Open Thread 133.75

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1,365 Responses to Open Thread 133.75

  1. metacelsus says:

    I already posted this on the subreddit but I thought I’d also put it here for more visibility:

    https://web.archive.org/web/20190806073614/https://www.fredericknewspost.com/news/health/military-institute-s-research-halted-at-fort-detrick-after-failed/article_767f3459-59c2-510f-9067-bb215db4396d.html

    Basically, the USAMRIID top research facility has had some really egregious safety violations. (I am very thankful for the CDC inspectors who found these). The USAMRIID researchers were supposed to be the experts. If they can’t handle dangerous pathogens safely, then I shudder to think about what might be going on in other labs.

  2. robirahman says:

    There’s a meetup in DC at 7pm this Saturday. We’ll be meeting at 616 E Street Northwest in the second floor lounge. There will be a variety of beverages, probably not including kool aid.

  3. WarOnReasons says:

    Do you think the following story is just a crazy conspiracy theory?

    The social background of The New Trier High School (rated by Newsweek as the 17th best high school in the country) is non-uniform. Most students come from highly affluent neighborhoods, such as Kenilworth (>97% white, median income $567,115) . A significant minority comes from neighborhoods, such as Willmette (aka Wilmetto) where the median income is several times lower and there is a growing population of highly educated Asian immigrants. Several years ago, the school instituted a new policy prohibiting its junior and sophomore students from attending AP classes or even just taking AP exams. The official explanation is that the policy aims to reduce the stress on the students. The “conspiracy theory” is that the school wants to cut by half the number of AP classes on Asian students’ college applications to prevent them from outcompeting students from the upper-class neighborhoods.

    Which version sounds more plausible to you?

    • Randy M says:

      I’m not sure the latter plot makes much sense, even if it is plausibly the motivation someone senseless. Most colleges, especially the prestigious ones, attract applicants from across the state, if not country or world. Reducing the number of AP classes on the transcripts of a portion of a portion of one high school class seems like it is going to be entirely pointless in improving the odds of the students who would only take senior year APs.

      But either way it sounds like a stupid blanket policy. My HS Junior year was super hard, with AP Chem and AP Physics, but those classes prepared me for college–though I didn’t skip Freshman chem, I should have, and I skated through it, and physics was similar. And though it was a hard year in high school, it was interesting!

      • Nornagest says:

        It’s not going to matter at the level of college admissions (except, of course, for screwing over some middle-class Asians), but it might matter at the level of soothing some rich kids’ feelings of inadequacy while they’re still in high school. Or perhaps of opening up AP slots for senior-level rich kids that would otherwise be saturated with sophomore and junior Asians, but the math there only works if you make some assumptions.

        Petty and mean-spirited either way, but I wouldn’t put it past your average school board. The stress explanation on the other hand is obvious horseshit.

        • Randy M says:

          Or perhaps of opening up AP slots for junior and senior rich kids that would otherwise be saturated with freshman and sophomore Asians, but the math there only works if you make some assumptions.

          The better option in that case would be to just have more AP classes. No reason you can’t convert a regular physics block into an AP block if there are enough applicants to warrant it. (Probably what you mean by the last phrase)

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, there needs to be something holding the number of AP classes constant. It’s not implausible to me that there is such a something, though: maybe there’s something about scheduling that means you can’t make the conversion, or maybe there’s only one teacher who’s qualified to teach AP physics classes, all his slots are full, and a second one can’t be hired for some reason.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Hearing only that, the conspiracy theory. I find it hard to believe a high-achieving high school cares about stress on students.

      ETA: Oh, but I agree with Randy the reasoning behind the conspiracy makes little sense. I could believe it has something to do with discouraging the asian students from attending that school.

      • Matt M says:

        I could believe it has something to do with discouraging the asian students from attending that school.

        This is where my mind immediately went as well. If you want to have fewer Asian students and you can’t just dictate that directly by fiat, what you can do is make the school generally undesirable in the criteria that Asians might use to select schools in the first place…

      • Nick says:

        I find it hard to believe a high-achieving high school cares about stress on students.

        Didn’t Palo Alto actually try something like this after a string of suicides? They wanted to cut before-school classes or something like that.

        ETA: I’m thinking of this.

    • Aftagley says:

      This conspiracy theory sounds sketchy to me. Several reasons:

      First, at least according to The school’s website you actually are allowed to take some AP classes as a junior. There may be limits on how many (the article isn’t clear) but the strict prohibition only applies to sophomores.

      Moving on, it looks like the school is split into two campuses, one just for freshmen, one for everyone else. Sophomore year is a student’s first year at the New Trier primary campus.

      Reading between the lines, it looks like the school treats sophomores the way that other schools (and colleges) treat freshmen, IE, they are too new to be trusted with any kind of serious academic load. I think that’s more likely the reason they don’t let Sophomores take AP classes, not the conspiracy theory.

    • Eric Rall says:

      If there is a nefarious hidden purpose, my money’s on gaming ratings statistics.

      Since you brought up Newsweek’s Best High School ratings, I looked up their criteria and it looks like they rate based in part on average AP score. The school could be figuring that by restricting younger students from sitting AP exams, they’re preventing the least-prepared students who would be likely to bring the average down. This could backfire, since my intuition is that the sorts of students who would be sitting AP exams as Sophomores would be the likeliest to score highly, so you’d be better off letting them sit as many exams as they want.

      US News also rates High Schools, but their AP metric is the percent of students who pass at least one AP exam. By this metric, there’s no benefit from letting top students run up their scores by taking more exams, and no harm from letting them sit exams younger. But there may be benefit to the school from limiting younger students from taking AP classes, since that limits how many AP classes each student can take, freeing seats in a given number of classes to make sure as many students as possible can take at least one AP class.

    • acymetric says:

      I don’t think AP classes were traditionally available to Freshman or Sophomores at my high school, possibly with some rare exceptions for one or two massively advanced kids or something.

      The conspiracy theory seems implausible to me. “Reducing stress on the students” may not be a great reason to enact the policy, but I don’t see any reason not to think it is really why they implemented it.

      How many AP classes were the relevant students taking as freshman/sophomores before anyway? It isn’t as though their entire schedule all 4 years was AP.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Conspiracy Theory, though not specifically “the Asians,” though, yeah, “the Asians.”

      There is a huge college credentials arms race in these schools. The expectation is that you will be taking multiple AP classes by your sophomore year, participate in multiple extracurriculars, and be state-level competitive in at least one. Plus maybe place in the Science Fair or the poetry slam on the side. Many kids cannot compete and even among kids who can, you parents bristle at the never-ending arms race. They would like it to stop, and they definitely notice that particular ethnic groups are very Tiger Mom.

      Most would not be so…unwise as to specifically call out any particular groups, unless you are my Mother-in-Law.

    • Clutzy says:

      I know the wrestling coach there. He thinks it was an attempt to game the ratings which value extra curricular activities and too many kids taking AP classes without doing sports/etc were not getting into their top picked unis.

    • metacelsus says:

      Note: it’s still possible to self-study and take AP exams at a different school. That’s what I did when I was homeschooled in 7th and 8th grades (AP Chemistry, Bio, and Comp. Sci.)

  4. Randy M says:

    What’s the difference between art and science? Think of the popular phrase “It’s more of an art than a science.” What does this imply?
    My impression is that art is when the outcome is unspecified and success is measured on a spectrum with no clear gradations.

    Or maybe it has more to do with objectivity?
    Art is measured by people’s appreciation, and science by concordance with reality.

    • Phigment says:

      Science is supposed to consistently replicate.

      Art is not.

      Given the replication crisis, this sadly means that a lot of doing science is really more of an art than a science.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s a good point, that’s surely some of it. But I don’t think the expression is usually used to denigrate the activity in question; there’s a sense that an artist is someone with greater talent or skill than a scientist, though not greater intellect.

        • Matt M says:

          But I don’t think the expression is usually used to denigrate the activity in question; there’s a sense that an artist is someone with greater talent or skill than a scientist, though not greater intellect.

          Indeed. If I can be the first person to invoke Seeing Like A State, I think it implies that there is a certain amount of metis required. That the act involves skills that must be learned and perfected over time, and cannot simply be absorbed by intellectual study.

          • Nick says:

            It’s worth pointing out, since this gets forgotten sometimes, that metis was contrasted with techne. From a random article googling for an illustration:

            Ultimately, Scott finds that all of the state-imposed utopian programs are characterized by a style of technical thinking and analysis that is captured by the Greek word, “techne.” “Techne” is a type of knowledge that can be expressed as hard-and-fast rules, for example, the universal and abstract principles of mathematics. In the early twentieth century and up to the present, attempts have been made by social scientists (e.g. Frederick Taylor) and political theorists (e.g. Karl Marx) to reduce human behavior to simple abstract principles, which authoritarian regimes have then used to plan their utopian programs. While Scott does not completely dismiss the validity of “techne,” he asserts that all of his utopian cases are lacking in practical common sense, which the Greeks called “metis.” “Metis” is a thinking process that recognizes the inherent unpredictability of complex human or natural systems and, in responding to crises or opportunities, depends on common sense improvisation rather than abstract five-year plans.

            There’s something to be said for thinking this is just science vs. arts, but I’m not so sure. Like, architecture is very definitely an art, but it can rely a lot on universal (which is not to say abstract) principles. The classical orders are pretty well-defined; there is a sort of grammar of classical architecture, and everyone knows that metopes in the Doric order must always be square. There’s a grammar to human languages too, though they’re too complex to obey very many universal principles, and sometimes a language has a pretty strong rule that nevertheless admits exceptions. Latin, for instance, obeys neuter law—nominative and accusative forms of the neuter are always the same—but its conjugation families have a few irregular verbs.

      • acymetric says:

        I think this is as good a delineation as any.

        Science (at least in the central examples) follows strict rules and following certain steps should give the same outcome every time.

        Art may still have “rules” but relies more on intuition and inconsistent outcomes. Where I think some people get confused is that most any art will have science behind it (for example, there is obviously science behind how music works and even why certain things sound good, or why certain pigments when mixed produce certain colors, etc.).

        As a possibly unusual example, you might say that surgery is an art.

        • Randy M says:

          As a possibly unusual example, you might say that surgery is an art.

          The starting point for surgery varies wildly. That cardiac bypass might be blocked in a different place than last time, the veins of differing firmness, the precise shape and size of the heart vary, the patients over all health could put a limit on the time they can be open, and so on.

          But if you account for that (and the more important factors I’m ignorant of), the number of ways to operate are fairly small. I think ultimately a robot could be a better surgeon than a trained person by following an expertly designed heuristic, except for the case with unprecedented complications that the human’s understanding will better deal with.

          Whereas the composer has a vast amount of variation in which his song can take. Even if he is going for a particular mood, there is a lot of ways to get there.
          I might be underestimating robots, but I think it would take a very advanced one to create an original artistic piece aimed at a particular mood or feeling better than a human.

          • acymetric says:

            Maybe that’s what I was trying to say though. Art is based on heuristics, not hard and fast universally applicable rules/laws.

    • Enkidum says:

      When criteria of success are difficult to state objectively, we call it an art. I think that’s really about it.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Mmmm, no, I’d say the statement is more about the process than the outcome.

        Lots of skills that result in a quantifiable outcome end up getting described as more art than science. Anything with a fair amount of variability in input parameters, or even variability based on small changes in input parameters, might end up described this way.

        • Enkidum says:

          That sounds right: when the steps towards a desirable outcome cannot be specified easily, then?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yes, I would say that is more to the spirit of it.

            Now, to your original point, the inability to quantize the results is one way that the process becomes hard to specify. That applies especially to actual artistic endeavors, but lots of other things as well.

    • sty_silver says:

      Assuming your question is about what I want the definitions to be rather than what I think the consensus is.

      I like the definition that art is anything that’s the output of creativity. Writing, painting, composing is all highly creative and pure art. Translating is only a little bit creative so it’s only a little bit art. Factory work is probably zero art in many cases. Reading something loud isn’t art per se but if someone spends thought into how to make it better (as professional audio book makers do) it becomes more art. So it’s a not a binary value but a spectrum.

      Science I would define as something like “the process of learning things about the world through experiments”, where any stage of that is part of doing science.

      Going by these two, they can definitely overlap, and I think it’s important that they’re allowed to. Science and art really aren’t opposite concepts, I think the idea that they are is just a weird and poorly thought out cultural thing.

      So designing experiments might be art (depending on how much creativity is needed). Following an experimental protocol closely would not be art. Both would be science. This matches with my intuition as to what these terms should mean.

    • Jake R says:

      I’m not sure how generally it applies to art or science as concepts, but I interpret the phrase specifically to be about heuristics. I don’t think it refers to the specificity of the outcome, but to the degree to which a process can be reduced into a sequence of steps or instructions. “X is more art than science” is saying “X involves a very complex set of heuristics and trade-offs, far too complex to be conveyed in a set of instructions, and can realistically only be gained by experience.” Baking is a science, cooking more generally is an art. But like I said, I’m not sure how much art and science in this context have to do with those concepts more generally.

    • Nick says:

      I could swear Paul Graham had an essay on the difference between art and science, with programming as the example, but I can’t find it. Ah well.

      For me, the difference is that where art is an organized body of skills and techniques, science is an organized body of knowledge. As I see it, the two complement each other while still being distinct: optics is one thing, how to draw something in perspective is another.

      ETA: Of course, to preempt the inevitable objection, skills and techniques are knowledge too, but not in the same way. For instance, some knowledge is embodied, as it were, like how to throw a free throw.

    • Bobobob says:

      Per “The Beginning of Infinity,” David Deutsch would say that a good piece of art, and a good scientific theory, are both hard to vary. It’s difficult to explain, since his world view depends on parallel universes, but the gist is that the most successful art objects/scientist theories are the ones that are preserved unchanged across the largest number of parallel universes.

      Perhaps a more metaphysical answer than you were looking for, but still.

    • MorningGaul says:

      I run with the following distinctions:
      Science is the study of the physical/non-human world
      Art is anything whose purpose it to trigger an emotional response
      Technique/skill/craft are tools to achieve any, both or none of the above.

      As a rule of thumb, if you argue wether something is an art or a science, it’s probably neither:
      -Mathematics are not a science, but a technique/skill/craft. It’s quite useful for the practice of most, if not all, sciences, through.
      -Cooking is mostly a technique/skill/craft, but can be approached as any or both.
      -War is a technique/skill/craft, and not an art. The emotional response it causes is a byproduct, not the goal of it’s practice.
      -The deal is obviously a technique/skill/craft, Americans have to be completely acultured degenerates to qualify it as an art.
      -Social Sciences are not sciences, but fields of study. Stop trying so hard.
      -Computer Sciences is applied mathematics, and therefore not science.

    • John Schilling says:

      Science has unambiguously wrong answers. And if you’re well inside the frontiers of science, you should be able to identify wrong answers a priori just by doing the math.

    • AG says:

      Grillbot X600 and TechGrill 2400, however, are a science.

  5. Matt M says:

    Is there anyone here who isn’t very rich (I’m thinking, like, net worth <$1M) and who also owns land (let's say 5+ acres that you don't currently live on?)

    Ever since I got a decent job with some disposable income, I've had this weird urge that I should go buy some land. Even if it's in the middle of nowhere. I don't really have any good reason for wanting it. I'm not a very outdoorsy person. I don't need a place to shoot guns or ride ATVs or whatever. I just… feel like a man should own some land, I guess.

    Am I crazy? Can someone give me a good reason to justify my weird craving here? Anyone else feel this, and even better, go through with it and have any thoughts on it?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Can someone give me a good reason to justify my weird craving here?

      a) Not weird. A desire for autonomy is arguably the American Dream.
      b) You only need to justify it in the sense that you aren’t displacing some other spending on “optional” things.
      c) B only applies to yourself. Spouses are another matter and you have to do what works for your relationship.

      • Matt M says:

        Well, in a practical sense, the money that would be going towards land would otherwise be going towards retirement savings.

        So another relevant question might be – is there any particular reason to think “unimproved land in a location currently thought to be completely undesirable” will offer reasonably decent investment returns?

        • Randy M says:

          So another relevant question might be – is there any particular reason to think “unimproved land in a location currently thought to be completely undesirable” will offer reasonably decent investment returns?

          That’s not the way I’d bet, especially since you’ll be paying some taxes on it. If you want to make money on land, you have to either buy land that becomes useful and then sell it, use it yourself to make profit or off-set expenses, or rent it to someone else who does.

          You’re coming closest to the first option, but only if you know something the market doesn’t.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I thought the stock answer was “they ain’t making any more of it.”

          • souleater says:

            That’s true Conrad, but there is currently a lot of land that nobody really wants. At least in the US, we have land to spare.

            Matt, I have heard of people renting their empty land for cattle grazing.. I don’t imagine the revenue would be that good, but it would at least be something.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Oh of course, never take investment advice from me. I’m way too dumb for that. I just buy index funds and forget about it.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, using prices as a guideline, if you can afford to buy a car, you can afford to buy land. It’s just that the land you are getting is barren desert in the middle of nowhere.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But it’s your barren desert! And you get the right to vote.

          • hls2003 says:

            “they ain’t making any more of it.”

            Depends where you look!

          • hls2003 says:

            Matt, I have heard of people renting their empty land for cattle grazing.. I don’t imagine the revenue would be that good, but it would at least be something.

            Even if you earn almost nothing from the rental, it can still be a useful tool in managing expenses. If your parcel is in or near a developed area, you can minimize your taxes by having your land zoned agricultural. I know a guy who owns a large valuable lot in the suburbs who brings in half a dozen cows for a couple months a year to graze. He calls it “cow camp.” Based on that, he can retain his ag zoning and avoid tens of thousands in taxes on that lot.

      • quanta413 says:

        a) Not weird. A desire for autonomy is arguably the American Dream.

        Are we sure? What if he’s suffering some sort of time travel whiplash after accidentally traveling back to 19th century America and living there as a homesteader for years and currently suffering amnesia after making his way back to modern America. He’s now left with a strange craving for empty land…

        @Matt M

        You should check for signs that you’ve passed more time than your remember. Healed injuries you don’t remember getting. Pain due to manual labor you’ve never done. A sudden change in weight over the course of one night. An unusual amount of hair growth. You may have time traveled and popped back to the same time you left.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I want land, its going to be a few years at least though.

      If you want to just buy land near me I will manage it for you for free.

      • Matt M says:

        Well I’m not in a position to afford it yet either, just starting to think about it.

        So unless you live in the middle of nowhere in West Texas, I probably can’t afford to buy land near you!

    • Jake R says:

      Not me exactly, but my family owns some land in Arkansas that’s used to grow timber. Basically my grandfather bought a few hundred acres of Arkansas timber land to provide himself an income in his retirement. When he died it was divided among my father and his siblings. Presumably when my parents die, my siblings and I will divide up his share at which point my portion will be pretty small. My parents are well off, but well under $1M net worth.

      I’m afraid I can’t really contribute to the meat of your question. I’ve never even seen the land (I did not grow up nor do I currently live in Arkansas). It’s basically the same as any other investment. My father and his siblings split a check once or twice a year whenever they harvest. It definitely doesn’t feel like it’s satisfying some primal need to own property. I own my home, but that’s mainly because interest rates were so low my mortgage payments are about half of what my rent was.

    • Phigment says:

      I’m not rich, and my family owns a farm in East Texas which I get a lot of satisfaction from. Just under 50 acres. We grow trees and deer hunt.

      Technically, I don’t own it; my father owns it, and prior to him, my grandfather owned it, so it’s not legally mine, but it’s psychologically mine. If that makes sense.

      I also own (with a mortgage) a suburban house, and have gotten a great deal of satisfaction from that. Just a 1400 square foot house on a regular lot, with a garage and a yard. The house did a lot more to fill my primal desire for property than the farm did.

      So, honestly, if you’re feeling a weird urge to own property, I would advise you to start with a piece of property you will use, not a parcel out in the boonies somewhere. You love and value property by using it. If you aren’t very outdoorsy, and you aren’t going to shoot or drive ATVs or garden or buy a tractor and luxuriate in your ability to mow whenever you want, a few acres in the country isn’t doing much for you.

      But a house you actually live in, with walls you painted the colors you want and doors that stick in a familiar way when the temperature shifts and a mailbox you fixed after the neighbor kid backed into it by mistake is just the thing. It feels solid, gives you something to grip.

      Then, after you’ve had that for a while, you’ll know if you want more land, or different land, or whatever.

    • dick says:

      You are not crazy, this post describes me exactly. Around the time I hit 40 I started idly browsing land for sale, with a vague idea of maybe making some money off it via timber, or maybe going camping on it, or maybe building a home there twenty years from now.

      I don’t know where it came from either. It might have something to do with having kids and wanting to pass something tangible on to them. It also might be this is “what’s next” after you feel like your immediate needs are covered and your retirement fund is on track.

      • quanta413 says:

        Clearly another case of time travel to 19th century America, followed by a return and amnesia. You’ve even managed to subconciously recall that you sold timber while in the past. It’s the only plausible explanation.

        I’ll tell everyone when I hit 40 if the same thing happens to me.

        • Plumber says:

          @quanta413,
          The further you’re past 40 the more you are a time traveler!

          The present seems strange!

          • quanta413 says:

            @Plumber
            You got me there. I’m not feeling the time whiplash too much yet although I still find Facebook pretty weird.

    • Erusian says:

      Is there anyone here who isn’t very rich (I’m thinking, like, net worth <$1M) and who also owns land (let's say 5+ acres that you don't currently live on?)

      I doubt it. Not so much because land is expensive but because getting land for the sole sake of having it requires enough leisure time and extra cash that the person is probably wealthy. There are probably lots of people who own vacation homes or rural land they do live on.

      One thing that’s always been curious to me. Americans have a lot of empty land and concentrated urban centers. The Eastern Europeans have the tradition of having a small house in the countryside. For whatever reason, virtually no Americans do this outside of the very wealthy. Like, if you’re going to buy a million dollar house, why not split it into a $800,000 house in the city and a $200,000 house on Lake Vacationstay? Or if you’re renting an apartment, why not get a small $100,000 cabin in the sticks? It will build equity and be a nice little retreat. A $100,000 mortgage is $400 a month and you can find or build decent rural houses if you’re willing to drive half or a full day.

      Am I crazy? Can someone give me a good reason to justify my weird craving here? Anyone else feel this, and even better, go through with it and have any thoughts on it?

      Cultural pressure. “A man ain’t a man if he ain’t got no land,” as the saying goes.

      • Matt M says:

        This does happen in America, but I think the standard for the “cabin in the woods” is much higher due to cultural demands.

        Like, I had a friend going up whose family had a “cabin in the mountains.” But by “cabin” they meant “second house” and by “in the mountains” they meant “close enough to civilization to have paved roads, running water, electricity, is 20-30 minutes away from a grocery store, etc.”

        Any land that has all of that isn’t going to be dirt cheap, especially if it’s also near an aesthetically pleasing vacation spot. In fact, if your first home is in the suburbs, it’s probably going to be about as expensive as the first one was…

        • Erusian says:

          Running water, paved roads, pretty natural scenery, and electricity wouldn’t be asking too much. I was able to find three houses under $150k in South Maine (so, like half a day’s drive from Boston) that fit all that. 20-30 minutes to basic shopping isn’t impossible either. But the house isn’t going to be super nice with every modern convenience. It’s mostly going to be older or not as fashionable.

          Now, if you want a vacation home with all the modern amenities in the south of France near the mall, then you’re going to pay appropriately.

      • CatCube says:

        It depends on the area. Where I grew up, it was common for a lot of people to have a “camp”, which was basically a weekend house for use during the summer. However, they’re almost always pretty spartan. They do have electricity, but running water would be from a well (and some didn’t have running water, you had a hand pump). It’s rare that they’d be on paved roads, with the typical one being on a dirt road and many on two-tracks. Many would be on a small lake, on a few-acre lot but others, typically for hunting, would be on a 40 in the woods–the “deer camp” referenced in this comedy song. You’re typically talking places that would go for less than $100k, often much less.

        They’re less common now, because of a combination of factors: the area suffered an economic collapse that meant many young people (like me) moved away, and the aging retirees who remain are less able to keep up with maintaining a second home; the people who do own camps from out of town are typically richer and have bid up prices on the best places. It’s probably much more the former than the latter. If you don’t live quite close it can mean you pay a lot of money for a place you can’t use more than for a week or two of vacation, and a place can go to seed quickly if it’s not lived in more than once a year.

        As far as the original OP, I technically own land. Soon after I was born (or, since I was adopted at 6 weeks old, was brought home), my parents “sold” me half of the quarter-quarter section they owned. Land that’s improved has higher taxes. By splitting off 20 acres and putting it in my name, the higher taxes only apply to the half-quarter-quarter section with the house on it. They’ve always paid the taxes and controlled the land, and I’ve never had any reason to concern myself about it, but according to the courthouse, I own property.

      • SamChevre says:

        moved

    • Tenacious D says:

      I’ve thought about buying a woodlot. One that’s recently been cut takes decades before it’s ready to cut again, so it’s certainly a long-term investment. I think it would be satisfying to manage something tangible, compared to the same amount invested in index funds.

    • hls2003 says:

      I had this exact reaction when I first started working a good-paying job and had finished paying off my loans. I started looking at land while I was still living in an apartment. It’s not unusual, and in fact I suspect it’s even more common when you’re living in an urban area constantly surrounded by other people and their demands. The prospect of a place that’s fully “mine” and that’s quiet and rural starts to sound grand.

      That being said, I waited to buy a house, and that’s filled a lot of it. I still do crave land, but that will require a lifestyle shift for my family, so we’ll have to see how things go.

      As to the financial side of it, random cheap land will almost certainly be a net financial loser. If it’s cheap, it’s because nobody wants it, so renting it won’t be practical. It will probably only appreciate based on development you don’t control – the standard saying in real estate development is “buy by the acre, sell by the square foot.” Land is always taxed, but unimproved land taxes will generally be small. The bigger financial risk is liability – if kids come on your land and get crushed by a rotted tree or whatnot, they’re likely to sue and you’re likely to lose for having an attractive nuisance or negligent upkeep. Or if a meth lab gets set up, you’re going to run into potential trouble with the authorities. Stuff like that. It’s risky to keep a property that you never visit.

      Depending on your budget, you might be able to get low-level farmland which you can rent out for row crops. The most productive Class A farmland will be well outside your price range, since it’s more than $10K per acre (and usually no parcels below 40 acres), but there are lower-productivity farms you can buy for perhaps a quarter that cost, which would put it potentially in range depending on parcel size. Of course farm rents then are also a quarter or less of Class A, so you’re not making much money, but you could probably cover the taxes. Another option is to look for land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program – it’s a USDA program that basically pays farmers to take land off the cultivation market and let it grow wild. CRP payments aren’t terribly large, less than farm rent, but they can also apply to areas of land somewhat more visually interesting than row crops.

      • Erusian says:

        The risks can be handled if you’re used to it and willing to sue overzealous types. But you’re right the value is unlikely to go up on its own. (Actually, it is likely to go up: but basically at the rate of inflation.) You’d either have to get lucky (the price goes up due to other people’s actions, which is unlikely) or find a profitable use for it.

        As for USDA programs, if you’re going to be buying land at $2.5k an acre in a medium sized parcel or beter, it’s better to get new farm grants. Get forty of them and start growing potatoes or something. The USDA will get you loan assistance and give you a lot of support. There’s also organizations to help young people get into farming.

        • hls2003 says:

          My understanding is that he’d be keeping his day job, so using the land himself for a full-time gig (e.g. organic farming) would presumably not be an option.

          • Erusian says:

            If the activity is profitable, farm labor can be had cheaply in many parts of the country. But sure, I get most people don’t want to be farmers. Renting it out might not be better then.

    • ana53294 says:

      I own a forest. My dad planted it 20 years ago, and it will be ready for harvest in 40-50 years, so for my grandkid’s college fund. Really small; just a hectare or so.

      My grandfather sent my father, and his three siblings, to college with the money from the forest my gran-granparent planted.

      It’s not worth much, but it gives me roots and the idea of continuity.

      Land takes a lot of work to be improved, though. And you’ll have to hire non-Americans; the kind of work that land improvement takes (at least forests and agricultural land, for the stuff that can’t be done with machines) will not have many people working legally.

      In Spain, at least, most forest work is done by now-legal Romanians. Can’t hire a Spaniard for that, it’s too hard.

      • nkurz says:

        > And you’ll have to hire non-Americans; the kind of work that land improvement takes (at least forests and agricultural land, for the stuff that can’t be done with machines) will not have many people working legally.

        Why do you believe this to be true? I actually met with a consulting forester today to plan out some work, and he seemed very American. And from what I can tell, the rest of his crew is American as well: http://www.longviewforest.com/about-long-view.html.

        I wonder if you’ve been misled by the media into believing that Americans no longer do outdoor physical labor. Many still do. Even in California, which has considerable legal and illegal Mexican immigration, many outdoor workers are native born. I’m surprised to hear that Spain is different.

    • bullseye says:

      If you don’t know what you’re going to do with the land, I’d advise against it. Even if the cost of the land and taxes are trivial to you, dealing with the bureaucracy of owning things is a hassle.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah. The worst part about when I owned a house I *didn’t* live in was having to deal with the state taxes for a state I otherwise I had no business with. Was glad to finally sell it, not because I needed to, but just to get rid of that headache.

    • Reasoner says:

      Play the long game. Buy land in Alaska and watch its value rise as the globe warms.

      • Matt M says:

        What do I buy if I think it’s a hoax?

        Waterfront land in New Orleans?

        • Randy M says:

          Waterfront land in New Orleans?

          Probably not. You’re still competing with the ignorant, those who buy into it but have short time preference, and others with your view.

    • Anthony says:

      If you’re crazy, I am in a similar way. I have a pretty good income (top 5% US) and am now in a very good situation financially, and I keep thinking I might want to buy some land somewhere.

      I’ve also looked at buying houses in places where I might vacation and have family close enough to have them rent it out for me, but that’s a different craving.

  6. Anthony says:

    NIMBYs in Montgomery County being honest about their NIMBYism:

    “Just because others flee crime-ridden and poverty-stricken areas doesn’t mean Montgomery County has to be turned into a slum to accommodate them.”

    • Aftagley says:

      For context, that quote is from a letter to the editor against new policy that would rezone neighborhoods and allow people to put trailers and mobile homes on their property.

      It’s funny because this is perhaps the most literal use of NIMBY I’ve ever seen: they’re actively complaining about stuff being put in people’s back yards.

      • J Mann says:

        Nice, but it’s more of “Not in Your Back Yard” policy. (As I suppose most NIMBY is, and the back yard is more literal in this case).

        • Aftagley says:

          Yeah, I realized that, but calling someone a NIYBY doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.

  7. Bobobob says:

    Can anyone recommend a good anime series to binge on Netflix or Amazon Prime? My feeble attempts so far:

    Attack on Titan–premise is cool and creepy, but I ducked out halfway through season 1 because there was no forward momentum. I may read the manga instead, if I can find it second-hand.

    Neon Genesis Evangelion–I probably read too many reviews of this beforehand, and it couldn’t live up to my expectations. Made it through about 10 episodes. Weird mix of giant robots and ephebophilia. We can discuss.

    One-Punch Man–More like one-gimmick man, and that gimmick wears out pretty quick.

    Devilman Crybaby–?????

    I’m not a hobbyist, but I have fond memories of the movie “Akira” and would like to watch something just like that. Or something like that, combined with something like “Spirited Away.” If that is at all possible. (Sadly, “Akira” itself isn’t available for streaming.)

    May I mention, too, that there are an astonishing number of anime series on Netflix and a newcomer has No Hope of identifying which ones, if any, are worth watching.

    • Aftagley says:

      No real recommendations to add, but I can’t concur enough with your assessment of Devilman Crybaby; I’ve spent the last few months positive that show’s near-universal high reviews are some kind of elaborate prank being pulled specifically on me.

      I’m still trying to work out a motive for this plot.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Bleach or Full Metal Alchemist are the only two I have enjoyed, but I like them both a lot (though Bleach starts to fall into the Dragon Ball Z trap eventually of just powering up and having stronger villains every time. Fullmetal was on Amazon prime for a while but dropped off a few months ago, don’t know where you can stream Bleach either.

      • Aftagley says:

        Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is on Netflix and is highly enjoyable. I haven’t seen the other fullmetal alchemist, but I hear it’s not quite as good.

        • acymetric says:

          Both are on Netflix now, actually. Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is significantly better (a highly contentious subject) and I highly recommend watching that version. Probably my top recommendation from the Netflix library.

      • J Mann says:

        I was watching Bleach when it played weekly on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block, and explained to my daughter back at the beginning of the Soul Society arc.

        Every few months, she would ask me “so has that guy saved his friend yet?” and I’d have to say no, until one day I got to say “yes, but now he’s trying to save a different friend.”

    • acymetric says:

      So, I just watched Neon Genesis Evangelion and…you probably got out at the right time. I went in knowing next to nothing about it other than that I’ve seen it mentioned in a lot of places. I’m still not sure what the heck just happened. I then watched End of Evangelion which I was told would help and…it did not.

      Other than Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which was already mentioned (and I also heartily recommend), you might consider Durara! which is weird and quirky but got me fairly sucked in for a while. I haven’t finished it, but try maybe 2-5 episodes and see if it grabs you at all.

      Fate/Zero is also worth a look if it’s still on there, as well as Sword Art Online (but I think SAO got taken off Netflix recently). If you haven’t seen Death Note the first season of that is really good (the second season is just OK but is almost a totally different story so you don’t have to watch it).

      If feel like there might be one or two more I’m forgetting, I’ll look at the Netflix list when I get home.

      • acymetric says:

        Fate/Zero is also worth a look if it’s still on there

        I should correct myself…if you are going to watch the Fate series on Netflix (it is still on there) start with Fate/Stay Night and then watch Fate/Zero. Fate/Zero is a prequel but the payoffs in Zero are much better if you’ve watched Stay Night (and I think watching Zero first would spoil some of the things in Stay Night also). If you try and like either, do not be tempted to watch any of the other Fate series on Netflix (Apocrypha and some others I forget the names of) as they are not really connected and also not really good.

        • Dan L says:

          Inflicting the Studio Deen anime on an unsuspecting audience isn’t quite criminal, but I’ll pretty strongly argue that for a routine anime-watcher it’s almost certainly better to start with Fate/Zero. (Ufotable’s version of UBW is better, but I still think going with Zero first works.) If someone’s willing to sink 50+ hours into a VN as a first entrance to the franchise then they’ll get a way better experience by doing that with F/SN, but I recognize that’s a big commitment to be making up front so I’ve stopped giving it as my primary recommendation.

          • Nornagest says:

            Stay/night and Zero are very different stories on a structural level, and Night is a lot more… anime, I guess. You could probably sell a pretty faithful HBO miniseries for Zero, with its premise, its characters, and even a lot of its script intact (Saber might be a sticking point, but I think you could get her in if you talked fast and moved your hands a lot), but I can’t see that working for any route of Night without an extensive retool.

            That being the case, I think Zero is the better entry point for someone that’s not into anime.

    • Nick says:

      Attack on Titan has serious pacing issues in the first season, yeah; that improves in the second and third. I’m halfway through the third right now.

      I liked Kakegurui, but you’re going to have to get past the prurient depictions of women in the series. Also watched Lupin the 3rd recently and it was good. Also Baki, though it’s not for everyone.

      Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is a classic.

      • AG says:

        Kakegurui is just so brazen about everything it does that the psychosexual-ness of it all wraps back around to being a plus.
        The live-action version of Kakegurui (also on Netflix!) is slightly less overtly sexual, but makes up for it by having all of the actor go for the most EXTRA reaction faces they possibly can, so is still very entertaining.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Oh geez, how could I forget.

      Dragonball Z Abridged on youtube (channel team fourstar). Now that is a binge worth show.

      • smocc says:

        Seconding Dragonball Z Abridged. I started watching it because I wanted to get a general idea of the plot of DBZ but now I’m pretty half convinced the Abridged series is actually better than the real thing.

        • rubberduck says:

          Seconding this and recommending Sword Art Online abridged, which is almost universally considered to be superior to the source material. It’s hilarious when it wants to be yet isn’t afraid to play serious moments straight.

    • J Mann says:

      Not sure if you’ll like my recommendations – if you don’t like Anime that shifts from inexplicably slow and philosophical to awesome and back to slow, you won’t like most shonen anime.

      Stuff in Netflix that I liked that you might (or might not)

      Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood: Awesome integrated story that goes somewhere. Good characters and fights.

      Ajin: Dark conspiracy oriented fighting anime with some horror elements. Might scratch the itch you have left over from Akira.

      Kill La Kill: Super weird high school fighting anime, with exceptionally good music. My guess is you won’t like it, but it’s awesome. (ETA: Given your screen name, you might like weird anime more than I initially thought)

      Hunter x Hunter and Fairy Tail: Pretty straight forward fighting anime, but IMHO really well done.

      P.s.: I’d argue that the primary appeal of One Punch Man is all the other characters, who are inventive and often compelling. The fact that Saitama makes them all a joke is a way for the other characters to experience development.

    • Clutzy says:

      One Punch Man is one of my favorites, so you will have to take this with a grain of salt I suppose.

      Attack on Titan is slow, but otherwise really good. Naruto is childish, but endearingly so and with enough mature themes to be worth while. FMA: Brotherhood and Death Note are probably the pinnacles of anime, but dark.

      • J Mann says:

        Whoops, forgot about Death Note. Seconded, although I think the OP might find it’s plot unnecessarily convoluted.

    • MorningGaul says:

      There are quite some old-but-good animes on netflix, of the top of my head, Trigun, Cowboy bebop, Samurai Champloo or the 90’s Berserk.

      • acymetric says:

        Cowboy Bebop is not on Netflix. That would be easily my top recommendation if it were. I had forgotten about Trigun, which is good but takes a little while to get going (I’m also not sure it is still on Netflix).

    • AG says:

      Record of the Grancrest War isn’t a great show, but it’s okay for a binge. Basically like watching an anime of a D&D campaign by way of Fire Emblem.

      Madoka Magica is a classic for good reason.
      Violet Evergarden might not be your thing, but is also critically acclaimed as a “tearjerker vignettes” type of anime. Anohana is similarly a tearjerker drama.
      Hunter x Hunter is critically acclaimed as one of the best of the long-running adventure series, but it does take a while to get going. It’s kind of rooted around puzzles-as-combat, but later arcs have some heavy thematic and character work.
      Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure is what happens when a classic adventure serial runs on Rule of Awesome, and also all of the characters are named after music artists/bands.
      Ouran High School Host Club might not be your thing, but it’s pretty strong as a comedy.
      Little Witch Academia >>>>> Harry Potter
      Code Geass and Death Note aren’t necessarily good, per se, but are designed to be enjoyed as addicting/bingeable yarns.
      Durarara is also a good yarn, almost like a Guy Ritchie film as a longform.
      Aggretsuko is TOO REAL. WAY TOO REAL.
      Black Lagoon is a good action yarn.
      Mushishi is highly critically acclaimed, a series of supernatural vignettes.
      March Comes in Like a Lion is critically acclaimed, but acclaimed for being an insightful depiction of depression, so might not be your thing.

      Honestly, Naruto is a solid longrunning show, but only if you judiciously skip through any part that bores you.

      Films:
      A Silent Voice
      Miss Hokusai
      In this Corner of the World
      They’re mostly all character studies, except for Expelled From Paradise, which is interesting for taking place in a post-Singularity world. Better than Westworld for dealing with transhumanist themes.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Durarara is also a good yarn, almost like a Guy Ritchie film as a longform.

        I hadn’t realized that before but those are both among of my favorites, so thanks for dropping that penny for me!

        (Also some have mentioned Baccano, which is by the same author as DRRR. Gets a big second from me)

        • AG says:

          Yes, I like Baccano more than Durarara, but unfortunately, I don’t think it’s streaming anywhere.

  8. baconbits9 says:

    Articles like this make me dispair for capitalism. Summed up in the author’s conclusion of

    And this is the thing that is so brilliant and awful about Lyft and Uber’s gamification: it preys on our desire to be of service, to be liked, to be good. On weeks that I am rated highly, I am more motivated to drive. On weeks that I am rated poorly, I am more motivated to drive. It works on me, even though I know better.

    The summary of the piece is that the author

    1. Had no other job prospects
    2. Started driving for Lyft
    3. Managed to stay afloat thanks to that work
    4. Felt motivated to keep working for Lyft due to the way they incentivised their workers AND
    5. Felt better about her work because of the incentives

    The conclusion that she reaches is that its awful (the great part as I read it relates to Lyft’s perspective) she managed to get a paying job with unlimited hours, good flexibility,that she felt good about. What more could an employer plausibly do for her?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I think you’re wrong about 5. She felt worse about her work because of the incentives. She was more desperate, more stressed, and her attention was monopolized by the game. She was encouraged to identify her self-worth with the score given to her by the game. That’s a kind of power people usually don’t like to give away.

      • baconbits9 says:

        She specifically describes feeling ‘great’ about having a high score, and specifically states that she needed the money from extra driving. Was she stressed? I don’t doubt it, working for a living is generally stressful, getting to work on time for jobs who will fire you if you don’t is stressful, worrying about job security is stressful.

        She was encouraged to identify her self-worth with the score given to her by the game.

        She was encouraged to have some self worth tied to her performance at her job, which most people experience.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah – being evaluated on your work, when the result might very well be termination, is always stressful.

          The relevant question would be, is it more or less stressful to be constantly in receipt of objective and obvious feedback, or would she prefer the average approach in the white collar world, which is that once a year you get a vaguely worded paragraph of buzzwords about your performance, some sort of ill-defined categorization, etc.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The latter question needs to be expanded to

            ‘Would she prefer the white collar approach, and also put in enough hours to support herself on that level of pay’.

        • Aftagley says:

          I think you’re underestimating the vastly different effects those gamified systems have on people. Some people ignore them, most people can deal with them in a healthy way and some people get invested in them to a downright unhealthy degree. It sounds like this author is in the last category.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I played online poker for a living for 3 years, and found it very stressful for me personally so I don’t think I underestimate that. I have also worked the midnight to 8 am shift at bakeries where I was alone for the first two hours of my shift and my ability to get everything ready directly impacted how hours 2-8 went for everyone else on the crew (as well as me). That was also stressful, as was washing dishes at Applebee’s on a Saturday night with servers running back to scream at you that they are all out of silver wear.

            Productive work generally has significant elements of stress to it, only jobs that don’t matter at all can be done by large swaths of people without stress.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Productive work generally has significant elements of stress to it, only jobs that don’t matter at all can be done by large swaths of people without stress.

            I don’t think that you’re really getting it. It’s not about stress from responsibility, but stress from self-worth. If you fuck up opening shift, you’re going to take shit because of it that you probably deserve, and you’re going to feel bad, and you’re going to have to work hard to make up for it.

            If the author of this piece sees her rating start to spiral, on the other hand, she’s going to be cruel to herself for failing the people she has an obligation to. She’s going to work harder to make it up to the people she’s failed, and she’s going to go home and cry because she feels like a bad person. (This is probably extremely hyperbolic, but I think this is a reasonable description of the feelings involved for the most extreme cases). If Uber is maximizing the production of this feeling in its employees in order to get them to produce more labor, that’s really bad. The author’s argument is that gamified systems promote this sort of response. By extension, the only way to develop emotional equanimity when faced with highly emotional stimulus is to crank down your overall emotional sensitivity, which is also really bad.

            Think of it as the author claiming that Uber shows you pictures of mass graves and child soldiers when you drive poorly. Does this encourage good service? Yes. But it’s needlessly cruel.

          • Nornagest says:

            By extension, the only way to develop emotional equanimity when faced with highly emotional stimulus is to crank down your overall emotional sensitivity, which is also really bad.

            I’m not sure I agree with either part of this — that you have to desensitize yourself to emotional stimulus generally rather than to a particular emotional stimulus, or that it’s a bad thing if you do. On the first point, most people seem quite capable of dialing down their responses to distressing aspects of their jobs without thereby becoming robots; and on the second, we do have a concept of being oversensitive.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nornagest

            On the first point, most people seem quite capable of dialing down their responses to distressing aspects of their jobs without thereby becoming robots

            High scores on emotional exhaustion are likely signs of distress in response to emotionally demanding work. According to the results of the study, approximately one out of every five active duty operators reported experiencing high levels of emotional exhaustion.

            Now obviously drone operators are in a very different class from Lyft drivers, but… evidence shows people are just not that good at compartmentalizing. Especially when (if) the system is designed to exploit their emotional vulnerability.

            on the second, we do have a concept of being oversensitive

            Sure, and managing emotional reactions is a good skill for people to have. IF Uber is actively trying to make that harder (or if they get returns from gamification in large part because that’s hard and people aren’t able to do it), that’s still morally reprehensible.

          • Nornagest says:

            Now obviously drone operators are in a very different class from Lyft drivers, but… evidence shows people are just not that good at compartmentalizing. Especially when (if) the system is designed to exploit their emotional vulnerability.

            We aren’t talking about killing people, we’re talking about an idiosyncratic performance management system. I can’t deny there are jobs that just swamp the average person’s ability to regulate their emotions: I know doctors, nurses, social workers, and while they’ve all developed strategies to cope I wouldn’t say they’re fully compartmentalized. But those are all jobs where screwing up can end or permanently impair someone else’s life. This is a job where screwing up can make someone’s Friday night slightly less fun. No matter how it’s gamified, it’s going to take more than a hand-wringing webmag article to convince me that most people deal with that by going comfortably numb.

            Could some people react badly to it, if they’re unusually bad at emotional self-regulation or unusually sensitive to gamification? Sure, but we don’t demand that every job suit everyone’s personality. I’m a pretty good engineer but I’d make an awful car salesman.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nornagest

            I mean if you want to go there you’re welcome to – I don’t have a good sense of where the line should be drawn – but consider that gambling addiction exists. Does the idea of a company that forces you to play a slot machine every week bother you? All it does is make your Friday night slightly more fun.

            Effective exploitation of the kind of reward the human brain craves can be extremely powerful. There’s a line beyond which I think we should hold companies responsible when it comes to doing that. I don’t know where it should be. But I don’t think it’s ridiculous prima facie.

          • Nornagest says:

            Does the idea of a company that forces you to play a slot machine every week bother you? All it does is make your Friday night slightly more fun.

            Not particularly? I mean, slot machines do nothing for me, but there are jobs where doing your job entails actions that might be addictive to certain personalities. There are jobs that involve social drinking; more to the point, there are a lot of jobs where your take-home pay depends partly on luck. As long as they were up front about it and there was a halfway reasonable business purpose (which is silly, but I don’t want to fight the hypothetical), allowing the slot machine is a bullet I’m willing to bite.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nornagest

            No, I mean, say, you work for a casino and every week they give you a free dime slot pull. For no reason other than the hope you develop a taste for it. And if you don’t play you don’t get paid.

            Obviously this isn’t an exact parallel for Uber. I’m not saying it is. I’m saying that I think that there’s a point at which exposing your employees to systems designed to prey on their emotional vulnerabilities is worthy of condemnation (which is NOT automatically the same as illegalization), even when those systems are relatively benign.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Hoopyfrued

            You are steelmanning her argument for her without any real basis. First of all she said she ‘felt great’ about having a high rating, this wasn’t merely the absence of seeing horrible pictures. She additionally notes that the incentives caused her to drive more AND that she did need that money, she didn’t find herself working 70 hours a week for no extra real benefit, she found herself giving up a bit of her money for a feeling of a better job done.

            Think of it as the author claiming that Uber shows you pictures of mass graves and child soldiers when you drive poorly. Does this encourage good service? Yes. But it’s needlessly cruel.

            This would probably encourage people to just quit.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @baconbits9

            You are steelmanning her argument for her

            Am I supposed to feel bad for this? You’re the one trying to claim that her objection to her job is that it’s stressful when it’s very clear that her objection is that it’s exploitative and that there is a real basis for the steelman.

            It is not uncommon to hear ride-hailing drivers compare even the mundane act of operating their vehicles to the immersive and addictive experience of playing a video game or a slot machine.

            Isn’t that where I just ended up?

          • Nornagest says:

            No, I mean, say, you work for a casino and every week they give you a free dime slot pull. For no reason other than the hope you develop a taste for it. And if you don’t play you don’t get paid.

            I’d consider that (mildly) exploitative, but only because there’s no reasonable business purpose to it. If you’re working as an usher in Vegas and they’re having you play the slots every so often to keep the blinkenlights blinking or something, and you can keep any winnings as a perk of the job? That seems equivalent to someone in the hospitality business drinking with customers, i.e. fine, even though the addiction risk is presumably the same.

            Uber’s review system doesn’t seem particularly well designed to me, but I don’t think you can say that it’s exploitative in the same way. There’s a clear, legitimate purpose behind incentivizing drivers to meet their customers’ needs. That’s enough to put it in conceptually legitimate territory for me — it could still be punitive or disproportionate, but it’s not evil simply on account of carrying a risk that certain personality types might get overly invested.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ Hoopyfrued

            I would agree with some of your points if the accusation was that Lyft was manipulating her star rating to induce a negative reaction, but the accusations of manipulation were things like changing the amount of money they offered her as a bonus for extra rides. Most of this is really basic supply/demand stuff, the longer someone drives for you the less likely it is that they have other options, ie the less valuable in general their labor is. This is a person, apparently with an undergraduate degree, who has been unable to find regular work during one of the tightest labor markets in US history. The complaint at its core seems to be that Lyft has managed to accurately assess her prospects and abilties* and is actually paying her the market wage.

            *Barring the possibility that she is doing it to get published in which case everything has to be taken with an even larger grain of salt.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Am I supposed to feel bad for this? You’re the one trying to claim that her objection to her job is that it’s stressful when it’s very clear that her objection is that it’s exploitative and that there is a real basis for the steelman.

            You are steelmanning in an underserved way. She is trying to make it sound exploitative, but gives no actual evidence for it being exploitative. The casino analogy doesn’t hold (which is why she just sort of leaves it there) because casinos are trying to get you to gamble more than you want to, while Lyft is offering to pay her more money for working more. Here are two separate hypotheticals

            1. Lyft goes through her data and sees that she never manages more than 20 trips in 48 hours, and then they offer her a bonus for making 23 trips in 48 hours, trying to giver her a boost for a task she is unlikely to achieve and a reward she is unlikely to reach. This would be unethical as hell.

            2. Lyft expects higher volume this weekend, and offers a bonus for working more than usual. They use her data to figure out her reserve wage for working more hours, they then offer it to her.

            Shes keeps implying #1 (I couldn’t tell why my rating dropped…..) but doesn’t provide direct evidence for it, and ignores that working more can be good for both Lyft and its drivers.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Isn’t that where I just ended up?

            Its a vauge anecdote and ignores the massive differences. No one is shocked that a job which pays $10 an hour and is open to anyone with a drivers license and the ability to qualify for a car loan is boring. Lyft made it less boring for some of its workers… how is this different from putting the radio onto a station I like while I am kneading bread at 3am? How is it different from my boss giving me a $50 gift card once in a while after a long week of work?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I would agree with some of your points if the accusation was that Lyft was manipulating her star rating to induce a negative reaction, but the accusations of manipulation were things like changing the amount of money they offered her as a bonus for extra rides.

            Wait, hard disagree. I think that her complaints are more about the interface than the content.

            Behavioral scientists and video game designers are well aware that tasks are likely to be completed faster and with greater enthusiasm if one can visualize them as part of a progression towards a larger, pre-established goal. Like the HUD, or head-up display in a first-person shooter game, the Lyft stat meter is always present, always showing you what your acceptance rating is, how many rides you’ve completed, how far you have to go to reach your goal…

            Retention is a problem in large part because the economics of driving are so bad

            I sometimes worked more than 50 hours per week trying to secure my PDB, which often meant driving in unsafe conditions, at irregular hours, and accepting nearly every ride request including those that felt potentially dangerous

            Of course, this was largely motivated by a real need for a boost in my weekly earnings. But, in addition to a hope that I would somehow transcend Lyft’s shitty economics, the intensity with which I pursued my PDBs was also the result of what Burawoy observed four decades ago: a bizarre desire to beat the game.

            Like, this obviously speaks of at least somewhat high neuroticism on her part, but she’s actually making a point here about the way these things are communicated biasing her decision-making process.

            Shes keeps implying #1 (I couldn’t tell why my rating dropped…..) but doesn’t provide direct evidence for it

            How could she? She doesn’t have access to the algorithm. It may not even be human-readable. She’s going on her own feeling of being manipulated.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Wait, hard disagree. I think that her complaints are more about the interface than the content.

            She tries to make that case, but they don’t hold up to scrutiny.

            Like, this obviously speaks of at least somewhat high neuroticism on her part, but she’s actually making a point here about the way these things are communicated biasing her decision-making process.

            But you didn’t bold the most important part of that section.

            Of course, this was largely motivated by a real need for a boost in my weekly earnings

            A title of ‘I took a bad job because I couldn’t find a good one, and sometimes I took worse working conditions for extra pay’ doesn’t roll off the tongue though. From what she wrote it sounds more accurate to present her position as ‘I felt manipulated into doing something that I wanted/needed to do, yuck’, but ‘Lyft found a way to motivate me to make ends meet’ doesn’t have a whole lot of teeth.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            From what she wrote it sounds more accurate to present her position as ‘I felt manipulated into doing something that I wanted/needed to do, yuck.’

            She says she went beyond that point and you say she’s lying. There’s no solid evidence either way. Will you agree that rhetoric can change behavior at the margins, and that sufficiently strong rhetoric can push people into suboptimal behavior? Because I can’t tell right now if you’re denying that that’s true or denying that Lyft’s nudges were strong enough to push her that way.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There’s no solid evidence either way. Will you agree that rhetoric can change behavior at the margins, and that sufficiently strong rhetoric can push people into suboptimal behavior? Because I can’t tell right now if you’re denying that that’s true or denying that Lyft’s nudges were strong enough to push her that way.

            I’m denying that its a meaningful way of describing the situation*. The facts that she introduces are

            1. That she had no other work options
            2. Lyft had monetary and psychological incentives for her to work more
            3. Lyft (afaict) lived up to the moneytary end of the bargain
            4. She had to work more hours and/or in more difficult situations to gain the extra monetary and psychological rewards**.

            Laid out in this way it sounds just like every other job. If you want a promotion or a pay raise then you work harder/more hours. If you want your boss to hold a higher opinion of you then work harder, if you want more money you can take worse shifts, drive worse routes etc.

            I would like to add that there are ways this type of approach could be used that would count as abuse. For example if Lyft was advertising that their drivers made $20 an hour and then used the bonuses to get new drivers to that rate for just long enough and then used distractions and ratings manipulation as cover while they slowly chipped away at the bonuses until they were making much less. This is why I have highlighted the fact that the writer had no other real options for a job, these companies are taking on low end workers and to think that they could run a business comprised of flawed contractors with no set hours without attempting to motivate them beyond just cash payments is fairly naive. The whole is the opposite of what Marx predicted, rather than squeezing the wages of workers and treating them as completely disposable cogs who are to be ground down these workers have near total autonomy on the hours they work, get incentivised to work more with better pay and have individual plans tailored towards keeping them motivated.

            * Yes, it is likely that any strategy that a large company takes is going to push some number of people to a sub-optimal side of decision making, that is the nature of margins. It also is likely that these decision push other people to the optimal side of decision making, the case being made here isn’t ‘Lyft wasn’t right for me and here is why’ its ‘The workers cant win here’, which is a very different piece.

            **Or she could trade one for the other, paying more for car cleaning etc to get a psychological reward of a higher rating.

          • Matt M says:

            For example if Lyft was advertising that their drivers made $20 an hour and then used the bonuses to get new drivers to that rate for just long enough and then used distractions and ratings manipulation as cover while they slowly chipped away at the bonuses until they were making much less

            This sort of thing isn’t at all rare/new/enabled by tech “gamification” either.

            I have a friend who started a sales job where they started her at a really high rate. But it turned out it was commission based and their policy was to pay you as if you had met 100% of your goal for the first six months. But the goals were very high and even the best/most senior salespeople struggled to meet them. And the managers pretty regularly adjusted the goals for all sorts of arbitrary and non-transparent reasons very frequently.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      What more could an employer plausibly do for her?

      At least part of the answer is “pay at or above minimum wage”. Not sure about the more philosophical aspects of the article, as I don’t see people being excited and engaged with the work they do through gamification as a bad thing per say. But making below minimum wage is clearly bad, and “unlimited hours” isn’t a positive if it just gives you the ability to work the crazy volume of hours you need to survive while working for a company that doesn’t pay minimum wage.

      *Insert standard “does minimum wage destroy low wage jobs and thus hurt poor workers?” argument here*

      • Randy M says:

        It’s conceivable an employer could institute a cunning gamification system that creates employee satisfaction despite low pay. If one could, one would, certainly–hence all the surveys or studies about “how can we improve employee morale?” which employees laugh at with the rejoinder “pay us more money.”

    • quanta413 says:

      I scrolled to the bottom and found the problem. Author is graduate student. Made that mistake myself! Although I was paid a low but very livable amount for where I was, and it’s not clear if the author is/was. Ok, I’m not really serious about that, but

      You left out that the author also

      6. Got an article out of their work.
      7. Probably uses their experience as fodder for their study of “platform-mediated labor”.

      The conclusion that she reaches is that its awful (the great part as I read it relates to Lyft’s perspective) she managed to get a paying job with unlimited hours, good flexibility,that she felt good about. What more could an employer plausibly do for her?

      Put error bars on the star rating and explain uncertainty and sampling? I mean that wouldn’t benefit the employer but it probably wouldn’t hurt them either. And I can wish for whatever I want. The most obvious explanation for this…

      I opened my feedback summary to discover that my rating had plummeted from a 4.91 (“Awesome”) to a 4.79 (“Okay”), without comment …

      …Because driver ratings are calculated using your last one hundred passenger reviews

      Is that the change in ratings is just noise (assuming an out of 5 stars system). If every passenger randomly rated you either 4 or 5, the standard deviation in your average rating would be .05. That’s assuming there’s no passengers who likes to hand out lower scores even if the ride was perfectly fine. For example, if one person gives you a 1-star rating out of 100 passengers rating you, that’s .04 off your average compared to if that person gave you a 5-star rating.

      EDIT: Of course, it’s possible that turning noise into seemingly meaningful feedback is a benefit from the employer perspective. Whoever may have thought of that would have committed an unforgivable sin, and must be punished appropriately.

      • Randy M says:

        Man, now I feel sorry for customer service people or anyone else graded on such surveys that I might have taken. I usually always just check 4 if I had a reasonably positive experience. I’m satisfied with a 4 out of 5 service. I’ll return for 4 out of 5 service. And somewhere, someone is getting dinged because what I saw as a ‘pretty good’ rating was interpreted as ‘okay’.

        They probably have a huge sign in the break room that says “We want our customers to be thrilled to shop with us!”
        Listen, I am fine going through my day less than maximally thrilled.

        • Nick says:

          Yeah, to date I’ve only given out one rating below 5 stars on Uber, because I don’t want anyone to get screwed this way. I already know from other situations how inflated these scores will get, and I don’t want to be the only one giving an ‘accurate’ score.

          • acymetric says:

            On any of the occasions my mom has called an Uber, she always asks “what rating should I give?” The answer is “always 5 stars unless something particularly bad happened”.

        • Nornagest says:

          Ages ago, YouTube used to have a five-star rating system. They changed it to up/down because they found that most people were giving one- or five-star ratings, and those that weren’t had all sorts of opaque criteria that didn’t hash out to anything particularly actionable.

          I think Uber should probably do the same.

          • Nick says:

            That’s probably for the best, yeah.

            What’s really interesting is that there are cases where this is mostly mitigated—Amazon or goodreads book reviews still tend toward 1 or 5 stars, but there are often a lot of 2, 3, and 4 star reviews, too. I’m not sure what makes the difference. Maybe if e.g. 80% of all reviews are by the 20% most discerning users, they give more useful ratings.

          • Randy M says:

            I’ve often heard the advice that if you want the most useful Amazon reviews you should look for the 2/3/4 star reviews.
            They are less likely to be unrepresentative or biased, whereas a thoughtful 3-star review will list pros and cons and you can judge what is more important to you.
            @Nick, speaking of reviews, still inclined to throw me one?

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M
            Oh man, I forgot! Sorry. My weekend was totally full.

            I’ll take a look tonight.

        • Ben Wōden says:

          This is a big issue for me that I think about quite a lot. I’m only really usefully using a rating system if I’m rating on roughly the same scale as the average, otherwise I’m mostly just penalising or rewarding services for having used by me. For Trip-Advisor I basically just add one star to what I’d give if it were just my own rating system. That means I can’t differentiate between my 4 and 5 stars, but it means my average rating is closer to the overall average rating, so I’m not just penalising everywhere I’ve been to versus everywhere I haven’t. For my “true” 5 star experiences, I just try to write a particularly gushing review text, and point out how sad I am that my system, which I embrace in sum, sadly stops me from being as specifically positive about this particular place as I’d like.

          Other system are far, far more inflated than Trip Advisor, though. Ebay is basically 5 stars for anything except them taking your money and never sending you the product. My dad is an eBay power seller, and when buying he gives 5 stars on all ratings unless something utterly insanely bad happens. He knows that just a few 4 star reviews can lose someone their power seller status. It’s a frankly insane system, but as it’s there, I regrettably admit that it’s probably better to adapt within it. It strikes me as more honest to communicate within the rules of the system I’m in, so say what I know will be most likely understood to mean what I think, than to just say what would mean what I think in the system I’d prefer prevail.

          NB: The headline eBay ratings are just 3-point (positive, neutral, negative) which is a bit better, but there’s a 5-star system for things like “were the postage costs reasonable” and “was the item well-described”.

    • cassander says:

      it preys on our desire to be of service, to be liked, to be good.

      This quote enrages me. The entire point of capitalism is that people don’t want to serve, they want what they want. Capitalism is a brilliant system that takes people’s selfish desire to get ahead and channels it into serving others. That’s why it works, because it doesn’t rely on the better angels of our nature. This post is a shining example of what might be the most dangerous blind spots of the modern left (at least the american left), the failure to grok that good results are a product far more of good incentives than good intentions.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The argument is that Uber builds gamified reward systems into your work life so that it can pay you less. It’s not that it’s relying on the better angels on our nature, but that it’s exploiting them.

        • dick says:

          I agree with you, I think, but the point is subtle and I’m not sure I can phrase it in a way that would convince someone who doesn’t already agree. I assume we’re all okay with straightforward reinforcement mechanisms (e.g. top salesperson wins a cruise), and that the concern here is reinforcement mechanisms that seem manipulative or like they’re relying on dark patterns that exploit psychological weaknesses, but defining the difference between those objectively seems pretty tough. And explaining that difference is a precondition to deciding which side Uber’s driver rankings fall on.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Yeah, for sure. I’m not saying that Uber’s system crosses the line, just that that’s the argument the author is making. Without firsthand experience I don’t feel competent to make that call.

          • Peffern says:

            @Hoopyfreud I think the counterargument Cassander is making is that systems like this only succeed in taking advantage of the better angels of our nature because we (meaning the article’s author here) expect the system to rely on them and thus open ourselves up to exploitation.

            I.e. a person who expects the employer/employee relationship to be based on a desire to feel good and feel productive or whatever is going to get abused by this gamification system.

            To put something of a rhetorical flourish on it, if you trust the corporations to support you, you will get hurt (which is a weird thing to say as a capitalist, but I’m going somewhere with this), whereas in actuality capitalism is based on “relationships that are like trust, but better.”

            This brings me back to a deeper issue, that I think cassander was hinting at with his comments about the left, which is that people who are pro-capitalism tend to view employer/employee (and other) interactions as a kind of adversarial collaboration, where different actors’ incentives keep each other in check, and are thus not offended when one side pulls harder, instead expecting the other side to pull back.
            Those against capitalism seem to view these interactions as strictly collaborative, and thus see one side attempting to over exert itself as a betrayal of trust (I’m ignoring the “class war” idea, which sees it as explicitly antagonistic, which I think is the older more traditional left). Would like to explore this point more, seems to touch something fundamental.

          • Aapje says:

            @Peffern

            I think that many anti-capitalists accept that capitalism/being employed is adversarial, but feel that power is lop-sided to such an extent that the company/employer gets to abuse the consumer/employee, where the latter has no recourse.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        Good results are a product far more of good incentives than good intentions.

        I really, really like this line.

    • J Mann says:

      I don’t know the answer, but my take is that this is more about capitalism’s relentless drive for productivity than it is about gamification. It’s not much different from Wal*Mart rating its managers on store productivity or GE firing the bottom 10% of its workers every year.

      The result is that the author picked people up in a cleaner car, did her best to pick radio stations her passengers enjoyed, provided snacks, etc. As a result, she worked harder, they had a more pleasant ride, and hopefully, she got enough in tips (or star rewards, if there are any) to make up for the extra effort and expense.

      On the other side of it, constant pressure to perform at a high level is stressful, you have people who believe that the dignity of the worker makes it offensive to demand qualities like cheerfulness or frequently washed cars.

      I guess there’s a point where gamification can “trick” workers into working harder than they would prefer outside of the game, but I’m not sure what to make of that.

      Edited to add the following unrelated point.

      As I think about it, I struggle with akrasia as do many others – if gamification can make me more productive, long term me might see it as a tool in the war against short term me.

    • Walliserops says:

      That “slot machines on wheels” header almost made me think they found a way to add gacha to Lyft.

      Only a matter of time, I guess. Looking forward to the reports of people driving 120 hours a week so that they have enough points to roll the latest SSR girl.

  9. ausmax says:

    My wife and I are currently looking into buying our first home. Since we have two kids, one of our criteria is quality of the public schools. Sites like Zillow give schools a rating from 1 to 10 based on the site greatschools.org’s ratings system. I think the best way to measure the quality of a school is most likely to do detailed research on each one, but that is impractical at the home buying stage.

    What I’m wondering if anyone here has figured out a good mechanism or resource for comparing school quality. I know this is a hard problem, but I figured if anyone is going to have already done this research, they quite possibly already post here. 🙂 . I’m especially interested in schools that serve the “gifted” end of the spectrum well.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • acymetric says:

      but that is impractical at the home buying stage

      I assume you live in one of the larger US cities (or are looking at multiple cities)? I live in a metro area of a little over 2 million and don’t think this would be impractical. Particularly since you can filter out the ones that have blatantly bad ratings and then do a deeper dive on the good ones.

      If you already live in the area and know people who have kids, word of mouth on where the good/bad schools are isn’t a bad way to start either.

      • ausmax says:

        We are considering multiple cities, so that is part of my problem yes. It’s a long story, but the gist of it is that I’ll be working remotely so have more options than is typical for someone in this situation.

        • acymetric says:

          That definitely makes it harder. My suggestion would be try to narrow it down to a city based on other criteria and then use school as a factor for where in the city you want to be.

          • Aqua says:

            Why not look for schools first, since that sounds like your main criteria

            “Top schools in X city”

            Then find which neighborhoods feed into them to look for possible houses

    • baconbits9 says:

      Check out home prices on the borders of school districts, if one school/system is particularly bad there will be a notably shift in prices right around the border. This only gives you a relative value between the two but clarifies how large parents actually think the gap is.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Buy a home in an expensive area and the schools will be good.

      • acymetric says:

        Decent heuristic but not universally true. It is true I suppose for the most expensive area, but high-end upper middle class homes can fairly easily be in a district with some bad schools. It even varies by grade level (for example my elementary school was excellent, one of the best in the system, but my middle school was arguably the worst, then my high school was probably the best or at least top 2 again).

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Roughly what area of the country are we looking at here?

      • ausmax says:

        Mainly Los Angeles and Atlanta for non-school related reasons. But schools will be a factor in our decision.

    • Anthony says:

      For general quality, look at the test scores for whites only. To a large extent, school test scores are a reflection of the school’s demographics, and a school that’s 40% Hispanic isn’t going to do a noticeably worse job than a school that’s 20% Hispanic, but the former will have lower test scores. There’s a point where schools start becoming unsafe, but that’s not too hard to research. As long as the school is safe, the demographics don’t matter that much.

      However, schools that serve well particularly bright students are not as easy to figure out. If a school has “ability grouping”, go there. Otherwise your results may vary year by year depending on the teacher more than the school.

    • Oscar Sebastian says:

      Considering the sheer range of territory you’re covering, it seems to me that the best thing to do would be to narrow down houses based on other, easier criterion first, and do thorough research on the school districts of your top three to five picks. It’s not the shortcut you want, but I’m not sure there will be one when you consider that you’re looking at homes that are thousands of miles apart.

    • WarOnReasons says:

      Be aware that Zillow shows the nearest school to the selected house which is not necessarily the one that falls into the school district (at least that used to be the case a few years ago).

    • aristides says:

      Review the arguments of the two income trap and the case against education and do the cost benefit analysis on the increase in mortgage payments vs investing the same money in a Roth IRA or saving bonds, and giving them as a graduation gift to the child. Personally, I’m not worrying about school quality, only crime quality when picking my first house, but my children are only planned at this point.

  10. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What would be engineering best practices for building a geothermal power plant on a glaciated active volcano?
    If I find hot springs as evidence of vulcanism below the summer snow line, should I drill a well down to the magma chamber from there (after chasing off the naked anime characters)?

    • Lambert says:

      1) buy a nose plug.
      There’s so much sulphur in the air everywhere around and inside a geothermal facility
      2) probably get a load of geophys folks to work out where to site the boreholes
      etc.

    • The Nybbler says:

      You’re asking in the wrong place. Try an Icelandic-language engineering forum; I’m pretty sure that’s their bread and butter.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Step 1: Learn Icelandic…

        • The Nybbler says:

          Sure, it’s hard. But there are other benefits. It will also let you read the Sagas in the original, or at least a closer translation. And if you don’t look Icelandic, speaking the language will shock any Icelandic person you ever meet.

      • johan_larson says:

        Or maybe r/TotallyNotSupervillains.

  11. johan_larson says:

    So, Senior Agent, I have read your formal report for the Time Patrol, detailing your undercover intelligence gathering in the year 1923. I am satisfied with your activities, and your orders for the next year are to continue as before: remain undercover, cultivate contacts, and keep reporting.

    But I would be interested in an off-the-record impression of this assignment. What do you find you miss most from your home time, which I see is a good century later?

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I miss the opportunity to hunt down and kill whoever decided that the best place to sequester greenhouse gases would be the year 1923. Jesus, it’s hot.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hey, you’re not my senior agent! She was much cuter and had a thing for me — how do you think I kept avoiding the Mongol Horde assignments? Curse that butterfly effect.

      But as long as you’re asking, it’s air conditioning.

    • Fitzroy says:

      Proper sanitation, and clean air!

      Everything is just so filthy. Even things they claim are clean. They haven’t discovered proper antibacterials yet, so even things they claim are clean really aren’t. Everyone thinks I’m weird for insisting on silver plates and cutlery. It’s the best I can do in the circumstances.

      And it smells. By God does it smell. I know we complain about air pollution nowadays but you try living in 1923! The usage of motor-vehicles is increasing (which at least means there’s a little less horse shit on the streets, so small mercies) and these are not the hyper-efficient engines we’re used to now. No, these things are belching out all kinds of crap.

      Including lead, which some bright spark has just discovered reduces knocking and improves engine life. So they just started adding it to petrol.

      So yeah, thanks for that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going for a thorough medical check-up.

  12. souleater says:

    I sometimes wonder if America would get better* results if suffrage was restricted by property qualifications.

    I think that a homeowner is making a commitment to a community and has a vested interest in it’s long term success as opposed to renters.

    Homeownership shows the ability to prioritize long term planning over short term benefits.

    I generally think that voting is one of the most important things a person can do, and think that the easier it is to vote, the less thoughtful and more flippant someone is going to be. I once had a buddy who voted for a candidate because he had the same name as his favorite singer. Creating some “starship trooper” style restriction would help create a situation where the only people to vote are the ones who really want to vote.

    * I’m going to arbitrarily define better to mean higher GDP per capita. There are good reasons for universal suffrage, I understand that it would be a human right violation, and I’m not seriously advocating to abolish it. I’m specifically thinking about productivity in an “unfeeling robot overlord” sorta way or I’m running a simulation with p-zombies sorta way.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      My proposal would be only net tax payers, veterans, and parents. Skin in the game.

      • Well... says:

        How is “net tax payer” calculated?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Taxes paid minus government benefits received.

          • Enkidum says:

            How do you calculate the benefits of roads, police services, sewers, etc etc etc?

          • Well... says:

            ^^ That’s what I was wondering.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Perhaps take an average? $X spent on roads divided by Y people, etc.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Accounting for non-direct transfers is almost impossible, and trying to average it out to a flat liability for each person encounters the issue that a government with large deficits might render even substantial tax contributors net tax eaters simply by the technicality that spending >> revenues.

            The simplest approach would be for each level to just set a threshold for individual tax receipts, adjusting for any credits as a result of dependents. (I don’t think someone who pays less in taxes because they have kids should be penalized), the threshold would be based on what a net taxpayer would be *on average* assuming balanced budgets.

            People who are close to but fall below the threshold by some slight amount can donate to whichever treasury the difference to vote in the election following the tax year in question.

            It also has a problem in the US context in that different levels of government have different funding sources and not all of them can be traced to a single individual [sales, VAT, corporate income, etc.]

            Property qualifications would exacerbate the problem of land-use regulations. While I’m not against the right to exclude entry into a nation, having local property owners being the only voters in an area sounds like a recipe for nimbyism and skyrocketing home prices.

        • Anthony says:

          I would only calculate income received from the government. I would, however, say that if you work for (or are) a government contractor, the percentage of your employer’s revenue that comes directly from government is multiplied by your income and counts as “income from government”. So if you work for Huge Aircrash, and 40% of their gross revenue is from governments (federal, state, local), 40% of your salary is considered government income.

      • cassander says:

        I think this would be ideal as well, but as Well… says, the devil is in the details. So you knock out people receiving direct government subsidies and salaries, that’s straight forward enough. What about people working for staffing companies that staff government offices? what about the people at huntington ingalls, at least 90% of whose money comes from government contracts? what about people who work at boeing, for whom only 20% of company revenues is defense? What about employees of a company hired by lockheed or boeing?

        I don’t think you could ever reasonably disentangle things.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t think having people vote to get themselves more government contracts is a good idea, either, so sure, if you work for lockheed or boeing (in areas related to the government work), no vote. Make as part of the contracting process, “these are the positions at the company that will be unable to vote.”

          • bean says:

            Leaving aside that I don’t like this plan for several reasons (one of which, admittedly, is kind of self-serving), you listed three qualifications above. How do they interact? If you’re a government employee/contractor who is also a veteran or a parent, do you get to vote? What if you’re both, for that matter? And then there’s the issue that a lot of people who are definitely not net taxpayers are also parents. So a responsible employee of LockMart who couldn’t join the military because of medical issues and doesn’t have kids yet can’t vote, but a classic welfare queen who has had four kids on the public dime can? Besides implementation headaches, this system has other and obvious political issues.

          • cassander says:

            Right, but where to draw the line? So let’s say we say lockheed is out, what about the people who work for the accountants lockheed hired? what about the janitors hired by the building management company in a building where lockheed occupies 51% of the floorspace or a temp sent over by a temp agency? It’s turtles all the way down.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            How do they interact?

            It would be an OR function not an AND. Any one of those three. Yes, the classic welfare queen gets a vote, but I was under the impression the welfare queens don’t really exist and that’s a boogeyman, so not something to worry about.

        • bean says:

          My take is to keep it simple. Net tax-payers, period. Any money you get from the government which isn’t directly tied to work you do/did is counted against your taxes. So a civil servant can vote, as can someone at LockMart or Boeing.

          Yes, there’s some moral hazard when the money is coming from the government, directly or indirectly. But trying to cut those cases out is going to be a giant partisan mess. And you’re not thinking about the really hard cases. What about teachers, or about someone who works for a construction company that does roads? Or what about someone who provides information, primarily to the defense industry, but not directly through government contracts?

          That said, the idea of teachers not being able to vote in local elections has a certain appeal. If anything, I’d make a much stronger case for restrictions in that sphere. One vote has a pretty small impact on the national elections. It has a bigger one at the local level, where you’re also more likely to have someone running on something like “higher pay for teachers”.

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            That said, the idea of teachers not being able to vote in local elections has a certain appeal.

            @souleater’s original proposition seems strongest for elections to offices for governments which are primarily funded by property taxes (e.g., cities & school districts).

          • cassander says:

            If there’s one class of people that should absolutely be banned from voting (or any other political activity), it’s government employees They’re supposed to be civil servants, after all. To steal from SST, what if they vote not to serve?

          • bean says:

            If there’s one class of people that should absolutely be banned from voting (or any other political activity), it’s government employees They’re supposed to be civil servants, after all. To steal from SST, what if they vote not to serve?

            I’m a lot less concerned by this on the federal level than on the local level. Pandering directly to the civil service is pretty rare, particularly because “more pay for government bureaucrats” is the sort of thing that your political opponent prays you say. “More pay for teachers” sounds a lot better, and less people who aren’t teachers care about local elections.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Bean

            Conservatives have the same uncritical reverence for law enforcement as a class [not to speak to the virtue/vice of any individual] as liberals do for teachers, and with potentially similar results.

            I’m inclined to agree that teachers may be the most obvious case, but i’m not sure by how much. A no exceptions [no public employees] approach for government employees seems like it’s riddled with difficulties, but allowing all employees but teachers is probably going to come across as vindictive] it also ignores the fact that employees can influence politics indirectly and the indirect approach may be where most of the effect comes from.

          • bean says:

            I actually thought about including something about law enforcement in the post, but didn’t. This isn’t a plan to single out teachers (although I do think they’re a little worse about this than other public employees) so much as it is pointing out that local public employees have a lot of power in local elections.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Whatever laws your property-owners pass are going to be enforced against everyone, whether they own property or no. That’s skin enough in the game as far as I’m concerned.

        • doubleunplussed says:

          This is reason I have some sympathy for those who want to lower the voting age. I was not allowed to vote before going to university, yet I was strongly affected by government policy regarding university. Young people have a load of skin in the game and are completely at the mercy of older people to not screw them over too much. To be sure they would make some silly decisions at the polling booth, but I think ‘people should be able to vote on policy that affects them’ is an important enough principle to trump that.

          When you’re even younger policy still affects you, but less permanently than student debt, and you are (at young enough ages) so incapable of reasoning that on balance you still should not be able to vote. But I think I would support lowering the voting age to 16 (in Australia, anyway).

      • broblawsky says:

        Does being vulnerable to state coercion not count as “skin in the game”?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I’d suggest some sort of weighted system, so everybody gets at least one vote, and then people who pay more tax get more votes than people who pay less. Or perhaps something like the Prussian three-class system.

      • JPNunez says:

        Net tax payers would be extremely funny, as people would start giving subsidies and exemptions to others as a way of disenfrachise them.

        The system barely works as is, you’d probably have a revolution in a gen or two.

        At best, the system would get a drop in the GDP, as the free market would basically die, as land owners try to make sure their enemies don’t pay taxes, they themselves stay profitable and paying some taxes, which would lead to monopolies, the most profitable industries becoming feudal institutions (as only working on profitable industries would guarantee your vote) which would be outcompeted by subsidized, non voting companies. Which would then be outlawed by the voters.

        • cassander says:

          Net tax payers would be extremely funny, as people would start giving subsidies and exemptions to others as a way of disenfrachise them.

          If the rule is net tax payers, all you have to do is give back half of what you get and you can vote again. And you still get to keep half!

          • JPNunez says:

            Yeah no.

            Remember how on tax day, the government will give you back the extra taxes they decided you gave them?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Remember how on tax day, the government will give you back the extra taxes they decided you gave them?

            Is there any reason we can’t just allow a voluntary donation to the government over and above a person’s tax liability, for exactly this reason?

            I can’t really see the negative consequences of this. It seems like it would only really come up in the situation you outlined where the tax system is being gamed to disenfranchise people, and it’s a pretty clean solution: the people they attempt to disenfranchise net money and still get to vote.

            I don’t know if anyone would actually do this in our current system, but it’s a safety valve for how much you can screw people over. If they’re waist deep in subsidies but feel like the vote is more important, they now have that option.

            It creates a weird situation where someone is saving up an “election fund” over years to vote in an election they consider particularly important. I’m not sure I like that, but I think that ties into the other objections to this system rather than the “subsidy” problem.

          • JPNunez says:

            You could have legal gifts to the government but by looking at the current world, where parties try to use vote suppression, the electoral college and gerrymandering to manipulate elections and rob people of representation, I assume that gifts to the government would be extremely legislated, so that only the people in power would be able to use them to keep power.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            You could have legal gifts to the government but by looking at the current world, where parties try to use vote suppression, the electoral college and gerrymandering to manipulate elections and rob people of representation, I assume that gifts to the government would be extremely legislated, so that only the people in power would be able to use them to keep power.

            There’s clearly a strong incentive there, but there are reasonable explanations for those policies, and insofar as there’s a voter suppression motive it can be concealed behind the other purposes. What’s the plausible explanation for “this person wants to give us money for the explicit purpose of enabling their vote, but we aren’t going to let them”?

            Especially when, as the other commenters have taught me, there’s an existing unconditional gift system that would have to first be modified.

            I think it would be a little too obvious, but trying to steelman: maybe arguing that it’s an irresponsible act to donate the money when they need X, and the government should protect them from their own irresponsibility?

            I’m not sure that’s compatible with “we gave them a bunch of subsidies they don’t have any plausible use for, just to deny them the vote” though. If they clearly don’t need the money, then how do you argue it’s irresponsible to spend it (and not even all of it) to vote? If they do need the money or it’s ambiguous, it seems like the subsidies are actually doing good by letting them solve those needs, so it’s not really vote suppression so much as expanded welfare.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            On further reflection, I found a method: illiquid, bloated benefits.

            If you get a food stamp program with enough food to feed 8 kids, that could still get counted as a cost to the government, but you have no realistic way to turn that into extra taxes paid to get back to a net taxpayer. And it’s entirely possible that there aren’t levels to the system, so you either get food stamps or you don’t. And you’re unlikely to be able to sell it on the black market or anything, since everyone has access to this system and there are plenty of people who will have accepted nonvoting and will be trying to sell off their extra food for other stuff.

            To solve this, we’d want to make sure that we have one of:
            1. Benefits are in cash: no food stamp programs, just UBI equivalents.
            2. Benefits have a defined cash value and can be donated to the government in taxes, or at least the “extra gifts” to reenable voting, at that cash value.
            3. Benefits are arbitrarily scalable: if you don’t need 8 kids worth of food, you should be able to scale down what you get and get the appropriate reduction to your “voting balance”

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        Regulations affect the distribution of income without being easily measurable [especially on an individual basis] — i.e. a large taxpayer could work for a company that has a monopoly granted to it by a government. This costs nothing to the government but the company’s finances are dependent upon a particular law.

        If regulations [which tend to affect everyone] and spending [which have much clearer beneficiaries] could be separated in terms of laws, bearing in mind that most regulatory enforcement is a relatively small portion of government budgets, then you might be able to restrict the franchise to some elections and not others; but this requires changing the legislative branch of government, and again it assumes that spending and regulation can be separated.

        For example, the ‘tax and spend’ house may agree to always fund the regulators, but if the regulations involve levying fees, they can function like taxes. The affordable care act is a good example of this.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Creating some “starship trooper” style restriction would help create a situation where the only people to vote are the ones who really want to vote.

      Notably, in Starship Troopers, “don’t be poor” was not the criterion for suffrage. Are you aware of the history of poll taxes?

      • souleater says:

        Yes, it is a nasty, racist history.

        I would point out, however, that poor people can own land. there are places in kentucky with a median home price of $145k with a 30 year mortgage that’s $686 a month.. not unreasonable to me.

        I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole on this though.. I understand how a policy like the one I describe would make it difficult/impossible for inner city populations to vote.. which would be bad from a human rights perspective. But I do wonder if it would improve GDP per capita.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          25% of Kentuckians earn less than $20k per year. How many of them do you think are going to get approved for a $145k mortgage?

          • souleater says:

            Would you be willing to provide a source so I know we’re talking about the same thing?
            The share of the US population who are children is 24% but I don’t imagine thats what you’re reffering to.

            But the fact that the bottom quartile of people can’t get approved for a median income home is unsurprising.

            In any case, a married couple who are both in the bottom quartile would bring in $40k pre tax.. so I would imagine a good number of them could get approved for something. Saving a down payment would take a lot of discipline.. but that’s sorta the point..

          • baconbits9 says:

            If the median home price is $145 then the median mortgage will be lower, and there will be many houses available for less than $145. If 25% of the population currently makes less than 20k per year they would only be disenfranchised if they remained at that level of pay for most of their life. If a substantial portion of those people are working their first job or seniors living on a pension then they likely will have, did, or did have the opportunity to buy a home.

            I don’t agree with the general premise but using average home prices and a portion of the populace’s income doesn’t give an accurate picture.

      • Randy M says:

        Poll tests have a bad history, too, but I’d be in favor of them.
        Oh, don’t turn anybody away.
        Just have one question on the ballot that will disqualify you if you get it wrong. Something easy, like “select the Senator from your state” or “Which of the following was not a recent US president.”

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          Is Bill Clinton a recent president? Ronald Reagan? I guess if it is a multiple-choice question, you’d just pick the person who was never a president (if any), or else pick the president who served longest ago.

          I don’t object to this idea in principle, although I am leery of who gets to decide what the reasonable questions are.

          • Randy M says:

            I guess if it is a multiple-choice question, you’d just pick the person who was never a president

            I was thinking the answers would be:
            A) Donald Trump
            B) Barrack Obama
            C) George W Bush
            D) Kanye West

            I don’t object to this idea in principle, although I am leery of who gets to decide what the reasonable questions are.

            No response to that; I consider it a sufficient refutation.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Per Bryan Caplan’s Myth of the Rational Voter, I wouldn’t necessarily expect large gains in voter competency from such a restriction. But even if the effects on candidate quality were significant, it’s my understanding that broader suffrage has the add-on effect of increasing stability, both civil and political. Succession crises and civil unrest are huge wealth destroyers (both in the near and long term as political instability reduces foreign interest in investment). A restricted franchise, while probably producing “better” leaders as defined in technocratic terms, would likely result in a less stable, and thus less wealthy, society. (This is ignoring the immediate negative effects of any attempt to claw back the franchise from some demographic group).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        That’s a good point. This reminds me of reading Zinn’s People’s History and he frequently made comments of the form, “once again, the people’s rage was channeled into voting.” So he saw this as a bug instead of a feature. The elites buy the masses off with meaningless voting rights, which makes it harder to get to Glorious Revolution.

      • souleater says:

        That’s a really good point.
        When people demand change they do it from the soap box, the ballot box or the ammo box

    • broblawsky says:

      First, the end result of this will be that homeownership will be restricted by law to families that are already homeowners. Why would the existing landed aristocracy risk letting their power be diluted?

      Secondly, you’re turning private institutions (mortgage lenders) into gatekeepers for public institutions. That seems almost axiomatically terrible.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      By your definition of “better”, I agree with you, but I think that what this shows is that your definition of “better” is a bad one. My (non-arbitrary, or at least not-wholly-arbitrary) definition of better is the common or garden Rawlsian veil of ignorance – society A is better than society B if, given a choice of being born in one or the other without knowing who you’d be born as, you’d choose A.

      I think that restricting suffrage to a richer-than-average class of people will mean that you get policies that favour the rich more, and emphasise wealth creation at the expense of poverty minimisation more than would be the case otherwise.

      And I think that that will lead to a higher GDP per capita, but also to lower living standards at the lower centiles – essentially, the function of wealth that you’re trying to maximise the average of will become less sublinear.

      And that will result in a society that will have more total wealth, but which I would be less keen on being reincarnated into.

      • souleater says:

        By your definition of “better”, I agree with you, but I think that what this shows is that your definition of “better” is an bad one

        Yeah.. I recognize that it wouldn’t really be better in many important respects.. it would have been more accurate to say “more productive”

        I think that a societal emphasis on wealth creation (which is synonymous to resource creation) can’t help but be beneficial to everyone over a long enough timescale. Especially considering how growth is exponential.

        … Maybe I just found a round about way to argue trickle down economics.

        • mrdomino says:

          I’m curious-is there empirical support that an oligarchy or limited franchise governments are more productive? I thought a “free men and free markets” “creative destruction” sort of model would argue that if you concentrated power in a moneyed clique they would throw up barriers to market entry/zealously guard their privileges and distort the market. I can imagine stereotypical monocled Mr. Monopoly who creates goods for the domestic market having his ideal economic policy being high tariffs to keep out his foreign competitors and low taxes. Would that increase productivity?

          History isn’t the same as a science experiment but the US, France, the UK and many other countries all had suffrage limited by wealth at different points in time. Is there any evidence that during those periods policies were enacted that helped productivity and that productivity declined as the franchise expanded and the ignorant masses took power? Admittedly, about 20 years ago I would be more confident that an oligarchy and long term planning can’t deliver consistent growth before the PRC enjoyed their great economic success.

          • souleater says:

            To answer your question directly, there is no evidence that oligarchies or limited franchise governments are more productive as far as I know.

            I do want to clarify that I wouldn’t really consider my proposal to be an oligarchy. According to census data, 64% of people own their own homes. I also expect that number to rise in the event of my proposal’s widespread adoption.

    • Ghillie Dhu says:

      A halfway point would be to apply the restriction only to elections for the upper legislative chamber (presupposes bicamerality; sorry Nebraska); bifurcated systems have worked well for the British & the Romans.

      The hoi polloi would still get a voice, maintaining some damper on their revolutionary fervor, while the hypothetically more prudent property owners would temper the rate of change.

      Extension to assignment of Electoral College votes is left as an exercise for the reader.

      • DavidS says:

        This sounds massively counter productive as it would simply emphasise the clashing interests of the rich and everyone else and mean you constantly had cases where the democratic choice was being explicitly thwarted by an elite. Within a few years you’d have a shopping list of ‘what we’d have if the rich didn’t block it’ including things that are proposed because they know they’ll be blocked so you don’t have to worry about praxticality.

        Notably in England the Lords was explicitly made subordinate to the Commons (and the Roman senate wasn’t really an upper house and relied on moral authority, executive powers held by its members and its collective wealth rather than being able to overrule the people’s assembly.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I guess I’ll pile on to the people saying that I don’t think that a property qualification per se is what you want here.

      Heinlein’s insight in Starship Troopers was that by restricting the franchise to veterans and volunteers for equivalently-risky civilian service jobs, everyone willing to die for something greater than themselves was represented in the government. He represents it as ensuring that the voting public has good character, but on a more practical level those are the only people capable of effective violent or nonviolent resistance. If most of those people mistakenly think that their votes count (public choice theory plainly tells us they don’t) then any challenger will find it almost impossible to organize against you.

      Personally, though, I think that sortition makes for a better system than voting. Have everyone go through the ritual of filling out and submitting a ticket, to get the same emotional buy-in as representative democracy, but have the actual representatives periodically chosen by lot. That way every ethnic, religious, or political minority gets a seat at the table proportionate to their prevalence in the population and can feel heard but the ultimate result is statistically identical to holding a referendum on each issue that comes before the legislature.

      • Nornagest says:

        Heinlein’s insight in Starship Troopers was that by restricting the franchise to veterans and volunteers for equivalently-risky civilian service jobs, everyone willing to die for something greater than themselves was represented in the government.

        Strictly speaking this isn’t true. It guarantees that everyone represented in the government is willing to die for something greater than themselves, but it does not guarantee that everyone so willing is represented. Which kind of kicks the legs out from under the “effective resistance” argument.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        You can choose my legislature by sortition, but please don’t choose my president that way!

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      I once had an idea along these lines, based on a Milton Friedman observation to the effect that you can justify government redistribution as a public good but only insofar as the people voting for it are the donors.

      First, create a rule for dividing the population into income brackets. Maybe pick some percentile thresholds or something?

      Now, each bracket gets its own legislature. They can only pass flat taxes to be assessed on income within that bracket. So if there’s a 0-10k bracket, and they pass a 20% tax, everyone making under 10k pays 20% of their income and everyone making 10k or more pays 2k.

      People can only vote in elections for legislatures they pay tax to, with a vote proportional to how much they pay. (You can’t pay extra above the maximum to get more votes). Each bracket-legislature has control over allocation of the taxes it collects. Lower brackets can veto higher ones. (Remember that the rich also vote in the lower brackets).

      • AG says:

        And how does this not result in mass-defect, every bracket votes that they pay 0%, on the grounds that the bracket above should pay more (they’ll miss it less)?

    • Erusian says:

      I don’t think restricting the franchise would be particularly helpful. I’ve laid out that argument at length elsewhere.

      I do sometimes think indirect elections might be better for higher-quality candidates. In particular, I’m beginning to wonder if national general elections are a bad thing and having a bunch of small local candidates elect people further up the chain might mitigate some of its bad effects.

      • DavidS says:

        Not sure if this is meant to be obvious (not American) but isn’t your last proposal how the US was set up? And isn’t the lesson that people will hack those systems to make then more democratic? Presumably that would be basically instant given people are used to direct elections and we have social media. There’s all sorts of ‘check how your representative votes’ stuff there didn’t used to be and I expect you’d have very clear ‘I vote for Bob because he’ll vote for Alice’

        • Erusian says:

          Sort of. The US used to have indirect election of senators. While the EC made the president officially direct, there were national elections for president very early on. You’re right the trend would be towards more democracy.

          And yes, parties would still exist. But I think voting for someone purely on national terms would be a little harder when that person had real authority. Like, ‘Vote for DavidS, he’ll vote for Obama!’ and then DavidS is now your councilperson for the next six years and his agenda is… I don’t know, kicking puppies. That would moderate it somewhat.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      It would perhaps get better for propertied classes and almost certainly worse the poor.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Bicameralism. Two houses of congress, one elected by everyone, one elected by net taxpayers, veterans, and parents.

      The country closest to this in practice is probably Italy, who elects their lower house with suffrage for those 18 and over and their upper house with suffrage for those 25 and older.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The genuinely closest is Great Britain before the House of Lords reforms. It was considered one of the best-governed countries in history, so that’s a solid idea.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          This is not factually correct. Britain was never close to such system.

          Main reform of House of Lords was Parliament Act of 1911 , which removed power of Lords to veto bills originating by the Commons. In 1911, members of Commons were not elected by everyone by any reasonable definition of everyone. Universal male suffrage in Britain was established in 1918, for men over 21, along with suffrage for women over 30 meeting certain property qualifications. Truly universal suffrage in Britain was established in 1928. Wikipedia claims that between 1885 and 1918 about 56 % of men over 21 had right to vote.

          Previous paragraph of course ignores small issue that inhabitants of colonies under British rule, constitutiong several times of the population of Britain, had no right to vote for members of Commons.

          Also House of Lords prior to 1911 (and after) most definitely wasn´t “elected by net taxpayers, veterans, and parents”.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I truly fear the HOAs in such a world, even more than I fear them in ours.

    • Aftagley says:

      I sometimes wonder if America would get better* results if suffrage was restricted by property qualifications.

      Unintended consequences of this policy:
      1. Property immediately gets more expensive. Maybe not everywhere, but any moderately-populated area is going to see property prices go up.

      2. The voting power of cities will go down, at least least initially. There are some parts of the country where it just doesn’t make sense to buy property. When I lived in suburbia, I bought a house. When I lived in a city, I rented. Given the voting demographics of cities, you’ve just shredded the base of one of our political parties.

      3. Eventually, the system will self-correct around this policy and design property arrangements that meet the absolute letter of the law to let the residents vote, but don’t fundamentally change anything. Instead of a company owning my apartment building and renting us rooms in it, it would instead probably turn into a company building an apartment complex, then selling us rooms in it – but we have to get the mortgage loan through them, we have to agree to a ridiculously long repayment schedule and we’d have to agree to sell it back to them when we wanted to move out.

      • Aapje says:

        Do people care enough about voting to go to that much trouble? Bad weather already has a decent impact on turnout where I live.

        • ana53294 says:

          In Spain, because election fall on Sundays, good weather also has an effect – people go to the beach. At least at the local level, it’s quite noticeable.

        • Aftagley says:

          Most people, probably not. But a vocal minority of city could likely pressure companies to change their policies / city governments to change zoning laws / whatever. The fact that this change would largely target the left would immediately make it a cause among the woke crowd.

    • JPNunez says:

      Yeah how high was the GDP of the world in Starship Troopers anyway.

    • Garrett says:

      > I understand that it would be a human right violation

      Nit: Depending upon what model you go with, it’s not a human rights violation but a political rights violation. There’s no inherent reason to think that voting is inherent with personhood. Indeed, the idea of having infants voting is pretty silly. But we recognize all sorts of other human rights at that stage.

    • John Schilling says:

      Even if this gets you better qualified and/or more thoughtful voters, it formally entrenches a class divide into your political system. That’s the sort of thing that can lead to Revolutionary political change, if you get my meaning, and not always the happy fun kind of revolution either. I’d rather not loose my head over it. Same for the “only net taxpayers vote” schemes.

      What might be of some value, along the same lines, is making voting in state and local elections contingent on the same sort of five-year residency requirement that goes with citizenship and voting in federal elections. Once you’ve decided where you’re going to settle down and live, you get a voice in that polity’s future. Until then, vote with your feet like you demonstrably have been.

      For this to work, you’d either need to place more clearly defined and rigorously enforced bounds between state and federal authority than are currently in place (in the US at least), or you’d need to make at least the Senate a state-elected body in that only settled residents get to vote for senators. Maybe both. Otherwise everything just shifts over to being in the Federal domain, and that makes things worse rather than better.

    • MartMart says:

      I read of some ancient society where having children was a requirement for voting. Knowing how much my personality has changed since becoming a parent, I view this positively.
      That said, I’m afraid any qualifications would be gamed to exclude voters that someone in power does not like. Once the idea of voting qualifications become accepted, altering them will be far easier.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        The example that strikes me here is literacy tests. When I first heard of literacy tests for voting, I thought “Yes, of course you should only vote if you’re literate.” And then I found out that they had been explicitly used to suppress voting by blacks. Now, sufficiently crooked election officials can probably find other ways to suppress voting, but it’s useful to have a *worked example* of a seemingly-plausible rule for excluding voters being misused.

        • MartMart says:

          In theory, a test can work if it’s very simple (not that the requirement is easy to meet, but one that is unambiguously easy to describe), and socially accepted along with a social norm against changing in.
          A voter must have children, or must be of a certain age/gender/height, must own property, etc could all work. By work I mean be relatively resistant to manipulation in order to suppress voting. For most of these, I’m not sure it would be a huge improvement over the current situation.
          Something like “must be able to pass a test that gets re written by some committee every few years” would be very vulnerable to being hijacked.
          As I get older, I think that voters voting themselves an ever bigger share of the public purse for selfish reason isn’t as big of a problem as a younger me thought it was. People tend to vote for principles that fit their ideas of what a fairer world would be, even when it goes against their immediate interests. I don’t think that most of the people who want more redistribution do so because they personally want more money, but rather because they think that world is superior (many of them would see their own income reduced). Likewise, most of those who vote for lower taxes on the upper brackets feel that this also makes for a fairer world, and most of them won’t see any direct benefit.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think if voting were likely to make a difference, most people would be voting for more goodies for themselves. But since my vote has little consequence, I can use it to indulge my ideals/beliefs/prejudices.

          • MartMart says:

            I think if voting were likely to make a difference, most people would be voting for more goodies for themselves. But since my vote has little consequence, I can use it to indulge my ideals/beliefs/prejudices.

            So people can’t raid the public treasury because of coordination problems? That’s beautiful!

      • Aapje says:

        @MartMart

        A downside would be that you’d expect an even greater wealth transfer from the childless and/or single to parents and/or those in a relationship.

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          That looks like an upside to me. Since today’s children will be the workers supporting tomorrow’s retirees*, those who do not contribute biologically to the future generation should do so financially.

          *Retirees cannot consume more value than is produced by contemporary workers, regardless of financing arrangements; fewer workers = less surplus value available for retirees.

          • *Retirees cannot consume more value than is produced by contemporary workers, regardless of financing arrangements

            What does “produced by contemporary workers” mean? Are you ignoring the role of capital in production?

            Suppose that, before I retire, I plant an apple orchard. Workers harvest ten bushels of apples a year. Are all ten “produced by contemporary workers” or are some of them produced by my past labor in planting the trees?

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            @DavidFriedman,

            What does “produced by contemporary workers” mean?

            Produced by combining their labor with the capital stock at the time.

            Are you ignoring the role of capital in production?

            I was eliding rather than ignoring, because allocation of value produced between labor & capital is orthogonal to the point I was trying to make.

            Are all ten “produced by contemporary workers” or are some of them produced by my past labor in planting the trees?

            In the dependency ratio context I was focusing on, the former; no contemporary workers, no apples harvested, regardless of how many trees were planted in the past.

          • albatross11 says:

            During my working life, I earn money that I can use for a variety of purposes, including current consumption for myself, raising kids, saving money that can be used to make more capital. But I can also literally save some resources I intend to use.

            For example, if I pay off my house before I retire, and maintain it properly, then I get to keep living in my house after I retire. Nobody needs to keep producing that home (though someone will need to continue doing maintenance to keep it from falling apart). In principle, I could store up food in my basement during my working years, and use that to feed myself–again, no additional production would be needed by anyone else. If I retire having just bought a new car, then I can probably keep using that car for a decade or so after I retire without requiring anyone to produce a new car for me. And so on.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ghillie Dhu

            I’m not arguing that children should not be subsidized, but rather, that this should not be excessive.

            Presumably, parents get more benefits from their children than others. If only parents get to vote, they can spread the cost very equally over society or even make having kids be profitable, while the benefits are not spread equally. This seems unfair to me.

  13. Douglas Knight says:

    To what extent was the previous generation of billionaire philanthropy (eg, the Rockefeller Foundation) simply expropriated by the CIA?

  14. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    In Screwtape Letter 26, Lewis writes:
    A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others. As a result, a woman who is quite far gone in the Enemy’s* service will make a nuisance of herself on a larger scale than any man except those whom Our Father has dominated completely; and, conversely, a man will live long in the Enemy’s camp before he undertakes as much spontaneous work to please others as a quite ordinary woman may do every day. Thus while the woman thinks of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people’s rights, each sex, without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically selfish.

    My own experiences suggest that this is getting at something real and important. Has “values taking trouble vs. values not giving trouble” ever been studied as a personality trait? Does it show the gender difference Lewis claims (in direction, if not effect size)?

    And, on a more personal note, any tips for managing this issue in a personal relationship?

    * In The Screwtape Letters, ‘the Enemy’ is Jesus and ‘Our Father’ is the devil.

    • cassander says:

      A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others

      I’m not sure if I would ascribe this as a male/female thing, but I’ve definitely felt this dichotomy in my personal life without ever seeing it articulated so clearly.

    • Viliam says:

      Seems to me more like extraversion and introversion. (And only indirectly about genders, because it is known that all men are introverts from Mars, and all women are extraverts from Venus.)

    • Randy M says:

      I will have to show that to my wife to get her perspective on our relative behavior. It rings true as a difference to me; probably with a gender skew but at least as a potential difference people have.

      I feel that I am quite virtuous when I make as little trouble as possible for anyone–see the previous thread where we talked about how to minimize delay as pedestrians.
      (Heck, look at the fact that I’m feeling guilty about posting so much in one thread, rather than for not posting encouragement or something)
      But it’s good to consider that maybe I’m neglecting the other side of the coin.

      As a Dad, I emphasize to my daughters that they need to try to solve their problems before asking others–for example, asking the time, or how long until home, or looking for something. I want to teach them how to be independent, but some of it might be this. Don’t inflict bother on others. But maybe it’s an instinctual female community building instinct to ask each other for minor favors, and there’s no real need to discourage it.

      And, on a more personal note, any tips for managing this issue in a personal relationship?

      Hopefully you’ve paired with someone willing to forgive small faults and to speak openly about their feelings. Otherwise, you’re going to need to give have to meet on their side of the issue in this and many other cases.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Thanks, glad to hear this resonated with someone else

        Hopefully you’ve paired with someone willing to forgive small faults and to speak openly about their feelings. Otherwise, you’re going to need to give have to meet on their side of the issue in this and many other cases.

        I think I’d characterize the current situation as, the amount of trouble that she makes/I take is a decent compromise between what we respectively consider reasonable, but the trouble I make/she takes is more dominated by my standard and remains quite low. Not a crisis, but sort of an ongoing drain on the fault tolerance budget.

        I imagine it would help if I learned to ask for things and appreciate receiving them, but I have a hard time a) thinking of things I want that aren’t “deal with the problem you asked me to deal with” and b) convincing myself that it’s okay to further deplete the resources of someone who already needs help all the time.

        • Randy M says:

          Ack, you quoted a rather mangled sentence, but I think you got the gist?

          Anyway, wrt your situation, your comparing the trouble each person makes for the other, but don’t forget to consider the opposite perspective, the ways in which one party goes out of their way to help the other. I think you are saying you make less trouble, but maybe she’s thinking that that is more than made up for by doing things for you–even if you don’t actually happen to care about those things.

          And if you can’t convince her to not take trouble for you, you have to put up with more trouble from her, because she sees the ledger as balanced.

          • Aapje says:

            If she does things for him because it makes her happy to be doing things for him, is she doing those things for him or for herself?

          • Randy M says:

            Doesn’t really matter; if he can’t convince her not to, and he wants to keep the relationship, it’s best to assume she’s doing it for him.
            Maybe it will be productive to say “Hon, when you fold may socks, that’s selfish, ’cause I don’t really need that. Don’t assume that makes up for leaving your things all over the counter.”

            But probably not. Take the more charitable interpretation.

            (Obviously some humorous exaggeration here; oftentimes some negotiation will be possible. But questioning motives still probably not helpful, especially unconscious ones.)

          • Aapje says:

            It’s not about charitability, but about balance.

            If Mary does things for Bob that makes Mary feel good and Bob feel neutral or bad, she shouldn’t count that as a sacrifice made for him, that Bob should reciprocate with a sacrifice.

            Being able to discuss the fairness in a relationship and finding a balance that both think is fair presumably contributes to mutual happiness and the stability of the relationship.

          • Randy M says:

            True. If he can convince her to consider his perspective, so much the better.

    • March says:

      I can imagine it has something to do with what kids are told. Boys are generally more boisterous (“making trouble”) while girls are generally quieter but equally self-focused and without much functioning empathy. So when you’re a boy, people will more likely scold you with “Don’t be so selfish! Stop making trouble for once!” and when you’re a girl, you get “Don’t be so selfish! Don’t you see there are people working their asses off for you? Make yourself useful for once!”

      Grown-up versions of those kids will then be proud of their developed selflessness when they learn to stop making trouble/to make themselves useful.

      Anecdotally, I do know many more women who (exaggeratedly) want a “high-traffic” relationship (I make your cup of coffee in the morning, you clear away my plate, I pack your lunch, you pick up my dry cleaning, I give you a back rub, you run my bath – voluntarily taking over each other’s tasks) and men who want a relationship where they basically only interact if they have to (“I told you I loved you when I asked you to marry you and if I ever stop loving you I will let you know, and don’t expect me to say it again in the meantime”).

      My husband and I are stereotypical in this way. He’d rather chew off his own foot than ask me for help with something, which I find extremely non-endearing. Especially since the flip side of that is that he doesn’t like me asking for his help either, because that means he’d be doing more than his fair share. Another tough result is that he sometimes wants things but doesn’t want to negotiate how that could be good for me too: he feels that, since he doesn’t ask for anything unless it really cannot be avoided, I shouldn’t ‘make trouble’ for him by asking him to ‘take’ some of the trouble that thing creates for me.

      The way I manage that in my personal life is to figure out which things are worth picking a fight over and not giving up until we find a solution that is satisfactory to both. He manages it in his personal life by generally being more stubborn than I am – the downside of wanting something that someone is not willing to give is that there’s really not much you can do about it, so the default is inaction. We both manage it by trying to manage our own insecurities. His desire for a more autarchical setup makes me feel lonely and unappreciated so I need to actively work on reminding myself that that is not why he does it. My desire for proactive load-sharing makes him feel stressed and like a failure, and he needs to actively work on reminding himself that that’s not why I do it.

      In practice, we go up and down a bit – we have a lovely time of much connection (from my POV), I am full up on feeling appreciated so I can be much more generous when he needs to withdraw, until we reach a point where I feel like we’re ships passing in the night and I can’t get horny for him anymore and I let him know we need to increase the traffic. By that time, he’s had a lovely time of feeling unfettered (from his POV) and he can be generous for a while in stepping up. It’s not ideal, but it works.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Thanks! It especially helps to hear that from someone coming at this from the other side from me.

  15. Nick says:

    I’m 24, and I have dreadful teeth. Not as in yellow teeth, they’re just very misaligned. Does it make any sense for me to try to get dental work done now, with a steady job and HRA and all? Or would it be a waste of money?

    Also, how actually long would I have, say, braces, if that’s what I did? It seemed to me like kids had them for eons when I was young, but I’m sure I didn’t have an accurate sense of it.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      My father is in his 70s and just finished Invisalign to correct a tooth misalignment that was finally starting to cause him serious issues. I don’t see why you couldn’t do it now.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I had a cousin who did it in her late 30s. Seemed to have mostly a positive experience.

    • Plumber says:

      @Nick,

      You’re only 24?

      IIRC your’e already married, have kids, a stable job, and are out of school, I know that San Francisco is an outlier in how late these things are usually done (if ever), but even when I consider that, 24 seems very young to have achieved all that in the 21st century and I’m very impressed!

      • Nick says:

        Oh dear God no, I am not married and have no kids!

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Go find a nice girl at church!

          • JPNunez says:

            The worst place for meeting girls! We discussed this!

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/07/14/ot132-open-shed/#comment-774580

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            … oh, yeah. So we did.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Wait a second, I have it on good authority that church is just like a fashion show, and christian girls are the freakiest hoes.

          • acymetric says:

            Wait a second, I have it on good authority that church is just like a fashion show, and christian girls are the freakiest hoes.

            Well, those things could be true and church still not be the best place to meet those girls. The best place to pick up sexy librarians isn’t necessarily the library either.

          • Randy M says:

            But, outside of a convention or training program, that’s the best place to find and compare the librarians.

            So the thing to do is hang around then Library/Church, the follow the pretty ones and flirt with them once they reach their chosen location of leisure or relaxation.

            This will be biased towards the extroverts, though, so be sure to spend some time hanging around their chosen grocery store, hair-dresser, mailbox, etc.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Single Christian Man seeks SCW for Godly dating. If interested, open your mailbox (I’m getting a cramp).”

    • b_jonas says:

      Ask a dentist. It needn’t even be a dentist who does braces, any ordinary dentist can give you general advice about this. You’re seeing a dentist every year to check up on your tooth every year anyway, right?

      As for me, I have one incisor tooth that is too big so it’s misaligned because it doesn’t fit between the two adjacent teeth. When I was around 18 years old (so I had stopped growing), I asked my dentist if it has to be fixed with a brace. She said that it can be braced, but worth only if it bothers me that my tooth is like that. It never bothered me, so never had a brace. But perhaps it’s different if your tooth are more misaligned than mine.

      • Nick says:

        Ask a dentist. It needn’t even be a dentist who does braces, any ordinary dentist can give you general advice about this. You’re seeing a dentist every year to check up on your tooth every year anyway, right?

        No, I haven’t seen a dentist in a really long time. I know I’ll have to see one, which I can now afford to do, but I was hoping to get general advice first.

      • Randy M says:

        I haven’t been to a dentist in a decade or more.
        I’ve got good teeth and a good diet; never had a cavity or serious toothache.
        My teeth could use some whitening, but they’re performing well.
        Could use some straightening too, on account I kept breaking my retainers. I’d probably do it again, though.
        Dentists would like you to come in twice a year, but after your teeth are all in place the final time I think your mileage may vary as to how necessary that is.
        Ask me in another thirty years how that worked out long term, though.

    • Enkidum says:

      Absolutely get it if your dentist recommends. Tons of adults get them, Invisalign is barely noticeable, and it forces you to take better care of your teeth. Two years later, you’ll thank yourself.

      • Nick says:

        I’m looking at Invisalign now, which I’ve never heard of, and it looks ideal. A little more work to keep it and my teeth clean, but I would benefit from that anyway. Thanks.

        • Enkidum says:

          My kids both started it a month ago, and I’m paying full price (neither of our insurances cover it). You change the sheath (or whatever it’s called) once every week or so, and for the first couple of days it hurts a bit, but not that much, and otherwise it’s really not too bad, and as you said it’s good to put in the extra work to clean it and your teeth. Good luck!

    • hls2003 says:

      I got braces when I was about 20, for a misaligned front tooth. (Prior to that I had had a retainer for some years). I had them for about 15 months, and they solved the problem almost completely. This was before Invisalign tech, so they were kinda ugly regular braces. It worked, I’m glad I did it, and it was not a multi-year process. With today’s technology, I would definitely consider it if I were in the your situation and it was financially feasible.

    • ana53294 says:

      Crooked teeth can be a health problem; I’ve heard they are related to sleep apnea. They also wear each other down, so that is also an issue with time. It also makes you more attractive; it’s incredible how much your face improves with straight teeth.

      Unless your insurance covers braces (in Spain, at least, elective dental stuff is never covered; it can cost tens of thousands of euros), getting braces can be expensive enough that it may be worth travelling abroad. I don’t know where in the Americas you can get cheaper dental care (maybe Mexico?); in Europe, we go to Hungary. And then you use a local dentist for the maintenance care.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Orthodontics are covered on many US dental plans, but IIRC mine (in NJ, USA) would have been about $5000 if I’d paid out of pocket, so not as bad as Spain.

    • mitv150 says:

      I was in a similar situation. I put it off for various reasons until my mid thirties. In retrospect, the various reasons were dumb and I wish I had done it earlier. The results were great. I was an extreme case and I did invisalign for about two years. Once you get used to it, there is very little hassle or inconvenience.

    • The Nybbler says:

      It’s a pain in the ass, but if you want it, why not? I was one of those kids who had them for eons when I was young, and my teeth were stronger than the retainer so I ended up with one tooth crowded out anyway. I had that fixed (with Invisalign) a couple of years ago. I think it took about two years — the catch is to avoid backsliding you’re supposed to wear a retainer at nights for life.

      The time it takes is dependent on the amount of correction you need (which is not obvious to the layman; I had one tooth crowded out but all the teeth needed to move quite a bit to make room and keep my bite correct), so you’d need to talk to an orthodontist about it.

    • SamChevre says:

      My sister-in-law got braces in her early 20’s (I think she was 21); it’s a bit slower than when your bones are still growing, but she’s much happier with her teeth now. Ask your dentist, but I expect the answer willb e Yes.

    • Nick says:

      Okay, so what I’m hearing here is that yes, this is a reasonable thing to want done, and it sounds like it’s going to be even easier than I thought (see: Invisalign, thanks HeelBearCub, Enkidum, et al.). Thanks, everyone!

  16. Well... says:

    What do y’all think of this? Hoover Inst. video about mathematical challenges to Darwin

    I knew there were fundamental intra-scientific debates about evolutionary theory, but I wasn’t familiar with any serious defenses of intelligent design, and I might not have been aware there were any. In that sense, this video opened my eyes a bit. But the three guys interviewed had only their interlocutor (a journalist, presumably?) to lob softball objections, so I know it doesn’t give both sides either. How would an informed Darwinist respond to their specific claims?

    • Enkidum says:

      How would an informed Darwinist respond to their specific claims?

      This isn’t what you’re asking for, but I wouldn’t.

      I refuse to watch the video, and my prior is that there’s about a 99.5% chance that it’s misleading horseshit, and a 0.45% chance that it’s just misleading. (Protip, if the argument contains the word “complexity”, run like hell. Actually, even if it doesn’t, just run.)

      It’s sometimes worth looking over these arguments as a sort of intellectual exercise, and certainly when you’re young it can help you understand the argument space. Hopefully someone will be less of a jerk about it than I am, and do the work of explaining the specific form of garbage that is at that link for anyone who’s sincerely looking for the response.

      I’ve read dozens of arguments against the modern Darwinian consensus, and summaries of many more. With no exceptions, they were all garbage. There isn’t any “there” there. These arguments deserve exactly as much respect as blueprints for perpetual motion machines.

      You can absolutely judge some books by their covers, and to quote Dawkins (I think), don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall out.

      • GreatColdDistance says:

        Not really responding to the question either, but be careful with this kind of response. If someone has any uncertainty about an issue, a response along the lines of “I’m so certain that I’m right that I don’t even need to consider engaging with people who disagree with me” is going to make it look like you’re pushing dogma, not science.

        On the other hand, I get your point that you can’t go diving down every rabbit hole of an argument that seems persuasive to somebody. I’m not sure how to balance these two considerations, but I just know that if I saw this kind of response on any kind of issue where I wasn’t really sure was settled, it would push me towards thinking that the video’s position was more credible.

        • Enkidum says:

          Yeah, you’re not wrong. Mine is essentially the kind of answer a priest might have given to someone interested in this new-fangled natural philosophy 400 years ago. It just happens to be that this dogma IS true.

          I don’t know how to balance this either.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          On the other hand, I get your point that you can’t go diving down every rabbit hole of an argument that seems persuasive to somebody. I’m not sure how to balance these two considerations

          I’ve idly mused over this for years. The best method I could sketch is to have tiers of people assessing rabbit holes, much like a support shop has tiers of technicians. If you’re the challenger, then you present your argument to interns, who give it a coarse skim. If it passes, you go to the post-docs. If they can’t find anything wrong, you get to see professors, and finally Nobel laureates.

          If you’re part of the orthodoxy, you weight a new argument by how far it’s currently getting in your trusted expert hierarchy. A theory about planetary motion gets less weight if some Jesuit rando is mulling it, than if the Pope is looking at it.

          Which expert goes in which tier is often organic. A professor might give Timecube stuff some attention just because she’s bored. And any argument ideally gets multiple looks, to ward against single experts with axes to grind.

    • quanta413 says:

      To be frank, I’m not going to watch an hour long video because I’ve paid my dues with that. I read the description, and I’ve read that Gelenter was making yet another combinatorial argument against evolution. So honestly, I’m just going to kind of spout off, but focus on the supposed combinatorial impossibility thing which is the argument that never dies.

      These arguments about the supposed impossibility of random amino acid sequences reaching optimum performance are wrong because (A) Evolution does not reach optima (your optic nerve is in a kind of terrible place for example; and we routinely engineer proteins that are better by some metric than natural ones like brighter fluorescent proteins) and (B) Evolution doesn’t have to jump to a local peak of the genetic landscape of whatever trait you are interested in.

      The argument by combinatorics is like claiming that you can’t sort a list of one billion numbers because the odds of randomly choosing the correct list are 1/(10^9)! which is about 10^-(9*10^9). Ok, but you can actually sort a list pretty fast by sorting each half of it and so on recursively and then merging. Analogously (but without intention), even extremely complicated functions can be reached by little pieces coming together. It’s not like evolution started with a bacteria and had to select for a human. That would be ridiculous and would never work. Instead what happens is that new forms of life evolve, they change the environment and new possibly beneficial paths open up. But even most beneficial paths are never taken. And lots of paths that lead to functioning organisms aren’t beneficial in their original environment. For example, wolves are (ok, maybe were at this point; I’m not sure how much of a bottleneck various wild wolf populations have been forced through) more genetically diverse than dogs, but dogs show far more phenotypic variation because humans bred dogs to do all sorts of things. Wolves won’t follow where humans point. That’s a new function. Wolves won’t herd sheep. New function. Wolves don’t “point” at prey they hunt with a human. New function. And that’s a only a few thousand years of evolution on an extremely small population. And different dog breeds do different things too.

      Evolving amino acids that have a new function isn’t rare either. For example, see this post by Richard Lenski on evolution of new function in lambda phage. https://telliamedrevisited.wordpress.com/2019/03/06/evolution-goes-viral-and-how-real-science-works/ Lenski has 4 posts responding to Behe’s third book.

      There are interesting things about evolving new function. It’s greatly constrained by the past history of an organism. For example, as far as I’m aware there is a vastly larger number of chemicals that various bacteria can “eat” than animals or plants. Animals and plants have much longer generation times, more complicated development etc. And this may interfere with cows say… evolving the ability to digest cellulose on their own. Or at least, that type of thing doesn’t appear to be a path that has happened much in mammals. What happened instead is that cows evolved an organ (the rumen) that holds a variety of bacteria that break down cellulose (and other things).

      Continuing on this constraint theme, notice that even though mammals have existed for millions of years, they’ve all still got four limbs. It seems evolution just isn’t very likely to add more limbs. But those limbs get used for different purposes pretty easily.

      It’d be one thing if we couldn’t evolve bacteria, flies, etc. in the lab. If we didn’t find all sorts of fossils. If the earth hadn’t been around long enough for some of the major transitions to occur. Millions of generations is two orders of magnitude past our longest lab experiments (Lenski’s long term evolution experiments). And evolution has proceeded for billions of year which for bacteria likely translates into trillions of generations. You can find mutation and selection effects in experiments on the order of 10-100 generations. The overarching mechanism is known even if the exact physical details of every change in every organism are extremely complicated and will be studied until all humans are dead without finishing.

      So evolution really is hard in any specific case and super hard for some collections of cases (there are no birds with jet engines or fixed wings), but it’s not always hard. There are too many viable paths. That’s the mistake all of these critiques make. Any particular viable path in unlikely in the same way any particular configuration of air molecules in a room is unlikely. But on a less detailed level, there are so many viable paths that lead to increasing complexity that the expected result is that you’ll see a lot of complexity. In the same way that even though any microstate of a gas is unlikely, if the as is close to an ideal gas you’ll find PV ~ nRT.

      • Zeno of Citium says:

        This is a wonderful effortpost and I’d like to signal boost it.
        Also, super-duper minor quibble, but some marine mammals (I think just dolphins and whales) have only two limbs (just front flippers). They have vestigial hip bones though, showing that they previously had four limbs and lost two. Your overall point that evolution didn’t lead to mammals with *more* limbs stands.

        Actually, it’s kind of interesting that there’s no mammals with six legs. It’s probably not very useful so perhaps it’s selected against – what use do the extra legs even give a quadraped? – but extra legs are actually the sort of thing that aren’t *too* unusual to evolve. IIRC*, the Hox genes that control body sections in most animals (conserved between mammals and insects, for example) were duplicated by transcription errors several times over history, leading to the duplication of body sections. For example, duplication of Hox genes can give extra body segments in insects, the least nightmare-inducing example of which is double wings on flies (which normally have a single pair of wings). It can also give extra thorax segments, which might lead to extra legs although I couldn’t find any examples with a quick search. This normally isn’t useful for the insect (in fact it’s usually quite bad for its chances of survival), but something of this sort likely happened earlier in history to duplicate various body segments in all sorts of animals.

        *From reasonably good memories of college biology and a quick Google.

        • quanta413 says:

          Also, super-duper minor quibble, but some marine mammals (I think just dolphins and whales) have only two limbs (just front flippers). They have vestigial hip bones though, showing that they previously had four limbs and lost two. Your overall point that evolution didn’t lead to mammals with *more* limbs stands.

          Woops. I totally forgot about marine mammals. But yeah, it’s hard for limb number to change in mammals though.

          Actually, it’s kind of interesting that there’s no mammals with six legs. It’s probably not very useful so perhaps it’s selected against – what use do the extra legs even give a quadraped? – but extra legs are actually the sort of thing that aren’t *too* unusual to evolve. IIRC*, the Hox genes that control body sections in most animals (conserved between mammals and insects, for example) were duplicated by transcription errors several times over history, leading to the duplication of body sections. For example, duplication of Hox genes can give extra body segments in insects, the least nightmare-inducing example of which is double wings on flies (which normally have a single pair of wings). It can also give extra thorax segments, which might lead to extra legs although I couldn’t find any examples with a quick search. This normally isn’t useful for the insect (in fact it’s usually quite bad for its chances of survival), but something of this sort likely happened earlier in history to duplicate various body segments in all sorts of animals.

          Does the lack of mammals with six limbs have something to do with their size? Or is there no easy place to put them on a body plan that lacks segments? So many arthropods have more than 4 legs so it seems like it’s beneficial sometimes. There are definitely cows that have six legs (although not six useful legs) due to mutations so I agree it’s likely a selective issue that prevents mammals from six legs with arising rather than the rarity of such a mutation.

          Gene duplication is pretty interesting, and I’m glad you bring it up. I probably should have mentioned it above as part of the answer to the combinatorial problem. As I understand it, it’s a very important mechanism for evolution since proteins can easily have two functions or one function and another weak side effect and a duplication followed by specialization of each copy is one of the primary routes new proteins are produced by.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Does the lack of mammals with six limbs have something to do with their size? Or is there no easy place to put them on a body plan that lacks segments? So many arthropods have more than 4 legs so it seems like it’s beneficial sometimes. There are definitely cows that have six legs (although not six useful legs) due to mutations so I agree it’s likely a selective issue that prevents mammals from six legs with arising rather than the rarity of such a mutation.

            Locomotion with six or more legs can be performed in static equilibrium: with three or more legs on the ground at all times you can easily keep the vertical projection of the center of mass on the ground within the convex hull of the contact points, which means that you could stop at any time without falling over and moderate external forces won’t knock you over even if you don’t apply any compensation. This makes it easy for the simple, decentralized brains and mostly rigid bodies of arthropods (and for artificial robots).

            Four leg locomotion, unless performed in unusual and inefficient gaits (e.g. moving one leg at time, dragging the feet the ground, resting the body on the ground between steps) requires dynamic equilibrium: each step requires solving the inverse dynamics of a multi-jointed closed kinematic chain (pacing or trot gaits) or an inverted pendulum that can jump off the ground (gallop gait). This requires much more expensive computations, ask any roboticist. Also, quadruped vertebrates have flexible bodies built around their spine (usually extending into a tail), which allows for fine-grained control of the CoM position, unlike the rigid bodies of arthropods.

          • quanta413 says:

            Thanks for answer. Very interesting! So six legs is actually simpler. I didn’t realize how much adding two more legs would change that.

            Losing some accuracy, would it be roughly correct to say three points of contact (not all colinear) means it’s harder to tip over because there’s no single axis a small force will easily rotate you around? Whereas with two points of contact, if you’re pushed perpendicular to the line between the two points of contact you’ll fall over in that direction pretty easily?

      • zoozoc says:

        One of the points that those in the video make is that the odds of a viable short protein being created are 1/(10^77). The odds of this happening are so extremely low as to be “impossible” with the current timescales given.

        Now, perhaps once a viable protein is already formed, the odds of it mutating/changing into another, different protein might be much higher as only (perhaps) a smaller number of changes are necessary. But it does seem to me that evolution has no answer for how any of the amazing complexity of single-celled organisms came about.

        • hls2003 says:

          I’m deeply skeptical of the abiogenesis explanations offered by current paleobiologists, and I’m sympathetic to the IDers’ instincts, but I think that particular numerical issue is overlooking the crux of the scientists’ argument. And it overlooks it in a way that I think can feel particularly Euler-y, obtuse, and innumerate to the other side. Specifically, as I understand it, the crux of the biologists’ argument against the hugely unlikely numbers is that statistical randomness is not the appropriate measuring tool for a process that has a preferential direction. Let’s say I have three atoms (two one kind, one another), enclosed in a vacuum container. Let’s also say that each is physically capable of combining with each. You could argue that there are four different states of the atoms: all single, one with one and other alone, one with other and one alone, and all three combined into one molecule. Is the chance of getting the three combined into one molecule 1/4? Not if the three atoms are H, H, and O and there is a heat source. The very strong preference will be for H20. Simply counting the atoms and doing the probabilities doesn’t mean anything.

          So I think in order for the abiogenesis science to have any case, they must be assuming that it’s “selection all the way down,” that there is an inevitable physical reason (even among non-living molecules) to expect certain configurations of chemistry to preferentially occur. Then you don’t need to get a hundred atoms in the right place purely by chance, and the “chance” argument has no weight.

          I am not fully convinced that current science has successfully made their case that this preferential pre-biotic chemical selection is true, or at least not that its mechanisms have been identified as anything more than rank speculation, and certainly have not been replicated or conclusively proven. But if the IDer’s argument is just “random pairing of atoms = impossibly unlikely,” I can see why that argument is perceived as frustratingly irrelevant by the scientific consensus.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s worth realizing that upon finding evidence of irreducible complexity in evolution, many religious people may see that as evidence of God’s hand, but many nonreligious people (as well as weird religious people like me) will be thinking about aliens.

          • hls2003 says:

            @albatross11

            I do see God’s hand in the evolutionary process, and my own thinking on the matter of life and creation is fairly idiosyncratic. Aliens raises an interesting point, though, which I think is under-discussed. I think it’s clear that discovering alien life forms would not be inconsistent with Christianity or theism or other religious forms. (See, e.g., fairly widespread postulating of extraterrestrial life in medieval literature; also C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy). It just wouldn’t move the needle much either way. But if life is not eventually found, it seems to me that strikes at the “chemically inevitable preferential processes” part of the current abiogenesis argument, and would seemingly be a blow (non-conclusive, but some weight) against purely materialist abiogenesis solutions, a greater blow the further afield we go without finding it. Personally, I’m hoping to find alien life somewhere, I think it’d make creation even more interesting, but the null result also seems like it would tell us something.

          • quanta413 says:

            I do see God’s hand in the evolutionary process

            I see at least two distinct ways of viewing this (plus ways in-between). Do you mean (A) God designed physics and physics is amenable to evolution thus I see God’s hand in the rules of the universe or (B) I see God rigging the dice occasionally in order to take things down a certain path.

            I don’t put much weight on (A), but it’s perfectly elegant. The universe is comprehensible, evolved apes called humans have a strange urge to occasionally look at creation and often worship a creator, therefore the chance of a creator rises in probability.

            For (B), I don’t really see why God would rig chemical probabilities against the emergence of life and then basically cheat at dice. God gets to pick how physics and chemistry work, doesn’t he? Once you concede all of evolution post abiogenesis happened, what’s left to lose?

            Why wouldn’t God make a universe where life tends to evolve? That seems a lot more godlike to me (in the all-knowing, all-seeing sense) than a god that has to cheat the odds to make stuff happen.

            Aliens would be interesting because they could help answer questions like “How likely is life to evolve a similar way on two different planets? How does this depend on the differences between the planets?” or “If all the aliens have the same biochemistry, is that a sign of panspermia? Was there one first living planet or does life actually start off planet?” or if you get really lucky/unlucky “Is God some alien civilization/individual who we can physically reach a piece of but never comprehend?” Maybe God can access those extra dimensions string theorists are always on about, or we are to God as a physical simulation is to us but he puts a representation of himself into the simulation.

          • hls2003 says:

            @quanta413

            As I said, my own views on the creation debate are a bit idiosyncratic, moderately long to explain, and wouldn’t be of much interest in general. Probably the shortest thing I could say on it is that I don’t consider the matter to be fully susceptible to current human knowledge anyway, so I consider it of limited import. “A mirror darkly,” and all that.

            As to your point though, I think there’s plenty of room between A and B for a normal theistic approach. It’s clear enough for anyone that the laws of the universe permit life, so in that sense it’s clearly A. It also seems plausible that life is not inevitable in any one specific place or time, which would leave room for more active divine intervention. And accepting post-abiogenesis evolution does not seem to me to obviate the ability of God to direct its course, since as you’ve mentioned, there are lots of possible pathways for most of these processes. I believe that’s pretty close to the Catholic position on evolution (though I’m not Catholic myself).

          • quanta413 says:

            @hls2003

            Sure. What gets me is that if God fully controls the rules and start of the universe, I just can’t see the need for (B). Everything that happened or will happen is known to him, and as long as you’re not concerned about Satan or the problem of evil activist intervention on earth doesn’t gain anything. But those problems don’t really seem relevant before humans existed which is when almost all evolution occurred.

            From the point of view of God (or man really), controlling all the rules and the start of the game is basically indistinguishable from occasionally changing the rules later except that (B) seems like a much less elegant way of viewing things than (A) to me.

            Humans can make little evolution worlds on a computer, and control the outcome so to speak (except humans lack the whole all-knowing thing so they usually don’t know what the results will be). I can get different results from an evolutionary process by changing the rules and I can get pretty replicable behavior from a process without choosing all the random numbers myself. I don’t believe in God, but if I’m wrong, I figure God can easily pull off a much better trick with a universe. Metaphorically speaking.

            Although from inside the universe I don’t know if there’s any observable difference between (A) and (B). There’s an Orson Scott Card short story about angels coming to earth that explores some of these themes that I like.

          • hls2003 says:

            @quanta413

            I think this is one of those instances where we end up, inadvertently, kind of playing word games. On one level, I agree with you that God could have “wound up” the universe in such a way that the dominoes would fall just right to have uniquely guided evolution in a specific place and time, not requiring a “special touch” right then and there. It’s all a question of viewpoint. From an internal perspective, bound by time and space, it looks like either a crazy coincidence or evidence of divine providence. From the external perspective, it looks inevitable and part of the law of the universe. Since we’re internal, most of the time I assume we’re talking about that perspective. For example, I don’t really understand the people who try to use “natural explanations” for things like God parting the sea (“well, there could have been an earthquake downstream, which caused a landslide, which…”). I mean, I guess you can do that, but it simply bumps the question up one more layer, isn’t it miraculous that the natural event happened right on cue to help the Israelites at their exact moment of need when they called upon God. Most religions, including Judeo-Christian Scriptures, talk about it from a human perspective of God’s intervention at that moment, and even if it was set up from the beginning of time, it’s not really wrong to view it from either direction.

            From another perspective, I think that even the semantic debate is rather time-bound, because there’s both everything and nothing “inevitable” about God acting in creation. If everything is contained in the mind of God, and he is omnipresent, then there’s no distinction between past, present, and future to him, causality is itself contingent on his own nature, and asking whether something was pre-programmed or divine intervention is meaningless because all of time and space is active divine intervention. I agree, more or less, with your ending comment, which is that this is one of the things we are simply not well-placed to understand or distinguish given our natures – A can look like B from inside the story. “There seems no plan because it is all plan; there seems no center because it is all center.” –Perelandra

            This is also part of why I generally don’t view the creationism controversy as particularly salient, and have no problem using evolution as a working model. Do human things, use a human model.

        • quanta413 says:

          One of the points that those in the video make is that the odds of a viable short protein being created are 1/(10^77). The odds of this happening are so extremely low as to be “impossible” with the current timescales given.

          The numbers are just an ass-pull though based upon the assumption that there is precisely one way to get life from an amino acid sequence and that it has to over 100 amino acids. All the same reasoning I said above about there being many viable paths to life and it being a stepwise process still applies as to why the argument is wrong. Start with shorter sequences and fewer amino acids and figure out a way to count the number of possibilities that would lead to success and that would be a little better. Although that would probably be the wrong chemistry for the start of life.

          Let’s get nitty-gritty. Life isn’t thought to necessarily have started with proteins. Making an argument about amino acids that is supposedly an attack on whatever the current theory is for biogenesis just shows deep ignorance. Considering that either RNA or RNA plus peptides are the most plausible candidates.

          People have been working on the start of life for a long time. Slowly though because it’s honestly not super important and the original physical evidence is long gone. Here’s a recent paper I pulled at random about self-replication of chemical reactions. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/278119v2.full Notice the reference to multiple self replicating cycles in that occur in biological systems besides ones involving DNA. Self-replicating systems aren’t a weird special case that only occurs for one set of chemical reactions. They are a whole class of phenomenon.

          The idea that chemical self replication is somehow impossible (despite being observed) is a lot like the idea that proteins couldn’t possibly fold into their three dimensional configuration (which they do). It’s based upon an either accidental or intentional misunderstanding of how to calculate the relative probabilities. Not all possibilities are equally likely and assuming that is just empirically wrong. Here’s a laymen level post on why the assumption that amino acids have to be super long and all have to had exist at once is junk from a biochemistry point of view https://www.randombio.com/evolution5.html . No one claims to know the probabilities involved in abiogenesis. If the goal is to attack abiogenesis, you don’t attack the underlying chemistry of evolution long after that period passed.

          the crux of the biologists’ argument against the hugely unlikely numbers is that statistical randomness is not the appropriate measuring tool for a process that has a preferential direction.

          No, the problem is that you have to give the correct weights to each possibility to calculate the right answer. Statistics is fine, but you have to use the correct probabilities. So when someone uses the principle of indifference to assign probabilities in a case where that is known to be wrong, they look either ignorant or dishonest.

          Self-replicating chemical systems are not unknown, and there are multiple examples of such so it’s not surprising that some set of them could be biogenic. And it’s also not surprising we don’t know exactly which set since it happened billions of years ago, and basically no set of small molecules is going to survive that long on a living planet. Probably not even a dead planet. Maybe in outer space dust or something although even then it seems extremely unlikely.

          • hls2003 says:

            So when someone uses the principle of indifference to assign probabilities in a case where that is known to be wrong, they look either stupid or dishonest.

            I think we are in agreement on this. That is more or less what I was intending to convey, that you can’t just assign all configurations an equal probability based on combinatorial multiplication of atoms-in-place. That particular ID argument doesn’t mean what they think it does and thus kind of looks, as you say, either “stupid or dishonest.”

          • zoozoc says:

            I believe the numbers are simply the mathematical probability for any 100+ amino acid length protein from being assembled correctly. A good comparison would be the idea that enough monkeys banging on typewriters could produce the works of Shakespeare.

            It seems your argument is basically that there other types of proteins that use to exist, but no longer exist. Because my understanding is that the probability given is for what we know is currently true of all life today. Basically, there are no “shorter” proteins than 100+ amino acids.

            As far as probabilities, I agree that the above assumption is that all of them are equally probable. However, all of these arguments basically boil down to faith-based assumptions, not evidence based ones. There “could” have been shorter proteins in the past that led to life and they all disappeared and there “could” be a bias towards “life” as far as protein construction goes. But there isn’t any evidence for either of these assertions.

          • quanta413 says:

            There “could” have been shorter proteins in the past that led to life and they all disappeared and there “could” be a bias towards “life” as far as protein construction goes. But there isn’t any evidence for either of these assertions.

            No, it’s not a purely speculative could. Some things I said are true right now, and other things have had significant work evidence for them. It’s not faith when you don’t claim to know which reactions are first. Some people have entertained ideas of panspermia followed by normal evolution which although very farfetched is not obviously wrong but that’s not what Gelenter is arguing for. My answers were already very long so I’m not going to exhaustively spell out the evidence for every detail. I can’t even know 1% of the details of such a vast literature. I already linked to a paper with references to multiple examples of self replicating systems and explained that life probably starts with RNA (because it can do both catalysis and serve as information storage).

            On the first point, there are functional 3 amino-acid peptides right now https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glutathione. I didn’t forget a 0. There are functional 20 amino-acid proteins (they have secondary structure like an alpha helix) https://www.rcsb.org/structure/1L2Y . So when someone just claims “you can’t have a functional protein of less than ~100 amino acids” that’s just ignorance. The biochemistry post I linked also already mentioned that you can see binding specificity in reactions involving small number of peptides so it’s not like these are weird exceptions. Early life could be very slow to replicate and very error prone because there’s no other life to compete with it.

            On the second point, again it’s RNA that’s the most likely candidate for the first replicators. You have to get this detail right. If someone doesn’t get that detail right, then all the math that follows will be junk. The exact set of reactions isn’t currently known and probably never will be known since the original stuff is all gone, but progress on each step of how abiogenesis can occur is occurring. There’s nice overview of some of what’s been figured out in the last couple decades here https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128251-300-first-life-the-search-for-the-first-replicator/.

            Also early life wouldn’t be so much alive by modern standards as poorly self-replicating, but what self-replicating molecules do is increase in number. We know of lots of self-replicating reactions so the implausibility that some exist using RNA or some similar molecule is not very high. One you have self-replicating reactions with mutation, evolution is occurring. And mutation is a byproduct of chemistry so it’s harder not to have it than to have it.

            But this is far afield from the original point. Abiogenesis from RNA forming in clay or little pools or whatever is not really a solidified part of modern evolutionary theory. So if Gelenter fixed all the horribly broken details of his argument and ran perfect chemistry simulations showing that RNA can’t possibly self-replicate that would be interesting in that another hypothesis would take the number one spot but it still would make no difference to all the things about evolution people have known about since the 19th century or almost any of the modern evolutionary synthesis. All the clades of current life would be unaffected; we’d still be studying speciation in the fossil record, in the wild, and in the lab; etc. etc. etc.

          • abystander says:

            Basically, there are no “shorter” proteins than 100+ amino acids.
            Proteins of less than 50 aminio acids are important

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            So if [Gelernter] fixed all the horribly broken details of his argument and ran perfect chemistry simulations showing that RNA can’t possibly self-replicate that would be interesting in that another hypothesis would take the number one spot but it still would make no difference to all the things about evolution people have known about since the 19th century or almost any of the modern evolutionary synthesis. All the clades of current life would be unaffected; we’d still be studying speciation in the fossil record, in the wild, and in the lab; etc. etc. etc.

            It sounds like you’re saying evolution still explains everything from bacteria to humans. I strongly agree, and perhaps Gelernter does as well(?). But it could still be the case that something else better explains the segment from random amino acids to bacteria. Or, to factor in that New Scientist article you linked, the segment from amino acids to one of the larger forms of RNA.

            I don’t know what that something else would be. You hinted at “another hypothesis”, but I simply don’t know the research terrain there – how many hypotheses there are, which ones look the most plausible, etc. And that link is eight years old, so I’m sure there’s been a lot done since. The math says it’s probably not aliens, let alone a Watchmaker (either would just raise the same questions anyway, earlier in time). So now I’m wondering if there was some sort of RNA ladder, and if so, what other forms of RNA or other amino structures could have come about.

          • quanta413 says:

            It sounds like you’re saying evolution still explains everything from bacteria to humans. I strongly agree, and perhaps Gelernter does as well(?).

            I agree. Although our understanding of the physical side of things like developmental processes, pattern formation, and such means our understanding of large evolutionary transitions is relatively weak on a lot of interesting details.

            From reading Gelenter, I’m pretty sure he disagrees. He seems to think the Cambrian explosion is impossible to explain and that’s well past the transition to multicellular life.

            But it could still be the case that something else better explains the segment from random amino acids to bacteria. Or, to factor in that New Scientist article you linked, the segment from amino acids to one of the larger forms of RNA.

            There’s a details side of things where some things are known like some possible mechanisms by which membranes might form that start bundling reactions together. There’s some stuff known here. But the details of what sort of chemistry formed life may in some sense be contingent on history.

            And then there’s a branch that to me really gets at what’s interesting here which is a theory of self-replicating chemical reactions. The statistical mechanics and thermodynamics of these processes, their time evolution, etc. etc. I know close to nothing about that. It’s not totally unstudied, but I imagine deep knowledge of that would do a lot more than solidify our theory of the emergence of life. It’d probably help us understand how to build nanomachines, more sustainable chemical manufacturing process, etc. etc.

            I don’t know what that something else would be. You hinted at “another hypothesis”, but I simply don’t know the research terrain there – how many hypotheses there are, which ones look the most plausible, etc. And that link is eight years old, so I’m sure there’s been a lot done since. The math says it’s probably not aliens, let alone a Watchmaker (either would just raise the same questions anyway, earlier in time). So now I’m wondering if there was some sort of RNA ladder, and if so, what other forms of RNA or other amino structures could have come about.

            Unfortunately, I’m largely out of my depth in biochemistry. Never liked chemistry much. From wikipedia my impression is most alternative chemical candidates are other types of nucleic acids. Wikipedia’s got a link to an article about some chemical precursors that have some of the necessary properties.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Ditto Zeno: thanks for this post.

        How many generations ought a bacteria take to evolve, according to Lenski? Or anyone else? Is there a way to derive this number from something other than “well, that how long it seemed to take during the Precambrian”? What are the likely next lifeforms beyond bacteria?

        This seems to be one of the key questions for Gelernter et al. to ask. I.e., what is the theoretical minimum number of generations for bacteria to evolve into something else.

        Meanwhile, I can respect the challenge to abiogenesis, as hls2003 says. AIUI, we haven’t quite figured this out. I’m not inclined to rule absence of evidence as evidence of absence, but nevertheless, I’d really like to know how far this study has gotten.

        • quanta413 says:

          How many generations ought a bacteria take to evolve, according to Lenski? Or anyone else? Is there a way to derive this number from something other than “well, that how long it seemed to take during the Precambrian”? What are the likely next lifeforms beyond bacteria?

          Evolved how much? You can get bacteria able to digest new substrates in ~ ten thousand generations (E. coli that can digest citrate in Lenski’s case). Orders of magnitude fast if you increase the selection pressure for being able to eat citrate (can’t remember citation right now). Lenski has evolved E. coli for ~60,000 (6 x 10^4) generations but that’s still ~eight orders of magnitude short of the rough number of generations we know occurred (~10^12) and the population size is also many orders of magnitude smaller than the entire earth population. He’s evolving populations of a size around 10^8 or 10^9 (going off memory at the moment). Even a single human has a few orders of magnitude more bacteria than that and a worldwide population is probably more like 8 orders of magnitude larger again. So his experiments although interesting, long, and impressive, are still ~8 orders of magnitude short in two different dimensions compared to what you’d need to fully compare to how bacteria evolved in the wild.

          You’re going to have to make significant extrapolations compared to pure lab experiment is what I’m saying. Unless humans figure out immortality. But you can look at closely related bacteria in the wild. Like E. coli and Salmonella. That gives you some idea of how fast an organism diverges into two species.

          You can also look at organisms that have both single and multicellular forms to get some idea of how that transition may occur. Like slime molds. That’s a eukaryote though. I know very little about the bacteria, archae, eukaryote split which happened in the precambrian. Really, it’s most speculation although we can estimate relatively how related those three groupings are. They appear to have diverged from each other similar amount for all three pairings.

          Some think the formation of the cell membrane and split of eukaryotes off is related to transposons. There is evidence for this, but it’s a relatively new branch of study. Transposons are interesting bits of DNA that encode a protein to copy of themselves and insert themselves elsewhere. They act kind of like a genetic parasite but they also can end up as useful parts of the genome.

          Meanwhile, I can respect the challenge to abiogenesis, as hls2003 says. AIUI, we haven’t quite figured this out. I’m not inclined to rule absence of evidence as evidence of absence, but nevertheless, I’d really like to know how far this study has gotten.

          Abiogenesis is not my field and is indeed not solved, but here’s a news article about some of the work in the field for the past decade or two https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128251-300-first-life-the-search-for-the-first-replicator/. See my other replies above for maybe a couple other details on that (although it’s mostly from that article anyways, so just read that if you can).

    • abystander says:

      What argument do you think opened your eyes a bit. It seems Darwinists think it is the same old argument that species couldn’t have evolved by chance because the to many nucleotides needed to change at once. And ignores the possibilities of intermediate forms.
      https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2019/07/A-dramatic-new-mathematical-challenge.html#more

      • zoozoc says:

        I think the issue is that when you dig down into the basic building blocks of life, things don’t get any less complicated. So you still need thousands of changes at once to make any kind of “major” change. I think its important that none of them dispute that evolution is true, but they dispute that evolution can every result in large changes, such as going from one species to another.

  17. Tenacious D says:

    So, uh, Kashmir: is the change in its status just symbolic posturing or does it change the strategic balance in the region?

    • broblawsky says:

      It’s amazing how little play a potential war between two nuclear powers gets in the media.

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Understanding based on magazines/news: In Kashmir itself the regional government is being reordered, with provinces being consolidated and ruled directly from Dehli. Having an increased military presence and disruption at the local level from the reordering (specifically, a reordering which removes local autonomy) might (will likely) result in incidents between the majority Muslim residents and Indian state police/soldiers. The Kashmiris are sympathetic to Pakistan, which would be domestically pressured to intervene in some way to protect them. Both states have a history of military incursions into parts of Kashmir controlled by the other, so anything that increases the likelihood of that “changes” the balance in the sense that the situation is more unstable, but I couldn’t say in whose, if anyone’s, favor.

    • sfoil says:

      I don’t think it’s symbolic. The change is fundamentally about giving the Indian government the capability to exert more power in Kashmir than previously. It’s unlikely this is an accident.

      One possible explanation is that India is somehow gearing up for a possible renewal of violence as Afghanistan winds down and Pakistan has more resources to shift into Kashmir. Possibly only attempting to establish a credible deterrent, though US withdrawal from Afghanistan will weaken Pakistan as well as it probably means the end or curtailment of US cash and materiel and the removal of potential US “tripwire” forces.

      Or, India’s response may not be completely military. Apparently the loss of autonomy includes lifting restrictions on purchasing land etc in Kashmir, and there’s some concern that India will attempt a Tibet-style population transfer to demographically marginalized Muslim Kashmiris, possibly under the guise of restoring displaced Hindus. That would probably be difficult to hide, though.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Thanks for the explanations.

  18. Have you ever read a book that more strongly convinced you that the author’s thesis was wrong than before you read it? It’s not just that it was unconvincing, it’s that it was anti-convincing. What was it?

    • Matt M says:

      I once read a book called “Work” that was put out by some sort of anarcho-socialist syndicate collective or whatever.

      I was expecting some sort of nuanced argument for anarcho-socialism. But it was really just a screed telling people that they should steal from their employers more.

      I don’t know that it convinced me that anarcho-socialism was wrong, but it certainly convinced me that those particular anarcho-socialists were not serious people…

    • Enkidum says:

      I read a book about 20 years ago, of which I can’t remember the title or the author. So I’m off to a great start. It was a call for a radical ecological movement, which I was very sympathetic to at the time (and still am, more or less). The author was a founder of some relatively important environmental organization (not Greenpeace) or perhaps a journal/magazine. I believe that in one of its early chapters, he discussed a joke from Woody Allen, something along the lines of “I don’t want to swim in the sea or a lake – things live in there.” The argument was that this joke reveals a fundamentally pathological and ultimately morally incorrect attitude. I agree with that, pretty much.

      It ended with a chapter that came out of nowhere, saying that the critical first step was acknowledging the truth of Lamarckian evolution, because evolution by natural selection could not allow for a sane approach to nature. This was such a terrible take that I immediately began to trust the rest of the book less, which until then had been preaching to the choir.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Not a book, but this article, in my opinion, disproves its own thesis. Specifically, the data has to be aggressively twisted and manipulated to show what the obvious interpretation does not, in a way that I do not find honest.

      For one, guns per person or total number of guns makes the US more of an outlier, due to population and a small number of people with many guns. Gun ownership rate (i.e. people with at least one gun) is much closer to other countries than one might expect, and since most shootings (even mass shootings) involve only 1 gun per attacker, it’s more informative.

      Second, the claim that “More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis.” This claim is a blatant lie. Their first 2 links clearly say “gun deaths” (so including suicide), and the meta-analysis below also says “deaths.” The other 2 links are harder to evaluate easily, but the ncbi study doesn’t establish causality, and the book most likely doesn’t either.

      Third, the US/Yemen being the only outliers on either metric mean that you don’t really have that many data points, and the data are probably not distributed in a way where linear regression is a valid approach.

      Fourth, excluding countries with less than 10 million people makes some sense, but hides the real important fact: That mass shootings are really really really rare, even in the US. Excluding, say, Norway, means excluding a data point which you would need decades and decades of information to precisely measure, but if you look over the last 20 years (more than double the time period since Anders Breivik’s attack), then Breivik alone means that Norway is near the top of the chart (a population of 5.2 million gets you almost 19 shooters per 100 million people). It also means you exclude Switzerland and Finland, discussed below.

      Then we get to this passage:

      Skeptics of gun control sometimes point to a 2016 study. From 2000 and 2014, it found, the United States death rate by mass shooting was 1.5 per one million people. The rate was 1.7 in Switzerland and 3.4 in Finland, suggesting American mass shootings were not actually so common.

      But the same study found that the United States had 133 mass shootings. Finland had only two, which killed 18 people, and Switzerland had one, which killed 14. In short, isolated incidents. So while mass shootings can happen anywhere, they are only a matter of routine in the United States.

      What absolutely unhinged nonsense. This last sentence is one of the most obvious examples of “selective interpretation of data” I’ve ever seen. The “per person” figures are *obviously* the correct ones to use. The fact that the United States has more people in a single country doesn’t mean that “mass shootings” are more routine. Finland has a population of 5.5 million, and Switzerland 8.4 million. States with similar populations would be Virginia and Minnesota. What happens if you compare those states with those countries? Do either of them have enough mass shootings for them to be considered “routine”? Of course not. I have no reason to care about the raw number of mass shootings in an arbitrary boundary rather than my probability of victimization.

      • It doesn’t sound like it really changed your mind about anything in any way. You just thought it was a bad article. I’m not really looking for examples where people were hostile to an argument, read an article/book and were still hostile to it. I’m more looking for things were you were at least neutral to some idea but by the end of the book/article, you came away more convinced the author was wrong.

        A simple tally of mass shootings is obviously biased against large countries but with sample sizes so small, adjusting for population is just biased against small ones. This video makes the same point in reference to the Olympic games. When we ask who “won” the Olympics, we usually refer to who has the most medals, which of course favors big countries. But if we adjust by population, then it gives a ridiculous advantage to small countries. If Grenada wins one medal, the US could win literally every other medal but it would still mean Grenada “won”. Similarly, it doesn’t really matter how many mass shootings the US has by this ranking. Norway had that one incident in 2011, so it will rank as the “worst country of mass shootings per capita” for the foreseeable future. If you do a more apples-to-apples comparison of US vs the EU, the US is higher.

    • Clutzy says:

      Yes, like Enkidum I can’t remember the author or book title, and I often try to find it out so maybe this can help me.

      Its plot was essentially this: A man is somehow transported into the future (perhaps he was frozen?), and is led by a guide in this amazing new world. This world is, essentially, communistic but the central organizing factor around the community is an annuity paid to all people. This annuity is described as the fruits of labors past, wherein machines are now so productive and we essentially redistribute its earnings to all in this annuity.

      Now, no book or essay has ever presented a UBI in a more childish fashion.

      • sfoil says:

        This happened in Heinlein’s “For Us, The Living”, though that may not be the specific book you’re thinking of. It was the first novel he wrote, and the last one published (posthumously). For good reason.

        • Clutzy says:

          The Wiki seems to reflect the disjointed confusing system that I remember.

        • The Nybbler says:

          That particular factor was present in _Beyond This Horizon_ as well, though not as prominently (nor introduced as clumsily).

    • Urstoff says:

      Currently reading Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions, and it’s having that effect. The distinction between “constrained” and “unconstrained” visions does seem to exist, but it does not separate conservative and progressive thought as he thinks it does, and his applications of the distinction are either really stretching things or just downright incoherent (e.g., somehow the “unconstrained” vision leads to judges letting criminals off on technicalities). And really, the only place that the constrained vision is well-articulated is in economics, as there is a mechanism that explains why markets / price systems distribute information better than top-down command economies. In all other areas, there is no proposed mechanism why cultural practices that have survived have survived because they are beneficial (in some sense), just the assertion that they have.

      • albatross11 says:

        I thought the model was useful, but Sowell was missing all the places it applied to the conservative movement. The neocons were working within the unconstrained vision when they proposed remaking Middle-Eastern countries into liberal democracies via invasion and nation-building.

    • edmundgennings says:

      A number of books and other media have this effect on me. One, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, was so anti-convincing I had to put it down to preserve objectivity on the broader question.

    • Eternaltraveler says:

      When I was a kid I thought Christianity was obviously and undeniably correct. So I thought it was very important that I read the instructions for the universe God had given us. So when I was something like 11 I read the Bible cover to cover.

      I was an atheist by the time I finished a few months later (I don’t think this kind of thing is that uncommon).

    • L says:

      This article. I suppose there’s a decent chance that guy is reading this comment section, so, sorry to put you on blast like this lol.

      He really had me going at first, because I do think that tolerance of occasional negative events is an important skill.

      I’d like nothing more than to be able to tell my future child “you will be in control of your body and your destiny once we’ve finished making you learn the basics.” But it’s not true.

      This particular resigned reaction to these facts is kind of surprising coming out of the same community that produced Damage Report, but okay.

      Notice the impact of your lifestyle and your actions on other people, and don’t assume that they’ll always just come right out and tell you.

      This is where he lost me, forever, because in the context of the essay this noticing is presented as something that’s in fact occurring excessively. Yes, I’m aware there’s such a thing as too much noticing. There is a thing as too much of almost anything; too much oxygen, too much water. But I have met a lot of people, including people in this general demographic/community, who just… literally do not notice some very serious matters in the people around them that should shape their interactions. And this severely downgraded my estimate of the execution of many elements of Bayesian Rationalism like steelmanning and mistake theory. You think you’re offering smart scientific solutions to the problems of human interaction and then you admit you think that gathering more information is being too much? I’m just completely flabbergasted.

    • Gray Ice says:

      Honestly, I had this response to “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”.

      I was inclined to view J Peterson favorably, based on Scott’s review of this book, and also by the fact that the 12 Rules made reasonable sense by themselves.

      However, when I checked the book out from the library, I found most of the chapters I read to be roundabout elaborations on a simple concept, with some being outright incoherent.

      For instance, the chapter for rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you. As stated in one sentence, this seems very correct and simple. However, reading several pages about his experiences growing up in a small town, and which friends ended up doing OK in life….Provided no additional information, and just left me shaking my head about the specific antidotes (and to be clear, I agree with the one sentence rule as stated).

      I ultimately put the book down, and then returned it to the library. I wanted to be excited about about this book and it’s concepts, but after reading it, my position was downgraded to: “Meh”.

      • The Nybbler says:

        That’s kind of the self-help formula since Dale Carnegie: A few concepts which aren’t really actionable on their own, and elaboration through personal anecdotes (at least in Carnegie’s case, mostly chosen to make him look important)

        • Gray Ice says:

          Nybbler: I think what your saying in entirely true.

          However, I would say that I’ve read two Dale Carnegie books, and I generally felt that the personal anecdotes he shared reinforced the points he made in the chapter descriptions.

          Maybe this just means I just like the Carnegie style better than the Peterson style, or that I went in with different expectations.

          On the other hand, I would really encourage any “buckos” who have had success in cleaning their room to read How to Make Friends and Influence People. You might not like it, but if you do, it may help you continue on the self improvement path.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I’m pretty sure that Peterson talks a lot about how his life wasn’t going in the direction he wanted into graduate school, and the only way he did got to where he wanted was by quitting his drinking and losing a lot of his friends.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      The bible. Reading the bible is what originally made me an atheist. I have more solid grounds for it now, but the bible is what killed my faith.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I am curious what about it did that. My experience was the opposite.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Firstly, the god of the bible is a moral monster – Taken seriously, the bible reads like the accounts written down by people with a bad case of Stockholm syndrome from living under the reign of a demon lord. Basically, the entire text is a pretty strong argument for the Gnostic Heresy.

          Secondly, the world it depicted is simply not the world in which we live. Preachers speak of the mysteries of god, and of the need to have faith in absence of concrete proof, but in addition to being Evil, the God of the bible is the very opposite of shy.

          Concrete, overt, massive acts of divine interventions are constant in the text, and rather noticeably absent from the world. Which is why I became an atheist, rather than a Gnostic. You can not ask me to have faith in the absence of proof, and also ask me to direct that faith at a deity who is claimed to be perfectly happy to miracle vine into being for a party. That is just logically inconsistent.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Thanks for your perspective.

            I disagree with it, especially calling God a moral monster, but I am always interested in hearing what other people think about it.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @EchoChaos
            “Monster” is a pretty strong and emotionally loaded word, but – if I may ask – how would you reflect upon characterizing God as a “superweapon”, especially in Moses’ time? The covenant appears to be pretty much “you people worship me and only me and I shall overcome any problem that stands in your way”.

            It might be hip to say that in those particular chapters God’s da Bomb, but it seems a bit too literal if I think about it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:
            You really don’t understand the perspective of viewing the God of the Old Testament as, a narcissistic, amoral psychopath?

            I’m not going to argue for it, I’m asking you whether you can see how other people look at it given the overall picture of God in the OT?

          • J Mann says:

            @HeelBearCub

            EC didn’t say that he found the perspective incomprehensible, only that he disagreed.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Faza (TCM)

            God’s intervention waxes and wanes. Under Moses, it was pretty substantial, but that’s noted as exceptional even in Old Testament times. There are plenty of long periods of history where no visible intervention occurs. Even for famous Biblical figures like David, much of the intervention could be written off as natural events.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I understand the perspective. I just disagree.

            It implies a moral code that exists outside of God. As a theist, I’m not sure how you can claim that. Deontology is pretty required if you have a Supreme Being.

            Atheists are essentially saying “my personal moral code is violated by God”, which I find relatively uninteresting.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @J Mann:
            He strongly implied that he didn’t understand how reading the Bible could cause one to become atheist when he said:

            I am curious what about it did that. My experience was the opposite.

            @Echo Chaos:
            Why did it pique your curiosity that someone would read the Bible and not be impressed by the God contained therein?

          • Nick says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Why did it pique your curiosity that someone would read the Bible and not be impressed by the God contained therein?

            I’m not EchoChaos, but SSC is a good place for hearing oddball* approaches, so it’s one of the better places to probe others’ beliefs.

            *sorry, Thomas

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Because he was, according to his comment, he was a theist when he read it.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Echo Chaos:

            God’s intervention waxes and wanes. Under Moses, it was pretty substantial, but that’s noted as exceptional even in Old Testament times. There are plenty of long periods of history where no visible intervention occurs. Even for famous Biblical figures like David, much of the intervention could be written off as natural events.

            Yes. Also, focus bias: the Bible is about God’s relationship with mankind, so of course it’s going to focus on miracles as opposed to ordinary, non-miraculous stuff, and of course a naïve reading of the Bible is going to give the impression of constant acts of divine intervention. Plenty of people claim to experience miracles even in the modern world, and if you wrote a book recounting these claims, it would probably give a similar impression of constant divine intervention. Or, to use a secular analogy, if I wrote a book about notorious murderers, somebody reading it might well get the impression that people are constantly being murdered left, right and centre; the fact that this isn’t the case wouldn’t prove that my book was wrong, just that I chose to focus on a particular kind of event.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @EchoChaos:

            Atheists are essentially saying “my personal moral code is violated by God”, which I find relatively uninteresting.

            This. Even Nietzsche talked somewhere about reading “silly English people like George Eliot who have started rejecting Christianity because the Bible violates the moral code the Church implanted in them. They’re not serious enough to realize that rejecting the metaphysics loses them any logical claim to the ethics.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @EchoChaos:
            I take it you have almost no experience with the broader ex-theist community? This is very far from an uncommon story.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @HeelBearCub

            You take it correctly, and I know it’s a large community and I haven’t talked to a necessarily representative sample. But if this is a common occurrence, it seems non-intuitive to me and I haven’t encountered it.

            Most of the atheists and ex-theists I’ve talked with had at best a surface level understanding of the Bible and theology where I don’t believe that any serious reading of the Bible outside the snappy bits atheists love to quote has occurred.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Atheists are essentially saying “my personal moral code is violated by God”, which I find relatively uninteresting.

            This is a pretty bad misquote, or a modeling failure anyway. What the atheists are usually saying is “the moral code shared by practically everybody is violated by God”, which I think is pretty interesting if true. Now if it could be proven (rather than merely asserted) that without God there can be no morality, that might be a nice little gotcha for the atheist but it doesn’t appear to help the theist much: if the rules come from God, doesn’t that just make it worse that he doesn’t seem to be following them?

            A more challenging question for the OP might be: the morality of God is a separate question from the existence of God. How did changing your belief about the first cause you to change your belief about the second?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This is a pretty bad misquote, or a modeling failure anyway. What the atheists are usually saying is “the moral code shared by practically everybody is violated by God”, which I think is pretty interesting if true.

            Is this actually true, or just practically everybody in their bubble?

          • Protagoras says:

            Most of the atheists and ex-theists I’ve talked with had at best a surface level understanding of the Bible and theology where I don’t believe that any serious reading of the Bible outside the snappy bits atheists love to quote has occurred.

            While to be sure shallow atheists outnumber the sophisticated philosophers, knowledge of the bible seems to be yet more uncommon among self-proclaimed Christians than among atheists, and not by a small margin. Either your local environment is providing you with unusually low quality atheists, or, possibly, you might be underestimating how much they know of the Bible (perhaps on the basis of falsely assuming that if they knew it better they wouldn’t disagree with you so much).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            This is a pretty bad misquote, or a modeling failure anyway. What the atheists are usually saying is “the moral code shared by practically everybody is violated by God”, which I think is pretty interesting if true.

            Who’s this “practically everybody” you refer to? If you mean modern Westerners, then this runs into the problem raised by Nietzsche, which Le Maistre Chat referred to. If you mean everybody as in the whole of humanity, then I don’t think such a view can really be squared with a glance at the pre-Christian pagan world — a world in which the Romans regularly forced people to murder one another for fun, the Spartans had an annual festival where they went around murdering their own slaves, poverty was seen as an occasion for contempt rather than pity, any Roman who tried to help the poor was liable to be accused of aiming at kingship and lynched by a mob of senators, and committing genocide against enemy cities was an accepted part of warfare. I love the ancient world, but seriously, if I got teleported back to Republican Rome or Classical Greece, by first move would be to try and stow away on a boat bound for Judaea.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Echo Chaos:

            But if this is a common occurrence, it seems non-intuitive to me and I haven’t encountered it.

            Then I am going to go back to my original question, what part of you doesn’t find it intuitive to recoil from worshiping a narcissistic, amoral psychopath?

            I understand you don’t come to that conclusion, but if someone does come to that conclusion, how is it not intuitive that they very well may lose their faith?

            Most of the atheists and ex-theists I’ve talked with had at best a surface level understanding of the Bible and theology

            This summarizes most atheists, agnostics, theists, deists, spiritual but not religious, … pretty much everyone. This isn’t really saying anything at all.

            If you wanted to understand the perspective of those steeped in knowledge of the Bible but lost their faith, you could read one of Bert Ehrman’s books or listen to Matt Dillahunty’s deconversion story.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            While to be sure shallow atheists outnumber the sophisticated philosophers, knowledge of the bible seems to be yet more uncommon among self-proclaimed Christians than among atheists, and not by a small margin. Either your local environment is providing you with unusually low quality atheists, or, possibly, you might be underestimating how much they know of the Bible (perhaps on the basis of falsely assuming that if they knew it better they wouldn’t disagree with you so much).

            Obvious counterpoint: atheists who are interested enough in religion to get into scriptural arguments aren’t going to be representative of the broader atheist population and are going to be overrepresented amongst the atheists whom you notice, so “It seems that atheists know more about the Bible” is likely to be unreliable.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Mr. X: Beware the automatic inference from “this happened a lot” to “everyone approved of it”: the difference may be harder to see in the past than in the present (“I wouldn’t want to go back to the 21st century, when mass shootings were so popular”), but it’s still important.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Protagoras

            While to be sure shallow atheists outnumber the sophisticated philosophers, knowledge of the bible seems to be yet more uncommon among self-proclaimed Christians than among atheists, and not by a small margin. Either your local environment is providing you with unusually low quality atheists, or, possibly, you might be underestimating how much they know of the Bible (perhaps on the basis of falsely assuming that if they knew it better they wouldn’t disagree with you so much).

            That certainly depends on the self-proclaimed Christian, of course. But the average Christian is involved with one to many actual Bible studies, which the atheist certainly isn’t.

            https://www.pewforum.org/2010/09/28/u-s-religious-knowledge-survey/

            Shows that while they know less about OTHER religions, white American Protestants and Mormons are by far the most knowledgeable about Christianity, including the bible.

            @HeelBearCub

            Then I am going to go back to my original question, what part of you doesn’t find it intuitive to recoil from worshiping a narcissistic, amoral psychopath?

            I am curious how you get that I don’t. I said that I disagreed that the Bible represented a narcissistic, amoral psychopath. I am surprised that a theist, who presumably takes their moral code from Biblical teachings, would find the actions of the Bible indicate that God is one, since that would require a non-God moral code.

          • Protagoras says:

            @EchoChaos, the survey you cite says Mormons and white evangelicals outscore atheists and agnostics when it comes to knowledge of Christianity; atheists and agnostics outscore all other groups of Christians. Thus, unless your definition of Christian excludes Catholics or something, the study does not in fact say that the “average Christian” knows more about Christianity than atheists and agnostics do. I also have my doubts about lumping atheists and agnostics together; I expect the lazy agnostics are dragging the average down.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m well-acquainted with that survey, and frankly I don’t think it’s a very good measure.

            The general rule is that self-identified atheists are better educated than the general population, mostly because the less educated select “none” for religion instead of calling themselves that. You can pull the atheist numbers way down depending on the definition you want to use; Nones are generally worse educated than the general population.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Protagoras

            What Jaskologist said. I am including all the irreligious, who score worse than all Christians but Hispanic Catholics. Avowed “atheist/agnostic” tend to be better educated overall, so it is actually even more a strike against them that they are also better educated than average Evangelicals, which includes many more below average people.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Atheist vs. “None”: I don’t know when y’all are pulling numbers from, but “atheist” is both the better-educated endonym and the lower-status one (as the IdPol Left becomes more powerful). Creationist-bashing is out of date, and the same beliefs that made the likes of Dawkins bash Christianity makes him bash Islam.

          • Protagoras says:

            More from the same link (italics in original represented by removing italics in quote):

            However, even after controlling for levels of education and other key demographic traits (race, age, gender and region), significant differences in religious knowledge persist among adherents of various faith traditions. Atheists/agnostics, Jews and Mormons still have the highest levels of religious knowledge, followed by evangelical Protestants, then those whose religion is nothing in particular, mainline Protestants and Catholics. Atheists/agnostics and Jews stand out for high levels of knowledge about world religions other than Christianity, though they also score at or above the national average on questions about the Bible and Christianity.

            Sorry, this source just doesn’t say what you claim it does.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Atheists/agnostics and Jews stand out for high levels of knowledge about world religions other than Christianity,

            Man, those Ashkenazi excel at everything intellectual, even other religions! 😛

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I am surprised that a theist, who presumably takes their moral code from Biblical teachings, would find the actions of the Bible indicate that God is one, since that would require a non-God moral code.

            This is circular logic.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Mr. X: Beware the automatic inference from “this happened a lot” to “everyone approved of it”: the difference may be harder to see in the past than in the present (“I wouldn’t want to go back to the 21st century, when mass shootings were so popular”), but it’s still important.

            The inference isn’t from “this happened a lot” but from “this happened a lot, and everybody just took it for granted as a normal thing to happen”. E.g., there were no moves to abolish gladiatorial games until the Empire became Christian; Sparta’s annual orgy of Helot-killing didn’t stop the country being looked up to as a model of orderly governance; etc.

          • Nornagest says:

            I am surprised that a theist, who presumably takes their moral code from Biblical teachings, would find the actions of the Bible indicate that God is one, since that would require a non-God moral code.

            This is circular logic.

            It’s not circular, it just includes an assumption that’s probably mistaken — that Christians are likely to get their moral code from the Bible. If you get your morals from the Bible, it is in fact surprising that you’d find God’s actions in it to be immoral; but while most of the Christians I’ve met privilege the Bible in various ways, they get most of their moral code the same way the rest of us do, by inference from the society they live in.

          • Randy M says:

            If you get your morals from the Bible, it is in fact surprising that you’d find God’s actions in it to be immoral

            Only because one of those morals is to trust and obey God.
            But he does plenty that you aren’t to do. Smiting people on his own say-so, or collective punishment for example.

            they get most of their moral code the same way the rest of us do, by inference from the society they live in.

            Save for the last few decades, that society has been taking a large part of it’s moral instruction from the Bible for about 1500 years, though. You’d expect a fair amount of convergence in that time.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is there a Biblical prohibition on collective punishment? I’ve only read it cover-to-cover once, but I don’t remember that bit if so.

            In its historical context, that’d be odd and rather progressive.

          • Nick says:

            You could read the parable of the weeds and the wheat that way, but it would be a stretch.

          • Randy M says:

            Hmm, good for you for asking. I’m thinking for example of:

            One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

            16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

            Where we see that you aren’t to punish without multiple witnesses attesting to guilt, and punishments are to fit the crime. (eye for an eye is presented elsewhere as a more general legal principle).

            Of course, in the next chapter they are told to kill everyone one cities that resist their take over. I think this argues for my point in that it is God’s prerogative to judge collectively and the Israelites are carrying out his judgement; they aren’t to do such things of their own accords.
            But maybe it’s a “different rules for treating in-group vs out-group” situation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            What I meant by circular logic is that the true believer 1) reads the Bible (and listens to their pastor and faith community, etc.) to form their moral code, then 2) they encounter something in the Bible that they realize does not with the moral code they have already learned from the Bible, but 3) refer back to rule 1, so clearly they can’t be finding any actual moral problems in the Bible.

            The way this typically turns into a crisis of faith is that you start (as most Christians do) by forming your moral code based on the big teachings of the New Testament. Because the God of the Old Testament is quite a bit different.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        Somewhat related to this. My good Christian schoolteacher said something like “Read the Gospels, if you read nothing else, just read the Gospels – and you’ll learn all about Gods love.”

        But of course the school’s message was a flaccid protestantism that felt God was never better expressed than in cozy middle class homes in North Idaho in the 90s. I read the gospels and, barring anything about miracles and whatnot, found a Christ who never laughed, never smiled, and didn’t talk about love hardly as much as I expected. What he talked about was the Kingdom of God, and how it was coming, like, tomorrow. He was urgent, things are happening guys get with it, repent, what are you doing?

        On the one hand it helped me understand the awful awful Christian Redoubt people who moved in next door and the subsequent shift in neighborhood makeup from Libertarian to Evangelical, and got me studying early Church history, but it did not really teach me about God’s love, only his tardiness.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Not a book per se, but Mencius Moldbug’s Open Letter to an Open-Minded Progressive. In fairness to Moldbug, this is because I found some of his insights valuable, but they happened to cut both ways.

      Been a while since I read it, so this may not match his terminology, but basically be convinced me that there’s a meaningful category “Enlightenment Progressive” defined by a goal of striving for an ethical society–am aspiration to do better than Moldbug’s preferred philosophy of “Uti Possidetis”, which roughly cashes out as ‘might makes right’.

      The Open Letter convinced me to examine that goal instead of taking it for granted. And upon examination, I found that I do believe in it, am proud to pursue it, and have something important in common with others who share it however much we differ on the details.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Wait, I have a much better answer than the one I just said. Marx’s Capital.

      Okay, it was just one section. But I was scanning for a crux of disagreement, and found my way to the part on surplus value–I figured that his position would fall apart if capitalist profits were earned, and my own (strongly libertarian at the time) position would fall apart of they were unearned.

      What I encountered was an argument that put forth some questionable axioms about use-values and exchange-values and used them to carry out a proof that could apply equally well to long-distance trade as to industrial capitalism. So I concluded that one of Marxism’s core premises was based on a dumb mistake, and I could be justified in dismissing the whole philosophy.

      (I no longer believe they all of Marxism falls without that specific argument, but I do still think that argument is bad)

    • sharper13 says:

      I read an anti-<specific religion> book which had that effect. The author based it on various weird claims about what various leaders of the church had said over time which contradicted the current teachings, didn’t match up with other source materials, etc…

      I looked up the footnotes for the claims in the speeches and documents the author cited and found they were all either obviously taken out of context, or simply didn’t exist where he said they did.

      So I figured if that was the best someone devoted to attacking the religion could do, flat out lie about it at book length, then the opposite of the author’s thesis was more likely true.

      *(Deliberately not mentioning the specific religion in order to avoid an off-topic discussion.)

    • MartMart says:

      Scotts post of why consequentialism was superior to deontology convinced me that deontology was a far better ethics system. Before that, I did not give the subject much thought

    • I read a book on the Alger Hiss case written by a high level British legal authority, I think the equivalent of the U.S. Attorney General or something similar—I believe “Earl” was either his rank or part of the title of his office. It argued that Hiss was innocent. The central thesis was that the evidence against him looked pretty strong, but someone that respectable couldn’t have been a traitor.

      I concluded that if that was the best argument someone defending Hiss could make, Hiss was probably guilty. Also that I now better understood Kim Philby’s success.

  19. helloo says:

    What are some possible non-caloric food fillers and why aren’t they more prevalent?

    What I mean by food fillers are things that are added to food and can replace some of its content but generally minimally affects the flavor.

    The most typical non-caloric example is water.
    Most other examples tend to be some kind of carbohydrate.
    There’s some made of low-quality meat/bone for patties and chicken tenders.
    Sausages can have those or carbohydrate types like cereal binders.
    Pills often use sugar or starch for its bulk material. Similar for candy.
    I’d argue that a lot of non-flavorful bread (ie. hot dog buns) is also mostly acting as a filler and edible plate.

    Yet the only solid non-caloric food filler I know of is cellulose – often described as wood pulp and rather negatively.
    Substituting lettuce for buns also kinda fits. Non/low-caloric sweeteners would count if those weren’t either super sweet and themselves need a filler, or be rather expensive.
    But given the obesity concerns, more focus to low-carbohydrate diets, and calorie counting in general, shouldn’t using non-caloric fillers be a rather popular thing?
    The main issue I see is it being “unnatural” and may cause digestive issues (it may also help, ie. fiber). There’s also some concerns about it being low-status for not being “real” food, but that’s not an issue if it’s purposefully being done for diet concerns.
    I feel that some customers desire to lower calories should be more than enough to overcome those downsides.

    • Lambert says:

      I belive the trick is, rather than add non-caloric filler, to never remove it in the first place.

      i.e. wholemeal bread, brown rice etc.

      • helloo says:

        What about foods that aren’t great in large quantities?

        Ie. Meat, candy

        Also, though I’m not sure how it would affect people’s appetite, what about people that just eat too much in general?

    • baconbits9 says:

      Jerusalem Artichokes are near zero calorie and taste good (ie better than potatoes as a substitute in most situations, and I like potatoes).

      But they give bad gas to a large minority of people who try them.

    • ana53294 says:

      There are Japanese zero calorie noodles called shirataki, which are made with some kind of noodle that expands in water, so they are almost basically water. They taste pretty neutral and absorve lots of flavor.

    • caryatis says:

      It’s pretty standard diet advice to eat lots of vegetables at every meal. Obviously vegetables have *some* calories, but they also do the job you’re thinking of. Eat lots of vegetables, beans, whole grains and other high-fiber food and you can get this result without waiting for someone to invent a new substance.

    • Tetrahedrex says:

      Given the spectacular failure rate of almost every manufactured-food intervention for health and weight-loss, it seems much more logical to use the “fillers” we’re already adapted to and from which we obtain actual physiological benefit (i.e., fiber in all its subtypes).

      It’s likely that Paleolithic humans ate 50%-100% as many grams of fiber as they did grams of digestible carbohydrate, with obviously huge effects on satiety, gut bacterial ecosystem health, and perhaps even cognition (via conversion of fiber into short-chain fatty acids like butyrate that have beneficial cognitive effects).

      If you want fillers, eat more food with beneficial fiber, especially of the prebiotic types:
      -Jerusalem Artichoke/Sunchokes
      -Legumes (especially cooked, cooled, and then reheated for resistant starch)
      -Potatoes (cooked and cooled as well)
      -Dandelion
      -High-fiber fruits
      -Mushrooms
      -Onions and other alliums
      -Lotus root
      -Konjac noodles (also known as shiritaki noodles)
      -Mung bean noodles
      -Green bananas

      If you rely on those as your primary starches, it’s not hard to construct a diet with 50-100g of fiber a day–quite a decent amount of the filler you’re looking for.

      • FLWAB says:

        I have to say, it is difficult to get just 40 grams of fiber per day (the recommended daily amount of fiber is somewhere around 40 for males, depending on who you ask). Several years ago I decided to get more fiber in my diet for all the reasons you said above (plus hemorrhoids) and I thought “Hey, this will be easy! I’ll just need to add some fruits and veggies to my diet, no problem. I’ll go pick up a head of broccoli and eat it with ranch, that should do me for the day.” Then I find out I would need to eat something in the neighborhood of 2.5 to three heads of broccoli just to get above 40 grams: and I’d have to do that every day! That’s too much broccoli. I tried different things, and eventually settled on black beans. A can of black beans has 17.5 grams of fiber in it, and I can generally eat a can of black beans a day. I switched out all refined flours with whole grain flours, and tried to eat some fruits and vegetables to make up the difference. It’s hard work doing it every day though: sometimes I have a meal that doesn’t feature an entire can of black beans, and that sets me back.

        Your list mostly reminds me of how difficult it is. A cup of mung bean noodles has something like .7 grams of fiber. An 8 oz package of uncooked shiritaki noodles has about 8 grams. A cup of potatoes has a little over 3 grams of fiber. One cup of onions has a little under 3 grams. A cup of Jerusalem Artichokes has about 2.4 grams of fiber. So you can see, it can be extremely difficult to get just up to 30 grams of fiber in a day, much less 50. I have no idea how you’re going to get to 100, unless you plan on eating 10 cups of mashed potatoes, 5 cups of onions, 10 cups of mung bean noodles, an entire 8 oz package of shirtaki noodles, and top it all off with over 14 cups of Jerusalem artichoke. That’ll get you to 100 grams: now keep it up every day!

        Fiber is tough.

        • DarkTigger says:

          You looked at the wrong places:
          100g Hasle nuts have ~10g, almonds 11g, crushed linseed have around 39g, wheat bran has 45g.

          100g Fiber still seam hard. But 40 should be possible.

          • FLWAB says:

            Hachee machee, thats a lot of fiber for wheat bran! Do you know of a good recipe for preparing wheat bran? I mean I eat a lot of whole wheat products, but if I can skip eating beans for a day by eating a half cup or so of bran I’d be very interested.

          • Lambert says:

            Bran flakes? They’re like conflakes, but made from the ipart of a grain you’re supposed to throw away.
            I remain unconvinced they’re not just pencil shavings.

            Eat with dried fruits for peak old-man energy.

          • DarkTigger says:

            I know people that put ~20g of bran to their breakfast cereals. Problem is that bran is very light and 20g is a lot of volume.

            I personally try to eat self mixed cereals every day with a lot of nuts and crushed linseeds, and with out the cheap filler material you find in the industrial cereal mixes. (I don’t know how much fiber I actually get by that).

        • Garrett says:

          Dairy Queen Fudge Barsare like a magic food. They have 50 calories and 6g of fiber. I haven’t found a similar recipe in other brands.

    • sharper13 says:

      I’ve had a lot of success with Psyllium husk capsules. Pretty close to pure fiber that expands. Inexpensive “Now” brand on Amazon. Take a couple either at the start or 15-20 minutes before a meal with water and they make it so you get full while eating less. Never seen any negative digestive issues, only positive one.

      You still eat good tasting food, you’re just satisfied with less of it/sooner by it.

  20. ana53294 says:

    I’ve always hated exercise, and I think I’m on a path to finding a regime that works for me.

    I hate sweat, a pounding heart, and running also makes me itchy. But I’ve discovered that slow-heart rate running (with one of those smart watches measuring heart rate), although boring, is quite unobjectionable for me, because I don’t feel my heart pumping, my skin doesn’t itch, and I don’t get diaphragm pain or lose breath.

    I’ve also discovered that I love the objectivity and measurability of weightlifting. I follow a simple workout, where I only do squats, presses/bench presses and deadlifts. And, unlike other sports, where I don’t get an easily measurable improvement, the weight I lift slightly increases with time, so I can really see how much more I can do than last month/year. This ticks all my Aspergery requirements for a sport: no heart pounding, no much sweating, and measurable improvements that motivate me to keep training.

    What are the things you have found that makes exercise more enjoyable/less objectionable? What activities make it more fun for you to do exercise?

    • caryatis says:

      Listening to music makes lifting a lot more enjoyable for me. You might also consider yoga (not hot yoga). It’s generally pretty low-intensity, and you can really see your ability to do poses increase over time.

    • Akrasian says:

      I fun sports like skiing and rock climbing, but they’re not things I can do regularly. If I was less awful at ball sports I’d probably join some sort of team to motivate myself.

      Right now, the only way I can reliably make myself do intense exercise is riding my bike to work and not leaving until the very last minute, so I have to pedal furiously to make it on time.

    • Theodoric says:

      How walkable is your town? I have been walking anything 1 mile or less, when feasible (feasible=no rain, not below freezing, not carrying a large amount of items-and I actually got a cart so “large” means more now). If you want to give this a fancy name, call it Urban Rangering.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I got some mileage for a while from using a treadmill, which enforced a speed, and listening to music selected for a beat that matched my pace. If you use iTunes, there is a mostly free adjunct called beaTunes that either knows the meters of songs or, if necessary, gets it by “listening” to them, so you can filter your favorites for the ones you want.

      Then I read The One-Minute Workout, which turned me on to interval-training; the title promises more than the book can deliver but I started doing twenty-minute sessions that I believe did more for my heart than the much longer sustained speed did.

    • Plumber says:

      @ana53294 >

      “…What are the things you have found that makes exercise more enjoyable/less objectionable? What activities make it more fun for you to do exercise?”

      Except for running things that involve some exploring: bicycling, swimming, even the bit of rowing when I worked under the piers, changes of scenery make exercise more tolerable for me, running around a track less was more like doing heavy lifts which I didn’t like.

    • DarkTigger says:

      I am a person that was able to train himself to have a urge for movement back in high school, so maybe I’m not the best person to ask but thinks that help me to keep up an certain regime:

      – Change the course you run, from time to time to keep things fresh.

      – If you run alone listen to something. I actually prefer podcasts to music, something about calm talking voices works for me to keep me going.

      – I was to a running event this year the first time in my life. See how I messaure up against other people gave me a real motivation boost.

      – Develop a ritual, when you do it every wensday and saturday at 19:00, you won’t get that “but I like to sit here and do nothing” feeling.

      And at last a think I never really learned although I should have by know: Do not try to meassure up to other people. Some people will run further than you, some people will do just on set more than you.
      Skipping one and a half week of training due to sore muscels will throw you back much further than it’s worth.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      This isn’t an answer to your specific question, but itchy as in a rash? If it is, it’s possible you have cholinegic urticaria. It doesn’t sound like a problem if you prefer other exercise anyway, but it might be worth trying an antihistamine / seeing a doctor.

      (I am not really qualified to give out medical advice, but I did have this for a while and antihistamines stopped it bothering me. I used to get it even if I walked too fast).

      • ana53294 says:

        Nah, I don’t get bumps or anything. My skin just becomes red and itchy. I’ve read on it and it seems to be just capillaries in the skin expanding.

        It apparently goes away if you keep training regularly, but it drives me crazy.

    • MartMart says:

      I found cycling to be an enjoyable, but time consuming and expensive form of exercise. You can start slow enough not to raise your heartbeat very much. You can burn more calories in an hour or two than just about any other form of exercise. Playing an audiobook distracts from the pain and allowed me to keep cycling longer. At first, long endurance rides provided a feeling of accomplishment (knowing that 100 miles is something you can ride feels great).
      Using power meters and training programs that rely on them really step it all up to the next level, and by that point even short periods of really high exertion start to feel good when you start seeing the data.

  21. Cariyaga says:

    Does anyone have advice for dealing with long distance relationships? I’m going to be away from my partners for three months until their lease runs out and I can move in with them to a new place, and things are… rough for me right now because of that.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Not poly, and you may be feeling even more alone because they have each other. That’s one of the reasons I’m not. But that’s neither here nor there.

      Say good morning and good night every night. If you find an interesting article, send it and talk about it. Find a game or activity you can do together. Pick up a book or television series you can watch “together.” Send photos if you go anywhere neat. Buy a stuffed animal (this is fantastic) to hug at night. Try very, very hard to maintain the same degree of emotional intimacy in your communications you have face-to-face. Last one is the real killer for me, and requires me to really spend some time with the conversation I’m having. It’s still stilted. Just have to power through. Be honest about how and why it’s hard.

      As for physical intimacy… doing anything over video or audio calls is a bit more awkward than I’m comfortable with, and the feeling of physicality is definitely missing. YMMV.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Say good morning and good night every night.

        This, and the rest. Communicate early and very often. If you went a day without both of you saying at least something, you have screwed up. …This isn’t fatal, but by jove, you had best repeat this as a mantra to yourselves until it’s second nature, so that the next day, you’re apologizing profusely for having missed the previous day.

    • souleater says:

      I have about 6 years of LDR experience… All I can say is it’s a ton of work… I spend 3-5 hours a day on the phone with my GF as well as driving 3 hours one way every other weekend or so to visit her.

      We like to play video games together.. we didn’t at first.. but MMORPGs are a way to “see” you partner/s even though you’re apart.

      LDRs can work.. you just need to spend an unbelievable amount of time to make them work.

  22. caryatis says:

    I’ve read advice not to eat apple seeds because of their cyanide content. Should I be convinced by this? A person would have to eat a truly unreasonable number of apples in order to reach a fatal dose, but is it possible that the cyanide accumulates in the body over time? Or that lower-level cyanide poisoning could cause symptoms?

    I kind of suspect this is purely a theoretical possibility. I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick from eating whole apples, and I’ve been doing it for ~17 years with no apparent ill effects. Admittedly, I eat less than one apple a day on average.

    • benjdenny says:

      No, there’s just not enough cyanide in the apple seeds to get an acute dose. I seem to remember there’s about a gram; the lethal dose of cyanide is something like 2 g/kg. Those numbers might be off, but not by a ton. So you are looking at needing to eat potentially hundreds of them to get to a point where you’d be hurt, and that’s if you are chewing the apple seeds. Cyanide doesn’t bioaccumulate, so there’s not really any “small amounts over time” worries.

      • edmundgennings says:

        “A fatal dose for humans can be as low as 1.5 mg/kg body weight”
        Also chronic cyanide poisoning is a problem with Cassava so this could be a problem with apple seeds. But otherwise I do not know.

      • nkurz says:

        > the lethal dose of cyanide is something like 2 g/kg

        Yikes! You may be right that eating apple seeds is safe, but I think your numbers are dangerously off. The actual LD50 of cyanide is about 1/1000 of that amount:

        “Absorption of the alkali cyanides in amounts as low as 50 to 100 mg from a single, instantaneous dose may be followed by immediate collapse and cessation of respiration [Clayton and Clayton 1982]. It has been stated that although the fatal oral dose will vary considerably, depending on whether or not food is present in the stomach, it is probably in the order of 1 to 2 mg/kg [Clayton and Clayton].”

        https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/idlh/cyanides.html

        • Nornagest says:

          The lethal dose of cyanide is off by a few orders of magnitude, but fortunately so is the cyanide content in apples: the correct value is about half a microgram per seed, according to this Quora post. You’d need to eat a truly stupendous number of seeds to be in any serious danger, though less-than-lethal neurotoxic effects mean you probably don’t want to be snacking on them by the handful.

        • caryatis says:

          Isn’t that about inhaled cyanide?

          • nkurz says:

            Much of the linked page is about inhalation, but since the part I quoted refers to the “fatal oral dose” and since the dosage depends on the presence of food in the stomach, I don’t think the LD50 dosages are referring to inhaled cyanide.

        • benjdenny says:

          Woops! Yeah, that’s what I get for going off memory. I’d looked into it in the past and the general message applies, but I definitely thought I was remembering the numbers better than I apparently was.

    • abystander says:

      I eat apple seeds incidental to eating an apple. If you eat a couple in the course of eating an apple it isn’t a problem, but I’ve heard if you save a cupful and eat them all at once it would be a problem.
      https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318706.php

    • Machine Interface says:

      Wait, people eat apple seeds? Why? And more importantly, how?

      • AlphaGamma says:

        I had a colleague who would eat entire apples including the core. She didn’t think this was weird, and in fact thought we were weird for throwing away perfectly edible apple cores.

        For regional context, she had grown up on a farm in former East Germany (but was born after the wall came down). There were no other Germans in the group.

        • DarkTigger says:

          As a German: This is not considered normal behaviour around here.

          People already think it is strange how clean I pick the apple core before I throw it away.

      • caryatis says:

        How? The same way you would eat any small thing…they tend to fall out when you bite into the core. I like the taste and texture, and it’s more convenient and less wasteful than having to carry an entire core around and find a place to throw it away.

        (try it yourself! it probably won’t kill you)

        • acymetric says:

          (try it yourself! it probably won’t kill you)

          Almost certainly not, it will just make me not want to ever eat an apple again. Do you at least remove the stem?

          • caryatis says:

            Yes, the stem is the only inedible part. I don’t know why you assume the core and seeds taste bad? They taste largely the same as the rest of the apple, with less soft texture.

          • acymetric says:

            Because I’ve accidentally eaten too far into the apple before. Personal experience.

            Texture and taste kind of go hand in hand.

          • Protagoras says:

            I’m not sure I’d express it the way acymetric does, though on the other hand I’m not sure why the going hand in hand wording strikes me as wrong. I certainly would agree that texture is an extremely important part of the eating experience, quite frequently making the difference between what I seek out and what I avoid eating. And in this specific case, apple core texture is definitely in the to be avoided category for me.

  23. detroitdan says:

    Has anyone else been following the theory that Lyme Disease was caused by U.S. biological weapons development on Plum Island, NY? The case is laid out in a couple of books as described here. The circumstantial evidence seems overwhelming.

    Burgdorfer published a paper in 1952 about the intentional infecting of ticks. In 2013, filmmaker Tim Grey asked him, on camera, whether the pathogen he had identified in 1982 as the cause of Lyme disease was the same one or similar or a generational mutation of the one he’d written about in 1952. Burgdorfer replied in the affirmative. Interviewed by Newby, Burgdorfer described his efforts to create an illness that would be difficult to test for — knowledge of which he might have shared earlier with beneficial results for those suffering.

    By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.

    I’ve seen a couple of responses purporting to discredit the theory, but these seem disingenuous and shallow.

    When the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming, the burden of proof shifts to the “nothing to see here” crowd, in my opinion.

    Thoughts?

    • dick says:

      What was disingenuous or shallow about that first article (a Tufts professor who says that the Lyme-causing bacteria has been found in samples from decades before the conspiracy was alleged to have occurred)?

      • detroitdan says:

        Thanks for all the responses.

        Responding to dick:

        The Tufts professor seems inappropriately assertive, as if it’s absurd to think something might be up when:

        1. Lyme disease has spread geographically outward from an island that was used for bio-weapons development.
        2. The bio-weapons development on the island was notoriously sloppy.
        3. The person who discovered the Lyme Disease pathogen in 1982 had written a paper in 1952 about the intentional infecting of ticks with the Lyme pathogens while working for the U.S. government on bio-weapons development.

        An honest response would have admitted that it can’t be stated for certain that this is all coincidental. The intent of the response leaves the impression that Telford’s purpose is to shut down discussion of this conspiracy theory, as opposed to honestly addressing the circumstantial evidence. And the alternative explanation for the spread of Lyme’s Disease — “reforestation, suburbanization, and a failure to manage deer herds” — doesn’t explain anything.

        • abystander says:

          point 1 Lyme disease spread from a location close to the island which is kind of circumstantial but not the same as spreading from several locations around the island.

          point 3 The person wrote a paper about the intentional infecting of ticks with a different pathogen in 1957 while working for the department of health. A search in google scholar didn’t find a 1952 paper and he couldn’t have been writing about infecting with the Lyme pathogen since it wasn’t officially discovered.

          The big question is how would the military have known about the Lyme pathogen since would have been very hard to discover before hand and it doesn’t seem like a promising military weapon making the soldiers come down with arthritis after a couple of years.

          • detroitdan says:

            responding to abystander:

            Regarding point 1:

            By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.

            Regarding point 3: The Lyme pathogen was discovered by Willy Burgdorfer in 1982.

            Burgdorfer published a paper in 1952 about the intentional infecting of ticks. In 2013, filmmaker Tim Grey asked him, on camera, whether the pathogen he had identified in 1982 as the cause of Lyme disease was the same one or similar or a generational mutation of the one he’d written about in 1952. Burgdorfer replied in the affirmative.

            As to how and why the military was working with the Lyme pathogen, Kris Newby says:

            In 1953 the U.S. biological weapons program started weaponizing fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes by infecting them with either lethal or slow-acting incapacitating microbes, depending on the military objective.

            The Army explained: “In 1953, the Biological Warfare Laboratories at Fort Detrick established a program to study the use of arthropods for spreading anti-personnel BW agents. The advantages of arthropods as BW carriers are these: they inject the agent directly into the body, so that a mask is no protection to a soldier, and they will remain alive for some time, keeping an area constantly dangerous.” Source: U.S. Army Chemical Corps, “Summary of Major Events and Problems (Fiscal Year 1959),” Rocky Mountain Arsenal Archive.

            Burgdorfer, the discoverer of the Lyme bacterium, was a key member of this project team. He worked on weaponizing ticks and teamed up with fellow tick expert James Oliver at the Ft. Detrick bioweapons headquarters to develop ways to mass produce infected ticks so that they could be dropped from airplanes on enemy territory. These claims are backed up by interviews with these scientists, as well as with extensive government documentation from multiple reliable sources, all listed in BITTEN.

          • abystander says:

            @detroitdan
            The guy can write about the existence of paper in 1952 but a literature search didn’t find it.

            The claim is that the Army knew of Borrelia causing disease before the public, so they could use it to infect the ticks.

            For that to be true there had to be a program to find these slow-acting incapacitating microbes. This would have involved taking biological samples from hundreds of people with diverse pathologies like arthritis, back pain, asthma etc in hopes of finding some new microbe. Is there any evidence that the army did widespread canvasing to find to find novel biological agents?

            Then they had to learn to grow it. It took the public almost 40 years to learn to reliably culture Borrelia.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590594/

            Then they would have to test the organism to ensure that it had the desired affect. Are there any records where prisoners or recruits that the army could keep under observation had symptoms similar to those caused by Borrelia?

          • detroitdan says:

            replying to abystander:

            Check out the Bitten document trove. It’s not surprising that a 1952 paper, that evidently embarrasses the government, is hard to find. I believe the Bitten author that they really did find it, but you are free to be skeptical.

            The claim is that the Army knew of Borrelia causing disease before the public, so they could use it to infect the ticks.

            For that to be true there had to be a program to find these slow-acting incapacitating microbes. This would have involved taking biological samples from hundreds of people with diverse pathologies like arthritis, back pain, asthma etc in hopes of finding some new microbe. Is there any evidence that the army did widespread canvasing to find to find novel biological agents?

            Then they had to learn to grow it. It took the public almost 40 years to learn to reliably culture Borrelia.
            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3590594/

            Then they would have to test the organism to ensure that it had the desired affect. Are there any records where prisoners or recruits that the army could keep under observation had symptoms similar to those caused by Borrelia?

            Again, it’s a matter of who you trust. I believe Kris Newby and the obvious evidence of the disease emanating from Plum Island, along with the extensive corroborating evidence they’ve unearthed. My take is that Burgdorfer and his associates in the bio-weapons program were screwing around with stuff they didn’t really understand. Decades later they realized what had probably happened. Makes more sense to me than that this is all a coincidence — that were admittedly infecting Lone Star ticks with the Lyme Disease pathogen, and that Lyme disease broke out subsequently from the exact location where the admittedly sloppy military testing had taken place.

          • abystander says:

            @detroitdan

            That bitten files link points to a bunch of mug shots.
            You may want to recheck it and find the papers describing what he was actually infecting the ticks with.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The intent of the response leaves the impression that Telford’s purpose is to shut down discussion of this conspiracy theory, as opposed to honestly addressing the circumstantial evidence.

          I think this happens with an awful lot (all?) conspiracy theories. Like, I’ve never doubted that the Sandy Hook shooting happened as the media reports it did. And if it were just some hoax to push gun control, well it didn’t work. But I did see the videos of the father of one of the slain children before the official interview starts and he’s laughing and joking, and then it’s time to talk to the reporter and he appears to “get into character” and starts crying. That made me say, “that sure is strange behavior, but then again I have no idea what kind of things I’d do or how I’d act if I just experienced that kind of horror. Kind of like Ben Affleck in Gone Girl. Can someone who knows about the psychology of trauma explain this behavior to me?” Alex Jones sees it and yells “hoax!” But nobody bothers to explain the bizarre behavior to Alex or me or anyone to rebut the hoax charge. They just scream “how dare you!” at Alex and that’s that. I don’t think it was a hoax, but I’d still like an explanation for that behavior.

          Same thing with pizzagate. No, I do not think there’s a child sex ring being run out of a pizza shop in D.C. But that was the least interesting part of that conspiracy theory. Tony Podesta has some weird, weird art on his walls. And there were some strange things in his emails. I would still like to know what a…I think it was a “pizza-related map handkerchief” is, and why anyone would bother trying to return one to someone who lost it. And I know it would be super awkward to ask and everything, but it would be nice if someone asked Podesta so he could say “it’s one of these things, ya dummies!” and show his famous collection of handkerchiefs that have maps to restaurants on them or something. But instead the media just yelled “debunked!” No it wasn’t. No one ever did any investigation. Now, it’s a fantastical claim so I don’t think it’s true, but it was declared false before anyone even tried to see if it was true.

          With regards to conspiracy theories, the refutations would be more convincing if authorities tried to figure out why someone might have the erroneous beliefs they do, and then point out the errors in their facts or logic rather than flatly stating “false” with no investigation or explanation. Used to be when you saw a UFO the g-man shows up and says “you’re just confused friend, ’twas merely swamp gas reflecting off a weather balloon.” Now we don’t even get that. It does look suspicious.

          ETA: Oh, but the big question I would have about lyme disease is…why on earth would anyone try to “weaponize” lyme disease via deer ticks? Where’s the military advantage? How would you use this in warfare?

          • detroitdan says:

            responding to Comrade Honcho…

            Tackling the big question first, here’s the rationale for weaponizing deer ticks:

            In 1953 the U.S. biological weapons program started weaponizing fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes by infecting them with either lethal or slow-acting incapacitating microbes, depending on the military objective.

            The Army explained: “In 1953, the Biological Warfare Laboratories at Fort Detrick established a program to study the use of arthropods for spreading anti-personnel BW agents. The advantages of arthropods as BW carriers are these: they inject the agent directly into the body, so that a mask is no protection to a soldier, and they will remain alive for some time, keeping an area constantly dangerous.” Source: U.S. Army Chemical Corps, “Summary of Major Events and Problems (Fiscal Year 1959),” Rocky Mountain Arsenal Archive.

            Burgdorfer, the discoverer of the Lyme bacterium, was a key member of this project team. He worked on weaponizing ticks and teamed up with fellow tick expert James Oliver at the Ft. Detrick bioweapons headquarters to develop ways to mass produce infected ticks so that they could be dropped from airplanes on enemy territory. These claims are backed up by interviews with these scientists, as well as with extensive government documentation from multiple reliable sources, all listed in BITTEN.

            With regard to Sandy Hook and PizzaGate, the burden of proof would seem to be on the conspiracy theorists to come up with a plausible narrative, which they haven’t as far as I know. This differs from the Plum Island events which are widely acknowledged (there was bioweapons experimentation there — everyone agrees, and no one disputes that it was very sloppily managed).

          • acymetric says:

            I mean, have you ever been to a visitation/funeral? It isn’t just weeping and wailing for 2 days and 2 nights…people do joke, catch up on non-death related things, and so on. It also wouldn’t be surprising (or even bad) that the father would play up his grief for the interview…made all the easier by the fact that he has real massive grief to tap into.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @detroitdan but why lyme disease?

            @acymetric sure, that is a plausible explanation. Someone should have said that to Alex Jones instead of just screaming “how dare you!”

          • acymetric says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Well…I don’t think Alex Jones has earned a lot of charity from those people. That explanation also seems…kind of self evident, in the way that it not being the default conclusion kind of suggests an agenda. Since Alex Jones is the kind of guy that…certainly tends to have agendas (or at least that is how he is perceived by people on the left), I don’t think it is terrible surprising that the response was “don’t be an ***hole” rather than a calm, reasoned explanation in response.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah, but the problem with Jones is that he has an audience. It’s not just that he’s wrong, it’s that he convinces many other people of the wrong thing by saying plausible(?) things. If the media/left is bothered by that, perhaps point out the errors in Jones’ logic, discrediting him. Instead they just want to shut him down. This sends the messages to his fans, “Alex is right and the Illuminati space lizards just don’t want us to know!”

            The blanket denials of the lyme disease thing didn’t convince detroitdan the military didn’t weaponize lyme disease, they made him think they were covering it up.

          • Enkidum says:

            Someone should have said that to Alex Jones instead of just screaming “how dare you!”

            No, absolutely fucking not. Alex Jones is a completely vile monster who deserves everything that comes to him. If I met him, I would spit on him. This is not a metaphor, it’s just all I could do without getting serious charges. If you think otherwise, you really, desperately need to recalibrate.

            You don’t get the benefit of civilized discourse when you go down his road. Calling people paid actors whose children have just been slaughtered is not something that is within the bounds of reasonable discussion. The correct response to people like him IS to scream at him, and refuse to allow him any entry point into discussion with people who aren’t moral monsters.

            But instead the media just yelled “debunked!” No it wasn’t. No one ever did any investigation

            The “investigation” consists of walking into the pizza parlour, and noting that it doesn’t have a basement. That is it. And various outlets did exactly this.

            Why the fuck shouldn’t we just make fun of people who take this shit seriously? At best, it’s really really dumb. At worst (pizzagate and Sandy Hook), it’s actively evil. There is no reason why these morons are owed an explanation, other than a slap across their goddam face.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Enkidum,

            Not trying to derail the discussion here, because it’s really interesting, but can you elaborate on why you feel so strongly about Jones in particular?

            I can understand what you’re saying to an extent, because I get pissed off by e.g. the 9/11 truthers who hang around One World Trade with their conspiracy theory signs. Those kind of antics are incredibly disrespectful both to the families of the victims and to the city / country which still have the scars of the World Trade Center attacks. I don’t spit on them, but the saying “if looks could kill” is applicable.

            The language that you’re using though sounds more applicable to Adam Lanza himself. I wouldn’t call a truther a monster, and I think that the people who provide point-by-point rebuttals to the “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams” crowd are providing a valuable service. So my empathy is kind of failing me here.

          • Bobobob says:

            +1 to what Enkidum said. I can’t even imagine being a Sandy Hook parent accused by Alex Jones of lying about the murder of my own kid. And I’m comparably baffled by the inclination here to give Jones and his followers any moral latitude whatsoever.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Two things.

            One, calling bereaved parents actors is a direct attack on real people. Blaming “the government” gives you plausible deniability when it comes to doing that. It’s still offensive, but it’s not a direct attack. A more direct comparison might be, “the 9/11 flight crews did 9/11 and framed innocent Muslims for it.” That’s pretty spit-worthy.

            Two, there’s no way to actually attack the claim. No equivalent of, “jet fuel can’t melt steel beams.” The entire conspiracy is built to make counterargument impossible; everyone’s an actor, all documents are fake/planted, Sandy Hook is a potemkin village. It looks like a house of cards from the outside, but the fucking thing is superglued together.

          • nkurz says:

            @Enkidum> There is no reason why these morons are owed an explanation, other than a slap across their goddam face.

            What about the pragmatic reason that an explanation might prevent others from being persuaded by them? Conrad’s main point isn’t that they have a right to an explanation, but that an explanation prevents others from hearing only one side of the argument and being falsely persuaded. Do you feel that the current approach of refusing to engage is working well?

          • detroitdan says:

            The blanket denials of the lyme disease thing didn’t convince detroitdan the military didn’t weaponize lyme disease, they made him think they were covering it up. [Conrad Honcho]

            Sometimes blanket denials are appropriate, when there is little evidence to support a theory and/or the theory is unjustly maligning innocent people.

            Sometimes blanket denials are inappropriate. When someone admits to playing with matches at the spot where the forest fire started, it’s reasonable to assume that they might be responsible. In that case, a blanket denial is not helpful.

          • Matt M says:

            I can’t even imagine being a Sandy Hook parent accused by Alex Jones of lying about the murder of my own kid.

            Basically every time I go on social media, I am accused of being a racist white supremacist bigot who is actively contributing to the rounding up and probable eventual genocide of vulnerable minority children.

            It sucks but eventually you just sort of learn to tune it out?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Matt M

            <troll> Have you tried not being a racist white supremacist bigot who is actively contributing to the rounding up and probable eventual genocide of vulnerable minority children going on social media? </troll>

          • J Mann says:

            Yeah, it seems to me there’s a difference between:

            1) Alex Jones is a bad person because should have known that his theories were so hurtful that he had a special responsibility to investigate further and more skeptically than he usually does. (Agree)

            2) Jones is a bad person because there is reason to believe that he knew there were substantial reasons to doubt his theory, but he pushed it anyway and did not disclose the contrary info. (I think this is true, but don’t remember where I read it, so take it with a grain of salt.)

            3) Hurtful ideas like the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory should require an additional burden just to enter the conversation. They’re so offensive that we shouldn’t even discuss the merits until the proponents come forward with an unusually substantial amount of evidence.

            (I can agree with #3 as well, but it seems that you then end up in a discussion of whether the conspiracy theorists’ initial evidence is sufficiently substantial. I’m also a little disgruntled that the norm doesn’t apply to, e.g., twitter shaming, which can put ordinary people on the front page of the NYT with little or no fact checking.)

          • Enkidum says:

            can you elaborate on why you feel so strongly about Jones in particular?

            Jones has been weaponizing discourse to dangerous and gullible fools for the past thirty or forty years. He is one of the people most single-handedly responsible for harming public discourse in that time. Every 9-11 truther, every Obama birther, every Sandy Hooker, every anti-vaxxer, every chemtrail activist, every pizzagater, all of these twits have a direct connection (whether they know it or not) to Jones. He is pretty much the prime stream from which all of this nonsense flows.

            (Almost) all of which is perfectly legal, and acts as a relatively safe warning sign – as soon as someone mentions his name positively, you know that they are someone you can safely ignore. But what he’s done recently with Sandy Hook (and other massacres) is way beyond the pale. He doesn’t get to get away with that (and, for the first time in his entire career, he appears to have suffered actual material consequences as a result of it).

          • Enkidum says:

            Do you feel that the current approach of refusing to engage is working well?

            I think it worked reasonably well from roughly the point at which Buckley kicked the lunatics out of mainstream conservative discourse until around 2005ish. Around that point, mainstream conservative discourse invited the lunatics back in.

            I’m not sure what the solution is.

            I will note that detailed, point by point refutations of pretty much all these conspiracy theories are available, and have always been available, and anyone who is sincerely interested in learning why they are stupid and evil can find these things out without too much difficulty.

          • Two McMillion says:

            With regards to conspiracy theories, the refutations would be more convincing if authorities tried to figure out why someone might have the erroneous beliefs they do, and then point out the errors in their facts or logic rather than flatly stating “false” with no investigation or explanation. Used to be when you saw a UFO the g-man shows up and says “you’re just confused friend, ’twas merely swamp gas reflecting off a weather balloon.” Now we don’t even get that. It does look suspicious.

            The answer to this is, “You can’t win, and any action you take will make the problem worse. Also, not taking any action will also make the problem worse.”

            Provide reasoned arguments against Alex Jones? You’ve legitimized him, and you’ve made his platform seem more respectable to people. Shout him down? You’ve made him a martyr, and his followers will dig in even more. Do nothing? He’ll just yell that you’re ignoring his arguments. Now you look like an idiot.

            There’s no solution to this.

          • dick says:

            If the media/left is bothered by that, perhaps point out the errors in Jones’ logic, discrediting him.

            Great idea, and then we can explain to the professional wrestlers that they don’t need to hit each other, they could just talk their problems out.

          • Matt M says:

            Have you tried not going on social media?

            Good idea. Maybe I’ll just watch CNN or read the New York Times instead.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @acymetric

            I mean, have you ever been to a visitation/funeral? It isn’t just weeping and wailing for 2 days and 2 nights…people do joke, catch up on non-death related things, and so on.

            As I’ve thought about it I withdraw my agreement with this. Yes, when my grandma passed away in her sleep at 97 after a protracted decline in her health, we were sad at her funeral but there was little wailing and gnashing of teeth and despair at the cruelty of the world. When my brother’s wife died suddenly at age 46, there were many more tears at the funeral. The jokes remembered good times we had with her, followed immediately by sobs over how much we’d all miss her, but even then none of the smiles or laughs came from my brother, who was despondent. For a father to be laughing after his five or six year old is senselessly and suddenly murdered requires a deeper explanation than “eh, people joke at funerals sometimes.” That needs an explanation like “the trauma is so extreme people can experience something akin to a psychotic break where their behavior is nearly unfathomable because their perceptions and reality are entirely disconnected.” I think of something like the guy at the beginning of Saving Private Ryan bending over on the battlefield to pick up his blown-off arm while bullets are still whizzing by him. That’s not rational behavior, but he’s experienced such immense trauma “rational” is no longer on the table.

            @Enkidum

            I think he’s a kook but mostly harmless. There are plenty of nutjobs out there with an audience, like the Black Hebrew Israelites or the bizarre afrocentrist conspiracy theorists who think everything notable in ancient history was really done by Africans and white people stole their history. See also Ancient Aliens on the History Channel. As far as poisoning public discourse goes, I’ll point you towards the Rachel Maddow Show.

            It would also be easier to despise Jones if it weren’t for all the government conspiracy theories that turned out to be true, like mass surveillance and CIA mind control drugs. Perhaps he serves the barely useful purpose of “being willing to entertain literally any idea.” There are even kooks who will entertain completely nutty ideas like did Abraham Lincoln sign a demonic pact with the ghost of Attila the Hun?

            I like conspiracy theories. They’re fun.

            @Two McMillion

            Provide reasoned arguments against Alex Jones? You’ve legitimized him, and you’ve made his platform seem more respectable to people. Shout him down? You’ve made him a martyr, and his followers will dig in even more. Do nothing? He’ll just yell that you’re ignoring his arguments. Now you look like an idiot.

            There’s no solution to this.

            Yes there is. You do what Snopes does well with regards to urban legends and miserably on politics. You examine the claims, point out why they’re wrong, and when somebody says they believe in the theory or try to convince you of the theory, you link them to the refutation. Snopes fails because they strawman any argument right of center. For instance, what Enkidum did with

            The “investigation” consists of walking into the pizza parlour, and noting that it doesn’t have a basement. That is it. And various outlets did exactly this.

            ignoring that I was talking about Tony Podesta’s art collection and emails. The pizza parlor was the last and least interesting part of the conspiracy theory developed, but rather than look at why people thought there might be something going on with Podesta, where the theory started, he deflected to the pizza parlor and the basement. And the basement wasn’t even central to the claim there was weird stuff going on at the pizza parlor. A lot of that was questionable looking things involving children posted on the social media accounts of the parlor owners/guests. Explanation of those things are more important than “somebody on the internet said there was a basement and look there’s not.” This was exactly what the mainstream media did when they became aware of the theory. They immediately framed it as “pizza parlor basement” but it all started from people looking at Podesta’s leaked emails and making connections.

            Podesta’s emails said weird stuff that doesn’t make obvious sense and sounds like some kind of code. Like “Do you think I’ll do better playing dominos on cheese than on pasta?” Now, that does not make sense without context. I’m assuming this is some kind of inside joke? But the conspiracy theorists thought it was a code for some kind of illicit sex thing. It would be easier to debunk if somebody could ask Podesta, “what does that mean in context?” And then he would say…I don’t know. I literally can not come up with a way that is a sensible statement. It can’t even be like “play the game of dominoes better after eating cheese or after eating pasta” because no one thinks cheese or pasta influence table top game performance? “On a full stomach” or even “on a stomach full of cheese” might make sense, but no one says “on cheese” as a shorthand for “on a stomach full of cheese” and even then it makes no sense next to “dominoes.”

            It’s kind of like hearing your neighbor say “I’m going to smoke grass and snort some snow.” It makes no sense because no one smokes literal yard grass and no one snorts literal snow. What the hell is “grass” and “snow?”

            Explaining the innocuous meaning for this would be more useful because I could then completely dismiss the people who say it’s a code. This would be much more useful than, say, spitting on people who say it’s a code, because it seems like a way over the top reaction, and spitting on someone who questions why a weird thing is weird makes me have sympathy for the questioner and highly suspicious of the motives of the spitter.

          • dick says:

            That email is not very confusing, in context. In thanking John for this year’s Christmas gift, Herbert included a postscript referring to some humorous shared experience they had relating to last year’s gift. As evidence of child sexual assault goes, this isn’t.

          • broblawsky says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            The reason why Podesta (and other targets of right-wing conspiracy theories) shouldn’t engage with conspiracy theorists is that it legitimizes them and helps them secure and expand their audience. In a broader sense, private citizens don’t have a moral obligation to engage with every ludicrous demand on their time. What’s the fundamental difference between making Podesta explain why he isn’t a pedophile and making Jordan Peterson explain why he isn’t a homophobe or a white supremacist?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dick

            Great, then ask him for the explanation of the humorous thing. More importantly, ask him about his art collection. I’m on a work computer right now so I’m not going to go looking that stuff up, but you can search for it. Like he’s got paintings that appear to depict a group of adults watching another adult have sex with a child. This is the sort of artwork I would not want to own, not only because it’s disturbing to me, but I would be worried other people would look at it and think I was involved in some kind of group sex abuse of minors. It’s not like these things don’t exist, like the UK parliament scandals and the Catholic Church. So people saw stuff like that, thought that’s what Podesta was up to, went looking through his emails for “evidence,” found sentences that don’t make sense, add some confirmation bias and we’re off to the races.

            But thank you for addressing the actual “evidence” for the theory, rather than deflecting. That’s all I’m saying should happen. Look at the actual claims and provide alternative explanations.

            @broblawsky

            What’s the fundamental difference between making Podesta explain why he isn’t a pedophile and making Jordan Peterson explain why he isn’t a homophobe or a white supremacist?

            The mainstream media would never do the former and will never stop doing the latter?

            ETA: I just realized I was saying “Tony Podesta” in some of these posts. That’s his brother. It was John Podesta’s emails and art collection.

          • Matt M says:

            The reason why Podesta (and other targets of right-wing conspiracy theories) shouldn’t engage with conspiracy theorists is that it legitimizes them and helps them secure and expand their audience.

            Doesn’t this ultimately just boil down to naked power politics though?

            As a counter-example, CNN regularly promotes the conspiracy theory that Trump called white nationalists “very fine people.” This is a lie.

            But because CNN has more power than the various right-wingers who (correctly) call it out as a lie, calling it out as a lie doesn’t work. The only option for the right is to produce a five minute video very thoroughly debunking it on a point-by-point basis. But I’m not aware of anyone on the right who thinks that Prager U is somehow horribly mistaken in doing this – that they’re just “legitimizing CNN.”

            Basically, you casually dismiss Infowars because you can. Because 95% of Twitter employees agree with your politics, you can simply ban him. But if 95% of Twitter employees were red tribe, that sort of thing wouldn’t fly.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            As a counter-example, CNN regularly promotes the conspiracy theory that Trump called white nationalists “very fine people.” This is a lie.

            Look, I understand exactly what you mean, but, holy balls this is not a “conspiracy theory”. C’mon, man.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think almost any set of personal emails or text messages you could get would include a lot of weird-sounding cryptic comments, and would support connecting-the-dots to “prove” various crazy sh-t about the writers in the hands of a conspiracy theorist.

          • Enkidum says:

            Great, then ask him for the explanation of the humorous thing. More importantly, ask him about his art collection.

            No, don’t. Leave him the fuck alone.

            If you get access to my personal communications, or even if you figured out who I was IRL and looked at every post I’ve ever made under this pseudonym, you are not suddenly entitled to pester me about them. Despite the fact that there are thousands, many of which are really hard to understand, and many of which make reference to public figures.

            You think some random dude who owns a pizza parlour is somehow required to respond in detail to a bunch of dangerous lunatics who have been combing through his life for a couple of years? This is a really bad judgement. Seriously, the legitimization of this kind of horseshit is not ok, and to the extent that you are doing it (which is precisely what you are doing in this thread), you are doing something morally wrong.

            This shit isn’t harmless. People have shown up at this pizza joint with weaponry. People have, repeatedly and often, threatened the Sandy Hook parents. This is not the kind of thing that one should just brush off. There are some questions that are not worth answering, because their asking indicates that there is something wrong with the person doing the asking.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @albatross11

            Yes, I agree, I think the Podesta email stuff was confirmation bias. I don’t believe in the conspiracy theory (although I do have questions about his art collection), all I’m saying is the proper way to debunk a conspiracy theory is to provide alternative explanations for the facts rather than spitting. Or what the media does and call something “debunked” without ever bothering to do the debunking.

            ETA: @Enkidum

            You can’t stop people from asking questions about major news events. Once they’ve done it and, as you rightly recognize, it’s serious enough that potential violence is involved, you can either ignore it or answer questions. It’s bad all the way around (assuming the accusations are false), but answering the questions is probably a better choice.

            Like look at Covington Catholic. People on twitter were screaming for violence against those boys, bomb threats were being made against their school, crazy protestors were showing up at their school because people wrongly thought they were evil. I think the boys were right to go to the news media and explain their side of story. Should they have had to do that? No, it’s terrible, people should have left them alone to begin with. But there’s nothing morally wrong about asking them to tell their side of the story to clear the air.

            ETA: I mean, I don’t really see the moral reasoning here. The pizza parlor people posted images on their public facing social media that, combined with the captions, appeared to sexualize children. People noticed and wondered if they were having sex with children. How does asking them to explain the context of the photos and captions make one a moral monster? It seems reasonable, particularly when sex with children is “frowned upon.” Showing up with a gun is right out, that’s definitely moral monster territory, but asking them to explain is not.

            Would this standard apply for somebody that you didn’t like being questioned by somebody you do? Like if Ben Shapiro were posting weird pictures of children with sexual comments on them and left-wingers demanded an explanation, would you accuse them of being moral monsters for bothering poor Ben?

          • dick says:

            Great, then ask him for the explanation of the humorous thing. More importantly, ask him about his art collection…. Like he’s got paintings that appear to depict a group of adults watching another adult have sex with a child.

            Appear to whom, the same people who see secret pedophile codewords everywhere? And they would totally see why they’re wrong and drop the whole thing, if given a reasonable explanation? Because trolls are so well-known for going away if only you feed them enough?

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Enkidum,

            Fair enough, thanks for answering my question.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Appear to whom, the same people who see secret pedophile codewords everywhere?

            I don’t see secret pedophile code words everywhere and that painting looked like people having sex with children to me. If you want, later I’ll find it and link it and you can tell me what you think, as I assume you are not the sort of person who sees secret pedophile codewords everywhere.

            And they would totally see why they’re wrong and drop the whole thing, if given a reasonable explanation?

            All of them, no, most of them yes.

            What’s the standard you’re arguing for here? Never respond to any accusations? Even if you could do so with ease?

          • Matt M says:

            Conrad,

            Once again, it’s about power.

            Podesta doesn’t have to explain himself to Alex Jones, because he’s more powerful than Alex Jones. And the longer he goes on refusing to explain, the more this is confirmed. Covington Catholic does have to explain themselves to CNN, because they are less powerful than CNN.

            As another analogy, couldn’t Barack Obama have dispelled a lot of the rumors and conspiracies surrounding his birth by producing his birth certificate? Most certainly. So why didn’t he? Because it wasn’t in his interest to do so. It was more useful of him to say “No, I won’t do it, and you can’t make me” because that confirmed he was more powerful than his accusers.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Matt M

            Eh, I don’t’ think that was a mere power play with Obama. I think he’s a very smart politician and, with allies in the media, framed any questions about his past as racist. Birthers were perceived as racist, and nothing they did would make a damn bit of difference to Obama supporters, so why interrupt your enemies when they’re making a mistake?

            I believe this is the exact same reason Trump will not release his tax returns. Not a single vote would change one way or the other if he did. If his tax returns show he’s just the richest, best, most charitable businessman in the world, Rachel Maddow is not going to say “oh, guess I was wrong about Trump, he’s a great guy now vote for him.” And if they show he’s poor and stingy I’m not going to say “aw man, guess I’m ready for open border and socialism now.” But his enemies in the media are wasting barrels of ink harping about his tax returns instead of focusing on something that might actually make a difference in his support. If I were his advisor, I would say “never release the tax returns. Your enemies are wasting their time on something meaningless, so let them.” If I were Obama’s advisor I would have said “never release the birth certificate. Your enemies are wasting their time on something that makes them look dumb.” It’s not just a show of power, it’s a media strategy.

          • dick says:

            What’s the standard you’re arguing for here? Never respond to any accusations? Even if you could do so with ease?

            Of course not. I don’t understand why you would think that. The answer to “So, are you also taking a much stronger and more general position than the one you just described?” is almost always going to be no. That’s sort of what the principle of charity means.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            Do you have any objection to parents of murdered kids having more power over their own lives than an obnoxious scaremongering radio show host? Or having more power over their lives than the idiots he managed to convince?

            “Papers, please” is bad enough when it comes from Joe Arpaio. It’s worse when it comes from Alex Jones and his internet mob. The correct response to, “you’re not a real American” or “you’re a crisis actor and that’s not your kid” or “you rape kids in a pizza parlor” is “go fuck yourself,” not “here’s access to all my personal information.”

          • J Mann says:

            @Conrad

            1) Do you think that Podesta explaining the domino joke would deflate the conspiracy theory by much? My guess is that people inclined to believe the theory would announce that they found his explanation unbelievable and demand more proof. (Compare Kavenaugh explaining Devil’s Triangle.)

            2) The whole thing seems like an invasion of privacy. This guy got his emails stolen, so now he has to satisfy internet randos by revealing more of his life?

            I’d be happier with a norm that says we don’t pry into people’s private lives unless someone comes up with a lot more than the Pizzagate people ever did.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I’m asking about the meta-level principles, which I think is enlightening, and kind of what moral philosophers do.

            Alice sees Bob do something suspicious, but there is an innocent explanation. Alice goes to Carol and says, “I think Bob is doing a bad thing.” Carol wonders if Bob is doing the bad thing.

            What should Bob do? Tell Carol and Alice the innocent explanation, or ignore it?

          • J Mann says:

            Fair enough – my proposal is that “get your nose out of other people’s business” is a good enough norm that we shouldn’t covenant this kind of Rear Window citizen’s inquiry unless there’s a pretty convincing case.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @J Mann

            1) Do you think that Podesta explaining the domino joke would deflate the conspiracy theory by much?

            Some. It would mean that when someone uses that as evidence I could say to them “no you moron, he was talking about the time the flkjsihewoh did the aousdofih” instead of me shrugging and saying “yeah, I have no idea what that means.”

            2) The whole thing seems like an invasion of privacy.

            Yes it is, but that’s never stopped the media. And we’re talking about the guy running the political campaign for one of the two people who would be President of the United States. They absolutely love leaks from the Trump campaign and the Trump White House, which are certainly invasions of privacy and have no problem asking Trump very embarrassing questions in response to unverified leaks of private conversations in front of other world leaders. I’m not sure how hard I’m supposed to clutch my pearls for John Podesta.

            I mean, do we honestly think that if Trump’s campaign manager’s emails had been hacked he wouldn’t be hounded to answer questions based on the most uncharitable interpretation of his words as possible relentlessly?

            This guy got his emails stolen, so now he has to satisfy internet randos by revealing more of his life?

            Absolutely not. He can do whatever he wants. But damage was done, and once you’re in damage control mode, I’m not sure ignoring it is the best option.

            Also we might want to make a distinction between how the victims of conspiracy theory accusations respond and how the media covering them responds. For instance, @Hoopy, yes, the father should tell Alex Jones to fuck off. However it’s still a weird video, so when reporting on the evil accusations Alex Jones makes, it would be worthwhile for the good media to bring on a grief counseling expert to explain the thing that made Jones think his evil accusations had merit. “Oh, yes, I can see how someone might think that, but people simply do not understand the completely erratic and unpredictable ways people respond to trauma.” Or whatever the real explanation is.

            ETA: All I’m saying is, if one is trying to debunk a conspiracy theory, attacking the “evidence” is probably more useful (and less suspicious) than attacking the conclusion. There are still people who believe Trump conspired with Russia to steal the election, but when I was arguing with people on this forum I attacked the evidence for the conspiracy theory. I didn’t just say “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION A PATRIOT LIKE DONALD TRUMP!” That would not have been very effective.

          • broblawsky says:

            The mainstream media would never do the former and will never stop doing the latter?

            Reverse that and you understand why these people shouldn’t engage with conspiracy theorists: right-wing media will never stop accusing them no matter what they do. Or do you believe that the kind of people who signal-boost Alex Jones rants are inherently more trustworthy journalists than the “mainstream media”?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @broblawsky

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Should Peterson refuse all interviews with mainstream media outlets and only talk to YouTubers?

            I feel like this is ignoring that while yes, there are die hard partisans who act in bad faith, there still exists at least some group of people who can be persuaded by truth.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:+1

            [To the post about why Obama didn’t release his birth certificate and Trump won’t release his taxes.]

          • broblawsky says:

            I’m not sure what you’re getting at. Should Peterson refuse all interviews with mainstream media outlets and only talk to YouTubers?

            I feel like this is ignoring that while yes, there are die hard partisans who act in bad faith, there still exists at least some group of people who can be persuaded by truth.

            As far as I can tell, the kind of “journalists” who signal-boost Alex Jones are exclusively the former.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            The appropriate analogy here is Time Cube guy.

            One day TCG walks into a professors office and explains his theory of perpetual motion and free energy. It’s complex and multi-level and completely wrong. The professor spend 8 hours showing him why his theory is wrong. TCG seems mollified, but not yet totally convinced.

            The professor tries to work on his research project, but is mentally drained by how damn hard it is to try and explain things to someone who is just on the other side of the sanity line.

            On day 2 he comes back again with small alterations that change nothing fundamental. Professor only gives him 4 hours and says he has to work.

            ….

            On Day 31 after TCG has been escorted off the premise yet again by security, Time Sphere Guy shows up…

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a kind of ugly tradeoff here.

            a. Implausible conspiracy theories are pretty common in the world, and some subset tend to be taken seriously and widely reported on by mainstream sources, while others are dismissed.

            b. Most of these conspiracy theories are nonsense. Occasionally, one is true or at least has some grain of truth at its heart.

            c. Some subset of crazy people and sociopaths on the internet key off these conspiracy theories and then do nasty and sometimes horrifying things in response.

            d. We know of examples where the real conspiracies went on for years under the noses of both legal authorities and media sources[1], while not getting much coverage or even being dismissed just like the crazy conspiracy theories.

            e. The same mechanisms of angrily dismissing a claim and calling its adherents crazy or evil is used all the time for plausible claims[2], by the same mainstream sources that do it with Alex Jones’ nonsense.

            f. It would in some sense be nice to see serious people willing to address the non-crazy versions of these conspiracy theories in a fact-based non-crazy way. But doing so tends to lend credence to them, in ways that encourage the crazies and sociopaths to more nasty behavior.

            [1] For example, consider the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal, or Bernie Madoff’s long-running Ponzi scheme. Or the CIA’s network of secret prisons, or the incredible depth of mass-surveillance carried out by the NSA against Americans after 9/11. And these are the things that came out–presumably many more things along these lines never came out and so remain crazy conspiracy theories that everyone knows are silly.

            [2] For example, consider “IQ is racist pseudoscience” or “Science proves that race doesn’t exist.”

          • Enkidum says:

            Alice sees Bob do something suspicious, but there is an innocent explanation. Alice goes to Carol and says, “I think Bob is doing a bad thing.” Carol wonders if Bob is doing the bad thing.

            What should Bob do? Tell Carol and Alice the innocent explanation, or ignore it?

            Except… Alice is a verified moron, who has been spouting utter horseshit for decades.

            Carol is in the wrong here for not immediately dismissing this. She can get fucked.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad:

            I’d recommend avoiding engaging with any journalist or media personality who you think will not be engaging in good faith. That includes many mainstream journalists, but it also probably includes Alex Jones. (I’ve never seen anything by Jones, so I don’t really know that–I’m judging him by reputation.).

          • dick says:

            No, I’m asking about the meta-level principles, which I think is enlightening, and kind of what moral philosophers do.

            That certainly sounds lofty. But going from, “This guy should not respond to those people because they’re trolls” to “People should not respond to other people atall” is not ascending to a higher meta level, it’s stripping context and exaggerating.

            Back on the non-meta-level, I think the best response Podesta could offer for any and all questions about his confusing emails is the one Peter Sellers gave in Murder By Death:

            Sidney Wang: Very interesting theory, Mr. Charleston, but you overlook one very important point.

            Dick Charleston: And that is?

            Sidney Wang: (giggling) Is stupid. Is most stupid theory I ever heard!

            You simply cannot make heads or tails of why Podesta has acted the way he’s acted or why someone here would say what they say without remembering that the theory being alleged is deeply, deeply stupid. It is a category error to compare it to other theories that aren’t.

          • Enkidum says:

            Hmmmm…

            Not for the first time, I may be overstating some things.

            To be specific about my claims that I’m still comfortable with:

            1) Alex Jones is straight up evil. He’s also not very smart.

            2) Taking Alex Jones’ claims seriously is a moral failing. People (most specifically Conrad Honcho) are doing that all over this thread. This is not ok. You should not do this. Anything along the lines of “but look at those photos of the kids”, or “but look at the way the dad was behaving at the new conference”? Not ok. Stop it. You are making a serious mistake by not immediately rejecting evidence that comes from him, or that he popularizes. You have something seriously wrong with your threshold for what counts as good evidence. Consider “but what if the Jews ARE sacrificing gentile babies”? The only difference here is the number of people targeted by the evil lie.

            2a) All of us make mistakes, and all of us are blind to them. Being criticized for a moral failing is not the same thing as being accused of being a monster. Jones is a bonafide monster. You shouldn’t pay attention to him, and you should have immediately rejected all of those lines of “evidence” you’ve been discussing (please don’t share them, they’re nonsense and everything you’ve said about them is nonsense). But that doesn’t make you him.

            3) There probably does need to be some kind of way to deal with these claims that isn’t what I’ve been doing. I am clearly not the person to be doing this. And none of the people personally targeted by these vile campaigns owe it to the world to be doing this (although, I will note, several of the Sandy Hook parents have spent years doing precisely this, engaging the lies and the hatred as best they can). I have no idea what the best solution is.

            4) I feel like I’m honour bound, given where I’m posting, to note that there have been various phenomena of a similar nature that have been blown up by the left wing. I do think none of the recent ones have been remotely as vile, or as obviously false, as FALSELY ACCUSING SOMEONE OF RUNNING A MURDEROUS PEDOPHILE RING, or FALSELY ACCUSING GRIEVING PARENTS OF BEING PAID ACTORS. But I’ll agree that what happened to the Covington kids, for example, was not really the right way of dealing with what was, at absolute worst, some kids being kind of assholes (and I suspect it wasn’t even that).

          • nkurz says:

            @Enkidum> You think some random dude who owns a pizza parlour is somehow required to respond in detail to a bunch of dangerous lunatics who have been combing through his life for a couple of years?

            Part of the problem with the discussion is that different people focus on different details.
            Personally, I find the trope of referring to James Alefantis as “some random dude who owns a pizza parlor” to be terribly misleading. I feel like calling him that either shows that you’ve been misled by the respectable media, or that you don’t mind misleading others.

            In 2012 GQ magazine included Alefantis a list of “The 50 Most Powerful People in Washington DC”: https://www.gq.com/gallery/50-most-powerful-people-in-washington-dc. This wasn’t done as a joke, but because like everyone else on that list, he’s one of the most influential and politically connected people in DC, which is the one of the most politically powerful places in the US.

            This doesn’t at all mean that Alefantis was running a pedophile ring. It doesn’t mean that armed men should be wandering into one of his restaurants looking for evidence of molested children. It doesn’t mean that he has a responsibility to answer to anyone for the details of his private life.

            But it’s does mean that it’s really misleading to call him “a random dude who owns a pizza parlour”. So in a discussion about how trust is established in cases where parties are starting from different perspectives, why call him that?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Enkidum

            Ad hominem attacks don’t change my mind much. I saw the Sandy Hook father video before I ever heard of Alex Jones and thought it was weird when I saw it. Jones did not invent pizzagate, that was going on in the chans and reddit. That Jones believes the CIA did mind control experiments doesn’t mean MKULTRA didn’t exist.

            Also I have never watched an episode of his show. The only time I’ve seen him was the time he was on Joe Rogan.

            Your method of debunking conspiracy theories by ignoring facts and calling people evil is the thing I’m saying is ineffective. It doesn’t change the fact the Sandy Hook father acted weird. It does not change Podesta’s bizarre taste in art. It does not change how other people interpret those things.

            In the interest of reducing the chances internet crazies harass people accused of vile conspiracies, let’s do the effective method of debunking the conspiracy theory by providing the reasonable alternative explanation to the events that make someone think a vile conspiracy is going on rather than the ineffective method of calling people evil. Agreed?

          • Enkidum says:

            I feel like calling him that either shows that you’ve been misled by the respectable media, or that you don’t mind misleading others.

            I was not aware of who he is. I have done my best to learn as little as possible about the case. Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think this changes anything of importance?

            (And yes, I am perfectly comfortable being as dismissive as I have been about this case which I know very little about. It’s garbage.)

          • broblawsky says:

            Ad hominem attacks don’t change my mind much. I saw the Sandy Hook father video before I ever heard of Alex Jones and thought it was weird when I saw it. Jones did not invent pizzagate, that was going on in the chans and reddit. That Jones believes the CIA did mind control experiments doesn’t mean MKULTRA didn’t exist.

            Also I have never watched an episode of his show. The only time I’ve seen him was the time he was on Joe Rogan.

            But it’s pretty clear, based on the way you’re talking about pizzagate, that at least some of the media sources you follow are signal-boosting him and those like him. Do you think that their decision to uncritically repeat these claims should have no impact on your personal perception of their trustworthiness? At what point do you consider yourself obligated to update your priors regarding your media consumption?

            Your method of debunking conspiracy theories by ignoring facts and calling people evil is the thing I’m saying is ineffective. It doesn’t change the fact the Sandy Hook father acted weird. It does not change Podesta’s bizarre taste in art. It does not change how other people interpret those things.

            In the interest of reducing the chances internet crazies harass people accused of vile conspiracies, let’s do the effective method of debunking the conspiracy theory by providing the reasonable alternative explanation to the events that make someone think a vile conspiracy is going on rather than the ineffective method of calling people evil. Agreed?

            No. Conspiracy theories are bottomless, and people like Jones and his supporters can be assumed to always be acting in bad faith. Once you’ve caught someone lying to you and operating in bad faith often enough, you are no longer obligated to respond to them in good faith. This is a pretty clear-cut ‘tragedy of the commons’ type problem, and after a certain point, the correct solution to misuse of the commons is to bar some people from using it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dick

            “Is stupid” was my first reaction to the Trump-Russia conspiracy, too. It never made any sense that Trump and his smart and evil compatriots would sell their souls to Putin in exchange for some mostly innocuous emails. And since Hillary losing was in Putin’s interests anyway because she wanted his ally Assad gone and Trump don’t care, also pipelines, there’s no reason for Putin to withhold the emails without Trump’s cooperation. The idea that megamurican icon Donald Trump plus Manafort and Bannon and Kushner and Don Jr are all going to put explosive collars around their necks and give the trigger to Vladimir Putin in exchange for some emails that do not reveal high crimes or devil worship is stupid. Is very stupid. Is so so so so stupid. This did not stop the entire media establishment, half the country and the very smart and wonderful Democrats of SSC from going all in on this incredibly stupid conspiracy theory.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @broblawsky

            What lies are you talking about? The video of the Sandy Hook father was real. It wasn’t some guy they lied about by pretending he was the Sandy Hook father when he wasn’t.

            Jones takes true facts and draws erroneous or unsubstantiated conclusions but I’m not aware of him deliberately lying, which is more than I can say for CNN. When they claim Trump called white nationalists “very fine people” they’re deliberately lying and they know they’re lying.

            Jones is an honest idiot. CNN is deliberately malicious. What’s your opinion of CNN?

          • dick says:

            “Is stupid” was my first reaction to the Trump-Russia conspiracy, too.

            Those are not remotely comparable. The idea of Trump colluding with the Russians isn’t stupid, his underlings actually considered it. A high-profile DC politico being a child sex criminal isn’t stupid either, something similar seems to have happened with Jeffrey Epstein. What’s objectively and obviously stupid is thinking that Podesta is a child sex rapist, accusing him of it, finding no evidence, and carrying on believing it anyway.

            That’s not the equivalent of the Trump investigation. It’s not even the equivalent of believing Trump colluded despite the Mueller report. It’s the equivalent of believing that the Trump pee tapes are real because you found “PEE” spelled out in acrostic in an old magazine ad for Trump Steaks.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Except no one bothered to investigate Podesta. They stopped at “is stupid.” Even though that one’s not actually stupid if you look at his art collection. Sandy Hook is stupid because it makes no sense: even if it were staged for gun laws they didn’t get their gun laws and there’s no plausible way the staging gets to the gun laws. It was stupid on the face of it just like Trump-Russia.

            Trump-Russia was stupidly implausible to begin with, occupied the entire nation for two years and even after a multi million dollar investigation disproved it people still cling to it. And have morphed it into new ridiculousness like “Moscow Mitch.”

            How do we diffuse these incredibly stupid conspiracy theories?

            Eta: oh, and no his underlings did not consider it. You’re stating falsehoods, unlike Alex Jones.

          • dick says:

            You’re stating falsehoods, unlike Alex Jones.

            When I said his underlings considered it, anyone with even an ounce of charity would’ve conclude that I meant “the stuff that his underlings did as described in the Mueller report, which some people say was super bad and others say was totally fine but which I can’t describe explicitly because you would just argue with how I characterized it”, and not… I don’t even care what you assumed I meant.

          • nkurz says:

            @Enkidum> I don’t think this changes anything of importance?

            At the object-level of “Is there a child sex ring operating out of a DC pizzeria?”, I think it’s safe to say that nothing of importance changes. Your priors that it’s obviously ridiculous are almost certainly correct, and anyone who claims that this specific scenario bears serious investigation is probably misled or trolling. But this is mostly because of the prior unlikelihood of the scenario, and not because there is completely zero evidence.

            At the meta-level I think there’s something more interesting happening, which is that the media has done an impressive job of replacing the original narrative (which Conrad describes) with a strawman, which it then decisively refutes. There are a number of conclusions one could draw from this, but I think a useful one is that in the very unlikely case that there was a horrible conspiracy in plain site, a similar strawman would likely be constructed and also decisively refuted.

            I don’t know, however, what one should do with this insight. In any case, thanks for your polite response.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dick

            Nothing in the Mueller report indicates consideration by Trump underlings to engage in conspiratorial behavior in exchange for illegally hacked emails. The only people who got dirt from Russia was the Clinton campaign, and the defense of this behavior is that they paid for it. So if the Russians actually had proof Hillary had engaged in illegal behavior, to make the acquisition of this information unassailable all a Trump lawyer would have had to do is lean over and say “cut them a check.” Which they certainly would have done but never had the opportunity to do because no such information existed.

            Also, say what you will about his motivations, at least Alex Jones recanted his Sandy Hook accusations. Does it mean anything that Alex Jones is more intellectually honest than you are? He says true facts and draws false conclusions, and recants them when proven false. You say false facts, draw false conclusions, and do not recant them when proven false. This is really not good.

            Jones is an idiot. You don’t seem to have that excuse.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            You brought up Mueller, not me.

            dick, in the spirit of SSC love and charity, it’s ok to admit Trump didn’t conspire with Russia. Yes, he’s a horrible person and everyone who supports him is moral monster. But naw, he didn’t conspire with the Russians. No one will think worse of you for admitting that. Quite the opposite.

          • Enkidum says:

            I don’t know, however, what one should do with this insight. In any case, thanks for your polite response.

            Every now and then I manage to force one of those out :).

          • AliceToBob says:

            @dick

            When I said his underlings considered it, anyone with even an ounce of charity would’ve conclude that I meant “the stuff that his underlings did as described in the Mueller report, …”

            I didn’t, and charity has nothing to do with it. You’re assuming I read the Mueller report. I avoided it because the conspiracy theory of collusion seems “deeply, deeply stupid”, as you put it.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Enkidum

            I was not aware of who he is. I have done my best to learn as little as possible about the case. Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think this changes anything of importance?

            (And yes, I am perfectly comfortable being as dismissive as I have been about this case which I know very little about. It’s garbage.)

            One point seems to be that you undermine your creditability with statements like that. So, yeah, it changes things of importance if you consider important your ability to be persuasive. Ignorance is strength!

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ Conrad

            Re Podesta. The reasons behind the strange emails and/or his art collection might be embarrassing for non-pedophile-related reasons. In which case, his refusal to engage seems sensible and justified.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            4) I feel like I’m honour bound, given where I’m posting, to note that there have been various phenomena of a similar nature that have been blown up by the left wing. I do think none of the recent ones have been remotely as vile, or as obviously false, as FALSELY ACCUSING SOMEONE OF RUNNING A MURDEROUS PEDOPHILE RING, or FALSELY ACCUSING GRIEVING PARENTS OF BEING PAID ACTORS.

            You agree that falsely accusing the President of the United States, and an extreme American patriot of literal treason is bad, right? The penalty for treason is death.

            Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon and the rest of their ilk pushing the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory is orders of magnitude worse than falsely accusing grieving parents of being paid actors or falsely accusing someone of running a murderous pedophile ring. The false accusations against the Sandy Hook parents and Podesta and the pizzeria are bad, and I feel bad for them. But that only really effected them and doesn’t seem to have cost them anything besides emotional angst.

            TDS is real, and has real world consequences. Go to /r/politics* and it is not at all hard to find people who have cut family members out of their lives because they support an evil Russian traitor like Trump. I’ve posted before my wife’s best friend lost her marriage to TDS. That stuff drove her so crazy her husband couldn’t stand her anymore and they’re getting divorced. They have two sweet little boys who are going to grow up in a broken household now because of the vile and incredibly stupid conspiracy theories pushed by CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, WaPo and people on this very website. The MSM’s stupid conspiracy theories have damaged millions of lives.

            Add in the millions of dollars wasted on the Mueller report. Add in the opportunity cost of the government tied up for two years on this monstrously stupid conspiracy theory. Imagine what we could have done with international relations with Russia without this shit-stirring? A safer Europe, a more peaceful planet.

            And all anyone had to do to debunk that incredibly stupid theory is think for two seconds, just like Sandy Hook.

            “Would anyone with two brain cells to rub together stage an elaborate fake mass shooting of children to hopefully move the needle ever so slightly on the gun control issue and maybe get some laws passed, which incidentally were not passed? Oh. No. While my political opponents are evil, no one is that stupid because the risk is enormous and the gain is both minuscule and uncertain.”

            “Would anyone with two brain cells to rub together commit literal treason with an evil foreign autocrat in such a way that he could destroy me and my family and everything I’ve ever built and have me executed in infamy in exchange for some emails that don’t really reveal anything we don’t already pretty much know? Oh. No. While my political opponents are evil, no one is that stupid because the risk is enormous and the gain is both minuscule and uncertain.”

            And Maddow and Lemon and the rest of them don’t even have Jones’ excuse of just being stupid. They knew this stuff was false and pushed it anyway. And still won’t recant!

            So, if you want to turn this into a left vs right thing, you are throwing stones from a house that’s already shattered into a million pieces. Nothing Alex Jones could ever do will be as bad as Maddow and Lemon and the rest, and they still have shows.

            * Do not go to /r/politics.

            ETA:

            Re Podesta. The reasons behind the strange emails and/or his art collection might be embarrassing for non-pedophile-related reasons. In which case, his refusal to engage seems sensible and justified.

            That’s a very good point and reasonable explanation.

          • dick says:

            dick, in the spirit of SSC love and charity, it’s ok to admit Trump didn’t conspire with Russia. Yes, he’s a horrible person and everyone who supports him is moral monster. But naw, he didn’t conspire with the Russians. No one will think worse of you for admitting that. Quite the opposite.

            I don’t think Trump colluded with Russia. I don’t know why you think otherwise. I ask again, stop trying to goad me into defending something I didn’t say. It’s really aggravating.

          • broblawsky says:

            What lies are you talking about? The video of the Sandy Hook father was real. It wasn’t some guy they lied about by pretending he was the Sandy Hook father when he wasn’t.

            Jones explicitly argued that the Sandy Hook shootings were a fraud, that no one was actually killed, and that everyone involved was a paid actor. He isn’t “just asking questions”, he’s making assertions that he himself has claimed were the product of
            mental illness, presumably in order to avoid legal liability for them. Frankly, I’m amazed that you’re willing to defend him or them.

            Jones takes true facts and draws erroneous or unsubstantiated conclusions but I’m not aware of him deliberately lying, which is more than I can say for CNN. When they claim Trump called white nationalists “very fine people” they’re deliberately lying and they know they’re lying.

            Jones is an honest idiot. CNN is deliberately malicious. What’s your opinion of CNN?

            This is pure whataboutism, as are your references to the Trump-Russia scandal. I won’t respond to them, and neither should anyone else.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not defending Alex Jones, I’m just not condemning him any more than I condemn anybody else who believes crazy stuff and spouts it on the internet. There’s nothing uniquely bad about Jones.

            And there’s nothing wrong with bringing up CNN and MSNBC and the rest. Rachel Maddow is every bit as bad as Alex Jones but I wouldn’t spit on her.

          • broblawsky says:

            I’m not defending Alex Jones, I’m just not condemning him any more than I condemn anybody else who believes crazy stuff and spouts it on the internet. There’s nothing uniquely bad about Jones.

            You just defended him in this post, and you previously defended him by claiming that he was “honest”.

            And yes, Alex Jones and his ilk are uniquely bad. He and his supporters are unique in accusing grieving parents of being paid “crisis actors”. The magnitude and cruelty of these accusations are staggering. And you’re defending his honesty and morality, signal-boosting his ideas – ideas that he himself has described as being the product of mental illness – and claiming moral equivalency between him and conventional media sources. All I’m asking you to do is to reevaluate the perceived honesty of the media sources from which you got these ideas.

            And again, I will not engage in whataboutism. This blog is, at least theoretically, dedicated to rational and logical thought. We should be above the classic Tu Quoque fallacy.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            He and his supporters are unique in accusing grieving parents of being paid “crisis actors”. The magnitude and cruelty of these accusations are staggering.

            (1) Jones later apologized and said he now no longer believes Sandy Hook was a fraud.

            (2) On a lark, I listened to Jones’ second(?) appearance on Joe Rogan, as well as a clip of an interview on some British show. He probably does have a mental illness, based on the way he can’t seem to stop himself from interrupting other people.

            (3) Jones may be uniquely bad in having once asserted Sandy Hook was a fraud, but he’s nowhere near unique in misrepresenting the news in a way that gets people hurt.

            These “whataboutism” accusations have been aggravating me lately. It’s not whataboutism; it’s pointing out a double standard. Side A does something rotten, and side B hurls no end of tomatoes at it. Side A points out that side B was doing something rotten too, and side B cries “whataboutism”. If side A caves and fixes A’s rottenness, B conspicuously finds something else A is doing, rather than fixing the rottenness on the B side.

            End result: we can’t have nice things. Sure, maybe A is pointing out rotten B in order to skate by without cleaning up A’s side. But by that same meta-argument, B is launching a DoS attack to paralyze A, and is indistinguishable from someone unwilling to apply B’s own standards to B’s behavior. Moreover, B started that whole fight.

          • Aftagley says:

            Edit: wrote something then decided the world was better without it.

            Can we just declare this thread CW and let it die?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I respect your restraint (note: what you had written is still in my email), but if you really want to make the world better, consider what I was going to write in response:

            My personal solution isn’t to do nothing; it’s to acknowledge that the problem has grown wedged over the years, and is not solved by having conservatives denounce skinheads and liberals doing nothing else. It also helps to acknowledge that if a crazy identifies with you, that doesn’t mean you necessarily identify with the crazy.

            Over time, everyone hopefully gets used to distinguishing the crazy from the not. Also, distinguishing the sides within sides. Libs and cons are complicated. There’s no substitute for trying to track the complexity, at least a little. This is one of the few forums that seems to recognize this.

          • broblawsky says:

            (1) Jones later apologized and said he now no longer believes Sandy Hook was a fraud.

            After his career and his life had been destroyed by his own cruelty. I’d be more inclined to forgive him if he recognized the consequences of his actions before they affected him.

            (2) On a lark, I listened to Jones’ second(?) appearance on Joe Rogan, as well as a clip of an interview on some British show. He probably does have a mental illness, based on the way he can’t seem to stop himself from interrupting other people.

            I’m reluctant to try to psychologically diagnose public figures, but I am comfortable with calling him an asshole.

            (3) Jones may be uniquely bad in having once asserted Sandy Hook was a fraud, but he’s nowhere near unique in misrepresenting the news in a way that gets people hurt.

            These “whataboutism” accusations have been aggravating me lately. It’s not whataboutism; it’s pointing out a double standard. Side A does something rotten, and side B hurls no end of tomatoes at it. Side A points out that side B was doing something rotten too, and side B cries “whataboutism”. If side A caves and fixes A’s rottenness, B conspicuously finds something else A is doing, rather than fixing the rottenness on the B side.

            End result: we can’t have nice things. Sure, maybe A is pointing out rotten B in order to skate by without cleaning up A’s side. But by that same meta-argument, B is launching a DoS attack to paralyze A, and is indistinguishable from someone unwilling to apply B’s own standards to B’s behavior. Moreover, B started that whole fight.

            Whataboutism – and it’s more general form, the Tu Quoque fallacy – is bad because it derails the argument. Fallacies aren’t necessarily useful at winning discussions, but they are effective in turning conversations into screaming matches by appealing to the worst in people. Tu Quoque, in particular, is functionally identical to an Ad Hominem attack – it attacks the target’s tribe, rather than the target itself, but the effect is similar. If you believe that it’s good to try to actually have conversations rather than “win”, you have a moral obligation to ignore these kinds of tactics.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I’d be more inclined to forgive him if he recognized the consequences of his actions before they affected him.

            If your kid touched a hot stove, would you be more sympathetic if they got burned, or if they escaped injury?

            Whataboutism – and it’s more general form, the Tu Quoque fallacy – is bad because it derails the argument.

            I repeat: It’s not whataboutism; it’s pointing out a double standard. It’s not derailing the argument; it’s pointing out a problem with it.

          • J Mann says:

            FWIW, I think this discussion needs to welcome Whattaboutism – if the proposition being debated is that Alex Jones is uniquely or unusually bad, I don’t see you can test that concept without examining other cases.

            I’d say the closest recent example is people who continued to argue that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in the act of surrender long after it became apparent that was unlikely to be the case. There are distinctions, but he was not a public figure, it put lives at risk, and the people pushing the story probably honestly believed it, but seem unlikely have approached the facts very objectively.

          • broblawsky says:

            If your kid touched a hot stove, would you be more sympathetic if they got burned, or if they escaped injury?

            I don’t think this is a good metaphor. It’s more like if my kid got burned in the process of trying to force someone else to touch the stove. In which case, no, I’m not going to be sympathetic at all.

            I repeat: It’s not whataboutism; it’s pointing out a double standard. It’s not derailing the argument; it’s pointing out a problem with it.

            I disagree: claiming the existence of a double standard is absolutely the technique behind standard Tu Quoque fallacies. The classic example, of course, is the Soviets deflecting criticism from their human rights record with And you are lynching Negroes. It’s a way of derailing and reframing the argument rather than addressing the opponent’s point. In this specific case, @Conrad Honcho was using this technique to avoid having to defend his decision to cast further aspersions on private citizens who have been harassed for years by dangerous conspiracy theorists. I feel that if you start a conversation with, “you know, I think maybe these guys really are pedophiles”, it’s justifiable if someone asks you to defend your position.

          • albatross11 says:

            J Mann:

            I think there have always been crazy conspiracy theorists/mongers out there, and I guess Jones is one of them. But it seems like the damage done is not done by him, but by the very small fraction of crazy and sociopathic members of his audience who actually act in some nasty way on the crazy conspiracy theories–say, by harassing the parents of children murdered by the Sandy Hook nutcase, or by walking into that one DC pizza place with a gun.

            One plausible model for this sort of thing is stochastic terrorism. Some media personality somehow incites a few crazy or evil people to do some horrible thing, while denying any responsibility. But if you hold that to be the case for the Alex Jones w.r.t. the awful people who threaten the Sandy Hook parents, I think you also have to hold that to be the case for the media who misrepresented the shooting of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, w.r.t. the awful people who threatened Wilson and Zimmerman. Or for the organizers of BLM w.r.t. the lunatics who were inspired by them to shoot policemen in New York City and Dallas.

            The stochastic terrorism model seems like it’s inconsistent with individual responsibility for your actions. And it seems very convenient for people who want to justify shutting down their opponents’ speech.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I don’t think this is a good metaphor. It’s more like if my kid got burned in the process of trying to force someone else to touch the stove. In which case, no, I’m not going to be sympathetic at all.

            You changed the metaphor and made a critical disconnect in the process. A closer change would have been: would you be more sympathetic if your child tried to force someone else to touch the stove and burned themselves, or if they tried to force someone else to touch the stove and got away with it?

            I disagree: claiming the existence of a double standard is absolutely the technique behind standard Tu Quoque fallacies.

            It’s also the technique behind pointing out that the accuser is being unfair. The accuser demands the accused to honor the accusation, but will not honor the accused’s concerns in return.

            It’s a way of derailing and reframing the argument rather than addressing the opponent’s point.

            So, what then? No one can ever point out double standards? To repeat again: the left is conducting a DoS attack against the right. The left gets to make one complaint after another, never letting go of the microphone. It gets to accuse the right of reframing the argument, because the left is the only side that gets to choose a frame to begin with. It gets to accuse the right of never addressing the left’s point, while conveniently ignoring that the left is the only side that gets to make points.

            There is nothing fair about this. More importantly, there’s no incentive for the right to comply. And it’d be just as dishonorable if it were the right doing it.

          • broblawsky says:

            You changed the metaphor and made a critical disconnect in the process. A closer change would have been: would you be more sympathetic if your child tried to force someone else to touch the stove and burned themselves, or if they tried to force someone else to touch the stove and got away with it?

            I changed the metaphor because I didn’t feel that it accurately represented the reality in question, but if I misrepresented your argument, I apologize. In the metaphor you describe here, I wouldn’t be sympathetic in either case.

            It’s also the technique behind pointing out that the accuser is being unfair. The accuser demands the accused to honor the accusation, but will not honor the accused’s concerns in return.

            I don’t think I was being unfair – I asked whether @Conrad Honcho felt that Alex Jones and his supporters were arguing in good faith, and if not, why he was engaging with the media outlets that were promulgating accusations of pedophilia against their political opponents. He responded by trying to deflect the argument to the perceived misdeeds of the mainstream media rather than explain why he felt these outlets were worthy of his, and by extension, our time.

            So, what then? No one can ever point out double standards? To repeat again: the left is conducting a DoS attack against the right. The left gets to make one complaint after another, never letting go of the microphone. It gets to accuse the right of reframing the argument, because the left is the only side that gets to choose a frame to begin with. It gets to accuse the right of never addressing the left’s point, while conveniently ignoring that the left is the only side that gets to make points.

            There is nothing fair about this. More importantly, there’s no incentive for the right to comply. And it’d be just as dishonorable if it were the right doing it.

            The point of the Tu Quoque isn’t to point out the double standard, it’s to avoid having to defend yourself. It lets you deflect the conversation. In this case, it let @Conrad Honcho shift the conversation from their decision to accuse private citizens of being pedophiles to the more partisan issue of bias in the general media ecosystem.

            Since you’re worried about scurrilous leftists like me preventing people like @Conrad Honcho from making any kind of argument, I will commit to this right here and now. If @Conrad Honcho can defend his decision to accuse people of being crisis actors and pedophiles and his decision to continue to trust the kind of media outlets that promulgate these theories, and if he posts this response in this thread before 11:59 PST, Saturday, I will, before 11:59 PST Sunday post a similar justification for my belief that Alex Jones and his ilk are arguing maliciously and in bad faith and should not be engaged with. If I do not make this post before that deadline, I will ask our gracious host to ban me for a month. Is that fair?

          • Eigengrau says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I feel like I’ve explained Russia-Trump before. Here we go again. You make a number of false assumptions and characterizations in this thread.

            1) That the Russia investigation was a “monstruously stupid conspiracy theory” based on nothing. The investigation determined, among other things, that Russia illegally hacked the DNC. That’s pretty big. Watergate-level, even. Literally, the same thing that happened in Watergate. Anyway, the investigation began when a Trump campaign staffer was heard talking about his attempts to establish a working relationship between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, as well as his supposed foreknowledge of the email hacks. That sure sounds like a legitimate reason to investigate to me.

            Further, the report found that there were multiple attempts by people in Trump’s orbit to connect with the Russian government during the campaign. Others in the campaign resisted these efforts, probably because they were smarter and knew that doing so was a bad idea and possibly illegal. Two of the most damning instances, among many, include Manafort sharing proprietary polling data with Kilimnik, and Trump literally asking the Russians, on television, to hack Hillary’s emails (followed hours later by attempts of Russians to do so).

            I don’t know if you’ve read the report, but you really should. At least seek out a detailed summary of the evidence before calling it a stupid conspiracy theory. If you do that and still dismiss the hundreds of pages of evidence in the Mueller report as meaningless while fixating on something weird Podesta said in an out-of-context email as potentially meaningful, you need to step back and examine what your confirmation bias is doing to you.

            2) The definition of treason. The Trump-Russia allegations do not constitute treason in the legal sense, and so the suspected actors in the conspiracy would not have been in fear of the death penalty. They were mostly stupid and either did not consider the laws prohibiting foreign involvement (like say, Don Jr) or they were lifelong slimedogs who thought they could get away with anything (like Manafort).

            3) “Millions of dollars were wasted on the Mueller report.” The Justice Department pulled in more money than it spent on the Mueller report by seizing the assets of the white collar criminals it caught. It also resolved one of the two big questions it sought to answer: Did the Trump campaign illegally coordinate with Russia? (answer: some evidence, but not enough to establish a criminal conspiracy). The other question, on obstruction of justice, neglected to make a legal decision due to Justice Department policy but laid out pretty conclusively damning evidence that Trump obstructed justice a whole bunch of times (impeachment process ongoing as I type).

            4) That Rachel Maddow’s exaggerations are worse than Alex Jones’ accusations. Calling the president a treasonous traitor is boilerplate TV pundit wankery which, at worst, encourages people to hate Trump 1% more than they already should. On the contrary, calling the victims of a massacre evil liars and inciting harassment towards them imparts much greater harm.

            Elsewhere you mention a couple getting a divorce over Trump. Good, I say. Support for Trump is a totally legit reason to end a relationship, with or without the Russia aspect, which is but a drop in the bucket of his awfulness. Lord knows I could never maintain a romantic relationship with someone who thinks Trump is somehow good and doesn’t respond to the planet-sized supply of evidence that he is obviously bad. You blame the wife for having “TDS”; I blame the husband for revealing himself as being so hopelessly ignorant or immoral as to be worthy of ending the relationship.

            5) That Hillary did the REAL collusion with Russia. This one is particularly stupid. The Clinton campaign legally paid a research company to legally obtain information on Trump’s various shady ties with Russia. They discreetly handed over their findings to the FBI, rather than using it for the campaign. On the contrary, the Trump campaign allowed, and at times encouraged, illegal activity by the Russians on their behalf. It pains me that some people can’t see the difference. Recall that Al Gore immediately contacted the FBI when presented with campaign research that had been illegally obtained.

            I’ll say it again: if you are unswayed by the hundreds of pages of evidence in the Mueller report, the evidence from investigative journalists, and the evidence of your eyes and ears (“Russia if you’re listening…”, Trump’s witness intimidation on Twitter, Trump admitting to firing Comey over Russia on TV, etc.) but you think a grieving father laughing for a second demands further inquiry, you need to re-evaluate how you are processing evidence.

          • J Mann says:

            FWIW, I think this discussion needs to welcome Whattaboutism – if the proposition being debated is that Alex Jones is uniquely or unusually bad, I don’t see you can test that concept without examining other cases.

            I’d say the closest recent example is people who continued to argue that Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown in the act of surrender long after it became apparent that was unlikely to be the case.

            Criminy, I thought this was an old example, but Elizabeth Warren just accused Darren Wilson of murdering Michael Brown yesterday.

            She’s a lawyer, I think she’s pretty smart, and she’s certainly capable of reading the DOJ investigation. This is really reprehensible.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @Eigengrau

            Calling the president a treasonous traitor is boilerplate TV pundit wankery

            Such are the times we live in. Sigh. It was not always so.

          • dick says:

            In the sense that, before TV, they had to call presidents traitors in newspapers?

            The Abraham Lincoln museum has an exhibit of contemporaneous press clippings, quotes and political cartoons from his enemies that kind of cured me of the notion that there was a period of gentility and mutual respect in American politics that we lost in the modern era. The “papist puppet” JFK stuff leaps to mind as well.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @dick

            Well, I might be overreacting. But surely Lincoln is a special case.

            I’ll grant you the concerns about Catholic Kennedy.

            But seriously, can you honestly say there was similar punditry about Carter, Reagan, either Bush, or Clinton? Hell, even Nixon was called a criminal but never a traitor. I would certainly not claim the press’s treatment of Trump was completely without precedent, but to characterize it as standard seems over the top.

          • Nornagest says:

            My vague impression is that in the modern era, the tendency to treat the President as the avatar of everything the other party hates started sometime in Clinton’s second term and ramped up steadily after that. Clinton got called a corrupt, lying philanderer; Bush II got called an idiot, a hick, a puppet, a liar, and a war criminal; and I think we all remember what Obama and Trump have gotten called.

            In hindsight this might have something to do with a post-Nixon emphasis on honesty and integrity in the office wearing off, but that doesn’t mean that emphasizing honesty and integrity in the office was a bad thing.

          • albatross11 says:

            I was a (politically-interested) kid when Reagan was president, and people absolutely did vilify him and call him terrible names. I don’t remember that kind of venom against Bush Sr, but that may just be because I wasn’t paying attention. Clinton got a ton of it–some because he really is pretty sleazy, some crazy conspiracy theories spread, presumably, for political advantage.

          • dick says:

            I dunno. Pat Robertson was flogging videos on the 700 Club about Bill Clinton selling cocaine and murdering hookers and stuff. What would be the Reagan equivalent of that? It does seem like we found a new level there.

          • dick says:

            (Missed the edit window, but apparently I was thinking of Jerry Falwell, not Pat Robertson. The video was called The Clinton Chronicles)

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @albatross11

            when Reagan was president, and people absolutely did vilify him and call him terrible names.

            Maybe it’s just me, but accusations of treason seem an order of magnitude worse to me. Note that I’m bipartisan here; I include the over-the-top responses to Obama’s “more flexibility” gaffe, which is why I didn’t include him in my list of recent Presidents.

            To a given President, the distinction might not matter so much, but I consider accusations of treason vastly more destructive to the country as a whole.

          • And yes, Alex Jones and his ilk are uniquely bad. …

            And again, I will not engage in whataboutism. This blog is, at least theoretically, dedicated to rational and logical thought. We should be above the classic Tu Quoque fallacy.

            Once you claim he is uniquely bad you no longer can legitimately object to Tu Quoque, since if someone else is at least as bad your claim is false.

          • In this case, it let @Conrad Honcho shift the conversation from their decision to accuse private citizens of being pedophiles …

            If @Conrad Honcho can defend his decision to accuse people of being crisis actors and pedophiles

            I think at this point I have read almost all of the thread, and I have not seen Conrad do anything even close to what you accuse him of doing. What he has been saying is that there are facts which could be interpreted in that way and it would be a good thing if people who are confident such interpretations are wrong would explain why the facts do not support the interpretations.

            If you disagree, I suggest that you point at things he said which accuse private citizens of being pedophiles. If you cannot do so, you owe Conrad a retraction and apology.

          • dick says:

            Heh. And they say this place leans right!

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @David

            Once you claim he is uniquely bad you no longer can legitimately object to Tu Quoque, since if someone else is at least as bad your claim is false.

            I’m pretty sure that the issue here is that practically nobody here agrees that

            Rachel Maddow is every bit as bad as Alex Jones.

            More specifically, the disagreement is that, at least on the level of human decency, the statement,

            Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon and the rest of their ilk pushing the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory is orders of magnitude worse than falsely accusing grieving parents of being paid actors or falsely accusing someone of running a murderous pedophile ring

            is obviously untrue.

            I’m not especially interesting in arguing the point, but I strongly agree with it. I’d much rather be accused of treason than of raping kids or faking my child’s murder.

          • @Hoopyfreud:

            I thought it was clear that the comment I was responding to was arguing, not that Tu Quoque was in this case false, but that Tu Quoque was an inappropriate argument. That’s true in many contexts, but not in the particular context of the claim the poster was making, as I pointed out.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @broblawsky

            If @Conrad Honcho can defend his decision to accuse people of being crisis actors and pedophiles and his decision to continue to trust the kind of media outlets that promulgate these theories, and if he posts this response in this thread before 11:59 PST, Saturday

            Wasn’t on SSC this weekend, but even if I had been I would not have posted such a thing because I never believed Sandy Hook was faked and never accused anyone of being a crisis actor. The second sentence of my initial post we’re all responding to is:

            Like, I’ve never doubted that the Sandy Hook shooting happened as the media reports it did.

            However, when trying to analyze why Jones might think it was faked, well, yes, the father acted weird in the video. I can see how that would make someone think it’s fake. So if someone says that’s why they think it’s fake, maybe it’s worthwhile to explain why the guy acted weird. My explanation is “he suffered such immense trauma there’s no such thing as ‘acting weird’ or ‘acting not weird’ in this case.” All I was trying to get into with this was “best methods of debunking false conspiracy theories.”

            Evidence of conspiracy theories is not usually made up out of whole cloth. A theory, in the broad sense, is an explanation for facts. When we want to discredit any type of theory, including scientific theories, we do this by pointing out that either the facts don’t fit the theory or the theory doesn’t follow from the facts. Jones took a true fact (“guy acts weird in video”) and explains that with a false theory (“he’s an actor.”)

            I would also not defend my “decision to continue to trust the kind of media outlets that promulgate these theories” because I do not view or trust these sorts of media outlets. I have never watched a single episode of InfoWars. The only time I’ve seen Alex Jones was when he was on Joe Rogan and I thought he was a wacky guy with bizarre ideas. And I’ve probably seen a few memes, like a gif or something of him and Cenk Uygur getting into it. I do not watch InfoWars for the same reason I do not watch MSNBC: I think I would wind up dumber after watching than I was before watching.

            So I don’t know who you’re arguing with here. The things you accuse me of are the exact opposite of everything I’ve said in this thread.

            @Eigengrau

            Almost everything you’ve said about Trump is some kind of half-truth or lie, but I don’t think pointing them out (again) will do any good and I’d prefer to stick to the topic of conspiracy theories and media double standards. To that end, I’ll respond to:

            That Rachel Maddow’s exaggerations are worse than Alex Jones’ accusations. Calling the president a treasonous traitor is boilerplate TV pundit wankery which, at worst, encourages people to hate Trump 1% more than they already should.

            That’s the double standard right there. When Alex Jones says “a bad thing happened, my outgroup did it!” with scant or no evidence, I roll my eyes. When Rachel Maddow says “a bad thing happened, my outgroup did it!” with scant or no evidence, I roll my eyes. You, however, get furious at Jones and defend Maddow’s phoney accusations as mere “wankery.” He’s a “conspiracy theorist” and she’s a “pundit.” No, they’re both conspiracy theorists.

            Jeffery Epstein died this weekend in prison. The official claim is suicide, which is not unreasonable because if you’re going to be convicted of pedophilia and spend the rest of your life in jail, you don’t have much to live for. Joe Scarborough of MSNBC immediately implicated the Russians on twitter with zero evidence. I haven’t checked what Alex Jones has to say about it, but I will express absolutely no surprise if I were to learn he implicated the Clintons with zero evidence. I bet if I head over to Stormfront, those fellows will have placed the blame squarely on the ethno-religious group they blame everything on: the Amish. All looks the same to me. But I’m sure it was fine when Scarborough did it, because baseless speculation is okay for “TV pundits,” just not “conspiracy theorists.”

            Elsewhere you mention a couple getting a divorce over Trump. Good, I say. Support for Trump is a totally legit reason to end a relationship

            No, her husband is a Democrat who hates Trump. But the wife was driven to such depression and anxiety by the baseless half-truths, lies and speculation that make up the rest of your post he could no longer stand to live with her. You have to remember, not everyone is smart enough to dismiss your baseless speculations as “wankery.” Some people are dumb enough to actually believe this stuff. This has real-world implications, because people come up with false theories of how the world works when they believe baseless speculation by people they foolishly trust.

            @Hoopy

            More specifically, the disagreement is that, at least on the level of human decency, the statement,

            Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon and the rest of their ilk pushing the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory is orders of magnitude worse than falsely accusing grieving parents of being paid actors or falsely accusing someone of running a murderous pedophile ring

            is obviously untrue.

            Yes, on the level of human decency, Jones is worse. On “impact from peddling baseless conspiracy theories” I say MSNBC/CNN/NYT/WaPo/etc is worse because audience size and veneer of respectability. Almost no one bought the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory. Half the country bought the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory.

            BACK TO THE POINT: All I’m saying is, lots of people engage in conspiracy theories, so instead of just calling them evil based on who they’ve identified as their outgroup, how about we all just agree to point out the reasons why the theory is false by providing legitimate alternatives for the facts in evidence?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think Conrad is right that mainstream media sources push plenty of conspiracy theories, and many of them involve smearing powerless people who then have their lives upended.

            I think there are way, way too many people who have high prestige and lots of media access, who put very little value in the truth relative to winning today’s political battle or teaching the right kind of lesson. And I also think modern communications technology has been *great* at democratizing this–it’s commonplace for memes or “retweets” to have changed the original source (or just made it up) to enhance the message. Once, you had to be 60 Minutes to misleadingly edit a video interview to put words in someone’s mouth–now every rando on the internet can do it.

          • dick says:

            All I’m saying is, lots of people engage in conspiracy theories, so instead of just calling them evil based on who they’ve identified as their outgroup, how about we all just agree to point out the reasons why the theory is false by providing legitimate alternatives for the facts in evidence?

            This is moving the goalposts. You started this whole thread by suggesting we should “all agree to point out the reasons why the theory is false” re: Pizzagate, and no one’s position on Pizzagate reduces to “calling them evil based on who they’ve identified as their outgroup.”

            My position (and I think the majority position) on Pizzagate is “I don’t know many of the details but I assume it’s bullshit because nobody seems to take it seriously.” I maintain that that is a perfectly useful heuristic; spending time refuting the individual pieces of evidence for such theories is usually a waste of time. I demonstrated this when you cited a piece of evidence for Pizzagate, and I looked at it, and my time was indeed wasted thereby.

            The Trump/Russia stuff is completely orthogonal to all this. Theories that ideologically divide the left from the right are different from theories that divide the mainstream from the fringe. They require different heuristics.

          • albatross11 says:

            dick:

            +1

            The other side of this is that it’s probably useful to have a heuristic for how to notice when something’s really going on even though most of the mainstream types in the world say it isn’t. Finding smart people who are willing to contradict received wisdom and reading their comments is probably useful. Though to some extent, it’s a matter of when you need to care. If some sleazy dude I’ve never heard of is (was) pimping underaged girls and then blackmailing his clients to get lots of money and power, or some apparently benevolent old guy is (was) running an investment fund that turns out to be a Ponzi scheme, that’s kind-of abstractly interesting, but maybe not tremendously relevant for my daily life. Unless my daughter wants my permission to get taken on some wonderful trips to exotic locations with Mr Epstein, or I’ve been offered the chance to put some of my money into Mr Madoff’s exclusive fund, in which case I’d better develop the ability to think for myself about these questions.

            There’s a conspiracy theory mode of thinking that’s broken, where everything is always more evidence for your theory and you’ve built an evidence-proof shell around your ideas. Any given conspiracy theory may or may not have some truth to it, but you definitely want to avoid the conspiracy-theory mode of thinking.

          • Clutzy says:

            dick

            The Trump/Russia stuff is completely orthogonal to all this. Theories that ideologically divide the left from the right are different from theories that divide the mainstream from the fringe. They require different heuristics.

            You were convincing me until this, which to me undermined the entire foundation. This is because casting things as left/right or mainstream/fringe misses that the whole point of calling things conspiracy theories is an attempt to make them fringe, and media tries to do this on the left-right spectrum all the time.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dick

            I don’t think it’s moving the goalposts. Look back at my original post. I prefer conspiracy theories to be debunked by pointing out the errors in the theory rather than by saying “debunked!” with no debunking. This tends to happen when the people making the claim are the media’s outgroup or the alleged conspirators are the media’s ingroup. Jones isn’t just wrong he’s evil. Maddow’s conspiracy theories are fine, though, that’s just speculation by a TV pundit. Completely different thing. Even though they behave in the exact same way.

            And Trump/Russia is not orthogonal to this because, as albatross11 says:

            There’s a conspiracy theory mode of thinking that’s broken, where everything is always more evidence for your theory and you’ve built an evidence-proof shell around your ideas. Any given conspiracy theory may or may not have some truth to it, but you definitely want to avoid the conspiracy-theory mode of thinking.

            This was exactly how CNN/MSNBC and the rest treated Trump-Russia. Someone hacked the DNC and Podesta, perhaps the Russians. This benefits the hundreds of millions of people around the world who do not like Hillary and would prefer her not to be President (including me!), perhaps because they don’t want to be “liberated” like the Libyans and Syrians etc. This obviously also benefits Trump. Therefore, Trump conspired with the Russians on this crime. He either directed it or knew about it or engaged in some quid pro quo. There was absolutely no evidence of this at the start of the conspiracy theorizing. And the Mueller report confirms that there is no evidence of any US person conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC and Podesta.

            The media latched on to this “truth,” and then went hunting for proof of the thing they already knew to be true. Then confirmation bias and the conspiracy-theory mode of thinking albatross11 describes took over. Things that don’t fit the theory or are even exculpatory are twisted and warped into supporting the very theory they refute.

            For instance, that Papadopolous was told the Russians had thousands of Hillary’s emails. This does not fit with the theory. Hillary’s campaign emails were not hacked. The meeting took place months before the hack occurred. Mifsud might have been talking about her State department emails that were kept on her bathroom server. There’s no reason for Papa to even be surprised by this disclosure because literally every Republican in the country was making the joke about “if you want to know what was in Hillary’s deleted emails, just ask the [Russians|Chinese|North Koreans]!” This meeting does not fit the claims of the theory, but the media flogs it like it is.

            Maggie Haberman pushes stuff like Kushner Is Said to Have Discussed a Secret Channel to Talk to Russia during the transition. This should be unsurprising, because back channels are part of diplomacy. I hope he was also looking for back channels to talk to China and Saudi Arabia and India and everybody else. Also, this should be considered exculpatory: if Kushner was looking for secret back channels to talk to Russia during the transition, then he didn’t have them during the election. Perhaps an interesting story would have been “Kushner Goes Looking for Backchannels With Every Country…Except Russia.” Despite this story not fitting the conspiracy theory, it gets thrown out there to keep people like my wife’s friend wrapped up in the false worldview.

            We learn about the Trump Tower meeting. It’s the smoking gun! Well except what was being offered was not hacked emails from the DNC and Podesta but “official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” Democratic party campaign emails are not official documents from Russia. None of them incriminate Hillary in any way (except maybe that campaign finance bundling scheme but that’s inside baseball), and certainly not with Russia. I have never seen such documents, but if they exist I would very much like to because perhaps they can be used to #LockHerUp. The fact Don Jr. needed an introduction from some other acquaintance should also be exculpatory: why bother with the introduction and the meeting after the hack if the working relationship was already established before the hack?

            When I pointed this out on this very forum (I can go back and find the posts if you want) I was corrected by our left-leaning posters that, of course they’re not going to come right out and say they’ve got the hacked emails, the description in the email was just bait so they could offer the hacked stuff at the meeting! In the conspiracy theory mode of thinking, when the evidence does not support the theory, one just needs to rewrite the plain language in the evidence to support the conclusion you already “know” to be true.

            And remember, from the beginning, the Trump-Russia conspiracy was stupid. The idea that these people who are at least smart enough to tie their shoes are going to commit a massive crime in conjunction with untrustworthy people for such small and uncertain gain is ridiculous. It should have been dismissed out of hand. It wasn’t because the alleged conspirator was in the media’s outgroup and the victim in their ingroup. They went looking for evidence, confirmation bias takes over, and we’re off to the races. It’s not orthogonal to the discussion because the media’s behavior with regards to Trump-Russia was indistinguishable from Alex Jones’ behavior with regards to his conspiracy theories.

          • dick says:

            the whole point of calling things conspiracy theories is an attempt to make them fringe, and media tries to do this on the left-right spectrum all the time.

            Conrad was the one to refer to the Trump-Russia stuff as a conspiracy theory. I wouldn’t use that term, but I also don’t want to get in to a semantic argument about which things we can and can’t call “conspiracy theories”. Arguing semantics on the internet is the Most Boring Thing in the World.

          • dick says:

            I don’t think it’s moving the goalposts. Look back at my original post. I prefer conspiracy theories to be debunked by pointing out the errors in the theory rather than by saying “debunked!” with no debunking.

            You’re moving the goalposts by suggesting that people are dimissing Pizzagate or Alex Jones “based on who they’ve identified as their outgroup”. No one’s doing that. Or, if you think they are, say who and why. Dismissing ideological conspiracy theories because the side that benefits from it doesn’t believe it is not a partisan heuristic, it works both ways. I find that Fox is very reliable about investigating Clinton scandals, and flogging them if there’s a shred of evidence. They’re not flogging this story, QED. You can use the same heuristic to dismiss anti-Trump theories that the left isn’t flogging.

            [I have various complaints about the left-wing media’s behavior over the last two years which aren’t really relevant, but which I’m hoping you’ll argue about with me if I keep on bringing it up]

            Again, hard pass. Are you going to do this every time a liberal mentions Mueller?

    • Nornagest says:

      You’ve brought this up before. I’m not any more impressed now than I was then.

      • detroitdan says:

        Thanks Nornagest. I’d forgotten that I posted about this before, and I hadn’t seen the responses there for some reason. So sorry for the repetition.

        Nobody is claiming that the Lyme pathogen was invented by the U.S. bio-weapons researchers (re your comment about Otzi the Iceman having it). The claim is that Burgdorfer and others were attempting to weaponize the pathogen via ticks, and Burgdorfer himself admitted doing this.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Why would they weaponize via deer ticks? That’s a terrible delivery method. Slow, can’t be aimed, and can only be deployed in North America and Europe.

          • Aapje says:

            The upside is that when someone dies of this, you can say: oh deer.

          • detroitdan says:

            responding to Jaskologist:

            Good question! In fact, 2 other people, immediately above, asked it and I responded with the same quote both times. The bottom line is that, in the Army’s own documented words explaining why ticks were weaponized,

            they inject the agent directly into the body, so that a mask is no protection to a soldier, and they will remain alive for some time, keeping an area constantly dangerous.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Homer Simpson accidentally releasing Lyme into the wild: “Doe!”

          • souleater says:

            @ detroitdan

            Could you provide the direct source for that quote? I see you quoting the full passage, but I would be interested in the original document.

            The reasoning seems insufficient to me. Jaskologist is correctly pointing out that ticks are only able to survive in the US (and surrounding locals), and in europe… but a tick with lyme disease seems like a useless weapon.
            They’re like a minefield except imprecise and spread randomly (ticks scatter over time, and you can’t remove them)
            Ineffective at area denial (you can drive through the area safely and even walk relatively safely so long as you wear long sleeves)
            Not that dangerous (My coworker thinks he has lyme disease, and he’s still showing up at work and productive)

            I mean… a solider is more likely to be wearing sleeves than a mask right? it just seems like a really poorly conceived plan.

          • detroitdan says:

            @ souleater

            Here’s where I got the quote: Kris Newby responds to Telford’s criticism of BITTEN

            Newby lists her source as Source: U.S. Army Chemical Corps, “Summary of Major Events and Problems (Fiscal Year 1959),” Rocky Mountain Arsenal Archive. She has a link (at the link above) to all her sources, but it seems a bit overwhelming to me. I’m not sure if the 1959 U.S. Army Chemical Corps doc is online.

            As others have noted, it seems like a stupid idea. They probably didn’t know what direction the program would take, and would have been greatly surprised by the ultimate result of Lyme Disease.

          • souleater says:

            I don’t consider that a very strong source. That’s just an author on a book on weaponized lyme disease, defending the idea.

            I hope this isn’t an isolated demand for rigour, but I doubt the central claim that ticks were ever weaponized. A .gov paper, or a news article from a reputable news organization discussing the history of it would be sufficient to change my mind.

          • detroitdan says:

            I don’t consider that a very strong source. That’s just an author on a book on weaponized lyme disease, defending the idea.

            I hope this isn’t an isolated demand for rigour, but I doubt the central claim that ticks were ever weaponized. A .gov paper, or a news article from a reputable news organization discussing the history of it would be sufficient to change my mind.

            The source you are questioning is U.S. Army Chemical Corps, “Summary of Major Events and Problems (Fiscal Year 1959),” Rocky Mountain Arsenal Archive. That is not the author. That is the U.S. Army, the agency responsible for the bio-weapons program.

            Appreciate the pushback, but the author doesn’t seem to be making stuff up, but rather has done her homework and is quoting the U.S. Army.

          • souleater says:

            Don’t believe everything you read on the internet
            -Abraham Lincoln

            That source wasn’t the US army, that was a book salesman claiming he was quoting the US army.

            That’s not a source, that’s hearsay. XKCD I don’t know where that guy found his quote, but claiming that it’s equivalent to a .gov paper is irresponsible at best.

            I don’t like to be flippant, and I’m not trying to mock you, but I feel like the Lincoln quote does a good job at making the point that its very easy to create fake quotes out of thin air and you can’t just accept them at face value.

          • She has a link (at the link above) to all her sources

            You mean the link to “The Bitten Files”?

            Did you follow it? It’s to a large number of documents, of which the first three have nothing at all to do with any of the subjects she is making claims about. It looks as though she is claiming to have evidence and supporting that claim with a pointer to a pile of documents almost all of which are irrelevant.

            Which suggests to me that she is either a nut or a fraud.

            What am I missing? How did you find documents at that link that support her claims?

          • souleater says:

            The document pile has 2.6 million separate files..

            This is a variation on a common fallacy known as a Gish Gallop. It takes 10 seconds to post a quote, but would take his opponent years to poor through the millions of unrelated documents to find a source.. if one exists at all.

          • Appreciate the pushback, but the author doesn’t seem to be making stuff up, but rather has done her homework and is quoting the U.S. Army.

            How do you know that? Have you found an independent source for the document or are you going on what the author says her source is–which is poor evidence that she isn’t making stuff up?

          • Dacyn says:

            I’m not sure if the 1959 U.S. Army Chemical Corps doc is online.

            It is online, though it is 181 pages (unsearchable) so I didn’t look for the quote.

        • abystander says:

          I suspect a bad link for the bitten files. Searching for Summery of major events and problems U.S. Army Chemical Corp. I found Federation of American Sciences has some of them although not the Fiscal year 1959 in question
          https://fas.org/irp/threat/cbw/
          Fiscal year 1962 does mention contracts for building a pilot plant for a an entomological agent and viral/Rickettsia agent at Pine Bluff Arsenal.

          So there is evidence that the Army wanted to weaponize ticks.

          However that is still a long way from linking Lyme disease to an Army biological weapon and if the documents don’t get sorted out I’m not going to pursue it. Borrelia explains most of the Lyme disease cases and Kris Newby concedes that Borrelia would be an “unlikely weapon.” This organism reproduces very slowly and it can’t be mass produced in large volumes.

          With the pathogens I’m more familiar with, if they escape usually the people in the facility are the first to be affected.

    • Gray Ice says:

      If National Geographic is to be believed, Lyme disease may go back 5000 plus years (based on “Otzi the Iceman”): https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/131016-otzi-ice-man-mummy-five-facts/

      • detroitdan says:

        Right. The claim is not that the Lyme Disease pathogen was created by the bio-weapons program. Rather, the bio-weapons program sought to weaponize the pathogen by putting it in deer ticks, and doing some other pathogenic manipulations.

        On Plum Island was a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors… Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease — and killing them… The outbreak of unusual tick-borne disease around Long Island Sound actually started in 1968, and it involved three diseases: Lyme arthritis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. A U.S. bioweapons scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, credited in 1982 with discovering the cause of Lyme disease, may have put the diseases into ticks 30 years earlier.

        • Gray Ice says:

          OK, so this appears to be a case where you show up with a general question, but then when people reply, you have a number of specific, detailed responses that imply you have researched in detail.

          At best, you have already made your mind up, and are using a rhetorical technique in an attempt to convince bystanders.

          At worst, you are trolling.

          Either way, it’s really not worth further engagement.

          • Incurian says:

            The avatar is sort of a giveaway.

          • detroitdan says:

            responding to Gray Ice:

            This is just an interest of mine. I think it’s a good idea to test one’s ideas and see what others think. I thought perhaps that I would get some interesting feedback that would help my understanding. But it’s not surprising that others who happened by haven’t previously looked into this very much.

            I was thinking that perhaps there’s a larger point which may be of interest regarding circumstantial evidence and burden of proof in argumentation. But I guess that was too much of a stretch.

            I have no vested interest in this one way or the other. Just something I saw a couple of months ago that seemed pretty obvious, yet not widely acknowledged.

          • souleater says:

            Why is the avatar a giveaway? a google search directs me to modern monetary theory.

            Also, I think it’s reasonable for someone to have something they want to discuss, and open the comment with a general observation, but have already researched it in detail… I do that sometimes.

            I’ve never heard of the lyme disease thing before, but I’m not opposed to someone trying to convince me. I don’t think anyone would be able too.. but a good debate never killed anyone

          • detroitdan says:

            responding to souleater…

            Thanks for the supportive words. I like the quality of the conversations here at slatestarcodex, and people don’t seem to be overly partisan. So I was hoping for an intelligent discussion, and I did learn a thing or two.

          • AliceToBob says:

            I like the quality of the conversations here at slatestarcodex, and people don’t seem to be overly partisan.

            Weeeeell, don’t look below, because we do someone stating:

            Stop trying to jujitsu me into arguing about Mueller, it’s really cunty.

          • AliceToBob says:

            @ anyone

            I see that dick’s comment has now disappeared below. This is actually the second time I’ve seen comments vanish.

            If a comment is deleted (within the edit time window), do all responses to it also get deleted? Further, can a comment that is outside the edit window be deleted? I’m not understanding how this works.

          • dick says:

            I think comments get deleted automatically if they get enough reports. That was admittedly not the nicest thing I’ve said here, but the thing I was complaining about seemed pretty egregious.

    • rahien.din says:

      Area denial only works if the soldier can conclusively attribute a serious problem to visiting a specific area, and if there is no reasonable countermeasure.

      Lyme disease has none of those characteristics.

      The symptoms of Lyme disease do not develop quickly and are not serious. Ticks do not remain confined to a single field. There are simple countermeasures, such as tucking your pants into your socks, checking yourself for ticks, wearing DEET, mowing the lawn, and if you get infected a short course of doxycycline or an injection of ceftriaxone will suffice.

      So this is a phenomenally bad rationale and it is no wonder the military abandoned the concept of tick warfare.

      Also your thesis is unclear to me : which organism is alleged to have been weaponized – Borrelia or Ixodes?

      • detroitdan says:

        @ rahien.din

        I agree it seems like weaponizing ticks with the Lyme disease pathogen seems like a stupid idea in retrospect. Nevertheless, it is on record and not seriously disputed that this is what the Army did.

        Newby lists her source as Source: U.S. Army Chemical Corps, “Summary of Major Events and Problems (Fiscal Year 1959),” Rocky Mountain Arsenal Archive. She has a link (at the link above) to all her sources.

        As others have noted, it seems like a stupid idea. They probably didn’t know what direction the program would take, and would have been greatly surprised by the ultimate result of Lyme Disease.

        The thesis which I am referring to (not exactly “my thesis”) is the Ixodes (Lone Star tick) was weaponized with Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme disease pathogen), and possibly other pathogens. Again, this is well documented and doesn’t seem to be a point of contention.

  24. Bobobob says:

    So I just watched the first five episodes of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and it’s as great as you guys said it was. Thanks for the recommendation!

    (Edited to add: I thought I was responding to a thread below, but apparently this registered as a new post…sorry about that.)

    • benjdenny says:

      Sword Art Online was considered to be good and was popular. I don’t think anybody likes Angel Beats but me, but I remember liking it a lot. It’s not my cup of tea, but all the young women I’ve ever met who are into anime but would have been into The Cure if they were born 15-20 years earlier seem to like the “Fate” series of animes.

      • BBA says:

        I gave up on SAO shortly after the second…season? arc? whatever… started. The first arc was full of cliches but handled them well, the second just piled on more cliches and undid the parts of the first that I liked. Also, if anyone ever tries to argue there’s no such thing as a male Mary Sue or one that exists in canon, I’m just going to point at Kirito and leave it there.

        Angel Beats was pretty uneven. Points for a weird premise and mishmashing a bunch of different genres together, but as a whole it didn’t really work.

        A lot of highly praised anime is pretty niche and assumes you’re already steeped in otaku culture. I liked Steins;Gate a lot but a good chunk of it will just go over an anime noob’s head. Also, I don’t know if Madoka Magica has the same effect on someone without at least a passing awareness of Sailor Moon or Cardcaptor Sakura.

        • benjdenny says:

          I pretty much define SAO as just the first season. I’m not sure I know of anybody who thinks the other stuff is anything but weird spin-offs, like those chibi shows they make from serious shows.

          I think it’s a fundamental part of liking anime to tell someone you like something and have them say some version of “Oh that’s fucking terrible I hate that”. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, or even avoidable.

          One of my favorite anime in recent years is about bicycling; another is about a 20-something girl in love with a middle-aged paunchy middle-manager who in turn is in love with marshmallows(and the show is an ad for marshmallows in real life, or something). I think both of these are genuinely good shows but the chances of someone else liking them, especially another anime person with their own refined tastes, is slim.

          So then you need stuff that defies classification and is also really fucking good; that leaves us with Miyazaki, Cowboy Bebop / Samurai Champloo, and FMA. I honestly can’t think of anything else that would be a “I liked that thing you recommended!” hit at a rate of >20% besides those.

          • Bobobob says:

            “I think it’s a fundamental part of liking anime to tell someone you like something and have them say some version of “Oh that’s fucking terrible I hate that”. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, or even avoidable.”

            These strips are really funny: https://gunshowcomic.com/ac/

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I think it’s a fundamental part of liking anime to tell someone you like something and have them say some version of “Oh that’s fucking terrible I hate that”. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, or even avoidable.

            That’s because there are like 5 anime total that are actually good and everything else is shades of shit. You just get to choose what sort of shit you like best.

            Not that I’m judging – I unironically like Serial Experiments Lain and Cyber City Oedo 808. Just, you know, justifying my life choices.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s because there are like 5 anime total that are actually good and everything else is shades of shit

            Yeah, but this is true of everything. There are like 2 good TV shows at one one time and everything else is shades of shit, and then most people don’t even watch those two good shows, but get really excited for the walking dead.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            No, I mean that anime operates on Sturgeon’s Law cubed. I’m saying that literally 5 good anime have ever been made.

          • Nick says:

            I’m kinda baffled. What makes so much of anime shit? The writing, the characters, what?

            There are definitely ones I’ve watched because I’m total trash for the setting or plot or whatever, like Mirai Nikki, but that isn’t most of my viewing habits.

          • benjdenny says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            I feel like this comment is in about the same category as when I say “every sports game is the same as every sports game, and sports games are dumb.”

          • baconbits9 says:

            There are like two good sitcoms ever made.

          • Randy M says:

            Advancement in sitcom technology has rendered this retroactively true.
            I can’t sit through anything with a laugh-track.
            That twenty seconds of faked and way out of proportion laughter there? That could have been another joke. Instead, you merely pointed out how wildly out of proportion your estimation of your own humor is.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Hoopyfreud:

            No, I mean that anime operates on Sturgeon’s Law cubed. I’m saying that literally 5 good anime have ever been made.

            What are you talking about? There might be that many legitimately good shows per genre, not including inherently bad ones like harem comedies and anything centered on moeblobs.

          • Bobobob says:

            I had to look up “moeblob.” My life is richer now.

          • Bobobob says:

            “Listen to me, you…you…moeblob, you wouldn’t know a contract deliverable if it was tattooed to your forehead.”

            Yeah, definitely going to have to try that one out at work.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            What are you talking about? There might be that many legitimately good shows per genre, not including inherently bad ones like harem comedies and anything centered on moeblobs.

            So you’re saying I’m in the right order of magnitude.

            I mean, it obviously depends on how thin you slice “genre,” but if you eliminate anime with waifubait, excessively lecherous camera angles, Mary Sue main characters, >25% of screentime spent screaming, >25% stupid love polygon drama that would be resolved if anyone were capable of communicating, >25% filler, or a total lack of visual or textual originality, 5 good ones per genre seems excessively optimistic to me.

            In SF anime, which is the richest genre I can think of, I can hit:

            Cowboy Bebop
            Serial Experiments Lain
            Texhnolyze
            Planetes
            Ghost in the Shell: SAC (and this one is marginal)
            Cyber City Oedo 808 (I’m not serious about this, it’s the Johnny Mnemonic of anime and I love it for that, but it’s not good)

          • acymetric says:

            Hey now, what do you not like about Ghost in the Shell?

            Also, I think your standards for “good” might be different from everyone else, because your standards suggest that almost all visual media is bad (and I’m not saying you’re wrong to feel that way, you should just know that isn’t in step with how the general public gauges things).

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @acymetric

            It’s… fine. It takes a LONG time to get the Laughing Man plot to do anything but just sort of be there, and the Villains of the Week tend toward the not-compelling-enough-to-not-count-as-filler IMO.

            And yeah, the bit about “what counts as good” is probably fair. My standard for “good” is, “noticeably artistically better than the cultural background entertainment radiation,” or maybe “worth making an effort to find.” My backlog of “good” movies is several times longer (in number but also overall length) than my backlog of good anime.

          • acymetric says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            That’s fair. I’m fairly certain there was a “Laughing Man” release that was just the episodes relevant to the Laughing Man arc without all the filler which would probably have been better for you.

          • Protagoras says:

            When I like anime, it’s often at least partly because of the alien perspectives and conventions, though I’ve watched enough anime for some of them to start to wear on me. But apart from the fact that levels of xenophilia vary (and perhaps even more importantly different people tolerate or enjoy different kinds of alienness), being an English-speaking anime fan means either dealing with subtitles or dubbing. Subtltles are annoying and aren’t necessarily all that faithful, with the translators obviously rarely making improvements when they make changes. Dubbing is often even less faithful (with the need to match the timing), and the quality of voice actors for dubbing is generally considerably lower than the quality of voice actors for the original (and there are few enough voice actors doing dubbing that it’s not uncommon for one character to quite inappropriately remind you of another from another anime because it’s the same overworked voice actor). These factors do not help things.

          • AG says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Are you serious? Arteeestic critically acclaimed anime there is a-plenty. And, honestly, anime scifi is less likely to be great than their slice of life character studies.

            Kyousougiga
            Eccentric Family
            Your Name
            Mob Psycho 100
            Sound Euphonium
            Gatchaman Crowds
            Flip Flappers
            Giant Robo
            Mushishi
            Kino’s Journey
            Shin Sekai Yori
            Tatami Galaxy
            Ping Pong
            Shiki
            Hyouka
            Katanagatari
            Made in Abyss
            Casshern Sins
            Land of the Lustrous
            Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju
            Paranoia Agent, really anything Satoshi Kon has done
            Sarazanmai
            Concrete Revolutio
            Haibane Renmei
            Kids on the Slope
            Cross Game
            Run With the Wind
            A Silent Voice
            Little Witch Academia
            Alderamin on the Sky
            Wolf Children

            and of course, the truest anime of our times, Pop Team Epic

            http://thecartdriver.com/animetacritic-v-2-more-reviewers-more-lists/

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I toughed out SAO for 1 Season. The tone was all over the board for me. I could handle the clichés, but SAO felt way too much like standard-anime-festival-at-Christmas and much less Black-Mirror-Dystopia. I feel like that show would’ve held together a lot better if it just held the tone of the first two episodes: we’re stuck in a video game, if you die in the video game you die in real life, and these Boss Fights are super-super hard (and there are a HUNDRED of them you have to survive!)

          Angel Beats had a few cool moments and a cool concept, but totally incoherent and hand-waved a whole bunch of actual tense moments. Like Angel fighting 100 copies of herself. “Oh, yeah, I just did that off-screen, no biggie, what’s for lunch?”

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Also, if anyone ever tries to argue there’s no such thing as a male Mary Sue or one that exists in canon

          Does anyone argue that? I thought the go-to obvious rebuttal was James Bond.

          • BBA says:

            [long digression about Star Wars redacted for the sake of sanity]

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yeah yeah I know everyone discovered what a Mary Sue was when The Force Awakens came out. But the argument was whether or not Rey was a Mary Sue (she totes is) and not whether or not all Mary Sues must be girls.

          • BBA says:

            Both “you’re just saying she’s a Sue because she’s a girl” and “it’s about fan fiction, there’s no way to have a Sue in canon” were arguments I saw deployed to defend Rey.

          • Nick says:

            Mary Sue as a term came out of fanfic, where she’s generally a wish-fulfillment character, or even an idealized author insert. There’s very much an analogue in male fanfiction, but in my experience it’s less often discussed as a matter of story quality.

            ETA: Oh, since the discussion shifted a bit, yeah, Mary Sues can totally exist in canon.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Bond is near, but I could see an argument against. He is trained and backed by the British government and a lot of his escapes are thanks to Qs gadets etc, where it is the work of others that get him out of trouble. There is a large gap between ‘guy who was trained for years to be a spy’ and ‘person who picks up weapon for the first time/defeats expert in that weapon’.

            If you take everything Bond did across all of the movies then he clearly is a Gary Stu, but he isn’t one in every movie individually.

            I would say most male characters that are set up as Mary Sues are set up as villains so that the hero can overcome them at the end.

          • John Schilling says:

            I thought the go-to obvious rebuttal was James Bond.

            Wesley Crusher. Bond is on the edge of the concept: too old, and not an insert into an existing franchise, and his extraordinary competence is plausibly the result of training and experience. Wesley is 100% Mary Sue, including the part where he’s Eugene Wesley Roddenberry’s authorial self-insert.

          • AG says:

            Honestly, Kirito is on the relatively benevolent side of Mary Sue-dom along with Rey. Anime power fantasy protagonists have gotten so, so, so much worse. Smartphone, Demon Lord, Death March, Wise Man’s Grandchild, Mahouka, Big Order, @#$%ing Hand Shakers, it really, really can get much worse.
            I mean, Kirito doesn’t @#$%ing own slaves.

            Like, I can enjoy the Kirito curb-stomping sometimes, if it’s within the bounds of the current game rules, and some of the other characters also get chances to shine. It’s when Kirito outright breaks game rules for hand-waved Reasons and the other characters become useless, that he becomes an aggravating character.

            The Ordinal Scale film was a lot of fun.

            To be a power fantasy character is not inherently bad. Xena is ludicrously entertaining, for example. Same with Rey. She’s just a