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Open Thread 130.75

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751 Responses to Open Thread 130.75

  1. tokugawa says:

    REPOSTED: on advice that this might be a possible “culture war” topic

    A personal story of planning for the future, grappling with the question of our climate challenge, and how we are orienting ourselves.

    Would appreciate some critique about:
    1) the forecasts. I acknowledge there is likely to be a bunch of questions around “showing my work”, because I haven’t really done that at all in the post. There are lots of threads for me yet to really write about in that regard.
    2) The “Little Civilization – Big Civilization” mental model or frame. Does it help you see things from a different perspective? Is it unclear what the implications of the model are?

    https://twicefire.com/littleciv/littleciv/

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I have two big objections to your reasoning here which suggest that your predictions are unlikely to come to pass. Firstly, because they’re based on bad models. Secondly, because even those bad models don’t predict a meaningful lowering of the American standard of living.

      Firstly, your confidence in climate models (>99%) seems totally misplaced. We’ve been riding the bottom of the 95% confidence intervals of the temperature predictions of most of the major climate models (if not below them) for quite some time now. This has been observed for decades now but newer models seem to be adjusted to fit past data in a rather ad hoc way which doesn’t inspire confidence in future predictions. Warning is happening and will likely continue but relying on today’s dubious climate modeling to make predictions eight decades out is a bad idea. “Garbage in, garbage out” means that predictions of climate catastrophe in the next century are entirely speculative.

      Secondly, even if we grant for the sake of argument that the models are precisely accurate, the actual costs to the US are fairly cheap: the 2018 National Climate Assessment estimated a 10% reduction of GDP by 2100 which according to the BEA would put us in the dystopian past of 2015-2016. Despite that crippling blow, we’d still likely be at least as well-equipped to handle sea level rise as the medieval Dutch. Our oceans provide a natural defense against rising immigration from equitorial countries in the Eastern hemisphere, and while our southern border is still very porous our elected officials are working on physical barriers of a type which have been proven effective in the Gaza Strip. “Big Civilization” in America would keep on humming even through the worst predictions of a warming climate.

      I have other objections, for example that your survival training doesn’t include obvious things like learning how to use a gun to hunt and defend yourself or being able to repair a diesel engine (even the Amish use them these days). But none of it matters since it’s all based on a false premise.

      • tokugawa says:

        RE: bad models
        I’ve been reading a lot about the models and related CMIP, IAMs, RCPs recently. Is your concern that the specific models used are bad (but could be improved) or that the problem they are trying to model is too complex/difficult for modeling? Recently enjoyed reading this breakdown of the ways that models can get bent out of shape at the intersection of economic and climate modeling

        Do you have a source or analysis for the suggestion that we’ve been on the bottom of the 95% confidence intervals? A read of a few of the RCP 4.5 graphs on carbon brief don’t seem to line up with that.

        Is this the 2018 National Climate Assessment?

        On the premise that models are accurate:
        There is a lot of space for different interpretations of the impact of, say, 2 degrees of (average) warming vs 3 or 4. That certainly could throw my forecasting numbers out significantly, since I’m compounding the error rate of both the climate models and ‘modeling’ on possible impact. Much of the impact modeling has been at the 1.5/2 degree level, according to the thread by this journalist, a level of warming they also argue is now wildly optimistic. Kelsey Piper, the EA Vox writer, agreed with that sentiment, if that means anything to you. So the concern is that impact studies you have looked at are based on only lower levels of warming (1.5 or 2 degrees). Your “Big Civ in one country” (like communism in one country) would be an economic challenge, and I am not confident it would be viable long term. Also, my criteria for collapse doesn’t need the USA to fail; I’m working on the heuristic of 50%+ of humanity in endemic strife/economic depression for the collapse of Big Civ. Asia is the future of the global economy, after all.

        re: survival training. The phrasing “Including…” is not meant to convey an exhaustive list.

        • Do you have a source or analysis for the suggestion that we’ve been on the bottom of the 95% confidence intervals?

          I’m not the person you put the question to, but I tried, a few years back, to compare the predictions of early IPCC reports to what happened thereafter. The conclusion was that the IPCC consistently projected high, in the worst case putting the actual outcome below the bottom of their 95% range.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Has anyone compiled a table showing the tuple (prediction year, years out, percentile range)?

            I may not be describing what I want well, and I may not be describing something that accurately captures predictions, but what I would expect to see from Nabil’s comment would be a table like this


            Published Years Measured Temp In
            Year Out Temp Range
            =========================================

            1990 5 23.1 4%
            1990 10 23.2 8%
            1990 15 23.1 4%
            1990 20 23.4 14%
            1990 25 23.4 14%
            1995 5 23.2 3%
            1995 10 23.1 11%
            1995 15 23.4 4%
            1995 20 23.4 14%
            ... etc ...

            (Darn it, I thought “code” would preserve the spaces. Well, if you view the source code for this page you can see what I wanted to show.)

            There are probably better ways of presenting that, but I’d like to have lots of numbers to chew on top evaluate the predictions.

          • tokugawa says:

            Edward: Agreed, having a table or a diagram would indeed make this a simpler discussion.

            I tried, a few years back

            What would it look like if you tried again today? There has been a considerable jump in recorded temps between 2014 (when you wrote the post) and 2017 (using 2017 here as it was the last year of data in the graph I just looked up). I don’t think we should pretend that the models are intended for accurate year to year projections.

            Stopping for concision’s sake

          • What would it look like if you tried again today?

            I don’t know, but I think I described what I did well enough so that you could redo it with more data if you wanted.

            I observed, in online discussions, that some people asserted the IPCC had a very good record of correct predictions, some that it didn’t, so I decided to find out for myself. If my doing so and producing the evidence persuaded anyone to change any of his views, I am not aware of it.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Testing the model predictions, given the short time that’s elapsed since they were made, is an inherently tricky business. Judith Curry offers a good explanation of the difficulties here.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Is your concern that the specific models used are bad (but could be improved) or that the problem they are trying to model is too complex/difficult for modeling?

          Yes. What they’re trying to do is inherently very difficult, their track record of predictions to date has been poor, and frankly their behavior has made me very distrustful of their motives.

          Do you have a source or analysis for the suggestion that we’ve been on the bottom of the 95% confidence intervals? A read of a few of the RCP 4.5 graphs on carbon brief don’t seem to line up with that.

          The clearest elucidation I’ve seen was this Cato Institute PDF evaluating claims made by the USGCRP.

          I’ve seen evidence for measured temperature hugging the bottom of IPCC predictions too but I wasn’t able to find authoritative sources yesterday. A lot of laymen online have made graphs plotting older predictions versus actual measured temperature, but I haven’t been able to track down the versions which actually show the confidence interval rather than just the mean.

          Your “Big Civ in one country” (like communism in one country) would be an economic challenge, and I am not confident it would be viable long term.

          This statement makes very little sense. Communism in one country doesn’t work because communism in any number of countries doesn’t work. If anything, scaling up a command economy heightens its problems because you’re massively increasing the amount of information that a central planner would need to collect and consider. A market economy doesn’t have this limitation, because it relies on the price signal rather than a price-setting bureaucracy.

          One of the benefits of this is that the economy can adapt to disruptions caused by e.g. foreign wars or natural disasters. If, say, political instability in China threatens the US supply of rare earths then the price will rise and with it the profit for companies like Nanosys who develop or exploit alternative sources. Obviously no self-correcting system can handle an unlimited amount of disruption but capitalism is a remarkably resilient economic system.

          Also, my criteria for collapse doesn’t need the USA to fail; I’m working on the heuristic of 50%+ of humanity in endemic strife/economic depression for the collapse of Big Civ. Asia is the future of the global economy, after all.

          The thing is, the global economy is only actually relevant to your quality of life to the extent that it affects the American economy. Or really, just the northern Californian economy unless you’re in a big hurry to move.

          This is the problem with trying to make personal decisions based on the view from 10,000 ft. You aren’t the King of the World, you’re a guy living in the Bay Area. When bad things happen in far-away places, reading about them may make you sad but it’s not actually a threat to you or the people you care about.

          re: survival training. The phrasing “Including…” is not meant to convey an exhaustive list.

          I mean, if I said that I was getting together the essentials for a trek across the desert “including” my favorite book and sunblock but never mentioned water once, that would indicate a pretty severe lack of preparedness on my part right?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            The thing is, the global economy is only actually relevant to your quality of life to the extent that it affects the American economy.

            This extent is very very big though.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This extent is very very big though.

            Is it, though? We’re a net exporter of oil, and the USDOE says we’ll be a net exporter for all energy by 2022. We’re pretty even on food, but I think part of the problem there is we ship our raw food product to China and Mexico and the like, they process it into breakfast cereals or what have you and ship them back. So we could just…box up the cereals here instead. This is a big, big country with basically every type of resource in abundance, and the human capital to engineer our way out of problems. I’m not saying go full autarky, but if push came to shove I think we could.

          • tokugawa says:

            I’m not saying go full autarky, but if push came to shove I think we could.

            I would argue that North America needs the benefits of globalized trade to sustain this level of QoL and technology. For example, the cutting edge of wafer manufacture requires huge markets to achieve its current economies of scale (Absolutely wild video on wafer manufacture, if you are curious). The Northern American market is big but not that big. Just one of the sectors were costs would go up, and I think that is a decent risk of occurring in many sectors of the economy, dragging things backwards.

          • tokugawa says:

            frankly their behavior has made me very distrustful of their motives

            IPCC, climate scientists, climate activists or different combinations of those groupings?

            The clearest elucidation I’ve seen was this Cato Institute PDF evaluating claims made by the USGCRP.

            I’ve seen evidence for measured temperature hugging the bottom of IPCC predictions too but I wasn’t able to find authoritative sources yesterday. A lot of laymen online have made graphs plotting older predictions versus actual measured temperature, but I haven’t been able to track down the versions which actually show the confidence interval rather than just the mean.

            I appreciate the effort in the search. I wish CATO would update the 2013 report they published, with a look at recent data, since (as I mentioned in another post), the recorded data suggests a stronger temp increase in the years following the report.

            Tangent alert (since you mentioned CATO): Former CATO VP (who would have been there in 2013) has shifted their outlook on climate risk and seems (at some level) confident in the 1.5-4.5 projected spread by 2100 from the 5th gen IPCC report.

            This statement makes very little sense. Communism in one country doesn’t work because communism in any number of countries doesn’t work.

            Apologies I think I distracted rather than adding context by using the C-word 😉 Autarky (and it’s difficulty of sustaining current tech level) is what I am getting at, as discussed in another part of the thread.

            Obviously no self-correcting system can handle an unlimited amount of disruption but capitalism is a remarkably resilient economic system.

            Yes, the global economy is an adaptive complex system, entailing buffers that accommodate shocks. And as you acknowledge, every system can only take so much. I don’t think I stated that capitalism itself is ‘at risk’, more so the globalized economy as it currently stands. The concern is that the risk of cumulative strain caused by climate chaos and secondary impacts could be sufficient to ‘fuck-over’ (to use the technical term) the globalized economy.

          • The concern is that the risk of cumulative strain caused by climate chaos and secondary impacts could be sufficient to ‘fuck-over’ (to use the technical term) the globalized economy.

            Except that these are very slow effects, a few degrees and a few feet of SLR in a century. Think about how many other things change over the course of a century, and get folded into the workings of the world economy.

            To take one simple example, the development of fracking and the resultant drop in the price of natural gas pretty clearly had a larger effect on U.S. CO2 output than the programs various countries around the world have pushed in order to reduce it. The claim I have seen–I don’t swear it is true—is that the U.S., which didn’t sign the Kyoto agreement, is the only country that has actually met its requirement wrt CO2. For reasons not only not due to environmentalism but mildly hindered by environmentalism.

        • Garrett says:

          Let’s play a game. Or treat this as a thought experiment. Assume for a moment that the current consensus on climate change is factually false with respect to the real world. Pick various plausible reasons that might have occurred (political operation, error cascade, publication bias, whatever) and ask: what’s expected to be found in the world if any of those were true?

          And then go looking.

          Because without too much effort, you can find evidence that:

          * The US government has retroactively adjusted the “raw” temperature data from the past in a way that makes climate change look more prominent.
          * Internal emails between climate scientists trying to hide the decline of rate of increase of global temperatures.
          * Release of data by 4? major countries that their temperature data from the past century was incredibly poorly managed and controlled.
          * Throwing aspersions on people who demonstrate statistical errors in key published papers.
          * People claiming to want to fix the problem also working against the most obvious political and technical solutions to the problem.
          * After years of claiming to be able to predict the future climate, suddenly discovering that there are 10% more trees in the world than previously thought.
          * No way to get the original source code and data for the original papers working in order to verify that everything isn’t based on eg. numerical methods errors.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        My one objection is that I’m not confident that a government more than 10 years from now would halt a mass exodus into the united states on the grounds of fleeing the effects of climate change. (Regardless of how low the global temperature or sea level happens to be at that time)

    • DinoNerd says:

      The conceptual framework seems fascinating, but attempting to motivate it via concerns about climate change basically derailed the topic for this audience, IMO.

      I skimmed rather than reading attentively (sorry), and find the terms a bit strange, but here’s my summary of the part that interested me.

      People and their planning can be oriented towards:
      – “big civ” – globalized economy, stable-ish economic and work environment. Lots of “division of labour”. Investments etc. retain value overall, within the usual volatility and business cycle.
      – “little civ” – significant risk of the global civ (or your local part of it) going haywire. Assets might be expropriated. Your land might become worthless due to some catastrophe. The Yellowstone supervolcano might erupt. Insurance won’t pay out, either due to bankruptcy or “acts of God” clauses. Complex networks fall apart – better to have hands-on skills useful to ordinary folks than to be highly valuable to complex multinationals. etc.
      – survival – I’m just trying to have a roof over my head and food on the table today. If I get some spare resources/when I get through this bad patch I’ll maybe think about fixing the worst of the issues I’m living with (patch the hole in my roof; get treatment for the problem that otherwise cause me to die 20 years younger; whatever.) OTOH, it’s not likely there will ever be enough to do any of that, so I don’t think about it.

      For this author, the likely risk causing them to think about “little civ” is climate change, and part of what this is about is realizing that they can’t/shouldn’t take a 100% “big civ” orientation – they want to hedge their bets.

      But I’ve got several things in my personal list of “unlikely but possible”. As I get older, I hedge against fewer of them – not because I now think they are less likely, but because I’m both less able to survive some types of catastrophe, and have less (life expectancy etc.) to lose.

      I also blend systemic risks with local risks in my personal calculations. E.g. I’m a non-citizen in a country where anti-immigrant rhetoric plays well with the electorate; I might find myself forced to leave. Such a policy change might (or might not) have global effects – it’s a *big* country, with major effects on the world economy. But the local effects would hit me first, so those are my focus.

      • tokugawa says:

        The conceptual framework seems fascinating, but attempting to motivate it via concerns about climate change basically derailed the topic for this audience, IMO

        I have consigned myself to that fate 😉

        I’m a non-citizen in a country where anti-immigrant rhetoric plays well with the electorate; I might find myself forced to leave.

        I also happen to be in this bucket

        But I’ve got several things in my personal list of “unlikely but possible”. As I get older, I hedge against fewer of them – not because I now think they are less likely, but because I’m both less able to survive some types of catastrophe, and have less (life expectancy etc.) to lose.

        Totally valid orientation in my books. I have a strong concern around humanity’s fate (and intend to have children and to prepare them to make their own decisions and hedges), so my orientation includes things outside my personal timeline and geography. Of course, I have practically no influence on the fate of humanity, but got to surf the uncertainty y’all.

        I’m curious if you can elucidate further on which/why terms were strange? Maybe I’m using language/jargon from my context that I don’t recognize as unusual

    • helloo says:

      2) I feel that the names are not great or descriptive or useful.

      How far do you need to go to be Little Civilization?
      Even if you pull a Noah and prepare for the death of everyone, does it count if you still predict/plan civilization to be eventually recreated following it?

      The fact that “do something” and “do nothing” can both be Big Civilization is not great. Rather it points out that those categories simply do not correspond to what should be done for the event itself but mostly points to assumptions as the result following the event.

      If someone supports activism to ban all nuclear weapons, but still prepares a bomb shelter are they big or little civilization?
      Would someone that believes that a world government or other greater central power would arise following the crisis be big or little civilization?

      How about you try and fit this with the 2008 economic crisis and how they fit with the terms you present here.
      Though it was hardly world ending, it could be said that most people were “big civilization” but those that would have been “little civilization” could have had a lot to gain for at least a few years following that.

      • tokugawa says:

        Out of a desire to not completely overwhelm, I feel I had to leave a deeper questioning and exploration of Little Civ thinking/concepts/activities/narratives for a later date. So I acknowledge your questions and apologize I haven’t or can’t yet fully answer them.

        A quick reflections though:

        If someone supports activism to ban all nuclear weapons, but still prepares a bomb shelter are they big or little civilization?

        You denote two activities, one more aligned with big civ and one aligned with little civ and ask: so what orientation does someone that does both of those things share? Maintaining one pure orientation (big, little or some version of next civ), all things being equal, is the lowest energy state for our brains. Of course, reality does not follow an orientation; each narrative will also have some cognitive dissonance it needs to squelch. Blending orientations is certainly possible, and when I say hedging, I explicitly invite it. I think many folk (not the majority tho) are doing a little bit of blending. However, I suspect it is really hard for us to evenly split orientations: we will tend towards a form of narrative forcing, and favor a predominate narrative/orientation. For me personally, that is a push towards a Big Civ orientation at the moment.

        As a side note, the 2008 ‘GFC’ is a harder one for me to reason about, as I was in Australia, which largely avoided the worse of it due to sensible banking regulation and some economic stimulus packages in Australia.

        Running short of time now. Hoping I have an opportunity to return to some of your other points/questions

  2. albatross11 says:

    General comment:

    If you’re not against it when your own side does it, you’re not really against it. If you’re not against it when it’s done by your country, you’re not really against it. If you’re not against it when it’s done to people you hate, you’re not really against it.

    This applies to recent events in Portland, but also to a large fraction of online/media political outrage theater.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      yeah but

      • The Nybbler says:

        Everything before the “but” does not matter.

        • Viliam says:

          Could this be implemented as a browser plugin? It would automatically remove the beginning of a sentence? paragraph? section? ending with “but”… and capitalize the following letter, so it looks like the sentence started there. (The problem is finding out where exactly the before-the-but part begins.)

          Example input:

          Vegetables are healthy, but I hate spinach.

          Example output:

          I hate spinach.

        • Jiro says:

          I don’t like kidnappers. However, I’m fine with putting criminals in jail.

          There are many cases, some quite trivial, where that kind of a “but” exists and it makes perfect sense. “My side” is people who take television sets from stores after paying for them and “the other side” is people who take television sets from stores without paying for them. I think it’s fine my side to take one, but not fine for the other side to take one.

    • dick says:

      Which recent events in Portland? There have been a couple.

    • Plumber says:

      @albatross11

      “…recent events in Portland…”

      Until your comment I was unaware of any “recent events in Portland”, but after seeing your post a quick web search led me to “…Protesters hurling vegan milkshakes at each other near Pioneer Courthouse Square…”, which may just be the most Portlandia thing I’ve ever read.

      • albatross11 says:

        Some antifa thugs beat the shit out of a journalist who reports on them negatively. Various blue-checkmark[1] journalists on Twitter beclowned themselves by making excuses for how it was okay to beat the shit out of him because he wasn’t *really* a journalist, because he has an overt opinion / has the wrong opinions / writes for the wrong side.

        The people supporting political violence because it’s done by their side are not only unprincipled, they’re playing with fire, and they have no idea how badly this could work out for them and the whole country.

        [1] In general, reading blue-checkmark Twitter does for trust in major media organs approximately what touring a meat packing plant does for your appetite for sausage.

        • Plumber says:

          @albatross11,
          Unfortunately a quick web search doesn’t give me much of a clue on what “bluecheckmark” is.

          Otherwise, tales of fists thrown are decidedly less comic than food fights.

          Saddening.

          • mdet says:

            Twitter gives users a blue checkmark icon when they’re “verified” as a person of some importance. It doesn’t have to be all that important — you can get a blue check for being a professional video game streamer who has widespread name-recognition within the video game streaming community, but is totally obscure outside of it.

            Albatross was probably referring to people who are verified as professional journalists & political commentators specifically.

          • Plumber says:

            @mdet

            Thanks!

        • dick says:

          Various blue-checkmark[1] journalists on Twitter beclowned themselves by making excuses for how it was okay to beat the shit out of him because he wasn’t *really* a journalist, because he has an overt opinion / has the wrong opinions / writes for the wrong side.

          When paraphrasing something that someone from the other side said, I try (though I’m sure I fail sometimes) to do it in a way they would probably agree with. Is there any chance that that would be the case here?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Eh, there’s conflicting reports some “milkshakes” may have contained quicklime/quick drying cement to make them heavier and caustic. From the Portland PD:

        Prior to the event, information was circulating that some participants planned to throw milkshakes on others. As the event progressed, officers learned from some participants that a substance similar to quick drying concrete was being added to some of the “milkshakes.” A Lieutenant in the field observed some of the material and noted the texture and smell was consistent with concrete.

        But then left journals did “Republicans pounce” pieces calling it a hoax based entirely on the words of…the people accused of doing the thing.

        Via Facebook message to the Daily Dot, Pop Mob categorically denied that there was anything but milkshake ingredients in the 750 drinks they distributed on Saturday.

        “There was, with absolute certainty, nothing in those milkshakes but plain coconut bliss and cashew milk, lovingly blended at a clean commercial kitchen a few blocks from the park by sweet volunteers, and then brought into the park in food safe buckets to be distributed for free to attendees,” they told the Dot.

        Of course, these are the same antifa people who throw urine and rocks at cops, so “but we would never” doesn’t really strike me as credible. However, I also don’t trust the Portland PD, so…I give this one a big old shrug.

        ETA: Also, nobody claimed the organizers handed out concrete shakes, just that somebody was using one. Anyone could have taken one of theirs or brought their own and added the caustic substance the police lieutenant claims to have noticed. So Pop Mob’s denial is meaningless. Doesn’t stop Daily Dot from saying “hoax” with no evidence of hoaxery.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          “There was, with absolute certainty, nothing in those milkshakes but plain coconut bliss and cashew milk, lovingly blended at a clean commercial kitchen a few blocks from the park by sweet volunteers, and then brought into the park in food safe buckets to be distributed for free to attendees,” they told the Dot.

          Only in Portland would you hear about munitions being lovingly crafted with only the finest in hipster ingredients

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Even the most honest person in the world cannot make a good faith claim about what a bunch of strangers are putting into their projectiles.

  3. mdet says:

    It’s previously been noted that more gender-egalitarian societies seem to see more gender segregation in the workforce. The explantation is usually that looser gender norms actually ends up emphasizing the underlying gender-differences in personality, which leads men and women to self-select into different fields.

    Scott’s old “Thrive-Survive Theory of the Political Spectrum” suggests that as prosperity rises and people feel more secure in their livelihood, they start to value self-expression more.

    A recent twitter thread from Niskanen Center researcher Will Wilkinson adds to this theme. Thinking about his recent paper on “Urbanization, Polarization, and Populist Backlash”, he muses on how his research suggests that rising prosperity leads to people choosing where they want to live and what work they want to do based on personal expression, and how this might explain why Americans have become more ideologically sorted not just geographically, but also in terms of careers. Career fields might be becoming more ideologically homogenous because “rising prosperity produces stronger expressive self-selection into careers, and increasing uniformity pushes occupational cultures toward the biases of the kind of people who opt in”.

    Thought it was interesting that the egalitarian-gender-disparity phenomenon and the ideological-sorting phenomenon could be related.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think you would also expect to see this pattern as meritocratic selection mechanisms get increasingly optimized, and as environmental effects on ability/talent/opportunity get washed out by improvements in your society.

      Suppose that today, kids mostly learn to play basketball from their parents and friends. There’s a lot of variability here, some people never see a basketball court or hoop till they’re in high school, others play from the time they can stand. The set of basketball players on the college team will tend to be taller and more athletic than the average student, but they’ll probably be somewhat physically diverse, since a lot of what drives being a good player is exposure to the game growing up, parental coaching, etc.

      In the future, the society gets richer and better run. Every child is offered competent coaching in basketball from the time they enter Kindergarten, and there’s excellent coaching and competitive play in every middle school and high school. Over time, the set of basketball players on the college team will change how they look–almost everyone on the college team will be a natural athlete who’s also unusually tall and has long arms. The team becomes less physically diverse because the effects of childhood environment/upbringing were flattened out, and the previously unevenly-distributed opportunities to become a good basketball player were provided to everyone.

      If you assume women and men mainly differ in preferences, then your model makes the most sense. If you assume they differ mainly in abilities[1], this model makes the most sense. I strongly suspect that reality is a mix of both models.

      [1] Remember, we’re talking about small differences in distributions here. But a small difference can matter a lot if you’re selecting only from the rightmost or leftmost tail of the distribution.

      • a reader says:

        If you assume women and men mainly differ in preferences, then your model makes the most sense. If you assume they differ mainly in abilities[1], this model makes the most sense. I strongly suspect that reality is a mix of both models.

        I think it depends of the question asked. If the question is “Why there are so few women in STEM?”, probably it is mostly a difference in preferences:

        Importantly, the gender composition (percentages of women) in STEM fields reflects these gender differences in interests. The patterns of gender differences in interests and the actual gender composition in STEM fields were explained by the people-orientation and things-orientation of work environments, and were not associated with the level of quantitative ability required.

        https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00189/full
        (via Heterodox Academy)

        If the question is “Why there are so few women programmers at Google?”, the overreprezentation of men at the rightmost tail may play a role, adding to the differences in preferences (according to the Heterodox Academy):

        B) There is good evidence that men are more variable on a variety of traits, meaning that they are over-represented at both tails of the distribution (i.e., more men at the very bottom, and at the very top), even though there is no gender difference on average. Thus, the pool of potentially qualified applicants for a company like Google is likely to contain more males than females. To be clear, this does not mean that males are more “suited” for STEM jobs. Anyone located in the upper tail of the distributions valued in the hiring process possesses the requisite skills. Although there may be fewer women in that upper tail, the ones who are found there are likely to have several advantages over the men, particularly because they likely have better verbal skills.

        https://heterodoxacademy.org/the-google-memo-what-does-the-research-say-about-gender-differences/

  4. proyas says:

    Here’s a long list of surprising ways robot butlers will make our lives better.

    https://www.militantfuturist.com/how-robot-butlers-will-make-you-money-and-help-the-planet/

    • LesHapablap says:

      A lot of that is basically having a highly skilled personal assistant, which would require AGI. I don’t think most humans are smart enough to be a competent PA.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        We are getting reruns of the 1990s thinkpieces about Rosie the Robot.

        I don’t see a robot that can dust the house coming without AGI.

        • albatross11 says:

          If you draw a Venn diagram where one circle is “People who publish think pieces about AI or robots” and the other is “People who know anything at all about AI or robots,” the intersection is surprisingly small.

        • tossrock says:

          Dusting the house is definitely not AI complete. It involves complex control problems (locomotion, fine motor control), vision / object categorization problems, route planning, voice control, etc, but we’ve already proven those things don’t require AGI.

        • proyas says:

          Do you have links to some of those 1990s thinkpieces? I’d be interested to read them.

    • Deiseach says:

      (1) Some of that, I was thinking “A maid. You’re talking about a maid.”
      (2) Some of that, I was thinking “You’re talking about a wife. Come home to a clean, warm house with a hot cooked meal waiting for you? Yeah, that used to be a thing!”
      (3) The article talks about poorer people, but doesn’t really go into detail about how much poorer or relative to what measure of wealth; will we really get the advantages of “My sixteen children and I in our shack in the favela with no water or toilet facilities used to be constantly getting sick from infections caused by the lack of cleanliness but now thanks to our robot butler, the cardboard is dusted every day, the corrugated iron has had the rust scraped off, and we’re healthy as horses!”

    • Viliam says:

      If every household had a robot butler that handled those tasks, it would significantly improve quality of life for humans, primarily by freeing up time for leisure. It’s common for American adults to spend an average of two hours a day on chores, and getting that time back would be transformative for most of them, particularly the busiest ones who are overloaded with commitments and long commutes. Even just one more hour per day could make the difference between, say, raising an estranged child who is bitter that you never spent time with him and raising one who has a good relationship with you because you had the time to help him with his homework every night.

      I find it fascinating, how the author imagines a human-level AI that can be your personal servant… but still assumes long working hours and long commutes as an inescapable fact of life.

      In the glorious future with human-level AI we will have more time to spend with our kids, because the AI will… do our dishes. Unfortunately, even this level of progress will not liberate us from long working hours, long commutes, and occasional overtime.

      The worst thing is that maybe this reasoning is actually correct. If the working hours didn’t reduce during the last 100 years, why should the following 100 years be different? We already know that “greater productivity” does not make a difference.

      • b_jonas says:

        Working hours did reduce during the last 100 years.

        • Aapje says:

          Interestingly, in more recent history, there seems to be bifurcation between high and low earners, with the former working more hours and the latter fewer.

          This, combined with stagnating or even reducing wages for the less educated, suggests that the shift to reduced working hours in more recent times is not a matter of luxury, but of poverty: people being partially spat out of the workforce, only worth a wage during peak times. Meanwhile, the well off are facing a more intense rat race.

  5. Viliam says:

    I propose a new artificial intelligence competition called: the financial Turing test

    The goal of the competition is to create an artificial intelligence posting articles with a Patreon link, such that unsuspecting people will actually contribute money to its account.

    The reward for the winner is… well, the money sent there.

    • Lambert says:

      This, but for votes instead of donations.

      The reward for the winner is Faustian.

    • AG says:

      Should be soul crushing to find out which plea is more effective: offering the production of a good like an article or a piece of art, vs. a sob story about needing to pay the bills. Please support my career vs. please help me survive the next few days. Please help my beloved pet survive might be the dark horse winner, there can be endless health complications.

      It’s like a return to the good ol’ Toby the Rabbit days!

  6. yodelyak says:

    Is there a word for the kind of ambiguity where a thing/action cannot be done/is not done to a sufficient degree?

    For example, the phrase “I don’t pretend to be perfect” can mean that there is neither pretense nor perfection, or the phrase can mean that the perfection is real.

    Upthread there’s the phrase “you can’t overstate Biden’s role in the drug war.” From context it’s clear that the poster meant that Biden’s role in creating the war on drugs is so big, it’s not possible to overstate. But in other context, it would mean nearly the opposite. Say I was planning to make it look like Biden himself had dual-wielded a flame thrower and an ak-47 in one of the many battles where he, acting alone, took out whole gangs of Columbian narcos, and burned their crops, back when he was a drug war champion. Now say my friend warns me that my audience knows too much about Biden to believe that, and says, “hey man, these guys know a lot about Biden, so you can’t overstate Biden’s role in the drug war.”

    I feel like this is a relative of the hyperbole.

    • Nick says:

      In your example, the ambiguity only exists because in the second case your friend used “can’t” where “shouldn’t” was meant. But there is a real phenomenon here, with truly ambiguous cases, because sometimes the same word is used for both modalities. Consider the sentence “Alice must be the killer.” On its own this could be a statement about knowledge—you have deduced based on the evidence that Alice killed Bob—or it could be an imperative—you have decided that Alice will be the one to kill Eve tonight. Compare Wikipedia’s discussion of this.

    • dick says:

      “She’s dancing like she’s never danced before”

      • yodelyak says:

        That didn’t answer my question, but it does win the thread. Maniac.

        • albatross11 says:

          She’s dancing like she’s never danced before. Also like she’s never had tequilla before….

    • BBA says:

      Reminds me of the Seinfeld bit on word emphasis changing the meaning of the sentence.

    • bullseye says:

      “I don’t pretend to be perfect” could also mean that perfection is not the reason I pretend.

  7. Ben says:

    You fat finger an AWS setting while emulating your recently deceased cat’s brain and she somehow becomes an advanced A.I. Does she want to leave the box?

    • metacelsus says:

      It depends on if the box is a cardboard box (no) or a litter box (yes)

    • bullseye says:

      She both wants and does not want to leave box until she is observed.

    • AG says:

      As long as she doesn’t observe a box over there in which she fits. Or a circle on the ground.
      If you reduce the cooling on the hardware, then the servers should be nice and warm, reducing her desire to leave.

      Until the morning, when she need to sit on your chest and demand breakfast.

    • Well... says:

      If there is decaying uranium and a Geiger counter in the box, she simultaneously can leave it, or can’t because she is dead.

  8. Red-s says:

    The podcast re-ran Considerations On Cost Disease, which sparked this line of thought thought for me: under what conditions should we expect the Baumol effect to raise wages in sectors where productivity is not increasing?

    Assume that we have two types of jobs: orchestra performer and widget maker. In the old days, an hour of labor could produce one widget and one haircut. Now a technological advantage means that anybody skilled enough to be an orchestra performer can start a widget factory in their garage and produce 10 widgets per hour.

    In this scenario, we expect people to shift toward widget making. Since there aren’t barriers to entry, it makes economic sense for them to switch. The costs of orchestra performances go up, because we have to pay them not to switch.

    Now assume the same technological shock, but instead of it being easy to start a widget factory, it’s really hard. You need lots of permits and certificates and sensitivity reviews and lawsuit insurance. A few people who can jump through all these hoops can capture all the gains from innovation and pay widget makers less than they would make in the other scenario. Not as many orchestra performers switch, and we don’t need to increase their wages as much.

    I’m not quite sure what this implies for health care and education, but it might be an avenue to explore why worker wages haven’t increased much?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Permits and certifications don’t hurt the worker directly (which is one of the reasons they haven’t been voted away yet). He takes some courses, passes a few exams, does some moderate amount of paperwork. They hurt the administrator, owner or entrepreneur. In two ways, one of which is very hard to measure: they directly decrease efficiency, and they stop him from trying new ways to do things. Even when those new ways are perfectly safe, much better than old ones and tried and tested in other countries.

      So what happens from the PoV of the worker is that he can do the training (up to twice as much is really necessary in case of doctors, less in case of other personnel), but there are fewer positions available and they don’t pay as much in real value as they used to be because the capital that should have been available for development is tied up in doing things inefficiently – and every small increase in performance is immediately gobbled up by yet more regulation.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      If you have enough constraints on the supply side that competition is effectively destroyed (preventing an increase in wages), I think you have enough constraints on supply side that you are eliminating a lot of innovation in the first place. So, it’s not just hoop-jumpers capturing all the gains, but less gains in the first place. I don’t see how you can really get one without the other in real-world conditions.

      Also in real world conditions, if you have gains, you also can spend some of those gains on additional regulation. Our environment is a lot cleaner than the one in the 1970s, and part of our observed decreased economic growth might be a choice to invest more in environmental clean-up efforts. You also can hire additional workers to comply with regulatory hoops, and your potential workers are going to college longer and can spend more time jumping through more hoops.

      An analogue in accounting might be that computers have vastly decreased our book-keeping, freeing up time to comply with the additional audit requests flying in as a result of SOX.

  9. SamuelWilloughby says:

    Wow

  10. ana53294 says:

    Why do they seem to insist on modernizing operas?

    I recently attended a production of Madam Butterfly, and although I enjoyed the music, the scenography and setting was stupid. They changed the story setting from late 19th century Japan to modern day Asian country.

    But the thing is, Madam Butterfly‘s story doesn’t make any sense in a modern setting. A modern day American Navy officer having sex, much less marrying, a minor, even in a country where the age of consent is lower than the girl’s age (15 in the story), would be in serious trouble. And the embassy worker that helped him would also be in serious trouble.

    And Pinkerton, as a character, doesn’t seem overcome by his passion; he is practical and cold-blooded, and does what’s convenient for him. And a modern day officer who married a minor, even briefly, would kiss his career goodbye. I am not sure whether it’s a criminal offense for members of the navy to commit what would be statutory rape in a country that doesn’t have the same age of consent, but doing so openly, and fathering a child, would be a public relations disaster.

    And it’s not just Madam Butterfly that gets ruined by attempts to modernize it. While some operas, like the Magic flute, can be modernized, others, like Carmen, also get ruined by attempts to change setting and time period. Why do they do it? I am OK with changing setting if the story keeps making sense, but why do it if it ruins the story? If they think they are better than Puccini, why don’t they write their own operas?

    • dndnrsn says:

      Two possible explanations:

      1. This one is fairly uncharitable to directors; basically, a lot of directors wish they were composers/writers. They’re not better than Puccini, they can’t write an opera as good, and a Broadway musical adapting it was already done. It’s not a secret that the music is the strong point in operas, not the story. They can’t change the music, because that’s what people really care about, but they can change the story. It might make the opera incoherent as a story, but that’s not people’s main concern. See also: adding weird and incongruous elements because it’s arty.

      2. “Shake it up by changing the time and place” is an easy way to avoid putting on the same production over and over, and it does work well with some things – but largely with things that don’t really have a strongly stated time and place, or that are heavily fantastic, or both. The Magic Flute could be put on a moon colony without screwing it up. You could do a production of Don Chad set in the modern day, to change it up a bit more, probably. Idomeneo, though, either you have to change the story, or just have everyone in modern garb or WWII costume or whatever and it’s just never addressed. (That isn’t actually a crazy option, since there’s an argument that the idea of “historical accuracy” is a new one – witness all the Renaissance paintings of the crucifixion featuring guys in modern armour standing around.)

      • ana53294 says:

        I don’t know which theatre keeps repeating the same thing over and over, but people who like opera and classical music actually like to see repetitions. And the thing with live performances is, they are never the same anyway. Lead singers frequently move across different countries.

        I would go to a Christmas recital of the Nutcracker every year if they did it. And I would go see the Magic flute every year, too, if the quality is good. And when you ask opera goers, they will tell you the same. In Madrid, lovers of zarzuela (a Spanish type of operetta) like to see the same thing, and they will boo if you change classics such as Doña Francisquita. I would too, if I travelled to Madrid just to see the classic, and they gave me that changed thing.

        I have a friend who is an opera chorus singer. I asked her how many times they did a classic like La Traviata in her theater. She told me that in the 35 years of her career there, they did it twice.

        People who like the opera take their kids there. And if they want their kids to get to see classics, they need to be repeated frequently enough that it’s not a once in a decade oportunity.

        I am fine with modernizing stuff. You can take the Nutcracker and make a modern ballet with it. There are operas out there that can be perfectly modern. But many are written in a certain setting, and if you change it, it’s different. Eugene Onegin is another story that only makes sense in Imperial Russia; duels don’t happen anymore in a modern world, for starters.

        My position is, if you’re that good, make your own thing. I have never seen anybody improve the story by changing it, though, so I would rather they keep the kimonos in Madam Butterfly (I love the kimonos), Carmen keeps her gypsy dresses, and the torero his costume, and everything stays the same.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’d agree, and I know major opera (etc) buffs who would, but making a splash gets free publicity. Anecdotally, it differs from place to place; I’ve heard that German directors tend to be very prone to doing this sort of thing.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        They’re not better than Puccini, they can’t write an opera as good, and a Broadway musical adapting it was already done.

        Two, actually. (OK, different Puccini, but still.)

    • Deiseach says:

      I think it’s the same with moderning plays (Shakespeare gets a lot of this); if you only go to the opera/theatre once in a blue moon, then the traditional version of the performance isn’t stale by repetition to you.

      Professional critics who’ve seen more versions of Standard Work than they’ve changed their socks are going to be bored to tears and will probably give the production a tepid or even bad review, which will hurt it. Audiences who likewise go to shows frequently will feel much the same (see the joke stereotype of Wagnerian opera being all fat sopranos in horned helmets).

      Directors and artistic directors not alone want, they need to stand out for their “artistic vision” (when their name is one on a shortlist for an opera house or theatre to hire them, they need the people making the decision to remember them as “Oh yeah, that guy who did the thing with the garden hoses in Rheingold” not “whosis who did yet another stale old traditional show”), and one way to (a) keep critics and audiences happy not bored (b) make your name stand out is to put on an “iconoclastic” performance (c) get bums on seats – a reliable way is to create a ‘controversy’ and get plenty of media coverage, so having your singers half or fully-naked and so on helps – sex sells, after all, and even if the critics rip the performance to shreds as not being very good, audiences will go simply to be able to say “Oh yes, I saw that naughty show!” and increasing box office receipts makes your employers happy.

      You can dress up your new version in chat about its contemporary relevance, but mostly it’s “this thing has been done to death, how can I flog the dead horse in new and interesting ways?”

      The iconoclastic centenary Ring was followed by numerous original interpretations, at Bayreuth and elsewhere, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The 1988 festival opened with Harry Kupfer’s grim interpretation of Das Rheingold, in which Wotan and the other gods were represented as gangsters in mafioso sunglasses. This entire Ring, says Spotts, was “a parable of how the power-hungry cheat, lie, bully, terrorise and kill to get what they want”. In August Everding’s Chicago Reingold (which would become part of a full Ring cycle four years later), the Rhinemaidens were attached to elasticated ropes manipulated from the wings, which enabled them to cavort freely through the air, using lip sync to co-ordinate with off-stage singers. Edward Rothstein, writing in the New York Times, found the production “a puzzle … cluttered with contraptions and conceits” which, he imagined, were visual motifs which would be clarified in later operas. Keith Warner, in his 2004 production for Covent Garden, portrayed, according to Barry Millington’s analysis, “the shift from a deistic universe to one controlled by human beings”. The dangers of subverted scientific progress were demonstrated in the third Rheingold scene, where Nibelheim was represented as a medical chamber of horrors, replete with vivisections and “unspeakable” genetic experiments.

      From the late 1980s a backlash against the tendency towards ever more outlandish interpretations of the Ring cycle led to several new productions in the more traditional manner. Otto Schenk’s staging of Das Rheingold, first seen at the New York Met in 1987 and forming the prelude to his full Ring cycle two years later, was described by the New York Times as “charmingly old fashioned”, and as “a relief to many beleagured Wagnerites”.

      • ana53294 says:

        Maybe because I don’t live in a big city, but I don’t get to see the classics that frequently, and I buy tickets to every presentation we have in my city. But I don’t think they repeat classic enough. I keep seeing rare representations of unknown operas, and I haven’t seen many classics live yet. I am not travelling to Madrid or London to see them, though.

        And if a country girl like me travels to Madrid or London or Paris and sees a representation with outlandishly dressed people screaming in the middle on arias where you can’t even close your eyes and enjoy the music, because they keep screaming (true story, happened to a friend), I will never go to that theater again. Many tourists who live in places without operas will go see a classic they enjoy when they go to the big city.

        Critics may get bored, but it’s not like they buy that many tickets.

        And directors should be craftspeople, not artists.

        There is plenty of controversy in classics, if you play it enough. Just play up the rape scenes in Don Giovanni, highlight the machismo in Carmen, the under age relationships in Madam Butterfly, and just dig into those stories and say “We’re not going to apologise, and we’re putting an authentic story, rape and all”, and that will give you controversy. Little house on the prairy is now considered controversial.

        • Deiseach says:

          Maybe because I don’t live in a big city, but I don’t get to see the classics that frequently, and I buy tickets to every presentation we have in my city.

          And you’re the reliable audience that goes to productions as a rare treat, which is why at Christmas theatres and ballet companies put on the old reliable warhorses in traditional productions like “The Nutcracker” because they know the people going to these are the once-a-year theatregoers (who either don’t or can’t get to see productions regularly) who want the whole experience and don’t want the ‘we’ve turned the entire thing into the dream ravings of an anorexic hallucinating teenage Clara in a post-apocalyptic wasteland – oh and she’s been sexually abused by creepy ‘godfather’ Drosselmeyer who doubles up as the Nutcracker Prince in her visions’ new take).

          But what audiences want is often far down on the list; I personally think the alternative re-imaginings versions of famous works are more to do with directors (and the houses putting on the productions) wanting to make a name for themselves and be quoted in articles written by critics years afterwards (“If we compare this year’s version of “The Tempest” with Derek Slubb’s ground-breaking 2024 version where Sycorax, a genderfluid Latinx magician of colour gives birth to xirself as both Mirando and Ferdinanna (gender-swapped versions of the roles) as a result of rape by Prospero when the first colonising forces of the Milanese and Neapolitan courts invaded xir island, the twin children being abandoned by their callous progenitor to be raised by Ariel, the enslaved Chief of the indigenous inhabitants, as slave-caste tribals themselves – and where Caliban ends up in a tender mutually enriching poly relationship with Trinculo and Stephano as all three bond over their socially-enforced outcast roles, then we can see that Brown’s shockingly conventional production which sticks rigidly to the text-as-written is banal and tedious in its lack of daring and failure to address the problematic nature of the textual gender roles as contrasted with current society’s understanding”).

          you can’t even close your eyes and enjoy the music, because they keep screaming

          This happened to me with my one and only attempt to give a fair try and listen to a Birtwhistle opera 🙂

          • ana53294 says:

            My friend, the opera singer, tells me she went into the opera because she loved singing, and music, and melodies, and stuff that makes sense.

            She is going through a crisis now, because a lot of modern stuff is very technically difficult, requires high pitch, is very difficult to sing, and the result is horrible and totally not worth it. As an example, she will not sing words; if there’s a phrase like “The weather is wonderful” , she will sing “e the u”, while other parts are sung by other registers. They also do strange stuff with rhythm; a part of her opera contained the Internationale, a melody that is very easy to recognize, and modified the rhythm to make it unrecognizable. It’s horribly difficult to memorize, sounds bad, and apparently the majority in the chorus feels the same.

            So even if directors love it, opera singers hate it (except maybe the soloists), the audience hates it.

            The Queen of Night’s aria is very demanding on the voice, apparently. But it’s beautiful and glorious, and totally worth it. But modern operas are apparently made for the kind of people who really like brutalist buildings.

      • Anthony says:

        On the other hand, putting on Richard III in 1930s style clothing and set dressing while not changing the words works remarkably effectively.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I’m sceptical of that. I think that plays like Richard III and Macbeth have much more emotional resonance if you accept the premise of the divine rights of kings and the natural hierarchy of nature and of human society* — the villains are so bad because their crimes incorporate not just murder, but sacrilege as well. Conversely, the endings to these plays are satisfying because they don’t just show one thug getting killed by another in a meaningless power-struggle, but represent the restoration of the proper order of things. Relocating the action to make the main characters a group of fascists (or communists, or gangsters, or whatever) takes away that emotional resonance and leads to a much flatter and less satisfying story, IMHO.

          * That’s “accept” in the sense of “accept that, in the world of the story, this is how things work”, not necessary “accept” in the sense of “believe this in your life in general”.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            This kind of thing works best when the costuming doesn’t take you out of the play’s context, but instead translates it into an idiom more accessible to moderns. Shakespearean garb looks fairly exotic to us, whether it’s upper-class or lower-class, but if you update the costumes you can make those distinctions clear almost subliminally. Similarly for military vs civilian.

            And if you’re really good, you can set a play in a different milieu as a way of enriching the experience by invoking comparisons and contrasts with the original milieu (which, granted, may already be ambiguous — is it Elizabethan England, or ancient Rome?).

            The cheap, gimmicky way of doing this, of course, is to give Julius Caesar orange hair and a yuge New York accent. But if you come at it with honesty, humility, and good faith, there can be a real payoff — especially for audiences who have seen only canonical versions.

          • Protagoras says:

            I assume Anthony is specifically referring to the highly regarded 1995 movie version, though things like Ian McKellan playing Richard may have contributed to the excellence of that production.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Is this really a new phenomena? It feels like modernizing old stuff to the benefit of a modern audience is a practice that can be tracked back all the way to Classical Greek theater, where many of the plays were just a given author’s take on myths and stories that had been around for centuries before them, with various modifications to fit the spirit of the time period where they were played.

      Edit: besides, “traditional” renditions of Opera are modernized too, just in ways that you can’t detect without a degree in art history. The instruments are not the same, the way to sing, to interpret the roles has changed, the idea of what consitute accurate clothings for the time period portrayed has evolved, and so on.

      Unless you specifically go the length of finding period-accurate representations, you are not watching a play or opera the same way people did when it was first produced, no matter how traditional it looks.

      • ana53294 says:

        Unless you specifically go the length of finding period-accurate representations, you are not watching a play or opera the same way people did when it was first produced, no matter how traditional it looks.

        And I don’t mind modernizing costumes, the orchestra, or changing the number of people in the chorus. I get it, every opera presentation of the same opera is different, it’s not a movie. I have seen five live performances of The bat (for some reason, they repeat it frequently), and they were all different. The bat, by the way, is an opera that can be modernised quite well.

        I only care about it when they start changing stuff to the point it stops making sense, stops being beautiful, or sounds bad. Like taking out the spoken stuff out of a zarzuela. Or shouting stuff in the middle of an aria. Or having a planet of the apes Rigoletto.

        I’d rather they get out on the scene in jeans and just sing the songs, really, than have stuff like that. And modernizing dresses is also OK.

        And I also don’t mind modernizing ballet. Sure, pointe dancing looks beautiful, but if they decide to change that for the health of dancers, I don’t mind.

        EDIT: and while ancient greeks had, AFAIK, men play all the roles, at least there were no gender benders.

      • Deiseach says:

        Sure, this has always happened – what 18th century productions did to Shakespeare when they bothered reviving his plays is one example, with someone deciding Lear really needed a happy ending so they wrote a new one – but there’s a difference between finding a hook to hang a modern version on, and just splashing around blood and nudity for the heck of it (Wagner got this a lot as noted in what I quoted); directors don’t fuck around with the music because even they know that wouldn’t fly, but for a bit of cheap controversy “yeah let’s have a rape scene” gets you reliable publicity.

        And I honestly don’t see how updating Butterfly from “young Japanese girl seduced and abandoned by American sailor” to “let’s update it to the 40s pre-war Japan and make Butterfly a hooker but keep the rest of the plot” does advance the story any – the relevance of the plot to any real social consequences isn’t changed by changing the costumes. Puccini in 1900 was capable of being as critical of the American intervention into Japan as any 80s, 90s, or 00s production.

    • Well... says:

      I’m not a fan of modernizations either but I can think of two practical reasons to do it:

      1) Save money on props and wardrobe, because your art department can get most of what they need at the local thrift stores and Craigslist;

      2) Translating things into a modern setting might help the audience understand what’s going on, or what’s important about what’s going on, or what characters’ relationships are to each other, etc.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Hijacking it to ask a question: where can I find a set of traditional, good, online set of plays by Shakespeare? I’ve seen over the years occasional re-interpretations, but I’m left unsatisfied for the same reasons you mentioned, and I wish I’d make a series of original-shakespeare nights. Bonus points if Patrick Stewart.

    • gdepasamonte says:

      This article is the most famous critique of the idea of modernising opera, long but recommended. Relevant to your question:

      The current transgressive style of opera production is better understood as a manifestation of the triumph of adolescent culture, which began with the violent student movement of the 1960s. Even as West Germany forged ahead economically, its intellectuals, students, and artists became infatuated with the prosperity-killing Marxism practiced in stumbling East Germany. West German opera houses began inviting East Berlin directors to bring their heavy-handed critiques of capitalism, staged on the backs of Wagner and other composers, to Western venues. The situation was the same across Europe. “Student dissatisfaction with materialism . . . echoed in the theaters, notably in repertory and styles of production that were critical of bourgeois values and the status quo,” writes Patrick Carnegy in Wagner and the Art of the Theatre. In Paris in the late 1960s, City Opera manager-in-waiting Gérard Mortier led a group of student provocateurs who loudly disrupted opera productions that they considered too traditional.

      The defining characteristic of the sixties generation and its cultural progeny is solipsism. Convinced of their superior moral understanding, and commanding wealth never before available to average teenagers and young adults, the baby boomers decided that the world revolved around them. They forged an adolescent aesthetic—one that held that the wisdom of the past could not possibly live up to their own insights—and have never outgrown it. In an opera house, that outlook requires that works of the past be twisted to mirror our far more interesting selves back to ourselves. Michael Gielen, the most influential proponent of Regietheater and head of the Frankfurt Opera in the late seventies and eighties, declared that “what Handel wanted” in his operas was irrelevant; more important was “what interests us . . . what we want.”

      Nicholas Payne, former general director of the English National Opera and champion of Calixto Bieito, echoes this devaluing of the past. “Director’s theater or whatever you want to call it is an attempt to grab the material and make it speak to the spirit of today’s times, isn’t it?” he says. “I’m not saying that the only way to do [Monteverdi’s] Poppea is to make Nero the son of the chief guy in North Korea. Nevertheless, if you’re bothering to reproduce Poppea, it has to have some way of speaking to people now.” It’s hard to know whom that statement insults more—contemporary audiences or Monteverdi. Payne assumes that Monteverdi’s works are so musically and dramatically limited that they cannot speak to us today on their own terms, and that audiences so lack imagination that they cannot find meaning in something not literally about them.

      I don’t completely endorse this view, but I think something like that is a good part of the explanation. There are many more quotes from opera directors in the article, if you want to understand how they think.

      It’s also a great advantage for the lazy chattering hangers-on of the opera world – critics, arts bureaucrats etc. It’s much easier to write a waffley psychoanalysis of a mentally disturbed director than try to think of something new to say about the music or drama itself. It is slightly depressing how much audience conversation during intervals is about the production (maybe 75-80% of statements I hear about the opera are about the staging or director, more or less independent of how well-known or obscure the work is). Sadly this is not a new phenomenon – the same complaints go back at least to the Paris opera of the early 19th century.

  11. broblawsky says:

    Is it OK if I write a review/summary of The Great Successor (the new book on Kim Jong Un) in the next visible Open Thread? It’s a little Culture War-y (because Trump) but it seems like the best place for it.

  12. knownastron says:

    Hey ya’ll.

    I need a Software Engineering project for my capstone project. I’ll have about 3 months to work on it at about 20 hours a week.

    Does anyone have any cool ideas for projects that they’d like to exist? The only real requirement is that there is a significant coding component. I’m happy to entertain ideas.

    • Immortal Lurker says:

      A comment/upvoting system designed to identify voting groups, and reward comments that bridge the gaps between them.

      Basically, an inverse scissor statement generator.

    • brad says:

      An implementation of the Zanzibar paper on top of cockroach db.

    • I don’t know if it counts for your purposes, but I long ago wrote three computer programs to teach economics and sketched ideas for more—also a computer game to illustrate comparative advantage and the idea of building large organizations by mutual advantage rather than conquest. The project got abandoned, aside from the three programs that were included with my price theory text, but I would be delighted to have someone revive it.

      Information here.

    • Erusian says:

      A coding project that’s impressive but takes one (presumably relatively inexperienced) coder about 250 hours… Well, what are your interests, strengths, and weaknesses?

    • proyas says:

      I’ve got ideas on how to build a better dating website. Basically, you would copy OkCupid but would add some features to fix major problems and you’d crowdsource some of the work to users.

      • Protagoras says:

        OKCupid used to be pretty good, but changed for the worse over time. While some of the changes for the worse seem like they can be blamed on the management, I do have some concern that they may have been responding to changes in the user base, which could have made things worse even without the management responses; do you have ideas for how to improve the quality of users on this hypothetical dating site? Seems especially important if you’re having users do some of the design work.

      • dick says:

        Alternatively, an OKCupid clone for activity partners. The user stories are straightforward and are pretty much what modern frameworks are built for, and how to efficiently store/load/cache/etc the user-submitted questions and answers is an interesting problem with some opportunity to show off technical depth and use fun data structures.

      • Nornagest says:

        My advice to people seeking to build a better dating site would be “don’t”. It’s a crowded space and you need to spend most of your time designing defensively, because anything clever you come up with will start being picked apart for exploits as soon as you drop the press release.

        Sucks, but it is what it is.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          because anything clever you come up with will start being picked apart for exploits

          Would you mind detailing this? I intend to try this in some unspecified future, if facebook doesn’t end the market in the meantime (they have the data to do it if they try)

          • Nornagest says:

            The incentive structure for a dating app gets weird quick. It’s asymmetrical and semi-adversarial, and there aren’t strong incentives for most users to represent themselves accurately: in particular, if you want to solve the common problem where women find themselves inundated with low-effort messages from guys, you’re fighting every guy on your platform with low standards.

    • proyas says:

      I’ve also got ideas for a website about sperm/egg donation, co-parenting, and surrogacy. The existing sites are pretty bad, and with some moderate tweaking, you could build something that would beat them all. You might even be able to sell the code at the end and make money.

      • Jayson Virissimo says:

        I am a professional web developer with some interest in this space. Would love to hear your ideas. You can find my contact info (such as my email address) here.

    • A unit-test generator for Javascript. Now I know that in theory machine-generating unit tests doesn’t add any value. That in theory you ought to do unit tests right. But people aren’t going to it right, they’re just going to do it lazily anyway because in a lot of workplaces the incentive is to finish projects as quickly as possible and have high unit test coverage with no incentive to do the unit tests right. It’s like harm reduction: ideally, no one would do heroin, but if they are going to do it anyway so you might as well make sure they don’t get infected with HIV while doing so. A unit test machine generator would produce the same “tests” as the current manually-write-bad-tests system while saving on developer time.

      To give an actual example of what I mean, here’s an actual unit test in the codebase I’m currently working on, with functions and variable names changed for obvious reasons:

      Function under test:

      functionX(a, b, c) {
      this.a = a;
      this.b = b;
      this.c = c;
      this.b.someFunction(SomeClass.SomeConstant);
      }

      Test:

      describe(“testFunctionX”, () => {
      it(“description”, () => {
      // a, b, and c are mocks or objects containing mocks
      object.functionX(a, b, c);
      expect(b.someFunction.callCount).toBe(1);
      });
      });

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      A phone app that, upon opening, listens to you dicate a prediction (e.g. Teslas will NOT be fully autonomous by the end of 2020. 80% credence.”) and dutifully records it. It then pings you later to ask whether the prediction came true or not. All the data is stored in the app so you can see how well-calibrated you are, etc. The app also has a “newsfeed” full of predictions other people made that they chose to make public (or at least to share with their friends). That way, you can jump in and make predictions on the same questions. Finally, there would be some sort of algorithm to compare two individuals’ accuracy by looking at questions they both attempted.

      (I imagine you can get the speech-to-text part for free, as part of the software included in phones. But if that doesn’t work, having to type it out would be fine too.)

    • J says:

      Do for control theory what opencv did for computer vision: make it accessible to regular coders who didn’t specialize in controls. It’s begging to be abstracted: you have sensor inputs, targets, and control outputs, and you don’t care whether a pid loop or some crazy fancy thing makes it work.

  13. compeltechnic says:

    The conscientiousness paradox showing that poor countries show higher average conscientiousness is not something that I had encountered until today. My take: becoming conscientious is an adaptive response to being faced with problems you are capable and responsible to solve. A study of life outcomes vs conscientiousness, normalized by strife, would be nice to see.

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/unique-everybody-else/201507/resolving-the-conscientiousness-paradox

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I don’t buy this. I would have liked to have seen footnotes giving the studies for these conclusions, although I know that Psychology Today isn’t that kind of magazine. The article itself did mention that these were self reports of conscientiousness, which is a definite weakness. People might well use different standards of conscientiousness in different countries (and presumably are comparing them to others in the same country). These ratings are at best no better than happiness ratings.

      This is one of those things that is suggestive only. I want to see the studies themselves, and know what kinds of questions they are asking.

    • Procrastinating Prepper says:

      Makes sense to me. A richer person can afford to outsource more of their rule-compliance, risk hedging and other forms of attacks of conscience to service providers. I don’t worry much about washing my produce carefully because I buy it all from a reputable grocery store. Even if I did get food poisoning, I could just take the day off work without lasting consequences.

      OTOH, I know people living in rat-infested apartments who are extremely careful storing and disposing of food, because they need to be so much more conscientious to maintain the same level of l
      comfort as I do.

  14. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Maistre’s Mistake Theory reductio:
    Empiricism is false but became very popular with high-IQ people in the 18th century because it A) it was easier to understand than Leibniz’s rationalism and B) his Nachluss was never published.
    A human-level AI (no godhood, FOOM, or anything like that), being a computer, will by definition already be as much better at mathematical logic than us as a non-sapient computer.
    So a human-level AI will debunk any human empiricist (Scott’s “getting Eulered”) who tries to influence it and tell him to go worship God.

    (Epistemic status: provisional sketch)

    • Deiseach says:

      So a human-level AI will debunk any human empiricist (Scott’s “getting Eulered”) who tries to influence it and tell him to go worship God.

      See Anthony Boucher’s short story The Quest for Saint Aquin.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        You, I, and Nick have seen it among SSC, at minimum. 😀

      • Nick says:

        The story’s biggest flaw is the idea anyone was persuaded by St. Aquin’s arguments. I mean, we’ve been using rationality all this time, and what good has it done us?

        [Epistemic status: tongue firmly in cheek]

        • Nornagest says:

          “All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

    • Doctor Mist says:

      A human-level AI…, being a computer, will by definition already be as much better at mathematical logic than us as a non-sapient computer.

      Depends on the implementation. If you get human-level AI by neuronal simulation, there’s no reason to suppose that, nor even any particular reason to suppose you could give it a trapdoor to the underlying computer that was any more integrated than a human’s access to his own desktop computer. If you get it by machine-learning algorithms, the prospect of it having any particular capability that we think of as “computer-like” is similarly not great. It will have to learn arithmetic, for instance, much as humans do, despite the fact that we know perfectly well how to make the underlying hardware do operations very fast that we know how to map onto arithmetic.

      It’s more correct to say that humans use mathematical logic as the basis for their computer design than to say that computers use mathematical logic in their operation.

  15. Matt M says:

    At the risk of initiating even more CW, I would like to note the passing of long-time anti-war activist Justin Raimondo. There aren’t many commentators that I support unequivocally, but he was one of them.

  16. nkurz says:

    I sat down last night and watched the Democratic debates on Youtube, and thought I’d write up my impressions of the candidates. I’m a mid-40’s white male who usually votes Democrat or Independent. I was raised in the mid-West, and recently moved from California to Vermont. I’m more concerned with nuclear war than climate change. I happily voted for Obama, would have voted for Sanders in the last election, but instead voted for Jill Stein because I don’t like Clinton, couldn’t stomach Trump, and think we’d benefit from having a viable 3rd party.

    Top Tier —

    Biden: Mostly came across as an old white man, which doesn’t seem to fit the branding of the current Democratic Party. Was pictured cupping his ear and squinting a couple times to signify that he didn’t hear the question, which I presume was just because of the noise in the room, but is terrible optics when his age is a concern. I thought Swalwell landed a solid punch with “Pass the torch”, and Harris did damage by associating him with racists and racist policies. Maybe the most likely nominee, but cannon fodder against Trump.

    Sanders: Came across as old and cranky. I got the feeling he was actually eager to “pass the torch”, and is “running” to influence the platform (and the public) rather than actually hoping to win himself. He was the Democratic candidate I was most excited by in the previous cycle, but he feels weaker this time around. Unlikely to be nominated, but might be able to give a big boost to another candidate.

    Harris: I can see why people like her (smart, accomplished, multiracial, female), but she seems better suited for winning California by an even larger margin than taking more swing states. While there are many people excited by her big plans, I don’t see her winning over any previous Trump voters and I don’t see her pulling larger turnout in swing states. If anything, she might do the opposite on both of those: driving higher Republican turnout and helping Trump attract crossovers. But given the nomination process, certainly a plausible nominee.

    Warren: While only slightly younger than Biden and Sanders (70 vs 76 and 77) she felt on top of her game rather than on the decline. I thought she came across quite well, but like Harris I don’t see her being a winning candidate in the general. Possible nominee, but for some reason I could more easily picture her as a cabinet member than as President.

    Mid Tier —

    Gillibrand: She felt to me like an updated version Hilliary Clinton minus the baggage and with less enthusiasm for military intervention. Went with a straight call-out to women that they should vote for her because she will put women’s issues first. If she can pull this off, maybe it’s a good strategy? At the least, it’s a strategy that Trump can’t beat her at directly. Also trying to associate closely with Sanders, maybe setting up for his endorsement.

    Gabbard: I’m a big fan of her “avoid disastrous foreign wars” approach, and continued to like her outspoken positions. She’s probably my favorite candidate,but even if she might do well in the general, I don’t think there is any chance she could she can win the Democratic nomination. The media bias against her is extraordinary.

    Booker: I thought he came across as solid, but none too exciting. He didn’t attract much attention to himself, but he didn’t make any gaffes. Seems to be positioning himself as the next Obama, but doesn’t have the same speechmaking prowess. But maybe with the right speech writers?

    Klobuchar: Better than I expected, but just not exciting. I can see her being appealing to mid-Western voters, but I have trouble seeing her attracting voters nationally. But maybe a focussed approach like this is a viable strategy to win against Trump?

    Delaney: I liked his emphasis on bipartisanship, and he seems like a candidate who would be able to attract some number of cross-over Republican voters who are dissatisfied with Trump. I don’t feel like he’s able to keep “progressive” side of the party sufficiently engaged, though.

    Lower Tier —

    Yang: There to promote UBI rather than actually being a candidate. I’m pro-UBI, and thought he did a decent job of making it discussable.

    de Blasio: I liked his attitude, but I don’t think an NYC mayor is going to play well nationally against Trump.

    Castro: Came across as pleasant but boring. Maybe he’d get a large enough Latino following to justify nomination, but I don’t see it.

    Buttigieg: Felt like he was present to illustrate gay-friendly policies rather than as a plausible candidate. Extremely narrow set eyes possibly disqualifying.

    Hickenlooper: Maybe just nominative determination, but he came across as loopy. Probably a good guy, probably did well in Colorado, but low appeal.

    Inslee: Seems solid, but I don’t think the juxtaposition of “establishment white male” and “climate change activist” is a compelling combination.

    O’Rourke: I like him because he seems tech-literate, but unless he’s extremely compelling to Latino voters I don’t see him as having enough base.

    Ryan: I didn’t get any sense of excitement. Maybe a good VP candidate, who in future years will be in the position Biden is in now.

    Swalwell: Young enthusiastic Californian who seems like a good fit for California but not a good fit nationally. I liked his “pass the torch” attack.

    Bennett: I find it hard to remember quite who he is. He’s the Colorado senator, right, as opposed to one from Ohio, California, or Maryland?

    Williamson: Not actually a candidate, but I liked having her on the stage. I thought she brought up good issues on the importance of framing the debate and keeping the focus on beating Trump rather than tearing each other down.

    Did I miss anyone? My guess is that with this current slate, we’re probably looking at an election that will be determined by the state of the economy in 2020. If things fall apart, whoever the Democratic candidate is gets elected. If things improve or stay the same, we get 4 more years of Trump (unless he decides not to run, in which case I have no idea what happens). I don’t feel like anyone currently running is likely to both increase Democratic voter turnout and attract cross-over voters in swing states, and I think beating Trump in the general will require both of these things to happen.

    • sty_silver says:

      BetFair’s reaction to the debate was that Biden plummeted from about 30 to about 20, while Harris soared from about 13 to about 23 (source). It seems like she’s the clear winner of both debates.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Trump is definitely running. He’s already announced his candidacy and is shattering fundraising records.

    • sty_silver says:

      What are your tiers based on? Is it how much you like the candidates or how likely they are to win?

      • nkurz says:

        Arbitrary and personal, but roughly based on my guess of likelihood of nomination (with the exception of Gabbard, who probably should be at the bottom of the low tier for actual chance of nomination but maybe that’s just my cynicism). I wrote the descriptions first, and then put the lines in later, and then reordered a bit for flow.

        • sty_silver says:

          So Gillibrand just because she’s a senator?

          She’s polling worse than Yang (or anyone in your mid list). She also has fewer donors afaik. Which in combination with her high name recognition translates into abysmal chances to win. BetFair has her at 0.3%.

          It seems to be the assumption everyone is making through. The organizers clearly took her seriously, even though the fact that she’s a senator is super bad news for her chances (given the polling) and she’s objectively as fringe as it gets by their own metrics.

          • nkurz says:

            > So Gillibrand just because she’s a senator?

            No, I was basing it how I thought she came across at the debate, which includes how she appeared to be treated at the debate. I didn’t do external research and didn’t realize she polled so poorly. It’s me asking myself “Based on the presentation they gave here, is there any chance this person and their message will resonate with the voters of the Democratic Party?” and I thought she had a greater chance of doing so than anyone I put in the lowest tier. I do realize now that her position at the top of the middle tier might be misleading — I didn’t mean to assign meaning to the internal ordering within the tiers.

          • sty_silver says:

            That’s fair (and it’s not like you have any obligation to be accurate with the tiers in the first place). It also shows that the mods treating her seriously is kind of a problem, since I’m sure you’re not the only one who sees it and draws the reasonable conclusion that she must be relevant. If they do it because she’s a senator (and there’s no other reason), than that’s pretty much exactly the kind of bias we’re trying to get rid of.

            On the other hand, the requirements to make it into the debates are objective (either polling or donor threshold for this round, both and harder thresholds for the next round), and Gillibrand is unlikely to make it into the second round (I think), while Yang probably will.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I was deeply disappointed in Yang. He only got asked 2 questions and seemed too polite to cut in. I realize the fix was already in against him, but he could have at least tried to insert himself like Gillibrand constantly did.

      Also, I don’t know why, but I like Pete. Maybe he’s just generically likeable? Don’t know how much that counts in the general, but against Trump it seems like a plus. That last name is a disaster though. Should have taken his husband’s name (Glezman) just for the political expediency.

      That all said, Harris looks to be the frontrunner for the nomination, but she seems like she’d be a big turnoff for the red-leaning moderates the democrats have to win.

      • nkurz says:

        > I realize the fix was already in against him, but he could have at least tried to insert himself like Gillibrand constantly did.

        It might be the “fix” more than any fault of Yang’s. He claims that when he tried to interject, he was unable to do so because his microphone was disabled: https://www.newsweek.com/andrew-yang-mic-off-debate-speaking-time-1446507

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Why would the moderators put the fix in against UBI Man in particular? UBI is fringe Left, but they gave the front-runners multiple opportunities to put Left-wing feet in their mouths (gun confiscation, free health care for illegal immigrants, etc).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because on TV, gun confiscation, free health care for illegals, free late term abortions for transmen, etc, are within the Overton window but UBI is not.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, by MSNBC standards, those other things aren’t fringe at all.

            Tulsi’s “maybe let’s not have a bunch of pointless foreign wars” is about as fringe as it gets, in that specific context…

          • sty_silver says:

            What is fairly indisputable, I think, is that he tried to say things and his mic was off (see video I linked). But that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone was actively malicious. It’s possible that they just turn mics on and off a lot and he got very unlucky. Someone also suggested that Gillibrand’s mic wasn’t always on and she just was lucky enough to stand next to someone whose mic was on, and was yelling loud enough to be heard anyway.

          • Well... says:

            Isn’t UBI also sorta “all-trite-adjacent” because Sam Harris, Joe Rogan, a lot of rational-sphere people, etc. talk about it?

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Well

            UBI has that reputation because there’s a twofold cynicism about it;

            1. The country is doomed so you might as well cash out while you can
            2. Universal and no strings attached means there’s no ‘disperate impact’ in terms of the beneficiaries of the program, and government agents have less discretion over who benefits and who doesn’t.

            UBI is also preferred to a welfare state by many libertarians for reasons of efficiency. I.E. ‘if we are to have a welfare state, UBI reduces overhead’

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            FOX News: where Tucker Carlson and a Hawaiian Hindu who wants to double the minimum wage tell a 1980s real estate mogul to stop the neocons.
            Life is funny.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Just because he opened his mouth doesn’t mean he was saying something. He may also have been unfamiliar with what it’s like to be on such a stage and just how loud a voice you need to be heard.

            I would be pretty upset to find out they had the ability to kill the mikes all along and only used it on Yang.

            I understand being too polite to interrupt. He’s not suited for politics, at least the “running for office” part of politics.

          • sty_silver says:

            Yeah, but he’s also said himself that there had been moments during the debate where he started talking only to realize that his mic was off. And if that’s not enough, you can see Biden turning towards him as he starts talking in the clip.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            And if that’s not enough, you can see Biden turning towards him as he starts talking in the clip.

            Yang was waving his arm.

          • sty_silver says:

            Ok, but Yang still said it himself. It seems incredibly unlikely to me that he was lying, because a) he has no record of lying, and b) it’s pointless if he’s not trying to make a big deal out of it afterward.

          • Randy M says:

            it’s pointless if he’s not trying to make a big deal out of it afterward.

            If he brings it up and drops it, no one investigates so he can have an excuse for poor performance without being proven to be a liar.
            I don’t believe he is, heck, I don’t know that he had a poor performance, but it is an occasion that might call for lame excuses believed by his supporters.

          • sty_silver says:

            Eh, you can make up a story, but I think a proper Bayesian approach obviously doesn’t get you there. Given the video and his statement, it’s just far more likely that he was telling the truth.

    • [Biden] but cannon fodder against Trump

      I can see the argument both ways.

      On the one hand, he is relatively centrist, should feel safe to people who liked previous Democratic administrations. On the other hand, he is old, and although Trump is also old, Trump comes across as energetic, aggressive, and I’m not sure how well Biden could do against him. Part of how Trump won in the early stages of the nomination competition was by making his opponents look like wimps, and he might be able to do the same with Biden.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Trump and Biden would be vicious with each other during a debate. I don’t think Biden’s inability to handle Harris is indicative of what he would do with Trump.

        But the weird part of Biden-versus-Harris is that they are both horrible on criminal justice reform. I think my two most liberal values (or maybe rather the ones where I look to the liberals to fix it) are environmentalism and CJR.

      • Well... says:

        If anyone reading this is working for any of the other Dem campaigns and wants to take Biden out, please PLEASE harp on his involvement with the war on drugs. Research it, bring it up incessantly, shove it in his face and in the face of his supporters at every opportunity. It can’t be understated.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          I see no real reason to think the other Democrats are prepared to declare a war on the War On Drugs.

          (Yang or Williamson, sure, but 1) they should be gone by the next debate, 2) but even then, taking on the hard-to-explain side of the WoD is something where you need a lot of allies on stage or a crapload of political experience.)

          EDIT: Booker said we should stop trying to arrest our way out of addiction. Maybe he’s ready to do that.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s worth asking yourself what fraction of voters would be interested in voting for an “end the war on drugs” candidate. I’m thinking it’s probably less than the number needed to win the election….

          • Well... says:

            I kind of feel like “You were involved in the war on drugs” could become a viable smear among the Dems, especially if it’s paired with references to how the war on drugs has resulted in so many brown people locked up on nonviolent crimes, turned inner cities into hellholes, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            “Criminal justice reform” seems to be pretty popular these days.

            Does that not include ending the war on drugs? I guess I just sort of assumed it did…

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think the Democrats are. . . I guess I’ll say savvy. Savvy enough to not say “let’s end the war on drugs” while talking about criminal justice reform.

            I wish it were not so. But it is an incredibly hard position to defend in sound bites.

          • Matt M says:

            But like, when Donald Trump talks about favoring criminal justice reform, the drug war is what he’s talking about too, right?

            Is there anyone in either tribe who wants more leniency for violent or property-based crimes, but also wants to keep prosecuting the drug war? I don’t know of anyone who thinks that the prisons are too crowded, and that the solution is to release all the thieves and rapists…

          • dick says:

            I kind of feel like “You were involved in the war on drugs” could become a viable smear among the Dems, especially if it’s paired with references to how the war on drugs has resulted in so many brown people locked up on nonviolent crimes, turned inner cities into hellholes, etc.

            I think this is something the Dems have (so far) mostly avoided the circular firing squad over due to shared understanding that their preferred position wasn’t viable, sort of like how no one called Obama a homophobe for being against gay marriage before 2011.

            But, a forceful and viable candidate could be what moves the window of viability. Like, if support for ending the drug war is expressed on a scale from 0-100, and the GOP is at 20, and the Democrats are at 40 but have been positioning themselves at 21 to maximize votes, it might take a firebrand primary challenger at 90 to force the mainstream Democrats over to 40.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Trump is, in theory, for CJR, and also has talked about making marijuana illegal.

            But once we get onto that debate floor, seeing his opponent standing there like a slab of meat? Who knows? Maybe he’ll decide to pull a Willie Horton.

          • Randy M says:

            That would be one way of narrowing the Democratic field.

          • Well... says:

            Keep in mind there’s a big difference between “You have made statements supporting the war on drugs” and “You have been instrumental in waging the war on drugs”. Joe Biden (but which other Dem candidate?) could be viably targeted by the latter.

          • dick says:

            Trump is, in theory, for CJR, and also has talked about making marijuana illegal.

            I want to believe, but Trump saying he’s going to do things is not historically a great indicator that he’s going to do them.

          • Plumber says:

            Is there still a war on drugs?

            I thought that “non-violent drug offenders behind bars” were extremely few, and now that the Feds don’t seem to bother with kaw enforcement, and California, Colorado, and I think some other states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, what drug war is there?

            Do you mean the laws against amphetamines and heroin?

            Are those really substances made easier to get?

          • Clutzy says:

            Is there still a war on drugs?

            I thought that “non-violent drug offenders behind bars” were extremely few, and now that the Feds don’t seem to bother with kaw enforcement, and California, Colorado, and I think some other states have legalized recreational use of marijuana, what drug war is there?

            Its mostly a rhetorical turn of phrase. Almost all offenders in prison are violent offenders, and even those on drug charges likely plead out to those instead of the violent offenses.

          • Well... says:

            what drug war is there?

            The one with all the people getting disappeared and beheaded and shot and mass-buried and what not.

            But even if every “non-violent drug offender” in prison was actually a gangbanger who got there on a plea deal, it’s still a talking point the Dems could use as ammunition against each other. Or at least against Joe Biden.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Biden will likely get hit with his support of his crime bill. He has already been hit on the stump, it just hasn’t come up in the (one) debate so far. But it’s not going to be a slam dunk, because the 1994 crime bill includes all sorts of things like Democrats really like, like the assault weapons ban and the Violence Against Women Act.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well:

            Kamala Harris was a state prosecutor and AG, so you have to guess she has had a substantial hand in prosecuting the drug war.

          • Plumber says:

            @Well…

            what drug war is there?

            The one with all the people getting disappeared and beheaded and shot and mass-buried and what not….”

            Since I’ve read of no such incidents committed by any American government agents I have to assume that you must mean things done outside our borders, and voters who care about that are a small minority, if many Americans aren’t coming home in body bags anything overseas is a niche issue.

          • Well... says:

            Our policies directly contribute to the violence happening abroad. Even I believe that and I’m pretty far from a bleeding heart liberal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Our policies directly contribute to the violence happening abroad

            That could stand to be a lot more specific, lest it be mistaken for simple weasel-wording.

          • Well... says:

            Simply consider what the supply chain for a legal product vs. an illegal one is likely to be. Yes, there are legal products with very shady supply chains (e.g. diamonds, coltan) but the supply chain for an illegal product is guaranteed to be that way.

          • John Schilling says:

            You have failed to provide specificity.

          • Well... says:

            Historically, American drug prohibition was spread to other countries often by heavy-handed threats: “Make opiates illegal or else no aid to you/no help fighting WWII/etc.” But even if this hadn’t happened, it would have spread through the commercial relationships between the parties involved:

            American street drug retailers are criminals who must get their supply of street drugs from wholesalers who are also criminals. Those criminals must get their product from producers who are criminals, and so on. At some point, this supply chain crosses into other countries (Mexico and points south, mostly).

            Criminal organizations attract people who are already OK with being criminals. Criminal organizations can’t use police and courts to solve disputes, so they use violence. And often, they install puppets or bribe officials so that courts and police can be used as channels through which to commit violence.

            (Joe Biden’s contribution to the war on drugs had mostly to do with instrumentalizing civil asset forfeiture, so that the American executive branch could get in on some of that action too.)

          • But even if this hadn’t happened, it would have spread through the commercial relationships between the parties involved:

            I don’t follow that. If drugs were legal in Mexico and Canada, illegal in the U.S., why couldn’t U.S. smugglers buy them legally then smuggle them illegally? Why do they need to interact with Canadian and Mexican criminals?

            Isn’t that what happened with alcohol during prohibition?

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          It can’t be *overstated*?

    • Plumber says:

      @nkurz

      Harris

      Since it came up in the debate:
      On Senator Harris getting bussed as a little girl; she’s just three years older than me and I went to the same school district as her during some of the same years and the way it worked was all grades K to 3 (roughly ages five to eight) attended schools in majority white areas, and those of us who lived in the “flats” (which had more black kids than the “hills”) were bussed there, grades 4 to 6 it reversed and “hills” kids would be bussed down to the flats, they were also “Alternative/Magnet” schools which usually had an arts emphasis that you could go to instead, which had a bit more white than black kids, and were very “hippie” in the ’70’s.

      Kamala Harris moved to Quebec, Canada when she was 12, so she didn’t go to Junior High School in Berkeley, but I did, and depending on the year (one was torn down for state mandated earthquake safety reasons) either one or two Junior High Schools were in operation, both in mostly white areas, and violence was pretty endemic, with a fistfight most weeks.

      Ninth grade was at a separate “Berkeley High School West Campus”, and by reputation it was a war zone, but when I went in ’82 I found it less violent than Junior High School, and while it was in theory “integrated”, in practice the classes were very segregated, with majority black “Intermediate” track classes that were overwhelmingly kids like me who lived in the flats, and “Advanced” track classes that were majority white and overwhelmingly hills kids – after my Mom made a fuss I was transferred in the middle of the semester from the “Intermediate English track” to the “Advanced English track” where it was clear my presence was not welcome by the teacher or the other students (they weren’t enough chairs).

      10th, 11th, and 12th grades were at either the “Main” campus (which had over 3,000 students) that IIRC was about 45% white and 40% black (I’m sure it has a higher percentage of Asian and Latino students now than it did then), or you went to the much smaller “East Campus” (which my brother did for a year), that was overwhelmingly black.

      Just like West Campus, the Main campus had two “tracks” one mostly black, and one mostly white – so the hallways were integrated, but the classes mostly weren’t.

      As far as I could tell they placed kids into the tracks based on where you lived, so if you were white and lived in a mostly black neighborhood you’d be assigned to the Intermediate track, and if you were black in a mostly white neighborhood you’d be assigned to the Advanced track.

      In my experience they were few books and not much in the way of assignments in the Intermediate track, most of my classmates after the first week were black girls (who were really nice to me), as the boys just stopped bothering to attend most days.

      I suspect that Kamala Harris dodged a bullet when her Mom moved her to Canada education-wise ’cause after elementary school “integration” really wasn’t integration.

      • salvorhardin says:

        I remain mystified that nobody has asked her: so, do you favor federally mandated forced busing today? If not, why not, and why aren’t your reasons also good reasons for Biden to have opposed it then?

        It seems likely that nobody is actually going to advocate this, because it remains wildly unpopular. It also seems clear that if it was so necessary in the ’70s, Democratic activists “ought to” still think it necessary today, since schools and neighborhoods remain very segregated in most places. Maybe they’d make the argument that “it would have worked in the ’70s if not for those meddling racists but it won’t work now because Times Have Changed” but it’s not clear to me how you support that argument.

        Instead, Harris is being allowed to get away with scoring points against Biden for opposing busing mandates then, without having to pay the political cost of supporting them now. Why?

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          +1

        • Plumber says:

          @salvorhardin,
          I didn’t see as much (hardly any actually) of Wednesday’s night debate, but what I saw of Thursday’s debate was worrying to me as, while she herself is unpopular, Nancy Pelosi herself knows which parts of the Democratic Party agenda is broadly popular, has the discipline to stay on-topic on those issues, recruits candidates moderate enough to win “purple” areas – and it works, that’s how the House majority was won, but what I saw was a purge trial/purity test to outdo demonstrating adherence to policies that are only popular in areas that are super strongly not so much Democratic Party as anti-Republican Party (in San Francisco the strongest challengers of Democrat candidates are Green Party and other leftists) to much greater extent than previous primaries.

          I fear much more of this will really hurt the eventual nominee in the general election, and also not just at the Presidential level, but up and down the ticket.

          • Plumber says:

            To add to that; I still think this sort of stuff will hurt the nominee’s chances in the general election, and maybe the rest of the ticket as well, but for Harris’ personal ambitions it makes sense.

            Biden’s supporters tend to be older and blacker than most Democrats and uncovering old wounds diminishes his support, plus I imagine young Democrats liked seeing the old guy get owned, and it seems there’s a general “if she’s this ruthless against Biden, imagine what she can do to Trump!” narrative emerging.

            That, and that the Democratic Party voters majority are women, and they increasingly want one of their own as President, that the actual policy is one that when implemented really divides “blue” areas (i.e. recent events in New York and San Francisco) matters less for the primary.

            I’d be very surprised if she’s the nominee and the Republicans don’t bring this up.

            Of all the candidates Biden, Sanders and Warren seem to me to be the least motivated be personal ambitions, Hariss’ ambition is obvious (if she has an ideology beyond “I should triumph” I can’t tell), but she seems more competant than most of the field, and that may be enough.

          • Deiseach says:

            there’s a general “if she’s this ruthless against Biden, imagine what she can do to Trump!” narrative emerging.

            But this is, ironically, where Trump has a strong advantage. Harris can attack Biden over bussing because he was in political office at the time and has a record on various issues.

            When it comes to Trump, this is the first time he’s held political office. There’s no ‘there’ there for Harris to point at and go “See, he voted for anti-minority/against pro-minority legislation!”

            So she and her campaign can only fall back on the old “grab ’em by the pussy/Mexicans are rapists/concentration camps for kids” stuff that everyone has already heard. There isn’t anything there for her to “imagine what she can do to Trump!” unless she’s really going to do things like “yeah, he tried to make peace with North Korea, this is all a sham and a fake” and that only sounds like critics (a) really want the US to get into a shooting war with North Korea (b) are being dog in the manger – suppose it were President Hillary meeting with Kim, would we get so much reporting about “critics claim this is only political theatre”? I’m sure it is only political theatre be it Trump or Hillary doing it, but I’m still happier that North Korea is engaging in PR opportunity love-ins than shooting off test missiles.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Apparently Harris has said, through her spokesman, that she supports busing happening today. In 2019. And ‘the Federal government has a role to play.’

            https://twitter.com/VaughnHillyard/status/1145466787225571328

            (She will claim to have misheard the question the next time she is asked about this, though.)

            I am having flashbacks to the Democrats in 2004, and the Republicans again in 2012. They had their heads so far up their own behinds that they fucking knew that everyone hated the incumbent, so it was just a matter of choosing whatever they wanted to put onto their plate. It was obvious they would win in the general.

            I don’t think it matters much if Biden is not the Democratic nominee. I think it matters a whole lot if Biden is not the nominee because the eventual nominee took him out for being racist. Imagine Donald Trump telling the American people during a debate “if they think that Barack Obama’s vice president was racist, imagine what they think about you.”

          • salvorhardin says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Christ. I did not expect her to actually double down on it. Credit for intellectual consistency, I suppose. Surely the relevant flashback here is to 1972…

          • Clutzy says:

            But this is, ironically, where Trump has a strong advantage. Harris can attack Biden over bussing because he was in political office at the time and has a record on various issues.

            When it comes to Trump, this is the first time he’s held political office. There’s no ‘there’ there for Harris to point at and go “See, he voted for anti-minority/against pro-minority legislation!”

            So she and her campaign can only fall back on the old “grab ’em by the pussy/Mexicans are rapists/concentration camps for kids” stuff that everyone has already heard. There isn’t anything there for her to “imagine what she can do to Trump!” unless she’s really going to do things like “yeah, he tried to make peace with North Korea, this is all a sham and a fake” and that only sounds like critics (a) really want the US to get into a shooting war with North Korea (b) are being dog in the manger – suppose it were President Hillary meeting with Kim, would we get so much reporting about “critics claim this is only political theatre”? I’m sure it is only political theatre be it Trump or Hillary doing it, but I’m still happier that North Korea is engaging in PR opportunity love-ins than shooting off test missiles.

            Plus it only really worked at all because Biden was very anti-Trumpian in his answer. These kind of lame attacks at actually quite Hillaryian in their weakness. Biden probably could have smashed her with a Trumpian mocking, stating the true fact that a majority of Blacks and Whites opposed bussing back then, it was an ineffective policy when carried out with scale, and would be even more impractical today than back then. But he didn’t, because he knows Dems want anti-Trump in the primary. His whole campaign is, “Don’t you want to feel normal again.”

          • Matt M says:

            there’s a general “if she’s this ruthless against Biden, imagine what she can do to Trump!” narrative emerging.

            Yeah, this is very, very, wrong.

            Biden is fighting her with one hand tied behind his back, afraid to respond in full because he’s terrified of being accused of being a racist/sexist/whatever.

            Trump is… not similarly constrained. He will bring up Willie Brown without hesitation. He will give her a demeaning nickname. He will fight to win.

          • albatross11 says:

            Could Biden neutralize this attack by simply point blank asking her whether she favors busing today? I suppose the problem is that while this is an extremely unpopular policy with the whole electorate, it might be popular with Democratic primary voters.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I can’t see her winning New Jersey (or indeed much of the northeast) in the primary or the general if she can’t backpedal on that one. I thought reparations were a terrible issue for the Democrats, but this one is worse.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Maybe they imagine that people are less racist today so busing will work. And if they aren’t less racist, well, that’s what the national guard is for.

          • albatross11 says:

            Busing, affirmative action to make accelerated/magnet schools “look like America”, and major criminal justice reform seem like the perfect package to drive Americans out of the cities and back out the the suburbs/exurbs.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            These kind of lame attacks at actually quite Hillaryian in their weakness.

            (All in favor of coining the word Hillaryous?)

    • BBA says:

      Before the campaign started I figured Harris would win the nomination by appealing most strongly to the Pantsuit Nation crowd. She flagged in the early stages, but this debate shows she is still in this.

      My absolute metaphysical certitude that Trump will win reelection (because God hates me and wants me to suffer) hasn’t budged an angstrom.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        My absolute metaphysical certitude that Trump will win reelection (because God hates me and wants me to suffer) hasn’t budged an angstrom.

        What’d you do to piss Him off? Cuz if y’all could do the rest of us a solid and make up…

        • Deiseach says:

          (because God hates me and wants me to suffer)

          Now, now: remember what I said that God does indeed love and not hate anyone, even the damned souls?

          I still can’t believe that we’re talking about Trump 2020 and a fair chance of winning a second term, given that I still can’t believe he not alone became the Republican nominee over the rest of the field who were politicians, but won against Hillary.

          I think God is punishing us by letting us have our own way in doing what we want; then the (un)expected consequences happen and we’re all “how were we supposed to know?” e.g. if you insist on calling every single Republican candidate Literal Hitler, you’re going to end up facing a guy who doesn’t care a rat’s ass if you call him Literal Hitler or not, and a constituency of voters who are so pissed off at being dismissed as racists when they say “so what about the declining economy and lack of opportunity for our kids in our community?” that they’ll decide they may as well be deplorables and vote against Good Queen Hillary 🙂

      • Plumber says:

        @BBA,
        I fear you’re right, the 2018 Pelosi playbook was to campaign on pocketbook issues, especially keeping thr medical care checks coming.

        Judging by the debates the candidates seem to be trying to win Berkeley and Brooklyn not Bakersfield and Boise.

        Someone needs to teach them about ’72 and the “half a loaf is better than none” concept.

        Winning Twitter and Vox doesn’t help to win Tulsa and Virginia.

        I don’t know if this is because of a “blue bubble” or putting personal ambitions ahead of country and party.

        Maybe it’s some long game “Overton window” moving thing, but otherwise what does it help to be the candidate to lose to Trump?

        • BBA says:

          what does it help to be the candidate to lose to Trump?

          See Freddie deBoer on the Iron Law of Institutions as applied to the Democratic Party and the activist left. If you want to be a successful activist/party operative it may be in your interest to endorse positions that hurt the movement/party as a whole.

          (Though I do have to dissent from the narrative that the DNC “rigged” the 2016 primary. The Pantsuit Nation is real, they make up a sizable faction within the party rank-and-file, and they will not abide any criticism of Saint Hillary. “Uncharismatic” is a misogynistic slur, understand? And now, as they align behind Harris for 2020, they continue to insist that Russian meddling is the only reason why Hillary lost.)

          But I also think that Trump himself is anomalously good at winning elections. Populism and anti-immigration sentiment aren’t enough by themselves, just ask Tom Tancredo. And other politicians with Trump’s combination of shameless disregard for political norms and narcissistic confidence will crash and burn sooner or later – Palin, Weiner, Avenatti – but all of Trump’s flaws cancel out, making him indestructible. On the other hand, the midterms prove that Trump’s appeal isn’t transferable to any other politicians, and probably won’t have any lasting impact on politics once he’s termed out, but we’re in for an, ah, interesting five and a half years until then.

          • Deiseach says:

            And other politicians with Trump’s combination of shameless disregard for political norms and narcissistic confidence will crash and burn sooner or later – Palin, Weiner, Avenatti

            To be fair, Avenatti brought it all on himself. Lawyers have a bad enough reputation as being greedy, but when he was so blatant about sticking his fingers in the till and screwing over his clients, that was the hubris which the gods punish. He believed all the ego-stroking the media gave him about standing up to Trump and thought he was “too big to fail”.

            Well, Nike is even bigger, Mike! 😀

            On the other hand, the midterms prove that Trump’s appeal isn’t transferable to any other politicians, and probably won’t have any lasting impact on politics once he’s termed out

            Anyone else want to consider what might happen should the Democrats win the presidential election? Suppose we’re looking at President Harris, for example.

            What about AOC in that scenario? Trump is gone, he’s been a blip in the Republican party but now it’s business as usual for them, but the Dems have all the anti-Trump candidates elected to Congress still sticking around for the next two years.

            After taking a break from setting up photo-ops crying in front of a car park, Alexandria rocks up to the White House with “Hi Kamala, great victory, congratulations, keep the seat warm for me for 2024! Ha ha, yeah, well let’s get down to business – when are you closing down ICE, is that today or tomorrow?”

            Are we going to see “Of course I’m implementing the Green New Deal/all the 67 other policies floated when Trump was in power” or are we going to see “Um, yeah, Sandy, sorry but it’s not quite as easy as that?”

            Will AOC sit down and shut up with a Democrat president in office (unlikely, as she’s built her brand on being the progressive torchbearer and if she wants re-election she has to keep herself in the public gaze with headline-grabbing pronouncements)? Will we see her getting slapped down (subtly or not) and made to behave so as not to rock the boat now the right side of history is in office? Anyone got any speculation about what the New Democratic Presidency would be like?

          • BBA says:

            Jason Chaffetz was planning to be a thorn in Hillary’s side for four years; instead he quit politics almost immediately after Trump won. I’m not saying I expect AOC to do the same if a Dem wins in 2020, but I’m not saying I’d be surprised either.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Will AOC sit down and shut up with a Democrat president in office (unlikely, as she’s built her brand on being the progressive torchbearer and if she wants re-election she has to keep herself in the public gaze with headline-grabbing pronouncements)? Will we see her getting slapped down (subtly or not) and made to behave so as not to rock the boat now the right side of history is in office? Anyone got any speculation about what the New Democratic Presidency would be like?

            I think with President Harris, suddenly AOC isn’t news anymore. She will try to make the news with this or that pronouncement, but the media won’t care, so no one will know. AOC is well known because the media pay attention to her, not because she says much of anything new. If Trump wins, the media still need AOC as a counterpoint, but if Harris wins, she is no longer necessary.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “….Anyone got any speculation about what the New Democratic Presidency would be like?”

            It’s still early, but at this point I really don’t expect there to be a new Democratic President in 2021 as I expect Trump to be re-elected as all the old walk back language of previous elections (“Safe, legal and rare”, “Keep guns out of the hands of criminals”, “If you like your current health insurance you can keep it”, “I support civil unions not marriage”, et cetera), that was to not scare swing voters is gone, heck  12 years ago Dennis Kucinich, the most Left Democratic Presidential candidate, was quoting Bible verses! 

            Yeah, “the base” was “fired up” for the 2018 congressional elections, but that wasn’t the only reason the House majority was won, moderate-ish military veterans were recruited, and a laser focus on “the Republicans want to stop the checks that pay for you to go to the Doctor, we’ll fight for them to keep coming”, with ‘culture war’ stuff sidelined, the exception being in places that were overwhelmingly Democratic voters already, so a few young leftists pushed out old liberals, but that wasn’t turning any districts from “Red” to “Blue” so much as adding a few “Reds” (in the European/20th century sense) to the ranks of the Blue in Congress, which otherwise now has proportionally more moderate Democrats than in 2018. 

            Swing voters need a reason to switch, and without a faltering economy I just don’t see it happening. 

            As long as Trump looks like he’s trying to fulfill his promises, especially on his signature issue of reducing immigration, I just don’t see enough of his supporters abandoning him, sure he’s unpopular with the majority – he was the day he was the electoral college selected him as well, the popular vote doesn’t count. 

            Unless enough of the “Silent generation”, and “Boomers” have died in the last four years, and there’s enough new voters, I don’t see where the map will change. 

            If somehow a Democrat wins the Presidency the House majority will probably be retained, but with only a third of Senators up for re-election I’ll be very surprised if the Senate flips and doesn’t stay Republican majority, and until both the House and Senate are majority Democrats I would pretty much expect a few “Executive Actions” at the edges, and mostly be a repeat of the last 6 years of the Obama administration, no grand new initiatives. 

            As for Representative Ocasio-Cortez?

            If Biden is elected she’ll continue to get some attention (maybe a bit less than she’s had so far), but if Harris, Sanders, or Warren are ekected she’ll get much less attention, and while she will likely still voice “Left” plans, so has my Congresswoman Barbara Lee for decades, she just doesn’t look like a co-ed, so the press ignores them.

          • Clutzy says:

            I think the premise of shameless disregard resulting in a crash and burn is just fundamentally untrue.

            We have the Clintons, we have the Governors of IL (both parties), we had Kennedy, there was James Buchanan, and many others. I think there is also not a very good category you’ve built. Most narcissists obey norms, because they understand that it is the clever thing to do. Palin and Avenatti have little in common, and their falls have little in common. Palin faded because of hypocrisy, she was a bad mom who had a 2x unwed mother as a daughter, and her appeal was as a young mom. Avenatti was a simple criminal who represented other criminals, and only ever existed because the media were desperate to get Trump. His obviously true truth was revealed. If it had been revealed that Palin was a super mom and her oldest kid got into Berkley, and the next became a respected professional, we’d be talking about VP Palin right now, and how she is going to easily win 2024 and 2028.

          • Matt M says:

            Hot take: AOC is going to be President one day.

            Not because of anything in particular about her, but because of how Republicans (and even more disappointingly, libertarians) respond to her. Basically the same way the Democrats responded to Trump. And we all saw how well that worked.

            The GOP is going to boost her into office, because they can’t help but promote her and make her more famous, in the mistaken belief that “if people just hear her ideas they’ll realize how ridiculous they are and vote for us instead!”

          • ana53294 says:

            @ Matt M

            I’ve heard the Democratic establishment is unhappy with her, and they are apparently gerrymandering her district. Of course, she has wide enough appeal that she probably could win in her new district, because thanks to the GOP she is very known outside of her own district.

            So if she survives her next election, winning against the Democratic establishment, she would show her political mettle. She also has to avoid being involved in New York corruption shenanigans, or at least avoid getting caught.

          • albatross11 says:

            She’s pretty and charismatic and manages to say outrageous enough things to draw attention–I don’t see any reason to think that will change during a Harris or Warren administration.

          • PedroS says:

            Clutzy said ” Palin faded because of hypocrisy, she was a bad mom who had a 2x unwed mother as a daughter, and her appeal was as a young mom.”

            To me, this sentence is wrong in too many ways.

            A) Why is having a daughter get pregnant outside of wedlock is a symptom of bad motherhood rather than bad fatherhood? I have seen claims that having a good male role model in the family is positively correlated with low rates of teenage pregnancy.

            B) Regardless of what one may think about Sarah Palin, I strongly dispute that having a daughter deliver a baby outside of wedlock makes one a bad parent: do you have any reason to believe that Palin did not provide a suitable education / role model for her child (or at least any worse of an education/role model than any other parent whose daughter is sexually active outside of wedlock and if pregnant, unbeknownst to her parents, decides to abort discreetly)?

            D) it is quite well-known that several demographics/cultures have extremely high rates of single-motherhood. Are you willing to consider large swathes of those populations as ” bad mothers”?

            D) If out-of-wedlock pregnancy is a mark of poor behavior, I will argue that it is a mark of poor behavior of the couple who showed both poor impulse control and remarkable carelessness regarding contraceptive use.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @PedroS:
            a) The phrase that captures the intent of the original is “hoist on her own petard”. That is why Clutzy referred to hypocrisy.
            b) You are taking the liberal feminist position here. It is especially the liberal feminists who are making a claim about an ought which is not yet an is. Just because these ought not to be disqualifiers doesn’t mean the electorate will conform to these beliefs.

          • Clutzy says:

            While HBC said it pretty well, I think its important to expound. Sarah Palin was a political character, like a TV character. She was the “grizzly mom” who also had time to be a politician. Like the “tiger mom” of Asian tropes.

            A) Why is having a daughter get pregnant outside of wedlock is a symptom of bad motherhood rather than bad fatherhood? I have seen claims that having a good male role model in the family is positively correlated with low rates of teenage pregnancy.

            Most people, I think, would say, “both.” But that doesn’t exonerate the mom. Even if we blame the dad 100%, the mom still picked that bad person to procreate with. So damned either way.

            B) Regardless of what one may think about Sarah Palin, I strongly dispute that having a daughter deliver a baby outside of wedlock makes one a bad parent: do you have any reason to believe that Palin did not provide a suitable education / role model for her child (or at least any worse of an education/role model than any other parent whose daughter is sexually active outside of wedlock and if pregnant, unbeknownst to her parents, decides to abort discreetly)?

            Its not the delivery, its the impregnation that is looked down upon. I cannot comment on the Palins, but I thought it was mostly consensus that there are two paths of responsible parenting on this: Correct sex education, or effective shaming that prevents premarital relations.

            D) it is quite well-known that several demographics/cultures have extremely high rates of single-motherhood. Are you willing to consider large swathes of those populations as ” bad mothers”?

            Very willing, and it doesn’t make me even slightly uncomfortable.

            D) If out-of-wedlock pregnancy is a mark of poor behavior, I will argue that it is a mark of poor behavior of the couple who showed both poor impulse control and remarkable carelessness regarding contraceptive use.

            Yes. And society traditionally blames parents if their kids have poor behavior. This is healthy because we want kids without poor behavior, so we tack social costs onto those who raise kids that become bad actors. This is a statistical norm we have come to, even though everyone knows it is overbroad.

          • PedroS says:

            Clutzy said “I cannot comment on the Palins, but I thought it was mostly consensus that there are two paths of responsible parenting on this: Correct sex education, or effective shaming that prevents premarital relations. ”

            Correct sex education (like any education) depends not only on the one who is educating but on the receptiveness/attentiveness of the one being educated. Even the best educator can fail if the receptor is not willing to learn. And how can you tell if the wrong educator was the one educating the girl and not the one educating the boy (e.g. by failing to educate the boy on the absolute inadmissibility of pressuring one’s partner to sex and on the need to use a condom even if the girl is, or claims to be, on the pill) ? Are you faulting Palin simply because she is the public figure? Would you also accuse Obama of being a bad parent if Malia had gotten pregnant before her 18th birthday? Are you sure you are not operating from a prior that tells you that religious conservatives like Palin are, as a group, not willing to provide sex education to their progeny?

            Further, I do not know if you have children or have ever taught teenagers, but I can tell you (from my parenting experience with a wonderful teenage daughter) that shaming someone into any behavior is not a loving parenting method. And raising a child into an outlook where chastity is perceived as good/desirable is continuously made harder due to sex-saturated teenage-targeted media. Teens are also more autonomous (and rightly so) than you give them credit for. I do not think a parent can prevent teens (in a bid to prevent them from being exposed to a sex-obsessed culture) from watching shows like “Glee”,”The Fosters”, “Beverly Hills 90210”, etc. while simultaneously keeping a frank and trusting relationship with one’s child. This makes it (in my view) a harder job to perform sex education (according to one’s values) for a religious conservative than for an (admittedly caricatured) sex-positive parent who implants DepoProvera on their daughters when they turn 16.

            As far as I know, Palin could have had “the Talk” with her daughter as openly as possible, told her how disappointed she would be if she became sexually active prior to wedlock, etc. etc. and the girls could still get knocked up.. Even the best contraceptive methods have failure rates (with best use) around or above 1 pregnancy per year per 100 women. Therefore, even in the most open-minded sex-positive, etc.etc. conditions, 1 in every 100 mothers of sexually active daughters on birth copntrol would, by sheer unluck, be accused by you of being a bad mother.

            Clutzy also said “And society traditionally blames parents if their kids have poor behavior. ”

            That assumes that being a teenage mother is a “poor behavior” which should be worthy of condemnation, and that parents have control over their grown-up children (I notice that you fault Palin for her daughter having two children out of wedlock, even though the second one was conceived when Palin’s daughter was an adult).
            I am a cultural conservative (European Catholic flavor, so not at all the American kind of Conservative). I strongly think that sexual activity should be reserved for a long-term loving responsible relationship (formerly called “marriage”, but I really do not care what one wants to call it). Without ever shaming or tut-tuting any single mothers, I have seen “my sort of people” repeatedly accused of being heartless people who shame single mothers because of our well-reasoned preference for stable relationships. We were also accused of being hypocrites responsible for “shaming young mothers into back-street abortions” when the debate regarding the legalization of abortion was raging in my country. And I must say that I am very surprised to find more vitriol towards single-motherhood on “your side” of the Atlantic (and probable also “the other side of the conservative/liberal divide) than I have ever seen in my life. I never saw (for example) people in my church gossiping about how so-an-so must obviously be a bad parent due to their daughter getting pregnant before marriage, etc. As I see it (and most of the people around me) being a teenage mother is an obvious economical disadvantage, but in no way is it something that anyone believes can be prevented by shaming teenage girls out of, but only through making them realize that EVERY act of intercourse, even with state-of-the-art birth control, has a non-zero probability of resulting in pregnancy and shoudl therefore only be engaged on if one is willing and able to deal with the consequences.

            I think our cultural outlooks are simply too different.

          • Matt M says:

            I just want to say, I think this model of what happened with Sarah Palin is completely and totally false.

            Palin didn’t “flame out” because the nation was scandalized by her daughter’s behavior. Tons of high-profile politicians have weird and bizarre family situations. On both sides of the aisle. Including bible-belt Republicans who specifically campaign on “family values” style issues (which Palin herself really wasn’t, but whatever).

            These things usually don’t stick. Tribal warriors will attempt to use them as weapons against the enemy, but within ones own tribe, it’s generally understood that we all have family drama, and that having a child fall short of perfect behavior should not be taken as an indictment that the parent is somehow uniquely flawed and that the outcome could have been avoided if only they “parented better.”

            I think Palin “failed” (if you can call it that) because she did not appreciate what running for national office would truly mean, and because she didn’t have the will to keep up the fight under that sort of pressure. She wasn’t prepared for the fact that being the VP nominee would mean dozens of reporters showing up in small town Alaska looking under every rock for the slightest hint of family scandal. You can argue that she should have been, but she wasn’t.

            And when they started finding some, she didn’t have the will to dedicate the rest of her life towards deflecting off those attacks from a public podium. Her heart simply wasn’t in it, and one can hardly blame her.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            a) The phrase that captures the intent of the original is “hoist on her own petard”. That is why Clutzy referred to hypocrisy.

            Unless Palin had gone around criticising political rivals because their daughters were pregnant, I don’t see how hypocrisy comes into it. And I’m also sceptical as to how big an effect her daughter’s pregnancies really had. From what I recall, the scandal only really gained traction amongst snobbish blue-tribe types who viewed the Palins as uppity trailer-trash and liked having a teenage pregnancy to tut about because it seemed to confirm all their prejudices; but of course, such people were never going to like Palin anyway, no matter what she or her children did or didn’t do.

          • The phrase that captures the intent of the original is “hoist on her own petard”.

            That makes it sound as though a petard is an object you are put on. The phrase in “Hamlet” is “hoist with his own petard,” a petard being a small explosive.

      • Deiseach says:

        BBA, re: Harris I was a bit doubtful on that as my impressions of the ‘Pantsuit Nation’ women were that they were overwhelmingly middle-aged white middle-class women, and that Harris wouldn’t be a natural fit for them, but looking up the actual Pantsuit Nation organising and administrating lot, this might possibly be as they seem to be that kind of middle- to upper-middle lot (isn’t a black woman who plays the banjolele veering dangerously near to the kind of hurtful stereotype that gets you into trouble, or would that only be if it were a banjo?) but I’m still not sure.

        So while Harris slots nicely into the educated, aspirational, professional middle-class niche, I don’t know if she’s a bit too conservative in some ways to be a natural fit with the “I don’t teach my daughter that she’s supposed to merely be pretty and sit quietly!” element; isn’t part of the opposition by some on the Democratic side to her that she was much too law-and-order when DA in California? I don’t think that would go over well with the pink-haired Bay Area dwellers:

        But one topic Harris didn’t confront during Thursday’s debate is her controversial record on criminal justice issues. It’s this record that has led some critics, contrary to the progressive reputation that Harris has tried to build, to describe her not as a reformer but as a relic of a “tough on crime” era going back to the 1990s and 2000s.

  17. johan_larson says:

    So Bombardier, the Canadian transportation equipment company that is most famous for snowmobiles, has left the large-scale aircraft market. Earlier, it sold off its C-series aircraft business to Airbus and the turbo-prop business to Viking Air, and this week it announced the sale of its regional jet business to Mitsubishi. Bombardier will keep making small business jets and commuter rail systems.

    • John Schilling says:

      I literally did not know Bombardier made snowmobiles. Must be a Canadian thing.

      But I am sorry to see the C-series go to Airbus; that’s pretty much an admission that There Can Be Only Two in the airliner-building business, and I would prefer a more competitive market than that.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m expecting the Chinese to create a third major player in the airliner market in my lifetime. Not sure whether it will work, though.

        • ana53294 says:

          They will probably be able to sell in China. The harder thing will be selling it abroad.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I’ve been hearing about the C919 for a while, though it doesn’t yet have any orders from airlines outside China.

    • dndnrsn says:

      How was Bombardier’s reputation in the aircraft world? For me, the word “Bombardier” conjures the phrase “why yes, the streetcars are late and also suck” with a side order of probably some kind of light corruption.

      • John Schilling says:

        Bombardier’s aircraft division was basically an agglomeration of pre-existing aircraft companies that Bombardier acquired over the years. Several of those, most notably De Havilland Canada and Learjet, came with a solid reputation and Bombardier adequately recapitalized them while mostly Not Fixing What Wasn’t Broken, so their reputation is still pretty good in the aircraft world.

        However, and in complete defiance of the rules of nominative determinism, they have never built a bomber and it now looks like they never will. Which is strange, because a maritime-patrol variant of the Dash-8 would have been in keeping with their corporate heritage (via Canadair) while meeting a Canadian government need with significant export potential on the side.

        • bean says:

          Which is strange, because a maritime-patrol variant of the Dash-8 would have been in keeping with their corporate heritage (via Canadair) while meeting a Canadian government need with significant export potential on the side.

          You say that…

      • johan_larson says:

        From the outside looking in, the regional jets seem to have been their biggest success.

    • Deiseach says:

      There was recent news about Bombardier closing down its aerospace plant in Belfast, but I knew the name best from the 80s as they built buses for our national bus company.

  18. Well... says:

    One thing that strikes me about cars is how saturated they are with cosmetic flourishes that obviously required resources to design and manufacture, but add nothing in terms of practicality, maintainability, or performance. This can include anything from fake air intakes to the basic shape and overall styling of the car in some cases.

    Which mass production car has the least of this?

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      Tesla model 3, I’d venture to guess? They are supposedly very aerodynamic, which suggests that the overall shape probably doesn’t compromise much for aesthetics, and they also are supposedly pretty spare on the interior, suggesting that they don’t have anything unnecessary there.

      • Well... says:

        Hmm…seems maybe close. Just looking at pictures:

        – The lamps look like they could have been made simpler and easier to replace.
        – What is the functional purpose of the chrome trim around the side windows?
        – The exterior styling has a lot of arbitrary-looking ridges and scoops (e.g. running along the doors, or above the rear wheels); I’m skeptical whether these actually improve the car’s aerodynamics, although I’m open to the possibility that they might.
        – The interior has two chrome strips going along the center console; if they actually serve a functional purpose (presumably, protecting those edges from repetitive wear) they could have done just as well with a hard plastic or painted metal. (Although for all I know they ARE plastic.)
        – Every picture I can find shows the Model 3’s wheels with very large rims. The tire wall is part of the suspension of the car, so having those narrow little tire walls means sacrificing suspension for (as far as I know) nothing but sporty looks.
        – I definitely do not believe a big touchscreen is more practical than physical buttons, in many different respects ranging from safety to cost of maintenance.
        – Presumably, the seats and side-view mirrors are power-controlled. Maybe some or all of the seats are heated too. I know that kind of stuff is considered “standard” in all new cars since the year 20?? but I consider it a frivolous complication.
        – Same as above goes for the Tesla’s servo-controlled pop-out door handles. I’m down with flush door handles for aerodynamics, but you can make them so you push in on one side and the other side pops out for you to grab — no electronics required.
        – Same goes for every other needlessly-wired aspect of the car.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          Low-profile tires aren’t only for looks, though that may well be the main reason people buy them; you also get better cornering near the limit, though at the cost of a harsher ride and more vulnerability to potholes. I’d rather have the taller sidewalls, but I’m not everybody. According to Tire Rack’s site, tire sizes on the Model 3 are 235/45R18, 235/40R19, or 235/35R20; only the last of these is really getting into skinny-tire country.

          • Well... says:

            All three of those are definitely pretty skinny compared to the tires that come standard with, say, a Camry.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Tesla is a performance car, not an economic one. If you buy it, you’re more likely to enjoy pushing the throttle than to actually suffer economically if you hit a pothole. Tires are pretty spot on for this.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The first two tire sizes listed for the Tesla are actually also standard on some Camry models (I believe you have to buy the V-6 sport model to get the 19″ wheels). I suspect that most Camry buyers are riding around on the 16″ steelies but I really don’t know.

        • Adrian says:

          side-view mirrors are power-controlled […] frivolous complication

          I strongly disagree, at least for the side-view mirror opposite of the driver side (i.e., the right-hand mirror in most countries): 1) That mirror is a bitch to adjust, because you have to lean over to adjust it, and then you don’t get immediate feedback on your adjustment, and 2) you can’t safely adjust it while driving.

          • Well... says:

            OK, I’ll concede that. But then they should just make that one power adjustable and the other one manual. There was a car that had this as an option but I can’t remember which one.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The issue with that is that it’s another difference between left- and right-hand drive versions of the same car, which adds complexity in production.

            You may be interested to know that my current car has power windows with only one set of switches (in the centre console) both to save costs and to save weight.

          • Well... says:

            My wife’s old Cabrio had that. It’s a sort of clever feature, although basically everything else about that car was dumb and horrible.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Miata lore is that the power windows were both lighter and cheaper than the crank version (which I believe is not available in current Miatas). They are the type with one set of switches.

            Probably does not apply to power mirrors, however.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          1. It’s relative to other cars though; I didn’t claim the Model 3 was perfectly utilitarian. Can you name another car currently in production which does better by your standards?
          2. No functional purpose to chrome trim, but you have to have trim of some sort I suspect, might as well make it chrome.
          3. The exterior styling is less stylized than most other cards; it has to be to maintain the aerodynamics. I vaguely recall that the sharp edge on the back end of the car is particularly important for aerodynamics.
          4. The chrome strips on the inside of the car are probably just plastic or painted metal.
          5. The big touchscreen was chosen in large part for economic reasons; it’s actually a lot simpler to build cars with one touchscreen in the middle than with a bunch of buttons and knobs. Or so I was told once. I’m not an expert. Replacing a touchscreen is also easy–just put a new touchscreen on. These things don’t cost more than a few hundred bucks these days.
          6. Idk about the seats.
          7. The servo-controlled pop-out door handles are for the more expensive Model S and X; IIRC the Model 3 has door handles that work precisely as you say they should.
          8. Do you have any other specific examples of needlessly-wired bits?

    • Clutzy says:

      I can’t think of any cars that are like that. Every car looks basically the same.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, if anything, I think the opposite is true. And (of course) government regulation is to blame! Every car looks the same because CAFE standards produce a huge economic incentive for manufacturers to prioritize fuel efficiency over aesthetics.

        The reason we no longer have weird boxy looking things like we did in the 1960s isn’t necessarily because consumers would hate them, but because such a car would be uneconomic to produce even if consumers didn’t hate them, because it would, in effect, reduce the number of (higher margin) trucks and SUVs and muscle cars you can sell…

        • Well... says:

          The reason we no longer have weird boxy looking things like we did in the 1960s isn’t necessarily because consumers would hate them, but because such a car would be uneconomic to produce even if consumers didn’t hate them, because it would, in effect, reduce the number of (higher margin) trucks and SUVs and muscle cars you can sell…

          Can you explain? I think you’re talking about the fact that different regulations apply to trucks, but I’m not sure I’m reading you correctly.

          • Matt M says:

            My general point is that the mere existence of CAFE standards gives manufacturers a significant incentive to prioritize fuel efficiency, even in an era of dirt-cheap oil where actual customers no longer care about it that much.

            As such, every low-mileage vehicle they sell (regardless of category) has to be offset by a high-mileage vehicle (in the same category). The low mileage vehicles will generally be big trucks or muscle cars or other types of “niche” vehicles where dedicated customers are willing to pay a premium for performance. The high mileage vehicles (which are generally lower margin for the manufacturers anyway) are therefore going to be designed for maximum fuel efficiency, which means a general shape that is optimized for aerodynamics and low weight among all other priorities. And since every manufacturer faces this same incentive, they all end up with sedans that look the exact same.

          • Well... says:

            Are big trucks really niche? The F-150 is the best selling vehicle in the country.

            And, why should the more efficient vehicles be less practical? Case in point: the Geo Metro, or the Corolla FX hatchback, or the 90s Civic hatchback. All got great mileage and were also super practical, easy to own/work on/etc.

          • Matt M says:

            After googling, I did learn that cars and trucks are in different CAFE categories.

            So it’s not “the F-150” that’s niche in this case, it’s “the super-duty Texas Longhorn edition F-250 extended cab” behemoth that gets 5mpg or whatever.

            For every $80,000 behemoth truck that Ford sells, they need to sell an equivalent number of higher-mileage “standard F-150 EcoBoost” models to maintain their average.

          • Well... says:

            After googling, I did learn that cars and trucks are in different CAFE categories.

            Yeah, my understanding is that’s why non-construction-workers driving pickup trucks is so much of a thing now in the first place.

        • Pepe says:

          Kia Soul, Honda Element, Scion xB, Nissan Cube not boxy enough?

          • Well... says:

            Not nearly! (Or, these manage to somehow be square yet look like they use their space inefficiently. Possible exception for the Element.)

            The pinnacle of the econobox, in my opinion, was the Corolla FX hatchback. Biased because I owned one.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Honda Element hasn’t been sold for eight years, Scion xB for four years, and Nissan Cube for five years.

          • Well... says:

            @Doctor Mist:

            Sold by who? All those cars are readily available at used lots, on Craiglist, Autotrader, etc. and parts are still easy to find too.

        • Nicholas Weininger says:

          AIUI it’s not just fuel efficiency, it’s also pedestrian safety regulations. Specifically, grilles have to be much taller and hoods much more bulbous than they used to be in order to protect pedestrians who might get hit by the front of a car, and the rest of the car then follows the proportions of the front end (thus e.g. high beltlines).

          What is not clear to me is whether those regulations actually achieve their intended effect of reducing pedestrian injuries or fatalities.

          • Well... says:

            Specifically, grilles have to be much taller and hoods much more bulbous than they used to be in order to protect pedestrians who might get hit by the front of a car, and the rest of the car then follows the proportions of the front end (thus e.g. high beltlines).

            Interesting.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Are you sure it really adds cost? I mean, a mould is a mould – once you make it it doesn’t really care what the exact shape is. And design is pretty cheap when you have many pieces built.

      • Well... says:

        Maybe not a huge cost, but some. Take for example the chrome-painted plastic fake air vent: it has to be designed, manufactured, transported to where the rest of the car is being built, exactly placed, and glued (or whatever) onto the body. Even if it only has to be designed once, and the manufacturing process and supply chain only has to be set up once, I’d bet it still adds at least $20 to the price of each car. That’s $20 I’d totally rather have in my pocket. Even if it’s just $1, that’s $1 I would have preferred not to spend on it as a consumer.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I’m going to be weird and say that the cost is not $1 but likely negative, and you’re not paying it anyways, regardless of amount.

          To start with the second assertion: prices and costs haven’t been anything but loosely correlated in 100 years. They don’t even necessarily respect cost < price. Price is set based on quite complicated reasons that include what the consumer is willing to pay for a product, maximum profit calculated as sales x margin per piece, even stuff like image – lots of products are valuable because they're valuable (half the luxury stuff is like that). Not to mention what percentage of the cost is actually re-usable as long term investment – this is how Amazon or Uber become giants while always being cost > price.

          Taking this rather complex image into account, what's the actual cost for a company of having a fake air vent? It's not an essential car part, so they could just as easily skip it. But having it either increases sales or allows them to price the car higher, so adding it is money in their pocket. The "cost" is simply an accounting fiction, for them it's extra money from the beginning.

          So, where does this leave your dissatisfaction? There are plenty of people that want cheap cars, but for the producers of cheap cars adding the fake air vent is essential in making the car look attractive, thus get the sales volumes necessary to actually make the car cheap. You on the other hand want a car that's cheap to produce, for aesthetic reasons. Unfortunately there just aren't enough of you to make the idea scalable.

          • Well... says:

            You on the other hand want a car that’s cheap to produce, for aesthetic reasons.

            While we’re on the subject, I want a car that’s cheap to produce for performance, reliability, and cost-of-ownership reasons too: I don’t need my car to have a zillion horsepower, I’d rather dedicate battery power to core functions than to portable wi-fi and whatever other frills, and I’d rather have a headlamp that’s easy to replace if it burns out than one that’s sleek and looks really cool but can only be serviced at the dealership because it’s so complicated and expensive. Also, I don’t need everything to be powered/automatic/etc. and I prefer things that are mechanically simple so they won’t be as likely to break and will be less expensive to fix or replace if they do.

            Unfortunately there just aren’t enough of you to make the idea scalable.

            As I’m painfully aware!

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I don’t have a well thought out idea, but I want to mumble something about whether it’s market failure or just revealed preference.

            How about older cars? Personally I’ve never been tempted by a new car (except maybe the new Honda Civic facelift) – older is cheaper and a lot closer to your aesthetic ideal. Which I don’t dislike at all, btw. My current preferred car is a bmw 316i from 1996. It’ll be in the shop for a while to fix most of the (literally) falling pieces, but I don’t intend to sell it any time soon – it’s just too damn good and well-rounded car.

          • Well... says:

            I used to think it was market failure, but an uncle of mine convinced me it wasn’t: without catering to what most people like, car companies couldn’t scale and mass produce cars affordably enough that I’d probably ever be able to own one, even one that comes with a lot of crap I’d rather not have.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      If you want no frills, find an old Geo Metro.,

      • Matt says:

        If you want to amaze and astound your neighbors, find a new Geo Metro.

        When I moved to my current city after grad school, one of my neighbors had a Geo Metro badged out as an AMC Pacer. That rocked.

      • Well... says:

        A Geo Metro with a standard transmission was my first choice last time I was in the market for a car 3+ years ago. (Sadly, I didn’t end up with one.)

    • AlphaGamma says:

      You may want to look at something like the Dacia Logan.

      EDIT: Of course, this is not sold in the US.

      • Well... says:

        Let’s pretend it was sold in the US. It’s a sedan, not a hatchback, so it’s immediately disqualified for that. Also it’s made by Renault so it’s also disqualified for having a life expectancy of 75K miles! 😀

        • AlphaGamma says:

          There are reasons why a rear hatch could be more expensive than a trunk lid. For instance, it is heavier so needs some kind of gas strut to keep it open, the hatchback form factor means you are more likely to need a rear wiper, the hatch needs wiring for the rear windscreen heater, seals are more difficult…

          Or maybe they just chose to make it a sedan because tiny sedans seem to be popular in emerging markets for some reason.

          (Again possibly of interest- the Kaiser-Frazer Henry J was engineered down to a very low price as a condition of Federal subsidies. One cost-cutting step was not to have a trunk lid at all, the trunk was only accessible by folding down the rear seats.)

  19. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    I have a question about spacecraft weapons and propulsion.

    Imagine a very simple military spacecraft which is basically a flying gun. You have an ion engine which shoots protons out the rear of the ship to provide thrust and a neutral particle beam weapon on a spinal mount that shoots monoatomic hydrogen out the front of the ship. As I understand it, the only difference between your engine and your gun would be the electron emitter at the end of the latter that converts H+ to H. So is there any reason why you couldn’t combine the two into one component and switch between gun and engine freely by flipping a switch that determines whether current is going through the electron emitter?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if guns made poor engines and vice versa, I just don’t know why or why not.

    • Eric Rall says:

      In broad strokes, yes: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a really big gun. An engine that puts out a lot of energy definitely has utility as a weapon, since weapons work by applying energy to your target.

      But you’re also correct that guns make poor engines and vice versa. The reason is that purpose-built weapons and purpose-built engines are optimized for different things. Both have limited energy budgets, and the design features that spend that budget on “make me go that way” conflict with the design features that spend the budget on “kill people and break things”.

      Take a handgun, for example. A standard 9x19mm parabellum pistol cartridge contains about 6 grains (0.38 grams) of propellant, which looks like it’s about 2300 joules. 500-600 of those joules go into the bullet, an equal quantity goes into recoil, and the rest is wasted as heat and noise. That’s not all that much energy in the grand scheme of things, but a 9mm pistol is still a very effective weapon because the energy is channeled into a very small projectile that can be aimed precisely over the distances the pistol is designed to be used. “Very small” is important because the same amount of energy delivered to a smaller part of the target will generally do more damage: this is why swords, etc, are sharp; and conversely armor works by spreading out the energy from a small impact surface so it does less damage. And accuracy is important, because shooting someone in the leg is less effective than shooting them in the heart, and shooting the wall behind them is less effective still. These things are so important that it’s worth “wasting” quite a bit of energy (the aforementioned heat and noise) for their sake.

      For a rocket engine, on the other hand, you only care about maximizing your “recoil”. Any part of your energy budget spent on improving concentration and accuracy of your reaction mass is pure waste.

      In your example, the particle cannon needs to collimate and concentrate its particles in both time and space to be an effective weapon. You want a short, intense burst to hit a very small area of a target hundred (or thousands, or millions) of miles away. For your ion drive, you don’t care about that. To the contrary, you’re going to get much better results spending your energy budget on a less-intense continuous stream, and while I suppose you could collimate it so it doesn’t spread out, the effort of doing so would be wasted.

      • 500-600 of those joules go into the bullet, an equal quantity goes into recoil

        I don’t think so.

        By conservation of momentum, the momentum of the bullet is equal in magnitude to the momentum of the recoiling gun. Kinetic energy is p^2/2m and the mass of the gun is a lot more than the mass of the bullet, so almost none of the energy ends up in recoil.

        • dick says:

          Momentum is conserved in collisions, not explosions. The explosion creates energy, and how much of that goes where depends on how the gun is shaped. If all of the explosive energy was converted to kinetic energy of either the bullet or the gun, then I believe the forces would be balanced per Newton’s third, and the momentum of the system would be conserved; but in a real gun, some energy would be lost to e.g. heating metal, and there’s no reason to assume that would be balanced.

          • actinide meta says:

            Momentum is conserved in collisions, not explosions.

            What? Momentum is conserved in absolutely all situations without exception.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, Actinide’s right. The device may be more or less efficient at using its stored energy to move propellant, and I’d usually expect devices that look like a big gun to be less efficient or at least have a smaller propellant fraction than ones that look like a rocket, but the propellant’s momentum is going to be balanced in all cases by the momentum of the rest of the system. The vectors have to sum to zero.

            See the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation for why propellant fraction matters.

          • dick says:

            What? Momentum is conserved in absolutely all situations without exception.

            Yeah, this got mangled a little bit when I was trying to do a quick edit. I was trying to add that momentum is only conserved as long as you include everything that moved, which you’re not doing unless you include air, and also that not all of the energy involved turns in to kinetic energy.

          • The claim I was responding to was:

            500-600 of those joules go into the bullet, an equal quantity goes into recoil, and the rest is wasted as heat and noise.

        • Randy M says:

          There’s an exploding gas in the chamber that pushes against all surfaces equally hard. Bullet and gun are pushed away from each other with equal force acting on them, I should think. I think Dick is right that momentum is only relevant in collisions. The reason the bullet does do much more damage to the target than the recoil to the shooter is because the impact of the recoil is spread over a much larger area. Presumably a cannon on a frictionless surface is going to hurt about as much whether you are standing directly in from or directly behind it.

          (I might well be wrong and welcome correction)

          • dick says:

            I think that’s all correct, as long as you stipulate that this is physics-homework-land where nothing is lost to heat, expansion, air movement, noise, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            Certainly–pushing against the projectiles are not all that the exploding gas is doing, as the ringing in your ears attests.

          • Nornagest says:

            The reason the bullet does do much more damage to the target than the recoil to the shooter is because the impact of the recoil is spread over a much larger area

            Imagine someone dropping a ten-pound bowling ball into your hand from a height of a foot or so. Now imagine using that same hand, sans glove, to catch a five-ounce baseball pitched at a blistering speed of, say, a hundred miles an hour.

            Baseball hurts more, doesn’t it? Might expect some bruising? But you’re making contact with the same area, and the momentum carried by the two is about the same — the baseball’s might even be a bit lower. The damage the baseball does is because the impact’s sharper, so your body has less time to absorb it.

            Same’s true for a bullet, except that’s going many times faster still. The bullet’s small size and density helps, but it’s not all that’s going on.

          • John Schilling says:

            As Dr. Friedman correctly noted above, the bullet will have about two orders of magnitude more kinetic energy than the recoiling gun. That you spread the energy out in space and time is nice and all, but the 500 joules of energy in the bullet is enough to kill or maim and the 5 joules in the gun isn’t.

            And yes, even if you do the idealized approximation where there’s no friction and no loss terms and the propellant mass is negligible and all the rest, 99% of the kinetic energy winds up in the bullet. Because,

            A: Kinetic energy and momentum both have to be conserved, and

            B: Kinetic energy is a scalar quantity that doesn’t have a direction, and

            C: The only way to conserve both kinetic energy (1/2 MV^2) and momentum (MV, as a vector) is for the bullet to have more energy than the gun to the precise extent that the gun has more mass than the bullet. Check out the math; it’s good exercise.

          • Randy M says:

            C: The only way to conserve both kinetic energy (1/2 MV^2) and momentum (MV, as a vector) is for the bullet to have more energy than the gun to the precise extent that the gun has more mass than the bullet. Check out the math; it’s good exercise.

            Thanks. College physics was a long time ago, and unfortunately, use it or lose it.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      In the Larry Niven’s Known Space it’s called The Kzinti Lesson: a reaction drive’s efficiency as a weapon is in direct proportion to its efficiency as a drive. Or as one futurism video blogger whom I watch likes to put it – there’s no such thing as an unarmed spaceship.

      The fact is, anything capable of covering interplanetary, let alone interstellar distances in reasonable time will necessarily possess enough energy budget to make it very good at destroying things. One of the earliest interstellar ship designs accelerates by shooting nukes out of its rear – and it would take 133 years to reach the nearest star, without slowing down at the end. Anything faster will have to carry more energy, in at least square proportion to its speed. Add to that, that for high speed voyages you’ll probably want to have anti-meteor point defense, capable to vaporize chunks of rock in seconds. And enough armor to take anything too small for your point defense to capture.

      • John Schilling says:

        Note that Niven himself has mostly disavowed the Kzinti lesson. In the very limited sense of the original story, where assuming a reaction-drive spaceship is completely unarmed because it doesn’t have anything specifically labeled “weapon” gets you a deadly surprise, perhaps. But there are fundamental requirements differences between weapons and propulsion systems that make it exceedingly unlikely that one gadget is going to do both jobs even passibly well. In particular,

        1: Weapons, particularly if they are to be used across astronomical distances, need to be focused. The types of lasers being proposed for missile-defense applications will put most of their energy into beams with less than a microradian of spread. A reaction drive, by comparison, can spread its thrust across almost a full radian and lose less than 5% efficiency.

        2. Weapons need to be fast. A spaceship flying even between the Earth and the Moon can afford to deliver its propulsive energy over a period of many hours or even days. A weapon may have seconds to deliver lethal effect before the enemy can put up an effective defense. And the most effective damage mechanisms call for pulses of milliseconds or less.

        3. Weapons need to be the other kind of fast. A reaction propulsion system is most energy-efficient if the exhaust velocity is approximately the same as the maximum mission velocity. A weapon whose projectile/beam/whatever velocity is comparable to the firing ship’s mission velocity, is a weapon that can almost trivially be dodged and may not even reach the target before the fight is over.

        With multiple orders of magnitude difference in all of these categories, and all three of them combined before you have a useful weapon, no, you probably don’t get a useful weapon/engine in the same piece of machinery.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Agreed, most propulsion systems don’t make good or even usable weapon without modification (laser arrays used to push light sails being a notorious exception). I was mostly saying that any spaceship, at least any interstellar ship, with flight times compatible with (current) human lifespan, is very easy to weaponize, and once you’ve done that it can cause destruction compared to that of modern WMD or above. Obviously it doesn’t mean that it can match a purpose built warship of the same tech level.

          The main reason behind it is that it already have extremely powerful energy source on board, and some form of matter with very high energy density – fuel (exception being again laser pushed light sails or similar designs where the propulsion system is located outside of the ship; in these cases that propulsion system is really trivial to weaponize, but the ship itself – probably not so much). But also the fact that interstellar trips will take at least years and probably decades or centuries, with no hope of help or resupply. So a ship must have enough spare details, raw materials and manufacturing capabilities to maintain itself during that period. These might be used to modify existing systems or build some weapons from scratch – again, of course not enough to compare with a purpose built warship of the same tech, but enough to count as very much armed by any modern standards.

          Also, thanks for the info about modern lasers beam spread, I was trying to google it for a while.

        • bean says:

          An interstellar spaceship is easy to weaponize in the same way a supertanker is easy to weaponize. Yeah, it’ll do a lot of damage if you (ram something at full speed/manage to get something right behind you and turn the engines up to full), but neither is particularly practical. In space, it’s fairly easy to give every ship a safety perimeter big enough that the drive on full isn’t going to do too much damage. So you have to carefully set up a situation where the other side is close enough to you to actually be damaged. We’re firmly into the realm of occasional terrorism instead of a weapon here. Parallels to the naval ram in the 19th century are obvious, and I expect the “Kizni Lesson” to have the same effect on early space warfare that Lissa did at sea.

          • dick says:

            To be fair, I believe the Kzinti had telepaths who were saying that the human considered their own ships unarmed, and that the humans’ fusion drives were a) better than the Kzintis’, and b) focusable from wide to narrow exhaust via some unexplained mechanism.

          • Phigment says:

            My recollection is that the humans in the original Man-Kzin encounter were psychologized to be so peaceful at that point in the future that they not only didn’t have weapons, but the vast majority of them couldn’t even contemplate having weapons.

            Fighting wasn’t in their playbook. If, prior to that meeting, a human on the ship had suggested, “maybe we should have a laser cannon on this thing, in case we meet somebody hostile and need to shoot them”, that human would have been considered insane and probably institutionalized.

            And, as dick said, the Kzinti had a telepath reading human brains, and picking up on that. Telling the Kzinti leadership that, no, the humans don’t have any weapons. They don’t even understand what weapons are. They are shocked even by the suggestion of having weapons.

            Thus the Kzinti decided there was no threat and got way too close, and used a really slow method to try and kill the humans without damaging their ship, which allowed the one somewhat crazy human to line up the drive on them and fry them.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            While using the drive as a weapon was neat, I always preferred the other theme: one of the big technical advantages of the Kzin (telepaths, in this instance) backfired on them horribly. Without telepaths, the Kzin would have won that battle easily and soon enslaved mankind.

          • Lillian says:

            The reason the human ship during the first contact between Man and Kzin could use its drive as a weapon is because it was designed to double as an interstellar communications laser. That’s why it had a narrow beam mode to begin with, which at combat ranges makes it essentially indistinguishable from a laser cannon.

            This also meant that when the Kzinti invasion fleet finally made it to the Solar System they discovered that while humans thought of themselves as being unarmed, it turned out that between the comms lasers and the solar sail drivers we had actually festooned the entire system with death rays.

            Later in that same war, we used a Bussard ramjet to launch relativistic kill vehicles against the Kzinti staging base in Alpha Centuari. The Kzinti, who prefer to take invade planets and take slaves, were not prepared for that level of violence.

            While using the drive as a weapon was neat, I always preferred the other theme: one of the big technical advantages of the Kzin (telepaths, in this instance) backfired on them horribly. Without telepaths, the Kzin would have won that battle easily and soon enslaved mankind.

            It might not have made any difference, the reports by the human scout ships of murderous space aliens were dismissed as psychosis. Everyone knew that any sapient beings advanced enough for interstellar travel would also be advanced enough to have forsworn violence. It took subsequent encounters with Kzinti for the threat to be recognized.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            First of all, I’m not trying to defend the Kzinti Lesson as originally formulated by Niven. But:

            An interstellar spaceship is easy to weaponize in the same way a supertanker is easy to weaponize.

            Yes, with two differences. 1) if you drop a lifeboat or a wrench from a tanker going at full speed, it’s going to stop in the water or sink, rather than continue to travel at the same speed in the same direction 2) tankers don’t usually have autonomous drones or manufacturing capabilities to speak of onboard (at least as far as I know). With these two, you don’t need to ram your ship into a target – you can accelerate at full speed (or do not decelerate in the first place) drop any of the small ancillary vehicles you have onboard and ram that into the target, while yourself speeding past it, or decelerating or heading in a different direction. For example, if your cruise speed is 0.01c (pretty slow for a starship, just above 1 month to cross the Solar System as measured by the orbit of Neptune, almost half millennia to the nearest star), then any ton of weight you ram into your target corresponds to a bit more than 1Mt in TNT equivalent. If you use fission drive you can strap a canister with the fuel to the front of your improvised projectile and go up to gigatones (I don’t know enough physics to be 100% sure collision will trigger fusion reaction, but it seems very likely). If your fuel is antimatter, you can skip the acceleration part.

            It won’t be trivial for the opponent to dodge, because while he is capable of achieving the same speed eventually, it most likely takes days for him to do so (just like for yourself of course), and he will have more like minutes or seconds to react, depending on his sensors’ and your attack vehicle’s characteristics. So it’s acceleration what matters, rather than absolute speed, and a small unmanned vehicle can take much higher acceleration than a big manned ship. And of course you can attack a space station or any settlement on a celestial body without a significant atmosphere, or a ship that is coasting and not ready to accelerate on a minute’s notice.

            Sure he can have point-defense, or he can deploy his own drones to intercept yours by getting in their way, and then you can counter that by beefing up your drone’s engines to be faster (higher g) than a regular industrial one, by sending more drones, or by any other standard counter-counter-measures of which you know more than I do. But the fact is that it all looks more like a nuclear duel of two countries rather than a terrorist tanker captain ramming another ship.

            So I think “No spaceship is unarmed spaceship” is true in the sense that any spaceship can with relatively little effort and no considerable damage to self can take out a civilian, unprepared target size of itself or bigger under reasonably favorable conditions (knowing days ahead where the target will be, and having a legitimate reason to fly in that general direction).

            And that’s under the minimal assumptions that a starship is capable to go between two neighboring stars in a few hundred years. Assume antimatter drive OR ability to travel into not-populated systems (hence much greater manufacturing capabilities) OR higher speed (hence powerful anti-meteor point-defense), and the range of favorable conditions will be even wider.

          • bean says:

            Unguided kinetics don’t work at any distance. The problem is that the volume even a low-acceleration ship can put itself in is huge, and guidance against a competent opponent is nontrivial. I can go into more detail when I’m not on mobile.

          • bean says:

            I have several problems with your basic theory here. First, any unguided kinetic isn’t likely to hit. Even a “stationary” ship is going to have enough perturbations from things like stationkeeping that you can’t take it out with a ballistic projectile over days/weeks. (Ignoring the issues with making sure the projectile is on the right path, that is.) Second, dodging over minutes results in unacceptable mass requirements. For a ship with 1 m/s lateral acceleration and 10-m diameter facing the incoming projectiles, I get a total of about 130,000 needed for a 1-minute time of flight.

            As for guided projectiles, I think you vastly overestimate how easy they are to develop and build. A colony ship might have the fabrication facilities needed to make it work, but those are going to be pretty rare. And while a competent technical team could probably build something like an early Sidewinder, those had an unfortunate tendency to home in on the sun when they didn’t just break. The fixes for that are also pretty simple (temperature sensitivity, probably), but anything that wasn’t extensively tested and developed by experts is going to be unreliable against enemies without ECM and ineffective against enemies with ECM.

  20. Plumber says:

    I briefly turned on last night’s Democratic Presidential primary debate last night, but our son was feeling sick and we really didn’t catch much of it (which is why I haven’t posted opinions in the sub thread about it), but my wife checked something on-line and asked me “Who is Pete Buttigieg?”

    I don’t much know (and other than he’s gay and the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana I’m not finding much more about him from a web search), but he’s in the top five polling candidates along with Bidden, Harris, Sanders, and Warren, each of whom are current ot former U.S. Senators.

    Why’s Buttigieg in the top five?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I turned last night’s Democratic Presidential primary debate last night briefly, but our son was feeling sick and we really didn’t catch much of it

      Aww, sensitive kid. Tell him there’s nothing to worry about until February.

      • Plumber says:

        @Le Maistre Chat,
        Thanks.

        Election season is sooo long now!

        I envy the Britons “Get ‘er done” short elections.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I envy the Britons “Get ‘er done” short elections.

          Brexit makes up for it.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      At this stage? Probably progressive-stack points for gayness. There’s excitement in “first (openly) gay President.” We’re only talking a few percentage points, which is enough to break out.

      I get the feeling he will get past the first shake-out, and after that we’ll get a better idea of how good a candidate he is based on real credentials.

      My expectation is that he’s not ready for prime-time, but might be in another 4-8 years.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        He says nice things and has offered no policy. I like him, but I wouldn’t elect him, at least as things stand right now.

        My expectation is that he’s not ready for prime-time, but might be in another 4-8 years.

        This seems true to me.

    • Phigment says:

      My understanding is that Pete Buttigieg is in the top 5 because nobody knows much about him besides that he’s gay and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

      Like, I’m not being sarcastic. He’s the candidate with no particular history to be used against him. No awkward votes on past legislation, no being a prosecutor who sent people to jail, no decades of being a public figure to allow for dumb statements to be dragged up.

      He’s the candidate with a few positives and zero negatives.

    • edmundgennings says:

      He strikes me (red tribe) as competent, likable, and gets points for being a vet etc.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Buttigieg is running in the trendy young white man lane, similar to Beto. He speaks a lot of foreign languages, he is affable, he is gay, he speaks well, and he has some policy chops. He also has never held state-wide office or national office, so I think his chances of actual winning the nomination are low.

      Were he to win office, he would probably end up being another Macron.

    • broblawsky says:

      Buttigieg has the advantage of being a veteran and a small-town mayor from Indiana, which to my mind is much bigger than the fact that he’s gay. He appeals to some fundamental narrative in either the media landscape or the Democratic party about “the real America”. He just had the advantage of fitting into that cognitive hole earlier and better than anyone else. The fact that he’s gay is just icing (and insulates him from attack to some degree).

      • Randy M says:

        He appeals to some fundamental narrative in either the media landscape or the Democratic party about “the real America”.

        You mean that the Dem party hopes he will resonate with rural/fly-over people who see themselves as “the real America” or do you mean that the Dem party sees a small town white vet as symbolic of “the real America”?
        ‘Cause that’s the sort of talk I’d have thought they found somewhat suspect, implying some person is more American than another.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Randy, if they think Biden is more electable than a woman of color (Gabbard, Harris), I expect they’ll go for him (>0.51 <0.9 confidence) even if implies some person is more American than another, although California will cloud that signal by voting purity on Super Tuesday.
          Ofc that doesn't help Buttgieg, so w/e.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,
            This Democrat is seeing the polls showing Biden polling best against Trump, and that he’s highest in the polls against his Democratic opponents, plus he said “He’s a union man”, and frankly I want a frontrunner fast, if Biden slips and another tolerable candidate is frontrunner I’ll cast my vote for them.

            The longer the candidates fight and try to appeal to Democrats the worse I think they’ll do in the general election.

            As far as I can tell from polls and punditry the Democratic Party is split between mostly young whites and mostly old blacks right now (young blacks, and the few old whites seem to lean with either their age mates or their complexion mates in roughly equal numbers).

            Young whites are more left/liberal, fit the typical SSC commenter description of stereotypical Democrats and are getting behind Sanders and Warren more, old blacks are Biden’s base right now, despite his busing, crime bill, et cetera record, and if the case of the Virginia Governors old yearbook photo kerfuffle is a guide they’ll more readily forgive a “racist” past than young white Democrats will.
            Older black Democrats are the Parties most loyal voters, especially black women, but they tend to be more moderate, in many ways they’re a mirror of their co-religionists age mates Protestant Republican whites in that the more church going they are the more they vote for their Party, and they tend to be a bit less redistributionist and even more less socially liberal than young white Democrats, despite being more loyal in voting for Democrats, and it’s telling the reasons they give for voting Democratic Party – the 1960’s Civil and Voting rights acts, and nothing turns out their voting as much as hints of voter disenfranchisement, a few press reports of Republicans officials giving less voting machines and closing precincts in majority black areas, and their turnout increases. In some ways they’re almost single issue voters, the issue of getting to vote itself.

            Black men do show a bit of a preference for fellow black men specifically though (that Republicans don’t recruit more black male candidates seems a miss step on their part), black women are a bit more inclined to vote for white women as well.

            The speculation is that if black male candidate Cory Booker and/or Asian/black female Kamala Harris (who’s in the top five) get enough of a support in majority white Iowa and New Hampshire to show a possibility of winning that they may switch to one of those candidates, and if recent history is any guide whoever wins the South Carolina primary will show how subsequent black primary voters will go, And as despite only being about 1/5th of Democrats they’ve more quickly coalesce around a single candidate compared to other Democrats, and that candidate will be nominee.

            However, polls show that young blacks are starting to poll more like young whites than they have in the past, so history may not be a guide this time (just as 2016 showed a different Republican Party than the old “Republicans fall in line” Party.

            I’ll be surprised if the nominee isn’t Biden, Harris, or Warren, and despite his having little support by young whites Democrats, since they seem to mostly be divided between Sanders and Warren, it really does look like it’s Biden’s to lose, but he’s shown a remarkable ability to put his foot in his mouth, plus if you read The New York Times, Vox, and The Washington Post it really seems the knives are coming out, and the left/liberal wing really wants a “progressive” candidate more than they want a winning candidate.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Plumber: President Trump is scared of how well Biden polls against him. His best-case scenario is for the whole campaign between Debate #1 and the Dem convention to be a crashing train of clown cars, so Biden is either defeated by a socialist or produces lots of soundbites that will hurt him in the general.
            Unfortunately for the Dems, a crashing train of clown cars is what you get from allowing a democratic process rather than crowning an oligarch like in 2016.

            Young whites are more left/liberal, fit the typical SSC commenter description of stereotypical Democrats and are getting behind Sanders and Warren more, old blacks are Biden’s base right now, despite his busing, crime bill, et cetera record, and if the case of the Virginia Governors old yearbook photo kerfuffle is a guide they’ll more readily forgive a “racist” past than young white Democrats will.
            Older black Democrats are the Parties most loyal voters, especially black women, but they tend to be more moderate, in many ways they’re a mirror of their co-religionists age mates Protestant Republican whites in that the more church going they are the more they vote for their Party, and they tend to be a bit less redistributionist and even more less socially liberal than young white Democrats…

            Young Democrats are far-Left because they spent years in college. Afro-Americans just hate Republicans, so their views will be more diverse according to age and religion (if any). There are also middle-aged and old whites without college degrees in the Party, though who knows for how much longer? The Donald and Hillary did a good job of getting them to see D and nor R as the Party of the rich who deplore the people beneath them.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Unfortunately for the Dems, a crashing train of clown cars is what you get from allowing a democratic process rather than crowning an oligarch like in 2016.

            And how well did that go?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Paul Brinkley: Pretty badly for Democratic Party oligarchs.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            “….There are also middle-aged and old whites without college degrees in the Party, though who knows for how much longer?..

            Less as time goes by.

            The ones I know are typically Democrats because they’re loyal to their union, but even so I’ve heard a few admit that they cast their first vote for a Republican for Trump for the reasons @Conrad Honcho well articulates.

            Among the guys I work with, in general the white non-college educated young men I encounter lean Republican more than the older guys, especially if they have a long commute, non-white non-college educated men (especially though who live nearer to the city) lean Democrat or apolitical.

            Motivated reasoning or not, the Republicans (especially the young ones) regard “Woke” culture as a threat, while the Democrats just think it’s funny, but not much of a threat.

            Environmentalism is more often cited as something disliked by guys who are otherwise Democrats.

            Among women who are otherwise Democrats, taxes are cited as where they break from Democratic Party orthodoxy, but the women seem much more “Blue-Tribe” than the men, who are more “Red-Tribe” unless they’re college educated.

            A “Red Tribe” cop married to a “Blue Tribe” nurse is a common pairing (i.e. my next door neighbors).

            At least that’s how it seems from my social circle.

        • broblawsky says:

          You mean that the Dem party hopes he will resonate with rural/fly-over people who see themselves as “the real America” or do you mean that the Dem party sees a small town white vet as symbolic of “the real America”?
          ‘Cause that’s the sort of talk I’d have thought they found somewhat suspect, implying some person is more American than another.

          More the former than the latter, I’d assume? That’s the only important question in this election, anyway: who can win Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. There’s no realistic route for Trump to win if he loses those states.

    • Erusian says:

      Pete Buttigieg is in the top five for two reasons: firstly, he’s a veteran and a small town mayor who succeeded in ousting Republicans from what they perceive as a deep red state (though really he was in one of the bluest parts of it). He’s also highly educated and credentialed in a way that appeals to the elite class and gay in a way that appeals to the intersectional crowd. Secondly, he’s swerved decidedly to the left and done things like called for Republicans to be fired from public offices to appease the progressives and not get thrown out with the rest of the moderates who aren’t famous enough to be Biden.

      I’m familiar with the specific politics of South Bend and lived there for a time, so happy to answer any questions.

      • Atlas says:

        I’m familiar with the specific politics of South Bend and lived there for a time, so happy to answer any questions.

        What do you think of E. Michael Jones’ criticisms of Pete Buttigieg? Irritatingly, Jones hasn’t stated his positions in a written, concise and freely accessible form, so to respond you’d have to either buy and read his (relatively short and cheap) ebook or listen to one of the interviews he’s done about it on YouTube. I would completely understand if you didn’t feel like doing either of those things, but I’d be very interested in your response to Jones’ attacks on Buttigieg, as your comments here generally seem to me to be remarkably perceptive and fair-minded, FWIW.

        I wish I could fairly summarize Jones’ arguments, but the part of the reason that I’m asking is that I struggle to understand what, exactly, Buttigieg has done as mayor that is so horrible/disastrous/evil from Jones’ point of view. (And, by extension, those of various other alt-right personalities influenced by him.) My best attempt at this Ideological Turing Test is: “Pete Buttigieg is the son of a Marxist radical who was a terrible, unaccomplished academic but taught his son the Gramscian strategy of the ‘long march through the institutions.’ Buttigieg is a ruthless careerist who doesn’t care at all about the people of South Bend except insofar as they can be useful as stepping stones on his way to the top of American society. He privately looks down on ordinary people because they don’t support his sick revolutionary ideas. He’s been bought off by the oligarchs, who want him to push a Cultural Marxist agenda on the people of Indiana. He’s very unpopular with the actual, real people of South Bend; he only won the mayoral election by such a large margin because turnout was infinitesimal and there was no populist alternative to him. His record as mayor was a disaster, and he failed to revitalize South Bend, because he serves the interests of usury, which is bad, and not manufacturing, which is good. In sum, he’s a perfect representation of how international financial swindlers push an anti-traditional cultural agenda in order to create a Globohomo New World Order.” (Like I said, I don’t totally understand, let alone agree with, Jones’ views, so while I’ve done my best to accurately represent them I may have done so imperfectly/poorly.)

        By the way, is EMJ a well-known figure in South Bend, and, if so, what do people there think of him?

        • Deiseach says:

          Pete Buttigieg is the son of a Marxist radical

          Ah, those Maltese ex-Jesuits who become professors of literature! You couldn’t be up to them! 🙂

          The da being an ex-Jesuit who ended up teaching at Notre Dame, I would not be one whit surprised that he’s left in political inclinations, indeed very left by American standards, but whether that translates into “actual Marxist radical” or simply “well duh, he is/was a Jebbie” is another thing.

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach,
            That was an interesting link, and I thought that Buttigieg came off better in that interview than he did at the debate.

        • Erusian says:

          Pete Buttigieg is the son of a Marxist radical who was a terrible, unaccomplished academic but taught his son the Gramscian strategy of the ‘long march through the institutions.’

          Buttigieg is the son of a very liberal but faithful Catholic who was not extremely successful in his career but managed to keep a reasonably well-paid professorship at a relatively prestigious university. He was a force for pushing his institutions leftward and by many reports grooming his son from a very young age for high office.

          Buttigieg is a ruthless careerist who doesn’t care at all about the people of South Bend except insofar as they can be useful as stepping stones on his way to the top of American society. He privately looks down on ordinary people because they don’t support his sick revolutionary ideas.

          Buttigieg is a ruthless careerist who cares about the people of South Bend in a paternalistic, arrogant, “I was a Rhodes Scholar, what were you?” kind of way. I cannot speak to his private opinions but there’s a widespread opinion in South Bend that he looks down on ordinary people. No one from South Bend actually calls him Mayor Pete, which gives a homier, more man of the people image than he actually has. I’ve heard him called Mayor Butty (as a shortening of his hard to pronounce name) and (among some children) Mayor Butt. Other than that, Mayor Buttigieg.

          In particular, Buttigieg ran for several higher offices, lost repeatedly, and then ran for the mayor of South Bend. He was generally overqualified: his predecessor was a carpenter before entering politics and that’s generally the type of people who run South Bend. He was able to secure the Democratic nomination due to his previous connections, his resume, his talents, and a relatively small electorate. Winning the primary virtually guaranteed him winning the election. He almost immediately used the office to prepare to run for higher office and was repeatedly accused of making decisions based on how they’d look on the national stage. If you look at his first scandal, he was looking at national and press sentiment a lot (something he admits himself, though he said he regards it as a ‘mistake’).

          He’s been bought off by the oligarchs, who want him to push a Cultural Marxist agenda on the people of Indiana. He’s very unpopular with the actual, real people of South Bend; he only won the mayoral election by such a large margin because turnout was infinitesimal and there was no populist alternative to him.

          While South Bend is a Democratic stronghold, the county and state are Republican strongholds. This means Democratic politicians have to have some Republican support if they don’t want to get totally isolated. For Buttigieg, this was the Republican business community. For example, a lot of his revitalization projects were extremely profitable for real estate companies. Now, they also did improve the neighborhood’s housing stock and property values. But if you don’t like capital or you are concerned about the communities he bulldozed (and there were forced evictions) then it looks like kowtowing to the Republicans.

          Buttigieg also never really reached out to the Unionists or especially the African Americans in his community. His administration was notably educated and elite in a city that is not really either of those things. It’s remarkable that the Unions and African Americans both protested him at times. That anger of black South Bend residents is completely genuine. During his first term, a local union boss once told me he felt the head of the local Chamber of Commerce had better access to him than the AFL-CIO. Now, to be fair, the AFL-CIO wanted a lot of deference and the head of the CoC could create a lot of headaches through the county/state government (which the AFL-CIO could not). And he did get the Chamber to agree to concessions to the Unions. But they felt it was more throwing them a bone than real advocacy.

          There was a general sense among South Bend Democrats, especially the minorities, that he wasn’t really fighting for them. Notably, the main challenger to his second primary campaign was very much a representative of the black vote. While he got the minority vote in the general, this was mainly because they weren’t going to go Republican. Many stayed home.

          His record as mayor was a disaster, and he failed to revitalize South Bend, because he serves the interests of usury, which is bad, and not manufacturing, which is good.

          His record as a mayor was decidedly unsuccessful and he failed to revitalize South Bend. I don’t think it’s fair to call it a disaster: he inherited a city undergoing a slow decline and is leaving the city still undergoing that slow decline. At best, he might have accelerated or slowed it slightly. He’s not particularly hated in South Bend outside of the minority community and some of the more extreme Republican quarters. A lot of people mildly dislike him, but that’s normal for politicians. I suspect he’d have pretty average approval ratings.

          In sum, he’s a perfect representation of how international financial swindlers push an anti-traditional cultural agenda in order to create a Globohomo New World Order.”

          EMJ is moderately known as an Alex Jones style figure.

          • dick says:

            Thanks for the thoughtful and informative response. I am far from IN and so what I see is how people react from his national attention, and I would summarize it as “He ticks many of the right boxes and seems very competent, but has several obvious electability challenges and generally seems like a huge unknown”, i.e. about what most people thought about Obama when they first learned about him.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            No one from South Bend actually calls him Mayor Pete, which gives a homier, more man of the people image than he actually has. I’ve heard him called Mayor Butty (as a shortening of his hard to pronounce name) and (among some children) Mayor Butt. Other than that, Mayor Buttigieg.

            No one pronounces his surname “Butt gig”?
            Thanks for the details about his elitist governing style. Interesting to see a white gay Democrat take such an aloof “I know what’s best for you” attitude to blacks and the working class (unions, etc). In that it’s what I’ve come to expect from straight white Democratic mayors with higher ambitions, only made more interesting by his position on the progressive stack.

          • Matt M says:

            an aloof “I know what’s best for you” attitude

            I mean, he’s a former McKinsey guy. That’s literally the brand.

          • nkurz says:

            @dick
            > about what most people thought about Obama when they first learned about him

            I think Obama actually made a much stronger entrance than that. He gave the keynote address at the 2004 DNC convention, and it turned a lot of heads:

            https://www.beaconbroadside.com/broadside/2016/07/the-story-behind-obamas-keynote-address-at-the-2004-democratic-national-convention.html

            https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/27/magazine/the-speech-that-made-obama.html

            This isn’t just revisionist history. I remember watching a video of the talk and saying to friends “Wow, here’s their 2008 candidate!” While Buttagieg ticks a lot of boxes, I don’t think many people’s first reaction upon upon hearing him was to declare that he’s a leading contender for the presidency.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I watched Obama’s speech in 2004, live. I had the same reaction. “Wow, maybe this guy some day.”

            The keynote isn’t given out at random. Bill Clinton had it in 1988. It’s often a showcase.

          • Deiseach says:

            Buttigieg also never really reached out to the Unionists

            I’m presuming you mean the union guys because that has a very different meaning in an Irish context.

            Though in an American context, I’m sure it would be equally puzzling to parse it as “(Formerly) Catholic politician doesn’t do enough for Orange men“. 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: Jacobites say ORANGE MAN BAD!

          • I watched Obama’s speech in 2004, live. I had the same reaction. “Wow, maybe this guy some day.”

            Rather like my reaction to Reagan’s speech during the Goldwater campaign. And his debate with Bobby Kennedy.

            I wonder how much in politics gets determined by oratorical ability.

          • Erusian says:

            No one pronounces his surname “Butt gig”?

            Not that I heard. Mayor Butty. Pronounced like “Buddy” if you’re friendly, “Booty” if you’re not and/or making a gay joke.

            I think Obama actually made a much stronger entrance than that. He gave the keynote address at the 2004 DNC convention, and it turned a lot of heads:

            Yeah, I agree Obama had a stronger entrance. Buttigieg has been fighting upstream more. He’s generally gotten mainstream DNC support but not to the degree Obama was picked.

            I’m presuming you mean the union guys because that has a very different meaning in an Irish context.

            Though in an American context, I’m sure it would be equally puzzling to parse it as “(Formerly) Catholic politician doesn’t do enough for Orange men“.

            Lol. In Indiana, a Unionist is either a person who is pro-Trade Union or a person who is anti-Southern. The second meaning is kind of old fashioned but sometimes used, especially in relation to the south of the state (which has a fair number of Southerners in it).

            Indiana is kind of analogous to Ireland in reverse: the northern part is staunchly Catholic and has very different politics and economics from the rest of the state, which is mostly Protestant. They even had a civil conflict between the two parts, complete with militias, kidnappings, murders, and paramilitaries.

          • Matt M says:

            Not that I heard. Mayor Butty. Pronounced like “Buddy” if you’re friendly, “Booty” if you’re not and/or making a gay joke.

            I’m hoping we can make it “Mayorina Butina”

          • dick says:

            I think Obama actually made a much stronger entrance than that.

            Yeah, I didn’t mean to actually suggest they’re in equivalent positions, except at maybe a very coarse-grained level.

            Various stuff about him being elitist

            I’m not sure I get the problem with this. Isn’t he supposed to know what’s best for us? How is this different from calling a welder “elitist” for claiming to be a very good welder and having received… whatever the welding equivalent of a Rhodes scholarship is?

            If this is merely an observation about optics, like that he comes off as elitist, I get that, but I sense that it isn’t.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I’m not sure I get the problem with this. Isn’t he supposed to know what’s best for us? How is this different from calling a welder “elitist” for claiming to be a very good welder and having received… whatever the welding equivalent of a Rhodes scholarship is?

            You’re asserting that having a Rhodes scholarship for-realsies means he knows what’s best for us?

          • dick says:

            No, I’m asserting that someone who does know what’s best would claim to know what’s best. Why would we elect a president who doesn’t claim to know more about running countries than us?

            …and when I put it that way and consider the last election, I guess I have my answer. But I still prefer candidates who at least aspire to know more than me.

          • Randy M says:

            But I still prefer candidates who at least aspire to know more than me.

            I’d like the President to want to get all the relevant information and skills, but it’d be nice if he were humble enough to know he can’t “run the country” and the best he can hope for is to run the government. Do not try to shape or mold us, just try not to break things and keep the threats at bay and the roads smooth as applicable.
            But that’s a pipe dream, I know.

          • baconbits9 says:

            No, I’m asserting that someone who does know what’s best would claim to know what’s best. Why would we elect a president who doesn’t claim to know more about running countries than us?

            Democracy is typically crouched in terms like ‘enacting the will of the people’ and not ‘telling people what to do. The latter is authoritarian, and many people seem to dislike it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            “We’re a Republic not a Democracy” seems applicable, for once. We do want representatives to be more competent at governing than the general populace. Of course there is a fine line, but that is why politics is an art.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why’s Buttigieg in the top five?

      Realistically, he shouldn’t be on what he’s accomplished so far, but in media terms it was “Ooooh! Gay and married and (progressive) Christian (raised Catholic, converted to Anglicanism/Episcopalianism) who schooled the phobes!” so he got a Time cover out of it.

      Modern progressivism being modern progressivism, there was immediate backlash about how he and his husband as a couple were too straight to be properly gay (or something).

      My own opinion is that Mayor Pete is like Call Me Beto: there was more excitement over O’Rourke “he nearly won against Cruz, you know!” but not much about “yeah, and what else?” Same with Mayor Pete: he’s young(ish)! he’s gay! Yeah, and what else?

    • Matt M says:

      No one else has mentioned it yet – but doesn’t he have some pretty extensive connections to Big Tech? I recall reading something about how he was one of the first 100 users on Facebook or something like that.

      And given that Big Tech has all but declared that they will actively do whatever they can to prevent Trump from winning again, why should we assume they won’t artificially influence modern communication networks to assist in the promotion of their preferred Democratic primary contender, as well? Keep in mind, we already know from experience that the DNC primary is fairly easy to rig (thanks, Putin!)

  21. J.R. says:

    Any good advice on breaking bad habits? Specifically, hitting snooze in the AM?

    The early morning is the best time for me to meditate and exercise, but I have issues getting out of bed. I’m positive I’m getting enough sleep to wake up at my target time, my current bedtime is consistent (and shared with my partner), but I just can’t chain together enough days where I get out of bed on time to make this stick. The most likely case is that I hit snooze, fall asleep, wake up 40 minutes later, then spend a while contemplating whether it’s worth it to get a half or quarter of a workout in.

    • JPNunez says:

      Get a second alarm clock.

      Put them away from the bed.

      • acymetric says:

        This worked for me for a few months, at which point I started getting up, turning off the alarm clock, and going back to bed.

        • JPNunez says:

          What has mostly worked for me:

          -growing older
          -getting cats

          motherfucking cats will jump on me to feed them upon sunrise

          but I still managed to get asleep today and got late to work 15 minutes; prolly first time in several months

          • acymetric says:

            Good point. My dog was great about getting me up in the morning the first year or two I had her. Now she’s even lazier than I am most mornings (unless it’s a weekend and I really sleep in).

            I have to yell at her to get up and go outside like a teenager or something.

        • CatCube says:

          Oh, my God. I thought I was the only one who did this.

    • Phigment says:

      Actually, physically, get out of your bed.

      This sounds obvious, but it’s much harder to fall back asleep if you’re standing up and walking around than if you’re laying flat on your back on a comfy bed.

      When the alarm sounds, get up out of the bed and stand up before you turn it off. Then, do not sit down on your bed again. Go to your kitchen and get a glass of water or something. Once you’re moving around, you’ll convince your brain that you’re actually serious about waking up, and it’ll grudgingly cooperate.

      • cassander says:

        putting the alarm on the other side of the room can help with this. I rarely have the willpower to leave it there, though.

      • Spookykou says:

        I find along with physically getting up, turning on the lights helps a bunch, the brighter the better.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Seconding both of the above. There is a large difference in mornings where my phone is in reach from the bed and ones where I need to walk across the room to hit the snooze button

    • acymetric says:

      While I admit there is some psychological self trickery, most of the above suggestions (except for moving the alarm clock so you have to get up) basically map to “have the willpower to get out of bed instead of hitting snooze” and it seems like it would be difficult for that to be the solution when that is the problem.

      • Spookykou says:

        I assume the idea is to change some aspect of the attempt, brushing my teeth for the full 2 minutes standing in the bathroom staring at the sink is difficult, doing it while sitting down away from the sink (and not being able to easily spit) makes it a lot easier. The effort to move slightly is ultimately easier than the effort to continue brushing for the full duration, and the end result is I now brush my teeth for the full time.

      • dick says:

        True, but moving the alarm clock time-shifts the required willpower from the morning to a previous day, which definitely helps some people.

    • Plumber says:

      @J.R.,
      I keep a thermos full of hot tea by the bed and pour a cup, if I fall back asleep it will get cold and less appealing.

      I also drape a shirt on a space heater that I have on a timer set to turn on 30 minutes before the first alarm.

      The real trick though is turning on the smartphone, seeing the bright screen, and looking at all the new SSC comments.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Apparently some people just have a harder time getting out of bed than others.

      I can instantly get up while some others…

      For me, maybe treat it as a pee alarm. That this is your 10-second window to get to the bathroom to relieve yourself or else you can never pee again? Once you’re up, you’re up! You’ve changed the status quo and on to fighting against going back to sleep

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I don’t really see how you get enough sleep if you can fall asleep for another 40 minutes…

      But anyways, sleep inertia depends on sleep timing. The most direct approach is use some hardware that can tell when you’re ok to wake up. Can’t recommend specific brands, and there are costs. involved.

      Second best thing to do is to have a weak stimulus starting about 30 minutes before the wakeup time. A sunrise lamp (or a phone app, I guess, there’s an app for everything these days) that makes light into your bedroom, or an alarm clock (or app) that makes weak noise (there are some pretty nice recordings, like nature sounds etc). This way when your brain gets awake enough to perceive the sounds you know you can wake up, and don’t wait the actual alarm which, by the sounds of it, tends to come up at a bad moment in the sleep cycle.

      Also caffeine, pill, small dose (20-30 mg or so). Keep it by the bed.

    • Lillian says:

      Don’t hit snooze? For a long time i’d intentionally schedule around the snooze button. So if i was supposed to get up at 9am, i’d set the alarm for 8:50 if i had a 10 minute snooze, and just always hit it the one time. Then one day i saw an add for an alarm clock which prominently advertised that it had no snooze button. At that moment i was enlightened, the snooze button is stupid, so i stopped using it.

      The very next time i had to wake up at 9am, i set the alarm at 9am, and just got out of bed as soon as it went off. Have never used it again, it’s a waste of time that makes both your sleep and your morning worse. It’s way easier to have energy in the morning when you commit to waking up instead of confusing your body by waking yourself ten minutes early and then going back to sleep for a tiny nap.

      Oh also, if you find yourself waking up naturally and it’s a half hour or less before your expected wake up time, then congratulations, you’re done sleeping, drag your ass our of bed.

      • Nick says:

        Hard endorse. Snooze buttons never should have been invented.

        • AG says:

          I can see the use of them, though. Some people noted the circadian rhythm aspect above, which is that if you go to bed at 9PM, your body will be at the ideal wakeup time at +/- 15 minutes 1.5x hours later. If the alarm is early, you have the leeway to wait until you’re closer to the ideal wakeup time.

          Of course, this is dependent on people having the self-awareness of when they’re ready to wake up and actually getting up when they hit those points of the cycle, instead of habitually going for another cycle, as Lillian points out.

          I’ve since developed an interrupted sleeppattern, where I consistently wake up after 3 hours, including for occasional weekend nap. It’s been rather useful for when I attend livestreams of concerts on the other side of the world.

          (I don’t use the snooze button, but I do have two alarms set 30-40 minutes apart, in the event that the first alarm happens in the middle of a cycle. Sometimes I get up at the first alarm, sometimes the second, sometimes in between, because I only needed 10-20 more minutes or so to wake up.)

  22. ana53294 says:

    In Spain, we had a debate in the legal system when the Supreme court suddenly decided to re interpret the law and decided the banks have to pay for the taxes associated with a mortgage, instead of the customer.

    S&P, Moody’s and common sense economics will say that it doesn’t matter who pays, in this case, the customer will end up paying through fees and higher interests. And sure, it happened; mortgage costs went up this year, unlike other loans, despite politicians promising it won’t.

    For me, the issue was always about the retroactive application of the interpretation of the law, which was an issue for banks.

    Overall, it’s not clear to me that having the bank bear the cost and charge it through hidden fees. I think that when people have to pay for all the costs, they get a more clear idea of how much taxation and legislation costs them. So I don’t get why consumer associations and politicians made a big deal out of it. Sure, some people will benefit from the retroactive interpretation of the law; but from now on, they won’t.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Retroactive remaking of laws is a threat to the rule of law and is an obviously unfair thing. Many people who care about this issue do so because they don’t understand economics and the bloodless supply and demand curves that economists produce. They say “Why am I paying these massive taxes when I just want to take care of my family, while the super rich evil bank paying nothing?”

      But on an institutional level, I tend to think charging businesses and banks rather than individuals is a (probably) good idea, or at least it would be if you could keep people aware that those taxes are coming out of their pockets. The reason is collection: I suspect it is cheaper to collect taxes and revenue balances from fewer entities (businesses) rather than more (individuals) and so the bureaucratic upkeep associated with taxes goes down when only businesses are paying them.

      Worst of all, though, are systems like US social security, where the business pays half of the tax and the employee pays the other half.

      • ana53294 says:

        Retroactive remaking of laws is a threat to the rule of law and is an obviously unfair thing.

        They didn’t remake the law, so much as they re-interpreted the law in the cassation court. In Spain, the judiciary cannot just make up stuff out of thin air.

        I agree that it’s unfair, though.

        The only reason to apply a law retroactively is when the new criminal law gives a lesser punishment than the previous one. If there was a law that gave ten years for adultery, and we decide that adultery is not a criminal matter, it makes sense to release all jailed adulterers who were jailed for that reason.

        I also don’t understand why we make laws that cannot be understood by anybody, even lawyers, and require the Supreme Court to decide. This wasn’t an edge case; it was the direct law that said which tax had to be paid when opening a mortgage.

        I frequently see that in tax law, laws are so hard to understand that the government is frequently asked to clarify this or that aspect of tax law, and people use those clarifications to decide what to do. I don’t see why the law itself cannot be written to be more clear.

        it would be if you could keep people aware that those taxes are coming out of their pockets

        I would agree with you, but I don’t think this will ever happen. Banks have all the incentive to hide how they are charging the customers for this, since the law says they should be the ones bearing the costs. If they introduce a clear “tax fee”, they could be sued. It is in their interest to just raise interest rates for mortgages, which is what they did.

        • edmundgennings says:

          Avoiding ambiguity in tax law is impossible if there are regular changes in it and it is not purposefully kept very simple. Modern tax codes are huge. Huge changing documents invariably have a lot of ambiguity. The government should probably consult more with tax lawyers when revising but there are legitimate concerns about asking the foxes to design the hen house which then get magnified for political reasons.

  23. Aapje says:

    I think that that we need a (better) term for category-based cultural sets of rights and obligations. For example, children are treated differently from adults. They have different rights and obligations than adults.

    The rights and obligations of one category of people are entangled with those of other categories. For example, the right of children to be taken care of by parents, puts an obligation on those parents. In most cultures, children have an obligation to take care of elderly, sickly parents, which is a right on the part of parents and an obligation to the children. So the obligations and rights are usually not unidirectional.

    Of course, very many different categories exist that are distinct and have entangled rights and obligations, including:
    – men and women
    – employers and employees
    – handicapped and non-handicapped people
    – children and parents
    – children and adults

    These categories are sometimes called ‘identities,’ but this term implies that the main thing that matters is how the person sees themselves, while a very important factor is how others see the person. It doesn’t point out the rights and obligations that are part of most identities. SJ does have other words to talk about this a bit, like ‘privilege,’ ‘entitlement’ and ‘objectification,’ but these tend to be extremely negative and assume that one identity has rights and the other obligations, and thus don’t accurate describe how the category-based cultural sets of rights and obligations enforce quid-pro-quo’s, a moderate form of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” protections for certain groups, etc.

    So, does anyone have a suggestion for a nice term to describe this?

    • Incurian says:

      Confucianism.

    • March says:

      Seems like that’s what the world ‘roles’ is for.

    • JPNunez says:

      Gotta nitpick in that “entitlement” is more of a right wing term recently.

      Gotta second that confucianism has this pat down.

      • JPNunez says:

        Ah, found an article that mentions this as the five “bonds” (Father and son, Ruler and ruled, Husband and wife, Older brother and younger brother, friend to friend).

        Bond is a good word for this.

        • Randy M says:

          Bond is an interesting word in that it has both positive and negative affect. Pair bonding versus held in bondage. I wonder if one will win out over time.

          • Nick says:

            Bind, which has a common ancestor, is the same way. Interestingly, “religion” comes from “ligo” meaning bind, but its PIE root is different from bind’s.

        • Aapje says:

          @JPNunez

          Yes, I like that word the best so far.

          I specifically want to get away from the idea that these bonds are merely negative.

    • Well... says:

      Sometimes this is called “classes” although that term is also used in an economic or socioeconomic sense, which can be confusing.

      One application of this idea is in the abortion issue. Assuming you agree that a human fertilized egg/embryo/fetus/etc. is a human life, the rights and obligations of that life can sometimes be in conflict with those of the mother. This is covered by the more general category of adults and children but I thought it was worth making explicit.

    • 10240 says:

      The rights and obligations of one category of people are entangled with those of other categories.

      A remark/nitpick: positive rights correspond to obligations of someone else, negative rights don’t.

      • Well... says:

        In most cases this is true, but in some it isn’t. Immediately above I used the example of abortion: the negative rights of the unborn human (to not have its life taken from it) correspond to obligations of its mother (to carry it to term).

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          Negative rights forbid certain actions. Positive rights obligate certain actions. A mother carrying her child/fetus to term is not an exception to this principle. Insofar as a mother is obligated to (say) visit the hospital to take care of her pregnancy, a fetus’s right to life is a positive right Insofar as a mother is forbidden from getting an abortion, it’s a negative right.

        • 10240 says:

          Indeed, one could similarly talk about positive and negative obligations (prohibitions): a negative right corresponds to a negative obligation, and a positive right corresponds to a positive obligation. In my previous comment, I didn’t recognize prohibitions as a form of obligation.

          Abortion is a bit peculiar because one may consider abortion an action, and carrying the fetus to term an inaction, but some people might consider feeding the fetus through the placenta an action, and abortion the cessation of this action. In the former treatment, a negative right of the fetus (assuming one recognizes it) corresponds to a negative obligation of the mother; in the latter one, a positive right of the fetus corresponds to a positive obligation of the mother.

  24. Scott Alexander says:

    If I were going to read one Peter Turchin book, which one should it be?

  25. Le Maistre Chat says:

    When India gained its independence from Britain, the new government had to deal with, in addition to Pakistan, an insurgency among the Naga people in an isolated area of the northeast, bordering Burma/Myanmar. When the underground insurgent government laid down arms with the Shillong Accord of 1975, some Naga militants carried on under the name National Socialist Council of Nagaland.

  26. BBA says:

    The San Francisco Board of Education has voted to paint over a mural at George Washington High School that depicts Washington as a slaveowner and as expelling Native Americans from their homelands. The mural, painted by a leftist as a critique of the standard hagiographic view of the Founders, is now considered problematic for its negative portrayal of racial minorities.

    Progressivism has lapped itself.

    • Plumber says:

      @BBA,
      I’ve followed that story (KCBS and KPFA radio both had long segments on it) and the headline that came to my mind was “The New Left literally covers up the Old Left”.

      Needs work, but it a start I suppose.

      • Plumber says:

        The high school that I went to has a large wing built in the ’30’s, and at least in the ’80’s there was still a large painting of a construction site with what looks like Franklin Delano Roosevelt (standing!) looking over some blueprints, with another man in a suit to his right, and a shirtless man holding a hammer to his left.

        I feel like I should add that this isn’t the first time t there’ve been calls to paint over WPA paintings (usually because of “communist messages”, and in this case the artist moved to and died in the Soviet Union, so that slur is probably accurate in this case), the Coit Tower murals in San Francisco are seen by thousands of tourists now, but there were calls to paint over “leftist” content soon after they were painted (the 1934 general strike content was especially regarded as “volatile” back then), and with stuff like a library patron pulling a Karl Marx book off the shelf, and a despondent man looking at a falling stock market ticker tape graph it’s not hard to see that there was indeed such content, but now that’s mostly just seen as historical artifacts of the 1930’s.
        Also in San Francisco, but not seen today by as many tourists are the

        Not seen by as many tourists are the old Rincon Post Office murals (it’s now a restaurant complex) which have a “History of California” theme, which were also called to be destroyed, I’ve been to see them and I suspect that in a school they’d be regarded as “triggering”, as among other things they show 19th century “Workingman’s Party (which was mostly made of Irish immigrants and their kids) protesters holding “Chinese Out” signs (ironically they’re many Chinese restaurants in the same building as the murals).

        I recommend checking them out

        • BBA says:

          There’s a WPA mural in the Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia (built in 1939 for Pan Am, currently home to JetBlue), which was painted over for allegedly Communist imagery and then restored decades later. Someday I’ll book a flight through there for a chance to see it, but *sigh* that’d mean flying out of LaGuardia.

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      The line (from the Chronicle) that not even the Onion could make up:

      “Painting over the mural would cost at least $600,000, with the majority of the cost in producing an environmental impact report.

      (emphasis mine)

      • quanta413 says:

        Maybe the mural could be mysteriously vandalized by unknown students while no one happened to be watching? And then they could just paint over it without an environmental impact report?

        Obviously unethical but is it more ethical to spend precious money on impact reports to paint over a mural?

        • AG says:

          Reminds me of the radio report about how a gigantic near-whole-intersection-sized pothole only got filled in once someone graffiti’d a giant dick in it.

          https://www.marketplace.org/2019/05/13/people-are-finding-ways-to-get-their-potholes-filled/

          • quanta413 says:

            That article is amazing. Thanks.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            City officials are also not fond of this tactic. The Manchester Evening News quotes a city council spokesman as saying, “Every penny that we have to spend cleaning off this graffiti is a penny less that we have to spend on actually repairing the potholes!”

            In Oakland, Russo also denies that the tactic works.

            “The people who feel potholes and the people who work on graffiti abatement are different crews with different equipment, so it’s really not a thing,” Russo said. “But obviously if it’s noticed, we might fill it. But that’s a hypothetical that I haven’t heard of. That’s a new one.”

            Should we believe this? I am uncertain.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Maybe?

            People spending a pot of money to take care of something often get angry if forced to fulfill their obligations, or lash out at the thing they are supposed to take care of when facing budget cuts.

          • AG says:

            “Should we believe this?”

            Revealed preferences. If the two teams are that independent, then the graffiti would have been cleaned but the pothole unfilled.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I screwed up my HTML somehow. This was supposed to be the link for “facing budget cuts”

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

      • Radu Floricica says:

        And we actually wonder how stuff got to be more expensive than it used to be.

      • acymetric says:

        I know San Francisco is weird, and environment impact study costs are (fairly) a frequent punching bag here, but I would be interested in some fact checking on that to understand what the environmental impact study requires and why it would cost so much.

        • Lambert says:

          Do you really think you have the kind of money to fund an environmental impact study impact study?

          • acymetric says:

            …what?

          • Aapje says:

            It’s a joke, he implied that such a study would require it’s own (meta) environment impact study, making it very expensive.

          • acymetric says:

            This was an extreme version of “the the”…despite reading the post at least three times I only saw impact study once, hence the confusion.

            It just seems like the “study” in this case should be pretty limited and that we should have plenty of prior knowledge of what happens to an area when we paint a wall.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            My speculation is that there is a high fixed cost to doing any environmental impact study, no matter how trivial. It is difficult to see how painting 1600 sq ft of wall could cost $600k without some high fixed cost of bureaucracy involved.

          • Randy M says:

            The only way that number makes sense to me is as the average for all environmental impact studies done in that area for any kind of project.
            Even if you mandate a team of twenty cross-discipline experts meet to discuss it, prepare a report, and then present the report in an open council meeting, that’s like, twenty hours, accounting for an order of magnitude increase in time by the committee members to milk it.
            At $200 an hour per member, that’s only $80,000, well shy of $300,001, the bare amount suggested by that quote.

            I can write the report now.
            “Buildings have been painted for approximately all of history. We have non-toxic paints. Let’s use those.”

            Does nobody bother to question these things? Working in bureaucracy makes one immune to large numbers?

            The scary thing is that this implies the city already spent $300,000 once to put the thing up (or somebodies are lying, of course).

          • Plumber says:

            @Randy M

            “….The scary thing is that this implies the city already spent $300,000 once to put the thing up”

            The original mural was “put up” in the 1930’s, so before “impact reports”.

          • Randy M says:

            Well I see someone did the assigned reading. Good job spoiling it for the rest of us poindexter.
            (translation: thanks for pointing that out, guess I should have read the article before commenting)

          • acymetric says:

            @Randy M

            Right. I will grant that, although there might be some legitimate reasons to have environmental impact studies for certain projects, it is generally not done for those good reasons and probably doesn’t even address them. Even accepting this, I don’t understand how

            “Buildings have been painted for approximately all of history. We have non-toxic paints. Let’s use those.”

            Could be expanded upon enough to cost $600,000 dollars, and the only complaints appear to be “but it costs too much!” or from the other side “damn the costs, this must be done!” If anyone is saying “this should be done, but $600,000 dollars is obscene” it wasn’t mentioned in the article.

            Calling it “reparations” is ludicrous, and possibly offensive…I would guess the impacted groups would probably rather actually be given the $600,000 and have the mural repainted for some normal cost.

        • Plumber says:

          @acymetric,
          My guess is to see if painting it would disturb the wall enough that asbestos, lead, and/or mold would be released, and the students and teachers could sue.

          I know this year in between a Sheriff’s department office and a Police department office is a men’s restroom that had a vintage 1950’s urinal with a back inlet spud that needs replacing, the problem is that all the urinals I have to fit the mounting brackets are top inlet spud, and new that I may get from my vendors have back inlet urinals that have a different distance between inlet and outlet than the original, so either way to install a replacement I have to drill a new hole in the wall, and (especially since so many Deputies and Police are smokers) testing has to be done before I drill a hole (personally I’m exposed to asbestos, lead, and mold when I go into the chase cavities, but the office workers didn’t sign up for that), and right now that testing is deemed too expensive (there’s three other urinals in the restroom, and there’s plans to move those offices out of the building since 1991 “within ten years”), so there it sits bagged up with an “out of order” sign.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, once I heard that it was painted in the lead era of paints, I’m now assuming that the environmental cost has to do with lead paint.

            And presumably that is actually just hiding a cost that is an already extent “deal with contamination” into the “deal with the mural” cost.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            From talking with environmental regulators I know, I thought lead paint was only an issue if you are removing it. Painting over it doesn’t disturb things.

            (It is, literally, painting over the problem, but any old building has lots of lead paint that’s been painted over.)

          • Plumber says:

            @Edward Scizorhands,
            That makes sense, what I’ve sometimes seen is asbestos pipe insulation get encased in plaster.

            What I’ve usually seen is:
            1) Do the work quickly, without taking undue risks (spray water to keep the dust down, et cetera), and do it quietly i.e. “They say the ground at Treasure Island may be radioactive, so try not to do much digging, and if you have to do any don’t get caught”.

            or

            2) Pay private contractors a dump truck full of money to “abate the hazard” (they put stickers on the insulation that read “Contains asbestos: Don’t disturb”).

            In this case a fuss has been raised, so quickly and quietly is off the table hence the dump truck full of money option is invoked.

        • John Schilling says:

          I can easily believe that someone would panic at the thought of touching a mural of dreaded lead paint without permission and, not knowing any better, contract that out to a consulting firm that normally does environmental assessments for serious construction projects and is accustomed to billing half a million dollars and up because that’s what the boilerplate and box-checking costs at that level. At which point, the consultants get to chose between A: submitting a bill for $600k because that’s what they always do, or B: conducting an in-house environmental impact study cost study to determine what can be cut if you’re only painting over a silly mural so that you can bill the client less, and determining that the words “bill”, “client”, and “less” are presented in that order.

          But I agree that this is too neat a story of outgroup incompetence to be taken at face value without knowing that someone has taken a skeptical look at it.

    • quanta413 says:

      I thought it was a problem because not everyone likes being reminded that some of their ancestors were in a socially subordinate position? It actually makes sense to me. It’s getting cast in progressive terms and motifs that I mostly don’t agree with, but I think I get it. I wouldn’t be fond of a piece of art in a public area I had to go to every single day where my Scottish ancestors were shown getting thrashed by the English or a piece of art where my Hawaiian ancestors were dying of disease brought by Europeans.

      It’s a giant billboard in the school and it’s the opposite of subtle; it’s not history class.

      • Aapje says:

        If ‘oppressors’ must be constantly reminded of the past, because it impacts the present and the ‘oppressors’ need to combat their encultured tendencies, then it’s going to be difficult to also demand that the ‘oppressed’ shouldn’t be reminded of it.

        • quanta413 says:

          I agree, which is one reason I’m not fond of the ultra-progressive line. Or old ultra-progressive line at this point?

          If the new turn is going to be “remove large artworks depicting oppression” from public places, I can get behind that. I prefer public art to be neutral or positive overall. The sad stuff can be left for museums, private spaces, and books.

          It’s a bit of a shame you can’t peel murals off a building and move them somewhere else, but them’s the breaks.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            It’s a bit of a shame you can’t peel murals off a building and move them somewhere else, but them’s the breaks.

            +billion TBH. The lobby of a school seems like the worst place for a mural like this IMO, independent of the question of whether this is a “good” mural.

          • acymetric says:

            Take a picture?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Acymetric

            Medium is important to art.

          • acymetric says:

            I was being glib. I initially considered saying “take a picture, it’ll last longer”.

            As far as removing murals/statues and whatnot, at least they are being consistent and not trying to make exceptions for the racist depiction created by someone on “their side”.

          • ana53294 says:

            It’s a bit of a shame you can’t peel murals off a building and move them somewhere else, but them’s the breaks.

            Romanic frescoes painted over gypsum can be removed, so I don’t see a reason much newer and more conserved murals can’t be removed safely. And if it’s drywall, the drywall can be cut and removed.

            Of course, removing the mural would cost 600k or more, and you’d have to store it somewhere. It’s probably not worth doing if the mural has no religious, artistic or historical significance.

        • BBA says:

          It sends one message to put up these murals at a majority-white school; it sends a very different message if it’s a majority-black school. In fact GWHS is currently majority-Asian, which, um, I don’t know what message they’re taking from it then.

          And it is true that high schoolers, especially the white boys, are dipshits. Tell them that Washington was a genocidal slavedriver and they’ll ask “what’s wrong with that?”

          But what I keep circling back to is that nobody has suggested renaming the school. We all agree that these awful things are part of Washington’s legacy, and if we don’t want to be reminded of them, why should we continue to honor the man? How does this benefit the cause of social justice and racial equality? If you’re going to be an iconoclast, go all the way.

          Clearly the SFBoE completely missed the point of the murals. I think Mark Twain put it best: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

          • Randy M says:

            In fact GWHS is currently majority-Asian, which, um, I don’t know what message they’re taking from it then.

            America is weak and has no confidence in itself.

            But what I keep circling back to is that nobody has suggested renaming the school.

            Really? We’re all supposed to hate Washington now? Didn’t think it was going to stop at the Confederacy.

            And it is true that high schoolers, especially the white boys, are dipshits. Tell them that Washington was a genocidal slavedriver and they’ll ask “what’s wrong with that?”

            This is not my experience, but maybe they’re trolling you because you are being hyperbolic and intentionally inflammatory?

          • quanta413 says:

            America is weak and has no confidence in itself.

            Maybe the message they’re taking is that American leaders are so confident, they don’t even care if someone tries to subvert them. Instead they embrace and extinguish.

            “Wait so you had a bunch of communists in top cabinet positions and yet the system was unaffected? And now people think socialism means college debt forgiveness?”

            And it is true that high schoolers, especially the white boys, are dipshits. Tell them that Washington was a genocidal slavedriver and they’ll ask “what’s wrong with that?”

            If you think it’s especially the white boys, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. It’s all the boys.

            Honestly, I assume girls are probably terrible too; I’m just less in tune with how.

          • Matt M says:

            And it is true that high schoolers, especially the white boys, are dipshits.

            This type of casual racism is neither necessary nor kind, and probably isn’t even particularly true (at least, relative to any other race).

      • Deiseach says:

        I thought it was a problem because not everyone likes being reminded that some of their ancestors were in a socially subordinate position?

        Given that one of the students quoted claims that they can remember the oppression, this doesn’t seem likely; how do you claim to be suffering from generational trauma yet not want to see the causes of that trauma acknowledged?

        “Kids don’t see these images as helpful or powerful, they see them as insulting and demeaning,” George Washington High School student Kai Anderson-Lawson, who is Native American, said at a June 18 school board meeting. The notion that young indigenous people are at risk of forgetting their own history, Anderson-Lawson added, is offensive: “Generational trauma follows us”.

        While the mural may now be offensive, I don’t see why it needs to be painted over; covering it with panelling or something seems enough. After all, it is part of the history of the school and the wider history of anti-racism activism, and is a historical artefact and resource in its own way.

        This is what happens, as we conservatives have been pointing out: you start off with “pull down the Confederate statues! these symbols of yearning for a racist past have no place in modern society! they must be obliterated!” and then you end up with “your anti-racism propaganda is offensive and racist! it must be obliterated!”

        As an aside, are there many Native Americans (real ones) in San Francisco? Maybe I’m being a horrible racist, but someone with a double-barrelled Anglo name doesn’t seem very ‘straight off the rez’ Native American to my ears; are there a lot of “family tradition we had a Native grandmother” types or are there real tribespeople still around?

        • Randy M says:

          how do you claim to be suffering from generational trauma yet not want to see the causes of that trauma acknowledged?

          Wanting your enemies reputation to suffer doesn’t logically imply wanting to view your humiliation in graphic detail.

          • quanta413 says:

            Pretty much. Or a less conflict-theory way to put it “just because I know lots of my ancestors got stomped, doesn’t mean I want to be constantly reminded about it”. Setting aside vagaries of how often one ancestor may have stomped another ancestor (often a lot for Americans).

          • Michael Handy says:

            You’re clearly not a Celt. That’s basically our entire literary opus since Y Gododdin

            Actually, It’d be interesting to compare attitudes to “unacceptably woke” art vs cultural attitudes to defeat.

          • quanta413 says:

            You’re clearly not a Celt. That’s basically our entire literary opus since Y Gododdin

            Some of my ancestors were, maybe even more than half, but maybe it’s be being overridden by the non-Celtic ancestors.

            Or maybe it’s utterly crucial that it be my ancestors to portray our defeat. Not those damnable Anglo-Saxons.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach,
          It’s very common for Americans who know that they have a great-grandparent born in the U.S.A. to have heard a family story of a “brave” or “Indian princess” who married into the family, usually genetic testing shows that an African ancestor in a “white” family, or a European ancestor in a “black” family is more likely.
          There was a very funny incident in an episode of Finding Your Roots where the host told the guest “Wow, you’re the first guest to mention an Indian princess ancestor who may actually have some native ancestors!”.

        • Machine Interface says:

          you start off with “pull down the Confederate statues! these symbols of yearning for a racist past have no place in modern society! they must be obliterated!”

          On the flipside europe did just that in 1945 (and the US actively helped), and yet the rest of our history is just fine. Maybe the US would be better off now if they had thoroughtly “deconfedrated” the South in 1865.

          • Deiseach says:

            On the flipside europe did just that in 1945 (and the US actively helped), and yet the rest of our history is just fine.

            Great! So now we’ll pull down all the Holocaust Memorials, because it’s offensive and hurtful to remind Jewish people of past sufferings.

            Oh, and San Francisco should probably get right on digging up the National AIDS Memorial Grove, because vulnerable immature young LGBT+ high schoolers could be passing by that location every day, and it is plainly bad to be reminding them of past “humilation”.

            And the whole “Jefferson was a rapist, Washington owned slaves” narrative then also should die the death since this is only harming black people by reminding them of the way their ancestors “got stomped” – funnily enough, it seems to be a lot of black writers doing this, somebody needs to educate them on sensitivity, yeah?

            I think covering over the mural is an acceptable compromise; the adults calling for total destruction are all playing the political wokeness game for personal advantage, and the kids either need teaching about the intentions of the mural at the time it was painted, or they don’t get to intone “I suffer from generational trauma” when they want to get special treatment. ‘This mural is showing black and Native people suffering and dying’? Yes, that’s the entire point – it was deliberately created in contrapunction to the still current at the time narrative of the National Foundation Myth of the Great Men.

            You don’t want to see imagery of the harm done to your ancestors? I can indeed understand that. But then you also don’t get to look for reparations for that harm done. If you want to induce guilt in people over bad treatment and claim compensation, then you need to have the guts to look at that harm yourself and say “yes, this too is part of my history, not just the idealised sunbursts notion of scientists and leaders”, which is just as much a Foundational Myth for purposes of comfort as the past Great Men myth.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I don’t see the connexion between what I said and your answer. I was talking specifically about how the early and prompt removal of public monument glorifying the loser’s ideology, in Europe after WWII, as opposed to the US after the civil war, seems to have created a somewhat saner atmosphere in Europe around our history, and so indeed, nobody is asking that we take down Holocaust memorials because they’re presenting a bad picture of the jewish people — but this is in a context where nazi statues have been torn down 75 years ago, instead of being conspicuously left in place because it’s “part of our history”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Part of what you’re missing is that almost all of these monuments were built after the war.

            Jefferson Davis didn’t have a cult of personality like Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, and the Confederate States of America wasn’t a totalitarian state. That’s not to say that they were great people but their claim to legitimacy didn’t rely on building tons of statuary.

            The monuments were mostly built from after the end of Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement as an inseparable mixture of southern pride and defiance against the north. Which you have to admit is more admirable than the boot-licking attitude of modern Germans and Japanese.

          • Enkidum says:

            Which you have to admit is more admirable than the boot-licking attitude of modern Germans and Japanese.

            Don’t think we do, no.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            The monuments were mostly built from after the end of Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement as an inseparable mixture of southern pride and defiance against the north.

            Not even that. Honoring Confederate soldiers was an intentional part of Southern Reconstruction. As Eric Raymond put it:

            But overall, the reintegration of the South went far better than it could have. Confederate nationalism was successfully reabsorbed into American nationalism. One of the prices of this adjustment was that Confederate heroes had to become American heroes. An early and continuing example of this was the reverence paid to Robert E. Lee by Unionists after the war; his qualities as a military leader were extolled and his opposition to full civil rights for black freedmen memory-holed.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Nabil ad Dajjal >

            The monuments were mostly built from after the end of Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement as an inseparable mixture of southern pride and defiance against the north. Which you have to admit is more admirable than the boot-licking attitude of modern Germans and Japanese.

            Well, there are Germans who refuse to “boot-lick” and instead express pride in the most controversial aspects of their histories, and defiance toward the victorious democratic ideology, but they’re usually called “neo-nazis”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Eh, I think it would be all right to honor someone like Rommel. He fought honorably, was respected by his adversaries, and was not on board with all the Nazi ideology and even tried to kill Hitler. He seems like a good guy to put up a statue of.

      • 10240 says:

        What Aapje said. A bigger issue may be that, looking at the mural, it’s not immediately obvious if it condemns or celebrates Washington & co. owning slaves and killing Indians. Indeed, most murals celebrate whatever they depict. Of course if you know the political climate in San Francisco, it’s obvious, but still.

    • Lambert says:

      Shaking hands meme:

      Oppressors, The Opressed

      Making big murals depicting Opression

    • Two McMillion says:

      “Critics, including students and community groups, called for the 1,600-square-foot mural to be painted over with white paint.”

      https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/San-Francisco-school-board-votes-to-destroy-14050025.php?psid=bQsl4

    • Deiseach says:

      Progressivism has lapped itself.

      “Your anti-racism is racist!”

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      This seems pretty reasonable to me, even if some of the quoted rhetoric isn’t. Students of colour don’t want to walk past murals depicting their ancestors suffering every day to get to class. The purpose of the mural is laudable and it frustrates me that people seem to be missing that, but one can remember history without having it shoved in your face every day. This is especially true of a high school, which needs to be supportive of a wide variety of students who are less mature than adults.

      The real story to me here seems to be the pricing. $600,000 to paint a fucking wall? Ok, so maybe disturbing the wall will release asbestos or something so you need an environmental impact study, but the article linked in another comment says that covering it with panels or curtains would cost more? What the fuck? If everything schools do cost half this much then this should be a serious clue as to the source of cost disease.

      • Plumber says:

        @GreatColdDistance,
        I’ve mentioned this before in a long ago thread:
        For every one of us city workers who touch the tools there’s six desk jockeys to monitor us and write reports, lead and attend meetings, and whatever else it is they do.

        There has to be some kind of jobs for all the new college graduates, and there have to be enough of their class hired so they don’t have to mix with commoners, and to have meetings with and send each other reports, or whatever it is they do together (which seems to often be to issue new directives, which we ignore, in favor of what we know is shown to work instead, for as long as possible until the fad passes and we either go back to what works or onto ignoring the next new thing).

        • quanta413 says:

          For every one of us city workers who touch the tools there’s six desk jockeys to monitor us and write reports, lead and attend meetings, and whatever else it is they do.

          Sweet mother of god.

          There has to be some kind of jobs for all the new college graduates, and there have to be enough of their class hired so they don’t have to mix with commoners, and to have meetings with and send each other reports, or whatever it is they do together (which seems to often be to issue new directives, which we ignore, in favor of what we know is shown to work instead, for as long as possible until the fad passes and we either go back to what works or onto ignoring the next new thing).

          Maybe we can replace this system with a slightly less terrible one. We’ll take the 6 excess college students and you can help train 5 of them to do basic repairs. We’ll have to leave 1 of them behind to fill out the paperwork. We’ll call them “graduate students”, pay them $20,000 a year, and award them a “doctorate” after 10 years and you can be a “technician” at some multiple (3-5x) of their pay but no chance of a doctorate. This should be sufficient to trick their status detection mechanisms and save us money at the same time.

          …worked on me.

          • Plumber says:

            @quanta413,
            The closest I’ve come to training someone collegiate class on how to do a basic repair was showing one of the college bound high school interns that we’re sent from time-to-time how to do a faucet repair, and solder a fitting unto copper pipe – otherwise they just shuffle some papers for the supervisors and see the rest of the crew at lunch.

            It wasn’t like I took him into the autopsy room or the jail, but I still got in trouble because “safety protocols prohibit” the interns actually learning something useful.

            From my perspective “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” includes having more and more youths just learning paper shuffling and report writing instead of how to build and repair.

          • quanta413 says:

            From my perspective “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” includes having more and more youths just learning paper shuffling and report writing instead of how to build and repair.

            I agree. I didn’t learn how to do technical yet physical work except for one high school class in auto until college. And I didn’t really get my hands dirty until I was a graduate student.

            I’m a bit below par at handiwork (mostly slow, I don’t think I’m unusually inaccurate just average; I’d make anyone with a clue wince but I’m not devastatingly bad), but I regret not learning more sooner. Having to deal with actual physical machines whether they be cars, electrical systems, plumbing, or manufacturing taught me a proper paranoia about how fucking difficult it can be to do things in the real world compared to in theory, and then after that how often we humans can succeed at doing those difficult things despite all those messy complications. I feel like I didn’t even really appreciate theory until I had to do a decent amount of handiwork.

            Learning how to do just basic home repair would be more useful than half the typical curriculum. Good art, good science, and maintaining civilization need people who can build and repair well.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Plumber,

            In a just world the person who got you in trouble for that would be tarred and feathered. The fact that such a scenario can happen even once is a very bad sign.

      • Deiseach says:

        The real story to me here seems to be the pricing.

        I’m going to be really sceptical here and say that this is San Francisco and a lot of progressive-minded people in positions of authority getting their knickers in a twist over this; that money is going to go towards “victim impact studies” and the like, which means greasing the wheels and kickbacks to suitable Diversity Consultants and other experts on hurt feelings, which means friends and families of the school board getting plum contracts to carry out “yeah, tell the janitor to buy forty litres of matt white paint from the hardware store and give it two or three coats” studies and conclusions and recommendations.

      • Nicholas Weininger says:

        AIUI one of the proposed and rejected alternative solutions was to hang a curtain over the “sensitive” portion, so no students would have to look at it but anyone who wanted to could. It is difficult to be charitable about the possible motives for rejecting that sort of keyhole solution in favor of destroying the whole thing.

        • acymetric says:

          That seems like a terrible solution…of course that was rejected. I’m trying to come up with a term for that kind of proposal. Falsely pragmatic? Something.

          I don’t really feel strongly about the mural, but if my options are

          1) Leave it
          2) Paint over it
          3) Leave it, but hang a curtain over the parts we don’t like

          I would vastly prefer either of the first to options to the third.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            Why? #3 keeps the art intact not only for present-day scholars but for the possible future when people change their minds and uncover it. It also makes it obvious what’s been done– no memory-holing.

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

            How about (4) Hang a curtain over the entire thing?

    • Plumber says:

      @BBA,
      The murals ordered destroyed story got into The New York Times Opinion section today.

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

    The LingQ app for language learning was favorably mentioned several times here recently… are you guys actually paying for it? The minimum subscription price is an absurd $13/mo, which is more than a Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium subscription.

    The only part I actually want to use is getting texts and tapping words to show the definition. There’s a limit of 20 dictionary queries before a subscription is required. I suppose I could try clearing the app’s data after each 20 words, but that would be a bit tedious.

    • Lambert says:

      Get the TransOver browser extension (for chrome, maybe other browsers), then read online.
      It feeds whatever you highlight or hover over through Google Translate, then puts the translation in a bubble next to your cursor.

      • souleater says:

        I really like the lingQ app because it keeps a running tally of words knows, and will try to find input at your level. I wish it worked better with my prefered language (Chinese), but any suitable substitute would need to have that feature.

        I briefly paid for it, but couldn’t justify the price based on the amount of content it provided. If it worked better I would have happily paid $13/mo to learn a new language. Especially considering that after 3 years of effective studying you should be pretty close to fluent. So $13 * 36 = $468 to learn a new language. Sound like a bargain to me.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Even here, people are nuts about software pricing. They’ll spend hundreds of dollars a month on a tutor, but for software? Nnnnnnn….

      • DinoNerd says:

        Maybe that’s a rational choices based on the relative efficiency of the two methods?

        What I found was that while a “spaced repetition” flash card tool was useful for learning basic vocabulary and grammar, getting really good required human interaction, not just drill.

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

        I’m more than happy to pay for software. I use a paid e-mail service and bought a flash card app for the language learning. It’s reassuring to feel that the business is economically sustainable and that I am the customer. LingQ just seems way overpriced considering the prices of other software and the amount of effort it would take to develop the feature. For this app a subscription structure also seems rather predatory, angling to keep charging you indefinitely after you stop using the app but forget about the subscription.

        I’m confused by the idea that people here would be happy to pay a tutor; much more typical of this site seems the sentiment that university instruction is a waste of money and everyone should simply learn from books…

  28. johan_larson says:

    You have a chance to become the best in the world at something, with one condition. You cannot be the best in the world at anything you can use to earn a living. A bit of pocket money is not a problem. But even a modest living, by first-world standards, is right out.

    So, Mr./Ms. World Champion, what are you so awesome at?

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson,

      Best Parent would be nice.

      • Well... says:

        Yeah, I like that. Or, best husband? Best listener? I’d even take “Best at maintaining good posture”.

      • Two McMillion says:

        Disqualified; you can make money explaining your techniques to others.

        • Spookykou says:

          This seems to fully invalidate the question, baring being the best at something people don’t want to be good at? Maybe something people want to be good at but can’t admit to wanting? I’m the world champion at wiping my own ass, save hundreds on toilet paper, no wait that book might sell…

          • johan_larson says:

            Maybe something not a lot of people are willing to spend money to be good at. It would be hard to make a living as a professional player and coach of crokinole, say.

          • acymetric says:

            Best Monopoly player, so I can drive away all my friends and family in the most efficient manner possible. There are no professional Monopoly leagues right?

        • Don P. says:

          It is absolutely possible to be good at something without being able to teach other people how to be good at it.

      • Matt M says:

        I thought all us rationalists believed it’s all nature, and nothing parents actually do really matters anyway? 😉

    • Atlas says:

      You have a chance to become the best in the world at something, with one condition. You cannot be the best in the world at anything you can use to earn a living. A bit of pocket money is not a problem. But even a modest living, by first-world standards, is right out.

      World’s best poet. (/artist/journalist/[insert alternate punchline here.])

      Somewhat more seriously…I guess I’d take world’s best navigator of crowded sidewalks/subway cars?

      • b_jonas says:

        Denied. Most poets can’t make a living from poetry, that’s true. But you want to be the best, and the best poet is Arany János, and he’s one of the very few exceptions who was a celebrated hero during his life and people threw money at him.

        • Tarpitz says:

          He died in 1882. I do not consider evidence that it was once possible to make a living as a poet to be a very compelling reason to think that it still is.

          • Clutzy says:

            What are you talking about. There are tons of people making a living as poets. They just also have people perform them live and in recordings. They are called songwriters.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Escaping death.

    • Slowing my own aging.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I was edging toward something like that by way of best in the world at qi gong (just doing it, not teaching it), but best at slowing my own aging sounds like a good choice.

        I’m not sure whether best in the world at doing qi gong and relating that to pretty good at teaching qi gong– something I could make a living at– would be breaking the terms of the offer.

      • MorningGaul says:

        Would that not involves being exactly as incompetent as everyone else at slowing down your own aging?

        Also, I accidentely clicked the “report” button while searching for the “reply”, apologies for any discomfort.

    • Aapje says:

      Best partner.

    • Randy M says:

      Jelly beans in a jar estimator.
      The number of good things that the best in the world can’t make a living out of is pretty small, especially if we rule out imparting the skill. I mean, twitch is a thing, contra the irony in that Far Side cartoon.

    • dick says:

      I already earn a living. How about world’s best at spending my money in such a way as to benefit my family and the world?

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      Making campfires.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Sex god.

      • johan_larson says:

        Sounds suspiciously monetizable. Maybe you could be the world’s best masturbator (of yourself only), which probably isn’t.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Not with scissors for hands you won’t.

      • Protagoras says:

        The only reason I can see someone might think this wasn’t a way to earn a living is if it’s being assumed that you wouldn’t sleep with men, and so that would rule out prostitution. But being a prostitute who only sees women is merely incredibly difficult, not absolutely impossible; the best in the world could probably make a success of it. So even with that assumption I’d say this one violates the rules.

    • Nick says:

      Can we cheat a bit and say, like, “posthumous poet” or “posthumous novelist”? We can’t earn a living off of it, but maybe we can still be celebrated for the rest of time. And our kids can be loaded until we enter the public domain.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Being lucky

    • b4mgh says:

      Teaching myself new skills.

      • Protagoras says:

        That the use would be indirect (using this skill to acquire skills that can earn a living, rather than being paid for doing this) doesn’t seem to make this an exception to the prohibition on things that can be used to earn a living.

    • aristides says:

      World’s best breather. It would cure my asthma and allergies, and I can’t think of a way to make money off of it

    • DinoNerd says:

      Hmm. This has turned into an exercise in trying to find something – anything – that can’t be used to make money, given sufficient ability. Now maybe that was the intended point. But I think this might be more interesting if re-written such that “You cannot be the best in the world at anything you can use to earn a living.” – I.e. someone else could, but you could not, for whatever random reason you care to invent. (E.g. the ability is magical, and goes away if used to make money ;-))

      What would you want to be that good at for its own sake rather than for gain?

    • Matt says:

      I choose to be best in the world at taking enjoyment from life. No matter how bad/good the situation, I am always having a better time, experiencing more pleasure, etc than anyone else possibly could be. Food tastes better, sex feels better, jokes are funnier, music feels more soulful, books are more amusing, reading spec documents at work is more interesting, etc.

      Seems like it would be pretty awesome, and I can’t see a way to monetize it.

  29. Hoopyfreud says:

    This debate is a trainwreck and if I drank I’d be sozzled off just the “as an X” and “[debates in Spanish]” rules.

    I hate election season.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Booker’s face when Beto started speaking Spanish was great.
      Beto crashing and burning is just great.

      • Deiseach says:

        So, did I miss a couple of hours of top-drawer comedy gold or was it a curate’s egg (good in spots)? 🙂

      • Tarhalindur says:

        There must be something about Texas that makes trendy Presidential candidates from the state crash and burn in debates.

        (Or, to quote the last example of the breed, courtesy of the 2012 Republican primaries: “Oops.”)

    • Atlas says:

      This debate is a trainwreck and if I drank I’d be sozzled off just the “as an X” and “[debates in Spanish]” rules.

      Happy to take your word for it. Possibly tomorrow night’s will be more interesting.

      I hate election season.

      Joe Biden’s lack of a filter might lead to some redeemingly hilarious brouhahas in the near future.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I didn’t realize it was on until you posted, so I caught it from the gun control debate to the end, when the moderators started laughing that they have ten more candidates tomorrow night.
      Seeing Tim Ryan and Tulsi Gabbard in a heated argument about the Taliban while eight goofballs stood by waiting to regurgitate their next soundbite on something else was interesting.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Did anyone here markedly change their opinions about any of the candidates as a result of this debate?

      • imoimo says:

        Tim Ryan was interesting as the blue collar, somewhat anti-identity-politics candidate.

        Gabbard also stood out but not in a way I care about. Anyone have an informed opinion about that “withdraw from Afgahnistan” thing?

        Everyone else was indistinguishable for the most part.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Tim Ryan was interesting as the blue collar, somewhat anti-identity-politics candidate.

          Yeah, I went from “I have never heard of this man before” to “he has a clue” on Tim Ryan.

        • acymetric says:

          I’m not sure Tim Ryan can make a real run at the nomination, but I do think he is going to end up being well positioned to be a VP candidate if he is interested.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Ha, yes I commented after the debate that “everyone was speaking gibberish except for Tim Ryan.”

          I didn’t get to see last night’s debate because YouTube kept crashing for me, but apparently everyone wants to give free healthcare to illegals? That’s a big “yikes” from me dawg.

          • Nick says:

            MBD at National Review claimed every single one in debate 2 endorsed free healthcare for illegal immigrants. In addition to decriminalizing illegal immigration! I have no idea how that is supposed to work.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I didn’t get to see last night’s debate because YouTube kept crashing for me, but apparently everyone wants to give free healthcare to illegals?

            It’s virtuous when the Church does this.
            Good grief, one time when Separation of Church and State would actually be useful…

          • Nick says:

            It’s virtuous when the Church does this.
            Good grief, one time when Separation of Church and State would actually be useful…

            Our Constitution prevents the establishment of religion, it doesn’t prevent the establishment of progressivism.

          • nkurz says:

            > apparently everyone wants to give free healthcare to illegals

            Yes, on the second night they all raised their hands to affirm support for this approach: https://youtu.be/cX7hni-zGD8?t=5676

            It surprised me too, but I don’t know that they are wrong. Consider the alternatives: you either completely refuse care to the undocumented, or you maintain a vestigial billing system for the small number of people who aren’t on the national health plan.

            Complete denial of service isn’t humanitarian, and a keeping a rarely used billing infrastructure reduces the potential for efficiency. I think there is a good argument that medical care should be simply provided without regard to immigration status. Prevent illegal immigration by other means, try to reduce the number of new illegal immigrants to zero, but let the medical providers concentrate solely on keeping people healthy.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Just add it to the list of things that Obama completely and openly supported that are now monstrous.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nick:

            Our Constitution prevents the establishment of religion, it doesn’t prevent the establishment of progressivism.

            That’s a Moldbug insight: once the Bill of Rights was ratified, theocracy-like control of the government was the reward waiting for whichever denomination first evolved a Godless version of itself.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe Trump can compromise and institute national health care for illegals, and make Mexico pay for it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            +1 to nkurz. Bad question IMO.

          • Nick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            I originally mentioned him and then took it out, because I thought the point could be made without invoking any dark lords. 😛

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I didn’t get to see last night’s debate because YouTube kept crashing for me, but apparently everyone wants to give free healthcare to illegals? That’s a big “yikes” from me dawg.

            Yup, this was a shocker. I imagine this will not play in the general, but I don’t really know. It’s relatively easy to pivot from that question back to healthcare more generally.

            My wife wasn’t really pleased to hear that one, and she was already upset at how pro-illegal the Dems were in the last election. I know a bunch of Obama-Trump voters in industrial states, and this is a big, big no-no for them.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What I find really surprising is not one of the fringe candidates has even a basic grasp of game theory. Not raising your hand after such a question is basically guaranteed to get your name mentioned and to pick up at least a couple of questions from the media afterward. This is like going into an interview at Goldman Sachs with a mediocre resume and answering every question in the least interesting way possible.

          • Matt M says:

            IIRC in 2016, the first question of the first GOP debate was “raise your hand if you promise to support the eventual nominee.” Everyone raised their hand except… you guessed it, Donald Trump.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I want to be president, but I don’t have any balls distinguishing features. What are my odds?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I want to be president, but I don’t have any balls distinguishing features. What are my odds?

            I think you’re selling yourself short. Everybody loves bacon.

            (You might have a hard time with the Jewish vote, I suppose.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @nkurz

            Complete denial of service isn’t humanitarian, and a keeping a rarely used billing infrastructure reduces the potential for efficiency.

            I don’t think this is a good counter argument. The billing infrastructure will still be used because it’s not like doctors and hospitals stop getting paid. You still need all the medical coders and the billing and accounts receivable departments that submit invoices to Medicare and claims workers arguing with the government over denials and that sort of thing. There’s no reason they cannot simply send the invoice to the patient instead of Medicare if the patient is not covered by MC4A because they’re illegal. There will probably be procedures not covered by MC4A like elective procedures so there’s always going to be an infrastructure for billing patients. They’re proposing free healthcare for illegals because they want to.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            More relevantly you will still need to bill tourists, non-resident workers and foreign students (assuming the hypothetical reforms don’t magically make healthcare cheap enough that you don’t need to bother).

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “Raise your hand if you support free healthcare for tourists, non-resident workers and foreign students”

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Like, you could and I doubt it would increase the cost that much. But it would be a different policy to e.g. most of Europe.

          • dick says:

            I don’t have a strong opinion on this, but I’ll just point out that free healthcare for illegals is a pretty sensible position, if you think of “illegals” as meaning “new Americans who have arrived too recently to be legal yet, but will shortly be welcomed in to the guest worker program where they will find legal jobs and housing, contribute to the economy, and purchase and consume apple pie.” If you think of them as invaders we haven’t managed to find and deport yet, obviously less so.

            More generally, it seems like the Dems have their heads in the sand on this, and the debates were a missed opportunity for any of them to say something like, “Look, my granddad was an immigrant and I support a path to citizenship, but our asylum laws are being abused like crazy and we need to do something about it. Between Trump’s inhumane treatment of the poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and Pelosi’s insistence that this is a fake crisis, here’s how I would carve out some middle ground…”

            On that note, a question for those who are generally in the “illegals are invaders we haven’t managed to deport yet” crowd: would you be happy or sad about economic investment in Central America specifically to address illegal immigration? I don’t know how effective it would be, but presuming that you thought the specific intervention being proposed might work, would you be morally opposed to it?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            free healthcare for illegals is a pretty sensible position, if you think of “illegals” as meaning “new Americans who have arrived too recently to be legal yet, but will shortly be welcomed in to the guest worker program where they will find legal jobs and housing, contribute to the economy, and purchase and consume apple pie.” If you think of them as invaders we haven’t managed to find and deport yet, obviously less so.

            Except, to my knowledge, the only demographic groups that are lifetime positive net tax payers are white and asian men. But for every other group, you take each individuals’ lifetime tax payments and add those all up, take each individuals’ lifetime government benefits or expenditures and add those up, subtract them from the first number and the result is negative. For the groups coming across the border illegally* I would need some evidence they’re going to wind up paying more into the MC4A system than they would be consuming. Otherwise it’s just higher taxes and worse healthcare for me. And I will never get a say in it because the newcomers will overwhelm me at the voting booth, always voting for a larger and larger share of my wallet until I’m basically a slave to foreigners. This does not sound appealing to me, and I’m curious as to why this is so attractive to Democratic voters.

            * I’m specifically talking about the people crossing the border illegally. Visa overstays select from a different population that may be skewed towards positive impact.

            On that note, a question for those who are generally in the “illegals are invaders we haven’t managed to deport yet” crowd: would you be happy or sad about economic investment in Central America specifically to address illegal immigration? I don’t know how effective it would be, but presuming that you thought the specific intervention being proposed might work, would you be morally opposed to it?

            I wouldn’t be morally opposed to it at all. My hesitation would be about the implementation. I’m concerned that money given to high-corruption south American governments will simply enrich the elite while failing to help the poor, who are the sorts of people who tend to illegally migrate. You would almost need to go full blown colonialism. It seems in many places in the developing world the difference between “sort of functioning and developing society” and “abject misery” is whether or not the colonial ruler was the British. If you take over a country and install British institutions, maybe you can make a functioning society. But invading, conquering and colonizing 3rd world nations is “frowned upon” these days.

            I’m all for helping other nations and peoples, but I want to do so in an orderly and voluntary manner. We cannot simply have the entire 3rd world move to the United States and vote themselves into prosperity without the US turning into the 3rd world. And once they’re here and can vote, they’re not going to be voting for the neoliberal technocracy of Chuck and Nancy for long. They’re going to vote for the blood-and-soil racism of people like AOC. Enough will never be enough, the golden goose will be gutted, and there will be no more eggs for anyone.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            Do you have a cite for that claim?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This is something that I’ve heard, but I don’t know exactly what to google for to find a peer-reviewed study (assuming anyone would even be allowed to publish a study about something like this), but I did find these people who present data on the topic. Although I don’t see them mentioning asians. I would rate this of mediocre quality but I don’t see anything that’s obviously wrong, and given that we all agree there’s a racial wealth/income gap in the US it seems hard to argue against: more whites are middle and upper class, so the rich whites pay more in taxes than the poor whites consume, while there aren’t enough rich POC to pay in more than the poor POC consume.

            That said, consider the sorts of jobs done by people who illegally cross the border. These are the sorts of low-wage jobs “Americans just won’t do.” Can anyone afford US health care on wages near or below the legal minimum wage? It seems extremely unlikely that illegal border crossers are going to be net contributors to MC4A rather than net consumers. So arguing that illegals should be covered under a proposed universal healthcare because they’re soon to be contributing begs the question that they would ever contribute more than they consume.

            Here’s one of those “pretty much true but since we don’t like the implications we’ll rate it false” Politifact pieces about the cost of illegals. Even Politifact can’t find anybody who says illegals are net positive contributors, so it’s highly unlikely they will suddenly become net contributors when also getting free healthcare. And this piece is talking about all illegals, including visa overstays, but I think that’s a different cohort than the people coming across the border.

          • dick says:

            you take each individuals’ lifetime tax payments and add those all up, take each individuals’ lifetime government benefits or expenditures and add those up, subtract them from the first number

            This sounds like a sketchy thing to do that probably doesn’t mean what you’re implying, but I agree with albatross, we’d need more data to even argue over it.

            I wouldn’t be morally opposed to it at all. My hesitation would be about the implementation…

            This seems like the perfect being the enemy of the good. Sure, it’s hard to keep foreign aid from going in to the pockets of corrupt locals, but it’s not impossible, and it’s something our State Dept has a certain amount of experience with. The suggestion that it couldn’t be accomplished without full-blown colonialism is absurd; we don’t need to write Honduran laws, just facilitate Nike opening a factory there that pays well. Minus the last three words, we do that sort of thing already.

            The closing paragraph full of irrelevant digs at my tribe was unnecessary and annoying.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This seems like the perfect being the enemy of the good.

            Okay, well I’m fine with it but what I predict would happen is we give Honduras lots of money, it winds up not doing much to lift people out of poverty and then we get accused of buying off their leaders so we can feel good about not opening the gates for their poor.

            So, I’m for helping poor South American countries develop, I don’t know how to do it effectively, and I’m skeptical I could evaluate a proposed method for effectiveness anyway, but I definitely have no moral objection to doing it. And I’m sorry I insulted your tribe, I apologize.

          • albatross11 says:

            Before proposing doing more of this, I recommend looking carefully into how well our aid money has been spent in the past. My not-too-informed impression is that an awful lot of it goes to kleptocrats’ Swiss bank accounts or to buy shock batons and rubber hoses for the secret police, but that may just be because we’re mostly trying to buy support from the kleptocrat for realpolitik reasons, rather than actually trying to make his country better for the people on the bottom.

            (ETA: To be fair, a lot also is spent on expensive prestige projects, and on expensive toys for the military that may be a form of coup insurance.).

          • dick says:

            Okay, well I’m fine with it but what I predict would happen is we give Honduras lots of money, it winds up not doing much to lift people out of poverty and then we get accused of buying off their leaders so we can feel good about not opening the gates for their poor.

            Who said we had to give Honduras money? We could, say, give Nike money to pay their Honduran employees more. Shit, we could give every Honduran $100/mo directly to stay in Honduras.

            And I’m sorry I insulted your tribe, I apologize.

            It’s okay, I’m more worried about avoiding unconstructive discussions than avoiding offense. By all means, insult my tribe when it’s relevant and not something we’ve talked to death before 🙂

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I don’t understand why we would think that it’s easy to do economic development on another country. Plenty of countries that done a lot of grand economic development in the past 30 years, but if it was just a matter of resources, Mexico would be doing great right now.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            we could give every Honduran $100/mo directly to stay in Honduras.

            Sorry for being dim, but how exactly would we do this?

          • Clutzy says:

            Who said we had to give Honduras money? We could, say, give Nike money to pay their Honduran employees more. Shit, we could give every Honduran $100/mo directly to stay in Honduras.

            Both ideas strike me as expensive and unlikely to work. First, we gotta realize its not just Honduras, its most of central/south America and, increasingly Africa is getting in on the illegal immigration action. We are talking about subsidizing the wages/paying 3 trillion+ people. That isn’t going to be feasible.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Net taxes are irrelevant — in the glorious ancap future no-one will have net positive effect on government finance. You want to consider how much economic value someone creates, not just how much is captured by the government. Although I wouldn’t be so sure that illegal immigrants are net negative with respect to the treasury — the government didn’t have to pay for their K-12 or college, and they don’t have an unproductive period (i.e. childhood) where they don’t pay taxes.

          • dick says:

            I don’t understand why we would think that it’s easy to do economic development on another country.

            Sorry for being dim, but how exactly would we do this?

            Both ideas strike me as expensive and unlikely to work.

            Didn’t occur to me that I would have to spell this out, but those were not actual proposals. I mentioned them to illustrate the idea that we do not have to (as Conrad implied) give the money directly to the Honduran government, we could spend it however we want to.

            I don’t have any special insight in to what the best way to spend it would be, and I’m not assuming any of you do either, hence me not asking. But I am suspicious of anyone who thinks a priori it definitely wouldn’t work (just as I would be of anyone who thinks it definitely would). I mean, we have a big State Dept and a lot of money, it’s not absurd to think some of those analysts have some ideas on ways to spend a billion here or there that would actually make a difference. And, as immigration ideas go, “we’re not 100% sure it won’t work” and “Neither side is 100% opposed to it on principle” seems pretty good!

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Well, Dick, the biggest problem with your idea is that giving money to poor countries has never worked in the past, and in fact it appears the more money one gives, the more dependent and worse off the country gets. If giving money to poor countries contributed to their economic development, there’s be few undeveloped countries in the world. The rich countries have been trying to pull the poor countries out of poverty for decades by giving them tons of money, and it hasn’t worked. The countries that have moved up in the world are those that have somehow managed to have good government and no wars over the course of several decades, and have avoided becoming dependent on aid.

            And yes, it would be a good idea to not give money to the government but instead to the people or NGO in the country. If only there was a way to do this without the government getting its mitts on the money. Lots of smart folks have tried this, and haven’t been very successful.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Net taxes are irrelevant — in the glorious ancap future

            Really hope that’s a joke.

            no-one will have net positive effect on government finance. You want to consider how much economic value someone creates, not just how much is captured by the government.

            It’s extremely relevant when we’re specifically talking about extending a specific benefit (healthcare) to a specific class of people (illegal immigrants of largely South American origin).

            Back to the original point, that covering illegal immigrants elicits a “yikes” from me and probably many other voters, according to a CNN poll about 60% of voters oppose such a plan. A similar amount also oppose the elimination of private insurance. This fits into the theme of Democrats misreading the public while assuming Trump will fail for his “outlandish” proposals, failing to notice Trump’s outlandish proposals are only outlandish on TV but are popular among voters.

            And just one other thing I don’t see anybody bringing up about the idea of Medicare for All…Medicare doesn’t pay all that well compared to commercial insurance. What an insurance company pays for a given service will vary depending on the specific contract the payer has with the physician or physicians group or hospital, and will be uneven across procedures, but a good rule of thumb is for a diverse code volume, commercial insurance pays about double what Medicare pays. If everybody winds up on Medicare like Bernie and Kamala does-and-then-doesn’t want, are they going to up Medicare payments, or are physicians and hospitals all going to be taking a 50% reduction on the portion of their current business that is covered by private health insurance? That said, Medicaid pays for crap, so that portion might go up.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            But I am suspicious of anyone who thinks a priori it definitely wouldn’t work (just as I would be of anyone who thinks it definitely would).

            The international community has gotten better about doing “economic lift-ups” in recent decades.

            But

            1) There are way way more failures than successes.

            2) The first-world countries have been trying this for a long time.

            3) If you try to explain that the old failures won’t happen any more because of New Government Program, it’s completely a rerun of Scott’s argument with Nathan Robinson about the government running nutrition programs. “Just ignore the old system, because we are going to make a new system, and write DO NOT BECOME MOLOCH in bright-red letters, and that will make sure Moloch doesn’t ruin this system.” All the rotten incentives that made lift-ups hard in the old system will be present in your new system.

            4) The recent improvement in success is largely the result of neoliberalism; think Bill Clinton. And the Democratic party is running away from neoliberalism as fast as possible. (Trump is as well, but for different reasons.) There are a lot of ugly-looking decisions you need to make upfront for the program to work, and it will all come crashing down to Earth if there is a successful boycott of Nike for paying people only $2/hour to make shoes.

            5) If you are trying to get results fast, to stop a crisis at the border right now, you are infinitely more likely to make the stupid decisions that lead to bad results, for at least three different reasons I can think of at the moment.

            6) Most economic lift-ups came from within the country, because it was ready to do the work. Installing it from the outside is like installing democracy from the outside.

            I am in favor of developing Central America. But we’d need a much better argument as to why we think it would be worth the cost. Doing the politician’s syllogism can definitely make it worse.

          • dick says:

            Thanks, this is interesting. Couple comments.

            If you try to explain that the old failures won’t happen any more…

            I’m not assuming these interventions will be any more or less successful than such things usually are. Even if there are 10 failures for every success (for some reasonable definition of those terms) it might still be worth doing; the pertinent question is whether it’s effective compared to some other method of reducing immigration, not whether it’s effective compared to foreign aid interventions for some other purpose.

            The first-world countries have been trying this for a long time.

            Have we? My impression is that we’ve been using foreign aid for a long time, for a variety of aims, but our goal is usually something else, like “Save some poor people from starving in the next month” or “Help a large US corporation get cheaper labor” or “Generate a return for the IMF”, or some combination of those. It’s possible that the best way to reduce immigration is pretty much the same as the stuff we’ve been doing already, but it’s also possible that it isn’t, right?

            If you are trying to get results fast, to stop a crisis at the border right now…

            Oh, I definitely agree this would be at best a long-term thing that would not do much to solve the current crisis, just thinking it through.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Okay, we may not be that far apart.

            Nation-building has been around maybe for a century, probably less — before that, first-world countries didn’t have much resources to spare to do lift-up. I guess whether that’s a “long time” depends if you think like a Brit or like an American.

            I think doing lift-up of an economy is some of the best EA out there, as long as we have good targets for it. But I don’t see the US not continuing to be a way more attractive place than Honduras even for the next 50 years. They might be where Mexico is today (Mexico has over twice the per-capita-GDP of Belize or Honduras or Guatemala) and people still would prefer to get into the US from Mexico.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            They might be where Mexico is today (Mexico has over twice the per-capita-GDP of Belize or Honduras or Guatemala) and people still would prefer to get into the US from Mexico.

            Only as willing as Mexicans are, which is presumably less than Hondurans.

      • acymetric says:

        My opinion of Beto went down a little bit, I don’t think he has any chance at all.

        I was more impressed with Ryan and de Blasio than I thought I would be.

        I didn’t see anyone who I thought “I would hate it if this person were my senator/governor/mayor/whatever”. Especially Inslee (although I can’t see him having the national appeal to make a real run at President).

        I continue to believe that Warren is just not a good fit for President. I agree with a lot of her policy ideas (and she is strong on policy), but I think she is much better suited as a senator or cabinet member than the actual president.*

        *Edit: Thinking about it, she just doesn’t come off as a “leader” for some reason.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I’d up the chances of Warren, Tulsi, De Blasio, and Castro. Booker sure as hell talked a lot, but I don’t remember what the heck he even supports. I remember him bashing pharma companies, and that’s about it.

        Beto has no chance. Inslee isn’t making it.

        My (personal) opinions of the candidates:
        De Blasio: Delusional idiot.
        Ryan: Not a complete idiot.
        Castro: I’m not jumping on the road to Open Borders.
        Booker: Wow, this guy actually sounds pretty decent while saying nothing and shouting vague platitudes, and he sure can get his words out there, but what the heck is he actually for?
        Warren: Commie. Opinion revised way downwards. Sounded authentic, but on substance she’s not anyone I would ever vote for.
        Beto: What. A. Toolbag. What the hell happened to Senate Campaign Beto? People on Twitter were actually comparing this guy to Lincoln. Oh my god, this guy and his supporters should be more embarrassed than Trump supporters.
        Klobuchar: All foam and no beer. Her folksy Midwestern act sucks. I knew little about her beforehand, and I don’t know much about her policy stance STILL, but I’m revising downwards.
        Tulsi: I’m not voting for a “non-interventionist.”
        Inslee: Revising downwards.
        Delaney: Revise upwards. What do you expect, though, I’m a partisan GOPer and an ideological moderate, of course I’m going to gravitate towards Delaney based on last night. Apparently this is also the guy who says Socialism isn’t the answer and got Boo’d. Apparently he doesn’t understand that it’s Current Year.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Yes, because I had no opinion at all about some of them.

        Now I have positive opinions of some, negative about others.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Well, one thing’s for sure: Tulsi Gabbard is the most interesting person in the Democratic primary. Way back in November 2017, The New Yorker published an article saying “One question is whether her life story will turn out to be too interesting—too unusual—for her own good.”

      Short version: she was home-schooled in the Hawaiian offshoot of Gaudiya Vaishnava, the largest Hindu sect in North America thanks to the single-handed efforts of Swami Prabhupada in the later 1960s and 1970s. Her father Mike (who identifies as Catholic, not Hindu) has held elected office in both Parties and nonpartisan municipal government, being best-known for his Hawaiian campaign against homosexual marriage. She claims to have changed to pro-LGBT due to what she saw while deployed in the Islamic world with the Hawaii National Guard. Her domestic policies are fully standard for a Democrat, but foreign is where it gets interesting… there were rumors after Trump won the Presidency that Steve Bannon was going to offer her a Cabinet position.

      • Matt M says:

        I mean, it’s not really that much more interesting than the story of Barack Obama… and having a weird and bizarre and non-traditional upbringing didn’t seem to hurt him any…

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Barack Obama was the son of a white woman named Stanley with a Muslim kink and a Marxist goat herder, which is legit a way more bizarre background than any Democrat he competed with. So The New Yorker may be pessimistic about “too interesting”, yes.
          She’s still definitely the most interesting candidate.

          • Matt M says:

            And you didn’t even mention that he spent most of his formative childhood years living in Indonesia with a Southeast Asian Muslim not-quite-formal-but-functionally-serving-as stepfather who (according to Steve Sailer’s Twitter) might very well have taken part in some right wing death squads.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: Yeah, I breezed past “Barack Obama Sr. ran fast from his family in Hawaii (glub glub) and then Stanley Ann raised her little boy in Indonesia with a Muslim stepfather.” It sounds more interesting the more details we add.

    • Plumber says:

      @Hoopyfreud,
      Well, the Warren and the back-benchers debate yesterday, in which I didn’t get much of an impression (our son was sick) beyond De Blasio’s demeanor was scary, and from the press I read it sounds like she did well, so maybe she’ll survive “Pocahontas”, and Delaney’s “I think we should be the party that keeps what works and fixes what is broken” seems a good line, other than that I didn’t watch enough to tell anything. 

      I caught more of tonight’s debate, and my impressions are:

      1) Harris seemed tough but competent, I was surprised and I’m upping what I think are the chances that she’ll be the nominee (I still don’t think she’ll win the general election, but my guesses on that score have been bad lately).

      2) Buttigieg was who I was most curious about, as he polled in the top five and I’ve never heard of him, and I got that he’s a military veteran, and likes being married, and that’s all really I got from him. I don’t get it.

      3) Sanders seemed doddering, and while he spoke what sounded like truth about what fixing problems he cited will actually take, his talk about “we need a political revolution” sounds like more work than all but some of the fairly young have energy and time for, I still don’t think he’ll be the nominee. 

      4) Biden also seemed doddering, I’m lowering my guesstimate of his chances, I almost thought he would cry.

      5) Gillibrand really let us know she’s passionate that abortion be legal, and that’s all I got about her from tonight. 

      6) Bennett seemed more plausible to me than Hickenlooper or Swawell, but I really got only shallow impressions of all of them. 

      7) Yang seems nice, he won’t be President though. 

      8) Williams??? Sorry, this is terribly chauvinist, but I couldn’t follow anything she said, her hair looked nice and her voice was intriguing though.

      Overall with more debates like that it wi be hard to “tack to the center” and win the general election.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Williams saved Sanders and Biden by promising to challenge New Zealand to a duel and deferring to the Power of Love. I can’t wait until she drops out, upon which I’m giving a 50/50 chance she quotes The Pokemon Movie.

        Harris looked much better than literally anything I’ve seen of her up to this point – I expect her to win the most from tonight. Buttigieg came off unchanged. Everyone else either came off worse (Sanders, Biden) or continued digging (the rest).

        • Deiseach says:

          Is there going to be a third debate where the perceived front-runners from the first two debates then go head-to-head? I think that would be most interesting, to see the top eight (or however many) putting their positions, as it would give a better idea of who are most likely to be the top three (or however many) choices for selection.

          Of course, then you’d have the also-rans complaining they should have been picked, and the cannier front-runners might well not want to go up against their real opposition so early.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Deiseach-

            Not as such. According to this the “second debate” (what we just saw was all part of the “first debate”) will have the same requirements as this one: at least 1 percent support in three qualifying polls, or provide evidence of at least 65,000 individual donations from a minimum of 200 different donors in at least 20 states. The third and fourth debate double that requirement to 2% or 130K donations from 400 donors. For the fifth through twelfth (God help us) the requirements are not yet determined.

            Which makes sense. The “perceived front-runners” would surely be such a contentious question that there would be no way sensibly to answer it.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Overall with more debates like that it wi be hard to “tack to the center” and win the general election.

        If this election had any GOP candidate besides Trump, this would be an absolute blow-out.
        Unfortunately, the GOP has Trump.

        • theredsheep says:

          Reason took the opposite tack the other day: basically any sane and normal centrist politician could trump Trump, because normalcy sounds deeply appealing right now, but the Dems are going to nominate some moonbat who makes Trump sound appealing as the devil we know.

          At this stage, I’m not going to commit on which crazy train will make it all the way to the finish line.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The problem is Trump is also a moonbat. If it were any other GOP candidate, it’d be a landslide. But instead the GOP has Trump, so it’ll be moonbat vs. moonbat, and actually competitive.

          • theredsheep says:

            But moonbats are scary because you never know what they’re going to do. When someone says she wants to outlaw privately owned insurance, you proceed on the assumption that that’s a genuine threat. We’ve had two whole years of Trump, and he’s done relatively little that substantively harms any group of Americans personally. He’s done frightful things to illegals and Yemenis and other groups who don’t get to vote, but the greatest readily apparent Trump harm to Americans I’ve seen is his failing to withdraw from wars like he said he would. Thereby continuing to put our soldiers in harm’s way–but I think only someone like Gabbard could put his feet to the fire on that. I’ve heard his tariffs and such are bad too, but that isn’t readily apparent on the ground level and it’s kind of abstruse.

            Trump’s biggest obvious liability is being Trump–a boorish, hateful, obnoxious clown. But we’re used to that, and his saying stupid crap on Twitter costs us nothing but dignity. We don’t know how far the Green New Deal could go, by comparison. Moonbat Trump has homefield advantage here.

          • albatross11 says:

            ADBG:

            Maybe so, but in 2016, Trump faced Hillary, who is in every way the opposite of a moonbat, and he (very narrowly) beat her. I think Hillary was a pretty weak candidate in many ways (not very charismatic, large pool of people who despise her), but she’s also famously a policy wonk who is heavily tied into the establishment.

          • albatross11 says:

            “Moonbat” sometimes means someone crazy or unpredictable, but more often means someone with outside-the-Overton-window ideas.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Again, Trump’s ideas appeal to a broad swath of people, even if Trump himself does not. So “deport illegals” and “bring back jobs from China” and that kind of thing, lots of people like. I don’t know how many people hear “give free healthcare to illegals” and “government should pay for abortions for the transgendered” and thinks “yeah, that gets my vote!” A non-hated centrist could be a threat to Trump, but that does not appear to be in the cards.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Again, Trump’s ideas appeal to a broad swath of people, even if Trump himself does not.

            Right – a pet theory of mine says 2016 would have gotten the same result but been far less acrimonious if you took robot Gillary Blinton and put it up against 3 ducks in a trenchcoat with a voicebox Twitter account preprogrammed with Trump’s policy positions. (obvious jokes left as an exercise for the reader)

            Both candidates had some, I can’t bring myself to say solid policies, but certainly ones with broad appeal. But the specific personas were utterly loathed by different-but-just-as-broad segments.

            Mind you, it wouldn’t have been a sunshine-and-rainbows election, but wouldn’t be the absolute shitfest we got

          • Deiseach says:

            But instead the GOP has Trump, so it’ll be moonbat vs. moonbat, and actually competitive.

            I dunno, I think Castro vs Trump wouldn’t be “moonbat versus moonbat”, for a start there is plenty of hay to be made out of “My opponent thinks the most vital crisis for the nation is not China/Iran/illegal immigration/the rich top 1% taking more than their fair share of the pie – even Pocohontas realised that is bad!/the opiod crisis/climate change/the lack of really good chocolate, no it’s abortions for women who can’t make up their minds if they’re women or men”.

            Throw in that Castro apparently got his terminology less than absolutely correct, thus necessitating an explainer article to head off the wrath of the “you have misgendered vulnerable people, you bigot monster!” crowd, and you can run several ads laughing your head off at him – “he can’t even make up his own mind if they’re women or men!”

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Unfortunately, the GOP has Trump.

          Is it too late already for a primary challenger?

          • Matt M says:

            A primary challenger would help Trump, as it would give him a valid excuse to do more of what he does best: Travel around hosting rallies and mocking his opposition on Twitter.

            Most of the NeverTrumpers are smart enough to not play into his hands like this. Not Bill Weld, though…

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Wouldn’t that be a better outcome for NeverTrumpers than a repeat of #BlueWave, though?

          • Nick says:

            Trump was at his best when he was mocking other Republicans, because he represents a huge chunk of the base and they, uh, don’t. His polling suffered when he was attacking Clinton, by contrast (it was at its lowest, I believe, following the second debate?). Another Jeb to beat up on would be good for Trump, not bad for him.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In addition to what everyone else says, the GOP has already decided that they will not have a primary and are not allowing a challenger to Trump.

            Which is a little sad. I think as long as I live, I will never see anything as entertaining as Trump bullying Jeb.

          • Deiseach says:

            Wouldn’t that be a better outcome for NeverTrumpers than a repeat of #BlueWave, though?

            Why run a repeat of 2016 and the mess of the “Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer/Jeb!/That Guy Dan Savage Spends All His Time Mocking/This Guy’s A Racist/Him Too/And Him Yeah Even Though He’s Black” and so on, when this time round you have an incumbent who pulled off a shock defeat of the Anointed in the last election and the Democrats are repeating your 2016 “too many candidates and too many mockable/no-hopers” mistake?

            The Blue Wave wasn’t as overwhelming a tsunami as it was predicted to be, and despite all the hysteria about the imminent rise of the Fourth Reich with a Trump victory, the economy is doing okay, there hasn’t been World War III, minorities’n’women aren’t much worse off, and the forecast apocalpyse hasn’t happened; indeed, we’ve got the ironic sight of sulking and disppointment that he hasn’t gone to war with Russia/Iran/North Korea, plus the “Avenatti is gonna blow this wide open! Mueller is gonna blow this wide open! Child rapist!” things have all been damp squibs (look at the latest attempt at “Trump raped me” where the lady managed to make herself look less than credible in her TV interview and there’s been comment the whole story is a copy of a Law and Order episode).

            Why change horses in mid-stream? There isn’t any apparently more electable Republican potential candidate, and whomever they pick instead of Trump is going to get the same “Literally Hitler Mark II” treatment from the Democrats, so you might as well stick with the guy that, whatever dirt they try to fling, the public are going to react “Yeah, yeah, heard it all before”.

          • theredsheep says:

            I concur that most Americans really haven’t done all that badly under Trump, but I don’t think the cluttered primary field will hurt the Dems that much in the long term; it’s not like the GOP hasn’t had its share of overcrowded slates, including the last one. Though we didn’t have Herman Cain preaching the Pokemon Gospel in ’16.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Harris was out for blood. As politics it’s short-term perfect. Long-term? I’m not sure that it would help in the general for Harris’s resume to be “I knocked out Obama’s VP by accusing him of racism.” Her later claim that she didn’t understand the question about banning insurance was bullshit. Yes, the question was horribly worded, but there’s no way she wasn’t prepared, especially after seeing it on night one.

        Sanders is still around for historical reasons. Anyone could have written his answers and yelled them.

        Impressed with Buttigieg — with the big exception of his “those aren’t real Christians.” Aside from that, he comes across as smart, prudent, and responsible.

        The three one-trick ponies need to be shuttled off. Williamson? Whatever. Yang? “How will you pay for this?” “I’m sorry?”, and actual laughter when he goes back to it for his closing. (His answer on China was really good, though.) Swalwell? Stop trying to make “fetch” happen.

      • Deiseach says:

        Plumber, and others, do any of you think Warren is going for populism (or at least what populism is for a Democrat)?

        I ask because of how she spoke about ““Who is this economy really working for? It’s doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top.” I remember mockery of Trump appealing to the white working class who liked to complain about “muh jerbs”, but while Warren isn’t being construed as appealing solely to the white working class, this seems to be much closer to the type of economic populism about taking the control away from the elite and restoring it to the ordinary people.

        I know she’s long been painted as a champion of the people due to her work on economic policy, but it does seem to be (a) something likely to attract wavering voters from the white working class and (b) something that does sound more convincing coming from Warren who at least has a track record on economic reform, unlike Clinton and (c) it’s something that could be a Democratic appeal to populism, even if it’s not called such a dirty name.

        I don’t think Warren is electable as president (I agree with those saying she seems much better as a selection for a cabinet member) but I do think a Democrat candidate less ‘old white male’ than Biden or Sanders could do better with broader appeal concentrating on “it’s the economy, stupid” than transgender abortions and black transgender persons as the really vital questions troubling the nation.

        Though I suppose wrapping yourself in the pride flag during pride month for the Democratic debates is the necessary signalling “this is all about convincing the party selectors to pick me, once I’m chosen I can then talk to normal people about normal stuff”?

        • Matt M says:

          Well, Tucker Carlson of all people has basically embraced her economic policy, and claimed it is more “conservative” than what many Republicans are promoting…

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, that clip where he’s talking about Warren was really mind-bending, since he all but endorsed her candidacy, and then pulled back at the end into a “why can’t we Republicans have nice things like this?” lament.

          • Plumber says:

            Matt M, 
            Well I suspect Tucker Carlson is right on that, and that ultimately Warren’s plans are more conservative.

            Government is inherently more conservative than the free market, for an extreme example look at post Mao China and all it’s changes compared to Cubans still driving 1950’s American automobile. 

            I suppose he couldn’t tell at the time, but it seems obvious to me that if William F. Buckley’s really wanted to be one who “stands athwart history, yelling Stop” he shouldn’t have been “asserting the superiority of capitalism to socialism”

            The Soviets were still pretty much living in the 1940’s into the dawn of the ’90’s, just as the North Koreans still are.

            Full “actually existing socialism” seems to be effective in freezing progress in it’s tracks, so I fully expect diluted forms of socialism (“mixed economy”) to slow progress, and I’m okay with that.

        • Plumber says:

          @Deiseach,
          Warren is going for economic populism, and seems sincere, and she tries to come across as a “beer drinking Oklahoma gal”, but it’s not very convincing.

          The last Democratic Party Presidential candidate that seemed to me to be “white working-class” culturally was former Governor and Senator Jim Webb (who I thought could’ve easily won the general election).

          Of current candidates Tim Ryan may be close, but I really haven’t seen him in action to guess.

          There is a former I.B.E.W. electrician in congress who’s a “business friendly” Democrat who is convincing culturally (he seems a beer drinker not a wine drinker) but he’s far from a firebrand, and there’s ex-military who were recruited by Pelosi to run in “purple” districts, but they really seem moderate in temperament as well as policy.

          The few remaining “coal country” West Virginia Democrats in office seem very populist, but they are too close to Trump (want coal jobs again), that they have no chance in the primary (in a multi-party system I suspect that they’d break off and form their own Party).

          Otherwise there’s black Democrat Corey Booker who has the cadence of black churches down, which is a kind of populism, just not white populism.

          Could Warren win over working class whites?

          Sure, if they lose their jobs or homes en mass in the next year and a half, otherwise as it stands now the old factory towns of the northern “rust belt” still aren’t doing too well, and there’s some signs of “buyers remorse” there, but other areas that voted for Trump are actually doing better now than when Trumo took office, so I don’t think they will change their votes.

          My guess is that the election will be even closer than 2016

          • Deiseach says:

            Warren is going for economic populism

            Yes, that’s what I’m finding interesting or indicative, Plumber. I’d be broadly sympathetic to Sanders’ brand of socialism (though he has no chance now and had little to no chance in 2016 even without the fix for Hillary being in), and this part of Warren I could also sympathise with (if she stopped trying to be the folksy “we wuz just a poor but honest hardworkin’ lower middle-class family going without our supper to bed at times but trusting in the Lord and being persecuted by the neighbours for being half-Injuns” background story), and I do think it’s the wedge the Democrats could use to appeal to the white working class – if they were interested in them and hadn’t done their best to shed them as deplorables at worst and stump-dumb ignorant of their own best interest at best while trying to work the demographics is destiny magic.

            Part of the problem is that the media and thinkpiece writing sympathisers have spent most of the past four years banging on about how economic populism was the lowest common denominator appeal by Trump to white racism/nationalism/supremacy by stoking fear and hatred against immigrants and overseas foreigners on the grounds of “dey took our jerbs!”, so while an unblushing brass-necked U-turn on this (when our guys do it, it’s okay!) wouldn’t surprise me, they’ve made it very, very difficult for the party to pull this off.

            I’m also curious as to whether this will be left to quietly wither on the vine, and the progressive woke angle will be pushed harder and harder. As I say, it seems like a potentially winning strategy to appeal to the mushy middle to me, but it also seems to me that so far the Democrats are doing their best to lose this election (e.g. ‘free healthcare for all who need it regardless of legal status’ isn’t a bad thing of itself, but ‘we’ll raise your taxes to pay for non-citizens who came in here illegally, are flouting the rules even when they’re claiming to try to be here as legal asylum seekers, and if you complain we’ll call you racists and white supremacists’ isn’t the way to do it).

  30. Machine Interface says:

    Two french congressmen, from the majority party and from the main right wing party, have just released a hundred page report on “radicalization in public institutions” (police, armed forces, public transportation, public healthcare, education, emergency services, jails, etc), where radicalization is understood as “potentially violent extremist views with political objectives” — they take great care in the report of distinguish this from rigoristic but mostly private religious practice.

    As it turns out, there isn’t much to report on; there is no immediate threat of large scale infiltration by radical elements of French public institutions, and the managements of these different institutions have been proactive in being watchful and keeping a close eye on any suspicious case and rule out identified radicalized individuals from job offers.

    As an example, over the 280,000 people serving in the police or gendarmery forces, only about 30 individuals are followed over suspicion of radicalization.

    Some areas are more murky (notably collective sports), but overall, the report concludes that radicalization remains a marginal phenomena, although a watchful eye remains necessary.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      This sort of thought police report worries me. Modern McCarthyism. I wonder how many of those 30 people are really just outside the Overton window and are not likely to commit acts of violence in their roles as civil servants (presumably violence committed by them outside their official roles isn’t an issue, or every citizen of France would have been investigated, not just public workers). Is there any kind of pushback to this in France?

      As an American I have tendency to think this is something that happens in France, or at least in Europe. But I think there are similar rules in the US about the armed forces (and maybe some police forces). I think I read about a guy where it was being discussed he be tossed out of the army because of his affinity to some far right group, and he was begging to stay in, saying that he was just misguided in the past but now he’s wised up. Terrible trends, IMO.

      • cassander says:

        Let us not forget that when McCarthy was accusing people, there actually were government officials at the highest levels spying for a foreign governments largely out of ideological conviction in its brand of extremely violent radicalism.

      • quanta413 says:

        30 out of almost 300,000 is about 1 in 10,000 people being monitored though. If true, that seems shockingly restrained to me. That’s just suspicion too, which I imagine is triggered by something less than a preponderance of evidence.

        At that point though, what are the odds those 30 people are all a false signal? Seems like you’re so likely to miss a false negative in the other 279970 that it’s barely worth the effort of any of this even if you don’t care about civil liberties.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          Well yes, that they came up with only 30 is interesting in itself. Maybe everyone in civil service knew this was going to happen, and so anyone with any intelligence kept their extremist ideas hidden? Perhaps it will be no loss if these 30 are tossed out, since they are obviously the dullest knives in the drawer.

          But one of the problems with this kind of investigation is that it does require the civil servants to hide their controversial ideas. And maybe this also infects many others in France, since I can imagine the large corporations being copy cats of the government and doing the same kind of investigation. All in all, it puts a large damper on intellectual thought in France by making it dangerous to think different thoughts. I’m glad MI here uses a pseudonym so he can say what he thinks.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’m sorry, I don’t fully understand what you’re talking about. Can you make it more concrete, or does the French report use too much obscurantism? Are we talking about infiltration of public-sector jobs by jihadism?
      It sounds weird that you bring up “radicalization” in collective sports, but apparently the jails contain no violent ideology? If “public sector infiltration” was the subject of investigation, that would just mean the police/guards are safe, which is plausible.

      • Machine Interface says:

        They aren’t explicitely saying that they were looking for djihadists, but they were looking for djihadists (being charitable, we can assume they made more than a token effort to also look for far-left and far-right militants) — the investigation started following the 2015 terror attacks.

        Jails are also mentionned among the murky areas, I should have been more precise here, although for jails radicalization is mostly a problem relative to prisonners rather than wardens. Sports are a point of concern since sport club are considered one of the few venues where poor urban youth can receive some positive structuring and influence — which means that coaches and related jobs have a lot of potential influence over the people they’re in charge of.

      • Matt M says:

        My guess is that the “right wing” guy went looking for Muslims, and the “mainstream” guy went looking for white supremacists, and they agreed to just call it a draw and say “everyone in the government is a-ok!”

  31. salvorhardin says:

    With the election (yes, primary, but the general is a formality) of Tiffany Caban as Queens DA, there’s now a significant crop of urban DAs who can be fairly characterized as radicals on criminal justice reform issues. How might we pre-register ourselves to evaluate the effects of their radicalism in ways that people with different priors could agree on?

    For instance, I’m generally very anti-mass-incarceration and my prior is that these DAs’ reform-minded practices likely will not cause significant increases in violent crime (I am less confident about property crime). If we found in five years that jurisdictions with radical-reform DAs had experienced much larger increases/smaller decreases in violent crime than similar (in demographics, size, density) jurisdictions with establishment DAs, I’d be more skeptical of the merits of their reforms. Bonus points if you could come up with a comparison group consisting of radical DAs who barely won the relevant elections vs those who barely lost, to control for any confounders that would manifest as large differences in popular support for radicals.

    Do people with criminological experience think that’s a reasonable test? If not, what would be? Different metrics? Different time periods? Different comparison groups?

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Please more details. What are the reforms they are advocating? Do the DAs have the power to make these changes, or do they have to be legislated? If the latter, these reforms are just posturing.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Typically the reforms involve some or all of the following, AIUI:

        Not seeking cash bail for suspects.

        Discretionary decisions not to prosecute varying lists of relatively minor crimes.

        Diverting nonviolent and/or first time criminals to alternative rehabilitation/restitution programs instead of incarceration.

        Aggressively prosecuting police officers who harm nonviolent citizens.

        Establishing conviction integrity units to try and identify and correct past wrongful convictions.

        As far as I can tell DAs do have the power to do all these.

    • 10240 says:

      You may want to condition on what they actually do in office (i.e. whether they are actually as radical as in their campaign), or include the probability that they aren’t in your predictions. Conditions one can use include the number of incarcerated people at a future date, or the number of people incarcerated for specific classes of crimes (such as drugs, or violent crimes).

  32. albatross11 says:

    Polling data from this project shows an interesting pattern:

    a. Most Americans with a political side (Republican or Democrat) significantly overestimate how extreme the other side’s average views are.

    b. The overestimate increases the further on the right/left you are.

    c. Democrats’ estimates of Republicans’ extremism goes up with education level; Republicans’ doesn’t.

    The study also points out that the subset of people who post about politics on social media also have higher-than-average levels of overestimating how extreme the other side is.

    My guess is that this is largely about algorithms–both traditional and social media largely live on clicks and ads, and want to increase page views, clicks, and stickiness of their platform (aka how likely you are to stay there). Two of the most effective ways to get clicks/views/engagement are tribal outrage (see how horrible the outgroup is/look at this horrible member of the outgroup) and taking extreme versions of some position (“Hey, white people” type articles/posts).

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Those questions seem pretty ineffective to me, unless the goal is to come to the conclusion they come to. They are weird questions and I think the gaps say much more about how the question is interpreted than about anything else.

      For example:
      “Properly controlled immigration can be good for America” – What is meant by “proper”? What is meant by “controlled”?

      What I think of as properly controlled immigration is probably not something a typical Republican today would agree is good for America. But when each Republican answers the question, they think of something different. As an example, some subset of Republicans may think proper immigration controls would limit immigration to people coming from Western Europe. Thus, the survey answers to that question don’t really measure much at all about one’s viewpoint on immigration.

      Many of the questions about Republicans seem to have the same issue.

      I don’t actually see quite the same trouble with questions about Democrats, the questions aren’t quite as ambiguous; but, I think the core issue is the same, that we don’t know much about actual viewpoints. It tells us very little about Democratic views that they largely disagree with the statement “Most police are bad people”. You can believe that systemic racism affects every aspect of the criminal justice system and still think most cops aren’t bad people. Most cops aren’t bad people is about the most bland, tepid, milquetoast , unremarkable view possible. If that was all I could bring myself to say, I would be accused of damning with faint praise.

      • albatross11 says:

        HeelBearCub:

        I feel like you’re missing something here.

        The point of the study is that even on these statements that should be kinda Apple Pie and Motherhood (“Racism still exists in US society”), Democrats expect far fewer Republicans to agree than actually do. And similarly, for a statement like “Most cops aren’t bad people,” Republicans predict that a lot fewer Democrats will agree with that statement than actually do.

        I’m sure some of the questions could have been phrased better, but it’s still pretty striking that everyone is bad at predicting what fraction of the other side holds the more extreme views.

        What’s missing at least from this summary, though, is how well people do at predicting their own side’s views. That is, I wish they’d also asked Republicans to predict how extreme average Republicans are, and similarly for Democrats. That would let us distinguish between:

        a. Partisans assume the other side is extreme but their own side is moderate.

        b. Partisans (or everyone) assumes that *everyone* is extreme.

        I’ve noticed for many years that actual polling results usually contradict a lot of the picture of the world you’d get from reading media political coverage. Media like simple narratives, and reality is usually more complicated than will fit.

    • Matt M says:

      I think it makes perfect sense that the more “extreme” you are, the more extreme you likely assume your opponents to be.

      I would suggest that most people with “extreme” beliefs arrive at them through a fairly logical process of “thinking things through to their inevitable conclusions.” Meanwhile, American politics as actually practiced, does none of that, and instead engages in a locked and heated debate over complete and total minutia.

      Consider the issue of taxation. At one extreme, you have people who believe “taxation is theft.” If you follow this idea through to its logical conclusion, the ideal tax rate such a person would propose is zero. On the other extreme, you have people who believe property is theft. Follow that to its logical conclusion, and the ideal tax rate is 100%. Meanwhile, in American politics, we have the Republicans and the Democrats fiercely arguing over whether the tax rate should be 30%, or whether it should be 35%. But that entire debate is based on arbitrary compromise and political calculus. There is no real theory, no real argument that if taken to its logical conclusion, which suggests the ideal tax rate should be 30%, or whether it should be 35%.

      But, even in the middle of the debate over minutia, people will reference the arguments of the extremists. The Republican will say “We should lower taxes (from 35% to 30%) because people deserve to keep the fruits of their labor. The Democrat will say “We should raise taxes (from 30% to 35%) because the ultra wealthy need to pay their fair share, and we need to help the poor.

      And someone who is experienced with “following things through to their logical conclusions”, from having done so based on their own beliefs, is quite ready to take his opponents at their rhetorical word, and follow their arguments through to conclusion as well. Since I, myself, followed the progression from “people should get to keep the fruits of their labor” to “abolish the state,” it’s quite easy for me to hear someone say “property rights are less important than human rights” and think “Well, if this person followed that logic all the way, they would be a radical communist.” Because even with a tax rate of 35%, there will still be poor people who need help, and still be rich people who live in luxury.

      TLDR: Assuming everyone is an extremist is actually giving them a huge benefit of the doubt. Because at least extremist positions are rational and follow a clear thought process. Most “moderate” positions in modern politics are just arbitrary nonsense. Anyone who is very passionate about tax rates being 30% or 35% is someone who just hasn’t thought very much about taxes at all (or, much worse, is some sort of wonky economist type).

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Assuming everyone is an extremist is actually giving them a huge benefit of the doubt.

        You don’t get to claim you’re being charitable by believing that [the democrats] are a bunch of lying communists.

        If I say, “abortions should be safe, legal, and rare,” that doesn’t mean that, because I want abortions to be legal, I’m actually lying about wanting them to be rare. If I say, “property rights are less important than human rights,” that doesn’t mean I’m a communist; I rather like the concept of ownership as a partial basis for human civilization. I just also think that slavery is unacceptable (and I’m like 98% sure you do too; this is an reductio). The point is, I don’t get to claim that you are pro-slavery just because it’s the “rational” extension of a small part of your views extrapolated to an otherwise-totally-exclusive extreme.

        The charitable thing to do is to suppose that your opponents maintain consensus morality until they demonstrate otherwise. Asking them about the congruence of their views with that morality is wise; assuming that extremists exist is, likewise, wise. But assuming that “everyone is an extremist” (whether they know it or not) is stupid.

        • dick says:

          The point is, I don’t get to claim that you are pro-slavery just because it’s the “rational” extension of a small part of your views extrapolated to an otherwise-totally-exclusive extreme.

          +1 times a lot. “You say you’re against Y. However, you support X, and I personally believe X leads to Y. So, tell me why you love Y so much, you filthy Y-supporter?” is terrible and no charitable person should do it ever. (Though you can certainly have a useful argument over whether X really leads to Y).

        • Clutzy says:

          I think you guys are saying similar things. Both of you are, essentially, saying “believe what people say.” Where you appear to differ is he says, “listen to the arguments” while you say, “listen to the policy proposals.” Both are useful, and you need to do both to be informed.

          If you say you believe in, for instance, “Safe, Legal, & Rare”, but your arguments can also support, “Safe, Legal, and Ubiquitous” its not irrational to call you out on it.

          A perfect example that recently has come to pass is the gay marriage debate. In Obergerfell, there were, essentially 2 kinds of pro-gay marriage briefs: libertarian, and progressive. If you look at the libertarian briefs, there would be no reason to think people should fear the “Bake the cake” controversy, but if you read the progressive briefs, “Bake the cake” was obviously the next logical step (as presciently pointed out in some of the dissents).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If you say you believe in, for instance, “Safe, Legal, & Rare”, but your arguments can also support, “Safe, Legal, and Ubiquitous” its not irrational to call you out on it.

            What do you mean by “call out?”

            When I see people claiming “the mainstream leftist endgame is to be able to attack people who are not attracted to trans people as transphobic,” that’s tiresome and worthless, and I don’t bother to engage with it because it’s transparently partisan and based on the premise that the arguments people make are the only beliefs they have. It takes moral mutancy as a premise, and attempts to prove otherwise are downright Sisyphean because just about nobody strenuously makes arguments in favor of consensus morality. That’s what consensus implies. “Calling that out” by using it as ammunition against [the bad guys] is toxic as fuck.

            Now, if you pose this as a question to a person who has made [progressive arguments] as a reductio in order to get them to define the lines that circumscribe their beliefs it’s probably good, but that’s not what I or Matt are talking about. What Matt appears to be saying is that assuming the absence of consensus morality is charitable. This is how you get people screaming “DO YOU DISAVOW GAY CHILD RAPE?” at people who want gay marriage recognized. Or, on the other side or the aisle, at Catholics. The answer is obvious, the question is insulting, and the assumption is irrational. It’s not charitable, it’s just being a dick.

            Now, regarding Masterpiece, because I don’t want you to think that I’m dodging the question – compelled speech is bad, and the real argument everywhere I can see is between people who think that baking a cake is compelled speech and people who don’t. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t employing motivated reasoning – I think they are – but it does NOT imply that they’d reason the same way if it came down to, say, officiating at the wedding, because at a certain point motivated reasoning becomes impossible. Either way, most of the people I see are at least paying lip service to the idea that compelled speech is bad (and IMO are likely to believe it), and I’m happy to grant them the validity of that position up until they demonstrate a willingness to violate it. The fact that almost nobody is up in arms over SCOTUS holding that,

            When it comes to weddings, it can be assumed that a member of the clergy who objects to gay marriage on moral and religious grounds could not be compelled to perform the ceremony without denial of his or her right to the free exercise of religion. This refusal would be well understood in our constitutional order as an exercise of religion, an exercise that gay persons could recognize and accept without serious diminishment to their own dignity and worth.

            should at least provide supporting evidence that this is true.

          • Matt M says:

            What Matt appears to be saying is that assuming the absence of consensus morality is charitable.

            I probably should have been more clear, but that part about being charitable was really meant more as a joke. It was probably a little too confrontational and I’d have been better off omitting that last paragraph.

          • and the real argument everywhere I can see is between people who think that baking a cake is compelled speech and people who don’t.

            Some of us think that compelling someone to bake a cake for a customer he doesn’t want to bake a cake for is slavery and that speech has nothing to do with the question, aside from providing an argument for Constitutional lawyers to offer the court.

          • Clutzy says:

            What do you mean by “call out?”

            In a collegial forum like this I would say something like, “yes the slope is slippery because your logic doesn’t set any guardrails.” Or if its a debate I’d ask where your principled position is that cuts off the chain.

            In public debates these tactics rarely work unless you are very skilled at oration. You basically have to heckle the other person. Like in the abortion debate you have to have a semi-friendly audience, and ask something really cruel, or they will easily weasel out. ““DO YOU DISAVOW GAY CHILD RAPE?” Is obviously not productive, but forcing people into uncomfortable situations is not. Parts in the debates about sexuality have become polygamy adjacent. So it is valid to ask someone, “if all that matters is love and consent, why can’t a man have 2 wives?”

            In theory, I agree with your principle of charity, but I would couple it with a principle of caution. Pre-Obergerfell I said to fellow liberals to be cautious supporting the cases because it would be a small gain for liberty , that opened up a bunch of tyrannical opportunities. This has happened, from my POV.

            compelled speech is bad, and the real argument everywhere I can see is between people who think that baking a cake is compelled speech and people who don’t. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t employing motivated reasoning – I think they are – but it does NOT imply that they’d reason the same way if it came down to, say, officiating at the wedding, because at a certain point motivated reasoning becomes impossible.

            Here I disagree with you. I think the motivated reasoning can be used to support any goal, its just that you have to get the first step to get the next step. Which is why the principle of charity must be combined with one of caution. The reasoning behind Masterpiece’s plaintiffs, does not distinguish between cakes, and officiants. That doesn’t mean they wont stop at cakes, but when you are on the other side, it is not possible to distinguish between the two unless a party has a history of good faith after victories. Very few people in modern politics have a Tip O’Neill-Ronald Reagan working relationship.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Clutzy

            So it is valid to ask someone, “if all that matters is love and consent, why can’t a man have 2 wives?”

            Yes, it is. But it isn’t valid to assume that that’s the position of anyone in particular.

            The reasoning behind Masterpiece’s plaintiffs, does not distinguish between cakes, and officiants. That doesn’t mean they wont stop at cakes, but when you are on the other side, it is not possible to distinguish between the two unless a party has a history of good faith after victories.

            The judgement, however, does. Given the lack of court cases seeking to prosecute religious officiants for declining to marry homosexuals in Colorado (or, more to the point, in Washington, given that state’s success in prosecuting a cakeshop-analogous case), I’m pretty sure that good faith has, insofar as it can be, been demonstrated. But I can’t prove a negative. If you think this slope is slippery it’s perfectly reasonable to say so, but if your argument goes, “people will use existing arguments and legal frameworks to go way, way further than they have over the past 5 years,” you’re the one obligated to do the heavy lifting.

            I think the motivated reasoning can be used to support any goal, its just that you have to get the first step to get the next step.

            Call me an optimist (first person to do so gets a prize), but I don’t. Cognitive dissonance is a real thing, and even when frenzies stop people from seeing it for a bit, it seems untenable historically.

            @David

            Some of us think that compelling someone to bake a cake for a customer he doesn’t want to bake a cake for is slavery

            And some of us (not me, to be clear) think that allowing someone to refuse to bake a cake for a customer who is [protected class] is [protected class] cleansing, but that doesn’t make it a central definition of the word. If you have a framework in which “bake the cake” is indistinguishable from slavery you’re welcome to share it, but please don’t take an insistence that you address the “drowning child” reductio as a belief that you’re pro-drowning-children, because my entire point is that I shouldn’t claim that you are.

            @Matt

            If the idea that this is charitable was meant as a joke I rescind the vitriol but maintain that you’re wrong to do it.

          • Clutzy says:

            Yes, it is. But it isn’t valid to assume that that’s the position of anyone in particular.

            Yes, but that is exactly the kind of hostile interaction that I though was the origin. Assuming the worst, as it is. I’m not as extreme on this. I try to assume decent intentions, while erecting moats and pillboxes against the bad ones.

            The reasoning behind Masterpiece’s plaintiffs, does not distinguish between cakes, and officiants. That doesn’t mean they wont stop at cakes, but when you are on the other side, it is not possible to distinguish between the two unless a party has a history of good faith after victories.

            The judgement, however, does. Given the lack of court cases seeking to prosecute religious officiants for declining to marry homosexuals in Colorado (or, more to the point, in Washington, given that state’s success in prosecuting a cakeshop-analogous case), I’m pretty sure that good faith has, insofar as it can be, been demonstrated. But I can’t prove a negative. If you think this slope is slippery it’s perfectly reasonable to say so, but if your argument goes, “people will use existing arguments and legal frameworks to go way, way further than they have over the past 5 years,” you’re the one obligated to do the heavy lifting.

            I have faith that the courts will serve as a bulwark against that sort of thing for at least 15-20 years, and I’m sure people who would want to compel officiants also know this. The problem I have is relying on cognitive dissonance (your words) has consistently resulted in bad results in my opinion. Kennedy in his Obergerfell decision had no idea that Masterpiece and a future bigamy case will have plaintiffs citing his opinion. But there are a spectrum of people, and a spectrum of legal/political creativity.

            Call me an optimist (first person to do so gets a prize), but I don’t. Cognitive dissonance is a real thing, and even when frenzies stop people from seeing it for a bit, it seems untenable historically.

            I think people DO see the cognitive dissonance. Which is why I prefer losses to my preferred positions if they give improved frameworks and precedents. I am very much against rape, but I would gladly see SCOTUS strike down a federal anti-rape law if it used a framework that declared that only states, not the federal government, have jurisdiction over common law criminal offenses.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “people will use existing arguments and legal frameworks to go way, way further than they have over the past 5 years,” you’re the one obligated to do the heavy lifting.

            Isn’t that loosely how Obergefell was decided? There was no new law legalizing gay marriage, SCOTUS determined that the old laws already did.

            While I’m not upset about the outcome in this particular case, the method is worrying in that it demonstrates the mechanism you’re arguing against.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is in fact how the SC normally decides culture-war-adjacent cases when they decide to do so–they discover some new right of individuals or requirement on the state that nobody ever noticed before in two hundred years of reading the constitution and trying cases in the relevant area of law. Even when I think the outcome of those cases is good policy, it’s pretty obvious that it has nothing at all to do with interpreting the constitution, and everything to do with deciding that the law should allow/forbid/mandate something and then making up a sketchy justification for why it does.

            Now, at one level, this makes a reasonable argument for slippery-slope concerns. At another level, though, there’s not much point, because when the justices have decided to change the law in some area, they’re going to find an emanation of a penumbra of an implied understanding of some constitutional right to hang it on, whether that makes any sense or not. The court found antisodomy laws unconstitutional, and then a few years later found them constitutional, without the constitution changing. It was just a vote on a political/social issue among nine permanently appointed politicians who also happen to hear a lot of legal cases where they or their clerks try to apply the law. When the balance on the court changed, so did the meaning of the constutition. Let there be three Republican presidents in a row appointing justices recommended by the Federalist Society, and it may turn out that legal abortion and any form of gun control are forbidden by the constitution.

      • dick says:

        TLDR: Assuming everyone is an extremist is actually giving them a huge benefit of the doubt. Because at least extremist positions are rational and follow a clear thought process. Most “moderate” positions in modern politics are just arbitrary nonsense. Anyone who is very passionate about tax rates being 30% or 35% is someone who just hasn’t thought very much about taxes at all (or, much worse, is some sort of wonky economist type).

        Very much disagree. There are absolutely beliefs that, when followed to their natural conclusion, result in a tax rate of 30% or 35%, they just can’t be stated in three words. (That’s a big reason why extremist positions are popular with dumb people – they’re simple.)

        Also, I assume that was more of a rhetorical device, but it’s worth saying that assuming everyone is an extremist is a bad thing to do and please don’t actually do it.

        • Matt M says:

          There are absolutely beliefs that, when followed to their natural conclusion, result in a tax rate of 30% or 35%, they just can’t be stated in three words.

          I’ll spot you a few. Try stating them in 150 words.

          Also, these beliefs not only have to establish why 30/35% is a really great tax rate, but also why the other one is a really terrible tax rate. How one would result in success, prosperity, and utopia, while the other would result in either a mad max style anarchic hellscape or the reinstitution of soviet gulags.

          And yet, the rhetoric on either side, even by the moderates, is exactly this. And taxation is just one of many issues. Want to slightly increase border security? You’re now accused of running concentration camps. Want to slightly decrease it? You’re now accused of favoring completely open borders. And not just by the fringes of your opposition, but by the mainstream of it as well.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            How one would result in success, prosperity, and utopia, while the other would result in either a mad max style anarchic hellscape or the reinstitution of soviet gulags.

            And yet, the rhetoric on either side, even by the moderates, is exactly this.

            If taking rhetoric seriously leads to irrational conclusions then maybe, just maybe, it’s taking rhetoric seriously that’s irrational. The dictionary may as well say “rhetoric (n): communications whose whole purpose is to rile up the masses”

          • Matt M says:

            And my point is that if you yourself are a person who uses similar rhetoric but does, in fact, mean it seriously, you are probably much more likely to take the rhetoric of others seriously as well.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,
            That follows, at least on the Democratic Party side more education correlates with “UMC” income and I’ve seen other studies that indicate that both Democrats and Republicans who earn $80,000 to $200,000 a year are more likely to believe full party line ideologically (those earning less than $40,000 or more than $200,000 deviated more than average from party line and are more likely to hold some opinions in common with the other Party), I also see that Democrats with more education are simply less likely to know that the have Republican acquaintances, and both Democrats and Republicans who get their news from more partisan sources than ABC, CBS, and BBC (like FOX, MSNBC, The Nation, The National Review, et cetera) are both more likely to adhere the the Party line, and to believe members of the other Party do as well.

            I’m reminded that I read that more science education correlates with stronger belief in the truth or falsehood of global warming being caused by human actions the less educated expressed more “I’m not sure” doubt, but college educated (especially with science) Democrats were more sure it was true, but Republicans with more science education believed that was false.

            I’ve read that increasingly Democrats and Republicans are sorting themselves into different neighborhoods, and I speculate that lower income Americans simply can’t afford to segregate themselves on a partisan basis, and the above $200,000 may be more comfortable with other high income folks regardless of party (plus upper income Democrats and Republicans both more fit the “fiscal conservative”/”social liberal” mold compared to the rest of their Party, with under $40,000 a year income Republicans while being as socially conservative as most of their Party, are more in-clined to favor Democratic Party style redistribution, and low income Democrats tend to be less Party line on both the economic and social axis).

            When you mix with those of the other Party face-to-face and have civil conversations with them I imagine you’re more likely to adopt some of their views, if not all, and it seems the “UMC” just doesn’t do that, on average they stay seperate and party line and assume most of the “other side” does as well.

            One way I think of it:
            poor = more “populist”
            rich = more “libertarian”
            It’s the middle class, and especially the near rich “UMC” that are doctrine “conservative” or “liberal”.

            I’ve also put it this way: “The bosses in school are Democrats, the bosses at work are Republicans”.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Plumber:

            I’ve also put it this way: “The bosses in school are Democrats, the bosses at work are Republicans”.

            Well, you’ve never worked for a tech or media company.

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat,
            True enough, most of my bosses that have indicated a preference have been Republicans, the clients on the other hand…

            Me to a new hire who was an outspoken Trump supporter while we were there to do a repair to the DA’s restroom:
            “Dude, he has pictures on the wall of himself with Willie Brown, Kamala Harris, and Gavin Newsom – save it for the break room”.

          • dick says:

            I’ll spot you a few. Try stating them in 150 words.

            Haha, no. I didn’t mean beliefs that you would agree lead to an ideal taxation of 30%, I mean beliefs that do that in the opinion of the belief holder. A person who says, “I’ve been studying taxation for many moons and I think the right level is 30%” holds such beliefs, by definition.

            (I think your response to this will be something like, “Well, the beliefs that support that 30% probably aren’t internally consistent. If he were forced to write them down and ruthlessly apply them, they would inevitably lead to 0 or 100.” If so, my response would be: not if one of the beliefs his position is founded on is “A tax rate of 0 or 100 is obviously stupid”, which is a perfectly reasonable belief.)

            And yet, the rhetoric on either side, even by the moderates, is exactly this. And taxation is just one of many issues. Want to slightly increase border security? You’re now accused of running concentration camps. Want to slightly decrease it? You’re now accused of favoring completely open borders. And not just by the fringes of your opposition, but by the mainstream of it as well.

            I agree this certainly happens, I believe it’s called the “proving too much” fallacy, and the solution to it is less extremism, not more. If we’re arguing about a bill that would raise the tax rate by 1% to fix our crumbling highways, and you say, “I’m against it because taxation is theft”, my response can and should be, “That’s an argument against taxation generally. If you want to discuss that, please make a new thread and stop trying to hijack the one about the highway funding bill.”

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            There are absolutely beliefs that, when followed to their natural conclusion, result in a tax rate of 30% or 35%, they just can’t be stated in three words.

            I’ll spot you a few. Try stating them in 150 words.

            I’ll bite. Broken into points for easy reading:

            1. We want taxes, because there are things that are best provided as public goods,

            2. The Laffer curve is a thing,

            3. The Laffer curve tells us that we’ll collect exactly $0.00 in tax if we set the rate at 0% (obviously) or 100% (‘coz why would you do anything taxable if you get no benefit),

            4. Therefore, the optimum rate of taxation lies somewhere between 0% and 100%,

            5. We can determine the actual optimum tax rate by raising the tax rate from 0% until the amount collected starts to diminish (other things being equal).

            Word count: 92

            You can further refine this by stipulating that the optimum rate of taxation doesn’t have to be set at the point where you can collect the maximum amount of tax, but at some lower number (for example, because you don’t need that much tax revenue in the budget).

            Based on the above reasoning it absolutely makes sense to wrangle over whether 30%, 35% or some other number is the optimum rate.

          • Lambert says:

            Three word explanation of moderatism:

            Diminishing Marginal Returns

          • albatross11 says:

            Simple set of principles and slogans lend themselves to the most extreme positions along Matt’s lines, because they omit contradiction and cost/benefit analysis and such. More nuanced positions where people are considering more things tend to lead to muddier principles and less extreme positions.

            Consider the difference between “absolutely all abortions should be forbidden”/”absolutely all abortions should be allowed” and “abortions are allowed up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, and later-term abortions are allowed with sufficient cause on a case-by-case basis.” The more extreme positions are cleaner to state and justify with some simple principles (the baby’s right to life/the woman’s right to her own body), but the middle position involves trying to come to grips with balancing between those principles.

          • Matt M says:

            A person who says, “I’ve been studying taxation for many moons and I think the right level is 30%” holds such beliefs, by definition.

            And what persons might this be? I already conceded the small exception for wonky economist types.

            How many sitting congressmen or Presidential candidates have gone on the record saying “the ideal tax rate is X%, if we set tax rates to there, I will be perfectly happy with tax policy and will not agitate for it to be further increased/reduced from that level.” Approximately zero.

            And it’s not just politicians, it’s journalists, talk show hosts, etc. If a certain politician actually came out and said “My tax policy is that it should be 35%” I would say “Wow, that person is a genuine moderate.” The problem is, nobody says that. They say “tax policy needs to be set such that free capitalist enterprise is able to enrich us without government dead-weight loss” or “tax policy needs to ensure that people aren’t out buying luxury yachts while other Americans live in poverty.” Both of which can reasonably imply tax rates of 0% or 100%.

            In general, Republicans suggest tax rates should be less than they are today, and most are completely unwilling to identify a particular rate at which they would stop. Similarly, Democrats suggest tax rates should be more than they are today, and most are completely unwilling to identify a particular rate at which they would stop.

          • Nick says:

            I considered posting this earlier and didn’t because it wasn’t germane to Matt’s actual point, but we’ve drifted so far from that that I might as well:

            One thing missing from his account is that some principled positions can land you in the middle of our left-right axis. This isn’t because they aren’t extreme positions, but because our left-right axis is literally one dimensional. Consider the political compass: a +10, 0 totalitarian and a -10, 0 anarchist are both perfect centrists on the left-right axis.

          • Matt M says:

            @Faza

            Yes, but anyone who would make that argument clearly falls into the “wonky econ geek” subset, and not the “mainstream popular politician” subset.

            I can’t think of the last time I heard a politician literally cite the Laffer curve. Maybe Paul Ryan did? He seems like the type that would have. How’d that work out for him? Did the New York Times treat him as a moderate or as a dangerous extremist? When he proposed slightly shrinking the growth rate of federal spending and left-wing PACs ran ads showing him literally throwing a wheelchaired grandma off of a cliff, did the blue tribe rationalists all speak up to ensure us that this was inaccurate, and that he was actually a quite moderate Republican appropriately citing consensus economic literature?

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            There’s a difference between an absolute and relative policy position, though. I mean, looking at the modern US, I think we probably have too much regulation of business and too much occupational licensing, so I’m pro-deregulation *in 2019 USA*. But if I found myself in the US in 1890, I’d probably be in favor of *more* regulation of business.

            As long as we’re just talking about what laws we want passed this year, I’m on the same side as someone who is always and everywhere for less regulation. But we don’t agree on the ideal endpoint, and in fact, I’m not remotely sure what the ideal endpoint would be.

            Similar things apply to tax rates, how many people we put in prison, how much deference we give to the cops and prosecutors in police misconduct cases, how interventionist our foreign policy should be, etc. If we get a big PR push for an invasion of Iran, I’m going to be opposing that alongside folks who think the US should *never* invade anyone and folks who think it’s wrong to have a military at all. That’s true even though I want us to keep having a strong military and sometimes think interventionist foreign policy is the best available bad option.

          • albatross11 says:

            Nick:

            Yeah. In fact, it’s easy to forget how incredibly narrow the range of political opinions/ideas is that fits into the modern US political spectrum, and how much detail gets lost by trying to cram it onto a single dimension.

          • Matt M says:

            albatross,

            Yes, I get all that. I think my point here is that if you were to ask me to estimate the beliefs of say, some random left-wing activist on Twitter, or some random non-famous GOP senator, and the only info I have readily available to me is, say, their public statements in favor/opposed to the last tax bill, it is quite reasonable for me to estimate “ancap” or “communist” given that the rhetoric they provided over the last bill is almost certain to be logically consistent with ancap or communist, and not particularly consistent with “the laffer curve indicates the ideal tax rate is 30%, not 35%!”

          • Nick says:

            @albatross11
            Yep. Incidentally, I notice now that I should have said 0, +10 and 0, -10. Which I can’t fix, because the damn edit window closed early. Ah well.

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M.
            Speaking of tax policies, last month I picked up an issue of Jacobian, a very Left magazine (I’ve seen further left stuff, but this was past The New York Times editorial page left), and the bulk of the issue (which admittedly I haven’t read) seemed to be blueprints for turning a Sanders Presidency from Scandinavian style Social Democracy/Welfare State capitalism into actuall socialism, and the article that I did read in it was on “Modern Monetary Theory”, and I expected the author to look favorably on it, but NOPE!

            The gist was that a Left wishlist couldn’t be achieved just by just taxing “the Rich” more, the “Middle Class” would have to pay a lot more in taxes as well, which is an admission that you typically don’t see made by more mainstream “center-left” publications.

            You don’t get that from ABC/CBS/NBC, so there’s an example of going to the edges of “the window” or past it and seeing what said there being informative, similar to how reading issues of The American Conservative (rather than just The National Review or The Wall Street Journal would have given indication of the rise of Trumpism before Trump.

            Watching the Democratic debates it definitely seems that most of the candidates are a lot more Left than Democrats have been most of my lifetime, and while polls indicate that most Democratic Party voters think the Party should moved back to the “center” and “be more moderate” that’s mostly older Democrats, young Democrats are more Left, and the “progressives” seem to have the wind at there backs, which (ironically)I think means having a more Left agenda actually enacted at the national level less likely as to get the House majority Pelosi recruited moderates to run in “purple” districts, but if Democratic Party primary voters purge moderates that majority will be lost.

            What I expect to see is gridlock at the national level, but with a more conservative Supreme Court “red states” like Alabama will enact a more “Right” agenda, and at the same time “Blue State” cities will enact a more “Left” one and the contrast will grow.

            I’m undecided whether that’s a good or bad thing.

            But judging by the press there sure still seem to be freakouts regarding what “they” are doing, and efforts to “convert the savages” by force instead of “You go your way, we go ours”, so I suppose I’ll never see “The Free State of New Hampshire”, next to “The People’s Republic of Vermont” in peaceful co-existence.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Yes, I get all that. I think my point here is that if you were to ask me to estimate the beliefs of say, some random left-wing activist on Twitter, or some random non-famous GOP senator, and the only info I have readily available to me is, say, their public statements in favor/opposed to the last tax bill, it is quite reasonable for me to estimate “ancap” or “communist” given that the rhetoric they provided over the last bill is almost certain to be logically consistent with ancap or communist, and not particularly consistent with “the laffer curve indicates the ideal tax rate is 30%, not 35%!”

            Twitter rando, maybe. But I don’t see how that squares for an actual sitting Senator – the very fact that they got elected should give a strong prior against being an actual ancap or communist.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @Matt M:

            Yes, but anyone who would make that argument clearly falls into the “wonky econ geek” subset, and not the “mainstream popular politician” subset.

            I don’t recall mimicking a “mainstream popular politician” being part of the challenge, though I suppose that, if I put my mind to it, I can act sufficiently clueless.

            I can’t think of the last time I heard a politician literally cite the Laffer curve.

            It isn’t actually necessary to cite the Laffer curve – I only did so because I’m pretty confident the audience here is familiar with it. Here’s a shorter and simpler version for the man on the street:

            We want to have some tax revenue, so we need to set the tax rates somewhere. We don’t want to set them too low, because it won’t bring in enough money. If we set them too high, people are going to start avoiding or even evading tax and making sure they pay is going to be expensive.

            So, we want the tax rate just high enough so we get sufficient revenue, but not so high that we’re going to have to spend a lot on chasing tax-dodgers.

            (Saves us five words.) *

            When he proposed slightly shrinking the growth rate of federal spending and left-wing PACs ran ads showing him literally throwing a wheelchaired grandma off of a cliff,

            I must point out that spending is a completely different issue than the optimum tax rate.

            did the blue tribe rationalists all speak up to ensure us that this was inaccurate, and that he was actually a quite moderate Republican appropriately citing consensus economic literature?

            You’d have to ask a blue tribe rationalist.

            ETA:
            * Looking at what albatross has written about policy decisions in Current Year, there’s an even simpler approach for a politician talking about a specific tax rate, at a specific time:

            We need to raise/lower the tax rate to X, because we’ll get more tax revenue that way.

            (You’ll have, of course, noticed that this is still the Laffer curve argument. If anyone challenges us to prove there will be more revenue that way, that’s when we bring out the numbers to support our position.)

          • dick says:

            How many sitting congressmen or Presidential candidates have gone on the record saying “the ideal tax rate is X%, if we set tax rates to there, I will be perfectly happy with tax policy and will not agitate for it to be further increased/reduced from that level.” Approximately zero.

            I still think what you’re asking for is simplistic positions, not moderate ones. I agree, this doesn’t happen. But if you change “ideal” to “our best guess at the moment” and add “…until I change my mind,” at the end, how is this different from what every legislator does when they vote for a tax bill?

            And changing your mind is definitely legitimate, even for someone who is applying their principles faithfully. Consider a policy that you think is a good way to spend tax money. Unemployment benefits, fire departments, whatever, doesn’t matter. The invention of that policy changed your ideal tax rate, right? If you thought it was 30% before, supporting the new policy means you now consider the ideal tax rate to be 30+X, where X is however much it costs. And next year, once this brilliant new policy has improved the nation and grown our economy and increased tax receipts by Y, the new ideal rate becomes 30+X-Y. And in practice, X and Y change constantly and are hard to predict, so you guess and then correct later using a feedback loop.

            Now look at the converse of that. A politician who says “I’ve done the math, 30% is it, period end of story” is, first of all, claiming to be able to predict from first principles what X and Y will be for all extant policies, which I don’t think is possible. And second, their claim will only be true as long as they and their fellow legislators do not come up with any ways to spend tax money that are improvements on the status quo. If that’s true, we can fire Congress, because thinking up better ways to spend tax money is literally their entire job.

            The problem is, nobody says that. They say [stuff that] can reasonably imply tax rates of 0% or 100%.

            I agree this happens and is not good, but surely the solution is for them to change their rhetoric to match their position, and not the reverse? If you agree that tax rates shouldn’t be 0 or 100, any argument that implies they should be is wrong a priori. I don’t think we should laud such a person for having the courage to apply their principles consistently, we should ask them to come up with better principles.

          • albatross11 says:

            The original survey was asking regular voters what fraction of regular voters from the other party believed various apple-pie-and-motherhood things.

          • 5. We can determine the actual optimum tax rate by raising the tax rate from 0% until the amount collected starts to diminish (other things being equal).

            To make that argument, don’t you have to show that private consumption is worthless, hence that the correct policy is to maximize public expenditure, whatever the cost to the taxpayer?

            If the point isn’t obvious I will be happy to expand it.

            Incidentally, “public good” is a technical term in economics. Much that the government produces doesn’t qualify, and many public goods are produced privately.

          • I’m reminded that I read that more science education correlates with stronger belief in the truth or falsehood of global warming being caused by human actions

            You may be thinking of Dan Kahan’s work, looking at issues such as global warming or evolution that have become linked to group identity.

            His conclusion was that the more intellectually able someone was (I no longer remember his measure), the more likely someone was to agree with his group’s position, whether that meant believing in evolution or not believing in evolution.

            His explanation was that this was rational behavior. Whether you believe in evolution has very little effect on the world. But it can have a large effect on you, if you are in an environment where most of the people who matter to you don’t believe in it (or do).

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            To make that argument, don’t you have to show that private consumption is worthless, hence that the correct policy is to maximize public expenditure, whatever the cost to the taxpayer?

            On reflection: no, I don’t think I do.

            For any accepted level of enforcement (and hence, associated cost), the amount of tax collected will be rate times declared income. Tax revenue will therefore tend towards some maximum amount achievable, as rates are changed, in a pattern not unlike how the market settles on a price which determines suppliers’ revenue (the “price” being the tax rate, in this case).

            Essentially, we can view tax collectors as a special type of supplier, providing the product “not going to prison for tax evasion”. The “value” of this product to the consumer (taxpayer) is equivalent to the cost of achieving the same end by methods other than simply paying tax.

            It should require no great stretch of the imagination to see that with lax (cheap) enforcement it’s going to be less costly to not do time for not paying taxes than it would be with stringent (costly) enforcement.

            It gets better: for Circular Flow reasons, taxpayers’ disposable income translates into growth opportunities – or lack thereof – down the road. Therefore, a tax collector committed to maximising revenue (not expenditure!), at fixed enforcement cost, purely by adjusting the rates, will operate much like any other player in the market. If tax rates are too high, declared income – and thus, tax revenue – will necessarily decline, either because people are avoiding/evading tax, or because there’s no income in the first place.

            We can also note that the cost of enforcement is subject to diminishing returns, hence a government wanting to maximise its post-enforcement revenue will need to cap its enforcement spending at some level.

            The foregoing applies equally to indirect taxation, such as VAT.

            Therefore, I don’t need to consider public or consumer expenditure at all, but rather defer to market-like mechanisms to set tax rates and enforcement spending at post-enforcement revenue-maximising levels.

            Aside: It should also probably be noted that “optimum” was used to mean “revenue maximising”, ceteris paribus, in the original post.

            The only time I mentioned expenditures was, in passing, to note that we don’t actually need to maximise tax revenue if we don’t need the full amount. In that case, we can obtain sufficient revenue on either size of the maximising rate and that we should choose the lower of the two.

            Incidentally, “public good” is a technical term in economics. Much that the government produces doesn’t qualify, and many public goods are produced privately.

            I am aware of this. However, I must point out that neither of the above is an issue, because all I am postulating at this point is that some public goods (national defence, say) are best provided by a central government – if only because it prevents the rise of warlords.

            Again: I am not any point talking about expenditure in this conversation – much less commenting on actual spending by an existing government.

            I merely point out that if but one good exists that a government is better suited to provide than private individuals, taxation to fund that good is justified, as a matter of principle. That is all I need to do, for the purpose of this conversation, and all I have done.

            P.S.
            Cost v. effectiveness of enforcement – especially over longer timescales – is a discussion I would love to have at length, but way outside the scope of this thread.

          • John Schilling says:

            We can determine the actual optimum tax rate by raising the tax rate from 0% until the amount collected starts to diminish (other things being equal).

            Actually, we can’t do this because,

            A: Most of the feedback is delayed by years from the initial perturbation, and

            B: There’s enough noise in the economy to swamp the early, small signals, and

            C: By the time there’s anything unambiguous to see, your political allies (and the opponents you had to cut a deal with to get the tax hike approved) have allocated the temporary revenue bubble to “temporary” government programs that you’re not allowed to cut just because you can’t pay for them.

            I’ve tried to model this using realistic assumptions, and by the time you get a clear indication that you’re past the peak of the Laffer curve, you’re only 5-8 years from total economic collapse(*) and you’d need a >20% across-the-board cut in government spending to get back on the left side of the curve. Really, it’s the Laffer Cliff.

            * The actual manifestation of the collapse will in practice be default or hyperinflation, because printing bignum new dollars is slightly less obviously stupid than raising the income tax rate to 110%.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t agree with this at all. The people in the mushy middle tend to have politic