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Open Thread 131.75

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937 Responses to Open Thread 131.75

  1. albatross11 says:

    Ten rules of hate, an excerpt from Matt Taibbi’s new book.

    This is talking about the strategies that media sources use to get/keep people interested in stories, and how this tends to drive division more and more. One sideline of this is that DJT is like the perfect personification of this strategy, which is why media that love him and media that hate him all make sure he’s mentioned in every story and appears on every page of the newspaper.

    • Dan L says:

      Number 3, “Hate people, not institutions” is bullshit. There are plenty of ways that institutions can be a more convenient target than individuals. (Diffuse stakeholders, dehumanization, etc.) Not always, but often.

      That excepted, this serves as a decent list of Dark Side strategies. And it’s not a coincidence that Taibbi’s using them when he declares that their use is universal.

      One sideline of this is that DJT is like the perfect personification of this strategy, which is why media that love him and media that hate him all make sure he’s mentioned in every story and appears on every page of the newspaper.

      T O X O P L A S M A

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      This list is good, but I think the rules apply to individuals at the social media level, too. There are people that I used to consider moral compasses, wondering how they would handle a situation. And the feedback mechanism of getting likes for the best dunks has turned them into jerks.

      https://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19 was optimistic in thinking that anonymity was required to turn people into total fuckwads.

    • John Schilling says:

      There’s some useful insights in part of this, but Taibbi pretty much loses me with “Does anyone seriously believe that powerful people would allow truly dangerous ideas to be broadcast on TV?”

      Yes. Yes I do. I do not believe that the “powerful people” are powerful enough to flat-out disallow things from being broadcast on TV. They certainly aren’t powerful enough to censor the internet, and the internet pretty much mirrors TV in this regard. And if they were powerful enough to censor “dangerous ideas”, then they would be powerful enough to censor the idea that they were going about censoring all the dangerous ideas, yet here Taibbi is with mainstream media access.

      This sort of conspiratorial world view does not enhance credibility, and it means he is almost certainly overstating everything else.

      The bit about the major media outlets wholeheardedly adopting the spectator-sports playbook in how they cover elections is spot on, though.

  2. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Just as a reminder.

    About a week ago, we went through the exercise that you shouldn’t say

    “Yes, this thing is bad, but –”

    Much better to say

    “Yes, this thing is bad.”

    Don’t try to say the target had it coming in any way. If you want to criticize the target for other activity, that is okay, but wait at least a few days.

    • albatross11 says:

      How about “Yes, this stuff he’s saying is bad, but he’s a horrible person who always says bad stuff, so who really cares?”

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Sounds like someone has completely given up.

        • albatross11 says:

          I’ve long since given up on expecting DJT to become presidential or grow into the job or any such thing[1]. He is exactly what he looks like, what everyone knew he was when they elected him. What’s the percentage in getting extra angry now that he’s once again saying awful things and sowing division in the midst of an already-badly-divided country? Better to focus on the stuff I can do something about.

          [1] To be honest, I never had much hope of that happening.

          • John Schilling says:

            What’s the percentage in getting extra angry now that he’s once again saying awful things and sowing division in the midst of an already-badly-divided country?

            At least last week we were talking about Trump doing awful things. Or maybe the claims were being exaggerated for political effect, but at least things were being done, actions were having consequence. Some number of people were being detained in facilities that, whatever you call them, are Not Nice, and this was at least marginally worse than it had been under the previous administration. If someone thinks that crosses a threshold of awfulness that they aren’t going to tolerate, then OK, time to send a contribution to the ACLU and decide which democrat to vote for in 2020.

            Now, we’re apparently all talking about how Trump said Bad Words about a group of congresswomen, and that means we all have to say the Bad R-Word about Trump or else people will say the Bad R-Word about us. But at the end of the day, the congresswomen who had Bad Words said about them are still congresswomen. And Trump is still President, and at this rate is going to keep on being President. I would prefer that he not say things like this, but I also understand that nobody who ever was going to vote for him, is going to change their mind and vote against him because he said the Bad Words. Not even if you accuse him and them of being the R-word.

            This is the lesson of 2016, and sometimes I think only Donald Trump has bothered to learn it. Because last week we were talking about stuff with actual consequences, one of which might have been fewer people voting for Trump next year, and then Trump opened his mouth and now we’re not talking about that any more.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Some number of people were being detained in facilities that, whatever you call them, are Not Nice, and this was at least marginally worse than it had been under the previous administration.

            I’m not sure this was true. It is definitely getting more attention now, though.

    • Plumber says:

      @Edward Scizorhands

      “Just as a reminder….”

      And now I’m dreading my afternoon commute when I’ll likely learn from the radio in between the traffic reports what fresh Hell this was a reference to.

      I think I’ll put in Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story” into the tape deck instead, and stay ignorant just a little longer.

    • 10240 says:

      I don’t know what this refers to, but how are the two alternatives to each other? They convey different things: the former mainly conveys that there is some mitigating factor, the latter confirms the badness. If you want to convey that there is a mitigating factor, you are obviously not going to say the latter. Whether saying “Yes, this thing is bad, but –” is a good thing or not depends on whether the mitigating factor is legitimate or not.

      • Evan Þ says:

        There’s a third alternative: “Yes, this is bad, but your proposed solution is even worse.”

      • Frederic Mari says:

        Whether saying “Yes, this thing is bad, but –” is a good thing or not depends on whether the mitigating factor is legitimate or not.

        Also depends on your intentions. Are you being objective or sincere and trying to surface what *you* think are legitimate mitigating factors? Or are you just using obfuscating tactics?

        Or are you just one of those guys who congenitally can’t acknowledge that “both sides do it” isn’t much of a thing if one side does 10 and the other side does 200… The ratio is just so big that “both sides do it” becomes quantitatively inaccurate.

        • 10240 says:

          Also depends on your intentions. Are you being objective or sincere and trying to surface what *you* think are legitimate mitigating factors? Or are you just using obfuscating tactics?

          I don’t think it depends on your intentions, it still depends on whether the mitigating factors (or, as Evan Þ said, the claim that the alternative is worse) are legitimate. If they are legitimate, then it doesn’t matter if your aim was to defend the accused. Of course if someone tries to defend the accused by obfuscating matters, it’s more likely that his arguments about mitigating factors will be illegitimate.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Don’t try to say the target had it coming in any way.

      Why not? I can agree if we’re talking about, say, violence, but when “it” is “mean comments directed at them” it’s entirely reasonable to discuss whether or not the mean comments are deserved. The comments may not be kind, but are they necessary and true?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Even violence can be deserved. But if we’re talking about Trump, the comments were simply obnoxious; while they had no truth value, in 3 of 4 cases they arguably implied a falsehood. As for necessary… well, that’s a tough one. We’ve long had these formulas which can be spoken which mean you are capital-R Racist and a Bad Person and everything you say should be ignored. “I have black friends” is one, and so is “go back to where you came from” (which is what Trump said). And this seems reasonable… except when considered from the bottom of the slippery slope. Where political positions and policies are ruled out because you can draw a tenuous connection to them and Racism, which is bad. Maybe it IS necessary for someone who can’t be shut down that way to push back all the way to the top.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          On the meta, I was just saying that a rule against saying “they had it coming” is unwise. Sometimes, people have it coming, and whether or not a recipient of a specific “it” had it coming is almost entirely case-specific.

          As for Trump, the man has a way of barreling headfirst into topics that maybe need to be discussed that the media would much much rather no one discuss. I am bothered by the number of people who come to the US and then loudly decry the people who live here and the economic and political system we have and want large-scale changes to benefit their particular ingroup. Usually to the detriment of everyone else who came to America because they like the American system and would prefer it not change. I would very much like to ask them, “why did you come here? If you were brought here by immigrant parents, are you mad at them? And why don’t you leave if it’s so bad?”

          The only people I will listen to rants about how evil America and Americans are and not clap back are blacks (ADOS only) and to a lesser extent Native Americans. Their ancestors did not have much choice in coming here. For everybody else, they or their parents chose to come here, knowing how horrible and evil we are.

          I don’t think the situation for white people in South Africa is looking very good. It seems like a very hostile environment for them. If, after the end of apartheid, my white parents had moved my family to South Africa I would be very mad at them right now.

          So I look at people like Sarah Jeong, whose parents brought her from South Korea to the US when she was 3. She seems very angry at white people, and seems to think white people abuse her. Is she mad at her parents for bringing her here? If the anti-Korean racism she experiences is so unbearable, why not leave? There’s an entire country (two even) where one can live and never once experience anti-Korean racism. And yet she stays.

          Apply also to Omar. Definitely apply to all the South Americans crashing our borders. Don’t they know how evil we are? How racist? How Literally Hitler is our President, locking people like them up in concentration camps and forcing them to drink from the toilet? And yet they come. And not with gratitude, but with demands. This does not seem like it’s in my interests.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho,
          On the tendency of the children of immigrants to be “Left” critics of the U.S.A., the old Vice-president of my old local union tells me that he used to hear William Z. Foster read from his autobiography Notes from a Worker’s Life (larger based on his earlier Fron Bryant to Stalin), Foster being the child of an Irish immigrant father, English Catholic immigrant mother, had been a trade union organizer, and later General Secretary of the Communist Party U.S.A., who died in Moscow.

          Also the daughter of an Irish Catholic immigrant (and a Canadian of Irish descent) was “Rebel Girl” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who also was a labor union organizer, who became a CPUSA leader who died in Moscow (her estate willed to the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker organization).

          William Foster’s rival for a time to be leader of the CPUSA (he was a Trotskyist, Foster was a Stalinist) was yet another son of Irish immigrants James Cannon who had also been a “Wobbly” but died in Los Angeles as head of the Socialist Workers Party, instead of Moscow (unlike his I.W.W. mentor “Big Bill” Haywood who like Foster and Flynn also died in Moscow)

          A rival of Foster (who supported Stalin) and Cannon (who supported Trotsky) was Jay Lovestone (he supported Nikolai Bukharin for who should succeed Lenin), and after he purged Cannon, Foster purged him (yes, the CPUSA mirrored the CPSU), but unlike Foster, Gurley Flynn, and Cannon he wasn’t a child of Irish immigrants, instead he was born in Lithuania, and later became an anti-communist, and aided the C.I.A. and worked for a time with AFL-CIO head George Meany (a union plumber of Irish descent, but with American born parents).

          Speaking of anti-communists who’s parents were born in an area latter conquered by the Soviet Union after they came to the United States: Milton Friedman, who I hear has a son who’s also an anti-communist who read The Lord of the Rings in the 1950’s!, and (IIRC) keeps a sword in a hall closet, his name escapes me at the moment though….

          (Follow the links, history is strange, and fascinating, also in knowing who I’ve known and who they know, I’m three degrees of separation from both Stalin, Trotsky, and Ronald Reagan! Stalin from my union’s former Vice-president, Trotsky from a now dead man who lived in San Francisco, Reagan because I met Ed Meese’s, who was Reagan’s Attorney General, daughter [she was super cute], and I met Barry Goldwater as a teenager, also I never met her, but know those who have, and I personally replaced plumbing fixtures in what used to be the office of Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris. Saints, sinners, the great, and the low are all very close at hand, even in a world of billions).

  3. albatross11 says:

    Random thought w.r.t. conservatives being happier than liberals overall:

    Suppose there’s a pretty clear and well-defined path to success in your society. Pretty-much everyone knows that to be happy, you need to finish college with a degree that will get you work, marry a nice girl/boy you met in college, settle down to a house and kids, etc.

    Now, some people are better suited for this kind of life strategy than others. Some people will just never be able to follow this strategy. Others can shoehorn themselves in, but only with great difficulty. Others will just find that this lifestyle suits them, and they’ll have a nice life.

    In our society, there are plenty of people out there telling you to ignore that life strategy and do your own thing, and even some loud voices saying that that life strategy is evil and oppressive and wrong and nobody should want it. Perhaps most of the people who would never have fit in that traditional lifestyle hear those voices and flee it, and most of the people who fit it well find themselves drawn to it.

    In that case, I think you might expect to see people following this traditional, conservative life strategy being happier than most other people. They got a nice, clear, explicit strategy for living their life that simplified their decisions and led them in a direction that worked well with their personalities and desires. The people who fled that strategy had to work out their own strategy–many of them will have screwed it up, and more will have fumbled around with bad choices for awhile before finding the lifestyle that did suit them–maybe a stable gay relationship living in a big city and keeping cats, maybe a permanent bachelor lifestyle with a new partner every couple months, maybe a poly relationship while living in a group house in the Bay Area.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      There’s an element of truth to that, but also what in my opinion looks like a sort of Panglossian optimism that people will naturally find a lifestyle that makes them happier or better off given enough time.

      The number of people who can’t follow the lower-case-c conservative life strategy of getting a practical education and working, marrying and having kids, and attending church and other neighborhood functions is at most a small fraction of the number of people who don’t follow that life strategy. For example, the fact that 40% of children are born out of wedlock doesn’t imply that a plurality of mothers would “just never be able to” marry but that for whatever reason they or the fathers have chosen not to marry.

      Civilization isn’t natural. Some of us are better adapted to civilized life but if you look at how young children behave you can easily see that a lot of socialization is necessary to get a civilized adult. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that you see a lot of uncivilized behavior after more than a century of coordinated attacks on the institutions responsible for maintaining our civilization.

      • albatross11 says:

        Fair enough. It’s clear that there are some people that were never going to be happy in that traditional environment, but I don’t know what fraction of the population that is. If the traditional life is only heterosexual marriage, then we know that gay people (probably <5% of the population) weren't going to be so happy in that lifestyle, but maybe now it's just Adam and Steve getting married and settling down to a nice more-or-less traditional life.

        I imagine this is a bit like divorce. At one point, there were people who were trapped in really hellish marriages because both law and custom made it extremely hard to get a divorce. And then, we made it easier to get a divorce, and the people left the hellish marriages, but also many people got divorced because there they got involved with someone new at work, or they got bored with their current spouse and life and wanted some adventure, or they realized life was passing them by in early middle age and fled, or whatever. The social strictures really were suffocating some people, and yet they also really were saving other people from serving themselves, their spouse, and their kids a lot of misery.

        How would we get a handle on what fraction of people can't live happily in a traditional life?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          How would we get a handle on what fraction of people can’t live happily in a traditional life?

          I think that the cheapest and easiest way to estimate it empirically would be to dig into survey data on happiness and life satisfaction and see whether a given subgroup’s subjective well-being changes with the permissiveness of their environments. It’s not high quality data and the smaller the group the harder it is to survey them, but for a rough non-scientific estimate it should be fine.

          I personally prefer life satisfaction to happiness because it’s more reflective and closer to the idea of eudaimonia or the life well-lived, but the two correlate very strongly on surveys. If you tend towards the hedonistic and think that happiness is a better measure than life satisfaction you’ll still largely come to the same conclusions.

    • Plumber says:

      @albatross11

      Random thought w.r.t. conservatives being happier than liberals overall:

      Suppose there’s a pretty clear and well-defined path to success in your society. Pretty-much everyone knows that to be happy, you need to finish college with a degree that will get you work, marry a nice girl/boy you met in college, settle down to a house and kids, etc….”

      Nope, that isn’t the conservative way, because in previous generations only a minority went to college, but now the majority try to go, and I argue that a big problem now is that too many crave that path but are unable to achieve it.

      There’s been a huge rise in “some college” without as much of a rise in diploma’s (which have risen as well, but not as much as the attempts), more try but fewer succeed in getting that diploma, either ’cause they never could hack the classes, or they just couldn’t afford it.

      Used to be Ryan would be apprenticed to his carpenter uncle Joseph, work his way to Journeyman and be able to get a house and make a family with Colleen, but if his uncle didn’t have a place for him he’d go into the mines or into the factory instead (probably after a couple of years in the army), and still get that house and support Colleen and their kids.

      Now the military is more selective, the mines and the factories are either closed, or the equivalents are in remote places in Alaska, Alberta, North Dakota, and elsewhere that Colleen will never be, which limits the likelihood that Ryan will go there as well (at least while he’s young enough to still hope), meanwhile Colleen, as she likely won’t get as distracted trying to buy a flash car or motorcycle to attract someone, is more likely to get a college diploma herself than Ryan is, and if she does have a baby with Ryan they won’t marry “Because he’ll never amount to anything”, or she’ll wait “To establish a career first” until she needs fertility treatments or it’s just to late for her to have a child.

      If Colleen doesn’t have a diploma, she may give birth to Ryan Jr., but without Ryan and Ryan Jr. knowing each other the only path that Ryan Jr. has heard to that house to have a family in is “Go to college” from the teachers in the public schools (if Ryan Jr goes to Catholic schools instead he’ll learn from Tony’s kids how to apprentice to Tony Baloney’s plumbing company, but Catholic schools are expensive, and they’re less of them), and with Colleen busy working and taking the bus and no Ryan in the picture to co-parent, Ryan Jr doesn’t do the work to get into college, even if Colleen could tell him how to do it and lend support, the same “poverty trap” that Vanessa and her kids were in a generation ago.

      There just needs to be more widely known paths to the family home besides “Go to college”, that “some college” are now the majority of 30-something’s, but “has a diploma” still aren’t is enough to show that, especially when you add in the increased single mothers, drug abuse, and lower life expectancy among the the “no college diploma” compared to previous generations.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I am in complete agreement.

        Short form: we’re fucked, and our great-grandparents and all those boring old dead men with long grey beards in those dusty boring old books keep sounding more and more wise with every passing decade.

        But on the bright side, it’s $CURRENT_YEAR!

        • brad says:

          I mean those old men set it all in motion, right?

          Every time I hear complaints about millennials I think well who raised them and then who raised *them*.

          • Aapje says:

            @brad

            Depending on how old you are, it’s probably your parents or grandparents who set it in motion, rather than your great-grandparents.

            Unless you want to take the long view and see it as an inevitable outcome of urbanization and/or the industrial revolution.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I think you’ll find what actually happens is college gets watered down so Ryan can indeed complete it. So he spends four years basically repeating what he once would have learned (or failed to learn beyond the next test, more likely) in high school, and so does everyone else. Net effect, four years wasted.

        • Plumber says:

          @The Nybbler,
          Then I expect that employers will start requiring post-grad diplomas, and/or only hire from certain Universities

          • The Nybbler says:

            Then I expect that employers will start requiring post-grad diplomas, and/or only hire from certain Universities Universities

            Precisely. That actually started happening in tech, but the industry started growing faster than the process could occur, and it largely reversed itself. There’s still some degree of hiring from certain universities, however.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t see post-grad degrees being broadly required any time soon; I don’t think that’s scaleable for a number of reasons. What does seem to be on the rise is the role of internships as an employment screen. Even if someone hasn’t interned for your firm specifically, their having interned at all (particularly more than once and/or with someone you can call for a reference) is evidence of their being interested in and able to do real work.

            Also, internships seem to have so far flown under the radar of the grade-inflators and other levellers, so the signal hasn’t been forcibly submerged in noise. That’s a good thing when it comes to employers being able to find people who can get the job done. It’s maybe not a good thing for people who have the talent and the drive but not the connections to get good internships. And in industries where internships are traditionally unpaid, that adds another sort of poverty trap in that student loans are a thing but “intern loans” AFIK aren’t.

          • Nick says:

            Why would post-grad degrees not be scaleable? Just dumb college down even more until the concept of a senior thesis or capstone is unthinkable. Meanwhile, steadily expand the availability of master’s programs, especially 5 year programs, so students get their bachelors at the end of their third or fourth years and masters at the end of their fifth. Then the master’s is both easier to obtain and (a certain value of) necessary for competence.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Yeah, even twenty years ago there were departments where the Masters program was the cash cow, churning out more students than the undergraduate major did. The PhD wouldn’t scale without major restructuring, but I see no reason the Masters degree wouldn’t.

          • John Schilling says:

            Why would post-grad degrees not be scaleable? Just dumb college down even more until the concept of a senior thesis or capstone is unthinkable.

            To what purpose?

            We’re talking here about what generic unspecified employers require of candidates for any profession much beyond the level of manual laborer, e.g. the minimum credential for a secretary. And that doesn’t scale to “infinite amounts of useless busywork pretending to be education plus OK here’s where we spend a few years teaching you what you need to know and actually flunking you out if you haven’t learned it”, because every extra year is that much more time wasted before one starts earning even a meager secretarial salary and that much more accrued educational expense that someone has to pay for and to match against the increasingly-reduced earning potential of an abbreviated secretarial career. Before too long, and requiring a Masters’ is probably too long, the right move is for the secretarial candidates to say “this isn’t worth the bother” and start collecting unemployment, selling drugs, or whatever.

            A Masters’ degree as the norm for jobs requiring specialized technical skills and knowledge beyond the collegiate norm is of course reasonable. but that’s not rescaling the MA or MS; that’s what they always and rightly have been.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            To what purpose?

            Moloch doesn’t have a purpose. We have (almost) created a world where every job requires a bachelor’s degree, with the inevitable side effect that many bachelor’s programs do not deliver significantly more education than high school used to. So for someone to distinguish himself from the pack, he must get a higher degree. Rinse and repeat.

          • John Schilling says:

            Moloch doesn’t have a purpose.

            That’s because Moloch doesn’t exist. There isn’t actually a baby-eating Levantine deity making bad things happen. That’s a sometimes-useful shorthand, but you’re using it as an excuse to avoid understanding the issue.

            We have (almost) created a world where every job requires a bachelor’s degree,

            And every part of that process, had a rational and comprehensible purpose serving the interests of the people responsible for that part. I believe I have adequately explained why the purposes that were served by e.g. requiring secretaries to have bachelors’ degrees, will not be well served by requiring them to have an MA or MS and that alternate strategies would better serve the immediate purposes of everyone involved. As such, I predict we will not see a world where the median secretary has an MA.

            Maybe I’m wrong. If your rebuttal is simply “But Moloch, so the bad thing will get worse in the same bad way, rinse and repeat!”, then I’m pretty sure you are more likely to be wrong.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The driving force behind this credentialism is often just a need to select new employees from a pool of applicants that is much larger than requirements, in a way that is inexpensive and justifiable to authorities. I see no reason this must stop with a Bachelor’s degree. As I noted, it _didn’t_, in tech; there was a time in the mid-2000s to early-2010s when many jobs were calling for a Masters. (There may have been another factor — a way to discriminate in favor of visa workers). This, probably not coincidentally, is when 5-year BS/MS CS programs become popular. As the population of people with bachelor’s degrees increases, then, provided the number of jobs for people with bachelor’s degrees does not increase at the same or higher rate, an increase in credentialism is certainly a reasonable thing to expect.

          • The driving force behind this credentialism is often just a need to select new employees from a pool of applicants that is much larger than requirements

            In your model of the relevant labor market, what prevents wages from falling until quantity supplied equals quantity demanded? We’re talking about jobs most of which are well above minimum wage.

            On my model, the result you describe depends on the expected value to the employer of the degree as a signal being larger than its cost in the higher wages required to get the degreed employee, which suggests that the degree is actually worth, in productivity, its cost.

          • The Nybbler says:

            In your model of the relevant labor market, what prevents wages from falling until quantity supplied equals quantity demanded? We’re talking about jobs most of which are well above minimum wage.

            Probably effects similar to those in the “The Market For Lemons”. Firms which lower their offering price end up losing the good applicants and being left with an applicant pool that is still large, but has fewer of applicants of the type they are looking for. But unlike in that paper, the buyers can distinguish between the “lemons” and the good employees… at a price.

            On my model, the result you describe depends on the expected value to the employer of the degree as a signal being larger than its cost in the higher wages required to get the degreed employee, which suggests that the degree is actually worth, in productivity, its cost.

            Sure, no one’s violating the law of supply and demand here. Asking for the higher degree enriches the applicant pool but reduces its size. If this reduces overall cost of hiring more than the overall premium paid for the more-educated employee, it’s perfectly rational.

          • John Schilling says:

            The driving force behind this credentialism is often just a need to select new employees from a pool of applicants that is much larger than requirements

            I’m not sure what you are getting at here. Credentialism by definition reduces the size of the applicant pool – the credentialed plus uncredentialled combined is by definition a larger pool than a credentialled alone. The need is to exclude people who won’t be able to do the job, but every added credential will also exclude people who can do the job and the failure mode is to make the applicant pool too small for the market’s demands.

            As I noted, it _didn’t_, in tech; there was a time in the mid-2000s to early-2010s when many jobs were calling for a Masters.

            But we aren’t talking about “tech”, and I am persistently annoyed by the assumption that consumer electronics and software are the relevant baseline for everyone. We aren’t even talking about STEM generally here. We’re talking about generic low-end white-ish collar jobs like e.g. secretary (or office manager, administrative specialist, or whatever the currently preferred title is).

            Requiring a 4-year college degree for prospective secretaries is workable because,

            1. Almost any four-year college curriculum will overlap strongly with the job skills required for a secretary,
            2. Four years and $20K in debt is an annoying but not intolerable burden for people who are looking for a job as a secretary,
            3. People who spend four years pursuing a BA in one of the fluffier fields are generally not expecting a job so much better than “secretary” that they will be perpetually disgruntled if that is what they have to settle for,
            4. Because of 1-3, most plausible secretary-candidates will wind up getting a four-year degree if there isn’t an easier path, and won’t give up on that ambition in favor of e.g. “welfare mother”.
            5. Because of 1-4, industry has no need and little interest in developing alternative paths to secretarial careers.

            That this can’t scale to arbitrarily long, convoluted, and expensive educational requirements should be obvious. I’m pretty sure that by the time you get to an MA/MS,

            1. Universities won’t be interested in reworking their more prestigious postgraduate degree programs into “really we’re just teaching people to be secretaries”. They’ll do it if you throw enough money at them, but…
            2. 6-7 years and $40K debt probably will be more than most potential secretaries are willing to invest before they see their first paycheck, and
            2a. $40K in debt is just the current baseline before we have to pay the universities to expand and rework their programs for this demand
            3. People who do invest that much time and money in their education probably are going to insist on more than secretarial work, and
            4. Because of 1-3, “Welfare mother”, “unemployed layabout in parents’ basement until 40”, etc, etc, will start to look more appealing by comparison, and
            5. Because of 1-4, in order to meet demand for secretaries at a reasonable price, industry will be incentivized to develop alternative educational/recruitment paths for secretaries rather than just hoping they’ll get enough high-quality resumes with MAs and MSs.

            Again, I could be wrong. But I’ll stake that educated and reasoned guess against “But Moloch!”, “That’s how Tech does it”, and simple linear extrapolation from current trends, or all three combined.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            [Moloch is] a sometimes-useful shorthand, but you’re using it as an excuse to avoid understanding the issue.

            Well, perhaps, but:

            And every part of that process, had a rational and comprehensible purpose serving the interests of the people responsible for that part. I believe I have adequately explained why the purposes that were served by e.g. requiring secretaries to have bachelors’ degrees, will not be well served by requiring them to have an MA or MS and that alternate strategies would better serve the immediate purposes of everyone involved.

            I must be dim. I just walked back up the entire thread and I don’t see where you did that. What is the actual purpose served by requiring secretaries to have bachelor’s degrees?

          • Clutzy says:

            Credentialism isn’t Moloch unless you define Moloch as, “Moldbug’s Inner Party”

          • John Schilling says:

            What is the actual purpose served by requiring secretaries to have bachelor’s degrees?

            It provides employers with a large pool of applicants they can have high confidence are literate, conscientious enough to show up on schedule, capable of operating a computer with a basic office suite, etc, without having to set up their own testing program for such. And it does so without requiring potential secretaries to commit to a tedious period of education too narrowly specialized to be useful if they should find a generically decent job that isn’t some variant of “secretary”.

            I should have been more explicit about that part; sorry.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Got it, thanks. Though you may not see this at all since this open thread has dropped off the cache.

            Where Moloch enters in is the feeling that many have expressed (but maybe you disagree with), that the societal expectation that you need a bachelor’s for most jobs has caused or is causing the population of bachelor’s students to degrade, and therefore the quality of bachelor’s programs to degrade, to the point that it no longer guarantees the properties you list. If so, it’s not unreasonable to imagine employers resorting to a higher degree to provide those guarantees.

            “When everyone is somebody, then no one’s anybody.” But maybe I’m just too pessimistic.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You don’t necessarily need secretaries to consciously get college degrees to get their secretarial jobs. I don’t think the previous generation had that problem. But once there were enough people with college degrees, employers could then filter on it.

            If enough people start getting master degrees for whatever reason (mommy and daddy paying, avoiding the world, heard “it’s what you are supposed to do,” or even believing that they need a master’s degree and it doesn’t matter if this is true or false as long as they think it’s true), it won’t matter whether or not the filter “makes sense,” it is a cheap and legal filter.

        • AliceToBob says:

          @ The Nybbler

          I think you’ll find what actually happens is college gets watered down so Ryan can indeed complete it. So he spends four years basically repeating what he once would have learned (or failed to learn beyond the next test, more likely) in high school, and so does everyone else. Net effect, four years wasted.

          Wait, what is the scope of this claim? It seems quite strong.

          If we’re talking about the sciences, then I don’t see how this is true. In what North American high school are students learning:

          – physical, analytical, organic, chemistry, learning how to use a mass spectrometry machine, etc.?

          – number theory, group theory, graph theory, advanced linear algebra, real and complex analysis, differential equations, etc.?

          – algorithm design and analysis, theory of computation, data structures, discrete mathematics, design patterns, a wide array of programming languages, etc.?

          High schoolers don’t get taught this stuff, and you won’t graduate from any ABET-approved university undergrad program in chemistry, math, or CS without taking (and passing) courses in most of these areas** (or an equivalently-advanced subset of courses).

          I’m agree that grading standards are an issue, if that’s what “watered down” is meant to convey, but the claim that the undergrad degree is basically high school over again just seems wrong.

          * Yes, these topics can be accessed by very ambitious high schoolers, but that isn’t typical.

          ** You don’t have to take all of them, but there are also pre-req courses involved for these, and there are typically multiple courses on topics like organic chemistry and group theory. There’s plenty to absorb in 4 years.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t think a physical sciences or engineering degree is mainly aimed at recapitulating stuff you should have learned in high school, but I do think that you could knock off a year from one, maybe two, if high schools were properly tracked and actually rigorous. Linear algebra, single-variable calculus, basic physics and chemistry: that’s about a year’s worth of requirements for a CS or physical sciences degree right there.

            And we haven’t even touched breadth requirements, which, at least at my school, seemed to be primarily aimed at ensuring students are literate and can regurgitate some canned political arguments on demand.

          • The Nybbler says:

            College being watered down doesn’t imply every degree is attainable by “Ryan”. It only implies that some degrees that are considered a path to a reasonable career are watered down that way. I would argue that indeed the tougher degrees will be watered down too, but the process would take longer.

            And note that while ABET does indeed accredit CS degrees, I’ve never heard of anyone caring about the accreditation. Probably some grad schools do. Several well-known CS programs (including Berkeley and Stanford) are not ABET-accredited.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @Nornagest

            …but I do think that you could knock off a year from one, maybe two, if high schools were properly tracked and actually rigorous.

            I agree that this may be possible. But the claim to which I was responding is that undergrad is basically a rehash of high school as it is currently, not as it (perhaps) ought to be.

            And we haven’t even touched breadth requirements, which, at least at my school, seemed to be primarily aimed at ensuring students are literate and can regurgitate some canned political arguments on demand.

            YMMV, I guess. I ended up in my current job because of a breadth requirement. But I’m sympathetic to the argument that breadth requirements should be more limited or even eliminated.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ The Nybbler

            College being watered down doesn’t imply every degree is attainable by “Ryan”. It only implies that some degrees that are considered a path to a reasonable career are watered down that way.

            Okay, that seems like a more limited, defensible claim. I’m curious, which areas in the sciences (as you define them), if any, are a repeat of high school content-wise?

            And note that while ABET does indeed accredit CS degrees, I’ve never heard of anyone caring about the accreditation. Probably some grad schools do. Several well-known CS programs (including Berkeley and Stanford) are not ABET-accredited.

            Fine, but not a central point. Forget ABET, if you like. Conservatively, my claim about that course content applies to any top-50 university in North America.

    • Frederic Mari says:

      Suppose there’s a pretty clear and well-defined path to success in your society.

      Isn’t that already assuming your conclusion?

      Pretty-much everyone knows that to be happy, you need to finish college with a degree that will get you work, marry a nice girl/boy you met in college, settle down to a house and kids, etc.

      Sure. Now, let’s go through all the people that don’t follow this strategy. For example, Nabil ad Dajjal asserts vigorously “[t]he number of people who can’t follow the lower-case-c conservative life strategy is at most a small fraction of the number of people who don’t follow that life strategy.”

      And he gives as an example all those single mothers/children born out of wedlock.

      Except – studies have shown that most Black impoverished single mothers wish they could marry. They don’t because they don’t find their likely prospects attractive enough. Now you might question the wisdom of having a child with a man you do not value high enough to marry but I would put that down to the incredible reproductive drive we humans have been endowed with.

      i.e. reverse to what Nabil suggests, it’s not that they don’t WANT to follow the small c conservative strategy, it’s that they CAN’T.

      Again – studies are pretty clear on the subject. You want people to behave middle class? Give them middle class income. It’s that simple.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        If I said that I wanted to work but every time I got a realistic job offer I rejected it and opted instead to continue collecting unemployment, people would be well within their rights to describe me as not wanting to work or perhaps not really wanting to work. It’s a classic example of revealed preferences.

        Again – studies are pretty clear on the subject. You want people to behave middle class? Give them middle class income. It’s that simple.

        Middle class income correlates with middle class behavior, but I haven’t seen any evidence that higher incomes cause better behavior. If you have any I would like to see it.

        Common sense would suggest that causality runs the other direction, that people who know how to behave properly have an easier time getting and holding down a well-paying job.

        • In Cell says:

          If I said that I wanted to work but every time I got a realistic job offer I rejected it and opted instead to continue collecting unemployment, people would be well within their rights to describe me as not wanting to work

          That depends on what kind of job offers are “realistic” for your situation. (For example, nobody would say that if the only “realistic” job on offer to you was prostitution.)

          And so it similarly depends on what kind of marital partners are “realistic” for your individual situation.

          I think in the case of black women it seems there is an effect on the “sexual marketplace” caused by the disproportionate imprisonment and unemployment of black men combined with the fact that marrying outside of the race can be somewhat unrealistic.

          Common sense would suggest that causality runs the other direction, that people who know how to behave properly have an easier time getting and holding down a well-paying job.

          In this case the “[im]proper behavior” and the “holding down a well-paying job” (or failure thereto) are not occurring in the same individual. The women are behaving “improperly” because the men have low incomes.

      • ana53294 says:

        Middle class women in the same situation choose not to have children.

        I know many middle class women who had children late, had fewer than they wanted to, or didn’t have them, because they couldn’t find a suitable husband/partner earlier/at all.

        So, we can say that most women prefer to be with a suitable partner before they have children. The question is what they prioritize. Do they have children, even without the partner? Do they not have children because they couldn’t find a partner.

    • Viliam says:

      In addition to what was already said, I think there are two more things that make “conservatives” more happy:

      1) If you believe that your failures are a result of your sins, that implies that you still have a chance to make things better tomorrow. It also motivates you to try improving yourself… and once in a while you succeed.

      On the other hand, if you believe that all your failures are caused by someone else (Jews, white cis het males, capitalists), there is not much you can do about it. Complaining about it, and seeking company of people who enjoy complaining, only makes it psychologically worse.

      2) Even if life didn’t bring you the awesome things you were hoping for, you can still derive some satisfaction from feeling that you are doing the right thing.

      On the other hand, if you optimize for short-term pleasure, and then you find out that eating too much chocolate made your stomach hurt, it only means your life sucks.

  4. Deiseach says:

    I’m currently reading a book about L’Affaire Kavanaugh and so far I’m finding it very entertaining, though that may not be exactly what the authors wanted. I knew going in it was written from the conservative/Republican side and I’m making allowances for that in some of the interpretation (e.g. I’m a bit more willing to find a charitable interpretation of some things said on the liberal/Democratic side). I do think the following is an unkind characterisation (“sneered” is a very emotive word and not one I think belongs in a non-fiction account), and I am more disposed to think it was an honest assessment of Justice Kennedy’s record (though it must indeed be galling, when your judicial career has been as the ‘reliable liberal ally’, to be dismissed in such terms by those who benefited from your decisions):

    But for all of their fawning over him when he reached conclusions they liked, liberals did not respect Kennedy. They turned on him immediately when he gave Trump the opportunity to name his successor, adopting some of the same criticisms conservative critics had leveled in the past. Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress sneered, “Justice Kennedy was a Cadillac’s intellect in a Lamborghini’s job,” highlighting Lawrence v. Texas, the case that overturned anti-sodomy laws, as “an opinion that was constructed largely from discarded Age of Aquarius lyrics.” Of his opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which Kennedy famously changed his vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, Millhiser wrote that he agreed with the outcome, but “the problem is that its hippie-dippie, decidedly unlegal language renders its rule vulnerable.”

    However, I am reasonably confident that when they say X happened, X really happened. I’ll qualify that with I don’t mean “Alice thought, Bob felt, Carol sensed, Dave ruminated” type descriptions, as I dislike this kind of mind-reading and much prefer “Dave later said that at the time…” writing, though I understand that the New Journalism is all about ‘in the moment, stream of consciousness, you are there’ writing, especially for books, rather than constant reminding that “we’re reporting what Bob said he felt”. Rather, if they say “The protest took place at 4 p.m. on Tuesday 32nd of Neverember”, then in reality it did take place between 3:55 and 4:05 p.m.

    That being said, I hope the following excerpt helps people understand why, later on, some people did not automatically believe (a) the accusations against Kavanaugh and (b) that the investigation was purely and 100% ‘nothing to do with politics, all to do with a heinous accusation’:

    Most of the anxiety on the left concerned abortion and other culture-war issues. The problem was not with Kavanaugh personally as much as the fact that he would replace a pivotal justice. In their haste to respond to the nomination, the organizers of the Women’s March accidentally issued a statement opposing “Trump’s nomination of XX to the Supreme Court.” Democracy forAmerica’s press release, apparently drafted with Amy Barrett in mind, referred to Kavanaugh as “she.” Protesters at the Supreme Court avoided the embarrassing “Mad Libs” signs — “#Stop _________” — they had used when Gorsuch was nominated. This time they had multiple printed versions ready to go, but the occasional “#StopKethledge” or “#StopHardiman” sign showed up in television shots of the crowd. These lapses confirmed what everyone already knew — to the left, it didn’t matter whom (sic) Trump nominated.

    …By the end of the night, the battle lines had been drawn. Establishment Republicans were delighted with the nomination of an official from the Bush administration. Grassroots conservatives were accepting if not enthusiastic. In their eyes, Kavanaugh was a standard-issue Bushie, a milquetoast nominee. Most conservative leaders kept their mild disappointment to themselves, understanding the precarious situation of the Senate. In fact, some in the White House had expected far more pushback both for selecting Kavanaugh and for not selecting the conservatives’ favorite, Judge Barrett. A few spoke out, but they were discouraged from making too much of it. While Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council did not oppose the nomination, he urged conservatives to “trust but verify” that Kavanaugh would be the justice they wanted. As for the progressive left, they didn’t need any more verification. They were enraged and ready to fight.

    I have to admit, I do like the bit about the ‘ready for any contingency’ signs for the protest 🙂

    • Nick says:

      There’s no need for the (sic)—whom is correct.

      • Erusian says:

        Matter is intransitive, so it is correctly ‘who’. “It doesn’t matter who you love.” is correct but “he helped whom he’d met.” is also correct.

        But it is a picky error.

        • Nick says:

          That’s not how relative clauses work; whom is the direct object of nominated, not matter.

          ETA:
          Compare “He helped the girl who ate the last cookie” with “He helped the boy whom the girl loved.” You can see the relative pronoun takes its case from its clause, not from the word in the main clause it agrees with. The reason for confusion in modern English is, as far as I can tell, that “whom” is simply dropping out of the language entirely, so that lots of sentences where whom was correct would be rendered who instead. Of course, I do not here pass judgment on this change, I only insist that the old way at least remains correct. 🙂

          • Erusian says:

            The sentence is “[…] To the left, it didn’t matter whom (sic) Trump nominated.”

            If it were the direct object of nominated, then the sentence, “Trump nominated whom it didn’t matter to the left.” would have to be correct. It isn’t.

            You could rearrange the sentence (awkwardly but correctly) to, “Who Trump nominated, it didn’t matter to the left.” Another way to think of it: the relative clause is modifying ‘it’ and therefore a nominative subject. Whom therefore violates adjective agreement.

            If you wanted to use whom, you’d have to construct the sentence, “The Left didn’t care whom Trump nominated.” Because then the Left is the subject and the nominee the object and the relative clause is modifying the object.

            Edit:

            Compare “He helped the girl who ate the last cookie” with “He helped the boy whom the girl loved.” You can see the relative pronoun takes its case from its clause, not from the word in the main clause it agrees with.

            No, only the second sentence has a relative clause. The first sentence’s clause is independent. So in the first, ‘who’ is a nominative part of an independent clause and needs no agreement while in the second ‘whom’ is a dependent part of a relative clause and needs to agree with ‘the boy’.

            Another way to think of it: ‘whom the girl loved’ is not a sentence. In order to keep the original meaning, the sentence must be ‘the girl loved the boy’. However, ‘Who ate the last cookie’ is a complete (but often unused) sentence. It would be correct but unusual to say, “He helped the girl. Who ate the last cookie.”

          • Nick says:

            “it” here is a f—king expletive, just like in the expression “it’s raining.” It means nothing; English just needs the verb to have a subject. If we’re going to rearrange the sentence, it becomes more clear that the relative clause (or, if you like, an implicit subject like “The one”) is the subject of matter. Thus we don’t need the expletive, and the correct rearrangement is “Whom Trump nominated didn’t matter to the left.” Which is correct.

            As I (rather clumsily) said, the relative pronoun does not agree with its referent. Compare “I found the girl whose book you stole”—obviously “whose” does not agree with girl, yet it’s correct. Or “The guy whom I robbed is some rich banker”; here the referent of whom is the subject of is, while whom itself is the direct object of robbed.

            It’s more easy to see if you consider examples with prepositions, e.g. “A banker from whom you can borrow some cash lives right there.” It would be nonsense to insist that whom should be who here simply because banker is the subject of lives. This is harder to see in English because we so often rearrange our relative clauses to keep the preposition with the verb, and we have tons of phrasal verbs; then we often reduce the relative clause, which masks it even further.

          • Nick says:

            No, only the second sentence has a relative clause. The first sentence’s clause is independent. So in the first, ‘who’ is a nominative part of an independent clause and needs no agreement while in the second ‘whom’ is a dependent part of a relative clause and needs to agree with ‘the boy’.

            Another way to think of it: ‘whom the girl loved’ is not a sentence. In order to keep the original meaning, the sentence must be ‘the girl loved the boy’. However, ‘Who ate the last cookie’ is a complete (but often unused) sentence. It would be correct but unusual to say, “He helped the girl. Who ate the last cookie.”

            I have no idea what you mean. “Who ate the last cookie.” is definitely not an independent clause. And even if it were, how does it differ from “The girl loved whom.”?

          • bullseye says:

            “Who” goes with “he”, and “whom” goes with “him”.

            Who is the judge? He is the judge.
            Whom did Trump nominate? Trump nominated him.

            In my second example, and in the clause that started this argument, the direct object “whom” comes at the beginning because English uses different word order under different circumstances.

    • Erusian says:

      That being said, I hope the following excerpt helps people understand why, later on, some people did not automatically believe (a) the accusations against Kavanaugh and (b) that the investigation was purely and 100% ‘nothing to do with politics, all to do with a heinous accusation’.

      Did anyone believe this? Genuinely curious. My Democratic friends openly admitted they objected to him because of his political positions long before they had heard his alleged crimes. The protests began when he was nominated, not when the accusations came forward (which was very late in the process).

      Likewise, is there anyone who doesn’t believe accusations of crimes against powerful figures aren’t frequently politicized attacks? Even if Christine Blaisey Ford was absolutely telling the truth, she didn’t come forward until he was nominated for the Supreme Court. She openly stated she did so because she didn’t want Kavanaugh to be on the court. The only difference in interpretation is that the Republicans believe it’s because she’s a Democrat and that the Democrats believe it’s because she doesn’t want to see her rapist achieve high honors. But there was general agreement that the nomination was the triggering event.

      Set aside the truthfulness of any specific accusations, in fact set aside Kavanaugh specifically. Does anyone really not believe that politicians don’t dig up dirt on their opponents? Do you believe Republicans investigated the Clinton’s cattle futures because they just really feel strongly about financial fraud, gosh darn it?

      • Deiseach says:

        Erusian, I think many people regarded the first mutterings of the Ford accusations as “wow, what an incredible coincidence that this came up just as it looked like someone the Dems vowed to fight tooth and nail was going to get the nomination” and that it came out of Feinstein’s camp didn’t help, what with her previous remarks about “dogma” to Coney Barrett. That it looked like a political stunt and was described as such by the conservative side drew forth angry responses from the liberal side that this was about Great Justice and not just ordinary political dirt-digging on the opposition and how dare you say that it’s not, this is how rape culture gets promoted in society!

        So what are the opposition going to do? Admit they’re weaponising rape charges for political purposes? That they don’t care if this is true or not as long as they can get someone they presume to be anti-abortion booted? That is not a good look for the crowd who have been presenting themselves all along as “we’re doing this for women and women’s rights”.

        I’ve tended to give Senator Feinstein the benefit of the doubt on this as I don’t think she deliberately leaked, and this book is saying her staff were often at odds with her and went off and did things without her approval, so that fits – to me – the idea that some staffer was frustrated she sat on the accusation (because she knew it was all ‘he said/she said’ and nothing proveable there) and, either off their own bat or in collusion with Ford, leaked it to the papers. Then Feinstein was forced to go “yes I knew about it” and to avoid the very accusations about “why didn’t you report this?” hurled at Kavanaugh about alleged sexual harrassment he allegedly witnessed when clerking for some judge, she had to go all the way with pushing it.

        Then we had everyone and their dog jumping in with an opinion online, and media in the US and elsewhere (I’ve seen opinion pieces in Irish media) calling Kavanaugh a rapist and from there going on to call the entirety of the Republican Party the party of rapists and rapist supporters, and the screaming harpies turning up at protests, and all involved claiming this was about women and rape and justice and not simply blocking a judge one side thought might rule against them in some hypothetical cases.

        I don’t know if this is true, but it does seem a bit hypocritical on the part of the Democrats if what is alleged here is true re: fake accusations at the peak of #MeToo and the rest of it:

        The Kavanaugh team were so focused on answering the committee’s written questions that they first assumed this [the Intercept report about Feinstein possessing a letter with Ford’s accusation] was a Democratic ploy to get them off track. And in any case, unsubstantiated allegations were a regular part of the confirmation process. Some members of the team recalled a rumor they had heard from a source close to liberal activists about a three-part plan to prevent Kavanaugh’s confirmation. First, someone would accuse him of sexual misconduct. Second, someone would accuse him of knowing something specific about Judge Kozinski’s sexual misdeeds. Third, someone would accuse him of improprieties with students at Georgetown Law School, where he had taught constitutional interpretation in 2007.

        • Erusian says:

          Might I suggest you’re looking at it unsympathetically? (And before I go further, I want to point out I think that Kavanaugh was treated unfairly in the public square. I’m not convinced of his innocence or guilt but I don’t think public opinion is a fair court.) Imagine your political opponents have nominated someone you disagree with for a powerful office. And then someone steps forward with evidence the nominee is a rapist.

          You don’t like them for entirely unrelated reasons. However, this also renders them unfit. Even if you agreed with them politically, any rapist is unfit for the Supreme Court. But you already disagreed with this person and this looks like it will keep them off the court. Now, the other side will just nominate someone else but at least it won’t be a rapist.

          Are they weaponizing rape charges? In effect, they are. But in their own minds, they are just opposing a rapist. It takes very little cognitive dissonance to not notice these charges seem to always come up every time the other party seems on the verge of a major victory.

          • Matt M says:

            Even if you agreed with them politically, any rapist is unfit for the Supreme Court.

            Ford did not accuse Kavanaugh of rape. She accused him of forcefully kissing her and maybe groping a little, IIRC. Even if she was 100% telling the truth, I don’t believe it disqualifies him for the Supreme Court.

          • albatross11 says:

            Matt M:

            There were two later accusers–one accused him of being part of a gang-raping gang, but as best I could tell, she was probably just a crazy person, and nobody could find any evidence to substantiate the accusation (which should have existed), the other was a fellow student with him who accused him of some kind of drunken weenie-wagging that wouldn’t have remotely been rape, but certainly would have qualified as bad behavior.

            At any rate, if he perjured himself about the claimed incident with Ford, that would be a reason to disqualify him from being a justice (or any kind of judge). But whether or not he perjured himself turns on whether you believe her plausible-but-impossible-to-substantiate accusation.

            One question I had after this whole thing blew up: If you took a random person in a prominent position in government or business, and subjected them to this level of ideologically-motivated search for accusations and general scrutiny (poring over high school yearbooks to look for rude jokes and incriminating comments), would the average person have more or less of this stuff than Kavenaugh. I’m not at all clear on the answer.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            And then someone steps forward with evidence the nominee is a rapist.

            Except they didn’t have any evidence. They had one claim, with no specifics, from decades ago, and when people tried to corroborate the story, even her friends said they had no idea what she was talking about. At that point they’re not really “opposing a rapist.”

            I am no fan of Kamala Harris, who I think will probably be the Democratic nominee for the Presidency. But if during the last week of October 2020 some man claims that when they were in high school 35 years ago Kamala Harris raped him at a party attended by 4 of their friends, and all 4 of their friends say “we have no idea what he’s talking about,” and I were to come on SSC and say “everybody, you can’t vote for Kamala Harris because she’s a rapist!!!!” I do not think anyone would believe I was simply “opposing a rapist.”

          • But whether or not he perjured himself turns on whether you believe her plausible-but-impossible-to-substantiate accusation.

            Even if she was telling the truth, it isn’t clear he would remember something he did when a drunk high school student that amounted to a sort-of attempted rape that didn’t come off.

            I don’t think it counts as perjury if your statement is false but you don’t know it is false.

    • BBA says:

      My experience is that left-wing court watchers were always frustrated with Kennedy. We found him an inconsistent, incoherent thinker and lamented that as the swing vote he’d be writing nearly all the opinions on contentious cases, especially when which side he took seemingly depended on what he had for breakfast that morning. It’s rewriting history to brand him as a “reliable liberal” that the left suddenly turned on when he announced his retirement.

      • Deiseach says:

        I did say a reliable liberal ally rather than a reliable liberal. My understanding is that he was nominated as a moderate conservative but frustrated everyone as you say, tending to veer towards the unexpected decision.

        The opinions presented are those of the authors, not mine, and you seem to be saying that despite voting for the ‘right side of history’ he was indeed not respected by liberals.

  5. tokugawa says:

    If you want to wade into some climate, forecasting and civilizational outlook topics, read on

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

    Wrote up the above reaction to a prior post of mine, shared in the below open thread. Apologies for not getting back to those commenting in the original thread; was away from the internet for about a week

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/26/open-thread-130-75/#comment-769663

  6. Le Maistre Chat says:

    About the controversial statistic “Blacks are 13% of Americans but commit 52% of the crimes”: is there evidence that integration makes this disparity go away, undercutting the reductive materialism of scientific racists who insinuate that humans are basically meat computers and whites and Asians are higher-quality ones on average?
    Here in Portland, where blacks are ~6% of the population, they’re over-represented in arrests and jails by a factor of 4.5, but also 45% of homicide victims: a factor of 7.5! In the absence of a large and active KKK lynching them, I feel like this can only be explained by >27% of homicide perps being black and usually killing people they know from non-integrated neighborhoods. “Gentrification” has been spreading black people from the historically black neighborhoods of Albina and NoPo to the cheapest mostly-white parts of the metro area, and if Afro-American culture is what causes them to disproportionately become criminals and crime victims, isn’t that a good thing?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      What were you hoping to get in response?

      Data on whether racial crime disparities in the US disappear when people are integrated, which I expect will be tough to analyze because of the controversy over whether per capita rates are already the same and police racism makes the difference (which I disagree with and think a black homicide victim multiple of 7.5 backs up).

      • albatross11 says:

        Is the claim that blacks commit crimes at a higher rate than whites actually controversial among people who seriously look at crime statistics? IMO, there’s basically no way to make those statistics plus the world we actually observe consistent with the idea that blacks and whites commit crimes at the same rate.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Among those who seriously look at crime statistics? I don’t know. But there’s definitely some who claim all the difference in arrest rate is racism and you’re a racist if you deny it.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          There can be matter of different policing, and things that whites get away with are prosecuted when black people do them.

          The counterpoint to this is that murders are pretty explicit. People notice if someone is dead and you can’t sweep that under the rug. There really are more proportionately more black murderers.

          The counter-counter-point is that I wonder how much of this has to do with poverty.

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s pretty clear it’s not *just* poverty, but I suspect it has to do with some kind of culture/environment/life strategy that leads to a cluster of bad stuff, like crime, poverty, single parenthood, poor health, early death, dependency, etc.

        • Clutzy says:

          There can be matter of different policing, and things that whites get away with are prosecuted when black people do them.

          But isn’t the whole thing about “different” policing mostly related to Comstat and officer allocation in reaction to stats?

          Some have more recently argued against broken windows policing, but I think that is more of a red herring. Each neighborhood has a different level of “broken windows” that it can tolerate before “normal” residents get intimidated and stop going out and being a real community with a social fabric. And that is actually what the initial articles on the theory argued.

          If you live on a campus in a big city, like I do currently, a “broken window” is when non-students/professionals come onto campus and harass/mug drunk college kids. Thus the cops employ a lot of resources at the “dividing line”. In other neighborhoods what they do is break up groups of teenagers who are having fires in trash cans at night, in commercial centers its mostly about keeping the sidewalks clean of trash & homeless so working people can actually walk to work. And in a sleepy suburb like where my grandparents moved to after retirement, a few loud teens after 10PM is considered an unacceptable “broken window”, they also have a cruising law.

          Thus, differences in “kind” as opposed to deployment, vis a vis public enforcement of statutes actually runs (mostly) opposite of what the “cops are racist” narrative would tell you. The places where the lowest level of obvious criminality get you in trouble are sleepy suburbs. There are just pattern differences. No one in the suburbs deals drugs on the street. They go to meetups in cars, or houses. Its a harder target for the cops. I’ve read local stories in my grandparent’s paper where police triumphantly talk about seizing $500 of meth, because that is a big bust for them. In the city, they wont even get out of their cruisers if they suspect something like that.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat

      “….if Afro-American culture is what causes…”

      Ah jeez LMC this is a minefield!

      Oh well, in for a dime in for a dollar, so here goes:

      Okay (as you’d expect) I take a semi-Marxian view, and think that most “problems with Afro-American culture” wouldn’t be problems if the unionized factory and shipyard jobs had continued for black men for more generations, I’ll recommend the book When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson, and Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam as a good surveys, and note that even Fox news Tucker Carlson (when he noticed the same social pathologies effecting the American white working-class with increased de-industrialization).

      For an alternative view that blames culture for poverty Charles Murray’s Coming Apart (which focuses on the white working-class) may be worth a read, as well as Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.

      For a specific focus of black inner-city culture there’s some of the works of Thomas Sowell, a black conversative-ish libertarian (endorsed Ted Cruz, cited Milton Friedman as an influence), particularly Black Rednecks & White Liberals, which builds on Albion’s Seed, and posits that inner-city black culture is descended from “the rural proletariat” of Dixieland, and derived from and has much in common with the “Scots-Irish” culture in Dixie (see Jim Webb’s Born Fighting as well as Vance’s book for more on that culture).

      Whew!

      As to the idea that how the place poor children grow up in effects their chances of escaping poverty? 

      Oh sweet lord yes it does, ’tis better to be born poor in Salt Lake City (which is mostly descended from New England puritan stock) or Seattle (which does have a fairly large mostly black neighborhood) than Atlanta (which is pretty caste bound in comparison, and has less economic mobility).

      Could gentrification be an aid?

      I doubt it, it seems to mostly cause displacement.

      What would help? 

      Total war mobilization, which is what brought black Americans to northern cities in the first place, and they thrived at first, and they continued to do well during the post-war boom when some industrial unions (the i.e. the U.A.W. and especially the I.L.W.U.) consciously integrated their memberships, the ’40’s and ’50’s was when black Americans economic prospects improved the most, even more than the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, which also saw significant improvement. 

      The years the “test score gap” between black American students and white students got closer during the ’70’s and ’80’s, and the late ’80’s were when American schools were most integrated A REMARKABLE AND SURPRISING COINCIDENCE! 

      Was some of that closure in the education gap due to making whites go to worse schools as well as blacks going to better ones? 

      Probably nationwide, and definitely in Berkeley where I and Kamala Harris were bussed. 

      Uplift and integration weren’t found “impossible”, they were found hard and expensive and abandoned. 

      World War 2, the early Cold War, and the ‘Great Society’ showed the way, they also showed the colossal scale necessary. 

      Modernity is too lazy and cheap ass to do it again soon.

      Just like going to the moon.

      Unfortunately the culture of the north is too secularised and dixieized (except for the Mormons who preserved some of the old New England culture in the west, but they’ve too few of them) to re-establish the Freedman’s schools of Reconstruction, so it looks to me that 

      the most likely avenue of uplift ironically is the parts of the black middle-class which has been returning to the south since the ’80’s and finding it hospitable, they seem to me to be the most well placed to do the “moral leading by example” that Charles Murray recommends that the white upper class do for the white working-class, and the reason that they’re better placed to do so is that they still go to church with the black lower class. 

      Still, it would be easier with plentiful “family wage” jobs again.

      *hint* *hint*

      (though the past couple of years have had median wages rise for the first time in decades, so maybe?)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Ah jeez LMC this is a minefield!

        I know! It’s unpleasant to even think about, because you know there will be repercussions for asking about data or engaging in dialectic, but hey, we’re talking about our fellow Children of God and citizens here…

        Okay (as you’d expect) I take a Marxian view, and think that most “problems with Afro-American culture” wouldn’t be problems if the unionized factory and shipyard jobs had continued for black men for more generations, I’ll recommend the book When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor by William Julius Wilson, and Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam as a good surveys, and note that even Fox news Tucker Carlson (when he noticed the same social pathologies effecting the American white working-class with increased de-industrialization).

        I mean, yeah. The data might not support “white people are just as criminal per capita”, but I was raised in a rough neighborhood of working-class homeowners and we had overwhelmingly white street crime and got used to protecting ourselves.

        For an alternative view that blames culture for poverty Charles Murray’s Coming Apart (which focuses on the white working-class) may be worth a read, as well as Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance.

        For a specific focus of black inner-city culture there’s some of the works of Thomas Sowell, a black conversative-ish libertarian (endorsed Ted Cruz, cited Milton Friedman as an influence), particularly Black Rednecks & White Liberals, which builds on Albion’s Seed, and posits that inner-city black culture is descended from “the rural proletariat” of Dixieland, and derived from and has much in common with the “Scots-Irish” culture in Dixie (see Jim Webb’s Born Fighting as well as Vance’s book for more on that culture).

        I’ve read Sowell and provisionally consider him correct. I don’t buy the 100% nature/no nurture truth claims that sees African-Americans as products of their African genes and not Anglos assimilated to the bottom of the class ladder during slavery and Reconstruction. “Scots-Irish/Borderers used to be just as rough” rings true.

        As to the idea that how the place poor children grow up in effects their chances of escaping poverty?

        Oh sweet lord yes it does, ’tis better to be born poor in Salt Lake City (which is mostly descended from New England puritan stock) or Seattle (which does have a fairly large mostly black neighborhood) than Atlanta (which is pretty caste bound in comparison, and has less economic mobility).

        Could gentrification be an aid?

        I doubt it, it seems to mostly cause displacement.

        What would help?

        Total war mobilization, which is what brought black Americans to northern cities in the first place, and they thrived at first, and they continued to do well during the post-war boom when some industrial unions (the i.e. the U.A.W. and especially the I.L.W.U.) consciously integrated their memberships, the ’40’s and ’50’s was when black Americans economic prospects improved the most, even more than the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, which also saw significant improvement.

        The years the “test score gap” between black American students and white students got closer during the ’70’s and ’80’s, and the late ’80’s were when American schools were most integrated A REMARKABLE AND SURPRISING COINCIDENCE!

        Yeah, I’m not surprised that integration led to better results in schools. I wonder and hope whether it would lead to better outcomes in other aspects of life, like housing.

        It’s a hard fact that WW2 and its aftermath was one of the best things that ever happened to Americans, because it can’t be replicated. There needs to be some other way to create lots of “family wage” jobs.

      • Atlas says:

        Okay (as you’d expect) I take a semi-Marxian view, and think that most “problems with Afro-American culture” wouldn’t be problems if the unionized factory and shipyard jobs had continued for black men for more generations

        RCA had a good post examining the popular hypothesis that racial differences in violent crime rates are driven by economic differences. (Which I realize is not, necessarily, what Plumber is arguing for here, but I think it’s highly relevant and informative nonetheless.)

      • albatross11 says:

        Sowell’s model seems like it explains the US pretty well. What do the relative black/white crime rates look like in, say, the UK, France, Belgium, and various Caribbean countries with mixed populations? If they’re much more similar in those countries, then that would be some evidence in favor of Sowell’s model; if black crime rates are higher in most/all of those places, then that would be some evidence against Sowell’s model.

        • Watchman says:

          No idea in the Caribbean, but immigrant communities in Belgium and France have much higher crime rates than anti-immigrant ones. But since these communities do not have large middle classes and are not generally found in rural area, the question I’ve never seen answered is whether they have higher crime rates than white poor urban communities.

          Note also higher crime rate occurs amongst at least some European immigrant communities, especially the Albanians and Roma. This might reflect their marginalisation or something about the statistics, or be a cultural thing or a common issue for relatively new immigrant communities…

          • albatross11 says:

            Are the Roma genetically distinct from the surrounding population? Like, can you tell someone’s Roma from a DNA test?

          • a reader says:

            Yes, somewhat – see here:

            http://dodecad.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-zombies-ancestral-north-indians.html

            Putting ANI/ASI to work: Romanian Gypsies

            I have previously detected 2 individuals in the Behar et al. (2010) Romanian sample that are likely to be of Roma (Gypsy) heritage. Here is a supervised admixture of the Romanian sample using the ANI/ASI components:

            The previously detected individuals do possess both ANI [Ancestral North Indians] and ASI [Ancestral South Indians] components, indeed these are:

            18.1, 15.3
            16.9, 16.4

            in the two individuals, which might be useful in constraining geographically the origin of European Gypsies along the Indian Cline.

        • Aapje says:

          For the Netherlands, the percentage of people suspected of a crime by ethnic group:

          Dutch: 0.8% (pale)
          Turkish: 2.5% (less pale)
          Suriname: 3.4% (black)
          Moroccan: 4.6% (less pale)
          Dutch Antilles: 5.1% (black)

      • John Schilling says:

        Okay (as you’d expect) I take a semi-Marxian view, and think that most “problems with Afro-American culture” wouldn’t be problems if the unionized factory and shipyard jobs had continued for black men for more generations

        From your elaboration on this point, it sounds like you’re talking about the post-WWII generation, say 1945-1970, as the high point of economic opportunity for African-Americans, and suggesting that if this had continued we wouldn’t see the great racial disparity in crime rates that we do. Unfortunately for that hypothesis, it looks like the relative disparity in black vs. white crime rates goes back to at least 1950, probably much further. Most importantly, it didn’t decrease significantly during that post-WWII “golden age”, nor increase in the following generation, nor really change very much at all over the period where economic circumstances changed greatly.

        Absolute crime rates, yes, changed quite a bit, but not the racial makeup of the people involved.

        I don’t think the historic record shines brightly on theories that, if you give people honest nine-to-five factory jobs, they’ll basically stop committing crimes. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a race thing, and if it’s a culture thing it’s not limited to black culture. Anyone who has read J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy will recognize a white redneck/Borderer culture which breeds a great many people who just can’t hold down a nine-to-five job even if it is offered to them on a silver platter and even if the alternative is a prison cell or an early grave.

        Both of those cultures have a shared origin in the Antebellum South, developed side by side. And both of them have a great many descendants who in fact adapted tolerably to factory jobs and later office and service jobs and worked their way into the middle class. For historical reasons, the ones who didn’t, I think split by race – most of the white ones stayed (or went home to) Appalachia, and the black ones wound up in the cities. And cities are much more fertile ground for the sort of predatory violent crime that we are implicitly talking about in this sort of discussion.

        We got most of the ones who could be lifted out of that set of cultures with the offer of a 9-to-5 job, and I don’t think the ones (black or white) who lost those jobs over the last generation, have turned to widespread criminality as a result. The criminals, are I think mostly the ones who(se ancestors) were criminals all along, eve when jobs were plentiful.

        • Zephalinda says:

          I think Albion’s Seed has permanently cemented for me that while demographics may matter somewhat, none of the categories we use are sufficiently granular to be meaningful– and especially so with statistics broken down by race. It makes no sense, for instance to talk about a set of “white” social statistics that silently average Borderer/Puritan/etc. findings in different measure over time. Also worth noting that most African-Americans have substantial European ancestry, which given historical geography is probably mostly also derived from Borderer stock. It would certainly be interesting if it turned out to just be just a Scots-Irish problem all the way down. (Come at me, Deiseach!)

          I also wonder whether there might be something ecological (?) going on, where given the heritability of traits like conscientiousness, openness, etc., you can have certain personalities overrepresented in certain populations, but those populations will also develop cultural structures optimized over time to deal with the local personality profile. According to that model the absolute worst thing you could do would be to take a bunch of diverse ancestral populations, strip off all their traditional ways, and aggressively implement a Universal Culture that’s custom-calibrated to promote the flourishing of people who are the average of Ben Franklin and John Adams, but almost nobody else. It reads as very “let’s plant all the same kind of tree in tidy little rectangles,” and we all know how that works out.

          I certainly wouldn’t say that there’s no context where the unemployed oxy dealers of Appalachia could be happy and productive, but that context, if it existed, might look much more like “defending your isolated farm from marauders/wolves” and less like “nice 9-5 job stocking shelves at CVS.”

          • Deiseach says:

            It would certainly be interesting if it turned out to just be just a Scots-Irish problem all the way down. (Come at me, Deiseach!)

            Ah yes, the “When Ulster was sending their people, they weren’t sending their best” problem 😀

            Scots-Irish is its own tangle of cultural and social prickliness, given the history behind the adoption of the term to distinguish the Ulster Scots stock who were the largest group of emigrants from Ireland to America starting in the 18th century, from the later-arriving native Catholic Irish who started mass emigrating during the 19th century.

            Seeing as how the Twalfth is going on around now, you can see for yourself the cultural imperatives still going on.

          • John Schilling says:

            “We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world.”

            And in this case, kicked out of two decent countries in succession, for being too violently clannish for Scotland or Ireland to tolerate. But, OK, we can work with that…

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Given the whole Lead Caused The Crime Wave thing, I would be utterly and completely unsurprised if it turns out that the entire disparity in racial crime in the US turns out to be “Vitamin D deficiency causes Lower Impulse control”.

          I mean, we know living at high latitudes with dark skin is super bad for you, because every population that has done so for any length of time has tossed their melanin overboard. How many african americans living today do you think get as much sun as the average zulu?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Quick visit to google scholar: Not only are convicts malnourished. Addressing this has a larger effect on recidivism rates than anything I can ever recall seeing.

            https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.597.2707&rep=rep1&type=pdf

            https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry/article/influence-of-supplementary-vitamins-minerals-and-essential-fatty-acids-on-the-antisocial-behaviour-of-young-adult-prisoners/04CAABE56D2DE74F69460D035764A498

            Apparently, when speaking of a “culture which leads to crime” what actually is happening is “A Kitchen leading to crime”.

            … And suddenly I am extremely concerned about the prevalence of fast food.

            No, seriously, the effect sizes of those experiments are out of this world. I also cant recall the last time I saw a sociological experiment with a p value of 0.001 And it is not because their experimental group was all that large.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Crime does not increase as latitude increases.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Not only are convicts malnourished. Addressing this has a larger effect on recidivism rates than anything I can ever recall seeing.

            I’ve heard that poor areas often lack good alternatives for buying groceries. The term “food desert” has been used.

            I’m personally aware of areas in one Canadian city where there is no source of groceries in walking distance – and others in the same city where the one source seems to specialize in rotten produce. (Every time I visit my relatives in that city, they take advantage of my rental car to buy a huge grocery order…. And while they are poor, they aren’t super poor – they (plus bank) own a house. I’d call them normal working class.)

            [Edit – it occurs to me that neither Europeans nor Americans may understand the problem. The Americans probably figure that even the absolute poorest have cars – not true even in the US – and would note that their own middle class exurbs don’t have food in driving distance either. (But they do have something pretty close to one car per adult, these days.) And the Europeans probably figure people can simply use public transit to get anywhere they need to.]

          • Deiseach says:

            “Vitamin D deficiency causes Lower Impulse control”.

            And with the allegations that POC are lactose-intolerant and that the promotion of dairy in the food pyramid is racism, then not enough sunshine and not able to get it via food is a real problem!

            Hmmm – the Irish tend to be Vitamin D deficient, the Irish have a reputation for being drunken violent louts – by Jove, I think you’re onto something! 😀

            (Though to be honest, if it was something as non-intuitive and simple to fix as this, wouldn’t it be great? Just get supplements into the diet and the disparity goes away. Too good to be true!)

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m personally aware of areas in one Canadian city where there is no source of groceries in walking distance – and others in the same city where the one source seems to specialize in rotten produce.

            Rotten because the greedy owner specifically buys rotten produce from shady suppliers at a discount? Or rotten because he buys the same produce as every other grocer in town but his customers leave it unbought on the shelves until it rots?

            We’ve been through this here before, and at least in the United States, “food deserts” are an overstated threat. There aren’t actual supermarkets within walking distance of everyplace, because supermarkets are optimized for selling carloads of food. In pretty much every neighborhood where the dominant population is poor immigrants, there are corner markets that sell the preferred ingredients of that ethnicity’s cuisine. Usually including fresh produce.

            In pretty much every neighborhood where the dominant population is poor native-born American, there are corner markets called “convenience stores”, which sell conveniently processed and packaged meals requiring at most a few minute’s nuking. Not coincidentally, poor(*) city-dwelling Americans don’t seem to be in the habit of actually teaching their children to cook healthy meals. Or any meals, for any definition of “cook” that requires more than pushing a few buttons and waiting for the ‘ding!’

            America’s merchant and entrepreneurial class provides even poor neighborhoods with the foods most of them are actually willing to buy. What you are seeing is not a “food desert”, but a culinary arts desert.

            * And increasingly middle-class as well, but they can afford a better class of restaurant/

          • DinoNerd says:

            Rotten because the greedy owner specifically buys rotten produce from shady suppliers at a discount? Or rotten because he buys the same produce as every other grocer in town but his customers leave it unbought on the shelves until it rots?

            No information on that. I suspect the business model is “be cheap by buying what other folks can’t sell, and then selling it at an ultra low price”, which works better for things that keep. (The place in question is more of a “discounts and overstocks, with a grocery section” than an actual grocery store.)

          • albatross11 says:

            One of the reasons I think it’s really important to look at this kind of data with open eyes is because that’s the only way I can imagine we’re ever going to get to any solutions.

            Consider the lead-crime hypothesis. I’m not sure whether the lead-caused-the-crime-wave hypothesis is true, though it sure seems to explain a lot. But the only way anyone could get to that hypothesis was to look at crime statistics that showed that crime got a lot worse at a particular time, and that it was more concentrated in some neighborhoods/social classes/racial groups than others. There were (and are) people out there demanding that nobody look at or talk about that data, because it was racist/classist or legitimized the oppressive prisons and police. I’m glad Kevin Drum and others ignored them and looked anyway, and tried to reason about what they found.

            I don’t know whether there’s some difference in nutritional needs between blacks and whites that explains the IQ gap[1][2]. But if there is, spending the whole defense budget for the next ten years on research to discover it would be a great bargain for the US. However, you can’t start looking until you know (and can acknowledge in public) about both the existence of important physical differences between blacks and whites, and about the racial IQ gap.

            There are really not very many problems where the best solution is “let’s not let anyone know about the problem or discuss it in public, and hope it resolves itself.”

            [1] Note that if such a thing existed, it would be a genetic cause of the IQ gap, just one with a really easy fix.

            [2] A nutritional gap at the wrong ages might plausibly work sort-of like lead exposure–permanently stunting brain development in a way that had bad consequences for behavior and intelligence for life.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            To point out how out-of-favor the “food desert” idea is, in 2012 the New York Times was shocked, shocked, at the idea and bewildered at how it could have arisen. Surely not through any of their reporting!

            https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/health/research/pairing-of-food-deserts-and-obesity-challenged-in-studies.html

            It is unclear how the idea took hold that poor urban neighborhoods were food deserts but it had immediate appeal

            Stores, whether you call them grocery stores or convenience stores, deliver what their customers want. It sounds cool to blame the evil sellers for not giving people apples, which are shelf-stable for 2-4 weeks even without a refrigerator. But if their customers don’t want apples, they don’t want apples.

            If you want to change this — and I think changing it is worthwhile — you must fix the demand.

          • I don’t know whether there’s some difference in nutritional needs between blacks and whites that explains the IQ gap[1][2].

            An academic of my acquaintance in a relevant field believes a lot of people suffer from vitamin D deficiency, and persuaded me to take substantial supplements. He thinks the problem is especially severe for blacks, both because of the sunlight to vitamin D issue and because vitamin D supplementation at present is in milk, and a lot of blacks are lactose intolerant.

            He routinely advises random blacks he encounters, such as cab drivers, to take supplements, which cost about three cents a day, and told me he had met one such black a second time who thanked him profusely for what he had found to be very good advice.

            He also implied that he wouldn’t discuss the point in print for fear of being labeled racist.

          • In Cell says:

            America’s merchant and entrepreneurial class provides even poor neighborhoods with the foods most of them are actually willing to buy.

            The implicit assumption in your model is that the set of foods provided don’t have an affect on the set of foods people are willing to buy. But that is absurd.

      • Deiseach says:

        Ah jeez LMC this is a minefield!

        It is, particularly as it is undeniable that slavery and the after-effects of slavery had a massively distorting effect on African-American culture and the place of African-Americans in mainstream society, so ill-effects propagated, were adopted, and sufficiently assimilated to carry on after emancipation.

        It’s very easy to make any mention of those ill-effects (a) indeed becvictim-blaming (b) interpret it as being about victim-blaming, but without examinging “is this culture harmful to the people living in it?”, you can’t make any analysis of what is going on and what solutions may help.

        We have the same problem in Ireland with Traveller culture; the old, separate mode of life had problematic elements, and once it clashed with the culture adopted by modern mainstream society, the worst of both worlds happened: the old safeguards within the traditional culture were weakened or destroyed by post-sexual liberation, post-challenge authority, post-liberalisation mores, and none of the mainstream society’s adaptations to deal with this were adopted. So (for instance) a culture that had little to no educational achievement, early marriage, large families, and women in a secondary role but also had strong taboos against sex outside of marriage, breakup of marriage, illegitimacy, etc. now has the same ‘out of school early, women in a secondary role’ elements but has also got the problems of single mothers with several children, men having multiple partners (moving on from one to another and impregnating as they go), breakdown of marriage, and reliance on state welfare/petty criminality. And equally any criticisms are seen as/deflected as “it’s our culture! you’re racist!”

        Just to clarify, everyone is white Irish. We’re not talking about Roma here, Irish Travellers are natives and indeed had little to nothing to do with English Gypsies/Romany, much less actual Eastern European Roma.

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s not actually all that clear how much of an effect slavery has on modern black culture–it’s been a hell of a long time since slavery existed in the US. And my impression is that a lot of stuff that’s often blamed on the legacy of slavery (high out-of-wedlock birthrate, high crime) got worse in the decades *after* slavery, especially in the 60s-90s.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Jim crow literally meant you ran a large chance of getting murdered if you were conspicuously successful and not melanin-deficient. That sort of thing has got to leave a mark.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think you’re overstating Jim Crow a bit, but yeah, cultural and economic effects of Jim Crow (which ended in living memory) and later bits of widespread discrimination (some still going on) seems a lot more plausible than similar effects of slavery, which at this point have to have been passed through five or six generations.

            Slavery ended about 20 years after the end of the Irish potato famine. The potato famine had a lot of impact on getting Irish to go to other countries, but I’m skeptical that I can learn a lot about my family’s current-day behavior[1] from considering the legacy of the potato famine.

            [1] Largely, but not entirely, of Irish ancestry.

          • Thomas Sowell’s argument in Ethnic America started with the fact that West Indian immigrants are quite successful, get up to average U.S. income in one generation. They are blacker than the average Afro-American, so that doesn’t fit either a genetic explanation of lower black incomes or one blaming discrimination.

            His explanation, as best I remember it, was that southern American slavery was essentially socialist (economist’s sense), with the slave owner taking the role of the central planner telling everyone else what to do. West Indian slavery was more nearly serfdom, with the slave owing some amount of labor to his master but otherwise running his own life. The latter institutions produced a culture much better suited to freedom than the former.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman,
            It could also be that immigrants from West Indies are self selected for a certain amount of ambition and competance as they got themselves to the United States.

          • In Cell says:

            Slavery ended about 20 years after the end of the Irish potato famine. The potato famine had a lot of impact on getting Irish to go to other countries, but I’m skeptical that I can learn a lot about my family’s current-day behavior[1] from considering the legacy of the potato famine.

            Right. Unlike slavery, the Irish potato famine did not even result in the Irish population adopting a foreign language and religion. There is some cultural memory of it as an event. It was not formative of an entirely new culture like slavery.

      • edmundgennings says:

        I am generally skeptical of poverty causing most of the increased crime rate correlated with it. Firstly, my sense of the research is that of papers that are open to alternative explanations, they heavily find that poverty is only causally responsible for a relatively small amount of the correlation. For example https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4180846/ Given the general climate in academia, this type of literature seems only able to exist if in fact it is the case.
        Secondly there are an enormous amount of things that seem likely to cause both poverty and a higher propensity to crime. Lower impulse control, higher aggression- bad conflict management, lower intelligence, higher discount rate, not working well with authority, dysfunctional family structure, dysfunctional local government, dysfunctional culture, etc.
        However, I suspect that especially among the relatively older potentially criminally inclined youth, say a 22 year old, the social and economic viability of regular employment is helpful to prevent people from going down paths that make them much more likely to engage in crime. If there is a good path that one can reasonably take then one is less likely to take a bad path. However, questions like social prestige will be at least as important as how many consumer goods will this path get me. I suspect that the social prestige of lower level jobs has eroded and it is harder to get back that it would be to boost the level of consumer goods that lower level employment can purchase. I suspect that the number of consumer goods that a low level job can purchase has increased dramatically since the forties, especially because cost disease is worse on luxury goods. Family wage jobs are needed but pater familias jobs(sufficiently high status to get married: is there a name for this?) are at least as important and I have no idea how to get there.

      • This graph shows U.S. median real income trending generally up from about 1968 (when the graph starts) on, with the overall increase about 31%. Do you have a separate figure for wages? If so, how does it take account of fringe benefits, most obviously employer provided health insurance?

        • (That was a response to Plumber’s claim that

          the past couple of years have had median wages rise for the first time in decades

          By the time I realized that I hadn’t quoted what I was responding to it was too late to edit my comment)

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman

          “…wages…”

          Oh sure, for post ’73 trends here’s: Hourly wages by education, 1973–2011,

          and wages just for men: here,

          and for women: here

          Also relevant (I think) is: Black median family income, as a share of white median family income, 1947–2013,

          which peaked around 1970.

          as the chart in your link suggests more “pay” is going to benefits, I know for about ten years in my union hourly ‘take home pay’ decreased, but the cost to the contractors for each hour worked increased, and ‘wage allocation’ union meetings were contentious – with youngeryounger, single childless members opposed to the older Dad members, ’cause the childless younger guys wanted more pay rather than continued family health insurance, and “benefits’ don’t pay the rent. 

          Other charts I’ve seen indicate that median take home pay has gone up since about 2015, and bear in mind that the percentage of the population with ‘some college’ has grown since ’73, but now as then the majority of the population, even over 25 years old, doesn’t have a college diploma, and the percentage of black Americans without one is higher than white Americans. 

          It’s a bit of an irony that during the Presidency of the first ‘black’ man to occupy the office with the first African-American first lady in the White House, median family wealth actually went negative for African-Americans, and I’ve said before that effective ‘Affirmative action’ for the majority of American blacks lasted for about five years during the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, Roosevelt’s order of non-discrimination in munitions plants and ‘Liberty’ and ‘Victory’ ship-building, and Truman’s desegregation of the Army in the ’40’s were more effective for economic gains.

          I’ve said before that the neighborhood my parents bought a house in just before I was bussed to Kindergarten in ’73 was majority black, and our immediate neighbors really were middle-class, married, suit wearing on Sundays, respectable homeowners, – which didn’t last past the ’80’s crime wave, and by the mid-’90’s the neighborhood was majority white, but still with a majority black Baptist church that now had parishioners mostly come from outside the neighborhood to attend (not unlike the Catholic church a mile away that was left over from when the neighborhood was Portuguese), and it sure looked to me like a fall in living standards. 

          Come 2015 to now, and the innumerable stories on “Trump’s base” and the increase in unwed births, increased drug abuse, decreased labor participation, and even decreased life expectancy of the American ‘white working-class’, and the stories just looked to me like a striking parallel, and repeat of those of inner-city black Americans of previous generations, including the term ‘culture of poverty’.

          Some peoples do better, i.e. Vietnamese-Americans went from “those boat-people gangsters” to “model minority” really fast (certainly faster than ththe Irish), but I had two take-aways from Albion’s Seed

          1) Culture casts a very long shadow

          2) The “founder effect” is important, and assimilation works, most Americans aren’t of British isles descent (most white Americans ancestors came from German speaking areas – most notably in the Midwest), yet the Borderer/Cavalier/Puritan/Quaker cultures are still dominant. 

          Not everyone is destined for “Tech” ot the faculty lounge, and it’s past time for more paths to supporting  a family were promoted, and you have to work with what you have (this is land mine stuff, I really hope not to offend), and most black Americans culture is closer to Borderer and Cavalier than Puritan and Quaker, and southern white evangelicals look very similar culturally to a lot of African-Americans, and yes they can be professors and programmers, but military service, frequent church-going, and “helmets-to-hardhats” will uplift more.

          Easy and plentiful access to high school welding classes (and I’m thinking specifically about Kennedy High School in Richmond, California and their need for a welding teacher), and church-going grandmothers may do more for uplift than university set-asides – which I think are more about signalling than anything else, as would more civil servicd paid “internships” for youth from certain neighborhoods.

          Assimilation into Puritan-Quaker can work (given a lot of time), but help being better Borderer-Cavalier would be faster, as would rising the fortunes of the working-class, instead of “equal opportunities” to be “creative-class knowledge-workers”.

          Maybe the shipyards closed with the end of the Vietnam war will never come back, and maybe with a ‘Green New Deal’ the refinery jobs will also fade away, but people still want houses, refrigerators, and cars, and robots can’t do everything yet (I’ve a hard time imagining how to automate my job), so look for “shovel ready” ways for uplift, and I for one feel that making it easier for the Nigerian ambassador”s kids to go to Harvard and calling thaf “equal opportunity” is a dodge, and now that more whites are falling into the “culture of poverty” trap as well, that really should be obvious. 

          Restart ‘vocational education’, restart the WPA (yes I’m a broken record, ’cause I still think so!), more ‘paid internships’/apprenticeships, and less “off-shoring”.

          EDIT: After I posted I saw your additional post, so
          here
          on stagnant incomes for a long time, and
          here
          on wages and benefits, as to “finally rising” see
          here.

          I’m sure there’s more to be found, but it’s way past bed-time.

        • Oh sure, for post ’73 trends here’s: Hourly wages by education, 1973–2011,

          That doesn’t justify your claim, which was about median wage, not median wage by education. The table shows median wages falling for lower levels of education, rising for higher.

          But over the relevant period (1973-2011) the distribution of educational attainment has changed. Eyeballing the relevant Wiki graph, the percentage with college degrees has more than doubled and the percent who have completed high school has also increased substantially. So even if every educational category had had declining median wages, the overall median could have gone up as people shifted into higher paid educational categories.

        • @Plumber:
          One of your links near the end is to figures on median household income. But household size has fallen during that period, which makes that a misleading statistic with regard to wages..

          For the extreme case, consider a married couple each of whom earns $50,000. Household income $100,000. They get divorced, turning one household into two. Median household income is now $50,000, even though wages have not changed.

    • albatross11 says:

      What you can get from existing crime statistics is that blacks get arrested for stuff a lot more often than whites, and apparently commit most crimes at a much higher rate than whites do. The homicide numbers show blacks committing murder at (IIRC) 8x the rate of whites, and also being victims at 7x the rate of whites. And murder is like 90% within-race. ]

      It’s clear that crime rate is heavily based on something other than genes, because crime rates fluctuate a lot more quickly than gene frequencies can plausibly change. It’s absolutely clear that different societies have different levels of various kinds of crime or violent behavior or whatever. It also seems plausible that there could be genetic predispositions to violence or some other kinds of criminal behavior–there are genetic predispositions to a bunch of personality and behavioral traits, after all. It’s plausible that these genes differ in fraction across races, but I don’t know of any evidence either way. I think evidence either way would be interesting to know, but that’s probably because I’m an evil believer in humans being meat robots interested in knowing what reality looks like even when it’s not to my liking.

      I imagine there are a lot of confounders between integration level of neighborhood and crime rate in the neighborhood, but there’s probably data that correlates between the two. If you controlled for region and economic status of the neighborhoods you might find some evidence for or against integration lowering the black/white crime rate gap.

      There are surely huge confounders in looking at state-level data (beware Simpson’s paradox!), but you could look to see the relative arrest rate of blacks/whites in different states, by fraction of the state that’s black.

      I imagine the best data would be finding blacks who were raised in more/less integrated environments, and then tracking how many of them ended up in jail. Some dataset like the NLSY might have this kind of data (they interview their subjects every 5-10 years, and I think often do interviews in prison). This sounds like the kind of analysis Raj Chetty has been doing, but I think he’s looked mainly at economic mobility rather than crime.

      But if you’re actually interested in looking into this, I think you need to start out by accepting that you might not find the answer you want. The way you asked your question made it clear you very strongly want to find that integration solves the problem, so you can tell all those bad evil yucky scientific racists that they’re wrong. If you go into asking the question with a fervent desire to believe one possible answer, especially in a question that’s this fuzzy with this many ways to interpret data, I imagine you’ll convince yourself of what you want to believe.

      • Deiseach says:

        What you can get from existing crime statistics is that blacks get arrested for stuff a lot more often than whites, and apparently commit most crimes at a much higher rate than whites do.

        That is one of the big questions here, is it not?

        Do black people get arrested disproportionately? That is, do black people get arrested and sentenced more because of racism, or because they commit more crime?

        It’s probably a bit of A and a bit of B but that satisifes nobody: it’s certainly possible that black people commit more crime and that they are sentenced more harshly. That then goes on to “but are they sentenced more harshly because racism, or because they are perceived as more criminal/violent as a population? And are they perceived as more criminal/violent as a population because racism, or because they are?” and you never get to the end of that rabbit hole.

        If, for whatever reasons and the effects of slavery are also complicit in this as well as whatever genetic predispositions may or may not be in effect, black culture does promote increased criminality/violence (maybe you feel you need to be part of a gang for protection; there’s a cultural emphasis on being tough and not taking disrespect from anyone; the ‘it’s our culture to be louder and more active than whites’ I’ve seen as an explanation for everything from “black kids can’t be expected to sit quietly and listen in class” to “a group of black women were asked to leave a restaurant for being loud and that’s racist”) then it will be necessary to look at “is there anything that can be done to change black culture to make it emphasise and inculcate and promulgate these traits less?” and simply accusing any attempt at this as “racism” is not going to help anyone.

        On the other hand, there are people who want to prop up their prejudices and biases with science – be that scientific racism or ‘science has proven conservatives are stupider, more fearful, and make all their decisions based on disgust’. That too has to be acknowledged.

        • Do black people get arrested disproportionately? That is, do black people get arrested and sentenced more because of racism, or because they commit more crime?

          In the case of murder, the data on race of victim provides a pretty clear answer to that question. It seems to be pretty generally agreed that most murder is intraracial, and blacks are much more likely to be victims of murder than whites. The race of the victim is pretty unambiguous.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Any explanation that uses poverty in some material sense as a causal variable is stuck with the problem that people 70-80 years ago were impoverished by modern standards. Even with cross-country comparisons, you can find countries that are poorer on average than the US but less violent; even when broken down by sub-groups. You also find that disparities in the commission of crime do not go away when you control for income *within the united states*.

          Lead was one of those factors that was shown to have a robust effect on behavior, but the amount of lead someone is exposed to today is far less than what it was a few decades ago.

          It is only relative poverty at a given point in time that appears to have some connection to crime, but given how poorly it performs in explaining in the other instances, it’s actually more plausible that crime is causing poverty rather than the other way around (or something else is causing them both independently)

          The legacy of slavery argument can be tested by comparing descendents of slaves in the US with non-descendents of slaves (immigrants from similar country of origin), you can also compare with the performance in other OECD countries or looking at crime in the countries of origin. You can also do this to test the segregation hypotheses, as there ought to be by now a few EU countries with immigrant and refugee populations that are
          1. Not necessarily pre-selected for educational attainment or merit
          2. Countries had no history of segregation
          3. Immigrant and refugee populations come from several regions of the world

          My guess is, either the unthinkable hypothesis is correct to some degree, or every gap that has existed historically and across different countries has an enviromental or cultural cause that is unique to the time and place and therefore isn’t practically testable even with a robust dataset. The number one problem with the unthinkable hypothesis is that, if it were correct, there would be no end of other alternative explanations because so many signifiers of poor social conditions would coincide with being prone to commit crime at any given point in time.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          It’s probably a bit of A and a bit of B but that satisifes nobody: it’s certainly possible that black people commit more crime and that they are sentenced more harshly.

          For instance, I’ve seen data that income strongly correlates with IQ, suggesting that the income gap between blacks and whites is really the 15 point gap in average IQs between the groups. However, if you correct for IQ, the black and white income gap does not disappear: a white man with an 85 IQ still tends to make more than a black man with an 85 IQ. That to me indicates culture and/or racism are still at play in income disparities.

          • Aapje says:

            Part of that can be that dumb white people get help from their smart white family more than dumb black people get help from smart black family.

        • J Mann says:

          Do black people get arrested disproportionately? That is, do black people get arrested and sentenced more because of racism, or because they commit more crime?

          It’s probably a bit of A and a bit of B but that satisifes nobody: it’s certainly possible that black people commit more crime and that they are sentenced more harshly.

          My recollection is that’s what the data shows. Some minority groups in the US both commit more crimes and are sentenced more harshly than whites for similar crimes and criminal histories – prosecutors tend to select harsher crimes at the charging stage, minorities are less likely to receive a “downward departure” from sentencing guidelines if convicted, get offered less attractive plea deals, etc.

          (IIRC, there’s a similar effect for men vs women – men commit more crimes, but also fare worse on average than women who commit similar crimes.)

    • Well... says:

      Let me know if this is an accurate rewording of the question in the OP:

      If you control for everything except criminal behavior, does the gap in criminal behavior between blacks and whites disappear?

      • Aapje says:

        In my country, the crime rate for some ethnic groups is the same as for equally poor whites.

        Yet then the question is why these groups are so poor. Is that lack of integration, lack of opportunity, racism against them, a low IQ, etc; or a combination and if so, what combination?

        Depending on the answer, very different conclusions may be correct.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Just finished Secret of our Success. I really recommend it, it’s relevant to a lot of stuff not included in the review. In particular it has a chapter titled something like “Biological, but not genetic”. tl;dr: culture alone is the cause of many biological (i.e. hardware) adaptations, including a lot of rewiring in the brain that’s quite obvious when you look for it. Genetic differences on the other hand are much weaker – most of the group differences are actually irrelevant to fitness. Cultural differences also have a lot more inertia: winners and losers mix genetically in one generation, but culturally they either stay separated or get assimilated. Actual cultural melange like US is supposed to have been is actually pretty rare.

    • broblawsky says:

      One thing that’s worth noting is that, in studies of crime in Chicago, criminal activity hasn’t been produced directly by economic factors but rather by exposure to criminal activity itself. Once crime becomes normalized, it behaves almost like a virus; people exposed to organized crime while young are vastly more likely to become criminals. The Random Critical Analysis link posted by @Atlas already demonstrated that the correlation between single-motherhood and crime is stronger than the correlation between poverty and crime, but there are other, intra-community factors that have vastly stronger correlations:

      Simply being arrested during this period increases the aggregate homicide rate by nearly 50%, but being in a network component with a homicide victim increases the homicide rate by a staggering 900% (from 55.2 to 554.1).

      The social nature of crime explains unusual patterns of criminal far better than genetics or economics.

    • Deiseach says:

      I had to look up what “hatefact” meant. Can people please consider that not everyone is tuned in to current progressive jargon and instead simply quote the offending/offensive statement then say why it is offending/offensive?

      • brad says:

        So the background here is that LMC used that term in the OP and then after I objected edited it out. From my perspective a good thing but it leaves my post seeming a non sequitur.

        My understanding is that “hatefact” is not progressive jargon but an alt right term coined to mock progressives.

        • Deiseach says:

          Thanks for the explanation, brad. I can’t keep up with all the new terms du jour that are mandatory usage on pain of pain by one side and fakes to mock the threat of pain of pain by the other!

          I did think it sounded a little Orwellian and rather too much so, but I couldn’t say if it was a fake or real, such is the level to which polarisation has gotten.

        • albatross11 says:

          The way I’ve seen the term used is that “hatefact” refers to facts which, when raised in a conversation, are often used as evidence of racism / sexism / hateful intent. It’s definitely dismissive of the other side, but it also actually refers to a real thing–well-documented facts that a largish set of people in the world get made at you for mentioning in public.

          Basically, all the data cited in Damore’s memo, everything in The Bell Curve, crime rates broken down by race, etc. all fall into this category. Mentioning these things in the company of American mainstream liberals and progressives is like mentioning fossil evidence and radiocarbon dating and the implications of seeing galaxies from Earth for the age of the universe in a room full of fundamentalist young-Earth creationists. Even if they’re willing to accept that all those things are facts to be explained, bringing them up makes them suspect you of ill intent.

        • brad says:

          This is the equivalent of saying “yes crotchfruit is derogatory but actually kids do come from a crotch and they are offspring just like fruit”.

          Just as I said in my original post to LMC using the term “hatefact” means you have no interest in engaging with anyone that doesn’t already share your worldview pretty closely.

        • This is the equivalent of saying “yes crotchfruit is derogatory but actually kids do come from a crotch and they are offspring just like fruit”.

          The only reason to call kids crotchfruit is to offend people—the relevant facts are ones that everyone knows and there is no reason to point out, especially in that way. If it is true that blacks have a much higher murder rate than non-blacks, surely relevant to interpreting arrest rates, is there an inoffensive way of stating the fact? If not, the objection is to a true fact being stated, not to the particular way someone chooses to state it.

          How do you feel about the analogy to describing the fossil evidence for the age of the Earth to a creationist? Is that also objectionable for the same reason?

        • brad says:

          @DF
          I think maybe we are talking past each other. My objection is to the use of the term “hatefact”, which the post I responded to originally contained, not the phenomenon it allegedly describes.

        • albatross11 says:

          I understand the term isn’t so productive for building dialog, so I don’t generally use it in my own writing. But the concept is an important one to have in your mind, and having a name for it is useful for keeping the concept.

        • I think maybe we are talking past each other.

          Sounds like it. My error.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think you’ll have problems finding enough integration to answer the question. The US remains rather segregated. Even places integrated at the finest level for which statistics are available are often segregated at a finer level, and even places geographically integrated may be culturally segregated. Gentrification, as far as I can tell, doesn’t cause integration; neighborhoods do not integrate, they “change”. The former population is replaced and goes elsewhere.

      • Aapje says:

        Yeah, the new influx of hipsters buy at the new shops, where they sell their preferred organic free-range, no-child labor coffee for $10 a sip, while the old, poorer guard buy elsewhere, at their vanishing shops.

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,
      I just came across an interesting essay by Thomas Edsall in The New York Times Where Segregation Persists, Trouble Persists that has lots of links to studies on the effects of growing up in “toxic neighborhoods”: 

      “.. .There is a large body of evidence that shows that African-American children perform better when they move out of high-poverty areas into more middle class, less segregated neighborhoods. Academic achievement improves, college completion rates go up, arrests go down, unwed parenthood declines and employment rates go up, with better pay….”

      “.“Exposure to neighborhood violence, incarceration, and lead combine to independently predict poor black boys’ later incarceration as adults and lower income rank relative to their parents, and poor black girls’ teenage motherhood,” Robert  Manduca and Robert J. Sampson, both sociologists at Harvard, write in a paper that was published in April, “Punishing and toxic neighborhood environments independently predict the intergenerational social mobility of black and white children….”

      I can’t suss out from the links if the children of families ambitious enough to leave those neighborhoods would’ve done better anyway, but it seems likely that neighborhood really matters. 

  7. brad says:

    Does “wisdom” cut reality at the joints?

    Even though a sufficiently retarded person is overwhelmingly likely to be clumsy nonetheless dexterity is a legitimately distinct concept. Is the same true of wisdom and intelligence? If wisdom is a valid independent concept is it concrete enough that there could be consensus in principle on a measure or measures of wisdom?

    • albatross11 says:

      It’s an interesting question. My sense is that wisdom varies somewhat independently of intelligence, but I’m not sure I’d think of someone as wise if they weren’t reasonably smart–even though being wise doesn’t require being brilliant.

    • rahien.din says:

      Intelligence : computation/description :: wisdom : interpretation/action

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I would call wisdom, “the ability to make good choices.” It can be domain-specific – a gambling addict who’s good at matchmaking is both wise and not wise – but I think it makes sense as a concept.

      • LesHapablap says:

        Wisdom comes at least in part from experience, and probably role models. So that jives with what you are saying here.

    • John Schilling says:

      “Wisdom” as used as a statistic in role-playing games often seems to be trying real had to mean “Willpower”, without denying the players the absolute agency to dictate their PC’s actions.

      I think the major joints along which reality neatly cuts, are “Intelligence”, “Knowledge”, and “Willpower”, with “Wisdom” being ill-defined.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        You don’t think phronensis cleaves reality at a joint?
        Quickness to learn and IQ peak somewhere between early childhood and age 18, while practical wisdom is claimed to only go up with age, with a provisio for senility.

      • brad says:

        I noticed when I wrote my comment that the references to intelligence, dexterity, and wisdom was going to make people think d&d but I couldn’t think I’ve better substitutes. I’m asking about colloquial wisdom.

        I’m not sure knowledge quite gets there. Maybe you’re suggesting that it’s knowledge plus willpower?

        • albatross11 says:

          I kind of think of Wisdom as knowing how to work within the constraints of your own mind and nature and limitations. Like, being smart is great at helping you win an argument (whether you’re right or wrong), but wisdom involves recognizing that you tend to jump into arguments too quickly and backing off and listening first.

        • Nornagest says:

          “Dexterity” is probably what’s doing it; I hardly ever see it outside RPG contexts. I’d have gone for something like “agility” or “grace”.

      • bullseye says:

        The only RPG with “Wisdom” that I know of is D&D, in which Wisdom explicitly includes Will (used to resist mind control), perception (with the silly result that old people have better eyesight and hearing), and religious faith. The White Wolf games have “Willpower” but no “Wisdom”. So I don’t feel that they’re using Wisdom to avoid saying Willpower.

        • Nornagest says:

          White Wolf’s Willpower isn’t really supposed to model a personality trait — it’s more HP-like than stat-like in D&D terms. But the Storyteller System does have Perception. Wits, too, although that also covers some of what D&D would call Intelligence (Storyteller has INT too, but it’s narrower).

          The later, not-to-be-confused Storytelling System kept Wits, but swapped Perception out for Resolve, and added Composure.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        You’re definitely missing a large principal component which I think “wisdom” may try to describe. You might call it common sense. I’m thinking about the ability to use discretion, to control impulses (not in the willpower sense, but in the “wait, no, that’s a bad idea!” sense), and generally make calm and well-reasoned decisions. (Note that intelligence certainly decides how good your reasoning is, but not if you choose to use it when faced with a particular challenge.)

        To some extent what I’m describing is, well, maturity. Or at least well-correlated with age. For some reason (hormones? actual brain development? Don’t think it’s lived experience) I pick fewer dumb fights than I did at 22.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’d call it a mix of instrumental rationality and experience. Experience can be second hand (i.e. books) but it has to consist of a lot of known patterns, not theoretical knowledge.

      Of course, in practice it’s used in more contexts. The opposite of wise is often a fool, which is quite often not an ignorant but one with a weak executive function – ergo the willpower connection.

      • For a different approach, perhaps wisdom is having a well calibrated set of priors, intelligence the ability modify priors correctly in response to new data.

    • Deiseach says:

      Intelligence is “can I make a button that when you push it, it makes a lot of things go boom?” Wisdom is “should I push that button?”

      Tolkien says of the Noldor that they were wise in the sense of being intelligent, having much lore and knowledge, but not wise in the sense of “what could possibly go wrong?” 🙂

      The particular branch of the High-Elves concerned, the Noldor or Loremasters, were always on the side of ‘science and technology’, as we should call it: they wanted to have the knowledge that Sauron genuinely had, and those of Eregion refused the warnings of Gilgalad and Elrond. The particular ‘desire’ of the Eregion Elves – an ‘allegory’ if you like of a love of machinery, and technical devices – is also symbolised by their special friendship with the Dwarves of Moria.

      I should regard them as no more wicked or foolish (but in much the same peril) as Catholics engaged in certain kinds of physical research (e.g. those producing, if only as by-products, poisonous gases and explosives): things not necessarily evil, but which, things being as they are, and the nature and motives of the economic masters who provide all the means for their work being as they are, are pretty certain to serve evil ends. For which they will not necessarily be to blame, even if aware of them.

  8. Yair says:

    In the most recent Morning Consult, Reuters-Ipsos and Washington Post-ABC News polls, more Sanders supporters name Biden as their second choice than Warren.

    Does anyone have any theories as to why this would be so? If true, it doesn’t seem good for the chances of progressives in the Democratic primaries.

    • Plumber says:

      @Yair,
      My first thought is that it’s simple name recognition.

      Warren’s made a splash but she’s never run for President before while Sanders and Biden have, otherwise? Yeah it’s puzzling, as Warren seems closer ideologically to Sanders than Biden does.

      Maybe some voters just like old east coast men and a younger (70 instead of 76 or 77) midwestern gal isn’t the same?

      • Dan L says:

        Nailed it. Probably? You’ve mentioned the most popular factors I’ve seen raised as to why, in order, but nobody can say for certain.

        Don’t have a cite on hand at the moment, but I recall a figure (pre-first debate, but not sure if it would have shifted) that the most popular second choice among Biden supporters was Sanders, and the most popular second choice among Sanders supporters was Biden. It went both ways.

      • Deiseach says:

        Plumber, I suspect that it may be because she really hurt herself with that DNA test, and also she has many similarities to Hillary Clinton: old white blonde relatively well-off woman who makes big claims about her relatively deprived background* despite being solidly lower-middle class at the least and constantly strivingly aspirational to her ‘real’ place in society**, and comes off as very wonkish about policy which is fine as a Cabinet member but not so fine as potential President because in an election campaign voters don’t care about fine-tuning paragraph ix, sub-section (c), section 59 of the Thingamajig Importation Act 1958, they want a big soaring vision for the country and promises of jam today, jam forever!

        “Hope and Change” is very mockable, but it’s also a very effective slogan. Contrast that with “I’m With Her” and the other shuffling of slogans that Clinton’s campaign came up with. What is Warren’s slogan – “Much of a muchness”? “Some more of some things, fewer of others”? “Economic justice for the squeezed middle”? Everyone is promising that last, and Sanders has dibs on the economics bit since his own previous campaign. Can you think of a Warren presidential campaign slogan?

        *In 2012 when she was fighting an election against Scott Brown, the Native American heritage thing came up again, and she claimed that her parents had to elope due to her father’s family disapproving of her mother’s family because they were Indian. Given the DNA tests show “possible ancestor 6 to 10 generations back”, at the most generous this means that her grandparents said “We don’t want you hanging round with that girl, her great-great-grandmother was a Cherokee!” which is not impossible, but it’s a bit shaky on “we were discriminated against because of our racial background” when compared with others.

        **Think of that awkward “Just drinkin’ beer in my own kitchen with my own husband and my own dog like Regular Folks” video, especially in the immediate wake of the Dems going all-out on “Kavanaugh likes beer! Beer bad! Beer drinking sign of crazed sex-maniac rapist! Or even worse – White Male Privilege!!!”

        • Yair says:

          Deiseach:

          “What is Warren’s slogan – “Much of a muchness”? “Some more of some things, fewer of others”? “Economic justice for the squeezed middle”?”

          With respect, that seems a very inaccurate representation of Warren. You don’t have to like her and it may not work, but she is treating the voters with respect and explaining in detail what she would do and how. Her reform agenda is far more serious than you are suggesting.

      • Dack says:

        Maybe some voters just like old east coast men and a younger (70 instead of 76 or 77) midwestern gal isn’t the same?

        Warren is from Oklahoma, right? That’s not the Midwest. OK is southern or arguably southwestern.

    • Deiseach says:

      If true, it doesn’t seem good for the chances of progressives in the Democratic primaries.

      If true, it means the Dems are being sensible about “who is electable” rather than “who is the most wokest of them all”, which is heartening. Of course, it probably says Terrible Things About The State Of Society that the best chances are not First Female but Old White Cis Het Guys, but given the debates so far (and I think a final debate with the realistic candidates like Biden, Sanders, Warren, probably Harris and Booker would be much more informative for the general public), the acknowledged Looper, Ms Williamson, was not the nuttiest person on display and that should be a matter of concern for the party – when your Universal Love Cactus Person comes off sounding saner (because she sticks to anodyne ‘let’s all be nice to each other, you are a child of the universe’ guff) than the ‘vote for me because I’m an oppressed minority’ types.

      That may sound unkind to the oppressed minoritites, but so far their appeals to the nation are:

      (1) I’m gay, did you know that? Maybe you didn’t because you didn’t see the cover of TIME? Also, I’m a Real Christian unlike that pretender Mike Pence, so there!

      (2) The most burning issue of today is access to abortion for trans women! Er, trans men? Whatever, who has time to learn the correct terminology even though misgendering is insensitive, to say the least. Also, it’s the fault of society that I can’t speak Spanish!

      (3) Hi, did you know the biggest thing in my career is that I nearly beat Ted Cruz? Also I can speak Spanish, unlike some here!

      (4) Nice try, white boy, but I can speak Spanish too!

      (5) I’m a wild free-spirited rebel ‘cos I smoked weed! (Just ignore my law’n’order stint in office). Plus, I was bused to school so take that, segregationist old white guy! Also, remember, I’m not only female, I’m female and black!

      • brad says:

        Didn’t you say something a while back about Americans butting out of Irish politics?

        • To be fair to Deiseach, American politics affect Ireland a lot more than Irish politics affect America.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            American policy affects Ireland more than Irish policy affects America. But when the comparison is between American internet rando opinion affecting Ireland and Irish internet rando opinion affecting America, there’s not a lot to choose.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            But Deiseach is the Amazing rando!

        • Deiseach says:

          brad, when Irish politicians and administration have the same influence on American economy as American politicians and administration have on the Irish economy, they can criticise our lot and welcome.

          Besides, a cat may look at a king!

          EDIT: It’s not just American politicians I have opinions on, either. Now, brad, if you want to rip into Leo Varadkar, Mary Lou McDonnell, Micheál Martin or the Healy-Raes, go right ahead and disburden yourself of your bosom’s deepest secrets. You’re as free to express your opinion as I am, and both of our opinions have the exact same effect on the internal politics of the relevant nations, that is sweet Fanny Adams.

          What I object to is George Soros-funded foundation in turn funding Irish activist group(s) campaigning for an amendment/change to our Constitution on ideological grounds, and if some Irish moneybags funded an American activist group trying to have your Constitution amended on ideological grounds (whether that be pro-gun control or anti-transgender bathrooms), I would see no reason to object to you telling us to butt out of your country’s politics and that it was none of our business.

          The difference there, you see, is that giving money to a group working to influence politics in a country is helping them to achieve their aims, and if you’re not yourself a citizen of that country and are only doing it because you favour a particular position and want to see it universally adopted (be that “nobody has the right to own guns privately” for the Irish moneybags or “everyone has to use unisex bathrooms and refer to themselves by gender-neutral pronouns or they’re promoting the harmful gender binary” for the American moneybags), then it’s not your place to interfere in the internal governance of a sovereign nation. On the other hand, if you want to write a letter to the paper, post a comment, or upload your TED talk on “Why Irish bathrooms need to be gender-neutral” or “Why Americans need to have their guns taken away”, that is your right of free speech.

          You understand where I’m coming from?

          • brad says:

            I had recalled that your prior comment complained about an op-ed on an Irish political question in a foreign newspaper. But if that’s not your position (anymore?) and you draw the line between comment and lobbying then yes, I find that entirely reasonable.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Deiseach, love you, but this is too snarky. I agree with brad. The Dems may be nuts, but they’re my nuts, so maybe tone down the boo-lights.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Do you or anyone else have a better description of each of the front runner D candidates? One that describes each one, and also describes how each one is different from the rest?

          Deiseach’s list is the best one I’ve seen. I’d like to see better.

          Anyone?

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark Atwood,
            Oh jeez, well I do plan to vote for one of them, but @Deiseach description still made me chuckle and I doubt I can top it, but I’ll try;

            Biden:
            “Remember when we were a sane republic?
            Let’s do that again.
            Oh wait, I’m sorry I didn’t mean go back to that I meant the other stuff.
            Okay we won’t go back to that either.
            Oh c’mon that’s not allowed either?
            You’re not leaving me much to work with guys, gals too I mean!
            What they’s?
            Who’s a they? That doesn’t even make sense…
            SORRY!
            I’ll evolve, just nominate and I promise, I’ll evolve!!”
            (Is it a good sign to feel sorry for a candidate? )

            Sanders
            *puts on black beret with a red star*
            “WE NEED RHETORIC THAT TOTALLY SOUNDS LIKE WE’LL TURN THE COUNTRY INTO NORTH KOREA!
            But Norway is what I mean!
            REVOLUTION! And long distance skiing, and other winter sports!”
            (For the record, I’d love to seem him President, it would be a fun four years).

            Warren:
            *adjusts glasses*
            “I have a 1,200 page plan for that, it’s like Bernie’s two page one, but with details!
            Now tell me all about that local sports franchise that I totally support as I’m a regular beer drinkin’ Okie gal, who like most regular gals has a 15 page brief on which beer provides maximum satisfaction to imbibe while enjoying watching the local sports franchise play sportsball!”
            (I think Trump will tear her apart, but sure I’ll vote for her, she’d probably govern well, it’s campaigning I fear she’ll fail at)

            Harris:
            “I am all the Democratic Party coalition in one person!
            I totally support socialized medicine!
            I totally don’t support socialized medicine!
            Yes, I do support it!
            Wait. ..
            Yeah whichever!
            I’m tough on crime!
            No wait I’m totally compassionate!
            (To be fair, from when she was a DA here in San Francisco many people I know met her and said she was very nice in person, she was born in the same city as me, we’re close in age, she lived near where I grew up, she was bussed in the same school district, for some of tbe same years as me, and she is even part of the same pension system, of course she gets my vote! And I’m also passionate about the same issues that we both can’t make up our minds about which way to go as well, and we both favor dark blue clothing most of the time too!
            Totally my homegirl!
            No I haven’t a clue what she actually believes!
            But she’ll be great at it!
            Just look at her, don’t you want to see more of that face on TV?!
            And her voice sounds competant!
            I’m all in!
            Whatever it is…
            It’ll be fine!
            Pelosi will help!
            Please don’t die or retire soon Nancy, you’re all the sanity that’s left!
            Well, you can just forget about Alabama, let them deal with it their own selves already, just keep the checks printing please!)

            As for the rest?

            Sure, whichever, just end this before anymore circular firing squads…

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark Atwood,
            Okay maybe I was too flippant, I’ll try for a more serious tone.
            Biden’s appeal and spiel seems to me to be basically “I’ll return us to the 2016 status quo”.

            Sanders is “I’ll return us to the path of F.D.R. and make the U.S. more like Scandinavia” though he’s also pretty explicit that bottom up organizing is needed for that goal (without an overwhelming Dem majority Senate, and an even more Left House what really can be done?

            Warren seems about as redistributionist as Sanders but more wink than firebrand.

            Harris says she’ll take “executive actions” (what actions? Who knows?) and otherwise seems to flip-flop i.e. “Medicare for all”.

            I really think one of those four will be nominated so I haven’t bothered to learn much about the rest.

            Hope that helps.

          • albatross11 says:

            Plumber:

            Your Biden take was perfect, IMO. And I feel much the same way about Warren–I think she’d probably do fine at governing, but she’s probably going to be handled very roughly in the campaign.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11,
            Thanks!

            Also, Auto-correct is my mortal enemy, I intended it to read “Warren is more wonk than firebrand”, not “more wink”.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            not “more wink”

            Ah, that makes more sense. The best I could do was that you meant it like “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” — that she wanted the same thing Sanders did but was more coy about it.

          • Plumber says:

            @Doctor Mist,
            SAY NO MORE!

  9. Plumber says:

    A comment that I’ll quote from another thread:

    “…A problem with Social Justice is that it is way, way more bullish on hiring more women in male-dominated professions than vice versa….”

    has reminded me that a couple of decades ago I applied for and took tests to be an indentured apprentice electrician in their union as well as the different tests to be an apprentice plumber in the union I latter joined.

    The electricians aptitude test had a much longer reading comprehension and “expression” component than the plumbers aptitude tests (which stressed arithmetic, spatial relations, and mechanical aptitude more), and after I started working in the trade I noticed that the electricians had more whites and women than the other trades, and I speculated that maybe that was because written tests of English language skills come easier to women, and harder to non-whites, and latter when I came across the statement that “The biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action have been white women” I wondered more about that.

    As it is women electricians are a far smaller sunset of the total than are women attorneys or physicians (or men teachers for that matter), and they’re even fewer women plumbers, but while the San Jose local plumbers union just did tests, the San Francisco union had racial quotas to get in so more non-whites could join (despite that San Francisco’s membership is still mostly Irish, Italian, and Portuguese; while San Jose was about 40% Hispanic when I last workes there), but there’s never been (as far as I know) a call to have a quota so more women are in the trade even though less than one in fifty are, but for colleges there was a big hew and cry even when there was already more women were in college than in the trades.

    Why is that?

    And how plausible is my guess that without quotas for both creating conditions to get more women will get less non-whites and vice versa?

    • Erusian says:

      I was involved in being an electrician. It dovetailed with my degree and paid well. I can tell you that one reason women prefer it is that it isn’t as dirty or physically demanding. The wires are usually at most dusty (and usually not even that) and you’re rarely dealing with anything heavy. It’s much more dexterity than strength based.

      Cynically, I expect there are fewer quotas in trades because the primary push for quotas and the like come from Democrats and the Unions are extremely pro-Democrat politically. Attacking them on racial or gender grounds would be counterproductive to general Democrat success and stir the classism pot in a way that still makes the Democratic Party very uncomfortable.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      White women in our culture definitely do best at reading comprehension and “expression” (I guess: underdefined). I’m not going to attribute it to hormones or EvPsych, but women read more books than men and whites more than blacks. Women are also rarer on and less deep on average on the autism spectrum, of which “expression” is kinda the opposite.

      • Plumber says:

        @Le Maistre Chat,
        Sorry for not defining “expression”. IIRC there were two English language tests, one on ‘comprehension’ (“In the story above what was carried?”), and one on ‘expression’ (“which sentence best expresses the idea?), but it’s been twenty years, so I may mis-remember.

        My chief memory of the electricians test was of someone taking the test near me telling of how he previously had been an apprentice electrician but dropped out to work as a flooring installer, and him mentioning that he’d be making more money now f he stayed an apprentice “but ar least I know flooring”, how he smoked some dope “to be relaxed for the test”, and when I put down my pencil asked me “How can you be done already?” and my biting my tongue to keep from telling him: “Because I didn’t just smoke dope, you idiot!”.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Uhhhh, the simplest explanation is that the trades are low-status, and women in particular don’t really want to work trades, therefore there is not a major push to get women into trades.

      As for why, how many women do you know are interested in power tools, vs. men? Even my Millennial yuppie guy friends think power tools are really, really cool.

      • AG says:

        Women who are into power tools are usually using it for artistic purposes (such as making props for cosplay), rather than for a trade career.

    • Deiseach says:

      I know a woman electrician round here who does domestic and commerical work, probably she got into it because her father was an electrician and most of her brothers became electricians 🙂

  10. benjdenny says:

    Weird long shot I should probably already know the answer to:

    Are there any math-heavy arguments/studies from opposing points of view specifically examining what might happen if it were illegal to rent non-apartment housing? I’m specifically thinking something like “what would happen to the housing market in the short and long term if houses and only houses couldn’t be rented out?”.

    • Erusian says:

      What do you mean by ‘from opposing points of view’? Who’s opposing or supporting? Communism tried the lack of ownership model if that’s of any help. And what is the specific policy?

      Let’s say you ban renting out anything except apartments and apartments need to fit the legal definition and there need to be five or more units, to prevent landlords from just subdividing what are currently homes. Additionally, you ban rent to own type agreements. You’d be eliminating about 65% of all rental properties. About 24.5 million households and 70,000,000 people would lose their homes.

      Since rent is virtually always cheaper than a mortgage and a mortgage further requires a downpayment, most of these people would be forced to find a new apartment, whose rents would skyrocket due to increased demand before coming back down as new units were added. That is presuming, of course, capital will still build rentals after such an anti-rental law is passed. Statistically, the number of renters with enough money for a downpayment and to make monthly payments on the unit they rent is negligible. It’s likely many would become homeless, at least temporarily, and moving would probably mean they lose their jobs.

      The houses retain their value as equity holding assets even if they are not revenue producing. The landlords have every incentive to put the houses up for sale. This glut of supply might lead to cheaper housing to some extent but since everyone who wants to live in the area has to buy there’d be a spike in demand as well. Plus, if the property isn’t leveraged, the landlord has a high ability to wait. The unoccupied units would take less damage, have no utilities, property taxes are mostly low, etc. If there was a major temporary drop, it’s unlikely their monthly cost would outweigh even a few percent higher value on assets worth six figures.

      If the government wanted to reduce rental ownership of homes without destroying the rental market or making tens of millions of people homeless, a better policy would be to give renters the right of first refusal on the property they rent and to provide them with assistance to get a mortgage on the property. Perhaps create an incentive where a person, after renting for two years at market rates, can have the government pay the difference between their rental payment and the mortgage. That wouldn’t disincentivize the landlord (because they’d still have to agree to sell, so from their perspective all that’s changing is they’re getting the same amount of money from a different source) but would make it much easier for renters to buy their homes. And if they’ve been successfully paying rent for a few years then it’s a decent bet they’ll be able to continue to do so, especially if they have to come up with a downpayment.

      • benjdenny says:

        I meant opposing in the sense of “two or more sides which disagree with each other”. I don’t mind hearing from you, but I’d also like to hear from somebody who took the opposite position.

        One thing I’m interested in that you said is that the houses retain your value as equity assets when not producing rent; Is there any way to quantify to what extent they do? In my (very simple, very uninformed) mental model of this rent played a bigger role in why houses were a popular equity object in the first place.

        • Erusian says:

          You could look at houses that aren’t rented. Do owner-occupied homes that are never rented out have a significantly different value on the open market than homes which have been rented? I don’t know in a specific way but my anecdotal experience is that there’s no big difference.

          It’s possible the law could trigger broad macroeconomic changes where everyone’s house shifts massively in value. But barring that, the fact rental and owner occupied properties sell for similar prices implies a property’s rental value is a relatively negligible part of its total value overall. Land speculation, where people buy houses or even empty land they expect will be valuable some day, is absolutely an industry.

          • benjdenny says:

            I don’t think I agree with your logic Re: rental income not having an effect on the price of houses. If I follow, you are saying this:

            Since owner-occupied houses were sold for the same price as similar rented houses, the fact that houses can be rented has no effect on the value of a house.

            This is a weird way to think about it for a lot of reasons:

            1. A buyer doesn’t determine the cost of their house; the market does. There aren’t separate markets for people to buy houses to rent or houses to live in; it’s the same market and everyone buys from it.

            2. The prices in a market are determined by supply/demand like everything else; essentially if I want to buy a house, I have to bid against every other potential buyer, whether owner/operator or landlord. The amount of buyers, their motivation, and the supply of houses determines the prices of houses. This happens both on a micro level (a particular house might be bid on more heavily than others) and on a macro level (the sale price of individual houses sets the bar for other sales, and housing markets are linked on a local and national level)

            3. An owner/operator can’t rent, but he gets value a landlord doesn’t out of the house (shelter) that balances this loss of utility. Yes, a person buying a house to live in doesn’t go “Well, I can’t rent this, so it’s worth less” because he was never planning on renting it at all; that’s not where his expected practical use was in the first place.

            Given those three, what I’m saying is that if houses couldn’t be rented, that would significantly change the math of how profitable it was to buy houses you didn’t intend on living in; since it was less profitable, less people would do it (unless something besides speculation replaced “rent”, since speculation is already part of the math). When buyers exit a market, demand drops. When demand drops, prices drop.

            It makes sense to say “Whether a house has been/is being rented doesn’t have a big effect on the price of that particular house”, but I don’t think that’s really relevant; what’s relevant is the question “If the ability to rent houses goes away across the board, does that increase the supply of houses for sale?”, since if it did it would drop the price of the average house, ceteris paribus.

            One thing you’ve said that stands out to me as particularly valid is since houses can no longer be rented, the demand for buying houses goes up from the other side, since now folks HAVE to buy in some cases, and in other cases find renting to be much more expensive. That makes sense as a counterbalance, although I’m not sure how it would play out.

          • Erusian says:

            Since owner-occupied houses were sold for the same price as similar rented houses, the fact that houses can be rented has no effect on the value of a house.

            Close but with a subtle difference: I am saying that because they retail for similar prices that means that the ability to rent them is valued similarly to the ability to occupy them. Basically, that rentable houses do not appear to get a clear additional price premium because landlords and owner occupiers evaluate homes on similar terms. This might not be true, but I think it is.

            This is my main point: buying a home and renting a home are substitutes for the person consuming shelter/housing/you know what I mean. The financial structure is different but the person’s ability to walk in the door, hang up their coat, and watch TV isn’t affected.

            When two goods are substitutes and go for a similar price regardless of whether one substitute is available or not, it’s likely that they will retain at least significant value when one of its uses is banned: it simply transitions into being the other option.

            It makes sense to say “Whether a house has been/is being rented doesn’t have a big effect on the price of that particular house”, but I don’t think that’s really relevant; what’s relevant is the question “If the ability to rent houses goes away across the board, does that increase the supply of houses for sale?”, since if it did it would drop the price of the average house, ceteris paribus.

            Continuing on, however, I have explicitly not discussed the big economic trends. I agree with you such a law could (probably would) produce a broad macroeconomic shift. And I’m not as certain what that would be.

            My initial thought is that it would be a decrease in housing stock and a higher barrier to entry for moving out of parent’s houses and all that. Basically, because the lowest barrier way of getting your own place (renting) would be largely eliminated and because builders would have fewer ways to profit from producing houses (renting), less and more expensive houses would get built in the long run after an initial dramatic drop as the policy took effect.

            But I admit that’s not a fully mature thought.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Nominative determinism in Portland: the current mayor, under whom lawlessness has skyrocketed, chose Danielle Outlaw as police chief.
    (In fairness, she’s recently spoken out in favor of tougher law enforcement.)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      For a double whammy, “Danielle” means “God is my judge.” Clearly someone who doesn’t think the trifling laws of man apply to her.

    • John Schilling says:

      Just to be clear, the boringly-named Mayor Wheeler appointed Danielle Outlaw as police chief two years ago. He seems to be unpleased with the results of that decision, what with the police’s apparent pro-Outlaw behavior and reluctance to enforce the trifling laws of man.

      • J Mann says:

        Well, he’s moderately-interestingly-named if you want to make a deal with him, or suspect he spent some time in the Room Where It Happens.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        There’s sniping between the boringly-named Mayor Wheeler and the nominative-determined Outlaw over who’s encouraging the deteriorating situation, with her saying we should have a Mask Law to stop political violence, and his office asking police and prosecutors “Why they had not arrested right-wing extremists?” – which makes him look like a woke anarcho-tyrant who sees the violent leftists as the municipal govt’s unpaid interns.

    • dick says:

      under whom lawlessness has skyrocketed

      Source? AFAIK that’s not true.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It’s my lived experience that the biohazards and lesser littering generated by the homeless has exploded since he took office. I’ll have to look it up, but I think camping on public green spaces and sidewalks is still a de jure crime.

        • dick says:

          It sounds like you’re thinking of the previous mayor, Charlie Hales, who legalized camping on public property (after a state of emergency had been declared by the city council). I looked it up as well, and apparently that was reversed in 2016, which I hadn’t realized.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yes, I was thinking of Charlie Hales instead. Portland has been in an official state of emergency over housing since 2015. Camping on public property was only legal for the first year, and law enforcement hasn’t changed to match laws on the books.

          • dick says:

            I think a lot of the reason the enforcement is so lax is from the judiciary, not the Mayor’s office. Specifically, there was a case around ’12 that forced the police to be much more formal about evicting homeless people (e.g. they have to post notice 24 hours beforehand, photograph and store all their belongings, etc) that only recently started really being adhered to, and there’s another wending its way through appeals now about whether homeless people can be evicted at all. So in practice I think the cops mostly ignore people that aren’t breaking other laws in addition to loitering/camping/littering.

          • albatross11 says:

            Allowing homeless people to literally crap up public spaces seems like the sort of policy that will ultimately provoke some massive backlash. Either that, or the important people will manage to move someplace where, in practice if not in theory, the police run off any homeless people.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 >
            “Allowing homeless people to literally crap up public spaces seems like the sort of policy that will ultimately provoke some massive backlash. Either that, or the important people will manage to move someplace where, in practice if not in theory, the police run off any homeless people”

            Judging by San Francisco, nope!
            Among many such spectacles, on my way to work I’ve seen a man face his posterior towards traffic and “Do his business” in broad daylight a short block away from a Police Station.
            Hypodermic needles in storm drains and library restrooms.
            Tents covering a full blocks sidewalk a ten minute walk from City Hall.
            People bathing in a public fountain in a crowded area at Noon,
            and a host of other “sight seeing attractions”.
            Yet still come thousands from all over, as more high rises are built to accommodate the well-paid newcomers, and billionaires like Zuckerberg not only move here but donate to our county hospital and have it renamed after him (my guess is that his physician wife gave him the idea).

            There seems no end in sight.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @albatross11:

            Allowing homeless people to literally crap up public spaces seems like the sort of policy that will ultimately provoke some massive backlash. Either that, or the important people will manage to move someplace where, in practice if not in theory, the police run off any homeless people.

            Isn’t the latter what’s already happened? The Bay Area’s important people don’t live on any streets on the San Francisco poop map, do they?
            Portland’s Mayor and city council live in the most expensive neighborhoods in the city proper, where I’d be shocked if you weren’t hauled off to jail for discarding a heroin needle on their property (protestors have tested the limits of what you can do there, going as far as pissing onto his police-guarded lawn without arrest). A homeless man is in prison for threatening to burn the Mayor’s Portland Heights house, while prole women who have a fixed address and file income tax returns get homeless men yelling “I’ll kill you!” at them and the police do nothing.

          • albatross11 says:

            This seems ripe for either a Trumpian demogogue at the local level, or for some guy who talks about compassion and help for the homeless while quietly seeing to it that the homeless all find it prudent to stay the hell outside the city limits.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11,
            I’m guessing that’s a reference to how many the Obama administration deported.

          • Nornagest says:

            San Francisco poop map

            That’s a surprisingly interesting map. The Tenderloin, Civic Center, and parts of SoMa are worst, as expected. But I wasn’t expecting to track the locations of homeless camps by the shit-drifts.

            And I can’t tell what I like more: the ghost shitter of Treasure Island, or the lone, ah, deposition in the middle of the the UN Plaza Federal Office Building.

          • What is wrong with the residents of these cities? Do they like having homeless people shit in their face? If not, why are they reelecting mayors who allow it?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            … It cant cost that much to put up enough public toilets that the homeless stop shitting in the street.

            Heck, if you have homeless, attach a room with a bunk to some of them and hire some of the more functional to keep them clean..

          • ana53294 says:

            The issue is, they will sleep in the toilets. So it doesn’t solve the pooping issue at least at night.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Wrong Species

            It’s just what happens when you take compassion for the weak and poor and benighted too far. It’s taboo to feel (or certainly, act on) any sort of negative emotion towards them, so all you can do is “help” them by making it as safe as possible to act the way they do.

          • brad says:

            This seems ripe for either a Trumpian demogogue at the local level, or for some guy who talks about compassion and help for the homeless while quietly seeing to it that the homeless all find it prudent to stay the hell outside the city limits.

            Two mayors ago NYC had the former and then one mayor ago the latter. Now we’ve got a guy who is perfectly fine with the homeless sleeping and defecating wherever they like. Ideally we’d go back to a type II next, but I think it is going to get worse before it gets better.

          • Nick says:

            @brad
            What happened that got you your current mayor? Was there backlash against the former two? Did folks just forget how bad the homeless problem was? Or is it not an issue that’s swinging elections much?

          • John Schilling says:

            … It cant cost that much to put up enough public toilets that the homeless stop shitting in the street.

            $200,000 per year. That’s if you’re willing to settle for a loo that’s open twelve hours a day. For 24 hours/day it’s going to be $500,000/year.

            Heck, if you have homeless, attach a room with a bunk to some of them and hire some of the more functional to keep them clean..

            But then it’s his toilet, and he’s going to pocket the city’s money while still charging fifty cents for a #1, two bucks for a #2, ten bucks for the local prostitute to use it for a quickie, and $25 for a clean place to sleep all night, and you’re back to people who can’t or won’t pay, pooping in the streets. And if he’s honest enough to not do that, probably someone else will come along and say “thanks for cleaning my toilet…”

            Making sure that doesn’t happen, is where the $2-500K/year goes. Hiring members of a high-trust society to serve as toilet attendants for a low-trust society. And hiring a high-trust Plumber, or at least a plumber, to keep unclogging it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @John Schilling: ISTM that the only way to help these people that doesn’t require the entire taxable income of many law-abiding citizens apiece is to put them in a church shelter where clergy who have a vocation for helping the homeless can individually observe what they need to get back on their feet, or at least the efficient way to control them, for the many who look like St. Jude cases.

          • John Schilling says:

            Perhaps, but I don’t think we have enough parish priests to do this one-on-one, or at least not if they’re going to keep up with their other priestly duties. So to do this efficiently, we’d need to exploit economies of scale which in turn requires having large groups of homeless people living in the same place even when we can see that they’d rather not. And, again in the name of efficiency and particularly given the propensity of a subset of the street-people homeless to break nice things, it would probably have to be done in a fairly austere fashion. Tents or communal barracks rather than something apartment- or motel-like.

            At which point the solution starts to look like having the Church going about and Concentrating the homeless in some sort of a Camp, and the winning move is probably to have someone else’s church do that…

          • brad says:

            @nick

            I have fairly low confidence that I know the answer but my guess is a combination of forgetting and national politics swinging local elections even though in a fully rational world they shouldn’t matter much.

          • albatross11 says:

            If only there were some sort of asylums that we could put crazy people who were consistently a danger to themselves and others, so that they were both given whatever treatment we can provide for their mental illnesses and kept from sleeping in cardboard boxes and crapping on sidewalks.

            Ah, but that’s a silly utopian vision, not something any society could actually do….

          • Ninety-Three says:

            @albatross11

            If you think we can accommodate the rather sizable population of cardboard-box-living, sidewalk-shitting people then yes, that is a silly utopian vision. Asylums are expensive.

          • albatross11 says:

            What man has done, man can aspire to.

            Public spaces in cities were not always taken over by homeless people and petty criminals. We got a huge increase in that stuff after we de-institutionalized a lot of crazy people. That’s possible to undo. And indeed, we put the most badly behaved of the crazy people into prisons, which are probably at least as expensive as asylums.

          • Clutzy says:

            Asylums are expensive.

            So are prisons.

            But neither has to be. They are expensive because people have agitated to make them more expensive. And these changes to prisons/asylums haven’t really made them safer or more humane for inmates, rather they have served very narrow specific interests. Mostly these are a combination of union interests and prisoner-advocacy interests that have been wins in court, but not for prisoner health (aside from the wins against solitary confinement).

  12. Odovacer says:

    Alternative History

    Imagine that instead of dropping out in July and reentering in October, Ross Perot stayed in the fray the entire time and won the 1992 presidential election. What do the years 1993-2019 look like with Perot becoming president in 1992. Is he able to balance the budget, eliminate the deficit, and prevent industrial manufacturing from leaving the US? Is the US and the world better or worse off due to his leadership?

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      More interesting to me than his policies is what kind of mandate he would win on. My impression is that the US has a system that’s so preferentially 2-party at every level that 3rd parties are basically just noise. Their power is mostly in the spoiler vote effect more than anything. I’ll admit I don’t know much about the history of Party solidarity. I know in the past there was considerably more diversity but I suspect some consolidation was happening in Perot’s time.

      Does a Party machine arise from Ross Perot’s Reform movement? Does it supplant one of the parties or create its own antithesis along new lines? How long does an unstable 3-party system teeter about before it stabilizes in the familiar 2-party arrangement? If Perot’s Reform party doesn’t materialize anywhere in the Legislative branch or the states, doesn’t he just become a sort of abnormal veto power while the 2 parties and their respective whips guide policy down the same partisan road we’re used to?

      • Eric Rall says:

        How long does an unstable 3-party system teeter about before it stabilizes in the familiar 2-party arrangement?

        In Britain, about a century and counting. In the 19th century, Britain had a solid two-party system: the Liberals and the Tories/Conservatives/Unionists (*). with the Irish Parliamentary Party as a regionally-viable third party. Labour emerged as a third party around 1900, then overtook the Liberals as the second party in 1922 (becoming the leaders of a coalition government in 1923), and won an outright Parliamentary majority for the first time in 1945. The Liberals, however, are still around (rebranded as the Liberal Democrats in the 1980s after they merged with the Social Democratic Party). They won 22% of the popular vote and 57 seats in Parliament (a little less than 10% of the total seats) as recently as 2010. They’ve been more marginal in the last couple elections, but they’ve come back from worse in the past.

        (*) Conservative Party is the official name, Tory a nickname that originated as an insult, and Unionist a short-lived rebranding after a group of Liberal politicians switched parties over the issue of Irish Home Rule.

        The UK, like the US, has a single-member plurality voting system (I refuse to call it FPTP, since that’s a horrible term that doesn’t describe the system at all). However, Presidential systems are thought to be less third-party-friendly than Parliamentary systems, so I’d expect the sorting-out process to happen considerably faster in the US than it has in Britain.

    • Jesse E says:

      Most likely, something close to what happened w/ Jesse Ventura’s Governorship in Minnesota.

      Both parties do their best to undercut him, he stumbles as a non-politician, nothing much gets done, and Perot either doesn’t run for re-election or is an afterthought, as Ann Richards or Bob Dole becomes POTUS.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Yes, just what I was thinking. Ventura had no long-term effect on Minnesota, and neither would have Perot.

        • albatross11 says:

          But this is basically the same as any other governor. It’s rare that a governor has a huge long-term impact on the state, unless he massively screws things up or saves the day when some huge potential disaster comes up.

    • Matt M says:

      I’ve seen some takes that the surprising popularity of Perot’s core message of fiscal responsibility was in large part scary enough to both the Ds and the Rs that it led to a lot of the stuff that led to a (mostly, depending on who you ask or how you define it) balanced budget at the end of the Clinton years.

  13. dndnrsn says:

    Question regarding illegal/unauthorized/undocumented/whatever immigration: to what extent is one of the pull factors, employment in the US, driven by illegal status, and how would some sort of open-borders-y regime change that? By which I mean, my understanding is that employers who employ illegal immigrants do so at least in part because they have little recourse (or, at least, think themselves to have little recourse) versus things like getting underpaid, abused by their bosses in various ways, etc. If those people had legal residence – and thus could go to the authorities if their boss mistreated or underpaid them – what would happen? How much would the increased pull factor of “you won’t have to dodge the immigration authorities” be offset by the decreased pull factor of certain employers no longer preferentially employing people who had to dodge the immigration authorities, thus having a weaker bargaining position (to say the least)?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      [Epistemic status: retrieved from anus]

      I think an open-borders-y regime would increase immigration. I think the motivation for economic migrants is largely “I can get more money and social services” and not “I’ll have an easier time getting a job by working illegally.” And if you wind up unemployed anyway because you can’t find a job, would you rather be unemployed in El Salvador or unemployed in the US?

      • Randy M says:

        Is there polling about what poor people in Latin America think America is like? They probably have lots of third hand accounts, not to mention media. I expect generally they’re looking to come work, aren’t too clear about our particular labor laws or any implication of them.

        But that’s not really the relevant perspective; whether they are aware of it or not, illegal immigrants have a competitive advantage to employers willing to go around labor laws. Their inability (or perceived inability) to go to authorities gives employers more trust that they won’t be found out for these violations, so while natives might, potentially, be also willing to work for illegal wages or conditions, the employer has reason to prefer the illegals.

        If open borders were enacted, this option would be removed, increasing the price of the labor and potentially reducing the demand for it (or increasing the price of the , eg, strawberries they were picking). It’s a very complicated situation to attempt to predict, though.

      • albatross11 says:

        Illegal immigrants don’t use a lot of the social services out there for fear of being caught by the authorities, or because they’re not eligible. But I think the overwhelming majority of immigration from Latin America over the last few decades has been economic–people coming here looking for work.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          They might not get food stamps, but they go to the ER and can’t pay, they put their kids in public schools and that sort of thing.

          • acymetric says:

            They typically also pay taxes despite not getting the social services, as I understand it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Thing is, in the US, low-income households pay little in taxes and cost more in services. Immigrant households may get less in services than similarly-situated citizen households, but it’s not anywhere near zero. So more low-income immigrants means a greater burden on net taxpayers. I don’t know where the cutoff is, however.

            (and they _can_ get state welfare, and their kids _can_ get TANF and medicaid, and they do get welfare if they’re pregnant)

          • acymetric says:

            Explicitly for “income tax”, sure, but they are paying into SS and Medicare, as well as sales taxes and (most likely) property taxes (possibly through the landlord by proxy if they rent).

            As albatross11 points out, they also don’t make use of a lot of the available social services, so comparing them to the social service costs of legal families with similar income isn’t a fair comparison.

          • nkurz says:

            @acymetric > Explicitly for “income tax”, sure, but they are paying into SS and Medicare, as well as sales taxes and (most likely) property taxes

            Have you been able to find a good breakdown of total taxes paid those who earn different amounts? I’ve occasionally looked for one, but haven’t found anything that seems complete or accurate.

          • In Cell says:

            @nkurz I posted a link for you, but the spam filter blocked it. Use these search terms on google to find the same link:

            mattbruenig “People in the US already pay flat taxes”

        • JPNunez says:

          It makes no sense to me that the ilegal poor are receiving more in social help than what they produce. I mean, if you told me it was some european country with cradle-to-grave social sec, sure, but America?

          I guess that Conrad is right in that if they go to the ER they spend a fuck ton and can’t pay, but it seems there are a ton of americans in that position too, so the logical question is why the fuck is the ER so expensive in the first place.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It makes no sense to me that the poor are receiving more in social help than what they produce.

            Not necessarily more than what they produce, but more than what they pay in taxes.

            I mean, if you told me it was some european country with cradle-to-grave social sec, sure, but America?

            We’ve had a welfare state here for a long time, and there are the non-welfare social services (on a local level, especially public schools) to consider as well.

            so the logical question is why the fuck is the ER so expensive in the first place.

            No, that’s a digression.

          • Randy M says:

            Not the ER specifically, but any modern medical care–along with education. Remember the discussions about cost disease?

            A family of 5 making 40,000 a year in CA is probably paying around $2,000 CA income tax, 5,000 federal income tax, and some portion of the rent is going to property tax, say 1,000/ year. Some sales tax, but with that kind of income, much of the expenses won’t be taxed. Let’s be generous and say they have another 1,000 /yer in sales tax, representing spending ~10,000 on non-taxed goods. And assuming they’re being paid above board, another 1,200 in payroll taxes (CA & fed/SS).
            So that totals 15,800.
            Per pupil spending in CA is 11,500 per year. (Yes, that is per year, not for the sum total of 12 years. Took some some digging to make sure I wasn’t making that mistake).

            So just in education, that family is costing 34,500 per year, for as long as those students are all enrolled. So with just education, a low (but not poverty level) income family with 3 children is going to need to work steadily for about 25 years just to break even.

            If those kids were born in a hospital without paying for it, that’s another $5,000 per child; a couple broken bones at some point, and that’s another $5,000. That would come from either the government or via increased insurance premiums for those that had it.
            And that’s without accounting for emergency services, roads, anything like that.

            (Feel free to check my work and point out math errors goes without saying)

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s hard to make any argument at all here w.r.t. medical costs, though, because reported medical prices are basically made up numbers with very little relation to reality. I mean, County General sends a bill to Pedro Sinpapeles $14,281 for the MRI they did on his head after his car accident, but John Q Insuredcitizen got the same MRI and his insurance company paid $800 for it, and nobody at County General had the slightest expectation that they’d ever get anything like that much back from Señor Sinpapeles. Eventually, they write off the debt as uncollectable, which they do all the time with uninsured citizens, too. How much was really lost?

            As best I can tell, nobody actually has a meaningful answer to this question. It’s like some weird parallel version of the socialist calculation problem, where they’ve decided to run a market system without prices that mean anything.

            For public education, I think you could come up with a meaningful number for the cost of educating the extra students–not so much for one (the marginal cost is pretty small), but if you know 20% of your students are the kids of illegal immigrants, you could put a meaningful price on that.

          • Matt M says:

            As best I can tell, nobody actually has a meaningful answer to this question. It’s like some weird parallel version of the socialist calculation problem, where they’ve decided to run a market system without prices that mean anything.

            Coming up next on ABC: “Who’s Appendix Is It Anyway?” Where the diagnoses are made up and the prices don’t matter.

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

            (amount of ER services used by unauthorized immigrants / total amount of ER services provided) * (total payments collected for ER care) [on a per-hospital basis] seems like a reasonable way to estimate it. Unless it turns out that ERs usually operate at a loss and are subsidized by the other parts of the organization or something.

          • acymetric says:

            Doesn’t that assume a 0% payment rate for illegal immigrants? Seems unlikely that would be the case.

            In fact, I could imagine (although I have low confidence in this) illegal immigrants being more likely to settle their bills than legal citizens (in the same income range) because they want to avoid any attention that collections might bring.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s hard to make any argument at all here w.r.t. medical costs, though, because reported medical prices are basically made up numbers with very little relation to reality.

            Isn’t this largely the case with any gov’t expenditure?

            Also, marginal costs for students are significant if they speak spotty English and have little prior subject matter knowledge.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Collections agencies have no incentive to turn illegal immigrants over to ICE. That’s a way guarantee they will never see a dime.

      • acymetric says:

        Are you sure they’re unemployed in El Salvador? Getting to the US isn’t free, presumably they earned that money somehow.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Perhaps, perhaps not. There was recently that picture of the drowned father and child all over the news. They were from El Salvador, where he worked in a pizza parlor and the mother had a job as a waitress.

    • Aapje says:

      @dndnrsn

      Eastern Europeans who profit from Schengen still regularly get underpaid & abused by bosses. I think that you put too much stock in legality fixing this, as migrants will typically still have a mistrust of government based on their past experiences and will be loath to go to the authorities, if they even know what their rights are (which the abusive intermediates and employers are not going to tell them).

      Also, the high-quality migrants who are willing to work for wages that draw mediocre or very poor American workers are still a huge boon for employers, even if they can’t pay below minimum wage.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Think a bit how the equilibrium position would look. You’re saying immigration would slow when immigrants no longer find jobs in US, at the worst legal pay and work conditions. How do you think the job market would look in this case for US residents? Maybe with mortgages that don’t allow them to go for the worst paid jobs.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I’m not proposing that’s what would happen – I’m asking how people figure it would shake out.

    • Erusian says:

      Getting around the minimum wage and workplace standards drives hiring illegal immigrants to a small to non-existent extent. Median and average illegal immigrant pay is above minimum wage. Illegal immigrants are more likely to suffer labor violations (about twice as likely as citizens) but it’s not the experience of the majority. In particular, illegal immigrants can already go to the authorities anonymously to report labor violations. It is routine to not investigate exactly who the tipsters are because it’s understood it will lead to reprisals, even for completely legal citizens.

      Illegal immigrants have three main advantages for employers, basically the same advantages as legal immigrants who are sponsored through H1B type programs:
      1.) They are cheaper. While they do get paid above minimum wage, they get paid less than comparable citizens.
      2.) They have lower standards for the type/quality of work. They often get late night shifts or work in unpleasant conditions or jobs that are physically difficult.
      3.) They are willing to move even to relatively unpleasant areas. While the majority end up in big cities, areas experiencing labor shortages have driven a disproportionate share of illegal immigration.

      And just having been on the ground, I can tell you most authorities that turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants do not turn a blind eye to their being killed, maimed, or treated like slaves. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen but it’s not extremely common. Like most workers, the primary threat is not calling immigration but firing them. They would generally then find another job. It was actually limited legal migrants, like H1Bs, for whom firing could mean deportation. I suspect Google has threatened more immigrant employees with deportation than your average tobacco farm. (Of course, Google also has nice air-conditioned offices in trendy cities while the tobacco farm expects you to handle poisonous substances from sunrise to sunset in the baking sun while living in the middle of nowhere. And Google pays much better.)

      Open borders would undoubtedly increase immigration. Probably a ton. It lowers the cost of immigration and doesn’t affect any of the three factors: immigrants would still accept lower wages relative to citizens, they would still be willing to take less pleasant jobs, and they would still be the people willing to move to where the work is.

      That said, it’s not apparent to me more immigration (with safeguards) would be bad overall. It would undoubtedly push down wages for unskilled labor. But the US actually has very little unskilled labor. We call low skill labor unskilled because we’re so used to everyone having a basic high school education that we count that as unskilled. But it’s not: it imparts skills the average migrant is unlikely to have. These skills, which are not worth much now when everyone has them, will become much more valuable when everyone doesn’t.

    • J Mann says:

      My guess is that under open borders, it would be illegal to discriminate against immigrants, so immigrants who were otherwise equally qualified and hardworking as existing US minimum wage workers could come at least unless the US unemployment rate rose high enough to make the trip not worthwhile.

    • By which I mean, my understanding is that employers who employ illegal immigrants do so at least in part because they have little recourse (or, at least, think themselves to have little recourse) versus things like getting underpaid, abused by their bosses in various ways, etc.

      The main recourse an employee has is the option of working for someone else. My impression is that illegal immigrants are typically being employed in areas, such as construction, where there are lots of small employers, not one or two big ones. They may be getting low wages, but they can probably get about the same low wages from someone else.

      What might be an advantage is being effectively not covered by minimum wage laws. But if you had open borders and a lot of people who came couldn’t get jobs at the minimum but were willing to work for less, that would be likely to lead to a labor black market for unskilled workers illegally working for less, just as the present situation leads to an illegal black market for illegal immigrants.

  14. Yair says:

    An AI taught itself how to play poker by playing against itself millions of times. It then beat 5 elite players in a Texas Hold/Em match (essentially, what AlphaZero did in chess but in poker).

    “Experts believe the techniques that drive this and similar systems could be used in Wall Street trading, auctions, political negotiations and cybersecurity, activities that, like poker, involve hidden information. “You don’t always know the state of the real world,” said Noam Brown, the Facebook researcher who oversaw the Pluribus project.”
    (link to the actual published paper in the article)
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/11/science/poker-robot-ai-artificial-intelligence.html

    • Well... says:

      I can’t read the article (probably because I’m in private mode). Was this online poker or in-person poker? Because in a way those are two very different games.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Poker sounds a lot simpler than all of those purported generalizations. The states space in Poker is large, but it is also finite and exhibits a lot of internal structure that can be exploited. And you can capture the game of poker by writing down a list of rules. There are unknowns (like what your opponents have in their hands), but no unknown unknowns. Wall Street trading is similar I guess, but substantially more complicated because there are way more movingly parts. And assuming all the algorithm is doing is taking in “current and past stock prices” there may be essentially unpredictable changers in stock prices (brought on, by, say, a declaration of war—but even the 2008 recession was a black swan). Auctions seem plausible, I guess. “Cyber security” is way too broad for me to issue a strong opinion on, but I am having difficulty envisaging places where something like this would even come up as plausibly useful. And you cannot negotiate in politics unless you can work in natural language. Even then, the space of possible conversations barely seems quantifiable, and there are all sorts of things a person might say in negotiation that a robot practicing against itself likely would not.

      All told, this is still an exciting milestone with applications in other places! But all the suggested places (except maybe auctions) seem like big leaps to me, and political negotiations in particular seems like it is not even in the same league.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m also not exactly sure how you simulate playing a “game” of stock market millions of times. Poker is static (and as you say, finite). The stock market is, effectively, infinite, because there is no beginning or end to the game, and the state is constantly in flux.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          That is a good point! They could impose that the bot has no market power as a simplifying assumption and then partition actual stock history into 10,000 intervals, but you will end up (at best) with a very short-run focused robot. Or you could generate your own virtual stock markets on a computer, but if those simulations are good you should use them, and otherwise it seems to me you are more likely to game artifacts of the market implementation than game the market itself.

      • LesHapablap says:

        The number of states in 6 handed no-limit holdem is practically infinite. This is an incredible accomplishment.

        Wall street trading has been done with AIs (for a loose definition of AI) for years, successfully. It is far simpler than poker: you’ve got a tiny decision tree (relative to poker) and often a positive sum game. Just like poker, the rules are well defined in most cases.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          How practically infinite it compared to the number of states in already-mastered games like Chess and Go?

        • LesHapablap says:

          Far more than chess, because there are far too many for any computer to brute-force search for solutions, which is possible with chess. That’s why this accomplishment is a big deal: because the AI has to actually develop strategies, and that it developed strategies better than the best players in the world.

          Don’t know about Go.

          The difference between limit holdem and no-limit holdem is pretty big, because being able to vary bet sizes down to the penny increases the states ~10,000x for each possible action. Heads up versus multi-way increases the number of possible actions and possible ranges of hands by quite a lot of course. Heads up limit holdem had excellent AIs beating professionals about 10 years ago and was apparently declared ‘solved’ in 2015. Here’s an article by one of the top heads up limit holdem players in the world from back then explaining that bot:

          http://poker-blog.srv.ualberta.ca/2015/01/08/humans-robots-and-the-consequences.html

          This describes a ‘game theory optimal’ solution, which is probably what this new AI is doing. They don’t win the maximum from poor opponents (that would be called an ‘exploitative’ strategy), but can never be beaten by anyone.

          • LesHapablap says:

            to be more specific: I believe that heads up limit holdem has more states than chess. 6 handed NL holdem will have something like 10^20 to 10^200 more states than heads up limit holdem.

          • dick says:

            Counting states is not a good way to compare the difficulty of building an AI for different games. It’s particularly inapt here, because a poker bot doesn’t have to iterate over permutations of cards, it just needs to count how many of those permutations would beat two pair, which can be done in constant time. I think the challenge in a poker bot lies in deriving accurate information from the opponents’ bets, which doesn’t really have an analogue in chess.

          • LesHapablap says:

            In order to decide the most profitable way to play a single hand, the bot would need to estimate a range of hands for his opponent, then estimate how the opponent would play each part of that range on future streets given all the different actions that the bot could take. Those parts of ranges can be categorized, like you say, into ones that beat two pair, ones that have some equity against two pair, fold equity against two pair, draws that can be turned into bluffs, etc. But the range of possible bet sizes and ways to bet on each street make it a complicated problem.

            However solving each individual hand is not enough. The bot needs to assess how its actions can be interpreted on each street without giving up information to its opponent. So it will need to think about “I have two pair here and I have decided to play it this way. What other hands will I play this way in order to balance the range of hands I play like this?” This has to be done in order to be unpredictable. It will have to decide to play some hands in a sub-optimal way in order to make sure it is not playing in a predictable and exploitable way. (this is referred to as Game Theory Optimal play)

    • Björn says:

      AI is very good at games because you can let it play millions of times against itself. But you can’t gain real world data this way. Therefore, this will not generalize to any real world problem.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        It already has

        (Not this poker AI in particular, I mean the ability to solve real-world problems by training in simulation has already been demonstrated for some problems at least)

        • quanta413 says:

          That work was cool, but last time I read their more detailed summary or paper, it wasn’t close to human level. For example, the hand still eventually dropped the block on a rotation task at a frequency much higher than a typical human would. Something like dropping after 100 rotations on average. A human is probably a couple orders of magnitude better although that may partly be because the human hand is mechanically superior.

  15. blipnickels says:

    Can anyone recommend any good institutions/companies for internet privacy? For example, a VPN provider or the Electronic Freedom Foundation?

    I want to increase my anonymity/privacy on the internet. I don’t need perfect anonymity, I’d just like more than what I have now. After some initial research, I’ve pretty much abandoned the idea of learning enough about to make good judgements; not only is there a significant time investment upfront but also over time in staying current. So I’m looking for a few trustworthy institutions I can essentially follow. The Electronic Freedom Foundation is a good example, they’ve got two extensions they recommend (Privacy Badger and HTTPS). I’m not going to know enough about either of those extensions to know if they’re really effective or hacked by Google/Facebook so I’m dependent on the reputation/trust/social capital of the EFF.

    So what institutions/companies involved in internet privacy do you trust and which would you recommend? Over the long-term? (ie, I’d prefer an organization that will maintain trust/privacy culture over the next 10 years rather than whoever has the best tech right this minute.)

    For the record, I currently use the Proton guys for VPN and email, Firefox for browser, and the EFF extensions of Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere. Also Adblock.

    • rubberduck says:

      Duckduckgo is a search engine that doesn’t track you. If you’re looking for something specific Google is still much better but if you just need to look up the weather or what year Abraham Lincoln was born it’s a decent substitute. I have it as my default.

      • Well... says:

        DDG is my default too. Ratio of searches where “I use DDG and it’s just fine” to searches where “I feel like I need to give up and revert to Google because I’m just not finding what I want” is probably higher than 10,000:1.

        • Nick says:

          Does DuckDuckGo have stuff like site-specific searching and exact words?

          • Well... says:

            I’m almost positive it does. It has a lot of features I don’t even remember how to use, even some easter eggs.

            You can probably do a DDG search for something like “cool things duckduckgo can do” if you want to find out specifics.

          • liate says:

            DDG has both the site:<url> style site searching and it’s own !bangs (if the first word in a search is an exclamation point followed by a site name or an abbreviation of a site name, it basically just does a search at the site for you).

            I know it has some behavior with quotes around things, but I’m not sure if it’s exact words or whatever google does with quotes now.

          • AG says:

            DDG bangs aren’t private, though. If you do a Google bang through DDG, Google still gets your data from the search.

    • metacelsus says:

      It’s the Electronic Frontier Foundation, not Electronic Freedom Foundation. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_Frontier_Foundation

      Pedantry aside, what’s your threat model? As in, what kinds of people will try to defeat your privacy? Hiding from Internet advertising companies is one thing, hiding from a government is quite another.

      • blipnickels says:

        Primarily hiding from internet advertising companies.

        As far as governments go, I’d prefer if they had to get a warrant or something similar before digging up my search history.

    • tossrock says:

      The DuckDuckGo recommendation is good – here are a few more:

      1. Mozilla. They’re the non-profit organization behind Firefox, which is the only real alternative to the various browsers controlled by the tech supermajors (Chrome, Safari, IE/Edge, etc). They put a pretty big focus on privacy as a differentiator.
      2. Tails. They make a privacy-focused Linux distribution specifically for using Tor, an anonymity service beloved by journalists, whistleblowers, and darknet drug runners.
      3. Ghostery/uBlock. They make plugins for blocking advertising/analytics trackers.
      4. Sonic. California-only ISP that makes a point of deleting user logs after 2 weeks, and generally has good positions on privacy.

      • Garrett says:

        > 1. Mozilla

        That depends on your thread model, and whether you disable reporting back to Mozilla. Remember Brendan Eich. If you are somewhat to the right of the Bay Area and worried that could be used against you, this may be worth extra attention.

        • tossrock says:

          I’m not sure I follow. You’re saying that… conservatives shouldn’t trust Mozilla, because Mozilla will collect their browsing habits and use that against them? I don’t think this is a realistic concern. For example, Firefox doesn’t collect your browsing data: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/privacy/faq/

        • blipnickels says:

          It’s worrisome but they’re still substantially better than any other option. I’m not sure I trust Mozilla but I trust them a lot more than Chrome/IE/Safari.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brave is another option–its designed up front to block ads. I don’t think its CEO is a flaming liberal….

    • eigenmoon says:

      I don’t think any institution is reliable enough that you can trust it long-term. Instead here’s some advice for the current state of the web.

      Enable DNS over HTTPS, otherwise you’re leaking your browsing history via DNS requests. Note that unless you set up a DNS proxy, other applications such as download managers would still use plain text DNS.

      You might want to disable OCSP because you’re leaking your browsing history via OCSP requests.

      Disable anything in Firefox that’s related to either Shield or Normandy.

      Disable search suggestions in the address bar, otherwise you’re leaking your browsing history to the search engine.

      You might want to disable WebRTC (peerconnections) because they leak your internal IP to every webpage that wants to know it. But then you can’t make video calls from Firefox anymore.

      Set privacy.resistFingerprinting. Have a look at panopticlick to see how fingerprintable your system is. You might also want to disable WebGL.

      When you follow a link, Firefox tells the target webpage where you’re coming from. Consider SmartReferer extension to prevent that.

      Final advice: the best VPN is the one you bought for cryptocurrency that you’ve mined yourself.

      • albatross11 says:

        No institution is 100% trustworthy. But some institutions are in the business of serving you ads, and that requires a certain amount of intrusive datamining and privacy violation, like Google and Facebook. And they’re probably still less intrusive than the big ad networks, whose whole business model depends on tracking you across sites and devices and providing lots of information for the programs buying the ads in the real-time auctions.

        Other institutions are in the business of selling you something. Apple wants to sell you overpriced hardware and a walled garden of software. That can be annoying, but at least they’re not a giant internet advertising company with a sideline in search engines and mobile operating systems. A commercial VPN service that’s charging you per month at least could keep their business running without selling your data to the highest bidder.

        The best way to make sure an institution doesn’t screw you over is to design your systems so it *can’t*. There is a really wonderful essay (very accessible) by Nick Szabo on this, here..

        • blipnickels says:

          I’m not looking for 100% trust, I’m just looking for either ideological or financial reasons for them to respect my privacy.

          For example, I can assume my VPN provider is as self-interested as any other capitalist but as long as their profits depend on me paying them a subscription to protect my data, that’s trustworthy enough. Since it’s difficult for me to judge exactly how private my data is though their service, I’m looking for those with a good reputation. If reputations are profitable, and a lot are, then a company with a good reputation should have a good product and the product I want is a reasonable degree of privacy.

    • AG says:

      Good for using Firefox. That means you can also use the NoScript extension. Though the combination of Privacy Badger and adblock-of-choice covers a lot of the same ground, NoScript is also useful for sidestepping website bullshit that slows down loading and eats bandwidth. In addition, it gets around adblocker-blocker scripts, so you’ll never get “boo-hoo turn off your adblocker to see the content” bullshit.

    • Laukhi says:

      If you are concerned about privacy then I would strongly recommend not using Windows. Using a GNU/Linux or BSD distribution would be preferable, if that’s possible – nowadays Ubuntu and other distros are apparently pretty user-friendly, although I wouldn’t know.

      If you are specifically worried about privacy from the US government, then I would recommend that you not use DuckDuckGo. Otherwise, it’s probably fine, although you can’t be certain. I would personally recommend you use a Searx instance.

      I don’t think especially highly of Mozilla, since they’ve made some notable missteps in the past. Still, they’re far superior to Google. I would strongly recommend Tor Browser over Firefox. I would also recommend ungoogled-chromium over Firefox, though I think it’s still better to use Tor Browser.

      Make sure to disable third-party cookies, or use an extension such as Cookie Auto-Delete. It would be a good idea to install a decent adblocker (I would recommend uBlock Origin). If you’re willing to put in a little bit of time, uMatrix is absolutely wonderful, and I don’t think there’s any reason to use NoScript over it.

      Check this website (https://spyware.neocities.org) to see if you’re using any programs that could compromise your privacy.

      If you’re up for even more reading: https://wiki.installgentoo.com/wiki/Anonymizing_yourself

      • albatross11 says:

        The last time I used Tor, it was painfully slow. Enough so that you’d only use it for stuff that required strong privacy…which makes it much less valuable. To the extent that using Tor means that someone’s up to no good, and that most people never use it, it loses a lot of its value.

        What we want is for using an anonymizing service to be like using a TLS or a VPN or an adblocker or even Signal–something that tons of people do everyday, even when they’re not downloading goat porn or the NZ shooter’s manifesto or leaving an anonymous tip for an investigative reporter. That requires having the performance hit be a lot less ugly.

  16. Etoile says:

    A thing I’ve noticed lately is that, when social justice speech norms are violated, even in private, even in a mild way, and the internet finds out about them, people claim to be SHOCKED and APPALLED and DISGUSTED. Can those emotions really be genuine? Or is it just the Internet amplifying everything because of the lack of filters and the anonymity?

    For example, let’s say if a male employee texts another employee and calls their female boss a “crazy bitch”, and I see this text over someone’s shoulder. Sure, it’s obviously not the kindest thing to say. Sure, you can argue that “crazy” and “bitch” are gendered terms with fraught histories, and “crazy” stigmatizes and trivializes mental illness. But:
    1) What if the boss really is mercurial and mean? Does the truth matter here at all, even if the terms are somewhat coarse and colloquial?
    2) Can you really be SHOCKED, SHOCKED that someone would DARE to use such VILE LANGUAGE in private?

    I’m mostly posting this out of frustration when I see too much of this.

    • Aapje says:

      I think that the enjoyable emotions that people get from punishing defectors and presenting themselves as moral are genuine.

      You seem to be expecting a level of fairness and consistency in the average person that doesn’t actually exist.

    • March says:

      I dunno about APPALLED and DISGUSTED and anyone who’s SHOCKED needs to get out more, but yeah I’d be a little disgusted-in-lowercase depending on whether that coworker is the type to buy into the general loaded gender implications or just being extremely frustrated, and a little appalled-in-lowercase at the blatant lack of professionalism of leaving a paper trail about stuff like that with other coworkers. Even if you happen to be good friends out of work as well, it’s risky AND you should make sure to communicate stuff like that outside of work. Whatever you say and do does say something about you.

      I’m not that inclined to be a fan of vile language in private either, but that may just be my personal type of magical thinking and experience that contempt begets contempt. I don’t know that many people who can rant and spew about a person in private and then turn around and deal with them with equanimity in public. Even if the boss is a miserable person making you miserable, I don’t think it helps.

      Anyway, I think lots of people can have real emotions about that. The internet does probably amplify. Disgust reactions can generally be illegible to people who don’t have them – I can’t get with people who are disgusted by diaper changes but have a dishwashing phobia myself. I don’t intuitively get arachnophobes but do have that thing where things with holes in them are creepy as hell. And some kinds of relational behavior are disgusting to me but not others, and never the twain shall meet.

    • brmic says:

      I’d be about equally shocked if someone called their boss an asshole, because that’s just drastic and uncalled for and also unprofessional and dangerous. That said, I know workplaces were this is not taboo and with a little context I’m fine with your scenario 1, i.e. it’s somewhat true, just not put the way I’d have put it. However, in _my workplace_, yes, I’d be shocked and appalled if someone were to refer to the boss as an asshole.
      Now, for the more loaded term ‘bitch’, it’s a bit like someone refering to their wife as their ball and chain. It’s nothing major, but it signals a deep values difference and makes me want to get some real or metaphorical distance between me and that person. A feeling which is related to disgust, in that disgust also has a component of ‘get X away from me’. So I might shorthand a description of my feeling with ‘disgust’ in casual conversation.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Yes, some people can really be “SHOCKED, SHOCKED, SHOCKED” because they are….the way they are. People who use this terminology do not use it around people who would be “SHOCKED, SHOCKED, SHOCKED.”

      Sort of like “Locker Room” talk. A lot of guys do it. We do not it around the guys who would be bothered by it. At least once in the past year, someone sent a text message to the wrong text group, and some people were indeed “SHOCKED, SHOCKED, SHOCKED” that adult men might make fellatio jokes.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’m sure it’s not genuine in every case, but yeah I think there are plenty of people with tender sensibilities. We may just be desensitized to it because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been on the internet a long, long, long, long, long time.

    • lvlln says:

      Out of SHOCKED, APPALLED, and DISGUSTED, I think there’s a case to be made that the SHOCK isn’t quite genuine. SHOCK specifically refers to someone being surprised by something unexpected. By the very words of the same people who claim to be SHOCKED, APPALLED, and DISGUSTED, they believe that bigotry is seeping through every aspect of every conversation and relationship that takes place in Western society, and so they can’t reasonably claim to be SHOCKED when they discover that someone else, in private, says something bigoted.

      However, I think everything that follows after the surprise part in the SHOCK are genuine, i.e. being APPALLED and DISGUSTED and upset and other things. I’ve noticed that it’s not particularly hard to self-modify in order to genuinely feel emotions if they’re useful (doing so in a conscious, directed way might be hard, however), and in the SJ sphere, being APPALLED and DISGUSTED at the current state of things is very useful, for things like gaining status, for pre-empting someone else accusing you of being insufficiently pro-SJ, and for guilting others into going along with your prescriptions. And I’m quite sure that 99.999% of SJ people aren’t cynical manipulators and have nothing but disdain for such people; they’re not capable of faking being APPALLED and DISGUSTED with a clean conscience. So they self-modify to genuinely feel APPALLED and DISGUSTED at things like crude language in private that they deem to be bigoted.

      So yeah, I have little doubt that their expressions of being APPALLED and DISGUSTED reflect a real, honest, genuine emotion in the deepest depths of their hearts, exactly as real, honest, and genuine as, say, the pain that I would feel if you stuck my hand into a fire. The SHOCK, I’m less sure about. But I’ve also noticed that SJ folks often specifically mention not being shocked, as a way of expressing exasperation at the APPALLING and DISGUSTING state of the world.

      • Randy M says:

        I’ve noticed that it’s not particularly hard to self-modify in order to genuinely feel emotions if they’re useful

        Hence the hazard of rewarding subjective offense.

      • Spookykou says:

        I am not sure if they are changing their own emotional reaction to ‘mildly’ offensive content, or reinterpreting it as less mild. The impression I increasingly have is that not being woke enough is seen as an active rejection of wokeness. My dad talking about how ‘Chinese people are…’ is not a mostly benign if uncomfortable contextualization of his experiences in China, it’s full-throated racism and bigotry, which is DISGUSTING.

        • lvlln says:

          I am not sure if they are changing their own emotional reaction to ‘mildly’ offensive content, or reinterpreting it as less mild.

          Isn’t this 6 of one, half dozen of the other? The most effective way to change one’s own emotional reaction to mildly offensive content is to reinterpret it as being less mild. Because changing – increasing, in this context – one’s own emotional reaction to that content while still considering it only mildly offensive would cause cognitive dissonance.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is just the opposite side of the argument against normalizing some offensive behavior/speech.

      • albatross11 says:

        Disgust at violation of purity taboos is also a moral foundation that’s mostly not seen in, say, libertarian arguments. Progressives seem to be incorporating that as a response to racism/sexism/homophobia/etc. Note the common use of the term “gross” to describe hateful rhetoric or ideas.

        I wonder if one source of the strain between older left-wing types and newer ones has to do with the incorporation of disgust and maybe loyalty (to a particular victim hierarchy) as moral bases driving a lot of their judgments and behavior.

        • lvlln says:

          I think this is part of it. I’ve noted here before just how utterly befuddling it was for me to see other progressives invoke their own personal disgust reactions as meaningful moral judgments, after progressives had spent all the previous decade fighting for people’s personal disgust reactions to be considered exactly worthless when it comes to moral judgments, in the context of gay marriage and broader LGBT rights/issues.

          • In Cell says:

            It’s no longer even allowed to be disgusted at gay sex. We have progressed beyond that. Now we modify our emotions so that they fit the correct morals.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Perform an emotion enough, and it will become real.

      This is why Stoicism is the correct philosophy.

    • J Mann says:

      I wouldn’t say people are shocked so much as angry. I’m not in the community myself, but my assumption is that the SJ amplifiers believe (a) there’s a lot of hidden racism, sexism, structural oppression, etc., and (b) calling out someone for saying something offensive helps expose one of these crypto foo-ists.

    • Matt M says:

      This kind of thing annoys me quite a bit, but it’s hardly exclusive to SJ.

      Like, I use to listen to Glenn Beck on a regular basis, and despite being a big fan, I would get incredibly annoyed that every day, he would describe the outrage of the day as something like “unbelievable.” And I’m sitting there like “If I believed the last four stories you reported, this one seems completely and entirely believable!”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        No matter what happens, he never updates what’s believable?
        The Incredulous Hulk.

      • souleater says:

        I used to listen to Glenn Beck. I didn’t always agree with him, but I always felt like he was genuine in a way a lot of other political types aren’t. He was tough on Trump despite what I suspect are enormous costs to his company.

        You can kinda take a measure of a man by seeing how much he’s willing to sacrifice for his principles.

  17. johan_larson says:

    Is Mark Zuckerberg a handsome man?

    I’m not of a gender or orientation that would be attracted to him, but as far as I can tell, he’s not particularly handsome. He’s maybe a 4/10. He has a prominent chin and a tall forehead, so in many pictures his face looks really long. He also has really thin lips. And he wears this odd close-cropped hairstyle that makes his naturally curly hair look like a skull-cap.

    • Nick says:

      No. And a 4/10 is generous.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      No he’s not. I would put him at a dead center, 5/10 region. A different hairstyle would do wonders, as would a skincare routine (more important for pale boys like us). I’d advocate the gym, I think he’d make clear and easy gains there being so slim. I don’t know if he can grow a beard or if that would suit him.

      Obviously in today’s sex positive world, the fact that he’s a robot being operated by a spider should be no impediment to a vigorous sex life.

    • Plumber says:

      ‘course he is!

      All the ladies swoon for the rap-master who don’t blink!

    • Well... says:

      Has anyone noticed how much Zuckerberg resembles Woody Allen?

      • johan_larson says:

        Could you point to a picture that shows the resemblance? Most pictures of Allen show him as an older man, and nearly all of them show him with thick=framed glasses.

        • Well... says:

          Open two new windows (one with this image and one with this one) and put them side by side. You might use ctrl/cmd++/- to adjust the sizing so they’re similar scale. I couldn’t find any pictures where they’re both making the same exact facial expression, in similar lighting, at similar angles, and both great quality but those two are decently close.

          The first thing I notice is the shape of the face, the skull, the hairline (you have to do a bit of tracing there), the cheekbones, and the eye sockets. The eyes themselves are similar. The shape of the nose is similar too, although Woody’s nostrils flare more. They have similar mouths and chins too.

          And they’re both famous guys of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage who have Asian wives and are embroiled in controversy!

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Not sure why you are asking. Zuckerberg is not physically handsome, purely middle of the road. However, he has billions of dollars. However, he also still sounds like a socially awkward nerd. The latter pieces are pretty relevant if you are trying to assess male attractiveness.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m definitely not creating his stats block for the card game “Bedding the Billionaires” (working title). It must be something else.

        • souleater says:

          You have my curiosity..

          Do you have a website/blog or anything where I can look at what you’re working on here?

          Or even just an elevator pitch as to what the objective might be?

          I’m deeply, deeply curious as to how you can develop a card game based of the sexual compatibility of Zuck

        • Randy M says:

          I’m sorry, but this is just wrong.
          In the game “Bedding the Billionaires” it doesn’t matter what his attractiveness is, the goal is to get him into bed for the sake of the billions.
          Knowing his stats would be more relevant for the “Tech Bro Dating Sim” where one has to compete with MZ (or, possibly, unlock him as a playable character).

    • broblawsky says:

      He isn’t unattractive. Once you get over a certain hurdle of attractiveness (depending on your prospective partner), personality and social skills become the primary factor.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      He’s not ugly, he’s definitely not hot, but he’s good enough that someone out there probably likes the look of him, like most of us. The hair is what I like the least, but I don’t think he looks bad by a strongly universalizable measure.

    • Atlas says:

      Steve Sailer has observed that Zuckerberg is, unusually, more handsome than the actor who played him in a major Hollywood movie (i.e. Jesse Eisenberg).

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        For real? Jesse looks significantly better than Mark to me. But I guess this drives home my point in the post above.

        • Well... says:

          I don’t know what exactly Sailer said by way of explanation, but Zuckerberg looks bigger and healthier. Eisenberg always looks stooped and bent. Personally I think Eisenberg has a better face though. (More masculine browline, squarer jaw, sturdier less bulbous nose, better hairline obviously, plus he often sports some beard growth.) Zuck might have the better chin because it’s less pointy.

        • Randy M says:

          Googling Jesse Eisenberg, you find a lot of glamour shots that look like he just stepped out of the make-up booth.
          Zuckerbergs pics tend to be him speaking at a conference or similar; he might have just gotten the same make up treatment, but it doesn’t seem likely.
          Accounting for this, they’re pretty similar. Both have kind of awkward hair that could possibly pass as adorable. Jesse has a more sharply angled chin that is more distinctive but also gives his cheeks a sunken look. He comes off as a bit sullen, contrasting with Mark’s almost crafted unobtrusiveness. The Commander Data comparisons are not exactly unfounded. Both would probably benefit from a bit more sun.

      • Well... says:

        Other real-life people who are more attractive than the actors who portrayed them:

        – Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks)
        – Truman Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
        – Kurt Cobain (Tyler Bryan)
        – Howard Hughes (Leonardo Dicaprio)
        – Oscar Wilde (Stephen Fry)
        – Władysław Szpilman (Adrien Brody)
        – Princess Diana (Naomi Watts)
        – Coco Chanel (Audrey Tautou)
        – Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams)
        – Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore)
        – Ava Gardner (Kate Beckinsale)
        – Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe)
        – Elvis Presley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)
        – Jim Morrison (Val Kilmer)
        – Amelia Earhart (Hillary Swank)
        – Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock)
        – David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel)
        – Malcolm X (Denzel Washington)
        – Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman)
        – Che Guevara (Benicio Del Toro)
        – Muhammad Ali (Will Smith)
        – Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch)
        – Pablo Escobar (Andres Parra)
        – Salvadore Dali (Adrien Brody)
        – Pablo Picasso (Anthony Hopkins)
        – Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones), though both are pretty darn ugly

    • Elephant says:

      I think this is an exceptionally rude, unpleasant post. Commenting negatively on someone’s appearance is simply crass and mean, and the fact that someone is famous doesn’t make them fair game for abuse.

      • Adrian says:

        I don’t think a multi-billionaire needs a White Knight protecting him against “abuse” in a semi-hidden comment section of a niche website he couldn’t care less about even if he ever stumbled upon it.

        • albatross11 says:

          I expect the ego of a guy who started a huge successful world-reshaping company in college and made billions of dollars doing it can probably hold up to some scorn about his looks by randos on the internet.

        • In Cell says:

          Won’t you feel silly when it turns out Elephant is Zuckerberg himself.

      • Well... says:

        Seems to me the point of the post is more a discussion of what makes a man look handsome or not (a genuinely interesting topic), using the well-protected Zuckerberg as a central example to spur the conversation. I think we’re all grown-up enough here to understand that looks aren’t everything, that attractiveness has more to do with personality and other less tangible characteristics in the mid- to long-term, etc. and so we can set that aside as a given and talk about looks.

      • quanta413 says:

        Apparently he’s a 4 or 5 out of 10. So he’s beating ~40% of us anyways. Before you count his accomplishments and money.

        After that he’s smoked the men here. I think he’ll be okay.

    • Etoile says:

      A reasonable guy, in reasonable shape. It’s hard for me to put it on a 1-10 scale, but I’d probably say yes if he asked me on a date (and he wasn’t Mark Zuckerberg, just looked that way, and I didn’t know who Mark Zukerberg was).

    • March says:

      Tying back to that OKcupid thing where men have a finer-grained judgement for women’s beauty (and only message the hot ones) and women lump a lot of men into ‘below average’ but message them anyway, I think there are 3 categories of guys.

      Overall unattractive. Can still have a couple of gorgeous features (beautiful eyes or a great laugh) but the first impression of the gestalt is ‘nah’. For me, these are rare in my general age category and country.
      Overall OK. First impression probably neutral on the ‘would I hit this’ scale, easily slides into attractive if happens to have some of the things you personally find attractive. I’m not very demanding in terms of dress style so a huge number of guys fall into this category. If people are more critical of style, probably less. To me, there’s no drawback to being this level of attractiveness – it won’t rule you out, your good points easily rule you in, and the personal click is the differentiator.
      Overall attractive. First impression is ‘handsome.’ Usually a package deal of good facial features, nice body, good hair (or good style when not having any), good teeth, good posture, good attitude, good voice. Can be a huge advantage, can be a major turnoff if also a jerk. Also kinda rare IMO, because very personal. (To me, a guy with long hair gets an automatic boost, to my best friend that’s an automatic no.)

      I think guys tend to ‘compensate’ less than women – if you have a big butt you dress to emphasize your waist, if you have bad hair you make the most of it with cut and style, if you look boring you add color – so there are fewer package deals out there among men.

      Anyway, long story short, to me Mark Zuckerberg is solidly an Overall OK kind of dude physically.

      • Aapje says:

        and only message the hot ones

        That’s not what the OKCupid data shows. The less attractive women also got messages, just fewer.

        and women lump a lot of men into ‘below average’ but message them anyway

        You have to keep in mind that women far more often respond, rather than initiate messaging. A reactive strategy automatically causes the people that you message to be more average. This says little about actual preferences. I predict that if you were to force women to message first (like in Bumble), their message patterns will look more like men’s patterns.

        • March says:

          Sure. And attractiveness is mediated differently online than off, etc, etc.

          (Huh, my comment posted halfway through.)

          My point: I don’t think many women have a 10-point scale, at least not one that means something. “He’s not a 4/10, he’s a 5/10” doesn’t even compute for me. My relevant physical attractiveness scales are:
          – I don’t care about the rest, he’s so ugly I’d never want to sleep with him.
          – His looks are a downside.
          – His looks, on the whole, are neutral.
          – His looks are a plus.
          – I don’t care about the rest, I’ll definitely sleep with him. (I don’t think this category really exists for most women.)

          • Spookykou says:

            I don’t and I imagine most men don’t actually have a granular coherent 10 point system. I also imagine the numbers are very personal so they don’t carry much information, every guy thinks he is with a 5+girl, in the same way that almost everybody is an above average driver.

          • Lambert says:

            x/10 ratings are more of a way of communicating and comparing with others’ ratings than they are part of one’s internal experience.

            Since the qualia of being attracted are very deep and illegible and, imho, more or less a tree shrew furiously pressing the ‘attention’ button in our predictive perception routines, any way to convey these things in words is going to fall terribly short.
            All we can manage is a sort of Mohs scale built on top of pairwise comparisons.

          • Aapje says:

            @March

            The OKCupid data can indicate that women judge men on more variables or far more on other variables than physical attractiveness (where men also judge women on other variables, but much less so). And even then this may differ for casual sex or long term relationships.

            Women can be just as or more picky, while seeming less picky if you merely look at physical attractiveness.

            For example, let’s say that Bob merely wants the best looking woman that will have him. He might focus on the top quarter of women, by looks.

            Now imagine that Mary judges a man on looks, wittiness and income. If she restricts herself to the men who are in the top quarter of looks, the top quarter of wittiness and the top quarter of income, that is going to be a way, way smaller selection than the top quarter of men.

            So if you merely correlate physical attractiveness with messaging, Mary would seem just as picky as Bob, while actually being way more picky (in the sense of considering fewer men acceptable).

            If we go from the other direction, where Mary picks the top quarter of men in general, by the combination of looks, wittiness and income, then the men she picks might merely be top 50% in looks, top 50% in wittiness and top 50% in income, or worse.

            So if you merely correlate physical attractiveness with messaging, Mary would then seem way less picky than Bob, while actually being just as picky, but for different variables.

            You argued that men compensate less in physical appearance, but they might compensate by putting more effort in the other things that women favor (like the proverbial ‘are you compensating for something’ when a man buys an expensive car or such).

            Note that the increase in ‘manscaping’ suggests that men might not be able to compensate as easily like that anymore, for example because women are working more and earning more.

            However, if women haven’t reacted to the societal changes by altering their preferences (enough) and putting more weight on looks and less on other things, women might have become more picky on average.

            PS. Note that OKCupid used to ask people to rate personality based on the profile, as well as physical appearance based on the photo’s & found a near perfect correlation for both men and women. So it seems that women (and men) don’t actually try to guess personality from these profiles. Of course, they may very plausibly do that based on messaging/chatting or judging the person during a physical date. Anecdotally, I’ve heard many women argue that they are looking for a ‘click’ when meeting in real life.

            PS2. There’s also the theory that apps like Tinder don’t actually suit the way in which women tend to seek out partners, resulting in them often using it for ego-boosting, rather than actually seeking out a partner.

          • March says:

            @Aapje,

            Of course men compensate in other ways. Given that most women aren’t actually that picky on physical looks AND they’re more picky in other ways AND there’s a strong cultural push among men to not seem to be too women-pleasing/pussy-whipped (and dressing/styling to attract women is kinda obvious), it’s the rare man for which it makes sense to go for the physcal looks jackpot.

            It is technically possible to compare one thing without implying any other thing.

    • LadyJane says:

      No, he has a distinctly Uncanny Valley look to him, in terms of his appearance and mannerisms and general body language.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I read his body language as “awkward, probably aspie”, and no more so than maybe half of the people at the last SSC meetup I attended.

        His facial expression at the Senate hearings and similar events reads to me as being spun up hard on modafinil, which I don’t blame him at all for. If I was called to testify before a Senate committee, I would too. (I have a real legal Rx, “occasionally as necessary, not to exceed…”).

        The “uncanny valley” snarks are neither necessary nor kind, especially in a forum full of people that get the same judgement from the normies all the time.

        If I was to give him some advice, I’d tell him to get a personal trainer, and then take up either yoga, ballroom dance, or feldenkrais. He should ask Jeff for a recommendation. [ https://www.mensxp.com/health/motivation/45019-how-jeff-bezos-transformed-into-jacked-bezos.html ]

        • acymetric says:

          Your threshold for what qualifies as “aspie” appears to be calibrated way too low (as in too many people qualify).

        • LadyJane says:

          As Albatross mentioned earlier in this discussion:

          I expect the ego of a guy who started a huge successful world-reshaping company in college and made billions of dollars doing it can probably hold up to some scorn about his looks by randos on the internet.

    • albatross11 says:

      A few billion dollars in the bank does wonders for your attractiveness.

  18. AlexOfUrals says:

    Question to the EA folks here. What’s the EA/utilitarians’ position on optional-but-kind-of-expected payments, like tips or payments for anything operating on pay what you want model, or various kinds of donations-sponsored content online such as Wikipedia? (I’m sure there must be a special term for this kind of transactions but have no idea what it is)

    My guess would be that the official position is absence of thereof for political reasons. On the one hand if you honestly evaluate this through their framework it should be clear that your dollars are definitely going to do more good sent to some poor kids in Africa or spent on existential risks research, then they will by slightly improving some waiter’s life. On the other hand such advice won’t generate much additional donations and will create horrible publicity. So it’s better to never touch the issue altogether.

    Is this correct? Or am I missing something, is there some better analysis with more satisfying results?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Consider this line of reasoning part II of, “strictly rational philosophy is really bad: a farce in infinite acts”

      The number one thing I’ll say for the EA movement is that 99% are cool with a policy of, “don’t be a giant asshole just to extract a few more malaria nets even if it leads to MoRE UTiLionS.”

      “Payment-what-you-want/can” establishments ask the buyer to evaluate the worth of the service provided. If your honest assessment is, “I could pay you the $5 I think your service is worth and that I’m comfortable paying, but kids in Africa need it more, so I’ll give it to them instead,” that makes you an asshole. CF people who leave bible verses at restaurants instead of tips.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Yeah that definitely sounds reasonable if you put it this way. Though I subscribe to the (orthodox?) idea that if your “rational” reasoning leads you to the worse world, it means you’ve done the reasoning wrong, not that you shouldn’t have tried to approach the question rationally in the first place.

        Though I do tip usually, I’m still poorly calibrated to the American culture in this regard, and perceive it as being nice to other person I don’t really know or care about just for the sake of, well, being nice. Hence the question – I can just as well to be nice to some random African kids. If you consider tips a part of the price as herbert herberson suggests it starts make more sense (insofar the system as a whole makes sense).

        • aristides says:

          I do not think the average American thinks tipping is a way of being nice. I personally think of it as an entertainment expense that if I tip better, I am paying for better service, and if I don’t tip at all, I am gambling on food poisoning. You would normally not think that a payment after the fact can influence behavior before it, but most experienced waiters can estimate your approximate tip by the time you place your order. More importantly, waiters have long memories, and particularly remember those that don’t tip at all. Is it really effective not to tip and spend a day sick from food poisoning?

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            Getting people you see for the first time preemptive food poisoning just because you “estimated their approximate tip” to be too low? I’m reeeaaally not sure who’s being an asshole at this point. Especially since people often can’t themselves estimate their tip before they actually receive the service and decide whether it was good or bad. That’s kind of the original stated purpose of the system, however poorly it achieves it now.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I assume EA’s have figured out a reason that you shouldn’t rob a bank to spend on malaria nets; a flavor of that should apply here. In tipping-expected cultures, the tip is essentially part of the price of the meal.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yep. The choice isn’t “tip or not tip”, but “eat out or not eat out”. Once you enter the restaurant, conforming to local norms is… polite.

    • Drew says:

      Why would EA have any opinion here? You shouldn’t be spending your “Effective Altruism” budget on eating out.

      Sure, you’re technically helping someone (you) when you pay for a fancy dinner. But, unless something really weird is happening, that money would have more impact going to an actual charity.

      And, if you’re spending money that’s NOT earmarked for Effective Altruism, then it’s your entertainment budget, and you’ve just told me that EA isn’t your goal.

      • 10240 says:

        It’s a possible attitude that you want all your altruism to be effective, where you may define broadly as anything you do not out of pure self-interest. (Or you could limit it to anything you do not out of the interests of yourself or your family and friends.) If we ignore the effect of tipping on food or service quality, then tipping is in your altruism budget by definition (if you use the broad definition above), and you want your entire altruism budget to be effective.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Yes, with the clarification in parentheses that’s pretty much exactly my thoughts.

        • In Cell says:

          Half of EA is avoiding ineffective altruism while the other half is partaking in effective altruism. That’s why I call myself a 50% EA.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Why would EA have any opinion here? You shouldn’t be spending your “Effective Altruism” budget on eating out.

        I am not an EA partisan myself, but I still think I can get into the mindset enough to make an argument for eating out. If you truly organize your life to earn as much money as possible, so you can give it away to good causes, then there is a good chance you earn a lot. It may make perfect financial sense to spend time on making money instead of making dinner.

        OTOH it may make more financial sense to eat using non-tipped options like fast food or take-out.

  19. J Mann says:

    There was a discussion a few threads back about what we are supposed to learn from Forky in Toy Story 4.

    I like* Ross Douthat’s interpretation of the Toy Story series message – Douthat thinks the movies are ultimately saying that the best thing for a toy to be is a toy, and ambitions to be something else are harmful. Buzz and Zerg go wrong by attempting to be more than toys; Forky by attempting to be less, and ultimately they all grow when they surrender their delusions and decide, as in A Brave New World, that the best thing for a Beta to be is a Beta, and there’s no profit in trying to be an Alpha or a Delta.

    * That is to say, I think his interpretation is insightful; I’m not sure if I like the actual message, which still confuses me a little.

    • AG says:

      The message is more about accepting love from others, though. The best thing for a person to be is such that others love them, and while others can still love them, it is bad to neglect that duty.
      Buzz’s delusional state in the first film is bad because his pursuing his mission will take him away from Andy.
      Stinky Pete’s aiming to be a museum piece is bad because pursuing his mission prevents him from having an owner who loves him (as opposed to the “coldness” of a object-spectator relationship).
      Lotso is wrong for preventing toys from returning to the owners who still love them.
      Forky is not allowed oblivion so long as Bonnie maintains a love for him.

      (Toy Story 3 creates the corollary that if you stop loving someone, you should try to find them someone else who will. Andy is obligated to give his toys to Bonnie, rather than simply abandon them in the attic.)

      Bo Peep is allowed to become something else because she no longer has an owner who loves her that she is obligated to let love her.

      At no point do the movies ever go “yay bonfire/dumpster/landfill.” But rather than striving to be Real, they advocate to strive to be loved.

      (Applying this to real people still creaks in the “ruin yourself for filial piety” sense, though.)

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        This interpretation is what leads me to believe Toy Story 2 is an elegant and classic deal with the devil story.

        Woody is the Everyman, once pious in his love for Andy, the God of his particular universe. In this case, the thing in question is the value of Andy’s love weighed against Woody’s fear of his own mortality.

        The devil (and we know he’s the devil because his feet are chicken feet) offers a physical immortality, and an endless font of love that is not the love of Andy. Woody meets other toys who have taken up the offer, but must wait for his choice. Woody’s own sense of selflessness is used against him, as the Prospector et al are depending on him. The social pressure to turn away from the Divine.

        As proof of his good faith, the devil restores Woody to physical perfection, but also takes away the Name of God imprinted upon him.

        Woody ultimately realizes that physical immortality and the false adoration from behind glass that the devil promises him are against his nature. He is a Toy, and he is Andy’s Toy. Since that love is the love for which he was made, it’s the correct choice.

        He saves who can be saved, the Name of God is restored to him, and all are happy until the next movie.

  20. albatross11 says:

    So, I haven’t followed a lot of the Epstein plea deal before. Am I missing something, or does this whole thing just look massively corrupt? This story is like Pizzagate, except it’s real.

    This makes me wonder how many of the decisions not to prosecute other powerful people (particularly w.r.t. the 2008 meltdown) were similarly corrupt.

    • dick says:

      Here is a take suggesting that the penalty he got wasn’t that unusual for sex trafficking. What I don’t understand is how he could pay a 14-year-old for sex and have that charged as prostitution rather than rape.

      • Protagoras says:

        Prosecutors like to go after prostitutes, including underage ones. Harder to justify doing that if you’re calling them rape victims.

    • Atlas says:

      Relatedly, can someone explain to me what has changed about the Epstein case over the past week? I remember hearing about it on e.g. Chapo a year or so ago and it seems like most of what people are discussing now—flight logs! Trump quote! Famous professors! Etc.—is stuff that people were aware of previously.

      • Clutzy says:

        The SDNY filed charges related to the conduct, thus ripping off the bandage. A member of the Cabinet was overseeing the initial deal as well, which is the news hook.

      • Polycarp says:

        Over the past week you ask? On July 2, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit decided an appeal and ordered the unsealing of c. 2000 pages of records in the Epstein case.

      • Matt M says:

        Incredibly cynical answer: Previous attempts to impeach/remove/politically damage Trump were unsuccessful, so the swamp moved down one row on their “What scandalous stuff is out there we may be able to tie him to” list.

        • DinoNerd says:

          I completely fail to understand why impeaching Trump seems like a good idea to those who sort with me politically. Impeaching Trump would replace him with Pence. Pence has a reputation for wanting to enforce conservative Christian norms/values on everyone, and for being competent/effective. He might be better for business and/or the US GDP (doesn’t seem to be a tariff nut), but that’s about the only good I can say about him – from a left wing perspective. (Most of what I don’t like about him would play very well indeed with non-libertarian conservatives, of course.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I completely fail to understand why impeaching Trump seems like a good idea to those who sort with me politically.

            Because Trump Derangement Syndrome is a thing and deranged people don’t pursue rational strategies calculated to produce good outcomes.

            During the Bush II presidency, many of the deranged were of the voluminously-expressed opinion that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove were the true masterminds, that Dubya was the dumb puppet chosen because the puppeteers knew they lacked the personal charisma to win elections. There was still widespread support for impeaching George W Bush and thus making Dick Cheney the actual and legal President of the United States, to the extent that a bill of impeachment was actually introduced in the House. I do not recall anyone shouting that we should not do this because it would lead to the greater evil of President Cheney.

            Possibly some of them are merely ignorant of the facts of impeachment and believe that when POTUS goes down, his Veep is also removed and either the speaker or the losing major-party candidate of the last election takes over. Mostly, I think it’s just derangement.

          • Matt M says:

            On the one hand, what John Schilling says is true.

            On the other hand, Pence’s “reputation” is also hysterically inaccurate and based mainly on media shrieking and less on his actual policies and positions.

            “Pence is a hardcore fundamentalist who wants to force all of America to become the Handmaid’s Tale” is a meme that was essentially created overnight by his refusal to veto a relatively benign religious freedom bill while he was governor of Indiana that just went a little more viral and stuck to him a little more than the dozens of other “any Republican who passes a bill we don’t like is wicked and evil” attempted memes did…

          • DinoNerd says:

            “Pence is a hardcore fundamentalist who wants to force all of America to become the Handmaid’s Tale” is a meme that was essentially created overnight by his refusal to veto a relatively benign religious freedom bill while he was governor of Indiana

            Interesting. As a non-citizen/non-voter I never did take the trouble to do any research on him, just took what I heard about him at face value.

            OTOH, how can refusing to veto an actual religious freedom bill – rather than a special-rights-for-Christians bill – give anyone such a reputation?

          • Erusian says:

            OTOH, how can refusing to veto an actual religious freedom bill – rather than a special-rights-for-Christians bill – give anyone such a reputation?

            I will say: Pence as a hardcore religious right winger has a longer history than the bill. But his national credentials really came about at that time.

            The bill was fairly innocuous in terms of what it stated: Indiana did not have an anti-discrimination statute for religion. Now it did. The law basically said the government could not compel people to go against their religious beliefs outside of specific circumstances, whether through organs or judicially. It’s not fair to say Pence refused to veto it: he was an active supporter. And I will say, in at least one case a local Muslim community used it to get a mosque built which Pence was fine with.

            But remember those bakers who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding? Yeah, that. In fact, Pence specifically referenced Masterpiece Cakeshop as an attack on religious liberty and supporters openly stated they wanted to protect Christians from similar cases. It came on a wave of controversy related to gay marriage and the fact many states were signing such laws and the coasts/Democrats saw them as a cover for bigotry.

            And because Indiana was unlucky enough to get chosen for reasons I don’t entirely understand, immense pressure was applied to the state specifically. Governors ordered boycotts, corporate pressure was applied, all that. And Pence basically stood calmly but firmly in support of the bill which scored him huge points with the conservative crowd nationally. He ultimately outlasted the pressure. Naturally, this made the Democrats like him even less.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Thanks. Feels like an “only in America” kind of story, but that’s probably my Canadian chauvinism talking.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Erusian, on the other hand, Pence signed an amendment a week later which half-neutered the bill by forbidding people from denying “services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods,” or several other things on the basis of a laundry-list of characteristics including race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In other words, the amendment forces people to bake cakes for same-sex weddings after all.

            In short, Pence backed down. Either he doesn’t realize the importance of these exceptions, or he doesn’t have the spine to stand up under pressure.

          • Erusian says:

            In short, Pence backed down. Either he doesn’t realize the importance of these exceptions, or he doesn’t have the spine to stand up under pressure.

            No, you misunderstand the legal case the conservatives are making with Masterpiece.

            The argument has to do with participation, not simply sales. The specific argument is that, by requiring the person to use their skills to produce something, they are imposing a requirement to violate their religious principles. If a gay couple walks into a bakery and buys a premade cake or doughnut, then denying them services is discriminatory. The cake/doughnut was on display for anyone and the Christian had held themselves out as willing to sell it. However, by requiring Christian bakers to produce cakes for gay weddings they are forcing the Christian to use their skills to create something specifically for a gay wedding.

            Pence reconfirmed homosexuals could not be denied services of the first kind while protecting the right to the second. That is exactly what the conservatives wanted.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Erusian, I understand that distinction, but did Pence and the RFRA amendment actually make that distinction? If so, great! But I don’t see that in the text of the amendment in my link, and I didn’t hear about it at the time – perhaps “services” is separately defined elsewhere, but as I read it the law seems like it would plausibly require both types of “services.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            @DinoNerd

            The hullabaloo over the RFRA is critical to understanding the latest turn in American politics. You need to understand that when it was originally passed, it had massive bi-partisan support, passing the Senate 97-3, and inspiring half the states to pass their own version applying it to local laws.

            When he signed it, Clinton gave an excellent speech, calling religious freedom “the first freedom,” “perhaps the most precious of all American liberties,” and declaring that people shouldn’t be afraid to advocate courses of action that are based in their faith.

            So whenever somebody on the left talks about how extreme the right has gotten, keep in mind that they took something that was broadly agreed on by everybody as the first, most precious freedom, and in 2 decades the left reversed course entirely, focusing instead on the important work of suing nuns.

            And consequently sending the message to everyone on the right that they could and would just as easily turn against the less precious freedoms if those also grew inconvenient. It was a very serious betrayal.

            “The Government should be held to a very high level of proof before it interferes with someone’s free exercise of religion. This judgment is shared by the people of the United States as well as by the Congress. We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.” – Bill Clinton, 1993

        • BBA says:

          This scandal has been unexploded ordnance for a long time. The obvious reason why it never took off in ’16 is that Bill Clinton was implicated. Even now, there are enough Hillary stans in the Democratic Party that I’m still seeing some reluctance to throw the Clintons under the bus… personally, I’m leaning towards “kill ’em all, let God sort ’em out” and I’m an atheist.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            +1

          • Randy M says:

            Hillary stans

            Is that a reference to the suffix for country or something else?

          • Matt M says:

            BBA,

            Yes, I agree with just about everything you said. I would add that the fact that the Clintons may be collateral damage to this effort is why it was lower on the list than other such hits as “Russian collusion” and “obstruction of investigation of Russian collusion” and “tax returns will show evidence of legal wrongdoing” and “obviously insane lady accuses him of rape”

            Hoopyfreud,

            “stan” is a modern American colloquialism for someone who is extremely devoted to a specific (typically famous) individual, likely originating with the Eminem song… uh, “Stan”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt M

            Tagging @Randy since he was the one asking about stans.

            I, of course, have no need of such aid. I’m a meme machine.

          • dick says:

            Even now, there are enough Hillary stans in the Democratic Party that I’m still seeing some reluctance to throw the Clintons under the bus…

            I kind of don’t believe this. From what I’ve seen, “our side is willing to throw our guy under the bus if he’s guilty, why won’t the other side say the same!” is the position of 100% of everyone.

          • Nornagest says:

            From what I’ve seen, “our side is willing to throw our guy under the bus if he’s guilty, why won’t the other side say the same!” is the position of 100% of everyone.

            That’s absolutely what they’ll say, even to themselves. But when it comes time to actually throw the guy under the bus, there’s normally some reluctance. Not for low, tribal reasons, of course, but because it would cause some very real problems with important ongoing projects, and then there are still some nagging questions about the facts of the case, and we haven’t fully given him due process, and have you seen the guy we’d be replacing him with…

          • John Schilling says:

            From what I’ve seen, “our side is willing to throw our guy under the bus if he’s guilty, why won’t the other side say the same!” is the position of 100% of everyone.

            That’s the lie of 100% of everyone. The actual position of most people is “our side is willing to throw our guy under the bus if he’s guilty and expendable, why won’t the other side destroy their irreplaceable leaders?”

          • Matt M says:

            It probably doesn’t help that in the rare occasions when one side or the other actually does throw its own guy to the wolves (Al Franken, Roy Moore, etc.) the other side doesn’t really grant them any acknowledgement or respect at all, and they end up regretting it.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            To the extent that Roy Moore was ever thrown to the wolves, he was subsequently unthrown.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The weird thing is that I would only hear about Epstein on either very very left wing and very very right wing sites. Both extremes would talk about it, but not the mainstream.

        Now it’s mainstream, finally.

        • albatross11 says:

          There’s a parallel with a bunch of other issues: opposition to the Iraq invasion, to war on terror domestic surveillance, and to bank bailouts in the 2008 meltdown were pretty similar.

          The best model I have for this is that the ruling class (the folks who normally have power in government, media, and business) and their hangers-on are all broadly on the same side on a lot of these issues. One pretty solid position of the ruling class is that people like them should generally not suffer a lot of consequences for wrongdoing.

          • Nick says:

            Or covering up of abuse in the Church, which we know was being done by progressives and conservatives alike.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I assume you mean relative to the Church, i.e. conservative in absolute terms.

    • hls2003 says:

      I’m not a criminal law expert, but it doesn’t strike me as terribly egregious (the plea deal, not Epstein’s conduct). For comparison, look at what happened in the Robert Kraft case – the prosecutors tried to give him a no-jail-time deal, he refused, and his lawyers got the whole operation thrown out of court. It’s often pretty hard to prosecute and get convictions on the types of crimes of which he was accused, and with the legal and investigative resources Epstein could throw at his defense, it’s not impossible to see an outcome where a bunch of victims get traumatized, torn apart on the stand and in their privacy, and Epstein walks anyway. Under the plea deal, he did time, even if not a lot.

      Plus, I’m not saying Epstein’s political connections couldn’t have played a role, but even if one takes out the “political” part of “political connections,” his relative standing in the community was going to make things more difficult for the prosecutor. It’s always easier to nail an obvious dirtbag career criminal; it’s harder to do to a plugged-in community member where the jurors’ inclination is “he’s got so much to lose and so much going for him, why would he do something like this, obviously women throw themselves at him, isn’t it more likely this scraggly runaway (note: don’t know the witnesses, hypo only) is trying to set him up?”

      The political connections (or intelligence agency connections? Weird stuff) could play a non-quid-pro-quo role, since to overcome a lot of those above-listed negative things about the case, you often need an ambitious, gung-ho prosecutor that thinks “This is the case that will make my career so I’m going to push through it all and nail him to the wall!” Imagine Mike Nifong from the Duke Lacrosse case, thinking this was the one to launch his career (except here there would presumably be some actual evidence). The prosecutor is less likely to think “this is my big break” when the defendant is regularly schmoozing with the political bigwigs.

      • albatross11 says:

        Just at a moral level, paying an adult prostitute for a blowjob doesn’t seem like it’s even in the same moral universe as f–king a bunch of 14-year-old girls.

        • hls2003 says:

          I don’t claim it is – but they claimed the Kraft case was part of a sex trafficking operation, which would have been kind of similar. Kraft was charged with a lesser offense.

          EDITED to correct my wrong statement that Kraft himself was charged with sex trafficking. Misremembered.

          • Matt M says:

            but they claimed the Kraft case was part of a sex trafficking operation

            They always claim this, regardless of the facts of the case. In popular usage, “sex trafficking” is now almost completely synonymous with “prostitution.” The conspiracy-minded among us may choose to believe that this was intentionally done by law enforcement and moral busybodies who were becoming concerned with the general public adopting increasingly libertarian attitudes towards voluntary prostitution.

            The simple fact of the matter is that most people don’t believe that someone should go to jail for paying a 35 year old Thai lady $50 for a handy. So if the cops want to send people to jail for doing that, they have to instead obfuscate the issue at hand and try to convince us that what the person actually did was run a ring of child sex-slaves, even when there is absolutely zero evidence that this was actually the case.

          • To my ear, “trafficking” implies some sort of sexual slavery–you can’t sell something if your don’t own it. My impression is that, almost always, what is involved is ordinary prostitution, called “trafficking” to make it wound worse–like “the white slave trade” in an earlier generation of campaigns against prostitution.

    • S_J says:

      The level of proof necessary to convict a person of sex-trafficking-related crimes is apparently fairly high.

      That may look good in some cases–protecting people against spurious charges based on false testimony.

      In other cases, that may look bad: like in the Epstein case.

      • J Mann says:

        The level of proof necessary to convict a person of sex-trafficking-related crimes is apparently fairly high.

        in particular, it requires evidence of sex trafficking. 🙂

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Yeah it’s pretty messed up. It’s very unfortunate that the supreme court banned the death penalty in rape cases, because any sentence less than execution would be an injustice even if it wasn’t such a transparent slap on the wrist.

      Hopefully this moves forward so that Epstein and his many co-conspirators can be imprisoned, but I’m very doubtful of that. At least two US presidents that we know of, Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, flew on the Lolita Express along with God only knows how many other high-level politicians and businessmen. How on Earth do you prosecute someone who has kompromat on so many powerful people?

      It’s also interesting that the media is reporting on this now, because before the story was tossed in the memory hole almost immediately. In a twisted way Trump may end up being responsible for draining the swamp after all: his personal involvement and choice of Acosta have dragged this story back into the light, where before both parties had been happy to hide it.

      • I may have missed it, but I think only Clinton is known to have flown on the airplane. Trump is quoted as saying that he knew Epstein and that Epstein liked women, especially young women.

    • What illegal actions were the 2008 meltdowners accused of doing, exactly? It’s not generally illegal to sell a product you know is overvalued.

      As for the plea deal, the legal system went easy on the rich guy. News at 7. It’s only relevant because Acosta made the mistake of working for Trump. My advice to anyone with any association with Trump is to cut it off immediately and then publicly insult him in the harshest manner possible. He won’t be loyal to you; you owe no loyalty to him.

    • Matt M says:

      So, I’ve been thinking about this a bit, and I think I’ve come up with a somewhat reasonable “devil’s advocate” argument… not for Epstein himself, but at least for his enablers.

      As far as his personal friends and acquaintances go, it seems somewhat uncontroversial that at a certain level of Elite Billionaire status, everyone takes it as a given that such men can easily attract young, good-looking women, willing to have sex with them in exchange for, uh, considerations. And I don’t mean literal, explicitly defined, prostitution. I just mean how we all sort of consider it natural that Donald Trump can marry young supermodels, despite having not-great looks and a below-average personality, and nobody really seems to suspect that at some point, he and Melania wrote out a contract specifying what sexual services she would perform and what her hourly rate would be in $USD. So if you’re a fellow “rich dude who can easily find young attractive women who will follow you around and do stuff for you voluntarily” and you meet Epstein… who is a rich dude with young attractive women following him around and doing stuff for him… it might not necessarily occur to you that they are underage sex slaves. Because someone like him doesn’t really need slaves, and because you probably don’t make a habit of going around asking rich dudes to provide the birth certificates of their young attractive women hangers-on. How are you supposed to know they’re underage? Because they look young? Lots of women over 18 look much younger. How do I know? Well that leads us to our next section…

      In thinking about various prosecutors either ignoring him or giving him a sweet deal, we might look to the porn industry. The specific comparable I’m thinking of here is Max Hardcore (warning: probably about as NSFW as Wikipedia can get). The work that this man produces, might be charitably described as “simulated child abuse porn.” He was active and infamous in the industry for the better part of two decades. And people didn’t like him much, at all. He’s about as low-status as a rich pornographer can be. Even the porno industry disavowed and wanted nothing to do with him. He has no well connected friends. Anyone well connected that knows of his existence has used that knowledge to try and get him thrown in prison. And for the better part of two decades, a whole lot of people tried to do just that, and more often than not, they failed. Particularly, they tried to charge him with stuff relating to child porn, which he always got off on because he was incredibly careful to only cast girls who were legally over 18, even if in his videos they would claim not to be. (Eventually they got him on some minor obscenity charges, which were mainly relating to certain kinds of sexual acts that were judged independent of the ages, real or simulated, or his performers). But his existence, and relative success, tells us that there is no particular shortage in the world of young (but above the age of consent) women who can easily appear to be even younger, who are willing to perform sex acts on low-status men for relatively meager pay. Given that, why would we assume Epstein couldn’t attract similar such people? If the FBI had a hard time dealing with a widely hated low status man known to most as a pedophile rapist, why would they be particularly eager to take on a much richer, high status man, with tons of high profile political connections, who is engaging in something that looks quite similar?

  21. JPNunez says:

    Could the site managers please fix clicking on the name on the “X comments since list” so it scrolls correctly and let’s me see the name of the writer without having to upscroll?

    On the other hand I can adblock the top nav bar for the same effect.

    • Randy M says:

      I think the problem is that the page scrolls to the right point but the wordpress toolbar covers the top 3/8th inch of the page displayed.

  22. Bobobob says:

    I am binging on Babylon 5 for the first time since I watched the original series, and I don’t think I’ve ever had such a conflicted reaction to a TV series. On the one hand, the story arc is magnificent, and some of the performances (Claudia Christian!) are almost up to that mark. (I’m sure the generally low standard of acting on B5 has been covered on this board before.)

    But I can’t stand how heavy-handed the show’s (human) politics are, compared to its spot-on depiction of (extraterrestrial) politics. Bad soap-opera actors with oily Nazi diction lecturing about Nightwatch and the need to purge disloyal citizens…it doesn’t get any better as the show goes on, and literally makes me cringe.

    My question is, why? J. Michael Straczynski is obviously a talented writer who could be subtle when he needed to. Was it really necessary, given the TV and political landscape 20 years ago, to beat viewers over the head with a self-evident “Nazis are bad!” sledgehammer? I am genuinely puzzled.

    • JPNunez says:

      On the other hand, maybe tv, cinema and literature haven’t been over the top enough that we somehow have nazis today.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Given the relative percentages of Nazis, I would say that they’ve been pretty successful.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          Welcome back, EchoChaos!

        • JPNunez says:

          It’s an absolute number problem tho.

          • Randy M says:

            Why?

          • albatross11 says:

            For most stuff, what you care about are averages. It doesn’t matter all that much that there are super-intense people whose whole identity is being a Republican when we’re predicting how the election will go–those guys still only get one vote.

            For terrorism and political violence, we care about the extreme outliers. It doesn’t matter how many people privately spit on the flag or think the US a force for evil in the world; it only matters how many are actually willing to take part in some kind of attack or terrorist network.

            Absolute numbers matter to the extent we’re worried about political violence–if there are 5 people inclined to carry out serious domestic terror attacks in the next year, that’s a much smaller problem than if there are 500 such people, even though 5 or 500 are both minute fractions of the population. The same applies tosome modern version of Weathermen willing to blow stuff up to fight the patriarchy or whatever. There aren’t *many* such people, but even a few are a big problem.

            By contrast, if we’re mainly worried about political change via elections or shifting consensus, then percentages matter. 10 ISIS-wannabes can kill a lot of people in a terrorist attack, but won’t have any noticeable effect at all on any electoral outcomes.

          • Randy M says:

            What is the principle concern about Nazis? Individual acts of violence, or leading a political movement that institutes a policy change?

            There aren’t *many* such people, but even a few are a big problem.

            Problems are addressed by directing resources at them (hopefully intelligently). The smaller, relatively, the problem is, the more resources it can be allocated. I think a thousand Nazis, of any variety, would be a bigger problem in London than in all of America, say.

            (Granted that densely populated regions have unique vulnerabilities that can be exploited to magnify the effects of a small cell, making comparisons more difficult).

          • I’m not convinced that it is an absolute problem. People think this because the media goes on and on whenever a right-wing person somewhere in the US does something bad.

      • There’s only a nontrivial number of Nazis if you define Nazi to include everyone to the right of Mitt Romney.

        • Matt says:

          everyone to the right of Mitt Romney.

          I think everyone who uses that definition includes Mitt Romney, too.

    • acymetric says:

      It’s not that it was necessary to send that message to teach people that “Nazis bad”. It’s that it was a message that viewers liked. People respond favorably to heavy handed Nazi stuff as recently as earlier this morning. Even young people (look at how many wildly popular video games are set in WWII taking on Nazis, or are set somewhere in the future taking on some resurgent Nazi threat). Russians, of course, are a close second.

      • Bobobob says:

        What bothers me is how the show telegraphs “Bad Nazi!” right up front and thus defuses its future dramatic potential. It would be much more effective if the Nazi theme developed slowly, imperceptibly, through the course of seasons 3 and 4, making viewers realize (at about the same time the Shadows and Vorlons are beating the s*** out of each other) “Holy crap! These guys on Earth are Nazis!”

      • Plumber says:

        @acymetric,
        That’s the chief lesson I took from Raiders of the Lost Ark!

        Beatin’ Soviets ala Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is pretty good, but beatin’ Nazi’s is a whole other level of fine entertainment!

        (Really, there needs to be a dedicated channel, Grit! TV is part way there, but it needs ti cross that river and have The Dirty Dozen on repeat!)

    • John Schilling says:

      Some of us have discussed here before, our dissatisfaction with the show’s human plotlines ultimately coalescing into a cult of personality around the Great Leader and President-for-Life Sheridan. When I rewatch the series now, I stop at season 3 in part to avoid all that. Sheridan (and even more so Sinclair) were much more watchable in those earlier seasons.

      But if it was always the plan for the story to end in such a hamfisted manner, because the author was too enamored of his protagonist, then maybe it was necessary to establish up front that the political opposition were hamfisted comic-book level villains. Not to beat the viewers up with “Nazis are Bad!”, because they already know that, but with “Sheridan’s enemies are Nazis!” and precisely because the viewers already know that Nazis are bad.

      That said, if we’re counting telepaths as humans, I have to stand up for Bester in this context. That character was both superbly written and superbly acted, as someone who might superficially appear to be a hamfisted Nazi but kept being annoyingly, intolerably right. About Jason Ironheart being a menace even if he did mean well, about Lyta Alexander not living happily ever after with the mundanes or the Vorlons, about the Psi Corps being the only place telepaths could have a real home within human civilization, and above all about himself being always just useful enough that even people who hate him will grit their teeth and work with him against even greater enemies rather than shooting him in the back.

      • EchoChaos says:

        That character was both superbly written and superbly acted

        Best character in the show, hands down.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Is Centauri manifest destiny really any less hamfisted than EarthGov’s SS? Or the Minbari Warrior Caste imperialism? B5’s political subtlety – and it does have it – is pretty much squarely in the realm of the middle people, rather than the governments themselves. I think the reason EarthGov comes off badly is actually just that we see more of it.

      • Bobobob says:

        Maybe it just seems less objectionable in an alien species. We pretty much know how a normal human is supposed to behave (*not* like a Nazi), but it’s hard to ascribe that same behavior to a Centauri or Minbari.

    • J Mann says:

      I always just figured the foundation was Casablanca, so the Nazis came with the package.

    • cassander says:

      The human politics in the show are incredibly hamfisted, but they at least make a modicum of sense. The same cannot be said for the Minbari politics, which revolve around a warrior caste that spends 1000 years training for a shadow war that it doesn’t actually want to fight when the time comes, largely sits out of, then decides to start a civil war with the religious caste over….something I’m sure. Some of this incoherence can be blamed on the fact that season 4 got super compressed, but by no means all.

      • John Schilling says:

        Hey, at least it took them a thousand years. Star Trek’s Klingons only lasted until the Next Generation before their whole ethos devolved into the most dishonorable sort of political infighting all while piously proclaiming their righteous and sacred honor to the very stars, to the point where the one actual honorable Klingon with an interest in waging just wars had to join Starfleet to find a suitable environment.

        And I think that, whether the TNG or B5 version, is not a bad take on what happens to a Proud and Honorable Warrior Culture that goes too long enjoying the privileges of such without having to fight serious wars against worthy enemies.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I can’t say why, but the nuance problem is much bigger than just the Clark regime.

      (I’m focusing on the humans here by the way. Aliens in science fiction, even good science fiction, generally lack nuance as a rule so it’s less notable when they act like cardboard cutouts. JMS deserves credit for the Centauri, but the rest of the aliens are standard fare.)

      For example, watch through a few episodes of the show and count how many times a main character threatens someone’s life or has their life threatened to their face in casual conversation. Oftentimes the characters will abruptly slip death threats into conversation and nobody reacts to it beyond maybe a momentary nervous look. I can buy that with Garibaldi, because he’s basically living in his own personal noir detective story, but how has Ivanova managed not to be stripped of command or reassigned for half of the stunts she’s pulled?

      I think that JMS is a lot like many of us here, in that the world-building and plotting were plainly more interesting to him than characterization and social dynamics. Technical details like how all Earth Alliance ships and stations need rotating sections for artificial gravity are given loving attention, but very little attention seems to be given to questions like “what would happen if the commander of a naval base threatened to open fire on a friendly cruiser that had been sent to reinforce his position?”

    • C_B says:

      I think part of this might be that you’re giving JMS too much credit for subtlety.

      The best, most nuanced and interesting parts of the show seem to me to have been sort of stumbled into and refined over time:

      – Narn/Centauri politics, and Londo and G’Kar’s relationship, became one of the best and most interesting parts of the show, but in season 1 Londo was just a smug schemer, and G’Kar was a moustache-twirling villain. I think I have to give Peter Jurassic and Andreas Katsulas most of the credit for this one.
      – The ultimate resolution of the Shadow War was interesting, and a nice take on paternalism and the dangers of extremes, but early on it was just “Vorlons good, Shadows bad.” This is something that became interesting over time.
      – Bester, as discussed above, ended up being one of the best characters on the show, but his early appearances were just run of the mill “smug goon” stuff.

      Basically, I think JMS is really good at writing myth arcs, and pretty bad at writing anything else with any subtlety or nuance. Only when he lucked out with actors who were way better than he deserved, or took multiple seasons to refine and elaborate on an idea, did he end up with anything that interesting.

      Maybe, if he hadn’t been forced by network troubles to squash the entire Earth Civil War plotline into season 4, he would eventually have been able to turn the Clark administration into something interesting. But he didn’t, so they only ever got a chance to be “Nazis bad” kinds of villains. They certainly weren’t any worse than season 1 G’Kar.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I think JMS intentionally wrote G’Kar to come across as a mustache twirler in order to subvert expectations, and always intended to redeem the character later. Even in the first season, they demonstrate that G’Kar isn’t evil for evil’s sake. He goes out of his way to save Sinclair’s girlfriend when she ignore his warnings, because her death wouldn’t benefit Narn, nor does he have any compelling reason to discomfit Sinclair, which he explains to her while saying that “nobody on this station is exactly who they appear.”

        Londo was intentionally a washed up old schemer, assigned to a joke position, which is exactly what makes him a good target for the Shadows.

        Personally, I think the Shadow middle-man made a pretty good case for the what the Shadows were doing, casting them in a more interesting light than “they’re monsters who do bad things.”

        I agree that Clark was less interesting.

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Most Supplements and Dietary Changes Do Squat for Your Heart, Large Research Review Finds

    “The study, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is a deep dive into the links between our diet and supplement habits and our cardiovascular health. It’s a review of nine past meta-analyses of randomized and controlled clinical trials as well as four other trials—amounting to more than 270 trials involving nearly a million volunteers. These trials asked people to try out a total of 24 interventions, such as taking a certain supplement or switching to a Mediterranean diet, and compared them to control groups.”

    Does this seem to be sound? I admit that a review of metastudies makes me twitch slightly– it’s a bit distant from the original data. On the other hand, taking a second look at the quality of data is definitely a good idea.

    • benjdenny says:

      When it comes to most supplements, though, the message from the authors is clear. Unless you’re currently battling scurvy or some other specific deficiency, you don’t need them. “Do not waste your money on these supplements,” study author Safi Khan said

      I had a problem with that part. How does one know if they have a deficiency? If they get regular blood tests, maybe, but assuming everyone does is a rich man’s bias. Considering there’s very, very little evidence of harm in supplements unless taken at crazy-high dosages, and considering that they are usually pretty affordable even for a poor guy, and considering the fairly long list of stuff, say, vitamin D deficiency causes, why wouldn’t I hedge my bets here?

      I have vitamin D deficiency usually, and I didn’t know for decades because I’m not in an income bracket that gets to go to the doctor a lot. Taking a daily multi gummy would have (and did) help me a lot, as it would help pretty much anybody with a deficiency. Assuming everyone is on pretty-good health care and can just wait a month until their next bi-yearly appointment to find out about their problem is pretty short-sighted.

      • quanta413 says:

        It’s not like it’s super routine to test all vitamin levels either. I grew up in a top 10% of income family and had good healthcare after and I didn’t get tested for vitamin levels until I went to the doctor because my depression was getting bad enough that I was completely unproductive at work and sliding towards immobility. I was mildly vitamin D deficient as well as depressed. The first thing apparently can exacerbate the second.

    • imoimo says:

      Does this include any conclusions on Vitamin C and whether it prevents illness by boosting the immune system? (Cue someone telling me that was debunked years ago.)

      • dick says:

        You might be thinking of the theory that large doses of vitamin C provides various benefits (to the immune system, in avoiding cancer, to longevity, etc) most famously promoted by Linus Pauling. I think it is fair to say that those claims are near-universally regarded as unproven. More generally, Linus Pauling is a good example of the fact that someone can be a bona fide indisputable genius and titan of science and still cling tenaciously to some pseudoscientific beliefs.

        Also, any mention of Vitamin C is a good time to link to the fascinating story of the British Navy’s discovery and subsequent loss of the cure for scurvy.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Speaking of, any idea of updated research on vitamin D? On one hand it was hailed one of the very few vitamins worth taking by the general population, mostly on account of humans no longer walking around naked under the sun. Also one of the two literal cures of common cold, along with antivirals (well, reducing it by one day, but better than nothing). On the other hand lately I hit only metastudies that say that actually supplementation is not doing much, even though absolute blood levels do correlate with a lot of stuff.

      Anecdotally, I stopped catching every cold/flu when I got my levels up with supplementation (and took the flu vaccine every year). This summer I’m experimenting with getting a serious tan, since that’s kinda what those metastudies are suggesting is the best approach.

  24. Machine Interface says:

    On ideology and happiness.

    A claim I perceive/interpret frequently from conservative contributors here and elsewhere is that conservative values and lifestyles are more in line with human nature and so lead to a happier life. The main evidence for this claim is that liberals apparently show significantly higher rate of depression and suicide.

    I see a number of possible flaws with this narrative.

    1) The conservatives who make these claim give the impression, though their discourse, of being rather miserable: when they talk about the superiority of conservative values, it’s in the context of how the modern western world is largely hostile to and far from these values. This translates, at least in speech, to what sounds like a lot of existential dread: from the apparent inescapability of the demographic transition dragging birth rates below replacement, to the fear of being fired for their ideas, through worries about widespread recourse to abortion, massive illegal immigration, threats to freedom of speech, decline of christianity, erosion of traditional families, positive discrimination quotas or firearm restrictions, conservatives have, through their own admission, quite a lot to worry about in the modern world.

    From this, it’s already not clear why being a conservative would translate to higher chance of happiness — even if a conservative lifestyle really does fit human nature better, it would seem that these benefits could be easily offset by the huge drawbacks of living in a society that not only doesn’t share your moral values, but in fact has exactly opposite moral values and think your moral values should be eradicated.

    2) It also seems likely that conservative values would directly lead to conservative rates of depression and suicide to be significantly underreported.
    > many traditional Christians mistrust psychiatrist and would rather talk about their mental problems with their priest.
    > some traditional Christians even frown upon displays of unhappiness and entertain a culture of always showing a good face and smiling no matter what.
    > conservative culture in general, when it comes to virility, emphatises being strong and self-reliant, and so makes men particularly unlikely to report mental illness, which they often don’t recognize as a real problem and try to just power through it, lest they be shamed and stigmatized [I realise of course that this also happens to many liberal men, but it seems conservative values are particularly fit to exacerbate this tendency]
    > suicide is of course taboo in christian culture; this means that when suicide does happen, family is likely to try to dissimulate it as an accidental or natural death (I’ve heard this as an explanation for why suicide rate is seemingly so low in Muslim-majority countries)

    So combining 1) and 2), I am really not convinced that conservatives are actually happier than average. [insert: “Change my mind” meme?]

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Part of what you’re seeing with your first objection is that pretty much every conservative here who isn’t a Mennonite, Mormon, or Catholic (including myself) are young coastal urban academics or professionals. In Scott’s often-abused terminology, we’re “Blue tribe” people with right-wing opinions. People of the CBD latte and knowers of where to find authentic gluten-free Sichuan cuisine.

      When you look at the literature on traditional beliefs and life outcomes, the key variable is church attendence. That is, actively participating in the community. Which makes a lot of sense if you think about it: all the stuff about stone tablets and golden plates is obvious nonsense but the communities of believers have endured for centuries if not millennia, under the intense selective pressures of famines, plagues, wars and persecution. When you’re talking about tradition, you’re talking about deep institutional knowledge about community organization and human relationships.

      Which raises the obvious question, why not just go and be part of a traditional community like that and benefit from that institutional knowledge? A few still exist and take converts so taking the Benedict Option and hoping to ride things out isn’t a horrible idea. I don’t really have a good answer to that: it’s still something I’m working through mentally.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Which raises the obvious question, why not just go and be part of a traditional community like that and benefit from that institutional knowledge?

        Some of them tend to be insular and not really want new members. The others mostly take converts, not people who believe “all the stuff about stone tablets and golden plates is obvious nonsense”.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I mean yeah, obviously you need to believe in order to convert.

          But from what I understand of the conversion process, nobody expects 100% buy in on day one. If you want to believe, and you really ought to if you’re planning on spending the rest of your life in that community, you should be able to allow yourself to be convinced. You’re not trying to con them after all, the goal is to get to the point where you can genuinely believe it.

      • acymetric says:

        “Blue tribe” people with right-wing opinions.

        I think you’re misunderstanding how “blue tribe” is used, this is an oxymoron.

        • Clutzy says:

          Indeed. The real premise is that people from metros with right wing opinions are the most hated of all (see “I can tolerate anyone but the outgroup”). Thus, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, etc get a ton of hate, while Rush Limbaugh who is dozens of times more popular but broadcasts from Florida and doesn’t try all that hard to win over the urban community is mostly ignored.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Hence why I said it was often-abused.

          Read or re-read the article where Scott coined the terms. The whole point of coining those terms was to express that different politics and ideology were one part of a larger cultural divide. If he had wanted to say Democrats and Republicans those words already exist and they’re a lot less cumbersome.

        • Plumber says:

          @acymetric

          oxymoron

          If that’s the case then “Blue Tribe” is a useless term, and you can just say “Democrats”.

          In going over our host’s original list of “Tribe” attributes, I was very much struck by how much the cultural attributes of the Blue-Tribe in Scott’s original list looked to me more like those of most college educated women (but not all and only them), and the Red-Tribe more like most non-college educated men (but not all and only them).

          Let’s go over some items from the “Red-Tribe” list:

          watching lots of TV

          That would be my Dad

          eating steak

          that would be my Dad and 99% of every man I’ve known and most women as well

          enjoying American football

          still my Dad

          owning guns

          yep, Dad

          listening to country music

          Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny “Paycheck” (his ‘hit’ was “Take this job and shove it!”, my Dad loved that song)

          divorcing early

          *sigh*

          also my Dad

          conservative political beliefs

          he would’ve thrown a bottle at you if you’d accused him of that!

          In California, at least in some areas, the “Blue-Tribe” is more Republican than the Red-Tribe as we are a “minority-majority” state, and non-whites are on average less “Blue-Tribe” and also less Republican (see The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate for more on “Red-Tribe-ish” Democrats, for “Blue-Tribe” Republicans read the biographies of most The National Review and The Wall Street Journal writers, who tend not to be “beer and pick up truck” guys).

          Democrat or Republican correlate with our host’s original list of the cultural aspects of the different “Tribes”, but there not a one-to-one line up, I’ve known some Blue-Tribe Republicans, and lots of Red-Tribe Democrats, I’ll even go so far as say that majority Democratic Party voter California are still more Red-Tribe than Blue-Tribe,, for an example, the California electorate that mostly voted for Obama in 2008, also mostly voted to ban gay marriage.

          “Upper Middle Class” college graduates and areas where their culture predominates are a minority, even here.

          To find them you can look for neighborhoods that have a larger than average number of New York Times subscribers (the tell-tale blue bags are a give-away).

          The only “black lives matter” signs I see are in high-rent majority white neighborhoods that are near majority black neighborhoods, in the black neighborhoods themselves “Jesus is Lord” signs are more common; the “Red-Tribe” (as I interpret it) out-numbers the “Blue-Tribe” even in a State where Democrats out number Republicans.

          If you’re saying that our host just relabled “conservative” and “liberal” then he’s a far less interesting thinker and writer than I thought, but I don’t think the”Tribes” are just that.

          Here’s two names:

          William F. Buckley Jr.

          and

          Lyndon Baines Johnson

          Please tell me their “Tribe” and their Party

          (If you don’t know because you’re foreign or young and learning, that’s okay, but if you’re a grown-ass American man of 50 years or more and you still don’t have a guess, then I guess we just don’t share enough touchstones to communicate well and we’re done here)

          • acymetric says:

            I’ll just point out that when Scott listed those qualities, the ones related to political views were all listed first, at least subtly suggesting those were the most important factors in tribal affiliation.

            I don’t really see how “blue tribe, despite red tribe political values” is significantly more valid than “red tribe, despite traditionally blue tribe career path”. Based on usage (and Scott’s own clarifications in subsequent posts” I think the second is more correct.

          • Plumber says:

            @acymetric,
            If he was only discussing political values and not also cultural values than he wasn’t discussing “tribes” at all, only factions.

            I fail to see the purpose in the re-labeling in that case.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @acymetric

            As a very Red Tribe guy who is on a blue career path, both exist. I know several Blue Tribe Republicans who were outraged at Trump because of his very Red Tribe mentality. The entire “Never Trump” movement, small as it was, was Blue Tribe Republicans.

            I married relatively young to a very young woman, have four kids, shoot, boat, play video games in free time, am a deacon in a church, etc.

          • brad says:

            The way I read the original post it isn’t so much about you as about those you interact with (i.e. your tribe).

            You can hate your tribe and everything it stands for, and they can hate you back, but if they are all you ever come in contact with they are still your tribe.

            For people that don’t experience the dark matter effect (bubble) that the post describes, it’s just not a great metaphor and we shouldn’t try to stretch it beyond the breaking point.

          • Nick says:

            The terminology took on a life of its own almost as soon as Scott wrote the post. One of the modifications, suggested by Irenist, is Violet for folks who are Blue Tribe by upbringing but hold some Red Tribe values, especially being religious. He mentions that multiheaded suggests some modifications too.

            ETA: Heh, now that I scroll down I see I responded to Irenist at the time. That’s definitely one of my earlier comments on SSC.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Plumber:
            You are correct that Blue Tribe and Red Tribe we’re not intended to be synonymous with Democrat and Republican.

            I think you will likely know the tale of the city mouse and the country mouse? I don’t think Scott described much more than this tale does. It’s a dichotomy that has been described many times. IIRC, one of the Greek philosophers made roughly the same observations.

            The divide is between the “urbane” and the “rural”. The problem is this leaves a great deal of the populace. Many residents of cities aren’t urbane. Your average person who likes the Phillies, drinks Bud happily, gets his coffee from Dunkin Donuts, plays basketball in the rec league, likes working on his modified Honda Civic, works for an hourly wage, rents an apartment in Philadelphia, and doesn’t go to church, likes rap and hates country, thinks hunting is something hicks do, etc. … doesn’t really fit into the tribes Scott describes.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I don’t know that it is more correct to say “blue tribe with red tribe beliefs” than “red tribe with blue tribe attitudes”, but I do think it is useful to use one tribe as a reference point and then modify with the pertinent attributes of the other tribe. Obviously, this schema won’t classify everyone, or even everyone in the United States, but it has a lot of expressive power and it is a useful shorthand for thinking about things.

          • brad says:

            @Nick

            A life of its own implies growth. But red=Republicans, blue=Democrats takes an interesting useful concept and turns it into a dumb, boring synonym for things that don’t need synonyms.

            Reminds me of the tragedy of ‘virtue signaling’.

          • acymetric says:

            @brad

            I think that’s fair, and I’m tempted to retract my objection, but I’m not totally there. I think HeelBearCub’s point is a strong one.

            I agree that what I was suggesting (that it maps pretty much exactly to Democrat/Republican) is not useful (although it is somewhat broader than that because red tribe/blue tribe also brings in various other groups like libertarians, marxists, etc. who could be described as Blue Tribe/Red Tribe but not Democrat/Republican).

            I disagree that what you and others are doing (which is make it “urban” vs “rural” or “working class” vs. “elite”) is significantly more helpful.

          • Nornagest says:

            We go around on this so much that I don’t think any of the regulars actually disagree on the object level. Yes, “Red Tribe” and “Blue Tribe” are labels for cultures and not political beliefs. No, they don’t describe a lot of the country; yes, the lines between them get blurry in places. Yes, both parties aim most of their messaging at the corresponding tribe.

            It’s just that some of us think the gaps in the schema make it a useless and maybe offensive concept, and some of us think it’s useful to have it in our model to describe a sort of center of gravity.

          • Buckley is blue tribe, LBJ red tribe, as you imply.

            But note that LBJ positioned himself as a conservative Democrat.

          • salvorhardin says:

            To David Friedman’s point, both Buckley and LBJ came of political age before the Southern Strategy, when the mappings of tribe to party were very different and much less straightforward.

          • Plumber says:

            @DavidFriedman

            “…note that LBJ positioned himself as a conservative Democrat”

            That makes me think a bit more deeply on it (dang it David, you just won’t let me be wrong but confident! What have you got against the Dunning–Kruger effect anyway?), and on reflection, while I can think of people that I know personally, and lots of politicians of the doesn’t-seem-that-distant-to-me past that are “Blue-Tribe Republicans”; and “Red-Tribe Democrats”, among current Governors and Senators all the “Blue-Tribe Republicans” and “Red-Tribe Democrats” that come to my mind are on average closer to the ideology to the other Party than are most of their Party, so you may have something there, and maybe the “Tribe/Party link is growing stronger, it does seem that way when I compare the older to the younger people that I know!

      • Aapje says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        Which raises the obvious question, why not just go and be part of a traditional community like that and benefit from that institutional knowledge?

        Perhaps for the same reason why many people believe that exercise is good and yet don’t do it?

        A conflict between long and short term goals.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I am Mormon (more properly, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). There was a family in my home ward (congregation) who regularly came to Church and participated in activities and things, specifically because they thought it was a good environment to raise their family in. I don’t think a family like that could participate in my faith’s holiest ceremonies (in the temple), but you don’t really need to if all you are after is the communal benefits. The ward (congregation) generally liked them and welcomed them without issue, as far as I am aware.

      • johan_larson says:

        …why not just go and be part of a traditional community like that and benefit from that institutional knowledge?

        Well, there’s the “obvious nonsense”, of course. You would spend much of your time among people who really believe that stuff. And they would try to make sure you, or at least your children, believe it too. I find it hard to imagine being happy living closely among people I believe are deeply wrong about important issues.

        Also, these old-fashioned communities tend to impose restrictions of various sorts on what you can actually do. Depending on the community of Old Order Mennonites you join, you might have to give up the internet, your car, your phone, electrical power, and God knows what else. Enjoy coming home after a hard day’s work and spending the evening on something exciting like checkers. And have fun with that outhouse, particularly in the winter.

    • Nick says:

      1) The conservatives who make these claim give the impression, though their discourse, of being rather miserable: when they talk about the superiority of conservative values, it’s in the context of how the modern western world is largely hostile to and far from these values. This translates, at least in speech, to what sounds like a lot of existential dread: from the apparent inescapability of the demographic transition dragging birth rates below replacement, to the fear of being fired for their ideas, through worries about widespread recourse to abortion, massive illegal immigration, threats to freedom of speech, decline of christianity, erosion of traditional families, positive discrimination quotas or firearm restrictions, conservatives have, through their own admission, quite a lot to worry about in the modern world.

      Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Happiness might be fragile—indeed, we’ve every reason from experience to think it is—but that hardly means there is no best shot at it.

    • Plumber says:

      @Machine Interface,

      It’s not just ideology but faith, and tradition and the benefits come from being embedded in a community, being a cinservative if you’re a social outcast isn’t as much of a benefit and is likely harmful. 

      I suggest reading The Christian Penumbra essay by Ross Douthat from 2014 (which has links you should explore) which I’ll quote from:

      “Here is a seeming paradox of American life. On the one hand, there is a broad social-science correlation between religious faith and various social goods — health and happiness, upward mobility, social trust, charitable work and civic participation.

      Yet at the same time, some of the most religious areas of the country — the Bible Belt, the deepest South — struggle mightily with poverty, poor health, political corruption and social disarray.

      Part of this paradox can be resolved by looking at nonreligious variables like race. But part of it reflects an important fact about religion in America: The social goods associated with faith flow almost exclusively from religious participation, not from affiliation or nominal belief. And where practice ceases or diminishes, in what you might call America’s “Christian penumbra,” the remaining residue of religion can be socially damaging instead.

      Consider, as a case study, the data on divorce. Earlier this year, a pair of demographers released a study showing that regions with heavy populations of conservative Protestants had higher-than-average divorce rates, even when controlling for poverty and race.

      Their finding was correct, but incomplete. As the sociologist Charles Stokes pointed out, practicing conservative Protestants have much lower divorce rates, and practicing believers generally divorce less frequently than the secular and unaffiliated.

      But the lukewarmly religious are a different matter. What Stokes calls “nominal” conservative Protestants, who attend church less than twice a month, have higher divorce rates even than the nonreligious. And you can find similar patterns with other indicators — out-of-wedlock births, for instance, are rarer among religious-engaged evangelical Christians, but nominal evangelicals are a very different story.

      It isn’t hard to see why this might be. In the Christian penumbra, certain religious expectations could endure (a bias toward early marriage, for instance) without support networks for people struggling to live up to them. Or specific moral ideas could still have purchase without being embedded in a plausible life script. (For instance, residual pro-life sentiment could increase out-of-wedlock births.) Or religious impulses could survive in dark forms rather than positive ones — leaving structures of hypocrisy intact and ratifying social hierarchies, without inculcating virtue, charity or responsibility…”

      You need the church, not just the beliefs in this life (the beliefs are for the next life).

       I also suggest reading our host’s “The Ideology is not the Movement”

    • AndrewN says:

      Perhaps approaching a different aspect of what it means to be conservative will help change your perspective. In his essay “On Being Conservative” British philosopher Michael Oakeshott described conservatism as a disposition which delights in the present and prefers the actual to the possible.

      So if you accept those premises as axiomatic of conservatism, then I would offer that it naturally follows conservatives would be more happy. A conservative ideology is definitionally one in which the world as we find it is given preference over how one hopes it might become. There is an almost Taoist or Zen-like aspect to this perspective, which ties in nicely with the explosion of ‘mindfulness training’ among a progressive demographic who are never content with the state of the world.

      • Machine Interface says:

        That sounds just one step removed from subscribing to the Just World hypothesis — which I guess would be the best strategy in order to simultaneously maintain a belief in objective morality and still be happy by having the gap between your moral system and the state of the world be null.

    • Murphy says:

      I suspect there’s also a selection bias.

      Conservatism is, by it’s very nature, the general position of opposing change.

      If you do that then it’s likely that you’re reasonably happy with the status quo.

      If you’re part of the demographic that society is currently favoring and serving well… well you’re also more likely to be happy and not want it to change too much.

      If you’re part of a group that society is kinda crapping upon… then you’re unlikely to think the status quo is fantastic and needs to be conserved. You’re more likely to want to change things up.

      I tried the whole church thing a bit when I was a teen. I always felt like going through the motions and pretending Santa to be real for the sake of the ones in the room who hadn’t been let in on the secret yet. I remember seeing how happy it seemed to make some people and the church groups were generally lovely people.

      But I gave up on trying to find happiness in that direction after a church event where there was an invited speaker who was talking about his “story” about how he’d “found god” and turned away from a life of drug abuse. He talked about sitting in the park and then suddenly seeing a bright light, feeling connectedness… how his arms became weak…. there was more and I remember sitting there mentally ticking off the symptoms of a stroke. The poor young guy had had a stroke, likely related to drug abuse and rather than go to hospital he’d ended up going to church.

      And I gradually came to view seeking happiness through that kind of thing as about as hollow as seeking it through drugs or or similar attempts to trick your own brain into feeling good.

      • Enkidum says:

        If you’re part of the demographic that society is currently favoring and serving well… well you’re also more likely to be happy and not want it to change too much.

        Weird thing there is that the Blue Tribe (as I understand it) is generally very well served by the current world, much better than the Red Tribe as I understand it.

        • Murphy says:

          Conservatism is more than just american red/blue tribe stuff.

          Lots of blue tribe people are pretty conservative. A lot of red tribe people are in favor of lots of change for change’s sake.

          Though my mental model is partly based on personal experience but my go to example of someone from a conservative family switching sides is a gay kid who finds her families pastor preaching that she is going to hell and that everyone should vote against allowing her to marry someone she loves.

          Why should she side with conservatism and the status quo when conservatives and the status quo are intent on fucking her over?

          I’d also expect someone who grows up being told by their family that they’re evil and are going to burn forever for who they are…. to be less happy than someone who doesn’t get told they’re evil or that they’re gonna burn.

    • EchoChaos says:

      So combining 1) and 2), I am really not convinced that conservatives are actually happier than average. [insert: “Change my mind” meme?]

      This sounds like an “is/ought” problem. A liberal would say “if everything were as much against me as it is against conservatives, I would be deeply unhappy, therefore they must be”.

      We do in fact see elevated levels of suicide and drug abuse among the less conservative Red Tribe working class. Opioid abuse and cetera. The fact that we can measure that and note that it is lower among those who are more aggressively conservative tells us that they aren’t in fact lying.

    • helloo says:

      For this group, isn’t the general opinion that “we’re not sure why, but there’s a whole lot of positive correlation between religiosity and a bunch of other beneficial values”?

      Couldn’t you test 2) by checking to see if Christians have higher mortality rates of accidents?
      This might be swamped by the effect that if suicide is taboo, then unless taboos don’t work at all, they’ll likely commit fewer suicides. Not sure why you didn’t simply state that.

      Are there ANY values that tend to be higher for religious people that you like and do not think can be misreported? lifespan for instance?

      • Murphy says:

        that’s confounded all to hell by rural vs urban demographics.

        You don’t get many lumberjacks in the city.

        You can’t just conclude that lumberjacks are secretly committing suicide.

        • helloo says:

          I assumed by checking, we were controlling for whatever necessary to make the comparison valid. Plus using valid sampling, representative populations, whatever.
          I’m not going to state what controls there are, just assuming that it can be done.

          If you don’t think there is/can be a study/model that can ever control enough variables to make such a comparison and not be useless then… well, state that it’s unanswerable to you and move on to the next statement.

          • Murphy says:

            In order to control for something you need to be able to separate it out or find a set of populations where it’s well quantified.

            if you suspect some fraction of accidents are actually secretly suicide I don’t see how you’d control for all things that affect accident rates in rural areas without controlling away the suicides as well.

    • Randy M says:

      Conservatives tend to believe that the individual is responsible for their own fate; progressives see the environment as more determinative (need I disclaim the modal representative as being entirely one-sided?).
      The latter view may be more compassionate, but the former is more empowering. There may be many disturbing trends in the country, I may be in bad shape now myself, but by God I can improve my life.

      On the other hand, I’m open to the opposed notion that temperament has a large genetic component, not just the propensity to contentment, but also towards political philosophy. I’m not especially prone towards worry or anger, and I don’t claim any heightened virtue by dint of having this disposition.

      To the extent the first idea is true, a progressive may well improve their outlook by adopting a more conservative outlook, at least for them personally.

    • aristides says:

      On point 1, I hear at least as much existential dread from liberals between global warming and Trump and the Supreme Court oppressing them out of existence. When compared to that control, Conservatives do not seem as bad off. Not to mention that existential dread is not quite as scary if you believe that upon death you go to heaven.

      Second here is more evidence that conservatives are happier. There are obvious cofounders and issues with self reported data, many of which pew mentions, but it is more evidence.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      From this, it’s already not clear why being a conservative would translate to higher chance of happiness — even if a conservative lifestyle really does fit human nature better, it would seem that these benefits could be easily offset by the huge drawbacks of living in a society that not only doesn’t share your moral values, but in fact has exactly opposite moral values and think your moral values should be eradicated.

      But aside from “the internet” I don’t interact with the people in society who have the opposite moral values and who think my moral values should be eradicated. I’m pretty content, and if I just turned off the internet there wouldn’t be a thing making me feel down.

      And “society” isn’t even the bad stuff.

      Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

      For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

      Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      On 1), imagine finding yourself in a world where everyone is executed at the age of 40 to give way to the new generations. And there’s also some moral and political theory which explains how great it is. Would you subscribe to that theory to make yourself happier or would you keep your original views on longevity – which would no doubt fill you with existential dread in that world – and joined a small group trying to convince everyone else that we’d all actually be much happier if we’d stop those executions?

      I’m neither much of a conservative nor of course think that progressive values are quite that horrible, just making an example

    • Eponymous says:

      I don’t know the statistics, but based on personal experience and observation I think it matters a great deal. However, I don’t think that the key ingredient is conservatism (in the political sense), but rather conventional/traditional religion. This provides a whole host of psychologically beneficial things, including built-in community, a sense of meaning and purpose in life, security about the future both here on earth and after death, a mechanism for dealing with guilt (repentance/forgiveness), and individual and community codes of conduct that, generally speaking, lead to a better life and better relationships. Oh, and when you’re young traditional religious institutions do a good job of getting people married, and supporting having kids.

      This is not to denigrate the very real negative effects traditional religion can sometimes have on people, particularly those who deviate from some of its teaching, or don’t conform to certain expectations.

      Some of these benefits could be recaptured without religion per se through comparable social institutions. But in reality the strongest institutions of this sort in existence are traditional religious ones.

    • J Mann says:

      Assuming that people living conservative lifestyles report greater happiness and life satisfaction, then you are correct that the possibilities are:P

      (1) they are actually happier
      (a) in part because of conservative values
      (i) and many liberals could learn something from them
      (ii) but their strategy wouldn’t work for very many liberals
      (b) for other reasons

      (2) they aren’t actually happier

      I don’t see a way to resolve an data issue with Cartesian logic, though – the best, IMHO, you can do is generate hypotheses for further study.

      • Plumber says:

        @J Mann,
        Give or take a few placements, my understanding is that from most to least happy (on average) it goes:
        The deeply religious > the secular > the mildly religious

        Worldwide (I’m less sure about the placements):
        Costa Ricans > Scandinavians > Mormons in Utah > Canadians > Singaporeans > most of us poor saps > people in that weird breakaway republic of a breakaway republic that still pretends it’s in the Soviet Union > people in active war zones and where banidtry/vendetta’s are so common they may as well be war zones.

        Since the residents of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic could be considered the supreme (Soviet) of a kinda dictionary “conservatism”, I’m going to call it being “right-wing-ish” instead of “conservative”.

        Does being right-wing-ish make you happier?

        Sure! Look at the Mormons and (two different meanings of “Right”) the Costa Ricans and the Singaporeans!

        Does being left-wing-ish make you happier?

        Sure! Look at the Canadians and the Scandinavians!

        Conclusions: If it’s a warm place, being more “Right” is the way to go, If it’s a cold place being more “Left” is the way to go unless you go futher Left and you’ve got a hammer & sickle flag.

        How does that apply to the U.S.A.?

        Alabama is hot so they should be “Right”, and they are!

        Success!

        Vermont is cold so they should be “Left”, and they are!

        Success!

        (Please ignore Alaska and southern California, I was on a roll!)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Don’t confuse my online posting, or anyone else’s online posting, with my personal happiness. It was a decent day at work, came home, talked to my inlaws for a bit, kissed my wife, had a steak, drank a beer, watered my plants, life is good. My complete distrust for the Democratic Party, complete disdain for Progressives, and complete disappointment in Millennials has little to do with any of the other items.

      Also, you might persecute me and do me harm, but your ultimate power derives from a very particular set of circumstances, and your exercise of power to oppress will destroy said circumstances. After that, best of luck dealing with the REAL monsters of the world.

    • Etoile says:

      For #1, I don’t think the kind of “happiness” discussed (though I obviously can’t speak for all commenters and conservatives everywhere) is on a single linear scale. “Meaning” or “purpose” might be a better word than “happiness”. For example, a conservative woman might claim that marriage and children offer more meaning to her life than casual sex and the corporate rat race. The negative effects of other women calling her a gender traitor do not make this meaning go away.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Regarding 1), my personnal experience with a fairly anticapitalist family member (and my personnal attraction for libertarian ideas in a very state-centric country) lead me to suspect that people really looooove being against what they perceive as the dominant ideology, be it big business (for anticapitalists), liberal globalists (for nationalists), a state permeating every aspect of human life (for libertarians and anarchists) or traditionnalist reactionnaries (for progressives).

      Amusingly, since it’s entirely based on one’s perception of what the dominant forces are, all of those can easily coexist in a single country.

      So yes, I wouldnt be surprised if religious conservatives get happier the less religiously conservative society gets. With the additional kick of knowing that you’ll go to heaven when the heathen sodomites won’t, i guess.

  25. hash872 says:

    I’ve been thinking more about cognitive decline & aging since I really got into politics and realized how…. old everyone is. I find it kind of fascinating that a small % of 60-70-even 80 something year olds not only run every possible institution in our society, but also that this is the small % that are still cognitively ‘sharp’ when most people their age are obviously declining.

    Look at, say, Bernie Sanders (this is not an endorsement- I am not pro-Bernie). The man is 77 years old, and apparently has the mental and emotional stamina to conduct speeches, rallies, debates, host dinners, go out and shake random peoples’ hands for hours and hours at a time- all of this on a brutal campaign schedule with heavy travel and probably irregular sleep (not to mention a lot of fast food, I’d imagine). I’m less than half his age, and honestly I’d find running a marathon or climbing Everest to be easier than keeping that schedule week in and week out. My parents are a bit younger than him, and honestly at this point I doubt my now-retired Mom has the mental & emotional energy to work a 40 hour job if she had to. This seems to be roughly the norm for people in this age bracket.

    Has any research been done on how a small % of the elderly are still high-functioning at a late age? Just lucky genetics? Trump famously lives off of fast food, is somewhat overweight, and reputedly doesn’t exercise at all. By all accounts, he has extraordinary stamina for endless rallies. (Please don’t turn this into a partisan food fight- not my intention). Why do a few of our elderly stay so sharp when most decline?

    • I don’t think it’s genetics. It’s probably just the fact they are actively involved in these things that causes them to keep their wits about them. I believe they’ve done studies on what happens to people after they retire and their mental prowess can deteriorate fairly quickly if they aren’t doing things to keep active.

      • JPNunez says:

        Also, social meetings and talking to lots of people are some of the best ways to keep your mind active IIRC. So politicians may have an edge on this.

      • Murphy says:

        Throw in selection bias.

        Lots of politicians and similar do die from strokes and things like alzheimer’s.

        But they tend to withdraw from the public eye when they get a diagnosis.

        Also people try to avoid putting people who are obviously suffering mental decline into positions of power.

        When Dorris in the office has lost too many of her wits she gets medically retired.

        • albatross11 says:

          There’s obviously survivorship bias going on–75-year-old senators who have a hard time working up the energy to get out of bed in the morning don’t run for president. But also, I’ve heard the claim that traditional campaigning in politics selects for extremely healthy, robust people–you’re out there kissing babies and giving speeches in a different town every day, eating local food, sleeping in a different hotel room every night, spending hours on the road every day. Even at 40, that would wear a lot of folks out–the ones who find it too hard don’t stick around in politics.

          • Presidential candidates make up a pretty small percentage of old people in politics. Most elderly politicians were first elected years ago and incumbency gives them a pretty big advantage. I doubt Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell are spending their days kissing babies and sleeping in hotel rooms.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      There’s a big difference in old age between doing what you’re used to, and solving new/generic problems. Classic examples in history are Churchill and probably Stalin as well – they kept their political and leadership skills well into dementia. They weren’t just propped by the system – they were still legitimately better than those around them, even when they found their keys only occasionally. This kind of know-how goes last.

      If you had tried to have them fix a shelf, solve a math problem or learn a new language…. they’d be lost. Except of course if you ask a shelf builder or a mathematician – in their case that’s what’ll go last.

      • There’s a big difference in old age between doing what you’re used to, and solving new/generic problems.

        For a very minor example, I know a great deal of poetry. I still remember it.

        But learning a new poem used to be easy. It no longer is.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m wondering about the use of stimulants, though that can’t be the whole story.

    • John Schilling says:

      I find it kind of fascinating that a small % of 60-70-even 80 something year olds not only run every possible institution in our society,

      I think you may be overstating this, particularly with the “70-even-80” part. The average Fortune 500 CEO is 50 when they start the job and 62 when they retire. The Forbes 400 list has an average age of 65, and that includes people who merely hold title to wealth managed by younger men. The average age of heads of government is 62, and the high side of that list has an awful lot of monarchs and dictators.

      Trump v. Biden is an anomaly; the world’s institutions mostly select leaders in their 50s and 60s, and if the still-powerful septuagenarians and octogenarians stand out for their anomalous lack of cognitive decline that’s likely because they would have been moved aside in favor of someone younger if they didn’t.

    • metacelsus says:

      Trump’s speeches are notorious for word salad (the most famous example being “Look, having nuclear . . .”). Regardless of his stamina for rallies, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right.

      • Matt M says:

        Trump’s “word salad” usually makes perfect sense to his intended audience. There are very few occasions when his own supporters can’t pretty easily figure out what he was talking about.

        The fact that you prefer a different style of communication is not evidence of his cognitive decline.

        • dick says:

          The problem isn’t difficulty understanding him, although that does happen, it’s that the phenomenon is indicative of cognitive decline and dementia, as indicated e.g. by the famous Nun Study, in which blinded researchers were able to determine which individuals from a group of nuns had developed Alzheimers, and approximately when they were diagnosed, by reading essays they had written over the years and comparing the number and complexity of words, length of sentences, etc.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Trump has always talked like that.

        • nkurz says:

          > Trump has always talked like that.

          I don’t think so. I was surprised by how coherent and articulate he sounded in some older interviews. Here’s an article making the same claim, with links to lots of those interviews: https://www.statnews.com/2017/05/23/donald-trump-speaking-style-interviews/

          (I just found this particular article now, and haven’t re-listened to the cited interviews. I’m hoping there are representative of the ones that I was surprised by.)

  26. johan_larson says:

    OK, I think I just rolled a critical failure on cross-cultural understanding.

    Here is the original video of the song Despacito. Sexy, huh?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJQP7kiw5Fk

    Here is another video of 14 artists singing the song in a variety of language. Odd. But fine.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NooIoTFCjeY

    And here is the Russian version, including some fun times with an assault rifle. I must be missing something.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sGoyf8OG9q0

    • Nornagest says:

      What, you’ve never felt the urge to slow-dance with an AKM?

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      The Russian version isn’t meant to be sexy or positive, it’s actually pretty dark political satire. The Russian words she sings instead of “Despacito” literally mean “[you] suck it”, which is told to her by various governmental officials to whom she complains about her problems (such as luck of heating in the middle of the winter), implication being that it’s the general position the authorities take toward citizens’ problems.
      (Source: am Russian)

      ETA: On the second thought though, it makes it even better example of a cross-cultural understanding failure. I mean, it’s a video to a popular song, with a pretty girl in it smiling and making sexy moves, so one could’ve assume it’s not actually about how much the life sucks, right? Nope not in Russian culture you can’t.

      • johan_larson says:

        Yeah, if I were looking to tell a story about casually cruel officialdom, I don’t think Despacito is the music I would set it to. I think I’d be digging through the angrier bits of hip-hop or punk, or some really mournful blues.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Well that’s why it’s called satire isn’t it? You cheerfully say that everything’s awesome and then proceed to describe the situation which is anything but. Bonus points if you’re not really allowed to express discontent openly.
          Ditto they probably deliberately went for one of the most hyped songs at the time.

        • j1000000 says:

          I don’t think people who make YouTube song parodies care much about what the song itself was originally about — they just choose a popular song because that makes people likelier to watch it

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Why the hijab? Why kicking a chessboard?

        • Anatoly says:

          The hijab is a satirical reference to Russia spending money and sending troops to intervene in the civil war in Syria.

          Rough translation of the lyrics:

          My tits are froze over and hurting in the cold,
          So much so that the bra tore my nipple.
          The butterflies froze to death in my stomach,
          And it isn’t even winter yet.

          Over here it ain’t no Puerto Rico nor Suriname,
          Here to survive you’ve gotta be drunk,
          The army will take you without a heartbeat.
          I went to the local utilities office to complain
          What’s up with the heating, it’s almost January
          And the manager told me sourly:

          Suck it!
          So what if you catch meningitis?
          You must be warm since you’re shaved everywhere,
          For now you can sleep inside a dead horse
          Suck it!
          Discover the wonders of cystitis,
          It’s easy to satisfy your appetite,
          Just suck it.

          Well, we’re all sucking with tenderness and zeal
          Too bad there’s nothing to show for it
          Except a house for a duck [ref. to a toy house for a duck at a lavish vacation property of the Russian PM Medvedev]
          Maybe we’re not rich,
          But we’re happy to suck dick
          Just so there’s more money
          For missiles and grenades!

          etc. etc.

    • ana53294 says:

      The Russian song, other than being very critical of Putin, is also trans-friendly, which seems even more rare in Russia.

      “The ones who get rich are Orthodox bishops (mitropolity) but the people are scared by trans people”.

      Most Russians, even politically liberal ones, are not LGBT friendly.

  27. Well... says:

    A couple OTs ago someone solicited lists of things every self-respecting civilized person should be able to do. I have one frequently overlooked item to add: be able to properly wrap cable.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Piece of seldom needed information – don’t tightly wrap/coil cable and leave it plugged in. Cue slow melting/burning over a couple of years. Ended up buying a fire alarm and big ass fire extinguisher because I kept smelling the impending fire but still couldn’t find it.

      • Well... says:

        Might as well say, here’s the right way to wrap cables:

        If it’s a spiral or “curly” cable like on an old telephone receiver, don’t ever wrap it. Bunch it up instead and put it in a bag.

        If the cable is a little power cord for your USB charger or your hair buzzer, or the audio cable to your headphones, wrap it into a coil about the diameter of the palm of your hand. DO NOT do this by wrapping it tightly around your hand because that introduces twists which will strain the conductor plus create kinks that make the cable behave poorly later on. Instead, grasp one end of the cable in the acute-angled nook between your thumb and the rest of your hand, and make neat loops slightly larger than your hand, each one right next to the one before it. Take care to make each loop close to the same size. If you need to start a second layer, reverse directions rather than starting back at the nook. Each time you make a loop, it should look like it “wants” to form a circle. (What you’re basically doing is “training” your cable to lay that way.) If your loop wants to go into a figure 8, give the free end a twist in your fingers, in the proper direction, until it wants to go into a circle. When you’re finished, the “inside” end of the cable and the “outside” end of the cable should have the entire cable between them in a nice neat O-shape.

        If it’s a household extension cord (usually these are between 3 and 12 feet long) wrap it neatly into a coil about the diameter of a volleyball, using the same method described above, for the same reasons. DO NOT wrap it tightly around your hand/elbow along your forearm — that’s pretty much only for rope, and only certain kinds of rope at that.

        Same guidelines/instructions apply for longer cables:

        If the cable is 25-50′ wrap it neatly into a coil about the diameter of a beach ball.

        If the cable is 100′, you can measure out coils by holding one end of the cable in one hand (let’s say it’s your right hand) and stretching that hand out to the right side. Then with your left hand, grab the next point on the cable at about where your left hand naturally hangs down by your side, with the cable taught between your two hands. Then bring the cable in your left hand up to make a loop with the cable end in the right hand. That should be a good diameter.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          In my case it was 1-2 meters extension cord loosely wrapped around my hand and tapèd in one point. That’s where it heated. No big consumers, a pc and a tv – under half a kw and mostly asleep.

          Never met anyone say they’d have thought of it.

    • Murphy says:

      In the modern working world:

      Be able to sort a table in excel or similar spreadsheet program.

  28. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Americans in the Northwest are harder to make friends with than in the Midwest (Google “Seattle freeze”… it’s not unique to Seattle). As someone with an Aspergers diagnosis, I feel this struggle especially strongly. Is going back to the Midwest optimal on this axis or are, say, Southerners friendlier?

    • Mark Atwood says:

      There is a solution to the Seattle Freeze:

      * pick some a couple of things you like doing or participating in
      * go to events and venues about those things
      * join the volunteer crew that makes them happen
      * make friends with the other volunteers

      This trick probably works in other places as well.

      Plus, the Seattle local EA and SSC communities seem nice enough.

      • AG says:

        Yep. The audience for any given event is extremely hit-or-miss on how passive they are. The organizers, though, are guaranteed to be invested, meaning they have the spoons+skills to make these kinds of activities happen and want to get other people involved. They are the extroverts who you should target, because they will feed you their energy.

    • SamChevre says:

      The South is not one place–it’s at least 3.
      Appalachia is unbelievably tribal. It is very live-and-let-live, but not at all friendly. My family moved to the farm I grew up on when I was 6; when we moved away when I was 19, we were just starting to be friends, rather than mere acquaintances, of our neighbors.

      Virginia is incredibly formally polite, and has all kinds of connections below the surface; once you are part of one network you get access to others, but getting in to one is not trivial. And there’s no weird like Richmond weird. But I wouldn’t describe Virginians as friendly; the politeness is a barrier, not just an invitation.

      The deep South is friendlier–but very status-conscious. Genuine friendships are with people of your own class.

      (Source: from the South, have lived in all 3 regions I describe.)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      are, say, Southerners friendlier?

      We wave at each other from our cars.

    • Jake Rowland says:

      I grew up in a small town in southwest Louisiana. A close friend I made in college grew up in a New Orleans suburb. After college, he went to grad school in Illinois and I moved to a small town in Oklahoma for work. I remember both of us found people to be generally less friendly. Not hostile or rude, just less willing to say hi to a stranger and small things like that. We’re both pretty introverted, but still found the change mildly unpleasant. I’ve since moved back to Louisiana. That said, I don’t think “friendly” in this context necessarily equates to “easy to make lots of friends.”

    • Enkidum says:

      I grew up in a small village but have spent most of my adult life in Canadian cities. Recently I’ve had to go down to Nashville several times for work, and every time I’m there I instantly notice how much friendlier people are. These aren’t people who I’m actually likely to become friends with, just like clerks at the 7-11 or whatever. When they tell me to have a nice day, they seem to actually mean it, and when they ask me how I’m doing, they seem to want to know the answer to the question.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      How good are you at reading whatever social cues and politeness Southerners might use? I always feel on edge talking to southerners because my northwestern sensibilities make me read much of what they’re saying as condescending-for-no-reason. I can’t imagine how I sound to them, since I just don’t care about politeness in the sir/ma’am/bless you/thank you sense.

      It may be I’ve only met asshole southerners, as I’ve never actually been in their home territory.

      I can’t imagine there’s a region more uncomplicatedly friendly than the Minnesota. Maybe there’s somewhere in Canada. Newfoundland? Still, I’m not up to date on how much the midwest differs from itself. Ohioans must fall short of Minnesotans, but perhaps not.

      Politeness definitely varies across America, but I’m skeptical if ease-of-making-friends does. It seems way too contingent on overlapping interests, sensibilities, free time, ease of movement/meeting, and individual charm. All of those things vary more between people than between regions I should think.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I can’t imagine there’s a region more uncomplicatedly friendly than the Minnesota.

        I live in Minnesota, and I do think there is something to “Minnesota nice.” I moved here at 18 ( I am now 62) and I thought people were a lot nicer than my native New Jersey.

        But my wife says the opposite. Many say that Minnesotans are very much “passive aggressive,” that is they will attack you but in an under-handed way that is difficult to pin on them. My wife agrees with this.

        So it definitely is not uncomplicated. Your mileage will vary.

    • Well... says:

      The South always struck me as very friendly, but only on the surface. Below that it just seems kinda weird. Others’ comments are obviously more illustrative.

      The Midwest Niceness, on the other hand, is pretty genuine. I’ve found it very easy to make friends here.

      (I’ve also lived on the East Coast, on the West Coast, in the Southwest, and overseas. The Midwest is definitely the easiest place to make friends in my experience.)

    • Matt says:

      When I moved to Atlanta from Kansas, one of the first things I noticed is that no strangers would smile back. Eventually I attributed this to the change from mid-sized to larger city.

      Now I live in Huntsville, and people are much friendlier.

      –> still not as friendly as I remember from Kansas, though.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      My Midwestern friends that visit Charleston or Nashville or New Orleans universally find Southerners friendlier. However, by “midwest,” I really mean “Chicago,” which is not quite Midwest since it’s such a big city.

      However, we typically get invited to a party about twice a month that has something like 60-70 people invited, mixture of friends and family. I do not know how typical that is in other places, but people do seem to be pretty friendly around here. I talk to my neighbors probably a few times a week, often enough that I have to strategically plan my lawn mowing so my neighbors are NOT home, or else it takes 3 times as long.

    • proyas says:

      I’ve been to the 48 lower states, and Southerners are the friendliest and warmest Americans.

      Midwestern people are friendly, but more reserved.

      It was hard to get a sense of what people in the PNW were like because I only went there briefly and didn’t talk to many people. They definitely weren’t as open as Southerners.

    • aristides says:

      I have family in both, and I would say they are equally friendly, but southerners are more polite, and midwesterners are more blunt. As an example, I see my midwestern relatives for the first time in years, and she’s says “wow you gained a lot of weight” with a big smile and a hug. She didn’t mean it to be insulting, and it was certainly true, but a southerner wouldn’t never say that you your face unless they wanted a fight. The Southern problem is that if you do not follow all the social rules, you could end up ostracized, which is rarer in the Midwest. I prefer the south, but it’s personal preference.

    • Protagoras says:

      You talk about moving “back,” which makes me think the Midwest is probably optimal for you; places with a reputation for friendliness are still generally all at least somewhat selective in their friendliness, and it can be tricky to pick up on the new rules in an unfamiliar place, especially if you’re just not good with social rules. So the fact that you’re already familiar with the Midwest is probably a big advantage to that region even over other regions that have a similar reputation fore friendliness.

    • Aqua says:

      I found people in Vegas, and generally Nevada and Utah to be super friendly. Workers at cafes would actually chat (I’m used to hearing my name called and that’s it)
      Not sure what region this counts as

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Move to NYC.

    • Spookykou says:

      I would recommend Austin Texas. It has been widely regarded as one of if not the best places to live in America for several years, for several reasons.

      More generally have you tried using Meetup or Warhorn to find public table top games? My personal experience is that D&D Adventurers League is conducted at a pace and with enough of the same people as to facilitate even a slow transition from acquaintances to friends, I’ve known some tables to run with roughly the same people for years at this point, and many friendships formed.

  29. Tenacious D says:

    Who’s reading Stephenson’s Fall? I’m about a third of the way through and am quite impressed so far. It is tying in themes from some of his other books much more than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to discussing it, but don’t mind waiting until some others have read it too.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I read it and enjoyed it overall, but it very much started strong and weakened considerably later without answering a bunch of the questions I had about the second half.

    • brad says:

      About half way though.

    • drethelin says:

      I’m 2/3 of the way through and it’s horrible.

    • j1000000 says:

      Wow this thread is full of wildly varying fractions and opinions.

    • Incurian says:

      I enjoyed the world building a lot, but towards the end when it settled into straight adventure plot it was hard to stay interested.

      • EchoChaos says:

        My problem was that a lot of big and important world-building questions were ignored to move into the adventure plot phase.

        I cared about those answers a lot more than the adventure.

        • Incurian says:

          Like what?

          • EchoChaos says:

            I hate talking spoilers because rot13-ing stuff is so annoying, but here goes:

            Gur nqiragher cybg fjvgpurq ba naq yrsg n ybg bs hanafjrerq dhrfgvbaf. Jung nobhg gur ynj qvfchgrf bire gur fgneg-hc bs arj puvyq cebprffrf gung jrer fgnegrq? Jung jrer gur fbpvbybtvpny rssrpgf ba gur eryvtvbhf? Jr frr gung ynetr puhaxf bs Erq Nzrevpn ner rira zber eryvtvbhf guna orsber. Ubj qb gurl gnxr hcybnqvat? Jung jrer gur yrtny erfcbafvovyvgvrf bs yvivat crbcyr? Jnf gurer n jbeel nobhg greebevfg nggnpxf ba gur oenva snezf? Jr frr gung gur Frnggyr sbyx ner ragveryl qrsrafvir nobhg qlvat va na hacerfreirq fgngr. Qbrf guvf nssrpg zvyvgnel erpehvgzrag? Ubj ner sbervta eryngvbaf nssrpgrq? Ubj qb fbpvrgvrf yvxr Puvan ernpg? Rgp.

          • Incurian says:

            My fannon is that the events of Snow Crash and Diamond Age took place during this time (but there was no mention of the events depicted in Fall because it took time for hcybnqvat to become common), so I kind of handwave all the real-world questions to “stuff got weird.” All my unanswered questions are about the virtual side.

    • Well... says:

      I only heard about it just now when reading this thread, then read the Wikipedia page (more like stub), and it seems to be set in the Reamde universe. So, is it better or worse than Reamde?

      I thought Reamde was pretty good. Not great like Seveneves or Anathem or Snow Crash, and not lousy like DODO, or tedious and boring like Quicksilver. It was fun, in the same way as the game Geoguessr.

      • Incurian says:

        I think Reamde did a good job as a straight adventure plot, and the world building was more or less irrelevant. Fall is sort of the opposite, so which is better probably depends on your preference there. There are lots of time skips and pov changes, which are fine for advancing the world building but a frustrating way to advance the plot. It’s like Seveneves in that sense.

        • Tenacious D says:

          So far (now ~40% of the way through) I’d agree with this assessment. It definitely has a lot of interesting ideas. I don’t find the characters as compelling as some that Stephenson has written.

          Spoiler-y note about the setting:

          Va nqqvgvba gb gur ernzqr havirefr, vg vf pbasvezrq gb nyfb or va gur fnzr pbagvahvgl nf pelcgbabzvpba naq gur onebdhr plpyr.

      • Matt C says:

        I’m only half through. The first half of Fall is better than REAMDE, because it tries to explore interesting ideas more than REAMDE did. I’m not sure about the second half of Fall yet.

        I liked REAMDE quite a bit. I thought some of the ridiculously improbable things were a bit much–maybe I don’t notice these as easily in the more fantastical books–but setting those aside it was a good thriller/adventure story.

        There’s shoutouts to more than just REAMDE in Fall, by the way.

        It is interesting how differently people regard Stephenson’s books. I remember when Anathem came out and the buzz I heard was that it wasn’t all that good. I didn’t rush to read it. It turned out to be one of the very few books that I immediately read a second time as soon as I’d finished it. I expect to read it a few more times before I die.

        On the other hand, I thought Seveneves was quite disappointing. It’s still Stephenson, I’ll probably read it again someday, but it just didn’t come together for me.

        I didn’t dig the Quicksilver books much either, but I just assumed it was because I wasn’t smart/patient/scholarly enough for them.

        I thought DODO was OK, but it was clearly not main-line Stephenson. Probably won’t bother to reread it. I read a couple of books from his co-author Nicole Galland, and I though they were pretty good as historical fiction.

    • Matt C says:

      I’m a little more than half way through. I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit, but I’m kinda getting the feeling that the second half won’t be as good as the first. Still happy to keep reading, though.

      As usual, he’s got thoughtful things to say. Some of the ideas should be of particular interest to SSCers.

  30. johan_larson says:

    It’s time for the worst pick-up lines in the world.

    Hey, wanna fuck?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’m a pick-up artist. Want me to paint a wizard on the side of your truck?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I’m sorry, I think you misread. He wanted the worst pickup line, not the best.

      • eyeballfrog says:

        That’s too good of a joke. If she’s laughing with you, you’ve succeeded.

      • quanta413 says:

        I thought it was funny, but my wife says it’s terrible.

        So you’ve passed the challenge for some at least.

    • jml says:

      > Are you my daughter? Because I see a little bit of myself in you

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I put on my robe and wizard hat

    • Randy M says:

      Literally the worst:
      “Yes, it’s loaded.”
      Optimizing for the wrong metric:
      “I’ve been told I have excellent hygiene.”
      Doomed to fail, but at least honest:
      “I hope you’re not into foreplay, I’ve got a parole meeting in twenty minutes.”

    • itex says:

      Counterpoint: this is among the best pick-up lines because it’s unusually direct. Still unlikely to work unless one is very attractive, but isn’t that true in any case?

    • John Schilling says:

      “I’m proportional”, by a colleague who stood six foot nine inches. Once only, on a dare (not mine).

    • The Nybbler says:

      Anything starting with “Hey baby” is in the running. Or ending with “you know what I mean?”. So perhaps “Hey baby, want to come over to my place and fuck like mad raccoons, if you know what I mean?”

    • mobile says:

      GREETINGS FELLOW ANIMALS! I AM ELAN MUSK, A LIVING, SMELLY BEING JUST LIKE YOU! WHAT’S UP?

    • Lillian says:

      It’s time for the worst pick-up lines in the world.

      “Hey, wanna fuck?”

      Let me tell you a Russian joke:
      Prince Andrei Bolkonski asks the hussar Lieutenant Rzhevsky, “Tell me, Lieutenant, how did you come to be so good with the ladies? What is your secret?”
      “It’s quite simplement, mon Prince, quite simplement,” replies Rzhevsky. “I just come over and say: ‘Madame, would you like to fuck?'”
      “But Lieutenant,” exclaims Bolkonski in shock, “you’ll get slapped in the face for that!”
      “Oui, some of them slap, but some of them fuck.”

      • johan_larson says:

        You know, I’ve heard exactly that advice, without any attempt at humor. The guy giving it claimed a one in six success rate. How does a guy get laid? He asks women to have sex with him. It’s that simple.

        • DarkTigger says:

          We have a saying in Germany “Stumpf ist Trumpf” which translates to “blunt is trump”. (as in a card game not as in the Potus)
          I have seen it working in the right social context, e.g. student party, 2 A.M., after a lot of alcohol.

      • There are various “social experiment” videos on Youtube that try this and they seem to have more of a 0 to 1 in 100 success rate than a 1 in 6 rate. It seems like there’ve been quite a lot of academic studies into this as well.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I suspect that someone with a surfeit of charisma and doing it in a place where people are somewhat plausibly there for a hookup (bar, etc) could pull 1/6. But that would definitely be top end.

          • acymetric says:

            I don’t even think it necessarily takes overly high charisma. It’s about time and place.

            Those studies in the article are borderline worthless, because they more or less equate to walking up to strangers on the street and saying “let’s go screw”. I don’t think that’s usually what is meant when people talk about doing this.

            Being able to read people and identify the most likely willing partners, along with (as you say) doing it in a place where you are actually likely to find such partners (and especially a place where intoxication or just endorphin levels are high) like a bar, concert, etc. probably get’s even the average guy pretty close as long as you can tolerate the rejections.

            It’s also worth noting that it probably isn’t “hey, want to have sex?” and then immediately going to have sex (although that too sometimes). More likely, it is the beginning of an (admittedly brief) process of flirting/”courtship”.

        • helloo says:

          I remember a reddit thread mention something like this as a “proper” use of dick pics.

          If they laughed or were interested, they’d continue and usually succeed in a meeting. Otherwise, it’ll be ended right there.
          Don’t remember the ratio, but much higher than 1:100.

          It is of course a story “of a friend”, so it’s hard to say how truthful it is.

    • benjdenny says:

      I wrote one a while back for librarian-types:

      Hey, girl, just call me umlat. Because I make u’s go oooooh.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      “Hey baby, you look like you got a ‘weight’ problem ’cause you just can’t wait to bone.”

      0% of the time it works every time.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t think I can outdo anyone here, so instead let me try out a joke I’ve been working on:

      What do you call it when a geoscientist wakes up his wife for a midnight romp?

    • AG says:

      Well, let’s see how the neural network does?

      You look like a thing and I love you.

      GG

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        It’s a little lengthy, but it might work.

        Prompt text: “Hey baby”

        TalktoTransformer:

        “Hey baby,” she asked in a teasing tone.

        “Okay, okay, I’m not sure I understand this, but when you’re not around, do you ever stop and think about all the things you’ve done that were good for me that were not actually good for me?” he asked.

        “Do you remember those old clothes that you’ve been getting? When you wore those shoes?”

        “Of course.”

        As if a switch had flipped inside of me, Anna got in the car and started driving off, and a thought entered my head: Why was someone so incredibly smart and yet so rude about this?

        But of course this was not a conversation that I would hear again. Anna was gone, and so was her car.

        We drove home, and I had to admit something. I didn’t know much about Anna except her name, her place of birth and maybe her age. What I had learned was that she was a woman. There were plenty of people that were women, but I would describe Anna as being a woman, not a woman that was female, not a woman that was female that the world recognized as such at all.

        The truth was that I was a woman, and yet somehow I had been taught that she was not. In fact, she had come from a culture that taught the opposite.

        • Nick says:

          I tried this prompt four or five times, and the best I got was:

          Hey baby, ive got two more places for you to be.”

          Followed by a lot of nonsense.

    • Spookykou says:

      Hey girl, are your parents related, because you’re stupid hot.

    • Tenacious D says:

      I saw this one a couple of days ago and it instantly became a contender:

      Hey girl, are you a gorilla exhibit? Because I want to drop a baby in you.

  31. Randy M says:

    What do you think the reaction would be if a famous person were convincingly revealed to be an ai/upload? Say someone like Elon Musk or Bill Gates who is more or less esteemed.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Too speculative. The technology just isn’t there. If GAI had already been invented, he’d be more like
      “GREETINGS FELLOW ANIMALS! I AM ELAN MUSK, A LIVING, SMELLY BEING JUST LIKE YOU! WHAT’S UP?”

      • Randy M says:

        What would your reaction be to that news? Assume it occurring at some point in the near future where such a thing was unheard of but not unimaginable.

        Also, is Elan Musk the name of a designer fragrance yet? ‘Cause it totally should be.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          What would your reaction be to that news?

          It would be a paradigm shift requiring more evidence to properly update my beliefs. I believe in immaterial minds and would want to know things from him like “Do you think at human speed or far faster?” Because human speed suggests a Cartesian mind, while consciousness running far faster due to different physics is more suggestive of Thomist dualism (“hylemorphic”).
          Then again, he might have no mind/soul, just a brain. The revelation that I can talk to programs with no souls people-like enough to found corporations would be spooky and lend evidence to unpleasant conclusions.

          Also, is Elan Musk the name of a designer fragrance yet? ‘Cause it totally should be.

          It really, really should.

          • Randy M says:

            I believe in immaterial minds

            “This is a clever program, but in no ways a real person” is a perfectly valid response, that may or may not be correlated with “wait, how much power does this program have over society??”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “This is a clever program, but in no ways a real person” is a perfectly valid response, that may or may not be correlated with “wait, how much power does this program have over society??”

            Yes. ISTM that a sufficiently clever non-person program could have harmful power over human society.

      • Nornagest says:

        So… AI has been invented, and it’s posting in the evil robot thread?

    • Tenacious D says:

      (Epistemic status: for entertainment purposes only)

      The obvious candidate is President Trump. Consider the following:

      – his speaking style flirts with the edge of coherence in a way that is reminiscent of GPT-2
      – like AlphaGo, his campaign employed strategies that experienced players did not have in their repertoire but still met with success
      – communicating over Twitter provides real-time quantifiable feedback in a way that hardly any other medium could match

      • JPNunez says:

        Oh man this explains so much.

        The robot was made by Boston Dynamics. It cannot deal with stairs well.

        The face/hair are weird because they cheaped out on the animatronics.

        All those golfs sessions are actually robot downtime.

      • Randy M says:

        Does your trust in the government increase or decrease upon learning this?

        Basically, what percent of the populations goes “Eh, I can see that” and goes on with their lives, trusting that in the end it doesn’t really matter, and how many kind of freak out?

        How do things like automated cars and personal assistants (SIRI, Alexa, etc) that seem like people on casual inspection effect this?

        • Tenacious D says:

          Honestly, my trust in government would probably stay about the same. I know Scott has critiqued the notion, but I think there are salient parallels between AI and existing government (and large corporations)–information processing and decision making that’s beyond the scope of an individual human mind.

      • bean says:

        A friend I shared this with suggested that Trump isn’t a single AI, but a set of AIs. This explains why his spoken messages, written communications, and actions so often don’t make sense. They’re all being driven by separate systems, with some connectivity but also freedom to do their own thing. The spoken and written systems agree more than either does with the action system because they work in similar mediums.

    • JPNunez says:

      But what about the actual physical appeareances of Elon/Gates?

      I guess Gates could easily disappear from the public nowadays.

      I’d be shocked. Worried about what kind of righs Gates retains. There’s always a good philosophical discussion on whether he is really Gates or not to be had, depending on the details of the upload, etc, etc.

      • Randy M says:

        For the purpose of the hypothetical, the original can no longer be found. This explains why he hasn’t seemed to age in the last twenty years, though.

        • itex says:

          Not sure who you’re referring to, but Gates has very visibly aged in the last 20 years, while Musk has very visibly had a lot of work done.

          • Randy M says:

            Sorry, sorry–overly cute way of saying that assume the reveal fits with such evidence as the person in question not having aged.

          • JPNunez says:

            Well if Gates still is making public appearances in 20 years, and he looks the same as nowadays we may have a winner.

            Then again, maybe he signed up for expensive age extending treatments. Check for Gates’ skin becoming blue.

    • Drew says:

      For a known-to-be-human person, the conspiracy would be more interesting than the AI.

      But hand-waving that, I’d interpret the situation as some human (eg. Elon Musk’s “Assistant”) as having access to an extremely good computer, the wisdom to listen to their own models, and the foresight to create a fake persona to handle the public flack.

      At that point, my reaction would be roughly “good for you”. Emotionally, it would be the same as any other case of someone getting rich off a clever trick.

      If you convinced me that it was really the AI tricking everyone, then my reaction would be “bullshit”. I’d believe that an AI could create a fake identify. But I’m not going to believe the AI when it says they’re ONLY spoofing the one person, or that the person is the ONLY way they’re interacting with the world.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If it were Bill Gates, I’d be dumbfounded. Musk, on the other hand, I’d just suggest that perhaps a point release was called for to fix some of the more obvious bugs.

    • broblawsky says:

      I have half-seriously suggested that Chuck Tingle is an AI. I actually used this idea in an RPG once.

  32. Nick says:

    “I do love the act of writing,” Tom proscribed.

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      “Fancy meeting you here, Jessica. I’d like to introduce you to Amy, my new girlfriend,” Tom said with efficiency.

      • dick says:

        slow golf clap

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Thank you for the heads-up; it was enough for me to get past my “shrug, don’t get it” and figure out the joke. Which was totally worth the trouble.

          • Enkidum says:

            I’m still working on it.

          • dick says:

            The more obvious and less-conversational-sounding version would be, “Tom said with plenty efficiency”…

          • Enkidum says:

            fast golf clap

          • PedroS says:

            Still not getting it…. 🙁 I need more clues…. Does the pun rely on semantics or phonetics?

          • Enkidum says:

            Don’t puns, by definition, rely on both?

          • AnteriorMotive says:

            @PedroS

            Phonetics, I think you’d say. One of my favorite Swifties is:

            “For here I am, sitting in a tin can, re-entering Earth’s atmosphere,” Major Tom said incandescently.

          • Nick says:

            For those who give up, the answer is that jvgu rssvpvrapl rdhnyf jvgu n svfu va frn. Vg’f n ersrerapr gb gur fnlvat gung gurer’f cyragl bs svfu va gur frn, v.r., gurer’f nyjnlf cyragl zber crbcyr gb qngr. Alas, I needed dick’s hint to get it too. 😛

          • AnteriorMotive says:

            Dink might have the better version of the joke. Here’s a re-work:

            “Check out all my matches on Tinder,” Tom said with plenty efficiency.

          • Nornagest says:

            …well, now I just feel dumb.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I took me a minute, but that was horrible. You should be ashamed of yourself.

        I mean that’s a compliment when talking about this stuff, but damn.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      “I got demoted from centurion,” Thomas Suiftus said, crestfallen.

      • Lillian says:

        Most Tom Swifties are profoundly unfunny to me, in fact it took me ages for me to even figure out what the joke was supposed to be. But this one, this one! It made me giggle myself silly. Well done!

    • dick says:

      “I know you can’t normally charge money for organs, but what if it’s never been used before?” Tom asked celibately.

      (sorry if I repost one of these, I have a file full of them and don’t keep track of which ones I’ve posted here)

    • AnteriorMotive says:

      “I know you don’t want another dogfighting conviction, so would you consider leasing me Spike?” Tom said concurrently.

    • Conrad Honcho says: