of a country from an objective POV. Yet it gets criticized a lot.

            The same is true for Apartheid South Africa…

          • The same is true for Apartheid South Africa…

            But was not true for Nigeria, which killed about a million Ibo in the course of the Biafran war. Nor for a number of other Subsaharan countries with racial killing on a scale much larger than South Africa. One man one vote once, a common pattern, is even less democratic than the South African pattern of letting only some people vote.

            Western opinion is selective about which outrages we get outraged about. White vs black strikes us much more strongly than black vs black. Some conflicts fit our political stories, some don’t, Israeli vs Palestinian much more than Han vs Uigher or Malay vs Chinese.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Or Western culture vs natives.

            ‘We’ also care a lot more about disasters that happen to people with Western culture.

          • Clutzy says:

            ‘We’ also care a lot more about disasters that happen to people with Western culture.

            But this is very different from the other one. This is a proximity/tribal natural response. The other ones are explicit choices by the media on what they think people should be focusing on. “Don’t look at the ethnic cleanings of Jews and Christians in Iraq and Egypt, instead look at this other thing like 100 miles from it.” Or recently there has been a massive propaganda push to focus on the Uyghurs which doesn’t fit into west vs. native.

      • Alkatyn says:

        This is normally a community where it is considered bad to express strong opinions on subjects where you don’t have knowledge on them.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Thereby giving you a chance to grind your own favorite ax. So, happiness all around.

      • Dan L says:

        I think this is reflexively contrarian, blue tribe is my hated enemy, Scott, not careful analysis Scott.

        It’s pretty rare for something Scott writes to genuinely make me angry, but I don’t know how else to feel after finding him explicitly double dealing to Moloch. I could care less about the outgroup, I care about the Enemy.

    • ProfessorQuirrell says:

      “And it seem like the only reasons that it wasn’t formally considered obstruction is that the attempts to block Muellers investigation didn’t succeed (Donald Trump asked aides to do things but they didn’t) and that Justice department guidelines say you can’t indite a sitting president.”

      Your latter point is part of the reason, but the former is completely wrong. In fact, Mueller explicitly discounts your argument starting in Volume 2, Page 11:

      Attempts and endeavors. Section 1512(c)(2) covers both substantive obstruction offenses and attempts to obstruct justice. Under general principles of attempt law, a person is guilty of an attempt when he has the intent to commit a substantive offense and takes an overt act that constitutes a substantial step towards that goal. See United States v. Resendiz-Ponce, 549 U.S. 102, 106-107 (2007). “[T]he act [must be] substantial, in that it was strongly corroborative of the defendant’s criminal purpose.” United States v. Pratt, 351 F.3d 131, 135 (4th Cir. 2003). While “mere abstract talk” does not suffice, any “concrete and specific” acts that corroborate the defendant’s intent can constitute a “substantial step.” United States v. Irving, 665 F.3d 1184, 1198–1205 (10th Cir. 2011). Thus, “soliciting an innocent agent to engage in conduct constituting an element of the crime” may qualify as a substantial step. Model Penal Code § 5.01(2)(g); see United States v. Lucas, 499 F.3d 769, 781 (8th Cir. 2007).

      The omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1503 prohibits an “endeavor” to obstruct justice, which sweeps more broadly than Section 1512’s attempt provision. See United States v. Sampson, 898 F.3d 287, 302 (2d Cir. 2018); United States v. Leisure, 844 F.2d 1347, 1366-1367 (8th Cir. 1988) (collecting cases). “It is well established that a[n] [obstruction-of-justice] offense is complete when one corruptly endeavors to obstruct or impede the due administration of justice; the prosecution need not prove that the due administration of justice was actually obstructed or impeded.” United States v. Davis, 854 F.3d 1276, 1292 (11th Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted).

      The actual reason that Mueller didn’t bring obstruction charges is a combination of OLC opinion that you can’t indict a sitting president and fairness doctrine concerns where you shouldn’t bring criminal charges against someone who has no opportunity to clear his name via a trial. Mueller clearly lays this all out at the start of Volume 2 and explicitly points out that they did not adopt an approach that could result in a criminal charge for those reasons. Mueller would be able to say that the evidence suggests that Trump is innocent — but he declines to do so.

      Another reason why Mueller didn’t bring obstruction charges is that there simply may not have been obstruction. As best I can follow it, while some of Trump’s actions are plausibly illegal acts (such as his interactions with Flynn, Manafort, and Cohen), in general if you read the analysis it is not obvious that you would be able to demonstrate an obstructive act and a nexus and corrupt intent for each of those.

      Other actions by Trump are facially legal and it is less clear how to handle those. The legal theory that Mueller adopts is complicated and, as best I can tell, may not actually be correct. I made a post on /r/neutralpolitics that goes into that in more detail.

      • Alkatyn says:

        Thanks, I misunderstood that part, given the amount of discussion about how Trump employees were ignoring his requests to do blatantly illegal things. (Presumably that would be a defence for them and not him?)

        Another odd legal aspect is that it seems that in campaign finance law, unlike most law, intent is necessary for the crime. So Trump Jr not knowing that getting help from foreign agents was illegal makes it harder to prosecute him.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          What blatantly illegal things was Trump ordering people to do? If you’re talking about exhortations to fire Mueller or for his lawyer (Cohen) to cover up payments to Stormy Daniels, those are legal things: it’s not illegal for the chief executive to fire executive branch political appointments, nor is it illegal to pay off blackmailers or to hide blackmail payments. Politically unwise or generally sordid, but not illegal, and certainly not “blatantly illegal.”

          For two years, the media led everyone to believe that Trump was a traitor who conspired with the Russian government to rig the election. This is completely false. Trump did not conspire with the Russians, nor did anyone connected to him, nor did any US person conspire with the Russians. The media was horrifically wrong, and I cannot find anything charitable to say on their behalf.

          • J Mann says:

            Yeah, there’s a risk in deciding that a boss can obstruct justice by terminating an investigation.

            Consider Kim Foxx texting a subordinate to suggest that Jussie Smollett was overcharged, or Andrew Cuomo deciding to shut down the Moreland ethics panel.

            In all the cases, the person taking the action had the authority to do so, so the question is whether they did it because in their judgment, it was a good decision, or for an improper purpose, and that’s just a mess.

            (If you think that Trump ordered his subordinates to tell witnesses not to cooperate, that’s trickier, but I’d point out that Bill Clinton was never charged on that front, so it may be a harder case to make than I think.)

          • ProfessorQuirrell says:

            Conrad,

            I agree that some of the events Mueller examines are facially legal (firing Comey, firing Mueller). Some of the other events involve influencing witnesses in the context of the press rather than the context of the investigation.

            Others are potentially witness tampering in the context of official proceedings (Trump’s dealings with Flynn, Cohen, and Manafort) but when you read through the analysis it is generally not obvious that a prosecutor would be able to demonstrate the obstructive act, a nexus, and a corrupt intent.

            Mueller has a legal theory that he thinks allows him to charge facially legal acts as well. He treats 1512(c)(2) as an omnibus clause where any action that influences or impedes an investigation could be criminal — provided it is performed “corruptly”.

            It is not clear to me whether his reading of that clause is correct, nor is it clear to me that “corruptly” is a well-established legal term. I’ve read a variety of different legal takes on those ideas and the whole thing just seems really complicated and I am not sure that the courts have hashed it out in a thorough way.

            I’m still reading and thinking about the report; if you have any good sources for rigorous legal analyses on the conservative side I would be curious to see them.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            if you have any good sources for rigorous legal analyses on the conservative side I would be curious to see them.

            That is an interesting question. I don’t know of any, and haven’t seen any linked on the various conservative blogs I peruse.

            I have an explanation for this, but I’m wary it’s specious: there’s no need for a rigorous legal analysis because rigor is needed for complicated cases, not simple ones. This is in fact, simple: no crime occurred, so that’s all you need to say about Volume I, and since no crime occurred, there’s no justice to obstruct, which makes Volume II an exercise in political dirt digging rather than legal argument.

            This article in American Spectator is the only one I’ve seen that breaks down each of the ten incidents listed by Mueller and examines them, but the author is a policy writer, not a lawyer.

          • Alkatyn says:

            Just to take one example which is no longer disputed by the trump administration.

            Donald Trump’s son, son in law and campaign manager met witha representative of the Russian government, who claimed to have dirt on Hillary. When this was initially reported they totally denied it and they were a media smear. Then when evidence came out, the president dictated a letter that was released by his son claiming the meeting was about Russian adoption. They have now admitted that is a lie.

          • John Schilling says:

            there’s no need for a rigorous legal analysis because rigor is needed for complicated cases, not simple ones. This is in fact, simple: no crime occurred, so that’s all you need to say about Volume I, and since no crime occurred, there’s no justice to obstruct

            As a legal analysis, that’s dead wrong. Whether or not interfering in the investigation of an alleged or suspected crime is itself criminal obstruction of justice has nothing to do with the truth of the underlying accusation. Bribing a witness to give you a false alibi is a felony crime even if you are innocent of whatever it is you need an alibi for, and whether or not the prosecutor is sincerely mistaken or a vindictive witch-hunting scoundrel.

            In the court of public opinion, yes, it matters greatly – and impeachment is effectively tried in the court of public opinion. But some people like to imagine that the law still matters, so the shortage of rigorous legal analysis on the conservative side is cause for suspicion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Alkatyn, is any of that illegal?

          • ProfessorQuirrell says:

            John Schilling is quite correct; the fact that the evidence was not sufficient for conspiracy in Volume 1 does not mean that obstruction is impossible. To quote from the report (Volume 1, Page 157):

            Many obstruction cases involve the attempted or actual cover-up of an underlying crime. Personal criminal conduct can furnish strong evidence that the individual had an improper obstructive purpose, or that he contemplated an effect on an official proceeding. But proof of such a crime is not an element of an obstruction offense … Obstruction of justice can be motivated by a desire to protect non-criminal personal interests, to protect against investigations where underlying criminal liability falls into a gray area, or to avoid personal embarrassment. The injury to the integrity of the justice system is the same regardless of whether a person committed an underlying wrong.

            That being said, I wouldn’t say it’s entirely irrelevant. In particular, as Mueller points out in the next paragraph, it makes an analysis of Trump’s intent more challenging. Trump certainly believed himself to be innocent and that would color his own frustrations regarding the case.

            @Alkatyn,

            I believe that particular event is problematic because the lie was directed towards the press rather than to an ongoing proceeding. Lying to the press, while scummy, is not generally illegal as far as I know.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Conrad:

            It is generally not true that innocence of an underlying crime bars prosecution for obstruction. I think everyone agrees that if Donald Trump (or anyone) had (e.g.) unambiguously offered Mueller (or a judge, or a witness) $10 million in exchange for false testimony, that would be obstruction even if there were no underlying crime.

            But that is not the driving force of the legal dispute, which as I understand it (and simplified) is twofold. First, the argument is whether the President can ever obstruct justice by the lawful exercise of his Article II powers. Second is whether the obstruction “catchall” provision applies to all conduct with a “corrupt motive” that has any effect whatsoever on an investigator or investigation (Mueller’s position) or whether there needs to be an actual or facially clear attempt at impairment of evidence. I would suspect that Mueller’s team wrote their legal brief-like obstruction section because they were preemptively responding to an analysis (offered, as I understand it from the report, by the President’s lawyers), stating that under these specific circumstances, the President cannot have obstructed justice. I have not seen the letter to which they are responding (I don’t know if it’s in public or not) so I can’t say whether they characterize it fairly. But my guess is that, at least in some respects, it probably makes similar arguments to William Barr’s June 2018 memo protesting against an expanded reading of the obstruction “catchall” provision. I don’t have the current expertise, nor the time to research, to say which side definitively has the better of the caselaw analysis. But if you’re looking for an analysis pushing back on the Mueller obstruction theory, if you can find the letter the President’s lawyers sent, that would probably be the best “opposing legal brief,” with the 2018 Barr memo being less specific (because he didn’t have the facts at the time or apply them to the Mueller factual findings).

            I understood from Barr’s press conference, however, that he had made a “for the sake of argument” analysis on the obstruction claim. That is a common legal position that you see in briefs and judicial opinions – even assuming the law is what you say, you still lose, so there’s no need to get into the weeds. Barr was saying that he did not agree with Mueller’s team’s legal position on obstruction, but even assuming that Mueller’s legal analysis was correct, applying that legal analysis to the facts of the matter, Barr believed there could be no obstruction charge. On that point, applying Mueller’s own standard (which again, Barr did not agree with), three factors weighed against charging. The first was Trump’s underlying innocence of the Russian allegations, which Barr thought made it nearly impossible to prove that he had a “corrupt motive” when his stated motive (anger at the false charge impeding his administration) was so plausible. The second was that Trump had the capacity to obstruct the investigation, but never actually did so, weighing against a finding of “corrupt motive” to do so. The third was that much of the conduct complained of involved statements made in public, which again weighs against a finding of criminal intent – since generally people are less likely to announce their crimes in public if they realize they are crimes. Based on those factors, I understood Barr to say, the DOJ concluded there was no basis for an obstruction charge that could plausibly be proven in court.

            Again, Barr’s press conference doesn’t address the underlying legal debate about the scope of Mueller’s team’s view of obstruction. Barr didn’t agree with it, but didn’t articulate that dispute in the press conference. I heard rumors that the Trump legal team was going to issue a formal response to the Mueller report, but they’ve either been so disorganized or else so eager to put the whole thing behind them that I haven’t seen one. If the letter that Mueller received from the President’s lawyers is public, I would look to that for the counter-case. The Barr memo from June 2018 probably gives a preview.

            On the political side, not the legal side, I don’t really think the Mueller report’s theory of obstruction is likely to resonate with Joe Q. Public. I think it will sound, to the non-lawyers and non-partisans, like “he didn’t calmly sit still and let himself be smeared over Russia,” or “an innocent man being angry about baseless investigations is obstruction.” Some of the public will think (wrongly) that without an underlying crime, there can’t be obstruction. Others will note that “angry public Trump tweets” are not much like bribery, and will price them in to the fact that Trump tweets angrily about pretty much everything. Others will see it as inside baseball, with the prosecutor getting his nose out of joint and being vindictive about being called bad names in public. An unaligned member of the public might well think “If I got falsely charged with a crime, and publicly said the prosecutor was a jerk, and he charged me with obstructing him, that doesn’t seem fair.” I doubt the strict legal analysis would really convince anyone either way.

          • J Mann says:

            @Alcatyn – I’m not sure the Trump Tower meeting is that cut and dry.

            Donald Trump’s son, son in law and campaign manager met witha representative of the Russian government, who claimed to have dirt on Hillary. When this was initially reported they totally denied it and they were a media smear.

            I haven’t seen reports of Trump denying the meeting and calling it a media smear. Do you have a source? According to Wikipedia, Kushner disclosed the meeting to federal authorities, the NYT broke the story on July 8, and Trump Jr. released his “primarily about adoption” statement that same day. When do you think he denied it and called it a media smear?

            Then when evidence came out, the president dictated a letter that was released by his son claiming the meeting was about Russian adoption. They have now admitted that is a lie.

            I don’t think that’s true. The Mueller report (pp. 110-118) supports the final story – that the Trump campaign thought the Russian government had evidence of criminal conduct by Hillary, but that as soon as the meeting started, Veselnitskaya said that she didn’t have evidence, and that the rest of the meeting was her lobbying them about the Magnitsky Act and its effects on intenrtional adoption.

            I don’t think anyone’s admitted that Trump Jr.’s statement (that the meeting was “primarily” about adoption) was a lie, in any event (a) he was discussing the initial offer by the next day and (b) no false statements were made to prosecutors.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Your underlying claim that no US person conspired with the Russians remains to be seen.

            Just for starters, Roger Stone is a “US person,” and not only has his trial yet to occur, but parts of the report related to his ongoing case are likely among the redacted parts of the Mueller report.

            Investigations into whether Trump received funding from foreign sources is still ongoing, as well.

            And there are multiple House investigations that intend to follow up leads found by Mueller but not pursued to completion by him, for whatever reasons.

            On a related note, it is very shaky to argue “by definition, a boss can interfere with investigations of his own organization whenever he likes by firing the people involved.” That is an extremely good way to end up with a corrupt hellhole government.

          • Dan L says:

            @ ProfessorQuirrell:

            It is not clear to me whether his reading of that clause is correct, nor is it clear to me that “corruptly” is a well-established legal term. I’ve read a variety of different legal takes on those ideas and the whole thing just seems really complicated and I am not sure that the courts have hashed it out in a thorough way.

            This is addressed on Volume II, page 10. “Corrupt” is indeed a term of art for these purposes with an established legal meaning. References include SCOTUS, notably quoting Scalia.

      • John Schilling says:

        and that Justice department guidelines say you can’t indite a sitting president.

        Note that this applies across the board, not just to the obstruction charges. If Mueller had discovered 100% incontrovertible proof that Donald J. Trump were a Literal Russian Spy, he could not and would not have indicted or otherwise “brought charges against” him. There was never any possibility of Mueller bringing any charges against Donald J. Trump. His brief was A: to provide a report on what POTUS had been up to so that someone else (i.e. Congress) could deal with it, and B: to indict other criminals along the way. And possibly C: to figure out what Russia had been up to in the 2016 electoral campaign, even if it didn’t involve Trump and/or indictable criminals.

        He indicted plenty of other criminals along the way, including a bunch of Russian agents meddling in American elections. W/re part A, I think a fair summary is “There is no significant evidence that Trump himself ‘colluded’ with Russia, whatever that is supposed to mean. The evidence on criminal obstruction of justice is ambiguous. If you care about vaguely obstruction-y things that aren’t necessarily criminal, here’s a long list of what POTUS did and that may not be all of it”.

    • Alkatyn says:

      This is also a good article approaching it from a national security angle. There’s a good argument to be made that even if he didn’t do anything strictly illegal the information we have is enough that he should be impeached for the sake of national security https://medium.com/@cindyotis_/the-mueller-report-the-five-biggest-national-security-takeaways-db842ee09011

      • John Schilling says:

        Your cited source doesn’t mention impeachment. If that’s your argument, then A: the Constitution is fairly specific about impeachment being for “High crimes and misdemeanors”, not “threats to national security”, and B: the precedent that presidents should be extra-constitutionally impeached because the Right Sort of People say that National Security demands it, would be very very dangerous.

        Congress can do what it wants, but I’d want them to pass on that argument unless there’s a specifically and provably criminal threat to national security involved. Preferably closer to the “high crimes” end of the spectrum.

        • ProfessorQuirrell says:

          Barr wrote a memo months ago that, while speculative, criticized Mueller’s legal approach as he understood it at the time. Near the end of the report he says the following, which I think is highly relevant here:

          I know you will agree, that if a DOJ investigation is going to take down a democratically-elected President, it is imperative to the health of our system and to our national cohesion that any claim of wrongdoing is solidly based on evidence of a real crime – not a debatable one.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Obstruction of justice sounds like a pretty good example of a crime.

          Obstruction of justice committed in an attempt to cover up one’s association with a foreign intelligence agency, in ways likely to undermine an ongoing counterintelligence investigation, sounds like a pretty good example of a crime that threatens national security.

          Clinton was impeached for lying to cover up his sexual misconduct towards an intern. I’m pretty sure being in bed with the Russians is a bigger national security issue than being in bed with Monica Lewinsky.

          Unless, y’know, Ms. Lewinsky acquired a nuclear arsenal and geopolitical ambitions across most of Eurasia while I wasn’t looking, which would admittedly be kind of awesome and hilarious.

        • John Schilling says:

          Obstruction of justice sounds like a pretty good example of a crime.

          Obstruction of Justice covers a very broad range of behavior, some of which is broadly regarded as constituting “high crimes” and much of the rest as “technicalities” or “trumped-up charges”. In order to convince a broad majority to support impeaching Trump, you need more than just proving that some of his behavior violates the technical wording of some part of the Federal obstruction statutes.

          Clinton was impeached for lying to cover up his sexual misconduct towards an intern.

          Oh, in that case, have at it. The Mueller report should give The Resistance all the material it needs to pull a repeat performance of that one. Trump, like Clinton, can be impeached in the House, acquitted in the Senate, go on to exercise the full powers of the Presidency for a full eight years, laughing all the way as his enemies express their sincere but impotent outrage. But if that pattern holds, you’ll be going into the 2040 election looking at a ~70% chance of an Ivanka Trump presidency.

          I’m pretty sure being in bed with the Russians is…

          …the part you need to prove, and haven’t, and can no longer hope for Mueller to prove for you.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            It’s pretty well established that the Russian interference was real and had a substantial impact on the 2016 election. Those facts aren’t even disputed anymore; what is disputed is whether the contact that certain US persons had with that interference constitutes a crime or not.

            But there is no requirement for a crime to impeach a sitting president. Impeachment is at the sole discretion of Congress, and their discretion will likely follow party lines.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s pretty well established that the Russian interference was real and had a substantial impact on the 2016 election.

            This is most certainly not established. It is established that the Russians ran political ads.

          • It’s pretty well established that the Russian interference was real and had a substantial impact on the 2016 election.

            That’s a claim. Can you offer any support for it?

            How does one go about establishing what the effect of whatever the Russians did was?

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Mueller report, volume 1, II-III.

          • Aapje says:

            @deciusbrutus

            That part of the report argues that “Russian interference was real,” but where does it argue that the “interference had a substantial impact on the 2016 election”?

          • deciusbrutus says:

            I was there.

          • @Deciusbrutus:

            You made a factual claim “had a substantial impact on the 2016 election.” So far you have offered no support for it—referring to the whole Mueller report with no description of where or in what form the support exists is evasion, not response.

            My current conclusion is that you do not care whether what you say is true. I will be happy to modify it in response to evidence that it is mistaken.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Stop lying about what I said.

            I said “It’s pretty well established that the Russian interference was real and had a substantial impact on the 2016 election. Those facts aren’t even disputed anymore”

            I wasn’t making an assertion about the fact- I was making an assertion about belief in the fact.

            If I am wrong, and there really are people who have substantial arguments that the Russian interference didn’t make a significant difference in the 2016 election, then they have been so completely blacklisted by Google that they might as well not exist.

          • I said “It’s pretty well established that the Russian interference was real and had a substantial impact on the 2016 election. Those facts aren’t even disputed anymore”

            I wasn’t making an assertion about the fact- I was making an assertion about belief in the fact.

            “It is pretty well established” doesn’t mean “many people believe it.”

            You were making a factual claim, as should be obvious to anyone who read it. You are unwilling to support that claim, probably because you know that you have no support for it, and are trying to evade that problem by transferring the burden of proof to me.

            So far as belief, I don’t think you would have a hard time finding people who doubt that the Russian activities had a substantial effect on the elections. In this very thread.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            You’re either lying about your beliefs, or willing to strongly form beliefs despite overwhelmingly powerful evidence against them.

            Either way, your claims about your beliefs are uninteresting to me.

          • or willing to strongly form beliefs despite overwhelmingly powerful evidence against them.

            In a recent attempt to avoid having to defend your position, you pretended that your claim was about what people believed, not what was true. You have just abandoned that defense, since you are now implying that there is “overwhelmingly powerful evidence” that your claim is true.

            None of which you have offered.

    • Clutzy says:

      I think this goes back to a few threads ago where we were asked for words for, “lying by telling the truth”.

      For instance, Mueller had concluded that he would not charge an American with collusion/conspiracy by (at the latest) the end of 2019, yet the media continued to speculate and report that such charges were a possibility up until ~the Barr letter.

      When 17 Russians (who will never be tried) were indicted this was treated like a big deal, but the reality is the FBI could indict a dozen foreigners a month for espionage and hacking, they don’t because there is no point to indicting an Iranian in Iran or a Chinese national in China. All you are doing is giving away part of your playbook and ensuring that you actually will never arrest that person. The actual story of that story is that Mueller has been given the run around in court by one of the Russian companies he indicted, wherein Putin cronies have basically been taunting Mueller by way of a law firm.

      There are many examples. Trump-Russia then Trump-Obstruction have been, more or less, treated as certainties. The problem is not that the media was dogged in its pursuit of dirt on Trump (that is appropriate to do to a President), its that they lacked perspective. They thought Avenetti was going to be President because??? Hell, the switch from hating Comey to loving him on a dime, and seem to have become oblivious to the fact that he is clearly a weirdo.

      • MrApophenia says:

        Trump-Russia was confirmed by the Mueller report. Essentially every major Trump-Russia news story is confirmed in the report, with one very notable exception (the Buzzfeed claim that Trump ordered Cohen to lie under oath, which was debunked almost immediately at the time, so not a huge surprise, but still.)

        Everything else is confirmed – not just that the Russian government was trying to interfere, but that the Trump campaign knew about it, talked to them about it repeatedly, and were psyched about it.

        As Mueller points out, he wasn’t investigating “collusion,” he was investigating whether there was a criminal participation in the hacking efforts, which there wasn’t. But if “collusion” means “all that stuff The NY Times and Washington Post have been talking about for two years,” yes, all of those stories are confirmed by the Mueller report.

        • Clutzy says:

          There are lots of examples of bad reporting in addition to that bad one:

          1. Don Trump Jr. had early access to wikileaks documents. Manu Raju, CNN 2017-12-08

          2. Cohen would tell Mueller Trump had advance notice of Trump Tower meeting. Sciutto, Bernstein, Cohen, CNN 2018-07-27

          3. Trump had a secret server communicating with Russians. Foer, Slate, 2016-10-31

          4. Paul Manafort secretly met with Julian Assange. Harding & Collins, The Guardian, 2018-11-27

          5. Trump Aide Scaramucci met with a Russian Hedge Fund named. “Russia Direct Investment Fund”. Frank, CNN 2017-06-22. This led to three resignations, the only one I know to have led to any accountability.

          6. Russia hacked the Vermont electricity grid. Eilpein & Entous, Washington Post 2016-12-31

          7. Russia Today hacked CNN, Fortune 2017-06-2017

          8. Michael Cohen went to Prague. Steele Dossier. Reported by at least McClatchty 2018-12-27, although I’m not sure they are first. (Also likely used in the FISA warrant applications).

          • MrApophenia says:

            Fair enough. I wasn’t familiar with any of these apart from Cohen/Prague and the Russian bank server one, but the former definitely is discredited in the report and the latter is never addressed.

            The point that there were lots of unsubstantiated stories is taken, though. I still don’t think it changes the fact that the most prominent ones were confirmed.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          the Trump campaign knew about it, talked to them about it repeatedly, and were psyched about it.

          Can you source any of this? None of this sounds true.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Taibbi lays out a laundry list of problems with both the New York Times and the Washington Post, besides those Clutzy already listed. (Some very major use of ellipses and paragraph merges here, because each I want each paragraph to be one instance.)

          The Times similarly is reporting, two-plus years late, that “people familiar” with Steele’s work began to have “misgivings about [the report’s] reliability arose not long after the document became public.”

          In March of 2017, … the Washington Post described an email Trump lawyer Michael Cohen sent to Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. They called it “the most direct interaction yet of a top Trump aide and a senior member of Putin’s government.” The report shows the whole episode was a joke. In order to further the Trump Tower project-that-never-was, Cohen literally cold-emailed the Kremlin. More than that, he entered the email incorrectly, so the letter initially didn’t even arrive. When he finally fixed the mistake, Peskov didn’t answer back.

          Reporters should be furious about being fed these red herrings. They should be outraged at all those people who urged them to publish the Steele report, which might have led to career-imperiling mistakes in print. They should be mad as hell at CIA chief Gina Haspel and the other unnamed officials who told them disclosing the name of already long-ago exposed government informant Stefan Halper would “risk lives.” [Washington Post story]

          News that [Bob Woodard] tried and failed to find collusion didn’t get into [the Washington Post]. It only came out when Woodward was promoting his book Fear in a discussion with conservative host Hugh Hewitt.

          Washington Post reporter Greg Miller had a team looking for evidence Cohen had been in Prague. Reporters, Miller said, “literally spent weeks and months trying to run down” the Cohen story. “We sent reporters through every hotel in Prague, through all over the place, just to try to figure out if he was ever there,” he said, “and came away empty.” … [It] didn’t get a mention in Miller’s own paper. He only told the story during a discussion aired by C-SPAN about a new book he’d published. Only The Daily Caller and a few conservative blogs picked it up. … The Washington Post’s response was to run an editorial sneering at “How conservative media downplayed Michael Cohen’s testimony.”

          “Trump Campaign Aides had repeated contacts with Russian Intelligence,” published by the Times on Valentine’s Day, 2017, was an important, narrative-driving “bombshell” that looked dicey from the start. The piece didn’t say whether the contact was witting or unwitting, whether the discussions were about business or politics, or what the contacts supposedly were at all. … “Witting” or “Unwitting” ought to be a huge distinction, for instance. It soon after came out that people like former CIA chief John Brennan don’t think this is the case.” … Months later, Comey blew up this “contacts” story in public, saying, “in the main, it was not true.“

          As was the case with the “17 agencies” error [reported by the Times], which only got fixed when Clapper testified in congress and was forced to make the correction under oath, the “repeated contacts” story was only disputed when Comey testified in congress, this time before the Senate Intelligence Committee. How many other errors of this type are waiting to be disclosed?

          Fortune said C-SPAN was hacked after Russia Today programming briefly interrupted coverage of a Maxine Waters floor address. The New York Times also ran the story, and it’s still up, despite C-SPAN insisting its own “internal routing error” likely caused the feed to appear in place of its own broadcast.

          The worst stories were the ones never corrected. A particularly bad example is “After Florida School Shooting, Russian ‘Bot’ Army Pounced,” from the New York Times on Feb 18, 2018. … The Times ran this quote high up: “This is pretty typical for them, to hop on breaking news like this,” said Jonathon Morgan, chief executive of New Knowledge, a company that tracks online disinformation campaigns. “The bots focus on anything that is divisive for Americans. Almost systematically.” … But when one of your top sources turns out to have faked exactly the kind of activity described in your article, you should at least take the quote out, or put an update online. No luck: the story remains up on the Times site, without disclaimers.

          Russiagate institutionalized one of the worst ethical loopholes in journalism, which used to be limited mainly to local crime reporting. It’s always been a problem that we publish mugshots and names of people merely arrested but not yet found guilty. Those stories live forever online and even the acquitted end up permanently unable to get jobs, smeared as thieves, wife-beaters, drunk drivers, etc. With Russiagate the national press abandoned any pretense that there’s a difference between indictment and conviction. The most disturbing story involved Maria Butina. Here authorities and the press shared responsibility. Thanks to an indictment that initially said the Russian traded sex for favors, the Times and other outlets flooded the news cycle with breathless stories about a redheaded slut-temptress come to undermine democracy, a “real-life Red Sparrow,” as ABC put it. But a judge threw out the sex charge after “five minutes” when it turned out to be based on a single joke text to a friend who had taken Butina’s car for inspection. It’s pretty hard to undo public perception you’re a prostitute once it’s been in a headline, and, worse, the headlines are still out there. You can still find stories like “Maria Butina, Suspected Secret Agent, Used Sex in Covert Plan” online in the New York Times.

          Maybe, if we’re lucky, New York might someday admit its report claiming Russians set up an anti-masturbation hotline to trap and blackmail random Americans is suspicious, not just because it seems absurd on its face, but because its source is the same “New Knowledge” group that admitted to faking Russian influence operations in Alabama. But what retraction is possible for the Washington Post headline, “How will Democrats cope if Putin starts playing dirty tricks for Bernie Sanders (again)?”

      • Simon_Jester says:

        I don’t think “the media” ever thought Avenatti was going to be president for any meaningful definition of “the media” broader than “those four guys over there who are smoking funny cigarettes.”

        Trump-Russia and Trump-Obstruction were, yes, treated as certainties, and, yes, confirmed by the Mueller Report. A few specific mistakes were reported; by and large they were subsequently found to be the result of a false lead and retracted- but the underlying story actually took place. It’s as if someone in 1920s Chicago had erroneously reported on a gang killing by claiming it to have been orchestrated by Al Capone; the problem isn’t that Al Capone hasn’t killed anyone, it’s that he didn’t kill [i]specifically that person.[/i].

        Individual stories being incorrect, or individual media sources reporting things in error, are not collective proof of “the media” being inherently a bad institution. “The media” is large and contains thousands of people, all with minds of their own. And in this case “the media” has been giving a far more accurate picture of the extent of Trump’s involvement in illicit collusion with Russia and obstruction of justice than, say, Trump himself or his spokesmen.

    • BBA says:

      To hear the #Resist crowd say it, you’d think Mueller was going to wave a magic wand and make Hillary retroactively President. This was obviously delusional, but people believed it all the same, like how (on the other side) Obama’s birth certificate would reveal him as a foreign impostor usurping the White House and force him to return to darkest Africa from whence he came.

      What the report actually says is that a bunch of sleazy shit went down, but it didn’t rise to the level of criminality. And we already knew about the sleaze before the election – and the only people who cared were never going to vote for Trump anyway, so it didn’t matter. Nobody else is getting arrested, a sitting president is immune to prosecution, and impeachment is certain to fail in the Senate.

      It’s over. Go home.

      • broblawsky says:

        The report absolutely does not say that none of the actions detailed in it rise to the level of criminality. It clearly states that many of Trump’s actions can be construed as criminal. This is a blatantly incorrect interpretation, refuted by many other posters in this thread.

        • BBA says:

          “can be construed as criminal” – like Hillary’s email server? And this ended up the same way, with a sanctimonious cop bound by political norms not to interfere in an election delivering a meaningless condemnation in lieu of criminal charges.

          Trump won’t go to prison, and the only way he leaves office early is in a coffin. I repeat: it’s over. Go home.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            We have extensive reason to believe that a man and his presidential campaign sought aid from a foreign intelligence agency, and received it, in pursuit of the presidency. Russia’s man won the 2016 election.

            Does this seem okay to you?

            Now, Trump’s primary defenses against being investigated and punished for this action are, well, the fact that he won the very same election he sought foreign aid to cheat in. And for some odd reason the President of the United States gets to cast Circle of Protection: Law, Pardon Minion, and Immunity From Prosecution as spell-like abilities.

            Does this seem okay to you?

            We further have evidence that, not being nearly so confident that all this was a nothingburger as you are trying to paint it, the president took extensive steps to obstruct the investigation into his activities, some of which were likely successful in doing so.

            Does this seem okay to you?

            Completely irrespective of whether it is impractical to remove him from office for crimes committed against the state, the point remains that those crimes either were, or were not, committed.

            If Donald Trump broke federal laws in an attempt to become President of the United States, then I desire to know that he did so. If he did not, then I desire to know that he did not.

            The fact that he has an extremely stupid presidential immunity from criminal indictments, and that he could probably be outed as a serial killer without the Senate Republicans being willing to vote for impeachment, have absolutely no bearing on the truth.

            I want the truth, and the future of America is going to depend in part on whether we obtain the truth, and how we process that truth.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            We have extensive reason to believe that a man and his presidential campaign sought aid from a foreign intelligence agency, and received it, in pursuit of the presidency

            Except he didn’t, though. He did not seek aid from a foreign intelligence agency.

            On the other hand, Hillary’s campaign did pay a law firm (Perkins-Coie) to pay a research agency (FusionGPS) to pay a foreign spy (Steele) to pay Russian intelligence agents for aid, in pursuit of the presidency. Is this okay to you?

            And by the way, it’s okay to me that Hillary did that because so what? We live in an interconnected, mass media world. If the BBC airs a story that’s favorable to one presidential candidate and unfavorable to another, is that a “foreign government interfering in our elections?” When Justin Trudeau says nice things about Hillary and bad things about Trump during the campaign, is that “foreign influence?” Trump met with the President of Mexico. In Mexico! EU parliament member from the UK Nigel Farage spoke at a Trump rally! When /r/sandersforpresident was full of Canadians and Scandinavians phonebanking for Bernie, was that “foreign influence?” Probably, yes, but it’s impossible to stop all this. So we just kind of have to hope it’s a wash, and that any of this influence is drowned out by the massive megaphone of the US media and the candidates themselves.

            On the other hand, there is some foreign influence we can do something about: House seats and electoral college votes are doled out on the basis of population. We have all these illegal foreigners in our country, who tend to wind up living in areas that vote Democrat. How about we deport these foreigners who are influencing our politics and government?

          • Evan Þ says:

            Jumping up from the object-level for a moment – @Simon_Jester, why do you consider Presidential immunity from criminal prosecution “extremely stupid”? As a representative democracy, our officials are voted into office by the people. They should be removed from office by elected officials responsible to the Sovereign People, not by a judge or random jurors convicting them of criminal charges.

            Yes, this can lead to some bad situations. But, it guards against even worse situations.

          • he won the very same election he sought foreign aid to cheat in.

            I haven’t followed all of this very closely and am unsure what you mean by “cheat in.” I gather from posts here that some of Trump’s people spoke with someone from Russia who they thought had evidence of illegal activity by Hilary, but turned out not to. Suppose they had has such evidence. How could using it to win the election count as cheating?

            As best I can tell, there is good evidence, although not proof, that the Russians were the ones who got access to Democratic party emails and made them public, thus making Hilary’s campaign look bad. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that doing that was the result of any action by Trump and his people.

            There is good evidence that Russians posted stuff on FB designed either to help Trump or to stir up political conflict in the U.S., although the scale of their posting seems to have been trivial compared to the activities of the campaigns on both sides. But again is there any evidence that the Trump campaign was involved in doing that?

            Am I missing something you are referring to?

          • BBA says:

            Does this seem okay to you?

            No, but my opinion doesn’t matter. See, I’m not sure if you recognize me from the dood in my gravatar, but: I’m a liberal. I was never going to vote for Trump anyway.

            And I’m too young to remember it, but from my modern perspective, Iran-Contra was a lot worse than this. And look at how that shook out. Everyone got pardoned. Nobody cared. So I calibrate my scandalometer accordingly.

            (The real question is: why did everyone care about something as trivial as Watergate?)

          • John Schilling says:

            We have extensive reason to believe that a man and his presidential campaign sought aid from a foreign intelligence agency, and received it, in pursuit of the presidency.

            What are you going to do next year, when Trump is receiving aid from Russian and Israeli intelligence and the Democratic candidate is receiving aid from Chinese and North Korean intelligence?

            Seriously, going forward, every major-party presidential candidate will be receiving aid from at least one foreign intelligence agency, and now that we know what to look for we’ll probably notice that.

            It is, I agree, unseemly for them to actively seek such aid, but it doesn’t seem to be illegal if you use the right cutouts and there’s no quid pro quo, and all the cool kids are doing it that way. Plus, it’s practically impossible to prove or disprove, so even if you find a Democratic nominee who takes the high road, you won’t know for sure and the opposition will claim and believe the worst anyway.

          • We have extensive reason to believe that a man and his presidential campaign sought aid from a foreign intelligence agency, and received it, in pursuit of the presidency.

            Do you mean that he sought one, entirely legal, form of aid—dirt on Hilary Clinton—and received another, and illegal, form of aid—hacking into the Democratic emails and making them public? Or are you claiming that we have extensive reason to believe that he sought aid and received the aid he sought?

            So far as trying to get dirt on Hillary from foreigners, Hillary’s campaign tried to get dirt on Trump from foreigners too—the Steele report.

          • Clutzy says:

            @BBA

            (The real question is: why did everyone care about something as trivial as Watergate?)

            Because the media hated Nixon from the beginning, even back to his VP days and losing to Kennedy. He was very much a proto-Trump, which is why anyone saying something Trump-related is “unprecedented” is a fool. He was as hated by the press as Trump was. The FBI & intelligence agencies hated him and spied upon him (and in fact manufactured the Watergate controversy), just like they did to Trump. He was constantly harried with accusations of racism.

    • albatross11 says:

      Alkatyn:

      The way I understand it, the Mueller investigation didn’t find evidence of collusion with Russia, right? There were a lot of news stories and editorials talking about Trump being beholden to Russia, in bed with Putin, etc. Those don’t seem to have been borne out.

      OTOH, Trump appears to have behaved in ways that at least skirted the line of illegality w.r.t. trying to obstruct justice, and quite plausibly crossed the line. I gather Mueller didn’t feel like he had a strong enough case for obstruction of justice to claim he’d proved it, but that he sure thought Trump was trying to obstruct the investigation in illegal ways.

      Does this seem like a correct summary to you? If so, it sure seems like media outlets that have spent a lot of time talking about how obviously Trump was colluding with Russia should lose some credibility, because they were telling their readers/viewers “X is definitely true” and it turns out that a thorough investigation couldn’t find evidence for X.

      Now, the way it looks to me is that media outlets converge on some narrative without having the facts right *all the time*. Occasionally it comes out later that that narrative was all wrong, because someone (maybe other journalists, maybe some other independent investigator) digs deep enough into the details of the story to discover that. Since most stories never get that kind of independent look, and since media outlets tend to quickly converge on a shared narrative, I assume that a large fraction of the widely reported stories have also converged to a narrative without getting all the facts, and we just never hear about it.

      I suspect culture-warry stories and political controversies are more subject to this kind of error than others–they drive clicks/ratings, and they tend to have a convenient narrative within easy reach. But it’s also possible that those are the only stories that ever get any independent investigation, and stories about the dog catcher taking bribes in Podunk, ID are equally likely to get all the facts wrong but we never find out about it.

      As best I can tell, political bias in media exists and is sometimes important, but media pathologies are mostly not ideological, they’re due to laziness, time pressure, lack of background knowledge, innumeracy, and incentives to run with the pack.

      • vV_Vv says:

        I suspect culture-warry stories and political controversies are more subject to this kind of error than others–they drive clicks/ratings, and they tend to have a convenient narrative within easy reach. But it’s also possible that those are the only stories that ever get any independent investigation, and stories about the dog catcher taking bribes in Podunk, ID are equally likely to get all the facts wrong but we never find out about it.

        The media get it wrong all the time about everything, but we tend not to notice, but you tend not to notice unless you are a domain expert.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gell-Mann_amnesia_effect

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @albatross11:

        The way I understand it, the Mueller investigation didn’t find evidence of collusion with Russia, right?

        I wasn’t going to but, what the heck. You do know that Mueller very specifically mentioned, essentially, that collusion isn’t a legal term of art, he wasn’t evaluating whether collusion occurred, and he was only evaluating whether a criminal conspiracy could be proven?

    • sharper13 says:

      I’ve read the full report. I think this offer of mutual assistance described by a Russian memo written by the head of the KGB is clearly the most damaging to the Presidential candidate involved, and the biggest proof of an outright attempt at treasonous collusion:

      Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. “The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. “These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”

      Oops, sorry, wrong candidate and election…

  61. PedroS says:

    The former French European Affairs minisrer did not deny that she named her cat ” Brexit”: she denied that she had a cat at all but confirmed that she made a joke stating that she had a cat and named it “Brexit” on account of its behavior. That is all stated in the page linked.

  62. 420BootyWizard says:

    According to the link, the nordic “private” nordic roads are held by the equivalent of homeowner’s associations and not by individual capitalists or for-profit corporations like (straw) libertarians would like. Also they’re heavily subsidized (presumably from taxes) which seems sort of anti-libertarian, and much less trafficked which makes the whole thing feasible in the first place. I imagine trying to privatize, for example, the 880 freeway would go much less well.

    • Tarpitz says:

      The M6 Toll in England’s West Midlands is a major road built and operated by a private company (albeit on a leasehold basis – it will eventually revert to the government). Its major failing appears to be simply that it’s not as profitable as its builders had hoped, because people largely prefer to take slower routes that they don’t have to pay for.

  63. AlesZiegler says:

    In all these years of people using “BUT WHO WOULD BUILD THE ROADS?” as their knockdown objection to libertarianism, I never realized that the Nordic countries already have privately funded roads and they work great.

    This is a very loose definition of “private road”, since linked article claims that they are owned collectively by associations of locals living in the area. Which does not seem vastly different from municipal ownership.

    Also, from the article:

    “Government works in conjunction with road owners and associations to subsidize the costs of repair and maintenance. Around 24,000 PRAs receive government subsidies*.

    The costs of upkeep are divided among members of the association. PRAs that do not accept government subsidies can prohibit traffic at their discretion. Those that receive subsidies must allow all vehicles to travel on their roads. Regardless of whether they receive funding, however, the associations may not ban horses, bicycles, and pedestrians from using the roads”

    *According to that article, there are 60 000 PRAs in Sweden.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Wouldn’t it depends on whether the associations are the product of some higher political process and/or are territorially pre-defined?

      Because we wouldn’t normally call HOAs essentially municipalities.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Imho not particularly. There are differences between PRA and municipality, but there are also important similarities, and crucially, PRAs do not to operate their roads as profit making enterprises with market level tolls.

        Property of democratically governed municipality, after all, could be thought of as assets of a corporation whose shares are exactly equal and non-transferable, with voters as shareholders. Of course municipality has also other functions than maintaining common property, like police powers and such, where analogy with corporation breaks down. Another difference between Swedish PRA and municipality appears to be that PRA is owned by the homeowners, so other inhabitants of an area do not have a share. But it still infrastructure substantially owned by its local users.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          For most libertarians, non-state, non-profit, collective entities are regarded as ‘private’ since what makes something ‘private’ vs. ‘public’ is its relationship to the state. [the terms private and public being somewhat of a misnomer]

          • AlesZiegler says:

            Fair enough, but in that case it is not obvious that municipalities are public.

          • IrishDude says:

            This essay by David Friedman seems relevant. The set-up:

            One argument often made against institutions of complete laissez-faire is that government intervention is needed to provide commonly used facilities such as roads and sidewalks and to deal with such mundane externality problems as the conflict between my desire to play loud music at night and my neighbor’s desire to sleep. One reply sometimes made by libertarians is that most such problems can be dealt with by proprietary communities. The developer who builds a group of houses also builds the local streets and sidewalks; each purchaser receives, along with his house, the right to use the common facilities and to have them maintained. Each purchaser also agrees, when purchasing, to pay his share of the cost of such maintainance, according to some preset formula.

            Such private arrangements, which are in fact quite common, can deal with externalities as well. A colleague of mine used to point out that in his (private) community he could not repaint his front door without the permission of his neighbors–that being one of the terms of the contract for that particular community. In a condominium, which is essentially the same arrangement packed into a single building, the contract is likely to include procedures for resolving disputes among neighbors as to what behavior in one apartment inflicts unreasonable costs on adjacent apartments. In any proprietary community, the contract is likely to contain arrangements by which the signatories can jointly modify it in order to deal with new circumstances.

            The existence of such institutions raises an interesting question: In what sense are they not governments? As a British acquaintance put it to me, his relationship with his condominium association and his local authority are essentially the same. Each of them has authority over his behavior as a result of his decision to live in a particular place–an apartment in the condominium in the local authority. Each imposes rules on him. Each “taxes” him–although the condominium does not call the money it collects for maintanance and repairs taxes. Each can change the rules and the taxes imposed on him by similar, democratic methods–a vote of his fellow citizens in the one case, his fellow residents in the other. While the condominium association may be a useful solution to a set of problems, in what sense is it a private solution? Or, to turn the argument around, if libertarians approve of such institutions when they are called condominium associations or proprietary communities, why do we disapprove of them when they are called governments?

          • Garrett says:

            I’d also note that the types of organizations in the US which are most “State-like”, namely HOAs, are something that are very popular to publicly hate categorically. In most cases, particular companies might be hated, but very categories are hated.

          • JPNunez says:

            I think the answer is that a PRA ain’t gonna start trying to regulate other aspects of life, and it is not part of a network of entities trying to regulate other aspects of life -discounting here the government subsidies-.

            …I assume that PRAs don’t do that.

            HOAs on the other hand seem to be a little too overbearing on what can be done in the houses themselves so maybe that’s not the better libertarian example.

          • AG says:

            HOAs try to regulate one’s own private property, whereas the PRA is dealing with the commons.

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          Property of democratically governed municipality, after all, could be thought of as assets of a corporation whose shares are exactly equal and non-transferable, with voters as shareholders.

          The catch is that when someone wanders into your municipality and hangs around long enough, they automatically granted “shares”; an actual corporation would require some positive investment on the part of the newcomer. If only owners of property in the municipality had voting rights, the analogy would hold much better.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        HOAs in America build and maintain roads, too.

  64. Password says:

    I’m curious what causes discontinuation symptoms. I’ve taken close to a dozen antidepressants with no benefit from any of them, but also no side effects from either taking them or discontinuing them cold turkey (which I’ve done for each drug). I don’t know if there’s any connection between the lack of positive or negative effects, or how common or not my experience is.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Length of use is a very important factor – a lot of the people who have big problems have been on them for several years.

      There’s some more info at https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/02/06/survey-results-on-ssris/

    • aiju says:

      Lack of effect *and* side-effect suggests that they weren’t dosed highly enough.

      One thing that I wonder about, but haven’t seen discussed much, is tolerance/adaptation. I’ve had this very strongly with duloxetin. I think I started out at 60 mg and, over about three years, gradually increased to 120 mg, just to get the same effect, and then quit and changed for tranylcypromine (where I’ve had more complicated patterns of going up and down in dose a lot).

      I would expect discontinuation effect to be the result of a similar mechanism: the nervous system relies on an extra boost that suddenly disappears and then it gets confused and things break. Gradual taper lets the system slowly adjust; going cold turkey causes a shock that puts the system into a state that is harder to recover from.

    • Protagoras says:

      Venlafaxine didn’t do a huge amount for me, but it did give me very nasty discontinuation effects when I was once unable to get my prescription renewed due to scheduling issues with my therapist. Which may be an anecdote suggesting positive and negative effects aren’t strongly correlated, or may just be testament to the notoriously huge discontinuation effects of venlafaxine.

  65. andrewducker says:

    Interesting bit of research here: https://twitter.com/cjcrompton/status/1120321741128118273?s=09

    Autistic people share information with other autistic people as effectively as non-autistic people share with each other. The problem is that the two groups have problems communicating with each other.

    (Previously, the general theory was that autistic people had issues communicating in general.)

    • toastengineer says:

      Maybe that autistic nationalist guy we had on here a year or so ago was on to something.

      (The above statement is a joke, please do not yell at me.)

    • Alkatyn says:

      I would have thought that the relevant issue would be communicating emotional states rather than information? Would be interesting to see any studies on differences in interpersonal dispute resolution

    • Robert Jones says:

      I wouldn’t run away with this yet. The link says “We’re still in the process of analysing some of the data, and what is presented here hasn’t been peer-reviewed or published yet.” N=72 and the methodology is unclear.

      The bit under “Why are we doing this project?” begins, “Intelligence is often boiled down to a simple test score, representing core learning skills such as pattern detection and verbal fluency. However other forms of intelligence are essential for human behaviour.” As far as I know, that’s wrong: other things are clearly essential for human behaviour, but they can’t sensibly be called “forms of intelligence”. In particular, nothing corresponding to “social intelligence” falls out of regression analysis, AFAIK.

      It continues, “We will explore social intelligence in autism, drawing together diverse findings to build a hypothesis that autistic social skills may be enhanced in an autism-specific cultural context: i.e. when interacting with other people on the autism spectrum.” I find the idea of building a hypothesis surprising, but on the other hand I find it unsurprising that the researchers have (provisionally) found the result they were looking for. More generally, this result fits with a tendency of humans to refuse to acknowledge that people can differ in ways which are better or worse.

      My own experience of being in a relationship with another autistic person was not altogether happy. While there is something quite refreshing about sharing some idiosyncratic communication strategies, it doesn’t amount to anything like a shared idiolect and our mutual inability to communicate emotion fluently could lead to disastrous misunderstandings. More generally, I do think that I sometimes understand autistic people more readily than an NT person would, but there’s a point at which we’re just really bad at communicating, e.g. if I’m unable to express my meaning in words, there’s very little chance anyone will understand me (and if they do, it’s because they know me very well, which can be true for anyone).

  66. Paperclip Minimizer says:

    French foreign minister denies viral rumor that she named her cat “Brexit” because “it wakes me up meowing like crazy every morning because it wants to go out, but as soon as I open the door, it just sits there undecided and then looks angry when I put it outside.”

    Minor corrections: She was minister to European affairs, and she left this job nearly a month ago.

  67. MNH says:

    Does anyone have any follow-up to that rogue geoengineering event? I searched and couldn’t find any news on whether or not it appeared to be successful.

    • Ratheka says:

      Digging around a bit I found an article that contained this:

      Oceaneos’s links to a 2012 iron-fertilization project off the coast of British Columbia, Canada, have made some researchers wary. In that project, US entrepreneur Russ George convinced a Haida Nation village to pursue iron fertilization to boost salmon populations, with the potential to sell carbon credits based on the amount of CO2 that would be sequestered in the ocean. News of the plan broke after project organizers had dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulfate into the open ocean. In the years since, scientists have seen no evidence that the experiment worked.

      I haven’t found anything that supports it being meaningfully successful, and I feel like if it had been, there would not be this absence of evidence in favor. Sucks, I thought this was a slam dunk at the time.

  68. Regarding the prostitution paper, the reason I find the “scale effect dominates the substitution effect” argument uncompelling is it’s possible to criminalize johns who use the services of *trafficked sex workers* but not those who use the services of non-trafficked workers, at least in a legalization model. That would effectively create two separate markets — one for trafficked sex workers and one for non-trafficked sex workers. I’d expect demand and supply to increase in the market for non-trafficked workers but decrease in the former.

    However, that may not work in a decriminalization model, in which it’s hard to distinguish — both for customers and governments — between trafficked and non-trafficked workers. That’s the argument I actually find compelling; see, for example, MacKinnon (2011). I’m still skeptical of that, however.

    • Aapje says:

      Indeed. More in general I don’t believe that ‘legalized prostitution’ is generally actually as legal as other work. For example, in my country, prostitution is technically legal, but prostitutes can’t get a bank account, can’t choose their places to work anywhere near as free as other workers or even find a legal place to work from, etc.

      • ana53294 says:

        You probably don’t get immigration visas for prostitutes, either.

        • Aapje says:

          That does seem (far) more difficult because an important consideration for non-EU migrant self-employed workers is that there has to be a ‘Dutch interest’ in having them migrate and the government never considers prostitution to be in the Dutch interest.

          The rules for having a company hire a non-EU citizen typically demand that the employee will do high qualification work. I strongly suspect that this doesn’t include prostitution.

          So practically speaking it is probably very difficult if not impossible for non-EU citizens to legally migrate to work as a prostitute.

          • ana53294 says:

            The rules for having a company hire a non-EU citizen typically demand that the employee will do high qualification work. I strongly suspect that this doesn’t include prostitution.

            Are degrees required for a visa? Does that mean a programmer without formal education cannot get such a visa?

            My understanding was that the qualifications were determined by the salary employers are willing to pay, and them being unable to find a suitable EU citizen. So a person who has an employment contract for >100,000 euros would go in the “qualified” category.

          • brmic says:

            Theoretically speaking a brothel should easily be able to make the case that they can’t satisfy the demand for sex workers with an ‘asian appearance’ from among the Dutch workforce and thus need to hire from outside the EU.
            Practically I suspect nobody is willing to stick out their neck for this.

          • Aapje says:

            Visa for knowledge workers seems to be based on the job qualifications, not the qualifications of the worker. You can’t hire a non-EU PhD to wash dishes, but you can hire a non-EU high school dropout to be a (highly paid) professor. There is a default salary floor.

            I recently had a programmer fired from my company when he broke up with his EU girlfriend, whom he was dependent on for his visa. The issue was indeed that the company was not willing to pay him the salary that would allow him to stay on his own merits.

            However, all kinds of exceptions to this salary floor are made for various groups. For example, visa for Asian cooks and religious workers (imams, priests, etc) are granted even if they will earn far less than EUR 100k. I’ve never heard of such an exception for prostitutes.

            I’m not sure whether the government will consider prostitutes to be knowledge workers if they earn more than the default salary floor. I have my doubts, although I have no proof that they wouldn’t.

            PS. When googling, I only found this: New Zealand stopped regarding prostitutes as skilled migrants and bans all immigrant sex workers.

      • A1987dM says:

        prostitutes can’t get a bank account

        What?

        Is there any other category of people to whom that applies, BTW?

        • John Schilling says:

          Anyone who wants to make lots of cash deposits and can’t prove they are running a legal business that generates lots of cash revenue. The general perception is that all such people are criminals, and that criminals ought to be economically ostracized. To the extent that prostitution is still technically a crime, this perception is not wrong. And “know your customer” laws now make this economic ostracism mandatory in most of the developed world.

          • A1987dM says:

            Aapje said “in my country, prostitution is technically legal”

          • DeWitt says:

            Something can be technically legal and still have its practitioners viewed as basically criminals. American examples might be abortion providers or ICE employees, depending on what tribe you’re in.

          • albatross11 says:

            Aren’t legal-in-the-state marijuana operations in a similar boat?

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Is the only reason they can’t have a bank account that they would be caught in the tax evasion? My bank allows cash deposits, although I haven’t tested whether they ask questions if there’s a pattern of large cash deposits, I assume they have procedures to inform the tax authorities of suspected evasion and laundering, and the intended use case here is probably laundering.

        • Aapje says:

          @A1987dM

          I forgot to add: loans and mortgages as well. They also can’t use pin machines, requiring them to deal with cash (which makes them far more vulnerable to robbery and favors pimping, rather than having women work on their own).

          If you want to start a brothel and just like most entrepreneurs, need loans to get started, your choice is: mafia money. This in turn makes your brothel a lot less legal, of course. So the theoretical option to have a fully legal brothel is mostly theoretical.

          Getting insurance for various risks is also very hard or even impossible. In general, the financial sector is extremely hostile to sex workers.

          Is there any other category of people to whom that applies, BTW?

          Neo-Nazis, Hell’s Angels and people like that, I think.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Neo-Nazis are unfortunately generally not in that category, although some skinhead gangs are.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      It seems like it would be hard to make that distinction in law in a country that has a strong ‘prior notice’ doctrine where in order to commit a crime, you must have actual knowledge or willful disregard of every element of that crime.

      In order for the law to distinguish between the two, the John would have to be proven to know, or be in willful disregard of the possibility, that the prostitute was being coerced. If a reasonable person could believe that the prostitute was just very kinky, it’s going to be hard to convict the John.

      BUT- if your decriminalization model regulates the pimps instead, then you can make ‘patronizing an unlicensed establishment’ the crime, and watch as all of the private contractors starve.

      • Protagoras says:

        The focus on convicting johns is largely wrongheaded anyway. One of the reasons that there’s so much more trafficking in the agricultural industry than in sex work is that a significant number of johns will try to tip off the cops if they see a sex worker they think is being abused (especially, of course, if she actually asks for help), while farm workers have much less contact with people who might want to help them. Also why genuine stories of sex slavery, when they are discovered, aren’t escort agencies that advertise on the internet or spas in your local strip mall; they’re much more private, secretive operations like Epstein’s little sex club for his rich friends. Operationss that know their clients and only serve people they think they can trust to keep quiet.

        • deciusbrutus says:

          I hold no direct experience regarding whether the prostitution rings that operate on the internet are generally not actual traffickers, but Kubiiki Pride found her 13-year old kidnapped daughter advertised for sale on backpage. I find it hard to believe that even one case of actually finding a kidnapping victim is likely to have happened unless traffickers were routinely advertising on that site.

          I don’t have the emotional strength to count the number of unique cases of ‘rescue’ stories of trafficking victims found by family members by looking through backpage; I ran out after three.

          Opponents of FOSTA claim that shutting down one site had no noticeable impact on trafficking. I think that amounts to an allegation that backpage was a barrel in the ocean of sex trafficking.

          • Protagoras says:

            I find it hard to believe that even one case of actually finding a kidnapping victim is likely to have happened unless traffickers were routinely advertising on that site.

            Why? Publicizing your kidnapping victim on the internet is so obviously an exceptionally good way to get caught that I see little reason to doubt that the cases where people who do it get caught represent all or nearly all of the cases where it happens.

          • Mabuse7 says:

            And did you make any effort to see if any of these “rescue” stories you read were actually true?

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Why? Publicizing your kidnapping victim on the internet is so obviously an exceptionally good way to get caught that I see little reason to doubt that the cases where people who do it get caught represent all or nearly all of the cases where it happens.

            Then why would people be doing it so much that there was a standard lexicon of terms used to avoid the keyword-based bans?

            And did you make any effort to see if any of these “rescue” stories you read were actually true?

            Yes. If someone were going to challenge the narrative of the specific case mentioned on the Senate floor and used to justify FOSTA, it would show up on the first page of Google results. Despite the very high motive of traffickers and backpage and slippery slope enthusiasts to prevent FOSTA from passing, nobody was able to instill a doubt about the story behind it.

          • Protagoras says:

            I wasn’t able to track down any version of the Kubiiki Pride story that didn’t appear to be based entirely on her own description. But you are the first person I’ve ever heard cite it as being so central to SESTA/FOSTA; while obviously it was one of the many stories mentioned in congress, I don’t remember much discussion of it at all at the time. I have tried to avoid commenting on its credibility, as I don’t feel I have nearly enough information. But anti-prostitution activitists and organizations have a rather horrible record when it comes to telling the truth, and the “standard lexicon of terms” you refer to is definitely another one of their fantasies. Not one of the biggest, but it is one of those convenient clues which makes clear when someone is uncritically repeating information from unreliable sources.

            Backpage cooperated with law enforcement when there was actual evidence of trafficking or of anyone being underage, and there is plenty of law enforcement testimony to that effect from the time before it was decided to throw Backpage under the bus. But 30-something sex workers would often post pictures of 20-something models, because they both wanted to conceal their own identities and because they feared their real appearance wouldn’t attract enough clients, and busybodies would look at the 20-something models and think they could be underage and so report the ads (and sex workers would sometimes report one another to try to get rid of rivals), so Backpage got a lot of false reports. And since Backpage knew the reports were almost entirely false, they didn’t take them all that seriously (unless there was something additional suspicious about the case, beyond it just being reported, in which case, again, they provided what assistance they coulld to law enforcement), which was turned into a narrative of them deliberately covering something up, even though law enforcement is of course equally aware the reports were almost entirely false.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Right. That’s why I’m not considering the number of reports of ads that might be human trafficking, I’m considering the fact that backpage had to implement a word filter to make it possible to moderate the illegal ads down to ones that it had implausible deniability were for prostitutes. And once particular words are censored, the people who used to use them will simply use new words to mean the same thing. ‘Escort services’ was quickly coopted by prostitutes, and a series of words that I never learned about were serially coopted by people advertising underage girls, because there were enough people selling underage girls that backpage had to implement keyword filtering to handle them all.

            And claiming that categories are not credible because they overreport, and that their reports are not believable because they are not credible, is circular logic. Either explain why you think that each group who investigated and found widespread human trafficking, including the law enforcement groups, is not credible without using their findings to do so, or show why their finding are grossly overstated without using their lack of credibility to do so; otherwise I will correctly update my opinion by the epsilon appropriate for finding a bad argument against it.

  69. Brett says:

    But a study suggests that legalized prostitution does increase human trafficking and that “the scale effect dominates the substitution effect”. Interested to hear pro-legalization people’s perspective on this.

    I found a pretty critical blog post on the study. The TL;DR is that it might be misrepresenting some of the sources used.

    They focus in on comparing Denmark, Germany and Sweden, and tell us: “in terms of human trafficking victims, the ILO estimated the stock of victims in Germany in 2004 to be approximately 32,800 – about 62 times more than in Sweden” (p25). I looked up their reference for that 32,800 figure, and found that the ILO paper cited as the source – Danailova-Trainor & Belser, 2006 – doesn’t even mention Germany. I discovered that by reading it, but you can also test it by clicking through and doing a command-f search for the words “German” or “Germany”, which you might reasonably expect to occur in a document that mentioned Germany.

    The same 2006 paper is also cited as the source for the numbers on Denmark, where the claim is made that “… the ILO estimates the stock of human trafficking victims in Denmark in 2004 at approximately 2,250, while the estimated number in Sweden is about 500”, and the bracketed reference reads: “Global report data used in Danailova-Trainor and Belser, 2006” (p24). Again, I looked for those numbers (or any mention of Denmark) in vain in the Danailova-Trainor & Belser 2006 paper. I also checked out the “Global Report” mentioned as the source for Danailova-Trainor and Belser’s data, which I figured was probably a reference to the ILO’s 2005 report titled ‘A Global Alliance Against Forced Labour’ – there’s nothing else published that it plausibly could be; I checked. The 2005 Global Report doesn’t contain any country estimates, let alone numbers like those cited by Cho, Dreher and Neumayer.

    • Protagoras says:

      Thanks, I think that’s one of the discussions of the report I had vaguely remembered reading, and apparently my vague memory had even underestimated how critical the discussion was.

    • John Schilling says:

      In addition to the cited definitional ambiguities and (at minimim) improperly-sourced data, the study appears to focus on Western European countries. That makes its conclusions highly suspect if applied to the United States, as Kamala Harris would seem to prefer, for reasons of economic geography.

      When Berlin needs more (poor, white) prostitutes than can be recruited locally, the preferred source will be various economically depressed Eastern European states, most of which are outside the Schengen Area. Some degree of criminality will be required to move the prostitute to Berlin – hence “trafficking” – and if this is organized or financed by the prostitute’s employers, they will presumably want to enforce the part where their investment is paid off in actual prostitution rather than “OBTW I’d rather be a secretary”. Since the threat of deportation allows significant leverage in this context, you get at least some of the unseemliness associated with the term, even if not to the level that would justify sending Liam Neeson to settle everyone’s affairs.

      When New York needs more (poor, white) prostitutes than can be locally sourced, Appalachia and the Rust Belt are a bus ride away. And every pretty white Appalachian girl who wants a better life, with or without sex work as an explicit part of the plan, knows that a bus ticket to a big city is Step 1. Furthermore, even if we assume the pimps are actively recruiting in Appalachia and buying the bus tickets (which they almost certainly don’t need to and so aren’t), their enforcement options are more limited because “their” sex workers are legal residents who can walk away and take any other job they can find.

      It is possible that New York pimps are activel recruiting poor pretty white girls from elsewhere in the US, paying for their bus tickets, and then using brute force to coerce sex work where the threat of deportation is unavailable. It is even possible that New York pimps are bypassing Appalachia and recruiting from Moldova. But data on how frequently this happens in Berlin, Copenhagen, and Stockholm, will be next to useless in figuring out how often this happens in New York.

      • Deiseach says:

        And every pretty white Appalachian girl who wants a better life, with or without sex work as an explicit part of the plan, knows that a bus ticket to a big city is Step 1.

        “Pretty country girl goes to Big City for better life, gets ensnared into working for a brothel” has been happening since the days of coach-and-fours, or even earlier. The brothel doesn’t have to buy bus tickets, just have a plausible looking procuress or pimp hanging round the bus stations to pick up obvious runaways, coax them with promises of a job, then once they’re hooked, they can’t easily back out (you’ve spent all your money on a one-way bus ticket, you’re dependent on these people who turn very nasty when you want to walk away, and even if you could get out, how can you go back to an abusive home life which caused you to run away in the first place?)

        I’m not saying every sex worker (and that’s a broad field from strippers to actual prostitutes) is trafficked and enslaved and forced, nor that politicians and moralisers don’t have an agenda going on, but the “sex work is all voluntary” crowd also have their own agenda to push – from people doing sex work who don’t like the sting of opprobrium that comes from “well, in plain terms you are a whore” and so want to re-cast the entire terms of the discourse to make themselves feel better (hence the invention of the term “whorephobia” and as we’ve been socially conditioned by now, anyone who’s a “-phobe” is of course Bad Evil Wicked Wrong), to the sex-positivity crowd, to the “anything goes, we shouldn’t even have an age of consent” lot.

        • faoiseam says:

          just have a plausible looking procuress or pimp hanging round the bus stations to pick up obvious runaways, coax them with promises of a job, then once they’re hooked

          I find it implausible that there are enough runaways that it would be sensible to hang around bus stations. I think people would find it silly to tell people to look for prospective girlfriends in bus stations, and presumably picking up a date is easier than suborning people into prostitution.

          I can confidently say this would not work in Ireland. I spent a fair amount of time at Amiens street station, or Connolly if you must, and did not see any waifs that seemed lost. Perhaps a station on a more Southern line, Kingsbridge etc., would have better pickings.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I think people would find it silly to tell people to look for prospective girlfriends in bus stations, and presumably picking up a date is easier than suborning people into prostitution.

            I’ve never been a pimp, but I actually did meet my ex at a bus terminal. It’s actually not very hard to pick up college-age women on public transit. If anything it’s easier because there are so many natural opportunities to start a conversation

            Again I have no idea how close pimping is to pickup but a lot of conventional wisdom about meeting women is flat out wrong.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Beggars and pickpockets already hang around bus stations and other places that a lost runaway is likely to end up while looking lost.

            You don’t need to have someone working full-time for the pimp, you need a network that can identify and communicate.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I find it very easy to blame minimum wages for that. The reason it makes sense for the procuress to hang around the bus stations is that that’s the only kind of job instantly available to the pretty young girl (and not available to the ugly girl, or to the boy).

          Any attempt by the market to offer room and board is utterly illegal, no matter how life saving it would be for the young ones in the bus station.

          I know it seems a bit out of context, but since having this epiphany I can’t help to always see minimum wages as pure evil whenever I encounter something like that.

    • Lillian says:

      Even if the study didn’t have any problems, it would still be weakly indicative at best, on account of just being the one study, and on a social science issue at that. There’s this really smart blogger who five years ago wrote a great article about the perils of drawing conclusions from a single study. By contrast this meta-analysis of the literature, identified 9,148 papers, of which, “…134 studies met the inclusion criteria, resulting in 40 papers included in the quantitative synthesis, of which 20 were included in the meta-analysis and 20 in the narrative synthesis.”

      Having analysed this giant pile of evidence, they conclude in part, “The public health evidence clearly shows the harms associated with all forms of sex work criminalisation, including regulatory systems, which effectively leave the most marginalised, and typically the majority of, sex workers outside of the law. These legislative models deprioritise sex workers’ safety, health, and rights and hinder access to due process of law. The evidence available suggests that decriminalisation can improve relationships between sex workers and the police, increasing ability to report incidences of violence and facilitate access to services.”

      It seems to me that the weight of the evidence is pretty strongly in favour of removing criminal penalties and regulation. A single study for the other side doesn’t do much to alter the scales.

  70. Johannes D says:

    In all these years of people using “BUT WHO WOULD BUILD THE ROADS?” as their knockdown objection to libertarianism, I never realized that the Nordic countries already have privately funded roads and they work great.

    As a Finn, I had no idea there are so many private roads. It should be made clear that these are almost exclusively unpaved, local rural roads, with average traffic density in the low tens of vehicles per day.

    I’ve been a big supporter of “housing-first” policies on homelessness (ie don’t try to force homeless people to become model citizens, just give them housing), so I guess I owe it to present this article pushing back against them.

    I thought it was pretty well understood that some percentage of the homeless population is homeless because they have severe mental illness and are in the short term obviously incapable of living a “normal life” without 24/7 care. Some problems are even more pressing than the lack of private accommodation.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      The roads in my parent’s development [which are relatively rural] were also built privately, only being handed over to the local government relatively recently. It shouldn’t be controversial that these kinds of roads can be built privately but on the other hand it says little about large prominent thoroughfares.

      • CatCube says:

        If you’re in the US, this isn’t uncommon. If a developer builds a new subdivision, they’re often required to build roads to the local government’s standards, then turn them over at the end after all the units are sold.

        Similarly, if you build something that will increase the traffic at an intersection (department store, say) you may end up having to put in the traffic signals as part of installing the turnoffs into your parking lot. These will also end up being turned over to the government. I know that the government gets to approve the design; I don’t know if they have the right to put their own inspectors on the job to make sure that the developer and their contractor don’t turn over something other than what was approved.

        (I should note that this was told to me in passing in a traffic engineering class years ago when discussing why a transportation engineer might be doing certain kinds of studies–there’ll be some significant variations across the US about requirements, etc.)

        • brianmcbee says:

          Unfortunately this is often a bad deal for cities, in that they are now stuck with the maintenance of this infrastructure, and the property taxes from residents don’t amount to enough to finance the maintenance.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This is the StrongTowns party line. It doesn’t mesh with a look at local budgets in my area. They’re not spending their money on infrastructure, they’re spending it mostly on salaries for police and fire departments. Then there’s the school district budget, which is considerably larger than the municipal budget.

          • CatCube says:

            If it’s a bad deal for the city, then the council is a pack of incompetents who should be voted out in the next election. This offloads the construction of new infrastructure onto the private sector, and all they have to take care of is maintenance. It’s literally the best possible way to expand government-owned infrastructure.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            If the property taxes from a parcel don’t cover the maintenance on the marginal infrastructure for that parcel, raise taxes until they do.

            Or turn the roads back over to a HOA or equivalent and forfeit the rights of nonresidents to use those roads.

            Or condemn the entire subdivision, if it’s such a blight that it’s not worth maintaining the roads to access it.

    • IrishDude says:

      It should be made clear that these are almost exclusively unpaved, local rural roads, with average traffic density in the low tens of vehicles per day.

      True. But you can use toll roads for higher traffic densities. Multiple private approaches can be used to build roads, from local associations for neighborhood roads, to big business produced toll roads for highways, to business group associations for connecting roads to get from residential to commercial areas.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      Didn’t read the link, but fairly major freeways in Norway are built by a “public-private partnership” which means the government is fronting the money as a loan, the private company builds and operates the road and pays back the loan through tolls.

    • Akhorahil says:

      Yeah, the road thing is correct. Of course, going by length of roads can be more than a little misleading, as these are the small ones out in the countryside and forests, but even so. And it works for just the ones you would expect it to work for – where it’s the local road with a limited number of people who are the main users (along with people coming to visit them) and who really need this one road in particular.

      Now and then on a small country road, you see the sign “Public Road Ends Here” (“Här slutar allmän väg” – link text ).

      I get the impression that this works well. I can’t imagine it would work well for major roads.

      • Akhorahil says:

        Also, about the taxes:

        “The government knows how much tax you owe well enough to arrest you if you try to cheat them, so how come they can’t just tell you that number and save you the trouble of preparing your taxes?”

        This is what happens here in Sweden (and plenty of other countries) – it literally takes me five minutes to do my taxes online (ten if I have to make some additional tax deposits), and the (very few) times anything has been incorrect, it’s because of sloppy employer salary reporting. The Tax Authority is well known as the most efficient public agency in the country.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Well it is a lot easier to figure out when the tax rate is 100%.

        • That works if you are a salaried employee of a large corporation, set up to report salary information to the government. What if you have chickens and sell the eggs to people (in the Santa Cruz mountains just south of San Jose I observe signs offering farm fresh eggs). If you are a lawyer in private practice charging your customers? If you are in any activity where your contact with the people buying what you sell doesn’t go through a corporate intermediate?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Then you do your taxes the same way you are doing them now?

          • Evan Þ says:

            As Edward says, in those cases you take the return the IRS filled out for you, add a new Schedule C Profit and Loss from Business, change a few numbers to propagate your added income forward, and send back the new return – which’s still a lot easier than today’s system, since you only need to fill out the new parts the IRS didn’t know about.

            Yes, some people will forget about this or not understand it and think the IRS return is complete, when today they’re going to a tax preparer who’ll ask questions and notice the chicken-egg-sales (or whatever) need to be added in. The IRS will lose some tax revenue. But, I think the change is still worth it. As a VITA volunteer, I see what people are going through and how much income is documented and reported. This change will make things significantly easier for millions of people.

  71. Ketil says:

    But a study suggests that legalized prostitution does increase human trafficking and that “the scale effect dominates the substitution effect”. Interested to hear pro-legalization people’s perspective on this.

    I worry about giant motte/bailey problems when defining human trafficking. How exactly is this measured? The UN report and DHS defines it practically as slavery, people being more or less kidnapped, freighted to a faraway country, and forced into prostitution. Perhaps I am overly skeptical and/or naïve, but I have difficulties imagining this happening on a large scale in a civilized country with legal brothels subject to tax audits and health inspections. And when the report is based on countries self-reporting trafficking “intensity” on a scale from 0 to 5, and the issue is very political, there is a lot of room for changes in definitions and interpretations, as well as control regimes and legal prioritization. If many sex workers come from countries that have few legal ways of immigrating to their markets, I suspect a lot of illegal immigration by sex workers get labeled as “trafficking”, even if when it is a voluntary choice by the alleged victims. I might be wrong, but I don’t know where to look for data that would be convincing in either direction. Maybe a review of court cases and sentences?

    • Furslid says:

      The stats in the whole area of human trafficking and prostitution do not mesh with law enforcement information. There are a huge number of trafficked women. Law enforcement should be prioritizing locating and freeing victims of human trafficking over people who chose prostitution voluntarily. Why is the typical prostitution operation not finding them? Why aren’t we seeing clear cut human trafficking cases in the news? The biggest recent prostitution story is the Florida massage parlor case, and that doesn’t match the pattern of human trafficking as brutal modern day slavery.

      It’s even worse when you consider claims made about child prostitution.

    • Aapje says:

      @Ketil

      Indeed. The phrase “human trafficking” seems to be part of a campaign to blame men. Basically, illegal workers who happen to do sex work are considered to be victims of ‘traffickers.’ If the same standard would be applied across the board, then illegal farm workers would also have to be considered victims of human trafficking, but they never are.

      • deciusbrutus says:

        I was trained to identify and report suspicions of human trafficking ancillary to my primary job duties. Farm and domestic workers who are being forced to work, threatened with deportation if they are noncompliant, not in control of their own money (e.g. ‘room and board’ are directly deducted from their ‘wages’), and not free to leave are absolutely considered victims of human trafficking.

        Sex workers under similar conditions are being trafficked as well, even if they are citizens. But sex workers, even if they are not legal residents, who are not being directly coerced, are not victims of trafficking. (yeah, everyone needs money, but if being poor is sufficient coercion to make doing sex work for money trafficking, the threat of being poor is sufficient coercion to make all paid labor trafficking, which defeats the purpose of having a label.

        • Aapje says:

          That is your definition of human trafficking. My complaint is that the term is very commonly used to refer to much broader groups, where coercion is often assumed or believed to exist based on poor indicators. This is not limited to (dedicated) anti-sex work activists, but is common for the UN, governments, the media and even many researchers.

          For example, the UN defines “Trafficking in Persons as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs”

          Any migrant who crosses the border is in a position of vulnerability compared to the smuggler, whom they are dependent upon. So this part is easily met, even by the most ethical smuggler. The last sentence considers prostitution to be exploitation by default, but not work in general.

          So this definition is going to consider a person who willingly crossed the border illegally with the intent to work as a prostitute & who does that work uncoerced in any way, to be a victim of human trafficking; but not a person who crossed the border illegally with the intent to work on a farm and who does that work uncoerced in any way.

          This is typical anti-sex work reasoning: sex work can’t be uncoerced, because uncoerced people wouldn’t do sex work.

          ‘Human trafficking’ is used to claim that sex workers who have migrated illegally are victimized when exercising their profession or even that there is an international network to acquire and put them to work as sex slaves, even though actual surveys of prostitutes, as well as police investigations suggests that the former is fairly rare and the latter is extremely rare. In fact, in so far that prostitutes are put to work by others and the money taken from them, it relatively often seems to be the case that these are victims of ‘lover boys,’ who usually were not ‘trafficked’ as they are not (illegal) migrants.

          At this point, due to such claims rarely holding up if I look into it and due to the more common problems with abuse of prostitutes being covered up by this deceiving narrative, I assume that claims of human trafficking are biased falsehoods by default and that the person who uses these terms as if they are meaningful is lying to me.

          Ultimately, the very term is hyperbolic and generally literally false, even if the person is a victim of serious abuse, because actual trafficking (which ought to mean humans being bought and sold) is almost non-existent in the West. If paying a smuggler to get a prostitute into a country is human trafficking, then all airlines are guilty of human trafficking as they get paid to help people get into a country, some of which are going to work as prostitutes. Note that when I enter the plane, the pilot now has control over me and they are paid by their airline to control me, which satisfies the first part of the UN definition.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            “My” definition is the one used by federal and UN law enforcement and human trafficking prevention initiatives. If there’s another definition out there, then NONE of the official data are going to apply to it.

            Human Smuggling is completely disjoint from Human Trafficking, in that there are no elements of whether an act is smuggling that are also elements of whether that act is trafficking. (Some acts are still both, like a coyote who kidnaps someone and takes them across the border to work as a ‘seasonal ag worker’ in a barracks that charges rent equal to their wages, but that’s because they are each of the two things independently.

        • Furslid says:

          I agree, however a lot of anti-prostitution people believe that prostitution is so horrible that anyone involved must be forced. This is sometimes just assumed or there is an isolated demand for rigor for the idea that prostitution can be voluntary.

        • Doug says:

          > threatened with deportation if they are noncompliant,

          If consistently applied, then anyone on a corporate sponsored H1b visa would be considered “trafficked”.

          > not in control of their own money (e.g. ‘room and board’ are directly deducted from their ‘wages’),

          If consistently applied, this would mean that a huge fraction of restaurant workers who eat a shift meal in the US should be considered “trafficked”

          • Plumber says:

            @Doug

            “….If consistently applied, then anyone on a corporate sponsored H1b visa would be considered “trafficked”…”

            That seems like a valid definition to me and I encourage it’s use.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Is isolation an important part of trafficking?

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Yes, being on a H1b or being charged for lodging or shift meals is indicative of being trafficked.

            However, not all indications create the same character of the situation; being charged for food that you eat is not the same as only having access to the company store.

          • Aapje says:

            @deciusbrutus

            So it’s a judgment call. There is ample evidence that judgment calls differ very much depending on the gender of the person being judged, whether the work they do is considered to be more or less ethical and especially the ideology of the judge.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Sure- whether or not a given action is reportable as “human trafficking” is up to the judgement of the person doing the reporting.

            But “human trafficking” is a type of thing, most of which is also crime. (Prison labor being one notable example of human trafficking that isn’t a crime).

            Whether or not something belongs to the category ‘human trafficking’ does not determine whether or not it is one or more crimes. There’s certainly a lot of overlap, but “This meal deduction brought this employee below minimum wage for the week” isn’t any less of a crime if it isn’t reported as human trafficking; the things that make that outcome a crime are different from the thing that causes it to have a characteristic which is also typical of human trafficking.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      Human trafficking for farm workers and domestic workers happens in the US on a larger scale than human trafficking of sex workers.

      Human smuggling is different, but can become human trafficking if the person being smuggled is forced to work after arrival.

    • Protagoras says:

      Yeah, that’s an old study, and I remember some discussion of it closer to when it came out. It was mostly along the lines you suggest, that trafficking is too inconsistently defined and the reliance on self-reporting by countries is too problematic to make the results in any way meaningful.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Nah, it’s not motte and bailey, it’s lies.
      Legalized prostitution causes Kamala Harris to lie more.

    • 10240 says:

      I have difficulties imagining this happening on a large scale in a civilized country with legal brothels subject to tax audits and health inspections.

      Note: in many countries where prostitution is legal, it’s tolerated but not regulated (besides prohibition in some zones); organized forms such as brothels are often illegal.

    • Deiseach says:

      I have difficulties imagining this happening on a large scale in a civilized country with legal brothels subject to tax audits and health inspections

      You can buy cigarettes and alcohol legally, why would people smuggle those goods and sell them, and why would people buy them?

      Why would rich guys who could hire upscale escort services want “executive relief” from a strip mall massage parlour?

      Same principles apply: if the legal brothels are more expensive and the workers there can refuse clientele and have more rights, then for a guy who just wants a cheap no-frills fuck illegal brothels/street walkers will do just fine, particularly if they’ll provide services the legal brothels won’t (like not requiring condoms). And how many customers are going to bother enquiring if the immigrant sex worker chose to be there voluntarily or not? It’s another source of income for criminal gangs, like smuggled cigarettes. There’s a market for such services.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Booze and Cigarettes are smuggled to avoid taxes, Cigarettes in NY appear to be (google result) over $4 a pack on top of a $1 federal tax, or ~ 40% of the price (which is set by NY, not a free market price if I understand correctly).

        • caryatis says:

          That’s Deiseach’s point: legal-and-highly-regulated stuff tends to be more expensive, with sex work as well as booze and cigarettes.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The implication, as I read it, was that there would naturally be a gap large enough to drive people to the low cost and illegal/grey market services.

      • caryatis says:

        And how many customers are going to bother enquiring if the immigrant sex worker chose to be there voluntarily or not?

        Even if you inquire in good faith, how would you ever know whether they were there voluntarily? That’s my big ethical problem with patronizing prostitutes.

        • Protagoras says:

          Since you actually interact with them, you certainly have a much better chance of figuring it out than you do of determining whether something you buy was made by coerced laborers. Do you have a big ethical problem with shopping?

          • caryatis says:

            The shopping question is distinct: it’s the difference between being involved in a tiny, tangential way in doubtful labor practices and being the personal and immediate instrument of someone’s enslavement and rape.

            As for being able to determine whether someone has been trafficked via a brief conversation with a stranger who may not speak your language…well, maybe, but i’d like to know how anyone could do that with enough confidence to justify going forward with the transaction ethically.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            Why does being at arms’ length from the trafficking matter to the ethics?

      • acymetric says:

        You’re missing a rather important part of the statement: “on a large scale”. Or maybe we are using different scales.

        Yes people smuggle cigarettes and booze…how large are those black markets relative to the legal industry? Would the black markets for those items be larger or smaller if the products were flatly illegal?

        Yes, there would still be the bad kind of sex work going on even if more legitimate/acceptable forms of sex work were legalized, but the legal version of the industry would cut a huge swath out of it.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      My small home town in Romania is a source of sex workers for western europe. Older generation aside, it’s spoken of more or less openly, including with conversations comparing various countries and business models. Obviously, many trips abroad for work are facilitated to some degree by somebody – transportation, club contacts, local knowledge etc. In local law that somebody is a “pimp” and risks serious jail time. Ironically, very often that somebody is the husband, or a fellow girl. In practice it’s almost never prosecuted, until there is some political angle to be won.

      I have no idea how each source is treating this, but knowing how things actually are in practice makes me extremely skeptical whenever I hear the word “trafficking”. It could be referring to forced labor, but just as easy it could be people mixing categories just to end up with larger numbers.

      There is also another kind of story which tickles by skeptic bone, but in a very different way. Girl goes to work abroad, parents panic because contact with her is sporadic, parents call the police and eventually find her in a brothel. Girl calls kidnapping. Strictly from a bayesian point of view, her saying she was kidnapped is poor evidence – because there is a fair chance she’d say that anyways. The reason I’m saying this is a very different situation is that no matter what my opinion is post-factum, any and all suspicions of such situations should be treated as true until the girls in question are confirmed safe. Expected negative utility here is huge not because of the probability factor, but because of the rather large consequence.
      Still, mixing this in aggregate statistics is a prickly business.

  72. benquo says:

    Different values are very much not the only reason someone might stop giving to EA causes. Another extremely plausible reason is a reduction in naïvete leading to increased skepticism that EA claims are true or that giving to EA-approved charities is the best way to do good with one’s surplus.

    • melolontha says:

      Sure, but ‘reduction in naivete’ could just as easily be framed as ‘increase in cynicism’, or even ‘motivated skepticism’.

      • Aapje says:

        Or ‘growing up’ 😛

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If you told me I’ll change my mind about something, why should I think future-me is dumb and present-me is smart? Unless we’re talking about the descent into senility, future-me is me plus 5 years of knowledge and experience.

        People value their identity, probably too much, but they still value it.

        • profgerm says:

          That’s assuming the person asking for money cares about which you is smarter.

          They care about which you is more likely to donate, and whether or not that is best for you (current or future) does not necessarily enter their calculations.

          • Heterosteus says:

            You’re really pushing this EA-as-abusive-cult angle hard, aren’t you.

          • profgerm says:

            I think EA is, and obviously this is incredibly generalized because we’re talking about a relatively amorphous movement, well-meaning but naive.

            I think there are almost definitely a few bad actors that cross the line into abusive, but most are, again, well-meaning, well-intentioned, and trying to improve the world (or some portion of the world that they think they can/should improve).

            Even someone well-meaning can have other interests than your own in mind, and that’s fine, and if you want to put other interests above your own that’s fine. Admirable, even. There’s a pretty big spectrum that that can pass over before it reaches being abuse. It’s still worth acknowledging.

            I just found it odd that here and at the subreddit people continued to think “they,” as in EA campaigners, would have your own future interests at heart above the current funding needs of their favorite charity. I don’t see any reason that would be true or obvious.

    • Heterosteus says:

      Another extremely plausible reason is a reduction in naïvete leading to increased skepticism that EA claims are true or that giving to EA-approved charities is the best way to do good with one’s surplus.

      If somebody starts out value-aligned to EA (let’s say something utilitarian-ish), and ex hypothesi does not change their values, what other, better ways to do good with one’s surplus might they have discovered through this supposed reduction in naiveté?

      If you mean they might become more sceptical that EA’s moral claims are true, that sounds like value shift to me.

      • Aapje says:

        @Heterosteus

        If people believe that they should do most good with their surplus and come to believe that EA charities give better outcomes for mankind than spending that money on their kids, but later become skeptical of the EA claims, they may start to believe that spending that money on their kids is better for mankind.

        An alternative is that their values don’t change, but their circumstances do, resulting in a change of priorities. Again, having/raising children is a good example.

        • Heterosteus says:

          @ Aapje

          I agree a change in circumstances (such as having children, which I understand also commonly changes one’s values in sometimes surprising ways) is likely to be a common reason. I’m trying specifically to get an example of what non-value-based changes in empirical beliefs would cause someone to stop giving.

          The specific (somewhat condescending) claim here is that people stop giving not because of changes in values or life circumstances, but because a “reduction in naïveté” leads them to believe EA’s empirical claims are false. I’m trying to get an example of one of these claims. Because most of the reasons I can see for someone stopping to give (as opposed to changing their cause area and trying to convince other EAs to do the same) involve implicit or explicit changes in values, unexpected changes in circumstances, or both.

    • slojently says:

      I don’t think that matches up with the typical case described behind that link, which seems mainly social.

      […] She learns about it in his first year of college. […] She takes the GWWC pledge and a year later she takes a summer internship at an EA organization. […] Sadly, as Alice is away at her internship her chapter suffers […] Over time she stops reading the EA content she used to and the chapter never gets started again. […] The donations never happen. There’s always some reason or another to put it off, and EA seems so low on the priorities list now, just a thing she did in college, like playing a sport. […] the endline result is Alice does not really feel she is an EA anymore. She has many other stronger identities. […]

      (source)

      I’m also guessing that giving 10% to charities that other EAs don’t like but that you think are effective would still be counted as EA.

    • Matt says:

      I used to, for several years, give approximately 10% of my income to charity (6% to an international aid org, 2% to my local United Way, plus various irregular small donations) and volunteer for three local charitable/volunteer organizations – as an officer for the first. The other two were rescue organizations with similar niches.

      I no longer give to anywhere near that degree, either monetarily or of my time. No regular donations at all anymore. Of the three organizations, I’m no longer even a member of the first organization, and one of the two rescue organizations went defunct and was absorbed by the other. My attendance at training/meetings at the still existing one has fallen off considerably.

      I have other priorities, now.

    • AllAmericanBreakfast says:

      IRS data shows 51.6% of annual donations come from households with $100,000 or above. Whether or not they’re donating for tax writeoffs, this shows that increased wealth is not associated with giving less to charity.

      Another study linked in this article shows age is also positively associated with charitable giving.

      No need to delay, though. Charities can grow their wealth by investing just as well as donors can, and it seems that no matter who controls the wealth, they’re likely to do best by mindlessly investing in an index fund.

      From an EA-positive perspective, the only altruistic reason not to donate is to invest in your future skills and earnings. That’s a judgment call. Given IRS data, the only reason to fear “value drift” is if your altruism takes the form of labor instead of money, and that’s not measured by the original study.

  73. J says:

    Burger King has had a morningstar veggie burger for a while. Carl’s Jr. is rolling out a “Beyond” burger that’s better than the morningstar IMO (I prefer the more meat-like burgers), and available in more places than Burger King’s impossible burger, which from the article looks like it’s only in St. Louis for now. Also, sounds like if your local Carl’s Jr. doesn’t have the “Beyond” option, they’ve had an option for a while now where they’ll substitute the meat for their fried zucchini.

    My personal favorite burger alternative is to get a “grilled cheese, animal style” from In-n-Out. I think it’s the cheapest, too.

    The overall best fast food chain for vegetarians/vegans is probably Taco Bell, which will let you substitute beans for beef in most anything on the menu.

    • Tenacious D says:

      In Canada, A&W has a Beyond burger available at all of their locations. I haven’t tried it yet though.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      BK shouldn’t have announced it on April 1st.

      I was unaware that McDonald’s was the holdout on animal welfare. I’ll try to steer my family away from there on trips, which is the only time I ever go.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Carl’s Jr isn’t merely rolling out Beyond burgers but has had them available at 1000 locations all 2019. (is that a heavily rounded all 1300? or incomplete availability?)

      White Castle has had Impossible Burgers at 350 (all?) locations since October, after a half-scale trial a year ago (a trial 2x as big as the BK trial).

  74. Mark Atwood says:

    Those DC housing vouchers are better than market rate for a nice one bedroom apartment in the nicer apartment buildings in Seattle.

    You get more of what you subsidize, and we can tell what is being over-subsidized and rewarded in this case: neighbors that shit in the stairwells.

    Or, at the margins, if it’s getting difficult to pay the rent, now all you have to do is spend a few months convincing your local department of human services that you are a hard-case drug-addict with mental health issues, and they will give you a nice apartment instead.

    For the people who exclaim “nobody would ever do that!”, all I can do is sigh and laugh bitterly.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      No mention was made of the Mean Time Between Shit In The Stairwell (MTBSITS) before the voucher program exists. I will charitably assume that the article was not maliciously negligent in collecting relevant information, and thus conclude that the article failed to report that information because it would conflict with the narrative they are trying to push. (Unlike the calls to police, where the historical data does support the narrative and is reported)

      As such, the charitable conclusion is that the single incident of shit in the stairwell since the vouchers were implemented represents a significant increase in MTBSITS.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I will charitably assume that the article was not maliciously negligent in collecting relevant information, and thus conclude that the article failed to report that information because it would conflict with the narrative they are trying to push.

        “I will attribute to malicious agenda-pushing that which could be explained by [stupidity/incompetence/resource contraints/thoughtlessness]” is not “charitable,” and you should feel bad for this. Not because this is waging culture war, but because you’re trying to pretend you aren’t.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I might still be sleep-deprived, but I think the “not” in “not maliciously negligent” also applies to the “and thus conclude” clause.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If so, I apologize for my comment.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            You’re more sleep deprived than you think.

            The charitable part was assuming that the author was competent. I’m not stupid enough to think that they weren’t pushing one agenda or another.

        • deciusbrutus says:

          Is the charitable assumption to think that the author is incompetent, and reject ALL of the data they have collected and presented as unreliable?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Why would you assume all the (sourced) data presented by an incompetent third party is unreliable? That doesn’t seem to follow from anything.

            Edit, with the note that this is the last post before I check out: Assuming good faith is charitable. If an author claims to be writing about the outcomes of policy and leaves something out, the charitable thing to do is assume that their understanding is incomplete, unless they espouse an unsubstantiated demonstrably false claim. The charitable reaction is then to say, “if you consider X factor the author leaves out, the picture looks quite different,” and either not speculate as to why X was left out or assume that the author would like to know about X and would be willing to update their views.

            You may argue that this is an excess of charity, and I’d agree. I just think that you shouldn’t claim to be acting charitably when doing the opposite.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            If I assume that an author did incomplete research on a key element of their argument, their research in general is likely to be shoddy, and thus all of their research is unreliable.

    • rlms says:

      neighbors that shit in the stairwells

      they will give you a nice apartment

      There is some tension between these two.

    • Is it bad of me that I resent these stairwell-shitting lumpenproles for making “socialism” a bit more onerous to implement? After all, now people will say, “If the State guarantees a secure existence for everyone, there will be no incentive to not be a stairway-shitter.” But is that true? Maybe under the touchy-feely kumbaya socialism that non-tankie socialists imagine. But I think: WWSD? What would Stalin do? Would stairwell-shitters get a free ride from the rest of society? I think not. No, I would prefer there to be plenty of incentive to not shit in the stairways of State apartment complexes and ruin the State property for everyone else. Just not monetary incentive.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I don’t think that you need to go full Stalin (everybody knows you never go full Stalin) in order to deal with stairwell or sidewalk defecators. Any minimally-functional society should be capable of expelling such people without having to resort to a Great Terror.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          The local muni government in Seattle has lost the ability to expel the stairwell and sidewalk shitters. Hell, we’ve lost the ability for the local muni government and for the local “great and good” cohort to even permit the talking about doing so. Instead the city government has decided to spend money it doesnt have to hire a PR firm to design talking points to use to shout down the people who would like to talk about how we’re getting tired of the city starting to literally be covered with shit. We’re like SF in that regard, trailing by only a few years.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            That’s unfortunate. I was aware that the Bay Area and Portland had problems along those lines but didn’t realize that it extended through the entire Pacific Northwest.

            That said, it doesn’t really affect my point. We don’t have this problem in the city or AFAIK anywhere on the east coast for that matter, but it hasn’t required Stalinist tactics just ordinary policing.

          • sorrento says:

            Indeed. I have seen the future of SF, and it looks like homeless people shitting in stairwells, forever. Plus a food truck selling $20 paper cups with craft beer and bacon-wrapped hotdogs around the corner.

      • sharper13 says:

        This isn’t a new phenomenon. “The Projects” has a specific negative connotation since at least WW II for a reason.

        The first thing most central planners throw out the window in their simplified world view is incentives, and then when that doesn’t work they get desperate and move on to creating new incentives using force, aka “Going Stalin”.

        • JPNunez says:

          Public housing works ok in other parts of the world that didn’t necessarily go stalin on their tenants.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Perhaps those countries are shorter on do-gooders that prevent the effective enforcement of rules against trashing the place?

          • sharper13 says:

            I’m most familiar with the projects in the US and council housing in the UK.

            What are some good dedicated public housing results elsewhere after 10-15 years of existence?

        • Quixote says:

          This is ahistorical. Projects came in to existence post WW II, but they didn’t get a negative connotation until quite a bit later.

          • sharper13 says:

            I was specifically thinking of the start of the oldest public housing project I’ve personally visited, which was in Marin County just north of the Golden Gate bridge in the middle of an otherwise very wealthy area.

            But I’ll concede different locations likely deteriorated at different rates depending on the actual values and incentives of the occupants.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      now all you have to do is spend a few months convincing your local department of human services that you are a hard-case

      For all I criticize the UBI, it avoids this problem.

      Could proponents work on a universal housing voucher?

      • baconbits9 says:

        But it opens up the exact opposite issue. There are ~15 million college students in the US, most of whom are ‘poor’ by their current income, and would be immediately eligible for a UBI if it ever was implemented.

      • vV_Vv says:

        For all I criticize the UBI, it avoids this problem.

        I doubt it, as you could then spend a few months convincing your local department of human services that you can’t help but spend all your UBI on drugs/booze/lottery tickets/whatever so you can’t pay rent.

        UBI proponents often theorize that it should replace other forms of welfare, so if you squander your UBI you should get nothing more, but how would it work in practice? The local government has to choose between having you shit the stairwells of a public housing building, which inconveniences some poor people with little political clout, or having you shit in the streets, which inconveniences everybody and reflects poorly on the local government. This provides them with a substantial incentive to give you public housing anyway.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The specific problem Mark Atwood raised was that you have to spend a few month’s convincing the government you are incompetent, and you typically have to convince yourself you are incompetent first.

          You raise a separate problem, and it is one of the reasons I still criticize UBI. It’s also one reason I think a universal housing voucher could be a better step. Give everyone $100/month that must go towards rent, mortgage, or property tax. They can’t misspend it on something else (your landlord, bank, hotel, or tax authority redeems it from the government). And if the UBI proponents can’t even manage that, why are we bothering talking about anything more drastic?

          • ChrisA says:

            Won’t that just bid up the cost of housing by $100 per month? In other words, existing landowners will benefit not the renters. If you really want to lower the cost of housing – increase supply. Houston is able to do this and that is why it’s housing is fairly cheap. So deregulate housing building. Designate an area as a free for all, let any property owner build whatever they want, building codes don’t apply. And then you will see house prices come down. And don’t expect there to be a slum built – most slums are caused by regulation not absence of regulation.

          • vV_Vv says:

            My understanding is that in developed countries chronic homelessness is not mainly caused by a housing shortage, but by the fact that a certain fraction of people are too dysfunctional to consistently pay a rent or even keep a housing unit they are entrusted for free in habitable conditions.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            The number of people who are homeless is greater than the number of people who are that dysfunctional.

            As proof, the people who are that dysfunctional are too dysfunctional to afford or to maintain upkeep on a tent habitation.

          • John Schilling says:

            As proof, the people who are that dysfunctional are too dysfunctional to afford or to maintain upkeep on a tent habitation.

            Citation needed. There are certainly behaviors (e.g. the previously-mentioned defecation in the nearest stairwell) that will get one thrown out of most apartments or shelters but not a tent.

            And presumably there is a fraction of the homeless population that can’t maintain even a tent, and sleep rough under a bridge or whatnot, but that doesn’t invalidate vV_VV’s point.