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Open Thread 129.25

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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870 Responses to Open Thread 129.25

  1. DinoNerd says:

    The latest post – ADDENDUM TO “ENORMOUS NUTSHELL”: COMPETING SELECTORS – doesn’t offer me the opportunity to reply. This is a pity, because my “this is ridiculous” alarm is blaring extremely loudly.

    Some of it is the “words mean what I want them to mean” aspect of redefining right and left wing. More of it is somehow including dictators in cultural evolution, but not e.g. populists.

    But an awful lot of it is closer to “in which universe?”

    And then there’s the problem that the reactionary philosophy offered appears to itself be an idea, not much like anything produced by simple cultural evolution. So it’s “left wing” too.

    And finally, I think the whole thing is the result of attempting to respect people who don’t have respect-able ideas, but sure talk a lot. (Hyphen inserted because I mean actually worthy of respect, rather than “currently popular among the elite”.)

    There is something to be said for not going hog wild with every new idea, and trying multiple things in separate experiments. But moving backwards to an imagined past, minus the part that would be unpleasant for the folks advocating it – which seems to be a common meaning of ‘reactionary’ in real life – that’s really just “I don’t like your ideas; have mine instead”. If you want to go back to the past, and can find people to do so with you, then pick a period, research it in great detail, and replicate all of it. Your SCA polity should have fleas, lice, tapeworms, and lack any foods imported from the Americas. Your 1950s US polity should lack most of modern medicine (comes from ideas – oops), have one bathroom and one car per middle class family, and of course lack all electronics whatsoever. (A credible threat of nucelar annhilation would also be helpful, just as the SCA polity should have violent upper class men trampling the crops etc., not to mention chronic warfare.)

    In my teens, as a person who justifiably felt oppressed by the then-current system, I wouldn’t have accepted “move slow” as a maxim. In my 60s, with the specific oppressions affecting me mostly dismantled, and rest being things I’ve long learned to cope with, I can respect and find common ground with a small c conservative. But pretty much never with a reactionary – there never was a real past where I’d have been the person-on-top, so there certainly won’t be an imagined one either. And small c conservativism seems to be completely out of fashion these days.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Well, the first 3 (three) comments I wanted to make reading that post were all “Are you sure you want to go that CW?”. So I think killing the comments wasn’t a horrible idea.

      There is something to be said for not going hog wild with every new idea, and trying multiple things in separate experiments. But moving backwards to an imagined past

      Ok, another way of voicing Scott’s point: I always thought my Rationality philosophy has two feet: Yudkowsky and Taleb. Left and Right. One is talking about very smart, very convincing, usually right ideas. The other is talking a lot about how smart, convincing ideas are’t all that great, and pointing out that the best, easiest, least information way of deciding if anything actually works is… how long it survived. Best applied to ideas. Taleb has a lot to say about time-validated ideas, all of it good. I’m not as smart as he is, so best thing I can do is to warmly suggest reading, at the very least, Antifragile.

      Your SCA polity should have fleas, lice, tapeworms, and lack any foods imported from the Americas.

      This being said, that was also my strongest objection. Are the anecdotes he mentioned really representative? What are the numbers? How many new ideas were good, how many bad, what’s the actual expected utility of accepting a new idea?

      Numbers are hard to come by. In the end, just like I recently decided I’m a libertarian as a personality characteristic, I just have to own that I’ve changed from a reformist to a conservative and that’s it. I can only trust that the last 20 years of reading and thinking honed my instincts in the right direction.

    • LesHapablap says:

      One critical comment on that post: cultural evolution and memetic evolution are exactly the same thing. Culture is made up of memes.

      • fion says:

        I had the same thought. On reflection, I think Scott was talking about two meaningfully different things, but those weren’t the best words for them. (I have the same criticism but more so of his odd choice of using “Left Wing” and “Right Wing” to label the concepts he chose for them.)

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          I think the latter part is him using reactionary terminology — it’s qualified as a “rather dubious redefinition”.

      • Guy in TN says:

        This is the basic problem. It’s a bad dichotomy, and Scott even appears to recognize that its a bad dichotomy.

        The article should have stopped right there.

        Instead, we get: “So this is a transparently false dichotomy, BUT [proceeds as if the whole framework isn’t garbage]”

    • quanta413 says:

      I was disappointed comments were turned off too. I also found it strange to describe Boldmug not as a set of crazy ideas arrived at via armchair reasoning but as somehow comparable to long lasting cultural institutions that evolved gradually. But Boldmug never uses 100 words where 10,000 would do, so maybe if I had wasted some more time I’d see that somehow Boldmug is less full of it than he appears.

      Your 1950s US polity should lack most of modern medicine

      To be fair, the 1950s is just this side of early antibiotics and quite a few important vaccines. It gets you a lot of cost-effective modern medicine; maybe even most of the best stuff. You won’t be able to squeeze out a few more years at the end of your life at great expense, and you’ll have worse luck if you get cancer early but you’re not going to die of yellow fever, malaria, or polio either.

      Probably more importantly, you’ve got some critical vaccines but you’re still short others that arrived after the 50’s and the same for antibiotics. But the gap between penicillin and tetracycline is not usually what people think of when they think of before-modern vs modern medicine.

      • Deiseach says:

        Your SCA polity should have fleas, lice, tapeworms, and lack any foods imported from the Americas.

        Sorry, Korea, you’ll have to stick to authentic traditional cuisine and forget about those chili peppers in your kimchi that those meddling Portuguese introduced to you!

        Your 1950s US polity should lack most of modern medicine (comes from ideas – oops), have one bathroom and one car per middle class family, and of course lack all electronics whatsoever.

        What, you’re not even going to allow me vaccum tubes? You say you’re in your 60s but you seem to have forgotten what life in your childhood would have been like. And as someone born in the 60s who had a 19th century upbringing (rural Irish life was very backwards), I’m laughing about the whole “only one bathroom” bit. Try growing up with no bathroom at all, or running water! I’ve lived like that, so your horror story version of “imagine life in this hellhole” doesn’t quite strike the level of fear into the marrow of my bones that you’re going for.

        Is modern life right now an improvement? In some ways yes, in some ways no. Like every other era in the history of the world.

        • Plumber says:

          I don’t remember the ’50’s, and I certainly don’t remember rural Ireland (or much of anything rural actually), but I do remember the ’70’s (and my four person family does still only have one bathroom in a house built in 1927). 

          The 1990’s were pretty good, and I think a great deal of Americans would be all in if the then predicted “End of History” had been real, but I for one regard the 1980’s as  so unrelantingly bad (way too much impoverishment and gunfire) that getting to the ’90’s from the ’70’s wasn’t worth it, and most of the ’70’s could be skipped as well.

          I imagine that most Europeans in 1910 if shown a shiny 21st century would go “That’s great”, but if then shown what they’d have to go through to get there would say, “Yeah, on second thought we’re good, stop change now, the next 40 years are too awful to go through”.

          Had I been born in a different decade I can easily imagine leaning “Right” instead of “Left” (I don’t much see the point of “progressive” cultural change after the elimination of Jim Crow, that was good, but the divorce wave afterwards wasn’t, at least not for children), but I just can’t forgive the changes for the worse that I remember in the ’80’s.

          Except maybe for some small countries (i.e. Costa Rica, Singapore), no large nations did better than the post war Keynesian welfare state capitalist/social democratic model (yes the oil embargo hit that model hard but places that stuck to it more came out all right, i.e. Canada), and while a large majority of residents being members of a communitarian church can substitute or even do better than a welfare state (Utah), having such a population is better even even under Communsism (Catholic Cuba isn’t quite as much of a Hellscape as North Korea), and in an individualist secular age I just don’t see it happening, forced conversions don’t work, even without the religious elements, you can’t turn individualist Greeks into communitarian Scandinavians.

          The right says if we reduce government non-state actors will take up the slack, but I think that will be too much of a risk to take, and I don’t want to go through the intermediate stage, the left on the other hand needs to stop hassling evangelical Christian bakers and go back to trying to fight poverty, what worked from 1946 to 1973 in the U.S.A.is what works, any other “Utopia” is a bet, and those odds don’t look good enough to me.

        • DinoNerd says:

          True – I forgot that vacuum tubes can be counted as electronics. I was thinking internet gadgets.

          And no, I don’t think “only one bathroom” is a hellhole. I just think that the typical US advocate of living-50s-style might think so 🙁 I grew up with 2 bedrooms, one bathroom, 5 people.

          • Deiseach says:

            By the standards of my early childhood, a 50s middle class American house (with only one bathroom and one car!) would have been luxury. But that’s going all “Four Yorkshiremen” on it.

            I agree that many ‘back to the golden past’ types forget about, or never knew, the difference in what we take for granted today as basic standard of living and what would have been acceptable back then. It is interesting that you went for the material side of it, rather than the usual arguments I see about it (which boil down to the “so you want to go back to the racist sexist past when women and minorities knew their place, huh?”) so I will definitely give you credit for that.

          • acymetric says:

            I would think one or maybe 1.5 bathrooms was pretty typical in the 50s, based on the households that my various parents/family members grew up in. I think this is another case of people conflating middle class with upper middle class.

    • Deiseach says:

      I think turning off comments was a good idea, because my immediate instinctive reaction was to pick out one sentence and write a very sarcastic comment about it. Not being able to do that was probably for the best, because an immediate knee-jerk hot take is just that and has little real analytical value.

      I don’t want to fight with Scott because I respect him, and while I’m happy to have a row in the comments with my fellow peasants, all of us yelling at each other isn’t a very edifying spectacle for outsiders.

      So let’s just register “Agreed with some parts, vehemently disagreed with others” and let it rest at that, without starting up a whole battle here.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I don’t see the point in comingling economic and social advancements and assuming them to be naturally related. This can get you to some really nasty places, since it’s biased by your own perspective and you can’t run counter-experiments. A hypothetical post-War US that decided to become an Empire could, at 2000, credibly point to its existence and say “There was no WWIII: see, our method worked!” when we obviously know that wasn’t strictly necessary. But Empire US wouldn’t know, because alternative world doesn’t exist.

      We also can’t forecast the future. Our market-driven, free trade policies helped us defeat the Soviet Union, but it seems we may have accidentally created an even more powerful communist dictatorship in China. Woops! You can run this scenario through any sort of pet cause, whether liberal, conservative, or even bipartisan. We don’t know which ones are going to result in catastrophes.

      • cassander says:

        China is definitely not more powerful than the the USSR was. And it wasn’t US policy that made China what it is today, it was china abandoning communism in some areas of its economy that allowed economic growth to happen. At best/worst, US policy just made this happen faster than it would have happened otherwise.

    • Skivverus says:

      Moderate reactionary/conservative steelman: “I don’t want everything to go back to the 1950’s/X-time-period, but neither do I want my ideas to be dismissed out of hand for being something that showed up in the 1950’s/X-time-period, and I believe what you are doing is such a dismissal.”

      Programming comes to mind – sometimes rewriting the function you want from scratch a third-party implementation is the way to go (read: adopting successful policies from other countries), but often there’s an older version you can revert to or copy-paste instead, without necessarily having to revert the entire program to it.
      Especially for more complex functions, the number of bugs introduced by such a reversion may be unacceptably high, but that’s an argument that has to be made on a case-by-case basis, and compared to the number of bugs you’d expect from other approaches.

  2. Radu Floricica says:

    You can do much worse for two hours than I Am Mother, the latest AI movie on Netflix: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5BKctcZxrM

    I found it a pretty good take on the good and the bad of AI design, probably much better than anything else I’ve seen. At least as a conversation starting point – you can use it to illustrate everything from paperclip maximization to deontological kill switches (and no, it’s not that kind of stupid failure mode – both the AI and movie are better than this).

    • Randy M says:

      Sounds cool, I assume it’s a sequel to Her?
      (Alright, I’m pretty sure it isn’t, but still thanks for the rec)

  3. BBA says:

    A few days ago Budweiser announced a set of special can designs for Pride Month, each patterned after one of the LGBTQetc. pride flags. These were generally mocked, both as examples of “woke capitalism” and, less charitably, by those who are skeptical-to-hostile towards the pride movement altogether.

    One of the cans was based on the asexual pride flag, and as someone who once identified as asexual, I’m slightly offended by the effort to commercialize my former identity, but I also respond to the concept of an asexual pride flag with a mixture of mild annoyance and bafflement. (You know, the same way asexuals feel about sex.) And one of the stripes on the flag represents “demisexual”, which first of all is a joke that got out of hand, and second… this is a way for people who are cisgender and exclusively heterosexual to identify as “LGBT” now. Which, honestly, I find cheapens the whole concept. We’re talking about identities that people have been murdered, beaten, jailed for expressing, and “I don’t have the libido of a character from a bad teen sex comedy” isn’t anywhere close to the kind of thing that Pride Month is about.

    But on the other hand, if I argue for a narrower definition of “Pride”, I exclude myself from it, and I’m therefore a bigot for criticizing it so I should probably just let it go. And Budweiser is terrible anyway so who cares.

    • brad says:

      Something about “identify as” rubs me the wrong way. If you don’t feel any sexual attraction doesn’t that mean you *are* an asexual? What does “identify as” add? Is it supposed to go to saliency–is someone that identifies as asexual saying not feeling sexual attraction is an important part of who he is?

      • quanta413 says:

        Maybe it’s meant to try to duck awkward arguments about “but are you really X or are you X enough?”

        For example, one of my grandparents wasn’t white, but for all intents and purposes everyone treats me as white because I look like a NW European and in as much as my race has any relevance to a situation I may as well be. But I’ve seen people who also have a white appearance and majority white ancestry identify as white, identify as a person of color, or identify as mixed. I’m a very literal person and don’t feel a strong identity, so I go with the last and specify the proportion of my ancestry so people aren’t confused about why I’m indistinguishable from an Anglo-Saxon.

        It’s relatively simple if you look as if you are only descended from one racial branch of your grandparents or whatever like I am. If you confuse people’s categories, you may make life a bit easier by just deciding to identify as one thing or the other.

        • brad says:

          I think it makes sense where there’s ambiguity and choice—as in your race example and likewise in the case of gender identity. But for most of the identities I don’t think those elements are there.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I almost said we can do without labels at all – we’re in a free enough society that “I feel like doing X right now” is pretty much enough without finding a word that describes it. But I guess it’s useful not as much for rational purposes but for social ones: for example as a conversation starter, or as a conversation stopper (wait, what do you mean you like her but you didn’t try to kiss her?! can be answered much shorter by “I’m asexual” than by any other explanation).

        And having new words on beer cans is not bad per se, because more words and concepts generally means more complex social space, and that’s usually a good thing. So I can’t really say even identities are bad.

        Where I do draw the line is taking things too seriously. Words, concepts, identities – all good. Freaking out because other people don’t want to use your words – very bad. Lots of nuances in between.

        • Aapje says:

          And having new words on beer cans is not bad per se, because more words and concepts generally means more complex social space, and that’s usually a good thing.

          A risk is that the social space becomes more and more exclusive, as fewer people can deal with the complexity.

          For example, ‘political correctness’ seems to cause large segments of society to feel that they cannot take part in the debate anymore.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            That’s strictly the “taking too seriously” part. 98% of people live without the arguably infinitely more rich cultural life of 4chan, and they barely ever feel excluded. Mostly occasionally go “wat?”.

            PC is a memeplex that has a strong adversarial (or self-defense) component. That’s the problem, not the content per se.

      • mwengler says:

        I am a cis male white Irish German American new Yorker Californian engineer physicist PhD Caltech alum red blooded snoring obese sandiegan classical liberal atheist economist father ex husband. In most interactions most of that is irrelevant so I don’t identify the parts that are irrelevant. I would be more interested in a product that celebrates my fatherhood or rationalism than one that celebrates my obesity or whiteness. It’s not more complicated than this.

        • brad says:

          There are lots of people that love the Yankees and would be happy to pitched a product aimed at Yankees fans. But I’ve never, ever heard someone say “I identify as a Yankees fan”–just “I’m a Yankees fan.”

      • Deiseach says:

        brad, there has been some minor feather-ruffling over whether asexuals ‘really’ belong in the whole LGBTQIA+ basket; there was a bit of aggro over “A is not for Ally“.

        The consensus seems to be that if you’re trans/gay/queer + ace then you belong but if you’re cis/het + ace then you can go to hell. I’m very definitely aromantic and somewhere on the asexual spectrum but otherwise heterosexual and cisgender, so I’m one of the “you have straight-passing privilege/you are straight, go away and stop stinking up our nice queer safe spaces” outcasts, and I had that kind of answer given to me when I dipped a toe into the controversy on Tumblr, so like Groucho Marx, I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member 🙂

        Which is fine by me, I never was particularly anxious to be lumped in under the umbrella and my attitudes* to The Question are enough to get me dismissed the same way as my attitudes towards abortion ‘rights’ are enough to have me “not a real woman” in the otherwise “every single woman is affected by this/every woman in the state will be glad we did this for reproductive rights” blanket statements politicians make.

        But there are some young aces who are otherwise sympathetic and right on board with the whole “I’m an ally!” bit who got hurt over “yeah well as far as we proper gay and queer people are concerned, your job is to support us unconditionally but otherwise sit down and shut up, straight” reactions to the “can I be included in the Alphabet Soup Acronym?” innocent request.

        And the aromantics are over here in the corner, waving forlornly over “Nobody thinks of us”, which is why the aromantic flag. Ironically, all this is out of the new social acceptance, tolerance, and celebration of variant sexualities and orientations, and the eager little faces of the aces/aros lit up when they thought they had a welcoming group to join (though it didn’t work out like that). Mostly these flags come from the young woke ally types who might self-identify as gay or bi or genderfluid or whatever as well as being asexual, and they want their own identity recognised and their own flag to wave.

        From my cynical point of view, the whole nonsense is nonsense and just one more example of the fissiparous nature of progressivism which parses identities finer and finer for the Oppression Olympics and eats its own tail over who is and is not Valid Victim Status, Free Of Guilt Card Awarded. Even the original Pride flag has been deemed not inclusive enough and there is hair-pulling and scratching out of eyes about “if you/your blog/website/cat’s collar has the old rainbow flag and not the new Persons of Colour inclusive flag, is it because you are a racist, you racist?”

        *My attitude being it’s all ridiculous and I think Pride parades are silly, do you really need an entire Pride Month and the way commercial interests jumped on the bandwagon and are so blatantly marketing for transparent financial rather than principle reasons simply demonstrates how the whole ideology of activism has over-reached itself.

        • DinoNerd says:

          From my cynical point of view, the attempts to put boundaries on LGBTQIA+ on the one hand – and add extra letters on the other hand – are both predictable parts of human nature.

          I was once lectured by a person whose first language was not english (which made it delicious) on how “queer” was just a synonymn for “gay” (I didn’t inquire if either one included lesbians; I think that the “expert” was female, so it probably did), and it was utterly inappropriate for anyone else to climb on board. They were almost certainly younger than me, so their better-than-my “knowledge” of history I’d been alive and aware during was particularly helpful. (No, I wasn’t at the Stonewall riots; I was only 12 years old at the time. But a member of my family “came out” 3 years later, and I’ve been aware of gay community news and issues ever since.)

          My answer to people like them has been to stop bothering to “identify” as anything, and get a bit angry when some earnest young thing tries to “help” me find the right category.

        • 10240 says:

          But wait, what is a heterosexual asexual or a gay asexual (especially if also aromantic)?
          “Protestant or Catholic atheist?”

          • Deiseach says:

            “Aromantic” – never felt or experienced what you weirdoes call “romantic love/attraction”.

            “Asexual” – and heterosexual: yeah, I appreciate the male and female forms for aesthetic worth, but certain male forms make me go “oooh” in a way no female forms do. Have no desire to act on any tingly feelings, though, and would run a mile from any male I did find “oooh” actually asking me “so would you like to twine your fingers through my hair?”

        • brad says:

          From my cynical point of view, the whole nonsense is nonsense and just one more example of the fissiparous nature of progressivism which parses identities finer and finer for the Oppression Olympics and eats its own tail over who is and is not Valid Victim Status, Free Of Guilt Card Awarded. Even the original Pride flag has been deemed not inclusive enough and there is hair-pulling and scratching out of eyes about “if you/your blog/website/cat’s collar has the old rainbow flag and not the new Persons of Colour inclusive flag, is it because you are a racist, you racist?”

          I agree with the general sentiment but I don’t think it’s anything specific to progressivism. Who is it that has the skit about two guys trying to figure out if they are the same kind of christian and going 12 adjectives deep before finding out they aren’t, and so they hate each other?

          • Lillian says:

            Ah, Emo Phillips’ best joke, long may it be remembered.

          • quanta413 says:

            Maybe it’s partly an American thing.

            Europeans don’t have so many sects of Christianity in such a small space.

            Of course, Europe did have a few large wars about those issues a long time ago. Maybe got that point of fission out of their system.

          • Deiseach says:

            I agree with the general sentiment but I don’t think it’s anything specific to progressivism.

            I fondly remember the Emo Phillips joke, but part of the point is that Christianity just doesn’t have that force in Western society anymore. Imagine the “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879” being 1% of the population (if we’re going for an estimation on the generous side about the relevant transgender population) and demanding – and expecting to get – specific laws written to force people who aren’t NCBGLRC1879 to allow them into their assemblies and meetings on an equal level, and anyone who mentioned that NCBGLRC1879 isn’t the same thing as being a Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes (Lodge No. 26) guy gets a whole acronym and mental illness category invented just for them – so, you’re an 1879phobe, huh, you hater? 1879ERB! (1879 Exclusionary Radical Buffalo!)

            EDIT: Some of the Protestant denominations are this small. In general, society isn’t concerned with being sensitive to them on the grounds of their members being human beings with feelings to be hurt and that they need special protection against the majority who would otherwise steamroller right over them, they are considered “you’re a small minority, keep your beliefs out of my life and stop trying to impose your will on the rest of us as to how we should think, behave and feel”.

            Right now, it’s progressivism which has the whip hand about this, which is ironic in view of them protesting against suppression and censorship of the non-conforming in the bad old (current) days of heteronormative capitalist genderconformity binary gender patriarchy.

            Call me when Budweiser put out a special edition for Reformed Christianity Month beer cans 🙂 (“Hey, Presbyterians, whether you’re a member of the American Presbyterian Church, the Associated Reformed Presbyterian Church or the Christian Presbyterian Church, this Bud Prohibition Brew‘s for you!”)

      • gbdub says:

        I might be mixing things up but it definitely feels like there was a shift from talking about “sexual orientation” (we’re all the same who cares what we do in the bedroom) to emphasizing “sexual identity” (gay is who I am).

        I think the identity model works for a lot of people (notably the activists who pushed that conception in the first place, but is ultimately a net negative. It’s inherently divisive and discussion killing, and additionally I think it promotes the idea that there’s a “right way” to be gay. That can be especially devastating for queer people who don’t fit one of the predefined molds – they get homophobia from one side and cold shoulders from the place they thought they’d fit in.

        I think it also feeds things like “demisexuals”. If we’re going with “identity” it’s hardly fair to deny one to everyone.

    • bullseye says:

      But on the other hand, if I argue for a narrower definition of “Pride”, I exclude myself from it, and I’m therefore a bigot for criticizing it so I should probably just let it go. And Budweiser is terrible anyway so who cares.

      I think it’s reasonable to include asexuals without including demisexuals. If you include *everyone* then it doesn’t mean anything. Some of my friends have strong opinions on this issue, and they’re all in favor of including asexuals and excluding cisgender heterosexuals (which demisexuals are, as far as I can tell).

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Now all we need to do is identify “hypersexuality” as a sexual orientation, create a demihypersexuality, and we’ll finally have succeeded in allowing every teen who has ever existed to claim an oppressed sexual identity without making literally any behavioral changes of any kind.

      • Deiseach says:

        Now all we need to do is identify “hypersexuality” as a sexual orientation

        Well, we’ve already got sex addiction as a treatable category and seems like some therapists wanted Hypersexual Behaviour Disorder included in the DSM-V (this didn’t happen; it’s up to you whether you think this was shocking dismissal of real suffering or a rare demonstration of common sense by the APA).

        sandor, don’t try outdoing reality, there’s always something out there that you think is a sarcastic parody which has been presented in sober fact 🙂

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      We’re talking about identities that people have been murdered, beaten, jailed for expressing

      Are people beaten, murdered, or jailed for being asexual with any frequency? I’m sure it’s happened at some point, people haved killed each other for not getting a discount at a fast food joint, but I’ve never heard of ace-bashing.

      I guess I just don’t see the distinction you’re making between demisexuality and asexuality. If we can admit that demisexuality is inherently unserious and doesn’t logically hold together, why doesn’t that apply just as much to asexuality? They both treat having a low to non-existent sex drive as a suitable basis for an identity and neither has much claim to oppression, at least not any more than gingers do.

      • Deiseach says:

        Are people beaten, murdered, or jailed for being asexual with any frequency? I’m sure it’s happened at some point, people haved killed each other for not getting a discount at a fast food joint, but I’ve never heard of ace-bashing.

        That’s exactly the kind of “How many points do you score in the Oppression Olympics?” game that cheesed me off with the entire enterprise. It really shouldn’t come down to “but do you bleed?” when there’s been a whole political/sociological/philosophical construction of X Studies around the idea of transgressive/non-normative sexualities.

        Possibly you’ve never heard of ace-bashing because nobody has heard of asexual/aromantics. My one concession to the whole identity thing is that as an explanatory label, it’s useful; if I’d known about such things as asexuality/aromanticism, it would have helped me make a lot of sense of things in my earlier life. As it stands, I chalked it down to “just one more way I’m a fucking failure loser weirdo freak abnormal”, which is not all that helpful when you’re trying to manage depressive tendencies.

        I’m not going to claim that I’m oppressed by St Valentine’s Day and how it’s been colonised and commercialised, but when gay/lesbian people were arguing for rights and toleration and acceptance and marriage equality, a really big heavy emphasis was put on “the right to love somebody” and to sell it to mainstream society by means of “we just want to be able to marry the person we love like you can” – the commonalty sought there was “everyone experiences sexual desire, everyone feels romantic attraction, everyone wants that One Special Someone To Love”.

        When you don’t want that One Special Someone (or indeed a string of someones) To Love, it’s very difficult to get this across without the “you’ll change your mind as you get older/but you just haven’t met the right person yet/are you sure you’re not gay and in denial?” reactions. Particularly when you don’t have the vocabulary or even the concept to help you explain yourself.

        EDIT: My go-to example here is from a Star Trek episode, where at the very end Dr McCoy is talking to Spock about how even though Kirk has had his heart broken by an impossible romantic episode, it’s Spock that McCoy feels sorry for because he can’t understand or experience romantic love:

        You see, I feel sorrier for you than I do for him because you’ll never know the things that love can drive a man to. The ecstasies, the miseries, the broken rules, the desperate chances, the glorious failures, the glorious victories. All of these things you’ll never know simply because the word love isn’t written into your book.

        That’s the kind of message that gets dinned into you over the years, about how Love (and it’s always sexual/romantic love that is meant) is what makes us special, makes us human, makes life worthwhile and so on interminably. So you’re left with what seems like the inescapable conclusion “Guess I’m not properly human, then” if you don’t experience that and never have and never will.

        No, it’s not the same as being beaten up in an alley, there’s no “but do you bleed for it?”, but it still hurts.

        I don’t want a special day or month or flag or parade. I would like the idea of asexuality and of aromanticism to be more widely known so people can have these concepts to explain themselves, and for ‘normal’ people to not be scared by magazine and online articles about how aromantics or asexuals are all sociopaths or bipolar and are really manipulative and controlling so beware, beware! if one of them lures you into a relationship. Or that the explanation is that we’re all poor abused sufferers who are unable to love due to trauma (but still beware, beware!)

        Maybe I do have a psychological condition because I’m not wired up to feel romantic love. But I’m not trying to lure any poor innocent normal people into a relationship so I can manipulate and exploit them, so cool it with the pop-Freudian frigidity that was the popular explantatory theory back in the day and the modern versions of trauma or psychopathy or BPD that are the favourites now. I’m not crazy (much), I’m just not interested.

      • BBA says:

        I’m personally against lumping asexuality in with LGBTetc. for much the same reason. I just thought the notion of an “asexual pride flag” is a little self-contradictory, since I figured asexuals as grumpy “not a joiner” types like Deiseach and, uh, me in my twenties. People who are just generally against holding parades or flying flags.

        (Incidentally this whole thread is semi-intentional Deiseach bait. Sorry not sorry. :P)

        Separate from the question of “is asexuality queer?”, I get that the Pride movement wants to be a big tent and include as many people as possible, but silliness like “demisexual” just risks watering it down to vague leftism, and I thought it was supposed to be about something besides “orange man bad.” Then again, I’m not in any of these categories, and I don’t have the right to tell them how to run their parades.

        …shit, did I just come out as straight during Pride Month? What a faux pas.

        • Deiseach says:

          …shit, did I just come out as straight during Pride Month? What a faux pas.

          You can have an inaugural Straight Pride march (which I do think is a wonderful piece of leg-pulling rather than a serious demand, and which has all the Usual Online Suspects treating it like a serious demand which needs to be ridiculed and explained why this is A Bad Thing in excruciating detail; naturally, the more they adopt “a smile of heart-broken forbearance, as of the teacher in an idiot school”, the more ridiculous one side seems, and it’s not the one calling for Straight Pride).

    • Aapje says:

      @BBA

      Isn’t Queer already “cis but not perfectly happy with the social norms”?

      Ultimately, Oppression Olympics inevitably lead to this as there is no threshold where people suddenly have perfect lives and the people who are completely happy with the social norms at all stages of their lives are few. With SJ rejecting the democratic ideal (one person, one vote), in favor of fighting for the oppressed, the only way to be politically represented is to turn desires into claims of oppression. You are not just asexual and deserving to get your way, you are oppressed for being asexual and therefor deserve to get your way.

      Add in a desire for “being inclusive” and it’s hard to turn people away, even if they piss in your tent.

    • Well... says:

      And Budweiser is terrible anyway so who cares.

      Eh, it’s not all that bad if you’re in the mood for cheap domestic beer. (E.g. on a hot summer day when you’re taking an hour break between two relatively physically demanding activities.) It’s not like Natural Lite or something.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Bud is fine if you’re pounding beers outside for hours, or playing beer pong. At least it’s cheap. Means you have a bunch of friends over, so you might easily rip through 40, 50, 60 cans depending on how long you are drinking.

        I love my friends, but that’s damned expensive if you’re getting a decent craft session.

  4. ana53294 says:

    Why is there no civil war in Venezuela?

    I’ve been observing the situation there for the last few years, and I don’t understand why there doesn’t seem to be any organized violent opposition. Sure, a civil war is a very bad thing, but would it be so much worse than the current situation?

    I have seen arguments that Venezuela’s situation is because of a lack of gun rights, but that doesn’t seem believable to me. The French are quite capable of effective* political violence without guns.

    I watched the attempt to introduce the humanitarian aid, and there were very few people on that bridge. It seemed quite empty.

    Many people have kids going hungry and family members who don’t get any medicines, and their jobs don’t bring any money; why do they not go to the streets? Why are they so politically passive? Why do they still support Maduro?

    It’s not like Venezuelans are peaceful non-violent people; Caracas is one of the most dangerous places in the world. So why don’t they direct that violence against what’s left of the government?

    *If the gilets jaunes used guns, Macron could have sent the army against them, and would have been totally justified. It would be entirely counter-productive to their political goals.

    • Contrary to what idealists tell you, people don’t automatically revolt against oppressive governance. Why not? Because the military is well-trained, well equipped and organized and the resistance is not. As long as those in power are happy, your revolution is probably going to fail and you will get yourself and your family killed. It’s much more surprising when a popular revolt does happen than when it doesn’t and if it does succeed, it’s usually because some of the people in power defect or at least they are sympathetic enough to not stop them.

      • ana53294 says:

        Because the military is well-trained, well equipped and organized and the resistance is not.

        How true is that when it comes to the Venezuelan military, though?

        And the rebels would have the support of part of the military base.

        And obviously, you don’t openly fight against the army; that’s what terrorists/paramilitaries are for.

        • How effective do you think terrorists are at overthrowing governments? Most of the time they just kind of peter out, leaving a lot dead bodies for nothing. Trying to overthrow the government is always going to be an uphill battle.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’ve heard, though haven’t studied in detail, that major popular revolts usually happen when things are getting better for their principals rather than when things are getting worse. That way you have incentive (because “getting better” implies they still kinda suck), but also a perception of vulnerability in the government (because, to people that’re used to thinking of them as pure evil, why else would they be easing off with the jackbooted oppression?).

        • Tenacious D says:

          This sounds like a plausible theory, and it makes testable predictions. It seems like Sudan might be going down that road, for example.

    • 10240 says:

      Gun control isn’t it, they have some 9–15 million illegal guns, in addition to a few million legal ones.

    • Clutzy says:

      Why do they still support Maduro?

      Why did they ever? Governments have the support of a significant % of the people, from Maduro to Kim Jung to Saddam etc. These people snitch and the Secret Police take out the more dangerous rebels.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’m in Romania and while the situation here isn’t nearly as bad, I’ve spent the past two years wondering if you can really boil a frog alive if you heat the water gradually enough. We’ve just avoided a potential dictatorship (the guy is now in jail). How close we really were we’ll never know, but it felt pretty close.

      In the end I blame two reasons for excessive passivity. By far the most important is Curley Effect – those most likely to oppose current leadership are leaving the country. Have a safety valve, and you won’t get enough pressure.

      The other is democracy. Tainted or not, the regime was elected. Which means some broad part of the population supports/supported it, and another broad part tolerates or at least sees it as legitimate. The bubble effect makes the opposition think everybody hates Maduro and with the same intensity or more, so you end up wondering why there’s no revolution – but that’s just Facebook. Go out and talk to actual people and you’ll be as surprised as I was – (pseudo) socialists actually have real support in rural areas, based on (gasp!) rational self-interest.

      • 10240 says:

        @Clutzy @Radu Floricica Chavez was popular, and Maduro was somewhat popular for a short while after Chavez’s death, before the economic crisis. However, it does seem like he has become extremely unpopular, based on opinion polls and on the result of the 2015 elections (the government then replaced the elected National Assembly with a pro-Maduro Constituent Assembly, which was elected in an indirect way).

        In Romania, was there any indication that the government would rig elections, or it wouldn’t give up power if defeated in democratic elections? People rarely revolt against democratic governments, since if they are angry enough at the government, they usually just wait until the next election, and depose it without violence. Whereas if the majority supports the government (or at least hates it less than the opposition parties), a revolution would have little popular support, and no chance to win.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Indication, yes. That’s part of why we solved the problem in the end – a record vote participation led to a record low for the governing party and less than 24 hours later to a prison conviction for the dictator-to-be in a trial that had been droning on for years (yeah, it makes one really wonder how independent the justice system really is. I guess you just can’t replace voting).

          But the “indication” was really weak. Mostly tweaking electoral law and a single speech that went like “if I go to prison y’all will get me out, right?”. There was however a VERY strong movement to dismantle the justice system that was 100% legal (though utterly immoral), and that was what got everybody riled up, even more than electoral bribing could cover.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Are you surprised there is no popular protest or that there is no violent insurrection? Because these are two different things and get started by different people. Either way, you need a certain level of organization and the dominos to align to get mass popular protests, and they can start over seemingly small things, like some guy lighting himself on fire because he isn’t allowed to sell fruit in the market square.

      Perhaps the typical leaders of protests are currently disorganized or beaten to hell after years of political turmoil, or perhaps their current leadership is spineless.

      As for civil war, you generally cannot just start a civil war as a popular movement. You need weapons and logistics. The Student Union of Amherst isn’t suddenly going to raise a host and supply it. You generally need former or current military leadership to defect, and the political opposition to cement it, too.

      Analogue for the US: Maybe you can get an Occupy Wall Street every once in a while, but you can’t get a civil war out of nowhere unless Nancy Pelosi and her allies at Norfolk decide that it’s time to fight. Occupy Wall Street cannot simply become major armed resistance, even if it can become major street protest. There’s currently no incentive for the Pelosi-type figures to do this in Venezuela, because those figures in Venezuela are already using existing power structures to try to hit Maduro.

      • Deiseach says:

        Occupy Wall Street cannot simply become major armed resistance, even if it can become major street protest.

        From various things I’ve read at the time and since about the way the Occupy movement behaved itself, it’s more that they couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery let alone an armed revolution. ‘No hierarchies here, all welcome to take what they need, nobody is the boss of anybody’ is great theory for idealistic students, but put it into practice and the grifters, the greedy, and the plain crazy and ungrateful glom onto you, grab all the free stuff and leave the idealists to clean up the mess while learning the harsh lesson that ‘stuff’ is not free after all, it has to come from somewhere and be paid for by someone.

        Real professional agitators/revolutionaries wouldn’t be caught dead in the kind of morass Occupy was/became, they have a structure of ‘you take orders from the leader’, a healthy suspicion of agents provocateurs and people simply turning up to leech off them, and work out exactly how they get their hands on bombs and guns and it’s not by wishing for them to appear out of thin air.

    • John Schilling says:

      Why is there no civil war in Venezuela?

      Did you notice the bit where Juan Guaidó tried to start one about six weeks ago? It failed. As we’ve discussed here before, trying to instantiate a violent conflict against a government is inherently a gamble, because going around asking people “will you for real not hypothetically commit to joining La Revolución when the time comes?” gets you and them arrested long before it gets you all the manpower you need to defeat the government. You have to make your move based on your best guess as to how many of the people you weren’t able to get precommitments from, will throw in with your gamble when the time comes.

      If you guess wrong, not only do you fail but you make the next attempt that much harder – you’ve demonstrated that the number of willing rebels was insufficient, and then you went and reduced that number by however many were arrested in the attempt, so now it is almost strictly common knowledge that coups/revolutions/whatever will fail in the current political environment.

      Guaidó thought that a civil war would be a quick, easy, mostly-bloodless thing that would make Venezuela a better place. He guessed wrong. So there’s no civil war in Venezuela.

      Sure, a civil war is a very bad thing, but would it be so much worse than the current situation?

      It could be just like the current situation except with lots of people getting shot to death. That seems like it would be worse.

      It is particularly worse for the people who get shot, which is pretty much guaranteed to include anyone who conspicuously tries to start a coup/revolution/civil war and fails, who is the first person to pick up a gun and shout “Viva la revolución!” and find only a handful of loser fanatics standing alongside him. Since we’ve just demonstrated that even someone with the stature of Juan Guaidó and the organization of his party can’t pull this off, all the lesser rabble-rousers are just going to quietly go home and keep a low profile for a while.

      Or move to someplace that is Not Venezuela, which makes their personal situation much better and that’s now the best they can hope for.

      • Lillian says:

        Many of Guaido’s best supporters have left the country. Hell one of my relatives would have probably been giving actual material support to Guaido and his people if he was still down there, but he’s not still down there, he’s chilling in a beach house in Florida. It’s one thing to fight to save a sinking ship when you’re still on it, it’s quite another to take back to the water when you’ve already found safety. Either by accident or design, Chavez and Maduro’s capital flight controls were never very effective, so a good chunk of the middle and upper class, precisely the people most willing and able to back Guaido against Maduro, have left and taken much of their personal resources with them.

        Hell the billionaire Mendoza family, one of the wealthiest and most powerful in Venezuela, doesn’t even have to give a damn any more. They’ve successfully expanded their operations outside the country to cater to expat community, and then they leveraged that into selling to other Lations, and by now i have to assume the Anglos are buying their stuff too, because i’ve found stores stocking their products in places as white as rural New Hamshire and West Virginia. Venezuela could sink into the sea tomorrow, and all the expats could flee to to the Moon, and the Mendozas would still be rich.

      • ana53294 says:

        It could be just like the current situation except with lots of people getting shot to death. That seems like it would be worse.

        A lot of people already get shot because, outside Caracas, the government does not control much anymore, and criminals roam free. The only good thing about the economic collapse is that bullets have become too expensive for criminals.

        • Near certain death from trying to overthrow the government is a lot worse than the much lower possibility of being killed by a gang member. No matter how bad you think it is, it can pretty much always get worse.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Didn’t Maduro ship in some military/paramilitary from other countries precisely so he could decisively win if there was a civil war? Plus the implicit option on getting more if needed? Don’t his opponents know that? I’ve got exactly 0 expertise on the area and I’m somewhat uncertain about what I’m saying – if someone knows more, do please correct me.

      • John Schilling says:

        Didn’t Maduro ship in some military/paramilitary from other countries precisely so he could decisively win if there was a civil war?

        Maduro, and Chavez before him, brought in lots of foreign guns for that purpose, but had no shortage of loyal Venezuelans to give them to. Mostly people who were poor and unskilled, so know that they will be on the bottom of the heap in any “let’s get together anyone who can contribute to the reconstruction of Venezuela and go about reconstructing Venezuela” regime but can expect a disproportionate share of the ever-diminishing pie if they are loyal enforcers for the current regime.

        For the past couple of years there have also been rumors of Russian and/or Chinese mercenaries being brought in to shore up the regime, but I haven’t seen any credible evidence for that.

  5. Well... says:

    Not related to my other thread about working out:

    I grew up hearing this story about some classical pianist (from the Romantic era IIRC) whose name I forgot, who ruined his hands by rigging a system of weights[*] to his fingers or something like that, to produce some kind of resistance as he played. I’ve never verified whether this story is real, but if it is: is it necessarily a bad idea to work out your fingers[**] with resistance? Maybe this pianist just did it in a stupid way. Or maybe there’s just one or two very specific good ways to work out your fingers and it’s easy to get it wrong?

    *My childhood was strange, like everyone else’s.
    **I know they have grip exercise devices, and those aren’t usually associated with injury. So presumably this pianist was trying to build strength in some other muscle group than those involved in gripping.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I don’t know, but I do recommend training grip strength on the machine at the gym. Maybe that’s just because mine is fantastic relative to my upper-body strength… 😛

    • Etoile says:

      I think Robert Schumann. There story is that he used a device to suspend one finger while strengthening the others on the piano, and this damaged them.
      The story is, of course, disputed as all such stories are.

      • Well... says:

        So the question for the kinesthesiologists is: regardless whether the story is true, would it have been possible for Schumann to safely achieve those same finger-fitness goals some other way?

        • The Pachyderminator says:

          A piano teacher once told me the Schumann story as a cautionary tale. I heard he wasn’t trying to increase strength, but flexibility and independence of movement in the third and fourth (middle and ring) fingers. (Notice how when you make a fist and try to extend each finger, the middle finger can’t be raised very high – that’s why flipping someone off requires holding the hand at an awkward angle – and the ring finger hardly at all.) This restriction is due to the ligament and bone structure in the hand, and I don’t think there’s any safe way around it.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Guitarist here, so I have a built-in control: my left-hand (fretting) fingers that I’ve been training for independence over decades v. my right-hand (picking) fingers that received no such training.

            Trying it just now, I can raise my left middle finger to an angle of roughly 45 degrees from a clenched fist, and extend my left ring finger straight out, like in a classic bird-flip.

            On the right hand, I’m only able to extend the middle finger straight out and can barely unfurl the ring finger at all.

            Apparently, normal training does actually have an effect.

  6. proyas says:

    Imagine that you have a person’s fully sequenced genome in the form of a data file, but you don’t have any cells or tissue samples from that person. Could you make a clone of them with just the data? What techniques would you use, and what kinds of future technology would you need?

    • metacelsus says:

      I will assume you have very good long-read sequencing technology and the data file is completely accurate.

      The most straightforward way would be to use a stem cell line and gradually replace parts of the genome with synthetic DNA corresponding to the genome of the person. This has been done with simple single-celled organisms (E. coli [bacteria] and S. cerevisiae [yeast]) but doing it in human stem cells would be considerably more difficult. The human genome is about 270 times bigger than the yeast genome, and also contains lots of annoying repetitive sequences that are tricky to work with. Plus, human cells don’t divide as quickly as yeast, so experiments always take longer.

      After establishing the cell line with the desired genome, the cloning process would proceed. The best way to do this would probably be nuclear transfer to an oocyte. Although there have not yet been any public reports of human cloning, it is widely agreed to be possible with current technology.

    • mwengler says:

      You would need to include the RNA that defines the mitochondrial seperately, or accept a random healthy mitochondria. You would also need to provide a mix of bacteria to be in this new creature which would normally be coming from the mother. But DNA + “typical” bacteria mitochondria and prenatal environment should be a pretty good but not perfect copy.

  7. dndnrsn says:

    Hello, and welcome to the twenty-second installment of my Biblical scholarship effortpost series. Having covered the Hebrew Bible, we arrive at the New Testament. We’ll begin with historical background, and then consider the earliest of the four gospels, the Gospel of Mark. This is a story in which the son of God is misunderstood, rejected, betrayed, denounced, executed, and put to death in awful and humiliating fashion – yet, this story is good news, and that awful death was of cosmic significance. We’ll discuss Mark and its distinctive characteristics, and consider the link between its origin and its message.

    The usual caveats: I went to school for this, but I’m not an expert. I’m aiming for a 100/200 level coverage; there’s a lot more to ask questions about, so please do and I’ll try to answer them. I’ll be providing some summary, but it’s best if everyone is reading along. Additionally, about language use: I’ll be using the lowercase “his” for Jesus as presented in the gospel of Mark. When I use “Mark” on its own, I’m referring to the gospel, or to the most-likely-unknown author of the gospel.

    By way of historical background: regionally, a state coming out of the Maccabean/Hasmonean revolt was autonomous for about 80 years, until being conquered by the Romans. Eventually, the Romans chose a client king, Herod the Great, who ruled from 40-4 BCE. By the time Jesus was a grown man, the Romans had taken more direct control. They were not hugely popular, and there was both violent and nonviolent resistance. In 66, there would be a rebellion leading to the first Roman-Jewish war, including the destruction of the second Temple. Jerusalem and the surrounding area were under direct Roman rule, with the Roman administrator living in Caesarea. The high priest, dwelling in Jerusalem, was a point of contact between the Roman authorities and the Jewish leadership. Galilee, meanwhile, was ruled by one of Herod the Great’s sons, Herod Antipas.

    Before we read the gospel (I will summarize Mark briefly, but it’s very short, and I would highly recommend reading it), consider also that this seems to be the earliest existing document describing Jesus’ life and the beginnings of what would become Christianity. It’s easy to project elements onto Mark that aren’t actually present in the document – try pretending you’ve never seen it before. It’s very easy to read back onto Mark elements from the other Gospels, from Paul, from later developments in Christian theology, and so forth. If you try to clear your mind and approach Mark like you’re seeing it for the first time, you might be surprised by what’s there, and what’s not.

    Considering Mark, first: what is its genre? Scholars argue over what exactly a “gospel” is – which genre it could be placed in, and its relations to similar genres in the same time and place. “Gospel”, Greek “evangelion”, means roughly “good news” and Mark begins in the NRSV translation: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” “Christ”, a Greek word roughly meaning “anointed”, was used among Greek-speaking Jews as equivalent to “messiah”. Jesus is the messiah, and the son of God (a Jew of the time would likely understand this as indicating a special relationship with God). There are both canonical and noncanonical gospels; the noncanonical ones vary in their form and in their content (both the stories they tell and the theologies they espouse – and some are very, very strange). The only noncanonical gospel I plan to discuss is Thomas, a collection of saying without the narratives of the canonical gospels.

    One thing we’ll look at a lot more than in the Hebrew Bible section is textual criticism and discussion of sources. Partly this is due to how I focused my attention in school, but it’s also due to the lifespan of recording materials: we have a lot more scraps of papyrus and so on from close to the mid 1st century than we do from a thousand years earlier. Suffice it to say (we’ll talk more about this later) that when people sat down to write stories like the Gospel of Mark about the important figure of Jesus Christ, they didn’t just make everything up on the spot, nor were the documents the statements of firsthand witnesses. Instead, the general consensus of scholarship is that stories about Jesus – what he did and what he said – circulated orally, eventually getting written down, with written accounts used as sources for later compositions. Stories got changed in transmission, intentionally or unintentionally, stories took on the shape of their mode of transmission (oral transmission supposedly favours easier-to-remember stories, while written transmission encourages greater complexity), and new stories got invented. Some gospels seem to be completely invented, but luckily this isn’t the case with the canonical gospels – they’re rather more interesting than that.

    One major scholarly pursuit is guessing at what got changed and what got added, and guessing at what the original form was. This is highly speculative and involves a great deal of missing evidence. Uncharitably, it often reveals more about the participants than about a certain first century religious leader. Charitably, it’s the best that can be done, since papyrus rots, and the most general, most boring consensus version of, say, how the four gospels were formed and relate to each other, is fairly convincing.

    Mark begins with John, who is baptizing people. He baptizes Jesus, who immediately has a religious revelation – he is the son of God. He begins to teach an apocalyptic message about the “kingdom of God” coming near, and about coming upheaval and reversal, and attracts followers. He teaches, casts out spirits, and heals. Controversies ensue – he is confronted by opponents, most notably Pharisees, who object to the authority he claims, the company he keeps, and his followers’ insufficient adherence to purity rules and observances. The Pharisees and the Herodians conspire against him. He continues to operate in the same mode, also working a series of miracles. His closest followers, who most directly experience his acts and teachings, are afraid and do not understand what is going on. They are able to identify him as the messiah, but not understand what that means for him, for them, and for the future – they do not fully understand that Jesus must suffer and die, and that following him means suffering.

    Eventually, the group travels to Jerusalem and is welcomed by the people. Jesus teaches at the Temple, causes controversy, and dramatically disrupts Temple activities. He makes predictions regarding future persecutions, turmoil, and the apocalyptic event. After a Passover meal, he is betrayed, tried and condemned, and handed over to the Romans. The crowd has been riled up against him, and Jesus is abused and crucified. After his death, two women visiting his tomb find no body. In its place is a young man who tells them Jesus has been raised and to tell the disciples – but the woman flee, afraid, and tell nobody. There are two expanded endings – a shorter summary ending including an expansion of the mission, and a longer ending in which the risen Jesus appears. Scholars tend to think that both expanded endings are not original to Mark and were added later.

    (This one went long; post continues in reply to this one)

    • dndnrsn says:

      The distinctive element of Mark compared to the other gospels, strong enough to be evident even if one is reading Mark on its own, is the degree of secrecy and misunderstanding surrounding Jesus’ identity. First, Jesus keeps his identity secret: when unclean spirits recognize who he is, he forbids them to speak. Consider chapter 1: a spirit recognizes him as “the Holy One of God” but is forced to be silent; it goes on to state that Jesus “would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” Both a man he has cured and the witnesses to a raising from the dead are commanded to tell no one (in chapter 5). Significantly, in chapter 8, after his followers have identified him as the messiah, he orders them to silence, and again after the transfiguration he instructs them to keep silent. In his teachings, he does not proclaim his identity in his teachings in any way that people can understand.

      Why is this? One common and classic explanation of the “messianic secret” is simply that it was a concoction. In this theory, Jesus did not, in fact, consider or present himself to be the messiah. This supposedly only happened after his death, when his followers proclaimed him to be such. The attempts at secrecy are written into the gospel to explain how Jesus was, and knew himself to be, the messiah but did not proclaim himself to be. However, within Mark’s narrative, there’s a clear alternative function to the messianic secret: Jesus is indeed the messiah, but not the kind of messiah that people are expecting. The secrecy, then, is intended to prevent misconceptions. It’s possible to carry this further and say that the version we get in Mark was original, and not a creation of Mark’s narrative. Jesus thought himself to be the messiah, but his understanding of the messiah’s role didn’t fit most people’s concept of the messiah. Accordingly, he kept quiet.

      Linked to the messianic secret is the theme of misunderstanding and failure. Put simply, Jesus’ closest followers are dense and cowardly. They do not understand the food-multiplication miracles, and the natural miracles frighten them. At the transfiguration, those who witness it are confused and scared. After Peter recognizes him as the messiah, Jesus teaches that the “Son of Man” – which he uses, at times, as a circumlocution for himself – will undergo suffering, rejection, and death, before being raised – and Peter rebukes him! As for cowardice, they all flee, even Peter – who had previously assured Jesus he would not. Nor do they seem to grasp Jesus’ message when he tells them that ugly things are coming, and that following him will involve sacrifice.

      One explanation of these points is that Mark was actually written against the closest followers. In this theory, whoever wrote Mark had an axe to grind against the disciples or communities descending or claiming to descend from the disciples. Thus, the purpose of depicting them this way is to discredit them. An alternate explanation bears a relationship, again, to Mark’s narrative. Under this theory, Mark was produced in the context of a Christian community that was experiencing trouble: persecution, including some abandoning the community under pressure, perhaps. Mark, with all the misunderstanding and failure, carries the implicit message that even so, success is possible: the very fact that someone is reading the text or hearing it read aloud proves the point. Just as one would not expect the messiah to suffer and die, one would likely not expect Jesus’ movement, especially as portrayed in Mark, to survive his death and the flight of his followers.

      The traditional account of the provenance of Mark was established at the latest by the end of the second century at the latest, and possibly as early as the beginning of that century: the author was a follower of Peter who wrote down an account of Jesus’ life based on his recollection of Peter’s preaching, most likely sometime in the early 60s. Traditions often link this Mark with a John “whose other name was Mark”; in Acts, an associate of Peter and of Paul, and Paul’s letters mention a Mark a few times. It’s possible to put together a John nicknamed Mark; an associate of Peter and also Paul who ended up, eventually, in Rome – but this is complicated by “Mark” being a relatively common name. Modern scholarship generally rejects this theory, largely for internal reasons – the author is unlikely to be John Mark from Jerusalem given, as noted below, reasons to think the author was not a Jew from Jerusalem. Textual scholars, meanwhile, have various theories as to Mark’s sources which conflict with the idea that the Gospel is based on one person’s preaching.

      Many theories place the author and the community in/for which the Gospel was produced somewhere in the modern-day Middle East, perhaps Syria or the Transjordan. It is thought to have emerged some distance away from Galilee and Jerusalem: the local geography is sometimes muddled, and Aramaic is presented with translations, indicating a non-Aramaic-speaking audience, and thus likely a non-Galilean one. This would also be sometime in the early 60s, or possibly during the Roman-Jewish war, or shortly thereafter – the predictions of hard times to come in chapter 13 can be taken to referring at least in part to the war, then. On the other hand, some scholars take what they see as Mark’s seeming lack of knowledge of the war to indicate it was written before the war, or at least the fall of Jerusalem. A date beyond 75 is unlikely – it is generally agreed that Matthew and Luke, written in the 80s-90s, use Mark as a source, and so it must have been written some years before them. In any case, most scholars think sometim
      e in the 60s is most plausible.

      This community is thought to have consisted mostly of gentiles, possibly with some Jews as well. There’s an interest in showing Jesus’ Jewishness, and some Jewish terminology is assumed as known. On the other hand, the author feels the need to explain some Jewish practices – and is not always correct. Some posit an ongoing conflict between the community and mainstream Jewish authorities that is revealed in the presentation and attitude of those authorities in Mark.

      An alternative scholarly explanation is closer to the traditional account. This theory would have it written during persecutions under Nero – so sometime mid to late 60s, or shortly thereafter, in Rome, or at least somewhere in a western part of the Empire. This would explain the themes of persecution and of failure being overcome – it’s addressed, so to speak, to a currently or recently persecuted community. Proponents of this view argue that Latin loanwords and Latinisms are evidence for this, and may argue that the traditional church account is an embellishment of reality.

      So, there’s Mark. It’s the earliest of the canonical gospels. It’s presented as good news – but it is, on the face of it, a story of misunderstanding and seeming failure – yet, in the end, victory; to interpret it as a story of failure is to misunderstand. Scholars differ over the reasons for this, which tie into the provenance of the document – which scholars differ over as well. Regardless of these issues, Mark’s narrative is a story of unexpected, surprising victory despite confusion and defeat. Next time we’ll look at the “synoptic problem” (the relationship between Mark on the one hand and Matthew and Luke on the other – scholars overwhelmingly think both used Mark as a source) and the Gospel of Matthew itself.

      (If there are any errors, please let me know, ideally within 55 minutes so I can edit. As an aside, I apologize if this installment is especially confusing or muddled: I was faced with the choice between discussing Mark without prior introduction to every scholarly point I’d need as a basis and at least one or two Bible-less installments, and took the former. There’s stuff I’m discussing in later installments that would be useful here; every New Testament/Early Christian Writings intro textbook I’ve seen does half a dozen or so chapters of intro before even touching Mark, but the entire series has been book-by-book, and I decided to keep the pattern.)

      • Nick says:

        Aramaic is presented with translations, indicating a non-Aramaic-speaking audience, and thus likely a non-Galilean one.

        My impression from when my class translated John is that this was due to accidental inclusion of scholia by scribes—is that wrong? Or is there something about Mark that suggests these were in the original?

        Did not notice any typos.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’ll do a sweep of my books to see if it says anything of this. I think the translations of Aramaic are in the earliest copies of Mark we have and are consistent, is the reasoning, but I’ll doublecheck.

          • Nick says:

            Thanks. Just to get an idea where I’m getting it from, it was mentioned several times by my professor, and I believe it appeared in one of our books, Metzger & Ehrman’s The Text of the New Testament. I.IV.(7) is about scholia, glancing at the table of contents on Amazon.

      • SamChevre says:

        One intriguing thing about the Mark is how much focus Peter gets, and how much he comes across as both dense and impulsive–he’s the guy who always has a suggestion which is almost never the right one.

        • Aron Wall says:

          This is particuarly interesting if, as Christian tradition claims, the Gospel originates from Peter’s own reminiscences!

        • dndnrsn says:

          The simplest explanation to me is that it’s incorporating historical fact: Peter was the “head guy” among the earliest followers.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s one of the reasons you wonder “how on earth did this ever get off the ground?” because Peter is very much presented not as the ideal inspiring heroic leader who naturally was chosen by Jesus to be head of the brethren because of his sterling qualities, he’s the guy who jumps in with both feet first before looking 🙂

          The most famous example of this is probably in Matthew 16 where it goes directly from Peter being praised by Jesus to being called Satan for his getting the wrong end of the stick:

          13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

          21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

          Even the legend of his execution contrasts with Paul’s heroic litany of suffering for the faith; Peter flees and has to be directly reminded of his duties to the Church:

          The work depicts a scene featured in the apocryphal Acts of Peter. Saint Peter, while fleeing Rome along the ancient Via Appia, meets Christ outside the city, who is walking in the opposite direction towards the city, carrying his cross. Peter asks him, Domine, quo vadis? The question is in Latin and means “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replies, Eo Romam iterum crucifigi, which means: “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.”

          The scene as catalogued in the apocryphal Acts of St. Peter, describes Peter who is fleeing Rome at the time of Emperor Nero’s persecution. This encounter is reminiscent of Peter’s denial, when Peter chose to deny Jesus three times during his passion and crucifixion. Apostle Peter realizes that he is on his way to making the same mistake all over again now, abandoning Jesus and his church in a moment of danger. Peter turns around when he understands that this was a sign, and returns to Rome to face the martyrdom.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            It’s interesting to note that “Peter” was not anyone’s name until Jesus renamed Simon (c.f. my vague recollection of Don Knuth’s 3:16 Bible Texts Illuminated). Not only does Jesus say that Simon will be the rock on which he builds his church; he straight up gives him the name “rock” (or possibly “stone” or “jewel”) in Aramaic; which translates to “Petrus” in Latin and “Peter” in English.[wikipedia]

          • dndnrsn says:

            I like the image of the nickname being “Rocky”, myself.

      • hls2003 says:

        Quick comment to say that I always enjoy this series. Thank you for writing it. Whether I agree or not, I often learn something.

        One claim I have encountered in prior years is that, due to Mark’s “uncertain” ending (which is always noted in modern translations), Mark’s text does not actually support the concept of the Resurrection, i.e. “the earliest and most reliable Gospel doesn’t even have Jesus rising from the dead.” This always seemed absurd to me, as the text clearly intends to refer to it, through the women at the tomb, foreshadowings of Jesus, etc. It’s certainly not the same detailed narrative as the other synoptics, but the concept seems clear. I infer from your comment that the scholarly consensus would agree that Mark’s text is intending – even if more obliquely – to support a Resurrection narrative?

        • dndnrsn says:

          Thanks!

          Regarding that claim, the impression I get is that most everyone thinks Mark as we have it now supports a resurrection narrative, or at least a narrative where the resurrection features. I think there’s speculation about early Markan stuff without a resurrection, but the really speculative reconstructions are pretty arcane. I see no particularly compelling reason not to think that the author of Mark didn’t hold those beliefs, given they’re attested earlier than Mark.

        • Aron Wall says:

          Yeah, even if we throw out the longer ending, Mark 14:26 and 16:7 seem to pretty clearly imply that there are going to be resurrection appearences to the disciples, even if they haven’t happened yet by the time the document closes.

          (Although then the document ends with the word “gar” (because) which is rather a strange construction. Perhaps the original ending looked a bit more like Matthew 28? Jesus meeting the disciples on a mountain in Galilee would fit quite nicely with what is predicted in Mark 16:7. On the other hand, ending the Gospel with the women confused and fearful would in some ways fit the somewhat avant guarde tone of the rest of the Mark, who evidently didn’t believe things should be over-explained and made too easy. (Compare to his account of why Jesus tells parables.)

          One thing to note textually is that we have fewer copies of Mark than the other 3 gospels (but still a lot more than most ancient documents)–presumably it was less popular because most of its material is covered in Matthew.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Mark is possibly the least-loved Gospel for Christian use – completely opposite to the place Mark gets in secular scholarship. Not only does Matthew cover much of the same stuff, Mark is rough and weird.

          • marshwiggle says:

            I’m only speaking for a few particular segments of Christianity, but the places I’ve been Mark sees a lot of use. It’s the most common book people suggest that a non-believer or a new believer should read. It’s often the go to book if someone is looking to teach through a whole book if that sort of class or sermon series is starting up for the first time in a church. Admittedly that is sometimes just because it is the shortest gospel. Still, that makes it a bit of a Schelling point for a variety of purposes.

            Also, for people who know the contents of the Bible fairly well, the rough and weird is a good thing. It can be used to get around people’s ‘I already know this stuff’ and general complacency with the faith.

            On the other hand, I used link text to find that Chrysostom referenced Matthew 6766 times, and Mark 934 times. Admittedly, I chose an early Christian for whom I remembered an imbalance, but Chrysostom isn’t exactly a minor figure.

      • S_J says:

        I’ll join with the others: thanks for posting these.

        When I read Mark, it was after I read Matthew. (I was young, and reading the Gospels in the traditional order-presented.) So I felt like Mark was a condensed version of Matthew. It seemed that every story was given in a shortened form.

        Even if Mark was written first, it does give the feeling of compressed narrative. Most descriptions and settings are given with very little detail.

        But many transitions are given as “immediately”, or “early the next morning”. Occasionally, the transition is “three days laterr”. But wherever a scene-change or new event can be introduced as “immediately”, or “shortly afterwards”, it is given in that way.

        Almost as if the author wanted the reader/listener to keep going until they finished the book.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Almost as if the author wanted the reader/listener to keep going until they finished the book.

          Koine Greek was a vulgar dialect, and that immediacy and repetition of transitions is common in the Gospels/Acts. I’ve heard professors describe the style as “A lower-class person you met outside a store telling you about the miracle their friend saw.”

          • Tenacious D says:

            That’s a memorable description!

          • MereComments says:

            A minor tangent from the main thread (which is brilliant, btw): The most devastating shade I think Nietzsche ever gave Christianity wasn’t any “God is dead” spiel, but his assertion (and I’m paraphrasing) that it was tragic that when God chose to spread his Word to the world, it was in vulgar Greek, and that even then, he wasn’t very good at it!

          • Enkidum says:

            To be fair Nietzsche himself was a terrible poet. There’s a nice bit in Kaufman’s introduction to his translation of Thus Spoke Zarathustra where he says something along the lines of “some people have argued that the terrible poetry was a deliberate spoof, intended to indicate blah blah blah – either way, it is terrible.”

        • dndnrsn says:

          Mark’s narrative is very brisk. The Greek is pretty rough but the narrative isn’t artless, either. In addition to what LMC pointed out – that’s a good comparison, and I’ve probably heard profs say or read in books something similar. I really like Mark’s immediacy. The Gospels in general don’t have especially complicated Greek, nor the New Testament in general. If you study Koine Greek in a New Testament context, probably by the fourth semester you’ll just be doing noncanonical stuff, Hellenistic philosophy, etc. The stuff in the NT just doesn’t go past a certain level.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The distinctive element of Mark compared to the other gospels, strong enough to be evident even if one is reading Mark on its own, is the degree of secrecy and misunderstanding surrounding Jesus’ identity. First, Jesus keeps his identity secret: …
        Why is this? One common and classic explanation of the “messianic secret” is simply that it was a concoction. In this theory, Jesus did not, in fact, consider or present himself to be the messiah. This supposedly only happened after his death, when his followers proclaimed him to be such. The attempts at secrecy are written into the gospel to explain how Jesus was, and knew himself to be, the messiah but did not proclaim himself to be. However, within Mark’s narrative, there’s a clear alternative function to the messianic secret: Jesus is indeed the messiah, but not the kind of messiah that people are expecting. The secrecy, then, is intended to prevent misconceptions. It’s possible to carry this further and say that the version we get in Mark was original, and not a creation of Mark’s narrative. Jesus thought himself to be the messiah, but his understanding of the messiah’s role didn’t fit most people’s concept of the messiah. Accordingly, he kept quiet.

        This seems like one of the stronger argument for Markan Priority. There’s one other that sticks in my mind, but I’ll have to wait for Luke to contextualize it.

        Not accepting the prior that Mark made it up, we’re left with Jesus keeping a secret to not be misunderstood. Well no wonder: Judea was a theo-political powder keg, and the Messiah was expected to be a politically powerful mortal whose special relationship with God let him change the world in favor of the Jews… like Joshua, whose name is rendered in Greek as Jesus. Note how the traitor apostle goes by the name Judas Iscariot, probably originally Sicarius. Jesus was the Messiah, and the Messiah was not a terrorist, which could be a hard pill to swallow for monotheists being oppressed by a pagan outgroup with its soldiers and tax farmers.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I talk about synoptic stuff next time, so unless it’s really Luke-specific, probably you can bring it up then.

        • Aron Wall says:

          While the weirdness of Mark contributes to some extent to arguments that Mark was written first, I think there is a lot more evidence from comparing the texts to Matthew and Luke, both of which incorporate substantial portions of Mark.

          For example, it’s a lot easier to see why Matthew would summarize incidents from Mark and then add new material, rather than why Mark would systematically remove teachings from Matthew and then augment the vingettes slightly, and it would be even weirder for Mark to just write down the “common factor” betwen Matthew and Luke.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Especially because Mark doesn’t write down the common factor between Matthew and Luke. The weirdness of Mark suggests earliness in contrast to the de-weirding that appears to happen with Matt and Luke.

      • Aron Wall says:

        Another possible take on the “Messianic secret”, especially when he tells people not to report their healing miracles, is that it was a technique used by Jesus to avoid drawing too much attention to his ministry too quickly (since he knew what the final result would be, and wanted to have as much time as possible). A technique that to significant extent failed, since people blabbed their big mouths anyway:

        Jesus sent [a man healed of leprosy] away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1:43-45)

        (Of course, it is just as arrogant to go around hinting that you are the Son of God, as it is to proclaim it openly.)

        Another noteworthy feature of Mark in particular, is the large role it gives to Jesus’ expression of emotions. He is constantly portrayed as indignant or sorrowful or amazed or distressed or pitying people. This is, I think, particularly remarkable in that the prevailing ethical systems as the time in the Greek world tended to admire Stoic figures who were able to keep their emotions in check, and Jesus comes across as a very different kind of role model.

        About dating:

        it is generally agreed that Matthew and Luke, written in the 80s-90s, use Mark as a source, and so it must have been written some years before them.

        I thought it was mostly the other way around, and Matthew and Luke are usually dated so late because they have to have been after Mark. (Although it is unclear why a 10-20 years gap would have be necessary in the Roman Empire, which had quite good travel and communication systems in place.)

        On the other hand, the author feels the need to explain some Jewish practices – and is not always correct.

        What does he get wrong, specifically? Our best source of knowledge of Jewish oral law is the Talmud, but that was written down centuries later so there might have been some evolution since the first century.

        About authorship, you write:

        The traditional account of the provenance of Mark was established at the latest by the end of the second century at the latest, and possibly as early as the beginning of that century: the author was a follower of Peter who wrote down an account of Jesus’ life based on his recollection of Peter’s preaching.

        You are presumably referring to the testimony of Papias, who wrote that John the Elder (who he said was one of the original disciples of Jesus, although possibly not the same as John of the Twelve Apostles) told him this; and also the testimony of Iranaeus, a few decades later. One could combine this with the absence of any contradictory authorship reports, and the fact that our earliest manscripts of Mark do have his name attached, making it at least plausible that his name was always associated with the gospel.

        Now here’s the thing. This may be somewhat more indirect than the usual ways we attribute authorship to modern writers. But it is by no means unusual for ancient authorship, that we work out their authorship through later traditions like this. It’s just a feature of the fact that only a few important texts survive from the period. If one doesn’t accept this sort of external evidence, then quite a lot of the authorship attributions of other ancient texts, ones that are generally taken for granted by scholars, would need to be discarded as well.

        One thing one definitely cannot say (I know you didn’t claim this, but a lot of skeptical people do), is because the earliest explicit reference we currently have to the authorship of Mark is in the early 2nd century, that it must have been anonymous before that. There is, I think, at least as much evidence of Mark’s authorship as one would expect to be there for an ancient historical writer who doesn’t refer to himself in the first person!

        As “internal” arguments against Markan priority, you mention that it looks like Mark was written by somebody outside Jerusalem because the references to geography are sometimes confused (but on the other hand, usually the geography makes perfect sense, it’s not always easy to tell if it is the Gospel writer or the modern scholar who is confused about how people used place names, and if the author didn’t have fairly strong connections to the geographic region you might have expected a lot fewer place descriptions period), and because it explains things to a non-Jewish audience (but that only means that Mark was outside of Jerusalem, or his target audience was, when he wrote the book, both of which are in full accordance with Christian traditions). To be honest, these internal arguments seem like pretty weak sauce compared to the multiple explicit external attributions.

        What I find most remarkable about the Gospels (and particularly in Mark) is the obvious immediacy and vividness of description, which to me strongly suggests it goes back to actual reportage. For example, practical logistical details associated with crowd control. To me as a reader, it gives a very strong sense of this really happened, it isn’t just a made up story. And these sorts of details appear in the supernatural vingettes just as much as in the ones where no miracles occur…

        • dndnrsn says:

          Another possible take on the “Messianic secret”, especially when he tells people not to report their healing miracles, is that it was a technique used by Jesus to avoid drawing too much attention to his ministry too quickly (since he knew what the final result would be, and wanted to have as much time as possible). A technique that to significant extent failed, since people blabbed their big mouths anyway:

          (Of course, it is just as arrogant to go around hinting that you are the Son of God, as it is to proclaim it openly.)

          One thing I maybe should have covered more (this one went long) is some more discussion of the interplay of Jewish and Hellenistic ideas. “Son of God” and “messiah/anointed” would mean different things to each.

          Personally, I like the idea that if he did see himself as (or, if Mark saw him as) the messiah/something close enough that “messiah” describes it best, he was trying to keep it quiet because what he’s trying to do is explain to people that the kingdom of God ain’t gonna be what they expect (this is a Very Scholarly idea and goes with a lot of the sayings scholarship, esp. parables). In going with that, the messiah-figure ain’t going to be what they expect. Too much “actually, the thing you thought would be x is going to be the unexpected y” would weird people out too much, y’know?

          Another noteworthy feature of Mark in particular, is the large role it gives to Jesus’ expression of emotions. He is constantly portrayed as indignant or sorrowful or amazed or distressed or pitying people. This is, I think, particularly remarkable in that the prevailing ethical systems as the time in the Greek world tended to admire Stoic figures who were able to keep their emotions in check, and Jesus comes across as a very different kind of role model.

          Yeah. He’s also a lot more “human” in Mark.

          I thought it was mostly the other way around, and Matthew and Luke are usually dated so late because they have to have been after Mark. (Although it is unclear why a 10-20 years gap would have be necessary in the Roman Empire, which had quite good travel and communication systems in place.)

          I think there’s supposed to be internal evidence in Matthew and Luke-Acts. Consider: is Mark going to travel at the speed of letters, or is it going to be limited by the fact that it’s moving through travelling preachers who probably stay a while in places they’re received well and word-of-mouth from normal people? Copying this thing down is a fairly major undertaking, too.

          What does he get wrong, specifically? Our best source of knowledge of Jewish oral law is the Talmud, but that was written down centuries later so there might have been some evolution since the first century.

          The history of Jewish oral law and such is pretty far out of my wheelhouse, but I think that the mainstream since quite some time ago wasn’t the norm yet in the early to mid first century, at least. An example of Mark getting it wrong about Jewish customs is when hand washing comes up in ch 7, it’s ascribed to more than actually had that practice at the time.

          You are presumably referring to the testimony of Papias, who wrote that John the Elder (who he said was one of the original disciples of Jesus, although possibly not the same as John of the Twelve Apostles) told him this; and also the testimony of Iranaeus, a few decades later. One could combine this with the absence of any contradictory authorship reports, and the fact that our earliest manscripts of Mark do have his name attached, making it at least plausible that his name was always associated with the gospel.

          Plausible that there’s an association fairly early on, however, the identifications are still from a while later, and as I recall the Papias tradition as we have it is second hand. I think the traditional credits all run into internal problems, Mark’s the least.

          Now here’s the thing. This may be somewhat more indirect than the usual ways we attribute authorship to modern writers. But it is by no means unusual for ancient authorship, that we work out their authorship through later traditions like this. It’s just a feature of the fact that only a few important texts survive from the period. If one doesn’t accept this sort of external evidence, then quite a lot of the authorship attributions of other ancient texts, ones that are generally taken for granted by scholars, would need to be discarded as well.

          Are secular scholars of the Bible too willing to do this sort of thing? Or are scholars of ancient, classical, etc literature not willing enough? I think it matters more to our interpretation of the Bible who and how wrote the thing; I don’t know how much scholarship appeals to supposed facts about ancient authors to interpret their works, but at the least people aren’t looking to the Iliad and Odyssey for guidance on how to live their lives

          One thing one definitely cannot say (I know you didn’t claim this, but a lot of skeptical people do), is because the earliest explicit reference we currently have to the authorship of Mark is in the early 2nd century, that it must have been anonymous before that. There is, I think, at least as much evidence of Mark’s authorship as one would expect to be there for an ancient historical writer who doesn’t refer to himself in the first person!

          As “internal” arguments against Markan priority, you mention that it looks like Mark was written by somebody outside Jerusalem because the references to geography are sometimes confused (but on the other hand, usually the geography makes perfect sense, it’s not always easy to tell if it is the Gospel writer or the modern scholar who is confused about how people used place names, and if the author didn’t have fairly strong connections to the geographic region you might have expected a lot fewer place descriptions period), and because it explains things to a non-Jewish audience (but that only means that Mark was outside of Jerusalem, or his target audience was, when he wrote the book, both of which are in full accordance with Christian traditions). To be honest, these internal arguments seem like pretty weak sauce compared to the multiple explicit external attributions.

          Do you mean against Markan authorship? Markan priority is about it being the first written and a source for Matthew and Luke. Let me collect a few thoughts about Markan authorship.

          The Papias tradition’s description doesn’t line up with the Gospel’s contents. Papias cites John the Elder as saying that Mark, Peter’s secretary or something similar, wrote down Peter’s teaching anecdotes, with neither Peter nor Mark paying attention to their order. However, the Gospel of Mark as we have it does seem like an ordered document, and it doesn’t contain anything that suggests overmuch it’s derived from Peter’s perspective (he’s important in it, but he was historically important; it has a scene with Peter alone, but it also has scenes with Jesus alone or in front of authorities that Peter could hardly have known about; the bits where Peter is present it isn’t from his perspective).

          Let’s say it was written by Mark. Who’s Mark? It was a common name. You can create a composite figure, but that’s based on coincidence and a pretty common name. (Have you heard of the blogger Scott A.? Cartoonist, computer scientist, and psychiatrist!) What if Mark was written by someone named Mark, perhaps with an association to a western and/or Petrine community, maybe even in Rome with second or limited firsthand experience of Peter? Then the need to make everything nice and tidy that people shows links this guy to other mentions of the name.

          The external evidence is worth considering and looking into, but I think that it’s at most based on something factual.

          What I find most remarkable about the Gospels (and particularly in Mark) is the obvious immediacy and vividness of description, which to me strongly suggests it goes back to actual reportage. For example, practical logistical details associated with crowd control. To me as a reader, it gives a very strong sense of this really happened, it isn’t just a made up story. And these sorts of details appear in the supernatural vingettes just as much as in the ones where no miracles occur…

          Agreed entirely. Mark presents the most ambiguous Jesus – the crowd control is a good example to bring up; the crowd is ambiguous in Mark – Jesus is trying to attract people, but the crowd is presented as at least a hassle and at most a physical danger to him. Compared to the other four, Jesus feels the most like a story about something that happened.

          • marshwiggle says:

            Here’s the whole Papias bit people are talking about, as grabbed from the first translation duckduckgo gave me:

            The Elder also said this, “Mark, being the interpreter of Peter, whatsoever he remembered he wrote accurately, but not however in the order that these things were spoken or done by our Lord. For he neither heard the Lord, nor followed him, but afterwards, as I said, he was with Peter, who did not make a complete [or ordered] account of the Lord’s logia, but constructed his teachings according to chreiai [concise self-contained teachings]. So Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single matters as he remembered them, for he gave special attention to one thing, of not passing by anything he heard, and not falsifying anything in these matters.”

            Similarly, when Papias discusses the role of Peter in shaping the text, he’s not so much saying that Peter wrote the thing. He’s saying that the book of Mark has Peter’s authority as an apostle behind it. The impression I get from Papias is that Mark followed Peter around, Peter taught pericopes to Mark, then Mark remembered them and put them into a book. Those pericopes then, while spoken by an eyewitness, are not first person perspective accounts. The perspective they are written from is not Peter’s. It is God’s, Jesus’ perspective that they are to speak from. Much like Samuel/Kings takes a history from God’s perspective. That also explains the bits that Peter would not have been present for.

            On a side note, I like your point about Scott A, and I would not be surprised if the Mark who wrote Mark and John Mark are two different guys.

            Does anyone want to get into the whole hand washing thing and the complex interplay between what happened during the events of the narrative and what was happening when the narrative was written?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Unless I’m really misunderstanding that passage, I take it to mean the following:

            -Mark wrote down stories about Jesus based on his recollections of Peter’s preaching.
            -This was because he didn’t have firsthand experience, but was with Peter.
            -And Peter didn’t give a biography-like account, instead telling anecdotes from personal experience about Jesus according to what was being taught.

            If you’d been associated with an important person, and were telling an anecdote about them to make a point, you’d probably frame it somehow, right? The Gospel has a “third person omniscient” perspective. We could say that Mark took anecdotes from Peter and fashioned them into that perspective – but that’s more editing than Papias suggests?

          • marshwiggle says:

            The key here is that the pericopes aren’t anecdotes. They are very very much designed to be preached. Quite possibly because Peter himself preached them. Peter considered himself an apostle, someone sent by Jesus, speaking for Jesus. He’s not preaching those pericopes on his own authority. He’s preaching with the authority of Jesus, so if Peter’s preaching went third person about himself that would not surprise me at all.

            Additionally, 3rd person narrative for something you were there for wasn’t considered nearly as weird back then. It makes perfect sense for Peter’s preaching to have been in that perspective.

            If it still strikes you as odd to think about Peter preaching about himself in the 3rd person, consider the Pentateuch. Yeah, I know you don’t think Moses wrote it, but everyone back then thought so. Huge bits of it talk about Moses in the third person, and that’s got to have been a huge influence on the way these guys thought about acceptable preaching and narrative styles.

            As for whether Papias is saying Mark wrote down word for word what Peter said, I’m not sure that’s a good way of thinking about it. Even quoting Scripture people at that time would often paraphrase. Papias is saying Mark didn’t add details or subtract details, not that he used the exact words.

            Still, I don’t think Papias was as aware of the large scale structure in Mark as we are. I think Mark did more editing of Peter’s preaching than Papias knew. Nonetheless, I don’t think someone who had heard Peter’s preaching would say that Mark had made stuff up or left stuff out.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @marshwiggle

            The key here is that the pericopes aren’t anecdotes. They are very very much designed to be preached. Quite possibly because Peter himself preached them. Peter considered himself an apostle, someone sent by Jesus, speaking for Jesus. He’s not preaching those pericopes on his own authority. He’s preaching with the authority of Jesus, so if Peter’s preaching went third person about himself that would not surprise me at all.

            I think I’m using “anecdote” more broadly than you. I’d call any brief story told about someone or something an anecdote. This might be too broad.

            Additionally, 3rd person narrative for something you were there for wasn’t considered nearly as weird back then. It makes perfect sense for Peter’s preaching to have been in that perspective.

            If it still strikes you as odd to think about Peter preaching about himself in the 3rd person, consider the Pentateuch. Yeah, I know you don’t think Moses wrote it, but everyone back then thought so. Huge bits of it talk about Moses in the third person, and that’s got to have been a huge influence on the way these guys thought about acceptable preaching and narrative styles.

            Not that it’s in the third person, but that it doesn’t seem like something that was originally from Peter’s perspective changed (by Peter or by Mark) to third person because that was their model. There’s stuff in there that could be from Peter – but does the document as a whole seem like something distilled from Peter’s reminisces, etc?

            As for whether Papias is saying Mark wrote down word for word what Peter said, I’m not sure that’s a good way of thinking about it. Even quoting Scripture people at that time would often paraphrase. Papias is saying Mark didn’t add details or subtract details, not that he used the exact words.

            I take it as saying that Papias is indicating that Mark is out of order because Peter’s preaching didn’t place the events of Jesus’ life in order. Could read that as including, and Mark reordered things to form a narrative, but that’s a bit of a reach maybe. The Gospel as we have it is an ordered, coherent account forming a narrative – Mark isn’t much of a Greek stylist but his plotting is good; the story makes sense and moves along at a decent clip (Mark was better at interpreting and making a story out of someone else’s notes than Benioff and Weiss, arf arf).

            Still, I don’t think Papias was as aware of the large scale structure in Mark as we are. I think Mark did more editing of Peter’s preaching than Papias knew. Nonetheless, I don’t think someone who had heard Peter’s preaching would say that Mark had made stuff up or left stuff out.

            How much of Mark would you say comes from Peter, and at what remove?

          • Aron Wall says:

            First of all, doh! I meant to write Marcan authorship instead of Marcan priority. (If we were discussing Marcan priority, then I do think there is very strong internal evidence for it in the canonical Gospels)

            In going with that, the messiah-figure ain’t going to be what they expect. Too much “actually, the thing you thought would be x is going to be the unexpected y” would weird people out too much, y’know?

            It seems pretty clear on almost any view (except maybe one that throws out almost everything in the Gospels), that Jesus had a very different idea of what Messiahship would entail than the other Jews at the time did.

            Yeah. He’s also a lot more “human” in Mark.

            Yes although he hardly comes across as inhuman in any of the Gospels. By comparison, the Gospel of John, which has the “highest” (or most obviously high) Christology, emphasizes his physical neediness more than any of the other Gospels. That’s why we have 4, becauase no one Gospel could capture every element of his personality.

            An example of Mark getting it wrong about Jewish customs is when hand washing comes up in ch 7, it’s ascribed to more than actually had that practice at the time.

            How do we know what the 1st century practices were in different groups, here?

            As for Papias, yes we only have fragments quoted by other tests today. The one quoted by marshwiggle is preserved by Eusebius, who also quotes this fragment:

            I shall not hesitate also to put into ordered form for you, along with the interpretations, everything I learned carefully in the past from the elders and noted down carefully, for the truth of which I vouch. For unlike most people I took no pleasure in those who told many different stories, but only in those who taught the truth. Nor did I take pleasure in those who reported their memory of someone else’s commandments, but only in those who reported their memory of the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the Truth itself. And if by chance anyone who had been in attendance on the elders arrived, I made enquiries about the words of the elders—what Andrew or Peter had said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and John the Elder, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from the books would profit me as much as information from a living and surviving voice.

            This fragment makes it clear that Papias believed himself to be well connected to the original apostolic traditions, and also makes clear that Papias thought John the Elder, one of his living sources, was a direct disciple of Jesus (although it seems to distinguish him from the John the Apostle in the earlier portion).

            I’ve read at least one scholars argue that the Greek of “not however in the order” actually meant that there might be gaps, not that the incidents are out of chronological order. But they might well also be out of chronological order, some of them. Mark seems to have pretty clear opinions on what days things happened at least on the last week of Jesus’ life though. I don’t feel like the Papias description of Mark fits that badly with the text we have (his statement that Matthew originally wrote in “Hebrew letters” is far more problematic).

            However, the Gospel of Mark as we have it does seem like an ordered document, and it doesn’t contain anything that suggests overmuch it’s derived from Peter’s perspective

            Huh? Virtually everything in the document, except for a few isolated events, are incidents that Peter would have been present for. It has two incidents witnessed by only Peter, James, and John. And his questions and statements, realization of Jesus’ identity and rebuke by him, and denial of Christ frame major aspecrs of the book. Yes, it’s written in the omniscient 3rd person, but that would be very natural if it was written by Mark rather than being a word-for-word record of Peter’s sermons. Yes, not everything is events Peter would be there for, but this is a biography of Jesus, not a biography of Peter. Of course any reasonable person writing a biography of Jesus would make sure to put in his trial scene, even if Mark (or Peter) had to get that from another source. So I don’t get this claim at all.

            I think there’s supposed to be internal evidence in Matthew and Luke-Acts. Consider: is Mark going to travel at the speed of letters, or is it going to be limited by the fact that it’s moving through travelling preachers who probably stay a while in places they’re received well and word-of-mouth from normal people? Copying this thing down is a fairly major undertaking, too.

            I’m assuming that the apostles and their associated were sufficiently well connected, that somebody important in the group who wanted to write a gospel would probably have a copy of Mark relatively early in this process. I don’t think these things diffused impersonally like food color spreading in water, this was a semi-organized community that shared gossip, and the first written Gospel account of Jesus’ life would have been pretty hot stuff! 2 years is quite long enough for somebody on the opposite end of the Roman Empire to hear that the Gospel of Mark exists and to travel to where it is.

            I also think there is decent reason to think that Luke/Acts were written before Paul’s martyrdom in the 60s, but we can discuss that later in your Luke segment.

            Are secular scholars of the Bible too willing to do this sort of thing? Or are scholars of ancient, classical, etc literature not willing enough?

            I think this depends somewhat on what period of scholarship you ask the question about; I gather that at one time there was a fad for attributing ancient documents to multiple psudonymous sources which has since dried up/been discredited outside of biblical criticism.

            There are certainly nonreligious classical works that are believed to be psudonymous, but I believe that as a general rule scholars today are usually willing to accept relatively early attestation of authorship as good evidence for the authorship in question.

            I think it matters more to our interpretation of the Bible who and how wrote the thing; I don’t know how much scholarship appeals to supposed facts about ancient authors to interpret their works, but at the least people aren’t looking to the Iliad and Odyssey for guidance on how to live their lives

            Aye, there’s the rub, isn’t it? Apologetically inclined believers such as myself have an obvious motivate to overstate the evidence for the reliability of the Gospels—when perhaps it would be better to allow the Holy Spirit to do more of the work of convicting people. (Today is the Feast of Pentecost, so I’d better give the Spirit due credit.) But those who would like to minimize the Gospels’ impact on their lives have an equally obvious, IMHO, motivation to distance themselves from the text. And this latter desire is not completely absent even in those who identify as Christian—sitting in judgement of the text is one way to try to avoid having the text judge you! And anyone who regularly reads the text as part of their professional career has a special need for such defenses.

            Personally though I think it is not a completely healthy thing for biblical critics to have their own isolated bubble of professional judgement which has different standards of evidence than the rest of ancient history. If we really want to determine where the historical evidence lies on a matter as emotionally and spiritually charged as this, wouldn’t it be safest to first calibrate our judgement using more ideologically neutral examples, that put less passion into play? Then we can see what those examples would imply about this one.

        • Aron Wall says:

          With respect to my last point, a choice quote by C.S. Lewis:

          First then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading. It sounds a strange charge to bring against men who have been steeped in these books all their lives. But that may be just the trouble. A man who has spent his youth and manhood in the minute study of the New Testament texts and of other people’s studies of them,whose literary experience of those texts lacks any standard of comparison such as can only grow from a wide and deep and genial experience of literature in general, is, I should think, very likely to miss the obvious things about them. If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavor; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel.

          “Fern-Seed and Elephants”

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Aron Wall

          Yes although he hardly comes across as inhuman in any of the Gospels.

          Not inhuman, but Mark feels the most… I’m not sure what word to use. Three-dimensional?

          How do we know what the 1st century practices were in different groups, here?

          First-century or similar Jewish sources that are out of my wheelhouse/above my pay grade. I think, however, that the hand-washing was an oral-tradition Pharisaic thing, and they didn’t really get a lot of clout until after the second Temple was destroyed. They were the biggest on oral tradition, as I understand it.

          This fragment makes it clear that Papias believed himself to be well connected to the original apostolic traditions, and also makes clear that Papias thought John the Elder, one of his living sources, was a direct disciple of Jesus (although it seems to distinguish him from the John the Apostle in the earlier portion).

          I’ve read at least one scholars argue that the Greek of “not however in the order” actually meant that there might be gaps, not that the incidents are out of chronological order. But they might well also be out of chronological order, some of them. Mark seems to have pretty clear opinions on what days things happened at least on the last week of Jesus’ life though. I don’t feel like the Papias description of Mark fits that badly with the text we have (his statement that Matthew originally wrote in “Hebrew letters” is far more problematic).

          Huh? Virtually everything in the document, except for a few isolated events, are incidents that Peter would have been present for. It has two incidents witnessed by only Peter, James, and John. And his questions and statements, realization of Jesus’ identity and rebuke by him, and denial of Christ frame major aspecrs of the book. Yes, it’s written in the omniscient 3rd person, but that would be very natural if it was written by Mark rather than being a word-for-word record of Peter’s sermons. Yes, not everything is events Peter would be there for, but this is a biography of Jesus, not a biography of Peter. Of course any reasonable person writing a biography of Jesus would make sure to put in his trial scene, even if Mark (or Peter) had to get that from another source. So I don’t get this claim at all.

          This is my take, not a scholarly one – Mark just doesn’t seem to me as something where Peter is a “viewpoint character” but this is a personal take.

          I’m assuming that the apostles and their associated were sufficiently well connected, that somebody important in the group who wanted to write a gospel would probably have a copy of Mark relatively early in this process. I don’t think these things diffused impersonally like food color spreading in water, this was a semi-organized community that shared gossip, and the first written Gospel account of Jesus’ life would have been pretty hot stuff! 2 years is quite long enough for somebody on the opposite end of the Roman Empire to hear that the Gospel of Mark exists and to travel to where it is.

          Well connected how? Anti-Christian authors described Christianity as a religion for slaves, the poor, women, etc. I will admit that the really early development is not my area – it’s pretty speculative, and the last time I cracked a book on it, I was quickly eyerolling at confident statements that one could find the “original” Q and Mark strata etc.

          I also think there is decent reason to think that Luke/Acts were written before Paul’s martyrdom in the 60s, but we can discuss that later in your Luke segment.

          At the rate I write these, Luke-Acts should be sometime next month.

          I think this depends somewhat on what period of scholarship you ask the question about; I gather that at one time there was a fad for attributing ancient documents to multiple psudonymous sources which has since dried up/been discredited outside of biblical criticism.

          There are certainly nonreligious classical works that are believed to be psudonymous, but I believe that as a general rule scholars today are usually willing to accept relatively early attestation of authorship as good evidence for the authorship in question.

          Attestation is evidence for, but there’s other external evidence against, and internal evidence against. Mark’s the one where I’d attach the most significance to the traditional attestation – I suspect it is an exaggeration of a relatively tight actual link to Peter, and I think the “composed in Rome/the western Empire” idea has some legs to it. The other attributions drag my estimate of the early Church’s accuracy regarding Mark; if it was just Mark and maybe Luke, I could buy that, especially with a little “they overspecified and goosed the details because that’s what people did in the Olden Days, and there’s still plenty of examples today” thrown in. The early church’s assignment of John and Matt are far less credible, and my assessment of the “package deal” of all 4 traditional explanations of authorship being correct is extremely low.

          Aye, there’s the rub, isn’t it? Apologetically inclined believers such as myself have an obvious motivate to overstate the evidence for the reliability of the Gospels—when perhaps it would be better to allow the Holy Spirit to do more of the work of convicting people. (Today is the Feast of Pentecost, so I’d better give the Spirit due credit.) But those who would like to minimize the Gospels’ impact on their lives have an equally obvious, IMHO, motivation to distance themselves from the text. And this latter desire is not completely absent even in those who identify as Christian—sitting in judgement of the text is one way to try to avoid having the text judge you! And anyone who regularly reads the text as part of their professional career has a special need for such defenses.

          I guess my take on this is kind of weird. I think the Gospels – Mark, at least, and Q – are actually pretty reliable, by the standards of the ancient world, and even of our own time (I don’t want to get CW, but I put a higher % on a first-century Jewish religious leader having been raised from the dead, than on some things people are trying to sell me today). I think the gospels have had a big impact on me, personally – and I think the perspective in there is worth considering.

          Personally though I think it is not a completely healthy thing for biblical critics to have their own isolated bubble of professional judgement which has different standards of evidence than the rest of ancient history. If we really want to determine where the historical evidence lies on a matter as emotionally and spiritually charged as this, wouldn’t it be safest to first calibrate our judgement using more ideologically neutral examples, that put less passion into play? Then we can see what those examples would imply about this one.

          Sure, I would support this wholeheartedly. Bit of a hard sell in a university right now, but in theory, it would be very interesting to see what happens. Maybe for something lower budget you could swap subjects? Idea: the Shakespeare scholars can take the Bible and try to support traditional credits; the Biblical scholars can go conclude that Shakespeare’s canon was actually written by seven and a half different people.

          • hls2003 says:

            Idea: the Shakespeare scholars can take the Bible and try to support traditional credits; the Biblical scholars can go conclude that Shakespeare’s canon was actually written by seven and a half different people.

            Maybe this was your point and I’m just restating it, but in my recollection that’s more-or-less what happened, albeit with fields of study rather than scholars. There was a fashion, a century or so ago, for critical scholars to dissect Shakespearean works and detect different authors, some positing a single alternative person (e.g. Bacon, Marlowe, Raleigh) and others a mass of alternative authors. Whereas modern Shakespearean scholarship in the last 20-30 years seems much more strongly on board with “the far, far, far likeliest scenario is that it was William Shakespeare and all the rest of this arcane textual analysis is just castles in the air.” That is, they basically went back to regular historical assessment standards instead of “Shakespearean author hypothesis” standards, and found the standards strongly favored the Bard’s authorship.

            It seems to me that the question is whether Biblical scholarship has ever had that same kind of moment of re-examining their authorship standards. I agree with you that it would be interesting to see it flipped. But I also rather agree with Aron Wall that I’m not entirely convinced that Biblical scholarship isn’t still stuck in the prior mode, and has escaped re-examination in part because interest in the traditional model has waned along with religious practice.

    • Telminha says:

      +1.

  8. johan_larson says:

    Here’s a couple of videos about two friends (Graham and Brenden) who take the Lakeshore Limited, Amtrak’s overnight sleeper service from Chicago to Boston. They report a very positive experience, and the train does look quite nice. It’s cheaper than a flight plus a hotel room, too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNHZw5GovBw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBYl9-KmFz8

    • BBA says:

      I don’t feel like sitting through those videos, but I do have a certain fondness for sleeper trains and I’d like to ride one again someday. I took the Silver Meteor once as a child, and on a visit to the UK I rode the Caledonian Sleeper between London and Edinburgh. Sleepers are obsolete, of course, like ocean liners and Pan Am’s luxurious “Clipper” planes of the pre-jet age, but there’s a certain romance to traveling more slowly.

      I will point out that governmental subsidies for Amtrak are the only reason why taking a sleeper train can be cheaper than a flight and a hotel, and those only apply to lesser-used routes. On the Acela and Northeast Regional that run between Boston and Washington, which between them have more riders than every sleeper train combined, fares are much higher. (According to the official numbers from Amtrak, the Northeast trains are profitable, but the Rail Passengers Association says those books have been cooked. But even if Northeast riders aren’t paying the full cost of the trains, we’re still paying a lot. Every so often I decide to save money and take a bus instead, and inevitably conclude afterwards that the train is worth it.)

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I don’t feel like sitting through those videos

        To my surprise, I ended up playing though both of them. Not gonna say I paid full attention, but the guys are very watchable.

    • LesHapablap says:

      I took the Amtrak sleeper trains all over the US as a kid and I still have fond memories of it. I took one recently and it was exactly the same: same smells, same everything. I half-hope that they are still around when I have kids to take trips on.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      My wife and I just last month took a sleeper train from Toronto to Vancouver. Obviously not Amtrak, but instead ViaRail. The train itself was the vacation, and most of our fellow passengers were there for the same reason, not because they wanted to get from Toronto to Vancouver. The train was nice, but it was a long time to be on a train (4 days, Canada is a big country). It was interesting to see the countryside.

  9. Tenacious D says:

    In case anyone is interested, I wrote a blog post with some rough calculations on a UBI (basically adapting Andrew Yang’s plan to the Canadian province where I live and seeing how the numbers sketched out). I’m personally skeptical about a UBI but tried to go with middle of the road assumptions where applicable. Going through the exercise slightly changed my view about the affordability of a UBI (iff it doesn’t create counterproductive incentives that drag the whole economy down), from very infeasible to infeasible.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Just wanted to quick comment that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I especially liked the comments/disclaimers about second order effects – basically maked any comment I wanted to add redundant 😀

      Actually, no, there is one comment that still stays. Let’s say it’s (barely) doable, the math works and UBI is doable. Do we really want it, at this cost? We’re talking about something that will visibly affect the living standards of everybody, and not in a good way. It’s not “the rich will buy 9 cars instead of 10 and everybody else gets $1000” – it’s more like “I’ll buy the new pair of jeans next month because they’re expensive”.

      But in the end the big decision factors, for me, are still the second order ones. Especially the political impossibility of removing or decreasing it.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Thanks for the feedback!

        But in the end the big decision factors, for me, are still the second order ones. Especially the political impossibility of removing or decreasing it.

        Agreed. I think there’s bound to be some unknown unknowns lurking in such a dramatic change to society and no matter how many small-scale studies are done, some of them are probably contingent on the “universal” part.

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Ancient Armies & Epistemology

    One thing I love about doing historical fantasy RPGs (as opposed to the normative practice of using a fake world) is that it requires me to research real things. For instance, there’s the different scales of pre-industrial societies and the manpower available to them.
    So I thought it would be interesting to bring up the debate over the Persian field army in 480 BC.
    Herodotus says there were 2.6 million combat troops. Ctesias, who lived at the Persian court 70-odd years later, claimed the army was actually 800,000 men (possibly including support personnel). Almost no modern scholars accept these numbers, indeed some insist on numbers as low as 200,000. A major limiting factor for the size of the Persian army, first suggested in 1930 by Sir Frederick Maurice (a British transport officer) is the supply of water. He estimated the maximum number of people and horses and equivalent animals the local rivers could support was an order of magnitude lower than Herodotus’s number of troops and suggested he may have confused the Persian terms for a unit of 1,000 with 10,000: bringing it down to 260,000 soldiers (but leaving no margin for camp followers and other non-combat support).

    The thing is, if you only analyze the size of the Persian Empire’s army, that’s an isolated demand for rigor. Should we believe, for example, that the Han Dynasty had a field army of 320,000 with which to fight 400,000 armed Xiongnu nomads at the Battle of Baideng?

    • Eric Rall says:

      Assuming that the ability to acquire water locally was the bottleneck strikes me as questionable, especially since land and sea supply lines back to Persian territory figure prominently in accounts of how the campaign played out.

      Specifically, the Persians spent something like four years preparing for the campaign by digging canals and building pontoon bridges to allow their army march and supplies to reach it, and after the Greek victory at the naval Battle of Salamis, the Persians were forced to withdraw most of their army because they weren’t able to keep it supplied without control of the sea routes.

      No doubt most of the supplies in question were rations for the troops and fodder for the animals, but it seems like they could have also been shipping barrels of drinking water across to supplement what the army could forage locally.

      • John Schilling says:

        I am skeptical that anyone was shipping drinking water for an army of 800,000 men (a minimum of 1600 tons per day) without this having been mentioned in contemporary sources and/or leaving a substantial archaeological record e.g. tens of thousands of barrels at a depot somewhere. Is there any indication of such?

        • Eric Rall says:

          Not so far that I’d be aware of. And thank you for doing the back-of-the envelope calculation for a sanity check: delivering 1600 tons of water by day across the Aegean would probably be trivial for a modern military’s logistics corps, but it seems like rather a large amount of cargo for a classical-era military to manage, even a military for a state as large and capable as the Achaemenid Persian Empire on top of food, fodder, etc.

          I couldn’t find numbers for Greek or Persian cargo ships from the era we’re discussing, but a quick googling tells me that a typical Roman cargo ship has a capacity of 100-150 tons. Assuming Persian ships were towards the low end of that, 1600 tons would be 16 shipload a day of water. That doesn’t sound impossible, but it does sound like enough that it would have rated a mention by at least one of Herodotus or Ctesias.

          And I noticed you were being generous with your calculations: it looks like you assumed 1/2 gallon per person per day, which is in “extreme hardship, bare necessity to sustain life” territory.

          And to correct myself: Classical Persians (or Greeks, for that matter) would have probably have used pottery (amphorae or pithoi) rather than barrels. Amphorae and pithoi are all over the place in classical archaeological sites, and they were also used for shipping grain, so after adjusting for reuse (either by the Persians shipping back empties during the campaign or by Greeks looting what the Persians left behind), I’m not sure how surprising it’d be for the Persians to have shipped thousands of tons of water per day to their armies without leaving obvious archaeological evidence.

          • cassander says:

            John Francis Guilmartin’s book “Gunpowder and Galleys” goes fairly in depth into water consumption for galley crews. his calculations are for late medieval and early modern galleys, not ancient, but the problem remains fairly similar. Suffice to say that shipping that much water in galleys would have been extremely difficult, given how little water galleys could hold (you are right about amphorae being far less efficient) and how much they consumed.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Definitely used pottery to transport wine and water, which then would have been used and reused either in Greece or elsewhere in the Eastern Med. until they broke, becoming the most common archaeological objects. So the only non-textual evidence we could expect is there: the question is how inefficient water amphorae are for galleys (very, it sounds like).

          • DarkTigger says:

            I couldn’t find numbers for Greek or Persian cargo ships from the era we’re discussing, but a quick googling tells me that a typical Roman cargo ship has a capacity of 100-150 tons. Assuming Persian ships were towards the low end of that, 1600 tons would be 16 shipload a day of water.

            You forgot that the water is delivered in amphora which have a wheigt of their own. For what I understand from wikipedia that a 70 Liter amphora weights in at 100 kg. So it is more like 20 ships. All of which need an crew who drink also. And you need to bring the water from the ships to your army inland, so you need ox carts. A quick calculation brings me to ~5000 ox to deliver water to Termophylae (1 ton per cart, 6 ox per cart, each cart makes the route 2 to 3 times a day).
            Each of this ox need ten times the water a human does. So we need another 100 tons of water, so more ships, more oxen more crew.

            But as you said, 1/2 gallon (2.2 liters) of water a day per person, in mediteranian heat, marching and fighting, might be a little optimistic, so even more ships and animals… soon every singel one of the 2.6 million people Herodotus wrote about does nothing but hauling water. And this is before we feed the troops and the animals.

            Logistic is a bitch.

          • cassander says:

            to provide some specific numbers, medieval galleys were able to carry 1500-1800 gallons of water, which is about 5 tons. The crew, though, would drink that much in 2 weeks (at half a gallon per person per day), so the amount it could actually deliver is considerably less. than 5 tons, since the crew needed to make it out and back, and carrying the water in amphorae would reduce that capacity by as much as 1/3. Of course, the water ferries might have reduced crews, but it seems safe to say that delivering 1600 tons a day would not have been possible. Of course, there wasn’t no water in Greece, so a delivery of 1600 tons might not have been required.

        • DarkTigger says:

          Interesstingly there are archeological sides all over the Sinai were the bronce age egyptian army build water depots before an campaing.

    • bullseye says:

      I remember reading that:

      1. Historians believe that pretty much all ancient figures on army sizes are exaggerated.

      2. That said, Maurice underestimated how much water Greece has; Herodotus’ figure is plausible in the very narrow sense that there would have been enough water.

    • WarOnReasons says:

      bringing it down to 260,000

      That’s comparable to the population of Athens in the same period. How can the limit due to water be much stricter than the size of the Greece population?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Actually it seems that Athens in the 400s BC had a little over 10,000 houses (Xenophon, Mem. iii. 6.14). I don’t know what the residence pattern was, but very probably smaller than a patrilocal family of 26.

      • Protagoras says:

        It sounds like the water theory may have been mistaken, but nonetheless there’s a relatively easy answer to your question; the army needs water all along its route (carrying water for significant distances is impractical), so if there is any long stretch where water availability is limited, they have a problem, even if there are other parts of the route (presumably the more heavily populated parts) where water is plentiful.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Scholars generally tend to conclude that in sources past a certain point (and that certain point is pretty recent) large numbers are often more “lots!” than precise numbers. Army sizes in the ancient world is one example, deaths during plagues in many societies are another. The exaggeration isn’t just absolute, but relative – you can find various European writers during and after the black plague describing it as having killed the vast majority of the population in cities where we know it didn’t.

      My question – do we have any handy rules to estimate the degree of exaggeration? Or is it just, don’t trust old numbers?

      • Protagoras says:

        Well, the Napoleonic wars were before any significant innovations in transport, but involved organization and mobilization on an unprecedented scale. 600,000 men fought at the battle of Leipzig, the largest battle until WWI; one obvious rule is that any ancient source which claims a battle had more participants than Leipzig is unbelievable. But that only gets us so far. The stories of the battle of Alesia don’t quite violate that rule, and we have numbers from Caesar, who in other cases gives numbers that are considered fairly trustworthy. But still, his estimate for Gallic strength at Alesia (of over 300,000) is generally considered unbelievable, probably exaggerated around fourfold. So mostly it’s just don’t trust old numbers.

        • Lillian says:

          Another fun rule of thumb: If anyone claims a battle was more of a lethal meatgrinder than the First Battle of the Marne, it probably wasn’t. The Marne lasted four days and produced over half a million casualties. In order to achieve that butcher’s bill both sides had repeating rifles, machineguns, and quick-firing artillery with shrapnel shells; all deployed against troops that were mostly out in the open since the battle was a huge meeting engagement. It’s not plausible that anyone could pull off that kind of battle slaughter with less sophisticated weapons of war, and nobody has done it since because soldiers know to spread out and dig trenches.

          • CatCube says:

            One thing to recall in this, though, is the Rwandan genocide, committed principally with rifles and machetes. While not quite reaching the 125,000/day rate of the Marne, they did kill nearly a million in some weeks. I’m just saying don’t underestimate what people can accomplish with vision, determination, and simple tools.

          • Lillian says:

            Sure and some of the Mongol massacres were probably up there as well, but that’s why i specifically said, “that kind of battle slaughter”. Murdering unarmed civilians by the job lot is not the same kind of thing as killing armed men who are trying their damnest to kill you back.

          • marshwiggle says:

            But what about battles where one side turned and ran, then got cut down from behind?

          • John Schilling says:

            But what about battles where one side turned and ran, then got cut down from behind?

            If it’s just one side that suffers massive casualties, yes, that’s been credible for at least three thousand years. The winners’ cavalry is probably at least 10% of the losers’ total manpower, and running down a dozen or so fleeing men is an easy afternoon’s work for anyone with a horse and a pointy stick. There’s no fundamental difference between “unarmed civilian” and “soldier who won’t fight back” in this context.

            If the claim is that both sides suffered tens or hundreds of thousands killed in one battle, that calls for skepticism if there aren’t machine guns involved.

    • Protagoras says:

      The thing is, if you only analyze the size of the Persian Empire’s army, that’s an isolated demand for rigor. Should we believe, for example, that the Han Dynasty had a field army of 320,000 with which to fight 400,000 armed Xiongnu nomads at the Battle of Baideng?

      No. Pre-modern sources seem to frequently report impossible army sizes, so we conclude that this is something pre-modern sources frequently exaggerate. Herodotus giving Persia an army that (when support personnel are added) would have amounted to about 5% of the population of the Persian empire is just one example of this frequent pattern. In the case of China, in some cases slightly higher numbers are believable (unusually large, dense population, and huge rivers), but it would be a very exceptional battle in which either side reached 6 digits, even in China.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        No. Pre-modern sources seem to frequently report impossible army sizes, so we conclude that this is something pre-modern sources frequently exaggerate. Herodotus giving Persia an army that (when support personnel are added) would have amounted to about 5% of the population of the Persian empire is just one example of this frequent pattern.

        Yeah, I was trying to say “When treated as a pattern, there’s nothing wrong with this.”
        Indeed, since the majority of pre-modern support personnel, also called camp followers, were women, a field army can be understood as a tent city with a very low percentage of children, with similar limits to a city.

    • beleester says:

      Not isolated, I’ve seen almost exactly this issue before. The Torah has a census that lists the post-Exodus Israelite population at 600,000 able-bodied men (implying a total population in the millions), which is unreasonable for a population of nomads in the Sinai Desert. And biblical scholars have proposed a similar explanation – that “elef” (thousand) had a different meaning in Biblical Hebrew – some sort of small military unit, since the census was of men of fighting age.

      (By some strange kabbalistic coincidence, the census is actually in today’s Torah portion.)

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    In the early 1500s, “the City of the Monkey God” in the New World’s Isthmo-Colombian Area was abandoned by the natives, who thought it was cursed by disease. In 2017, a novelist and other explorers visited the ruins, and a rare flesh-eating disease ate their faces off.
    You may now use this incident to inspire film script or tabletop RPG campaign.

  12. souleater says:

    Personally, I don’t like being anywhere near peanut butter. It’s the strangest thing, I’ve never even eaten peanut butter because it smells so revolting to me. There have been a few times where I tasted peanut butter that was in a cookie or something and spit it out, so I don’t think I’m (too) allergic. I’ll tolerate other legumes like beans, I love other nut butters, but I can’t be in the same room as an open jar of peanut butter.

    Does anyone else have any weird aversions to common foods?

    • acymetric says:

      Banana. I really like actual bananas, but anything banana flavored (candy, etc) or even containing real banana makes me just about gag. Banana pudding? Gross. My mom used to make banana nut bread and the smell permeating the house made me feel nauseous.

      Having said that, you are wrong about peanut butter, one of the best things to ever happen to the human race (to dogs as well, I suppose).

      • souleater says:

        I know! Everyone seems to love peanut butter.. I feel like I’m missing out! I’m a vegetarian too, so if I could tolerate it it would be a great source of protein.

      • RDNinja says:

        I’m actually the opposite. I hate the texture of bananas, but I’m fine with banana-flavored things.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Mustard. Any eggs that aren’t hard boiled. Smell makes me gag.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      I can’t handle the smell of yogurt at all. Like, if someone is in a conference room with me with a bowl of yogurt, I need to move to the opposite end of the room.

      I think I actually appreciate the taste of yogurt in sauces, as long as they aren’t so dominantly yogurt that they smell like it.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Popcorn. Especially because it ends up spilled on the floor and ignored.

      I really really don’t like being near it. I love my wife so when she gets it during a movie I smile.

    • RDNinja says:

      When I was growing up, my mom had been told that heavy peach syrup was good for settling our stomachs when we were sick. Now, even the smell of peaches makes me nauseous.

    • My daughter shares your aversion. As does my older son.

    • Beck says:

      The smell of cantaloupe really bothers me. I don’t have a very good sense of smell normally, but I can barely stand to be a room away from an open cantaloupe.
      I also can’t stand cilantro.

      • AG says:

        Apparently, the cilantro thing has been studied, and shown that it’s genetics.

        It seems that my genes put me on the “carbonated water experienced as pain” side of things, but I still somewhat enjoy sodas (though the flavored water variants are still ugh).
        Similarly, some genes cause some people, including me, to find alcohol quite unpleasant, and unlike with sodas I haven’t been able to find a caveat (or rather, the unpleasantness is far stronger, and so outweighs even the variants with an nice flavor profile).

        • Falacer says:

          I also have both of those I believe, though the aversion to alcohol may just be a function of extremely sensitive tastebuds. Anything fizzy burns my mouth and throat to the point of being undrinkable, and alcohol makes me have a full body shudder and take several seconds after each sip before I stop cringing.

        • RDNinja says:

          I’ve never heard of carbonation being perceived as pain, but I do find it very unpleasant. My parents used to get a kick out of giving me Sprite and telling me it was water, then watching me spew it out when I got a mouthful of fizz.

    • Well... says:

      Canola oil being heated up in a pan reliably produces a gag response from me.

    • bullseye says:

      Most vegetables. It takes an awful lot of mental effort for me to chew and swallow, and then it comes back up.

      • Nick says:

        As a kid I used to be served a side of canned spinach heated in a microwave at meals sometimes, and it was intolerable. I think the smell would still make me gag today. It wasn’t until much later that I learned spinach leaf salads are pretty good—indeed, better than kale and other salad bases.

        • RDNinja says:

          I was the same way with canned spinach as a kid. Spinach salads are still a bit much for me, but fresh spinach on pizza is good.

    • sfoil says:

      I can’t eat green beans. I don’t even like to look at them. I was a picky eater as a kid and eventually got over it, but after an attempt as an early teenager to eat them by swallowing them with milk pill-style resulted in me vomiting, I gave up even trying

      Somewhat recently I was on “starvation rations” (more or less) for a few weeks and tried to eat green beans while I was completely famished. Still couldn’t do it — I started gagging.

      • RDNinja says:

        Even with fresh green beans? My parents never served fresh vegetables, so I disliked a lot of foods because they were always canned. But now I know sauteing them in butter with salt, pepper, and garlic makes them pretty good.

    • Nornagest says:

      Generally not a picky eater at all, but I’m not a big fan of milk or cream in savory foods, particularly soups. Cheese is fine, in fact I love it, but I’ll go out of my way to avoid cream of whatever soup, and I’ll order anything Mexican without sour cream ten times out of ten.

      I’m mildly lactose intolerant, so this might just be self-preservation, but I’m perfectly okay with it in sweet foods (short of horrible intestinal maelstrom), so I think something else is going on.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      Mushrooms. Also molluscs (so octopus, oysters, mussels, snails). Probably a psychological aversion more than a taste thing, since in some of those cases I’ve never tried them, I just know that I don’t want to.

      Also mustard, and horseradish sauce – these register not merely as not-food, but as actively anti-food; substances even a small amount of which will transform food into not-food.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah, the texture of mushrooms is pretty gross. They’re edible in something like a stirfry, but only because they’re mixed with six or seven other things.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Your description matches my reaction to peanut butter when I was young. The aversion lessened very slightly over time and finally disappeared completely in high school, when I was first able to eat and enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

      Now I don’t risk going down the isle with peanut butter at the grocery store, for fear that I’ll buy and jar and eat the entire thing with a spoon the same day.

      It might be that it’s something certain people need to become acclimated to through repeated exposure. I used to hate the smell of coffee, but after becoming a regular drinker a few years ago I find it mildly pleasant.

    • Mustard Tiger says:

      I’m a picky eater, but the thing I can’t tolerate that just about everyone else I know loves is shrimp. If a piece of shrimp has even touched something on my plate, I can detect it and I can’t stand it. It’s not an allergy, I just hate the taste / smell / residue left behind by shrimp.

      • souleater says:

        I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 12/13, and not due to any special environmental or compassionate reason.. I just never particularly liked eating meat. I would eat it when I had to, but as soon as I had the option, I stopped. Your comment about shrimp makes me wonder if there is any connection between the peanut butter thing and the meat thing.

    • kieranpjobrien says:

      Onion, leek, mushroom.

      Can’t stand then being in any food I have. Sure, onion is just about barely tolerable because it’s impossible to avoid in small quantities, but I refuse to cook with any of them, no matter what I’m cooking.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I eat all sorts of tomato products, but raw tomatoes make me want to throw up. On the reverse side. I can’t stand cooked carrots but love them raw.

      I also have an absolute hatred of cilantro, but I already know why that is.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Have you tried carrots pickled with jalapeño? I also don’t like cooked carrots but am not a fan of the super-crunch, and that shit is my JAM.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I love all sorts of tomato products, but despise ketchup. When I was single I had none in my house, which surprised guests.

        (Mustard, too, which is probably related.)

    • Protagoras says:

      I don’t know quite how weird this is, but I have a pretty strong aversion to pretty much anything pickled.

    • Nick P. says:

      Corn-on-the-cob.

      (But not things made from corn, like tortillas and the like.)

      I don’t like the smell of it, I don’t like the texture of it, and the taste is so awful to me that it’ll be a 50/50 between choking it down or throwing up.

      • bullseye says:

        I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but there’s a dish that’s basically corn on the cob but cut off of the cob so it’s just separate kernels. It’s so gross to me even though I like actual corn on the cob.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Huh, I love peanut butter, but my dad and his parents have the same aversion you do.

      My sister loathes tomato sauce.

      Personally, I can’t eat mashed potatoes. I’m fine with you eating them in the same room as me, probably even with them sequestered on a side of my plate that I can avoid, but I will gag as soon as I put them in my mouth. That particular puree texture, I’m incapable of eating it. Ditto for yoghurt and non-chocolate pudding.

  13. Well... says:

    Has anyone else here read the book “Other Minds” by Peter Godfrey-Smith? I’m about 3/4 of the way through and enjoying it very much.

    It’s a book about cephalopods, the evolution of nervous systems, consciousness, and other cool stuff like that.

    • herbert herberson says:

      No but I just read Children of Ruin and I can probably guarantee its author read the book you’re talking about

      • Well... says:

        Can you tell me more?

        • herbert herberson says:

          It’s a book that is about, among other things, octopuses who have been uplifted into being a sentient, spacefaring species. Lots of speculation about how the unique aspects of octopodian neurology would be reflected in their society, their methods of communication, and their individual psychology

  14. Well... says:

    I want to slightly increase my muscle mass and visibly cut my belly fat by mid-August for sibling rivalry reasons; there’s a big family get together happening and swimming is usually an included activity. I’m currently pretty muscly so I’m already winning on that front, but with a t-shirt on it kinda looks like I have a tummy, especially if I don’t stand up real straight. I can suck it in if I need to but I don’t want to need to.

    I have access to a gym with cable machines and freeweights approximately one hour a day, five days a week, which I’ve been utilizing for the past year with good results. I can’t run a lot because shin splints, but I can use an elliptical (never have, but I figure how hard can it be) or a stationary bike, but I haven’t been. Also, for whatever it’s worth, I work at a standing desk most of the time.

    I don’t want to increase my grocery budget, and I care a lot about how my food tastes. I’m not a fan of lizard chicken but I’ll eat it about once every week or two.

    I’ve been making an effort to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night and it’s been going well.

    So based on all that, with the mid-August deadline in mind, what are your diet and exercise recommendations, SSCers?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Short of drugs and surgery, there’s no such thing as targeted reduction of body fat. The only way to reduce the belly fat is to reduce body fat overall, which at least means your grocery bill should go down.

      • Well... says:

        there’s no such thing as targeted reduction of body fat

        Good to know, thanks.

        reduce body fat overall, which at least means your grocery bill should go down

        Remember, I also want to keep putting on muscle. Does your statement still hold true? And if so, what should I be eating?

        • Eric Rall says:

          It’s very hard to do both at the same time, since the catabolic hormones telling your body to metabolize stored fat will be fighting the anabolic hormones telling your muscles to grow. It’s possible if you’re starting out from a very unfit baseline (since in that case it take less to either build muscle or cut fat) or if you have a very favorable level of anabolic hormones (i.e. you’re a teenage boy, or you’re taking steroids).

          Based on my reading of how you’ve described your goals, you’ll probably do the best focusing on losing weight while maintaining as much of your current muscle as possible. You won’t gain muscle during your cut, but you’ll look more muscular because less subcutaneous fat means better muscle definition.

          • Dan L says:

            +1. Simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle is slow at the best of times – it’s almost always more efficient to alternate modes. Six weeks isn’t really enough to get in a full cycle of each, and it’s typically more aesthetically useful to shed pounds.

          • Nornagest says:

            Good news is, put on muscle and you’ll look better, fat or no fat.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If you have six weeks, there is only time for a cut. Reduce your calorie goal slightly below maintenance. Lift a lot to build muscle (or, more likely, to minimize muscle loss during the cut).

    • Incurian says:

      Endurance cardio and abs. Abs are neat because relatively small quantitative increases in strength enable qualitative changes in the kinds of exercises you can do.

      • Well... says:

        OK, so for “endurance cardio and abs” what do you recommend based on my stated constraints?

        • Incurian says:

          Elliptical or bike or whatever, I just suggest doing it for a long time, like 40-60 minutes. The p90x abs video is good iirc.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Endurance is recommended for weight loss only in competition-prep scenarios, i.e. when you caloric deficit is low enough that a couple of hours on the bike are better tolerated than a couple hundred cals less. I doubt you’re there, but just in case, what’s your body fat percentage? Google “body fat percentage” and go to images. Anything over 10 and you’re definitely not close to endurance being worth it over plain diet.

          Incidentally, long term (yes, long term, I couldn’t believe it either) sustainable, best-health, evolution/paleo-supported body fat is… 13%. Yeap, we’re all supposed to look hot.

          (women bf is +10% so for them it would be 20-25%. Also hot.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I can’t really speak too much to your specific goals, other than standing up straight and sucking in your gut is a huge win and becomes pretty much auto-pilot after you’ve been doing it for a while.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      By august? Ketosis is the only way. I think you are going to have to track down references on how to do tasty zero-carb cooking.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Don’t eat bread or any other flour product, rice, potatoes, or anything that’s substantially sweet, I guess. I’m not sure I would want to live like that until August, but I think it’s the most likely thing to do what you want.

    • jgr314 says:

      From other things you have posted, I think you are in the top percentile wrt knowledge of this area among the SSC community. Probably you need to bite the bullet and post in a bodybuilding forum.

    • WashedOut says:

      1. Get your posture sorted. A lot of the appearance of bloated tummy can be lordosis, or anterior pelvic tilt. ATP happens when your lower back muscles are very tight compared to your lower abs. Do exercises that stretch your lower back and strengthen your lower abs.

      2. Fix your diet and get into intermittent fasting. The only time you should be eating sugar and simple carbs is during or immediately post-exercise. Wake up earlier in the morning and do 20-30 mins of fasted cardio (LISS is fine). Black coffee. First meal of the day when you actually really need it. Most of your calories should be coming from lean meats, healthy fats and vegetables. If you go to bed at 10pm, have dinner no later than 7.

      3. Sauna and bikram yoga. Yoga will help with (1), and the heat cycles can speed up your metabolism.

    • deliciousqueso says:

      I have a good bit of expertise here so please listen I can help. Here are some things you should do:
      -buy micronized creatine and take one scoop in the morning seven days a week. Why? It is by far the best muscle building supplement out there, is totally safe, and will help you towards results. Anyone who is lifting weights should be on it.
      -Reduce your calories as much as you tolerably can. Take in as much lean protein as you tolerably can. Reduce your carb intake and make any carbs that you do eat complex carbs rather than simple carbs like bread.
      -In addition to basic lifting (8-12 rep range with short rest), do a BUNCH of weighted oblique exercises. Look these up and choose some that you like. If you stick with these the results will show at the pool.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      If you want to keep putting on muscle, your best bet is Protein Sparing Alternate Day Fasting. Long story short, you pick 1-2-3 days of the week when you only eat minimum protein (1.6 grams per kg of body weight). If you don’t work out every day of the week, put those days before workout days, not after. If you do work out 7/7, do it whenever.

      For example if you take a break on Sunday and have the next workout on Monday at 16:00, protein-sparing-fast from noon on Sunday and have the first meal around 15:00 Monday. Point being that for muscle growth you want caloric equilibrium and plenty of protein, and you want it starting with your workout for 24-72 hours (the more advanced you are, the shorter the window). So you can do both losing weight and putting on muscle over the same week – but not at the same time. Plus alternate day fasting is easier psychologically and equally effective to an averaged caloric restriction diet.

      The other condition is to be in caloric equilibrium the rest of the time. You can do a lot of math, or you can cut all the middlemen and just buy one of these off ebay. Use it only to see if fat is going up or down, nothing else.

    • Another Throw says:

      To what extend is your belly from fat, and what extent is it the result of the weight of your internal viscera pressing against your relaxed abdominal wall causing it to splork outwards?

      As you age and/or become less fit or just have crappy genes, a lot of it comes from the second. This is easily demonstrated by all the guys you see at the gym taking selfies of their beer gut’s with chiseled abs on top. The chiseled abs are from having well developed rectus adbominis muscles and low body fat, but the beer gut look is because they only focus on the rectus instead of the rest of the adbominal muscles that actually keep your viscera from splorking out.

      Do more all around core work and you may be able to get some gains in guttyness by increasing the at-rest tension of your abs (especially, I think, your transverse abdominal muscles). Or practice keeping them slightly tense.

      With this in mind, I have never been able to tell when people talk about “sucking in your gut” they mean tightening the abdominal wall, or lifting your diaphragm to suck your viscera upwards. The former is probably what you’re looking for.

      You can practice keeping them slightly tense by tying a string around your waist—say around naval level—so that when you relax it is a noticeable reminder, but obviously not so tight as to cause any sort of problem.

  15. Deiseach says:

    So the Trumps have been on a quick visit to Ireland (after Britain, before going to the D-Day Commemorations) and whatever about the future American election, Eric and Don Jr. seem to have adopted the “Jim Mohammed Everyman A Vote Is A Pint And A Pint Is A Vote” strategy:

    Two of Donald Trump’s sons received an enthusiastic welcome in Doonbeg during their father’s first presidential visit to Ireland.

    Eric and Donald Junior arrived in the village shortly after 10pm last night to cheers from locals as they swept up in Range Rovers.

    They spoke to several locals, posed for selfies with children and received even louder cheers after asking “does Doonbeg love Trump”.

    Eric told the crowd: “We love this place more than anything. So thank you for this hospitality. It’s awesome.”

    He then offered to buy drinks.

    “Don and I want to buy everyone cocktails tonight,” he said.

    The young Trump men visited several pubs in the village and even had a go at pouring pints in one.

  16. bean says:

    Posted here to avoid breaking the Naval Gazing ban on culture war:

    The House Armed Services Committee is making fighting climate change one of the major priorities of the FY20 NDAA.

    At best, this seems like an odd priority in the current defense environment.

    • Deiseach says:

      At best, this seems like an odd priority in the current defense environment.

      “We shall fight them on the beaches, we shall fight them in the air – actually, we’re literally going to fight the air”?

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Is it perhaps a defense contractor gimmick?

      That said it does kind of make sense if you believe your fleet’s emissions are going to raise sea levels.

      • bean says:

        But shouldn’t the fleet be in favor of rising sea levels?

        I wouldn’t rule out it being a contractor gimmick, and it’s certainly not the first time Congress has pushed some exotic fuel-saving technology on the Navy (the Burkes nearly had a regenerative system called RACER installed, but for some reason I can’t remember it was cut at the last minute. Given the experience with regeneration on the Type 45s, this was probably a good thing.) but it seems really odd that the HASC is going along with it.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, if you have the best fleet, rising sea levels gives your military a competitive advantage over any potential rivals!

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          But shouldn’t the fleet be in favor of rising sea levels?

          A rising tide lifts all boats.
          The Navy’s job is to fight at sea, not fight the sea.
          Etc…

    • cassander says:

      to be fair, the military has itself substantially to blame for this, they’ve been over-hyping the near term geopolitical risks of climate change for at least a decade now.

    • John Schilling says:

      The House Armed Services Committee is a part of the 116th United States Congress, whose prime directive since day one has been “To Confound and Dismay President Donald J. Trump By Any Means Necessary”. Donald Trump wants the military to have lots of tippy-top bigly shiny toys to use in parades but not in wars, and secondarily to receive money and respect in ways calculated to make them feel like voting for Trump next year. Congress therefore needs the military priority which is Not That.

      Congress also doesn’t want to start any new wars, so they had to come up with something different. This is something different. Preferably something aligned with existing Blue-tribe interests. This is something different, in a blue-friendly way, and as cassander notes it isn’t coming entirely out of left field.

    • Tarpitz says:

      Well, “nuke China” is the most feasible proposal for substantially reducing global warming that I’m aware of…

    • Chalid says:

      Why did you add “current defense environment”? What’s special about the current defense environment?

    • beleester says:

      AIUI, the military has been a fan of improving fuel efficiency for a long time, because it makes logistics easier. And energy independence has been pretty popular ever since we noticed just how much oil comes from unstable Middle Eastern countries, although the recent oil slump has stalled that for a bit. It’s possible that climate change provided a good excuse to throw more money at an old problem, but it doesn’t seem like a really dramatic shift in the long view.

      I also tracked down the actual text from the committee since the article you linked didn’t provide it, and climate change seems like a pretty small part of it. (This article links the full markups from the different subcommittees.) The only explicit mention of “climate” in the text is a directive on “climate resilience”, which seems to translate to “Figure out how much money you need to make sure that our military bases don’t get hit by floods or hurricanes and other things that climate change is expected to make worse.”

      • bean says:

        Interesting. It looks to have been cut from “put hybrid drive on the DDG-51s” to “give us a report on hybrid drive plans for the future”, adoption of which is basically going to happen anyway.

    • Another Throw says:

      What does hybrid electric mean in this context? That article doesn’t really explain what they’re talking about; they think they did but didn’t.

      • John Schilling says:

        “Hybrid electric” means about the same thing here that it does in e.g. automobiles. Direct motive power comes from electric motors, but the power for those motors doesn’t come entirely from batteries.

        • Another Throw says:

          Maybe I should have been clearer that I was aiming for a little more specificity. It sounds like it is a plan to convert from the straight gas turbines a glance at Wikipedia implies the Arleigh Burkes currently have to some kind of… CODLAG I guess? Using the turbines at speeds above 13 knots, but the electric at speeds below, where the electricity comes from question mark.

          I don’t know, maybe I was being dense, but I just found that half a sentence to be confusing. But that is probably exactly what it is.

          • bean says:

            They’re pure gas turbine right now. This would turn them to CODLAG, apparently just leveraging off the existing electrical infrastructure. Which I guess makes some sense. Aegis requires a lot of power, so if you aren’t running it, then you can afford to use some of that juice for propulsion.

  17. Dan L says:

    I ran some multivariate analyses on the 2019 SSC Survey data to investigate the suspicion that the wider readership isn’t representative of the commentariat. Turns out there’s a significant difference:

    Punchline.png
    Punchline_2.png

    Obvious follow-up would be to check the results for individual political questions, in addition to the overall left-right axis. I’ll do that… later.

    Some other impressions:
    0) All results are self-report. Caveat lector.
    1) I used the open dataset and not the full set (obviously), but my topline results roughly match Scott’s. But some of the specific categories have N = low single digits, so beware of getting lost in the crosstabs.
    2) I’m approximating “commentariat” as “comments more than once per week”. I suppose this definition is debatable, but the sensitivity of results to the selected frequency is kinda the point.
    3) I have the excel sheet set up with the proper formulas, so if anyone has any suggestions/requests I’ll take a look into them if they’re good enough to make me want to look into them. I’m not sharing the sheet though, it’s messier than I like attaching my (semipseudo)name to.
    4) Hey, what the hell? I can’t find my result‽ Assuming I’m not mis-remembering setting my result to public, that’s somewhat worrying.
    5) Y’all need to come to a consensus on how to spell Massachusetts.

    • brad says:

      I don’t read as much as I used to, but I’d guess that the effect is consistent. That is the fortnightly commenters are more right wing than the lurkers, the daily more right wing than the weekly, and so on.

      Also, especially in Europeans, “social democrat” doesn’t provide much information as to the most relevant cleavages discussed here.

      • Aapje says:

        The Danish Social-Democrats won yesterday’s elections after adopting many policies to reduce migration and such, while the populist party lost more than half their seats.

        FWIW.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Seems to vindicate the view that people would rather not vote for the evil party or evil candidate, but will often do so out of duress when literally no one else is willing to offer immigration restrictions.

      • Dan L says:

        Also, especially in Europeans, “social democrat” doesn’t provide much information as to the most relevant cleavages discussed here.

        Good call. European Social Democrats are significantly further Right than in the US. The conjunction of a specific political party and frequent commenter is too small to be really meaningful, but included nonetheless.

        US Social Democrats Ideology
        US Social Democrats on Immigration
        European Social Democrats Ideology
        European Social Democrats on Immigration

        (Accidental color shift in the bins on immigration, but doesn’t matter as much since the one category doesn’t reach significance.)

    • Deiseach says:

      A cursory look seems to explain why people think “SSC is drifting towards/has gone full on right-wing”; total readership is not conservative, but if you’re going by reading the comments, then we conservatives comment much more frequently than per our percentage of the total.

    • Definitely gives support to the idea that anything not overwhelmingly dominated by the left is considered right wing. This place has more diversity than most places on the internet. Will that keep people from complaining? No.

      • brad says:

        I like both kinds of music—country and western.

        • I think it’s pretty obvious that the 18% of frequent commenters who are social democrats are not just a variation of conservative. Same with the 19% of liberals.

          Unless you take the position that everyone who isn’t a Marxist is a conservative, there’s plenty of non-conservative commenters.

          • brad says:

            It’s entirely possible that the self declared social democrats are conservatives when it comes to race, gender, and so on. Somewhat likely even.

            If every single open thread had a discussion about tax rate instead, then you’d have a good point.

          • Dan L says:

            I don’t see a clean question on race or tax rate. Immigration or Basic Income could serve if you push it, but that feels like a reach.

            Gender is interesting – “How would you describe your opinion of feminism?” saw some of the starkest shifts in the dataset I’ve seen yet, going from +18 favorability in the readership to -28.6 in the commentariat. I figured that might be a reaction to activism or whatnot, but a question on Social Justice identification saw ~1/3 a skew.

            I’m wearing my analyst hat pretty firmly right now (as opposed to my advocate hat), but -28.6 does seem like the kind of margin that can fairly be described as “overwhelming domination” on a core CW topic.

            Social Justice identification
            Feminism opinion

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @Dan L:
            Just a quick heads-up: the labels on the X-axes in the opinion on feminism charts are reversed: 1 = V. Unfavourable in the table; 1 = V. Favourable on the charts. The response numbers haven’t been reversed, so the charts say the exact opposite of the data table.

          • quanta413 says:

            Gender is interesting – “How would you describe your opinion of feminism?” saw some of the starkest shifts in the dataset I’ve seen yet, going from +18 favorability in the readership to -28.6 in the commentariat. I figured that might be a reaction to activism or whatnot, but a question on Social Justice identification saw ~1/3 a skew.

            I’m wearing my analyst hat pretty firmly right now (as opposed to my advocate hat), but -28.6 does seem like the kind of margin that can fairly be described as “overwhelming domination” on a core CW topic.

            Is it just me or is it weird that “at least once a week” and “Very often; many times a week” have the exact same number of 1’s and 5’s? That could be coincidence, but are you sure the second set isn’t actually a subset of the first?

            EDIT: Looking at the sheet, it seems like it shouldn’t be a subset; if there was an error it seems like it would have had to have been upstream. It’s probably not that unlikely to match twice. My intuition says something like 1/10 to 1/100 chance of matching twice if we’re drawing from the same distribution for both sets although explicit calculation could prove me way off on that. But it’s still a little weird.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Faza:

            Good eye! You’re correct, the chart labels are reversed; the tables and commentary are accurate. I’ll edit it in Imgur later if possible.

            Scott shuffled the Left/Right alignment between questions a few times. Which is good! But it makes bullying Excel into letting me reuse chart formatting more troublesome.

            @ quanta413

            Double-checked, it’s a coincidence. I wouldn’t put it past myself to accidentally re-copy the formula, but the way comment rate is recorded the categories are extremely XOR. I actually found a few other questions* where the most frequent commenters are more populous in the wings of the distribution than the weeklies, so it’s definitely not a subset thing.

            *Wearing my analyst hat, I’m deliberately not posting everything I find “interesting” – trying to limit chances for p-hacking. Feel free to make requests.

            (But c’mon, raise your hand if you’re actually surprised it was the Trump question.)

          • quanta413 says:

            Double-checked, it’s a coincidence. I wouldn’t put it past myself to accidentally re-copy the formula, but the way comment rate is recorded the categories are extremely XOR. I actually found a few other questions* where the most frequent commenters are more populous in the wings of the distribution than the weeklies, so it’s definitely not a subset thing.

            Thanks for checking. That’s good that it is sometimes greater. That lets us confirm it almost certainly isn’t a an error upstream when the open data was taken from the full data and dumped to the google sheet or something.

    • Thanks for analysis! I guess that means it’s good I can never get myself to comment here more often (time management reasons), I’d just add to the libertarian bloc! (Although I do hope I’ll comment a bit more often, but I cannot fathom it ever reaching 1>week. Outside of roleplaying and schlaughing, my recurring habits are all on a pretty stable 1/week schedule, and SSC doesn’t really easily slot into ‘recurring’!)

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I wanted to complain in the visible OT about my stock index fund (Fidelity FXAIX) tanking, but I couldn’t because the reason was President Trump’s surprise tariffs, and everything he does is CW.
    So now I want to meta-complain.

    • metacelsus says:

      Tariff Man has hit me hard too, unfortunately. It seems he doesn’t have any coherent plan. Why tariffs on Mexico, for example? And I don’t think anyone really “wins” in a “trade war.”

      • broblawsky says:

        There is a plan, but it isn’t to make the balance of trade any better. Trump just thinks that tariffs are in-and-of-themselves an electoral plus for him.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        It seems he doesn’t have any coherent plan.

        Main Street > Wall Street.

        Why tariffs on Mexico, for example?

        This one’s not economic. He’s basically sanctioning them for not doing anything to stem the tide of illegal foreigners crossing through Mexico.

        • broblawsky says:

          If the tariffs on Mexico go through, the US auto industry will implode. The supply chain is too distributed between the US, Mexico, and Canada. It’ll be disastrous.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I thought everything was already supposed to implode because of tariffs on China? Is it going to double implode now?

          • broblawsky says:

            There’s a difference between a more general economic slowdown and plants having to shut down because they can’t get the parts they need.

          • Regardless of what happens with regard to the tariffs, the auto industry is not going to “implode”. That’s not even in the ballpark of plausibility. People really have a hard time differentiating between “this will be a net negative for the economy” and “this will be catastrophic for the economy”.

          • broblawsky says:

            I can only speak from my own experience with Just-In-Time manufacturing, but from that, any kind of supply chain disruption invariably leads to work stoppage. Given how fragile the US auto industry is right now, I’d say that ‘implodes’ isn’t necessarily hyperbolic.

          • John Schilling says:

            I can only speak from my own experience with Just-In-Time manufacturing, but from that, any kind of supply chain disruption invariably leads to work stoppage.

            We’re talking about a tariff, not an embargo. American automakers can still buy everything they want or need from Mexican suppliers. The increased price may push their net operation from marginally profitable to marginally unprofitable, but I’m pretty sure if the actual alternatives are “marginally unprofitable due to tariffs while we wait for Trump to get bored” and “work stoppage leads to the auto industry Literally Imploding in a way that totally Isn’t Hyperbolic”, they’re going to go with Plan A.

          • broblawsky says:

            We’re talking about a tariff, not an embargo. American automakers can still buy everything they want or need from Mexican suppliers. The increased price may push their net operation from marginally profitable to marginally unprofitable, but I’m pretty sure if the actual alternatives are “marginally unprofitable due to tariffs while we wait for Trump to get bored” and “work stoppage leads to the auto industry Literally Imploding in a way that totally Isn’t Hyperbolic”, they’re going to go with Plan A.

            It’s not just extra costs, it’s extra time and paperwork. My experience has generally been that JIT manufacturing is very vulnerable to having their kanbans disrupted by unexpected supply disruptions. Maybe the auto industry has enough process optimization to cope with that, but we’re talking about supply chains that go 20 layers deep. It doesn’t take much to stop production.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t think the tariffs are a good idea, but surely we’ve learned the lesson about crying wolf, and it’s not “make sure to scream super loud about the wolf this time.”

          • broblawsky says:

            I don’t think the tariffs are a good idea, but surely we’ve learned the lesson about crying wolf, and it’s not “make sure to scream super loud about the wolf this time.”

            I can’t think of any time anyone has implemented expansive tariffs like this recently in the US. I don’t think it’s crying wolf when you’re seeing a beast that no one’s ever seen before.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I can’t think of any time anyone has implemented expansive tariffs like this recently in the US. I don’t think it’s crying wolf when you’re seeing a beast that no one’s ever seen before.

            “Help! Tiny Orange Man released a vermicious knid!”

          • John Schilling says:

            I can’t think of any time anyone has implemented expansive tariffs like this recently in the US.

            Didn’t you just finish saying that it isn’t the monetary value of the tariff that matters? Any tariff of any value, or any other change in import or export regulations that requires a new or different piece of paper, should have triggered the totally-not-hyperbolic-absolutely-literal-implosion of the US auto industry that you are predicting this time.

          • broblawsky says:

            “Help! Tiny Orange Man released a vermicious knid!”

            This is more of a grue, I fear.

          • brad says:

            I take the point about the dangers of exaggeration but the domestic auto industry has already imploded once within recent memory—and only continues to exist because of charity from the productive parts of the economy. So it is less far fetched than it would be ordinarily.

          • JPNunez says:

            This assumes that if you put a tariff on smartphones made in China, Apple will move back production to USA.

            They will go to India, Bangladesh, parts of Africa, parts of South America before going back to USA.

            Of course, Trump can chase Apple manufacturing all over the place; but what will happen in the end is that you will have Americans working close to minimum for a job foreigners used to do.

            Which may not be that great of an idea; you want wages to go up, right, not down?

        • JonathanD says:

          I thought they were asylum seekers and thus, not illegal. It’s my understanding that the current problem isn’t people sneaking into the country and disappearing into the interior taking jobs, but rather people showing up and turning themselves in at a rate that is considerably higher than in the past, and higher than we can process. Am I mistaken?

          • broblawsky says:

            I thought they were asylum seekers and thus, not illegal. It’s my understanding that the current problem isn’t people sneaking into the country and disappearing into the interior taking jobs, but rather people showing up and turning themselves in at a rate that is considerably higher than in the past, and higher than we can process. Am I mistaken?

            With the sole modification being that by ‘a rate higher than we can process’ we mean ‘a rate higher than Trump supporters are comfortable with’, then yes, you’re entirely correct.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, no it’s literally at a rate higher than we can process. We do not have enough beds for them, so they get released into the population. They then either fail to show up for court hearings, or maybe they show up for the preliminary one where they set a formal hearing a year out and then skip the formal hearing.

            Some are illegal (not turning themselves in for asylum) but the asylum seekers are almost all fraudulent as there’s no place in the western hemisphere except Cuba and maybe Venezuela where there’s anything like the sorts of political/religious/racial persecution going on for which we grant asylum. They’re abusing the system, and Mexico could stop that by either giving them asylum in Mexico or kicking them out.

          • broblawsky says:

            It’s not their fault Trump is unwilling to negotiate for the extra resources he needs to meet his immigration goals.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, it is entirely the fault of fraudulent asylum seekers for fraudulently seeking asylum.

          • broblawsky says:

            Innocent until proven guilty, remember? And even if the Trump administration thinks that 100% of these extra asylum seekers are frauds and criminals, the correct and Constitutional course of action is still to negotiate with Congress to get the extra funds they need to properly hold everyone until they can go before a judge.

          • SamChevre says:

            Innocent until proven guilty, remember?

            That’s not how non-criminal law works.

            Immigration law is more like tax law, and needs the same built-in deterrents to frivolous claims and wasting the court’s time. Those penalties are substantial.

            Persons who promote frivolous arguments and those who assist taxpayers in claiming tax benefits based on frivolous arguments may be prosecuted for a criminal felony for which the penalty is up to $100,000

            Similar penalties for anyone promoting frivolous asylum claims (like 99.9% of those from Central America) would be an excellent plan.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think some people are forgetting that during the Obama years, POTUS had people DDoSing the border by sending waves of unaccompanied minors to it.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            frivolous claims

            That was a fascinating link to the IRS. I was especially charmed by

            Under this theory, wages are not taxable income because people have basis in their labor equal to the fair market value of the wages they receive; thus, there is no gain to be taxed.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Main Street > Wall Street.

          Who is Main Street? People too poor to buy stocks and bonds? I get that’s Trump’s base, but he has no coherent plan to help them. If he did, whatever tariffs and other taxes were going to fund it would be priced into Wall Street expectations. Instead he blindsides them with “In a fortnight, I’ll hurt the economy until Mexico stops 100% of economically rational illegal behavior by individuals.”

          • broblawsky says:

            Put like that, it makes the tariffs sound like the War On Drugs, but with even more misplaced incentives.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            he has no coherent plan to help them

            1) Enact tariffs on China & other nations.

            2) Tariffs incentivize companies to make products in the US, which will not be subject to tariffs.

            3) Tariff Mexico to incentivize them to stop illegal labor from entering the country.

            4) More jobs in the US for workers, and more competition for labor drives up the price of labor, increasing employment and wages.

            This seems extremely coherent to me, and in fact is working. Job creation is happening, wages are rising, unemployment is down, consumer confidence is up. The stock market will recover too when investors start putting money into companies that make products in America.

            It absolutely boggles my mind that no one in the SSC commentariat besides me can understand this. There’s either some crazy cognitive bias at work here or I am the stupidest person on this website.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            The same argument keeps being made over and over by multiple people and it seems not to stick. This is, as far I can tell, because you do not believe the argument, and I do not understand why.

            1 – Tariffs drive prices up. The best case for enacting tariffs is that it’s an extremely inefficient system for redistributing real income (comprised in the simple case of money + goods) from producers to buyers. Actually doing this with redistribution is a more efficient alternative, and if you want to argue that this is a better way of doing it then you need a better and bigger argument.

            2 – Trivially true, but see 1. If I tax everyone $50 for each apple they sell, it incentivizes everyone to produce apples themselves. But do you see why this is a bad idea?

            3 – Tariffs work best (to the extent that they work) when you’re playing an economic game. These are almost closer to sanctions than tariffs, and the correct move for Mexico (as it is for most actors in the sanctions game) is to retaliate, not capitulate. Going “okey dokey, we’ll shoot any South Americans marching towards our northern border” would push them closer towards being a client state of the US, which is something Mexico doesn’t want for political reasons. Sanctioning one of your biggest trade partners for not gestapo-ing hard enough (which is how it looks to Mexico, which is the actually important bit here) is not a politically savvy move.

            4 – Supply and demand are in effect, and tariffs push the supply curve rightwards. A higher price for materials means more jobs for people making steel and less jobs for people working steel. Because tariffs are inefficient, it would be truly astonishing if the set of [steelworkers + dockworkers + machinists + construction workers + everyone else downstream of production] comes out better-off.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Hoppyfreud:

            1 – Tariffs drive prices up. The best case for enacting tariffs is that it’s an extremely inefficient system for redistributing real income (comprised in the simple case of money + goods) from producers to buyers. Actually doing this with redistribution is a more efficient alternative, and if you want to argue that this is a better way of doing it then you need a better and bigger argument.

            This: you need a yuge argument for why tariffs are a better way of accomplishing $GOAL than something like corporate income tax redistributed to lower-income consumers.

            2 – Trivially true, but see 1. If I tax everyone $50 for each apple they sell, it incentivizes everyone to produce apples themselves. But do you see why this is a bad idea?

            Apples are a good example, because we import a lot of fruit from Latin America (minus, eg Argentina, whose produce would be much easier to substitute for on American soil). I see no reason the People of Walmart who got this President the GOP nom should see the prices they pay for fruit go up 25%.

            3 – Tariffs work best (to the extent that they work) when you’re playing an economic game. These are almost closer to sanctions than tariffs, and the correct move for Mexico (as it is for most actors in the sanctions game) is to retaliate, not capitulate. Going “okey dokey, we’ll shoot any South Americans marching towards our northern border” would push them closer towards being a client state of the US, which is something Mexico doesn’t want for political reasons. Sanctioning one of your biggest trade partners for not gestapo-ing hard enough (which is how it looks to Mexico, which is the actually important bit here) is not a politically savvy move.

            This. “We’re going to put a 25% sanction on your imports until you have a 100% effective police state on your southern border” is far more likely to get you tit-for-tat than cooperate.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Actually doing this with redistribution is a more efficient alternative, and if you want to argue that this is a better way of doing it then you need a better and bigger argument.

            Giving money to the working poor turns them into the non-working poor. You also have the extremely inefficient means testing to qualify for the money, and by taxing corporations you encourage them to leave the country, further reducing employment. Levying tariffs has none of these self-defeating problems.

            – Trivially true, but see 1. If I tax everyone $50 for each apple they sell, it incentivizes everyone to produce apples themselves. But do you see why this is a bad idea?

            It sounds to me like something that will up apple production, and then workers who pick apples will have more money to buy, say, shoes from US workers who make shoes and buy apples. You have more economic activity involving more Americans, rather than Americans and foreigners. The money winds up in the hands of lots of workers who need apples and lots of workers who need shoes who then all wind up swimming in apples and shoes instead of a few financiers gaming global labor arbitrage whose ability to consume both apples and shoes is far more limited.

            Sanctioning one of your biggest trade partners for not gestapo-ing hard enough (which is how it looks to Mexico, which is the actually important bit here) is not a politically savvy move.

            80% of Mexico’s exports go to the US. This hurts them waaaaaay more than it hurts us. And the problem isn’t that they’re not gestapoing hard enough, it’s that they’re not gestapoing at all. Any improvement in the gestapoing would be welcome.

            Because tariffs are inefficient, it would be truly astonishing if the set of [steelworkers + dockworkers + machinists + construction workers + everyone else downstream of production] comes out better-off.

            In the meantime I keep predicting more employment, higher wages, low inflation, high consumer confidence, high growth, and I keep being right while everyone who keeps predicting doom keeps being wrong.

            It’s entirely likely the set of [steelworkers + dockworkers + machinists + construction workers + everyone else downstream of production] ends up better off, while the financiers gaming labor arbitrage wind up slightly worse off. This may impact some stocks, which is where Le Maistre Chat is feeling her pain. Given that the commentariat is more aligned with the investing class than the working class, is this a case of it being very difficult to understand an argument when one’s income depends on not understanding it?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Hoopyfreud and Le Maistre Chat

            So if I understand you correctly, you think that it’s better for blue collar workers to be unemployed and get a government check in the mail every two weeks which they can spend on cheaper goods made abroad than to be employed and have to spend more of their paycheck on domestic goods?

            If so, that is a profound failure of empathy. Maybe to you a less-than-maximally-profitable job seems like nothing more than an inefficient welfare scheme. Somehow I doubt that you would see it that way if you were facing the prospect of having your job offshored and having no realistic replacement available.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Dajjal:

            So if I understand you correctly, you think that it’s better for blue collar workers to be unemployed and get a government check in the mail every two weeks which they can spend on cheaper goods made abroad than to be employed and have to spend more of their paycheck on domestic goods?

            If so, that is a profound failure of empathy. Maybe to you a less-than-maximally-profitable job seems like nothing more than an inefficient welfare scheme. Somehow I doubt that you would see it that way if you were facing the prospect of having your job offshored and having no realistic replacement available.

            I think that’s a false dichotomy. Having to compete with foreigners who will work for less drives wages down; it doesn’t turn the entire blue-collar working class into lumpy proletarians. It also affects white-collar workers (think call centers in India) and so ought not be framed as an old school working-class vs. office-working-class issue.
            I tentatively think the efficient and empathetic way to deal with the redistribution would be a negative income tax, not welfare checks.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Giving money to the working poor turns them into the non-working poor. You also have the extremely inefficient means testing to qualify for the money, and by taxing corporations you encourage them to leave the country, further reducing employment.

            This seems like an argument that proves too much (charity bad), but at least you’re firmly grounded here; I’d recommend making this an explicit part of your argument for tariffs in the future, because it’s a lot more contentious than the inefficiency of tariffs and therefore a more reasonable position.

            By the way, what do you expect the government to do with the tariff money?

            It sounds to me like something that will up apple production, and then workers who pick apples will have more money to buy, say, shoes from US workers who make shoes and buy apples. You have more economic activity involving more Americans, rather than Americans and foreigners. The money winds up in the hands of lots of workers who need apples and lots of workers who need shoes who then all wind up swimming in apples and shoes instead of a few financiers gaming global labor arbitrage whose ability to consume both apples and shoes is far more limited.

            No. What happens empirically is that nobody buys apples. Admittedly, this example is hyperbolic because apples are worth $51 to very few people, but regardless – demand for a lot of this stuff is highly elastic. The logical extension of your position is that the government should simply ban all imports and exports, because that’ll bring more economic activity home with no impact on quality or cost. And this is obviously, empirically false. Commodity markets are as close to perfect competition as you can get; there isn’t a cartel of labor arbitrageurs who are sucking the wealth out of the world economy. Commodity trade makes people on each side of the transaction wealthier in real terms.

            80% of Mexico’s exports go to the US. This hurts them waaaaaay more than it hurts us. And the problem isn’t that they’re not gestapoing hard enough, it’s that they’re not gestapoing at all. Any improvement in the gestapoing at all would be welcome.

            But gestapo-ing hurts Mexico more than the tariffs. You have to understand that Mexico’s internal politics will not support this course of action. I believe that you will be able to get Mexico to effectively police it’s southern border (by what I believe your standards of effectiveness to be) only at the barrel of a gun – not least because Mexico will (completely justifiably) perceive this as an attack on its sovereignty and therefore will perceive capitulation as some species of existential threat. The economic damage is, to some extent, a less important concern.

            It’s entirely likely the set of [steelworkers + dockworkers + machinists + construction workers + everyone else downstream of production] ends up better off, while the financiers gaming labor arbitrage wind up slightly worse off.

            That isn’t what happened when Obama was taxing Chinese tires. Instead, he lost us a net 2500 tire-related jobs. The grand conspiracy of financiers just isn’t there, man. If you want to convince us it is, you need to present some evidence. Because for every person you can pull out whose job was saved by the tariff on tires, I can pull out three who lost theirs.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Yes, there is a lot of room between “do nothing about the un- and under-employed besides laugh at them” and “tariff all the things.” It’s usually the liberals who repeat the Politician’s syllogism but of course everyone is susceptible to it.

            For example, wage subsidy: you aren’t paying people to be jobless; they literally need to work at some job to receive the benefit.

            Unlike some others, I think Trump earnestly believes that tariffs will improve the economy for the working class. His writing over the past 30 years is all about that. He had to search really hard to find a trade advisor who agreed with him, but he made sure to find one of the very few in the country in Peter Navarro. Trump sure wasn’t gonna be Euler’d by a bunch of fancy-pants academics. And he doesn’t think his views need explaining or defending; they are obviously correct. “I know I’m right. If you disagree with me, you’re wrong.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nabil

            I mean I don’t have strong objections to some sort of NIT in theory, but the US has some aging-ass infrastructure that needs to be replaced. That means jobs for welders, construction workers, electricians, plumbers, and everyone else. Far better to spend money building roads and bridges and libraries and train lines and parks than to spend it trying to bolster a flailing industry. And shit, I work in a company that does all our production in the US for quality control reasons. We’re dying for assemblers and machinists. I’m not saying that those people should rot; I’m saying that the US’s political, regulatory, and economic machine is ill-suited to making girders.

          • Everyone one both sides of this seems to be missing the basic logic of foreign trade.

            Prices in America are in dollars, prices in China in RMB. The statement “shirts are cheaper in China” doesn’t mean anything until you specify the exchange rate between dollars and RMB, which is a market price, determined like other market prices by the level at which quantity supplied equals quantity demanded.

            Consider a simple world with two countries and no capital movements. The only reason Americans want to sell dollars for RMB is to buy and import Chinese goods. The only reason Chinese want to buy dollars with RMB is to buy and import American goods. If Americans want to sell more than Chinese want to buy, the price of the dollar in RMB falls. It keeps falling until quantity demanded equals quantity supplied, which means until the U.S. is exporting as many dollars worth of goods as it is importing. Trade deficit zero, for reasons that have nothing to do with how good either country is at producing things, whether one country or the other or both subsidizes exports, or any of the other things that people in arguments about tariffs who don’t understand economics talk about.

            The trade deficit isn’t zero, but that’s not for any of those reasons, it’s because of capital movements. If some Chinese want to buy U.S. assets, say government bonds, they use the dollars they buy to do so. What they buy stays in the U.S., so isn’t counted in the balance of trade, so now the U.S. is importing more than it is exporting. Similarly if they want to buy stock in U.S. countries or American real estate.

            When you impose a tariff, that makes Chinese goods more expensive to Americans, so we buy fewer, which means the demand for RMB goes down on the dollar/RMB market. So the price of the RMB falls, which means the price of the dollar in RMB rises. That makes U.S. goods more expensive to people in China, so they buy fewer. It makes Chinese goods less expensive to people in America, so they buy more.

            The new equilibrium has less trade in both directions. There is no particular reason to expect the trade deficit to go down–that depends on how the change in exchange rate affects how many dollars worth of U.S. capital goods the Chinese want to buy.

            U.S. tariffs are not protecting American auto workers against the competition of Chinese auto workers. They are protecting American auto workers against the competition of American farmers–more generally, American producers of export goods. They make it more expensive to “produce” a car by growing wheat, sending it into the Pacific, and having it come back with Hondas on it (old version back when the argument was about Japan–come back with whatever China is exporting and we are imposing tariffs on).

            If you believe that American workers who produce import competing goods are more deserving than American workers who produce export goods, that’s an argument for tariffs. It has nothing to do with how you feel about Chinese workers, or about producers vs consumers. But nobody arguing for tariffs is willing to put the argument that way, first because it sounds less appealing and second because the popular view of foreign trade is two hundred years out of date, in part because the correct theory is harder to understand than the incorrect, and internally incoherent, version, which takes exchange rates as a fact of nature rather than a price determined on a market.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @David

            I think you’re overselling the extent to which exchange rates are driven by the valuation of goods. It seems like a stretch to say that the value of the US dollar in RMB is arrived at by anything like your zero-capital-transfer equilibrium model. There are a lot more drivers of the value of currency, especially when the USD functions as the dominant global reserve currency. The absolute advantage story of trade is one I find more compelling (and the comparative advantage one only slightly less so). It’s certainly less objectionable. I’d say the statement “shirts are cheaper in China” does, in fact, imply something about the economic resources required required to produce a shirt in China vs in the US.

          • JPNunez says:

            @DavidFriedman

            But what happens now that China imposes their own tariffs in retaliation? are they just redistributing the RMB-from-dollars that they receive among their exporters?

            This bold part

            When you impose a tariff, that makes Chinese goods more expensive to Americans, so we buy fewer, which means the demand for RMB goes down on the dollar/RMB market. So the price of the RMB falls, which means the price of the dollar in RMB rises. That makes U.S. goods more expensive to people in China, so they buy fewer. It makes Chinese goods less expensive to people in America, so they buy more.

            is very counterintuitive to me. Could you elaborate?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This seems like an argument that proves too much (charity bad)

            Charity is a hand-up to get people back into a job. “Tax corporations and redistribute the money to people who don’t have jobs” is a permanent poverty trap.

            By the way, what do you expect the government to do with the tariff money?

            Government stuff. Money is fungible.

            Mexico will (completely justifiably) perceive this as an attack on its sovereignty

            Mexico is shoveling 100,000 people a month into my country, against the will of our people, against the laws of our country, in ways that will permanently disrupt our way of life. Who are they to lecture us about attacks on sovereignty!?

            Because for every person you can pull out whose job was saved by the tariff on tires, I can pull out three who lost theirs.

            No you can’t. I read your paper. That is an excellent example of Eulering. “Here’s how some prices changed, now we’ll pretend there’s a direct relationship between dollars spent and retail jobs without justifying this and here’s 3,000 unspecified imaginary jobs that vanished.” I have no idea what the exact impact of Obama’s tire tariff was, but neither do these people. But it fits their ideological worldview, so, numbers.

            Given the tariffs already levied against China, we should be hemorrhaging jobs, then, right? Jobs report should come out tomorrow. Let’s see what it says, eh?

            ETA: and I need to prove the existence of multinational corporations? I don’t know what you’re getting at with that. They exist by making their money from cheap overseas labor.

          • JPNunez says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Wouldn’t then the rational response from China to Trump be…well, suit yourself? and not raise tariffs of their own?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Charity is a hand-up to get people back into a job.

            That’s not how charity is administered and you know it. You can argue that that’s how charity should work (I disagree, but w/e), but that’s absolutely not how it works in practice.

            Mexico is shoveling 100,000 people a month into my country, against the will of our people, against the laws of our country, in ways that will permanently disrupt our way of life. Who are they to lecture us about attacks on sovereignty!?

            Mexico has its own way of dealing with illegal immigration from South America. The fact that you don’t like it doesn’t imply that they have a duty to fix it your way, or that Mexico will see it as a problem. You’re refusing to look at this from a different perspective. It doesn’t matter what you think of this situation, but what the average man on the street in Mexico does. He doesn’t like you telling him how to run his country. So tax if you want, but again, I strongly doubt it’ll produce the desired change. It might make you feel better about it, but that seems a bit petty.

            and I need to prove the existence of multinational corporations? I don’t know what you’re getting at with that. They exist by making their money from cheap overseas labor.

            And steel mills in the US aren’t owned by MNCs?

            Again, evidence shows that there aren’t giant margins on commodity goods. You’re presupposing that these steel mills are running so much cheaper than the ones in the US that someone in the chain was able to pocket heaps of money for themselves while also undercutting domestic production and paying for shipping. But that wasn’t the case for the tires! What would convince you that whatever’s being skimmed off the mills’ take isn’t enough to compensate for the inefficiency the tariff introduces? Hell, what would convince you that tariffs cause job loss? Does the tariff need to singlehandedly trigger an overall economic downturn?

            If you accept that tariffs make things more expensive, that people trade money for goods when they value the goods more than the money, and that people in different countries can produce goods at different (REAL) costs, I do not understand how you can avoid the conclusion that tariffs make people poorer. The paper I linked uses a simple causal model to go from “things become more expensive” to “jobs that require those things disappear.” It seems about as good as going from “things become more expensive to buy from abroad” to “we make more of the thing.” I do not understand what your proposed alternative is. Is your objection that demand is less elastic than I think, that the real costs of producing in the US are lower than I think, that making things more expensive doesn’t actually mean that people consume less of them, or something else? Because you have yet to explain how a $50 apple tax leads to people “swimming in apples.” Something seems broken here.

          • Wouldn’t then the rational response from China to Trump be…well, suit yourself? and not raise tariffs of their own?

            If the only issue is the immediate effect on the welfare of the Chinese population, it would be.

            One argument against is that the Chinese hope raising their tariffs will persuade the U.S. to agree on a mutual reduction. Another is that the Chinese rulers think not responding makes them look weak, especially since most Chinese probably understand the economics of trade no better than most Americans. Another is that the Chinese government, like the U.S. government, sometimes finds tariffs politically profitable, since they provide a benefit to a concentrated interest group (the protected industry) at a cost to a dispersed interest group (all exporters and all consumers), and concentrated groups find it easier to organize to get political results they like.

            And another is that the people running China don’t understand the relevant economics either—any more than Trump does.

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “..It absolutely boggles my mind that no one in the SSC commentariat besides me can understand this…”

            What’s not to understand? Tariffs are what the AFL-CIO and “Rust Belt” Democrats begged for for decades, and I have to admit surprise that President Trump is ordering them, I really thought that he’d be a playbook Republican and never do anything against the will of Mitch McConnell.

            I strongly suspect that too many American factories have closed in the past two decades and that the remaining ones are too dependent on foreign supplies for much if any immediate benefits, but philosophically?

            The argument that tariffs may help domestic manufacturers at the expense of American agriculture seems valid, but that doesn’t seem to me to be a reason not too – I’ve been inside factories and they’re not pleasant places, but I’ve also seen the tomato fields between Gilroy and Hollister and those conditions looked worse, and still very much like the conditions my grandfather described of his youth – and he jumped at the opportunity to switch to factory work when the build-up for a world war provided one (and yes @DavidFriedman that little anecdote to me does provide some ammunition against Engels and Marx’s anti-enclosure “original sin of capitalism” arguments).

            At least in California, farm labor isn’t much done by “Old MacDonald” on his own land, it’s very much a migrant labor poor rural proletariat, that the U.F.W. tried to unionize in the ’70’s, and yes they had some success back then , but ultimately such efforts were swamped – and outside of Dixieland, Kentucky, and Silicon Valley factories in the U.S.A. have shown themselves to be easier to organize and net their workers median income wages than farms have, and tilting the scales back towards the broad based middle class society of the mid 20th century seems a fine idea to me but manufacturing just doesn’t call for much low-skiled labor anymore, and this isn’t Germany – we just don’t have the same educational infrastructure to deliver those skills. It would be nice if we did, but the demand and supply would have to grow in tandem, and the last time we had such an expansion of skills and production was during the second world war due to massive government demand, where would such demand come from now? Are we going to air drop refrigerators overseas? 

            Instead, I expect growing future demand for bodyguards, escorts, flunkies, prostitutes, shills, and valets.

            I’m not optimistic.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            And another is that the people running China don’t understand the relevant economics either—any more than Trump does.

            Or you don’t & they do…

            There is a pretty consistent pattern where countries match tariffs with their trade partners. They only decrease them with trade agreements and raise them when others raise them. This pretty strongly suggests that there is actually a prisoner’s dilemma kind of situation, where defecting is profitable as long as the other side doesn’t defect as well, but mutual defecting is bad for both sides, so a coordinated compromise is better than mutual defection.

            Perhaps reality is a lot more complex than simplistic economic trade models. For example, I know that you recognize that externalities aren’t reflected in prices correctly. The logical consequence is that trade is not going to reflect those externalities.

            Tariffs can then be a way to make the prices reflect positive externalities of domestic production. This explanation makes a lot of sense, IMO, as we can observe that people tend to prefer domestic farming and less competitive forms of farming; and that tariffs tend to be more common for agriculture.

          • uau says:

            This explanation makes a lot of sense, IMO, as we can observe that people tend to prefer domestic farming and less competitive forms of farming; and that tariffs tend to be more common for agriculture.

            Governments do tend to prefer domestic food production, yes, but I don’t think think the main reason would be the belief that this would be economically beneficial. Rather they want to ensure food supply in a crisis.

            So less “we believe these tariffs create jobs” and more “we’re willing to sacrifice some of our economy for insurance against food shortage”.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I’d thought mexico previously already made some sort of commitment to handle the asylum seekers.

          • Aapje says:

            @uau

            That is one externality that is not priced into the cost of local/foreign produce, but hardly the only one.

            Many countries subsidize small farmers more than big farmers, even though big farms are more efficient.

            In my country, having cows graze outside is subsidized, which people really like to see, even though it is less economically efficient than keeping the cows inside and harvesting the grass with machines.

          • JPNunez says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Yeah I can imagine reasons for them to not act rationally or in the pursuit of particular group interests.

            Uh. Will keep this in mind. Thanks.

            @aapje

            I assume the pattern is there because you gotta keep something to negotiate. But modern trade agreements include more than just tariffs, for example the TPP Trump didn’t join, included several clauses to ensure intellectual property laws are made more similar among countries and that the countries respect each other intellectual properties. Clauses about international dispute settlement, and a bunch of other things, way beyond tariffs.

            However, it still drops a significant amount of tariffs.

            This suggests that tariffs are a less important part of any agreement, and that most countries will quickly agree to drop them, beyond some basic levels -internal food production security has been mentioned-. If the tariffs dropped are so numerous, but the tough to negotiate part was, well, everything else, don’t you think that cooperating in that particular prisonner’s dilemma iteration is ridiculously attractive?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            That’s not how charity is administered and you know it. You can argue that that’s how charity should work (I disagree, but w/e), but that’s absolutely not how it works in practice.

            I’m not arguing in bad faith, that’s how I thought charity worked. Some people are stuck in generational poverty traps, but I thought most people hit a hard time, took some government aid and then got back on their feet. When my wife was a toddler her father was killed by a drunk driver, leaving her mom with 3 kids under 5 and no money (he was a welder). They went on food stamps for a few years while her mom retrained as a physical therapy tech and then got off government assistance.

            So tax if you want, but again, I strongly doubt it’ll produce the desired change.

            Mexico deploys military to curb migration, reportedly offers major concessions as Trump tariffs loom.

            And steel mills in the US aren’t owned by MNCs?

            Not really? Nucor owns the most and to my knowledge they have no overseas operations. US Steel has some interests in Europe but is much more a “US company with overseas interests” than a MNC.

            Again, evidence shows that there aren’t giant margins on commodity goods.

            I’m not just talking about commodities. I would much prefer to have the entire supply chain in the US, and definitely the finished, high value products produced here. But you’re claiming that there’s no such thing as global labor arbitrage? That’s the whole point of offshoring! Why do you think Nike makes their shoes in Asia? It’s not because the workers are better it’s because they’re cheaper! And the owners (including professional class folks with 401k’s like us) keep the profits! We’re the ones doing the arbitrage! You and me and Le Maistre Chat!

            And this is the other side of this, among the reasons why foreign labor is cheaper is because of all the environmental and worker protection regulations we impose. Aren’t those kind of an interference in the market? That makes things more expensive? I hear from reputable sources that costs jobs. Are you opposed to those things?

            This is why “free trade” is bunk. When it’s market manipulation in my favor (say, licensing requirements to increase barriers to entry in my profession, keeping my wages and fees high) it’s “sensible regulation.” When it’s market manipulation that helps factory workers but makes my iPhone $50 more expensive it’s “an affront to the sacred tenets of Free Trade.” This is not “rationality” this is “rationalization.” This is what the paper you linked does. They start with the premise they want (“our employers want to justify global labor arbitrage”) and then invent a simplistic, unverified and unverifiable model and voila numbers, checkmate protectionists. Well I can take the number of grains of sand on a beach and divide them by the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin and get a 7, proving tariffs provide a healthier nation and national economy, checkmate free traders.

            Because you have yet to explain how a $50 apple tax leads to people “swimming in apples.” Something seems broken here.

            Wait, why are we taxing apples? We’re talking about tariffs here. If domestic apples cost $1.10 and foreign apples cost $1, you put a $50 tariff on the foreign apples, and no one buys them. Now the US shoemakers buy domestic apples for $1.10 and the domestic apple growers buy shoes and the Americans have both apples and shoes. Before the American apple growers didn’t get shoes but now they get shoes and the foreigners can pound sand.

            @David

            The trade deficit isn’t zero, but that’s not for any of those reasons, it’s because of capital movements. If some Chinese want to buy U.S. assets, say government bonds, they use the dollars they buy to do so. What they buy stays in the U.S., so isn’t counted in the balance of trade, so now the U.S. is importing more than it is exporting. Similarly if they want to buy stock in U.S. countries or American real estate.

            So when we have a “trade deficit” with China, it’s because they’re taking our dollars and buying not American products, but American capital assets? That sounds very bad. Like we’re breaking up bits of our country and trading it to authoritarian communists in exchange for shiny beads. When we invented the beads anyway. Maybe something is a “bad idea” if the end result is “all capital is in the hands of hostile foreign authoritarian communists.” Unless I misunderstand what you mean by “buy stock in US companies and real estate.”

            @Plumber

            So…maybe consider voting Trump in 2020, eh? Joe Biden keeps doing this “China, what’s to worry about China?” schtick.

            “Come on, man,” Biden said. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what, they’re not competition for us.”

            I’m not sure if it’s “because senile” or “because China gave his kid a $1 billion private equity deal for no discernible reason.” Oddly enough, “come on, man!” is the same way Jeb Bush responded when Trump said we have to put tariffs on China in the debates. I don’t think Biden’s going to put tariffs on his kid’s “business partners.”

          • Plumber says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            “….So…maybe consider voting Trump in 2020, eh?…”

            There’s other issues (OSHA enforcement, who’s eligible for overtime, who does and doesn’t count as an “independent contractor” and may organize a union, et cetera) that the Trump administration is still playbook Republican, but it’s not the slam dunk it once was, I’m watching this with interest.

            I still don’t like his personal style (which FWLIW reminds me of our current Democrat Govenor of California), but if Trump came back to the table and got the public works projects he promised going that would weigh in his favor.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            News to me on Nucor, actually. i thought they had significant European interests. Not sure why. Anyway, point taken, but US Steel, which actually operates blast furnaces, is an MNC, despite protestations to the contrary. Are you really arguing that US steel production isn’t dominated by a few big corporations that skim off the top? Because to me it looks like it is and they do.

            Re: Mexico – we’ll see what happens. I’ll be shocked if we see substantial REAL border control reform implemented in Mexico. American media is pretty bad about reporting on foreign politics, so I’m going to update very little based on that news story.

            I would much prefer to have the entire supply chain in the US

            I do not understand why. The thesis here is “exports good, imports bad,” but that doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t work. Empirically, it does not work. There are criticisms of mercantilism out there, but you aren’t willing to give them a fair shake because you think that

            When it’s market manipulation in my favor (say, licensing requirements to increase barriers to entry in my profession, keeping my wages and fees high) it’s “sensible regulation.” When it’s market manipulation that helps factory workers but makes my iPhone $50 more expensive it’s “an affront to the sacred tenets of Free Trade.”

            No, both of those are bad! And to the extent that licensing seems good, I’m pretty sure that the capitalist/market model isn’t the best in the first place – there’s too much informational friction for people to be able to rationally choose an ER doctor in these latter urban days, for example.

            Also, sure, imposing tariffs to internalize externalities is a good thing. Negotiating trade agreements that eliminate those externalities and eliminate the tariffs (like TPP did, though that had other problems and I’m not sure we should have passed the whole bloated mess) is better. But even when you account for that, China is better at producing steel (albeit not necessarily of the highest quality) than we are. And “externality internalization” is not what these tariffs are and it’s disingenuous to pretend it is. They’re protectionist.

            Also also, I’m not arguing that labor arbitrage doesn’t exist! I’m arguing that the overhead + profits of the companies that own the mills, whether that’s in China or the US, is small relative to the real value of the goods. I’m arguing that if you impose a tariff, almost all of the price increase on those goods will be passed on to consumers because the producers will not be able to absorb the costs and remain profitable. In arguing that tariffs won’t make people downstream worse off, you are arguing the contrary position. If you don’t think that’s the case, you need to offer a reason why demand curves don’t real or offer some evidence that fat cats are gorging themselves on the glut of excess profits in commodity steel.

            Finally, for the apple example – we’re taxing apples to encourage everyone to produce their own apples. If you want we can replace that with an export tax on apples, so that people have to go to a farm to eat apples. That gets the national supermarkets that are doing labor arbitrage on the growers out of the picture and ensures that apple orchards do not run a substantial trade defeceit. Therefore, we can expect the apple growers to be much better off, and there’s nothing that proves that the people who buy apples to make pies will be worse off.

            I don’t think you think this obviously, but the onus is on you to explain why conditions favor internalizing all production for a country but not for a farm.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            So when we have a “trade deficit” with China, it’s because they’re taking our dollars and buying not American products, but American capital assets? That sounds very bad. Like we’re breaking up bits of our country and trading it to authoritarian communists in exchange for shiny beads. When we invented the beads anyway.

            I almost see this as the other way around. We’re getting a bunch of processed valuable materials from China, and in exchange we’re giving them pieces of paper that say “hey, you own this now”. And in the event that tensions rise too high with China, we say “lol just kidding” and we still have all their materials, and they have useless pieces of paper.

          • JPNunez says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Yeah, if you put tariffs on apples, and -you are lucky that you have the correct tariffs and incentives- this makes the US economy self reliant on apples and shoes or whatever.

            But turns out that people like cheap apples, they dislike paying too much for them. To get enough commercial incentive to get the US to produce the apples themselves the tariffs have to be high enough that producing them locally makes sense, and that includes … bringing immigrants from Mexico to work on farms, something that you are also against.

            So now your tariffs have to be enough to make paying enough to americans to make it worth for them to take farm work, so those apples are going to be expensive. Keep in mind that america already subsidizes farmers. So in the end, to keep america’s economy independent, you necessarily need to make other americans take jobs they already don’t like, raise apples -and other things- prices, and keep getting cheap stuff from abroad.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Are you really arguing that US steel production isn’t dominated by a few big corporations that skim off the top?

            No, of course I’m not. I don’t understand what your point is with this. When the American steel corporations are skimming off the top, the bottom is American workers who get paid instead of foreign workers. I’m not against capitalism. I just like the “American System” of partnership between capital and labor we sort-of used to have.

            The thesis here is “exports good, imports bad,” but that doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t work. Empirically, it does not work.

            Counterpoint: China. They export goods, they barely import them, and they went from Literally Starving 50 years ago to an ascendant superpower with a massive industrial base and wages that have octupled over the last 20 years. They did this by mercantilism: lots of import barriers while pumping out exports. Empirically, this works, so we can agree that your claim that “exports good, imports bad” is empirically wrong is false, correct?

            No, both of those are bad!

            Okay, but until the Libertarian Free Trade Utopia is ruled by enlightened Philosopher King David Friedman, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

            And “externality internalization” is not what these tariffs are and it’s disingenuous to pretend it is. They’re protectionist.

            I did not claim that’s what Trump was doing with his tariffs. He’s doing protectionism. However, this also accomplishes (some) externality internalization, so I’ll take what I can get. I love Trump because he does the right things even if I’m not entirely sure he understands why he’s doing them. But what do you think is disingenuous? Do you think I’m only pretending to want to protect workers from the higher labor costs imposed by regulation but really I’m…I don’t know? Stop accusing me of being disingenuous! I genuinely like tariffs for the reasons I state! I am not a libertarian. I’m a paleoconservative.

            I’m arguing that if you impose a tariff, almost all of the price increase on those goods will be passed on to consumers

            No, only the difference in price between domestically sourced products and foreign products gets passed on to consumers. When we put a $50 tariff on $1 foreign apples, no one pays $50 for apples. They pay $1.10 for domestic apples. $0.10 out of $50 is not “almost all.”

            offer some evidence that fat cats are gorging themselves on the glut of excess profits in commodity steel.

            What sort of evidence would you accept? Commodity steel is a weird place to go, I’d point to, like I said, Nike making shoes in Asia. They do that because labor is cheaper in Asia, and the “glut of excess profits” is the difference in labor prices in Asia vs the US, and the fat cats doing the gorging is anybody who owns stock in Nike, which is probably me. I have a plethora of funds that seem to cover basically everything so I’d be shocked if none of them put .2% of whatever into Nike. I’m .2% gorging on those dividends.

            Finally, for the apple example – we’re taxing apples to encourage everyone to produce their own apples. If you want we can replace that with an export tax on apples, so that people have to go to a farm to eat apples. That gets the national supermarkets that are doing labor arbitrage on the growers out of the picture and ensures that apple orchards do not run a substantial trade defeceit. Therefore, we can expect the apple growers to be much better off, and there’s nothing that proves that the people who buy apples to make pies will be worse off.

            I don’t think you think this obviously, but the onus is on you to explain why conditions favor internalizing all production for a country but not for a farm.

            What? Why are we trying to encourage everyone to produce their own apples? That seems needlessly wasteful when comparative advantage is a thing. A farm is not a nation. You keep ignoring the shoemakers who want apples and the apple growers who want shoes. Your example makes no sense because that’s nothing like what we’re doing.

            I don’t want to be facetious here, but I’m honestly wondering if you understand what a tariff is? It’s not applied to domestic production. You only apply it to foreigners. You understand that when Trump puts a tariff on China, it only raises the price of goods imported from China, and not the same goods produced in the United States, right? So the $50 apple tax that also makes all apples cost $50 more and not just some apples cost $50 more doesn’t make any sense. But you keep going on about US steel companies profiting, and taxes on all apples, and it makes me think you don’t understand what a tariff does. It’s not a blanket tax on everything.

            @moonfirestorm

            I almost see this as the other way around. We’re getting a bunch of processed valuable materials from China, and in exchange we’re giving them pieces of paper that say “hey, you own this now”. And in the event that tensions rise too high with China, we say “lol just kidding” and we still have all their materials, and they have useless pieces of paper.

            I like global thermonuclear war as much as the next guy, but if that’s what we’re doing this seems like a poorly thought out plan.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @JPNunez

            bringing immigrants from Mexico to work on farms, something that you are also against.

            This is incorrect. I am against illegal immigration. I want farmers to pay legal wages first to Americans to pick apples. Should they be unable to find enough Americans to pick apples for legal wages while properly observing labor regulations, I am for granting temporary work visas to migrant laborers. Who will still be paid legal wages and protected by American labor laws.

            I’m mad about 100,000 people a month bum rushing our border. You understand that’s not the same thing as legal migrant workers, yes?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            I like global thermonuclear war as much as the next guy, but if that’s what we’re doing this seems like a poorly thought out plan.

            That’s fair, and maybe actually denying their ownership to that extent isn’t possible without all-out war. In practice I think saying “lol no” would probably be more of a serious hit to the US’s reputation as a stable store of value or place to invest. It’d also be equivalent to Venezuela nationalizing the oil companies, and that didn’t exactly work out well for them (although what happens if you just hand it over to another US company that still has capitalist incentives?)

            But I think the deeds of ownership of capital assets are a lot more ephemeral than the goods we’re getting back, and if you’re going to compare one side of that trade system to “shiny beads” it’s not the one we’re getting.

            Huh, I wonder if Trump has ever considered levying a repeated annual tax on foreign-owned businesses/real estate in the US? I’m sure there are a ton of good economic reasons you shouldn’t do that, but that hasn’t stopped him before.

          • JPNunez says:

            Last time I checked the immigrants doing farm labor are largely ilegal; if they become legal, it is probable they try to take better jobs than farm work.

            I think Friedman is right and that the trade deficit is due to China buying capital, what’s more, China probably understands the effects on the RMB that Friedman lines out, and the reasons for not going with “suit yourself” must be other; but Trump may be wielding the tariffs -granted to him by ’emergency’- because either it is the only tool he has, or because it is the only thing he knows.

            Trump has not been shy in proposing the laws he wants, so maybe he just doesn’t know how to stop the purchase of bonds by China, or he doesn’t know to.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Last time I checked the immigrants doing farm labor are largely ilegal; if they become legal, it is probable they try to take better jobs than farm work.

            If they’re here on a work visa for farm work and they’re not doing farm work they can be catapulted skedaddle back to where they came from.

            As for the buying of bonds, I don’t honestly have any problem with that. All they can do with those bond is sell them, and there is no shortage of takers for t-bills. They own a little over a trillion of U.S. Treasuries or about 5%. The Japanese would probably buy half in a heartbeat. But now purchasing US companies, or US land…that’s an entirely different animal.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            You intuitions about the apple problem should apply to the tariff problem.

            Why are we trying to encourage everyone to produce their own apples? That seems needlessly wasteful when comparative advantage is a thing.

            Yes, exactly. Literally this. China makes our plastic shit and we make movies and software and airplanes (and buildings and roads – I’m just talking about what we send back). To the extent that the US has comparative advantage in blue-collar work, it’s in high-quality mechanisms, factory equipment (in some respects), and local construction. I’d like to do more of those things, not build shoelace-capping plants.

            They did this by mercantilism: lots of import barriers while pumping out exports. Empirically, this works, so we can agree that your claim that “exports good, imports bad” is empirically wrong is false, correct?

            To the extent that China is mercantilist, sure, hit ’em back. But China isn’t the one imposing tariffs first here. And if you look at China’s balance of trade, it’s not exactly overwhelmingly one-sided. They don’t buy much from us, but they do buy a lot.

            Okay, but until the Libertarian Free Trade Utopia is ruled by enlightened Philosopher King David Friedman, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

            There really should be a word for “jumping to the worst equilibrium instead of trying to fix the thing that’s actually going wrong.” There’s an active political debate over over-licensing. Lots of people hate it and are trying to fix it, but instead of helping it feels like you’re jumping to escalation of the US’s protectionism problems. And no, I don’t think you’re being disingenuous about wanting to internalize externalities, but I think you’re disingenuously making that argument for this set of tariffs, in the same way arguing that making s’mores is a good side-effect of holding book-burnings is disingenuous (or, if you like, in the same way that arguing that lower housing costs is a good side-effect of lower birthrates is disingenuous).

            I’d point to, like I said, Nike making shoes in Asia. They do that because labor is cheaper in Asia, and the “glut of excess profits” is the difference in labor prices in Asia vs the US, and the fat cats doing the gorging is anybody who owns stock in Nike

            And you know, I’d accept the idea that Nike is likelier to absorb the costs than the steel-producers, because the premium on Nikes is kinda bonkers (partly because the retail markup is like 50%). But Trump’s last set of tariffs was on solar panels, washing machines, and metals, not shoes. Stuff that doesn’t trade on branding. That’s part of what makes me nervous.

          • albatross11 says:

            Plumber:

            I think Trump’s personal style and personality repel a lot of people who might otherwise agree with his policies[1]. But also, from everything I’ve seen, he’s not remotely a details guy, and doesn’t seem to do a great job of keeping details guys on staff. Which means that he often seems to have a high-level policy idea that he cares about (restrict immigration, renegotiate our trade deals to our benefit, take a hard line with Iran and Venezuela, stop dicking around in pointless wars in the Middle East), but his administration usually doesn’t seem to do the implementation very well, or he ends up backing off from it because he couldn’t work out a way to get it to work that passed muster with the courts or congress.

            [1] To be fair, though, that personal style got him elected–he has a magical ability to draw media attention, and so even media outlets that *hate* him still follow him around and give him tons of free airtime.

          • PedroS says:

            @Conrad “Counterpoint: China. They export goods, they barely import them,”

            You should REALLY check yout sources: http://www.ceicdata.com states that in Apr2019 China imported 180 bn USD of goods/services and exported 193 bn USD. Maybe you should update your priors.

          • There is a pretty consistent pattern where countries match tariffs with their trade partners. They only decrease them with trade agreements and raise them when others raise them. This pretty strongly suggests that there is actually a prisoner’s dilemma kind of situation, where defecting is profitable as long as the other side doesn’t defect as well, but mutual defecting is bad for both sides, so a coordinated compromise is better than mutual defection.

            That is, indeed, what we would expect from public choice theory, which is part of economics. Imposing a tariff makes your population, on average, worse off. But it is often politically profitable, because it benefits a concentrated interest group at the expense of a dispersed interest group.

            The behavior you describe is consistent with that picture, given that it is the government, not the population, that does the bargaining and imposes the tariffs.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Pedro, you’re right. But they’re still exporting more than they’re importing.

            @Hoopyfreud

            China makes our plastic shit and we make movies and software and airplanes

            And iPhones. Boeing has a factory in China now. You know they’re stealing that tech. Washing machines are nothing to sneeze at either. It’s a little more than shoelace capping factories, but we’ve got plenty of people on welfare who are probably not up to the task of designing software and high quality machinery but could be gainfully employed capping shoelaces. Word of the day: shoelace caps are called “aglets.”

          • (A continuation of my previous comment. For some reason the software refused to let me edit it, although it had been posted much less than an hour earlier)

            Tariffs can then be a way to make the prices reflect positive externalities of domestic production.

            Externalities that for some reason exist for import competing industries but not for the domestic export industries that are competing with them via trade?

            and that tariffs tend to be more common for agriculture

            .
            You can find the explanation for that pattern in Chapter 19 of my webbed Price Theory. The relevant passage starts:

            “Tariffs in the Real World. One common observation about real-world tariffs”

            It also explains why tariffs tend to go to declining industries, not infant industries.

          • JPNunez says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Your link is wrong, but dunno if it’s something on your post or that the SSC blog mangled it.

            Correct should be

            http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Price_Theory/PThy_Chapter_19/PThy_Chap_19.html

          • So when we have a “trade deficit” with China, it’s because they’re taking our dollars and buying not American products, but American capital assets? That sounds very bad.

            Was it very bad in the 19th century when we built railroads and canals with European money?

            The fact that the government is running a very large deficit which has to be financed somehow may indeed be bad, but that has nothing to do with tariffs—is in part the work of the same president who is imposing the tariffs.

            If foreigners invest in the U.S. that means the ratio of capital to labor goes up, which ought to raise wages, which you ought to approve of. That is true whether they buy government bonds, leaving domestic investors free to invest in companies instead, or invest in companies directly. On the other hand, if the government runs a large deficit that absorbs capital otherwise available to invest, so lowers the capital/labor ratio, which tends to lower wages.

          • And in the event that tensions rise too high with China, we say “lol just kidding” and we still have all their materials, and they have useless pieces of paper.

            A point that goes back, if I remember correctly, at least to the time of Daniel Webster and the arguments over the Second Bank of the United States.

          • Conrad: “Counterpoint: China. They export goods, they barely import them,”

            PedroS: “in Apr2019 China imported 180 bn USD of goods/services and exported 193 bn USD”

            Conrad: “Pedro, you’re right. But they’re still exporting more than they’re importing.”

            1. Conrad has just discovered that the factual belief with which he was supporting his claims was wildly false. “China imports as much as it exports” is much closer to true than “They export goods, they barely import them.”

            No visible effect on his views.

            2. The U.S. is running a very large budget deficit–someone has to lend the money we are borrowing. China lends some of it. In order to do so, they have to export more than they import, for reasons I thought I already explained. [This ignores complications due to the fact that there are other countries involved, but the logic is still the same. Every dollar of U.S. bonds we sell abroad is a dollar by which our imports were more than our exports.]

            To Conrad—which of these do you prefer to the present situation:

            A. We run the current deficit, China continues to buy the same amount of it and of other capital assets in the U.S., high tariffs mean that instead of exporting $180 billion/month and importing $193 billion, we export $140 billion and import $153.

            B. We run the current deficit and raise tariffs, China is somehow discouraged from buying capital assets in the U.S. so an additional $13 billion/month of the deficit is bought by American investors, who then have that amount less to invest in other things in the U.S. We export $145 billion and import $145 billion—the two numbers are the same because the Chinese are no longer using some of the dollars they get from their exports to invest in the U.S.

            These, and other variants along similar lines, are the real alternatives.

            A related point–how do you feel about American firms investing abroad? You apparently believe that if Chinese invest in the U.S. that helps them and hurts us. Doesn’t it follow that if we invest abroad that helps us and hurts the countries we invest in?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Hey, I updated my view from “it takes massive export/import ratios to do what China did” to “it takes a moderate export/import ratio to do what China did.” It doesn’t change the fact that our manufacturing base moved to China. It doesn’t change the fact I want China’s factories here and not there.

            I’m not sure why the total import/export amounts change in situation A, can you explain?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            You know they’re stealing that tech.

            You and I know it, but Boeing won’t get it through their thick skulls until something goes horribly wrong. But tariffs aren’t the cure to their stupidity; my bet is they’ll merely encourage the Boeing execs to double down on an offshoring strategy and spend more time thinking about “how” than what’s at risk.

            we’ve got plenty of people on welfare who are probably not up to the task of designing software and high quality machinery but could be gainfully employed capping shoelaces

            Or building bridges, or landscaping parks, or putting together airplanes instead of Air Jordans. The point is to lean into our comparative (and absolute) advantage.

            In response to your question to David, he’s assuming that the tariffs cause less trade. He knocked $40 billion off of each trading partner’s spend (super simple model, obviously).

            @David

            Externalities that for some reason exist for import competing industries but not for the domestic export industries that are competing with them via trade?

            The idea, I think is that domestic regulation (that isn’t in place abroad) forces domestic producers to internalize these and tariffs even out the playing field in that respect.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad:

            Word of the day: shoelace caps are called “aglets.”

            Their true purpose is sinister.

          • I’m not sure why the total import/export amounts change in situation A, can you explain?

            One way of producing shirts is to grow grain, export it to China, and get shirts in exchange. That happens if the cost of producing shirts that way is lower than the cost of producing shirts in the U.S.

            A tariff increases the cost of that way of producing shirts, so less of it happens. Similarly for all other trade.

            To run through the mechanics … . The tariff means that Americans want to buy fewer Chinese goods, since they are now more expensive, so try to buy fewer RMB for their dollars. At the old exchange rate Chinese still want to buy the same quantity of American goods, since there is no tariff on exports. The old exchange rate was the price at which the number of dollars Chinese wanted to buy was the same as the number Americans wanted to sell, so at that exchange rate the demand for dollars is now greater than the supply, so the price of the dollar in RMB goes up.

            Since dollars are now more expensive, American export goods are more expensive to the Chinese, so they buy fewer of them.

            The effect of the tariff is to make us sew shirts when it would be cheaper to grow them–to grow wheat and exchange it for Chinese shirts.

          • Externalities that for some reason exist for import competing industries but not for the domestic export industries that are competing with them via trade?

            The idea, I think is that domestic regulation (that isn’t in place abroad) forces domestic producers to internalize these and tariffs even out the playing field in that respect.

            Domestic regulation also imposes costs on producers of export goods, so unless it imposes more costs in producers of import competing goods than of export goods, relative prices remain the same, and it’s relative prices that determine both whether it is in our interest to get goods by trade and whether we do so.

            Like most people in this thread, you are imagining trade in terms of absolute advantage–we import things if foreigners can make them more cheaply than we can, we export things if we can make them more cheaply than they can. That sounds plausible until it occurs to you that U.S. costs are in dollars, Chinese costs are in RMB, and you need an exchange rate to compare them. An exchange rate is not a fact handed down from heaven, it is a market price, and if you haven’t worked out what determines it and how it responds to a tariff you don’t have the concepts necessary to make any sense of the things we are talking about.

            A problem shared with most in this thread.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            David, we’re talking past each other. I already completely agree with you that the cheapest way to get shirts is to grow them in Iowa. But my goal is not “cheapest shirts” it is “productive and healthy people in my country.” Also the deficit is a separate but related problem to be solved after the bigger problem.

            I know how much you like the SCA, so let’s do a different bit of roleplaying. Imagine you are not Light Side Economist, David Friedman, working on the side of angels to maximize stuff and minimize costs. Imagine you are Dark Side Economist David Friedman, trying to maximize human flourishing, even if it costs a little more or produces a little less stuff.

            When trade stops war starts. The problem we have right now is an economy inside our nation where we’re not trading with each other. When you and I in the professional class need professional services, the sorts that can only be produced by highly educated people with 120+ IQs, we trade with each other and the other sorts of fine folk on SSC. But then we’ve got Jim Bob and Tyrone, who have IQs in the mid 90s. It used to be that when we needed cars or washing machines we traded with Jim Bob and Tyrone, because while they’re fine upstanding people they’re only bright enough to assemble cars and washing machines. Now, however, when we need washing machines and cheap iPhones, we’re trading with their 95 IQ counterparts in China. Jim Bob and Tyrone have nothing to trade with us, and nothing to trade with each other except drugs and scorn. So Tyrone’s wasting away on fentanyl and Jim Bob found a website that said all his problems are Tyrone’s fault so he burned down his own neighborhood (see, there’s white guys named Tyrone and black guys named Jim Bob, so I subverted everyone’s expectations).

            Should we:

            A) Continue doing what we have been doing and aiming for maximum efficiency. Keep our eyes glued to our cheap iPhones reading Vox articles about how Jim Bob and Tyrone just need to #LearnToCode. Avoid the cities so you don’t draw Jim Bob’s wrath, and whistle past Tyrone’s grave.

            B) Do LMC and Hoopyfreud’s idea and tax corporations to give more money for more fentanyl for JB and Tyrone. Keep our eyes glued to our cheap iPhones reading Vox (now headquartered in Bangalore) about how Jim Bob and Tyrone just need to #LearnToCode. Avoid the even more decrepit cities and even larger graveyards now home to even more Tyrones.

            C) Tariff the cheap iPhones, cars and washing machines from China and open up plants producing those things in America where Jim Bob and Tyrone and their families can get jobs. Trade and with it mutual respect flows between Jim Bob and Tyrone. Tyrone’s wife (he’s got one now because he has a job, see) loves the washing machine Jim Bob’s company makes. Jim Bob’s wife loves her new truck Tyrone built and Jim Bob feels absolutely no inclination to burn down the city where he both produces and stores wealth. You and I buy slightly more expensive iPhones from the plant where Jim Bob’s son works and we keep our eyes glued to articles from The Economist about how badly Jim Bob and Tyrone are ripping us off with these stupid tariffs.

            I know Light Side Economist David Friedman picks option A. What option does Dark Side Economist David Friedman pick?

            What I think will happen though is if we elect a Republican after Trump we get option A and if we elect a Democrat after Trump we get B. Option C is basically impossible because there’s no money in it for the sorts of people who decide what policies are acceptable to talk about and enact. I think there’s a reason option C is intuitively obvious to Plumber: he knows Jim Bob and Tyrone. For everybody else the problem is “how do we rationalize A and B?” They want those cheap iPhones.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:

            But my goal is not “cheapest shirts” it is “productive and healthy people in my country.”

            Not to speak for David, but I think David is going to fall back on “measured by what?”

            And his answer is going to be that you have to measure by the economy overall, and people have said with their dollars that they prefer to grow corn to making shirts, that they would rather have a shirt for $15 and not $30. This, along with being able to get all sort of other items is what the consumer has said they want.

            I don’t think I actually buy this argument, but I also think the “How do we define the good life?” is a tough question to answer.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This is not a “voting with dollars” issue but a “voting” issue. Nobody got to “vote with their dollars” about whether or not they preferred shirtwaists manufactured in death trap sweatshops or not. They voted with their votes that, even though it might make shirtwaists slightly more expensive, factories should have fire escapes and the other three dozen laws they passed after the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

            We all agree that was “good” right? But how much? How did we measure that? Maybe that’s a failure mode of economics: if all you have is a measuring tape everything looks like something you have to be able to measure. (something something maps and territory) Since measuring “cheapness of iPhones” is easier than measuring “healthy nation,” are we doomed to wander through bombed out cities and trailer parks full of opioid zombies saying “this is the best of all possible worlds because numbers on a spreadsheet say I have the cheapest iPhone?”

            Can you, my left-leaning friend, imagine a solution to the crisis of meaningful labor that does not take as a necessary pre-condition, “this must also assure cheap iPhones?”

          • brad says:

            It’s all well and good to point to votes, but we have a rotten borough system. So now you need to add epicycles to your justification in order to show why it’s perfectly reasonable that all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Naive question.

            Currently, the US right wing claims to oppose tax increases. But the same people seem to favour tax increases, provided they are labelled “tariff” rather than “sales tax” or “income tax” or “realty tax”.

            Do they think that the tariffs will be paid by foreigners and so don’t count? Given that it’s pretty clearly increasing the price to people *in* the country.

          • marshwiggle says:

            I think plenty of Trump’s supporters see tariffs as war, not tax. Hurt or threaten to hurt the countries doing stuff you don’t like. If that hurts you too some in the process, that’s the price for winning. One could almost completely explain a large fraction of Trump support as ‘likes feeling like winning, hasn’t had that in a while’. Trade war feels like winning, so they support it.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @DinoNerd,

            The same principle justifies both supporting lower income and sales taxes and supporting higher tarrifs: the more you tax something, the less of it you’re going to get.

            Even if you disagree that having a stronger domestic manufacturing base is a good thing, you should understand the logic by which tarrifs incentivize on-shoring manufacturing back to America.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nabil +1

            @brad

            Maybe this is the point in the epicycle where the free traders need to justify their trade law-derived advantages. I’m looking at the rusted out factories, war zone cities, Chinese technology thieves, the opioid zombies and I think the free traders have some ‘splainin’ to do. Increasingly, “but cheap iPhones” is not cutting it.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Externalities that for some reason exist for import competing industries but not for the domestic export industries that are competing with them via trade?

            My argument is that the externalities differ by industry, not that they don’t exist. Then tariffs can equalize them, somewhat.

            Imagine a trade situation where country 1 sells product A to country 2 and gets product B in return, balancing the trade at first glance. However, if externalities of product A are greater than of product B, the trade is not actually balanced. Putting a tariff on product A can remedy this somewhat. This is similar to a carbon tax: you tax the stuff with a high CO2 externality, so consumption shifts to products with a lower CO2 externality.

            It also explains why tariffs tend to go to declining industries, not infant industries.

            What you ignore in your book is that culture exists, which people tend to want to preserve. That in itself makes it far more likely that declining industries get support, because the decline of culture is a negative externality, which is typically greater than the positive externality of getting a new industry.

            You seem to have the typical blind spots of economists, who judge creative destruction to be a very good thing, which causes them to undervalue the downsides due to the halo effect.

            Ultimately, if prices tend to consistently undervalue negative externalities of creative destruction, then it makes perfect sense for people to want to shift the equilibrium to a point where it happens less than how often mere prices would cause it to happen.

            Of course, a complication here is that the winners and losers are often different groups, so it’s not so much the case that the same people lose their job in the losing industry and gain one in the winning industry. So the losers are more upset than the overall externalities would justify, while the winners are less upset than would be justified.

            @HeelBearCub

            There is quite a bit of evidence suggesting that people tend to pick short-term success and/or defecting if they can get away with it. Perhaps by optimizing for modern capitalism, we are now increasingly optimizing for short-term success and/or defecting?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also,

            @DinoNerd

            Tariffs aren’t a left/right thing, they’re a working class/professional class thing. Nobody on TV, neocon or neolib likes tariffs, because cheap iPhones. But the left and right wing working class (Plumber and his union friends on the left, Trump voters on the right) like tariffs because jobs. The (exceedingly few) professional class right-wingers who like tariffs are paleocons like me and Pat Buchanan. Natural conservatives who’ve done a great deal of rationalization thought about why tariffs are a good idea. I don’t know if there’s any professional class left wingers in favor of tariffs. I think they’ve entirely switched to culture war interests and forgotten economic/labor issues are a thing.

          • Lillian says:

            I don’t know if there’s any professional class left wingers in favor of tariffs.

            It’s not a major part of his platform, but i believe Bernie Sanders is in favour of tariffs. He is personally professional class, but most of his economic beliefs are classic working class Democrat. He is also opposed to mass immigration, but has quietly stopped mentioning it because his base won’t support him on that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Sure, I thought Bernie was the least-bad democrat in 2016 until that debate where he said “I don’t care about her damn emails.” You can’t fight The Establishment if you can’t fight the establishment in your own party*.

            * Yeah yeah yeah he’s not really a dem or whatever but you get my point. If you can’t fight you’re worthless.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also also @DinoNerd

            Can you explain the converse? How come left wingers have never met a market manipulation they didn’t like, taxes, regulations, labor laws, environmental laws, minimum wage laws. But the instant you say “tariff” they transform into the reincarnation of Adam Smith. Like vampires and garlic.

            What’s the deal with that? Why can we all rationally debate hiking corporate taxes or the minimum wage or crazy stuff like UBI, but the instant someone says “tariff” it’s all hissing and spitting and “the free market!” and “free trade!” and “slightly increased costs to consumers!!!”

            Seems a bit odd, don’t you think?

          • brad says:

            @Conrad

            In a fair vote, cheaper iphones do in fact win.

          • Enkidum says:

            Can you explain the converse? How come left wingers have never met a market manipulation they didn’t like, taxes, regulations, labor laws, environmental laws, minimum wage laws. But the instant you say “tariff” they transform into the reincarnation of Adam Smith.

            This is a very recent development, certainly in the last 25 years, arguably mostly in the past 5 or 10. Lots of left-wing governments around the world have instituted huge tariffs, and in the 80’s and previously the anti-tariff forces would mostly have been the libertarian/right.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @brad

            In a fair vote, cheaper iphones do in fact win.

            A glance at the occupant of the White House reveals that you are factually incorrect.

            @Enkidum

            This is a very recent development, certainly in the last 25 years, arguably mostly in the past 5 or 10.

            I blame media consolidation. People get their political views from the TV screen and the multinational corporations that own the media aren’t really interested in hiring political commentators who oppose their free trade ideology.

          • brad says:

            @Enkidum
            It’s roughly the same reason that you see very few educated people arguing for scientific management of the economy or for the gold standard. Or the four humours system of medicine for that matter.

            @Conrad
            Alas, not the product of a fair vote. On the contrary, the fair vote went the other way. We have an electoral system that seems rather like the ethical value system you have put on display here—one where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

          • quanta413 says:

            It doesn’t make any sense to assume Americans would or wouldn’t vote for cheaper iPhones based upon Presidential or even congressional elections. I doubt it’s a high enough priority for most voters that you can determine the signal from what representatives win. Y’all are just bullshitting.

            Americans like free trade with most countries, but not so much with China. But that was about a year ago. Ask them a few years prior or a few years hence, and a large number of them may change their mind. Maybe not enough to flip it, but it could flip over a couple decades like it did for Japan.

          • But my goal is not “cheapest shirts” it is “productive and healthy people in my country.”

            My goal, as an economist, is to maximize economic efficiency, which is valuable mainly as a proxy for maximizing human happiness. Not a perfect proxy, but enormously better than “I’m sure this tweak or that makes people better off because I feel it in my heart,” especially when which such feelings get converted into government action is determined by which are politically profitable and sound good to rationally ignorant voters.

            The budget deficit may be a good or bad thing for other reasons. But if what you are concerned with is not the fact of trade but the trade deficit, which some of your comments seem to imply, then the budget deficit is highly relevant. A trade deficit is equivalent to an inflow of capital—that’s an accounting identity, aside from foreigners stuffing their mattresses with dollar bills. The two reasons we have a capital inflow, and hence a trade deficit, are that the government is borrowing money and that the U.S. is an attractive place to invest.

            As best I can tell, you simply don’t understand that trade is trade. It isn’t that China manufactures iPhones and gives them to us. We manufacture things and trade them to China. American workers are producing in both cases, just a different mix of workers and products–more farmers and fewer textile workers with trade than without–and with each person, on average, producing more, with the result that each person gets more.

            Pretty nearly any change, including one that produces net benefits, leaves some people worse off. Why do you think a change that benefits Americans who assemble iPhones at the cost of Americans who grow wheat is on net a good thing, and one that goes the other way a bad thing?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            It doesn’t change the fact that our manufacturing base moved to China

            We manufacture as much as ever.

            iphones

            The cost of iPhones is determined by market demand. There are some cost breakdowns online which I don’t trust entirely, but Apple isn’t anywhere close to losing money on the iPhone. Apple’s price isn’t determined by “cost plus reasonable profit.” If Apple paid $100 more to make iPhones or $100 less to make iPhones, they would still charge the same, which is what the market will bear. Tariffs on iPhones will mean less Apple profit, not more expensive iPhones.

          • Nobody got to “vote with their dollars” about whether or not they preferred shirtwaists manufactured in death trap sweatshops or not.

            People voted with their dollars on whether they preferred to work in a factory with or without various safety features. If the value of the safety to the workers was more than its cost to the employer, it would have been more profitable to pay a little less and provide a safer factory.

            And before you respond that they couldn’t pay a little less because the workers would have starved, consider why immigrant workers were willing to bear quite sizable costs in order to come here and work in those factories.

          • Imagine a trade situation where country 1 sells product A to country 2 and gets product B in return, balancing the trade at first glance. However, if externalities of product A are greater than of product B, the trade is not actually balanced. Putting a tariff on product A can remedy this somewhat.

            1. Who is putting on the tariff? Country 1 can’t because it’s exporting A, not importing it, and a tariff is an import tax. If country 2 puts on the tariff, the result is that it produces more of product A and less of product B than before, which on your assumption is the opposite of what you want.

            2. Suppose I rewrite your argument so that it actually makes sense–country 1 is putting a tariff on B, which it imports. That’s a very clumsy way of accomplishing your objective, since the tariff on B results in producing less of all export goods, not just A, and there is no reason to expect that export goods in general have greater negative externalities than import competing goods.

            If there were only two goods and you had a wise benevolent philosopher king running things your tariff might be better than doing nothing, but worse than taxing the production of product A, since your solution still leaves people buying good A at a price that doesn’t reflect the cost of the externality.

            3. In your original situation, with more than two traded products, the argument is for putting an export tax on A, not a tariff on anything, since that actually targets the negative externality. But that targets it only for exports of A, not A produced for domestic consumption, while a tax on producing A, the standard Pigouvian solution, targets both.

            Oddly enough, we observe tariffs and don’t observe export taxes, which suggests that your explanation has nothing to do with the reason for tariffs.

            Your argument is roughly equivalent to “why I am I shooting at random into the air? I might hit a duck.”

          • But the left and right wing working class (Plumber and his union friends on the left, Trump voters on the right) like tariffs because jobs.

            Because they believe there would be more jobs with tariffs. That’s a natural conclusion in terms of 18th century economics, where you import more than you export because other countries can produce more cheaply than you can.

            As I have tried to explain, that’s nonsense–“cheaper” is comparing prices in two different currencies, like asking whether I am heavier than I am tall. Once you think through the logic of the market that produces an exchange rate, you realize that “China can produce everything more cheaply than the U.S.” isn’t merely false, it’s meaningless.

          • But the instant you say “tariff” they transform into the reincarnation of Adam Smith.

            Interesting question. I can think of two possible explanations:

            The (mistaken) arguments for tariffs view them as benefiting Americans at the cost of foreigners. People on the left are less committed than people on the right to the idea that only Americans count.

            Free trade is a case where the arguments accepted by the academics—very nearly all of the relevant ones, from me to Krugman—come down on one side, the arguments that seem obvious to people who don’t understand the academic analysis come down at least partly on the other. People on the left are more inclined than people on the right to believe academics.

          • If Apple paid $100 more to make iPhones or $100 less to make iPhones, they would still charge the same, which is what the market will bear.

            That’s unlikely to be the case. Your “what the market will bear” implicitly assumes one price at which they can sell lots of iPhones, a slightly higher price at which they sell none.

            Let D(p) be the quantity of iPhones they can sell at a price p. Let C be the cost of making an iPhone, for simplicity assumed constant. Their profit is then D(p)x(p-C). It should be obvious that the value of p which maximizes that depends on C.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            People voted with their dollars on whether they preferred to work in a factory with or without various safety features. If the value of the safety to the workers was more than its cost to the employer, it would have been more profitable to pay a little less and provide a safer factory.

            When we reach this sort of conclusion, that’s when we’re supposed to realize our system is not optimizing for human flourishing, but…if not “optimizing for” then “highly tolerant of” human misery.

            At some point, the miserable workers (who are not fully down with the anarcho-capitalist ideology) revolt. Maybe collective bargaining. Strikes. Walkouts. Voting in Trump. The world is messier than numbers on a spreadsheet, and that’s where we justify the “tweaks.” People think the economy should be serving them rather than the other way around.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Yes, tariffs can only directly price negative externalities into the price of foreign products. It only works to reward positive externalities of domestic production if the tariff doesn’t cause the market to switch to other products with high negative and/or low positive externalities.

            Of course, when that happens the government can turn to subsidies, which have their own issues.

            My point is not that tariffs (or subsidies) are obviously correct/justified, but that your model and the models of economists in general are too simplistic to show that they are incorrect. Ultimately, your rebuttal merely consists of disbelief that the complexity of the situation can be captured in a tariff structure that improves the situation in the eyes of the populace.

            You have not demonstrated that the overall downsides of tariffs are always greater than the overall upsides.

            Are you not making the rather common mistake of making a simplified model normative, instead of descriptive, even though you have no particular reason to believe that your model captures the complexity of reality?

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Insider trading, I suspect. Trump knows when he is going to say something that tanks the market. And when/if he is going to walk it back. Given his entire career so far, him using the presidential bully pit to generate money, regardless of how much wealth he destroys in the process seems, well, right on brand.

    • Chalid says:

      There’s a really good chance some of it is ending up in Trump’s pocket. The man used to try to make money in the 1980s by generating fake market-moving news (buy some stock, tell the market that he was going to try to take over the company, then quietly dump the stock). That kind of thing would work so much better when you can move whole markets with a tweet or capriciously apply and remove tariffs on a whim.

      • cassander says:

        he’s already a billionaire, is obsessed with not being seen as a loser, and is running for re-election. It’s vanishingly unlikely that he would prize whatever amount of money he could make from doing this over improving his electoral chances.

        • broblawsky says:

          It seems unlikely that Trump personally would bother, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the kids or associated cronies were front-running the market.

          • cassander says:

            I’d believe it of the cronies before the kids. Cronies are, almost by definition, ambitious sorts. The kids have grown up well fed and probably won’t be as hungry.

        • Matt M says:

          “Trump is just using the Presidency to enrich himself” is my least favorite Trump-related conspiracy, by far, for these exact reasons.

          Trump will almost certainly be the only President in American history whose income, net worth, and future economic prospects will all be *reduced* by his becoming President.

          • cassander says:

            George Washington made a point of somewhat ostentatiously refusing salaries and paying expenses out of his own pocket in many of his public roles, including the presidency. But Trump will certainly be the first president to do so in a long time.

          • Matt M says:

            Did George Washington’s private plantation concern become worth significantly less because his Presidency resulted in huge amounts of the global population hating him?

            I mean, it’s too early to know for sure, but by most accounts, it seems that Trump’s private businesses are being absolutely destroyed by his unpopular (among the sorts of people that are his likely customers, at least) Presidency…

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Related: Trump’s Net Worth Slides to $2.8 Billion, Lowest Since Campaign.

            I’m sure the explanation for this is that Trump is so stupid his harebrained scheme to get rich by becoming President backfired and now he’s poor.

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M says:

            He spent a lot of his own money on the job for 8 years and, I believe, had to sell of some land to do it. Now, he owned an awful lot of land and tended to buy more whenever he had a few bucks in his pocket which is why he was almost invariably cash poor. He didn’t bankrupt himself, but he certainly suffered financially from being president.

          • dick says:

            Last time I saw his net worth detailed, it was mostly a self-reported estimate of the value of his brand. I think it’s fair to say that brand is… not worth as much as it used to be.

          • Matt M says:

            I’m sure the explanation for this is that Trump is so stupid his harebrained scheme to get rich by becoming President backfired and now he’s poor.

            The notion that Trump had a plan that went:

            1. Become President
            2. Increase wealth through corrupt graft

            And that he successfully executed the hard part 1, but then spectacularly failed at the relatively easy part 2 is… well, it’s a story so absurd that the last time I heard something like it, it involved laboratory mice whose genes had been spliced…

          • Chalid says:

            @Conrad Honcho, Matt M

            The article looks at the worth of his properties; Bloomberg no idea what the Trump Organization is up to outside of that.

            @Matt M

            Too many dare call it conspiracy. The “conspiracy” here requires that Trump’s children talk with their father and that they have less than the highest ethical standards; which of those two do you find so ridiculously implausible?

            @all No one is claiming that Trump ran for president solely to increase is wealth; clearly there were other motivations too. But I don’t see any reason to think he’s averse to grabbing some cash while he’s there.

          • Matt M says:

            He spent a lot of his own money on the job for 8 years and, I believe, had to sell of some land to do it. Now, he owned an awful lot of land and tended to buy more whenever he had a few bucks in his pocket which is why he was almost invariably cash poor. He didn’t bankrupt himself, but he certainly suffered financially from being president.

            I’ll just go ahead and concede this.

            Everyone is now free to update their priors from “Trump is the most selfless President of all time” to “Trump is the most selfless president since George Washington.”

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I shan’t expect to change the minds of the people who don’t agree, but I don’t believe Trump expected to win. It was a brand-building exercise that went too well.

          • cassander says:

            @Edward Scizorhands says:

            I shan’t expect to change the minds of the people who don’t agree, but I don’t believe Trump expected to win. It was a brand-building exercise that went too well

            Trump seems monomaniacally obsessed with proving that trump is not a loser. I have a very hard time imagining himself committing to anything as public as a presidential campaign without thinking he can win. Maybe, maybe this was possible in the primary, where he thought he could throw his hat in the ring nad get a lot of attention, but no one would hold it against him to be one of 20 who lost, but not after he got the nomination. Even if he had believed he wouldn’t win, he would have convinced himself otherwise after that.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Everyone is now free to update their priors from “Trump is the most selfless President of all time” to “Trump is the most selfless president since George Washington.”

            Puh-lease. You’re right about seeking the presidency for financial gain being bollocks. But there’s nothing selfless about exchanging wealth for prestige. Businessman Trump is a celebrity but President Trump has actual power and will live forever in the history books.

        • Chalid says:

          There isn’t a tradeoff between electability and money. Let’s grant arguendo that he is indeed solely focused on maximizing his electoral chances. So all his actions, random market-moving tweets, etc. are purely for electoral benefit. All he has to happen for Trump to make money is for the people managing his money to know about his actions in advance. Trump has made sure that this will happen because the people who manage the Trump organization are his kids, who also advise him on political strategy.

          The safeguards against this sort of information flow being used corruptly are essentially zero right now; it would be really really hard to catch this sort of thing, and even if it was caught, it’s not illegal so no one will go to jail.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      That is part of it, the may jobs numbers and the antitrust probe was likely another part of it if you’re talking about recent movements.

    • Matt M says:

      because the reason was President Trump’s surprise tariffs

      What is your confidence in the accuracy of this assessment?

      Are you basing it on anything other than what you have been told by the financial media?

      What if I told you that the market has made similar downward moves, hundreds of times, for reasons other than tariff policy?

      (Note: I consider tariffs bad policy and have little doubt that they would decrease consumer confidence and result in lower stock prices… I just have even less respect for the financial media whose primary job is “come up with some sort of plausible-sounding justification for why the market moved today”)

      • jgr314 says:

        As a professional investor, I want to second this. Market moves are always over-explained.
        Also, I’m surprised that a -8% move (based on SPX high-low, FXAIX close-to-close was a little less extreme) was enough to actually matter much to a (presumably) unleveraged investor.

        • AliceToBob says:

          +1

          One of the many failures of our media is their attempt to make stock market news into a spectator sport. Reminds me of someone’s description of the news in general on this site awhile back (I forget who), something like “a bunch of people with arts and humanities degrees getting together and pretending to know everything”. Spot on.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yes, I’m an unleveraged investor. I still want it to be that if an S&P 500 index fund had been the most prudent place for 80-90% of a youngish person’s capital for many many years as of January 20, 2017, the new President isn’t a Black Swan who will make me look like a fool for not buying individual blue chips in only the most defensive sectors instead.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Consumer confidence continues to climb, however.

        Perhaps this is because people have jobs and their wages are increasing, and they base their outlook of the economy more by their personal economic condition than on projections of government policy.

        It’s also possible that tariffs will incentivize companies to move production back to the US, or not abandon production they already have here. This increases employment, job prospects and wages, increasing consumer confidence. “Can I put food on my table” is more important than “can I get a cheaper TV?”

        • Lillian says:

          Putting this response here because the other thread is crowded:

          In the meantime I keep predicting more employment, higher wages, low inflation, high consumer confidence, high growth, and I keep being right while everyone who keeps predicting doom keeps being wrong.

          If anyone was predicting doom and gloom then they were being hysterical. The sober prediction was a healthy and strong economy that could be performing even better were it not for Trump’s trade war. As far as i can tell, that’s exactly what happened, the economy is indeed strong and healthy, but there are real and substantial costs to the tariffs.

          To put an analogy here, Disney is currently raking in the money thanks to a range of very successful and popular intellectual properties. Imagine it turned out that Disney was burning a million dollars a year as a sacrifice to Mammon. You’re doing the equivalent of crowing about how the fact that Avengers Endgame is on track to become the highest grossing film of all time is proof that sacrifices to Mammon work. Maybe they do, but you need to show an actual causal connection, otherwise it could simply be the case that Disney could skip the sacrifices and be a million dollars richer each year.

          That’s my take on the Trump’s trade war. Yes the economy is doing great, but it would be even better if he’d left well enough alone. Frankly anyone who was paying attention should have been expecting a strong economy all the way back in 2015. It was my expectation that whomever won the 2016 election was likely to have good times and strong chances of reelection on that account, pretty much regardless of their individual qualities.

          • Matt M says:

            How many non-partisan people were actually saying that before the election though?

            Remember: When Trump first started winning a few key states and the Dow futures were down slightly, Paul Krugman on live TV predicted a stock market crash from which we would never recover.

          • Lillian says:

            The modern main stream media is seems to have adopted a business model of selling hysterics rather than sober analysis, so it’s hardly surprising that the New York Time’s pet economist was out peddling the former rather than the latter.

            Here’s my analysis: Trump is and will continue to be an incompetent buffoon of a President, and the economy will continue to perform strongly at least through 2020, and likely further. Barring some unexpected catastrophe, we frankly shouldn’t worry about a recession until the markets stop worrying about a recession, and for the moment they’re still a bit skittish. Trump could pile drive everything into the ground by doing something monumentally stupid, but i doubt he will, and i expect he will be stopped if he tries. Most likely the trade war will just continue to be a low key drag on the economy and that’s it. It sucks for some people, but everyone else will be fine.

            It’s a boring and status quo take, but boring and status quo is just about the most reliable prediction you can make. Unfortunately it’s not something you’re likely to see very much of these days. The narratives that sell are either that Trump is great and things are great, or that Trump is bad and things are bad. It’s frankly annoying, he’s the President not the goddamend Fisher King.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Lillian, this seems…I’m not sure, like a No True Scotsman kind of thing? Except without any actual Scotsmen? All the big economists keep predicting doom and gloom, but they’re not “the sensible ones” who predict “things will hum along” except there was nobody predicting things would hum along? Can you link me anybody (besides our illustrious host in his “Still Crying Wolf” essay) who predicted “things will be fine?”

            And definitely nobody predicted wages rising and inflation staying low. And Obama told us manufacturing jobs weren’t coming back.

            “He just says, ‘Well, I’m going to negotiate a better deal.’ Well, what, how exactly are you going to negotiate that? What magic wand do you have? And usually the answer is, he doesn’t have an answer.”

            Maybe the answer is Trump employed tariffs, which are the ridiculously obvious way that every nation including the US, the UK, and now China used to grow their industries. Couldn’t be. Such reputable folks as Paul Krugman say tariffs don’t work. Which leaves only one possible answer: Trump has a magic wand.

          • Lillian says:

            The only Scotsman i care about here is me. While my memory is admittedly as fallible and self-serving as any other human’s, my recollection of the last time we talked about this is precisely that i predicted the tariffs were bad but the economy would do well regardless. Unfortunately the open thread archives are not searchable, and combing through them manually is highly impractical, so i have no means to prove my recollection right or wrong.

            Still if we want to talk about the news. Your fuzzy unspecific recollection might be doom, gloom, and disaster, and i agree we got that from outlets like the The New York Times, which i don’t find credible in economic matters. However my fuzzy unspecific recollection is that sources like Forbes and The Economist were giving a combination of “good economy” and “tariffs bad”. Of course perusing the archives of any of these publications is somewhere between a pain in the ass and impossible without a subscription, so again we’re left with fallible self-serving human memory.

            On the subject of manufacturing jobs, here’s some data: If the current trendline holds, manufacturing jobs should be back to 2008 levels sometime around 2027. That’s about a million more manufacturing jobs than there are now. In the intervening time, the population will have grown by maybe twenty million, while manufacturing jobs will still be well short of their 70s peak of 19 million. This works out to 2027 being projected to have 6 million less manufacturing jobs than the peak for a population that was smaller by 120 million people. Not sure about you, but to me this seems pretty consistent with the statement, “Manufacturing jobs aren’t going to come back.”

            You might also notice that this slow recovery does not appear to be due to anything Trump has done, as it started in 2010 and has continued apace irrespective of who is in the Oval Office. Again there appears to be no evidence of a causal connection beyond post hoc ergo propter hoc, which is a logical fallacy. If you do have such evidence, then by all means present it. Thus far all you’ve got is an attempt at proof by contradiction, but even if every single economist on the planet wrongly predicted that the tariffs would be a disaster, that no disaster has materialized doesn’t prove that they have been positive.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Look at your own graph. Look at 2015 – 2017. Then look at 2017 and beyond. What changed at the beginning of 2017?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I can see the bump at 2017 and say it’s because Trump was sitting in the Oval Office. But how do you explain the bump in mid-2013?

            It looks things were always trending up since 2010, with two plateaus: one in mid-2012 to mid-2013, the other in mid-2015 to end-2016.

          • Maybe the answer is Trump employed tariffs, which are the ridiculously obvious way that every nation including the US, the UK, and now China used to grow their industries.

            With a few minor exceptions such as Britain in the 19th century and Hong Kong in the 20th—arguably each the most impressive economic performance of its century.

        • JPNunez says:

          Because it seems like the tax cuts and stuff will continue for the time being. The party ends when either side decides to balance the budget.

          Which makes me think that MMT will win in the short-medium term because it is the theoretical framework that allows the party to keeps going, as long as the state doesn’t want to buy the same stuff as the private sector.

          Regardless of the truth value of MMT.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What is your confidence in the accuracy of this assessment?

        Are you basing it on anything other than what you have been told by the financial media?

        Yes?
        I have priors that tariffs are bad, because that’s the consensus I learned in ECON classes, and while economics isn’t exactly physics, the professors are much more trustworthy than in other non-STEM academic subjects. Then there are the priors that make me more conservative, like y’know, Predictability > Chaos. A tariff that has to be passed by Congress is better than one started by one man a fortnight after a tweet.

        What if I told you that the market has made similar downward moves, hundreds of times, for reasons other than tariff policy?

        😛
        I was expecting my index fund to sit through a recession just due to the yield curve inversion and number of years we haven’t had one. That’s relatively predictable (sfter about a decade of growth comes a recession), Trump’s erratic pronouncements that can be enforced soon after they’re tweeted are not.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Trump’s erratic pronouncements that can be enforced soon after they’re tweeted are not.

          You’re right, figuring out which country Trump is going to tariff next is difficult. Perhaps some clever business folk will be able to identify the one country Trump definitely won’t tariff, and invest there…

        • Matt M says:

          Is it though?

          I mean, the theory that “When Trump says Mexico will pay for the wall, what he means is that he will raise tariffs on them” has been frequently discussed since… before he was even elected.

          My guess is that it was already “priced in” to the market to some extent, and the moves since then have been just updating priors about the likelihood.

          Any serious investor that isn’t accounting for Trump being erratic is a fool.

      • and as an economist I want to third it.

        Human beings have very good pattern recognition software. It is so good it can even find patterns that are not there.

        • jgr314 says:

          Would you care to comment on the hypothesis that US Presidents should get at most 10% of the credit/blame for the state of the economy during their term?

          • Sounds about right if you are talking about the overall state of the economy. Clinton should get credit for the effects of the deregulation during his term, although Alfred Kahn should get more. But even in that case, most of the benefits would have occurred after he was out of office.

  19. hash872 says:

    I’m gonna make a half-hearted defense of Uber/Lyft as publicly traded companies. I don’t particularly want to, and I’m not making any value judgments on where their stock price will go- I’m not an equities analyst and don’t play one on the Internet. (Index funds FTW!) But, general sentiment has swung too negative on their likelihood of continuing as a going concern. (Every left-leaning pundit on Twitter with a degree in like sociology or whatever is suddenly Warren Buffett when it comes to Uber’s chances).

    People ordering car service on their smartphones is how we live now. We’re not going to go back to the taxi model as the sole way to get around cities or even suburbs- the toothpaste is not going back in the tube- this is simply not how technological change works guys. Unless all the drivers connect on, like, the blockchain or something (implied sarcasm is implied), companies have to provide this service- maybe the current market leaders would be the logical dominant firms, yes?

    Uber/Lyft are two-sided markets- riders but also drivers (here I steal from the excellent Ben Thompson of Stratechery, who I do recommend you read). You need a certain amount of driver liquidity to have a functioning consumer product. Sure, drivers aren’t exclusive to Uber/Lyft and anyone with some VC money can make a competitor- but you have to have enough drivers in a given urban area to get off the ground, otherwise why not just use Uber instead? ‘Your driver is 20 minutes away/40 minutes away/60 minutes away’ is simply not acceptable to urban professionals when Uber has drivers, like, 3 minutes away.

    Sure, you can can come up with some elaborate Rube Goldberg scheme to sign up the majority of the drivers in your area. Good luck reaching them all- and then spending $ on incentives and bonuses and subsidizing rides probably- pretty soon you’re spending millions and millions, and what VC is interested in funding this? To compete with Uber/Lyft in a money-losing business that already has established leaders? You can set cash on fire in your back yard for free….

    Losing money is, ironically, Uber/Lyft’s moat. They will probably eventually raise prices a bit, and cut back on expenses here and there, and go through some years of ultra ultra-thin margin profitability, and some years of losses. (Sprint for instance is unprofitable most years, for Certified Internet Public Company Opinion Having Experts out there). I’m not saying they’re great businesses or advocating for their business model- just saying that they’re rather tough to dislodge in a totally undifferentiated market with no returns to scale, and likely no VC interest. Good luck competing with them

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      We’re not going to go back to the taxi model as the sole way to get around cities or even suburbs- the toothpaste is not going back in the tube- this is simply not how technological change works guys.

      If they end up losing (enough) money, we will! Going public means it’s hard to shovel VC money into an incinerator. If they can’t pay their drivers enough to keep them driving, they won’t have any drivers, and if they don’t have drivers, they won’t remain in business. Like you said, it’s a two-sided market. The supply and demand lines may not cross at a level that allows these companies to keep their offices cold enough in the summer to serve cocktail shrimp at the buffet, and if that’s the case they’ll lose their employees as well as their contractors. (Though I’ll happily admit that Uber’s black car service definitely isn’t going anywhere). The magical driver coordination problem you describe used to be solved by taxi companies, and it worked poorly, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t work better than “Uber but without money to burn” can. I don’t think they do, I just think they could.

      • Even if Uber goes bankrupt, couldn’t Google just buy them out or replace them and continue the service indefinitely? We know that they have plenty of “moonshot” projects that don’t fundamentally hurt the bottom line and it would go well with their work on self-driving cars.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I mean, sure they could. But if Google ever does manage to turn Waymo into a product it won’t matter whether Uber still exists because they’ll be able to yeet the company into penny stock-dom faster than you can say, “OK, Google.”

      • SamChevre says:

        The thing is–Uber doesn’t hire drivers. Uber is a middleman. It’s possible that they don’t charge enough for their services, or they charge too much, or they sell rides at a price that’s unsustainable for drivers–but any analysis that starts with Uber as employing drivers will just confuse you.

        • hash872 says:

          Strongly agreed. Uber is a platform, not an employer. (And I philosophically disagree with attempts to make ridesharing drivers employees).

          While I did cast aspersions on the blockchain idea up above, I do wonder about the future of a decentralized protocol that brings riders & drivers together. I am not and have never been a crypto bro, and I find blockchain mostly useless so far- however, I am sort of intrigued by the broader concepts of decentralization. Like, SMTP is a decentralized protocol- it does not require a centralized e-mail database somewhere.

          Seeing as I’m not really clear how much value Uber brings as a middleman- could a decentralized system ever work in the future? Just thinking out loud here

          • BBA says:

            On the employee/contractor question, I have to ask: How many Uber drivers are doing it full-time? And what percentage of rides are with full-time drivers? My understanding is that while the “gig economy” part-timers making a few extra bucks on the side used to be the norm, they’ve been largely crowded out by full-time drivers, for whom Uber is a better source of income than driving a taxi. And most taxi drivers are legally “independent contractors” too.

            At one point I saw mention of Uber buying a fleet of cars to lease to drivers. That makes them a taxi company in all but name.

          • Etoile says:

            One value as middleman is the insurance and platform maintenance, especially if they need to use an existing commercial program (e.g. Google Maps)

          • Evan Þ says:

            @BBA, as a VITA tax prep volunteer, I’ve seen a number of clients who drive part-time for Uber, part-time for DoorDash or two or three other delivery firms, and maybe have occasional part-time retail jobs on top of that. They’ve essentially got full-time work as an independent contractor, and can usually adjust each of the pieces on a daily or weekly basis.

            (Or, occasionally, they’re taking part-time college classes.)

            No numbers on how many people like that there are… but I think this last year at my one tax prep site, the majority of the people I’ve seen working with Uber have been like that.

          • Matt M says:

            Isn’t VITA a military program?

            Are a lot of active duty folks driving for Uber during their off hours?

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Matt M, not quite. Part of VITA’s for the military, but the other part’s for lower-income people across the country. (The current limit’s $55,000 AGI; site managers have discretion to accept people over the limit, and I’ve seen mine do that occasionally.) I haven’t seen a single active-duty serviceman at my site.

          • Vorkon says:

            Actually, you’d be surprised. Uber driving is an easy job with a low barrier to entry, where you can set your own hours to work around your actual duty schedule, and having another part-time job is not specifically prohibited, as long as you get approval from your command. I know at least three myself, and I haven’t exactly been looking.

            Plus, having an Uber that can actually get you on base, rather than just dropping you off at the gate, is a pretty great deal. Admittedly, they have no way that I know of to advertise this fact, or ensure you get matched with those drivers, but when you do it’s gotta’ be worth some good reviews, at least. The taxi companies that can get on base generally suck.

            But that said, no, VITA isn’t a military-specific program. Servicemembers are just one of the groups that qualifies for VITA, so there’s usually an office on most bases.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        If they end up losing (enough) money, we will!

        What their losing money actually means is current low prices for consumers. If they ever need or want to be profitable, they’ll just up the prices – or more correctly, they’ll let the market flow to its natural position.

        I’m in Bucharest and legislation changed last month to a pretty drastic form – it allows for instant fines and number plate confiscation on first offense (offense = driving for Uber). For about 3 days prices jumped 5x and hailing times went up to 15 minutes, and… that’s it. Now they’re a bit more expensive. Which means the market can bear much higher prices. Even if consumers would be grumbling and yelling on social media that they’re being ripped off they’d still be paying, because we actually need ratings and price surges (price surge = I can always find a car).

        We’re using VC-subsidised Uber right now. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

        • brad says:

          Sure there’s a market for taxi services at 3x the price. The question is how big that market is. Are you claiming it’s completely inelastic?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Touche. It’s not inelastic, of course. It does take a lot of wind out of my argument, but I still think the conclusion is correct: we’re living a golden age of VC-subsidized uber.

            It could be though that all this subsidizing is just barely covering the cost of outdated regulation and long term prices will still go down.

      • Murphy says:

        How much are they losing per ride?

        I’m seeing 14 million Uber trips are completed each day on their stats page.

        They lost something like 3-4 billion.

        If the price per ride went up by 75 cent would that destroy the model?

        • SamChevre says:

          How much are they losing per ride?

          In my understanding, that questions makes no sense.

          Uber has roughly two-and-a-half businesses:
          1a) Arranging rides for a cut of the fare in established markets–classic taxi dispatch/LTL broker model
          1b) Expanding the above model into new markets
          2) Developing self-driving cars and other longshot tech

          They’re making money on 1a, spending a good portion on 1b, and using VC money on 2. And that makes sense: there’s no reason at all that ride-brokering should be paying for self-driving car development.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1759509/000119312519059849/d633517ds1.htm#toc633517_11

          I’m not an accountant, but for Lyft, it looks like they are indeed making money on each ride. Revenue is $2.1B, cost-of-revenue is $1.2B. Even if “sales and marketing” is all discounts and promotions, at $0.8B that still leaves them making money on each ride.

          So it is a matter of them making their own operations efficient enough, or selling even more of their own product to cover their fixed costs, or slightly increasing their margins. This is not guaranteed, but it’s quite easy to see it happening. Maybe it doesn’t leave them at the peak of their valuations, but it still leaves them as completely viable and very large businesses.

      • Deiseach says:

        If they can’t pay their drivers enough to keep them driving, they won’t have any drivers, and if they don’t have drivers, they won’t remain in business.

        Which is why they’re so keen on self-driving cars. If you don’t have to rely on expensive, unpredictable humans but can have your self-driving car running 24/7, this works for the company.

        • Etoile says:

          Right now all costs of car maintenance are on the driver, not Uber. I suspect owning a fleet of cars that are extremely technologically complex, and majntiang bith hardware and software on them, could come equivalent (plus, again, insurance).

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I think it would certainly be an operational challenge for Uber, and the up-front capital costs would be significant, but it’s definitely not the case that the actual costs of maintenance would make it impossible to lower prices and/or run a higher margin for Uber in a situation where all else was the same as today, but they had autonomous cars instead of drivers.

            Most drivers do in fact make money from Uber. Less than it looks in terms of the checks that Uber writes them, since yes, they then cover car depreciation and gas etc themselves, but still significant quantities of money.

          • My most recent Uber driver (in Fort Worth) thought driving for Uber was great, and I believe it was his only job.

          • Evan Þ says:

            As a tax prep volunteer who’s done taxes for a number of Uber drivers, I confirm they are in fact making money off it even after we subtract IRS-standard depreciation rates on their cars.

            I can’t budget for special hardware maintenance for self-driving cars until I know what hardware they’ll come with, but Uber knows what numbers they have to beat, and they’ll keep iterating until they get under those numbers. I have every confidence that they or someone else eventually will.

          • albatross11 says:

            In a world where self-driving cars are widespread, it seems plausible that an Uber-like business could run using the cars of people who rent them to Uber when they’re otherwise unused, probably along with some kind of quick checking of the state of the car after each ride to make sure it doesn’t need cleaning or something. OTOH, I can imagine Uber hoping that the capital investment in a fleet of self-driving cars will become the moat that keeps them from facing a zillion competitors.

    • brad says:

      A company that big doesn’t go bankrupt overnight. Often they don’t go bankrupt at all, just shrink until they are a reasonable acquisition target for IP or engineering staff or whatever (when did AOL and Yahoo fail?)

      But I can’t possibly see how their discounted future net cash flows are worth $75 billion.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I think the issue is going to be that their business model requires keeping drivers in the precariat. If they can function as publicly-traded companies with employees rather an army of precarious contractors and a few employees eating caviar in nice offices, more power to them.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The way Uber talks about it, their business plan seems to be to continue losing money until self-driving cars let them fire all the humans, which suggests that they view everything they’re doing today as building brand recognition to get a bigger slice of the driverless taxi market when the technology finally materializes. If that is their plan, their valuation seems to ground out in how long you think level 5 autonomy will take.

      On the one hand, all of that comes from carefully considered public statements, so maybe don’t trust it, but on the other hand, that’s an odd direction for them to lie in if they do have plans to make money by raising rates (surely that would be a more attractive business plan).

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        Uber has peddled that narrative from time to time. It’s always been a crock; they’ve never had a chance to have a durable technological advantage in autonomy. Ever since their autonomy program gained the dubious honor of being the first one to kill a pedestrian, I feel like it’s increasingly obvious to everyone that it’s nonsense?

        Here’s how the world works if autonomy happens in the next five years:

        Google (or maybe GM or Volvo or Daimler-Benz) solves autonomy, with few enough caveats that you can run a ride-sharing service on it. Uber is several years behind the times. If the company that solves autonomy decides to build a ride sharing service themselves, Uber gets viciously outcompeted on price. Their brand recognition is irrelevant, because people have proven over and over again that they’re cost conscious about ride services and also any company that plausibly is the first to solve autonomy is just as big a brand as Uber and also it’s not that hard to buy brand recognition.

        Or alternately, the player who solves autonomy says, “Jesus, I don’t fucking want to run a ride service, that sounds like an enormous pain in my ass.” At which point they tell Uber to bend over and pick up the soap, delivering the enormous lion’s share of the value back to the originating company in return for licensing their tech, because 1. they can always go to Lyft instead, and 2. It’s really not at all hard for companies that size to spin up a rideshare service, so they won’t work with Uber unless Uber works on thin margins.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Uber has taken their accident seriously. I know people in the car safety world and Uber has been hiring them up, and these are people who really care about their reputations and are not willing to “move fast and break things people.” It remains to be seen if these people stick with Uber and change its culture, or these people realize they can’t change Uber and bail on their own.

          I don’t know how long self-driving cars will take. It will seem far away until it’s suddenly here.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I’m sure that they have taken their accident seriously. But the accident should have revealed to everyone what was pretty obvious to close watchers from the beginning: Uber’s autonomous program was never a serious contender. Uber, for all that it’s big for a pre-IPO company, was never able to match the resources of a Google or even a Volvo. It started late. It had no pre-existing expertise with AI nor deep connections in the AI community to leverage.

            They had the accident because they were desperate to give the appearance that they were more advanced than they actually were, so they put wildly unsafe cars on the road.

            It’s not that Uber is unable to recover from having a crash — it’s that their crash makes clear that the autonomy program is not going to magically surpass the many other, better resourced companies that are in the space.

            I’m not making a prediction about how long self-driving cars will take. I’m making a prediction that, however long it takes, Uber will not get a sustainable technological advantage that they can broker into fat profit margins through autonomy.

    • John Schilling says:

      People ordering car service on their smartphones is how we live now.

      Who is this “we” you are talking about? Because you certainly aren’t speaking for me here.

      We’re not going to go back to the taxi model as the sole way to get around cities or even suburbs

      I thought we were going forward into the self-drivingflying car model. But whatever; the vast majority of Americans never went to the “taxi model” as the sole or even preferred way to get around cities or suburbs. Possibly a non-vast majority of Manattanites and San Franciscans did that, in which case stick your head outside the bubble and take a look around. Most American adults still own and regularly drive their own automobiles.

      And then consider:

      Going to college and getting a degree in whateverology because that guarantees us a nice upper-middle-class job is the way we live now. We’re not ever going back.

      Getting a job in the mines/mill/whatever for a lifetime of union-guaranteed working-class economic security is the way we live now. We’re not ever going back.

      A stay-at-home wife, 2.3 kids, and a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence is the way we live now. We’re not ever going back.

      A plantation full of happy slaves enabling us to live lives of wealth and leisure via King Cotton is the way we live now. We’re not ever going back.

      If “the way you live now” is economically unsustainable, YOU’RE GOING BACK. Deal with it. And if you had a convincing rebuttal to the arguments I know you have seen about the economic unsustainability of Uber and Lyft, you’d have given us that instead of your lame “we’re not ever going back” bit. Building on that to explain how going forward will have to manifest, because “we’re not ever going back”, is just hubris.

      • SamChevre says:

        OK, I’ll go for the “we aren’t going back” rebuttal. The sustainability of Uber’s valuation isn’t relevant to the sustainability of Uber’s technology.

        Given ubiquitous smartphones and credit cards, taxis cruising for fares, riders connecting via street hailing, and paying cash are a sub-optimal model for everyone–drivers, riders, and cities. We won’t go back to that model because it doesn’t work as well-for anyone-as smartphone hails and credit card payment.

        Now–whether that makes Uber/Lyft high-profit companies is a different question; I don’t think it’s likely.

        • albatross11 says:

          The thing is, Uber gets all my rideshare/taxi business right now, because they’re providing good service at a price I’m okay with, and because they’re very convenient–I already have the app installed and am already familiar with how to use it to do what I want. But the moat here is *really small*!

          a. Their infrastructure is software and some computing backend that they’re presumably renting from Amazon or Google or someone.

          b. Their capital stock of cars are all owned by their drivers, who are contractors doing piecework with (in general) no particular strong bond to Uber.

          c. Their advantage in keeping my business is based on the hassle involved in downloading and installing a different rideshare app on my phone and setting it up and getting used to it.

          If at some point, they try to raise their prices substantially to make up for their previous losses, it’s like 10 minutes for me to switch over to Lyft. Or some other competitor who can quickly ramp up, because the backend software probably isn’t *that* hard to do, the computing infrastructure can be rented from Amazon et al, and the cars and drivers are all already contractors doing piecework who are exactly as happy to drive for Lyft or Cabify or FutureUberCompetitor as for Uber. They were able to establish themselves and get big quickly because they didn’t need massive capital investments, but future competitors won’t, either.

          • The calculation someone posted above suggests that increasing the fare by about $.75/ride would do it. Would that be enough to make you switch to a competitor?

          • acymetric says:

            Uber is generally about 30-50 cents more expensive than Lyft where I live, more for 15-20+ trips so I almost always use Lyft now. I’ll use Uber when the wait time for a Lyft is longer than I want it to be. Add another $0.75 cent difference and I probably never use Uber.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Whoever you switch to would somehow need to be able to do Uber’s job even more efficiently.

            I’m not arguing that Uber is worth $80 Billion, but they are not a worthless company where everyone is leaving once the “VC subsidy” ends.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          We are not going back to taxis as the primary way people without cars take rides by cars. Taxis suck. People don’t want to go back to a service where their taxi took them on a random ride around town and then got aggressive about getting a tip, when they can instead pay the pre-negotiated price.

          We might be going back from the “millennials don’t wanna own cars, they will share everything” future some people believed was going to happen.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Come on man that’s a bit harsh

  20. deltafosb says:

    How does orbital hybridisation work? I mean, I get part of it: there is d-dimensional subspace of eigenvectors to a certain energy and if we want so, we can choose orthogonal basis in this subspace recreating the nice pictures from Wikipedia, I even have done so in the past to check if it’s not complete nonsense. But that’s where I’m lost: why this particular set of vectors? The eigenspace is isotropic after all (unless some external perturbation splits it). Why would anyone attach any physical significance to arbitrary choice of basis?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Any jargon sufficiently technical is indistinguishable from time cubes.

      Hopefully John Schilling will actually answer your question.

      • Well... says:

        Any jargon sufficiently technical is indistinguishable from time cubes.

        Heh. That made me chuckle.

        Also, like you I assumed this was about outer space, but it looks like it’s about chemistry.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          What makes you think that wasn’t part of the joke?

          ….

          Ok, I did actually assume. But damn it would have been funny if I hadn’t.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      @HBC wrong sort of orbital I think.

      In response to the OP, I’m not a chemist, but I believe that the point of hybridized orbitals is to understand the bond geometry. The eigenspace is isotropic, but you’ll still have to have represent the bond (E: orientations) as linear combinations of the (E: standard orbital) Hamiltonian eigenfunctions unless you switch bases, no? Representing those vectors as being in the directions pointed to by a set of hybridized orbital basis functions seems a lot more convenient.

      (Note that this could be completely wrong – not only am I not a chemist, but I haven’t looked at a Hamiltonian in years)

    • metacelsus says:

      Chemist here! (Well, more of a biologist now, but chemist by training).

      Orbital hybridization is (as most things in chemistry) a useful approximation. But it’s not completely arbitrary. The “external perturbation” you’re thinking of is the presence of the other atoms to which the bonds are formed.

      If you want to learn more, I would suggest reading about ligand field theory and molecular orbital theory (and in particular, the “linear combination of atomic orbitals” heuristic).

      • deltafosb says:

        Thanks. Could you recommend any books someone not familiar with chemists lingo would understand? i have a pretty decent background in nonrelativistic QM, but AFAIK whole quantum chemistry is about stacking approximations and my knowledge is close to being useless here.

        • metacelsus says:

          How deep do you want to go? The physical chemistry textbook from my undergrad (McQuarrie and Simon, here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Physical-Chemistry-Molecular-Donald-McQuarrie/dp/0935702997) would be where I’d go to review any of the concepts. If you have a QM background it should be understandable.

          There are also more specialized books on computational chemistry (which deals heavily with approximations for quantum behavior). Again I’ll recommend the textbook from my undergrad (Cramer, Essentials of Computational Chemistry).

          I’m pretty sure you can find both books on Libgen if you don’t feel like submitting to the highway robbery of textbook publishing.

    • Compbiocheminfo says:

      Physical chemist here (though working in biotech/bioinformatics the last few years). This is an interesting question in that in computational quantum chemistry you construct the molecular wave function as a product of atomic orbitals and the atomic orbitals are themselves linear combinations of (s,p,d,f…) basis sets (gaussian distributions in linear combination to approximate slater distributions). The foundations of computational chemistry are the Hartree-Fock equations (http://vergil.chemistry.gatech.edu/notes/hf-intro/hf-intro.pdf) – a coefficient optimization to minimize energy (the “true” wavefunction will be lower in energy than the approximate wavefunction – the variational principle). The Schrodinger equation is only exactly solvable for a single Hydrogen atom and so quantum chemistry has to use approximations like basis sets (http://vergil.chemistry.gatech.edu/courses/chem6485/pdf/basis-sets.pdf). The specific basis sets developed provide accuracy and computational tractability. I would suggest to not think too much about orbital hybrization and think more in terms of molecular orbital theory since it’s much more in line with quantum chemistry.

      • At a very long tangent for anyone who finds such things interesting, magic in my novel Salamander is also based on basis sets. I was trying to create the illusion of a real scientific theory underlying magic, so I borrowed from the mathematical structure of quantum mechanics.

      • quanta413 says:

        Thank you for translating into more physics-y language. I have a vague memory of Hartree-Fock from class many years ago, but that’s about it at this point. So the questions on the wiki page for hybridization reminded me of Hartree-Fock etc. but I didn’t know what the relationship was exactly. I understand that people probably didn’t compute Hartree-Fock approximations and then come up with orbital hybridization theory, but just from the wiki article I wasn’t sure if you could reach the same sort of results from Hartree-Fock.

  21. dick says:

    Over the years, we’ve had several discussions around the general idea of social media companies expelling (predominantly) right-wing people for various reasons. One of the main themes has been arguing over whether the reason they do this is ideological (more about silencing right-wingers than making money, presumably because the people making the decision are left-wing) or mercantile (more about keeping customers/advertisers happy than pushing an ideology).

    I bring this up as a segue to the Carlos Maza/Steven Crowder kerfuffle. Last week, Maza, a Vox journalist, complained on Twitter that Crowder, a right-wing youtuber, has a bunch of videos making fun of his ethnicity and sexuality, and that his fans send him a lot abuse and dox him periodically. Yesterday, Youtube announced that while they didn’t condone Crowder’s videos, they would not punish him because he hadn’t violated the TOS. Apparently a lot more people complained and there was something of a backlash, and today Youtube pulled a 180 and announced that they are demonetizing Crowder. This would appear to be a datum in favor of the “mercantile” explanation.

    • This would appear to be a datum in favor of the “mercantile” explanation.

      Not necessarily. It’s an argument against Youtube being led by ideologues. But they could just as easily be influenced by status concerns rather than profit(although it could be both).

      • dick says:

        I’m not sure I see the difference? When I say “profit” obviously I mean “what they think might make the most profit”, and perception of the brand is a big part of that. That seems basically the same as “status concerns” but maybe I just don’t know what you mean by that.

        • They’re definitely not the same. Walmart has low status and high profits. Yes, the perception of YouTube has gone up with progressives but gone down with conservatives. The latter are much more likely to start a competing service over their feeling of marginalization. If this was purely a profit move, how much benefit are they really getting from demonetizing that guy? A few people complaining about it isn’t by itself going to hurt their bottom line.

          • beleester says:

            If a large advertiser decides they don’t want to be associated with Youtube, that could cost them a heck of a lot more than they lose by demonetizing one guy.

            For an advertising-funded company, I would expect social status to be a leading indicator for your income, because it affects how many eyeballs you’re getting and what advertisers think those eyeballs are worth.

          • dick says:

            I wasn’t asking about the difference between status and profit, I was asking about the difference between what you described as “status concerns” and what a youtube executive would describe as “our brand.” You agree that companies value their brand, right? They want people to think positively of it, because they believe it will make them profit? Well, a bunch of people saying “We don’t like you because you do X” is a pretty clear signal that not doing X anymore will improve the value of their brand.

            Also, as I mentioned in the introductory post, if you want to convince me that this wasn’t purely mercantile, the main challenge is not thinking up an alternate reason, it’s explaining why they didn’t kick Crowder off when X people complained but did kick him off when X+Y people complained.

          • @dick

            What is the value of a brand? Facebook as a brand does really bad with the left because they are convinced it got Trump elected. That doesn’t keep the company from ridiculously big. I’m not convinced that progressive complaining about a company not being woke enough is actually that damaging to their bottom line. Where’s the evidence of that?

            it’s explaining why they didn’t kick Crowder off when X people complained but did kick him off when X+Y people complained.

            I don’t see how that’s incompatible with what I said. More progressives upset equals lower status. It could also be what you said but the number by itself doesn’t favor one explanation.

          • dick says:

            What is the value of a brand?

            Absolutely fucking enormous, going by how much companies spend on advertising. Are you suggesting that the conventional wisdom of “positive brand recognition is really valuable” is wrong, or that that’s not actually conventional wisdom in business?

            I don’t see how that’s incompatible with what I said.

            I asked for clarification on what “status concerns” means, and I don’t think you answered, and I’m still confused. If it means more or less what I meant by “brand” then they’re not incompatible at all.

            My point about them not caving at first is that it’s evidence against the idea that was ideological. I guess it’s not exactly evidence for the idea that it was mercantile, but I just kind of take it for granted that “to make more money” is the default assumption for why any corporation does anything, absent a better reason.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Is YouTube even profitable yet? I’d imagine the economic justifications would get you plenty far. I assume even with a dominant market position and all of Google behind it the YouTube people would really like to be as bland and inoffensive a medium as television. They’re much more interested in matching eyes with advertisers and I suspect they’ve got a younger demographic to offer.

    • Clutzy says:

      But youtube makes good money off Crowder. This incident is better placed in the “Bullying is successful” bin, with a pinch of, “particularly if the bullies are on the right team.”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        … and when was the last time the right team was actually the right team instead of the left team?

        • BBA says:

          The Bush administration wasn’t that long ago.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            You mean people getting bullied for not supporting the Iraq War in 2003?

          • BBA says:

            I mean the whole cultural zeitgeist of the Bush administration. The Janet Jackson incident in particular sticks in my mind as the Right flexing its power at the height of its cultural dominance.

          • dick says:

            Yeah, I feel like most of the people here are old enough to remember when it was the religious right who occupied the “prudes who boycott everything and seem to win all the important fights” position. As someone who was a lefty then, I empathize, it’s no fun. But I’m not sure I see the difference between “liberals are using their awesome power to silence us on social media!” and “I wish more people agreed with my side.”

            This Crowder thing is a good example. Is it unfair that he got kicked off youtube? I dunno, maybe in some abstract sense? Making fun of someone’s lisp is not the worst thing in the world. And are the executives at youtube biased towards the left? Sure, they might be, who knows. But the reason he got kicked off is not because he’s conservative, it’s because a lot of people think he’s terrible and not very many think he’s funny.

        • JonathanD says:

          Kathy Griffin? James Gunn was more recent, I think, but Disney more or less just put him in time out until people shut up, so he probably shouldn’t count. I don’t follow social media closely enough to know if there’s been someone smaller scale more recently.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Kathy Griffin

            Are you suggesting poor Kathy was bullied after beheading the president in effigy? I mean, say, Stephan Crowder had hung Obama in effigy and people got mad about it, would you say Stephan was bullied?

          • JonathanD says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            I mean, yeah? She made a joke that pissed off the right, and she lost her livelihood, or at least a large chunk of it. That’s what were talking about here, isn’t it?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So right now, Crowder is being bullied? He made jokes about a gay latino, pissing off the left, and is losing a chunk of his livelihood?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            James Gunn was more recent, I think, but Disney more or less just put him in time out until people shut up, so he probably shouldn’t count.

            Exactly. Roseanne makes a right-wing tweet and loses her career. James Gunn calls her for head, then gets fake-fired by Disney for making a thousand pedophile jokes on social media. He’s a good boy (i.e. a leftist), so we could never actually punish him…

          • Vorkon says:

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m firmly in the “YouTube is actively discriminating against conservatives whenever they think they can get away with it” camp myself, but yes, the Kathy Griffin situation was absolutely reprehensible, and is probably the worst bit of hypocrisy I’ve seen from the right in a long time. She was a comedian who made a joke some people didn’t like. That’s either okay, or it isn’t. You don’t get to have it both ways.

            Admittedly, it was CNN that fired her, not some conservative media outlet, but that just goes back to an entirely different bit of hypocrisy. Either outrage mobs are bad, or they aren’t. You don’t get to have that both ways, either.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Bully is Clutzy’s wording, not mine. I think what’s happening to him is more or less unobjectionable, as is what happened to Griffin. You have a right to say what you want but not a right to get paid to do so and all that.

            I was just answering Le Maistre’s question about the last person who got defenestrated on the left. Probably there have been other, smaller fry, but I haven’t heard of them.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,

            Roseanne made lots of right-wing tweets and they never cost her anything. She called a black person a monkey, and she got fired. In America, that codes as a racial slur, which was the problem. Last I checked, calling black people the n-word or other associated language isn’t right wing.

            Which is to say, she did plenty of public right-winging without getting fired, and the tweet that got her fired wasn’t even right-wing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            She was a comedian who made a joke some people didn’t like

            What was the joke?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @JonathanD: Valerie Jarrett is genetically more European than African, so this gets us into IdPol/race as a social construct. I had never heard of her before the Roseanne incident, so I don’t know if a reasonable person could be expected to know whether her social history made her part of a community that it’s very hurtful/racist to call apes.
            And really, I have no problem with her being fired for what she said in a world where James Gunn was fired once for every post about raping children and not rehired. Surely that’s as offensive as “ape”?

          • albatross11 says:

            Vorkon:

            +1

            Outrage mobs getting people fired for offensive jokes or comments make the world worse about 99% of the time, at this point.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There’s sort of a limit, though, isn’t there? I mean if 2009 Sean Hannity put on a white robe and hung Obama in effigy “as a joke” we would all be upset if he got fired for that, right? The world would definitely be a worse place with Sean Hannity fired because an outrage mob got a little testy over a joke* about lynching the President, no?

            * a joke with no punchline. Just “here I am, murdering the president.” Super funny joke that one.

          • Vorkon says:

            Just because you don’t think a joke is funny doesn’t make it not a joke.

            It’s exactly the same as how school shooting jokes just aren’t for everyone; they’re generally aimed at a younger audience.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, but I could probably explain how a school shooting joke or a dead baby joke is funny if tasteless. Something something subverting expectations. I know, I know explaining a joke ruins it, but can you explain Kathy Griffin’s joke to me? Like, “you were set up to think it’s a puppy but it’s really the president’s bloody severed head, fooled you!” sort of thing?

            In case you can’t get where I’m going with this, I’m saying this was not a joke and was not intended as a joke. Kathy hates Trump and wants to see him dead so she took a picture of herself with his bloody severed head to express how much she hates Trump and wants to see him dead. No joke was made or attempted or implied.

          • Vorkon says:

            She called a black person a monkey, and she got fired. In America, that codes as a racial slur, which was the problem.

            In America, there is a contingent of mostly white social justice advocates, who think any reference to a monkey is a dog whistle for a racial slur. None of the black people I know were offended by, say, the kid in the “coolest monkey in the jungle” shirt, or the fact that they showed a silly McDonalds commercial about a monkey doing gymnastics immediately after the performance of the first American black female medalist in gymnastics, a few years back.

            Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly people who use various permutations of “monkey” and “ape” as a racial slur, but it is ALWAYS completely clear what they are doing.

            Roseanne claims that she had no idea Valerie Jarrett was black, and I’m inclined to believe her. She doesn’t even look black! She DOES, however, look like an extra on Planet of the Apes, who they cast to save money on makeup.

            Few things piss me off worse than the attempt to pass off monkey jokes as a racial slurs. Monkeys are inherently funny! Saying someone looks like a monkey is about as classic a joke as you can get! The way I see it, if you can’t compare someone to a monkey, then comedy is, completely non-hyperbolically, ruined forever.

            (I suppose I can see people being offended about the Muslim Brotherhood bit, though. :p )

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Vorkon:

            Few things piss me off worse than the attempt to pass off monkey jokes as a racial slurs. Monkeys are inherently funny! Saying someone looks like a monkey is about as classic a joke as you can get! The way I see it, if you can’t compare someone to a monkey, then comedy is, completely non-hyperbolically, ruined forever.

            I’m just waiting for someone in academia or Left-Twitter to say that it’s racist to include black people in the scientific truth claim “humans are apes.”

          • Vorkon says:

            I know, I know explaining a joke ruins it, but can you explain Kathy Griffin’s joke to me?

            Well, you’d need to ask Kathy Griffin that one, but considering that Trump is still in possession of his head, and Kathy Griffin is not in jail, it’s pretty clear it was some type of joke.

            Even if it was as simple as “I don’t like Trump, and wish he was not President and/or in jail” comedically exaggerated to holding his severed head, that’s still a comedic exaggeration. You can totally tell a joke that just exaggerates something you already believe for comedic effect. I may not like Kathy Griffin all that much, but it’s not fair to assume she literally wants to kill the President. Even the people who ARE trying to normalize violence to suppress their political opponents are mostly thinking more along the lines of “throw milkshakes at them” than “behead them.”

            Also, it could be argued that the image of a tiny white woman in a perky blue dress acting out a scene from an ISIS beheading video is an unexpected juxtaposition, and unexpected justapositioning is basically the core of what comedy is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I get it now. Hilarious! And see, when it’s counterfactual Sean Hannity in a KKK robe “lynching” Obama, it’s funny because Hannity is Irish! And the KKK hates the Irish! What a hilarious juxtaposition!

            So, how big a laugh did you get when you saw Kathy’s photo? Was it like a big belly laugh, rolling on the floor, or just a sensible chuckle?

            Or did you not laugh at all because there was no joke?

          • JonathanD says:

            @Vorkon

            I suppose this is just a case of different life experiences leading to different expectations, but where I came from, when you called someone an ape, it was pretty much always a racial slur, based in the widespread belief (or claimed belief) that it was through interbreeding with apes that Africans became black. (This also explained their various presumed inferiorities.)

            As for not knowing she was black, I don’t believe her. It doesn’t seem that likely to me that someone could have known who she was in the first place and not know she was black, it’s part of her brand. But I suppose part of the point on this thread is that we give people in our tribe the benefit of the doubt, and everyone else can go pound sand.

          • Vorkon says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            No, I laughed because it reminded me that if someone actually did try to assassinate the President, we’d get to hear the Secret Service yell, “Donald, duck!”

            Other than that, I didn’t laugh at all, because it wasn’t funny. However, as some wise, attractive, and very humble person whose name I can’t quite remember pointed out earlier in this thread:

            Just because you don’t think a joke is funny doesn’t make it not a joke.

            It’s exactly the same as how school shooting jokes just aren’t for everyone; they’re generally aimed at a younger audience.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I laughed because it reminded me that if someone actually did try to assassinate the President, we’d get to hear the Secret Service yell, “Donald, duck!”

            See that’s funny! I genuinely lol’d. And I can explain the joke, too.

            So, is there anybody in my outgroup, Trump haters of SSC, who can tell me they laughed when they saw Kathy’s photo? Even just an “oh, you!” You might have seen it and said “wow, that’s powerful.” But did anyone here laugh at the joke?

            Is there such a thing as a joke that nobody laughs at?

            ETA: also, I’m not currently arguing about whether it was right or wrong that she got fired from CNN over it. I’m just arguing with Vorkon about whether or not it was ever intended to be a joke. I don’t think it was. She was making a serious political statement and not bein’ silly for chuckles.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah… there are things that are clearly jokes. And there are things that are clearly political/philosophical statements. And there are “political jokes” that fall somewhere in the middle.

            If you have trouble distinguishing, here’s a friendly guide:

            Groucho Marx does jokes.
            Martin Luther King, Jr does statements.
            George Carlin does “the thing in the middle.”

            One of the worst features of the woke era is “comedians” who got famous doing jokes or political jokes deciding to engage in serious statements, but then using “Hey, I’m just a comedian being silly here!” as a shield for any and all criticism. Jon Stewart was basically the vanguard of this tactic, but today it is employed by basically every “comedian” ever.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Schrödinger’s Clown Nose.

          • albatross11 says:

            Allowing jokes also includes allowing people to push the boundaries to the point that some jokes fall flat. That should get you booed onstage, but shouldn’t in general get you fired from your job.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, now if you want to get into the whether or not she should be fired debate…eh, I think it’s a special case where it’s okay. Like the 1% of the time where the reaction to the outrage mob is kinda right.

            If you’re working at Wendy’s and taking burger orders and you start preaching your politics to the customers, you’re fired for not doing your job.

            If you’re working at Wendy’s and, after your shift is over, you want to pose with the faux bloody severed head of the president for your comedy routine, you should not be fired because that has nothing to do with your job.

            If your job is “be well-liked by a broad range of people” (something like “MC of a New Year’s Eve celebration for a purportedly mainstream cable news station”) and you do something to disgust half the country…eh you’re kind of not doing your job.

            I wouldn’t fire James Gunn or Roseanne or Kevin Spacey, and if her job had been “political humorist for MSNBC” I wouldn’t fire Kathy Griffin from that. But from the “hey let’s all be united in celebration for this broad appeal cultural event” job…eh…

          • Matt M says:

            Something else I feel like happens, but I haven’t tracked closely enough to confirm (maybe I will from now on). When conservatives get fired/deplatformed for “bad jokes” it’s essentially permanent and forever. When leftists do, it lasts until the controversy is over, and then they are quietly re-hired, if not to their exact old job, then to one approximately equivalent and as prestigious.

          • dick says:

            One of the worst features of the woke era is “comedians” who got famous doing jokes or political jokes deciding to engage in serious statements, but then using “Hey, I’m just a comedian being silly here!” as a shield for any and all criticism. Jon Stewart was basically the vanguard of this tactic, but today it is employed by basically every “comedian” ever.

            What’s wrong with that? They are just jokes, right? Jon Stewart isn’t a politician who used comedy as a way to push progressive ideas, he’s a comedian who used progressive ideas to make audiences laugh. If it feels like an attack on your beliefs, well, sure, hearing your beliefs mocked is unpleasant, but that’s the price of having beliefs unpopular enough to be mocked on prime-time. What would you prefer they do instead?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick: I would prefer that everyone with a mass media platform and the professoriat were right-wing. I’d offer up the Presidency and both Houses of Congress in exchange, so long as it was functionally impossible to find leftist judges due to our control of academia.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            What would you prefer they do instead?

            I have Third Shift packaging openings. It has the side effect of not ruining the country’s political climate. This is what Stewart accused the hosts of Crossfire for doing, and it is (supposedly) the motivation behind his “Rally to Restore Sanity,” so I don’t see why it isn’t fair game to attack Stewart for it.

            Trevor Noah, John Oliver, Samantha Bee and the like are just ideologues posing as comedians, and they are worse than the pundits on CNN Crossfire ever were.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat >

            “I would prefer that everyone with a mass media platform and the professoriat were right-wing. I’d offer up the Presidency and both Houses of Congress in exchange, so long as it was functionally impossible to find leftist judges due to our control of academia”

            Except for some judges and a few other details, I’d call that “1965”.

            A relative to today left-liberal Congress and Presidency implementing “Welfare as we knew it”, Affirmative action, voting rights, et cetera, during a time when nominal top marginal income taxes were higher than most of the 21st century, but a more traditionalist mass media culture – i.e. “The Charlie Brown Christmas Special” with Linus quoting the Bible and saying “That’s what Christmas is all about”.

            I think at least a third of Democrats, and (I’m guessing) 40% of Republicans and Independents, would take that trade.

            That’s about the majority of the Nation, funny how it isn’t so.

            (Think about it: church going Democrats, which a very significant portion of are Black Protestants, plus social conservative but not very libertarian Republicans – combined together I’m pretty sure that’s the majority of voters).

            I really don’t see Hollywood going along with it, but more support for the poor, and a less powerful and wealthy plutocracy, in exchange for a more traditionalist mass media?

            I imagine that long term economic growth and technological progress would be slowed a bit (by the taxes), but that sounds a fine trade to me, go ahead and organize that coalition @Le Maistre Chat.

          • Clutzy says:

            @plumber

            That wouldn’t be a sustainable reality for you though.

            If Republicans controlled the media and academia to the levels leftists control them now, California would look like Arizona at the Ballot box, and the country as a whole would look like Mississippi.

          • “I would prefer that everyone with a mass media platform and the professoriat were right-wing. I’d offer up the Presidency and both Houses of Congress in exchange, so long as it was functionally impossible to find leftist judges due to our control of academia”

            To which Plumber replied:

            Except for some judges and a few other details, I’d call that “1965”.

            A few other details including essentially all of academia?

            1965 was the year I graduated from Harvard. The year before that the Crimson poll showed 19% of Harvard students supporting the Republican candidate (they initially said 14 or 15%, I don’t remember which, but that was because they couldn’t add).

            I was astonished. I would have said that there were about a dozen Goldwater supporters and I knew all of them. The pattern would have been similar at most other elite universities, and probably more extreme for their faculties.

          • dick says:

            I have Third Shift packaging openings. It has the side effect of not ruining the country’s political climate….

            …I have no idea what “it” in this sentence means. Look, I like comedians and am happy to defend them, but someone needs to spell out what it is they’re being accused of, because I know less now than before I asked.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            dick, they’re not “telling jokes with progressive humor.” They’re pushing progressive ideology with jokes. They make bad faith arguments to sway people to their side, and then when you call them on it they put on the clown nose and say “what?! I’m just a comeeeeeeedian, not a political pundit, can’t you take a joke?” And when you storm away the clown nose comes off and it’s right back to “Republicans sure are dumb and racist, huh, everybody?! chuckle chuckle chuckle.”

          • dick says:

            They make bad faith arguments to sway people to their side, and then when you call them on it they put on the clown nose and say “what?! I’m just a comeeeeeeedian, not a political pundit, can’t you take a joke?” And when you storm away the clown nose comes off and it’s right back to “Republicans sure are dumb and racist, huh, everybody?! chuckle chuckle chuckle.”

            I don’t believe this conversation occurred.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Right, because I was talking about a literal conversation and not a general pattern of behavior. Would you like me to go dig up youtube clips of how manipulative and deceptive people like John Oliver are or is there no point?

          • dick says:

            No, TBH I was really hoping for someone other than you. But no, you don’t need to cite evidence that there are Daily Show clips you don’t like. What I’m unclear on is how this is specific to wokeness, or the Daily Show, or the left or the current decade. Like, George Carlin made fun of Christians a lot. If you asked him about it, wouldn’t he also say, “I’m a comedian, fuck you if you can’t take a joke”? (FYI I’ve seen him say almost exactly that). And then wouldn’t he go right back to making fun of Christians afterwards? Ditto with a right-wing comedian who makes fun of liberals (I presume there must be some). Maybe stand-up comedy just isn’t your thing?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Dennis Miller was doing this long before John Stewart started.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            These aren’t stand-up comedians, they are actors that have regularly timed shows on mid-tier networks. You are comparing Seinfeld stand-up comedy to Seinfeld the show. The show is obviously going to have a broader cultural impact.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t care one way or the other about jokes. If some people want to spend their time laughing at the outgroup, okay. Jokes about the outgroup are 100% guaranteed laughs, every time. Whatever your favorite leisure activity is, okay, just don’t laugh at my leisure activity of philately.

            It’s the expectation to refute the facts within the jokes, when they are jokes, and any effort to refute them is met with “I’m just a clown, they are just jokes, I guess you don’t have a sense of humor to recognize satire.” In a previous OT just a week ago, someone demanded that his comedian’s facts be refuted. I refused because it’s a fool’s errand for the very reason I gave. Sure enough, right here in this OT, we’ve got him saying “What’s wrong with that? They are just jokes, right?”

            Experimental result confirmed, and none of my time wasted in the process. Success!

          • dick says:

            These aren’t stand-up comedians, they are actors that have regularly timed shows on mid-tier networks.

            Carlin had a show too…? Again, I need to know what the accusation is. A comedian tells a joke predicated on Trump being racist, and someone accuses him of being [unkind? offensive? biased? not clear on this], and he says, “but it was just a joke,” and that’s bad because ___.

            In a previous OT just a week ago, someone demanded that his comedian’s facts be refuted. I refused because it’s a fool’s errand for the very reason I gave. Sure enough, right here in this OT, we’ve got him saying “What’s wrong with that? They are just jokes, right?”

            You’ve confused two different topics. This thread is me responding to Matt M saying something about “basically every comedian ever”. That thread was about John Oliver, whose show is (or at least presents itself as) journalism. He’s an outlier – most comedians aren’t claiming to be journalists.

            If Matt M had complained about “the handful of comedians who dabble in journalism, like John Oliver or Jon Stewart”, then my response would’ve been: When have they said that? I vaguely remember Stewart responding to complaints about left-wing bias, and as I recall his response was always some variation of “No we’re not, we criticize both sides”*, not “It’s okay because we’re just a comedy show.” Same with Oliver, if you told him his show on crisis pregnancy centers was bad or wrong, I’m pretty sure he would defend it on its merits, not try to dodge responsibility in the way you suggested.

            But he didn’t. So I tried to respond to what he did say, which purported to be a) relatively recent, and b) not limited to comedian-turned-journalists.

            * I am aware that probably think that’s wrong; I’m only pointing out that that is what his response was, not offering to defend it for him

          • dick says:

            By the by, those of you with long memories may recall that this thread began with right-wing political youtuber Steven Crowder getting his channel demonetized for (allegedly) offensive remarks. You may be interested to know that he defended himself in what would appear to be exactly the fashion Matt M described; per wikipedia, “Crowder responded with a video where he said his use of slurs was “playful ribbing” and that “it’s funny, it’s a comedy show.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @dick:
            Stewart has definitely employed a defense that The Daily Show as “just a comedy show”. IIRC, His point was more that actual news programs shouldn’t use his as comparator. Fox News, say, pointing out flaws in his program to justify not addressing their own issues is not the pot calling the kettle black, it’s more the pile of ash calling the kettle black.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            1) Oh, if the disagreement is about “every comedian ever” vs. Johns Stewart and Oliver and Samantha Bee and the like, then I agree with dick, and Matt M overstated the case.

            2) dick, yes, the slurs were used in a joking manner. That’s about being offensive versus joking. The thing Oliver and Stewart do is misrepresent facts to make a political point in a joking manner. It’s not that the jokes are offensive, it’s that the point they’re making is wrong. When you confront them over the facts, and that they’re leading people to draw wrong conclusions, they put on the clown nose. Do you understand the difference between allegedly offensive (Crowder) and allegedly factually incorrect (the Johns)?

          • dick says:

            Stewart has definitely employed a defense that The Daily Show as “just a comedy show”.

            If you’re thinking of the Crossfire appearance, I don’t think that’s what we’re talking about here. Stewart was complaining that Crossfire was bad journalism, Tucker Carlson kind of turned it around on him, and Stewart said “but my show is comedy” meaning “…and that’s why it doesn’t meet the standards I’m accusing you of not meeting.” He wasn’t being accused of saying something wrong/offensive/etc.

            it’s that the point they’re making is wrong. When you confront them over the facts, and that they’re leading people to draw wrong conclusions, they put on the clown nose.

            As I said earlier in a post you misunderstood, I don’t believe this exchange happened; on the occasions I dimly remember I’m pretty sure they responded, “nuh uh, we weren’t wrong.” Happy to see evidence to the contrary.

            Do you understand the difference between allegedly offensive (Crowder) and allegedly factually incorrect (the Johns)?

            Yes, I saw your comment about China’s imports 🙂 Seriously though:

            a) I already asked for examples of things John Oliver’s show got wrong (That’s what Edward Scissorhands was vaguely referring to when he said “In a previous OT just a week ago, someone demanded that his comedian’s facts be refuted.” That was his characterization of my asking, “for anyone who thinks his piece on CPCs was bad or wrong or whatever, what specifically was wrong about it?”) and don’t think I got any. (Please don’t bother digging up examples of things you think they got wrong unless you can find any instance of anyone who is less right-wing than you agreeing that they got it wrong)

            b) I don’t understand why you would dickishly suggest I don’t understand the difference between offensive and wrong, since we appear to be on the same side on this. So to be extra clear, my position is that if A makes a joke and B complains about it and A responds, “fuck off it’s just a joke”, that is reasonable if B’s complaint was “your joke implied that Trump is bad when actually he’s good” but not reasonable if B’s complaint was “your joke implied Trump raised taxes when actually he cut them.”

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But youtube makes good money off Crowder.

        Yeah, definitely not Mercantile as youtube gets less money by this action. Oh no, leftwingers might boycott a channel they don’t watch anyway!

        I had this same argument with a friend over Rosanne’s show being canceled. He said ABC was just acting in their financial interest. Well, they had a show with about 13 million viewers. Then Rosanne insulted Valerie Jarrett. Now ABC has no show. In the counterfactual world where Rosanne was not canceled, would ABC have a Rosanne show with more than zero viewers? (or, perhaps more than their lowest ranked show. If you could replace Rosanne with a show almost as successful as Rosanne, you’re still better off keeping Rosanne and replacing the lowest performing show) If so, they lost money by canceling the show, so they were clearly not motivated by money.

        Probably if they had let the show go on, the viewership would not have changed. The vast majority of people have no idea who Valerie Jarrett is. Among those who both know who Valerie Jarrett is and watch Rosanne, those people probably do not like Valerie Jarrett and do not care that she was insulted. For everybody else, you do a tearful apology, the lawyers put out a statement that “We here at ABC pride ourselves on our commitment to diversity and inclusion and all that” and wait about a day and a half before somebody else steps on a culture war landmine and everyone forgets about it.

        • bean says:

          I think your model is a bit simplistic. First, you’re ignoring the cost of producing Rosanne. Yes, it has 13 million viewers, but if it costs enough to make, then you might only lose the equivalent in revenue of a few million by cancelling it. Second, you’re ignoring second-order effects. ABC is owned by Disney, and if enough people get mad enough about it not being cancelled, then a boycott could easily cost Disney more than the net ad revenue brought in by Rosanne.

          I’m very much not sure that this is the case, but the financial end isn’t as clear-cut as you make it out to be.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the idea that millions of people are going to forgo watching Star Wars because Rosanne insulted Valerie Jarrett is…not very likely. “Mommy, daddy, take me to Disney World!” “No, dear child, because some lady on a show we don’t watch anyway insulted a former president’s senior adviser and we have to do what’s right.”

          • bean says:

            1. I think it was probably for non-financial reasons, as the timeline looks way too tight for it to have been a careful decision.

            2. It doesn’t have to have been millions of people boycotting. How much net revenue do they get from each episode of Rosanne? A quick google shows estimates of $.5-1 for add revenue per episode, but how much of that $7-13 million was soaked up by the cost of production, which goes away if they cancel the show? Let’s estimate the total lost revenue at $20 million over the season. (Probably less, because they retitled and relaunched the show without Rosanne.) Disney makes an average of $123 from each resident of the US and Canada each year (you can find anything on the internet). That’s revenue, and there are marginal costs for some of the stuff they deliver (movie tickets have a marginal cost of 0, but merchandise doesn’t) so we’ll say $75/person net revenue. So you’d need 266,667 people to boycott to actually lose money. OK, the math on this doesn’t add up like I expected it to, unless Rosanne was a lot less profitable than my estimates put it at, and those are intended to be conservative.

            Edit: Or maybe not, actually. I have no clue what percentage of ad revenue ends up with the broadcaster vs the network. It’s even vaguely possible that Rosanne was an attempt to bolster ABC’s streaming library or something of that nature, and wasn’t making all that much in the short term. But unless that number is very close to zero, it’s still hard to see how the math works.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Maybe let them start the boycott first and see how popular it is before canceling the show then? I find it very hard to believe 270k people are going to boycott Disney because ABC doesn’t fire Rosanne for insulting someone probably only 10% of Americans could even name. And in the counterfactual, Rosanne tearfully apologizes and the lawyers and the PR people work their magic. If they were smart about it they’d even spin it into a positive. Put Rosanne and Jarrett together for one of those “restorative justice” things where Rosanne grovels and Jarrett forgives her and we all “heal.” Great TV, that.

            On the other hand, Disney’s talking now about boycotting Georgia because of their abortion bill. Well that’s probably going to cost them money, too, as I assume they filmed in Georgia because it was cheap. And how many conservatives (you know, the sorts of people more likely to have children) are going to boycott Disney over their pro-abortion stance? They’ll do the ideological boycott calculus for Rosanne but not for the abortion stuff?

          • John Schilling says:

            I find it very hard to believe 270k people are going to boycott Disney because ABC doesn’t fire Rosanne

            I would expect at least 2.7 million, and possibly 27 million, Americans to develop a mild aversion to the Disney name if they repeatedly hear from within their bubble that Disney is “supporting bigotry and hate”. And it doesn’t take a boycott to hurt Disney’s bottom line; millions of people becoming marginally more receptive to arguments like “Star Wars turned to crap when the Mouse took over” will do that.

            But that effect isn’t tied to a singular event like cancelling/not cancelling Roseanne, so the math is much harder and we can’t do a quick calculation of the reputational cost of each decision. Nor can the Disney board; they’re going to have to go on their gut, and there’s no equation we can use to prove which motive they were pursuing.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How many Americans do you think will develop a mild aversion to the Disney brand if they hear from within their bubble that Disney “supports infanticide?” The exec’s guts only seem to lurch one way.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad: Scrooge McDuck only swims left?

          • John Schilling says:

            How many Americans do you think will develop a mild aversion to the Disney brand if they hear from within their bubble that Disney “supports infanticide?”

            Hypothetically, almost certainly tens of millions.

            In practice, they won’t hear that from within their bubble, because Disney will make sure any infanticide-supporting is kept below even the Fox News reporting threshold. For example, I am pretty sure that Disney will not release any entertainment product in which a protagonist or other sympathetic character is actually depicted as having or having had an abortion.

          • Matt M says:

            I think it was probably for non-financial reasons, as the timeline looks way too tight for it to have been a careful decision.

            Yeah, this.

            Timeline aside, the notion that any company anywhere has anything close to a spreadsheet that can accurately model the financial consequences of responding or not responding to a political controversy is absurd. I’d be shocked if the world’s greatest experts on social media could predict this sort of thing within an order of magnitude. It depends heavily on the “virality” of multiple moving parts: Roseanne’s original tweet, the response of people who complain about it, the response of people who complain about ABC not acting (before they act), the response of people for whom ABC’s action won’t go far enough (after they act), the response of people who disagree with ABC’s action (after they act), etc.

            Predicting even one of those things is difficult to impossible. Predicting all of them is a fool’s errand.

            A team of McKinsey consultants couldn’t get you a good answer to: “How much money do I make if I keep Roseanne and how does that compare to how much money I make if I fire her?” in a week. There’s no chance that ABC itself had a developed answer to it in less than 24 hours.

            None of these decisions are ever made from a spreadsheet. It’s always for ideological (i.e. “non-financial”) reasons…

          • albatross11 says:

            I am *extremely* skeptical that Disney was actually facing significant financial losses if they didn’t fire Rosanne. This just doesn’t make any sense, given the nature of the offense (tasteless tweet that could be read as racist by a star whose persona is lower class and inclined to tasteless offensive comments)–the Twitter storm would have blown over in a couple days, and Disney would have lost the revenue of about ten woke people who decided to go to Universal instead of Disney for their vacation.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Bean

            I find your math to be very troubling, and I don’t think it possibly can make sense. Given those numbers, it looks (to me) like there is no reason to ever produce any real content, they should just run infomercials in prime time.

          • Vorkon says:

            Scrooge McDuck only swims left?

            Ha! That’s great!

            I’d say I’m stealing that, but this is probably the only place on or off the internet where anyone would get the joke. :p

          • Aapje says:

            The original Roseanne seemed like a very cheap show to make, with most of the stuff happening in a few locations that get used again and again. The promo for the new show suggests that the new show has the same setup. So then the costs of production would probably mostly be the salaries of the actors.

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            ISTM that a pure profit-seeking Disney management would want to steer clear of any CW/political issues, since being seen as on one tribe’s side is bad for selling to the other tribe. That’s what I’d expect from most companies, as well.

            But it’s not what we observe. Joining boycotts against states that pass dumb laws about transpeople using bathrooms or that ban abortion isn’t steering clear of CW issues, it’s taking a particular side on those issues. My best guess is that the management and staff of Disney are very heavily blue tribe, enough so that this kind of stand is internally popular. But it seems likely to alienate a chunk of their customers.

            One model that makes sense here is that Disney’s management is getting an extra perk–along with the pay, they also get to score some points for their team in the culture war. Another model is that Disney’s management has to balance keeping their (heavily blue and often very SJW/progressive) employees happy with keeping their (balanced between red and blue) employees happy. I’m not sure which is the better model–my first guess is that both models describe some of what’s going on.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I believe Frank Underwood can explain the motivation.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And another show canceled because of its star’s foibles. I’d rather they didn’t though, as I sure did like House of Cards. What’s a little gay statutory rape compared to my television entertainment?

          • Clutzy says:

            Yea, but Conrad that show had a different model. Someone did some digging and HOC drove basically 0 of Neflix’s subs.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Huh. How do they figure out what shows drive subs? To me it seems like something that sort of goes into a bucket of “must have at least X shows I like to be worth the effort.” I’m just curious as to what shows drive subs if HOC doesn’t.

          • Matt M says:

            The answer, depressingly enough, is almost certainly “reruns of Friends”

          • Protagoras says:

            Yea, but Conrad that show had a different model. Someone did some digging and HOC drove basically 0 of Neflix’s subs.

            This seems unlikely to me. There is a point at which if Netflix stops having enough good shows, I am going to cancel my subscription, and HoC is an example of one of the good shows that in the past contributed to me keeping my Netflix subscription. But perhaps I am typical minding.

        • JonathanD says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          I think you’re skipping a likely explanation. I think what Roseanne said offended her bosses (which it should have, it was offensive). And the company is probably profitable enough that they can easily spare her.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, that is my explanation. You and I are in 100% agreement. It was not a financial decision, it was a political/moral one. I’m arguing against the mercantile explanation because firing Rosanne cost them money, it didn’t save them money.

          • Matt M says:

            I think what Roseanne said offended her bosses

            To echo Conrad, yes, absolutely. This is 100% what happened.

            And it turns out that what “offends your bosses” if you work in certain industries (i.e. tech, journalism, media, etc.) is slowly but surely growing to encompass any deviation from progressive groupthink whatsoever.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M:

            And it turns out that what “offends your bosses” if you work in certain industries (i.e. tech, journalism, media, etc.) is slowly but surely growing to encompass any deviation from progressive groupthink whatsoever.

            In other words, Social Justice means losing more and more freedom to speak and even think to our bosses in the wealthiest 0.1% of the population.

          • Don P. says:

            Also, if you’re on TV, and the President of your TV network is a black woman, maybe don’t compare a prominent black woman to an ape. (The actual quote being “she looks like if Planet of the Apes and Muslim Brotherhood had a baby”.)

            Conventional wisdom on the timing, by the way, is that it happened so quickly after the tweet in question — like, half a day — that there was evidently a plan in place, based on Roseanne’s earlier tweets and behavior.

        • dick says:

          If the decision to kick him off was ideological, they would’ve done it the first time they were asked, or without being asked. The mercantile argument is about their brand, the income to Alphabet from his channel is ~0.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Alternate explanation: they pushed all the talk about how their algorithm is carefully compiling kid videos for pedophiles right out of the news.

          • Clutzy says:

            Not so. You see, Youtube, like Reddit, twitch and many social platforms (notably not Snapchat & instagram) is actually a troll created platform. These places were built by trolls, and would collapse (like Tumblr when it got rid of porn) without trolls because trolls are among the tastemakers of the internet (along with hot women).

            This is why Reddit has to keep the_donald, because that subset of users generates all their best content. Just like Crowder and Cowder-adjecent people make al lot of youtube’s high-engagement content. Not only that, without that subsection, youtube wouldn’t have gotten off the ground to even be purchased by google. If you ban enough of them, they will all leave and you will end up with Myspace or digg, because all the important users left.

            So left wing people like this Maza guy are technically correct when they ask, “why is youtube allowing all this right wing content.” Obviously he wants to be the internet’s voice. But youtube is 80% young male viewers, and who are young male viewers going to side with? The funny guy who makes jokes, or the nerdy guy who runs to teacher at the first chance? Its not a space he can naturally win.

          • The Nybbler says:

            There’s been some odd inconsistent messaging from the official YouTube account; at one point they implied that the only problem was his “Socialism is for figs” (with Che Guevera making a limp-wrist gesture) T-shirt, and then they walked that back and said it was his whole channel. Possibly internal divisions in YouTube, with the SJWs currently ascendant over the Mammonites.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            These places … would collapse (like Tumblr when it got rid of porn)

            An aside, but did Tumblr experience any meaningful collapse? There was much consternation in the run-up to the aporncalypse, but pretty much everyone I followed before is still there, still posting.

    • Aapje says:

      @dick

      I think that social media company behavior is best seen as primarily driven by weighing advertiser demand against the desires of the users, but then with a left-wing and blue tribe bias, mainly resulting in a greater eagerness to interpret certain behavior as violating the rules when it is from the right-wing or red tribe.

      So they make rules to demonetize or ban nudity, calls for violence, violence itself, slurs, guns, fak_e news, etc. However, right wing calls for violence are going to result in demonetization or bans more often than similar left wing calls for violence. Right wing slurs will result in demonetization or bans more often than similar left wing slurs. Etc.

      Of course, key here is that there is no agreement on what is similar. To me, saying that it is OK to hate men as a group is equal to saying that is OK to hate women as a group. Youtube et al see the latter as much worse, because women are supposedly more vulnerable.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Of course, key here is that there is no agreement on what is similar.

        No, there’s absolutely an agreement. Left-wing violence is speech but right-wing speech is violence.

        Maza was also on twitter egging people on with the “milkshaking” thing, where left-wingers throw milkshakes at right-wing politicians or demonstrators in public, saying

        Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.

        While throwing a milkshake at someone is low-key as far as violence goes, it’s still a crime. And pretty damn threatening when someone is throwing liquid on you when you don’t know what it is. Acid attacks are a thing, too.

        Also, Crowder did not make fun of his ethnicity. He called him a Mexican. As far as I can tell, he is a Mexican. Referring to a Mexican as a Mexican is not an insult, as there is, to my knowledge, nothing wrong with being a Mexican. If he’d called him some kind of slur we could talk, but “Mexican” is not a slur.

        “Lispy queer” is a bit more insulting, but the guy’s twitter handle is “@gaywonk.” His whole schtick is “look at me, I’m gay, and I’m a latino, and did I mention I’m a gay latino?! GaaaaAAAaaaaAAaaaay!” and Crowder says “look at this gay latino!” and it’s a hate crime. Oh noes.

        • Viliam says:

          While throwing a milkshake at someone is low-key as far as violence goes, it’s still a crime. And pretty damn threatening when someone is throwing liquid on you when you don’t know what it is. Acid attacks are a thing, too.

          Maybe that’s the plan. Imagine a crowd where 99 people are throwing milkshakes and 1 is throwing acid, but in the chaos it is difficult to distinguish who is throwing what. And you know that using force against the ones throwing milkshakes will be immediately documented on YouTube.

          People throwing the milkshakes are enabling more serious crimes, while maintaining plausible deniability.

          (And it doesn’t have to be acid, if that feels too dramatic. If too many milkshakes are flying around, it is difficult to notice if someone suddenly decides to throw a rock.)

        • Aapje says:

          @Conrad Honcho

          No, there’s absolutely an agreement. Left-wing violence is speech but right-wing speech is violence.

          You misread me and/or I was unclear. What I meant was that people across the political spectrum don’t agree on what is equally bad. So what looks fair to the subculture that runs Youtube, is going to seem biased to other subcultures that don’t have the same sensibilities.

    • BBA says:

      Robby Soave (or his headline writer) calls it “a confused approach to an unsolvable problem.” And I agree that online abuse is unsolvable: there is no Code of Conduct or RFC that can fix human nature.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The general pattern is:

        * Person A does something
        * A crowd of anonymous people does something to person B in person A’s name
        * We want to punish person A.

        I’ve gone back and forth myself over how much person A should be responsible. I’ve thought a few different ways and I’ve never been happy with my answers. You can knowingly start something and get away with it. You can also very easily false-flag.

        In the Maza case, the evidence he posted looks like one person wrote a script to send Maza the same message from a bunch of different forged numbers, so it doesn’t even need to be a crowd; it could literally be exactly one person, either person A or person B for that matter.

        I don’t know the answer.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s reasonable to ask person A to ask his fans to knock it off. Nobody should be harassing Maza. If you want to insult Maza on your own channel, fine, and anybody who doesn’t want to hear Maza insulted can not watch your channel. It’s not okay to send the insults directly to Maza in ways Maza can not avoid.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Like the person who looks under the streetlight for their lost keys because it’s where the light is better, we punish person A because they are the one we can see. We have no idea who the anonymous people are, we can’t do anything about them, but person A is sitting right there.

            Sometimes it becomes an endless game of asking person A to repudiate all the things someone else is doing. PewDiePie has apparently needed to keep on doing this, repeatedly. You can make it someone’s full-time job to repudiate anonymous attacks and drain all their time to do other things. Opponents of person A can keep this game going constantly.

            And I’ve also seen claims that person A isn’t really being serious about denouncing the announcing attacks, and is even encouraging them by saying not to do them.

  22. Hamish Todd says:

    I’m making science videos, like everyone else and their dog. Here’s one: https://youtu.be/g5XWNwBJWeY criticism welcome! Especially of the format and the information content. I know I need to work on sound and “umming” ;_;

    • HeelBearCub says:

      At least give a vague idea of the topic. I (meaning both the literal me, and the figurative everyman) am not going to click otherwise.

      • phi says:

        The video appears to be about rotations in four dimensions. Almost as interesting for its demonstration of VR technology as for the actual mathematics.

    • I’ll get back to the 4 dimensional video, but I got sidetracked by finding you had written an article in 2013 on the original Tomb Raider, which I grew up playing. Very interesting!

  23. helloo says:

    Prey (2017) is an immersive simulation FPS game similar to System Shock or Bioshock.

    Spoilers ahead but I’ll keep it light.
    At the very end of the game, there’s an 11th hour plot twist that changes the way the entire game experience was meant to be felt.
    And when I said very end, I meant it. This is after the ending scene and after an unskippable, unfastforwardable? ~10min credits roll.
    This is where some movies might put in some silly bloopers or possibly some teasers. But no, here is a bono-fide plot point that is meant for the current story, had foreshadowing to it, and integral to the main plot.

    This is almost certainly likely to be missed by most players, except the ones that were spoiled to its existence. And I believe they intentionally did so.
    Another Spoiler warning – skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to be spoiled. This is because the twist is that this whole game was a simulation. The whole “it was all a dream” but in a way that furthers the plot (rather than trivialize it though YMMV) and changes how you are meant to interpret the story and what has happened.

    By likely being spoiled by it, this reduces the shock and negative effects that this information would have caused and still allows it to be played and enjoyed by many that don’t care that much to dive deeper into the game to read discussion (and thus spoilers) on the game and its story.

    Is there any other examples of things that are “improved” by spoilers (not new ways to interpret something, just raw spoilers) or otherwise anticipate that things will be spoiled and make workarounds for it?

    • Frog-like Sensations says:

      Two points, neither of which address your final question (sorry about that):

      1) I’m surprised you think the twist was missed by most players. It never occurred to me that people wouldn’t see it, since I always go to the end of game credits. You’re in your house at the time so you can likely just do whatever you’d be doing otherwise while the credits roll, and post-credit sequences are pretty common in games.

      2) You can put me down as someone whose mileage varied in regards to the quality of the twist. I didn’t like it in large part because I thought the twisted version was a lot more generic than the untwisted one.

    • Spookykou says:

      I am not sure if this is a perfect fit, but I watched the first season of the TV show Legion out of order by mistake, accidentally watching episode 8, and then 1-7, in proper order the rest of the way through. I did not realize my mistake until after I was finished with the whole series, and when reflecting on it, I felt like the show was probably more enjoyable for me in that order than it would have been in the intended order.

    • Incurian says:

      I recently rewatched The Matrix series, and found it to be more enjoyable this time around because I spent half the time perusing the matrix wikia to figure out what was going on.

      • Randy M says:

        Was it enjoyable because you understood it, or because you only paid half as much attention?
        (Why do I get the feeling the answer will be ‘yes’?)

        • Incurian says:

          Because I understood it better. It even made me enjoy the elements of the movie that aren’t directly related to plot/setting because I was much more willing to suspend my disbelief. I now also kind of think it’s neat that you need to engage with various aspects of the multimedia franchise to really understand the movies, since it’s very setting-appropriate.

    • dodrian says:

      Movies/books/games (especially those with a twist) are enjoyable in two different ways. The first time you enjoy as the plot unfolds (often with a really satisfying feeling when it all comes together). The second (or third, or fourth…) time you enjoy the journey, and picking out the little details along the way, knowing what’s going to happen.

      Fight Club has a dramatic twist but is still re-watchable because you can enjoy how well the movie is crafted to point build up towards it.

      The video game Braid has a plot reveal near the end that makes you reinterpret everything that’s happened before. I’ve played it through a couple of times to appreciate that more.

      I re-reading love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, and Douglas Adams’ H2G2/Dirk Gently series because the books are packed full of little foreshadowing details and nods which you can only pick up on if you know what’s going to happen.

    • Incurian says:

      Also, HPMOR. There is quite a lot of subtle foreshadowing and other bits of dramatic irony a reader is unlikely to pick up on the first readthrough. It makes the second read a bit deeper. Also, it may be product of my poor memory/cognitive skills but I think I’ve noticed some things that aren’t apparent until a third readthrough because you need to put together things you could have only learned from the second, etc.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Good God. I haven’t been able to wade through it even once. I saw a lot of good stuff in what I read, but never developed any faith that it was going anywhere. I take it I was wrong?

        • Incurian says:

          I like it a lot. It takes a while to get going though. What part did you get up to?

  24. S_J says:

    Some time back, a commenter on an OT asked questions about what was going on at the NRA. I knew a little at the time, and went off to investigate…but forgot to post anything.

    Actually, what happened was, the gun-rights-and-politics bloggers who I’ve followed for a long time started posting details while the internal elections at the NRA annual meeting were happening.

    That link doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does give a snapshot of what his opinion was while the Board was discussing things at the tail end of the NRA Annual Meeting. The backstory is that NRA has had a business relationship with Ackerman-McQueen, which is a regional PR/digital-media firm. The business has soured, to the point of people on both sides of the relationship leaking stories to the press about bad behavior by the other party…and mutual lawsuits.

    There are also interesting observations about NRA as a non-profit that is raising money, and its behavior when fundraising seemed bottomless.

    I’m seeing hints through many previous posts (on the above-linked blog) that A-M may have been overcharging for services provided. However, the NRA may have also been engaged in less-than-respectable behavior with respect to A-M. As a result, there was a revolt in NRA membership against certain leaders–which came to a head at the Annual Meeting. Some influential leaders resigned, but the current President remained in his position.

    I’m still not sure what to think of all this. As best as I can tell, the interested parties are trying to clean up the mess.

    • Vorkon says:

      That sounds about the way I understand it, but with one minor nitpick:

      The current PRESIDENT stepped down, but the Executive Vice Dictator-For-Life, Wayne LaPierre, did not. I can see how one could confuse the two, though. :p

    • brad says:

      I think that was me. My main question was whether there were any ideological / policy cleavages at play (a la the prior hunter vs gun rights split) or it was purely about personalities and money. Sounds like the latter from what you are saying.

      • S_J says:

        I think there’s a couple of things happening that only Board members and their friends know…it still looks like it is mostly a shakeup in organizational focus/strategy.

        There was a flurry of press articles that looked like leaks from one side or the other the NRA/Ackerman-McQueen dispute. Some of the leaks might have even violated Non-Disclosure-Agreements between the two organizations.

        The broader question of who becomes the popular face of the NRA once Wayne LaPierre retires is still very much up in the air. Per @Vorkon, Wayne LaPierre isn’t President of the organization. But he does have the quasi-official role of most-popular-leader-among-the-NRA-membership. And he is the semi-official Face of the NRA.

        But Wayne LaPierre is over 70, and he won’t stay in his current role forever. Will he try to groom a successor, or leave it open to a handful of rising stars? Will he try to deny any successor he doens’t like? Will he try to stay in his position as long as he can, or bow out gracefully?

      • Vorkon says:

        Well, to be fair, there is, to some extent, a split between a “second amendment absolutist” faction and a “we just want to make money” faction, but this mostly plays out on niche message boards and demonetized YouTube videos, with the absolutist faction never having the organizational skills necessary to make any actual changes. The current news we’ve been hearing is pretty much exclusively an internal struggle between elements of the “we just want to make money” faction, though.

  25. Matt M says:

    Something I’ve changed my mind on recently – the desirability of reading the “manifestos” of famous criminals, most specifically, mass shooters.

    Previously, I believed that such people were mainly motivated by some desire for fame/attention. If so, reading their stuff would be “playing into their hands”, so to speak. I figured the best way to discourage such behavior was to completely ignore such people.

    More recently, I have reconsidered. I no longer think that most of these people are motivated by any serious desire for “fame.” Attention is more likely, but it’s a very specific sort of attention that doesn’t necessarily map to personal notoriety. I think mostly, their motivation falls into two broad buckets, either terrorism (in the most literal sense of “violence committed to advance a political goal”) or something I’ll generically classify as “revenge” (often taken not necessarily on specific individuals, but on “society as a whole”).

    If we believe that understanding the goals and motivations of such people can allow us to more readily identify other such people and prevent future instances from occurring, then it seems like, when one of these people leaves behind a 50 page document that may as well be titled “HERE ARE MY GOALS AND MOTIVATIONS,” we should probably, you know, read it. And certain kinds of people should really be interested in reading it. Pretty much everyone who has a direct stake in the problem: Politicians, journalists, educators, academics, mental health professionals, law enforcement, clergy, and anyone who wants to wander into the public square and start debating as to what the specific individual’s goals and motivations were, should be expected to have, at a minimum, read the primary source document.

    But alas, there’s a slight complication… sometimes, the primary source document that might as well be titled “HERE ARE MY GOALS AND MOTIVATIONS” includes content that offends common sensibilities. Often, it will also actively attempt to encourage others to commit similar acts of violence. And most governments, corporations, and other powerful entities don’t too much care for the widespread consumption of those sorts of materials. Many of them actively ban the distribution, or even possession, of such documents. In one specific and noteworthy case, the government of New Zealand has banned the dissemination of the manifesto of the Christchurch shooter, punishable by several years of jailtime.

    Even putting aside the principles of freedom of speech or what have you, this strikes me as… counterproductive. I already mentioned several groups above who have some pretty good reasons and entirely pure motivations for wanting to know what is said in this thing. Being American, I don’t have much familiarity with censorship or hate speech laws, so I wonder… are there any exceptions for some of the groups I mentioned above? If not, this seems problematic. Even if there are, if the exception is complicated or burdensome to acquire, this would create a chilling effect.

    Overall, I think it’s better that more people read these things. These sorts of problems aren’t going away anytime soon. We need to better understand them. And we won’t be able to do that if we continue to ignore the “HERE’S WHY I DID IT” documents in favor of our own politically motivated speculation…

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think you’ve misunderstood the “Don’t read it” argument.

      Academics and professionals should read it. Attempting to understand the actual causes of these events should absolutely be explored.

      But should journalists read it in the immediate aftermath and broadcast pieces of it to the public at large? Should every slack-faced, rubber-necker looking for some cheap and macabre entertainment go read the juicy or disturbing excerpts? Should the currently slightly disturbed teen have it elevated to them as something important and consequential?

      That’s the argument you need to deal with.

      • Civilis says:

        But should journalists read it in the immediate aftermath and broadcast pieces of it to the public at large?

        I’m fine with leaving it to the academics and professionals if journalists, politicians and the public are willing to limit themselves to ‘the perpetrator was mentally ill and their manifesto is nothing more than an expression of that abnormal state of mind’.

        However, if journalists or politicians are going to talk about the motivations of the perpetrator, they need to be able to tie those motivations to the manifesto (even if only to guess that the manifesto itself is a tool of the perpetrator to accomplish their objective). Further, if journalists or politicians are going to make claims about the perpetrator’s motivations, the public needs to be able to see the manifesto to keep the journalists and politicians honest.

        I think the temptation to politicize tragedies is too tempting for journalists and politicians to resist trying to speculate on the motivations of those responsible. With the Christchurch shooting, the media and political class seems to have played into the professed motivations of the perpetrator as presented in their manifesto by trying to suppress the manifesto; if this isn’t the case with Christchurch, it likely will be eventually.

        This raises another reason not to suppress evidence such as the manifestos of the perpetrators: the assumption among political outliers increasingly seems to be that any details not placed in front of the public is either something that would harm their political opponents or outright evidence of a conspiracy.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          This is another “I feel horribly oppressed by the evil liberal media” post?

          OK then, not interesting.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            This seems true, but not kind or necessary. I recommend editing it to be slightly less unkind, because I appreciate you making the point.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think there’s an interesting question here that has nothing to do with whether anyone’s oppressed by liberal or conservative media.

            Suppose someone shoots up a school full of kids, and after he’s met a well-deserved demise at the hands of the cops, it turns out he’s left a manifesto and a Youtube channel full of videos explaining why he shot up this school.

            There are then a couple different questions. First, should you read it? I’d say you should read it if you want to understand the psychology of mass-shooters, but probably not if you’re looking for any other kind of insight. Some nutcase who shoots up a school probably doesn’t have any better insight into the right way to organize society, or sexual dynamics in 2019 America, than anyone else. Being a homicidal nutcase doesn’t positively correlate with insight, AFAICT.

            The second question is how media sources should deal with the manifesto. Now, here, you run into an interesting problem. On one hand, a nutcase shooting up a school is surely newsworthy. On the other hand, the kind of saturation coverage we get from mass-shootings on network TV, complete with picture of the shooter and quotes from his manifesto and repeating his name in ominous tones a million times, seems likely to be encouraging copycats. It kind of glamorizes the murderous nutcase, and it’s not hard to imagine that encouraging the next murderous nutcase to behave the same way.

            In general, I’m not a big fan of telling news sources what to report based on the unwashed masses getting the wrong idea, but I think there’s a case for trying not to do stuff than encourages mentally disturbed people to do bad things–whether that’s coverage of suicide, mass shootings, arsons, whatever.

            Read or don’t read the manifesto as suits you–mostly I’m not interested in the writings of crazy evil people unless there’s some special reason I think I can learn from them. Reporters who want to cover the topic should probably read some of those manifestos, so they know what they’re talking about. But they should not provide coverage that seems likely to encourage the next unstable person to snap and kill himself / kill someone else / burn down a building / beat up some random person of the wrong race or gender / etc.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @hoopyfreud:
            As you wish.

          • Civilis says:

            This is another “I feel horribly oppressed by the evil liberal media” post?

            Fantasizing about the motives of the perpetrators of horrible crimes is something that is equally as bad when conservative media does it, which they do often enough. It’s also the right-wing media that more often (or more prominently) runs with conspiracy theories when information which could spread light on high profile crimes is not available to the public.

            I’m a conservative, admittedly, but if your take on my comment is that it equates to “I feel horribly oppressed by the evil liberal media” then I’m obviously not making my point clear. All I’m making is what I think is a politically neutral recommendation based on observed cause and effect. “If you speculate on the perpetrator’s mentality or motivation, you need to consider the evidence and let the public see the evidence with your conclusion” seems valid regardless of the political leanings of the perpetrator and the party doing the speculating.

            Further, my recommendation isn’t intended to limit political and journalistic discussion about such politicized topics as the availability of guns or mental health programs, which are not directly tied to the mentality or motivation of the perpetrators. It does apply to attempts to place blame for the perpetrator’s mentality on the boogeyman du jour.

          • Civilis says:

            But they should not provide coverage that seems likely to encourage the next unstable person to snap and kill himself / kill someone else / burn down a building / beat up some random person of the wrong race or gender / etc.

            It’s a great idea in theory, but since these people are unstable, you have no idea what will set them off. Failing to cover something can be just as likely to inflame tensions as covering it. The cover-up is almost always worse than the crime.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            This is another “I feel horribly oppressed by the evil liberal media” post?

            OK then, not interesting.

            You are being very uncharitable. Nowhere does Civilis argue that this should be limited to left-wing coverage of right-wing shooters.

            Without projecting CW motivations on the comment, it seems like a fairly generic: ‘those in power should be accountable.’

          • Lillian says:

            It’s worse than that, the media lying about things in an effort to prevent radicalization can serve as a trigger for it. Just recently i had a friend tell me, in a tone of extreme annoyance, that he had been doing some independent research on the Holocaust. The Official Narrative had lied about so many things that far-right sources turned out to be telling the truth about, that he felt compelled to make double sure that this was not also the case with the Holocaust. He didn’t think so, he was and continues to be certain that the Official Narrative for that one is in fact true, and it’s the far-right who is lying, but he still had to check. Not everyone is that suspicious, a lot of people react to having the scales brushed from their eyes by treating the brusher as a reliable font of truth.

          • Lillian says:

            Oh, just noticed my reply above is in the wrong thread. It was intended for the one below this one.

        • The thing about the Christchurch shooting is that he livestreamed the killing and even after the video was taken down, it was seen by most of those who were motivated enough to seek it out. The manifesto was also shared widely in related communities to 8chan’s /pol/ where he made the thread announcing his terrorist attack and dropping the manifesto and stream link.

          After the attack, the posters on /pol/ did seem to have been radicalized (to the extent that people who are already neo-nazis can go even further). Previously, people proposing terror as a means of spreading their white nationalist ideology were responded to with “nice try fbi”, but after the attack, something broke and the general narrative shifted in favor of terrorism. The Daily Stormer produced an article that said something to the effect that the shooter had finally made terrorism seem “chill” and “not cringe”. The fallout from this shift was that a copycat attack was attempted not long after, livestream, manifesto and all, and the only reason the Poway synagogue shooting will be memory holed is because it was mostly foiled, resulting in one death.

          However, where is the media in all of this? Before the media could even react, the Christchurch killer (who I will not name here) had already broadcast his crimes to those he was trying to urge to similar action. The manifesto and video then spread among the underground media, with one particular white nationalist e-celeb offering to send the manifesto to anyone who contacted him.

          The idea that the media should or shouldn’t publicize the details surrounding terrorists and their beliefs is based on the false premise that the public at large are a particularly interested audience. In reality, the fringe has created its own media. Radicalization doesn’t occur through mere exposure, especially not when it’s surrounded by 500 disclaimers. Radicalization occurs through bathing continuously in a hot bath of extreme ideas until the next level of stimulus is required. We know from history that radicals seek out people who are already politically engaged and alligned with the topic area, and they then provide these people with a new media, to supplant the mainstream narrative with an alternative one. The radical anarchists of the early 20th century weren’t sending pamphlets advocating “propaganda of the deed” to the postman’s grandma, they were distributing pamphlets within an underground, alternative socialist media that already primed radical intellectuals for a more violent message.

          It’s not the manifesto, but the manifesto plus the worldview that matters, and that worldview is promulgated by an entirely separate ecosystem to the one the normal person grows up in. If you’re not already a white nationalist fighting to defend your race, a manifesto calling for violence in the name of that cause is going to turn you off completely. There has to be intervening steps involved before you get to that point, and there is an entire alternative media network and social community that provides for the grim ideological education needed.

          The average person isn’t going to be radicalized by the release of a terror manifesto, but it’s all moot, because, and this is my entire point, the people who are going to be radicalized by it, have their own alternative methods of distribution, which most of the time, outrace the media and outfox methods of stemming the information. The media as commonly understood isn’t even an issue here.

          • Aapje says:

            Indeed. The idea that the media can prevent radicalization by hiding evidence is mere hubris. They don’t have that power (in the West) and trying does more to convince those with an strong anti-establishment tendency that the establishment should be disbelieved, than prevent radicalization.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            No I completely disagree here, at least as to the significance level. There will always nasty militant radicals spreading and advocating violent tactics. Always has been that way. 100 hundred years ago violent anarchists celebrated killing sprees. The Internet has made it easier to do this, but it is still about a small minority in the bubble.

            But what has changed in the last 20 years or so is mass media spreading everything about a mass carnage wide and deep with an almost manic glee. “Wow, this is so horrible we must gab about this for pages about how terrible this is, and must give every single detail about this horrible terrible person.” I really think that does encourage future such episodes from crazy losers looking to have some kind of fame, even if it is the infamous kind. It is one thing to have a limited fame to the crazies on violent Internet web sites; it ‘s a whole ‘nother thing to get one’s name in the New York Times.

            I think that the media is getting this message at least a little bit. I occasionally hear media sources purposefully trying to avoid much discussion about the perpetrator himself, so at least fame does not go in that direction. I think I heard after a recent mass episode some official source saying that they would mention the killer’s name once, and that’s it. I heartily approve. That isn’t hiding evidence, but it doesn’t highlight it so much. I do appreciate your point in not naming the Christchurch killer. I have no idea what his name is and don’t want to know. We can talk about the issue without bringing notice to the killers.

          • Lillian says:

            Actual quote from FAQ section of Brenton Harrison Tarrant’s manifesto:

            “Did you carry out the attack for fame?
            No, carrying out an attack for fame would laughable. After all who can remember the name of the attackers in the Sptember 11 attack in New York? How about the attack on the pentagon? The attacks in the plane that crahsed on the field that day?
            I will be forgotten quickly.
            Which I do not mind.
            After all I am a private and mostly introverted person.
            But the aftershock from my actions will ripple for years to come, driving political and social discourse, creating the atmosphere or fear and change that is required.”

            It’s funny to me that the culture finally managed to settle on a consensus of not giving publicity to mass shooters, on exactly the mass shooter who claims to not want any. Credibly claims at that, given his name isn’t even anywhere in the manifesto, even the “Who are you?” section avoids mentioning it. Talk about irony, eh?

          • Aapje says:

            @Lillian

            There is a Dutch saying that has no real equivalent in English*, which can more or less be translated as: the host expects his guests to behave as he would.

            The tendency by politicians and the media to believe that people do things for fame may reflect the kind of personality that seeks out these jobs, where they have a hard time believing that some people wouldn’t care about taking credit.

            * You have “takes one to know one,” but this implies that the judgment is correct.

          • Matt M says:

            It’s funny to me that the culture finally managed to settle on a consensus of not giving publicity to mass shooters, on exactly the mass shooter who claims to not want any.

            I think this is more common than you might suspect. A whole lot of mass shooters behave in ways that are inconsistent with the idea that they are trying to maximize their own personal fame/name recognition.

            The media may (or recently, may not) give them such fame and name recognition anyway, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that was their primary motivation.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just to clarify:

            a. I think it makes sense for media outlets to *voluntarily* alter their coverage of mass-shootings, just as they already do for suicides, to decrease the likelihood of inspiring copycats.

            b. I don’t want any government agency having the power to coerce this, I don’t want any censorship, and I don’t want the media outlets to refrain from covering those stories–just to try not to cover them in ways that seem most likely to inspire someone else to emulate their attack[1].

            c. I don’t think this is likely to work for terrorists–that’s a different kind of motivation. Where I think it’s likely to work is in decreasing the number of crazies who snap and go postal with a Glock some fine day.

            d. Whether or not changing media coverage of this stuff will decrease that number is an empirical question. My guess is that it will, but I’m interested in empirical evidence either way.

            [1] By which I mean plastering the front page with pictures of the shooter, his name, and his life story. I’m not at all interested in preventing people from knowing what happened or why, just in altering the style of coverage to avoid calling out to the already-cracked pots.

          • Matt M says:

            a. I think it makes sense for media outlets to *voluntarily* alter their coverage of mass-shootings, just as they already do for suicides, to decrease the likelihood of inspiring copycats.

            Right, I agree. Although I would expect, at the minimum, that the hard journalists who are reporting on “what actually happened” would watch the “30 minutes of live video showing what actually happened” and that the commentators who are reporting on “here’s why he did it” have actually read the 50 page document titled “HERE’S WHY I DID IT”

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            I’d like it if those reporters had read the documents, but to be honest, I wouldn’t expect it–most reporters are not very well informed about the stuff they’re reporting on, and reading a 50-page manifesto seems like the sort of thing most journalists aren’t going to do. They’ll read some twitter discussion of the manifesto between SJW activists claiming it proves Trump is a white supremacist and half a dozen Russian bots calling the SJW activists cucks, and think they have a good idea what’s going on.

          • Matt M says:

            They’ll read some twitter discussion of the manifesto between SJW activists claiming it proves Trump is a white supremacist and half a dozen Russian bots calling the SJW activists cucks, and think they have a good idea what’s going on.

          • John Schilling says:

            A whole lot of mass shooters behave in ways that are inconsistent with the idea that they are trying to maximize their own personal fame/name recognition.

            A whole lot of literal Hollywood celebrities behave in ways that are inconsistent with the idea that they are trying to maximize their own personal fame/name recognition, for the narrow definition of “personal fame/name recognition” that actually requires knowing what someone’s name is. I mean, how many people know who Carlos Estévez, David Jones, or Reginald Dwight are?

            As such, I am skeptical of the idea that a moratorium on printing the literal names of mass shooters would have much effect. I do believe that quite a few of them are motivated by a desire to have people remember “The XXX shooter, who fought and died to avenge YYY” and might be dissuaded if they understood this wasn’t going to happen. That would require a greater degree of restraint and/or censorship, but it is something that might actually make a difference.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            As such, I am skeptical of the idea that a moratorium on printing the literal names of mass shooters would have much effect.

            I think it would have a quite significant effect. But not sure how to find actual evidence either way.

  26. proyas says:

    What do you think of my carbon sequestration plan?
    1) Do logging in fire-prone parts of California.
    2) Burn logs in special kilns to convert them into biochar. (And before anyone says it, take pains to make sure the kilns don’t light the areas surrounding them on fire)
    3) Put the biochar on ships and then dump it into the Middle America Trench.

    Benefits:
    -Reduces the wildfire risk in California.
    -The heat produced by the kilns could be used to make power.
    -There is not much life at the bottom of the Middle America Trench, so the biochar will have little effect.
    -The Trench is a subduction zone, so the biochar will be slowly transported into the Earth’s mantle.
    -Reduces atmospheric CO2 levels and global warming.

    • Plumber says:

      “What do you think of my carbon sequestration plan?…”

      If it creates enough good paying jobs, or youth job training via the C.C.C., and those doing the work think they’re doing good, whether it works or not I’ve no problem supporting it, I’m guessing for me if it added more than a $1000 a year to my taxes it may bite me too much, and would actually need to prove to me that it works, but anything less is fine.

      Of course, making someone else pay for it is A.O.K., starting with my neighbor up the street who has a two story house with solar panels, a Tesla in his driveway, a state pension from a white collar job, a wife who still works, and earns damn good money, and yet pays less in taxes because of Prop 13 and because he bought his house in the ’90’s.

      However I don’t want my 80 something neighbor down the street from me and also pays less in taxes than me, drives an old Chevy pick up, still goes on his roof to seal it up every winter, and has lived in his house since the 1940’s to pay a penny more in taxes.

    • valleyofthekings says:

      (1) Apparently biochar makes good fertilizer. Can we just use it as that? Actually can we use the wood chips as fertilizer and not bother with burning it first?
      (2) What fraction of global warming do you expect this will reverse? How much do you think it will cost for that fraction?
      (3) Is there a more efficient way to reverse global warming — for example the iron dust thing, or heat-reflecting particles in the upper atmosphere near the equator?

      • Another Throw says:

        heat-reflecting particles in the upper atmosphere near the equator?

        For some reason I think you’re supposed to do it near the poles (and conveniently Alberta has a lot of sulfur laying around) but I don’t remember the reason why.

      • broblawsky says:

        I think geoengineering is going to be more of a last-resort thing.

      • (2) What fraction of global warming do you expect this will reverse?

        The U.S. produces about 1/7th of world fossil fuel CO2. California produces 6.61% of U.S. emissions. So California produces about 1% of world fossil fuel emissions.

        This plan reduces that 1%, probably by not very much but I don’t actually know. So the effect on global warming is very close to zero.

        • fion says:

          Is it not possible in principle (though I suspect highly unlikely) that the plan could do more than a 1% reduction of global emissions?

          Basically I don’t see it as reducing California’s share, but as adding a (very small) negative amount to California’s share. If the plan was more effective than I think, then I think it could in principle make California’s emissions negative.

          • Logically possible but not, I think, close to plausible. To make California’s emissions negative, the amount of carbon being buried at sea has to be greater than all carbon consumed by automobiles, power plants, etc.

            Adding a small negative amount to California’s share does reduce California’s share. But not, I think, to anything close to zero. You might be reducing world emissions but .1%.

    • Tenacious D says:

      How confident are we that there isn’t much life in the Middle America Trench?
      The kiln temperature would be around 700 or 800 celsius, I think. And, obviously, it doesn’t consume all of the wood as fuel. Would you be giving up a lot of power generation efficiency compared to a biomass power plant (where you don’t get the carbon sequestration, but maybe displace more consumption of fossil fuels)?

    • metacelsus says:

      Put the biochar on ships and then dump it into the Middle America Trench.

      You’d need some way of compacting it to make it sink.

      Also, just burying it would probably have the same effect. Biochar doesn’t decompose like wood does.

    • drunkfish says:

      My first (though certainly not last) concern is that it’d probably cause long term damage to the forests. These forests are evolved to burn, so you’d basically be exporting their nutrients. As valleyofthekings points out, biochar is good fertilizer, and these forests are evolved to depend on that fertilizer. I doubt you’d be able to sustain this scheme for very long before you just stop having productive forests.

      • proyas says:

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

        Wood ash is mostly carbon. Does that really count as a “nutrient” since plants can readily extract it from the air?

        The trace nutrients seem to be: calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. Why can’t we cut down the vegetation, and then replenish the calcium, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus in that cleared area by using a broadcast spreader to dispense little grains made of those elements? I’m sure there are all kinds of industrial chemical processes that make huge amounts of those as byproducts, which could be bought at low cost for this geoengineering project.

    • bullseye says:

      With this plan, humanity would simultaneously extract carbon-based fuel from deep in the earth and insert other carbon-based fuel deep into the earth. This strikes me as grossly inefficient.

      • proyas says:

        What do you mean? The biochar would be made from vegetation growing on the Earth’s surface, and the plant matter would be made from atmospheric CO2. By converting the plant matter into biochar, and then disposing of it in an ocean trench where it would be subducted into the mantle, you would be reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.