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Open Thread 130.25

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871 Responses to Open Thread 130.25

  1. johan_larson says:

    Could anyone recommend a good overview of the global warming problem in a single volume? I’m particularly interested in the policy-side issues: how bad will the effects be and what can and should be done about it. I’m hoping to find something that gives both the we’re-doomed and we’re-fine positions fair hearings. A tall order, I know.

  2. Theodoric says:

    Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Alabama was just allowed to start its own police force. They claim this is to provide security for its affiliated K-12 school. The law enabling this also allows another K-12 school, Madison Academy, to have its own police force, but Briarwood seems to be the only entity where the actual church, not just the educational institution affiliated with the church, is allowed its own police force.
    Is it common for K-12 schools to have their own police force (as opposed to school resource officers from the local police)? I know many (most?) universities have campus police, but this is the first I’ve heard anything like it for K-12 schools.
    Even if we grant that a K-12 school could need its own police force, why does the church need its own police force? Are there any churches in America that have their own police, complete with arrest powers (as opposed to security guards)?

    • brad says:

      Is the crux of the problem that the church has a police force or that there’s such a yawning gap between private security and the police in the first place?

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Are there any churches in America that have their own police, complete with arrest powers (as opposed to security guards)?

      It may be a distinction without a difference, but a number of larger churches and religious organizations have professionally trained “security guards” with paramedical training, deescalation training, crowd and mob control training, close quarters bodyguard training and duties, and on top of all that, have the training and remit of “knock you down and sit on you in a very uncomfortable submission hold until the public-security sworn LEOs come haul your ass away”.

      To look at this from another pov, why is it icky for churches to have guards-that-are-practically-cops and even actual cops, when it is okay for corporations, performance venues, and *casinos* to have them?

  3. thomasbrinsmead says:

    Somewhat disappointed that my occasional, but usually considered, and – I’d like to believe – pertinent, comments invariably fail to inspire much further discussion, I conducted a review of my comment history with the aim of comparison with comments that do seem to result in further engagement.

    Although I have yet to conduct an analysis, I was narcissistically pleased to read my third comment on this thread, as it recommended a course of action that seems somewhat similar to the adversarial collaboration contests. I won’t claim credit for inspiring them, as there is rather little suggesting that anyone reads much of anything I say (indeed I followed the ACCs with interest without even remembering my earlier comment myself).

    However, I do think that it provides some evidence that some of my commentary is relevant and I encourage others to at least consider reading what I have to say and also to sometimes even consider what I have said, even if a reply is not forthcoming.

    Independently, I will make a concerted attempt to start with more concrete examples in my commenting, before going more abstractly “meta”, rather than the other way around. Even though my understanding is that it is the meta-principles that are of key interest to this community, as a mechanism for generating promising hypotheses for extending the scope of the True and known, via the epistemic principle of generalisation. But it is only the application of these meta-principles to the (relative) object level by which they become connected to the relevant in their context and thereby become meaningful.

    Uh oh, I’m doing it again. Practice makes – Per-f…sistent.

    I promise not to complain too much until I get better at being comprehensible.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I fear that even here, I mostly get comments when I post clickbait – soundbites about which people have strong feelings. Or requests for specific kinds of help, such as my recent thread about watches.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Agreed. There have been calls for a ‘like’ button so that a reader can acknowledge posts they like but don’t have any response to, but I think that would likely make things worse in other ways. I don’t think there is a solution really, except maybe a norm of single posts saying “nice post.”

  4. broblawsky says:

    I’m currently reading The Great Successor. Would anyone be interested in reading an effortpost on it in the next Open Thread?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Always interested in new perspectives on North Korea. Yes. I don’t know if I would have anything useful as a response, but I’d like to hear about it.

  5. Deiseach says:

    I never thought I’d ever live to see the likes of this, but it’s really happened in the Ireland of today!

    Leitrim have won a hurling championship!

    Oh yeah, and their left corner-forward is a refugee Iranian Kurd 🙂

  6. dick says:

    Can John Schilling or any other resident experts weigh in on the Trump mideast peace plan? I assume there are more details than what Kushner described verbally, but I haven’t found a link and probably am not the right person to evaluate it anyway. From that article, it sounds like all that has happened is that they got some rich Arabs to non-bindingly promise to invest money in Palestine if they abandon the goal of statehood.

    • brad says:

      It’s ridiculously stupid. Pouring billions into the Palestinian territories will have no better outcome than pouring billions into Afghanistan did. It would not improve the lot of the average Palestinian and would not in any way going to quell his desire to have a democratic say in his governance and to have enforceable rights. Even if an outright bribe to the Palestinian elite to betray their nominal constituents were to be accepted, which it won’t be, they wouldn’t be able to effectively bind their people.

      That would have been impossible to come up with a working peace plan given the parties at hand is no excuse for pushing this turd.

      • dick says:

        It seems like a reductio ad absurdum of Conway’s Law. Like, one gets the sense that if Trump’s dad had made his money in forestry, he’d be unveiling a plan to sow the West Bank with doug fir.

        But what is really unclear to me is whether this is vaporware or not. The article says something about the plan going in to effect only once a political solution is reached, which seems a bit like unveiling your plans for a flying car with a big hole in the middle labeled “this is where the anti-gravity generator will go, once we invent one”. But it could also be that this plan describes a bunch of development that is likely to go forward regardless?

      • cassander says:

        that it won’t develop the country doesn’t mean that it’s stupid. A serious reason for the PLO’s reluctance to make peace is that they know that, if they do, they won’t be able to raise as much money. dangling even more money (and the graft that comes with it) in front of them is not a terrible idea. There’s not nearly enough bribery in american foreign policy.

        • brad says:

          It is stupid because it has zero percent chance of working. The bribe won’t be accepted because the people being offered the bribe would correctly fear being killed. Even if the bribe were accepted it wouldn’t accomplish anything because the PLO, as you call them, doesn’t have the ability to make peace in exchange for nothing. PLO 2.0, after murdering the people that took the bribes, would ignore the purported agreement.

          There isn’t an offer that any leader on the Palestinian side could conceivably accept on the table and based on the last decade of Knesset elections it looks like there won’t be for a least a generation.

          • cassander says:

            Even if the bribe were accepted it wouldn’t accomplish anything because the PLO, as you call them, doesn’t have the ability to make peace in exchange for nothing.

            It’s not peace in exchange for nothing, it’s peace in exchange for 50 billion dollars. that’s $10,000 for every man, woman, and child in the west bank, an area that has a per capita GDP of $3,000. Now, it’s not enough on its own, but it’s good that someone in US circles realizes that cutting the palestinians a giant check is a much better persuader than trying to squeeze marginal concessions out of israel.

          • brad says:

            First, it’s supposed to be in investments, which isn’t the same thing as cutting a check at all.

            Second, even if it was a check to every man, woman, and child in the occupied territories and they all cheerfully agreed, unless the deal was “take the money and leave” in 25 years you’d have the exact same problem–millions of people with no rights pissed off about that fact.

            No one at all, even the people as a whole, can credibly agree to give up for all their descendants forever the hope of meaningful citizenship. No one has or ever will care that great-grandpa solemnly agreed to that they would be a serf.

            It’s an incredibly stupid plan.

          • John Schilling says:

            that’s $10,000 for every man, woman, and child in the west bank

            No, that’s fifty million dollars for each of the thousand top people in the “PLO” hierarchy, and nothing for anyone else, and they know it. And even if someone in that hierarchy, even if the very top person in that hierarchy, wants to it differently, they can’t because the hierarchy as a whole is rotten with corruption and saying “divide the money among the poor” only translates to “divide Bob’s share among the other 999 of us, Bob’s obviously a wimp and we can deal with him if he tries anything”

          • cassander says:

            @brad says:

            First, it’s supposed to be in investments, which isn’t the same thing as cutting a check at all.

            If they get a substantial say in who and what gets invested in, it’s as good as cutting them a check. And by them, of course, I mean the leadership, not the rank and file.

            Second, even if it was a check to every man, woman, and child in the occupied territories and they all cheerfully agreed, unless the deal was “take the money and leave” in 25 years you’d have the exact same problem–millions of people with no rights pissed off about that fact.

            It wouldn’t be a check to each one, I said the whole point was to induce the leadership to settle.

            No one at all, even the people as a whole, can credibly agree to give up for all their descendants forever the hope of meaningful citizenship. No one has or ever will care that great-grandpa solemnly agreed to that they would be a serf.

            Who said anything about asking them to give up anything? the point is to bribe the leadership into being less violent and becoming a state,

            It’s an incredibly stupid plan.

            You’ve articulated a strawman that is definitely stupid, but the strawman isn’t the actual plan. the plan appears to be to use the money to get people to the table, get them used to it, and then using the threat of cutting it off as inducement to get the leadership to settle.

            @john

            I was citing the per person figure as an explanation of scale, not a prediction of where the money would end up.

          • brad says:

            Bibi has no intention of offering any kind realistic settlement, and would be outflanked on the right if he tried because the voters have no interest in offering any kind of realistic settlement. Trump has no intention of pressuring Bibi or Israelis to do so. Spending billions to get people to the table, even if that were what was going on, and then having no offer to make is again, incredibly stupid. Not sure why you want to be an apologist for this nonsense.

            the point is to bribe the leadership into being less violent and becoming a state,

            I don’t see where you are getting that from. Certainly not anything Kushner has committed to.

          • cassander says:

            @brad

            I’m not interested in defending kushner or his plan, which at this point is too vague to even deserve the name plan. I’m defending the necessity of of bribing the palestinian leadership into making peace.

          • It is stupid because it has zero percent chance of working.

            I’m skeptical too but is there any plan that has a chance of working which the Israelis would agree to?

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’m extremely cynical and think there’s no chance of any plan working that doesn’t lead to the expulsion and/or extermination of the Jews in Israel within a few years.

          • brad says:

            @Wrong Species

            Not at this time, but:

            That [it] would have been impossible to come up with a working peace plan given the parties at hand is no excuse for pushing this turd.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m extremely cynical and think there’s no chance of any plan working that doesn’t lead to the expulsion and/or extermination of the Jews in Israel within a few years.

            There’s already an effective peace, and it’s based on bribing the Palestinian government in the West Bank not to launch attacks on Israel. I don’t know how sustainable this is, but this is about as good as “peace” in the Middle East gets.

          • Dack says:

            No one at all, even the people as a whole, can credibly agree to give up for all their descendants forever the hope of meaningful citizenship. No one has or ever will care that great-grandpa solemnly agreed to that they would be a serf.

            Does this make sense?

            Should I be able to obtain citizenship in each of the 16 European nations that my recent ancestors came from? What about the states that like…don’t exist anymore?

      • Atlas says:

        From Max Hastings’ history of the Vietnam War:

        Between air raids and troop deployments, the president [LBJ] extended occasional olive branches. In an April speech at Johns Hopkins University, he suggested that if the North Vietnamese abandoned the war, he would mail them a billion-dollar check for a Mekong dam—a massive bribe to leave the South alone. After he spoke, he leaned over to his aide Bill Moyers and patted the younger man’s knee complacently. “Old Ho can’t turn that down,” he said, then repeated, “Old Ho can’t turn that down.” Hanoi of course did so, baffling Johnson. On May 13, the president ordered a five-day bombing halt while a new peace offer was passed North via Moscow. Pham Van Dong declined even to read the message. It is interesting to speculate whether, if the billion-dollar carrot had been advanced with more diplomatic subtlety, it might have changed anything. Had Ho Chi Minh’s half-starved people been consulted, informed that all this could be theirs in exchange for postponing reunification, who is to say how they might have responded? They couldn’t eat national pride. But this was capitalist money, imperialist money, tainted money, proffered like swill to swine, before a society whose inhabitants were permitted no choices. It was unthinkable that Hanoi would take it.

        I expect that, as brad’s sound analysis suggests, “bribery in exchange for acquiescence of occupation” will work about as well in the Palestinian territories as it did in Vietnam.

        • dick says:

          Interesting and relevant addition to the discussion, thank you.

          • Atlas says:

            No problem.

            The great thing about having books on Kindle is that you can quickly turn “I vaguely remember reading something about this once” into “specific relevant facts with documented references.” (Well, the great thing for those of us without von Neumann/Severian/Rachmaninoff-tier memories, anyway.)

        • Lambert says:

          We should be glad North Vietnam declined.

          >And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
          But we’ve proved it again and again,
          That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
          You never get rid of the Dane.

          • DeWitt says:

            Except the British got rid of the Danes just fine, and everything seems to have worked out okay, you mean?

          • Lambert says:

            Apart from the bit where the Anglo-Saxon kings sent many tonnes of silver to Denmark.
            And still managed to get invaded by Harald Hadrada.

          • DeWitt says:

            Someone emphatically not a Dane, nor even someone who collected a single penny of Danegeld from England.

          • Protagoras says:

            Bribing troublesome neighbors has a mixed, but on the whole favorable track record. By far the most common pattern is that the troublesome neighbors try to protect the country that’s bribing them in order to ensure the bribes keep flowing, often by beating up other troublesome neighbors that they fear might try to cut in on the action. In very many cases, this benefit (plus the bribed neighbor causing less trouble) has been worth the cost of the bribes. Generally things go badly when the country can’t afford to keep up the bribes (or, more likely, greedy domestic factions just decided they have better things to use the money on), so the poem is right that this should be a long term policy, not a one time thing, but it is often a very effective long term policy.

          • I think the Byzantine version was more explicit. You pay enemy A to attack enemy B instead of attacking you.

        • cassander says:

          Again, my pitch was bribery as part of 2 state solution, not for occupation. you don’t need to bribe them to accept occupation, they’re already occupied.

          • John Schilling says:

            And since nobody on Team Trump is proposing to end that occupation however the proposed negotiation turns out, what’s the point of the deal? Seems to me that there’s not much more to it than the ability to trot out “But we offered them money!” as a feel-good excuse whenever the Israelis shoot someone for resisting the occupation.

            OK, cynically speaking, the inevitably unequal distribution of the monetary benefits within the Palestinian community would lead to some people who are presently trying to kill Israelis, killing their fellow Palestinians instead. From some perspectives, that would count as a win. But it only works if the Palestinian elite take the money, which they aren’t stupid enough to do.

            So we’re back to the Israelis and their friends continuing the occupation, continuing to shoot people who throw stones at them, and now saying “but we offered them money!”, but without having to actually come up with the money.

    • John Schilling says:

      First, have I expressed my displeasure lately with the meme where “Mideast peace plans” mean always and only peace between Israel and the Palestinians?

      Fatalities in Middle Eastern conflicts, 2010-2019 (approximate)

      Syrian Civil War: 470,000
      Iraqi Civil War: 83,000
      Yemeni Civil War: 64,000
      Libyan Civil War: 14,000
      Egyptian Uprising: 7,000
      Israel-Palestine: 3,750
      Turkish Coup: 350

      Do go on and tell me about how arranging a happy ending for the Palestinians will bring peace to the Middle East.

      Otherwise, what brad says. Paying people to give up their claim to sovereignty basically only works for cosmpolitan WEIRDs, and no matter how weird the WIERDs think it is that poor people around the world won’t give up on stupid tribalism for the promise of shiny iPhones and sensible minivans, they really won’t. Particularly if we are talking about poor Palestinian people, because sovereignty has been such a faint hope for so long for them that anyone with the slightest inclination towards cashing in has long since gone elsewhere.

      Also, nobody who matters is going to trust this deal. The poor Palestinians are going to recognize this as being basically the same thing as the “deal” where poor Russians got shares in former Soviet state-owned enterprises after the fall of communism, which ends with their becoming serfs to the new breed of oligarchs. None of them will believe that Trump et al are going to lift a finger to prevent that. And the Palestinian elite who might benefit from becoming the new oligarchs are going to know that their new serfs are going to come with a taste for insurgency, great experience in same, and grossly unrealistic expectations as to what even a sincerely benevolent oligarch can actually do for poor Palestinians. None of them will believe that Trump et al will lift a finger to protect them from the inevitable outcome of that.

    • broblawsky says:

      So basically, the Palestinians give up any hope of statehood or sovereignty, and in return maybe some Arabs agree to build some condos nobody will ever buy. That’s about what I expected.

    • The Nybbler says:

      mideast peace plan

      It won’t work. I don’t need to be an expert, I don’t even need to know that Trump is involved, and I certainly don’t need to know any details of the plan.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m not an expert, and I can’t see it working–but I’ve proposed a relative of it a few times.

      Coming at it round-about: why isn’t there a massively tense relationship between the Czech Republic and the Sudetendeutsch (expelled from Poland after WW2)? Why aren’t there refugee camps full of 3rd-generation Sudetendeutsch on the Czech border? The reason is that the Sudetendeutsch settled somewhere else, where they are citizens, and 3 generations later that’s home, not Sudetenland. (In 1940, there were about as many Sudetendeutsch as non-Jewish residents in Mandatory Palestine.)

      The goal should be to have the same thing happen with the Palestinians.

      So my proposal is that the $50 billion is spent as follows: any Palestinians gets it his share once he and all his dependents get citizenship somewhere else.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Actually many Czech people are still afraid of Sudetendeutsch, it was a major theme of the presidential elections of 2013, when defeated candidate was somebody who was willing to publicly condemn mass expropriation and expulsion of them after the war. It was used against him to great effect by winner of the elections. Additionally, just about a month ago when organization of former Sudetendeutsch proposed they would hold their future annual meeting in Prague, as a mark of reconciliation, political parties representing majority of Czech voters rejected this idea.

        Now, it is true that Sudetendeutsch aren ́t going around Czechia (or Poland) and committing revenge terrorist attacks. Why? Because they were successfully integrated into postwar West German society. Why weren ́t Palestinians integrated into societies of various Arab states? Well, because those states are dysfunctional mess. Paying Palestinians to get citizenship elsewhere wouldn’t really fix that.

        • Lillian says:

          No, the Palestinians weren’t integrated into the societies of Israel’s neighbours because those neighbours intentionally prevented them from integrating in a cynical bid to use them as a weapon against Israel. If the Sudentendeutsch had been treated like the Arab states treated the Palestianians, then they would been settled in refugee camps and not given German citizenship, and i gurantee you that in that case they would have become a restive population constantly agitating for their lost homeland.

          • Aapje says:

            No, the Palestinians weren’t integrated into the societies of Israel’s neighbours because those neighbours intentionally prevented them from integrating in a cynical bid to use them as a weapon against Israel.

            No, that’s just the pro-Israel ‘they hate us’ narrative.

            In reality, those nations’ politics tend to be heavily aligned along ethnic divides, so letting in a specific ethnic group permanently will change the balance of power and take away resources from groups who are used to seeing other ethnic groups as a threat.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            I agree with both of you (Lilian and Aapje), this is not mutually exclusive, and I do not see how this contradicts my point about dysfunctionality of those states. On the contrary, I would say that this behavior is demonstration of said dysfunctionality.

      • brad says:

        Has there ever been a voluntary ethnic cleansing? I’m skeptical that there would be a high enough percentage of people taking the deal to actual solve anything.

    • ana53294 says:

      Russia, a strong military country with few scrouples when it comes to human rights has been unable to solve the Chechen problem, but they seem to keep the terrorists away from the other regions. They do so by paying Chechnya lots of money and basically letting Kadyrov do his thing.

      So it does seem to me that it is possible to keep peace by paying lots of money, but there seem to be several conditions to that: a) the payments have to keep coming; b) there has to be some real level of autonomy for the local leader to establish a power base; c) the local leader has to have an actual power base (Chechnya has a very strong clan structure).

      Do the Palestinian leaders have a strong enough power base? From what I’ve read, they seem to be quite a bit more democratic than the Chechens and they don’t have a clan structure.

      I think that even if Palestine did have a Kadyrov that could control all of them and actually make deals for them, Israel would not be too happy with having a state inside of it with its own army, like Russia has allowed Chechnya.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        This is basically the basis of what we have going on in Palestine right now, and it’s quite frankly “okay” compared to a lot of the Middle East. I have no idea if it is sustainable, and indeed people keep trying to kill the Palestinian leadership, but “carrot and stick” definitely carries what we’ve got.

    • Dack says:

      Why does no one ever talk about a three state solution? They aren’t going to accept resettlement. Gaza and the West Bank have already diverged too much for one to bow to the other. Then there is the geographical problem.

  7. johan_larson says:

    If you’re in the mood for an action or heist flick this weekend, give “Triple Frontier” a try. It’s a Netflix film about a group of special forces guys who rob a drug lord’s jungle hideout. Things don’t go as planned. Netflix managed to get some serious star power for this one: the cast includes Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, and Oscar Isaac. Recommended.

  8. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Brain differences between liberals and conservatives fail to replicate. Science (which published the original claim) doesn’t want to publish the effort at replication.

    • Silverlock says:

      Thanks, Nancy. That was interesting, although I am still a bit unclear on the conclusions.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I believe the conclusion is that there’s no evidence of brain difference between liberals and conservatives.

        • Silverlock says:

          Sorry, I seem to have suffered a massive brain cramp. I was intending to reply to deltafosb’s comment below. I guess my eyes jumped back to the wrong comment when I returned to this page.

    • Aapje says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      Merely one specific study into brain differences failed to replicate. This failure is not a rebuttal to studies that found differences in other ways.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes exactly. Just like we should suspicious of the results of just one study with dramatic results, similarly we should also be suspicious of one study that fails to replicate. More studies are needed to determine the truth. Although it does take away some of the excitement of the original study when the first repeat doesn’t pan out.

  9. deltafosb says:

    Initially I was going to ask about clustering of political views and what we do to mitigate this (as I wouldn’t expect that the optimal solutions are correlated this much), but it turns out that I was wrong. One interesting thing to note is that

    The key exception is a group that does, in fact, show reasonably robust ideological alignment across diverse domains: whites with high levels of human capital (measured by education and test performance).

    which may explain why it was my intuition to begin with.

    • Aapje says:

      Perhaps elites tend to need a relatively homogeneous culture to justify their eliteness due to: ‘there is no reasonable alternative’.

    • LesHapablap says:

      I would think that people who value their development of human capital (education, test performance) may also value the human capital of (having the right ideology for success) and (conformity)

      In other words, they are a bunch of squares

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Your mission is to solve the problem of tourists overcrowding the coolest places by creating enough cool places to even out the tourist flow and/or convincing people explore more widely.

    Your budget is unlimited. You only have as much political influence as your money can buy. (Or you can come up with a variant of the problem which includes government power.) You may not restrict travel. You– or your organization– will last long enough for whatever methods you have in mind.

    This project was inspired by a travel show which talked about the miserable crowding at the most famous places in Italy, and how to find wonderful places which aren’t crowded.

    I’m tempted to come up with an campaign to present anyone who goes to a highly crowded destination as an idiot– see the recent publicity about crowding at Everest– but I don’t know whether it would do any good.

    • Lambert says:

      From a uk/continental perspective:

      The nature of air travel crowds tourists into cool places near major airports.
      So I’d focus on making it easier to get places by other modes of transport. Subsidise interrailing, youth hostels, motels, those bloody river cruises, <= 1 week bus/train season tickets, cycle tour routes etc.

      As you say about Italy, there's plenty of cool places, they're just not 'touristy'.
      (my own shortlist: Stuttgart, Wuerzburg, Koblenz, Zeelandic Flanders)

      The other side is that people don't know about these places. Sponsoring travel vloggers and journalists to go to places that are not dominated by tourism should be fairly cheap, nowadays.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Cheap approach:
      1) Hire as many guns as you need to make Africa a safe place
      2) Build Las-Vegas level tourism infrastructure all over it
      3) You have a whole continent of cool places your average European or Asian never seen
      4) Subsidy tickets there
      5) As a side effect you get a huge economical growth and peace in one of the world’s most troubled regions
      6) If still crowded, repeat for Australia and Antarctica skipping the military part

      Correct approach:
      1) Fund research into cheap space travel options.
      2) Build whatever turns out to work better
      3) Using that build orbital ring (because it’s the only one capable of transporting a significant percentage or Earth populace per year anyway)
      4) Using that build as many attractions in orbit, Moon or other places as needed to achieve target tourist density
      5) As a side effect you get fully developed space industry and a huge economical growth worldwide.

      *You didn’t mention bonus points for spending less money

    • 10240 says:

      People travel to the most famous places because they are famous, not necessarily because they are much nicer than other places. So we have to coordinate between travel shows and the like, so that many of them start to talk a lot about a few specific, so-far-not-crowded places, and make them famous. Just talking about random nice places is not enough, because there are much more of them than famous places, so people will keep hearing much more about the already-famous places than about any one other place.

    • ana53294 says:

      Make a new show as good and popular as Game of Thrones and film it in all those places you want to make popular.

      At least in Spain, the GoT spike in tourism is quite noticeable.

      • The Nybbler says:

        At least in Spain, the GoT spike in tourism is quite noticeable.

        Apparently in Iceland also, though the prices there should keep things from getting too out of hand (and if not, they can always just have another volcano erupt). NZ had a big spike from Lord of the Rings of course.

      • Perico says:

        And apparently, if the show is popular enough, its locations will see a spike in tourism even if they are not particularly appealing places. If it works for Chernobyl, I think it’s safe to say that there is no place in the planet that is immune to this effect.

    • johan_larson says:

      OK, I’ll be that guy.

      Just start raising the prices of admission until the crowds thin out to an acceptable level. Use the proceeds to extend operating hours at the major sites and/or spruce up and advertise the more minor ones.

      One issue that’s going to come up is making sure the locals can still get access to their national heritage without being crowded out by rich foreigners. Deal with this by making sure there are cheap tickets available during low-season.

      • ana53294 says:

        One issue that’s going to come up is making sure the locals can still get access to their national heritage without being crowded out by rich foreigners. Deal with this by making sure there are cheap tickets available during low-season.

        Certain cities, like Venice, don’t seem to have a low season, just a lower season.

        And how do you raise the price to go to public places, such as the city of Venice, anyway?

        Unless we gate Venice and make it a forbidden city with tickets at the gate, you can’t stop people from coming to Venice.

        • johan_larson says:

          People don’t usually just want to wander around a city and look at parks and architecture. They want to go into museums and historic buildings. And you can certainly charge admission for those.

          • Nick says:

            There’s going to be an uncomfortable period where folks still travel to Venice, find out everything costs three times what they thought, and trash it online. Should balance out after a few seasons.

            Also, the folks who don’t want to look at architecture are missing out.

          • Tarpitz says:

            People don’t usually just want to wander around a city and look at parks and architecture.

            That is exactly what I want to do, insofar as I want to go to cities. In Florence, the only thing I paid to get into was the Boboli gardens. It was great.

          • DinoNerd says:

            I don’t tend to go to the highly popular but small tourist places anyway – anticipating seeing nothing but tourists – but I spent at least half my time in e.g. Munich absorbing atmosphere, food, and beer, as well as practicing my extremely inadequate German.

        • Unless we gate Venice and make it a forbidden city with tickets at the gate, you can’t stop people from coming to Venice.

          It’s not going to happen but it’s certainly doable.

        • 10240 says:

          The usual approach is to tax hotel stays. But Venice is a group of islands with few entry points. It can be gated, and apparently it is/will be: they will include the tax in the transport (e.g. train) tickets. Cars aren’t allowed in Venice, but if they were, they could use toll booths.

      • brad says:

        Venice, Everest, or Machu Picchu strike me as a different category than Dubrovnik, Barcelona, or Amsterdam. In the former cases it’s a matter of locals protecting what is only valuable as tourist destination for maximum value now and in the future. In the latter cases there is, at least so far, still a living place that perhaps needs to be protected from losing that status to hoards of tourists.

        • 10240 says:

          Shouldn’t Venice belong to the second list?

          • brad says:

            Not the island itself. I was there almost 20 years ago and already at that time there weren’t many people living there full time. I’ve heard that it has gotten even more hollowed out since. Greater Venice is still very much a living city, but I don’t think it is too terribly impacted by tourism.

            Venice proper is the future those other places are trying to avoid.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        One issue that’s going to come up is making sure the locals can still get access to their national heritage without being crowded out by rich foreigners.

        In some places, this is done by offering a substantial (as in often 90%) un-advertised discount for people who have a local driver’s license or similar somewhat sufficiently-difficult to get government ID card that shows locale of residency.

        Many places in Hawaii and Paris do this. The ones in Paris have the advantage that one can often jump the main queue as well.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’d first take the Las Vegas/Epcot Center approach, and literally build duplicates of various overcrowded places, down to the artwork and architecture. Want to see Notre Dame as it was before the fire? We’ve got a copy of that (it’s only stone-faced, but you can’t tell that from the outside). The Colosseum? Heck, we’ve got the Circus Maximus… can’t see THAT in Rome. This works for places known for their buildings, but not so much for natural beauty. Everest is probably unfixable… I’ve told my wife if I were to take up mountain climbing (not bloody likely) I’d make K2 my ambition instead for just that reason.

      • 10240 says:

        Hmmm… How much would it cost to build a replica of Mt Everest?

        • Protagoras says:

          Finding estimates in the range of one to several trillion tons for the mass of Everest, though they’re all quite speculative (depending heavily, of course, on how far Everest is regarded as extending). Still, I find it hard to imagine how you could get the cost of your artificial mountain below a dollar a ton. I expect it would in fact be much, much higher, but even if it were somehow brought down to a dollar a ton, this doesn’t look like an especially economical option. Though the budget is unlimited, so you do you.

          Actually, since the budget is unlimited, why not build your artificial mountain in a suitable location to be the launch point of a magnetic space launch system, and do some large scale space tourism? I believe that the optimum height for that would be substantially higher than Everest, but the price still obviously won’t make a dent in our unlimited budget.

          • 10240 says:

            I regard @johan_larson ‘s and @Nancy Lebovitz ‘s answers as ambit claims. They are definitely not acceptable, for me or the tourists. On the other hand, a hollow mountain would be acceptable: a shell, perhaps with some sort of pillars inside. I have no idea how much material we can leave out without the whole thing crumbling, and how much more difficult it makes building it.

        • johan_larson says:

          Perhaps some would be satisfied with a spiral staircase that reaches up to the height of Mt Everest. Climbing up nearly nine km is quite an accomplishment.

          • Nick says:

            How many calories would you burn climbing that many stairs? I’m seeing 0.17 cal/step in several places, but without the height of the step. It looks like stairs in the US are generally 7-11 inches, so if we assume 9, that’s 0.17 cal/9 in * 29029 ft = 6579 calories.

            Less than I thought!

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Build a full-sized Everest climbing wall. It isn’t going to be cheap, but it will be much cheaper than doing a whole mountain.

    • brad says:

      You need to change the culture away wanting to do things that don’t scale, like walking around an ancient city centers or climbing the highest peaks, to wanting to doing things that do scale, like visiting recreation cities such as Las Vegas and Dubai, rambling (vice hiking), and swimming in any convenient body of water.

      This won’t be easy but you do specify and unlimited budget.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Creating new places will never work as a strategy. Between tripadvisor rankings and instagram-viralness tourism spots will always end up with a pareto distribution of visitors.

      Here in NZ, there will be 20 different short walking tracks within a half hour drive of a town. Thanks to instagram and tripadvisor, one walk will get 70,000 people a year: the others, a few hundred to a few thousand.

      The only solution is to get rid of tripadvisor and instagram.

      • gbdub says:

        Anybody who waits in line to see Lake Wanaka is an idiot. Not because it isn’t absolutely stunning (it is) but it’s huge and looks just as stunning from just about every angle.

    • gbdub says:

      Have Facebook/Instagram deploy a filter that blocks images from famous tourist sites.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Your mission is to solve the problem of tourists overcrowding the coolest places by creating enough cool places to even out the tourist flow and/or convincing people explore more widely. […] Your budget is unlimited.

      Build a solar shade between the earth and sun. The entire earth becomes cooler.

      What’s my prize?

      • Viliam says:

        Build a solar shade between the earth and sun. The entire earth becomes cooler.

        How humanity reacts to this comment will be the best evidence of whether we take global warming seriously, or it’s all just virtue signaling.

  11. BBA says:

    My favorite example of the uselessness of sunset clauses is no more. Rent control in New York State was first enacted in 1946 as a “temporary” measure for alleviating the burden of the postwar housing shortage. For 73 years this legislation has been renewed just before expiration, as the farce that it’s a temporary emergency regulation grew ever more…um, farcical. This year, on the most recent appointed day of its expiration, the state legislature repealed the sunset clause altogether, making rent control permanent.

    Every so often I see an argument for mandatory sunset clauses on all new laws. I don’t buy it, and NY rent control is the main reason why. If a “temporary” law has been repeatedly renewed since before most legislators were born, in what sense is it “temporary”?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Surely the argument for mandatory sunset clauses isn’t that nothing that was law 73 years ago should be law now. It’s that you want lawmakers to make sure that nothing relevant has changed and reevaluate the laws in the new context. Just the fact that the law has been re-upped for 73 years isn’t prima facie evidence that the sunset clause isn’t doing its job. If the law against murder had a sunset clause, I would hope my representatives would regularly renew it so long as murder continued to be incompatible with civilization.

      In practice you can’t actually force lawmakers to give laws due consideration and the temptation to copy off the other kid’s homework and just renew laws as they sunset is strong. But the idiotic Assault Weapons Ban law expired via sunset, for example, so it’s having at least some positive effect. And the costs seem low, if lawmakers rubberstamp the renewal of the law that’s no worse than having a permanent law, apart from the price of the rubber stamp itself.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Surely the argument for mandatory sunset clauses isn’t that nothing that was law 73 years ago should be law now. It’s that you want lawmakers to make sure that nothing relevant has changed and reevaluate the laws in the new context.

        In 18th-century Britain, Parliament had to pass a new law every year prolonging the existence of the army, otherwise it would legally cease to exist. Though this was more to stop the king trying to establish absolutism than because it was seriously expected that the country could do without an army some day.

        • Buttle says:

          This practice was reflected in the US constitution, which provided for a standing navy, but not a standing army. Many considered a standing army a threats to liberty and a waste of money.

        • Protagoras says:

          The English didn’t have a standing army at the start of the 17th century (one of the reasons the Cavaliers lost the English Civil War). No doubt there were still people in England in the 18th century who thought (like the original American leaders Buttle mentions) that returning to the old system was possible or even desirable.

      • BBA says:

        In the abstract, if there’s insufficient support to renew a temporary law, there’s sufficient support to repeal a permanent law. The sunset clause is a logical nullity.

        Now psychologically it’s different, and if you have additional barriers to legislative action (like supermajority requirements or Mitch McConnell) this can lead to a big difference in practice. But then it just amounts to saying the state of the law in $YEAR ought to be privileged over any changes made since or that we’d like to make in the future, which I find arbitrary at best.

        • quanta413 says:

          I don’t think the lack of a law and the presence of a law are symmetric, so a sunset clause doesn’t necessarily privilege $YEAR. Rather it privileges having fewer laws total (EDIT: if you’re willing to apply it working backwards as well.)

          • BBA says:

            A repeal is a law, and can be just as momentous as a new enactment. Why doesn’t that get a sunset clause too, and when it expires, the old law returns to effect?

            If you mean to sunset everything, that comes with its own pitfalls. There’s a statute saying that you transfer real estate by having a deed notarized and recorded at the county courthouse, etc. If you sunset that law, does it mean nobody can sell their house? Or do we revert to English common law and bring back livery of seisin? Or take the Delaware General Corporation Law, from which about 90% of major businesses derive their legal existence… But of course we’re never going to let laws like that sunset, so what’s the point?

          • quanta413 says:

            A repeal is a law, and can be just as momentous as a new enactment. Why doesn’t that get a sunset clause too, and when it expires, the old law returns to effect?

            Yeah, but I’m going to push back more on the idea that it’s really symmetric.

            Laws have to be understood and enforced. It takes information, time, money, etc. to interpret and enforce them. By sunsetting laws as much as possible, you’re making a statement that you’ll default to only keeping on the books that which is necessary over long spans of time (i.e. as long as is foreseeable) or what’s useful right now.

            Repeal is not as strong a strategy for this purpose because it takes more effort. You have to figure out what you’re going to repeal which may be hard if no one quite remembers why a law is a certain way. Whereas if you write a clause into a law that it expires at a certain time, then you at least set the expiration while the idea is fresh as to what the law is for. And presumably the sunset isn’t that far out. It’d be weird if the sunset clause was 50 years away.

            If you mean to sunset everything, that comes with its own pitfalls. There’s a statute saying that you transfer real estate by having a deed notarized and recorded at the county courthouse, etc. If you sunset that law, does it mean nobody can sell their house? Or do we revert to English common law and bring back livery of seisin? Or take the Delaware General Corporation Law, from which about 90% of major businesses derive their legal existence… But of course we’re never going to let laws like that sunset, so what’s the point?

            No, I don’t mean to sunset willy-nilly. But if you really want to sunset everything (well almost), then the minimum requirement would be to have laws that require certain types of law to be fully replaced or wound down when sunsetted (if not temporarily renewed again). You’d have to be careful about how the sunsetting of the sunsetting laws worked though.

    • brad says:

      Sorry not to engage with your sunset thing, but I have so many thoughts about this law. The most burning being: it is the ultimate expression of cynical constituent service over any even pretense of caring about public policy. If law makers really believed in rent control* they would extend it, at least in some fashion, to the roughly half the market that is currently totally uncontrolled. But no one really believes in rent control anymore, because it is so obviously discredited. On the other hand 2.2 million lottery winners** are a powerful voting block so here we are boosting their prize, and of course everyone assumes that and only those dastardly landlords will be hurt, there’s no cost for rest of us (spoiler: there is), so why not?

      I didn’t realize I had any faith left in NY government left to lose.

      * “stabilization”

      ** really considerably less than that. If you live outside of Manhattan or the Manhattan parts of Brooklyn and Queens having or not having a rent stabilized place is not a big deal.

      • ana53294 says:

        * “stabilization”

        AFAIU, New York has both “rent control” and “rent stabilized” apartments.
        “Rent control” is far more restrictive, and does not even allow the owner of the apartment to evict the tenant to move in, whereas owners of rent-stabilized apartments can do so (unless the tenant is disabled or old).

        I don’t get why all the owners of rent-stabilized apartments don’t break the apartment blocks into individual apartments, and sell them to people who will be owner-occupiers. They could presumably get the full market price this way (individual apartments tend to be more expensive, and the owners get the full value of the inputed rent).

        • Theodoric says:

          Maybe it would cost too much to pay everyone currently in the building to move?

          • ana53294 says:

            The owner does not have to pay the tenant to leave, as long as they inform the tenant of their intent to move in to a rent stabilized apartment three months before the lease expires, and the tenant is not old or disabled.

        • brad says:

          AFAIU, New York has both “rent control” and “rent stabilized” apartments.

          Yes, but outside the context of NYC specific laws “rent control” is the larger category that includes both sets of policies. That’s why I used rent control in the main text and stabilization as a footnote.

          FWIW rent control is very slowly dying and is not a significant factor in the overall market. If we had a transition plan away from rent stabilization (my pet proposal is to allow landlords to buy out of the program with a payment to the city government) and left rent control completely untouched I’d be quite satisfied.

          I don’t get why all the owners of rent-stabilized apartments don’t break the apartment blocks into individual apartments, and sell them to people who will be owner-occupiers. They could presumably get the full market price this way (individual apartments tend to be more expensive, and the owners get the full value of the inputed rent).

          I believe, but wouldn’t swear to it that they can’t, at least as to buildings with four or more units. Such a building can be classified as either a rental building or a condo/co-op building, and converting from one to the other triggers special rules that protect RC/RS tenants.

      • BBA says:

        No argument here. If not for the disruption it’d cause, I’d be happy letting the law expire. Hell, the disruption would probably be worth it.

        I say this as someone whose current apartment is rent-stabilized as a condition of the landlord taking the 421-a tax abatement. So we’ve got epicycles of bad policy counteracting each other to land someplace that I suppose is better than one or the other, but certainly worse than just deregulating and making everyone pay the same tax.

  12. ana53294 says:

    Why do UK Conservatives hate Jeremy Corbyn so much?

    I get that he is considered a communist, but is a Corbyn PM so much worse than Scotland leaving, or NI leaving, or the UK economy tanking? And wouldn’t the destruction of the Conservative Party mean that Corbyn gets to be PM (since there would be no party that could win against Labour)?

    • Eric Rall says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if most UK Conservatives expect that a Jeremy Corbyn premiership would tank the UK economy at least as badly as a worst-case Hard Brexit. This expectation is likely influenced at least as much by “Boo Labor” thinking as by anything particular to Corbyn.

      I don’t expect this effect to be unique to UK Conservatives. I wouldn’t be surprised if many Labour supporters would respond similarly to a question of “Would you still support [policy intensely popular with most Labor voters] being enact even if it meant Boris Johnson became the next PM”?

      And despite how the questions are worded, I suspect many (most?) respondents are discounting the various posited consequences by how likely they think they’d be, rather than assuming each of those consequences for the sake of argument as implied by the poll question. “Assuming for the sake of argument” can be challenging when mind-killed by politics.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        “Would you still support [policy intensely popular with most Labor voters] being enact even if it meant Boris Johnson became the next PM”?

        That’s not really the same, because Boris Johnson is almost certainly going to be the next PM whereas a Labour majority doesn’t seem imminently likely.

      • ana53294 says:

        Assuming conservatives weight the undesirable event by the likelihood of it actually happening would make these answers more logical, but they still don’t seem very logically consistent.

        But for me, at least, it seems like the Conservative party breaking up -> Labour majority in Parliament -> Corbyn PM is a logical path, so I am surprised that this doesn’t follow. Because once the Conservative party breaks, of course there will be other right wing conservative parties, but it would take them too long to establish a clear alliance and cement their base for the next election, if a re-election is called. And if there is no re-election, wouldn’t the leader of the party with most MPs, Labour (since Conservatives don’t exist anymore), form the Government.

        In Spain, there’s a popular citation by a right-wing politician, “Spain, better red than dead (broken)” (Prefiero una España roja que rota). And that is the general feeling of all conservative right wing Spaniards; they put the unity of Spain over right wing policies (since left-wing policies can be eliminated in the next election, and a broken Spain can not get its territories back).

        I kind of assumed that putting national unity over temporary policies is a common conservative agenda across different countries. Is it not so in the UK? Do they care about achieving a right-wing policy more than maintaining the union?

        If the UK cares less about unity than Spain, it would make sense why they allowed the Scottish referendum. Is it so?

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          If the UK cares less about unity than Spain, it would make sense why they allowed the Scottish referendum. Is it so?

          Yes. Although also note that any country other than Scotland leaving the union seems unlikely in the short term (support for Welsh independence is a lot lower than Scottish, NI is highly fraught).

        • Tarpitz says:

          Many Brits – and a substantial majority of conservative Brits – identify primarily as English/Scottish/Welsh/Northern Irish, rather than British. I like Scotland and would be sorry to see them go, but really the political preferences of the Scots and the English seem to be pretty hard to reconcile and they probably should. To me, the idea that a substantial region in which a majority desire independence should not be granted independence is frankly unfathomable, but in that I am unusual even within the UK.

    • brad says:

      What would it take for the UK parties to switch to a system where MPs picked the PM instead of registered party members? Just internal rule changes in each party? A law?

      • Lambert says:

        It’s a matter internal to the Conservative Party.
        And it’s only the final two who go before the party members. Everything else was done by MPs.

        Also, it never went to the final vote by party members in 2016, because Leadsom withdrew after reaching the final 2. And I think the registered party members are sensitive to feeling like they’ve been disenfranchised twice, if there isn’t a meaningful contest for the next PM.

        • brad says:

          Thanks for the reply.

          Do you mean that it cannot be done by statute? If so, by legal principle or by ironclad custom? (Doesn’t the Queen invite someone to form a government?)

          As for the matter internal to the Conservative Party, what is the basic document that governs it and how can it be changed?

          Finally with respect to your last sentence, although I’m a stranger to the system it strikes me as the registered party members are rather disenfranchising the overwhelming majority of the country by reserving to themselves a decision that will affect them all greatly.

          • Lambert says:

            The thing you must remember is that the PM is merely primes inter pares in Her Majesty’s Government.
            It’s also an office that developed quite late, gradually, and somewhat by accident.

            The PM is, by convention, the leader of the party that forms the Government.
            That party can change its leader and, therefore, the PM, without forming a new government.

            If they wanted to enfranchise the whole country, they’d have to call a general election.
            Because that went well for them in 2017. /s

          • Tarpitz says:

            The Queen invites someone to form a government, but she is in practice constrained by the realities of who can actually form a government. In general, that means the leader of a party with a majority, or the agreed-upon candidate of a coalition (likely to be the leader of said coalition’s largest constituent party). The public votes for an MP (and hence a party), not for a government or a Prime Minister.

          • brad says:

            Tarpitz:

            Suppose there was a party where the leader selected by registered party members was quite unpopular among the elected MPs from that party. Maybe even that the elected MPs had taken a vote of no confidence in that leader but the registered party members voted to keep him anyway. Couldn’t it well be the case then that someone else from that party could just as easily if not more form a government (i.e. receive support from a majority of MPs) then the party leader?

  13. proyas says:

    Why doesn’t my car electrocute me, or at least shock me? I ask this because just today, I learned about the “earth return system” that is widespread among cars. (https://www.howacarworks.com/basics/how-car-electrical-systems-work) From what I gather, all of a car’s electrical devices are powered by the battery, and wires connected to the + battery terminal on one end and the device on the other supply the electricity. However, instead of there being a second wire connecting the – battery terminal and the device to create a closed circuit, the device has a short wire that connects it to the car’s metal body. The – battery terminal is, in turn, connected to the metal car body.

    Shouldn’t this mean that the entire metal body of my car is electrified? If it does, then why don’t I get electrocuted or at least shocked when I put my bare hand on the car’s metal parts while the vehicle is on?

    I have done a good amount of electrical wiring work in my house, so the “earth return system” makes no sense to me. A long copper wire with a black rubber coating runs from my circuit breaker box to all the electrical fixtures in my house (e.g. – power outlet, overhead light, stove), and a long copper wire with a white rubber coating runs back to the circuit breaker box. It’s simple and intuitive. Also, if I strip off some of the rubber coating with a knife and touch the bare copper wire with my finger, I get a painful shock. But when I turn my car on and touch the metal under the hood, I don’t get shocked even though electricity is allegedly flowing through it on its way back to the – terminal of the battery.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      A long copper wire with a black rubber coating runs from my circuit breaker box to all the electrical fixtures in my house (e.g. – power outlet, overhead light, stove), and a long copper wire with a white rubber coating runs back to the circuit breaker box.

      But that isn’t the source of your electricity. That’s just the point at which it enters your house.

      And the transmission and distribution wires are only positive. They use the literal ground as the ground, the return path.

      ETA: To be clearer about this, your question is akin to asking why you don’t get shocked when you step outside. The car frame is the least resistant path back to the battery. You don’t make a good conductor.

      When you touch a live wire in the house and get shocked, that wire isn’t in a circuit, so you are the only return path available.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Just modeling this as an electrical circuit.

      1. If there is one path from + to -, or there are multiple paths but one has 0 resistance, electricity takes that one path.

      2. If there are multiple paths, all with non-zero resistance, the electricity travels through them according to Ohm’s law.

      3. If you touch a circuit in one place, and are otherwise not touching any other part of the circuit, there is no reason for electricity to enter your body at all. Even if electricity entered your body at that point, it would have to re-enter the circuit at the same point.

      4. If you touch a circuit in multiple places, you can, er, potentially conduct some electricity. But if the only thing you are branching is wire that we model at 0Ω, the electricity will continue to run over that 0Ω wire.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I believe 3 is technically not applicable? When you touch the frame and are grounded there is an available circuit (to the ground). It’s just that your resistance is too great for it to really matter.

        I also wonder what’s going on with build up of static electricity on car body panels on very cold, dry days.

        ETA: Hmmm, static electricity shocks seem to be related to charge built up on you, not the car.

        • dick says:

          I also wonder what’s going on with build up of static electricity on car body panels on very cold, dry days.

          I think that’s just built up from air with a static charge moving over the body panels all the time. It’s not a big amount of charge, but it’s constant, and the car is very large and well-insulated from the earth, and the amount of charge needed to feel a shock is small.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Assuming that the car panel could serve as a capacitor assumes that the panel is insulated from the circuit, though, right?

            Otherwise, the question is why that charge doesn’t all flow to the battery.

          • dick says:

            Well, I’m not clear on which things do and do not connect to the negative battery terminal. All of them? Some of them? And while we’re on the subject, why do I not put a cable on the dead battery’s negative post when jumping a car?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The entire car frame connects back to the negative terminal, and therefore anything conductive in contact with it.

            And while we’re on the subject, why do I not put a cable on the dead battery’s negative post when jumping a car?

            That has to do with the fact that you will likely create a spark when you complete the circuit. IIRC, Batteries that aren’t sealed can have flammable or explosive gases in sufficient density to ignite near the battery. This isn’t true for most modern batteries, but yours could theoretically be damaged.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The car is grounded to literal earth. It may not be a great connection, but it suffices to avoid buildup of static electricity on the car. There was an issue a while back with a car that came with tires that didn’t conduct well enough (reduced carbon black apparently for the sake of fuel economy) resulting in static shocks.

            As for why you don’t put a cable on the negative battery terminal… forget it, if you want to jump start the car you do. The reason people tell you to do it is as HBC says, but I’ve had zero luck connecting it anywhere else. Perhaps if you had a big new truck with a thick steel (or better, aluminum) frame it would work. Or an engine block that actually had an accessible place to connect a jumper cable. The main issue is hydrogen off-gassing from a charging battery, so once the car is started be sure to disconnect the “good” battery first.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Well, for #3, I’m modeling that you are only connecting to the model circuit in one place, and that includes the circuit’s ground.

          That’s a bad assumption in a house, because it’s easy for your arms-body-feet to become a better path to ground.

          It might be a better assumption for the car, because your feet aren’t a shorter path to the car’s ground system.

          (Your are technically supposed to ground yourself before (and maybe during) the pumping of gas at a pump, because it’s possible for the car to build up a potential, which could create a spark. When I remember, or notice the sign, I touch all the metal parts of the pump, meter, and car.)

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’m saying that a car’s ground system isn’t the literal ground, but the literal ground is still an available path. It’s just a very high resistance path.

            For purposes of modeling we can probably ignore it, but I think this actually a case of #2 rather than being a true example of #3. But I am no EE.

      • dick says:

        I think the point of confusion deals with a circuit from car to human to ground, not car to human and back to car. If the motor is grounded to the car frame, but the car frame is not grounded to the earth, it seems like some amount of charge should build up in the frame with nowhere to go, like a capacitor, and that the (if I may) capacicar should discharge through me if I touch the car frame while standing on the earth barefoot.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The other explanations get one reason — that there are better paths for the electricity to follow back to the negative terminal. But there’s another. Consider what happens if you grab both terminals of a car battery that is disconnected from the car…. nothing at all. The voltage is too low to put appreciable current through your skin.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        I don’t think that same idea applies to the current available from the alternator, though.

        • The Nybbler says:

          You could get a shock from the alternator but only if you pulled the battery out of the system. The alternator normally puts out only 15V or so; with the battery removed you could blow the regulator circuits and briefly get enough to shock you, but the bill for fixing the electrical system will likely be as painful.

    • Eric Rall says:

      In addition to the reasons above, the car’s electrical system is 12V DC. The worst case, where you’re feeling the full battery’s potential (which isn’t remotely the case for the reasons everyone else discussed), 12V DC isn’t enough to overcome the resistance of dry skin (or even moist skin, I’m pretty sure) to produce a perceptible shock.

    • SamChevre says:

      To put HBC in hopefully-simpler language. The key thing, beyond the already-mentioned voltage, resistance, etc, is where you are in the circuit.

      Somewhere near your electric meter, there’s a metal rod driven deep into the dirt; that’s the house ground, and it means that is you are between power in your house and the dirt, or anything that goes into it (like a pipe), you are in the circuit to the ground.

      Your car doesn’t have that: the circuit goes back to the battery terminal, NOT to the dirt. So if you touch your car, you aren’t in a point where it makes sense for the circuit to go through you–you are between the power and the dirt, but the dirt isn’t the circuit ground.

  14. proyas says:

    UFO skeptics like to claim that UFOs are actually secret military aircraft, and they most commonly they point out that many of the UFO sightings around Area 51 owe to it being a testing site for the world’s first stealth planes. F-117s and B-2s do indeed look strange, and it’s easy to understand how some people living near Area 51 in the 1970s and 1980s mistook them for alien spacecraft. Skeptics then claim that, in the same vein, today’s UFO sightings are also of secret military aircraft that incorporate technology decades more advanced than anything the public is aware of.

    But how credible is this reasoning given that today’s UFOs are often seen doing impossible maneuvers, like instantly transitioning from Mach 5 to a full stop, or instantly doing right angle turns without retaining any momentum from the original vector? (ex – https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/28627/recent-ufo-encounters-with-navy-pilots-occurred-constantly-across-multiple-squadrons)

    Consider that, decades before the first stealth planes were built, there were important “proofs of principle” regarding stealth technology that were known to the public. For example, 30 years before the B-2 stealth bomber flew, the U.S. built a similar “flying wing” bomber called the YB-49, its unusually small radar signature was noted, and it was also known to the general public since Harry Truman had the plane fly over Washington, DC.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_YB-49

    Additionally, 20 years before the F-117 stealth fighter flew, a Soviet physicist and mathematician named “Petr Ufimtsev” published several papers revealing how a stealth aircraft could be built.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petr_Ufimtsev

    So if stealth planes are our guidepost, then we can say that the U.S. military has secret aircraft that operate on/take advantage of obscure physics principles that were discovered about 25 years ago but never commercialized by anyone else, and that the U.S. military has secret aircraft that are heavily influenced by exotic-yet-failed/canceled aircraft prototypes from 25 years ago. A steady flow of money from the DoD/CIA black budget has allowed their engineers to work out the technical kinks in secret.

    So, applying this “25 year rule” to the skeptics’ arguments against UFOs, I ask if there were any prototype/obscure aircraft around 1994 that could do things like instantly going from Mach 5 to a dead halt, or if there were any scientific papers published around that time describing how the seemingly impossible aerial maneuvers that UFOs perform today might be done.

    Is there any evidence that today’s UFO sightings could be the result of some highly advanced electronic warfare/optical illusion technology that tricks radars and thermal sensors into detecting phantom images of UFOs and can even fool the human eye?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      That’s a terrible hill for skeptics to defend, because it requires a large government conspiracy, and “conspiracy theory” is a boo-light for skeptics.
      When the US Navy releases data about pilot encounters with UFOs, this paradigm requires you to choose whether they’re kept out of the loop, creating friction costs in USG, or inside and their releases are chaff, increasing the number of conspirators.
      Also, known black aerospace projects were developed by publicly-traded aerospace corporations. This should also be true of unknown US aircraft, so lawyers of certain specializations should be able to prove or falsify by making the relevant corporations disclose how much “white” military aircraft cost vs. the amount of their defense contracts and where the profit is going. If it’s a big opaque R&D budget…

      Hey bean, tell us your educated guess about UFOs!

      • bean says:

        I suspect some sort of weird atmospheric or optical phenomena. Secret projects can only go so far, and the kind of revolution you’d need for these isn’t within those boundaries. The last time I looked closely at one of these, the pilots saw something, but the nearby Aegis system didn’t. That’s strongly suggestive of something which doesn’t actually exist.

        No clue what’s going on with black aircraft, beyond the fact that it’s taking over the normal procurement process, because it works better.

        • cassander says:

          no clue what’s going on with black aircraft, beyond the fact that it’s taking over the normal procurement process, because it works better.

          that’s the theory anyway. And it’s one I subscribe to. But the jury is still out on if that’s true for for a major modern aircraft. We’ll have to see how B-21 turns out.

          • bean says:

            Fair point that we haven’t really seen the result yet. On the other hand, there’s the F-35. (Which isn’t as bad as it’s commonly made out to be, but it’s still a mess.)

    • acymetric says:

      Beyond filing an official safety report after one of the jets almost hit one of the unidentified objects—described eerily as a translucent sphere with a cube structure suspended inside of it

      The article suggests the incidents were in 2014 and early 2015. Otis Eugene Ray died in early 2015. Coincidence?

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Afaik UFOs have been reported ignoring momentum for as long as they’ve been observed. One category of things which are also known to ignore momentum are the ones that don’t have any – such as equipment glitches and optical and other illusions. Those are also known to appear out of and disappear into nowhere, be impossible to chase in the physical world, more often than not have a simple geometrical shape (when they have any shape, that is), and be silent (which is very uncommon for objects traveling at hypersonic speeds).

      Well and another category of things without momentum is of course those that exist only in the reporter’s head – that is, made up stuff. I mean – most of what the general public knows about those cases comes from journalists, profession not exactly known for being honest and sticking to the facts. Sure there’s presumably some military folks who said something at some point, but even the article you linked boasts grand total of 1 link on anything but other articles on the same site – and that link goes to a CNN article. And even the military folks themselves – they are legally bound to follow orders and keep state’s secrets, whatever those are.

      As a slightly less skeptical explanation – it might still be some new devise or technology testing. It doesn’t need to be a device that can pull off deceleration from Mach 5 to 0 in one second, just a device which can make that appearance on a radar – some sort of ECM technology, that is.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’d expect the objects most likely to be imagined/inferred from a pilot’s head to follow normal physical laws and behaviors seen in aircraft he was familiar with. Optical illusions/sensor glitches, on the other hand, can do apparently physically impossible things.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          That depends on the level at which they are inferred or imagined. Like, if it’s a full-blown hallucination imagined by a pilot from the consciousness down, I’d guess you’re right. But hey I do hope Navy pilots don’t overstain themselves that much! And if it’s something in the eye itself, or in the neurons connecting immediately to retina, it won’t follow any physical laws, it’ll follow the eye movements. Like (not a suggested explanation for the reports, just an example of the behavior) a black spot you can have in your field of view after staring at something very bright.

          And also, if a pilot has heard of UFOs appearing out of nowhere, looking like a geometrical shape, and making sharp turns in midflight, then when he sees a geometrical shape appearing out of nowhere, why won’t he expect it to make a sharp turn in midflight?

    • John Schilling says:

      But how credible is this reasoning given that today’s UFOs are often seen doing impossible maneuvers, like instantly transitioning from Mach 5 to a full stop, or instantly doing right angle turns without retaining any momentum from the original vector?

      Major nit: Nothing can be seen to transition from Mach 5 to a full stop, or anything of the sort, because human vision doesn’t measure velocity. And it doesn’t even directly measure distance beyond ~100m. Images are “seen” to have finite angle rates, which can be converted to speeds only by making an inference as to the distance of the source of the image, and that inference comes from various heuristics that have been evolutionarily optimized for “am I gaining on that gazelle I’ve been chasing the past hour?” and modified with experience based on e.g. mock-dogfighting MiGs. Potential errors from applying this approach to things that are neither gazelles nor MiGs should be obvious.

      And if we extend “seen” to mean “tracked by radar”, then we don’t need to invoke highly advanced electronic warfare techniques. Modern AESA radars are an ineffably complex mathematical process that no human fully understands wrapped around an equally complex package of digital and analog electronics operating in an environment with copious self-generated interference and with a finite rate of false-target generation baked into the specifications. Sometimes they “see” stuff that isn’t there, and sometimes they grossly mismeasure the characteristics of things that are there, all by themselves.

      It is reasonable for the Navy, which is wagering a huge chunk of its warfighting capability on these relatively new systems, to tell its pilots to investigate and document dubious radar contacts when they do occur and conduct a systematic analysis of those reports. But there should be a high prior on these being just radar glitches and the result of the analysis being just a better understanding of when and how modern radars glitch.

      I repeat my request that we use the more precise terminology of “Unidentified Aerial Image” and “Unidentified Radar Target” rather than the one that makes unwarranted assumption about the source of the photons in question. And, based on the known characteristics of the hardware, software, and wetware involved, the ones most likely to correspond to actual material objects would be the ones where a UAI is reported first and a corresponding URT is found afterwards.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        How heavily radar detection relies on priors in telling a false target from a real one? I.e., if a radar operator hears a pilot reporting “I see something in such and such area”, how many opportunities, organizational and technological, will an operator have to reinterpret some of the noise as a signal? Like, can they increase the radar’s sensitivity or something, or do they routinely dismiss some targets as glitches just by human judgement, do you know?

        From you suggesting the sequence UAI -> URT as the most reliable I gather it’s not much, but still – are there any?

        • Eric Rall says:

          Very, very heavily.

          Directional radar antennas are designed to pick up returns most strongly from the direction they’re pointed at, but the physics of antenna shapes makes it impractical to only get returns from that direction. They also pick up returns from a few other radically different directions (called “sidelobes”). It’s up to the radar operator and the radar system’s software to decide if a return is a real return from the direction the antenna is actually pointed, not a misleading return that’s actually coming from a sidelobe direction.

          And maybe there’s an actual target out there, but the strength of returns fluctuates as you’re hitting it at slightly different angles relative to its shape (scintillation), or you’re getting different returns from it as radar hits it and bounces off terrain on the way back to your receiver (multipath) producing a combined return that’s a misleading intensity and slightly misleading in direction and distance.

          And then there’s range gates. The way radar measures range is to send pulses and time how long it takes to get the return. If you send pulses more frequently, you can get better looks at your target and keep better track of it. But if pulses are reasonably close together, the same return could be from a close target being hit by a recent pulse or by a more distant target being hit by a previous pulse. Radar systems keep track of targets in “range gates” (buckets of distance based on which pulse is returning from them), figuring that the target isn’t going to suddenly teleport several miles closer or farther. But the initial assignment to a range gate is an art.

          There’s a whole discipline of electronic warfare based on exploiting these and other quirks of how radar operates to make radar operators’ lives more difficult. For example: you can exploit sidelobes by maneuvering a transmitter into a sidelobe and blasting a false signal, obscuring the real signal. You can also exploit range gates by recording an incoming signal and broadcasting it back towards the radar with a delay equal to a multiple of the pulse interval (so the false return looks like it’s coming from the same target), and modulating that delay to walk the false target closer or farther to the radar set relative to your plane (your plane simultaneously change course, so the radar operator can’t just assume the blip that’s changed course is the false one). Eventually, you get a full range gate boundary away and the false return is again arriving at the same time as a true return, but now the operator doesn’t know which range gate you belong in.

    • tossrock says:

      Those maneuvers aren’t impossible, they just require a lot of acceleration. For example, watch some of the sparks in this video and you can see them “instantly doing right angle turns without retaining any momentum from the original vector” (there are some good ones around 3 seconds in). “Instantaneous” for a human just means it occurs in under ~< 100ms, which is quite slow on some time scales.

      My personal amusing pet theory is that they're Von Neumann probes which have existed in the solar system since before multicellular life, passively observing. Now that we're doing interesting stuff like generating electromagnetic emissions, rapid alteration of the environment, etc, they're observing more actively. It solves a lot of problems eg, "why don't we observe Von Neumann probes in our system, when they should be everywhere?"/the Fermi paradox, or "alien craft would never cross interstellar distances just to visit us, especially when we've only been sending radio waves for ~100 years".

    • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

      Rather than a term like “UFO skeptics”, I feel like we should have a “UFO coolness spectrum” instead… At the high end we have people who believe UFOs are signs of extraterrestrial beings. Below them, but still pretty high on the spectrum, are those who postulate stealth technology decades ahead of what is publicly known. Whereas on the lower end of the spectrum reside those who attribute UFOs to weather balloons or radar bugs.

  15. Chalid says:

    I will have some free time in Buenos Aires for a few days next week (exact dates still TBD). In the unlikely event that there is anyone who would like to meet up for a quick meal/drinks/coffee, please let me know! To contact use rot13: jqjvfr ng tznvy

  16. bja009 says:

    I’m a bit late to this thread, but hoping for a bit of advice:

    My role at work is beginning to encompass interaction with partners and clients in Western Europe (France, Spain, Switzerland and Denmark so far). With the understanding that each country has its own culture, and that those cultures are frequently quite disparate, I’m interested in suggestions about resources I can use to understand how to be an American doing business in Europe without permanently lodging my foot in my mouth, etc.

    • Chalid says:

      If you’re at a big company, this might be something you could ask HR about. When I was at a big company a several years back I remember there was a pretty decent set of videos and training on these issues.

    • SamChevre says:

      My first suggestion–learn the dozen English words that are likely to be confusing, and use substitutes.

      For example, in France “un college” is roughly middle school. Saying “university” rather than “college” makes misunderstanding less likely.

    • Aapje says:

      @bja009

      Some general tips:
      – You can expect a decent amount of leniency for being unaware & having different norms/values. Europeans won’t expect you to act like a native.
      – Small gestures, like using local greetings can go a long way to indicate respect (‘Bonjour mister Jean, how nice to meet you’). Don’t do more than that unless you speak the language.
      – Err on the conservative side: call and apologize if you are running late for a meeting (and better yet, don’t be late or much too early), dress on the formal side, etc.
      – Don’t be too afraid to ask some questions about the culture from those with whom you are dealing: most people like tutoring others, so you’ll make your partner/client feel good.
      – Don’t act too touristy. Don’t talk too much about things in their country you like (a bit is OK).
      – Europeans are not that different, so don’t worry too much

      How to find resources:
      – Google for “business etiquette [country]” to find specific tips for the country.
      – Do you have a colleague who interacted with these partners and clients? Ask him/her for tips.
      – Ask HR for tips/training.

  17. DragonMilk says:

    So it looks like Trump talks tough but continues to shy away from military escalation.

    Seems to me he’s a speak loudly, carry a big stick, but just wave it menacingly rather than use it type.

    • John Schilling says:

      Or he can’t make up his mind which set of advisers to listen to, which is a more dangerous possibility. But taken at face value, this exhibits neither martial nor diplomatic confidence and is unlikely to lead to favorable results for Donald Trump or for the United States.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I and other Trump supporters are very happy about it. Donald the Merciful.

        • Chalid says:

          As a Trump supporter, do you believe that he only found out the casualty estimate right before the strike (as he said on twitter), or do you believe something else (and if so what is that something else)?

          • DragonMilk says:

            I know you were asking Carlos, but my opinion is that Trump makes decisions first and finds circumstances/events to justify those decisions.

            So in this case, I think he doesn’t actually get into a conflict with Iran militarily, and wants to play the “I’m the cool head in the room” card

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t see why it matters. He was probably briefed on the casualty estimates during the planning process (if the military advisers didn’t mention that while presenting the target list they weren’t doing their jobs) and then just before the strike he says, “how many people are going to die, again?” and changes his mind.

            Or, he’s demonstrating to Iran, “look what we could do, but see how nice and merciful we are?”

            Also, he made all the neocons mad, and gave John Bolton the biggest case of blue balls in history, so that’s a big plus.

            All of this is good, and when I saw his tweets I did a little glee dance.

            ETA: Also what la leche de dragón said, Trump does not want war while everyone else does and he’s just justifying what he wanted to do anyway.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you (want people to believe) that you came within ten minutes of killing 100+ people because you didn’t realize that cruise missile strikes generally kill lots of people, then the takeway everyone else will have is not that you are uniquely merciful, but that you are uniquely clueless in a way that makes you intolerably dangerous.

          • Nick says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            Indeed. I’m not glad he’s so mercurial, but I’m glad he didn’t order the strike.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            Also, he made all the neocons mad, and gave John Bolton the biggest case of blue balls in history, so that’s a big plus.

            I often disagree with you, but not today.

          • salvorhardin says:

            If you want to disempower and frustrate the likes of John Bolton (a goal I heartily endorse) you could make an easy start by, say, not hiring them to influential posts like national security advisor.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But I don’t really have any problems with Bolton besides his unending obsession with bathing Iran in nuclear fire.

          • albatross11 says:

            John Schilling:

            It wouldn’t have been shocking if we’d responded to Iran’s alleged provocations by some kind of military strike that killed off 100+ people, so I guess I’m not clear on why him saying out loud that he considered this response and rejected it is any more indication of his lousy decisionmaking processes than we get every day by reading Twitter.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            That does seem like a character flaw that matters a lot more in a national security advisor than it does in most other jobs….

          • John Schilling says:

            It wouldn’t have been shocking if we’d responded to Iran’s alleged provocations by some kind of military strike that killed off 100+ people

            Actually, killing a hundred people because their government shot down an unmanned drone would be kind of shocking. That’s not normal behavior in international affairs, where most people do still try to draw a meaningful line between “not killing people” and “yeah, we’re gonna go kill some people”.

            Bu the big problem isn’t the appropriateness of the response in this case, it’s saying out loud that you didn’t even know until ten minutes beforehand that your plan involved killing a hundred people. That is evidence that you either fundamentally don’t understand how military force works or that the whole killing people vs not killing people thing is way down near the bottom of your priority list. In either case, this will cause outside observers to assess the outcome of the military operation du jour (or lack thereof) as one of pure dumb luck rather than informed decisionmaking, and expect that the next time it comes up it will be pure dumb luck rather than informed decisionmaking that determines whether or not you’re going to kill a hundred (thousand, million, whatever) people.

          • bullseye says:

            But I don’t really have any problems with Bolton besides his unending obsession with bathing Iran in nuclear fire.

            I don’t really have any problems with Jeffrey Dahmer besides him killing and eating all those people.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would also be opposed to John Bolton killing and eating people. He’d probably get his mustache all bloody in the process, too.

          • Jaskologist says:

            When Trump says he found out the casualty estimate right before the strike, he is doing the same thing as Obama was whenever he claimed to have found out about the latest scandal “on the news.” It’s a lie to make him sound more folksy.

            In terms of diplomatic signals, gearing up your forces and pointing all your guns at the guys you want to intimidate and then relenting at the very last minute (but for mercurial reasons that you shouldn’t bet on next time) sends 95% of the same message as doing all that and then proceeding to kill a bunch of low-level soldiers the leaders don’t (personally) care about, without the the messy part of those leaders having a bunch of deaths which they may have to (politically) care about getting revenge for. And since this wasn’t a strategically important strike for any reason beyond “sending a message”…

            I don’t know if it’s a good way to run a foreign policy, but it’s not like any of the supposed experts did a great job dealing with Iran before Trump, and I don’t trust critiques from those (not referencing anyone in this thread) who worried during the start of Trump’s presidency that he would start nuclear war with NK, then switched to worrying he wouldn’t start war with NK during the peace talks. Too much chicken little talk.

          • albatross11 says:

            The thing is, a desire to bathe Iran in nuclear fire isn’t actually a problem in a random plumber or grocer or dentist–none of them have any way to nuke Iran, so who cares. But the national security advisor is another matter….

    • The Nybbler says:

      While his messaging seems bungled in a uniquely Trumpian manner, I think I have to agree that killing 150 people in retaliation for the downing of an unmanned reconnaissance drone isn’t a good idea unless you’re deliberately trying to escalate. That’s one of the advantages of them being unmanned; if the other side shoots it down there’s far less pressure or reason to escalate in response.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t disagree that unmanned pieces reduce the pressure to escalate, but I really, really feel the need to push back on some of this logic. If they keep shooting down drones and we just shrug our shoulders “because they are unmanned,” we will lose a hell of a lot of surveillance ability in the Gulf. That’s exposing the rest of our assets and international shipping to risk, or, we eventually start substituting with manned flights.

        Then, instead of robots being exposed to Iranian missiles, we have Gary Francis Powers Jr.

        They should not be allowed to fire on our assets with impunity just because there is not an immediate personnel loss. We should prevent them from doing so. If that causes loss of life on their side, tough cookies. These are uniformed military personnel. What else are we NOT going to respond to? Them shooting down satellites? Blowing up ships at anchor that happen not to have people on them? Destroying fully automated oil tankers when we invent those in year 2080?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If they keep doing it, maybe. But there’s also reports that the Iranian government did not want the drone shot down and are mad at the trigger-happy general who did it.

          What else are we NOT going to respond to? Them shooting down satellites? Blowing up ships at anchor that happen not to have people on them? Destroying fully automated oil tankers when we invent those in year 2080?

          They haven’t done any of those things, though.

      • broblawsky says:

        I’d argue that unmanned systems make war dangerously cheap.

    • Chalid says:

      Iran insists that the drone was in Iranian airspace, while the US insists that the drone was over international waters.

      Is someone necessarily lying, or is this a case where technical issues could realistically lead to both sides actually believing that they are telling the truth?

      • bean says:

        It’s unlikely to be the case, provided everyone is acting in good faith (no GPS spoofing of the drone to lure it into territorial waters, for instance). Modern nav systems are good, and are very unlikely to make the sort of mistake that leads to a 20+ mile discrepancy. Either the US is lying or Iran is covering itself from a bad shoot. Which doesn’t necessarily have to be just them being dastardly. For all we know, someone got confused and misidentified it as a threat of some sort. (This is pretty much happened with the Vincennes shootdown in 1988.)

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          There is no international water in the Strait of Hormuz. Too narrow. Either the drone was shot down over Iranian water, or in the waters of Oman.
          There is a transit corridor, but a drone conducting surveillance of Iran is clearly not engaged in either transit or innocent passage…

          • Robin says:

            Here are some maps, courtesy of the Iranian foreign minister:
            https://twitter.com/JZarif/status/1141731145270386693

          • bean says:

            There may not be international waters in the Strait of Hormuz proper, but there are in the broader Gulf of Oman.

            @Robin

            Thanks. That looks very much like “drone was mostly outside territorial waters, blundered in by accident, and was shot down”. The radio warning dots were all sent while it was outside their waters, and not on a course to enter them. And then the drone gets shot down at 11 miles, 3 minutes after it enters Iranian territory. Iran comes off as more than slightly trigger-happy even if they were legally in the right.

          • Jaskologist says:

            How likely is it for a drone to blunder in “by accident?”

          • John Schilling says:

            Drones have zero common sense and drone operators have limited situational awareness. And I’m going to wager the command interface uses a touchscreen display with no tactile feedback because those are the new shiny hotness this decade. So it would be very easy for a single miskeyed command to put a drone someplace it shouldn’t be.

            It would be equally easy for an Iranian air defense officer to mistake a drone that is where it is supposed to be, as being instead somewhere else. There is no particular reason other than maybe the credibility of the governments making the claims, to prefer one narrative over the other.

      • metacelsus says:

        GPS spoofing perhaps? But I don’t know how likely that is.

        Overall, I’m not sure which side to believe. One is led by warmongers who have no trouble spinning lies to support their story. The other is Iran.

    • BBA says:

      My guess: he ordered the strikes after an adviser convinced him that Obama wouldn’t have retaliated. And then he cancelled the strikes after another adviser convinced him that Clinton would have retaliated.

      We’ve got another five and a half years of this to look forward to, wheeee!

      • onyomi says:

        I don’t think this is fair. He seems to have been consistently less bellicose in inclination than Bush for sure, Obama arguably, and potential POTUS Hillary, likely.

        Scott’s argument that Trump represented a greater probability of bumbling into WWIII looks worse every year to me. I mean, okay, maybe Trump represents a greater risk of bumbling into WWIII, but I might prefer that to a more elevated risk of confidently striding into WWIII?

        I know Scott probably likes to avoid too much Trump on SSC because it’s very CW-triggering, but he still throws in statements like “Trump has been a disaster” as if they are self-evident when to me they totally are not, especially compared to the alternative. I would certainly like it it if he would write another, updated explanation for his continued strong Trump opposition (His “Bad for Trumpism” post sort of fits the bill, but that post seems more about a general possibility of “rebound” effects in politics). I guess he probably will in 2020, though by then he’ll have a point of comparison other than Hillary, which makes the job easier.

        • BBA says:

          My view of Clinton is that she’s more belligerent in inclination, but less likely to end up in situations where she’d act on that belligerence. Whereas Trump may not want war, but when you hire John Bolton and Mike Pompeo you’re going to get war whether you want it or not.

          • quanta413 says:

            Feel like we kind of got into Syria and Libya against what Obama on his own would have done partly thanks to hawkish types like Clinton. Any civil war, anywhere is a situation where American top brass appear inclined to act on belligerence.

            Too bad we have Bolton and Pompeo though. I agree they are worse than Clinton. I’m having to hope Trump restrains his advisers.

            You’re right. We’re doomed.

          • Nick says:

            I feared the same thing with Bolton et al. Which is what makes this last minute reversal mostly a reassuring and pleasant surprise for me.

      • Deiseach says:

        We’ve got another five and a half years of this to look forward to, wheeee!

        You don’t think any of the richly varied* field of potential Democratic contenders can find someone to beat Trump for a second term, or you think the most likely Democrat winner of the presidential election would also go for the “Bomb the hell out of ’em”?

        *Ahem. I did promise HeelBearCub I would be of crystalline clarity in all my thoughts, words and deeds from henceforth when posting comments on SSC so as to avoid any more “Eeek! You seriously said you would hang people up by their thumbs, you total and absolute sadistic monster!!!” moments, so here goes:

        ATTENTION! THIS IS MEANT AS HUMOROUS RHETORICAL DEVICE FOR THE PURPOSE OF ELICITING AMUSEMENT IN READERS! IT IS NOT MEANT AS ACCURATE FACTUAL DESCRIPTION NOR STATEMENT OF OWN PERSONAL OPINION! YOU MAY NOW DISREGARD THIS HILARITY UTENSIL AND RESUME NORMAL OPERATIONS!

        • BBA says:

          I expect Trump to win reelection because God hates me and wants me to suffer not enough has changed since 2016 to flip any states blue. (Maybe Pennsylvania and maaaaybe Michigan, but those aren’t enough.) You can argue that Hillary was a weak candidate, maybe so, but all of the current crop are even weaker.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The economy is good (so Trump gets incumbent advantage), the Democrats don’t have a strong contender at the moment (that could change), and for the cherry on top, the Democrats are talking seriously about reparations, which is better than “deplorables” for pushing away the white vote. Probably they’ll drop that like a rock before the convention, but politicians have been dumber.

          • Deiseach says:

            the Democrats are talking seriously about reparations, which is better than “deplorables” for pushing away the white vote. Probably they’ll drop that like a rock before the convention, but politicians have been dumber.

            Yeah, I wonder if the Democrats are hobbled by being wed to the “demographics is destiny” idea, even after having it proven to them that no, black etc. voters are not going to turn out for White Candidate in the same numbers as First African-American with Hillary’s campaign. I thought there were signs that they were beginning to drop that, at least at the high-up levels in the party, but then the whole Ocasio-Cortez victory took them by surprise, and her origin-story got pushed hard (“I was just Sandy from the block, a humble New York bartender of Puerto-Rican heritage, and now look at me!”) and they seem to have fallen back under the spell of “there are all these votes just lying around to be picked up if we only broaden our appeal wide enough and cast our net far enough and dump any white people – except for the party big-wigs – hard enough”.

            I think Democrats on the ground in various states have a good sense of what the electorate will or won’t go for, but that equally means that for certain candidates in certain constituencies promising “I’ll get you what you are owed by the slave-masters!” is going to sell like hot cakes, even if it’s electoral poison on a national level.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            The economy is good (so Trump gets incumbent advantage),

            Not only is the “economy good”, this weekend I drove through local Trump countryside, and could not help but notice all the “we are hiring, walk-in interviews anytime, immediate hiring bonus, we will train, full bennies, education vouchers for your family, full and part time, will work around school hours” signs on businesses everywhere.

            More of this, please. Five and a half more years of this, and it’s going to be the New Normal for an entire cohort of rural kids. More of this harder, please.

  18. Deiseach says:

    Is this true?

    This is how Planet of the Apes happens! Don’t worry about AI, worry about apes with lighters! 😀

    • Radu Floricica says:

      From “The Secret…”, chimps are definitely just as smart as toddlers. Where we beat them hands down is disseminating information. So a chimp Prometheus really has his work cut out for him… he’d have to give fire to each and every one of them.

  19. Well... says:

    Steve Sailer commented on the most recent normal post, which reminded me that he exists. I used to read his blog every day from about 2011 until some time in 2015 or 2016 when I lost my taste for that kind of thing. I popped back into his blog just now and it seems like nothing has changed. (It boggles my mind a bit, realizing Steve Sailer reads SSC and interacts with the commentariat.)

    I have a question thought that’s prima facie about him but really applies to anyone with his kind of views who also lives in the kind of place where those kind of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live:

    How does he get along, residing in Studio City or Sherman Oaks or wherever? Like, does he have to keep his brilliant ideas secret from basically everyone he interacts with in realspace — I’m thinking neighbors in particular, but maybe friends and family too? Does he on principle never visit any of L.A.’s excellent and ubiquitous taco trucks? If he meets a black guy on the golf course and they get along, and the black guy suggests they go out for a beer later, will Steve automatically decline even if he’s free and in the mood for a beer, and if so, does he justify it (inwardly, I mean) with statistics about race and IQ? Ya know?

    He just wrote a blog post implying (in his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way) that we ought to have something like a Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 based on who is likely to return wallets, yet I’d bet he almost certainly is on at least friendly terms with lots of people who’d be really hurt to find out he wrote such a thing, maybe even people who’d be themselves excluded by the immigration policy he yearns for. How does he manage? Does he care? Wouldn’t it be kind of sociopathic not to?

    Maybe another way to ask the question is: what is a normal amount of tolerance for having to maintain strong separation between “views about how things should be” and “practical everyday behavior, given how things are”? And over time, shouldn’t the latter tend to exert pressure on the former so that less separation between the two is required? (Thus I’m a little surprised nothing seems to have substantially changed at his blog.)

    • Aapje says:

      1. Would you ask the same thing of a SJ advocate who blames white men for everything and lives in a place where those views are not accepted by the local culture? Would you ask them how they can be friends with white men or do you regard the answer as obvious?

      2. Isn’t it obvious from him using his real name that he is not keeping the ideas that he espouses online separate from his offline interactions?

      3. Why would Steve have to hate eating taco’s? Does a feminist have to hate sex with men?

      4. Why would Steve have to treat individuals who have passed a certain filter (like the big threshold for playing golf) negatively, because he supports group-based policies with ethnic discrimination, with the justification of statistical differences between groups? You are accusing him of not understanding statistics, IMO (which is a common flaw in people, but if you understand statistics, you won’t assume that the average or median of a larger group is true for the average or median of a filtered subset).

      Maybe another way to ask the question is: what is a normal amount of tolerance for having to maintain strong separation between “views about how things should be” and “practical everyday behavior, given how things are”?

      My understanding is that Steve believes that cultural norms & behaviors can ameliorate the biological statistical differences that he believes exist between groups & such. So then bringing his personal behavior inline with his views can merely involve finding a local community whose norms are relatively closer to his ideal.

      Thus I’m a little surprised nothing seems to have substantially changed at his blog.

      Some people are relatively immune to peer pressure. I once read an interesting interview with a person who talked to both perpetrators of genocide (in places like Rwanda) and those that resisted going along with the genocide, even though they were part of the murdering ethnicity.

      She found the murderers a lot more sympathetic and nice than those who resisted. My theory is that the former are well-adjusted, normal humans who adapt the local norms. So when the local norms are to be nice to people and give gifts on birthdays, they do. When the local norms are to commit genocide, they do that.

      In contrast, those who resisted were generally ill-adjusted people who resisted peer pressure, which makes them ignore nice local norms, but also not-so nice norms, in favor of their internally generated norms.

      • Garrett says:

        In contrast, those who resisted were generally ill-adjusted people who resisted peer pressure, which makes them ignore nice local norms, but also not-so nice norms, in favor of their internally generated norms.

        Link?

        This disturbingly sounds a lot like me.

        • albatross11 says:

          ISTM that one of the most important reasons to read about historical atrocities (the holocaust, the cultural revolution, the Gulag system, the Spanish inquisition, the horrors of West Indies sugar plantations, the Rwandan genocide, etc.) is to really cement in your mind the fact that people just like you did these horrible things, or at least looked the other way and let them happen. And it would be a remarkable streak of luck if it just so happened that you were immune to the tendencies that led perfectly normal and decent people to quietly support the slave trade or ethnically cleansing American Indians off the land or whatever.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Well said. What we tend to miss about people is that we are all the same. We try to understand behavior by positing that people have different characters. They don’t.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. I read a decent book about this sort of thing in relation to 1930s Germany several years ago… I think it might have been called “We Thought We Were Free” or something like that?

          • Nick says:

            @Matt M
            What I was reminded of, reading albatross’s post, is the quote from Solzhenitsyn, “[T]he line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

      • Matt M says:

        She found the murderers a lot more sympathetic and nice than those who resisted. My theory is that the former are well-adjusted, normal humans who adapt the local norms. So when the local norms are to be nice to people and give gifts on birthdays, they do. When the local norms are to commit genocide, they do that.

        • CatCube says:

          Are you missing something intended to be below the quote?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes. I’ve been having a bizarre problem lately where when I press “enter” it actually posts the comment rather than give me a space below in the text box, even if I just clicked in the text box.

            And then, for reasons I can’t determine, it won’t let me edit…

      • CatCube says:

        I recall thinking something similar when considering two of the people in Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, which is about defectors from the North Korean city of Chongjin after the 1990s famine.

        Two of the people are a mother and daughter: Mrs. Song and her daughter Oak-hee. Mrs. Song is a good North Korean housewife who buys into the state ideology, and is overall happy until the tragic events of the famine. Oak-hee is a rebellious child, doesn’t fit in, and is overall pretty desperately unhappy even before food supplies dry up.

        Mrs. Song loses her husband and son to the famine, though she does start participating in the black market economy. Oak-hee ends up defecting, and afterwards basically ends up tricking her mother into coming to China to help her to try to entice her mother to defect, which she does.

        The epilogue discusses both women who are now in South Korea. Mrs. Song seems to be doing pretty well and is overall happy, while Oak-hee is disaffected and unhappy with her lot in life, and seemingly at loose ends not knowing what she wants to do. Some of this is certainly due to the fact that Oak-hee spent a very large fraction of her defector payoff as part of the ruse to get her mother to defect, leaving her with less than she otherwise would, but I always couldn’t help but wonder if the difference was primarily due to personality types.

      • Well... says:

        1. I might ask them. The difference there is, popular, journalistic, and corporate culture tend to offer them shelter.

        2. He might count on his relative obscurity. Aside from the guy who introduced me to him and a few of our mutual friends, nobody I’ve met in real life has heard of Steve Sailer unless I mentioned him to them.

        3. Ordering tacos from Mexicans in a truck is a tangible reminder of the immigration he despises? It was meant as sort of a loose, almost metaphorical question.

        4. When you think, for example, that our society should exert stricter cultural & etiquette norms on black people (e.g. “New Orleans’ ‘let the good times roll’ motto is a bad message for black people because they’ve got lower average IQ and are more prone to violence”), you might tend to avoid becoming friends with black people in case that idea comes up? I’m not saying he necessarily would avoid it, I was just pointing it out as an example of how holding a certain belief could make the cultivation of certain friendships hazardous.

        Having someone you love and care about you chew you out because they’re hurt by the things you believe tends to shake you and make you reconsider your certainty about the practicality of those beliefs and how you express them. You realize there’s another component to ideas that goes beyond “can I back it up with statistics and scientific evidence.” That’s been my experience anyway.

        • albatross11 says:

          Well:

          There’s this interesting tradeoff here. Let’s assume, arguendo, that Steve is right and blacks do better overall under more restrictive social norms rather than less restrictive ones[1]. (This is, after all, an empirical question, and I doubt either of us can say for sure whether it’s true or false.)

          If so, is the world a better place when nobody notices this is true and says so? ISTM that if you were raising black kids or running a school that was predominantly for black kids, you might actually choose to raise those kids with more restrictive social norms and expectations. And if Steve’s idea is right, you’d probably end up making their lives better off overall.

          Being too polite to mention it might be better for getting along without being called mean names, but it might also be worse for those black kids being raised with highly-permissive social norms.

          [1] Actually, I think most conservatives think *most everyone* would do better under more restrictive social norms–in the form of a NYT headline, Steve’s argument is: “New Orleans Residents Let the Good Times Roll–Blacks Hit Hardest.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Let’s assume, arguendo, that Steve is right and blacks do better overall under more restrictive social norms rather than less restrictive ones. (This is, after all, an empirical question, and I doubt either of us can say for sure whether it’s true or false.)

            This is only an empirical question if we also assume, arguendo, that “living under restrictive social norms” is, if not independent of “doing well,” at least quantitatively comparable with other components of “doing well.” As such, I’m pretty sure this question is only empirical if you smuggle in your own metric of wellbeing.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 >

            “…I think most conservatives think *most everyone* would do better under more restrictive social norms…”

            I don’t vote for self-described “conservatives”, but I definitely agree that more restrictive social and economic norms would be better, especially for those under 40 years old as guidance is far too lacking, I support an expansion of the guild apprentice-journeyman-master model for most everyone, the freeform “do your own thing” system to careers leaves far too many adrift, also parents with minor children who get divorced should be ostracized to such an extent that “grinning and bearing sticking together for the kids” becomes much more common.

            Though Costa Ricans are plenty happy and long-lived I have no idea as to how to emulate there, so I suppose some weird combination of Germany (educational system and labor law) and Utah (social mores and welfare) would be my goal.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            I agree measuring well-being isn’t straightforward. However, I’d say we can look at available statistics and say that blacks are overall doing worse than whites in most things we can measure. Even if we don’t all agree on exactly what a life well lived looks like, we can probably work out that a shorter life expectancy, a higher probability of spending time in prison, and less wealth and income over your whole life are indications that things aren’t going so well.

            We can also do this kind of analysis for whites. Charles Murray’s book _Coming Apart_ basically does this analysis for the white working/lower class, with the conclusion that in a whole lot of measurable ways, the whites on the left end of the intelligence/work ethic/wisdom distribution have done really badly with less restrictive social norms.

            Now, social science is hard and full of confounders, so we might never have rock solid evidence of anything. But it doesn’t seem impossible that we could get evidence showing that living under more restrictive social norms led to either better, worse, or the same outcomes for {blacks, whites, Asians, hispanics, everyone}. This doesn’t seem inherently harder than getting evidence that other social or legal changes have been helpful or harmful to {blacks, whites, Asians, hispanics, everyone}.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @albatross

            I’d say we can look at available statistics and say that blacks are overall doing worse than whites in most things we can measure.

            If there’s one SINGLE thing I desperately want the entire world to understand, it’s that the ability to measure a thing does not imply the ability to understand its state.

            Yes, there are a lot of things we can measure that tell us that black people are doing worse in some ways than they did in the past. But if you ask me if it’s worth it to live in a world where this is possible I’m going to say, “yes, a hundred thousand times, yes.”

            Are there social norms in many black communities that are inhibiting human flourishing? Yes, absolutely. We should kill them with fire. But the idea that we – and by “we” I mean “the state, which is not the same thing as a culture, whose tools are wrecking balls and whose heart smells of sulphur and iron” – can somehow fix it is a lot scarier to me than those bad norms. That’s why by “kill them with fire” I really mean that we should make sure that black Americans – especially kids – have strong mentors, especially male mentors, that can help them find a better path for themselves. At this point, I’m pretty sure that attempts to engineer cultural change through policy inevitably have horrifying results.

          • albatross11 says:

            I agree that trying to use government policy to change social norms is not likely to go well. At best, government has some really blunt tools–it can offer people money or threaten to take {money, licenses, freedom, life} away from them. Nor do I see any legislature in the US as being even remotely likely to do a good job of imposing better values on the public.

            But I also think that somewhere in the huge changes in society that have given us a lot more freedom, we’ve thrown aside some social norms that were pretty important for human well-being. And that’s utterly clobbered a lot of people on the bottom, notably including both poor blacks and poor whites. Smarter, richer, better-educated people have retained a lot of those norms, for whatever reason. (The direction of causality is unclear here, though–maybe the people who stuck with norms like “no children out of wedlock” finished their schooling and got good jobs, accounting for the richer and better-educated parts of the equation.)

            I’d like to find a way to make sure that nobody’s getting shoved to the back of the bus and nobody’s getting bashed for being who they are, while still keeping those norms intact enough that the majority of people who will be happiest in something like a traditional life with a spouse and kids and job and such actually get that. I don’t know how to do that, or if it’s even possible, but it seems like a worthy goal. The best way I know to get people to do that stuff is to convert them to some religion that teaches it, but that raises a whole crop of its own issues.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 & @Hoopyfreud,
            The jobs disappeared before the “social norms”.

            Still not good enough but the fortunes of black Americans were getting better from 1941 to 1973.

            I’m very confident that had the “family wage” jobs endured for more generations most of the “social ills of the black community” wouldn’t be anywhere near as biting, and the destruction of the later ’70’s and the even worse, awful, hateful, and cursed 1980’s could have been avoided.

        • Nick says:

          1. I might ask them. The difference there is, popular, journalistic, and corporate culture tend to offer them shelter.

          I’m not sure that answers Aapje’s question. The point is, social justice folks probably interact with lots of white men. Media and corporate culture might fawn over their beliefs, but it doesn’t actually insulate them from interacting with white men, does it? So the question how they reconcile their beliefs with those interactions still arises. If that question seems kind of ridiculous, it should be ridiculous when directed at Steve, too.

        • Clutzy says:

          This response, plus the OP make me somewhat skeptical you read or have read Steve Salier with any real engagement. I don’t find him nearly as anti-immigrant, paternalistic, etc as you seems to be describing him as. He’s more like a quirky intellectual who also happens to comment on this subset of things most quirky intellectuals do not.

          Maybe my impressions are wrong and he really is a rabid white supremacist, but from my perspective he’s more a weirdo with 1000 interests, most of which no one cares at all about, and one of which happens to be highly controversial.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      My first instinct when faced with such questions would be to ask the person concerned, in private for preference. I mean, he’s right there (metaphorically speaking). I don’t recall seeing Steve in the open threads, but I know that I lurk a lot more than I comment.

      Setting that aside, I see no fundamental conflict between recognizing issues with a specific group/subset of the population and being able to amicably interact with individuals from that group. I mean, just going by the surveys of the SSC readers/commentariat, it would appear that most of this blog’s audience has significantly higher IQs than average. Do we therefore expect people that read SSC to have little to no amicable interactions with average IQ people? Wouldn’t such an expectation be strange, given that average IQ people are the majority, by definition?

      He just wrote a blog post implying (in his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way) that we ought to have something like a Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 based on who is likely to return wallets, yet I’d bet he almost certainly is on at least friendly terms with lots of people who’d be really hurt to find out he wrote such a thing, maybe even people who’d be themselves excluded by the immigration policy he yearns for. How does he manage? Does he care? Wouldn’t it be kind of sociopathic not to?

      Every time you propose any sort of policy, someone’s gonna get the shaft. As Aapje rightly points out, an accepted “positive” policy choice like affirmative action means that certain people (white and male, typically) are less deserving of certain opportunities than other people (e.g. women, POC, minority sexualities). Is anyone hurt to know this? Does anyone care? Is it sociopathic if nobody does?

      It’s probably also worth pointing out that immigration policy specifically simplifies to “who do we invite to our house”. This is a us-and-them issue that most people understand on a visceral level (because humans are familial and tribal). The idea that the tribe/home is open to all comers is the strange one, if you think about it – keep it up long enough and you’ll see yourself forced out of your home by new arrivals that understand tribe better than you do.*

      Given that we, presumably, like our tribal value system and want to keep it (or, at least, ensure that it evolves in a given direction), we would do well to restrict external recruitment to people who have substantially similar values and/or are likely to contribute materially to our goals. This will naturally narrow our focus towards primarily groups that have already been shown to have such characteristics and away from those that have been shown to have not. It doesn’t mean that individuals from the latter groups are irrevocably ineligible for all time. Rather, they must first demonstrate that they are less like “them” and more like “us”.

      None of this is terribly hard to understand, nor even particularly “evil”. It’s just a recognition of the fact that people are different, groups influence their members and that changing the membership will ultimately change the group. The crazy thing, as far as I am concerned, is the proposition that we shouldn’t acknowledge these facts, because people might get hurt (and by “hurt”, we mean that the conclusions oppose their self-serving teleologies).

      * One of the reasons to restrict the number/kind of people able to join your tribe is to ensure new members share your values. Numbers ultimately win the day, so once you introduce enough new members with a different value system, you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of tribal mores.

      • quanta413 says:

        I mean, just going by the surveys of the SSC readers/commentariat, it would appear that most of this blog’s audience has significantly higher IQs than average. Do we therefore expect people that read SSC to have little to no amicable interactions with average IQ people? Wouldn’t such an expectation be strange, given that average IQ people are the majority, by definition?

        And this sort of thing goes both ways too. A lot of people on SSC are probably weird in ways that aren’t high status. A lot of them also have beliefs that most people would probably view as crazy or harmful. But post middle school (or maybe high school) most normal people have amicable interactions with smart weirdos.

        A lot of toleration for people significantly different from oneself is necessary for anything to function in a pleasant way. Of course, there is some limit to how different two people or two groups can be without conflict. At the extreme end, what if you’re the Spanish and you’re dealing with the ancient Aztecs? The Aztecs thought it was crucial to make human sacrifices for the world not to end and actually did that. Spanish conquistadors were pretty barbaric by current Western standards, but their beliefs are fairly similar to current ones compared to Aztec beliefs.

        • brad says:

          I think the limit is rather narrower than you are implying. Yes, as adults we probably all have to learn to roll our eyes and move on when a co-worker, friend’s SO, hobby partner, or similar starts opining on how the moon landing was faked, God has a plan for all of us, or the importance of a bi-monthly juice cleanse. But in my experience rolling one’s eyes and moving on is not the typical reaction to “why aren’t we allowed to notice how much the Jews hate Whites” or “we need to reinstitute segregation because the Blacks have low IQs” or “we should end Latino immigration because Latino cultures are low trust”.

          Rightly in my opinion, maybe wrongly in yours, but in any event I think I’m accurately describing modal Blue Tribe norms.

          • quanta413 says:

            I subquoted the part on SSC people compared to not-SSC people because I was thinking about weird SSC beliefs about AI or transhumanism or utilitarianism. Or more widespread, atheism.

            I’ve observed a lot more flex in private situations with respect to people making racist comments than you seem to have observed. Usually there’s little remark made. And I’ve lived in almost exclusively blue tribe circles for over a decade now. Although most of the racist comments I’ve heard were directed by someone not white at some not white group they weren’t part of.

          • brad says:

            Although most of the racist comments I’ve heard were directed by someone not white at some not white group they weren’t part of.

            Then it isn’t really to the contrary, is it? Except I guess the antisemitism part.

            The bottom line is that a Sailerite that’s at all outspoken is not going to be accepted in polite company.

          • quanta413 says:

            Then it isn’t really to the contrary, is it? Except I guess the antisemitism part.

            The bottom line is that a Sailerite that’s at all outspoken is not going to be accepted in polite company.

            Yeah, I’m not saying something totally contrary to your claim although I think Steve Sailer isn’t that far past the edge. Most racist things wasn’t “all” either and white and not white is not always a clear boundary.

            Really outspoken types are often not accepted in polite company in my experience even if they have the right politics. It’s obnoxious behavior to constantly talk politics in a forum not dedicated to it. And people with known bad politics are often tolerated if they don’t constantly blather on about it.

            Like there’s a difference between having Steve Sailer’s political beliefs and shoehorning Steve Sailer’s political blogposts into every conversation. What I’m saying is the first may easily be tolerated even if people know you believe that. I agree the second isn’t tolerated (mostly by just not inviting that person to anything), but I’d bet a significant chunk of people I know wouldn’t invite an ever harping Clinton fan to events either.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Immigration policy specifically simplifies to “who do we invite to our house” only in the view of (some) restrictionists. One of the main anti-restrictionist contentions is that a nation is not like a house, and the current citizenry of a nation not like the owners of a house, in the relevant respects.

      • Well... says:

        I didn’t want to ask Steve directly because it could be seen as overly aggressive and get me banned for instigating a fight or something.

        Anyway, yeah I get it’s possible to be friends with someone from a group about whom your published and widely circulated views are unflattering at best; I’m just curious whether Steve or others like him manage it, and how. And if so, whether/how the management of that friendship modifies the views.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not Steve but I read his work and agree with 80-90% of it, and also live in a large multicultural and liberal city.

      It’s a bit of a faux pas to actually utter the words anymore, but I have black friends and have dated black women. Ditto for Hispanics, Muslims, as well as LGs and BTs (the T’s in this case being non-binary women) respectively. I also patronize businesses owned by all of the above with no qualms. None of that contradicts my beliefs in any way.

      You can have a scientifically-accurate understanding of the black-white IQ gap and difference in crime rates without hating black people: in fact, without the former it would be a lot easier to hate black people. You can think that the US would be better off with minimal Muslim or Hispanic immigration while liking individual Muslim or Hispanic immigrants. And you can think that LGBT lifestyles are harmful and dislike their promotion while still being friendly to LGBT people themselves. None of those beliefs actually require hate.

      I do keep quiet about those beliefs in front of most people, but that’s because the liberals I live and work around have the same prejudice that you do: that anyone who disagrees with the prevailing orthodoxy is a moral monster who is incapable of participating in civilized society (and consequently must be driven from it).

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m not Steve, but occasionally read him, and sometimes agree with him. I have my own set of socially-unacceptable and impolite beliefs, and as best I can tell, so does everyone else. We all manage to keep those impolite beliefs off the table most of the time when we’re talking with others, to avoid starting needless fights or upsetting people for no good reason.

        I think there are two ideas that you need to recognize, in order to think about this sort of question sensibly:

        a. To believe that members of one group are statistically worse in some way than the general population does not imply that you can’t have positive interactions with members of that group. You’re not making friends with a group average, you’re making friends with an individual. Or you’re hiring, doing business with, learning from, hanging out with, etc., an individual.

        My kids’ main pediatrician is a black woman. On average, neither blacks nor whites are smart enough to be good doctors, but that’s totally irrelevant to whether or not *she* is smart enough to be a good doctor. (She is.)

        b. To think that some policy would be good overall which would hurt members of some group also doesn’t preclude being friends with members of that group. *Every* law or policy has winners and losers, and some of the losers in any worthwhile law will be pretty sympathetic people.

        I favor eliminating farm subsidies. This would make a lot of small farmers a lot worse off–probably drive them entirely from the business. And yet, I favor eliminating farm subsidies *without hating farmers*. I genuinely have no animus against farmers, have farmers in my family, etc. I might not bring up at Thanksgiving dinner that I want to eliminate farm subsidies, but that doesn’t keep me from being able to get along with farmers.

        I think (a) is mostly the result of people not understanding statistics very well–it’s hard to keep in mind the distinction between a distribution, the mean of a distribution, and an individual drawn from that distribution. I think (b) is mostly the result of a kind of political rhetoric in which “you support a law that would hurt my group” is taken to mean “you hate all members of my group.”

        • DinoNerd says:

          To believe that members of one group are statistically worse in some way than the general population does not imply that you can’t have positive interactions with members of that group. You’re not making friends with a group average, you’re making friends with an individual. Or you’re hiring, doing business with, learning from, hanging out with, etc., an individual.

          I have encountered two types of people with negative beliefs about some group’s abilities. One type of believer understands the above, and lives by it. The other kind emphatically does not, either in practice, or in their statements.

          The second kind might insist that your children’s doctor does not exist – you only think she’s competent because of your ideology. At best, you should still find another doctor, who would inevitably be better if they were white. Or they’d insist that she should never have been given a medical school place, because any white person who didn’t get it would have been more likely to be a better doctor.

          I don’t know which category Steve Saller belongs to. But I’m pretty sure those that are capable of statistical reasoning wouldn’t have the problems the OP suggests. Likewise those who practice normal human compartmentalization, where the category “my friends” frequently excludes “those people” about whom one makes nasty generalizations, even if the friends are in fact members of that group.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I’m pretty sure those that are capable of statistical reasoning wouldn’t have the problems the OP suggests.

            For this to be untrue it’s only necessary that people capable of engaging in statistical reasoning believe that the benefits of discrimination are significant enough.

            It’s pretty impossible for me to consider anyone who wants to put me on a helicopter ride my friend, whether or not their reasons are statistical.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Steve Sailer isn’t Dreaded Jim; free helicopter rides don’t seem to be his thing.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @The Nybbler

            Steve is certainly a lot less ethnofascist than others, but also seems to avoid making clear policy proposals a lot of the time, preferring to make lots of small “harrumphing” noises. I have no idea what he’d like to do with me, specifically, based purely on my race, or whether (for example) I’d be a citizen in his America, or whether my current career would have been open to me in such a place, or whether I’d be allowed to vote. I’m like 97% sure he wouldn’t prefer me dead, but beyond that I haven’t a clue.

            Anyway, the point is that it’s completely possible for people to discriminate to a palpably uncomfortable extent based on statistical reasoning. “It’s not that I think you’re bad, it’s just that the correlation is good enough that the cost/benefit works out this way” is no real comfort to anyone.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            FWIW, I don’t want to give anyone a one-way helicopter ride, and I’m pretty sure that the same is true for Steve, Nabil, and other human b-odiversity friendly people who hang around here. If your model of the world predicts that we all want to murder you, this is probably an indication that your model of the world is flawed. Honestly, I’d rather talk with you and I bear you absolutely no ill will. (I also have no idea what race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. you are, and only care to the extent it’s relevant to the discussion we’re having.).

            Group differences usually don’t matter very much in daily life, because most of the time, we’re dealing with people as individuals whom we know and interact with. Do you imagine I’m judging how smart my coworkers are based on racial average IQs? Or secretly wondering whether the middle-aged black guy who does computer support for my group at work is going to mug me? That would be silly–I’ve got tons of much more relevant data to judge those things.

            When *do* group averages matter? I can think of two places:

            a. When you have to make a very quick decision without much information. (Do you walk down the dark alley with a dozen teenage boys lurking or a dozen little old ladies lurking?)

            b. When you need to understand group statistics or predict group outcomes. (What’s going to happen to the local magnet school if they’re required to make their student population mirror the county’s demographics?)

          • Matt M says:

            If your model of the world predicts that we all want to murder you, this is probably an indication that your model of the world is flawed.

            Yeah. It occurs to me that Well is confused by the fact that Steve is not behaving as expected, assuming that caricatures of his beliefs, made by people who oppose his beliefs, are accurate.

            In other words, people who favor, say, mass immigration, often caricature people who are opposed to it by saying “Those people just hate Hispanics.” Now, if that were, in fact, the case… if Steve (and others) opposed mass immigration solely based on a hatred of Hispanics, it would indeed be odd to see Steve visiting a taco truck and having a beer with his Hispanic friends.

            The fact that Steve does, in fact, do these things, suggests not that Steve is somehow behaving illogically, but rather, that the caricature of him is incorrect. That no matter how you want to twist his views and no matter how you want to frame what his views may imply about public policy and who they might affect… it seems obvious that they are not, in fact, based primarily on raw hatred of the outgroup.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Albatross

            I don’t think you all want to murder me, though I suspect (based on previous experiences on this blog’s comment section) that one or more of you may want me to leave the US. A lot fits in the interval between “wants their child to marry” and “wants to toss in the ocean,” and while I’m pretty sure nobody here fits in either of those categories, and I’m also pretty sure that on the balance people here favor a pretty liberal stance, I’m not willing to assume good will on everyone’s part (in aggregate; it’d take much stronger evidence for me to call someone else out specifically – though Steve does appear to favor some weird species of paternalism that makes my skin crawl, I can’t nail his position down well enough to make a solid claim about what he believes, and I’m happy to engage with you guys in good faith unless some big red flags start getting waved around).

            As for the rest, add one more case, complementary to a.:

            c. when clarifying information is more costly to obtain than the expected value of the clarification.

            If I see a man out with his clearly and severely intellectually disabled brother and I want directions to the nearest cafe, I’m probably not immediately inclined to ask a clarifying question to figure out which of them is better to ask, because the expected return on asking the one who looks capable and saving 30 seconds of my time is higher than the cost of confirming my prior about their instrumental value to my search for a crumpet. The only reason I try to ameliorate that tendency is that I feel I ought to behave as though their expected instrumental value is less different than my prior indicates, because a higher-level moral imperative is therefore satisfied. I mostly trust people to share a belief in this higher-level moral imperative a priori, but see above re: weird paternalism. Rational decision-making + belief in a causal relationship between race and [value] =/= egalitarianism by default; a third factor is needed.

            E: to be clear, the whole argument above grants that race offers the best – which is to say, at least sufficiently good – return on energy investment for the discerning discriminator in the first place. If it doesn’t (and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t), then the whole point is moot anyway and the “policy implications” are a whole lot less implicated than the buman diohiversity crowd seems to think.

          • Deiseach says:

            (Do you walk down the dark alley with a dozen teenage boys lurking or a dozen little old ladies lurking?)

            That would depend on the little old ladies!

          • edmundgennings says:

            @Hoopyfreud
            I do not have the intuition that one ought to act as though the difference in ability is less than it seems. Is this a base level intuition you have that you then use to ground a broader position or does your broader position drive it? If the latter could you explain it?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it’s important to be polite to people, which includes not calling attention to things they’re going to feel self-conscious about and not stepping on their toes w.r.t. stereotypes that apply to them. That’s especially true if it doesn’t cost muchto be a little extra-courteous. So I might do the same thing.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @edmundgennings

            In life we meet many people who surpass our expectations of them. I think we owe the opportunity to do so to each other. I think that’s one of the best, most wonderful and enriching things we can do for each other. I want to live in a world where anyone who thinks they have something to prove about themselves can prove it and be appropriately valued for it.

            That’s why I always try to ask children for advice or help, actually. They fucking LOVE it when adults treat them as capable individuals. If you’ve not had the opportunity to do so, I recommend it the next time you have occasion to. I expect you might understand this intuition a bit better then.

      • Well... says:

        So you keep quiet about those beliefs in front of most people. What if you published them under your real name and had a huge readership and a Wikipedia page? What would you do?

        • Nick says:

          This doesn’t quite answer your question, but I believe I’ve heard Steve quoted as saying he wished he’d used a pseudonym back when he started writing. They didn’t have a source at the time, unfortunately, so I don’t have one either.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I would probably do very little, because I would be essentially unemployable. I’m not particularly well-suited to freelance journalism or e-celebrity and I don’t have Fuck-You Money. In that situation I might move to China and teach English: you can make enough money to live on pretty easily there, the CCP doesn’t give a shit about this kind of stuff, and I’ve always liked Chinese women.

          If you’re asking about whether I would still be friends with my friends or continue to patronize the businesses I currently patronize, that would depend entirely on them. If I couldn’t go to a Halal cart without getting white sauce thrown at me or something then I wouldn’t go to Halal carts anymore, but it wouldn’t be by choice.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I think a lot of people are better than their principles. It wouldn’t surprise me if Steve is one of them.

    • BBA says:

      You have to compartmentalize in order to function in society. When you can’t, you descend into a state of paranoia and depression, believing the worst about everyone you interact with, and end up saying bizarre nihilistic things like “truth is a social construct.”

      Or is that just me?

    • Deiseach says:

      I have a question thought that’s prima facie about him but really applies to anyone with his kind of views who also lives in the kind of place where those kind of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live

      Have you a question for me about how I live “in the kind of place where those kinds of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live”? Because I’m out of the current of present-day Irish society but I somehow manage not to run amok in the streets trying to stuff divorced people, cohabiting without being married people, single parents, and gay people into bags.

      Is it on the left or the right side you’d like us all to line up for you to hand out the torches and pitchforks?

      • Well... says:

        I hope after interacting with me on this blog for a while you’d understand my question better.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s because I’m after interacting with you on here, Well… , that I was so disappointed in the way you made that comment.

          It’s a legitimate question to raise, but when it’s covered in dripping sneers and arch glances at the audience, it lets us all down: things like the kind of place where those kind of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live (so he’s a moral mutant who should be shunned back to his marsh, like Grendel); his brilliant ideas (where it’s all too clear you don’t mean brilliant); If he meets a black guy on the golf course etc. (which is almost going “Nah, we all know he’ll pop along home to iron his bedsheet and get the lighter fluid for the cross burning”); his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way (so he’s dishonest in discourse and thus a knave, coward, or hypocrite, or a blend of all three); Does he care? Wouldn’t it be kind of sociopathic not to? (psychoanalysis from a distance, the favourite armchair pursuit of people who are looking for an excuse to demonstrate why it’s okay to be mean to the bad person).

          I’ve done my share of sarcastic, sneering, angry, yowling and I’m none too proud of it. You can and have done better, Well…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve done my share of sarcastic, sneering, angry, yowling and I’m none too proud of it.

            This strikes me as either confusing or surprising. But maybe I am misinterpreting.

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, Heel Bear Cub. Let’s say I pose a question to everyone on here about something you’ve said in a comment, in the following terms:

            Does anyone else have any idea what HeelBearCub is going on about? I can’t quite make out whatever genius galaxy brain level notions are being expressed through the miasma of his usual fey, glib, faux-naif, ‘only joking’ style, though by the reek emanating from the regurgitated spew I would venture that it’s the kind of enlightened utopianism shared by only a select few monomaniacal cannibal torture-killers of small children.

            Would that strike you as:
            (1) A genuine query trying to have a knotty piece of philosophy elucidated?
            (2) An expression of contempt and disgust?

            I’ve let my tongue and typing run off in that kind of ‘I want to dance around calling this person all the names under the sun’ commentary, and it’s never been a good impulse that inspired it, so I recognise the breed by its characteristics.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Deiseach

            He just wrote a blog post implying (in his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way) that we ought to have something like a Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 based on who is likely to return wallets

            This strikes me as accurate, and a lot less unkind than what you wrote. Steve’s writing style is obscuritan, and as far as I can tell the aim is to avoid saying anything he can be called out on. I support calling him out on that, and if anyone can point me to a list of his actual policy proposals I’ll happily admit that this impression is mistaken.

            Well…’s phrasing wasn’t especially kind, but I think it toed the line of ‘offensive or insulting,” and that it was basically true.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            Yes, your commentary regularly runs this way, I agree. It’s almost your calling card.

            It’s the regularity of it that seems at odds with the statement I highlighted.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            For what it’s worth, like Deiseach I didn’t understand HeelBearCub’s:

            This strikes me as either confusing or surprising. But maybe I am misinterpreting.

            until Deiseach posed her hypothetical, and HBC replied:

            Yes, your commentary regularly runs this way, I agree. It’s almost your calling card.

            While I get where HBC is coming from here (as I believe does Deiseach), I have to say I found her hypothetical quite a fair analogy to Well…’s post, and disagree with HBC’s apparent claim that it is a fair analogy to most of Deiseach’s posts.

            Deiseach does write that way sometimes, and it’s to her credit that she strives not to. She does not write that way all the time, nor does Well… — which is why I was similarly disappointed by Well…’s post.

          • dick says:

            I disagree entirely. The only part of Well’s post that is even a little sarcastic is calling Sailer’s eclectic views “brilliant ideas”. The rest seems like an earnest and pertinent question, the gist being, “I’d bet he almost certainly is on at least friendly terms with lots of people who’d be really hurt to find out he wrote [his last blog post]… How does he manage?”

            Unless you’re saying Well mischaracterized Sailer’s blog post, I’m not sure what the charge is here. To say that Sailer must have some awkward situations when his IRL acquaintances find out about his blog is not predicated on a claim that Sailer’s views are terrible, or even wrong, just that they’re uncommon and have some shock value.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            I think your perception may be colored by whose ox is getting gored.

            Deiseach on some regular basis, I believe more than anyone, brings to the OT some outrageous outrage of the day and loudly proclaims her contempt and disgust in her unique inimical style. The style she (hypothetically) demonstrates in her response to me.

            Heckfire, she just recently talked about how she was taunting people who were posting “God loves everyone” messages. Crushing them and making them feel bad. With glee.

            Even here, in the very comment responding to Well…, unless I am very much mistaken and she really is a believer in the inferiority of various non-white people, it didn’t apply to her at all. Yet her response is filled with, well, sneering sarcasm.

            So the protestation of not being proud of the times she becomes sarcastic and sneering rings a little hollow.

          • Atlas says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            This strikes me as accurate, and a lot less unkind than what you wrote. Steve’s writing style is obscuritan, and as far as I can tell the aim is to avoid saying anything he can be called out on. I support calling him out on that, and if anyone can point me to a list of his actual policy proposals I’ll happily admit that this impression is mistaken.

            Without rendering a judgement myself, here are a couple long articles of Sailer’s that might help readers understand where he stands ideologically:

            https://vdare.com/articles/sailer-vs-taylor-round-ii-citizenism-vs-white-nationalism

            https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/value-voters/

          • albatross11 says:

            Perhaps this is a good general question, then. If you hold beliefs that either:

            a. Would offend a lot of people if they heard them.

            b. Would hurt the feelings of some people you interact with if they knew about them.

            c. Would, if enacted as policy, be bad for some people you interact with in your daily life.

            Does this cause any extra awkwardness in your conversations, or cognitive dissonance, or whatever.

            For example, if you’re an atheist who has a hard time imagining that anyone could really take that God stuff seriously and thinks most religious ideas are good for a belly laugh, that would probably offend many people you casually interact with. It might deeply hurt some people you otherwise respect to know that you think many of their core beliefs are idiotic and silly.

            Or if you’re a committed pro-lifer who thinks that abortion is basically just convenient murder with legal permission, it is likely the case that you interact with people who’ve had abortions, and who probably would be upset to know you thought them murderers. You may even occasionally interact casually with someone who works at an abortion clinic, whom you honestly see as about a step better on the moral ladder than Nazi concentration camp guards. If you could, you’d enact laws that would send anyone who performed an abortion to prison. How much extra friction does that create in your day-to-day life?

            Or suppose you’re a dedicated animal-rights supporter, in a world full of folks wearing leather shoes and eating cheeseburgers. Or someone who thinks divorce is immoral and remarrying after divorce is just another name for shacking up with your adulterous lover. Or….

            Is it just compartmentalization all the way down?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @HBC/Atlas

            Not particularly helpful, honestly. There are gaping holes around what he doesn’t say, as always. For example, project: boost the white birthrate doesn’t go into how he plans to make marriage more appealing to women… or how he plans to limit the increase to whites.

          • albatross11 says:

            One idea of Steve’s that I think applies here and is useful is affordable family formation[1]. Basically, reasonable housing prices, decent jobs, good schools that don’t cost a fortune to buy your way into (via tuition or house prices), etc. All these make it easier to have a family, and probably overall improve the number of children you’re willing to have a bit.

            I suspect this is beneficial, but matters less than culture. Some couples have one lavishly raised child in the backseat of their Tesla, some have five kids piled into the back of the minivan. Most of what drives that choice isn’t finances, though finances surely play a role.

            [1] He was originally looking at it as a predictive thing–places with affordable family formation tend to be Republican. But he also proposed that Republicans should be trying to bring those conditions about as widely as possible.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 >

            “…If you hold beliefs that either:

            a. Would offend a lot of people if they heard them.

            b. Would hurt the feelings of some people you interact with if they knew about them.

            c. Would, if enacted as policy, be bad for some people you interact with in your daily life.

            Does this cause any extra awkwardness in your conversations….”

            Yes, my strongly held beliefs that parents of minor children who get divorced should be shunned and pelted with garbage doesn’t go over well nor did my objecting to anti-black statements when I heared them from those who assumed that because I was white and wearing a hard hat that I’d welcome that crap.

          • dick says:

            @albatross11

            Does this cause any extra awkwardness in your conversations, or cognitive dissonance, or whatever.

            I feel qualified to answer, as I’m a fairly liberal atheist and my best friend is a fairly conservative devout Christian: occasional awkwardness, no cognitive dissonance. I’ve put my foot it in a couple times – for example, I once made a snide comment about people who believe in angels, not realizing that he was one of them. But we do talk about contentious topics, and are pretty blunt about our beliefs, and we don’t have arguments about it.

          • Deiseach says:

            Heckfire, she just recently talked about how she was taunting people who were posting “God loves everyone” messages. Crushing them and making them feel bad. With glee.

            Sweet Sacred Heart of Jesus, Whose month this is.

            I can see that in future I shall have to adopt the German Professor Approach To Humour And Jocularity:

            ACHTUNG! AN ATTEMPT AT TELLING A JOKE IS GOING TO BE MADE! PLEASE PREPARE YOURSELF! ADOPT THE APPROPRIATE MENTAL ATTITUDE TO RECEIVE A JOKE!

            THE JOKE IS APPROACHING!

            THE JOKE IS GOING TO BE TOLD!

            THIS IS THE JOKE!

            THE JOKE HAS BEEN TOLD!

            THE JOKE HAS NOW ENDED, YOU MAY COMMENCE REACTING WITH EXPRESSIONS OF HILARITY!

            THIS IS THE END OF THE JOCULARITY, PLEASE RESUME NORMAL EXPRESSIONS AND ACTIVITIES!

            Lest HeelBearCub has been pining and fretting and eating out his little heart over my horrendous evil crushing and glee, let me reassure him that when I said such things on here, they were only said in that style and manner on here and my actual comments to the original were nothing of that nature.

            [JOCULARITY HAS NOW FINISHED. PLEASE RESUME NORMALITY].

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Hoopyfreud:
            I just wanted to point out that he is a fair amount more explicit in his “up with whites, down with others” message than those two links Atlas posted read.

          • Yes, my strongly held beliefs that parents of minor children who get divorced should be shunned and pelted with garbage

            That seems a little indiscriminate:

            1. It includes parent A when the divorce is the choice of parent B.

            2. It includes both parents when the minor is an infant and parent B, who is going to end up rearing the child, is leaving A in order to marry C.

            3. It includes both parents when B is leaving to marry C who B reasonably believes will be a better parent for the children than A.

            I agree that the decision whether to divorce ought to give sizable weight to the welfare of the children, but which side of the scale that comes on depends on the particular situation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            they were only said in that style and manner on here

            I don’t think that if I told a “joke” about how I was beating up on the stupid, unthinking, blinkered Catholics what with their belief in angels, divine intervention and god’s love by pointing out the problem of evil and crushing their beliefs, you would find it funny, nor give me a pass.

            Mocking one’s outgroup is time honored, I suppose. Expecting the outgroup to laugh is something else altogether.

            ETA:
            Oh and also …

            Lest HeelBearCub has been pining and fretting and eating out his little heart over my horrendous evil crushing and glee

          • quanta413 says:

            I just wanted to point out that he is a fair amount more explicit in his “up with whites, down with others” message than those two links Atlas posted read.

            Yeah, but part of his plan is literally “absorb hispanic, middle east, south asian, etc. into whites”. He’s endorsing shuffling labels in order to strengthen the hand of anti-immigration (or less immigration) politicians and (he thinks) boost the affordability of forming nuclear families.

            If Republicans succeeded at that, the next obvious step would be to attempt to absorb East Asians into the same category as whites.

            The labels are just labels. If the labels eventually say everyone is white, “up with whites” is a different statement from it only covering the people whose ancestors were European.

            It seems consistent with Steve Sailer’s past stance on citizenism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, but part of his plan is literally “absorb hispanic, middle east, south asian, etc. into whites”.

            Ummmm, he explicitly endorses a”whites only” political strategy. He decries the fact that Hispanic birth rates are high (so, doesn’t look like a desire to absorb them). Also, unless he is planning on absorbing “black” into “white” you are still left with racism and not “citizenism”.

            And if he is, then it’s really unclear to me why he wants to talk about white at all.

          • quanta413 says:

            Ummmm, he explicitly endorses a”whites only” political strategy. He decries the fact that Hispanic birth rates are high (so, doesn’t look like a desire to absorb them). Also, unless he is planning on absorbing “black” into “white” you are still left with racism and not “citizenism”.

            Quoting the giant bold red text next to a bulletpoint in the article you linked.

            Second: since the GOP is inevitably the white party, you want marginally white people from places like Latin America and South Asia to identify as white.

            In other words, just bite the bullet of how the GOP will be thought of as the white party and try to reshuffle the labels people assign to themselves (which is affected partly by how others label them).

            . Also, unless he is planning on absorbing “black” into “white” you are still left with racism and not “citizenism”.

            There are obvious practical reasons the strategy could not extend this far anytime in the next couple decades. Black Americans have been in the U.S. much longer and have a distinct and unique identity. And although I don’t know if Steve Sailer would agree with me, there are obvious reasons for black people to distrust the idea of absorption a lot more given how much effort white people spent keeping themselves separate and above black people. A lot more effort a lot longer than white people tried to keep themselves separate from Asians or Hispanics.

            Similar practical reasons hold for Native Americans to dislike the idea of assimilation and combination with the vague “white” identity group.

            But the history of Latin America is somewhat different, many people there already consider themselves white. And new immigrants have less reason to discount the possibility of merging with the majority group than native minority groups that the majority tried really hard to stay separate from.

            Obviously, it’s better if your party has more voters, but there is little practical possibility of Republicans picking up black voters at this point. They already burned that bridge, salted the earth, etc.

            As far as I can tell Steve Sailer basically doesn’t care about black people much as far as political platform goes except as much as they have to be tallied up on the Democrat side of the ledger. It doesn’t affect his goals which are basically “cheaper housing” and “less immigrants”.

            And if he is, then it’s really unclear to me why he wants to talk about white at all.

            Because they’re the majority identity group, he thinks it does Republicans no good to pretend not think about ethnic and racial identity, and because he’s a provocateur.

            Personally, my preferred policies are not Steve Sailer’s. I’d prefer a goal summed up by something like “The Talented Tenth” but that ideal is a century too old now.

          • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

            Yeah, but part of his plan is literally “absorb hispanic, middle east, south asian, etc. into whites”.

            The solution to racial pollution is dilution! 😛

          • dick says:

            Mandatory miscegenation laws have been proposed in sci-fi books as a solution to racism (including Ghost by Piers Anthony, I think?) and I have to admit, at least it’s a plan that could plausibly work.

          • quanta413 says:

            The solution to racial pollution is dilution!

            Catchy.

            It’s a big distinguishing point between Steve Sailer and a white nationalist. I’m pretty sure Steve Sailer doesn’t care about racial pollution. White nationalists don’t advocate absorbing massive groups of people who marginally might count as white into the white group because their whole schtick is racial purity. Whereas Steve Sailer’s schtick is less immigration.

            Mandatory miscegenation laws have been proposed in sci-fi books as a solution to racism (including Ghost by Piers Anthony, I think?) and I have to admit, at least it’s a plan that could plausibly work.

            I don’t see how mandatory rules could work, but I don’t see how assimilation or blending can happen without significant miscegenation either. Intermarriage is good, yet it still gets you more shit from every direction on average than just marrying someone who look like you.

            Of course, usually the end result is the new group is just racist against some group they haven’t intermarried with yet, but them’s the breaks. Better to be racist against people far away and they racist against you than racist against your neighbors and vice versa.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Prescriptive moral beliefs, that is, beliefs about how society “should” be, are fundamentally irrational. Since they are irrational, they do not logically mandate any form of consistent and continuous manifestation through acts of the person who holds those beliefs. This is how the vast majority of people can function in society, regardless of what their moral beliefs actually are.

      The few exceptions are functioning nihilists, who have no delusion of doing anything but mechanically following their own desires moderated by risk/benefit analysis (hello!), and people who don’t actually function in society and are typically labelled as sociopaths.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          True…

          A counterpoint would be that knowing someone who is gay is negatively correlated with anti-gay sentiment. The communities that fear Latin-X immigrants the most tend to be those with the fewest immigrants.

          It seems to me that there has to be a fair amount of compartmentalization to retain friendly relations and also unfavorable attitudes.

          I know that there are a bunch of friends I have where we just have to avoid politics. If alcohol intercedes and make the conversation happen, it’s usually unpleasant. Then the next day we just pretend it didn’t happen.

    • Atlas says:

      I’ve read a lot of Steve Sailer’s writing, and I would guess that he’s a fairly agreeable person. He’s mentioned having black friends, so I don’t think he sees his views on matters like race differences in intelligence as precluding such socialization. Steve’s more empirical than ideological, so I imagine that he can find interesting avenues of discussion without revealing his more controversial views.

      I’m in a somewhat similar position as Steve, I guess. I just try to exercise discretion. For instance, we watched that clip of Ta-Nehisi Coates testifying about reparations in class recently, and I refrained from sharing my honest views about why Coates’ world view is mistaken. I think I’ve been tactful enough in that regard that co-workers/classmates/family members wouldn’t realize that I’m a bit of a crimethinker.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s probably also worth pointing out that favored minority groups aren’t always as politically correct and as monolithic as their popular defenders tend to imply.

        Real life includes a significant amount of black people who think it’s worth investigating crime rates by race and considering why they might be as they are, and what that implies about what blacks themselves can do to improve their own lot. It’s easy to find Hispanics who think that unrestricted mass immigration is an incredibly bad idea, and is unfair to existing Hispanic immigrants. There are loads of gay people who think having the government force people to bake gay wedding cakes is an absolutely outrageous violation of the freedom of conscience. Etc.

        There is absolutely no reason Steve, or anyone else with such views, couldn’t be friends with such people. Not every black person is Jesse Jackson…

        • edmundgennings says:

          Definitely, while I doubt this would hold true with a larger sample size, of the eight people I know who seem to have views similar to Steve, only one is a white heterosexual. Some amount of this may be that minorities who hold such views feel less need to be silent about them, but this is a very odd phenomenon.

        • Atlas says:

          It’s probably also worth pointing out that favored minority groups aren’t always as politically correct and as monolithic as their popular defenders tend to imply.

          There’s probably some truth to that. For instance, despite, as Scott documented in “You Are Still Crying Wolf,” Trump allegedly being an open, virulent, racist who posed an existential threat to racial minorities, the voting margins by race in the 2016 election were quite similar to those in the 2012 election.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Real life includes black people (Glen Loury, John McWhorter, Coleman Hughes) who believe strongly that they already know the causes of the high black crime rate (dysfunctional culture) and that focusing on police misconduct is equivalent to ignoring a much more serious danger to black people.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Honest q: suppose you instead shared with the class the clip of Coleman Hughes’ testimony to the same hearing, not as representative of your views but as “another perspective we ought to consider”. Do you think it would be received respectfully or dismissed out of hand?

        • Atlas says:

          I think that a Quillette/IDW-style anti-identity politics argument would be within the realm of polite discourse, yes. It might not be in other classes and/or other universities, though.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s interesting to ask: suppose there was an actual reparations law passed, and every black American who could show some evidence they had at least one slave as an ancestor got, say, a $100K one-time check. What would the result of that look like?

            As far as individuals go, I think lottery winners don’t do all that well with the money on average, so it might be reasonable to predict that neither would the recipients of the awards. Some people would save it or invest it well, but many would blow it all and be broke again in a decade. But I’m not sure what similar situation you’d use to talk about a huge one-time inflow of wealth into a whole community. Can anyone think of a parallel case where one small group got a totally out-of-the-blue lump sum payment?

            How would this compare with the likely results of an UBI? (You could imagine the reparations being in the form of an annuity–every year, descendants of slaves get a check for $5K.)

            My intuition is that the annuity would work out much better than a lump-sum payment, and that the lives and measurable well-being of blacks would increase a bit as a result. But I don’t really know.

          • Atlas says:

            It’s interesting to ask: suppose there was an actual reparations law passed, and every black American who could show some evidence they had at least one slave as an ancestor got, say, a $100K one-time check. What would the result of that look like?

            I don’t know, but I predict that it will result in demands for more reparations.

            More seriously, Scott actually wrote an essay on these issues a while ago, and, as usual, his analysis is more incisive than anything I could say on the topic.

            Also, less seriously, comedian Dave Chappelle had a pretty funny skit about this.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So you basically double Federal spending once.

            Short term effects probably include the creation of a variety of scams to separate the recipients from their money. We probably also see a slight uptick in black homeownership rates, maybe a slight reduction in black bankruptcies (but only short term — medium term we see an increase as the less-wise blow it). Long term… the government’s further in debt and very little has changed. Black people are still worse off and it’s still white people who get the blame.

          • albatross11 says:

            My impression is that lump-sum payments to people unaccustomed to handling lots of money tend not to work out–their budgeting / money management skills don’t scale that far out, so either they learn some new skills quickly or they blow the money and end up little better off a decade later when it’s all gone.

            An annuity would probably work better–at least it would give recipients an amount of money to deal with they’d handled before, and do it every year so they’d get some practice. I’d expect that to have a small but real benefit to the recipients. It still probably wouldn’t equalize outcomes, or even come close to doing so–the causes of those are mostly not the wealth or income gap, and this wouldn’t close either gap. But it would probably make the lives of a bunch of black people a bit nicer, and it seems unlikely to do a lot of harm except in the budgetary sense.

          • Deiseach says:

            It’s interesting to ask: suppose there was an actual reparations law passed, and every black American who could show some evidence they had at least one slave as an ancestor got, say, a $100K one-time check. What would the result of that look like?

            Some people would be sensible. Some would use it to turn their lives around. Some would blow it. There would be a whole raft of scammers, both ordinary thieves and various ‘respectable’ financial industries, rushing in to peddle schemes to gullible recipients to relieve them of their money.

            The effects on the entire black American community would be different, depending on where the community is located; a large, majority black area receiving an influx of millions of dollars is going to have a much bigger total effect on the economy and the lives of the residents than a town with only a few hundred black inhabitants.

          • edmundgennings says:

            The Georgia land lotteries, Cocran’s work, and some work on former slaveowners after abolition suggest that for at least a decade there would be measurable increases in average African American wealth, but about thirty years out there is unlikely to be much differences in average African American wealth levels.
            The impact on whole communities that suddenly get a whole lot of money is something I do not know any precedent for. There would certainly be some sort of interesting community dynamics this would create. Gentrification of poor majority African American neighborhoods would probably stop for a while.

        • BBA says:

          Hughes has been thoroughly slagged for his testimony, with claims that he’s only pretending to hold these particular views to get money and attention from the organized right. There certainly are black conservative grifters out there *coughcandaceowenscough* but I don’t think Hughes is one of them. His views are mostly mainstream left, and until a couple of years ago being against reparations was also a mainstream left view. But there’s a phenomenon here that I can’t quite put my finger on: roughly, that any position that happens to accord with the enemy’s views or give them some benefit, no matter how small, is seen as less legitimate than one that doesn’t. I.e., conservative white dudes are against reparations so we have to be for it, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. And the only reason why you’d agree with them is that they’re paying you.

          On the one hand, I don’t think this is a way to get us good politics or good policy, though it probably does help extremists gain traction within a political movement even as it hinders the movement as a whole (accord Freddie deBoer). But on the other hand, I’m a white dude and I’m probably just denying my own privilege and trying to get out of paying reparations if I express opposition to them, so I’d better just keep my mouth shut – see how pernicious it is?

      • eyeballfrog says:

        Why was it shown in class if not for discussing it?

        • Atlas says:

          It was, of course, but for one thing it was in the context of discussing Kojeve’s theories of authority, as opposed to the specific issue of reparations, and for another I think it would have been highly impolitic of me to share some of my more controversial opinions in this environment.

          For instance, I would agree that, though are nuances and complications that can be added to the mainstream narrative, enslavement of Africans by Europeans/Americans was a crime that harmed its victims, and that reparations to them, preferably financed by those who profited from their stolen labor, would have been just. (Slavery seems to be prima facie bad because would-be slaves could presumably choose to work for free of their own volition if the conditions offered by would-be slave masters were better than their alternatives.)

          However, it is far from obvious to me that the descendants of people who were enslaved in America are worse off today because their ancestors were enslaved, and thus are owed restitution. By most if not indeed every measure of human development, African-Americans considerably outpace citizens of West and Central African countries. As Steve Sailer put it, to return to the subject of the OP, “African-Americans tend to be the poorest Americans but the richest Africans.” Or, as Muhammad Ali is sometimes alleged to have said after visiting Zaire for a match, “Thank God my grandpappy got on that boat.”

          Obviously, that’s the kind of argument I’d rather not make in class under my True Name.

          • Plumber says:

            @Atlas,
            I read a bit of your second link and, ugh just no.

            That their descendents may be considered “better off” doesn’t excuse the slave ships anymore than the descendents of the desperate fleeing Irish in the famine ships being better off.

            Another 300 years or more is needed for the needed distance for that mental exercise.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            That their descendents may be considered “better off” doesn’t excuse the slave ships

            …which is far from what was claimed.

            It’s way too late to compensate enslaved humans. But their descendants are already better off than they would have been absent slavery, so why should they be compensated further?

          • But their descendants are already better off than they would have been absent slavery, so why should they be compensated further?

            The argument would be along libertarian/propertarian lines. The original slaves were owed compensation. They were not paid it, so their claim to compensation descends to their heirs.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think the libertarian argument for reparations isn’t bad theoretically, but practically speaking it runs into massive forensic accounting issues and the issue of setting interest and discount rates.

            It’s also awkward because so many things were stolen at one time that it’s hard to find a principled stopping point. There’s hardly a country that has existed in the last few millenia that didn’t take at least some of their land from some other group who lived there first.

          • John Schilling says:

            The original slaves were owed compensation.

            Says who, and with what legal authority?

            They were not paid it, so their claim to compensation descends to their heirs.

            If a court had ruled that some specific slave had been owed compensation and ordered some specific entity to pay, then yes any unpaid balance on that claim would be inheritable. But there is a statute of limitations on formally bringing the claim in the first place, under every legal system I know of and with good reason. It would be a really bad idea to try and change that.

    • dick says:

      Never met him, but I think the whole reason h-b-d is a banned topic in so many places is that the people who hold strong views on it will espouse them endlessly, to anyone that’s interested and many who aren’t.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Counter-example: Richard Nixon. Democrats could guess based on his behavior in 1968 that he had a low opinion of humans of African diversity, but he’d only talk someone’s ear off about race, IQ and impulse control when he thought it was a secure private conversation. He was recorded as saying the subject was rude and caused hurt feelings.

      • Clutzy says:

        Meh, I don’t see it brought up even in places where its unbanned all that often. At least unprompted. Its a rebuttal theory, in the majority of applications.

    • Plumber says:

      @Well…,
      Full disclosure: I’m a white male, but the mother of my son’s isn’t white, I grew up in mostly black neighborhoods, but as I’ve gotten older the percentage of my acquaintances and friends who are black is less than in the past.

      I’ve developed “heuristics” based on my personal experiences regarding black folks compared to white folks:
      1) A black stranger is more likely to ask me for “spare change”, but they’re also more likely to take “no” as an acceptable answer and not get aggressive than white beggars on average.
      2) Black co-workers have been generally easier for me to get along with than my white co-workers by far.
      3) The black plumbers I’ve worked with have generally done more poorly on the written tests that rank one for interviews for permanent jobs (the supervisors have to interview higher ranked applicants first and give a reason why they didn’t hire any of them), but having worked alongside them they perform better on the job than most who scored higher on the tests.

      I don’t know why blacks seem to do worse on written tests than they’re on the job performance shows, but that’s been my experience.

      I’m glad that doing well on a written test got me my job, but I really don’t think they’re good at seeing how one will do on the job in general.

      I strongly suspect that “IQ” results are overvalued.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I strongly suspect that “IQ” results are overvalued.

        By the standards of psychology, they’re rock-solid science. Take that as you will. 🙂

        • Plumber says:

          @Le Maistre Chat,

          “IQ” still looks to me like an all-too-convenient smokescreen of an excuse to limit rations of education and gravy jobs so they go to a privileged few.

          Looks like the old “right families” system dressed in new clothes, and at best it’s only marginally better as it admits a few exceptional individuals into the club who hadn’t been coached the passwords.

          Still not good enough!

          • Clutzy says:

            The problem with your argument, from my POV, is that if IQ is, “Still not good enough!” then the evidence that providing “rations of education” is useful, is even “less good enough.”

            That is, if you don’t think IQ is a useful heuristic , you basically don’t think anything is in psyche/social science, aside from reducing lead and mercury poisoning in children.

            People often don’t realize how far reaching this is. If IQ isn’t good enough evidence:

            1. There is not good evidence education is useful.
            2. There is not good evidence alcoholism/drug addiction runs in families.
            3. There is not good evidence income affects health. Also, not enough evidence health insurance influences health.
            4. There is not good evidence that obesity causes health problems.
            5. There is not good evidence that there are “passwords”.

            And much more. Basically, the problem with not believing in IQ, is that it means you should not believe in any of your other social or political beliefs.

          • broblawsky says:

            “IQ” still looks to me like an all-too-convenient smokescreen of an excuse to limit rations of education and gravy jobs so they go to a privileged few.

            Looks like the old “right families” system dressed in new clothes, and at best it’s only marginally better as it admits a few exceptional individuals into the club who hadn’t been coached the passwords.

            IQ only measures a small fraction of the range of factors in general intelligence, and arguably not particularly important factors. As a (particularly amusing) example: IQ doesn’t predict how well you can play the ponies.

          • “IQ” still looks to me like an all-too-convenient smokescreen of an excuse to limit rations of education and gravy jobs so they go to a privileged few.

            That sounds as though you think colleges give students IQ tests before admitting them, and employers give applicants IQ tests before hiring them, neither of which is true.

            What is true is that colleges, and some employers, use measures of ability, such as SAT tests, that correlate with IQ. But then your claim should not be about IQ but about some broader category of intellectual ability, abstract thinking, or something similar.

            So far as “a privileged few,” I think at this point about two-thirds of high school graduates enter college, about one third of the population have graduated from college. Your statement would be true of elite colleges, but I thought your view was that education was valuable even from much less elite sources.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I dunno, Stuyvesant (a magnet school in NYC) has an entrance exam (effectively an IQ test), and they’re full of poor, recently-immigrated Asians now. Not exactly the privileged few.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Be careful about restriction of range effects here. If candidates are hired based on some combination of observed job performance and performance on a written exam, even if written exam performance is a good but imperfect predictor of job performance, it may look like written exam performance is uncorrelated or negatively correlated with job performance, because the only way an incompetent is hired is by doing well on the written exam. But that doesn’t mean the exams are useless. You’re just not seeing all the even worse candidates they’re screening out.

        It does sound like the case where you already have a fellow working for you and can observe his or her performance directly is a case where you wouldn’t want to use these sorts of tests, though. Probably it’s a CYA HR thing, ironically trying not to get sued for racial discrimination.

        • Clutzy says:

          This is a good rebuttal to the Taleb anti-IQ argument as well. He, essentially, says IQ is not a useful measure because it is a “cutoff”, that is, its only good at eliminating candidates for something. But eliminating people is extremely useful! Its better to train 2 people, expecting 1 to succeed and 1 to fail, than train 10 expecting 9 to fail and the same 1 to succeed.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t think there actually is evidence of a cutoff above which IQ scores don’t help. OTOH, there is a cutoff on the range of IQs for which IQ scores are meaningful, because it’s hard to get a large enough population of people to norm the test against to capture people way out in the tails.

          • brad says:

            The Beck Depression Inventory II has 21 questions each of which can be rated 0-3. A score of 29–63 indicates severe depression. It wouldn’t make sense to talk about the correlation between a BDI-II score in the 70s and rate of suicides. Such a statement couldn’t be right or wrong it just wouldn’t make sense at all.

            The same is true when talking about above the norms IQs.

    • Viliam says:

      If he meets a black guy on the golf course and they get along, and the black guy suggests they go out for a beer later, will Steve automatically decline even if he’s free and in the mood for a beer, and if so, does he justify it (inwardly, I mean) with statistics about race and IQ?

      Are you genuinely bad at understanding statistical arguments, or is this an attempt to signal virtue?

      In either case, I expected higher quality of arguments at SSC.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Given that have, in fact, had (few, and mostly banned) commenters who have indicated support for some pretty draconian forms of ethnoseparatism, I don’t think it’s such a far-fetched question.

        The motte, “we shouldn’t expect equal outcomes from all populations” does, in fact, correspond to the bailey, “discrimination is good and reasonable” in a lot of cases.

        • albatross11 says:

          Maybe a good first step in finding out how someone thinks about that stuff is to ask them? Especially here online where there’s not really much incentive to lie.

          I mean, Steve could be lying about his political beliefs. For all any of us know, he’s really secretly a Nazi who’s growing a clone of Hitler in his basement for his plan to conquer the world and initiate the Fourth Reich.

          But he’s already gone public under his own name with all kinds of political and social opinions that are widely hated. He’s already been called nasty names by the SPLC, a large number of media outlets would already consider him radioactive for what he’s said so far. So what would be the point in lying about his beliefs further? I mean, he’s already paid like 80-90% of the social and career cost he’d pay for expressing all the worst beliefs you imagine him to have. Why would he stop at his currently-expressed set of beliefs?

          This is also true (albeit to a lesser extent) for the rest of us online who express human b-odiversity or other socially unpopular beliefs. If I wanted a white ethnostate or refused to interact with nonwhites in my personal life, it’s not clear to me that saying so openly would be all that much *more* socially unacceptable than talking openly about IQ and crime statistics by race and their implications.

        • Viliam says:

          We also have a commenter who believes that Stalin did nothing wrong. Does it give me a license to write comments in third person about left-from-center commenters with thought experiments: “If [an imagined situation] will he [do something obviously stupid], and if so, will he justify it with fighting the capitalism?”

          I can try, and see how people react. 😛

          (No I won’t.)

          The motte, “we shouldn’t expect equal outcomes from all populations” does, in fact, correspond to the bailey, “discrimination is good and reasonable” in a lot of cases.

          I wonder how many intelligent politically incorrect people are there saying “discrimination is good and reasonable”, compared with “the apparent discrimination is actually a result of different abilities and preferences” (or “…a result of dysfunctional subculture”).

    • Theodoric says:

      I also live in a blue area, and have some Sailer-esque views (eg immigration restriction, willingness to entertain explanations for different outcomes for different racial groups other than “racism”). I do not see how this is incompatible with being friends with individual immigrants/blacks/whatever. We are talking about averages here. It is much easier to tailor one’s individual interactions to specific people than to tailor government actions. For example, if people in Ethnic Group X commit violent crime at five times the national average, we should expect to see more members of Ethnic Group X arrested and incarcerated, I might support policies that restrict members of Ethnic Group X from immigrating to the United States, etc. This would not preclude me from being friends with a particular member of Ethnic Group X, or patronizing a business owned by a member of Ethnic Group X-those things are done on an individual basis, not a group basis. At most, I would be guarded when discussing politics.

      • Well... says:

        I’m in the same boat as you with regard to Sailer-esque views, and I had black friends and a black wife even when my views were much closer to Sailer’s (I read him daily for five years after all). But it took a lot of compartmentalizing, keeping things secret, etc. I was competent at that task, but it was strenuous and eventually there was a rupture.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Maybe another way to ask the question is: what is a normal amount of tolerance for having to maintain strong separation between “views about how things should be” and “practical everyday behavior, given how things are”? And over time, shouldn’t the latter tend to exert pressure on the former so that less separation between the two is required? (Thus I’m a little surprised nothing seems to have substantially changed at his blog.)

      I’m really confused by your post as a whole and I am really confused about this in particular. There is a massive gulf between how I think things should operate and how things should be, and this is the case for every single American. It’s why politics is such a taboo subject, and also why Old Man rants about politics are so damn funny.

      But this does mean you need to separate your political viewpoints from your personal life to some degree, or you will have to cut off huge portions of the country, and probably negatively impact your life. This isn’t just for Sailerites. Your die-hard Democrats have to interact with die-hard Republicans, your climate change enthusiasts will probably have some friends that have cars, your moronic socialist cousin will come to family Thanksgiving with his Yadda Yadda Yadda, etc. Your best friends from primary school might be huge gun control advocates while you pack enough firepower to equip a small army.

    • hilitai says:

      “If he meets a black guy on the golf course and they get along, and the black guy suggests they go out for a beer later, will Steve automatically decline even if he’s free and in the mood for a beer, and if so, does he justify it (inwardly, I mean) with statistics about race and IQ? Ya know?”

      That seems like a grotesque caricature of Sailer.

    • onyomi says:

      This question interests me both because it resonates with me (who holds political views I know would start huge arguments with many family, friends, and acquaintances were I to express them, especially in “the age of Trump”), and because I wonder if it doesn’t pinpoint some of the flower god of liberalism‘s terrible powers: most people want to fit in and get along with the people around them. Part of that is having pro-social or just “nice” sounding views. The less “nice” your views superficially sound, the more work it is to defend them.

      Well, what’s wrong with just actually having nice-sounding views? One problem is it can lead to a situation where even obvious, uncontroversial truth (such as “men are physically stronger than women”) cannot be discussed in a public forum because it’s taken to signal the wrong sorts of sympathy. I don’t think the people who get upset actually believe, in most cases, that e.g. men are not actually stronger, on average, than women, they just worry about the motivations and implications for bringing it up. There’s seemingly no nice reason to do so.

      Similarly, in real life, people get along fine with individuals of all different groups while at the same time holding all kinds of stereotypes about what those groups are like, on average. Moreover (much to the chagrin of a certain flavor of principle-focused libertarian), they frequently hold completely contradictory views about how it’s appropriate for the government to treat classes of people (such as “employers”) and how it’s appropriate for private individuals to interact in daily life.

      I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this because the tension between abstract ideas about society and individual interactions is one of the biggest issues out there, I think, and not at all one I feel confident about answering, but I think considering the effect, for good or ill, of pro-social and “niceness” bias is important.

      • Viliam says:

        I don’t think the people who get upset actually believe, in most cases, that e.g. men are not actually stronger, on average, than women, they just worry about the motivations and implications for bringing it up.

        You can always accuse anyone of an evil motivation. (So, if that is your only argument, you don’t actually have an argument. Not that it matters, in political debates.)

        On Monday, you can say that only an evil person would try to investigate biological differences between men and women, because there is no legitimate reason to do so.

        On Tuesday, when it turns out that some medicine tested only on men is actually harmful for women, you can accuse the scientists of being evil white cishet males who don’t care about women’s health.

        And on Wednesday, you can repeat your Monday’s position, of course.

  20. Lord Nelson says:

    I have a conundrum, SSC. I am getting married in 7 weeks and I have no idea what music to play during the ceremony. Of the several hundred instrumental songs I own, only two of them might work. The rest are either too fast, too melancholy, from anime/video game soundtracks, or some combination of the those three. The venue had suggestions, but they were almost universally awful.

    I’m looking for something instrumental that sounds fairly traditional, but is not a well-known piece of music. (I am so tired of hearing Beethoven and Vivaldi and Chopin and Bach after 6 years of playing the flute.) Piano solos would be ideal because the venue is providing a live pianist.

    If all else fails I can probably piece together enough music for the prelude, but I’m at a complete loss on what to pick for walking down the aisle. All I know is that if I hear Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, I’m turning around and walking the other way until they stop playing it.

    • Well... says:

      My best friend’s parents played Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” at their wedding. That’s a great selection and I endorse it, but there are plenty of others in that vein.

      For solo piano, I really like “Pagodes” by Debussy; it’s part of the Estampes suite. Ravel’s got some stuff that sounds similar but I don’t know what it’s called. It’s exquisite, beautiful, wondrous.

      • dodrian says:

        Seconding Pictures at an Exhibition, we had it at our wedding.

      • gbdub says:

        Uggh. I was in marching band in high school, and we went to 4-5 band competitions a year. One year, for some reason (I think it was a new arrangement) literally a third of the bands in the state (at least the ones at the competitions) were playing “Pictures at an Exhibition” as their show (we, fortunately, did not).

        Imagine sitting in the sun for 5 hours in a heavy wool and polyester outfit watching other high school kids play the same damn three songs over and over and over and over.

        It’s a nice piece but I can’t think of anything else when I hear “The Great Gate of Kiev”

      • Deiseach says:

        There’s Satie, of course; Gymnopédie No. 2 might be good (if a little slow) for walking down the aisle, depending how long the aisle is. Though right enough, “lent et triste” might not be the mood you want to evoke 🙂

        For a bit more light-hearted and up-tempo there’s his waltz Je Te Veux. Or Gnossienne No. 5.

    • Aapje says:

      Kinderszenen by Robert Schumann

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Video game soundtracks are not necessarily bad- I know someone who walked down the aisle to a version of the turret song from Portal 2. Everyone there either didn’t recognise it or approved.

      I will have to see if I can find what my friend who is a pianist walked down the aisle to.

    • johan_larson says:

      You might look into Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstances Marches. The first one is very famous from graduation ceremonies, but there are five more. Perhaps one of them would be suitable.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomp_and_Circumstance_Marches#Marches

    • b_jonas says:

      I agree with Aapje, Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” is just what I was going to suggest. Specificaly the “knight of the hobby-horse” chapter. Or try to find out who the pianist will be and ask them for suggestions.

    • dodrian says:

      Here is the music we had at out wedding, played by the organist. Some is well known, other less so:

      Arioso – Bach
      Trumpet Voluntary – Clark
      Rhosymedre – Vaughan Williams
      Allegro Maestoso (Horn Pipe) from Water Music – Handel
      Gabriel’s Oboe – Morricone
      Largo from Xerxes – Handel
      Rondeau – Mouret
      Air from Water Music – Handel
      Bride’s entry – Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition – Mussorgsky
      Recessional – The Rejoicing – Handel
      Postlude – Finale from Symphony No. 1 – Vierne

      I’m afraid I can’t find the list of other music we were considering, but I hope some of this gives you ideas. And yes, I do quite like Handel.

    • Deiseach says:

      From Irish traditional music, O’Carolan is the man. I like Eleanor Plunkett (version for piano by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin here) and Mabel Kelly (surprisingly decent version played on guitar here).

      The second one is a bit slow-paced but the tune can be speeded up (a little!) without losing anything.

    • AG says:

      Ravel or Debussy are your guys, because they tend to have piano versions of all of their orchestral pieces.
      Joe Hisaishi (of Ghibli film music fame) also has lots of piano pieces and versions.
      Maybe consider Astor Piazzolla? I mean, yes, most of his music is kind of insistent, since he specializes in the tango, but he has an album literally called Época Romántica, and there are all sorts of down-tempo arrangements of his stuff.

      For organ pieces, you can’t go wrong with the Toccata by Charles Widor, though it’s a barnstormer upbeat piece, so maybe for the ending of the ceremony. I’m sure Widor has other lower-key organ pieces that would be more appropriate for the aisle. Louise Vierne is good, too.

      The shitpost answer is the big romantic theme from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. But your pianist might be overjoyed if you asked them to do an excerpt from one of the famous (and hella romantic) Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov piano concertos. (I mean, hey, the Tchaik piano concerto has even already been turned into crooner pop song Tonight We Love, while Rachmaninov’s became power ballad All By Myself. Yes, that All By Myself, made famous by Celine Dion.)
      There’s also Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, “Romantic.”

      Besides, playing pop songs down the aisle is pretty popular now, too, so anime songs aren’t necessarily out, if they sound sentimental enough. You could just grab their instrumentals, anyways, if you don’t think the audience would appreciate the moonspeak. “Generic pop ballad instrumental” should do fine.

    • Jake says:

      If you have any movies you particularly like, some of them have great soundtracks. The wedding party at our wedding came down the aisle to ‘Concerning Hobbits’.

    • Lambert says:

      Does the Rondeau from Abdelazar count as either too melancholic or too popular?

    • SamChevre says:

      How about Mouret’s Rondeau? It may be a little too dance-like, but it has a distinct beat and is cheerful.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      from anime/video game soundtracks

      It’s your wedding. Play them. I did.

      If anyone notices, they are a fan.

    • Tarpitz says:

      My sister in law walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of Guns n’ Roses’ Patience, arranged and performed by my brother (not the one she was marrying – I have a lot of brothers). It went down pretty well (and I don’t think many of those present recognised it). Could you or anyone you know arrange one of your favourite game soundtracks for piano?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Congratulations on becoming a bride, Lord Nelson!
      What’s wrong with using instrumentals from soundtracks, if you can find ones of artistic merit equal to classical pieces obscure enough to not annoy you?
      There’s a reason people made Wagner’s Lohengrin Wedding Chorus a cliche: it recreates a relevant part of a darn good multimedia story. Have you considered raiding some other opera? The great Handel composed three operas based on the epic chivalric romance Orlando Furioso alone.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Some FOAFs of mine got married about a year ago. The husband’s really into internet memes, so one of them found a slow-paced classical piano arrangement of “We Are Number One” from Lazy Town, for the spotlight dance.

      So, first surprise: this actually exists.

      Second surprise: when they announced the dance, the couple were the only two who knew. The result was a video of the crowd where you see them slowly realize what they’re listening to.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      Thank you for all of the suggestions! I will start looking through them this weekend.

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        Late to the party, but take a listen to Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. They’re short and several of them could work as wedding marches or other wedding music. Book VIII Number 6, “Wedding day at Troldhaugen,” could work for a march. Have your pianist play it at the speed that you’d like. Book VIII, number 2 might also work for a march, or Book IX, number 1.

        Any of these should be easy for the pianist. Many of them would make great prelude music. Book I, number 1 and book VII, number 5 are especially pretty.

        Some other nice ones are
        II, 3
        III, 3
        III, 5
        V, 4
        VI, 2
        VII, 2
        IX, 1
        IX, 3
        IX, 5
        X, 4

        Maybe this isn’t what you are looking for, but to me they sound classic but not stuffy or cheesy.

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Do we have anyone here knowledgeable about ancient DNA sequences? I’d like to fact-check my mental model of prehistoric/ancient population movement.

    • Eponymous says:

      What do you mean? Do you just want a summary of recent findings, or more than that? Technical side of things?

      I understand David Reich’s new book is quite good. In lieu of reading it, Greg Cochran essentially summarized it (plus wry commentary) on his blog in a series of posts. Plus he did a few long podcasts (on James miller’s podcast) discussing some of it.

      The eurogenes blog is good for recent updates, plus you can browse their archives. Google scholar reich and patterson and other authors if you want to read the main papers for yourself.

      This area is changing rapidly and is very exciting right now.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What do you mean? Do you just want a summary of recent findings, or more than that?

        Summary of recent findings is fine.
        Like I remember when I first researched Indo-European origins online, learning that the most popular academic hypothesis was either Gimbutas’s feminist thingy where they came from the ends of the Earth on their horses to spread patriarchy, or a watered down Kurgan hypothesis that still treated the Yamnaya archaeological culture as the IE Urheimat but emphasized adoption of language and pots over conquest.
        As it turns out, Yamnaya Y-haplogroups really do spread west across Europe in the Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age, eventually marking a massive genetic turnover in Britain ~2,500 BC.
        I’d like to find a ton of research summaries like that isolated example.

  22. Nick says:

    An interesting article from The Atlantic about HR. The question is why, after 30 years, have HR departments totally failed to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace? And the answer, Flanagan says, is that that’s not their job: their job is rather protecting the company from expensive lawsuits.

    This seems obvious in retrospect, but maybe I’m just being pessimistic. Does any of it ring false to folks here? The part that bothers me most is that Flanagan on the one hand lists all the way HR spreads its noxious tentacles through the workplace—endless paperwork, dull training, etc.—while on the other hand HR employees she talks to protest that they have no power at all. There’s tension here, I feel. Suppose that these employees are right that HR can’t get you fired for harassment all on their own: still, why is workplace training so utterly useless, when folks like Baute exist? Flanagan says Baute and other alternative approaches are out of the mainstream, but why, really? Is HR’s agenda dictated that closely by company executives?

    • Matt M says:

      I’m going to guess at least part of it is that the definition of “sexual harassment” continues to grow and to encompass larger categories of behavior.

      I’d guess that over time, instances of say, “male boss demands female subordinate sleep with him or be fired” have, in fact, gone down. But those gains are offset by the fact that previously, “male employee politely asks female employee of equivalent rank/status on date” wasn’t considered harassment at all, but today might be.

      • Matt M says:

        After actually reading the article, I’ll add one more point.

        The article mentions that all the trainings didn’t reduce harassment rates. Which sort of implies that the reaction of “Come on guys, just don’t grab women, how hard is that!” is actually correct. That “teach men not to harass” was never a valid strategy in the first place.

        Whether that’s good news or bad news probably depends on your perspective. The “good news” argument would be that this confirms it really is bad apples. That people who harass are rulebreakers, whose bad behavior cannot be eliminated simply by reminding them what the rules are. The “bad news” argument is that it means one of our universally preferred, cheap, low-cost, low-effort “solutions” to reduce a societal problem is almost wholly ineffective, and therefore, we need to channel additional resources into finding some other solution.

        • albatross11 says:

          The point is not to convince would-be harassers that their behavior is wrong and they should feel bad about it, it’s to convince them that their behavior is liable to get them fired.

    • acymetric says:

      The purpose of HR departments was to reduce sexual harassment? Is there a source for that? My understanding is that HR departments are meant to prevent lawsuits against the company from current, former, and prospective employers for a number of causes, sexual harassment only being one, and I’m not convinced it was necessarily even the primary focus. Also highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.

      As far as HR being “powerless”, it is probably dependent on the company you’re at and what particular power you are talking about. I know for me and my manager, HR was an absolute nightmare because they constantly handcuffed us when we were seeking new employees for the department and then complained about the turnover in the department after forcing us to hire terrible candidates.

      • Nick says:

        The purpose of HR departments was to reduce sexual harassment? Is there a source for that? My understanding is that HR departments are meant to prevent lawsuits against the company from current, former, and prospective employers for a number of causes, sexual harassment only being one, and I’m not convinced it was necessarily even the primary focus.

        If you’re going to be a pedant, I don’t have a source for that because I never said “the” purpose of HR departments was or was not to reduce sexual harassment, that it was the “only” one, or that it was “the primary focus.” The claim is whether it is or isn’t “their job,” and it would seem to me that departments can have multiple jobs.

        Also highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.

        This was amply discussed in the article. Literally, the difference is the entire point. I am so confused why you’re even asking me this. Do you dispute Flanagan’s reading of the Supreme Court cases, or the connection between those cases and HR training seminars and the like?

        • acymetric says:

          If you’re going to be a pedant, I don’t have a source for that because I never said “the” purpose of HR departments was or was not to reduce sexual harassment, that it was the “only” one, or that it was “the primary focus.” The claim is whether it is or isn’t “their job,” and it would seem to me that departments can have multiple jobs.

          Uh, I never attributed anything to you, I’m giving my response/thoughts on the article, which I think is what you asked for in your post? I’m also not entirely sure how what I said was pedantic. My point in asking that question was to express surprise that the “revelation” that HR is not in the business of actually preventing sexual harassment is actually news to anyone.

          The author appears to have originally thought that it was their (HR’s) job, realized that it apparently wasn’t, and decided that it should be. I don’t consider myself an especially jaded person, but the idea that the purpose of HR was ever to actually prevent sexual harassment comes off as incredibly naive to me.

          This was amply discussed in the article. Literally, the difference is the entire point. I am so confused why you’re even asking me this. Do you dispute Flanagan’s reading of the Supreme Court cases, or the connection between those cases and HR training seminars and the like?

          I’m saying I can’t believe it even requires discussion. As far as the Supreme Court bit…what did I say that would suggest I disagree with the stuff about the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court parts all point towards HR being about limiting liability, and my point is that HR was always obviously about limiting liability.

          My point is that the article’s conclusion (using your summary) is so obvious that I don’t understand why an article was written about it.

          And the answer, Flanagan says, is that that’s not their job: their job is rather protecting the company from expensive lawsuits.

          Uh..duh? People didn’t realize that? I’m not directing any of this at you, I’m directing it at the author. Some other tidbits from the article presented as “surprising” that I find it hard to believe would surprise anyone:

          No one called for reforming or replacing HR. Just the opposite: The answer to the failures of HR, it seemed, was more HR.

          At an HR conference? Is that surprising to anyone? Not very many people are in favor of replacing their own departments.

          I think I understood this more or less as soon as I learned that HR departments are a thing that exist. Maybe I’m an unusual case, but…did everyone not already know this?

          • Nick says:

            Uh, I never attributed anything to you, I’m giving my response/thoughts on the article, which I think is what you asked for in your post? I’m also not entirely sure how what I said was pedantic. My point in asking that question was to express surprise that the “revelation” that HR is not in the business of actually preventing sexual harassment is actually news to anyone.

            Whether it’s attributed to me or to Flanagan, what struck me as pedantic was the emphasis on what is or isn’t HR’s one purpose. Like, HR is in the business of reducing company liability. It’s also in the business of managing payroll, at least at my company; I thought multiple responsibilities like this is common. So why could HR not be in the business of preventing sexual harassment too, especially when HR employees themselves are so deadset on it? Preventing sexual harassment seems consonant with preventing sexual harassment lawsuits, so why do we get one and not the other? Flanagan answers tentatively that HR doesn’t have the power to follow through on such things. This still raises the questions 1) why folks like Baute are so marginal, and 2) why HR employees themselves are unconcerned with failure to live up to their goals. I was teasing this tension out in my OP. You’re welcome to respond to the article and not to me, but I don’t understand your remarks in the context of the article either.

            I’m saying I can’t believe it even requires discussion. As far as the Supreme Court bit…what did I say that would suggest I disagree with the stuff about the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court parts all point towards HR being about limiting liability, and my point is that HR was always obviously about limiting liability.

            The part I quoted is what gave me the impression you disagree with the stuff about the Supreme Court. For heaven’s sake, you used an imperative verb, i.e., commanded someone—and I took it to be me because you’re responding to me, and it’s not as though Flanagan is here—to “highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.” But this is Flanagan’s point, and the Supreme Court cases were her clearest evidence for it. And that point you not only apparently agreed with but thought was obvious… which makes it a baffling request. Hence my expression of confusion; it was and is genuine. Was it just a typo? Am I completely, totally misunderstanding you?

            At an HR conference? Is that surprising to anyone? Not very many people are in favor of replacing their own departments.

            Yes, that I absolutely agree is naive.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This still raises the questions 1) why folks like Baute are so marginal, and 2) why HR employees themselves are unconcerned with failure to live up to their goals.

            1) Because there’s little the executives can do when Baute says “I’mma destroy your company if you do harassment” besides task HR with telling the employees not to do harassment. And if somebody harasses anyway, the lawyers will be able to point to the employee’s “Completion of Sexual Harassment Training” certification and say “see, we told him not to do it and he did it anyway.” From the article it is not clear that Baute has any real specific program besides I guess “Scared Straight for CEOs.”

            2) Probably because the HR workers present at the conference think they’re doing a good job, and they probably are doing a good job, and it’s everybody else who needs to shape up. “Sexual harassment is a big problem in the workplace. But at my workplace we put together a comprehensive PowerPoint slideshow about not grabbing or staring at women and we get very few complaints from women that they’re being grabbed or stared at so the rest of these people need to get on the ball.”

          • Matt M says:

            From the article it is not clear that Baute has any real specific program besides I guess “Scared Straight for CEOs.”

            Yeah. The article doesn’t make it clear, but it certainly seems like Baute differs from standard HR harassment training mainly in style, rather than in substance.

          • acymetric says:

            I think it might be a little over the top to call

            Also highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.

            a “commandment”.

            That said, yeah I think we’re misunderstanding each other.

            All I’m trying to say is that none of this is surprising…I’m a little surprised that it warranted such an extensive article. I’m also not entirely sure that HR departments are the appropriate party to reduce sexual harassment in the future, because for them to really do that you essentially need a hostile department inside the company that may end up working against the company’s [financial] interests. I’m not really sure that is workable.

            As far as why things like Baute aren’t more commonplace…common/accepted practices have a lot of inertia behind them, it takes a while for new ideas to propagate and that seems doubly true in corporate atmospheres. I also have some doubts about the quality of your typical HR employee (maybe that isn’t fair) which if true is going to limit implementation of solid innovations and lead to sticking with “the way things are done”. Finally, they don’t really establish that Baute is actually effective. They say he is “apparently very effective” but don’t say who that is apparent to or why. It seems plausible that he is, but I would want that claim to be supported by something before I bought all the way in.

      • Deiseach says:

        As far as HR being “powerless”, it is probably dependent on the company you’re at and what particular power you are talking about.

        There’s also an awful lot of governmental regulations and laws that affect employees and HR gets tasked with putting those into practice. It might well be that a particular HR person would be happy to let you hire whomever you liked, but if they don’t tick the boxes about ‘are you compliant with policies/do you have policies in place/remember that amendment 2017 changes the act of 2015’, then they’re leaving the company open to those awkward lawsuits if anything goes wrong – or even if it doesn’t.

        So it’s perfectly possible for, on the one hand, the ordinary workers to say that HR has all the power and is ruling them with an iron fist, and for HR to say they have no power because they’re bound in all the red tape that has to be complied with – or at least that you have paperwork trail to CYA about “yes indeedy we had company-wide training about gender pronouns, we’re shocked and appalled that your client was not referred to as ‘xe and xir’ but we the management can’t be blamed for that”.

        (I’m not in HR myself but dealing with payroll means dealing with regulations about leave entitlements and right now I’d like to burn it all down and have One. Simple. Rule. For. Everyone instead of having to work out 8% of hours worked under this limit of hours in a rolling four year period where four out of five categories of leave taken count towards the calculation of total hours worked except the fifth also counts in this one particular instance. I’d really like it to be “part-time, full-time, temporary, whatever: you get 15 days leave in the whole year, and if you take 12 days off between January and May, then you only have 3 left and too bad if you wanted a fortnight in Magaluf in July, you don’t get paid annual leave for those extra days”. But no, that would be too easy!)

        • acymetric says:

          There’s also an awful lot of governmental regulations and laws that affect employees and HR gets tasked with putting those into practice. It might well be that a particular HR person would be happy to let you hire whomever you liked, but if they don’t tick the boxes about ‘are you compliant with policies/do you have policies in place/remember that amendment 2017 changes the act of 2015’, then they’re leaving the company open to those awkward lawsuits if anything goes wrong – or even if it doesn’t.

          This is probably true in some, maybe many, situations. In my specific case, it usually took the form of “no, we aren’t bringing in any more candidates, you have to choose from one these three terrible candidates that we (really our contracted temp agency) brought in for you, or we aren’t going to fill the spot and then we’ll give the open position to another department since you aren’t using it”.

          Not so much “can’t hire the person I like the best” as much as “can’t request additional candidates if the current crop of candidates are all terrible”. Which feels a lot more like HR flexing than it does like the result of any regulation.

          • Aapje says:

            This seems to be the result of conflicting desires that are not balanced well, by having one department have one incentive and another department have another, so giving any of them the most power results in the other desire being undervalued.

            The cost of seeking out candidates lies in large part with the HR department, while they don’t get the (direct) benefit of hiring a good worker, so they are incentivized to keep the costs down by not looking at too many candidates. They are probably also judged on the salaries of the people that get hired, so are also incentivized to hire candidates with low salary demands, rather than better candidates who demand more.

            However, the department where the person would work has the incentive of being overly picky, as they don’t have to pay the full acquisition costs.

            So if you put all the power with the department where the person would work, the HR costs would be too high. If you put all the power with HR, shitty candidates get hired.

            A potential solution for this is to have the department where the person will work pay HR for the acquisition costs. To prevent monopoly power, one could allow the department to do their own acquisitions, so if HR messes up too bad, they face the consequences, providing incentives to do better.

    • Urstoff says:

      Avoidance of liability drives 90% of corporate behavior.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The part that bothers me most is that Flanagan on the one hand lists all the way HR spreads its noxious tentacles through the workplace—endless paperwork, dull training, etc.—while on the other hand HR employees she talks to protest that they have no power at all.

      Both things are true IMO. HR employees have power over workers, but no power to adjust policies. Therefore, vindictive, corrupt HR employees have power and rule-following ones don’t. Think of HR as a state. Think of HR as seeing like a state. That, IMO, is how and why it fails.

      • Matt M says:

        Hmmm, it’s certainly true that in almost all cases, HR reps lack “local knowledge” of what is actually going on in any particular department…

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t think it’s just that – it’s that HR is constitutionally incapable of changing anything about company culture without “building it on a grid” – AKA, making you fill out a form when you date your coworker (and other marginally less silly but still weirdly fascist things). The change HR wants is not the change it can produce with the tools it has. And us natives hate the tools it has, because we have existing social dynamics that determine how the office finds out we’re dating (in the abstract of course; sorry Matt, but my heart belongs to another).

          The wild thing is that there exist companies where the executives just aren’t caught with their hands in their secretaries’ cookie jars – or if they are, it’s not gross and assault-y and they wind up eloping to San Marino together. [The bad version] doesn’t appear to be an immutable fact of life. The thing is, HR lacks the power to do is alter the culture of [The Weinstein Company], because it isn’t an organic development from within that culture. It can only replace that culture with bureaucracy. Which is probably better in at least some respects, but still makes for a horrible environment to work in.

          • Matt M says:

            The wild thing is that there exist companies where the executives just aren’t caught with their hands in their secretaries’ cookie jars – or if they are, it’s not gross and assault-y and they wind up eloping to San Marino together.

            Right. One of the biggest complications to the “prevent sexual harassment” mission that is given to companies/HR that often goes unmentioned is that to a whole lot of employees (including a whole lot of female employees), being able to potentially date coworkers is a huge perk of the job.

            And I personally know several happily married couples that met at work. Including some who were working on the same team. Including some who were in a supervisor/employee situation.

            To the extent that HR is instructed to create a world where that sort of thing can’t possibly happen, they will be having to engage in a difficult campaign against a bunch of local resistance filled with people who want that sort of thing to keep happening.

          • Aapje says:

            ‘You know that thing that most people consider one of the most important goals in life? Don’t pursue that at all during most of your day.’

          • Matt M says:

            “And ignore all the people around you who successfully obtained it by pursuing it at work.”

      • Nick says:

        This is an attractive theory (you had me at seeing like a state!) but seems doubtful to me, because shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine? It didn’t seem like that from Flanagan’s reporting, and I don’t know how to square the lack of awareness with their presumably very strong desire to actually reduce sexual harassment. Is Flanagan misreporting? Are they misleading themselves, or being misled, about efficacy?

        • Deiseach says:

          shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine?

          It’s like a lot of things in life. Big Splashy Case goes to court and is all over the papers. Something Must Be Done! So government (at whatever level) brings in a regulation about it, or the industry draws up regulations itself.

          These have to be implemented, and the bigwigs at the Top Top Levels of management drop these on the company: This Is How Things Will Be Done From Now On.

          HR (amongst others) gets tasked with implementing these. The reassurance from Top Top Levels is that by doing these things, the problem will be solved and all will be beer and skittles for the happy workers of all genders in the egalitarian wonderland of the new improved workplace. ( In practice, it means more “we are covering ourselves from similar lawsuits”). HR are humans, too: they would like to achieve happy workers in an egalitarian wonderland. Only the cynical and burned-out will go, especially to a researcher, “yeah it’s all tripe and CYA for the company and its share price, not the benefit of the staff”.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine?

          Shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt civic planners be aware they’re hapless cogs in the locality-destroying/tax-gathering/investment-attracting/institution-establishing machine?

        • Two McMillion says:

          shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine?

          People say that good is not nice, but the actual fact is that most good people are nice. And because they’re nice, they don’t notice those that, because you have to be a Machiavellian to notice that.

          The number of people who are both good and Machiavellian is a vanishingly small number, and I doubt many of them work in HR.

          • aristides says:

            I like to think I fit the definition of non-corrupt and good, though you may disagree. Myself and all my coworkers are aware that we are hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine, but in that process, we do the best we can. It’s not even about being powerless from organizational standpoint, it’s being powerless over human nature. We do our best to change actual humans actions so that everyone can work well together, and most humans resist the change. There are enough victories for us to feel that we made a difference, but we do now our goal of having no problems in the workplace is unreachable no matter what we do.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @aristides

            What’s your relationship with “workplace culture” as an institution? Do you see yourself as improving it, replacing it, working within or outside it…?

          • aristides says:

            I would say I work within the workplace culture and make incremental improvements. It’s really impossible to change it in one fell swoop. My Agency went from an all male leadership to an all female leadership 4 years before I started, and I was still rooting out significant sex discrimination and harassment for my entire first year, but it actually did cool off about 5 years after leadership changed. But that is what it takes , complete leadership change and 5 years of hard work.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’m not trying to be cynical, but I’m surprised the author was surprised by this. And she appears genuinely surprised:

      Finally, I realized I had it all wrong. The simple and unpalatable truth is that HR isn’t bad at dealing with sexual harassment. HR is actually very good at it.

      I would think it would be completely obvious to anyone who has ever gone through any HR harassment training that it’s not going to stop harassment and merely exists to CYA.

      Pam Teren, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles, graduated from law school and began working at a firm in 1990. “I thought I’d probably never have a sexual-harassment case,” she told me. The next year, Anita Hill testified, and these cases poured in. She told herself, “This is a five-year window. Because how simple is this? Don’t grab women. Don’t stare at their chests.” We both laughed—it really was pretty obvious. She figured that men would catch on quickly and the window would close. But she was wrong. Like thousands of lawyers across the country, she has been taking sexual-harassment cases ever since. Her entire career has been devoted to this work.

      That’s what the sexual harassment training is. This is very simple and obvious for the vast majority of men with reasonable social skills to understand. The people doing the harassing are people with poor social skills, and you can’t just tell them “get good social skills” and expect that to work. So telling people “don’t make unwanted sexual advances” is useless against people with social skills too poor to determine whether or not their sexual advances are wanted. Since this will not work, it’s obvious the purpose of HR is to cover the company’s collective ass.

      still, why is workplace training so utterly useless, when folks like Baute exist? Flanagan says Baute and other alternative approaches are out of the mainstream, but why, really? Is HR’s agenda dictated that closely by company executives?

      Baute talks to the executives and says “if you don’t stop sexual harassment I’m going to wreck your company.” Since the executives either aren’t the people doing the harassing, or their sexual advances are wanted (because high status) the response the executives will have to Baute is “tell HR to tell the employees to stop harassing.” And they get right to work on the “don’t grab women. Don’t stare at their chests” PowerPoint for the next annual harassment training.

      ETA: Oh, and the other part of the article where she came to understand that “Human Resources” did not refer to resources for humans. It never occurred to me that someone would think “Human Resources” didn’t refer to the management of resources that are human. Basically I think this is a person with a poor understanding of corporate culture. And unreasonably so. Not “ha ha, how naive” but in the “how come you don’t understand the literal meaning of words” way.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m not trying to be cynical, but I’m surprised the author was surprised by this. And she appears genuinely surprised:

        Yes, this is what caught me off guard as well. HR is just an exercise in CYA (and existed for that purpose before sexual harassment was a huge lawsuit concern, for things like discrimination or improper termination).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, that the point of “human resources” is managing the humans who are resources of the company used to accomplish the goals of the company. That means “tell the humans the rules about their interactions so they don’t disrupt the goals of the company and protect the company from disruptions they cause anyway.” It’s not “resources for the humans in the company.” And again I’m not saying this as an “I’m clever and cynical and the author’s naive” type thing. If you call your IT department “Computing Resources,” that’s not because they provide resources for the computers. They manage the computing resources the company uses to accomplish its goals and try to protect the company from disruptions the computers cause anyway.

          • Matt M says:

            Red riding hood shocked to discover that large, hairy, wolf-shaped person in dress is actually wolf that intends to eat her, and not her grandmother, as originally claimed.

      • Deiseach says:

        So telling people “don’t make unwanted sexual advances” is useless against people with social skills too poor to determine whether or not their sexual advances are wanted.

        I’d only demur on this that some people (men or women) don’t care; they have good social skills (or good enough) but they are so self-centred that their gratification means more to them, plus they tend to think they’re too important or whatever to get called out on their shitty behaviour.

        I mean, you’d think “don’t cheat on your wife with a subordinate at work, then get the subordinate pregnant with twins, then leave your wife, and leave your new mother of two mistress in the lurch and move on to a new town and new job and new squeeze” would be Flamin’ Obvious, How Hard Can It Be? and yet that’s exactly what happened at a former workplace (which I was told about by colleagues who’d been there for the whole affair).

        Oh, and the other part of the article where she came to understand that “Human Resources” did not refer to resources for humans.

        Flip’s sake. It used to be called Personnel, then it was changed to Human Resources (“because our workers are our greatest resource!”). Since I was about twenty, I knew this meant more “we treat our employees like a resource: strip mine ’em to the last penny until there’s nothing left but a huge hole in the ground, then move on to new sources”.

    • Erusian says:

      And the answer, Flanagan says, is that that’s not their job: their job is rather protecting the company from expensive lawsuits.

      Is this… news? I thought everyone knew that.

      The part that bothers me most is that Flanagan on the one hand lists all the way HR spreads its noxious tentacles through the workplace—endless paperwork, dull training, etc.—while on the other hand HR employees she talks to protest that they have no power at all. There’s tension here, I feel.

      This is a diffusion of responsibility. The idea that HR doesn’t have the ability to get people fired for sexual harassment is absolutely false. She admits as much in the article: while she goes on about how powerful men are protected she offhandedly mentions non-powerful men can and do get fired by them. This is, she fails to note, the vast majority of men.

      She is choosing to focus on a small subset of elite men. Now, these men are absolutely a problem: the Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys of the world need to be stopped. But the article ignores the class/status arguments in favor of making gender ones. Men who are powerful enough to be worth protecting are protected. Men who aren’t, aren’t. And this is a pattern that replicates itself with many kinds of abuse. Klobaucher verbally abused and frequently humiliated her aids and she’s a pretty normal type among the Type A, highly successful kinds. Likewise, I know of at least one racist anti-semite who is protected by a company because she’s their top salesperson. They could and did fire other people for doing much less than this person gets away with.

      I suspect harassment laws didn’t do much to change this power dynamic. I’m not sure, even in the bad old days, that if you were a busboy and you harassed the waitress old boss McWhiteyson wouldn’t come down and tell you to stop bothering the dolls, see? This means you’re basically in the same position as before: the question is what will your boss tolerate, of office politics, not what will make your coworkers comfortable.

      I’d also like to add: as someone who’s run companies before, my anecdotal experience is that there is a definite hunger among female employees for employers who take sexual harassment seriously. In general, I would say female employee preferences aren’t well served. I’ve often wondered how much of the income gap is that many women (in my experience) will take a hit to wages if the employer will satisfy her other preferences.

    • aristides says:

      So I work HR for the federal government which is a little different, but all of it should have been obvious for everyone in the profession. HR’s job is managing the resource that is humans, and our entire goal is to get as much productivity out of them with as little liability as possible. You don’t achieve this goal by firing your most productive employees, so oftentimes it can be a matter of is this employee worth the lawsuit. In the federal government they usually aren’t, because the ALJs are very harsh, but if we can settle for some money and a reassignment, everyone is happier and more productive.

      As far as the training being useless, believe me it’s hard. If there was a magic video we could show that would prevent workplace harassment, I would. The most effective methods are one on one trainings, or small groups, with tactics similar to Baute, but they are to expensive to roll out to all employees. Even then, I had mixed results and had to reassign a supervisor to a non supervisory role, since it was impossible to teach her how to not harass her employees. I can’t even successfully train employees not to assault each other or clients, sexual harassment is a much baser instinct.

      As far as how closely HR’s agenda is dictated, that depends a lot on the organization and people. At my Agency there was a problem with senior leadership completely controlling HR, causing us many scandals, so they are in the process of taking HR away from the field. As a senior leader, controlling HR gives you incredible power, as humans are at the base of everything in service industries, so controlling them is usually given extreme importance, and that goes double for leaders who want to abuse their power.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        HR’s job is managing the resource that is humans, and our entire goal is to get as much productivity out of them with as little liability as possible.

        Maybe this is a problem of how we are defining the words, but my experience of interacting with HR in any organization has never resembled them managing employees, nor with them being responsible for productivity. That’s the job of, well, management.

        My experience of HR has always been in the quotidian “here are the the resources and tasks common to every employee” (W-4s, employment agreements, benefits, timesheets, etc.) HR was also the resource you could theoretically turn to if your manager was failing at managing you in a humane way. Better than nothing (but not by all that much.) Managers might turn to HR to isolate themselves from the need for disciplinary type actions.

        Just curious if that sounds correct to you, or whether your duties are actually at odds with my experience.

        • aristides says:

          The federal government might work differently than other sectors, but here is how we do it. HR is one part of Management, we are constantly referred to as management by the employees and union. Supervisors are often not promoted based on their leadership ability, but based on their skill in the job. This is because we can’t give raises to high performers without promoting them, only bonuses that are capped at $1000 annually. So the person with the most technical skill is the supervisor, and HR serves as the managing consultant. We don’t have the final say in most things, but most supervisors come to us with all their problems and ask what they should do, and they do it, unless there is a technical reason it’s not a good idea. Even supervisors that are good at managing still have to go through HR for every discipline, performance appraisal, and bonus, to avoid opening ourselves up to liability. We also conduct trainings for supervisors on how to better manage employees, not just sexual harassment.

          Senior executives are a little different, since they actually are chosen based on leadership ability, and to them we really just serve as a liability mitigation team, since they do not know the mountain of relevant regulations and case law that are necessary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This is because we can’t give raises to high performers without promoting them, only bonuses that are capped at $1000 annually.

            Well, that is extremely different than most private sector jobs. Not only that, but many places have management and non-management career tracks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Lots of private sector jobs have “salary bands”; managers can give raises within the bands (and within their total budget) but generally not outside them without a promotion. It appears (hopefully @aristides will correct me if I’m wrong) the Federal General Schedule works similarly but more rigidly, with both grades (GS-1 through GS-15) and 10 discrete steps within the grades. Of course in a healthy industry telling a high-performing employee “We’d like to give you a raise but gee, you’re at top of band” is likely to result in your competitor gaining a high-performing employee at your expense, which may be one reason for the non-management career tracks in private industry.

            One big difference seems to be that there actually has to be an opening for a new position at higher grade for a Federal employee to be promoted, unless they’re in a “career ladder” position (which has a range of grades). In private companies this is usually not true; even at IBM one could advance, e.g. from “Associate Programmer” through “Programmer” to “Senior Programmer” without applying for a new position.

          • aristides says:

            @HeelBearCub, for almost all federal employees, there is only one career track for both management and non-management, so promotion at a certain point have to be to a management position. There are more high ranking positions for non managers in DC, but in the field, they are extremely rare.

            @Nybbler is correct, but I will add that steps are based on time in grade, literally how many years you are at the grade. Yes, your manager can withhold a within grade increase if they go through proper procedures for poor performers, but generally the standard is so rigorous that you are better off demoting the employee instead of just withholding the step. I have actually never had a manager even ask to withhold a step increase, while I work on a couple demotions a year. More importantly, managers have no way of giving steps to high performers at a faster rate, so we can’t keep up with the private sector.

            Also, we are not supposed to do this, but Agencies have been known to create new positions to give good employees promotions, but the process to do so is very complicated and closely reviewed. The new position actually has to be more work, more difficult, or supervise more people to justify the promotion, and the position has to be announced competitively, so the person you wanted to promote might not get it. All together, it’s a 90-150 day process.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That’s pretty chilling, but people can be extremely clueless about their behavior. Some of them might be lying about whether they know they’re hurting other people, but I think there’s some genuine ignorance involved.

    • Lignisse says:

      This is a difficult hypothesis to test, but it seems to me that if you pick any particular year (say, 2000, for example), determine what “sexual harassment” includes at that point in time (call this “sexual_harassment_2000”, and check for the incidence of “sexual_harassment_2000” across the 30-year time period, it’s obviously decreasing.

      It only looks like it’s staying steady because we’re moving the goalposts and comparing the incidence of “sexual_harassment_1990” in 1990 to the incidence of “sexual_harassment_2019” in 2019. But the latter is a subset of the former, which causes an apparent increase balanced out by the actual decrease.

      I’ll go further and say that of course it’s this way, because the nature of socially constructed categories of disfavored behavior means that those categories are going to capture a certain percentage of the worst behavior – not so high that you can say “everybody does it, so it’s not a problem”, but not so low that you can say “nobody really does this, so it’s not a problem”. There’s less reason to expect that percentage to change than to expect any specific behavior to change; the former is more fundamental to the way we evaluate our fellow humans’ conformance to norms while the latter is more contingent on societal particulars.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      The stupid, it hurts!

      Ok, that’s perhaps being a bit uncharitable to Flanagan, but she pretty much holds all the answers and still doesn’t seem to be able to connect the dots.

      I happen to have played both kinds of music in my job (HR and payroll) and still do HR for my company (as opposed to our clients), so I started wondering whether things are done differently in the States, but upon reading the article I see that: no, they’re fundamentally the same.

      Let’s get this out of the way from the outset: HR’s job isn’t to be the employees’ representative, HR’s job isn’t even to protect the company from expensive lawsuits.

      HR’s job is to deal with employment-related paperwork and compliance. No more, no less.

      That means that if you task HR with addressing a problem, what you’ll get is more paperwork – because that’s what HR does.

      That’s why you get the “mandatory harassment awareness training” and “don’t-stare-at-women” PowerPoint presentations. It gives you a form that you can sign off on and put in the appropriate file.

      If you come to HR with a written complaint, you can usually (there are bad HR departments out there) be assured that it will be processed in accordance with established procedures. What won’t happen is HR saying: “Of course, you absolutely shouldn’t have to be dealing with such behaviour at work. We’ll fire the slimebag immediately.” Nor even HR holding an investigative procedure – not unlike a trial – where it attempts to get to the truth of the matter. We have neither the tools, nor means to do so.

      What is likely to happen (and aristides confirms this elsewhere in the thread) is this:

      Most of the time, if the man is truly important to the company, the case is quickly whisked out of HR’s hands, the investigation delivered to lawyers and the final decision rendered by executives.

      Sexual harassment is no different, in this respect, than any other employment-related matter. HR can pass information to the decision makers and advise them on the likely outcomes (for example, legal exposure associated therewith), but at the end of the day it’s the executives that call the shots. That’s their job.

      Indeed, sometimes their decision is to simply take their chances with a lawsuit. Assessing these chances is what the legal department is for.

      Ultimately, HR isn’t the employee’s teacher, nor babysitter, and I think it’s a mercy for everyone involved.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        What won’t happen is HR saying: “Of course, you absolutely shouldn’t have to be dealing with such behaviour at work. We’ll fire the slimebag immediately.” Nor even HR holding an investigative procedure – not unlike a trial – where it attempts to get to the truth of the matter. We have neither the tools, nor means to do so.

        I think you need to re-research.

        Your framing of it is biased, but the core of what you are saying here is what HR promises to employees in all of that mandated paperwork and training, at least in the US.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Are you sure about that? Or is what they are actually promising: “all complaints will be investigated in accordance with relevant laws and company procedure”. Which is the same as “[i]f you come to HR with a written complaint, you can […] be assured that it will be processed in accordance with established procedures.”

          The HR department isn’t a court of law, you do realise that? It typically doesn’t even have any decision-making capacity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            For examples, the sexual harassment training, the anti-corruption training, the ethics training we take at my workplace all a) explicitly state that you should take problems to HR, and b) Show HR resolving the issue in some manner.

            This model of expected behavior is especially explicit in the sexual harassment training.

            ETA: This is not to say that HR is identified as the only resource for employees in all cases.

            ETA2: and what does court-of-law have to do with anything? You do realize that the legal rights of employees not to be fired for behavior (especially behavior in the workplace), rather than protected status, is about nil in the US? This is even more true for “at Will” employment states.

  23. Matt M says:

    Somewhat related to my post in the last OT regarding my media consumption habits and my refusal to read novels:

    The more I think about some of my habits, especially why I make the choices I make, it occurs to me that I might be suffering from a condition that I would call “knowitallism.” Essentially, I have a strong desire to know, well not necessarily everything, but a lot of things. In some senses, this is useful. It gives me a broad knowledge base that can help improve my life in all sorts of ways. In another sense, it’s just the manifestation of personal insecurities that leave me devoting nearly all of my spare time towards activities whose end goal is nothing more than “This will make people think I’m smart.”

    I think it manifests itself in two general forms. To borrow some marketing terminology, I’ll refer to “points of parity” and “points of differentiation.” Points of parity establish that you possess the sufficient traits and characteristics to be considered a proper member of a certain class or category. Points of differentiation establish what makes you different, unique, and special, as compared to everyone else already in that category. Ultimately, I think these are the two main motivations I have for seeking knowledge.

    In terms of points of parity, I need to establish that I’m a member of the category “Generally well informed member of society.” This requires me to establish a baseline, working knowledge of most traditional academic disciplines, which standard education and the occasional refresher does easily enough. Further, I have to be generally informed on current events (even if they don’t interest me). Finally, I have to be familiar with cultural references. This places a bias towards consuming “popular” media, even if I don’t consider it to be particularly high quality, and even if I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in it.

    In terms of points of differentiation, I need to establish that I know a bunch of stuff above and beyond what the “generally well informed members of society” know. This basically means I need to acquire deeper knowledge on somewhat unpopular topics. In a certain sense, the less relevant and more esoteric, the better. I have a lot of freedom here, I can deep dive in any particular topic of my choosing, so long as it’s one that a lot of people I interact with won’t be deep diving into themselves.

    So, my eventual media consumption includes a mix of things I’m consuming solely to keep up on cultural trends (I don’t care about Harry Potter. I watched it anyway when I couldn’t even get through SSC comments without feeling ignorant because I didn’t know what a Slytherin was), things I’m consuming because my brain maps them to “things smart people consume” (I don’t care about Moby Dick. I read it anyway because I feel like if people know I’ve read Moby Dick, they will assume I’m smart), and things I’m consuming because they will make me seem unique and interesting (This category typically includes things I actually do care about, but may result in my going deeper than I otherwise would, to impress people.) I can’t help but feel that if roughly 2/3 of my consumption includes stuff I don’t really care about, something is wrong, and I could make some changes to improve my quality of life.

    Does anyone else, for lack of a better term. “suffer from this condition”? Anyone have any advice as to how to manage it?

    • Nick says:

      I can’t tell how much you’re unconsciously channeling things you read in gwern’s essay yesterday. I don’t think it’s just you and your knowitallism: a related idea was mentioned in an offhand comment about Robin Hanson’s theory of fiction as adapted from William Flesch’s Comeuppance.

      If this theory is true, then yes, a lot of what you read will be for the sake of the group, not you. First, you have to fit in, and the fact that all this reading is time-consuming is the point! We want group membership signals to be hard, not easy, to fake! Second, and more specifically, reading this fiction signals to your group that you cooperate with their norms and punish defectors: your consuming our fiction means you revel in seeing our norms enforced there. It’s a good thing you’ve watched Harry Potter, Matt, because how else will I know you approve of friendship and heroism and disapprove of selfishness and ambition?

      • Plumber says:

        @Nick,
        Good lord those following all the link and references in the two links you posted look like they would take more years than I have left to live!

    • DinoNerd says:

      *thoughtful* Because I’m prospognastic (face blind), I can’t follow most movies, and I can’t determine in advance (from reviews etc.) that a given movie will be comprehensible to me. So I only watch movies when being in the theater is a social obligation – e.g. team building exercises at work. Every once in a while the movie actually makes sense (win!) but not often enough for me to pay for a movie on spec.

      Before I discovered the nature of the problem, my experience was “I don’t like movies” – but people acted disapproving if I ever said anything of this kind, or even failed to get movie references. Now I will admit “I didn’t see that one” but nothing more – and sling movie-originated memes around with everyone else. I don’t know how I’ve managed to absorb all the memes – it certainly wasn’t intentional study of them – but whatever I did, worked. I am now a “normal member of society”, in spite of this handicap.

      But I’m not motivated to work at this, as long as I’m not getting “you weirdo” reactions. I still don’t like movies, and this distaste extends to most video content. (Fastest way to get me to ignore you is to provide videos rather than text in an attempt to communicate with me…. even if your content doesn’t require me to be able to figure out how many characters are in the movie, and which ones are the same from scene to scene.)

    • AG says:

      The solution is to stop placing a premium on the source material. I read only 1 Harry Potter book directly, ever. I still know all of its plot points via cultural osmosis.

      More relevantly, I do little to no video gaming at all. But I can converse intelligently with gamers and they never know that, because I pick up just enough knowledge secondhand from social media, and reading some pop culture websites, viral youtube videos, and wiki articles. (And not even the full articles, too, skimming headlines often gets me enough, and then the few articles I do read in full are the ones hat are worth my time.)

      If you’re consuming things for the sake of others’ impression of you, there’s a whole lot of extraneous consuming you’re doing to achieve that. For most people, cliff notes’ knowledge is sufficient.

    • Deiseach says:

      Hmmm. I am an insufferable know-it-all but that’s a combination of me reading all around me from an early age and having some interests I find fascinating.

      I’ve never felt the need to absorb pop culture simply to fit in with the group, but that’s mostly because I’m bloody awful at fitting in with the group (honestly guys, you will not know how wonderful it was to find SSC and all the people who were interested in seventy dozen weird things and more than that could get references I made and made references I could get!) For instance, a few years back when there was one hot hit TV show made by our national TV station and it was like everyone in the country was watching it, I wasn’t, which meant I did stop a potential conversation at work during break stone-dead when it was:

      Colleague: So, what did you think of last night’s episode? *plainly getting ready for a chin-wag about plot, characters, and what we thought was going to happen next*

      Me: Oh, I didn’t see it. I don’t watch that show. *Tumbleweed then blows by in the still dusty soundless desert*

      Despite that, I’ve absorbed a chunk of pop culture simply by osmosis – there is so much stuff online now, and people creating content, and blogs and social media with spoilers and trailers and fanvids and discussions – like DinoNerd, I’ve had long and detailed online conversations with people about movies and TV shows that I haven’t seen at all, but I’ve seen all the memes and screenshots etc. online.

      • Matt M says:

        you will not know how wonderful it was to find SSC and all the people who were interested in seventy dozen weird things and more than that could get references I made and made references I could get!

        True.

        And yet also true that here I am, reading Seeing Like A State, and when my girlfriend asks “Why are you reading that?” I can do no better than to answer “So I’ll get more of the references that are made on this blog I like…”

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Seeing Like a State is the book I liked, learned from, disagreed with and ultimately dropped. It may be the exception – feel free to switch to, for example, The Secret of our Success. It’s better, and also more fashionable right now. Bonus social points.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      I find your comments immensely insightful…refreshingly so. Good work! All I can add is that it is far worse than you now realize, but you are definitely on the right path.

    • Incurian says:

      Causal density is high, and often diverse. Learning weird, seemingly unrelated things often seems to offer insight into lots of other stuff. So it’s not just fun, but useful to learn all the things. Except for pop culture, you can just skim the cream of that from tvtropes.

      • Matt M says:

        Honestly, pop culture seems more valuable to me than Moby Dick. I’m more likely to encounter people who will be able to tell I just skimmed the cliff notes and don’t really understand Harry Potter than people who will be able to tell I did so for Moby Dick…

        Of course I’ve also found that my personal tastes are not very well calibrated with critical consensus when it comes to classic literature. I love some of it, can’t stand others. So I couldn’t know, in advance, which category Moby Dick would fall into…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Moby Dick seems more like the pop culture of its day, though.

          For instance, “Citizen Kane” is pop culture, right? Even if it’s also a classic?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Citizen Kane is a pop culture reference to the same extent calling someone Socrates for asking too many questions is a pop culture reference.

            It’s not unintelligible to non-intellectuals, and it’s a resonant cultural element, but it’s not exactly “pop.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Mmmm, sure, there is some level of truth to that. But the broad works of Welles would seem to definitely fall broadly into pop culture. He wasn’t making art house films.

            And if we took Shakespeare as reference rather than Melville…

            I just think it’s a little bit of a mistake to try and draw a bright line between these things.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @HBC

            What of Welles’ is more pop culture than Kane? Chimes at Midnight? Touch of Evil? The Trial? He was an indie director in the Golden Age, and I don’t think he’d be rightly described as “pop” in any era, especially post-RKO.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I first read that as (HG) Wells.
            Yes, he was pop culture…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            War of the Worlds? Really, I guess his radio work in general? Much of his acting work?

            And I was thinking of Touch of Evil as well. And his broad artistic influence on noir.

            Maybe we are just disagreeing about what amounts to “pop” or popular.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Maybe we are just disagreeing about what amounts to “pop” or popular.

            Yeah, I think so. Reasonable disagreement that’d be tiresome to hash out, probably.

          • Nick says:

            Even aside from the “what is pop” question, what’s probably pop in one century, if it survives at all, is not pop in the next. Not every artist is Dante, who has the great poets mark him sixth of their line.

          • Matt M says:

            For instance, “Citizen Kane” is pop culture, right? Even if it’s also a classic?

            Personally, I wouldn’t think so. To me “pop culture” means “things that are popular in the current culture.” This can include things that are old, but this will be quite rare.

            What do you suppose the percentage of people under 40 who have seen Citizen Kane is? And how do you think that percentage compares to say, the percentage of people under 40 who have seen Toy Story 2?

            I’d say, based on the interest in Jane Austen among young women at least, Pride and Prejudice is probably closer to being “pop culture” than anything from either Well(e)s, Orson OR HG…

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,
            I saw Citizen Kane but not Toy Story 2, but I’m over 40 years old.

          • “What is pop”

            You guys are over complicating it. Ask your coworkers if they saw the latest marvel movie. Then ask them if they have seen or Citizen Kane. They are likely to have strong opinions on the former and more likely than not have never heard of the latter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sure, the Citizen Kane and Moby Dick of today’s pop culture are one paragraph memes. But that wasn’t really my point.

            To understand the pop culture of today, it can be useful to understand the culture of the past. One holds more appreciation for and understanding of West Side Story if one is familiar with Romeo and Juliet. A familiarity with Christian themes of martyrdom informs our reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Familiarity with “1984” enhances our appreciation of STNG’s “Chain of Command”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            You’re going to miss a lot in the Simpsons if you don’t have a wide range of knowledge.

    • Well... says:

      Yeah, I totally suffer from it. I manage it by avoiding journalism and trying to improve my conversation skills, which means making an effort to do more asking people questions about themselves and less telling people the unusual things I know. I fail most of the time, but at least I try.

    • Elephant says:

      Like Feynman said, “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” It seems strange to me that you’re basing your entertainment choices on keeping up with others rather than experiencing things you actually enjoy.

      As for advice: I think you’re undervaluing how interesting and appreciated it is to bring unusual things into a conversation. When everyone is talking about movie X, being able to say “that reminds me of [strange thing in movie Y or book Z] that I really recommend.”

    • imoimo says:

      I get what you’re saying with respect to pop culture stuff, but when it comes to SSC I don’t feel this at all. I read SSC 100% because it’s interesting, fun, and I look forward to having conversations about it (which I’d consider different from ‘so I don’t feel left out’). Surely part of why you read SSC rather than joining some other community is because it appeals to you for non-social/status reasons?

    • JPNunez says:

      Reading Harry Potter will only get you so far, cause we are mostly influenced by Eliezer’s fanfic Harry Potter and the methods of rationality, which is ridic long.

      WRT the Harry Potter houses, just read a summary on wikipedia. On the other hand, now that I think about it I haven’t seen HPMOR referenced here in a long while so maybe I am wrong.

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M,
      If I remember it accurately in the preface of Bulfinch’s Mythology he says that a reason for his compilation is so that the reader may better understand allusions to myths in poetry.

      Interesting (or at least engrossing) conversations are a common way of feeling happy for a while, so if you’re reading in order to have conversations with others I see no need to stop.

      I too read some Harry Potter (two and a half books) to understand the words of Millennials, but eventually you just get too old to care, I just can’t make myself watch the post ’80’s “Star Wars”, or much of “Marvel Cinematic Universe” movies, anime, or video games (they give me a headache), and yes I do feel left out of the culture, but fortunately my wife mostly feels the same way.

      As you get older I imagine that you’ll feel less desire to be “with it”, which in some way is unfortunate as having conversations is supposed to usually be healthy.

      I think a clear solution is to go Fahrenheit 451 on all post 1980’s genre works to give people time to catch up and have a common “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”/”Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel” mythology to communicate with, maybe allowing a few limited things to (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deep Space Nine, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, maybe a few others) to escape the flames, but dagnabbit there’s just way too much creativity lately, and too damn much of it is superheroes.

      Slow your roll people!

    • LesHapablap says:

      All of our hobbies and sports and restaurant choices are based on who we desire to be seen as. So it is all 100% signalling. I can’t remember who said that.

      • I don’t know who said it but, as stated, it’s obviously false.

        Even if I wanted to be seen as a great basketball player, it wasn’t an option. And restaurant choices are affected by price, spicyness, presence or absence of MSG, and lots of other variables.

      • John Schilling says:

        I can’t remember who said that.

        Someone who thought that smug cynicism was an effective way to signal his intellectual superiority.

      • LesHapablap says:

        It was actually a stronger statement than that. It was basically that all behavior is signaling, even behavior that is completely private. The sort of thing that while maybe is true in some way it is a really counterproductive way to view the world.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          I would be interested in more elaboration of what you mean by counterproductive. What is being produced, for instance, that viewing behavior so truthfully would counter?

        • LesHapablap says:

          Counterproductive to having a good life.

          It’s counterproductive in two ways:
          1. It implies a very cynical, negative view of others’ motivations. Actually holding those views in your head day-to-day will make others around you treat you worse, because you will be a pain in the ass to be around.
          2. It makes a negative value judgement on signaling. Signaling is extremely important to learn, but there are a lot of idealistic messages in our society telling kids to ‘not judge a book by its cover.’ Many socially inept kids (like myself a long time ago) internalize those messages, that it ‘shouldn’t matter how you look/dress.’

          The game of life has certain rules whether you like it or not, and teaching kids that they shouldn’t want to follow the rules is a real handicap for them. (Some of the game of life’s rituals seem arbitrary but actually serve important functions. Judging people by their appearance is one of them.)

  24. imoimo says:

    I want to see an adversarial collaboration involving Steven Crowder (the Change My Mind guy). In this video about “there are only 2 genders” (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hUrBKFG9Ilw) he comes off to me as respectful and truth seeking (though not perfectly so). Given that it’s rare in my experience to see this on the right, and that he’s also very evidence-oriented (at least in intention), I’d love to see someone actually engage with him on the science and see what survives. If he had an opponent that could go toe to toe on the science I bet he’d be very interested.

    Suggestions for who he could face? Or objections to my whole idea?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Crowder’s show is called “Louder with Crowder”.

      Respectful isn’t really his brand.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The “Change my Mind” bits are respectful, though, because he’s going in to enemy territory (college campuses) and obeying all the rules so they don’t have an excuse to kick him out. If he’s super lucky, he can get an “I AM SILLY!” response to his respectful demeanor.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Uh huh.

          Which means he isn’t useful for adversarial collaboration. He isn’t interested in the best answers or arriving at truth.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would say he’s not good for an adversarial collaboration because “researcher” is not his job. But saying he’s not or incapable of being respectful is false.

          • Nick says:

            HeelBearCub, how is Crowder seeking out a place to talk to folks he knows he disagrees with disrespectful or evidence of disinterest in arriving at truth? Better question, how does it differ from what you’re doing right now?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            A periodic reminder that one person cannot derail a thread by themselves. If no one responds to the derailer, nothing is derailed.

          • imoimo says:

            Conrad, why is being a researcher necessary for AC? Weren’t the AC contributors on SSC mostly readers with a passion for the topic? Crowder’s awareness of the research seems impressive, if likely biased, which is perfect for AC.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I said respectful wasn’t his brand. That is a different thing.

            The provocateur certainly has a long and esteemed tradition. Engendering outsized responses to reasonably stated premises goes back a long way.

            But one shouldn’t trust that the provacateur is engaging in the dialogue in good faith. They are not. It is not their intent.

            But, I’m sure Sam Seder would happily have a conversation with him on the topic, if Crowder actually wanted that.

            On a different level, I very much doubt the timing of OPs request as well. It smacks of promotion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @imoimo: I’m just saying the guy runs a moderately large video production company. That also just lost a major revenue stream. He probably does not have the free time to go co-author a research paper.

            @HBC: Really? We’re now accusing posters of being shills?

            Edward Scizorhands: “A periodic reminder that one person cannot derail a thread by themselves.”

            HBC: “Hold my beer.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Heck, you just brought up the event yourself. As relevant to the conversation.

            And I note that imoimo is not a regular commenter. In the last month of OTs they have made all of two comments on melatonin and one noting that the word for the topic of “Enormous Nutshell” seems to still be banned.

            Do YOU think Crowder is a good choice for someone to do an adversarial collaboration with? I’m not talking about how much time the guy does or does not have, I’m talking about disposition. We aren’t talking about someone like Douthat or French or (milquetoast as he is) Brooks.

            I mean, if I suggested Jordan Klepper for collaborator, I guess that would somehow be fitting, but I don’t think it would be particularly enlightening?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I think imoimo is wrong, youtube/podcast personality folk are not particularly well-suited to that kind of work. Who’s he going to do it with, Cenk Uygur? I’d probably pay to see that, though. There were some pretty good memes when Cenk and Alex Jones got into it at the 2016 RNC.

            But I also don’t think you should go around accusing people of “promotion” without evidence. You want to derail a thread just start screaming “SHILL!!!”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Accusing new posters of being shills is incredibly unwelcoming. This is a hard enough board to de-lurk on as it is

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Fair enough.

            Note that shill was your word, not mine. My thought was more “this seems like a Crowder fan looking to make some other point about Crowder”. But I get where you are coming from.

            On the flip side, I think “Crowder seems very unsuited to this role” is a highly relevant point. Contingent on your answer, there is an obvious follow up point/question.

          • imoimo says:

            HeelBearCub, not sure why you needed to go there, but your suspicion is unfounded. I learned of Crowder a few days ago from his videos, and didn’t know about the recent controversy until halfway through my OP when I realized I should google him. I have no intention to promote him, just want to raise the waterline.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @imoimo:

            When you googled him mid post, and realized there was controversy did you reassess whether Crowder was actually a good candidate to put forward to have a collaboration with on this specific subject?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @HBC:

            Shill:

            A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.

            That sounds an awful lot like someone who engages in promotion without disclosing they’re engaged in promotion. “Whoa whoa whoa, I didn’t call you a rapist, I just said you force people to engage in sexual intercourse without their consent!”

            On the flip side, I think “Crowder seems very unsuited to this role” is a highly relevant point. Contingent on your answer, there is an obvious follow up point/question.

            I’m a little slow, what’s the obvious follow up? Crowder’s skills are in communication more so than research. I don’t think one should have to conduct formal research in order to teach or evangelize. About the only person who does research and is an excellent communicator on a wide variety of social topics is our illustrious host, and there’s only one of him, which is why we’re all here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            As I already said, I saw where you were coming from. Shill has an extremely strong negative valence. I can get where you drew that as implication.

            If it helps, I will now more explicitly say that particular sentence wasn’t helpful and I was remiss in writing it.

            As to the other, you now seem to be going back to “only people who are researchers can be adversarial collaborators”. Where the word “researcher” seems to means some specific set of skills.

            I don’t think that’s the case.

            I’m fairly sure that if you and I decided we really wanted to do it, we could have an adversarial collaboration on some topic. That’s based on my history of interaction with you and having some sense of how sincere you are in conversation, as well as the fact that I don’t think I can easily convince you of any particular thing, but I also believe you to be persuadable.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, HBC. The extremely small amount of affection is mutual, I assure you.

            ETA: Oh and to the actual point, no I’m not saying “only researchers can be adversarial collaborators.” I’m saying that’s not where Crowder’s skillset is, so it would probably be a waste of his time. I’m trying to figure out what your point is about the “obvious follow up question.” That because Crowder wouldn’t be a good fit for an AC he’s bad or something? Does that apply to Cenk and left-wing pundits/podcast hosts?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            I’m saying that the professional persona of “Steven Crowder” [leaving out whoever the private Crowder is, because he is non-accessible] seems like an obviously bad candidate for adversarial collaboration. I would say the exact same thing for Cenk.

            Suppose someone came on here and a) suggested Cenk was clearly a great candidate for AC on the subject of, say, regulation, and b) strongly signaled that they were a conservative who loved Cenk’s reasonableness, unlike most of the left wing.

            What would your reaction be?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            a) suggested Cenk was clearly a great candidate for AC on the subject of, say, regulation,

            I would disagree with them.

            and b) strongly signaled that they were a conservative who loved Cenk’s reasonableness, unlike most of the left wing.

            What are they citing as evidence of Cenk’s reasonableness? The reason Crowder might be reasonable is his “change my mind” bits. If you take those at face value, asking someone to change your mind signals reasonableness. But then you look at who Crowder’s asking to “change his mind” and see it’s random college students…yeah he’s really trying to change their minds. Which is what a political pundit/advocate/podcast type person does.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            yeah he’s really trying to change their minds.

            Not really. He’s trying to generate content.

            I can’t be arsed to go through the entire thing, but note how he blatantly lies in the intro to the video. He says to Alicia (paraphrasing) “I didn’t say anything about male brains, you did. You brought it up.” At ~5:15 he is the one who first says “I have a male brain” when talking to the Danielle. He wants that heated reaction. It’s what he is looking for. That or someone who, as you said, can be convinced to state on camera that they changed their mind.

          • Nick says:

            I think a good piece of evidence here is, has Crowder ever changed his mind from one of these conversations? I can’t imagine college students persuade him very often, but if he never concedes a point that’s damning.

      • imoimo says:

        If you don’t think Crowder fits my description, who does? The category “moderately respectful, evidence-seeking, solidly right-wing” is not large.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Adversarial collaborations first need to arise from a position of trust. I’m not sure what you are asking for here is really possible. Two people can potentially be set up to debate each other, but adversarial collaboration is something different.

          • imoimo says:

            I think the beauty of AC is that it only requires a small amount of trust (essentially that your collaborator will take it seriously, not back out, and not ignore your evidence), but can build further trust along the way. Possibly I’m being too optimistic, but we won’t know unless we try. And someone like Crowder could only lose face by failing to properly collaborate, since he’s so focused on engaging with the enemy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think the beauty of AC is that it only requires a small amount of trust

            not ignore your evidence

            Well, this isn’t all that you have to trust them to do, but I think you are understating what a large ask this is for most people.

        • BBA says:

          In my experience, the category “evidence-seeking” is infinitesimally small. It may not exist. Most people who think they’re seeking evidence are just subconsciously engaging in motivated reasoning. I know I certainly was.

          Yes, I carry this lamp around in broad daylight, what of it?

          • albatross11 says:

            Do you ever change your mind on big issues? If so, there’s probably *something* besides motivated reasoning going on.

          • Nick says:

            If so, there’s probably *something* besides motivated reasoning going on.

            Not so—his motivations could have changed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:
            Could have. But let’s posit that most people have changed their mind on something without changed motivations. And then we can also look at the possibility that the “changed motivations” themselves are frequently the result of a persuasive process.

            I think it’s a fair amount too cynical to think it’s “turtles all the way down”.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I’m not remotely as cynical as that comment might sound. I pointed it out for albatross to fix his argument, not so I could ruin it.

            I think that when pride and status enter into it—a usual reason for motivated reasoning—the more common outcome is for someone not to change their mind at first, or be unwilling to admit they’ve roundly lost. But I’ve known folks to change their minds over time following a loss without even realizing it. (I’ve even pointed it out, to some dissonance.) In other words, folks save face while still aligning themselves with the better argument, just not immediately. I believe Robin Hanson has written about this phenomenon.

          • BBA says:

            I’d say “change in motivations” (goals, values, priorities) just about covers every time I’ve changed my mind on a big issue. On smaller issues, yeah, I use evidence to determine whether method X will achieve goal Y, but the overarching goals don’t change.

  25. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Academics losing it about The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Died laughing. Am dead now.

    • rubberduck says:

      That was really funny, thanks for sharing!

      Related: a chemistry prof once told me that at conferences, the fiercest debates are at the computational chemistry seminars, where the research is purely theoretical. Apparently shouting matches are not uncommon. And indeed, when I took a physical chemistry course with a prof specializing in computational chemistry, she delivered a sermon on why her computational approach is superior while the most popular approach is overrated and computationally inefficient.

      Is this a general trend in academia? Do fields (or subfields) further removed from data or practical application have fiercer debates?

      • quanta413 says:

        I suspect so. The public debate between physicists over string theory is pretty fierce. I bet it’s fiercer and weirder from the inside; I’ve only heard a tiny bit from people closer to the inside though.

        You hardly see biophysicists or experimental condensed matter physicists get into that sort of brouhaha because enough data will eventually tend to favor one or another theory, a synthesis, or neither. Although it may take a couple decades of experiments going one way.

      • Aapje says:

        Without the risk of being proven wrong, there is no need to restrict hubris for fear of being humiliated.

    • Etoile says:

      When we read this story in high school, nobody – and it was a lefty city high school class full of look-how-clever-I-am teens – thought about the orangutan as anything more than that.

      Some tropes are just tropes. They aren’t “coding” for anything. Like the way children talk – 19th century books all make children talk in these strings of loosely connected observations: “hi! I’m kitty, but mommy said it’s really Katherine. My friend is also named Katherine. I think names are funny. Is that your name written there? I like your writing. It’s pretty. My sister is learning to write and it’s horrid, crooked like witch’s shack. Do you think witches are real?….”

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Satan is not a fucking pogo stick!

      Words to live by.

  26. Eponymous says:

    I’m surprised there hasn’t been discussion in the OTs about Iran (unless I missed something). Recent events seem potentially very significant, and given the interests of people around here I would have thought it would have been discussed.

    Personally, I’ve felt quite frustrated for a while that I haven’t found any sources on the issues surrounding Iran that seem to be both knowledgeable and nonpartisan.

    It seems clear to me that Iran was trying to develop a nuclear weapon (for reasons I don’t fully understand, besides just generic leverage), that we didn’t want that, so we put pressure on them and eventually brought them to the negotiating table. Then Obama worked out a deal (of which I can’t find any assessment that I trust to be nonpartisan), Trump pulled out of it, and now we’re in some sort of weird pressure situation, with what seem to be quite dangerous recent escalations, plus news stories indicating that several of Trumps advisors want a war, though Trump doesn’t. And Iran itself seems to be behaving erratically and dangerously, for reasons I certainly can’t understand.

    Overall this strikes me as a quite volatile situation, and I would be interested to have the analysis above corrected or fleshed out, and to hear peoples’ predictions (and reasoning) for how this is likely to play out, especially the probability of military action.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Even though John Schilling is more of a North Korea analyst, he would probably be the most knowledgeable person to ask about what the hell is actually going on with Iran.

      As a semi-informed rando, my understanding is that the threat of an Iranian nuclear attack on the US is relatively low but is deliberately exaggerated in the press because the American people (myself included) would have a lot of trouble giving a shit about the actual threat. Iranian nukes would be an existential threat to Israel, and would shift the balance of power away from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia who might then attempt to make or buy their own bombs for deterrence purposes. In the worst case scenario, instead of Israel being the only nuclear power in the middle east they would be surrounded by nuclear-armed Muslim nations. Which isn’t really our problem so much as theirs.

      Of course the bipartisan neoconservative / neoliberal consensus will keep pushing for war with Iran for that reason, and Trump may just be dumb enough to give it to them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but I’m not hopeful.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m also a not-very-informed rando on the internet, and what Nabil says sounds about right to me. I don’t have a lot of faith in any news source I have to be either unbiased or accurate on the story.

        It’s easy to see why the Iranians want nukes–they want to be sure we’re not going to regime-change them. They presumably have noticed that Saddam and Gadaffi are dead but Kim is still healthy, and think they’d like some similar level of protection. ISTM that going back on the Iran deal continues our run of foreign policy actions that make it clear that it’s impossible to make peace with us. We will go ahead and go to war with you or back out of peace agreements with you, entirely based on domestic political concerns or relations with third party nations (France in Libya’s case, Israel and Saudi Arabia in Iran’s case), even if you do everything we ask of you.

        I’ll admit up front that I am not any kind of expert on foreign policy, but this strikes me as a really bad strategy for getting the world to look like we want, long-term. Just in case there was any chance at all of Kim taking a deal to dismantle his nuclear program (probably there wasn’t), watching how quickly a US president backed out of the Iranian nuclear deal probably finished convincing him that there’s no safety to be had in such a deal. And that’s true for anyone else that finds themselves considered a rogue state by the US. We might as well take out ads in the world’s newspapers, encouraging rogue states to either get their own deterrent or sign on as a client state of someone with a nuclear arsenal, to avoid us regime-changing them.

        • Eponymous says:

          I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I will say that recent history admits another interpretation.

          Yes, the US removed Saddam, but we had a long history there. We had fought an earlier war, kept strong sanctions and no-fly zones in place, and he tried to assassinate a former US president (father of the president who took us to war). Then that war turned into a huge disaster. Opinion polls suggest limited appetite among the American public for another war.

          Obama went to great lengths to avoid deploying US troops to new areas. We didn’t do a darn thing to stop NK from getting nukes when we could. We’ve let Russia take over eastern Ukraine. We barely managed to prop up our disaster client state in Iraq, which is now under Iranian influence anyway; and “our” side is getting thrashed in Syria. We’ve barely supported the Saudis in Yemen, which is a disaster. We’ve let Egypt return to military dictatorship (maybe supported it).

          Yes, we took out Gaddhaffi, but that we intervening in an ongoing rebellion. And then we got the heck out of there, with terrible consequences.

          And we came to the negotiating table and basically gave in to Iran, giving them a very generous deal. (Note: I’m not sure this is true, but some people say it, so I’ll put it as part of the “other side” of the argument).

          Then, to top it off, we elected an isolationist, inexperienced populist, who’s been ticking off our historical allies, and making nice with dictators friendly to Iran.

          In other words, one could argue that America currently is weak, is not interested in direct military involvement abroad (preferring to fight wars through proxies, who have proved themselves massively incompetent), and has shown itself willing to cave in negotiations. Heck, they might even perceive Trump as having recently caved on things (tariffs, Mexican immigration, the wall), and weak in terms of domestic politics (unpopular, talk of impeachment). They might think the American people won’t follow him to war.

          Plus, there’s loss aversion — once you had an awesome deal (from Iran’s perspective), you feel you have a right to it or something like it.

          I’m not sure the interpretation above is more correct than yours. The truth may be somewhere in between, and different groups in Iran may disagree on this. But it’s a reasonable interpretation of the facts, I think, and may also be motivating Iran’s actions.

      • bean says:

        like Saudi Arabia who might then attempt to make or buy their own bombs for deterrence purposes

        Saudi Arabia thought of this a while ago, and bankrolled Pakistan’s nuclear program. I strongly suspect they could have warheads for their ballistic missiles within a few days if they want to.

      • John Schilling says:

        The threat of an Iranian nuclear attack on the US is approximately zero because they have neither nuclear weapons nor missiles capable of reaching the United States. Also, the Iranian regime doesn’t face the sort of existential threat that would plausibly lead them to resort to using nuclear weapons. Iran is not North Korea, though if we work at it we can perhaps make it so.

        The threat of a US attack on Iran is small but not zero. I’m fairly certain that Donald Trump really, really doesn’t want to get the US into any stupid foreign wars – or even smart ones. He wants to take credit for diplomatic solutions. The problem is that he isn’t nearly as good a negotiator as he thinks he is, and the risk is that he may misinterpret the failure of his dealmaking as being the treachery of his adversaries.

        The bit with people blowing holes in the sides of oil tankers is just baffling. I can see no advantage whatsoever for the Iranian government doing that now. Now, they have at least a small chance of decoupling the US from its traditional European allies and breaking the sanctions regime, at basically no cost to them except playing nice for another six months. If that doesn’t work, they can start attacking tankers then. And the slim chance that such a thing would do them any good, would be at least somewhat enhanced by being seen to have tried the carrot before the stick.

        On the other hand, actual false-flag attacks are exceedingly rare – at least for the literal definition of “attack” that involves kinetic violence and in this case military ordnance. The risk of discovery and consequences of same are too high; almost nobody does that outside the pages of bad fiction. But if this were a work of bad fiction, there are some obvious candidates with method, motive, and opportunity – starting with the Saudi regime, followed closely by the Israelis and then the Bolton faction within the Trump administration.

        The most likely explanation is that the attacks are being done by “Iran”, but not with the authorization of the Iranian government. There are powerful elements within Iran that have the resources to carry out such an attack, aren’t known for their strict submission to the authority of the civil government, and might fear being diminished within the Iranian system if the next few years see an emphasis on peaceful economic development. The IRGC comes to mind here. And for this purpose, I’ll consider the Houthis in Yemen to be a de facto part of Greater Iran.

        But I’m not completely ruling out literal false-flag attacks, or the Iranian government being stupid enough to do this straight up. Almost all of the available evidence comes from the executive branch of the US government, and something like this really calls for independent credible sources for verification.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’m fairly certain that Donald Trump really, really doesn’t want to get the US into any stupid foreign wars – or even smart ones.

          I realize that Trump certainly has strong inclinations to avoid protracted foreign involvement, whether combat or occupation… but he also seems to have signaled at some point that he thinks shooting wars, like trade wars, are easy to win if you just use enough force.

          It’s not clear to me that he is actually strategically reticent to initiate force.

          • Eponymous says:

            It’s not clear to me that he is actually strategically reticent to initiate force.

            Of course not. Witness the airstrikes that killed a large number of Russian special forces in Syria. Would Obama have done that?

          • DeWitt says:

            Would Obama have done that?

            Yes.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think the probability of military strike is usually over-estimated WRT Iran. Iran is stubborn and really likes to push red lines, but they generally recognize when something is not in their interest and do their best to avoid a massive response, while still imposing costs on the other parties. For instance, their building up a huge stockpile of highly enriched (though not weapons-grade) uranium was, for them, costless, but still imposed a major cost on the Western nations (because they COULD have a bomb at any time), without causing IMMEDIATE alarm (because they don’t have weapons grade uranium RIGHT NOW).

      So, I think they will try very very hard not to do anything that would provoke an immediate military attack. The mining of the tankers is a weird exception, but I think they are banking that they have not caused major damage so it will not provoke an immediate attack. Assuming they did it of course. It could have been a misstep.

      • Eponymous says:

        Iran is stubborn and really likes to push red lines, but they generally recognize when something is not in their interest and do their best to avoid a massive response

        This was approximately how I thought several months ago, but now I’m getting pretty concerned.

        If you look at history the US has entered *a lot* of wars on the grounds of maintaining freedom of the seas / shipping. The free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf is a clear strategic interest. Critical allies (Israel, Saudis, Gulf states) are directly affected, or otherwise highly interested.

        “People X are too rational to start a war” is an idea that admits many exceptions throughout history. I do think that overall Iran is a rational actor and doesn’t want a war — but there may be elements within the government that disagree, or who are beholden to other forces, or are simply mistaken about the likely consequences of their actions.

        Adding to the threat is the potentially volatile situation within the administration. If news reports are to be believed (eh…), many of the president’s top advisors are supportive of war. This means that a shift in the internal balance of power (which could happen quickly) could trigger a disproportionate response intended towards escalation. Trump himself wants peace (I think), but he also is the kind of guy who could respond to perceived insults or challenges to his authority, or could be manipulated by his aides. Trump doesn’t want to be seen as weak, as he perceives Obama; plus he might come to see war as offering electoral benefits, particularly if his position deterioriates.

        And quite frankly, the Iranians might not understand who they’re dealing with here. It’s easy to imagine them as hard-headed realists who know us as well as we know ourselves (how well is that?), but people believe crazy things sometimes, and do stupid things, and sometimes countries don’t understand other countries, especially if they’ve been raised on propaganda. Groupthink can take over. Geopolitical miscalculations are not uncommon.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I don’t disagree, but there’s no hard rule about WHEN the US will intervene. Half a dozen ships have been attacked recently, and Iran grabbed some cargo crew last year, and they have thus far escaped attack. Hell, the US is saying that Iran has been regularly violating UAE waters with the equivalent of Iranian navy seals to attack ships, and the US hasn’t done anything. How credible are we, exactly?

          They might be overstepping. They might not. If they kidnap an American crew, particularly this close to an election, Uncle Donny is going to light them up like a Christmas tree.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My take, which I’ll lug out since I think it could use a little updating:

      They have plenty of reason to believe the US wants to regime-change them; it goes all the way back to how we backed the Shah. If they’re savvy, though, they’ll realize that the US doesn’t go regime-changing just because a government* is weak; the US needs a casus belli as well as a military advantage. They fix the latter with nukes, because they know they sure as hell won’t beat our military. But how do they work on the former?

      The US also needs at least a plausible chance that the new regime will be stable**. That requires legitimacy, and popular support. So I imagine the Supreme Leader is looking really hard for anyone who could sway the people that isn’t his chosen successor, and quietly arranging for such people to be neutralized. I imagine this is especially directed toward Iran’s college generation, which is decidedly more secular than the Supreme Leader. A savvy US could be expected to use students as a lever to influence Iran’s future.

      To me, that struggle over Iran’s shifting demographics and views is the more important game, and the current tussle over nukes is a distraction. Khamenei would no doubt like nukes for deterrence, but I expect he’s also quietly looking at how to use it to turn the youngest generation against the West, without committing any act he believes would be seen by the US as a justification for military action.

      *Theirs, or the US’s, for that matter.
      **Unless the US gets angry enough to not care.

      • JPNunez says:

        I don’t know if the US requires that the ensuing government will be stable. I don’t know if it has hit America hard enough the mess they left in Iraq, and America first concern seems to be with pulling out troops.

        Which is not to say they would not attempt to build a stable regime, just that they would get bored and tired of spending money and losing troops on that front sooner or later.

    • Eponymous says:

      Update: I think Trump is actually handling this quite well so far. Look at the genius of this statement:

      President Trump said Thursday that he believes Iran mistakenly shot down the US drone, saying he finds it “hard to believe it was intentional.”

      “Probably Iran made a mistake. I would imagine it was a general or somebody who made a mistake in shooting that drone down,” Trump said.

      “I find it hard to believe it was intentional. I think it could’ve been somebody that was loose and stupid,” Trump said. “It was a very foolish move, that I can tell you.”

      Trump assured that the situation is “all going to work out.”

      The President also said that it made a “big, big difference” that the drone — which by definition is unmanned — had “nobody in” it.

      So: offers face-saving retreat for Iran (and US). Predicts things will “work out”. Strong implicit threat.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      … The mines were very unlikely to be Iran.

      Why the heck would Iran stage a – deliberately ineffective – attack on a Japanese tanker while the premier of Japan is visiting them? That is someone trying to manufacture tension. Odds on favorite is the Saudi regime wanting everyone to loose interest in what they are doing in their current little genocidal war, with a secondary option on “The us is manufacturing a causus belli”

      The global hawk shoot down… uhm. What sattelites were watching this area, because I have this sneaking suspicion it may well have been completely deliberately invading Iranian airspace.

      • Eponymous says:

        The mines were very unlikely to be Iran.

        Care to put a number on “very unlikely”? 10%?

        I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was someone else, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was Iran. So I’m not at “very unlikely”. Stuff happens and countries act for many reasons, not always seemingly in their interests by our lights. Then there’s the video of the (possibly Iranian) boat, and the claim that they tried to shoot down a drone that was filming the tanker. Plus their shooting down another drone today.

        The global hawk …I have this sneaking suspicion it may well have been completely deliberately invading Iranian airspace.

        Maybe, maybe not; I don’t think it matters much. But I’m curious what odds you would lay on your “sneaking suspicion”.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          The boat is evidence that “Iran has a coast guard, which responds to ships blowing up, because that is in the coast guard job description”. Limpet mines are stuck on by stealth, when the ship is at anchor or in harbor, not by motorboating up to a ship at full steam and reaching over like you are in an action movie.

          I did not give a number, because that would imply far greater certainty about my probability estimate than I have, but 10 % is in the correct ballpark.

          That hawk is more agnostic – Because while I could easily see people in the Trump admin throw away a 100 million dollar machine just to have a bloody shirt (actual blood not included) to wave about, I can also see some member of the Iranian military getting a tad happy on the trigger finger about a drone anywhere near the border of their air space, given the tension levels.

          • Eponymous says:

            The boat is evidence that “Iran has a coast guard, which responds to ships blowing up, because that is in the coast guard job description”. Limpet mines are stuck on by stealth, when the ship is at anchor or in harbor, not by motorboating up to a ship at full steam and reaching over like you are in an action movie.

            The claim is that the boat *removed* a mine that had failed to explode, presumably because it would have provided incriminating evidence.

            Supposedly Iran also attempted to shoot down the US drone that was monitoring the tanker, possibly to keep this recovery operation secret. I don’t think the tanker was at full steam — I believe it had stopped since this was after the explosion.

            Otherwise the Iranians didn’t help the tankers at all. They did capture the crew of one of the ships…*after* the ship had been evacuated (they surrounded the rescue ship).

      • potato says:

        This is incredibly incorrect. And shows a profound inability to reason from incentives.

        The mines were 100% Iran. And the incentives are obvious. Attack non-US flagged shipping in the Strait to remind the US that they have leverage over Hormuz. Non-US flagged shipping is critical because the US would have to respond otherwise.

        It’s calculated. And is from Khomeini. The advisors behind the idea that these attacks will eliminate US sanctions are clueless.

        Bottom line: This is a last minute roll of the dice that Europe will make an illegal trading vehicle, risking billions, to prevent escalation.

        Iran relies on oil exports to fuel its militias and the IRGC. Trump shut off the cash flow.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          100 %? Wtf?

          Again, nothing about the Iranian coast guard showing up is evidence of anything, because it happens in all circumstances, regardless of the underlying facts.

          Imagine this happens in american waters. An oil tanker has a limpet mine blow a hole in the side above the waterline as it is cruising along the american coast. Of course the coast guard is going to investigate that shit, and of course they are going to peel off any unexploded mines from that ship. That is their *job*. It does not demonstrate the mine was placed there by the US navy seals. FFS.

    • bean says:

      In terms of Iran’s motives, it might be worth considering that Iran isn’t monolithic. I’m not a close watcher of their politics, but an organization with the size and power of the IRGC is going to be tempted to form its own policies. And I really doubt the tendency to use foreign powers to achieve domestic political goals only afflicts the US. If the IRGC is worried about their power and status slipping, a threat in the form of conflict with the US could be quite useful.

      Of course, this is a dangerous game. See German actions in 1914 for a good example.

  27. FrankistGeorgist says:

    Cold temperatures reduce the tongue’s ability to taste sweetness.

    Is the American penchant for serving iced water with everything partially responsible for the nation’s irrepressible sweet tooth or perhaps a reaction to it? This cute question stolen shamelessly from Serious Eats.

    I know America was colonized right around the time Europe was going crazy for sugar, so probably you don’t have to look further then that, but I thought it was a fun new angle.

    • Nick says:

      That’s interesting. Anecdatum: I avoid drinking things with ice, and I’m not sure I have any less of a sweet tooth than folks I know. More than most, if anything.

    • AnarchyDice says:

      I will regularly heat up my apple juice or cranberry juice in the microwave in the fall and winter because it makes the flavors more potent. Hot orange juice is excellent too, but people think I’m some sort of monster when I tell them to try it.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I think even cold orange juice is overrated so yes the idea of someone drinking it hot triggers all of my burn-the-witch sensors.

      • Nick says:

        Now that you mention it, it’s funny that apple cider is often drunk hot while apple juice is often drunk cold.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I wonder whether that is because traditionally (pre-Prohibition and pre-widespread refrigeration) apple cider was alcoholic in the US, as it still is everywhere else.

          There’s a widespread European tradition of drinking hot spiced wine in winter (mulled wine, gluhwein, etc)- I can imagine that early colonists carried on this tradition but replaced the wine with cider as apples were more available than grapes.

      • DarkTigger says:

        I recommend hot pineapple juice, it’s greate. Also I think it taste a lot sweeter.

    • Well... says:

      Do Americans really have more of a sweet tooth than Europeans? I don’t think so.

  28. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    A lot of people explain bigotry in terms of material advantage.

    I believe this is a good partial explanation, but should not be the only explanation.

    While people are limited by what can be done with their resources, that limit leaves a lot of room to choose particular actions.

    I believe people get things wrong a lot, and are frequently meaner than hell.

    This means that a bigot– or a bigoted system– doesn’t necessarily give the people in charge a material advantage.

    I believe that sometimes bigotry is a luxury– a cost– that people buy when they can afford it.

    Facebook discussion

    Most interesting comment:

    Eric Hamell: How about a combination of existence bias and fundamental attribution error? A disparity develops between groups by accident, often prior to contact, and an explanatory framework is constructed in terms of unequal intrinsic merit. This then drives discriminatory behavior. This is, in different words, the traditional view of historical materialists.

    Nerdsnipe ssc: How can you tell how much of the US south’s slow pace of development was the climate? Slavery/Jim Crow? Something else?

    • DinoNerd says:

      On a really bad day, I’m inclined to consider the idea that, for normal human beings, hurting people is fun – that is, intrinsically rewarding. Various other reward systems, some also intrinsic, counter this some of the time and in some cases.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there are clearly drives in both directions. Bullying in schools, hazing, police brutality, jailers beating prisoners, all those things seem pretty widespread all over the world.

        • Tenacious D says:

          Isn’t hazing actually effective (at having a strong in-group bond), though?

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I’m not sure hazing belongs in this list. Most hazing is done as some sort of group initiation rite. It can involve violence, but even then it doesn’t have to, and even when it does, it’s typically violence plus some sort of shame or obedience ritual. Most hazing rituals aren’t just some sort of elaborate excuse or justification for sadists to hurt people…

          • Well... says:

            Both can be true. Hazing promotes an in-group bond, and it’s also never difficult to find effective hazers.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Hazing is a thing– applying pressure to people to see whether they’re tough enough to be capable members of a group. This has some failure modes, but it may make some sense.

            There’s a lot of blur between hazing and bullying. I would say that the difference is that hazing includes wanting to find people who can handle it, while bullying continues precisely because it’s producing pain.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t know that hurting is fun for normal human beings in general, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a strong drive for some 10$-20%.

        I haven’t seen any political theory which includes this.

        albatross11, you can add child abuse to your list.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          One of my priors is that people love committing violence against their enemies. One of the roles of society is keeping all that in check.

        • Viliam says:

          My guess would be it’s intrinsically fun for 1-5%, but it can also be instrumentally useful (by hurting someone you signal you have higher status than your victim) for many others.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There’s also hurting someone to show that you are on the same side as the bully.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I thought I’d get more response– I feel as though I’m plagued by people who just assume all injustice is a matter of someone getting a material advantage. Maybe it’s not really that many people. Maybe I’m in a different environment than most people here.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        It may be related to your earlier question about Facebook links. I personally am less likely to click on a Facebook link.

        As to your original prompt, it seems, I dunno, sort of obvious? Analogy: sex is pleasurable regardless of whether reproduction occurs. Tribalism seems fairly obviously adaptive, but that doesn’t mean the mechanisms by which tribalism is encouraged is a conscious desire to gain the advantage. Belonging to a group is pleasurable, excluding those outside the group is also pleasurable in some ways, at some times.

        Of course, cross tribal inclusion is also frequently advantageous. So we need to take that into account.

  29. acosta says:

    I need an advice from people familiar with the US software companies. Some time ago I’ve taken part in the data science competition sponsored by Zillow. The algorithm that I have developed was slightly less accurate than the one written by the winning team, but still significantly better than the one used by Zillow. The company has offered to buy my IP rights for the algorithm, but the amount offered seems too low, so I thought of offering to sell it to its competitors (such as Redfin). Does anyone know who would be the right person in the company to contact about this and what would be the best way to do it?

  30. Chalid says:

    Generic question – what are the situations in which a person should actually talk to a lawyer? How does one decide?

    My specific situation is that I’m probably taking a new job soon and have a 25-page set of agreements to sign. It all looks pretty standard to my eye, though I did find a couple places where there were small errors (or at least, minor disagreements between the document and what was agreed to orally). Is this the sort of thing that it is a good idea to have a lawyer review?

    • DragonMilk says:

      Depends how comfortable you are with reviewing legal docs yourself. I suggest edits to almost all personal contracts myself. A lawyer will be more familiar with how things generally are, but traditionally in the US, you didn’t even need a law degree to be a lawyer. You just had to read enough.

      So I suggest that SOMEONE read through the documents. Could be you, could be a lawyer.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      There’s no perfect answer. Some lawyers will tell you to have everything reviewed by a lawyer, both out of self-aggrandizement, and because they have seen what goes wrong when people self-help.

      You should assume the written contract overrules anything oral. And you can give up important rights in your employment contract:

      1. You can sign over your invention rights. At some level this is expected, and any tech company that doesn’t secure this right for the things you invent at work is too stupid to work for. But they could also grab rights to things you invented before you started there, things you invent off-hours during your employment, and things you invent after your employment ends. Check this.

      2. If you aren’t in one of the very few states that essentially ban non-competes, you can make it much harder to get employment after you leave your job. This is state-specific. Check this.

      You might not know any lawyers. But that is a good reason to find a lawyer now, for this, because if you ever need a lawyer for something else in the future, you will have established a relationship with a lawyer you trust [1] you can ask for a referral.

      [1] Assuming you like their work. If not, that is also an important lesson.

    • Chalid says:

      FWIW, the comment of an ex-lawyer friend of mine was no lawyer is ever going to just say that the document looks ok – they are always going to suggest changes. If you don’t keep the lawyer under control this can lead to delays while your lawyer and the company lawyer go back and forth over minor stuff. This can be expensive; worse, it can piss off the prospective employer. So his advice was to get a lawyer but keep them under a very tight leash to avoid this dynamic.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Based on personal experience and working in a legal-adjacent profession, you generally want a lawyer when an agreement is either very short, or very long, and you feel you don’t have sufficient experience/expertise.

      In the first case, anything not explicitly in the contract will be handled in accordance with established law/custom. That means you’ll need to know how potential areas of dispute are likely to be settled in the absence of contractual terms.

      In the second case, a very detailed contract may contain terms unfavourable for you, compared to standard contracts of this type. Typically, the presumption is that the parties are free to contract however they see fit, so if you realize you’ve agreed to something you didn’t want after you’ve signed on the dotted line, it’s usually too late (relevant laws may override certain types of contractual terms, or render them unenforceable, but that very much depends on where you are). A lawyer will help you identify the problem spots.

      That said, if you’re reasonably confident about the legal aspects (you’ve dealt with such contracts before), there’s usually no need to get a lawyer just to modify certain terms – such as discrepancies between what was discussed and what’s actually written. Simply submit a set of proposed revisions to the other party and see whether they agree. It’s only when they start claiming that there’s a legal reason for certain clauses – and you don’t have sufficient knowledge to verify that this is the case – that involving a lawyer might make sense.

  31. DragonMilk says:

    I’m actually taken aback by those who don’t think generalized AI would be risky. To me, a super-intelligent AI would be a psychopath/sociopath were nothing programmed regarding empathy and the like. And how do you even program empathy? High-functioning sociopaths can mimic such things!

    This is not to say robots are inherently evil or anything like that. I just don’t see how you would make a robot intrinsically value human life. Asimov’s three laws are easy for a human to understand, but I’m skeptical on implementation. Unless every robot is programmed with a full understanding of human anatomy/psychology, then how do they determine harm for themselves? The programmers likely don’t have such understanding.

    Anyway, we’re not there yet, but to me, an amoral robot intelligence will be by default analogous to a high-functioning psychopath

    • DeWitt says:

      Why would empathy be harder to program than self-interest? A will to gain power? Psychopaths have character traits beyond a lack of empathy, and it’s unclear to me that any but the most criminal of AI designers would create something like it.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        Because the range of good/moral/empathetic actions or results is an incredibly narrow slice of all possible actions. Granted, we currently have no clue how we could program any sort of agency into a computer.

        • DeWitt says:

          Self-interest is a very narrow slice of all possible actions, too.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            True, but it’s a significantly more…stable slice. Have you heard of the concept of “Omohundro goals”? (aka “instrumental convergence” or “basic AI drives”) The idea is that agents with a wide variety of ultimate objectives will likely pursue similar instrumental goals such as seeking physical security, energy, and greater computing power if possible.

            And “get more energy” leaves a hell of a lot more wiggle room than “get more energy without doing anything that humans would find abhorrent.”

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        It’s not only that empathy per se is harder to program. It’s that that specific human sort of empathy we actually want from a superintelligent being is hard to program, and any other is roughly as destructive as selfishness. You probably wouldn’t want to be obliterated out of misery or have your life turned into a perpetual orgasm. It doesn’t help that there’s likely some people out there who would want exactly that.

        Empathy per se is also harder than self-interest though because it requires modeling other beings’ values. It also requires compromising them between each other when you’re empathetic with more than one agent. Will to gain power is relatively trivial in fact, you can specify the goal as acquiring say as much resources (energy, matter) as possible and then your only problem is wireheading, for which afaik some possible ways to solutions were already suggested.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Empathy requires putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Self-interest is the default mode

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s the default mode for things that evolved (at least outside settings where group selection was a powerful force–think anthills). There’s no reason to think it would be the default mode for an AI.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      1) But if it’ll be so smart how can it don’t understand that something like making paperclips is just a plain stupid goal to have?
      2) General intelligence is like a human intelligence (because human intelligence is general) so it’ll require very similar set of base cognitive skills  from which human morality will arise naturally.
      3) Asimov’s three laws are easy for a human to understand indeed, so why should a superintelligent AI, which is vastly smarter by definition, should have troubles with them or any other (reasonable) instructions?
      4) AI will be smart enough to figure out what is objectively ethical thing to do.
      5) You’re just anthropomorphizing it by assigning to it human selfishness and ambitions, AI will be better than that.
      6) Super-intelligent AI actually will be violating human norms and values but it’s OK because it is more intelligent therefore its norms and values take precedence – they are more “moral”, in a sense.
      7) You say yourself that you don’t understand empathy and how to program it – how then can you be sure AI won’t have it?
      8) You image of AI as a high-functioning sociopath or coldblooded killing machine is based on

      *Simplicio mode off*

      Ok, well, it’s not that I’ve actually heard someone claiming all of these at the same time of course, this is a compilation from different sources. But I have heard 1 and 5 from the same person, separated by maybe a few minutes of talking. And in case you wonder, yes, 7 was followed by “I, on the other hand, do understand it…”
      It’s just all too easy to find some not-actually-clear concept related to intelligence in one’s head and sweep all the safety issues under that rug.

      • DragonMilk says:

        1) Generalized intelligence means the AI can perform any “intellectual” human task, which I take as calculation based. Morals and ethics are a separate plane from competence. Whether human life and liberty has intrinsic value has nothing to do with how smart a person is.
        2) My point around psychopaths and sociopaths is that they are precisely humans that have the base cognitive skills as other humans. And yet why do you think that automatically means they will share “human” morality
        3) Again, competence at tasks does not imply knowledge of good and evil
        4) Ok, and how does it handle the trolley problem? You’re dismissive of a non-trivial problem. Why do you think philosophy is a thing?
        5) Pretty sure dismissive folk like you are anthropomorphizing by trivializing what it means to be human. The AI didn’t program itself in a vacuum. I’m pointing out that programming for intelligence alone does NOT make it automatically inherit human ethics, while you say it does.
        6) So if put in charge of the state, you’re ok with racial and gender discrimination? You just said its norms and values take precedence without defining them. Utilitarian? Highest average income? Longest average lifespan?
        7) I’m saying that given thing such as politics and war and differing government forms, humans don’t understand each other enough to program a robot not in its own image
        8) No, it’s not based on lacking the arrogance to think that humanity can come up with some general AI that is ethical when it can hardly raise its children the way it wants to or agree on what it means to get along with each other.

        Programs start from somewhere, and the building blocks should be considered deliberately. An AI is amoral, but humans have their own biases that they are sure to program in.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Admittedly I don’t know enough about that point(s) of view to give you a mock-up reply to each of the points. Guess I would’ve failed an intellectual Turing test on this one.

          On 6 though, you really underestimated the depths of confusion. The point argued in an article Scott once linked as an example of how not to think about AI was that, if a more intelligent AI will want to exterminate humans and rule the universe on its own, that is fine because it is intellectually superior to us and hence its interests are valued higher – kind of like arguing that it’s ok to kill a cow to feed a human, only argued by a cow.

          Also, my apologies, 8 was meant to be “…based on scary images from sci-fi like Terminator and Matrix, which do not predict anything about real AI”

          • DragonMilk says:

            Agreed on last part – that’s an error in the other direction.

            My overall point is that ethics/morals is nontrivial and one can’t take for granted that AI will automatically have them, much less ones most people will like.

            So “risk” isn’t AI kills all humans. It could be more mundane like forced relocation through eminent domain, racial profiling in the justice system, a california-like racial distribution of schools, gender discrimination for job hiring.

            So potentially a powerful Republican! 😀

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            @DragonMilk
            These risks apply mostly to sub- or near-human level AIs. With a truly superintelligent AI (that is, one strictly more capable than humans and therefore capable of building something more capable than itself, and so on ad infinitum) it’s most likely all or nothing – postscarcity paradise or extinction (or worse). Sure there might be some scenarios where humanity ends up damaged but not completely screwed up. But those are exceptions, once we build an agent with a nearly unlimited potential for optimization, it’ll most likely either optimize the world for us, or optimize us out of it.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Right, but the generalized AI doesn’t come out of nowhere – how do we get there?

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            IDK, by making people to click ads?

            More seriously though, I’m not saying that your concerns are misguided or irrelevant, just that they apply to a different kind of AI. We might in theory dance around them and hit into the superintelligent AI issues directly – as long as it’s sub-human we in principle just can choose not to use it on any risky task or any real task at all, or manually verify every solution offered. But in practice that’s not likely to happen.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Asimov’s three laws were difficult and ambiguous. That’s why he could write stories about them.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Eh, I’m afraid more about long term differences in evolution of our empathy vs AIs. Either theirs is static, and it might force us to be static as well, or it evolves faster, and we get I am Mother.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Raise it in a family– a family where there have already been a number of children with good empathy.

      If you’re worried about your ability to choose a good family on the first try, raise it in a number of hopefully good families with some way for it to combine its experiences.

      If this is an sf story and you want to crank up the emotional intensity, at least one of the families finds itself in a war zone. Or two of the families in war zones on opposite sides.

      • DragonMilk says:

        But why can one assume the AI as a blank template looks like a human baby? Babies already possessed a lot of hardwired tendencies, just look at the animal kingdom!

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Tentative: It’s got to have some sort of reward system. If it’s raised in a family, it gets rewarded for empathy, or at least something that looks like it.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        If this is an sf story and you want to crank up the emotional intensity, at least one of the families finds itself in a war zone. Or two of the families in war zones on opposite sides.

        I dunno, Lieserl was pretty maximally emotionally intense.

    • Urstoff says:

      Risky conditional on their being developed, which I view as highly unlikely. So not a risk that keeps me up at night.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Agreed, the practical manifestation is more troublesome to me, which is tech helping to erode privacy, and autocratic governments misusing tools to corrupt ends.

        The social credit system in China is slowly being rolled out for instance…

    • Dack says:

      I’m actually taken aback by those who don’t think generalized AI would be risky. To me, a super-intelligent AI would be a psychopath/sociopath were nothing programmed regarding empathy and the like. And how do you even program empathy? High-functioning sociopaths can mimic such things!

      Anyway, we’re not there yet, but to me, an amoral robot intelligence will be by default analogous to a high-functioning psychopath

      There is no default. Computers do what they are told to do. We should avoid telling them to do psychopathic things.

    • proyas says:

      Maybe it would help to program the AGI with these assumptions/precepts:

      1) My existence is valuable so I should take actions designed to protect it.
      2) If I do a bad thing to any one human, it’s likely that other humans will find out about it, and they will take actions that threaten my existence.
      3) Humans mistrust me because I lack an important human quality called “empathy.”

  32. hash872 says:

    Anything exciting going on in the field of cartilage repair these days? I ask as I have a mild torn shoulder labrum (doesn’t affect my daily life so I don’t plan on having surgery) and apparently a torn hip labrum (probably going to have surgery unless I find a Magical Non-Surgical Cure). I understand stem cell injections are in their infancy and have a lot of quackery around them- anyone (pro athletes maybe?) having solid results with using them for this sort of thing? Anyone familiar with any actual evidence of healing around peptides that are popular in bodybuilding communities these days (TB 500 or BPC 157?) I read an article around some peptide (not one of those two) that is credited with accelerated healing in sharks, but I can’t find it again.

    I do understand that these are low percentage, but my interest in hip surgery in my late 30s is pretty low- if there’s anything out there doing cartilage healing, I’d certainly be interested in hearing about it

    • The Nybbler says:

      Having had surgery to repair a torn acetabular labrum over 15 years ago, I definitely recommend it if that’s what you have and it’s causing problems. I had trouble walking, climbing stairs was extremely painful, and occasionally something would go wrong (maybe the torn bit caught in the joint, I don’t know) and I’d be in agony from one step to the next. The hard part was getting it diagnosed.

      Even if they do come up with some magic cartilage-regrower, I expect they’d still need to remove the torn bits. Unless it’s _really_ magic.

      • hash872 says:

        Interesting. Yeah I’m nowhere near that bad (yet), thankfully.

        The thing with BPC 157/TB 500/(Magical Shark Cartilage Peptide?) is that they involve injections at the site of the injury. So it’s not just, I’m ordering and ingesting gray market research chemicals- directly injecting them into my body seems fairly…. insane? But tons of people in the bodybuilding community are doing it.

        Also, the hip/upper groin injection site is rather close to other parts of my body that are currently functioning just fine and I would prefer not to damage with Shady Gray Market Research Chemicals. But I’d also prefer to not get surgery and take up to a year to recover….. I dunno

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yeah, the thing is that the point of injury is within the intra-articular space. Looks like most of the bro-science peptide people are doing intramuscular injection, and I have severe doubts as to whether enough of the peptide could even get into the joint doing that. And intra-articular injection of the hip (even if a good idea) is not really a DIY thing. (it’s also painful)

    • albatross11 says:

      My wife had a cartilage repair done on her knee after an injury (they cut away a torn bit of the cartilage and drilled little holes in the bone to stimulate new cartilage growth, as I understand it). This worked really well–she went from unable to walk on uneven ground/climb stairs to about 95% of previous function. (She still doesn’t use the kneelers at church–this bends the knee in an uncomfortable way, somehow.).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ll recommend Feldenkrais Method to find out whether moving better could take the stress off your connective tissue.

  33. Two McMillion says:

    Is this article regarding conditions for migrants at the US border at all accurate or correct?

    https://www.thenation.com/article/dilley-texas-immigration-detention/

    It’s the sort of thing that seems extremely serious if true, but I legitimately don’t know how to judge these kinds of articles now, especially where Trump is involved.

    Reading between the lines, it seems like a lot of this stuff could be explained by “more people are trying to immigrate than the system can handle, there’s not enough space or supplies to go around and ICE employees are frustrated because the impossible is demanded of them” within bringing in any malice.

    On the other hand, I could easily see the part about making the process difficult to discourage people from applying for asylum being true. And it wouldn’t surprise me if people trying to come in were subject to acts of racism from immigration workers. That stuff happens. But my Twitter is abuzz with, “OMG the USA has literal concentration camps!”, even though all the articles I’ve seen have reported fairly low death numbers. The last one I saw said that 7 children, 24 people total have died at these places this year, which, while tragic, hardly strikes me as “death camp” numbers.

    So anyway. What’s going on here? I’m confused. Where do I get accurate data?

    • DeWitt says:

      A lot more people than the system can handle do come in, and solving that problem is politically infeasible.

      The left would argue that these people shouldn’t be detained and instead released into the general population, but immigration is really fucking unpopular with basically everyone not already far to the left of the mean, so this doesn’t happen.

      The right would prefer these people didn’t enter the US at all, but it doesn’t oppose asylum in general enough to just shove everyone across the border somewhere, so it tries to discourage these situations by making detainment as unpleasant as possible.

      A middle of the road solution could be to let people in while reviewing their asylum applications, which would be fine if there were a way of enforcing the actual deportation of applicants should their asylum applications be denied. As yet, nobody has figured out how to do so.

      Because nobody has a solution that looks good, feels good, and is workable, the status quo is maintained and is likely to be maintained unless circumstances change anytime soon.

      • Chalid says:

        immigration is really fucking unpopular with basically everyone not already far to the left of the mean, so this doesn’t happen.

        Historical polling generally shows majorities in favor of either keeping immigration the same or increasing it. Generally the number of people who want more immigration is about the same as the number who want fewer, so the people who like the status quo get their way.

        The last time there was an actual significant majority that wanted immigration to be reduced was right after 9/11.

        • souleater says:

          Context from DeWitt’s comment gives me the impression that he was really referring to illegal immigration.

          Edit: Actually, the link you shared says there is massive approval for some form of amnesty


          Which comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States? Should the government -- [ROTATED: deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work, but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens, but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time]?

          Deport all: 19
          Remain in U.S. in order to work: 14
          Remain in U.S. to become citizen: 65

          Sorry for the weird formatting.

          I wouldn’t have expected that.. does anyone have any thoughts on this?

          • Chalid says:

            And the related question “Allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally the chance to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements over a period of time” has support north of 80%.

            Also relatedly, “deporting all immigrants who are living in the United States illegally back to their home country” has ~30-40% support and 60-70% opposed. So lots of people are incoherent, but anyway, it speaks to a lot of popular tolerance of illegal immigration.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            AFAICT, out of scope. This applies to illegal immigrants who have been here for a certain period time and meet certain conditions. Recently arrived immigrants are a different story.

            Also, the polling levels show roughly equal support for reducing, increasing, or keeping constant the immigration level. Saying there is majority support for increasing or keeping our immigration level constant is identical to saying there is majority support for decreasing or keeping immigration level constant.

            This is important, because if there is a surge in asylum requests or detention and you need to release people into the US, that’s actually a really, really big increase in immigration. The majority of voters are probably not on board with that. And the majority of politicians are definitely not on board with that. Obama wasn’t as bad as Trump on this, and had a lot less willingness to fight the courts on it as well, but also definitely wasn’t a fan of the bad incentives set-up by our current immigration system….particularly if we pretty much publicly declare “whatever, come on in, we can’t hold you and we can’t really track you down so we’re not really going to try.”

            OTOH you aren’t going to get Congressional approval to build more detention facilities without some concessions, at least during election season, with this President, with this Congress, with this political environment.

          • Matt M says:

            if they meet certain requirements over a period of time

            This qualifier is doing a lot of work here. It would seem to me that the most relevant question to current issues is, “What do we do with the people who refuse to comply with any requirements we may attempt to impose on them?

            To which the right’s answer is “round them up and deport them” and the left’s answer is… as far as I can tell… “keep asking them nicely to comply with our rules and hope that they do, but even if they don’t, you can’t forcibly remove them because that’s what Hitler would do”

          • souleater says:

            @chalid

            I saw that question.. I really wouldn’t have expected so much support for amnesty. I don’t want to be the guy who looks at a poll he doesn’t like and then decides to find problems with it.. but that level of support seems much, much higher than what I would have expected. (40-55% would be my guess)

            Does it seem absurdly high to anyone else?

            Especially considering some people apparently want to give them citizenship AND deport them?? I mean… incoherent is exactly the right word for it.

            @Matt M
            I can’t think of any requirements that could be put on them that wouldn’t be, more or less, a slap on the wrist.
            Outside of charging back taxes (which seems silly to me considering the tax bracket the majority would be in) or maybe a fine, what requirements could we legally impose?

            The idea of amnesty is really irritating to me. The right to immigrate into the US is a valuable (people want it), scarce (we limit the number of immigrants) resource. Any type of amnesty seems to me the equivalent of allowing a bank robber to keep the money as long as he pays income taxes on it.

            I have sympathy for illegal immigrants, I’m very cognizant that being born to a first world country is a result of luck, not virtue. But poverty and/or bad luck doesn’t excuse criminal behavior and we shouldn’t reward it.

          • Matt M says:

            what requirements could we legally impose?

            I mean, the first requirement we “impose” on them is quite simple: Enter the country through an authorized border checkpoint, and comply with the decision made by the guards as to whether you are allowed entry or not.

            I put impose in quotations because this “requirement” seems to be ignored at will, and large sections of the public seem not to care that it is.

            Anyone who enters the country though means other than an authorized border checkpoint has already shown that they will freely disregard any “requirements” we may impose if said requirements stand in the way of achieving their own personal ends.

          • albatross11 says:

            More to the point, while open borders seems like a humane policy and has a lot to recommend it in many ways, there are a *lo