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Open Thread 135.75

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822 Responses to Open Thread 135.75

  1. Plumber says:

    I don’t recall reading anything about Dominic Cummings outside of a few SSC posts before, but today I saw this: The ‘Political Anarchist’ Behind Britain’s Chaos
    Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s Rasputin, is happy to watch the country blow up if he gets what he wants.
    By Jenni Russell
    in The New York Times; which may be of interest to some here.

    • Cummings is worth a bit of a deep dive, surprisingly – he’s very much a rat himself, and has been quite open about precisely how Vote Leave (which he directed) engineered Brexit. This extended essay in the Spectator and some of his (33!) essays on Brexit over at his blog are very much worth a read, notably this one on the data science behind it etc.

    • Lambert says:

      Brexit: The Uncivil War by Channel 4 is a good piece about him.

      He talks a lot of talk, but I’m yet to be convinced that he’s walked the walk as much as he says.
      When a result as unexpected as the referrendum’s comes through, all sorts of people will come and take credit for it.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Any time a large number of people disagree with the NYT about anything, it’s likely to trigger a search for the shadowy puppet master who’s manipulating them.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Pretty much. Dominic Cummings : Brexit :: Vladimir Putin : Trump’s election victory.

        (Incidentally, it seems that the foreign collusion narrative is more applicable to Remain MPs than to either Brexiteers or Donald Trump, not that I expect the NYT to ever acknowledge this.)

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Pretty much. Dominic Cummings : Brexit :: Vladimir Putin : Trump’s election victory.

          Hardly; Putin (AFAIK) did not claim credit for Trump. And I think most reasonable people would consider “Leave wouldn’t have won the referendum without Cummings” vastly more plausible than “Trump wouldn’t have won without the Russians”.

    • Dogeared says:

      First thing every journalist learns is that they must find an angle to the story.

      It’s certainly one interpretation of the circumstances to label Cummings as the architect of the chaos.

      Another interesting observation was to refer to his brother as a moderate and the expelled Remainers as ‘principled’.

      Much has been written on the subject this week, but it seems the author got a scoop that Johnson was reduced to tears by his brother resigning from the party. Intriguing.

  2. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What are best practices for transporting ~32 linear feet of quality hardcover books for moving between cities?
    I’m thinking standing up, two rows spine-to-spine, about a bookshelf’s weight per box (~18 inch long box). But floor of the truck for maximum stability with a wooden platform overhead, or on top of everything else and find a way to secure them, to eliminate risk of being crushed?

    • Björn says:

      Antiquarians usually use banana cardboard boxes. You stack the books tightly, and that’s it basically. Don’t ever put some books in standing, that can damage them. The banana cardboard boxes then can be stacked easily.

    • johan_larson says:

      Books are heavy, so use the smallest size of moving box you can get. Pack each box full; you want each book box to be essentially a solid cube of book-matter. That way, the books won’t shift around inside the boxes, and you can stack the boxes without worrying about the contents.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      This is a tentative answer, but some double or triple wall boxes combined with bubble wrap and tight packing should do you just fine. Crumpled paper is great filler if you have a phone book or something around.
      Source: I work in a warehouse and ship a lot of packages, although I don’t know books in particular, take my advice with an ounce of salt

    • Urstoff says:

      Just small moving boxes should be fine. Filler isn’t really needed, they’ll stack just fine as long as you pack them full. Packing is just a big Tetris game to try to get each box as full as possible. I’ve moved many times with as many books.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Does this mean you are moving? Will you be telling us where to? Since there was some discussion here as to where you should go.

    • broblawsky says:

      Stacked paper is effectively the same density as wood, so bear that in mind when selecting your boxes – don’t get one that’s bigger than a piece of wood you’d feel comfortable moving.

      Line the bottom, sides, and top of the boxes with bubble wrap to stop the books from moving around too much.

  3. Joseph Greenwood says:

    My wife made an observation this last week which has bearing on how society should handle depression and anxiety (and, I suspect, poverty as well). She pointed out that the people who are in need of legitimate special accommodation (say, a teenager who needs to take a day off of school because of severe anxiety), are often also the people most predisposed to abuse accommodations they are given (in this toy example, by skipping school even when there’s no reason beyond “I don’t like it”). This complicates the dichotomy I sometimes hear in conservative circles between “helping people who need it” and “giving handouts to people who abuse the system”: if those groups of people have nontrivial overlap, it’s not necessarily clear what to do for or with those people, even if you can identify them (which can itself be a hard problem).

    • Tenacious D says:

      I think it works best when assistance/accommodation comes in the context of a real relationship rather than from an impersonal system. In your toy example it would look like the student making arrangements with her teacher rather filling out form A3 in the guidance counsellor’s office.

    • Well... says:

      (say, a teenager who needs to take a day off of school because of severe anxiety)

      Is that a well-established thing? “Severe anxiety” —> “take one day off of school” ?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Do you have other examples? Because I think it’s wrong to describe skipping school as an abuse of an accomodation (“giving a handout”). Mandatory schooling is as close to a totalitarian system as exists in the US outside of the legal system (and poorly trains people in exercising their rights in adult employment).

      This doesn’t compare in kind to ‘welfare abuse’ (the conventionally demonized ‘abuse’).

      “I need a break”/”I don’t like it” should be enough of an excuse for anyone.

      The proper way to accomodate people is to have diverse alternatives available, and empower the people themselves to select among those alternatives, or even facilitate the creation of new alternatives. In this example, make school fit the kid. And then they’ll want to come, and want to learn.

      • Joseph Greenwood says:

        I’m not sure that “I don’t like it” is necessarily an adequate reason that someone ought to drop out of high school as a sophomore. Even setting that aside, there seems to me to be a clear distinction between saying “I need to take some time off to maintain my emotional or mental welfare” and “I’m not in the mood to follow through on my commitments today.”

        But as another example–I know someone else with anxiety and depression. He ended up abusing hard drugs and stealing from his parents to fuel his addiction. But the root cause was a mental health situation that he didn’t have very much control over.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          It would be nice if taking a break didn’t require dropping out.

          A more fluid education system would allow this.

          OTOH I know that some kids need structure, regardless of whether they like it in the moment or not.

          • Aapje says:

            Schools have material to cover. You can’t really have entire-class education and then have various people dropping out and (back) in. They’ll have missed material, exams, etc.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @Aapje

            Then why does it work for Sudbury Valley schools, or even the pre-modern, mixed grade, single-room schools?

            Alternatives do, and can, exist, in which skipping even months of school will, at most, set a kid back the same length of time that was skipped.

          • Aapje says:

            That is not entire-class education.

            Sudbury schools seem to require a lot of involvement by parents, as well as being ill-suited for damaged and/or low g children.

            The very children that would take a break due to to mental issues, quite possible don’t do well in such an environment, and the main benefit would be for parents who want to holiday outside the busy period 😛

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    So I cooked some swordfish, and it was superb– tender and juicy. I don’t usually manage superb, and I’m hoping for some advice about getting it right again.

    General points. Iron skillet. Olive oil. Thick swordfish steak– well over an inch. Lowish temperature I think. Mixed herbs and spices– I think the specifics don’t matter because they were blackened. I was washing dishes or something for part of the cooking process, so it wasn’t especially stirred around.

    • Dogeared says:

      Sounds utterly splendid, I think you nailed it. I would always pan fry that kind of fish, tuna too (which I would marinade first, but only briefly, like half an hour) Not sure about blackening the herbs though, burning them will lose their flavour.

      I’m doing lamb shoulder fillets in the Instantpot tonight. Thoroughly recommended gadget that.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The problem is that I’ve tried something similar a few times, and the fist has either been over or under cooked. There’s something about the time and temperature I need to learn.

    • acymetric says:

      so it wasn’t especially stirred around.

      This is a possibly overlooked but important part. You don’t want to be constantly moving or flipping it. Ideally one flip, maybe two and no movement otherwise.

    • b_jonas says:

      Did you fry it with the skillet open part of the time and covered part of the time?

  5. aremi_mande says:

    Anyone here familiar with the GIAHS eg the satoyama of Japan or Aztec chinampas. Isn’t this a better way to go for the economy and the planet. Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about this. And this phenomenon exists in most fields. Architecture equivalent would be rammed earth and catalan tile vaults. Sometimes I think that most problems in the world are problems of ignorance or rather those of limited knowledge.

    • benjdenny says:

      Other people will explain it in more detail, but it basically comes down to these two things:

      1. A cultural agriculture system is a “this is the best we can do with what we’ve got and no science”. It turns out you can grow more food with “Now we have science, and we’ve taken the best from a lot of sources”.

      2. Most people prefer not starving to feeling culturally fulfilled.

      It’s not like at some point aliens threatened every culture to abandon their traditional foodstuffs and agriculture and they all forgot it all at once. It got outcompeted in the same way horse-drawn carriages did. So long as people like to eat food and comparative advantage is a thing, Three Sisters stuff will remain 1970’s hippy stuff.

      • aremi_mande says:

        I have read that chinampas could produce up to 10tons of corn per hectare which is comparable if not better than industrial agriculture. Aztecs didn’t have wheels iron or draft animals. If you consider the technology we have now and how it could be leveraged towards this direction that yield could even be increased by 50%. Chinampas also produce fish and only require labor as input. With the three sisters thing you could feed livestock on it as additional protein.

        • Lambert says:

          We do have wheels and iron, and it sounds like a tractor would just sink in that kind of ground.
          Can’t afford to have our staple crops picked entrely by hand,

        • GearRatio says:

          Do you have any source for that crop yield? I’m looking for one and can’t find it. And do you have any source showing how this documented yield could then be improved by 50%?

          “Only require labor as input” is like saying I can be on permanent vacation and I “only require money as input”. It’s one of the major limiters here.

          The good news is that if this worked your argument will be self-proving and people doing it will out-compete people not doing it. The bad news is that what evidence we have shows chinampas being in use, then modern agriculture seeming to out-compete the hell out of them. Your job is to prove that this happened even though chinampas are superior, and that’s a hard gig.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I’m no expert, but it seems likely that the major improvement of modern agriculture is the machinery.

            Machinery costs so much that no farmer or collective makes their own; they buy it premade, mass-produced, for predetermined agricultural practices.

            As Lambert indicates this is the issue. Perhaps aerial (blimp-based, but controlled via ground-bases cables) machinery could deal with GIAHS agriculture. Or armies of small roomba-drones.

          • GearRatio says:

            So what I’m seeing here is “I like this better, so it must be better”. If you want to convince people, you need to illustrate why ancient agricultural tactics that appear to have been easily out-competed are superior to current methods.

            This is hard, because to do this you have to basically also show that farmers either don’t like money or are leaving it on the table for no reason. This is also hard.

            The reality of this kind of argument in agriculture is hard, because we can’t just take nice-sounding things we like as we would buying, like, dishsoap or something. If we do this wrong people starve to death.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            No, no no. There is more than enough aerable land to test out alternatives without anyone starving.

            With few exceptions (e.g. no-till farming), which farmers do test, it is likely literally too expensive for the farmers to test out these alternatives without support (farming doesn’t have the best profit margins). Guarantee a farmer’s income, and provide the just-in-time machining facilities to build test equipment for free, and you can test to your heart’s content.

            It actually might be appropriate to do this testing through a university.

            A recent meta-analysis on the role of the status quo bias in agri-environmental policy showed that a high percentage of farmers systematically reject change

            Against the backdrop of increased income volatility, high levels of debt, low margins and extreme climate events (European Commission, 2017d), it is not surprising that European farmers are usually considered risk averse (Pennings and Garcia, 2001), leaving them little room for adopting new practices.

            https://academic.oup.com/erae/article/46/3/417/5499186 (This seems to be a motivated review)

          • GearRatio says:

            He’s not saying “we should test this out, it’s fun!” He’s saying this is better, and the only reason people don’t do it is that they are ignorant.

            I’m not saying it shouldn’t be tested, I’m saying it has been tested for centuries, used until recently, and has been thoroughly outcompeted.

            If you come up with a neat way to make more food, that’s cool, and I’m for that. What I’m not for is someone saying “Hey, isn’t this old and traditional and cool? We should do this instead of the proven working methods”. That mindset DOES lead to starvation, because it’s standards aren’t proof and research – the standards in play here are “sounds good when I’m high and fetishizing native cultures”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I think in general we agree, but are just focused on different aspects of the issue.

            I’m not saying it shouldn’t be tested, I’m saying it has been tested for centuries, used until recently, and has been thoroughly outcompeted.

            And I’m saying that it’s worth looking at the mechanistic and stubbornness reasons for the outcompeting, and seeing what it would take to address these reasons, and then, finally, comparing farming systems.

            E.g. Three sisters agriculture wasn’t outcompeted farming-method to farming-method, its practitioners were conquered and replaced by the conquering people who had their own farming methods that they were used to using.

            Yes, the ox and plow were major advantages to the western farming that replaced three sisters in North America, but technology has changed since then, and it’s worth fundamentally revisiting other modalities periodically instead of just tinkering with the dominant monoculture methods.

            A tractor is a better ox, a combine a better scythe. But could something un-oxlike or un-scythelike be just as good?

          • baconbits9 says:

            These ideas have already been tested and found wanting at scale, aquaponics has a large group of hobbiests/ part time farmers/full time farmers in arid regions working on scaling up for decades. The largest scale attempts tend to cover a handful (2-3) acres, and they almost all specialize in low calorie/fast growing crops (ie lettuce) to attempt to get a return on the large up front investment it takes.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            You need to change the words “These ideas” to “An idea”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You need to change the words “These ideas” to “An idea”.

            Aqua-ponics/Hydro-ponics cover a wide range of attempts to use soil-less farming, not one attempt/idea. All concepts haven’t been vetted, but enough have to see the general trend that it is much more expensive to do and that no one is doing them at scale with staple crops (unless you are counting rice paddies).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            GIAHS covers more than water-substrate agriculture.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I occasionally get sucked into a construction technique as well, and spend half a night watching youtube videos. It’s a normal thing, to fall in love with an idea and feel that the world would be better if everybody just knew what great think you just learned. I don’t think you ever get over it, but it does lessen somewhat after about 50 times 🙂

      I think my last was prefab walls/floors. After enough videos I realized there’s lots of manual work involved to cut/paste the walls.
      And the sucker punch, always, is that the building itself is not a big part of the cost. Most of it is bringing the utilities to front door (water, waste, electricity), and indoor modeling/instalations. Find a way to cheaply lay pipes underground and you will really make a dent in housing quality and price.

      • aremi_mande says:

        An industrial compressed earth block machine can produce up to 500 blocks an hour. In an 8 hour day it will produce enough blocks to build a four bedroom house. The blocks are dry stacked mortar is applied every 4th course for leveling and stability. This means a very fast construction time. Tile vaults are very fast and sturdy as well. Guastavino vaults have been around in over 100 buildings for over 70 years. You can even construct slabs with them for multi storey structures
        https://block.arch.ethz.ch/brg/project/sudu-sustainable-urban-dwelling-unit

        • Radu Floricica says:

          :)) I’m not saying it’s not a good idea. I’m saying a good idea is not all that you need.

          There’s an architecture school … yeap, found it, Auburn University. They have a project where each year the best students get together and actually build a 20k house. Technology and methods change from year to year, and they’ve done some pretty damn cool shit. Also, they discovered that problems with affordable housing really don’t come from technology. For example, it turns out banks just don’t give 20k loans. It’s too little demand, to little profit, and the paperwork and risks just aren’t justified. Plus lots of other problems, none solvable by building tech.

          Take a look, it’s pretty cool.

          • EchoChaos says:

            That’s fascinating. Although a lot of the cost for Americans is land, which I wonder if they included.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          What steps are you removing from the current process of home-building? Because pouring a foundation is cheap, and actually framing a house is expensive, but not cost-prohibitively expensive. Like, if you can save me 5% on construction a home, awesome: if you can save me only 5% on a home with a much larger tail risk of soil erosion destroying my foundation, I’m never going to pay that.

          Quite frankly, it’d probably be cheaper to pour a foundation and reframe an exact replica of my house than, say, replace every window in my current house with top-of-the-line double pane windows. It’d be less money to pour the foundation than to re-roof it.

        • Beck says:

          The framing of a simple, small house is cheap and ridiculously fast. With a good crew, I could knock out a small place in two days if we were using precut studs (very common), trusses for the roof, and a simple floor plan.
          You can sometimes cut that down to one day with simplified plans and a crew that builds to the same plan regularly. That kind of time is going to tough to beat with any other system.

          There are a lot of this type of building materials (earth bags, compressed earth, straw bale…) that are likely to remain kind of niche systems. They end up being used either by really rich people or really poor people, but aren’t a great fit for the mass of homeowners in the middle.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Even the framing of a large and complicated house is cheap and fast. We’re talking less than 10% of the final cost of a house. Framing is easy, cheap and we are VERY good at it.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      I generally assume that the person with the limited knowledge is a lot likelier to be me than the people who grow food or build houses for a living.

    • baconbits9 says:

      The first major issue is sheer volume, total US farmland (google) is 3.5 million square miles and the total surface area of the Great Lakes is 95,000 sq miles. So even if you could cover the entire great lakes (which you can’t, not even close) and get double the yield you are displacing well under 10% of US production. Even if there are enough suitable waterways many of them will be better used as transportation hubs rather than farmland, especially since farmland can’t be used that way.

  6. BBA says:

    The other day I performed a small mitzvah. I noticed some perplexed foreign tourists at my local drugstore considering buying “Chateau Diana Wine Product,” and advised them that it isn’t real wine and directed them to a nearby liquor store instead.

    For those of you who are unfamiliar with this nasty “beverage”, some explanation of New York’s liquor laws is in order. In general, wine and spirits may only be sold at dedicated liquor stores, which are only allowed to sell a few specific other products and may not be chain stores, while beer and hard cider can be sold at grocery stores and drugstores. There is another category for low-alcohol “wine products” that can also be sold at stores with beer licenses. As best I can tell, this category was introduced in the ’80s and meant for “wine coolers” like Bartles & Jaymes that were trendy at the time; due to tax changes in the ’90s most of those were reformulated as “flavored malt beverages” to be taxed at the lower beer rate. So now the only “wine products” I see are Chateau Diana and a couple of similar competitors, which come in wine bottles with corks and have flavors like Merlot and Cabernet, but are mostly fruit juice and have an ABV of about 6% where real wine is about 14%. They exist only for tourists and newcomers who don’t know you have to go to a liquor store for real wine, and I know from personal experience that they taste awful.

    This is a product that only exists because of a local law. I’ve never seen it for sale outside New York State and I can’t imagine there’s any market for it. Setting aside the somewhat fraudulent marketing, I’m curious – do you know of any other products or services that are tailored to fit into a particular legal regime and don’t make any sense absent those laws?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Oregon has government liquor stores that only sell hard liquor and liquers, as grocery stores can legally sell wine. Knowing they vary by state, I was curious about the legal regime in Utah (because Mormons): turns out that what normal people would drink is “heavy beer”, but it’s legal for any retailer selling food or drink to sell beer where “the maximum alcohol content is four percent by volume, or 3.2 percent by weight.” So this small market requires tailored beverages.

      • Gray Ice says:

        It appears that that the 3.2 percent by weight rule is slowly being phased out in most states: See NPR Article.

      • BBA says:

        Until roughly when the Olympics were held in SLC, there were no bars in all of Utah. Anything stronger than 3.2% beer could only be served in private membership clubs. I read somewhere that they had a number of “clubs” where you could fill out an application, pay your dues, and get a membership card on the spot.

        • bullseye says:

          My dad told me about those. The point of requiring them to be private clubs is that they’re also required to make their membership list public, so the church can check to see who’s drinking.

      • rubberduck says:

        That sounds just like Sweden, where “real” alcoholic products are sold at the state-run liquor stores (which have horribly inconvenient hours and are reportedly staffed exclusively by disapproving old ladies, though I didn’t visit one so idk) and normal grocery stores only sell up to 3.5% abv. You can find popular beers from the rest of Europe in every Swedish grocery store and they’re all 3.5% abv.

        Amusingly, I got ID’d even buying 0% cider. The poor clerk was so confused about what to do with an American driver’s license.

    • benjdenny says:

      Australia is desperate to protect cigarette tax revenue and has banned nicotine-bearing e-liquid; because of this, some suppliers sell “doublers”, which are double-flavored e-liquids without nicotine; if you add an equal amount of .12% nicotine unflavored juice, you get .6% nicotine e-liquid.

      This results in more people continuing to smoke with the fringe benefit of forcing those who do want to vape to do a lot of layman-complex math that if done incorrectly results in them being poisoned.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m assuming you meant 1.2% nicotine unflavored juice, but even then there is absolutely no risk of poisoning from vaping at that concentration even if you didn’t dilute it at all (it might be a different story if you drink it, but you shouldn’t be doing that at any concentration). In other places you can fairly easily buy 2.4% and vape it without being poisoned. 1.2% would only be “moderately strong”. When I first started vaping I started at 1.8% (I’m now down to .3%-.6%).

        • GearRatio says:

          That’s true if someone is buying 12mg/ml concentrate, less true if they are buying 100mg/ml or 250mg/ml and drops a decimal point in their spreadsheet like Ben did; if Australian vapers are importing their nicotine to dodge a regulation that precludes buying nicotine-laden juice, I have to assume the latter common because of shipping charges.

    • Chalid says:

      tailored to fit into a particular legal regime and don’t make any sense absent those laws

      A large fraction of the finance industry fits this description, consisting basically of products that add no value but do avoid tax or regulation.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Well congrats, you only made me want to try it if I go to the US.

  7. Aapje says:

    Wiki Drama

    Wikipedia is normally self-regulating (with disputes handled by ArbCom), but some time ago the Wikipedia Foundation (which is the parent of all the Wikipedia projects) stepped in to ban an admin from Wikipedia. This was the first time this happened, to the consternation of many editors. The banned user was Fram, a very smart and prolific editor/admin. It was implied that he was abusive towards female editors, but no evidence of this was provided, although editor Laura Hale was previously angry at Fram and demanded that he stopped interacting with her.

    Laura Hale is a very poor editor whose ‘contributions’ largely consist of using Google Translate to read Spanish news articles and then making Wikipedia edits. As she doesn’t speak Spanish, she made many mistakes. Fram proved during an ArbCom case in 2016 about Hale’s editing that she did this, by showing that Google Translate produced the exact same poor sentences that she had ‘written.’

    Despite her lack of talent, Laura Hale has been paid by the Wikipedia Foundation, both a salary and to make trips to sporting events (also paid for by Wikipedia). On several of those trips, she was accompanied by Wikipedia editor Hawkeye7. They also lived together for some time. During the aforementioned ArbCom case, Hawkeye7 lied about their personal relationship. Laura Hale is now married to María Sefidari (aka RayStorm), chair of the Wikipedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. So she has friends in very high places. Note that this relationship was not and still isn’t officially disclosed (although Hale’s thesis explicitly says that Sefidari is her wife).

    After the ban of Fram, a ArbCom case was opened, but it was a mockery of a sham. They publicly asked for evidence against Fram, resulting in Arbcom presenting a lot of crappy evidence: old events that Fram was already acquitted of, easily disproved falsehoods, a few not very exceptional outbursts that Fram had promised not to do again and indeed stopped doing, etc. Fram eviscerated it in a detailed response.

    After admitting that the presented evidence was far from enough for a ban, the final decision was that Fram was justly banned, based on non-public evidence, supposedly the same evidence that made the Wikipedia Foundation ban him. So the entire process of calling for evidence seemed to have been a fishing expedition to find something public to ban Fram for, so they wouldn’t have to admit that they really wanted to ban him for secret evidence. Note that ArbCom violated many of their rules during this process.

    What is interesting is that María Sefidari wrote a defense of Hale where she likened the amateur journalism that people were doing to GamerBarrier. This may be more insightful than she intended. GamerBarrier truly exploded when, in response to some silly Internet drama, a whole bunch of journalists brought out the big guns in defense of the woman involved in the drama. This woman was part of the social circle of these journalists.

    This case may be very similar, in that Hale is part of the social circle of the leadership of the Wikipedia Foundation and they violated both precedent and the official rules, to side with Hale in an otherwise unremarkable dispute between editors. María Sefidari argued that she never intervened, but the way ingroups work is that people tend to take care of their own. It is very plausible that other Wikipedia leaders noted Sefidari’s distress at what her wife went through and sought to stop this by banning the person they saw as being at the center of the storm. However, this is speculation. The leaders of Wikipedia never even said what Fram was banned for.

    Interestingly, Fram was asked by an ArbCom member to make a statement that seems at home in a struggle session, admitting blame, even though he was never told what his crime was. He was asked to say: “You know, I really care deeply about this project; I hoped to use my research skills to improve the accuracy of our content, and I never meant to cause anyone any distress. I regret that I had that effect and now commit to changing my behavior in the future by [fill in the blank] so that we can continue to improve the quality of our content in a less stressful way.”

    I really respect Fram for resisting this framing in his response:

    I will not say this, I will never say this. If this is what you expect, then you might as well ban me. […] I know that some actions cause distress, but that doesn’t mean that one should stop making these. Blocking causes distress. Starting ArbCom cases about an editor causes distress. Asking for sanctions at ANI causes distress.

    What is important is that I didn’t make these actions because they caused distress, but because they were necessary to uphold our basic policies. I don’t regret that such actions caused distress, and I will not lie to make me look better in the eyes of [the person that asked for the statement] or anyone else, or to improve my chances of being unblocked and reinstated.

    I don’t regret it, but I don’t enjoy it either. A police officer who stops a speeding driver shouldn’t regret this, they shouldn’t enjoy it either: they do it knowing that the distress it causes to the individual is a sorry but unavoidable byproduct of trying to uphold some basic laws.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Despite her lack of talent, Laura Hale has been paid by the Wikipedia Foundation, both a salary and to make trips to sporting events (also paid for by Wikipedia). On several of those trips, she was accompanied by Wikipedia editor Hawkeye7. They also lived together for some time. During the aforementioned ArbCom case, Hawkeye7 lied about their personal relationship. Laura Hale is now married to María Sefidari (aka RayStorm), chair of the Wikipedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees. So she has friends in very high places. Note that this relationship was not and still isn’t officially disclosed (although Hale’s thesis explicitly says that Sefidari is her wife).

      What a soap opera.
      Hey, how much does a soap opera cost to make per hour? Between this and The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge, it seems like you could get a highly-watched soap opera about the unflattering drama of queer rich people for whom heterosexuality is a sometimes food. You’d have to get it crowdfunded by people on the opposite side of the CW from Hollywood.

    • Aapje says:

      Note that I don’t expect this event to be the ‘fuse in the powder keg,’ as we say in Dutch.

      The event that set off PlayerGate was the final straw in an already very volatile situation, with extreme antagonism between many gamers and journalists. Wikipedia doesn’t seem to have anywhere near that level of anger and resentment (yet).

    • Deiseach says:

      This is why we can’t have nice things.

      That some of the money raised by the begging letters frequently posted on Wikipedia (you know the ones, the banners at the top going “Please give us money1!!!” from Jimmy Whatsisface) went on paying for junkets for special persons doesn’t surprise me to learn, given that this is the kind of thing that unfortunately does tend to happen in institutions. As to the rest of it, again, this is what happens with “we’re all volunteeers here (but some volunteers are more equal than others)”. This is why you need clear rules and structure, because it starts out “we’re all friends here and all devoted to the cause” but then human nature happens.

      • BBA says:

        They did have rules and structure, and the rules-lawyers won out over the people who did actual work. Iron Law of Institutions, baby.

        (That is, if you trust Aapje’s take, which I’m not sure I do.)

        • The Nybbler says:

          The rules lawyers (which include Fram) and the people who did actual work both lost to a pure power play which ignored the rules entirely.

          • Aapje says:

            Fram lost one battle, but he seems to be getting most of his rights back. The right that he seems to lose might just result in Fram delegating this to others, as I think he has plenty of supporters.

            I wonder if there will be a serious backlash (Wikipedia elections in 2020, perhaps Frump uh Fram will run 😛 ).

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Read this a couple of times, and slept a night over it. The only thing of value I can think to add is that people should pay more attention to politics of all kinds, and in particular they should step up and run for various offices. Unless this happens there will always be a disconnect between those that chose to sacrifice time and effort for politics, and those that once in a while are amazed that those elected don’t represent them. It doesn’t have to be a full time gig – in fact, it probably shouldn’t. But it’d be a better world if we got into the habit of investing at least some amount of time into it.

      • Viliam says:

        Unfortunately, people who want to abuse the rules have greater incentives to do politics than people who merely want to prevent the rules from being abused.

        If you want to abuse the rules, you invest your time, and in return get whatever it is you wanted so badly (opportunity to extract money, opportunity to ban people you dislike…). If what you want is so important to you, and your estimates of required work and chance of success were approximately correct, it can be a profitable investment. Your work and time -> your selfish goals. (Private costs, private profit.)

        If you want to prevent the rules from being abused, you need to invest as much time, and in return the status quo is preserved. No personal gain for specifically you — any other person who wants the rules not to be abused could have achieved the same result, thus we have a free-rider problem. Your work and time -> neutral goals. (Private costs, public profit.)

    • MNH says:

      Having read a few posts from this Fram person, I’m a bit suspicious that what this really is is a thing where he was generally shitty to work with, without being so in ways that ran afoul of the rules enough to warrant a ban. I’ve been in similar communities where difficult people managed to entrench themselves via some damn hard work, while still ultimately making the community worse (in the case of my experience, a combination of strong-but-often-wrong opinions about how things should work and an absolute refusal to compromise with anyone). At some point you need a way to handle such people, and if this was that, I think they probably did a good thing. That said, I obviously don’t have the info needed to distinguish this from the other possibilities.

      • Aapje says:

        Fram seems to have had disputes with the leadership about how things were handled, but seems to have gotten a lot of popular support and to have been mostly factually correct in those cases. Does that count as making the community worse or is the real issue that he was embarrassing the leadership?

        There was a case against Fram where he was asked to be nicer, which he committed to do and which he mostly seems to have done. They could have brought a new case against him if they considered his behavior out of line. Instead, they circumvented normal procedures to temporary ban him based on secret evidence.

        Ultimately, Wikipedia seems to aim for impartial and global status, a sort of UN of encyclopedias, rather than merely one by and for a clique. This makes a high level of transparency and democracy important and is what they have aimed for in the past, so banning people based on secret evidence seems antithetical to that.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Essjay 2.0

  8. gdepasamonte says:

    At a meeting of Tory special advisers last night Mr Cummings told them to hold their nerve, warning that if they had thought last week was chaos it was “only just the beginning”. One source in the room said: “He said that the people who had ‘lost it’ last week [over the government’s strategy] were going to go into ‘meltdown’ next week.”

    (Courtesy of The Times.)

    If you have not kept up with the current state of “chaos”: this week the government lost a vote against a bill forcing it to ask for an extension to the EU negotiations, had an MP change party during debate on said bill losing it its majority in the Commons, expelled 21 more of its MPs including not a few widely respected elder statesmen, lost a vote calling for a general election, caused several other MPs to resign in protest including Boris Johnson’s own brother, doubled down on refusing to ask for the extension even if it is signed into law, and had all opposition parties agree on refusing to vote for a general election in the near future at all. The week before that, they decided to shut down parliament this month for the longest period in 80 years.

    Well, Boris and Cummings have definitely got some hair on their chests, as my grandmother would have said.

  9. EchoChaos says:

    Important question: Is 30 Rock the greatest TV show ever created?

    Why/Why not?

    Support with evidence.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’m not going to take the time to construct a complete argument, but I see 30 Rock as being way below The Simpsons. It ran for fewer seasons, and its characters gained way less cultural traction and recognition than the Simpsons characters did. Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy is probably the most recognizable 30 Rock character, and there’s a solid dozen Simpsons characters who are more famous than he is.

      • EchoChaos says:

        The Simpsons isn’t even Matt Groening’s best show. And while it is a strong contender due to durability, but 30 Rock has the “Sandy Koufax effect”. While not as long lived, it was the best of the best during its peak and went out on top as opposed to doing … whatever the Simpsons are doing now.

    • baconbits9 says:

      No. It wasn’t as well written, impact-full or popular as Seinfeld, didn’t have the impact or popularity of Cosby, it won’t have the longevity of shows like Yes, Minister, and it didn’t mark the era the way that shows like MASH did. Outside of awards, which given that it is a show about making a TV should be a little discounted, it doesn’t seem to the top at anything major, and really not top 10 in any major category.

      • dick says:

        Agreed, my first thoughts were MASH, The Wire, and Seinfeld. (though I’ve never seen 30 Rock, or indeed any sitcom made since about 2010)

    • Incurian says:

      Despite everyone with similar tastes telling me I should like it, I just don’t. I’ve tried three times to get into it.

    • John Schilling says:

      The farewell episode of “30 Rock”, advertised as such, was watched by 6.13 million people(*). The farewell episode of “MASH”, advertised as such, was watched by 105.97 million people. Q.E.D., with evidence, and why are we even discussing this?

      Oh, yeah. “30 Rock” was a TV show about people in the TV-show industry that A: didn’t suck and B: from what I am told, got the making-a-TV-show about right. Which means that people in the TV-show industry are going to view it particularly favorably in roughly the same way that a well-done police procedural will be viewed particularly favorably by cops. And the people in charge of telling you which TV shows are the greatest and most important in history are, yep, people at least on the margins of the TV-show industry.

      * Yes, including time-shifting, at least within the first week.

      • bullseye says:

        If they’re making a show about their own jobs, wouldn’t you expect them to get it right? Are there shows that get it wrong?

        • BBA says:

          Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the Aaron Sorkin flop with the same premise as 30 Rock that premiered at the same time? Although the main thing I remember about it is that the show-within-a-show wasn’t funny, but we were supposed to think it was, while the sketches on 30 Rock were intentionally bad and worked because they were.

  10. The original Mr. X says:

    A while back we had a thread about the Sohrab Ahmari-David French argument. Well the two protagonists have got around to holding a head-to-head debate on the whole topic, which can be seen here.

    (FWIW, my assessment is that French is a more skilled debater — as you’d expect, given that he’s a lawyer by profession — but Ahmari’s position is ultimately more correct.)

    • Nick says:

      I watched it. I may give the blow by blow with comments if folks want it, but my main takeaway from it is that, as I wrote previously, Ahmari is a poor spokesman for Ahmarism. It’s obvious at the beginning, when he needs Ross to articulate for him that American jurisprudence would have to return to a period pre-1940, and it’s even more obvious at the end, when he foolishly says a President French would have been spineless.

      • Clutzy says:

        I agree. Not only that, I don’t think he really has any plan. I’ve got some sympathy for the idea, but he doesn’t articulate anything.

        For example, he brings up the drag queen library thing. This is a great opportunity for him, but he blows it. The point he should be making is this: There are public libraries, you David French, can decry public libraries as libertarians have for decades, but you continue to fail. So assuming there is a public library, that library is going to be biased. You, David French, can pretend to try and keep it a neutral public forum, but that is not going to work. It has to decide which books it keeps (the same is true for public school to an even greater extent), and each selection or omission is a cultural and political decision, so we should fight those battles. We know the other people are.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Not only that, I don’t think he really has any plan.

          ISTM that his aim isn’t so much to come up with a plan to solve the problem as to get people to accept that there’s a problem in the first place. And I don’t think he’s unreasonable to concentrate on this — yes, simply accepting the existence of a problem doesn’t in itself solve the problem, but it is a necessary first step to doing so.

          • Clutzy says:

            But identifying the problem lays out solutions for you quite easily for various specifics. I don’t agree with all his positions, but I guarantee he thinks there is a leftist/secularist slant in public schools. Thus the plan is quite simply to engage in that sphere politically to combat that and impose a right/religious curriculum instead.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Thus the plan is quite simply to engage in that sphere politically to combat that and impose a right/religious curriculum instead.

            But if we’re counting vague proposals like “engage in that sphere politically” as plans, then wouldn’t Ahmari’s “Drag the head of the American Library Association before Congress and demand that he justify holding drag queen story hours in public libraries” and “Pass local ordinances preventing public libraries from being used to host drag queen story hours” also count?

          • Clutzy says:

            Sure, in some sense, but you can also make David French’s plan sound vague such as calling it, “use the courts to uphold religious liberty.”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Sure, in some sense, but you can also make David French’s plan sound vague such as calling it, “use the courts to uphold religious liberty.”

            But then I’m left wondering whether there’s much point in coming up with a super-detailed plan when most people apparently don’t even recognise the problem. Maybe there is, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for Ahmari to focus on trying to convince people that there’s a problem instead of coming up with a detailed strategy which will never get implemented because nobody believes there’s a need for it.

  11. johan_larson says:

    Ask a random sample of adult Americans to write down the 50 states of the union under some tight-ish time constraint like five minutes. What state do they most often omit? What thing that is not a state is most often included?

    I’m guessing Delaware for the first one and the District of Columbia for the second.

    • Nornagest says:

      I’m guessing Wyoming for the first. You’re probably right about DC for the second.

      • johan_larson says:

        But Wyoming is so recognizable. It’s the featureless rectangle that is a bit more squarish than the other featureless rectangle, Colorado.

      • bullseye says:

        Wyoming is famous for its small population. Delaware isn’t famous for anything.

        • BBA says:

          Joe Biden. Tax-free shopping. That one building in Wilmington where most of the Fortune 500 has its nominal headquarters.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m not sure they’re famous for any of those things. I would guess less than 20% of people know Biden is from Delaware. About the same for tax-free shopping. Half that for the headquarters tidbit. That these are the things Delaware is “famous” for is evidence in bullseye’s favor, not against it.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          From a non-American perspective I think Delaware is actually relatively famous because of the incorporation. I couldn’t name a similarly notable fact about e.g. Indiana or the Dakotas.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Indiana has two world-famous multi-campus universities (Purdue and Indiana Universities, the later the former employer of the Dalai Lama’s brother).
            The “Indy” in Indy car racing comes from Indiana (home of the Indianapolis 500).

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            the former employer of the Dalai Lama’s brother

            Dark Helmet: Before you die, there is something you should know about us, Lone Starr.
            Lone Starr: What?
            Dark Helmet: I am your father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.
            Lone Starr: [confused] What’s that make us?
            Dark Helmet: Absolutely nothing! Which is what you are about to become.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I almost mentioned Douglas Hofstadter as an IU employee, since he’s likely to have some recognition by the rationalist community.

            And it’s only the former employer of the Dalai Lama’s brother because he died.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I doubt Delaware. Most Americans live east of the Mississippi, so those smallish states will be a bunch more common. Alaska may or may not be missed because it’s disconnected, but I’d say the most likely is actually Wyoming. Sparsely populated, so people won’t think of it as “their state” or even “the state next door”, late in the alphabet so people trying to remember the states that way won’t get to it for a while and without any major distinguishing features.

      • kaakitwitaasota says:

        Most Americans live west of the Mississippi–this has been true since some time in the 1970s.

        • EchoChaos says:

          On or east of, I suppose. I should’ve known this, though. Thanks.

        • Dack says:

          Most Americans live west of the Mississippi–this has been true since some time in the 1970s.

          This is not true, and has never been true. That graphic does not mean what you think it means. Essentially, it is giving extra weight to the western metropoles because they are farther away from the Mississippi than the eastern cities.

          What you are actually looking for is the median center, which has been in Ohio or Indiana since they started tracking it.

      • acymetric says:

        I live on the East Coast and I have definitely forgotten Delaware was a state before.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I’m going to agree with Nornagest and EC, and add that it’s a low-status act anyway to be able to cite all 50 states and Washington, DC.
      (Especially if you scream at the end)

    • FLWAB says:

      I’m going to have to agree about Delaware: I was racking my brain trying to figure out what state would be most obscure, and then I read your answer and realized I had completely forgotten that Delaware exists.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Let’s see, being completely honest with myself and not taking advantage of time and Google:
        California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii (jump back to the original colonies) Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont… ugh, getting stuck, time to read a history of the American Revolution.
        (I’d still be able to rattle off Maine, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas, the 3 SW states besides CA, the Dakotas, Montana, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Colorado, Idaho…)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      One or another of the Ohidawa states, probably.

    • BBA says:

      One of the big empty states in the Northwest, but they’re all about equally unmemorable. Let’s see, Wyoming has Yellowstone, South Dakota has Mt Rushmore, Idaho has…uh…potatoes… there is absolutely nothing that sticks in my mind about North Dakota, but if you remember there’s a South Dakota you’ll remember there’s a North one. So by process of elimination, Montana.

      Non-state frequently named as a state: Long Island.

    • Alejandro says:

      According to the results stats in Sporcle’s quiz of US states, the most forgotten state is Missouri (77.5% of quiz takers name it) followed by Connecticut and Minnesota (78.5% and 78.7%). The next one, Massachusetts, is most likely due to spelling issues.

      Note that people taking quizzes on Sporcle are likelier to be nerdy and trivia-oriented, so the amount that would be able to name Missouri among the general population is probably quite lower than 77%.

      • Clutzy says:

        Missouri is a good one. It has several features that are bad. Its in the middle of the country, so someone counjuring a mental image of the US is likely to have some mental fatigue before getting to it going east-west or vice versa, and the same is true of the alphabet.

        • AG says:

          Depends on the person taking the quiz. Someone into college football would be quite familiar with Missouri.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Some Missourians have a chip on their shoulder about this, but the more sensible among us quite prefer it. We’ve got a great thing going here and we don’t want outsiders coming here to muck it up.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Beautiful question. Taking the outside view here: whatever state you’re likely to say, it’s a state that came easily to you. To actually give a correct answer you have to: 1. be so proficient at the task itself that you’re completely immune to the effect and 2. understand the average american well enough to guess their weak spot. If you’re not, the correct move is not to play.

      For the record, I’m not american and Wyoming would be one of the ~10 states I could probably name. Exactly because it’s so empty.

      • EchoChaos says:

        For the record, I’m not american and Wyoming would be one of the ~10 states I could probably name. Exactly because it’s so empty.

        See, now this is interesting.

    • David Speyer says:

      I tested myself. For the first three minutes, steady typing as I mentally scanned around the map brought me to 46. Then a minute of trying to figure out what I forgot brought me Idaho, Montana and Nevada — they were presumably missed on the first pass because I neither classed them as Mountain states (Utah, Wyoming, Colorado) nor Pacific states (California, Oregon, Washington). Then another minute failed to produce my last state, which turned out to be Minnesota. I should probable mentally add it to my category of Great Lakes states (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin), because it will fit better there than Plains states (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota).

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Wait, if Missouri is neither a Plains state nor a Great Lakes state, where…where do you have it categorized?

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Which are the US territories most likely to be missed?

      American Samoa and the US Virgin Islands are my guesses. (But then I just googled this and realized I have to amend the initial question to “permanently inhabited US territories”.)

    • akc09 says:

      Also just tested myself and while I *almost* forgot Wisconsin, Maryland was actually the one I probably wouldn’t have gotten within a 5-minute time limit. My brain has always wanted to file that one under something like “The Other Massachusetts” for whatever reason.

      (For what it’s worth, I’ve lived in OH, MI, CA, and TX.)

      • acymetric says:

        I thought about mentioning Maryland but I figured people would argue that Baltimore was too big a deal for that (but when people think “Baltimore” I think they mostly associate it with “Near DC” and not “Maryland”.

    • WashedOut says:

      Not American and live nowhere near the USA, never visited USA. I took this test with the 5 min time limit and got 43/50.

      Missed: VA, MI, OK, MO, WI, NH, WV

      • acymetric says:

        VA is probably a good dark horse pick. I live in NC so it never would have occurred to me to pick that one since we share a border, but unless someone decides to list the original colonies VA might be easy to overlook.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      I did the test on Sporcle once, and, having got 49 of them, it turns out that I literally forgot Utah.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Delaware is known for being the most corporate-friendly, and also for Wayne saying, “Look, Garth, we’re in… Delaware…”

      Missouri is known for Branson (not to be confused with Bronson, Missouri). Also, “I’m from Missouri; you’ve got to show me”.

      North Dakota is known for Fargo, and for NORAD.

      Montana known for having no speed limit, whether or not it deserves unique prestige for it. Also, Far Cry 5 is set there. Also, it probably has more bison than any other state.

      I wrote down all 50 states from memory, within three minutes. Ohio was last, but only because that was the order I traversed them in my mental map (west to east, sort of zigzagging north and south, and finally going up the coast before looping in from New England).

      The US territory most often missed is almost certainly the Northern Mariana Islands. (I usually name Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam first.)

  12. Tenacious D says:

    There will be an election in Canada about 6 weeks, so I thought I’d make a prediction and a brief write-up about it here. I think the Trudeau Liberals will win, but with a slim majority or minority government (the projections at 338 line up with my perceptions).

    Who’s Running

    Liberals – Justin Trudeau is the current PM and I think he’ll win by default as it were rather than riding a wave of enthusiasm. I find he’s got more style than substance; probably the best illustration of this was a trade mission he went on to India: there were plenty of photos of him and his family wearing traditional Indian clothing, but one of the official events included someone on the guest list who had tried to assassinate an Indian cabinet minister–not the sort of detail that should be missed.

    Conservatives – Andrew Sheer won the leadership by being enough members’ second or third choice (narrowly beating Maxime Bernier, discussed below, who was the first choice of many but also the last choice of many). He doesn’t have much charisma and will be attacked for his socially conservative views (even though those aren’t the issues at hand in the election).

    New Democrats – The NDP traditionally had its roots in the organized labour movement. Their leader, Jagmeet Singh, might (I don’t know the exact numbers) have more Rolexes than the number of provinces he’s visited since taking the helm and the party’s support is looking pretty shaky. Singh is a Sikh who has been active in Khalistan independence rallies (he was actually denied a visa to India several years ago because of his activism) and if he was doing better in the polls there might be a lot of just asking questions about whether he sympathizes with the extremist part of that movement.

    Green Party – They picked up a seat in a byelection and got a defector from the NDP within the past several months, but before that leader Elizabeth May was the only Green MP. I expect them to have a break-out year this election for a couple of reasons. They are likely to be seen as an alternative to at least some dissatisfied NDP and Liberal voters (and probably even a few Conservatives). And the party had good results in recent provincial elections in NB and PEI, which contain a lot of swing ridings.

    People’s Party – After Maxime Bernier was unsuccessful in his bid for the leadership of the Conservative party, he started his own. He’s a firebrand with policies that are a mix of libertarian (rolling back protectionist measures for certain industries such as dairy quotas) and nationalist (cutting immigration levels by ~ half). His party doesn’t seem to have built up much momentum from where I sit, but there’s a chance for vote splitting with the Conservative party in ridings where they have strong candidates or a good ground game.

    The Bloc – This is a Québec separatist/nationalist party. They only run candidates in Québec and I don’t have a good feel for their current level of popularity. But if there is a minority government in Ottawa they could have a lot of influence in the next parliament.

    • Tenacious D says:

      What are the Issues?

      I think the main issues will be the environment and the economy, with immigration and foreign policy (especially towards China) also cropping up.

      There’s a high level of concern about climate change in Canada. At the same time, there’s a tonne of angst about the rising cost of living (most dramatically in the housing markets of Vancouver and Toronto, but even in much smaller cities the cost of groceries, child care, etc. seem to be putting the squeeze on people). There’s a new carbon tax that the Conservative and People’s parties might try to scapegoat (probably not very successfully) but if other parties promise environmental action that will require further sacrifice by the middle class that might be too much of a stretch. The issues of the environment and economy will unavoidably involve the issue of Canada being a petroleum-producing country where any attempt to build a pipeline gets caught up in nigh-endless reviews and appeals. Also, the government recently revised the procedure for environmental impact assessments. Among other changes, projects that require federal environmental approval (e.g. infrastructure that is inter-provincial or strategic; mines) will now need a gender-based assessment (intersectional, no less) as part of their approval process.

      When it comes to immigration, there has been a small–but highly visible–amount of irregular border crossings (followed by asylum claims) in the past couple of years. That’s the attention-getting side of the issue, but there’s also just the reality of people feeling that there’s already enough demand on housing and infrastructure (especially with all the red tape and cost disease to build anything significant in this country) without adding more people. On the other side, recent immigrants would like shorter waiting lists for family-reunification visas.

      Relations between Canada and China have deteriorated in the past couple of years. Canada arrested a Huawei princess for extradition to the US and China retaliated by arresting some Canadians in China. This summer, there have been a lot of demonstrations in support of Hong Kong; many of them have had well-attended counter-demonstrations, which is raising concerns about the level of influence the CCP has in Canada.

      The SNC Lavalin scandal will surely get some airtime in the election. A deferred prosecution agreement for bribery charges against the engineering company might not have been such a bad thing on its own, but the way it was handled was clumsy (at best). The appearance of favourable treatment for companies that are well-connected to the Laurentian elite doesn’t sit well in the rest of the country.

      Finally, the government is giving around $600 million to newspapers (a bit of a bailout so they don’t go bankrupt). If there is an appearance of bias in the coverage, the Conservative party (and perhaps others) will be quick to raise accusations of quid pro quo.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I know very little of Canadian politics, but it appears to me by T’s recitation of the issues that Canada must be doing pretty good overall when some of their major issues are so ridiculous.

        — Gender based assessment of the environment — this really makes Canadians sound pretty stupid. I can’t believe more than a small minority really want this.
        — Climate change when Canada will be one of the biggest winners of the changes. Yes, it’s a good thing to be ethical about others, but it’s a sign that Canada is doing well.
        — Even the Chinese thing is a pretty tiny data point to have as a major issue. It’s a one time event; won’t it be irrelevant in a couple of years when those elected are still there?

        • DinoNerd says:

          Climate change when Canada will be one of the biggest winners of the changes.

          I hear this a lot. The logic appears to be something like this:
          – climate change means warming (sic)
          – Canada has a lot of land area that’s too cold now to farm, or for the average US person to want to live in
          – if climate change == warming, only, then the only change will be that land getting warmer, making it much more desirable, QED.

          Canada’s West Coast is getting the same lack of water, forest fires, smoke problems in major cities, etc., as we see on the West Coast of the US.

          It’s being hit by the same sort of “extreme whether events” seen in the US. Lots of flooding etc. etc.

          The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the world, but the results on the ground currently are to make the old ways not work, without giving it a southern style environment and ecosystem. The impact on the Northern natives seems to be very bad overall currently.

          If Canadian land becomes much more desirable compared to the rest of the planet, Canada doesn’t have the miltary or economic strength to defend it.

          What kind of “win” is this? At best it may be less of a lose than e.g. some island nation which will be completely flooded. Or some too-hot-for-comfort area that becomes too-hot-for-habitation without AC – and doesn’t have the wealth to afford that AC. (And who wants to live somewhere where they can’t go outdoors in the daytime?) Canada won’t be that bad, but I can’t see any “winners” overall.

          In the long term, we maybe all get a dinosaur era climate, kind of tropical, without as much differences between poles and equator as we have now. The land that was Canada may be relatively better off than other areas in that scenario – but it’s still IMO worse off than it was pre-climate change. I’m not keen on malaria etc. being endemic, or any of the rest of the tropical/sub-tropical environment package. And traditional temperate area crops (e.g. wheat) will presumably have issues. But the survivors will be used to it, and probably better adapted to such a climate than you or I. And they’ll either find/develop foods they can produce/acquire or die out entirely ;-(

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            This makes no sense to me. I think I’ve that something like 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border. Of course this is because it is so much colder if you go north, and it is difficult to make a living in the extreme cold. Canada is a large country geographically with a small population. Obviously this is because of the cold, and obviously the opportunities will expand greatly if a lot more country becomes habitable.

            You talk about the forest fires, which many activists blame on climate change, but I think has very weak evidence. And even if there are more fires than before, it seems to me that effect is dwarfed by the increase living space.

            Yes, it is certainly true that as with any changes, there are will be growing pains. Polar bears may decrease, the few thousand folks who survive on the arctic economy may have to change their lifestyle. Seems small potatoes to me.

            That Canada doesn’t have a military to defend it is backwards, not that anyone is threatening them right now. Canada has huge area with 30 million people — with global warming they should greatly grow their population, which will increase their military capabilities.

            And I really don’t think the wildest hockey stick graph (to keep it Canadian) shows that any part of Canada will ever become tropical.

            Maybe I’m just blowing smoke, because I don’t have data on this. It just seems obvious to me. Do you have contrary data?

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            You write:

            Maybe I’m just blowing smoke, because I don’t have data on this. It just seems obvious to me. Do you have contrary data?

            It looks to me like both of us are in the same place – things just seem obvious to us, and we’ve done little research.

            The big difference between us is that I don’t see temperature as the primary issue with living in Northern Canada. I see a whole package of things, some of them historical, and some of them far less relevant to a mostly urban population. Others would indeed go away in a warming scenario. Others wouldn’t – do you really want to live above the Arctic Circle with 24 hours of darkness for part of the year, even at shirt sleeve temperatures?

            I also estimate the transition period as much longer than you do – probably longer than either Canada or the United States has been a nation. On the one hand, as long as we continue to release carbon dioxide etc. faster than it’s recaptured, the changes will continue. (And then it’ll take at least 100 years for the excess to be completely recaptured, if entirely by natural processes.) It’s not going to be steady state for a long time. On the other, it takes a long time to build good soil, suitable for growing crops – and while chemical fertilizers can be used, that’s yet another expense. On the third hand, moving people is disruptive, and takes time. IMNSHO, Canadians alive today will experience primarily the disruptions, and while they may be glad not to be e.g. Bangladeshi, that doesn’t mean they won’t envy their grandparents.

            I think we also disagree about the ultimate destination. I expect humans not to care about returning to conditions they don’t personally remember, and to regard the difference in their own lifetimes as “not too bad” compared to economic and/or political disruption from making changes. (So there’s a ratchet effect.) I also expect a tragedy of the commons, where each nation demands that others make the emissions reductions, while they continue with business as usual. That ultimately puts us in climate territory similar to the last time we had similar levels of greenhouse gasses – hence my use of the (vastly oversimplified) dinosaur era model, with tropical plants/animals apparantly found at the poles. [If that’s even true – lots of popular accounts omit to mention the effects of continental drift, so the tropical plants may simply have been on land that’s *now* polar. ]

          • Doctor Mist says:

            DinoNerd-

            do you really want to live above the Arctic Circle with 24 hours of darkness for part of the year, even at shirt sleeve temperatures?

            For what it’s worth, very little of Canada is actually above the Arctic Circle (66.5 degrees latitude). Major population-dense areas currently top out around Edmonton (53.5 degrees), so there is quite a lot of sparsely populated space that is no farther north than Scotland or southern Scandinavia. I don’t disagree they have some short days and nights over the course of the year, but it’s not like it’s unknown in the annals of human experience.

        • Enkidum says:

          Even the Chinese thing is a pretty tiny data point to have as a major issue. It’s a one time event; won’t it be irrelevant in a couple of years when those elected are still there?

          No. People of Chinese descent are one of the largest (and fastest-growing) demographic groups in Canada, particularly in the West. There is serious and legitimate concern about CCP influence over Canadian politics. China is one of our more important trading partners, but we are a flea to their boot. So things like this have to managed very, very delicately – we simply can’t afford to piss off the CCP too much, because they can wreak devastation on our economy without breaking a sweat.

          • Tenacious D says:

            This is a good answer.

            I’ll also add that these issues are interrelated. For example, China is making claims of being a “near-Arctic state”. If climate change opens up the Northwest passage, would they have the ambition to try incorporating it into the Belt and Road? If Canada can’t effectively build new infrastructure to capture the upside of changes in the north, we’re vulnerable to others shouldering in on it.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I don’t want to read the article and be disappointed that it’s someone other than Mencius Moldbug’s daughter rebelling.

  13. honoredb says:

    Thinking more about ways billionaires could have outsize political power…

    Could a billionaire cripple a government agency by poaching its labor force?

    Take a politically controversial U.S. federal agency that you personally hate or want to tactically disable (Soros and ICE, maybe, or Koch and the EPA). Either agency has about 20,000 employees, most of whom are paid below $50,000 and all of whom are paid according to a publicly available government pay grade. Publicly declare that you will hire anyone employed by that agency, for a guaranteed minimum term of employment of one year. If they’ve been employed by the agency for at least 6 months, their starting salary will be double whatever it was 6 months ago. Otherwise, it’ll be their current salary + 10% (billionaire reserves the right to start rejecting people in the latter case if they think they’re being messed with by the agency). A condition of hiring is a legally binding agreement not to take any government job for the next couple of years.

    This would require less than $2 billion in liquid-ish capital, I think. Even if you ended up poaching all 20,000 people and it cost an average of $100,000 a person to do it (both high-end estimates), most of them would end up producing value for you within a few months. Place them in businesses you own, hire them out to temp agencies, pay for coding bootcamps, and so on. You might even make a profit on the whole deal, if your hiring process was so inefficient that effectively outsourcing it to a government agency is worth the loss of flexibility in your hiring and the fact that you’re paying $80k salaries to people who previously had $40k government jobs.

    How would the agency fight back? Changing their hiring and pay policies seems unlikely to be a winning strategy, because the billionaire can change their hiring rules to adapt with a single memo whereas “changing the hiring and pay policies of a government agency” certainly doesn’t sound like something you can turn around quickly. Similarly, hacks like transferring headcount to another agency and then borrowing it back are going to be harder form them to execute than for the billionaire to mitigate. They can request more budget and hire/transfer in fresh faces until the billionaire runs out of poaching budget, but they’ll have lost a huge amount of institutional knowledge, be faced with an Eternal September of newbies with nobody to train them, and be scraping the bottom of the talent barrel. They could contract out, but they’d still have the institutional knowledge problem and billionaires can mess with private sector companies too.

    More likely, I think they’d try to get the practice legislated against or ruled illegal, and use the possibility of winning as a threat to make employees afraid of taking the offer only to have their job forcibly terminated by the feds. I’m not sure what the legal case would be, but I’m not a lawyer. It seems to me like passing a specific law against it would be unconstitutional, and you’d have to argue that it’s, like, treason.

    The other obvious failure mode is that all the best employees would refuse the offer due to being ideologically committed to the mission, and some of them would do their best to troll the poachers. Hard to estimate in advance what the percentage would be, or if it would be enough to do more than nominally keep the lights on.

    • Matt M says:

      Nobody is rich enough to outbid the government. And almost nobody is as wholly unconcerned with economic efficiency as they are.

      This does not seem like a sound strategy.

      • honoredb says:

        Oh, you’d definitely lose in the long run, but who cares? By the time they’ve outbid you you’ve done a huge amount of damage.

        • Matt M says:

          But it’s just about absolutely certain that you could have done far more damage for far less money with a different strategy.

          Like, even if you posit that we’re talking about money that billionaires are happy to “throw away” in the pursuit of advancing their ideology, they’d still want to spend it efficiently such that they get the biggest bang for their buck. And there’s basically no chance that this is it…

    • FLWAB says:

      There’s another reason this wouldn’t work: security. It is generally understood that you average government worker values job security over pure compensation (this doesn’t include the department heads, who are typically ambitious types whose jobs are well compensated but also constantly in danger from administration to administration). Government jobs promise a lot of security. Secure benefits, typically laid out neatly in a book of benefit regulations that are very difficult to reform, and especially difficult to reform to reduce benefits. You are on a set pay schedule, and can predict what you are likely to earn for the next decade of your career. You can also generally trust that you will be difficult to fire, so as long as you do a bit above the minimum necessary you can rest assured that you won’t suddenly find yourself looking for another job. This is a benefit even to workers who are not particularly lazy: if you are very risk adverse then it is generally good to know that your work performance could be a lot worse than it is and you would still probably be okay.

      I don’t want to sound like I’m ragging on government employees: I am one of the people I’m describing. I worked for the National Park Service, and then did a several year stint working for a state government, and it fit me just fine. Sure the pay wasn’t great, but I had job security, I had health insurance, I had vacation benefits, and I never had to work overtime. I had a retirement plan and guaranteed pay increases and when I started spending hours each day on blogs and reading webcomics I got a written reprimand, not a pink slip. The work was boring, the lack of ability to easily move up the ranks was a bit soul crushing, but the security felt great. Your average government worker isn’t going to throw all that away for a big pay raise and the promise of one year of work. If they were more risk adverse they would have found a job in the private sector by now.

      • honoredb says:

        That does seem hard to match as a private sector employer; even if you’re willing to burn vast piles of cash on a vendetta, the amount you’d need to burn to credibly promise job security seems prohibitive, and now you’ve created a whole structure that your regular employees would expect to benefit from too.

      • LeSigh says:

        This. Also student loan debt forgiveness.

    • John Schilling says:

      Publicly declare that you will hire anyone employed by that agency, for a guaranteed minimum term of employment of one year.

      Government agencies effectively guarantee employment for life, and a significant number of the people who work for government agencies signed up in large part because of that. And anyone who takes your offer instead, knows that they get fired as soon as your guarantee runs out with a resume saying “you’ll never work in this industry again”. So 2x salary for one year is at least a factor of five too low.

      Also, what is your billionaire trying to accomplish? The EPA, e.g., has already passed regulations of the form, “Nobody can do X without a permit issued by EPA bureaucrats”; getting rid of the EPA bureaucrats doesn’t mean anybody who wants can do X, it means now nobody can ever do X and any random federal prosecutor can put them in jail if they try.

      ETA: Ninja’d by FWLAB

    • Deiseach says:

      Publicly declare that you will hire anyone employed by that agency, for a guaranteed minimum term of employment of one year.

      Why would I, a government employee, take that? Yeah, double my salary is very nice, but if I get the boot after a year and can’t go back to my old job, then what do I do? If I wanted to go into the private sector, I’d probably have done that already, and why would I change a job I might like and value doing, with guaranteed job security and a pension at the end, for “we’ll employ you to count staplers for a year then you’re on your own”?

    • Plumber says:

      @honoredb says:

      “…The other obvious failure mode is that all the best employees would refuse the offer due to being ideologically committed to the mission…”

      I’m a municipal not federal or state employee, but I echo what @FLWAB, @John Schilling, and @Deiseach have written about one year of double (or even triple) pay isn’t enough to lose job security, pension, medical care, seniority, et cetera, though people do leave government employment for the private sector, my mother did for a decade, and then she went back.

      But there’s more to it then those things – I just don’t trust the word of private employers, too many times they’ve given me a song and dance about “We’ve got plenty of jobs lined up”, which they did, and they were all at the same time.

      Way too much “boom and bust”, 12 hour days, six days out of the week, far away, and then the projects are over and then the inevitable lay offs.

      I don’t like overtime, and I don’t like being unemployed, why would I risk that?

      Please I’m grateful to the City for work that fits my (small “c”) conservative nature, as I like old and familiar things (books, existing buildings, the welfare state, etc), and my government employment is all about keeping what exists working a little longer, private employment is all about building new stuff, and fooling the inspectors. Far too many bosses in private industry have ordered me to lie, government bosses just tell me to keep quiet, but they don’t tell me to directly lie, plus when I fix something I sometimes get thanked (which is especially gratifying when it’s the lady cops and lawyers thanking me, but even when it’s the inmates in the jail, it’s still nice)! In private industry I didn’t get “Thank you”, instead I got “Do it again, but faster” (always faster), plus I now use my mind more, and my back less.

      I’m now keeping what is and what was working for a purpose, in private industry once in a while I’d work for a contractor building a public library or school, but mostly it was building eyesores for sale, or those damn semiconductor factories and office parks in “Silicon Valley”/”the South Bay” (so far south I never saw the water!) with its foul air, foul drinking water, and worst of all no fog, and too much heat!

      In a better world there would still be orchards there instead of the blight of “Tech”! 

      “Bay area”?

      I call b.s. on that! 

      The true bay area has fog after 9AM, decent tasting water, air that doesn’t sting my eyes and buildings that were there before I has born instead of miles of new!

      Private industry was superior in that it was often much easier to get the parts and tools needed to complete the work, but City and County government work is about keeping things functional that have stood for generations, private industry was all about putting up new crap that won’t even last two decades before something else replaces it, so no thank you!

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Yes to the idea. The execution could be a bit improved: no point in going public, and definitely no point in hiring everybody. Dedicate a smallish, competent HR task force to identify the people that actually do the work (which in gov agencies it’s probably 20%), then find those that are in key positions (1%?). Don’t have to be management – an IT guy that’s been there 10 years and knows their system inside out might be a better poach than a 1 year old senior manager. Then make individual offers. Some will want money, some benefits, some opportunities. This way, you can even offer better job security if that’s what somebody really values.

      Hmm. After reading about Thiel’s conspiracy, I’m thinking this might have already happened several times. Just add an NDA to each offer before you get into details, and you can keep this quiet for a long time.

  14. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Crows are social, have strong memory, and are generally intelligent. They will update their behavior toward individual humans and other animals based on what a fellow crow tells them.
    Today in “No good deed goes unpunished”, we have the story of an Indian day laborer who tried and failed to save a baby crow caught in iron netting. One or more crows saw it die in his hands and have told all their friends to attack him.

    (Ideal headline for this story: Murder Finds Man Guilty of Murder)

    • honoredb says:

      Somebody linked me recently to another poor soul in a similar situation asking for help. Equally unfair, but in this case the twist is that the crow the human was found guilty of murdering was itself actually executed by the murder.

    • Aapje says:

      @Le Maistre Chat

      Supposedly, this is how it works in China too. If you help someone, you are assumed to be guilty of the crime.

      There was a video of a kid getting in an accident and Chinese people walking past, driving over the kid, etc.

      • Laukhi says:

        Supposedly, this is how it works in China too. If you help someone, you are assumed to be guilty of the crime.

        Ah, not quite. It’s just that doing so would have opened you up to liability, and everyone many people in China will try to scam you out of your money if they can.

        But we’re in luck, however, because it seems that after only ten years or so of these incidents being publicized the CPC has finally done something.

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So, this is really awkward, but our host is a psychiatrist, so here goes…
    A guy friend of mine blew off my birthday invitation after refusing to see us face-to-face all summer. Then I got a wall of text apologizing, saying “Withdrawing from leaving my apartment to hang out with friends, even for birthdays. Turns out my childhood ADHD diagnosis was or is now co-existent with Dissociative Identity Disorder. Only one of my personalities identifies as male. I hope you’ll join our [redacted] server!”
    They’re coming up on Dante’s age (i.e. 35), got divorced by his wife who he met online, has or until recently had custody of their daughter on weekends, and had mentioned struggling with depression at least as far back as the marriage, but seemed too stoic for me to get away with inquiring about psychiatry, etc. DID has a very controversial epistemic status, as it has presented differently in different cultures and changed over time, leading a faction of researchers to propose the “sociocognitive model” (SCM) that attributes it to hypnotherapists and mass media depictions.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      A guy friend of mine blew off my birthday invitation after refusing to see us face-to-face all summer.

      Who’s “us?”

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        My husband is also friends with him, and joined this [redacted] server before I got the wall of text. Mr. Chat perceived nothing of this up until the moment I got said text.

  16. Aftagley says:

    I had a recent experience with Google’s ad algorithm that left me deeply skeptical of it specifically, and online advertising in general.

    From around the end of June to the middle of August essentially every youtube ad I saw was for one company, a business that designs online services for gyms to manage memberships and process payments. I’m not kidding when I say I would see the same video ad twice before watching a particularly long video then be show it again during that video’s internal ads.

    I am not a good target for this ad. I don’t own or work for a gym, and nothing in my web history would imply that I do so, yet I probably saw at least several hundred ads for this company that I will never, ever give money to. My one theory is that the gym I belong to used that service to design their website, and going to my gym’s site somehow got me on Google’s radar.

    Showing me this ad a hundred times would have the same functional effect on me as showing it one time, or showing it zero times. I will never be in a position to need to use this company’s services. My sneaking suspicion is that Google promised this company they would show their ads X number of times to Y number of prospective viewers, usefulness of their targeting be damned. I was one of very few people it identified as being relevant, so it attempted to fill out it’s numbers by annoying me.

    Here’s my issue: the company walks away from this ill-served because their marketing dollars were spent targeting someone who’s not relevant to them and I’m ill-served because I had to watch the same repetitive ad countless times. Based on this experience, I’ll likely never use Google to advertise if I open up a small or specifically targeted business. I just don’t trust that they/it would find people who actually matter. On the off chance they do find someone who ads could potentially work on, Google will then inundate that person with my ad, likely turning them off using my service.

    Is my experience atypical, or is this a real problem?

    • Matt M says:

      I can’t say I’ve ever had an experience like that. My ads are typically pretty well targeted and relevant to me, with the exception of “expensive but rare purchases.” Start visiting real estate or auto sales websites, and Google tags you as “someone in the market for a house/car” and you get bombarded with such ads, which makes sense. Of course, Google doesn’t really know when you actually pull the trigger and buy a house/car, at which point the ads it keeps showing you are approximately 0% likely to be effective.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      You experience is typical, and this is not a real problem 🙂

      You’re saying “likely turning them off using my service”, but a few lines above you clearly state that you’re not their audience. So… no skin off their backs that you’re not going to use them.

      Like you said, something in their algorithm thought you’re a good match. The criteria for what a “good match” is can be pretty low in advertising – a response rate of 1% is probably insanely good, as opposed to the average 0.001%. Which means even in good conditions 99% will not click – you’re just one of them.

      Which leaves just the fact that they’re pissing people off by repeating ads, even when the numbers make sense. I don’t know what type of ads you’re seeing, but many have an option like “don’t show me this ad”. Feedback like this is precious to them, not to mention the polite thing to do.

      • Aftagley says:

        I don’t know what type of ads you’re seeing, but many have an option like “don’t show me this ad”. Feedback like this is precious to them, not to mention the polite thing to do.

        Many does not mean all. I am aware of and normally make use of that feature, but in this case, I was unable to opt-out. I don’t know why some ads you can choose not to see, while others stick around.

        I’d also dispute it’s the polite thing to do; politeness implies some kind of shared social obligation and I don’t owe google anything.

        You’re saying “likely turning them off using my service”, but a few lines above you clearly state that you’re not their audience. So… no skin off their backs that you’re not going to use them.

        Right, I’m talking about a different scenario where I start a business with a hyper-focused target customer base. In such a world, I’d be nervous about engaging with an algorithm that I knew had the potential to annoy the crap out of my customers.

        For example: imagine I did own a gym. After my experience with this company’s ads, I would not engage their services.

        Like you said, something in their algorithm thought you’re a good match. The criteria for what a “good match” is can be pretty low in advertising – a response rate of 1% is probably insanely good, as opposed to the average 0.001%. Which means even in good conditions 99% will not click – you’re just one of them.

        Ok, but again, I’m not wondering why I saw a particular ad. I get that they’ve got to shotgun it out. I’m wondering why I saw ONLY that ad for around 6 weeks.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Possibly because the client bid for that campaign more than the market could absorb, so google had to saturate existing leads. I feel that – I’ve advertised for a niche B2B service, and my total global audience isn’t that big. If I had a way to identify people potentially interested, even with a high error rate, I’d pay for them to see the same commercial for 6 weeks. For branding value, if nothing else.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      Amazon has been trying to persuade me to sign up for free Prime membership with my student’s .edu email for about 2 years now. The thing is, I’ve finished college years ago in Russia and never had a .edu email, I’ve declined the offer approximately one million times and even contacted the tech support about it, but still get it at almost every checkout. Also, a 30 yo unmarried friend recently told me how he’s being swamped with ads of kids’ channels on YouTube for no apparent reason. Stories like these are the reason I’m pretty skeptical when someone rants about how big corporations “know everything” about you.

      That being said, I’m reasonably sure Google ads algorithms don’t work the way you describe. There’s a few schemes but the most common one is when a customer allocates a certain budget, specifies through various metrics (search terms, demographics, geography etc) to whom it should be shown and the maximum price they are ready to pay per view/click/conversion/whatever they are being billed for. The if through these metrics and *magic* Google decides you’re a potential customer it runs a very quick “auction” between everyone who wants to show you the ads and the highest bidder wins. In this scheme your experience may be a result of the customer setting unreasonably high price and fairly narrow parameters OR unreasonably narrow parameters and fairly high price OR the *magic* malfunctioning. Though there’s quite a few different bidding schemes and I’m more familiar with search ads than with YouTube, I’d be extremely surprised if their algorithms are as simple as “we’ll show it to X people for Y money”.

      • Aftagley says:

        There’s a few schemes but the most common one is when a customer allocates a certain budget, specifies through various metrics (search terms, demographics, geography etc) to whom it should be shown and the maximum price they are ready to pay per view/click/conversion/whatever they are being billed for. The if through these metrics and *magic* Google decides you’re a potential customer it runs a very quick “auction” between everyone who wants to show you the ads and the highest bidder wins.

        Interesting. Is there normally any upfront cost to starting this whole process, or is it entirely pay-by-click/conversion/whatever?

    • bullseye says:

      By and large the ads I see (or at least the ones I notice) seem to be either reasonably well targeted or based on something I looked up recently.

      The only really out-there ad I’ve seen is one in Spanish (which I don’t speak), for a pickup truck (which I have no use for), and which seemed to think I aspire to be a blonde cowboy (which I do not).

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      You’re ill-served by watching an ad . You should really stop doing that.

  17. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    Does anyone here watch Stephen Universe, specifically the new movie that came out recently?

    (There’s no real culture war angle here BTW. It’s an incredibly gay-coded show but the “lesbians” are single-sex aliens who reproduce asexually, and while the Tumblr fandom is pretty intense the actual messages in the show are pretty much the same as the cartoons I grew up watching. Not great to expose your kid to if you’re trying to raise them in a traditional culture but nothing extraordinarily toxic by the standards of the TV wasteland.)

    Three things stuck out to me as interesting:

    The first is that they managed to actually have the movie’s plot make even a small amount of sense. The series finale had abruptly and definitively resolved all of the conflicts in the show, to the point that I had no idea what a sequel movie would even be about without reversing the ending. But surprisingly they did it and it didn’t feel too forced.

    The second is that the movie sadly squandered their B-cast. You have an immortal space pirate who can teleport! I don’t care if his VA can’t sing, don’t have him sit around and flip burgers while an alien is trying to kill all life on Earth.

    The third is that I’m not comfortable with father-son fusion. The show has established that fusion isn’t necessarily romantic, with platonic friends and adoptive family fusing. But it’s still weird as hell, especially since Stephen technically is / contains his mom in a very literal sense.

    • broblawsky says:

      The first is that they managed to actually have the movie’s plot make even a small amount of sense. The series finale had abruptly and definitively resolved all of the conflicts in the show, to the point that I had no idea what a sequel movie would even be about without reversing the ending. But surprisingly they did it and it didn’t feel too forced.

      Musicals have the power to paper over plot holes with the power of song. If you think about it, a lot of your favorite musicals don’t actually make much sense, but as long as you spend more time appreciating the music than thinking too hard about the plot, you’ll still like it. I guess what I’m saying is that The Last Jedi should’ve had more songs?

      The second is that the movie sadly squandered their B-cast. You have an immortal space pirate who can teleport! I don’t care if his VA can’t sing, don’t have him sit around and flip burgers while an alien is trying to kill all life on Earth.

      I’m just happy Bismuth got a song.

      The third is that I’m not comfortable with father-son fusion. The show has established that fusion isn’t necessarily romantic, with platonic friends and adoptive family fusing. But it’s still weird as hell, especially since Stephen technically is / contains his mom in a very literal sense.

      Steven also fused with all of the Crystal Gems, one of whom had a definite romantic relationship with his mom. I think it’s surprising primarily because Greg rarely does anything particularly important to the plot.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Does anyone here watch Stephen Universe, specifically the new movie that came out recently?

      Nope. It’s something I’ve seen a few people mention on the innertubes, from which I gather it’s a space fantasy about the relationships between asexual gem people and young Mr. Universe, who’s coded as extremely feminine (he has the power to warp reality to spare his sensitive feelings?), but is actually straight, having a G-rated love interest named Connie whose family is from India?

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Uh, sort of?

        Stephen is less feminine and more childlike or developmentally disabled. Which makes him my least favorite character in the show, but he does eventually get some character growth.

        He has the powers to float like Peach in the Mario games, create shields or bubbles like Sue Richards in the Fantastic Four, and his tears / saliva can bring dead people back to life and imbue watermelons with sentience. It’s an… eclectic powerset, and he doesn’t really use it very intelligently.

        It’s actually a pretty good show if you ignore the crazy fandom and judge it on its own merits. Also skip most of the first season, because it’s pretty much entirely filler.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          He has the powers to float like Peach in the Mario games, create shields or bubbles like Sue Richards in the Fantastic Four, and his tears / saliva can bring dead people back to life and imbue watermelons with sentience. It’s an… eclectic powerset, and he doesn’t really use it very intelligently.

          Haha, wow. I can just imagine how a rat-fic author or one of my RPG players would handle that weird powerset.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I can’t go into too much detail, because the details include a huge spoiler, but we eventually see that his magic tears and spit could potentially be used to create armies of supersoldiers.

            There are the seeds of a much more badass MilSF show in there but it would badly clash with the tone and theme up to that point. Probably better that they didn’t explore that possibility in canon. It would make for a fun fic though.

        • Aftagley says:

          his tears / saliva can bring dead people back to life and imbue watermelons with sentience.

          Wait, just watermelons? Not, like, all fruit?

          • broblawsky says:

            Any plant matter.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I don’t think it was ever rigorously tested in the show.

            We know that he can create sentient watermelon people but it’s not clear if he could make e.g. sentient pumpkin people. I lean towards yes but I wouldn’t present it as a fact.

          • broblawsky says:

            IIRC, Pearl mentioned that Rose Quartz had made animate plants as warriors before, and Steven should have all of Rose’s powers.

  18. DragonMilk says:

    Is there a way to approximate how many hours a car has been driven for?

    Because I’m in NYC, I’ve been told a car that shows 50k miles can actually be far worse than a car in the midwest with 200k+ miles due to all the stop and start traffic wearing out transmission, etc. I can personally attest to driving hours per mile around the Lincoln tunnel.

    So more generically, what are questions to ask/things to look out for when physically inspecting a used car outside of odometer?

    • baconbits9 says:

      One obvious one is rust, and specifically rust under the car where the brake-lines etc are. This requires getting under the car with a flashlight and poking around and also knowing what it should look like under there.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Any suggested videos? Youtube has too many, and I’m not sure which ones are correct rather than merely popular

        • baconbits9 says:

          I would probably just go with John Schilling’s advice if you can, and pay more attention to the brand of car than your tastes would like. If you are at the stage of you tubing this stuff then you are setting yourself up for mistakes (which are great for learning, not so great for a purchase that should last you years and the cost of which doesn’t justify the life lesson).

    • John Schilling says:

      If you have to ask, you should probably have a mechanic perform a pre-purchase inspection. In airplane world, it’s fairly common to agree that there will be such an inspection, and that any repairs deemed necessary for full airworthiness will come out of the previously-agreed purchase price, but it helps there that the mechanics are all licensed by the FAA and the FAA has very specific standards for an annual inspection. In car world the quality of mechanics and mechanical work varies more widely, with at most state-level regulation. But if you can find a mechanic both you and the seller will agree to trust (and maybe also agree that the actual repair work will be done by a different mechanic, to avoid that perverse incentive), that’s what I’d go for.

    • GearRatio says:

      John Schilling’s suggestion of a mechanic’s inspection is good advice for anyone, and especially good for anyone who hasn’t reached the “can take an engine out of a car” level of car repair, which IMO is where your knowledge of car repair starts to approach competent.

      Get a carfax or similar on any car you are thinking of buying; not every (or even most) cars have spent their whole life in NYC, and you can see registration history on those if I recall correctly.

      Another (important) thing to consider is that things still could go very, very poorly or very very well regardless of miles/type of use/treatment. A mechanic can’t tell that the seals in a transmission are drying out by driving it around; a mechanic can’t tell if your piston rings or head gasket are about to go. There’s always an element of risk here, and it varies make to make, model to model and individual car to individual car.

      For context I own two cars that I paid less than $5000 total for with just slightly less than 250k cumulative miles both, and I keep them running by dumping my own labor and blood on them.

    • sfoil says:

      Some ECUs do log “total engine run time”, although you may need a proprietary (i.e. dealer/mechanic) diagnostic tool to read it. I checked on my car, which is reasonably new, with a Torque OBD2 reader and I can’t see engine hours, but the car you’re looking at may be different.

      I’d call a dealer of the maker you’re looking at and ask them if their diagnostics can recover “total engine run time” (NOT run time since last diagnostic message). You don’t necessarily have to go to that dealer to get it read — they’ll charge you more than a regular mechanic — but they can certainly give you an authoritative answer on whether it is possible to do so.

  19. ana53294 says:

    The link about how stupid people can be made me wonder about the costs of that.

    In my lab, we recently had a case of a master student who was working during the summer, who had an entire course on genetics, who was explained and trained on the PCR, who made a very, very basic mistake (she didn’t introduce the forward and reverse primer into the same reaction tube, instead putting them separately). This was something my professor had never encountered before, and something she never thought could happen.

    Knowing that people are more stupid than you think is one thing; realizing the consequences of that (they don’t grasp basic concepts of the field they’re working in, and they will make mistakes that are completely unexpected for somebody who received training) is a completely different matter.

    How can a smart person predict what kind of problems other people’s stupidity creates? Because in many cases, it seems to me that all of this is learned by practice (stupid person does stupid thing, then a rule is created), instead of being able to deduce it from first principles. How can this be done?

    • FLWAB says:

      This makes me think about something Scott Adams said years ago that stuck with me. “Everyone is an idiot, not just the people with low SAT scores. The only differences among us is that we’re idiots about different things at different times. No matter how smart you are, you spend much of your day being an idiot.” It’s important to remember that while there are real differences in intelligence between individuals, all of us act like idiots on a regular basis. I’m generally considered a smart person, but the other day I put a load of laundry in the dryer on the wrong settings and ruined a bunch of brand new clothes. And even when it is a subject I know a lot about I often make mistakes, especially if I’m trying to impress someone. This is normal: we all play the fool sometimes, which is important to recognize. Among other benefits it allows us to show mercy to others when it is their turn to play the fool.

      Not to downplay the fact that there are often significant differences in ability. Just something I try to keep in mind that makes my life better. It’s easier to forgive others and to forgive yourself when you accept that everyone acts like an idiot about 10% of the time.

      • ana53294 says:

        Everybody makes mistakes, that’s true.

        But there is the type of mistake where, when someone points to you, for example, that you forgot to change units from pounds to kilograms for calculating kiloNewtons, and you’re like, “of course, how could I forget, how stupid of me”. And then there’s the type of mistake where people will look at you like cows at passing trains when you point them out, without an ounce of understanding of what you’re saying.

        • albatross11 says:

          This ties back to the discussion last thread (I think) about people having a black-box understanding of a lot of the stuff they need to use, vs an actual decent model for what’s going on inside the black box. It’s sometimes surprising to realize that someone has gotten very far in some area while having only a black box understanding of what they’re doing. And one way you discover that is to see them make a mistake that could only happen if they had a black box understanding–someone who knew what was going on inside that black box would never have made that error.

          When people first learn algebra, most people learn it as a set of plug-and-crank rules–more-or-less the way a computer algebra program works. That is, they know that when someone gives them a problem of the form “y=x^2-2x+3”, they solve it with the quadratic equation, but they don’t really have any sense of why that works or what it means or anything.

          And math is a place where you often see the consequences of that–you get to calculus and then the plug-and-crank understanding of algebra that got you through class before isn’t really enough. (Though God knows the way *my* calc classes were taught, there was plenty of plug-and-crank.) Sooner or later, you need to be able to think about what you’re doing at some deeper level than “hey, that’s a problem I need to quadratic equation to solve.”

          And yet, for most of your day to day life, you actually want the opposite–once I get the problem down to x^2-2x+3 and understand what I’m modeling with the equation (so I know whether negative or complex roots make any sense), I can just plug and crank to get the answer. It’s good for a programmer to understand virtual memory and processor architectures and such, but most of the time, he just needs to concentrate on solving his problem without thinking about what the branch predictor is doing.

    • baconbits9 says:

      In my lab, we recently had a case of a master student who was working during the summer, who had an entire course on genetics, who was explained and trained on the PCR, who made a very, very basic mistake (she didn’t introduce the forward and reverse primer into the same reaction tube, instead putting them separately). This was something my professor had never encountered before, and something she never thought could happen.

      The more interesting question is how could someone smart enough to run a biology lab fail to identify that a masters level student was incompetent before bringing them into the lab. How could that student have gone through multiple layers of that system, with grades, tests, applications etc and gotten to the point with such a gross misunderstanding/lack of understanding of the basics?

      • Matt M says:

        I like where you’re going with this. It gets back my classic screed of “Central HR should never make hiring decisions. The final word on new hires should come from the immediate supervisor, always.”

        Who hired this person? If it’s the supervisor, then it’s his or her own fault. If not, then you have a bad system.

        • ana53294 says:

          She wasn’t hired. She was a master student. Lecturers don’t have that much leeway in rejecting students; the best they can do is to give them something harmless in the hopes their lab isn’t destroyed. At least that’s the case in my university.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Sorry, I read this as a master’s student under the professor running the lab, not as a course to fill requirements, my mistake in comprehension.

            My general intention was to highlight that the student managed to get through multiple levels of school, and have ‘passed’ training and a course without it being revealed that they didn’t understand the basic concepts, not to call the head of the lab an idiot.

      • ana53294 says:

        Well, she seemed to understand. How much time, beyond a couple of hours, is a supervisor supposed to spend explaining such a basic concept that a student is supposed to know already? Are they supposed to explain basic algebra also? How far back do you need to go in checking people’s capabilities?

        I have been told that there is a lot of pressure for professors not to fail students in the UK. If the exam is hard enough that a lot of people fail, students complain.

        But I am still surprised that people who fail at such a basic concept manage to get a degree in Biology.

      • Plumber says:

        @baconbits9 says

        “….How could that student have gone through multiple layers of that system, with grades, tests, applications etc and gotten to the point with such a gross misunderstanding/lack of understanding of the basics?”

        I suspect academia isn’t that different from getting into a civil service job, and while there’s a bit of a correlation getting the job, and doing the job are separate skills.

        How I got into the plumbing apprenticeship;

        Arithmetic test: See how many questions they are, see how much time there is to complete the test, divide time by questions – see how many seconds per question, assume that “All of the above”, and “None of the above” answers will be rare, don’t bother to multiply out each problem, make a reasonable guess of how many decimal places the answer will likely have, solve for two digits – if two answers look likely quickly guess and move on.

        Spatial Relations test: Just fill out the bubbles at random as fast as possible, when done start correcting till the time runs out.

        Mechanical Aptitude test: Solve for some till half way through, then start filling bubbles at random, go back and correct a couple.

        Out of 300+ guys taking the tests I was #21 from the top.

        Journeyman Plumber hands on ‘turn out test”: First day, gather materials, glue the pipe connections that need to set and dry for the pressure test the nexr day, go home early. 

        Second day: Come early, look at how the majority of the Johnnie eagers work was done, take measurements and copy.

        Civil Service written exam: Assume ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ answers are wrong, assume ‘Usually’ and ‘Seldom’ answers are correct, otherwise count letters in each answer, the answer with the most letters is probably the correct one, if they have an equal number of letters go with the answer in the middle. 

        Civil Service test interview portion: When asked “There’s a report of a gas smell, what do you do?”, my answer: “Sniff it, if it really does smell like a big gas leak get the Hell out, call the gas company and the fire department”, other guys spent 30 minutes answering that question, I took less than a minute, giving me more time for the hands on portion. 

        Out of over 100 guys and a few ladies taking the written, interview, and hands-on tests I was #6 from the top, and I worked with a few guys who did far worse on the tests than me, but I could tell they were better plumbers, I was just better at taking timed tests.

        • Aftagley says:

          I both love and hate this post.

          • Plumber says:

            @Aftagley says: "I both love and hate this post"

            Thanks and sorry!

            That I got a government job using those methods helps explain how government operates as it does, but I’m not a libertarian because I have an even lower opinion of private industry (hint: the best jobs are in private industry, but most jobs in private industry are far worse, in my experience government mostly incentives laziness, free enterprise too often incentives scumbagery).

          • Incurian says:

            Sufficiently advanced laziness is indistinguishable from scambagery.

          • rho says:

            Sufficiently advanced laziness is indistinguishable from scambagery.

            +1
            I like it

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          In high school I won the county Math Field Day without doing any of the math problems. There was only like an hour, there were over 60 questions, and each question looked like it was going to take at least 2 or 3 minutes to complete and no penalty for guessing. I went down the list and just looked for patterns in the answers, like

          a) 1/5

          b) 2/5

          c) 3/5

          d) 3/7

          e) 6/7

          Two answers have 3 as the numerator, and three have 5 as the denominator, so the answer is probably 3/5. Pick that one and move on.

          • Viliam says:

            Yeah. When the answers are “made of parts”, choose the parts that repeat most often. Not just numbers; if the options are “red square”, “blue square”, “blue circle”, obviously “blue square” is the right one.

            When the answers are verbal, pick the longest one, or the one with most disclaimers; when the choices are “X”, “X, except on Tuesdays”, “Y”, then “X, except on Tuesdays” is the right one.

            There are tests where you can get over 50% of questions right using this strategy, even if you have zero knowledge of the tested subjects.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            These are fascinating claims. I almost wish I were still taking tests.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      How can a smart person predict what kind of problems other people’s stupidity creates?

      In my experience, you can’t. Especially, if you internalize the Scott Adams quote that FLWAB brings up: being smart isn’t actually sure-fire protection against doing something dumb.

      Rather, I would fall back on what is possibly the original formulation of Murphy’s Law:

      According to Robert Murphy’s account, his father’s statement was along the lines of “If there’s more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will result in disaster, then he will do it that way.”

      Essentially, if it is possible to do something the wrong way, the probability that it will be done the wrong way approaches 1 as the number of iterations increases.

      The best you can do is poka-yoke design: make it so that the only (feasible) way to do something is the right way. The vast majority of contemporary connectors are an example: you can’t plug ’em in the wrong way because the plug won’t fit.

      Sadly, it isn’t always feasible, nor does it eliminate the problem completely. We have a saying round these parts: “You can’t make things fool-proof, because fools are incredibly inventive.” I’ve come across a number of cases where the best-intentioned design was overcome by brute force. You simply cannot guard against that.

      ETA:
      The fact that I managed to mess up the formatting on this comment (now fixed), despite knowing exactly what to do, is an excellent reminder that we all get an acute case of stupid every once in a while.

      • Randy M says:

        Essentially, if it is possible to do something the wrong way, the probability that it will be done the wrong way approaches 1 as the number of iterations increases.

        This is well put, especially to someone who could see himself putting two primers in two different reaction tubes and wondering why it wasn’t working.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Its a full level deeper than this, I suspect that the masters student who was used in the example was an outcome of such ‘fool proofing’. Many educational systems have been set up to simplify the learning/evaluation of learning to the point where demonstration of knowledge and actual knowledge are two separate things. The more you fool proof the fewer chances people have to learn and the more foolish they become (or the less unfoolish they become). Now you need even more fool proofing.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Yeah. It could be as simple as a step-based PCR diagram that shows a PCR tube with a primer being put in, and then a second step showing another image of a PCR tube with a second primer being put in, instead of a single image showing two primers going into the same graphic of a tube.

    • Aftagley says:

      I feel like you’re conflating overall intellect with an inability to make mistakes. Fastidiousness and IQ don’t seem to necessarily correlate, at least in my personal experience.

      That being said, I was shocked by the percentages in that lesswrong passage you linked, so maybe my results have been atypical.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      It’s a dumb mistake but far from the worst I’ve seen in PCR specifically or molecular cloning generally.

      For example, just a month ago I found out that a technician had been collecting multiple clones and putting them into the same vials of media. Which entirely defeats the point of cloning and creates problems for everyone downstream of her. I bet those people wish that the only thing she did was mess up the PCR.

      This kind of thing or worse happens constantly in biology.

      (Edited to move)

      • Randy M says:

        I found out that a technician had been collecting multiple clones and putting them into the same vials of media.

        From now on I’m going to picture you as head of brainwashing in the super-soldier division.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Haha I mean I haven’t had to do molecular cloning for years thankfully. It’s basically the equivalent of being the guy who operates the copy machine.

          But yeah, a lot of biological terminology sounds very metal if you’re not familiar with it. Bacterial transformations, sacrificing animals, etc. Of course in reality it’s so boring that it makes me want to die half of the time.

      • ana53294 says:

        The result wasn’t that terrible, except for lots of wasted material, and no thesis for her.

        The point is, this student made a mistake that shouldn’t have happened if she had the most basic of understanding of how PCR works or what she was doing. Right after doing a course on it. And she didn’t even seem to recognize her mistake or what it meant.

        I don’t understand why people like her pass the filter, but some of them clearly do. Somtimes, you have no option but to give them some work, because firing them is not an option. So is there any way to get useful work out of them?

        This student has offered to volunteer at the lab. Right now, it seems to us that even for free, she is too expensive, and are trying to come up with a polite way to say no.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I guess the difference is that I don’t see any evidence that there’s a filter to begin with.

          If you want to work in biology enough to attempt it, that’s pretty much it. The coursework isn’t very hard, finding research opportunities as an undergrad is mostly just being willing to ask a PI, and the GRE score that you need to get into a decent graduate school is actually not that high. If you’re as bad as her you may not be able to find a thesis lab but she could definitely get a position as a lab technician doing essentially the same work.

          The reason that nobody “caught” her before now is that nobody is catching anyone. It’s basically the honor system.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          The point is, this student made a mistake that shouldn’t have happened

          That’s true of all mistakes including all of yours.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Okay, with this information I see this is a failure on your PIs part. There should never have been “lots of wasted material, and no thesis for her.” – not for a brand new student. The PI should be heavily supervising a brand new student – this should have been noticed and corrected the moment the first (or second) failure happened through a post-hoc analysis between the PI, the student, and the lab manager/technician/senior grad student/post-doc. What if the thermal cycler had been misprogrammed or broken, or someone had mislabeled a vial of Taq ligase as Taq polymerase? Triage must be performed to nip these things in the bud.

          A supervisor must never assume that school, or even an internship, has prepared a person for real-world work.

          A master’s student is just starting an apprenticeship in terms of hands-on labor. A PI needs to know this, and needs to ensure the student gets at least a double walk-through of every technique they will be using (one walk through shadowing, a follow-up walk through being shadowed by the instructor, the chance to succeed or fail on their own for the third time, and any additional focused walk throughs as required.).

          This is a double failure on your PIs part given that your PI is a professor, whose actual job classification exists for the purpose of training the next generation.

          —–

          Don’t be polite when saying no. Explicitly tell her that you expected her to understand PCR after taking a course in it, and the fact that she doesn’t makes you leery of taking her on as a tech. That’s actionable knowledge on her part. Polite declines aren’t actionable.

          It might also be worthwhile for your PI to talk with the PCR course instructor to find out how this could have happened.

      • Aapje says:

        For example, just a month ago I found out that a technician had been collecting multiple clones and putting them into the same vials of media.

        Krieger???

    • Lurker says:

      ok, so I’m going to stop lurking and actually post something for once because I had an experience yesterday that was similar – except I was on the other side of things:

      I had an exam yesterday where I had to demonstrate certain things and the only reason I didn’t break the multimeter I was using was sheer luck – I made an incredibly dumb mistake (not a costly one, had it gone wrong, fixing it would have cost about 5€).

      The details of the mistake itself however are kind of irrelevant – what is relevant is the following:
      I know how mulitmeters work. I know what you shouldn’t do. I know why you shouldn’t do it. I know what happens if you do it anyway. I have known that for years. Also, specifically this was mentioned more than once in the seminar that led up to the exam (there were different semesters in there, it was reasonable to assume that some people wouldn’t know how to handle a mulitmeter properly.) And yet, I made that mistake anyway.

      So basically, what others have said already is very, very true – absolutely everyone has their dumb moments.
      This is the reason why redundancy is so vital in situations where mistakes can cause considerable damage and afaik redundancy (double check by someone else, making it impossible to do a particular kind of screw up, etc.) is the most likely to prevent/catch important mistakes in time.

      • Aftagley says:

        The details of the mistake itself however are kind of irrelevant…

        Did you test the resistance of an energized circuit? The guy next to me did that during a lab once and definitely let the smoke out.

        • Lurker says:

          sort of.
          I plugged the cable into the socket for measuring current instead of the one for measuring resistance which is even dumber because they are clearly labled….

          (the overall exam didn’t go that badly, but without this my grade would definitely have been better)

      • HowardHolmes says:

        I made an incredibly dumb mistake

        All mistakes are incredibly dumb.

        • Lurker says:

          You don’t think there’s some kind of difference between types of mistakes?
          At least to me, it matters why I screwed up and what the potential consequences are and some mistakes are excellent opportunities to learn from – those, I definitely would not consider dumb – and others are just me being scatterbrained/nervous and not paying attention in the right place – those, I can’t learn from or at least I wouldn’t know what that would be – so those are the mistakes I consider (incredibly) dumb.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            You are correct. When you label things they come into existence even if they did not exist previously. To me, a mistake is a mistake. If you want to subdivide them into dumb, incredibly dumb, very incredibly dumb, stupid, honest, careless, negligent, criminally negligent I guess all these things exist. Usually, I would say there is ulterior motive involved, such as “my mistakes are honest mistakes; others are careless.” However, as I said I made a mistake in saying all mistakes are incredibly dumb (but my mistake was not incredibly dumb because I do not judge them that way).

          • Lurker says:

            Usually, I would say there is ulterior motive involved, such as “my mistakes are honest mistakes; others are careless.”

            You definitely have a point there, that happens way to often and is something to be avoided.

            The most relevant distinction is probably “can something useful come from this?” and not some specific lable, especially if someone calling themselves “incredibly dumb” for screwing up leads to others being more afraid of making mistakes because they’ll be judged by the same measuring stick that person judged themselves. my choice of vocabulary was counterproductive. when I wrote my post, I was still kind of mad about my screw up ^^.

            thanks for engaging on this! how to deal with mistakes constructively is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      You keep saying “stupidity”. I think your premises are a bit off. Focus on why things work when they do, don’t just assume they should work and call any exception stupidity. (…Reread your last paragraph. Actually, I think you’re pretty spot on with it.)

      We have system1 / system2 processing. By far most of what we’re doing, day to day, is system1 – this is why all the people that failed that Adult Literacy Test can live happily. I think you’re underestimating how far system1 can go – Churchill is a classic example of politician that worked with dementia far longer than you could expect. Even if you take into account that he won one more election than he should have due to being …. well, Churchill, politics is the kind of stuff where you’d expect to use IQ and analytical skills and so on. Nope, turns out a well tuned system1 can take you a LONG way even with the driver almost falling from the cart.

      Probably helps that I’m not a particularly bright individual, working on stuff considered pretty high end (programming, business), but I utterly sympathize with your master student. Doing stuff for the first time in an unfamiliar environment is a system2 thing, and we’re simply not built to do it for sustained periods. The trick is moving as much as you can into automatic processes.

      How can a smart person predict what kind of problems other people’s stupidity creates?

      So, from a system2 perspective, IQ is fixed. You can get frustrated, wish for smarter people… but unless you’re lucky you won’t get a lot of bright people in your life.

      From a system1 perspective, that student was just the wrong person in the wrong place – if it’s a production environment. If learning is expected… that was just the cost of her education, as a famous story goes.

      Because in many cases, it seems to me that all of this is learned by practice (stupid person does stupid thing, then a rule is created), instead of being able to deduce it from first principles. How can this be done?

      Yep. Avoid counting on “first principles” like the plague. Create an environment where mentoring is easy, mistakes are cheap and people can learn while they work. Expecting book knowledge to translate into not making mistakes will only get you frustration.

    • Dogeared says:

      In my observation very academic people can often be lacking in ‘common sense’ and everyday tactile skills.

      I had the pleasure of working with someone who I would describe as a genius and visionary, however, he couldn’t tie his own shoelaces or shave himself evenly, often resulting in big bald areas on one side of his head. I saw through that the first time I met him, bet many people would just write him off as a nutter.

    • GearRatio says:

      A lot of people are saying “she isn’t stupid, necessarily” which is true, she might not be. However, consider this:

      Anybody can have a master’s degree. I know a half-dozen PhD/Masters/M.D. category people who are as dumb as a box of stupid rocks. If you have time and money, most universities will sell you a graduate degree which you can then use to get a nice job.

      The majority of the job-finding process in most fields goes “well, can you check a bunch of credential boxes on this piece of paper?” as the initial screening, and the more rare your skill set is the less candidates they then have to choose from once the initial screening is finished. If you optimize for “has $100,000 in student debt and randomly selected the correct program”, that’s what you get.

      “Is this person competent and bright” is much, much harder to optimize for and very little time and money are spent on it in comparison to what is spent on maintaining the educational caste system. A person who is good at finding this is doing it off of intuition and experience, and that’s hard to codify into hiring standards.

      • Incurian says:

        Anybody can have a master’s degree.

        To help you calibrate, I have one, and I was not even close to the dumbest one there.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Realize that sometimes learning the hard way is the best method for gaining life-long wisdom. People should be set up to fail on a limited proportion of simple tasks, and then told (or figure out themselves) after failure why it is they failed.

      There are technical reasons to thermal cycle with only one primer. It’s remotely possible the student was instructed on such techniques and got one of them fixated in their head in lieu of the far more frequent PCR.

      How can a smart person predict what kind of problems other people’s stupidity creates?

      Realize that every single step, every single action, every single piece of equipment, is a completely open variable that must be explicitly, and loudly, and repeatedly, instructed in detail. (PLEASE RE-READ THAT FIRST SENTENCE AND MAKE SURE YOU UNDERSTAND IT. ASK ME QUESTIONS AND VERIFY EVERY STEP WHEN YOU FIRST PERFORM THIS. TELL ME WHAT STEP YOU ARE DOING BEFORE YOU DO IT, AND THEN TELL ME WHAT YOU ARE DOING AS YOU DO IT, AND WHAT IMMEDIATE RESULTS YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR ACTION. YOU CAN RE-WRITE THESE INSTRUCTIONS IN YOUR OWN WORDS FOR EASE OF USE LATER.) One cannot refer to other techniques without a very loud and explicit mention for the other person to read that technique.(I had this same issue with a written SOP where I referred to setting up a Gibson reaction, stating the DNA quantity and molar ratios to use, but the other person [a post-doc] just mixed the DNA together without the Gibson master mix or the isothermal incubation. I have since modified the SOP.)

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        “but the other person [a post-doc] just mixed the DNA together without the Gibson master mix or the isothermal incubation”

        To his credit, he was quizzical on how just mixing the fragments would work, but didn’t come to me with this question beforehand.

  20. aexl says:

    Hi. This might be a stupid place to ask but how can I disable comments? My computer is relatively old and loading all those comments on the SSC posts takes forever. Thanks

    • Plumber says:

      Doesn’t just going to the SSC homepage give you our host’s posts without others comments?

    • Lambert says:

      I know there’s some way to read without comments.

      Scott put it in so you could link his posts to people without them having to read what us motley lot have to say.

      Edit:
      Found it. Append ‘?comments=false’ to the URL.
      e.g. https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/04/open-thread-135-75/?comments=false

    • eigenmoon says:

      I’d guess this is a memory issue. How much memory do you have?

    • souleater says:

      you can append a particular post with
      /?comments=false
      and that should do it for you.

      If someone were technically inclined I bet they could write up a widget to do it automatically.

      • aexl says:

        Thanks, but I thought there was maybe an option somewhere on the site.
        I found this userscript for Greasemonkey: https://stackoverflow.com/a/10675190/4746972
        … and rewrote it a bit. Not sure if this is the correct way:

        // ==UserScript==
        // @name _Modify SSC
        // @namespace http://tampermonkey.net/
        // @version 0.1
        // @description Show no comments on SSC
        // @author Me
        // @match http*://*slatestarcodex.com/*
        // @grant none
        // @run-at document-start
        // ==/UserScript==

        (function() {
        'use strict';

        var url = window.location.href;
        var SSCPattern = /^https:\/\/slatestarcodex.com\/.*/;
        // Edit: To prevent multiple redirects:
        var nocommentsPattern = /\?comments=false/;
        if (SSCPattern.test(url)
        && !nocommentsPattern.test(url)) {
        window.location.href = url + '?comments=false';
        }
        })();

        I guess I should exclude the mainpage – and maybe open threads. 🙂

  21. BBA says:

    On Left Straussianism.

    My instinct is to support untrammeled free speech – but I’m like George Costanza, in that all my instincts are wrong. A series of events in the past few years have convinced me that free speech must be trammeled, in order to preserve the important kinds of freedom and stop bad actors from ruining the public square. Social ordoliberalism, you might call it. But this stance is self-contradictory, and the piece above goes into how the left-wing discourse has reached a kind of Straussian esotericism – some facts and arguments are just too dangerous to be publicized and ought to be censored for our own good. Which, from Plato to Strauss, has historically been seen as a right-wing view.

    Dunno where I’m going with this but the article expresses it better than I can.

    • acymetric says:

      George Costanza, in that all my instincts are wrong.

      I’m not going to engage with the actual point of this post, I just want to say that this was maybe the best episode of any show ever broadcast on TV.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      This temptation to censor is usually directed at discussions either of Ethnicity and IQ differences and/or Climate change. (Including policy and economics of Co2 mitigation) It might not be in your case but i’m going to use them as examples to explain how i tend to think about the urge to censor.

      The assumption in the case of the former is that the case for innate differences might be sound but that people became aware that there was a sound case they would, presumably, start mistreating POC and whatever good-will had been built up since 1964 or perhaps even 1864 would be lost.

      In the latter case I don’t think the censors sincerely have much doubt at all that climate change is 1. significantly dangerous 2. mostly if not entirely man made, but again if people are permitted to believe that 1 and/or 2 are not the case then you don’t get needed climate change policy, the ice caps melt, the coasts are flooded, drought, mass starvation, war, etc. etc. So the urge to censor feels justified.

      _________

      In the former case I’d invite you to consider if what would happen if significant numbers of influential POC developed a laser-like focus on the differences in wealth, influence, and educational attainment that existed between themselves and European Jews (Some of them already do but not enough for it to matter). Given the magnitude of the differences in outcome, and given an assumption of innate equality of behavioral/mental traits, wouldn’t it be reasonable to chalk up these differences to unearned privilege that would need to be actively remedied through policy. Only to be perpetually frustrated that whatever policy was adopted in the past did not close the gaps.

      We might call such dialogue “Blood libel” and condemn it as some species of hate speech, because we would immediately recognize that that kind of thinking puts european jews in danger. We might also recognize that there is an alternative theory for group differences which, properly understood and communicated, attributes group differences to factors outside of anyone’s direct control and therefore leaves no one to blame for success or failure. (Yes I’m sort of

      In the case of Climate change it’s really going to depend on the quality of CO2 reduction policy. If the mainstream view is that of a green new deal, or something that’s either too expensive to actually implement without crating your economy (well in excess of what the IPCC predicts a likely no-action scenario would be for climate change) triggering a revolt, and a pelosi type of “This isn’t going to work” gets labeled as climate denialism, then again we have to ask whether the “This is too important to be debated”

      • eric23 says:

        Re climate change not being “mostly if not entirely man made”, do you really think this? My impression was this approach was almost entirely limited to a certain uneducated segment of right-wing demagogues and their flock. I would be interested in seeing recent scientific publications that support this.

        As for the level of danger due to climate change, I agree with you, I don’t think it is clearly discussed by almost anyone, and the state of the science certainly doesn’t match the tone of rhetoric.

    • Plumber says:

      @BBA says:

      “…the article expresses it better than I can”

      Unfortunately either my limited patience and reading comprehension kept me from telling what the authors actually advocated, or the essay was just “bringing up questions” dagnabbit!

      Regardless, “freedom of speech” was always limited by social mores enforced by ostracism and/or beatdowns, you don’t grab a bullhorn and loudly denounce religion on a busy street corner in Salt Lake City, or anti-homosexuality in San Francisco without being shunned as a crank, though maybe you may “for the sake of argument” voice such views at a private party while clearly prefacing yourself with “what if’s?”, et cetera.

      The problem is the internet has world-wide reach, and statements go from whispered discussions to bullhorn shouts quickly (and some like to spotlight heretics/infidels for censure).

      Unless you’re David Friedman brave I recommend censoring yourself and/or keeping your anonymity, especially if your job isn’t protected by a strong union.

      A big part of me wishes that I was still ignorant of “Twitter mobs” and the like, but ’tis probably best to be forewarned, and also (unfortunately) one man’s idle thought may be another’s call-to-arms, which is a shudder inducing idea.

    • eigenmoon says:

      in order to preserve the important kinds of freedom
      What is that freedom which is more important than the freedom of speech, exactly?

      free speech must be trammeled,
      By whom?

      By the government? How do you get the bad and stupid public to elect good and smart government?

      By the “elites”? How can you be sure that when the elites censor Alex Jones, they do so because AJ is a bad actor and not because they’re deep into Epstein shit and AJ is exposing them?

      • Machine Interface says:

        What is that freedom which is more important than the freedom of speech, exactly?

        I don’t know if it’s a “freedom” but “Rule of law” is definitely something I value orders of magnitude more than my supposed natural right to deny the holocaust.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          The Holocaust was also “Rule of law” when the Nazi were writing the laws.

          Rule of law is nice to have if you can trust the system that writes and enforces the laws, but how can you trust a system that doesn’t let you criticize it? Recent historical examples of such systems all turned out very bad.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I think a lot of people are confused about what “rule of law” means. If you’re going to argue that Nazi Germany had rule of law, you are probably in that case.

            Rule of law means living in a country where the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of people who are in charge of making and enforcing the laws, can be expected to in fact respect the law. It means low corruption, it means arbitrary arrests are an anomaly, it means due process is generally respected, it means decisions by the governing body have to go through the established process of lawmaking, vetting and check and ballances, and it means established legal hierarchies and chains of command are respected.

            This is pretty much the opposite of what happens in your typical authoritarian/dysfunctional country, where decisions are at best government fiat (I think French has a better way to translate this: “le fait du prince” – the prince’s doing, the prince’s deed, as in, it happens that way because the prince said so), and at worst that of a general lack of control — local civil servants do pretty much whatever they want, and who’s getting punished for what depends mostly of who’s winning the current round of factional infighting within the spheres of power. Coincidently, those tend to be the kind of country where criticizing the system itself can put you in trouble — even if you’re “legally” allowed to.

            If we put things back in order, I’d rather live in a country where the laws explicitely and unambiguously state that I cannot say so, so & so (and all functioning liberal democracies have those laws, even the US) but where my right to express ideas outside of those is legally and actively protected (eg: if an angry, armed person shows up at my door over something I said, the police will intervain), than in a country where the constitution states in candid terms that freedom of speech is a guarantied right for every citizen but where in practice virtually anything I say can lead to an angry mob showing at my door or the police arbitrarily detaining me, and I can not even know in advance what to not say because it keep changing based untracktable political infighting dynamic.

          • sentientbeings says:

            “Rule of law” is not the same as “rule of legislation” or “general compliance with the law,” which are two commonly conflated ideas. There are other principles in play, which are sometimes hard to coherently reduce to practice in context. The Nazis chalked up plenty of “rule of law” violations.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            This is pretty much the opposite of what happens in your typical authoritarian/dysfunctional country, where decisions are at best government fiat

            Nazi Germany was authoritarian but not dysfunctional: it was ruled by a procedural bureaucracy that got things done by following regulations. It made the “trains run on time”, even when their destination was Auschwitz. You could argue that the Führer was technically not bound by the law, but most people didn’t interact with him directly, so in practice the government was procedural. Things like property rights and contracts were generally well-enforced (unless you were Jewish, of course, in which case your property would be confiscated in accordance to the law).

            On the contrary, you can find many examples of modern states that are liberal democracies but have poor rule of law, with widespread corruption, arbitrary action by government officials and incompetent or selective law enforcement resulting in widespread illegal behaviors in the population. E.g. Mexico.

            Also contrast China (authoritarian, relatively good rule of law (worse than the West but better than almost everywhere else)) with India (liberal democracy, poor rule of law).

          • Machine Interface says:

            The image of functional, orderly government some authoritarian governments are able to project should not be confused with the actual state of affair. In reality, evaluations of corruption levels in China conclude that China has more corruption going on than India, and certainly a lot more than any western liberal state.

            Likewise, not only Nazi Germany wasn’t corruption-free at all, but in fact the Nazi leadership actively organized an elaborate system of bribes to buy off the loyalty of Wermacht officers. And the Holocaust was only “legal” in the sense that whatever orders were issued by Nazi senior command was to be executed without question nor delay. Again, government fiat, not rule of law.

          • Aftagley says:

            Interesting. I’d never thought about it this way before, but I bet corruption looks and behaves entirely different in authoritarian systems vs. free ones.

          • ana53294 says:

            Schindler’s list could not have happened in a non-corrupt Nazi Germany, so some of that corruption was probably for the good (?).

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Machine Interface
            My problem with the expression “rule of law” is that when you say “I want rule of law”, it sounds very much like you’d like the current laws to be enforced more zealously. However it can also mean a very different thing: that you’d like the current laws to be replaced with more sensible ones so that people would have less need to circumvent the law and therefore corruption would be in less demand.

            So if you’d just say that you want better laws, I would be totally on board. But the way you describe it, the difference between good law (where “established legal hierarchies and chains of command are respected”) and bad law (where “it happens that way because the prince said so”) is so subtle that the distinction becomes subjective.

            If juries nullify a law, are they sabotaging the existing legal hierarchy or are they acting upon the existing legal principle?
            If a city flips a bird to the federal immigration policy and makes itself a sanctuary, is it providing checks and balances to the federal power or is it an instance of local civil servants doing whatever they want?
            If cops take all the money in somebody’s wallet as Civil Asset Forfeiture, are they following a legally established procedure or are they just brigands with a marquee from the prince?

            If the main sale point of rule of law is predictability, we can say that a nullifying jury acts against the rule of law, a sanctuary city… I’m not sure, and cops act against it. But if I want good laws, I’d say let juries nullify, let cities do whatever they want and why do you even have this ridiculous Civil Asset Forfeiture shit?

            This is why I think that “rule of law” is a pretty misleading expression. I just want better laws.

          • John Schilling says:

            Rule of law means living in a country where the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of people who are in charge of making and enforcing the laws, can be expected to in fact respect the law. It means low corruption, it means arbitrary arrests are an anomaly, it means due process is generally respected, it means decisions by the governing body have to go through the established process of lawmaking, vetting and check and ballances, and it means established legal hierarchies and chains of command are respected.

            So, maybe not the Holocaust because mumble something reasons, but then surely the Fugitive Slave Act counts as rule of law by your standards. And if “hate speech” had been a thing in 1850, if the Americans of that era had believed that “freedom of speech must be trammeled” to prevent bad actors from ruining the public square, probably there would have been a legislative compromise adding slaveowners to the list of “protected classes” that one cannot speak hatefully of.

            No doubt you’ll be able to gerrymander your definition of “rule of law” to carefully exclude everything you find intolerable at the object level, but arguing that the United States of America did not have rule of law until the 1960s or whenever isn’t going to be very convincing to people who don’t already agree with you.

            Rule of law does not actually mean that the laws will be good ones, or even merely tolerably-bad. And that’s particularly true when the laws turn to the suppression of dissenting speech.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think “rule of law” means we’re ruled according to the laws as written as opposed to “rule of man” where what happens happens because the king says so.

            This is part of my extreme frustration over the enforcement or lack thereof of immigration laws. An awful lot of people, when in power, do everything they can to not enforce these laws. What’s the point of having laws if we’re not going to enforce them? This is not “rule of law” anymore.

          • Randy M says:

            I think “rule of law” means we’re ruled according to the laws as written as opposed to “rule of man” where what happens happens because the king says so.

            Yes. Rule of law means equality under the law as written, rather than capricious judgement favoring those connected to the ruling class or party. It says little about what any particular law should be, but I do think it would be inclined towards having laws that are easily explicable and few enough in number and important enough in scope so as to be readily enforced, rather than an over-regulated state of anarcho-tyranny.

          • Nornagest says:

            I think “rule of law” means we’re ruled according to the laws as written as opposed to “rule of man” where what happens happens because the king says so.

            It’s a little more nuanced than that. Rule of law has room for discretion at all levels of the system — you don’t lose the rule of law if judges or juries sometimes rule according to their take on the law’s spirit rather than its black-letter text, and you don’t lose it if cops sometimes choose to look the other way occasionally when prosecution would do more harm than good. It can even help: if the system shows qualities like mercy and flexibility, that humanizes it, for lack of a better word, in most people’s eyes, which makes it psychologically easier to work with.

            But only as long as that discretion is applied uniformly. When selective enforcement becomes routine, or if the law is de-facto unenforced against certain categories of people, or at all unless you’ve pissed off the system in some way, then you’ve started getting into some seriously corrosive territory. Because at that point you can no longer rely on obeying the law in letter or spirit; you need to model the people enforcing it.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          “Rule of law” is definitely something I value orders of magnitude more than my supposed natural right to deny the holocaust.

          Those two things aren’t actually in conflict until you institute a law against Holocaust denial (which you are by no means obliged to do). Therefore, the simplest way to avoid such a conflict is to not have such a law.

          Now, it may be that you think the benefits of such a law outweigh the costs, but in that case that’s what you should be arguing.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        What is that freedom which is more important than the freedom of speech, exactly?

        Freedom is slavery, I guess. /s

        By the government? How do you get the bad and stupid public to elect good and smart government?

        Given that lefties often protest, sometimes violently, against the outcomes of elections (e.g. Brexit, Trump), I think they don’t really believe in democracy.

        By the “elites”? How can you be sure that when the elites censor Alex Jones, they do so because AJ is a bad actor and not because they’re deep into Epstein shit and AJ is exposing them?

        But the elites of the ultra-rich capitalists have the interests of the common people at heart and know what’s best for them better than themselves, according to the “left” /s.

      • Plumber says:

        Speaking of governmental limits on freedom of expression it looks like “Scabby the Rat” may soon be outlawed.

    • Clutzy says:

      I don’t have the background on Strauss to really appreciate the article, which is almost 100% nonsense to me as a person who’s only real engagement with him is via the perfunctory explanation. However I don’t understand how your new position even jives with my mild understanding of that article.

      My reading is that guy is in favor of noble lies to support leftism. I suppose this may be something like justifying gross exaggerations like, “climate change will flood Miami in 5 years” or “we can pay for Medicare for all by taxing the 1%.” I don’t see him really being on the censorship train all that much.

      Indeed, I also have a hard time seeing where the censorship line preserves essential freedoms, so I’d like to see your cause-effect. I find the natural state of things to have little prosperity and few protections for freedoms, so almost all speech will be in advocacy of those things until you hit a point where “freedom” is being redefined into something very different from, “not being robbed at spearpoint all the time” and is more like, “going around with guns demanding bread from a particularly fat baker.”

      • dick says:

        My reading is that guy is in favor of noble lies to support leftism.

        Who? Strauss? The author is a) against left Straussianism, and b) not a guy.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      I’d advise you to consider whether what’s actually under discussion is some version of Straussianism (not publicly speaking the unspeakable, regardless of what might one actually be thinking) or a plain ol’ Stalinist ban on factionalism (toutes proportions gardées).

      When I read something like:

      This was the charge that, regardless of whether what we said was true or persuasive, the potential “costs,” to quote one of our interlocutors, of publicly airing our criticism of progressive rhetoric were such as to render the practice inadvisable and possibly self-incriminating.

      or

      [A]lthough criticizing others on one’s side was permissible in “the smaller circles of the university, scholarship, conversation, and personal writing,” he wrote, the “political-intellectual public sphere” was a place where intellectuals should be singularly focused on “positioning” themselves to achieve their political objectives.

      It very much sounds to me like “stick to the Party line” (granting that there isn’t exactly a Party here, much less a definite line).

      Let’s be honest with ourselves: in the contemporary West you aren’t likely to get in a lot of trouble for left-wing opinions on the internet – not from the right wing anyway.* (This would be the historical reason for keeping certain views secret.) What might happen, however, is getting in trouble with the left wing for having heterodox views.

      The other motivation – not letting on to the rubes that you really do hold political positions they might consider unacceptable (such as Dictatorship of the Party Proletariat, for example) – also seems very much out of the traditional Bolshevik playbook.

      * I am allowing for the existence of local bubbles – for example in small, close-knit, conservative communities – where expressing the wrong sorts of opinions might have negative consequences. I don’t expect many left-wing people who want to publicly express their views to remain in such communities for very long.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      But this stance is self-contradictory, and the piece above goes into how the left-wing discourse has reached a kind of Straussian esotericism – some facts and arguments are just too dangerous to be publicized and ought to be censored for our own good. Which, from Plato to Strauss, has historically been seen as a right-wing view.

      If you want to consider the Bolsheviks and their ilk right-wing, I guess.

      The real distinction here is between totalitarianism and classical liberalism. In a totalitarian system the government treats its subject as fundamentally incompetent children who must be micromanaged and carefully insulated from dangerous ideas that they aren’t smart or educated (= indoctrinated) enough to evaluate.

      In a classical liberal system the government acknowledges that sovereignty ultimately belongs to the citizens, who are usually competent to understand what is in their best interest, and the role of the government is to mediate between different interests and solve coordination problems. Classical liberalism acknowledges that government officials are not selfless, perfectly enlightened people, which is why it puts in place multiple institutional “technologies” to prevent them from abusing their power:

      – Check and balances to avoid concentration of power and make different people and branches of government
      check on each other
      – Regular elections to keep them accountable to the public
      – Freedom of speech, assembly, and political agency to allow effective oversight and organize political action against bad actors
      – Due process to prevent abuse of the coercive power of the law enforcement system

      The progressive left tends to undermine all these principles: the attacks on freedom of speech and the delegitimisation of elections are the most evident, but there is also an attack to due process (e.g. the “yes means yes” doctrine that started at college kangaroo courts and it’s now spilling to the judicial system) and, especially in the US, check and balances (judicial activism undermines the separation between judicial and legislative branches and overuse of presidential powers, up to extrajudicial assassinations of citizens, undermines the separation between executive and judicial branches). Their end goal is arguably a government by unaccountable, supposedly enlightened elites: a technocracy, an aristocracy in its literal sense (government of the “excellent”).

    • EchoChaos says:

      My instinct is that suppressing free speech is a popular instinct when you’re locally conservative, which is to say you don’t want things changing much, not a right versus left distinction.

      Since the West is currently very pro-left, banning it allows them to conserve their gains against anything that would disrupt that status-quo.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Restrictions on free speech are inherently an authoritarian view, such restrictions require a powerful caste who decides what is and what is not allowed as well as the punishments for transgressions. It is self contradictory to say that speech should be suppressed for more important freedoms as freedoms aren’t based on outcomes, but in the proposition that individuals have rights. Authoritarians posit the opposite, that rights exist only at the pleasure of the powerful and that therefore any right can be squashed at any time, for any reason. To support the restriction of one right is to deny the validity of any right.

      • Plumber says:

        @baconbits9 says:

        “Restrictions on free speech are inherently an authoritarian view, such restrictions require a powerful caste who decides what is and what is not allowed as well as the punishments for transgressions…”

        Really?

        I may be misreading human nature but I wouldn’t guess that free speech as a social norm has been common, I’d guess the opposite, that bullying those who voice heterodox opinions is pretty innate and protection of free speech requires those of high status to value free speech otherwise the desire to beat down ‘weirdos’ takes over.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I may be misreading human nature but I wouldn’t guess that free speech as a social norm has been common, I’d guess the opposite, that bullying those who voice heterodox opinions is pretty innate and protection of free speech requires those of high status to value free speech otherwise the desire to beat down ‘weirdos’ takes over.

          Rights, classically, aren’t about societal norms, but the recognition of individuals. More importantly, as you have frequently alluded to, there are only heterodox beliefs in free(ish) societies. The ‘left’ is a jumble of positions, as it the right AND the center. There is no lefty platform that 50% of liberals firmly believe on on every point, and that is just ~ 1/3rd of the population, meaning we really don’t have broad platforms that cover 16% of the population. I believe it was you who posted recently that ~29% of the electorate was fiscally liberal and socially conservative, so even in really general terms there is no majority opinion.

          This is what makes the position that we need to protect heterodox speech a lie (or maybe just a big misunderstanding), there are places for people to say anything UNLESS powerful elites come in (with their own heterodox opinions) and shut them down.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Rights, classically, aren’t about societal norms, but the recognition of individuals.

            Classically among libertarian gurus?

            The only rights that exist are those that are actively enforced. Free societies aren’t a natural order, they’re ongoing projects that require constant and active maintenance, and when they collapse people rediscover more “natural” institutions like slavery or rule of honor very quickly.

            Free speech isn’t a natural institution, it’s something that is decreed, not merely recognized (notwithstanding all the magical-thinking that goes into the writing of constitutional documents).

          • baconbits9 says:

            The only rights that exist are those that are actively enforced

            Free speech isn’t a natural institution, it’s something that is decreed,

            No. Natural rights are things that are innate to man. I have the ability to speak, and am only restricted in that ability from the outside. There is a vast difference, and literature on the differences, between positive and negative rights. My freedom of speech is not predicated on the government giving me permission to speak, but on their not inhibiting that speech. Those are two very different concepts, with different implications.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I have to agree with baconbits9 here: Robinson Crusoe on his island is free to speak, without anyone else to decree this to be the case or to enforce this state of affairs. Freedom of speech is the default state. It’s restricting speech that actually requires effort.

            That said, there is some truth to the notion that preservation of rights in a real-world society requires constant vigilance, but that is simply due to the fact that might makes right, at the end of the day (you can’t be right if you’re dead).

          • Machine Interface says:

            Robinson on his island is free to make any sound he wants because there’s nobody to talk to; there’s no actual communication, so there’s no actual speech. It doesn’t matter whether Robinson advocates communism, denies the holocaust, says the n-word, or just spouts completely random syllables — it’s all equally meaningless out of the context of human interaction.

            Communication requires at least two people, and as soon as you have at least two people, speech restrictions arise.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s right. If you are talking to me and I simply choose not to listen, am I abridging your freedom of speech? Is that the same as you not talking at all?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Communication requires at least two people, and as soon as you have at least two people, speech restrictions arise.

            Not true. A cave man throws a spear and kills an animal with surprising (to him) ease. He goes back to the cave and draws a picture of the spot that makes it easy to kill the animal. The next year during that type of animal’s annual migration he goes back to the picture to remind himself of the weak point*. Communication can clearly happen with a single party.

            If our friend Robinson keeps a diary and dies on the island alone his writings are not speech if no one ever discovers the diary but is speech if someone does?

            *In my (uninformed) opinion this is the most likely explanation for the origin of written language, its use as a tool for memory without the need for two to understand it on its first iteration covers all known (to me) complications with explaining how language began.

          • bullseye says:

            Free speech, defined narrowly, mean the government isn’t allowed to restrict speech. In a state of nature the government can’t restrict speech because the government doesn’t exist, so I guess free speech is natural in that sense?

            Really, though, I don’t accept the existence of natural rights. Rights are something that human beings invented. Some cultures have a norm that the government shouldn’t pass laws restricting speech. This norm is sometimes interpreted to include certain other ways of limiting speech, even if it’s not the government doing it.

            Also, Robinson Crusoe on the island is not living in a state of nature. His natural state is live among other people of his culture.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Machine Interface

            Free societies aren’t a natural order, they’re ongoing projects that require constant and active maintenance, and when they collapse people rediscover more “natural” institutions like slavery or rule of honor very quickly.
            I’ve read somewhere that at some point in Louisiana the free market pushed the slaveholders to free their slaves. It was the constant and active maintainers of the “free society” that have actually forbidden to set slaves free.

            The rule of honor in the modern society is basically the cancellation culture. Nothing the maintainers can do about that.

            Free speech isn’t a natural institution, it’s something that is decreed, not merely recognized (notwithstanding all the magical-thinking that goes into the writing of constitutional documents).
            A free society isn’t where the King grants his subjects the ability to speak freely. It’s a society in which ideally there’s no King, but failing that, the King has no ability to prevent his subjects from speaking freely. There’s a world of difference.

            The rights are Schelling points. It tells the government: “if you mess with this, you’ll upset lots of people at the same time” and that’s something no government really wants to do. But for this to work, everyone really needs to commit to be very upset if somebody messes with the Schelling points. This is why anti-free-speech Left upsets lots of people.

    • FLWAB says:

      Andrew Klavan once said something along the lines of “Nobody naturally supports freedom . We all support our own freedom, but want everyone else’s freedom to be curtailed.” I think that’s the case: freedom in general is not popular. When people are free they do things you don’t like. They say things you think shouldn’t be said. They eat food you think they shouldn’t eat. They take drugs you think they shouldn’t take. They go places you think they shouldn’t go. We have to be taught to value freedom for others from a young age, because at it’s core freedom is naturally unpopular. So I don’t think it’s a right wing thing or a left wing thing, but it is certainly a liberal vs authoritarian thing. Liberals believe in things like freedom and democracy even though they seem like ridiculous ideas on their face (Let people do whatever they want? They’ll do bad things! Let people decide what the country should do? They’ll make bad decisions!”. And I think it is dangerous to abandon any of the freedoms we have worked so hard to preserve over the years: they didn’t come naturally, and they don’t stay naturally. If you throw it out you may never get it back.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I would disagree with the sentiment, tons of people genuinely care about their in groups, neighbors etc. Lots of people join the military thinking it is about defending freedom.

        • FLWAB says:

          My point perhaps would have been better formulated as “People want freedom for themselves and don’t want freedom for their outgroup.” Evangelicals want the freedom to teach their kids that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and would prefer that their outgroup not propagate deviant ideas. Progressives want the freedom to have sex with whoever they want (with consent) and would prefer their outgroup not propagate puritanical ideas. Freedom for me and mine but not for you and yours: that is the basic impulse of mankind. Or to put it more simply: everyone is in favor of people being free to say things that they already agree with, but it is not natural to be in favor of people being free to say things you disagree with.

          To counter that natural impulse people need to be taught to value freedom of speech as an ideal. It’s also natural for people to use violence to get revenge on their enemies, but we teach people from a young age to respect the rule of law. Freedom is no different: alien to the heart of mankind, but a vital part of the civilization we have inherited. People join the military to protect freedom, but that’s because they are taught (rightly!) to value freedom. They have inherited a priceless heirloom called freedom, one worth dying to protect. But that heirloom was won at hard cost, and if thrown away will not be easily replaced. Gold is hard to find: that’s what makes it valuable. Similarly a love of freedom is hard to find naturally: that’s why the love we inherit is so valuable.

          • Jiro says:

            “People don’t want their outgroup to do X” and “people don’t want their outgroup to be free to do X” aren’t the same thing.

          • FLWAB says:

            “People don’t want their outgroup to do X” and “people don’t want their outgroup to be free to do X” aren’t the same thing.

            I agree. I also think that, without a cultural tradition of valuing freedom, most people “don’t want their outgroup to be free to do X.” I’m an American: I have inherited a culture that values freedom, and enshrines many freedoms in law. I was taught that freedom of speech is important from a young age, and just because people do things you don’t like doesn’t mean you should pass a law against them doing that. Because of that I can say “Even though I think what those people are doing is wrong, they have the right to do it.” That is not a natural thought: that is not a normal thought. That thought needs to be inculcated, and even so I would say a large amount of people don’t even get that far.

    • Machine Interface says:

      I’ve made this argument before, but discussions on freedom of speech are pretty much always mired by the unrecognized gap between what radical free speech advocates claim they value, and what their revealed preferences actually show, that they in fact want mostly the same thing as everyone — freedom of speech as a default, but with plenty of admitted exceptions.

      There’s a simple test to demonstrate this. Consider the following claims:
      —Doxxing should be legal.
      —Internet mobbing should be legal.
      —Deaththreat should be legal.
      —Firing people for their political opinions should be legal.
      —Insider trading should be legal.
      —Identity theft should be legal.
      —Counterfeit branding should be legal.
      —False advertisement should be legal.
      —Lying under oath should be legal.
      —Corporate espionage should be legal.
      —A commanding officer should not be prosecuted for ordering their subordinate to do something illegal.
      —Patents and copyright should not exist, plagiarism should be legal.
      —Inciting mass panic with concrete harmful effects should be legal.
      —Individual bookshops and theaters should be able to alter the books they sell and movies they show however they like.
      —Distributing child pornography should be legal.
      —Forging your credentials should be legal.

      Do you disagree with at least one of the following statements? Yes? Then you’re not a free speech absolutist.

      What this list shows is that specific restrictions on free speech are actually necessary to protect free speech as a whole — because if you can say anything without repercution, your speech becomes a weapon that you can use against the outgroup to intimidate them into silence. This is not different from how severely curtailing the allowed use of violence except in very specific cases does in fact lead to a freeer society, even though we’ve just banned something!

      I think this boils down to a collective smoke-screen where everyone in the west is taught that “censorship = bad = totalitarian”, and so everyone rationalizes what they consider normal speech restriction as “outside the realm of free speech” rather than seeing censorship for what it is: a tool.

      The US first amendment is the best illustration of that sleight of hand:

      What the first amendment says is that Congress shall not abrige freedom of speech. It says nothing of other branches of government, let alone of the private sector (private censorship is completely ok), but also, it doesn’t define what freedom of speech actually is. The courts did that, and what they ruled is that freedom of speech was the content of a category of “protected speech”, whereas some other category, “unprotected speech”, was outside the realm of free speech, and so was fair game for censorship. This is of course completely tautological: it amounts to say that the government cannot censor anything except for what it allows itself to censor, which doesn’t count as censorship because it’s only censorship if the government censors something it’s not allowed to censor!

      Free speech as a sacred value is, like all sacred values, a mind-killer. It has no room in a rational discussion.

      • Lambert says:

        >It says nothing of other branches of government

        The 14th incorporates the 1st, though.

        If you want a nuanced defense of Free Speech and why carving out narrow exceptions to it is different to broadly banning ‘hate speech’, look here.

      • Randy M says:

        Do you disagree with at least one of the following statements? Yes? Then you’re not a free speech absolutist.

        Yes… but no. Free speech is short hand for freely expressed thought. Some injurious actions–like almost everything on your list–are conducted via speech, but the injurious part is not the idea expressed, but the action involved. edit: poorly expressed. Sorry.
        What we want to maximize is allowance for persuasion or expression, not incitement or deception.

      • baconbits9 says:

        The only thing mind killing here is you starting with your own definition of speech and drawing conclusions from it without sharing it from the get go.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        This is an incredibly stupid argument and you should feel embarrassed to have made it.

        It’s not a secret that the first amendment has had recognized exceptions since the beginning for things like fraud, true threats, incitement to immediate illegal action (including against oneself via fighting words) and obsensity. That a few enumerated categories of speech aren’t protected has been understood since the ink on the Bill of Rights was still wet.

        And these aren’t arbitrary categories. Fraud and true threats directly infringe on the rights of others, which is why they constitute crimes on their own. Inciting someone else to commit a crime in the moment is hardly different from conspiracy to commit a crime, where the only difference is that the material act of conspiracy is a speech act. Obscenity is the most subjective but even here the courts won’t find speech as obscene unless it can be demonstrated to literally have no expressive value, a standard by which even a porn parody passes.

        The philosophy behind the American conception of freedom of speech is quite sound, much moreso than a lot of other things you can find in constitutional law such as the tortured interpretations of “cruel and unusual punishment” or interstate commerce.

        • Drew says:

          I disagree that the point is stupid. The plain meaning of “speech” is simply speaking. Those crimes cover acts that are often committed via speaking.

          Saying nothing in the list is “speech” is silly. We can make a more nuanced argument that “freedom of speech” doesn’t allow people to commit acts that would otherwise be a crime. But that gets into nuance pretty quickly.

          To pick out an examples:

          Inciting someone else to commit a crime in the moment is hardly different from conspiracy to commit a crime, where the only difference is that the material act of conspiracy is a speech act.

          Conspiracy requires a material act BECAUSE we don’t want to prosecute speech. So, people can sit around a table going “so we’re agreed: we’ll kill the Don Vito on Sunday” all they want. It only becomes a crime when there’s an act beyond the mere talking.

          Some of the others have interesting nuance to them. “Commanding officer gives an illegal order” is interesting, for instance, because an order isn’t *mere* speech. Orders have a compulsion & legal weight.

          Then there are examples that aren’t especially nuanced. Reciting a poem in public is a central example of speech. If copyright law makes that illegal, then that’s a pretty clear restriction on speech.

          But, in any case, I don’t think the answers to these are trivial. And I think “Free Speech” as a principle deserves a better defense than a circular definition (eg. ‘Protected speech means the speech we’ve decided to protect’)

      • Machine Interface says:

        So you are all saying that the counter to my claim that people rationalize away the censorship they’re in favor of by claiming that the speech they want censored is actually outside the realm of speech, is to claim that the examples of speech most people agree should be censored that I have given are in fact outside the realm of speech. QED.

        • Mark V Anderson says:

          @MI
          The answer is that freedom of speech is not a simple thing to define, as your comment makes clear. Whether one defines acceptable restrictions as because that what’s being restricted isn’t really speech or because they are simply reasonable restrictions on speech is just semantics. It is a good thing to try to define what is reasonable to restrict and what isn’t. Defining what is speech and what isn’t is just a distraction, IMO.

          I am a strong advocate of free speech. For example, I do think restrictions on Holocaust denial is a bad thing. But I certainly accept some restrictions, such as the cliched “shouting fire in a crowded theater.” And many of those things you list I would agree should be restricted, whether or not you call them speech.

    • albatross11 says:

      The essay was interesting–thanks for linking to it!

      The writer seemed to be talking about several different things:

      a. Not discussing some matters in public because it undermines your desired policies or weakens arguments for your policies. (Don’t discuss higher CO2 leading to better plant growth lest you weaken support for a carbon tax.)

      b. Not discussing some matters in public because doing so will strengthen/support the other side or may lead to losing some important recent gains. (Don’t discuss differences in physical ability by sex lest you screw up the gains of the last few decades in womens’ sports.)

      c. Not discussing some matters in public because the public won’t understand them or will get the wrong ideas from them. (Don’t discuss details of climate modeling and how the models get fitted to the data, because it will sound sketchy to nonexperts and undermine belief in AGW.)

      d. Not discussing some matters in public because somehow those matters becoming public knowledge will lead to bad behavior. (Don’t discuss higher crime rates among blacks than whites, lest you convince employers to discriminate against blacks for fear of crime.).

      e. Coordinating on some norm of what topics must not be discussed in public, and punishing defectors from that norm. (The next person who talks about how long this occupation of Iraq will be is going to get fired.)

      In all cases, the assumption is that you’ll still discuss those matters in private, among like-minded people. Maybe in public you only want to talk about Saddam’s rape rooms and how we’re sure to be welcomed as liberators, but in private you still want to be able to discuss whether disbanding the Iraqi army is really all that great an idea.

      I understand the arguments for all these, but I think they’re almost always a pretty bad idea.

      Consider how decisions are made in our society. In general, they’re made based on the understanding of the world of the decisionmakers, but also they have to make sense given the understanding of the world of voters, shareholders, coworkers, courts, regulators, etc.

      In order for some idea or subject to need to be kept from the public, it must have some important policy implications. Nobody thinks the public needs to be kept from knowing about prehistoric cave paintings. But that means we have to make sure the public is misinformed or uninformed about these matters, which we already know have policy implications. That seems to almost guarantee that we’ll get bad decisions–either the decisionmakers will have a cartoon-physics view of the world and make dumb decisions, or they’ll have a realistic view of the world but they’ll have to sell their decisions to people with a cartoon-physics view of the world. In either case, they will be making worse decisions.

    • dick says:

      A series of events in the past few years have convinced me that free speech must be trammeled, in order to preserve the important kinds of freedom and stop bad actors from ruining the public square.

      Which events made you think this? Anyway, a few thoughts:

      1) A lot of the responses are taking your references to “censorship” literally, so it might be worth pointing out that what the article discusses is more like self-censorship, not actual censorship. The author describes left Straussianism as when someone:

      …in addition to sometimes filtering their own public speech to advance an ideological agenda, they’re additionally responsible for “protecting” the public from being exposed to conversations not disciplined by political strategy. To the extent that their own ideas are not already disciplined by such a strategy, they limit discussion of them to close friends and sympathetic colleagues.

      and cites as examples of it articles to which the response (from the left) was that

      thoughtful criticism of an author’s argument—for being confused, or incomplete—was overshadowed by the left-Straussian assertion that, regardless of whether the argument was true or reasonable, it was “irresponsible” for the author to make it in public.

      So, this is very much not talking about legal constraints on speech, it’s talking about people on the left criticizing other people on the left for making arguments that seem self-defeating.

      2) I think this the article is sort of elaborately and indirectly discussing the classic debate between conflict vs mistake thinking. The thing the author is describing and arguing against is what happens when a conflict thinker reads something by a mistake thinker. I generally agree with the author, but I’m not who she’s talking to – I tend to take a “mistake” approach on almost all matters of policy. However, her position (that left Straussianism is bad and should be opposed) seems tantamount to calling for everyone on the left to be mistake rather than conflict oriented. That seems sort of impractical, like writing an essay about why trees should be shorter – even if it’s very persuasive, it’s not something that can be practically accomplished.

      3) It strikes me that the thread in this OT about Bernie Sanders’ remarks on the Mexico City policy and climate change are quite relevant here. As it happens, most/all of the criticism has come from the right so far, but I’m sure some on the left will reach the same (uncharitable, in my view) interpretation EchoChaos did, that Sanders said “keeping the population down in the Third World would be part of his climate plan.” And if they then argue that he should’ve kept mum, they would (I think) be doing what this article’s author is inveighing against.

      The reason I think this is relevant is that it is a reminder that the left doesn’t talk to itself in a vacuum. The author is arguing that we on the left should have the intellectual decency and courage to talk openly about the weaknesses or exaggerations in our own positions, as opposed to protecting the masses from them. But the price of this is not just the masses being exposed to those weaknesses, it’s the masses being exposed to exaggerations and distortions of them, and having to respond to them, Brandolini style.

      In this case, the position Sanders took was to oppose the Mexico City policy (a US ban on funding for NGOs that offer abortion services abroad). This is, I think, a relatively uncontroversial left-wing policy; Clinton and Obama did the same and AFAIK received no flak for it. And the context in which Sanders made his remarks, was an event about climate change policy, where again his position is (on the left)) uncontroversial. But the juxtaposition of those policies is (as the questioner said) if not controversial, at least controversial-looking.

      Point is, if this gets big enough that he needs to respond to it, what he’s responding to won’t be a principled and brave intra-left examination of the nuances of our own positions. What he’ll be responding to is the strawman version of it: “Why do you support euthanasia?”

      So, while I broadly speaking am on the author’s side in wanting to avoid the conflict thinking that she describes as left Straussianism, at the same time as a practical matter I think running things through the old “is this comment going to be easy to twist in a way that will predictably bite me in the ass?” filter is not a failure of intellectual decency, it’s just pragmatism.

      • AliceToBob says:

        @ dick

        I’m sure some on the left will reach the same (uncharitable, in my view) interpretation EchoChaos did.

        Re a discussion on conspiracy theories from 133.75:

        Stop trying to jujitsu me into arguing about Mueller, it’s really cunty.

        That was admittedly not the nicest thing I’ve said here, but the thing I was complaining about seemed pretty egregious.

        Yeah, your charity-measuring shtick is a bit suspect, as is your verdict that it’s not about “actual censorship”. Despite that wall of text on intellectual decency, the principle seems to be “if it’s pretty egregious, my behavior is justified”.

  22. dick says:

    Anyone want to opine on Michael Burry’s recent thoughts on index funds? I think Burry’s position is that the large increase in index fund investing is a) a little bad because it makes price discovery less efficient, and b) a lot bad because it constitutes a bubble that would pop in a downturn. I think a) is kind of wonky and orthogonal to the crash risk, it’s b) I was hoping to get expert opinions on. I’m probably not qualified to summarize it, but I think the case for it in layman’s terms is that, because of how index funds keep an internal liquidity buffer to keep their basket-of-stocks balanced to the market, if everyone sold index funds at once, the indexes wouldn’t be able to sell enough of the smallest-cap stocks in the basket to keep it balanced, because the amount the indexes need to sell is larger than the amount that stock normally trades.

    • Eric Rall says:

      For an ETF, this is handled by the price and bid-ask spread of the ETF shares on the exchange. If there’s a crunch in redeeming ETF shares, then the bid prices for the shares will fall below the asset value of one share’s worth of the ETF basket (i.e. selling a share of the ETF will get you substantially less than the underlying value of the fund’s per-share assets). That discount will act as an incentive for high-frequency traders and other institutional investors to step in and buy up the hard-to-liquidate shares.

      For a traditional mutual fund, sales only happen once a day, with at least half an hour of lead time, The fund issuer sets a cutoff time (usually between 2pm and 4pm Eastern time) each day, and sales received before the cutoff are processed at or shortly after the close of the trading day (US markets soft-close at 4pm, but allow after-hours electronic trades), while sales received after the cutoff have to wait until the next day. The delay gives the fund some additional time to rebalance their basket, especially if the sale orders come in early in the day.

      And for both types of funds, tracking the index is done on a best-effort basis. If there’s a liquidity crunch and the fund really can’t sell shares fast enough to stay balanced to the index weighting, then they’ll just hold onto the illiquid shares until the crunch clears out. That’s actually a major point of differentiation between different index fund providers: for example, Fidelity’s index funds have slightly lower fees than Vanguard’s, but Vanguard does a slightly better job of tracking the underlying indexes.

      • mfm32 says:

        This explanation confuses the mechanics of ETFs with the mechanics of mutual funds. ETF shares are not normally “redeemed” in the sense that mutual fund shares are. Unlike in a mutual fund, when you sell a share of an ETF, you sell it directly to another investor and not back to the fund itself. The fundamental arbitrage mechanism that keeps ETF share prices in line with NAV is an in-kind transaction that occurs only with institutional investors (not normally HFTs, BTW). As an aside, it turns out that this transaction is the source of all of the tax advantages that ETFs enjoy vs. mutual funds. But the mechanics really don’t matter for normal investors.

        Index tracking accuracy is a related but different topic. Nearly all (all?) funds reserve the right to hold only a “representative sample” of the securities underlying the index. How well they choose that representative sample will affect how well the fund tracks the index. The index itself is also not “investable,” so trading efficiency will contribute as well. With an ETF, the floating market value of the ETF shares contributes an additional source of tracking error. I would love to see a quantification of the different sources of tracking error if anyone has one.

        • Lambert says:

          Some of them say they have to hold 95% of the underlying securities, but can make the other 5% up from futures and stuff.

    • hash872 says:

      Definitely not an expert, but I think the rebuttal to his ‘passive funds reduce price discovery’ argument is that a natural equilibrium should exist where- if that was true- active managers could make money doing their own price discovery. (Some) active would beat passive for a time, then the equilibrium would swing back, etc. This seems pretty plausible to me- for all the talk of a rise in passive investing, there’s an absolutely massive amount of capital & brainpower on the active side, looking for mispriced companies (or value investing or whatever).

      Another critique is that a crash shouldn’t really affect long-term investors. It’s inevitable that there will always be market crashes, but the system should self-adjust after a few quarters. I think the S&P 500 has quadrupled since the bottom of 2008, so any long-term folks who just held on since then have more than recovered from the last crash. Burry may personally make money on a crash with various bets, but that should have no affect on us amateurs who are not trying to time the market.

      Also- it sounds like Bloomberg played up his ‘bubble’ comments to get clicks. I do read Bloomberg a lot, but in between the Bloomberg Law controversy this week and the ‘Chinese are installing spy devices on every circuit board everywhere’ piece from last year that they….. mysteriously withdrew after it was widely debunked, but have never commented on- I dunno, not looking great for them.

      The blog A Wealth of Common Sense has a rebuttal to Burry that everyone’s citing on financial Twitter etc.

    • Bamboozle says:

      One thing a lot of laymen don’t realise is that vanguard and blackrock sell options on the underlying holdings of their ETF’s and lend out their holdings, which makes them money. That is how they can offer such low fees, along with not employing fancy fund managers. They are still employing a huge tech team and quants etc so costs are there.

      Therefore if there’s a huge crash and volatility is exaggerated by the abundance of index funds, in my opinion it will be similar to the 2008 sub-prime crises with indexes realising they don’t have the underlying. In effect people won’t be able to sell, and will be told there’s a soft/hard lock on the index funds, similar to Woodfords UK equity fund and all open ended property mutual funds when brexit went through and people wanted out of UK property. You’ll eventually be able to sell but not for anything like what it was worth and not in a timely fashion.

      Just my thoughts.

      • Jon S says:

        Most funds do lend out their shares (except a few that have prospectuses that don’t allow them to). Some of the lending income goes directly back into the funds and some doesn’t, again depending on the fund. Otherwise this isn’t how equity mutual funds or ETFs work in general.

    • Matt M says:

      Not an expert either, but A seems plausible enough to me.

      Once everyone learns “don’t bother picking up the $20 on the ground, because if it was real, someone else would have already taken it,” then suddenly we find our sidewalks littered with $20 bills that nobody bothers to pick up.

      Someone has to be out there making the markets actually efficient by speculating, engaging in arbitrage, etc. Everyone can’t just sit back and buy SPY and expect everything to work the same way it did before.

    • mfm32 says:

      The dynamic Burry describes for the effect in (b) is superficially similar to the problem of a run on a bank. Banks, of course, do not hold enough cash reserves to satisfy all of their depositors. That is fine in normal circumstances, because only a small fraction of depositors withdraw on any given day. If for some reason everyone tried to withdraw at once, however, the bank wouldn’t have the money to give them. That money has been lent out to borrowers and the terms of the loans do not allow the banks to demand repayment. Because people are forward-looking, rational actors, the possibility of this dynamic creates a positive feedback loop that could make the maturity transformation function that banks provide to the economy, absent interventions to short-circuit the run process.

      A critical difference for mutual funds is that there is no maturity transformation: unlike a bank’s obligation to hold the loans it has made for a fixed period, the fund has no obligation to hold its underlying securities. It can sell them at will. There is instead, arguably, a liquidity transformation: an S&P 500 ETF is going to be more liquid (=cheaper to sell) than many of its constituent stocks. But how big of an issue is this? The less liquid securities are, at least for equity funds, almost by definition the small cap stocks, and since the funds are generally cap-weighted those stocks are not a large portion of the value. The telling point to me is that Burry keeps citing the number of illiquid stocks but not their total value. I can’t track down the data, but I would not be surprised if the illiquid stocks he is raising the alarm on are an immaterial portion of the total asset value.

      For ETFs, I simply cannot see a similar issue, since the holders of the ETF shares have no right to demand the underlying securities (apart from a select number of institutional investors). How could there be a run, if the holders can only sell to other holders? And ETFs are where the growth is vs. mutual funds.

      If this is a problem, it is a much bigger problem for bond funds and has been for many years. Despite some people in the industry loudly crying alarm, however, nothing really bad has happened. That to me is pretty good empirical proof that the simplified models people use to argue for catastrophic risk do not capture actual market behavior. Read Matt Levine on “People are Worried About Bond Market Liquidity” for an entertaining and insightful analysis.

      Remember that Burry has a personal axe to grind here: he runs an active fund, at a time when the trend and the facts are pushing people to passive or semi-passive approaches. This smacks of marketing to me. Note also that, despite the fact that this problem would be much more acute in fixed income, he talks almost exclusively about equities. Is it a mere coincidence that he is an equity manager?

      • baconbits9 says:

        A critical difference for mutual funds is that there is no maturity transformation: unlike a bank’s obligation to hold the loans it has made for a fixed period, the fund has no obligation to hold its underlying securities

        This is generally incorrect, banks can sell their underlying securities (most banks, most of the time) if they want to to match redemptions. The difference between a bank and a mutual fund is that the dollar value of your account in a bank is pegged to how much money you have deposited in the account (less withdrawls, fees, plus interest etc) and that amount is more or less fixed. If my account says $10,000 today it still says $10,000 tomorrow without regard to if the loans my bank holds have gone up or down in value. For a mutual fund the value tracks how the underlying securities have moved, so I put $10,000 in today and it could be more or less of that amount tomorrow.

        The difference here is that if I walk into a bank and ask for my $10,000 dollars and they can only sell the securities for $9,000 then they are bankrupt, if I walk into a mutual fund office and withdraw my money and they can only sell my securities for $9,000 then they are not bankrupt, I just get $9,000 and they go on about their business.

        • mfm32 says:

          A run is a situation where a solvent bank can nonetheless fail, so it isn’t primarily a function of the value of underlying assets. A bank whose loans have declined in value below the value of its deposits has a more fundamental problem called insolvency.

          Of course liquidity is a function of price, so you can twist yourself into knots to argue that a maturity transformation is really a liquidity transformation. But the ability of a bank to convert its loans into cash is a distraction. If maturity and liquidity were really interchangeable like your argument implies, banks wouldn’t exist as we know them today.

          • baconbits9 says:

            A run is a situation where a solvent bank can nonetheless fail, so it isn’t primarily a function of the value of underlying assets.

            I don’t want to get into semantics heavily, but you have to choose a particular definition of ‘solvent’ to make this true, and I don’t find that to be a particularly useful definition.

            If maturity and liquidity were really interchangeable like your argument implies

            My argument doesn’t imply that, the statement that you made was

            unlike a bank’s obligation to hold the loans it has made for a fixed period

            Banks do not have such an obligation*, banks can originate loans and then sell those same loans on a broad, generally liquid, market. The difference between banks and mutual funds is emphatically not that banks have to hold until maturity and mutual funds can sell at any time.

            *some technical aspects aside

          • mfm32 says:

            ‘Hold’ was an imprecise word when applied to the bank. I meant that the loan is not callable by its holder, whoever that may be. That is what makes the question here one of maturity transformation, not liquidity transformation. (Non-callable) loans make up the majority of assets of a typical bank’s balance sheets. Whether the holding bank originated them is immaterial.

    • baconbits9 says:

      I have had thoughts along this line of thinking but have not really fleshed them out or come to a real conclusion. There are some large potential issues. For example there is a contradiction in a lot of the assumptions about the EMH, functionally the EMH is true (if it is true, and whichever version you think is true) only if people are actively managing their portfolios and reacting to information as it comes in. Logically the more people you convince of the EMH (and get them to change their behaviors because of it) the less true the EMH becomes, and the smaller the markets get the more volatile they should be because each of the remaining active individuals now have a larger effect on the market when they change their positions.

      However this view does not appear in line with a simplistic glance at history, the market crashes of 1929 or 2001 (or whenever) are not preceded by masses of safe/un-managed portfolios and a tiny handful of people trading, but are generally classified as bubbles when the broader populace starts trying their hands at speculation.

      There are lots of possible ways to reconcile the two, including using a different definitions for variance or volatility, or noting that 401ks style investing might be amplifying the direction that markets are moving in, but the chains aren’t clear (to me) and the market isn’t clear (to hardly anyone).

    • CandidoRondon says:

      Index funds hold 36% of the assets invested in mutual finds and ETFs and 1940 Act funds only are about 30% of the investing market. I think having 13% of the total stock market assets in index funds in nothing to worry about unless people are saying that we need 90+% of the market actively trading in order to facilitate proce discovery which seems ridiculous to me.

    • Chalid says:

      You can get a bit of a sense of how much of an “index fund bubble” there is by seeing how much stock prices rise/fall for S&P additions/subtractions. This is a single-digit percent effect at most. So that’s a very crude estimate of the size of the “bubble.” Doesn’t seem like much to worry about. Similarly you could look at the difference in stock return on stocks with high passive ownership versus those with high active ownership; it turns out there is a difference but it’s not very large (comparable to other well-known equity factors like momentum).

      There are hedge fund strategies that revolve around having a deep understanding of the index rebalancing process for all the various stock indices around, and predicting these moves. These make decent money, but overall they’re a very small fraction of overall active asset management. If indices were extremely important then there’d be a *lot* of active managers working on predicting the indices.

      • Jon S says:

        You can get a bit of a sense of how much of an “index fund bubble” there is by seeing how much stock prices rise/fall for S&P additions/subtractions. This is a single-digit percent effect at most. So that’s a very crude estimate of the size of the “bubble.” Doesn’t seem like much to worry about. Similarly you could look at the difference in stock return on stocks with high passive ownership versus those with high active ownership; it turns out there is a difference but it’s not very large (comparable to other well-known equity factors like momentum).

        +1!
        Though some index add do move low-double-digits these days, mostly small cap companies (adds to SML, lately a few Nikkei adds)

    • Aftagley says:

      My gut reaction results in a pretty similar outcome as Burry, but I’m not quite financially literate to fully follow his arguments, or the counterarguments against it.

      Can anyone explain in non-jargon why this seemingly obvious argument is incorrect:

      1. Common wisdom these days is to invest in low-margin index funds. Most people will gravitate towards something equivalent to the S&P 500.

      2. These funds buy stocks in certain companies, but customers don’t know/really care about what companies “their money” is being put into. They just know they should have money in the index fund. This could serve to inflate the prices of these companies stocks beyond what a market without these funds would support.

      3. The point of index funds is for them to be boring. Customers don’t touch them, money shouldn’t flow out of them too regularly and people won’t/can’t sell out of a certain company’s stock just because it starts to fall. This means that normal corrections won’t affect the stocks in these indexes as hard as they should, since a (substantial?) portion of the people holding their stock are doing so for the explicit purpose of ignoring market corrections. This will mean that while stocks of these companies can fall, they won’t fall as much as they would in a market without index funds.

      4. The long term result of index funds is that stock prices of companies in the funds will rise faster than they should and fall slower than they should. This effect will compound until the difference between what prices are and what they should be is so great that the center stops holding and enough non-index people sell out of the company that normal market forces correct the system. At this time, people who have invested in the index fund are left holding the bag.

      Again, I get that this argument is probably wrong, but I’d like to know why.

      • Chalid says:

        On #3 and #4, the price is set by whoever is actually trading the security at any given time. Even in a mostly-passive world, the active investors are largely the ones setting the price as the passive investors are not trading much and what trading they do is purely mechanical.

        The increased passive ownership does increase the stock price simply by reducing the supply of shares available to active investors. The size of this effect is determined by the shape of the stock’s supply and demand curves, and my post above points out that empirically the effect isn’t that big. This leads to indexed stocks having slightly lower returns than non-indexed stocks; again this effect is not large and is partly arbitraged out of the market already.

  23. MissingNo says:

    Has anyone decided on the validity of lighting oil rigs on fire in order to increase the GDP?

    I hear that some economists have been worried that the GDP figures decreased over the last several years which could indicate a depression.

    • bullseye says:

      What? How would that increase GDP?

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I think it’s a broken windows fallacy joke. Destroy stuff so resources are expended repairing them.

        • More “GDP” would be created in terms of whatever is necessary to fix the oil rigs, but then you aren’t pumping and selling oil, which reduces GDP. Since the long-term value of the oil will be higher,(or else it wouldn’t be cost effective to do the repairs) long-term GDP will go down. The resources invested in fixing the oil wells do not come from nowhere, and it means that less steel, labor, ect is available for other sectors of the economy, reducing the amounts traded there. Broken windows would only work if for some anomalous reason existing resources (such as labor in the case of mass unemployment) are not being used. GDP isn’t perfect as a measure but this explains why those countries where labor and resources are used less efficiently are consistently those with lower GDPs.

      • MissingNo says:

        Eventually, consumption has to be linked to consumption of non-renewable resources.

        Clearly, lighting oil fields on fire maximize that.

        I should win the nobel prize in economics.

        This, maximizing the GDP, will surely fix the economy.

    • eric23 says:

      There are better ways to increase the GDP.

      For example, draw a flower on a piece of paper, then sell your artwork to a friend for 20 trillion dollars, on condition that he/she sell it back for 20 trillion dollars at some point within the next 5 minutes. Congratulations, you have just doubled the US GDP (if you live in the US). Don’t tell the IRS you did this!

      Of course, this just goes to show that GDP is an approximation of value, which breaks down in extreme situation. And lighting oil rigs on fire is another extreme situation.

  24. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Time for some lighter-hearted mockery of journalism than usual for us. This is a headline I saw on my home page:
    Kids Need Structure More Than Warmth From Their Parents, According to a Top Child
    I haven’t read the full content, but apparently it’s signal-boosting the claims of Lisa Damour, a psychologist who specializes in adolescent girls… not a Top Child. Looks like the word “Psychologist” got chopped off the headline.

    • Nearly Takuan says:

      I’ve seen some silly errors in published web article headlines, but this one looks like it was correct from the first day it appeared. That’s not to say whatever engine reposted it didn’t mess up, though. It’s also possible that on certain specific screen dimension breakpoints the giant banner image thingy covers up some of the words; I find that sort of thing happens pretty often (at least, relative to how often i think it ought to happen).

  25. EchoChaos says:

    Bernie Sanders caused a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday by asserting that keeping the population down in the Third World would be part of his climate plan.

    While the specifics are certainly up for debate, this seems like a practical and obvious thing that must be done if you believe that climate change is as severe as advertised.

    Is this just anti-Bernie Democrats trying to score points and most lefties agree with Bernie? Is he way off the reservation?

    I am not a leftie, but I’m curious what the smart and engaged ones here think.

    • Aftagley says:

      I follow the primary closely, and I hadn’t heard about this. I then googled the topic and the only sources that popped up were: Fox, Washington Examiner, National Review, Freebeacon, TheHill, and CNS. All these sources lean Right and are consumed pretty much exclusively by righties.

      AFAICT, this story hasn’t broken out of the right-wing sphere yet, so I don’t think there is a leftie response yet.

      • jgr314 says:

        FWIW, I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of The Hill. I scan their stuff frequently and it doesn’t seem to have a partisan lean that I can detect, but it is extremely heavy on personality and he-said-she-said conflict rather than ideas or policy substance.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      The left keeps drifting left, so I don’t know if I still count. Regardless, my opinion:
      It all depends on the method. If you use Science and focus on richer nation’s having less children, then enriching the third world becomes the obvious path to fewer children. Then again, a lot of third worlders happen to be people of color, so I doubt the reporting will ever be positive (You just hate brown people and want less of them!)

      Personally, I’m updating just a bit towards Bernie knowing what he’s talking about.

      • We as first worlders can’t make them rich and distributing birth control or some other method isn’t a guarantee that it will lower their birth rates.

        I could see someone try to square the circle of “help poor people around the world” and “keep population lower” through immigration. Developed countries are population shredders. Take in all those people and their children will have fewer kids than they do.

        • albatross11 says:

          Historically, making people richer (or at least less horribly poor) is the thing that drops their birthrate.

          • Matt M says:

            Of course, people in developed countries also tend to emit a whole lot more carbon, per capita, than people in undeveloped countries.

            It’s unclear to me whether “bring a bunch of people from Africa into the US and get them to adopt the lifestyle of Americans” is, on net, carbon reducing, or carbon increasing… the answer is probably something like “increasing short term, reducing long term” which means that this, once again, like a surprisingly high amount of other climate-change issues, comes down to a question of what the appropriate discount rate to use is for all of this…

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Going off Wikipedia’s list of CO2 emissions per capita by country, immigration from poor countries to rich ones is almost certainly bad in terms of CO2 emissions. For example, compare Niger to the US. If we assume that Niger somehow sustains their fertility rate for 4 generations, an average Nigerian plus three generations of descendants will consist of 19x as many people as the same thing for an American. But American per capita CO2 emissions are 165x greater than Niger. I believe the same thing happens if you replace Niger with a more polluting less fertile country, and the effect is large enough that it’s irrelevant that we used the US as the point of comparison even though it’s an outlier in CO2 emissions per capita among developed countries.

          • John Schilling says:

            Of course, people in developed countries also tend to emit a whole lot more carbon, per capita, than people in undeveloped countries.

            This. The carbon footprint of fifty million starving Ethiopian subsistence farmers is next to nothing. Convince them to have so few children that the next generation is twenty-five million, but put those twenty-five million into the early transition to an industrial economy, and their carbon footprint increases greatly. They’re going to insist on having electricity after sunset, if only to #LearnToCode after a hard day’s work, and they can’t yet afford shiny lithium-ion battery packs, so it’s going to be coal or natural gas.

            It really depends on how you define “third world”, and did Bernie himself really use that term? But people who can afford large carbon footprints or the like, can also usually afford thermonuclear missiles. So if your plan is to “keep their population down” from the outside, they might wind up returning the favor. People who are too desperately poor to afford either powerplants or missiles, yes, you can keep their population down. You can also keep their level of industrialization down; that’s probably easier, but if it doesn’t stick it may lead to really hard feelings when they get to the “should we build more powerplants or more missiles?” stage.

            This is a hard problem, not made easy by first-worlders in air-conditioned offices deciding the fate of entire nations not their own, and I’m guessing Bernie doesn’t really have any well-thought solutions.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Eh.. Russia has a plan to fix that. Okay, that plan is “Sell VVER 1200 to EVERYBODY”, but it is a perfectly reasonable plan. And a VVER-1200 in Ethiophia will beat the pants of coal and gas on cost.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            If we assume that Niger somehow sustains their fertility rate for 4 generations, an average Nigerian

            Gah! This is somehow even more confusing than Georgia and Georgia, or the fact that in some languages the name for Brazil is the same as the name for their capital city. Apparently if you’re from Nigeria you’re a Nigerian, but if you’re from Niger you’re a Nigerien.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Damn, I did actually look the demonym up but apparently didn’t write it correctly.

          • Lambert says:

            Makes sense, considering one was colonised by Britain and one by France.

          • Deiseach says:

            Apparently if you’re from Nigeria you’re a Nigerian, but if you’re from Niger you’re a Nigerien.

            Nigeria – former British colony, thus English spelling conventions. Niger – former French, thus using the conventions of la langue d’amour 🙂

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Nigeria – former British colony, thus English spelling conventions. Niger – former French, thus using the conventions of la langue d’amour

            Sure, but if you’re going to go French, you would still have the option of something less similar, Nigerois perhaps?

    • edmundgennings says:

      Population ethics are hard and people have strong and differing views on them

    • Randy M says:

      Is this just anti-Bernie Democrats trying to score points and most lefties agree with Bernie?

      I think…

      I am not a leftie, but I’m curious what the smart and engaged ones here think.


      >rolls to bite tongue.
      >fails.

      I think this is just an inconsistency that the left-leaning coalition has, and they don’t have a clear consensus of how to resolve these two claims that are often presented as significant moral obligations–care for the global poor/historically oppressed and care for the environment, and maybe reproductive freedom as well–but that the average member of that coalition probably believes there is a sacrifice western nations can make that would avoid having them make that choice. The smarter ones probably realize there is some tension here, avoid saying anything to avoid conceding what sound like racist points, and hope that it is resolved by third world countries lowering their birth rates as they develop. One might suspect that some of the motivation for pushing women’s rights lie here, as well as also just being sympathetic to women generally.

      Assuming climate concerns are legitimate and significant, as long as the third world does not develop, does their population matter? It does if we grant easy immigration to western nations, and to the extent livestock are a significant source of atmospheric carbon. But that’s probably moot, since they will develop.

      edit: Didn’t a French or Italian executive recently court controversy by publicly worrying about African birth rates?

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems to me that for any given set of starting moral beliefs/hot button issues, some topics are very hard to discuss, because anything thoughtful and careful you say can be spun as something offensive and attacked. My guess is that for mainstream US politicans, both wings, a looming population explosion in sub-Saharan Africa is one of those topics. Any remotely honest discussion of the matter will quickly draw someone who will decide you’re a horrible racist who hates blacks, or that you’re flirting with the alt-right, or some such thing.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The challenge is that as societies develop, the birth rate goes down, but the use of resources goes up.

    • Plumber says:

      @EchoChaos says:

      “…kerfuffle…”

      How “smart” I am is debatable (I perceive myself as of dead average intelligence for a 51 year-old), and I’m so unengaged that your post was the first I heard about the kerfuffle (I imagine I’d have heared something about it on the radio this afternoon, and read something about it when I check the NYTimes tonight), but the thing about Sanders is that, like Nixon’s anti-communist track record allowing him the leeway to deal with Red China, Sanders long “Left” track record (and frankly his age) allows him to depart from orthodoxy in ways that a Buttigieg, Harris, or even Warren can’t (Biden is in a separate space and has an even narrower path, he still has to come across as “the moderate that can actually get elected”, but without doubling down on coming across as more out-of-date than he already seems), as for the practicality of Sanders idea I’m not sure who the audience supporting the U.S. paying more for birth control and education for foreigners is, I suppose a few less military jets, and some more taxing the rich (which I imagine Sanders would like anyway) could pay for birth control for billions around the world, but any cuts in our tontine socialism system (Medicare and Social Security) to pay for it is political suicide, especially with older Democrats.

      In any case, this like most of what the candidates are campaigning on are among the powers and responsibilities of Congress, not the Presidency, so much Presidential campaigning is empty signalling, but except for appointing judges, unless the U.S.A. is being attacked or Americans are coming home in body bags, what Presidents actually control doesn’t matter much to most voters, and that individual representatives and senators powers are limited by all the others in Congress, so few get that excited by them, we instead go through this “King of Congress” charade every four years.

      My guess is that this will be forgotten in a week, though I suppose the pro abortion element may make 51% of Catholics become Republicans instead of the roughly 50% that currently are.

      • Plumber says:

        Okay, I finally read a mention of it today as:A real gaffe from Bernie Sanders in The Washington Post (other SSC commenters are just quicker on “breaking news” than I am).

        • Aftagley says:

          Eh, look at the publication date on that. It didn’t come out until yesterday at 1630 EST, after this discussion was already taking place. SSC commenters, in this case, were quicker on “breaking news” than the WaPo’s opinion page.

    • Aftagley says:

      Ok, saw the exchange in question. I predict with moderate confidence that there will not be a leftie backlash against his statements. Here is the text of the exchange:

      Person asking Bernie a question:“Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?”

      His response: “The answer is yes, And the answer has everything to do with the fact that women in the United States of America, by the way, have a right to control their own bodies, and make reproductive decisions…
      The Mexico City agreement, which denies American aide to those organizations around the world that allow women to have abortions or even get involved in birth control to me is totally absurd. So I think, especially in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies, and where they can have the opportunity through birth control to control the number of kids they have, is something I very, very strongly support.”

      So his answer focused on empowering women to choose (which lefties approve of) expanding education, access to birth control and abortion (which lefties approve of) and expanding international cooperation (another leftie like). You’ll notice he never talks about making sure there are explicitly more abortions, just making sure women everywhere have a right to choose.

      Maybe the absolute crazies on the racial identify front will claim this is a dogwhistle and that he secretly wants to kill brown people, but mainstream democrats aren’t going to bat an eye on this answer. The right, however, is already up in arms about it.

      • Plumber says:

        +1 to this.

        There’s a few anti-abortion elected Democrats left (the governor of Louisiana comes to mind), but this isn’t the ’80’s and by far most elected Democrats are now lock step “pro-choice” (even Biden has “evolved” away from supporting the Hyde amendment), just as by far most Republicans are now lock step “pro-life”, so most anyone who decides their vote based on the legality of abortion has already decided.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      1. You argue lower TFR can improve the QOL for each successive generation
      2. You can argue more education/job opportunities for women will lower TFR

      A lot of this is contextual though:
      1.) Expressing fear of the rapid growth of another population negatively affecting your own population’s safety/wellbeing is an big no-no, it’s an ethical premise that is impermissible.
      2.) Expressing fear at the rapid growth of another population has on the environment or climate change is slightly less odious because it’s expressed in abstract terms but most people will assume the individual who talks this way secretly wants #1.

      As long as you avoid explicitly stating the desire for population reduction and emphasize the benefits to the target population you are probably safe, and that can be done by, as i mentioned, emphasizing access to contraception and education etc.

    • lvlln says:

      Do you have any links to resources from which one could learn more about this kerfuffle?

      My guess, without knowing anything about this kerfuffle, is that most leftists haven’t thought particularly deeply about all the dirty work and sheer logistics what it takes to mitigate climate change, much like most people when it comes to any political issue. From the way you describe it, it seems that Sanders did think a bit more deeply than most people and came to a fairly reasonable conclusion, but this conclusion activated the dumb pattern matching areas of the brains of most people – as most things that most politicians say do – and the leftist subset of those people pattern matched to “rich white colonizer telling poor brown people how to live,” which caused a negative reaction.

      Presuming that my guess is somewhat accurate, I’d say Bernie isn’t “way off the reservation,” but that most leftists certainly don’t agree with Bernie; they just agree with his premises and mostly his reasoning, but putting the premises and reasoning together to reach the conclusion is off limits because the conclusion activates the disgust response from the aforementioned dumb pattern matching which most people of any political affiliation do. It seems more that Bernie is flirting with the borders of the “reservation,” because he’s taking the agreed-upon premises and applying mostly-agreed-upon reasoning to it and finding that it leads him to somewhere outside the “reservation.” But he’s been like that since at least 2016 anyway, and I suspect that there are more people today who have followed a similar route as he did to the borders than there were in 2016.

    • dick says:

      a) Which democrats criticized him? All I saw was pro-lifers. b) It might be an instructive exercise to try summarizing what he said in a way he would agree with.

      • dick says:

        It seems like the answers are “None, I just assumed no one here would notice” and “No thanks”?

        • Aftagley says:

          Yes. This is the same “Leftist clearly believe…” thing you see all the time here.

        • EchoChaos says:

          This is on me. I was linked to “CNN Host SE Cupp” and I parsed her as a liberal.

          I was not trying to be uncharitable here.

          • Matt M says:

            SE Cupp is liberal on the issues where conservatives are right, and conservative on the issues where liberals are right. So your confusion is perfectly understandable.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Matt M

            Well that sounds like a perfect CNN host then.

          • dick says:

            This is on me. I was linked to “CNN Host SE Cupp” and I parsed her as a liberal. I was not trying to be uncharitable here.

            Because she’s on CNN, yes? Which we all know (or “know”) is just a bunch of left-wing shills, yes? Just like the WaPo, even though they also published a critique against Bernie’s comments from a conservative? There’s a lesson to be learned here…

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dick

            Yes. That is what I just said.

            And portraying CNN as leaning left is a pretty clear reflection of reality, just as portraying Fox News as leaning right despite the fact they have left-wing hosts.

            If I wrote about a Fox News host you had never heard of criticizing someone, would you assume that it was a liberal or a conservative?

          • dick says:

            …portraying CNN as leaning left is a pretty clear reflection of reality…

            Hey man, heuristics are great, they work really well right up to the point where they don’t. But may I humbly suggest that when that happens, that is the time to change them, not defend them. In this case, it sounds like either the site you were reading presented this in a misleading way, or it didn’t and you read in to it what you wanted to see.

            More generally, this seems relevant to the article about “left Straussianism” elsewhere in this thread, which I’m trying to finish up a reply to, so I’ll include it there…

          • albatross11 says:

            “Left-leaning” is a term that is meaningful only in comparison to some standard. In the room full of dedicated Maoists, the Bernie Sanders supporter is a right-winger.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @dick

            In this case, it sounds like either the site you were reading presented this in a misleading way

            Yes. And I updated and apologized, which is the comment we’re all replying to.

            Given that my request was “what do smart left-wingers here think of Bernie’s answer” and I got that, the original question, while less correct than I would like, is still useful and helpful.

            It seems at this point you are the one being uncharitable by not accepting that I was wrong, which I’ve said multiple times.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Coming up with the correct answer every single time is a great deal to ask of a heuristic.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      this seems like a practical and obvious thing that must be done if you believe that climate change is as severe as advertised

      Citation badly needed. At the moment, if the entirety of sub-Saharan Africa (minus South Africa) suddenly stopped emitting greenhouse gases completely that would be about the same as a 20% drop in US emissions.

      If you object that this ignores differences in fertility rate, here are Wikipedia’s lists of countries by CO2 emissions per capita and total fertility rate; please show your working.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        It’s a long run concern rather than a short run concern. *However* TFR is something you work on *today* because there’s no humane way to control population size at any given point in time, you can only affect the contemporary fertility rate which affects future population.

        Because it is very difficult to increase the standard of living of a person living in an underdeveloped country without increasing emissions per capita. Decreasing emissions per capita in a developed country has, heretofore, been done with 1.) Taxation 2.) adopting relatively more sophisticated (and sometimes, more expensive) forms of technology even my preferred solutions to climate change like more nuclear plants would be harder to implement if UN population projections hold.

        The emissions per Capita in the developing world being as low as they are, are a function of raw energy consumption being low, rather than CO2 emissions per energy consumed being low.

        I should walk that back by saying that I think by the time Africa’s population gets to be that big, assuming nothing apocalyptic has happened by then, Carbon Neutral technology and sources of energy may render this a non-issue, but this only solves the environmental problems of carbon dioxide, meaning the triage trade-off between high standards of living, high population, and low enviromental impact will most likely exist. (I.E. you can pick two of the things on that list)

        • salvorhardin says:

          The best source I know for the claim that lowering TFR in the developing world is an important long-term contributor to climate change mitigation is Drawdown:

          https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/women-and-girls/family-planning
          https://www.drawdown.org/solutions/women-and-girls/educating-girls

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I just realized that i sort of ‘said this’ without getting to the punch line; but hopefully the punchline should be relatively clear:

          If you want the developing world brought up to first world living standards in the future that’s going to require much higher levels of per-capita electricity consumption. There may be a practical floor on how low emissions per electricity consumed can go.

          There’s no duty to necessarily hamper economic development in the developing world for the sake of climate change insofar as carbon dioxide isn’t coming from that part of the world. However, 1) future population is determined by current fertility rates 2) and it’s reasonable to imagine a situation where falling emissions per capita [and falling population] in the developing world are more than offset by growing total emissions elsewhere; if UN population projections are held and electricity consumption in the developing world increases.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      I have to cheat a bit, cause I don’t really think that way. But…..
      Assuming I’d accept the “climate change is doom”-premise, I don’t see how this is practical and/or obvious.
      Even assuming a Malthusian misanthropic “third world humans create more externalities than benefits”-frame of mind, that would make reduced population growth an obvious, good-for-climate thing, what would give me the confidence that population control on that level could be implemented or strongly incentivized by outsiders?
      Also Islam and Christianity in those regions would push against any such attempts hard.
      I still can’t accept the idea that those people are playpieces that are easily manipulated into ones bidding.
      Eradicating diseases is possible, if not even that sometimes difficult, because there’s only upsides in that intervention, but this?
      Don’t see how it’s practical.

  26. gettin_schwifty says:

    In the spirit of the NFL thread below:
    NHL season is coming up, and I don’t know what prediction to register for my San Jose Sharks. I’ll say 45-50 wins at 70% and 40-55 at 85%. We lost a big player and a couple food ones, but if Erik Karlsson stays healthy we might be better.

    Martin Jones had the worst even strength save percentage in the league among goalies that got 20 starts (out of 82 games) at .886, so there is truly nowhere to go but up, but I’m worried.

    • Matt M says:

      I am a huge NHL fan!

      I’m pretty bearish on the Sharks. I think they’re due for a bit of a regression. They paid way too much for Karlsson, at a position where they don’t even have a large need, given that they already have Brent Burns.

      The good news for them is that the Pacific is the worst division in the NHL, by a fair amount. The Kings and Ducks are both in full dumpster fire mode, and Edmonton, Vancouver, and Arizona are all in what I’d say is “maybe someday, but not yet” category.

      Which means I think the Sharks probably still make the playoffs, even if they fall off a decent amount. But I suspect that the 6th place team in the Central may end up having more points than them…

      • gettin_schwifty says:

        Agreed on Karlsson, especially given his age. I know he’s probably the best offensive defenseman in the league, and he’s not leaky on defense like Burns, but it really seems redundant. Then again, having one or both on the ice for 40-50 minutes a game has to be scary for other teams.

        I’m uncomfortable with a lot of our long contracts, actually. Couture has 8mil a year until he’s 38, Burns gets 8 until he’s 40 (although who knows with the Wookiee), Vlasic gets 7 until he’s 39 and he’s already started slipping at age 32. They’re well-earned for now, especially Burnsie, but I don’t see things looking good in a few years.

        As grim as things may be, I expect them at 5th in the Central at worst. The Wild are probably going to be in the basement, and I figure the Blackhawks aren’t rebuilt enough to contend. I’m hoping for Dallas to do well, just because Pavelski’s on the squad.

    • Matt M says:

      Also, did you hear the best possible off-season news US hockey fans could possibly receive?

      Our long national nightmare is over – Pierre McGuire is getting demoted!!!

      • gettin_schwifty says:

        That is good news! I sometimes get tricked into thinking Doc and Eddie are bad commentators, but that’s the NHL video games getting to me.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I’m originally from KC, then transplanted to St. Louis, so I never followed the NHL much before the last 5 years.

      I gave up on the Blues last season around mid-December, when they were literally fighting at practice. In order to avoid curses, I then had to stay away from watching any games until after Boston was safely in their graves.

      This season should be fun. I’m looking forward to following it.

      • Matt M says:

        Honestly, the Blues got pretty lucky. Calling up an untested AHL goalie and watching him be best in the league for a few months is just off the charts ridiculous.

        And then, in the playoffs, the 3 of the 4 best teams in the west (Calgary, Nashville, Vegas) were taken out before the Blues ever even had to play them.

        Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an impressive achievement. Winning the cup is hard, you take it any way you can get it, and they beat a truly good Boston team on the road in Game 7.

        But I think Blues fans expecting a repeat performance are in for a disappointment. I expect them to be a middle of the pack team in the Central this year, probably going out in the 1st or 2nd round of the playoffs.

    • Cheese says:

      I think the Sharks are truly hard to predict. Too many questions around aging players. While you have managed to replace Marleau and Thornton well, who is the Pavelski replacement? Is there a Couture replacement on the horizon (I don’t think so tbh).

      That said I echo that the pacific is trash.

      I’m Vancouver and I think we’ve firmly entrenched ourselves around the 12-20th mark for the next few years. Some genuinely elite young talent but not enough of it to see a really promising cup-contending core. We’ve whiffed on a few very important early 1st and 2nd round picks and how now started trading away futures for the now.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, if I were a Vancouver fan, I’d be worried as well. I feel like they’re about to enter the general territory that the Oilers have occupied for the last 5 years or so. Enough promising young players to get the fanbase really excited and to build expectations… but literally no depth surrounding those guys. And hockey isn’t a sport where one or two guys can carry an otherwise crappy team to greatness… or even to average.

        Yeah, Petterson is good, but if McDavid can’t single-handedly will an otherwise crappy team to the playoffs, why do we think he can?

      • gettin_schwifty says:

        They have some awful contracts, and the Myers signing doesn’t give any hope that they’ll stop having awful contracts. I think they have better depth than Edmonton, but Boeser is no Draisatl and Petterson isn’t likely to be the next generational player a la McDavid, so you’re probably right on the money. At least you didn’t trade away a Taylor Hall…

  27. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Do y’all SSCers know about the findings about European ancestry from ancient DNA (the first wheat farmers + Yamnaya + Western Hunter Gatherer model)? Or should I make an effortpost about it?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Somewhat, but everything I know is about 3-4 years old. I haven’t been keeping up with aDNA and we don’t have many talks by basic science researchers at my institution.

      An effort-post would be greatly appreciated.

    • souleater says:

      I would be interested in an effortpost!

    • Plumber says:

      @Le Maistre Chat,

      Over a decade ago I read two different books on the genetic histories of Britain and Ireland (where at least half of my ancestors are descended from), and the authors reached different conclusions of what the proportion of “Celtics”, “Germanics”, and “Nordics’ there are (and yes, I know that those are linguistic not genetic groups, but wha’ ya gonna do?).

      If there’s been some kind of kind of consensus since then I’d be interested.

      • DeWitt says:

        but wha’ ya gonna do?

        Show some humility and not make claims you’re unqualified for because you lack the actual info, maybe?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @Plumber:

        Over a decade ago I read two different books on the genetic histories of Britain and Ireland (where at least half of my ancestors are descended from), and the authors reached different conclusions…

        Consensus as of 2015: Celtic was totally just a language group, but some Germanic tribes are associated with genetic profiles. There was a diverse population when the Roman Empire fell, and 10-40% of British DNA became Anglo-Saxon after their invasion. That’s the most recent detectable change, except that Orkney became 25% Norse.

        “The DNA signatures of people in the neighbouring counties of Devon and Cornwall are more different than between northern England and Scotland. [oh hi Borderers] And there are also unexpectedly stark differences between inhabitants in the north and south of the Welsh county of Pembrokeshire.”

        • Plumber says:

          Thanks!

        • Lambert says:

          I thought you’d expect Pembrokeshire to be genetically weird, due to all the immigration from England.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Sure. I wouldn’t have guessed Devon’s population and the Cornish to be so different though, unless they were the same stock of farmers and tin miners in Roman times and the invading population got stopped at the west end of Devon (which I guess would explain why there was a Cornish language and no “Devonish”).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      OK then…

      As of 2014, some of the oldest European H. sapiens sapiens DNA was from Kostenki 14 in European Russia, 38,700 to 36,200 years ago [Seguin-Orlando et al].
      “Kostenki 14 shares a close ancestry with the 24,000-year-old Mal’ta boy from central Siberia, European Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, some contemporary western Siberians, and many Europeans, but not eastern Asians. Additionally, the Kostenki 14 genome shows evidence of shared ancestry with a population basal to all Eurasians that also relates to later European Neolithic farmers. We find that Kostenki 14 contains more Neandertal DNA that is contained in longer tracts than present Europeans.”
      Before 38.7KYA, you’ll see claims that all non-Africans were one undifferentiated population. That’s getting outside the scope of this effortpost, but I suspect that may be incorrect (see elsewhere in this OT where I talk about Saharan and boat routes Out of Africa).
      European early modern humans (EEMH) lineages of 39 to 26 KA (often called Aurignacian after an archaeological horizon) were still part of a large Western Eurasian “meta-population”, related to Central and Western Asian populations. I would surmise that these people should be reconstructed as Cro-Magnon skeletons (as they used to be called: now EEMH) with skin like South Indians of farmer descent (i.e. native Dravidian speakers), except for a northern clinal variation toward fair skin and the red hair of European Neanderthals (not to be confused with West Asian Neanderthals, from whom I don’t think we have any red hair markers).
      So about that skin depigmentation: you can read Beleza et al 2012.
      “Using compound haplotype systems consisting of rapidly evolving microsatellites linked to one single-nucleotide polymorphism in each gene, we estimate that the onset of the sweep shared by Europeans and East Asians at KITLG occurred approximately 30,000 years ago, after the out-of-Africa migration, whereas the selective sweeps for the European-specific alleles at TYRP1, SLC24A5, and SLC45A2 started much later, within the last 11,000–19,000 years, well after the first migrations of modern humans into Europe.” I don’t uncritically agree with this, because that would imply all EEMH redheads, who had “more Neandertal DNA that is contained in longer tracts than present”, being as dark-skinned as tropical East Asians or native Dravidian speakers, lacking all of TYRP1, SLC24A5, and SLC45A2 in the time between our ~39KYA sample and 19KYA or later.

      Anyway, as deglaciation commenced in the Northern Hemisphere ~19KYA, we find founder effects producing the lineage dubbed West European Hunter-Gatherer, which emerged from the Solutrean refugium of the Last Glacial Maximum (see Jones et al 2015).
      “We find that Caucasus hunter-gatherers (CHG) belong to a distinct ancient clade that split from western hunter-gatherers ∼45 kya, shortly after the expansion of anatomically modern humans into Europe and from the ancestors of Neolithic farmers ∼25 kya, around the Last Glacial Maximum. CHG genomes significantly contributed to the Yamnaya steppe herders…” (about whom more later).

      All of the successfully tested Mesolithic WHG Y-chromosomes, one from Luxembourg and four from Motala, Sweden, belonged to haplogroup I. Haplogroup I is the main candidate for Europe’s indigenous Y-haplogroup, which is today the most common Y-haplogroup in most of Scandinavia.

      The DNA that’s been extracted from prehistoric farmer skeletons indicates that the Neolithic Revolution in Europe was mostly a story of population replacement, not adoption of new technology. Non-Nordic lineages of WHG appear to have made minimal contributions to the descendants of the invading farmers, who cluster with modern Aegean people: but bear in mind that historical Greeks have a para-Scandinavian WHG element (Homer mentions white-skinned, red-haired Mycenaean aristoi). For this period, think Native American ancestry among farmers north of the Rio Grande in recent times.
      That Scandinavian WHG heritage survived among Europeans seems to be thanks to the Fertile Crescent agricultural package hitting a wall as it approached the Baltic. The “Danubian cultures” archaeological group produce Early European Farmer bones, and as you can see in yellow on this map, they didn’t reach the Baltic and touch the North Sea only at the mouth of the Rhine. Erteboelle and Comb Ceramic Culture on the same map represent hunter-gatherers selectively adopting technology from the invaders: if they didn’t already have villages, they were producing pottery and settling down, but they were more into intensive fishing than agriculture. It seems that domesticated species of the Fertile Crescent package needed time to be bred for colder conditions, giving the Nordic WHGs time to survive the Neolithic Revolution.

      To be continued…

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        So circa ~8400 KYA, the Early European Farmers (EEF), very closely related the Anatolian or Levantine farmers (other offshoots of which are colonizing Mesopotamia and the Nile/Green Sahara), are colonizing the northern margin of Greece*, places like Epirus and Corfu. 1-4 centuries later, their “Cardium pottery culture” is in modern Albania, Croatia, and the Adriatic coast of Italy. Contemporary with this, early examples of their pottery appear in Sardinia, though I don’t know when or how much their “race” colonized the island. At 5500 cal. BC, the Cardium pottery culture expands into the southern half of France and parts of Spain.
        Analysis for ancient DNA found the rare mtDNA basal haplogroup N*, supporting an early Neolithic maritime colonization of Mainland Europe through Cyprus and the Aegean Islands by Near-Eastern farmers (Fernandez et al 2014).
        By the time farmers reached Spain, they would have encountered a branch of WHGs with darker skin than themselves and the recessive gene for blue eyes. Maybe before that: I need data from outside Iberia.

        *They were in the rest of mainland Greece and Crete somewhat earlier.

        Meanwhile, the Danubian or Linear Pottery Culture (which you’ll encounter abbreviated as LBK) spread from the Hungarian Danube (before 5600 BC) to Austria, central Germany and central Poland circa 5500 BC, spreading east and north over the next three centuries until they hit the aforementioned wall for their domesticates very near the Baltic and somewhat further from the North Sea except along the Rhine. At the former limit is where they would have interacted with Nordic WHGs without replacing them.

        • bzium says:

          The DNA that’s been extracted from prehistoric farmer skeletons indicates that the Neolithic Revolution in Europe was mostly a story of population replacement, not adoption of new technology. Non-Nordic lineages of WHG appear to have made minimal contributions to the descendants of the invading farmers, […]

          For a moment there I thought this was leading to the conclusion that the “Nordic race” founded agricultural civilization in Europe. That would’ve been pretty funny, in a morbid kind of way.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          To wrap up this summary of the European Neolithic west of the Black Sea, also at circa 5300-5200 BC we find multiple cultures interacting in the Netherlands. Probably the most significant is the Ertebølle-Ellerbek horizon, which had an all-but identical southern form in Limburg, the Netherlands in contact with LBK. Ertebølle-Ellerbek skeletal remains are meager, but some DNA sequences have been collected, showing genetic links between Limburg, northern Germany, Denmark, and peninsular Scandinavia. Farmers make the jump from the mouth of the Rhine or northern France to the British Isles circa 4000 BC, but I don’t know what mix of EEF and WHG (Nordic or a different lineage) those farmers were.
          Note to self: find evidence for the Mesolithic DNA in northern France, Britain or Ireland.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Update: apparently the Neolithic British/Irish were >50% Early European Farmer after 4000 BC, and Sardinians are >50% EEF to this day. I’m still trying to find a publicly-accessible study showing Mesolithic DNA from France/Britain/Ireland that can be compared to the Iberian and Nordic WHG.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The Neolithic east of the Black Sea

        Hunter-gatherers of the Caucasus split off from the European hunter-gatherers who would go on to become dark-skinned, blue-eyed Iberians, light-skinned, redheaded Nordics, etc ~45,000 years ago. Until the Last Glacial Maximum ~25 KYA, they remained part of the Anatolian HG population whose descendants would include the first wheat farmers. Post-isolation, they are dubbed CHG, for Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer. Jones et al. (2015) analyzed CHG ancestry as represented by a Upper Palaeolithic male from Satsurblia cave, and a Mesolithic one from Kotias Klde cave, both in the foothills of western Georgia. These two males carried Y-DNA haplogroup J* and J2a. The researchers found that these Caucasus hunters were probably the source of the Near Eastern DNA in the Yamnaya (who I’ll finally get to anon).
        Let’s emphasize “probably” there: this is one paper demurring to claim very high Bayesian probability. A competing claim is that Near Eastern DNA made its way to the Eurasian steppe via farmers from Iran.
        Interesting to note that DNA from the Maykop farming culture of the north Caucasus has been sequenced and found to not be related to the adjacent steppe population.

        Something amazing happened around the middle of the 4th millennium BC. Pictographs of wheeled vehicles appear on clay tablets from Uruk in modern south Iraq dated between 3700-3500 BC. Between 3500-3350 BC, evidence of the wheel suddenly appears all the way from Harappa in India (Ravi phase) to southern Poland (Funnelbeaker culture). We have every reason to suspect that it was invented by a speaker of proto-Indo-European or proto-Semitic, as the common ancestor of all European, Iranian and Indian wheel words is reconstructed by experts as *kʷékʷlos, a proper grammatical “reduplicated derivative” of *kʷel- (“to turn”). It’s also reconstructed as galgal, simply “roll” reduplicated, in Semitic languages. In Sumerian, “chariot” was GIGIR, with no known native source. “Wheel” is *grgar in the reconstructed ancestor of Georgian and the other South Caucasian languages, which likewise looks like a loan.
        Unfortunately, the epistemology of dating in archaeology and genetics are not identical, so we don’t know if the people who first introduced the wheel to India and Eastern Europe changed the areas’s genetic profiles. But change did come from pastoraists who knew how to build wheeled vehicles.
        You see, the most common Y-chromosomal haplogroup in Europe is R1b, with the closely-related R1a a contender for third place after the believed-indigenous (i.e. WHG had it) I1. Here’s a map. As the Bronze Age was starting in civilization to the south, one of the early adopters in the illiterate north was a nomadic culture called Yamnaya. They had carts, to which they yoked horses, a domesticate then unknown in Mesopotamia. They buried elite males with weapons under artificial hills, which we call kurgans. And when DNA from their skeletons is sequenced, the most common Y-haplogroup is R1b.

    • smocc says:

      Thanks for the effortpost. I recently started a little ways down the Proto-Indo-European rabbit hole, but only just learned the word Yamnaya from my most recent National Geographic.

      Is this a hobby or a profession for you?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It’s a hobby.
        Ohhh yes is Proto-Indo-European a rabbit hole. I’ll have to talk about the non-genetic arguments another time.

    • bullseye says:

      National Geographic recently had an article on this. One point that surprised me: It’s starting to look like the Caucasian race is misnamed. The Yamnaya were of mixed blood, with one part hunter-gatherers from what is now European Russia (kin to Siberians and Native Americans), and they’re not sure what the other part was. Maybe hunter-gatherers from Caucasus, but more likely Persian farmers.

  28. Well... says:

    Hoping to continue a discussion about journalism from the previous hidden OT, specifically responding to a comment from Dan L.

    are you guessing as to what the desired effect on the audience must be, or are you speaking for yourself? Did you once view the news this way?

    I’m pulling from a combination of: personal experience having worked around TV and text-based news people; stuff I learned in film & TV theory/criticism classes; and induction based on what journalists do (as a profession) and how people seem to respond to it.

    Why are you giving [the aesthetic and stylistic approaches used in journalism] so much weight here, to the point of defining the profession around them?

    Because they are not just the decoration but also the very essence of the profession. Without some critical mass of these techniques, whatever it is is not recognizable as journalism. This is part of what makes the Onion funny: by retaining the techniques but swapping in absurd content, the juxtaposition of a genre that is the portrayal of seriousness and authority with content that is silly, it creates strong comedic tension. If you took Onion content and published it as a blog that looks David Friedman’s website it wouldn’t be funny.

    Why is this more of a “charade” than any other organization with a frontman?

    I’m sure I can explain but it would be helpful to choose a few examples to talk about first. I’ll just say, scientific or academic literature at least begins with the fact that the people who write it are experts on what they’re writing about. You can’t take that away from it. Journalists, by contrasts, are experts on how to produce journalism — nothing else.

    If we stripped away all the polish and spectacle and just watched a broadcast of a guy in a cheap polo stumble through an explanation of that thing he talked to people about could we drop the scare quotes around “journalist”?

    Tim Pool does pretty much this and calls himself a journalist — to his detriment, in my opinion, though I’d guess he does it aspirationally, as a way to signal some level of authority. That probably has its intended effect for most of his audience. Mostly when people do this we call them Youtubers. They can be and often are just as incisive and informative if not more. Matt Christiansen is, I think, a decent example there.

    …are you just against the concept of rhetoric? I guess I could see that from an epistemic perspective, but it’s weird to get mad at journalism specifically about it.

    Just to be clear, it’s not an really emotional thing with me. One thing that makes journalism unique is that, because the aesthetics and stylings are so essential to what it is, it’s really got it down to an art, whereas other types of media just use it as a way to add a little extra oomph and, I think, don’t hide behind it so completely.

    That number referred to the percentage of things people feel like they should be informed about but which are really not important. You mean how might you decrease it?

    Right, that.

    Simple: quit proactively consuming news. Consider more of what goes on in the world as fitting into the category of “none of your damn business.” Be more critical of the notion of “in the public interest”. It doesn’t mean nothing is, but I think far less is than people are led to believe.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Because they are not just the decoration but also the very essence of the profession. Without some critical mass of these techniques, whatever it is is not recognizable as journalism. This is part of what makes the Onion funny: by retaining the techniques but swapping in absurd content, the juxtaposition of a genre that is the portrayal of seriousness and authority with content that is silly, it creates strong comedic tension. If you took Onion content and published it as a blog that looks David Friedman’s website it wouldn’t be funny.

      This is why I don’t find the Onion funny.

      • Well... says:

        For me, The Onion started wearing off when I realized the joke was already done once you read the headline. I think it was fortuitous that Buzzfeed was there for them to mock with Clickhole, which worked even better on that “the whole joke is the headline” model.

        • Nornagest says:

          You can do good long-form satire. The Onion is just lazy, and relies too heavily on a half-dozen stock formats (“commentary from five idiots” is a long-running one, for example). That worked fine in its early days, but no joke keeps being funny after you’ve seen it a hundred times.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You can’t do high frequency, high quality long form satire. Part of the impact is the comparison between reality and the satire, eventually to much satire and it becomes enough of the reality that the comparison loses its value. Its like your friend who only uses sarcasm, eventually he is just sarcastic guy and his sarcasm loses its bite, but a guy who is rarely sarcastic gets a big reaction when he is.

        • Lambert says:

          Clickhole has done a lot of long-form surreal humour, which I rather like.
          Like the piece about Google, and all the clickvenures.

    • Dan L says:

      I’m happy to continue this discussion thread, though I fear I’m late enough to this particular thread that it’s unlikely to last long enough for an extended back-and-forth. So barring that, I think it would be helpful to lay out some major points of where I’m approaching the topic from:

      – Media as a wide industry has been profoundly restructured several times over in the past century. Journalism in particular has gone through a few major shocks in the past 40 years. Much of this is the inevitable result of certain technological and social developments, giving us the modern mass media landscape. I don’t think this is particularly path-dependent, and if you burned the industry to the ground tomorrow then within a fairly short span of time you’d have something broadly similar (with a very familiar set of strengths and weaknesses). Both human behavior and the fundamental economics are pretty upstream of any particular media model, and it’s important to view the latter in the context of how it is shaped to fit the formers.

      – Related to the above, there has been a definite Balkanization of both media in general and journalism in specific. The industry is simply big enough now that it can support largely distinct sub-industries that compete with or feed on each other. There are so many niches to be filled that you can rattle off practically any list of professional tropes and find someone making money there. But if they’re not the kind that can support a profitable business model, don’t expect them to scale to prominence.

      – And building off of both of those, I think it’s easier now than ever before to pick your consumption to maximize entertainment value, or practically useful information, or thoughtful examinations of the issue of the day (And most people definitely mix and match). I also think that doing so consciously requires the active use of certain tools and strategies – I’m of the opinion that these are pretty easy to acquire and assess when others are deliberately using (or not using) them, but that might be because I spend entirely too much time doing this sort of thing.

      Ok, responding to a few of your points more directly:

      I’m sure I can explain but it would be helpful to choose a few examples to talk about first. I’ll just say, scientific or academic literature at least begins with the fact that the people who write it are experts on what they’re writing about. You can’t take that away from it. Journalists, by contrasts, are experts on how to produce journalism — nothing else.

      You’ve decried the presence of “English and Acting majors” in the previous thread, and IIRC those who specifically studied Jornalism or Communications as well. But when I look at a grab-bag of high profile anchors and presenters I find a lot of political science majors and a decent number of people who studied history. The successful ones have since spent a lot of time in the media obviously, and you do get the occasional Hannity or Amanpour that spent their whole time there, but it’s unclear what you could be asking for as far as career professionals go.

      I found this comment particularly odd:

      One possibility is that news reporters still go out and cover things (such as the parliamentary Brexit stuff) but then instead of writing articles that go straight to end-consumers, the articles go to panels of people who actually have expertise on whatever the topic is, and based on that they talk about what they think is going on, and THAT is what end consumers get.

      Panel discussions are actually super common in cable news (especially in politics) and they often include a bunch of genuine experts, but it’s hard to argue they’re particularly productive. The quality of such seems pretty tightly constrained by the economics of the format, be it either a need for conflict or to cater to audience expectations.

      I think this is largely a restatement of my second bullet point above – the market is willing to sell you any story you want to hear (at nearly any level of sophistication), you just need to spend some (small, imo) amount of effort to find it. But the algorithm is getting better at delivering it to you all the time. If you want genuinely truth-seeking stuff then that too is available, but you need to start from a position of asking who is incentivized to actually get things right.

      Because they are not just the decoration but also the very essence of the profession. Without some critical mass of these techniques, whatever it is is not recognizable as journalism.

      Mostly when people do this we call them Youtubers. They can be and often are just as incisive and informative if not more.

      I strongly disagree that there is a bright line here. When I use the word “commentariat” to discribe the comments section here on SSC and elsewhere, I am making a pointed albeit subtle reference to the fact that social media has tightened the feedback loop between professional and audience to an immeasurable degree.

      Just to be clear, it’s not an really emotional thing with me. One thing that makes journalism unique is that, because the aesthetics and stylings are so essential to what it is, it’s really got it down to an art, whereas other types of media just use it as a way to add a little extra oomph and, I think, don’t hide behind it so completely.

      I agree that cable news in particular has been adding a whole lot of style at the expense of substance since it first became a thing, but propose that it’s largely a result of market pressures and we can’t really expect better. But before the term was immediately misused into irrelevance, “vake news” genuinely pointed to a difference between something that was ultimately coupled to reality (albeit through N layers of editing) and something that was not. That coupling doesn’t prevent the presentation of an arbitrary angle on any given piece of news as I mention above, but the process of real journalism from reporter to presenter is something that can be examined and judgement rendered.

      Simple: quit proactively consuming news. Consider more of what goes on in the world as fitting into the category of “none of your damn business.” Be more critical of the notion of “in the public interest”. It doesn’t mean nothing is, but I think far less is than people are led to believe.

      I think I agree with the spirit of this comment and the substance that it would probably improve most people’s lives, but I also believe that for most people they could improve the ratio by being more proactive. This post is long enough already and I could try to elaborate if asked, but for now I’ll leave it at saying I’d rather the average person read every article that went up on a specific Breitbart-level rag of their choice than spent an equivalent time flitting between sources on Twitter. The latter has much more powerful tools to hook your attention orthogonal to your benefit.

  29. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Fossil DNA is revealing that human prehistory is far more complicated than the old narrative of “We evolved in Africa, walked out, and out-competed other hominids.” Those others are our ancestors too, and the details keep getting more complicated.

    “What is curious is that the only migration that seems to have left modern human descendants in Europe and Asia was the one from 60,000 years ago. The groups that migrated earlier apparently all died out or got absorbed into Neanderthal or other ancient populations.”

    One question I don’t think I’ve ever seen addressed: what selection pressures were going on in Africa that suddenly made those humans superior 60,000 years ago, and which part of Africa?

    • Randy M says:

      How does prehistoric man walk out of Africa? Was the Sahara less oppressive then? Or did they follow the Nile, then the coast?
      This has probably been extensively discussed. Yup. Well at least it wasn’t a dumb question, just an obvious one.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        How does prehistoric man walk out of Africa?

        Simply, unless he’s trying to get to Mordor.

        But yes, the Sahara was green at that time, yeah. It was green almost up to the reign of King Horus Scorpion in Egypt, though there could have been desert phases between 60,000 and 5,100 years ago.
        It seems that there was also a boat route from the Horn of Africa to Yemen on to India, Malaya, island SE Asia, and eventually Australia. In old-school physical anthro, some Indian populations were labeled Australoid, and the Negritos of SE asia are also thought to be a remnant of this wave.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’m wondering how much random geological factors contributed to the evolution of the human race, and whether there’s more luck of that kind than people factor into the Fermi Paradox.

    • There doesn’t have to be a genetic explanation. It could be some cultural thing like better tools or something even harder to make sense of. Imagine trying to understand Mongol success using only genetic data.

  30. Murphy says:

    Fun little fiction video that I’m not sure anyone has posted here.

    Positing a future with an AI with a less-than-ideal set of goals.

    Earworm

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JlxuQ7tPgQ

  31. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    NFL kick-off tonight.

    Pre-registering expectation of 11-5 season for the Bears, and hopes of a playoff win.
    Here’s the hoping the Browns actually have a winning season for once.

    • Matt M says:

      Being a recent transplant, I am culturally obligated to root for the Houston Texans, although they seem to be the very definition of a team that is cursed with eternal mediocrity (never good enough to be a threat to actually win the SB, never bad enough to go through the long rebuild necessary to become that good)

      • j1000000 says:

        This year could be the best Texans team yet if Watson continues to improve. Unfortunately the Chiefs are now a juggernaut. They’d really need Brady to decline to have much of a shot at the Super Bowl, otherwise it’s a lot to ask to go through both Mahomes and Brady.

      • acymetric says:

        Could have been worse, you might have ended up in Cleveland. 😉

        Edit: This is a knock on the Browns, not intended as a knock on cold, snowy, lake-affecty Cleveland as a whole.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        You can always have a year where all the pieces slide together just right, but unfortunately, yeah, the Texans don’t really seem poised to build a team that can reliably be considered SB contenders. Particularly since the AFC has the Patriots, and possibly soon the Chiefs. Plus the Steelers and now the Chargers.

        At the very least, with Luck retiring, Houston has a solid playoff chance.

    • hls2003 says:

      I have deep skepticism of Mitch Trubisky, but that’s probably a product of the 40ish terrible QBs since ’85. If he could do a Mahomes-style leap in his second season with Nagy, even if the defense slides down to “top-10” instead of “top-3”, there’s optimism. I do think the defense will regress some but not terribly (barring injuries), so to me it all comes down to the offense. I’m also a little skeptical of Nagy’s offensive system for two reasons: (1) it seemed to stall out often in the second half of games last year, presumably after opponents adjusted to the game plan, calling into question Nagy’s ability to counter-adjust on the fly; and (2) Nagy seems in the mold of Sean McVey, and we saw how his offensive tricks died in the Super Bowl against a very well-prepared defensive scheme.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t think I can complain too much about Nagy’s offensive scheme if it takes us to the Super Bowl and dies out against the Patriots. The Patriots were extremely well-prepared for that game. That’s not a bad way to go out.

        Unfortunately, though, I share your skepticism of Mitch. Obviously he’s still young, but his 2019 performance falls into the “adequate” camp. Still better than Sexy Rexy, though.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Ugh. I don’t want to over-react, but we need to improve, fast. Only a field goal off of great field position is unacceptable for a home division game. The schedule quickly becomes scary if you can’t pick up 3 wins before the bye, and they just dropped one of the easier wins. Playing the Vikings and the Broncos on the road are both tough.

    • Protagoras says:

      Great defenses almost always regress to the mean. Admittedly, as a Vikings fan I’m biased against the Bears, but also as a Vikings fan, I know what I’m talking about when it comes to great defenses regressing to the mean.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      I expect everyone in the NFC Central to have between seven and 10 wins, and I think a hilarious and delightful 8-9 win logjam is very possible, though Detroit will probably screw it up by being Detroit.

    • Matt M says:

      Also – I don’t follow the NFL closely, but didn’t the first game of the season used to always feature the defending Super Bowl champions?

      When did that stop, exactly? And did it stop for any particular reason? Or just that everyone outside of Boston is sick of the damn Patriots already?

      • acymetric says:

        I think it has to do with it being the 100th anniversary of the league and wanting to have the opening game be one of the traditional big time rivalries.

        • hls2003 says:

          Yes, plus the Bears are one of only two original franchises left from the 1920 APFA (previously the Decatur Staleys) and the Packers (founded in 1919, joined the league in 1921) is the oldest franchise without a change in location. This will be the 199th meeting of the two, with #200 coming later this year.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        How else can the Bears embarrass the entire franchise on the national stage?

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      I’m from Kansas City, so obviously my prediction is 16-0 and our first Superbowl in 50 years.

      More realistically, my expectations for this season are the highest they’ve ever been and that is terrifying because the Chiefs have never failed to let me down before. Looking at our schedule, I think a 13-3 season is probably more what we can achieve. Playing in Foxborough for the 3rd year in a row is annoying as hell, but the Patriots only edged us by a last-second field goal there last year, and only won the AFC title by a literal coin toss (I still get mild flashes of rage at the thought that the MVP of the entire damn league wasn’t allowed to even touch the ball in overtime. Why is baseball the only sport that handles overtime well?). So call New England a toss-up.

      Other tough games will include the Bears, the Ravens, and the Chargers (twice). I think the Chiefs are better than all those teams (yes, the Chargers beat us last year, but again, it was at the literal last second. The only way to beat Mahomes, it seems, is to beat his defense and then don’t give him a chance to reply). So, figure about half those close games go against us, and about half go in our favor – so 13-3, +/-2, is my prediction.

      • Matt M says:

        I still get mild flashes of rage at the thought that the MVP of the entire damn league wasn’t allowed to even touch the ball in overtime. Why is baseball the only sport that handles overtime well?

        Defense is still part of the game, too. Learn to play it.

        Seriously though, I generally get annoyed at the constant attempts to somehow try and strip “luck” out of sports. Luck and chance are part of life, and definitely part of sports. I’d go back to pure sudden death without all this complicated “not if you score a field goal first” nonsense, myself.

  32. broblawsky says:

    Am I wrong for seeing similarities between the 1750s Gin Craze in England, the 1870s Opium Crisis in Qing China, and the modern opioid epidemic in the US? All three seem to have a few things in common:

    1) A collapse in the economic prospects of rural regions (in 1750s England, due to the Inclosures);
    2) A surge in the populations of cities, driven by (1);
    3) The increased availability of a dangerous drug, leading to a wave of fatalities and a moral panic.

    These seem like basically the same phenomenon, just with different products being abused. Are there any other historical examples of this kind of effect?

    • Murphy says:

      not a terribly well documented one… but a friend of mine went to work in christchurch doing construction after the earthquake.

      It had an unfortunate confluence of factors.

      1: most normal entertainment venues put out of commission.

      2: lots of young men suddenly arriving to work on the rebuilding.

      3: lots of people out of work while their employers rebuilt their offices.

      4: overcrowding

      5: large quantities of cash flowing in from insurance payments to cover the reconstruction.

      Which apparently led to such an extreme boom in the drug trade there that my friend, a fairly big tough construction man, was getting stressed out with a big spike in crime and violence and dangerous behavior from people off their heads.

      I suspect a sudden injection of cash from some source (factory jobs etc) may be an important factor.

      • broblawsky says:

        An increase in free cash is an interesting additional complicating factor. In the Gin Craze, reduced food costs (due to more efficient agriculture) and reduced taxes on spirits are cited as supporting factors for the spike in gin consumption.

    • Chalid says:

      I don’t know why you need anything more than 3) to explain it. On 1, some rural areas are doing badly (though lots are doing fine) but it has always been the case that some places lag others. And on #2, the trend of urban centers gaining population relative to rural areas has lasted for centuries and I don’t know any reason to think that it’s accelerated in aggregate.

    • Watchman says:

      I’d be inclined to ask if the similarities are not also linked to the fact that powerful groups are trying to make use of them in a way that either other drug crazes either escaped or which were attempted but made less impact, which is why the drug crazes you mention are well known (used by London society moralists, Chinese figures seeking a causes belli and now people opposed to the drug companies respectively). For their to be a clearer link you’d need to show that these events were unusual compared to comparanda; otherwise the significant link is that these events were particularly well-publicised.

    • aremi_mande says:

      Portugal heroin in the 90s

    • JonathanD says:

      I’m not sure about (1) or (2), but (3) certainly fits the crack epidemic of the 80s.

    • onyomi says:

      This sort of thing may be very old indeed:

      Around 1000 BC the founders of the Zhou Dynasty recorded rules for their descendants including serious injunctions about alcohol. Not no drinking at all, but only drinking on occasions of ritual importance. At first I thought this was part of atrocity propaganda against the previous ruling dynasty, the Shang, final ruler of which was supposed to have engaged in perverted Bacchanalia while the commoners suffered.

      It may be that, but apparently the backlash against wine was real, as revealed in the types of vessels nobility got buried with (lot fewer wine vessels). It may also be that the Shang invented a beverage we’d now call “wine,” which, while not as strong as distilled spirits, probably invented 2000 or more years later, was nevertheless significantly stronger than what had previously been available, probably a sweet, weak sort of ale. So it was sort of like going from a situation of having only weak beer to having both weak beer and strongish sake or Shaoxing wine, at least for the upper classes, who could afford a lot of the latter.

      Anyway, it’s possible that the Zhou were right when they said wine and revelry destroyed the Shang; at the very least, it seems like they really believed that–in other words, a kind of moral panic about a new type of drug, basically.

      • broblawsky says:

        Maybe the new beverage was made with a newly-developed, more alcohol-resistant type of yeast, permitting higher ABV levels.

  33. hash872 says:

    Has anyone had success with taking a prescription drug to permanently lower their ambient or situation-specific anxiety levels? I wouldn’t say that I have an anxiety disorder per se, but my internal ‘fear gauge’ seems to be set higher than I’d like it to be. Anything where a normal person would experience a bit of adrenaline, raised heart rate, etc.- a loud argument with someone, a first date, public speaking- I just seem to experience it quite a bit more strongly. My internal ‘insert a bit of adrenaline or cortisol here’ endocrine reaction seems to just be dialed up a bit higher than I’d like. But I don’t suffer from generalized anxiety otherwise and my ‘baseline’ mental/emotional state is generally fine. I don’t experience anxiety attacks, I handle many stressful situations well and even enjoy some of them, etc.

    Ideally I’d just like to….. reach into my cortex and dial my adrenaline response down a few ticks. Has anyone had success doing that if they didn’t have a diagnosable DSM disorder, per se? Any specific drugs someone could point me to, that didn’t have terrible side effects or make them feel like a zombie otherwise? Or, have people had success basically making themselves ‘cooler’ in higher stress situations some other way…..? (Meditation?)

    • LesHapablap says:

      My understanding is that beta blockers have this function. Interested to hear what other methods people have, particularly ones without drugs.

      “Box breathing” is a self-calming method used by navy seals, for instance.

      • Incurian says:

        I’ve had great success with beta blockers, which I believe are meant to address the exact mechanism hash872 believes is causing their symptoms.

      • JohnNV says:

        I’ll just give a caveat to beta blockers – I tried them for essential tremor and the lowest possible dose absolutely wrecked my fitness. I went from being able to run a 5:00 mile to getting winded standing up out of a chair and barely being able to shuffle down the driveway. I gave up after a few weeks and thankfully my fitness came back to the same level I was at previously so it seems there were no permanent effects.

    • Theodoric says:

      I am very bad with needles, and I have successfully picamilon for a blood draw (300mg 1 hour before). “Very bad” here means that, before this, the last needle procedure I had was an immunization before college, which I screamed all through. I did use a Synera (Google it, when I try to link to the site directly my post gets eaten) patch and a blindfold, but I do think the picamilon helped, because I was relaxed even before the patch went on and I could feel it start to work.

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      Well, I do have a DSM diagnosable anxiety condition, and my Neuroticism is pretty high, so I’m not precisely your target responder. Still, I’ve found two different short-term solutions to anxiety.

      First is mild suffocation. If I bury my head under blankets until I feel the CO2 concentration rise, my anxiety will drop a lot. I’ve never pushed this or been tempted to push this to close to passing out; if I start feeling the urge to escape, I do. If I can’t retreat and cover my head, simply holding my breath for 60s is helpful as well, but you can’t stay at elevated CO2 levels as long that way.

      The second is a high dose of CBD oil. Within about half an hour, I gain a degree of separation between my ego and my anxiety, which makes it way more manageable.

      I can vouch for SSRIs long term as well, but they’re not without side effects. So I avoid them now that I no longer critically need them.

    • Elementaldex says:

      My wife takes 5mg over the counter lithium orotate every other day and seems to have successfully controlled/reduced her anxiety with it. She has not been diagnosed but scored high on a standardized anxiety test when we administered it.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Yes, beta blockers are very well-known to help with reducing the physiological responses to stress, so people use them for, for instance, public speaking-related anxiety. Also, SSRI meds tend to have the general effect of bringing down your agitation level a bit, but they’ll do nothing in an acute setting.

  34. Atlas says:

    Who are the best philosophers of liberalism/what are the best books defending it? (Feel free to consider this in both the “classical” and “contemporary” senses of liberalism.)

    • Plumber says:

      Classical?

      Maybe works by Thomas Paine?

      Mid-to-late 20th century?

      John Rawls A Theory of Justice, though that work is a bit dense and Michael Sandel’s works explaining Rawls may be better.

      • Protagoras says:

        If Rawls is to be the representative of contemporary liberalism, Nozick is an obvious choice for defender of classical liberalism, as Anarchy, State and Utopia tries to directly respond to Rawls.

        • Peffern says:

          I’m in favor of Rawls vs. Nozick being the fundamental axis of political disagreement. It brings back fond memories of doing Lincoln-Douglas debate in high school.

          • I’ve never been able to take Rawls seriously, and don’t understand why Nozick did. The argument from the initial position to the “maximize the welfare of the worst off person” conclusion makes no sense and leads to a conclusion nobody believes in.

            Starting with the initial position, the obvious conclusion is to maximize average Von Numann utility, as Harsanyi pointed out well before Rawls published.

    • Garrett says:

      I would suggest John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government and On Liberty by John Stuart Mill as reasonably good pieces on classical liberalism.

  35. The original Mr. X says:

    In case anybody’s interested in this sort of thing, somebody on Reddit has leaked the alleged plot of the next Star Wars movie. Personally I think it sounds pretty ridiculous, but given the track record of the Disney Star Wars movies so far that’s not really saying much.

    • acymetric says:

      The temptation is strong but I’m not sure I want to know.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      I didn’t read much of the leak, because I don’t really understand or care about any of the new Disney Star Wars movies but the comments are so negative. I wonder if leaks like this are occasionally the actual writers eliciting feedback or crowdsourcing ideas.

      • Randy M says:

        I’d assume that those most likely to leave positive comments stay away from spoilers, and you have a strong selection effect for hate-reading and inclination to slam it.

        But the trend in Star Wars sequel trilogy movies is not strongly positive and it doesn’t seem like Disney has a strong vision other than “make more movies” (and boy howdy is that not limited to Star Wars these days), so priors are that it isn’t fantastic.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Read it. Or maybe 2/3 of it. It definitely sounds like a Star Wars film, except incredibly, incredibly, incredibly boring.

      Not sorry I read it. I read all the GOT spoilers after the disaster that was Winterfell, and was really happy I had the chance to mentally prepare myself for the disaster that was everything else.

      • Matt M says:

        This probably isn’t the best time or place, but I’d like to say that as someone who waited out GoT and watched it all once it was already concluded, I didn’t come away hating Season 8 nearly as much as everyone who hotly anticipated it seemed to.

        Yeah, it had some issues (mainly with inconsistent pacing and predictability and the attempt at a “neutral” ending), but I hardly considered it to be a disaster, or that it “wrecked” anything previous.

        It’s not even nearly as catastrophic as something like Deadwood, which got straight-up cancelled midstream and never even got to attempt an ending…

        • gbdub says:

          But I think the “wait, we waited 18 months for that?” feeling that the “live” watchers got was legitimately part of the disappointment, and I don’t think those people would argue against that.

          We came into it thinking that the extra time to produce and extra run time per episode would result in something really high quality, and instead got something that still felt rushed and incomplete.

          Anyway, I’m less in the OMG it was horrible camp – but I think, and I think this is something of a plurality consensus, that it was basically the highlight reel of a much better show. The main plot beats were fine (other than the final “winner” maybe) but the shortcuts taken to get there, and the resultant lack of character development are what gall.

          Which leads to the betrayal factor – if GOT had always been a good not great popcorn fantasy, Season 8 would have been perfectly fine. But the things that changed once they ran out of books (character development, pacing, deep and seemingly meaningful lore, and lack of too much blatant plot armor) were the very things that made the show great in the first place. Everyone hates an apostate more than a pagan.

          Sure, getting canceled midstream might be worse – but at least then there is an excuse. In the case of GOT they ended on the creator’s terms, and those kind of stunk.

          • John Schilling says:

            Sure, getting canceled midstream might be worse – but at least then there is an excuse.

            Getting cancelled at the end of season 6 would, I think, have been a better resolution for GOT than what we actually got. There was at that point a fairly clear path forward to the resolution of the major plot lines, that we didn’t need to see actually played out. And while a well-done unconventional ending usually beats following the obvious path to a conventional ending, what we got was a really crappy unconventional ending. I’d rather have imagined the survivors enjoying hard-earned rewards than have seen the Plot Fairy hand them all stupid ones.

            Everything but the “Night King” story line, which would have been left unsatisfactorily dangling. But about 85% of the story was always focused on the actual “Game of Thrones” story lines.

          • Matt M says:

            In hindsight, the entire series would have been better off without the Night King/White Walkers at all.

            But that’s hindsight. Maybe GRRM has a less stupid plan for them.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            But that’s hindsight. Maybe GRRM has a less stupid plan for them.

            I didn’t read the books, but if I understand correctly, there are white walkers but no Night King in them, which means that GRRM (if he even manages to finish the series) can’t pull the Arya Ex Machina resolution of white walkers plotline as they did in the show.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @viVI_IViv: Pretty much. The name ”Night’s King” comes from the books, but he is a legendary figure from thousands of years ago- a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who went over to the side of the White Walkers, and was killed by an alliance of the King in the North and the King Beyond the Wall. GRRM has said he is just as dead as everyone else from the Age of Heroes.

        • Randy M says:

          It’s not even nearly as catastrophic as something like Deadwood, which got straight-up cancelled midstream and never even got to attempt an ending…

          I would have liked more Deadwood–and more Rome–but in neither case would I call any of it a catastrophe, just a missed opportunity for more. What’s there is good.

      • acymetric says:

        Yeah, I ended up reading it. I don’t hate it, but it doesn’t exactly have me amped up either. Interesting to see if its really the plot of the movie.

        It also feels like a lot of different things happening, I wonder what the runtime would be.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Let me put how utterly boring and forgettable this plot is:
          I read this spoiler this morning, and have already forgotten almost everything about the spoilers.

      • WashedOut says:

        Funeral pyre for mainstream film industry creativity still burning strong, I see.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      There were a lot of leaked plots for TLJ; I don’t know if any of them came close to what they actually got.
      I don’t trust the fan theorists after having been wrong about so many things for so long.

      • albatross11 says:

        Fan theories can’t really be any goofier than the main-line plots for the last couple of movies….

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          They often discussed ways the story could be/have been handled and they’re not necessarily bad or worse than what we get. But they did SWfans a disservice by talking about their ideas as legitimate possibilities and subsequently creating a huge dissapointment.

    • gbdub says:

      Ignoring the Reddit leak for the moment, what should be the plot?

      I kind of like the idea of Rey and Kylo flipping sides somehow.

      • EchoChaos says:

        I think that’s the only way this can really be salvaged. But the rest of the universe around it is so silly that I am not sure that would be enough.

        • mdet says:

          I agree that there isn’t much to work with other than Rey & Kylo, but looking at what Empire had set up for Jedi:
          —Luke must finish training (Ends up happening offscreen)
          —Luke & Vader confront each other as family and try to convert the other
          —Good guys must rescue Han
          —Han & Leia romance (Ends up with minimal screen time)
          —Huge climactic battle between Rebels & Empire

          The only thing that the next Star Wars is missing would be the “Rescue Han” plotline. Everything else — Offscreen Jedi training, Protagonist & Antagonist get personal, Underdeveloped side character romance, epic multi-front space battle — is still definitely on the table. In place of “Rescue Han” they have maybe set up for “The good guys inspire supporters from all over the galaxy to join them”. It’s not unsalvageable, plot-wise.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Huh, it sounds like JJ Abrams or whoever is writing the scripts this week actually had some good ideas mixed in there.

      Spoilers in ROT13:

      Fgnexvyyre Onfr jnf na vqvbgvp vqrn, obgu sebz n aneengvir crefcrpgvir naq va-havirefr. Aneengviryl vg’f n ynml erunfu bs gur cybg bs Rcvfbqr VI naq ol rkgrafvba Rcvfbqr IV. Va-havirefr, gur Svefg Beqre fubhyq unir arvgure gur erfbheprf gb ohvyq guvf guvat abe nal ernfba gb fvapr gurl’er cercnevat gb svtug n pbairagvbany jne, abg gb fpner jnirevat flfgrzf vagb yvar.

      N syrrg bs Qrngu Fgne Qrfgeblref, gubhtu, gung znxrf cresrpg frafr sbe gurz. Gurl’er n ybtvpny rkgrafvba bs gur grpuabybtl bs gur Qrngu Fgne ynfre naq jbhyq npghnyyl or hfrshy sbe gur Svefg Beqre’f jne ntnvafg gur Arj Erchoyvp. Nf jr fnj va Rcvfbqr IV, gur Qrngu Fgne’f ynfre pna pernz rarzl syrrgf ng rkgerzr enatr va nqqvgvba gb qrfgeblvat cynargf. Vg nyfb svkrf n jrnxarff bs Fgne Qrfgeblref gung jr fnj va Rcvfbqr I, anzryl gurve vanovyvgl gb chapu guebhtu cynargnel fuvryqf. Cyhf vg qbrfa’g unir n fvatyr ihyarenoyr jrnxcbvag, juvpu zrnaf gung gur urebrf arrq gb pbzr hc jvgu n arj cyna gb qrny jvgu guvf guerng.

  36. Canyon Fern says:

    Hello, SSC commenters. This lurker emerges from the shadows, and becomes one of you.

    This blog is my favorite online discussion community, because the visitors here share views, expertise, and materials which I find uncommon, and do so with a level of relative civility which I find rare.

    To a few commenters in particular, I wish to give a big thanks.

    A hearty thanks.

    A meaty thanks. Thus, I distribute:

    – to David Friedman, one Turkey of Gratitude

    – to Plumber, one Pig of Gratitude

    – to Deiseach, one Ostrich of Gratitude

    – to Aapje, one Walrus of Gratitude

    – to John Schilling, one Hen of Gratitude

    – to Le Maistre Chat, one Lamb of Gratitude

    I am sure I have missed at least one poster who I admire. To defray any such errors, and as a sign of general goodwill, I distribute to all other users a share apiece in one Giant Sloth of Gratitude.

    Lastly, and most importantly, I have something for our host, who has written so much and given it away. I distribute to Scott Alexander one Cattle Herd of Gratitude. May their reproductive activities provide him with nigh-infinite meat for eating and selling.

    • Plumber says:

      @Canyon Fern,
      Oh wow, unless it’s for my extensive knowledge of MC5 and Ramones song lyrics, I’m not sure how I fit with such an erudite crew, but thanks for the eats and kind words!

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Thank you and be welcome!

    • John Schilling says:

      Thank you for the vote of confidence and appreciation; I will strive to continue to be worthy of it.

      I distribute to all other users a share apiece in one Giant Sloth of Gratitude.

      Lastly, and most importantly, I have something for our host, who has written so much and given it away. I distribute to Scott Alexander one Cattle Herd of Gratitude.

      And thank you as well for these, except with real estate prices in the Bay Area being what they are, I’m not sure where Scott is going to put his cattle herd…

    • tocny says:

      I hope you are distributing a share of an interest in one Giant Sloth, and not an actual mutilated Giant Sloth.

    • Deiseach says:

      Thank you for giving me the bird! 😉

    • b_jonas says:

      Finally! Someone who doesn’t insist on spreading vegetarianism, and is willing to sacrifice animals to the worthy. Just make sure not to push it too much, eat plants and fish as well, and give regular libations of honey, wine and milk.

  37. johan_larson says:

    Remember our friends with the spaceships the size of small moons? They’re back.

    This time they are offering to retrieve any shipwreck. The wreck must be in a known location. It will be gently lifted from its place on the bottom, and placed in a safe and accessible open space in the country from which the ship was launched.

    What shipwreck do you want retrieved?

    • Evan Þ says:

      Can I pick what counts as a safe and accessible open space? I’m sure I can find a few wrecked ships with deadly chemicals that I’d like delivered to a presidential palace in Moscow or Pyongyang…

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        I like the way you think, but both Pyongyang and Moscow are densely populated. And besides, anything that will spread quickly enough through the air is most likely long since have been diluted and carried away by water. You can try your luck with sunk nuclear subs like this one and you can deliver it into a suburban residence instead of the city center, but I doubt it’ll be sufficiently deadly either.

        On the other hand, if you don’t explain to anyone what’s happening, I think many dictators will take a hint if an immensely powerful alien race just drops a radioactive shipwreck in their backyard. Especially if you pick the right one

        • johan_larson says:

          No tricks, please. “Safe and accessible” for a hulk that’s leaking radioactive material is probably a carefully constructed box placed in a desert. Sometimes our friends with the spaceships the size of small moons just aren’t much fun.

    • Protagoras says:

      Yamato, of course, so it could be turned into a space warship armed with a wave motion gun to fight them off if they become hostile.

      • Plumber says:

        *from memory*

        All the fire and the smoke
        we will never give up hope
        to keep earth alive
        we must survive
        it’s our Star Blazers

    • cassander says:

      For my safe, open space I choose my yard. And for my wreck, I choose whichever one has the most gold in it…

      • johan_larson says:

        Is there such a wreck? I would expect any known wreck containing tons of gold to have been looted already.

        • cassander says:

          there must be some ships that are known to have sunk, but not exactly when/where. Or does the definition of by known wreck require I know the location?

    • Fitzroy says:

      I’d quite like the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery removed, thank you very much. 1500 tons of high explosives gently decaying in a major shipping lane is a bit of a pain in the arse.

      I don’t really care where you put her – I mostly just want her gone – but perhaps the White House lawn constitutes safe, open and accessible?

      • johan_larson says:

        Sounds like it might be best in the here and now to set off the ship deliberately, after carefully evacuating the surrounding areas, and maybe protecting Sheerness with a temporary dike.

        • Murphy says:

          hard to be certain everything has been set off.

          Lets say you explode it… now some explosives may have survived, may now be loose and may drift and hit a ship.

          • bean says:

            That’s not impossible to deal with. Britain’s mine warfare people are good, and to a first order, this is the same problem. Carefully map the surrounding area before the detonation, then do the same after. Yes, the giant crater will change the topography somewhat, but you should be able to pick up any bomb rolling around down there.

            Still, good thought on removing the Montgomery. But could we not set it off in the middle of DC? The White House is full of priceless national treasures, not to mention the Smithsonian and Library of Congress. I’m sure inventive minds can think of other places to put it that would achieve their goals equally well.

      • DarkTigger says:

        You could add some of the ships that were scuttled with chemical weapons and ammunition on board in the baltic sea after WW2. Germany has some specialised instutotions to deal with this stuff nowadays. Maybe we could put them near them.

    • bean says:

      I only get one? You are an evil, evil man, Johan Larson. I want all of them, or at least half a dozen. No, I want all of them.

      But I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and I know which one I want. Barham. Yes, it’s a weird choice, but hear me out. We have no British battleships except Warrior. I want something from the classical dreadnought era, and Barham is clearly the best choice. She’s a Queen Elizabeth, so from the peak of pre-WWI design. And she fought at Jutland. Her wreck was only recently found, so there won’t have been too much salvage. Although I don’t know how much damage she took from the internal explosion, and I’m not 100% certain her hull has actually been found. (There are claims that it has, but they look sketchy.)

      If I can’t have her, there are other options. Hood probably took too much damage, as did the battlecruisers at Jutland. Audacious might work. Royal Oak is definitely there, although for some reason, I don’t love that idea. Prince of Wales is another option, and the museum could play up the “fought the Bismarck” angle.

      If it has to be American ships, Yorktown. No question.

      • EchoChaos says:

        for some reason, I don’t love that idea

        All this time I’ve read your stuff and I didn’t realize you were an inhuman monster.

        • Protagoras says:

          Eh, the Revenge class were an example of the horrible English tradition of building a smaller, slower version of a design that worked, out of a misguided attempt at economy which ignored how much less useful the results always were. I’m with bean.

          • bean says:

            Pretty much this. Royal Oak may have been at Jutland, but she wasn’t in the 5th BS, and was lost at anchor early in the war. And while I’d say that the Revenge class gave good service and were somewhat unfairly overshadowed, they weren’t nearly as good as the QEs.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @bean/Protagoras

            Mostly a joke. “Royal Oak” is such an illustrious name that having the last bearer returned is a major point of honor.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Yorktown I think is the correct choice, especially since Enterprise was not preserved, a decision which baffles me to this day.

        I was mighty tempted by Indianapolis, though. Ultimately the tipping point for me was the fact that Indianapolis is a grave, while I don’t think any of Yorktown’s crew went down with the ship.

        • bean says:

          I’m sure some of Yorktown’s crew did, too, although not as many as on Indianapolis. Indianapolis definitely isn’t on my list, as the only really notable thing about her was the manner of her loss. Which was tragic, but doesn’t come near to justifying the amount of public attention she gets these days. (I dream of finding a public library with a double-digit number of books covering the USN in WWII where no more than 1 is about Indianapolis. Seriously, it’s almost as bad as SEAL memoirs.)

    • Deiseach says:

      A few years back I would have said the ships of the Franklin Expedition, but the Canadians seem to have found those in 2014/16 and are releasing good images.

    • J says:

      Wasn’t Scott saying that we have no examples of triremes? But I suppose we don’t know where any of those are.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        If we knew where they were, we’d probably have an example anyway without having to raise it.

    • Fitzroy says:

      Another thought – from an historical interest point of view I’d like the wreck of the HMS Serapis raised.

      She fought the pirate John Paul Jones to a standstill at the Battle of Flamborough Head. It’s a lovely piece of revolutionary war history, and one to which I’ve an historic family connection.

      I’m sure we could find some space near Flamborough Head itself in Yorkshire to display her properly.

      • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

        Objection, Jones was a properly commissioned officer in the Continental Navy, not a pirate. You could argue that at the time the British government did not recognize the Continental government as legitimate, but I’m pretty sure the Treaty of Paris settles those doubts. u_u

    • Lambert says:

      Shame they never found Shackleton’s Endurance.

  38. In today’s climate, British politics to me is ridiculous in a hilarious way while American politics is ridiculous in a depressing way. Is this just my American bias?

    • Randy M says:

      Almost certainly. Tragedy is when I injure myself. Comedy is when you take a pratfall.

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        My sense is that Brexit is likely to have a much bigger long-term impact on the UK than anything Trump can manage.

        • cassander says:

          I sincerely doubt that brexit will make a substantial difference to anyone in the long run. Even a “hard” brexit will involve the UK adopting a lot of EU regulation as its own laws for various reasons, and as much as I wish it would (I dream of the CANZUK union) I don’t think it will fundamentally alter British attitudes towards the world. there will be a lot of short term disruption, of course.

          • Deiseach says:

            Right now, given the mess in Parliament and Johnson’s own brother deciding to flee the sinking ship (“torn between familial loyalty and duty to the nation” is a nice way of saying “my brother is going down and I don’t want to be taken down with him so I’m getting clear of the entire mess”, if you really did feel that the interest of the nation was a different path to the one the brother was taking you would stay and fight for that different path and put country over family), I’m cackling over all the posts on various sites by various persons about how “from a game theoretic standpoint, Johnson is doing the winning strategy of playing chicken and the EU is going to blink first”.

            Brexit/no deal Brexit/yes deal Brexit/maybe Brexit if we get another extension is going to be tough whatever happens, but we may as well derive what amusement we can from it.

          • Fitzroy says:

            but we may as well derive what amusement we can from it.

            And one of the most amusing things in the last 24 hours must be the Evening Standard headline running:

            “Blow for BoJo as Bro Jo Go Goes”

          • The original Mr. X says:

            if you really did feel that the interest of the nation was a different path to the one the brother was taking you would stay and fight for that different path and put country over family

            I don’t see why? If you don’t think that you’ll be able to convince the PM to adopt your policies, stepping down from the government is a perfectly reasonable — and the historically normal — thing to do. This doesn’t change just because the PM happens to be related to you.

          • Lambert says:

            As a minister and cabinet member, he was also obliged to publicly toe the party line.
            You can complain inside the cabinet or outside, but not both.

      • gettin_schwifty says:

        Mel Brooks said “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall in an open sewer and die.”

        Of course, I’m not sure if he said it, but I think it better captures the sentiment.

        Unrelated, I like Randy’s writing, I think that was you but your name isn’t blue so now I’m unsure it’s you.

        • Randy M says:

          Of course, I’m not sure if he said it, but I think it better captures the sentiment.

          I can live with being outwitted by Mel Brooks.

          I like Randy’s writing, I think that was you

          Oh thanks, yeah, I unlinked it while editing some of the early bits.

    • zqed says:

      Definitely.

      Every process ground to a halt after the Brexit vote, to be replaced by (apparently not very successful) Brexit negotiation.

      The capital is experiencing a huge crime wave, Albanian drug gangs are everywhere, homelessness has increased 160%, the NHS is seriously under-funded and struggling to cope, and nobody the can do anything about any of this because the standard response is “ain’t nobody got time for that, Brexit is a far more important issue right now”. I got to see this first-hand, as my ex-girlfriend works for the Scottish Greens. This has been the response to all of her non-Brexit-related proposals since the referendum. I heard the situation is the same at the bigger parties as well. The canned response is not wrong, by the way. Brexit is by far the more important issue: nothing else gets done because we have to manage that. I wish we didn’t.

      The crisis is bad enough that it prompted my lazy ass to find employment elsewhere in the Anglosphere. Nothing hilarious about it, AFAICS.

      • Incurian says:

        Is that a golf course, or what?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        I don’t know which part of the UK you’re living in, but in my part I haven’t noticed much in the way of change since the referendum. Certainly nothing that I’d describe as a “crisis”, much less a crisis so bad as to drive me to emigrate.

        Not that I think Parliament is anything other than a group of incompetents who couldn’t negotiate their way out of a paper bag.

      • eric23 says:

        The capital is experiencing a huge crime wave, Albanian drug gangs are everywhere, homelessness has increased 160%, the NHS is seriously under-funded and struggling to cope, and nobody the can do anything about any of this because the standard response is “ain’t nobody got time for that, Brexit is a far more important issue right now”.

        Now you see why Russia supported Brexit.

      • Murphy says:

        Shortly after the brexit vote Charles stross wrote that a book he’d been about to send off to the publishers had to be heavily re-written.

        Because in the story part of the plot is that the british government has shit itself after the crisis in the last book and has started acting like a headless chicken.

        But after watching half of british politics resign, every major party have a leadership crisis at once and the omnishambles that was evident even at the start of brexit…. he decided that he had to re-write because otherwise people would look at the government in his book and think “wow, they’re taking their crisis in a very stoic and calm manner… in comparison to ours”

        The sad thing is that strictly speaking the crisis really is that bad.

        Tens of billions of pounds per year of government revenue are on the line. From likely budget impacts alone and the likely long term effect if the government had to cut budgets heavily for things like the NHS…. if it came to a choice between handling brexit slightly better and tracking down a large team of serial killers the former could influence more suffering and death.

        but most people, particularly those outside impacted industries won’t notice until budget cuts start hitting their local services… and they’ll probably blame europe for that somehow.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        The crime wave in the capitol, is that normally something that *requires* parliament? If there was a crime wave issue in NYC or even DC I’m not sure it necessarily requires congress to do something. (Assuming the local government is willing to act)

        NHS i imagine is a different matter.

        • Lambert says:

          Lots of people think that the rise in stabbings is because police budgets have been cut by the (national) Government.

          NY has its own taxes that it can use to fund the NYPD. Greater London doesn’t have that level of budget.

        • zqed says:

          The crime wave in the capitol, is that normally something that *requires* parliament?

          Absolutely. Some reasons:

          1. As Lambert mentioned, police funding is set by the central government, and 70+% of all funding comes from their budget. The rest comes from charges for policing events (concerts, sports, etc.) and council taxes. To complicate matters, council tax increases for the purpose of policing also have to be approved by the government. The National Crime Agency, which is responsible for gang and organized crime intel, is entirely funded by the central government.

          2. The law has to change in response to the crime wave. Currently, if an offender stabs someone and the victim survives, the charge will be Grievous Bodily Harm (Sec. 20), which is usually tried at a Magistrates’ Court, especially if the offender is underage. Since Magistrates’ Courts can’t impose more than six months’ imprisonment for a single offense, perps return to the streets very quickly. Unlike the US, the UK does not consist of states, so there’s no local way to change the penal code.

          3. The ACRO Criminal Records Office has a seriously broken model that cannot be used to effectively keep track of criminals (basically, they can’t even retain their address history). Again, the law would have to change.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I learned something today, thanks 😀

          • “Currently, if an offender stabs someone and the victim survives, the charge will be Grievous Bodily Harm (Sec. 20), which is usually tried at a Magistrates’ Court, especially if the offender is underage. Since Magistrates’ Courts can’t impose more than six months’ imprisonment for a single offense, perps return to the streets very quickly.”

            Maybe they need Mass Incarceration.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Anything depressing is hilarious, especially American politics. Trump is a complete buffoon, Beto’s whole collapse is just satisfying on an existential level, Warren trying to spin her DNA results and going full commie is great, Paul Ryan getting run off is just *mwah*. AOC is a gift that keeps on giving, she’s like the Michael Jordan of looking foolish.

      The only thing better is if we elect Dan Crenshaw President, because then we get to move into the 1980s Action genre. 8 years of Kenny Loggins.

      • It’s funny in a black comedy sense but it’s hard to enjoy a slow motion train wreck when you are actually in the train. It’s going to get worse before it gets better and we have no idea what the end result is going to look like.

        • Aapje says:

          Most of the things that A Definite Beta Guy mentioned have relatively small real consequences. The real train wrecks are things that mostly don’t hinge on one or a few individuals.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Ahhh, it’s still fun. Most likely worst case scenario is that we blow away two generations of economic progress and AOC’s militia starts rounding up people who said too many mean things on Twitter. That’s alright, lots of people live not-totally-miserable lives in totalitarian dictatorships. It’s not like we’ll be North Korea.

          There’s always the chance of nuclear war, but that was always there.

          • EchoChaos says:

            And when the round-ups come and the channers get to play “American Revolution 2: Electric Boogaloo”, then it gets even more fun.

          • AOC’s militia starts rounding up people who said too many mean things on Twitter.

            Is that supposed to be reassuring?

          • JPNunez says:

            It’s fine, the resistance won’t have guns, and the well regulated AOC militia will be the only ones with them, so there will be little bloodshed.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s fine, the resistance won’t have guns

            Taking a cue from Star Wars, the AOC regime will still be called the resistance.

          • @JPNunez

            I can’t tell if you’re joking.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Is that supposed to be reassuring?

            Just stop posting stuff on Twitter and keep your political opinions to yourself. It’s not the end of the world, just the end of American democracy.

            Also, if the #Resistance really does try to collect all the semi-autos, they are going to get lit up like Christmas Trees. And they’ll probably find that they’ll have a hard time getting recruits to the military after demonizing all of Red Tribe. They’ll also find, after trying to “lol, silly rednecks, rifles don’t beat tanks” the nation, that they:
            A. Don’t actually have enough SWAT teams to go door-to-door in the whole nation.
            B. Tanks run on gasoline and spare parts, not Hope and Unicorn Farts.

          • tossrock says:

            The M1 engine is a multi-fuel gas turbine and can run on gas, diesel / marine diesel, or jet fuel. Depending on whether unicorn farts can be liquified, those could potentially work too.

        • Matt M says:

          The dirty little secret is that you aren’t really on the train. The vast majority of what the federal government does has a remarkably small impact on the day to day lives of almost everybody. Especially in the short term. (And in the long-term, it’s too difficult to tie problems to specific people/actions anyway).

          • JPNunez says:

            Normally people start seeing the problems with the government when they face either the health system or enter retirement age. And that, yes, it’s hard to pinpoint on anyone since they are systems with long stories, but one can clearly see who tried to fix things and who decided everything was fine as it was.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JPNunez

            Which is why the older generation leans so strongly right-wing.

            It’s only the foolish youth who want something else.

          • Matt M says:

            one can clearly see who tried to fix things and who decided everything was fine as it was.

            Except a lot of the reason the thing is broken in the first place is because various attempts to “fix” it did more harm than good.

          • JPNunez says:

            @echochaos

            I always assumed it was hate of change and senility.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JPNunez

            You argued that people see the problems with the government facing health and retirement.

            Since the vast majorities of those people vote for the right-wing parties, that means that people who are forced to actually engage with the problems of the government prefer right-wing solutions.

            Hate of change can be a rational position. Change is not an inherent good. Especially if you’re the one forced to deal with the consequences of that change as opposed to the young people forcing it on you.

          • JPNunez says:

            Since the vast majorities of those people vote for the right-wing parties, that means that people who are forced to actually engage with the problems of the government prefer right-wing solutions.

            From my experience, they are already too entrenched in right wing politics to change, despite the facts their pensions are meager and some are dropped to the public health system which is worse than the private one.

            At least americans are working for longer and have lesser life expectancy than Chile, so I am gonna conclude that americans are voting against their best interests. So, sure, they prefer right wing solutions, despite being worse for them. I don’t know what’s the deal. My best theory is that “owning the libs” has a really big multiplier in their utility function.

            Other people notice these problems and vote accordingly, but the mass of right wingers voting against their best interests are way too big.

            Hate of change can be a rational position. Change is not an inherent good. Especially if you’re the one forced to deal with the consequences of that change as opposed to the young people forcing it on you.

            Most of the time in retirement systems, the old people won’t live to see the changes, though. They just fucking hate it despite it not having an effect on them.

          • quanta413 says:

            At least americans are working for longer and have lesser life expectancy than Chile, so I am gonna conclude that americans are voting against their best interests. So, sure, they prefer right wing solutions, despite being worse for them. I don’t know what’s the deal. My best theory is that “owning the libs” has a really big multiplier in their utility function.

            Unfortunately, your premise about what causes differences in life expectancy between the U.S. and Chile is wrong. Life expectancy among countries where it’s past mid-70s or so are a terrible indicator of whether or not government health policy is any good.

            Once you deal with things like having water, electricity, and sewers and can treat contagious diseases, the variance is mostly down to genetics and cultural habits (diet, exercise, etc.). Government policy has marginal effect on the differences you see between even moderately developed countries. For example, Spain and Italy have relatively dysfunctional economies and governments. They also have superb life expectancy that handily beats Germany. Hispanics in the U.S. have a higher life expectancy than non-Hispanic whites, and that’s not because Hispanics capture a lot of government health benefits that extend their life (to be clear, they don’t capture any more such benefits than any other group, likely less than average). It’s probably related to the same reason why Chile and Spain have high life expectancy.

            White Americans are very close to the life expectancy of the English. Depending on source, it appears to be a little higher or lower. I doubt the calculation method was identical in every case and I haven’t found a calculation by country and race/ethnicity, so it’s hard to tell. This is despite the two countries having vastly different health systems. The overall U.S. life expectancy is partly a a couple years lower because African-Americans have a notably shorter life expectancy. But that’s true everywhere. Although interestingly, African-Americans past a certain age (like 70-80) actually have a higher life expectancy.

            U.S. life expectancy may end up increasing due to immigration, because the population keeps becoming more and more Hispanic and Asian. This will jack up our life expectancy at birth statistics.

          • DeWitt says:

            Younger people deal with plenty of governmental services. Education, the military, law enforcement, unemployment, what have you.

            The old lean right because the poor die young.

          • Randy M says:

            The old lean right because the poor die young.

            By how many years?

          • Plumber says:

            "...The old lean right because the poor die young"

            This, but also the right-ward drift is exaggerated, people tend to stick with whatever political party they first voted for when they became old enough to vote, and that’s whichever party was more popular at the time, the generation that voted for Roosevelt mostly stayed Democrats until their deaths, the generation that voted for Eisenhower are still Republicans, et cetera, and there’s the question of “Right” or “Left” on what?

            Bush 2 had a Republican Congress until he decided that he had enough “political capital” to advocate tinkering with Social Security, after that the House of Representatives became majority Democrats.

            Another factor is that the poor (especially rural poor) just don’t vote as much, nor do the young, and as people age some get wealthier, and being wealthier correlates both with voting Republican, and with voting at all, so…

          • JPNunez says:

            @quanta413

            Yes, yes, I know that just picking a random indicator and using it as leverage in a political discussion is super silly, because you are ignoring all the variables that got you there.

            However…

            America just had a two terms president whose main legacy, Obamacare, has been slowly dismantled during the current presidency. Now, if you ask me, Obamacare is way more right-wing than the Chilean healthcare system. If you proposed that here, both the left and right wing parties would run you out of the country. You’d lose any election if “let’s move to Obamacare” was your main proposal (even though there are some similarities with the existing private system!). Yet the american previous system was so backwards that the super crazy Obamacare was an improvement. What here would be seen as some crazy extreme right wing program, over there is derrided as communism.

            Obamacare gave healthcare to more people, and it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t going to help move the age-expectancy a little up. Maybe beyond Chile’s? But instead America elected a president that promised to dismantle it, and, to his credit, has been trying to do exactly that, to some success.

            So if you ask me, yes, those voters voted against their best interest, they saw the life expectancy charts and said “we’d like that number to be a little lower”, and got exactly that.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Plumber

            Being middle class correlates with voting Republican. Once you get rich, you go back to being Democrat again.

            @JPNunez

            As far as I know, there isn’t a terribly strong difference between the life expectancy difference between rich and poor in America versus other countries. Places I looked show the US difference as 15 for men, 10 for women compared to the French 11 overall.

            https://newrepublic.com/article/153870/inequality-death-america-life-expectancy-gap

            That’s probably explainable by the poor having overall worse lives health-wise than the rich do, not substantially to difference in access to care, given that France is a very leftist country in that respect.

            And ObamaCare drove American life expectancy down. Life Expectancy started falling in 2014, which substantially predates the Trump Presidency.

          • Plumber says:

            @JPNunez says: "...saw the life expectancy charts and said “we’d like that to be a little lower”, and got exactly that..."

            For the record: I support Obamacare, but life expectancy in the U.S A. started declining in 2015, after Obamacare, and before Trump was elected (and has continued to decline after he was elected), with the increase in deaths ascribed to alcohol, opioids, and suicide, most prominently in rural whites in their 50’s.

            I don’t support Trump, but the areas that most votered for him kinda had their backs to the wall (though the voters who actually voted for Trump tended to be the better off in their areas, the worse off in those areas tended not to vote at all).

            Democrats tend to be poorer people in richer areas (“Teslas and tents”), where the rich are very rich, but outnumbered, while Republicans tend to be richer people in poorer areas (“big houses and trailers”) where the incomes of the ‘rich’ would be middle-class by coastal urban standards, and the poor tend not to vote at all (it’s a little more complicated than that, older church going black women in Republican areas are likely to vote, and vote Democratic Party, but you get the gist).

            Edit: ninja’d by @EchoChaos who said much the same with a different partisan slant

          • albatross11 says:

            EchoChaos:

            I don’t think this is generally true. Richer states vote Democratic more often than poorer states, but richer people within each state vote more Republican.

          • JPNunez says:

            @echochaos

            Ah, that’s a good argument, tho I don’t know how comfortable I am with measuring the effects of Obamacare so immediately. But Obamacare was such a disaster in gral that I wouldn’t be surprised in some weird side effects in the short term.

            Of course this contradicts my own post saying that Trump’s disarming of Obamacare would drive life expectancy down, but I was talking long term; I honestly don’t expect effects of either Obamacare or Trump’s attack on it until a decade more maybe? I guess we could be seeing some effects of Obamacare by now.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Obamacare gave healthcare to more people, and it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t going to help move the age-expectancy a little up.

            This is really easy to argue, because life expectancy stopped its normal upward trend and turned downward as Obamacare came into effect. The drop is still ongoing.

            You could certainly argue it would have dropped even more without Obamacare or that Obamacare had little impact and the drop was due to other factors (similar Western countries are seeing the same decline), but claiming breezily that it obviously helped because the model in your head says it should is irresponsible spherical cow thinking.

            Honestly, I think the biggest negative impact hasn’t been Obamacare itself. It’s that its passage biased its defenders such that they need to ignore bad news like the life expectancy drop, so it hasn’t gotten the attention it needs. That’s probably killed the most people. NRO estimates that “Had mortality continued to decline during ACA implementation in 2014 and 2015 at the same rate as during the 2000–13 period, 80,000 fewer Americans would have died in 2015 alone.”

          • Jaskologist says:

            Well, if I’m the third person jumping in to say the same thing, maybe it finally is getting the attention it needs after all!

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos says: "..Being middle class correlates with voting Republican. Once you get rich, you go back to being Democrat again..."

            See my post above, my understanding is that folks with above $200,000 a year in income skew Republican nation wide, those earning less than $40,000 a year skew Democratic if urban, and non-voter if rural (and those folks tend to be less partisan overall), $40,000 to $200,000 skew based on if they live in a densely populated area (Democratic), or less dense area (Republican), were it gets tricky is those earning $80,000 to $200,000 (often called the “upper middle class”, which I buy for $80,000 a year, $199,999 is still rich in my book!), those with incomes in that range who live in Republican majority areas are also Republicans, but the majority earning those incomes live in Democratic majority areas (the urban professional class), and they are Democrats, and also the most pro-redistribution of Democrats (Democrats earning less than $80,000 a year tend to be a little less redistributionist, as are Democrats earning over $200,000 who tend to be Democrats for cultural issues reason instead of economic issue reasons).
            Bluntly:

            Rural poor = non voters

            Rural middle-class and rich = Republicans

            Urban poor = marginally Left Democrats.

            Urban near Rich/lower Rich (“Upper Middle Class”) = strongly Left Democrats

            Thiel = Republican

            Soros = Democrat

            Koch = Republican

            Buffett = Democrat

            Bill Gates = ????

          • JPNunez says:

            This is really easy to argue, because life expectancy stopped its normal upward trend and turned downward as Obamacare came into effect. The drop is still ongoing.

            You could certainly argue it would have dropped even more without Obamacare or that Obamacare had little impact and the drop was due to other factors (similar Western countries are seeing the same decline), but claiming breezily that it obviously helped because the model in your head says it should is irresponsible spherical cow thinking.

            I think most people blame the opioid crisis for this? Some blame Obamacare for helping fuel the crisis, but the opioid crisis predates it; I assume it’s possible Obamacare helped access to some opioids, but certainly cannot blame the whole thing on it. I am seeing arguments both ways.

          • quanta413 says:

            @JPNunez

            You missed the main point of my post. It’s not just the U.S., but in basically any country you can’t learn much about population health from how the healthcare system works (EDIT: I mean barring abysmally bad situations like a civil war or being decades behind in development). Obamacare almost certainly had little measurable effect anyways (unless you buy that it opened up access to opioids like some above mention, but even if it did I doubt that effect will be a permanent hit to life expectancy). Very little of what’s being done in healthcare in any country past roughly middle income has much effect on lifespan. I’m not even sure it’s fair to say that raising life expectancy is a primary goal anyways.

            Within country, different racial/ethnic groups routinely differ in expected lifespan by 5 or more years which dwarfs the differences between most wealthy countries, and it’s not necessarily the best off socioeconomically who live the longest. The U.K. NHS is way left of a healthcare system compared to the U.S. one, but an ethnically comparable subset of the U.S. population has a life expectancy very close to the British one. Like I said, it’s hard to find a source by country and race/ethnicity what with every country reporting race/ethnicity differently.

            The underlying factors are not literally race/ethnicity. It’s some combination of varying genetic predispositions to various diseases and cultural habits like diet and exercise. Of course, other behaviors matter too. People in the U.S. drive more. Car accidents are a fairly significant source of mortality at younger ages which has an outsized effect on life expectancy. There are also more homicides in the U.S. (although the effect of this too varies a lot with race/ethnicity).

            Behold, the U.S. would be almost as long-lived as Finland if it didn’t have all the car accidents, drugs, and murder.

            The medical system only interacts after the problem with these factors. You could imagine spending more on trauma medicine and being better at it than Finland or whatever, but that would never totally cancel the gap.

            There are probably plausible policies that could improve life expectancy in the U.S. a little bit, but I don’t think many of them involve more medical treatment.

          • Plumber says:

            @quanta413,

            I thought that I once read someone crediting the postwar increase in longevity among the British to the implementation of their NHS (I’ve no idea as to how to test that), in any case if we’re going by longevity for judging health care systems wouldn’t we turn Japanese or Seventh Day Adventist?

          • quanta413 says:

            @Plumber

            ), in any case if we’re going by longevity for judging health care systems wouldn’t we turn Japanese or Seventh Day Adventist?

            Well, I don’t think anyone can convert people into being Japanese although you never know if it’s something Japanese people eat, but I guess the government could embrace the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

            So there is low hanging fruit in extending the average life span from a technical perspective! No new medical technology needed. But boy, living like that may be tough to sell. No alcohol, no smoking, eat less (ideally no) meat, cut back on caffeine…

          • “Obamacare gave healthcare to more people, and it’s hard to argue that it wasn’t going to help move the age-expectancy a little up. Maybe beyond Chile’s?”

            It’s easy to argue that, as it should be the null hypothesis. There have been many experiments randomly giving people more health care, and the finding is overwhelmingly null. This fits with the non-correlation between healthcare spending and health outcomes on a national level if you restrict it to reasonably developed countries.

          • Plumber says:

            I looked it up, and yeah Americans partisan identities are mostly shaped when they’re 14 to 24 years old, and pretty much whichever Party they vote for at age 18 is the one they’re likely to vote for at 22 and 26, and the Party they vote for at the age of 26 is the Party they vote for the rest of their lives, within the Parties younger voters tend to be more “Liberal” and older voters more Conservative (young Democrats go more for Warren, older ones for Biden), but switching parties is less common.

      • Deiseach says:

        Trump is a complete buffoon, Beto’s whole collapse is just satisfying on an existential level, Warren trying to spin her DNA results and going full commie is great, Paul Ryan getting run off is just *mwah*. AOC is a gift that keeps on giving, she’s like the Michael Jordan of looking foolish.

        I agree with you about Beto, it’s been great fun watching the wheels come off and that beneath the “I’m not Ted Cruz!” there is nothing else there to get enthused/enraged about. AOC right now is looking more and more like her future career will be if she manages to get re-elected, staying at the level she is while firing off silly tweets while looking for the next bandwagon to jump on instead of the over-optimistic “she could run for president in 2024!” nonsense her partisans trotted out (that two of her staff have had to pull in their horns after tussling with the Democratic leadership shows that the old guard is still in power).

        • Matt M says:

          I disagree.

          AOC will be President one day. She really is the Trump of the left. Completely unapologetic, given oodles of free press and free publicity by her ostensible opponents.

          • Nornagest says:

            I mean, you’re not wrong, but Trump only got where he is by being the only guy catering to a big, and absolutely furious, chunk of the electorate. Being unapologetic and getting a lot of free press only gets you so far if you have to actually compete for your constituency, or if you don’t have one.

          • dick says:

            I haven’t seen anything about AOC in the last couple months. Are you guys mistaking the “outrageous things the left did today” blogosphere for the media generally?

          • Nornagest says:

            Showing up in the “outrageous things the outgroup did today” beat is how you get free press from your ostensible opponents, so I’m not sure what you’re objecting to here?

          • Plumber says:

            @dick says: "I haven’t seen anything about AOC in the last couple months. Are you guys mistaking the “outrageous things the left did today” blogosphere for the media generally?"

            @Nornagest says: "Yes? I mean, showing up in the “outrageous things the outgroup did today” beat is kind of how you get free press"

            A general search for “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” gets me loads of stuff from FOX news and The New York Post, but as a proxy for an older mainstream Center-Left/Democratic Party readership a search of The New York Times gets me: Democrats Propose Spending Trillions Fighting Climate Change from yesterday which had a brief mention of her, I couldn’t find a way to easily search vox.com as a proxy for the younger Left (dagnabbit!), so I poked around their “Front page” stories until I found a reference to her in The Green New Deal is fracturing a critical base for Democrats: unions
            National labor leaders oppose the Green New Deal but some state unions endorse it. That’s a challenge for presidential contenders
            from June, and then I gave up. 

            I suppose that I could search Jacobian or The Nation to see what the further Left says, but I really don’t feel like it right now, and I’m not inclined to search the further Right, so tentatively I’m gonna say the Right leaning press does far more stories on AOC than the Left leaning press, but that’s just based on my looking at the mainstream without searching the furthers, y’all can do that if you want.

          • dick says:

            Showing up in the “outrageous things the outgroup did today” beat is how you get free press from your ostensible opponents, so I’m not sure what you’re objecting to here?

            Only to people who read that stuff. That’s not nothing I suppose, but it is a couple lightyears away from “the Trump of the left”.

          • Chalid says:

            In my admittedly idiosyncratic center-left Vox-ish twitter feed, AOC comes up primarily through left-wing people quoting and mocking right-wingers saying completely unhinged things about her.

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            Humorously, when I was living in New York, I got all my AOC news from my friends and family in Idaho.

          • Deiseach says:

            I genuinely can’t see her even getting to be a Senator, let alone anything more advanced. For all the “I’m just Sandy from the block, a humble bartendress, and my success was a grassroots effort”, there was a lot of work put into selecting and pushing her, and it was pushing on an open door.

            The fact that (a) she hitched her wagon to the Democratic Socialists of America and not as a Democrat as such (b) that for whatever reason, the kingmaker behind her is moving on to be part of the Green New Deal boondoggle and (c) “The Squad” is starting to have its own little scandalettes what with first the murmurings about her boyfriend being given a fancy title and do-nothing job by her campaign in order to pay him for being her boyfriend, and now Omar’s troubles with alleged adultery and paying her boyfriend for etc., all mean that she’s a typical loudmouth politician who is going to spend the next twenty to thirty years of her career (if she manages re-election) being that kind of local pol we all know, the one that raises nit-picking and off-the-wall suggestions at every opportunity that are harebrained non-runners (I’m thinking of an example of such a one in my very own town right now).

          • Deiseach says:

            I haven’t seen anything about AOC in the last couple months.

            dick, that’s proving my point about her not going to be the new broom sweeping all before her to victory in 2024 (which was always laughable over-exaggeration anyway) or indeed at any time. If the media are not breathlessly reporting on the brave strong independent congresswoman and her next plan to save the planet or stop racism, then she’s lost her novelty value, or is seen as an embarrassment, or as a busted flush, and is being quietly dropped in favour of the next new blazing star who is going to sweep all before them.

          • Matt M says:

            In my admittedly idiosyncratic center-left Vox-ish twitter feed, AOC comes up primarily through left-wing people quoting and mocking right-wingers saying completely unhinged things about her.

            This is exactly what I mean, and exactly why Trump is the perfect analogy here.

            The right gets constant “AOC outrage of the day” content. The left gets constant “Outrageous attack on AOC of the day” content. Which galvanizes them to her cause because “OMG! The outgroup is attacking the ingroup! Defend!” without even having to get into the messy details like (actually, her positions are bonkers and even most Democrats don’t agree with them). It’s the “Republicans pounce!” framing applied to a specific person, constantly.

            This is the same as Trump. Most FOX News stories about Trump aren’t about Trump himself, in a vacuum, or even his policies. They are about some lefty attacking Trump. Which inspires a visceral sort of “Defend my tribe against enemy tribe attack!” defense, even among righties who wouldn’t otherwise be inclined to like Trump very much in the first place.

          • Matt M says:

            if she manages re-election

            Even if she somehow doesn’t win re-election, I don’t think I’d update my priors on “she will be President someday” much, at all. Because she wouldn’t really go anywhere. She’d get a show on CNN or a column in the New York Times or a prominent cabinet position or something. She’s far too valuable an asset to just sit on the bench. Someone will find a place to deploy her, she’ll remain in the public eye, and her fame will increase, because the right will keep attacking her and the left will keep feeling compelled to defend her.

            Now, I don’t know much about her personally. It’s possible she’s really not that into politics, and that if she loses, she’ll just decide, on her own, to drop it and decide to start her own reality show or launch her own clothing line or become a full-time influencer/camgirl or whatever. But I think her political ceiling is limited only by her own ambition/desire. The only other thing that I could see throwing her off is if the Democrats manage to successfully enlist some sort of already super-famous celebrity to run. If they can get Oprah or Beyoncé or The Rock on the ticket, they dominate the headlines and AOC fades into obscurity.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Absolutely not. Trump says outrageous things that approximately 50% of the electorate agrees with. AOC says outrageous things that approximately 20% of the electorate agrees with. You can get press coverage with that, but you cannot win elections outside of deep blue districts.

            Also, AOC’s rise was a product of the Justice Democrats and her handlers. She didn’t do that. But Trump made Trump’s campaign.

    • Cliff says:

      Or is it sheer brilliance in avoiding Brexit while making it seem like incompetence?

  39. JPNunez says:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-49575381

    Hong Kong leader says she will retire the extradition bill.

    There was a discussion one or two threads ago, and I remember agreeing with the peeps saying China wouldn’t relent.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Kinda was thinking the same thing. Then again, this is far less than what the protestors are currently demanding.

      • Murphy says:

        The problem with any large grassroots protest/discontent movement: once you start collecting the generally disaffected there’s no way to meet the protesters demands… because they’re demanding everything, including many mutually exclusive things.

      • JPNunez says:

        I think most of the other petitions are (a) asking for more representation and (b) asking for diverse pardons for the protesters caught in the protests themselves.

    • Laukhi says:

      There was a discussion one or two threads ago, and I remember agreeing with the peeps saying China wouldn’t relent.

      I believe Lam is at least nominally supposed to be a representative of Hong Kong, even if she is a de facto a CPC puppet. I recall that there was a leak of a video of Lam talking about how awful her life has been since this started, so this may not necessarily be a direct order from Beijing. (Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying?)

      • onyomi says:

        I think everyone kind of assumes Lam can’t do anything of any consequence without Beijing’s approval (asked a few weeks ago whether she even had the authority, as the Chief Executive of the Special Autonomous Region, to withdraw the bill, she vacillated and dodged); thus, this will be interpreted, however accurately, as a small concession on Beijing’s part, though, again, it’s seemingly left intentionally vague as to how long a leash they keep the HK politicians on.

        I was kind of pleasantly surprised to see this even though I’d expected a while back it was the first thing they’d do if they were ever serious about calming things down (since it was the original point of contention and also the easiest of the protesters’ five major demands to meet). I disagreed with those expecting a more violent crackdown (but who knows what they’ll do after National Day…), but was expecting maybe a more thorough application of the same “attrition” strategy that basically worked with the Umbrella Movement.

        Of course many are not satisfied, some even worried this is just a delay tactic, but assuming this bill and its content actually stay “dead” for a while I think this must be viewed as a victory for protesters. A minor one in some ways, yes, but I think any successful pushback against the accelerating process of integrating HK that the PRC has set into motion in recent years is actually kind of a big deal.

      • Deiseach says:

        so this may not necessarily be a direct order from Beijing

        It was probably a very strong suggestion, at the least. I did think the bill would be dropped after the protests, but not necessarily as a concession to the protestors, rather as an exercise in “okay, we are bowing to the wishes of the people, now they have nothing to object to so further protesting is indeed just rioting and malcontents and should be put down as a matter of law and order, and since this is now a matter of domestic policing the West can butt out of our internal business”.

        I don’t think anyone believes Lam (or whoever will replace her) is free to act as they will without first checking that the mainland is happy with their decisions.

        assuming this bill and its content actually stay “dead” for a while I think this must be viewed as a victory for protesters

        I’m a pessimist, so I’m assuming the only lessons learned here are that the mainland is going to let this fade away, then try implementing the same intention but in a different manner that will not provoke open protest; so not a Bill that is visible to all and draws attention, but steady nibbling away with dull bureaucratic details of sub-clauses to sub-clauses of new regulations about the size of radishes that nobody reads in detail that slowly mount up to getting the same result in the end.

    • Well... says:

      Didn’t read the article; did the winner refuse it because of the impractical giant Tikki head in the basement?

      • bullseye says:

        The winner lived on a farm in another state and didn’t feel like moving.

        No mention of a basement or giant Tiki head, though the house does have some issues; people keep showing up and looking in the windows or trying to open the front door, no bathroom on the first floor, stairs unusually steep.

        • acymetric says:

          stairs unusually steep

          This is a deal breaker.

          I do wonder, though, why enter a contest to win the Simpsons’ house if you don’t want it? Also, don’t most of those contests offer a “cash prize” equivalent?

  40. Matt M says:

    Does anyone here use one of those fancy Wifi mesh extender systems for large homes?

    My internet speed drops from about 100mbps near my router in the living room to around 20 or so in my computer in my office (which really isn’t that far away, but is through a couple walls).

    I tried buying one of those $40 plug-in extenders, but it didn’t really seem to help much at all.

    Is it worth it to try and buy one of these fancy $200+ systems? Do they actually work?

    • GearRatio says:

      Is it possible to run a cable to that room? I’m in the habit of wiring up everything I possibly can, so if I was going to spend 200 buck I’d probably spend it on a handyman fishing a cable through my walls and get better outcomes.

      You might try Gwern’s site if you don’t want to do that, though. I’m pretty sure he has an article on this exact problem, as he does on all subjects that exist.

      • Incurian says:

        Cables are good.

      • Matt M says:

        The good news is – there already are cables running to that room. It’s a new house that appears to be wired for Internet. At least, there is an ethernet port available in every bedroom, and there is a panel in the closet with a switch and a bunch of wires running into it.

        The problem is, I, uh, have no idea what to do with this? I assume the answer is something like “plug the existing router in the living room into the nearby ethernet port, at which point it comes through one of the wires in the closet panel, then plug that into one of the ports on the switch, and plug the wire representing the bedroom whose port I want activated into a different port on the switch” or something like that? But I have no idea which wire is which or what ports on the switch represent what…. how do I even get started with this?

        • Lambert says:

          You might need some kind of crossover cable or adapter.
          Normal ethernet cables are designed to connect computers to network hardware (routers,switches, etc.)
          Computer to computer and network hardware to network hardware needs a special cable or adapter to get the transmit and recieve wires inside the cable to match up correctly at each end.

          You’re not going to fry anything if you plug the wrong cable into the wrong place, so I’d just have a go and see if you can get it to work.

          • bzium says:

            Many devices nowadays don’t care what cable you use and can autodetect the need for a crossover and switch the signals appropriately.

        • GearRatio says:

          Is there a comms box in one of your closets somewhere? It would look like a mess of coax cables, ethernet cables and some (as many as there are wall ports in the house) ethernet ports.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, I do have one of these. But nothing in it seems to be labeled in any useful way.

          • dick says:

            Somewhere in there should be either a hub or a switch. Both are small boxes with one “input” plug and several “output” plugs. The “input” on your hub/switch should be connected to the “output” of your cable modem (the plug that says “to PC” or something) and the “output”s on your hub/switch should run to the plugs in the various rooms. If it’s set up that way, you should be able to connect a normal (non-crossover) cable from a PC to any plug in the house and it should work. If not, my guess would be that the former owner took the hub/switch with them.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, it’s a new construction, so nobody took anything with them.

            I’m not at home as I type this so I can’t check, but as far as memory goes, my problem is that nothing is currently plugged into the switch at all. The cable modem is plugged directly into the Coax in the living room. The panel (located in the far away bedroom) contains a bunch of unlabeled coax and ethernet wires.

            So my understanding is that I’d need to connect the modem/router to the ethernet in the living room, to start providing ethernet to the “circuit” or whatever, and then find whichever ethernet cable in the closet represents that plug, put it in the switch input, and then I guess I can just plug all the other ethernet cables into the switch outputs, and have ethernet in all the ports?

          • dick says:

            Pretty much, but you might or might not need crossover cables (or a little plug converter that accomplishes the same thing) in some places. Basically, there are two types of ethernet plugs (“input” and “output”) which are visually identical, and two types of ethernet cables (normal/patch/straight-through and crossover). Normal ethernet connects an input to an output, crossover connects two inputs. Most simple consumer setups (wall — modem — hub — PCs) don’t need any crossover cables, because the input/output style plugs are in the right places, but your setup might need them.

            I recommend you get 100′ of ethernet cable and a crimper and a bag of plugs, and learn how to crimp your own cable (normal and crossover are just a matter of which order you put the little wires in), you will save a ton of money on cables and be able to make changes in the future. I also recommend you get a switch as opposed to a hub, which will involve some learning to set up. A hub is a dumb “connect this input to these outputs” box, a switch does the same thing but is “smart”, usually including a simple firewall and maybe some other options (like bandwidth limiting, MAC white list, etc). Mine is made by Ubiquiti, I could look up the model # when I get home…

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Before you go shopping, or make things more complicated than they need to be do this: Hook the modem into the port in the nearby wall. Take your laptop into the hub closet, and stick a cable into outputs until you have internet. Mark the correct port with a sharpie and set the switch up in the obvious way. If, and only if this does not work, then, and only then do you need a crossover cable.

        • B says:

          Alright, this is the time I’ve got to register.
          Cables are great. Get a switch, put it in the closet panel. Great thing about switches is that all the ports are the same (we’re ignoring very fancy managed switches), so you can plug all the wires into the switch, as long as they’re just going to wall jacks. Plug your current router into one of them, plug the computer into another, and it’ll “Just Work”. I recommend just buying patch cables, they’re not very expensive, and making your own is fiddly, especially if you get a cheap crimp tool. Don’t worry about crossover cables or what have you, gigabit ethernet (which your switch should have, and most semi-modern computers have) has built-in tech to deal with that on its own.

          • Matt M says:

            How do I know if what I already have is a hub or a switch?

          • GearRatio says:

            do the stuff he said to your current setup, and if it works you either got super lucky or you have a switch.

          • B says:

            It should be written on it somewhere. If it’s less than 5 years old, it’s almost certainly a switch. They’ll usually also say 10/100 or 10/100/1000 on them, sometimes next to a legend telling you which color LED means what. (1000 being 1000 Mbps or ‘gigabit’).

          • Matt M says:

            OK, after going home and checking, the situation seems more complicated/confusing than I anticipated.

            It turns out they ARE labeled, it was just below a zip-tie that was crimping everything together in a manner that hid all the labels. Coming into the closet panel, there is an ethernet cable labeled “family room” that goes directly into the big white AT&T box. This box has no ports I can plug into, but it does take the pink ethernet cable (which I assume connects to the port in the living room, which is what my modem is plugged into directly NOT coax.) in, and all that comes out is a weird white cable that vanishes back into the wall.

            My switch/hub/whatever seems totally unlabeled/unused. There are no lights or labels or anything of the sort EXCEPT that one single port is enclosed in a little white box that says “IN.”

            It almost seems like AT&T may have bypassed the switch entirely and hard-wired directly from the white box into the wire that goes to the living room port.

            So what I’m thinking is, if I can find a short cable of my own, I run that from the white box to the IN on the switch/hub/whatever, and then hook up the bedroom cables to the other ports, maybe that would work? Could it possibly be that simple? (I can’t test it right now, because my girlfriend is watching TV…)

          • dick says:

            Weren’t you buying an engagement ring a while back? 😉

            Have you tried calling your ISP for support? The networking equipment had to have come from either them or the homebuilder. In either case, it’d be weird for them to wire it up the point of being one cable shy of working.

          • Incurian says:

            Just start plugging stuff and see what happens.

          • Matt M says:

            Tried a bit of that last night. Upon further thought, I think I have to give up my hard-wire plan entirely.

            The issue is that the AT&T fiber comes into the closet panel, at which point it travels, via the single existing cable in the wall, to the living room, where it then plugs into the modem and router, giving me a useable connection.

            But in order to get that useable connection to any other port in the house, I would need an additional cable traveling back along that same route, delivering useful internet from the modem back to the switch in the closet.

            I don’t really want to have to try and run another cable, so I guess I’m back to my original decision – to buy a fancy WiFi mesh system, to maybe try an independent stand-alone router (The Wire Cutter claims this often helps, I’m still using the router AT&T gave me), or to just live with it.

          • dick says:

            Sounds like you should just put the modem in the same closet where the fiber box is. Don’t give up yet. Having wired intenet is really useful, and it won’t be that hard to set up. Anyone who builds their own PCs can probably get it sorted out in an evening.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Matt M, have AT&T send a guy out and move it. I did this a few years back, moving the incoming from my upstairs master bedroom to the wiring closet in the basement. The service call was 99 bucks and it took an hour or so. It’s not bad.

          • Matt M says:

            I considered that, but then the main router is located in the far-flung bedroom closet. Which would be impractical, because it would mean the reduced WiFi speeds would shift from the bedroom with the desktop PC that only I use, to the living room where the girlfriend streams TV shows and where I play Xbox and where our U-Verse cable box is.

            The whole reason I told AT&T to put the modem in the living room is because that’s where the most important place to have good WiFi is. Hard-wiring the multiple different devices in the living room would be a real pain.

          • GearRatio says:

            Matt:

            I might be confusing myself here, but it sounds like you are saying “I can’t move the modem, because that moves the router”. That’s not true, though? Just move the modem and use one of existing lines to go to wherever the router is. They don’t have to be physically adjacent to each other.

            It seems like you could have AT&T move the modem to the closet and then just send internet via cable to wherever you wanted the router to be. Am I misunderstanding this?

          • dick says:

            Ah, are you using the wifi built in to your cable modem? That does constrain you. You could just put your cable modem in the living room and use the wifi from it and live with having poor wifi in other parts of the house and not having your ethernet plugs work. But you started this by talking about getting a wifi extender, so if you’re going to spend some money on network equipment, you might as well do it right, which in my humble opinion means have the modem in the closet, go from that in to a switch, have the switch go to all the hardwired house plugs, and then get a wifi hotspot and plug it in to one of those house plugs (presumably a centrally located one).

          • Matt M says:

            Because U-Verse is so weird, I may be confusing the modem and the router.

            In the living room, the wall port is plugged into a fairly large device with a lot of ports on it and the WiFi network name and password literally printed on the side.

            That has ethernet going out – one to the TV receiver, and the other to a much smaller box that might be the… modem? Or a smaller WiFi router? It’s not entirely clear.

            In any case, I think those two things have to move together. And they have to either plug into the TV receiver, or be very close to it (technically it’s wireless, but the range on them isn’t great) to function well. And because of that, I feel like moving either the modem or the router into the bedroom closet isn’t a great option.

          • dick says:

            It sounds like you asked them to hook everything up in the wrong room, and they did 🙁 I can’t go any further without seeing the components, but I’m telling you, home networking isn’t that complicated. I’m confident I could get it all sorted in an evening, and I’m barely competent (I didn’t know gigabit ports make crossover cables unnecessary, eg). Surely you know someone who’s in to this computers who you could offer to feed a nice dinner to in exchange for fixing your shit?

          • Incurian says:

            If your house is already wired through a switch or something, once you get internet flowing through it, you can plug a wireless router into literally every ethernet port.

          • <